Monday, October 15, 2018

Book Review: The Bible Illuminated

          When textual critics study a New Testament manuscript, their primary focus is the text that it contains.  Dr. Karen York, who served until January 2018 as the Director of the Curatorial Department of the Museum of the Bible, explores manuscripts with a different focus in the book The Bible Illuminated:  How Art Brought the Bible to an Illiterate World.  Dr. York briefly describes, in short chapters, the artwork found in 61 Biblical manuscripts, and readers are given full-color examples of the artwork found in each one – often in the form of full-page illustrations.  Len Woods also contributed to the book. 
            Novice manuscript-admirers will likely find their vocabularies expanded by the rare terms that are encountered from the outset; before the end of the first three chapters (on the Rossano Gospels, the Vienna Genesis, and the Book of Durrow), readers will encounter words such as folio, scriptio continua, evangelistary, insular, colophon, canon table, and sacristy.  Fortunately most of these terms are accompanied by their definitions, making this book a rather helpful introduction to the jargon of manuscript-studies; by the time attentive readers reach the end of the book, they will be familiar with medieval book-production.      
          Fewer than half of the manuscripts featured in The Bible Illuminated are of much interest for text-critical purposes – most are Latin, a few are Hebrew, and over a dozen are Latin devotional books – but for the story of medieval art, every one is interesting.  The Book of Kells is featured, of course, along with the Harley Golden Gospels, the Theodore Psalter (one of the few Greek volumes described in the book), and volumes such as the Winchester Bible and the Luttrell Psalter.  (Alas, the Bury Bible is not featured.)
          Readers are likely to not only gain an appreciation of the use of art in medieval Bibles (and related books) but also gain some fascinating details about specific manuscripts, such as information about the cover of Codex Aureus of Echternach, or the story about how the Sarajevo Haggadah survived World War II, or the historical background of the Psalter of Queen Melisende.
          One could perhaps wish for a greater geographical variety of sample-books; it would have been nice to see a page from the Ethiopic Garima Gospels, and a few examples of Armenian ornamentation and illustration, and at least one example of art in a manuscript from Egypt.  This shortcoming, however, by no means diminishes this book’s value as an illuminating review of primarily European art in primarily European manuscripts.      
          The Bible Illuminated:  How Art Brought the Bible to an Illiterate World is published by Worthy Books, in association with the Museum of the Bible.  It is available online at Amazon for about $8.00, and I was able to find it (as of early October 2018) for about the same price at a local Ollie’s store.  The lavish pictures alone are well worth the price; this book is an art gallery you can hold in your hands.

Post-script:  Worthy Books also sells bookmarks that feature art from a few of the volumes featured in The Bible Illuminated, including 
the Rice Psalter and the Hours & Psalter of Elizabeth de Bohun.  I imagine that they would complement the book attractively on a coffee table.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mark 16:9-20: A Quiz for Grace To You

          Some friends have suggested that my previous post was too accusatory.  I disagree, since I was raising the point that if someone were to continue to spread falsehoods knowing that they are false, then such a person would be a liar.  This should be obvious to everyone.  Nevertheless, since not everyone sees things from the same perspective, it seems fitting to recast my points, via this simple quiz.  
            If you know anyone associated with John MacArthur, or Grace To You, or The Master’s Seminary, or The Master’s University, or Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, please share this quiz with them.  For as far as I can tell, everyone supervising those ministries and schools is unaware that they are responsible for the spread of a lot of false statements about Mark 16:9-20.

1.  T or F:  New Testament copyists wrote one letter, and then took a bath, and then wrote another letter, and took a bath, and so forth.

2.  T or F:  All manuscripts of the New Testament survived after the Council of Nicea in 325.

3.  T or F:  The earliest copies of Biblical texts are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.

4.  T or F:  Codex Vaticanus contains both the Old Testament and the New Testament, as we (evangelicals) know them.

5.  T or F:  We have 8,000 Latin manuscripts going back to the fourth century.

6.  T or F:  There are 350 Syriac copies that go back to the 200s.

7.  T or F:  When you compare all the Greek, Latin, and Syriac manuscripts, they're all saying exactly the same thing.

8.  T or F:  It is possible to reconstruct the entire New Testament from 32,000 Scripture-quotations made by patristic writers.

9.  T or F:   A reconstruction of the New Testament based on patristic quotations will match perfectly all other manuscript sources.

10.  T or F:  Over 19,000 quotations from the Gospels in patristic writings read the Gospel text the very same way you read them in your Bible today.

11.  T or F:  The original text of the New Testament was preserved and protected as it was passed down. (Remember, this is in the context of a talk about Mark 16:9-20, which is supported by every Greek manuscript of Mark 16 made after the 300s except one, minuscule 304, a commentary-manuscript.)

12.  T or F:  We have so many accurate, consistent manuscripts that we know without hesitation that the ESV is an English translation of the original with no loss.

13.  T or F:  There are no manuscripts of Homer
s Iliad from between the thirteenth century A.D. and the eighth century B.C.

14.  T or F:  Irenaeus was aware of more than one way in which the Gospel of Mark ended.

15.  T or F:  Justin Martyr and Tatian were aware of more than one way in which the Gospel of Mark ended.

16.  T or F:  Several endings to the Gospel of Mark were composed to help Mark a little bit with his abrupt ending.

           Anyone familiar with the relevant evidence about Mark 16:9-20 should perceive that the correct answer to every question in the quiz is “False.”  But if you believe a video that Grace To You is circulating online, you would conclude that the correct answer to every one of these questions is “True.”  John MacArthur promoted every one of those claims in that video.  I call upon Grace To You to stop spreading those false claims, and I hope that others will join me in the effort.  This is not about making judgments about personal integrity; it is about stopping the spread of false claims.  There is no need to remind preachers such as John MacArthur and distinguished ministries such as Grace To You that it is wrong to spread false claims; what is needed is for their friends to explain to them that that is what they have been doing.

            Post-script:  I will gladly send a free copy of my book Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20 to any staff-member of Grace To You, any faculty-member of The Masters Seminary, and any member of Grace Community Church who contacts me and requests one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Mark 16:9-20: Is John MacArthur a Liar?

John MacArthur
            Grace To You, a California-based ministry, is still spreading the false statements about Mark 16:9-20 that are found in John MacArthur’s infamous sermon, The Fitting End to Mark’s Gospel.  Here are some of them.           

● MacArthur conveyed that copyists of New Testament books wrote one letter, and then took a bath, and then wrote another letter, and took a bath, and so forth.  This is false.  When Grace To You spreads this sort of nonsensical fable, they insult viewers’ intelligence.

