Friday, October 5, 2018

Mark 2:17 - Calling Sinners

            At the end of Mark 2:17, there is a textual variant that has an impact on translation.  Strangely, there is no indication in the textual apparatus of the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece that this contest exists.  Nor is it mentioned in the UBS Greek New Testament.  The Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament does not alert readers to its existence either.
            That is unfortunate, because this variant-unit is a good example of why the relative diversity of manuscript-support is more important than the relative quantity of manuscript-support.  Suppose we were to encounter a tree upon which some oranges, some lemons, and one kumquat were growing, and we were to ask, “Was this originally a lemon tree, or an orange tree?”  Can we find the answer by finding out whether the tree has more lemons, or more oranges? 
What is the original tree?
            Suppose we count the fruit, and learn that there are 20 oranges, and 200 lemons.  Clearly the dominant fruit on the tree, when we encounter it, is lemons.  But suppose we examine the tree in more detail and notice that those 200 lemons are on a single branch of the tree.  All of the other branches, though not nearly as productive, bear oranges (except for that one with a kumquat).  Would you conclude that the tree, at its base, is an orange tree that has had a branch from an orange tree grafted onto it, or that it is a lemon tree that has had several branches from an orange tree grafted onto it?  
            That situation is similar to the situation that we encounter in Mark 2:17.  Most Greek manuscripts include two words – εἰς μετάνοιαν, “to repentance” – at the end of Mark 2:17.  With these two words included, Mark’s record of Jesus’ words resembles the record in the parallel-passage in Luke 5:32 a little more closely.  Without them, the meaning of the passage is not lost, inasmuch as Mark had already reported (in 1:15) that Jesus was calling people to repentance – but the form of the text is obviously affected.   
            Although the vast majority of Greek manuscripts (including Codex C and Codex F and Codex M and Codex S and Codex Ω) reads εἰς μετάνοιαν, the manuscripts that do not have these two words in Mark 2:17 represent diverse branches of the text’s transmission.  The flagship manuscripts of the Alexandrian text, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, do not have these words.  Neither does the fourth-century fragment Papyrus 88.  Codex L, another Alexandrian witness, does not have these words either.  The Bohairic version as compiled by Horner also does not have “to repentance” in Mark 2:17; Horner mentions however an Arabic gloss in one of his MSS (Copt. Arab. Rome Vat. 9, from A.D. 1205, with a colophon written at a church in Cairo in 1270) that mentions that “to repentance” is in the Greek text. 
            But it is not as if the Alexandrian Text is singing a solo.  Codex Bezae, the primary Greek witness to the Western Text, does not contain εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17.  Codex W also does not have εἰς μετάνοιαν  here.  A few Old Latin manuscripts have the Latin equivalent of the words, but this is probably the effect of independent harmonizations to the parallel-passage in Luke; there are more Old Latin witnesses that do not mention repentance here.  The Vulgate doesn’t have these words here either. 
Mark 2:17 in Codex K, a Byzantine
uncial, ends without "to repentance."
Several uncial manuscripts that are considered among the earliest and/or most important witnesses to the Byzantine Text do not support the inclusion of εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17; these include Codex Alexandrinus, Codex K, Codex Π, and Codex Υ.  The Peshitta (a Syriac version, prepared no later than the late 300s) likewise does not support “to repentance” at this point.  Neither does the Gothic version (translated in the 300s) as preserved in Codex Argenteus.  In addition, although εἰς μετάνοιαν has enormous support among the minuscules, a small assortment of minuscules such as GA 34, 157, 1273 (the George Grey Gospels, housed in New Zealand), 478, and 700 do not include εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17. 
            The main representatives of the Caesarean Text also do not include εἰς μετάνοιαν at the end of Mark 2:17:  Codex Θ, the family-1 cluster of manuscripts, and the Armenian version support the shorter reading in this case.   
            J. J. Griesbach, in his 1798 critical commentary on the Gospels, noted that there is a “telos” symbol in many manuscripts immediately following Mark 2:17, indicating that a lection ended here (specifically, the lection for the third Saturday in Lent).  This suggests that the inclusion of the words εἰς μετάνοιαν, drawn from Luke 5:32, may have begun as a flourish with which to end two lections – one consisting of an extract from Mark; the other consisting of an extract from Matthew. 
            The text of Mark 2:17 should not be considered in isolation; its transmission-history is linked to the transmission-history of Matthew 9:13, where εἰς μετάνοιαν similarly appears in the Byzantine Text (and where, as is the case with Mark 2:17, the verse is at the very end of a lection – in this case the lection for the fifth Saturday after Pentecost).  In Matthew 9:13 the words εἰς μετάνοιαν do not appear in a widespread array of early witnesses such as À B D N W, the Peshitta, and the Gothic version. (Although support for εἰς μετάνοιαν in Matthew 9:13 is found not only in the Byzantine Text but also in the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript and an early Middle Egyptian manuscript, the UBS Greek New Testament’s textual apparatus completely ignores the reading there, just as it ignores the existence of the majority-reading at the end of Mark 2:17.)        
            The inclusion of the words is benign; it yields closer harmony among parallel accounts, and it augments the original meaning of the text.  These three traits elicited the adoption of the words in the Byzantine Text (and in a few other places where independent scribes made harmonizations), albeit not so early in the Byzantine Text’s history as to affect all of its major witnesses.  The absence of the words in such diverse manuscripts cannot be explained easily if these words were originally part of the text of Mark 2:17; meanwhile their adoption by scribes familiar with the parallel-passage in Luke 5:32 can be accounted for as a harmonization.  Thus, it should be concluded that the words εἰς μετάνοιαν were not part of the original text of Mark 2:17.       
            As a closing note, I think it should be stressed that the neglect of this variant in the Nestle-Aland and UBS textual apparatuses (and the apparatus of the Tyndale House edition of the Greek New Testament as well) is a shortcoming that ought to be rectified.  Practically all Greek Gospels-manuscripts that do not read εἰς μετάνοιαν in Mark 2:17 are manuscripts of special importance. 


