A Case For Mark 16:9-20

In most academic discussions the long-ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20), as it is called, is rarely seen as a legitimate ending to the Gospel of Mark. I remember in seminary that this portion of Scripture was taken skeptically and many thought it should not be in the Bible.

I was once skeptical as well.

Having preached through Mark, I have come to change my position on the long-ending of the Gospel. I think it is necessary for it to be there, and we should take it to be Scripture inspired by God. So, here are a few reasons:

Textually, of all the manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel, there are two early and important manuscripts that do not have these verses, however all the others do. The overwhelming testimony of the textual tradition says that these verses belong.

Historically, the church fathers from as early as the second century quoted from this passage.

Structurally, they seem necessary. It would be an odd piece of literature indeed if Mark left off the appearance of the resurrected Christ. Jesus spoke of His resurrection several times (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). The Gospel of Mark would be a truncated piece of literature without the appearance of Jesus three days after His death. Mark is an exquisite story-teller and it would be baffling for him to leave the resurrection out of his Gospel.

Theologically, it is appropriate. The connections between these verses and the previous chapters of Mark’s Gospel are strong enough to lead me to believe that they are necessary. For example, Jesus tells His disciples that the woman who anoints Him for His death will be spoken of throughout the whole world when the gospel is preached (Mark 14:9). Then, in the disputed text, we read that the disciples are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), the same language is employed.

In this same line of thinking we have another theological clue that these verses belong in the Bible. Jesus says, “they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them…” (Mark 16:18a). Now, your Bible might reference poison, but the word poison is not there in the Greek, and the word translated as deadly is not an adjective, it is a noun. So, take out poison and change deadly to a noun, and the text literally reads like this, “they will take up serpents; and if they drink death, it will by no means hurt them…” 

Now, what could Jesus mean when He says that if the Apostles drink death it will not hurt them? What is drinking death? Well, this is referenced earlier in Mark 10:35-39 and 14:36. Jesus’s reference here is the Cup of Suffering and Death. He received from the Father, the Cup of Death and He drank it to the dregs. Then the resurrected, glorified Jesus says to those who follow Him that when we pick up our cross and take the Cup of Death upon us, it will not harm us because He has kicked death in the teeth. It’s bite is gone, the sting of death is no more. Jesus is victorious and so are all those in Him.

Well, for these reasons, I believe that Mark 16:9-20 should be in our Bibles.

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