A Defense for the Marcan Appendix

Preface:  A Brief Observation on Textual Criticism

           Before we dive into the issue of the Marcan appendix, I would like to step back for a minute and consider the science of textual criticism.  In a nutshell, the science is geared towards reproducing the most original text as possible.  One thing is certain about this, many have said that they have done it, (including Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort) only to have their work updated at a later time.  Hence, we have not, as of yet, discovered the original autographs.  This point is substantial.  We can have a pretty good idea of what the originals looked like, and we can say that the major doctrines of Christianity have remained to this day, but we cannot say, “Here is the original text!”  On that day, the science of textual criticism would cease to be necessary and subsequently become extinct.  In light of the fact that we have not the originals, a note of caution is in order.  What is it that we are saying when we say, “This or that piece of scripture was not in the originals.”  On the surface, critics toss this around all the time.  I would point out that this is an extremely arrogant statement.  Why?  In order to make this statement with absolute certainty, the proclaimer is saying that he has actually seen the originals and has traversed them from beginning to end and can tell you beyond all reason that this or that piece of scripture is absent in the original autographs.  Since no one has ever seen the originals in our day, at best, that statement is conjecture.  Even if it is based upon pretty good data, it is still conjecture.  Simply put, no one really knows what the originals say, in their entirety, because they have yet to be recovered so any assessment of what is or is not in them, is at best a hypothesis.   They may even be making this assumption on really good data that is currently possessed.  However, there is one crucial piece of data that is missing.  The original.  Coming to the piece of scripture at hand, the majority of textual critics will tell us that this is not included in the originals.  In Misquoting Jesus, Dr. Ehrman agrees with them.  He tells us this to throw doubt on the character of scripture.  Was this section in the originals?  Perhaps not.  It is possible that it was included in the original and got lost.  It is the point of this article to be a voice in the opposite direction of most textual critics.  Why?  To, at least, make a plausible case, beyond a reasonable doubt, that to toss it out completely, might be hasty.  The fact that Jerome, who doubted its inclusion, kept it in the Vulgate demonstrates that he, like me, may have been thinking along these lines.  Furthermore, every major translation of the scripture to date includes it in their manuscripts, even if a footnote identifies it as “suspect.”  This demonstrates that many translators, like me, may be thinking along these lines.  So, having said that, let me decry an “apologia”, a defense for the Marcan appendix.

 

A Summary of the Evidence against It

       Crucial objections have been raised regarding the authenticity of the “Marcan appendix”.  The argument attempts to weaken the case for the appendix by attacking the authorship, mainly, that Mark did not write it and it was a later interpolation into the text.  Secondly, it is not found in the oldest of the New Testament manuscripts. Thirdly, the writing style varies from what we have seen in Mark previously.  Lastly, Eusebius and Jerome question its authenticity.

                                                                              Authorship

      Many scholars question rather Mark really wrote this part of the gospel. The case for Marcan authorship is linked to its inclusion in the gospel as a whole.  That is, despite the differences in style and lack of inclusion in the oldest manuscripts (which we will discuss in a minute) Mark did actually write the appendix and it was included in his gospel.  To begin with, Papias, an early church father from around 125 AD, quotes an earlier church father, John the Presbyter, who could have been an elder at the church of Ephesus.  Papias tells us that this was his practice.  He says, “But if I met with anyone who had been a follower of the elders anywhere, I made it a point to inquire what the declarations of the elders were.  What was said by Andrew, Peter or Philip?  What by Thomas, James, John, Matthew, or any other of the disciples of our Lord.  What was said by Aristion, and the presbyter John, disciples of the Lord; for I do not think that I derived so much benefit from books as from the living voice of those that are still surviving.” (1) Regarding what he learned about Marcan authorship of the gospel, he states, “And John the Presbyter also said this, Mark being the interpreter of Peter whatsoever he recorded he wrote with great accuracy but not however, in the order in which it was spoken or done by our Lord, for he neither heard nor followed our Lord, but as before said, he was in company with Peter, who gave him such instruction as was necessary, but not to give a history of our Lord’s discourses; wherefore, Mark has not erred in anything, by writing some things as he has recorded them; for he was carefully attentive to one thing, not to pass by anything that he heard, or to state anything falsely in these accounts.” (2) This testimony may account for why the transition seems somewhat awkward.(another point we will come to later)  The appendix may have been written earlier, by Mark, then inserted at this particular place when Mark was editing and piecing together his gospel.  Additionally, this testimony dates the gospel before the time that the church at Ephesus had ceased. This makes the date for Mark very earlier.  Additionally, Eusebius testifies of Marcan authorship of the gospel.  He writes, “So greatly, however, did the splendor of piety enlighten the minds of Peter’s hearers that it was not sufficient to hear but once, nor to receive the unwritten doctrine of the gospel of God, but they persevered in every variety of entreaties to solicit Mark as the companion of Peter, and whose Gospel we have, that he should leave them a monument in writing of the doctrine thus orally communicated.  Nor did they cease their solicitations until they had prevailed with the man and thus became the means of that history which is called the gospel according to Mark…This account is given by Clement in the sixth book of his Institutions…” (3) Additionally, Ireanus testifies of Marcan authorship in his “Against Heresies.” He writes, “After their departure [of Peter and Paul from earth], Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.” (4)  Hence, we see that the unanimous testimony of history declares that Mark is the author of the gospel.  Subsequently, if the appendix was in the gospel, it would have been written by Mark.  Also, the style of Mark seems to match the style of Peter’s speech in Acts, so that Mark wrote down the teachings of Peter seems to also be accurate.  Lastly, if Mark wrote sections of the gospel and then pieced them together, as Papias tells us, this may account for why it is missing in the older manuscripts (which we will discuss later) and why the transition seems awkward. (Again, we will discuss this later) 

