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Go to Bible: Mark 16
“And when the Sabbath was over.” In this verse, the “Sabbath” is the special Sabbath (Thursday, Nisan 15; the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread). Thus Mark 16:1 is saying that the special Sabbath was over and the next day, Friday, Nisan 16 had begun.
When Mark 16:1 says the “Sabbath” was passed, it is talking about the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was always a special Sabbath, no matter what day of the week it fell on (Leviticus 23:4-7, Numbers 28:16-18). That is why John 19:31 speaks of the first day of Unleavened Bread as a “High Day” or special Sabbath. The Passover Lamb was sacrificed on Nisan 14 in the early evening, and that day at sunset, Nisan 15 started, which was a “special” Sabbath, not the regular weekly Sabbath (we must keep in mind that Jewish days start at sunset).
The women had seen Joseph of Arimathea put Jesus in the tomb without properly preparing his body (Luke 23:55; cp. Matt. 27:60-61; Mark 15:45-47), so now, on Friday, Nisan 16, they went to the market and bought and prepared spices. It is important to see the time break between Mark 15:47 when the women watched Joseph of Arimathea, and Mark 16:1, when they went and bought spices. The women had seen that Joseph of Arimathea did not bury Jesus properly, but they did not have time Wednesday night before the start of the special Sabbath that began the Feast of Unleavened Bread to buy the spices because that Sabbath was so close (Luke 23:54). Even if the women had wanted to buy the spices at that time, the stores would have been closed that close to the Sabbath. So the first opportunity they had to buy and prepare the spices was Friday. Nevertheless, they could not take them to the tomb at that time because the tomb was sealed and guarded. The tomb was guarded for three days: Thursday was day one (this was the special Sabbath that started the Feast of Unleavened Bread); Friday was day two, and Saturday, the weekly Sabbath, was day three. That meant the first day the women could expect to get access to the tomb was Sunday, which is when they went to the tomb with the spices (see commentary on Luke 24:1). That the women bought spices on Friday after the special Sabbath on Thursday, explains why Mark 16:1 says the women bought spices after the Sabbath, but Luke 23:56 makes it clear they had them before the Sabbath. They bought them after the special Sabbath on Thursday, but before the weekly Sabbath on Saturday.
The fact that the women needed time to buy and prepare the spices, which they did on Friday, is one of the reasons that there could not have been a Thursday crucifixion. If Jesus was crucified on Thursday then both Friday and Saturday would have been Sabbaths and the women would not have had time to buy and prepare the spices before getting to the tomb early Sunday morning, and furthermore, there would be no way to reconcile the contradiction that they bought spices both before and after the Sabbath.
[For more on the women and the two Sabbaths, see commentary on Matthew 12:40.](top)
“And very early on the first day of the week.” This is Sunday, Nisan 18, and the sun had just risen, although it says it was very early, and Luke 24:1 says it was “deep dawn,” that is, when the sun was just up. Mark 16:1 says the women bought spices after the Sabbath (the special Sabbath that was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which fell on Thursday that year). So the women bought the spices on Friday. Now in 16:2, it is Sunday morning just after sunrise and the women are coming to the tomb to properly bury Jesus. They did not know Nicodemus had come and done that already (see commentary on John 19:40). Mary Magdalene had come earlier, while it was still dark, seen the empty tomb, and left (see commentary on John 20:1 and Matt. 27:61). However, the events of the morning had altered Mary’s plans considerably. She did not expect to find an empty tomb and did not expect to meet the Lord. She left the area before these women arrived there.
