From:  Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Gospel of Mark  Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2013


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Over 50 Interpreters

Explain the Gospel of Mark








Volume 1:

Chapters 1-8





Compiled and Edited


Roland H. Worth, Jr.




Copyright © 2013 by author

All electronic and computer reproduction both permitted and encouraged so long as authorial and compiler credit is given

and the text is not altered.







The primary text of this work is the traditional King James Version.  More modern renditions are included from the New King James Version of selected words and phrases.


Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  All rights reserved.










            Sometimes your best hopes and desires get postponed.

Especially if your computer literacy is modest and your financial resources as well.  This projected was intended to go “on line” in 2003 (see following “Preface”) but is finally making it only now—a decade later.  After the completion of a much longer commentary on 1 Corinthians—one laid out and developed far differently than this.

As I went through the last stages of development, I shifted back to the classical KJV to avoid annoying copyright restrictions.  Although I can understand it intellectually, putting a copyright on printing the text of God’s Word still strikes me as a tad audacious.  But since there are so many willing to “make a buck” by ripping off others’ hard work, I suppose such is inevitable.

While converting the text over, I was surprised just how many words and phrases I had not discovered anything that impressed me deeply enough to include extracts concerning.  So I decided to use my “editor’s prerogative” of adding my own comments to a number of them—in italics to distinguish it from those of others and with my initials included in brackets.

Am I on their level?  Sometimes.  But even when I, likely more often that desirable, fall short of their high standard, I still think what is include will prove serviceable to many.  That is certainly a worthwhile goal in its own right.  At the very least, it hopefully gives a sense of “completeness” to the work that it might otherwise lack.

In addition I added four comparative translations on each verse.  To provide a representative sampling of translation styles we have presented the commentary itself in the King James Version with significant differences (mainly due to language changes) in its contemporary successor, the quite worthy New King James Version.

            To provide representative alternate translation styles that are in the public domain we have included the appreciated Weymouth:  Weymouth’s New Testament, a/k/a The New Testament in Modern Speech, which first appeared in the early 1900s and which still is a surprisingly “contemporary” “modern speech” version over a century later.

            Then there is the WEB (World English Bible) which is a conscious updating of the respected American Standard Version.

            For those seeking an extremely literal version, we could hardly do better than the classic Young’s Literal Version.  Personally I have never found much of appeal in this because in places it seems to verge on incomprehensibility.  Literal is praiseworthy, of course, but unless the reader can also use it without scratching his or her head in confusion, perhaps it is too literal?  Be that as it may, there are those who consider it something bordering on “the gold standard” and deserves inclusion on grounds of both literalness and continuing reader interest.

            Finally there is Ronald L. Conte Jr.’s  2009 Catholic Public Domain Version.  It is a contemporary translation of the Latin text recognized as authoritative in the Roman Catholic Church and may have special value to those of that religious background.  It should be noted that he is—rightly—quite angry at contemporary Catholic translators’ willingness to yield to Modernism and extreme feminism and their biased slanting of the text.  For that reason as well, his version may well provide non-Catholic readers with a useful Catholic version. 

It should be noted, however, that sometimes what is at the end of one verse in the other translations will occur at the very beginning of Conte’s next verse.  Also Mark 9:1 becomes 8:39 in his translation.  However much this helps protect one from jumping to the erroneous conclusion that what happens immediately afterwards (the Mount of Transfiguration) is the fulfillment of the promise of verse 1, following his verse division numbers here would throw the text totally into a disconnect with that of other translations.  Hence I have followed the traditional verse numberation.   

With this explanation of the most recent changes, the book is now yours:  May you find it useful in your coming years of Biblical study!

                                                                        Roland H. Worth, Jr.   








            Some ideas just get laid aside in the rush of life.  This might well serve as a prototype example.

            It’s been more than 35 years since my first effort to piece together a “classic commentary” of the best material published on the gospel of Mark prior to about the 1920s.  The initial draft, if memory serves me correctly, was compiled in about 1965 and contained extracts from less than twenty commentaries.  I laid it aside for two decades and when I came across it again the thought went through my mind that the concept was good but it needed to be vastly expanded--not to mention finding a less distracting method to include references to a large number of books.

            Even then all was not simple and straightforward.  In the process of going from one computer to another and laying aside my expanded draft, the diskettes that had the data would no longer work.  Thanks to the computer genius of a friend, the vast bulk of the material was salvageable and I had to find replacement for only a modest amount to compensate for what was lost.  (I also learned to back up files in triplicate.)