  1. It appears you are saying that when it comes to lexically influenced changes to the text, Byzantine scribes were much more likely to insert then to delete.

  2. Acts 8:37 being a notable exception, as it played out over time.

  3. Matthew 9:12-13 : ἦλθον
    Mark 2:17 : ἦλθον
    Luke 5:31,32 : ἐλήλυθα

    The difficulty of distinguishing which verse is being quoted by the Fathers is an obstacle to establishing this text using the Fathers. I did a cursory search and came up with some early quotes of these texts. In most cases it is really a coin flip which gospel is being quoted and leaving off "to repentance" is hardly unusual when the emphasis is about "call sinners to repentance". There is much more concerning the Greek of these verses, but Mark and Matthew (for this phrase) are exactly the same (TR : KJV). Epiphanius of Salamis is obviously quoting Matthew, but other Fathers it is not clear which gospel. ANF has one instance where they list both Mark & Luke as a reference for the quote.
    Much thanks for your excellent blog/ newsletter.
    Courage and Godspeed

    Here are my findings: PART I
    Matthew 9:12-13
    • ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀκούσας εἶπεν αὐτοῖς,
    • Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ἰσχύοντες ἰατροῦ, ἀλλ’ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες.
    • πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε τί ἐστιν, Ἔλεον θέλω, καὶ οὐ θυσίαν·
    • οὐ γὰρ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλ’ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.
    But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
    Mark 2:17
    καὶ ἀκούσας ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς,
    • Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ἰσχύοντες ἰατροῦ, ἀλλ’ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες.
    • οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.
    Luke 5:31,32
    καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπε πρὸς αὐτούς,
    • Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες ἰατροῦ, ἀλλ’ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες
    • οὐκ ἐλήλυθα καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.
    And Jesus answering said unto them,
    They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
    I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
    Latin: Or what medical man, anxious to heal a sick person, would prescribe in accordance with the patient's whims, and not according to the requisite medicine? But that the Lord came as the physician of the sick, He does Himself declare saying, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Book 3.5.2 : Luke 5:32)
    NOTE: Harvey & ANF reference Luke 5:32
    Epistle of Barnabus V.2
    But that the Lord came as the physician of the sick, He does Himself declare saying, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”12
    12. Matt ix. 13; Mark ii. 17; Luke v. 32
    Justin Martyr
    On the Resurrection of the Body
    Chapter VIII. Does the body cause the soul to sin?
    For as in the case of a yoke of oxen, if one or other is loosed from the yoke, neither of them can plough alone; so neither can soul or body alone effect anything, if they be unyoked from their communion. And if it is the flesh that is the sinner, then on its account alone did the Saviour come, as He says, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."5
    5. Mark ii. 17
    Migne Graeca PG 6, 1572D-1592A [1583-1584 : 1584D]
    (ed. E. J. Goodspeed)
    Τοῦ ἁγίου Ἰουστίνου
    Ἀπολογία ὑπὲρ Χριστιανῶν
    πρὸς Ἀντωνῖνον τὸν Εὐσεβῆ
    εἶπε δὲ οὕτως· οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν. θέλει γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὁ οὐράνιος τὴν μετάνοιαν τοῦ ἁμαρτωλοῦ ἢ τὴν κόλασιν αὐτοῦ.

