The Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 (Part Two)
EXTERNAL EVIDENCE FOR THE INCLUSION OF MARK 16:9-20
Many ancient manuscripts contain Mark 16:9-20. They include Codex Codex Washingtoniensis
(c. 400, which has verses 9-20 with an interpolation between v. 14 and v. 15), Codex
Alexandrinus (c. 450), Codex Ephraemi (c. 450), and Codex Bezae (c. 400-500, which does not
contain verses 16-20, due to damage). These are just a few of the more than 1,500 manuscripts
that include Mark 16:9-20.
This numerical avalanche in favor of the inclusion of 16:9-20 is not as decisive as the evidence
that shows that Mark 16:9-20 circulated in different text-types. Theoretically, a large number of
manuscripts that share the same readings may be merely a large numbers of echoes of an earlier
ancestor. But the manuscripts that support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 are from different
text-types, representing different ancestor-manuscripts. The situation may be compared to
branches on a tree: if one branch has more fruit than other branches, this may simply mean that
the fruitful branch enjoyed more favorable conditions than the others. But when the same kind
of fruit is found on several branches, while a different kind of fruit is primarily on a single
branch, then it is more likely that the fruit on the single branch is not the tree's natural fruit,
even if that branch is more fruitful than the others. Mark 16:9-20 is found in all four major text-
types, or branches -- the Alexandrian, Western, Caesarean, and Byzantine. In addition, in major
representatives from each text-type, Mark 16:9-20 contains textual variants that are not present
in the other branches, indicating that the passage was not grafted on from another text-type.
Furthermore, we must also consider evidence found in patristic writings -- the writings of leaders
in the early church. The earliest manuscripts of Mark 16 are not the earliest evidence. Not
even close! There are several quotations of, or uses of, material from Mark 16:9-20 in
patristic writings which were composed quite a bit earlier than the production-date of Vaticanus.
Justin Martyr, who died in A.D. 165, wrote in his First Apology ch. 45 that the
apostles "going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere," as he explained
the fulfillment of Psalm 110:1-2. The words in red here represent three Greek
words identical to Greek words used in Mark 16:20, including the word
pantachou, which Justin uses twice in this chapter, as if to emphasize the point.
A comparison of this paragraph of Justin's work to the contents of Mark 16:9-20
shows that it is highly likely that he was borrowing his terms from Mark 16:20.
Justin typically drew his Gospels-citations not from the separate Gospel of
Matthew, Gospel of Mark, and Gospel of Luke, but from a text which consisted
of the texts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke blended together -- a "Synoptics-
Harmony." Justin's statement in First Apology blends Mark 16:20 and Luke
24:52 in precisely the way that one would expect to find in such a Harmony.
Thus Justin clearly used Mark 16:9-20 as part of the Gospel of Mark.
Tatian was a second-century writer who, building on the work
of Justin, interwove the texts of the four Gospels into one
continuous narrative, called the Diatessaron, in about A.D.
172. He included material from Mark 16:9-20 in the Dia-
tessaron, blending it with the parallels in the other Gospels.
Irenaeus was a Christian bishop in the second century. He
wrote in Against Heresies (A.D. 184), 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 100's, recorded that Justus Barsabbas
(the individual mentioned in Acts 1:23) once drank a poisonous
drink and suffered no ill effects. (This statement 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. (This is not strong evidence, but it should
not be overlooked, especially in light of attempts to use the silence
of Clement and Origen as evidence against Mk. 16:9-20.) Also,
Papias wrote that Mark did not omit any of what Peter had preached;
this is significant inasmuch as Peter is depicted in Acts preaching
about Jesus' post-resurrection appearances and ascension.
A work from the mid-100's called the Epistula Apostolorum (Letter of the
Apostles), which was unknown until the early 1900's, has been affirmed by
several scholars, including Robert Stein, to have used Mark 16:9-20.
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, c. 405) as having attempted to use Mark 16:18 as an example of
absurdity in Christian teachings.
A composition called De Rebaptismate, written c. 258, strongly alludes to Mark 16:14
in its ninth chapter. Some researchers assigned this text a date about a century later,
but strong internal evidence indicates that it was written around the time of Cyprian.
Prominent writers in the 300's and 400's also used Mark 16:9-20. Here are some
Aphraates (also known as Aphrahat), writing in 336, quoted from Mark 16:17-18 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 made whole.'"
