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Chapter 3

Sparkling Revelation



It would be recommended to read SMR - Appendix  C and D - before this chapter, as its message is prior.

IF ONLY the Titanic had gone more slowly. If instead of surging into the now penetrable seas, with this invincible hull, unsinkable flotation and impending majesty, it had proceeded with prudence, caution, uninterested in fame or record, but in seaworthiness and the destination ... But it was not so.

So in the end of Mark's Gospel, if only people would more frequently at least, turn to the issues one at a time, to the style and finesse of the issues, and see the resultant in its dynamism, then there would have been less of that almost flagrant liberal dilettantism which knows no bounds, not limits, not care and no caution. Then the simplicity of the situation would appear, as when careful investigation reveals the exact nature of a skin condition, and a short, single, simple action ends the matter. Incidentally, the incidence of melanoma deaths by a recent (Thursday, January 10, 02) TV program appears to be some 1000 in Australia, for one year! In skin conditions, as in spiritual ones, it is important to know what you are doing. One of the things NOT to be doing, is to be rash, careless or indifferent to the nature of design. It is so with Mark. The total situation needs careful rending.

There are a number of fascinating aspects, which like the facets of diamond, relate each to the other, and all as one whole, to the light.

There is

  • 1) the apparent abruptness of the end,
  • 2) the inter-relationship with other Gospels,
  • 3) the procedure in the resurrection events,
  • 4) the projection of power,
  • 5) the type of tongues
  • 6) the textual proportions,
  • 7) the baptismal direction and the lustre of dynamism.

We shall DV examine these aspects, and start with the textual (5) above, then proceed to the projection of power (4), the type of tongues (5), the baptismal direction (7), the procedure in the resurrection events (3), to the apparent abruptness of the end (1) and 2) the inter-relationship with other Gospels.

This is the convenient movement, but the above list in in the order there given, as a stimulus to thought in the interim.


Edward F. Hills makes in his "The King James Version Defended!" (though this is not our present task) a basic overall point, concerning the basic spread of major manuscripts.  These verses 9-20, the "last 12 verses of Mark",

  • "are found in all the Greek manuscripts except B and Aleph and all the Latin manuscripts except k. And even 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 (cf. 150)80, Tatian (cf. 175)81 Irenaeus (c. 180),82 and Hippolytus (c. 200).83"

The references in order are to Migne, Patrologiae   Cursus Complete, Series Graeca: vol. 6, col. 397; Tatians Diatessaron aus dem Arabischen, ubersetz von Erwin Preuschen, Heidelberg 1926, p. 239; to Migne op. cit. , vol.7, col. 879; and Funk, Didascalia etc. vol. i, p. 460, vol. ii, p. 72.

Odd variants may be found, but the overwhelming testimony, as far as it is available, and this is our own point, is without doubt to the objective and regally plain presence of verses 9-20 from the first.

To call it the majority text would be an understatement. As far as the basic, untranslated Greek manuscripts are concerned, it is an avalanche of co-ordination with scarcely a waver. It is of course interesting, as Kenyon points out in his "Text of the Greek Bible" (p. 121) that these verses are indeed found in the Diatessaron, while for example, as for Codex Washingtonianus I, "inserted in the ending of Mark after verse 14 is a remarkable addition" which Jerome is cited as reporting to be found in some MSS. Odd copies of this or that brand, breed or type omit this and that, egregiously in various areas, but speaking of the main thrust of MSS, the case is secure.

Again (pp.131-132), in terms of translations,  some versions of the Sahidic version have the shorter version of the ending of Mark, but others of this version the longer. Such manuscripts often have variations of leisure and pleasure, showing that casualness is not peculiar to the present time. Nor however is precision and zeal, of which the Massoretes in their day were veritable exemplars.

Kenyon in summary sees fit simply to list  a and b, k , Sahidic (some mss.), and one version of the Old Syriac, the Sinaitic. The other version, the Curetonian, contains it. Thus the basic attestation of texts other than a and b is in fact exceedingly slender, and in terms of the Greek text, there is a gross divergence from the objective evidence in any thought of varying the last 12 verses of Mark. Indeed, Dean Burgon is found declaring of the omission of this text  in the two  a and b, that this is "to their own effectual condemnation" (RR p. 36)! That is how egregious these two are amid the thousands of Greek manuscripts in this matter.  The careless character of a and b has been dealt with at length by the notable work and prodigiously conscientious work  of Burgon in his The Revision Revised (RR, 1883), and their attestation is not of great significance contra mundum, and even more, Burgon has detailed aspects of the matter in his The last Twelve Verses of the Gospel according to S. Mark, vindicated against recent critical Objectors and established (1871).

Burgon, also, refers to the extraordinary sparsity of manuscript attestation lacking the last 12 verses of Mark. It is a pity that some versions in English by no means make these facts clear. At times, there seems almost a hypnotic effect in shutting mouths that should be open, and opening trivia that should be seen in their miniscule proportions.

It is enough for our present purpose then, to seek to account for two facts: that some slight evidence exists of people presenting variations at the end of Mark in the manuscripts, but that it is exceedingly small, vanishingly small in the Greek manuscripts, while the testimony of the 'church fathers' is strong for them. It should be noted, in passing, that in Tatian's Diatessaron, or harmony of the Gospels, which includes these verses as is normal, we have in the author a pupil of Irenaeus, to the significance of which attention has been called previously (in Ch. 1 above).

The objective case is quite clear. This is the work passed on from early days, accepted most broadly, with scarcely any competition in manuscripts. What however of the ground for any variation at all, even in certain translations ? Without doubt this will prove both fascinating and instructive, both as a caution to intemperance and a ground of reflection on the relationship between care and impetuosity. In the process, the soundness of the text as transmitted will then be seen in the light of the forces readily seen as at work. All is in harmony, that beautiful provision of truth. We must simply find what is the emphasis of the rest of the Gospel of Mark, and find it in life as in word.



