Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Credibility of Christmas

Recently, in Newsweek magazine, Bart Ehrman wrote an article in which he claimed that the accounts about Jesus’ birth in the Gospels are basically myths.  I usually ignore such attempts to sell magazines.  But in this case, I thought the article was so poorly argued, and so one-sided (even more than Ehrman usually is) that it would be worthwhile to offer a critique.  So, here is my attempt to cover the same ground that Ehrman covered, rewriting the article in an attempt to convey Ehrman’s perspective more candidly while revealing some shortcomings in his premises, analysis, and conclusions.  (Just to emphasize:  what follows is not my view!  I am attempting to portray the ultra-liberal views that are the foundation of Ehrman's article, and to convey what is wrong with those views and with some of their premises.)  


     Months ago, a member of the Jesus Seminar announced the discovery of a papyrus scrap (without specifics about where it came from) which attributes to Jesus a reference to his wife.  This papyrus, it turns out, is a forgery made by someone who depended upon the printed text of the Gospel of Thomas.  But let’s not get bogged down with details.  That’s still a great way to introduce the subject of spurious compositions composed during the first few centuries of Christianity, and the traditions they encourage.   And after sharing that fascinating trivia, we can use it as a transition-point to my real subject:  taking swipes at the accuracy of the New Testament.
     A composition called the Proto-Evangelium of James, written in the mid-late 100’s, has generated a lot of traditions about Christmas.  This text, not anything in the New Testament, is the source of information such as the name of Mary’s mother (Anna), Mary’s background as a child dedicated to serve in the temple, and the story of how an old widower named Joseph was chosen to take up the task of serving as her chaste husband-protector.  This text, too (or, one might say, the sources of this source), is the source of the tradition that the individuals known in the Gospels as Jesus’ brothers and sisters were his step-siblings, from a previous marriage.  [This is one of those secret, lost books that is freely accessible online – see, for example, the English translation at ; its further contents can be read as easily as they can be described.]
      Meanwhile:  Pope Benedict XVI has written a book, Jesus of Nazareth:  The Infancy Narratives, in which he affirms the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ birth as historically accurate.  Oh woeful day.  We all know, when we examine the accounts supplied by Matthew and Luke about Jesus’ birth and the events connected to it, that they have some problems.  They are different from each other!  Not that I would believe them if they were in strict agreement.  If they were the same, I would immediately tell you that one is based on the other, and therefore I would give the two accounts no more weight than a single testimony would have.         
     One problem is that the genealogy in Matthew is different from the one in Luke.  This obviously means that the genealogies in Matthew and Luke were both “invented” to show that Jesus was a descendant of the Jewish patriarchs.  Without the genealogies, readers of Matthew and Luke would have assumed that Jesus was a Gentile.  The theory that the lists present different names for Jesus’ grandfather and great-grandfather because of a levirate marriage has been proposed by defenders of the veracity of the Gospels, and is therefore impossible.  The same goes for the notion that Matthew focused on the royal lineage in a summarized genealogy to show that Jesus legally qualified to be the Messiah, while Luke’s genealogy follows the physical line of descent all the way back to Adam (echoing, along the way, the genealogy of David found in the Old Testament book of First Chronicles) to emphasize Jesus’ human nature. 
     Another example:  Luke states that Augustus issued a decree that all the world (oikoumene) should be registered for a census.  Clearly, this not only means the entire Roman Empire, but it must also means the entire empire at once.  The alternative interpretation, to the effect that Luke alluded to a census that occurred in stages, is just silly:  Luke would naturally expect his readers to picture a census in which everyone in every province of the Roman Empire simultaneously registered.
     Another example from Luke:  it is crystal clear that when Luke says that Joseph went to Bethlehem to be registered “because he was of the house and lineage of David,” Luke intended for his readers to understand that Joseph did this because all of David’s descendants were duty-bound to do so.  The alternative, that Joseph went there because he would rather be known officially as a citizen of Bethlehem than as a citizen of Nazareth, is flatly impossible.  Clearly, this is just an imaginary, non-historical detail, like Luke’s statement that Mary “treasured all these things in her heart.”  Luke never met Mary and therefore could not have obtained any information from her about the events surrounding Jesus’ birth.
     Likewise, Matthew’s statement that the wise men visited the Holy Family in a house is a clear sign that his account is non-historical.  The idea that a considerate husband, planning to visit the temple in Jerusalem for purification-rites after his wife gave birth, would purchase, rent, or borrow a room in a house in (or near) Bethlehem, instead of insisting that his wife should return to Nazareth and then make a fresh journey to Jerusalem, is intrinsically implausible.        
     The Christmas star, likewise, presents a historical difficulty:  for after we reject the idea that this was some sort of miracle, our scholarly honesty compels us to conclude that nothing natural could fit the description of what Matthew says the wise men experienced:  something, after being seen in the east before the outset of their journey to Jerusalem, was seen again by the wise men as they traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and “came and stood” over the house where Jesus was.  Christian researchers who are also astronomers have pointed out that a series of planetary conjunctions could fit this description rather well; others have suggested that the star was a comet.  But of course objective historians know that such answers are not satisfactory; to them, the very multitude of paths to the resolution of this question is itself evidence that none of them can be correct.   Furthermore, the most insightful historians conclude that the whole episode is sheer fiction:  Matthew – that is, “Matthew,” not the apostle Matthew, but someone else – had read Old Testament passages about a star accompanying the rise of a king, and about kings presenting gifts to the king of Israel, and interpreted them as Messianic prophecies; then he created this part of the birth-narrative to convince his readers that those prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus.
     Many Christians might take offense at my claim that the Christmas-stories in the Gospels are fiction, but there is really no need to do so.  The good news announced in the Gospels does not have to be news about something that actually happened.  When you tell a hungry person that you have a meal for him, he will rejoice, and will no longer be hungry, whether your report is true or not.  Even when he discovers that your statement is not historically true, he will thank you for cheering him up with a profound metaphor that he misinterpreted.  Similarly, the story of Christmas can be regarded as a comforting fairy tale, eliciting joy and good cheer for all, rather than as a report about an actual Creator who miraculously revealed His nature in the historical person known in the Gospels as Jesus Christ.  When Christians see the Gospels’ accounts of Christ’s birth as I have seen them, they will become better Christians, as I have become.  Only then will they really see, and apply to their lives, as I have to mine, the great theological truths that God has revealed through these fictitious stories!


Okay, that's enough of that.  In closing:  I do not want to give the impression that Matthew and Luke have given us nothing to wonder about.  Having gathered their data from those closest to the events surrounding Jesus' birth -- Mary, and Jesus' family-members -- they present us with summaries, knowing, considering the miraculous nature of the events they record, that no amount of detail would satisfy those who, as a premise of their study, deny the miraculous.  The enemies of the Christian faith who want to find grounds for cavil will do so; they will eagerly describe and distort any unresolved detail as if it is an ominous threat to the reliability of the whole account.  But it seems to me that if anything is incredible about all this, it is not the factualnessof the Gospels' accounts about the birth of Jesus Christ.  What's not credible here is Ehrman's determination to use specious reasoning to draw the New Testament accounts into question, under a pretense of friendly erudition.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The ESV Study Bible and Mark 16:9-20

As a follow-up to the analysis of the shortcomings of Dr. Bruce Metzger’s comments about the external evidence about the ending of the Gospel of Mark, I have put together a review of some very similar statements about Mark 16:9-20 which are found in the ESV Study Bible. 

The author of the ESV Study Bible’s notes for the Gospel of Mark is listed at the ESV Study Bible's website as Dr. Hans Bayer, a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary (near St. Louis, Missouri).  (Dr. Wayne Grudem is the General Editor.)  Covenant Theological Seminary is a Presbyterian school; its professors annually affirm the Westminster Confession, which includes a statement that the New Testament in Greek was “inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages.”   However, inasmuch as the Greek text of the New Testament text used by the authors of the Westminster Confession is very different from the base-text of the ESV, it would seem that the purity to which this part of the Westminster Confession refers is being interpreted as basic doctrinal purity, not as textual purity. 

