Mark 16:9-20 – A brief history on its varied treatment as seen in contemporary translations

When I started reading the bible in my late teens I wasn’t thinking about the formation or history of how the bibles collection of books came together. Where did the books of the Bible come from anyways? How was it put together? Are we sure we have selected the correct contents? Did we leave something out? Are their parts that should be taken out? And, why are there some sections in the New Testament, like Mark 16:9-20, that say that the passage wasn’t even in some early manuscripts??

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be an exhaustive post about how we got the biblical cannon (set of books for the bible). I only am going to focus on a few places of interest in the New Testament, mainly Mark 16:9-20.. But before I dive in let’s do a quick summary about how the protestant bible as we know it today came together so we are all on the same page. This will be very quick incomplete summary ūüôā

BIBLE ORIGINS SUMMARY

The Old Testament has had it’s entire history with the Jewish people. Jews have their own name for the Old Testament, the Tanakh, Christians get that part of the Bible, the books Genesis-Malachi, exclusively from them. The Jewish and Christian faiths believe that these books are directly¬†inspired of God. The selection of these¬†thirty-nine books has been widely accepted even before the time of Jesus. *There are a few books in the Catholic bible that are of Old Testament nature that are not included in the protestants (non-catholic) bible. Non-Catholics consider these books to be worthless, or at best apocryphal, and not worthy to be included in their bible.

The New Testament is the message of Jesus who himself claimed to be the Jewish messiah (deliverer), who’s coming was foretold in the Jewish Tanakh, (our Old Testament). The Jewish leaders never accepted Jesus as the actual¬†messiah so as far as the Jews are concerned their bible ends in what we call the Old Testament. To this day people of the Jewish faith are still waiting for their promised messiah to come.

Christians however believe in the message of Jesus and that he was indeed the messiah that the Tanakh foretold. So we as Christians fully accept the Jewish bible because it foretells the coming of Jesus and gives us the history about His coming. That’s where the Old Testament comes from and why we have it in our bibles.

The New Testament as we know it today is comprised of books that were written somewhere between 30-170 years after Jesus died. There is much debate about when the books were actually written with some, especially evangelicals, postulating they were all written within 60-70 years of Jesus’s death (before 100 AD. And others, especially secular and more liberal analysts, emphatically claim that the some of the New Testament books were written decades and decades later than 100 AD. The idea is that if the books were written further back in history, and were written more closely to the 1st generation of Jesus’s followers, then they are probably more accurate and have less chance of error. If they were written later it is then possible that the writings are less accurate, AND makes it impossible to believe that they were written by the author(s) that the book claims it’s own authorship – II Peter is a good example of this where the author claims to be the same Peter that was one of Jesus’s disciples. Most scholars believe this book wasn’t written till the late 2nd century which would place it far beyond Peters’ possible life span. That issue is a fun read if you haven’t check that out before.

What was considered to be, “the formal set books of the New Testament”, was somewhat loose in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It appears that some churches/areas accepted one set of books while others churches/areas accepted another set. But even in that gray period there seems to have been a strong consensus on the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and many/most of the apostle Paul’s writings (Romans, I/II Corinthians, Galatians, etc.). The New Testament books as they are presented to us today were finally canonized¬†in the 4th century by Catholic church leaders.¬†A few¬†of the books that were eventually canonized were however vigorously contested and took a while for broad acceptance such at II Peter, Hebrews, II/III John, James, Jude, and even Revelation.

So there you have it, that’s a brief summary on how the bible came together. Oh, but the story continues….

REFORMATION and DENOMINATIONAL EXPANSION

The Catholic church dominated, literally and in true sense of the word, from the 4th century until the Reformation by Martin Luther 16th century. Between the 4th and 16th centuries there were a few Christian groups that survived/withstood the Catholic persecution but for the most part you were labeled a heretic and persecuted if you disagreed with the Catholic church. That all changed in the 16th century with the Reformation where we finally see independent veins of the Christian faith running along side of Catholic church freely without persecution. The leaders that belonged to the reformation movement didn’t change the makeup of the New Testament…although Martin Luther DID unsuccessfully lobby to remove Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation. So, the set of books for the New Testament did come up again briefly during this time but nothing changed.

After the 16th century and the reformation we see a birth of new Christian denominations: Lutherans,  Episcopal, Baptist, Reformists, etc.

