Robert C. Welch
The latest versions of the Bible have taken from the text a great portion of the last chapter of Mark. If the preacher of the gospel thinks that he can use this book to teach a man that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” he will have to look in the footnote or such a Bible for Mark 16:16. The Revised Standard Version, of 1952, omits from verse nine to the end. This is largely based on the fact that two of the oldest manuscripts, Sinaitic and Vatican, do not contain these verses.
Modernism At Work
Until the discovery of the Sinaitic manuscript by Tischendorf in 1859 the weight of evidence for the genuineness of the passage was so heavy that it had not been questioned. But during the latter half of the past century the higher critics were having their field day, so when they found that a passage was missing from this important manuscript they made their attack. This attack was felt so keenly by those on the revision committees of 1881 and 1900 that they made a note of the fact in the English Revised and the American Standard that the above mentioned manuscripts do not contain these verses. They still thought the passage belonged in the inspired word.
The present generation of modernists are the moral descendants of the higher critics of the past century. They did not merely have effect upon those on the new revision committees of America and England, they were on the committees. And they took the passage out, along with a general disregard for precise revelation of truth. They claim that their changes were made because of the evidence of discoveries since the last revisions were made. But upon careful examination it will be found that they are not referring to those of 1881 and 1900. They are referring to those of the King James and Douay-Rheims period. Furthermore, not one single significant manuscript has been discovered since the 1900 revision which would indicate a need for omitting this passage in Mark.
The apparent reason for their omission is neither the evidence against the truthfulness nor the authorship of the passage. They, in their general modernistic disregard for having the word of God exactly translated into our language, have permitted their theology to prey upon their scholarship. These latest revision committees did not include Catholics. The majority of protestants do not believe in the necessity of baptism for remission of sins. In fact, modernists do not believe in the essentiality of baptism for any purpose. So, they are happy to omit the passage from their text. And the tragedy of it is, that so many protestants who are not yet modernists are happy to receive the text with the passage omitted which they can in no other way avoid or evade.
J. W. McGarvey wrote a short treatise on this passage. It is found in his commentary on Matthew and Mark. He wrote it after the discovery of the Sinaitic manuscript and the revision committee of the 1881 Bible had given notice of the missing passage. Since there has been no change in the evidence against the passage since that time, only the critics have become more bold, his treatise is just as appropriate and pertinent today as ever.
He points out the fact that there are two important things which the critics ask concerning a passage: Was it written by the one who is supposed to have written it? and; Does the passage express truth? He emphasizes the fact that even though the passage is not in those manuscripts, that only raises a question as to whether it belongs in the book of Mark, but that it does not certainly prove that the passage was not written by Mark. The critics all agree that the book does not naturally end with verse 8. They have found some brief endings which all agree are spurious and this is the only one which is acceptable. Besides that, it is in the majority of the manuscripts of ancient Greek and various language translations. Many of the manuscripts have pages missing or mutilated, especially at the end. And this is the apparent reason for the passage’s not being in the two earlier mentioned manuscripts.
Credible—To Be Believed
On the other hand, the truthfulness of the passage is not questioned at all by scholars. The only question along this line rises from theological creeds which disagree with what the passage says. The scholars readily admit that the same principles of truth are expressed in other passages, especially in the last chapter of Matthew. Hence, the reasoning of these latest revisers of the text will permit them to eliminate nearly all of Mark and Luke since they generally cover the same events and statements. Peter preached the same thing in Acts 2:36-38 which Mark 16:15-16 says Jesus commanded. The apostles performed the very signs and wonders which Mark says Jesus promised and which they did. The man is carelessly toying with a sharp sword when he toys with the word of God and tries to take it away, in whole or in part.
McGarvey concludes his treatise with these words:
Our final conclusion is, that the passage in question is authentic (the historical correctness of its representations — his definition earlier in the treatise) in all its details, and that there is no reason to doubt that it was written by the same hand which indicted the preceding parts of this narrative. The objections which have been raised against it are better calculated to shake our confidence in Biblical Criticism than in the genuineness of this inestimable portion of the word of God.