Today as we conclude this exploration of the evidence about Mark 1:2, let’s consider some miscellaneous questions.
How diverse is the evidence for “in the prophets”?
|Codex Cyprius (K, 017),|
from the 800s.
The agreement of Codex Washingtoniensis with Codex Alexandrinus and the Byzantine Text is sometimes treated casually, but it actually is rather significant, because although the text of Codex W is primarily Byzantine in Matthew and in Luke from onward, its text of Mark is very different. Larry Hurtado describes it in his introduction to the volume The Freer Biblical Manuscripts: “In Mark 1-4 Codex W agrees more closely with Codex Bezae and other “Western” witnesses. But at some point in Mark 5, the textual affiliation shifts markedly, and throughout the rest of Mark Codex W cannot be tied to any of the major text-types. In this main part of Mark, however, W was later shown to exhibit a very interesting alignment with the Chester Beatty Gospels codex (P45).”
The agreement of Codex A and Codex W demonstrates a more widespread range of attestation than the agreement of ﬡ and B, which were very likely produced in the same scriptorium, or by copyists trained in the same place. Augmenting the case that Codex A’s transmission-line is separate from that of Codex W is the observation that they read differently at the end of Mark 1:2 (A has εμπροσθεν σου; W does not) – not to mention the insertion in Codex W of several lines of Greek text from Isaiah 40:4-8 between Mark 1:3 and 1:4.
In addition, sub-groups of manuscripts within the Byzantine transmission-line consistently support “in the prophets” in Mark 1:2. Besides those mentioned already, 72 (a copy with some Arabic notes), 117, 128, 304 (a manuscript of Matthew and Mark, in which the text is divided into segments interspersed with commentary), 444, 492, 780, 783, 809 (a deluxe manuscript from the 1000s, with some marginal commentary), 817 (a manuscript used by Erasmus; like other manuscripts in which the text of John is accompanied by Theophylact’s commentary, it does not contain John 7:53-8:11), 826 (considered a strong representative of the f13 cluster), 389 (a manuscript with unusual decorations in its Canon-tables), 1216, 1342, 2483, some Armenian copies, Ethiopic copies, and the Old Slav/Glagolitic version demonstrate that the reading “in the prophets” was read in multiple locales.
Why don’t we see a scribal tendency toward specificity in Matthew 27:35b?
The scribal tendency toward specificity manifested in versional evidence at Matthew , 2:5, , 21:4, but not in Matthew 27:35b. The reason for this is that Matthew 27:35b did not circulate as widely as the rest of the text of Matthew; it is in the Textus Receptus but it is not included in the Robinson-Pierpont Byzantine Textform, or in the archetype of f35 compiled by Wilbur Pickering.
The question about whether Matthew 27:35b is original or not may be set aside for the time being (though perhaps it should be mentioned that this verse-segment is strongly supported by Old Latin evidence, and that it ends with the same word (κλῆρον) as the verse-segment that precedes it, which would make it vulnerable to accidental loss). The thing to see is that Matthew 27:35b escaped being the subject of the scribal tendency toward specificity by being absent from multiple transmission-lines.
What was the text of Mark 1:2 quoted by Victorinus of Pettau?
Victorinus of Pettau, in the late 200s, cited Mark 1:2 with “in Isaiah the prophet” in his Latin commentary on Revelation. His text may reveal the kind of liberties that were taken by Western copyists. Either Victorinus cited Mark 1:1-2 very loosely, or else his Latin text was radically altered; Victorinus quoted Mark 1:1-2 as follows: “Mark, therefore, as an Evangelist, who begins, ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness,’ has the likeness of a lion.” (Notice that Victorinus’ text not only omits the material from Malachi, but also lacks the phrase “the Son of God.”)
