The “Strange” Ending of the Gospel of Mark and Why It Makes All the Difference

James Tabor presents a fresh look at the original text of the earliest Gospel

This article was originally published on Dr. James Tabor’s popular TaborBlog, a site that discusses and reports on “‘All things biblical’ from the Hebrew Bible to Early Christianity in the Roman World and Beyond.” Bible History Daily first republished the article with consent of the author in April 2013. Visit TaborBlog today, or scroll down to read a brief bio of James Tabor below.


And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing.

Women-at-TombMost general Bible readers have the mistaken impression that Matthew, the opening book of the New Testament, must be our first and earliest Gospel, with Mark, Luke and John following. The assumption is that this order of the Gospels is a chronological one, when in fact it is a theological one. Scholars and historians are almost universally agreed that Mark is our earliest Gospel–by several decades, and this insight turns out to have profound implications for our understanding of the “Jesus story” and how it was passed down to us in our New Testament Gospel traditions.

The problem with the Gospel of Mark for the final editors of the New Testament was that it was grossly deficient. First it is significantly shorter than the other Gospels–with only 16 chapters compared to Matthew (28), Luke (24) and John (21). But more important is how Mark begins his Gospel and how he ends it.

He has no account of the virgin birth of Jesus–or for that matter, any birth of Jesus at all. In fact, Joseph, husband of Mary, is never named in Mark’s Gospel at all–and Jesus is called a “son of Mary,” see my previous post on this here. But even more significant is Mark’s strange ending. He has no appearances of Jesus following the visit of the women on Easter morning to the empty tomb!

Like the other three Gospels Mark recounts the visit of Mary Magdalene and her companions to the tomb of Jesus early Sunday morning. Upon arriving they find the blocking stone at the entrance of the tomb removed and a young man–notice–not an angel–tells them:

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing (Mark 16:6-8)

And there the Gospel simply ends!

Mark gives no accounts of anyone seeing Jesus as Matthew, Luke, and John later report. In fact, according to Mark, any future epiphanies or “sightings” of Jesus will be in the north, in Galilee, not in Jerusalem.

In our free eBook Easter: Exploring the Resurrection of Jesus, expert Bible scholars and archaeologists offer in-depth research and reflections on this important event. Discover what they say about the story of the resurrection, the location of Biblical Emmaus, Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, the ancient Jewish roots of bodily resurrection, and the possible endings of the Gospel of Mark.

This original ending of Mark was viewed by later Christians as so deficient that not only was Mark placed second in order in the New Testament, but various endings were added by editors and copyists in some manuscripts to try to remedy things. The longest concocted ending, which became Mark 16:9-19, became so treasured that it was included in the King James Version of the Bible, favored for the past 500 years by Protestants, as well as translations of the Latin Vulgate, used by Catholics. This meant that for countless millions of Christians it became sacred scripture–but it is patently bogus. You might check whatever Bible you use and see if the following verses are included–the chances are good they they will be, since the Church, by and large, found Mark’s original ending so lacking. Here is that forged ending of Mark:

Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

Even though this ending is patently false, people loved it, and to this day conservative Christians regularly denounce “liberal” scholars who point out this forgery, claiming that they are trying to destroy “God’s word.”

The evidence is clear. This ending is not found in our earliest and most reliable Greek copies of Mark. In A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Bruce Metzger writes: “Clement of Alexandria and Origen [early third century] show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them.”1 The language and style of the Greek is clearly not Markan, and it is pretty evident that what the forger did was take sections of the endings of Matthew, Luke and John (marked respectively in red, blue, and purple above) and simply create a “proper” ending.

Even though this longer ending became the preferred one, there are two other endings, one short and the second an expansion of the longer ending, that also show up in various manuscripts:

[I] But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

[II] This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal your righteousness now’ – thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was handed over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness that is in heaven.

I trust that the self-evident spuriousness of these additions is obvious to even the most pious readers. One might in fact hope that Christians who are zealous for the “inspired Word of God” would insist that all three of these bogus endings be recognized for what they are–forgeries.

Interested in the Gospels’ authors? Check out the Bible History Daily post “Gospel of John Commentary: Who Wrote the Gospel of John and How Historical is It?”

That said, what about the original ending of Mark? Its implications are rather astounding for Christian origins. I have dealt with this issue more generally in my post, “What Really Happened on Easter Morning,” that sets the stage for the following implications.

1. Since Mark is our earliest Gospel, written according to most scholars around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, or perhaps in the decade before, we have strong textual evidence that the first generation of Jesus followers were perfectly fine with a Gospel account that recounted no appearances of Jesus. We have to assume that the author of Mark’s Gospel did not consider his account deficient in the least and he was either passing on, or faithfully promoting, what he considered to be the authentic Gospel. What most Christians do when they think about Easter is ignore Mark. Since Mark knows nothing of any appearances of Jesus as a resuscitated corpse in Jerusalem, walking about, eating and showing his wounds, as recounted by Matthew, Luke and John, those stories are simply allowed to “fill in” for his assumed deficiency. In other words, no one allows Mark to have a voice. What he lacks, ironically, serves to marginalize and mute him!

2. Alternatively, if we decide to listen to Mark, who is our first gospel witness, what we learn is rather amazing. In Mark, on the last night of Jesus’ life, he told his intimate followers following their meal, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mark 14:28). What Mark believes is that Jesus has been “lifted up” or “raised up” to the right hand of God and that the disciples would “see” him in Galilee. Mark knows of no accounts of people encountering the revived corpse of Jesus, wounds and all, walking around Jerusalem. His tradition is that the disciples experienced their epiphanies of Jesus once they returned to Galilee after the eight-day Passover festival and had returned to their fishing in despair. This is precisely what we find in the Gospel of Peter, where Peter says:

Now it was the final day of the Unleavened Bread; and many went out returning to their home since the feast was over. But we twelve disciples of the Lord were weeping and sorrowful; and each one, sorrowful because of what had come to pass, departed to his home. But I, Simon Peter, and my brother Andrew, having taken our nets, went off to the sea. And there was with us Levi of Alphaeus whom the Lord …

You can read more about this fascinating “lost” Gospel of Peter here, but this ending, where the text happens to break off, is most revealing. What we see here is precisely parallel to Mark. The disciples returned to their homes in Galilee in despair, resuming their occupations, and only then did they experience “sightings” of Jesus. Strangely, this tradition shows up in an appended ending to the Gospel of John–chapter 21, where a group of disciples are back to their fishing, and Matthew knows the tradition of a strange encounter on a designated mountain in Galilee, where some of the eleven apostles even doubt what they are seeing (Matthew 28:16-17).

The faith that Mark reflects, namely that Jesus has been “raised up” or lifted up to heaven, is precisely parallel to that of Paul–who is the earliest witness to this understanding of Jesus’ resurrection. You can read my full exposition of Paul’s understanding “the heavenly glorified Christ,” whom he claims to encounter, here. And notably, he parallels his own visionary experience to that of Peter, James and the rest of the apostles. What this means is that when Paul wrote, in the 50s CE, this was the resurrection faith of the early followers of Jesus! Since Matthew, Luke and John come so much later and clearly reflect the period after 70 CE when all of the first witnesses were dead–including Peter, Paul and James the brother of Jesus, they are clearly 2nd generation traditions and should not be given priority.

Mark begins his account with the line “The Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Clearly for him, what he subsequently writes is that “Gospel,” not a deficient version that needs to be supplemented or “fixed” with later alternative traditions about Jesus appearing in a resuscitated body Easter weekend in Jerusalem.

Finally, what we recently discovered in the Talpiot tomb under the condominium building, not 200 feet from the “Jesus family” tomb, offers a powerful testimony to this same kind of early Christian faith in Jesus’ resurrection. On one of the ossuaries, or bone boxes in this tomb, is a four-line Greek inscription which I have translated as: I Wondrous Yehovah lift up–lift up! And this is next to a second ossuary representing the “sign of Jonah” with a large fish expelling the head of a human stick figure, recalling the story of Jonah. In that text Jonah sees himself as having passed into the gates of Sheol or death, from which he utters a prayer of salvation from the belly of the fish: “O Yehovah my God, you lifted up my life from the Pit!” (Jonah 2:6). It is a rare thing when our textual evidence seems to either reflect or correspond to the material evidence and I believe in the case of the two Talpiot tombs, and the early resurrection faith reflected in Paul and Mark, that is precisely what we have.2 That this latest archaeological evidence corresponds so closely to Mark and Paul, our first witnesses to the earliest Christian understanding of Jesus’ resurrection, I find to be most striking.


Dr. James Tabor is a professor of Christian origins and ancient Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Since earning his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1981, Tabor has combined his work on ancient texts with extensive field work in archaeology in Israel and Jordan, including work at Qumran, Sepphoris, Masada and Wadi el-Yabis in Jordan. Over the past decade he has teamed up with with Shimon Gibson to excavate the “John the Baptist” cave at Suba, the “Tomb of the Shroud” discovered in 2000, Mt Zion and, along with Rami Arav, he has been involved in the re-exploration of two tombs in East Talpiot including the controversial “Jesus tomb.” Tabor is the author of the popular TaborBlog, and several of his recent posts have been featured in Bible History Daily as well as the Huffington Post. His latest book, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity has become a immediately popular with specialists and non-specialists alike. You can find links to all of Dr. Tabor’s web pages, books, and projects at



1. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition, (Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 123. Metzger also states: “The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (? and B), 20 from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, 21 and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written a.d. 897 and a.d. 913).”

Correction: In the original publication of this article, Bruce Metzger’s statement “Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them” (Metzger, 2005, p.123) was not appropriately referenced as a quotation from Metzger. We thank our careful reader James Snapp, Jr., of Curtisville Christian Church in Indiana, for bringing this to our attention. —Ed.

2. We offer a full exposition of these important discoveries in our recent book, The Jesus Discovery. The book is a complete discussion of both Talpiot tombs with full documentation, with full chapters on Mary Magdalene, Paul, the James ossuary, DNA tests, and much more. You can read my preliminary report on these latest “Jonah” related findings at the web site Bible & Interpretation, here, and a good account of the controversy here. During March and April, 2012 I also wrote a dozen or more posts on this blog responding to the academic discussions, see below under “Archives” and you can browse the posts by month.


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  1. gary says

    Jesus’ Tomb was not Guarded or Sealed the entire First Night!

    Holy Grave Robbers!