Denominational family tree

Moving ahead a few years we see that in the 1800’s there was a birth of many new denominations. There teachings were all slightly different from one another and each claimed that they had a more clearer truth on the message of Jesus. One unifying factor of these different churches is that up to this point they all used the same bible contents that the Catholic church formally confirmed in the 4th century. Their bibles even contained the aforementioned¬†Apocrypha¬†, i.e. Geneva bible, King James bible, and it wasn’t till the mid-1800’s that the protestants finally removed it from their bible.

In America they started with the Geneva Bible(1599) and in the later 1700’s the King James Version(1611) took over as the most popular.

NEWER TRANSLATION NEEDED / ALEXANDRIAN AND BYZANTINE DEBATE

The King James Version was completed in 1611 and it isn’t until the late 1800’s, over 250 years later, that we find the first¬†revision of the King James bible. Completed in 1881 (Old Testament was completed in 1885) this revision was of British origin and was titled the English Revised Version. It’s american counterpart, the American Standard Version (which is practically identical), came out in 1901. These revisions came about for a few reasons. One of these reasons was to update the language from the Elizabethan style found in the King James¬†(thee’s, thou’s, and thine’s) into a more modern form of speech. Another major reason for revision was also to re-examine and address concerns about the certain placement/acceptance of some existing New Testament content.

Ready to get a little technical? I’ve tried to make the next few paragraphs as simple to understand as possible. Those who might be more well versed in this subject will know that I’m leaving out a lot and may not be using certain terms/definition in exactly the correct way. But for brevity sake this should work. Here we go:

Why did scholars want to re-examine and address concerns about some existing New Testament content? A large part was due to the discovery of two manuscripts (early copies of the bible) that predated the manuscripts that were used to translate the King James Version. These two earlier manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus  (also grouped together with a few other works to be known as the Alexandrian Text-type) are copies dating back to the 4th century. Where as the oldest manuscripts for the King James Version came after the 4th century (grouped together with other works and know as the Byzantine Text-type). Historians and scholars are always trying to find manuscripts that date back as close to the original production as possible. That makes sense. The idea is that the older the manuscript is the more likelihood that the manuscript will be a better representation of the original work because there are less possibilities for copy errors and less time has gone by for people to be able to insert their own jargon into the text (interpolation). Upon reviewing the Alexandrian texts (which as a little older) with the Byzantine texts (a little less old) it became apparent that there were a few inconsistencies. So in part, the revisions that went into the English Revised bible tried to tackle these inconsistencies between the two text types and balance the new Alexandrian manuscript evidence into a revised edition of the bible.

The good news is that the overwhelming majority of the Alexandrian and Byzantine text-types agree with each other. So that is really good news for sake of validation. It’s fun to know that we as 21st century believers have pretty much the same texts available to as what Christians as far back as at least the 4th century had! With all of the bibles copies, revisions and translations over the centuries it’s very assuring to see such continuity.¬†And, of all the discrepancies between the two texts-types, there is nothing major of Christian teaching that they disagree with. It’s not like the recent discovered Alexandrian texts denies Christ’s Resurrection, or says that Jesus actually had a wife, or adds in a never seen new chapter, or reveals a secret that contradicts something important. There isn’t any important doctrine that is negated by embracing the Alexandrian text. So, much of the disagreement is over relatively minor stuff. But being true to sound research and bible accuracy it made sense to the revisers to address these issues in the new translation rather than sweep them under the rug.

So what exactly were these small bits of “discrepancies”??

Many¬†of the differences are just a misspelling of a word or short phase. I’m guessing those issues were more easily resolved by the translators. But it was also found that some larger excerpts of the New Testament found in the¬†Byzantine texts were completely missing from the¬†Alexandrian texts. Specifically, there are two large passages of scripture missing from the Alexandrian texts – the first passage is one of our most favorite stories about Jesus, John 7:53-8:11, the woman caught in the act of adultery. This passage is a fan favorite of believers and non-believers alike. I mean whose doesn’t like this story?¬† A woman, caught in the VERY ACT of adultery (which means she was probably literally pulled out of bed while having sex), is about to be stoned to death by an angry mob. Then, a seemingly un-religious “religious” man, and breaks up the unruly posse without even saying a word. Furthermore, He forgives the woman of her sins without giving her a reprimand except to “go and sin no more”. Amazing! What forgiveness!! But yes this passage was in question as it wasn’t found in the text when the older Alexandrian manuscripts were recovered.