An anonymous composition called the Acts of Pilate, composed no later than the mid-
300's, made use of Mark 16:15-16.
Eusebius and Marinus (c. 330) both reflect knowledge of the existence of Mark
16:9-20, in Eusebius' work Ad Marinum. Marinus took for granted that it was
part of the text; Eusebius stated that it was not in his "accurate copies" but it was
in "some" copies."
Ambrose, who worked in Milan (and died in 397), used parts of 16:9-20 as
Scripture (one example is his use of Mark 16:18 in his work The Prayer of Job
Didymus the Blind, who worked in Egypt (and died in 398), or an author in the
same area and era, wrote De Trinitate, in which, in Book Two, chapter 12, Mark
16:15-16 is quoted.
Augustine, who worked in Hippo, North Africa (and died in 430), used Mark
16:9-20 in Easter-time sermons, showing that by the early 400's the passage
was established as a regular reading in the church-services there. He quoted the
entire passage in his Harmony of the Gospels (c. 400), and cited both Latin and
Greek manuscripts when commenting on Mk. 16:12.
Saint Patrick (mid-400's) used Mark 16:16 twice, in Letter to Coroticus, part 20,
and in Confession, part 40.
Apostolic Constitutions (380), The Doctrine of Addai (c. 400, but using earlier
source-materials), Marcus Eremita (c. 425), Prosper of Aquitaine (c. 440), Peter
Chrysologus (c. 450), Marius Mercator (c. 450), Nestorius (early 400's, as cited
by Cyril of Alexandria), and Leo the Great (453) also used the passage.
When the patristic evidence (which is not mentioned by most Bible footnotes) is
added to the equation, the earliest evidence for the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 is
over a century older than the earliest evidence for its non-inclusion. The evidence
for Mark 16:9-20 is spread over a broad geographical area: Rome (Justin), France
(Irenaeus), North Africa (Vincentius and Augustine), Israel (Eusebius), Syria (Tatian
and Aphraates), Cyprus (Epiphanius), Egypt (Didymus), and Armenia (Eznik of Golb).
Against this, the ancient Greek evidence for non-inclusion is confined to Egypt and
Caesarea, and Caesarea's testimony is essentially an echo of manuscripts that had
been taken to Caesarea from Egypt. Copies of Mark containing 16:9-20 were in use
at all these locations.
Some evidence from early translations, especially the Sahidic (an Egyptian dialect),
Gothic, Old Latin, Syriac, and Armenian versions, may be considered here.
The earliest Sahidic copy of Mark, from c. 425, attests to a form of Mark that ended
at the end of 16:8. The next-earliest copies contain the Shorter Ending followed by
16:9-20. This indicates that the Sahidic version of Mark was initially translated from
a text that ended at 16:8; later on, copyists had some exemplars that ended with the
Shorter Ending, and some exemplars that ended with 16:9-20, so they included both
readings, placing the Shorter Ending first where it could serve as a liturgical flourish.
The Gothic version was translated by Wulfilas (who was originally from Antioch) in
about A.D. 350. The most important Gothic manuscript, Codex Argenteus, includes
Mark 16:9-20. (For a long time the last page of Mark in Codex Argenteus was
missing, but it was rediscovered in Germany in 1970.)
Quite a few Old Latin manuscripts are damaged, but all undamaged Old Latin manu-
scripts of Mark 16 except Codex Bobbiensis contain Mark 16:9-20. Also, the Old
Latin lists of chapter-titles of Mark include references to Jesus' post-resurrection
appearances to the disciples, and to His ascension.
The Syriac evidence is divided: the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript (c. 400) ends the text
of Mark at 16:8. The Curetonian Syriac manuscript (c. 425) is mutilated but pre-
serves part of Mark 16:17-20 (the only part of Mark in the manuscript!). The
Peshitta (a Syriac version made sometime in the 300's), extant in hundreds of copies,
contains contains all of Mark 16:9-20.
