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.


Peter M. Head said...

I think you are right that other NT scholars generally think consulting Metzger's commentary is as much homework as they need to do on most passages. That is a bit of an issue for their scholarship.

I also don't really like "one-sided defensive arguments which very frequently minimize, misrepresent, or simply ignore important evidence and strong arguments" (although I don't think that is what Metzger was trying to do [nor do I accept that he is wrong on the issues you claim]). But I doubt if the answer to such arguments, and the way to get a hearing, is more of the same from the other side.

James Snapp Jr said...

Peter M. Head,

Since I am so dedicated to one-sidedness, I shall delete your comment.

Just kidding. Help me, Peter: a footnote in the NLT says that "Some early manuscripts" have the Freer Logion. Ben Witherington III says that Eusebius and Jerome stated that they had no manuscripts that contained Mark 16:9-20. How would you frame a response to those claims that is not "one-sided"?

Peter M. Head said...

Thanks James,

It is difficult. People make errors, but most people don't like to be called out on their errors. Scholars make errors because they are careless, don't check the evidence for themselves, or make incorrect deductions from the evidence they have, and/or are in a deadline rush for whatever reason.

My guess is as well that there are different perceptions of the significance of these (type of) errors. Scholars writing brief notes are trying to summarise and compress, not right long dissertations on the state of the evidence. This leads to simplification (which is not necessarily an error).

In the first case, NLT is broadly correct, depending on the tense. Jerome stated that he knew this reading from some Greek manuscripts (c. Pelag. II.15), so it must at that point have been present in 'some early manuscripts'; but in fact we know this reading only from one single manuscript. So it would be more accurate to say 'some early manuscripts had this reading, but it is now known only from one manuscript and one church Father (who refers to other Greek manuscripts)'. Of course Jerome was quite old when he wrote Against the Pelagians, but I don't see that as particularly crucial. So what is the problem again?

In the second place, BWIII has mis- or over-stated the evidence. He is in error. Nevertheless Eusebius does refer to 'nearly all the copies' as ending at Mark 16.8; and Jerome says (echoing Eusebius) that 'almost all books in Greek do not have this pericope at the end'. So it would be more accurate to say that 'Eusebius and Jerome stated that most of the manuscripts did not contain Mark 16.9-20'.



James Snapp Jr said...

Peter M Head,

No; the NLT is not correct -- not broadly or in any other way. Jerome (as I state in the book) mentioned that he had seen the Freer Logion "especially in Greek codices" in Against the Pelagians, indeed -- probably recollecting codices he had seen in Egypt in the late 380's when he visited Didymus there. But none of those manuscripts have survived (unless Codex W is one of them).

Are you seriously suggesting that if we can deduce, from a remark in a patristic composition written in, say, the 100's, that a manuscript existed with a particular reading, then it is legitimate to add a heading which is phrased as if the patristic writer's manuscripts still exist? In that case let's add a heading and footnote in Mark 16 that says, "Three manuscripts from the 100's include verses 9-20," as if the manuscripts used by Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus still exist. (I'll set aside Epistula Apostolorum for the moment, just to maintain focus.) We should expect no one to object, since the statement is "broadly correct, depending on the tense," right?

PMH: "It would be more accurate to say 'some early manuscripts had this reading, but it is now known only from one manuscript and one church Father (who refers to other Greek manuscripts)'."

Correct. But the NLT's footnote does not say that, does it. No it does not. Instead it says that "Some early manuscripts add," and that is false. Only one manuscript adds the Freer Logion. If it's "broadly correct" to refer to non-extant manuscripts as if they are extant, well, think of the fun we can have using that approach!

PWH: "BWIII . . . is in error."

Indeed he is.

PWH: "Nevertheless Eusebius does refer to 'nearly all the copies' as ending at Mark 16.8; and Jerome says (echoing Eusebius) that 'almost all books in Greek do not have this pericope at the end'."

No; Eusebius says that someone who rejected vv. 9-20 could do so using that claim (and other claims) as his reason for doing so. When Eusebius is not framing his statements in that way, Eusebius simply says that "some copies" of Mark refer to Mary Magdalene as the woman whom Jesus exorcised seven demons out of. (Have you read the section about Ad Marinum in the book? You can get Pearse's definitive edition of Ad Marinum as a free download now, so there's no reason/excuse for anyone to keep perpetuating Metzger's mischaracterization of Eusebius' and Jerome's comments.)

