Recently the website of the Text & Canon Institute featured a case for Mark 16:9-20, by me, and a case against Mark 16:9-20, by Dr. Peter Head. My attention in this post is focused on Dr. Head’s reluctance to admit that Tatian knew Mark 16:9-20 and used material from Mark 16:9-20 in the Diatessaron.
Dr. Head wrote about coming to “more cautious conclusions about Tatian’s Diatessaron” because “Snapp’s evidence for this second-century harmony actually comes from a sixth-century Latin manuscript and a fourth-century Syriac commentary.” The sixth-century Latin manuscript to which he referred is Codex Fuldensis. The fourth-century Syriac commentary to which he referred is the commentary by Ephrem Syrus (d. 373).
Before looking into Ephrem’s commentary and Codex Fuldensis further, two things should be pointed out.
(1) Dr. Head’s own footnote for the above quotation runs as follows: “Within this Syriac commentary, the only evidence for the Longer Ending of Mark comes in the form of Jesus’ commission: ‘Go forth into the whole world, and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Spirit.” This admittedly, does seem like a conflation of Mark 16:15 and Matt 28:19. But that is the only direct evidence. Quoted from C. McCarthy, Saint Ephrem’s Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron: An English Translation of Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 with Introduction and Notes (JSSS 2; Oxford: OUP, 1993), 289.” Notice the line, “This admittedly, does seem like a conflation of Mark 16:15 and Matt 28:19.” What else does Dr. Head imagine that it could be?
(2) Contrary to Dr. Head’s footnote, the passage on page 289 of McCarthy’s book is not “the only direct evidence.” On page 145, near the beginning of Part VIII of Ephrem’s commentary as preserved in Chester Beatty Syriac MS 709 (made in 480-500; see pp. 138-139 of Michelle Brown’s In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000 for a picture), McCarthy provides the part of the commentary in which Ephrem’s main focus is on the occasion of the sending of the disciples (in Matthew 10 and Luke 10). After noting that on this occasion, Jesus “restrained his disciples, lest they preach to the Gentiles,” Ephrem wrote, “After they had crucified him, he commanded his disciples, ‘Go out into the whole world and proclaim my Gospel to the whole of creation, and baptize all the Gentiles.” (Comm. VIII §1b in McCarthy 1993). This was indexed as a reference to Matthew 29:19, but it is clearly based on Mark 16:15. McCarthy notes that §1b “is absent from the Armenian version.”
Now let’s review some developments in the study of the Diatessaron. In 1880, in Institute Lectures, Ezra Abbot speculated that the Armenian version of Ephrem’s commentary was “made, it is supposed, in the fifth century” (Institute Lectures p. 173). (The Armenian manuscripts themselves were from 1195.) A Latin translation of the Armenian text that had been prepared by J. P. Aucher (using one Armenian manuscript) and edited by George Moesinger (using another Armenian manuscript) was published in 1876, and, Abbot reported, it went “almost unnoticed by scholars.”
J. Rendel Harris, in The Diatessaron of
Tatian: A Preliminary Study, (1890)
offered a few more details about this Armenian text of Ephrem’s commentary,
beginning on page 22, pointing out that Paul de Lagarde was an exception to
Abbot’s generalization. Harris then described the 1881 work of
Theodor Zahn, in Forschungen zur
Geschichte des Neutestamentlichen Kanons,
Theil. 1, “Tatian’s Diatessaron, as “a skillful combination of
this work of Ephrem with the earlier Syriac writers” that provides the means to
“very nearly judge without the Arabic Harmony, what sequence Tatian followed,
what passages he omitted, and what additions his text shews when compared with
James Rendel Harris
Zahn’s work was eclipsed in 1888 by the publication of Tatiani Evangeliorum Harmoniae Arabice by Agostino Ciasca, in which Ciasca presented the Arabic text of the Diatessaron as found in two manuscripts, from the 1100s and 1300s. Harris reported (on page 8) that in the manuscript from the 1300s, a colophon states that it was translated from Syriac into Arabic by Abu-l-Faraj Abdullah Ben-at-tîb, and that its Syriac basis had been made by ʻIsa ben Ali Almottabbeb, a disciple of Abu Zaid Honain ben Ishaq.
Harris went on to say that Abu Zaid
Honain ben Ishaq was “a famous Syrian physician and writer in medicine, who
died in the year 873, and whose headquarters were at
Harris wrote, “The Diatessaron had seen 700 years of Syriac life before its translation into Arabic; and we can readily infer that the Syriac at the time of translation must have been in many points altered from its original cast. Still, the comparison with the collateral evidence is sufficient to justify us in our belief that we have here substantially the work of Tatian.”
Mark 16:9-20 is plainly incorporated into the text of the Arabic Diatessaron that was published by Ciasca. We should ask, then, (1) Is the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 in the Arabic Diatessaron a result of an expansion based on the Peshitta (the Syriac text), and (2) Is the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 in Codex Fuldensis a result of an expansion based on the Vulgate?”
