Does Mark 16:16 Belong In The Bible?

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

For years, the statement of Jesus found in Mark’s Gospel has been a thorn in the side to denominational preachers and teachers who deny the Lord’s plan of salvation.

After He arose from the dead, and before His Ascension to Heaven, Jesus told His Apostles:

Mark 16:15-16-And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Jesus clearly teaches us that in preaching the “Gospel” (or “Good News”), we proclaim that the person who believes AND who is baptized will be saved.

In these words, the Lord clearly shows us that both “belief” and “baptism” must take place BEFORE salvation.

In other words, the Bible clearly teaches that people are not saved by faith alone (James 2:14-26), but by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17), believing in Jesus Christ (John 8:24), repenting of sin (Luke 13:3), confessing Jesus before man (Acts 8:37), and in being baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38).

Because the New Testament is so plain about these matters, it has led many to adopt the attitudes of the critical “scholars” of the Bible.

Some claim that Mark 16:9-20 does not belong in the Bible, and that therefore, we should ignore the words of Jesus in this passage.

Sadly, many modern day study Bibles propagate this myth.

For example, most study Bibles have a note at verse 9 which claims that the rest of the Gospel is not found in the “oldest” and most “reliable” manuscripts.  

Well, what are the facts? Does Mark 16:9-20 belong in the New Testament?

First,we need to understand that our knowledge of the Greek New Testament comes from three ancient sources: the Greek manuscript copies of the New Testament; the early versions (or translations) of the Bible into other languages; and the patristic citations (I.e., quotes of the New Testament from early Christians).

Of the New Testament manuscripts, how many do not contain Mark 16:9-20?

Let’s see:

“”Some Bible-footnotes mention that ‘some manuscripts’ lack the passage, and that ‘other manuscripts’ contain the passage. Such footnotes tend to deceive their readers…Out of the over 1, 500 existing Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark, only two of them clearly bring the text to a close at the end of 16:8. All the others, unless they have undergone damage in chapter 16, include verses 9 to 20.” (James Snapp, Jr., Authentic: The Case For Mark 16:9-20, 79-82 (Kindle Edition); no publisher cited)

The NKJV Thompson Study Bible has this excellent footnote at Mark 16:9:

“Verses 9-20 are bracketed in NU-Text as not original. They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them.”

Why is the passage missing from some of the early manuscripts?

There may be several reasons, but the observations of Thomas B. Warren are very enlightening on this matter:

“Mark 16:9-20 does not appear in the Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) and Codex Vaticanus (B). These are two of the three oldest extant Uncial MSS and are the two referred to in the marginal note of the ASV on this passage. But B also lacks from 9:14 to the end of Hebrews, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation. So if one rejected everything which is lacking in Codex B,, these books would have to be omitted….Codex B has a blank space at the end of verse 8, indicating that something has been left out. This perhaps came about as the result of a leaf being broken off of the manuscript from which B was copied. This seems to furnish evidence that the manuscript from which B was copied contained Mark 16:9-20.” (Thomas B. Warren, Is Mark 16:9-20 Inspired? A Defense, 5)

So, there are good reasons why Mark 16:9-20 is not found in two of the early Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (I.e., damage to the scrolls that were being compiled from kept the scribes from putting anything in the text, although they left a column in their manuscript to show that something went there, although they weren’t sure what).

Further, nearly every other manuscript of the Gospel of Mark contains Mark 16:9-20!!

Well, what about the evidence from the early versions of the New Testament and from the early church quotations of this passage?

Bill Cooper has provided very fascinating material on these matters:

“Papias alluded to Mk 16:18 in ca AD 100. How he might have achieved that feat if the verses had not been written and in circulation by his day is not explained. Likewise, Justin Martyr, writing in AD 151, directly quotes verse 20 of Mk 16. Irenaeus (ca AD 180) remarks on verse 19. Hippolytus, ca AD 200, quotes verses 17 and 18. In the Seventh Council of Carthage (AD 256), two of the verses were directly quoted, with none of the eighty- seven bishops present raising so much as an eyebrow. With truly delicious irony, the Acta Pilati (sometimes called the Gospel of Nicodemus), though a Gnostic work of the 3rd century, quotes verses 15- 18 of this chapter. The so- called Apostolic Constitutions of the same century quotes verses 15 and 16. Eusebius, ca AD 325, discusses favourably at some length the entire section of Mk 16:9- 20. Marinus, a contemporary and student of Eusebius, asks positive questions about the entire section. Aphraates ‘the Persian’ writes about verses 16- 18 in his First Homily of AD 337. Ambrose, writing ca AD 390, writes about verse 15 four times, verses 16- 18 three times, and verse 20 but once. Chrysostom, ca AD 400, refers to verse 9 and quotes 19- 20 directly. Jerome, in ca AD 400, is perfectly happy to include the entire section in his own Vulgate translation of the New Testament. Augustine, at this time, writes repeatedly about, and quotes directly from this entire section. Victor of Antioch, ca AD 425, speaks most emphatically and at great length on these verses. A hundred years later, Hesychius of Jerusalem likewise writes at length on them; and all this is not to mention the Synopsis Scripturae Sanctae, ascribed to Athanasius, which also speaks at length on Mark 16:9- 20. 2 Much older than Sinaiticus or Vaticanus, by centuries in fact, are the following early translations and versions of Mark’s Gospel, and they all contain 16:9- 20 precisely as we have them: the Peshitta; the Curetonian Syriac; the Recension of Thomas of Harkel; the Vetus Itala (Old Latin); the Gothic; and all the Egyptian versions. 3 What more can we possibly say? How on earth can it ever be claimed that Mark 16:9- 20 was added after Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, when so much written evidence from at least twenty- two more ancient witnesses than they stands to the contrary? It beggars belief. Whenever you read a modern edition of the Bible – in whichever version it might be – which tells you that the ‘oldest manuscripts’ do not attest to Mark 16:9- 20, then know that that is absolutely false. The oldest manuscripts tell exactly the opposite story, as all the above authorities testify.” (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The New Testament-Part One: The Gospels, 1418-1434 (Kindle Edition)

The facts are very clear that Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the Bible.

The pattern listed in Mark 16:16 is found in every passage in the New Testament where baptism and salvation are mentioned together: baptism always precedes salvation (cf. Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21, etc.).

The entire plan of salvation revolves around the “Gospel” (Mark 16:15), which tells us of the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary for the sins of mankind, His burial, and His Resurrection on the third day and as verified by over 500 witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Why not today as a believer repent of your sins and be baptized into Him to have your sins washed away (Acts 2:38).

If you are a child of God who has left the Lord, I urge you today to repent and pray to Him for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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