Early Evidence for Mark 16:9-20

 

GUEST ARTICLE

 

[The formatting of this article is not good but the contents do provide some important evidence for a portion of the New Testament that is doubted by many Greek scholars. There is sufficient evidence for me to be willing to accept Mark 16:9-20 as authentic and inspired of God. RH]

The often-repeated statement that some early manuscripts and other witnesses do not include Mark 16:9-20 is a
reference to seven pieces of evidence: Codex Vaticanus (produced c. 325), Codex Sinaiticus (c. 350), the Old Latin
Codex Bobbiensis (c. 430), which contains an inserted scene between Mark 16:3 and 16:4, and is missing the last
part of 16:8, and has the Shorter Ending, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript (c. 400), and one Sahidic manuscript (c.
425) stored at Barcelona, Spain. The testimony of Eusbius of Caesarea (c. 325) that “accurate manuscripts” at
Caesarea also ended at 16:8, should be added to those five documents. (Jerome and some other writers are
sometimes miscited as if they said that manuscripts which they examined ended at 16:8, but close examination of
their statements shows that they were borrowing Eusebius’ statements, not unlike the manner in which modern-
day commentators have borrowed statements from Bruce Metzger’s writings without any fact-checking.) A form of
the Armenian version (post-430) also concluded Mark at 16:8.

Thus there is no external evidence for the omission of Mark 16:9-20 in the 100’s or 200’s. In the 300’s, the
testimony against Mk. 16:9-20 consists of two closely related Greek manuscripts. In the 400’s, the testimony
against Mk. 16:9-20 consists of one anomalous Old Latin manuscript, one Syriac manuscript which shares special
readings with the Latin one, one Sahidic manuscript, manuscripts known to Eusebius, and a form of the Armenian
version (attested in medieval copies that echo earlier ancestor-copies).

In contrast to those seven pieces of evidence against Mark 16:9-20, the following pieces of early evidence offer
support, to one degree or another, for the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20. Most of the dates given are approximate.

1. Papias (110) stated that Justus Barsabbas (who is mentioned in Acts 1:23) once drank a noxious liquid and was
not harmed by it. Papias may have mentioned this to illustrate the fulfullment of Mark 16:18. Papias also said that
Mark, in his Gospel-account, was careful not to leave out anything that Peter had proclaimed about Jesus.

2. Epistula Apostolorum (150), an anonymous composition that presents itself as an epistle from the apostles,
includes a narrative in which Jesus is pictured appearing to a woman after His resurrection; the woman reports
this to the apostles but they do not believe her, so He appears to them also. This, and some verbiage used by the
author, seems to be based on Mark 16:9-14.

3. Justin Martyr (160), in the course of interpreting Psalm 110 as a Messianic prophecy in chapter 45 of his
composition First Apology, used a combination of Mark 16:20 and Luke 24:53, stating that Psalm 110:2 was
“predictive of the mighty word which His apostles, going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere.” In chapter
50, Justin seems to refer to the scene in Mark 16:14, “Afterward when He had risen from the dead and appeared to
them.”

4. Tatian (172) compiled a text called the Diatessaron, blending together the text of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
into one continuous narrative. He included Mark 16:9-20 in the Diatessaron.

5. Irenaeus (184), in Book 3 of Against Heresies, states, “Toward 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.'”

6. Tertullian (204) figuratively compares false teachings to venom in his composition Scorpiace. In chapter 15
Tertullian seems to use an Old Latin text of Mk. 16:18 as he describes sound doctrine as an antidote to poisonous
heresies. In Apology ch. 21, Tertullian states that Jesus was taken up to heaven “having commissioned them [that
is, the apostles] to the duty of preaching throughout the world,” which seems to allude to Mk. 16:15. In another
composition, De Fuga in Persecutione, Tertullian states, “We preach throughout all the world,” possibly again
employing verbiage from Mark 16:15.

7. Clement of Alexandria (210) has been cited by commentators (who were relying on Metzger’s comments) as if he
“shows no knowledge” of the existence of Mark 16:9-20. However, in Adumbrationes, as preserved by the later
Latin writer Cassiodorus, as Clement comments on Jude v. 24 he may refer to Mk. 16:19’s reference to Jesus being
seated at the right hand of God.

8. Hippolytus (220) states in Apostolic Tradition 32:1 that a faithful person should partake of the Lord’s Supper
before eating anything else, “For if he partakes with faith, even if something deadly were given to him, after this it
cannot hurt him.” Hippolytus uses the Greek word thanasimon which occurs in Mark 16:18 in the prediction about
believers who will be kept safe from deadly poison.

