Sunday, July 3, 2016

Crosspoint Church and the Ending of Mark

Last month, Logan Catoe of Crosspoint Church in Clemson, South Carolina offered an online explanation of why the elders decided to end the study of the Gospel of Mark at 16:8 instead of teaching from Mark 16:9-20.  The explanation included some problematic claims.  Here are 20 of them (in blue print), with clarifications and corrections. 

1.  If you’re reading from the ESV, NIV, NASB, HCSB, or NLT, verses 9-20 of Mark 16 are bracketed and accompanied by a note stating the earliest manuscripts do not include this final portion of the book.

● Not exactly.  The HCSB’s note only says that “Other mss omit bracketed text.”  The notes in the other versions vary, and sometimes the notes in the same version differ from one edition to another.   

2.  If you’re reading the KJV or NKJV, you will notice there are no brackets or note.  

● False.  The NKJV has a note.  It says, “Verses 9-20 are bracketed in NU-Text as not original.  They are lacking in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them.”  Catoe’s claim about the NKJV is flatly wrong.

Codex W.  Mark 16:9 begins in the
line next to the red arrow.
3.  The KJV and NKJV are translated from a set of Greek manuscripts dated after the 12th century.  

● That sentence makes it seem as if the manuscript-evidence for Mark 16:9-20 is anchored in the 1100’s.  In real life, however, all undamaged Greek manuscripts of Mark other than Vaticanus and Sinaiticus – over 1,600 manuscripts such as Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Washingtonianus, Codex Cyprianus, Codex Bezae, and Codex Campianus – support the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20.  In addition, over 40 patristic and versional sources from the era of the Roman Empire also support the passage.    

4.  The KJV was originally translated from Latin by John Wycliffe and published in 1611.

● The first part of that sentence is ludicrous.  Catoe needs to get a grip on the history of the text.  The translation that Wycliffe made was based on a Latin Vulgate text, in the 1300’s.

5.  In 1525-1526 William Tyndale revised the KJV using Greek manuscripts, providing the first English translation from the Greek text.  

● That claim does not correspond to reality either.  Inasmuch as the KJV was not published until 1611, it did not exist in 1525-1526, so Tyndale could not revise it.  What Tyndale did accomplish was an English translation based on a compilation of the Greek New Testament which Desiderius Erasmus had made earlier in the 1500’s.   

6.  The only Greek manuscripts available to him at that time were 12th century or newer.  These particular manuscripts included Mark 16:9-20.

Codex A.  Mark 16:9 begins
in the line next to the red arrow
● This is another attempt by Catoe to convey that the manuscript-support for Mark 16:9-20 is from the 1100’s.  So let the reader know that Mark 16:9-20 is supported by Codices A, C, D, W, N, and many others.  Know also that the contents of this passage are cited in patristic compositions that were written before the production-dates of the earliest existing manuscripts of Mark 16, showing that the passage was present in manuscripts that were made before the production of our earliest existing manuscripts of Mark 16.

7.  Greek manuscripts dating back to the 4th century were not discovered until the 19th century.  These manuscripts are considered to be more reliable because they were transcribed much closer to the time of the biblical authors.  
● A reckless application of the general idea that the age of a manuscript’s material is a measure of the quality of its text would be truly disastrous.  Fortunately not even the compilers of the base-text(s) of the NIV and ESV believed that this idea should be applied mechanically; they rejected readings found in the oldest manuscripts hundreds of times. 

8.  Neither of the two most important and complete 4th century manuscripts have Mark 16:9-20; they simply end the book of Mark at 16:8.  

● The evidence involving the end of Mark in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus is not so simple at all.  Regarding Codex Vaticanus’ distinct blank space after Mark 16:8, see my analysis at this link, and for details about Codex Sinaiticus’ replacement-pages and anomalous lettering, see this link.  

9.  Additionally, neither Clement of Alexandria nor Origen — early church fathers in the 2nd and 3rd centuries — indicate any knowledge of text beyond verse 8.

● Here we encounter two problems:  first, there is a problem with what Catoe does not mention:  the testimony of Justin Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus, and the anonymous author of Epistula Apostolorum.  They all display an awareness of the contents of Mark 16:9-20 in one way or another, in the 100’s.  (Many other patristic writers who utilized the passage also go unmentioned.  This is congruent to the use of unequal unequal weights.  Does anyone at Crosspoint think that it is fair to ignore the evidence from the 100’s in this way?) 

Second, Catoe did not explain that Clement makes very few quotations from the Gospel of Mark; Clement makes no use of 12 of Mark’s 16 chapters.  It is no surprise that Clement treats Mark 16:9-20 the same way he treats almost all of the Gospel of Mark – and it is certainly not evidence that Clement’s copies of Mark ended at 16:8.  Unfortunately Catoe has molded the evidence so as to convey precisely that false impression.  Similarly, regarding Origen (if his statements in chapter 5 of Philocalia do not allude to Mark 16:15-20), his non-use of Mark 16:9-20 does not imply the absence of the passage in his manuscripts any more than his non-use of several much longer sections of the Gospel of Mark implies that they were absent in his manuscripts.  It is only by keeping the details about Clement and Origen in the shadows that Catoe can maintain the impression that they bring any sort of meaningful testimony against Mark 16:9-20.  
10.  The evidence reveals the older manuscripts (4th century) did not have verses 9-20 but the newer manuscripts (12th century) did.  