● MacArthur said that all manuscripts of the New Testament survived after the Council of Nicea in 325 because no one was banning them or destroying them.  This is false.  The natural effects of humidity destroyed many papyrus manuscripts.  There were still areas where Christianity was opposed.  And there are many cases in which Christians themselves destroyed ancient manuscripts by recycling their parchment to use as material with which to make new books.             

● MacArthur stated that the earliest copies of Biblical texts are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.  This is false, inasmuch as the Dead Sea Scrolls are older than those two manuscripts, and so are some New Testament papyrus manuscripts (P52, P104, P45, et al).

● MacArthur said that Codex Vaticanus contains both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It should be clarified however that Codex Vaticanus does not contain the books of First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Revelation; in addition, the Old Testament text in Codex Vaticanus is a Greek text, primarily a form of the Septuagint, which includes apocryphal books  (Tobit, Bel and the Dragon, etc.) and which varies in many other respects from the Hebrew-based English translations that MacArthur uses and endorses.

● MacArthur, referring to Latin manuscripts, conveyed that there are “eight thousand copies going back to the fourth century” but what ought to be said is that the Vulgate was translated in the fourth century, and our extant copies of the Vulgate were produced later.  There were later revisions of the Vulgate, such as the revision undertaken by Charlemagne’s scholar-advisor Alcuin.  It is not as if all existing copies of the Vulgate read the same as the Vulgate as it existed at the end of the fourth century.

● MacArthur stated, referring to Syriac manuscripts, “There are 350 copies that go back to the 200s, very ancient manuscripts.”  In real life, the number of Syriac manuscripts with text from the New Testament that were made in the 200s is zero.  There are two major Syriac manuscripts that represent an early Syriac text of the Gospels (not the whole New Testament).  The 350 Syriac manuscripts to which MacArthur refers are copies of the Peshitta, a translation which scholars such as Syriac-specialist Sebastian Brock do not consider earlier than the late 300s in terms of its creation.  In terms of the production-dates of manuscripts of the Peshitta, its representative manuscripts are all significantly later than the 200s.   

● MacArthur, after describing Greek, Latin, and Syriac manuscripts, said, “When you compare all of these manuscripts, they’re all saying exactly the same thing.”  That is outrageously false – so false than it must be concluded, if one assumes that MacArthur had no desire to deceive, that MacArthur does not know very much at all about the contents of ancient manuscripts of the New Testament.  It boggles the mind that MacArthur was capable of saying such a thing in the course of a sermon in which he rejected Mark 16:9-20, because in those thousands of copies of the Vulgate, and in those dozens of copies of the Peshitta, Mark 16:9-20 is in the text.  MacArthur makes it seem as if the opposite is the case.  Grace To You spreads this severe misrepresentation of the evidence every day they keep MacArthur’s sermon online.      

● MacArthur claimed that using 32,000 Scripture-quotations made by patristic writers, it is not only possible to reconstruct the entire New Testament, but that “it matches perfectly all other manuscript sources.”  This too is absurd.  Dozens of patristic writers, in the era of the Roman Empire, quoted from Mark 16:9-20 and used the passage as Scripture; this alone proves that what can be reconstructed from patristic quotations does not match perfectly with “all other manuscript sources.”  A brief investigation of practically any major patristic writers – Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Basil of Jerusalem, Chrysostom – will show that their quotations do not match perfectly with each other, let alone with “all other manuscript sources.”  MacArthur’s claim about this is preposterous, and the staff of Grace To You should be ashamed to participate in the circulation of such nonsense. 

● MacArthur claimed that over 19 thousand quotations from the Gospels in patristic writings “read the Gospel text the very same way you read them in your Bible today.”  This is not just one absurdity, but a stack of absurdities, a tower of absurdities.  It is a statement which can only be made by an honest man if he has vigilantly avoided studying the materials about which he is speaking.  Anyone who picks up an ordinary UBS Greek New Testament and reads its textual apparatus with a modicum of understanding will see that there are hundreds of textual contests in which some patristic writers favor one reading, and other patristic writers favor a rival reading.  Grace to You should not expect to be trusted while it spreads claims that are refuted by a basic familiarity with the evidence.    
● MacArthur conveyed that the original text of the New Testament was “preserved and protected as it was passed down.”  Without testing this claim, I merely wish to raise a point:  considering that out of 1,670 Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark, only three end the text at 16:8, how can MacArthur say one minute that the original text has been preserved and protected as the text was passed down, and then say the next minute that 99.8% of the Greek manuscripts of Mark contain a “bad ending” that shouldn’t be there? 

● MacArthur explicitly appeals to the number of manuscripts as evidence of the preservation of the original text:  “we have so many accurate, consistent manuscripts that we know without hesitation that what we hold in our hands is an English translation of the original with no loss.”  By “many,” he cannot mean three.  But if he were to consult 99.8% of the Greek manuscripts of Mark (plus lectionaries, in which Mark 16:9-20 is routinely found), he would find the passage that he rejects!  The moment one posits that the text of the vast majority of manuscripts is the text that should be accepted without hesitation, one surrenders any objection against Mark 16:9-20.

● MacArthur claimed that the oldest manuscript we have of Homer’s Iliad is from the thirteenth century A.D.:  “We don’t have anything between the thirteenth century and the eighth century B.C. of Homer’s Iliad.”  That is false,  Over two dozen fragments of the Iliad exist which were produced before the thirteenth century A.D.  Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 560, from the 200’s, is just one example.

● MacArthur claimed that Irenaeus, a prominent Christian writer in the 100s, was aware of “other endings starting to float around.”  This too is false.  In real life, Irenaeus – writing well over a century before Codex Vaticanus was made – clearly quoted Mark 16:19, stating that he was quoting from near the end of Mark’s Gospel-account.  This shows that as far as Irenaeus’ manuscripts of Mark were concerned (and Irenaeus had been in Asia Minor, and southern Gaul, and Rome), the Gospel of Mark ended with verses 9-20.  Contrary to MacArthur’s claim, the only way in which the Gospel of Mark ended, as far as we can tell from Irenaeus’ testimony, is with verses 9-20 included.  Irenaeus does not express an awareness of the existence of manuscripts of Mark that end at the end of verse 8.  Irenaeus does not indicate in any way that he is aware of manuscripts of Mark that end with the “Shorter Ending.”  MacArthur’s statement about Irenaeus is 100% fictitious and 100% misleading. 