Let us then reflect on this Gospel with special reference to the last 12 verses.

There is observable a vast and uninhibited movement as we proceed to these last 12 verses of Mark's Gospel, depicting power, authority, overcoming, even of nature where required, duty, responsibility, subjugation of evil dynamics, and the personal presence of the Lord with His ongoing disciples. It is to be noted that such an emphasis has not been lacking previously in Mark by any means, but here it flowers.

As to earlier emphasis of this kind, in the selection of materials for presentation in Mark's Gospel, see Mark 11:23-24; the frequent use of "immediately"; the electric seeming beginning of the Gospel, with the prophetic preliminary, the onset in power of John the Baptist, the divine voice at the baptism of Christ, a ceremony which not being for sin (I Peter 2:22ff.), but for priestly fulfilment of all righteousness, though He was not of a priestly tribe (see Numbers 8:6-7, SMR pp. 892ff., Questions and Answers Ch. 11), was of dramatic impact; the short coverage of the temptation, preserving the acuity of the thrust to the point and pith of things, and the divine cry for repentance on Christ's return from the wilderness, at once followed by the piercing, challenging announcement, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. repent, and belivein the gospel."

This is merely a beginning! And, moreover, it is THE beginning of the Gospel of Mark.

Then, early in Mark,  the disciples are seen challenged, called and coming.  Events follow like Autumn leaves falling.

Our point is simple. Mark's Gospel is LIKE THAT: Power, performance, basics, piercing beyond mere appearance, and showing the force of things. The Gospel is like that at the very first. It is like that at the very last. It is one. It is verified as such whatever may be the manner of its completion.

However, to return to our former point, that we are left, uninhibited and objectively pellucid,  to see such an exhibition of power and divine action in the domain of practical reality, as is super-abundantly attested in the overwhelming Greek manuscript insistence on the last 12 verses of Mark: what is the significance of that, in the dimension of acceptance ?

To the formalists, whether of the first or the twenty first centuries, this is not good news; and to the ceremonialists, this is not likely to appeal. Is not the goodly church order, with masses of sacraments and sacraments of masses, with ecclesiastical control as good as any country imposes in some cases, and in others, too willing discipleship of what are but men, is not each of these thrusts, and especially the whole, an adequacy for the worldly living of religion, without pains, tears or tussles, without words like power or performance (except according to ecclesiastical conventions, to give pleasure or whatever else may be prescribed by the king-makers) ? Why have this ebullient end to the Gospel of Mark ? Such might well be the feeling of some.

It is of course true that many have in various ways attempted even to poison the practical, as in the Pentecostal excesses which at times leave the Gospels for the 'heart' as though it were some new and novel instrument to replace the apostolic foundations (despite Ephesians 2:19ff., Revelation 2 and the nature of scripture cf. SMR Appendix  C and D). There is scarcely a wriggle, or a wresting that COULD be made, that has not been, or is not being, made! Such is the nature of integrity and authenticity, that it is a challenge to the subverters and an irritation to the deviating! (cf. II Peter 3:16). To this we shall return in its place, shortly.

However, Mark in its directness is not readily abused in one extreme or the other. It is filled with the emphasis on action and power, in the name of Christ, and filled no less with that on the divine lordship which does not need man to take over in some spiritual putsch, like the sons of Korah (Numbers 8), in their 'strange fire'. It translates these things in its end, notably into the present.

Besides all this, it is always pleasant for the enemy of souls to try to disturb that holy alliance with the Lord, in spirit, which is conducive to the salvation of many, and the joy of more. Thus the variation in some early testimony, all but entirely outside the Greek manuscripts, is an opportunity. It could lead to indulgence.

Part of the negative reaction could also arise from mere confusion, moreover. Taken together, confusion and lack of appeal could indeed lead to various responses which could make the removal of such verses seem desirable, in much the same way as occurred in II Peter in some measure, and even in Revelation, as we have seen. These things did not unseat the books, for what God gives, God keeps. It did however reveal interesting features in human personality, eventually to flair up, like a solar flare, into so many heresies that in this the twentieth century, there is scarcely room to contain them all. The world oozes, drips and reels with these inundations, and like a drug victim, spins into sordid morasses of false doctrine as if it had nothing better to do than ensure the fulfilment of Christ's predictions (Matthew 24:24) to the point and Paul's (II Timothy 3) would come to pass. While such a move is desirable, motives for it in such a case are far from so!

Let us however return to the particular case of the end of Mark's Gospel. On the topic of confusion, and reading into these verses what is not there, and thus being ready to 'react', let us cite from a previous work, A Question of Gifts.



There is an added perspective, which is crucial and confirmatory of all that precedes. It is this : the attitude of Jesus Christ Himself to SIGNS, in which the extraordinary and stunning would come (cf. that promised by Isaiah to King Ahaz, Isaiah, where the king was invited to ask! upwards to heaven, or downward to the abyss).

When JESUS was asked - What sign do you show us? He replied - NO SIGN!...(Matthew 12:38-39), "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah". The sign - His burial and bodily resurrection on the analogy of the Prophet Jonah himself coming forth out of the burial in the large fish.

Of course there WERE a myriad of signs for those who would quietly, Scripture in hand, head and heart, choose to 'read them' - (cf. Matthew 11:4-6). The point however is this: those who sought signs were witheringly rebuked. There was enough already if their hearts were really willing; and they were sent to the chief areas, on which their souls would depend (cf. I Corinthians 15:1-3, 12-14). Isaiah 35 for example had already specified enough for close comparison with the inimitable and epochal woks of Christ. They were already without excuse.

Self-seeking blindness on the part of those who have merely to enter the light... is not approved. God in His bounty gives abundance; but to seek glut is greed.

It can also be imperious, ungodly or even connivance with the flesh, with its sensationalism and love of show.

