Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Gospel According to Mark: "The Amazing Jesus"

John MacArthur recently preached from Mark 16:8-20, , making it the last sermon in his 43 year ministry in which he has preached all the way through the New Testament, verse by verse, book by book; a great model for expository preaching. (exposing the meaning of the text, in its context, preaching through each book from beginning to end, verse by verse, chapter by chapter.) I highly recommend his other sermons, all available there at

He gives a good summary of the confidence we have from all the many extant Greek manuscripts that we do have about the Bible, specifically focusing on the New Testament; and by comparing all of them, we can tell where a scribe made an error or added something in (as in Mark 16:9-20; I John 5:7-8 (KJV) - "the Comma Johannine"). No textual variant affects any doctrine in the word of God, the Scriptures.

A good introductory book on the reliability on the NT is F. F. Bruce's The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? He answers yes.

"I like Mark's ending!" John MacArthur (speaking on verse 8, where the women are amazed, trembling, astonished, and afraid at the empty tomb and the resurrection and what the angel said to them.)

Verses 5-8 are key, and include the amazement, the crucifixion, the empty tomb, and the angel's statement: "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him."

Whatever criticism Muslims and skeptics and atheists have about Mark 16:9-20, the crucifixion and the resurrection are still affirmed as true, even without verse 9-20. Chapter 15 - Crucifixion, 16:1-8 - Empty Tomb, resurrection, women who are eyewitnesses of the empty tomb. "He has been crucified." This is historical fact. The Qur'an has that embarrassing verse of 4:157 of denying historical fact.

MacArthur has a great approach to handling the long version of Mark, 16:9-20, and that this section is not in the oldest extant Greek manuscripts. He shows how verses 9-20 were cobbled together from the other 3 gospels and Acts, and added onto Mark.

v. 9 - summary from Luke 8:1-3
v. 10 - from John 20:18
v. 12 - summary from Luke 24:13-32
v. 13 - from Luke 24:36-38
v. 15 - summary from Matthew 28:19
v. 16 - different way of saying John 20:23
v. 17-18 - from Luke 10, Matthew 10, tongues in the book of Acts, and Acts 28:3-6 (God protected Paul from the harm of the snake bite; but there is no text of anyone drinking poison as in Mark 16; and there is no command to pick up snakes in a worship service context as they do in some churches in the Appalachian Mountains of USA. )

I would add this about the summary of verse 19. McArthur points out that Irenaeus quoted Mark 16:19 around 180-200 AD.

v. 19 - John 20:17; Luke 24:51; Acts chapter 1; Luke 22:69; Acts 7:55 ff; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; I Peter 3:22; Psalm 110:1)

MacArthur focused on verse 8, the Amazement, astonishment, fear, and being astounded all through the book of Mark: (which points to the probability that that was Mark's real ending.)
Mark 1:22
Mark 1:27
Mark 2:12
Mark 4:41
Mark 5:15
Mark 5:33
Mark 5:42
Mark 6:51
Mark 9:6
Mark 9:15
Mark 9:32
Mark 10:24
Mark 10:32
Mark 11:18
Mark 12:17
Mark 15:5
Mark 16:5
Mark 16:8

MacArthur ends with joyful exuberance quoting from the hymn: (text and music by Charles H. Gabriel)

"I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean! O How wonderful, O How marvelous, and my song shall ever be, O How wonderful, O How marvelous, is my Savior's love for me!"

Indeed, Jesus is Amazing!


James Snapp Jr said...


It's a shame that Dr. MacArthur made so many mistakes and misrepresentations in his descriptions of the pertinent evidence regarding Mark 16:9-20 in his June 5 sermon.

