Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mark 9:29, Prayer and Fasting, and Some Early External Evidence

Having reviewed some of the early church's customs regarding fasting, we now turn to examine some early external evidence about Mark 9:29 specifically, and about fasting in general.

The minuscule 2427 (alias “Ancient Mark”), one of the four Greek witnesses that have been cited to support the shorter reading, has been demonstrated to be a forgery made no earlier than the publication of Buttmann’s 1862 Novum Testamentum Graece, which was the model for its text.  This leaves three Greek witnesses for the non-inclusion of και νηστεια.            

Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are almost certainly products of the same scriptorium.  Tischendorf, Lake, Milne, Skeat, Elliott, and other textual critics regarded this to be the case.  (In 1999, Skeat proposed that both codices were produced in Caesarea under the supervision of Eusebius around 325.  In 2007, Elliott affirmed, “Scribe D of Sinaiticus was also very likely to have been one of two scribes of Codex Vaticanus.”)  But these two codices, from about 325 and 350, are not our earliest Greek witness to the text of Mark 9:29.  Papyrus 45 is older by a century or slightly more.        

The UBS-4 apparatus lists P45 as apparent support (“vid,” i.e., “videtur”) for the inclusion of και νηστεια in Mark 9:29.  In order to check this, I compared the extant text of Mark 9:28-31a with the text of Codex W (the text of which is the closest relative to the text of P45 in Mark) and made a tentative reconstruction of the full contents of a portion of the page of P45 that contains Mark 9:29.  Here is the result, with the extant text of P45 underlined and in bold letters: 

auton exelqen kai egeneto wsei nekroς wste pollouς legein
oti apeqanen o de ih krathsaς thς ceiroς autou hgeiren
auton kai eiselqontoς autou eiς oikon proshlqon autw
oi maqhtai kai hrwthsan auton legonteς oti hmeiς ouk
hdunhqhmen ekbalein auto kai eipen autoiς touto to genoς
en oudeni dunatai exelqein ei mh en proseuch kai nhsteia
Κakeiqen exelqonteς  pareporeuonto dia thς galilaiaς kai
ouk hqelen ina tiς gnw edidasken gar touς maqhtaς autou   
kai legei autoiς oti o uioς tou anqrwpou paradidotai anq. . .

Although some of the assumptions on which this reconstruction is based cannot be proven (such as the non-inclusion of κατ ιδιαν in Mark 9:28), I consider it very plausible due to the correspondence between the arrangement of the words in this reconstruction, and on the papyrus itself, which is shown here in a replica:

(This may be checked against the image at CSNTM, and the transcription supplied by P. W. Comfort in The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts.) 
Only part of the word proseuch is extant in Mark 9:29 in P45; however, space-considerations virtually require that unless προσευχη was followed by και νηστεια, it was followed by a blank space, which seems uncharacteristic of the practice of the manuscript’s copyist. 
The testimony of Codex Vaticanus is straightforward; Mark 9:29 in Codex B ends on line 10 of a column.  A small blank space was left between προσευχη and the beginning of verse 30; the presence of small spaces between thematically distinct passages is not an unusual feature in B.  (The same feature occurs on the first line of this column, between Mark 9:27 and 9:28.) 

Before considering the testimony of Codex Sinaiticus, we turn to a patristic witness of equal or slightly earlier age.  De Virginitate, which has also been called Pseudo-Clement’s Second Epistle on Virginity, should be added to the witnesses in support of the fuller reading of Mark 9:29 (or to the inclusion of Matthew 17:21, or both).  Based on the English translation available online at , here is an excerpt from chapter 12: 

   Chapter 12 - Rules for Visits, Exorcisms, and How People are to Assist the Sick, and to Walk in All Things Without Offense.
   Moreover, also, this is fitting and useful, that a man “visit orphans and widows,” and especially those poor persons who have many children.  These things are, without controversy, required of the servants of God, and fitting and suitable for them.  This also, again, is suitable and right and fitting for those who are brethren in Christ, that they should visit those who are harassed by evil spirits, and pray and pronounce adjurations over them, intelligently, offering such prayer as is acceptable before God.
   They should not use a multitude of fine words, well prepared and arranged in order to appear eloquent and of a good memory.  Such men are ‘like a sounding pipe, or a tinkling cymbal,’ and they bring no help to those over whom they make their adjurations; but they speak with terrible words, and frighten people, but do not act with true faith, according to the teaching of our Lord, who has said, ‘This kind goes not out but by fasting and prayer,’ offered unceasingly and with earnest mind.  And in a holy manner let them ask and beg of God, with cheerfulness and all circumspection and purity, without hatred and without malice. 
   In this way let us approach a brother or a sister who is sick, and visit them in a way that is right, without guile, and without covetousness, and without noise, and without talkativeness, and without such behavior as is alien from the fear of God, and without haughtiness, but with the meek and lowly spirit of Christ.  Let them, therefore, with fasting and with prayer make their adjurations, and not with the elegant and well-arranged and fitly-ordered words of learning, but as men who have received the gift of healing from God, confidently, to the glory of God.  By your fastings and prayers and perpetual watching, together with your other good works, mortify the works of the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He who acts thus is a temple of the Holy Spirit of God.  Let this man cast out demons, and God will help him.” 

The exact composition-date of De Virginitate is debatable, but inasmuch as Jerome referred to it (around 393, in his work Against Jovianus, 1:12, regarding it as a genuine work of Clement), and Epiphanius used it (in Panarion 30:15, composed in the 370’s), the very latest possible composition-date for it is in the early-mid 300’s. 

In the next post, we will continue to examine external evidence that pertains to Mark 9:29 and the treatment of fasting in the early church.

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