More time went by and my mind carried me on to other projects.  It didn’t help for my computer to go “dead” and the two disks I had the completed work on to go missing for over a year when we moved from one apartment to another.  Actually, perhaps it wasn’t so strange after all.  An amazing number of things just vanished into thin air during that move; impossibly vanished it seemed at the time.  Be that as it may, the disks finally surfaced.  Better luck yet, the entire text was still there!

There remained some further editing still to be done and the finished product is what you have before you.  The only difference lies in this revised introduction and a “spell check” on the text to assure maximum accuracy.

            In the meantime I have had a number of books published.  Historical studies of World War Two.  Biblical exegesis.  The history of Bible translation.  Yet this one has a special place in my heart.  It was one of the first two books I ever attempted. 

            But perhaps it is all for the best.  I really only had the vaguest of concepts of how to produce such a work when I first began.  Thanks to all the research I’ve done on various diverse topics, I now finally have a “handle” on what’s required and how to go about it.  (After 35-plus years--about time, I suppose.)  Yet, sadly, it is unlikely that I will ever do any more volumes like this one.  Publisher interest in the “old”—no matter how good—is minimal.  It is “new or forget about it.”  A willful and knowing cutting of ourselves apart from our interpretative legacy.

            (On the other hand, widespread access to the internet now offers a new outlet previously unavailable for such labors.  So, perhaps, all is not lost.)

            If that weren’t enough, the “rules of the game” have been draconically rewritten in the copyright field.  Courtesy of a few big name publishers zealous to protect their large earnings from a small percentage of their authors, copyright protection continues to be expanded in both duration and the books to which they apply—including works which will never be reprinted in full and, rarely if ever, even in part if monetary charges must be paid:  the potential interest in them is simply not that great.  Hence greed that won’t even increase the bottom line trumps the free flow of information. 

Though it is still quite possible to navigate between these reefs of avarice, the simple fact is that the profit margins are simply too narrow and reader potential too modest for conventional print publishers to run the risk of accidental infringement.  Hence much good material will vanish, not because of it losing its usefulness but simply to avoid even the remote chance of harassment. 

Yet within those now “outdated” works and public domain writings lies a great deal of useful and thought provoking material.  Some of it is included in the current work.         

                                                                                                Roland H. Worth, Jr.









            Hundreds of volumes have been written on or about the gospel of Mark--some with that work being the sole subject, some in commentary form, some as part of a broader study of the entire life of Christ.  What we have done here is take the work of over fifty commentators, scholars, and theologians as they discuss Mark's account of the gospel of Christ.  They range from the famous and historically significant (such as Adam Clarke) to individuals whose efforts were just as detailed but their reputation far more limited. 

They range in theological viewpoint over a wide spectrum of the landscape--from Anglican to Baptist, to church of Christ/Disciples, to Methodist and Presbyterian.  They range from commentaries in the strict sense to volumes on specialized topics--such as Jesus' teaching, parables, and miracles. The standard for inclusion has been the quality of what they have said, rather than their personal theological background. 

            Explanation of the text has been much preferred to edification from the text, "preaching" (if you will) the moral and religious lessons to be learned from it.  Although a minority of citations are of such a nature, they have been kept to a minimum because the central thrust of the work is to help the contemporary student of scripture better understand the text itself.   (If you want a sermon you can get that on Sunday morning.)

            The writers utilized are primarily American, with a lesser number of British (both English and Scottish), German, and scattered other nationalities as well.  Since the purpose of this work is to preserve the best exegetical work of the past for future generations, we have imposed a cut-off date of approximately World War One.  Although valuable textual criticism (as to minor revisions necessary to the then-used Greek underlying text) continues to be produced, these have only minor impact upon the central interest to the most probable readers of this volume--the meaning of the text itself.  

            Although it would be very unfair to say that "all that is worth saying has been said," it is certainly true that fifty good minds are more likely to produce a total product superior to that of any one specific individual.  They will contribute some to the understanding of the sacred text but none individually as much as all of these collectively.  Hence one's contemporary commentary needs can be met by consulting one or two more recent volumes from those recommended by one's minister or someone else knowledgeable in the newer literature. 