The Armenian version is rather complex. An Armenian version of the Gospels was
made from Syriac around 410, but in 430, cherished Greek copies were taken to
Armenia from Constantinople, and the Greek text was used as the basis for a
revision of the Armenian text. What seems to have happened is that the Greek
copies from Constantinople included one of the 50 codices which Eusebius of
Caesarea had prepared for Emperor Constantine 100 years earlier; as a result, the
revised Armenian text agreed closely with that codex. Most Armenian Gospels-
manuscripts contain Mark 16:9-20, but most of the oldest accessible Armenian
manuscripts end the text of Mark at the end of 16:8. Some Armenian copies
display a blended text in which the closing-title "End of the Gospel of Mark"
appears after 16:8, followed by verses 9-20, after which the closing-title appears
again. Some Armenian manuscripts format 16:9-20 in other unusual ways.
The Armenian manuscript Matenadaran 2374 (formerly known as Etchmiadzin 229)
includes a note stating that it was copied from ancient and reliable exemplars
(probably no later than the 500's). This manuscript, produced in A.D. 989, contains
the words "Aristou eritzou" written between the lines between Mark 16:8 and 16:9.
This may be based on a tradition, or a guess, that Mark 16:9-20 was the work of a
first-century Christian named Aristion. Another possibility, however, is that this
note appeared alongside 16:18 in an older manuscript, and was intended only to
mean that Aristion had handed down the story, mentioned by Papias, about Justus
Barsabbas' imperviousness to poison, which seems to fulfill one of the prophecies
about signs in Mark 16:18. Later, after the question was raised regarding whether
or not Mark 16:9-20 ought to be included, the note was misinterpreted to mean that
Aristion had composed the entire passage. (Somewhat surprisingly, another medieval
Armenian manuscript contains the Shorter Ending attached to the end of Luke.
This is probably a result of a later distribution of manuscripts between Egyptian and
The Coptic versions are divided. The earliest manuscript of Mark in the Sahidic
version (which is the earliest Coptic translation), from c. 425, ends the text
of Mark at the end of 16:8. The next layer in the Sahidic tradition has both the
Shorter Ending and 16:9-20. Then 16:9-20 appears without the Shorter Ending.
All of the Ethiopic manuscripts of Mark include verses 16:9-20, frequently with
the Shorter Ending between 16:8 and 16:9. Some scholars in the late 1800's
erroneously stated that two or three Ethiopic manuscripts housed at the British
Museum do not contain 16:9-20, and this claim was frequently repeated in the
1900's. In 1972 Bruce Metzger discovered that this claim is incorrect; in 1980,
after more research, he noted that out of 194 Ethiopic manuscripts, 131 contain
both the Shorter Ending and 16:9-20; all the other copies of Mark contain
16:9-20 except for one copy that had been made in the 1700's and had been
damaged. Unfortunately the false claim that some Ethiopic copies lack Mark
16:9-20 continues to circulate in commentaries today, even in the fourth edition
(2005) of Metzger's own handbook The Text of the New Testament. Recently
the production-date of the oldest Ethiopic copy of the Gospels, the Garima
Gospels (which contains 16:9-20 after 16:8, without the Shorter Ending), was
determined by carbon-dating to be no later than the mid-600's.
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 in the mid-second century. How could such a
loss have occurred? We will answer that question in Part Three, after addressing
a few questions about some other pieces of evidence.
Mark 16:5-12 in Codex Alexandrinus
Mark 16:8-12 in Codex Bezae
Mark 16:7-10 in Codex Delta
Mark 16:8-10 in Codex Washingtoniensis
Mark 16:6-9 in Codex Regius (L), with the
Shorter Ending and notes between 16:8 and 16:9
Mark 16:19-20 in Codex Regius (L), followed by the
closing-title and the beginning of a list of chapter-
titles of the Gospel of Luke.
Mark 16:2-9 in Old Latin Codex Monacensis.
A scrawled note identifies 16:9 as the beginning
of the reading for a feast-day.
Armenian MS Matenadaran 2374, displaying an
interlinear rubric between Mk. 16:8 and 16:9,
"Aristou eritzou." The text continues on the next
two pages, concluding at the end of 16:20.
Mark 16:8-11 in Codex Psi (Psi, 044), with the
Shorter Ending and a note between 16:8 and 16:9.
To the left of the beginning of 16:9 is a note to alert
the lector to the beginning of a morning reading
(Mark 16:9-20 was the third of eleven "Heothina"
Mk. 16:17-20 in Latin, from Harley MS 1775,
produced in the late 500's.