In 1844, the year when Constantine Tischendorf first saw pages of Codex Sinaiticus at St. Catherine’s monastery, Samuel Tregelles released An Account of the Printed Text of the New Testament, a book which had a significant influence among researchers into the text of the New Testament.
Recently, after discussing Mark 16:9-20 with Stephen Boyce of Explain International, someone observed that my position (that Mark was permanently interrupted as he wrote 16:8, and someone else attached verses 9-20 (from another composition by Mark) to complete the narrative, before the Gospel of Mark began to be disseminated for church-use, and that verses 9-20 are thus part of the original text) resembled the view of Tregelles, and it occurred to me that many discussion-viewers might not know what that means. (I had read Tregelles, years ago, but on the spur of the moment I couldn’t recall his view in detail.) So here, I have reproduced a large excerpt from Tregelles’ own statements on the subject, along with a few notes of my own, from pages 246-261 of An Account of the Printed Text of the New Testament. I have not included the footnotes, in the interest of brevity. Some readers, wearied by Tregelles’ thoroughness, may wish to proceed to Tregelles’ closing comments, which I have marked with “···.”
“St. Mark xvi. 9-20. The last twelve verses of this Gospel have some remarkable phenomena connected with their history; in order fully to discuss their authority, it is needful first to establish by evidence of facts certain propositions.
I. That it is historically known that in the early ages it was denied that these verses formed a part of the Gospel written by St. Mark.
II. That it is certain, on grounds of historical transmission, that they were from the second century, at least, and onward, known as part of this book.
III. That the early testimony that they were not written by St. Mark is confirmed by existing monuments.
After these propositions have been established, the conclusions to be drawn may assume the form of corollaries.
(I) The absence of this portion from some, many, or most copies of St. Mark’s Gospel, or that it was not written by St. Mark himself, is attested by Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Victor of Antioch, Severus of Antioch, Jerome; and by later writers (especially Greeks), who, even though they copied from their predecessors, were competent to transmit the record of a fact.
(i) Eusebius, in the first of his Questiones ad Marinum, discusses πως παρα μεν τω Ματθαιω “οψε σαββάτων” φαίνεται εγηγερμενος ο σωτηρ, παρα δε τω Μάρκω “πρωι τη μια των σαββάτων.” [Tregelles then presents an extract from Eusebius’ composition Ad Marinum, which is similar to what Roger Pearse presents on p. 96 of Eusebius of Caesarea: Gospel Problems and Solutions, and which translates in that book to:
“The answer to this would be twofold. The actual nub of the matter is the pericope which says this. One who athetises that pericope would say that it is not found in all copies of the gospel according to Mark: accurate copies end their text of the Marcan account with the words of the young man whom the women saw, and who said to them: “‘Do not be afraid; it is Jesus the Nazarene that you are looking for, etc. … ’ ”, after which it adds: “And when they heard this, they ran away, and said nothing to anyone, because they were frightened.” That is where the text does end, in almost all copies of the gospel according to Mark. What occasionally follows in some copies, not all, would be extraneous, most particularly if it contained something contradictory to the evidence of the other evangelists.” That, then, would be one person’s answer: to reject it, entirely obviating the question as superfluous.”]
