Of the three Greek manuscripts on which the Concordant Text is based - Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus - the first two named omit the last twelve verses of Mark. It is a question whether those verses are inspired. The answer is a matter of judgment. It is impossible to be absolutely certain about it. My judgment is, that internal evidences show the verses to be spurious, although other greatly beloved brethren do not think so. I respect their right to their judgment, and feel sure they will respect mine.
"Now rising in the morning of the first sabbath," in verse 9, sounds to me like an addition to the sacred word. "One of the Sabbaths" had already been written, (verse 2), and accords with Matthew (28:1), Luke (24:1) and John (20:1). It is my guess that the phrase, "the first sabbath," was written by someone who wished to make the impression that this was the "first Christian Sabbath." Remember, this is only my guess. I cannot know.
That one of the manuscripts that omit verses 9 to 20, leaves a blank space at the end of Mark, means nothing to me, except that the scribe was uncertain whether to include those verses, and left the space until he had considered this matter more care fully. It would seem that after careful consideration, he was convinced they should not be included. The other manuscript spaces out the last few lines to fill up the space allotted to Mark. This would seem to indicate that investigation had convinced the copyist those verses are spurious.
Verses 15 and 16 should be given careful consideration. "And He said to them, 'Going into all the world, proclaim the evangel to the entire creation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, yet he who disbelieves shall be condemned.'"
This resembles an attempt to make Christ say, in different words, the same thing He said in giving what is called the "the Great Commission," in Matt. 28:18-20. But the writer seems to have overlooked the fact that the Lord, in giving that commission, used language that restricted it to the kingdom eon. It is to be fulfilled when He has taken His power and is reigning, Un. 11:7.
The only evangel that had been committed to the Circumcision, was the evangel of the kingdom. Is it conceivable that our Lord wanted it proclaimed to the entire creation at that time?
The salvation promised - what was it? "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" from what? Shall be saved TO what? Salvation in the kingdom had been much stressed during the ministry of Christ. It was for believing Israelites. Does our Lord "take down the bars" and say that everyone of the whole creation who believes and is baptized shall be saved in the kingdom?
This resembles the work of one who had lost sight of the distinction between the evangel of the Circumcision and that of the Uncircumcision - one who thought all salvation means the same thing. And that person evidently wanted to make salvation dependent, in part, on baptism.
But he wrought awkwardly. The believer who is baptize shall be saved! The one who disbelieves shall be condemned! What about the person who and is not baptized? He can't be saved; baptism is necessary for that. He can't be condemned; that is for the one who does not believe! Talk about a man without a country! What would one say of the unbaptized believer? He has nowhere to go!
Has there ever been a period when all who believe could cast out demons, talk new languages, and pick up serpents without harm, and were immune to deadly poison? History records no such period.
And we are asked to believe eleven men proclaimed the evangel everywhere, in the period between the giving of the "commission," and the time Mark wrote his account!
That word, "everywhere," is used here with the same recklessness with which the Jews used it when they said, "For, indeed, concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is being contradicted everywhere," Acts 28:22 - that is, without strict regard for truth. On the other hand, when the word is used by inspiration, and should be restricted, as it should be in every case except one - Acts 17:30 - it is carefully guarded with words that show extreme regard for truth.
Cases in point are: Mark, 2:28, (tidings of Him came everywhere into the whole country of Galilee - not absolutely everywhere); Like 9:6, (they cured everywhere they preached - not everywhere without limit); and I Cor. 4:17, (Paul was teaching everywhere in every ecclesia - not everywhere on all the earth).
I do not think this "commission" should be identified with Paul's. The evangel of which he became a dispenser was in process of being proclaimed in the entire creation which is under heaven, Col. 1:23. It had not been proclaimed in the entire creation, at the time he wrote this passage. More over, unlike the evangel mentioned in Mark, 16:15, 16, it provided a specific expectation. It was "the expectation which is reserved for you in the heavens, which you hear before in the true expression of the evangel," Col. 1:5. No one can tell what to expect in regard to the passage in Mark. I believe the evangel of the kingdom, and, some years ago, I was baptized. Am I, therefore, to have a place in the kingdom on earth? I think I will be taken into the heavens, and that neither my belief of the kingdom evangel, nor my having been baptized, will have anything to do with it.
