Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Ethiopic Version and Mark 16:9-20

Ethiopic MS 11, Image 7 
(Gospel of John)
           The Ethiopic version of the Gospels (note:  the Ethiopic language is Ge'ez, the language of the Ethiopian people), like the Arabic version, seems to become a little more significant every time a fresh investigation is made into its origins.  

            In the fourth edition of The Text of the New Testament, on p. 322 (repeating what was on p. 226 of the first edition, written in 1964), Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman state,  “A number of manuscripts of the Ethiopic version” do not contain Mark 16:9-20.  (Full title:   The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration).  The late esteemed apologist Norman Geisler wrote that not only are verses 9-20 “are lacking in many of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts,” (see pp. 377-378 of The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, © 1992, a.k.a. When Critics Ask), but he also repeated the statement about Ethiopic MSS, writing, “These verses are lacking in many of the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts, as well as in important Old Latin, Syriac, Armenian, and Ethiopic manuscripts.”  (Neither statement is altogether true , as we shall see shortly.  Only two unmutilated Greek MSS do not support Mark 16:9-20, and only one undamaged Old Latin manuscript, and only one unmutilated Syriac MS.  See here for information on GA 304 and GA 239.)

Another example of Ge'ez script
(from my collection)
 Eugene Nida, on p. 506 of  A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Mark (1961) (a book written for Bible-translators), referred to those Ethiopic manuscripts that omit Mark 16:9-20 as “important” Ethiopic copies.  It would appear to readers of such statements that the non-inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 is supported by important Ethiopic manuscripts.  
            But there’s just one problem:  all of these statements are incorrect.

            Dr. Geisler’s claim that Mark 16:9-20 is “lacking in many of the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts” is wrong – it’s lacking in only two ancient Greek manuscripts (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus).  And the entire claim about Ethiopic manuscripts ending the Gospel of Mark at 16:8 is also wrong.  In 1980, Bruce Metzger himself acknowledged that his earlier claim (in The Text of the New Testament, p. 226, 1964) was incorrect.  (Not to detour from the subject of Ethiopic manuscripts, but on the same page, Metzger also wrote, erroneously, that Eusebius shows no knowledge of the existence of  Mark 16:9-20.  This was quietly altered in subsequent editions by replacing the name “Eusebius” with Ammonius – which is also incorrect as I explained in a recent post).     

            In 1980, in the scholarly journal New Testament Tools and Studies, Metzger published an essay called “The Gospel of St. Mark in Ethiopic Manuscripts.” In this essay he demonstrated that in 1889 William Sanday had perpetuated errors made by two other researchers (D. S. Margoliouth and A. C. Headlam) in a collation of twelve Ethiopic manuscripts made by D. S. Margoliouth and edited by A. C. Headlam.  As a result, a claim was spread to the effect that “three Ethiopic manuscripts in the British Museum (namely codices Add. 16,190, Or. 509, 513) omit the longer ending (Mark 16:9-20), and that seven other manuscripts (namely Or. 510, 511, 512, 514, 516, 517, 518) “conclude the Gospel of Mark with only the Shorter Ending.”

            But when Metzger personally checked the listed MSS, he discovered that “The three manuscripts which are said to omit verses 9 to 20 in reality contain the passage. Furthermore, an examination of the seven manuscripts disclosed that, instead of replacing the longer ending with the shorter ending, these witnesses actually contain both the shorter ending and the longer ending.”  He also affirmed, after combining his own results with the research of William F. Macomber, S. J., that “Of the total of 194 (65 + 129) manuscripts, all but two (which are lectionaries) have Mark 16:9-20, while 131 manuscripts contain both the Shorter Ending and the Longer Ending.”

            In other words, all of the commentators who have been saying that some Ethiopic MSS end Mark at 16:8 are wrong.

            Some other points that Metzger mentioned in 1980 are worth noticing, to appreciate the weight of the Ethiopic version in general:

            ● The oldest dated Ethiopic MS that contains the Shorter Ending was made in 1343.

            ● The oldest undated Ethiopic MS that that contains the Shorter Ending between 16:8 and 16:9 was made in the 1200s.

            ● One Ethiopic MS at the Chester Beatty Library (Ethiopic Manuscript 912), made in the 1700s, ends the Gospel of Mark near the end of 16:8, but Metzger explains that “it is certain that the manuscript in its present state is fragmentary and that originally it continued with additional textual material.”

We all make mistakes.
Perhaps this sort of carelessness makes a good case against making
the mistake entrusting the revision of your book on the text of the New
Testament to an apprentice who is busy becoming an atheist.

            The value of the Ethiopic version has increased since the Ethiopic Garima Gospels were dated (via radiometric analysis) to no later than the mid-600s (and I think the Garima Gospels was probably made a bit earlier, in the mid-500s).   (And the Ethiopic version continues to be given attention at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, and new discoveries continue to be made.)  Unfortunately this does not seem to have elicited a desire to withdraw the erroneous claim that important Ethiopic manuscript omit Mark 16:9-20 – a claim that was disseminated in academia since Tischendorf and Warfield – and which was still disseminated in the third and fourth editions of Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament (see p. 275 of Bruce Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, 1992, and page 322 of the fourth edition.  Yes; the fourth edition, co-edited with Bart Ehrman, says two different things, depending on which page you’re reading.) and which can be read online right now at the Defending Inerrancy website, along with other obsolete erroneous claims taken from the 1964 edition of Metzger’s book.