● MacArthur claims that two other second-century writers – Justin Martyr and Tatian – also “show knowledge of other endings.”  This too is false.  The only ending of Mark attested in any way by Justin Martyr and Tatian is the ending that consists of verses 9-20.   
● MacArthur claims that several endings were composed by people who tried “to help Mark a little bit with his abrupt ending.”  However this too is false; exactly one alternative ending, the Shorter Ending, was created in Egypt, where the text had formerly circulated with no words after the end of verse 8.  Except for the Shorter Ending – which stands alone after (most of) Mark 16:8 in exactly one Latin manuscript, and which appears along with verses 9-20 (or at least verse 9; incidental damage having affected the rest) in six Greek manuscripts (sometimes in the margin, sometimes with notes – see my book for details) – there are no endings of Mark after 16:8 that do not involve the presence of verses 9-20.  When Grace To You spreads the claim that “several endings” were floating around, as if referring to several independent compositions, Grace To You misleads people.
            And where are the faculty members of The Masters Seminary on this subject?  Where are the staff-members of Grace To You?  Or the officers of Grace Community Church?  These trusted men are entirely silent as far as I can tell – either too scared, too apathetic, too distracted, or too misinformed to adequately address the wild inaccuracies that are being spread daily by their school’s founder.      

            Grace To You, you have one proper course of action:  take down the video in which John MacArthur makes these false claims.  This is not about debatable points of theology; this is not even about whether or not Mark 16:9-20 belongs in the text.  It is about whether Grace To You’s leadership and staff want to spread false statements, or not.    
            Any teacher who aspires to inform listeners, rather than misinform them, would be happy to improve his work by removing false claims.  If Dr. MacArthur and Grace To You do not stop spreading these claims, having been informed that the claims are false, the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn is that these men continue to spread false claims because they have decided to do so.  When I ask if John MacArthur is a liar, I do not mean for this to be construed as an accusation but rather as an invitation:  please show me, Dr. MacArthur and Grace To You, that you do not want to continue to spread false claims.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Mark 2:17 - Calling Sinners

            At the end of Mark 2:17, there is a textual variant that has an impact on translation.  Strangely, there is no indication in the textual apparatus of the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece that this contest exists.  Nor is it mentioned in the UBS Greek New Testament.  The Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament does not alert readers to its existence either.
            That is unfortunate, because this variant-unit is a good example of why the relative diversity of manuscript-support is more important than the relative quantity of manuscript-support.  Suppose we were to encounter a tree upon which some oranges, some lemons, and one kumquat were growing, and we were to ask, “Was this originally a lemon tree, or an orange tree?”  Can we find the answer by finding out whether the tree has more lemons, or more oranges? 
What is the original tree?
            Suppose we count the fruit, and learn that there are 20 oranges, and 200 lemons.  Clearly the dominant fruit on the tree, when we encounter it, is lemons.  But suppose we examine the tree in more detail and notice that those 200 lemons are on a single branch of the tree.  All of the other branches, though not nearly as productive, bear oranges (except for that one with a kumquat).  Would you conclude that the tree, at its base, is an orange tree that has had a branch from an orange tree grafted onto it, or that it is a lemon tree that has had several branches from an orange tree grafted onto it?  
            That situation is similar to the situation that we encounter in Mark 2:17.  Most Greek manuscripts include two words – εἰς μετάνοιαν, “to repentance” – at the end of Mark 2:17.  With these two words included, Mark’s record of Jesus’ words resembles the record in the parallel-passage in Luke 5:32 a little more closely.  Without them, the meaning of the passage is not lost, inasmuch as Mark had already reported (in 1:15) that Jesus was calling people to repentance – but the form of the text is obviously affected.   
            Although the vast majority of Greek manuscripts (including Codex C and Codex F and Codex M and Codex S and Codex Ω) reads εἰς μετάνοιαν, the manuscripts that do not have these two words in Mark 2:17 represent diverse branches of the text’s transmission.  The flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian text, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, do not have these words.  Neither does the fourth-century fragment Papyrus 88.  Codex L, another Alexandrian witness, does not have these words either.  The Bohairic version as compiled by Horner also does not have “to repentance” in Mark 2:17; Horner mentions however an Arabic gloss in one of his MSS (Copt. Arab. Rome Vat. 9, from A.D. 1205, with a colophon written at a church in Cairo in 1270) that mentions that “to repentance” is in the Greek text. 
            But it is not as if the Alexandrian Text is singing a solo.  Codex Bezae, the primary Greek witness to the Western Text, does not contain εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17.  Codex W also does not have εἰς μετάνοιαν  here.  A few Old Latin manuscripts have the Latin equivalent of the words, but this is probably the effect of independent harmonizations to the parallel-passage in Luke; there are more Old Latin witnesses that do not mention repentance here.  The Vulgate doesn’t have these words here either. 
Mark 2:17 in Codex K, a Byzantine
uncial, ends without "to repentance."
Several uncial manuscripts that are considered among the earliest and/or most important witnesses to the Byzantine Text do not support the inclusion of εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17; these include Codex Alexandrinus, Codex K, Codex Π, and Codex Υ.  The Peshitta (a Syriac version, prepared no later than the late 300s) likewise does not support “to repentance” at this point.  Neither does the Gothic version (translated in the 300s) as preserved in Codex Argenteus.  In addition, although εἰς μετάνοιαν has enormous support among the minuscules, a small assortment of minuscules such as GA 34, 157, 1273 (the George Grey Gospels, housed in New Zealand), 478, and 700 do not include εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17. 
            The main representatives of the Caesarean Text also do not include εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17:  Codex Θ, the family-1 cluster of manuscripts, and the Armenian version support the shorter reading in this case.   
            J. J. Griesbach, in his 1798 critical commentary on the Gospels, noted that there is a “telos” symbol in many manuscripts immediately following Mark 2:17, indicating that a lection ended here (specifically, the lection for the third Saturday in Lent).  This suggests that the inclusion of the words εἰς μετάνοιαν, drawn from Luke 5:32, may have begun as a flourish with which to end two lections – one consisting of an extract from Mark; the other consisting of an extract from Matthew. 
            The text of Mark 2:17 should not be considered in isolation; its transmission-history is linked to the transmission-history of Matthew 9:13, where εἰς μετάνοιαν similarly appears in the Byzantine Text (and where, as is the case with Mark 2:17, the verse is at the very end of a lection – in this case the lection for the fifth Saturday after Pentecost).  In Matthew 9:13 the words εἰς μετάνοιαν do not appear in a widespread array of early witnesses such as À B D N W, the Peshitta, and the Gothic version. (Although support for εἰς μετάνοιαν in Matthew 9:13 is found not only in the Byzantine Text but also in the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript and an early Middle Egyptian manuscript, the UBS Greek New Testament’s textual apparatus completely ignores the reading there, just as it ignores the existence of the majority-reading at the end of Mark 2:17.)        
            The inclusion of the words is benign; it yields closer harmony among parallel accounts, and it augments the original meaning of the text.  These three traits elicited the adoption of the words in the Byzantine Text (and in a few other places where independent scribes made harmonizations), albeit not so early in the Byzantine Text’s history as to affect all of its major witnesses.  The absence of the words in such diverse manuscripts cannot be explained easily if these words were originally part of the text of Mark 2:17; meanwhile their adoption by scribes familiar with the parallel-passage in Luke 5:32 can be accounted for as a harmonization.  Thus, it should be concluded that the words εἰς μετάνοιαν were not part of the original text of Mark 2:17.       
            As a closing note, I think it should be stressed that the neglect of this variant in the Nestle-Aland and UBS textual apparatuses (and the apparatus of the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament as well) is a shortcoming that ought to be rectified.  Practically all Greek Gospels-manuscripts that do not read εἰς μετάνοιαν in Mark 2:17 are manuscripts of special importance. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Mark 2:16 - Eating and Drinking with Sinners