It is not easy for me to get my consent to write this editorial. I have spent some years letting my thoughts mature, for, more than a quarter of a century ago, I found that the passage under consideration is not in the best manuscripts. I have hesitated, lest I wound the feelings of those who think the passage is authentic. It is included in the Concordant text and the Version, but a note calls attention to its being omitted from two of the manuscripts.
The best of the three manuscripts omit other passages, which, by all means, should be restored. In Un. 7, two tribes are omitted in the enumeration of the 144,000. It is easy to understand how a copyist could make the mistake, for there are a dozen phrases exactly alike in less than a dozen verses. Likewise the same manuscript omits a few words in Un. 20. But, like the other case, two passages with identical words account for it. In the last twelve verses of Mark, this condition does not exist. There is every evidence that the verses were omitted deliberately and purposely. To restore them, introduces unreasonable statements, and, so far as I can see, adds nothing to the truth.
Therefore, in giving this editorial to the public, I ask for kind dealing on the part of those who may think me mistaken. As I have said, it is a matter of judgment, and I accord to others the same right I have exercised.
The word, "thus," meaning "in this manner," is usually ignored in translations. Yet it is very important. Nowhere it is more so than in Matt. 3:15. John thought it highly improper that Christ should be baptized, since, in this, He would be professing Himself to be a Sinner. For baptism was for sinners! But Christ told him that THUS - that is, in this manner, all righteousness is to be fulfilled. In what manner? The sinless One being made Sin. This was foreshadowed in His immersion in water, and fulfilled in his baptism into death, Luke 12:50; Rom.6:4. Not the baptism of our Lord in water, but His baptism into death, is what fulfills all righteousness. Oh, that saints could believe this, and cease from their own efforts!
The three accounts of Paul's conversion, given in Acts, are written from the standpoint of the Jew. The bearing of that event on the kingdom proclamation is stressed. The details are not for us. That which is "a pattern of those who are about to be believing on Him for eonian life," (I Tim. 1:16), is the fact that God showed transcendent grace to His enemy. None of us pass through the same experience Paul had, but we are saved in the manner he was - by grace.
The things that could be seen with the eye and heard with the ear, are written for Israel's sake. So far as Israel is concerned, Paul was saved as the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem are to be saved on the future, Zceh. 12:10; 13:1. He was saved by pure grace and this is all that is of special interest to us.
"And rising, he is baptized," says the Acts account, 9:`8. Ananias had told him baptism would bathe off his sins, Acts 22:16. That it did not do so, is quite evident from the writings of Paul, who, time after time, gives praise to God through Christ for salvation, and who declares baptism in not connected with his ministry.
I said in last month's editorial that Pentecost was a new beginning, and that baptism was stressed again. Three thousand were baptized that day; believing Samaritans were baptized later, Acts 8; a man from Ethiopia received the ritual, same chapter; Saul was baptized, 9; and Cornelius was baptized, 10. This last case deserves more extended study, which must be deferred until next month. Also we purpose to study the baptisms which took place at Philippi, Acts 16.
Those baptized at Pentecost were Jews; the Samaritans were kin to Jews; the man from Ethiopia was a proselyte to the Jewish worship, else he would not have gone to Jerusalem to worship. Cornelius was a proselyte by belief, but not by circumcision; hence, would not have been allowed to worship at Jerusalem. Those baptized at Philippi were not proselytes in any sense. The next study should be specially interesting.
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I am grateful to God for the information I receive from time to time, that ecclesias in different parts of the country use the Messenger as sermons. The paper is read to the congregations, and then studied. I pray God to help me, always to write the truth.
Since July, 21, and until Aug. 21, I have received favors by mail, from Dr. and Mrs. D. S. Clanton, Mrs. A. Benta, E. Wuinee, H. R. Lawrence, W. H. Moore, Else Koetitz, E. W. Wheelock, T. R., Worcester Study Class, Mrs. Evelyn T. Webb, Harold Sawers and the Los Angeles Ecclesia.