January 20 - Mark 16
IS THIS STILL THE BIBLE, OR NOT??? - Depending on which English translation you're reading from, there's some sort of indication that verses 9-20 of chapter 16 are different than the first 8. The newer NIV's put the whole passage in italics, while other versions break it apart from the beginning of the chapter with a note saying "The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20." It seems to be the case that these verses were added by scribes hundreds of years after Mark originally wrote the gospel. This helps explains the odd language written here: things like poisonous snake handling, being able to heal all sick people, etc. These things seem out of step with the Bible. So, no, I do not consider these verses to be authoritative scripture.
CAN YOU REALLY TRUST THE BIBLE? That's a fair question. If it has become clear that these verses are are not actually divinely inspired scripture, how much more of the Bible is actually additions or changes made by zealous or careless scribes? There are thousands of original manuscripts - handwritten copies - of the New Testament, and yes, all those manuscripts contain hundreds of thousands of variations between them. That seems like a big deal, except it's not. A massive percentage of these variations are minor spelling differences, slight changes in word order, and other trivial matters that make no impact on the message or meaning. When we take into account the fact that these manuscripts come from all corners of the known world at the time, and that these people had vastly different political, cultural, and economic perspectives, it becomes flat out amazing the amount of consistency found in these manuscripts. All of the major variations, including this passage, are noted in your Bible either with bracketed text or footnotes. Yes, you absolutely can trust that the words you are reading in your English translations represent the exact same thing the human author, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote down.
UNRESOLVED: So if the book of Mark actually ends at v8, why end there, with the women fleeing the empty tomb afraid? Maybe this is why some scribes long ago felt the need to tack a better ending onto this book. My theory is that Mark, the earliest gospel writer, ends this way because he knows the gospel itself never ends. Even as he writes this, the early church is starting to flourish and explode. Mark's abrupt ending tells us that Jesus is no longer in the grave, but instead He is actively watching and ruling over His church. It's almost like the Holy Spirit, in ending this first gospel this way, knowing three more gospels would follow along with Acts & the epistles, says "KEEP READING!"
PS... if you really want to geek out over this kind of stuff, the Faithlife Study Bible, which is absolutely outstanding and totally free, has an excellent article on this topic. You will need to create a free account to access the study notes, but it's well worth it. You will use this resource often!
You can also stop by my office and I'll show you a Greek New Testament with all of the textual variations listed.
Thank God for the gift of the Bible, and for all of the work and scholarship that's gone into making sure its words are trustworthy and true. Also give thanks for what you have learned from Mark's awesome account of Jesus' life.
Give thanks that Jesus is no longer in the grave, but has risen and conquered death.
God’s Word is your connection to salvation.
If you want to be strong & courageous, obey God’s Word.
Monday - God's Word brings strength & courage to you just like it did to Joshua
Tuesday - God leads us through His Word like He lead Moses through physical manifestations
Wednesday - If you want to obey God's Word, you need to first know it
Thursday - Train yourself to benefit from God's Word by Memorizing, Meditating, & Mouthing (speaking) scripture
Friday - Keeping God's Word brings you success: possibly here on earth, and for sure in eternity