Mark 16: The Alternative Ending of Mark

Mark 16 has long been a problem for New Testament readers. Why? It has two endings.

The usual English ending includes drinking poison and preaching the gospel to every creature (even animals?). The shorter ending is quite abrupt, leaving no resurrection appearances like the other three gospels, only an empty tomb.

So which is it? The Byzantine tradition typically includes the longer ending, which was the Greek picked up by Erasmus and used in early English Bibles, including the King James Version. But the earliest manuscripts, including our earliest Greek Bible called Codex Sinaiticus, do not include the longer ending. In fact, it is some centuries after Mark was written that we first find a longer ending. Those who have researched this in depth typically conclude the evidence favors the shorter ending as the earliest ending.

The question, then, is, “Why was it changed?” As early as the second century, there were attempts by some to harmonize the four Gospels into one. Along the way, those who made copies sometimes, intentionally or unintentionally, made a spot in one gospel match a spot in the other. At some point, this harmonizing likely led someone to add some words to Mark to make the resurrection and Great Commission part sound more like the other three. Once this ending made it into one copy, others found it a nicer wrap up that matched the other gospels. Now, nearly two thousand years, later we’re debating which ending was original.

I for one would suggest translators add a warning label to the end of Mark that says: “WARNING: Don’t drink poison as a Christian and think you’ll be okay. That part probably came later and isn’t what Jesus had in mind.”

I’m having a bit of fun here, but don’t for a moment think I don’t believe the Bible is inspired or that it has been corrupted beyond comprehension. This is the biggest “add-on” in the New Testament and one Greek scholars have been aware of for centuries.

This alternative ending of Mark, however, reveals the need for good biblical scholarship even in our time. We must live our faith, but God call us to study, too. This is one example in which diligent study could make a big difference in application.

[By the way, I did write this part out, too, just in case.]

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Dillon Burroughs has written, co-written, or edited over 60 books, including the upcoming devotional work Thirst No More (October 2011). He served as an associate editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. Find out more at DillonBurroughs.org.

Mark 15: Why Jesus Died

Many have misunderstood the legal reason used to put Jesus to death on the cross. Mark 15:25-26 reveals this reason:

“25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

After an illegal, overnight series of trials before both Jews and Romans, the Roman governor Pilate agreed to crucify Jesus for his claim to be king of the Jews. This act of conspiracy was punishable by death.

In our time, Jesus is a socially acceptable topic, but only when we talk about Him as one spiritual leader among many. It is only when we assert Jesus is King, higher than all other leaders in all other traditions, that conflict arises. Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah King; Muslim accept Jesus as only one of many prophets. Eastern religions usually see Jesus as one of the enlightened ones. Yet Jesus claimed more. Much more.

Jesus claimed to be one with God, to be King of the Jews, to be the Messiah, the Coming One, and to be God in human form.

This is why Jesus died.

But, there was also another reason…

…us.

Legally, Jesus died for treason. Spiritually, Jesus died to give us eternal life (John 3:16) and an abundant life beginning now (John 10:10).

Remember what Christ has done for us today; accept His gift, thank Him for it, and go out to do something for Him.

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Dillon Burroughs has written, co-written, or edited over 60 books, including the upcoming devotional work Thirst No More (October 2011). He served as an associate editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. Find out more at DillonBurroughs.org.

Mark 14: Do What You Can

Mark 14 includes one of my new favorite sentences in the New Testament. In verse 8, Jesus responds to the criticisms of those spoke against the woman who had poured an expensive jar of perfume on Him.

His response? “She did what she could.”

You ever feel like nothing you do matters? Perhaps this woman felt the same way. In what may have been her one and only chance to appear before Jesus, she decided to go “all or nothing.” She gave her most valuable possession in the most humble way she knew.

Christ’s response? Appreciation.

Did you realize Jesus actually appreciates when we do all we can to serve Him? We always wish we could be more, do more, or “something” more, but it is what we actually do that God sees and appreciates.

I’m convinced more than ever that Jesus does not look down from heaven at those who follow Him and shake His head in frustration. When we devote our efforts and our lives to Him, He looks at us as He did that woman who “did what she could.”

Know you are appreciated. God knows what you can and cannot do today. Do what you can.

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Dillon Burroughs has written, co-written, or edited over 60 books, including the upcoming devotional work Thirst No More (October 2011). He served as an associate editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. Find out more at DillonBurroughs.org.


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