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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

Mark 16

Verses 1-99


16:1-8. With the end of the Sabbath, the women, who are the only ones left to perform the service, bought the spices necessary, and came at sunrise to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. On the way, they discussed among themselves whom they should get to roll away the heavy stone from the entrance of the tomb. But they found it removed, and on entering, they saw a young man seated at the right clothed in a long white robe. Naturally, they were amazed, but he tells them that there is no reason for their amazement; that Jesus whom they are seeking, the Nazarene, the crucified, is not there, he is risen! And he points them to the place where they had put him, in proof. But he bids them announce to the disciples, and especially to Peter, that he is going before them into Galilee, and that they will see him there, as he had told them on the night of the betrayal. The effect of this on the women was fear and amazement, such that they fled from the place and were restrained by their fear from telling any one.

1. ἠγόρασαν Mat_2 Lk., on the other hand, records only appearances in Jerusalem and its neighborhood, and while his narrative does not so definitely exclude appearances in Galilee, as Mt. and Mk. do appearances in Judæa, it certainly leaves that impression.

Omit ταχὺ, quickly, before ἔφυγον, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. and most sources. γὰρ, for, instead of δὲ, and, after εἶχε, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א BD, mss. Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. Pesh.


Verses 9-20 are omitted by Tisch., double-bracketed by WH., inserted in the Revisers’ Text, but with a space between it and the preceding passage, and Treg. inserts in the same space κατὰ Μάρκον. WH., in their Notes on Special Passages, pronounce against the genuineness. This is done primarily on the authority of א B, one ms. Lat. Vet. and mss. of the Arm. and Æth. versions. L, 274 marg., the ms. of Lat. Vet. mentioned above, Harcl. marg. and Æth.mss. m and a give what is known as the Shorter Conclusion, as follows: Πάντα δὲ τὰ παρηγγελμένα τοῖς περὶ τὸν Πέτρον συντομῶς ἐξήγγειλαν· μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα καὶ αὐτὸςἸησοῦς

But the internal evidence for the omission is much stronger than the external, proving conclusively that these verses could not have been written by Mk. The linguistic differences alone are enough to settle this,—enough to show, even if we had Mk.’s autograph, that they were not original with him, but copied directly from another source. ἐκεῖνος is used in the passage five times in a way quite unknown to the Synoptics, but common to the fourth Gospel. πορεύομαι is used three times, but does not occur elsewhere in the Gospel. This is the more remarkable, as it is in itself so common a word, and the occasions for its use occur on every page. In this section, it is the favorite word for going. τοῖς μετʼ αὐτοῦ γενομένοις, as a designation of the disciples, is another unfamiliar expression. θεάομαι, as a verb of seeing, does not occur elsewhere in Mk., and is infrequent elsewhere, but is used twice in this passage. In fact, it is the only verb for seeing in the passage. Luke 4:35. συνεργοῦντος is a good Pauline word, and is found once in Jas., but only here in the Gospels. βεβαιοῦν is found in Paul’s epistles and in Heb., but not elsewhere in the Gospels. ἐπακολουθεῖν occurs twice in 1 Tim., and once in 1 Pet., but not elsewhere in the Gospels. To sum up, there are in all 163 words in this passage, and of these, 19 words and 2 phrases are peculiar, not occurring elsewhere in this Gospel. There are 109 different words, and of these, 11 words and 2 phrases do not occur elsewhere in this Gospel. Of these, the use of πορεύομαι, ἐκεῖνος, and θεάομαι, would of themselves constitute a case, being, from the frequency of their use, characteristic and distinctive in this vocabulary, while the entire disuse of these common words is a peculiarity of the rest of the Gospel.

But the argument from the general character of the section is stronger still. In the first place, it is a mere summarizing of the appearances of our Lord, a manner of narration entirely foreign to this Gospel. Mark is the most vivid and picturesque of the evangelists, abbreviating discourse, but amplifying narration. But this is a mere enumeration. The first part of the chapter, relating the appearance of the angels to the women, is a good example of his style, and is in marked contrast to this section.