            The one area where these older works falter the most is in regard to matters related to authorship and dating and for that purpose it would be useful to compare what is said herein with one of the several valuable and reliable Biblical encyclopedias currently available.  Again, the user of this volume will find this volume is far more likely to have her or his interest centered in the meaning of the text, however intriguing these other matters may be.

            The counsel of the 50-plus commentators included in this work will keep us from making many an interpretive error that we might make on our own.  On the other hand, the reader must remember that even the most well versed commentator remains fallible.  Though perceptive and insightful, he may still inadvertently steer the reader in the wrong direction.  Hence even the best commentator remains an aid to our interpretation of scripture, not a replacement of our duty to read, evaluate, and conclude for ourselves. 

This does not mean that we should arbitrarily lay aside any of these views just because we do not like them.  Instead they should be used to goad our thinking processes into high gear.  And, if after consideration, we are still uncertain there is no need to fix our interpretation in "cement."  If the Lord grants us life, we will surely return to this book yet again in the future and bring with it--at that time--an even greater experience in handling scripture.

            Commentators do not always agree.  Hence on some texts we present more than one view while in other cases an able summary of the competing approaches has been deemed quite adequate.   What is amazing is not that commentators disagree but that on so much they are in essential agreement.  If that were not the case, a volume of this nature would have been impossible to compile. 

The "problem" the Bible most often poses to modern humanity is not what it means, but whether we are willing to apply it to ourselves.    Here we are centered upon establishing the meaning of the text.  The matter of personal application must be left to individual conscience and personal consistency.

            Even so there are matters of difficulty and objection to the sacred text that requires a more detailed analysis than can reasonably be placed within the confines of short remarks upon the meaning of the individual words and phrases within a given verse.  Hence in a number of cases, after the verse we have a section labeled "in depth," in which these issues are discussed at greater length. 

Not only does this approach permit the reader to examine issues and controversies that would otherwise be omitted, it permits us to keep concise and to the point the discussion of the text itself.  The "in depth" sections serve, if you will, the same purpose of a good footnote:  To provide additional information that, though useful to the reader, would disrupt the flow of the text. 

            In order to keep the reader's attention on the text--rather than the source of each piece of commentarial information--we have identified each source by a number rather than by a name.  This way the text will flow easier rather than the large number of sources used becoming a hindrance.  The numerical identification is provided at the end of each comment or, in the case of "In Depth" extracts, at the beginning. 

Each source is carefully identified in the "Works Cited" section at the beginning of the book.  No particular significance should be attributed to these numbers; the lowest are not necessarily the most profound and the highest the least perceptive.  The assigned numbers are solely the result of when they happened to be entered into the final draft of the current work.  

            When more than one source is cited on a specific word or phrase, each comment is placed in a separate paragraph with the appropriate numerical designation.  Although some of these could easily be run together, on balance, it seemed better to more clearly indicate that one has gone from one citation to another.  

            As a further effort to avoid distraction, we have not utilized ellipses [ . . . ].  On the other hand, we have taken great care to assure that when we have left any material out that we have not--in any way--distorted the point or idea the commentator is developing.  

            In a few cases the wording of the quoted material might not be totally clear and brackets have been added to make crystal clear the thought and to remove any ambiguity.


                                                            Roland H. Worth, Jr.









1          =          G. A. Chadwick.  The Gospel According to St. Mark.

                        New York:  A. C. Armstrong and Son.  


2          =          A. Irvine Robertson.  Lessons on the Gospel of St. Mark.

                        New York:  Fleming H. Revell Company. 


3          =          Joseph Addison Alexander.  The Gospel According to Mark.

                        New York:  Scribner, Armstrong & Co., 1858 (1874 printing).


4          =          Andrew C. Zenos.  The Son of Man:  Studies in the Gospel of

                        Mark.  New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons.


5          =          A. C. Gaebelein.  The Annotated Bible; volume 1:  The Gospels and

                        the Book of Acts.  New York:  Publication Office "Our Hope," 1913.


6          =          W. C. Allen.  The Gospel According to Saint Mark.

                        New York:  Macmillan Company, 1915.


7          =          Robert F. Horton.  The Cartoons of St. Mark.

                        New York:  Fleming H. Revell Company, 1894.


8          =          Edwin W. Rice.  People's Commentary on the Gospel

                        According to Mark.  (Fourth Edition).   Philadelphia:  The

                        American Sunday-School Union, 1892.


9          =          Harvey Goodwin.  A Commentary on the Gospel of Mark.

                        Cambridge:  Deighton, Bell and Company, 1860.


10        =          John Henry Burn.  The Preacher's Homiletic Commentary on the

                        Gospel according to Mark.  New York:  Funk & Wagnalls.


11        =          Matthew P. Riddle.    The International Revision Commentary on

                        Mark.   New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1881.


12        =          John Peter Lange.  A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures:  The

                        Gospel according to Mark.  Sixth Edition.  New York:  Scribner,

                        Armstrong & Company, 1866; 1872 printing. 


13        =          Edward I. Bosworth.  Studies in the Life of Jesus Christ.   New

                        York:  Young Men's Christian Association Press, 1904; 1909 reprint. 


14        =          Charles R. Erdman.  The Gospel of Mark.  Philadelphia: 

Westminster Press, 1917.


15        =          Henry Cowles.  Matthew and Mark.   New York:  D. Appleton &

                        Company, 1881.


16        =          John Albert Bengel.  Gnomon of the New Testament (volume 1).

                        Revised and Edited by Andrew R. Fausset.  Edinburgh:  T. & T.

Clark, MDCCCLIX.   


17        =          Alexander Bruce.  "The Synoptic Gospels" in The Expositor's Greek

                        Testament (Volume One).  New York:  Hodder and Stoughton, [no



18        =          Samuel J. Andrews.  The Life of Our Lord.  Fourth Edition.

                        New York:  Scribner, Armstrong & Company, 1873.


19        =          Melanchton W. Jacobus.  Notes on the Gospel of Mark.  1853.  New                              York:   Robert Carter & Brothers, 1859; 1872 printing.


20        =          Pasquier Quesnel.  The Gospels:  with Moral Reflections on Each

Verse.  Volume I.  New York:  Anson D. F. Randolph, 1855; 1867



21        =          Adam Clarke.  Commentary on Mark.  No date


22        =          Bernhard Weiss.  A Commentary on the New Testament:  Matthew

                        and Mark.  Translated by George H. Schodde and Epiphanius

Wilson.  New York;  Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1906.


23        =          W. N. Clarke.  American Commentary on the Gospel of Mark.

                        Philadelphia:  American Baptist Publication Society, 1881.


24        =          Alfred Nevin.  Popular Expositor of the Gospels and Acts:  Matthew,

                        Mark, John.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:  Ziegler & McCurdy, 1871.


25        =          Charles H. Hall.  Notes, Practical and Expository on the Gospels:

                        Matthew and Mark (Second Edition).  New York:  Hurd and

Houghton, 1856, 1871.


26        =          Jeremiah W. Jenks.  The Political and Social Significance of the Life

and Teachings of Jesus.    New York:  Young Men's Christian

Association Press, 1906; 1908 printing.


27        =          Herman H. Horne.  Modern Problems as Jesus Saw Them.   New

York:  Association Press, 1918; 1926 printing.


28        =          Henry C. King.  The Ethics of Jesus.   New York:  Macmillan

Company, 1910; 1912 printing.


29        =          Halford E. Luccock.  Studies in the Parables of Jesus.   New York:                                  Methodist Book Concern, 1917; 1925 reprint.


30        =          W. H. Thomson.  The Parables by the Lake.  New York:  Harper &                                 Brothers, Publishers, 1895.


31        =   ?    


32        =          William M. Taylor.  The Miracles of Our Saviour.  New York:  A. C.                               Armstrong & Son, 1890; 5th edition, 1903.


33        =          John Laidlaw.  The Miracles of Our Lord.  New York:  Funk &

Wagnalls Company, 1892.


34        =          A. T. Robertson.  Studies in Mark's Gospel.   New York:  Macmillan                              Company, 1918; 1919.


35        =          Ernest De Witt Burton.  Studies in the Gospel According to Mark.

                        Chicago, Illinois:  University of Chicago Press, 1904; 1923 printing.


36        =          Joseph Parker.  The People's Bible:  Mark-Luke.   New York:  Funk

& Wagnalls Company, 18--.


37        =          Marcus Dods.  The Parables of our Lord.   New York:  Fleming H.

Revell             Company, 18--.


38        =          J. W. McGarvey.  Commentary on Matthew and Mark.  1875.


39        =          E. Bickerstith.  St. Mark in The Pulpit Commentary.  Reprint,

                        Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm  B.  Eerdmans Publishing Company.