    I had never heard of this until today: How many Christians are aware that Jesus’ grave was unguarded AND unsecured the entire first night after his crucifixion??? Isn’t that a huge hole in the Christian explanation for the empty tomb?? Notice in this quote from Matthew chapter 27 below that the Pharisees do not ask Pilate for guards to guard the tomb until the next day after Jesus’ crucifixion, and, even though Joseph of Arimethea had rolled a great stone in front of the tomb’s door, he had not SEALED it shut!

    Anyone could have stolen the body during those 12 hours!

    The empty tomb “evidence” for the supernatural reanimation/resurrection of Jesus by Yahweh has a HUGE hole in it!

    “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

    The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[a] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”[b] 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.”

    —Matthew 27

    If the guards did not arrive at the tomb until the late afternoon of the second day, that would mean that the tomb had been unguarded and unsealed for TWENTY FOUR hours!

  2. gary says

    When did Mary Magdalene learn of a resurrection?

    Many Christian apologists state that it is impossible for the empty tomb to have been the result of a stolen body, even though the author of Matthew states that the guards were not posted until the second day, giving a least a short period of time that the tomb was not guarded. However, If the Stolen Body Hypothesis is impossible, why did Mary Magdalene believe that Jesus body had been stolen?

    Matthew is the only Gospel that mentions guards at the tomb. John’s Gospel says nothing about guards. If John was an eyewitness, as Christians claim, isn’t that a pretty important detail to leave out of your story? The missing Roman guards in the Book of John raises an important issue. Christians often contend that it would have been impossible for anyone to have surreptitiously removed Jesus’ corpse from the tomb because there were guards posted at the tomb who would have prevented such an occurrence. Therefore, they argue, without any possibility for the body to have been quietly whisked away, the only other logical conclusion is that Jesus must have truly arisen from the dead. A stolen body hypothesis is impossible.

    This argument completely collapses in John’s account, however, because according to the fourth Gospel, this is precisely what Mary thought had occurred! Mary clearly didn’t feel as though the scenario of Jesus’ body being removed was unlikely. In fact, according to John, that was her only logical conclusion. Clearly, Matthew’s guards didn’t dissuade John’s Mary from concluding that someone had taken Jesus’ body because Roman guards do not exist in John’s story. To further compound the problem of the conflicting resurrection accounts, John’s Gospel continues to unfold with Mary returning to the tomb a second time, only to find two angels sitting inside the tomb. Mary is still unaware of any resurrection as she complains to the angels that someone had removed Jesus’ corpse. As far as John’s Mary is concerned, the only explanation for the missing body was that someone must have removed it, and she was determined to locate it.

    But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying12 , one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:11-13)

    Although in Matthew’s account the angel emphatically tells Mary about the resurrection (Matthew 28:5-7), in John’s Gospel the angels do not mention that anyone rose from the dead. The angels only ask Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary responds by inquiring whether the angels removed Jesus’ body. Then, Mary turns and sees Jesus standing before her, but mistakes him for the gardener. Mary is still completely unaware of any resurrection, and therefore asks the “gardener” if he was the one who carried away Jesus’ body. It is only then that Mary realizes that she was speaking to the resurrected Jesus.

    When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” which means Teacher. (John 20:14-16)

    It is at this final juncture of the narrative that the accounts of Matthew and John become hopelessly irreconcilable. The question every Christian must answer is the following: When Mary met Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, had the angel(s) already informed her that Jesus had arisen from the dead? According to Matthew, the angels did inform Mary of the resurrection, but in John’s account they did not. As we survey the divergent New Testament accounts of the resurrection, we see that we are not just looking at contradictory versions, we are reading two entirely different stories!

  3. Chavoux says

    Gary, in both Matthew and Luke, it is clear that there were more women involved than just Mary. John simply focused on her personal experience. Since every individual who heard everything is not mentioned and which parts of the word everyone heard or what each one saw individually, it is most likely that not everyone saw and heard exactly the same thing. The time aspect also plays a role: Matthew, Mark and Luke tells the whole experience of the women at the tomb as happening when they first arrived (or at least without any indication of how much time passed, while John mentions that Mary (alone? or with the other women?) went to tell the other disciples (at least John and Peter) and then returned to the tomb.Did she leave to tell the disciples while the other women stayed at the tomb and heard the angels announce the resurrection? Or did she hear only part of what the angel said? It is totally possible that the other women heard the rest of the sentence, and Mary (having turned away crying) did not. To argue from missing facts that there is a contradiction, is not a convincing agrument IMHO. As for the tomb being unguarded the first night, I would assume that most Christians should be aware of this. However, I would also assume that the guards (and the Jewish leaders) would make sure about the tomb being undisturbed before sealing it… having a guard to prevent grave robbering while knowing that the robbery could have already happened, does not make a lot of sense, does it?

  4. Kurt says

    Hail the Messianic King!

    Wehat happened in keeping with the prophetic words of Psalm 16:10?
    The Messiah would be resurrected. David wrote: “You [Jehovah] will not leave my soul in Sheol.” (Ps. 16:10) Imagine the surprise of the women who came to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid. There they encountered a materialized angel, who told them: “Stop being stunned. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was impaled. He was raised up, he is not here. See! The place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:6) To the crowd present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., the apostle Peter declared: “[David] saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Hades nor did his flesh see corruption.” (Acts 2:29-31) God did not allow the physical body of his beloved Son to decay. Moreover, Jesus was miraculously raised to life in the spirit!—1 Pet. 3:18.