● That is recklessly false.  It is remarkable that although digital images of early manuscripts such as Codex A, Codex D, and Codex W can be freely accessed online, this falsehood continues to be circulated.  (And a small army of evangelical scholars has irresponsibly allowed it to spread for decades!)  All that one needs to do to expose Catoe’s false claim is to consult the patristic and versional evidence, which shows that manuscripts in the 100’s, 200’s, 300’s, 400’s, and onward contained Mark 16:9-20.  Only in transmission-lines influenced by a localized form of the text in Egypt did the text of Mark stop at the end of 16:8.  From Patrick in Ireland, to Irenaeus in Gaul, to Augustine in North Africa, to Epiphanius in Cyprus, to Aphrahat in Syria, to Eznik in Armenia, the support for these 12 verses is early, abundant, and widespread

My lecture in response to John MacArthur's
false claims about Mark 16:9-20:
Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.
Catoe’s description of the internal evidence suggests that he strongly depended upon a sermon that John MacArthur delivered in 2011.  I have already responded to the falsehoods spread by MacArthur, but even though I personally contacted Grace To You on this subject and informed them about the falsehoods, inaccuracies, and half-truths spread by John MacArthur in that sermon, as explained in detail in my three-part response, Grace To You continues to circulate it – thus severely misinforming Catoe and many others.  (MacArthur is not entirely to blame; he used to accept Mark 16:9-20 as Scripture before being misinformed about various points by commentator William Lane.) 

11.  “Now” implies continuity with the previous subject matter, but the subject has changed from the women in verse 8 to Jesus in verse 9.

● No; the English term “Now” in Mark 16:9 is based on the simple Greek word δε, and this is completely consistent with Markan usage.
12.  The use of “He” in verse 9 requires an antecedent, meaning Jesus would need to be formally addressed in the previous section to maintain proper grammatical structure.

● Catoe has repeated a statement made by John MacArthur; unfortunately the statement is false.  It is not unusual for Mark to refer to Jesus without mentioning His name, even when the antecedent noun is not “Jesus.”  

13.  Jesus is only mentioned by the angel, leaving the women as the subject of the text.

● The Greek word that begins 16:9 is Αναστας, and the verb in the sentence is εφανη.  This precludes the women (plural) as the subject.  Now come on:  in this context, when you hear the sentence, “Now rising early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene,” is there any doubt about who the subject is?    

14.  There are 18 distinct Greek words used in verses 9-20 that are found nowhere else in Mark’s gospel.  

● That sounds meaningful until one is informed that Mark 15:40-16:4 (another 12-verse passage) contains even more once-used words (as Bruce Terry has shown in a readily available essay).  Why didn’t Catoe tell his readers about this?  The answer, I suspect, is that Catoe absorbed this one-sided claim from MacArthur, who, in turn, got it from the one-sided comments by Bruce Metzger.

15.  In verse 19 the term “Lord Jesus” is used, although nowhere else in the book does Mark use this term to refer to Jesus.  

● Will Catoe be questioning the authenticity of Luke 24 next?  The term “Lord Jesus” similarly appears in the Gospel of Luke only once, in 24:3.

16.  The most compelling argument to the authenticity of verses 9-20 state [sic] that the ending of Mark’s book was lost or Mark was unable to complete the book due to persecution.  This is why verses 9-20 are present in the late manuscripts.

● Again Catoe attempts to convey that only “late manuscripts” support Mark 16:9-20, so again I point out that patristic writers in the 100’s support the passage, as well as early manuscripts such as A, C, D, and W, and versional evidence such as the Gothic version (350), the Peshitta (300’s), and the Latin Vulgate (383).    

17.  Scribes, wishing to complete the book, pulled information from the other gospels or outside sources and made their own edits.  

● Such a scenario only exists in a dream-world concocted by commentators, as I explain in Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20.  A scribe wishing to create an ending based on the other Gospel-accounts would naturally finish the scene that is left hanging in verse 8, following the narrative pattern found in Matthew 28, instead of restarting the narrative by restating the day and time, and by reintroducing Mary Magdalene.   

18.  Matthew, Luke, and John each record some form of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances.  Compared to these other gospel narratives, one might conclude that Mark seems incomplete because he excludes any post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.  

● Only if one assumes that Mark intentionally stopped writing at the end of 16:8, with the phrase “for they were afraid.”  The incompleteness of such an abrupt stop is obvious not only when compared to the other Gospels, but also when considered alongside the specific predictions within the Gospel of Mark (in 14:28 and in 16:7) that Jesus will meet His disciples in Galilee. 

