|Not a picture of the ending of Mark.|
I count myself among that small group that thinks Mark 16.9–20 is not Mark’s original ending but is still Scripture. These verses are attested early and widely and there is nothing in them that I can see that would discredit them theologically. The fact that they have been received by so many Christians as Scripture seems to me to weigh heavily in their favor.
But I admit I am probably in a minority in holding this position. So I was glad to find an ally this week in Samuel P. Tregelles who held the same view. I might still be wrong, but at least I’m in good company!
Here is how Tregelles explained his view:
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 ἐφοβοῦντο 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.
Mark 16.9-14 in Tregelles’s GNT
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. (An Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament , pp. 258-261)