EXTERNAL EVIDENCE FOR THE LONG ENDING
Several commentaries (and footnotes in some Bible translations, such as "The
Message") state that the Long Ending is found only in late manuscripts. That
statement is false. The two earliest manuscripts of Mark 16 do not contain 16:9-20,
but there are several other ancient manuscripts which contain these verses (such as
Codex Washingtonensis, Codex Alexandrinus, and Codex Ephraemi). Furthermore,
the abundance of manuscripts which contain the Long Ending implies the earlier
existence of their ancestors. Also, the earliest known copy of Mark -- p45, from
about A.D. 225 -- is damaged (and for this reason is missing all of Mark 16) but its
closest textual "relative" in Mark is Codex Washingtonensis (from ch. 6 on), which
softly suggests that p45 originally contained the Long Ending.
Of all undamaged Greek copies of the Gospel of Mark (and there are over 1500),
two (or possibly three) can be shown to have not contained Mark 16:9-20 when they
were made. However, this numerical avalanche in favor of the inclusion of the Long
Ending is not as important as the evidence which shows the Long Ending's presence
in different text-types. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are both Alexandrian manuscripts
(Vaticanus may be considered "Proto-Alexandrian"). Other Alexandrian
manuscripts contain the Long Ending. So do Western, Caesarean, and Byzantine
manuscripts. They may be likened somewhat to four branches in a family tree of
the text. A variant found in only one branch is generally more likely to have
originated there than a variant found in all four branches.
Furthermore, the evidence from manuscripts must be weighed alongside the
evidence from patristic writings -- the writings of leaders in the early church. There
are several quotations of, or references to, the contents of Mark 16:9-20 which pre-
date Vaticanus or are nearly contemporary to it.
Justin Martyr, who died in A.D. 165, wrote in his First Apology ch. 45 that the
apostles "going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere." The three words in
red here represent three Greek words identical to Greek words used in Mark
16:20, including the somewhat rare word pantachou. A comparison of this
paragraph of Justin's work shows that it is highly likely that he was borrowing his
terms from the Long Ending.
Irenaeus wrote in Against Heresies (about A.D. 185), Book III, 10:5-6, "Also,
towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: 'So then, after the Lord Jesus
had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand
of God." This is clearly a quotation of Mark 16:19.
Papias, a writer in the early-mid 100's, recorded that Justus Barsabbas (the
individual mentioned in Acts 1:23) once drank a poisonous drink and suffered no ill
effects. (This is preserved by Eusebius of Caesarea and by Philip of Side). His
motivation for mentioning this story may have been to provide an example of the
fulfillment of Mark 16:18.
At the seventh Council of Carthage in 256, a bishop named Vincentius of Thibaris
said, "We have assuredly the rule of truth which the Lord by His divine precept
commanded to His apostles, saying, 'Go ye, lay on hands in My name, expel
demons.' And in another place: "Go ye and teach the nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'" Vincentius' second
quotation is from Matthew 28:19. Despite attempts by some interpreters to connect
the first quotation to Matthew 10:8, the references to going, laying on hands,
expelling demons, and doing so in My name add up to a reference to Mark 16:15-
18, especially when placed side-by-side with the parallel passage from Matthew.
Either Porphyry (an early opponent of Christianity who died in A.D. 305) or
Hierocles (a student of Porphyry, writing in the very early 300's) was cited by
another writer (Macarius Magnes) as having used Mark 16:18 as one of several
examples of weaknesses in Christian teachings .
Aphraates (also known as Aphrahat), writing no later than 345, quoted clearly from
the Long Ending in Demonstration One: Of Faith, stating, "And again He said this:
'This shall be the sign for those that believe; they will speak with new tongues and
shall cast out demons, and they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall be
Eusebius and Marinus (c. 330?) both reflect knowledge of the existence of the Long
Ending, in Eusebius' work Ad Marinum.
Ursinus, in "Rebaptism" Part 9, strongly alluded to Mark 16:14. Ursinus wrote in
about 350. The testimony of "Rebaptism" may be earlier, though; he may have
been repeating a composition made in the previous century, around the the time of
Augustine, who died in 430, used Mark 16:9-20 in Easter-time sermons, showing
that by the early 400's the Long Ending was established in the lectionary in North
Ambrose, who died in 397, used the Long Ending as Scripture (one example is his
use of Mark 16:18 in his work The Prayer of Job and David).
