Problem: Mary Magdalene and friends "said nothing to anyone"
Verses: Mark 16:8, others; Status: Unsure

Mark, the earliest gospel author, records that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome came to the tomb where they met "a young man" who told them (Mark 16:5-7) that Jesus was risen and that they should tell the disciples. This is in rough agreement with the other gospels. However, this is Mark 16:8:

And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (ESV)

These are the last words of Mark about which we are certain. There is a general suspicion that verses 9-20 were later additions by someone else, and most modern Bibles put those verses in brackets to warn you of this.

So Mark 16:8 may have been the gospel's original ending, or the original ending may have been lost. In any case, the statement that the women "said nothing to anyone" is at odds with several other gospel passages. This is Luke 24:9:

and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. (ESV)

This rather suggests that they immediately did this upon their return from the tomb, in which case it contradicts Mark's statement. John 20 and Matthew 28 are less clear that they spoke to the disciples immediately, but nevertheless make it plain that they did speak at some point.

It's unfortunate that there's so much uncertainty about the ending of Mark. If we knew how Mark actually finished his gospel this issue would presumably be clearer. If 16:8 is the original ending then the problem is very difficult, but it's at least conceivable that his next verses, now lost, resolved everything...

Updated: 2010-04-13

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