Now let’s consider Dr. Bayer’s note about Mark 16:9-20 in the ESV Study Bible, going point by point.  (The excerpts attributed to Dr. Bayer are from the English Standard Version Study Bible, © 2010 Crossway Bibles (a division of Good News Publishers), Wheaton.  Used for review purposes.  Excerpts from Dr. Bruce Metzger are from A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, © 1971 by the United Bible Societies, Stuttgart.)

Dr. Bayer:  “Some ancient manuscripts of Mark's Gospel contain these verses and others do not, which presents a puzzle for scholars who specialize in the history of such manuscripts.”

If “ancient” manuscripts are defined as manuscripts produced before the death of Charlemagne (in 814), then two ancient Greek manuscripts, one ancient Latin manuscript, one ancient Sahidic manuscript (the production-date of which is far from certain), and one ancient Syriac manuscript do not contain any part of Mark 16:9-20.  All other ancient copies of Mark 16, whether Greek or non-Greek, include at least part of this passage, showing that it was in those copies when they were in pristine condition.  

The two Greek manuscripts that lack Mark 16:9-20 (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) were both almost certainly produced at Caesarea in the 300’s.  As I explained in the survey of Dr. Metzger’s comments, Codex Vaticanus has a distinct blank space after Mark 16:8, as if the copyist did not have access to an exemplar with the passage but nevertheless recollected it and attempted to reserve space for it.  And in Codex Sinaiticus, the text from Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 is written on replacement-pages; the copyist who made those four pages drastically shifted his rate of letters per columns in order to avoid having a blank column between the end of Mark and the beginning of Luke.  This indicates that the copyists of the only two Greek manuscripts in which Mark ends at 16:8 knew of at least one manuscript, older than the ones they were making, in which the passage was included.

Dr. Bayer:  “This longer ending is missing from various old and reliable Greek manuscripts (esp. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), as well as numerous early Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian manuscripts.”

Dr. Bayer’s dependence upon Dr. Metzger is obvious as he describes these pieces of evidence in exactly the same order in which Dr. Metzger described them.  Dr. Bayer, however, has provided his readers with an even more distant and out-of-focus perspective than Dr. Metzger did, with the result that his readers have been given a false impression of the scope of the evidence.  The two Greek manuscripts that Dr. Bayer names (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) are the only ancient Greek manuscripts of Mark 16 in which the text stops at verse 8.  Now imagine if someone told you, “Various houses in this town are made of brick, especially the homes of Mr. Andrews and Mr. Baker” – and then you found out that the homes of Mr. Andrews and Mr. Baker were the only brick houses in the village.  Would you not feel rather misled?  

The “numerous” Latin manuscripts to which Dr. Bayer refers consist of one copy:  Codex Bobbiensis, which has an anomalous text throughout Mark 16 (regarding which see the pertinent part of the earlier article about Dr. Metzger’s comments.)  The “numerous” Syriac manuscripts to which Dr. Bayer refers consist of one copy:  the Sinaitic Syriac, which shares other unusual readings with Codex Bobbiensis.  The Armenian manuscripts to which he refers are really numerous, but they are medieval; they are not early.  Neither are the two Georgian manuscripts to which he refers. 

Dr. Bayer:  “Early church fathers (e.g. Origen and Clement of Alexandria) did not appear to know of these verses.”

This appears to be a paraphrase of Dr. Metzger’s claim that “Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses.”   Clement hardly quoted from the Gospel of Mark at all, except for one large citation from chapter 10.  Origen, likewise, did not use the Gospel of Mark very much.  See my analysis of Dr. Metzger’s statement for further details.  Also notice that farther along in the same footnote, Dr. Bayer says that many church fathers knew the passage. 

Dr. Bayer:  “Eusebius and Jerome state that this section is missing in most manuscripts available at their time.”

This appears to be another echo of Dr. Metzger’s comments.  The pertinent statement from Eusebius is embedded in his composition Ad Marinum, in which Eusebius, in the course of answering a question about how to resolve a perceived discrepancy between Matthew 28 and Mark 16 regarding the timing of Christ’s resurrection, stated that a person could say that verses 9-20 are not in every single manuscript, or that they are absent from the accurate ones, or from almost all manuscripts.  But after framing all that as something that a person might say, Eusebius proceeded to describe, in considerable detail, how Mark 16:9 could be harmonized  with Matthew 28:1 (and thus retained).  He seems to expect Marinus to take this second approach.  In the course of answering the next question, Eusebius states that “some copies” of Mark mention that Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene (a detail stated in Mark only in 16:9), and in his answer to the question after that one, he affirms that the Mary who stands at the tomb in John 20 is the same individual “from whom, according to Mark, He had cast out seven demons.” 

Although one might imagine, based on Dr. Bayer’s vague description of Jerome’s testimony, that Jerome reported the results of his own investigation into how his manuscripts of Mark ended, what we really have in Jerome’s Ad Hedibiam (Epistle 120) is a condensed translation of Eusebius' Ad Marinum.  The third, fourth, and fifth questions in Jerome’s letter to Hedibia are the same as the first, second, and third questions in Eusebius’ letter to Marinus, and Jerome’s answers are based mainly on the answered that Eusebius had supplied.  This is not an independent statement by Jerome; he would not have made this statement if he had not been translating Eusebius’ earlier composition.  Jerome included verses 9-20 in the Vulgate (in 383), and referred to 16:14 in Against the Pelagians when explaining where he had seen the interpolation now known as the Freer Logion.

Dr. Bayer:  “And some manuscripts that contain vv. 9-20 indicate that older manuscripts lack the section.”

Again, this resembles Dr. Metzger’s statement:  “Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it.”  As I have explained elsewhere, this refers to 14 manuscripts (out of over 1,700) which have special annotations about Mark 16:9-20.  The annotations tend to express support for the passage.  In one form (shared by ten manuscripts), the annotation states that although some copies lack the verses, most copies include them, and in another form (shared by three manuscripts), the annotation states that although some copies lack the passage, the ancient copies include it all.  That is the opposite of the impression given by the ESV Study Bible’s note.

Dr. Bayer:  “On the other hand, some early and many later manuscripts (such as the manuscripts known as A, C, and D) contain vv. 9-20, and many church fathers (such as Irenaeus) evidently knew of these verses.”

Dr. Bayer specifically named the two Greek manuscripts in which the text of Mark stops at 16:8, and he reached into the 900’s to find versional evidence for that form of the text.  But here as he describes the patristic evidence, he supplied only one specific name.  That is not even-handed treatment of the evidence.  The “many church fathers” to whom Dr. Bayer refers includes the following:  Justin (c. 160), Tatian (c. 172), Irenaeus (c. 184), Epistula Apostolorum (probably; 150-180),Tertullian (probably; 190-205), Hippolytus (c. 220), Vincentius of Thibaris (257), De Rebaptismate (258), Porphyry/Hierocles (anti-Christian writers from 270/303), Acts of Pilate (300’s), Marinus (c. 330), Aphraates (335), Wulfilas (c. 350), Ephrem Syrus (c. 360), Ambrose (370’s or 380’s), Philostorgius (c. 380), Epiphanius (c. 385), Old Latin capitula (pre-380’s), the Peshitta (mid-late 300's), Chromatius (c. 380), Apostolic Constitutions (380), De Trinitate (380’s, attributed to Didymus the Blind), Jerome (383), John Chrysostom (probably, c. 407), the author of the Freer Logion (pre-400), Augustine (400), Greek manuscripts cited by Augustine (400), the lectionary-system used by Augustine (early 400's), Macarius Magnes (405), Doctrine of Addai (early 400's; probably a composite of earlier material), Pelagius (c. 410), Patrick (mid-400’s), Nestorius (c. 430), Marcus Eremita (435), Peter Chrysologus (453), Eznik of Golb (c. 440), and Prosper of Aquitaine (c. 450).  If the list of patristic writings and manuscripts were extended to the production-date of the Armenian copies that Dr. Bayer described as “early,” it would be increased by dozens and dozens.

