Are the Last Twelve Verses of Mark Really Mark’s?

Jeffrey Khoo

“The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9–20” so says the NIV superscript. Its Study Bible goes on to say, “serious doubt exists as to whether these verses belong to the Gospel of Mark. They are absent from important early manuscripts and display certain peculiarities of vocabulary, style and theological content that are unlike the rest of Mark. His Gospel probably ended at 16:8, …” Here is another NIV attempt at scission. Practically every modern English version would insert this doubt over the authenticity of Mark 16:9–20. It is only the KJV which accepts it without question.

We affirm the authenticity of the last 12 verses of Mark together with Dean J W Burgon who wrote a scholarly 350-page defence of those celebrated verses. Burgon argued that the codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus which are said by many to be “most reliable” are actually “most corrupt.” Burgon wrote, “Recent Editors of the New Testament insist that these ‘last Twelve Verses’ are not genuine…. I am as convinced as I am of my life, that the reverse is the truth…. I insist, on the contrary, that the Evidence relied on is untrustworthy,—untrustworthy in every particular…. I am able to prove that this portion of the Gospel has been declared to be spurious on wholly mistaken grounds.”

Furthermore, there is abundant manuscript evidence supporting the authenticity of Mark 16:9–20. E F Hills wrote, “They [Mark 16:9–20] are found in all the Greek manuscripts except Aleph [i.e. Sinaiticus], and B [i.e. Vaticanus], … And more important, they were quoted as Scripture by early Church Fathers who lived one hundred and fifty years before B and Aleph were written, namely, Justin Martyr (c. 150), Tatian (c. 175), Irenaeus (c. 180), Hyppolytus (c. 200). Thus the earliest extant testimony is on the side of these last twelve verses.”

How about the allegation that the last twelve verses are non-Marcan because of the difference in literary style? Metzger, for instance, argues against the last twelve verses because there are therein 17 words new to the Gospel of Mark. Such an argument is often fallacious because it wrongly assumes that an author has only one uniform style of writing. In any case, Burgon, after a careful comparison of Mark’s first twelve verses with his last twelve verses, concluded, “It has been proved … on the contrary, the style of S. Mark xvi. 9–20 is exceedingly like the style of S. Mark i. 9–20; and therefore, that it is rendered probable by the Style that the Author of the beginning of this Gospel was also the Author of the end of it… these verses must needs be the work of S. Mark.”

Recommended Reference: John William Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of Mark (Oxford, London: James Parker, 1871, reprinted in 1983 by The Bible For Today); D A Waite, Dean John William Burgon’s Vindication of the Last Twelve Verses of Mark (Collingswood, NJ: The Bible For Today, 1994); and Edward F Hills, The King James Version Defended (Des Moines, IA: The Christian Research Press, 1984), 159–68.

Dr Jeffrey Khoo is the academic dean of Far Eastern Bible College.