Thus the earliest evidence for the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 pre-dates the earliest
evidence for its non-inclusion. Also, the evidence for patristic use of the Long
Ending is spread over a broad geographical area: Justin (in Rome), Irenaeus (in
Gaul [France]), Eusebius (in Caesarea [in Israel]), Vincentius (in North Africa), and
Tatian and Aphraates (in Syria). Against this, the ancient Greek evidence for non-
inclusion is confined to Egypt (and Caesarea, but this is because the library at
Caesarea included Egyptian manuscripts). The implication of this is that copies of
Mark containing the Long Ending were in use at all these locations. And the blank
column in Vaticanus suggests that the Long Ending was known in Egypt also.
Some evidence from early translations -- especially the Gothic, Old Latin, Syriac,
Armenian, and Coptic versions -- may be considered here.
The Gothic version is known to have been translated by Wulfilas (who was
originally from Antioch) in about A.D. 350. Manuscript-evidence for the Gothic
Version is sparse, but it displays the Long Ending.
Quite a few Old Latin manuscripts are damaged, but all undamaged Old Latin
manuscripts of Mark 16 except Codex Bobiensis contain the Long Ending.
The Syriac evidence is divided: the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript ends the text of
Mark at 16:8; the Curetonian Syriac manuscript is mutilated but preserves part of
the Long Ending (the only part of Mark in the manuscript!). The Peshitta Syriac
Version (made some time before A.D. 400) contains the Long Ending.
Although a quotation by Eznik (an Armenian bishop in the mid-400's) shows that the
Long Ending was known in Armenia, the Armenian version appears to have
originally not contained the Long Ending. It seems possible that at least some of
the Greek manuscripts on which the Armenian version was made (in about A.D. 410)
contained both the Long Ending and the Short Ending, and the Armenian translators
rejected them both. Later, though, the Long Ending was adopted in the Armenian
text-stream; it is in most (later) Armenian manuscripts. One Armenian manuscript,
produced in A.D. 989, contains the words "Aristou eritzou" written between the lines
between Mark 16:8 and 16:9. Probably this note appeared alongside 16:18 in an
older manuscript, and meant that a fulfillment of part of 16:18 (about a believer's
imperviousness to poison) was recorded by Aristion, who gave the story to Papias.
Later, after the question was raised regarding whether or not Mark 16:9-20 ought
to be included, this note may have been misinterpreted as if it meant that Aristion
had composed the entire passage. This would explain how the Armenian Version
came to lack Mark 16:9-20 even though older "Caesarean" witnesses included it.
(Somewhat surprisingly, another Armenian manuscript at the same monastery (near
Mount Ararat) contains the Short Ending attached to the end of Luke.)
The Coptic versions are divided. The earliest manuscript of Mark in the Sahidic
Coptic version (which is probably the earliest Coptic translation) does not have the
Long Ending. The next "layer" in the Sahidic tradition has both the Short Ending
and the Long Ending. Then the Long Ending dominates, fully included without the
Short Ending. This is what one would expect in a textual tradition which was
influenced, in turn, by the Alexandrian Text, the Caesarean Text, and the Byzantine
For any manuscript of Mark, the less it is connected with the early Alexandrian
channel of textual transmission and the Caesarean channel related to it, the more
strongly it supports Mark 16:9-20. The same thing is true of patristic testimony and
versions. This suggests that the loss of these twelve verses occurred either in, or
en route to, Alexandria, perhaps sometime late in the second century.
How could such a loss have occurred? We will answer that question in Part Three.
("Codex W") was made
in the early 400's. It
contains the Long End-
ing, but between verse
14 and verse 15 is the
They excused them-
selves, saying, "This
age of lawlessness and
unbelief is under Satan,
who does not allow,
through the unclean
spirits, the truth and
power of God to be
understood. So then,
reveal your righteous-
ness now," they said to
Christ. And Christ told
them, "The years of the
reign of Satan are ful-
filled, but other terrors
approach. And for
those who have sinned I
was delivered unto
death, that they might
return unto the truth
and sin no more, so that
in heaven they may
inherit the spiritual and
incorruptible glory of
righteousness. But …""