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Mark 16

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Verses 1-8

Mar 16:1-8

Commentary On Mark 16:1-8

J.W. McGarvey

The Visit of the Women to the Sepulcher, Mark 16:1-8. (Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-2)

1. had bought.—The original verb is not in the pluperfect tense, as the rendering would indicate, but in the first Aorist (ἠγρασαν). The clause should read, "And when the Sabbath was past Mary Magdalene," etc., "bought sweet spices." Having bought a portion of the spices which they thought necessary, on Friday evening (Luke 23:56), they completed the purchase "when the Sabbath was past;" and while this May have been after sunset on the evening of the Sabbath, it is more likely that it was done as the women were on their way to the sepulcher early on Sunday morning.

2. very early.—mark uses two expressions in this verse to indicate the time at which the women came, viz., "very early in the morning," and "at the rising of the sun." Alford says that as the sun was up, it could not be called very early; but in this he differs in opinion from Mark, as he does about some other matters. It was very early for them to reach the sepulcher, when we consider the distance they had come, and the business they had attended to by the way. It was so early that it had necessitated their starting "as it began to dawn," and "while it was yet dark." (See the note above and the one next below.)

at the rising of the sun.—Literally, "the sun having risen" (νατελαντος τοῦ ἡλου). Matthew says they came "as it began to dawn;" and John, "while it was yet dark." Between Matthew and John there is no difference except in expression: for it is yet dark when it begins to dawn. But between both of these writers and Mark there is a difference which demands attention. It is common with skeptics, and with some from whom better things might be expected, to pronounce all such differences contradictions, and to dismiss them from consideration without a serious attempt to see whether they are real contradictions. A contradiction can justly be affirmed only when two statements are such that both can not be true. When they may be true, it is unjust to cast suspicion on either unless it is in itself improbable. In the present case, we have only to inquire whether it may be true, in a proper sense of the terms, that the women went to the sepulcher at the rising of the sun," and yet true that they went "as it began to dawn." If I were to see a man who had walked from the city of Lexington enter the gate at Ashland (distant nearly two miles) at sunrise, I would not hesitate to say that he went to Ashland at sunrise. But another person who saw him start from his home in Lexington would as truthfully say that the man went to Ashland about daybreak. Again, if I were to pass from Lexington to Louisville on the train which leaves here at 6 A. M., and arrives there at 11 A. M., a friend with Lexington in his mind would say that I went on the the six o’clock train; while another, with Louisville in his mind, would say I went on the eleven o’clock train; and both would speak the truth. A man as far away as Boston or London, on reading either of these accounts, might be a little puzzled at first, but if he were reasonable and just he would not charge a contradiction; for similar localities and expressions at his own door would soon suggest the true explanation of the apparent discrepancy. Give our sacred historians the benefit of this common justice, and all is clear.

Matthew says the women went to the sepulcher "as it began to dawn." Does he mean that they arrived then, or that they started then? Beyond all question the language may mean either, and it must be understood according to the probabilities of the case. But what are the probabilities? Another credible writer says they went at sunrise. His statement, considered by itself, might also mean either that they started, or that they arrived, at sunrise: but as the time that he designates is the later, and that of Matthew the earlier, we at once perceive that Matthew must be speaking of the time at which they started, and Mark of the time at which they arrived. This is the conclusion which justice and common sense alike demand. It is not a strained attempt at harmony, but a harmony which actually exists and is clearly perceptible. It is made still clearer when we remember that Bethany, the place where Jesus and his disciples had lodged every night during the preceding week (Luke 21:37), and whence the women had almost certainly come, was nearly two miles from Jerusalem, so that the women would have had to walk briskly in order to reach the city, purchase more spices, and arrive at the sepulcher by sunrise.

3. who shall roll.—The fact that as the women approached the sepulcher they raised the question, "Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?" shows that the sealing of the stone and the placing of a guard there were unknown to them; otherwise they would not have expected that the stone would be removed at all, nor would they have come for the purpose which brought them. It is probable that none of the disciples know this until after the resurrection, and therefore the fact that they did not try to steal the body away is sufficient proof that they had no such purpose as was suspected by the chief priests and the Pharisees. (Matthew 27:62-66.)

4. for it was very great.—Just as the women had raised the question, who should roll the stone away, they looked and saw that it was already rolled back. To the statement of these two circumstances, the historian adds, "for it was very great." Its great size is mentioned to account both for their question and for the implied surprise when they saw that the stone was removed.

5. they saw a young man.—Although Mark does not say expressly that this young man was an angel, the narrative clearly implies that he was. He was the same angel who had rolled the stone away, and who sat on it until the guards fled, when he entered the sepulcher, and there awaited the arrival of the women. (Matthew 28:2-5.) He was also one of the two mentioned by Luke (Luke 24:4), he alone being mentioned by Matthew and Mark because he was the actor and speaker.

6, 7. his disciples and Peter.—In the words, "Tell his disciples and Peter," the angel recognized Peter’s preeminence, and intended also, perhaps, by the very honor conferred on him, to rebuke him for his recent denial of his Lord.

8. neither said they any thing —Mark expresses more emphatically than Matthew does, the great excitement of the women. They "fled from the sepulcher," they "trembled and were amazed," "neither said they any thing to any man." This last declaration means that they said nothing to any man on the way as they ran to tell the male disciples (Mark 16:7). If they had been less frightened, they might have cried out to every man they met, "The Lord is risen." As it was, people saw in them as they passed, only a group of frightened women running on some unknown errand.

Verses 9-11

Mar 16:9-11

Commentary On Mark 16:9-11

J.W. McGarvy

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene, Mark 16:9-11. (John 20:1-18)

On the genuineness of the remainder of this chapter, see the dissertation at the close of the volume.

