Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Some scholars believe that the ending of Mark is unoriginal due to it appearing to have a different style and the fact that it's missing from some key manuscripts. At the same time, several early Church fathers are believed to have quoted from these passages. What are the primary arguments for and against its authenticity (along with sources, please)?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

My understanding is that a strong majority of scholars (including conservative scholars) take the position that the long ending of Mark was not in the original and was not written by the same author as the rest of the text, but nonetheless was added very early on (probably in the early 2nd century). However, the evidence is not as overwhelming as for the Comma Johanneum or the Pericope Adulterae, in part because the long ending of Mark is significantly older than the those two.

The main arguments are as follows. Certainly people dispute some of these arguments, but on the whole each of them is a strong argument, and taking several together gives an even stronger argument.

  • The long ending does not appear in several of our earliest and best manuscripts, most notably Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (although it does appear in Alexandrinus).
  • Many early manuscripts which do contain the long ending nonetheless contain indications marking it as disputed.
  • The existence of manuscripts containing a different ending entirely (the "short ending") also suggests that the original contained no ending.
  • The author of Mark has a distinctive Greek style, and the long ending does not match this style.
  • The author of the long ending appears to be familiar with possibly Matthew, probably Luke, and possibly Acts, while the author of Mark was not.
  • The authors of Matthew and Luke do not appear to have had the long ending of Luke in their copies of Mark.

The textual evidence, which covers the first three arguments, as found in Nestle-Aland is summarized ably at the end of the Wikipedia article under "Summary of manuscript evidence." At any rate all of these are largely undisputed facts, though there are some interesting features of that part of Mark in Sinaiticus and Vaticanus which are worth noting (explained thoroughly with images, though also with a bit of an agenda, here).

A quick summary of the argument from style and vocabulary is given by Bruce Metzger in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament excerpted online here. A much more in depth examination is given in a paper of Travis Williams.

For the last point, you want to first notice many similarities between the long ending and Luke/Acts (as well as a small overlap with the great commission in Matthew), and then you have the trickier point of arguing that it's the long ending taking from Luke and not vice-versa. Wikipedia lists the overlaps (I haven't found a good scholarly resource for this point, though of course you can compare the passages yourself). I haven't found a good reference for arguing in which direction the borrowing is going, but if you want to argue the other way you'd need to explain why Matthew drops almost all of it (despite containing 94% of Mark) and why Luke substantially rearranges it (despite usually following Mark's order reasonably well).

It's worth noting that unlike with say the Comma Johanneum, I don't think it's been conclusively proved that the long ending of Mark is not original. Assuming it was added, it was added earlier than any copies of the text that we still have! All sorts of things are unlikely but possible. Nonetheless it seems the evidence is pretty solidly on the side of inauthenticity.

share|improve this answer
Thanks +1. I'm looking forward to seeing the sources. –  Daи Jan 16 '13 at 19:34
Added some references, and two other arguments (which are pretty closely related to the other ones). –  Noah Jan 16 '13 at 23:01
Excellent answer. Thanks for editing with the source. –  swasheck Jan 16 '13 at 23:12
BTW, as a general comment, the "Textual Commentary" by Metzger et al. really is the go to source for this kind of question. It is a detailed analysis of the choices made in Nestle And Aland, the Greek text which is used in the standard UBS text, and also is the basis for pretty much all modern translations. Every serious scholar of the Greek New Testament should have a copy of this book to accompany N&A. It is cheap and easy to use. It is available on Amazon for $25. (I'd recommend an edit to the above to include a link to the book on Amazon.) –  Fraser Orr Jan 24 '13 at 20:58
@McGafter: I looked through parts of Burgon's book, and must admit that I found it old-fashioned, out-of-date, and unconvincing. That said, I do think the LEM is something on which reasonable people can disagree! We know that both versions certainly date to the 2nd century at the latest! Furthermore, there are modern scholars who argue for the authenticity of the LEM today (e.g. Maurice Robinson), so there's no need to use arguments that are 140 years out of date. –  Noah Sep 22 '13 at 22:20
show 3 more comments

If you have not read 'The last twelve verses of Mark' from Dean John Burgon, I'm sad to say that you have not fully researched this subject. Please read it, it will honestly vindicate these verses as a true part of the Holy Scriptures as they truly are. This book has not been fully answered by the critics since it publication over a hundred years ago, simply because it takes the right stand for the Word of God. It's too long to put into this little answer box. The book.


Another link to the book in PDF format.

The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established - John William Burgon

Besides the Gothic and Egyptian versions in the ivth century; besides Ambrose, Cyril of Alexandria, Jerome, and Augustine in the vth, to say nothing of Codices A and C;—the Lectionary of the Church universal, probably from the second century of our æra, is found to bestow its solemn and emphatic sanction on every one of these Twelve Verses. They are met with in every MS. of the Gospels existence, uncial and cursive,—except two; they are found in every Version; and are contained besides in every known Lectionary, where they are appointed to be read at Easter and on Ascension Day.

