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Ross' Remarks
DIFFERENT GROUNDS
OF DOUBT
IN ANCIENT & MODERN TIMES
by John W. Burgon, B.D., 1871

THE LAST TWELVE VERSES
OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO S. MARK

It will of course be asked, -- And yet, if all this be so, how does it happen
that both in very ancient, and also in very modern times, this proposal to
suppress twelve verses of the Gospel has enjoyed a certain amount of
popularity? At the two different periods, (I answer,) for widely different
reasons.

     (1.) In the ancient days, when it was the universal belief of
Christendom that the Word of God must needs be consistent with itself in
every part, and prove in every part (like its Divine Author) perfectly
“faithful and true,” the difficulty (which was deemed all but insuperable)
of bring certain statements in S. Mark’s last Twelve Verses into harmony
with certain statements of the other Evangelists, is discovered to have
troubled Divines exceedingly. “In fact,” (says Mr. Scrivener,) “it brought
suspicion upon these verses, and caused their omission in some copies
seen by Eusebius.” That the maiming process is indeed attributable to this
cause and came about in this particular way, I am unable to persuade
myself; but, if the desire to provide an escape from a serious critical
difficulty did not actually occasion that copies of S. Mark’s Gospel were
mutilated, it certainly was the reason why, in very early times, such
mutilated copies were viewed without displeasure by some, and appealed
to with complacency by others.

     (2.) But times are changed. We have recently been assured on high
authority that the Church has reversed her ancient convictions in this
respect: that now, “most sound theologians have no dread whatever of
acknowledging minute points of disagreement” (i.e. minute errors) “in the
fourfold narrative even of the life of the Redeemera.” There has arisen in
these last days a singular impatience of Dogmatic Truth, (especially
Dogma of an unpalatable kind,) which has even rendered popular the
pretext afforded by these same mutilated co0pies for the grave
resuscitation of doubts, never as it would seem seriously entertained by
any of the ancients; and which, at all events for 1300 years and upwards,
have deservedly sunk into oblivion.

Whilst I write, that “most divine explication of the chiefest articles of our
Christian belief,” the Athanasian Creedb, is made the object of incessant
assaultsc. But then it is remembered that statements quite as
“uncharitable” as any which this Creed contains are found in the 16th
verse of S. Mark’s concluding chapter; are in fact the words of Him
whose very Name is Love. The precious warning clause, I say, (miscalled
“damnatoryd,”) which an impertinent officiousness is for glassing with a
rubric and weakening with an apology, proceeded from Divine lips, -- at
least if these concluding verses be genuine. How shall this inconvenient
circumstance be more effectually dealt with than by accepting the
suggestion of the most recent editors, that S. Mark’s concluding verses
are an unauthorized addition to his Gospel? “If it be acknowledged that
the passage has a harsh sound,” (remarks Dean Stanley,) “unlike the
usual utterances of Him who came not to condemn but to save, the
discoveries of later times have shewn, almost beyond doubt, that it is not
a part of S. Mark’s Gospel, but an addition by another hand; of which the
weakness in the external evidence coincides with the internal evidence in
proving its later origine.”

Modern prejudice, then, -- added to a singularly exaggerated estimate of
the critical importance of the testimony of our two oldest Codices,
(another of the “discoveries of later times,” concerning which I shall have
more to say by-and-by,) – must explain why the opinion is even popular
that the last twelve verses of S. Mark are a spurious appendix to his
Gospel.

Not that Biblical “Critics would have us believe that the Evangelist left off
at verse 8, intending that the words, -- “neither said they anything to any
man, for they were afraid,” should be the conclusion of his Gospel. “No
one can imagine,” (writes Griesbach,) “that Mark cut short the thread of
his narrative at that placef.” It is on all hands eagerly admitted, that so
abrupt a termination must be held to mark an incomplete or else an
uncompleted work. How, then, in the original autograph of the Evangelist,
is it supposed that the narrative proceeded? This is what no one has even
ventured so much as to conjecture. It is assumed, however, that the
original termination of the Gospel, whatever it may have been, has
perished. We appeal, of course, to its actual termination: and, -- Of what
nature then, (we ask,) is the supposed necessity for regarding the last
twelve verses of S. Mark’s Gospel as a spurious substitute for what the
Evangelist originally wrote? What, in other words, has been the history of
these modern doubts; and by what steps have they established themselves
in books, and won the public ear?



a Abp. Tait’s Harmony of Revelation and the Sciences, (1864,) p. 21.

b See by all means Hooker, E.P., v.xlii.11-13.

c Abp. Tait is of opinion that it “should not retain its place in the public Service of the Church:” and Dean Stanley gives sixteen
reasons for the same opinion, -- the fifteenth of which is that “many excellent laymen, including King George III., have declined to
take part in the recitation.” (Final) Report of the Ritual Commission, 1870, p. viii. And p. xvii.

d In the words of a thoughtful friend, (Rev. C. P. Eden), -- “Condemnatory is just what these clauses are not. I understand myself, in
uttering these words, not to condemn a fellow creature, but to acknowledge a truth of Scripture, God’s judgment namely on the sin
of unbelief. The further question, -- In whom the sin of unbelief is found; that awful question I leave entirely in His hands who is the
alone Judge of hearts; who made us, and knows our infirmities, and whose tender mercies are over all His works.”

e “The Athanasian Creed,” by the Dean of Westminster (Contemporary Review, Aug., 1870, pp. 158,159).

f Commentarius Criticus, ii. 197.