            The evidence described by Metzger shows that all  unmutilated Ethiopic MSS of Mark known to exist contain Mark 16:9-20. It also suggests that some time after the Gospel of Mark was translated into Ethiopic (with Mark 16:9-20 immediately following 16:8), the Shorter Ending intruded into the Ethiopic text-stream (probably from the Secondary Alexandrian transmission-stream represented in Mark 16 by 019 044 099 etc.) and was adapted as a liturgical flourish to conclude a lection-unit which would have otherwise concluded at the end of 16:8.  (I suspect that at first the Shorter Ending – in its later form, with the variant “appeared to them” – was in the margin, like in Bohairic MS Huntington 17.)

            Anyway:  I am sure that Metzger and Nida etc. would not want to go on spreading false information.  Of course authors cannot undo the damage after they die.  So if you happen to find a book claiming that “A number of manuscripts of the Ethiopic version do not contain Mark 16:9-20,” the authors would no doubt thank you for writing in the margin, in ink, “This is false. See Metzger’s retraction in Tools & Studies X, 1980.”  Because that number is ZERO.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Irenaeus and Mark 16:19

            Irenaeus.  Ever hear of him?  You won’t see his name mentioned in the NET’s notes about Mark 16:9-20, or in footnotes about Mark 16:9-20 in the ESV, NLT, CSB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV.  (The footnote-makers for all these versions seem to have had a strange aversion to mentioning patristic evidence, even when it is earlier than the earliest extant manuscripts of the text being supplemented.)  Irenaeus was a very important patristic writer.  Born around 120, Irenaeus grew up in the city of Smyrna in Asia Minor, and he reports that in his youth he heard the teachings of Polycarp (who had, in turn, been a companion of Papias, and had heard John).   When we walk with Irenaeus, so to speak, we are chronologically barely two generations away from the apostles themselves.

            Irenaeus went on to serve as a presbyter at Lyons (Lugdunum), in Gaul, around 170.  In 177, Irenaeus visited Rome, where he advised Eleutherius about how to deal with Montanism.  When he returned from Rome to Lugdunum, Irenaeus found that in his absence, the church there had been the target of persecution.  Many Christians had been martyred, including Blandina and the church’s bishop, Pothinus.  Irenaeus was chosen to take Pothinus’ place as bishop, an office in which he remained for the remainder of his life.

            As bishop of Lyons, Irenaeus would later counsel Victor of Rome in 190 regarding the Quartodeciman Controversy, recommending the allowance of liberty regarding how to settle a question related to the church’s liturgical calendar which had not been settled in earlier times.  But Irenaeus best-known work is one he composed earlier, in five books:  Against Heresies, in which he exposed the errors of various false teachers, including Marcion. 

            Irenaeus tells his readers when he composed Book Three of Against Heresies, in chapter three, paragraph 3:  it was during the same time that Eleutherius was presiding at Rome, i.e., approximately between 174 and 189. 

            Irenaeus explicitly quotes Mark 16:19 in Book 3 of Against Heresies (in chapter 10, paragraph 5), stating, “Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God.’”  This portion of Against Heresies in extant only in Latin (as “In fine autem euangelii ait Marcus: Et quidem Dominus Iesus, postquam locutus est eis, receptus est in caelos, et sedet ad dexteram Dei.”

            Dr. Craig Evans, in 2013, claimed (in the Holman Apologetics Commentary) that “it is far from certain that Irenaeus, writing c. 180, was acquainted with Mark’s so-called Longer Ending,” apparently imagining that the Latin translator of Against Heresies “may have incorporated this verse from much later manuscripts.”   Dr. Evans is wrong.  In real life, not only is there no evidence that the Latin translation of Book 3 has been interpolated at this point, but there is clear evidence against the idea.  Irenaeus’ use of Mark 16:19 in Book 3 of Against Heresies is mentioned in Greek in a marginal notation that appears in several copies of the Gospel of Mark, including GA 1582, 72, and the recently catalogued 2954.

The margin-note about Irenaeus' quote of Mark 16:19.
Viewable at the British Library's website.
            Page-views of GA 1582 and GA 72 are online.  GA 1582 is a core representative of family 1 (which would be better-named “family 1582”), a small cluster of MSS which can be traced back an ancestor-MS made in the 400s.  The margin-note says, “Irenaeus, who lived near the time of the apostles, cites this from Mark in the third book of his work Against Heresies.”  (In Greek:   Ειρηναιος ο των αποστόλων πλησίον εν τω προς τας αιρέσεις Τριτωι λόγωι τουτο ανήνεγκεν το ρητον ως Μάρκω ειρημένον.)  Thus there should be no doubt that the Greek text of Against Heresies Book 3 known to the creator of this margin-note contained the reference to Mark 16:19.  Dr. Craig Evans is invited to retract his statement.

            The copy of Mark used by Irenaeus in Lyon, had it survived, would have been older than Codex Vaticanus by a minimum of 125 years.  In addition, Irenaeus was familiar with the text of Mark used in three locales – Asia Minor, Lyons, and Rome (the city where the Gospel of Mark was composed); yet, although he comments on a textual variant in Revelation 13:18 (in Against Heresies Book 5, ch. 29-30) - a passage from a book written a few decades before Irenaeus was born - he never expresses any doubt whatsoever about Mark 16:19.  It may be safely concluded that Irenaeus knew of no other form of the Gospel of Mark except  one that contained Mark 1:1-16:20. 

