Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mark 1:2 (Part 2) - Origen, Jerome, and Eusebius

[Continuing from the previous post.]

            Once the reading “in Isaiah the prophet” was introduced in Mark 1:2, the puzzlement that it induced invited the erudition of scholars.  The first known commentator to address the problem was Origen, who seems to have regarded his manuscripts at Caesarea with a measure of suspicion where proper names were concerned.  In a comment on John 1:28 in Book 6, Part 24 of his Commentary on John, Origen wrote, “In the matter of proper names the Greek copies are often incorrect, and in the Gospels one might be misled by their authority.” 
            Earlier in his Commentary on the Gospel of John (Book 6, Part 14), Origen offered a theory about what Mark has done in 1:2:    
            “He has combined two prophecies spoken in different places by two prophets into one, ‘just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold I am sending my messenger before your face, who will prepare  your way; a voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’  For the ‘voice crying in the wilderness’ is recorded after the narrative about Hezekiah.  But ‘Behold I am sending my messenger before your face’ is by Malachi.  And so, because he is abridging, the Evangelist placed two oracles side by side, attributing them both to Isaiah.”
            This statement from Origen formed part of the Catena in Marcum, a running commentary in the margin of some manuscripts, consisting mainly of extracts from patristic writings.  (See William R. S. Lamb’s The Catena in Marcum:  A Byzantine Anthology of Early Commentary on Mark, page 222, © 2012 Koninklijke Brill NV.) 
            Immediately prior to the extract from Origen, the Catena in Marcum (quite legible in minuscule 773) offers an entirely different approach, with a different solution:
            Τοῦτο προφητικὸν Μαλαχίου ἐστὶν, οὐχ Ἡσαΐου.  Γραφέως τοινύν ἐστι σφάλμα, ὥς φησιν Εὐσβιος ὁ Καισαρείας ἐν τῷ πρὸς Μαρίνον περὶ τῆς δοκούσης ἐν τοῖς Εὐαγγελίοις περὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως διαφωνίας. – that is, “This prophetic saying is from Malachi, not Isaiah.  It appears to be an error by copyists, of the sort which Eusebius of Caesarea spoken in his composition to Marinus in which he clarified the discrepancies in the Gospels’ accounts about the resurrection.”
            The comment probably refers to part 8 of Eusebius’ response to the second question in Ad Marinum, which is about how to harmonize Matthew 28 and Mark 16 regarding the timing of the resurrection.  In this part of his explanation, Eusebius presents (but does not end up embracing) the idea that the perceived harmonization-difficulty can be resolved if one assumes that the name “Magdalene” was mistakenly added by a copyist to the name of one of the women named Mary who visited Jesus’ tomb, and that subsequent copyists perpetuated the error (σφάλμα).  Eusebius mentions in his comment to Marinus that when a name in the text causes confusion, it “often turns out to be actually due to a scribal error.”  (See Eusebius of Caesarea – Gospel Problems & Solutions, pages 110-111.) 

            Jerome, having adopted the reading “in Isaiah the prophet” into the Vulgate, was somewhat obligated to comment on it, and he did so repeatedly.  Very probably the work known as Homily 75, On the Beginning of the Gospel of Saint Mark, was written by Jerome, although it was preserved in a collection of the works of Chrysostom.  The researcher Dom G. Morin regarded it as the work of Jerome.  
            Working from the premise that Jerome wrote this homily, let’s take a look at its contents, relying on pages 121ff. of The Homilies of St. Jerome – Volume 2 (60-96) translated by Sister Marie Liguori Eward, I. H. M., in the Fathers of the Church series.  (I adjusted the following text slightly.)  The Latin text of Mark, drawn from Jerome’s own Vulgate, is digested a little at a time:

