Baptism in the ending of Mark’s gospel

waterThe text of the last chapter of Mark is controversial. There is much evidence that suggests that the ending found in the earliest English translations is not the same ending that was in the original Greek manuscript. Just what the ending was and where the additional material came from is not clear.

I think it unlikely that verses 9 through 20 of Mark 16 appeared in the original. I do believe, however, that they are very ancient. I don’t have a problem as accepting them within the body of inspired writings, even if Mark didn’t write them. I would not, however, seek to build an entire doctrine solely on the evidence of these verses.

Here are the verses that speak about baptism:

“And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15–16)

These verses bear some resemblance to the verses we looked at from the end of Matthew. And Luke has a similar “sending out” passage in the last chapter of his gospel:

“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46–47)

What do we see in Mark? That belief and baptism are necessary. And a lack of belief condemns. It’s not stated that a lack of baptism will condemn. Much has been made of that, despite most people knowing that the absence of something is hardly grounds for a logical argument. (unless, of course, you’re wanting to disprove a doctrine or practice you don’t like; then it’s okay)

Can you believe and not be baptized and be saved? To make an argument either way based on these verses would not be wise. It’s best to stick to what is said: if you believe and are baptized you will be saved.

So this post invites all sorts of comments: textual criticism, biblical canon, importance of baptism, salvation through belief alone. Let’s hear your thoughts!

4 thoughts on “Baptism in the ending of Mark’s gospel

  1. Wendy Cayless

    Of course you can. Baptism isn’t what saves you. To make a case that only those immersed in water as ‘adults’ are saved leads to all sorts of problems. What do you do with those baptised as infants (most of the church throughout history)? What is the cut off age for baptism being essential? What do you do with the intellectually disabled? How much faith does one need before you are baptised?

  2. Tim Archer Post author

    Wendy, beginning your comment with “Of course you can” leaves me to guess what you’re responding to. Could it be this sentence?

    Can you believe and not be baptized and be saved?

    If so, I’d encourage you to read it in context:

    Can you believe and not be baptized and be saved? To make an argument either way based on these verses would not be wise.

    Based on these verses, we can’t say either way.

    As for absolute possibility, I think we have to admit that God can save anyone he wants. Which leaves me agreeing with your “of course you can.” Of course.

  3. Bo Green

    This logical problem bothered the author of the Book of Morman so much that when he included it in his book, he changed it to read, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved, and he that does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.” It was this passage that gave me the final evidence that the author of the Book of Morman was not God, but merely a deluded man.

  4. Pingback: Baptism in the Kitchen | Simply Gospel

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