But a graver objection arises from the character of the σημεῖα that are promised here to follow believers. The casting out of demons, and the cure of the sick, belong strictly to the class of miracles performed by our Lord. They are miracles of beneficence performed on others. And in the speaking with tongues, possibly we do not get outside of that sphere. But we do have an anticipation of the new conditions of the apostolic era and of the charismata which distinguish its activity from our Lord’s, that is, to say the least, unexampled in the teaching of Jesus. Moreover, this refers either to the speaking with foreign tongues of the day of Pentecost, or to the ecstatic speech which St. Paul calls speaking with tongues in 1 Cor. If the former, then it is not repeated. And if the latter, then St. Paul depreciates it, and for good reasons. Either would be against our Lord’s selection of it here as a representative miracle. But the taking up serpents, and the drinking of deadly things without harm, belong strictly to the category of mere thaumaturgy ruled out by Jesus. Our Lord does not exempt himself nor his disciples from the natural consequences of their acts. The very principle of his kingdom is, that he and they shall take their place in the ordinary conditions of human life, and shall there be exposed, not only to the ordinary dangers of that life, but to the extraordinary perils incident to an uncompromising righteousness in an evil world, and without any miraculous safeguards. But here, that miraculous safeguarding is promised as the condition distinctly supplanting the ordinary.

But the most serious difficulty with this passage is, that it is inconsistent with the preceding part of the chapter in regard to the place and time of the appearances to the disciples, following Lk.’s account, whereas the first part accords with Mt.’s very different scheme. The angels tell the women that Jesus precedes them into Galilee, and will be seen by his disciples there. But the appearance to Mary Magdalene was on the day of the resurrection, and near the tomb. The appearance to the two on their way into the country was evidently that to the disciples going to Emmaus, also on the day of the resurrection. And that to the eleven as they were reclining at table, was evidently also identical with that recorded in Luke 24:36 sq., and was therefore in Jerusalem, and on the evening of the resurrection. Immediately after this, in both accounts, comes the ascension, and leaves no time for appearances in Galilee. In St. Matthew, on the other hand, there are no appearances in Judæa, except that to the women on their way from the sepulchre. They have received from the angels the same message as in Mark 16:7, that Jesus precedes them into Galilee, and in accordance with this, the disciples go there, and Jesus appears to them on the mountain. Plainly, then, the first verses of our chapter are framed on Mt.’s scheme of the Galilean appearances, and v. 9-20 on Lk.’s scheme of appearances in Judæa. And the two are mutually exclusive. On the other hand, the ending of the Gospel, with these verses omitted, is abrupt. But if this abruptness were foreign to Mk.’s manner, it would not show that this ending is genuine, only that the difficulty was felt by copyists, one of whom supplied this ending, and another the shorter ending. The existence of the two is presumptive proof of the original omission. But really, the brevity of this ending is quite parallel to the beginning of the Gospel, the beginning and ending being both alike outside the main purpose of the evangelist. It is not strange therefore, but rather consonant with Mk.’s manner.1


9-20. The first appearance is said to be to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. Then there is the appearance “in another form” to two of the disciples on their way into the country. Both of these reports were brought to the disciples, and were received with incredulity. The third appearance is to the eleven as they were reclining at table, when Jesus rebukes their lack of faith and their spiritual obtuseness, and gives them his final instructions and promises. They were to go into all the world, and proclaim the glad-tidings to all creation. He who believes their message and is baptized will be saved; and he who disbelieves will be condemned. Moreover, believers were to be accredited by certain signs done in his name. They were to cast out demons, speak with tongues, handle serpents and drink poisons with impunity, and heal the sick with the laying on of hands. After this discourse, the Lord was taken up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And the disciples went out everywhere with their message, the Lord helping them, and confirming their word with the promised signs.

9. Ἀναστὰς δὲ πρωῒ πρώτσαββάτου ἐφάνη πρῶτον Μαρίᾳ τῇ Μαγδαληνῇ, παρʼ ἧς ἐκβεβλήκει ἑπτὰ δαιμόνια—And having arisen early on the first day of the week, he appears first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. This is not a callida junctura, and could scarcely have been written by Mk. himself, with what he had just written in mind. The identification of Mary Magdalene, after she had been mentioned three times in the preceding narrative, is especially inconsistent. παρʼ ἧς—this is the only case of the use of this prep. in describing the casting out of demons, and it is as strange as it is unexampled. This appearance to Mary Magdalene is given in J. 20:14. The story of the different appearances, in this paragraph, though taken from different gospels, is told by the compiler in his own manner, with some marked variations, and in all cases in a condensed form. The incident of the seven demons is from Luke 8:2.