 

Manuscript Evidence

     The external evidence for the inclusion of the Marcan appendix in Mark’s original is massive.  Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones writes, “The external evidence is massive.  Not only is the Greek manuscript attestation ratio over 600 to 1 in support of the verses (99.99%)-around 8,000 Latin mss about 1,000 Syriac versions as well as all the over 2,000 known Greek Lectionaries contain the verses.” (5)  Even those who would not include it in the canon will admit this fact.  However, manuscript evidence comes against the appendix because the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.  The two principle witnesses are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanas.  Many scholars reject the Marcan appendix because it is not found in these two manuscripts.  However, Dr. Jones has an interesting comment about the missing section.  He writes, “Further, the Vatican MSS has a blank space exactly the six required to include the 12 verses at the end of the 16th chapter.  The scribe who prepared B obviously knew of the existence of the verses and their precise content.  Indeed, as Tischendorf observed, Sinaiticus exhibit’s a different handwriting and ink on this page, and there is a change in spacing and size of the individual letter in an attempt to fill up the void left by the removal of the verses.” (6)  So, it would appear that the scribe writing these oldest and most reliable manuscripts knew of their existence.  In addition, the Nelson Study Bible Commentary states:   “The authenticity of these last twelve verses has been disputed.  Those who doubt Mark’s authorship of this passage point to two fourth-century manuscripts that omit these verses.  Others believe that they should be included because even these two manuscripts leave space for all or some of the verses, indication that their copyists knew of their existence.  ” (7) It is possible that the scribe who wrote these manuscripts left out the appendix.  If he had left them in place, the issue of the authenticity of this gospel would never be questioned.  Considering the fact that 99 percent of the manuscript evidence points to its inclusion and spaces were provided for its inclusion in the oldest and most reliable, the appendix does appear to have a place at the end of the gospel.  It does seem doubtful that Mark would end his gospel on a note of fear.  

     Finally, here is a graph that demonstrates the manuscript evidence:

 

In Favor of Mark 16:9-20

  • Codex Alexandrinus (A) – (5th c. uncial, Byzantine in Gospels)
  • Ephraemi Rescriptus (C) – (5th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis (D) – (5th/6th c. uncial, Western)
  • K (9th c. uncial, Byzantine)
  • W (5th c. uncial, generally thought to be Caesarean in Mark 5:31-16:20)
  • X (10th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • Delta (9th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • Theta (9th c. uncial, Caesarean)
  • Pi (9th c. uncial, Byzantine)
  • f1 and f13 (total of 16 Caesarean texts, 11th-14th c.)
  • 28 (11th c. minuscule, Caesarean)
  • 33 (9th c. minuscule, Alexandrian)
  • 565 (9th c. minuscule, Caesarean)
  • 700 (11th c. minuscule, Caesarean)
  • 892 (9th c. minuscule, Alexandrian)
  • 1010 (12th c. minuscule, Byzantine)
  • The Byzantine textual set
  • Some of the Greek lectionaries