The other omitted excerpt is Mark 16: 9-20, our topic for this blog post.

Some of the contention around this issue is that scholars can’t agree on which set of manuscripts are the most pure and accurate. Some of the early church fathers of the 2nd-4th centuries quoted sections of Mark 16:9-20 as being holy scripture while others didn’t. Also, the the two Alexandrian manuscripts have many discrepancies between themselves which presents an authenticity issue in itself. And lastly, there are some very good reasons that some scholars have presented that would debunk that idea that just because these particular manuscripts are older we shouldn’t think that they are more authentic to the original. Again, I’m not going to go into all the details but it’s a worthy and interesting argument to look up on the web if you’re interested. Bottom line is that what is ubiquitous about Mark 16:9-20 is that their isn’t a consensus in either direction.

So the revisers had to come up with a translation that addresses Mark 16:9-20 in a way that tried to honor the two older Alexandrian texts while also honoring the hundreds of later Byzantine texts. What do you do if you are in a group of scholars trying to reconcile these apparent inconsistencies?…The solution they came up with sought to blend the two texts-types together in a way that informs the reader of their varied opinions.

ENGLISH REVISED VERSION OF 1881 AND RESULTING TREATMENT OF MARK 16:9-20

This is what you find in the English Revised Version in 1881 (as seen in the two pictures below of the actual 1881 bible). In Mark chapter sixteen there is a break in the text between verse 8 and verse 9 represented by white space, and then with a “1” printed by the first word, “Now”, in verse 9 indicating that there is a footnote at the bottom of the page.

The footnote then mentions that Mark 16:9-20 is not found in two other manuscripts – these are the two Alexandrian manuscripts that I brought up. It also mentions that some other authorities do not have this passage either.

erv-1881-full-text.jpg
Mark 16:9-20 as it  originally appeared in the 1881 English Revised Version
ERV-1881 - margin
footnote section of Mark 16:9-20 in the 1881 English Revised Version

 

Here’s a good question you may have wondered – what are the other authorities the footnote mentions? They are usually letters or documents from the early leaders/church fathers. They may have referenced the book of Mark in their writing(s) but didn’t include a reference to this particular passage. So the argument is that since they didn’t mention the Mark 16:9-20 passage in their writings maybe verses 9-20 weren’t in the original text. But an absence doesn’t necessary indicate a correct omission either. And there are many other ancient witnesses that do¬†support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20. So what we got from the editors of the 1881 bible is white space and a little footnote. This is how the authors resolved the Byzantine-Alexandrian text conflict.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASV1901 - TEXT
1901 American Standard version – Mark 16:9-20 excerpt with right margin note – identical to 1881 ERV.

So, after all of the deliberations and review from the 1881 ERV committee, how did the translation treat Mark 16:9-20? They kept it in the bible and left it fully intact. They small break of white space in the text and small text foot/side note is relatively unnoticeable. I think the average person would not have even noticed the section break or note. They probably would have read the whole chapter of Act 16 without thinking twice. The 1881 revisers could have taken the passage completely out if they thought it didn’t belong in the bible (as they did with other more troublesome texts such as¬† Acts 8:37 for example). But instead, they left it fully intact with an almost unnoticeable message to the reader about the two Alexandrian manuscripts. There is very little and almost no impact to the reader.¬†I would call this a very modest/passive approach to Mark 16:9-20.

now hang onto that thought as I share a quick story….

THE HUNT FOR OLD BIBLES

If you noticed I actually found¬†a printed copy of the original 1881 English Revised Version and took pictures of the Mark passage. I wanted to check it out personally and hold it in my hands to see for myself. It wasn’t easy getting a copy. Here’s a quick rabbit trail story about my adventure to seek out my research material.

I wanted to see and compare exactly how the translators of the 1881 English Revised Version placed Mark 16:9-20 in their bible, what they wrote in the footnote specifically, and what visual attention they gave to the footnote or passage. I also wanted to compare that against some of the other significant translations that that came before and after it (like the Geneva Bible, King James, American Standard Version, Revised Stand Version, New International Version and so on) to see how the treatment of the passage has, if at all, changed over time. So I set out to find some printings of the different bible translations so I could see for myself.

