Friday, April 14, 2023

Hippolytus and Mark 16:9-20


Hippolytus (d. 235) was a leader of the church in the city of Rome in the early 200s.  He had an interesting career, challenging some decisions which he saw as indicators of laxity on the part of the bishop of Rome.  Hippolytus eloquently opposed the false doctrine of modalism no matter where it originated.  Near the end of his life, Hippolytus even let himself be considered an alternative to Urban I and Pontian I, and then Roman persecutors stepped in and sent Hippolytus and Pontian both to the mines on the island of Sardinia.  There Hippolytus died, but not before being recognized as a brother by his fellow-saints in Rome; his body was brought in peace to a Roman cemetery in 236.    

            Several compositions are attributed to Hippolytus, including Apostolic Tradition, Against Noetus, On Christ and Antichrist, Peri Charismaton (About the Gifts), Commentary on Daniel, and segments of some works better known by different titles, such as the composite Apostolic Constitutions.   Hippolytus is known for proposing December 25th as the day of Christ's birth.

            Hippolytus, like Irenaeus and Tatian, has been effectively ignored by Bible footnote-writers who refer to two manuscripts made in the 300s but fail to mention earlier patristic support for Mark 16:9-20.  What does Hippolytus say about Mark 16:9-20?  Several things.

            First, Hippolytus made a strong allusion to Mark 16:18 in Apostolic Tradition 32:1:  “Let every one of the believers be sure to partake of communion before he eats anything else. For if he partakes with faith, even if something deadly were given to him, after this it cannot hurt him.”

            The evidence for Apostolic Tradition 32:1 is not limited to works in which it has been absorbed and edited. This particular part of the composition is extant in four non-Greek transmission-lines of the text of Apostolic Tradition: in Latin, in Ethiopic, in Sahidic, and in Arabic. (When Hort formed his opinion of the authorship of this part of the text, he was not aware of this.)  Apostolic Tradition 32:1 is also preserved in Greek.  In the 1992 edition of Gregory Dix’s book on Apostolic Tradition, revised by Henry Chadwick, the reader is informed of the following:

            “Two new Greek fragments have to be reported here. The first is preserved in a dogmatic florilegium of patristic quotations contained in two manuscripts, cod. Ochrid.86 (saec. XIII) f.192 and (saec. XV) f. 112. The discoverer, Professor Marcel Richard, printed the excerpt from the Apostolic Tradition in Symbolae Osloenses 38 (1963), page 79 . . . . This new fragment preserves the original Greek of chapter xxxii.1 (= Botte 36):

            ’Εκ των διατάξεων των αγίων αποστόλων∙ 

            πας δε πιστος πειράσθω, προ του τινος γεύσασθαι,

            ευχαριστίας μεταλαμβάνειν

            · ει γαρ πίστει μεταλάβοι [v. l.: μεταλάβη], ουδ’ αν θανάσιμόν τις

            δώη αυτω μετα τουτο, ου κατισχύσειαυτου (cf. Mark xvi. 18).”

            The term θανάσιμόν, which refers to a “deadly thing,” is the same word that is used in Mark 16:18.  It appears nowhere else in the New Testament.

            In the 1870s, John Burgon regarded a statement made by Hippolytus in On Christ and Antichrist, part 46, as if it includes a reference to Mark 16:19.  In Homily on Noetus, Hippolytus wrote, “This is the One who breathes upon the disciples, and gives them the Spirit, and comes in among them when the doors are shut, and is taken up by a cloud into the heavens while the disciples gaze at Him, and is set down on the right hand of the Father, and comes again as the Judge of the living and the dead.”  This looks like a simple credal statement, but Burgon claimed, “In the creeds, Christ is invariably spoken of as ανελθόντα: in the Scriptures, invariably as αναληφθέντα. So that when Hippolytus says of Him, αναλαμβάνεται εις ουρανους και εκ δεξιων Πατρος καθίζεται, the reference must needs be to St. Mark 16:19.”

            Hippolytus also quoted Mark 16:16-18 in material incorporated into the beginning of Book Eight of Apostolic Constitutions (which was put together mainly as an edited combination of already-existing materials in 380).: “With good reason did he say to all of us together, when we were perfected concerning those gifts which were given from him by the Spirit, ‘Now these signs shall follow those who have believed: in my name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they happen to drink any deadly thing, it shall by no means hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.’ These gifts were first bestowed on us the apostles when we were about to preach the gospel to every creature.”

            Samuel Tregelles commented about this: “Amongst the works of Hippolytus, enumerated as his on the ancient marble monument now in the Vatican, is the book περι χαρισμάτων αποστολικη παραδοκις [Peri Charismaton Apostolike Paradokis], in which this part of St. Mark’s Gospel is distinctly quoted: (apostoli loquuntur) ως αν τετελειωμένων ημων φησιν [ο κύριος] πασιν αμα περι των εξ αυτου δια του πνεύματος διδομένων χαρισμάτων,” followed by the Greek text of Mark 16:17 through 18 (with καιναις transposed before λαλησουσιν, and without και εν ταις χερσιν at the beginning of verse 18).