  4. Here are my findings: PART II
    Chrysostom [Spuria]
    De oratione
    Περὶ εὐχῆς.
    οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.
    Migne Graeca 62, 737-738 [737D]
    Άγιος Ιωάννης ο Χρυσόστομος. (John Chrysostom, PG 47 – 64).
    Epitimia (Ἐπιτίμια) lxxiii.23
    Οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν,
    PDF: page 1
    Epiphanius of Salamis : Panarion
    Κατὰ τῆς αἱρέσεως τῆς μὴ δεχομένης τὸ κατὰ Ἰωάννην εὐαγγέλιον καὶ τὴν αὐτοῦ Ἀποκάλυψιν , τῆς δὲ ἀκολουθίας
    6,1 Against the sect which does not accept the Gospel according to John,
    and his Revelation.
    For Matthew was the first to become an evangelist. The first issuance of
    the Gospel was assigned to him. (I have spoken largely of this in another
    Sect;21 however, I shall not mind dealing with the same things again, as
    proof of the truth and in refutation of the erring.) (5,1) As I said, Matthew
    was privileged to be the first < to issue > the Gospel, and this was absolutely
    right. Because he had repented of many sins, and had risen from
    the receipt of custom and followed Him who came for man’s salvation and
    said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,”22 it
    was Matthew’s duty to present the message of salvation < first >, as an
    example for us, who would be saved like this man who was restored in
    the tax office and turned from his iniquity. From him men would learn
    the graciousness of Christ’s advent.
    Οὗτος τοίνυν ὁ Ματθαῖος καταξιοῦται τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ὡς ἔφην, καὶ δικαιότατα ἦν. ἔδει γὰρ τὸν ἀπὸ πολλῶν ἁμαρτημάτων ἐπιστρέψαντα καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ τελωνείου ἀναστάντα καὶ ἀκολουθήσαντα τῷ ἐλθόντι ἐπὶ σωτηρίᾳ τοῦ γένους τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ λέγοντι «οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν», εἰς ὑπόδειγμα ἡμῖν τοῖς μέλλουσι σῴζεσθαι τῷ ἐν τῷ τελωνείῳ ἀναχθέντι καὶ ἀπὸ ἀδικίας ἀναστρέψαντι, παρασχέσθαι τὸ κήρυγμα τῆς σωτηρίας, ἵνα ἀπ' αὐτοῦ μάθωσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι τὴν τῆς παρουσίας φιλανθρωπίαν.
    Williams : PDF : Book II & III : p. 29-30.

  5. Here are my findings PART III
    Hieromartyr Cyprian, Virgin Martyr Justina and Martyr Theoctistus suffered for Christ at Nicomedia in the year 304.
    Saint Cyrian then first tested for himself the power of the Sign of the Cross and the Name of Christ, guarding himself from the fury of the enemy. Afterwards, with deep repentance he went to the local bishop Anthimus and threw all of his books into the flames. The very next day, he went into the church, and did not want to leave it, though he had not yet been baptized.
    (25.13) καὶ γάρ φησιν ὁ κ(ύριο)ς· οὐκ ἦλθον κάλεσαι δικαίους· ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν· οὐ γὰρ ἔχουσι(ν) χρείαν οἱ ἰσχύοντες ἰατροῦ· ἀλλ᾿ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες· (cf. Mark 2:17 par.)
    p. 72-73
    The Acts of Saint Cyprian of Antioch:
    Critical Editions, Translations, and Commentary
    Ryan Bailey
    School of Religious Studies, McGill University, Montreal
    January 2017
    St. John Chrysostom : SPURIA
    On the Ascension,
    Sermon 2 (CPG 4532) : PG 52:793-796 [795A]
    Καθάπερ δὲ δεσπότης φιλάνθρωπος ἀγαπήσας τὸν ἴδιον οἰκέτην, διὰ τὸ περὶ
    αὐτὸν φίλτρον οὐ παραιτεῖται τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ περιβάλλεσθαι· οὕτω καὶ ὁ Δεσπότης
    ἡμῶν Χριστὸς ἀγαπήσας τὴν φύσιν τὴν ἡμετέραν, καὶ θεασάμενος εἰς βυθὸν κακίας
    κατενεχθεῖσαν, καὶ οὐδεμίαν ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας ἔχουσαν, καὶ πολλῆς δεομένην τῆς
    συγκαταβάσεως, κατηξίωσε τὸ σῶμα τὸ ἡμέτερον ἀναλαβεῖν. Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο φανεὶς
    τῷ κόσμῳ, πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἀπὸ τῆς πλάνης ἠλευθέρωσε, καὶ πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν
    ἐπανήγαγε· καὶ βοᾷ ἐν Εὐαγγελίῳ, λέγων· "Οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ
    ἁμαρτωλοὺς, εἰς μετάνοιαν." [Migne: Matt 9:13] Ὃ τοίνυν ἐβούλετο, κατώρθωσε, καὶ τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην
    φύσιν κάτω που κειμένην ἀνέστησε, καὶ τοσαύτην φιλανθρωπίαν ἐπεδείξατο, ὡς μὴ
    χωρεῖν ἀνθρώπινον λογισμὸν τὸν λόγον τῶν γενομένων.
    Sermon 2 (CPG 4532) : PG 52:793-796 [795A]

