Is the textual evidence to the missing ending to Mark evidence of Mark being the earliest Gospel?

Is the textual evidence to the missing ending to Mark evidence of Mark being the earliest Gospel?

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Mark 16:8 seems much too abrupt for an ending to the Gospel of Mark. The textual evidence indicates that none of the four endings we now have after Mark 16:8 are original, in other words the original ending was lost. The ending may have broken of the scroll and been lost. For no variation to be authentic would imply that the original lost its ending before being copied. Does this indicate that the Gospel of Mark was early enough that its recipients did not realize the significance of its record to start making copies of it before it started to wear out?

Note: This question does not address the debate over the textual criticism results that has been addressed in Is the ending of the Gospel of Mark (16:9-20) original?.

Appendix: Bruce Metzger’s textual commentary

   16:9–20      The Ending(s) of Mark

Four endings of the Gospel according to Mark are current in the manuscripts. (1) The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (א and B), from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis (itk), the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913). Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16:8. Not a few manuscripts that contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document….

Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (pp. 102–103). United Bible Societies.

This is only the first part of Metzger’s commentary on this subject, is much longer.


  • Reply February 18, 2024

    Troy Day

    Philip Williams The bulk of people I grew up with did hear the Good News. Some simply shrugged off the truth, but others appeared to believe in the Living Word. These folks were regular churchgoers, and some even held positions in man-made committees tasked with catering to the needs of those sitting in the pews.

    Whether it be those who claim to be Christians and those who are not – there is that propensity for a communication breakdown in the event there was a crossing of paths. Mention the word ‘rapture,’ and everything goes beyond a storm in a teacup. Speechless indifference if not a tirade of repudiation – maybe even outright mockery in the form of bad-tasting jokes.

    Then there are those who resort to a pseudo-intellectual argument based on half-baked teachings. It could be allegorical interpretations or purely apostate chatter based on the likes of the prosperity gospel, replacement theology, and church growth dogmas.

    They will cling to the world and extoll the virtues of putting on the fallen nature.

    On this note, there is mockery and denial of Scriptural truth. To these individuals, the Good News is old news, very much likened to the fairy tales which have almost eluded their mental lexicons. So much so that they put their weight on a litany of misleading narratives. When challenged, they would display angst as if their personal pride was gravely wounded!

    • Reply February 18, 2024

      Philip Williams

      First, these signs following is powerful Pentecostal theology.

      Second, I confronted Dan Wallace with the fact that according to the first principle of text criticism, the more difficult ending is original, we can be more certain about signs following being original than any other textual choice in the entire Bible. Absolutely no one would have added picking up snakes and drinking poison as evidence of believers were it not in the original.

      3. Wallace acknowledges that it had strong patristic support.

      4. It’s Origen, who knew of it, who left it out owing to his arguments with Celsus who claimed that the resurrection was based on hysterical women, precisely just before the place where Origen stops the text. The unicals that lack this passage were based on Origen’s text. Eusebius who published these texts loved Origen.

      5. Owing to the same Greek distain of women, Origen also left out the adulteress pericope in John 8.

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