The Long Ending of Mark and Early Views of Inspiration (AUDIO: The Entire Gospel of Mark)

AUDIO: I have now recorded the entire Gospel of Mark in Koine Greek. You can listen to it on the home page under 'Featured Audio/Video' or click below:

The Gospel of Mark in Koine Greek (Audio)

I also expect to have some really exciting news to share about something else that will be happening with this recording in the not-so-distant future. Stay tuned!

The Long Ending of Mark and Early Views of Inerrancy (AUDIO: The Entire Gospel of Mark)


As I make clear on the home page of this website, the recordings of the New Testament are based on the Byzantine text as presented in Robinson and Pierpont's edition. As is well known, the Byzantine text includes the final 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark. However, many textual critics and New Testament scholars believe that the final 12 verses of Mark were added at a later period, probably in the early second century.

Inasmuch as my recording includes the final 12 verses of Mark, I also thought that it would be fitting in this blog post to address the text-critical and historical issues surrounding the ending of the Gospel of Mark, partly to justify my choice to include it in my recording and partly to inform myself and my readers further regarding the issue.

(I should note at the outset, however, that this is not a typical post on the long and short endings of the Gospel of Mark. After all, this is not a text-criticism blog but a blog about jumping into the world of Koine Greek! My goal here is not to answer the question regarding which of the endings was the original one. Rather, my goal here is to help my readers find themselves in the company of ancient Greek Christians who tried to make sense of the two endings of Mark, their view of inerrancy, and the manuscript evidence—because they certainly did struggle with all these things just as we do.)

To begin, we will illustrate the problem by quoting the text below:

Mark 16:1–8

Καὶ διαγενομένου τοῦ σαββάτου, Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ Μαρία ˹ Ἰακώβου ˺ καὶ Σαλώμη ἠγόρασαν ἀρώματα, ἵνα ἐλθοῦσαι ἀλείψωσιν αὐτόν. Καὶ λίαν πρωῒ τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτων ἔρχονται ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον, ἀνατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλίου. Καὶ ἔλεγον πρὸς ἑαυτάς, Τίς ἀποκυλίσει ἡμῖν τὸν λίθον ἐκ τῆς θύρας τοῦ μνημείου; Καὶ ἀναβλέψασαι θεωροῦσιν ὅτι ἀποκεκύλισται ὁ λίθος· ἦν γὰρ μέγας σφόδρα. Καὶ εἰσελθοῦσαι εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον, εἶδον νεανίσκον καθήμενον ἐν τοῖς δεξιοῖς, περιβεβλημένον στολὴν λευκήν· καὶ ἐξεθαμβήθησαν. Ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐταῖς, Μὴ ἐκθαμβεῖσθε· Ἰησοῦν ζητεῖτε τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον· ἠγέρθη, οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε· ἴδε, ὁ τόπος ὅπου ἔθηκαν αὐτόν. Ἀλλ᾿ ὑπάγετε, εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ καὶ τῷ Πέτρῳ ὅτι Προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν· ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε, καθὼς εἶπεν ὑμῖν. Καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου· εἶχεν δὲ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπον, ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

'And when the Sabbath had passed, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jacob and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, they come to the tomb, when the sun had risen. And they said to themselves, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb? And looking up, they see that the stone has been rolled away, for it was very big. And when they entered the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he says to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You are seeking Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here. Look, [here is] the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you. And going out, they fled from the tomb. And trembling and amazement seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were scared.

As noted above, according to many New Testament scholars, this is where the Gospel of Mark originally ended. On this interpretation, though not explicitly stated, the resurrection of Christ is clear by the very fact that the Gospel of Mark was spread and preached. Some have suggested that the intention of this abrupt ending was to give opportunity for those in the early church to then share their testimony of the risen Christ in their own lives. (There are, of course, other views as well.)

