Those who encounter this statement might conclude that these two writers’ non-use of Mark 16:9-20 implies that the passage was not in their copies of the Gospel of Mark. But Clement barely made any clear quotations from the Gospel of Mark outside of chapter 10. Similarly, Origen does not use a 54-verse segment of text in Mark 1:36-3:16, or a 28-verse segment in Mark 3:19 to 4:11, or a 41-verse segment of text in Mark 5:2 to 5:43.
If Origen did not quote from Mark 16:9-20, then those 12 verses are just one of many 12-verse segments of Mark from which Origen does not quote. But, there is a passage in Origen’s composition Philocalia, chapter 5, that may be based on Mark 16:15-20.
EUSEBIUS AND JEROME
Second, Metzger stated that “Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them.”
This statement needs
major clarification, especially because it has been misrepresented by some
commentators. Ben Witherington
In real life, in the composition Ad Marinum, Eusebius responds to a question from Marinus about how Matthew 28:2 can be harmonized with Mark 16:9: Matthew says that Christ arose “late on the Sabbath,” but Mark says “early in the morning on the first day of the week.” Already, we see that Marinus’ text of Mark, just as old as Eusebius’ testimony, included Mark 16:9-20.
Eusebius mentions two ways to resolve the apparent discrepancy: First, a person could say that the relevant passage is not found in all copies of the Gospel according to Mark, and that the text in the accurate copies ends at the end of verse 8. Almost all copies of the Gospel of Mark end there.
That is what one person might say, rejecting the passage and rendering the question superfluous. But, Eusebius continued, another view is that both passages should be accepted; it is not the job of faithful readers to pick and choose between them.
Granting that this second perspective is correct, the proper thing to do is to interpret the meaning of the passage. If we draw a distinction in the wording, we would not find it in conflict with the words in Matthew’s account. We should read the words in Mark, “Rising early in the morning on the first day of the week,” with a pause after “Rising,” for that refers to Christ’s resurrection. The rest, “early in the morning on the first day of the week,” pertains to the time of His appearance to Mary Magdalene.
Three things must be noticed whenever Eusebius’ testimony is mentioned: First, he does not frame the statement about manuscripts as his own observation; he frames it as something that someone might say. Second, instead of advising Marinus to reject the passage, Eusebius recommends that he should retain the passage, and he even tells him how to pronounce the passage so as to make it clear that it is harmony with the passage in Matthew 28.
Third, Eusebius himself quotes Mark 16:9 further along in the same composition. Once he states that “some copies” of Mark say that Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene, and once, he says that Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene “according to Mark.”
It should also be
pointed out that nobody, in the decades after the Diocletian persecution, had
the means to survey how many manuscripts existed throughout the
What about Jerome? It should first be acknowledged that Jerome included Mark 16:9-20 in the Vulgate Gospels, which he specifically stated that he prepared on the basis of ancient Greek manuscripts. Jerome himself was born in the mid-300s, so we may reckon that these Greek manuscripts were older than that.
Again: Metzger’s statement is, “Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them.” Let’s test that.
The relevant statement from Jerome is found in his composition Ad Hedibiam, from about the year 407, in which, among other things, he responds to a broad question about harmonization-difficulties in the resurrection-accounts in the Gospels. In the course of his response, he breaks down the question into a series of Questions and Answers, clearly patterned on Eusebius’ earlier work to Marinus.
Jerome, like Eusebius, says that there are two ways to solve the question. Jerome, like Eusebius, says that one way is to reject the passage in Mark, on the grounds that it is absent in nearly all of the Greek copies, and because it seems to narrate things that contradict the other accounts. And Jerome goes on to say that Matthew and Mark have both told the truth, and that when the text is read with a pause after “Jesus arising,” before “on the first day of the week in the morning appeared to Mary Magdalene,” the difficulty goes away.
Jerome is plainly instructing Hedibia to retain the verses.
This is how D. C. Parker explained the situation in 1997: Jerome’s letter to Hedibia “is simply a translation with some slight changes of what Eusebius had written. It is thus worthless for our purposes.” And Parker concluded: “Jerome is no evidence for the Short Ending.”
John Burgon had said basically the same thing, over a hundred years earlier: Jerome was saving time and effort by condensing part of Eusebius’ earlier composition in his letter to Hedibia – just as he had acknowledged, in his Epistle 75, that he sometimes dictated to his secretary what he had borrowed from other writers.
But this is not all: in 417, in Against the Pelagians, Jerome pictured a champion of orthodoxy explaining where he had seen the interpolation that is now known as the Freer Logion: he located this interpolation “In certain exemplars, and especially in Greek codices, near the end of the Gospel of Mark” – and then he quotes almost all of Mark 16:14, and then presents the interpolation.
How is it that Jerome says that he saw the Freer Logion after Mark 16:14 “especially in Greek codices,” and also say that almost all Greek codices lack Mark 16:9-20? Because the first statement is drawn from his own experience, while the second one was extracted from Eusebius’ composition, in which it was framed as something that someone might say.