A Reconsideration Of The Ending Of Mark -- By: John Christopher Thomas

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 26:4 (Dec 1983)
Article: A Reconsideration Of The Ending Of Mark
Author: John Christopher Thomas


A Reconsideration Of The Ending Of Mark

John Christopher Thomas*

Of all the tools of historical criticism, textual criticism has been by far the most attractive to conservative scholars. George Ladd, for example, observes that

this exercise of (textual) criticism is absolutely indispensable, for it is quite clear that although God inspired the authors of the Bible to produce a divinely superintended record, He has committed the reproduction and the preservation of the text to the vagaries of human history; and the establishment of a trustworthy text is the labor of a scientific scholarship.1

Generally, evangelicals give meticulous attention to the science of textual criticism in the attempt to establish the most reliable Biblical text possible. However, one passage, the last chapter of Mark, causes more puzzlement and consternation among conservatives than most of the other passages of the Greek NT that contain variant readings. Not only is the legitimacy of a traditional reading questioned (16:9–20), but the prospects of Mark ending his gospel at 16:8 are simply too problematic for most scholars. This study will endeavor to determine the place where Mark originally ended his gospel, to explain the rise of textual variants, and to discuss the possible implications of these variants, especially for evangelicals.

Most serious NT students are aware of the various problems posed by the ending of Mark. The Greek MSS suggest six different endings.2

(1) The following MSS of Mark end at 16:8: Aleph B 304 (2386 and 1420 have a page missing at this point); syrs arm8mss eth3mss geo1,A; Clement, Origen, Eusebiusmss according to Eusebius, Jeromemss according to Jerome.

(2) Latin (vt. k) reads, “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”3

(3) The longer ending (Mark 16:9-20) is included in the following MSS: A C D E H K M S U X Y Γ Δ Θ Π Ξ φ Ω 047 055 0211 f13 28 33 274 (text) 565 700 892 1009 1010 1071 1079 1195 1230 1242 1253 1344 1365 1546 1646 2148 2174, etc.;

*John Thomas is instructor in New Testament at the Church of God School of Theology in Cleveland, Tennessee.

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