Nevertheless, there are others who hold to the view that the following 12 verses, i.e., the longer ending, was actually part of the original Gospel of Mark and was not added later. The longer ending is quoted below:

Mark 16:9–20

Ἀναστὰς δὲ πρωῒ πρώτῃ σαββάτου ἐφάνη πρῶτον Μαρίᾳ τῇ Μαγδαληνῇ, ἀφ᾿ ἧς ἐκβεβλήκει ἑπτὰ δαιμόνια. Ἐκείνη πορευθεῖσα ἀπήγγειλεν τοῖς μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ γενομένοις, πενθοῦσιν καὶ κλαίουσιν. Κἀκεῖνοι ἀκούσαντες ὅτι ζῇ καὶ ἐθεάθη ὑπ᾿ αὐτῆς ἠπίστησαν. Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα δυσὶν ἐξ αὐτῶν περιπατοῦσιν ἐφανερώθη ἐν ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ, πορευομένοις εἰς ἀγρόν. Κἀκεῖνοι ἀπελθόντες ἀπήγγειλαν τοῖς λοιποῖς· οὐδὲ ἐκείνοις ἐπίστευσαν. Ὕστερον ἀνακειμένοις αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἕνδεκα ἐφανερώθη, καὶ ὠνείδισεν τὴν ἀπιστίαν αὐτῶν καὶ σκληροκαρδίαν, ὅτι τοῖς θεασαμένοις αὐτὸν ἐγηγερμένον οὐκ ἐπίστευσαν. Καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἅπαντα, κηρύξατε τὸ εὐαγγέλιον πάσῃ τῇ κτίσει. Ὁ πιστεύσας καὶ βαπτισθεὶς σωθήσεται· ὁ δὲ ἀπιστήσας κατακριθήσεται. Σημεῖα δὲ τοῖς πιστεύσασιν ταῦτα παρακολουθήσει· ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου δαιμόνια ἐκβαλοῦσιν· γλώσσαις λαλήσουσιν καιναῖς· ὄφεις ἀροῦσιν· κἂν θανάσιμόν τι πίωσιν, οὐ μὴ αὐτοὺς βλάψῃ· ἐπὶ ἀρρώστους χεῖρας ἐπιθήσουσιν, καὶ καλῶς ἕξουσιν. Ὁ μὲν οὖν κύριος, μετὰ τὸ λαλῆσαι αὐτοῖς, ἀνελήφθη εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ. Ἐκεῖνοι δὲ ἐξελθόντες ἐκήρυξαν πανταχοῦ, τοῦ κυρίου συνεργοῦντος, καὶ τὸν λόγον βεβαιοῦντος διὰ τῶν ἐπακολουθούντων σημείων. Ἀμήν.

And when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. When she had went, she told those who had been with him, as they were mourning and crying. And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. And after these things, he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking, as they were going into the country. And when they had gone away, they told the rest. Neither did they believe them. Later, he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were reclining to eat, and he rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him risen. And he said to them, 'Going into all the world, preach the gospel to all creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved. But the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons. They will speak in other language. They will pick up snakes. And if they drink anything deadly, it will not harm them. They will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be well.' So then, the Lord, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heave, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

The ending of the final twelve verses (16:9–20) is definitely less abrupt than that of verse 8. And in a number of respects, it certainly resembles the endings of the other gospels (Matthew, Luke, John). Nevertheless, in light of the manuscript evidence upon which New Testament scholars base their conclusion that the final twelve verses were not originally in the Gospel of Mark, it is worth considering which ending was actually original.

While many have examined the manuscript evidence for this longer ending in great detail, such a survey lies beyond the scope of this paper. Moreover, the purpose of this website is far more about putting ourselves in the ancient context rather than assessing an organized catalogue of evidence which only modern scholars have access to. Therefore, in the remainder of this blog post, I just want to deal with the following question:

What did the early church fathers say about the final twelve verses in Mark?

