Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Answering James White's Questions About Mark 16:9-20

            In a recent video, Dr. James White asked some questions about Mark 16:9-20.  Here are some answers.

(1)  How do you define overwhelming evidence?

            Something like this: 
99.9% of the extant Greek manuscripts of Mark 16.  The score is something like 1,650 to 3.
99.9% of the extant Latin manuscripts of Mark 16. The score is something like 8,000 to 1 (and the one, Codex Bobbiensis, is the worst-copied Latin manuscript of Mark in existence).
99% of the extant Syriac manuscripts of Mark 16.  The score is at least 100 to 1. 
100% of the extant Gothic manuscripts of Mark 16.  The score is 1 to 0.
At least 80% of the extant Sahidic manuscript of Mark 16.  The score is at least 5 to 1.
100% of the extant Bohairic manuscripts of Mark 16.  
100% of the Ethiopic manuscripts of Mark 16.  The score is about 200 to 0.   
100% of the extant Greek lectionaries of the Heothina series. 

(The ratios regarding Syriac and Sahidic manuscripts should be increased; I used low amounts here.  The one Syriac manuscript that ends the text of Mark at 16:8 is the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript; the one Sahidic manuscript that ends the text of Mark at 16:8 is Codex P. Palau-Ribes Inv. Nr. 182.) 

(2)  How could Eusebius and Jerome have said what they said?

            For some preliminary data about the testimony of Eusebius and Jerome regarding the ending of Mark, see section #2 of the 2016 post, Mark 16:9-20:  Sorting Out Some Common Mistakes.  As David Parker has acknowledged, Jerome simply recycled material from Eusebius to save time when facing a broad question about reconciling the Gospel-accounts.  (Additional details are in my book, Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20.)
            Eusebius worked at Caesarea in the early 300s, and part of the library there had been passed along from Origen in the 200s.  Origen had previously worked in Egypt, and it can be safely deduced that some copies of Mark in Egypt in the 200s ended their text at 16:8.  Eusebius’ comments reflect his awareness of such copies, or of copies at Caesarea descended from such copies. 
            In his composition Ad Marinum, however, Eusebius did not reject Mark 16:9-20.  He addressed Marinus’ question of how a person can harmonize Matthew 28:1-2 with Mark 16:9, regarding the question of the timing of Jesus’ resurrection.  Eusebius said that there are two ways to resolve the question:   one way might be to reject Mark 16:9, and everything that follows it, on the grounds that the passage is not in every manuscript, or is in some copies but not in others, or that it is seldom found.  But that is not the option that Eusebius recommends.  Instead, he advises Marinus to retain the text he has, and to resolve the question by understanding that there is a pause, or comma, in Mark 16:9, so that “Early on the first day of the week” refers to the time of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene, rather than to the time He arose.    
              The Greek text of Eusebius’ composition can be read in Roger Pearse’s free book, Eusebius of Caesarea: Gospel Problems and Solutions, with an English translation.  The things to see are that (a) Eusebius framed the claim that one could reject Mark 16:9-20 on the grounds that it is not in most manuscripts as something that could be said, not as his own favored option, even though there were manuscripts at Caesarea (descended from manuscripts from Egypt) which ended at 16:8, and (b) Eusebius recommended to Marinus that Mark 16:9-20 should be retained, and (c) he used Mark 16:9 on two other occasions in the same composition, and (d) Eusebius showed no awareness of the Shorter Ending.
            (It is extremely likely that Eusebius of Caesarea rejected Mark 16:9-20 when he developed his Canon-Tables, but that is a separate subject from his statements in Ad Marinum.)  

(3) Why do you have early fourth-century codices that do not contain this text?

