Monday, November 18, 2013

Acts 27:37 - 276 Souls, or About 76?

Let's briefly leave the Gospels to explore an interesting variant in Acts 27:37.  Did the ship on which Paul and his friends were traveling in Acts 27:37 contain 276 souls, or only about 76?

The Byzantine Text says that a total of 276 souls were aboard the ship: 
Codex A says HMEQA DE PASAI YUCAI EN TW PLOIW DIAKOSIAI EBDOMHKONTA PENTE.  (Thus, 275 souls.  The amount is spelled out, not abbreviated.)
According to the apparatus in UBS4, Lectionary 1156 says that the number of souls was 216. 
Vaticanus and the Sahidic version say that a total of “about 76” souls were on board, finishing the verse with WS EBDOMHKONTA EX.

The NET’s editors saw fit to mention this variant, with the note, “One early ms (B) and an early version (sa) read “about seventy-six.”  For discussion of how this variant probably arose, see F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, 465.”

When I take in hand – onscreen – F. F. Bruce’s commentary on Acts, on pages 525-526 (the difference is surely only due to different formatting in different editions) I find: 

“The reading of B could be a miscopying of the larger number; PLOIWWSOF [with the OF overlined] for PLOIWSOF [with the OF overlined – although this is an error; the sigma in PLOIWSOF should have been overlined too].  There is no improbability in the larger number (which included the soldiers under the centurion’s command); the ship on which Josephus was bound for Rome in A.D. 63 had about 600 on board (Vita 15).”

Déjà vu.  I’ve read something like that before, in John Burgon’s 1883 book The Revision Revised, on pages 51-53.  Burgon is more verbose than Bruce, but the solution is exactly the same:  “Some II-century copyist connected the last letter of PLOIW with the next ensuing numeral, which stands for 200 (viz. S)); and made an independent word of it, viz. WS – i.e., ‘about.’  But when S (i.e. 200) has been taken away from SOF (i.e. 276), 76 is perforce all that remains.”  And notice the footnote on p. 52 of the same page:  “The number is not excessive.  There were about 600 persons aboard the ship in which Josephus traverses the same waters.  (Life, c. III).” 

I find five interesting features here:

First, it’s interesting to observe how Bruce happened to reach the same conclusion as Burgon, and even use the same example from Josephus, apparently without reading Burgon (whose name, if my electronic search, courtesy of Amazon, is correct, appears nowhere in Bruce’s commentary).  That’s just incredible!  (Naturally, the NET’s note on Acts 27:37 refers readers to Bruce, not to Burgon.) 

Second, it’s interesting to see the close alignment of the base-text of the Sahidic version of Acts to the text of Acts in B.  The replacement of PLOIW_SOF_ with PLOIWWS_OF_ is not the sort of thing that would happen often; this variant is an important genetic marker.

Third, it’s interesting, inasmuch as the UBS4’s apparatus gives this a “B” rating, that someone on the committee must have favored B’s reading, apparently against all other Greek MSS, despite the ease with which B’s reading is accounted for.

Fourth, it’s interesting to see that Lectionary 1156 (Waltz’s data says that it’s from the 1300’s) was even noticed and cited, considering how often readings with continuous-MS-support are completely ignored in the UBS4 apparatus.          

Fifth, it’s interesting that UBS4 stretched the evidence beyond its breaking point in an attempt to buttress the testimony of B.  Carroll D. Osburn stated the following in The Text of the Apostolos in Epiphanius of Salamis (2004) in a footnote in Appendix II (page 269) – “Epiphanius is listed in UBS4 as reading “WS EBDOMHKONTA EX Epiphanius ½ (Epiphanius ½ om EX).”  This is misleading.  In one quotation, Epiphanius reads WS EBDOMHKONYA, but in the other WS OGDOHKONTA.  So, Epiphanius reads “70” or “80” souls, but in neither reference does he read WS EBDOMHKONTA EX, as UBS4 indicates.” (Osburn’s work does not build confidence in the UBS4-compilers’ database of citations as far as Epiphanius’ testimony to the text of Acts is concerned.  Osburn lists four corrections to UBS4’s citations of Epiphanius in Acts, one useful addition, and only three correct citations.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mark 16:9-20 - Top Ten Trainwrecks

In some previous posts, I’ve addressed the shortcomings regarding Mark 16:9-20 found in Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, and in the NET Bible’s notes, and in the ESV Study Bible.  Here are ten more examples of false claims about Mark 16:9-20 that are being spread online and/or in print.    

(A)  Commentaries written by Clement of Alexandria before 101, by Origen before 200, and by Eusebius in the 200s, confirm that Mark’s text stopped at 16:8. – Stephen M. Miller.  (No commentaries on the Gospel of Mark by these writers are known to exist.  Clement of Alexandria was not even born in 101.  Origen worked in the 200s, not in the 100s.) 

(B)  Mark 16:9-20 was produced by scribes in the Middle Ages. – Bart Ehrman.  (This is simply impossible, because the passage was utilized by dozens of individuals before the fall of the Roman Empire.  Irenaeus, for example, quoted Mark 16:19 around the year 184 - over a century before the production-date of the earliest existing Greek manuscript of Mark 16.) 

(C)  Verses 9-20 are not in any of the great early manuscripts. – William Barclay.  (Barclay, whose commentary-series was very popular, must've thought that there are only two great early Greek manuscripts!)

(D)  No early church fathers indicate awareness of these verses for the first few centuries of Christianity.  They don’t quote from them or comment on them. – H. Walker Evans.  (That's true, if you ignore Justin, Tatian, Epistula Apostolorum, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, De Rebaptismate, Hierocles, Marinus, Eusebius, Ambrose, Epiphanius, Apostolic Constitutions, Pelagius, De Trinitate, Augustine, Macarius Magnes, Marcus Eremita, etc., etc.)

(E)  Mark 16:9-20 is lacking in many of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts. - Norman Geisler.  (This is just a display of ignorance, plain and simple.  Only two old Greek manuscripts end Mark's text at the end of 16:8.)

(F)  Mark 16:9-20 is omitted “in very many Greek manuscripts of the Gospel.” – Wilfrid Harrington.  (Harrington was speaking out of ignorance -- by which I mean that I assume that he was not deliberately lying.  He simply was not aware of the fact that all undamaged Greek manuscripts of Mark 16 except two contain at least part of Mark 16:9-20.  The effect on his readers, unfortunately, is the same either way.)

(G)  Mark 16:9-20 was lacking in “all Greek manuscripts known to Eusebius and Jerome.” – W. R. Telford.  (Obviously Telford either never consulted the writings of Eusebius and Jerome, or else he forgot what he had found.)

(H)  Mark 16:9-20 is absent from Codex Alexandrinus. – Ron Rhodes.  (Probably he meant to refer, instead, to Codex Sinaiticus.  But regardless of how this falsehood originated, it continues to be spread.)

(I)  Mark 16:9-20 is omitted by important Ethiopic codices. – Eugene Nida, Matt Slick and many others.  Nida did not know any better, since he wrote before 1980, when Bruce Metzger published a detailed refutation of this claim -- which, alas, is still being spread in Metzger's own handbook, The Text of the New Testament!  Matt Slick, though, has been informed that every continuous-script Ethiopic manuscript of Mark known to exist contains at least part of Mark 16:9-20.

