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The ending of the Gospel of Mark is a disputed passage, because different manuscripts have a different ending:

  • Some end at Mark 16:8
  • Some include Mark 16:9-20, like most Bible translations
  • Some include a shorter ending (NAB):

    And they reported all the instructions briefly to Peter’s companions. Afterwards Jesus himself, through them, sent forth from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen.

  • Some include the Freer Logion (NAB):

    And they excused themselves, saying, ‘This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things dominated by the spirits [or, does not allow the unclean things dominated by the spirits to grasp the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal your righteousness now.’ They spoke to Christ. And Christ responded to them, ‘The limit of the years of Satan’s power is completed, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who sinned I was handed over to death, that they might return to the truth and no longer sin, in order that they might inherit the spiritual and incorruptible heavenly glory of righteousness. But….’

Many scholars have chosen the view that Mark 16:9-20 is a later addition, while others support its authenticity. Most of my Bibles have at least a footnote noting that the passage is not found in all manuscripts, with some even suggesting that it's not an original part of Mark. I've yet to see a Bible translation that omits it.

For reference, an article on bible-researcher.com cites many commentaries on the passage, while the Wikipedia article has a good encyclopaedical overview of the matter.

This will not be easy to answer properly, but I ask:

  1. Is Mark 16:9-20 original or a later addition?
  2. Should it be in the Bible?
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Maybe a narrower question than "Should it be in the Bible?" would be "If it is a later addition, why is it included in the Bible?" Definitely a good question either way! –  a_hardin Aug 29 '11 at 3:32
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@a_hardin: a good point, but I don't want to assume that it's a later addition. If I were to narrow this down, I'd rather take my question #2 out. But that doesn't really help answerers very much... –  dancek Aug 29 '11 at 3:43
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hermeneutics.stackexchange.com –  user1054 Jan 9 '13 at 19:13

3 Answers 3

The Greek vocabulary and grammar of the so-called longer ending of Mark is subtly different from the part that concludes "for they were afraid." And it is indeed missing from some of the most ancient sources.

We can speculate on why. Without either of the two disputed endings ("shorter" or "longer") the Gospel concludes with these words:

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Gulp. That's it? Is it possible that a scribe sometime in history really wanted an ending with a more exhortatory flavor?

A definitive answer to your first question is difficult, but the evidence points to "yes, it's a later ending." As to your second question, "should it be in the Bible?" with respect that's above your pay grade and mine. It is in the Bible.

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The danger with this is that there may be teachings in there that don't correspond with other parts of the New Testament. If there are new doctrines introduced in text that is not found in all versions of the original manuscripts, then we have to be careful about completely basing our faith off of these doctrines.

In regard to this specific passage, there's nothing in there that isn't found in any other place in the bible. Truly, everything included there is echoed in other passages.

So, even if we can't be sure of its authenticity, we can be sure of its authority.

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+1 that's indeed the danger. I'm not sure how Mark 16:17-18 should be read: am I not a Christian if these signs don't appear, and I can't remember a NT reference to drinking poison. –  dancek Aug 29 '11 at 13:05
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I noticed that, actually. I almost said that we should avoid that practice because this passage in Mark is the only reference. However Luke 10:19 also references the fact that poison won't hurt Christians. –  Richard Aug 29 '11 at 13:40

Another biblical passage applicable to the Mark 16 verses on poison is in 1Tim 4:4-5. In correcting those who spout "doctrines of demons" that include abstaining from certain foods, the apostle says that "every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer." Many Christians obsess over eating only certain kinds of foods, thinking that is the key to a long and healthy life (even though Eph 6:1-3 says the key to longevity is something else). Looking for unhealthy foods to eat or poisons to drink would be "tempting God," which Jesus reminds us we must not do (Mat 4:7); but inadvertent ingestion of bad things or inadvertent stepping on serpents is not something we have to worry about, since God promises to protect us. But extracting a verse like the ones in Luke and Mark to develop an ecclesiastical practice of snake handling and poison drinking will surely end in sorrow, because to do such a thing is to tempt the Lord thy God.

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Welcome to the site. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Also, this doesn't really answer the question. It looks like it should be a comment on another post, but you haven't yet earned enough to leave comments. (Again, see the help page.) Hopefully, soon! –  David Stratton Oct 6 '13 at 22:28

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