Harry Whittaker
Studies in the Gospels

257. The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:49; John 21:24, 25; Acts 1:6-8)

At some time during this last Galilean ministry Jesus laid upon the apostles the importance of a return to Jerusalem. There they must "wait for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard of me." This promise of a gift of Holy Spirit power was one which had been repeatedly made to them. They needed this divine help. How could they, out of their own puny mental equipment, understand all that had been committed to them, or bring all things concerning the words and works of Jesus to remembrance? How could they convince the world of its sin, and of God's righteousness in Christ, and of Messiah's judgment to come? (Jn. 16:7-11). How could they guide the growing ecclesia into all truth or bid it set its hope on the salvation that was yet to be brought in the revelation of Jesus Christ? For such work to be done with truth and power, the dependable guidance of the Holy Spirit was palpably necessary. On an earlier occasion, when Jesus had sent them forth preaching and healing, the Spirit's guidance had been openly manifest. Soon, promised Jesus, they would know the powers of this heavenly Advocate and Guide in yet more startling fashion.

But where else could this bestowal of heavenly grace be made except in Jerusalem, for did not one of the prophecies which Jesus himself had expounded speak of an abundant outpouring of the Spirit in Jerusalem? It was emphatically declared in the context of that promise that: "in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call" (Joel 2:28-32).

The promise of the Comforter had plainly implied that these disciples were to be left without the strength and inspiration of their Master's personal presence. But human nature is always loth to face up honestly to unpalatable truth. So this discouraging aspect of Christ's words they quietly ignored, and concentrated instead on the unmistakable fact that the Joel prophecy of the Holy Spirit was closely associated with the bringing in of Messiah's kingdom.

'Preach! preach!'

Accordingly, then, when Jesus re-joined them in Jerusalem, they pressed eager enquiries upon him: "Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" Their minds were filled with an expectation even more intense than at the time of their Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But from Jesus came no encouragement whatever of their mood of confidence.

'It is not for you to know beforehand when this desired consummation shall be," he said. This remains in the Father's knowledge only. But, (he added, apparently changing the subject abruptly) there is meantime an important job for you to do, and God's gift of Holy Spirit power is specially to help you in it. This message concerning me is to be made known to all men through your preaching. Here, then, is your task. You will begin, of course, in Jerusalem and the area around it, next go to the Samaritans (an unexpected commission!), and then (when they were expecting a big emphasis on Galilee, the scene of his own major effort) go to the remotest parts of the earth." (cp. also: "Revelation" HAW, p.268).

Their Jewish outlook would allow them to interpret the last part of this commission in only one way — they were to extend their assignment to include Jews everywhere (see Acts 11:19), even in the obscure corners of the Roman Empire and in the eastern countries where the legions had never marched. Even with this limited interpretation it remains a matter of no little surprise that they were so unenterprising in the fulfilment of their mandate. Years later they were still in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and had to be forced further afield by the ravages of the wolf of Benjamin. Their Lord really had meant "all nations."

There is another aspect of this commission now entrusted to the apostles. Was Jesus abruptly changing the subject when he spoke in this way, or was he saying: "It is not for you to know precisely when the kingdom is to be established, but I can tell you this—the coming of that great Day depends on yourselves and the work of preaching which you and your successors do in my name"? Not that the kingdom was or is to be brought in through preaching (if so, the work of Christ is a permanent failure), but rather that in the divine purposes there is a subtle connection between the way men respond to the message of the kingdom and the time of the Lord's coming to establish it. (The RV of Acts 3:19,20 and 2 Peter 3:11,12 should be pondered here). This is a much-neglected meaning of Christ's words.

If there was uncertainty regarding the scope of the task now assigned to them, it was an uncertainty in their own minds rather than in the Lord's re-statement of it, for his language was unmistakably comprehensive in its scope: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel (this gospel of my resurrection and coming glory) to the whole creation." What a contrast with his explicit instruction concerning their earlier preaching: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5,6). But now no effort must be spared to take the message to men of every race and calibre: "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them..." (Matthew 28:19). There is a neat suggestion about the shape of this expression in the Greek text that though the message was to be proclaimed to the masses, they were to be received into the church of Christ as individuals, each separately becoming a disciple. The same emphasis is even more pointed in Mark: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."

A triune baptism

This baptism was to be "into the name of the "Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Not a three-fold dipping, as some have erroneously inferred. This strange notion is vetoed both by the form of the words and by early church history. Nor was it intended to be an outward acknowledgment of belief in a Trinitarian creed, for such concepts did not crystallize out in the early church for well over a century after the writing of the gospels.

Some have argued for the omission of this three-fold baptismal formula, almost entirely on the ground that this passage is unique. But such cavalier methods betray a strange unscholarly attitude. The textual evidence in favour of Matthew 28:19 is overwhelming. However they are understood, the words must be accepted. For all its misdemeanours the early church must not be accused of a comprehensive forgery here. Two of the earliest Christian writings (the Didache and Justin Martyr) bear witness to the validity of these words. And, by implication, a mass of New Testament passages supports the vital idea that this baptism is the seal of a salvation which the Father has wrought for men through the death and resurrection of His only-begotten Son, a salvation which has been brought near to the' believer through the power of the Holy Spirit in the message preached and passed on in inspired Holy Scripture. (The following are a few of the passages relevant to this theme: 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13,14; Acts 2:33; 5:30-32; 15:8-11; 19:1-5; 1 Cor.6:l 1; 12:4-6; 2 Cor.l3:14; Jude 20,21; Matthew 23:8-10 R.V; Revelation 1:4,5 (See "Bible Studies", ch. 12.09).