The only two missing these verses are the corrupt א and B.

What there is in this to countenance the notion that in the opinion of Eusebius “the Gospel according to S. Mark originally terminated at the 8th verse of the last chapter,”—I profess myself unable to discover. I draw from his words the precisely opposite inference. It is not even clear to me that the Verses in dispute were absent from the copy which Eusebius habitually employed. He certainly quotes one of those verses once and again [see note below]. On the other hand, the express statement of Victor of Antioch [A. D. 450?] that he knew of the mutilation, but had ascertained by Critical research the genuineness of this Section of Scripture, and had adopted the Text of the authentic “Palestinian” Copy,—is more than enough to outweigh the faint presumption created (as some might think) by the words of Eusebius, that his own copy was without it. And yet, as already stated, there is nothing whatever to shew that Eusebius himself deliberately rejected the last Twelve Verses of S. Mark’s Gospel. Still less does that Father anywhere say, or even hint, that in his judgment the original Text of S. Mark was without them. If he may be judged by his words, he accepted them as genuine: for (what is at least certain) he argues upon their contents at great length, and apparently without misgiving.

[Note] The reader is referred to Mai’s Nov. PP. Bibl. vol. iv. p. 262, line 12: p. 264 line 28: p. 301, line 3-4,, and 6-8.

The CNTTS database shows that the following manuscripts contain

verse 9 A C D05 E07 G011 K017 L019 M021 S U Wsupp Y D Q P Y W 1 2 13 28 33 35 69 118 124 157 346 565 579 700 788 1005 1071 1424 1582 2358 2372

and then jumping to verse 20 A C D05sup E07 G011 H013 K017 L019 M021 S U Wsupp Y D Q Psup Y W 1 2 13 28 33 35 69 118 124 157 346 565 579 700 788 1005 1071 1424 1582 2358

So at least above all of these the testimony of Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are taken to be the true and therefore these God-inspired verses are left out.

After all that has gone before, our two oldest Codices (Cod. B and Cod. א) which alone witness to the truth of Eusebius’ testimony as to the state of certain copies of the Gospels in his own day, need not detain us long. They are thought to be as old as the ivth century: they are certainly without the concluding section of S. Mark’s Gospel. But it may not be forgotten that both Codices alike are disfigured throughout by errors, interpolations and omissions without number; that their testimony is continually divergent; and that it often happens that where they both agree they are both demonstrably in error. Moreover, it is a highly significant circumstance that the Vatican Codex (B), which is the more ancient of the two, exhibits a vacant column at the end of S. Mark’s Gospel,—the only vacant column in the whole codex: whereby it is shewn that the Copyist was aware of the existence of the Twelve concluding Verses of S. Mark’s Gospel, even though he left them out: while the original Scribe of the Codex Sinaiticus (א) is declared by Tischendorf to have actually omitted the concluding verse of S. John’s Gospel,—in which unenviable peculiarity it stands alone among MSS.

share|improve this answer
Hello @McGafter and welcome to BH.SE! Please edit your response to summarize the argument(s) from the book. As it stands, this is more of a comment than an actual answer. Also, consider citing some more modern sources in addition to this book since numerous textual discoveries and linguistic findings have been made since Burgon's death in the late 19th century. Textual evidence that does not take into account recent findings would be a weak argument otherwise. –  Daи Aug 12 '13 at 15:15
@Dan I've updated my answer. If you don't like it please refer me to these new modern discoveries that have shown these verses an Dean Burgon's work to be false so that my investigate it. –  McGafter Sep 22 '13 at 16:03
For example, the Syriac Sinaiticus (a 4th century Syriac text of the gospels) which also does not contain the long ending was not discovered until 1892. –  Noah Sep 22 '13 at 20:56
Similarly, his discussion of the Sahidic versions is missing two ancient Sahidic documents which do not have the long ending. –  Noah Sep 22 '13 at 21:29
Also @McGafter, in the interest of fairness, you would probably enjoy checking out Kurt Aland, "Bemerkungen zum Schluss des Markusevangeliums," in Neotestamentica et Semitica, Studies in Honor of Matthew Black, Ed. by E. Earle Ellis and Max Wilcox (Edinburgh, 1969), pp. 157-180, especially p. 159 f., and idem, "Der wiedergefundene Markusschluss?" Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, LXVII (1970), pp. 3-13, especially p. 8 f. These are much more updated arguments that recognize the veracity of codices B and א and other modern evidence while still arguing for the originality of the ending –  Daи Sep 23 '13 at 12:59
show 9 more comments

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.