The problematic ending of the gospel of Mark


The Ending of Mark


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. What is the consensus?

    The preference among most scholars recently is that Mark intended to close the gospel with verse eight.1

  4. 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.

  5. 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.



One thought on “The problematic ending of the gospel of Mark

  1. Dear Chris:

    The absence of Mark 16:9-20 in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus must be considered in the framework of the rest of the evidence, including the evidence from those two MSS: Vaticanus has a very suggestive blank space after 16:8, and Sinaiticus contains non-original pages for the entire portion of text from Mark 14:54 to Luke 1:56, and the copyist who made the replacement-sheet containing those verses seems to be the same individual who produced much of Vaticanus.

    And there’s early patristic evidence to consider, too: Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus definitely used material from Mark 16:9-20 (although it would take some explaining to show why Justin’s allusion in First Apology ch. 45 is much stronger than some commentators have painted it); recently Robert Stein acknowledged that the author of the Epistula Apostolorum also knew 16:9-20.

    The re-mention of Mary Magdalene, by itself, is not problematic; Mark also re-introduces Judas Iscariot in a similar way as “one of the twelve.” The awkwardness of 16:9 resides in the way it seems to hit “rewind.” But if there is an pound of difficulty in seeing why Mark would rewind the narrative here, there is a ton of difficulty in seeing why he would deliberately stop it here.

    So, after looking into things, I advocate the first possibility that you mentioned: ”
    Some believe that Mark was unable to finish the gospel and as a result someone else added the extended section.” The thing to see is that if this occurred before the Gospel of Mark was copied and disseminated for church-use, then the original text includes 16:9-20, and the few witnesses which lack 16:9-20 reflect a later, post-production stage at which the addition was removed, perhaps with the understanding that John 21 should be understood as a more authoritative ending of Mark’s narrative.

    Also, regarding the scholarly consensus about the question of whether or not Mark intended to stop at the end of 16:8 — commentators must be weighed, not counted. Robert Stein, in his new commentary on Mark, favors the view that the ending at 16:8 was not intentional, and suggests that among major-league commentators, there is a trend in agreement with him.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s