            Tregelles maintained that although a later writer, in the course of incorporating Hippolytus’ work into the fourth-century work known as Apostolic Constitutions so as to make it all appear to consist of words spoken by the apostles, “The introductory treatise is certainly, in the main, genuine,” and, “This citation is almost essential to introduce what follows,” and, “I see no occasion for supposing that the compiler made other changes in this treatise, except putting it into the first person plural, as if the apostles unitedly spoke.”

            Hort disagreed, stating, “Even on the precarious hypothesis that the early chapters of the Eighth Book were founded to some extent on the lost work, the quotation is untouched by it, being introduced in direct reference to the fictitious claim to apostolic authorship which pervades the Constitutions themselves (τούτων των χαρισμάτων προτέρον μεν ημιν δοθέντων τοις αποστόλοις μέλλουσι το ευαγγέλιον καταγγέλλειν πάση τη κτίσει κ.τ.λ.).

            To allow a full understanding of this disagreement between Tregelles and Hort, the paragraph from Book Eight of Apostolic Constitutions which Tregelles and Hort quoted is provided here in English:

            “With good reason did he say to all of us together, when we were perfected concerning those gifts which were given from him by the Spirit, ‘Now these signs shall follow those who have believed: in my name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they happen to drink any deadly thing, it shall by no means hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.’ These gifts were first bestowed on us the apostles when we were about to preach the gospel to every creature, and afterwards were of necessity afforded to those who had by our means believed, not for the advantage of those who perform them, but for the conviction of unbelievers.”

            Tregelles’ point seems valid to me:  erase the features of this text which give it the appearance of being an address from the apostles, and the quotation of Mark 16:17-18 are still entirely appropriate in a treatise on spiritual gifts. Hort’s objection is not a strong one, because the second sentence is more plausible a reworked statement rather than an insertion. In other words, Hort’s objection does not stand in the way of the idea that Hippolytus cited Mark 16:17-18 and commented on it by saying something like, “These gifts were first bestowed to the apostles when they were about to preach the gospel to every creature,” etc., and that this was reworded in Apostolic Constitutions.

            Although it is currently impossible to separate the voice of Hippolytus from the mild  interference that has been introduced by those who altered his compositions, the evidence from On Christ and Antichrist, Homily on Noetus, the reworked opening paragraph of Apostolic Constitutions, and Apostolic Tradition 32:1 effectively shows that Hippolytus knew and used Mark 16:9-20.

            Hippolytus’ comment in Apostolic Tradition 32:1 may reflect a sentiment that is also found in the writings of Justin Martyr:  that for a Christian who is sincerely resolved in his heart and aware of his sanctification, no experience, not even suffering and death, can be ultimately harmful.



Sunday, April 9, 2023

Some Interesting "Minor Agreements"

Usually there is no overlap between the  field of textual (lower, or post-production) criticism and higher (pre-production) criticism.  Usually.  But overlap does sometimes occur.  Today, we shall briefly investigate the Synoptic Problem, and look into a few “Minor Agreements” (i.e., readings shared by Matthew and Luke, but not by Mark) and consider the possible/probable implications of these readings for the production of the Gospel of Mark.

            To those who are entirely new to the Synoptic Problem, the first thing to know is that the term “Problem,” in this context, simply means “a puzzle to ponder,” not something that is a troublesome difficulty that threatens to undermine the Christian faith.  (Similarly, the “criticism” the terms “textual criticism” and “higher criticism” simply means “analysis;” these fields are not platforms for promoting personal critiques of the contents of the books of the New Testament, or any other book.

            The second thing to know is that the “Synoptic Problem” orbits the answer to one question:   how do the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) relate to one another?  Did each author write entirely independently of the other two?  Did two of them use the other?  Did one of them make use of the other two?  Or did all three use a shared source?    

            The third thing to know is that the Synoptic Problem has been solved for the most part:  although it was consistently held in early Christianity that Matthew wrote first, researchers such as William Sanday, B.H. Streeter and John Hawkins have made a very strong case that the Gospel of Mark (or something that resembled the Gospel of Mark) was used by Matthew and Luke, and that Matthew and Luke both used a second source (known as Q, which stands for Quelle, the German word for “Source”), and that Matthew and Luke each made use of source-materials that were accessed only by Matthew, or only by Luke.  

            The Four-source Hypothesis – that Matthew used Q + Mark + extra source-material, and Luke used Q + Mark + extra source-material (for a total of four sources of material) has a lot going for it, as Daniel Wallace concisely explains here and as Dennis Bratcher explains not so concisely here.  

            The ship of the simple Four-Source Hypothesis, seaworthy as it may seem, cannot survive the reefs it faces in the “Minor Agreements” – readings shared by Matthew and Luke but not shared by Mark – especially in cases where the “Minor Agreements” occur smack-dab in to middle of the triple-tradition (i.e., material shared by Matthew, Mark, and Luke).   Something more complex has happened.

