Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mark 16:9-20 - Sorting Out Some Common Mistakes

          Last week, as Easter approached, many sermon-preparing preachers pondered what to do with Mark 16:9-20. They approached their trusted commentaries and found . . . a spectacular mess. The amount of misinformation that continues to circulate about these 12 verses is staggering. Here are 12 claims about Mark 16:9-20 that should not be taken at face value.

(12) “Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses.” When Bruce Metzger first made this claim in 1964 on page 226 of the first edition of The Text of the New Testament, he wrote, “Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Eusebius show no knowledge of the existence of these verses,” but by the time Metzger wrote A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament for the United Bible Societies, he had removed the reference to Eusebius (that is, Eusebius of Caesarea, an important bishop in the early 300’s – more about him later). It would have been better to remove the sentence altogether, because it has misled many commentators (some of whom repeat Metzger’s statements almost word-for-word).
          While there is no clear utilization of Mark 16:9-20 in Clement’s writings, there is also no clear utilization of chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15 and 16 of Mark. Aside from one large and loosely quoted citation from chapter 10, Clement hardly ever used the Gospel of Mark. Clement’s testimony does not mean anything about Mark 16:9-20 that it does not mean about 12 entire chapters of Mark.
          Origen, similarly, did not use the Gospel of Mark nearly as much as he used the other Gospels. In his major works, Origen quotes nothing from 3:19-4:11 (28 consecutive verses), from 5:2-5:43 (41 consecutive verses), from 8:7-8:29 (22 consecutive verses), or from 10:3-10:42 (39 consecutive verses), or Mark 1:36-3:16 (54 consecutive verses). So why, when Origen does not use Mark 16:9-20, should this indicate anything special? If Origen did not use Mark 16:9-20, that only means that Mark 16:9-20 has something in common with 33 other 12-verse segments of the Gospel of Mark.
          But it is possible that in Philocalia, chapter 5, Origen alluded to Mark 16:15-18. In the course of linking together a series of Scripture-citations, Origen stated, right after alluding to Luke 10:19, “Let a man observe how the apostles who were sent by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel went everywhere, and he cannot help seeing their superhuman daring in obedience to the divine command.”  While this is not a direct quotation, Origen may have been referring to the instructions to preach the gospel in Mark 16:15, and to the spread of the message everywhere in 16:20, and to the apparently daring actions described in 16:18. The thematic parallel between Luke 10:19 and Mark 16:18 renders this a real possibility.
          Considering Origen’s general tendency to neglect the Gospel of Mark, and considering that it is difficult to refute the idea that Origen alluded to Mark 16:15-20 in Philocalia, his testimony should be considered neutral.
          Since the names of Clement and Origen were thrown into the textual apparatus of both the Novum Testamentum Graece and the Greek New Testament of the United Bible Societies, as if they clearly testified against Mark 16:9-20, generations of commentators have misrepresented their non-testimony as if it is some sort of thunderous declaration.   In 2007, author Stephen Miller was declaring (in Barbour Publishing’s The Complete Guide to the Bible) that Clement of Alexandria had written a commentary in which he confirmed that Mark ends at 16:8.

(11) “Mark 16:9-20 is omitted by important Ethiopic codices.”  This claim can still be found in influential commentaries and apologetics-handbooks. It still circulates on page 322 of the fourth edition of The Text of the New Testament, the work of Metzger (now deceased) and his student Bart Ehrman.  The late Eugene Nida also was guilty of spreading this claim.  However, in 1980, Metzger demonstrated in a detailed essay (published as chapter 9 in a volume of New Testament Tools and Studies) thatthe statement is false.  Metzger concluded that the claim was based on a mistake made by researchers in the 1800’s regarding three Ethiopic manuscripts – all three of which really contain the passage.  To repeat: all known undamaged Ethiopic manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark include 16:9-20.
          Furthermore, research on the Ethiopic version has not stood still since 1980: the Garima Gospels, an Ethiopic manuscript which was previously thought to have been written around A.D. 1000, was tested via carbon-dating, and its production-date was reassigned to 430-540.  The Garima Gospels contains Mark 16:9-20 immediately after 16:8.

