“Second, the scribe might simply place an asterisk or obelisk in the margin, indicating doubt about these verses. Such a symbol is found in at least five manuscripts.” So goes a claim made by Daniel Wallace in his chapter of Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views. Wallace was describing two ways in which “some doubts about the authenticity of the LE” [“LE” meaning Mark 16:9-20, the Longer Ending] are indicated by copyists – the first way being the inclusion of a note.
Wallace’s statement runs parallel to a claim popularized by the late Bruce Metzger in his A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: “Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that the older Greek copies lack it, and in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document.”
Metzger’s vagueness is remarkably unhelpful; the members of the jury are left to wonder about how many manuscripts constitute “not a few,” and the little detail about the identity of those “other witnesses” – manuscripts without notes, but with asterisks or obeli – is not provided.
Dr. Wallace, however, gave specifics: in a footnote, Wallace listed the five manuscripts to which he referred: “
264, 1221, 2346, and 2812, listed on 407 in Markusevangelium,
ANTF 27. Parker, Living Text, 127, adds 137 to this list.”
With the addition of minuscule 137, the list of manuscripts which are claimed to have a simple asterisk accompanying Mark 16:9-20 to express scribal doubt about the passage reaches a total of six. Page-views of all six of these manuscripts are online. Let’s have a look! Today we will consider the first manuscript in the list, GA 138.
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Mark 16:9 in GA 138
at the Vatican Library.
GA 138 is at the Vatican Library, catalogued as Vat. Gr. 757. It is a commentary-manuscript in which the text is written segment by segment, with the commentary interspersed between segments of text. The text of chapter 16 of Mark begins on page-view 156, where 16:1-5 is presented as a segment of text (accompanied in the margin by diple-marks), identified in the margin as section #231. (These sections are the Eusebian Sections, used in the Eusebian Canons.) It is followed by commentary. On the next page, after the rest of the commentary on 16:1-5, the text of 16:6-8 is presented (accompanied in the margin by diple-marks, and identified as sections #232 and #233). This, too, is followed by commentary (some of which is based on Eusebius’ comments in Ad Marinum).
On the next page, as the commentary continues, the left margin of the writing is disrupted, but no text is lost; it appears that the copyist was avoiding a flaw in the parchment. On the ninth line, the text of Mark 16:9 begins. In the outer left margin there is a single asterisk, and diple-marks accompany the text of Mark 16:9-14.
After 16:14, the commentary continues, and when one examines the last five lines of the commentary on Mark 16:9-14, one finds the portion of the Catena in Marcum (a commentary, much of which consists of a compilation of extracts from various authors such as Origen and Chrysostom, attributed to Victor of Antioch) in which the commentator responds to a claim which was mentioned (but not approved) by Eusebius of Caesarea in his composition Ad Marinum, to the effect that verses 9-20 are not often encountered. The commentator’s note begins in Greek with the words Παρὰ πλείστοις ἀντιγράφοις οὐ κεῖται:
“In many copies, the rest does not appear there in the Gospel of Mark, for certain persons have thought it to be spurious.” [Or perhaps this last phrase means, “and because of this, certain persons have thought it to be spurious.”] “But we, from accurate copies – having found it in many of them, corresponding to the Palestinian Gospel of Mark – have, as truthfulness requires, also included the account of the resurrection of the Master, after ‘for they were afraid.’”
(If one were to take in hand John Burgon’s 1871 book The Last Twelve Verses of Mark Vindicated, and turn to Appendix E, one would find this entire note, in Greek, with an apparatus indicating textual variations extracted from an assortment of manuscripts that contain the Catena in Marcum.)
After that, the text of Mark 16:15-18a (θανάσιμόν τι) completes the rest of the page. On the next page, Mark 16:18b-20 is written (with diple-marks in the margin), followed by commentary.
Plainly, GA 138 does not have “a simple asterisk.” GA 138 contains the Catena in Marcum, including the note that affirms the presence of Mark 16:9-20 in many copies and in a Palestinian manuscript of Mark that was considered particularly accurate. The asterisk in the margin alongside the beginning of Mark 16:9-20 is a side-effect of the non-inclusion of the passage in the Eusebian Canons; it does not express scribal doubt; it denotes the beginning of the section for which there was no Section-number.
Next: Fact-checking Wallace about GA 264 and 1221.
Quotations from Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views © 2008 Broadman & Holman Publishers, All rights reserved.
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament is © 1971 by the United Bible Societies. All rights reserved.