39. The Ending of Mark

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Why does the EHV include the long ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20)? Other translations question whether these verses belong in the text.

It is helpful to begin with a statement of our general policy concerning textual variants. We follow an objective approach which considers all the witnesses to the text (Greek manuscripts, lectionaries, translations, and quotations in the Church Fathers) without showing favoritism for one or the other, since each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses as a witness to the text. We then report the textual evidence in this way:

The reading in a set of variants that has the earliest and most wide-spread support in the witnesses is the one included in the text. The other readings in a set of variants are dealt with in one of three ways:

  • A variant reading that has very little early or widespread support in the witnesses is not presented in a footnote in order to avoid an overabundance of textual notes.
  • A variant reading with significant early and/or wide-spread support but not as much early or widespread evidence as the reading in the main text of the translation is reflected in a footnote that says, “Some witnesses to the text read/add/omit: . . . .”
  • A familiar (e.g., KJV or NIV reading) or a notable reading (e.g., the addition or omission of a whole verse) with support that is not nearly as early or widespread as the other reading can be reflected in a footnote that says, “A few witnesses to the text read/add/omit: . . . .”

The handling of the end of Mark is simply an application of this objective principle. This is the EHV footnote on this textual question:

This translation includes verses 9-20 because they are included in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts that have been handed down to us. Evidence for the existence of this long ending extends back to the 2nd century. In the early centuries of the church, these verses were read in worship services on Easter and Ascension Day. However, a few early manuscripts and early translations omit verses 9-20, and a few manuscripts have a different ending.

We believe that this footnote states the textual evidence accurately and concisely. But there are many details behind it. A brief summary of the evidence can be found in an article that was published in Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly (Vol 102:1), which is posted at our WP website.

If someone wants make a more detailed study of the issue, there is a lot of evidence to examine. We encourage you to examine the evidence on both sides of the argument.

In doing this, it is important to understand that the UBS textual commentary by Bruce Metzger is not an attempt to present a comprehensive study of the textual evidence but a defense of the decisions the committee made in creating the UBS text. In its four-page discussion of the ending of Mark, this commentary concludes that it is obvious to its editors that the longer ending of Mark has no claim to be original, but it concludes, “out of deference to the evident antiquity of the longer reading and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel, the Committee decided to include verses 9-20 as part of the text but to enclose them with double square brackets to indicate that they are the work of an author other than the evangelist.” The UBS committee in this way acknowledges that there is significant and important ancient support for verses 9-20.

When comparing the UBS approach with the EHV approach, we encourage readers to ask which approach presents a more objective summary of the textual evidence and which includes more subjective opinion.

Then to complete your study, read a book that presents a fuller summary of the textual evidence and which argues that the UBS approach does not present a full and fair consideration of the evidence. An example of such a book would be Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20 (2016 edition) by James Snapp Jr. Used copies can sometimes be purchased on Amazon for as low as 99 cents.

Study both points of view and evaluate the fullness of their presentation of the evidence and the degree to which they make an objective evaluation of the evidence.

As a bottom line, remember that the EHV approach to textual issues is to present an objective summary of the amount of early and widespread support which a reading has and to minimize subjective judgments.