Saturday, April 25, 2015

Biblical Archaeology Review and the Ending of Mark (Part 1)

            In 2001, Bible Review, which was at the time a sister-publication with Biblical Archaeological Review, featured an article by Michael Holmes:  To Be Continued … The Many Endings of the Gospel of Mark.” Although Bible Review was discontinued, that article is still being distributed by BAR  in a collection of article titled, Easter:  Exploring the Resurrection of Jesus.  Unfortunately, Holmes’ article contains numerous statements which either significantly distort the evidence pertaining to the subject of the ending of the Gospel of Mark, or else omit important details which, if presented, convey a different impression to readers.  Here they are, with clarifying notes.

(1)  “At least nine versions of the ending of Mark can be found among the 1,700 ancient Greek manuscripts and early translations of the Bible.”

            This sensationalistic claim gives the impression that nine different endings were composed for Mark 16.  Granted, Holmes goes into more detail further along in his article – but this sentence is likely to be quoted solo for sensationalistic effect.  In real life, the tally looks like this, in basic terms of whether the Greek manuscripts have verses 9-20 or the Shorter Ending or both:
            ● In Codex Vaticanus (from c. 325), Mark 16:8 is followed by the book-title, which is followed by a deliberately-placed blank space.
            ● In Codex Sinaiticus (from c. 350), Mark 16:8 is followed by an emphatic column-wide decorative design, followed by the book-title.  In addition, all four pages in Codex Sinaiticus containing Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 constitute a cancel-sheet; that is, these four pages were produced by the diorthotes, or proofreader/supervisor, when the manuscript was in production; the text on these four pages was not written by the same copyist who wrote the text on the surrounding pages.  The diorthotes wrote Luke 1:1-56 in extremely compact lettering, and wrote the text in the ninth column of the cancel-sheet in extremely stretched-out lettering. 
            ● In 304 (from the 1100’s), the text of Mark ends at the end of 16:8 without a subscription and without the book-title.  304’s text of Mark is interspersed with a commentary, and the commentary continues after this point for several pages, describing parallel-passages from the other Gospels, but then it abruptly stops.  304 is probably simply a damaged manuscript, possibly one which, when initially produced, was a single-volume Gospels-manuscript which was rebound as two volumes.
            ● In six Greek manuscripts, the Shorter Ending appears – always accompanied by at least part of Mark 16:9-20.  These six Greek manuscripts are 083 (from the 600’s), 099 (from around 600), L (from the 700’s), Ψ (from the 800’s), 274 (from the 900’s), and 579 (from the 1200’s).  
            ● In the remaining 1,600+ Greek manuscripts of Mark, 16:8 is followed by 16:9. 

            When we leave Holmes’ sensationalistic fantasy of “nine versions” of Mark 16, and explore the evidence, we see that two endings – not nine – were attached to Mark 16:8.  We also see that every Greek witness for the Shorter Ending also contains at least part of verses 9-20. 

(2)  “We also have copies of Syriac, Sahidic Coptic and Armenian translations dating as early as the fourth century that preserve this form.”

            The blurriness of Holmes’ statement may be remedied by focusing on the evidence.
            ● One Syriac manuscript (the Sinaitic Syriac) ends the text of Mark at 16:8.  It is the only Syriac manuscript to do so. 
            ● One Sahidic Coptic manuscript ends the text of Mark at 16:8.  This is Codex P. Palau-Ribes Inv. Nr. 182.  When initially published, it was assigned a date around 425 (which is not “as early as the fourth century”) but it may be centuries younger.
            ● We do not have Armenian manuscripts of Mark from the fourth century.  The Armenian alphabet was not created until the early fifth century.  Holmes’ claim is simply erroneous.

