"And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." (Mk. 16:8, ESV)

"καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ταχὺ ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου εἶχεν δὲ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπον, ἐφοβοῦντο γὰρ" (Mk. 16:8, Original Greek)

I saw user33515's answer to the question "Reconciling the action of the women in Matt 28:8, John 20:2, and Luke 24:9 with their inaction in Mark 16:8", and the last paragraph of the answer reads:

'As a further observation, it is perhaps worth noting that the Greek underlying neither said [they any thing] to any [man] (Mark 16:8) has "said" in the aorist aspect (οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπον), which does not qualify the duration or completion of the action. We might translate Mark 16:8b as "Neither did they say anything to anyone (at that moment)".'

Now, I don't necessarily understand what the aorist aspect actually is, why it has been used, nor why it would be correct to translate Mark 16:18b as "Neither did they say anything to anyone (at that moment)". I have seen conflicting things about what this phrase means; I already referenced one understanding, but the other is that the women did not tell anyone ever, by denying that this phrase applies to only a specific period of time (i.e. on the way to tell the disciples). An example of this would be in the "Expositor's Greek Testament" where it is said that:

"οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπον: an unqualified statement as it stands here, no “on the way,” such as harmonists supply"

I ask if that understanding of what the phrase means is correct, or is it the case that the correct understanding is actually the one displayed in the answer because the latter is not the case, it would seem to contradict the verses in the other gospels which state or indicate that the women told the disciples after this event (John 20:18, Luke 24:9, and Matthew 28:8), as otherwise the phrase would mean that the women literally never said anything, which would be a contradiction.

  • the commentary suggests the answer: Grotius.—ἐφοβοῦντο γὰρ gives the reason of this reticence so unnatural in women: they were in a state of fear. When the fear went off, or events happened which made the disciples independent of their testimony, their mouths would doubtless be opened.
    – Michael16
    Apr 15, 2022 at 14:55

1 Answer 1


No, it does not mean the women could not have told the disciples later; this can be established two ways:

  1. Grammar
  2. Narrative context


The aorist is sometimes referred to as a "simple past tense", which is true...but incomplete.

An aorist indicative is a fairly straightforward reference to a past event, but the aorist need not necessarily indicate whether an action is complete or ongoing. The Greek word ἀόριστος, from which we get the name of the aorist tense, means "indeterminate" or "indefinite" (source).

There is no reason grammatically why the sentence could not continue to the effect of: "they didn't tell anyone along the way to see the disciples". Most Greek manuscripts of Mark do in fact continue the story, indicating that the women's silence was temporary.


Narrative context

The ending of the Gospel of Mark is a subject that evokes many passionate responses. The Textus Receptus (and most Greek manuscripts) include 12 more verses after Mark 16:8; the Critical Text ends the book of Mark at 16:8, and a few other manuscripts provide yet more alternative conclusions to the story.

There are 4 main schools of thought:

a. 16:8 is the original ending of the Gospel of Mark

b. 16:20 is the original ending of the Gospel of Mark

c. 16:8 was not the originally intended ending of the Gospel of Mark, but the author was unable to finish

d. 16:8 was not the original ending of the Gospel of Mark, and the original ending has been lost

I have a video on my channel examining the evidence in greater detail, wherein I use grammatical, narrative, and historical arguments to evaluate why option b is rejected by most (not all!) modern scholars, and options a & c are very unlikely. I build a case therein for the plausibility of option d.

In any event, option a implies, and options b-d require, that the women fleeing in fear isn't the end of the story.

It's fashionable (and haughty, and condescending) to assume ancient audiences were too thick to notice gaping plot holes in a story. This is hardly a valid logical or scholarly argument (and keep in mind that in a world with lower literacy rates, story-telling & story-recollection played a more prominent role in people's lives). The fact that the author knows about the women's experience at the tomb demonstrates that the women did not stay silent forever.

If we accept option a (I do not), the women didn't stay silent forever. If we accept any of options b-d, the women didn't stay silent forever. I suggest then that the clearest interpretation of the text is that the women hurried off and didn't stop to tell anyone along the way.

Appendix--The ending of Mark's Gospel

Much of modern scholarship has rejected the originality of the last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark, principally because:

  • They are absent from Codices Vaticanus & Sinaiticus
  • 16:8 is the point of divergence among the various differing endings of Mark that exist in the manuscript evidence
  • There are uncommon words used in the last 12 verses of Mark that aren't used anywhere else in the Gospel
  • The transition from verse 8 to verse 9 is awkward, and some see that the last 12 verses do not adequately complete the storyline of the rest of the Gospel (see quote below).

The authors of One Gospel from Two - Mark's Use of Matthew and Luke suggest:

Throughout the Markan account of the Passion Narrative we have noted time and time again that Mark has carefully argued, sometimes painstakingly, that Jesus' predictions are fulfilled. This is not only a narrative device. Fulfillment of Jesus' prophecies is theologically crucial to Mark. If this is the case, why does Mark have Jesus predict (twice) he will be reconciled with the disciples in Galilee (Mk 14:28, 16:7) but offers no proof of fulfillment? Furthermore, Mark says that the women are to tell Peter that Jesus is risen, but they do not do so...if Mark ended at Mk 16:8. In our judgment this raises a serious question about the authenticity of this ending [the shorter ending]. In a very fundamental way the longer ending [vss 9-20] in its present form does not complete the Markan story line in a fully satisfactory manner either (ibid p. 334; see more extensive discussion of the topic on pp. 328-335)

In writing the above, Peabody, Cope, and McNicol acknowledge the inadequacy of the ending at 16:8 (option a above), but that the ending at 16:20 (option b above) leaves some matters unresolved as well. (And that even as skeptical a scholar as Bultmann was constrained to conclude that 16:8 doesn't work as the original ending). Their mentor, William Farmer, on the other hand, concluded that 16:20 was the original ending.

I do not believe it is possible, on the basis of the extant evidence, to prove whether 16:20 is the original ending of Mark's Gospel or whether there was an original ending that was lost. I suggest, however, that there are very serious difficulties (see my video linked above for further discussion) to proposing 16:8 as the original ending.

If Mark 16:8 is not the original ending of the Gospel, the oddity addressed by the OP finds straightforward and unambiguous resolution: not only did the women not stay silent forever, but Mark explicitly tells his audience that they shared the message.

  • 1
    "the oddity addressed by the OP finds straightforward and unambiguous resolution: not only did the women not stay silent forever, but Mark explicitly tells his audience that they shared the message." I agree. Even if, say, a scribe added v.9-20 a little later on, who's to say that God did not inspire the scribe to do so? As you assert, there's no way to prove whether Mark 16:20 is original ending, and there's no way to disprove it either. So, I tend to say that v.9-20 are inspired. +1 :)
    – Rajesh
    Apr 15, 2022 at 20:23
  • 1
    @Rajesh you're in good company; Irenaeus of Lyons trusted the longer ending too. In the latter part of the video I look at this idea, that the text is not original and the text is inspired are not mutually exclusive possibilities. As for myself, I believe there's good reason to conclude the statements in Mark 16:9-20 are true, regardless of whether or not Mark authored them. Apr 15, 2022 at 20:59
  • 1
    I couldn't agree more with everything you said. Have a great day! :D
    – Rajesh
    Apr 15, 2022 at 21:04
  • 1
    Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Apr 15, 2022 at 22:34
  • 1
    @Michael16 HTTR begins his sentence with, "If Mark 16:8 is not the original ending of the Gospel..." He's saying that if v.9-20 are authentic, Mark explicitly tells his audience that the women shared the message. If it isn't, then he doesn't.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 17, 2022 at 16:31

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