When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Some things that ran through my mind as I read Mark 16:1-19 included how much is not mentioned, when compared to the other gospels:
- No mention of soldiers guarding the tomb
- No mention of soldiers passed out after Jesus had risen
- No mention of the Apostles running to check out the tomb
- In Mark, Joseph rolled the stone across the tomb’s opening.
I realize I mentioned that I read up to verse 19, but officially, Mark ends here at chapter 16 verse 8. Although, this additional part sort of does explain some things that were left out, like:
- Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene
- She ran back and told the others, who didn’t believe her
- So now, it’s only this Mary, not the other 2 women, who went to the tomb.
- Jesus later appeared to them as they were walking in the country
- Which is mentioned in Luke’s and John’s gospels
- Jesus appears while they’re eating and rebukes those who didn’t believe the others
- The Great Commission
- Signs of believers
- Pick up snakes
- Drink poison and not be hurt
- Drive out demons
- Speak in new tongues
- Heal the sick
- Jesus ascends into Heaven
- Sat at God’s right hand (theology claim, not witnessed there)
- Disciples obeyed.
In other words, it’s as though a later scribe, who had read some of the other accounts, tried to fill in the spaces. Actually, many scholars agree that this is in fact what happened. They claim that this was not of the original account because:
- The vocabulary
- Writing style
- Theological content
…are all different from the rest of Mark’s gospel.
My guess as to why the Church kept the extra verses in the Canon is because there’s nothing about it that’s unlike the other gospel accounts, or also the accounts of some events in the book of Acts. The King James and New King James versions keep the extra verses, even claiming them as authentic. But the King James and New King James were translated from a newer Greek Manuscript (the older, original manuscripts, which many or most newer Bible translations were translated from, don’t have them). But if a scribal addition, then it would make sense if a later manuscript may have included them. For example:
- Nobody spoke in other tongues until the day of Pentecost. Yes, Jesus did tell them to remain in town, but He never said anything about speaking in tongues.
- Picking up snakes with their hands: Jesus says in Luke 10:19-20 that He’s given His Apostles authority to step on and crush serpents and scorpions (and overcome all the enemy’s power, nothing will harm them. however…), but He also said, in the same sentence, to neither take pride in this nor advantage of it, but to instead rejoice in their salvation.
- We also know of Paul being bitten by a poisonous snake and just shaking it off, but again, this was several years after Jesus’ resurrection.
- Drinking Poison: I’m not aware of any place in the Bible that tells of somebody doing this and living, which again points in the direction of an event that may have happened in the later-day Church.
So, back to my original look at this, why was so much left out in the earlier account? Once again, I look to the target audience: Romans.
The mention of that which was in the other Gospels was more understood by their audiences. But to the Romans, there was no need to mention Jesus talking with many in the garden, the mention of the Roman guards placed there by the bickering of the Jewish officials, etc. Instead, by including what Mark did, keeps to the message of why they should care, or have anything to do with Jesus. Remember, all throughout His ministry, people continued to see Jesus just as some great healer who taught words of wisdom. To get right to the point of Jesus’ resurrection and the women’s response, as well as the angel’s presence, keeps with the point that Mark was trying to make all along, which is that Jesus was not just some wise guy who healed and was murdered by the Jewish government.
I’ll close with notes from my Archaeological NIV Bible:
“The women’s fear shows that God had performed one more climatic, powerful work, confirming the testimony of the empty tomb and the angelic announcement that Jesus had indeed arisen from the dead, just as He’d promised He would.”
It strikes sort of a fear into the hearts of those who read this and who recognize what’s being communicated. Jesus wasn’t some lunatic, making up things about Himself, but the real deal. And the fact that He did everything that He said He would do, causes (or requires) a response from one to what else Jesus said.