Thursday, May 26, 2016

Saint Spyridon and the Early Byzantine Text

Saint Spyridon
          Saint Spyridon (270-358) – champion of orthodoxy, worker of wonders, friend of Saint Nicholas – served as bishop of Tremithus on the island of Cyprus in the early 300’s, after the death of his wife.  Many stories about Spyridon circulate to this day.  Some of them are fabulous to the point of being amusing.  Others seem to have at least a kernel of truth.  But one in particular has special significance to New Testament textual criticism.
          Spyridon, who had attended the Council of Nicea, later attended a gathering of bishops on the island of Cyprus.  Also in attendance was another bishop, Triphyllius, who was as well-known for his eloquence as Spyridon was for his faithfulness and simplicity.  At one point during the gathering, Triphyllius delivered a discourse in which he quoted the words of Christ in Mark 2:9 – “Arise, take up your bed, and walk” – except Triphyllius did not quote precisely:  instead of using κράββατος, the word for “bed” that is found in the text, he used σκιμπους.
          Probably Triphyllius’ intention was to ensure that his hearers would understand that the paralytic’s bed was something more like a stretcher than a bed with a frame to hold a mattress.  But Spyridon did not tolerate this deviation.  Standing up in the assembly, he asked, “Are you greater than the one who uttered the word κράββατόν, that you are ashamed to use his words?”.  He then turned and looked out at the crowd, convicting them the man of eloquence should be made to know his limits. 
          Such is the report from the Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, who wrote around 440.  This little incident was so instructive that it was even recollected centuries later, in 1611, by the author of the preface to the King James Version:  “A godly Father in the Primitive time shewed himself greatly moved, that one of the newfangleness called κράββατον σκιμπους, though the difference be little or none.”  
Spyridon is the patron saint of the Greek
island of Corfu, about 1000 miles from
Cyprus, where he served as bishop
           Here is the text-critically interesting aspect of this anecdote:  observe how vigilantly resistant Spyridon was to any sort of textual alteration.  Even a benign deviation undertaken to ensure comprehension was opposed immediately and forcefully.  Such a mindset is the complete opposite of what is required for the theory that during the age of Spyridon (in the early 300’s), bishops throughout Christendom were setting aside their previously cherished manuscripts of the Gospels in order to adopt a previously unseen edition which contained hundreds of previously unseen readings, including whole episodes which to many bishops were utter novelties.
          Hort, whose 1881 Notes on Select Readings is still recycled to this day by commentators, depicted the means by which John 7:53-8:11 was accepted as follows:  “It would be natural enough that an extraneous narrative of a remarkable incident in the Ministry, if it were deemed worthy of being read and perpetuated, should be inserted in the body of the Gospels.” 
          Such an appraisal of the situation in the early-mid 300’s seems flatly unrealistic in a milieu in which, when a single word was exchanged for a synonym, a memorable protest commenced.  The report, found in medieval Menologions, that Lucian of Antioch personally made a manuscript of the entire Bible, written in three columns per page, can be believed.  But can it be believed that a novel edition of the books of the New Testament, based on Lucian’s work, spread throughout Greek-speaking Christendom in the 300’s, and that although it contained remarkable anecdotes previously not contained in the Gospels, the bishops raised no objections and meekly embraced these previously unknown passages, and quietly set aside the manuscripts which their predecessors had risked their lives to protect?  At a time when authors were willing to threaten copyists with severe curses if they failed to make accurate copies of their uninspired compositions, what bishops would find it “natural” to set aside their old exemplars, and replace them with new ones that contained new anecdotes – and not just any anecdotes, but one in which Jesus forgives an adulteress who shows no signs of repentance, and another in which Jesus states that believers will survive snake-handling and poison-drinking?
          When one looks into the question of where the churches in Asia, Greece, Cyprus, and Syria obtained their Greek New Testament manuscripts in the early 300’s, in light of several factors such as the tendency toward vigilance exemplified by Spyridon, it seems rather unlikely that the bishops in those areas quietly standardized their Gospels-text.  It seems far more likely that they basically kept on using the same texts that their predecessors had used. 
          If so, then this would indicate that when we see essentially Byzantine text-forms of the Gospels in the Gothic version (in the mid-300’s), in the Peshitta (no later than the late 300’s), in the writings of Gregory of Nyssa (in the late 300’s), in the writings of Basil of Caesarea (in the mid/late 300’s), in the writings of Epiphanius (also in the late 300’s), and in the writings of John Chrysostom (late 300’s/very early 400’s), this is not because a relatively novel text-form had suddenly become dominant in each of their far-removed locales.  Rather, it is because the manuscripts used in those witnesses’ locales echoed an ancient text-form (perhaps known to Lucian, but pre-dating him) that was at least 70% Byzantine.  This early stratum of the Byzantine Text, though it lacked the favorable climate-conditions that allowed manuscript-preservation in Egypt, had the advantage of a different sort of climate:  the climate of Christian bishops’ tenacious resistance to textual novelty in the 300’s.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An Early Egyptian Manuscript Named Mae