Dr. Bayer:  “As for the verses themselves, they contain various Greek words and expressions uncommon to Mark, and there are stylistic differences as well.”

Granting that Mark 16:9-20 contains some stylistic differences from the preceding section, Dr. Bayer’s point about the presence of Greek words “uncommon to Mark” is nullified by the presence of even more Greek words “uncommon to Mark” – that is, used only once in the Gospel of Mark – in another 12-verse section (15:40-16:4), as Dr. Bruce Terry shows in an essay at .

In addition, the ESV – in a copy that I saw with a 2007 copyright by Crossway – has the following footnote:  “Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8.  A few manuscripts insert additional material after verse 14; one Latin manuscript adds after verse 8 the following:  But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Other manuscripts include this same wording after verse 8, then continue with verses 9-20."

That footnote is extremely imprecise.  Written accurately, it would go like this:  “Over 1,700 Greek manuscripts include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8.  Two Greek manuscripts end the book with 16:8; one of them has a prolonged blank space after verse 8.  One manuscript inserts additional material between verse 14 and verse 15.  One Latin manuscript interpolates an ascension-scene between 16:3 and 16:4, removes part of verse 8, and then adds the following:  But they reported briefly to a boy and those with him all that they had been told.  And after this, Jesus appeared and sent out by means of them, from east to east, the sacred and imperishable [proclamation] of eternal salvation, Amen.  Five Greek manuscripts (and versional evidence from Egypt) include similar wording between verse 8 and verse 9; one medieval Greek manuscript has this ending in the margin.

How long will the editors of the ESV and the ESV Study Bible allow their readers to be misled by these inaccurate and misleading notes?     

Mark 16, Bruce Metzger, and Misinformation

          Very many commentators, when considering Mark 16:9-20, have not investigated the subject directly.  Instead, they have relied upon the late Dr. Bruce Metzgers handbooks A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament and The Text of the New Testament.  Unfortunately many of Dr. Metzger’s statements about the external evidence pertaining to Mark 16:9-20 are incomplete, inaccurate, or incorrect, and convey false impressions.  To cast some light on all this, I have prepared this point-by-point review of Dr. Metzger’s statements, as found in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.
          (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce M. Metzger is © 1971 by the United Bible Societies, Stuttgart.  Used here for review purposes.)

Metzger: “The last 12 verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts”
           This refers to the oldest two manuscripts that contain Mark 16:  Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, from the 300’s. (Papyrus 45 is the oldest catalogued manuscript of Mark (although an older fragment containing text from Mark will probably be catalogued before 2014, God willing), but due to damage, Papyrus 45 contains no text of Mark 16 at all.)
          In Codex Vaticanus, the end of Mark is formatted differently from the ends of the other New Testament books.  Usually, after the copyist who wrote the New Testament portion of Codex Vaticanus reached the end of a book, he began the next book at the top of the very next column.  But after Mark 16:8, there’s the closing-title of the Gospel of Mark, and the rest of the column is blank (which is not unusual) and the next column is also blank.  It is as if the copyist was using an exemplar in which Mark’s text stopped at 16:8, but he recollected the remaining verses, and attempted to leave space for them in the event that the eventual owner or user of the codex wanted to include them.
          In Codex Sinaiticus, there are two unusual features that involve the end of the Gospel of Mark.  First, the pages in Codex Sinaiticus which contain Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 are replacement-pages; the text on these four pages was not written by the copyist who produced the surrounding pages.  The person who wrote the text on these replacement-pages adjusted his lettering so that Luke 1:1-56 would fit into six columns and so that Mark 14:54-16:8 would occupy ten columns with no blank column in between (instead of nine columns plus a blank column).  Second, there is an elaborate decorative design in Codex Sinaiticus after Mark 16:8; if one compares this decorative design to the other decorative designs at the ends of books transcribed by the same copyist, it’s clear that the decorative design after Mark 16:8 is uniquely emphatic.

Metzger: from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis
          This particular Old Latin codex was made in Egypt by a copyist who was not very familiar with the contents of the Gospels.  Codex Bobbiensis (the name can be spelled both ways) has a very anomalous text of Mark 16.  In the Shorter Ending, the copyist wrote the Latin for “child” (puero) instead of Peter’s name (Petro); instead of writing “from east to west,” he wrote “from east to east,” and he skipped the Latin word for “proclaim” (praedicationis, which was then placed in the lower margin of the page).  Contrary to the impression given by the ESV’s footnotes, Codex Bobbiensis says that Jesus appeared to the disciples before He sent out the gospel through them. 
          In Codex Bobbiensis, the names of the women are removed from verse 1, and an interpolation has been added between verse 3 and verse 4, stating that angels descended to the tomb, and that Christ gloriously arose, and they ascended with him.  Also, in verse 8, the phrase stating that the women said nothing to anyone has been removed.  To sum up:  the aberrations in Mark 16 in Codex Bobbiensis are not merely the effects of incompetent copying; some of them are clearly the results of conscious editorial tampering.  The text of Mark 16 in Codex Bobbiensis is not a reliable text. 

Metzger: the Sinaitic Syriac
          This is the only known Syriac copy of Mark in which chapter 16 ends at verse 8. It shares several unusual readings with Codex Bobbiensis (notably at Matthew 1:25, 4:17, 5:47, 8:12, and Mark 8:31-32), indicating that they both descend from the same transmission-stream.
Metzger: About 100 Armenian manuscripts

          The Armenian copies to which Dr. Metzger refers were listed by E. C. Colwell in a 1937 article; many more Armenian copies have been discovered since then.  The history of the transmission of the Gospels-text in Armenian is still a matter of debate.  But a few things should be added to Dr. Metzger’s lonely citation.  
          First, the Armenian manuscripts to which he refers are not particularly early; they are all medieval. Second, there are hundreds of other Armenian manuscripts that include Mark 16:9-20.  Third, one of the oldest Armenian manuscripts, Matenadaran 2374 (which used to be called Etchmiadzin 229), which was produced in 989, includes Mark 16:9-20.  Fourth, long before the production-date of any of the extant manuscripts, the Armenian writer Eznik of Golb used the contents of Mark 16:17-18 in his composition De Deo (also called Against the Sects) around 440.  And, fifth, according to Armenian historians, the Armenian Version was initially produced around 410, but was extensively revised in the 430’s after cherished Greek copies were taken to Armenia from Constantinople.  Now although the history of the Armenian Gospels-text is not altogether clear, it looks like there are two ancient Armenian transmission-streams that both go all the way back to the 400’s; one contained Mark 16:9-20 and the other did not.  Those “about one hundred Armenian manuscripts” are about 100 echoes of one early Armenian transmission-stream.
Metzger: And the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913).” –  

          Those two Old Georgian copies should be understood as having no more weight than two more Armenian copies would, because the Old Georgian Version was translated from Armenian.  Many readers are likely to get the impression that the Armenian evidence and the Old Georgian evidence stand side by side as two independent lines of evidence, instead of seeing that the Old Georgian evidence mentioned by Dr. Metzger is an echo of the Armenian evidence.  In addition, Dr. Metzger did not mention Old Georgian copies that include Mark 16:9-20 which are only slightly younger than the two oldest Old Georgian copies. 

