Mark’s ‘Longer’ Ending

“Having risen on the first day after the Sabbath, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene from whom he cast out seven demons. That one went and announced it to those who were with him while they were mourning and weeping. Those, hearing that he was alive and been seen by her did not believe.”

(Mark 16:9-11)

The first thing that we should note is that we have moved into what many people call the “longer ending” of Mark. This ending was clearly not written by Mark himself — the structure of the vocabulary and grammar is radically different as you move from verse 8 to verse 9 — and was likely was a later edition, some suggest taking place in the 4th or 5th Century. Thus, many of our Bibles either do not include these verses or include them in brackets or italics or a combination of both.

If this is not part of the inspired manuscript, the question is, “Why include it?” The answer is simple, inspired or not, these verses have played an important role in the development of the Christian church over the ages. The key is to recognize that these words do not carry the same weight as the inspired text itself.

One thought that many scholars have suggested is that if you conclude Mark’s Gospel with verse 8, then it feels like it leaves you hanging. If this is true, it can be surmised that early copyists would have fleshed out the ending somewhat, based on the writings in the other Gospels and Acts. Whatever the reason, we have been left with these verses that are likely not original, but that have been embraced by the church for much of its history. In recognizing this reality, we will tackle these verses as part of our study of the Resurrection.

In a lot of ways, what Mark is giving us is meant as a summary of the resurrection accounts. It is terse and does not give us a lot of depth. We are given the introduction to Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus cast out seven demons, an account also mentioned in Luke 8:2, and the mention that Jesus appeared to her first and sent her to tell the others. True, there were other women when Jesus appeared along the road first, but nothing in these words is contradictory to the rest of the Gospel account. 

There is a mention of the disbelief of the Apostles. This, Mark will come back to in his longer ending, but again is a theme that is consistent with the confusion on the part of the Apostles. Thus again, there is nothing in this account that is contradictory to the rest of the Gospel and thus far, there is nothing that would be a unique entry. 

So how do we apply a text like this? We should ask ourselves about our own disbelief of the events so recorded in the Scriptures. Do we really find our Bible’s trustworthy? We may say we do, but do we live like it? My fear is that often we do not.

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