Did I Skip Bible Verses Yesterday?

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16)

A few months ago I opened the sports section of the Washington Post and they did not supply the final score of the National’s game. The caption on the picture read something like, “the game was incomplete at the time of printing.” I knew that wasn’t end of the game.

In yesterday’s sermon, I read Mark 16:8 and commented that this was the last verse in Mark’s Gospel. Yet if you look at Mark 16 in your Bible, there are 12 more verses. Did I leave out some verses for the sake of the sermon?

biblical-manuscripts

Old and New Testament Greek manuscript from the mid 4th century

Yes, verses 9-20 describes Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection, his rebuke of this disciples and some final instructions. In verses 17-18 there are strange references to picking up snakes and drinking poison. And yet near the beginning of yesterday’s sermon, I insisted that verse 8 was the last verse in Mark.

Unless you have the King James Version, you will see a footnote after verse 8 that says something like this:

Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.

Bible translators have the hard job of deciding what words best reflect the original writings. This means examining hand written documents. When 2 or more manuscripts are different, they must choose which one is the most reliable. When translating Mark’s Gospel into English, the translators noticed that earlier manuscripts did not include Mark 16:9-20. Which means the verses were probably added years later and by a different author.

That doesn’t mean these events didn’t happen or that God can’t speak through Mark 16:9-20. It does mean that when Mark finished his Gospel, he wrote the only ending he could: the women saw the empty tomb, and were afraid to tell anyone about it. The story was incomplete at the time of printing.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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2 Responses to Did I Skip Bible Verses Yesterday?

  1. eghoff777 says:

    I find the whole canonical deliberations confusing, personally. Our own denomination (same as yours) spent 3 days deliberating whether to accept gays and lesbians as worthy of inclusion into our churches. There was much arguing going on and we found that people in the Western world (U.S., UK, etc.) were more accepting of them than say, delegations from Africa or India.

    Is that because our western societies are more educated, with greater diversity, and therefore, a broader experience of God and His Word? Or could it be that God has not spoken to the third world socieities? I would love to go to seminary one day to learn all about the histories of the church as well as to understand theologies and doctrines better.

    Thanks for sharing, Corey

  2. Corey Sharpe says:

    Textual criticism (deciding what and when something was written and what and when something was added to a massive work of literature) is a complex one. At simplest level most Bibles contain footnotes and study Bibles even more information regarding words that appear to be added later. Regarding the controversy over sexuality, consider yourself fortunate that your deliberations lasted only 3 days – the UMC’s arguing has escalated for over 20 years. So far as cultural acceptance is concerned, 30% of UMC delegates come from Africa and the Philippines, who oppose (and in many cases criminalize) homosexuality. I grew up in context (rural south, fundamentalist church) where homosexuality was considered an abomination. Encountering actual homosexual persons and exposing oneself to a greater breadth of information does allow you to reread Scripture and reconsider your interpretations. Thanks for the comment.

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