Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Mark 16:9-20, Irenaeus, and Ephraim the Scribe

          Earlier this month at The Gospel Coalition’s blog, Elijah Hixson posted some thoughts about Mark 16:9-20, addressing the question of why anyone would question the authenticity of the passage – as several Bibles versions, such as the ESV, incite readers to do, by means of their vague and misleading footnotes.  Hixson points out that although such footnotes refer ambiguously to “Some manuscripts” or “Some of the earliest manuscripts,” the actual number of Greek manuscripts of Mark in which the text ends at the end of 16:8 is exactly two.       
            Hixson also points out that those two manuscripts are from the 300s, and “around AD 180, Irenaeus unambiguously quoted Mark 16:19.”  He also points out that two other writers from the 100s, Justin Martyr and Tatian, “likely knew the verses.”  Thus the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20, besides being supported by over 1,600 Greek manuscripts (and hundreds of Greek lectionaries), is supported by the very early patristic evidence.  Furthermore, the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 is supported not only in terms of antiquity (the oldest witnesses) and quantity (the greatest amount of witnesses), but also in terms of range of attestation:  Mark 16:9-20 has early support from numerous authors – not named by Hixson – in many different locations across the Roman Empire (from Patrick in Ireland, to Ambrose in Milan, to Augustine in North Africa, to Macarius Magnes (and the pagan author whose work he addresses) in Asia Minor (SW Turkey), to Aphrahat in Syria, and to Eznik of Golb in Armenia, to name a few). 
            Hixson did not go into detail about the very strong patristic support for Mark 16:9-20.  He gave an inordinate proportion of his attention to evidence against the inclusion of these 12 verses.  Nevertheless, I like his conclusion:  “Because Mark 16:9-20 is undeniably early, is present in 99 percent of manuscripts, and has traditionally been considered canonical, I recommend keeping it in the text.” 
            Hixson qualified that, stating, “It’s probably not from Mark” – but the crucial question concerns its presence, or absence, in the autograph, not its authorship.  If we were to start erasing every part of Scripture that is present due to the involvement of a redactor or supplemental author, the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Jeremiah, etc., would significantly shrink. 
            Some other commentators on Mark 16:9-20 have misled their readers in ways that Hixson avoided:
 ● Dan Wallace’s NET’s text-critical note on Mark 16:9-20 fails to mention Irenaeus, Justin and Tatian.  The NET’s note only mentions Eusebius and Jerome with the statement, “Jerome and Eusebius knew of almost no Greek mss that had this ending,” and avoids mentioning their use of the passage.         
            Wallace, Evans, Wright, and numerous other commentators have made false claims that Mark 16:9-20 is marked by text-critically significant asterisks and obeli in non-annotated manuscripts.
            Norman Geisler and numerous other commentators have spread the false claim that Mark 16:9-20 is absent from “many manuscripts.”
            ● Ben Witherington III and several other commentators have spread the false claim that Eusebius showed no knowledge of Mark 16:9-20.
            John MacArthur made over a dozen false claims about evidence pertinent to Mark 16:9-20, in the course of a 2011 sermon in which he called Mark 16:9-20 “a bad ending.”
            (The cascade of misinformation about Mark 16:9-20 from commentators and Bible-footnotes escaped mention in the recent book Myths & Mistakes.)
            Although Hixson did not fall into such egregious errors, there are five ways in which his good analysis might be made better.
A note about Mark 16:9-20
in GA 22.

