new video about the false claims that Grace To You has been spreading about Mark 16:9-20 for the past ten years on YouTube.
It has been almost ten years since Dr. John MacArthur preached a sermon titled “The Fitting End to Mark’s Gospel,” in which he called Mark 16:9-20 a “bad ending.” Since then, the ministry of Grace to You has promoted his claims over and over.
But many of his claims are false. I’m not challenging his doctrines here; I mean that he says many things in that sermon that are flat-out untrue. He says things that are fictitious. In the next ten minutes, I will focus on just some of them.
(1) John MacArthur says, “I would say there is massive evidence that the Holy Spirit not only inspired the Scripture but preserved it in its purity through all history.” He also says, “There are twenty-five thousand ancient manuscripts of the New Testament. Such an abundance preserved by the Holy Spirit through faithful men in the church makes it possible to reconstruct the original books with virtually complete accuracy.”
There are about 1,650 Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark. Almost all of them – over 99% – include the 12 verses that MacArthur calls a “bad ending.” There are just three Greek manuscripts in which the text of Mark ends at Mark 16:8.
If “massive evidence” shows that the text of Scripture has been preserved in its purity through all history, then massive evidence also refutes MacArthur’s idea that Mark 16:9-20 should be rejected.
To put it another way: if “massive evidence” – say, 99% of the Greek manuscripts, 99% of the Syriac manuscripts, 99% of the Latin manuscripts, and 100% of the Ethiopic manuscripts – is what shows us the text that the Holy Spirit has preserved for the church to use, then Mark 16:9-20 is part of that divinely-approved text. But if, instead, we should rely on 1% of the Greek manuscripts, 1% of the Syriac manuscripts, 1% of the Greek manuscripts, and none of the Ethiopic manuscripts. what happens to MacArthur’s claim about “massive evidence”? It disintegrates. It dissolves into dust.
(2) John MacArthur claims
that after the Council of Nicea in 325, as Christianity became established as
the religion of the
claim is downright silly. Even after
Roman persecutions stopped, humidity still worked. Outside the exceptionally dry climate of
(3) MacArthur demonstrated his ignorance of New Testament manuscripts again when he identified Codex Sinaiticus as “The earliest and most important of the Biblical texts that have been discovered.” But Sinaiticus is not the earliest New Testament text; other substantial manuscripts, such as Papyrus 45, and Papyrus 46, are earlier.
(4) As part of the basis for his rejection of Mark
16:9-20, MacArthur appeals to “Eight thousand copies of Jerome’s Vulgate.” The thing is, in Jerome’s Vulgate, Mark
16:9-20 is included. MacArthur also appealed
to “Three hundred and fifty-plus copies of the Syriac Bible.” But in the standard Syriac text, Mark 16:9-20 is
(5) MacArthur then says, “When you compare all of these manuscripts, they’re all saying exactly the same thing.”But that is not true. The text in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus is different from the text of the Vulgate, and it is different from the text of the Peshitta – and one difference is that the Syriac Peshitta and the Latin Vulgate include Mark 16:9-20. When you compare the vast majority of the Greek, Latin, and Syriac manuscripts, they say the opposite of what MacArthur seems to think they say!
If we’re going to say, “Let’s accept the text that is supported by all these Greek and Latin and Syriac manuscripts,” we should be accepting Mark 16:9-20.
(6) John MacArthur tries
to appeal to patristic quotations, claiming that “you can virtually put the
entire New Testament together from the quotes of the fathers and it matches
perfectly all other manuscript sources.”
That claim is fiction. You can easily demonstrate that it is fiction by picking up a textual apparatus and looking through the list of patristic writers who are listed as support for different rival readings.
doesn’t let the obviously false nature of his claim slow him down. He keeps going: he says, “There are over 19 thousand
quotations of just the Gospels in their writings, and they read the Gospel text
the very same way you read them in your Bible today.” That is another fictitious
claim. MacArthur seems unaware that what
he calls a “bad ending” is quoted far and wide by patristic writers from the
days of the
(7) MacArthur continues to spread propaganda when he compares the history of the transmission of the New Testament with the transmission of Homer’s Iliad. He claims that “The oldest manuscript of the Iliad that we have is in the thirteenth century A.D.” That is false. There are dozens of fragments of the Iliad from way before the thirteenth century A.D. Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 560, from the 200s, is just one example. Are the personnel at Grace To You aware that John MacArthur is making these false claims? Then why has Grace To You been spreading them for the past 10 years? Do they just not care? It’s been ten years. So much for the pretense that Grace To You believes that truth matters.
(8) John MacArthur says we can be confident that our English translations are accurate because “We have so many accurate, consistent manuscripts.” But he’s not relying on many Greek manuscripts in this case; he is relying on three. One is a medieval commentary-manuscript. The two early ones are the ones that matter, and one of them has a distinct blank space that includes a whole column after Mark 16:8, and in the other one, the last page of Mark is written by a different scribe than the scribe who wrote the surrounding pages.
John MacArthur is thus rejecting the testimony of over 1,600 Greek manuscripts, including early manuscripts such as Codex A, Codex C, and Codex D, and he is basically depending on two Greek manuscripts. And, inasmuch as they disagree with each other at 3,036 places in the Gospels, they can’t both be very “accurate, consistent” copies of the Gospels.
(9) MacArthur claims
that “Somewhere along the line, they started piling up optional endings.” But in real life, besides verses 9-20, there
was just one other ending after verse 8:
the “Shorter Ending” – and that was in one particular locale:
Let me say that again: a total of six Greek manuscripts have preserved one rival ending, along with the normal ending. There is also one manuscript, Codex W, which has extra material between verse 14 and verse 15, but that is an interpolation, not an ending. The claim that endings “started piling up” is rubbish. It is nonsense. Anyone who tells you that there were “several endings” or “various endings” – I’m looking at you, Philip Comfort; I’m looking at you, New Living Translation footnote-maker – is deceiving his readers.
(10) MacArthur makes
his false fantasy even falser, if it were possible, when he says that “Justin Martyr
and Tatian show knowledge of other endings,” and that “Even Irenaeus shows
knowledge of other endings starting to float around.”
What the evidence from Justin Martyr and Tatian and Irenaeus shows is that they used a text of Mark that included Mark 16:9-20. There is no evidence in their writings of any other ending. MacArthur is just making things up. Instead, he should acknowledge that when Irenaeus quotes Mark 16:19 in Against Heresies, Book 3, chapter 10, around the year 180, long before Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were made in the 300s, it means that Irenaeus’ manuscripts of Mark 16 included verses 9-20.
I call on John MacArthur to retract the false claims that he has been
spreading for the past ten years. And I
call on Grace To You to stop
circulating the materials that contain and promote those false claims.
Until this is done, I say to everyone who regards John MacArthur as a reliable source of information about New Testament manuscripts, and to everyone who thinks of Grace To You as a responsible organization that would never promote false claims: you have my pity.