(J)  “Until you get to about eight- or nine-hundred A.D., you can’t find a manuscript that contains these verses.” – Bob McCartney.  (This ridiculous statement was made in a sermon at the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, in 2011.  Bob McCartney has two graduate degrees; it is hard to say if he spread this falsehood in spite of his training or because of it.)  

All ten of those statements are false, and all ten of those statements can easily be proven to be false.  Furthermore,  some of the authors responsible for those statements know that the statements are false, but allow them to continue to be spread anyway.  Stephen Miller, Bart Ehrman, and Matt Slick, I mean you.  (I suspect that I could include Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes on the list of those who deliberately spread false information about Mark 16:9-20, too, if they answered the mail I sent to them.)  Matt Slick (supervisor of the pro-Calvinism apologetics-site CARM) has been fully informed that this claim is incorrect, but for years he has continued to spread this false claim at his website.  Let the CARM-visitor beware.

Commentaries must be weighed, not counted.  (Just read Ben Witherington's commentary's one-sided notes on Mark 16:9-20, and compare it to Bruce Metzger's one-sided statements in Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, and tell me how many commentaries you are really reading.)  Following the decades in which distortions and falsehoods about Mark 16:9-20 have been promoted in commentaries, in seminary classrooms, and in pulpits (such as the pulpits of John MacArthur and Alistair Begg), some recent commentators have decided not to comment about Mark 16:9-20 at all.  Perhaps that is better than spreading falsehoods about the passage, as the persons listed above have done -- but let no one doubt that the silence of some members of the current generation of commentators is the child of the lies that were spread by many commentators in previous generations.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Didymus the Blind and the Text of Matthew

Bart Ehrman (in his 1986 book Didymus the Blind and the Text of the Gospels) identified 163 genetically significant textual variant-units in Didymus’ text of Matthew.  In Table 1 (on page 191), Ehrman ranked the witnesses which agree with Didymus’ text according to the percentage of agreements at those points.  Codex A has the highest percentage of agreement:  80%.  Ehrman tossed out that evidence on the grounds that Codex A, due to damage, only attests to 20 genetically significant variants (in Mt. 25:6-28:20). 

However, if Codex A should be ignored on the grounds that the data from Matthew 25:6-28:20 is too small of a sample, then why are 163 short passages from Didymus a large enough sample to demonstrate affinities with manuscripts that contain 1,071 verses? Picture the genetically significant textual variant-units that Ehrman collected as bits of an extremely fragmentary manuscript of Matthew – a manuscript that can be read only at those 163 places. Obviously this represents only a small portion of the text of Matthew; even if every variant-unit collected by Ehrman was an entire verse, the total would be only 15% of the verses in the Gospel of Matthew.

This problem can be approached in terms of variant-units, as well as in terms of verses.  Ehrman completely rejected Codex A’s testimony because, he said on page 190, “It should seem obvious that since A does not preserve even one-eighth of the total number of readings under consideration (20/163), its testimony must be discounted.”  But does Ehrman’s collection of 163 variant-units preserve even one-eighth of the total number of readings under consideration in collations of manuscripts of Matthew?  I sifted through the apparatus of the 27th edition of Nestle-Aland, and noticed that textual variants are listed for at least 765 verses of the Gospel of Matthew.  I did not count the number of individual variant-units that are in the apparatus for Matthew, but I reckon that there are over 1,100 (since, although many verses have no variant-units in the apparatus, many other verses contain more than one variant-unit).  If Codex A’s testimony must be discounted because it contains only 12.2% of the variant-units under consideration when Didymus is the object of the comparison, then shouldn't Didymus’ testimony be discounted because it contains only about 14.8% (163/1,100) of the variant-units under consideration when the entire text of Matthew is the object of the comparison?

Even though Codex A is extant only for Matthew 25:6-28:20, there is no reason to imagine that Didymus’ text of Matthew was block-mixed, as if it aligned with one text-type in the last four chapters but some other text-type in chapters 1-24.  That is, there is no reason to suspect that the 80% agreement between Didymus and Codex A in 25:6-28:20 would disappear if the rest of Matthew was extant in Codex A.

If we were to treat Matthew 25:6-28:20 as a separate book used by Didymus, what text-type would Didymus’ copy of this book have?  Would it be decidedly Alexandrian, or something else?  An easy way to find out is to sift through the data, and compare how often Didymus agrees with Codex A and the Textus Receptus to how often Didymus agrees with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (the flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian Text).  Consider the following list:

Places in Matthew 25:6-28:20 Where Didymus Agrees with TR or A or Aleph or B:
(1) 25:6 - Didymus has ECERCESQE - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(2) 25:6 - Didymus has GEGONEN - agrees with TR A Aleph (disagrees with B)
(3) 25:15 - Didymus has IDIAN DUNAMIN - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(4) 25:16 - Didymus has EN - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(5) 25:33 - Didymus has MEN - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(6) 25:33 - Didymus has DEXIWN - agrees with Aleph A (disagrees with TR B)
(7) 25:33 - Didymus has EUWNUMWN - agrees with TR A B (disagrees with Aleph)
(8) 25:41 - Didymus has OI - agrees with TR A (disagrees with Aleph B)
(9) 25:41 - Didymus has POREUESQE - agrees with TR A B (disagrees with Aleph) 
(10) 26:15 - Didymus has PARADWSW - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(11) 26:31 - Didymus has DIASKORPISQHSETAI - agrees with TR (disagrees with A Aleph B) (Ehrman listed this as a Citation “[C]” but not as a Citation taken to be representative of Didymus’ text, and used as a base for collation.)
(12) 26:52 - Didymus has MACAIRH - agrees with A Aleph B (disagrees with TR)  (Ehrman listed this as a Citation “[C]” but not as a Citation taken to be representative of Didymus’ text, and used as a base for collation.)
(13) 26:53 - Didymus has DOKEIS OTI OU DUNAMAI - agrees with TR A Aleph B (There is a blank space in Ehrman’s book where the letter “A” should be.)
(14) 26:53 - Didymus has MOI - agrees with TR A B (disagrees with Aleph)
(15) 26:53 - Didymus has PLEIOUS - agrees with TR A (disagrees with Aleph B)
(16) 26:53 - Didymus has DWDEKA - agrees with Aleph B (disagrees with TR A)

(17) 26:53 – Didymus has LEGIWNWN ANGELWN - agrees with Aleph A (disagrees with TR B)
(18) 27:40 - Didymus has EI TOU QEOU - agrees with TR A Aleph (disagrees with B)  (Ehrman listed this as a Citation “[C]” but not as a Citation taken to be representative of Didymus’ text, and used as a base for collation.)
(19) 27:40 - Didymus has QEOU - agreeing with TR B (disagreeing with Aleph A)  (Ehrman listed this as a Citation “[C]” but not as a Citation taken to be representative of Didymus’ text, and used as a base for collation.)
(20) 28:19 - Didymus has MAQHTEUSATE - agreeing with Aleph A (disagreeing with B TR)

In these 20 units, each pair (TR+A, and Aleph+B) has the potential to score 40 agreements. Which pair scores higher: the Byzantine pair, or the Alexandrian pair?
TR: 15. A: 17. Aleph: 12. B: 12.

