Books and Authors, New Testament

The Last 12 Verses of Mark

Text of the Gospel of Mark 16:12-17 containing...

Freer Logion

“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Mark 16:8

That is where the two oldest complete manuscripts of the oldest gospel, the Gospel of Mark end.  There is no Easter morning, post-resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene, who went and told the followers, who didn’t believe her, as is present in  modern English Bibles.   There is no appearance to two people walking in the country, who also told the followers, who didn’t believe them either.  There is no appearance to the eleven at dinner (not twelve as with Paul), where he bitch-slapped them for their unbelief.  MOST importantly, there is no mention of any Great Commission; where the followers are now told to go out into the Gentile world, saying that those who believed and were baptized would be saved and those who did not believe would be condemned.  There is also no reference to the followers being able to speak in tongues, pick up snakes or drink poison, as signs confirming their legitimacy.

Interestingly enough, the last 12 verses of Mark, known as the longer ending (which I just paraphrased above) is not the only ending that appears in some ancient manuscripts.  There are other textual traditions that you won’t find in your modern English Bible.

One is called the Freer Logion, represented by the Codex Washingtonianius, which is found inserted between verses 14 and 15.  It goes a little something like this:

“And they excused themselves, saying, “This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or: does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal thy righteousness now” – thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, “The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death, that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.”

It is not difficult to see why this ending didn’t catch on.  It said that “The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled”, and well, we know that he still rules today, in the imaginations of believers.

Another alternate ending to GoMark is simply called the shorter ending, found in some Greek manuscripts from the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries, which follows verse 8 with this:

“And they reported all the instructions briefly to Peter’s companions. Afterwards Jesus himself, through them, sent forth from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen.”

Scholars debate how the Gospel of Mark should end.  To me, after reading the Gospel of Mark over and over, in keeping with the themes of the author, it seems most likely that it ended right where the oldest manuscripts attest, not where some Church Fathers of the second century claimed that it ended.

“So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”


Mark 16:8

But I’m a nobody.  If one is actually interested, I recommend studying the entire Gospel of Mark carefully, over and over if necessary, making it a point to not insert the material from later Gospels or Christian tradition.  One will find, IMO, a wonderful fanciful tale of a very human Jesus with his mystical, magical abilities, written as a foundational document for a very specific group of followers who were struggling with the realities of the world in which they lived.

And Jesus had never come back.

“Verses 9-20 are widely recognized to be a later addition in an effort to make the ending of Mark more closely resemble those of the later Gospels.” – “Scripting Jesus”, L. Michael White, 2010, p. 272



6 thoughts on “The Last 12 Verses of Mark

  1. Interesting. I was already aware of the fact that vv 9-20 were later additions and all, but this gives some details I didn’t know about. For example, I had never heard of the Freer Logion…interesting. And that L. Michael White quote makes sense. However, I have to admit: I hadn’t really thought about it like that before. I do think the later gospel writers (“Matthew” “Luke” & “John”) decided to exaggerate what Jesus taught and did to make him out to be this god-man messiah. Then when making copies of Mark, just added vv 9-20 so it would match the later gospels.

    Posted by Larry Jones | January 17, 2011, 12:58 am
    • I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able to accurately reconstruct the events, but who knows what might get dug up tomorrow. To me, after reading GoMark over and over, the ending at 16:8 makes the most sense. I don’t think that the Markan community was actively intent on spreading the word to the world, I think they were just trying to survive until the eschatological event, which should occur any day now.

      Posted by Xcntrik | January 17, 2011, 8:51 pm
  2. OK X, I have a tone to read and now you have this blog going and making more work for me. Thanks for all the great postings.

    Posted by NorCal88 | December 24, 2010, 3:24 am
  3. Wow. That was super interesting! God goggles is a great term for it; I definitely had those reading the Bible when I was younger.

    Posted by Carisa | November 24, 2010, 1:57 pm
  4. This was great. I had never heard of the Freer Logion, but I had read about the shorter ending of Mark. The last twelve verses seem to both reference and contradict Luke’s account in certain details, at least from my personal perspective, as I blogged about once. Once you take off the religious glasses (God goggles as I’ve heard them called) things like the longer ending of Mark and the add-on to John as chapter 21 just seem to stand out.

    Posted by Byroniac | November 21, 2010, 2:05 pm
    • Xactly ! Thanks for reading.

      I agree with your opinion when comparing the longer ending with GoLuke’s. The two people walking in the country in GoMark is likely a direct reference to two men on the road to Emmaus, found in GoLuke, IMO.

      Posted by xcntrik | November 21, 2010, 2:47 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: