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Mark 16:9-20 as Forgery or Fabrication

by Richard Carrier, Ph.D. (2009)


Contents

Introduction: Problem and Significance

About Dr. Richard Carrier

Dr. Richard Carrier is one of the most popular authors at the Secular Web, and author of the books Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism (2005) and Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed and contributing author for The Empty Tomb (2005) and The Christian Delusion (2010), and he has written articles for several print publications. He has a B.A. in history and classical civilizations from UC Berkeley, and an M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. in ancient history from Columbia University. While acquiring his degrees Dr. Carrier formally studied ancient Greek for over seven years, including papyrology, linguistics, paleography, and textual criticism. To learn more about him see About Richard Carrier and to help support his work see Support Richard Carrier.

Honest Bibles will tell you (in a footnote at least) that in the Gospel according to Mark all the verses after 16:8 are not found in "some of the oldest manuscripts." In fact, it is now the near unanimous agreement of experts that all those verses were either forged, or composed by some other author and inserted well after the original author composed the Gospel (I'll call that original author "Mark," though we aren't in fact certain of his name). The evidence is persuasive, both internal and external. In fact, this is one of the clearest examples of Christians meddling with the manuscripts of the canonical Bible, inserting what they wanted their books to have said (and possibly even subtracting what they didn't want it to have said, although I won't explore that possibility here). For the conclusion that those final verses were composed by a different author and added to Mark is more than reasonably certain.

If Mark did not write verses 16:9-20, but some anonymous person(s) later added those verses, pretending (or erroneously believing) that Mark wrote them (as in fact they must have), then this Gospel, and thus the Bible as a whole, cannot be regarded as inerrant, or even consistently reliable. Were those words intended by God, he would have inspired Mark to write them in the first place. That he didn't entails those words were not inspired by God, and therefore the Bible we have is flawed, tainted by sinful human forgery or fallibility. Even the astonishing attempt to claim the forger was inspired by God cannot gain credit.1 For it is so inherently probable as to be effectively certain that a real God would have inspired Mark in the first place and not waited to inspire a later forger. The alternative is simply unbelievable. And in any case, a lie cannot be inspired, nor can a manifest error, yet this material is presented as among that which is "according to Mark," which is either a lie or an error.

This has a further, even greater consequence. Since we are actually lucky the evidence of this meddling survived, we should expect that other instances of meddling have occurred for which the evidence didn't survive, calling into doubt the rest of the New Testament (hereafter NT). Since the survival of evidence is so unlikely for changes made before c. 150 A.D. (fifty to eighty years after the NT books were supposedly written), and in some cases even for changes made before c. 250 A.D. (well over a hundred more years later)—as we have few to no manuscripts of earlier date, and none complete, and scarce reliable testimonies—we can expect that many other changes could have survived undetected.2 And yet alterations in the earlier period are the most likely. For when the fewest copies existed, an emender's hope of succeeding was at its greatest, as well as his actual rate of success. Such was the case for all other books, so it should be expected for the Gospels. As Helmut Koester says, "Textual critics of classical texts know that the first century of their transmission is the period in which the most serious corruptions occur," and yet "textual critics of the New Testament writings have been surprisingly naive in this respect," despite the fact that they all agree "the oldest known archetypes" we can reconstruct from surviving manuscripts "are separated from the autographs by more than a century."3

The interpolation of the Markan ending thus refutes Biblical inerrancy. As Wilbur Pickering put it:

Are we to say that God was unable to protect the text of Mark or that He just couldn't be bothered? I see no other alternative—either He didn't care or He was helpless. And either option is fatal to the claim that Mark's Gospel is 'God-breathed'.4

The whole canon falls to the same conclusion. This dichotomy is entailed by the fact of the Markan interpolation. It forces us to fall on either of two horns, yet on neither of which can a doctrine of inerrancy survive. If God couldn't protect His Book from such meddling, then he hardly counts as a god, but in any case such inability entails he can't have ensured the rest of the received text of the Bible is inerrant (since if he couldn't in this case, he couldn't in any), which leaves no rational basis for maintaining the inerrancy of the Bible, as then even God could not have produced such a thing. On the other hand, if God could but did not care to protect His Book from such meddling, then we have no rational basis for maintaining that he cared to protect it from any other errors, either, whether those now detectable or not. Since the Bible we now have can only be inerrant if God wanted it to be, and the evidence proves he didn't want it to be, therefore it can't be inerrant. It does no good to insist the Bible was only inerrant in the originals, since a God who cared to make the originals inerrant would surely care to keep them that way. Otherwise, what would have been the point? We still don't have those originals.

Only the most convoluted and implausible system of excuses for God can escape this conclusion, and any faith that requires such a dubious monstrosity is surely proven bankrupt by that very fact.

The Ending(s) of Mark

The OE, LE, and SE

Presently in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) the Gospel of Mark ends as follows (Mark 16:1-20, uncontested portion in bold):

[1] When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. [2] Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. [3] They were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" [4] Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. [5] Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. [6] And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. [7] But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'" [8] They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
      [9b] Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. [10] She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. [11] When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it. [12] After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. [13] They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either. [14] Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. [15] And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation: [16] He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. [17] These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; [18] they will pick up serpents {in their hands}, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
      [19] So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. [20] And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.

What is commonly called (and hypothesized to be) the 'Original Ending' of Mark (OE) is presented in bold above. The material not in bold is called the 'Longer Ending' of Mark (LE). There is another ending in some manuscripts, completely replacing or preceding the lengthy text above, which reads:

[9a] And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen.

This is called the 'Shorter Ending' of Mark (SE).5 Some manuscripts have neither SE nor LE (and thus have only the OE), and one manuscript contains only the SE (and that is among the oldest) while others give indications that many other such manuscripts once existed, but most (a great many in each case) have either the LE alone or both the SE and the LE (always with the LE following the SE, not the other way around, unlike the order shown in the NASB).6 The SE and LE are logically and narratively incompatible, however, and thus cannot have been composed by the same author.

The VLE

There is also a third ending found in one surviving manuscript (and already known to Jerome in the 4th century), which you generally never hear of, but which I shall call the 'Very Long Ending' (VLE), as it is an extension of the LE, expanding verse 15 into:

[15] And they defended themselves saying, "This world of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the unclean things that are under the spirits to comprehend God's true power.7 Because of this, reveal your righteousness now." They said these things to Christ, and Christ replied to them, "The term of years of the authority of Satan has been fulfilled, but other dreadful things are drawing near, even to those for whose sake as sinners I was delivered up to death so they might return to the truth and no longer sin, and might inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven. But go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

Such are the various endings of Mark.8 All scholars now reject the VLE (if they even know of it) and now regard verse 16:8 to have been the OE, even though it is an odd way to end a book (though it is not without precedent, and does make more literary sense than is usually supposed 9). The VLE, by contrast, is unmistakably a forgery, so its existence further proves that Christians felt free to doctor manuscripts of the Gospels.

The BE

The same point is proven further by the fact that, in addition to the endings just surveyed, there is at least one known interpolation within the OE itself (expanding verse 3), extant in one ancient manuscript, which can be considered yet another 'ending' to Mark (making five altogether), the addition here given in bold:

[3] They were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" Then all of a sudden, at the third hour of the day, there was darkness over the whole earth, and angels descended from heaven and [as he] rose up in the splendor of the living God they ascended with him, and immediately it was light. [4] Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.

This is from Codex Bobiensis, a pre-Vulgate Latin translation, which also deletes the last part of verse 8 before attaching the SE (thus eliminating the contradiction between them: see section 4.1.3). The manuscript itself physically dates from the 4th or 5th century, but contains a text dated no later than the 3rd century, and some evidence suggests it ultimately derives from a lost 2nd century manuscript.10 No one accepts this Bobbio Ending (BE) as having any chance of being authentic, yet it must be quite ancient. It was also manifestly forged.

sendingj.jpg

Assessment of the Markan Endings

Some scholars theorize that Mark's original ending did indeed extend beyond the OE but was lost (accidentally or deliberately) and then replaced by the SE and LE in different manuscripts (hereafter mss. (plural) and ms. (singular)), originating two separate traditions which were eventually loosely combined into a sixth 'Double Ending' (DE) in later manuscripts (even though they don't logically fit together), while in other mss. the LE was preferred or was expanded into the VLE, or the OE was expanded into the BE. Though many of the arguments for a 'Lost Original Ending' (LOE) are intriguing, none are conclusive, nor can any produce the actual text of such an ending even if it existed, nor can scholars agree which ending it should be (some scholars find the original ending redacted in Matthew's Galilean mountain narrative, others in John's Galilean seashore narrative, yet others in Luke's Emmaus narrative, and still others in the SE or LE itself, and so on). I will not discuss those debates, as they are too speculative and inconclusive. It is the sole task here to demonstrate that, regardless of how Mark originally ended his Gospel, it was not the ending we have now (whether SE or LE; the DE, BE and VLE are ruled out heretofore). Quite simply, the current ending of Mark was not written by Mark.

The Principal Scholarship

The literature on the ending of Mark is vast. But certain works are required reading and centrally establish the fact that the current ending of Mark was not written by Mark. They cite much of the remaining scholarship and evidence, and often go into more precise detail than I will here. So to pursue the issues further, consult the following (here in reverse chronological order):

David Alan Black, ed., Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views (2008). Hereafter PEM.

Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark: A Commentary (2007): pp. 797-818. Hereafter MAC.

Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 4th ed. (2005): pp. 322-27. Hereafter TNT.

Joel Marcus, Mark 1-16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (2000): pp. 1088-96. Hereafter MNT.

James Kelhoffer, Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and Their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark (2000). Hereafter MAM.

John Christopher Thomas, "A Reconsideration of the Ending of Mark," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26.4 (1983): 407-19. Hereafter JETS.

Bruce Metzger, New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, and Patristic (1980): pp. 127-47. Hereafter NTS.

Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 3rd ed. (1971): pp. 122-28. Hereafter TCG.

There are also a few online resources worth consulting (with due critical judgment). Most worthwhile is Wieland Willker's extensive discussion of the evidence and scholarship.11 Though Willker is only (as far as I can tell) a professor of chemistry, and biblically conservative, he did a thorough job of marshaling the evidence. Much briefer but still adding points of note is the treatment of the problem at Wikipedia.12 Other threads can be explored but will only end up with the same results that all the above scholars document.13

The Internal Evidence

Internal evidence is what we can conclude from the reconstructed text, such as its internal logic and literary content and style. In order of physical creation, the 'internal' evidence is earlier and so will be treated here first. Other scholars usually treat it last, but the order of examination doesn't matter. Either way, the internal evidence still confirms the LE is not by Mark, in three different ways: the SE and LE are too incongruous with the OE to have been composed by its author (i.e. the transition from the OE to either the SE or the LE is illogical); the SE and LE are written in a completely different style from Mark (which proves a different author composed them); and the LE betrays (in fact assumes) knowledge of the Canonical New Testament, which did not exist when Mark wrote (and to a lesser extent the same can be said of the SE).

Transition Is Illogical

The transition from the OE to the LE violates logic and grammar, while the transition from the OE to the SE is grammatical but even more illogical. This alone greatly reduces the probability of common authorship.

The LE

In the LE the transition from verse 8 to 9 is ungrammatical and thus cannot have been composed by the same author. In fact, this oddity suggests the LE actually derives from another text (possibly a 2nd century commentary on the Gospels) and was only appended to Mark by a third party. There is more evidence for this hypothesis in the manuscripts (which will be discussed later) and in every other element of this illogical transition (to be explored shortly). For the present point, it is enough to note the internal evidence. First, the grammatical subject in verse 8 is "they" (the women), but in verse 9 it is "he" (Jesus). But the word "he" is not present in verse 9. Thus we have the strange transition, "For they were afraid and having risen on the first day of the week appeared first to Mary," which makes no sense. The pronoun "he" is expected (or the name "Jesus") but it is absent, creating a strange grammatical confusion. The oddity is clearer in the Greek than in English translation. In the Greek, verse 9 begins abruptly with a nominative participle with no stated subject, a strange thing to do when transitioning from a sentence about a wholly different subject.

The transition is not only ungrammatical, it is narratively illogical. Verse 9 reintroduces Mary Magdalene with information we would have expected to learn much earlier (the fact that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her). Instead it is suddenly added in the LE, completely out of the blue without any explanation, suggesting the author of the LE was trying to improve on the OE or wasn't even writing an ending to Mark but a separate narrative altogether (in which this is the first time Mary Magdalene appears in this scene or in which the story of her exorcism appeared many scenes earlier). Either entails that the same author did not write the OE. Indeed, it makes no sense to add this detail in the LE, as it serves no narrative function, adds nothing relevant to the story, and alludes to an event that Mark never relates. If the author of the LE were Mark, he would have added this exorcism story into the narrative of Jesus' ministry, and then alluded to it (if at all) when Mary Magdalene was first introduced in verse 15:40, or when she first appears in the concluding narrative (verse 16:1). Furthermore, not only does the subject inexplicably change from the women to Jesus, but suddenly Mary Magdalene is alone, without explanation of why, or to where the other two women have gone.

We should also expect some explanation of when these appearances occurred, yet we get instead an inexplicable confusion. Verse 9 says they happened after Jesus rose on the first day of the week, but it's then unclear as to how many days after. This single temporal reference would normally entail everything to follow occurred on the same day. But that would contradict the OE's declaration that Jesus had already gone ahead to Galilee and would appear there, as it would have taken several days for the women (or anyone else) to travel from Jerusalem to Galilee. It is unlikely Mark would produce such a perplexing contradiction or allow a distracting ambiguity like this in his story, as he is elsewhere very careful about marking relevant chronological progression (e.g. Mark 16:2, 15:42, 14:30, 14:12, 6:35, 4:35, etc.). Mark also wouldn't repeat the declaration that it was "the first day of the week," as he already said that in verse 16:2. Instead, he would simply say "on the same day," or not even designate the day at all, as there would be no need for it (his narrative would already imply it), until the story entailed the passage of several days (perhaps either at 16:12 or 16:14). Apparently the author of the LE assumes the day hasn't yet been stated (and thus appears unaware of the fact that it was already stated in the OE only a few verses earlier) and then assumes all these events took place over a single day, and thus in and around Jerusalem, which contradicts Mark's declaration that the appearances were to occur in Galilee (16:7, 14:28, corroborated in Matthew 28:16-20), yet conspicuously agrees with Luke and John (a telling contradiction that will be discussed later).

All four oddities (the incorrect grammar, the strange reintroduction of Mary, the unexplained disappearance of the other women, and the chronological redundancies and contradictions) make the transition from the OE to the LE too illogical for the same author to have written both. On the hypothesis that the LE was written by another author in a different book and just copied into Mark by a third party, all these oddities are highly probable. But on the hypothesis that Mark wrote the LE, all these oddities are highly improbable. Indeed, any one of them would be improbable. All of them together, very much so.

The Terry Thesis

Bruce Terry claims such odd transitions exist elsewhere in Mark and thus are not improbable, but his proposed grammatical parallels actually demonstrate what's so odd about this one, and he has no parallels for any of the other oddities.14 In Mark 2:13 we actually have a nested pericope in which the subject (Jesus) is already established at 2:1-2, and he remains the primary subject for the whole story, which story includes 2:12, which clearly explains the temporary transition of subject from Jesus to the man he healed: Jesus gives a command in v. 11, the man follows it in v. 12, then Jesus moves on in v. 13. There is no parallel here to 16:9, where Jesus has never been a subject of any prior sentence much less the whole pericope, yet suddenly he is the subject without explanation, whereas it is the women who have been the primary subject of the entire pericope up until now (beginning at 16:1), and yet even they inexplicably vanish, and suddenly all we hear about is Mary Magdalene alone. That is not a logical transition. Moreover, Mark's narrative in chapter 2 follows a clear structure of chronological stations, beginning when Jesus is introduced into the story (1:9), then sojourns in the desert (1:13), then returns to the seashore (1:14), then goes to Capernaum (1:21), then leaves (1:35) and goes through Galilee (1:39), then he returns "again" to Capernaum (2:1), where he heals the paralytic, then he returns "again" to the seashore (2:13). The structure and transitions are clear. There is nothing of the sort for 16:9. Hence the transitions in chapter 2 are logical and grammatical, but the transition at 16:8-9 is not.

A similar structure accompanies Mark 6:45: the subject is already established as Jesus at 6:34, then Jesus gives commands to his Disciples to deliver food to the multitude (6:37-39), and in result the multitude eat (6:40-44), thus temporarily becoming the subject, then Jesus gives another command to his Disciples (6:45). The nested structure already has the subject clearly established as Jesus. So there is no parallel here to 16:9. The same structure accompanies Mark 7:31: the subject is already established as Jesus at 7:6, then Jesus teaches and interacts with the crowd, then heads toward Tyre and enters a house (7:24), then a woman begs his aid and they have a back-and-forth conversation (7:25-30), in which the subject shifts entirely as expected from her (7:26) to him (7:27) to her (7:28) to him (7:29) to her (7:30), and then back to him (7:31). The woman has departed in verse 7:29, so obviously we expect the subject at 7:31 to pick back up with who the primary subject has been all along: Jesus. Mark even indicates this by telling us he "again" went toward Tyre (thus leaving no mistake who the subject is). Again, there is no parallel with 16:9. In just the same way, at 8:1 we already know Jesus is the subject: he is the subject all the way up to 7:36, then we hear a brief audience reaction at 7:37, then Jesus is again the subject at 8:1, as we should already expect. In a comparable fashion, at 14:3 Jesus has already been the primary subject throughout chapter 13, then is temporarily the subject of conversation for just two verses (14:1-2), then becomes the primary subject again (14:3). There is no comparable nested structure at 16:9.

