By Nana Yaw Aidoo

My study of the so-called “synoptic problem” led me to an article entitled, “Why I Will Not Be Preaching the Longer Ending of Mark.” In this article, Dr. Josh Buice, the author, gave three main reasons why after a two-year expository study of Mark’s gospel account, he was going to end the series at Mark 16:8 rather than at Mark 16:20:

It has been a great encouragement to my soul to preach through this wonderful gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry. As I’ve prepared for the ending of this series, I’ve concluded that I will be ending our series at Mark 16:8 rather than the longer ending at Mark 16:20. In the world of textual criticism, the longer ending of Mark is one of the most disputed texts in all of the Bible. Below I’ve included the three main reasons why I will not be preaching the longer ending of Mark, but we must not lose confidence in the validity and authenticity of God’s inerrant Word.[1]

This caught my attention for in the preaching that I try to do, in order to encourage non-Christians in attendance to obey the gospel, I, most often than not, end my sermons by quoting the words of the resurrected Christ in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

However, here is this quite learned denominational preacher, essentially telling me that all along I have been preaching something which isn’t God’s word at all. I reject his conclusion. I am certain that Mark 16:9-20 is scripture and should be preached as assuredly as any other part of Mark’s gospel account. I therefore intend to, in this article, review the reasons Dr. Buice gave for his conclusion and by so doing make a case for the longer ending of Mark.

The Manuscript Argument

The first evidence Dr. Josh Buice gave for his position was the textual evidence. After a brief discussion of textual variants, he wrote:

The disputed longer ending of the Gospel of Mark does not appear in the two oldest manuscripts of the Bible – the codex Vaticanus (B) and codex Sinaiticus…Therefore, it’s not rocket science to observe that when the original manuscripts were being copied by scribes, additions to a later manuscript could easily be detected when comparing it with earlier manuscripts. If the oldest (earliest) manuscripts don’t have the longer ending, it points to a later addition by some scribe who might have considered the Mark 16:8 a strange way to end John Mark’s work.[2]

While this argument might seem compelling at first it loses its potency when one considers the facts. Take for example the codex Vaticanus. This manuscript has three columns on the page where Mark 16 appears.[3] Mark 16:8 ends in the second column with the third column left blank.[4] Now this is interesting for in no other place in the New Testament did the copyist of the codex Vaticanus leave a blank column.[5] Some might point to the three blank spaces in the Old Testament section of the manuscript in response to the afore going. However, it is evident that in the Old Testament section,

…each is clearly a side-effect of a factor in the manuscript’s production: (1) a format shift from three columns per page to two columns per page; (2) the convergence of two sections which were written by different scribes; and (3) the end of the Old Testament portion itself.[6]

The blank column in the New Testament of the Vaticanus manuscript is without doubt deliberate. James Snapp Jr. wrote:

As a deliberately placed blank column, the blank column at the end of Mark in Vaticanus is thus unique. This blank space is what could be called a “memorial space,” signifying the scribe’s recollection of material that was not in his exemplar. This is especially likely considering that vv. 9-20 fit snugly into the blank space if one begins writing 16:9-20 after 16:8 in slightly compressed lettering (emphasis in original).[7]

Evidently, the copyist was aware of additional material. Why the blank space then? There are two likely reasons. Either his exemplar did not have the longer ending as Snapp noted or if it did, then the scribe did not consider it to have been written by Mark. Foy E. Wallace Jr. mentioned that,

The only point that has ever been raised has been in reference to its genuineness, whether it was written by Mark, or by one of the other apostles; and, therefore, whether it belonged to the end of Mark’s epistle, or to another gospel record (emphasis mine).[8]

There is evidence that some scribes in Egypt rejected the longer ending even though it was in their exemplars “on the grounds that these verses were technically not part of Peter’s “memoirs” (which is how the Gospel of Mark was regarded in the second century).”[9] This could well have been the reason why the Vaticanus copyist left the blank space.

Even if this isn’t so, the absence of the long ending in the Vaticanus and in the Sinaticus, doesn’t prove much. It might not be in the two oldest extant manuscripts but it is included in many others, including the codex Alexandrinus, and the codex Washingtonianus (the freer gospel), which are just a few years younger than the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus manuscripts and are just as accurate. Thomas Warren in a debate with L.S. Ballard said,

And by the way, when I passed through the city of Washington the other day, I saw, for myself, Mr. Ballard, the Washington manuscript and it contained the entire 16th chapter of Mark. It is just as old as these other two-if not, it lacks only a very few years![10]  

Of the thousands of extant Greek manuscripts, 1,653, making up 99.8% of Greek manuscripts have Mark 16:9-20.[11]  

Moreover, translations or Bible versions from the 2nd – 4th century (versions older than the oldest extant manuscripts) like the Peshitto Syriac, Tatian’s Diatessaron, which was a harmony of the gospels, the Coptic, Jerome’s Latin vulgate, which he himself claimed he prepared by consulting ancient Greek copies among others have the longer ending.[12] What does this prove other than the fact that the Greek manuscripts from which these ancient translations were made (manuscripts older than the ones extant) had them? It is therefore baseless to reject Mark 16:9-20 on the grounds that it “does not appear in the two oldest manuscripts of the Bible.” By the way the Vatican and the Sinaitic are not the two oldest manuscripts of the Bible as Dr. Buice puts it. They are simply the oldest ones extant. The autographs or the original manuscripts are the oldest manuscripts of the Bible.

