Major problem with Gospel of Mark: Everyone knows about it, but none care

The gospels are perhaps the best-known books of the bible (after Genesis, of course). These are the books that tell of the arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. These books make up the fundamental beliefs of Christianity — Jesus came back from the dead, fulfilling his own prophesy. If you read these books one after the other, you see a lot of repetition. And apologetics really love that. But if you compare them verse by verse, you find a lot of contradictions. For example, what did the women do after they found Jesus’ tomb empty? One of these contradictions is so glaring that the bible included a footnote that essentially says, “We know there was a contradiction, so we added a bunch of verses to the bible in order to make it a non-contradiction.” Behold Mark 16!

Mark 16 has twenty verses, but it originally had eight. Originally, Mark 16 ends like this: The women go to Jesus’ tomb and find a young man who tells them to tell Jesus’ disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee. But the women are afraid, so they run from the tomb in terror and don’t tell anyone. End of story. And (original) end of the Gospel of Mark.

When early bible scholars noticed how Mark contradicts the other gospels, they added two different endings to the book in an attempt to get rid of the contradiction. There’s the short version and the long version, both of which can be found here.

In the short version, the women indeed tell Peter and the disciples. And that’s pretty much it.

In the long version, Jesus does a bunch of other stuff and appears to a bunch of other people before flying up to heaven.

But what’s most interesting is that both of these endings are in brackets. And if you bother to look closely, you’ll find a footnote. Most people don’t bother reading the footnotes, but they should. Here the footnote basically admits to adding these endings to Mark (hence the brackets around them):

Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9–20. In most authorities verses 9–20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful.

In other words, look, we know there are three different versions of Mark, and that some “ancient authorities” think these additional passages are “doubtful,” but we’re going to leave them in anyway and hope no one notices! That’s what strikes me so much about Mark.

The footnotes in Mark admit that verses nine through twenty were added to the bible after the fact, but no one seems to care! This is a major problem with one of the most important books in the bible! Why would a believer not pause for a moment when they read that footnote? I cannot emphasize this enough — the new ending of Mark is merely a coverup of a contradiction. Christians know this, but no one cares!

By the way, this isn’t the only confession about adding stuff to the bible that appears in the footnotes. I’ll bring another one up in my next post.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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12 Responses to Major problem with Gospel of Mark: Everyone knows about it, but none care

  1. Jason says:

    I expect sometime there will be a giant Bible rewrite project that takes all the contradictions and critiques into account. Also probably creating a more conservative and capitalist Jesus, deemphasizing socialist Jesus. A few generations using it and it won’t be more controversial than the last N times the same thing was done.

    Great post BTW – just a comment 🙂 interested in thoughts, thanks!

  2. I think you’re greatly oversimplifying the issue, here. Yes, it is almost universally recognized (by scholars, at least) that Mark 16:9-20 represents a later interpolation into the gospel. That is precisely why modern Bibles utilize brackets and footnotes to denote such passages. No one is trying to pretend they are authentic and “hope no one notices.”

    The fact of the matter is that New Testament scholars care quite a bit about the interpolation at the end of Mark. Entire volumes of literature have been dedicated to those twelve verses.

    The extant manuscript of Archimedes’ “On the Measurement of the Circle” contains a known interpolation– Proposition 2 is very unlikely to have been originally penned by Archimedes. And yet, every modern publication– even in translation– of this work includes Proposition 2. You would not then assert that mathematicians have been lying to students for years, would you? You wouldn’t demand that every future publication of this work should omit this text, would you? Similarly, there is nothing disingenuous about including Mark 16:9-20 in modern publications of the Gospel of Mark.

  3. Linuxgal says:

    And the funny thing is, the “coverup of a contradiction” ends up contradicting the gospel as well. It seems to start over and re-introduce Mary Magdalene, alone this time.

  4. Cerberus Black says:

    Hello, Mr Zehn.

    Sorry if I’m any bother, but this is it.

    I just had a funeral for one member of my family, and now the only family member that I got along with, is now dead too.

    I have tried to come here in an attempt to not dwell on this, to somehow make myself happy in my moment of agony, but I can’t even think on the issues here. He was all that I had left.

    I should be back….but don’t know when.

    Sorry to be a waste of anyone’s time.

  5. mmadchild says:

    Solid post. The bottom line is any critical reading of the gospels and they fall flat. Period

  6. Excellent post. I look further t hearing more of your biblical hawk eye findings.

    Keep them coming.

    What Boxing Pythagoras said about comparing the influence of the bible to Archimedes extant manuscript is quite an ignorant response.
    If Archimedes’ work was divinely written and claimed to hold huge truth claims about the origins of the universe and whether we go to heaven or hell – inspiring billions of followers for over 3,000 years then maybe he has a point.

  7. Pingback: Widely cited story about Jesus and the adulterous was not originally in the bible | The Atheist Papers

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