Although we study Koine Greek of the first century especially to understand the New Testament, this does not mean that we always find ourselves in the first century. As those who want to learn about the Koine Greek New Testament in Koine Greek, we often find ourselves two or three centuries later reading commentaries. In fact, the more I study ancient commentaries about the Bible in Greek, the more I find myself in the beginning of the Byzantine period rather than in the heart of the Hellenistic/Koine period. This is because some of the most important church fathers who were writing extensively and producing commentaries, homilies, etc. happen to have lived around this time. It is, after all, probably easier to relate to such writings for modern Christians. Though we have plenty of modern commentaries and sermons that bear some resemblance to those of Origen, Eusebius, Theodoret, and Chrysostom, we are far less accustomed to reading "heresy-hunting" books, which are often characteristic of this early period. If one is looking for exegetical works and/or commentaries, especially those dealing with text-critical issues, the end of the Roman period and the beginning of the Byzantine period is a rich time for such texts.

All of this has relevance for how we want to tackle this issue. As hinted at above, the purpose of this blog is not ultimately to present all aspects of modern scholarship, but rather, inasmuch as it relates to the Greek language, to attempt to transport my readers back in time to the ancient period. Accordingly, it would be a bit artificial to try and survey all the manuscript evidence that has been collected and analyzed by scholars in the modern age. Instead, what is more in line with the spirit of this blog, is to attempt to recreate what a Christian of late antiquity, living at the end of the Roman period or the beginning of the Byzantine period, might have thought.

Fortunately, a number of the early church fathers commented on the ending of Mark. For our purposes in this blog post, we will focus on just one:


In the fourth century, Eusebius Pamphili, also known as Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 263–340 CE), composed a work in which he attempted to answer a number of questions regarding the difficulties at the beginnings and ends of the gospel accounts. Naturally, text-critical issues come up in such a discussion.

When answering a question about how to reconcile the fact that Jesus rose ὀψὲ σαββάτων 'late on the Sabbath' according to Matthew, but πρωὶ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων 'early in the morning on the first day of the week' in Mark, he writes the following (Quaestiones evangelicae ad Marinum, 1; text from Eusebius of Caesarea: Gospel Problems and Solutions: Quaestiones Ad Stephanum Et Marinum, edited by Pearse, translation by David J. D. Miller):

Τούτου διττὴ ἂν εἴη ἡ λύσις·

The answer to this would be twofold.

ὁ μὲν γὰρ τὸ κεφάλαιον αὐτὸ τὴν τοῦτο φάσκουσαν περικοπὴν ἀθετῶν, εἴποι ἂν μὴ ἐν ἅπασιν αὐτὴν φέρεσθαι τοῖς ντιγράφοις τοῦ κατὰ Μάρκον εὐαγγελίου·

The actual nub of the matter is the pericope which says this. One who athetises that pericope would say that it is not found in all copies of the gospel according to Mark:

τὰ γοῦν ἀκριβῆ τῶν ντιγράφων τὸ τέλος περιγράφει τῆς κατὰ τὸν Μάρκον ἱστορίας ἐν τοῖς λόγοις τοῦ ὀφθέντος νεανίσκου ταῖς γυναιξὶ καὶ εἰρηκότος αὐταῖς, μὴ φοβεῖσθε, Ἰησοῦν ζητεῖτε τὸν ναζαρηνόν, καὶ τοῖς ἑξῆς,

accurate copies end their text of the Marcan account with the words of the young man whom the women saw, and who said to them: “‘Do not be afraid; it is Jesus the Nazarene that you are looking for, etc. … ’ ”,

οἷς ἐπιλέγει· καὶ κούσασαι ἔφυγον, καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπον, ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

after which it adds: “And when they heard this, they ran away, and said nothing to anyone, because they were frightened.”

Ἐν τούτῳ γὰρ σχεδὸν ἐν ἅπασι τοῖς ντιγράφοις τοῦ κατὰ Μάρκον εὐαγγελίου περιγέγραπται τὸ τέλος·

That is where the text does end, in almost all copies of the gospel according to Mark.

τὰ δὲ ἑξῆς σπανίως ἔν τισιν λλ’ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσι φερόμενα περιττὰ ἂν εἴη, καὶ μάλιστα εἴπερ ἔχοιεν ντιλογίαν τῇ τῶν λοιπῶν εὐαγγελιστῶν μαρτυρίᾳ·

What occasionally follows in some copies, not all, would be extraneous, most particularly if it contained something contradictory to the evidence of the other evangelists.