My own personal collection of printed bibles is limited. I threw most of them out with the advent of bible CD-roms, android apps, and the availability of just about every bible translation freely searchable on the internet. Maybe I could just use the internet bibles to see what the early bible versions did with Mark 16:9-20? But I found that some of these electronic copies don’t show what Mark 16:9-20 actually¬†looked like¬†in the original bibles – which is important to me because I think that the amount¬†of visual attention given to an anomaly is going to affect how much the reader takes the anomaly into consideration in regard to believing if passage should be considered a valid part of the bible or not.¬† So when I’m considering the¬†history of Mark 16:9-20 I want to see it in the historical context of which an everyday reader would have seen it and in the context of how the translators¬†intended¬†a reader to view and consider the passages.

For example, here is a picture of what one might find in regard to a Byzantine-Alexandrian text issue using a parallel online bible app (parallel bibles stack multiple bible translations next to each other for comparison). This passage is looking at the¬†omitted¬†verse from Acts chapter 8, verse 37. The Byzantine manuscripts include verse 37 but the Alexandrian texts do not. The history behind the Acts 8:37 verse is such that most scholars of modern translation have come to a consensus that this verse was probably a latter addition by another author and wasn’t in the original text ( an example of interpolation – internet search also Johannine Comma and I Thessalonians 2:13-16 for more arguments/examples of interpolation).

The far “KJV” column displays the King James Version. That version has always included the Acts 8:37 verse. Now take a look at the first column on the left (NIV) where the New International Version is displayed. Notice how the online version treats verse 37 NIV. It is obvious that something has been omitted. The reader can’t help but run right into that fact. They are made fully aware of it.

Parallel circledWhat’s my point? Well, I have a hard copy of the NIV at home. In the hard copy bible the chapter goes from¬† verse 36, just skips the number 37 without a break in the text, and then continues on with verse 38. There is a small footnote indicator in this area of text where if you happen to look at the footnote, in small print, it provides verse 38 written out and states that “some manuscripts include this verse” which is referencing the Byzantine manuscripts.

How many people actually look and consider the footnote? Few I bet. I’m sure it is glossed over and no one even notices that the number 37 is missing. I know that I personally never saw the footnote or read verse 38 in my cherished and over read NIV. it wasn’t till I was in bible school, reading out of a King James Version, did I finally see it and consider it.

In the case of the printed¬† NIV the reader wouldn’t even know that the verse is omitted or that it used to be there in other versions. But in the online version it would actually be very clear (area I¬† circled in RED) that it’s been omitted. People would at least know something was taken out if they read the online version. And they would have an opportunity to make their own conclusions about that revision.

As seen in the printed version, the editors of the NIV fully intended the reader to pay NO attention to verse 37. But that intention would have only be realized if seen in the printed version. That tells me that the printed versions and online versions may not be similar in how they treat certain parts of the bible and may not represent the true intentions of the editors. For me that means that I need to seek out the printed versions, which of course preceded the online versions by decades, to discover the editors genuine intention in treatment of particular verses. This is the reason why I wanted to get my hands on some printed materials – so I could see for myself.

So I broke from my writing and went to my small local library to find some hardcover bibles. No luck. They didn’t even had one bible to look at. Next I thought to go to a Christian book store. I searched my navigation app on my phone and couldn’t even come up with one Christian bookstore that was close. Many of them have apparently closed down, probably because print and paper have gone out of style. Then I had a stroke of genius, I’ll try Bethel College, a local Christian University 5 minutes from my house. They must have a large library for college students and presumably have bibles since it’s a Christian based university. So I drove to the school and started walking around asking random students where the library was. It was summer so it was slim pickings for people to chat with. After meandering around I found the library and I asked the librarian where the older bibles were inventoried. They said they might have a few but much of what I would be looking for would be in the seminary library on the other side of campus. I did find a reprint of the Geneva bible in the main student library stacks. Mark 16:9-20 is of course right there in the bible with no¬†admonishing footnotes or anything. This is because this bible predates the finding of the two older Alexandrian manuscripts (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus). So that checked out as expected.

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reprint of Geneva Bible (1599)

 

After combing the main library I trekked on. After asking a few more people I found my way to the seminary library. A nice welcome sign awaited me when I arrived.