          Once upon a time, there was a letter named Ash.  It was a combination of the letters A and E, smashed together.  For centuries, Ash began names such Æneas, Æesop, and Æschylus, and was found in Cæsar, as well as less distinguished words such as archæology.  After a distinguished career in mediæval English, Ash eventually retired.  Ash is still employed, however, in the textual apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Græce:  “mae” is the abbreviation used there to represent two manuscripts written in Middle Ægyptian.  The first Middle Ægyptian manuscript, referred to as mae1 in the apparatus, is the Scheide Codex (described by Metzger in 1980), a copy of practically the entire Gospel of Matthew made in the 400’s.  The second Middle Ægyptian manuscript, named mae2 in the apparatus, is Codex Schøyen 2650 – a manuscript which is surprisingly important considering how little attention it has received. (Other manuscripts, extant for other New Testament books, are also called mae; in the UBS4 apparatus they are called meg.)
          Codex Schøyen 2650 was probably produced sometime in the 300’s.  It is a prized item in the collection of Martin Schøyen.  It was first described in detail in 2000 by Hans-Martin Schenke, who proposed that its text reflects a form of the text of the Gospel of Matthew that is drastically different from the canonical text – perhaps even the Hebrew text which some patristic writers suggest was the basis for the Greek text of Matthew.  This tantalizing suggestion, however, was opposed by other scholars, including the late William L. Petersen and Tjitze Baarda.  Baarda was gentle in his criticism of Schenke’s approach; Schenke died in 2002, and Baarda may have wished to adhere to the proverb, De mortuis nil nisi bonum.                 
          But let the truth be told:  mae2 is a very good manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew (despite being extensively damaged; the text begins in 5:38, and every page has been damaged at least a little).  As a representative of the Alexandrian Text of Matthew its only rivals are Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.  If any researchers have had reservations about citing mae2 as a witness for the fourth-century Coptic text of the canonical Gospel of Matthew, such doubts should be forever set aside.
          Codex Schøyen 2650 was the subject of James Leonard’s 2012 dissertation, which he prepared with the full resources of Tyndale House at his disposal; his preparation also involved a year of research at the H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies.  His dissertation has since been published by Brill as Codex Schoyen 2650:  A Middle Egyptian Coptic Witness to the Early Greek Text of Matthew’s Gospel.  Leonard demonstrates with thunderous force that Schenke’s appraisal of the manuscript’s text minimized its close adherence to the Alexandrian Text (especially Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) and maximized readings which can be, and should be, regarded as points at which the translator resorted to paraphrasing, or which are the results of the Coptic dialect’s inherent inability to directly correspond to every nuance of the Greek text.
          This is not to say that mae2 does not have more than its fair share of anomalies.  Leonard selected three passages for very thorough analysis:  5:38-6:18, 12:3-27, and 28:1-20.  In the first two passages, when mae2’s text initially appears to stray from the Alexandrian Text, there is almost always an explanation rooted either in the translator’s approach, in scribal mistakes, or in the limitations of Coptic syntax.  But in Matthew 28, we encounter the following oddities:

● 28:1 – Mae2 adds, “when the stars were yet above” as a way of signifying that it was very early in the morning.  (Mae1 also has a unique reading here.)
● 28:2 – Mae2 says the angel “took” the stone, rather than that the angel rolled away the stone.
● 28:2 – Mae2 includes not only the phrase “from the door” (agreeing with the Byzantine Text) but also “of the tomb” (agreeing with the Caesarean Text). 
● 28:5 – Mae2 makes the unusual statement that when the guards shook due to their fear of the angel, “they arose as dead men.”
● 28:5 – Mae2 does not have the phrase “who was crucified.”
● 28:10 – Mae2 does not have the phrase “Do not be afraid.”
● 28:10 – Mae2 says, “Tell my brothers to return to me in Galilee” instead of “Tell my brothers to go to Galilee.”
● 28:12 – Mae2 adds “of the people” after “elders.”

          These do not add up to justification for the idea that the translator’s base-text was descended from a different source than the forms of Matthew 28 that are extant in Greek, but they do show that Egyptian translators were far from the models of precision that they are sometimes claimed to have been.
          Leonard points out a distinctive characteristic of the translation preserved in mae2 that is particularly interesting:  “Mae2 often compresses synonymous verb pairings to a single verb.”  Leonard illustrates this by citing 9:27, where, in the Nestle-Aland compilation and in the Byzantine Text, two blind men “cry out and say.”  The compilers of the Nestle-Aland text were so confident that this is the correct text that they did not even note that there is a variant-reading at this point. But in a few important manuscripts (C (which was corrected), L, and f13), the text only says that the blind men “cry out.”  Mae2 agrees with this shortened reading.  Leonard mentions Matthew 9:36, 11:1, 12:44, 21:21, 23:23, 26:4, 26:74, 27:2, and 27:48 as other passages which display this phenomenon in mae2.        
          This spurs a question which, although it was not even raised by Leonard, seems worth exploring:  if scribes in Egypt could thus shorten the text when translating, could they not do the same thing when transcribing?  The tendency to compress synonymous verb-pairs displayed in mae2 could easily account for the short Alexandrian readings one finds in passages such as Luke 24:53, where the Byzantine reading has been regarded as a conflation.
           Mae2’s text generally adheres closely to the text of B and Aleph even at some points where they have almost no other support:  Mae2 does not have 12:47 (a verse which is exceptionally vulnerable to loss due to homoeoteleuton); maeagrees with B in 14:24 (where B’s text, though adopted in the Nestle-Aland/UBS compilation, looks very much like something intended to ensure that “in the middle of the sea” was not misunderstood as referring to depth rather than distance); maeagrees with B and Aleph in 14:30 (where the word ισχυρόν was susceptible to loss via homoeoteleuton); mae2 even agrees with the two flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian Text in Matthew 27:49, where they state (in a flat contradiction of John 19:31-34) that Jesus was pierced with a spear before He died; mae2 has the interpolation in a slightly different form, mentioning the water before the blood.
          In Codex Vaticanus, although the text is very strongly Alexandrian, Western readings pop up here and there, seemingly out of nowhere (such as in Matthew 27:24b).  The same phenomenon manifests itself in mae2:  the entire text of 21:44 is absent from mae2, as it is from Codex D and several Old Latin manuscripts.
          Along with Leonard’s many insightful observations about the readings of mae2 is a chapter about their possible impact on the Nestle-Aland compilation; Leonard proposes that at several variant-units where the evidence seems finely balanced, the weight of mae2 might tip the scales.  These include variant-units in 6:33 and 12:15, among others.
Although the publisher is asking for
about $130 for a copy
less expensive copies
can be obtained second-hand 