At that, even the healing miracles could well be associated with warnings not to tell about them.15 There was a danger, too evident, that power and provision would become the centre of attention, not sin, sacrifice and redemption; and nowhere is it more evident than in the temptations from the devil (Matthew 4) and in the aftermath of the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:15-20). The king of experience, of sensation, of satisfaction, without the kingdom of heaven with its arduousness, redemption and simplicity of entrance (John 1:9,27-28): this was to be distanced, the people delivered from this cheap and soppy substitute for salvation and spirituality.

Thus SIGNS could be directly denied when requested at the initiative of those seeking the display of the gifts of God (and in particular the charismata, that sub-set - I Cor. 12:4 - which was so dramatically in force in Corinth). It is still the same (I Cor.12:11). Similarly the obsessive carnality of the disorder and profusion of rushing rabbles of 'gifts' was rebuked by Paul, in favour of edification in all things, of order and direction (I Corinthians 14).

Secondary matters could become primary; primary matters could be mishandled, misconstrued or not construed at all, panache and worldliness could invade by the Trojan horse of such seekings; but the necessity was to focus on the Cross through faith, without which the displays would merely dazzle (Galatians 6:14).

Indeed, a further reason for divine discretion and wariness in giving such gifts is stated. It was to a "wicked and adulterous generation" that Christ said NO! to such requests, EXCEPT for the sign of the prophet Jonah. Many of them might not have believed that, though it is the most obvious of miracles; and if they did not, what further need was there? As Jesus had Abraham say to a sensationalistic request, in parable form, coming from a man in hell, who wanted his brothers warned (further than already): "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead" - Luke 16:31. The thought of the man pictured in hell was this - If anyone goes to them from the dead, they will repent! Would they ? Multitudes in Israel did not.

'Signs' to add sensationalism to emotional indiscipline already present : these were not prescribed by the Great Physician.

He did His work, and in the process fulfilled the prophesied criteria of the Messiah, the divine identikit for recognition of the Christ. In the process, He distributed as He would , when He would and how He would. As Herod found, there is far from being an guarantee of the type of divine action that would satisfy a soured palate, a greedy heart, or some substitute for faith.

In this case we see Christ could act as if He had no ears, not responding at all to Herod's desire for an "exhibition" (Luke 23:6ff.).

This is the sort of thing that relates to one of the sources of 'Holy Laughter', by report : a threatening demand for God to act, or else ... the person praying would vent his displeasure! Herod certainly did; but he is not entirely commended, being named 'that fox'! (Cf. p. 8 supra.)

It is quite foolish and wholly unscriptural to make 'demands' of God. Leave that to the priests - as one of them says : What the priest says God has to do! But it is not so really : "Therefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear : for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29); "Holy and reverend is his name" (Ps. 111:9); "God is greatly to be feared in the congregation of his saints, and to be had in reverence of all those who are about him" - Psalm 89:7, cf. Psalm 63; 69:29-33, 111:9-10, 119:20, 29:2: "Give to the Lord the glory due to His name: Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Even Christ was submissive at Gethsemane, and in doctrine spoke what His Father COMMANDED (John 12:49).

The sign to be given, then, by divine discretion and desire, it was this : the sign of the prophet Jonah, and Christ, Messiah would be buried and arise from the very ground, after being rejected by the elders and the priestly hierarchy, the ecclesiastical machinery, in this case, largely one of unbelief (Matthew 16:21).

Signs then are as He wills in terms of His higher purposes, are never for or in themselves; the spectacular may invade for a season (as with Elijah, Elisha), but various forms of judgment, rebuke and discretion can affect the willingness of that same Lord who rebuked Herod with no response, to suffer the insolent desires, or greedy ramblings of experientially footloose, existentially vagrant or merely childish disciples.

Thus, to ponder the case of Mark 16: taking poison - rather being given it - without harm may indeed occur - at God's discretion. I have trusted Him more than once in dubious circumstances in this regard, while bent upon His work. It is however no automated phenomenon, as has been demonstrated earlier.

As to the 'new tongues' already discussed for the same scripture, earlier: if the 'newness' means savoury spiritual speech with salt, it does indeed follow, and that broadly; though it is not always or in all equally conspicuous. Non-sensationalist, non-exhibitionist, non-grabbing, non-compulsive, non-obsessive speaking with tongues may also occur, from time to time, if deemed apt by the Almighty; and as to that, there is more than a little doubt. In Paul's priority list, 5 words with MIND versus 10,000 without it, is more than good measure. Such things therefore are doubly not to be sought: it is presumption, first, and false priority, second.

In fact the babble-type tongues are not even mentioned in 2 of the 3 chief references to the gifts in the body of Christ, in Paul's writings - namely Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. This relatively obscure gift, then, can operate in the seasons of God's choice, and in the situations He considers to demand it. As to these (point 8, pp. 9ff. supra), they have an elemental involvement in rebuke of one kind or another. In one aspect, it is like caning: it IS sensational, certainly, but it is both more than that, and less than the lovely thing that might perhaps have been, instead ... Indeed, the sort of "new tongue" which is certainly required is the one coming from an "illuminated" spirit (Ephesians 1:17-18), the meaning applied through the force of the word of God (I Corinthians 14:5, II Timothy 4:2).

Thus there is in Mark's last 12 verses nothing in the provision of power relative to signs in general which is contrary to other scripture. The PRESENCE of such things is quite normal. It is the SEEKING of them for false, spurious, curious or other improper reasons which is outlawed.

It is this which achieves rebukes. Moreover, the Lord does not necessarily agree when someone wants a sign for this or that purpose (cf. Luke 9:54ff.), as shown in the intensely interesting case of the disciples' thought on one occasion, of fire being sent down from heaven, in parallel perhaps as a thought, to the case of Elijah (II Kings 1), which however was not a personal slight but an attempt to capture the one who was giving the word of God, or to do to him, far worse!