How do patristic writers of the mid-late 300s – Serapion of Thmuis, Basil of
Epiphanius of –
quote Mark 1:1-2? Salamis
I do not possess critically edited editions of the works of Serapion of Thmuis, or of Titus of Bostra, or of Basil of Caesarea, or of Epiphanius (who have all been cited as support for “in Isaiah the prophet”) – and so I have resorted to the comments of John Burgon, in the form in which they were collected by Edward Miller for the book called The Causes of Corruption of the Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels, published in 1896. I rephrased some wording and changed the syntax slightly in the following quasi-quotation from page 113:
“Serapion, Titus, and Basil merely borrow from Origen; and, with his argument, reproduce his corrupt text of St. Mark 1:2. Basil, however, saves his reputation by leaving out the quotation from Malachi, passing directly from the mention of Isaiah to the actual words of that prophet. Epiphanius (and Jerome, too, on one occasion) does the same thing.” Those who wish to test Burgon’s claims, if they have the resources, may wish to consult Serapion of Thmuis’ Against the Manichees, 25, 37, and Basil of Caesarea’s Against Eunomius, 2:15, and Epiphanius’ Panarion 51:6:4, and see if their compositions run parallel to the contents of Origen’s comments in Book 2 of Contra Celsus, which run as follows:
“Even one of the Evangelists, Mark, says, ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in the prophet Isaiah, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.’ This shows that the beginning of the gospel is connected with the Jewish writings. What, then, is the force in Celsus’ Jew’s objection [Celsus had pictured a Jew objecting that Christians were merely a sect of Judaism] seeing that if anyone was to predict to us that the Son of God would visit mankind, it would be one of our prophets, and the prophet of our God? Or how is it a charge against Christianity to point out that John, who baptized Jesus, was a Jew?”
Similarly, in Chromatius’ use of Mark 1:2 with “in Isaiah the prophet” in Prologues to Sermons on Matthew, Chromatius seems to have recycled the material that one sees in Irenaeus’ Against Heresies 3:11:9.
Do Byzantine copyists elsewhere display willingness to remove a prophet’s name from the text if it appears problematic?
Such willingness is assumed by many commentators, as exemplified by Bruce Terry in his online A Student’s Guide to Textual Variants: “The quotation in verses 2 and 3 is from two scriptures: the first part is from Malachi 3:1 and the second part is from Isaiah 40:3. Thus it is likely that copyists changed the reference to make it more general.”
Robert Waltz provides another example: “The quotation is not from Isaiah alone, but from Malachi and Isaiah. The attribution to Isaiah is an error, and scribes would obviously have been tempted to correct it.”
The same assumption is expressed by Metzger in A Textual Commentary: “The quotation in verses 2 and 3 is composite, the first part being from Mal 3.1 and the second part from Is 40.3. It is easy to see, therefore, why copyists would have altered the words “in Isaiah the prophet” . . . . to the more comprehensive introductory formula, “in the prophets.””
However reasonable that may sound, when we turn to Matthew 27:9 – where readers could understandably imagine that Matthew attributed to Jeremiah a paraphrase of Zechariah 11:12-13 – the Byzantine text adamantly reads “Jeremiah” nevertheless.
Meanwhile, when we look at representatives of the transmission-lines where “in Isaiah the prophet” was read in Mark 1:2, it is precisely there that we see a willingness to mess with the text of Matthew 27:9. A consultation of the first volume of Willker’s Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels will show that Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome all expressed a suspicion that there was a scribal error in the manuscripts that read “Jeremiah” in Matthew 27:9. Augustine (in The Harmony of the Gospels, Book 3, chapter 7, written in A.D. 400), shows that by his time, some Latin copyists had removed the name “Jeremiah” to relieve readers of the burden of investigating the text:
“If anyone finds a difficulty in the circumstance that this passage is not found in the writings of the prophet Jeremiah, and thinks that this damages the credibility of the Evangelist, let him first take notice of the fact that the ascription of the passage to Jeremiah is not contained in all the codices of the Gospels, and that some of them state simply that it was spoken “by the prophet.”