9. when Jesus.—The name "Jesus" is omitted from the text by Green and Alford, for want of manuscript authority, and this omission makes the present paragraph connect more closely with the preceding.

first to Mary.—Inasmuch as Mary Magdalene came to the sepulcher in company with the other women (Mark 16:1), the statement that Jesus appeared first to her implies that she had become separated from the others; for otherwise he would have appeared to all of them at once. But he appeared to the other women as they were going to tell the disciples (Matthew 28:9-10), consequently Mary’s separation from them and the appearance of Jesus to her must both have taken place between the time that they all approached the sepulcher together and the time that he appeared to the other women. This much is implied in the accounts of Matthew and Mark, and the details are furnished by John. He, mentioning Mary alone because she alone brought the news to him, says: "The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early when it was yet dark to the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth and cometh to Simon and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him." (John 20:1-2.) These words contain a double proof that she left the company of the other women as soon as they discovered that the sepulcher was open; for first, it is said "she seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth," etc.; and second, had she remained with the other women till the angel spoke to them, her report to Peter and John would not have been, "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him;" but she would have reported the statement of the angel that he had risen from the dead. She inferred that the body had been taken away, because she could see no other reason for rolling away the great stone. Peter and John, who were evidently separated from the main body of the male disciples, on hearing the startling news, ran with all their might to the sepulcher, followed by Mary. On seeing and believing what Mary had reported, they departed, leaving her still at the tomb, where Jesus appeared to her first. (John 20:3-18.) On disappearing from Mary, he appeared the next moment to the other women, who, by this time, had examined the sepulcher, conversed with the angel, and gone some distance in the direction of the other male disciples.

The movements about the sepulcher that morning were animated in the highest degree, and they followed each other in quick succession.

When the angel came down like a stream of light from heaven, rolled back the stone, sat down on it, and turned his flashing eyes on the Roman guards, though the latter fell like dead men to the ground, in another instant they arose and fled. The angel enters the tomb, and the five women draw calmly near, not knowing what was done. They see that the stone has been rolled away, when one of them, without a word, runs swiftly away. The others grow pale, and draw near with trembling to the tomb. They look within, they enter, and for a moment they look around in wonder. Two angels suddenly become visible to them, and one of them tells the wonderful story of the resurrection. Wild with joy and fear, they fly away to tell the news. They have scarcely left the spot, when the swift-footed John bounds up to the open door, stoops down and looks with eagerness into the vacant tomb. The impetuous Peter follows hard after, rushes past his companion into the sepulcher, and gazes around. They both for a moment look thoughtfully at the napkin lying here, and the linen clothes lying yonder, then they solemnly walk away. Mary has now returned. After a momentary burst of tears, the first she had found time to shed, she stoops and looks within. The angels, whom none but female eyes could see that day, are visible to her, and commence a conversation which is interrupted by the approach of some one behind her, when she turns, and the risen Lord himself is before her. One moment of rapture, and he is gone. Another swift race for the bewildered Mary, to tell this better news, and to have her story this time treated like an idle tale! Wonderful sepulcher! The center of attraction to heaven and earth, and none the less so as ages have passed away, and the question, Did he rise? goes round the world.

seven devils.—The recorded history of Mary Magdalene is almost entirely confined to her connection with the cross and the sepulcher. Only two other facts in her life are known. She was one of the women who in Galilee followed Jesus and ministered to him out of their substance (Luke 8:1-3; Mark 15:41), and out of her, as we see in this verse, the Lord had cast seven demons. Mag-da-lé-ne means a woman of Magdala, and indicated that the town of Magdala, on the western shore of the lake of Galilee, was her native place. There, perhaps, Jesus had first met her, and bound her to himself in bonds of everlasting gratitude by casting out the seven demons. Her possession by these demons was a fearful calamity, but it implies nothing derogatory to her character (see the note, Matthew 8:16); neither is there any thing else in the sacred narratives to justify the popular conception that her character had been bad. The supposition that she is identical with "the woman that was a sinner," spoken of in Luke 7:37-38, is without a shadow of foundation. In reality, all of the indications of her character and position which are furnished by the Scriptures point to a woman in easy circumstances, with a benevolent disposition, tender sensibilities, and commanding influence. Her name stands first among the female attendants of Jesus at almost every mention of it, and on her he conferred the peculiar honor of making her the first human witness of his resurrection from the dead. It is a shame on the Christian world, that a woman of virtue so preeminent has come to be commonly regarded as a reformed harlot; and that her cognomen which served only to distinguish her from other Marys by indicating her birthplace, has become, in the contracted form of Magdalen, the name of societies and institutions for the reformation of abandoned women. This is an illustration, however, of the corrupting and degrading tendency of human tradition when it dares to tamper with the sacred narratives. It is Rome that has given Mary the false and low repute in which she is erroneously held. (See Smith’s Dictionary.)

10, 11. as they mourned and wept.—When Mary left the sepulcher she doubtless followed Peter and John, who had gone but a few moments before. The mourning and weeping here mentioned are best accounted for by supposing that Peter and John had now joined company with a different group of disciples from those to whom the other women had already borne the news of the resurrection, and had told them, what they still supposed to be true, that the body of Jesus had been taken away they knew not whither. This announcement was in itself distressing, and would naturally open afresh all the wounds within them that his death had inflicted. It is possible, however, that the mourning company were the other apostles (Mark calls them "them that had been with him"), and that they had credited the story of the women as regards the emptiness of the tomb, but totally discredited it as regards the resurrection of Jesus. In either case, when Mary came in with her story it was but natural that they should discredit it.

Verses 12-13

Mar 16:12-13

Commentary On Mark 16:12-13

J.W. McGarvey

Jesus Appears to Two in the Country, Mark 16:12-13. (Luke 24:13-35)

This paragraph is an epitome of the account given in the parallel place in Luke, but there are two statements in it which call for especial attention here.

12. in another form.—While Mark here says that Jesus "appeared in another form" to these two disciples, Luke accounts for their not recognizing him by the fact that "their eyes were holden that they should not know him." (Luke 24:16.) The statements are not inconsistent; they only show, when taken in connection, that Jesus appeared in another form by holding in some way, their eyes, so that he would appear to be a different person. Mark’s account implies that they eventually saw through his disguise, without stating how.

13. neither believed they them.—On these words Alford, who will by no means allow that the Evangelists do not occasionally contradict one another, says: "Here again the Harmonists have used every kind of distortion of the plain meaning of words to reconcile the two accounts." Certainly a reconciliation effected at such a sacrifice is not desirable. But is it true that such a distortion is necessary, in order to remove the appearance of inconsistency between Mark and Luke? Let us see. Luke’s account of the return of these two men to the city, and of their reception by the eleven, is this: "They rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known to them in breaking of bread." (Luke 24:33-35.) Here are two things asserted concerning this interview: first, that on the arrival of the two they were told by the eleven and those who were with them, that the Lord had arisen and appeared to Simon; second, that the two then gave an account of his appearance to them. It is clearly implied that those who announced that the Lord had arisen and had appeared to Peter, believed it to be true; but whether they believed the story that was then told by the two who came from the country, Luke neither affirms nor denies. For aught that he says to the contrary, though they believed Peter’s story, and believed that the Lord had actually arisen, they may not have believed the story told by these two; and that they did not believe it is the very thing affirmed by Mark. He says, "They went and told it to the residue, neither believed they them." He does not say that they did not believe Jesus had arisen, but that they did not believe the story of his having appeared in another form to the two as they went into the country. There is, then, no inconsistency at all between the two accounts, and it is surprising that so acute a critic as Alford should have thought there is. He surely would have detected his error, had not an erroneous theory of inspiration caused him to be indifferent to questions of this kind.

Here we might rest this question, but lest it may appear to some unaccountable that the company believed that Jesus had arisen, on the testimony of Peter, and yet doubted the story of the others who claimed to have seen him, we remark that this is in perfect harmony with the other facts of the resurrection history. These same persons had treated as an idle tale the story of the women who claimed both to have seen Jesus, and to have seen angels who declared that he had risen from the dead. (Luke 24:10-11.) They were now convinced by the additional testimony of Peter, that Jesus had actually arisen; but the story of the two from Emmaus had some peculiarities which were calculated to throw doubt on it until more mature reflection on its merits brought its strong points into view. For instance, that Jesus had walked with them several miles, conversing all the time—conversing, too, about himself; that he had gone with them into the house; had taken a seat with them to dine; and still they did not recognize him till he was in the act of blessing and breaking a loaf, were circumstances all calculated to throw doubt on the story when it was first told; and at that time the disciples were disposed to be suspicious of every new story they heard in regard to the resurrection. But though the circumstances must have cast doubt on the story at first, the more the entire story, was weighed in the scales of evidence, the more credible it appeared; for it is quite certain, that if the two men had undertaken to invent a pretended appearance of Jesus to them, such details as we have named would have been carefully excluded from the story, for fear that on their account it would not be believed. Only when men are compelled by the pressure of a truth which they are trying to hide, do they give testimony which, like the story of the guards (Matthew 28:11-15), bears its falsehood on its face.

Verses 14-18

Mark 16:14-18

Commentary On Mark 16:14-18

J.W. McGarvey

Jesus Appears to the Eleven and Gives the Commission, Mark 16:14-18. (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23)

14. as they sat at meat.—The circumstance that the disciples "sat at meat" when Jesus appeared to them, as recorded in this verse, seems to identify this appearance with that recorded in Luke 24:36-43, at which he called for food and ate it in order to convince them that he was not a spirit. And as that appearance occurred on the evening of the first day of the week, this identifies it with that recorded in John 20:19-23.

because they believed not.—Mark has thus far mentioned only such testimony to the resurrection as had been discredited by the disciples, and it is true that to the extent of this testimony "they believed not them who had seen him after he was risen." Yet, as we learn from Luke, this discrediting of the testimony was not universal, for they did believe the testimony of Peter. (Luke 24:33-34, and comp. the note above on Mark 16:13.)

15. And he said unto them.—Here there is a silent transition from the interview on the evening after the day of the resurrection, which is the subject of verse 14, to one which occurred on the day of the ascension (verse 19), forty days later (Acts 1:3). From Mark’s narrative alone we would not be able to discover this transition, but would suppose that the words of Jesus in verses 15-18 were spoken at the time of the appearance mentioned in Mark 16:14 : but this is only one among many instances in which details not essential to an understanding of the chief thought to be conveyed, are omitted from one narrative but found in another.

Go ye.—Here begins the Apostolic Commission, as given by Jesus on the day of his ascension. It had already been given, as recorded by Matthew, on the mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20), and now it is repeated in a slightly different form. It is properly called a commission, because it committed to the apostles what they had not before received, the authority to preach the gospel, and to announce the conditions of salvation. Hitherto they had been forbidden even to tell any man that Jesus was the Christ. (See Matthew 16:20; Matthew 17:9.) Now their lips are unsealed, with this only limitation, that they are to tarry in Jerusalem until they are "endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:47-49; Acts 1:7-8.) Then they are to "go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."

16. He that believeth.—That is, he that believeth the gospel (verse 15). It was to be preached in order that it might be believed, and belief, both on this account, and because it is, from the nature of the case, a prerequisite to repentance and obedience, is the first act of compliance with its demands.

and is baptized.—The collocation of the words, and the fact that baptism is an act of obedience, which it could not be without faith, show that baptism is to be preceded by faith. This commission both authorizes the apostles to baptize believers, and restricts them to believers as the subjects of baptism. No comment can make this clearer than it is made by the words of the commission itself. It is impossible, therefore, that the apostles could have found authority in their commission for baptizing infants, and it is equally impossible for modern Pedobaptists to find it. (Comp. the notes on Matthew 28:19.)