40        =          Henry Alford. The Greek Testament.  Volume One; Fifth Edition.

                        Cambridge, Britain, 1863.


41        =          Benjamin W. Bacon.  The Beginnings of the Gospel Story.   New

Haven, Connecticut:  Yale University Press, 1909.


42        =          Albert Barnes. Commentary on Mark.  18--.


43        =          David Brown.  The Four Gospels.  Philadelphia:  William S. & 

Alfred Martien, 1859.


44        =          Ernest D. Burton and Shailer Matthews.  The Life of Christ. Chicago,

Illinois:  University of Chicago Press, 1900; 18th reprint, 1923.


45        =          W. A. Campbell.  A Commentary on the Gospel According to Mark.                                Richmond, Virginia:  Presbyterian Publishing Company, 1881.


46        =          G. A. Chadwick.  The Gospel According to Mark.  In The

                        Expositor's Bible.  New York:  A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1903.


47        =          John Cumming. Sabbath Evening Readings on the New Testament:

                        Mark.  Cleveland, Ohio:  John P. Jewett and Company, 1853.


48        =          Andrews Norton.  A Translation of the Gospels With Notes.

                        Boston:  Little, Brown, and Company,1856  


49        =          B. W. Johnson.  The People's New Testament.  18--.


50        =          Alexander Maclaren.  Expositions of Holy Scripture:  Mark.

                        Hartford, Connecticut:  S. S. Scranton Company.


51        =          F. N. Peloubet and M. A. Peloubet.  A Commentary on the

International   Lesson for 1895.  Boston:  W. A. Wilde and Company,

1894.  F. N. Peloubet and M. A. Peloubet.  A Commentary on the

International   Lessons for 1900.  New York:  Fleming H. Revell

Company, 1899.


52        =          Thomas Scott.  Commentary on the Bible.  Volume Three.

                        Philadelphia:  Lippincott & Company, 1862.                                   


53        =          Marvin R. Vincent.   Word Studies in the New Testament.  Volume I:

                        The Synoptic Gospls, Acts of the Apostles, Epistles of Peter, James,

                        and Jude.  New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1887; 1911 reprint.


54        =          Matthew Henry.  Commentary on the Whole Bible.  1721.   Reprint,

                        York:  Fleming H. Revell Company, [no date].









Introductory Materials






Mark:  The Man Behind the Name  [13]



            John Mark was a Jerusalem boy whose mother, Mariam [Mary], was a well-to-do widow and a prominent woman among the Jerusalem Nazarenes, for it was in her commodious house that a large company of them were gathered to pray for Peter on the night before the day set for his execution.  It was to this house on that night that Peter went as soon as he was released from prison (Acts 12:12).

            It has been conjectured that John Mark was the young man who was so nearly captured on the night of Jesus' arrest (Mark 14:51-52), and if so, that it was in his father's house that Jesus ate the Last Supper with the inner circle of His disciples.  John Mark, therefore, was acquainted as a boy with the information regarding Jesus current in the Jerusalem church.

            He had connection with the apostolic circle, not only as the special friend and protégé of Peter, but also as the kinsman of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) and as the associate of Paul.  He traveled in the missionary campaign of Paul and Barnabas for a time, but abandoned them under circumstances that greatly annoyed Paul (Acts 12:25; 13:5, 13; 15:38-39).  Later he traveled with Barnabas alone (Acts 15:39).  Years afterward, during the last months of Paul's life, Paul wrote to one of his friends from prison, "Take Mark and bring him with thee:  for he is useful to me for ministering" (2 Timothy 4:11).






Relationship of the Gospel of Mark to the Apostle Peter  [13]



            There is good reason for considering the Gospel According to Mark to be really "Peter's Reminiscences of his Lord."  The historian Eusebius of Caesarea in Palestine, who died about 340 A.D., in Book III, chapter 39, of his Church History, quotes the following statement made by Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, who died probably between 125 and 150 A.D.,


                        “This also the presbyter said:  Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not indeed in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ.  For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord's discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them.  For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard and not to state any of them falsely.”


            The "presbyter" whom Papias here quotes probably belonged to an older generation than that of Papias himself, and this testimony therefore is very early.  If we assume that the work of Mark here referred to is our Gospel of Mark, we see what superior preparation Mark had for the composition of the Gospel.

