Mark 16:16 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)


He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Misinterpretation: The UPC and some other groups often use this Scripture to say that a person must be baptized to be saved.

Facts: The purpose of this discussion is not to talk about whether or not baptism is necessary, but to point out that Mark 16:16 is almost certainly an apocryphal Scripture (meaning that it was probably not part of the original Book of Mark). As a matter of fact, all of verses 9-20 are apocryphal in the 16th chapter of Mark. Most modern English translations put Mark 16:9-20 in brackets to show the reader that those verses were probably not in the original text.

I will not go into all of the reasons that scholars think these 11 verses are apocryphal. Instead, I will point the reader to two very good overviews of the subject. This first is a collection of comments from various study Bibles and commentaries, found at the Bible Research Web site. This site also offers an article by a scholar who does feel that Mark 16:9-20 was part of the original text, so you can read both sides of the debate. The second is the Wikipedia article on Mark 16. Both of these sites are excellent starting points for you to do your own study into the subject.

Finally, I want to remind you once again that I am not debating baptism here, I am only pointing out that Mark 16:16 should not be used to try to prove the necessity of baptism. Please do not write me with all the reasons you think baptism is necessary! I believe that it is necessary as well (although I do think there are circumstances where a person can be saved without being baptized [cf. Luke 23:39-43]), so you will be wasting your time by e-mailing me!

8 thoughts on “Mark 16:16 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

  1. Brandon

    There is no scripture that states the thief on the cross was not baptized unto John’s baptism of repentance.

    We’re given very little info and no back story on the thief and we should not assume anything not in the scriptures.

    What’s terrible is the story of the thief on the cross has been manifested into the complete plan of salvation, when the point is not for how to be saved.

    It’s God’s forgiveness, His mercy and grace, and mankind’s choice (the thief chose Jesus and the other did not).

  2. Matt


    I thought the new Covenant didn’t start until the day of Pentecost, mirroring the time when the law (covenant) was received in the old testament. (this is sort of a statement and a question)

    Not sure where that would put the thief though.

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author


      Jesus’ death fulfilled the Law. If you think of it from that perspective then the thief was under grace, not the Law.

      Hope this answers your question!

      In Christ,

  3. William L. Vincent

    It is wise to be cautious of so-called critical biblical scholars and supposed pseudo passages. I feel that there is an underlined agenda to some of it – a lot of it – and the agenda is to discredit the authority of scripture. You can find a scholar somewhere that will discredit every single passage of scripture. Their major reason is that they do not view it as a revelation of divine truth. Allow me to repeat — we should be cautious.

  4. Josh Post author

    Hi, Leonard. I don’t normally respond to comments on this Web site for two reasons: First, I want to avoid starting a thread of debates; Second, my desire is that people would formulate their opinions. Because I desire people to formulate their own opinions I am delighted when people write comments on things that I have written, even when they are disagreeing with me :). I would like to think that I am humble enough to admit when I am wrong, so I welcome responses.

    With that said, I noticed today that you wrote three very good comments on three different articles. I am going to break with my own tradition and respond to them–not because I disagree with all or part of what you wrote, but because you took the courtesy to write three comments that were very well-thought, and I think that deserves the courtesy of a response!

    In reference to this post, I would like to point out that my comments were not about the necessity of baptism. My point was only that Mark 16:16 should not be used to try to prove the necessity of baptism.

    Your comments about the thief on the cross are informative and well-received; thank you for taking the time to write. I would like to point out that Jesus died before the thief did. When Jesus died the Veil in the Holy of Holies was torn. I think that you would probably agree with me that the tearing of the Veil signified the passing of the Old Covenant and the entrance of the New.

    If you do agree with me on that, then we would also have to agree that the thief died under the New Covenant, not under the Old.

    The views about the thief on the cross are many and varied, though, so I don’t want to get into it too much. I just want to reiterate two things: 1) the main point of this article was that Mark 16:16 should not be used to try to prove baptism; 2) the thief on the cross went to Heaven without being baptized, and he did it even though he died after the Old Covenant had passed and the New had been ushered in. The implications of the second point are far-reaching for the UPC. Here’s why:

    For someone who believes that belief in Chris is sufficient for salvation, then the thief on the cross poses no problem for them. On the other hand, a person who believes that a person has to be baptized in Jesus’ Name and speak in tongues to be saved, and they believe that is the *only* way a person can be saved, then the thief going to Heaven under the New Covenant, without being baptized at all or speaking in tongues, is a huge problem. Why? Because it means that God is willing to lay down a rule of salvation and then break that rule at His will. That would definitely seem to make God a “respecter of persons.”

    Thanks again for your comments, Leonard. I am going to block any future comments on this article about the thief on the cross because it is so far off subject. That goes for everyone, not just you. I just wanted to make sure both sides were presented. Perhaps in the future I’ll write an article about the thief on the cross and the problem that it poses for UPC soteriology, and then the comments about it will be fair game :)

    God bless, and thank you again for taking the time to write,

  5. Leonard Rafferty

    The thief on the cross was not baptized because the New Testament was not ushered in until after the death of Jesus,

    Heb 9:16
    For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

    Heb 9:17
    For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

    The thief was under the dispensation of the law.

    We can also understand why Elijah can be carried into heaven without baptism or receiving the Holy Ghost. He too was under the dispensation of the law.

    If we believe that before entering into the tabernacle, the washing of the priest at the golden lever was a type of baptism, then we can understand that God would not show a type in the Old Testament and then not fulfil it in the New Testament.

    When Moses struck the rock twice, he broke the type of calvary. He was only to stike it once, (one death on calvary) and the result was his not being allowed to enter into the promised land.

    I hope that you find this informative.

    Leonard Rafferty

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