And Jerome is just summarizing part of Ad Marinum in Ad Hedibiam -- and, like Eusebius, Jerome recommends that verses 9-20 should be retained, and read with a comma in verse 9 so as to relieve the superficial discrepancy with Matthew 28:1-2. (And can anyone imagine, seeing how widespread Mk. 16:9-20 was by 400, that Jerome would seriously say, as his own observation, that it was in only a few Greek copies?? No no no. He's just abridging Ad Marinum, adding the word "Greek" because he knows that Eusebius' hypothetical remarks referred to Greek copies.

PMH: >>> "So it would be more accurate to say that 'Eusebius and Jerome stated that most of the manuscripts did not contain Mark 16.9-20'." <<<

The situation is not that simple, contrary to the impression one may get from reading Metzger. I won't go further into the details of the case -- that is, after all, part of the reason why I wrote a book, so I wouldn't have to keep writing the same things over and over. But at the very least we can see that Witherington (and others, such as Geisler) badly misrepresents the evidence.

Peter M. Head said...

James, I was trying to demonstrate an approach that was not one-sided, that credited evidence on both sides and came up with statements that were true. All you have done is come over all one-sided!

On the first point you agree with me, so what is the problem? On the second point you don't disagree that Eusebius and Jerome say such things, but you downplay/dispute the significance of the statements. I happen to disagree with your reading of Eusebius.

Anyway, I tried. Have a great day.

James Snapp Jr said...

Peter M Head,

I do not agree with your first point. If you think that the statement, "Some manuscripts add the Freer Logion" is true, then show them to me. We both know you can't, because Codex W is the only manuscript known to have the Freer Logion. Thus the NLT's footnote is erroneous. It could be changed and adjusted into something else that would be a true statement. But then it would not be the note that is there now, would it. No it would not. The note that is in the NLT is false, and we both know it.

PMH: "On the second point you don't disagree that Eusebius and Jerome say such things, but you downplay/dispute the significance of the statements. I happen to disagree with your reading of Eusebius."

Well, you're incorrect. And, burdened by such a view, you must believe that Eusebius, even though the overwhelming majority of his copies of Mark ended at 16:8, and even though the copies he regarded as accurate ended at 16:8, nevertheless recommended to Marinus that verses 9-20 should be kept in the text, going even so far as to explain how the opening words of verse 9 should be read aloud. You must also believe that further along in Ad Marinum, he utilized Mark 16:9 twice, even though he only rarely found the verse in his manuscripts, and thought that it was not in the accurate manuscripts. Does that not strike you as rather unlikely? Does it not make a lot more sense if one accepts Eusebius' statements about "the accurate copies," etc., as things that one might say -- that is, in the framework in which Eusebius explicitly frames them?

It is not "one-sided" to consider the evidence in focus instead of out-of-focus. Just because a different interpretation can be conceived does not make it equally valid.

Archepoimenfollower said...

Of course, you believe that your views have not been shown to be inaccurate. Evidence to the contrary, you are going to just try to shout louder and longer then anyone else and proclaim victory! The result is often that even your valid arguments get overlooked. There are other textual critics who are equally committed to the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 and the PA who are being heard on their views because they do not resort to the tactics demonstrated here and on LH's blog.
I am not convinced by your evidence but have read it all here. I like to believe that had I encountered you before reading the material I would have still read it.
As a fellow Christ-follower and Hoosier, I encourage you to let the evidence speak even when others disagree.

I hope someday we can ge a coffee in Curtisville and discuss these issues as brothers!

James Snapp Jr said...


>> You believe that your views have not been shown to be inaccurate. <<

Most definitely!

>> Evidence to the contrary," --

Eh? If you think there is some misrepresentation of the evidence in my book, please point it out, instead of just asserting its existence in this way.

>> "you are going to just try to shout louder and longer then anyone else and proclaim victory!" <<

And what would you suggest instead? Quietly allow the facts to be ignored? Stand idly by while the "peer review" among evangelicals where textual criticism is concerned continues to monstrously fail? Wait until the NASB removes Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11 from the text? I'm not proclaiming victory here as much as I am crying "Foul!".