 

welcome-sign.jpg

 

 

I walked into the library and asked the first staff person I saw and said, “Where do ya keep your OOOOOLD bibles, like from the 1800’s? She pointed me to the reference books and said, “somewhere in there.”…boy, it was a huge area.

Library first floor.jpg
Where the librarian said I needed to look for old bibles in the Bethel Seminary library.

I said, “you can’t give me anymore specific location?” She looked at me kinda funny and smiled and turned back to the person she was originally speaking with. “Ok” I thought, “this is gonna take forever.” Soon enough, now sweating through my shirt from a long campus walk, I found a bunch of different bible versions.

I took pictures of the Mark 16:9-20 passage from the translations I wanted to find (American¬† Standard Version 1901, Revised Standard Version 1952, Amplified Version 1965) but couldn’t find a 1881 English Revised Version. I really wanted to find this version because this version was the very first time Mark 16:9-20 was ever given extra attention and specifically annotated in a popular translation. So I HAD to see what the original copy looked like.

So I tried again. This time I found a reference desk and talked to a guy named Tim who has been working there for 14 years. I told him what I was looking for and he looked it up, wrote down an address for the stacks, and told me that they should have a few copies of it on hand. He directed me to a different part of the library. I had to go through a few more set of doors off to the side of the main library entrance and then up a staircase. At the top of the staircase I opened the door and¬†wal-la, I¬†was now all alone in what I dubbed the “upper room” – perfect!¬† I was hoping there would be a great Acts 2 rush of wind in this upper room….no luck , ha,ha!

Upper room (library).jpg
Upper room at Bethel Seminary Library

 

It took a bit more searching but I finally dusted off a copy of the English Revised Standard bible as it first appeared in publication in 1881. It was a fun day of adventure and the first time I found my self in a library doing any sort of research in 20 years.

OTHER TRANSLATIONS TREAT MARK 16:9-20 DIFFERENTLY

Now back the story. Ok, even though the 1881 English Revised Version considered the two Alexandrian manuscripts in its revision, and a small white space and footnote was added, this didn’t settle the debate on Mark 16:9-20 for very long.

The next major bible translation was released in 1952 – the Revised Standard Version. Apparently some attitudes changed about Mark 16:9-20.¬† Check out the picture below and you’ll see that the authors of this version thought differently about Mark 16:9-20 than those of the 1881 ERV version.

rsv1952-text.jpg
1952 Revised Standard Version Mark 16 with 9-20 relegated to only small letter and italics.
RSV1952-Margin
Footnote/italics of 1952 of Mark 16 with 9-20 the Revised Standard Version.

So, clearly the scholars who put this together had a complete change of heart and took Mark 16 completely OUT of the authoritative text bible in the 1952 version. Mark 16:1-8 reads normal but then the official bible text at verse 8. Verses 9-20 are displayed but not in the main text…as if it doesn’t belong.¬† Mark 16:9-20 has now been relegated to small italics below the main text. Obviously this was intentionally done to discredit and, or at minimum, downplay the importance and/or validity of verses 9-20. This was a very aggressive and active way of handling Mark 16: 9-20. Their intention for the reader is clear: Mark 16:9-20 really doesn’t belong in the bible…at least not in any authoritative manner.

I guess that’s it. Mark 16:9-20 is officially out. Case closed, right? Nope. There’s more….

The next major translation comes out in 1965 with the The Amplified Version, And this version keeps Mark 16:9-20 in the bible, VERY IN.¬† In fact, the Amplified version doesn’t even put a white space in between verses 8-9. Mark 16:1 all the way through verse 20 is unified together with no obvious visual agitators or attention-getters. There is very small “o”¬† footnote reference by the word¬†now in verse 9 to which the footnote only says “verses 9 to 20 not in the two earliest manuscripts.”¬† It doesn’t even mention the other ancient witnesses/other authorities¬†that the 1881 ERV cites.

So from what I can tell of all my research, this is the most passive treatment of Mark 16:9-20 of all current/modern Protestant¬†translations (apart from the New King James Version in 1979). An average reader would probably NEVER know the issues surrounding this text.¬† I’m sure the translators knew all the arguments surrounding this text excerpt. But nevertheless, this translation intentionally leads the reader to believe that this is all pretty much 100% valid bible scripture. Looks like we have a little fight going on within the scholarly circles on how to treat Mark 16:9-20. How exciting!