These women arrived at the tomb “at early dawn” “when the sun had risen,” so they would have gotten together and prepared to go to the tomb at about the same time that Peter and John had seen the empty tomb with their own eyes (John 20:4-9). Had Peter and John come back to this group of women and reported that the tomb was empty, they would not have taken the spices to the tomb in the first place. Luke starts with “they” and does not mention Mary Magdalene at all. That “they” refers to the group of women apart from Mary Magdalene is clear from the fact these women were carrying the spices. There is not a problem with these women coming to the tomb and not meeting with Mary Magdalene, Peter, or the other disciple on their way back to Bethany. There were many footpaths on the Mount of Olives, and it would have been very easy for the women to take one while Mary, Peter, and the other disciple took another.(top)
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“young man.” The women bringing the spices saw an angel at the entryway of the tomb, but he appeared as a “young man,” so they did not realize he was an angel. It was common for tombs to have several rooms. There often is an opening room that is quite large, often with bench seats cut out of the rock, and this room is referred to as a “weeping chamber.” The weeping chamber has another room, or other rooms, that are attached to it, and these have benches or niches for the dead bodies. For example, the “Garden Tomb” in Jerusalem which many Protestants believe may be the actual tomb of Christ, has an opening room, the “weeping chamber,” and then a second room off of it in which to put the dead body. The women were alarmed when they saw this young man (angel), but he spoke to them and calmed them.
“alarmed.” The Greek word is ekthambeō (#1568 ἐκθαμβέω; pronounced ek-tham-'beh-oh), and it expresses great emotion; to be alarmed, overwhelmed, astonished, amazed, perplexed. Why was the tomb open? Where was Jesus’ body? How did cloth with spices get in the tomb? And why was a young man sitting alone in the tomb? The women had both a mental and emotional reaction. Mark records more of the emotional reaction: that the women were alarmed by what they were seeing. Luke records more of the women’s mental reaction, that nothing they saw made sense to them. They were perplexed.(top)
“He has been raised.” The Greek is an aorist passive; “he was raised” or “he has been raised” (see commentary on Luke 24:6).(top)
“Galilee.” For more about Galilee, see commentary on Matthew 28:7. The mention of Galilee in this verse in Mark actually adds to the evidence that the ending of Mark, Mark 16:9-20, is not original. When the angel and then Jesus tell the women that the disciples will see him in Galilee, the next record in Matthew is indeed in Galilee. In contrast, neither Luke nor John mention Galilee, and they are the Gospels that have post-resurrection events in Jerusalem, such as Jesus’ meetings with Mary Magdalene, the men on the road to Emmaus, or with the disciples behind closed doors.
In contrast to the internal consistency of the other three Gospels, Mark says the angels tell the women Jesus will see the disciples in Galilee, but then, according to the verses we believe are added, he appears in Jerusalem to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9); the two men on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12); and to the Eleven (Mark 16:14). This is more evidence that Mark 16:9-20 are not original.(top)
This is the last verse in Mark that is part of the original texts. The women were understandably frightened and confused by the angel and by all the mysterious things they were experiencing, such as the open tomb, the missing body of Jesus, the unexplained grave wrappings with spices (the women did not know Nicodemus had wrapped Jesus’ body with spices), and Mary Magdalene being nowhere around (she had come to the tomb earlier and was either going to come back and join them or meet them at the tomb). They did what the angel commanded and hurriedly left the tomb and went to tell the disciples.
The apparent discrepancy between Matthew and Mark can be easily explained. While Matthew says that they were going to tell the disciples, Mark says that they did not say anything to anyone. The key to the apparent discrepancy is understanding that Mark is referring to talking to people that they met on the road. Especially since it was just after Passover season, and the day after a Sabbath, it is likely that the women passed many people on their way to tell the disciples what they had just seen, and it would be customary to do at least a cursory greeting to many of those people. Furthermore, ordinarily, if a group of people saw an angel, they would be so excited that they would tell everyone they met. However, the terrible events involving Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, combined with all the unexplainable things the women saw that morning, combined with the “unbelievable” news that Christ had risen from the dead, caused the women not to tell anyone on the road, but to wait until they got to the disciples. However, Luke 24:9-10 let us know that when the women did tell the disciples what had happened to them and that Jesus was raised, the news seemed so outlandish they did not believe the women.(top)
When we look carefully at the last 12 verses of Mark (Mark 16:9-20), the evidence shows that they are not part of the original God-breathed text, but were added to the original text of Mark, nevertheless, we have made some commentary notes below because those verses are so well known. The Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as the Servant of God (see commentary on Mark 1:1), and Jesus’ work as the Servant foretold by the OT prophets ended at his death. He was resurrected as “Lord,” and so it is appropriate that Mark does not portray Jesus in his resurrected state.