shall be saved.—To be saved is to be made safe. It implies that the person saved was in danger, or in actual distress, and that the danger or the distress is removed. When the term refers to the eternal state it includes the resurrection from the dead, and perpetual safety from sin and suffering. But death and all suffering are but the consequences of sin, and therefore to be made safe from sin exhausts the idea of the salvation provided in the gospel. When the term saved is used in reference to the state of the Christian in this world, as it frequently is (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Ephesians 2:5; Titus 3:5), it means that he is made safe from his past sins, which is effected by pardon, and can be effected in no other way. If it be said that when a man is once saved he is saved forever, because he can not fall away, still it must be granted that the salvation affirmed of him includes the present forgiveness of his past sins. Consequently, in the statement, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," the salvation promised must include at least the forgiveness of sins, whatever it may be supposed to include in addition to this. It really includes no more than this, and is equivalent to the promise of pardon to all who believe and are baptized. If any man’s mind revolts at the idea of placing baptism in such a connection with salvation or the forgiveness of sins, let him remember that it is Jesus who has placed it in this connection, and that when our minds revolt at any of his words or collocation of words, it is not his fault but ours. It is always the result of some misconception on our part. If one should be tempted to say, True, he that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes and is not baptized shall also be saved, let him ask himself why Jesus, in this formal commission, says, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," if the same is true of him who is not baptized. Men do not, on solemn occasions, trifle with words in this way. If the Executive of a State should say to the convicted thieves in the penitentiary, He that will make a written pledge to be an honest man, and will restore fourfold what he has stolen, shall be pardoned, there is not a man in any penitentiary who would expect pardon without the restitution required; and if it were ascertained that the Executive meant by these words to promise pardon to all who would make the pledge, whether they would, being able, make the restitution or not, he would be justly chargeable with trifling, and also with offering different conditions of pardon to the same class of criminals. So in the present case. If he that is not baptized, being capable of the act, is as certainly saved as he that is baptized, the Savior spoke idle words in the commission, and he offers two plans of pardon to the same class of sinners, showing partiality by offering to release one on easier terms than another. Such is the absurdity in which we are inevitably involved if we allow not the words in question their proper and natural force. When the apostles went out to preach under this commission, they knew only from its terms to whom they should promise pardon, and consequently they never encouraged any person to hope for it previous to baptism, nor gave any unbaptized person reason to think that his sins were already forgiven. If any of the unbaptized, therefore, are pardoned, it is because God has granted to them more than he has promised. This he may unquestionably do, if the circumstances of individuals shall make it right in his eyes to do so, but of these circumstances He alone can judge, who knows all things and whoso judgments are guided by infinite wisdom.

he that believeth not shall be damned.—The term "damned" has no more reference to the eternal state than the term "saved" in the preceding clause. They both have primary reference to the present state, and the former is the exact counterpart of the latter. The original term means "condemned," and this should be its rendering. Condemnation already rests on those who believe not (John 3:19), but the apostles are here told that it shall especially rest on those who hear the gospel and believe it not. It rests on them now, and it must, of course, rest on them forever unless, at some subsequent period of life, they shall become believers. In this way the state of condemnation which now exists will reach forward into eternity, unless its cause be removed, in like manner as the state of salvation enjoyed by the baptized believer will reach into eternity, unless it be forfeited by subsequent apostasy. It has frequently been observed, that though Jesus says, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," he does not, in stating the ground of condemnation, mention the failure to be baptized as part of it, but simply says, "He that believeth not shall be condemned." From this it is again inferred that baptism is not one of the conditions of pardon. But the conclusion does not follow; for the fact that baptism is not mentioned in stating who shall be condemned, can never remove it from the place it occupies in stating who shall be saved. In the supposed case of the convicts above mentioned, if, after saying to all the convicted thieves, "He that will make a written pledge to be an honest man, and will restore fourfold what he has stolen, shall be pardoned," the Governor had added, "but he that will not make this pledge shall serve out his time in prison," none but a crazy thief could think that because restitution is not mentioned in the latter instance he would be pardoned without making restitution. Equally unreasonable is the conclusion in question. The leading thought in the commission is to state the ground on which men would be saved, and not that on which they would be damned. The apostles were to be concerned with saving men, not with damning them; consequently, Jesus tells them in detail on what ground they are promised salvation; but as damnation is his own work, not theirs, he speaks of that comprehensively by naming the one sin of unbelief which renders all acceptable obedience impossible, and is the chief cause of all condemnation. A man should come to the commission, then, not to learn how he may be damned, but how he may be saved; and this it teaches him right plainly.

The assertion, "He that believeth not shall be condemned," implies that all who hear can believe—that no innate or acquired incredulity can justify unbelief of the gospel. This is asserting the highest possible claim in behalf of the evidences of Christianity, and he who makes the claim is He who will judge the world at the last day. If, in the face of this declaration, any man will venture to the judgment in unbelief, alleging that the evidence is not sufficient for him, he must settle the issue with Jesus himself.

17, 18. these signs shall follow.—The promise is, not that these signs shall follow for any specified time, nor that they should follow each individual believer; but merely that they shall follow, and follow "the believers" taken as a body. They did follow the believers during the apostolic age—not every individual believer, but all, or nearly all, the organized bodies of the believers. This was a complete fulfillment of what was promised. He who claims that the promise included more than this, presses the words of the promise beyond what is necessary to a full realization of their meaning; and he who affirms that the signs do yet follow the believers, should present some ocular demonstration of the fact before he asks the people to believe his assertion. Signs were intended to convince the unbelievers, and they were always wrought openly in the presence of the unbelievers: let us see them, and then we will believe. Paul’s expectation was that prophesying, speaking in tongues, and miraculous knowledge, would vanish away (1 Corinthians 15:8); and so they did with the death of the apostles and of those to whom they had imparted miraculous gifts.