Having begun by considering the nature of signs, we continue with some reference now to types of tongues, the question of the nature of the warranty supplied in Mark 16's last 12 verses. For this, once again, we refer to "A Question of Gifts" which dealt with this point. The need for logical care in considering such statements is thus to be provided, and the confusion which can offend some, removed, as in some it has not been removed.

Hence, without ceasing to be concerned with our first point, the Projection of Power, we shall now consider it in conjunction with the


 A Question of Gifts

Section III

M A R K    16:17    and
   A C T S  11:17  on TONGUES

Before looking at Acts 10-11, under the heading
THE TONGUE OF TRUTH AND BROTHERLY LOVE,  let us consider a much misused text: Mark 16:17.

Does Mark 16:18   suggest that ALL heal  (contrary to I Cor. 12 ) or even that all cast out  demons? It would contradict Paul if it did.  In any case,  it does not. Nor does it suggest gibberish tongues for all, in 16:17. Far less does it suggest a sensationalist, experientialist or mindless substitute for the objective Gospel of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15, Galatians 3).

1. As for the words, "these signs will follow those who believe", is this distributive or generic ? Does it apply to each, or to all? Is it a statement of what FOLLOWS the CLASS; those who believe, or does it in fact state that each one who believes does this and that ? Of course, it is the former.

To illustrate: if you say doctors follow an Army camp, or litter follows it, for that matter: this is a generic, and by no means would it imply that ALL have doctors, or need them, or even that no Camp exists which did not lack them. It would simply connote a norm on the one hand, and that it may be found in conjunction with the WHOLE. It is an item produced from within, or serving the TOTALITY. SOME may never litter or use doctors, and some camps may not use the one or provide the other; but the trend overall is to the contrary.

What then shall we say of Mark 16:17 ?

'Signs' shall ‘follow’ therefore specifies for the whole, a place; it does not cover each. Similarly, tile text does not mean that no Christian can ever die of poison; but that this is the kind of thing which can operate at divine discretion, so that in a whole collection of believers, it is a function by no means inoperative. Indeed, "new tongues" will arise!

2. Moreover, Psalm 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9 show another inflection for praise of the Lord in a "new song", for which a new tongue would be apt. Thus there is the "new man" (Colossians 3:10) for whom "all things have become new"
(II Cor. 5:17), who sings as it were "a new song" with new inspiration (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 1:17-18).

3. Thus in Revelation, they sing (15:3), they articulate the words of the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in heaven; and there is moreover a "new song" (14:3) - fresh inspiration apparently bringing new depths, as in point 2. (Cf. Zephaniah 3:13, Isaiah 50:4.) This song they "learn".

4. Although these things are sufficient to show the truth we summarise in point 5 below,  let us add a new datum. It is expounded in THE TONGUE OF TRUTH, AND BROTHERLY LOVE (see pp. 16ff.), but in application here, let us note it.

Acts 10:45-47 with 11:16-17 shows that the Pentecostal, and not the Corinthian gift was given to these new believers, who indeed are said to have spoken simply 'with tongues'; just as Mark 16 refers to 'new' tongues. One meaning of the Greek word here for 'new' is recent, unused, fresh, and the result  would therefore resemble that in points 2 and 3 above.

The fresh, original, deeper, illuminated speech of bold and overwhelmed praise would pour out from new hearts with new lips  with empowered articulation expressing new wonder. NEW is the word and that is the concept. It is not uncommon in scripture, where it has a substantial base and spiritual contour.

5. The contextual force for intelligibility is what will be shown in Section IV, not only in terms of the RESULT and the ACTION following these 'new' tongues, but in terms of the gift being the SAME as that given at Pentecost, where intelligibility was not only present, but crucial, perhaps the most astounding thing about the whole performance; for here was Babel reversed. Thus here could comprehension of the CONTENT of the OBJECTIVE GOSPEL concerning the objective Christ be taken in and acted in terms of repentance, with pierced hearts, crying -
"What shall we do ?"

To them as by Peter in Acts 10, was the gospel preached.

The apostles had allowed every man to hear in his OWN TONGUE the FACTS. In Acts 10, the gift given, the same as that of the apostles at Pentecost, enabled every one to SPEAK with wonder and power in a way that was likewise intelligible at the very least. Indeed in the original case, this was a crucial feature, a source of wonder, the functional reality  enabled in the polyglot  (Acts 2:9) audience BY the gift which WAS UNDERSTOOD, not obfuscated; which needed no interpreter BECAUSE it gave out the message so that each UNDERSTOOD. This gift specialised in clarity and in comprehensibility.

In fact, it is for this reason that the concept of gibberish tongues should never be associated with Pentecost, but rather allied with the Corinthians. Such a phenomenon is therefore CORINTHIANISM rather than PENTECOSTALISM. The misuse of THIS name is in fact one of the greatest breaches of nomenclature, in modern times (reminding one of Communism being 'democratic'). It not only, indeed, misuses a name, but in so doing here, misuses a most blessed concept - and that ? It is nothing less than Babel in REVERSE, the intelligibility miracle of LUCID AID in giving the GOSPEL to all.
THAT, Pentecost did!

Thus whether the question be the DISTRIBUTION of the activities in Mark, or their NATURE, it is not possible to affirm unintelligible tongues to be in view, or for that matter, that all speak them. It is not possible circumspectly to equate ‘new’ with ‘other’ or ‘follow’ with ‘will apply to each individual’: one could not do so without adding substantially to the text - a feature alien to the spirit of things (Proverbs 30:6), or more precisely, to the word of God. It is, after all, with this that we are occupied, knowing Christ declared the one who loves Him to be the one who keeps His words (John 14:23-24). Indeed it is love which rejoices in the truth, as I Corinthians 13 tells us.