There are many lines of evidence that lead us to conclude that the ending of Mark that is found in almost every Bible is not original, but is a later addition. The evidence falls into two major categories: external manuscript evidence and internal evidence in the verses themselves. What we will see is that both the manuscript evidence and the internal evidence show that Mark originally ended with verse 8, and that short and abrupt ending fits with the rest of Mark and the scope of Scripture. All these points will be examined below.
The first line of evidence we must examine when considering whether or not the closing 12 verses of Mark are original is the external evidence of the ancient manuscripts. When we do this, what we find is that the Greek manuscripts have four major different endings to Mark.a Obviously, not all four of them can be original, and in fact, the evidence shows that none of the four of them is original. While it is true that the majority of the manuscripts have the traditional ending of Mark, that is for a good reason. After it was added, the subsequent manuscripts included it. It is never the largest number of manuscripts that establishes which reading is original, but rather the date of the manuscripts, the manuscript families that include or exclude a text, and any historical evidence that shows us why a text was added or omitted. Hendriksen sums up the manuscript discussion: “It cannot be denied that ever so many Greek manuscripts do contain these words, but when the manuscript evidence is properly evaluated instead of merely counted, the balance swings heavily toward the omission of the contested verses.b
In the case of the ending of Mark, not only do the earliest manuscripts of the different textual families not have the ending, but the theologians who lived back then testified that the manuscripts they were using did not have it either. The noted textual scholar Bruce Metzger writes:
As was stated above, there are other endings to Mark besides the well-known one that appears in most Bibles. Sometimes the Greek manuscripts that have the traditional long ending also have the most well-known short ending, but this short ending is rarely translated into our English Bibles. Since the short ending is not original, and since it is not usually included in our Bibles, it was never assigned a verse number. The Greek manuscripts that do have both the long and short endings usually place the short ending before the longer one, between verses 8 and 9, which is more evidence that both endings were added to Mark. The New American Standard Bible includes the short ending, but puts it at the end of Mark, after verse 20. According to the NASB, the short ending is translated as follows: And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.
The reason that someone would write a “more complete” ending to Mark is clear: it seems to end abruptly. The note in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible says it well: “Most scholars believe that this [verse 8] is indeed the point at which the original Gospel probably ended and suggests that the other endings very likely developed during the second century, after the Gospel of Mark was read alongside the other Gospels and appeared, by comparison, to lack a satisfactory conclusion.” Actually, when we understand the purpose of Mark, we will see that its ending at verse 8 is perfectly satisfactory, a point we will make later.
Having examined the external manuscript evidence and seeing that the evidence leads us to conclude the ending of Mark is not original, we now turn to the internal evidence of the passage. The internal evidence is in two broad categories: the grammatical and syntactical evidence, and the evidence of what the verses actually say.
When it comes to the vocabulary, syntax, and grammar, of the last 12 verses of Mark, it is beyond the scope of this short work, and beyond the ability of most Bible students, to do a thorough study. That kind of evidence involves complex analysis of Greek vocabulary and grammatical patterns, and requires experts who thoroughly understand the Greek language. Thus, we will leave the more complete lexical analysis of the ending of Mark to other scholastic works.
[A few such works which cover the ending of Mark in much more detail are: B. F. Wescott and F. A. Hort, Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek, Appendix 1, pp. 29-51; Bratcher and Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Mark, pp. 506-522; Roger Omanson, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament; William Lane, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Mark.]
For the purposes of this study, we will only quote some of the scholars who study the grammar and syntax of the ending verses of Mark, and acknowledge that they testify that it is significantly different from the rest of Mark. For example, the text note in the NET First Edition Bible says of the closing verses of Mark: “Their vocabulary and style are decidedly non-Markan.” William Lane writes: “the form, language, and style of these verses militate against Marcan authorship.”d Even scholars like Lenski, who defends the closing verses of Mark as probably original, admit that the grammar and syntax of the closing verses do differ from the rest of Mark. Thus the evidence of the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, of the closing verses of Mark is in harmony with the manuscript evidence, which is that the ending of Mark was not written by the same person who wrote the rest of Mark.