Combined total of TR and A = 32/40 = 80%
Combined total of Aleph and B = 24/40 = 60%

We may thus conclude that Didymus’ text of Mt. 25:6-28:20 was significantly more Byzantine than Alexandrian.

If we were to ignore the citations which Ehrman, for whatever reason, did not identify as citations taken to be representative of Didymus’ text, we would be left without #11, #12, #18, and #19, and the list would look like this:

(1) 25:6 - Didymus has ECERCESQE - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(2) 25:6 - Didymus has GEGONEN - agrees with TR A Aleph (disagrees with B)
(3) 25:15 - Didymus has IDIAN DUNAMIN - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(4) 25:16 - Didymus has EN - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(5) 25:33 - Didymus has MEN - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(6) 25:33 - Didymus has DEXIWN - agrees with Aleph A (disagrees with TR B)
(7) 25:33 - Didymus has EUWNUMWN - agrees with TR A B (disagrees with Aleph)
(8) 25:41 - Didymus has OI - agrees with TR A (disagrees with Aleph B)
(9) 25:41 - Didymus has POREUESQE - agrees with TR A B (disagrees with Aleph) 
(10) 26:15 - Didymus has PARADWSW - agrees with TR A Aleph B
(13) 26:53 - Didymus has DOKEIS OTI OU DUNAMAI - agrees with TR A Aleph B (There is a blank space in Ehrman’s book where the letter “A” should be.)
(14) 26:53 - Didymus has MOI - agrees with TR A B (disagrees with Aleph)
(15) 26:53 - Didymus has PLEIOUS - agrees with TR A (disagrees with Aleph B)
(16) 26:53 - Didymus has DWDEKA - agrees with Aleph B (disagrees with TR A)

(17) 26:53 – Didymus has LEGIWNWN ANGELWN - agrees with Aleph A (disagrees with TR B)
(20) 28:19 - Didymus has MAQHTEUSATE - agreeing with Aleph A (disagreeing with B TR)

So with 16 variant-units, each pair (TR+A, and Aleph+B) has the potential to score 32 agreements. Which pair scores higher: the Byzantine pair, or the Alexandrian pair?

TR:  12.  A:  15.  Aleph:  10.  B:  10.

Byzantine:  12+15 = 27/32 = 84%
Alexandrian:  10+10 = 20/32 = 63%

Thus once again, it appears that Didymus’ text of Mt. 25:6-28:20 was significantly more Byzantine than Alexandrian.  Ehrman’s use of the TR, however, introduced an improvable factor into the analysis.  What if the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform (2005 edition) is put in place of the TR?  In the 20-item list, RP2005 agrees with the TR every time, except in Mt. 28:19.  RP2005 does not have OUN, and thus agrees with Didymus.  With this refinement in the analysis, the comparison looks like this:

RP2005:  13.  A:  15.  Aleph:  10.  B:  10.

Byzantine:  13+15 = 28/32 = 88%
Alexandrian:  10+10 = 20/32 = 63%

Decidedly Alexandrian?? 

It looks like either Didymus used a text of Matthew that was uniquely block-mixed, so as to be primarily Byzantine in chapters 25-28, and something else in chapters 1-25, or else something is very wrong with Ehrman’s analysis.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Did Didymus the Blind Write De Trinitate?

Previously, I sifted through Bart Ehrman's analysis of the Gospels-text of Didymus the Blind, pointing out various shortcomings that render its conclusions extremely out-of-focus.  I also mentioned that Ehrman did not include De Trinitate ("On the Trinity") as part of his analysis, on the grounds that Didymus the Blind was not its author.  Several other scholars consider Didymus the Blind to be the author of De Trinitate.  If they are correct, then Ehrman's analysis must be considered incomplete.     
Here are some hurdles that must be surmounted by those who identify Didymus as the author of De Trinitate.  (This list is based on comments in R. P. C. Hanson’s book Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, on pages 653-658; Hanson, in turn, used material from a French-writing scholar named Doutreleau.)  Hanson also observes some weaknesses in Doutreleau’s objections.  Here are the hurdles that Hanson mentioned, accompanied by brief counterpoints, some of which are from Hanson and some of which are from me.
(1)  The author of De Trinitate III:16, when commenting on I Tim. 5:6, refers to his previous work on the Holy Spirit, but in Didymus’ On the Holy Spirit, as preserved and translated by Jerome, there is no exposition of I Tim. 5:6.

COUNTERPOINT:  First Timothy 5:6 says, “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.” Does the author of De Trinitate explicitly say that he commented on I Tim. 5:6 in his work on the Holy Spirit, or does he just say something like, “For my earlier comments about this sort of thing, see my comments in my treatise on the Holy Spirit”?  Is there anything in Didymus’ On the Holy Spirit that, while not explicitly quoting I Tim. 5:6, could be considered to be thematically related to it?  And, did Jerome translate the entire work, or is his translation condensed?)

(2) The author of De Trinitate refers to the “Macedonians,” but in On the Holy Spirit, Didymus refers to this group of heretics as the “Pneumatomachians.”

COUNTERPOINT:  Could Jerome have taken slight liberties with the text of On the Holy Spirit so as to refer to this group by a name which he considered more appropriate than “Macedonians”?  -- Also:  the nomenclature by which some heretics were described back then may have drifted similarly to such nomenclature today (“Mormons” vs. LDS; “Jehovah’s Witnesses” vs. Watchtower Society). An author may arbitrarily use either one on different occasions.)

(3) “Jerome in his account of Didymus does not mention a work on the Trinity by him, though De Trinitate must have been written fairly soon after 381 and Jerome visited Didymus in 386.”

COUNTERPOINT:  In chapter 109 of Viris Illustribus, Jerome, after naming several of Didymus’ commentaries and books, finishes the list by saying, “and many other things, to give an account of which would be a work of itself.  He is still living, and has already passed his eighty-third year.”  Since Jerome stated explicitly that he did not mention “many other” works by Didymus, this objection is extremely light.

(4)De Trinitate enumerates Zechariah as the last of the Minor Prophets, whereas in the Commentary on Zechariah, Didymus counts him as the eleventh (before Malachi).” 

COUNTERPOINT:  Okay.  I’d like to see the contexts of the two listings.  Is one a chronological listing, and the other a list in order of appearance in a canon-list?  Is one a shortest-to-longest list?  Or are we looking at two canon-lists, and if so, is that a big deal in 381?

(5) “The explanation of the candelabra in Zech. 3:8-4:10 is utterly different in every detail in De Trinitate and Comm. on Zechariah, and the latter does not refer to the treatment of the passage in the De  Trinitate.”

COUNTERPOINT:  Granted, this is a significant difference.  But an author approaching that passage in search of allegorical insights could probably squeeze two very different allegorical insights out of it, depending on what themes he wished to emphasized, or what points he wished to make, on different occasions.