(at least, this was possible
when this post was written).
          Leonard does not investigate the question of possible lector-influence upon the Alexandrian Text displayed in mae2, even though he provides some data which would be helpful in such an investigation.  It is sometimes thought that where the Byzantine Text has the name “Jesus” where the Alexandrian Text does not, this is due to a Byzantine tendency to add the name “Jesus” at the beginnings of lections.  In mae2 we see the opposite tendency:  Jesus’ name is missing in 16:21 and 17:8.  Lector-influence may, however, be the cause of mae2’s inclusion of Jesus’ name in 9:36
           Now that James Leonard has provided the go-to resource for mae2, irrevocably establishing it as a strongly Alexandrian witness, the stage is set for the next logical step:  a comparison of mae2 to its slightly younger relative, mae1.  Although these two manuscripts represent the same Egyptian dialect (sometimes called Mesokemic), and their production-dates are relatively close, they disagree at many important points, such as 5:44 (mae1 has the longer form; mae2 agrees with B), 6:33 (mae1 has “of God”), 9:13 (mae1 has “to repentance;” mae2 does not), 12:47 (mae1 includes the verse), 17:21 (mae1 includes the verse), 24:7 (mae1 includes “and pestilences”), etc.  That dissertation is yet waiting to be written.  In the meantime we can celebrate that Leonard’s dissertation is available.

Codex Schoyen 2650:  A Middle Egyptian Coptic Witness to the Early Greek Text of Matthew's Gospel - a Study in Translation Theory, Indigenous Coptic, and New Testament Textual Criticism, by James M. Leonard, is Copyright © 2014 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Ending Inaccurate Comments about the Ending of Mark