(10) “Some early manuscripts add the Freer Logion between verses 14 and 15.”  This claim used to be part of a footnote in the English Standard Version, and to this day, Tyndale House Publishers are spreading this claim in a footnote in the New Living Translation.  During Jerome’s lifetime (in the late 300’s and early 400’s), this claim was true; Jerome reported that the Freer Logion appeared in the Gospel of Mark after 16:14 “especially in Greek codices.”  However, the number of manuscripts that exist today and which are known to contain this interpolation is exactly one:   Codex Washingtoniensis, which resides at the Smithsonian Institution.

(9) The Freer Logion is another ending’ to the Gospel of Mark. James Tabor, a professor at UNC Charlotte, has written (on page 231 of his 2006 book The Jesus Dynasty) that “Two other “made-up” endings were later put into circulation, as shorter alternatives to this longer traditional ending.”  Tabor thus errs in two ways:  first, the Shorter Ending was created to round off the otherwise abrupt ending at 16:8, not with an awareness of 16:9-20.  Second, the Freer Logion is not “another ending.” It is an interpolation which never stood, and could not stand, as an ending by itself.
          A footnote in the NET Bible correctly locates the Freer Logion “between vv. 14 and 15” but erroneously describes it as “a different shorter ending.”  The late Robert Grant wrote that Codex W “contains a different ending entirely.”  Although this claim is easy to demolish by consulting Codex W, several preachers and commentators (and Bible footnote-writers!) continue to echo this legend of “various endings,” as if verses 9-20 face a host of competitors besides the Shorter Ending.

MS 274, with Mark 16:6-15 in the text,
and the Shorter Ending in the lower margin,
with explanations of the meta-text.  
(8) “Some manuscripts have the Shorter Ending after Mark 16:8, and some have verses 9-20 after 16:8.”  This is technically true, but the term “some” is so vague that it deceives the reader.  The number of Greek manuscripts that contain the Shorter Ending in any way at all is six. (A footnote in the NET gives the false impression that the number is higher – partly by listing the same manuscript twice, as 083 and as 0112.)  The number of Greek manuscripts in which 16:8 is followed by 16:9 is over 1,640. (In the medieval manuscript 274, the Shorter Ending is written in the lower margin, linked by asterisks to 16:8, which is followed in the text by 16:9 which begins on the same line on which 16:8 ends.)
          Of the five Greek manuscripts in which the Shorter Ending is between 16:8 and 16:9, Codex L and 083 have a note preceding 16:9 (to the effect of, “In other copies, the following material appears after ‘for they were afraid’”) which is also found in the Greek-Sahidic lectionary 1602.  This establishes this arrangement of the text as a localized Egyptian treatment – that is, four of the Greek manuscripts with the Shorter Ending between 16:8 and 16:9 display a distinctly Egyptian form of the text, indicating that the Shorter Ending originated in Egypt (which suggests, in turn, that only in Egypt did the text of the Gospel of Mark lack verses 9-20 in the early centuries in which the Gospel of Mark was circulated).

(7) “Codex Sigma does not contain Mark 16:9-20.”  Codex Σ, also known as Codex 042 and as the Rossano Gospels, is an important Greek manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark. It was probably made for a member of the royal family of the Byzantine Empire.   It is one of the earliest illustrated manuscripts of the Gospels in existence. Bruce Metzger, in his influential book, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography, stated that Codex Σ does not contain the text of the Gospel of Mark after 14:14.  However, that error is the direct descendant of a typographical error that appeared in the third edition of F. H. A. Scrivener’s Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, in which on page 158, the Roman numerals “xvi” (that is, 16) were erroneously mixed up and “xiv” (14) was printed instead. (William Sanday mentioned this typographical error in 1885, in an article in Studia Biblica, but apparently this was not noticed by Metzger.)
          Because mistakes of this sort have not been corrected, the claim that “Mark 16:9-20 is contained only in later manuscripts” has been allowed to circulate for over 20 years in a footnote in Eugene Peterson’s The Message.  Such a claim is succinctly refuted by a consultation of the early manuscripts Alexandrinus, Bezae, Ephraemi Rescriptus, and Washingtoniensis.

