Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The ESV Study Bible and Mark 16:9-20

As a follow-up to the analysis of the shortcomings of Dr. Bruce Metzger’s comments about the external evidence about the ending of the Gospel of Mark, I have put together a review of some very similar statements about Mark 16:9-20 which are found in the ESV Study Bible. 

The author of the ESV Study Bible’s notes for the Gospel of Mark is listed at the ESV Study Bible's website as Dr. Hans Bayer, a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary (near St. Louis, Missouri).  (Dr. Wayne Grudem is the General Editor.)  Covenant Theological Seminary is a Presbyterian school; its professors annually affirm the Westminster Confession, which includes a statement that the New Testament in Greek was “inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages.”   However, inasmuch as the Greek text of the New Testament text used by the authors of the Westminster Confession is very different from the base-text of the ESV, it would seem that the purity to which this part of the Westminster Confession refers is being interpreted as basic doctrinal purity, not as textual purity. 

Now let’s consider Dr. Bayer’s note about Mark 16:9-20 in the ESV Study Bible, going point by point.  (The excerpts attributed to Dr. Bayer are from the English Standard Version Study Bible, © 2010 Crossway Bibles (a division of Good News Publishers), Wheaton.  Used for review purposes.  Excerpts from Dr. Bruce Metzger are from A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, © 1971 by the United Bible Societies, Stuttgart.)

Dr. Bayer:  “Some ancient manuscripts of Mark's Gospel contain these verses and others do not, which presents a puzzle for scholars who specialize in the history of such manuscripts.”

If “ancient” manuscripts are defined as manuscripts produced before the death of Charlemagne (in 814), then two ancient Greek manuscripts, one ancient Latin manuscript, one ancient Sahidic manuscript (the production-date of which is far from certain), and one ancient Syriac manuscript do not contain any part of Mark 16:9-20.  All other ancient copies of Mark 16, whether Greek or non-Greek, include at least part of this passage, showing that it was in those copies when they were in pristine condition.  

The two Greek manuscripts that lack Mark 16:9-20 (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) were both almost certainly produced at Caesarea in the 300s.  As I explained in the survey of Dr. Metzger’s comments, Codex Vaticanus has a distinct blank space after Mark 16:8, as if the copyist did not have access to an exemplar with the passage but nevertheless recollected it and attempted to reserve space for it.  And in Codex Sinaiticus, the text from Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 is written on replacement-pages; the copyist who made those four pages drastically shifted his rate of letters per columns in order to avoid having a blank column between the end of Mark and the beginning of Luke.  This indicates that the copyists of the only two Greek manuscripts in which Mark ends at 16:8 knew of at least one manuscript, older than the ones they were making, in which the passage was included.

Dr. Bayer:  “This longer ending is missing from various old and reliable Greek manuscripts (esp. Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), as well as numerous early Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian manuscripts.”

Dr. Bayer’s dependence upon Dr. Metzger is obvious as he describes these pieces of evidence in exactly the same order in which Dr. Metzger described them.  Dr. Bayer, however, has provided his readers with an even more distant and out-of-focus perspective than Dr. Metzger did, with the result that his readers have been given a false impression of the scope of the evidence.  The two Greek manuscripts that Dr. Bayer names (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) are the only ancient Greek manuscripts of Mark 16 in which the text stops at verse 8.  Now imagine if someone told you, “Various houses in this town are made of brick, especially the homes of Mr. Andrews and Mr. Baker” – and then you found out that the homes of Mr. Andrews and Mr. Baker were the only brick houses in the village.  Would you not feel rather misled?  

The “numerous” Latin manuscripts to which Dr. Bayer refers consist of one copy:  Codex Bobbiensis, which has an anomalous text throughout Mark 16 (regarding which see the pertinent part of the earlier article about Dr. Metzger’s comments.)  The “numerous” Syriac manuscripts to which Dr. Bayer refers consist of one copy:  the Sinaitic Syriac, which shares other unusual readings with Codex Bobbiensis.  The Armenian manuscripts to which he refers are really numerous, but they are medieval; they are not early.  Neither are the two Georgian manuscripts to which he refers. 

Dr. Bayer:  “Early church fathers (e.g. Origen and Clement of Alexandria) did not appear to know of these verses.”

This appears to be a paraphrase of Dr. Metzger’s claim that “Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses.”   Clement hardly quoted from the Gospel of Mark at all, except for one large citation from chapter 10.  Origen, likewise, did not use the Gospel of Mark very much.  See my analysis of Dr. Metzger’s statement for further details.  Also notice that farther along in the same footnote, Dr. Bayer says that many church fathers knew the passage. 

Dr. Bayer:  “Eusebius and Jerome state that this section is missing in most manuscripts available at their time.”

This appears to be another echo of Dr. Metzger’s comments.  The pertinent statement from Eusebius is embedded in his composition Ad Marinum, in which Eusebius, in the course of answering a question about how to resolve a perceived discrepancy between Matthew 28 and Mark 16 regarding the timing of Christ’s resurrection, stated that a person could say that verses 9-20 are not in every single manuscript, or that they are absent from the accurate ones, or from almost all manuscripts.  But after framing all that as something that a person might say, Eusebius proceeded to describe, in considerable detail, how Mark 16:9 could be harmonized  with Matthew 28:1 (and thus retained).  He seems to expect Marinus to take this second approach.  In the course of answering the next question, Eusebius states that “some copies” of Mark mention that Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene (a detail stated in Mark only in 16:9), and in his answer to the question after that one, he affirms that the Mary who stands at the tomb in John 20 is the same individual “from whom, according to Mark, He had cast out seven demons.” 

