Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 22 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Mark 16 today, and our focus is on a mysterious textual issue in the Bible – maybe a lost page?+ The resurrection of Jesus. Thank you for joining us for Bible 2021! We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Uttarakhand, India, British Columbia, Canada, South Africa, Kansas City, Missouri and Honolulu, Hawaii. Thanks for listening! Our focus this year is on DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our new web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more – Click here for our reading plan!
First, before we read, I need to say a word about the longer ending of Mark. If you have a print Bible, and even in some Bible apps, if you read Mark 16, you will likely notice brackets or an asterisk, or some other indicator that shows up after vs 8. What’s going on here is that a few of our earliest and most reliable manuscripts of Mark and the Bible itself do not contain verses 9-20 – Mark 16 just ends abruptly at vs 8. When we read the chapter, pay special attention to the end of vs. 8 and the beginning of vs. 9. Vs. 8 makes a very abrupt ending place for the gospel of Mark – strangely and oddly abrupt. To be sure, Jesus is presented as resurrected, and that is the most important thing, of course, but it just ends suddenly after the resurrection of Jesus is pronounced, which seems strange – especially considering how Matthew, Luke and John all include a pretty good amount of material after the resurrection. Further, it ends with the preposition gar in the Greek which could mean ‘for,’ or ‘because.’ It is not unheard of for a Greek sentence to end with ‘gar,’ but it is very, very rare, and there are only a few – a very few – works of Greek antiquity that end with that word. In this particular case, it doesn’t make much sense to end with ‘gar,’ because the sentence reads literally, “they were afraid because,” which is a very unwieldy sentence. So it would seem like Mark 16 should not end with vs. 8 for a variety of stylistic, narrative and grammatical reasons. Let’s read it now, and you can see.
The problem is that Codex Vaticainus and Codex Sinaiticus, which are our two earliest extant (surviviving) manuscripts of the Bible as a whole, both dating to the early to mid 300s, and neither contain the longer ending of Mark. There are a few other ancient manuscripts that don’t contain the longer ending of Mark also, including some very old Armenian manuscripts and a very small handful of others. Additionally, some scholars have analyzed the Greek grammar and vocabulary of Mark 16:9-20, and conclude that it does not match up very well with the rest of Mark. There are a few Greek manuscripts that contain a shorter ending of Mark that continues on past vs. 8, and reads, “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself (appeared to them and) sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”
That said, the preponderance of the evidence, at least in terms of sheer volume, favors the longer ending of Mark. Slightly later Bible codices from the 400s, Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Bezae both contain the longer ending of Mark, including the majority/Byzantine family of Greek texts, which has over 1200 Greek manuscripts that contain the longer ending of Mark, and there are several other Greek texts called uncials and minuscules that contain it, as well as the Latin Vulgate, and several old Latin texts, and many, many other texts in different ancient languages. In addition to that, many of our earliest church fathers quote from the longer ending of Mark, including, Irenaeus; Marinus; Acts of Pilate; some manuscripts according to Jerome (add with obeli f 1 al); Ambrose; Aphraates; Augustine; Augustine’s Latin copies; Augustine’s Greek manuscripts; Tatian’s Diatessaron; Eznik of Golb; Pelagius; Nestorius; Patrick; Prosper of Aquitaine; Leo the Great; Philostorgius; Life of Samson of Dol; Old Latin breves; Marcus Eremita; Peter Chrysologus. Also, Fortunatianus (c. 350) states that Mark mentions Jesus’ ascension. Several of these, notes theologian Wayne Grudem, date from before the time of the Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, such as Tatian’s work from the 100s and Irenaeus and Tertullian work from the 200s.
So – what is our conclusion – did Mark write the longer ending of Mark, or was it added later? I’m afraid the answer is that we just don’t know. Most scholars tend to believe that the longer ending of Mark was added later – perhaps because the original ending of Mark was lost at some point very, very early on. At this point, we just don’t have enough textual evidence to know with 100% certainty, but I will share one bit of intriguing information: In one very old Armenian text of Mark, there is a note written in the margin after vs. 8, and before vs. 9, which reads (when translated), “by Ariston.” Ariston was a 1st century companion to Peter, who would eventually become the Bishop of a city called Smyrna. This could be significant because the early church nearly universally held that Peter was Mark’s source for the bulk of the Gospel of Mark. Could the original Markan ending have been somehow lost, and a replacement dictated by Ariston/Aristion after the death of Peter? An intriguing possibility. By the way, don’t let this trouble you about the veracity of the Bible. This is THE biggest textual variant in the Bible, and there are few others anywhere near this long. One is the story of the woman caught in adultery, which we covered last year: https://biblereadingpodcast.com/how-did-jesus-treat-the-woman-caught-in-adultery-and-was-that-story-originally-in-the-bible-or-added-later-as-some-scholars-believe-79/
Well – some of you will be fascinated by that, some bored to tears, but I didn’t really cover it last year in the Bible Reading podcast, and I think it is good to know about, considering how noticable the brackets are around verses 9-20 in modern Bibles.
Let’s close with something much more spiritual. Mark ends with the glorious resurrection of Jesus – the greatest news in history. We often have chronological snobbery about ancient people, considering them much less sophisticated than we are today, and likely more ignorant, and far more willing to believe in fairy tales, and far-fetched things. There might be some truth to that, but please notice the skepticism of the disciples and followers of Jesus in this passage. Even though Jesus has told them repeatedly that He will rise from the dead on the third day, none of the twelve even bother to show up, and the women who do show up are there to finish the burial process. Their skepticism is immediately broken to glorious bits by the defeat of death and resurrection of Jesus. May it destroy your doubts too, dear friends – and may the good news of the triumph of Jesus fill your heart with joy today!
End of the Show: Bible memory verse for January: Mark 1:15 15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
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