I have gotten this question several times at the web site. I am copying and pasting the questions and asnwers below. Bottom line, we do not know absolutely for sure what the original Mark looked like. Logically, there are a few possibilities:
1. The original Mark was as we have it now in our Bibles.
2. The original Mark actually ended at 16:8
3. The original Mark did not end at 16:8 but the original ending was lost and a later author inserted the ending we now have.
The manuscript evidence is inconclusive. The attestation to the ending is sufficiently weak that in my opinion the first option above is somewhat unlikely. Option #2 just seems too abrupt an ending to be a likelihood in my opinion, so I lean toward option #3. If this is true, that most likely the original Mark did include an account of the resurrection of Jesus but we simply do not have this ending. This is disappointing, but we have three other gospels, so we are not without information about what happened.
Your idea that Mark ended without a post resurrection account and that possibly the other gospels did not have post-resurrection accounts as well seems extremely unlikely to me. First of all, it assumes that the original Mark did not have a post-resurrection account. I cannot prove this wrong, but I find it somewhat unlikely that Mark did not record any of the post-resurrection appearances. Even if we can grant this, there is not a shred of evidences that the other three gospels all had post-resurrections accounts added after the original gospels were written. This is a highly speculative idea without any evidence. If this was the case, then it seems impossible that none of the early church fathers would have noted this.
As for when the ending of Mark was added (bearing in mind that I do not consider this proved in any case), we simply do not know. If it was added, most likely it was after the other gospels were already written, including their post-resurrection accounts. Most likely, Mark was still alive when Matthew and Luke were written.
In any case, I believe you can assume beyond a reasonable doubt (given that there is no evidence whatsoever to the contrary) that the original Matthew, Luke and John included the accounts of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus which we have in our curring versions of these books.
As to your PS question, I do not believe that he did leave a short ending, so I will not speculate as to the reason for something which I believe he did not do.
See below for answers to similar questions.
Should Mark 16:9-20, and John 8:1-11 (Jesus with the adulterous woman) be
considered part of the original manuscripts? Many early manuscripts do not
include. If it is not part of the original then is it God’s word?
I am guessing that you are aware of the general issue with these
passages. As it says in your Bible margin, neither Mark 16:9-20 nor John
8:1-11 are in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.
Actually, the evidence for the two is slightly different. In the case of
John 8:1-11 NONE of the very early manuscripts have this passage. Only
significantly later manuscripts have the story of the woman caught in
adultery. My conclusion is that this passage almost without doubt was not
in the original book of John. Quite likely it is a legitimate story of
Jesus which was well known and very popular in the early church–so much
so that a scribe added it to John at some point.
The case with Mark 16:9-20 is somewhat different. Although the most
important early manuscripts do not include this passage, some of them do.
The important manuscripts which do not include this passage include Codex
Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. These two are considered the most
reliable of early manuscripts. Both are from about AD 350. However,
Codes Alexandrinus and Codex Bezae are very early manuscripts (also from
about AD 350) which do include this passage. Other manuscripts include
these verses, but include marks in the text which scholars interpret to
mean that the scribes considered the passage to be in doubt. It is also
worth noting that early church fathers quoted extensively from Mark,
including from Mark 16:1-8, but not from Mark 16:9-20. On balance, most
scholars conclude that Mark 16:9-20 was not in the original Mark, but the
conclusion is not unanimous.
The two passages you mention, along with part of Acts 8:36 and part of 1
John 5:7-8 are the only four significant passages in the New Testament
about which there is any serious doubt. In three of the four, scholars
are unanimous in belief that they are later additions by editors. The
only one about which there is some doubt is Mark 16:9-20. There is not a
unanimous opinion about the legitimacy of this as part of the original.
Are these passages God’s Word? I am afraid I cannot give you a definitive
answer. I believe that John 8:1-11 is a legitimate story from the life of
Jesus. To me, Mark 16:9-20 is a bit more questionable. It is my belief
that both passages can be used and that neither has a significant affect
on any particular important teaching of the New Testament. In other
words, I do not feel it is vital to Christian belief or faith to be
absolutely certain about these passages.
John Oakes, PhD
Questions (there are several here):
Let us take the final 11 verses of Mark for which the earliest evidence is
non-existent. Why and by whom were they later added? Why was Jesus
described as riding on a donkey? Because the writer knew it would be seen
as the fulfilment of OT prophecy and would therefore bolster his Messianic
status. Much as you obviously yearn to believe that every word in the
Bible is divinely inspired I am sure that you have read too much not to
have the slightest misgivings. I have no quarrel with anyone who takes up
the self-denying path of the charismatic teacher Yeshua. He calls us still
to be the highest and the best that we can be and presents us with a
standard of conduct that we can only struggle to achieve.
We have however one small torch to guide us through the surrounding gloom
and that is REASON and we cannot afford to lose it. Religion wanted
Galileo to assent to a theocentric earth and deny that the earth rotated
round the sun. I stand with Galileo "Eppure, si muove!"