(6) De Trinitate “deploys a full technical vocabulary in dealing with Trinitarian themes,” while in the undisputed works of Didymus, he “uses almost no technical terms at all.” 

COUNTERPOINT:  Okay; I’ll consider this a significant difference.  On the other hand, topics can greatly affect style.  Even text-critics don’t often employ text-critical jargon unless they are writing something related to textual criticism.  Also, Hanson does mention that Didymus “applies homoousios twice to the Son but never to the Spirit.”  Just because Didymus didn’t typically employ terms like “homoousois” and “theotokos” and “isotimia” in works that were not about the Trinity does not mean that they were not in his verbal 

(7) Didymus never quotes pagan poets, but the author of De Trinitate “frequently quotes Homer and the classic Greek poets.”

COUNTERPOINT:  Okay; this is a significant point.

(8) Didymus is “fond of arithmology, i.e. playing around with the significance of numbers,” but De Trinitate “has only two brief excursions into arithmology.”

COUNTERPOINT:  This is a pretty light objection!  An author can’t be expected to use numerically-based illustrations in every single work.  And then, when we see that the author of De Trinitate does this, well, two such uses is just not enough?!

(9) Didymus relies on Origen for a lot of his theology, but De Trinitate “shows no influence from Origen.”

COUNTERPOINT:  Since Didymus had been appointed to lead the school of Alexandria by Athanasius, it would come as no surprise to see that despite admiring Origen’s erudition, and despite learning from Origen’s works, Didymus did not rely on Origen when writing about the Trinity, but took his stand on ground taken by more recent, and more orthodox, movers-and-shakers in the church.

(10) The author of De Trinitate states, in
III:1 (784), “I go forward to the next task, trusting that even before I speak I shall receive grace along with the children whom (God) has given to me and 
the children of those children, through whom as long as we live we labor, and indeed also all whom (God) knows.”  Didymus was a monk, and the idea that he had children and grandchildren is unlikely.

COUNTERPOINT:  Hanson wrote, “These ‘children’ could refer to the writer’s disciples, but to call disciples of a later generation or disciples of one’s disciples would be odd.”  Why? To a writer such as Didymus, fond of allegories and such, it seems entirely natural.  This evidence may be easily converted into evidence in favor of Didymusian authorship:  the author says that he is speaking -- i.e., dictating, as Didymus (and others) did -- and by the 380’s, Didymus had worked long enough to see the disciples of his disciples mature.  Didymus was old.  The author of De Trinitate, if he here refers to students of his students, was old.

(11) In De Trinitate II:11 (660), the author writes, “But John too is obvious, as they say, even to a blind man.”  It is unlikely that Didymus the Blind would have used this expression.

COUNTERPOINT:  Why? That Didymus could make an occasional self-referential statement like this does not seem unlikely to me. 

(12) In De Trinitate II:27 (768), the author “urges his readers or disciples to ‘live among books,’” and this, according to Hanson, is “not a likely piece of advice for a blind man to give.” 

COUNTERPOINT:  Why not?  Are we to imagine that Didymus did not realize the advantages that the acquisition of books could provide?  As the author of many books -- which Didymus wanted people to read -- Didymus would be entirely capable of encouraging people to live in the company of books.) (Tangent: didn’t Chrysostom also say this somewhere?)

(13) “And at one point [
III:2 (825)], quoting Aquila’s version, the author transliterates the Hebrew word into Greek letters.  We have to ask ourselves whether a blind man is likely to have learnt even the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.”

COUNTERPOINT:  Didymus the Blind’s career is one unlikely accomplishment after another.  Is it likely that a blind man would learn geometry?  Yet the record that he did so is there, along with a report that he learned to read by the use of carved wooden letters. There is nothing in the way of the view that Didymus knew enough Hebrew to be able, with the help of his assistants, to transliterate one Hebrew word into Greek.  A commentator on several Old Testament books (including Psalms) whose erudition was saluted by Jerome would almost inevitably have an awareness of the Hebrew alphabet. 

Out of the 13 objections that Hanson presented, #9-13 seem inconsequential, #2, #3, and #8 seem feathery, #1 and #4 are possibly significant but more info is needed, and only #5, #6, and #7 obviously carry real weight. Focusing on these points, the case that Didymus is not the author of De Trinitate seems, for the moment, to rest on three points:

(1)  The author of De Trinitate and Didymus interpret Zechariah 3:8-4:10 in two very different ways. 
(2)  The author of De Trinitate uses technical jargon about the Trinity, but Didymus hardly ever uses such terms. 
(3)  The author of De Trinitate frequently quotes Homer and other pagan poets, but Didymus never does so.

To me, this is not enough to prove that Didymus is the author.  I am still looking into this question, and at the moment I am leaning toward the position that the evidence that Didymus wrote De Trinitate is stronger than the evidence to the contrary.  Regarding this question, competent scholars have weighed in on opposite sides.  Until it is resolved, and until the utilizations of the Gospels in De Trinitate are analyzed, Ehrman's findings about the textual complexion of Didymus' Gospels-text must be regarded as tentative and incomplete, not only because of the shortcomings in the details of his work that I reviewed earlier, but also because of the possibility that Ehrman's analysis has not taken into account the Gospel-utilizations found in one of Didymus' major works.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Didymus the Blind - His Text of the Gospels

Here are some findings about the Gospels-text of Didymus the Blind, based mainly on Bart Ehrman’s volume in the NTGF (New Testament in the Greek Fathers) series, Didymus the Blind and the Text of the Gospels, published in 1986.  Dr. Ehrman went through a lot of effort, in the preparation for his Ph.D. thesis, to collect and analyze the Gospels-quotation in the extant writings of Didymus, who worked in Alexandria in the late 300s.  Even though Ehrman's work has some flaws, it pursues a worthwhile goal.  Let's try to use it to answer a simple question:  was Didymus’ Gospels-text more like Codex Vaticanus (the flagship-manuscript of the Alexandrian Text) or like the Robinson-Pierpont compilation of the Byzantine Text?  Book-by-book, let's sift through the data and find out.  (“B” = CodexVaticanus and “Byz = the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, 2005 edition.)        

In Matthew,  Didymus agrees with either B or Byz (but not both) 49 times.
Didymus agrees with B against Byz 24 times (49%).
Didymus agrees with Byz against B 25 times (51%).

In Mark – well, in Mark, the data is too sparse to justify confidence that it reflects the affinities of Didymus’ text.  Nevertheless:  Didymus agrees with either B or Byz (but not both) five times.  However, in three cases where Ehrman concludes that Didymus supports a reading in B, the grounds seem especially questionable Granting every one of them, though:  
Didymus agrees with B against Byz 4 times (80%).
Didymus agrees with Byz against B 1 time (20%).

In Luke, Didymus agrees with either B or Byz (but not both) 45 times.
Didymus agrees with B against Byz 28 times (62%)
Didymus agrees with Byz against B 17 times (38%).

In John, Didymus agrees with either B or Byz (but not both) 40 times.
Didymus agrees with Byz against B 23 times (57.5%).
Didymus agrees with B against Byz 17 times (42.5%).