(3)  “Eusebius wrote:  The accurate copies conclude the story according to Mark in the words of the young man seen by the women and saying to them, “Do not be afraid.  You seek Jesus . . . for they were afraid.”  For the end is here in nearly all the copies of Mark.”
            If Holmes had given his readers a closer look at Eusebius’ statements about Mark 16:9-20, they would receive a far different impression than the one given by this cherry-picked quotation.  That statement – from Eusebius’ composition Ad Marinum – is part of a response to a question about how to harmonize the accounts of Matthew and Mark when it comes to the time of Jesus’ resurrection.  Eusebius says that there are two ways to settle this question:
            “This could be resolved in two ways.  On one hand, the person who rejects the passage itself – the pericope which says this – might say this:  ‘It does not appear in all copies of the Gospel of Mark.  At least, the accurate copies close Mark’s account with the words of the young man who appeared to the women and said to them, “Do not fear.  You are seeking Jesus the Nazarene” and so forth, proceeding to where it says, ‘And having heard, they fled, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’
            “For there the Gospel of Mark is brought to a close in almost all the copies.  The material that comes afterward seldom appears; it is in some copies but not in all, and may be spurious, especially since it implies a disagreement with the witness of the other Gospels.’  This, then, is what someone might say to avoid and altogether dismiss a superfluous question.
            “On the other hand, someone else, who dares to set aside nothing at all which appears, by whatever means, in the Gospel-Scriptures, says that this point in the narratives, like many others, is described in two ways, and each of the two must be accepted, since they are advocated by the faithful and pious, not this one instead of that one, or that one rather than this one. 
            “And furthermore, since it is granted that this section is true, it is appropriate to seek to fathom the meaning of the passage.  And if we accurately discern the sense of the words, we would not find it contrary to what Matthew said: ‘Late on the Sabbath’ the Savior was raised.  For we will read Mark’s ‘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 is read next:  so, on one hand, we could read ‘having risen’ in regard to Matthew’s ‘late on the Sabbath,’ for that is when he was raised.  On the other hand, we might join what follows, producing a different meaning, with what is read next:  for ‘early on the first day of the week he appeared to Mary Magdalene.’
            “At any rate, John has also made this clear, and has himself testified that the appearance to the 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’ but much earlier, according to Matthew, ‘late on the Sabbath.’  For having arisen at that time, he did not appear to Mary at that time, but ‘early.’  The implication is that two episodes are represented by these phrases:  one is the time of the resurrection, which was late on the Sabbath; the other, of the appearance of the Savior, which was early.  Mark referred to the later time when he wrote, saying what must be read 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.’

            When the full contents of this part of Ad Marinum are revealed, it is plain that Eusebius was not very concerned about the consistency of the view of a hypothetical person who rejected Mark 16:9-20:  the description of the manuscript-evidence swings from “not in all” to “hardly in any” – because that was not Eusebius’ approach to the issue when he wrote Ad Marinum.  He recommended that Marinus should accept Mark 16:9-20 and resolve the perceived discrepancy via the insertion of punctuation in Mark 16:9.    Furthermore, in the course of answering Marinus’ third question in Ad Marinum, Eusebius refers to Mary Magdalene as the Mary “from whom, according to Mark, he [Jesus] had cast out seven devils.”  (This detail, also related less precisely in Luke 8:2, is stated in Mark only in 16:9), showing that Eusebius used a text which included Mark 16:9-20.  (Those who wish to see the text of Ad Marinum for themselves may consult Eusebius of Caesarea:  Gospel Problems and Solutions, edited by Roger Pearse; see especially pages 96-99, 112-113, and 118-119.)

            Holmes did not warn his readers against interpreting Eusebius’ statement about quantities of manuscripts anachronistically, so I will do so here.  When Eusebius wrote in the early 300’s, not long after the Diocletian persecution, he had no means to survey the manuscript-collections of libraries and churches in far-flung locations.  When he refers to quantities of manuscripts, he is not referring to proportions of all manuscripts in existence.  At best – if he is not casually guessing or repeating unverified claims from some other writer – he is describing proportions of manuscripts that he has encountered.  The experience of a contemporary somewhere else might be entirely different (and was different to Eusebius’ contemporary Marinus).   

(4)  “Eusebius’ report is echoed some decades later by Jerome (c. 343-420), who based his Latin translation of the Vulgate on the oldest Greek texts known at the time.  Speaking of Mark 16:9-20 (the final verses that are not included in the shortest form), he writes that this section “is found in only a few copies of the Gospel – almost all the Greek copies being without this final passage.”