The other category of internal evidence that the closing verses of Mark are not original is what the verses say; the information that the verses contain. What we find is that there are statements in the ending verses of Mark that contradict the other Gospels and the scope of Scripture. For example, Mark 16:13 says that the two men (Cleopas and another disciple) who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus went back to Jerusalem and joined the rest of the disciples, but the disciples “did not believe them” when they said Jesus was alive. This contradicts the Gospel of Luke. Luke is the Gospel that has the full account of the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32), and it says that when Cleopas and his friend arrived at Jerusalem, the apostles and disciples were already convinced Jesus was alive. In fact, before Cleopas and his friend could even tell the apostles about seeing the resurrected Lord, the apostles and disciples said, “It is true! The Lord has risen” (Luke 24:34). Only after the Apostles and disciples in Jerusalem told Cleopas and his friend that Jesus was alive did the two men get a chance to report their own experience with Jesus, confirming that Jesus was indeed alive. Thus Mark 16:13 and Luke 24:34, 35 blatantly contradict each other, and the best explanation for the contradiction is that Mark 16:13 is not original.
Similarly, Mark 16:14 seems to contradict the other Gospels and is the only verse in which Jesus reproves his disciples when he first appears to them. This conflicts with Luke 24:36, which says that when Jesus appeared to the disciples he said, “Peace be with you.” By the time Jesus appeared to the disciples who were behind closed doors, they were already saying he had been raised, so why would he reprove them? Reproof certainly does not seem to be the tone of Jesus’ communication with the disciples according to Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23. Again, the best explanation of the contradiction is that Mark 16:14 is not original. We should remember that as the orthodox Church developed, the loving Christ of the Gospels became a much more harsh and judgmental Christ (God suffered the same degradation), so a Jesus who would enter and reprove the disciples even though they believed in him and even though he had just said, “Peace be with you,” fits well later in Church history.
Still more evidence that the ending of Mark is not original is the unusual material about picking up snakes and drinking poison. The ordinary experience of Christians who are bitten by snakes or who drink poison is that it does hurt them. It is extraordinary and miraculous when it does not. However, as the Church developed, mystical statements and beliefs became more common. Two more good examples of mystical beliefs that developed in the Church are the belief that sex made a person less spiritual, which led to the celibate clergy of the Roman Catholic Church; and also the belief that the communion bread actually became the body of Christ, rather than just symbolized it. The fact that it is not experientially correct that a believer can be bitten by a snake or drink poison without being harmed, and it is also out of harmony with the general wisdom that is taught in Scripture, the material about snakes and poison can be seen to be an addition to the text.
The phrase about speaking in tongues also clearly seems to be an addition to the text. Jesus would have never mentioned that to his followers just before his ascension. They would not have understood what he was saying. But we can see why it would have been added by a scribe as the Church developed because speaking in tongues was part of the early Church.
Still more evidence that the ending of Mark is an addition is that it has an event that is out of chronological order. Sometimes a Gospel will have an event that is out of chronological order, that is true, but in the record of events after the death of Christ, Mark is the only Gospel that has any event out of order. While that in itself would not be conclusive, given all the other evidence that the last verses in Mark were added, the out-of-order verse in Mark is simply more evidence that the verses are not original. Mark 16:9 about Mary Magdalene chronologically comes before Mark 16:2. It is almost as if the person who wrote the ending of Mark wanted to reintroduce us to Mary Magdalene even though he ends up bringing her into the record at the wrong time.
Also, Mark is the only Gospel that mentions anything that happens after the Day of Pentecost. Matthew ends with Jesus talking to the disciples before his ascension; Luke ends with the disciples waiting in the Temple before the Day of Pentecost; and John ends with Jesus speaking with Peter, and then a conclusion about Jesus’ works. In contrast, the traditional ending of Mark has information about the expansion of the Church and the Word being preached “everywhere,” which occurred many years after the Day of Pentecost.