  5. terry says

    Eusebius and Jerome say almost all are missing the long ending. I wonder how many copies they saw? But obviously some did have it. Irenaeus quotes Mark 16:19 in his book (c. 184). It is worth considering why some early copies lack the final verses, but I think it’s going way too far to call them forgeries. It’s not proven, but is rather mere speculation.

  6. terry says

    I wonder how many copies Eusebius and Jerome had to read from? Almost isn’t all, so some copies did have the final verses. Irenaeus quotes Mark 16:19 in his book (c. 184), so copies had it even earlier. It’s worth questioning why a few early copies are lacking the final verses, but it’s going way too far to call them forgeries. You haven’t proven it, just concluding from speculation.

  7. dr howard says
    Too bad most do not know math. I took Dr.Panis’ work on the NT/OT using gematria or numerics to the former Chief Engineer of the Rocket Div. at the former TRW. He told me he could not refute Dr.Panins’ conclusions(amateurs in math have tried and resort to word jugglery or taking the Constitution and attempt to show you can do the same thing with numbers which in the light of those who really know and understand Dr.Panin’s work to compensate for their lack of math training and skills and understanding Panin’s work some 50,000 tabulation pages) as presented in our terse article on Mark-but accepted them and was extremely impressed as well as his numeric work on the NT ,OT etc. . He knew ALL higher forms of math.
    Now the Greek language or each character stood for a number like Alpha for 1; Beta for 2,Gamma for 3 , etc.
    Same for Hebrew. Simple. But,Dr. Panin did all the hard work by hand as it were no computers, but can stand up and has to computer analysis-over a 50 year period using the Westcott and Hort Greek text. You will have to study his work on the internet. I will post more.

  8. terry says

    Besides if the gospel was intentionally concluded at 16:8, it’s rather confusing. The angel tells them that he is risen and to tell Peter and the disciples. And in verse 8 the women run away afraid and tell no one. I can’t imagine Mark, taking the time to write the whole gospel, ending it that way. I’d speculate that these copies that end at verse 8 are simply copies from an incomplete copy to begin with. But better to copy what you have then not copy it at all. And the ending we have in our Bible now makes much more sense then the two alternative endings. I’m confident that what we have is the original ending.

  9. Elena says

    Dear Professor — there is a HUGE difference betw “resuscitation” and “resurrection.” Jesus was resurrected, and so shall those who love and follow Him.

  10. GENE says

    Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, yes, that he has been raised up the third day according to the Scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”* Then Paul adds: “After that he appeared to upward of five hundred brothers at one time, the most of whom remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep in death. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles; but last of all he appeared also to me.”—1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

    Paul began with the confident statement that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected. What made Paul so sure of that? One reason was the testimony of many eyewitnesses. The resurrected Jesus appeared to individuals (including Paul himself), to small groups, and even to a crowd of 500, many of whom had no doubt been skeptical when they heard the news that Jesus had been resurrected! (Luke 24:1-11) Most of the eyewitnesses were still alive in Paul’s day and could be consulted to confirm those appearances. (1 Corinthians 15:6) One or two witnesses might be easy to dismiss, but not the testimony of 500 or more eyewitnesses.

    Notice, too, that Paul mentioned twice that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were “according to the Scriptures.” Those events confirmed that prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures about the Messiah had come true, thus proving that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.

  11. David says

    terry said: “It is worth considering why some early copies lack the final verses, but I think it’s going way too far to call them forgeries.”
    An interested point that wasn’t mentioned in this article is that the narrative of the common ending of Mark is disjointed. In Mark 16:1-2, Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome bring spices to the tomb on resurrection morning. They see the empty tomb with the young man who tells them Jesus is not there. Then they ran off and were afraid. So the short version ends.

    Then Mark 16:9 begins (the common, longer ending), but it doesn’t pick up where verse 8 ended. It jumps back in the story and tells us that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on resurrection morning and Jesus showed himself to her. Not only does it repeat what we thought we just read, but it now tells us that Jesus actually appeared to Mary Magdalene…whereas a few verse earlier, Jesus didn’t appear to any of them – they simply ran away after being told that he was risen.

  12. Ephrem says

    You are barking the wrong tree if you revisit the incarnate revelation, a.k.a., “one of the days of the Son of Man”, at the expense of looking at the immediately post-incarnate revelation of Christ, a.k.a., “the day the Son of Man is revealed”, according to the terms of the “new covenant”, and the teaching in the gospel which is sealed by Christ’s death on the cross. (Luke 17: 20-37)

  13. Patricia says The tomb was guarded. Most commentators and historians agree.

  14. Patricia says The tomb was guarded and sealed immediately. Mos historians agree.

  15. Theognostos says

    It is NOT a requirement that an agel appears with wings. In fact many times angels appear in the form of a man i.e a Human Being. Jesus Himself took the body of Adam and sanctified it by becoming the Son of Man. The tomb was guarded. Jesus was resurrected. It is a done deal.