Metzger:  Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses. 
          Clement of Alexandria hardly ever quotes from the Gospel of Mark, except for chapter 10.  His non-use of Mark 16:9-20 has no evidentiary force when one considers that he similarly does not use chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, and 15 of the Gospel of Mark.  It is senseless to deduce that Clement’s copies of Mark did not include ten chapters of Mark – but the same kind of groundless deduction is what Dr. Metzger’s statement induces uninformed readers to make about Mark 16:9-20.
          In addition, Dr. Metzger seems to have overlooked Clement’s comment on Jude verse 24 in Adumbrationes, where, according to Cassiodorus, Clement stated the following:  “In the Gospel according to Mark, when the Lord was asked by the chief priest if He was the Christ, the Son of the blessed God, said in reply, ‘I am, and you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power.’  Now this term ‘powers’ signifies the holy angels.  Further, when he says ‘at the right hand of God,’ He means the very same beings, who, because of their angelic holy powers and likeness, are called by the name of God.  He says, therefore, that He sits at the right hand, that is, He rests in pre-eminent honor.”
          Notice that Clement says that “He says, ‘at the right hand of God.’”  Who is the “he” to whom Clement refers?  It apparently cannot be Jesus, because Jesus never uses that phrase in the Gospel of Mark.  But if the “he” is, instead, Mark, then the reference must be to Mark 16:19.  The only way to avoid this conclusion, it seems, is to reckon that either Clement mixed up the sources of his citations, or that the text of Cassiodorus has been miscopied.
          Origen, like Clement, did not use the Gospel of Mark very much; his non-use of Mark 16:9-20 has no more implication about the contents of his copies of Mark than does his non-use of other large passages, including portions consisting of 54, 28, 41, 25, 39, 46, 63, 31, and 33 consecutive verses.  If it is granted that Origen’s non-use of such large portions of Mark does not imply their absence from his copies of Mark, then it should be obvious that nothing can be deduced from his non-use of a 12-verse passage.

Metzger:  Furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them.–   
          That is not what Eusebius and Jerome say.  Eusebius, in a response to a question about how to harmonize Matthew 28 and Mark 16 on the question of the timing of the resurrection, wrote that there are two ways to solve the perceived discrepancy.  Eusebius then framed those two options by saying that a person might say that the passage in Mark that says that Jesus arose early on the first day of the week should be rejected on the grounds that it is not in all the manuscripts, at least, the accurate manuscripts end after the statement that the women fled in silence because they were afraid; almost all the copies end there; the rest is in some copies but not in all of them.  That, Eusebius then wrote, is what someone might say to settle a superfluous question.
          But then Eusebius proceeded to present a second option:  someone else, not daring to set aside anything at all that appears in the Gospels, would insist that both statements (i.e., the one in Matthew 28:1 and the one in Mark 16:9) must be accepted, and that they each report one of two aspects of what they describe, and that both are advocated by the faithful and pious.  Therefore, since it is granted that this passage is true, it is appropriate to seek to fathom what it means.  And (he continued to write) if we accurately discern the sense of the words (in Mark 16:9) we won’t find it contrary to Matthew’s statement that the Savior was raised “Late on the Sabbath.”  For we shall read Mark’s statement, “And having risen early on the first day of the week” with a pause: after “And having risen,” we shall add a comma.  And we will separate the meaning of what follows, so, in the one case, we can read “Having risen” to correspond to Matthew’s “Late on the Sabbath,” for that is when he was raised, and, regarding the rest, we might join what follows with what is read next:  for “early on the first day of the week he appeared to Mary Magdalene.”
          Eusebius kept going, proceeding to advocate the second option, stating words to the following effect: John, at any rate, makes it clear in his account that the appearance to Mary Magdalene was early on the first day of the week.  So, likewise in Mark also he appeared early to her.  It is not that he rose early – for he rose much earlier, according to Matthew:  late on the Sabbath.  Having arisen at that time, he did not appear to Mary at that time, but “early.”  What is implied is that two episodes are represented by these phrases:  one is the time of the resurrection, late on the Sabbath.  The other is the time of the appearance of the Savior, which was early.  Mark referred to the later time when he wrote, saying what must be read [aloud] with a pause: “And having risen.”  Then, after adding a comma, one must read the rest: “Early on the first day of the week he appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.”
          The brevity of Dr. Metzger’s description of the testimony from Eusebius prevents readers from seeing the context of Eusebius’ statement.  The part that says that almost all the manuscripts, at least the accurate ones, do not contain verses 9-20 is framed by Eusebius as something that someone could say to resolve the initial question.  Clearly Eusebius was aware of such copies, and he was aware that someone had advocated such a solution, and he thought it was worth mentioning to Marinus.  But Eusebius himself, when he wrote this composition to Marinus, did not consider that claim to be decisive, because after framing it as something that someone could say, he proceeded to tell Marinus that the passage should be retained, and that the harmonistic difficulty should be resolved by introducing a comma as one reads Mark 16:9.  If Eusebius himself had believed that only a smattering of copies contained Mark 16:9-20, and that the accurate copies did not contain Mark 16:9-20, it is difficult to explain why he would acquiesce to the inclusion of the passage, and describe Mark 16:9 as something written by Mark, and even recommend to Marinus that Mark 16:9 (and thus the rest of the passage, too) should be retained, provided that a pause be introduced when reading verse 9 aloud.
          In the course of answering Marinus’ next question, Eusebius referred to Mary Magdalene as the individual “of whom it is stated in Mark, according to some copies, that He had cast seven demons out of her.”  And, further along, answering Marinus’ third question, Eusebius stated that the individual named Mary who is mentioned in John is “the same one from whom, according to Mark, he had cast out seven demons.” 
          Eusebius seems to have held two opinions about this at two different times, for when he made his Canon-tables – a cross-reference system for the Gospels – he did not include Mark 16:9-20.  It looks like he must have rejected the passage at some point, but it is not clear if he rejected Mark 16:9-20 before, or after, he wrote to Marinus.  Whatever the case may be, Dr. Metzger’s brief description does not do justice to the testimony from Eusebius.  Readers who have only been allowed to peek at a snippet of Eusebius’ letter to Marinus have received an impression of Eusebius’ testimony that is very different from the one that one obtains from a full survey of his testimony.  (This situation has recently been remedied by the publication of the book Eusebius of Caesarea:  Gospel Problems and Solutions.) 
          The impression that Dr. Metzger gives about the testimony from Jerome is much more misleading.  The statement attributed to Jerome appears in a part of his Epistle 120 (To Hedibia) in which Jerome provides his own loose Latin abridgment of Eusbius’ letter to Marinus!  Jerome frequently borrowed material from earlier writers, without plainly stating that he was doing so.  That is what he did in this case; the third, fourth, and fifth Question-and-Answers in Jerome’s letter to Hedibia are based on the first, second, and third Question-and-Answers in Eusebius’ letter to Marinus.  In addition, Jerome, like Eusebius, recommended that Mark 16:9-20 be retained, and that a comma be used in verse 9.
          We should understand this reference in Jerome’s Epistle 120 as if Jerome had said, “Here’s what someone else has said about this question, and I passed it along as I composed a letter by dictation” not as if Jerome has said, “I have made a careful search of the manuscripts available to me, and here is what I have discovered.”  In 383, Jerome included Mark 16:9-20 in the Vulgate (which he states in his Preface that he made using old Greek copies), and in a composition he wrote around 414, Mark 16:14 is cited to show where the interpolation that is now known as the Freer Logion had been seen in Greek codices.
Metzger:  The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16:8.– 