            In Mark 2:16, there are several interesting textual contests.  Today I will focus on three of them.  First, did Mark refer to “the scribes of the Pharisees,” or to “the scribes and the Pharisees”?  Second, is the original word-order, in Mark’s description of those with Jesus, “tax collectors and sinners” or “sinners and tax collectors”?  Third, at the end of the verse, do the religious leaders object that Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners, or that Jesus is eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?   
            The differences are conveyed by the bold print in the quotations shown here from the English Standard Version and the New King James Version:

ESV:   And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

NKJV:  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to his disciples, “Why is it that he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

Let’s address each variant-unit separately.

The scribes and the Pharisees, or the scribes of the Pharisees? 

            Almost all English translations that are based on the Nestle-Aland compilation agree with the meaning of the ESV. (The NET is a surprising exception; it refers to “the experts in the law and the Pharisees.”)  Meanwhile, the KJV, NKJV, and MEV agree with the Byzantine base-text, found in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts of Mark.
            The attestation for οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρισαίων is sparse:  Among uncial manuscripts, only Codex W has exactly this reading, although Codex B differs by only one letter (reading οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρεισαίων).  In the damaged fragment 0130, from the 800s, the words τῶν Φαρισαίων have survived, according to Tischendorf’s transcription.  In addition, although À and L lack the οἱ before γραμματεῖς, they support τῶν instead of καὶ οἱ.  The Nestle-Aland apparatus also lists Papyrus 88vid (assigned to the 300s) as a witness in favor of τῶν.          
            Internal evidence strongly favors the reading τῶν (yielding “the scribes of the Pharisees”)rather than καὶ οἱ (“the scribes and the Pharisees”).  The reading οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαίων (“the scribes and the Pharisees”) was more familiar to copyists, due in part to the repeated mention of scribes and Pharisees together in Jesus’ denunciation of both groups in Matthew 23.  (The phrase also appears in Luke 5:21, 6:7, and 11:53, and in John 8:3 (in the most widely-circulated form of the verse).)
            A conformation to οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαίων would be natural, and is the sort of scribal alteration that could occur even unconsciously; the reading οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρισαίων, on the other hand, is unusual, and there does not seem to be anything intrinsic in οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαίων that would provoke a change to οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρισαίων. 
            Another consideration is that in the parallel in Luke 5:30, the Byzantine Text reads οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ Φαρισαίων (“their scribes and the Pharisees”), where the Alexandrian Text reads οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν (“the Pharisees and their scribes”).  Here, again, nothing in the Byzantine Text seems puzzling or likely to provoke copyists to change anything, whereas the Alexandrian reading appears to refer to the religious group that is mentioned in Acts 23:9, where Luke refers to “the scribes of the Pharisees’ party.”  Codex Sinaiticus, in Luke 5:30, deviates from most other Alexandrian witnesses by referring to “the Pharisees and the scribes” (without “their”), exemplifying a scribal tendency to keep the two groups (the scribes, and the Pharisees) distinct. 
            All things considered, despite the huge numerical advantage of “the scribes and the Pharisees,” the internal evidence compels the adoption of “the scribes of the Pharisees.”    
“Sinners and tax collectors” or “Tax collectors and sinners”?

In Codex W, the text of Mark 2:16 was shortened
to relieve a perceived redundancy.
            Practically all major manuscripts (except Codex D) agree in the second half of Mark 2:16 that Mark wrote “tax collectors” and then “and sinners.”  Earlier in the verse, though, Codices B, D, L, Θ, and minuscules 33 and 565 refer to “the sinners and tax collectors” where À, A, C, and most manuscripts refer to “the tax collectors and sinners.”  The evidence is a bit more uniform in English than it is in Greek:  Papyrus 88, the corrected text of Codex B, the text of Codex D, the text of Θ, and minuscule 33 read (after μετὰ) τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ τῶν τελωνῶν.  (But Codex B as initially written did not have τῶν before τελωνῶν, and Codex D adds another καὶ after τελωνῶν.)        
            What happened here?  Either copyists made the word-order in the first part of the verse resemble the word-order in the second part, or else copyists made the word-order different  or both.  The text of Codex D reflects the former – but its word-order is in a category all its own: both parts have the word-order “the sinners and the tax collectors.”  Meanwhile, some Alexandrian copyists considered the repetition of the same word-order to be redundant.  (The scribe responsible for the text of W must have considered it very redundant, for he removed the first phrase entirely.)  For that reason, they transposed the first reference – and in the process they not only transferred τελωνῶν to follow τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν but also transferred (and repeated) τῶν.  This double-occurrence of τῶν is a vestige of scribal editing.  Codex B’s corrector even went a little further, adding τῶν before ἁμαρτωλῶν in the second occurrence as well.)  The original word-order is thus μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (“with the tax collectors and sinners”) in both parts of the verse.           

“He eats” or “He eats and drinks”?

If rival variants could be compared to racehorses, there is a race at the end of Mark 2:16 in which a dozen horses are competing.  Scribes copying the text of Mark here recollected the parallel-passages in Matthew 9:11 and Luke 5:30.  In Matthew, there is no mention of Jesus drinking; Luke mentions both eating and drinking – but both parallel-passages have their own unique aspects as well.  As a result, this passage has been corrupted in different ways; here are a few examples:

Codex À harmonizes Mark 2:16 to Matthew 9:11, forming the question, “Why with tax collectors and sinners does your teacher eat?”. 