            We have two fourth-century Greek codices in which Mark stops at 16:8 because those two fourth-century codices were based on manuscripts from, or descended from, Egypt, where Mark 16:9-20 had been lost or taken from the text in a previous generation. 
            Unusual features in Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus show that their copyists were aware of the absent verses; for details see this post about Codex Vaticanus and this post about Codex Sinaiticus.  I show, among other things, that Codex Vaticanus has a blank space after Mark 16:8 that is capable of containing Mark 16:9-20, and that the page on which the text of Mark ends at 16:8 in Sinaiticus is part of a cancel-sheet, that is, four pages that replaced the work of the main copyist.  

(4)  Why do other early fathers never mention material from that passage?  

            Who is Dr. White talking about?  Clement and Origen?  Clement never quoted from 12 entire chapters of Mark.  Saying that Clement never mentioned material from Mark 16:9-20 is like saying, “Clement used Mark 16:9-20 as much as he used 90% of the book.”
            Origen might allude to Mark 16:17-20 in the reworked composition Philocalia, but even if one is not persuaded that he did so, Origen didn’t use the Gospel of Mark very much; there are very large segments of Mark that Origen never quoted.  Here is one way of picturing the situation:  if you divide the text of Mark into fifty-six 12-verse segments, Origen only quotes from 22 of them.  Even if we were to arbitrary increase that amount, and say that Origen used half of the 12-verse segments in Mark, the point would stand that we should approach the data from Origen with the understanding that the chance of Origen quoting from any 12-verse segment of the Gospel of Mark is 50%. 
            Origen did not use 54 consecutive verses from Mark 1:36 to 3:16.  Origen did not use 41 consecutive verses of Mark from 5:2 to 5:43.  Origen did not use 22 consecutive verses from 8:7 to 8:29, and Origen did not use 39 consecutive verses from 10:3 to 10:42. 
            So when he does not quote from 12 verses in Mark 16:9-20, is that supposed to suggest that the passage wasn’t in his manuscripts?  Seriously?  Too many apologists have read “Clement and Origen show no knowledge of these verses” in Metzger’s Textual Commentary, and thought, “Well, that sounds important,” and rephrased Metzger’s claim without ever investigating whether it’s solid evidence, or propaganda.  Well, folks, it is empty propaganda.  Origen shows no knowledge of 450 verses of Mark.  The claim that Origen does not use Mark 16:9-20 – if he wasn’t doing so in Philocalia – has no real force as an argument against the passage, and commentators who use it as if it does deserve to be ignored.

            While we are on the subject of patristic evidence:  when someone claims that early church fathers never use the contents of Mark 16:9-20, that person shows that he is not qualified to give an informed opinion on the subject.  Lots of patristic writers mention material from Mark 16:9-20.  
            In the 100s, Justin Martyr alluded to Mark 16:20.  Tatian incorporated almost the whole passage in his Diatessaron.  And Irenaeus, in what is now France, specifically quoted Mark 16:19, in his work Against Heresies, in Book Three.  In the 200s, passages from Mark 16:9-20 are used in Syriac in the Didascalia Apostolorum, and in a Latin statement by Vincent of Thibaris at a council in Carthage, and in the Latin composition De Rebaptismate, in the 250’s.            
            In the late 200s or early 300s, the pagan writer Hierocles, in the area that is now Turkey, used Mark 16:18 in the course of mockingly challenging Christians to select their leaders by poison-drinking contests.  Also in the 300s, the Latin writer Fortunatianus mentioned that Mark told about the ascension of Christ.  In the same century, the unknown author of the Acts of Pilate used Mark 16:15-16, and so did the author of the Syriac text of The Story of John the Son of Zebedee.    Meanwhile, Aphrahat the Persian Sage utilized Mark 16:17 in his composition First Demonstration, in 337.  Elsewhere, Wulfilas included Mark 16:9-20 in the Gothic version in the mid-300s.  In Syria in the late 300s or early 400s, the translators of the Syriac Peshitta included Mark 16:9-20.  Meanwhile in Milan, Ambrose quoted from Mark 16:9-20 in the 380s. 
            In 383, Jerome made the Vulgate, stating specifically that he had consulted ancient Greek manuscripts for the purpose, and he included Mark 16:9-20.  A little later on, in the early 400s, Jerome made a reference to the interpolation known as the Freer Logion, and said that he had seen it “especially in Greek codices.”  Metzger proposes that the Freer Logion itself was composed and inserted into the text between Mark 16:14 and 16:15 sometime in the second or third century.   
            In the 400s, Patrick quoted from Mark 16:16 in Ireland; Augustine quoted from Mark 16:9-20 in North Africa – and he casually mentioned that his Greek copies affirmed a reading in verse 12 – and Macarius Magnes used it in Asia Minor, and Marcus Eremita used it in Israel, and Eznik of Golb quotes verses 17 and 18 way over in Armenia, and five forms of the Old Latin chapter-summaries, displayed for instance in Codex Corbeiensis, refer to the contents of Mark 16:9-20. 

