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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Mark 16

 

 

Verse 1

Mark 16:1. When the Sabbath was past. After sunset on Saturday.

Bought spices., Luke 22:56 does not necessarily imply that the preparation of spices took place on Friday, before the beginning of the Sabbath. Even if most of the women began the preparations at that time, these three were not thus engaged. The two Maries sat over against the sepulchre late on Friday (Matthew), and Salome had probably rejoined her sister Mary. (See on chap. Mark 15:47.) The resting on the Sabbath is expressly affirmed by Luke.

Anoint him. Nicodemus (John 19:39-40) had done this in a necessarily hasty manner. See on Matthew 27:59.


Verses 1-8

ON the Resurrection and order of Appearances, see the Chapter Comments for Matthew 28. This section does not tell of any appearance, and shows the usual independence in the story of the visit to the tomb.


Verse 2

Mark 16:2. Very early. In the East this would mean before sunrise, as the other accounts show. The anxious women would go to the tomb as soon as possible.

When the sun was risen. This may be taken literally as referring to the time when they reached the tomb, or less exactly ‘when the sun was about to rise.’


Verse 3

Mark 16:3. Who shall roll, etc.? A natural and graphic touch in the narrative. The Lord had removed the difficulty, before it was actually encountered.


Verse 4

Mark 16:4. Looking up. They may have been looking down before, absorbed in their conversation; the tomb was probably above them, cut horizontally in the face of the rock at a slight elevation.

They see that the stone is rolled back. Possibly ‘rolled up,’ as if it had rested in a hollow at the door of the tomb.

For it was exceeding great. This does not mean that the greatness of the stone was the reason of their anxiety and questioning, although this was doubtless true, but that its size enabled them to notice the position even in the early morning. A vivid touch peculiar to Mark. An angel had removed it (Matthew 26:2).


Verse 5

Mark 16:5. And entering into the tomb. That it was of great size is evident. This entrance, as we think, took place after an interval, during which the three separated, after the angelic message mentioned in Matthew 28:2-7, the two Maries returning with the other women and entering the tomb. On the other intervening events, see the Chapter Comments for Matthew 28.

A young man. Mark thus vividly describes an angel. Luke speaks of ‘two men,’ afterwards referring to them as ‘angels’ (Luke 24:23). Mark describes the first impression as the women went in. Luke is more general, but it is not probable that he joins the two angels spoken of separately by Matthew and Mark. For according to John, Mary Magdalene saw two angels sitting in the tomb, and this was probably before the entrance of these women.

Sitting on the right side. Compare John 20:12, which refers to a different occasion. Also, Luke 24:4 (see notes there), which tells of the same occurrence within the tomb, but less definitely. Peter and John had already been there and seen no angel (John 19:3-8). The mission of the angels was to comfort and instruct the disciples, not to perplex them and us by the mysterious disappearances and reappearances which some other explanations suggest.

White robe. A supernatural bright ness may be implied, as in chap. Mark 9:3. Comp. Matthew 28:3; Luke 24:4.

And they were amazed. As was natural, even if there had been a previous appearance of angels.


Verse 6

Mark 16:6. Be not amazed. This is probably not identical with the message in Matthew 28:5-7, given outside the tomb, but a second one (reported by Luke also), which is, however, substantially a repetition of the previous one.


Verse 7

Mark 16:7. But. Emphatic: instead of lingering here, go tell, etc.

And Peter. A special token of love to this one who had denied Him, and a recognition of his prominence among his equals.

Into Galilee. Comp. Luke 24:6-7. The question: ‘Why seek ye the living,’ etc., probably preceded the words: He is risen (Mark 16:6).

As he said to you. Chap. Mark 14:28; see on Matthew 28:7.


Verse 8

Mark 16:8. And fled from the tomb. In a tumult of excitement.

For trembling and astonishment possessed them. This was the reason of their fleeing.

