Mark 16

Chapter sixteen requires some examination. Due to a series of variants between Greek manuscripts, this chapter could end with verse eight, verse eight plus a closing tag, or include all twenty verses. Most conservative scholarship agrees that Mark 16:9-20 were not included in Mark’s original writing. This causes concern for some, though, because, while the first eight verses do record Jesus’ resurrection and the angelic appearance, none of the detail in the other gospels is included, and verse eight ends in fear, not what the resurrection was meant to convey.

However, that is not to say that the other verses are not authentic. The writing style does not match the rest of Mark, but it is possible that Mark wrote the ending later. This would account for some manuscripts having the ending. However, another explanation is possible as well. It may be that someone, with or without Mark’s approval, compiled a few “good” events to finish the story with a happier ending.

Although the final verses were definitely not written at the same time as the rest, and it is impossible to know for sure if they are authentic, a quick look over them reveals nothing that contradicts the rest of Scripture. Mark 16:9-11 records the unbelief of the disciples upon receiving word of Jesus’ resurrection, as attested in the other gospels. Mark 16:12-14 match Luke’s account (24:13-43) of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus and his subsequent appearance to the Eleven. The commission in Mark 16:15 is similar to Matthew 28:19. Mark 16:19-20 records his ascension and the disciples’ obedience in preaching the gospel.

Only Mark 16:16-18 is specifically unaccounted for, and they have caused a great deal of debate over the centuries. However, if we approach them in their context, without the need to build entire doctrines out of them, they still do not contradict clear Scripture. In Mark 16:16 it sounds as if baptism is necessary for salvation along with belief. However, even the verse itself singles out faith alone in the second half. Additionally, the apostles preached the importance of baptism alongside salvation (though not for salvation) throughout the early years of the Church, especially to the Jewish people. A comparison of Mark 16:16 with Acts 2:38-41 could show Peter’s influence on the later addition.

Even Mark 16:17-18 does not contradict other revealed Scripture. The fact that we do not have record of Jesus saying these things elsewhere does not mean that he did not. In fact, in the Upper Room he told the Eleven that they would continue to perform miracles (John 14:12), and throughout the Apostolic Age of the Church, some people did do miracles under the direction of the apostles. Although these verses should not be used to say that these miracles would continue indefinitely, it is true that they did happen for several decades.

The final point of note in this chapter is the singular mention of one apostle, Peter (Mark 16:7). Mark alone records the angel saying, “Go, tell his disciples, even Peter.” It is impossible to know if the women told him this privately, but Peter certainly held dearly the knowledge that Jesus called him back by name. That the Holy Spirit allowed Peter’s apprentice, Mark, to record this forever was an act of extraordinary grace.

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Daniel Goepfrich

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