Codex C and 579 also harmonize Mark 2:16 to Matthew 9:11, but in a different way, and with a reference to drinking:  “How is it that with tax collectors and sinners your teacher eats and drinks?”.

Codices L and Δ also harmonize, like the harmonization in À, but with a reference to drinking:  “Why with tax collectors and sinners eats and drinks your teacher?”.  (Neither conforms to Lukeἐσθίετε καὶ πίνετε.) 

Most manuscripts end Mark 2:16 with ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει, so that the question is, “How is it that with tax collectors and sinners He eats and drinks?”.  However, in Codices B, D, and W, the verse ends with  just ἐσθίει.  Similarly Codex Θ and 1424 read ἐσθίετε, a slight adjustment which matches up with the ἐσθίετε (but not πίνετε) in Luke 5:30.  (It is notable that in Luke 5:30 in Codex K, there is similarly only a reference to eating, and not to drinking.)

Two factors contributed to the loss of the reference to drinking at the end of the verse:  first, a tendency to harmonize to the parallel-passage in Matthew.  Second, simple scribal carelessness:  verse 17 begins with καὶ, so both homoioteleuton and homoioarcton occur together here.  It is not surprising that when an early copyist’s line of sight went from the first occurrence of ει καὶ to the second occurrence of the same letters in the line ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει καὶ, he did not detect the resultant accidental omission, inasmuch as the sentence still made sense. 

The text at the end of Mark 2:16 as it existed in Egypt before this omission occurred, however, is attested by Papyrus 88:  it supports ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει.  The minuscule 892, known for its Alexandrian character, also supports “eating and drinking” at the end of Mark 2:16, as do (as already mentioned) C and 579 which despite being harmonized to Matthew still refer to drinking, not just eating.  (Like L and Δ, they read ἐσθίει καὶ πίνει, not the Lukan wording ἐσθίετε καὶ πίνετε.)  (L has an itacism, reading πίνι.)

These are not the only variant-units within Mark 2:16, and it is probably no exaggeration to conclude, when surveying them all, that not a single extant manuscript has transmitted the original text of this entire verse in its pristine form:  different attempts to harmonize the text, and to amplify its meaning, have affected different witnesses in different ways.  (Readers are encouraged to consult Wieland Willker’s Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels:  Mark for more data about the complex series of variants in this verse.)  The sense of the passage, however, is consistently maintained:  the religious leaders asked Jesus’ disciples why He was taking His meals with the people they considered the dregs of society.  When Jesus answered, He gave an important insight about the nature of the gospel.  There is a textual variant in His answer in Mark 2:17, too – but that’s a subject for another post.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Mark 16:9-20 and the Strange Scholarship of BAR

This is a sequel to my post Mark 16:9-20 and Early Patristic Evidence.  A fellow researcher, upon encountering my post, referred me to an article at the website of the Biblical Archaeology Review magazine:  James Tabor’s The Strange Ending of the Gospel of Mark and Why It Makes All the Difference.  I saw this material when it was first published, and I had hoped that the editors of BAR might let Tabor’s embarrassing inaccuracies (and lack of quotation-marks when borrowing from Metzger’s Textual Commentary) quietly slip into the shadows.  Alas, the article is still being circulated and still needs to be addressed.
In the interest of brevity I will not address the parts of the article in which Tabor promotes his books and his view on peripheral subjects, and via this step alone I have spared myself from delving into most of the article. 
Rather than convey his position in anything like a restrained and measured tone, Tabor describes Mark 16:9-20 in boisterous terms:  he calls this passage “concocted” and “patently false” and “forged” and “bogus” and a “forgery” and he then attempts to make a case for his own belief that Mark believed in something other than the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  But where and how does he present the evidence?  His presentation of external evidence begins and ends with this excerpt: 

            The evidence is clear. This ending is not found in our earliest and most reliable Greek copies of Mark.  In A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Bruce Metzger writes: “Clement of Alexandria and Origen [early third century] show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them.” 