F. F. Bruce defended Mark 16:9-20 as canonical. Yet Dr. MacArthur called it a "bad ending. In his attempt to put a positive spin on the abrupt ending at 16:8, he did not explain why Mark pictured Jesus predicting a post-resurrection meeting in Galilee and then did not describe it. That is not consistent with what Mark does elsewhere. Nor is the terse grammar of 16:8b consistent with Mark's use of GAR elsewhere. Nor does Dr. MacArthur explain why Mark gave his readers the impression that the women were silent although he (Mark) must have known otherwise. Nor does Dr. MacArthur explain why Mark let the reader's last glimpse of the apostles be the scene in which they abandon Jesus, and why Mark let the reader's last glimpse of Peter be when he is in tears after denying Jesus three times. These points pose very high obstacles to his idea that Mark deliberately concluded at the end of 16:8. Richard France, James Edwards, Robert Gundry, Rob Stein, J. K. Elliott, and N. T. Wright don't buy into that. Nor do I.

To present the good news by having the last recorded words of Jesus be "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me" seems extremely unlikely.

MacArthur performed some verbal sleight-of-hand: he emphasized the importance of uniformity and consistency in the manuscript-evidence, as he promoted a reading that is found in less than 1% of the Greek MS-evidence. And he said that Justin, Tatian, Irenaeus, and Eusebius knew about "other endings" besides 16:9-20, which is simply false -- one of several false statements in that sermon.

His list of parallels did not show that vv. 9-20 were cobbled together from the other three Gospels and Acts. Not a bit. Dr. MacArthur exaggerated the similarities and minimized the differences. The sort of approach that he used puts Mark 16:9-20 in a lose-lose scenario: when the text says something non-unique, the analyst says, "Borrowed," and when the text says something unique, the analyst says, "Anomalous." The fact is that there are oodles of passages in Mark where one can similarly point out parallels and similarities. Telling about the same thing does not establish any sort of literary dependence, especially when Mk 16:9-20 has significant differences from the parallel-passages.

You wrote, "I would add this about the summary of verse 19. McArthur points out that Irenaeus quoted Mark 16:19 around 180-200 AD."

The citation is in Against Heresies, Book Three, chapter 10. Irenaeus says explicitly that he is quoting from Mark's account, near the end. It is a solid reference, preserved in the Latin version of "Against Heresies" and affirmed in a Greek scholia in MSS 1582 and 72.

The passages about amazement that are peppered throughout the book of Mark do not really parallel the abrupt ending in 16:8 the way Dr. MacArthur pictured them. In some cases, a different Greek word is involved; the similarities are superficial. But to go into all that would require a lot more words. For now, I'll just say that everyone who heard Dr. MacArthur's sermon should be aware that it contained an amazing amount of mistakes and misrepresentations. So much so that Grace To You should withdraw the June 5 sermon from circulation.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Ken said...

Thanks for your comments. You make some good points indeed. I looked at some of your web-site/blogs on Textual Criticism. Interesting. I want to study it more later and understand the issues better.
I cannot right now though, as I am very busy all day every day until after July 8.

Can you give me the quote and reference were F. F. Bruce wrote that Mark 16:9-20 is canonical?

MacArthur never claimed the same Greek words were used for "amazed" and "astonished" and "afraid"; just the idea and theme of those things is throughout Mark.

Are you a King James Only-ist? Do you think the NASB and ESV are good Bible translations?

Thanks in Christ,

James Snapp Jr said...


The statement from F. F. Bruce is, "Our conclusion with regard to these twelve verses, then, is that while we cannot regard them as an integral part of the Gospel to which they are now attached, no Christian need have any hesitation in reading them as Holy Scripture." This statement is at the end of his article “The End of the Second Gospel,” which was published in The Evangelical Quarterly 17 (1945): 169-181. The whole article is accessible online -- .

I am not a KJV-Onlyist. I consider the NASB and ESV both to be adequate translations in general, although like all translations they have some shortcomings. If I had my druthers I would revise their NT base-text in favor of a substantial number of non-Alexandrian variants (but I don't subscribe to Byzantine Priority).

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

James Snapp Jr said...


Update: after getting nowhere trying to convince Grace To You personnel that Dr. MacArthur's sermon was saturated with false and misleading claims, I made three-part video response, which you should be able to easily find at YouTube, under the title "The Fitting End to Some False Claims About Mark 16:9-20."

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.
Minister, Curtisville Christian Church