Vol. 11 No. 9 September 2009
By Don Blackwell
Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). The force of this passage in teaching the essentiality of baptism is remarkable, and many souls have been persuaded by its directness.
Those, however, who deny the necessity of baptism to salvation have long struggled with this passage. Unable to deal with this verse in light of their beliefs, it is sometimes suggested that perhaps this section of Scripture should not even be in the Bible. Some will point to the fact that two of the oldest manuscripts do not contain Mark 16:9-20.
The two manuscripts to which they refer are the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. These two manuscripts also omit John 7:53-8:11 and are missing large portions of other sections of Scripture. Both the Sinaitic and the Vatican manuscripts include the Apocrypha (false scripture).
The reason these two particular manuscripts carry so much weight with some people is because they are two of the oldest. It is reasoned by some that if two of the oldest manuscripts do not contain Mark 16:9-20, then it must not belong.
When a careful study is made, it is evident that such a conclusion is not warranted. First, it should be pointed out that while it is true that these manuscripts do not include Mark 16:9-20, nearly all other ancient manuscripts do contain this passage, including the Alexandrian, which stands with the Vatican in its accuracy. The number of manuscripts that contain this passage far outweighs those that do not. There are over 600 manuscripts that contain the sixteenth chapter of Mark. Only 3 do not contain verse 9-20.
Secondly, from very early in history, this portion of Scripture was accepted as genuine. McGarvey points out that this passage of Scripture was referenced by “lrenaeus and Tatian of the second century, and Hyppolytus and Dionisius of Alexandria, of the third century, all of whom lived before the earliest existing manuscript was written” (McGarvey Commentary on Matthew & Mark, 378).
Thirdly, verse 8 of Mark 16 hardly seems like a suitable ending to Mark’s Gospel. Halley’s Bible Handbook says, “It does not seem that verse 8 could have been a proper ending for the book” (482). McGarvey says, “Any reader will be struck with this want of completeness, if he will read from the first to the eighth verse, and imagine the narrative there closes” (379). Those who have suggested that Mark did indeed close his book in this abrupt manner have often been found concocting strange reasons as to why. It has long been believed that the last page of the original copy was lost, and that is the reason for omission of the last 12 verses of Mark.
The evidence is there for all who will fairly investigate it. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Men may fight against it, but the words of our Lord will stand forever.