Moreover, all these alleged parallels show how different the style of the LE is, as Mark uses kai ("and") dozens of times to mark almost every transition in Mark 2 (19 out of 28 verses begin with kai), 6 (40 out of 56 verses begin with kai), and 7 (18 out of 37 verses begin with kai), yet the author of the LE shows no comparable fondness for kai (apart from two un-Markan transitions with kakainos, he begins only 1 of 12 verses with kai, and this despite the fact that the LE runs through no fewer than 9 comparable sentence transitions in just 12 verses), and more importantly, he doesn't use it to transition in 16:9, as we would expect if this is supposed to parallel the Markan style of 2:13, 6:45, 7:31, and 14:3 (which all transition with kai) as Terry claims. Only 8:1 uses instead the device of a participle-verb construction similar to 16:9, yet doesn't transition with the particle de. The LE does. And again, the subject of 8:1 was already established two verses earlier, in an obvious nested structure not at all parallel to 16:9. Another stylistic oddity comes from another verse that Terry mistakenly considers a parallel: only once, he says, does Mark elsewhere begin a new pericope with a participle, and that's at 14:66, which he claims is a parallel for 16:9. But in fact 14:66 begins with a genitive absolute, which is indeed a very Markan feature (it's also how he transitions in 8:1, another of Terry's alleged parallels). It's just that this is exactly what the author of the LE doesn't do at 16:9. Since 16:9 does not use the genitive absolute to mark its transition, but 14:66 does, even 14:66 fails to be a parallel, but instead shows just how different Mark's style was from the author of the LE.

The SE

The transition from the OE to the SE is smoother than for the LE, yet it is still too incongruous for the SE to have come from the original author. For the SE immediately contradicts the very preceding sentence (and without any explanation) by first saying the women told nothing to no one, then immediately saying they told everything to everyone, an error no competent author would commit. This was so glaringly illogical that in at least one manuscript a scribe erased the contradiction by deleting the end of verse 16:8 before continuing with 16:9a, but that ms. (designated "k" = Codex Bobiensis, Latin, 4th/5th century) is actually known for many occasions of such meddling with the text (the BE itself being an example: see section 2.3). The SE is thus even more illogical than the LE. Though otherwise a grammatically correct transition, it was clearly not written by Mark but by someone who could not accept his ending and had to change it, directly reversing what it just said. Mark would not have done that without explaining the incongruity (such as by mentioning a passage of time or otherwise indicating why the women changed their mind).

Style Is Not Mark's

That the LE was clearly written by another author is also sufficiently proved by its unique style. Some examples of this were already given in section 4.1.2 (above), but the evidence is far more extensive than that. It is nearly impossible for a forger to imitate an author's style perfectly, because there are too many factors to control and no one is cognizant of even a fraction of them (from the choice and frequency of vocabulary to average sentence length, grammatical idioms, etc.). And this is entirely the case when the forger makes no effort even to try. It is also very difficult for an author to completely mask his own style, especially since authors are always unaware of all the ways in which their style differs from anyone they may be emulating. And an author never even tries to do that unless he aims to.15 Thus, if the LE was originally written in a separate work, and thus not even intended as an ending to Mark, it should exhibit a wildly different style, indicative of a different author. But if the LE was written by Mark, it should be the reverse, with far more similarities than deviations. This is not what we find.

Deviations of Narrative Style

In the LE the series of events is far too rapid and terse and lacks narrative development, which is very unlike the rest of Mark, who as an author would surely cringe at the obscure, unexplained jumble of the LE. Mark composes all his pericopes with clever and elaborate literary structure, nearly everything is present for a reason and makes sense (if you understand the point of it).16 But the contents of the LE are simply rattled off like a laundry list without explanation or even a clear purpose. There is nothing in the passage that resembles the way Mark writes or composes his stories. He never rapidly fires through a laundry list of ill-described events, as if alluding to half a dozen stories not yet written. So the whole nature of the passage is starkly uncharacteristic of Mark, being "a mere summarizing of the appearances" of the risen Jesus, "a manner of narration entirely foreign" to Mark's Gospel. Indeed, as Ezra Gould had already observed over a hundred years ago, the OE's narration of "the appearance of the angels to the women is a good example of his style" and yet it's in "marked contrast" to the LE.17

Even the cursory temptation scene (Mark 1:12-13) is no comparison. It still reads like a complete unit, for which we would not need or expect any further details had we not otherwise known of them (from the expansion of Matthew and Luke). The LE, by contrast, is unintelligible without knowing the details alluded to, and is not a single event, but a long compressed series of them. Never mind that each one is of phenomenally greater narrative importance than the relatively trivial fact that Jesus was once tested by the Devil. What remains inexcusably peculiar is the great number of events, compressed to so small a space—compressed so far, in fact, that each one bears even less detail than the temptation, and what details got added make no inherent sense (as will be shown in section 4.3.1). Moreover, Mark composed a unified Gospel from beginning to end, so if Mark had written the LE, we would expect the LE to mention Galilee: he has set this detail up twice already (14:28 and again in 16:7), anticipating an appearance in Galilee. So that he would drop this theme in the LE is inconceivable. Indeed, as observed in section 4.1.1 (above), the LE not only drops that theme, it contradicts it by evidently presuming a series of appearances in and around Jerusalem.

Deviations of Lexical & Grammatical Style

The stylistic evidence is alone decisive. For the vocabulary and syntax of the LE could hardly be further from the style of Mark's Gospel. This has been known for over a hundred years, most famously demonstrated to devastating effect by Ezra Gould in 1896.18 Unattributed quotations in the present section are from Gould's seminal commentary (where also the evidence is given). Following is a mere selection of the style deviations demonstrating the LE was not written by Mark:

(1.) In the LE (a mere 12 verses), the demonstrative pronoun ekeinos is used five times as a simple substantive ("she," "they," "them"). But Mark never uses ekeinos that way (not once in 666 verses), he always uses it adjectively, or with a definite article, or as a simple demonstrative (altogether 22 times), always using autos as his simple substantive pronoun instead (hundreds of times).19

(2.) In the LE, husteron is used as a temporal ("afterward"), but never by Mark, who only uses cognates (the noun and verb) and only in reference to poverty (2 times), never to express a succession of events.

(3.) In the LE the contraction kan is used to mean "and if" but Mark only uses it to mean "even, just" (5:28 and 6:56, "if I touch even just his garment..."). Mark always uses the uncontracted kai ean to mean "and if" (8 times).

(4.) In the LE, poreuomai ("to go") is used three times, but never once in the rest of Mark (Mark only ever uses compound forms), which is "the more remarkable, as it is in itself so common a word," used 74 times in the other Gospels alone, and in Mark "occasions for its use occur on every page."

(5.) In the LE, theaomai ("to see") is used twice, but never once in the rest of Mark, who uses several other verbs of seeing instead, none of which are used in the LE. And this despite the fact that theaomai is normally a common word.

(6.) In the LE, the verb apisteô ("to disbelieve") is used twice, but never once in the rest of Mark, who always uses nominal and adjectival expressions for disbelief instead (3 times).

(7.) The LE employs blaptô ("to hurt"), a word that appears nowhere else in Mark, nor even anywhere else in the whole of the NT (except once, and there very similarly: Luke 4:35); and synergountos ("working with," "helping") and bebaioun ("to confirm"), words that appear nowhere else in Mark, nor in any Gospel (but commonplace in the epistles of Paul); and epakolouthein ("to come after," "to follow"), a word that appears nowhere else in Mark, nor in any Gospel (but used in the epistles 1 Tim. and 1 Pet.); and several other words that appear nowhere else in Mark: penthein ("to mourn"), heteros ("other"), morphê ("form"), endeka ("eleven"), parakolouthein ("accompany"), ophis ("snake"), analambanô ("take up"), and thanasimon ("deadly thing," e.g. "poison"). Not all of these novelties are unexpected, but some are.

(8.) In the LE, the expression meta de tauta ("after these things") is used twice, but never once in the rest of Mark. Among the Gospels the expression meta de tauta (or just meta tauta) is used only in John and Luke-Acts. In fact, meta tauta is so commonplace in those authors as to be stylistically distinctive of them.

(9.) In the LE, the disciples are called "those who were with him," a designation Mark never uses, and employing genomenos in a fashion wholly alien to Mark (who uses the word 12 times, yet never in any similar connotation).

(10.) The LE says "lay hands on [x]" with the idiom epitithêmi epi [x], using a preposition to take the indirect object, but Mark uses the direct dative to do that, i.e. epitithêmi [x], with [x] in the dative case (4 times). He only uses the prepositional idiom when he uses the uncompounded verb (tithêmi epi [x], 8:25). Thus Mark recognized the compound idiom was redundant, while the author of the LE didn't.

(11.) The LE employs several other expressions that Mark never does: etheathê hypo ("seen by"); pasê tê ktisei ("in the whole world"); kalôs hexousin ("get well"); men oun ("and then"); duo hex autôn ("two of them," an expression not used by Mark with any number, 'two' or otherwise); par' hês ("from whom"), which Mark never uses in any context, much less with ekballô ("cast out," "exorcise"), in which contexts Mark uses ek instead (7:27); and finally the LE uses prôtê sabbatou (16:9) where we should expect some variation of tê mia tôn sabbatôn (16:2).

(12.) The LE also lacks typical Markan words (like euthus, "early, at once" or palin, "again," and many others) while using Markan words with completely different frequencies, e.g. pisteuein ("to believe"), used only 10 times by Mark in 666 verses, in the LE is used 4 times in just 12 verses (a frequency far more typical of John, where the word appears nearly a hundred times). Any one or two of these oddities might happen in any comparably extended passage of Mark, but not so many.

In all, of 163 words in the LE, around 20 are un-Markan, which by itself is not unusual. What is unusual is how common most of these words normally are, or how distinctive they are of later NT writers or narratives, hence the concentration of so many of these words in the LE is already suspicious. But more damning are all the ways words are used contrary to Markan style, using different words than Mark uses or using Markan words in a way Mark never does. We also find 9 whole expressions in the LE that are un-Markan, which in just 12 verses is something of a record.

Certainly, any single deviation of style will occur at the hand of the same author in any passage or verse, sometimes even several deviations of different kinds, and unique words will be common when they are distinctive to the narrative. But to have so many instances of so many deviations in such a short span of verses (against a compared text of hundreds of verses) is so improbable there is very little chance the LE was written by the same author as the rest of Mark. And the above list is but a sample. There are many other stylistic discrepancies besides the twelve just listed (and the others in section 4.1.2 above, which must be added to those twelve). James Kelhoffer surveys a vast number of them in MAM (pp. 67-122).

As Darrell Bock says, "it is the combination of lexical terms, grammar, and style, especially used in repeated ways in a short space that is the point." Hence appealing to similar deviations elsewhere in Mark fails to argue against the conclusion, which carries a powerful cumulative force matched by no other passage in Mark. This is emphasized by Daniel Wallace:

First, the most important internal argument is a cumulative argument. Thus, it is hardly adequate to point out where Mark, in other passages, uses seventeen words not found elsewhere in his Gospel, or that elsewhere he does not write euthôs for an extended number of verses, or that elsewhere he has other abrupt stylistic changes. The cumulative argument is that these 'elsewheres' are all over the map; there is not a single passage in Mark 1:1-16:8 comparable to the stylistic, grammatical, and lexical anomalies in 16:9-20. Let me say that again: there is not a single passage in Mark 1:1-16:8 comparable to the stylistic, grammatical, and lexical anomalies that we find clustered in vv. 9-20. Although one might be able to parry off individual pieces of evidence, the cumulative effect is devastating for authenticity.

In fact, all the most renowned experts on this linguistic question conclude that the LE was not written by Mark and that the stylistic evidence for this is conclusive. Thus as J.K. Elliott puts it, "It is self-deceiving to pretend that the linguistic questions are still 'open'."20

The SE is even more incongruent with Markan style. Despite being a mere single verse, 8 of the 12 words in it "that are not prepositions, articles, or names" are never used by Mark—but half of them are found in the Epistles (and sometimes, among NT documents, only there).21 The whole verse consists of just 35 words altogether, 9 of which Mark never uses, in addition to several un-Markan phrases (including, again, meta de tauta). Discounting articles and prepositions and repeated words, the SE employs only 18 different words, which means fully half the vocabulary of the entire SE disagrees with Markan practice. Half the SE also consists of a complex grammatical structure that is not at all like Mark's conspicuously simple, direct style. You won't find any verse in Mark with the convoluted verbosity of "and after these things even Jesus himself from east and as far as west sent out away through them the holy and immortal proclamation of eternal salvation." The SE was clearly not written by Mark.

The Terry Thesis Revisited

Bruce Terry again claims there is nothing odd about so many unusual phrases, for even in Mark 15:42-16:6 "there are nine phrases" that appear nowhere else in Mark.22 But that's not true. Terry chooses as 'phrases' entire clauses, which obviously will be unique, since authors tend not to repeat themselves. Hence he is either being disingenuous, or he doesn't understand what a 'common phrase' is. Phrases like "after these things," "those with him," "seen by," "whole world," "get well," "and then," "[#] of them," and "from whom" are entirely generic phrases that authors tend to use frequently, or certainly often enough to expect to see them at least a few times in over six hundred verses, unless they are not phrases the author uses. Which is exactly why their presence in the LE tells us Mark didn't write it. And this conclusion follows with force because there are so many of these oddities, and some go against Mark's own preferences, e.g. using para instead of ek in "cast out from," and using prôtê sabbatou instead of tê mia tôn sabbatôn to say "first day of the week."

In contrast, almost none of Terry's 'examples' are generic phrases—and what generic structure we can discern among them is often confirmed in Markan style elsewhere. For example, he claims "now evening having come" (êdê opsias genomenês) is a unique 'phrase' but what's actually generic in this phrase is êdê [x] genomenos, "now [x] having come," which Mark uses two other times (Mark 6:35 and 13:28). So this is not unique in 15:42. Likewise, Terry claims "know from" (ginôsko apo) is a unique phrase, but it's not, as Mark 13:28 has "learn from" (apo mathete), the exact same grammatical construction, just employing a different verb, while the same verb was not unknown to Mark (who used it at least three times, just never in a context that warranted the preposition). Meanwhile, "roll on" (proskulio epi) isn't a generic phrase at all—it's just an ordinary verb with preposition, and Mark uses verbs with epi to describe placing objects on things quite a lot (e.g. Mark 4:5, 4:16, 4:20, 4:21, 4:26, 4:31, 6:25, 6:28, 8:25, 13:2, 14:35), so there is nothing unique about that here, either. And there is nothing generic whatsoever about "the door of the tomb" or "white robe." These are highly specific constructions, using established Markan words. For leukos ("white") and stolê ("robe") appear elsewhere in Mark, and mnemeion ("tomb") appears two other times in Mark (and the equivalent mnêma twice as well), and thura ("door") likewise appears four other times. Likewise, "be not afraid" (me ekthambeisthe) is not a generic clause, but a whole sentence (it is an imperative declaration), none of which is unusual for Mark, who routinely uses for negation and uses the exact same verb (ekthambeô) in 9:15. Similarly, "come very early" (lian prôi erchomai) is not a generic phrase, either, it's just a verb with a magnified adverb of time, nor is it an unusual construction for Mark, who has "go very early" (lian prôi exerchomai) in 1:35, and who otherwise uses prôi and lian several times, and erchomai often.

That leaves only two unusual phrases in verses in 15:42-16:6: mia tôn sabbatôn, literally "on the first [day counting] from the Sabbaths" (i.e. "first day of the week") and en tois dexiois ("on the right"). The former simply paraphrases the Septuagint (Psalm 24:1), which Mark is known to do (e.g. Psalm 22 all throughout Mark 15:16-34). Only the latter is very unexpected as Mark otherwise (and quite often) uses ek dexiôn to say "on the right." So these two phrases are unique to 15:42-16:6. It's just that 2 unique generic phrases in 12 verses is simply not enough to doubt their authorship (especially when one is a quotation). But 9 unique generic phrases definitely is, especially in conjunction with all the other deviations: the Markan vocabulary that's missing, the non-Markan vocabulary that's present, the un-Markan frequencies of Markan words, and the un-Markan idioms where Mark has established a completely different practice. It is all these oddities combined that makes for a vanishingly small probability of Markan authorship. Indeed, if this is not enough evidence to establish the LE wasn't written by Mark, then we should just assume everything ever written in the whole of Greek history was written by Mark.

Agreements of Style

Though there are several Markan words and phrases in the LE, there are not enough to be peculiar. Most are words and phrases common to all authors and thus not unique to Mark. Excluding those, there are only a very few agreements with Markan style in the LE which can be considered at all distinctive. And yet there are as many agreements with the distinctive style of all the authors of the NT (including both the Gospels and Epistles)—very much unlike Mark. Kelhoffer (in MAM, pp. 121-22, 138-39) lists over forty stylistic similarities with all four Gospels (and Acts). Notably those drawn from Mark show more deviation from Markan style, using different words and phrases to say the same things, while exact verbal borrowing from the other Gospels is frequent. It is thus more probable that the LE's author was influenced by NT style as a whole (see section 4.3 next), because the similarities to Markan style are no greater than similarities to the rest of the NT, whereas the deviations from Markan style are frequent and extreme. This aspect of the LE's style is very probable if the author of the LE knew the NT, but much less probable if the LE had been written by Mark.

Of course, such agreement can also be found by mere chance between any two authors. But it's even more likely when a later author has been influenced by the earlier one, and an author familiar with the whole NT could easily exhibit influence from all its authors, Mark included. This would be all the more likely if the author of the LE deliberately attempted to emulate Markan style (as a forger would be inclined to do), but if that was his intent, his effort was marvelously incompetent. For as we've seen, the disagreements of style are so enormous they far outweigh any agreement there may be. In fact, the deviations are so abundant and clear, they could argue against the original author of the LE intending it to be used as a forgery (if we assume a forger would do better). The 'forger' would then instead be some additional third party who attempted to pass off the LE as belonging to Mark. It's also possible the LE became attached to Mark by accident. But the SE can only have been a deliberate forgery, yet it deviates as much or more from Markan style, so being a lousy forgery is evidently not a valid argument against forgery. Nevertheless, I have already presented evidence (in section 4.1 above) and will present more (in following sections) that, more probably, the author of the LE did not write it as an ending to Mark but as a harmonizing summary of the appearances in all four Canonical Gospels, originally in a separate book (quite possibly a commentary on the Gospels), which was simply excerpted and attached to Mark by someone else (whether deceitfully or by accident).