            How many names of patristic writers who utilized Mark 16:9-20 are found in The King James Only Controversy in the section where James White focuses on external evidence about this passage?    Is Justin mentioned?  No.  Tatian?  No.  White mentioned two Georgian copies made after the time of Charlemagne, but did he mention Irenaeus?  No.  He mentioned the Slavonic version from the ninth century, because he thought it supports non-inclusion (it actually supports inclusion), but did he mention the Gothic version from the fourth century?  No.  Why not?
            James White didn’t mention the evidence from Justin, and Tatian, and Vincent of Thibaris, and Hierocles, and Fortunatianus, and Wulfilas.  But why should his readers feel as if they have been misled?
            James White didn’t mention Acts of Pilate, and the repeated quotations of Mark 16:9-20 by Ambrose in Italy, or by Augustine in North Africa. He didn’t mention that Augustine’s Greek manuscripts had Mark 16:9-20.  But why should his readers feel misled?    
            James White didn’t mention Patrick’s use of Mark 16:15-16 in Ireland, or Macarius Magnes’ extensive use of the passage in Asia Minor, or the use of Mark 16:18 by Marcus Eremita in Israel – but he did not lie to anyone.  Maybe his readers just misunderstood what they were being told.  
            White didn’t mention that Pelagius, Prosper of Aquitaine, and Peter Chrysologus used Mark 16:9-20.  But his readers have not been lied to.   
            James White did not mention a single one of these Roman-era witnesses that support Mark 16:9-20.  He did not mention that Irenaeus, c. 180, had a manuscript that contained Mark 16:9-20, over a century before Vaticanus was made. But why should anyone feel misled by White’s selectivity in choosing what evidence to share, and what to hide?      

(5)  Most importantly, why the differing endings if the one is original?

            Well, let me tell you.  The question is, in part, a request for a hypothesis:  in the first century, after the Gospel of Mark began to be disseminated from the city of Rome (with 16:9-20 included), a copy reached Egypt.  At this point, the last twelve verses were lost; a simple accident is possible, but I think they were removed or obelized (and then later removed) deliberately by someone who recognized them as resembling a short composition which Mark had written on another occasion as a freestanding text, summarizing Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.  This individual regarded Peter as the primary author of the Gospel of Mark; Mark being merely a recorder and organizer of Petrine material.  He therefore obelized verses 9-20 as something that was not the work of the primary author, and in the next generation, the obelized portion was not perpetuated.   
            Of course we do not have this on video – just as we do not have any of the dozens of scribal corruptions that James White proposes in his book on video.  And this hypothesis can be tweaked without essential change; for example, it is possible that verses 9-20 were removed in a single step.  But this or something like this accounts for the absence of Mark 16:9-20 in Egypt, while the Gospel of Mark spread with 16:9-20 included everywhere else, as the patristic evidence shows – that is, as the patristic evidence would show, if the patristic writers had not been tied up and gagged, and thrown in a pit where they cannot be heard.
            In a later generation, in Egypt, the Shorter Ending was created by someone who could not stand the abruptness of the text in its truncated form (ending at the end of 16:8).  There are six Greek manuscripts that have the Shorter Ending; some of them are damaged, but all six also have verse 9, which implies that all six also had verses 9-20 when the manuscripts were in pristine condition. 
            Did James White tell you about the notes that appear in some of those manuscripts?  No?  Maybe that has something to do with why he is asking this question.  Let’s take a few minutes to zoom in on those notes.  Without getting bogged down in details, the thing to see is that most of these six manuscripts are related to the same narrow Egyptian transmission-stream.  Here are the basic details:

            In Codex L, a note appears before the Short Ending:  “In some, there is also this.”  And between the Shorter Ending and 16:9, a note says, “There is also this, appearing after ‘for they were afraid.”  It may be safely deduced from these notes that the person who wrote these notes knew of some copies with the Shorter Ending after verse 8, and some copies with verses 9-20 after verse 8.
            In Codex Ψ, the six lines that follow the line on which Mark 16:8 ends contain the Short Ending, and then there is a note:  “This also appears, following ‘for they were afraid.’”  The wording of the note is not quite identical to the note in L, but it is very close. 
            083 is a damaged fragment, but enough has survived to show that 083 has the closing-title “Gospel According to Mark” after 16:8, and then has the Shorter Ending in the next column, and before 16:9, the note, “There is also this, appearing after ‘for they were afraid,’” exactly as in Codex L. 
            099, which is even more fragmentary than 083, has a feature which creates a link to a locale in Egypt.  16:8 is followed by a gap, which is followed by the Shorter Ending, which is followed by another gap.  Then, instead of the beginning of 16:9, the contents of 16:8b are repeated (beginning with ειχεν γαρ αυτας τρομος ) and after 16:8 is completed, 16:9 begins.
            Why does this link these manuscripts to Egypt?  Because of the Greek-Sahidic lectionary 1602 – which James White mislabeled “l, 1602” in the second edition of his book, just as he mislabeled lectionary 153 as “l, 153” on the previous page.  In l 1602, a note appears between 16:8 and the Shorter Ending:  “In other copies this is not written.”  Then, after the Shorter Ending, there is the same note that appears in Codex L.  After the note, instead of beginning 16:9, the text resumes in 16:8b (at ειχεν γαρ, as in 099), which is followed by 16:9ff. 
            To review:  L and Ψ and 083 and  l 1602 have the note “There is also this, appearing after ‘for they were afraid,’” before 16:9.  099 and l 1602 both repeat the text of 16:8b before 16:9.  Thus, all five of these witnesses are traced to the same narrow transmission-stream, where Sahidic was read (i.e., in Egypt).     
            That leaves two Greek manuscripts with the Shorter Ending:  579 and 274.  579 (from the 1200s) does not share any of the notes that L, Ψ, 099 and 083 have, but it shares (approximately) the rare chapter-divisions that are displayed in Codex Vaticanus, the flagship manuscript of the Alexandrian Text.  It also shares many readings with Vaticanus, such as the non-inclusion of Luke 22:43-44 and Luke 23:34a.
            That leaves 274.  In the main text of 274 (from the 900s), 16:9 begins on the same line on which 16:8 ends (the verses are separated by an abbreviated lectionary-related note, “End of the second Heothina-reading”).  The Shorter Ending has been added in the lower margin of the page, to the right of a column of five asterisks; another asterisk appears to the left of 16:9 so as to indicate where the Shorter Ending was seen in another manuscript.    The Shorter Ending in 274 is more like an incidental margin-note, mentioning an interesting feature in some secondary exemplar, than part of the manuscript’s text copied from the main exemplar.
            The takeaway from this is that the Greek witnesses for the Shorter Ending echo situations in one particular locale, namely Egypt, where Mark 16:9-20 was first lost (or excised), and the Shorter Ending was then created to relieve the resultant abrupt stop of the narrative, and then copies appeared in which 16:9-20 followed 16:8.  Copyists in Egypt, facing some exemplars with no text after 16:8, and some exemplars with the Shorter Ending after 16:8, and some exemplars with verses 9-20 after 16:8, resolved the situation by including both endings.  Meanwhile, everywhere else – from Ireland to France to Rome to North Africa to the coast of Italy to Asia Minor to Palestine to Cyprus to Israel to parts of Egypt to Syria to Armenia – copies of Mark were being used in which 16:8 was followed unremarkably by 16:9-20.          
            The Sahidic, Bohairic, and Ethiopic versions, like almost all versions, echoed the Greek manuscripts accessible to their translators:  the earliest strata of the Sahidic version echoes a situation in Egypt when and where the text of Mark ended at 16:8; the versions with the double-ending (always with the Shorter Ending first, when it appears in the text – for it would be superfluous after 16:20) echo later situations.  (Notably, the Garima Gospels, the oldest Ethiopic Gospels-manuscript, does not have the Shorter Ending after 16:8; it has 16:9-20.)
            If Dr. White has any other questions on this subject, or still feels obligated to put Mark 16:9-20 in a "Maybe Scripture, Maybe Not" category, I will be happy to discuss this topic with him in a formal debate – anywhere, any place, any time.

Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.


Wayne Steury said...

James, thanks for another excellent TC discussion.

Orange Hunter said...

James, a little off topic, but is a tract on Luke 22:19-20 on your list of upcoming articles? It seems to be one of the most significant variant readings in the New Testament (did Luke have a doctrine of Atonement or not?).

James Snapp Jr said...

Orange Hunter,
No; that's not on my to-do list; I regard D there as displaying quirky Western liturgical adaptation.

Orange Hunter said...

Thanks, I asked because Ehrman and D.C.Parker have come up with detailed theories about the passage not being part of the original text. If I'm not mistaken, they cite not just D, but also the Old Latin as evidence for Luke 22:19-20 being later addition.

Jeff Dodson said...

James, Metzger’s claim about Origen having no knowledge of these verses could, in fact, be more than empty propaganda. This is true in spite of the fact that Origen shows no knowledge of 450 other verses of Mark. For example, if Origen commented specifically on the ending of Mark, or discussed neighboring passages and yet failed to mention the events of Mark 16:9-20, then it could be significant that he wasn't aware of those verses. So it really just depends on the content of what Origen says in his writings as to whether or not Metzger’s claim has weight.

So my question for you would be: Do any of Origen’s writings lack mention of Mark 16:9-20 when it seems like someone who knew those verses would mention them?

Don’t get me wrong...I'm convinced that Mark 16:9-20 belongs at the end of Mark, and I’ve read your book on the subject (and at least one other). I just want to know if I can truly discount Metzger’s statement.

James Snapp Jr said...

Jeff Dodson,
If I recall correctly, I sifted through all the works of Origen I could acquire, including the new work translated by Scheck, and did not find any passages that said, "Here Origen would surely have mentioned details from Mark 16:9-20 if he had known of the passage."

I would however caution against this sort of approach; patristic authors did not always think the way we think; sometimes they took a winding scenic route to a point, so to speak, where we would surely take a quick and direct route. Cyprian's Demonstrations, for example, sometimes do not feature the verse that I would consider the obvious and most effective verse to use to address a particular question, but I wouldn't argue from that that Cyprian did not have the verse in his copies.

Jeff Dodson said...


Point taken, but I just wanted to know if perhaps Origen had discussed the ending of Mark specifically, and yet seemed to show no knowledge of verses 9-20. Sometimes a writer not mentioning something is indeed significant. For example, the fact that none of the gospels mention the destruction of the temple leads us to believe that they had no knowledge of it because it hadn't happened yet when they were written! The same could have been true of Origen in regards to him being silent on any of the details in 9-20.

It sounds like your answer though is that no, there are no obvious places that you know of where Origen would have been inclined to mention Mark 16:9-20, and therefore Metzger's comment is at best misleading.