Monday, April 13, 2020

Mark 16:9-20 Is Being Misrepresented. It Must Be Easter!

            Today is the first day after Easter 2020.   Happily, most journalistic outlets seem to have decided against publishing attacks on the passages of Scripture that affirm the bodily resurrection of Christ (or on the reliability of the Bible in general) – with one exception:  Bonnie Kristian’s article “Coronavirus and the mystery of St. Mark’s Easter story” was published in The Week, and on the Yahoo! News website.

            Kristian, a graduate of Bethel Seminary, targeted Mark 16:9-20 as part of her Easter celebration.  She attempted to draw a parallel between the fear that was felt by the women in Mark 16:8 and the fear that is felt by some people about the COVID-19 pandemic.  The same sort of parallel could be made using the fearfulness that is mentioned in Mark 16:5, or Luke 24:4-5, or John 20:19 – but Mark 16:8 was chosen instead, apparently so that Kristian could encourage readers to erase Mark 16:9-20 from the authoritative text, spreading some false claims along the way, such as the following:

The KJV was translated from Latin rather than Hebrew and Greek.  That claim is false, and it has already been withdrawn from the article in The Week.  The Week regrets the error.

In many ancient manuscripts of Mark, the Gospel ends at 16:8.   Today, the surviving text ends at the end of verse 8.  In real life, the number of Greek manuscripts of Mark that end the text there is three. The number of Latin manuscripts that end the text there:  one. The number of Syriac manuscripts that end the text there:  one.  The number of Greek manuscripts in which support for Mark 16:9-20 has survived is 1,640.  (This includes important ancient Greek manuscripts such as Codices A, C, D, W, etc.)   The number of Latin and Syriac manuscripts that include Mark 16:9-20 is in the thousands.  In addition to Gospel-manuscripts, Mark 16:9-20 is also prominently featured in hundreds of lectionaries, such as Sinai MS Gr, 212.

Most modern translations, if they have verses 9-20, “add a preface stating it isn’t present in many of the best ancient manuscripts of Mark.”  This is false.  Most recent translations add a footnote, but when I consult the BibleGateway website, only the NIV and ESV appear to have a heading-note prefacing Mark 16:9, and it does not say what Kristien says.  There’s a reason for that:  two is not many.  
            The ESV’s heading-note stating that “Some of the earliest manuscripts” do not include verses 9-20 is not very accurate:  how many Greek manuscripts are in that “Some”?  The answer is, as already mentioned, is three.  One is GA 304, a medieval non-continuous commentary-manuscript.  Codex Sinaiticus (À, with replacement-pages at the end of Mark) is one of the two earlier ones, and Codex Vaticanus (B, with an entire blank column after the column in which Mark 16:8 appears) is the other.  
            Heading-notes and footnotes are brief by nature, and the point could be argued that a heading-note cannot be expected to mention Sinaiticus’ replacement-pages, or Vaticanus’ blank column.  But what keeps the note from being precise by referring to “Two” early Greek manuscripts instead of “Some”?  I hope it does not sound conspiratorial to mention one possibility:  the editors did not want readers to easily notice the narrowness of the thread from which their favored variant hangs.

● The KJV “includes uncritically a 12-verse ending.”  This is a technically ignorant statement – that is, Kristian has no special knowledge or insight about the critical research that went into the KJV; she simply does not know how much critical investigation into the question was made by the KJV’s translators.  Kristian says the KJV adopted Mark 16:9-20 “uncritically but she did not mention any of the printed editions of the Greek New Testament that were issued in the 1500s – perhaps because she is unaware of their existence, thinking that the KJV was based on Latin instead.  I suspect that she is equally oblivious to the early patristic support of Mark 16:9-20 supplied by writers such as Irenaeus (in 180), Jerome (383), Augustine (400), Ambrose (385), Aphrahat (337), Ephrem Syrus (360) and Patrick (450) (to name just a few).  (For if she had known about them, it would have been deceptive to avoid mentioning them.  Surely, undoubtedly, The Week only misled its readers due to ignorance, not due to intent.) 
            There is still time for The Week to undo some of the damage its carelessly written article has done – although, alas, when misinformation is spread so irresponsibly, correcting it all is like trying to capture all of the coronavirus that a carrier has been sharing with family and friends over a weekend.
            There’s a lesson that may be learned from this:  if you read anything about the ending of the Gospel of Mark in a journal of any kind around Easter-time, and it does not mention that only three Greek manuscripts out of over 1,600 end the text at 16:8, and it does not mention that Irenaeus quoted Mark 16:19, and it does not mention Codex B’s blank space, know that you are reading propaganda, not a balanced report.

P.S.  N.T. Wright, this was partly your fault.  Fix your book!

P.P.S.  My research-book Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20 is available at Amazon as a Kindle e-book for 99 cents.   It can also be downloaded from Academia.edu for free.  Also, I will be glad to try to send a free digital copy to those who contact me and request it. 


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





8 comments:

Wayne said...

Good information, James. Thanks.

proEcclesia said...

Hi, I just saw that your book is $0.99 on Amazon but it's also on Amazon at $38, weird.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00551JF7S/ref=dbs_a_w_dp_b00551jf7s

James Snapp Jr said...

ProEcclesia,
Yes; Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20 is indeed available in a Scholars' Edition, which is exactly the same book as the 99-cents version, just more expensive, for those who adhere to the adage, "You get what you pay for" -- or for those who just want to give me money!

Chris Ward said...

Thanks for your straightforward analysis. Lately I have been bugged by assertions that the story of the woman caught in adultery is a later addition and is not inspired. What is your take on this please? It would be great if your blogs were searchable BTW.

James Snapp Jr said...

Chris Ward,
My take is that the account about the adulteress is an original genuine part of the Gospel of John, and that it was lost very early in an influential transmission-stream due to a glitch that involved the lection-cycle especially the form of the lection for Pentecost.
For much more information about this see my e-book A Fresh Analysis of John 7:53-8:11, at Amazon -
https://amazon.com/Fresh-Analysis-John-External-Evidence-ebook/dp/B01HBC8EGQ

Chris Ward said...

Thanks, I have gotten the Kindle version, much appreciated.

Chris Ward said...

Wow James I really appreciate your work, the e-book is awesome, not that I understand it all. Have you done anything similar on the Johannine Comma?

James Snapp Jr said...

Chris Ward,
I have looked into the Comma Johanneum and concluded that it is not original.
See the seven resources on the Comma at
http://www.curtisvillecc.com/Commax.html .