            “Echo” is truly the correct word to describe how Jerome used Eusebius’ material in Ad Marinum.  Jerome frequently borrowed material from other writers without naming his source – and he straightforwardly admitted doing so.  That is what he did in the early 400’s, when he was writing Ad Hedibiam (at a time in his life when most of his letters were written by dictation).  Facing a broad question about how the accounts of events following Jesus’ resurrection should be harmonized, Jerome replied by summarizing Eusebius’ first three responses to Marinus – along with forms of Marinus’ first three questions – and loosely restated them in Latin.  As David C. Parker has pointed out (on page 135 of The Living Text of the Gospels, © 1997 David Parker), in this part of Ad Hedibiam, “Jerome’s work is simply a translation with some slight changes of what Eusebius had written.  It is thus worthless for our purposes.”
            Holmes thus presented part of Eusebius’ statement twice (once from Eusebius, and once from Jerome’s Latin abridgement) – and both times, he somehow neglected to mention that in Eusebius’ Ad Marinum, and in Jerome’s Ad Hebidiam, the person to whom the letter is addressed is instructed to retain Mark 16:9-20. 

(5)  “The intermediate ending is found only in Codex Bobbiensis, an Old Latin manuscript that was written in the late fourth or early fifth century but that preserves a text whose roots go back at least to the early third century.  We know this because the text is very similar to that cited by Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (d. 258), in his writings.”

            Holmes omitted some important details:  (a)  Codex Bobbiensis is thoroughly damaged, rendering it somewhat tenuous to extrapolate a close relationship to Cyprian’s Gospels-text.  (b)  The text of Mark 16:1-8 in Codex Bobbiensis is extremely corrupt; among other things, it contains a unique insertion between verses 3 and 4, and omits part of verse 8.  (c)  The Shorter Ending is very badly written in Codex Bobbiensis:  he wrote “puero” (child) instead of “Petro” (Peter), and wrote the Latin equivalent of “from east to east,” and omitted the word “praedictionis.”  Basic errors abound throughout the text of this manuscript, as if the copyist was seeing an exemplar of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark for the very first time. 

(6)  “These verses are also found in a wide range of early translations.  They include most manuscripts of the Old Latin.”

            Or to put it another way:  every undamaged Old Latin manuscript of Mark 16 includes verses 9-20, except Codex Bobbiensis.  The Gothic version (produced by Wulfilas in the mid-300’s) was not mentioned by Holmes. It includes Mark 16:9-20 immediately after 16:8.  Likewise the Garima Gospels – the earliest Ethiopic Gospels-manuscript, produced sometime in the 400’s-600’s – should be ungagged:  it contains Mark 16:9-20 immediately after 16:8.
(7)  “This long version was known among the early church fathers.  The Christian apologist Justin Martyr (d. c. 165) probably knew the longer ending; the church father Irenaeus, who quotes Mark 16:19 in his work Against Heresies (written c. 175), certainly did.  The apologist Tatian apparently cited it in his Diatessaron, a late second-century harmony of the four Gospels, and the church father Hippolytus (c. 170-236) quotes 16:17-18.”

            This is all true as far as it goes (though I would say that Justin’s use of Mark 16:9-20 is more than just probable, and the corresponding arrangement of Mark 16:9-20 in the Arabic Diatessaron and in Codex Fuldensis locks down the case that Tatian used the passage).  But some other patristic witnesses in support of Mark 16:9-20 should be added to the list besides those four.  For example, Robert Stein has stated that the author of the second-century composition Epistula Apostolorum knew Mark 16:9-20.  (If these four second-century witnesses – Justin, Tatian, Epistula Apostolorum, and Irenaeus – were papyri instead of patristic utilizations, I wonder if we would need to write anything further in defense of Mark 16:9-20.) 
            Other witnesses include Vincentius of Thibaris at the Seventh Council of Carthage (257), the author of De Rebaptismate (258),  Hierocles, recycling the work of Porphyry (305), Acts of Pilate (early 300’s), Aphrahat (335), Fortunatianus (c. 350), Ambrose (370’s), De Trinitate (by Didymus or Pseudo-Didymus, c. 380), Apostolic Constitutions (380), manuscripts seen by Jerome with the Freer Logion (late 300’s), Augustine (c. 400), Greek manuscripts mentioned by Augustine (400), Apocryphal Acts of John (early 400’s or earlier), Philostorgius (late 300’s/early 400’s), Macarius Magnes (405), Pelagius (410), Marcus Eremita (435), Eznik of Golb (440), Marius Mercator (mid-400’s), and Patrick (mid-400’s). 
            Is it fair to individually name every Greek manuscript in which Mark’s text ends at the end of 16:8, and then casually skip over 20 early patristic witnesses that support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20?  No; that is not a fair presentation.