Content Betrays Knowledge of the New Testament

The NT didn't exist when Mark wrote, yet the LE not only betrays knowledge of the Canonical NT (all four Gospels and Acts), it assumes the reader is aware of those contents of the NT or has access to them. As noted in section 4.2.1, this makes no sense coming from Mark, and very little sense coming from anyone at all, except someone who already knew all the stories related in the other three Gospels (and Acts) and who thus set out to quickly summarize them, knowing full well the reader could easily find those accounts and get all the details omitted here (or would already know them). Mark never writes with such an assumption. But a commentator writing a separate summary of the Gospel appearances in the NT would write something exactly like this. That the LE exhibits stylistic similarities with the whole NT, including the Epistles (as just surveyed in section 4.2), further supports the conclusion that the author of the LE knew the whole NT, and in fact was so influenced by it as to have adopted many elements of its diverse style. The author of the LE therefore cannot have been Mark.

James Kelhoffer (in MAM, esp. pp. 48-155) has already extensively proved the LE used the other three Gospels (and Acts) and has refuted every critic of the notion. I will only summarize some of the evidence here. But from this and all that Kelhoffer adds, it's very improbable these elements would exist in the LE unless the author of the LE knew the Canonical NT and intended his readers to have access to it themselves.

The LE's Use of the NT

As Joel Marcus observes, the LE looks like "a compressed digest of resurrection appearances narrated in other Gospels" (MNT, p. 1090), so compressed, in fact, it "would not make sense to readers who did not know" the other Gospels and Acts. Indeed. The entire content of the LE is a pastiche of elements drawn from the three other Gospels, stitched together in a new way that eliminates contradictions among their different accounts, and written in the writer's own voice (i.e. not copying the other Gospels verbatim, but rephrasing and paraphrasing, a technique specifically taught in ancient schools):

16:9bJesus appears (a) to Mary Magdalene (b) alone (c) on the first day of the week (John 20:1, 14-18)
16:9cfrom whom he had cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2)
16:10ashe goes to tell the men (Luke 24:9-10; John 20:18)
16:10bas they are mourning and weeping (John 16:20; Matthew 9:15)
16:11the men refuse to believe her (Luke 24:11)
16:12Jesus appears (a) in a different form (b) to two of them (c) on a road (Luke 24:13–32)
16:13athose two return and tell the others (Luke 24:34-35)
16:13bwho still don't believe them (fr. John 20:24-25; Luke 24:36-41)
16:14aJesus appears (a) to the Eleven (b) indoors (c) in a context of taking food (Luke 24:33-43; and combining John 20:19-29 and 21:5-14)
16:14band remarks on their unbelief (Luke 24:38-39; John 20:26-29)
16:15delivers the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8; Mark 6:12; with direct verbal similarities in Mark 14:9; Matthew 24:14, 26:13)
16:16emphasizes salvation and judgment (Acts 2:38, 16:31-33; John 3:18-21)
16:16and the necessity of baptism (Acts 2:38-43; Matthew 28:19; John 3:5)
16:17atheir powers will be a sign (Acts 2:43, 4:30, 5:12, 14:13)
16:17acasting out demons in his name (Mark 6:7, 6:13, 9:38-40; Luke 9:1, 10:17; Acts 5:16, 8:7, 16:18, 19:12-17; Matthew 7:22)
16:17bspeaking with new tongues (Acts 2:4, 10:45-46, 19:6; 1 Cor. 14)
16:18apicking up serpents (Luke 10:19; Acts 28:2-6)
16:18blaying hands on the sick (Mark 5:23, 6:5; Luke 9:1-2; Acts 5:16, 6:6, 8:7, 9:17, 14:13, 19:11-12, 28:8; James 5:14-15)
16:19aJesus ascends to heaven (Luke 24:51; John 20:17; Acts 1:2, 1:9-11)
16:19bsits down at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56, 5:31, 2:33; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:1; Col. 3:1; Mark 12:35-37, 14:62)
16:20athe disciples go out and preach everywhere (Mark 6:12; Luke 9:6, 24:47; Acts 1:4, 1:8, 2ff.)
16:20band Jesus confirms the word by the signs that followed (Acts 14:3; Heb. 2:2-4)
 

The only element of the LE that doesn't derive from the other three Gospels is the remark about 'drinking deadly poison' without effect. Papias claimed it was being said several generations after Mark that Justus Barsabbas (of Acts 1:23) drank poison without harm "by the grace of the Lord," the only (surviving) reference to such a power in the first two centuries.23 How that would influence the LE is anybody's guess. But the LE's claim is more likely an inference from Luke 10:19, in which Jesus says "I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall in any way hurt you" (emphasis mine), which would certainly include poisons, especially given the juxtaposition of immunity to poisonous animals. Luke mentions scorpions and snakes; the LE, snakes and poison; hence the substitution would be an easy economization of the whole thought of Luke 10:19 and a typical example of the composition skills ancient schools inculcated.

The LE thus looks unmistakably like a summary of Matthew, Luke, Acts, and John—particularly Luke-Acts and John (whose styles also influenced the vocabulary and grammar of the LE, as noted in section 4.2), which are notably the two last Gospels to be written, and only ever logically found together in the canonical NT. And conspicuously, only these four Gospels are aped here, not a single other Gospel, despite there being many dozens to choose from. Which is practically a giveaway: the LE author is simply summarizing (and briefly harmonizing) the NT Gospels. Contrary to a common assumption, there is evidence that the traditional canon was assembled in codex form already by the mid-2nd century (even though not yet declared the official NT by any particular authority).24 But that's still long after Mark would have died. One element is a near giveaway: the phrase 'two of them' (16:12) is verbatim: duo hex autôn, "two of them," in fact a very unusual way to say this, yet found verbatim in Luke 24:13, the very story being alluded two here. That suggests direct influence from Luke's actual narrative. Kelhoffer (in MAM, pp. 140-50) adduces many more direct lifts from Luke-Acts and the other Gospels.

In fact, the LE would make no sense to a reader who had no access to the NT. Why is Mary suddenly alone? How did Jesus appear to her? Where? What did he say? Who are "the two men" and why are they traveling in the country? Where are they going? And what is meant by Jesus appearing "in a different form," and why does he appear in that way only to them? Why in fact are there only "the eleven"? It's commonly forgotten that Mark never narrates or even mentions Judas' death, nor specifically describes him as expelled from the group or in any other way less likely to see the risen Jesus (as 1 Corinthians 15:5 implies he did), so if Mark were the author of the LE, his narrative would be inexplicably missing a major plot point. The LE clearly assumes familiarity with the NT explanations of Judas' death and thus his absence at the appearance to the Disciples (e.g. Acts 1:17-26), and is obviously alluding to the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene in John (a story not told in Matthew or Luke) and to the appearance of Jesus in disguise to Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus in Luke (a story not told in Matthew or John). To a reader unfamiliar with those tales, the LE's narrative is cryptic and frustratingly vague, and essentially inexplicable. Why would anyone write a story like that? Only someone who knew the other stories—and knew his audience would or could as well.

The LE is not only a pastiche of the other Gospel accounts, it's also an attempt at harmonization. To make the narrative consistent, the LE's author did not incorporate every element of the canonical stories (which would have been logically impossible, or preposterously convoluted). He also deliberately conflates several themes and elements in the interest of smoothing over the remaining contradictions, giving the appearance of a consistent sequence of events—and forcing the whole into a narratively consistent triadic structure (examined below). This kind of harmonizing pastiche exemplified by the LE is an example of the very practice most famously exemplified in Tatian's Diatessaron (begun not long after the LE was probably composed), which took the same procedure and scaled it up to the entire Gospel (only copying words verbatim rather than writing in his own voice). Kelhoffer (in MAM, pp. 150-54) discusses other examples, demonstrating that the LE fits a literary fashion of the time.

Testing the Reverse Thesis

Confirmation of this conclusion comes from the fact that the thesis doesn't work as well in reverse. Though the LE clearly exhibits knowledge of the NT Gospels, the NT Gospels show no knowledge of the LE as a whole. Luke and Matthew follow Mark closely up to verse 16:8, but then diverge completely. What themes they share with the LE have no similar order or context between them, or with the LE. The LE harmonizes them, but they fail to retain any of the LE's harmony. Thus, we can prove the LE was aware of their divergent accounts (so as to harmonize them), but the same evidence argues against the NT being aware of the LE (because no element of that harmony was retained in them).

Instead, the LE appears to be a coherent narrative unit inspired by the NT. It depicts three resurrection appearances, in agreement with John 21:14, which says Jesus appeared three times. And all three appearances have a related narrative structure: all three involve an appearance of Jesus (16:9, 16:12, 16:14), followed by a report or statement of that fact, always to the Disciples (16:10, 16:13, 16:14), which the first two times is met with unbelief (16:11, 16:13), while the third time the Disciples are berated for that unbelief, when Jesus finally appears to them all (16:14). This running theme of doubt also appears in the other Gospels, but in entirely different ways, showing no cognizance of the LE (Matthew 28:16-17, Luke 24:10-11 and 24:36-41, and John 20:24-28). The author of the LE clearly intended to harmonize the three other accounts by merging them together in a semblance of a coherent sequence, a sequence that makes no sense except at the hands of someone who knew the three other Gospels and had in mind to unite and harmonize their accounts while glossing over their discrepancies.

One might hypothesize that this shared theme of doubt, as well as other shared themes (e.g. Mark 16:15-20 summarizes the "commission" theme present in the other three Gospels: Luke 24:46-47, John 20:23, Matthew 28:18-20), indicates the LE was the source for the Gospels. But that does not fit. Those later authors must have each chosen coincidentally to drop entirely different elements from each other, and to completely rewrite the rest, all in a different order, and in consequence repeatedly and irreconcilably contradicting Mark. Which all makes far less sense than the opposite thesis, that the author of the LE was harmonizing their accounts after the fact. The LE also lacks the details that are necessary to make sense of each story, and thus assumes those details were already in print. So the LE more likely abbreviates the Gospel narratives. Those narratives are far less likely to be embellishing the LE. Moreover, the LE summarizes the appearances and events in all of the Gospels, whereas none of those Gospels used all of the LE, but each (we must implausibly suppose) must have chosen different parts to retain. Instead, they seem unaware of the other appearances and events related in the LE. It's thus improbable that the Gospels used the LE (but conveniently left out exactly those stories that the other Gospels left in, completely altered what they included, and sharply contradicted Mark in the process) but very probable that the LE used the Gospels (smartly changing or leaving out the details that contradict each other). The result, as noted, is a situation in which none of the Gospels follow the LE even in outline, while the LE follows all three Gospels, though only as closely as is logically possible, assembling all their diverse stories into a single narrative. The coincidence is unbelievable on any other theory.

The Robinson Thesis

Maurice Robinson attempts to argue the LE was composed by Mark because it employs the rhetorical storytelling devices of self-emulation by which Mark is well known to have composed his Gospel, e.g. as shown by Randel Helms in Gospel Fictions (1988). However, the triadic structure just revealed (in section 4.3.2) and the harmonizing pastiche of material using the sources tabulated (in section 4.3.1) explains far better all the details Robinson implausibly claims emulate earlier sections of Mark. Moreover, a forger could just as easily parody Mark as Mark himself could, thus even if correct, the Robinson thesis fails to independently establish that the LE was written by Mark.

In his first example (Mark 1:32-39, cf. Black, PEM, pp. 68-69) many of the parallels Robinson adduces are specious (i.e. one must stretch the imagination to see a meaningful connection) and few make any literary sense (i.e. there is no intelligible reason for the parallels and reversals being alleged), while any connections we might expect to exist on his thesis (e.g. resisting serpents and poisons, the role of laying on hands, the significance of baptism, the theme of doubt, the first day of the week, appearing "in a different form," etc.) are all absent. Not that all of these would be expected, of course, but some at least should be, e.g. Robinson's claim of an earlier parallel use of exorcism and healing entails that the matching third component (immunity to poison) should be present. Otherwise the ending does not match the beginning. All we have are generic elements repeated throughout Mark and the whole NT.

There is a better case to be made that Mark 16:1-8 reverses 1:1-9, which would instead argue that verse 8 is the original ending—as framing a story this way (ending it by reversing the way it began) was a recognized literary practice of the era (called ironic inclusio), and would neatly explain many of the peculiar features of the OE (as a manifestation of irony, a device Mark uses repeatedly), making them intelligible, in exactly the way Robinson's theory does not make 16:9-20 any more intelligible in light of 1:32-39. This is not to argue here that Mark did end at verse 8, only that Robinson's thesis is less plausible than applying his own method to arguing Mark did end at verse 8.25

Similarly Robinson's attempt to see parallels elsewhere in Mark (in Black, PEM, pp. 70-72) are either contrived ("appointing the twelve" is supposed to parallel "appearing to eleven" even though neither verb nor number are the same; Mark 6:13 refers to healing by anointing with oil, not laying on hands, which actually argues against the connection Robinson claims), or simply erroneous (e.g. he mistakenly claims Mark 3:15 contains a reference to healing). The features he claims as parallels are also nonsensically out of order and lack any of the precise cues typical of Mark's practice of emulation. As with Robinson's first hypothesis, none of the features actually peculiar to the LE (e.g. immunity to poisons, damning the unbaptized, appearing "in a different form," etc.) are explained this way, whereas every feature (these and the ones Robinson singles out) are already explained (and explained much more plausibly, thoroughly, and accurately) by the triadic harmonization thesis.

I am normally quite sympathetic to the kind of analysis Robinson attempts, but his applications fail on every single relevant mimesis criterion (order, density, distinctiveness, and interpretability). The patterns he claims to see simply aren't there. There are only generic elements ubiquitous throughout early Christian and NT literature. In fact, every feature Robinson identifies is not only explicable on the theory that Mark didn't compose the LE (but instead a harmonizer using Mark and the other Gospels did), but more explicable, particularly as the latter theory explains far more of the content of the LE (in fact, all of it).

The SE's Use of the NT

Now to revisit the SE. The SE is so obviously inept (since it immediately and inexplicably contradicts the sentence before it, and is implausibly brief) we can be certain it was not original. The SE also has an obvious apologetic function, of positively fixing Peter's primacy, and to 'complete' or 'answer' the OE. Its position in the manuscripts indicates it was intended to follow verse 8, not verse 16, hence it is the women who are the 'they' who inform Peter, which makes logical sense (it is clearly written by someone aware of the content of 16:7-8 and intent on completing the ending in a grammatically sound and intelligible way), and it clearly is meant to end the Gospel (it brings the story all the way to the exit of Jesus and beginning of the mission, and concludes with an 'amen'). Thus it had to have been forged by someone who didn't know of the LE (or any other ending), or someone who deliberately removed the LE (or some other ending) and replaced it with the SE. The former is more probable. For if such a forger knew the LE (or any LOE), he would far more likely alter it than replace it (see sections 5.1.4 and 5.1.8).

The SE is also far too brief to make sense from the pen of Mark: it seems to assume knowledge of the Book of Acts (e.g. Acts 1:8, and the subsequent missions to east and west depicted therein) and the Gospel of Luke (e.g. Luke 1:77). Otherwise it makes no sense, since Mark has never once mentioned 'salvation' before, much less what the 'message of salvation' is supposed to be that the Apostles then spread across the world (no such message is stated in Mark 16:5-8, for example). Likewise, Mark 16:7-8 anticipates, if anything, an appearance of Jesus, yet the SE lacks any—it simply says Jesus sent them, thus it assumes the reader is already familiar with what that means and how Jesus did that, and thus is already familiar with the NT appearance narratives in the other Gospels. This fact, combined with the lack of Markan style, condemns the SE as a forgery already from internal evidence alone.

Assessment of Internal Evidence

Already from the internal evidence it is clear neither the LE nor SE were written by Mark. As continuations of Mark's Gospel they are illogical, written in a completely different style, and betray knowledge of the Canonical NT and thus long-post-date the composition of Mark. Arguments to the effect that Mark would not likely have ended his Gospel at verse 16:8 are of no consequence to this conclusion, as they in no way entail or even imply the LE was the ending lost (there are several contenders more plausible: see section 2.4).

The External Evidence

When we turn our attention to the external evidence, this conclusion is confirmed. External evidence consists, first, of the evidence of the actual surviving manuscripts themselves, their evident dates and relationships, and the actual text they contain, as well as other physical evidence in them, such as scribal marks and marginal notes, and, second, the evidence of outside witnesses. In this case that means the Church Fathers, who are the earliest Christian writers outside the NT, several of whom quote or cite the Gospel of Mark, or even discuss what they saw in different manuscripts of Mark. The former is called the manuscript evidence, the latter is called the Patristic evidence.

The Manuscripts: Textual Evidence

A common misconception is that counting manuscripts decides what reading to regard as original. But a later reading will often have been copied many more times, precisely because it was more popular (and often for the very same reasons the emendation occurred in the first place). So often the original reading is the rarest in surviving manuscripts, not the most common. But occasionally the reverse is the case. So a more judicial analysis of the evidence is necessary. Ancient translations of the Bible afford an important source of information, as they will reflect the state of the text at the time the translation was first made, no matter how late the surviving copies of that translation are. Likewise, from many surviving copies of the original text we can often reconstruct what the manuscripts they were copied from contained, and even date when those 'source manuscripts' were made or copied from, even though those manuscripts are now lost. And some manuscripts carry far more weight than others, because they are the oldest, or used very early in contexts that entail their text held wide authority, or both.