Augustine, for his part, proceeded to reject the non-inclusion of Jeremiah’s name – because, he explained, most of the codices contain Jeremiah’s name, and because “those critics who have studied the Gospel with more than usual care in the Greek copies report that they have found that the more ancient Greek exemplars include it,” and so forth. But not all copyists shared his insight – which is why, in minuscules 33 and 157 (33 being one of the few minuscules that read “in Isaiah the prophet” in Mark 1:2) – there is no proper name in Matthew 27:9, and, turning to versional evidence, there is likewise no proper name there in the Peshitta, nor in VL 3 (both of which support “in Isaiah the prophet” in Mark 1:2). In minuscule 22 and in the margin of the Harklean Syriac version, Zechariah’s name is placed there, and in the Old Latin Codex Rehdigeranus (VL 11, from the first half of the 700s) not only is Jeremiah’s name absent, but Isaiah’s name has been put into the text.
Codex D’s text also displays scribal willingness to simply delete a proper name that seemed problematic in Matthew 14:3; Philip’s name is missing. And in Mark 6:3, Codex D does not include Jairus’ name, apparently merely to bring the Marcan text into closer conformity to the Matthean parallel.
Codex ﬡ’s text similarly resolves a perceived difficulty in Matthew via the removal of the words υἱοῦ Βαραχίου.
Meanwhile, the Byzantine Text in these passages retains the proper names which were considered problematic – so problematic that they were removed or replaced – in various Western, Caesarean, and Alexandrian manuscripts. This evidence ought to lead one to suspect that the witnesses which contain a text in which names were inserted or removed – Codex Bezae (D), Codex Sinaiticus (ﬡ), Codex Koridethi (Θ), the Old Latin witnesses (especially VL 3), the Peshita, 33, and f1 – should not be trusted very much where a variant involves the presence or absence of a name, such as in Mark 1:2. To remove those witnesses from the picture would be to remove over half of the Greek manuscript-support cited in the
apparatus for “in Isaiah the prophet”
in Mark 1:2.
Was Mark more likely to write “in Isaiah the prophet,” or “in the prophets”?
Two other New Testament authors – Matthew and Paul – occasionally blend together two citations from the Old Testament, using one as a sort of thematic cross-reference for the other. Matthew appears to do this in 21:4-5, focusing on Zechariah 9:9 with a dash of Isaiah 62:11. And in 27:9, Matthew appears to use verbiage from Zechariah to frame the scene in Jeremiah 32:6-9 – unless, as some suspect (as Origen and Jerome did), Matthew refers here to an entirely different and non-canonical composition by Jeremiah, consisting of Hebrew source-material used in “The Prophecy of Jeremiah to Passhur.” (See Willker, Vol. 1, TVU #377, for details.) Likewise Paul, in Romans 3, does not meticulously separate his quotations which are united by a common theme.
Mark, however, was not like Matthew and Paul. Matthew repeatedly quotes from the Old Testament, expecting his readers to know their Scriptures. Paul, trained as a Pharisee, quoted from the Old Testament frequently. Mark, in contrast, seems to have felt a stronger obligation to explain coinage-values (cf. ) than to specify which Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus.
Turning, then, to the other passages in Mark where material from Isaiah is used – 4:12 (Isaiah 6:9), 7:6-7 (Isaiah 29:13), 9:44, 9:46, 9:48 (Isaiah 66:24 – 9:44 and 9:46 are absent from the Nestle-Aland compilation), 11:17 (Isaiah 56:7), and, in the Byzantine text, 15:28 (Isaiah 53:12) – what stylistic pattern do we see? Except for 7:6, it is one of non-specificity.
The cumulative weight of these points favors “in the prophets” as the original reading of Mark 1:2. The reading “in Isaiah the prophet” is likely to have arisen in both the early Alexandrian and Western transmission streams independently, due to a widespread scribal tendency to add specificity to the text.
