Monday, February 22, 2010

The Ending of Mark

In the comment section of this post I was asked about Carson and Moo's take on the long ending of Mark's Gospel. Here is what they have to say on this textual issue:
The ending of Mark’s gospel poses quite a different, and more severe, problem [than the variant in Mark 1:1]. The majority of manuscripts include the so-called long ending, in which are narrated several resurrection appearances of Jesus, Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples, and his ascension. This long ending is printed as verses 9–20 in the KJV; in modern English versions, it usually appears in the margin or with a notation. Since it is found in the bulk of the manuscripts and can be traced to the first half of the second century, this long ending can lay some claim to be considered as the original ending of Mark’s gospel.
I would agree with them on their conclusion that the longer ending of Mark can lay "some claim" to being original. However, by "some" I would think a very slim some. Although, I think this passage has more chance of being original than John 7:53-8:11. Based on the manuscript evidence and the internal evidence, I am more convinced of the UBS committee's understanding of this textual variant in Mark. Metzger comments on their findings on this passage with these words:
At the same time, however, out of deference to the evident antiquity of the longer ending and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel, the Committee decided to include verses 9–20 as part of the text, but to enclose them within double square brackets in order to indicate that they are the work of an author other than the evangelist.


  1. Thanks Josh,

    I'm going to have to pick up this book by Moo and Carson. I agree with them as well on the Mark ending; and I also appreciate your inclusion of Metzger's comment. Thanks.

  2. Greetings, Josh.

    I read your comments from Feb. 22 about the ending of Mark, and about how Moo & Carson approach the subject, at the "Bring the Books" blog. I happen to have done some extensive research on this subject, and have a few criticisms (constructive ones, I hope) of Carson & Moo's treatment:

    (1) There is no mention of the blank space which follows Mark 16:8 in Codex Vaticanus, or of the replacement-pages in Codex Sinaiticus. (The four pages containing Mark 14:54 - Luke 1:56 in Codex Sinaiticus were not written by the same copyist who made the sorrounding pages.) Carson & Moo allow the reader to get the impression that the copyists who made Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were unaware of the existence of 16:9-20, and do not mention the evidence to the contrary.

    (2) The statement that 16:9-20 is missing from "several others," that is, several other manuscripts, is not meaningfully true, if the Greek manuscripts are the subject (and that is what one usually means by "manuscripts" unless one states otherwise). A few of the over 1,500 Greek MSS of Mark do not contain 16:9-20 because they have undergone incidental damage. Some damaged MSS, such as P45, have no text from Mark 16 at all. But Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are the only Greek MSS in which the text goes no further than 16:8, followed by the closing book-title.

    (Continued in the next post)

  3. (Continued from the previous post)

    (3) The authors have distorted the evidence about Jerome. Eusebius of Caesarea, in his composition Ad Marinum, written in the early 300's, stated that one could say that the passage in question was not in all copies, or that it was absent from the accurate copies, or that it was absent from almost all the copies. Jerome, dictating a letter to send to Hedibia (Letter #120), in the early 400's, stated that the passage was absent from almost all the Greek copies. Jerome said nothing about his opinion of the quality of those copies; he does not say "the best manuscripts available to me do not contain this longer ending."

    Furthermore, if Carson & Moo had taken the time to compare Eusebius' letter to Marinus with Jerome's letter to Hedibia, they would have seen that Jerome, to answer Hedibia's question about how to harmonize the resurrection-accounts in the Gospels, has simply borrowed Eusebius' composition on that subject, and loosely translated an extract from it into Latin. The part of Jerome's letter to Hedibia in which he makes this statement is nothing but Jerome's condensed translation of Eusebius' material (including three of the questions asked by Marinus!). Jerome had already included Mark 16:9-20 in the Vulgate Gospels (in 383), and he cites 16:14 in "Against the Pelagians" 2:14-15, when describing where he had seen, in certain Greek exemplars, the interpolation that is now known as the Freer Logion.

    (4) The authors mention "two other endings," but one of these two "other" endings is obviously just an expanded form of 16:9-20, with the Freer Logion interpolated between 16:14 and 16:15. By the same logic, the U.S.S. Nimitz becomes some "other" ship if a barnacle attaches itself to the hull.

    (5) The presentation about the internal evidence is rather one-sided. It is true that 16:9-20 contains several words and expressions not found in Mark 1:1-16:8, but the same thing can be said (and has been said, by Dr. Bruce Terry, whose essay about this is online) about the twelve-verse section consisting of Mark 15:40 - 16:4.

    (6) While the authors perceptively note that 16:9-20 "does not flow naturally after 16:8," they do not seem to realize that this indicates that these verses were not created by a later copyist, who would have picked up the narrative from where 16:8 leaves off, instead of rewinding the narrative, so to speak.

    (7) Although acknowledging that 16:9-20 can be traced to the early second century, Carson & Moo are strangely frugal with knowledge of second-century attestation for the passage. Readers would probably tend not to regard the evidence of two manuscripts from the 300's so highly if they were aware that three or four patristic writings from the 100's used material from Mark 16:9-20. (They are: Justin Martyr's First Apology ch. 45, using 16:20 in 160; Tatian's Diatessaron in 172, using every verse; Irenaeus' Against Heresies III:10:5-6, in around 184, where he explicitly cites Mark 16:19; and the little-known Epistula Apostolorum, c. 150/180.)

    For further details, I invite you to read my multi-part presentation online at
    or, better yet, write back to me with a request and I will be glad to send you a copy of my 160-page paper on this subject.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.
    Minister, Curtisville Christian Church

  4. James,

    Thanks for the great comments and insightful work. I would agree with you that the longer ending of Mark is not original. That is why I posted the finding of the UBS committee. Further, I do think that Carson and Moo smoothed over a lot of the evidence about this passage in there discussion. However, given their outstanding work in other areas, my guess would be that this was done because they had constraints on space and not because they were unaware of the issues. But you are right that the reader does not know this and thus, it is good that you can bring some of the evidence to light.

  5. Josh,
    I must not be writing clearly today. My view is that Mark 16:9-20 *is* an original part of the Gospel of Mark, in the sense that it was part of the text before it was first disseminated in the church. I think it was added by someone other than Mark himself, but that does not make it non-original. There are several other passages in the Bible (Jeremiah 52, for example) which are not from the primary author and yet are original.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.


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