In Greek

The oldest and most authoritative manuscripts of Mark are found in the Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) and Codex Vaticanus (B), both of which lack the LE and the SE. There are a few older papyrus fragments of Mark, but none contain any part of chapter 16 and thus are of no help in determining the state of Mark's ending.26 Both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus date to the mid-4th century and bear signs of having been treated as authoritative texts within the Church. Many of their readings agree with numerous other early mss. Both do leave a blank space at the ending of Mark, which some scholars believe may indicate awareness of a missing ending (although, of course, a lost ending may have simply been assumed). But the Vaticanus usually indicates known textual variants with a scribal mark, which is absent here, arguing against awareness of any lost ending; the space left is only large enough for the SE, which argues against awareness of the LE; and the Vaticanus leaves blank spaces after other books, demonstrating that such does not in fact indicate awareness of a lost ending.27 Likewise, the Sinaiticus also leaves a blank space after Acts, thus such does not entail awareness of a lost ending to Mark, either.28 And experts have determined the original form of Codex Sinaiticus also lacked enough room for the LE, which also argues against knowledge of the LE.29

J.K. Elliott asserts that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were produced by the same scribe (in Black, PEM, pp. 85-86), but as he adduces no arguments or evidence in support of that claim, I'm compelled to reject it as spurious. Even if they derive from the same scriptorium (a more plausible claim, although it's widely debated), Elliott himself admits such mss. can still derive from different exemplars (ibid., p. 83 n. 4), and we know for a fact these two must have, as their texts frequently do not agree. For example, Mark 1:40, 2:22, 10:26, and 15:44, all differ between the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and I just flipped to four random pages of the Aland text. Such disagreements between them number in the thousands.30 Moreover, expensive projects like these would not have relied on a single exemplar but been checked against several (e.g. the Vaticanus frequently indicates the existence of variant readings, and shows influence from both major text types, the Western and Alexandrian). Apologists like to denigrate the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus as aberrant texts, 'exceptions to the rule' (combining the fallacies of special pleading and poisoning the well) when in fact all early NT mss. are at least as deviant and flawed as they are (so cannot claim any greater authority over them on grounds of 'accuracy'), and yet these two were clearly very authoritative texts, expensively produced by the church, based on multiple exemplars, and of the earliest date among all known mss. (some scholars estimate their exemplars dated as early as the late 2nd century; and no extant mss. date earlier than these mss. themselves). They are therefore far more authoritative than deniers would have it.

In Syriac

The SE and LE are also absent from the oldest Syriac manuscript (an erased palimpsest of the late 4th century), the Sinaitic Syriac. The LE finally appears in the Syriac tradition a century later, the earliest being the Curetonian Syriac (dated to the 5th century), which shows signs of revision from a Greek exemplar, unlike the Sinaitic which appears to be more original and, unlike the Curetonian, shows direct influence from (or upon) the Diatessaron, which rather supports the conclusion that the original Diatessaron also lacked the LE (see section 5.3.3).31 The fact that other translations whose early representatives lack the LE were ultimately derived from the earliest Syriac confirms that the original Syriac tradition lacked the LE (see section 5.1.6).

In Coptic

In Coptic, all but one include the LE, but all surviving mss. date centuries after the translations were originally made, and the earliest version indicates it wasn't originally there. According to P.E. Kahle, the Coptic translation in the Sahidic dialect is the oldest (originating in the late 2nd century), yet "of the Sahidic manuscripts" that contain the LE "only one...regards 16:9-20 as part of the original text," while all "the other Sahidic manuscripts...contain evidence that some (older) manuscripts ended at 16:8." And now we know one Coptic ms. indeed lacks the LE altogether (see below). Of the others, all but one include the SE and LE "but indicate by short notes that these are alternatives found [only] in some manuscripts" (many Greek mss. indicate the same, see section 5.2; as also the Ethiopic, see section 5.1.4). The same thing is observed in the only surviving Fayyumic ms. containing the ending of Mark (extant only in fragments, whose date is unknown but must be very ancient), despite having been translated from a different Western Greek text type than the Sahidic (no later than the early 4th century). Here, "in a short note after [the SE] it points out that [the LE] was not read by all the manuscripts before the translator."

Confirming these scribal notes, we have at least one Sahidic ms. (Codex P. Palau Rib. 182, from the 5th century) that clearly lacks the LE (ending with the OE), without any indication of knowing any other text, thus confirming the conclusion that the earliest Coptic translator did not know the LE. Only mss. containing the Coptic translation in the Bohairic dialect (rendered in the 3rd or 4th century) all contain the LE without comment, so either the LE was added to the Bohairic in the later 4th century or the Bohairic derives from a copy of Mark to which the LE had become appended in the 3rd or early 4th century—while the earlier Sahidic did not (it appears to have had it added later—unless it was dropped without comment by or before the Palau scribe, but even that entails the original Sahidic translator knew the LE was not in some mss., because then the original translation must have indicated this fact, as that indication is preserved in almost all subsequent copies surviving). Then the later Fayyumic was produced by a translator aware of the fact that some mss. lacked the LE (because he said so).32 All of these facts combined indicate the LE was a rare reading and not original to Mark when the earliest translations to Coptic were made, but became incorporated later.

In Ethiopic

The Ethiopic manuscripts all contain the SE and LE (or only the LE), but all date well after the 4th or 5th century when the translation was made. The earliest are the Garima Gospels, recently re-dated to the 7th century, which contain the LE alone, and beyond that the earliest surviving ms. dates no earlier than the 9th century. And as with the Coptic, evidence suggests the original Ethiopic translation lacked the LE. Of 65 Ethiopic mss. now extant, 18 contain the LE alone, while the other 47 contain the SE followed by the LE, and 13 of those indicate the LE was an addition (with symbols or terminations separating it from the SE, or actual scribal notes declaring it).33 Although a few of the oldest mss. (one dating as far back as the 7th century) have only the LE, the later mss. that indicate otherwise (i.e. that the LE was later appended and earlier mss. ended with the SE alone) likely derive from an even earlier tradition.

Since the original Ethiopic translation was made at the end of the 5th century, there had been plenty of time (around four centuries) for one tradition to append the LE and another tradition to append the SE (or the original translation may have simply begun with the SE). The second tradition then came to append the LE by influence from the first tradition. One might instead hypothesize that the original translation was derived from a Greek exemplar containing the DE and scribal indications of the LE being unknown in some mss. (which by the 5th century, when the Ethiopic translation was made, would be entirely plausible), but that would not explain the Ethiopic mss. that lack the SE. So one tradition must have contained the LE alone, and the other the SE alone, and then the SE tradition was merged with the LE tradition by adding the latter to the former. The reverse is far less likely, as it would require interpolating the SE between the OE and LE, which makes no logical sense, since the SE and LE contradict each other, and the SE adds nothing not already in the LE. And if the SE were appended as an alternative to an original tradition that ended with the LE, then the SE would more likely be placed after the LE, or in the margins. Even more likely, the SE would simply be rejected (and thus not appear at all), or else the LE would be replaced with the SE (see sections 4.3.4 and 5.1.8).

Consequently, the only plausible way so many Ethiopic mss. could have the SE followed by the LE (and for so many of those to clearly indicate that the LE was not original and for there to be so many Ethiopic mss. that contain only the LE and no hint of the SE) is if the LE was not in the original Ethiopic but came to be appended to some Ethiopic mss. sometime between the 5th and 7th centuries, while all other mss. in that period contained (or acquired) only the SE—and then these two traditions became combined in the later middle ages (exactly as would happen in the Greek, and possibly even inspired thereby). Thus if the Ethiopic translation began without the LE, all the evidence is easy to explain, but if it began with the LE, that same evidence is harder to explain. Therefore, the original Ethiopic tradition probably lacked the LE. And even if not, it must still have begun with explicit knowledge of the fact, by outright stating it, that many of the mss. it was translated from lacked the LE.

In Latin

The late-4th century Vulgate translation contains the LE, but the earliest Latin translation lacks it: the 4th century Codex Bobiensis contains only the SE (altered, as noted in section 2.3). This represents a translation dating at least as far back as the 3rd century and possibly even the late 2nd century (based on telltale evidence in the mss., according to experts who have examined it), which establishes that the absence of the LE predates the 4th century (and possibly even the 3rd). This demonstrates that the LE did not exist in the exemplar used by one of the earliest Latin translators. Codex Vercellensis dates from around the same time, containing yet another Latin translation (thus originating from a different Greek archetype), yet it, too, lacked the LE. Vercellensis actually had a page containing the LE tacked into it by a later scribe. Experts have verified that the original leaves lacked the space to have ever contained the LE before this.34 Thus the two oldest Latin mss. (which are in fact older than even most Greek mss.) directly attest the absence of the LE.

Other non-Vulgate Latin translations (collectively called Old Latin) contain the LE, but all extant mss. of these are of late date. The only early mss. in this category date from the 5th or even as late as the 6th century, exhibiting translations made in the 3rd or 4th century (though we still can't confirm the LE was in these original translations). There are only three of these: Codex Bezae, Codex Sangallensis 1394, and Codex Corbeiensis II.35 All these Old Latin mss. are thus late enough that they could have had translations of the LE added onto them well after it had already become popular in Greek mss. (just as happened in every other translation tradition). Or any of them could have been translated from a copy of Mark containing the LE circulating in the 4th century (see section 5.3.10). Otherwise, the Bobiensis and Vercellensis translations predate these, and they lacked the LE. Only a century or more later does the LE appear in any Latin translations (just as we see in the Syriac and Coptic traditions), and in every case these later translations either derive from a time after the LE was already being accepted as the ending of Mark (e.g. the Vulgate was translated by Jerome exactly when the LE was starting to become popular in the Greek: see section 5.3.12) or are suspect as later additions. As noted above, we can already see one case of the LE being surreptitiously 'inserted' into a Latin tradition. So we have good reason to suspect this is how the LE may have ended up in other Old Latin texts—because the oldest Latin mss. and translations lacked the LE.

In Georgic and Armenian

The oldest Georgic manuscript (dating to the 9th century) lacks the LE. The LE starts to appear in the Georgic tradition a century later. The Georgic translation is believed to have been made in the late 5th century, and not from the Greek but from the Armenian translation, which was made in the early 5th century by Mesrop Mashtots, itself originally from a Syriac translation, later corrected against the Greek. Although extant Armenian manuscripts are much later, most of them (nearly a hundred) lack the LE, including the earliest. Based on the trend already exhibited by the Latin, Syriac, and Georgic (and the trend evident in Coptic and Ethiopic), this suggests the LE was not known to Mesrop and only added later. This agrees with the fact that most Armenian mss. lack the LE (the LE being added so late, it had less time to propagate) and the fact that the earliest Georgic mss. lack the LE (having derived from the original Armenian, which thus must have lacked the LE), which in turn confirms the Syriac began without the LE (as the Armenian translation was originally based on it), which further argues the Diatessaron lacked the LE (see sections 5.1.2 and 5.3.3).36 These translation traditions are very early and wildly diverse geographically and culturally, and in every case the absence of the LE is earlier. Though the Armenian and Georgic ultimately derive from the earliest Syriac translation of the late 2nd century, the Latin and Coptic and Ethiopic are all independent of that, and yet all of these attest the LE was not commonly known until the 4th century. That this is directly confirmed by two expert witnesses (Eusebius and Jerome, per sections 5.3.10 and 5.3.12) settles the fact. This supports the conclusion that the LE was a late addition to the text of Mark.

Corroborating this conclusion is the fact that an Armenian author, Eznik of Kolb, quotes the LE in the middle of the 5th century, a decade or two after the Armenian Bible was translated, yet he does not quote any known translation of the Bible, but composes his own, possibly from a Greek original, which verifies the Armenian translation originated without the LE. And since we already know there were Greek mss. of Mark containing the LE at that time, Eznik's awareness of it affords no proof of its originality.37 Likewise, an Armenian translation of the Syriac of Aphraates a few decades after Eznik also attests the LE, but that also doesn't derive from the Armenian Bible, but a late Syriac copy of the Diatessaron (see sections 5.3.3 and 5.3.11).

In Gothic

The only early translation that likely began with the LE is the Gothic: a 6th century Gothic ms. (the Speyer fragment of Codex Argenteus) attests the LE in a translation probably made by Ulfilas shortly after 348 A.D. in what is now Bulgaria (just north of Greece). But as we know there were mss. of Mark containing the LE by then (see section 5.3.10), this only confirms the rarity of source mss. containing the LE, as apparently only one early translation tradition began with one (apart from perhaps one or two Latin translations of the 3rd or 4th century: see section 5.1.5).38

The SE-LE Sequence and the Robinson Thesis

The existence of the SE in numerous mss. (in several languages, including the original Greek) entails there were many root mss. that lacked the LE. The invention of the SE itself entails the LE was absent very early in the history of the text, necessitating the creation of the SE in order to address growing dissatisfaction with the OE. An even more essential clue is that all the manuscripts that include both the SE and LE always place the SE before the LE, whether in Greek or any other language (see section 5.1.4). Since the SE was most likely created by an author unaware of the LE (thus all these mss. still attest that the LE did not exist in earlier copies of Mark), any manuscript that places the SE before the LE has clearly added the LE, i.e. their ultimate 'source manuscript' (or archetype) must have contained only the SE, to which the LE was appended later. This is decisively confirmed in the physical evidence of the mss. (see section 5.2). It's also inherently obvious. No one would interpolate the SE before the LE anyway (see sections 4.3.4 and 5.1.4, and following). A large number of manuscripts containing the LE thus attest to the previous absence of the LE in the very act of including it. This happens to include numerous Greek and Latin manuscripts, and most Ethiopic manuscripts, and the earliest Coptic manuscripts that even contain the LE at all. When all those examples are thus rightly excluded, the evidence from all the earliest mss. (and translations) strongly favors the LE being a late addition to Mark.

This evidence is fairly damning. Which is why Maurice Robinson desperately advances the claim that this universal sequence (SE followed by LE) is explained by a lectionary use of the SE as a forged "optional ending" (in Black, PEM, pp. 58-59). Thus he can maintain the LE was the original ending. But his theory is too absurd to credit. Indeed, it's incredible five times over:

(1) It's implausible to presume all extant mss. (even in the various translation traditions) derive from a lectionary (which at any rate would be special pleading, and that against all probability).

(2) There is no evidence of such a practice (of providing an optional shorter ending to a whole story, much less interposed before the longer genuine one) in any lectionary. So his theory is not only wholly without precedent, it stands against all extant precedent; indeed, his own evidence of editing in lectionaries contains no instance comparable to what he is proposing: the insertion of an entire elaborate verse from whole cloth (cf. Black, PEM, p. 59 n. 74).

(3) It's self-defeating. Such a practice would entail Christians so little valued the canonical text of their scriptures that they felt free to substantially alter it just to suit lectionary convenience, and then let this error infect all other Bibles in the whole of the world, and that without any marginal note explaining the fact, but instead passing off the alteration as "according to Mark," which fact if accepted undermines rather than supports the authenticity of the LE, as it ensures Christians would have no compulsion against inventing the LE for the very same reason Robinson alleges would motivate them to invent the SE. Moreover, Robinson's theory guarantees pervasive biblical errancy. It thus kills the doctrine of inerrancy in the very effort to save it.

(4) It's directly refuted by the physical evidence in the manuscripts themselves, which uniformly declare a divergence of mss. and not a reliance on lectionary practice (see section 5.2), and by the testimony of Eusebius and Jerome (see sections 5.3.10 and 5.3.12), who would certainly not be so uninformed as Robinson's theory requires them to have been—for if his theory were correct, we would have heard it from them. To the contrary, Eusebius and Jerome don't even know about the SE, and know only mss. with or without the LE. If the SE originated in texts with the LE, their testimony would be impossible. As their testimony exists, it's Robinson's theory that's impossible.

(5) It suffers the final defect that the problem this egregious and implausible doctoring of the text is supposed to have solved (not wanting to end a daily reading at such a defeatist place as verse 8) would have been far more easily and plausibly solved by simply ending the lection at verse 10 (or even verse 6 or 7), a solution so vastly more probable that Robinson's theory fails even on the mere consideration of its prior probability. Indeed, as Darrell Bock notes, "The liturgical unit of Mark 15:43-16:8 is not long (13 verses). So why cut it off at v. 8?" (Black, PEM, p. 133). Indeed. Why not just continue all the way to verse 20? Clearly Robinson so badly wants his theory to be true that he can't even see how ridiculous it is.

So Robinson's theory is to be rejected. We must conclude that the universal presence of the SE before the LE (where they appear together) argues against the authenticity of the LE.

Assessment of Textual Evidence

Combine the above fact with all the more direct evidence that the earliest mss. and traditions lacked the LE, and we have a strong external case against the authenticity of the LE. There are only three theories that can explain all this evidence: (1) neither the LE nor the SE were in the original text of Mark (and are therefore forgeries, either of composition or insertion); (2) either the LE or SE was original to Mark but then lost by accident, and very early (and whichever was original, whether LE or SE, the other is not original and therefore a forgery); (3) either the LE or SE was original to Mark but then deliberately removed, and very early (and whichever was deleted, whether LE or SE, the other is not original and therefore a forgery). Thus, no matter which theory you adopt, you cannot escape the conclusion that Mark contains a forgery. Inerrancy is thus defeated.

And only the first theory is credible. Not only does all the other internal and external evidence confirm this, but the other two theories are deficient. The SE is not likely to have been accidentally lost, as it is much too short. Even the LE is too short. The loss of a codex page could destroy up to four whole columns of text, but the LE consumes not even two; the SE, a mere fraction of one. And early loss from a scroll is prohibitively improbable (the ending would be on the inside of the roll, attached to the cog, the least likely section to lose). The SE is also unlikely to have been deliberately removed, because it cannot possibly have contained anything anyone would want to remove. Even the LE is unlikely to have been deliberately removed, for though it contains some content that might have been undesired by some (though its prevalence in the record suggests hardly anyone disliked its content, rendering that theory implausible from the start), most other instances of motivated deletion in the manuscript tradition involve excising only the offensive material, leaving the rest—or simply altering the material to be agreeable. This is particularly evident in how material in Mark was redacted by Luke and Matthew, and how passages in Mark were emended by later scribes.39 Only occasionally did anyone delete whole sections of Mark, and not (so far as we can tell) because they were doctrinally offensive. Thus, for example, if the remark about handling snakes was offensive, we would more likely find manuscripts in which simply that one phrase or verse was removed (as indeed it was in one 15th century lectionary), or if Jesus upbraiding the Apostles was offensive, we would find altered manuscripts in which Jesus simply didn't upbraid them. If the transition was recognized as awkward, we would find manuscripts in which this was repaired by emendation. And so on. In other words, deliberate deletion cannot explain the loss of the whole LE. Hence the second and third theories are improbable, while the first theory is very probable. That it is fully corroborated in the remaining evidence (internal and external) only confirms this. Therefore, Mark did not write the SE or the LE.