  16. Michael says

    a) The presentation of the spurious edits to the earliest mss of Mark is well articulated and sound.
    b) However, statements like “strong textual evidence that the first generation of Jesus followers were perfectly fine with a Gospel account that recounted no appearances of Jesus.” represents a serious error in assumptive logic. Nothing presented here corroborates this claim except for additional subjective statements. The otherwise excellent points about textual issues are also clumsily cluttered with unnecessarily volatile and leading phraseology like “resuscitated corpse” and “revived corpse.” While the textual information is well-presented, there seems to almost be a desperation to somehow “prove” that the ancient claims of a resurrected Jesus are not worthy of consideration. There exist alternative explanations for the abrupt ending of the original account of Mark, but they are strangely omitted from this presentation.

  17. Scott says

    Samuel Eusebius McCorkle must be rolling over in his grave.

  18. SIMON says


  19. James says

    So here we are, after Easter 2016, and BAR is /still/ circulating Tabor’s half-truths? *Still* no acknowledgement of Irenaeus’ quotation of Mark 16:19? Still no mention of Tatian’s treatment of Mk. 16:9-20? Still no mention of the blank space after Mark 16:8 in Vaticanus? And still no mention of Sinaiticus’ cancel-sheet?

    And *still* no correction of the “they they” mistake. Or the reference to Mark 16:9-19.

  20. John says

    The initial thrust of this article is correct – the ending of Mark is a later addition to the original text. The notion that this invalidates the text of the other gospels re the sightings of Jesus is not, and the notion that the additional text is a ‘forgery’ is itself dishonest. The notion that this undermines Christianity as a whole is farcical; the Copts, the early Christian writers he cites and other eastern traditions have only ever acknowledged the original ending. The excitement Mr. Tabor allows himself is predicated on very specific western traditions. Then there is the text itself. Perhaps Mr. Tabor has not thought about the ending very carefully; it is a literary paradox. If Mary and her companions ‘said nothing’ how did they writer come to hear their account? It is an extraordinary literary effect for the era in which it is written. The ending does not seem strange because it contradicts our understanding of the Resurrection, but because it doesn’t work as a coherent sentence, never mind the ending of a story. If indeed that’s where the text ends, and they ‘said nothing’ because they were seized ‘by trembling and astonishment’ how did the text he does accept ever come to be written? It doesn’t. Mary and her chums go home, and nothing more is said about the matter. Thus it is a literary paradox – something that is unwritten has to follow the text to release the paradox and end the story. The 16: 6-8 ending is written in such a way as to require explanation, an oral, unwritten narrative. At the time Mark was written Christian faith was a death sentence in Judea and Rome; in the run up to the Jewish revolt James the Greater was butchered, Paul was deported to Rome, Peter was betrayed and what remained of the nascent Christian community driven out of Jerusalem or slain in the revolt itself. To the Jews the notion of Jesus’ divinity was blasphemy punishable by death; it is no surprise that the writer of Mark should spare himself and his reader a death sentence by ending his text with a question mark that requires oral explanation to complete its meaning. The ending that isn’t written isn’t going to get your throat cut. Mr. Tabor is habituated to printed and digital text; it is not surprising that he should be unaware that when information was inevitably hand written by individuals, to be read by closely connected peer groups, that an oral component would not seem untoward either to the writer or his audience. Mr. Tabor has not added anything new to this debate.

  21. Robert says

    W hat about the old Jewish law that says something like if you speak against the law or do something against the govt. you will have to be buried for 3 days & 3 nights without food & water as though you had died. Then when you come out you will be resurrected, forgiven & reborn a new person . This is exactly what happened to LAZARUS. Jesus was told he`d been in the burial cave 3 days & 3 nights, but Jesus figured he needed more punishment & left him in there one more day. But by then Lazarus was so weak Jesus had to help him come out….Robert R. Gore….March 28/2016 Monday

  22. Rupert says

    It is sort of strange how a few peasants could outwit the government officials of the time as well as the majority of clearly hostile public including even mothers who had preferred a criminal (Barrabas). I also wonder what could have fueled such obvious motivation in this small apparently defeated group. The accounts if they are all fabrications which could not be in all aspects of the story that clearly reveals some historicity, would have to be pure genius on the part of these peasants.

    Genuine aspects of the story are also the perceptions of these intimately involved persons. They were distraught about the outcome of events. How does this fit into the plot. So again what could have been their motivation to risk the same fate of their Master by “robbing a grave” and disposing of a body in an hostile public as well religious atmosphere (it was the Jews who largely instigated his death and incite the Roman authorities to secure the tomb).

    These questions I hope will set a more reasonable basis for this discussion. It appears the many hypotheses of modern scholarship are in many cases much more fantastic and problematic than their perceptions of the Gospel accounts. I also wonder why so called modern scholarship not only presumes intellectual superiority to earlier scholars, but also claim a propriety to the refuting this issue that they imagine contemporary parties or persons never had or were capable of.

    I am not saying there is not a legitimate place for doubt, this was also a issue in the group of disciples to the point, the term “doubting Thomas” is still a part part of verbal expression.

  23. Herb says

    Robert claims: What about the old Jewish law that says something like if you speak against the law or do something against the govt. you will have to be buried for 3 days & 3 nights without food & water as though you had died. Then when you come out you will be resurrected, forgiven & reborn a new person.

    where exactly did you find this? I strongly doubt any group said any such thing in antiquity. it makes no sense.