Although one might imagine, based on Dr. Bayer’s vague description of Jerome’s testimony, that Jerome reported the results of his own investigation into how his manuscripts of Mark ended, what we really have in Jerome’s Ad Hedibiam (Epistle 120) is a condensed translation of Eusebius' Ad Marinum.  The third, fourth, and fifth questions in Jerome’s letter to Hedibia are the same as the first, second, and third questions in Eusebius’ letter to Marinus, and Jerome’s answers are based mainly on the answered that Eusebius had supplied.  This is not an independent statement by Jerome; he would not have made this statement if he had not been translating Eusebius’ earlier composition.  Jerome included verses 9-20 in the Vulgate (in 383), and referred to 16:14 in Against the Pelagians when explaining where he had seen the interpolation now known as the Freer Logion.

Dr. Bayer:  “And some manuscripts that contain vv. 9-20 indicate that older manuscripts lack the section.”

Again, this resembles Dr. Metzger’s statement:  “Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it.”  As I have explained elsewhere, this refers to 14 manuscripts (out of over 1,700) which have special annotations about Mark 16:9-20.  The annotations tend to express support for the passage.  In one form (shared by ten manuscripts), the annotation states that although some copies lack the verses, most copies include them, and in another form (shared by three manuscripts), the annotation states that although some copies lack the passage, the ancient copies include it all.  That is the opposite of the impression given by the ESV Study Bible’s note.

Dr. Bayer:  “On the other hand, some early and many later manuscripts (such as the manuscripts known as A, C, and D) contain vv. 9-20, and many church fathers (such as Irenaeus) evidently knew of these verses.”

Dr. Bayer specifically named the two Greek manuscripts in which the text of Mark stops at 16:8, and he reached into the 900s to find versional evidence for that form of the text.  But here as he describes the patristic evidence, he supplied only one specific name.  That is not even-handed treatment of the evidence.  The “many church fathers” to whom Dr. Bayer refers includes the following:  Justin (c. 160), Tatian (c. 172), Irenaeus (c. 184), Epistula Apostolorum (probably; 150-180),Tertullian (probably; 190-205), Hippolytus (c. 220), Vincentius of Thibaris (257), De Rebaptismate (258), Porphyry/Hierocles (anti-Christian writers from 270/303), Acts of Pilate (300s), Marinus (c. 330), Aphraates (335), Wulfilas (c. 350), Ephrem Syrus (c. 360), Ambrose (370’s or 380’s), Philostorgius (c. 380), Epiphanius (c. 385), Old Latin capitula (pre-380’s), the Peshitta (mid-late 300s), Chromatius (c. 380), Apostolic Constitutions (380), De Trinitate (380’s, attributed to Didymus the Blind), Jerome (383), John Chrysostom (probably, c. 407), the author of the Freer Logion (pre-400), Augustine (400), Greek manuscripts cited by Augustine (400), the lectionary-system used by Augustine (early 400s), Macarius Magnes (405), Doctrine of Addai (early 400s; probably a composite of earlier material), Pelagius (c. 410), Patrick (mid-400s), Nestorius (c. 430), Marcus Eremita (435), Peter Chrysologus (453), Eznik of Golb (c. 440), and Prosper of Aquitaine (c. 450).  If the list of patristic writings and manuscripts were extended to the production-date of the Armenian copies that Dr. Bayer described as “early,” it would be increased by dozens and dozens.

Dr. Bayer:  “As for the verses themselves, they contain various Greek words and expressions uncommon to Mark, and there are stylistic differences as well.”

Granting that Mark 16:9-20 contains some stylistic differences from the preceding section, Dr. Bayer’s point about the presence of Greek words “uncommon to Mark” is nullified by the presence of even more Greek words “uncommon to Mark” – that is, used only once in the Gospel of Mark – in another 12-verse section (15:40-16:4), as Dr. Bruce Terry shows in an essay at .

In addition, the ESV – in a copy that I saw with a 2007 copyright by Crossway – has the following footnote:  “Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8.  A few manuscripts insert additional material after verse 14; one Latin manuscript adds after verse 8 the following:  But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Other manuscripts include this same wording after verse 8, then continue with verses 9-20."

That footnote is extremely imprecise.  Written accurately, it would go like this:  “Over 1,700 Greek manuscripts include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8.  Two Greek manuscripts end the book with 16:8; one of them has a prolonged blank space after verse 8.  One manuscript inserts additional material between verse 14 and verse 15.  One Latin manuscript interpolates an ascension-scene between 16:3 and 16:4, removes part of verse 8, and then adds the following:  But they reported briefly to a boy and those with him all that they had been told.  And after this, Jesus appeared and sent out by means of them, from east to east, the sacred and imperishable [proclamation] of eternal salvation, Amen.  Five Greek manuscripts (and versional evidence from Egypt) include similar wording between verse 8 and verse 9; one medieval Greek manuscript has this ending in the margin.

How long will the editors of the ESV and the ESV Study Bible allow their readers to be misled by these inaccurate and misleading notes?     

1 comment:

Rhodes said...

I feel like the horse in the Robert Frost poem "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening"
But rather than think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near, I find it strange then those without the slightest indication of an interest in scholarship which show up on such a Blog.