Continuing instruction

Very pointedly Jesus steered his disciples away from any mistaken notion of baptism into the Faith as a beginning and end. Once baptism was administered, there was still the need for "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I command you." All too often the mistake has been made of spending long laborious hours on the careful systematic instruction and preparation of a candidate for baptism, only to leave the spiritual fledgeling to fend for himself once the rite has been administered. By contrast the words of Jesus stress the importance of expanding the spiritual education of converts after baptism. That this was a feature of life in the early church may be inferred from the fact that it was to assemblies largely made up of slaves and commoners that some of the most profound letters ever written in human history were addressed. A high level of spiritual perception is presupposed by the letters of Peter and Paul and John.

More than this, these words of Jesus convey also the impression that the pattern of community life which took shape in the early years of the church did not come about by accident or by any slavish following of Jewish precedents. All was according to the principles which Jesus himself had taught the apostles during those fruitful forty days.

Sensational signs

There was also a promise of dramatic vindication of the message: "These signs shall follow them that believe." It is understandable that in an age dominated by a wonder-working paganism, these vivid and incontestable tokens of true divine power would be necessary as a decisive witness against the vested interests of well-organized cults of magic. Today the same signs would probably be more of a hindrance than a help to the well-balanced preaching of God's saving grace in Christ. Indeed it is not altogether untrue to say that even the mention of signs here is read by some modern believers with misgivings: casting out devils, speaking with tongues, handling deadly snakes, drinking poison, healing the sick by the laying on of hands. Why should these powers be imparted to the early church and then so soon disappear, leaving later generations to apologize lamely for current ineffective witness and also leaving the door wide open for sensational charlatans with loud-mouthed claims to be the heirs of apostolic powers?

The withdrawal of the gifts of the Spirit is a thing to be profoundly thankful for. For, in the first place, this lapse of open Spirit blessing would never have happened had it not been in the best interests of the believers. The Lord has certainly done what is best for the well-being of his people. But, further, let it not be forgotten that the key virtue in Christian life is faith. What very limited scope there would be for faith today if these signs were openly available for the confutation of unbelief! "Blessed are they that have not seen (either empty tomb or Holy Spirit powers), and yet have believed."

But those who have not seen are nevertheless blessed with their own opportunity to know the risen Lord through these narratives about him. For, although Jesus provided many other signs for his disciples during the wonderful Forty Days, these which are included in the record "are written that ye (readers further afield and of later days) might believe. "Indeed, the massive omissions John refers to were deliberate. It was "that ye might believe" - for the conviction that comes from seeing and handling is hardly of the same quality as the faith which has . had no opportunity to see as the disciples saw, and yet is happily content to read and to believe on the strength of that.

Luke wrote with the same intention and the same unwavering emphasis: "... that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed" (1:4). And thus, John adds, "continuing to believe, you may continue to have Life through his
name"—he uses Life here in his own special idiomatic sense (e.g. 3:15,36; 1 Jn.3:14; 5:12,13).

John's witness

Again, at the very end of his gospel John underlines that the writing of it has been part of his commission from the Lord. His witness is true not only because he himself saw with his own eyes (19:35) but also his record is authenticated by dependable witnesses.

The Muratorian Fragment (date c. 1 80 A.D.) has this remarkable story about how John's gospel came to be written:

"It was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should narrate everything in his own name subject to the revision of the rest."

And Clement of Alexandria (c. 190), obviously an independent witness, gives this account:

"The tradition of the elders from the first that John, last, having observed the bodily things that had been set forth in the gospels, on the exhortation of his friends, inspired by the Spirit produced a spiritual gospel." Peter, the bishop of Alexandria in 300 A.D. says that he had seen the autograph copy.

Here, besides an emphatic declaration of divine inspiration, there is once again the mention of others associated with the apostle. Thus is explained the sudden occasional emergence of the pronoun "we", not only in this passage (21:24), but also in John 1:14; 19:35, and also in several places in the Epistles:! Jn. l:lff;5:9;3Jn.12;(see"Seven Epistles" HAW).

It is worth noting also that, if John had contemporaries who out of their own experience could authenticate the apostle's record, it must have been put on paper much earlier than his closing years when he was a really old man who had outlived his own generation.

The last verse of the gospel reads like a literary flourish. But is it that? -

"And there are also many other things which Jesus did (after his resurrection?) the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."

The reason for this is (Ecc. l2:12) that much study of anything to do with Jesus is a weariness of the fleshly mind. So if a man would see himself transformed into a higher and better being, a bona fide member of God's New Creation, let him lay aside all hopes of achievement through wrestling and high endeavour, and let him learn to relax in the fellowship of Christ. It was for this that John and the others wrote their gospels.

It may be that with his idiomatic use of kosmos (see ch. 107), the apostle meant it literally: The Jewish world will not be able to find room for books about the risen Jesus. They (e.g. Schonfeld) still seek to kill him, because his word has no place (s.w.) in them (Jn.8.-37).