           Last month, Larry Hurtado, at his blog, recommended the late Bruce Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, stating that readers would find it “very helpful as a first resource to consult.”  Hurtado mentioned specifically that Metzger’s book should be consulted for information about “the data on the “Pericope of the Adulteress”” and “the thorny issue of the endings of Mark.”  I chimed in to protest, in a brief comment, that Metzger’s comments on both of those passages contain some false claims, and that throughout Metzger’s book, readers frequently receive one-sided propaganda in favor of the UBS Committee’s decision.  Important evidence routinely is not mentioned, simply because it favors a variant that the UBS Committee did not adopt.
          Another reader of Hurtado’s blog chimed it to briefly say that I was making an “attack on Dr. Metzger” and that my views have been shown to be erroneous.  To this I concisely responded that my views have not been shown to be erroneous; they have been ignored.  (For instance, I have demonstrated that Metzger’s claim that some non-annotated manuscripts of Mark have asterisks or obeli accompanying Mark 16:9-20 is false.  Nevertheless Dan Wallace, Larry Hurtado, Ben Witherington III, James White, and others keep spreading that false claim.)  I also said, “Metzger’s commentary is terrible one-sided and selective.  A far more informative resource is Wieland Willker’s online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels.”
          The following week, Hurtado told his blog-readers about Wieland Willker’s work. Better late than never, I suppose.  The data in Willker’s online textual commentary is a welcome remedy to the inaccuracies, falsehoods, and constant spin that one finds in the obsolete volume by Metzger that Hurtado had recommended just a week earlier.  I am delighted that Hurtado has, at last, discovered and acknowledged Willker’s superior text-critical commentary on the Gospels.  
          Unfortunately Hurtado did not deduce that the typographical error in my earlier comment about Metzger’s book was a typographical error (like all the times Hurtado mentions the periscope about the adulteress).  The word “terrible” in my sentence, “Metzger’s commentary is terrible one-sided and selective” should have been “terribly.”  This became the basis for the following sentence from Hurtado:   “I think that James Snapp was unkind and inaccurate to describe the Metzger textual commentary as “terrible” in the way it handles the questions about the ending of Mark a recent comment.”  
          I responded to explain that I meant to write the word “terribly” instead of “terrible.”  Here we are two weeks later, and no change has been made in Hurtados blog-entry (not even to add the word “in” to the sentence).  So I will clarify my meaning here.  
          Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the New Testament is not terrible.  As a defense of the UBS Committee’s decisions to favor the Alexandrian Text more than 99% of the time in their allegedly eclectic approach, Metzger’s book is very good.  However, its readers should be warned that it mainly consists of terribly one-sided defensive arguments which very frequently minimize, misrepresent, or simply ignore important evidence and strong arguments for the readings which the UBS Committee rejected.
          The sad results of heavy reliance upon Metzger’s book can be seen in Hurtado’s own commentary on Mark.  He stated (in his 1983 volume on Mark in the New International Commentary series, reissued in 1989, and again in 2011 in Baker Books’ Understanding the Bible commentary-series) that “Readers of more modern translations will find these verses set off from the rest of Mark with an editorial note that they are not found in some of the most highly regarded manuscripts of the Gospel.”  By “some,” Hurtado meant two Greek manuscripts – Vaticanus and Sinaiticus
          Hurtado then wrote, “There is evidence in the ancient manuscripts of other material that may have formed two other endings of Mark in some editions of the Gospel.”  Hmm.  There is evidence of the “Shorter Ending” – a brief paragraph which states that the women who left the tomb reported to the disciples and to Peter, and that Jesus sent His followers to proclaim the eternal gospel from east to west.  Hurtado was referring to that little flourish when he wrote, “Several Greek manuscripts and other ancient witnesses insert a short block of material after 16:8, often followed by vv. 9-20.”  By “several,” he meant six.  In all six Greek manuscripts that have the Shorter Ending, Mark 16:9 also appears.
          But what did Hurtado mean by “often”?  He meant, in every such case except one (namely, in the Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis, in which an interpolation appears between Mark 16:3 and 16:4, and in which part of 16:8 has been removed).  Considering that Mark 16:9 appears in all six Greek manuscripts that have the Shorter Ending, and in the dozens of non-Greek copies that have the Shorter Ending, Hurtado’s statement is amusingly inaccurate:  the statement that when the Shorter Ending appears after Mark 16:8 it is often accompanied by verses 9-20 is like a statement that dead men often do not rise from the dead, eat food, and ascend to heaven.  There is only one exception.      
          And what is the second ending to which Hurtado referred by mentioning “two other endings”?  There is no such thing.  Hurtado was referring to the Freer Logion, but the Freer Logion is not another ending; it is an interpolation that appears between Mark 16:14 and 16:15 in one extant manuscript.  (I repeat:  One.  Not “Some” – the footnote about this in the New Living Translation is false and its author should issue a loud and clear apology for misleading the NLT’s readers about this.  Tyndale House Publishers should include the apology in the preface of the NLT for at least the next 20 years, to undo the damage their falsehood has done.  The NET’s false note about the Freer Logion also needs to be corrected.)  The Freer Logion is not “another ending,” and any commentator who presents it as one is mishandling the data and obscuring the evidence.
          To restate:  when Hurtado referred to “the several other endings that appear in the manuscript tradition,” he misrepresented the evidence so as to convey that rivals to verses 9-20 besides the Shorter Ending were written as continuations from Mark 16:8.  Other authors, such as Michael Holmes, have similarly juggled the formats in which Mark 16:9-20 and the Shorter Ending are presented, and have mistreated Codex W’s testimony.  
          Metzger knew that the Freer Logion was never an independent ending of the Gospel of Mark.  He described the Freer Logion as “probably the work of a second or third century scribe who wished to soften the severe condemnation of the Eleven in 16.14,” which would render the Freer Logion a piece of evidence in favor of verses 9-20 from the 100’s or 200’s.  This seems not to have registered at all upon those who are busy misrepresenting the Freer Logion as “another ending,” as if it began as a continuation of the narrative after 16:8.
The new edition of my defense
of Mark 16:9-20
as part of the original text.
          And consider Hurtado’s claim that “The testimony of the earliest “fathers” of the church (in the first four centuries) indicates that these verses were known only in a few copies.”  When we see utilizations of the contents of Mark 16:9-20 in Justin’s First Apology, in the Epistula Apostolorum, in Tatian’s Diatessaron, in Irenaeus’ Against Heresies Book Three (in which Irenaeus, in chapter 10, paragraph 5, specifically quotes Mark 16:19 from the Gospel of Mark, over a century before the production of the earliest surviving manuscript of Mark 16), in De Rebaptismate, in the pagan author Hierocles’ writings cited by Macarius Magnes, in Aphrahat’s First Demonstration (part 17), in Acts of Pilate/Gospel of Nicodemus, in the Gothic version, in the Apostolic Constututions, in the Peshitta, in the Vulgate, in Old Latin chapter-summaries, in four compositions by Ambrose, and in Greek manuscripts mentioned by Augustine – all from before the year 400 – all hope must be abandoned that a realistic appraisal of the evidence can be found in Hurtado’s work.
          Let future commentators take warning:  the days in which Metzger’s Textual Commentary could be cited as if it is a source of trustworthy and balanced information about the ending of Mark are over.  (The same should be true regarding Metzgers comments on John 7:53-8:11.)  And so are the days when commentators could take reckless swipes at Mark 16:9-20, and spread all sorts of falsehoods, without expecting their competence to be called into question.     
          This week I released the 2016 edition of Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20 as a Kindle e-book, at a price which most researchers can easily afford.  Its new opening chapter includes numerous samples of the vague. misleading, and inaccurate (in some cases, bizarrely inaccurate) claims about Mark 16:9-20 which commentators have made.  Its appendix addresses some false claims promoted by Dan Wallace
          The old edition is still available for the researchers in Dallas, Wheaton, Edinburgh and elsewhere who prefer to rely on resources which are overpriced and obsolete.