            (1)  Hixson commended the treatment that the medieval scribe Ephraim in GA 1582 gave to Mark 16:9-20.  However, there was more to Ephraim’s treatment that Hixson did not mention.  Yes, Ephraim perpetuated the note, Ἔν τισι μεν τῶν ἄντιγράφων, ἔως ώδε πληροῦται ὁ ἐυαγγελιστής, εως ου και Ευσεβιος ο Παμφίλου εκανόνισεν· ἐν πολλοῖς δὲ ταῦτα φέρεται – “In some of the copies, the evangelist finishes here, up to which point also Eusebius of Pamphilus [i.e., Eusebius of Caesarea, who was a student of Pamphilus] made canon sections. But in many the following is also contained.”  But he also did something else.
            Ephraim included another note (also borrowed from his exemplar) at Mark 16:19:  Ειρηναιος ο των αποστόλων πλησίον εν τω προς τας αιρέσεις Τριτωι λόγωι τουτο Ανήνεγκεν το ρητον ως Μάρκω ειρημένον – that is, “Irenaeus, who lived near the time of the apostles, cites this from Mark in the third book of his work Against Heresies.”
            If footnote-formaters really want to emulate Ephraim, (as the Tyndale House Greek New Testament attempts to do) they should not only mention that 99% of the extant Greek manuscripts of Mark – or “many,” as Ephraim’s note says – include Mark 16:9-20, but also mention that Irenaeus quoted from Mark 16:19 when he wrote Book 3 of Against Heresies in about A.D. 180 – long before the production of any extant manuscript that contains Mark 16.

Top:  The last page of Mark in Codex B,
ending the text at 16:8.
Bottom:  the same page, with 16:9-20
superimposed in the copyist's lettering.
             (2) In addition to mentioning that Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (ℵ) are the only Greek manuscripts of Mark in which the text of 16:8 is followed by nothing but the closing title, it would be helpful to draw readers’ attention to the remarkable unusual features in these manuscripts pertaining to the ending of Mark:  Codex Vaticanus has a distinct blank space after the end of Mark 16:8 – the only such blank space in the entire New Testament portion of the manuscript, and (contra Wallace) the only blank space that is not explained as a natural effect of factors involved in the codex’s production.  Verses 9-20 fit within this blank space with a minimal reduction in letter-spacing. 
            Meanwhile, Codex Sinaiticus contains a replacement-sheet at the end of Mark – that is, the four pages that contain Mark 14:54-Luke 1:56 were not produced by the same copyist who made the surrounding pages – and the rate of letters-per-line by the copyist who produced the text on those pages (almost certainly the diorthotes, or supervisor) shows that he made a deliberate effort to avoid leaving a blank column after 16:8.  Thus while B and ℵ echo exemplars in which verses 9-20 were absent, they also attest to their copyists’ awareness of exemplars in which verses 9-20 were included.

            (3)  Witnesses for Ephraim’s note, and for the Shorter Ending, should be brought into focus.  Hixson mentioned that “At least 23 Greek manuscripts that include Mark 16:9-20 also have anomalies like extra endings or notes that express doubts concerning the authenticity of these verses.”  It should be emphasized that the manuscripts with additional notes are not independent witnesses; they represent the family-1 manuscript-cluster, echoing the same scribal tradition shared by Ephraim’s exemplar. 
            Manuscripts 1, 205, 2886 [that’s 2886, the same MS also known as 205abs, not 2866 – readers of my book, Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20, be aware that there is a typo there!], 209, and 1582 descend from a common ancestor, and manuscripts 15, 22, 1110, 1192, and 1210 share the same pedigree; they echo the same note that Ephraim preserved but without mentioning Eusebius’ cross-reference system (probably because when and where these copies were made, the Eusebian Canons had already been expanded to include the verses).               
            Manuscripts 20, 215, and 300 share the note ἐντεῦθεν εως το τέλος ἔεν τισι τῶν ἀντιγράφων οὐ κεῖται· ἐν δε τοις ἀρχαίοις πάντα ἀπαράλειπτα κεῖται,” that is, “From here (i.e., the end of 16:8) to the end forms no part of the text in some of the copies. But in the ancient ones, it all appears intact.”  These three manuscripts also share the Jerusalem Colophon, showing their contact with the same transmission-line.
            So, ten of Hixson’s 23 manuscripts echo the same source, and three of them echo another source.  If we are serious about applying the old axiom, “Manuscripts must be weighed, not counted,” then the relationships of these manuscripts’ texts, as echoes of the same voice, should be highlighted.  
            (4)  While the subject of the relationships of witnesses is in view, Jerome’s dependence, in his Epistle 120, To Hedibia, upon Eusebius’ earlier comments in Ad Marinum, should be revisited.  Hixson claimed:  Even though Jerome and Severus were clearly drawing from Eusebius’s work, nothing in their experience with manuscripts prevented them from repeating Eusebius’s claims that the majority of manuscripts (Jerome), or at least the most accurate ones (Jerome and Severus), lacked those verses.” 
            However, that is only part of the picture.  Jerome’s use of Eusebius’ much-condensed claim as the basis to reject the passage (and thus resolve the perceived discrepancy under discussion) should not be considered without also considering Jerome’s acceptance of the passage: 
            After Jerome says: 
            This problem has a twofold solution.  Either we do not accept the testimony of Mark, because this final portion is not contained in most of the Gospels that bear his name – almost all the Greek codices lacking it –
            he proceeds:
            or else we must affirm that Matthew and Mark have both told the truth, that our Lord rose on the evening of the Sabbath, and that He was seen by Mary Magdalene in the morning of the first day of the following week.
And he proceeds to take the second option:
            So this is how this passage of Saint Mark should be read:  “Jesus arising,” place a little pause here, then add, “on the first day of the week in the morning appeared to Mary Magdalene,” so that, being raised, according to Saint Matthew, in the evening of the last day of the week, He appeared to Mary Magdalene, according to Saint Mark, “the morning of the first day of the week,” which is how John also represents the events, stating that He was seen on the morning of the next day.
            Jerome could have said, “Since the passage is absent from most copies of the Gospel of Mark, we should reject it.”  But he did just the opposite.  He casually left his abridgment of Eusebius’ claim about Greek manuscripts where he dropped it, and did not pick it up again, because his purpose was to resolve a harmonization between two passages which both he and Hedibia already accepted. 