Nevertheless, in spite of all disbelief, whether of orthodox Jew or religious Gentile, these things stand true — in token of which John appends his Amen: This is Truth!

NOTES: Matthew 28:18-20

Teach = make disciples. It is not sufficient that a man be instructed. He must also be baptized, and follow.

Therefore. Because (v. 18) all authority is now appointed for Jesus, therefore all nations must hear; Acts 17:31.

In the name of... In Gen. 1, the word 6aracomes three times.
All things: Acts 2:42.

I am with you. The Forty Days taught them this. Cp. Ex.3:12; 4:12,15; Mt. l :23 (this gospel begins and ends with this).

To the end of the world; The consummation or climax of the age; cp. 13:39,49; Dan. 12:13 s.w.

Mark 16:15-18

Go ye into all the world; cp. Jn.20:21; 21:15; Col. 1:23 (the process under way); Ps. 19:4 (Rom. 10:1 8); and contrast Mt. 10:5,6.

The gospel; i.e. this gospel: 1 Cor. 15:2
Gk. dative.- to, or for, them that believe. How reconcile with 1 Cor.l4:22; Heb.2:3b,4?

New tongues; i.e. new to the speakers.
Serpents; Mt.23:33; Ps.91:13.

Luke 24:49

I send the promise of my Father; Jn.14:16. Here 'send' is present tense.

This detail and tarry ye in Jerusalem both suggest that this paragraph belongs to the end of the Forty Days.

Tarry means, literally, sit. But after receiving the Holy Spirit they still sat, for something like 14 years. Why? The Judaist problem was the great hindrance (see "Acts", H.A.W., ch.40).

Endued; i.e. clothed — different from 'in-breathed' (Jn.20:22).

John 21:24,25

This is the disciple; cp. the authentication in Ex.6:26,27 (& Mk. 16:18 follows Ex.4:4).

Testifieth; 15:26,27. Many refs. in 1 Jn.5 allude to the writing of this gospel; see 'Seven Epistles' H.A.W
I suppose Gk: dokeo is stronger than this; I am confident.

The world itself. Possible meaning: the Jewish world would not be able to tolerate them — because of their implications concerning his Person and his Power.

Amen; unwarrantably omitted by many modern texts.

258. Ascension (Luke 24:50-53; Mark 16:19,20; Acts 1:9-12)

There came a day when Jesus led the eleven out of Jerusalem, probably at first light of dawn, along the familiar road towards Bethany. It was by this road that he had made his triumphal entry into the city. It was by this road that he had left the city each evening in the week before his crucifixion. It was by this road that he had led the disciples to his last Gethsemane. Now, once again, he was to be taken from them, but not this time to the accompaniment of hatred and threats. During the past weeks their minds had been prepared for their Lord's departure by his discourses concerning the work they were to do in his absence and also by the unnatural suddenness of his appearances and disappearances. Now they had good reason to believe that even when he seemed to be absent from them, he was still present, though unseen.

The Ascension is described by Luke (twice) and by Mark, but a careful reading of Matthew and John reveals that they imply it: Mt.24:30; Jn.3:13; 16:7; 21:23.

All the manifestations of the risen Jesus had been to believers only — "not to all people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even unto us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead." But it is an impressive thought that on this last occasion, if on no other, as Jesus led his brethren out of the city, down into the valley, and up the oblique climb of Olivet, he must have been seen by others who were all unaware that the Glory of God passed by.

They breasted the slope until Bethany came in sight over the shoulder of the hill, and then Jesus bade them farewell — not the conventional goodbye of a departing friend, but a true "God be with you.

He gave them his blessing, the blessing of a true Melchizedek-Priest (Gen.14:1 9). In doing so, he uplifted those hands (Lev.9:22) in which the marks of crucifixion were still plainly to be seen. Probably he used the words of the familiar benediction, for now none had any right to use them but himself:

"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace" (Numbers 6:24-26).

The Shekinah Glory

Even as the words were spoken, the Lord was taken up from before them. It was the experience of Elijah over again, and with a like significance — not the end of a ministry, but a change to a different kind of ministry. The impressive signs and wonders were henceforth to give way to a ministry of the "still small voice" among the seven thousand who would not bow the knee to Baal.

It would be a mistake to imagine the eyes of the disciples following Jesus on high until he was lost from their view in the misty vapours of a morning cloud. If this was all that the record intended to say, the detail would be almost too trivial to be worth mentioning. This cloud was the Shekinah Glory of God which had been manifest in cloud and fire to Abraham, to Moses and the children of Israel, to David, to Hezekiah, to Elijah and Elisha, and to the disciples on the mount of transfiguration. It was the Glory of the Lord which John was to see in Patmos and which all the world will behold when Jesus comes again "in the glory of his Father." "Behold, he cometh with clouds ," in like manner as he was received up.

In this manifestation of heavenly glory lies the explanation of Luke's added detail that "they worshipped him." They received his high-priestly blessing as Israel received a benediction from their high-priest, in an attitude of worship. Then they stood, staring into the sky to catch any last glimpse of their Lord. The ascension of Jesus was no instantaneous thing, for the Greek verb: "carried up", is continuous. And in his return he will "so come in like manner" — and only disciples will be able to observe and understand and marvel.

The apostles would have stared for a while longer had not their attention been claimed by two men of startling appearance. Vivid white raiment, impressive demeanour, and tone of authority all proclaimed them angels of heaven, perhaps the very angels who had announced the resurrection of Jesus to the women at the tomb.