  24. Edward says

    The apostles were afraid and hiding. However, they became fearless even unto death NOT because they saw an empty tomb which after they seen the empty tomb still remain hiding. But because the saw Jesus stand before them. And turned the world up side down. To Dr. James Tabor, you relied on books the church DID NOT consider inspired. Athanasius never included them in the canons.

  25. Edward says

    To those who think Dr. James Tabor has grounds for his anti Christian views. Checks this article out. Don’t settle for a one sided argument. Thanks. This was taken from Does the Gospel of Peter belong in the New Testament?

    by Ryan Turner

    The canon of the New Testament was reserved only for those writings that were either written by an apostle or an associate of an apostle. Since the Gospel of Peter was written in the mid second century, it is not a candidate for inclusion in the New Testament. The numerous embellishments in the Gospel of Peter clearly indicate that it was composed in the second century and was not written by the apostle Peter. This second-century date of authorship is in conformity with modern New Testament scholarship’s appraisal of the Gospel of Peter. Therefore, the early church rightfully rejected this Gospel which was falsely attributed to Peter.

    Background Information about the Gospel of Peter

    What is the Gospel of Peter?

    Though incorrectly ascribed to the apostle Peter, the Gospel of Peter is comprised of 14 paragraphs (or 60 verses), written around 150 A.D., which describes the events surrounding the end of Jesus’ life including his trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.1 This Gospel is only partially preserved in one 8-9th century manuscript, beginning and ending in mid sentence (Harris, 245).2 The Gospel of Peter contains many similarities with the New Testament Gospels including the basic outline of the end of Jesus’ life with His trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, but it also contains a number of additions including, most notably, a description of the actual resurrection event with two giant angels, a super-sized Jesus, and a talking cross emerging from the empty tomb.

    When was the Gospel of Peter discovered?

    The Gospel of Peter was allegedly discovered in 1886-1887 during excavations in Akhmîm, upper Egypt. A ninth century manuscript was found in the coffin of a monk which is now known as the Akhmîm fragment. Interestingly, this fragment contains no name or title. However, since the manuscript had (1) alleged docetic3 overtones and was (2) found in the midst of other works attributed to the apostle Peter, such as the Apocalypse of Peter, scholars think that the Akhmîm fragment belonged to the Gospel of Peter.4

    Do any ancient writers talk about the Gospel of Peter?

    Prior to the discovery of the Akhmîm fragment in 1886-87, scholars knew very little about the Gospel of Peter. Their first main source was Eusebius of Caesarea (c. A.D. 260-340), the well-known early church historian, who noted that the Gospel of Peter was among the church’s rejected writings and had heretical roots.5 The second main source for the Gospel of Peter is a letter by Serapion, a bishop in Antioch (in office A.D. 199-211), titled “Concerning What is Known as the Gospel of Peter.”6 Bishop Serapion notes that the Gospel of Peter had docetic overtones and advised that church leaders not read it to their congregations. From Bishop Serapion’s statements we know that the Gospel of Peter was written sometime in the second century, but we are left with little knowledge of its actual contents from Serapion’s statements alone.7

    Is the Gospel of Peter a Gnostic Gospel?

    There is some debate among scholars regarding whether the Akhmîm fragment actually is a Gnostic document. There are two possible Gnostic examples in 4:10 [paragraph 4] and 5:19 [paragraph 5]. Paragraph 4 describes the crucifixion of Jesus and states, “But he held his peace, as though having no pain.” This may reflect the Gnostic view of Docetism which viewed Jesus as not possessing a phyiscal body. This would explain Jesus’ lack of pain on the cross. Furthermore, paragraph 5 describes Jesus’ death cry on the cross as, “My power, my power, thou hast forsaken me.” Some scholars see this as a reference to ” . . . . a docetic version of the cry of dereliction which results from the departure of the divine power from Jesus’ bodily shell.”8 However, some scholars dispute these references as referring to full-blown Gnosticism or Gnostic teachings at all.

    When was the Gospel of Peter written?

    Though this work was attributed to the apostle Peter (Par. 14), contemporary New Testament scholars rightfully note that the Gospel of Peter is a second century A.D. work. Most scholars would not date this Gospel before 130-150 A.D because of: (1) the numerous historical errors including a preponderance of legendary embellishments and lack of first century historical knowledge, and (2) the likely dependence which the Gospel of Peter has on the New Testament Gospels. For these reasons among many, most scholars today reject the Gospel of Peter as giving us as accurate of a portrait of Jesus as the standard New Testament Gospels and regard it as a late composition from the second century A.D.

    Historical Errors

    Error #1: The Guilt of Jews

    The confession of the Jewish authorities guilt (par. 7, 11) lacks historical credibility.9 The confession of the Jewish authorities makes more sense in a context after A.D. 70 where the Jews were blamed for the destruction of Jerusalem as a result of not accepting Jesus as the Messiah. Furthermore, the reference of the Jewish scribes and elders saying, “For it is better, say they, for us to be guilty of the greatest sin before God, and not to fall into the hands of the people of the Jews and to be stoned,” likewise reflects a period after A.D. 70 and is definitely not earlier than the Synoptic material.

