Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

The Ending of Mark 16:9-20

by Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener LL.D.

F.H.A. Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, fourth ed. (London: George Bell and Sons, 1894), volume 2, pp. 337-344.

Mark xvi. 9-20. In Vol. I. Chap. 1, we engaged to defend the authenticity of this long and important passage, and that without the slightest misgivings (p. 7). Dean Burgon's brilliant monograph, 'The Last Twelve Verse of the Gospel according to St. Mark vindicated against recent objectors and established' (Oxford and London, 1871), has thrown a stream of light upon the controversy, nor does the joyous tone of his book miscome one who is conscious of having triumphantly maintained a cause which is very precious to him. We may fairly say that his conclusions have in no essential point been shaken by the elaborate and very able counter-plea of Dr. Hort (Notes, pp. 28-51). This whole paragraph is set apart by itself in the critical editions of Tischendorf and Tregelles. Besides this, it is placed within double brackets by Westcott and Hort, and followed by the wretched supplement derived from Cod. L (vide infra), annexed as an alternative reading (αλλως). Out of all the great manuscripts, the two oldest (א B) stand alone in omitting vers. 9-20 altogether. [1] Cod. B, however, betrays consciousness on the scribe's part that something is left out, inasmuch as after εφοβουντο γαρ ver. 8, a whole column is left perfectly blank (the only blank one in the whole volume [2]), as well as the rest of the column containing ver. 8, which is usual in Cod. B at the end of every other book of Scripture. No such peculiarity attaches to Cod. א. The testimony of L, that close companion of B, is very suggestive. Immediately after ver. 8 the copyist breaks off; then in the same hand (for all corrections in this manuscript seem prima manu: see p. 138), at the top of the next column we read ... φερετε που και ταυτα ... παντα δε τα παρηγγελμενα τοις περι του πετρον συντομωσ εξηγγιλαν μετα δε ταυτα και αυτος ο ισ απο ανατολησ και αχρι δυσεωσ εξαπεστιλεν δι αυτων το ιερον και αφθαρτον κηρυγμα τησ αιωνιου σωτηριασ ... εστην δε και ταυτα φερομενα μετα το εφοβουντο γαρ ... Αναστασ δε, πρωι πρωτη σαββατ κ.τ.λ.,, ver. 9, ad fin. capit. (Burgon's facsimile, facing his page 113: our facsimile No. 21): as if verses 9-20 were just as little to be regarded as the trifling apocryphal supplement [3] which precedes them. Besides these, the twelve verses are omitted in none but some old Armenian codices [4] and two of the Ethiopic, k of the Old Latin, and an Arabic Lectionary [ix] No. 13, examined by Scholz in the Vatican. The Old Latin Codex k puts in their room a corrupt and careless version of the subscription in L ending with σωτηριας (k adding αμην): the same subscription being appended to the end of the Gospel in the two Ethiopic manuscripts, and (with αμην) in the margin of 274 and the Harkleian. Not unlike is the marginal note in Hunt. 17 or Cod. 1 of the Bohairic, translated by Bishop Lightfoot above. Of cursive Greek manuscripts 137, 138, which Birch had hastily reported as marking the passage with an asterisk, each contains the marginal annotation given below, which claims the passage as genuine, 138 with no asterisk at all, 137 (like 36 and others) with an ordinary mark of reference from the text to the note, where (of course) it is repeated. [5] Other manuscripts contain marginal scholia respecting it, of which the following is the substance. Cod. 199 has τελος [6] after εφοβουντο γαρ and before Αναστας δε, and in the same hand as τελος we read, εν τισι των αντιγραφων ου κειται ταυτα, αλλ ενταυθα καταπαυει. The kindred Codd. 20, 215, 300 (but after ver. 15, not ver. 8) mark the omission in some (τισι) copies, adding εν δε τοις αρχαιοις παντα απαραλειπτα κειται, and these had been corrected from Jerusalem copies (see pp. 161 and note, 193). Cod. 573 has for a subscription εγραφη και αντεβληθη ομοιως εκ των εσπουδασμενων κεφαλαιοις σλζ: where Burgon, going back to St. Matthew's Gospel (see p. 161, note) infers that the old Jerusalem copies must have contained our twelve verses. Codd. 15, 22 conclude at εφοβουντο γαρ, then add in red ink that in some copies the Evangelist ends here, εν πολλοις δε και ταυτα φερεται, affixing verses 9-20. In Codd. 1, 250 (in its duplicate 206 also), 209, is the same notice, αλλοις standing for πολλοις in 206, with the additional assertion that Eusebius "canonized" no further than ver. 8, a statement which is confirmed by the absence of the Ammonian and Eusebian numerals beyond that verse in אALSU and at least eleven cursives, with am. fuld. ing. of the Vulgate. It would be no marvel if Eusebius, the author of this harmonizing system, had consistently acted upon his own rash opinion respecting the paragraph, an opinion which we shall have to notice presently, and such action on his part would have added nothing to the strength of the adverse case. But it does not seem that he really did so. These numerals appear in most manuscripts, and in all parts of them, with a good deal of variation which we can easily account for. In the present instance they are annexed to ver. 9 and the rest of the passage in Codd. CEKVΠ, and (with some changes) in GHMΓΔΛ and many others: in Cod. 566 the concluding sections are there (σλδ ver. 11, σλε ver. 12, σλς ver. 14) without the canons. In their respective margins the annotated codices 12 (of Scholz), 24, 36, 37, 40, 41, 108, 129, 137, 138, 143, 181, 186, 195, 210, 221, 222, 237, 238, 255, 259, 299, 329, 374 (twenty-four in all), present in substance [7] the same weighty testimony in favour of the passage: παρα πλειστοις αντιγραφοις ου κειται (thus far also Cod. 119, adding only ταυτα, αλλ ενταυθα καταπαυει) εν τω παροντι ευαγγελιω, ως νοθα νομισαντες αυτα ειναι αλλα ημεις εξ ακριβων αντιγραφων εν πλειστοις ευροντες αυτα και κατα το Παλαιστιναιον ευαγγελιον Μαρκου, ως εχει η αληθεια, συντεθεικαμεν και την εν αυτω επιφερομενην δεσποτικην αναστασιν. Now this is none other than an extract from Victor of Antioch's [v] commentary on St. Mark, which they all annex in full to the sacred text, and which is expressly assigned to that Father in Codd. 12, 37, 41. Yet these very twenty-four manuscripts have been cited by critical editors as adverse to the authenticity of a paragraph which their scribes never dreamt of calling into question, but had simply copied Victor's decided judgement in its favour His appeal to the famous Palestine codices which had belonged to Origen and Pamphilus (see p. 55 and note), is found in twenty-one of them, possibly these documents are akin to the Jerusalem copies mentioned in Codd. Evan. Λ, 20, 164, 262, 300, &c.