Tabor’s concise description misleads his readers at every step:  he fails to mention that he is referring to only two manuscripts as “our earliest and most reliable Greek copies,” namely Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus – and he fails to mention that both of these manuscripts contain unusual features at or near the end of Mark that indicate that their copyists were aware of the existence of the missing verses.  In Codex Vaticanus, for example, the copyist left a distinct blank space (including an entire blank column) just the right size for a skilled scribe to fit verses 9-20.  In Codex Sinaiticus, the four pages containing Mark 14:54-Luke 1:76 written by the main copyist are not extant; the four pages which now exist in the manuscript are a single sheet of parchment (written on the front and back and folded down the center, so as to form four pages) which replaced the work of the main copyist; for details see the post Codex Sinaiticus and the Ending of Mark).  He fails to mention that over 1,500 Greek manuscript of Mark include 16:9-20.       
Tabor also repeats Bruce Metzger’s claim that Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses, letting readers imagine on their own that the writings of Clement and Origen are jam-packed with quotations from the rest of the Gospel of Mark, while in real life Clement of Alexandria hardly ever made specific quotations from the Gospel of Mark except for one long extract from chapter 10.  To put it another way:  according to the data in Carl Cosaert’s research, Clement of Alexandria does not makes specific citations from Mark chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15, and 16.  Even if tomorrow someone were to discover a dozen citations from Mark made by Clement, the implication would not change:  Clement cited the Gospel of Mark only very rarely and his lack of usage of Mark 16:9-20 is merely a symptom of his general neglect of the entire book.  What Tabor (and Metzger) says about Mark 16:9-20 as a passage not used by Clement can be said about almost every 12-verse segment of the book, outside chapter 10.    
As for Origen, while he cited Mark more often than Clement did, he did not cite it anywhere near the frequency with which he cited the other Gospels.  As far as I can tell via a study of Origen’s major works, Origen cited nothing in Mark 3:19-4:11 (28 consecutive verses), or in 5:2-5:43 (41 consecutive verses) or in 8:7-8:29 (22 consecutive verses), or in 10:3-10:42 (39 consecutive verses), or in 1:36-3:16 (54 consecutive verses).  If we should conclude that a non-use of Mark 16:9-20 means that the verses were absent in Origen’s copies (as Tabor seems to expect his readers to conclude that it does), then by the same measure, they would conclude that Origen had a much shorter text of Mark.  Whereas the proper conclusion is simply that Origen’s non-use of Mark 16:9-20 – if a reference in Philocalia 5 does not allude to Mark 16:17-20 – is a side-effect of his general preference for the other three Gospel-accounts.
Tabor also misrepresents (because Metzger did) the testimony of Eusebius and Jerome; those who seek a more realistic and informed perspective on their testimony may want to bypass the misleading snippets used by various commentators and read Eusebius’ comments for themselves in Eusebius of Caesarea – Gospel Problems and Solutions, and to compare it to Jerome’s Epistle 120 – To Hedibia, and notice (as D. C. Parker noticed) that Jerome’s comment is not a personal observation by  Jerome about Jerome’s manuscripts; it is part of Jerome’s Latin abridgment of part of Eusebius’ Ad Marinum, cobbled together in response to Hedibia’s general question about how to harmonize the Gospels regarding events that followed Christ’s resurrection.  Those who take the time to do so will see that Eusebius, rather than forcefully reject Mark 16:9-20, advised Marinus about how to punctuate and pronounce (and thus retain) Mark 16:9; they will also see that Eusebius used Mark 16:9 himself on two other occasions in the same composition.  
Tabor then mentions “two other endings,” and here too he misleads his readers.  For he fails to mention that when every Greek manuscript that includes the Shorter Ending – all six of them – was made, the usual 12 verses were included too.  And he says that these endings show up in “various manuscripts” but there is only one manuscript that has what he describes as an ending:  the Freer Logion, found in Codex W.  Furthermore, it is plainly false to call the Freer Logion another ending, because it is not an ending; it is an interpolation, as you can see (page-views below).  This material does not appear after Mark 16:8.  It appears between Mark 16:14 and 16:15, right where Jerome mentioned in one of his writings that he had seen it, “especially in Greek codices.”    
            And that is where Tabor’s presentation of the external evidence ends; the remainder of the article is not much more than restatements of the author’s unorthodox beliefs regarding the nature of the resurrection of Christ.  Where does he mention that Irenaeus specifically quoted Mark 16:19 around the year 180, over a century before Codex Vaticanus was made?  Nowhere.  Where does he mention that manuscripts representing the Byzantine, Western, Caesarea, and Alexandrian text-types include Mark 16:9-20?  Nowhere.  How is it that in a footnote Tabor mentions (via a quotation from Metzger’s Textual Commentary) two Georgian manuscripts from the 800s and 900s, but none of the patristic utilizations of Mark 16:9-20 from the 300s and 400s?  Is evidence from the Vulgate, from Codex Alexandrinus, from Codex Bezae, from Apostolic Constitutions (380), from Ambrose, from Augustine, and from Jerome suddenly so trivial as to be ignored?  No?  Then why – I ask the editors of BAR – was none of this mentioned in their article?     
            No matter what the answer is – whether such glaring omissions and evidence-molding were intentional or accidental – it seems obvious that BAR should be considered a dry well – or worse, a poisoned well – by readers thirsty for accurate descriptions of the external evidence pertinent to important text-critical questions about the text of the New Testament.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mark 16:9-20 and Early Patristic Evidence

            New Testament scholars continue to spread misinformation about Mark 16:9-20.  The latest perpetrator is Dr. Zachary Cole, a professor at Union Theological College.  Dr. Cole received his master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. is from the University of Edinburgh.  Nevertheless – or perhaps one should say “Consequently” – he has not been well-informed about the last 12 verses of Mark.  
            Today, instead of sifting through Dr. Cole’s essay The Ending of Mark’s Gospel in a systematic way to clarify all of its inaccuracies, I wish to address one particular point, as the means of introducing some important evidence:  Cole stated  the following:   

“Only two copies of Mark seem to suggest that 16:9-20 were not originally written by Mark himself, but these are both early and reliable witnesses. And we might say that the copies that do contain 16:9–20, while large in number, are really secondary in importance because they stand farther away from the event itself.  That is why I, along with most New Testament scholars, are convinced that Mark did not write verses 9-20.”

Codex Alexandrinus, fol. 18r.
It should be noted that some of the manuscripts that include Mark 16:9-20 do not stand very far away from Vaticanus and Sinaiticus in chronological terms:  Codex Alexandrinus has the passage; so does Codex Bezae (though partly damaged) and so does Codex Washingtoniensis.  But there is a larger problem:  Dr. Cole has unfortunately completely ignored the patristic evidence.  Although Codex Vaticanus, produced around 325, is the earliest known Greek manuscript of Mark 16, and Codex Sinaiticus is indeed the second-oldest, there is evidence from patristic writings that belongs in the equation, and this patristic evidence is older that these two fourth-century manuscripts.  Consider:

(1) Justin Martyr.  Here is an excerpt, slightly paraphrased, from chapter 45 of Justin’s work First Apology (composed c. 160 for the Roman Emperor Pius as a defense of Christianity, which was at the time considered an illegal religion by the Roman government):  
Hear the prophecy that was spoken by David that God the Father of all would bring Christ to heaven after He had raised Him from the dead, and would keep Him there until He has subdued His enemies the devils, and until the number of those who are foreknown by Him as good and virtuous is complete, on whose account He continues to delay the end of the world.  These are his words:
“The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool. The Lord shall send to You the rod of power out of Jerusalem; and You rule in the midst of Your enemies. With You is the government in the day of Your power, in the beautiful fellowship of Your saints.  From the womb of morning I have begotten You.”
Justin, in this part of his book, is interpreting Psalm 110 as a prophecy about Christ.  He continues:  Where he says, “He shall send to You the rod of power out of Jerusalem,” this is a prediction about the mighty word which His apostles, going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere.  And though death is decreed against those who teach or even confess the name of Christ, we everywhere both embrace and teach it.  And if you read these words in a hostile spirit, all you can do, as I said before, is kill us; which indeed does no harm to us, but to you and all who unjustly hate us and do not repent, brings eternal punishment by fire.”
Notice the thematic and verbal parallels with Mark 16:17-20.  First, five thematic parallels:
● Justin refers to the ascension of Christ (cf. Mark 16:19)
● Justin, via Psalm 110:1, refers to Christ being seated at the right hand of God (cf. Mark 16:19)
● Justin refers to victory over devils (cf. Mark 16:9 and 16:17)
● Justin refers to the name of Christ (cf. Mark 16:17)
● Justin refers to the inability of enemies of Christians to do them real harm (cf. Mark 16:18).
And a verbal parallel:  when Justin refers to “the mighty word which His apostles, going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere,” he uses the Greek phrase εξελθόντες πανταχου εκήρυξαν – “went forth everywhere preaching.”  The same words, transposed, occur in Mark 16:20:  εξελθόντες εκήρυξαν πανταχου – “went forth preaching everywhere.” 