When we remove the last 12 verses of Mark, and simply end Mark as the oldest manuscripts do, with verse 8, we have a very abrupt ending. Scholars are divided into several broad camps about the abrupt ending of Mark. Many assert that Mark simply ended at verse 8; some scholars think there was an ending to Mark that is now lost; and some scholars think that Mark was in the process of writing an ending but was interrupted by persecution or death and thus did not finish his Gospel.
Although we can see why people want a “better conclusion” to Mark than 16:8 seems to be, as we have seen, the evidence is that Mark ends with verse 8. There is no actual evidence that there ever was another ending that is now “missing.” Mark is like the book of Jonah, which ends in an abrupt manner. Both Jonah and Mark leave us wanting a “better ending,” but when we think about it, there are many things in the Bible we would like to have more information about. Some scholars have tried to say that Mark cannot end with verse 8 because the Greek syntax would then be unusual, but arguments such as those have been ably answered. (One person who does a good job answering that kind of argument is Ned B. Stonehouse.)e
It has also been asserted that Mark 16:8 cannot be the ending of Mark because it makes the women become disobedient to the angel’s command to go and tell the disciples. But it is speaking about the women as they left the tomb, and should not be extrapolated and made to imply that the women did not go tell the other disciples.
Since the manuscript evidence, the grammatical and syntactical evidence, and the internal evidence from the verses themselves, all point to the fact that the Gospel of Mark does end with verse 8, is there evidence of God’s design in that abrupt ending? Yes, there is. The abrupt ending of Mark fits with the subject of Mark, and it also parallels the beginning of Mark. Mark portrays Jesus as the Servant of God (see commentary on Mark 1:1). The Gospel of Mark begins with Jesus being baptized and starting his work as the Servant of God. There is no genealogy like Matthew and Luke have, no explanation of how Jesus was the plan of God, the logos becoming flesh, like John has. There are no accounts of his childhood as in Matthew and Luke, or introduction of his person, as in John (“Look!, the Lamb of God”). A good servant needs neither genealogy nor introduction; he is qualified by his obedience and the quality of his work.
Mark starts with Jesus getting immediately to his work. By the end of chapter one (45 verses), he has been baptized by John; tempted for 40 days in the desert; preached the Good News of the Kingdom; called some Apostles; delivered people from demons; healed people of diseases; showed his devotion to God by getting alone and praying; and healed a man of leprosy, which was both a disease and an Old Testament type for sin, thus showing his authority over sin and his ability to heal both the body and soul. In contrast to the fast-Servant-start of Mark, after the first 45 verses of Matthew, Jesus was still a baby; after the first 45 verses of Luke, Mary was still pregnant with Jesus; and after the first 45 verses of John, John the Baptist had pointed out that Jesus was the Lamb of God and Jesus had asked some men to follow him.
When Jesus gave up his life for mankind, that ended his ministry as the Servant of God. In his resurrected body he was no longer the suffering Servant foretold in the Old Testament, but had become the resurrected Lord. That is not to say that Jesus no longer serves God and people, for he certainly does, but he serves in his capacity as Lord.
Not nearly enough work has been done comparing the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah as God’s “Servant” to Mark’s picture of Jesus Christ as that Servant. Part of the reason for that is the doctrine of the Trinity, which sees Christ as “eternal God of eternal God,” and never really recognizes Jesus Christ as the truly human servant of God. Zechariah 3:8 foretells that the “Branch” will be a servant, but the whole chapter of Zechariah 3 is typological of Jesus Christ, right down to the name of the High Priest, which is “Joshua,” the Hebrew name for Jesus.