          This comment reflects a misunderstanding of the Eusebian Sections.  In their earliest extant form, the Eusebian Sections include sections that are not in Matthew.  The non-extant cross-reference system that Ammonius developed, as described by Eusebius in Ad Carpianus (which served as a User’s Guide to the Eusebian Sections), was centered upon the Gospel of Matthew, and thus could not include sections to which there is no parallel in Matthew.  Ammonius’ non-extant cross-reference system inspired Eusebius to develop his own cross-reference system but the two things should not be confused.  Unfortunately that is exactly what Dr. Metzger has done, and many commentators who have repeated his claim have shown that they, too, have never really looked into the subject, and have never even consulted the analysis that John Burgon provided about it in Appendix G of his 1871 book The Last Twelve Verses of Mark. (Burgon’s book can be downloaded for free online.)
Metzger: Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it

          Dr. Metzger’s vague description of “not a few” manuscripts refers to 14 manuscripts (which, considering that there are over 1,700 Greek copies of Mark, is relatively few).  The annotations in those 14 manuscripts are not the comments of 14 independent copyists; we are dealing here with essentially three notes.  One note is simple and short; it says at Mark 16:8, “In some of the copies this [i.e., verses 9-20] does not occur, but it stops here.”  One note says at 16:8, “In some of the copies, the Gospel comes to a close here, and so does Eusebius’ Canon-list.  But in many, this also appears.”  And another note says the same thing minus the part about the Eusebian Canons.  Another note, shared by a small group of manuscripts which also feature notes stating that they were compared to old copies at Jerusalem, says, “From here to the end forms no part of the text in some of the copies.  But in the ancient ones, it all appears intact.”

          Dr. Metzger told his readers that the scribal notes state “that older Greek copies lack it.”   But when we examine the notes themselves, one form of the note says, “In the ancient copies it all appears intact.”  The note states the exact opposite of what a reader of Dr. Metzger’s note would naturally expect.  All of these notes, except for the first one I mentioned (which, for slightly complicated reasons, I consider to be just a brief version of the last one), tend to express support for the legitimacy of the passage.  Dr. Metzger’s description misleads his readers about the quantity of manuscripts with these notes, and about what is stated by the notes themselves.
Metzger: “in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document. –          

          This statement from Dr. Metzger is not true.  Earlier researchers described various manuscripts inaccurately, “spot-checking” this particular part instead of surveying the entire manuscript, and symbols which actually represent the beginnings and ends of lections (that is, individual passages selected for public reading in the church-services) were misinterpreted as if they meant that there was some doubt about the passage.  (Dr. Metzger’s statements about asterisks and obeli have been distorted by many commentators, including Robert Stein and Craig A. Evans.)

          In addition to these misleading statements about the external evidence, Dr. Metzger misrepresented some aspects of the internal evidence, too.  For instance, he wrote, "θανάσιμον and τοις μετ’ αυτου γενομένοις, as designations of the disciples, occur only here in the New Testament."  Part of this statement simply does not make any sense, because θανάσιμον [thanasimon] is not a designation of the disciples; it is the word for “deadly thing” that appears in 16:18.  The weight of Dr. Metzger’s description of the vocabulary in Mark 16:9-20 as “non-Markan” is rather diminished by the observation (made by Dr. Bruce Terry) that the 12-verse passage consisting of Mark 15:40-16:4 contains more once-used words than 16:9-20.  

          These are not the only things that deserve clarification in Dr. Metzger’s comments, but this should prove, I think, that the descriptions of the external evidence pertaining to Mark 16:9-20 provided by Dr. Metzger (or by other commentators who have essentially borrowed and rephrased his descriptions) should not be used as the basis of text-critical decisions about Mark 16:9-20.     

Monday, June 18, 2012

An Excerpt from Jerome's Letter to Hedibia (Epistle 120)

          After I found, side-by-side at , the Latin text of Jerome’s Epistle 120 (To Hedibia), and a French translation of it, I used the online Google™ Translate tool to render the text into a mechanical sort of English. I then took my best guesses about what the text meant.  In the Preface and in the first three questions, I consulted the English translation already made by Roger Pearse, and John Burgon’s rendering of part of the text (on pages 53-54 of his 1871 The Last Twelve Verses of Mark).
           What you read here should not be considered completely reliable as far as details are concerned, and here and there I suspect that I completely obscured the actual meaning of Jerome’s statements.
          By comparing this part of Jerome’s Ad Hedibiam to Roger Pearse’s English translation of Ad Marinum (in the book Eusebius of Caesarea:  Gospel Problems and Solutions, pages 96-129), anyone can see that Jerome depended heavily and extensively upon Ad Marinum.  The third, fourth, and fifth Q-and-A in Jerome’s Ad Hedibiam are based on the first, second, and third Q-and-A in Eusebius’ Ad Marinum.  Dr. Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary has written, "It is not clear to me why Jerome is merely seen as repeating Eusebius." (See Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views, © 2008 Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville.)   Hopefully a comparison of the similar content shared by Jerome's letter to Hedibia and Eusebius' letter to Marinus will make it clear that Jerome,as he dictated this letter, recycled Eusebius' work. 
          Jerome’s letter is packed with citations and allusions to Biblical passages.  I have added footnotes to a few of them. 
          At the entire English translation of Ad Hedibia is available.  Here I have presented only Jerome’s preface and the first seven Question-and-Answers.
          Yours in Christ,
          James Snapp, Jr.



Although I have never had the honor of seeing your face, I know very well the reputation that you have gained in the world by your ardent faith.  So, from far-off Gaul you have written to me, coming to seek me in my solitary repose in the wilderness near Bethlehem, so that I may respond to some little questions on Holy Scripture.  And you come on the recommendation of the man of God, my son Apodemius, as if there was not anyone in your province suitably knowledgeable about God’s law who could instruct you to see the way through your doubts.

But perhaps, instead of seeking to be instructed yourself, you seek me in order to test my ability, and after having consulted others on the difficulties that have caused you to hesitate, you still want to know what I think.  Your ancestors Paterus and Delphidus – the first of whom taught rhetoric at Rome before I was born, and the second of whom, during my youth, was illustrious among all the Gauls due to the power of his prose and poetry – both now dead, may not validly chasten me for the liberty I take by instructing a member of their family.  They excelled, I admit, in eloquence and in the literature of the humanities, but I daresay, without fear of stealing their glory, that they were less knowledgeable about God’s law, in which no one can be instructed except by the Father of lights, who enlightens every man coming into this world, and who is found in the midst of the faithful who are gathered in his name.

So I declare, without fear of being accused of vanity, that in this letter I will not use any pompous words, which belong to the human wisdom that God must destroy one day, but instead the language of faith, treating spiritually spiritual things.  Thus the deep of the Old Testament calls to the deep of the gospel with the noise of the waterfall, that is, the prophets and the apostles, and the truth of the Lord shall rise up to the clouds, which He has forbidden to shed rain upon the unbelieving Jews, but rather to water the lands of the Gentiles, and to soften the torrent of thorns, and to sooth the waters of the Dead Sea.

So pray that the true Elijah will invigorate the dead and sterile waters within me, and season the meats that I present to you with the salt of the apostles, to whom He said, “You are the salt of the earth.” For nothing can be offered to God that is not seasoned with salt.  Do not look here for the thunder of that worldly eloquence that Jesus Christ saw fall from heaven like lightning; instead cast your eyes upon this man acquainted with sorrow, who had neither beauty nor attraction, who understands infirmity.  And believe that as I respond to your questions, I do not depend on my own training and ability, but on the promise of Him who said, “Open your mouth and I will fill it.” [Via this quotation of Psalm 81:10 Jerome  indicates that he is composing the letter by dictation, his customary method of letter-composing at Bethlehem.]

You ask me how a person can become perfect, and how a childless widow should manage her life.

Such a question was put to Jesus Christ by a doctor of the law:  “Master,” he said to him, “what is it that I do to gain eternal life?”  The Lord replied, “Do you know the commandments?”  “Which commandments?” replied the doctor.  Jesus said, “Do not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  This doctor answered him, “I kept all these commandments since my youth.”  Jesus Christ said, “You still lack one thing: if you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor; then come and follow me.” [A recollection of Mt. 19:16-21.]