            Chapter 45 of Justin’s First Apology is the most well-known and strongest example of Justin’s familiarity with Mark 16:9-20; it is not, however, the only example.  In chapter 50, following a quotation from Isaiah 53, Justin writes:  “After His crucifixion, even those who were acquainted with Him all denied and forsook Him.  But later, when He had risen from the dead, and was seen by them, and they were taught to understand the prophecies in which all of this was foretold as about to happen, and when they had seen Him depart into heaven, and had believed, and they received power from there, which was sent to them from Him, they went forth to the whole race of mankind, and taught these things, and became known as apostles.”
This summary of the activities of the apostles after the resurrection does not contain any precise and direct quotation of the Gospels; however, when Justin writes “And afterwards, when he had risen from the dead and appeared to them” – in Greek, ‛Υστερων δε, εκ νεκρων ανασταντος και οφθεντος αυτοις – this bear a close resemblance to the text of Mark 16:14 as preserved in Codex Alexandrinus:  ‛Υστερων δε ανακειμένοις αυτοις τοις ενδεκα εφανερώθη, και ωνείδισεν την απιστείαν αυτων και σκληροκαρδίαν ότι τοις θεασμένοις αυτον εγηγερμενον εκ νεκρων ουκ επίστευσαν.
Also, as Charles Taylor pointed out in 1893 in an article in the journal The Expositor, some of Justin’s verbiage in First Apology chapter 67, and in his Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 138, corresponds to the wording of Mark 16:9 in an interesting way: 
Mark 16:9:  αναστάς (raised) / πρώτη (first) / εφάνη (appeared)
First Apology chapter 67:  ανέστη / πρώτη / φανείς
Dialogue with Trypho chapter 138:  αναστάς / πρώτης / εφάνη
The significance of this correspondence increases when it is noticed that Matthew, Luke, and John tend to use other terms to describe Jesus’ appearance on the first day of the week. 

(2)  Tatian.  In the 170s, Tatian, a student of Justin, made a composition called the Diatessaron.  It consisted of the contents of the four Gospels rearranged as one continuous narrative, in more or less chronological order.  In later generations, Tatian was widely regarded as a heretic (although a case might be made that he was merely very ascetic), and his writings were either destroyed or allowed to rot away; as a result we do not have any copies of the Diatessaron in Greek or Syriac today, even though hundreds of copies once existed.  Two of the most important witnesses to the arrangement of the text in Tatian’s Diatessaron are the Gospels-text of Codex Fuldensis (an important Latin manuscript made in 546) and the Arabic Diatessaron (produced in 1043 by a copyist who stated in a note that he was translating from a manuscript of the Syriac text of the Diatessaron which had been made in 873).
            The Latin Gospels-text in Codex Fuldensis represents, in terms of its verbiage, the Vulgate.  Similarly, the Syriac Gospels-text in the Arabic Diatessaron has been conformed to the Peshitta.  (The reason for this, presumably, is that the scribes were suspicious of Tatian’s wording, but were willing to perpetuate his harmonization-work.)  For this reason, neither of these two sources, standing on its own, is a safe guide on which to base a reconstruction of the wording of the Diatessaron as made by Tatian.  When they stand in agreement, however, as flagship representatives of a geographically Western transmission-branch and of a geographically Eastern transmission-branch, their combined testimony strongly indicates the arrangement in which Tatian  blended together the text of the Gospels.        
            As I showed in 2012 in an article in the journal The Heroic Age (available to read online), the arrangement of the contents of Mark 16:9-20 in Codex Fuldensis and in the Arabic Diatessaron match up rather well.  For example: 
● Both use Mark 16:10 after Luke 24:9,
● Both use Mark 16:12 between Luke 24:11 and 24:13.
● Both use Mark 16:13b between Luke 24:13-35 and part of 24:36.
● Both use Mark 16:14 between Matthew 28:17 and 28:18.
● Both use Mark 16:15 between Matthew 28:18 and 28:19. 
● Both use “and sat down at the right hand of God” (from Mark 16:19) between Luke 24:51 and 24:52.

   There are some differences, too (see for details the article in The Heroic Age), but inasmuch as (a) Mark 16:9-20 was blended with the other Gospels in the transmission-branch that led to Codex Fuldensis, and (b) Mark 16:9-20 was blended with the other Gospels in essentially the same way in the transmission-branch that led to the Arabic Diatessaron, the conclusion that Mark 16:9-20 was in the source of both branches seems irresistible. 
In addition, Ephrem Syrus, who wrote a commentary on the Diatessaron in Syriac in the 360s, mentioned in the opening sentence of the eighth part of the commentary that Jesus told His disciples, “Go into all the world and baptize in the name of the Father, and Son, and Spirit.”  This is a combination of Mark 16:15a and Matthew 28:19.  (It should be understood that analyses of Ephrem’s testimony prior to 1957 were made without awareness of the contents of Chester Beatty Syriac Manuscript 709, a Syriac manuscript produced in about A. D. 500 which includes most of Ephrem’s commentary.) 

(3)  Irenaeus.  In the course of his writings, Irenaeus – a prolific and prominent bishop in the second century – mentions that as a youth growing up in Asia Minor, he had heard the voice of Polycarp, who had heard John.  As an adult, Irenaeus moved to the city of Lugdunum (Lyons), where he served as bishop.  He also visited Rome in 177. 
In Book Three of Against Heresies, chapter 10, (written around the year 180) Irenaeus says:  “Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says:  ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God.’”  This plainly shows that in the manuscripts of Mark that Irenaeus read, around 150 years before Codex Vaticanus was produced, Mark 16:9-20 was part of the text of the Gospel of Mark.

(4)  Epistula Apostolorum.  This second-century composition by an unknown author is little-known now, and was completely unknown before its discovery in 1895.  Epistula Apostolorum does not explicitly quote from Mark 16:9-20, but its parallels with Mark 16:9-20 indicate that the author used part of Mark 16:9-20 as the basis for his plotline (as Robert Stein has granted):
            ● In Epistula Apostolorum, the apostles are depicted rejecting a woman’s claim that she had seen the risen Jesus, something that occurs in the Gospels only in Mark 16:10-11.       
            ● In Epistula Apostolorum, Jesus is pictured saying to the apostles, “Go ye and preach to the twelve tribes, and preach also to the heathen, and to all the land of Israel from the east to the west and from the south unto the north, and many shall believe on <me> the Son of God.”  “Go ye and preach” is reminiscent of Mark 16:15.  
● In Epistula Apostolorum, chapter 1, Jesus is depicted appearing to the women at the tomb “as they mourned and wept,” which is quite similar to the description of those to whom the women reported the good news in Mark 16:10, “as they mourned and wept.”  
● In Epistula Apostolorum, Jesus rebukes the disciples by saying, “You are yet slow of heart,” which resembles the rebuke of their hard-heartedness described in Mark 16:14.   
● In Epistula Apostolorum, Jesus says to the disciples, “Whoever shall hear you and believe on Me shall receive from you the light of the seal through Me, and baptism through Me,” and, “They shall receive the baptism of life and the remission of their sins at My hand through you,” which conveys the sentiment of Mark 16:16, mentioning belief and baptism together.
While these are small points, their cumulative impact confirms that the author of Epistula Apostolorum recollected the contents of Mark 16:9-20. 