Similarly, the four “servant songs” of Isaiah, the four well-known and specific prophecies of the Messiah as the Servant of God, are certainly fulfilled by the Servant-Messiah that Mark portrays (Isa. 42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12). According to the prophecies, the Servant receives holy spirit; he does not raise his voice or cry out in the streets; he takes care of the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks (i.e., the weak and infirm); he is upheld by Yahweh; he gives sight to the blind and releases the captives from their prisons; he is a light to the nations; he gives his back to those who strike him; he does not hide his face from spitting and humiliation; his appearance is marred; he is a man of sorrows; he bears the sin of us all; and he is “cut off out of the land of the living.” That is a lot for any servant to bear, but Jesus knew it was coming (It is written!), and obeyed God to the end—his death on the cross.
Since Jesus completed his role of the “Servant” when he died, and in any resurrection appearance would no longer be in that role, it is appropriate that Mark ends with Jesus dying and being buried, then the announcement by the angel that he had risen from the dead and the traumatic effect that announcement had on the women. The Resurrection was not a carefully conceived plot by the disciples to deceive mankind, it was God Almighty breaking into history in a way that no one expected; an awesome and profound way that was both shocking and baffling. God showed His love for mankind by raising His Son from the dead and providing a way for all people to have everlasting life.
The commentary on Mark by David Smith also makes a good point. He says, “This ‘ending without an ending’ forces all readers to evaluate what they would do in a similar situation.”f The very abruptness of the ending of Mark causes us to think about what happened. Like the women at the tomb, we have good evidence that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Will we believe it?
“after he rose, early on the first day of the week.” We believe this verse is not part of the original text [See commentary on Mark 16:9 above]. Despite that fact, we have translated the Greek text of the ending of Mark because it is so well known. We believe the translation in the REV is the accurate way to translate the Greek because Jesus was raised from the dead Saturday evening before sunset.
Some versions of the Bible translate the verse as if the Greek text read: “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,…” (NIV). Translating the Greek that way makes Jesus get up early Sunday morning, which is why many commentators say Jesus got up when there was an earthquake and an angel rolled the stone away from the tomb door. We know that Jesus was “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40, so he could not have been raised Sunday morning, especially if, as tradition says, he was buried Friday evening. Many commentators assert that biblically, any part of a day is called a “day,” so they say Friday is day one, Saturday is day two, and Sunday is day three. While that way to count days would work if Jesus had just said he would be buried “three days,” it is not a proper understanding of how to count Jesus’ words, “three days and three nights.” There are not three days and three nights from Friday just before sunset to Sunday while it is still dark. We can reconstruct the chronology very accurately from the information in the New Testament. Wednesday was Nisan 14, the day the Passover Lamb was killed, and thus the day Jesus died. Thursday was Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, always a Special Sabbath. Friday, Nisan 16 fell between the Special Sabbath and the weekly Sabbath. Saturday, Nisan 17 was the weekly Sabbath, and Jesus was in the ground three days and three nights just before the sunset on Saturday, so his resurrection was on Saturday evening. Sunday, Nisan 18 was the first day of the week, and the day he appeared to Mary Magdalene and the rest of the Apostles and disciples.
The confusion about the burial of Jesus is due to the fact that the Bible makes it clear that Jesus was buried before the Sabbath. Not realizing that the “Sabbath” was a High Day, a Special Sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (John 19:31), people assume Jesus must have been crucified on a Friday, and that is how the traditional account of the crucifixion got started.
When trying to translate and punctuate Mark 16:9, the Greek quite literally reads, “Having risen early on the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene...” The question is whether the words, “early on the first of the week” refer to when he arose or when he appeared. The fact is that in the Greek text it could be either, so we need to discover the meaning from the scope of Scripture. One of the most, or perhaps the most, capable Greek grammarian in modern times is A. T. Robertson, who says, “It is probable that this note of time goes with ‘risen’ (αναστας), though it makes good sense with ‘appeared’ (εφανη).”g There are cases in the NT where time phrases are unclear, so this is not solid proof that this verse is not original, however, if someone were to press the fact that the natural reading of the Greek made the resurrection on Sunday morning, then this verse would be one more piece of evidence that it was not part of the original text of Mark.