The liberty of the Spirit is not licence, but implies loving conformity to what is written for us. We do not become gods because we are liberated from sin; nor is obedience unimportant because grace and not works is the formula for salvation in Christ. We are saved by faith without works; but as to faith ? it works. CHRIST Himself was obedient, even to the death of the Cross. Let then no mistaken ‘liberty’ that ignores the words of its source, or expands like Rome what is written, imagine itself to be spiritual. IF, says Paul, any man thinks himself spiritual, let him acknowledge the things I write to you are the commandments of the Lord (I Corinthians 14:37).

To add, in this case, the INDIVIDUATION of each gift to the simple statement about it following believers is one lapse; to assume ‘new tongues’ to be gibberish is another presumption. To presume twice is simple robbery of the word of God: making it null by the commandments of men, as Christ indicated indeed occurs (Mark 7:7).

In this way, we have now visited the concepts of signs, the concept of power in healing and such things, manifest actions from the Lord in many cases, and the type of tongues which is intended in Mark 16:17, by "new", the term provided.

While, then, some might carelessly imagine this is a prescription of a universal application to every Christian case, "these signs will follow" is not asserting anything remotely like this. It is not even suggesting that this will be the invariable procedure for any GROUP. It is however making it perfectly clear that the power of God WILL follow His people, whether in this or that mode and module, that His gifts will operate in such a style as to provide evidence generically to the Christian body that this is the nature of the dynamic, the drive and the discipline provided.

Listless or lordly misinterpretations of these things, whether of the very concept of power, or of the particular manifestations, might for reasons both conceptually loose or spiritually impure, have led many rather to shy away from these verses. This would be the more likely where the distance from the originating arena was greater, and the opportunity was less for a full understanding, such as in fact the case.

While we are considering this sort of misuse of logic, and the sensationalistic, wholly unbiblical furore this may create in the unwary, it is well to extend our thoughts to the word in the last 12 verses of Mark, re BAPTISM. Is this too a runaway colt in the minds of many, which might have induced in times past a reaction to this section of the Gospel ... ? even though to be sure, its manuscript attestation is unimpugnable.


What then is in fact divulged, revealed on this topic in Mark 16:16 ? It is this:

"He who believes and is baptised will be saved: but he who does not believe will be condemned. "

Has Mark descended to sacramentalism ? Of course not, for this is contrary to ALL scripture (cf. Isaiah 29:13, 1:12-17). God abhors false ceremonial substitutes for spirituality, false modes for matter, false hearts for pure ones. This is one of the major thrusts of scripture!

What then is here in fact taught ? For this, we may conveniently refer to Questions and Answers Ch. 11, on water baptism.


It may here be useful to add a reference to Mark 16:16. Now, obviously a statement that he who has a ticket and steps on the aeroplane will be lifted off does not entail that he who lacks a ticket and steps on, will not be taken off. You can be as universal as you like in indicating what will happen IF you do something, without in the least necessarily implying that it CANNOT happen if you do not. PAY TAXES and have the benefits of civilisation does NOT entail that if in some category, you are duly assessed as having none to pay in some year, or over your last years, you will NOT have those benefits. In other words, in formal logic, a sufficient condition is not the same as a necessary condition.

Any effort to make out some sort of sacramentalism from this verse is therefore quite vain. In addition, Paul makes it clear he was not sent to baptise but to preach the gospel (I Cor. 1:14-17). If baptism were a necessary part of the gospel, that statement could not be made. Further, it shows a distinct cleavage. He even thanks GOD he did not baptise any (with one or two exceptions), something at odds with its being necessary to salvation. As Paul says, in Galatians 6:14, "God forbid that I should glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world." The cross is not baptism. Baptism is not found within it!

In fact, those who hear the gospel, in the broad general sweep of things, being at the time of the Great Commission, a new people to be brought into the New Covenant, would be all unbaptised, having had circumcision (Colossians 2:11-14) in those days as the required preparatory rite for children as for all Christian households, to use Paul's term in Acts 16:31. Baptism with water was a proper action for any and for all who had not come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Even John the Baptist's baptism was preparatory towards Christ, not consummatory, representing the sacrificed Saviour (and hence Acts 19:2-5, which makes the distinction cardinal!).

The category of persons old enough to relate to preaching, and so to hear preaching such as is in this verse commanded, to audit this instrument of salvation,  here in view (Mark 16:15), on due response should be baptised. That is all. There is nothing magical about it. Neither it nor circumcision secured eternal salvation (Jeremiah 9:23-26). It was however , as was circumcision earlier, REQUIRED, a sign, a signal, a public testimony, a blessed obedience, which in the adult to whom the preaching would then relate, would present quite possibly at times a substantial risk, which in fact related to testimony of salvation, which could be made in many other ways.

Indeed, here as in Mark 10, it is another baptism, that of the Spirit,

·  that certain, assured seal and occupancy which comes to anyone and everyone who is a believer in Christ Jesus, and saved by Him (Romans 8:9-16, Ephesians 1:13-14, John 6:51-54, I Cor. 12:13),

which is necessary in this, in that if it has not happened, neither has faith! Those who, being believers, thus with certainty and immediacy inherit this spiritual baptism into the one body (I Cor. 12:13), will be saved; it is these, and not mere formalists who neither know the Lord nor have faith in Him, merely repeating (or perhaps not even repeating) forms not embraced in reality, or formulae which while true, are no substitute for the embrace by faith of the Lord and of His salvation. NO WORDS without faith will atone for sin; and only CHRIST HIMSELF by His blood, will do that, through faith (Ephesians 2:1-10).

For further, see The Kingdom of Heaven... Appendix, and Biblical Blessings, Appendix III, The Living God, pp. 319ff..