Tregelles continues: “Eusebius then goes on to explain the supposed difficulty, irrespective of the supposed authorship of these verses. This testimony, then, is clear, that the greater part of the Greek copies had not the twelve verses in question. It is evident that Eusebius did not believe that they were written by Mark himself, for he says, κατὰ Μάρκον μετὰ τὴν ανάστασιν οὐ λέγεται ὤφθαι τοις μαθηταις. The arrangement of the Eusebian Canons are also an argument that he did not own the passage; for in genuine copies of the notation of these sections the numbers do not go beyond ver. 8, which is marked σλγʹ (233). Some copies, carry indeed, this notation as far as ver. 14, and some to the end of the chapter; but these are unauthorised additions, and contradicted by not only good copies which contain these sections, both Greek and Latin (for instance A, and the Codex Amiatinus), but also by a scholion found in a good many MSS. at ver. 8, εως ωδε Εὐσέβιος εκανόνισεν. It has been objected that these sections show nothing as to the MSS. extant in Eusebius’s time, but only the condition of the Harmony of Ammonius, from which the divisions were taken. [It does not seem to have occurred to Tregelles that Eusebius, after endorsing to Marinus the inclusion of verses 9-20, could have changed his mind when subsequently creating his Canons.] The objection is not without significance; but it really carries back our evidence from the fourth century to the third; and thus it is seen, that just as Eusebius found these verses absent in his day from the best and most numerous copies, so was also the case with Ammonius when he formed his Harmony in the preceding century.”
[That the “Ammonian Sections” are the work of Eusebius, and not Ammonius, was later demonstrated by John Burgon in Appendix G of his 1871 book, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established.]
[Tregelles then reviews the testimony from Gregory of Nyssa – which, subsequent to Tregelles, was regarded as the work of Hesychius – and Victor of Antioch, noting that Victor’s remark] “is worthy of attention; for his testimony to the absence of these twelve verses from some or many copies, stands in contrast to his own opinion on the subject. He seems to speak of having added the passage in question (to his own copy, perhaps) on the authority of a Palestinian exemplar.”
Next, Tregelles reviews a statement from Severus of Antioch, and says, “This testimony may be but a repetition of that already cited from Gregory of Nyssa; but if so, it is, at least, an approving quotation.”
“It is worthy of remark that both Eusebius and Victor have τῇ μιᾷ where our text has πρώτη; this may be an accidental variation; as they do not afterwards give the words precisely as they had before quoted them; or it may show that they spoke of the passage, ver. 9-20, without having before them a copy which contained it, and thus that they unintentionally used τῇ μιᾷ as the more customary phraseology in the New Testament.
“Dionysius of Alexandria has been brought forward as a witness on each side. Scholz refers to his Epistle to Basilides, as though he had there stated that some, or many, copies did not contain the passage; and Tischendorf similarly mentions his testimony; while, on the other hand, Dr. Davidson (Introd. i. 165) places Dionysius amongst those by whom the passage “is sanctioned.” All, however, that I can gather from his Epistle to Basilides (Routh, Rel. Sac. iii. 223-32) is, that in discussing the testimony of the four evangelists to the time (whether night, or early in the morning) at which our Lord arose from the dead, he takes no notice whatever of Mark xvi. 9; and this he could hardly fail to have done, as bearing more closely on the question, when referring to the beginning of the same chapter, if he had acknowledged or known the last twelve verses. His testimony, then, quantum valeat, is purely negative.
“Jerome’s testimony is yet to be adduced. He discusses (Ad Hedibiam, Qusest. II. ed. Vallarsi, i. col. 819,) the difficulties brought forward as to the time of the resurrection. “Hujus qusestionis duplex solutio est; aut enim non recipimus Marci testimonium, quod in raris fertur Evangeliis, omnibus Grceciae libris pene hoc capitulum in fine non habentibus, praesertim quum diversa atque contraria Evangelistis caeteris narrare videatur ; aut hoc respondendum, quod uterque verum dixerit,” etc. He then proposes to remove the difficulty by a different punctuation, in the same manner as Eusebius and Victor did.”