    Error #2: The High Priest Spending the Night in the Cemetery

    Furthermore, the author of the Gospel of Peter (or Akhmîm fragment) possessed very little knowledge of Jewish customs. According to paragraphs 8 and 10, the Jewish elders and scribes actually camp out in the cemetery as part of the guard keeping watch over the tomb of Jesus. Craig Evans wisely notes, “Given Jewish views of corpse impurity, not to mention fear of cemeteries at night, the author of our fragment is unbelievably ignorant (Evans, Fabricating Jesus, 83).” Regarding the ruling priest spending the night in the cemetery, no ruling priest would actually do that. Due to these serious blunders, it is highly unlikely that this Gospel reflects earlier material than the New Testament gospels. Instead, the author is most likely far removed from the historical events surrounding Jesus’ death and burial.

    Error #3: Embellishment of the New Testament Resurrection Accounts

    There are a number of apparent embellishments in the Gospel of Peter, especially surrounding the guarding of the tomb and the resurrection. Regarding the guarding of the tomb, there are seven even seals over the tomb (8), and a great multitude from the surrounding area comes to see the sealing of the tomb. Though these are certainly historical possibilities, it appears to indicate that these are embellishments compared to the more simple accounts in the New Testament Gospels.

    The New Testament writers never describe exactly how the resurrection took place since presumably no one was there to witness it other than the guards. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the Gospel of Peter’s account is that it actually describes the resurrection of Jesus (9-10)!

    “9 And in the night in which the Lord’s day was drawing on, as the soldiers kept guard two by two in a watch, there was a great voice in the heaven; and they saw the heavens opened, and two men descend from thence with great light and approach the tomb. And that stone which was put at the door rolled of itself and made way in part; and the tomb was opened, and both the young men entered in. 10 When therefore those soldiers saw it, they awakened the centurion and the elders; for they too were hard by keeping guard. And as they declared what things they had seen, again they see three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them: and of the two the head reached unto the heaven, but the head of him who was lead by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, Thou hast preached to them that sleep. And a response was heard from the cross, Yea.”10

    This resurrection account does not retain anything of the historical soberness that is in the New Testament resurrection accounts. Instead, this description of the resurrection of Jesus has a large angel whose head “reached unto the heaven” and a giant Jesus whose head “overpassed the heavens!” Finally, the best example is the talking cross. The voice from heaven says, “Thou has preached to them that sleep.” The cross responds by saying, “Yea.” While it is possible that there was a giant Jesus whose head surpassed the heavens and a talking cross, it is more likely that this story is probably an embellishment of the simpler empty tomb and resurrection accounts in the New Testament Gospels. It is probably just another attempt like some other Gnostic Gospels to “fill in the gaps” in the events surrounding Jesus’ life.

    How anyone could think of this resurrection account as more primitive than the Gospels seems quite unreasonable. Evans wisely states, “ . . . . can it be seriously maintained that the Akhmîm fragment’s [Gospel of Peter’s] resurrection account, complete with a talking cross and angels whose heads reach heaven, constitutes the most primitive account?” (Evans, 84).

    Dependence on the New Testament Gospels

    It is difficult to prove exact literary dependence by the Gospel of Peter on the New Testament Gospel, however, there are at least a couple instances in Peter which are best explained by the author having familiarity with the canonical New Testament Gospels. The Gospel of Matthew is a prime example with its guard at the tomb of Jesus. The Gospel of Peter author likely took this account and embellished it by having Jewish leaders come and camp out at the tomb overnight. This may have served the apologetical purposes of the author of the Gospel of Peter which reflected conditions after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. Furthermore, the centurion’s confession (par. 11) appears to also reflect the Gospel of Matthew (Mt. 27:54, cf. Mk. 15:39, Lk. 23:47).

    Finally, the Gospel of Peter’s reference of the thief uses the same Greek words to reference the thief in paragraph 4 (4.10, 13), which likely reflects the Gospel of Luke (23:33, 39).

    Since the Gospel of Peter is likely a second century work due to the historical errors listed above, it is likely that the Gospel of Peter at least used similar traditions that are found in the New Testament Gospels–if not the Gospels themselves. This is a much more sober conclusion rather than basing our argument on source criticism alone, which is often bound with mere speculation of hypothetical sources and layers of editing and redaction. Anyhow, given the numerous embellishments and historical errors, it is likely that the author had some familiarity with the canonical Gospels and combined it with his own speculations. However, to what extent the author had knowledge of the New Testament Gospels, we may never know.


    Despite the claims of some, the Gospel of Peter does not belong in the New Testament due to its serious embellishments and likely dependence on the New Testament Gospels. For these reasons among many, most scholars today reject the Gospel of Peter as giving us as accurate of a portrait of Jesus as the standard New Testament Gospels and regard it as a late composition from the second century A.D.

    A Summary of the Evidence for a Second Century Date of the Gospel of Peter

    Historical Errors and Embellishments
    •Seven seals are used to seal the tomb of Jesus (Paragraph 8).
    •A crowd from Jerusalem comes to see the sealed tomb of Jesus (Par. 9).
    •The Jewish leaders camp out at the tomb of Jesus overnight.
    •The Jewish leaders fear the harm of the Jewish people (Par. 8). This does not descibe the historical situation of the Jews before the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70.
    •The Resurrection story actually describes how Jesus exited the tomb with two giant angels, a super-sized Jesus, and a talking cross.

    Late References
    •Transfer of responsibility of Jesus’ death away from Pilate to Herod and the Jews.
    •“The Lord’s Day” reference (Par. 9) indicates a later time period (cf. Rev. 1:10, Ignatius’s Epistle to the Magnesians 9:1).

