Today we look at the end of Mark’s Gospel. We’ll start with Mark 16:1-8, so read it, and then let’s talk:
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The Shorter Ending of Mark
[[And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.]]
Ok, before we get to what actually happens, let’s look at what we see right at the end of verse 8, what’s call the “Shorter Ending of Mark.” If you have what is called a “modern” version of the Bible, that’d be the NKJV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, ESV, NAB, NASB, any of these modern translations, they will have that, along with a not such as this – “Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9–20. In most authorities verses 9–20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful.”
What does all this mean? There are two terms in regards to Biblical translation. One is “autograph” and one is “manuscript.” The autograph is the original document. This would be the actual letter that Paul wrote to the Roman church or the actual Gospel that Mark wrote. The actual first documents. A manuscript would be a copy of the original document.
We don’t have any of the original documents. We do, however, have literally thousands of manuscripts. We have more manuscripts of the books of the Bible than we do any other ancient work. We have more manuscripts than we do any other text, anything from that time period.
Within that, the fact that there are so many manuscripts there, that gives so much added authority and trustworthiness to the Bible. When you understand the sheer number of documents that are available, it gives more weight to the Bible.
There’s no way it’s just “made up.” It was there, and believers from the earliest days of faith understood how important it was to their faith. Understood it’s authority, and understood it’s trustworthiness.
Through the years, the more I have come to know and understand about how we got the Bible, the more I trust it.
So what is happening here in Mark is this. All of the ancient manuscripts, they have that first part of verse 8. Some have that “shorter ending” of verse 8. And some have a “longer ending” that is in verses 9-20. What does this all mean?
I take all that we have in Mark 16: 1-20 as authoritative, because that is the tradition of the church. That is the church for the longest has regarded as authoritative. It is what we have regarded as the whole of the book. I do think it is important through for everyone to be able to understand how God put the bible together that different manuscripts differ on how Mark ends. Verse 9-20 is the most common ending, the one that most have, but there are some that end after verse 8.
Why is that?
Great question. Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about it.
Tomorrow, we’ll spend some more time talking about the text we just read and then we’ll finish up Mark on Wednesday.
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