AMP1965 - TEXT
1965 Amplified version of Mark 16:9-20

 

amp1965-margin.jpg
1965 Amplified version of Mark 16:9-20

And the excitement doesn’t end there. Remember the 1952 Revised Standard Version and how it took Mark 16:9-20 completely out? Well, I don’t have a copy of the text and bible itself, but the 1952 Revised Standard Edition went through another revision completed in 1971 where the preface of that bible states, “Two passages, the longer ending of Mark (16.9-20) and the account of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 7.53-8.11), are restored to the text, separated from it by a blank space and accompanied by informative notes describing the various arrangements of the text in the ancient authorities. (emphasis mine).

So the 1971 revision restored Mark 16:9-20 back into the text. This is craziness. Can you scholarly guys get this figured out?? Apparently not.

The penultimate translation I’ll show you a picture of is the New International Version, 1978. To put this in historical context, the NIV is now the most popular translation for evangelical Christians. It’s the translation that I was given when I graduated high school from my church (which is still have) and the bible that I first studied in-depth. I know it well.

The NIV keeps Mark 16:9-20 in BUT the editors were aggressive in it’s treatment in that they didn’t use a mere footnote but instead separated the section with empty¬†white space and included a conspicuous written preface after it directly into the text area. Clearly this is done so the reader could NOT miss the editors notes on this passage by any means Their note states that The earliest manuscripts and some¬†other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9‚Äď20. Can’t miss that. SOOOOO, the pendulum has swung again. WOW.

NIV with Circle

Ok, one last one. Here is the New King James Version with the New Testament being released in 1979 and the full bible in 1982. Yup, they finally revised the old english 1611 version. And as being true to original form they left Mark 16:9-20 right in with the text as the original 1611 version did. They don’t even put in a footnote marker at verse 9 but instead places a marker, “a” at the end of verse 20. The verse small print footnote reads “verse 9-20¬†are bracketed in NU as not in the original text. They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other [manuscripts]¬†of Mark contain them.”

NJKV1982, text

At this point I stopped making taking pictures of old bibles. It starts to get difficult to keep up. Many of the translations I’ve discussed up to this point have had numerous more revisions in the 1980’s and 1990’s and each revision treats Mark 16:9-20 slightly different. And, there are brand new translations to keep up with, such as the Contemporary English Bible in 1995 and the¬†Message in 2002, and the Voice in 2012. I visually looked at about a dozen of these newer revisions and translations and they continue in the tradition of the 1881 English Revised Version, and the translations that have followed after, in that they all make at least¬†some reference to the two disagreeing manuscripts, each with their own varying degree of impact to the reader. And it was the 1881 bible translation that kicked this off. Now you know some of the history of Mark 16:9-20.

BIAS

The Amplified, New King James, and New American Standard (no picture but I checked it out) draw little attention to the Alexandrian-Byzantine text issues of Mark 16:9-20 and have little to no impact on the reader. Other translations have a more moderate impact like the Voice, English Revised, and The Message. While still others, like the New International Version and New Revised Standard Version go to great lengths to make sure the reader notices the variations of the Mark text.

Each version has a bias. That is certain. And depending on which version you read, or come to prefer, you may also reflect this bias without even knowing you’ve been indoctrinated with a particular persuasion on Mark 16:9-20.

The fact is that there isn’t ubiquitous consensus among the revisers/editors/researchers on exactly how to treat Mark 16:9-20. But when looking at all the translations clearly the editors of each have a strong or weak position towards a full embrace of Mark 16:9-20.¬† Those of the weak position are intentionally trying to cast doubt in the minds of the readers…and vice verse with those of the strong position.

But, here’s my take away.¬† No modern translation removes Mark 16:9-20 (except the 1952 RSV, but as I mentioned that translation was left only to be edited in 1971 to which it brought the text back in…oh wait, the Jehovah’s Witness bible takes it out too….but Mormons keep it in their translation!).

