This coming Sunday, we’ll conclude the Following the God-Man series through the Gospel of Mark with the 60th sermon. In an effort to care for you, and to ensure you that your confidence in the Bible is well-placed, we’d like to address Mark 16:9-20 and explain why we’ll read and preach only through verse 8.
Depending on your translation of the Bible, you’ll notice that there is a note in brackets or perhaps a footnote that reads, “Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include verses 9-20.” This note alerts us to the fact that most Bible scholars agree that verses 9-20 were not included in Mark’s original autograph. A natural question arises at this point: If scholars don’t believe verse 9-20 should be included, how can I be confident in the accuracy of the rest of the Bible? Good question.
We can be confident in God’s Word
Gutenberg invented the moveable type printing press in 1440. Up until then, manuscripts were copied by hand. Think about how much you’d have to shake out your hand if you were copying even one chapter of the Bible! Occasionally, a scribe or copyist would make an error--not unlike the errors we would make if we were copying (they were human, after all). A well-intentioned scribe might spell a word wrong, or perhaps leave out a word or even insert the same word twice.
These errors would be massively disconcerting if we only had a few manuscripts. However, over 25,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament have been discovered. As each one is catalogued, studied, and compared with all of the others, errors introduced by scribes are readily identified and noted.
As a follow-up question, if verses 9-20 didn’t come from Mark, where did they come from? Here’s a quick list showing that most of the content came from other gospel writers:
Verse 9 from Luke 8: 1-3
Verse 10 from John 20:18
Verse 12 from Luke 24:13-32
Verse 13 from Luke 24
Verse 14 from Luke 24:36-38
Verse 15 from Matthew 28:19
Verse 16 from John 20:23
Verses 17-18 from various other passages
In addition to identifying these external sources for the content, it’s interesting to note that the Greek vocabulary of verses 9-20 is different from the remainder of Mark. 18 words are used in 9-20 that are not used elsewhere in the gospel. Mark never uses the phrase “Lord Jesus” used in verse 19--it is odd that he would introduce that title in the second to last verse of his gospel.
The Holy Spirit, the author of the Bible, is also the One who preserved the Bible. When it comes to the ending of Mark 16, the oldest and best manuscripts do not contain verses 9-20. Acknowledging this shouldn’t make us panic. The accuracy of God’s Word is not in question. We don’t need to be afraid of research or evidence--and we can safely affirm that the sheer volume of manuscripts available to us today ensures that the Bible you have in your hand is true, complete, and infallible.