            As a secondary point, evidence of Irenaeus’ familiarity with Mark 16:9-20 might also be found in Against Heresies Book Two, chapter 32, paragraphs 3-4 (which was quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea in Church History 5:7).  Close verbal connections are lacking here (Irenaeus does not say, in Book Two at this point, that he is referring specifically to what Mark wrote; he points false teachers to “the prophetical writing”), but thematic parallels abound:  Irenaeus states:

            “Those who are truly his disciples, receiving grace from him, do in his name (cf. Mk 16:17) perform [signs], so as to promote the welfare of others, according to the gift which each one has received from him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils (cf. Mk. 16:17), so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe, and join themselves to the church (cf. Mk. 16:16).

            Others have foreknowledge of what is to come.  They see visions, and utter prophetic expressions.  Yet others heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole (Cf. Mk. 16:18).

          Yea, moreover, as I have said, even the dead have been raised up, and  have stayed among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the church, throughout the whole world (cf. Mk. 16:15), has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ.”

          Irenaeus concludes Book 2, chapter 32 (which can be read in English at the New Advent website) by stating the the Christian church, “directing her prayers to the Lord . . .and calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, has been accustomed to work miracles for the advantage of mankind, and not to lead them into error,” in contrast to the false teachers Simon, Menander, and Carpocrates.

          If there are to be English Bible-footnotes about Mark 16:9-20 (a passage which is attested in all Greek manuscripts of Mark (over 1,650) except two - GA 304 should no longer be considered a legitimate witness to the non-inclusion of vv. 9-20), they should certainly mention the testimony of Irenaeus.  The present footnotes in the ESV, NIV, NLT, CSB, and NASB (to name a few), like the notes in the NET,  do not give readers an accurate picture of the evidence regarding Mark 16:9-20, and, imho, seem designed (by selecting which witnesses are allowed to speak, and which witnesses are silenced) to provoke doubts about the passage.  One could almost think that the footnote-writers did not want readers to know about the evidence for Mark 16:9-20 from the 100s.



Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Phantom of Ammonius (Misinformation about Mark 16:9-20)

Who was Ammonius and what did he write about Mark 16:9-20?

 Ammonius Saccas of Alexandria (175-242) was a philosopher.  He might possibly have been (like, it’s remotely possibly conceivable) the Ammonius I am about to discuss. But Ammonius of Alexandria is probably not Ammonius Saccas.  Our Ammonius is an individual mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea in his brief letter Ad Carpianus.

 So let’s ask another question:  What is Eusebius’ letter to Carpian about, and what does he say about Ammonius?

Ad Carpianus (or, To Carpian) is a brief instruction-manual about how to use the Eusebian Canons – Eusebius’ cross-reference system for the Gospels.  To Carpian is featured near the beginning of many Greek Gospels-manuscripts, and is still reproduced on pages  84*-85* of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graecae (27th ed.).   Ammonius is mentioned at the outset.   

           Using Mark DelCogliano’s translation of Eusebius’ letter (which is in the public domain (thanks, Mark!)) as the basis for the following (with minimal adjustments) we may see the relevant portion in English: 

            “Eusebius to Carpianus his beloved brother in the Lord:  greetings.

Ammonius the Alexandrian, having exerted a great deal of energy and effort as was necessary, bequeaths to us a harmonized account of the four gospels.  Alongside the Gospel according to Matthew, he placed the corresponding sections of the other gospels.
          But this had the inevitable result of ruining the sequential order of the other three gospels, as far as a continuous reading of the text was concerned.  Keeping, however, both the body and sequence of the other gospels completely intact – in order that you may be able to know where each evangelist wrote passages in which they were led by love of truth to speak about the same things – I drew up a total of ten tables according to another system, acquiring the raw data from the work of the man mentioned above. These tables are set out for you below.”

           Eusebius proceeded to describe his own cross-reference system, in which Eusebius divided the text of the four Gospels into sections, and each section was assigned a number, and each number was arranged in ten lists.  But today we are not concerned with the testimony of Eusebius; I am looking at the testimony of Ammmonius.  (Those who wish to learn more about Eusebius’ Gospels-cross-reference system are welcome to watch my video about the Eusebian Canons which I made several years ago.)

          What Eusebius says about Ammonius’ attempt to harmonize the Gospels is enough to demonstrate that Ammonius’ material is not represented by Eusebius’ Section-divisions.  This was demonstrated by John Burgon in 1871 in his book The Last Twelve Verses of Mark Vindicated.  Burgon observed that Ammonius’ Matthew-centered cross-reference system would not be capable of featuring passages in Mark, Luke, and John for which there is no parallel section in Matthew.  Referring to those sections, Burgon wrote, “Those 225 Sections can have found no place in the work of Ammonius. And if (in some unexplained way) room was found for those parts of the Gospels, with what possible motive can Ammonius have sub-divided them into exactly 225 portions? It is nothing else but irrational to assume that he did so.”  (See pages 295 to 312 (Appendix G), especially page 302, of John Burgon’s 1871 book The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to Saint Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors.)        

Bruce Metzger, I try to take it easy on
you, since you're dead, but ...   
did you expect this to just slide by?
          Nevertheless, Bruce Metzger, in his highly influential handbook The Text of the New Testament, (in the third edition, 1992) on page 226, as he commented on this passage, Metzger wrote, “Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Ammonius show no knowledge of these verses.” The same sentence appears in the fourth edition (2005), co-edited by Bart Ehrman, on p. 322.