    Possible Gnostic Overtones
    •Silence during the crucifixion “as if he felt no pain.” This could be consistent with a docetic view of Jesus which was common in Gnostic circles.
    •Crucifixion cry is “my Power!” “my Power!” which likely indicates a supernatural being departed from him.
    •Jesus’ death is described as being “taken up,” implying that he was rescued without dying. This would be consistent with some Gnostic views that thought since Jesus was not fully a man, he could not actually die on the cross.

    Possible New Testament Parallels
    •The centurion’s confession (Par. 11) appears to reflect the Gospel of Matthew (Mt. 27:54, cf. Mk. 15:39, Lk. 23:47).
    •The posting of the guard at the tomb appears to reflect the Gospel of Matthew.

    •Bock, Darrell L. The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth behind Alternative Christianities. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006.
    •Evans, Craig A. Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.
    •Evans, Craig A. “The Apocryphal Jesus: Assessing the Possibilities and Problems.” 147-172. In Craig A. Evans and Emanuel Tov, eds. Exploring the Origins of the Bible: Canon Formation in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.
    •Harris, Stephen L. The New Testament: A Student’s Introduction. Fourth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.
    •Head, P. M. “On the Christology of the Gospel of Peter,” Vigiliae Christianae 46 (1992), 209-224.
    •Strobel, Lee. The Case for the Real Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

  26. gary says

    Two of the biggest assumptions that many Christians make regarding the truth claims of Christianity is that, one, eyewitnesses wrote the four gospels. The problem is, however, that the majority of scholars today do not believe this is true. The second big assumption many Christians make is that it would have been impossible for whoever wrote these four books to have invented details in their books, especially in regards to the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection appearances, due to the fact that eyewitnesses to these events would have still been alive when the gospels were written and distributed.

    But consider this, dear Reader: Most scholars date the writing of the first gospel, Mark, as circa 70 AD. Who of the eyewitnesses to the death of Jesus and the alleged events after his death were still alive in 70 AD? That is four decades after Jesus’ death. During that time period, tens of thousands of people living in Palestine were killed in the Jewish-Roman wars of the mid and late 60’s, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem.

    How do we know that any eyewitness to the death of Jesus in circa 30 AD was still alive when the first gospel was written and distributed in circa 70 AD? How do we know that any eyewitness to the death of Jesus ever had the opportunity to read the Gospel of Mark and proof read it for accuracy?

    I challenge Christians to list the name of even ONE eyewitness to the death of Jesus who was still alive in 70 AD along with the evidence to support your claim.

    If you can’t list any names, dear Christian, how can you be sure that details such as the Empty Tomb, the detailed resurrection appearances, and the Ascension ever really occurred? How can you be sure that these details were not simply theological hyperbole…or…the exaggerations and embellishments of superstitious, first century, mostly uneducated people, who had retold these stories thousands of times, between thousands of people, from one language to another, from one country to another, over a period of many decades?

  27. Brad says

    The concept of supernatural was a far different one in an age before science… there would be no difference between resuscitation and resurrection back then. Nor were there autopsies. So, some fluid came out of a spear wound… that does not mean he was clinically dead. I believe God works miracles, perhaps even supernatural ones, but one does not need to surmise that in this case.

  28. Robert says

    Does anyone know what was the earliest church council to recognize the LE as part of Mark?

  29. John says

    There’s a very simple reason the original Mark didn’t tell of the appearances by Jesus.

    If it was written during the time of the 1st witnesses then it would be assumed knowledge already and covered by the writings of those witnesses. The Gospel for these people was the story of his missionary and death.

    It also makes sense that the 2nd witnesses would need to have it included because it’s not part of their story.

    You have to remember most writing is for the people at the time not for the people 2000 years in the future. Ultimately Religion is about faith.

  30. Clev says

    If one has true faith, what difference does it make about what is written? One either believes or not. This whole “back and forth” seems ridiculous. It has become a focus that removes one from the TRUE focus. Jesus either is resurrected or not. It is an individual belief.

  31. Daniel says

    1 Corinthian 15:6 states that the risen Jesus was seen by over 500 people most of whom were still alive at the time of the writing of 1 Corinthian accepted as AD 53-57

    Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.


    When James Tabor used the word Easter a number of times, I was turned off from any explanation he gave. As an “educated” man he should research the word Easter to find out when and where the word comes from and what it means. It has nothing to do with the Passover season and is Pagan in origin. And Christ was not resurrected on Sunday as some believe. He died on Passover and was buried before Sunset [Wednesday} and was resurrected three days and three nights later
    on Saturday before sunset When Mary came to the tomb on Sunday morning Christ was not there. [John 19: 31 helps to understand the time sequence]. Thursday was the preparation day for the first day of Unlveaven Bread. Friday was the first day of unleaven bread and Saturday was the resurrection day, not Sunday [ishtar, pronounced Easter].

  33. randomcat says

    Perhaps the ’empty tomb story’ was fairly new around the time Mark was written. And the gospel ended with “they said nothing” to help explain why this story wasn’t known by many, until later.
    e.g. Perhaps there were disagreements among early Christians about whether or not the resurrected Jesus had a physical body. This led to the promotion of an empty tomb narrative(s), to bolster the idea of a physical resurrection. (?)

1 2 3

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