So let’s see here:  figuring that nothing comes close to representing the Alexandrian Text of the Gospels as well as Codex B, and that nothing represents the Byzantine Text as well as the RP-2005 compilation - and assuming that the Gospels-utilizations in the extant writings of Didymus the Blind accurately represent the texts he actually used, and assuming that De Trinitate was not written by Didymus the Blind (because that would obviously affect the statistics quite a bit) - did the Gospels-text used by Didymus resemble the Alexandrian Text, or the Byzantine Text?

Didymus agrees with B against Byz 24 times in Mt., 4 times in Mk., 28 times in Luke, and 23 times in John, which equals a total of 79 agreements with B against Byz.

Didymus agrees with Byz against B 25 times in Mt., 1 time in Mk., 17 times in Luke, and 17 times in John, which equals a total of 60 agreements with Byz against B.  

Thus, out of 139 places in the Gospels-text used by Didymus where the text is either Alexandrian or Byzantine (but not both), Didymus’ text was Alexandrian 79 times (57%) and Byzantine 60 times (43%).    

Normally we would call that a Mixed Text.  Didymus’ Gospels-text – particularly in Matthew, where Didymus’ text had a couple more Byzantine readings than Alexandrian readings – was very far from a pure Alexandrian Text.  Didymus’ Gospels-text should be called Mixed Alexandrian-Byzantine.  Instead, Ehrman calls it the Secondary Alexandrian Text, which conveniently avoids acknowledgement of the very influential presence of the Byzantine Text in the ancestry of the text used by Didymus in Egypt in the late 300s.

Students might possibly get the impression that when someone says that Didymus used a “Secondary Alexandrian” text, what is meant is that Didymus used a text which was essentially Alexandrian, with some slight secondary alterations.  To use the term “Secondary Alexandrian” is to risk giving students and readers such a false impression, accenting the slight Alexandrian majority and pushing the strong Byzantine influence out of the spotlight.  A text which favors Byzantine readings in 4 out of 10 variant-units where B and Byz disagree should be called Mixed Alexandrian-Byzantine.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Manifold Mistakes: A Video-Response to Bart Ehrman's "Manifold Greatness" Lecture

Earlier this year, in January, Dr. Bart Ehrman delivered a lecture as part of the Manifold Greatness project, a traveling exhibit organized in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible.  The lecture is online at YouTube, so those interested in its full contents can view it directly. 

Some of Dr. Ehrman's statements about the KJV, as well as some tangential statements that he made, were highly inaccurate.  So, having been blessed with a little spare time and a lot of coffee, I have prepared some clarifications in the form of another video-lecture, which is at YouTube at .

Its title:  "Manifest Mistakes:  What Kind of Lecture Did Bart Ehrman Give?"
I use annotations throughout my lecture, so if you watch my video-response, watch using the Chrome browser on a desktop computer, to ensure that the annotations are visible.  (I don't think tablets currently display the annotations; results may vary from one to another.) 

The main focus is, of course, the KJV (and perhaps I should once again note that I am not KJV-Onlyist, in case some newcomers get the wrong idea).  Some text-critical subjects are also covered, especially in the second half of my response (specifically, the Johannine Comma, the PA, and Mark 16:9-20).

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Robert Stein and the Ending of Mark

          Robert Stein’s article The Ending of Mark in a 2008 issue of Bulletin for Biblical Research has a lot of good qualities.  Dr. Stein writes clearly.  His statement that Mark’s readers “would not only find 16:8 a difficult ending for Mark but an impossible one” is one in which I am in complete agreement.  Efforts to squint sensibility and skill into the abrupt ending (undertaken, for instance, by Daniel Wallace, J. Lee Magness, John MacArthur -- who misrepresented almost every piece of external evidence he mentioned -- and, more recently, Alistair Begg) are futile exercises.  The abrupt ending of verse 8 looks unintentional because it was unintentional. 
          Dr. Stein wrote that the abrupt ending at 16:8 is found “in two major Greek Codices – Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph) and Vaticanus (B), as well as in 304, certain Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Georgian manuscripts, and is witnessed to by Clement of Alexandrian, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome.”
Clement of Alexandria does not witness to the abrupt ending.  Clement might even refer to Mark 16:19 in Adumbrationes in a comment on Jude verse 24 as preserved by Cassiodorus -- a reference which seems to have escaped Metzger’s attention.  But, setting aside that possibility, if Clement never used Mark 16:9-20, that is very far from Stein’s claim that Clement weighs in for the abrupt ending.  Clement of Alexandria does not use 12 entire chapters of Mark.  It is unrealistic to treat his silence regarding 12 verses as if it has any evidentiary force. 
Origen does not witness to the abrupt ending.  Origen used Mark more than Clement did, but he never said anything about how the Gospel of Mark ends.  Origen did not use many other 12-verse portions of Mark, and he did not use portions of Mark that are much larger than 12 verses.  So we simply do not know whether his copies of Mark contained 16:9-20 or not.  This finally seems to have sunk into the heads of the editors of the UBS Greek New Testament; after decades of spreading the idea that Clement and Origen support the abrupt ending, the editors finally removed the names of Clement and Origen from the apparatus-entry for Mark 16:9-20 in the fourth edition.  (Yay.  Now if we could just make fresh editions of about 200 commentaries and 20,000 seminary classroom-lessons prepared by people who depended on the apparatus in earlier editions of the UBS Greek New Testament.)
          Dr. Stein is correct that the text of Mark stops at the end of 16:8 in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, but that observation is strongly nuanced by additional factors that Stein did not mention:  Vaticanus has a distinct blank space after 16:8 (not just leftover space below 16:8, but also an entire blank column alongside it) in which a trained copyist could fit 16:9-20.  In Sinaiticus a cancel-sheet contains Mk. 14:54-Lk. 1:56 and the cancel-sheet’s copyist shifted his rate of letters-per-column in a highly unusual way on these pages.  (I won't go into detail about this here, but if I were to take the time to walk through this feature, I believe I could show that these shifts in the lettering betray the copyist's desire not to leave a blank column between Mark 16:8 and Luke 1:1 -- which implies that the copyist was aware that the abrupt ending at 16:8 was not the only known way to conclude the Gospel of Mark.)   In addition the elaborateness of the arabesque after 16:8 should be noticed.    
          The medieval manuscript 304 is very probably just a damaged manuscript.  According to a description by Dr. Maurice Robinson (who, years ago, briefly saw a microfilm of 304), 304 does not display the subscription after 16:8. 
          Stein wrote that "certain Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Georgian manuscripts" lack Mark 16:9-20.  There's considerable ambiguity in that sentence.  Only one Syriac manuscript (the Sinaitic Syriac) ends Mark at the end of 16:8.  And only one Sahidic MS lacks 16:9-20.  (That Sahidic MS, by the way, was initially assigned a production-date c. 425, but Coptic specialist Christian Askeland has recently expressed his opinion that it could be centuries later.)  (A recently-publicized Sahidic amulet which treats 16:8 as the last verse in Mark should also be on the scales, although there's some question about its production-date.) 
          When the Armenian version and the Old Georgian version are listed side-by-side without mentioning that the Old Georgian version was translated from Armenian, many readers are bound to get the impression that these two pieces of evidence are two independent lines of evidence, when they’re not.  Also, if the Armenian manuscripts that lack Mark 16:9-20 are going to be mentioned, then it seems only fair that the hundreds of Armenian manuscripts that contain Mark 16:9-20 should also be mentioned, as well as the testimony of the Armenian writer Eznik of Golb, who utilized Mark 16:17-18 in his composition De Deo hundreds of years before the production-date of the earliest extant Armenian manuscript of Mark 16.    