"Ye men of Galilee (they knew who the disciples were!), why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

The repeated phrase (and again in verse 10) could hardly be more emphatic. It was not intended, however, to emphasize their loneliness or spiritual destitution, but rather the opposite, for even at that moment the Father was saying to the Son: "Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies (the nation of Israel!) thy footstool." So the day must certainly dawn when the Messiah will assume full authority in a world which, up to the present day, has seen no beauty in him that they should desire him.

And he will come in like manner. A bodily Jesus who could be handled, and who ate with his disciples, will once again be bodily in their presence, eating bread and drinking wine as the abiding tokens that he, the Lord of Glory, was once a sacrifice for sin. As he went away visibly, so he will return visibly: "every eye shall see him." And the very place of his return will be the same: "his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives" (Zechariah 14:4).

So the disciples returned to the city "with great joy" (Luke 24:52). Would they have been so joyful had they known that two thousand years were to drag their sinful course before their Master was seen again? The words imply strongly their expectation that this promised return of Jesus would happen in their own lifetime. And many other inspired Scriptures say the same thing: e.g. Matthew 10:23; 24:34; 26:64; Romans 13:11; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 7:29; Philippians 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 4: 15,17; 5:23; Hebrews 1:2; 10:37; James 5:9; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 John 2:17,18; Revelation 1:1,3,7; 2:5,16,25; 3:11. These words constitute one of the biggest and most neglected problems of the New Testament. See "Revelation," H.A.W., Appendix.

The grounds for the disciple's confidence lay not only in the authoritative reassurance of the angels but also in the emphatic teaching of the Scriptures which their Lord had lately taught them to read with better vision. Before they were back in Jerusalem their minds, responding to the new habit of seeking Christ in all the Scriptures, were dwelling wonder-ingly on such passages as Daniel 7:13,14 which their Lord had at least twice appropriated to himself (Matthew 24:30; 26:64): "I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages (Rev. 5:9) should serve him."

With glad excitement they talked over the sequence of passages in Ezekiel describing the departing of the Shekinah Glory of God from Jerusalem — how this visible token of God's Presence was seen by the prophet to remove from the inner sanctuary to the door of the Holy Place, and thence to the temple gate, and thence to the Mount of Olives, and thus was withdrawn from human sight (Ezekiel 8:4; 9:3; 10:4,18,19; 11:23). How their spirits would have been depressed, by the contemplation of this prophecy, had there not been also the equally vivid description of a return: "And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory... And the Glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east,... and behold the Glory of the Lord filled the house" (Ezekiel 43:2,4,5).

The apostles quickly saw the need why their Lord should leave them. Had he not fore-warned them? — "It is for your benefit that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." As his followers became a growing community it would no longer be fitting for Christ their Lord to be localised. Instead, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, divine guidance would be available to all. So he had ascended on high to receive and distribute the Spirit's gifts to men, that thus the Lord God might dwell among them (Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8).

When the Feast of Pentecost came, bringing greater blessings than the first Pentecost could ever bestow (Exodus 19,20), the disciples were no longer puzzled by the strange paradox in their Master's words. He had bidden them remember him in Bread and Wine, and thus "show forth the Lord's death till he come"—the words declared his real absence, not his real presence. Yet were not his very last words to them: "Lo, I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age"? His earlier use of the same expression had clear reference to a return from heaven as judge of all (Matthew 13:39 RVm). So in all ages the guidance and blessing of the disciples was assured. If at times there has seemed little of blessing or spiritual prosperity among them, must it not be through downright lack of faith in this promise? But the eleven were untrammelled by any such handicap, and they "returned to Jerusalem with great joy."

NOTES Luke 24:50-53.

He led them out. This Gk. word is used often for the deliverance of Israel; e.g. Acts 7:40.

As far as to Bethany. There is implied symbolism here, for it was in Bethany that a friend of Jesus was risen from the dead when at last the Lord came to his graveside. Also, Bethany = Place of Date Palms. On this see "Bible Studies", H.A.W, p. 135.

Blessed them. The Law began and ended with curse: Gen.3:14-19; Mal.4:6; but the Gospel with blessing: Lk. 1:42; 24:50, and in v.51 the verb is continuous inform. The Melchizedek blessing is implied also in the repetition of heaven and earth in Mt.28:l 8 from Gen. 14:19.
Carried up into heaven. In LXX this verb is commonly used for the presenting of sacrifice before God.

Jesus had been impatient for the cross (Lk. 12:50; Mk.l 0;32) but the language of this verse suggests a reluctance to leave the disciples.
With great joy;Jln. l6:20,22; 14:28.
In the temple. See "Acts", H.A.W, p.20.

Mark 16:19, 20.

RV: The Lord Jesus. A unique title in Mark. Cp. in this respect ch.1:1.

Received up into heaven, cp. 2 Kgs.2:9-12: " the Spirit...taken up (s.w.) into heaven... parted...saw it" and instead of the Cloud, a whirlwind and chariots of fire.

Sat on the right hand of God: 1 Sam.7:18; Ps.110:1
They went forth and preached everywhere. What a remarkable contrast with Lk. 24:52,53.

Confirming the word; Is. 44:26.

see also "Studies in Acts". H.A.W, ch.4.

259. The Last Twelve Verses of Mark

Today it is an almost universally accepted conclusion of modern scholarship that the last twelve verses of Mark's gospel were not written by Mark. "It may now be regarded as an assured finding of criticism that these verses are not part of Mark's Gospel. The internal evidence, in itself really decisive for their rejection, is confirmed by the external testimony." This quotation from the notes of Weymouth's "New Testament in Modern Speech" (15th ed.) may be taken as typical of the opinions to be found, with scarcely an exception, in modern text-books.

Vigorous scholarly protests against this "assured finding" were made in the last century by Burgon, Scrivener and Cook separately, but their protests and arguments seem to have carried no weight whatever; indeed, the present writer after a fairly extensive search amongst modern text books has so far failed to come across any attempt at all to cope with the arguments these conservatives advanced. Dean Burgon especially, in his ("The Last Twelve Verses of Mark," was most vehement (and on that account all the more readable!) in his theological dialectic. Not for nothing did contemporaries refer to him as "the dear old dean of Billingsgate." It may well be that the swashbuckling vigour with which he withstood the tide of modern criticism did his cause more harm than good. Opponents assumed from his invective a paucity of sound argument and so left him severely alone.

It is proposed here to review the entire problem pro and con. An effort has been made to get at the actual facts, and of necessity it has become needful to rely a good deal on Burgon, for he was one of the few with an intimate personal acquaintance with all aspects of the question. His energy and industry in combing over the relevant details of manuscripts and early Fathers were phenomenal. The study becomes a revealing commentary on the methods and "scholarship" of modern criticism.

In what follows an attempt has been made to maintain a reasonable degree of accuracy, but in a field as vast and complex as the textual criticism of the gospels, it is almost impossible (as will be seen by and by) for even front-line specialists to put out work free from error. The summary given here may be regarded as substantially correct.

The first and biggest part of this study must be a review and examination of the reasons advanced for disallowing the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20:

The more ancient manuscripts (uncials).

The verses in question are entirely omitted by the oldest — the Sinaitic and Vatican Codices. Two .others give two conclusions: one which is generally recognized to be spurious, and then the twelve verses in the A.V
The less ancient MSS (cursives).

Of these no less than thirty include a marginal note to the effect that the last 12 verses are omitted from some codices.
The versions (ancient translations of the Greek New Testament into other tongues). The spurious fjf- ending mentioned in par.) is given by one Old Latin MS, one Harkleian Syriac and two Ethiopic, v.9-20 being omitted altogether. Several Armenian MSS stop at v.8.
The Early Christian Fathers.

In their writings Eusebius, Jerome, Gregory of Nyssa, Victor of Antioch, Hesychius of Jerusalem, Severus of Antioch and Euthymius all throw doubt on the authenticity of the last 12 verses. Tertullian and Cyprian, who commented copiously on the Gospels, make no reference to them at all. Nor is any reference to them to be found in the writings of Clement of Rome or Clement of Alexandria.
Both style and vocabulary in these verses demand a different author from the rest of Mark's Gospel (compare the earlier quotation from Weymouth). A good deal will have to be said about this by and by.
There is a serious discontinuity in the story at v.8. The women are described as fleeing in fear from the tomb, and they then disappear from the narrative. There is nothing to indicate where they went or what they did or how their amazement was later turned to conviction.
Lastly, an explanation is available of the origin of these disputed verses. At the beginning of this concluding section an Armenian MS of the 1 Oth Century has the note: "according to Ariston." Here, surely, is a hint that the author of this portion of the Gospel was Aristion, a personal disciple of Jesus, who is mentioned by Papias (about A.D. 100).

Catalogued in this way the evidence for the rejection of Mark 16:9-20 appears to be overwhelming. Whatever can be said on the other side, there would seem to be sufficient evidence here to settle the question out of hand. It turns out, however, that a careful cross-examination of this formidable list of witnesses leads to a series of unexpected results.

1. The evidence of the Uncial MSS.

Whilst it is undeniably true that the 12 verses do not occur in the Vatican MS (Codex B), there is in it at that point a blank column — the only blank column in the entire folio containing almost the whole of the Old Testament and New Testament. Here surely is plain evidence that the scribe of B copied from an older codex, which included the 12 verses. Hence B is an indirect witness in favour of their retention.

The Sinai MS (Codex Aleph) similarly omits the verses, but has no space. Instead, the words of the preceding section are spaced out deliberately so as to fill up in part the column that v.9-20 would have occupied. There are actually 560 letters in this column as against 678 in the one adjoining. To this must be added the fact that the scribe, still faced with the unusual feature of a column only partially filled, included at Mark 16:8 a long ornamental arabesque, unique in this MS which was obviously inserted to prevent any later scribe from adding further material. Thus indirectly Codex Aleph also adds its testimony to the ancient character of Mark 16:9-20.

Evidently, if anything, B and Aleph should be cited as witnesses for the defence rather than as witnesses for the prosecution.

The other two uncial MSS, both of them late (8th or 9th century), are really ambiguous in their testimony by the way in which they include two endings to Mark. Indeed they proclaim their unreliability on this particular question by including what is unquestionably a spurious insertion.