            Also relevant to the evidence from Jerome are (1) the possibility that Jerome expected Hedibia to recognize that he was borrowing from Ad Marinum, and (2) his statement in his Preface to the Vulgate Gospels (383/384) that he edited the Vulgate Gospels on the basis of ancient Greek manuscripts, and (3) his statement in 417, in Against the Pelagians, that after Mark 16:14, there was – “in certain exemplars, especially in Greek codices” – the interpolation known as the Freer Logion.  Jerome pictured the Freer Logion as something unusual, while the presence of Mark 16:14 was ordinary.  A heavy spotlight has been put on Jerome’s casual use of Eusebius’ statement about manuscripts in Ad Marinum, while Jerome’s complete acceptance of Mark 16:9-20 – an acceptance somewhat difficult to account for, if almost all Greek codices available to him ended Mark’s text at verse 8 – has tended to be pushed into the shadows.  
            (5) Hixson stated that the note preserved by Ephraim “probably predates 10th-century Ephraim by a few hundred years.”  However, as observed by K.W. Kim in 1950 in his article Codices 1582, 1739, and Origen in the Journal of Biblical Literature, the most recent patristic citations in the margin-notes in 1582 are from Basil of Cappadocia (329-379); a reasonable explanation for the non-use of more recent writings is that Ephraims exemplar was made only shortly after Basil’s death.  However, 1582 also has a note about the pericope adulterae   which is found in f-1’s flagship members at the end of the Gospel of John   which reads, “The chapter about the adulteress: in the Gospel according to John, this does not appear in the majority of copies; nor is it commented upon by the divine fathers whose interpretations have been preserved – specifically, by John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria; nor is it taken up by Theodore of Mopsuestia and the others.  For this reason, it was not kept in the place where it is found in a few copies, at the beginning of the 86th chapter [that is, the 86th Eusebian section], following, ‘Search and see that a prophet does not arise out of Galilee.’” 
            The names of the authors in this note push the production-date of the exemplar of 1582 forward a bit; it must be later than Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444).  But even if we were to posit that Ephraim’s exemplar was produced a full century after Cyril’s death, a production-date in the mid-500s would be a bit more than a few hundred years” before the mid-900s.
            More could be said about some other things that Hixson mentioned, but for additional details I refer readers to my book, Authentic:  The Case for Mark 16:9-20, and for some interesting analysis of Jerome’s letter to Hedibia, see Andrew Cain’s 2003 article Defending Hedibia and Detecting Eusebius: Jerome’s Correspondence with Two Gallic Women (Epist. 120-21).


            To shine some light on the testimony of Eusebius, whose words are habitually blurred and misrepresented by commentators, here are three relevant extracts from Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ad Marinum, where he discussed the ending of Mark.  (Based on Roger Pearse’s 2010 Eusebius of Caesarea – Gospel Problems & Solutions.) 