(6) “Mark 16:9-20 is absent from the Old Latin manuscripts.”  This claim has been spread by commentators such as James Edwards, and by apologists such as Ron Rhodes.  In the real world, however, only one Old Latin manuscript containing its original pages of Mark 16 does not follow Mark 16:8 with 16:9: Codex Bobbiensis, the worst-copied manuscript of the Gospels ever made in any language.  In Mark 16, the copyist of Mark 16 added an interpolation between verses 3 and 4, and removed part of verse 8, before adding the Shorter Ending, but with several bad mistakes (such as writing “puero” (“child”) instead of “Petro” (Peter), and writing “from the east, even unto the east”). (The copyist of Codex Bobbiensis seems to have lacked a basic familiarity with the contents of his exemplar; even in Matthew 6:9, he mangled the Latin phrase for “Thy kingdom come.”)
          Mark 16:9-20, or part of it (sometimes parts are lost due to incidental damage), is included in the Old Latin copies Corbeiensis (ff2, from the 400’s – although most of verses 15-18 have been extensively damaged), and the combined fragmentsn and o (from the 400’s) together contain the passage up through verse 13, and then the rest, respectively.   In addition, some manuscripts of the Vulgate contain Old Latin chapter-summaries which originated as features of Old Latin manuscripts; the final entry in these chapter-summaries (which have several forms) fits the contents of Mark 16:9-20.
          The Latin manuscripts Aureus (aur, 600’s/700’s), Colbertinus (c, made in the 1200’s, but unquestionably perpetuating an early non-Vulgate text after chapter 6), Rhedigerianus (600’s/700’s), and Monacensis (q, from the 500’s or 600’s) also include Mark 16:9-20.

(5)  “The Vulgate and the Peshitta end the text of Mark at 16:8.”  This false claim was promoted by John MacArthur in a sermon he preached on June 5, 2011.   The sermon-transcript is still distributed by Grace To You.  With a straight face, immediately after telling his listeners that “Both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus end Mark at verse 8,” MacArthur mentioned that we have 8,000 copies of the Vulgate, and 350-plus copies of the Peshitta, and then said, “We have all these ancient manuscripts that when compared all say the same thing.”  MacArthur’s claim is far removed from reality:  the Vulgate Gospels (the Latin translation produced in 383-384 by Jerome, who stated that he prepared its text with the use of ancient Greek manuscripts – that is, Greek manuscripts already ancient in 383) include Mark 16:9-20 and so does the Peshitta.