            The quotation represents Peter to have had a series of anecdotes regarding his Lord from which he made selection according to the varying needs of his hearers.  Although Peter, as a native of bilingual Palestine, in addition to his vernacular Aramaic, probably knew also some Greek, he did not feel equal to making public addresses in Greek; just as many Americans who read German easily and have some conversational use of the language, would not think of delivering a public address in German.  The most natural inference from the quotation is that Market knew Greek better than Peter did and helped Peter in his work among Greek speaking peoples.

            Peter's anecdotal reminiscences may have taken a somewhat stereotyped oral form and been taught by Mark to classes of Peter's converts.  This series of anecdotes Mark finally arranged in the order in which we now have them, and perhaps after introducing some other matter as a result of personal investigation, wrote them out in the Greek narrative which has come down to us as the Gospel of Mark.






Attitudes toward the Gospel of Mark in the Post-Biblical Ancient and Early Medieval Church  [34]



            The early commentators seem to have neglected this Gospel.  Victor of Antioch (fifth or sixth century A.D.), the earliest known commentator on Mark, "complains that, while St. Matthew and St. John had received the attention of a number of expositors, and St. Luke also had attracted a few, his utmost efforts had failed to detect a single commentary upon St. Mark" (Swete, Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark, xxix).  It is plain that for a long time Mark's Gospel was less esteemed and less used than the others, in particular, less than the Gospels of Matthew and John, the work of apostles, while Mark's at best was only the work of an apostle's disciple.  As compared with Luke's Gospel it was much briefer and less complete and without Luke's literary charm.

            Besides, Irenaeus asserted that Mark's Gospel was later than that of Matthew and of less intrinsic historical work.  His order of the Gospels is, Matthew (in Aramaic first), Mark, Luke, John.  Augustine (de Cons. Evang., 1, 4) speaks of Mark as the "follower and abbreviator of Matthew," a view that seems directly counter to the modern view.

            The uncertainty among the ancient writers as to the place and value of Mark's Gospel is shown by the fact that different writers used each of the symbols to describe Mark (the lion, the man, the ox, the eagle).  And yet Holdsworth is correct in saying:  "The priority of St. Mark's Gospel is now generally accepted by modern critics" (Gospel origins, 1913, p. 104).






Eyewitness Roots of the Markian Account  [34]



            The notes of an eye-witness are manifest in Mark's Gospel.  They are admitted by all and include such details as the look of anger (3:5), the single pillow in the boat (4:38), the disposal of the five thousand like garden beds ([as meant by the Greek in] 6:40), and the green grass (6:39), Christ sighing over the blindness of the Pharisees (8:12), taking the children in His arms (9:36; 10:16), Christ's look of love upon the rich young ruler (10:21), and the cloud upon the young man's face (10:22).

            The graphic style of Mark is seen also in his frequent use of the imperfect tense to describe the scene, as the picture of Jesus watching the crowds and the rich in particular as they cast their gifts into the treasury (12:41).  The historical present is also very common and is due to the same vividness and realistic imagination of an eyewitness.  Mark sees the picture going on because of Peter's vivid description in his discourses.

            These picturesque details do not prove that Peter is responsible for them, but only that they are due to an eyewitness.  The early writers, as we have seen, ascribe the body of the Gospel to Peter as the ultimate source.  The character of the Gospel is in perfect harmony with this uniform tradition.






The Long Ending of Mark (16:9-20):  Part of the Original or a Later Addition  [rw]?



            [There are three basic alternatives:

            [1.  The gospel ended at verse 8, "And then went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed.  And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."  Yet are we to really believe that a Peter-based gospel omitted any discussion of the resurrection?  Are we to believe that the writer left Jesus' ultimate destiny hanging in mid-air, unresolved? 

            [Such questions are dealt with in several ways.  One is to argue that since the available endings are not authentic, that one is forced to accept 16:8 as the original ending, whether it seems an appropriate stopping point or not. 

[Others deal with this by conceding that there was an original ending but that it was on a separate leaf of the original manuscript and was lost.  But if this is so, it is hardly likely that it was lost at such an early date that the author would not or could not replace it.  Hence the scenario of a lost page from a early manuscript fits in well with both the preservation of a strong tradition of the text ending at 16:8 and another textual tradition including the Long Ending of 16:9-20 as well.