          (This particular sentence constituted a departure from how Metzger had previously described the evidence in 1964; for details see the 1:50-mark in the three-minute video Mark 16:9-20 and The Parrot Problem.)

          Also, in his influential A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Metzger wrote, “The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16.8.”

          Metzger was writing as if he had access to something to which he had no access.  While it would be correct to state that the original form of the Eusebian sections did not make any provision for numbering sections of Mark 16:9-20, it is incorrect to say that the original form of the Eusebian sections were “drawn up by Ammonius.”

          The Eusebian Sections include, in Canons (i.e., Tables) Eight, Nine, and part of Ten, sections which are not paralleled in Matthew and thus would have had no place in Ammonius’ cross-reference system.

          Ammonius cannot be considered a valid witness for the inclusion or non-inclusion of Mark 16:9-20. We simply do not have any data from Ammonius one way or the other regarding this.  Ammonius is a phantom witness – contrary to the Bruce Metzger, and contrary to the textual apparatus of the first, second, and third editions of the UBS GNT.  If you own a commentary that spreads Metzger’s and Ehrman’s falsehood about Ammonius, I recommend that you add, in the margin, in ink, “This claim about Ammonius is false.”        

[Readers are encouraged to test the data in this post and are invited to explore the embedded links.]


Saturday, March 18, 2023

Aphrahat and the Final Section of the Gospel of Mark

Aphrahat (The Persian Sage)
            Aphrahat the Persian Sage, also known as Aphraates (280-345), was a church leader in Syria who wrote a lengthy series of sermons in acrostic form, called Demonstrations – one composition for each of the 22 letters of the Syriac alphabet. This was completed by A.D. 337,  and was supplemented by a 23rd homily in 345. Aphrahat was a contemporary of Eusebius of Caesarea, and from a distance he heard of the spiritual transition of those in charge of the government of the Roman Empire (from prohibiting Christianity as Diocletian did, to embracing it, as Constantine I ostensibly did).

            Among the implications of this is that neither the Sinaitic Syriac MS, nor the Curetonian Syriac MS, nor the Syriac Peshitta (if its Gospels-text is correctly assigned to the late 300s), constitutes the earliest extant Syriac evidence regarding how the Gospel of Mark concluded, for Aphraates lived before any of those witnesses were produced.  It may be worthwhile to draw attention here to Aphrahat’s testimony regarding the final portion of Mark (which has been utterly ignored by many commentators).

            In the 17th paragraph of Demonstration One: Of Faith, Aphrahat wrote, “And when our Lord gave the sacrament of baptism to His apostles, He said to them, ‘ Whosoever believes and is baptized shall live, and whosoever believes not shall be condemned.’”

            Thus Aphraates used what we know as Mark 16:16 in Syriac in 337.  He expressed no doubts about it whatsoever.  (Non-Syriac-reading English readers may consult, to see the context, John Gwynn’s English translation of Demonstration One, (in Volume 13 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series), which I rely upon for these quotations.)

            At the end of the same paragraph, Aphrahat writes, “He also said thus, ‘This shall be the sign for those who believe; they shall speak with new tongues and shall cast out demons, and they shall place their hands on the sick and they shall be made whole.’”  Although the passage is quoted very imprecisely (notice the absence of any reference to the signs being done “in my name,” and the absence of any reference to serpent-handling and poison-drinking), what Aphrahat quotes here is clearly based on Christ’s words in Mark 16:16-18.

            Aphrahat is regarded as a frequent user of Tatian’s Diatessaron, but his quotation is significantly different from the passage found in the Arabic Diatessaron.  The differences may be very probably attributed to the later conformation of the Arabic Diatessaron to the text of the Syriac Peshitta.  (The Arabic Diatessaron is itself an echo of a Syriac source.)

            Let us accept, for the moment, that Aphrahat was utilizing the Diatessaron when he wrote the 17th paragraph of Demonstration One: Of FaithIn which case, we have here, embedded in Aphrahat’s writings, a quotation from a source no later than 175 (namely, Tatian’s Diatessaron).  (To put this another way:  Aphrahat quoted from Tatian's Diatessaron, which - if the completion of the Gospel of Mark is correctly assigned to the year 68 - was made by Tatian less than 110 years after the autograph of the Gospel of Mark was written, using copies of the Gospels earlier than any complete copies that have survived to the present day.]

            (Not to detour, but, another neglected author, the Armenian known as Eznik of  Golb (also known as Yesnik Koghbats‘i), also used Mark 16:17-18 in the first half of the 400s, writing in his composition De Deo (a.k.a. “Against the Sects”) 1:25, “And again, ‘Here are signs of believers:  they will dislodge demons, and they will take serpents into their hand, and they will drink a deadly poison and it will not cause harm.’”  This appears to be a citation that Eznik made from memory.  Notice, by the way, Eznik's inclusion of the words "into their hand" in v. 18.)