And they said nothing to any one; for they were afraid. Matthew twice (Matthew 28:8; Matthew 28:11) speaks of their going to deliver the message, hence some explain this clause: they told no one by the way. But Mark’s words mean that they did not, immediately at least, deliver the message. The ‘fear’ spoken of by Matthew is made prominent here; joined with the fright from what they had seen was a fear that their reports would be (as they actually were) deemed ‘idle tales’ by the disciples (Luke 24:11). In this state of indecision, as they ran back, the Lord meets them (Matthew 28:9-10), overcomes their fear (‘Be not afraid,’ He says), and they go on with the message, now coming from the Lord Himself. The remarkable events of that day produced mingled and indeed confused emotions. To that of fear and indecision, Mark gives prominence. Even these faithful women were full of doubt: a fact that upsets all theories resembling the Jewish falsehood, mentioned by Matthew. Strangest of all, however, would be the sudden ending of the Gospel at this point of indecision. See next section.


Verse 9

Mark 16:9. On the first day, etc. Not the same expression as in Mark 16:2. The emphatic repetition suggests that the readers knew the sacredness of ‘the first day’ among Christians.

Appeared first. See the Chapter Comments on Matthew 28, and the full account of John (John 20:14-17).

From whom he had cast out seven demons. See Luke 8:2. This fact has not been previously stated in this Gospel, and this is an argument in favor of the genuineness of this section. Here, where Mary Magdalene is mentioned alone, was the most appropriate place for this description. The first manifestation of our Lord’s victory over the grave was made to one in whom He had won such a victory over Satan.


Verses 9-20

THE GENUINENESS of Mark 16:9-20. This has been greatly doubted for the following reasons: (1.) They are not found in the two oldest and best manuscripts of the New Testament (the Sinaitic and the Vatican); but in one of them (the Vatican) there is a column left blank after Mark 16:8, and the words: ‘According to Mark,’ while in every other instance the next book begins on the next column. In some other manuscripts it is indicated that the passage is doubtful. (2.) In the times of Jerome (d. 419), according to the testimony of some Church Fathers, the passage was wanting in most copies. (3.) The section contains no less than twenty words and expressions not found elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel, and has a compendious and supplementary character.

But on the other hand some of the earliest Fathers recognized it as part of Mark’s Gospel. Especially Irenæus (A.D. 202), who lived more than two hundred years before Jerome and was a pupil of Polycarp (the pupil of John), quotes Mark 16:20, word for word, as the conclusion of the Gospel. The close of Mark 16:8 is very abrupt in the Greek, and cannot be the proper conclusion of the Gospel. Even those who reject this section think that some other conclusion must have existed, which has been lost. The omissions in the early manuscripts (fourth century) can be accounted for. The Fathers state, that the Roman Christians were very anxious to obtain Mark’s Gospel. An incomplete copy (as Lange suggests) might have got into circulation, which would find favor in the fourth century, because it omitted the unbelief of the Apostles. It is possible that it was written by Mark, but later than the Gospel itself. There are other conjectures, namely, that the last leaf of the original Gospel was early lost, that the section was erased because it was supposed to be inconsistent with the other Gospels. The best writers admit the great antiquity of the section, even if written by another hand than that of Mark. Its statements are undoubtedly authentic.

Three appearances of our Lord are here mentioned: (1.) To Mary Magdalene; (2.) To the two on the way to Emmaus; (3.) To the eleven (on the same day or a week later). The date of the discourse which is added (Mark 16:15-18) cannot be determined. The whole chapter emphasizes the slowness of the disciples to believe in the Resurrection, gives the steps by which their disbelief was overcome, tells of the great commission (Mark 16:15-18), and closes with a brief statement of the Ascension (Mark 16:19) and the subsequent activity (Mark 16:20).


Verse 10

Mark 16:10. She went and told. Comp. John 20:18. Emphasis seems to rest on the word ‘she;’ she was the first to tell them, the others probably returning later, after they had seen the Lord on the way (Matthew 28:9).

Them that had been with him. An unusual expression for ‘disciples,’ probably including the whole company of His followers.

As they mourned and wept. A natural touch, showing how little they anticipated His resurrection.


Verse 11

Mark 16:11. Had been seen of her. Another expression peculiar to this section. But ‘new facts, new words.’

Disbelieved. A different form from ‘believed not’ (Mark 16:12). Comp. Luke 24:11. Their disbelief has been overruled for good; it furnishes abundant proof that they did not invent the story of the resurrection.