The Manuscripts: Physical Evidence

Apart from the textual evidence of the manuscripts, the surviving manuscripts also contain physical clues to the late origin of the SE and LE. Annotations to this effect are actually found in numerous mss. Some mss. indicate the end of the Gospel after 16:8 by subscribing the title of the book there or placing some other symbol there (the same ways the ends of other Gospels were indicated), and then follow that with the LE (or SE and LE), demonstrating the scribe was aware of the fact that the LE (or even SE) was not originally the ending of Mark.40 This practice is evident even in other languages, including the Coptic and Ethiopic (see sections 5.1.3 and 5.1.4) and the Armenian.41 The most likely explanation of this strange juxtaposition is that their ultimate 'source manuscript' lacked the LE originally (and thus had the concluding subscription after 16:8), and then the LE (or SE & LE) was added by a second hand (i.e. a later scribe than the one who originally transcribed the ms.), and when this whole collage was copied out again it was simply copied verbatim in exactly that order (by a third scribe, transcribing either the ms. we have now or the archetype from which ours ultimately derives). That entails each 'source manuscript' lacked the LE, and the LE was snuck in later on. We actually have examples of this process in the making: actual mss. in which the LE was clearly added later in a second hand.42 We even have a medieval scribe confessing to doing this (see section 5.3.10).

Not only is the LE (or SE & LE) "often separated from 16:8 by scribal signs" like these but in some mss. there are actual "notations that state or suggest that what follows is not found in some witnesses," e.g. minuscule 199 (from the 12th century) says "in some of the copies this [the LE] is not found; rather, it stops here."43 Some of these notes derive from common ancestors, but even counting archetypes there are numerous independent notations like this, and (as just noted above) many more indicators in other mss. besides these explicit scribal notations. This confirms that numerous root mss. lacked the LE. And though in some medieval mss. there are scribal notes claiming the LE is the older reading, by then it may have appeared to be—especially to medieval scribes, who only had a few mss. to compare and no knowledge of the modern science of textual criticism. In addition to scribal markings in many mss. and scribal notes in many other mss., some mss. (like minuscule 274, and several Syriac and Coptic mss., and in a similar way even Codex Regius, commonly known as manuscript L) add the SE in the margins as an alternate ending.44 This also suggests knowledge of other now-lost mss. in which Mark ended only with the SE. The scribe of L is the most explicit, concluding Mark at 16:8 with a dotted line in one column, and then using the other column for endnotes stating that "some" mss. "also" had the SE (by itself) and that others had only the LE (and in each note providing the text of the respective ending), which could even mean L's exemplar had neither, but at the very least it means some mss. had the SE by itself. Similarly, the 7th century manuscript 083 ends with the SE and then adds a note "there is also this, appearing after 'and they were afraid'" and appends the LE. The SE and LE are even found attached in some mss. to the ending of Gospels other than Mark (usually Luke or John).45 This is most peculiar, and a fact that may be a clue to the origin of the LE.

Ariston the Presbyter

In a 10th century Armenian ms. the LE is uniquely separated from the rest of the Gospel with a note saying 'of Ariston the Presbyter'. This note appears to have been added to that ms. by a later scholar in the 13th or 14th century, and thus could be a mere conjecture.46 But it would be a strange thing to conjecture—in fact, the only plausible motive for anyone to scribble this in the margin would be their discovery that it was true. Although Metzger concludes "the probability that an Armenian" scribe of such late date "would have access to historically valuable tradition on this point is almost nil" (TNT, p. 325), that's not a sound argument, because it's even less probable that an Armenian scribe of any date would write such a note unless he did have a 'historically valuable tradition' confirming the very point being noted.

The name most likely refers to Aristion, an early 2nd century Christian elder who may have written lost commentaries on the Gospels.47 Some scholars conjecture instead that it refers to an 'Ariston' believed to be an actual disciple of Jesus, and thus (the note would be claiming) the LE was written by an eyewitness. Although passing his testimony off as Mark's would still be an act of forgery, it would also be foolish, since to pass off eyewitness testimony as instead the testimony of another author (Mark), whom everyone believed wasn't an eyewitness, would actually diminish that testimony's authority. There is thus no reason for any disciple to have done this, nor does the LE read at all like an eyewitness report (quite the contrary, as shown in section 4.3). This conjecture is thereby implausible. There is no evidence to support it anyway.

A 2nd century author is far more likely. There were two men of similar name around the same time (early-to-mid 2nd century): a certain Aristion the Elder, who (as noted above) may have written a commentary on the Gospels, and an Ariston of Pella, who composed a now-lost Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus the Jew, which was known to Origen and Jerome and which many scholars suspect was employed by Justin Martyr. Either would explain any use Justin may have made of the LE, i.e. if the LE originally appeared in either of those works (the Commentaries of Aristion or the Dialogue of Ariston), Justin could have employed it without having any idea of it being passed off later as the ending of Mark (see section 5.3.2).

Accidental or Deliberate Transfer

There is an actual commentary on the Gospels that does survive (from another author), on which Maurice Robinson observes, "the primary matter [in ms. 304] is the commentary. The gospel text is merely interspersed between the blocks of commentary material, and should not be considered the same as a 'normal' continuous-text MS. Also, it is often very difficult to discern the text in contrast to the comments" and "following gar at the close of [16:8], the MS has a mark like a filled-in 'o', followed by many pages of commentary, all of which summarize[s] the endings of the other gospels and even quote[s] portions of them" before continuing on (emphasis mine).48 Note the eerie relevance of his remarks: it was often difficult to tell where the Gospel text ended and the commentary began, and commentaries on the Gospel of Mark naturally inspired commentators into summarizing the endings of the other gospels, a perfect description of the LE. Could someone have deliberately (or even accidentally) copied out a paragraph from such a commentary and inserted it into an actual copy of the Gospel? Like, say, a commentary by an Aristion whom at least one medieval scholar had reason to believe originally wrote it?

Even Bruce Metzger has suspected something like this, concluding that "in view of the inconcinnities between verses 1-8 and 9-20, it is unlikely that the long ending was composed ad hoc to fill up an obvious gap; it is more likely that the section was excerpted from another document, dating perhaps from the first half of the second century" (TCG, p. 125). A brief summary and harmonization of all the actual appearance narratives (from the other three Gospels and Acts), is exactly the sort of paragraph we might expect to find in a Commentary on the Stories of the Lord (such as Aristion may have written), or even in Ariston's Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus, such as a summary of appearances from the extant Gospels placed in the mouth of the dialogue's Christian advocate Jason (which might even have been later mistaken as a quotation of the LE, once it had crept into some mss. of Mark). Its extraction and transfer to Mark would not be unheard of in ancient practice, particularly for someone keen on borrowing a more satisfying ending. This is all the more credible when we observe that the Western text, in which the LE first appears, typically placed Mark at the end of the Gospels, thus inviting the need to summarize (and harmonize) the appearances of the other Gospels that would all have just been read.49

This theory would explain every single oddity in the evidence: (1) it would explain the origin of the Armenian scholar's marginal note (only if he found the LE in its original context—whether an actual work by Ariston, or by some later author who clearly indicated deriving it from Ariston—would he be likely to have made a note attributing it to such an obscure author, especially an author who wrote early enough to actually be the LE's author, which is otherwise a remarkable coincidence); (2) it would explain the fact that the LE mysteriously became appended to other Gospels, not just Mark (as if originally it was not associated with Mark alone but all the Gospels, as a commentary would be—in fact, the passage may have originally been appended to the Gospels as a whole and thus became attached to whatever Gospel ended each individual collection, which in the majority Western text was the Gospel of Mark); (3) it would explain the fact that the LE shows no awareness of having just followed verses 16:1-8 (as noted in section 4.1); (4) it would explain why the author of the LE made no notable effort to emulate Markan style (and yet exhibits influence from the style of all the texts of the NT, including Mark); (5) it would explain the LE's brief summarizing character and its evident harmonizing intent (the LE reads just like a paragraph taken out of context from a commentary on the Gospels, or even a dialogue in which their content was summarized); (6) it would explain the LE author's knowledge of the whole NT (and why he limits his summary of accounts to stories appearing only in the Canonical NT); (7) it would explain the LE author's manifest assumption that his readers must know or have access to the NT (especially if the LE appeared in a commentary on the Gospels or, as in the Western text, Mark was positioned at the end of them, for then those other stories would already be in the reader's hands—being, in fact, in the very same book); (8) it would explain why the OE-to-LE transition is both illogical and ungrammatical (which makes no sense for a deliberate forger of the LE but makes perfect sense if the LE was simply cut and pasted from another book); (9) it would explain why all the physical evidence in the mss. suggests the LE began as an appendix to Mark and not an actual continuation of Mark's narrative; (10) and, of course, it would explain why all the indications are that the manuscript tradition for Mark originally and widely lacked the LE.

The LE therefore almost certainly derives from another work (whether of Aristion, Ariston, or someone else) and was transferred to the end of Mark and thus mistaken (or passed off) as Markan material.

The Patristic Evidence

That leaves only one more category of evidence: the Patristic. A major problem with relying on Patristic authority is that the manuscripts of the Church Fathers have themselves been doctored to reflect later canonical readings of the Bible. This is particularly a problem for the mss. of Irenaeus, which is thus a problem for the ending of Mark because Irenaeus is the only 2nd century author who clearly attests the existence of the LE.

The MS traditions of virtually all the church fathers show that later copyists tended to "correct" quotations of the Bible to the form of text prevalent in their own day. Consequently, Patristic writings that survive only in Medieval MSS or that are available only in uncritical editions, such as Migne's Patrologia Graeca, are of practically no value for establishing the original wording of the NT.50

Before patristic evidence can be used with confidence, however, one must determine whether the true text of the ecclesiastical writer has been transmitted. As in the case of the New Testament manuscripts, so also the treatises of the fathers have been modified in the course of copying. The scribe was always tempted to assimilate scriptural quotations in the fathers to the form of the text that was current in the later manuscripts of the New Testament.51

Quotations in the Church Fathers also commonly contradict each other and are in other ways notoriously unreliable. We even have some confirmed instances in which later Christian redactors added entire sentences or paragraphs to an earlier Patristic text.52 While the manuscripts we have now exhibit several very different textual traditions of equal antiquity, only the Western Text (whose best extant representative is Codex Bezae, although it still deviates from the Western text-type in numerous ways) is most commonly used by early Patristic authors (especially Justin, Irenaeus, and Tertullian), "all of which are characterized by longer or shorter additions and by certain striking omissions," while other text-types, such as the Alexandrian, may be closer to the originals.53 Patristic authors after the 4th century are also of no use in the present case, since we know the SE and LE were circulating as endings of Mark by then, and manuscripts containing them were growing more numerous thereafter, eventually eclipsing altogether the original text of Mark. Keeping all these cautions in mind, only the following authors are of use in evaluating how Mark originally ended.

Papias

Papias reported the miracle of Justus Barsabbas drinking poison and coming to no harm "by the grace of the Lord," which is sometimes cited as evidence Papias knew the LE (see section 4.3.1). But in fact this entails Papias didn't know the LE, which further argues the LE did not exist in the Gospel of Mark at that time (early 2nd century). For Papias definitely knew the Gospel of Mark.54 Yet he credits all this information to oral tradition, not the Gospel of Mark, and shows no knowledge of Jesus having predicted it (which surely he would mention) or that this was in any way a common sign among apostles. He instead appears to have reacted as though the effect were a surprise (uniquely "by the grace of God" and experienced by Barsabbas alone). Though we do not have a full direct quote from Papias to confirm these conclusions, they seem undeniably apparent from Eusebius' account of them. This then stands as evidence against the authenticity of the LE, not in favor of it. To the contrary, the LE's inclusion of immunity to poison may have been inspired by stories like this, not the other way around (see section 5.3.6).

Justin

The earliest author usually cited is Justin Martyr (c. 160 AD), but he provides no real evidence of the presence of the LE in Mark. In only one passage (Apology 1.45.5) he uses together the same three words appearing in Mark 16:20, but does not indicate he is quoting any Gospel there, much less Mark. Where Justin mentions the OT had predicted "the powerful word that His Apostles preached everywhere after having left Jerusalem," the "preached everywhere after having left" is all that echoes the LE, just three words in Greek and not even in the same order (the LE word logos is also used by Justin elsewhere in the same sentence but is common and expected here and thus not telltale). In contrast, the LE does not have the words 'Apostles' or 'Jerusalem', nor does Justin mention anything else that would suggest knowledge of the LE (such as the specific signs declared there, or even its appearances of Jesus). The similarity thus appears to be coincidental, or at most evidence of an idiom in wide use that separately influenced both Justin and the author of the LE (the predicted sentiment is already inherent in Luke 24:47-52 and Acts 1:8, as well as Matthew 28:19). Moreover, even if we could consider this as evidence of the LE's influence on Justin, as noted in section 5.2, Justin may have only known the LE in a text other than Mark. For Justin doesn't in fact say he is citing a Gospel, and everyone agrees he is not quoting one. Therefore, this passage cannot demonstrate the LE was in Mark at that time. Of course, even if it was, it could have been appended to copies of Mark in the early 2nd century, so even a direct quotation from Justin would be insufficient to establish the LE was originally in Mark. But we don't have any such quotation anyway.55

Tatian

It's possible that Justin's pupil Tatian incorporated the LE in his Diatessaron (or 'Harmony of the Four Gospels') after 175 A.D. But we cannot confirm that this was originally the case, as we do not have Tatian's version of the Diatessaron.56 We know the Diatessaron had additions and changes made to it over the centuries, few versions agree, and the texts we have now date centuries after Tatian. For example, a famous interpolation in John (on the adulteress, John 7:53-8:11) was evidently not originally in the Diatessaron, yet found its way in centuries later.57 The LE may have done the same. In fact, different textual traditions have the LE incorporated into the Diatessaron in different ways. Other sections of the Diatessaron also differ among the various textual traditions. So it does look like the LE was added later by different editors in different ways. At best the earliest references to the LE being in the Diatessaron appear in the works of Aphraates and Ephrem in the mid-4th century (though these are to some extent questionable: see the footnote in section 5.3.11 below). But they also attest to many other interpolations in their copies of the Diatessaron (i.e. many passages that do not now exist—and certainly did not originate—in any of the four Canonical Gospels). Thus the Diatessaron had already become corrupt by then. It is therefore of little use in determining the origin of the LE. Moreover, even if Tatian incorporated the LE, that would only confirm that it had entered some mss. of Mark by mid-2nd century, which still would not establish that it was originally a part of Mark almost a hundred years earlier.

Tertullian

Supposed evidences of Tertullian's knowledge of the LE (c. 190 A.D.) are invalid because they can more easily derive from the other Gospel texts and Christian teachings that the LE itself drew upon. Passages from Tertullian exhibit no features distinctive of the LE, nor give any indication Tertullian is quoting anything, much less the Gospel of Mark. Tertullian, On the Soul 25.8 (seven demons expelled from Mary) derives from Luke; On the Cure for Heretics 30.16 (Apostles given powers) derives from Acts and the Epistles; On the Resurrection 51.1 and Against Praxeas 2.1 and 30.5 (Jesus rising to sit at the right hand of God) obviously derive from Acts 1:11 (and Mark 12:36 and 14:62), not the LE; likewise, On Fleeing Persecution 10.2 (believers given power over demons) can just as easily derive from Mark 6:7 and elsewhere. See table in section 4.3.1 for obvious alternative sources. Other references are even less relevant, e.g. On Baptism 10.7 explicitly interprets a saying of John the Baptist, not Jesus, and conspicuously lacks reference to the Gospel of Mark; and Tertullian's remarks here otherwise doesn't resemble the LE at all, but merely echo standard Christian belief of the time. In other words, we can't argue from any of this evidence that Tertullian knew the LE. To the contrary, the absence of any direct reference in any of these passages to what Jesus says in the LE argues Tertullian didn't know the LE. For a declaration of Jesus on these facts would have clinched Tertullian's point in almost every case, which makes the absence of the LE in these passages far more telling. Nor can we argue from any of these passages that Tertullian knew the LE was in Mark, for like Justin, even if we could prove Tertullian knew the LE (and we can't), that would not prove he knew it as the ending of Mark, rather than as a text in some other work (see section 5.2).

Irenaeus

The only other relevant author from the 2nd century is Irenaeus (c. 185 AD). He appears to provide the only reliable evidence that the LE was in any copies of Mark in the 2nd century. But the mss. of Irenaeus are notoriously corrupt and problematic. He only mentions the LE once, and that in a passage that only survives in Latin translation, yet the Latin texts of Irenaeus are among those most tampered with. The claim has been made that Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c. 450 A.D.) quotes this passage in the original Greek, confirming that if it had been interpolated, it happened in the Greek before the Latin translation was made (which would certainly be possible). But this is not in fact true. Theodoret's quotation is from a previous section of Irenaeus, not this one.58 It has also been claimed this passage is quoted in Greek in a marginal note added next to the LE in a medieval Bible, but that's also not true.59 The scholium in question only says "Irenaeus, who was near to the apostles, in the third book against heresies quotes this saying as found in Mark." It does not quote the text of Irenaeus. As that ms. dates to the mid-10th century (and the author of it's marginalia dates no earlier than the 5th century), this testimony confirms nothing, for the referenced passage could be an interpolation made anytime in the two hundred years or more after Irenaeus wrote—even in the Greek, yet for all we know this scholar could be referring to a Latin text of Irenaeus.60 So we have no Greek text of this passage. It exists only in the medieval Latin.