(4)  “Many ancient manuscripts contain scribal notes to indicate that verses 9-20 were regarded as a spurious addition.”  The vague and imprecise claim by Metzger that “Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it” has been stretched and warped almost beyond recognition by other commentators whose research about this passage consisted mainly of reading Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament
            Out of over 1,640 Greek manuscripts of Mark, about 60 contain the Catena Marcum in one form or another in their margins.  This collection of patristic comments usually includes both a comment by Eusebius of Caesarea, and a response by Victor of Antioch (a fifth-century author who is sometimes credited with the compilation of the catena/commentary.  These comments, however, are really only 60 repetitions of two patristic comments.    
Fourteen Greek manuscripts are known to have special notes about Mark 16:9-20.  (That’s 14 out of over 1,640 manuscripts – less than 1%, contrary to the impression you might have gotten from Craig Evans or N. T. Wright.)  While, obviously, any manuscripts mentioned in another manuscript must be older than the manuscript that mentions them, none of the notes specify that “the older manuscripts” lack the passage.  Three of these manuscripts (20, 215, and 300) even share a note which says, regarding the end of 16:8, “The text from here to the end is not in some copies.  But in the ancient ones, it all appears intact.”  Thus instead of conveying scribal doubt, this note emphasizes the presence of the passage in ancient copies. 
Five manuscripts (1, 205, 205abs, 209, and 1582) share a note which says, before 16:9, “In some of the copies, the Gospel concludes here, and Eusebius Pamphili’s Canons also stop here.  But in many, this [i.e., verses 9-20] also appears.”  Again, the intention of the note-writer appears to have been to defend the acceptance of these 12 verses, rather than to draw them into doubt.  Another group of five manuscripts (15, 22, 1110, 1192, and 1210) shares the same note, but without the reference to the Eusebian Canons.  The wording of the note is so similar that these ten manuscripts cannot constitute independent witnesses; these notes descend from a common source, and after the Eusebian Sections were expanded, the part about the Eusebian Canons was removed.  Lastly, a note in minuscule 199 (from the 1100’s) states succinctly, “In some of the copies, this [i.e., verses 9-20] is not present, but the text stops here” (that is, at the end of 16:8). 
The testimony of the 14 manuscripts with special notes about Mark 16:9-20 (mainly of an affirming nature) boils down to two small groups:  one that shares the “Jerusalem Colophon,” and one that consists of members of the family-1 cluster of manuscripts.

(3)  “In many manuscripts of Mark without notes, the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli to convey scribal doubt about its legitimacy.”  This claim, considering that it is completely untrue, has been circulated with remarkable zeal by commentators.  There are some copies (such as minuscule 138) that feature an asterisk (or a similar symbol) which refers to reader to a comment in the margin (usually to part of the Catena Marcum).  And there are some copies which feature lectionary-related marks or rubrics between Mark 16:8 and 6:9.  But there are no manuscripts which simply contain asterisks or obeli alongside Mark 16:9-20 to convey scribal doubt.
Asterisks in MS 264 -- at Mk. 16:9,
but also at Mk. 11:12 and 14:12
            In 2007, Daniel Wallace identified five manuscripts in which, he asserted, a scribe placed an asterisk to convey doubt about the passage:  138, 264, 1221, 2346, and 2812.  However, 138, 2346, and 2812 are among the manuscripts with the Catena Marcum; they have marks at the beginning of 16:9, but these marks serve the same purpose as footnote-numbers, to notify the reader of the existence of a note about the passage further down the page (or on a following page). 
            Minuscule 264 has an asterisk alongside Mark 16:9, but this has no text-critical significance; the same symbol occurs in 264 alongside Mark 11:12, and 14:12, and elsewhere; it is part of the lectionary-apparatus. 
            Similarly, minuscule 1221 has lozenge-dots – four dots arranged in a north-south-east-west pattern –  between Mark 16:8 and 16:9, but the same symbol appears in 1221 after Mark 2:12, halfway through Mark 5:24, and at Mark 6:7.  In Luke, it appears at the beginning of 1:26, at the end of 1:56, and after 2:40.  These symbols were added for the convenience of a lector and have no text-critical significance.
            Minuscule 137, another manuscript with the Catena Marcum in its margins, is sometimes also mentioned in the list of manuscripts alleged to have asterisks accompanying Mark 16:9-20.  Good digital images of this manuscript were recently made available at the Vatican Library, and they show that the symbol between 16:8 and 16:9 is a simple superscripted red cross-mark (“+”), conveying that a note in the catena pertains to this section – and a corresponding red cross-mark appears, as expected, two pages later, at the foot of the page, accompanying the pertinent portion of the Catena Marcum.

