William Grady on Mark 16:9-20

Dr. William Grady, Final Authority:

For a quarter of a century, the classic work in this field [of Biblical Introduction] has been A General Introduction to the Bible by Geisler and Nix (Moody Press, 1968). We will examine this evangelical standard-bearer’s particular treatment of Mark 16:9-20 against the established tenets of manuscript evidences….

That a cloud of suspicion has engulfed this passage is not to be denied. While most translation committees have expressed their disdain for these verses by confining them to reproachful brackets, the more audacious have dislodged them altogether. However, it is this author’s contention that the blame for such “perplexity” must be placed upon unreasonable Christian scholars for their refusal to acknowledge the truth.

Their opening dogmatic pronouncement illustrates their irrationality: “These verses are lacking in many of the oldest and best Greek manuscripts.”[i]

By technical definition the “oldest” Greek manuscripts would comprise the uncial (or majuscule) style, characterized by inch-high, block capital letters running together without breaks between words.

For our first example of Nicolaitane indifference to reality (not to mention blatant dishonesty), we submit the following statistics. With uncials prevailing for about ten centuries, we learn that five of their number have obtained particular notoriety due to age. They are, in addition to [the fourth century’s] a and B; Codex Ephraemi (C), fourth century; Codex Alexandrinus (A), fifth century; and Codex Bezae (D), sixth-seventh century. As all five include the sixteenth chapter of Mark, we soon discover that when Geisler and Nix stated that the last twelve verses were lacking in “many” of the oldest Greek manuscripts, what they really meant was only 2 out of 5 – Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.

They are soon in trouble with another “scholarly” disclosure: “The familiar long ending (AV) of the Received Text is found in a vast number of uncial manuscripts (C, D, L, W, Q)….”[ii]

Having subpoenaed the remaining uncial witnesses to Mark 16, we discover that the “vast number” of corroborating majuscules is in reality 15 out of 15!

Our next example of intellectual dementia involves the choice of vocabulary words when describing the quality of the two uncials in question, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Apparently for Geisler and Nix the word best was the “best” they could do when portraying a pair of manuscripts which disagree with each other in over 3,000 places in the Gospels alone.[iii] (See chapter 8.)

Moving right along, we discover another incredible statement: “The familiar long ending (AV) of the Received Text is found in…most minuscules.”[iv] The uncials were gradually replaced by the cursive or minuscule style manuscript (introduced by the scribes of Charlemagne, approximately 800 A.D.), employing lower case letters in a running-hand style with the normal break occurring between words. When Geisler and Nix said “most” minuscules contained the familiar ending, what they really meant to say was 600 out of 600![v] (And these are the kind of people who would condemn the Jehovah’s Witnesses for wresting the Word of God?)

Dean Burgon epitomizes the ageless exasperation of God’s people when confronted by such an unscrupulous disregard of Holy Scripture:

With the exception of the two Uncial manuscripts which have just been named, there is not one codex in existence, uncial or cursive, (and we are acquainted with, at least, eighteen other uncials, and about six hundred cursive copies of this Gospel), which leaves out the last twelve verses of Mark.

The inference which an unscientific observer would draw from this fact is no doubt, in this instance, the correct one. He demands to be shown the Alexandrine (A), and the Parisian Codex (C), neither of them probably removed by much more than fifty years from the date of the Codex Sinaiticus, and both unquestionably derived from different originals; and he ascertains that no countenance is lent by either of those venerable monuments to the proposed omission of this part of the sacred text. He discovers that the Codex Bezae (D), the only remaining very ancient manuscript authority—notwithstanding that it is observed on most occasions to exhibit an extraordinary sympathy with the Vatican (B)—here sides with A and C against B and a. He inquires after all the other uncials and all the cursive manuscripts in existence, (some of them dating from the tenth century,) and requests to have it explained to him why it is to be supposed that all these many witnesses, belonging to so many different patriarchates, provinces, ages of the church, have entered into a grand conspiracy to bear false witness on a point of this magnitude and importance? But he obtains no intelligible answer to this question.[vi]

The credibility gap widens still further with their comments on ancient versions. When Geisler and Nix stated that the traditional ending is found in, “some Syriac manuscripts,”[vii] what they really meant was all but one—the Sinaitic Syriac.[viii] When they assured us that the disputed verses were in, “most old Latin manuscripts…”, we know that what they intended to say was all but one—the Codex Bobiensis (K).[ix]

Finally, there is an unusual assertion given concerning the silence of the church fathers. “Many of the ancient Fathers show no knowledge of it (e.g., Clement, Origen, Eusebius, et al.).”[x] By now, the alert student can discern the Nicolaitanes’ frequent recourse to desperation when confronted by facts. Besides containing a glaring inaccuracy concerning Eusebius, this last remark smacks of futility in at least two other areas. Not only is their charge of patristic ignorance ridiculously false (as we shall presently demonstrate) but were this not the case, it would still represent a mere argument of silence. How weak can you get?

Although a number of the fathers labored under varying degrees of theological deficiency, the trio recommended by Geisler and Nix is almost as credible as their “many,” “best,” and “most” manuscripts. Clement (of Alexandria) believed that Plato’s writings were inspired because they contained the truth,[xi] while his celebrated pupil, Origen denied both a physical resurrection and a literal Hell.[xii] (Concerning Origen’s departures from orthodoxy, scholars are uncertain whether his mental faculties were affected by his self-mutilation in obedience to Matthew 19:12 or vice versa.[xiii]) His favorite student Eusebius prophesied that Constantine and Christ would reign together throughout eternity.[xiv]

As for Eusebius’ unfamiliarity with the so-called “long ending,” he not only knew of it, but expressed his willingness to accept either ending. Dean Burgon cites Eusebius’ epistle to a certain Marinus as follows:

But another…will say that here are two readings (as is so often the case elsewhere) and both are to be received, – inasmuch as by the faithful and pious, this reading is not to be held to be genuine rather than that nor that than this.[xv]

Geisler and Nix then appeal to Jerome’s testimony that “almost all Greek copies do not have this concluding portion.”[xvi] Dr. Frederick H.A. Scrivener (leader of the conservative forces within the Revision committee of 1871-1881) counters with an accent on Jerome’s duplicity:

Jerome’s recklessness in statement has already been noticed (A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Volume II, p. 269); besides that, he is a witness on the other side, both in his quotations of the passage and in the Vulgate, for how could he have inserted the verses there, if he had judged them to be spurious.[xvii]

That Geisler and Nix are in desperate straits is apparent by their listing of the Latin Vulgate as one of the havens for our verses in question. In any case, these authors imply that the fathers’ primary input is negative. Nothing could be further from the truth! There was enough positive evidence in circulation over a century ago for Dean Burgon to publish a massive 350-page volume in defense of the disputed passage entitled The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to St. Mark. In a stinging letter to Bishop Ellicot, chairman of the Revision Committee, Burgon summarized his research as follows:

Similarly, concerning THE LAST TWELVE VERSES OF S. MARK which you brand with suspicion and separate off from the rest of the Gospel, in token that, in your opinion, there is “a breach of continuity” (p.53), (whatever that may mean,) between verses 8 and 9. Your ground for thus disallowing the last 12 verses of the second Gospel, is, that B and a omit them: – that a few late MSS. exhibit a wretched alternative for them: – and that Eusebius says they were often away. Now, my method on the contrary is to refer all such questions to “the consentient testimony of the most ancient authorities.” And I invite you to note the result of such an appeal in the present instance. The verses in question I find are recognized,

In the 2nd century, – By the Old Latin, and – Syriac Verss. – by Papias; – Justin M.; – Irenaeus; – Tertullian.

In the 3rd century, – By the Coptic – and Sahidic versions: – by Hippolytus; – by Vincentius at the seventh Council of Carthage; – by the “Acta Pilati;” – and the “Apostolical Constitutions” in two places.

In the 4th century, – By Cureton’s Syr. and the Gothic Verss.: – besides the Syriac Table of Canons; – Eusebius; – Macarius Magnes; – Aphraates; – Didymus; – the Syriac “Acts of the Ap.;” – Epiphanius; – Leontius; – ps. – Ephraem; – Ambrose; – Chrysostom; – Jerome; – Augustine.

In the 5th century, Besides the Armenian Vers., – by codices A and C; – by Leo; – Nestorius; – Cyril of Alexandria; – Victor of Antioch; – Patricius; – Marius Mercator.