“But an endeavour has been made to invalidate Jerome s testimony by referring to what he says in his Dialogue against the Pelagians, II. 15. “In quibusdam exemplaribus, et maxime in Græcis codicibus juxta Marcum in fine ejus Evangelii scribitur: Postea quum accubuissent undecim apparuit eis lesus, et exprobravit incredulitatem et duritiam cordis eorum, quia his qui viderant eum resurgentem non crediderunt. Et illi satisfaciebant dicentes; Sæculum istud iniquitatis et incredulitatis substantia* est, quæ non sinit per immundos spiritus veram Dei apprehendi virtutem: idcirco jam nunc revela justitiam tuam. Cui si contradicitis, illud certe renuere non audebitis; Mundus in maligno positus est,” etc. (Ed. Vallarsi. ij. 744, 5.) Hence it has been inferred that Jerome contradicts himself as to the Greek copies. But (i.) that conclusion does not follow, because he may here speak of those Greek copies which did contain the verses in question, and not of the MSS. in general, (ii.) If this testimony be supposed to relate to Greek MSS. in general, it is at least remarkable that we have no other trace of such an addition at ver. 14. [The situation to which Tregelles alluded changed when Codex W was discovered.] (iii.) Jerome wrote against the Pelagians in extreme old age, and he made in that work such demonstrable errors (e. g. citing II. 2, Ignatius instead of Polycarp), that it would be a bold step if any were to reject an unequivocal testimony to a fact stated in his earlier writings on the ground of something contained in this; especially when, if the latter testimony be admitted as conclusive, it would involve our accepting a strange addition at ver. 14 (otherwise wholly unknown to MSS., versions, and fathers) as a reading then current in Greek copies.
These testimonies sufficiently establish, as an historical fact, that in the early ages it was denied that these twelve concluding verses formed a part of the Gospel of St. Mark.
(II.) I now pass to the proofs of the second proposition; that it is certain, on grounds of historical transmission, that, from the second century at least, this Gospel concluded as it does now in our copies.
This is shown by the citations of early writers who recognise the existence of the section in question. These testimonies commence with Irenaeus: “In fine autem Evangelii ait Marcus, Et quidem Dominus Iesus, postquam locutus est eis, receptus est in caelos, et sedet ad dexteram Dei” (C. H. iii. 10. 6). This sentence of the old Latin translator of Irenseus is thus cited in Greek in confirmation of his having used this part of the Gospel: Ὁ μὲν ουν κύριος μετὰ τὸ λαλησαι αὐτοις ἀνελήφθε εις τὸν ουρανόν, καὶ εκάθισεν εκ δεξιων του θεου. Εἰρηναιος ὁ των ἀποστόλων πλησίον ἐν τω πρὸς τὰς αιρέσεις γʹ λόγω τουτο ανήνεγκεν τὸ ρητὸν ὡς Μάρκῳ ειρημένον. [A footnote in Printed Account states that this was drawn by Cramer from Cod. Harl. 5647, that is, minuscule 72. What Tregelles presented is a combination of 72’s text of Mark 16:19, and the note in 72’s side-margin.]
“Whether this part of St. Mark was known to Celsus has been disputed. My own opinion is, that that early writer against Christianity did, in the passage which Origen discusses (lib. II. §§ 59 and 70), refer to the appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalen, as found in Mark xvi. 9; but that Origen, in answering him, did not exactly apprehend the purport of his objection, from (probably) not knowing or using that section of this Gospel. This would not be the only place in which Origen has misapprehended the force of remarks of Celsus from difference of reading in the copies which they respectively used, or from his not being aware of the facts to which Celsus referred.
Tregelles turns next to Hippolytus, and supplies an extensive quotation from Περὶ Χαρισμάτων Ἀποστολικὴ Παράδοσις “in which this part of St. Mark s Gospel is distinctly quoted.”
“After these testimonies of the second and third centuries, there are many who use the passage; such for instance as Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose, Augustine, Nestorius, (ap. Cyr. Alex. vi. 46.)
Under this head may be mentioned the MSS. and versions in general (the conspectus of their evidence on both sides will be given under the next proposition); and amongst the MSS. Those may in particular be specified which continue the Ammonian Sections on to the end of the chapter. This seems to have been done to supply a supposed omission; and in ancient MSS., such as C, it is clear that the copyist took this section for an integral part of the book.
