Codex Sinaiticus and Mark’s Ending

I occasionally frequent some atheist blogs just to see what is going on in their world.  One of the things that I keep seeing is “new” information that resulted from the launch of the online version of the Codex Sinaiticus.  This information relates the the ending of Mark’s gospel, namely that mark 16:9-20 are omitted from the Codex and does not appear in the earliest biblical manuscripts.I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Christians have known about that for years.  I went and grabbed two of my own Bibles.

My New International Version (NIV), published in 1986, states,

[The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20]

My New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), published in 1989, states,

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.

Unless information that is 20-23 years old at the earliest is new, why would they even bother talking about it?  And we’ve known for longer than that.

So what’s the big deal then?  Well, atheists claim that this proves the resurrection never took place.  But that’s not true.  If you look at , the resurrection is there:

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.  But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”  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.

The question then becomes, “If the women ran from the tomb and told no one, how did it get included in the gospel?”  Not to be too much of a smart ass, but obviously they told someone.

It is abundantly clear from the textual evidence and the writings of the Patristic Fathers, that there was a tradition of prior to the 4th century.  Tertullian’s Diatesseron (2nd century) had the long ending.  How did the tradition get there, the women told someone.

What scholars are not sure about is was the long ending a later edition (accepted theory) or do we not have the manuscript evidence of the long ending.  Both are possible theories.  The ending at is rather abrupt, so it is possible the a later scribe could have penned the longer ending.  It is also possible, as seen by the Codex Vaticanus that there is a blank spot about the right size for the longer ending.

It seems clear from the textual evidence as well as the external evidence that the long ending of Mark does belong.

For more on the long ending of Mark, see here and here.


7 thoughts on “Codex Sinaiticus and Mark’s Ending

  1. There is an explanation for atheists posting about the Codex. Your average fundamentalist doesn’t read the NIV or the NRSV, they in fact scorn those versions of the Bible. (I’m assuming your Catholic or something similar? Whenever I see Christianity and Latin, I flash to my childhood, so don’t be offended if you’re not.)

    The average fundamentalist reads the KJV or possibly the somewhat updated NKJV, which does not include notes about the chapters past 8 in the Gospel of Mark.

    (And if they’re really serious about their fundamentalism, they read the 1611 KJV, but I think at that point, they’re just trying to win some sort of “I can be more fundamentalist than you” contest.)

    Anyway, generally atheists with blogs aren’t really aiming themselves at the sort of liberal(ish) Christian that knows about the Council of Nicea and other such history, since they’re rarely the sort of Christian who likes to suggest we’re not US citizens or aren’t actually human.

    • Thanks for the response.

      For the record, I’m Lutheran. And I wasn’t offended by being associated with the Catholic tradition.

      That is a good point regarding the KJV (which unfortunately I don’t have at this time). And the problem there is with KJV only-ism which I would contend is one of the modern day heresies. But that’s a whole different issue which I may get into later.

      • Hi there,

        I’m sure Luther rolled in his grave at your comment 😉 (although I’ve recently being reading of the differences between Luther and Zwingli, so maybe not).

        Thanks for posting. I’ve had an encounter this week with someone who so kindly wanted to make me aware of the “new discoveries” of the Codex Sinaiticus.

        When we were preaching through the book of Mark last year we stopped at 16:8 and spent a week teaching about textual criticism and the differences between Textus Receptus and Early Manuscripts. Then we shut that series down and moved onto a different book.

        I’m going to blog something about this soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

        In Christ,


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