2. The evidence of the cursives.

Here, likewise, it is perfectly true that 30 cursives add a scribal note against v. 9-20 that these are wanting in some codices. But it should also be mentioned — a fact which has often been omitted when this part of the evidence is under review - that without exception they also add that v.9-20 are "undoubtedly genuinely," "part of the text." "in many copies," "in the ancient copies," "in the true Palestinian copies," "in the approved copies preserved at Jerusalem." So once again witnesses for the prosecution become witnesses for the defence!

3. The evidence of the versions is by no means as forceful as at first appears. Some of those omitting the section in question dilute their own authority by including the spurious ending already referred to. Others are demonstrably away from the main stream of tradition, as in the case of the solitary Old Latin MS (codex Bobbiensis) which omits the 12 verses, for it turns out that its testimony is contradicted (and surely confuted) by no less that 37 other Old Latin codices. The small group of Armenian MSS also which decide against the 12 verses are all of them, of fairly late date (9th century, approximately), and consequently of comparatively small authority.

4. The Early Fathers. Here the long catalogue of venerable names, some of them going back to a date anterior to that of the oldest MSS, looks really impressive. Yet, thanks to some brilliant detective work by Burgon, it is here where the case against the 12 verses is weakest, if not altogether non-existent. There was an admirable dictum of Dr. Routh, the centenarian President of Magdalen College, Oxford: "Let me recommend to you the practice of always verifying your references".

With terrific industry Burgon made some remarkable and impressive researches. The story of his discoveries reads like a modern 'who-dun-it.'

The passage which has led to the inclusion of the names of Gregory of Nyssa, Severus of Antioch, and Hesychius of Jerusalem as adverse witnesses turns out to be part of a homily which has been attributed at different times to each of these three. Thus these three witnesses boil down to one. Is it slapdash scholarship or desperate determination to pile up a large number of witnesses in support of a weak case which prompted the use of this "trinity"? Two of these — the first two, let it be supposed — must be scored out of the list cited earlier.
Further "verifying of the references" establishes conclusively that the remaining Hesychius together with Jerome and Victor of Antioch are not really giving their own independent opinions but are actually quoting verbatim from the writing of Eusebius (Jerome paraphrases slightly). In other words the names of these three must be deleted from the list of adverse witnesses because they are merely echoes of Eusebius whom they are following blindly and — as Burgon demonstrated — most unintelligently. Even on other grounds it is evident that Jerome should be called for the defence, rather than against it, because when he produced his authoritative Latin version of the New Testament called the Vulgate, he included the last 12 verses of Mark without indication of any degree of doubt whatever.
Thus there now remain, out of what was a formidable list, only Eusebius and Euthymius. Of these the latter can be quietly dropped in the waste-paper basket, for he was not an "Early Father" at all, but a commentator of the 12th Century (the Dark Ages of scholarship). To include Euthymius at all is surely a confession of weakness.
And even Eusebius turns out to be a doubtful starter. The question of these last 12 verses crops up in replies which Eusebius wrote to problems posed by a certain Marinus. One of these concerned the harmonizing of Mark 16 and Matthew 28. The gist of Eusebius's long and prosy reply is this: The difficulty may be solved in either of two ways. First, to say — as some do -that Mark's narrative ends at verse 8 (the rest of that chapter being met with only seldom), and thus the supposed contradiction ceases to exist. On the other hand, allowing the passage at the end of Mark to be genuine, it is the job of the student of the gospels to find a means of harmonizing Mark with Matthew. Whereupon this early Father of great reputation proceeds to suggest a rather feeble way of achieving "harmony."

Now this is surely a strange way of settling a difficulty — first, to say the text is spurious, and then to proceed to discuss it as though it were genuine. Eusebius himself does not appear to be convinced that the 12 verses are to be rejected, yet strangely enough he succeeds in convincing the modern critics! And, further, it is noteworthy that most of the critics (if not all) cite the first of Eusebius's solutions to Marinus's problem without even a mention of the alternative which he propounds. For what reason? — carelessness or bias?
The citing of Clement of Rome and Clement of Alexandria, of Cyprian and Tertullian on this question likewise appears in a very different light when carefully examined. It is true none of these four Fathers quote from Mark 16:9-20, but what are these facts worth? The argument from omission is notoriously unsafe and inconclusive. Readers may be acquainted with Bishop Whateley's clever demonstration that Napoleon never existed and that the Napoleonic wars never took place, by carefully selected applications of the same phoney principle! Clement of Rome does not quote from Mark's Gospel at all, so where is the point in insisting on his ignoring Mark 16? The argument from omission is of rather greater force where Cyprian and Tertullian are concerned because they wrote more copiously on the Gospels. But even so, the argument still remains precarious and certainly is not strong enough to allow both Westcott and Hort to lean on it as confidently as they do, making it in fact one of their most decisive lines of argument against the 12 verses. But for Matthew 11:20,21 it would have been possible to argue (from omission) that Jesus never went near Chorazin and hardly at all to Bethsaida, whereas actually most of his miracles were done in those places. But for John 18:2 it would have been possible to argue (from omission) that Jesus went to Gethsemane only once.

The evidence of the Early Fathers has now boiled down to a quite unimportant residuum, if indeed it has not evaporated altogether. And the investigation has exposed the methods of textual criticism as none too dependable.

5. Style and Vocabulary

A really detailed discussion of this facet of the evidence cited against the authenticity of the twelve verses would fill half a volume. All that one can hope to accomplish here is a brief review of the question, together with a few illustrations.