So, madam, in response to the question you pose, I will employ the words of Jesus:  if you want to be perfect, carry your cross, follow the Savior, emulating Saint Peter, who said, “You see, Lord, that we have left everything to follow you.”  Go, sell everything you have, give to the poor and follow the Savior.

Christ does not say, “Give it to your children, your brothers, your parents,” for by this standard, even if you had such, the Lord must have first preference:  “Give it to the poor,” or rather, to Christ, whom you assist in the person of the poor.  He, being rich, became poor due to love of us – He who said in the thirty-ninth Psalm, “As for me, I was poor and needy, and the Lord took care of me.”  And, at the beginning of the following psalm, “Blessed is he who is attentive to the needs of the poor and the needy.”

Indeed attentiveness is needed to discern the poor from the many people who live in their sins as much as in squalor and poverty; what is meant is those of the sort of whom the apostle Paul spoke when he says, “They only asked us not to forget the poor.”  It was for the relief of these poor people that Paul and Barnabas carefully collected alms on the first day of the week in the congregations of the Gentile converts to the faith, and they disciplined themselves, not sending others, to bring it to those who had been stripped of their property for Jesus Christ – those who suffered persecution, and who told their father and their mother, their wives and their children, “We do not know you.”  These are the authentic poor, who have performed the will of the heavenly Father, and of the Savior who said, “These are my mother and my brothers: those who carry out the will of My Father.” [Mt. 12:49, without the reference to sisters.]

In saying this, I do not mean that to prevent alms-giving to Jews, to Gentiles, and to all other poor people of any nation whatsoever.  But we must always prefer the Christian to the unbeliever, and among the Christians themselves, we must make a great distinction between a poor man whose life is pure and innocent and one whose life is corrupt and disorderly.  For this reason the Apostle Paul, who in many places in his epistles urges the faithful to exercise charity toward the poor, recommends that they do so primarily to fellow believers – to one with whom we are united in the same religion, and who is not separated from the brotherhood by disruptive and corruptive immorality.  Inasmuch as Saint Paul commands us to give food to our enemies when they are hungry, and to give them something to drink when thirsty, and thereby to pour coals of fire upon their head, [Romans 12:20] how much more ought we to do so for those who are not our enemies, and who profess a holy Christian life?

It is necessary to take in a beneficial way, and not in a bad sense, what is said by the apostle: “Thereby you pour coals of fire on his head.”  He meant that in doing good to our enemies, we overcome their malice and hatred with our expressions of goodness, and thus we will soften their adamancy; we banish the bitterness and fury to make room for friendship and affection.  Thus we pour upon their heads those coals about which it is written, “A mighty hand launches sharp arrows with devouring coals.”  For, just as the seraph of whom Isaiah speaks purified the prophet’s lips with a fiery coal which he had taken from the altar, we shall purify the sins of our enemies, overcoming evil with good, blessing those who curse us, and imitating our Father in heaven, who “makes his sun rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the just and the sinners.”

Since you have no little children, “use the wealth from swindling to make more friends for yourself, that you may be received in the eternal dwelling-places.”  It is not for no reason that the Gospel refers to the earthly riches of wealth as unjust, because they have no source other than the injustice of men, and one cannot gain unless someone else loses.  So I consider the axiom to be true, that those with much property are either swindlers, or the heirs of swindlers.

This doctor of the law, being told by Jesus Christ that to be perfect we should renounce all the wealth we possess, could not resolve to do so, because he was rich.  Then the Savior, turning to His disciples, said, “How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven!”  He does not say it is impossible, but it is difficult, although the example that He gives shows an absolute impossibility:  “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  But this is impossible rather than difficult, for it will never be possible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle; therefore a rich man can never enter the kingdom of heaven.  But the camel is a terribly hunchbacked animal, and it usually carries heavy burdens.  And when we wander off the path that Jesus Christ blazed, and follow bad paths that lead to sin, we are loaded with the burden of riches or the weight of our sins, and it is impossible for us to enter the kingdom of God.  But if we unload this oppressive weight, and put on the wings of a dove, then we will fly away ourselves; we will find rest [cf. Ps. 55:6] and we will say, “When you can sleep in the middle of the campfires, you will become like the dove, whose wings are silver, and whose back is as bright as gold.[Ps. 68:13]  With our back, which was deformed by the heavy burden that was crushing us, covered with this bright gold, representing the spiritual sense of the divine Scriptures, and with these “silver wings,” which signify the literal sense, we will be able to enter into the kingdom of God.

The apostles, saying that they had abandoned all their possessions, boldly sought from Jesus Christ a proper reward for this virtue, and the Lord replied, “Whoever, for My name, shall abandon his house, or his brothers, or his sisters, or his father or mother, or wife, or children, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”  What blessedness to have Jesus Christ himself as your debtor, and to receive much in return for little things – the eternal in exchange for the temporary, and durable and strong goods in exchange for our fragile and perishable wealth.

So, if a widow has children, especially if her family is upper-class, she must not leave them in poverty. Let her love them equally, and have regard for her soul, treating it like one of her own children. She must apportion the property together with them, and not abandon everything to them; rather, she must make Christ a fellow-heir.  You could perhaps say that this is difficult, and revolting, and that such treatment of children opposes your tender instincts.  But you will hear the Lord reply:  “The one who is able to perform such a thing, let him do so,” “If you want to be perfect, go, sell all that you possess,” etc.  In saying, “If you want to be perfect,” He does not make this burden a requirement, but allows freedom to pursue either course regarding children.  Do you want to be perfect and raise yourself to the highest level of virtue?  Imitate the apostles, sell everything you have, give to the poor, and follow the Lord.  Separated from all creatures and stripped of everything that you own in the world, follow Him bare, with only a cross.  Or, are you content not to be perfect, and to remain in the second-highest level of virtue?  Then abandon everything you have, and give it to your children and parents.  No one will rebuke you, if you follow this lesser way, provided that you also agree that it is fair that you defer to one whose way tends toward perfection.

You will want to tell me that such sublime virtue is for the men and apostles, but it is impossible for a refined woman, who needs a thousand things to maintain her way of life.  Hear therefore what the apostle Paul says:  “I do not mean that others are helped and that you are overburdened, but that, to relieve inequality, your abundance compensates for their poverty, so that your poverty is also relieved by their abundance.”  That is why the Lord says in the Gospel, “Whoever has two coats, let him give to him who has none.” [Luke 3:11; this was said by John the Baptist.]

Now, if we lived among the ice of Scythia and the snow of the Alps, where not only two and three coats, but even the animal-skins are scarcely sufficient protection from the harsh cold climate, would we be obliged to strip ourselves to clothe others?  We must understand “coat” to mean all that is necessary to clothe us and provide what is naturally required, since we are born naked.  And by “the provisions of a single day” is meant, whatever is necessary to feed ourselves.  In this sense we fathom the commandment in the Gospel, “Do not worry about tomorrow,” that is, about the future, and the apostle’s statement, “While we have food and covering, we must be content.”

If you have more than you need, give to the poor, and know that you are thus paying a debt. Ananias and Sapphira deserved to be condemned by the apostle Saint Peter, because they had quietly set aside part of their property.  Is it a crime, you might ask, not to donate everything one has?  No, but the apostle punished them with the death penalty because they had lied to the Holy Spirit, for while reserving for themselves what they needed to live, they pretended to surrender completely all earthly things – thus seeking, in vain, only the approval and esteem of men.  Notwithstanding that we are free to give or not to give, he who renounces all his goods in order to be perfect must expect that one day in the future his poverty will be rewarded with property.