The New International Commentary - Mark by Larry W. Hurtado is 
© 1983, 1989 by Larry W. Hurtado.  Published by Hendrikson Publishers and Paternoster Press.  
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce M. Metzger is  © 1971 by the United Bible Societies.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Minuscule 304, Theophylact, and the Ending of Mark

          Minuscule 304 is a medieval Greek manuscript which contains a commentary on Matthew and Mark, along with the text of those two Gospels.  Sometimes, medieval commentaries are formatted so as to surround the Gospels-text:  the Gospels-text is positioned in a small rectangle, near the inner edge of the page, and the commentary occupies the space on the three outer margins of the page.  In 304, however, the Gospels-text and the commentary-text are interspersed:  a segment of Scripture is followed by a segment of corresponding commentary, separated by a small dark circle. 
          304 is considered to be a very minor manuscript, in terms of its significance for textual criticism, with one exception:  its text of Mark concludes at the end of 16:8.  In the second edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 304 was not mentioned; minuscule 2386, instead, was listed as if it is the only extant Greek manuscript which ends at the end of 16:8 in agreement with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
          In 1973, however, Kurt Aland deduced the reason why 2386 does not contain verses 9-20:  a thief has removed the page upon which those verses were written, in order to obtain the illustration of the Evangelist Luke which was on the opposite side of the page.  At that point, 304 was promoted, so that one now finds it mentioned in the textual apparatus as an ally of Vaticanus and Sinaiticus at Mark 16:8 in the fourth edition of the UBS Greek New Testament, and in the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland compilation.
          Let’s take a closer look at 304.  This manuscript is housed at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France – the National Library of France, and page-views of the manuscript, from microfilm, were recently made available.
          The catalog-note near the beginning of 304 assigns it to the 13th century, which disagrees with Aland & Aland, who described it as if it was made in the 12th century.  At the beginning of the portion that contains the text of Mark, the title is not “The Gospel of Mark.”  It is, instead, “The  Explanation (Ερμηνεια) of the Gospel of Mark.”  This commentary came to the attention of researchers centuries ago, when a transcription of its contents was printed by Pierre Poussines (also known as Petrus Possinus) as “Codex Tolesanus” in 1673, in Catena Graecorum Patrum in Evangelium Secundum Marcum.
The title, above Mark 1:1-3, in 304:
"The Explanation of the Gospel of Mark."
          The Gospels-text of 304 is essentially Byzantine, and its commentary-material on the Gospel of Mark consists mainly of a commentary written by Theophylact of Achrida (or Ochrid) (c. 1050-1108), supplemented by comments from various patristic writers, including – according to name-abbreviations which appear in the margin next to the excerpts – Cyril, Origen, Photius, Eusebius, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Apollinaris, and occasionally an excerpt is attributed to “Others.”   (Similar abbreviations also appear in the margins in the commentary on Matthew, in which Chrysostoms works are cited very frequently.)
          In 1881, Hort mentioned the contents of 304, stating, “The third commentary printed by Poussin likewise comes to an end at v. 8 in the Toulouse MS employed by him.  But it is not yet known whether other MSS attest a similar text; and at all events the Toulouse scholia are here almost identical with those that are attributed to Theophylact, which certainly cover vv. 9-20.”
          Indeed, when we compare Theophylact’s commentary to 304, the text-divisions usually correspond exactly.  Most of the comments on Mark in 304 are derived from Theophylact, and this can be confirmed with certainty via direct comparisons between Theophylact’s comments and the comments found in 304.  To demonstrate this important point, here are translations of the beginnings of the comment-segments in 304, and the beginnings of the comment-segments in Theophylact’s commentary, throughout Mark chapter 15:

● After 15:15
304:  The Jews handed over Christ to the Romans. 
Theophylact:  The Jews delivered the Lord to the Romans.

● After 15:21
304:  Soldiers typically rejoice . . . 
Theophylact:  Soldiers typically rejoice . . .

● After 15:28 (which is not in the Alexandrian Text)  
There is some difference in content and order, but in 304, sixteen lines into the comment, and in Theophylact’s commentary at the outset of this segment, we find this statement:
304 –There is an old tradition which says that Adam was buried in that place, where Christ was crucified, so that in the place where death began, it would also meet its end.
Theophylact – There is a tradition handed down from the holy fathers which says that Adam was buried in that place . . . so that where death began, there also death would be destroyed.
(This tradition, by the way, is why medieval illustrators sometimes drew a skull-and-crossbones at the base of the cross, representing the corpse of Adam.)

● After 15:32
304 – Not only did the soldiers blaspheme the Lord, but also those who were going by blasphemed him . . .
Theophylact – Even those who were going by, that is, along the road, blasphemed the Lord . . .
(The parallel continues throughout the comment, concluding with a reference to Luke’s observation about the repentant thief.)

After this, 304 has an excerpt which is assigned to Hesychius, beginning with Ακριβατε, about what Matthew and Luke say about the two thieves.  

● After 15:37
304 – The darkness was not in one place only, but over all the earth.  And at the end of the comment, there is a statement that Luke tells us the words of Jesus’ cry:  into your hands I commit my spirit.
Theophylact – The darkness was not only in that place, but over the whole earth.  And near the end of the comment, there is a statement that Luke tells us the words of Jesus’ cry:  into your hands I commit my spirit.

● After 15:41
304 – By the tearing of the curtain, it was shown by God that the spirit of grace had departed from the temple, and the Holy of Holies . . .     
Theophylact – By tearing the curtain, it was demonstrated by God that the grace of the Spirit had departed from the temple, and the Holy of Holies . . .

● After 15:47
304 – Joseph of Arimathea, though being a servant under the decrees of the law, understood Christ to be God . . .  
Theophylact – O Blessed Joseph!  Though a servant of the Law, he perceived the divinity of Christ . . .

          This very close relationship between Theophylact’s commentary and the commentary-material in 304 continues into chapter 16, as shown by this picture, in which the Greek text of Theophylact’s comments on Mark 16:1-8 are highlighted in blue when there is a verbatim correspondence in 304, and in yellow where the match is out of order or otherwise approximated. 