Verse 19

Mar 16:19


Mark 16:19

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken unto them, --The Great Commission and the instructions connected therewith.

was received--By the Father and all the heavenly host.

up into heaven,--This must have been a happy meeting since it had been about thirty-three and a half years since Jesus left heaven. He was blessing his disciples when he parted from them. (Luke 24:51.) He was borne up from Mount Olivet and a cloud received him out of sight. (Acts 1:9-12.) He also ascended from Bethany. (Luke 24:50-51.) No contradiction here as skeptics claim from the fact that Bethany is situated on the east side of Mount Olivet. He ascended from both Bethany and Mount Olivet. Jesus will return to earth again in like manner as he ascended. (Acts 1 10, 11.) After his resurrection Jesus associated with his disciples on earth forty days. (Acts 1:3.)

and sat down at the right hand of God.--It means that Jesus was exalted to honor and power in the heavens. It was esteemed the place of the highest honor to be seated at the right hand of a prince. So, to be seated at the right hand of God means that Jesus is exalted to the highest honor of the universe. (Ephesians 1:20-23.) The language of the verse establishes a close connection in time between the close of the speech Jesus made and his ascension. The same connection is indicated by Luke both in his gospel and in Acts, where, although he quoted none of the words reported by Mark, he reports a conversation quite similar to it which occurred on the same occasion and was immediately followed by the ascension. (Luke 24:49-51; Acts 1:4-9.)

Verses 19-20

Mar 16:19-20

Commentary On Mark 16:19-20

J.W. McGarvey

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

19. after the Lord had spoken.—The statement that "after the Lord had spoken to them he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God," establishes a close connection in time between the close of the speech and the ascension of Jesus. The same connection is indicated by Luke both in his gospel and in Acts, where, although he quotes none of the words reported by Mark, he reports a conversation quite similar to it which occurred on the same occasion and was immediately followed by the ascension. (See Luke 24:49-51; Acts 1:4-9.)

20. And they went forth.—In this sentence Mark overleaps the stay of the apostles in Jerusalem, and reaches forward to the period of their greatest activity, when "they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." Thus he brings to a most appropriate termination his narrative of those events that had gradually prepared the apostles for the mission of mercy on which they were sent forth, and which, when recited in their preaching, led men to believe in Jesus, and to accept the offered salvation.

Argument of Section 6

This closing section of Mark, like the corresponding section in Matthew, contains two proofs of the divinity of Jesus. The first is found in the darkness that covered the earth during three hours of his suffering. It is common, when we would make a comparison to indicate the impossibility of an undertaking, to say that you may as well attempt to blot the sun from the heavens. But this, God did, in effect, when the noonday sun was shining on the dying agonies of Jesus. It was accomplished by no natural eclipse, for the moon was on the opposite side of the globe (the moon was always full at the Passover); but it was done by the simple fiat of Jehovah. No stroke of his almighty hand since the sun was created has been more wonderful. It finds its only conceivable explanation in the fact that Jesus was dying. Was Jesus, then, an impostor? Or was he, what he claimed to be, the Son of God? Let a man stand, by imagination, for three hours amid that awful gloom, as did the Roman centurion, and then answer the question.

But the crowning proof in the grand series which Mark has presented, is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. No power but God’s could have raised him from the dead, and this power could not have been exerted in behalf of a pretender. That he was raised from the dead, then, is proof demonstrative that he was all that he claimed to be—the Christ, the Son of the living God.

It has sometimes been admitted, that to prove so extraordinary an event as the resurrection of one from the dead, would require most extraordinary evidence; and certainly it would in the case of any ordinary person; but in the case of Jesus, who had wrought so many miracles in proof of his divinity, who had repeatedly declared that he would arise from the dead, and who had died amid the most astounding manifestations of the divine displeasure toward his murderers, his resurrection was an event most reasonably to be expected, and it ought to be believed on the most ordinary testimony. Indeed, after having lived as he did, and having died as he did, his failure to arise from the dead would hare been the most astonishing circumstance in his wonderful career. Such a life ending in the unbroken slumber of the grave, would have been an everlasting puzzle to the world. But such a life, followed by a glorious resurrection from the dead, attains a fitting consummation, and rounds out to completeness the most extraordinary personal history known in the annals of earth or heaven. The proofs of this event, furnished by Mark, are briefly these—that an angel appeared to a company of women in the empty sepulcher, and told them that Jesus had arisen; that he himself appeared alive that morning to Mary Magdalene; that he appeared the same day to two male disciples as they walked into the country; that he appeared afterward to the eleven as they sat at meat; and that, having given them a commission to preach salvation through him to every creature, he ascended up to heaven, and subsequently worked with the disciples by "signs following," as they went everywhere preaching the gospel. Closing his testimony in the midst of a world which at the time of his writing was being filled with these last mentioned signs, and which was still able to disprove by living witnesses all that he had written, if it were not true, he laid his pen aside, and sent forth his graphic narrative to challenge contradiction, and to do its part in the regeneration of mankind. We thank God that it has lived and come down to us; and as we pass it on to generations which shall come after us, we smile to think of the blessings it will bear to millions yet unborn, and of the undimmed radiance with which every sentence in it will shine when the sun shall have been blotted out forever, and the harvest of God shall all be gathered in.

Genuineness of Mark 16:9-20

A difference of opinion has long existed among the critics as to the genuineness of the last twelve verses of Mark. The recent popularization of the results of Biblical Criticism, by the publication of such works as the Tauchnitz edition of the English Testament and Bagster’s Critical English Testament, as well as by the increased circulation of critical commentaries, has brought this and similar questions before the masses of the people, and created a demand for their treatment in a style adapted to the comprehension of comparatively uneducated readers. We propose, therefore, to state with as much brevity and simplicity as we can, the facts which must have the controlling influence in deciding this question.

Let it be first observed, that it is not the authenticity of the passage, by which is meant the historical correctness of its representations, that is called in question, but only its genuineness as a part of Mark’s original manuscript. A few remarks on its authenticity, however, will not at this point be out of place.

