The False Ending of Mark

This post at The Sound of the Genuine questioned a preacher’s use of the false ending of the Gospel of Mark. I echo his concerns:

Knowing that many scholars view Mark 16:9-20 as a latter addition to the text, would you preach from it and not address the debate? Would you feel comfortable in an exegetical sense using this text as a basis for preaching from Mark?

Check out the dialogue.


Also see this list of biblical scholars on this subject.


8 responses to “The False Ending of Mark

  1. I would preach (and have preached) from Mark 16:9-20, and I would address (and have addressed) the textual issue. For details, see the multi-part online presentation at .

    It is true that many scholars view Mark 16:9-20 as a later addition to the text. But unfortunately it is also true that many scholars have failed to get a tight grip on the facts of the case. For evidence of some shortcomings in scholarly treatments of Mark 16:9-20 in commentaries, New Testament introductions, articles, and Bible-footnotes, I welcome you to consult my article on the subject in the Files at the TC-Alternate Yahoo Discussion-group, where you can also find a free, downloadable text of my full essay on the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20.

    (When I claim that Mark 16:9-20 is “authentic,” I mean that it was present in the text of the Gospel of Mark when the Gospel of Mark was first disseminated for church-use. This does not mean that Mark intended to end his book with 16:9-20.

  2. If it’s a false ending, then it should be removed from the Bible. But if we’re not willing to remove it from the Bible, then it’s completely fair game for preaching.

  3. I would and have preached it, but always with the caveat that most scholars agree that it was added after the original manuscript. Due to the potency of the passage, a fair and honest disclosure of its apparent later inclusion is not only a good idea, but one that helps to shine light on fringe congregations that bring snakes and arsenic into worship services. It was an enthusiatic addition that has lead to death, sickness and imprisonment by overzealous and naive Christians. Don’t we have some responsibilty when sharing the Word?

  4. It appears in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament under the heading of “The Longer Ending of Mark”. As such, it is fair game (as long as you note it to your congregation).

    I may not be the best judge, though. I have preached out of the Apocrypha and also out of the Didache. God revealed himself in the Word, but is that the only place?

    Of course, when I use a piece of text not found in the agreed-upon canon of the Bible, I tell people and let them make up their own mind. I think of it as one of my responsibilities as a pastor. If they hear about these things from some other source, then what does that do to my credibility.

    Just a thought.

  5. I prefer the designations, as pointed out above, the short and long endings of Mark, with the additional note that there is yet another text variant, sometimes called the longer (but not longest) ending of Mark’s Gospel.

    I concurr with James above that the long ending of Mark has always been scripture, in that it was in that form when the text became canonical. However, I have also preached about the short ending and why I think ending with, “They told no one for they were afraid” is helpful for us. In every generation, if we are afraid and tell no one, then the faith will die out. But we know that those women did overcome their initials fears and talk, or their story would not be part of our story of the faith. They overcame fears and shared the Good News and in so doing provide us with inspiration to overcome fear and share the Good News.

    So, I could preach from the long ending of Mark, while telling folks of its history, but I note I have never done so. I guess I have a canon within the canon. I suspect most preachers do.

  6. I have been preaching through the Gospel of Mark this semester. As I have done my text critical work, I have been greatly dismayed at the lack of detailed treatment of the longer ending in any resource I have (or for that matter could find). I am not opposed to having little information on the issues of spelling or even in some places word order in the critical aparatus of Greek editions, but I am dismayed when the evidence for such major textual variants is not listed. Without such evidence how can anyone agree or disagree with the elites?

    In any case I take the viewpoint in Why Four Gospels? by David Alan Black. I do think the gospel in its first form ended with verse 8 true to Peter’s sermons on the subject, but at the time when Mark pastored in Alexandria (according to tradition), he completed the Resurrection narrative for the use of his church. Even so I am not dogmatic on this scenario.

    I further agree that it is vital to see the longer ending as a part of the cannonical text. If we follow the tenor of text criticism used to eject this ending we loose the Pastorals, Hebrews, and several other general epistles. and possibly any future passage or book from which a pastor or theologian believes it is too hard to preach. Additionally, I thought this issue had been somewhat settled with the general discrediting of the reductionist movement in Old Testament scholarship. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls the fact seemed to me to be proven that the general tendancy of copyist and scribes was to copy what was recieved, while the general tendancy of scholars was to edit away any “difficulties” in a text. Obviously the New Testament scholors have not heeded the warning.

    The cannonical shape of books in their final form from the pens of their authors should be considered the inspired text. Otherwise, what if we were to find an ealier and more reliable non-cannonical Gospel of Thaddeus. No points of theology are different from the New Testament but it merely records differing accounts of Jesus’ life. What holds us back from adding it to the New Testament as now recieved? THE CANNON – accepted books based on the evident work of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures he inspired in Christ’s church. Similarly what keeps us from throwing out books and points of theology that challenge us? THE CANNON – works in their final form from the pens of Spirit inspired authors whose work was entrusted AS IS to the church. As far back as the second century (a fact which implies an earlier text since it had to be written and disseminated for it to be in Justin Martyr’s hands) it seems that the cannonical shape of Mark included the longer ending and thus so should we include it who preach!

  7. paul the liar

    John 7:53-8:11

    53Then each of them went home, 81while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ 6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.* 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11She said, ‘No one, sir.’* And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’]]*

  8. paul the liar

    Concerning the Story of the Adulteress
    in the Eighth Chapter of John

    Biblical scholars are nearly all agreed that the Story of the Adulteress (also known as the Pericope Adulterae or the Pericope de Adultera) usually printed in Bibles as John 7:53-8:11 is a later addition to the Gospel. On this page I present some extended quotations from scholarly works that explain the reasons for this judgment. On another page I give an extract from one of the few scholarly defenders of the passage. To give my own opinion, it seems clear to me that the story does not belong in the Bible. If despite its absence from the early manuscripts this passage is thought to be so edifying that it is worthy of being treated as Holy Scripture, we might with equal justice add any number of edifying ancient stories to the Bible. The Quo Vadis legend about Peter’s martyrdom, for instance, might just as well be added to the canonical book of Acts. For more on this, see my essay, Quo Vadis?

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