Opposed to Mark 16:9-20

  • Codex Sinaiticus (À) – (4th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • Codex Vaticanus (B) – (4th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • 304 (12th c. minuscule, Byzantine)
  • 2386 (11th c. minuscule, Byzantine)
  • Most of the Greek lectionaries  (8)

A final note of manuscript evidence can be found.  One of the most important majuscule manuscripts was discovered in the twentieth century and is a codex of four gospels.  It dates form the late fourth century and even into the fifth.  It does contain the gospels in the, so called, Western order (That is Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark) It includes the Marcan appendix in a Caesarean format that resembles that of p45, 42, which are two of our oldest papyrus available.  This links our text to an ancient root.  Ehrman knows this because he writes in one of his books, “In the opinion of its editor, Henry A. Sanders, this stratification of different kinds of text is explained by the theory that the codex goes back to an ancestor made up of fragments from different manuscripts of the Gospels pieced together after the attempt of the Emperor Diocletian to crush Christianity by destroying its sacred books.” (9)

 

Church Fathers

 

     The evidence from the “fathers” against the appendix is twofold.  First, Eusebius and Jerome question its authenticity.  Secondly, Origen and Clement of Alexandria never quote from it, so they are silent regarding it.  Some will venture as far as to say that they “had never heard of it.”  Let’s take the fathers one at a time.

 

     Eusebius’ objection is noted mostly in “Questions to Marinum” where he reports that the appendix is missing from some manuscripts.  In this letter, he is attempting to answer a question regarding the harmonization of Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:9.  It is in this, that his objection is noted.  However, it should be pointed out that, “It should not be surprising that the manuscripts with which Eusebius would be familiar should largely lack the longer ending, as they were Alexandrian in origin, and in fact were probably closely related to Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which have been suggested by some to be actual original copies from among the fifty Eusebius prepared for Emperor Constantine in or around 315 AD.”(10) Regarding this, Metzger and Ehrman quote T.C. Skeat of the British Museum “has suggested that Codex Vaticanus was a ‘reject’ among the 50 copies for it is deficient in the Eusebian canon tables, has many corrections by different scribes, and…lacks the books of Macccabees, apparently through an oversight.” (11) This evidence really blows a hole in the objections to the appendix.  It offers a plausible explanation as to why it is missing from the “oldest and most reliable” manuscripts.  Now, coming back to how all this relates to Eusebius.  “Eusebius would likely have lacked much access to the wider catholic body of manuscripts available elsewhere in the Empire and which did contain the disputed ending, which were used by the likes of Irenaeus and Papias. Further, Eusebius’ objection is presented as one of two options for harmonization, with the other actually being an argument based upon punctuating Mark 16:9 in a certain way so as to attain what Eusebius considered to be sufficient harmonization. This suggests that Eusebius himself was not only aware of the ending, but that it also existed in a greater body of manuscripts than his prior statement would suggest, else he would likely have just dismissed the verses as false and been done with them altogether.” (12)  Thus passes the heaviest evidence against the appendix by a church father.  Let us now turn to Jerome.

 

     Jerome’s objections are basically an echo of Eusebius.  However, it should be noted that Jerome does quote from the appendix in some of his letters and, in fact, did include them in the Vulgate.  This is particularly compelling.  If Jerome had found them in no Greek manuscripts, how did he put them in the Vulgate?  It stands to reason that the appendix was in some of the manuscripts that he was using, or he never would’ve known about them to begin with.  Secondly, the appendix may have been missing from the Alexandrian texts, as we have previously noted, and this would also spark the similarity between Jerome’s comments and Eusebius.

 

     As far as Origen and Clement, the fact that they simply don’t quote from them doesn’t just make the appendix vanish.  All it tells us is, they didn’t quote from it.  It speaks nothing to the authenticity of the passage.  Now, let us turn our attention to the church fathers that do quote from it.  Please note the early date from which these fathers quote the appendix.  These quotes predate the manuscript evidence against it by two hundred years.  This bespeaks of a substantial amount of historically reliable evidence that the appendix existed and it was used as authoritative.

