Mark 16:9–20—Why is this passage of Scripture omitted in some Bibles?

Problem: Most modern Bibles contain this ending of the Gospel of Mark, including the kjv, asv, nasb, and the nkjv. However, both the rsv and the niv set it off from the rest of the text. A note in the niv says, “Most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not haveMark 16:9–20.” Were these verses in the original Gospel of Mark?

Solution: Scholars are divided over the authenticity of these verses. Those who follow the received text tradition point to the fact that this text is found in the majority of biblical manuscripts down through the centuries. Thus, they believe it was in the original manuscript of Mark.

On the other hand, those who follow the critical text tradition insist that we should not add evidence, but weigh it. Truth is not determined, they say, by majority vote, but by the most qualified witnesses. They point to the following arguments for rejecting these verses: (1) These verses are lacking in many of the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts, as well as in important Old Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Ethiopic manuscripts. (2) Many of the ancient church fathers reveal no knowledge of these verses, including Clement, Origen, and Eusebius. Jerome admitted that almost all Greek copies do not have it. (3) Many manuscripts that do have this section place a mark by it indicating it is a spurious addition to the text. (4) There is another (shorter) ending to Mark that is found in some manuscripts. (5) Others point to the fact that the style and vocabulary are not the same as the rest of the Gospel of Mark.

Whether or not this piece of text belongs in the original, the truth it contains certainly accords with it. So, the bottom line is that it does not make any difference, since if it does belong here there is nothing in it contrary to the rest of Scripture. And if it does not belong, there is no truth missing in the Bible, since everything taught here is found elsewhere in Scripture. This includes tongues (see Acts 2:1ff), baptism (Acts 2:38), and God’s 1st century supernatural protection of His messengers unwittingly bitten by poisonous snakes (cf. Acts 28:3–5). So, in the final analysis, it is simply a debate about whether this particular text belongs in the Bible, not over whether any truth is missing.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.