How do you explain the absences of the post-resurrection appearances in Mark?

Hello There Sam! I really appreciate the time you take to answer those questions. I have a question concerning Mark chapter 16 and the part beyond verse 8. I know that Mark is supposed to be the earliest of the 4 gospels and that it was the basis for writing the other 2; Matthew and Luke, because John had a separate source. But it being the closest, chronologically, to time of the incidents of the crucifixion and the resurrection, and lacking this important part about the post-resurrection appearances, makes you wonder. The earliest and most reliable maniscripts of Mark do not contain verses 9-20 and it’s not even included till the 4th Century. And also, the internal literary evidence doesn’t support the case for Mark being the author of those verses. So, yes, there’ s Paul’s 1 Chorinthians 15 account and it’s not a contradictory element for the truth of resurrection but still why would Mark leave out such important details of a story? I mean, if that’ s not the climax of his biography, then what is?!


Thank you so much for this question, Sarai! Its really interesting and I’d never thought to ask it before.

You’re right in all that you say about Mark being regarded as the earliest of the gospels and the second half of Mark 16 not being believed to have been part of his original gospel. I’m sure the very conspicuous absence of the resurrection appearances and the somewhat “flat” ending of the women in v.8 were what first led someone to append a “better” ending to the gospel.

Mark is the shortest of the four gospels, so that means there are so many things he has left out. His has nothing about the birth and childhood of Jesus. Given how significant Christmas is for us, that is also (along with the resurrection appearances) a huge section of Christ’s life and ministry to omit.

So Mark’s aim is clearly narrower than simply giving a full overview of Jesus’ whole life. His aims are more specific. At the start of the gospel he announces his conclusion: that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, and the Son of God. These two affirmations form the structure of his gospel, the first half climaxing with Peter’s exclamation that Jesus is the Christ in ch 8, and the Roman centurion’s exclamation that he was the Son of God in ch 15. With those two exclamations Mark has concluded the main business of his gospel; the account of the resurrection in the first part of ch 16 rounds it off by showing how, as the Christ and Son of God, Jesus has defeated death and will launch his church through the disciples.

Throughout his gospel Mark has shown the lowliness of Jesus and the depth of his sufferings. He has majored on the disciples’ slowness to understand who he was. It is a very unflattering account of the first believers (which actually proves its credibility as a historical source). So it is not tonally inconsistent to end with the women fleeing and astonished. We end on a note of human weakness and uncertainty, and yet this only underlines divine strength and faithfulness. That this final scene is how the Christian church began is really telling. Mark is thought to have been written to believers in Rome, likely facing some of the vicious rounds of Imperial persecution. So the gospel had already penetrated Rome of all places. And yet it had such improbably and unlikely beginnings. Which I am sure would have been a massive encouragement to those very powerless Christians in Rome, wondering what might be happening to the cause of Christ in their own day.

Either way, Mark seems content to leave some of these larger pieces of the Jesus story to others to tell. Perhaps he was somehow aware that his gospel would not be the only account.