[Other scenarios are possible.  As one scholar writes, "It is possible, of course, that Mark meant to write more and never did, being interrupted by a journey or even by death."  A death that just happened to coincide to his discussion with the death of Jesus?  [34]  Or a journey that somehow just happened to keep him from taking the text with him and completing it--or returning to it at a later date? 

            [2.  A moderate degree of evidence is available for the Short Ending, "And they reported briefly to Peter and those in his company all the things commanded.  And after these things Jesus himself also sent forth through them from the East even to the West the holy and incorruptible message of eternal salvation." 

[Innocent in itself, such an ending would be in remarkable dissent from the uniform tradition of Matthew, Luke, and John in providing at least a moderate amount of post-resurrection details.  Indeed once one concedes a Petrine basis of the gospel--indeed, one rooted in his preaching of the risen Christ--one would be nothing less than shocked if a written version of that teaching omitted all explicit discussion of the matter.

            [3.  The Long Ending of 16:9-20 is supported by the bulk of Greek manuscripts.  The counterbalancing argument is that the allegedly "best" manuscripts do not provide anywhere near the same proportion of support for the passage.  For a summary of the evidence see below.  The other key argument against the long ending (rebutted in an extract below) is that the Greek words used in those verses indicate a different authorship than that of the rest of the book.]        





The Textual Evidence concerning the Ending of Mark  [34]



          The two oldest and best Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, Aleph (Codex Sinaiticus) and B (Codex Vaticanus), stop with verse 8.  B has a blank space, which shows that the scribe knew of the longer ending but concluded not to give it.

            The Sinaitic Syriac stops also at [verse 8] as does the margin of the Harclean Syriac.  The best manuscripts of the Armenian and some of the older Ethiopic manuscripts likewise end with verse 8.

            Eusebius says that "almost all the Greek copies" are without further ending.  Victor of Antioch, who wrote the earliest commentary on Mark, stops his comment with verse 8.  Some of the Greek manuscripts (cursives) that give the longer ending say that it is not found in other manuscripts.  The cursive Greek manuscript 22 marks "End" after verse 8, according to "some of the copies," but adds that "in many" the regular ending is found.  Similar comments are found in nearly thirty other cursives.

            With the exception of Aleph and B, which have no ending and [Greek uncial manuscript] L [of the eighth or ninth century and a few others], which have both endings, "the longer ending follows verse 8, without a break, in every known Greek MS" (Plummer) outside of [certain] cursives.  It appears in most of the Old Latin manuscripts, in the Curetonian Syriac, in the Memphitic and in the Gothic versions.  Irenaeus quotes verse 19 as part of the Gospel of Mark, and thereafter it is frequently referred to by Christian writers.  I do not, however, agree with Plummer that "this external testimony to the genuineness of the twelve verses seems to be not only conclusive, but superabundant."  Manuscripts have to be weighed and not merely counted.  Plummer rejects the passage in spite of that strong statement.   





In Defense of the Genuineness of the Long Ending  [38]


          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, as well as 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.

            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 Mary Magdalene, which occupy verses 9-11 are substantially verified by John and Luke (John 20:1-18; Luke 8:2).  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. 

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.

            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 must be waived with 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 evidence 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.  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.  It was also cited by Irenaneus and Tatian of the second century and by Hyppolytus and Dyonisus 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 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 of 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 having been 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 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 Professor 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 them.

            Such a coincidence occurring in the immediately 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 at 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 Professor Bradus, I have myself examined the last twelve verses of Luke's narrative and found there nine words which are not elsewhere used in the 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 this kind could be found in the New Testament; but these are simply sufficient to show that the argument which 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 and 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, "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, "to go in," eight times; and ek-poreuomai, "to go out," eleven times.

            2.  We next notice the phrase meta tauta, "after these things" (verse 12).  Alford says 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, "straightway" or palin, "again;" but here, where the critic thinks his style required the use of the latter term, we find the phrase meta tauta, "after these things."

            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 must 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 phase "after these things" to be substituted for it.

            Moreover, in this instance,  as in others already mentioned, a striking coincidence discovered by Professor Broaddus 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 outheoos and palin that Mark does, yet once and only once, he employs meta tauta, the very phrase now in question (18:1).  True, the phrase occurs four times in Acts, but in the other three instances it occurs in quotations, one from Stephen (7:7), one from Paul (13:20), and one from James (15:16).

            3.  Finally, we notice the term "the Lord" (verses 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 Professor 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 [wrote] the preceding 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 portion of the word of God.