It is asserted that "there are in this short passage as many as twenty-one words and phrases which do not occur elsewhere in the Gospel" (Hammond). It is suggested that this affords a plain demonstration that the twelve verses had a different author from the rest of Mark's Gospel. Examples (the present writer has attempted to simplify this part of the discussion by eliminating direct citation of Greek phrases and - arguments based on grammatical forms):

v. l1,14: the Greek word for "see" used here occurs nowhere else in Mark's Gospel. True enough! But it is also true that the word "willing" (15:15) occurs in this place only in Mark, whilst in 25 other places Mark uses a different word for the same idea. Does this unusual circumstance cast doubt on the Marcan authenticity of chapter 15? Many examples of this kind can be cited in all the Gospels. What are they worth? Statistically, more of these than can ever be possible out of twelve verses need to be cited before a dependable case can be made.
v. l1,16: the Greek word for "believeth not" is found nowhere else in Mark.

But this same word is found only twice in Luke, and both of those occurrences are in his last chapter — for obvious reasons, when one considers that in each case it is the unbelief of disciples concerning Christ's resurrection that is being described! So what force is there in "evidence" of this nature? Further, on investigation it turns out that Mark several times does use what is, in effect, the same word — it is only the termination that is different (apistein — apistia, ch.6:6 and 9:24; apistos, ch.9.-l 9). Consequently, if anything, this use of "believed not" supports the Marcan authorship of the twelve verses. But the traditional believer does not need such flimsy arguments to support his conclusions, as will be seen by and by.
v.20: "everywhere." This particular Greek word comes nowhere else in Mark.

But then, neither does it occur in Matthew or John, and only once in Luke (ch.9:6). So what is to be gained by emphasizing this fact? If indeed the word were used by Matthew, Luke and John (say) half a dozen times each and nowhere else in Mark at all, the fact might begin to have significance as a criterion of style and vocabulary. But as it is, one is inclined to suspect a determination to make bricks without straw.
v.9: would a writer who has already referred to Mary Magdalene in v. 1 now (in v.9) describe her somewhat belatedly for identification purposes as "Mary Magdalene out of whom he had cast seven devils"? Does not this betray the hand of a different author?

Well, does it? Then what of the following examples?:

John 21:7? "the disciple whom Jesus loved" John 21:20: "the disciple whom Jesus loved, which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?"

The sudden elaboration of John's description of himself is seen immediately to have point when the incident is studied carefully. Might it not be so also in Mark 16?

Again, Mark 15:40: "Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses." Mark 15:47: "Mary the mother of Joses." Mark 16:1: "Mary the mother of James."

Is one to infer three different writers here within a space of ten verses? Yet no one has suggested these facts as a basis for "higher criticizing" Mark 15!

On the other hand, what could be more appropriate than emphasis on the fact that the Lord's first appearance after his resurrection was to a woman out of whom he had cast seven devils, as though to demonstrate that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound"?

If a similar attempt be made on the basis of style and phrasing to cast doubton other sections of Mark's Gospel, astonishingly impressive results can be obtained. Burgon did it with part of Mark 1, with much gusto and derisive enjoyment. And Broadus, a Baptist scholar in America, did it with Mark 1:1 -12 and also with 15:44 -16:8. Yet it is this "vocabulary" test which is in these days regarded as "really decisive" (Weymouth).

6. What of the objection that v.9-20 involve a serious discontinuity in the narrative at v.8? The women are described as fleeing from the sepulchre in fear and confusion, and their story is left unfinished.

First, even if such were the case, it would scarcely constitute an argument against the validity of the rest of the chapter. John 21:19,20 describes how, after the meal by the sea of Galilee, Jesus bade Peter: "Follow me" Peter did so, and so too did John. But the story is never finished,. There is no indication given as to why Peter was bidden follow. Yet no critic has risen up yet to suggest that here is good reason for believing the rest of the chapter to be spurious. The fact is that a careful pondering of the incident soon supplies reason enough for the story being left incomplete. And so also, doubtless, in Mark 16 — if indeed it were permissible to consider Mark 16:1-8 as unfinished. But is it? The angels told the women (v.7): "Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." This mentioned, it is characteristic of the very concise nature of the Gospel story, and especially of this close- packed summary of the resurrection in Mark 16, to assume without further mention that the fulfilment of the commission duly took place.

In the light of these considerations how convincing is the argument of the critics?

7. But is not the non-Marcan authorship of the twelve verses supported and explained by Conybeare's Armenian manuscript attributing the verses to Aristion?

Let the facts be considered. The MS in question belongs to the ninth century — a far cry from the days of the early church. Strange that such an important fact should survive so long without a vestige of a trace of it in any of the hundreds of others MSS far more ancient, or in any of the Early Fathers also far more ancient!

But granting (for the sake of argument) the authenticity of this addition it might mean only "these verses were added on the authority of Ariston."

But even if it does mean "Ariston wrote these 12 verses," there is still the identity of Ariston with Aristion to be assumed before identification with Aristion (the first century disciple of the Lord mentioned by Papias) can be claimed.

There are too many uncertainties about this theory of alternative authorship to be convincing. By contrast with it Burgon's suggestion of the origin of the problem (to be summarized by and by) is so very simple and carries such an obvious degree of probability that one marvels that anyone should look for or prefer an alternative theory so ill- supported by evidence.