All the historical statements of the passage are known to be true, independently of their occurrence here, because they are found in the other gospels or in Acts. Thus the statements concerning the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, which occupy verses 9-11, are substantially verified by John and Luke. (See John 20:1-18; Luke 8:2, and comp. the notes on Mark 16:9-11, above.) The statement concerning his appearance to two disciples as they went into the country, is but a brief account of what is more fully described in Luke 24:13-35, and yet it is so varied in expression as to show that it is not an abbreviation from Luke. (See the note on 16:12, 13.) All the items of the appearance of Jesus to the eleven, described in verse 14, are substantiated by the statements in Luke 24:36-43, and John 20:19-23; and those pertaining to the commission and the ascension (15, 16, 19, 20), are confirmed by Luke’s account of the latter (24:36-51), and by Matthew’s report of the former (28:19, 20); while the promise concerning the signs that were to follow the believers is substantially included in Matthew 28:20, and John 14:12, and is fully verified by the events recorded in Acts.

Not only are the statements of the passage thus proved to be authentic, but the manner in which the details are handled, and the forms of expression employed, show unmistakable marks of an original writer. His sources of information were independent of the narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and yet they were correct. He must, then, have lived and written previous to the general circulation of the other gospels, and within the apostolic age. This is conceded even by Alford, who is one of the most confident writers in opposition to the genuineness of the passage. He says: "The inference therefore seems to me to be, that it is an authentic fragment, placed as a completion of the Gospel in very early times: by whom written, must of course remain wholly uncertain; but coming to us with very weighty sanction, and having strong claims on our reception and reverence." (Com. Mark 16:20.)

The authenticity of the passage being conceded, and the fact being apparent that it was written by some one possessed of independent and correct sources of information, the question of its genuineness might be waived without detracting from its authority or credibility; for a true piece of history attached to Mark’s book is not less valuable or authoritative because some other person than Mark may have been the author of it: but we proceed, for the sake of a thorough understanding of the facts in the case, to examine the evidences pro and con, and first, those which are called external evidences.

First, the manuscripts. The passage is omitted from a few of the manuscripts, and among these are the Vatican and the Sinaitic, the two oldest and best manuscripts extant. These two manuscripts carry with them a very great weight of authority; and, indeed, it is the comparatively recent discovery of the Sinaitic manuscript that has turned the scales against the passage, in the judgment of some scholars. Jerome, and some writers of the fourth century, are also quoted as affirming that the passage was wanting in most of the Greek copies of their day.

On the other hand, the passage is found in nearly all of the other ancient manuscripts, including the Alexandrian, which stands next to the Vatican in accuracy. It was also cited by Irenaeus and Tatian of the second century, and by Hyppolytus and Dyonisius of Alexandria, of the third century, all of whom lived before the earliest existing manuscript was written, and from one hundred to two hundred years earlier than Jerome. The words of Irenaeus show that it was not only a part of the book of Mark in his day, but that Mark was regarded as its author. He says: "But Mark, in the end of his gospel, says: And the Lord Jesus, after that he had spoken to them, was received up into heaven, and eat at the right hand of God." From these writers, then, it appears that the passage was a part of some copies of Mark a gospel at least as early as the second century. The preponderance of evidence from this source is in favor of the passage.

Second, the ancient versions. The evidence from this source is altogether in favor of the passage; for all the ancient versions contain it, and thereby testify that it was in the Greek copies from which they were translated. If, at this time, the Greek copies did not generally contain it, it is at least a very remarkable circumstance that all the versions were made from those that did. Among these versions are the Peshito Syriac, the Old Italic, the Sahidic and the Coptic; all of which were in existence earlier than the Sinaitic and Vatican manuscripts, and before the time of Jerome.

Third, critical conjecture. The relative probability of the passage having been written by Mark or added by a later hand, is next to be considered. Those who adopt the latter hypothesis think that the addition was made on account of the want of completeness apparent in closing the narrative with the eighth verse of this chapter. Any reader will be struck with this want of completeness, if he will read from the first to the eighth verse, and imagine that the narrative there closes. But while this consideration would account for the addition of the passage, it leaves unaccounted for the fact that Mark cut short his narrative so abruptly. The various conjectures advanced to account for this fact, such as the sudden death of Mark, or the sudden death of Peter, Mark’s instructor, are so unsatisfactory that they serve only to show the strait in which the writers find themselves who adopt this hypothesis. On the other hand if we suppose that the passage was written by Mark, its absence from some copies is at once accounted for by considering the many accidents by which the last leaf of a manuscript may be lost Alford himself recognizes the force of this consideration, and says, "The most probable supposition is, that the last leaf of the original gospel was torn away." This remark is intended by him to account for the incompleteness which suggested the addition of the passage in question, but we think it still more satisfactorily accounts for the absence of this passage from those manuscripts which have it not: for one manuscript with the last leaf torn away, or worn away, might be used as a copy, and might thus become the prolific mother of an immense brood of manuscripts lacking the portion lost.

As regards the external evidence, then, we are constrained to adopt the conclusion of Dr. Davidson, who very modestly says: "On the whole, the external arguments in favor of the passage outweigh those on the other side." (Davidson’s Introduction.)

We believe that in this conclusion all of the critics concur, and that the ground of doubt which overrules it in the minds of some, is internal evidence furnished by words and phrases found in the passage which are foreign, it is claimed, to Mark’s style, and which therefore show the hand of another writer. Dean Alford, after mentioning each of these words and phrases as they occur in the text, sums up the evidence from this source, as follows: "Internal evidence is, I think, very weighty against Mark’s being the author. No less than seventeen words and phrases occur in it (and some of them several times) which are never elsewhere used by Mark—whose adherence to his own peculiar phrases is remarkable." Such also is the judgment of several other eminent critics, both English and German.

