Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 11, 1951
NUMBER 35, PAGE 8-9b

Critical Study Of A Disputed Passage

Steve Hudgins. Charlotte. Tennessee

(In a Bible class at D.L.C. this question was asked, "In view of our study of Mark 16:9-20 would you use this passage of scripture in debate with a Baptist?" I was surprised at the answers that came back. A good portion of the class and the teacher would not use it in a public discussion "lest the entire time be spent in quibbling over this one passage." I raised the question then "Do you use it in preaching?" The answer came back to the effect—yes, because the average person doesn't know that it is questioned. My questioning the honesty of such preaching and debating was not appreciated but gave the opportunity to investigate the material available on this passage. This article is the result of that investigation for which I received a grade of "A" and copies were made for all he class.)

Mark 16:9-20

Mark 16:9-20 is one of the few disputed passages of the Bible. These questions are often asked concerning this Scripture: Is it inspired? Is it really a part of the Bible? If it is not how did it ever get in the Bible? It is realized that the teaching of this passage is very much opposed to the teaching of many today and therefore easily understood why there might be some opposition to it. There are some who claim that these twelve verses are not in the original Greek. The purpose of this paper is to answer the above questions in the light of known facts. It is believed that this can be done by weighing evidence both for and against it.

The basis of the objection of many is the fact that this passage is left out of two manuscripts. Of all the great manuscripts now known two, which are considered to be the oldest and best, omit these verses. These two are the Sinatic and the Vatican. There is a blank column at the end of Mark's Gospel in the Vatican manuscript. This indicates that the scribe knew that something was left out. (This is the only blank in the whole volume. Though the Sinatic has not such a blank it is possible that a page was lost. "Besides these, the twelve verses are omitted in none but some old Armenian codices and two of the Ethiopic, k of the old Latin, and an Arabic Lectionary No. 13, examined by Scholz in the Vatican." (Scrivener, A PLAIN INTRODUCTION TO THE CRITICISM OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, v. 2, p. 338) Some codices contain the paragraph with the subscription "Gospel after Mark" at the end of verse 8.

Eusebius, who lived about 270 to 340 A. D., was the first so far as is known to raise an objection to this passage. He probably acted upon his rash opinion in leaving it out. Since that time there have been some who have opposed it but they no doubt do so on the authority of Eusebius. "The language of Eusebius has been minutely examined by Dean Burgon, who proves to demonstration that all the subsequent evidence which has been alleged the passage, whether of Severus, or Hesychius, or any other writer down to Euthymius Zigabenus in the twelfth century, is a mere echo of the doubts and difficulties of Eusebius, if indeed he is not retailing to us at second-hand one of the fanciful Biblical speculations of Origen." (Scrivener, 1. 2, p. 342)

While the Sinatic and Vatican leave it out it is in all the other old manuscripts. Not only this but we have versions that are older than the oldest manuscripts which contain this passage. For instance the Peshito Syriac contains these twelve verses. There seems to be some difference in opinion as to the age of this version. Scrivener says that the Peshito Syriac is dated as early as 170 A. D. McGarvey also places it in the second century but Robertson suggests that it is of the fifth century but doesn't offer anything in the way of proof for his statement. If McGarvey and Scrivener are right we have a record of this passage being in the text within 125 years of the original writing. Judging solely on the basis of versions and manuscripts there is by far more evidence for these verses than there is against them.

While Eusebius, of the late third century and early fourth, objected to these verses we find that early church leaders who lived before he did used them. For instance Irenaeus who was born about 140 A. D. refers to Mark 16:19 as being in the end of Mark's Gospel. Be it remembered that Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp who was a friend of the apostle John. Another who quoted from this passage was Justin Martyr. There are many other early church leaders who used these verses in their writings. Therefore so far as the record of early church leaders is concerned the evidence again is in favor of these verses.

Of more recent date Mr. Hort opposes this passage saying that it has no place in the Bible. In spite of this however, he said, "It is incredible that the Evangelist deliberately concluded either a paragraph with ephbounto gar, or the Gospel with a petty detail of a secondary event, leaving his narrative hanging in the air." (Scrivener, v. 2, p. 343) In explaining how these twelve verses got into the text Hort says that the correct ending of Mark's Gospel was probably lost at a very early date and that some scribe added these verses which he probably found in some secondary record of the preceding generation.

In the revised text there is a space left between the eighth and ninth verses with a footnote stating that these verses 9-20 are left out of the two oldest manuscripts. In regards to this, "Alexander Roberts, who was a member of the American Revision Committee, in a book called Companion to the Revised Version of the English Testament,' says, 'On the whole, a fair survey of all the facts of the case seems to lead us to these conclusions: first, that the passage is not the immediate production of St. Mark; and secondly, that it is, nevertheless, possessed of full canonical authority. We cannot ascertain its author, but we are sure he must have been one who belonged to the circle of the apostles. And in accordance with this view which, for some unknown reason, the Gospel of St. Mark ended; while at the same time, it is inserted, without the least misgiving, as an appendix to that Gospel in the Revised Version." (Van Dyke, Frank, THE DESIGN OF BAPTISM, Gospel Advocate, November 20, 1947, p. 942)

Some have made the objection that the style of these verses is not the same as the style of the rest of Mark and they therefore conclude that it is not a part of it. It seems that this is a favorite way to discredit most any scripture that might not fit just right with some. This same objection has been made to some of Paul's writings. An example of this is the latter part of II Corinthians which is said not to be the same style of the other.

By way of summary we see that though Mark 16:9-20 is left out of the two oldest manuscripts it is in the others and also some versions that are probably a good bit older than the oldest manuscripts known. That though Eusebius opposes this passage Irenaeus and Justin Martyr and many others who lived before him referred to it as being the end of the Gospel written by Mark. While Hort opposes it he admits that verse 8 is not the end of Mark's account and that while there is a space left between it and verse 8 in the Revised Version it was concluded by the Revised Committee that it is a part of the Bible but they were not sure of its authorship. Though its authorship has been questioned by some its authenticity and integrity has never been questioned. "Scholars have never questioned its inspiration." (Van Dyke, p. 942)

Since therefore evidence from every source has been weighed and proved to be overwhelmingly in its favor I shall continue to preach it, teach it, and willing and anxious to discuss it with anybody—anywhere—any time.