The Hapax Argument

Still under the textual evidence Dr. Buice wrote:

In addition, the longer ending of Mark (16:9-20) contains at least 14 different words that are not found anywhere else in the Gospel of Mark. Considering the fact that John Mark is ending his work on Jesus’ life and ministry, it would be rather odd to start inserting new vocabulary in the last 12 verses of his work. This points to the fact that someone added it to the Gospel of Mark and was not an original ending from John Mark himself.[13]

This is known as the hapax argument. An hapax is a word that appears just once in a written text.[14] This too is an argument that falls flat when the facts are considered. It is true that Mark introduced new vocabulary (16 in all), in the last 12 verses of his account.[15] However, when one groups Mark’s gospel account into 12 verses each beginning with the 1st verse, chapter 1 through 2:3 alone reveals that Mark 1:1-12 has 17 hapaxes in all (even more than in the text under consideration), Mark 1:13-24 has 7, Mark 1:25-36 has 9 hapaxes including 2 New Testament exclusives and Mark 1:37-2:3 also has 9 with 2 New Testament exclusives.[16] Thus, if Mark 16:9-20 is not God’s word because of new vocabulary in the text, then based on the evidence, we might as well throw the first chapter of Mark’s gospel account into the nearest bin.[17]

The Historical Evidence

After setting forth textual “evidence” for his position, Dr. Buice moved on to the historical evidence. He mentions how patristics like Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no evidence in their writings that they embraced the longer ending. He also mentions Eusebius who apparently claimed that “the most accurate copies and “almost all copies” of Mark’s gospel ended at Mark 16:8.” Likewise, Jerome who said that the longer ending was absent from the majority of manuscripts available in his time, among others. Then he concludes:

When reading the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the ancient writings leading up to A.D. 325), it’s apparent that they viewed the ending of the Gospel of Mark to be 16:8 rather than 16:20. Consider the mountain of quotations (over 19,000 quotations from the gospels alone), it’s evidently clear that John Mark intended to end his work at 16:8 rather than the longer ending that was added at some later period. History is on the side of the 16:8 ending.[18]

I do not consider the so-called church fathers as having the final word. However, Dr. Buice is wrong about the Ante-Nicene fathers. It is worth noting that in book three of Irenaeus’ work, Against Heresies, which was written over a hundred years before Vaticanus was produced, Irenaeus wrote:

Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: “So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God;” confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on My right hand, until I make Your foes Your footstool.[19]

Folks, this is a direct quotation from Mark 16:19. Now go back to Dr. Buice’s quote above and then ask yourself this question: did this Ante-Nicene father view Mark’s gospel account as concluding at Mark 16:8?

Furthermore, if Jerome believed as Dr. Buice implies, that the longer ending is uninspired due to his comments about its absence in the majority of manuscripts in his time, why then did Jerome include the longer ending in his translation?[20]

To believe this [that Jerome considered the longer ending uninspired] would, again, be to forget what was the known practice of this Father; who, because he found the expression “without a cause”…only “in certain of his codices,” but not “in the true ones,” omitted it from the Vulgate.[21] 

What Dr. Buice claims about Jerome has to do with some questions that a certain woman by name Hedibia had asked him, one of which concerned the longer ending. The truth is that Jerome didn’t even give his own opinion but simply sent this lady what Eusebius had already opined about the issue.[22] John Burgon wrote that when one compares Jerome’s Latin to Eusebius’ Greek, “it will be apparent that Jerome is here not so much adopting the sentiments of Eusebius as simply translating his words.[23] Jerome’s answer to Hedibia were not his personal sentiments but that of Eusebius as is proven by the Latin Vulgate. More importantly, Eusebius and Jerome regardless of what they wrote, advised those to whom they wrote to retain the longer ending.[24]

Also, it is erroneous to point to Clement of Alexandria and Origen as reasons for rejecting the longer ending of Mark because of how scantily these men used Mark’s gospel account in their writings. For example, besides the 10th chapter of Mark, Clement cited only 1.3% of Mark’s gospel account and likewise Origen quoted just about 30% of Mark’s account.[25] This sparing usage of Mark’s account explains why they say almost nothing about the longer ending, not because they didn’t believe in it or that they weren’t aware of it.