Thus it is simply the matter once again of the logical difference between a sufficient condition and a necessary one. Put differently, a prescription that enables is not the monopoly on the topic, merely a contribution. In this case, one would certainly expect that a believer would be baptised in TWO ways, the first being automatic, and second seemly.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit, as noted above, is necessary for any genuine conversion, for ALL the Corinthians to whom Paul is speaking as Christians, WERE BAPTISED; but by what ? BY ONE SPIRIT; and into what ? INTO ONE BODY (I Cor. 12:13). On the other hand, as for the sacramental symbol of the matter, the cleansing before entry, the change before being there (in a spiritual sense - cf. John 3) to enter at all! the kinship created in adoption (Ephesians 1): these things being prior, in its time, the water symbol may indeed be applied. It is not in Mark stated as necessary to salvation, which would contradict other scriptures (such as I Peter 3:21, which exposes the ludicrous nature of imagining that it is less than the answer of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ which could be in view in anything relating to SALVATION). It is stated in a normative way, a sufficiency way, for it is normal and good and seemly, comely and proper, like receiving an engagement ring.

Never however let one hear anyone say that because, if you sign the register after the narration, and wear the ring, you are married, that this implies - NO RING, NO MARRIAGE.

There is, one hopes, some limit to the prostitution of words!

Very well, then, there is here a possible misinterpretation, wholly unwarranted, but one which in the presence of the emphasis on the power of God and the work over evil in His name, might have influenced some. The objective textual fact remains, however, and these things merely help us see why some small percentage indeed of references might exclude the end of Mark.

Next, let us pause to view a further arena of possible disturbance. There is an area where some, being already confused, might find this aspect of the resurrection events less desirable than they should. It is after all merely a matter of finding the objective text and then seeing what, in the light of other scripture especially, and its own text and context, it means, applying it and getting on with it!

Here let us excerpt from The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9, a short piece reconstruction a simple harmony of the various frank, uninhibited and joyous accounts of the resurrection in the Gospels. This will serve as a prelude to our further consideration of the possible grounds which might have influenced some to be less than allured by this scripture at the end of Mark, however unwarrantably.


The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9

14) It is all but amusing in a grave sort of way, to see heretics and those 'concerned' who may also at times no 'see' how some part fits, and who change some manuscript in antiquity, so creating some minor tradition of their own; and then to see how the vat mass of the text remains, both clear and challenging, at first, and penetrating and enlightening at last.

Thus in Matthew 28:9, the Westcott- Hort tradition omits "when they were going", but not so the vast majority of texts.

In fact, the verb for 'going' is in the imperfect tense, signifying a continuing or repetitious act or series of actions. Quite possibly, the sequence is this:

a) the women concerned  all told the disciples in Luke 24:10-11, of the message that Christ was risen from the very dead (without any mention of the transcendentally important personal meeting with Christ being recorded there, because quite simply, they had not at that time seen Him in this way, but received report from the angels only).

b) Then, like Mary in fact (John 20), they went back, drifting perhaps and drawn irresistibly, pondering, wandering, attracted like moths to light, seeking more in the face of the disbelief of the disciples.

c) Christ then met Mary who perhaps because of her profound need, and sense of it, went back more quickly following the race of Peter and John (cf. John 20:11ff., Mark 16:9). She, truly concerned and deeply moved, addressed the One she thought to be the gardener, through her tears, the mist of eye compounded with the fog of heart, saying, "If you have carried Him from here, tell me where you have laid Him" - John 20:15.

d) Later, in the same vicinity, He meets the women, meandering back unsated with anything new to provide the disciples, and gives to them also, this direct confrontation and confirmation. They also held His feet,  in worship (John 20:17, Matthew 28:9). Rising from the dead without even a prophet as intermediary was no small divulgement, like the transfiguration (Matthew 17, where the divine voice punctuated the divine light), unique in all recorded history; but in this case, it was also unique in fulfilling the unique prediction.

However, let us revert to the text itself. To depart from the overwhelming and vast attestation of the text as INCLUDING the words "as they were going" or "engaged in going" , is neither necessary, safe nor wise. Except there be overwhelmingly clear objective evidence of a transmission error, nothing can be done. It is the word of another. In this instance, the opposite is the case.  This objective reality is always paramount, lest people become authors of what is then not the word of God, but the surmise of man. Subjective surmise has here no proper place, lest the word of man thrust itself into the mouth of God, who in His infinite wisdom, speaks what He will.

Incidentally, John 20:17  more literally has "cease clinging to me",  a more informative translation, since this particular (present) imperative holds the concept of continuity. Hence its negation is a CESSATION of that which was continuing: i.e. a ceasing of clinging.

The noted scholar, Gleason Archer,  in his "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties", p. 347, gives a masterly coverage, a short excerpt following:

"They apparently started their journey from the house in Jerusalem while it was still dark (skotias eti ouses), even though it was already morning (prõi) (John 20;1). But by the time they arrived, dawn was glimmering in the east (te epiphoõskouse) ... Mark 16:2 adds that the tip of the sun had actually appeared above the horizon ...the leading angel spoke to them with words of encouragement, "Don't be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified" (Matt. 28:5). Nevertheless they were quite terrified at the splendor ... and by the amazing disappearance of the body they had expected to find in the tomb... Upon receiving these wonderful tidings, the three delighted  messengers set out in haste to rejoin the group of sorrowing believers ... They did not pause to inform anyone else as they hurried back (Mark 16:8), partly because they were fearful and shaken by their encounter at the empty tomb..." (overline on e omitted in 2 cases from quotation).


The account is much longer than this, but this suffices to convey the sense of breathless excitement, and the emotional configuration rather well. The initial words are provided for indeed the various accounts of the rising of the sun, each one in its setting, are precisely correlated, exhibiting in some part sequence, and in some measure allied aspects. It is just the same with the resurrection account itself. It has all the unrestrained graphic vigour of the witnessed, the absorption in the splendour whether of the sun, the events, the news or the interaction of the disciples. We follow it in each instance, in each Gospel, gripped.