 

     Perhaps the earliest mention of it comes from Papias.  Please remember the quote above concerning how Papias got his information.  Papias makes reference to Mark 16:18 and this dates the authorship before 100 AD.  One must take into account that Mark had to write it, then it had to be circulated and then seen as authoritative by the early 100’s when Papias quotes from it.  Ireaneus quotes from it around 125 AD.  Tatian, in 172 AD arranged the gospels into a narrative called the Diatessnion that included the appendix. Justin Martyr, mid 100’s quotes from it.  Tertullian included it in his 2nd edition of the New Testament.  Vincentius of Thibris, Bishop of Carthage in 256 AD quotes from it.  Hippolytus died in 235 and he also quotes it.  Lastly, Aphrahat the Persina Sage who died in 345 AD also quotes from it.  All this evidence points to the fact that it was in existence and used as authoritative hundreds of years before our current oldest manuscripts existed.  These are only the references before the fourth century; there are many others afterwards that could be mentioned to support the passage as genuine. (13)

 

 

The Differences of Style (14)

 

     There are three distinct areas in which scholars debate the differences in style with the remainder of mark.  They are that of juncture, vocabulary, and phraseology.  Let’s examine them one at a time.

 

Juncture

 

     First, the objections in juncture are five.  First, there is an abrupt subject change in verse eight to verse nine.  In verse eight, the subject is the woman and in verse nine, it switches to Jesus.  This suggests a later interpolation.  Secondly, the other women of verses 1-8 are lost in the remaining verses of 9-20.  Again, it suggests a later addition.  Thirdly, Mary Magdalene is mentioned in verse 9 but is not mentioned in the previous verses.  Fourthly, the use of “auastas” and the position of “proton” are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive essay and are here added to the middle of a section.  This suggests that it was a literary work that was developed extensively and then inserted here at a later time.  Finally, use of the conjunction “gar” with a two word phrase is unique to this section.  Again, pointing to the difficulty of the flow of the narrative.  One at a time we will address these issues.

 

     To be sure, the transition is awkward and it cannot be imitated in Mark.  What I mean is that there is no other transition that has all five of these characteristics.  However, they are all characteristics that can be found in the gospel.  The first two features, that of the awkward shifts of subject, is frequently found in Mark.  It is noted in Mark 2:13; 6:45; 7:31; 8:1, and 14:3.  All of these transitions meet the first two conditions.  Thus, it is not unusual for Mark to make an abrupt shift of subject matter.

     As far as May Magdalene is concerned, the phraseology that, “he had cast seven demons out of her” is not an identifying phrase as much as it is providing additional information about Mary.  There were several Mary’s present in the section and this addition could’ve given some specific information making her as distinct from the Mary’s previously listed in the section.  Thus, it is flows with the first eight verses.  This type of style is found in mark 3:16, Mark 6:16, and Mark 7:26 where the subject is given some identifying factors despite the fact that they were not mentioned for several previous verses.

 

     The fourth objection is easily dismissed.   Mainly, that mark is not continuing from verse 8 but is beginning a new concluding section that begins with the resurrection.  Additionally, it could’ve been something that mark had written previously and then added to the end of the narrative from 1-8.  It seems that the previously mentioned testimony of Papias supports that fact that Mark wrote out his gospel in sections.  It is possible that the subject matter of the appendix, which covers the commissioning of the apostles, was one of the first sections penned by Mark and then he inserted it after finishing the remainder of the gospel.

 

    The fifth objection is also very valid.  Mainly, that Mark didn’t use the conjunction “gar” with any other two word sentences.  This is true.  However, Mark does use it in three word and four word sentences.  To throw out the section based upon a one word difference, might seem somewhat irresponsible.

 

Vocabulary

 

     There are three main objections to the vocabulary of the appendix.  First, there are 16 words that are used in the appendix that are not used elsewhere in the gospel.  Secondly, three of those words are used more than one in this section.  Finally, the section contains none of Mark’s favorite words such as “euqeus” and “palin” meaning “immediately” and “all” respectively.

 

     In all fairness, these objections are fairly strong.  However, it should be noted that 8 of the root words are used in other places in the gospel.  Additionally, 3 of the 16 words are only found in the gospel accounts that involve post-resurrection events.  But if this to be the test, than all other chapters of Mark should have vocabulary ratios that are substantially less than that of the appendix.  Is this the case?  No, in the section of Mark 15:40-16:4-21 such words are found that don’t match the remainder of Marks’ vocabulary either.  Should those sections be thrown out also?  No one seems to doubt its genuineness.  Therefore, the vocabulary issue while appearing profound on the surface seems to not be a legitimate litmus test to the legitimacy of a piece of scripture.