The early mention and use of this section, and the place that it holds in the ancient versions in general, and in the MSS., sufficiently show, on historical grounds, that it had a place, and was transmitted as a part of the second Gospel.
III. To consider properly the third proposition (that the early testimony that St. Mark did not write these verses is confirmed by existing monuments), the evidence of the MSS. and versions must be stated in full.
The passage is wholly omitted
in Codex B.,* in the Latin Codex Bobbiensis (k),
in old MSS. of the Armenian, and in an Arabic version in the
[Tregelles then reviews the note in Codex L that appears before the Shorter Ending, and L’s text of the Shorter Ending.] “Thus far L is supported by the cursive cod. 274, by the marg. of the Harclean Syriac, and by the Latin Codex Bobbiensis (see above). L then continues : “ἔστην [i. e. -τιν] δὲ καὶ ταυτα φερόμενα μετὰ τὸ Ἐφοβουνται γάρ” ~ - - - - - - - ~ ἀναστὰς δὲ κτλ. (and then follow the twelve verses).
In Cod. 1, ver. 8 ends on folio 220 A, and at the top of the next page is written in vermillion, ἔν τισι μὲν των ἀντυγράφων ἕως ωδε πληρουται ὁ ευαγγελιστής· ἔως ου καὶ Ευσέβιος ὁ παμφίλου ἐκανόνισεν. ἐν πολλοις δὲ καὶ ταυτα φέρεται (and then follow ver. 9 20). A similar note or a scholion stating the absence of the following verses from many, from most, or from the most correct copies (often from Victor or Severus), is found in twenty-five other cursive codices; sometimes with τελος interposed after ver. 8. The absence of Ammonian divisions in A L and other good copies after ver. 8 should here be remembered.
Such is the testimony of existing monuments confirming the ancient witnesses against this passage.
On the other hand, the passage is found in the uncial codd.
A C D, X Δ, E G Π K M S U V (F is defective); as well as in 33, 69, and the
rest of the cursive copies which have been collated. It is in copies of the Old Latin; in the Vulg. in the Curetonian Syriac, as well as
the Peshito and the Harclean (with the marginal note given above), and the
Jerusalem Syriac; in the Memphitic, Gothic, and Æthiopic; besides those which
have been previously mentioned as characterised by some peculiarity. The Thebaic is here defective, but it is
supposed that a citation in that language may be a
paraphrase of ver. 20. The Gothic is
defective in the concluding verses, but enough is extant to show that it
recognised the passage; [The
final page of Mark in the Gothic manuscript Codex Argenteus, containing verse
12-20 of the sixteenth chapter, was not recovered until 1970, when Franz
Haffner found it in St. Afra’s Chapel in the cathedral
The Old Latin is here defective in the best copies; for the Codex Vercellensis is imperfect from ch. xv. 15, and Cod. Veronensis from xiii. 24. Also the Cod. Brixianus is defective from xiv. 70. The mode in which Cod. Bobbiensis concludes has been noticed already. The Codices Colbertinus, Corbiensis, and others, are those which may be quoted as showing that the Old Latin contains this section.
It has been suggested that this portion of St. Mark was omitted by those who found a difficulty in reconciling what it contains with the other Evangelists. But so far from there being any proof of this, which would have required a far less change, we find that the same writers who mention the non-existence of the passage in many copies, do themselves show how it may be harmonised with what is contained in the other Gospels ; we have no reason for entertaining the supposition that such a Marcion-like excision had been here adopted.
In opposing the authenticity of this section, some have argued on the nature of the contents;‒ that the appearance of our Lord to Mary Magdalene first, is not (it is said) in accordance with what we learn elsewhere; that the supposition of miraculous powers to be received (ver. 17, 18) is carried too far; that (in ver. 16) Baptism is too highly exalted. I mention these objections, though I do not think any one of them separately, nor yet the whole combined, to be of real weight. There is no historical difficulty which would be regarded as of real force, if, on other grounds, doubt had not been cast on the passage; for else we might object to many Scripture narrations, because we cannot harmonise them, owing to our not being acquainted with all the circumstances. As to the doctrinal points specified, it is hard to imagine what difficulty is supposed to exist; I see nothing that would involve the feelings and opinions of an age subsequent to the apostolic.
