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MARK 16:9-20


There ARE passages in the Bible which have turned out NOT to be genuine. One in particular is Mark 16:9-20.

So said, however, the following will show that everything in Mark 16:9-20 (except for one detail) can be found elsewhere in the New Testament. Therefore, no Christian doctrine is in any way affected by the fact that Mark 16:9-20 is probably not original.

The older copies of the New Testament, such as the Greek copies used for the 1611 AD King James version, were based on rather late Greek manuscripts. In the 19th and 20th centuries, older manuscripts have come to light. These older manuscripts have differences with the less old manuscripts which the church used for many centuries. Simply put, the church was using imperfect copies.

This raises the question: were the copies imperfect due to deliberate changes? This is a charge which is sometimes made. However, most discrepancies are very small - the odd word missing or inserted here or there, making little or no change to the meaning of the passage.

If Mark 16:9-20, which describes some appearances of Jesus after he rose from the dead is not genuine and nothing but a later addition, does it mean then that the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus is in question?

The answer is a firm NO.

Most biblical scholars are pretty much in agreement that there is NO individual specific Christian doctrine that rests on the genuineness or otherwise, of Mark 16:9-20. The reason is simple: for the most part it appears that Mark 16:9-20 was compliled using the endings of the other three gospels (Matthew, Luke, John) as sources.

The event in Mark is presented in normal font, while the parallel from elsewhere in the New Testament is (1) presented in strong or bold font combined with (2) the word PARALLEL:

MARK 16:9: Jesus had formerly driven 7 demons out of Mary Magdalene.

PARALLEL: Luke 8:2

MARK 16:9: Jesus appeared to Mary Magdelene

PARALLEL: John 20:11-17

MARK 16:10: Mary told the disciples

PARALLEL: John 20:18, Luke 24:9-10

MARK 16:11: The disciples did not believe Mary

PARALLEL: Luke 24:11

MARK 16:12-13: Jesus appeared to two disciples while they were walking in the country.

PARALLEL: Luke 24:13-35

MARK 16:14 Jesus appeared to the Eleven

PARALLEL: Luke 24:36-43 is probably the instance intended. Appearances to the Eleven are also described in Matthew 28:16-20, John 20:19-23, John 20:26-29 and 1 Corinthians 15:5

MARK 16:14 Jesus rebuked the Eleven for not believing

PARALLEL: Luke 24:36-43 is probably the instance intended. There was also the rebuke of Thomas in John 20:26-29.

MARK 16:15 Jesus comissioned them to preach the gospel.

PARALLEL: Luke 24:46-49, Matthew 28:19-20, John 20:21, Acts 1:8

MARK 16:15 The comission included a command to baptise.

PARALLEL: Matthew 28:19

MARK 16:16 Those who believe and are baptised will be saved, those who do not believe will be condemned

PARALLEL: There is no other record of Jesus saying this after his resurrection, although it is surely part of what he spoke of in Acts 1:3. However the doctrine itself is made clear in many passages, e.g. John 3:18, 5:24, 6:29; Acts 2:38, 4:12, 10:43, 16:31.

MARK 16:17-18 Jesus lists five signs which will accompany believers.

PARALLEL: There is no direct parallel of Jesus foretelling this. However he did promise he would be with them (Matthew 28:20) and they would have power (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8). Earlier, he had promised they would do greater miracles than him (John 14:12).

MARK 16:20 These signs will in fact accompany the disciples [NOTE: This means some disciples, not every single individual disciple. For more on this, see endnote *].

PARALLEL: We will deal with these as they are mentioned in verses 17-18. As can be seen, 4 of the 5 are recorded in Acts.

MARK 16:17 Believers will cast out demons

PARALLEL: Acts 5:16, 8:7, 16:16-18, 19:12

MARK 16:17 Believers will speak in other tongues

PARALLEL: Acts 2:1-4, 10:46, 19:6

MARK 16:18 Believers will pick up snakes (without being harmed)

PARALLEL: Acts 28:3-6

MARK 16:18 If believers drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all

PARALLEL: There is no instance of this recorded in the New Testament. Perhaps that is why this prophecy is preceded by an "if", i.e. "IF they drink deadly poison" - implying it may not happen.

MARK 16:18 Believers will heal sick people

PARALLEL: Acts 3:1-10, 5:16, 8:7, 19:12

MARK 16:19 Jesus ascended into heaven

PARALLEL: Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9. Jesus' ascension is also referred to numerous other times in the New Testament: John 6:62, Acts 2:33-34, Acts 3:21, Ephesians 4:8-10, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Hebrews 4:14, Hebrews 9:24, 1 Peter 3:22, Revelation 5:6. While there is a small amount of doubt over the genuineness of Luke 24:51, the other references are undisputed. There is therefore no basis for the claim (which is sometimes made) that the ascension of Jesus was only a later addition to the New Testament.[1]

At the top of the page it is stated: "Everything in Mark 16:9-20 (except for one detail) can be found elsewhere in the New Testament."

Except perhaps for that "one detail" (one detail to some, a blatant inconsistency to others) found by going to Footnote [1] above, the most difficult inconsistency to resolve in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shows up in TWO versions of the SAME incident, Matthew 9:18 and Mark 5:23, that through the text, poses for the faithful and curious alike, the following question:

Was Jairus' daughter alive or dead when he came to Jesus?

DAUGHTER WAS DEAD: Matthew 9:18,

"While He was saying these things to them, behold, there came a synagogue official, and bowed down before Him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live."


"And one of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up, and upon seeing Him, fell at His feet, and entreated Him earnestly, saying, 'My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, that she may get well and live.' And He went off with him; and a great multitude was following Him and pressing in on Him."

Many have attempted to resolve the differences. Matthew Slick, in the section from his website, Basic Christian Doctrine, called Bible Difficulties, tackles the dilemma by presenting the following response:

This is a difficult discrepancy.  There are no textual variations in any of the Greek manuscripts so there is no copyist error. The best explanation tha can be offered is that both statements were uttered by Jairus.  Jairus probably said his daughter was dying and then finally admitted that she was dead.  He probably had traveled, in desperation, to find Jesus and said that his daughter was ill.  Most probably, someone informed him that his daughter had died and then he told Jesus this.

For now, this is the best explanation I (i.e., Matthew Slick) have come up with. The problem with this explanation is that it is not based on anything revealed in the text. Instead, it is base on nothing but pure conjecture.

Does the lack of an airtight explanation mean that the Bible is to be discarded?  Not at all.  We do not discard physics because we cannot understand something in it.  Nor do we abandon science because of some unexplainable phenomena.  As with so many other "discrepancies" in the Bible, given time, archaeological discover of more manuscripts, etc., more and more biblical difficulties clear up.





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Footnote [1]

In the gospel, Luke recounts the ascension of Jesus on Easter Sunday night, thereby closely associating it with the resurrection.

BUT, in Acts 1:3, 9-11; 13:31 he historicizes the ascension by speaking of a forty-day period between the resurrection and the ascension. The Western text omits some phrases in Luke 24:51, 52 perhaps to avoid any chronological conflict with Acts 1 about the time of the ascension.


24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

24:48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

24:50 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.

24:51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

24:52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.