 

     As far as not containing Mark’s “favorite words,” not only do the last verses of Mark not contain them, that is, in the appendix, but neither do they appear in the last 53 verses of Mark.  Likewise, should those passages be tossed out because they lack the repetitive favorite phrases of the gospel author?  I think not

 

Problems of Phraseology

 

     The argument regarding phraseology consists of two parts.  First, eight phrases are used in this appendix that are not used elsewhere in Mark.  Secondly, the phrase “met autou genmenoi” meaning, “those who were with him” is only used here to designate the disciples.

 

     Again, on the surface, this looks like a really strong argument and this large number of phrases occurring only here does make it looks suspect.  However, let us follow the same logic as previously.  Is this the only place in Mark where such variations occur?  Again, the answer is no.  it should be noted that between verses 15:42-16:6, 9 such phrases can be identified.  That is one more than we find in the appendix.  We seem to be identifying a pattern here.  It seems to be a characteristic of Mark to use additional phrase depending upon the context of his discussion.  So, in all actuality, all of this evidence actually points to Marcan authorship rather than detracting from it.  Simply because, we can find a pattern of linguistic phraseology outside of the appendix itself that matches the appendix itself.

 

     As far as the second objection is concerned, it would hardly have been appropriate in mark’s narrative to refer to the disciples as “those who were with Him” prior to His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.  Thus, the uniqueness of the phrase in relation to the appendix is actually appropriate because of the subject matter in the section.

 

 

   In closing this section, Metzger and Ehrman have some interesting points about the grammar at the end of verse 8.  It doesn’t seem reasonable that Mark would end his “evangelion” of “good news” on a note of fear.  In relation to this, they write, “Furthermore, from a stylistic point of view, to terminate a Greek sentence with the word gar is most unusual and exceedingly rare:  only a relatively few examples have been found throughout the vast range of Greek literary works, and not instance has been found where gar stands at the end of a book.  Moreover, it is possible that in verse 8 Mark uses the verb efobounto to mean ‘they were afraid of’ (as he does in four of the other occurrences of this verb in his Gospel) In that case, obviously something is needed to finish the sentence.  It appears, therefore, that efobounto gar of Mark 16:8 does not represent what mark intended to stand at the end of his Gospel.” (15)  Although Metzger and Ehrman would disagree with our conclusion, it seems reasonable, in light of the data presented in this article, that the appendix was placed exactly where Mark wanted it.  Even the stylistic notes of verse 8 point to it.

 

Conclusion

    

     Was the longer ending Mark included in the gospels?  To be honest, I really don’t know because I have yet to see a copy of the originals.  Does the evidence against it qualify it for removal from the canon of scripture?  I think not.  At the end of the day, it has been my attempt to demonstrate that an argument can be made for its authenticity despite the fact that the school of textual criticism disputes it.  I believe that I have made the case that it is at least possible that it was in the originals.  The bulk of the evidence of manuscripts points to it.  It is only missing in four of those manuscripts.  Two of those, Siniaticus and Vaticanius were of the Alexandrian variety which Eusebius and Jerome tells us were missing the appendix in their manuscripts.  However, the testimony of the church father validates that it was in circulation and considered authoritative long before Constantine commissioned Eusebius to print 50 Bibles.  The alleged differences in style really seem to point to Mark as the author and we have argued that rather than detract from its genuineness, it actually complements it.  In the final analysis, the last verses of Mark should stay exactly where they are in our Bibles.  It seems, this is exactly where they are supposed to be. 

 

Endnotes

  1. Cruse, C.F. “Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History” Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass., 2003, third printing, book 3: 39:14-16, page, 104.
  2. Ibid, page 105-106.
  3. Ibid, book 2:15:1. Page 50.
  4. Irenaeus Against Heresies, 3:1:1.
  5. Floyd Nolan Jones, Which Version is the Bible?,Kings Word Press, Woodlands, T X.                   Pages 21-32.
  6. Ibid    
  7. Earl D Radmacher, The Nelson Study Bible, Nelson Publishing, Nashville, TN-commentary on Mark.  Underlining emphasis is my own.
  8. Found on-line at: author unkown:  http://www.studytoanswer.net/bibleversions/markend.html.
  9. Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 80-81..
  10. Ibid from 8.
  11. Metzger and Ehrman, page 68-69.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid, from 8.
  14. The majority of this section was gleaned from:  Snapp, James Edward, The Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, available on-line at: http://www.textexcavation.com/snapp/PDF/snappmark.pdf, it really is a wonderful read and he puts forth more evidence that just this section.
  15. Metzger and Ehrman, page 326.
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