Certainly, on its face we would still accept this passage as confirmation that Ireneaus' copy of Mark by the late 2nd century contained the LE. But there is a persuasive argument to be made that this passage was not written by Irenaeus but interpolated (at least within two or three centuries, or even later), quite possibly by accident. The passage looks like a marginal note added by a scribe intending to add to Irenaeus' arguments in that chapter. As there was no standard notation for distinguishing marginal notes from accidentally omitted text, we have countless examples of such notes being accidentally interpolated into the text of other manuscripts. This could be one such case. According to manuscript specialist F.W. Hall, "the casual jottings of readers and correctors are often imported into the text," hence in his manual on textual criticism he dedicates an entire section to "Insertion of interlinear or marginal glosses or notes" as a common cause of erroneous interpolation in manuscripts. Robert Renehan agrees, "marginal confusions...occur frequently in mss.," giving several examples (e.g. § 35 shows several "marginal scholia which have been incorporated into the text" of the letters of Epicurus, in some cases entire sentences). In his own brief survey, Miroslav Marcovich documents at least 33 examples of this kind of mistake in the works of the early Church Fathers.61

To understand why the passage attesting the LE in Irenaeus may be an interpolation, the entire section must be quoted to reveal the flow of Irenaeus' argument, and why the LE does not appear to fit. Before this Irenaeus has spent an entire chapter arguing that Jesus is God and there is only one God in Jesus, extensively quoting the NT and OT, every instance confirming his thesis that he can find. He then concludes (emphasis added):

Wherefore also Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make the paths straight before our God." Plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him at once, whom they confessed as God and Lord; Him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had also made promise to Him, that He would send His messenger before His face, who was John, crying in the wilderness, in "the spirit and power of Elijah," "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight paths before our God." For the prophets did not announce one and another God, but one and the same, under various aspects, however, and many titles. For varied and rich in attributes is the Father, as I have already shown in the book preceding this, and as I shall show from the prophets themselves in the further course of this work. Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: "So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God," confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: "The LORD said to my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool." Thus God and the Father are truly one and the same: He who was announced by the prophets, and handed down by the true Gospel, whom we Christians worship and love with the whole heart, as the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things therein. (Irenaeus, Against All Heresies 3.10.5)

Note that before the sentence in bold, Irenaeus appears already to have concluded his argument. Yet then, out of the blue, he adds, as if an afterthought, "Also..." and quotes Mark 16:19 as verifying Psalms 110:1 (which had already been verified, and by Jesus himself, in Mark 12:35-37). Even more strangely, in none of this additional sentence does the word 'Father' appear, yet this passage is supposed to support Irenaeus's argument that 'thus God and the Father' are one and the same, because this is the argument of the preceding sentence, and the conclusion declared in the following sentence. If the material in bold is removed, we have a consistent argument from premise to conclusion. But reinsert the material in bold and there is an illogical disconnect between the argument Irenaeus is supposed to be making, and the passage being quoted—because that passage does not support this argument.

So why is it here? It would make sense as an addition to the whole theme of chapters 9 through 12, but it makes no sense appearing exactly here. And even though his section 3.10.5 is where we would expect all his quotations from Mark to appear, this particular quotation still does not fit the specific argument Irenaeus is making. It would support only a different argument, albeit one that would reinforce his overall thesis, and thus should appear as a separate argument either before or after the present one, not inexplicably inserted in the middle of it. But a scholar who wished to add reinforcing evidence from Mark to Irenaeus' overall theme would certainly place it in the margins of section 3.10.5, if he would place it anywhere. Which would explain how it later came to be so arbitrarily inserted into the text.

In further support of this conclusion, Irenaeus knows that his argument from Mark 1:1-3 requires considerable elucidation (consisting of several sentences), but the comparably required elucidation of his supposed argument from Mark 16:19 is missing. As written, the text in bold actually refutes rather than supports Irenaeus, for it plainly says Jesus was a different entity from God (sitting next to him, not in his place, and addressing each other in the third person), and it is not explained how the Psalm quoted makes any different conclusion out of this. Irenaeus would have needed to explain the connections here: how the Psalm supports reinterpreting Mark 16:19 as a confirmation rather than refutation of the thesis that Jesus and God are one and the same. He would certainly have called into service Mark 12:35-37, and explicitly identified the links we are supposed to make between the different Lords named and God and the Messiah and why we are to presume David is speaking of the latter in Psalm 110:1. Yet none of this is present. A marginal note would easily consist of a single sentence, leaving the connecting arguments implied, but Irenaeus himself would not likely deliver such a presumptuous and unfinished argument, especially one so manifestly supporting his opponents (the heretics he is here engaged in refuting). The fact that it doesn't even support the argument it is attached to only confirms the conclusion that Irenaeus didn't write this. I conclude this testimony is probably spurious.

Another passage in Irenaeus is sometimes adduced as evidence he knew the LE, but the passage in question actually argues against such knowledge.62 For it neither quotes the LE, nor uses the same vocabulary as the LE, nor even implies he is drawing any information from the Gospels at all—for he is providing his own description of current activity in the Church, which he lists not as exorcism, speaking in tongues, immunity to poison, and healing, but exorcism, prophecy, healing, and resurrecting the dead (and each described elaborately), thus showing no congruity with the LE. His list simply reflects common Christian practice and belief at the time.63 And since his point is that these powers prove the Christian gospel true, the fact that Jesus himself had said so (16:17-18: "these signs shall accompany them that believe," thereby confirming the truth of the gospel) would so soundly secure his argument that for him to neglect citing it here is patently strange. This all but proves he did not know the LE. Similarly, Irenaeus mentions "speaking with all kinds of tongues" as a power Christians displayed, but only far away from this list, in a completely different book, showing no awareness that this was ever predicted by Jesus, much less in the same place as healing and exorcism. The phenomenon is already ubiquitously discussed in the Epistles and obviously still going on, so this passage does not attest knowledge of the LE. Indeed, again, this argues against such knowledge, since here as elsewhere he fails to associate the powers listed in the LE, and fails to mention that these powers were predicted by Christ himself. That he never shows any knowledge of 'immunity to snakes and poison' being a power any Christians should or did have only confirms the point. So from these passages as well it seems much more likely that Irenaeus did not know of the LE.

Hippolytus

Hippolytus (c. 210 A.D.) refers to eaters of the Eucharist becoming immune to poison, which is said to demonstrate knowledge of the LE, but it cannot be anything of the kind.64 It neither quotes the LE, nor mentions snakes, nor even attributes the claim to Jesus, despite the supreme authority this would establish. And unlike the LE, Hippolytus associates the power with the eucharist, not baptism. Since other tales of immunity to poison were already circulating (see sections 4.3 and 5.3.1), the LE is not the only possible source of Hippolytus' claim. In fact, given the incongruities, it's the least likely source for it. Instead, unless the author of the LE was making that claim up out of whole cloth (and thus the claim is completely false, which then refutes inerrancy), the author of the LE must have been drawing on independent traditions regarding immunity to poison, which traditions could just as well be what informed Hippolytus. And even if there was no such tradition, an inference to this same conclusion from Luke 10:19 would be as obvious to Hippolytus as to the author of the LE (see section 4.3.1), so knowledge of the LE would not be required (and by his associating the power with the eucharist rather than baptism, his knowledge of the LE should even be rejected). Other alleged references to the LE in Hippolytus are nothing of the kind, e.g. that Jesus sat on the right hand of God (Treatise on Christ and Antichrist 46) derives from Luke-Acts (and elsewhere). Thus, there is nothing in Hippolytus that confirms the LE even existed, much less was known as the ending of Mark.

Origen, Clement, and Other 3rd Century Authors

There are a large number of Christian authors from 100-300 A.D. who never mention the LE, which taken together is significant but not compelling (since many NT verses are likewise unattested but still certainly authentic). But most telling is the silence of Origen and Clement (c. 200-230 A.D.), who each left us a huge corpus erudite with discussions and quotations of the Gospels. Similarly other copious authors, like Tertullian and Cyprian, erroneously believed to have attested the LE, in fact very curiously did not. Likewise Lactantius, despite his having written extensive treatises on Christian abilities and beliefs. Though it is always possible they just never happened to strike upon an occasion to reference the LE, given the vast extent of their respective writings this at least approaches the improbable, the more so when combined with the silence of all other authors before the 4th century (apart from, at most, Irenaeus, per section 5.3.5).

Clement actually had credible occasions to quote the LE yet didn't (e.g. Stromata 4.6; On the Rich Man 34; Comments on the Epistle of Jude; etc.). So his silence is notable, even if still not conclusive. Tertullian might likewise be expected to cite the LE in several passages yet doesn't (e.g. Against Marcion 5.8; Exhortation to Chastity 4; and the passages noted in section 5.3.4). Cyprian, too (see section 5.3.8). Origen also had occasion to quote or address the LE in his extensive treatise Against Celsus (e.g. 1.6, 1.67, 2.48, 2.56-70, etc.), but most especially where he had to rebut Celsus' claim that Mary was insane. Some now claim Celsus was there referring to Mary having once been possessed by demons (and hence he must be referring to Mark 16:9), but the context disproves this. In Against Celsus 2.55 Origen tells us Celsus said only two people saw the wounds Jesus had suffered, one woman who was paroistros ("driven frantic; beside herself" or "half-mad; practically insane") and one other man ("from among those engaged in the same charlatanry"). This is clearly the scene in John (the one man being Thomas), not the LE, which contains no reference to seeing wounds, nor any appearance to a single man. Origen assumes nothing else in his rebuttal (in 2.59-62). In fact, Origen's most direct rebuttal (in 2.60) is that Celsus' claim that Mary was insane is "a statement which is not made by the history recording the fact" but a calumny entirely made up by Celsus. That suggests neither Celsus nor Origen knew of Mark 16:9, which would be a historical record of the fact (directly declaring her an ex-demoniac). Moreover, Celsus would surely have lambasted the Gospel of Mark for including other material in the LE (such as its claim of immunity to poisons and snakes), compelling Origen to make a rebuttal. Yet instead all Celsus attacks is the account in John. So the silence here argues the LE was not known to Celsus, and it supports (though does not prove) the LE was not known to Origen.65

Vincentius (via Cyprian)

Cyprian reports that in 256 A.D. bishop Vincentius of Thibaris had said at a council that the Lord "commanded his apostles, saying, 'Go ye, lay on hands in my name, expel demons'. And in another place: 'Go ye and teach the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost'." But the latter is an exact quotation of Matthew 28:19, while the former is not an exact quotation of Mark 16:17: the LE does not have Jesus giving this as a command (but rather as promising it as a sign, and descriptively in the third person, not in the imperative; the imperative is only used for his command to go and preach the gospel two verses earlier), and in the LE Jesus does not link laying on hands and the expelling of demons, but connects laying on hands and healing (a whole verse later). Hence Vincentius must be quoting some other lost Gospel or agrapha, or some tertiary source that conflated the contents of the LE (which, as already noted in previous sections, could have originated in some source other than Mark, and probably in the early-to-mid 2nd century), or he is conflating several passages from the NT (e.g. Mark 6:7-13 and 9:38-40 and Acts 14:3, cf. also Luke 10:17 and 9:49-50). Since Vincentius does not say this passage is in Mark (or even a Gospel) and the quoted words do not match those of the LE, we can derive no conclusion from this that the LE was then in Mark. To the contrary, that none of the many dozens of bishops quoted on the role and importance of baptism in this text ever quote the LE is rather an argument against anyone knowing it as scripture even by the middle of the 3rd century.66

Other Dubious Witnesses Before the 4th Century

Other documents from the 2nd century have been proposed as witnesses to the LE, but none are credible. The Epistle of Barnabas 15:9, which quotes no Gospel, merely says Jesus ascended the day he rose, which claim derives from Luke. Similarly Hermas 102 (Parable 9.25.2) contains common phrases shared with Mark 16:15, but used in a different way, in no similar order or even together, and without any indication of deriving any of this from any source, much less a Gospel (to the contrary, it is there portrayed as a direct communication from an angel). Like the reference in Justin (see section 5.3.2), this only looks like a common set of idioms and phrases in Christian preaching (derived from Gospel passages other than the LE: see table in section 4.3.1), which independently influenced Hermas, Justin, and the author of the LE. Similarly, the last verses of the extant fragment of the Gospel of Peter (vv. 58-60) do not attest the LE but in fact contradict it, saying there were twelve, not eleven disciples, no appearance to Mary, and Jesus doesn't appear to the disciples indoors at dinner, but outdoors in Galilee. All the contents of this passage are more clearly adapted from John 21 (or a common source shared by John 21) and possibly other passages tabulated in section 4.3.1.

The 3rd century Didascalia has one passage that comes close to the LE, reading (in Syriac), "But when we had divided the whole world into twelve parts, and were gone forth among the Gentiles into all the world to preach the word, then Satan set about and stirred up the People to send after us false apostles for the undoing of the word." But this is clearly not a quotation of the LE (Jesus is not even the one speaking), and it conspicuously does not conform to Mark 16:15 or 16:20. It appears to merely embellish Matthew 28:19, or simply derives from Justin (see section 5.3.2).67 Several passages in the anonymous Epistula Apostolorum (originally composed mid-2nd century) likewise bear no demonstrable connection to the LE (deriving instead from the other Gospels), and we have no reliable text of the latter anyway, only distant translations of it.68 And the extant portion of the Acts of Pilate that clearly employs the LE is unmistakably late. Some form of the Acts of Pilate may derive from the early 2nd century, but such cannot have been the text that cites the LE. Justin refers to the Acts of Pilate (in Apology 1.35.9 and 1.48.3), but the only part of the extant Acts of Pilate that could be of such early date is the appendix called The Report of Pilate to the Emperor Claudius which lacks any reference to the LE, yet contains all the material Justin claims to have found there. All other content of the extant Acts of Pilate dates from the late 4th century and later. So it is also of no use in answering the present question.69

Eusebius

So that leaves us with the 4th century and later. The next relevant author is therefore Eusebius (c. 320 A.D.). In his Letter to Marinus (a.k.a. Ad Marinum) Eusebius specifically addresses the authenticity of the LE. He says "it is not current in all the copies," and in fact not only do "the accurate copies" end at verse 16:8, but "nearly all the copies" do, the LE only "being rarely found in some copies." Eusebius was a renowned publisher of Bibles, supervised a scriptorium, and had charge of the most extensive Christian library then in the world, whose members had actively sought the gathering of countless manuscripts of the Bible on an ongoing basis for over a century (from Origen to Pamphilus to Eusebius himself), and Eusebius' authority on the Biblical text was universally accepted by his peers and successors. So the fact that he observed the LE to be rare, and not present at all in the most trusted manuscripts, proves that the later mss. tradition, in which most copies contain the LE, is a later medieval development.

This testimony supports the conclusion that the LE is not original to Mark, but was interpolated in only a few mss. sometime before the 4th century. The Eusebian Canons also exclude the LE, so Eusebius himself considered it non-canonical.70 And there is no valid basis for rejecting his testimony. He had seen vastly more manuscripts of the first three centuries than any modern scholar could ever hope to, and thus we are in no position to gainsay him. No early witness contradicts his testimony. And even if he could be exaggerating, he can't be lying, since Jerome corroborates him (see section 5.3.12), and Jerome would know, having extensive experience with even more manuscripts than Eusebius. In fact, were the evidence any different Eusebius would have defended the LE's authenticity, not doubted it, much less have supported that doubt with a lie. We must conclude Eusebius has given us a sufficiently accurate report on the state of the LE text. Eusebius shows no knowledge at all of the SE.

Eusebius' testimony alone is clear and authoritative, at least establishing the existence of the LE as of c. 300 A.D. Had it originated any later, Eusebius would have been aware of its recent appearance, but he shows no certainty as to its origin, so it can't have been composed and inserted later than the 3rd century. Accordingly, I find none of the later patristic attestations of any relevance. They merely repeat what we already know from Eusebius. Some even appear to have been using Eusebius as their source on the matter.71 Kelhoffer even shows how a remark attributed (possibly pseudonymously) to the 6th century author Victor of Antioch deviously rewrites the same argument from Ad Marinum into an argument for exactly the opposite conclusion, thus betraying knowledge of the Ad Marinum in the very effort to gainsay it. This very same passage from Pseudo(?)-Victor then confesses to having added the LE to manuscripts that lacked it! We can thus see how the LE came to proliferate in copies of Mark and the OE eclipsed.72

Aphraates, Ephrem, Ambrose

A certain Aphraates composed a collection of Demonstrations in Syriac, the relevant portion of which in 337 A.D. We don't have the originals, only much later copies, so we can't be sure he actually quoted the LE. Aphraates was employing the Diatessaron in some form. Ephrem the Syrian then composed a Syriac commentary on the Diatessaron about forty years later (c. 375 A.D.). Again we lack the originals and have only much later copies. Both seem to quote the LE and attest its presence in their copies of the Diatessaron (though one might still have doubts: see the following note). But we already know the LE had crept into copies of Mark by then (see section 5.3.10). So it could just as easily have also crept into the Diatessaron (see section 5.3.3 above). Neither author, therefore, affords any useful evidence regarding the origin of the LE.73

Ambrose (c. 375 A.D.) also unmistakably quotes the LE. But this again post-dates Eusebius, and Eusebius already attests the existence of the LE in some mss. of Mark.74 Although Ambrose never specifies what document he knew the LE from (and though he quotes it many times, he only ever quotes exactly the same section: vv. 15-18), from the evidence of Eusebius we can assume Ambrose found it in a copy of Mark and regarded it as of that Gospel. This and all later examples in Patristic sources afford no further evidence, as they merely corroborate what has already been proved: that after the 3rd century copies of Mark were circulating that ended with the LE.