Once again, however, some not realising the simplicity of this collage, may have found troublesome the sheer indifference which each Gospel writer SEEMS to display to any thought of correlation, each exactly like one of various witnesses to an accident in which NONE has any vested interest but this one consuming desire, to CONVEY WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Thus when the case of Mark has an additional feature of ABRUPTNESS at 16:9, some may have felt the desire to avoid it.

Each of the above considerations may be small; taken jointly however they may not have been without affect on some minds.

Actually, as so often in the Bible, it is precisely the similarities and the diversities between different prophets, in their emphasis or focus to some extent, in different chronicles that makes the overall account especially interesting. Thus, In Mark 16:13, in terms of the apparent review purpose of the terminal survey, we find, concerning the Emmaus road disciples, "After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it
to the rest, but they did not believe them either. Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at table ..."

In Luke, we are brought, still in the graphic style at this phase, thereby giving us a type of stereoscopic narrative result from two sources,  to HEAR the exhortation He delivered to the Emmaus road disciples (24:25-27), to EMPATHISE with them as they seek to constrain Him to stay with them, rather than go on, to SEE them as they break bread with Christ (24:30), to SENSE their sudden amazement at the presence of the Lord, and then FIND them telling the other disciples in Jerusalem. The verb for "telling" is in the imperfect tense, signifying a process, something going on, a protracted sharing would be the expectation.

In Mark 16, we find simply that it was AFTER they declared the matter, and adds that at this stage the other disciples still did not believe, that the Lord appeared. The two together provide the entire perspective. Interestingly, in Mark it is the so-called genitive absolute which is used, the net effect of which is rather like the nominative absolute in English, in the past, but in the present might be rendered "while these things were being related". Thus we see the manner of the development, using both Gospels:  just as in the sunrise situation, noted by Archer, we see the composite picture and come to sense the very movement of events on that glorious morning.

This is mere illustration, but the result is sure.

We gain from prepared vessels a cargo of diversity, like those from the East Indies for the cold Island of Britain, in the 19 century! It is only when full attention is paid to all, whether in the case of the 4 Gospels or others of the scriptures, as to different experiments on the same topic in chemistry or physics, that the ensemble provides its ordered speech to the understanding!

Patience waits; comprehension applauds.


Some feel that Mark finished here. This, however, is impossible as a conjecture for the terminus. It would be contrary in entirety to the entire Gospel stress on action, power, performance, simplicity, directness, dynamic. Some feel that it was a case of a lost page. If so, how could the copies have been so successfully repressed ? The overwhelming nature of the evidence is quite startling, and when you consider the situation in fact, in historical reality*1, and not in imaginative digression from mathematics and history alike, you are left with a total impasse.

Neither could the book have ended where its vast majority, indeed overwhelming attestation of Greek mss. shows it did NOT end (that is, in terms of validity as texts), nor could its inspired last page have been lost, except at the outset, if it were indeed lost. Even if it were at the outset, however, what then ? That of course would mean, either that the Lord inspired Peter (with Mark as the case may have been, in terms of the clear tradition of the matter, in accord with the Epistles of Peter and other data), and failed to complete His task in providing for man the portrait of God in flesh, in the way He had by His own discretion desired, and executed - the 'lost' idea; or that the end eventually provided was not that which God had in His own will at the outset inspired: for with God ALL things are possible, and HE WORKS and who shall reverse it (Isaiah 43:13).

What then ? Might it mean for exactly the same reason, that having lost the first inspired end, He decided to inspire another, and then have the two bits put together, like the merely humorously derogatory motor bicycle 'teen talk of a former era, perhaps a case of BSA (bits stuck altogether)... Then it would be a matter of providing another end which was inspired, and detaching the earlier one, adding this one. In this case, again, He fails, who does not fail (Zephaniah 3:5, Isaiah 44:25ff.)  Indeed, in view of the way in which the Lord speaks of His word, such a contra-evidential imagination would be more than ludicrous, worse then lèse majesté, it appear as comedy without cause, the gratuitous without governance and irreverence without bound.

What however if God gave all but the end to say Peter to dictate to Mark, and from the outset, appointed Mark to complete it ? This to be sure, is different, being merely a matter of divine discretion, and not of any abortion of His dealings at all.

Did Mark then live on at a crucial point ? did Peter just as the thing was ending ? Such a dramatic eventuality would seem more than likely to have been remembered by the many who, in the close collegiality and co-operation of many, would pass it on. No whisper appears.

Far more likely is this. IF there is any question of alteration of writer (to which we shall return), then obviously Mark might have finished it, without the entire dependence on Peter (Peter spoke and he recorded) which is one attestation of the matter. If so, what of that ? After all, it has the NAME of Mark's Gospel, while it appears Peter was very definitely back of it. It is not really WHO wrote it which is important in this point, but that WHOEVER wrote it, got what was commanded to present (as in I Cor. 2:9-13, and in the prophets of old).

Of course, the authenticity of the background of the Gospel was crucial to its acceptation; but whether this was 100% via Peter or a little less, and more from Mark for example, is not really significant. In fact, Luke wrote, as far as is known, without any form of dynamic interchange at all, with Paul, whom however he often accompanied, as we see from the 'we' passages in the Book of Acts. Indeed, Paul quotes from Luke fairly transparently, as scripture (I Timothy 5:18, Luke 10:7).

There is no consideration which then militates against such a duality in this matter, if such were the case. Further, it would not be unnatural if Peter left to Mark, or better, if the Lord allowed such a progression, for the more recent events, or they were added to the more biographical elements which had preceded.

However, though there is no slightest problem, but indeed a great deal of interest in such a possibility as this, is there any need to assume it ?