            Some additional evidence that Aphrahat, writing in Syriac, was using Tatian’s Diatessaron is found in Demonstration 2, paragraph 20, where he states that Jesus “showed the power of his greatness when he was cast down from a high place into a valley, yet was not harmed.”   This statement is not based on anything in the canonical Gospels as we know them; it is based on a quirky rendering of Luke 4:29-30 which recurs when the episode is described by other writers who used the Diatessaron. (It is not in the Arabic Diatessaron; at this point the Arabic Diatessaron’s exemplar has been, again, conformed to the text of the Peshitta).   A few decades after Aphrahat wrote, Ephrem Syrus wrote (I rely on others for the English translation), “When they cast him down from the hill, he flew in the air.”  (More has been written about this interesting detail (by the late William Petersen for instance), but I focus here upon Aphrahat’s testimony.)

            If it is granted that Aphrahat wrote Demonstration 23 in 345 (shortly before he died), then he must have had more than Tatian’s Diatessaron to work with, because (a) it is generally granted that the Diatessaron, as produced by Tatian, did not include Jesus’ genealogies, and (b) in Demonstration 23, paragraph 20, Jesus’ genealogy is quoted as it appears in Matthew 1:13 to 16.

            Whether or not Aphrahat is regarded as the author of Demonstration 23, Aphrahat was definitely the author of Demonstration One: Of Faith and thus, his testimony from 337 (prior to the production of Codex Sinaiticus) provides us with a window on a Syriac text that existed in his lifetime.

             (A good transcript of Aphrahat’s Demonstrations 1-10, produced in 474, exists today as British Museum Add. MS. 17182.  The same MS includes Demonstrations 11-23, written down in 510.)

            Aphrahat has been confused with another Syriac author, Jacob of Nisibis, partly because Aphrahat took the name “Jacob” at his baptism.  (Jacob of Nisibis was among those who attended the Council of Nicea in 325.)  Although John Burgon, in 1871, pointed out that Aphahat’s Demonstrations were wrongly attributed to Jacob of Nisibis (Burgon pointed this out on p. 26 of The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel of Mark, calling Aphrahat “Aphraates”).  Nevertheless Jacob of Nisibis was named in the textual apparatus of the first edition of the UBS Greek New Testament (1966).  This may be an indication of how little attention was paid to John Burgon by the compilers of the Nestle-Aland NTG and the UBS GNT in its first and second editions.

            Rather than replace Jacob of Nisibis’ name with Aphrahat’s name, the textual apparatus for Mark 16:17-18 in the fourth and fifth editions of the UBS GNT features neither.  For those who rely on the textual apparatus of the UBS GNT4 and UBS GNT5, it is as if Aphrahat’s support of Mark 16:16-18 in Demonstration One, instead of being changed from an incorrect identification (as Jacob of Nisibis) to a correct identification (as Aphrahat), has blinked out of existence.   

            No doubt this was merely an editorial oversight; certainly Carlo Martini and Kurt Aland and Bruce Metzger would never have thought of attempting to evade or silence an important voice such as Aphrahat’s.  (I would like to imagine that Aphrahat’s name did not appear in the textual apparatus of NA27 simply because there was not enough room on the page to include it – but, alas, I cannot, because half of the page of NA27 that features Mark 16:17b-20 is entirely blank.  The editors of NA27 found room to include GA 2427 (which has turned out to be a forgery made in the 1800s) in the apparatus for Mark 16:18, and GA 579 (from the 1200s), but somehow they did not find room to include Aphrahat’s name.)  (A novice reader, unfamiliar with the complex nuances of evidence-citation and apparatus-making, could get the impression that the selection of witnesses in the apparatuses of the Nestle-Aland NTG and UBS GNT has been somewhat biased.)  

            The GNT’s current editors are welcome to express their penitence (or serve as proxy-voices for previous editors) by including Aphrahat’s name in the textual apparatus of the yet-to-be-released 6th edition.  Perhaps someone by then will still dare to rely on such an unreliable source for patristic evidence as the UBS GNT’s textual apparatus has been.

            (A final note about Aphrahat:  he believed strongly that baptism is central in conversion – that is, he did not treat it as an optional afterthought.  In his Demonstration 6, Concerning Monks – in which Aphrahat’s writing seeps with Scripture-references like a dead skunk smells like skunk – he writes, in the 14th paragraph, the following (translated into English from Syriac):  “Remember the warning that the apostle [St. Paul in Ephesians 4:30] gives us:  ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit whereby ye have been sealed unto the day of redemption.’  For from baptism do we receive the Spirit of Christ.  For in that hour in which the priests invoke the Spirit, the heavens open and it descends and moves upon the waters [cf. Gen. 1:2].  And those that are baptized are clothed in it.  For the Spirit stays aloof from all that are born of the flesh, until they come to the new birth by water, and then they receive the Holy Spirit.  For in the first birth they are born with an animal soul which is created within man and is not thereafter subject to death, as he said, ‘Adam became a living soul.’  [Cf. Gen. 2:7] But in the second birth, that through baptism, they received the Holy Spirit from a particle of the Godhead, and it is not again subject to death.”)



Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Peter Chrysologus (Who?) and the Final Section of the Gospel of Mark

Peter Chrysologus

         Peter Chrysologus is not as famous to most Americans as his contemporaries Augustine and Patrick, but in his day he was highly influential, for Peter was bishop of Ravenna, in Italy, from 433 to 450, when Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire. (It was in Ravenna that the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire was deposed in 476.)  Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church honor him as a capital-S saint.  He was declared to be a doctor of the Roman Catholic Church in 1729, which seems to have caused generations of modern-day Protestants and American evangelicals to ignore his works.  (The fourth edition of the UBS GNT, at least, fails to mention him.)  His traditional surname “Chrysologus” means “of the Golden-Word,” on account of his many concise yet insightful sermons.  