All other codices, e.g. ACD (which is defective from ver. 15, prima manu) EFWGH (begins ver. 14) KMSUVXΓΔΠ, 33, 69, the Peshitto, Jerusalem and Curetonian Syriac (which last, by a singular happiness, contains verses 17-20, though no other part of St. Mark), the Harkleian text, the Sahidic (only ver. 20 is preserved), the Bohairic and Ethiopic (with the exceptions already named), the Gothic (to ver. 12), the Vulgate, all extant Old Latins except k (though a prima manu and b are defective), the Georgian, the printed Armenian, its later manuscripts, and all the lesser versions (Arabic, &c.), agree in maintaining the paragraph. It is cited, possibly by Papias, unquestionably by Irenaeus (both in Greek and Latin), by Tertullian, and by Justin Martyr [8] as early as the second century; by Hippolytus (see Tregelles, An Account of the Printed Text, p. 252), by Vincentius at the seventh Council of Carthage, by the Acta Pilati, the Apostolic Constitutions, and apparently by Celsus in the third; by Aphraates (in a Syriac Homily dated A.D. 337), the Syriac Table of Canons, Eusebius, Macarius Magnes, Didymus, the Syraic Acts of the Apostles, Leontius, Ps.-Ephraem. Jerome, Cyril of Jerusalem, [9] Epiphanius, Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom, in the fourth; by Leo, Nestorius, Cyril of Alexandria, Victor of Antioch, Patricius, Marius Mercator, in the fifth; by Hesychius, Gregentius, Prosper, John, abp. of Thessalonica, and Modestus, in the fifth and sixth. [10] Add to this, what has been so forcibly stated by Burgon (ubi supra, p. 205), that in the Calendar of Greek Church lessons, which existed certainly in the fourth century, very probably much earlier, the disputed verses were honoured by being read as a special matins service for Ascension Day (see p. 81), and as the Gospel for St. Mary Magdalene's Day, July 22 (p. 89); as well as by forming the third of the eleven ευαγγελια αναστασιμα εωθινα, the preceding part of the chapter forming the second (p. 85): so little were they suspected as of even doubtful authenticity. [11]