“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” –
            And therefore, not the son of Joseph.  The beginning of the Gospel is the end of the Law; the Law is ended and the Gospel begins.
“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before you, who shall prepare your way.” –
“As it is written in Isaiah.” 
            Now as far as I recall by going back in my mind and sifting carefully the Septuagint, as well as the Hebrew scrolls [how many people besides Jerome could say this?], I have never been able to locate in Isaiah the prophet the words, ‘Behold, I send My messenger before you.’  But I do find them written near the end of the prophecy of Malachi.  Inasmuch as this statement is written at the end of Malachi’s prophecy, on what basis does Mark the evangelist assert here, ‘As it is written in Isaiah the prophet’?
            This author Mark is not to be lightly esteemed.  In fact, the apostle Peter says in his letter, ‘The church chosen together with you, greets you, and so does my son Mark.’  O apostle Peter, Mark, your son – son not by the flesh but by the Spirit – though informed in spiritual matters, is uninformed here, and credits to one prophet of Holy Scripture what is written by another:  ‘As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send My messenger before you.”’
            This is the very passage that the impious Porphyry, who has barfed out poison in his many writings against us, attacks in his fourteenth book.  ‘The Gospel-writers,” he claims, “were men so ignorant, not only in secular matters but even regarding divine writings, that they cited the testimony of one prophet and attributed it to another.”  That is what he hurls at us.  Now, what shall we say in answer to him?
            I think, inspired by your prayers, that this is the answer:
“As it is written in Isaiah” –
            What is written in Isaiah the prophet?  “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.’”  That is written in Isaiah, but there is a clearer explanation of this text in another prophet, and the Evangelist is really saying that this is John the Baptist, of whom Malachi has also said, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before you, who shall prepare your way.’  The phrase, ‘It is written’ refers only to the following verse, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.”’  To prove, furthermore, that John the Baptist was the messenger who was sent, Mark did not choose to recommend his own word, but to offer proof from the word of a prophet.”
            Thus Jerome proposed that while Mark’s treatment of the text of Isaiah and Malachi had been so puzzling to Porphyry that he had concluded that Mark had a poor grasp of which prophet said what, what really happened is that Mark used an extract from Malachi as a sort of introductory cross-reference to the prophecy of Isaiah.
            Jerome also commented about Mark 1:2 in his Epistle 57 (To Pammachius), a fascinating letter in which Jerome put his cleverness and erudition on display in the course of defending his translation-work.  Jerome frankly asserted in this letter that as far as he could tell, Matthew misquoted Zechariah 13:7 in Matthew 26:31:  “In this instance,” he writes, “according to my judgment – and I have some careful critics with me – the evangelist is guilty of a fault in presuming to ascribe to God what are the words of the prophet.”
            Yet in the very next paragraph, he insists that when he says that he cannot see how the author has not made a mistake, this only shows the limits of Jerome’s own intellect; he declines to charge the inspired authors with error.  It is in the beginning of that same paragraph – the ninth – that he brings up the text of Mark 1:2:

            “I refer to these passages, not to convict the evangelists of falsification – a charge worthy only of impious men like Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian – but to bring home to my critics their own want of knowledge, and to gain from them such consideration that they may concede to me, in the case of a simple letter, what, whether they like it or not, they will have to concede to the apostles in the Holy Scriptures.  [The idea here is that Jerome cannot be charged with impropriety for using a loose translation-method in his rendering of a letter for a fellow-worker (Eusebius of Cremona), because the apostles also were content to convey merely the gist of things on occasion.]  Mark, the disciple of Peter, begins his gospel thus:  ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in the prophet Isaiah:  Behold, I send my messenger before your face, which shall prepare your way before you.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.”’
            “The quotation is made up from two prophets, that is to say, Malachi and Isaiah.  For the most part, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, which shall prepare your way before you,’ occurs at the close of Malachi.  But the second part – ‘The voice of one crying,’ and so forth – we read in Isaiah.  On what grounds, then, has Mark in the very beginning of his book set the words, ‘As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, I send my messenger,’ when, as we have said, it is not written in Isaiah at all, but in Malachi, the last of the twelve prophets?  Let ignorant presumption solve this nice question if it can, and I will ask pardon for being in the wrong.” 
            In this composition, Jerome was not interested in solving the problem presented by Mark’s presentation of Malachi’s words as if they were Isaiah’s; he wanted instead to make his critics aware of the problem, probably foreseeing that if they accepted the idea that Mark had made an inexact quotation, then they could not throw rocks at Jerome for inexact translation-work without hitting Mark.  It ought to be noted that throughout his comments on Mark 1:2, Jerome seemed unaware of the existence of the reading “in the prophets,” even though he wrote within a generation of the time when Codices A and W were made.   
            In his Commentary on Matthew (written in 398 in Bethlehem), Jerome was more forthcoming, in the course of a comment on Matthew 3:3:    
            “Porphyry compares this passage to the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, in which is written, ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, just as it is written in the prophet Isaiah:  Behold, I am sending my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, a voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’  For since the testimony has been intertwined from Malachi and Isaiah, he asks how we can imagine that the citation has been taken from Isaiah only. 
            Men of the church have responded to him in great detail. My opinion is either that the name of Isaiah was added by a mistake of the copyists, which we can prove has also happened in other passages, or, as an alternative, one piece has been made out of diverse Scriptural testimonies.  Read the thirteenth Psalm and you shall discover this very thing.” (See page 68 of Thomas P. Scheck’s 2008 English translation, Saint Jerome – Commentary on Matthew, #177 in the Fathers of the Church series.)
            The detailed responses by “men of the church” probably included the lost 30-volume work Against Porphyry by Apollinaris of Laodicea, and another refutation by Methodius of Olympus, and another one by Eusebius of Caesarea. But rather than leave it at that, Jerome summarized two possibilities that could resolve the difficulty.  Jerome did not go into detail about what he hoped would be realized when one reads the thirteenth Psalm (which in our modern Bibles is Psalm 14).  Perhaps he hoped that readers would see that Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 convey the same message with some variation in the wording, or that Paul, when quoting from Psalm 14 in Romans 3:10-18, felt free to also quote from some thematically related passages without separate introductions. 
            The second option that Jerome gives in his Commentary on Matthew is essentially the same solution offered in Homily 75, On the Beginning of the Gospel of Saint Mark – that Mark expected his readers to treat the quotation from Malachi as a sort of cross-reference for the quotation from Isaiah.  Those who accepted this approach would no longer feel that there was a need to augment or adjust the text, and this may be why the reading “in Isaiah the prophet” is so prevalent in the Latin text of Mark 1:2:  to scribes armed with the explanations provided by Jerome and other “men of the church,” it was not a difficult reading.  To copyists familiar with the writings of Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, the reading “in Isaiah the prophet” was capable of being resolved in two ways:  by assuming that the name “Isaiah” was a scribal intrusion, or that Mark had intertwined his references, with Malachi’s words preceding Isaiah’s words. 
The first page of the Canon Tables
in the Bury Gospels (Harley 76)
            One more patristic work should be mentioned here: the Eusebian Canon-tables, made by the author of the previously mentioned Ad Marinum.  Inspired by a Matthew-centered cross-reference system devised by Ammonius of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea (d. 339) had divided the text of each Gospel into sections, assigning a number to each section, and at the beginning of the Gospels he drew up ten lists of section-numbers, showing where one could find parallel-passages shared by all four Gospels, and where one could find parallel-passages shared by different combinations of Gospels, and in the tenth (and last) list, where one could find passages distinct to a single Gospel.  The brief instruction-manual for these lists, presented as a letter from Eusebius to his friend Carpian, precedes the Canon-tables in many manuscripts.  The Eusebian Canons became very popular in the 300’s – and the section-numbers even appear in Codex Sinaiticus (in an incomplete and imprecise form) – and they are practically a normal feature of later manuscripts.
            As the Eusebian Canons gained popularity, there was an elevated risk of harmonizing Mark 1:2 (Section 2) with the parallels in Matthew 3:3 (Section 8), Luke 3:3-6 (Section 7), and John 1:23 (Section 10), for these four sections were aligned in the first column of Canon One of the Eusebian Canons; all four feature quotations of Isaiah 40:3, and Matthew, Luke, and John specifically mention Isaiah.  This factor did not originate the reading “in Isaiah the prophet” in Mark 1:2, but it would not be surprising if it encouraged some copyists to prefer that reading, as the more harmonious reading. 

Continued in Part Three:  Mark 1:2, Irenaeus, and Tatian

1 comment:

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This is great history apart from sticking to the scriptures it is also important to understand what biblical scholars suggest on the various readings of the scripture