  6. Thanks, James, much appreciated - I was puzzling over the absence of any textual variant in the NA apparatus.

  7. "Would you conclude that the tree, at its base, is an orange tree that has had a branch from an orange tree grafted onto it, or that it is a lemon tree that has had several branches from an orange tree grafted onto it?"
    None. I would call it an orange tree with no idea of knowing how many of the oranges were grafted in from other trees, given the information.

  8. The section of Codex Alexandrinus containing 2 Clement, dated to the fourth or fifth century, quotes a series of Scriptures at the beginning of chapter two, including a quotation of this saying (without giving any clue as to which gospel it was found in):
    1. Εὐφράνθητι, στεῖρα ἡ οὐ τίκτουσα, ῥῆξον καὶ βόησον, ἡ οὐκ ὠδίνουσα, ὅτι πολλὰ τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἐρήμου μᾶλλον ἢ τῆς ἐχούσης τὸν ἄνδρα.... 4. καὶ ἑτέρα δὲ γραφὴ λέγει, ὅτι οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς· 5. τοῦτο λέγει, ὅτι δεῖ τοὺς ἀπολλυμένους σώζειν. 6. ἐκεῖνο γάρ ἐστιν μέγα καὶ θαυμαστὸν οὐ τὰ ἑστῶτα στηρίζειν, ἀλλὰ τὰ πίπτοντα. 7. οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἠθέλησεν σῶσαι τὰ ἀπολλύμενα, καὶ ἔσωσεν πολλούς, ἐλθὼν καὶ καλέσας ἡμᾶς ἤδη ἀπολλυμένους.
    1. "Rejoice, thou barren who bears not; break forth and cry, thou who travails not; for she that is desolate has many more children than she that has a husband."[Gal 4:27] (he then comments on that passage in vv. 2-3) 4. And another scripture says, "I came not to call righteous ones, but sinful." 5. This means that those who are perishing must be saved. 6. For it is indeed a great and admirable thing to establish not the things which are standing, but those that are falling. 7. Thus also did Christ desire to save the things which were perishing, and has saved many by coming and calling us when hastening to destruction.

  9. Allow me to walk that back just a step--there IS a difference between Matthew 9:13 and Mark 2:17, in the way the passage in question opens: ου γαρ ηλθον in Matthew and ουκ ηλθον in Mark. By that distinction we can link the 2 Clement 2:4 quote to Mark (that opens up another can of worms, though, as GA 04 has ου γαρ ηλθον AND εισ μετανοιαν in Mark).
    There is one more patristic quote with ancient evidence, Codex Sinaiticus' text of The Epistle of Barnabas, which in 5:9 alludes to the saying--but here, the evidence IS insufficient to provide support to either reading, or to link it to either gospel:
    9. And when He chose His own apostles who were to proclaim His Gospel, who that He might show that He came not to call the righteous but sinners were sinners above every sin, then He manifested Himself to be the Son of God. 10. For if He had not come in the flesh neither would men have looked upon Him and been saved, forasmuch as when they look upon the sun that shall cease to be, which is the work of His own hands, they cannot face its rays. 11. Therefore the Son of God came in the flesh to this end, that He might sum up the complete tale of their sins against those who persecuted and slew His prophets.

  10. I see that a previous commenter has also cited The Epistle of Barnabas (although the accompanying quote in English is actually a dittography from the Irenaeus citation just preceding it, and the address is wrong):
    "that He might show that He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance"

    Indeed, that is how Schaff translated it, but it is NOT the reading of the earliest manuscript. Interesting.

  11. Dear Dr. Daniel Buck,
    Thanks much for your observations and this information.