Have you ever read a commentary on a passage in the New Testament that involves a textual variant, and you say, “Hmm; let’s see what this other commentator says,” and the other commentator says almost the exact same thing? It’s as if one of them borrowed the other writer’s words, or as if they are slightly rephrasing what was written by an earlier author.
For example, consider what Bart Ehrman wrote in Misquoting Jesus (also published as Whose Word Is It?) on page 48, where the author is illustrating scriptio continua – but can’t spell the jargon – and uses the example, “lastnightatdinnerisawabundanceonthetable” – and you think, “That sounds a lot like what J. Harold Greenlee wrote on page 62 of Scribes, Scrolls, and Scripture. What an amazing coincidence!
On page 378 of When Critics Ask, Dr. Geisler addresses a question about Mark 16:9-20. He begins with a statement about the 1984 edition of the NIV, which is no longer true since this feature in the NIV was altered in the 2011 revision. Then he makes several claims:
(1) “These verses are lacking in many of the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts, as well as in important Old Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Ethiopic manuscripts.”
This is typical of many commentaries which are echoing Bruce Metzger, who wrote that the ancient manuscripts Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and one Old Latin manuscript (Codex Bobbiensis), one Syriac manuscript (the Sinaitic Syriac), many Armenian manuscripts, two Georgian manuscripts, “and a number of manuscripts of the Ethiopic version” do not contain Mark 16:9-20. Geisler has merely blurred the data that he got from Metzger – and in the process he turned two manuscripts into “many,” as well as obscuring the important detail that he is referring to minute minorities of Latin and Syriac manuscripts.
(2) “Many of the ancient church fathers reveal no knowledge of these verses, including Clement, Origen, and Eusebius. Jerome admitted that almost all Greek copies do not have it.”
Once again, Geisler is performing reverse ventriloquism. The first edition of Metzger’s influential handbook The Text of the New Testament was the basis for those two sentences. Metzger wrote: “Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Eusebius show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; other Church Fathers state that the section is absent from Greek copies known to them (e.g., Jerome, Epist. cxx. 3, ad Hedibiam, “almost all the Greek copies do not have this concluding portion”).the Greek text of Eusebius’ composition Ad Marinum, in which Eusebius uses Mark 16:9 several times, is now available with an English translation.
(3) “Many manuscripts that do have this section place a mark by it indicating it is a spurious addition to the text.”
This claim is based on Metzger’s statement that “In other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional sigla used by scribes to indicate a spurious addition to a literary document.” But has anyone ever tried to list those “many manuscripts” that allegedly have special marks by Mark 16:9-20 to signify that the passage is spurious? More on that in a minute.