In the 6th and 7th centuries, – Besides cod. D, – Georgian and Ethiopic Verss.: – by Hesychius; – Gregentius; – Prosper; – John, abp of Thessalonica; – and Modestus, bishop of Jerusalem.[xviii]

Obviously, the extant testimony of the church fathers is overwhelming. And for the reassuring benefit of a tangible illustration, note the presence of Mark 16:19 as found in its natural context within the second century work, Irenaeus Against Heresies (A.D. 177).

Plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point Him out 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 Elias, 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 attribute is the Father, as I have already shown in the book preceding this; and I shall show [the same truth] from the prophets themselves in the further course of this work. Also, toward the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: “So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God;” confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: “The LORD said unto 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.[xix]

Irenaeus is only one of approximately thirty patristic endorsements recorded by Burgon over a century ago. Why couldn’t Geisler and Nix find them? Or if they knew of their witness, why did they suppress this important evidence? But how could they be ignorant when they refer to Burgon’s work? The Authorized Version A.D. 1611 is not suspect for containing Mark 16:9-20. The Alexandrian codices are suspect for excising them!

The final witness of our three fold cord is the unassuming lectionary. Burgon wrote:

But the significance of a single feature of the Lectionary, of which up to this point nothing has been said, is alone sufficient to determine the controversy. We refer to the fact that in every part of Eastern Christendom these same twelve verses – neither more nor less – have been from the earliest recorded period, and still are, a proper lesson both for the Easter season and for Ascension Day.[xx]

It is noteworthy that Dean Burgon’s defense of Mark’s ending has yet to be refuted. Facts are stubborn things. And yet, with Burgon’s four other scholarly works on manuscript evidences bringing his total pages count to nearly 2,000, his great potential for good was frustrated by the solitary, patronizing remark of Geisler and Nix that, “Defense of the Received Text (vv. 9-20) has been made by John W. Burgon.”[xxi]


[i] Normal L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), 372.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Herman C. Hoskier, Codex B and Its Allies, vol. 2, Chiefly Concerning a, but covering three thousand differences between a and B in the Four Gospels. (London: Bernard Quaritch, Publisher, 1914), 1.

[iv] Geisler and Nix, Introduction to the Bible, 372.

[v] David Otis Fuller, True or False? (Grand Rapids, Mich.: International Publications, 1973), 95. [Original source: The Last Twelve Verses of Mark, by John Burgon, pages 70, 71]

[vi] Jay P. Green, ed., Unholy Hands on the Bible, vol. 1, An Understanding to Textual Criticism, Including the Complete Works of John W. Burgon, Dean of Chichester (Lafayette, Ind.: Sovereign Grace Trust Fund, 1990), c40-c41.

[vii] Geisler and Nix, Introduction to the Bible, 372.

[viii] Edward F. Hills, Believing Bible Study, 2d. ed. (Des Moines, Iowa: Christian Research Press, 1977), 133.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Geisler and Nix, Introduction to the Bible, 372.

[xi] Alexander Roberts, D.D. and James Donaldson, LL.D., eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2, Fathers of the Second Century (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.., 1989), 192.

[xii] Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries, A History of the Christian Church, 1st ed., rev. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House for Academie Books, 1981), 112.

[xiii] J.G. Davies, The Early Christian Church, A History of Its First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1965), 124.

[xiv] Colm Luibheid, The Essential Eusebius (n.p.: Mentor Omega Book for New American Library, 1966), 213.

[xv] Edward F. Hills, The King James Version Defended, 4th ed. (Des Moines, Iowa: Christian Research Press, 1984), 165.

[xvi] Geisler and Nix, Introduction to the Bible, 372.

[xvii] Frederick H.A. Scrivener, M.A., D.C.L., LL.D., A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament for the Use of the Biblical Student, ed. Edward Miller (London: George Bell & Sons, 1894), 2:342.

[xviii] John William Burgon, B.D., The Revision Revised (Paradise, Pa.: Conservative Classics, 1883), 422-23.

[xix] Alexander Roberts, D.D. and James Donaldson, LL.D., eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.., 1989), 426.

[xx] Burgon, Revision Revised, 40.

[xxi] Geisler and Nix, Introduction to the Bible, 372-73.

Source: http://www.puritanboard.com/showthread.php/87913-Confused-About-This-Statement, Comment #2 (Jerusalem Blade)