The Ending of Mark -- By: Robert H. Stein

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 18:1 (NA 2008)
Article: The Ending of Mark
Author: Robert H. Stein

The Ending of Mark

Robert H. Stein

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville

With the recognition that Mark 16:8 is the most authentic ending of the second Gospel, debate has raged over whether this is the Evangelist’s intended ending or whether his intended ending was lost. In the first part of the 20th century, the predominant view was that the original ending had been lost, but in the latter part of the century this was replaced by the view that 16:8 was Mark’s intended ending, and numerous attempts were made to explain how 16:8 serves as a fitting ending for the Gospel. The present article seeks to demonstrate that 16:8 is not the Evangelist’s intended ending. The two main arguments given are that Mark 14:28 and 16:7 are Markan insertions that point to a postresurrection meeting of Jesus and the disciples in Galilee and that it is very unlikely that the Evangelist would have left this prophecy unfulfilled by ending abruptly with 16:8. This would be the only unfulfilled prophecy of Jesus in Mark except for the prophecy concerning his parousia. The second argument is that in contrast to modern reader-response interpretations of 16:1-8, the emphasis of these verses is not about the disciples and their failures but on Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1:1), and the key verses are 16:6-7 and not 16:8.

Key Words: Ending of Mark, NT textual criticism, γάρ as an ending of a book, Mark 14:28, Mark 16:1-8


The ending of the Gospel of Mark has been called “the greatest of all literary mysteries,”1 and “the gravest textual problem in the NT,”2 and in recent years it has certainly been the most discussed. Although Eusebius addressed this problem, by the middle ages, it was assumed that Mark ended with the longer ending, 16:9-20. When Erasmus produced the first published Greek NT, the half-dozen Greek manuscripts available to him all contained these verses, and consequently, the users of his text all assumed that the text ended with 16:9-20.3 With the continual discovery of

Greek manuscripts, some predating the ones used by Erasmus by almost a thousand years, questions began to arise as to the accuracy of the “received text.” It soon became clear that there were a number of variant endings of Mark found in the manuscript tradi...

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