The Last Twelve Verses of Mark's Gospel.
This Is Appendix 168 From The Companion Bible.
Most modern critics are agreed that the last twelve verses of Mark 16 are not integral part of his Gospel. They are omitted by T [A]; not by the Syriac Appendix 94. V. ii.
The question is entirely one of evidence.
From Appendix 94 V. we have seen that this evidence comes from three sources: (1) manuscripts, (2) versions, and (3) the early Christian writers, known as "the Fathers". This evidence has been exhaustively analysed by the late Dean Burgon, whose work is epitomized in numbers I - III, below.
As to MANUSCRIPTS, there are none older than the fourth century, and the oldest two unical Manuscripts ( B and , see Appendix 94. V.) are without those twelve verses. Of all the others (consisting of some eighteen unicals and some six hundred cursive Manuscripts which contain the Gospel of Mark there is not one which leaves out these twelve verses.
As to the Versions:-
- The SYRIAC. The oldest is the Syriac in it various forms: the "Peshitto" (cent. 2) and the "Curetonian Syriac" (cent. 3). Both are older than any Greek Manuscript in existence, and both contain these twelve verses. So with the "Philoxenian" (cent.5) and the "Jerusalem" (cent. 5) See note 1.
- The LATIN Version. JEROME (A.D.382), who had access to Greek Manuscripts older than any now extant, includes these twelve verses; but this Version (known as the Vulgate) was only a revision of the VETUS ITALA, which is believed to belong to cent. 2,
and contains these verses.
- The GOTHIC Version (A.D. 350) contains them.
- The EGYPTIAN Versions: the Memphitic (or Lower Egyptian, less properly called "COPTIC"), belonging to cent. 4 or 5, contains them; as does the "THEBAIC" (or Upper Egyptian, less properly called the "SAHIDIC"), belonging to cent. 3.
- The ARMENIAN (cent. 5), the ETHIOPIC (cent. 4-7), and the GEORGIAN (cent. 6) also bear witness to the genuineness of these verses.
The FATHERS. Whatever may be their value (or otherwise) as to doctrine and interpretation yet, in determining actual words, or their form or sequence, their evidence, even by an allusion, as to whether a verse or verses existed or not in their day, is more valuable than even manuscripts or Versions.
There are nearly a hundred ecclesiastical writers older than the oldest of our Greek codices; while between A.D. 300 and A.D. 600 there are about two hundred more, and they all refer to these twelve verses.
- PAPIAS (about A.D. 100) refers to verse 18 (as stated by Eusebius, Hist. Ecc iii. 39).
- JUSTIN MARTYR (A.D. 151) quotes verse 20 ( Apol. I. c. 45).
- IRENAEUS (A.D. 180) quotes and remarks on verse 19 (Adv. Hoer. lib. iii. c. x. ) .
- HIPPOLYTUS (A.D. 190 - 227) quotes verses 17 - 19 (Lagarde's ed., 1858, page 74).
- VINCENTIUS (A.D. 256) quoted two verses at the seventh Council of Carthage , held under CYPRIAN.
- The ACTA PILATI (cent. 2) quotes verses 15, 16, 17, 18 (Tischendorf's ed., 1853. pages 243, 351).
- The APOSTOLICAL CONSTITUTIONS (cent. 3 or 4) quotes verses 16, 17, 18.
- EUSEBIUS (A.D. 325) discusses these verses, as quoted by MARINUS from a lost part of his History.
- APHRAARTES (A.D. 337), a Syrian bishop, quoted verses 16 - 18 in his first Homily (Dr. Wright's ed., 1869, i., page 21).
- AMBROSE (A.D. 374 - 97), Archbishop of Milan, freely quotes verses 15 (four times), 16, 17, 18 (three times), and verse 20 (once).
- CHRYSOSTOM (A.D. 400) refers to verse 9; and states that verses 19, 20 are "the end of the Gospel".
- JEROME (b. 331, d. 420) includes these twelve verses in his Latin translation, besides quoting verses 9 and 14 in his other writings.
- AUGUSTINE (fl. A.D. 395 - 430) more than quotes them. He discusses them as being the work of the Evangelist MARK, and says that they were publicly read in the churches.
- NESTORIUS (cent. 5) quotes verse 20, and
- CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA (A.D. 430) accepts the quotation.
- VICTOR OF ANTIOCH (A.D. 425) confutes the opinion of Eusebius, by referring to very many Manuscripts which he had seen, and so had satisfied himself that the last twelve verses were recorded in them.
We should like to add our own judgment as to the root cause of the doubts which have gathered round these verses.
They contain the promise of the Lord, of which we read the fulfilment in Hebrews 2:4. The testimony of "them that heard Him" was to be the confirmation of His own teaching when on earth: "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of pneuma hagion (that is to say, spiritual gifts. See Appendix 101. II. 14), according to His own will".
The Acts of the Apostles records the fulfilment of the Lord's promise in Mark 16:17, 18; and in the last chapter we find a culminating exhibition of "the Lord's working with them" (verses 3, 5, 8, 9). But already, in 1 Corinthians 13:8 - 13, it was revealed that a time was then approaching when all these spiritual gifts should be "done away". That time coincided with the close of that dispensation, by the destruction of Jerusalem; when they that
heard the Lord could no longer add their confirmation to the Lord's teaching, and there was nothing for God to bear witness to. For nearly a hundred years 2 after the destruction of Jerusalem there is a complete blank in ecclesiastical history, and a complete silence of Christian speakers and writers 3. So far from the Churches of the present day being the continuation of Apostolic times, "organized religion", as we see it to-day, was the work of a subsequent and quite an independent generation.
When later transcribers of the Greek manuscripts came to the last twelve verses of Mark, and saw no trace of such spiritual gifts in existence, they concluded that there must be something doubtful about the genuineness of these verses. Hence, some may have marked them as doubtful, some as spurious, while others omitted them altogether.
A phenomenon of quite an opposite kind is witnessed in the present day.
Some (believers in these twelve verses), earnest in their desire to serve the Lord, but not "rightly dividing the Word of truth" as to the dispensations, look around, and, not seeing these spiritual gifts in operation, determine to have them (!) and are led into all sorts of more than doubtful means in their desire to obtain them. The resulting "confusion" shows that God is "not the author" of such a movement (see 1 Corinthians 14:31 - 33).
1 Of these, the Aramaic (or Syriac), that is to say, the Peshitto, is the most important, ranking as superior in authority to the oldest Greek manuscripts, and dating from as early as A.D. 170.
Though the Syrian Church was divided by the Third and Fourth General Councils in the fifth century, into three, and eventually into yet more, hostile communions, which have lasted for 1,400 years with all their bitter controversies, yet the same version is ready to-day in the rival churches. Their manuscripts have flowed into the libraries of the West. "yet they all exhibit a text in every important respect the same." Peshitto means a version simple and plain, without the addition of allegorical or mystical glosses.
Hence we have given this authority, where needed throughout our notes, as being of more value than the modern critical Greek texts; and have noted (for the most part) only those "various readings" with which the Syriac agrees.
2 See Colossians 1, opposite.
3 Except the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve, which is supposed to be about the middle of the second century, but which shows how soon the corruption of New Testament "Christianity" had set in.