Depends on your translation, Mark 16:9-20 will have a statement such as “The earliest manuscripts and some ancient witnesses do not include these verses.” So should the last dozen verses of Mark be your bible?
Liberal theologians do not believe that they do believe and they claim (wrongly) that the earliest manuscripts do not have it. It was actually later copies that omitted it, not the early ones. It is also important to note that there is not autographs (original text) remaining in the world today.
While there is a clear change in the tone of the text from verse eight to verse nine, it does not mean the this was added later or that does not belong in the canonized scriptures.
The flow of the passage does seem to change but the message remains the same. For example, in verse six, they had an angelic visitor tell them that Jesus is alive and to tell the disciplines of the risen Savior. One of these women are quite likely Mary Magdalene. She also appears in the ninth verse as well.
There are many questions about these verses but only a few liberal leaning professors question their place in the modern scriptures today.
The historical changes of Mark 16:9-20
Justin Martyr seemed to know about the passage included in Mark as did his follower, Tatian. This is around 150 AD. It was included in his diatessaron (Harmony of the gospels)
It also is worth stating that Irenaeus that had a public ministry around the same time quoted it and often wrote as well as spoke about it. It is commonly believed that the passage was considered sacred text by the late first century.
Jerome of Stridon includes the verses in Vulgate. This would mean that in the late 300’s, these verses were part of what we understand to be the gospel of Mark today. It is important to point out that Jerome did not use the Vetus Latina concerning the writing of the gospel of Mark.
There is some question concerning the Sinaitic text that was copied in the middle of the fourth century simply has a lack of room for the ending that is interesting while the Vatican does have room but leaves a part of the scroll blank. It is likely that these passages were known about and believed by the early churches but they copy that they were copying did not have it included.
Eusebius, a church historian from the fourth century claimed the gospel of Mark ended in verse eight and had another ending saying, “Then they quickly reported all these instructions to those around Peter. After this, Jesus himself also sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen.”
The problem with the ending that Eusebius claims is that no copies of the text included this ending until the fifth century. It seems that he included it when no one else had before him. In all likelihood, this was not the ending of the gospel of Mark.
Was it about Eschatology?
There are some theologians that believe the the promise of appearing in verse seven is a prophetic declaration on the second coming. As a result, they put the rest of the passage out of the writings. It does not seem logical that there is any evidence that points to the verse leading to inquiry of eschatology.
The people who subscribe to this notion because Mark did not end the book because he looked to the day that Jesus would return with the Church as King of Kings. In their view, there was no need to tell the readers of the other encounters of the resurrected Jesus or discuss the Great Commission.
The problem with this application of hermeneutics is that is not faithful to the original text. In the original language, it is clear that Jesus would go ahead of the people and meet them in Galilee.
They expected to meet Jesus in his glorified body very soon, not some years later in what we know as the Second Coming. It is worth pointing out that the early church expected to see the Lord return before the Fall of the Holy City in 70AD. The deliverance from the Roman was a central theme in the thinking of believers in the first century.
However, there is no evidence that the people who followed Jesus thought of Mark 16 in the context of eschatology but saw the appearance of the Lord in the hear and now.
Who wrote the passage?
The bigger question is not if it is the divinely inspired Word of God but who is the author? There is evidence that could lead people to believe that Mark did not finish the book but someone wrote the passage that we know as verses 9-20 in the first century. This would not mean that it is not inspired or that is questionable. (The authorship of Hebrews is debated) No book in the NT ends in fear but hope. Mark 16:8 would end with fear and terror.
If Mark did not write the passage, who did? It would have had to be someone present for the ministry of Jesus. In all likelihood, one of the eleven left of the original followers of Jesus. In the end, this is a question that will not be answered on his side of eternity. The collusion of this is that it is possible that Mark did not write the final passage in the gospel bearing his name.
What about Ariston the Presbyter? There is a reference to him in the Armenian manuscript. The reason that this is questionable is he would not have been present at the time of the risen Lord. he comes into the picture in the late first century or early second century. Gregory the Great would later use them to say that while Mark did not write it, it is to accepted as truth.
This is not a question of importance in my view. If it is the inspired Word of God and was included in the Cannon, we need to accept that as truth from the Lord for today. It has been in our scriptures since the earliest days of the text. The power of the gospel is clearly in the questioned passage.
The Missional Challenge of Mark 16
It is commonly questioned by liberal thinkers because of the missional challenge. Some theologians throughout history have deemed Mark 16:17-18 as “magic miracles” or show off miracles” of an apocryphal nature.
For many, the question is not of the inspiration but their own rejection of the missional emphasis on the supernatural. Most who struggle to accept the verses in question hold to a view of “apostolic gifts” have ceased today. It has little to do with scholarly inquiry.
The deeper question is about the role of the supernatural manifestation in connection with the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They simply try to distance themselves from verse twenty. The notion that the confirmation of the message of redemption being signs and wonders does not fit within their reformed system of doctrine. That is the reason I believe some struggle with Mark 16:9-20.