So the bottom line is that the Mark 16:9-20 text, albeit highly scrutinized, has withstood. If the text was refutable beyond a doubt it would have been taken out (like Acts 8:37 or I John 5:7-8). Yes, there are still some unanswered questions surrounding the origin of the text Mark 16:9-20 (Did “Mark” actually write that ending? Was is added later? Why is it missing from other ancient witnesses, etc.) – but no examination has led to any of sort of concrete conclusion to remove it. If you pick up a bible today look for it….it has been left in the bible. That is reassuring to me. Even if you have your own personal doubts you should at least consider the passage as¬†strong supporting text¬†if not authentic scripture itself. And in regard to the bible itself it is supposed to be the very words and message of God and I wouldn’t recommend disregarding it lightly.

THE CHOICE OF THE NEW GENERATION

For me, I have come to fully embrace Mark 16:9-20 as God’s inspired word. I could be wrong, but I could be just as right. I did some research on II Peter and I think it takes more faith to believe that II Peter was actually written by the 1st century Peter, the original disciple of Jesus, then it does to believe in the divinity of Mark 16:9-20 (you’ll want to check out the II Peter arguments if you haven’t done that yet and this too is a fun one). And, the John 7:53-8:11 passage has pretty much the same Alexandrian-Byzantine issues as Mark 16:9-20 and is usually treated the same way as Mark 16:9-20 in today’s bibles (with footnotes and¬† in-text notifications about the older manuscript variant). But, I rarely hear people raising an issue with that passage.¬†So why pick on Mark 16:9-20?

You will need to make your own decision on Mark 16:9-20, which is probably what the intentions of the modern editors originally had in mind when they started treating that section specially. I didn’t know what to think when I first came upon this argument back in 2003/04. Since then I’ve done some extensive reading on the issue which helped me gain some perspective and insight. If you are uncertain I would strongly encourage you to check out both sides of the argument and read consider each view point. They are equally good and well thought out. I was actually surprised to find so much evidence for a positive view on Mark 16:9-20. The scholars who have a weak position for Mark 16:9-20 have done a very good job of being thorough, but it wasn’t enough to sway me to chose their line of thinking.

MOVING ON

I quote and refer to Mark 16:9-20 in my posts. And I know that there are folks out there who are aware of the Alexandrian-Byzantine argument whom take the other side. This is just my little way of letting them know that I’m aware of the debate. Starting in my late teens I completely devoured the NIV translation. It was my fav. Embracing the NIV as my¬†sole source¬†also lead me to have doubts about Mark 16:9-20. But after some personal examination and study I was compelled to believe differently.

THE HEART OF THE MATTER

Now, the specific contents of Mark 16:9-20 is also of equal importance.

These verses, mainly 15-18 and 20, describe the lifestyle that is to be synonymous with  persons who come in faith in Jesus. These actions, as spoken by Jesus himself, are described as to be common experiences that all believers can have:

15¬†And He said to them,¬†‚ÄúGo into all the world¬†and preach the gospel to every creature.16¬†He who believes and is baptized will be saved;¬†but he who does not believe will be condemned.¬†17¬†And these¬†signs will follow those who¬†believe:¬†In My name they will cast out demons;¬†they will speak with new tongues;¬†18¬†they¬†will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them;¬†they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.‚ÄĚ…20¬†And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with¬†them¬†and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

When we compare these verses to the book of Acts, (which is the only book that has a detailed account and timeline of the expansion of the early church) and the rest of the New Testament, what is undeniable is that we see that same signs taking place in believers lives just as what Jesus said would happen. Believers cast out devils (Acts 5:12-16, 8:5-8, 16:16-18) spoke in tongues (Act 8:14-17, 19:1-4, also in I Corinthians 14, Jude 20, Ephesians 6:17-18), took up serpents (which I take to mean are not harmed by them as in Luke 10: 18-19, Acts 28:1-6), and healed the sick (Acts 5:12-16, 8:5-8, Acts 14:1-3 and 8-10, 19:11-12, Acts 20:7-12, Acts 28:7-9 and also James 5:14-15 and Galatians 3:1-3).

What we find from the lives of the early believers is that faith in Jesus was accompanied with a much more dynamic lifestyle than what we are usually told life with Jesus is supposed to be like today – which is usually just believing in God so you can go to heaven and then going to church on Sunday’s to keep God happy.