           A selection of Peter Chrysologus’ sermons were translated into English by George E. Ganss in 1953, and published as Volume 17 in the Fathers of the Church series.   More recently (in 2004-2005), Chrysologus’ sermons were again published in English, having been translated by William B. Palardy, and quite a bit of Palardy’s translation (in three volumes) can be viewed online. 

          Using Ganss’ translation (Copyright 1953, Fathers of the Church, Inc., NY), we may turn to Peter Chrysologus’ 83rd Sermon and observe that his text for this concise composition was Mark 16:14-18.  He began by stating, “Thus the holy Evangelist has told us today that within the very time of the Crucifixion the Apostles were concerned with the table; that they were gazing at foods, concerned about banquets, and forgetful of the Lord’s Passion. He states: ‘He appeared to the eleven as they were reclining at table.’”  (Cf. Mk. 16:14a)

          The implication of this seemingly unremarkable opening should not be overlooked:   Chrysologus clearly was not introducing a new text to his listeners. 

          As Chrysologus continues, he briefly criticizes Peter and the other apostles for seeming to enjoy a meal so shortly after Jesus’ death, inviting his listeners to imagine Jesus returning to the land of the living to find that his followers have already resumed going about their own business.  He then quotes Mark 16:14 in full.

          Then Chrysologus’ portrayal of the apostles takes on a more sympathetic tone:  using John 20:19 to set the stage, he explains that the apostles’ meal was not festive, but mournful and despairing, as if they themselves still tasted the vinegar and gall that had been given to Jesus.   The apostles were locked in.  But when Jesus appeared to them He set their hearts free, Chrysologus explains, and he sent them back into the world via the words, “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  (Cf. Mark 16:15.  The Latin text:  Ite in mundum universum, praedicate Evangelium universa creaturae.  It should be noted that this is slightly different from the usual Vulgate text, which reads “omni” instead of “universa.” )   

          Chrysologus pictures how these words stirred the apostles, and then resumes quoting the text:  “‘He who believes,’ He continues, ‘and is baptized will be saved.’  Brethren, faith is to baptism what the soul is to the body.  Hence it is that he who is generated from the font lives by faith:  “He who is just lives by faith.”  Therefore everyone who lacks faith dies.”

          He then briefly diverges to emphasize that the convert is to believe correctly; he should not just believe whatever he happens to have already believed, but he should believe in one triune God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, co-equal.  He proceeds to delineate what should be believed in a somewhat creedal sequence – that Christ arose for our sake, that Christ, though already everywhere, will return to rule over the earth, that through Christ sins are forgiven, that man should believe in the resurrection of the body (“that is, that it is the man himself who arises”), and in eternal life (“to keep a second death from occurring”).

          “In addition to this,” writes Chrysologus, as he begins to wrap up, “the greatest indication of firm faith consists in the following signs.  The devils, that is, the ancient foes, get exorcised from human bodies.  One language intelligible in many others comes forth from one mouth.  Serpents grasped in the name of Christ lose the power of their venom.  Through Christ, cups of poison have no power to harm those who drink them.  Bodily diseases are cured at the touch of one who preaches Christ.”  And he then quotes Mark 16:17-18 – Signa credentes haec sequantur:  in nomine meo daemonia ejicient, linguis loquentur novis, serpentes tollent, et si quid mortiferum biberint, non nocebit eos, super agros manus imponent, et bene habebunt.”

          Lest anyone misunderstand his words as an invitation to recklessness, Chrysologus concludes, “Therefore, O man, be a  physician to yourself through your faith,” and he instructs his listeners to pray so that “we may be free from anxiety and exult because of our good conscience.”

          Very clearly, the final section of the Gospel of Mark was regarded by Peter Chrysologus and his congregation in Ravenna as sacred and inspired Scripture.



          (The 1750 edition of Peter Chrysologus’ sermons, prepared by Sebastianus Pauli et al,  was used to access the Latin Text.)



Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Saint Patrick and Mark 16:15-16

            Saint Patrick was not a leprechaun.  He was a historical person, a missionary in the 400s who was instrumental in the conversion of the Irish people to Christianity.  Two compositions by St. Patrick survive to the present day:  The Letter to Coroticus and Confession.  One interesting detail in both of these compositions is that Patrick makes use of material in Mark 16:9-20.

             In R. P. C. Hanson’s book The Life and Writings of the Historical Saint Patrick, pp. 44-45 (© 1983 R. P. C. Hanson, published by the Seabury Press, New York), the author observed that “There is no clear evidence that Patrick knew or used Jerome’s Vulgate. But he certainly knew the Latin Bible used by the British church supremely well.”   Therefore Patrick’s citations should be regarded as echoes of an Old Latin text which was in use in Ireland in the mid-400s.

            In Letter to Coroticus, paragraph 20, (according to the English translation by John Skinner), in the course of denouncing Coroticus for attacking a group of new Christian converts, Patrick wrote, “I bear witness before God and his angels that it shall be just as he signified to me, unskilled though I am. That which I have set out in Latin is not my words but the words of God and of apostles and prophets, who of course have never lied. He who believes shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be damned. God has spoken.”  Patrick thus quoted Mark 16:16.