The earliest objector to vers. 9-20 we know of was Eusebius (Quaest. ad Marin.), who tells us that they were not εν απασι τοις αντιγραφοις, but after εφοβουντο γαρ that τα εξης are found σπανιως εν τισιν, yet not τα ακριβη: language which Jerome twice echoes and almost exaggerates by saying, 'in raris fertur Evangeliis, omnibus Graeciae libris paene hoc capitulum fine non habentibus.' A second cause with Eusebius for rejecting them is μαλιστα ειπερ εχοιεν αντιλογιαν τη των λοιπων ευαγγελιστων μαρτυρια. [12] The language of Eusebius has been minutely examined by Dean Burgon, who proves to demonstration that all the subsequent evidence which has been alleged against the passage, whether of Severus, or Hesychius, or any other writer down to Euthymius Zigabenus in the twelfth century, is a mere echo of the doubts and difficulties of Eusebius, if indeed he is not retailing to us at second-hand one of the fanciful Biblical speculations of Origen. Jerome's recklessness in statement as been already noticed (Vol. II. p. 269); besides that, he is a witness on the other side, both in his own quotations of the passage and in the Vulgate, for could he have inserted the verses there, if he had judged them to be spurious?

With regard to the argument against these twelve verses arising from their alleged difference in style from the rest of the Gospel, I must say that the same process might be applied — and has been applied — to prove that St. Paul was not the writer of the Pastoral Epistles (to say nothing of that to the Hebrews), St. John of the Apocalypse, Isaiah and Zechariah of portions of those prophecies that bear their names. Every one used to literary composition may detect, if he will, such minute variations as have been made so much of in this case, [13] either in his own writings, or in those of the authors he is most familiar with.

Persons who, like Eusebius, devoted themselves to the pious task of constructing harmonies of the Gospels, would soon perceive the difficulty of adjusting the events recorded in vers. 9-20 to the narratives of the other Evangelists. Alford regards this inconsistency (more apparent than real, we believe) as 'a valuable testimony to the antiquity of the fragment' (N.T. ad loc.): we would go further, and claim for the harder reading the benefit of any critical doubt as to its genuineness (Canon I. Vol. II. p. 247). The difficulty was both felt and avowed by Eusebius, and was recited after him by Severus of Antioch or whoever wrote the scholion attributed to him. Whatever Jerome and the rest may have done, these assigned the αντιλογια, the εναντιωσις they thought they perceived, as a reason (not the first, nor perhaps the chief, but still as a reason) for supposing that the Gospel ended with εφοβουντο γαρ. Yet in the balance of probabilities, can anything be more unlikely than that St. Mark broke off so abruptly as this hypothesis would imply, while no ancient writer has noticed or seemed conscious of any such abruptness? [14] This fact has driven those who reject the concluding verses to the strangest fancies: — namely, that, like Thucydides, the Evangelist was cut off before his work was completed, or even that the last leaf of the original Gospel was torn away.