Jerome and Later

The next relevant author is Jerome (late 4th century). In his Letter to Hedybia (Epistles 120.3) Jerome explicitly says essentially the same thing Eusebius did: the LE is not in most mss. and in none of the best (and he also shows no knowledge of the SE at all). He is almost certainly relying on Eusebius for this. But he would have known if Eusebius' observation was at all dubious, since Jerome's own acquaintance with the mss. was unrivaled in his day. So by approving what Eusebius said Jerome in fact corroborates him. Elsewhere Jerome says the VLE appears in some mss., especially in Greek mss., thus attesting the VLE was forged sometime in the 4th century (and thus barely one or two centuries after the LE itself was interpolated).75

Everything else after Eusebius is useless, only verifying what we already know: that by the 4th century the LE was circulating in some copies of Mark. The Apostolic Constitutions (AC) are of the late 4th century and thus of no use. Indeed, their primary source document, the 3rd century Didascalia, lacks any quotation of the LE (see section 5.3.9). Hence those elements were added to the AC later, exactly when the LE was circulating in copies of Mark.76 Later in the 5th century, Hesychius appears to reject the LE without argument (though only in a vague context), while in the 6th century Severus (in a work once attributed to Hesychius) essentially just repeats what Eusebius said about it (see section section 5.3.10 above). Since unlike Jerome their vast knowledge of the mss. is not established, their testimony doesn't independently corroborate Eusebius. The same goes for all subsequent Patristic sources.77 All other texts attesting to the LE (e.g. the late appendix added to the Pistis Sophia, which itself is in no way earlier than the late 4th century) are of such late date as to have no use in deciding the question. We know some copies of Mark ended with the LE in the 4th century, and this version began thereafter to gain in popularity. Hence further evidence only attests to what we already know. There is no other relevant evidence.

Assessment of External Evidence

From the Patristic evidence we can say with certainty that if the LE existed in the 2nd century, it was extremely rare and hardly anyone knew of it. And there is good reason to believe it was not then known as a part of Mark at all. The only evidence of such is a single passage in Irenaeus (which we have seen is of questionable authenticity) and its use in the Diatessaron (of which we have no 2nd century copies but only later corrupted ones). Only by the 4th century can we be certain it was clearly known, and known as an ending to Mark, yet even then it was explicitly known to be rare. Eusebius' account, paraphrased or gainsaid by many authors thereafter, is fairly damning: he certainly had access to numerous mss., and it was his observation that most mss. lacked the LE and that none of the mss. he trusted as the most reliable contained it. He does't even know about the SE.

Such was the state of the matter in the early 4th century. More than half a century later Jerome approvingly echoes Eusebius on this point. But we know Jerome also had access to numerous mss. and was a famous philologer and linguist (himself producing the Vulgate translation of the Bible still used by the Catholic Church and discussing in his letters many manuscripts and variants), so he would not have echoed Eusebius if he did not observe the same still to be true. Only in later centuries did the LE become increasingly more common, eventually eclipsing nearly all mss. that lacked it, even gradually leaking back into all foreign translations in the middle ages. The evidence of the manuscripts (particularly in the myriad early traditions of translation) corroborates this sequence (see sections 5.1 and 5.2). Hence "what became the majority reading in the Middle Ages started out as a minority reading," which indicates the LE was not in the original.78

Before the 4th century, none of the evidence that has been touted actually attests to the LE at all, much less as the ending of Mark, except one single reference in Irenaeus. Which by that very fact comes under suspicion. How could no one else ever show any awareness of Mark ending with the LE for nearly two whole centuries, except Irenaeus alone? Indeed, even more inexplicably, he is even represented as taking it for granted, as an undisputed fact, as if he knew of no mss. that lacked the LE and it therefore was in everyone's copy of the Bible—everyone who themselves failed to notice it. And that despite the fact that Eusebius informs us it was a rarely found reading a century later. It can easily be just luck that no one else who knew of it found occasion to reference it. But this and all other evidence still weighs against this reference in Irenaeus being authentic, and when we combine that fact with the actual evidence of that reference being a later interpolation (and thus not by the hand of Irenaeus after all), it carries force (as shown in section 5.3.5). And even if we accept that passage's authenticity, it can only establish that the LE had been appended to some copies of Mark by 185 A.D., not that it originated with Mark over a century earlier, much less was widely known as the ending of Mark. To the contrary, the most likely way no one else could know of it and the majority of mss. a century later lack it is if it did not originate with Mark.

The correct theory must explain why so many diverse mss. lack the LE—which means not just the extant ones that do (section 5.1), but all the ones we know must have (5.2, corroborated by Eusebius and Jerome: sections 5.3.10 and 5.3.12). This includes the evidence of the large number of extant mss. that append the LE to the SE, or indicate it as an uncommon reading; the evidence of the many early translation traditions, which entail that several root mss. (the mss. on which the original translations were made) lacked the LE; the evidence of the earliest extant mss. (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus in the Greek, Bobiensis and Vercellensis in the Latin), which all lack the LE; the evidence of the earliest extant Gospel texts (Matthew and Luke both follow Mark closely up to verse 6:8 but then deviate wildly, confirming that even they didn't know the LE); and the evidence of Eusebius and Jerome who both attest directly to the fact that most mss. lacked the LE (again, sections 5.3.10 and 5.3.12). Though all of this is possible if the LE were original and lost very early, all of it would be far more likely if the LE was added later. When this conclusion is combined with the internal evidence, the case against the LE is decisive.

Either way, the LE has no sound Patristic support as being original to Mark. Meanwhile the SE has no support from the Church Fathers at all (Marcus, MNT, p. 1089).

Conclusion

Kelhoffer argues (in MAM) that the LE was composed between 120-150 A.D. and possibly originated in a text other than Mark and was transferred. Other scholars have concluded the same. And I have presented considerable evidence supporting this conclusion. However, none of the evidence, even that Kelhoffer presents, establishes the conclusion that the LE had already been appended to Mark by the end of the 2nd century. As I have argued, even the testimony of Irenaeus and the Diatessaron are doubtful. However, it's certainly possible. The LE must have become appended to a copy of Mark at least by the end of the 3rd century, and there is no reason to suppose this can't have happened in the 2nd century. And whenever it occurred, all the same evidence confirms that this is indeed what happened: the LE was appended to Mark, a century or more after Mark was originally written. The style, logic, and content of the LE all demonstrate against Markan authorship, indeed decisively even by themselves, the more so together (section 4). The manuscript evidence and even the Patristic evidence strongly confirm this conclusion in every respect (section 5). And all the leading experts agree (section 3). There is therefore no rational basis for believing the LE was written by Mark. Yet it is presented as such and appears as such in the canonical Bible. The authenticity of the SE is even more indefensible. We have seen ample evidence to confirm it is a forgery, and all experts are now unanimous that it is. Thus, whether the LE or SE or both, canonical Mark contains a forgery. This conclusively proves the Bible is not inerrant but contains at least one egregious interpolation, falsely represented as original text, which can be neither true nor inspired.

Notes & References

1 Yes, some Christians actually defend the forgery as inspired (mainly Pentecostals who desperately need the snake handling pronouncement to be true), because they confess the evidence that it is a forgery is simply beyond any reasonable challenge (a noteworthy confession indeed): e.g. "'And the Signs Are Following': Mark 16.9-20—A Journey into Pentecostal Hermeneutics," John Christopher Thomas and Kimberly Ervin Alexander, Journal of Pentecostal Theology 11.2 (2003): pp. 147-170.

2 For other common examples of forgeries and interpolations, see the relevant sections of Bart Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted (2009) and Misquoting Jesus (2005), and Paul Tobin, The Rejection of Pascal's Wager: A Skeptic's Guide to the Bible and the Historical Jesus (2006).

3 Helmut Koester, "The Text of the Synoptic Gospels in the Second Century," in William Petersen, ed., Gospel Traditions in the Second Century: Origins, Recensions, Text, and Transmission (1989), pp. 19-27.

4 Quoted by Daniel Wallace, "Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism," Grace Theological Journal 12.1 (1992): p. 44 [pp. 21-50], available as of August 2009 at Ted Hildebrandt's site at Gordon College.

5 Many manuscripts omit "in their hands" in verse 18, so I have placed those words in brackets, as having a 50/50 shot at being a later addition or original to the LE. One very late manuscript even omits the entire reference to serpents, but that was later doctrinal meddling; the original LE certainly included it. Some rare manuscripts containing the SE say "Jesus himself appeared [and] sent out" the word or "Jesus himself appeared to them [and] sent out" the word, but all scholars agree these are later interpolations (the added words are missing from almost all mss., especially the oldest and the best). There are a few even rarer manuscript deviations of little importance (in both the SE and LE), but discussing them further is unnecessary for the present thesis. Note also that some scholars confusingly call the OE the SE. Here the terms will be consistently employed as I have defined them. But that doesn't mean I'm certain the OE was in fact the way the Gospel originally ended, only that among biblical experts it is most commonly (but not universally) thought to be.

6 Only one extant ms. clearly contains the SE alone (the Latin Codex Bobiensis, see section 2.2). Others that may have are ambiguous as to their original condition.

7 The ms. literally reads "truth power" (both words framing "to comprehend God's"), which is ungrammatical and thus corrupt. Some scholars suggest "and" has been dropped ("to comprehend God's truth [and] power") but the word order makes this less likely than a corruption of alêthinên into alêtheian (hence "true power").
     The full Greek of the VLE reads: kakeinoi apelogounto legontes hoti ho aiôn houtos tês anomias kai tês apistias hupo ton Satanan estin, ho mê eôn ta hupo tôn pneumatôn akatharta tên alêtheian tou theou katalabesthai dunamin, dia touto apokalupson sou tên dikaiosunên êdê. ekeinoi elegon tô Christô, kai ho Christos ekeinois proselegen hoti peplêrôtai ho horos tôn etôn tês exousias tou Satana, alla eggizei alla deina kai huper hôn egô hamartêsantôn paredothên eis thanaton hina hupostrepsôsin eis tên alêtheian kai mêketi hamartêsôsin, hina tên en tô ouranô pneumatikên kai aphtharton tês dikaiosunês doxan klêronomêsôsin. alla [poreuthentes eis ton kosmon hapanta kêruxate to euaggelion pasê tê ktisei]. The last bracketed clause is identical to the LE text.

8 Unless otherwise noted I rely on the critical edition of the Greek text provided by Barbara Aland, Bruce Metzger, et al., The Greek New Testament, 4th Revised ed. (1983). See pp. 189-92 for the endings of Mark (and p. 191, n. 6 for the VLE, on which also see C.R. Gregory, Das Freer-Logion (1908)). This includes an apparatus distinguishing which endings appear in which manuscripts (hereafter mss.), although in other cases I have found the apparatus of this edition frequently omits variants that I have personally seen even in the mss. they attest to using, which means such omissions may also exist here (so we should not assume their apparatus is complete).

9 A fact well summarized by Daniel Wallace in Black, PEM (see section 3), pp. 33-38; cf. also Darrell Bock, ibid., pp. 134-37.

10 See the Wikipedia entry on "Codex Bobiensis," with Metzger, TNT, p. 73. My translation is adapted from William Lane, The Gospel according to Mark (1974), p. 582, n. 3, and the original Latin.
      The Latin text of the BE reads: Subito autem ad horam tertiam tenebrae diei factae sunt per totum orbem terrae, et descenderunt de caelis angeli et surgent in claritate vivi Dei simul ascenderunt cum eo, et continuo lux facta est. Tunc illae accesserunt ad monimentum.
     Literally this says the angels "descended from heaven and rose up in the splendor of the living God ascended with him" but that is oddly stated and grammatically incorrect. Almost certainly the middle verb has been corrupted in transmission, from a singular to a plural. The original must have had something like surgente eo rather than sergent, and my translation reflects this. The phrase surgente eo is the ablative absolute for "as he rose up" and such a construction and sense is entirely expected here, or possibly it was sergente iu, as the ablative Iesu was often thus abbreviated among the nomina sacra even in early Latin mss., while the Greek (if this interpolation derives from a Greek source) would have used the genitive absolute (with the very same abbreviation iu), in which case this verse said "as Jesus rose up."

11 Wieland Willker, "A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels, Vol. 2b: The Various Endings of Mark," 6th ed. (2009), part of Wilker's extensive "Online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels."

12 As of October 2009 the best discussion at Wikipedia is "Mark 16:9–20 in the manuscript tradition."

13 For example, the most extensive attempt to argue the LE was and is the original ending of Mark (and thus not a forgery) is still that of William Farmer, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (1974), but his arguments have been refuted many times over by the scholars just listed. Some of his more egregious errors had already been noted in J.N. Birdsall's review of Farmer's book in The Journal of Theological Studies (n.s.) 26 (1975): pp. 151-60. Similarly, a recent debate pitting scholars pro and con reads decisively in favor of the negative (Black, PEM; see Bock's assessment therein, pp. 124-41). And other surveys come to essentially the same conclusion, e.g. Steven Cox, A History and Critique of Scholarship Concerning the Markan Endings (1993).

14 Bruce Terry, "The Style of the Long Ending of Mark," originally published as "Another Look at the Ending of Mark," Firm Foundation 93 (14 Sept. 1976).

15 For a general discussion of the principles of stylistic forgery detection see: Donald Foster, Author Unknown: Tales of a Literary Detective (2000) and Robert Eagleson, "Forensic Analysis of Personal Written Texts: A Case Study," in Language and the Law, ed. by John Gibbons (1994): pp. 362-73.

16 See, for example, the studies of Randel Helms, Gospel Fictions (1988) and Dennis MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (2000).

17 Ezra Gould, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark (1896), p. 303.

18 Ezra Gould, op. cit., pp. 301-03. Analysis of several of these stylistic incongruities has been repeated by several scholars since, generating an overall consensus: e.g. Paul Danove, "Determination of the Extent of the Text of the Gospel of Mark," The End of Mark's Story: A Methodological Study (1993): pp. 119-31; James Keith Elliott, "The Text and Language of the Endings to Mark's Gospel," Theologische Zeitschrift 27.4 (July-August 1971): pp. 255-62.

19 The kakeinon used twice in Mark 12:4-5 is still a demonstrative, i.e. it references preceding nouns in each case: "he sent another slave, and that one they bashed in the head...he sent another [slave], and that one they killed" (contrast Mark 14:2-3, where "he sent a servant...and him they beat up," using auton instead of ekeinon). The author of the LE uses ekeinos (by itself) as a synonym of autos. Mark never does.

20 Black, PEM, p. 133 (Bock), pp. 30-31 (Wallace), p. 89 (Elliott, emphasizing the fact that the peculiar features occur repeatedly in the LE, but comparable deviations do not occur 'repeatedly' in any other extended section of Mark).

21 Marcus, MNT, p. 1089.

22 Bruce Terry, "Style."

23 Reported by Papias, according to Eusebius, History of the Church 3.39.9. This tale may have independently influenced the LE, but it does not reflect awareness of the LE—to the contrary, it entails ignorance of it (see section 5.3.1).
     Against Maurice Robinson's false claim that there are other elements of the LE not found in the Gospels (besides this one) see Bock's concise refutation in Black, PEM, p. 134 (esp. n. 8), although even Bock erroneously claims the 'weeping and mourning' of 16:10 is novel (it is not: see table), and misses the fact that (a) Jesus' rebuke (and proffering of evidence) in Luke 24:35-46 entails the two from Emmaus were disbelieved (as even Bock seems aware in n. 8) and (b) four of the five signs do derive from the Gospels and Acts (see table), leaving only one novel fact: the immunity to poison drink (which, as will be argued, is a logical inference from Luke 10:19, and thus not really so very novel).

24 On the early (mid-2nd century) assembly of the NT: David Trobisch, The First Edition of the New Testament (2000) and "Who Published the Christian Bible?" CSER Review 2.1 (2007), pp. 29-32. On there being over forty Gospels to choose from (over forty are known): Christopher Tuckett, "Forty Other Gospels," The Written Gospel, Markus Bockmuehl and Donald Hagner, eds. (2005): pp. 238-53. On how ancient schools taught students to summarize, paraphrase, and rewrite passages in their own voice: David Gowler, "The Chreia," The Historical Jesus in Context, Amy-Jill Levine, Dale Allison, Jr., and John Dominic Crossan, eds. (2006): pp. 132-48; Raffaella Cribiore, Gymnastics of the Mind: Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt (2001); and see Dennis MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (2000), pp. 4-6, for a summary account.

25 On this ironic inclusio in Mark see Richard Carrier, "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb," in Robert M. Price & Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (2005: pp. 105-232), pp. 163-64.
     Mark's frequent use of irony is documented by Paul Danove, The End of Mark's Story: A Methodological Study (1993) and Jerry Camery-Hoggatt, Irony in Mark's Gospel (1992). For the OE as such: Adela Collins, "The Empty Tomb in the Gospel According to Mark," in Eleonore Stump & Thomas Flint, eds., Hermes and Athena: Biblical Exegesis and Philosophical Theology (1993), pp. 107-40.

26 See the Wikipedia entries on these mss. for more infomation: "Codex Sinaiticus" (designation: Aleph) and "Codex Vaticanus" (designation: B). Both also have project websites devoted to them: see The Sinaiticus Project and The Vaticanus Project.

27 All demonstrated by Daniel Wallace in Black, PEP, pp. 17-18. Maurice Robinson claims the Vaticanus scribe must have miscounted the number of words in the LE (in Black, PEP, p. 52 n. 44), but that's just special pleading.

28 See Wallace's discussion in Black, PEP, p. 18 n. 42.

29 Demonstrated in H.J. Milne and T.C. Skeat, Scribes and Correctors of the Codex Sinaiticus (1938), pp. 9-11; admitted reluctantly by Maurice Robinson in Black, PEP, pp. 51-52 n. 43.

30 See Wikipedia entries (cited above) for evidence and bibliography. On the debate whether they derive from the same scriptorium or even the same half of the century see Dirk Jongkind, Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus (2007): pp. 18-21. Jongkind also demonstrates throughout his text that Vaticanus and Sinaticus used different exemplars. This is now generally beyond dispute. The evidence that they nevertheless derive from the same scriptorium is much weaker. They do show many second-hand corrections aligning each other, and bear other similarities, but many of these corrections were made centuries later, some as late as the 12th century (and thus do not indicate origin in the same scriptorium), and their other similarities no more indicate a common scriptorium than a common fashion among all scriptoria of the period. Even shared decorative devices at best may indicate scribes trained in the same school, but such is not entailed, as such elements were commonplace. Moreover, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus bear significant differences (e.g. they do not contain all the same books), which argues against a common origin.

