(A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce M. Metzger is © 1971 by the United Bible Societies,
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” –
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
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 , , , , and Mark -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
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 ofClement of
and Origen show no knowledge of
the existence of these verses.” –
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
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 . 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 -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.