Most people these days know that the ending of Mark in our Bibles is not how it originally ended. The earliest manuscripts of Mark end at 16:8. Mark ends with:
6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Which is a fairly abrupt ending. You can certainly understand why the original scribes were bewildered by it and attempted to “fill in the gap” with an ending they were more familiar with. With a bit of thought the ending of Mark actually makes sense, but that’s a post for another time. For now I want to talk about the ending few people have heard of, the Freer Logion.
There are a few separate endings of Mark. The “long ending” and the “short ending”. The short ending is:
But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself (appeared to them and) sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.
Personally I like the short ending. In some way it reminds us the story isn’t yet finished, the gospel was the start of the story and it has continued ever since. I like the way it feels like it’s leading on to the next era of the world, the era of the Church. The longer ending of Mark goes:
9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
12 After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.
14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
Which is of course the most common ending since it is the ending in the vast majority of manuscripts we have today. This ending, though we know it isn’t part of the original text today, has been declared part of scripture by the Church so it’s just as authoritative as the rest of the gospel. However there is one more ending that exists. It’s called the Freer Logion and exists only as part of the Codex Washingtonainus, discovered in the early 20th Century. The Freer Logion goes:
And they excused themselves, saying, “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 thy 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 delivered over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more in order to inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.
It’s a fascinating passage. It seems almost John-esque in it’s phrasing. The two women excuse themselves, explaining that because the world is under Satan it was difficult for them to accept the truth that Christ was indeed risen before their eyes. They then ask Christ to reveal his righteousness, presumably to end the age of Satan and begin the Kingdom of God. However Jesus replies that although Satan has been defeated there are worse things to come, but tells them the good news, that even for those who have sinned Jesus sacrificed himself so that we may all inherit eternal life in his Kingdom.
The freer logion is a little esoteric, it’s certainly not as straightforward as the short or long endings we’re used to. It seems almost deliberately cryptic, almost bordering on being gnostic in the way that it talks about the spirits not allowing people to understand the truth. Of course nothing can stop God from drawing people to Himself except those people themselves, Satan certainly tries his best to distract people but Satan can’t disallow the truth and power of God from permeating our world. It’s a simple fact that people are blind because they choose to be blind, not because God cannot overcome Satan.
The freer logion is definitely not canonical, but it provides an interesting look at the mindset of early Christians and how they saw the faith. If anything at least it has the end right. Jesus is the path, one which we can all take to avoid sin and inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness that is in heaven.