9. Vincentius of Thibaris (256), bishop of a town in North Africa, attended the Seventh Council of Carthage and as
he affirmed its decrees he stated, “We most assuredly possess 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, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit.'” Vincentius thus refers to Mark 16:14-18 and the parallel-passage in Matthew 28:19.

10. De Rebaptismate (258), an anonymous composition responding to statements by the church-leader Cyprian,
refers to the scene in Mark 16:14 by stating that some of the apostles did not believe at all “until they had been
subsequently by the Lord Himself in all ways rebuked and reproached, because His death had so offended them
that they thought that He had not risen again.”

11. Porphyry (270) was a pagan writer; in his composition Against the Christians, as Porphyry listed objections to
various passages from the Gospels, he mentioned the passage that says that signs shall follow those who believe,
that and that they shall lay hands upon sick folk, and they shall recover, and that if they drink any deadly drug, it
shall in no way hurt them. Porphyry proceeded to challenge Christian leaders to test themselves by drinking
poison.

12. Acts of Pilate (300’s), an apocryphal composition which was rather popular in the 300’s and later, incorporates
Mark 16:15-16 in its fourteenth chapter. (Some copies of Acts of Pilate also include verses 17-18.)

13. Marinus (325) wrote to Eusebius of Caesarea, inquiring about how to harmonize the contents of Mark 16:9 and
Matthew 28:1.

14. Some copies mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea (325) in his reply to Marinus; Eusebius says that “some
copies” of Mark mention that Jesus exorcised seven demons out of Mary Magdalene.

15. The copyist of Codex Vaticanus (325), who recollected Mk. 16:9-20 when producing this codex. This individual
also helped produce Codex Sinaiticus, and wrote the pages of Codex Sinaiticus that contain Mark 14:54-16:8 and
Luke 1:1-56. This may be Acacius, who was bishop at Caesarea in the mid-300’s.

16. Aphrahat (336), a Syrian writer, loosely quoted Mark 16:16-18 in section 17 of his composition First
Demonstration.

17. The Freer Logion (100’s-mid-300’s) is an interpolation that appears between Mark 16:14 and 16:15 in Codex W,
and which is mentioned by Jerome around 417. It states, “They excused themselves, saying, ‘This age of
lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who through unclean spirits does not allow the truth and power of God
to be understood. So then, reveal your righteousness now,’ they said to Christ. And Christ told them, ‘The years
of the reign of Satan are fulfilled, but other terrors approach. And for those who have sinned I was delivered unto
death, that they might return to the truth and sin no more, so that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible
glory of righteousness in heaven. But'” — and there verse 15 resumes. Metzger proposed that the author of the
Freer Logion (100’s-mid-300’s) lived in the 100’s or 200’s.

18. The Claromontanus Catalogue (200’s-mid-300’s) is a list of books and their lengths. For the Gospel of Mark, it
states a length consistent with inclusion of Mark 16:9-20.

19. Wulfilas (350) included Mark 16:9-20 in his translation of the Bible into Gothic.

20. Ephrem Syrus (370), in his Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron, and in a hymn, used verbiage taken from
Mark 16:15.

21. Ambrose (375), bishop of Milan, quotes Mk. 16:17-18 in The Prayer of Job and David 4:14 and in Concerning
Repentance 1:8, and he quotes 16:15-18 in Of the Holy Spirit 2:13. In Of the Christian Faith 1:14, Ambrose states,
“We have heard the passage read where the Lord says, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to all
creation,'” thus showing that Mark 16:15 was being read in the church-services at that time.

22. Apostolic Constitutions (380), a composite text which incorporated some of the writings of Hippolytus, quotes
Mark 16:17-18.

23. Didymus the Blind (380), or possibly another author from the same time and place, used Mark 16:15-16 in De
Trinitate 2:12.

24. Jerome (383) included Mark 16:9-20 in the Gospel of Mark when he standardized divergent Old Latin texts of
the Gospels by producing the Vulgate Gospels, as attested in copies such as Codex Amiatinus. Jerome stated that
he conformed the Latin text to the contents of old Greek copies.

25. Epiphanius of Salamis (385), in his anti-heresy composition The Medicine-Chest (3:6:3), stated that Mark
mentions that Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, a clear reference to Mk.
16:19.

