Where Does the Gospel of Mark Really End?

On Easter Sunday, we officially finished 29 weeks in the Gospel of Mark, retelling the greatest story ever told in Mark 16:1-8: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of you might be thinking, “Aren’t we going to finish the rest of the book in vv. 9-20?” My answer, “No, because it’s not part of Mark’s original Gospel.”  If you have a Bible with notes or cross-references, you’ll find a note near v. 9 that states something like this, “Later manuscripts (mss) add vv. 9-20.” That means, our earliest and most reliable manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel don’t contain vv. 9-20. Here are some of the reasons why I believe Mark ends his Gospel at v. 8:

1. The abrupt ending forces us to ask and answer the life-changing question: “How will you respond to the resurrection of Jesus Christ?” David Garland, in his commentary on Mark, writes:

The Gospel ends like one of Jesus’ parables and forces us to work things out for ourselves. This incomplete ending, therefore, has Christ still waiting symbolically in Galilee for His followers to come and forces us to ask whether we will go to meet Him there as well. It also prompts us to reflect on our own fear and silence.

2. Our two oldest Greek manuscripts do not have the longer ending (vv. 9-20). The church fathers Clement of Alexandria (c.150 – c. 215) and Origen (c. 185–254) show no knowledge of the longer ending’s existence. In addition, Eusebius (c. AD 263–339) and Jerome (c. 347 – 30 September 420) both state that the longer ending was not found in the majority of Greek manuscripts available to them.

3. The literary style (grammar and word choice) in vv. 9-20 does not match the literary style of the rest of Mark’s gospel.

4. The transition from v. 8 to v. 9 is awkward. In v. 8 the women are the subjects and then in v. 9, it abruptly shifts to Jesus as the subject, addressing Mary Magdalene with no mention of the other two women.

5. It seems as though vv. 9-20 is a compilation of the accounts found in the other three Gospels (Matthew, Luke, and John).

For a more in-depth analysis of Mark’s ending, see “Irony in the End: A Textual and Literary Analysis of Mark 16:8”

Ultimately, wherever the Gospel of Mark really ends, the life-changing question still remains: How will you respond to the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

What are your thoughts about Mark’s ending?

3 Replies to “Where Does the Gospel of Mark Really End?”

  1. Just because our best manuscripts end Mark at v. 8, does not mean that Mark did not, perhaps, write a longer ending which has now been lost. I find that possibility more likely than the incomplete ending in v. 8. I would say, v. 8 is not where Mark intended the gospel to end, but it is where the Holy Spirit intended.

    1. stan… great thoughts. some NT scholars, although few in number (r.t. france being one of them) do believe that mark intended a longer ending and perhaps even died before it could be complete. we’ll never know. and as you said, “it ends where the Holy Spirit intended,” and with the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy, that’s where the power and “dynamism” of the Word resides. that’s why I wouldn’t preach vv. 9-20 as authoritative, if at all.

  2. Jonathan,
    Here are a few responses for your consideration:
    (1) The two Greek manuscripts which are vaguely referred to as “our earliest and most reliable manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel” don’t contain 16:9-20, but they are from the 300’s, and material from Mk. 16:9-10 was used by Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus in the 100’s.
    (2) In one of the two Greek manuscripts in which the subscription appears after 16:8 (Vaticanus), there is a prolonged blank space, as if the copyist recollected the absent passage and attempted to reserve space for it, in the event that a future owner of the codex would desire to include it.
    (3) In the other Greek manuscript in which the subscription appears after 16:8 (Sinaiticus), all four pages containing Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 were written by a different copyist than the one who produced the surrounding pages.
    (4) Eusebius’ statement is not perfectly clear: in his composition “Ad Marinum” he appears to reject the verses and to favor the “accurate copies” at Caesarea that lack them, but he proceeds to explain to Marinus how to harmonize, and thus retain the passage.
    (5) The silence of Clement and Origen is text-critically insignificant. Clement hardly uses the Gospel of Mark at all other than chapter 10, and Origen does not use most other 12-verse portions of Mark. This is just something that Metzger threw in there.
    (6) The sort of approach that Garland uses could excuse practically any accidental ending. It would work if Matthew ended at the end of 28:8; it would work if Mark ended at the end of 16:4 or 16:7. It does not just leave Christ “still waiting symbolically in Galilee.” Whatever would that possibly mean at the time the Gospel of Mark was written?? What sort of symbol is “Galilee”? It isn’t one.
    (7) It may seem like cutting-edge honesty to decline preaching from Mark 16:9-20, but bear in mind that this text has been recognized as Scripture far and wide, from well before the time the New Testament canon was established. Also bear in mind that a lot of commentators have not had a firm grip on the evidence; there are a lot of Metzger-parrots out there. Also bear in mind that a book of the Bible does not have to be written by one individual to be inspired; an inspired co-author or redactor can also contribute to a book in its production-stage to produce the original, authoritative text.

    I welcome you to read my online presentation about this passage, and if you would like to learn more, I’ll be glad to send you the latest draft of my research paper about it.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.
    Minister, Curtisville Christian Church

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