          Dr. Stein claimed, “A number of the manuscripts have asterisks or other markings by the text indicating that the copyists thought the longer ending was spurious.”  This appears to be an inaccurate appraisal based on Metzger’s statement about “other witnesses."  (Dr. Stein, like most commentators who mention the “asterisks and obeli” claim, did not specify which MSS he was talking about, echoing Metzger's vagueness).  Fourteen Greek manuscripts have special annotations about 16:9-20, but I have not been able to verify the existence of any non-annotated Greek manuscripts of Mark in which 16:9-20 is accompanied by text-critical asterisks or obeli.  (Plenty of MSS have lectionary-related symbols and abbreviations at the beginning of 16:9, but the MSS have the same symbols and abbreviations elsewhere; they are merely part of the lectionary-apparatus.)  
          Stein wrote on page 82 about the “Lack of Attestation by Early Church Fathers,” stating that the failure of Origen, Tertullian, Cyrian [he meant Cyprian], Cyril of Jerusalem, and others” “indicates that they were apparently unacquainted with the longer ending of Mark.”  His reference to Tertullian is somewhat puzzling because in a footnote on the same page, he listed Tertullian as a witness to the longer ending.  Regarding the other three individuals that Stein listed (Origen, Cyprian, and Cyril of Jerusalem):  Origen’s non-use of Mark 16:9-20, as I already mentioned, is a side-effect of his general neglect of Mark.  The same goes for Cyprian (whose silence was badly misrepresented by Hort).  And Cyril of Jerusalem (in Adversus Nestorium, Book 2, chapter 6) quoted Nestorius’ quotation of Mark 16:20, and did not respond by saying, “Whatever was Nestorius talking about?”.    
          By claiming that patristic writers' non-use of Mark 16:9-20 "indicates that they were apparently unacquainted" with the passage, Dr. Stein has built a hurdle which, if consistently applied, would indicate the same thing about many other 12-verse passages of the Gospel of Mark.    

          On page 82, Stein stated that Mark 16:9-20 “contains 18 terms not found anywhere else in Mark.”  That’s true, but why is there no mention that another 12-verse passage – 15:40-16:4 – contains even more terms not found anywhere else in Mark?  Is it too much to ask for some balance?  Do all future commentators have to cherry-pick the evidence in accord with a time-honored tradition?  When the abundance of once-used words in Mark 16:9-20 is mentioned, but the even higher abundance of once-used words in 15:40-16:4 is not mentioned, readers may be forgiven if they feel like shoppers in a fruit-market in which the vendor has designed his display so that the customers can only see one side of the apples.    

          On page 83, Stein referred to “the Harclean Syriac manuscript.”  I’m not sure what he meant by that, because there is more than one manuscript of the Harclean Syriac.  And, if I am not misinformed, in the Harclean (also spelled Harklean) Syriac, the Shorter Ending is not in the text between verse 8 and verse 9; it’s in the margin.
          In a footnote on page 84, Stein mentioned that the evidence from Jerome is unclear.  I think I can help clear that up.  First, regarding the commentary on Mark that Stein attributed to Jerome:  that’s not by Jerome.  Second, Jerome’s statement in Ad Hedibiam is a condensed translation of part of Eusebius’ Ad Marinum.  If Eusebius had never written Ad Marinum, this part of Ad Hedibiam would not exist. 
          It cannot be denied that Jerome took material from Eusebius’ earlier composition and included it in his letter to Hedibia without explaining that he was using Eusebius’ material.  Jerome had no problem answering questions by repeating what had been stated by other writers, whether their answers exactly reflected his own views and observations or not.  (He freely acknowledged doing this sort of thing in Epistle 75, To Augustine.)  In addition, it is plain to see in Ad Hedibiam that he followed up on the statement about “almost all the Greek copies” by recommending (just as Eusebius did) that Mark 16:9-20 be retained and that a comma be introduced into 16:9. 
          And now some thoughts about the implications of the inaccuracies in Dr. Stein's article.  If a distinguished and experienced scholar such as Dr. Robert Stein is capable of those mistakes and misrepresentations, just imagine what lesser scholars are teaching in their classrooms.  It is this sort of thing that continues to give momentum to the rejection of Mark 16:9-20.  The testimony of Clement and Origen should never have been in the equation as witnesses against Mark 16:9-20.  Jerome's statement in Ad Hedibiam should never have been misrepresented as if Jerome was not spontaneously paraphrasing Eusebius in the course of dictating a letter.  Eusebius' vagueness and ambivalence in Ad Marinum, and his recommendation to retain Mark 16:9-20, should not have been overlooked.  The dependence of the Old Georgian on the Armenian version should have been pointed out.  The asterisks-and-obelisks claim should have been checked, and specifics about how many non-annotated manuscripts have text-critically significant symbols alongside Mark 16:9-20 -- which is none, as far as I can tell -- should have been given.  But just the opposite has happened, and the  result of all this is that even when the mistakes are realized, the train of conventional wisdom continues to roll down the wrong track, even though it is out of coal.        

          Meanwhile, weighing in for the inclusion of 16:9-20, we have four second-century witnesses, including Epistula Apostolorum, the existence and testimony of which Stein acknowledged, unlike most commentators.  Julian Hills, who has specialized in the study of the Epistula Apostolorum , has said, "I would vote for a high degree of probability that the author knew the Longer Ending." 

          I wonder how rapidly the current consensus against the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20 would change if commentators stopped making the mistakes that Dr. Stein has made, and took the steps he has taken that were correct.  If commentators stop misrepresenting Clement and Origen, stop parroting Metzger’s vague "asterisks and obeli" claim (unless some demonstrable basis for it is found), stop pretending that the abrupt ending was  intentional, and start to draw their readers' attention to the testimony of Epistula Apostolorum, Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus, what would happen?  Would very many commentators encourage their readers to believe that a textual variant that is supported by four second-century witnesses, and 99.9% of the Greek manuscripts, and 99.99% of the Latin manuscripts, and 99.5% of the Syriac manuscripts, and 40 Roman-era patristic writers, does not have adequate support, and should be expunged from Scripture?  And if so, would very many commentary-readers take them seriously?

I hope these things will be taken into consideration by readers of Dr. Stein's article.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Got Questions Website and Mark 16:9-20

It is wearying to focus once again on Mark 16:9-20.  But recall the old saying:  "One must fix the fence where it is broken."  And regarding Mark 16:9-20, many writers have broken the fence of facts, like lost cows, leaving behind a mess.  Today let's consider the inaccuracies, half-truths, and falsehoods about Mark 16:9-20 that are currently spread by the Got Questions website.  We'll look mainly at the claims about external evidence, but some claims about internal evidence will also be addressed.


