Does Mark 7:16 belong in the Bible?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Textual critics question the authenticity of Mark 7:16, which reads: “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” Allegedly, this verse is not inspired of God. It is argued the verse is a copyist error, a duplication of either Mark 4:19 or Mark 4:23. The modern Greek New Testament on which modern English versions are based, eliminates the verse entirely. Modern English versions thus either bracket off the verse as doubtful, or totally omit it. Our King James Bible and its underlying Greek Textus Receptus contain the verse. Does it belong or not? Was “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear” in the original autograph of Mark?

Read Mark 7:14-23: “[14] And when he [Jesus] had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: [15] There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. [16] If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. [17] And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. [18] And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; [19] Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? [20] And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (cf. Matthew 15:10-20).

Jesus’ disciples want to know the meaning of this “parable” (verse 17). They assume He was speaking figuratively. Yet, as His response implies, they are mistaken in seeing this as a parable (metaphorical). He claims they are without comprehension (verse 18). That is, they should have taken Him literally. What made them conclude this was a parable? Why, verse 16, of course! “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” That expression hearkens back to the parables of Mark chapter 4 (verses 9 and 23; cf. Matthew 13:9,43; Luke 8:8). Jesus used the phrase in conjunction with parables, which is why the disciples concluded Mark 7:14-15 was a parable. In other words, if Mark 7:16 is removed, that means Jesus never said it here, and if He never said it here, there would be no reason for their bewilderment in verse 17.

Verse 17 assumes verse 16 belongs. Is Mark 7:14-15 a parable? No. Yet, if verse 16 is omitted, there is no reason for the disciples to ask whether or not it was (verse 17). Like parables, verses 14-15 were difficult to understand in the minds of those who believed not. Similarly, verse 16 troubles those who believe not—even now!

Also see:
» What is the “evil eye” of Mark 7:22?
» What is “lasciviousness?”
» Who were the “scribes?”