Verse 12

Mark 16:12. After these things. This expression, peculiar to this section, marks definitely a second appearance, after the ‘first’ (Mark 16:9). The appearance to Peter is not mentioned; the author is emphasizing the unbelief of the eleven, so that he chooses a revelation to two, not of their number.

Was manifested (a different word from that used in Mark 16:9), etc. See Luke 24:13-35, where this manifestation is narrated with richness of detail.

In another form, so that they did not recognize Him. Luke, says: ‘their eyes were holden.’ But there was some actual difference in the bodily appearance of our Lord.

Two of them, of the disciples in the wider sense (Mark 16:10-11).

As they walked, to Emmaus. The manifestation took place at the close of the walk, but this is the language of brevity. Had the account been more explicit, a captious criticism would have asserted that this verse was copied from Luke.


Verse 13

Mark 16:13. They. Emphatic, giving prominence to these successive messages.

The rest, i.e., of ‘them that had been with Him’ (Mark 16:10).

And them also they believed not. Despite the repeated testimony. Luke (Luke 24:34) tells how these two met the company who told them, ‘The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.’ But he speaks immediately after of their terror at His appearance (Luke 24:37); their state of mind was not one of decided belief. The same impression is conveyed by Matthew 28:17; John 20:20. A conflict of doubt and belief would be very natural, or even a division of opinion, some doubting and some believing. Even if all believed that the Lord had appeared to Simon, some might, for various reasons, still doubt the message of the two disciples. This apparent discrepancy with Luke may have encouraged the copyists to omit the passage, if they found any authority for doing so.


Verse 14

Mark 16:14. Afterward. ‘Later’ not ‘last,’ though the word may bear such a meaning. This was the last manifestation of that day, and is fully detailed by Luke (Luke 24:36, etc.) and John (John 20:19-23). Mark joins with it the last revelation of our Lord on earth. See on Mark 16:15.

Sat at meat. In strict accordance with Luke 24:41-43, though evidently independently written.

Upbraided them with their unbelief. He instructed, as well as upbraided them; but the matter is here described from one point of view. This ‘unbelief’ was in the fact of His resurrection.

Hardness of heart. They seem to have remained that day in an intellectual and moral stupor.

Because, etc. The specific reproach was that in the face of sufficient evidence they doubted a glorious fact, which He, whom they loved, had predicted again and again.


Verse 15

Mark 16:15. And he said unto them. There is no reference to the appearances in Galilee. The more important points of the revelations made on various occasions up to the time of the Ascension are summed up. These words may, however, have been uttered on one occasion. Comp. Matthew 28:19; but here the style is brief, energetic, as usual in Mark’s narrative.


Verse 16

Mark 16:16. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned. The obvious lessons of this verse are pressing and practical. (1.) The belief is belief in Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen again, as an all-sufficient Personal Saviour, It is belief of the gospel (Mark 16:15), because the gospel presents Christ. (2.) Baptism is generally but not absolutely necessary to salvation. It is not said: He that believeth not and is not baptized will be condemned. The first trophy of the crucified Lord, was the unbaptized yet believing robber. Many martyrs had no opportunity of baptism. Multitudes of unbaptized children die in infancy, and the Society of Friends reject water-baptism. Yet the other clause shows the general necessity. Baptism cannot be deemed indifferent in view of this command. None are condemned simply because not baptized, but positive unbelief is the one certain ground of condemnation, whether the person be baptized or not baptized. (3.) Nothing can be proved from this passage as to the order in which faith and baptism must always come. In Matthew 28:19-20, it is altogether different. (4.) The form of the original is peculiar, and points to a future and permanent division of mankind into ‘saved’ and ‘condemned.’ (5.) The condemnation for the sin of unbelief, implies a previous offer of the gospel. The preceding verse points to a proclamation of the offer to every one, without exception, and the sin of unbelief has its spring in something independent of any such offer. Blessedness is impossible for those who when they know of Christ do not trust Him. (6.) The word ‘condemned’ implies just what our Lord has expressed again and again in awful language (chap. Mark 9:43-49; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:30; Matthew 25:46).


Verses 16-18

Mark 16:16-18 are peculiar to this Gospel and quite characteristic. They may have been uttered on the mountain in Galilee, or more likely still, just before the Ascension, mentioned immediately afterwards (Mark 16:19).

