Question: Why does part of the longer ending of Mark show up in the Book of Mormon?

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Question: Why does part of the longer ending of Mark show up in the Book of Mormon?

For many years the so-called “longer ending of Mark” has had its authenticity disputed

Some critics have focused on the appearance of language from the longer ending of the Gospel According to Mark in the Book of Mormon. Mormon writes:

For behold, thus said Jesus Christ, the Son of God … : Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned; And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; (Mormon 9:22-24)

The wording here is virtually identical (except for one word) to the Gospel of Mark where it is written:

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.


16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.(Mark 16:15-18)

These verses from Mark are from the “longer ending of Mark”. Scholars have believed that this part of the Gospel was not original to it and added at a later time by editors. Thus, the question becomes: if these words weren’t actually spoken by Jesus, then why would he repeat them to the Nephites and why would they then show up in the Book of Mormon?

Believing that the longer-ending is authentic to Mark’s gospel is a defensible position

As Book of Mormon Central has written:

But before jumping to conclusions about the authenticity of either Mark 16:15–18, or Mormon 9:22–24, there are several considerations to keep in mind. First, in recent years, several scholars have argued that the text in Mark 16:9–20 is indeed an authentic part of the Gospel of Mark.[1] These scholars note that many other early New Testament manuscripts contain these verses,[2] and bring a wide array of additional evidence together, making a credible case for the early inclusion of the long ending in Mark’s gospel.[3] Because the textual evidence is extremely complex,[4] legitimate questions about the history of the long ending of Mark remain, but the possibility that it was an original part of the Gospel of Mark is a defensible position to take.[5]

It is also significant that several scholars who reject Mark 16:9–20 as part of the original Gospel of Mark nonetheless believe that the long ending pre-existed its attachment to Mark.[6] This means that even if it was not originally part of Mark’s gospel, it likely stands as an early, independent witness of the resurrection containing the authentic teachings of the Savior’s post-resurrection ministry.[7]

Another important detail to keep in mind is that even among those who reject the authenticity of Mark 16:9–20, there is considerable debate about how the Gospel of Mark originally ended. Some believe it ended as a dramatic cliff-hanger at Mark 16:8.[8] Others, however, argue that there is another “lost ending” or two.[9] It is impossible to know exactly what such other endings would have said, but N. T. Wright argues that it most likely would have been similar to the current ending, including a commission similar to that in Mark 16:15–18.[10][11]

Thus, on the grounds that this teaching is based in the authenticity of the longer ending, this doesn’t propose a significant problem for the Book of Mormon. However, they note that this problem doesn’t have to hinge on its authenticity:

It important to recognize, however, that even though the English translation of Mormon 9:22–24 was possibly influenced by the King James translation of Mark 16:15–18, Moroni’s source was not the Gospel of Mark.[12] Rather, Moroni was drawing on the teachings of Christ recorded among the Nephites (Mormon 9:22). Thus, the authenticity of the words of Jesus in Mormon 9:22–25 is not ultimately dependent on the authenticity of the “long ending” of Mark. Indeed, belief in the authenticity of these words in the ending of Mark may, on the other hand, benefit from the testimony of the Book of Mormon.[13]

Notes

  1. See Nicholas P. Lunn, The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9–20 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014); David W. Hester, Does Mark 16:9–20 Belong in the New Testament? (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2015). See also, David Alan Black, ed., Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 2008), which presents views from scholars on both sides of the debate.
  2. Notably Codex Bezae (about 400 A.D.), Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Ephraemi (fifth century). The long ending of Mark was also known to second-century Christian writers, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian and others.
  3. For a summary of these arguments, see Jeff Lindsay, “The Book of Mormon Versus the Consensus of Scholars: Surprises from the Disputed Longer Ending of Mark, Part 1,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 25 (2017): 283–321.
  4. While some of the most ancient copies end the book at the close of verse 8 in the King James Version, others (as does the KJV) append the text found in verses 9–20 right after the ending of verse 8. One adds, after verse 8, a statement about the women reporting to Peter and to the other apostles what they had seen, as well as a comment about Jesus sending the apostles forth to proclaim the sacred and imperishable eternal salvation, before giving the text found in verses 9–20. One quite early source, Codex Washingtonianus (fouth-fifth century), includes a substantial addition after verse 14, mentioning “this age of lawlessness and unbelief,” “Satan,” and “unclean spirits,” and how to obtain the “true power of God” to limit the authority of Satan, and how sinners can “return to the truth and no longer sin,” to inherit the “imperishable glory” which is in heaven; interestingly not unlike Moroni’s words “unbelieving,” “power of God,” and “redemption of man” in Mormon 9:6, 13.
  5. See Thomas A. Wayment, “The Endings of Mark and Revelation,” The King James Bible and the Restoration, ed. Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2011), 77–81.
  6. Julie M. Smith, The Gospel according to Mark, BYU New Testament Commentary (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2018), 871–874. These words may have existed independently as memories of words spoken by Jesus during his Forty-day Ministry.
  7. See N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 618–619; Smith, The Gospel according to Mark, 874.
  8. Julie M. Smith, The Gospel according to Mark, BYU New Testament Commentary (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2018), 871–874..
  9. See note 6. See also Robert H. Stein, “The Ending of Mark,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 18, no. 1 (2008): 79–98; Metzger and Ehrman, Text of the New Testament, 222–227.
  10. Wright, Resurrection of the Son, 619–624. Mann, Mark, 673 mentions that one scholar has actually argued that Mark 16:15–18 was part of the original, now lost ending of Mark, though Mann himself rejects that view.
  11. See Book of Mormon Central, “Why Does Part of the Long Ending of Mark Show Up in the Book of Mormon? (Mormon 9:24),” KnoWhy 522 (27 June 2019).
  12. It is unreasonable to believe, and there is no evidence, that Joseph either opened a Bible to the ending of Mark and read these words, or had memorized them, and then wove them smoothly into the flow of the translation of Mormon 9. See Interpreter Foundation Administration, "The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon," <https://interpreterfoundation.org/the-history-of-the-text-of-the-book-of-mormon/> (26 January 2019).
  13. Ibid.