The style of these twelve verses has been relied on as though it were an argument that they were not written by Mark himself. I am well aware that arguments on style are often very fallacious, and that by themselves they prove very little; but when there does exist external evidence, and when internal proofs as to style, manner, verbal expression, and connection, are in accordance with such independent grounds of forming a judgment, then these internal considerations possess very great weight.
A difference has been remarked, and truly remarked, between the phraseology of this section and the rest of this Gospel. This difference is in part negative and in part positive. The phraseology of St. Mark possesses characteristics which do not appear in these verses. And besides these negative features, this section has its own peculiarities; amongst which may be specified πρώτη σαββάτω (ver. 9), instead of which τη μια των σαββάτων would have been expected: in ver. 10 and 14 sentences are conjoined without a copulative, contrary to the common usage in St. Mark. εκεινος is used four times in a manner different from what is found in the rest of the Gospel. The periodic structure of verses 19 and 20 is such as only occurs once elsewhere in this Gospel (xiv. 38).
Many words, expressions, and constructions occur in this section, and not in any other part of St. Mark: e. g. πορεύομαι (thrice), θεάομαι (twice), απίστεω (twice), ἕτερος, παρακολουθέω, βλάπτω, επακολουθέω, συνεργέω, βεβαιόω, πανταχου, μετὰ ταυτα, εν τω ονοματι, ὁ κυριος, as applied absolutely to Christ (twice). Now, while each of these peculiarities (except the first) may possess singly no weight, yet their combination, and that in so short a portion, has a force which can rather be felt than stated. And if any parallel be attempted, as to these peculiarities, by a comparison of other portions of St. Mark, it will be found that many chapters must be taken together before we shall find any list of examples as numerous or as striking as those which are crowded together here in these few verses.
These considerations must be borne in mind as additional to the direct evidence stated before.
It has been asked, as an argument that the section before us was actually written by St. Mark, whether it is credible that he could have ended his Gospel with . . . ἐφοβουντο γάρ. Now, however improbable, such a difficulty must not be taken as sufficient, per se, to invalidate testimony to a fact as such. We often do not know what may have caused the abrupt conclusion of many works. The last book of Thucydides has no proper termination at all; and in the Scripture some books conclude with extraordinary abruptness: Ezra and Jonah are instances of this. Perhaps we do not know enough of the circumstances of St. Mark when he wrote his Gospel to say whether he did or did not leave it with a complete termination. And if there is difficulty in supposing that the work ever ended abruptly at ver. 8, would this have been transmitted as a fact by good witnesses, if there had not been real grounds for regarding it to be true? And further, irrespective of recorded evidence, we could not doubt that copies in ancient times did so end, for B, the oldest that we have, actually does so. Also the copies which add the concluding twelve verses as something separate, and those (as L) which give another brief termination, show that this fact is not incredible. Such a peculiarity would not have been invented.
It has also been urged with great force that the contents of this section are such as preclude its having been added at a post-apostolic period, and that the very difficulties which it contains afford a strong presumption that it is an authentic history: the force of this argument is such that I do not see how it can be avoided; for even if a writer went out of his way to make difficulties in a supplement to St. Mark’s Gospel, it is but little likely that his contemporaries would have accepted and transmitted such an addition, except on grounds of known and certain truth as to the facts recorded. If there are points not easy to be reconciled with the other Gospels, it is all the less probable that any writer should have put forth, and that others should have received, the narrative, unless it were really authentic history. As such it is confirmed by the real or supposed points of difficulty.