A question of this kind is not to be decided by balancing the weight of the great names which have been arrayed in the discussion of it, but by a careful and patient examination of the alleged peculiarities of style, in order to determine the actual force of the evidence which they contain. To Prof. John A. Broadus, of Greenville, South Carolina, belongs the credit of having first applied to this argument the test which it demands. He did so in an article published in the Baptist Quarterly for 1869, which is remarkable alike for its conclusiveness, for the modesty with which its argument is set forth, and for the painstaking research which it exhibits. He names, as an offset to Alford’s seventeen words and phrases in the last twelve verses not elsewhere used by Mark, precisely the same number in the twelve verses next preceding these. These are: τθνηκε, 15:44; γνοςπὸ, ἐδωρσατο, πτμα, 15:45; ἐνελησε, λελατομημνον, πετρας, προσεκλισε, 15:46; διαγενομνου, αρματα, 16:1; τς μις σαββτων, 16:2; ἀποκυλσει, 16:3; ανακεκυλισται, σφδρα, 16:4; εν τοις δεξιος, 16:5; εχε in a peculiar sense, τρμος, 16:8. The Professor used the Greek text of Tregelles.

Such a coincidence, occurring in the immediate context, is at once a surprising fact and a startling exposure of the fragile foundation on which this famous critical structure has been erected. It shows that the same use of the Greek Concordance which led to the origin of this criticism, if pushed a little farther, would have smothered it in its birth, and would have saved some distinguished critics from being detected in a flimsy though pretentious fallacy.

Applying to another passage the method adopted by Prof. Broadus, I have myself examined the last twelve verses of Luke’s narrative and found there nine words which are not elsewhere used in his narrative, and among them are four which are not elsewhere found in the New Testament: yet none of our critics have thought it worth while to mention this fact, if they have noticed it, much less have they raised a doubt in regard to the genuineness of this passage. Doubtless many other examples of the kind could be found in the New Testament; but these are amply sufficient to show that the argument which we are considering is but a shallow sophism.

But the argument appears, if possible, still more fallacious, when we come to consider it in connection with the words and phrases in question taken separately. We make a few specifications, taken from among those on which Alford and others most confidently rely for the support of their criticism.

1. We select first, the word poreuomai (πορεομαι), to go. Alford says, "This word, never used by Mark, is three times contained in this passage, verses 10, 12, 15." True, this word in its simple form is not elsewhere used by Mark, but he uses it in composition with a preposition not less than nineteen times. He uses eis-poreuomai (ὲισπορεομαι), to go in, eight times; and ek-poreuomai (ὲκπορεομαι), to go out, eleven times. The argument really stands thus: Because, in a book which eight times uses the expression "go in," and eleven times the expression "go out," there is a passage which three times employs the simple word "go," it is inferred that the latter passage must have been written by a different author. Ludicrous as this argument appears, it would have some degree of plausibility if the places in which "go" is employed were such as properly require "go in" or "go out" But such is not the case. The places are as follows: She (Mary) went and told them," verse 10. She neither went in nor went out, but she simply went to where Peter and John were abiding. "He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country" (verse 12). Here the direction into is expressed by the preposition which follows the verb, and it is not sufficiently emphatic to justify compounding it also with the verb. "Go into all the world, and preach" (verse 15). The same remark is true of this as of the preceding instance, and furthermore it is clear that the speaker did not intend to emphasize the direction of the going, as though the disciples needed a caution lest they should go out of all the world instead of going into it. There is a reason, then, for the use of the uncompounded word in these places, just as there was in the other nineteen places for using the compounded word; and instead of proving that Mark is not the author of this passage, the use of the word in question is only a proof that Mark was careful to employ words with precision.

Again, as Prof. Broadus clearly shows, it is not unusual for Mark to employ occasionally in its simple form a word which he usually compounds with a preposition. He uses the compound term eperotao (περοτω), to ask, twenty-four times according to the corrected text, and the uncompounded erotao (ροτω) three times (Mark 4:10; Mark 7:26; Mark 8:5). He also uses the compound term apothneesko (ποθνσκω), to die, eight times, and the uncompounded thneesko (θνησκω) only once. These examples take away the last vestige of argument drawn from the use of the word in question.

2. We next notice the phrase meta tauta (μετ τατα), after these things (Mark 16:12). Alford Bays of this expression, "It is not found in Mark, though many opportunities occurred for using it." The argument, fairly stated, is this: In all similar connections, Mark employs other terms, such as eutheoos θως), straightway, or palin (πλιν), again; but here, where the critic thinks his style required the use of the latter term, we find the phrase meta tauta (μεττατα, after these things; from which it is inferred that Mark is not the author of this passage. It is surprising that this argument is employed, for it requires only a cursory glance at the connection to see that the term palin, again, would not have served the purpose of the writer in this place. The statement is, literally translated, "After these things he appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country." It would not have been proper to say that he appeared to them again, for he had not appeared to them previously: but this appearance took place after the events just previously mentioned by Mark, and he most properly chose the phrase "after these things" to indicate this fact. As regards the "many opportunities" which occurred in Mark’s narrative for a previous use of this phrase, we are prepared to affirm that in no one of the places where palin occurs, would meta tauta have served the purpose of context so well. This the English reader can see for himself, if he will examine the occurrences of "again" in Mark’s narrative, and suppose the phrase "after these things" to be substituted for it. Moreover, in this instance, as in others already mentioned, a striking coincidence discovered by Prof. Broadus serves most effectually the purpose of refutation. Luke, in the book of Acts, a book nearly twice as large as Mark, makes the same use of eutheoos and palin that Mark does, yet once, and only once. he employ meta tauta, the very phrase now in question (Acts 18:1). True, the phrase occurs four times in Acts, but in the other three instances it occurs in quotations, one from Stephen (Acts 7:7), one from Paul (Acts 13:20), and one from James (Acts 15:16).

3. Finally, we notice the term Κυριος, "the Lord" (Mark 16:19-20). Alford says that this term is "foreign to the diction of Mark in speaking of the Lord;" and it is true that it is not found elsewhere in Mark except in quotations. But, as Prof. Broadus remarks, "It is precisely after the resurrection of Christ that it would be most natural to apply to him this high name, the Lord." John uses the term in this sense only three times before the resurrection, but it is found nine times in his lips and those of his fellow disciples in his brief account of the scenes that followed the resurrection. If, then, the apostle John thus changes his phraseology to suit the changed and more exalted condition of his Master, why should it be thought strange that Mark does the same; and why, in this most natural and reasonable change, pretend to discover the hand of a new writer?