          When one looks at the final lines of the commentary-material in 304, the text ends as follows:  Η υπο του φοβου τον νουν απολεσασαι. (“Out of fear, they had lost their minds.)  This corresponds to similar material in Theophylact’s commentary.  (In Theophylact’s commentary, there is another sentence after this, stating, And because of this they said nothing to anyone, ignoring even what they had heard. – Και δια τουτο ουδενι ουδεν ειπον,  επιλαθόμεναι και ων ηκουσαν.)   There the text of 304 ends, without any special marks (other than the usual dark circle that separates the commentary-material from the Scripture-text) – not even the “+” marks that appear in 304 at the end of the commentary on Matthew.  There is no closing-title.  There is not even an “Amen.”  (The opposite side of the page contains scrawled notes which are not part of the commentary.)
      There is, however, a faintly written note which indicates that this is where the exemplar of 304 ended.  Beginning on the very next line after the last line of commentary-text, and preceding the damage to the lower margin of the page, it runs as follows:

A two-line note -- faint but decipherable -- appears
in 304 below the last line of commentary.
ώσπερ ξένοι χαρουσι ιδειν πατρίδα
ουτω και η γράφοντες βιβλιον τελος 

As travelers rejoice on their homeland to look,
Thus also the scribe at the end of a book.

           Below this, in even fainter lettering, someone has repeated part of the first line of this little note, but then the damage takes over and nothing else is legible.
           A similar, slightly longer note is also found in 304 below the end of the commentary on Matthew.  (Similar notes are found in other medieval manuscripts, such as Lectionary 1663.)  There, the format is different:  the end of the commentary is signified by a plus-mark (“+”) at the end of the last line of text, followed by another line occupied solely by two additional plus-marks, before the note is written (followed by two more lines of text).

          All things considered, the following points should be clear:
          (1)  Pending further research, 304’s testimony to the ending of Mark at 16:8 should be considered highly dubious, inasmuch as Theophylact’s Explanation of the Gospels, the main source of 304’s Gospels-text and commentary-text, continues, not only with another sentence about Mark 16:1-8, but with two more segments, the first of which explains Mark 16:9-13 (beginning with a sentence descended from one that is also found in Eusebius
Ad Marinum, stating that the opening phrase of 16:9 should be read with a pause) and the second of which explains Mark 16:14-20. 
          (2)  Considering the essentially Byzantine nature of the text in 304, it seems very likely that 304 was copied from a damaged exemplar which was missing its final pages, rather than that 304 echoes an exemplar which was designed to display Mark 16:8 as the final text of Mark with no further comment. 
          (3)  One cannot absolutely rule out the theory that (a) the exemplar of 304 contained a note similar to the one mentioned by Migne in a footnote in P.G. 123, found in Codex 26“Some who have commented on this passage say that Mark’s Gospel ends at this point [at 16:8] and that the remainder began its existence later.  An explanation of this passage is also necessary in order that no injury may be done to the truth,” and (b) on the basis of the first part of this note, the scribe of 304 boldly decided to abstain from copying any further text or comment.  However, this theory seems highly unlikely, inasmuch as the copyist displays no intention of altering the text according to patristic observations about variant-readings elsewhere in 304 (such as at Matthew 27:16-17 and Mark 1:2).
          (4)  If manuscripts which contain Theophylact’s commentary interspersed with the Gospels-text can be shown to share a particular collection of fairly unique readings (such as τον Ιησουν at the end of Mark 16:1), their weight should be considered collectively, rather than individually, and these manuscripts’ texts could plausibly be regarded as very extensive quotations made by Theophylact, rather than as continuous-text Gospels-manuscripts.
          (5)  More research on Theophylact’s Gospels-commentary would be welcome.  A good start (for any aspiring researcher) might involve a comparison of 304 and 2214.  2214 is another 13th-century copy of Theophylact’s commentary in which the Gospels-text and commentary-material are arranged in alternating segments.  It was thought to be lost in the 1980’s, but it is not lost; it resides as MS #233 at the Ivan Dujčev Research Center in Bulgaria.  Future investigators of Theophylact’s commentary and his Gospels-text should also look into minuscule 2879, which is at Oxford.