26. Augustine’s Latin manuscripts (400) contained Mark 16:9-20. He quotes the entire passage in his composition
On the Harmony of the Gospels 3:24-25.

27. Augustine’s Greek manuscripts (400) are mentioned by Augustine in On the Harmony of the Gospels 3:25
where he cites their contents of Mark 16:12. He gives no indication that he knows of copies that end at 16:8, or
which contain the Shorter Ending.

28. Augustine’s North African Lectionary (400) included Mark 16:9-20 as an Eastertime reading, as shown in his
Sermons 231, 233, and 239. In his Fourth Homily on First John, Augustine stated, “You heard as the Gospel was
read, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,'” demonstrating that Mark 16:16 and the
surrounding verses were read in the church-services there.

29. The Old Latin Capitula (200’s-300’s) is a series of chapter-titles found in some Old Latin manuscripts, including
the Old Latin Codex Corbeiensis. Mark is assigned 47 chapters, and chapter 47 is said to be about Christ’s
resurrection, appearance to the disciples, His instructions to them, and His ascension into heaven. Four other
forms of the Old Latin Capitula also refer to events in Mark 16:9-20.

30. Manuscripts seen by Jerome (380’s) contained Mark 16:9-20 and the Freer Logion; he mentions having seen
such copies in his composition Against the Pelagians 2:14. Probably he saw these copies when he visited Egypt
in 386.

32. The Peshitta (300’s), the standard Syriac translation of (most of) the New Testament, contains Mark 16:9-20. In
the early 1900’s it was proposed that the Peshitta was made by Rabbula in the early 400’s but an earlier date is
more probable.

33. Codex Washingtoniensis (400), also known as Codex W, contains Mark 16:9-20, with the Freer Logion in the
text, between 16:14 and 16:15.

34. Macarius Magnes (405), from the city of Magnesium in Asia Minor (western Turkey), composed Apocriticus, a
series of responses to the objections posed by Porphyry. (Macarius was unaware of the identity of the author
whose objections had spurred him to write.) After encountering the challenge to drink poison, Macarius Magnes
responded, not by any suggestion that the cited passage was spurious, but by interpreting it in a symbolic way.

35. The Apocryphal Acts of John (400’s or earlier) utilize the contents of Mark 16:9-20 in various ways. In the
apocryphal composition called The Story of John the Son of Zebedee, extant in a Syriac copy from the 500’s, Mark
16:16 is used repeatedly. In Section 20 of the Leucian Acts of John (a difficult section to date), John is depicted
saying, “If you give me poison to drink, when I call on the name of my Lord, it will not be able to harm me;” the
scene appears to have been written as an example of the fulfillment of Mark 16:18.

36. The Doctrine of Addai (410) utilizes Mark 16:15, picturing its main character telling Abgar, king of the Syrian city
of Edessa, “We were commanded to preach His gospel to the whole creation.” Eusebius of Caesarea mentions (in
the first book of Ecclesiastical History) a similar account about Abgar. Possibly Doctrine of Addai is a composite
work, and this part deserves to be assigned an earlier date.

37. The Curetonian Syriac manuscript (425) is a highly damaged copy of the Gospels in Syriac. It is not a copy of
the Peshitta. Its only extant text of Mark is from 16:17-20.

38. John Chrysostom (407), in his Homilies on First Corinthians, may allude to the contents of Mark 16:9-20 at a
few points: in 3:6 he says that it is impossible to be saved without baptism, a statement which might be based on
Mark 16:16 (or perhaps John 3:5); in 14:2 he says that the apostles confirmed the truth by signs, which may allude
to Mark 16:20; in 38:5 he says that the Gospel surely says that Jesus was first seen by Mary Magdalene, which
seems to refer to Mark 16:9.

39. Marcus Eremita (435), at the end of the sixth chapter of his composition Against Nestorius, clearly used Mark
16:18.

40. Eznik of Golb (440), one of the individuals who helped produce and revise the Armenian version in the 400’s,
wrote a composition called De Deo. In chapter 112, Eznik cited the contents of Mark 16:17-18.

41. Nestorius (early 400’s) is quoted by another writer, Cyril of Alexandria; in 2:6 of his composition Against
Nestorius, Cyril presents Nestorius’ quotation from Mark 16:19-20.

42. Marius Mercator (mid-400’s), using an Old Latin text, quoted Mark 16:20 in his tenth sermon.

43. Codex Alexandrinus (mid-400’s), also known as Codex A, includes Mark 16:9-20 in the text of Mark.

44. Patrick (450), the famous missionary to Ireland, quoted Mark 16:16 in his Letter to Coroticus (part 20), and in
Confession (part 40).