From Q-&-A #1: 

            Your first question was:  How is it that the Savior’s resurrection evidently took place, in Matthew, “late on the Sabbath,” but in Mark “early in the morning on the first day of the week”?
            The answer to this would be twofold.  The actual nub of the matter is the pericope which says this.  One who athetises that pericope would say that it is not found in all copies of the Gospel according to Mark:  accurate copies end their text of the Marcan account with the words of the young man whom the women saw, and who said to them, “Do not be afraid; it is Jesus the Nazarene that you are looking for, etc. …”, after which it adds, “And when they heard this, they ran away, and said nothing to anyone, because they were frightened.”  That is where the text does end, in almost all copies of the gospel according to Mark.  What occasionally follows in some copies, not all, would be extraneous, most particularly if it contained something contradictory to the evidence of the other evangelists.
            That, then, would be one person’s answer:  to reject it, entirely obviating the question as superfluous.
            Another view, from someone diffident about athetising anything at all in the text of the gospels, however transmitted, is that there is a twofold reading, as in many other places, and that both are to be accepted; it is not for the faithful and devout to judge either as acceptable in preference to the other.
            Supposing the latter point of view to be granted as true, the proper thing to do with the reading is to interpret its meaning.  If we were to divide up the sense of the wording, we would not find it in conflict with the words in Matthew to the effect that the Savior’s resurrection was “late on the Sabbath,” because we shall read the words in Mark: “Having risen again early in the morning” with a pause, punctuating after “Having risen again,” and making a break in the sense before the following words.  Let us then refer “having risen again” back to Matthew’s “late on the Sabbath,” because that was when the resurrection had taken place; but the next part forms part of a separate idea, so let us connect it with the words that follow:  “early in the morning on the first day of the week he appeared to Mary of Magdala.”
            As confirmation, that is what John has told us, as well:  he too testifies that Jesus had been seen by the Magdalene early in the morning on the first day of the week. In this way, therefore, he appeared to her “early in the morning” in Mark also.  It was not that the resurrection took place early in the morning; it was well before that, “late on the Sabbath,” as Matthew has it.  That was when he appeared to Mary, after his resurrection; the appearance was not at the time of the resurrection, but “early in the morning.”
            Thus two points of time are presented here:  that of the resurrection, “late on the Sabbath,” and that of the Savior’s appearance, “early in the morning,” as written by Mark in words to be read as including a pause:  “Having risen again.”  Then the next words are to be pronounced after our punctuation-mark: “early in the morning on the first day of the week he appeared to Mary of Magdala, from whom he had driven out seven devils.”

FROM Q-&A #2, Part 9 (Where Eusebius suggests that there were two women known as Mary Magdalene):

It is perfectly reasonable to say that two Marys came from the same place, Magdala.  There is then no difficulty in saying that one of them was the Magdalene who, in Matthew, came to the tomb late on the sabbath; and then again that the other, also a Magdalene, came there early in the morning, in John, and that she is the one of whom it is stated in Mark (according to some copies) that “he had cast seven devils” out of her, and also presumably the one who heard the words “Do not touch me” but not the one in Matthew, about whom, even if she too was certainly from Magdala, the divine scripture makes no such derogatory statement. 

FROM Q-&-A #3, Part 4:

Supposing, however, that it is conceded that it is not the same one, but that there is one Mary who is there with the other Mary, according to Matthew, and a different one who, in John, comes to the tomb alone, early in the morning, while it was still dark; all doubt would then be resolved.  There would be, late on the sabbath, the women who arrive first, being more fervent and having more faith; they hear the Savior’s greeting, worship him, and are found fit to clasp his feet. Then the Mary in John would be a different person, who gets there later than the others, early in the morning; this would be the same one from whom, according to Mark, he had cast out seven devils.

Readers are invited to double-check the data in this post.


  1. In defense of Dr. Hixson, I would say that mid-500's to mid-900's falls within the shared lexical range of "few hundred" and "several hundred" years.

  2. Thanks for your article. I ran across this scuttlebutt at mission college and did some research. The shortened version of Mark has exactly 666 verses! I love how God has everything covered.