Homoioteleuton (also spelled as homeoteleuton) – a term which means “same ending” – was something that the copyists of New Testament manuscripts had to vigilantly guard against. It was not unusual for the lines of the text in their master-copies to end with similar letters, and if a copyist didn’t pay attention, he might accidentally lose his place. Usually if this happened, it would turn the sentence he was writing into nonsense, and a proof-reader would catch the mistake. (When text is skipped in this way, the cause of the mistake is called parablepsis.) But sometimes, when a parableptic error did not result in a nonsense-reading, words or phrases and even entire sentences could disappear without notice.
The copyist of Codex Vaticanus made a parableptic error in John 17:15; where the copyist should have written the Greek equivalent of, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one,” he skipped seven words, as his line of sight drifted from one occurrence of the word αυτους (“them”) to the recurrence of it later in the sentence, and thus wrote, “I do not pray that You should take them from the evil one.” Fortunately someone caught the mistake later on.
|Codex Bezae (D) has the passage,
with the last word of verse 25 missing.
However, Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Bezae (D), which are only slightly later, both include Mark 11:26 – and because Codex D has the passage with some minor variations and unusual spelling (and for other reasons), it is clear that these two manuscripts are a considerable distance apart from each other in terms of their textual relationship, while À and B are historically very close to one another. (So much so that in the margins of the book of Acts, they share a unique form of chapter-numbers that almost certainly was transcribed from the same source.)
|Mark 11:24b-27a in the Peshitta
In addition, although Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are old, they are not as old as the manuscripts that were used by Cyprian. Cyprian served as bishop of
|Cyprian of Carthage.
When Cyprian refers to “the daily prayer,” he is of course referring to Matthew 6:12. But if he had intended to quote Matthew
(which follows the gist of Mark 11:26),
there would have been no need for him to then say, “Also according to
Mark.” Although Cyprian immediately
jumps back to the Sermon on the Mount (i.e., to Matthew 7:2), there seems to be
no reason for any conclusion other than that Cyprian was quoting from Mark 11:25-26 in this part of his composition.
Bruce Metzger, representing the editors of the UBS compilation in which Mark
11:26 is absent, claimed that “the words were
inserted by copyists in imitation of Mt. 6.15.”
However, the wording in Matthew 6:15 is discernibly different in the UBS text: Εαν
δε μη αφητε τοις ανθρώπους, ουδε
ὁ πατηρ υμων αφησει τα παραπτωματα υμων.
Compare this to Mark 11:26: Ει δε υμεις ουκ αφίετε, ουδε ὁ πατηρ υμων ὁ εν τοις ουρανοις αφήσει τα
παραπτωματα υμων. It would take a
special kind of copyist to introduce a harmonization that contained
non-harmonious readings. Metzger’s rationale for the Alexandrian reading did not persuade J. K. Elliott, a British specialist in New Testament textual criticism, who maintained that in this particular case, the Textus Receptus (along with over 95% of the Greek manuscripts of Mark) has the original reading. The absence of the verse in a smattering of later Byzantine manuscripts demonstrates its vulnerability to the kind of homoioteleuton-induced loss which could be overlooked by early copyists as easily as it could be overlooked by later ones.
In addition, the Byzantine Text of Matthew
is not what we see in Mark 11:26 either; it reads Εαν
δε μη αφητε τοις ανθρώπους τα
παραπτωματα υμων, ουδε ὁ πατηρ υμων αφήσει τα παραπτωματα υμων. Seven out of Mark 11:26’s seventeen words are not in Matthew 6:15, and seven
out of Matthew 6:15’s seventeen words are not in Mark 11:26. This is more naturally explained as one of
numerous original parallel passages than as a copyist’s attempt to introduce a
harmonization, considering that it does not add much to the verbal harmony of the passage.
observations may be worth mentioning. First: Codex A’s format shows exactly how verse 26
could be accidentally skipped; τα παραπτωματα υμων appears at the beginning of
two nearby lines. Second: in Codex D, the word υμων is missing at the
end of verse 25. This may be a
deliberate omission on the part of a copyist who, having seen that the
repetition of the exact phrase τα παραπτωματα υμων made the text vulnerable to
loss, decided that the loss of one word was worth a reduction of the risk that
a future copyist using Codex D as an exemplar would skip an entire verse.
|Mark 11:25-27a in Codex Alexandrinus.
Notice the two lines (underlined in yellow) which begin identically.
So, although Mark
11:26 is not found in our two oldest Greek
manuscripts of the surrounding verses, earlier evidence from Cyprian confirms the presence of the verse in North
Africa in the mid-200’s.
Further evidence from Codex A, Codex D, the Peshitta, the Gothic
version, the Vulgate, and the Old Latin shows that Mark 11:36 was in widespread
use in the late 300’s. The presence of
the verse in these branches implies its presence in the trunk, so to speak.
One must posit a deliberate corruption by a non-harmonious harmonizer if one is to regard Mark 11:26 as non-original. The alternative is that an early copyist made a careless mistake. In such a contest of competing hypotheses, Heinlein’s Axiom should be in play: do not insist on villainy to account for what can be explained by incompetence.