Rather, Jesus says that new life with him is to be accompanied by significant signs that transcends just a mere mental assertion of facts. It’s supposed to be a transformative experience for both the believer and their community; a completely new way of life with accompanied actions that is only made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit and it’s power that comes to reside the believer after receiving Jesus. This is important to note because some veins of the Christian faith demonstrate and preach that a Christian life is supposed to be uneventful, intangible, and monotonous. Jesus says otherwise and¬†Mark 16:9-20 serves as a bridge of confirmation for this dynamic life in what we read in the gospels to what we see in the book of Acts and the New Testament.

I’ll be covering some of these signs in future posts. Here are a few that are on the horizon:

1: For many recent generations, and even far back into the early¬† centuries of the church, there has been a great de-emphasis on water baptism. We say it means nothing in the grand scheme of our faith and is only for show. We now delay it for months or years after conversion and we don’t preach it during evangelizing or as a intricate part of the conversion experience. We just try to get folks to “come to Jesus” in heart only. I do agree that faith in Jesus is our entire means of entering eternal life with God but water baptism should be placed in a much higher regard in respect to the process of coming to faith. Jesus reemphasizes the importance the new believers needing to be water baptized in Mark 16:9-20.

2: Jesus speaks about a certain¬†believers authority in regard to the realm of demons and physical healing of our bodies. There is an extremely pervasive mind set in the church today in that we expect God to do all the work¬†sovereignty. Here’s what I mean by that. If someone is sick, we pray “God, please heal me.” Or, God please heal so and so.” And then we wait for God to heal them. If they don’t get healed we blame God for not releasing His power to heal them. But I believe the bible shows a completely different approach. This is an approach that has authority to DO the works of Jesus (John 14:12).¬† Not just pray and hope that God will do something independently but to act on His behalf with the authority and power the He gave. We take authority and drive out the demon (Acts 16:18), we don’t ask God to drive it out cause He told US that we would do it. And we lay hands for the healing to take place fully expecting it manifest.

3: Before fully accepting Mark 16:9-20, heck, before I even probably read it, I had come into an experience of what I now believe is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t speak in tongues right then in that moment, but I later did. Jesus confirms in Mark 16:9-20 that tongues are for those who believe in Him. Jesus didn’t say that tongues were only for the ministers, or the wacky fruits and nuts and flakes of the charismatic movement, or that they were only for the first century church. They are a sign that should accompany “them that believe.” And my own experience, plus another estimated 500 million Christians around the world, disproves the idea that this phenomenon died away with the early church. It is alive and well – or we 500 million are just nuts and making up weird noises. Are tongues sometimes abused? Yes. Sometimes counterfeited? I think so. Faked at times? I would tend to agree. But for many many of us it is a very real and intimate experience with God as expressed through His Holy Spirit.

Lastly, it should be said that one can easily make a case for the experiences listed in Mark 16:9-20 without even having to use Mark 16:9-20 as a proof text. All of the experiences such as tongues, casting out demons, healing the sick, etc., are all found within the New Testament and early church. You can disagree and set Mark 16:9-20 completely aside and still come to the same conclusions. And with the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20, either as strong supporting text or authentic scripture, it makes for a even more sound apologetic Рfor in the passage we find the very words of Jesus testifying to the orthodox of these accompanying signs.

Everything in the Christian experience is done for the purpose of love. If it doesn’t bring or show God’s love it’s worthless. The apostle Paul wrote about this¬†exclusively in First Corinthians 13. The support for these experiences I’ve argued for isn’t just so that we can have these experiences to boast about, or show off, or validate our faith, or rank believers into classes, or something like that, but so that the love of God can be more deeply experienced¬†by the believer and better shown and demonstrated to the world. Why tongues? So you can enter into a greater depth of intimacy with God that surpasses your own cognition. Why demon exorcism? So that people can be freed from the power of Satan and live a more full life. Why lay hands on the sick for healing of the body and mind? Because God loves us, has compassion, and never wants us to be ill or in need.

My hope is that through an affirming understanding of Mark 16:9-20 you, and the resulting world around you, will come into a greater depth of experiencing God’s love through the wondrous dynamics God intended we as believers to partake in.

*As always, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind so please drop your thoughts in the comment section below!¬†

 

One comment

  1. Wowsers, that was absolutely delicious. You really should do a post on II Peter. I’m curious as to what you thought was “fun” when researching the topic. This was an eye opener from start to finish.

    Like

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