Regarding the life that a widow must lead, the apostle sets the rules in a few words, when he says, “The widow who lives in luxury is dead, although she seems alive.”  I have dealt with this matter thoroughly in the two books that I have dedicated to Furia and Salvina.

How shall we understand what the Savior said in Saint Matthew:  “And I tell you that henceforth I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink with you again in the kingdom of My Father?

This passage has caused some authors to invent a certain fable, claiming that Christ will reign in the flesh for a thousand years, and will drink the wine which He has not drunk from that time until the end of the world.  [Here Jerome may allude to a statement by Papias.]  But as for us, we believe about the bread, which the Lord broke and gave to His disciples, is nothing but the body of our Lord and Savior, as He Himself said to them, “Take, eat, this is my body.”  And the cup is the one about which He said, “Drink of this, all of you, for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.”  This is the cup of which we read in the prophet, “I take the cup of salvation,” and elsewhere, “How admirable is your cup which overwhelms me!”

So, inasmuch as “the bread which came down from heaven” is the body of the Lord, and if the wine He gave to His disciples is his blood, “the blood of the new covenant, which was poured out for many for the remission of sins,” let us reject the Jewish fables, and assemble with the Lord in this great upper room, furnished and prepared, in which He kept the Passover with His apostles, and there, receiving from His hand the cup of the new covenant, and celebrating Easter with Him, let us become intoxicated with that wine of sobriety.  For the kingdom of God is not drink and food, but justice, and joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit.

It was not Moses, but our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave us the true bread – He who is both the diner and the dinner, the eater and that which is to be eaten.  It is His blood we drink, and we cannot drink it without Him.  Every day in His sacrifices, we press the grapes of the true vine, and of the vine of Sorek, which means “Chosen,” and we drink in this wine of the kingdom of the Father, not according to the letter, but in the newness of the spirit, singing a new song which no one can sing except in the kingdom of the church, which is the kingdom of the Father.  The patriarch Jacob desired to eat this bread, saying, “If the Lord God is with me, and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear,” [Genesis 28:20] and so forth.  For when we are baptized into Jesus Christ, we are protected by Christ.  We eat the bread of angels, and we heard the Lord telling us, “My food is to do the will of my Father who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” [Jn. 4:34, with a textual variant.]  Let us therefore also do the will of the Father who sent us, and carry out His work, and Christ will drink His blood in the kingdom of the church with us.

Why do the evangelists speak differently about the resurrection of our Lord, and how He appeared to His apostles?

Here you first ask why Matthew says that our Lord rose “on the evening of the Sabbath, when the first day of the following week was just beginning to shine,” [Mt. 28:1] and Saint Mark, on the contrary, said that He arose in the morning, “Jesus arising on the first day of the week in the morning appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had expelled seven demons. And she, departing, told those who were His companions, as they mourned and wept.  And these, hearing that He was alive, and that she had seen Him, did not believe in Him.” [Mk. 16:9-11, with textual variants.]

This problem has a twofold solution.  Either we do not accept the testimony of Mark, because this final portion [In Latin, “capitulum”] is not contained in most of the Gospels that bear his name – almost all the Greek codices lacking it – or else we must affirm that Matthew and Mark have both told the truth, that our Lord rose on the evening of the Sabbath, and that He was seen by Mary Magdalene in the morning of the first day of the following week.

So this is how this passage of Saint Mark should be read:  “Jesus arising,” place a little pause here, then add, “on the first day of the week in the morning appeared to Mary Magdalene,” so that, being raised, according to Saint Matthew, in the evening of the last day of the week, He appeared to Mary Magdalene, according to Saint Mark, “the morning of the first day of the week,” which is how John also represents the events, stating that He was seen on the morning of the next day.

How can Saint Matthew’s statement, that Mary Magdalene saw Jesus Christ “on the evening of the last day of the week” – agree with what John said, that “the morning of the first day of the week,” she wept at the tomb?

By “the first day of the week” is meant Sunday, because the Jews concluded the week on the Sabbath, and pagans marked the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days of the week with the names of idols and planets.  So the apostle Paul instructs the believers in Corinth to collect, on “the first day of the week,” the alms they designated for the relief of the poor.  So do not imagine that Saint Matthew and Saint John do not agree together:  they supply different names for only one hour, which is midnight and the singing of the rooster.  For Saint Matthew said that our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene “on the evening of the last day of the week,” that is, when it was already late and the night was not only underway, but even far advanced, almost gone.  And he adds, in further explanation, that the first day of the week was already approaching.  As for John, he does not only say, “The first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early in the morning to the tomb,” but adds, “When it was still unclear.”  So they both agree about the time, which is the rooster-song and midnight; one of which marked the beginning and the other marked the end.  It seems to me that the text of Saint Matthew, who wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, is, “When it was already late,” and not “evening,” which the interpreter, who was not aware of the true meaning of this word, translated as “evening” instead of saying, “When it was already late.”  [This explanation, based on the theory that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, was offered by Eusebius in Ad Marinum.]  In the ordinary use of the Latin language, the word means “elgonza,” late [sero], and we can use it when, for example, we say to someone, “You came too late,” meaning that a prearranged meeting-time has passed long ago.

Now we meet the objection, “How can Mary Magdalene, after seeing the risen Lord, come again to the tomb, as the Gospel says, weeping?”  We must answer, according to a keen sense of perception, that in accordance with all the gifts that Christ had given, she ran several times to his tomb, either alone or in the company of other women, and that sometimes she gazed adoringly at what she saw, and sometimes she wept as she waited.

Some believe, however, that there were two Mary Magdalenes, both natives of the village of Magdelon, and the one who met the risen Christ, according to Saint Matthew, is different from the one which, according to Saint John, appeared so forlorn.  [Eusebius favored this view in Ad Marinum.]  What is certain is that the Gospel makes mention of four women called Mary:  the first is the mother of our Lord, and the second is Mary, wife of Cleophas and aunt of Jesus Christ, being His mother’s sister, and the third is Mary, mother of James and Joses, and the fourth is Mary Magdalene.  Some, however, confused the mother of James and Joses with the aunt of Jesus Christ.

Others, to get rid of this difficulty, say that the true reading speaks of Saint Mary, and that he did not include the name of Magdalene, but the scribes have added it inappropriately.  [Eusebius mentioned this proposal in Ad Marinum.]  As for me, it seems to me that we can meet this challenge in a simpler and less embarrassing way, by saying that these holy women, unable to bear the absence of Jesus Christ, were in transit all night, and went to observe His grave not only once and twice, but constantly, especially as their sleep was disturbed and interrupted by the earthquake, by the sound of splitting stones, by the eclipse of the sun, by all sorts of confusion and inconvenience, and especially by the desire they had to see the Savior.

QUESTION #5 [Cf. Question #3 in Eusebius' Ad Marinum]
How can we reconcile what Saint Matthew says, that on the evening of the last day of the week, Mary Magdalene, along with another Mary, bowed at the feet of the Savior, and what we read in John, that Jesus said, “Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father?”

Mary Magdalene, with the other one, had already seen the risen Christ Jesus, and had fallen prostrate at His feet, but the concern that she felt due to the absence of the Savior did not permit her to remain quiet in her house.  She returned to the tomb during the night and, seeing that the stone had been removed which was previously used to close the tomb, she ran to tell Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus dearly loved that they had taken the Lord’s body, and she did not know where he was laid.  The woman was simultaneously subject to her piety and her error: her piety, as she sought with such eagerness to seek after the King, and her error, as she said that they had removed the Lord.

Saint Peter and Saint John then went into the tomb, and having seen on one side the body-wrappings, and the other on the shroud that had enveloped the head of the Savior, they were convinced of the resurrection of their divine master, whose body was no longer in the tomb.  But Mary stood outside, near the tomb weeping, and bending down to look inside, she saw two angels dressed in white, seated in the place where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the feet, so that she might observe that it was impossible that men had been capable of removing a body that angels had been guarding, and thus she should have been overjoyed to see these famous and powerful protectors.