31 F. Crawford Burkitt, Evangelion da-Mepharreshe: The Curetonian Version of the Four Gospels, with the Readings of the Sinai Palimpsest and the Early Syriac Patristic Evidence (1904), pp. 215-17; and the Wikipedia entries for "Syriac versions of the Bible" and "Syriac Sinaiticus.
     The conclusions in this and following paragraphs of the main text are based (only in part) on the critical apparatus provided in Aland & Metzger (cited earlier).

32 P.E. Kahle, "The End of St. Mark's Gospel: The Witness of the Coptic Versions," Journal of Theological Studies 2 (1951): pp. 49-57; Gerald Browne, "The Gospel of Mark in Fayumic Coptic," The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 13.2 (1976): pp. 41-43; and see the Wikipedia entry for "Coptic Versions of the Bible." On the recent discovery of Codex P. Palau Rib. 182 lacking the LE see Kurt Aland & Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism (2nd rev. ed., 1995), p. 202, and Hans Quecke, Das Markusevangelium saïdisch: Text der Handschrift PPalau Rib. Inv. Nr. 182 mit den Varianten der Handschrift M 569 (1972).
     Lectionary 1602 (8th century) has the Greek on one side, Sahidic on the other, and the Greek includes the LE, while the Sahidic ends with verse 16:6 (according to Aland & Aland, ibid., p. 203), but as I do not read Coptic I could not verify whether this was where the text ended or only where the damaged mss. ends. It appears to be the latter, so I consider its testimony inconclusive. Several Greek manuscripts likewise 'lack the LE' only because of lost pages and thus are of no use as evidence (minuscules 2386, 1420, 16; and even 304, the commentary text discussed in section 5.2.2, though not exhibiting actual ms. damage, nevertheless appears to be missing numerous concluding pages, exactly where a reference to the LE might appear).

33 Bruce Metzger, "The Ending of the Gospel according to Mark in Ethiopic Manuscripts," in John Reumann, ed., Understanding the Sacred Text (1972), pp. 167-80. See also: Rochus Zuurmond, Novum Testamentum Aethiopice, vol. 1.2 (1989): 44-52, and "The Ethiopic Version of the New Testament," in Bart Ehrman & Michael Holmes, eds., The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research (1994): 142-56; and Martin Bailey, "Discovery of Earliest Illuminated Manuscript: Revised Dating Places Garima Gospels before 650" The Art Newspaper 214 (June 2010), which transmits the findings of J. Mercier, "La peinture éthiopienne à lépoque axoumite et au XVIII siècle," Comptes-rendus des séances de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (2000): 35-71. Notably Mercier only tested two of the illuminated pages, not the leafs with the Gospel text, and the Gospels were rebound centuries after being compiled (with pages out of order) so it is still uncertain if the Garima texts of Mark are actually as old as the pictures inserted among them.

34 Confirming this conclusion: C.H. Turner, "Did Codex Vercellensis (a) Contain the Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark?" Journal of Theological Studies 29 (1927-28): pp. 16-18; with more supporting evidence in Kurt Aland, "Bemerkungen zum Schluss des Markusevangeliums," Neotestamentica et Semitica (1969: pp. 157-80): pp. 169-78. See the remarks of Daniel Wallace in Black, PEM, pp. 24-25 n. 6, and Bruce Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament (1977), pp. 312-13. See also the Wikipedia entry for "Codex Vercellensis."

35 See Wikipedia entries on "Codex Bezae," "Codex Corbeiensis II," "[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Latin_Bible Vetus Latina]," and "List of New Testament Latin Manuscripts." On Sangallensis see John Wordsworth, Portions of the Gospels according to St. Mark and St. Matthew (1886), pp. xxix-xxx.
     Codex Bezae actually lost the page that would have contained the Latin text of LE, and pages were added to the Codex centuries later replacing that loss with a borrowed translation from the standard Vulgate. My examination of the evidence in Frederick Scrivener, Bezae Codex Cantabrigiensis (1864) leads me to conclude that the Latin of Codex Bezae probably did contain the LE, but that this was derived largely from the Greek opposite, with knowledge of the Latin Vulgate, and thus is not an early Latin translation, but a late translation made from a late 4th century (or even later) Greek ms. containing the LE (such as we already know existed). See also Kurt Aland & Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism (2nd rev. ed., 1995), p. 189, and Bruce Metzger, The Early Versions of the New Testament (1977), pp. 317-18.

36 Metzger, TCG, pp. 122-26; J. Neville Birdsall, "The Georgian Version of the New Testament," in Bart Ehrman & Michael Holmes, eds., The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research (1994: pp. 173-87), pp. 178 and 180; Joseph Alexanian, "The Armenian Version of the New Testament," ibid. (pp. 157-72), p. 157.
     See also "www.armenianbible.org" and Ernest Cadman Colwell, "Mark 16:9-20 in the Armenian Version," Journal of Biblical Literature 56.4 (December 1937): pp. 369-86. Colwell provides eight converging lines of evidence establishing that the LE did not exist in Mesrop's original Armenian translation, producing a fairly decisive case. This is further supported by the evidence in Albert Edmunds, "The Six Endings of Mark in Later Manuscripts and Catholic and Protestant Imprints of the Old Armenian Version," The Monist 29 (1919): pp. 520-25.

37 On Eznik's knowledge of the LE (from a source other than the Armenian Bible), see Colwell, "Mark," p. 384. The reference appears in Eznik, On God or Sects 112, quoting Jesus (first from Luke 10:19 and then from Mark 16:17-18), implying the Gospels were his source (though he doesn't specifically say so).

38 On the Gothic translation see summary and bibliography in the entries at Wikipedia for "Ulfilas" and "Codex Argenteus."

39 See Bart Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (1993).

40 Metzger & Ehrman, TNT, pp. 40-41; Collins, MAC, pp. 804-06.

41 That all the same phenomena are observed in the Armenian manuscripts: Colwell, "Mark," pp. 375-78.

42 See Willker, op. cit., pp. 6-7 (note 8 above) and Kelhoffer, "The Witness," pp. 104-09 (cited below) and Edmunds, "Six Endings," p. 524.

43 Marcus, MNT, p. 1089; Collins, MAC, p. 805; cf. Kurt Aland, "Der wiedergefundene Markusschluss? Eine methodologische Bemerkung zur Textkritischen Arbeit," Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 67 (1970): pp. 3-13.

44 Metzger & Ehrman, TNT, p. 324. For the evidence of L see the facsimile in John Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel according to S. Mark (1871), p. 126 (with the scribal notes translated on p. 123). For the SE in the marginalia of several Syriac and Coptic (Bohairic) mss. see: Clarence Russell Williams, The Appendices to the Gospel according to Mark: A Study in Textual Transmission (1915), pp. 367, 372-73, 392-95, 441 (and for ms. 274, cf. p. 418)."

45 See Colwell, "Mark," pp. 378-81.

46 On this Armenian marginal note see Colwell, "Mark," pp. 383-84.

47 Eusebius, History of the Church 3.39.14 says Papias "in his own book passes on other commentaries on the stories of the Lord from the aforementioned Aristion, as well as traditions from John the Elder," where the key phrase (tôn tou kuriou logôn diêgêseis) could actually be the title of a book (Commentaries on the Sayings [or Stories] of the Lord), or referring to such a book. Although Eusebius earlier quotes a passage (3.39.7-8) in which Papias implies he did not read the works of Aristion but asked other people about the things Aristion was saying (Aristion was evidently a contemporary), Papias only says he preferred the living word, not that he consulted it exclusively (i.e. that he preferred asking Aristion's disciples about Aristion's teachings does not mean he did not already know Aristion's teachings in writing, like the proposed Commentaries, just as Papias knew of some of the Gospels).
     It has been suggested that this Armenian scribal note refers to Aristion attesting the Barsabbas story of surviving poison (see sections 4.3.1 and 5.3.1) but the note neither contains such a remark nor is placed anywhere near verse 16:18 (where such a remark would belong). The note precedes the whole LE, was added by a later scholar (not the copyist who produced the ms.), and is so brief, there is no plausible case to be made that some prior note about Barsabbas had become corrupted into this state.

48 Maurice Robinson as quoted in The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism, entry for "Manuscript 304" available online.

49 Noted by Elliott in Black, PEM, p. 92.

50 Bart Ehrman, Didymus the Blind and the Text of the Gospels (1986), p. 6 (cf. pp. 6-7 for discussion and references).

51 Metzger & Ehrman, TNT, p. 12 (cf. pp. 126-34 for discussion and references).

52 For a general survey of why Patristic evidence "involves the greatest difficulties and the most problems" see Bruce Metzger, "Patristic Evidence and the Textual Criticism of the New Testament" in NTS, pp. 167-88 (quoting p. 167), supported by Gordon Fee, "The Use of the Greek Fathers for New Testament Textual Criticism," The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, Bart D. Ehrman and Michael Holmes, eds. (1994): pp. 191-207.

53 Metzger & Ehrman, TNT, pp. 308-09. For background see the Wikipedia entries on the "Western text-type" and the "Alexandrian text-type."

54 Eusebius, History of the Church 3.39 contains both Papias' story about Barsabbas and Papias' declaring familiarity with the Gospel of Mark, as well as all the other details mentioned.

55 James Kelhoffer makes the best case for this passage being evidence Justin knew the LE (MAM, pp. 170-75), but even his argument doesn't overcome the reasons just noted. Nevertheless, his argument is equally compatible with the conclusion that Justin knew this material from another source, not Mark's Gospel.

Some have also suggested pantachou ("everywhere") is so rare Justin can only have adapted it from the LE, but it appears so casually in Mark 1:28 and Luke 9:6 that it was clearly both a common and scripturally established idiom, and a search of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae confirms it was a very common word in Greek literature of the early Empire. Justin himself uses it ten times in his own writings (this instance making eleven).

56 Kelhoffer is more confident than the evidence warrants (MAM, pp. 170-75). Note that earlier dates are often given for the Diatessaron, but it was most likely composed in the East, and by all accounts Tatian did not go east after his conversion until the 170's. At any rate, an earlier date of composition cannot be proved.

57 See the Wikipedia entry on "Diatessaron."

58 The error originates from mistaking Rousseau's modern 'back translation' of the Latin into Greek for an actual Greek text—and then mistaking that as deriving from Theodoret. Kelhoffer, MAM, p. 170, even presents the Greek text of 'Theodoret' as if it came from him and not Rousseau, and posits theories from the text type! Probably one of the most embarrassing errors of his career. Alas, the Greek Kelhoffer quotes is Rousseau's. I verified this myself, consulting first-hand a copy of Adelin Rousseau & Louis Doutreleau, Iréné de Lyon: Contre les hérésies livre III (1974), vol. 1 (see: pp. 64-67, 79-82, pp. 144-48) and 2 (see: pp. 128, 137-39).

59 In Minuscule 1582, according to, e.g., Maurice Robinson (in Black, PEM, p. 47 n. 26).

60 Burnett Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (1953), p. 124. On the origin of this marginal note in the early 5th century or after (anytime from the late 5th to 9th century is possible) see K. W. Kim, "Codices 1582, 1739, and Origen," Journal of Biblical Literature 69.2 (June 1950): 167-75. The evidence is simply that of all the sources named by the annotator (in ms. 1582 where this citation of Irenaeus appears), the latest of them date to the early 5th century (which establishes the original author added these notes to the textual tradition behind 1582 either in the late 5th century or later), which could simply reflect the annotator's limited library or preference for venerable sources (so he could still be writing even as late as the 9th century). Moreover, the annotator who compiled the bulk of these notes is not necessarily the same one who added the note referencing Irenaeus. That could have been added by anyone at any time in the intervening centuries. An identical note appears in a different location in the 11th century manuscript 72, but we cannot deduce anything useful from this (72 might be lifting that note from any manuscript related to 1582 of any possible date).

61 F. W. Hall, A Companion to Classical Texts (1913), p. 194 (pp. 193-97); Robert Renehan, Greek Textual Criticism: A Reader (1969), p. 36 (§ 32); Miroslav Marcovich, Patristic Textual Criticism (1994), s.v. "Interpolations," Index. See also: Martin West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (1973), p. 28; and Paul Maas (tr. by Barbara Flower), Textual Criticism (1958), pp. 34-35 (§ 33) and p. 14 (§ 16). I have personally verified numerous egregious examples, amounting to entire paragraphs, accidentally interpolated into the Weights and Measures of Epiphanius (which I presented at a conference at UC Berkeley in 2005).

62 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.32.4.

63 Heb. 6:2; 1 Cor. 12:8-11, 12:28-30 (cf. Mark 5:23, Luke 4:40); and Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 39. Notably, Irenaeus says Christians exhibit "in the name" of Christ the powers of God "in proportion to the gift each has received" and then lists four gifts; Justin says Christians prove the power of Jesus by "receiving gifts, each as he is worthy, illumined through the name of Christ" and then lists seven gifts; Tertullian says something similar (Against Marcion 5.8, conspicuously quoting only Paul as evidence); evidently this was a common mode of Christian preaching (most likely based on 1 Corinthians 12, cf. Romans 12:4-9, 1Corinthians 7:8, 1Corinthians 14, and Hebrews 2:4 and 6:4-6, etc.).

64 Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 36.1 ("The faithful shall be careful to partake of the eucharist before eating anything else. For if they eat with faith, even though some deadly poison is given to them, after this it will not be able to harm them.").

65 Kelhoffer, MAM, p. 171, n. 48 also refutes the specious suggestion that Celsus knew the LE.

66 Cyprian, The Opinions of 87 Clerics at the Seventh Council of Carthage Concerning the Baptism of Heretics 37:

Vincentius of Thibaris said: We know that heretics are worse than Gentiles. If, therefore, being converted, they should wish to come to the Lord, we have assuredly the rule of truth which the Lord by His divine precept commanded to His apostles, saying, "Go ye, lay on hands in my name, expel demons." And in another place: "Go ye and teach the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Therefore first of all by imposition of hands in exorcism, secondly by the regeneration of baptism, they may then come to the promise of Christ. Otherwise I think it ought not to be done." Several other clerics at the same council likewise said heretics can only be accepted back into their church if they are exorcized by laying on hands and baptized.

The notion that heretics must be exorcised by laying on hands and baptized before being accepted back into the fold is echoed by several other clerics at the same council, but conspicuously, none cite the Lord in support of their opinion.

67 Didascalia 23.(6.8), or p. 101 of the Connolly translation. See the Wikipedia entry for "Didascalia Apostolorum."

68 See Kelhoffer, MAM, p. 171, n. 49.

69 See Kelhoffer, MAM, pp. 176-77; also "The Report of Pilate to the Emperor Claudius" at [EarlyChristianWritings.com EarlyChristianWritings.com], as well as the entire "Acts of Pilate" resource page there, and the Wikipedia entry for "Acts of Pilate."

70 James Kelhoffer, "The Witness of Eusebius' Ad Marinum and Other Christian Writings to Text-Critical Debates concerning the Original Conclusion to Mark's Gospel," Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 92 (2001): pp. 78-112 [exclusion from Canons: p. 108]. This article also shows how what Eusebius reports was a rare reading in the 4th century became the most common reading in later medieval manuscripts; and it provides an English translation of the entire Letter to Marinus with accompanying Greek text. That Eusebius was well aware of Western readings (and thus Western manuscripts) and used them on occasion (while only tending to prefer the Alexandrian text) is shown by, among others, D.S. Wallace-Hadrill, "Eusebius and the Gospel Text of Caesarea," The Harvard Theological Review 49.2 (April 1956): 105-14, so it cannot be claimed his remarks apply only to manuscripts in the Alexandrian tradition.

71 Kelhoffer, "The Witness," pp. 99-109.

72 Kelhoffer, "The Witness," pp. 104-05 (cf. also Collins, MAC, p. 805).

73 See introductions on Aphraates and Ephrem in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers vol. 13. Aphraates quotes part of the LE (only a truncated version of vv. 16-17, the verses later found in the Diatessaron) in Demonstrations 1.17 (although a quotation of 16:15 is curiously absent from Demonstrations 1.8, where we would also expect it). For Ephrem see Carmel McCarthy, Saint Ephrem's Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron: An English Translation of Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 (Oxford University Press, 1993): p. 289 (section 19.15), where a compression of Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19 is quoted in a fashion resembling what we know was in some copies of the Diatessaron of that period (although again nowhere else is any material from the LE quoted or mentioned in the whole of Ephrem's commentary, and even here the only words that would derive from the LE consist of the brief and ambiguous expression "into the whole world" which is already implied by the "all nations" of Matt. 28:19). Unfortunately we know Ephrem's text has been compromised by later editors (McCarthy, pp. 31-34) and that Ephrem would have been well aware of other versions of the New Testament besides the Diatessaron (McCarthy, p. 15), so this attestation may be much less secure than is commonly supposed.

74 Ambrose of Milan, On the Holy Spirit 2.13.(151), On Repentance 1.8.(35), and other works.

75 Jerome, Against Pelagius 2.15.

76 Section 5.3.(14) of the Apostolic Constitutions clearly just summarizes Matthew, Luke and John, and in a manner conspicuously not conforming to the LE; but section 6.3.(15) directly quotes Mark 16:16 and section 8.1.(1) directly quotes Mark 16:17-18. None of these elements appears in the Didascalia. See also the Wikipedia entry for "Apostolic Constitutions."

77 Hesychius of Jerusalem, Collection of Difficulties and Solutions PG 93.1440 (5th century A.D.) simply assumes Mark ends at 16:8. Severus of Antioch, Homily 77 (5th/6th century A.D.) repeats Eusebius. See Kelhoffer, "The Witness," pp. 101-102.

78 Quoting Daniel Wallace, in Black, PEM, pp. 24.

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