The Got Questions writer said, “The vast majority of later Greek manuscripts contain Mark 16:9-20.”  That statement is technically true.  But it is an understatement.  A “vast majority” might be 66% or 75%.  But in this case, we’re looking at over 99% of the later Greek manuscripts of Mark 16 that have not undergone damage.  (Only one later Greek manuscript ends without Mark 16:9-20, minuscule 304, which contains a commentary based in part on the commentary by the writer Theophylact, whose commentary includes comments about verses 9-20.  304 may simply be a copy of a damaged manuscript.)  That's over 1,500 manuscripts.  Now, elsewhere at the Got Questions website, one finds the statement, "The sheer volume of biblical manuscripts makes it simple to recognize any attempts to distort God’s Word."  Obviously the author considers the ending of Mark an exception.

The Got Questions writer said, “Mark ends at verse 8 in two of the oldest and most respected manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.”  Again, that’s true, but it is not the whole truth.  The copyist of Codex Vaticanus left adistinct blank space after Mark 16:8, as if he was familiar with the passage and attempted to reserve space for the absent verses in the event that the future owner of the manuscript might want them to be included.  And in Codex Sinaiticus, the page containing Mark 16 is part of a four-page replacement-sheet containing Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56.  These four pages were not written by the same copyist who wrote the text on the surrounding pages.  A careful study of the shift in the rate of letters-per-column on these four pages, and of the emphatic decorative lines which follow Mark 16:8 in Codex Sinaiticus, shows that the copyist who made these four replacement-pages was aware of the existence of Mark 16:9-20.

The Got Questions writer said, “The oldest manuscripts are known to be the most accurate because they were copied from the original autographs (i.e., they are copies of the originals).”  What an error!  The Got Questions writer makes it seem as if Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (the “oldest manuscripts” under discussion) were copied directly from the autographs!  In the real world, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were made in the 300’s.  Also, the assumption that the oldest manuscripts “are known to be the most accurate” is false.  In the Gospels, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus disagree with each other 3,036 times; one or the other (or both) must be inaccurate at those points.  A copyist does not become skillful just by living in the 300’s, and the text of a manuscript does not become more accurate merely by virtue of the manuscript's survival.  Codex Bezae, for example, is almost as old as Vaticanus and Sinaiticus; yet its text of the Gospels is less accurate than the text in a typical medieval Gospels-manuscript.  Or consider Papyrus 46:  it is older than Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, but the editors of the Nestle-Aland text rejected its readings hundreds of times.

In addition, as the Got Questions writer puts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus in the spotlight, he leaves earlier evidence in the shadows!  After describing two manuscripts from the 300’s as if they were copied from the original documents themselves, he did not weigh that evidence against the evidence from Epistula Apostolorum (c. 150), Justin Martyr’s First Apology, (c. 160), Tatian’s Diatessaron, (c. 170), and Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (c. 184).  In Book Three of Against Heresies, Irenaeus specifically quoted Mark 16:19 from the Gospel of Mark.  If the writer really considered the age of the evidence to be decisive, then he ought to have concluded that Mark 16:9-20 is unquestioningly genuine.  In terms of age, manuscripts used by Irenaeus in the 180’s were much closer to the original documents than manuscripts made in the 300’s.  

The Got Questions writer stated, “The King James Version of the Bible, as well as the New King James, contains vv. 9-20 because the King James used medieval manuscripts.”  This is a cheap shot that writers sometimes take at the KJV when they are advertising some other version.  The writer has tried to belittle the KJV's New Testament base-text, as if the fact that a manuscript’s parchment is medieval implies that the text that it transmits is also medieval.  But in real life, one of the manuscripts used by Erasmus was Codex 1, which echoes an ancient text-form from the 400’s.  In real life, Stephanus (the compiler of the 1551 Greek New Testament which is extremely similar to the base-text of the KJV New Testament) cited ancient manuscripts such as Codex Bezae and Codex Regius.  In real life, during the period between 1516 and 1611, textual scholars considered ancient versions such as the Syriac Peshitta and the Vulgate, and a wide variety of ancient patristic quotations.  The text of the Gospels in the Textus Receptus (the base-text of the KJV) is a fairly good representative of the Byzantine Text, which is attested in the 300’s (by the Gothic Version, the Peshitta, and patristic citations) and the 400’s (by Codex Alexandrinus and parts of Codex W).  Only a propagandist, or a victim of propaganda, would ever describe this text as if it is essentially medieval.

The Got Questions writer wrote, “Since 1611, however, older and more accurate manuscripts have been discovered and they affirm that vv. 9-20 were not in the original Gospel of Mark.”  In real life, since 1611, the only two Greek manuscripts of Mark 16 that clearly end the text at verse 8 are the same two mentioned earlier:  Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.  All the other recently-discovered Greek manuscripts of Mark 16, unless they are damaged, include the passage! 

The Got Questions writer claimed, The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Jerome noted that almost all Greek manuscripts available to them lacked vv. 9–20.”  That is another misrepresentation of the evidence.  The statement from Jerome that is being cited here, from his composition Ad Hedibiam, is embedded in a summarization, by Jerome, of part of Eusebius’ composition Ad Marinum To put it another way:  Jerome was not describing manuscripts available to him; Jerome was passing along part of Eusebius’ composition Jerome included Mark 16:9-20 in the Vulgate, in 383. 

As for Eusebius:   he was aware that copies existed in which Mark's text ended at 16:8, but if you read Ad Marinum you will see that he specifically framed his descriptions of manuscripts that lack the passage as something that someone might say to resolve a harmonization-difficulty.  And instead of instructing Marinus to reject the passage, Eusebius explained how to solve the harmonization-difficulty without rejecting the passage.

The Got Questions writer said that Eusebius and Jerome “doubtless knew those other endings existed.”  However, in real life, while it is plain that Eusebius and Jerome both knew of the existence of Mark 16:9-20, there is no indication whatsoever that Eusebius or Jerome knew of the existence of the Shorter Ending.

The Got Questions writer said, “In the second century, Justin Martyr and Tatian knew about other endings.”  That is a misrepresentation of the evidence.  There is no indication that Justin Martyr and Tatian knew of any way to end the Gospel of Mark except with 16:9-20.  There is no evidence that they knew of copies with the abrupt ending at 16:8.  There is no evidence that they knew of copies with the Shorter Ending. 

The Got Questions writer said, “Irenaeus, also, in A.D. 150 to 200, must have known about this long ending because he quotes verse 19 from it.”  That is correct, but the Got Questions writer left out an important detail:  Irenaeus specifically says that he was quoting Mark 16:19 from the Gospel of Mark!  With that detail in place, it becomes clear that as the Got Questions writer claims that “these verses were added later by scribes,” because they are not in two manuscripts from the 300’s, he also acknowledges that these verses were present in the text of Mark used by Irenaeus in the 100’s.        

The Got Questions writer says, “So, the early church fathers knew of the added verses, but even by the fourth century, Eusebius said the Greek manuscripts did not include these endings in the originals.”