To find the answer to this question, we must compare the arrangement of Mark 16:9-20 in the Arabic (Syriac-based) Diatessaron (an Eastern witness) and the arrangement of Mark 16:9-20 in Codex Fuldensis (a Western witness).
I should first briefly introduce Codex
Fuldensis. This manuscript was
produced in 541-546, under the supervision of bishop Victor of Capua (in
By comparing the arrangement of the material from Mark 16:9–20 in the Arabic Diatessaron, and the arrangement of the material from Mark 16:9–20 and Codex Fuldensis, we can discern whether their arrangements can be reasonably attributed to two independent harmonists, or if they are so similar as to demand to be recognized as a trait derived from Tatian’s Diatessaron.
Using, for convenience, J. Hamlyn Hill’s 1894 English translation of the Arabic Diatessaron and the presentation of the Latin text of Codex Fuldensis made by Ernestus Ranke (1868), a comparison can be made of eleven aspects of their arrangements of Mark 16:9–20. (“Arab D” represents the Arabic Diatessaron, and “Fuld” represents Codex Fuldensis.)
1► Arab D 53 has Mk 16:9 after Jn 20:2–17.
1► Fuld 174 has part of Mk 16:9 between Jn 20:2–10 and 20:11–17.
2► Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:10 after Lk 24:9.
2► Fuld 176 uses Mk 16:10 after Lk 24:9.
3► Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:11 between Lk 24:10 and 24:11.
3► Fuld 176 uses Mk 16:11 between Lk 24:9 and 24:11.
4► Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:12 between Lk 24:11 and 24:13.
4► Fuld 177 uses Mk 16:12 between Lk 24:11 and 24:13.
5► Arab D 53 uses Mk 16:13b between Lk 24:13b–35 and part of Lk 24:36.
5► Fuld 178 uses Mk 16:13b between Lk 24:13–35 and part of Lk 24:36.
6► Arab D 55 uses Mk 16:14 between Mt 28:17 and 28:18.
6► Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:14 between Mt 28:17 and 28:18.
7► Arab D 55 uses Mk 16:15 between Mt 28:18 and Mt 28:19.
7► Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:15 between Mt 28:18 and 28:19.
(The Arabic text also includes “For even as my Father sent me, so I also send you,” which is normally found in Jn 20:21 but is also in the Peshitta in Mt 28:18. The Syriac text translated into Arabic was probably conformed to the Peshitta to this extent.)
8► Arab D uses Mk 16:16–18 between Mt 28:20 and Lk 24:49.
8► Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:16–18 between Mt 28:20 and Lk 24:49.
9► Arab D blends “And our Lord Jesus,” from Mk 16:19 with Lk 24:50.
9► Fuld 182 does not.
10► Arab D uses “and sat down at the right hand of God” (from Mk 16:19) between Lk 24:51 and 24:52.
10► Fuld 182 uses “and sat down at the right hand of God” (from Mk 16:19) between Lk 24:51 and 24:52.
11► Arab D uses Mk 16:20 between Lk 24:53 and Jn 21:25.
11► Fuld 182 uses Mk 16:20 after Lk 24:53 and ends there with “Amen.” (In Codex Fuldensis, Jn 21:25 appears at the end of 181.)
The agreement between Codex Fuldensis and the Arabic Diatessaron, as evidence that Tatian’s Diatessaron included Mark 16:9-20, has corroborative witnesses besides Ephrem’s commentary. One of them is Aphrahat, a Syriac writer who used the Diatessaron. According to Harris, Aphrahat’s “first 22 homilies are based upon the text of the Diatessaron.” Harris says that these homilies “were written about the year 336 A.D., and a supplementary 23rd homily was added in the year 345.”
In Aphrahat’s first homily, also called “Demonstration One: Of Faith,” he wrote in chapter 17, “When our Lord gave the sacrament of baptism to his apostles, he said thus to them: Whosoever believes and is baptized shall live, and whosoever believes not shall be condemned,” and, “Again he said thus: ‘This shall be the sign for those that believe; they shall speak with new tongues and shall cast out demons, and they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall be made whole’” (See John Gwynn’s 1898 Selections, Translated into English, from the Hymns and Homilies of Ephrem, and from the Demonstrations of Aphrahat the Persian Sage, on page 351).
(Aphrahat’s Demonstration One was misidentified in the textual apparatus of the UBS Greek New Testament (1966) as a work of Jacob of Nisibis, even though John Burgon had corrected such misidentification in 1871 on page 258 of The Last Twelve Verses of Mark.)
In conclusion: there is no real justification for Dr. Head’s “caution,” and there should be no doubt at all that Mark 16:9-20 was in Tatian’s Diatessaron.