(2)  “Eusebius and Jerome state that these 12 verses were absent from all Greek copies known to them.”  The distorted claim made by Ben Witherington III about this is just one example of what appears to be a venerable tradition of misrepresenting the evidence from Eusebius and Jerome.  Fortunately, a definitive edition of Eusebius’ composition Ad Marinum has finally been published, and its readers can see the context of the snippets which commentators typically frame as if they are the independent affirmations of Eusebius and of Jerome. 
            At the outset of the first chapter of Ad Marinum, Eusebius tackles Marinus’ question about how Matthew’s account of the timing of Christ’s resurrection can be harmonized with Mark’s account.  Readers may be surprised to learn the details of Eusebius’ reply.  He tells Marinus that the question may be dealt with in two ways.  Someone might render the question superfluous by rejecting Mark 16:9-20 on the grounds that the passage in Mark is not found in all manuscripts, or is not in the accurate copies, or is only in a few copies, or is only in some copies.  But someone else, finding both passages in the text of his Gospels, and considering it unfitting for a faithful and pious person to pick and choose between the accounts, would accept both passages, and read Mark 16:9 with a pause, or comma, after “Having risen,” so as to express the understanding that the sentence describes the time at which Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, rather than the time of His resurrection. 
            Eusebius promotes the second option, rather than the first one.  In the course of answering Marinus’ second question, Eusebius mentioned that “It is stated in Mark, according to some copies,” that Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene.  And while answering Marinus’ third question, Eusebius stated “According to Mark, He had cast out seven demons” from Mary Magdalene.” 
            Eusebius thus quoted Mark 16:9 three times – which is hardly how one treats a passage that one rejects.  But how should we understand what he says about the absence of Mark 16:9-20 in the accurate manuscripts, and in the great majority of manuscripts?  As things that one might say, which is precisely how Eusebius framed them.  One could only count and evaluate the manuscripts one encountered.  A writer in Egypt, for example, might say that verses 9-20 were seldom found, whereas someone in Marinus’ locale might only be familiar with manuscripts that included the passage.  The thing to see is that Eusebius did not frame this as if it was his own personal observation; neither he nor anyone else in the early 300’s had the ability to survey all the libraries in all the churches following the disruptions that were part of the Diocletian persecution in the early 300’s.  If Mark 16:9-20 had been in only a few manuscripts known to Eusebius, and Eusebius had regarded those few manuscripts as inaccurate, he would have had no reason to offer Marinus any other option besides the first one. 
            Eusebius probably changed his mind on this subject when he made the Eusebian Canons and Sections, inasmuch as the already-mentioned annotation in the family-1 cluster of manuscripts says that Eusebius did not include this passage in the canon-tables.  But when he wrote Ad Marinum, Eusebius plainly advised Marinus to retain the passage.    
            And what about Jerome?  Jerome included Mark 16:9-20 in the Vulgate Gospels in 383, and in 417, in Against the Pelagians, he cited Mark 16:14 as he explained where he had seen the Freer Logion “especially in Greek copies,” taking for granted that his readers would recognize Mark 16:14.  At no point did Jerome ever suggest that he had included Mark 16:9-20 because of pressure to do so.  So how, at a time when numerous other patristic writers were openly utilizing Mark 16:9-20, could Jerome possibly say, as he says in his lengthy Epistle to Hedibia, that Mark 16:9-20 is missing from almost all copies, particularly the Greek ones? 
            The answer is simple:  Hedibia had asked Jerome to explain the differences in the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and post-resurrection appearances, and Jerome, in response, rather than go through the trouble of writing an original reply, made a loose abridged translation of portions of Ad Marinum.  It is in that part of Jerome’s Epistle to Hedibia that the pertinent statement is embedded. 
            As David Parker has observed, Jerome’s Epistle to Hedibia “is simply a translation with some slight changes of what Eusebius had written.”  To restate:  in this part of Epistle to Hedibia, we are not reading a spontaneous comment by Jerome; we are reading Jerome’s loose Latin translation of Eusebius’ statements, complete with the opening line that there are two ways to handle the question, and the concluding recommendation to retain the passage and to read Mark 16:9 with a pause after “Having risen.” 
(1)  “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not contain verses 9-20.”  This is very far from the whole truth.  In two (and only two) Greek manuscripts from the 300’s, the text of Mark ends at the end of 16:8.  But in one of them, Codex Vaticanus, the copyist left blank space after 16:8 – including an entire blank column – as if the passage was absent from his exemplar, but he recollected it from some other manuscript that was unavailable to him.  And in the other one, Codex Sinaiticus, four pages that were produced by the main copyist were replaced by pages which his supervisor wrote; the text of Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 was not written by the same copyist who wrote the surrounding pages.  In addition, the person who wrote the text on these four pages made a special effort to avoid leaving a blank column – a step which implies that he was aware of a way to conclude the Gospel of Mark other than at 16:8. 
            If we deduce (in agreement with J. Rendel Harris, T. C. Skeat, and other researchers) that Sinaiticus was made at Caesarea, and if we also notice that when Eusebius of Caesarea commented about the ending of Mark, he displayed no awareness of the Shorter Ending (even when the subject invited and even demanded mention of the Shorter Ending, if it had been known), we may conclude that the alternative text in the minds of the copyists of both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, when they produced the anomalous features at the end of Mark in their manuscripts, was verses 9-20. 
            But another factor should also be mentioned whenever the earliest manuscripts are mentioned:  the relevant patristic evidence that supports the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20, which pre-dates Vaticanus and Sinaiticus by over a century.  In the 100’s, Justin Martyr (160, in First Apology ch. 45), and the author of Epistula Apostolorum (c. 150/180), and Tatian (172, in his Diatessaron), and Irenaeus (c. 184, in Book 3, chapter 10 of Against Heresies) all utilized material from Mark 16:9-20 in one way or another.  Irenaeus quoted 16:19, specifying that he was quoting from near the end of Mark’s Gospel. 
            Granting that footnotes in Bibles must be brief, is it too much to ask that when two manuscripts from the 300’s are mentioned in a note about Mark 16:9-20, two or three patristic writers from the 100’s should be also be mentioned? 

