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 Hurtado’s 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 Metzger’s 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.