ταῦτα μὲν οὖν εἴποι ἄν τις παραιτούμενος καὶ πάντῃ ἀναιρῶν περιττὸν ἐρώτημα.

That, then, would be one person’s answer: to reject it, entirely obviating the question as superfluous.

Ἄλλος δέ τις οὐδ’ ὁτιοῦν τολμῶν ἀθετεῖν τῶν ὁπωσοῦν ἐν τῇ τῶν εὐαγγελίων γραφῇ φερομένων, διπλὴν εἶναί φησι τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν, ὡς καὶ ἐν ἑτέροις πολλοῖς, ἑκατέραν τε παραδεκτέαν ὑπάρχειν,

Another view, from someone diffident about athetising anything at all in the text of the gospels, however transmitted, is that there is a twofold reading, as in many other places, and that both are to be accepted;

τῷ μὴ μᾶλλον ταύτην ἐκείνης, ἢ ἐκείνην ταύτης, παρὰ τοῖς πιστοῖς καὶ εὐλαβέσιν ἐγκρίνεσθαι.

it is not for the faithful and devout to judge either as acceptable in preference to the other.

Καὶ δὴ τοῦδε τοῦ μέρους συγχωρουμένου εἶναι ληθοῦς, προσήκει τὸν νοῦν διερμηνεύειν τοῦ ἀναγνώσματος·

Supposing the latter point of view to be granted as true, the proper thing to do with the reading is to interpret its meaning ...

I have underlined what I consider to be the most pertinent portion of this passage. Although Eusebius is often quoted here as evidence that the longer version of Mark was not originally in the Gospel of Mark, such references often fail to mention the wider context and theological perspective on Scripture outlined by Eusebius in this passage.

In the context, Eusebius is describing two positions of the early church on the longer ending of Mark:

1. On one hand, some early Christians noted that the longer ending of the Gospel of Mark was absent in many manuscripts and thus concluded that it was a later addition. They suggested to read the Gospel of Mark as ending at the words ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

2. On the other hand, other early Christians held to the position that the longer ending of Mark found in some manuscripts was inspired and should be treated as such. In order to reconcile this with the fact that so many other manuscripts ended at ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ, they suggested that both readings were inspired and that Christians should accept both of them, privileging neither over the other.

It is incredibly curious to me how Eusebius introduces the spokesperson for each view. One who believes the shorter ending should be accepted is described as ὁ ἀθετῶν 'the one who rejects as spurious ...' and the one who believes that the longer ending is also inspired is described as Ἄλλος τις οὐδ’ ὁτιοῦν τολμῶν ἀθετεῖν 'someone else who is not daring at all to reject as spurious ... '. In other words, the various interpretations of this text-critical problem, at least in Euesbius's perspective, are as much tied to the theological underpinnings of one's own view of inspiration as they are to the manuscript evidence.

Moreover, if you read between the lines, it almost seems as if those who hold to the second position are not necessarily claiming that the shorter version or the longer version was original and the other is in error. They find that both exist with sufficient acceptance and validity among various churches and thus want to accept both. One might even suggest that someone from this camp might be open to accepting that the shorter version is what Mark originally wrote and yet still maintain the inspiration of the longer version. Eusebius's statements are not sufficiently clear to determine this with certainty, but they are sufficiently provocative to ask about it.

I want to conclude this blog with the following question:

Is it possible that some in the early church might have believed that the original ending of the Gospel of Mark—that is, what Mark actually wrote—ended with ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ and yet still affirmed that the longer ending, which thus would have been added later, was also inspired?

It is not clear to me what the answer to this question is. Nor does it necessarily tell us how we as modern Christians and scholars should regard the longer ending of Mark. I have not attempted to answer that question in this blog. Nevertheless, I find it intriguing that the same sort of text-critical discussions in which we engage, informed by our theological perspectives on the inspiration of Scripture, mirror those of the early church in many ways.

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