We emphatically deny that such wild surmises [15] are called for by the state of the evidence in this case. All opposition to the authenticity of the paragraph resolves itself into the allegations of Eusebius and the testimony of אB. Let us accord to these the weight which is their due: but against their verdict we can appeal to a vast body of ecclesiastical evidence reaching back to the earlier part of the second century; [16] to nearly all the versions; and to all extant manuscripts excepting two, of which one is doubtful. So powerfully is it vouched for, that many of those who are reluctant to recognize St. Mark as its author, are content to regard it notwithstanding as an integral portion of the inspired record originally delivered to the Church. [17]


1. I have ventured but slowly to vouch for Tischendorf's notion, that six leaves of Cod. א, that containing Mark xvi.2-Luke i.56 being one of them, were written by the scribe of Cod. B. On mere identity of handwriting and the peculiar shape of certain letters who shall insist? Yet there are parts of the case which I know not how to answer, and which have persuaded even Dr. Hort. Having now arrived at this conclusion our inference is simple and direct, that at least in these leaves, Codd. א B make but one witness, not two.

2. The cases of Nehemiah, Tobit, and Daniel, in the Old Testament portion of Cod. B, are obviously in no wise parallel in regard to their blank columns.

3. Of which supplement Dr. Hort says unexpectedly enough, 'In style it is unlike the ordinary narratives of the Evangelists, but comparable to the four introductory verses of St. Luke's Gospel' (Introduction, p. 298).

4. We ought to add that some Armenian codices which contain the paragraph have the subscription 'Gospel after Mark' at the end of verse 8 as well as of verse 20, as though their scribes, like Cod. L's, knew of a double ending to the Gospel.

5. Burgon (Guardian, July 12, 1882) speaks of seven manuscripts (Codd. 538, 539 being among them) wherein these last twelve verses begin on the right hand of the page. This would be more significant if a space were left, as is not stated, at the foot of the preceding page. In Cod. 550 the first letter α is small, but covers an abnormally large space.

6. Of course no notice is to be taken of τελος after εφοβουντο γαρ, as the end of the ecclesiastical lesson is all that is intimated. The grievous misstatements of preceding critics from Wetstein and Scholz down to Tischendorf, have been corrected throughout by means of Burgon's laborious researches (Burgon, pp. 114-123).

7. The minute variations between these several codices are given by Burgon (Appendix E, pp. 288-90). Cod. 255 contains a scholion imputed to Eusebius, from which Griesbach had drawn inferences which Burgon (Last Twelve Verses, &c., Postscript, pp. 319-23) has shown to be unwarranted by the circumstances of the case.

8. Dr. C. Taylor, Master of St. John's College, Cambridge, in The Expositor for July 1893, quotes more evidence from Justin Martyr — hinting that some also remains behind — proving that that Father was familiar with these verses. Also he cites several passages from the Epistle of Barnabas in which traces of them occur, and from the Quartodeciman controversy, and from Clement of Rome. The value of the evidence which Dr. Taylor's acute vision has discovered consists chiefly in its cumulative force. From familiarity with the passage numerous traces of it arose; or as Dr. Taylor takes the case reversely, from the fact of the occurrence of numerous traces evident to a close observer, it is manifest that there pre-existed in the minds of the writers a familiarity with the language of the verses in question.

9. It is surprising that Dr. Hort, who lays very undue stress upon the silence of certain early Christian writers that had no occasion for quoting the twelve verses in their extant works, should say of Cyril of Jerusalem, who lived about A.D. 349, that his 'negative evidence is peculiarly cogent' (Notes, p. 37). To our mind it is not at all negative. Preaching on a Sunday, he reminds his hearers of a sermon he had delivered the day before, and which he would have them keep in their thoughts. One of the topics he briefly recalls is the article of the Creed τον καθισαντα εκ δεξιων του πατρος. He must inevitably have used Mark xvi. 19 in his Saturday's discourse.

10. Several of these references are derived from 'The Revision Revised,' p. 423.

11. Nor were these verses used in the Greek Church only. Vers. 9-20 comprised the Gospel for Easter Monday in the old Spanish or Mozarabic Liturgy, for Easter Tuesday among the Syrian Jacobites, for Ascension Day among the Armenians. Vers. 12-20 was the Gospel for Ascension Day in the Coptic Liturgy (Malan, Original Documents, iv. p. 63): vers. 16-20 in the old Latin Comes

12. To get rid of one apparent αντιφωνια, that arising from the expression πρωι τη μια του σαββατου (sic), ver. 9, compared with οψε σαββατων Matt. xxvii. 1, Eusebius proposes the plan of setting a stop between Αναστας δε and πρωι, so little was he satisfied with rudely expunging the whole clause. Hence Cod. E puts a red cross after δε: Codd. 20, 22, 34, 72, 193, 196, 199, 271, 345, 405, 411, 456, have a colon: Codd. 332, 339, 340, 439, a comma (Burgon, Guardian, Aug. 20, 1873).