The Real Reason why Dr. Josh Buice Rejects the Longer Ending

After setting forth the textual and historical “evidence,” Dr. Josh Buice now comes to what I believe is the real reason why he rejects Mark 16:9-20. He calls it the doctrinal evidence. Here, he lists four doctrines, which he calls “strange” as emanating from the longer ending of Mark’s gospel account, one of which is baptism unto salvation from past sins:

Although many have explained Mark 16:16 in a way that does not teach baptismal regeneration, the best explanation does not emerge from the text itself. The best explanation arises from the overall context of the New Testament. In no other place in the New Testament do we see a verse that teaches the necessity of baptism in order to have true salvation. This is one more indicator that this isn’t an authentic text coming from John Mark’s pen.[26]

What this man at the start called baptismal regeneration, he later explained as the necessity of baptism in order to have true salvation. This, folks, is the crux of the matter. This man’s rejection of Mark 16:9-20 all boils down to his rejection of the necessity of baptism in the salvation of sinners. A little background is in order. Josh Buice is the “pastor” of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church, a group that denies that baptism is essential to salvation.

Unlike other Baptist “pastors,” Dr. Buice is unable to explain away Mark 16:16. He asserts that though some have attempted to do so, their explanation is not “the best explanation.” The meaning of Mark 16:16 stares him right in the face. It strikes at the innermost cords of his heart. And this learned man knows in his heart of hearts and in his very soul that if the longer ending of Mark’s gospel account is indeed God’s word, then the Bible teaches the necessity of baptism in the salvation of the alien sinner. So he denies it a place in God’s word and even goes as far as saying no other scripture teaches that baptism is in order to salvation. It takes a man who is blinded by reformed theology to make a statement as mind-boggling as that. Now supposing you were reading the Bible for the first time, without anyone’s help, how would you have understood passages like Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-18; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-13 and 1 Peter 3:21?


While I believe that the foregoing has more than answered Dr. Josh Buice’s sophistry, I want to put a death knell to his position by quoting from Dr. Philip Schaff, who was the president of that committee of scholars who gave to the world the great American Standard Version of 1901:

This section is found in most of the uncial and in all the cursive manuscripts, in most of the ancient versions, in all the existing Greek and Syriac lectionaries as far as examined; and Irenaeus, who is a much older witness than any of our existing manuscripts, quotes verse 19 as part of the gospel of Mark. A strong intrinsic argument for the genuineness is also derived from the extreme improbability (we may say impossibility) that the evangelist should have intentionally closed his gospel with ‘for they were afraid,’ verse 8.[27]

Dr. Josh Buice might not preach the longer ending of Mark but I preach it and will continue to do so because it is the very word of God.


[1] Josh Buice, “Why I Will Not Be Preaching the Longer Ending of Mark,” G3 Ministries, August 9, 2016, www.g3min.org/longer-ending-mark/ (Accessed: February 1, 2023).

[2] Ibid.

[3] James Snapp Jr., “A Case for the Longer Ending of Mark,” Text and Canon Institute, June 1, 2022, www.textandcanon.org/a-case-for-the-longer-ending-of-mark/ (Accessed: February 1, 2023).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Foy E. Wallace Jr., Bulwarks of the Faith, ebook Fort Smith, AR: Richard E. Black, 1997, 289.

[9] Snapp Jr., Ibid.

[10] Warren – Ballard Debate, ebook 1st ed. Longview, Washington: Telegram Book Company, 1953, 105-6.

[11] Snapp Jr., Ibid.

[12] For a more detailed discussion of this matter see John W. Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark, Project Gutenberg ebook, 2008, (Orig. pub. 1871), 48-55.

[13] Buice, Ibid.

[14] Karim al-Hanifi, “The End of an Argument on the Ending of Mark,” (2019):1. www.academia.edu/40669671/The_end_of_an_argument_on_the_ending_of_Mark.

[15] Ibid.

[16] al-Hanifi, Ibid., 2-3; This source doesn’t just deal with the hapaxes in Mark’s gospel account but also in some other New Testament books. It is a very insightful discussion of the issue.

[17] In addition to the preceding endnote, the reader is also encouraged to consult this source too for a discussion on the issue of hapaxes; Bruce Terry, “The Style of the Long Ending of Mark,” BTerry.com, March 27, 2003, www.bterry.com/articles/mkendsty.htm (Accessed February 1, 2023).

[18] Buice, Ibid.

[19] “Against Heresies, 3.10.5 (St. Irenaeus),” New Advent, Last Modified 2021, www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103310.htm.

[20] John W. Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark, 52 wrote: “It is needless to add that the Vulgate contains the disputed verses: that from no copy of this Version are they away.”

[21] Burgon, Ibid., 76.

[22] Burgon, Ibid., 71-2.

[23] Burgon, Ibid., 73.

[24] Snapp Jr., Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Buice, Ibid.

[27] Wallace Jr., Ibid., 291.


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