(5)  Hierocles.  Hierocles was a pagan writer (and a prominent office-holder in the Roman government in Bithynia) who wrote a short work called Truth-loving Words (or, Words for the Truth-lover) around the year 305, in which he recycled some material that had been composed by his teacher, Porphyry, in a longer composition around the year 270.  Later, c. 405, a writer named Macarius Magnes (that is, Macarius from the city of Magnesia) wrote Apocriticus, a response to Hierocles’ book, unaware that Hierocles was the author.  Macarius Magnes quoted one of the jibes made in the book:    
“Consider in detail that other passage, where he [Jesus] says, ‘Such signs shall follow those who believe: they shall lay hands upon sick folk, and they shall recover, and if they drink any deadly drug, it shall by no means hurt them.’  So it would be proper for those selected for the priesthood, and particularly those who lay claim to the bishop’s or president’s office, to make use of this form of test.  The deadly drug should be set before them in order that the man who received no harm from the drinking of it might be given preference over the rest.  And if they are not bold enough to accept this sort of test, they ought to confess that they do not believe in the things Jesus said.”
This is the same kind of challenge that some Muslim propagandists make in our own times, inviting Christians to drink poison as a demonstration that they believe the Bible, ignoring the prohibition against putting God to the test.  (Macarius Magnes, rather than argue that the passage is not genuine, first pointed out that accepting such a challenge would not really prove anything, inasmuch as unbelievers as well as believers sometimes may recover from poisoning, and then argued that the passage should be understood as an analogy – the poison being representative of the deadly effects of sin, which are remedied by the administration of baptism upon a believer, so that the person’s rebellious nature dies, but the person himself is unharmed.)
Although Hierocles’ quotation is inexact, it shows that his manuscripts of the Gospels, extant in 305, contained Mark 16:18 – unless this part of Hierocles’ work is just an extract from the work of Porphyry, in which case the quotation echoes manuscripts from the 270s or earlier. 

(6)  Aphrahat the Persian Sage.  This Syriac writer, before the end of the year 336, used Mark 16:16-18 in the 17th paragraph of his composition Demonstration One:  Of Faith:  
“When our Lord gave the sacrament of baptism to His apostles, He said to them, “Whosoever believes and is baptized shall live, and whoever does not believe shall be condemned.”  At the end of the same paragraph, Aphrahat (also known as Aphraates) writes: “He also said thus:  ‘This shall be the sign for those who believe:  they shall speak with new tongues, and shall cast out demons, and they shall place their hands on the sick, and they shall be made whole.”  

My e-book on Mark 16:9-20.
In the interest of brevity I shall not go into detail about the evidence from Tertullian, Hippolytus, De Rebaptismate, Vincentius of Thibaris, Acts of Pilate, and other sources; the data can be found in Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20.  The testimony of Justin, Tatian, Epistula Apostolum, Irenaeus, Hierocles, and Aphraates (representing different locales) is sufficient to demonstrate that Mark 16:9-20 was widely used as Scripture in the early church. 
Now then:  Aphrahat was a contemporary of the copyists who made Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.  The other six patristic witnesses pre-date Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and in the case of Justin, Tatian, Epistula Apostolorum, and Irenaeus, the contest is not close; their testimony is over a century earlier.  Inasmuch as Dr. Cole says that manuscripts such as Alexandrinus, Bezae, Codex W, and hundreds of medieval manuscripts of Mark “are really secondary in importance because they stand farther away from the event itself,” what happens when that line of reasoning is applied to Vaticanus and Sinaiticus when they are compared to the testimony of Justin, Tatian, Epistula Apostolorum, and Irenaeus?  Logic would seem to compel the conclusion that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are roughly equal in weight with the combined testimony of Hierocles and Aphrahat, and really secondary in importance when compared to Justin, Tatian, Epistula Apostolorum, and Irenaeus. 

Let’s revisit the last two sentences in that quotation from Dr. Cole:

Cole:  “We might say that the copies that do contain 16:9–20, while large in number, are really secondary in importance because they stand farther away from the event itself.  That is why I, along with most New Testament scholars, are convinced that Mark did not write verses 9-20.”

            He is referring to the greater age of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus compared to the manuscripts that include the passage.  But Hierocles and Aphrahat are just as close to the event itself as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.  (A little closer, actually.)  Will Dr. Cole admit therefore that Hierocles and Aphrahat are just as close to the event as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus?  Will he concede now that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are really secondary in importance, when compared to Justin, Tatian, Epistula Apostolorum, and Irenaeus, because those two manuscripts stand farther away from the event itself?  Your move, professor. 
            There are other problematic claims in Dr. Cole’s recent essay but I will stop here for now – almost.  Just two more things.  First, it should never be overlooked (although practically all commentators do, and certainly all Bible footnote-writers do) that while Vaticanus and Sinaiticus attest to the non-inclusion of Mark 16:9-20, they both have unusual features that reveal their copyists’ awareness of the absent verses.  I have explained this in two previous posts:  Codex Vaticanus and the Ending of Mark and Codex Sinaiticus and the Ending of Mark.
            Second, Dr. Cole describes Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are “our earliest and best copies of Mark’s Gospel” but this must be qualified and clarified.  Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are indeed our earliest manuscripts, but it is obvious that Irenaeus and other early patristic writers possessed earlier manuscripts which included Mark 16:9-20.  Their manuscripts were not kept in Egypt, (where the climate was more favorable to papyrus-preservation), but that is not a valid reason to ignore them as Dr. Cole has done (for in his essay he completely avoided the patristic evidence). 
            As for Vaticanus and Sinaiticus being the “best copies”:  suppose someone said, “My two ships are the best of all ships,” but you noticed that although their hulls were far above average quality at many points, each had two gaping holes in the stern.  Would you still call those the best ships?  Arguing for a reading because it is found in “the most reliable manuscripts” or “the best manuscripts” is like arguing that the New England Patriots must have won a specific football game because the New England Patriots win more football games than other teams.             

[Readers are invited to explore the links for additional resources.]