παρʼ ἧς, instead of

ἀκολουθήσει, instead of παρακολουθήσει, Treg. WH. CL. παρακολουθήσει, Acts 2:33ῥακολουθήσει). There is a meaning of closeness of attendance which makes παρακολουθήσει much more individual and probable. Omit καιναῖς, new, after γλώσσαις, Treg. WH. RV.marg. CL Δ Memph. Insert. καὶ ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν, and in their hands, before ὄφεις


19. μετὰ τὸ λαλῆσαι αὐτοῖς—after speaking to them. This can refer only to the words spoken by our Lord at the supper in Jerusalem. If it had been after the entire event, and not a part of the event coming after the discourse, something less specific than this μετὰ τὸ λαλῆσαι would have been given as the mark of time. The ascension therefore, according to this, was on the evening after the resurrection. So Lk., even supposing that the omission of καὶ

Omit Ἀμήν at the end, Treg. WH. (Tisch.) Acts 2:1, Acts 2:33, mss. Latt. Syrr.


Mk. does not himself recount any appearance of the risen Lord. But he makes the angel at the tomb announce the resurrection, and promise that the Lord would meet his disciples in Galilee. The difficulty with this part of the history is that Mt. and Mk. give one version of it, Lk. another, the Acts still a third, and 1 Cor. a fourth. The account in Acts coincides with Lk. in regard to the final appearance, but, in regard to the time, differs from it more radically than either of the others, while Paul differs from them all in regard to the persons to whom Jesus appeared. But these differences of detail do not invalidate the main fact. The testimony of Paul is invaluable here. He writes his account about a.d. 58, and we know that he had had intercourse with both Peter and John, and James, who are named by him as among those to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection. This first-hand testimony to the fact of the resurrection entirely outweighs any discrepancy in the details. It puts the latter in the class of varieties of account which do not invalidate nor weaken the historicity of any record. There is a false impression made by the unusual consistency of the Synoptical Gospels which weakens unduly their testimony in the parts where they show more independence and variety. Of course, Mt. and Mk., on the one hand, and Lk., on the other, give independent and varying accounts of the resurrection. But the variety is caused by the independence; it is no greater than the ordinary variations of independent narratives, and it does not therefore invalidate the main fact of the resurrection. But the Synoptical Gospels, in the main, in their record of the public ministry of Jesus, are interdependent, and so there is an unusual sameness about them. This should not weaken their testimony, when they become independent, and so variant.


The result of textual criticism is to render it doubtful if there is any account of the ascension of our Lord in the Gospels. Mt., Mk., and J. contain no account of it. And the passage in Lk. which gives it is put in the column of doubtful passages, being omitted by Tisch., and double-bracketed by WH. RV. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Lk. means by the διέστη

1 Matthew 28:2.

2 Luke 24:4.

3 J. 20:1-14.

4 Matthew 28:5.

5 Luke 24:5.

6 On this use of ἴδε as an interjection,—in this case not governing the noun which follows,—see on 15:35.

1 Matthew 28:8.

2 Matthew 28:10, Matthew 28:16-20.

D Codex Ephraemi.

Lat. Vet. Vetus Latina.

Vulg. Vulgate.

Pesh. Peshito.

Harcl. Harclean.

1 See Introduction.

C Codex Bezae.

1 Luke 24:11.

2 Matthew 28:10, Matthew 28:16.

3 Luke 24:13-34.

4 Luke 24:16, Luke 24:34.

5 Luke 24:36-49, J. 20:19.

6 Luke 24:34, Luke 24:37, J. 20:20.

A Codex Alexandrinus.

Latt. Latin Versions.

Syrr. Syriac Versions.

X Codex Wolfi A.

1 Matthew 28:16-20.

2 Luke 24:50, Luke 24:51.

3 Luke 24:47-49.

4 J. 3:26, 4:1, 2.

5 See Note on the Appendix.

M Codex Campianus.

1 Luke 24:51-53.

2 Matthew 28:16-20.

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Mark 16". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.