            Summing up:  when you read a Bible-footnote about the ending of Mark, or a sermon-transcript, or a commentary or apologetics-handbook or blog, and notice that something is amiss, I encourage you to contact the publisher and the author and inform them about the relevant data.  After 100 or 200 people point out the mistake, they might do something about it, if they are not too busy. 


Fred Kiiza said...

Dearb James E. Snapp, I would like to thank you for this extremely insightful and helpful article. I had hitherto been dissatisfied by censorship of Markan ending until I read your article. I have a couple of questions: How do I subscribe to all your blogs and access your writings? How can I have access to all the resources you have drawn upon in your article?

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Fred K.,
If you join the NT Textual Criticism group at Facebook -- the group's name is spelled exactly like that: "NT Textual Criticism" -- you will have access to all the resources in the group's files, including many that I have prepared, among which is an updated edition of my 243-page research book about Mark 16:9-20 which features many links to text-critical resources.

Unknown said...

Dear James E. Snapp, Jr. I really like the way you look at the Bible text. I have never been so interested in Textual Criticism until i saw your blog and writings. I would like to pursue my studies in this line. Where have you studied from? I would be glad if you can suggest me where would be the best place for pursuing NT Textual Criticism course

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Dear Unknown,
I studied at Cincinnati Bible College (now Cincinnati Christian University) but practically all of my text-critical research was book-study, not classroom-study. Some books that are very useful for getting into this field can be downloaded for free at http://www.curtisvillechristianchurch.org/NTTCLibrary.htm .
I'm not sure that there is a school where NTTC is taught at an advanced level in a way that takes full account of the implications of evidence since the 1950's; the "Interlude" is still mostly there. But perhaps the least-worst options would be Tyndale House --
http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/ -- or the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary --
http://www.nobts.edu/cntts/default.html . Not DTS.

I recommend that for the first several years of classroom study, a textual-critic-in-training should focus on learning Greek (and a bit of Coptic and Syriac wouldn't hurt), learning early church history, and familiarizing oneself with the materials, in the hope that one or two decades later one might be ready to draw some conclusions.

Brandy Lehmann said...

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