(8)  “In five medieval manuscripts, the long form is accompanied by asterisks or obeli (the ¸ symbol), marks traditionally used to indicate suspect or spurious material.”      
            This false claim was repeated by Daniel Wallace in a chapter in the 2007 book, Perspectives on the Ending of Mark.  Wallace listed the five medieval manuscripts:  138, 264, 1221, 2346, and 2812.  However, in 138, the mark in the margin alongside Mark 16:9 is not alone; the manuscript has a note in the margin, and commentary-material below the text.  In 264, the symbol that accompanies the beginning of Mark 16:9 also accompanies the beginning of Mark 11:12, 12:38, and 14:12; at each point it appears at the beginning of a lection.  The idea that these marks in 264 were intended to convey scribal doubt is baseless.  They either serve the same purpose as modern footnote-numbers, or else are part of the normal lectionary-related marginalia.
            In 1221, the symbol between Mark 16:8 and 16:9 is neither an asterisk nor an obelus; it is a lozenge-dot (four dots arranged in a north-south-east-west pattern), and this symbol also appears in Mark in 1221 after 2:12, halfway through 5:24, and at 6:7.  In Luke, this symbol appears several more times:  at the beginning of 1:24, at 1:26, and at the end of 1:56.  In each case, the symbols indicate the start of a lection.  They were added for the convenience of the lector and have no text-critical significance.
            In 2346, we again encounter a lozenge-dot above the line, between Mark 16:8 and 16:9.  In the margin are symbols for τελος and αρχη, indicating the end and beginning of lections.  Once again, this is all lectionary-related and does not indicate a smidgen of scribal doubt.  (The same symbols converge in 2346 at the end of John 1:28.)
            In 2812, a Gospels-manuscript from the 900’s, in which the Biblical text is accompanied by a commentary in the margins, there is a “comet” symbol which is intended to draw the reader’s attention to the commentary-material on a following page, where one finds the Victor of Antioch’s comment about Mark 16:9-20 in the margin – an ordinary component of the Catena Marcum.  This symbol is merely drawing the reader’s attention to one of this manuscript’s many commentary-notes.
None of these five manuscripts have the feature which Holmes said they have.  The lectionary-related symbols, instead of conveying scribal doubt or suspicion about Mark 16:9-20, show that the passage was a prominent lection (to be read at Ascension-Day, and as part of the eleven-part cycle of resurrection-related lections known as the Heothina).

(9)  “In 12 manuscripts, the long form is accompanied by a critical note.”

            199 (from the 1100’s), a MS related to Λ/566.  Its short note says, “In some of the copies this does not occur, but it stops here” (that is, at the end of 16:8).
            20, 215, and 300 share a note which 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.”   
1, 205, 205abs, 209, and 1582 share a note which says, “Now in some of the copies, the evangelist’s work is finished here, and so does Eusebius Pamphili’s Canon-list.  But in many, this also appears.”
15, 22, 1110, 1192, and 1210 share basically the same note displayed in MSS 1 and 1582, minus the part about the Eusebian Canons:  “In some of the copies, the Gospel is completed here, but in many, this also appears.”
These are not independent notes; they descend from two ancestors:  one ancestor-manuscript of the copies with the Jerusalem Colophon had a note stating that although some copies do not have Mark 16:9-20, the ancient copies contain it all.  Another note, in an ancestor-manuscript of the family-1 MSS, stated that some copies did not contain the passage, and the Eusebian Canons did not include it, but it was found in many copies.  The latter note was then truncated some time (or somewhere) when the Eusebian Canons had been adjusted to include Mark 16:9-20.