            In Confession, paragraph 40, Patrick assembled several Biblical passages as he wrote, “We are strictly bound to spread out our nets, so that an abundant multitude and a crowd should be caught for God and that there should be clergy everywhere who should baptize and preach to the needy and expectant masses, just as the Lord says in the gospel, he warns and teaches in the text, Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I have taught you. And in another place he says, Go therefore into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature; whoever believes and is baptized will be saved but whoever does not believe will be damned” (Cf. Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15-16).

            Just something to remember the next time you read a commentary that tells you that the Old Latin did not include Mark 16:9-20.  Have a happy Saint Patrick's Day!


Monday, March 6, 2023

Saint Augustine and Mark 16:18

           Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is known far and wide for his work in theology, and for his book Confessions and City of God.  Less well-known is his interpretation of part of Mark 16:18.  This is not surprising, since although his name appears in the UBS GNT’s textual apparatus for this verse, his composition On the Soul and Its Origin is not often consulted by modern commentators.  Too many modern commentators do not offer any comment on Mark 16:9-20, except to say that it is a late and spurious passage.  (I know not why they might imagine that the verdict of “late and spurious” is supported by the evidence from the 100s, which is earlier than any manuscript of Mark 16 known to exist.  More about that, God willing, in a future post.)

          But unlike the commentators who are chronologically further away from Saint Mark,  Saint Augustine, who was chronologically much closer, expressed no doubt about recognizing Mark 16:9-20 as authoritative Scripture.  Some people might wonder, “We have heard Papias’ report that Justus (Joseph Barsabas) was compelled by unbelievers to drink snake-poison, and we have read Luke’s report that Paul was not harmed when a viper struck him on the island of Malta.  But it is not as if Justus prepared his own goblet of poison, and Paul had been looking for sticks, not a viper.  Christian congregations throughout the world have not become famous for putting the LORD to the test by picking up snakes or by drinking deadly poison, which is done at some congregations in American Appalachia – sometimes with disastrous consequences.  How did Saint Augustine interpret Mark 16:18?”
          To find out, we need only take in hand Augustine’s book and turn to the second chapter (or, book), and read.  Augustine cited Mark 16:15 in the second chapter of his Fourth Homily on First John, To the Parthians, but for now, let’s focus on his interpretation of Mark 16:18.  Each chapter of On the Soul and Its Origin is a letter.  In the first letter, written to Augustine’s colleague Renatus, Augustine identified and diagnosed some doctrinal errors he had found in two books written by an author named Victor, which Augustine had received from Renatus.  In the second letter, written to a presbyter named Peter, Augustine informed Peter of the false teachings he found in Victor’s two books, and he counsels Peter to work with Renatus to guide Victor away from his erroneous beliefs.

          That is the context of Book 2, chapter 23.  As Augustine advised Peter to vocally and openly guide Victor away from the false beliefs he has expressed – and after he pointed out that Peter might find additional falsehoods that Augustine has not covered – Augustine compared Victor’s teachings to a goblet of poisoned wine:  mostly good, but deadly if consumed.

          Just as poisoned wine might be served in a beautiful goblet, Augustine wrote, harmful doctrines can be delivered in well-crafted words.  And if Peter were to keep silent about what he has read, some people, after observing that Peter has read Victor’s books, might read them for themselves, and not know which parts Peter digests, and which parts he leaves in the cup. 

          Here I turn directly to the text of Augustine’s On the Soul and Its Origin, which I have slightly paraphrased (Book 2 of On the Soul and Its Origin can be read in English at the New Advent website):   

          “They do not know what you have drunk, and what you have left untasted, and so, in light of your wholesome character, they assume that whatever is drunk out of this fountain will make them healthy.  For what are hearing, and reading, and memorizing what has been read, than different processes of drinking.  However, the Lord foretold, concerning his faithful followers, that even if they might drink any deadly thing, it would not harm them.
          “And thus, those who filter what they read with discernment may give their approval to what is consistent with the standards of our faith, and they may disapprove of things that should be rejected.  And thus, although they commit to memory statements which are declared to be worthy of disapproval, they receive no harm from the sentences that are by nature poisonous and depraved.”

           This is a correct way to apply the passage.  Such an interpretation never occurs to many commentators today, I suspect, because either (a) English-speakers mainly think of drinking as something done to a physical liquid (although people still might occasionally say things like, “Soak up this lesson,” or “Savor your victory”), or (b) the commentators fail to interpret all of Mark 16:9-20 because they have not taken a close look at the voluminous evidence in its favor.

          Some people might object, “But brother Snapp, Christ the living Word does not speak in riddles.  And the Holy Spirit does not speak in riddles.” But I  commend to them to perceive the meaning of the parables that Jesus told, to listen again to statements such as Luke 12:49-50 (where Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as a fire, and to his sufferings as a baptism), and to consider that the words of Psalm 78:2 are repeated in Matthew 13:35.  

          While we are on the subject of Augustine’s use of the final portion of the Gospel according to Mark (which was received in the early church as Mark’s presentation of the memoirs of Saint Peter the apostle), let us take a look at another composition by Augustine:  his Harmony of the Gospels, which he composed before the year 400.

          “But brother Snapp,” someone might say, “Those who study the manuscripts scientifically know that the Western Old Latin text is notorious due to its expansions.”  That is true.  It is also true that the most of the changes found in the Western Old Latin text are benign (usually attempting to clarify or specify the authors’ meaning, although occasionally the attempt is very poorly made, like in Mark 1:41) and where the changes are substantial, they tend not to amount to more than a few agrapha.  Also . . . .”  Keep reading. 

