Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Mark 10:24: Is It Easy to Enter the Kingdom?

            In Mark 10:23, Jesus told His followers, “How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God.”  This was just after a young man with many possessions had gone away from Jesus, after Jesus had invited him to sell everything he had, and give to the poor, and expect heavenly treasures instead.  The disciples were astonished.  But then, in Mark 10:24, Jesus affirmed:  “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!”
Mark 10:24 in GA 2474 (900s).
            That is Jesus’ statement in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark, representative of a broad assortment of locales.  The same sense is given in the KJV, the NKJV, the EHV (Evangelical Heritage Version), the MEV (Modern English Version), and the WEB (World English Bible).  The Latin Vulgate (produced by Jerome in 383), the Gothic Version (produced by Wulfilas in the mid-300s), the Peshitta (the dominant Syriac version, probably produced in the late 300s), the Sinaitic Syriac, and most Old Latin copies (representing Latin translations made before the Vulgate) agree with this.
            Yet, when one turns to popular modern English versions such as the ESV, NIV, and CSB, the text of Mark 10:24 is shorter:  the phrase “for those who trust in riches” is absent.  This is not due to any editorial decision on the part of translators:  the phrase is missing in four important early manuscripts Sinaiticus (ℵ), Vaticanus (B), Delta (Δ), and Ψ, and in the Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis (k), and two Egyptian versions (the Sahidic and Bohairic). 
            Although ℵ, B, and k are old (from the fourth and fifth centuries) they are relatively isolated.  Furthermore, this is one of those cases – not as rare as one might think – in which our earliest manuscripts are not our earliest evidence.  Two important patristic writers provide significantly older evidence:  Clement of Alexandria (in the fourth chapter of his composition Who Is The Rich Man Who Shall Be Saved?), and Ephrem Syrus (in his Commentary on the Diatessaron). Let’s look at them one at a time.
            The exact years of Clement of Alexandria’s birth and death are unknown, but it can be safely deduced that he served the church from some time in the 180s to some time in the 210s.  Clement espoused various controversial doctrines, but for today’s purposes, we may zoom in on his quotations in the composition Who Is the Rich Man Who Shall Be Saved?:  in chapter 4, Clement makes an extensive quotation from Mark 10:17-31, specifically stating (at the outset of the next chapter) that he is drawing on text from the Gospel of Mark.  The text of Clement’s work was the subject of a doctoral dissertation by Reuben Swanson, and in his volume on Mark in the New Testament Greek Manuscripts series, he provides the relevant extract from Mark 10:23:
            περιβλεψαμενος δε ο Ιησους λεγει τοις μαθηταις αυτου, πως δυσκολως οι τα χρηματα (χρημα 1 ms) εχοντες ειςελευσονται εις την βασιλειαν του θεου.   
            Here is the Byzantine text of Mark 10:23, with differences noted:
            Και περιβλεψαμενος [Clement has και before περιβλεψαμενος, instead of δε after it]
            ο Ιησους λεγει τοις μαθηταις αυτου, [no differences]
            πως δυσκολως οι τα χρηματα (χρημα 1 ms) [no differences]
            εχοντες εις την βασιλειαν του θεου ειςελευσονται [Clement has ειςελευσονται before the words εις την βασιλειαν του θεου instead of after them].  

            Likewise for Mark 10:24, Swanson has provided Clement’s text:
            Οι δε μαθηται εθαμβουντο επι τοις λογοις αυτου.   παλιν δε ο Ιησους αποκριθεις λεγει αυτοις, Τεκνα, πως δυσκολον εστι τους πεποιθοτας επι χρημσασιν εις την βασιλειαν του θεου εισελθειν.
            Comparing this to the Byzantine text of Mark 10:24, bit by bit, we see the following differences:
            Οι δε μαθηται εθαμβουντο επι τοις λογοις αυτου.   [no differences]
            παλιν δε ο Ιησους αποκριθεις λεγει αυτοις, [transposition of παλιν]
            Τεκνα, πως δυσκολον εστιν τους πεποιθοτας επι χρημσασιν [spelling; χρημασιν]
            εις την βασιλειαν του θεου εισελθειν [no differences].
            (I think Swanson’s transcription contains a typo and should read χρημασιν.)