The diagram I have made here offers a simple picture of how to account for the evidence, including the “Minor Agreements.”  I propose that neither Matthew nor Luke used the Gospel of Mark in its full canonical form; rather; Luke used an early form, and Matthew used a later form.  Mark, serving as Peter’s amanuensis, did not create one definitive text of the Gospel of Mark right away:  as Peter continued to preach and teach about Jesus, his testimony – written down in the Gospel of Mark – continued to expand.   Not until Peter’s martyrdom did a definitive text of the Gospel of Mark come into being.

            In the course of creating the definitive text of the Gospel of Mark, Mark added and subtracted a variety of details that had been in earlier forms of his record of Peter’s testimony, and this resulted in “Minor Agreements.” We shall now zoom in on some of these points which are like chords in a song which is sung by all three Synoptic writers, where Matthew and Luke sing in harmony but Mark sings a different note all by himself.

            First, let’s look at the chord that occurs in Matthew 9:18, Luke 8:40, and Mark 5:21.  The scene depicted by all three Evangelists is the famous opening of the account of the raising of Jairus’ daughter.  The first interesting feature is that when we use the Western text (extant in D 05), only in the Gospel of Mark (5:22) do we find Jairus identified by name.  This detail, if it had been known to Luke, would not be something he would have omitted.  It was probably added by Mark in the course of preparing the final form of his Gospel-account.     

            The second interesting feature in that in Matthew 9:20 and  Luke 8:44, there is an explicit reference to the hem of Jesus’ garment; meanwhile Mark 5:27 does not.  The parallel and non-parallel is easily shown in Greek: 

            Matthew:  ἥψατο τοῦ κρασπέδου τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ

            Mark:  ἥψατο τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ

            Luke:  ἥψατο τοῦ κρασπέδου τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ

It looks as if Matthew and Luke both perpetuated a Markan text which had τοῦ κρασπέδου after ἥψατο, but in the final form of the Gospel of Mark, τοῦ κρασπέδου had fallen out of the text, perhaps via simple parablepsis.  Again, this implies that a distinction must be maintained between the Markan texts (“Ur-Mark” or “Proto-Mark”) used by Matthew and by Luke, and the final definitive form of the Gospel of Mark.  Again:  whatever Markan texts were used by Matthew, and by Luke, were not the same as the final form of the Gospel of Mark.   At least two extra steps were yet to be taken before the Gospel of Mark was finished:  Jairus’ name was added, and τοῦ κρασπέδου was omitted.

             Throughout the text of Mark, isolated “Minor Agreements” occur at points where it appears that Mark added or modified small details that were not in Ur-Mark.  Some examples:  (1) the detail in Mark 1:13 that Jesus was tempted by Satan, σατανᾶ, not by “the devil” (διαβόλου),

(2) the detail in Mark 1:39 that Jesus cast out demons (τά δαιμόνια ἐκβάλλων),

(3) the detail in Mark 2:2 that Jesus preached the word,

(4) the detail in Mark 1:45 that Jesus gave strict instructions to the leper he had cleansed

(5) the detail in Mark 2:27 that Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”

(6) The detail in Mark 3:5 that Jesus looked around with anger

(7) the detail in Mark 3:20-32 that Jesus’ mother and brothers came to him because they thought he was out of his mind

(8)  the detail in Mk 9:32 that Jesus spoke openly the word concerning his sufferings, death, and resurrection

(9) the details in Mark 9:21-27 about Jesus’ questions to the father of the young man with an unclean spirit,

(10) the detail in Mark 10:50 that Bartimaeus cast away his garment as soon as he heard that Jesus was calling for him. 

More examples could be given, but these ten should sufficiently show that there is a difference between Ur-Mark used by Luke, Ur-Mark used by Matthew, and the final form of the Gospel of Mark.

            This has an effect on another issue: the ending of Mark.  Stephen Boyce recently chimed in about this.  Several of the unique details in the Gospel of Mark are the sort of thing an eyewitness could add as expansions of an episode he had described previously; but they are not the sort of thing a non-eyewitness would throw in arbitrarily.  (Jairus’ name, for example, might not have been known by Peter when he composed Ur-Mark, but Peter and/or Mark may have discovered it prior to the composition of the Gospel of Mark.)  While nothing about this brings anything new against the idea that Mark 16:9-20 was composed by Mark as a freestanding text, and was then attached to 16:8 by Mark’s colleagues in Rome, it must also be granted that nothing stands in the way of a somewhat simpler solution:  that Mark, on the same occasion when he tidied up Ur-Mark and thus produced the Gospel of Mark, composed verses 9-20, and the narrative disconnect in vv. 9-10 is simply an effect of leaving the narrative thread dangling, so to speak, on an earlier occasion, or else it is an effect of replacing a now-lost ending of Ur-Mark with a fuller summary of the post-resurrection appearances of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

            All three possibilities lead to an embrace of Mark 16:9-20 as part of the canonical text of the Gospel of Mark.