As, then, the facts of the case, and the early reception and transmission of this section, uphold its authenticity, and as it has been placed from the second century, at least, at the close of our second canonical Gospel; and as, likewise, its transmission has been accompanied by a continuous testimony that it was not a part of the book as originally written by St. Mark; and as both these points are confirmed by internal considerations―
The following corollaries flow from the propositions already established:‒
I. That the book of Mark himself extends no farther than ἐφοβουντο γάρ, xvi. 8.
II. That the remaining twelve verses, by whomsoever written, have a full claim to be received as an authentic part of the second Gospel, and that the full reception of early testimony on this question does not in the least involve their rejection as not being a part of Canonical Scripture.
It may, indeed, be said that they might have been written by St. Mark at a later period; but, even on this supposition, the attested fact that the book once ended at ver. 8 would remain the same, and the assumption that the same Evangelist had added the conclusion would involve new difficulties, instead of removing any.
There is in some minds a kind of timidity with regard to Holy Scripture, as if all our notions of its authority depended on our knowing who was the writer of each particular portion; instead of simply seeing and owning that it was given forth from God, and that it is as much his as were the commandments of the Law written by his own finger on the tables of stone. As to many books of Scripture, we know not who the writers may have been; and yet this is no reason for questioning their authority in the slightest degree. If we try to be certain as to points of which there is no proof, we really shall find ourselves to be substituting conjecture in the place of evidence. Thus some of the early Church received the Epistle to the Hebrews as Holy Scripture; who, instead of absolutely dogmatising that it was written by St. Paul ‒ a point of which they had no proof ‒ were content to say that “God only knoweth the real writer”: and yet to many in the present day, though they have not one whit more evidence on the subject, it seems, that to doubt or disbelieve that Epistle to have been written by St. Paul himself, and to doubt or disbelieve its canonical authority, is one and the same thing. But this mode of treating Scripture is very different from what ought to be found amongst those who own it as the word of God.
I thus look on this section as an authentic anonymous addition to what Mark himself wrote down from the narration of St. Peter (as we learn from the testimony of their contemporary, John the Presbyter); and that it ought as much to be received as part of our second Gospel, as the last chapter of Deuteronomy (unknown as the writer is) is received as the right and proper conclusion of the books of Moses.
I cannot but believe that many upholders of orthodox and evangelical truth practically narrow their field of vision as to Scripture by treating it (perhaps unconsciously) as though we had to consider the thoughts, mind, and measure of apprehension possessed personally by each individual writer through whom the Holy Ghost gave it forth. This is a practical hindrance to our receiving it, in the full sense, as from God; that is, as being really inspired: for, if inspired, the true and potential author was God, and not the individual writer, known or anonymous.
We know from John the Presbyter just enough of the origin of St. Mark’s Gospel to be aware that it sprang from the oral narrations of the Apostle Peter; and we have the testimony of that long-surviving immediate disciple of Christ when on earth (in recording this fact) that Mark erred in nothing. But even with this information, if we thought of mere human authorship, how many questions might be started : but if we receive inspiration as a fact, then inquiries as to the relation of human authors become a matter of secondary importance. It has its value to know that Apostles bore testimony to what they had seen of Christ’s actions, and that they were inspired to write as eye and ear witnesses of his deeds and teaching. So it is of importance to know that in this Gospel we have the testimony of Peter confirmed by John the Presbyter; but the real essential value of the record for the continuous instruction of believers, is that inspiration of the Holy Ghost which constitutes certain writings to be Holy Scripture. Those which were originally received on good grounds as such, and which have been authentically transmitted to us, we may confidently and reverently receive, even though we may not know by what pen they were recorded.
To sum up: Tregelles believed that verses 9-20 were not written by Mark, but that verses 9-20 nevertheless “have a full claim to be received as an authentic part of the second Gospel,” just as Deuteronomy 34 is received as the proper conclusion of the books of Moses.