           In Book Three of Augustine’s  Harmony of the Gospels, in the 24th and 25th chapters, Mark 16 is covered in detail. 

          Before focusing on the Gospel of Mark, though, Augustine comments on Luke 24 (showing the “Western” arrangement of the Gospels, Matthew-John-Luke-Mark), only briefly mentioning that “Mark likewise mentions that He appeared first to Mary Magdalene; as also does John,” thus referring to Mark 16:9) and Augustine quotes the Gospel of Luke 24:13-24.  After offering his explanation of how Luke’s account interlocks with the accounts from Matthew and John, Augustine turns to what Paul wrote in his first letter to the church at Corinth:  He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.  After that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once.” 

          Augustine proceeds to explain why Paul would say “the twelve” rather than “the eleven.”  He noticed a textual variant, saying that some copies of First Corinthians 15:5 read “eleven” rather than “twelve.”  [There are a few Greek-Latin copies, D* F G, which display this reading, which shows how the Old Latin text invaded the “Western” Greek manuscripts.]  Granting that there were just eleven apostles after the death of Judas, Augustine explains that there are three options:  (a) either the reading “eleven” is correct, or (b) Paul was referring to twelve other disciples, or (c) Paul used the term ”the twelve” as a symbolically significant number, the twelve apostles being the counterpart to the twelve tribes of Israel (i.e., the ten sons of Jacob + Jacob’s two grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh). By time time Luke wrote, Judas’ place had been taken by Matthias (as Luke reports in Acts 1:15-26). 

          When Augustine reached the passage known today as Mark 16:12, he stated that Mark reports, “And after that He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked and went to a country-seat.’” (It should not be overlooked that Augustine does not attribute this to Peter, but to Mark.)  Augustine proceeds to write:  “In the Greek codices, indeed, the reading which we discover is ‘estate’ rather than ‘country-seat.’”  To make sure everyone grasps and understands the significance of the statement from Augustine, I repeat:  Greek copies of the Gospels in North Africa that were used by Augustine in North Africa show that Mark 16:9-20 was included in the text in those Greek copies.

          Also, Augustine’s use of Old Latin copies shows that Mark 16:9-20 was included in Old Latin copies of the Gospels – contrary to what has been claimed by commentators such as Ron Rhodes (see his error on page 31 of The Complete Book of Bible Answers by Ron Rhodes, © 1997 by Ron Rhodes, published by Harvest House Publishers, republished in 2007 as What Does the Bible Say About…?) and James Edwards (see his error on pages 497-498 of his commentary on the Gospel According to Mark in the Pillar Commentary Series, © 2002 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).

          (I do not wish to depart from the subject of Augustine here, but it should be noted that two Old Latin copies lack Mark 16:9-20:  the copy known as Codex Bobbiensis (VL 1, k), which has a very strange text at the end of Mark – it features an interpolation between Mark 16:3 and 16:4, and its text concludes with a truncated text of verse 8 followed by the “Shorter Ending” – and Codex Vercellensis (VL 3, a), which, due to damage, does not have the pages with text after Mark 15:15 that the codex had before it was damaged.) 

          Augustine’s name appeared in the textual apparatus of the fourth edition of the UBS GNT, but an acknowledgment of the testimony of Augustine’s Greek manuscripts did not.  This oversight should be amended.  Greek copies possessed by Augustine in the year 400 provide substantial early testimony about what Greek text of the Gospels was transmitted in North Africa. 

           Readers who see Augustine’s testimony in favor of the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20, and the testimony of Augustine’s Greek manuscripts in favor of the inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 should also observe a beautiful theme that Augustine mentions:  the parallel between the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles.  The children of Israel would have been made of ten tribes eligible to have land (the tribe of Levi had cities, not territory), if Joseph’s two sons had not been added into the picture (in Genesis 48).  Only after Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, was removed from the picture, and his place was taken by his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, did the number of tribes reach twelve. 

          And a counter-part to that is seen in the twelve apostles:  they were initially twelve in number, but Judas betrayed Jesus (a thematic counterpart to the opposition to Jesus by the high priest Caiaphas, of the priestly tribe of Levi), reducing the number of apostles to eleven.  Then James, the brother of John, was killed by Herod according to Luke’s report in Acts 12:2.  That reduced the number of apostles to ten.

          Matthias took Judas’ place (as Luke reports in Acts 1).  And later on, after Jesus called Paul of Tarsus to be his witness, the number of apostles was restored to twelve.  Thus there is a parallel between Ephraim-and-Manasseh and Matthias-and-Paul:  Manasseh was firstborn and had the right to receive the firstborn son’s blessing (and Joseph, in Genesis 48, said that this was his right).  Yet Jacob insisted that while Manasseh would also be great (see Genesis 48:19), he knew that Ephraim would be greater and that his descendants would become “a multitude of nations.”

          Likewise, although James the son of Zebedee was a great apostle, and was chosen first (cf. Mark 1:19), Saint Paul (the last  apostle to be chosen) was greater, for after he heard Jesus’ call, he shared the good news about Jesus Christ to many nations, and wrote epistles which are included among the books of the New Testament, and his spiritual offspring have grown into a multitude of nations all over the world where the good news of Jesus Christ is proclaimed.