(10)  “Form 3b occurs in several manuscripts that include the long form (Mark 16:1-20) but indicate (in different ways) that this longer ending might not be original.”

            Holmes is referring to the five non-existent asterisked MSS, and to the 14 (not 12) MSS with notes, described above.  Contrary to the impression which one could easily receive from Holmes’ article, close examination of these notes, especially in their older, fuller forms, these notes tend to encourage readers to accept, rather than reject, the passage, by appealing to either the majority of copies, or to the ancient copies, in support of the inclusion of the passage.
            (It may be worth mentioning that although the note displayed in some MSS with the Jerusalem Colophon, and the note displayed in the family-1 MSS are not very similar, they might both have originated as nothing more than summaries of the comment of Victor of Antioch.)      

(11)  “One typical note reads, “In some copies the evangelist finished here [that is, Mark 16:8] – which is also as far as Eusebius the student of Pamphilus canonized; but in many copies this also [16:9-20] is in circulation.”

            This rendering of the note does not convey its meaning accurately.  Eusebius of Caesarea did not “canonize” any texts; the note refers to the Eusebian Canons, a cross-reference system for the Gospels which Eusebius of Caesarea developed, and which is found in many Gospels-manuscripts. 

(12)  “Form 4 is an expanded version of the long form.”

            Exactly!  What Holmes calls one of “nine versions of the ending of Mark” is just the usual 12 verses after verse 8, with an interpolation between verses 14 and 15.  This is not a “different ending” (as the NET erroneously described it).  It is the normal twelve-verse ending, plus an interpolation.  If we were to describe the last 12 verses of Matthew, or the last 12 verses of Luke, as a “different form of the ending,” just because of the presence of textual variants, we could easily state that there are a dozen forms of the ending of Matthew, and two dozen forms of the ending of Luke.  But this would be highly misleading, which is my point:  it is misleading to look at a ship, and then look at the same ship with a barnacle on it, and call it a different ship.

(13)  “Our final form, Form 5, is a combination form that appears in several manuscripts in four variations, which is how we get a total of nine different versions of Mark.”
            To rephrase what Holmes admits in this sentence:  what he calls “Form 5” is not a fifth composition.  It is not even a third composition:  it is the combination of the Shorter Ending, followed by verses 9-20, sometimes accompanied by brief notes and sometimes not.    
            In the Greek core-witnesses to the double-ending – 083, 099, L, and Ψ – the notes accompanying the Shorter Ending and verses 9-20 (or, due to damage, only the first part of verses 9-20) share either content, or an unusual format, or both, with Greek-Sahidic lectionary 1602, placing the origin of this arrangement squarely in Egypt.     
            After 16:8 and before the Shorter Ending, Greek-Sahidic Lectionary 1602 has a note that says, “In other copies this is not written.”  After the Shorter Ending, Greek-Sahidic Lectionary 1602 has basically the same note that is present in L, Ψ, and 083:  Εστιν δε και ταυτα φερομενα μετα το εφοβουντο γαρ.  Then it begins, like 099, a little more than halfway through 16:8, at the words ειχεν γαρ, and its text proceeds from there, presenting the rest of verse 8 followed by verse 9.
            So, these several (i.e., six) manuscripts do not constitute six independent annotations.  Four of them clearly emanate from an Egyptian edition of the Gospel of Mark.  (In the remaining two – 274 and 579 – the Shorter Ending is not accompanied by a note.)  It seems obvious that what Holmes described as “a continuing awareness of the multiple endings of the Gospel of Mark” was an awareness, isolated somewhere in Egypt, of manuscripts of Mark with no text after 16:8, and manuscripts of Mark with 16:9-20 after verse 8, and manuscripts of Mark with only the Shorter Ending after verse 8.  The annotators simply described the manuscripts that they inherited – which is not a new independent ending; it is a description of the manuscripts they inherited in that particular location. 

(To be continued . . .)

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