About Mark 16:9-20, yes I agree with you that the manuscript evidence
leans toward excluding that section from Mark. This is one of only about
three or four significant manuscript issues in the New Testament. The
other fairly significant questionable passage is John 8:1-11. In the case
of the Mark 16 passage, the three most important early manuscripts, Codex
Vaticanus, Alexandrinus and Sinaiticus all do not include this passage.
Codex Bezae, from about the same time, does include this passage. None of
the very early church fathers quoted from this section. It may be a
genuine piece of apostolic writing, perhaps even from Mark, which was
"pasted" onto the end of Mark. It is also possible that a copyist simply
added an ending to Mark. I am not sure. The germane point on this is
that only a miniscule proportion of the New Testament text is in doubt,
including John 8 and Mark 16, as well as a couple of even smaller pieces (
for example Acts 8:37, which is not really controversial,actually).
Virtually the entire New Testament text is considered to be a reliable
part of the original writings. I have written a chapter on this in my
book Reasons for Belief. I believe that whether one includes Mark 16:9-20
does not have a significant impact on one’s understanding of the gospel
In my opinion, the reason Jesus was described as riding into Jerusalem on
a donkey is that he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey! What possible reason
would the gospel writers have in making up this story if it were not
true? The fact is that in the 60’s AD there were still thousands of
eye-witnesses to the events recorded in the gospels still alive who could
easily have refuted the gospel accounts if they included falsehoods. If
the gospel writers were trying to bamboozle people, they would have been
better advised to not include such easily-refuted details, unless they
were actually true. Luke quoted Jesus as saying, "Everything must be
fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and
the Psalms." (Luke 24:44) Jesus was well aware that he was fulfilling all
the messianic prophecies. One could argue that he cynically went about
fulfilling the prophecies so that he could claim to be the Messiah. One
problem with this is that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem (Micah
5:2) which was hard for Jesus to arrange. The Messiah had to be "sold"
for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12). He also had to be
crucified (Psalms 22:16). It would have been hard for Jesus to have
arranged these events (unless he is the Son of God)! The skeptic can
argue that these facts were made up, but there is no evidence to support
this contention. Besides, the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and
that he was crucified are attested to by non-believers in the first and
second century. No, I do not believe it is reasonable to assume that the
gospel writers were liars. I cannot absolutely prove it, but I believe
the most reasonable explanation of the gospel account is that this is what
I have a theory regarding the passages in John 8 & Mark 16 not being in
the Codex Vaticanus & Sinaiticus I would like you to comment on. Isn’t it
possible that the previous version, from which these were copied, had John
8 & Mark 16 torn out, resulting in incomplete manuscript copies?;Maybe
younger Codex like Bezae & Alexandrinus were copied from more complete
versions (ie: these sections weren’t torn out/missing)? Bezae &
Alexandrinus didn’t have to be based on Sinaitcus & Vaticanus, yes?
My answer to your question will differ depending on which passage you are
talking about. In the case of Mark 16:9-20, there is some evidence that
this was in the original Mark. One piece of evidence which supports this
is the fact that the Vaticanus manuscript you refer to has a blank column
left, apparently on purpose, after Mark 16:8 and before Luke 1:1. There
are different possible interpretations of this. Perhaps the scribe in
this case was aware of these verses, but did not think they were part of
the original, but left a blank space anyway. This would indicate that
even if these verses were not in the original Mark, they predate Vaticanus
(about AD 350). Further evidence in support of Mark 16:9-20 being
original, or at least very old, is a direct quote from this passage being
found in the writings of Irenaeus. The quote is from his work titled
"Against Heresies", from AD 180 (Book 3, 10:5-6). The quote from Irenaeus
is, "Also, toward the conclusion of his gospel, Mark says, ‘So then, after
the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven and
sits on the right hand of God.’" Eusebius, the first church historian,
confirmed the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20 in the second half of the 300’s
AD. On balance, I believe it is fair to say that whether this passage was
in the original Mark is debatable. For this reason, I would not base an
argument for a particular important biblical teaching solely on Mark
16:9-20. Fortunately, there is no need to, as there is no important New
Testament teaching which relies solely on this passage.
The case with John 7:53-John 8:11 is different. As with the Mark
passage, only the Codex Bezae of the very early manuscripts includes this
passage. However, it does not have the corroborating evidence in its
support as do the Mark verses. None of the early Christian authors quoted
from this passage, implying that it was part of the book of John. The
other manuscripts which have this beautiful story of Jesus and the woman
caught in adultery place it in different locations in the gospel. For
example, other manuscripts put it at the end of John, after John 7:36, or
even after Luke 21:38. Based on the evidence, I believe it is reasonable
to assume that the story of the woman caught in adultery is a genuine
tradition from the life of Jesus, but that it was not in the original
letter by John. Perhaps early disciples were so enamored with this
wonderful, probably genuine story, that they included it into different
manuscripts in a place which seemed appropriate to the scribe.
In conclusion, your thought that these passages were accidently removed
from the original cannot be dismissed. Our conclusion should be based on
the other available evidence. In one case (Mark 16:9-20), the evidence
leaves me believing this just might be the case. In the other (John
7:53-8:11), I believe this is almost certainly not what happened.