Preach the gospel, proclaim the glad tidings; not simply give instruction in Christian morality, but announce the facts they had been so slow to believe, that Jesus who had been crucified is risen, is the living Saviour for lost men.

To the whole creation. To men chiefly, as the subjects of salvation; but probably not without a reference to the whole moral universe. Comp. Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:23; Romans 8:19-23. The duty to evangelize the whole world, so plainly stated here, is even strengthened by this view of the passage.


Verse 17

Mark 16:17. And these signs shall follow them that believe. This promise is to be taken literally; but is it to be limited to the Apostolic times, or is it to be extended to all Christians? In favor of the limitation may be urged: the reference to the founding of the Church which runs through the whole passage; the cessation of the necessity for such ‘signs’ as proofs of the truth, and the cessation of such miraculous gifts as a fact in the history of the Church. Yet it is highly probable that the promise is more general. Alford: ‘Should occasion arise for its fulfillment, there can be no doubt that it will be made good in our own or any other time. But we must remember that “signs’’ are not needed where Christianity is professed; nor by missionaries who are backed by the influence of powerful Christian nations.’ Fanatical and superstitious use of the promise is due to a failure to understand the nature of these things as ‘signs.’

In my name. This presents the power by which all the succeeding miracles should be wrought.

Shall they cast out demons. Comp. Matthew 12:27 on this ‘sign.’ It is characteristic of Mark to emphasize this form of miraculous power.

They shall speak with new tongues. See Acts 2:4; Acts 10:46; 1 Corinthians 13, 14. This was literally fulfilled. A symbolical meaning, such as new forms of spiritual truth, is unnecessary. As the whole was written after the manifestation of the gifts of tongues in the Apostolic times, this clause is no proof of a later origin of the section. These ‘tongues’ were the most striking signs for the first success of the gospel, hence we might expect to find such a promise.


Verse 18

Mark 16:18. They shall take up serpents. See Acts 28:3-5, where this promise was fulfilled in the case of Paul. We therefore retain the simple meaning: they shall take up serpents without injury, as a ‘sign.’ As the word translated ‘take up’ has a variety of secondary meanings, some explain it here, ‘drive forth,’ ‘destroy,’ but the other is the more obvious sense. Most untenable is the fanciful symbolical interpretation which finds an allusion to the brazen serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14).

Even if they drink any deadly thing. While literal fulfilments of this promise are not recorded in the New Testament, such may have occurred.

And they shall be well. Instances abound in the Acts of the Apostles.


Verse 19

Mark 16:19. So thou. This phrase, not found elsewhere in this Gospel, introduces the conclusion.

The Lord. A term of the highest reverence in this case.—Jesus is inserted on good authority.

After he had spoken onto them. Both the time and place of the discourse are indefinite, and the fuller account of the Ascension is not contradicted by anything here stated.

Was received up into heaven. See Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9. The original suggests also the idea of being taken back again.

And sat down at the right hand of God, in the place of honor and power. The Ascension is the natural completion of the Resurrection. After such a glorious triumph over death and hell, Christ could not die again, but only return to His former glory and take possession of His throne and kingdom, at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. On Christ’s presence there, see John 19:3; Acts 2:33; Acts 7:56; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1.


Verse 20

Mark 16:20. And they went forth. Not out of the room (Mark 16:14), but out into the world (Mark 16:15) to preach everywhere. The writer cannot mean that our Lord ascended from that room.

Everywhere. The gospel was diffused very rapidly, and at the date of Mark’s Gospel the use of this general term was perfectly justifiable.

The Lord working, etc. The fulfilment of the promise in Mark 16:17-18, is here stated. This close corresponds admirably with the character of the whole. The wonder-working Son of God is represented as continuing to work through His Apostles. The emphasis hitherto given to His miracles is preserved in this brief sketch of their activity, and that too in close connection with Him as the Glorified Redeemer, still working the same wonders. J. A. Alexander: ‘If the original conclusion of this book is lost, its place has been wonderfully well supplied.’

Amen. This word is better supported here than at the close of the other Gospels, but is of doubtful authority.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Mark 16:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/mark-16.html. 1879-90.

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