I do not intend for this postscript to be considered an integral part of the case for “in the prophets,” but some readers may enjoy pondering it. The Alexandrian Text of the Gospels (particularly the text of Codex Vaticanus) is well-aligned with the earliest stratum of the Sahidic version, and the Western Text of the Gospels is likewise well-aligned with the Old Latin version. Could translators have introduced proper names into their local translations? And, subsequently, could the Greek texts in the locales where these translations were in use have been adjusted to conform to the translation?
We see a tendency toward specificity in some modern English paraphrases. In Matthew 1:22, The Amplified Bible includes Isaiah’s name, bracketed, in the text; The Voice includes it in italics. In Matthew 2:5, the Living Bible, the Voice translation, and Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” all include Micah’s name. The Voice includes Zechariah’s name in Matthew 21:4. The Message also inserts Amos’ name in Acts , and Isaiah’s name in Acts 7:48.
The people who made these paraphrases did not consider what they did to be reckless and unnecessary tampering when they inserted proper names into these passages. They regarded this step as a helpful amplification of the specific meaning of the text. Some translators of early versions (particularly the Sahidic, Old Latin, and Syriac) – and some early copyists who prepared Greek manuscripts to be read to congregations – had the same intention.
All four posts in this series can be downloaded as a single file at my Academia.edu page, and also among the files on Facebook in the NT Textual Criticism group.
These evidences must belong to a great history which we need to know in order to solve this mystery.I also need to check the previous parts.
I really enjoyed this series of articles. A very cogent and clear presentation of the evidence. I agree with you that "by the prophets" is likely the original reading, but I come to this conclusion via Syriac. Irenaeus, as you point out, is also preserved in Syriac, and we in fact know his Syriac version of "Against Heresies" circulated throughout the Middle East in the 4th century. This is important because of Tatian, the writer of the Combined Gospel (Diatessaron), who was fluent in both Syriac and Greek. Irenaeus is writing his work at the precise same time Tatian did his, ca. 175 CE.
My research has focused on discovering the Aramaic Gospel documents Tatian combined into the Diatessaron, which is attested to by the Arabic translator Ibn Al-Tayyib, perhaps the last person we know of to have a Syriac original copy of Tatian's work. That same source tells us separate Aramaic Gospels were in fact used by Tatian.
However, the binding tie is a Syriac writer named Isho'dad of Merv who, writing around 850 CE, expressed his belief that the original Syriac Diatessaron, before it got translated into Arabic, read "by the prophets," but the quote is a bit obscure and even circuitous. What Isho'dad actually did was list it as one of about half a dozen possibilities to explain the reading of Mark 1:2 he saw on the Syriac or Aramaic side, for he did not read or write in Greek. Of the possibilities he lists, only this last one seems likely. However, no Peshitta or Old Syriac document reads "by the prophets" so it would seem the only way Isho'dad would have known about it is if he had a very old Aramaic version that has since become lost.
And finally, while it is entirely possible that even Tatian did a Greek translation of the Diatessaron in his lifetime as the Dura Europos fragment dated no later than 256 CE may indicate, the scholarly consensus is that the work was originally done in Syriac and therefore Tatian's sources and possibly Irenaeus' as well are almost certainly from that language. In fact, Irenaeus and Eusebius are the two Church Fathers who show great fluency in the Syriac language.
My personal belief at the end of the day is that Mark 1:2 "by the prophets" belongs to something I call "Old Aramaic," the original Aramaic recension of the Apostolic Writings that circulated from late 1st to mid 2nd centuries (J.S. Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis, Volume 2, p. 486). It was then combined by Tatian but lost over the centuries, perhaps to a later Syriac version that dropped the reading, by the time it was translated into Arabic by Ibn Al-Tayyib.
Thought you would like to know. Good work!
Andrew Gabriel Roth
Author and Translator of the Aramaic English New Testament (AENT)
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