A change of style is something, as an author, one is MOST accustomed to finding. At one point one is deeply engaged in the interstices of some topic, it lives, it throbs with being, it is exposed to sight; and then, in another moment, the light is as it were turned out, the case is closed, but there is need to complete the composure of something topically. Hence a change of intensity may occur, of style, of vocabulary (MUCH more likely with a change of approach than might appear, in actual experimental practice, as a writer), of directness. There may be a comparatively RAPID and rather SUDDEN completion of the matter, since the finale is not so crucial as the substance, and the main thrust for this particular work has now been completed.

This is not at all to say or even to suggest, far less to imply, that there is less attention to such an ending; but that there is a different species of attention, style and feeling, now that the main thrust of the content is over; and while the next and final part may be important, its importance is changed in this, that it is a completion, not an interstices, of the basic original necessity.

When however one realises that the startlement, the joy, the rapture, the wonder as of children at some vast natural scenic wonder, is pressing into the narrative up to Mark 16:9, and that the meaning of the end of verse 8 is in fact not DECLARING more than this, that they did not communicate as they were so pressed, impressed, being careful to kept rapt in their information as they proceeded, then verse 9 in sequence is scarcely surprising. The resumption of overview after graphic interview is not something requiring 'explanation', for this is precisely how an author can go from involvement to overview.

They go in their speechless incognito, as it were, to the apostles, not breathing a word as they go, their going being clear from the command. WHAT however, the reader may well ask of himself or herself, what is the order of events now ?

This: Christ appeared to whom ? That, the next step indeed, His personal appearance, after this conversation in the ABSENCE of the body, to whom did this come, and what occurred next, and how did that aspect transpire altogether ? As if in answer, the Gospel now takes one to Mary Magdalene, as shown in the suggested composition of events, taken from The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9 above, in accord with John, and as in John we find her telling those who did not believe ... as yet: just in sequence,  as happened too with the appearance of PETER IN PERSON out of prison, in another miraculous deliverance (Acts 12:15!).

Neither all the women, as recorded in Luke 24:10, relative to the angelic appearance, nor Mary, following the personal meeting, could at this point convince the disciples. HOW on earth ? OH YOU OF LITTLE FAITH! had been the word of Christ to them before, on various occasions as the eyes of flesh were becoming more accustomed to the deeds of God Almighty on earth. Now they had a yet larger lesson to learn! John personally however was soon to believe, after his personal visit with Peter (John 20), though Peter, weighted in heart followed his short denial of Christ before the crucifixion, took longer. They had to SEE FOR THEMSELVES!

This they did (cf. I Cor. 15). This is the emphasis continually found in scripture. GOD DOES, man witnesses. Some disbelieve, GOD GOES FURTHER. What we have seen and heard is crucial in this highly empirical, hermeneutically emphatic religion. It is practical, logical and lays great emphasis on what is now deemed scientific method. It is one of reason, reality and verification (Isaiah 41,43,48).

Very well, this short coverage is provided in Mark, and what then ? Then,  just as Acts 1 indicates by inference that JESUS DID many things when on earth, and now HE CONTINUED them through His Spirit, working with the disciples (Acts 1:1, 2:1ff.), though the redemption was finished (John 19:30, Hebrews 9:12ff.): so here we see precisely the same emphasis.

Thus in BREADTH AND SCOPE, we find Christ appearing personally in a form so obviously physical that the disciples did not even notice Him to be different as a human being at all, for quite some time, merely conversing in their blind grief. The account in Mark 16:14 races on to complete its ensemble. "Later He appeared to the eleven ..." Words from what He said them are then recorded (Mark 16:15-18). It is probably that He expounded or exhorted, and that this provides one more element of the material present in Matthew 28:19-20.

The emphasis on power is present in detail, then, just as it is in Matthew 28 in PRINCIPLE. The two just like Kings and Chronicles, blend and stir the imagination to construct from each, the picture. It then proceeds as in Acts 1, in Matthew 28, to tell of the ascension, and by faith to note the completion of His journey into this world into heaven from which He came (cf. John 8:42), to His Father with whom He created this world, His creation (as in Colossians 1, John 1), and in marked parallel to Hebrews 1, and 2:3. Far from inactive, He is in majesty in control with His Father, as always, until He come (Mark 13:24ff.). Thus at the very end, we find "and they went and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and conforming the word through the accompany signs. Amen."

In fact, there is no slightest need that is OBJECTIVE, even for the assumption of any change at all in authorship or completion of Mark's Gospel. That some from an early date may have blocked this part of Mark is possible. Heretics and dissentient people are not rare in the Christian faith. There is no ground other than mere conjecture however, based on presuppositions pleasant to the reviewer, but not needed by any logic, for any assumption of so much as a completion by Mark, which, had it occurred, would breach nothing. It would merely be of interest.

It is when one realises that intensity of divine direction in revelation (cf. I Cor 2:9-13, II Peter 1:19-21 cf. Ch. 1 above), as felt by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and the prophets generally, and sees its continuation, as before in many, so now in the New Testament, that the question is seen in its sparkling spirituality. It is not a matter, in the end, of which human agents operated or co-operated to provide Mark's Gospel. It does seem eminently likely that Peter and Mark had a contribution. It is a matter of finding the power and hand of God in HIS OWN WORD, which He has transmitted here as elsewhere, with such sovereign control. In this case, the evidence from Greek manuscripts for any variation at all, makes  one wonder why some in some Bible presentations, publishers write such astonishing things about a vanishingly small diversity of Greek manuscripts, and an even smaller (if possible) logical basis.

Mark's fascination for the Christian, as with all the things of the Lord, is not in the empty theories about its compilation and collaboration which may have been present under the power of God (cf. Acts 4); but in seeing with precision the final result of this provision, and seeing it all as one, and whole, seeing the total thrust of the whole book, thus by God provided with these phases and parts.

It is only then that the sparkle of power, light and radiance begins to find its fulfilment. The word of God is to be read, not rifled. Truth is for embrace, not trifling.



See The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9, pp. 154ff..