The Ending of Mark
What is the problem?
The problem is that Mark 16:9-20 is not included in two of the most reliable early manuscripts. This ending also seems to cause an unnatural transition in the narrative. Mary Magdalene is mentioned in verse one of the chapter, and then in verse nine she is introduced as though she was previously unmentioned. The external evidence and the internal evidence point to the authenticity of this section being doubtful.
What are the proposals?
Some believe that Mark was unable to finish the gospel and as a result someone else added the extended section. Others believe that the original ending of Mark was separated from the rest of the gospel and subsequently lost. Finally, others believe that Mark intended for his gospel to close with verse eight. There are very few, if any, who would claim that verses 9-20 were original.
What is the consensus?
The preference among most scholars recently is that Mark intended to close the gospel with verse eight.1
Why is it the consensus?
In evaluating Mark’s writing scholars have found that in the majority of cases Mark presents the information and provides very few editorial comments.2 As a result of this pattern, Mark intentionally ending with verse eight seems fitting.
What is your preference?
Upon considering the evidence, I believe that the consensus view provides the most likely option. It is very hard to believe verses 9-20 are original. It is also very difficult to substantiate either of the alternative proposals. Those seem to be more “guesses” than based on hard evidence. It seems that the pattern of Mark’s writing would validate verse eight being the intended closing to the gospel.
1Carson, D.A. And Douglas Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Zondervan. (2005), p. 189.