“mourning and crying.” Although it is likely that the disciples did mourn and weep, this seems to be more evidence that the end of Mark is fanciful and not original. No other Gospel mentions the disciples gathered mourning and weeping. Although they certainly missed Jesus, and were afraid and confused, they were caught up in the confusion about his death in light of the fact that they had been so sure he was the Messiah. The mourning and weeping are more like imagery from a later time, as if the disciples were saying, “They killed the Messiah.” Actually, they were saying, “They killed Jesus, who we thought was the Messiah, and now what are we going to do?”(top)
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“And afterward he appeared...and he rebuked them…” This verse contradicts Luke 24:34 because when Jesus appeared to the disciples behind closed doors, they were already saying he had been raised, so why would he reprove them? The disciples did not believe the women, that is true, but in the biblical culture, the testimony of women was not allowable in court. The disciples did believe Peter and the two men on the road to Emmaus, so Jesus would not reprove the disciples for “not believing those who saw him after he was raised.” They did believe the three men whose testimony was credible in that culture. Furthermore, reproof certainly does not seem to be the tone of Jesus’ communication with the disciples according to Luke 24:36-49 and John 20:19-23. The best explanation is that the closing section of Mark is not original.
[For more information on Mark 16:9-20 not being original, see commentary on Mark 16:9.](top)
|Mar 16:15||- (top)|
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Mark 16:16 is the only verse in the New Testament that clearly says a person has to be baptized to be saved. Although some people say verses such as Acts 2:38, “repent and be baptized,” say the same thing, that is not actually the case. Acts 2:38 is simply saying if a person did repent and get baptized he would receive the holy spirit, which is true, but different from saying one had to do those things to get the holy spirit.
Salvation is the most serious subject in the Bible, and thus this verse requires our attention. However, studying it in light of the scope of the New Testament, it seems unreasonable that water baptism is necessary for salvation, but it is only mentioned here and not in any of the other clear verses about salvation. For example, Romans 10:9 says very clearly: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That fact, along with all the evidence that the closing section of Mark is not original, is very solid evidence that this verse is not original, but was added, and that makes sense because as Christianity developed in the decades after Christ’s ascension, the doctrine that water baptism was necessary for salvation became a part of Church doctrine, even though it had never been a doctrine before then.
If someone did want to insist that Mark 16:16 is original and a person had to be “baptized” to be saved, then the “baptism” in the verse would not refer to baptism in water but to baptism in holy spirit. In that case, the statement “Whoever believes and is baptized [in holy spirit] will be saved” would be true, because at the time a person believes, he is baptized in holy spirit, and then his salvation is assured. See commentary on Mark 16:9.(top)
“And these signs will accompany those who believe.” This verse was almost certainly added to Mark from a later time when speaking in tongues was better known and understood (see commentary on Mark 16:9).
“speak in new tongues.” For an explanation of speaking in tongues, see commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:5.(top)
|Mar 16:18||- (top)|
|Mar 16:19||- (top)|
“They went out and proclaimed the Good News everywhere.” This verse is more evidence that the ending of Mark is not original. The other Gospels all end before the Day of Pentecost and the start of the Christian Church. However, this verse clearly ends later in Church history. Hendriksen writes that this verse is “a statement which one would naturally associate with a period of Church history considerably later than Pentecost.”a The actual fact is that, for years after the ascension, the Jews did not catch the vision of the Great Commission as this verse seems to imply.
First and foremost, the Jews did not really start to even minister to the Gentiles until the middle of Acts. Although Peter was told to go to the house of the Gentile soldier Cornelius in Acts 10, there is no record of Jews pointedly going to the Gentiles until Acts 11:20 when Jews talked to the Gentiles in Antioch of Syria. As importantly, the Jews took a long time to go “everywhere.” The Apostles stayed in Jerusalem and outreach much beyond that was very slow at first. Although a few of the Jews who came to the feasts at Jerusalem may have believed and taken that belief home with them, one of the first major outreach events occurred when Saul was persecuting the Church and “those who had been scattered [by the persecution] went around telling the Good News” (Acts 9:4). Thus, Mark 16:20 is more like a summary verse of Acts than a conclusion of the Gospel of Mark.