45. Peter Chrysologus (450), bishop of Ravenna, quoted extensively from Mark 16:14-20 in his 83rd Sermon as a
text that was read in the church-service.

46. Codex Ephremi Rescriptus (mid-400’s), also known as Codex C, includes Mark 16:9-20 in the text of Mark.

47. A note in the Commentary of Victor of Antioch (mid-400’s), after presenting the comments of Eusebius of
Caesarea on the passage, states that the note’s author investigated the manuscripts and found the passage in
accurate copies, including a Palestinian exemplar which he seems to have highly regarded.

48. Prosper of Aquitaine (450), in Call of All Nations 2:2, explicitly quoted Mark 16:15-16.

49. Leo the Great (453), bishop of Rome, cited Mark 16:16 in Letter 70, written to Theodoret on June 11, 453.

50. Old Latin Codex Corbeiensis (early 400’s), despite some damage to verses 15-18, includes Mark 16:9-20 in the
Gospel of Mark in an Old Latin version.

51. Old Latin Fragment Sangallensis (400’s), also known as Old Latin “n,” is damaged, but includes Mark 16:9-13,
and a supplement (known as “o”) which probably was copied from the page that it replaced contains the rest of
the passage.

52. Codex Bezae (late 400’s), the flagship manuscript of the Western Text of the Gospels and Acts, is damaged, but
contains Mark 16:9-15a in Greek, with several non-Byzantine readings; the rest of the passage is supplied on a
replacement-page.

53. Old Latin Codex Monacensis (500’s or 600’s), also known as Old Latin “q,” echoes a text of the Gospels that
predates the production of the Vulgate (383). It includes 16:9-20 in the text of Mark, with several non-Vulgate
variants.

54. Codex Rossanensis (500’s), also known as Codex Sigma, is an illustrated Greek manuscript of Matthew and
Mark written in gold and silver ink on purple-dyed parchment. It originally included the passage but due to damage
the text after 16:14a is lost. (Metzger wrote that its text of Mark ends at 14:14, but this mistake is due to a
typographical error on page 158 of the 1883 edition of F. H. A. Scrivener’s Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the
New Testament, upon which Metzger apparently relied. The error was corrected in the 1894 edition; William
Sanday had pointed it out in 1885.) This codex is listed here as a representative of the Byzantine text-type which,
to one degree or another, is supported by over 1,500 manuscripts and over a thousand lectionaries.

55. Gildas (early 500’s) was a saintly historian and traveler (in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales) who who used an Old
Latin text of the Gospels; near the beginning of his composition De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, he quoted
Mark 16:16. Gildas used an Old Latin text.

56. Severus of Antioch (early 500’s), repeats the comments that Eusebius made to Marinus, but clearly uses Mark
16:19 in an independent statement near the end of his 77th Homily.

57. Synopsis Scriptura Sacrae (500’s) includes, in Greek, a summarization of the events in Mark 16:9-20.

58. The Life of Samson of Dol, based closely on material from the 500’s and 600’s, includes an episode (1:16) in
which Samson of Dol, although aware that a certain drink at his table was poisoned, consumes it anyway, and
survives completely unharmed, having remembered Mark 16:18.

59. The Garima Gospels (400’s-600’s), the earliest Ethiopic copy of the Gospels, includes Mark 16:9-20.

60. Leontius of Jerusalem (530’s), in his composition Against the Monophysite, used Mark 16:20.

Thus we have 52 pieces of ancient evidence for Mark 16:9-20, produced or composed before the fall of Rome (in
486), plus eight more witnesses of comparable age which echo ancient ancestors. The support for Mark 16:9-20 is
stronger in some cases than in others, ranging from explicit quotations to clear utilizations to possible allusions.
They all belong on the scale when the evidence is being weighed. The later manuscripts that support Mark 16:9-20
— over 1,500 Greek manuscripts of Mark — and hundreds of lectionaries, and hundreds of non-Greek copies, also
deserve to be placed on the scales. But these 52 witnesses from before the fall of Rome (plus eight more of
comparable age) are given special attention here in the hope that they will show that the unbalanced claims about
the ancient evidence for Mark 16:9-20 in some Bible footnotes and commentaries should not be believed, and need
to be corrected.

http://www.curtisvillechristianchurch.org/Evidence.htm

 

 

 

 

Comments are closed.