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