            The thing to see is that as Clement quotes Mark 10:24, he quotes it with the words τους πεποιθοτας επι χρημσασιν – not in the Alexandrian form (which lacks this phrase), and not in the Western form (in which verse 24 appears after verse 25).  Thus we have confirmation, in a patristic composition written around the year 200 in Egypt, of the presence of this phrase in Mark 10:24.
            Now we turn to Ephrem Syrus.  Ephrem wrote in the mid-300s, in Syria, in the Syriac language.  The Diatessaron – the text upon which he wrote a commentary – is older; an individual named Tatian compiled the Diatessaron as a combination of all four Gospel accounts, in the early 170s.  The discovery of an important manuscript of Ephrem’s commentary on the Diatessaron was announced in 1957, when Syriac MS 709, assigned to the late 400s, was added to the Chester Beatty collection – and subsequently additional parts of Ephrem’s commentary were found, including two more portions of Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 in the 1980s.  Not only was this evidence was unavailable to Hort in 1881; it was unavailable to Metzger when he wrote his Textual Commentary on the New Testament. 
            When we look into Ephrem’s quotations from Tatian’s Diatessaron, (cf. page 231 of Carmel McCarthy’s Saint Ephrem’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron:  An English Translation of Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 with an Introduction and Notes) we see this statement:  “When he turned away, our Lord said, It is difficult for those who trust in their own riches.”  One might initially suspect that Ephrem has merely cited 10:23, but the quotation does not refer merely to those who possess wealth; it refers to those who trust in their wealth – a statement not found in Mark 10:23, nor in the parallel accounts in Matthew 19:23-24 and Luke 18:24-25, but exclusively in Mark 10:24.
            Via Ephrem’s comment, we may see the Gospels-text used by Tatian in the 170s – a text in which Mark 10:24 included the phrase “for those who trust in riches.”
            Thus two very early patristic writers, from two far-removed branches of the transmission-stream, constitute strong support for the inclusion of the words “for those who trust in riches” in the text of Mark 10:24; finding these citations in the quotations of Clement and Ephrem is roughly congruent to finding small second-century papyrus fragments of Mark 10:24 in Alexandria (where Clement wrote) and in Rome (where Tatian studied under Justin Martyr).
            Nevertheless, what answer shall be given to Metzger’s theory (phrased as an assertion):  “The rigor of Jesus’ saying was softened by the insertion of one or another qualification that limited its generality and brought it into closer connection with the context”?  Besides mentioning the usual reading, he adds that two different readings are attested:  Codex W and itc support πλουσιον, and 1241 reads οι τα χρηματα εχοντες.  The counter-point is not hard to find: πλουσιον is not a wholesale insertion, but a harmonization to the parallels in Matthew and Luke; meanwhile οι τα χρηματα εχοντες is a harmonization to the identical phrase in Mark 10:23.  (Willker mentions that the latter harmonization is read by five other minuscules, 588, 973. 1090, 2791, and 2812.)
            Finally, we may consider the simple mechanics by which the phrase for those who trust in riches could be lost.  This phrase – τους πεποιθοτας επι χρημασιν – ends with the same two letters that come before it, at the end of the word εστιν.  If an early copyist’s line of sight drifted from the letters ιν at the end of εστιν to the letters εστιν at the end of χρημασιν a line or two later, the accidental disappearance of the phrase in an early transmission-stream in Egypt is accounted for.  Meanwhile, everywhere else, the phrase was included, perpetuating the original reading, though in some witnesses it was expanded (so as to read “in their riches”) or harmonized to the parallels in Matthew and Luke or to the preceding verse.

            So, rather than tell His disciples that it is hard to enter into the kingdom of God, Jesus did not contradict what He said elsewhere, that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Entering God’s kingdom can be hard indeed, if we attach ourselves to the things of this world and turn them into priorities above the will of God.  But if we let go of the things of this world, and trust in the atoning work of Christ, with surrendered hearts, then the entrance into God’s kingdom, even through tribulations, can become not only easy, but joyful.


Sébastien said...

Matthew 19.23 _ Mark 10.23 _ Luke 18.24

It's difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God

Sébastien said...

Mark 10.21 ADD

GA 032 : if you are wanting perfect
GA 032 GA 02 : having carried the cross