13. The following peculiarities have been noticed in these verses: εκεινος used absolutely, vers. 10, 11, 13; πορευομαι vers. 10, 12, 15; τοις μετ αυτου γενομενοις ver. 10; θεαομαι vers. 11, 14; απιστεω vers. 11, 16; μετα ταυτα ver. 12; ετερος ver. 12; παρακολουθεω ver. 17; εν τω ονοματι ver. 17; κυριος for the Saviour, vers. 19, 20; πανταχου, συνεργουντος, βεβαιοω, επακολουθεω ver. 20, all of them as not found elsewhere in St. Mark. A very able and really conclusive plea for the genuineness of the paragraph, as coming from that Evangelist's pen, appeared in the Baptist Quarterly, Philadelphia, July, 1869, bearing the signature of Professor J. A. Broadus, of South Carolina. Unfortunately, from the nature of the case, it does not admit of abridgement. Burgon's ninth chapter (pp. 136-190) enters into full details, and amply justifies his conclusion that the supposed adverse argument from phraseology 'breaks down hopelessly under severe analysis.'

14. 'Can any one, who knows the character of the Lord and of his ministry, conceive for an instant that we should be left with nothing but a message baulked through the alarm of women' (Kelley, Lectures Introductory to the Gospels, p. 258). Even Dr. Hort can say, 'It is incredible that the Evangelist deliberately concluded either a paragraph with εφοβουντο γαρ, or the Gospel with a petty detail of a secondary event, leaving his narrative hanging in the air' (Notes, p. 46).

15. When Burgon ventures upon a surmise, one which is probability itself by the side of those we have been speaking of, Professor Abbot (ubi supra, p. 197) remarks upon it that 'With Mr. Burgon a conjecture seems to be a demonstration.' We will not be deterred by dread of any such reproach from mentioning his method of accounting for the absence of these verses from some very early copies, commending it to the reader for what it may seem worth. After a learned and exhaustive proof that the Church lessons, as we now have them, existed from very early times (Twelve Verses, pp. 191-211), and noting that an important lesson ended with Mark xvi. 8 (see Calendar of Lessons); he supposes that τελος, which would stand at the end of such a lesson, misled some scribe who had before him an exemplar of the Gospels whose last leaf (containing Mark xvi. 9-20, or according to Codd. 20, 215, 300 only vers. 16-20) was lost, as it might easily be in those older manuscripts wherein St. Mark stood last.

16. The codex lately discovered by Mrs. Lewis is said to omit the verses. But what is that against a host of other codices? And when the other MS. of the Curetonian includes the verses? Positive testimony is worth more than negative.

17. Dr. Hort, however, while he admits the possibility of the leaf containing vers. 9-20 having been lost in some very early copy, which thus would become the parent of transcripts having a mutilated text (Notes, p. 49), rather inconsistently arrives at the conclusion that the passage in question 'manifestly cannot claim any apostolic authority; but it is doubtless founded on some tradition of the apostolic age' (ibid. p. 51).

The Reverend Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener, LL.D. (September 29, 1813, Bermondsey, Surrey October 30, 1891, Hendon, Middlesex) was an important text critic of the New Testament. Graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1835 after studying at Southwark,[1] he became a teacher of classics at a number of schools in southern England, and from 1846 to 1856 was headmaster of a school in Falmouth, Cornwall. He was also for 15 years rector of Gerrans, Cornwall. Initially making a name for himself editing the Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis, Scrivener edited several editions of the New Testament and collated the Codex Sinaiticus with the Textus Receptus. For his services to textual criticism and the understanding of Biblical manuscripts, he was granted a Civil list pension in 1872. He was an advocate of the Byzantine text (majority text) over more modern manuscripts as a source for Bible translations. He was the first to distinguish the Textus Receptus from the Byzantine text.

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