19.  Mark’s stated point is quite clear:  Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  

● Not when you depend heavily on Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, because Sinaiticus omits the phrase “Son of God” in Mark 1:1.  That is the primary reason why the words were not included in the text of the TNIV.

20.  The final verse says the women were “afraid.”  . . . . What an appropriate way for Mark to end his fast-paced gospel.  

● Such an ending is not even a little bit appropriate.  No matter how much Catoe, echoing MacArthur, insists that the emperor’s clothes are gorgeous, so to speak, the notion that the jarring and abrupt stoppage at 16:8 was intentional is flatly unrealistic – or, as Hort described it, “incredible.”  One could select the end of Mark 15:40, 16:4, 16:6, or 16:7 and similarly make a case that it is “the fitting ending” of the book.  But does anyone seriously entertain the idea that Mark knew Peter’s account of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, but declined to include it in his narrative?  Do you really think that although Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances were an integral part of Peter’s preaching (as reported in Acts 10:40-42), Mark would consider them dispensable?  And who seriously thinks that although Mark knew that the woman proceeded to report to the disciples (as Matthew 28 says), he deliberately ended his account with a sentence that allows the reader to conclude that the women never told anyone about the angel’s message?       
          Now allow me to step away from this analysis, and approach a related subject with a pastoral and doctrinal focus.  Crosspoint Church’s website states that the church “wholeheartedly affirms the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture (inerrancy and infallibility).”  I ask:  which Scripture?  The Byzantine Text that is represented by over 85% (or more) of the manuscripts, or the Alexandrian readings that are preserved in a smattering of manuscripts?  Usually one can pick either the Alexandrian Text or the Byzantine Text and obtain the same message, but at many points in the text – the ending of Mark being an obvious example – that is not the case.  At those points, they cannot both be considered the Word of God.     
          If you really prefer the Alexandrian Text, and believe that almost all of the manuscripts of the Gospels contain hundreds of translation-impacting readings that should not be there, then don’t stop with Mark 16:9-20, brothers.  If you really prefer the manuscripts that were stored in the best weather conditions (and which for that reason are the oldest), remove the story about the adulteress in John 7:53-8:11, as well as Jesus’ plea, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and the report in Luke 22:43-44 about Jesus’ bloody sweat.  Erase John 9:38.  Add the contradiction in the Alexandrian text of Matthew 27:49 which states that Jesus was speared before He died.  Tell your flock that Mark wrote that Isaiah wrote Malachi 3:1, and that Salome was Herod’s daughter.  Adopt the text of Codex Sinaiticus and change Matthew 13:35 to include the name “Isaiah.”   

          Yes, keep going down the path to which you have been pointed by Bruce Metzger (who did not affirm inerrancy, and whose Textual Commentary ascribes an error to Matthew on its very first page), Eberhard Nestle, and Kurt Aland (to say nothing of Hort), and it requires no gift of prophecy to foresee that your doctrine of inerrancy will be significantly eroded.  Go ahead and keep trusting the compilers of the Nestle-Aland text who have inserted readings into the text that are not found in any Greek manuscripts.  See how many passages of doctrinal significance will have their force nullified by brackets and footnotes. 

The latest edition of my e-book
about Mark 16:9-20.
          If you intend to continue to rely on the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies compilations, then prepare to answer the Bible-readers who are going to ask, “Why do we ascribe inerrancy to a text that is so undefined?”.  And if you intend to embrace the Alexandrian Text as you have done in the case of the ending of Mark, prepare to answer the Bible-readers who are going to ask, “Why do we ascribe inerrancy to an errant text?”.  

          The leaders of Crosspoint Church seem to have made a decision to “forgo the teaching of Mark 16:9-20” based on a one-sided (and often erroneous) misrepresentation of the relevant evidence.  So I encourage you, brothers  – Ken Lewis, Jeremy Chasteen, Mark Welborn, Matt Denton, Jason Smith, Jason Finley, and Josh Jones – to reconsider your decision.  I invite you to watch my three-part video response to MacArthur, upon whose inaccurate work Catoe relied.  And consider the data in my book, Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20.  I will be glad to provide a free digital copy of it to any member of Crosspoint Church who writes to me and requests one.


Unknown said...

Nice work working through their claims and your response. This is good TC work and should be a model for us to follow. I must admit that my TC work is sometimes lazy. I like to just follow a good commentary and not look at the NA28 apparatus on my own. Thanks again.

Andrew said...

Thank you for this article. All things considered, it seems that the shadow cast by Westcott and Hort (or whatever they were a reflection of) continues to darken the path of many still today. Adding sophistication and credibility via scholarly erudition to a discredited theory should not help it.

I don't see where the hostility and negative words toward such a well-attested Gospel passage comes from. Especially from scholars who regularly assure us they are following the evidence and not working from a conclusion backwards. I've been trying to understand it. It seems like Burgon was right about the importance of this passage. This is a stumblingstone for generations of TC. God bless.