The Evidence in Favour

So far this study has necessarily consisted of a patient investigation of all the reasons that have been advanced for disbelieving in the authenticity of the last twelve verses of Mark.

Over against this must now be set a summary of the evidence in favour of accepting the twelve verses. Though this can be quickly stated, it is impressive by its vastness.

Apart from the handful that has been mentioned, every single manuscript of the Gospels, whether uncial or cursive, includes the twelve verses.
The ancient Versions are equally emphatic. The various Syriac Versions, all the Old Latin MSS (except one), the Memphitic and Thebaic Versions of Egypt, the Vulgate of Jerome, the Gothic Version - all of these, going back to the fourth century (or much earlier in the case of some) testify to the general acceptance of Mark 16:9-20 by widely separated branches of the early church.
The evidence of the Early Fathers goes back (in many instances) much further than any of the MSS, and here again - apart from the doubtful exception of Eusebius — the testimony is unanimous. In the 1st Century, Hermas and Papias quote from the twelve verses. In the 2nd Century Justin Martyr and Irenaeus do likewise. Then come in quick succession famous names such as Hypolytus, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria. Besides these there is the weighty opinion of the Council of Carthage (A.D. 256), expressing the conviction of the early church of N. Africa. Add also the evidence of the so-called Acts of Pilate and the very early Apostolic Constitutions, and it can be seen that even if there were little supporting evidence from the MSS, the case in favour of the authenticity of the twelve verses would still be remarkably strong. It becomes evident from the cataloguing of so much testimony that the reader may set doubts at rest. Mark ] 6:9-20 was part of the Gospel of Mark from the earliest times.

The Origin of the Problem

Not only did Burgon do some magnificently thorough work in sorting out the facts concerning this question. He also put his finger on an extremely simple and likely reason why a small minority of manuscripts came to omit v.9-20.

To make this plain it is necessary first to explain some of the characteristics of early church lectionaries.

From very early days the church had a system of regular Bible readings. The "Bible Companion" is new (comparatively) only in name. The idea can be traced back definitely to the fourth century and with a high degree of probability to the second or even earlier. In fact, just as the early church inherited many of its forms and practices from the synagogue, so also was this lectionary system a copy of Jewish observance. To this day the Jews have a pattern of Old Testament readings in the synagogue which many scholars consider to have come down from very ancient days, so that it becomes possible to make probable inferences as to the time of the year when Jesus read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue at Nazareth and the time of year of Paul's preaching in the synagogue at Antioch.

But of course this early church lectionary did not follow chapter divisions, for such did not exist then. The daily readings were usually marked off in official church copies in red ink, but also in other ways.

This lectionary system was also responsible for various minor modifications (and some of them not minor) creeping into the manuscripts. Four interesting examples of this might be mentioned here.

A reading was sometimes introduced by the addition of the simple explanatory phrase: "And Jesus said." The present writer has more than once heard similar improvisations added to the public reading of Scripture. An example of this which has crept into the text of the King James Version is to be found in Luke 7:31, where the RV correctly omits: "And the Lord said."
"It was customary in the reading for the day before Good Friday to include Luke 22:43,44 (about the angel and the agony in Gethsemane) after Matthew 26:39, and to omit it from Luke 22 on a later occasion. Influenced by this practice the Vatican MS omits Luke 22:43,44 from the proper place and has in turn influenced the Revisers to include a quite unwarranted note of warning in the margin there.
It was likewise customary to include John 1 9:34 (about the piercing of the side of Jesus) after Matthew 27:49. Here again the Vatican Codex is at fault and has again become the chief ground for an unjustifiable addition in the RV margin.
The early lectionaries prescribed the reading of John 7:37-8:12 for Whit Sunday with the omission of 7:53 — 8:11 (the woman taken in adultery). This omission from the reading led to the practice of leaving out 7:53 — 8:11 from official copies, and thus became the origin of modern doubts about that section.

With his usual acuteness Burgon observed that Mark 16:8 was the end of a recognized "reading," according to the early lectionary system, for Easter and Ascension Day. Further, he noted that it was frequently the practice to mark out the "readings" by writing "beginning" (arche) and "the end" (to telos) in the margin at the appropriate places. Indeed he was able to draw attention to one place in the famous Codex Beza where "to telos" had crept into the text at the end of a lection (Mark 14:41) so as to make utter nonsense of the passage. The Freer MS of the Gospels in Washington has it as well.

Next, examination of many manuscripts revealed the fact that a large number of them have "the end" written in the margin at Mark 16:8. The significance of this addition is, of course, quite simply that Mark 16:8 ends one of the daily readings. But how easy it would be for a not over-intelligent copyist to take "the end" as meaning "the end of the Gospel," and so omit the remaining verses!

This, then, is Burgon's conjecture, well supported by facts, as to the origin of the doubts concerning the last twelve verses. It is a suggestion altogether more plausible than the utterly unsupported speculations that the autograph of Mark's Gospel lost its last leaf before ever a copy of it could be made, or that Mark died suddenly just before completing his task.

But whether Burgon's explanation of the omission be accepted or not, the preceding review of the factual evidence pro and con relating to Mark 16:9-20 will surely leave little doubt in the minds of those who have followed it through with any degree of carefulness.

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