This is problematic for two reasons.  First, the writer has not adequately considered how abundantly the early church fathers show us that Mark 16:9-20 was in their manuscripts:  when we read patristic utilizations of Mark 16:9-20 by writers such as Tatian, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Hierocles, Ambrose, and Augustine, we are reading echoes of the manuscripts that these writers used.  Second, the Got Questions writer treated Eusebius’ statement as if Eusebius was making a direct observation about all manuscripts in all manuscript-collections throughout the Roman Empire In real life, Eusebius’ statement is not even a direct statement, and even if it had been a direct observation, it would only describe manuscripts known to Eusebius, not all manuscripts throughout the Christian church.         


The Got Questions writer stated, “The internal evidence from this passage also casts doubt on Mark as the author.”  But this is a secondary question.  Internal evidence cast doubt on the idea that the main author of Proverbs was the author of chapters 30 and 31, and on the idea that Jeremiah added Jeremiah chapter 52, but we do not therefore erase or ignore those chapters.  The vital question is not, “Did Mark add these verses?”.  It is, “Were these verses in the autograph, or were they absent from the autograph, when the text’s production-stage ended and the transmission-stage began (that is, when copies began to be distributed for church-use)?”.  If the Got Questions author consistently used single-authorship of a book as the standard for canonicity, he would trim away large segments of text from several books of the Bible.

The Got Questions writer stated, “The Greek word translated “now” that begins v. 9 should link it to what follows, as the use of the word “now” does in the other synoptic Gospels.”  But this claim is simply nonsense.  The word in question is the ordinary Greek word “de,” which is routinely used to make transitions of all sorts, including introductions of entirely new episodes.

The Got Questions author wrote, “What follows doesn’t continue the story of the women referred to in v. 8, describing instead Jesus’ appearing to Mary Magdalene.  There’s no transition there, but rather an abrupt and bizarre change, lacking the continuity typical of Mark’s narrative. The author should be continuing the story of the women based on the word “now,” not jumping to the appearance to Mary Magdalene.”  This is a perfectly valid point, but it applies to the author's imaginary ending-creating scribes as much as it applies to Mark:  why would anyone in the 100’s or later, attempting to create an ending for the Gospel of Mark, begin so abruptly, instead of continuing the scene that is depicted in 16:8?   

The Got Questions author wrote, “For Mark to introduce Mary Magdalene here as though for the very first time (v. 9) is odd.”  But the mere repetition of Mary Magdalene’s name is not objectionable:  Mark mentioned her in 15:40, and again in 15:47, and again, just one verse later, in 16:1.  The core of this objection is that Mark 16:9 adds the detail that Jesus had cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene, instead of mentioning this when she was first mentioned.  But in 15:40, 15:47, and 16:1, she was not alone; this is the first time the narrative spotlight is on her alone.  It is not all that shocking that additional information about her is included at this point.         

The Got Questions writer stated, “There are eighteen words here that are never used anywhere by Mark.”  He failed to mention, however, that there are 20 words in Mark 15:40-16:4 that are never used anywhere else by Mark.  Does he intend to challenge the genuineness of Mark 15:40-16:4 because of this?  If not, then the ground is gone from under what he is trying to suggest by mentioning the statistic about how many once-used words are in Mark 16:9-20.    

The Got Questions writer stated, “The title “Lord Jesus,” used in verse 19, is never used anywhere else by Mark.”  Nor is it used by Luke except in Luke 24:3.  So what?  Does the Got Questions writer think that any unique feature of a 12-verse passage of Scripture implies that the passage is not genuine?  If so, then hardly any 12-verse passage in the New Testament is safe from his objections of this sort.

The writer stated, “Both the external and internal evidence make it quite certain that Mark did not write it.”  Here’s what he means regarding the external evidence:  although 99.9% of the Greek manuscripts, and 99.99% of the Latin manuscripts, include Mark 16:9-20, and although we have, in patristic compositions, echoes of four manuscripts of Mark in the 100’s that contained 16:9-20, and more than 30 other Roman-Empire-Era utilizations of Mark 16:9-20, all that is certainly outweighed by Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Eusebius, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, one Sahidic manuscript, and part of the Armenian version.   

The Got Questions writer stated, “Ending his Gospel in verse 8 with the description of the amazement of the women at the tomb is entirely consistent with the rest of the narrative.”  That is how John MacArthur tried to spin the abrupt ending, in a 2011 sermon that was filled with false and inaccurate claims (claims which, by the way, are still being spread by Grace To You).  But there are problems with MacArthur’s theory; for instance, why would Mark would say that the women said nothing to anyone, knowing very well that they proceeded to report to the disciples?  Why would Mark deliberately leave his readers’ last impression of the apostles as running away in Gethsemane

The Got Questions writer stated, “Amazement at the Lord Jesus seems to be a theme with Mark.”  Again, this resembles Dr. MacArthur’s spin.  Of course people reacted to Jesus’ miracles with amazement and sometimes with fear.  Jesus was performing miracles, after all!  But that does not mean that Mark, after foreshadowing a meeting between Jesus and His disciples in 14:28 and 16:7, intended that the scene in 16:8 would be the end of his narrative.  Nor does it mean that Mark intended for his readers to perceive the women’s fear as something to be emulated, rather than as a natural reaction.  

In 16:8, Mark states that the women at the tomb were trembling with fright The only parallel to such a state of mind in Mark (in which TREMOS and EFOBOUNTO describe the subject) is in 5:33, in the middle of the episode about the women who touched Jesus’ robe.  If Mark had not written 5:33b-34, and had let the reader wonder what happened next, then we would have a true parallel to 16:8, in which Mark would let the reader wonder what happened next.  But he did write 5:33b-34.  The inconclusive scene in 16:8 is unique in Mark’s Gospel. 

Furthermore, some of the passages in the Got Questions writer’s list of examples of Mark’s depiction of fear as a reaction to Jesus are not really parallels!  The term used to describe the women’s fear in 16:8 is EFOBOUNTO.  This word, or a word with the same root, is used only in 4:41, 5:15, 5:33, 9:6, 9:32, 10:32, and 11:18 These seven passages are the only ones that involve the same vocabulary that is used at the end of Mark 16:8.  One of them (11:18) describes the feelings of the chief priests and scribes -- obviously not virtuous awe.  Granting that on six occasions, Mark mentions that people were fearful, this does not mean that Mark equated fear with virtuous awe.  Nor does it explain why Mark, knowing about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, would intentionally decline to record any of them, instead of preserving Peter's remembrances about Jesus, which is what the early church understood Mark's Gospel to be.  

So:  let the readers of Got Questions beware.  The Got Questions website's answer about Mark 16:9-20 is extremely misleading, and presents only part of the relevant evidence, and the evidence that it presents is in a heavily molded form.  Watch out, too, for inaccuracies in other pages at the Got Questions website which pertain to New Testament textual criticism:  I have seen essays at Got Questions that claimed that the early New Testament papyri are "the remains of the most ancient scrolls," and that Tischendorf found portions of Codex Sinaiticus "in the monastery dump," and other made-up statements.  I suspect that the claims about Mark 16:9-20 at Got Questions are essentially distorted echoes of Metzger and MacArthur, and are not based on first-hand research.