"We regard further specifications as unnecessary. None of the seventeen words and phrases mentioned by Alford and the critics who agree with him, furnishes any better ground for objection to the passage than these three; and "Although," to use the language of the scholar to whom I am so much indebted in preparing this note, "the multiplication of littles may amount to much, not so the multiplication of nothings."

Our final conclusion is, that the passage in question is authentic in all its details, and that there is no reason to doubt that it was written by the same hand which indited the proceeding parts of this narrative. The objections which have been raised against it are better calculated to shake our confidence in Biblical Criticism than in the genuineness of this inestimable portion of the word of God.

[After the above note was completed and sent to the printers, I was kindly furnished by Prof. Broadus with a copy of a book of over 300 pages devoted exclusively to the question discussed above, and written by John W. Burgon, D. D., Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. While the writer appears to me extravagant in many of his expressions, and often extreme in his conclusions, I recommend the work to the careful study of those who are interested in this question. It was published at Oxford, Eng., in 1871.]

Questions by E.M. Zerr For Mark Sixteen

1. What day has just passed?

2. Who came to the grave?

3. Identify the second Mary.

4. Tell what they brought.

5. What did they intend doing with it?

6. At what time did they arrive at the grave?

7. Was it day light?

8. What day of the week was it?

9. On what did they converse?

10. With whom did they have this conversation?

11. Why were they uncertain about this?

12. Into what did they enter?

13. Whom did they see?

14. What had happened to the stone?

15. Where was the young man sitting?

16. Did he understand their anxiety?

17. Did he know whom they were seeking?

18. From what state or condition did Jesus come?

19. What had been done to him?

20. And what had been done after his burial ?

21. Was his living body in their presence?

22. To what place did he call their attention?

23. Had more than one taken part in the burial?

24. What movement did he bid them make?

25. To whom were they to tell the story?

26. Why mention Peter separately?

27. What information were they to give?

23. Tell what Peter was to see in Galilee.

29. Had they ever been told this before?

30. In what manner did they act?

31. From what did they flee?

32. How were they feeling?

33. With whom did they hold conversation?

34. Why was this?

35. On what day did Jesus rise?

36. At what time of day?

37. To whom did he first appear?

38. What work had been done for her?

39. Did this pertain to her personal character?

40. Tell what she did now.

41. What were these people doing?

42. Tell how they received the report?

43. Afterward how did Jesus appear?

44. What did these two then do ?

45. Tell how their report was received.

46. To whom did Jesus appear next?

47. For what did he upbraid them?

48. Where did he bid them go?

49. They must preach what?

50. Who should be saved?

51. And who condemned?

52. What would follow on belief of the gospel?

53. What 0ld Testament prophet predicted this?

54. After the charge where did Jesus go?

55. What did the disciples then do?

56. How did the Lord confirm their work?

57. Through what means was this confirming done?

Mark Chapter Sixteen

By Ralph L. Starling

Mary and Salome, early the 1st day of the week,

Came to anoint him with spices and sweets.

They wondered, how they could move the stone aside.

When they arrived the stone was moved and a man inside.

He said, “Go tell the disciples what you have seen,

And that he will meet you in Galilee.

They left the scene trembling and amazed,

But they told no man for they were afraid.

Later when they learned he was alive,

They would not believe that He had survived.

Later He appeared to the eleven

And upbraided them for the unbelieving.

He outlined to them His “Great Commission,”

And that signs and wonders would be with them.

Having fully instructed all of them,

He was received into heaven at God’s right hand.

The disciples went forth preaching everywhere,

The Lord working with them confirming the Word.

With signs and wonders He said would be with them,

And Mark ends his “gospel” with a sound “AMEN!”

Verse 20

Mar 16:20



Mark 16:20

20 And they went forth,--The apostles, whose unbelief is related in the first part of this chapter, and who witnessed the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:2-4), now believing and obedient.

and preached--The gospel (verse 15). They are carrying out the Great Commission.

everywhere,--In the parts of the then inhabited world. (Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:6; Colossians 1:23.) The apostles preached the gospel to the whole world, in harmony with the Great Commission, inside of thirty-three years, and that too, free and independent of all organized missionary societies save the church of Christ. The church is the only missionary society authorized by the Lord, and it is all ever used by the apostles and inspired men. This is all that ought to be used today. It was successful then, and will be now. All human institutions attached to the church or used as aids are only parasites sucking the life’s blood from the church. Every new human institution added is only a new financial burden for the church to bear. They are expensive besides being unauthorized by the Lord. Then why not leave them off and use nothing in the form of an organization except the church as the apostles did? This is God’s wisdom.

The Lord--Risen, ascended and exalted--King of kings, and Lord of lords.

working with them,--By miracles--by removing of obstacles--by supporting them--by giving the gospel success, and making it effectual to save men; thus fulfilling his promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20.) The Lord cooperated with the apostles. He brought his divine power into cooperation with their human agency. (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Ephesians 1:19.) He gave them unparalleled success.

and confirming the word--Preached by the apostles, showing it to be the word of God--a revelation from heaven.

by the signs that followed.--The signs of verses 17, 18. These proved the message delivered was from God. They were signs that God was with them and had sent them forth to preach. [Here was the fulfillment of the promise of verse 17. These powers were not given to all the believers in the age of the apostles, nor was the power given to any for general use--that is, this power was given not to heal generally, but to confirm the truth. Paul did not heal all the sick. Some of his own friends came near to death that he did not heal. The truth was confirmed, no one exercised this power for his own benefit. Our sanctification friends will not prove their faith by their works in drinking deadly poison or taking up venomous serpents.]

Amen.--Truly, verily. So be it.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Mark 16". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/mark-16.html.
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