These angels, when she saw them, said, “Woman, why do you weep?”, as Jesus Christ had once said to his mother, “Woman, what is common between you and me?  My time is not yet come.”  They address her as “Woman,” and in saying, “Why do you weep?” they point out the uselessness of her tears. But the Magdalene was so beside herself, not knowing what to believe, and full of awe at the wonders she saw – wrapped in a cloud, as it were, which was so thick that without realizing that she was speaking to angels, she replied, “I weep because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they laid him.”  O Mary, if you are convinced he is the Lord, and your Lord in particular, how can you believe they have removed Him?  You do not know, you say, where they have gone?  How can you ignore what you gaze at, this very moment?  She sees angels without realizing it, caught up in fear and amazement, and occupied only by the desire to see the Lord; she turns her head and casts her eyes all around.

Finally, having looked behind her, she saw Jesus standing, without realizing, however, that it was Him.  Not that Jesus Christ, as some claim – Manes and other heretics – had changed his figure so as to appear when he wanted in different forms, but rather, the Magdalene, surprised and amazed at all the wonders, thought she was seeing a gardener, such was her anxiety and eagerness.  Jesus therefore said to her, as the angels had said, “Woman, why do you weep?” And He added, “Who are you looking for?” Mary replied, “Lord, if you have removed Him, tell me where you put Him and I will take Him thence.”  It is an expression of a truly humble faith when she calls to the Savior, “Lord,” an address which would require a gardener to respond with respect and honesty.

But notice, please, the extent of her error and her blindness:  she imagines that the gardener was able to remove only the body of Jesus Christ, which was guarded by a company of soldiers, whose tomb was under the protection of angels, and forgetting her inherent weakness, she is persuaded that, alone and frightened as she is, she nevertheless has enough strength to transport the body of a man of full age, and who, never mind the rest, had been embalmed with a hundred pounds of myrrh.  Jesus having called by name, so that she knew at least the voice of Him whose face she did not perceive, the woman, still occupied her mistake, said not “Lord,” but “Rabboni,” that is to say, “Teacher.”  What reversal of mind! What a way of thinking!  She bestows upon a gardener the title of “Lord,” and calls Jesus Christ as “Teacher.”

After she had sought among the dead for a man full of life, and she and the other one had run away, without her weakness, her wandering imagination guided her to seek for the dead body of Him whom she had seen alive, whose feet she had fallen before, worshiping Him.  So the Lord said to her, “Do not touch me, because I am not yet ascended to my Father.”  That is, since you are seeking a dead man, you do not deserve to touch my life.  If you believe that I am not yet ascended to my Father, and that men came stealthily to remove my body, you are unworthy to touch me.”  Jesus told her this, not to cool her zeal or to prevent the confirmation which she sought, but to show her that this fragile and mortal body which He had occupied was surrounded by all the glory and all the radiance of divinity, and that she would not have wished to see the Lord in a tangible and material body, if her faith had been better cultivated, and if she had learned that He would now be with His Father.  Indeed, the faith of the apostles seems much more lively and more vibrant, because, unlike the Magdalene, without having seen the angels or the Savior, they merely found the contents of the tomb where His body had been, and they immediately thought that he was truly resurrected.

Some believe that Mary Magdalene, as reported by Saint John, first came to the tomb and saw that the stone which had closed its entrance had been removed, and then, after going back to tell Saint Peter and Saint John, she remained alone, and they see this as a lack of faith, which justly attracted the Lord’s rebuke.  After they had returned to their homes, she returned again to the tomb with the other Mary, with whom she met the angel who told her that Jesus had risen.  Then she left the place of His burial, and bowed at His feet in adoration, as it says, “You will be given salvation.”  “They came to the Savior,” says the Gospel, “and held His feet and worshiped Him.”  At this time their faith became so strong and so ardent that they were considered worthy to go to the apostles and tell them this happy and pleasant news: Jesus said first, “Do not be afraid,” and then, “God tell my brethren that they are to go into Galilee, where they will see Me.”

[Eusebius, after describing how to harmonize the passages if it is granted that there is only one Mary Magdalene, stated that if it is granted that there are two individuals named Mary, then one is described in Matthew, but “the Mary in John would be a different person, who gets there later than the others, early in the morning; this would be the same one from whom, according to Mark, he had cast out seven devils.” – See p. 119 of Eusebius of Caesarea:  Gospel Problems and Solutions (David Miller, translator) © 2010 Roger Pearse, Chieftain Publishing, Ipswich, UK.]  

How could Saint Peter and Saint John have so easily entered the tomb, which was guarded by a company of soldiers, without any of these guards attempting to defend against their entry?

Here is the reason that Saint Matthew gives us:  “The Sabbath being past,” he says, “and the first day of the next week just beginning to shine, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came to turn the stone which closed the tomb, and sat on it.  His face was shining like lightning and his clothing was white as snow, and the guards were so seized with fear that they turned dead-like.”

Consider these soldiers, consumed by a fear so great that they seemed dead:  we ought to believe that they left the tomb, or that they were so stunned and mortified that they did not dare to object.  I do not say their non-objection was against men, but to the women who wanted to enter.  For this very large stone that had been removed from the tomb’s entrance to the tomb, and the earthquake that seemed to threaten the universe with a general upheaval, and the angel who had descended from heaven, and whose face was so bright that it did not resemble the artificial torches that men are accustomed to turn to their uses, but was like a flash of light that spreads its brightness everywhere – with all these frightening objects, they could easily see through the night, and their souls had been thrown into fear and dread.  Thus Saint Peter and Saint John came easily and without hindrance into the tomb.

In fact Mary Magdalene, who had learned the news of the Savior’s resurrection, had already noticed that His body was removed from the tomb, and that the stone which had closed the entrance was removed.  Moreover we must not imagine that the angel descended from heaven expressly to remove the stone and open the tomb for Jesus Christ, but the Lord had arisen when He wanted to, without any man knowing, and this heavenly spirit came to teach the faithful what had happened, and to show the evidence, the stone was overthrown; the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb, and this could be easily discovered through the bright light coming out of his face, removing all the horror of the darkness of the night.

How should we understand what we read in Saint Matthew and Saint Mark, that the women who went to the tomb were ordered to tell the apostles that they had to go to Galilee, and there they saw the Lord, along with what is said by Saint Luke and Saint John, that He was seen in Jerusalem?

There are many differences in the ways in which the Savior appeared to the eleven apostles.  When, out of fear of the Jews’ forcefulness, they remained in hiding, He entered the place where they were, the doors being closed, and “He showed them the wounds of his hands and his side” to convince them that it was not a spirit as they imagined, and besides, He showed Himself alive to them when He saw fit, as Luke said, “by overwhelming evidence that He was alive, being seen for forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God,” and, “Eating with them, He ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.” [Acts 1:4]  For in this way, by appearing and conversing with His disciples and eating the same normal food that they ate, He was consoling His apostles and dispelling their fear, anticipating that He would shortly disappear suddenly from before their eyes.  That is why the Apostle Paul says that Jesus Christ appeared at the same time to more than five hundred of His followers.  We also read in John that as the apostles were fishing, He appeared on the shore and ate “a piece of roasted fish and a honeycomb,” so that He was seen by them to have truly risen in a physical form.  And can we not see that He did something similar in Jerusalem?  [Jerome here seems to have confused Lk. 24:42-43 and Jn. 21:13.  The Latin text of the last two sentences:  “And in Joanne legimus, quod piscantibus apostolis, in steterit littorea and assi partem pisces, favumque comederit resurrectionis indicia quae vera sunt. In Jerusalem autem nihil horum fecisse narratur.”]