Saturday, May 6, 2023

Mark 16:9-20 - Why Egyptian Scribes Removed It

             The last 12 verses of Mark are attested in over 1,650 Greek manuscripts, early and abundant patristic evidence, and in multiple transmission-streams.  It is not a Byzantine reading which fell into its neighbors, as shown by the following features in the Western, Caesarean, and Alexandrian texts:

            Western (represented by Codex Bezae, D/05):
            εφανερωσεν πρωτοις instead of εφανη πρωτον in 16:9,

            αυτοις after απηγγειλεν in 16:10,

            και ουκ επιστευσαν αυτω instead of ηπιστησαν in 16:11,

            και at the beginning of 16:12,

            προς αυτους instead of αυτοις in 16:15,

            the omission of απαντα in 16:15, and

            και before κηρυξατε in 16:15.



            family-13 omits δε and inserts the contracted name “Jesus” after Αναστας in 16:9.  (A lectionary-influenced reading)

            Codex Θ (038) has μαθηταις in 16:10 instead of μετ’ .

            Codex Θ (038) has εφανη instead of εφανερωθη in 16:12.

            Codex Θ (038) has πορευθεντες instead of απελθοντες in 16:13.

            Family-1, family-13, 28, and 565 (and A, Δ, and C) add εκ νεκρων after

εγηγερμενον in 16:14.  (This reading may be supported by Justin Martyr in First Apology ch. 50 as well.)



            C*, L, 33, 579, and 892 (and D and W) have παρ’ instead of αφ after

Μαρια τη Μαγδαληνη in 16:9.

            C*, L, Δ, and Ψ (044) omit καιναις at the end of 16:17. 099 also

omits γλωσσαις λαλησουσιν, probably due to accidental lineskipping.

            This implies that 099’s exemplar read:

                        δαιμονια εκβαλουσιν

                        γλωσσαις λαλησουσιν

                        και εν ταις χερσιν etc.

            C, L, Δ, Ψ (044), 099, 579, and 892 have και εν ταις χερσιν at the beginning of 16:18.


            Why, then, are some influential scholars still insisting that Mark 16:9-20 is not original, or is somehow, despite having plenty of distinct features, a “pastiche”?  This is due, I suspect, because of dependence on outdated materials, and because of an inability to satisfactorily answer the question, “Why would scribes omit these 12 verses if they were original?”
            But this is not a difficult question.  Egyptian scribes did not excise vv. 9-20 in their capacity as scribes.  They excised vv. 9-20 in their capacity as framers of the apostolic text.

             It ought to be remembered that Eusebius of Caesarea, in Church History Book Three, chapter 39, preserves Papias’ statement that “The Elder” reported the following: “Mark, who had been Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of those who listened to him, but with no intent to give a sequential account of the Lord’s discourses. So that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing: not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.”

            In Church History Book Five, chapter 8:1-3, Eusebius quotes from the beginning of the third book of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (where Irenaeus seems to rely on Papias’ writings): “Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the church in Rome. After their departure (έξοδον), Mark the disciple and interpreter of Peter also transmitted to us in writing those things which Peter had preached.”

            In addition, in Church History Book Six, 14:5-7, Eusebius presents a statement that he attributes to Clement of Alexandria:  “Clement gives the tradition of the earliest presbyters, as to the order of the Gospels, in the following manner: the Gospels containing the genealogies, he says, were written first. The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion: as Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it.”

            The accounts of Irenaeus and Clement seem to conflict: Irenaeus states that Mark wrote after the departure of Peter and Paul, but Clement states that Mark was distributing the Gospel while Peter was still alive. This should be compared to what Jerome, recollecting earlier compositions, wrote in the eighth chapter of De Viris Illustribus:

            “Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, wrote a short gospel at the request of the brethren at Rome, embodying what he had heard Peter tell. When Peter heard this, he approved it and published it to the churches to be read by his authority, as Clement in Book 6 of his Hypotyposes, and Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, record. Peter also mentions this Mark in his first epistle, figuratively indicating Rome under the name of Babylon: “She who is in Babylon elect together with you salutes you, and so does Mark my son.”

            “So, taking the gospel which he himself composed, he [Mark] went to Egypt. And first preaching Christ at Alexandria, he formed a church so admirable in doctrine and continence of living that he constrained all followers of Christ to his example. Philo –  most learned of the Jews – seeing the first church at Alexandria still Jewish in a degree, wrote a book on their manner of life as something creditable to his nation, telling how, as Luke says, the believers had all things in common at Jerusalem, so he recorded what he saw was done at Alexandria under the learned Mark. He died in the eighth year of Nero and was buried at Alexandria, Annianus succeeding him.”

            Jerome was clearly relying on earlier accounts, including Eusebius’ Church History; the statement about the year of Mark’s death seems to be drawn directly from Eusebius’ Church History, Book Two, chapter 24: “When Nero was in the eighth year of his reign, Annianus succeeded Mark the evangelist in the administration of the parish of Alexandria.”   Eusebius provides a second affirmation of the year of the beginning of the bishopric of Annianus in Church History, Book Three, chapter 14: “In the fourth year of Domitian, Annianus, the first bishop of the parish of Alexandria, died after holding office twenty-two years, and was succeeded by Abilius, the second bishop.”   Figuring that Domitian’s reign began in September of 81, adding four years brings us to September of 85. By subtracting 22 from 85, we arrive at the year 63. If Annianus served as bishop for a bit more than 22 years but less than 23 full years, Eusebius’ two statements agree.

            On the question of whether Mark wrote his Gospel before Peter’s death, or afterward, the accounts are divided. Their discord may decrease a little if Jerome’s statement is understood as an incorrect deduction based on Eusebius’ statement that Annianus succeeded Mark in the eighth year of Nero’s reign. If Eusebius’ statement means that Mark, instead of dying in that year, departed from Alexandria to go to Rome, then if Nero’s eighth year is calculated to be 62 (since his reign began on October 13, in the year 54), the emerging picture is that Mark established a Christian community in Alexandria, and then went to Rome, possibly at the urging of Timothy (see Second Timothy 4:11). According to this hypothesis, Peter and Mark were both ministering in Rome in the year 62.

            In the mid-60s, severe persecution against Christians arose in the city of Rome, and Paul and Peter were martyred. What then happened to Mark? He apparently did not remain in Rome; as Peter’s assistant he would have been a natural choice to lead the congregation there; yet a man named Linus is reported by Eusebius (in Church History Book Three, 3:2) to have been the first bishop of Rome after the martyrdoms of Paul and Peter. A detailed tradition is found in the medieval composition History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria by Severus of Al-Ushmunain (in the mid-900s), who stated that he accessed source-materials from the monastery of St. Macarius and other monasteries in Egypt, and from Alexandria. Severus of Al-Ushmunain states that Mark was martyred in Alexandria.  

            When this is compared to the report from Irenaeus that Mark composed his Gospel-account after the departure – that is, the martyrdoms – of Peter and Paul, the situation becomes more clear: after assisting Barnabas and Paul on Paul’s first missionary journey (as related in Acts 12:25-13;13, and after assisting Barnabas in Cyprus (as related in Acts 15:36-39), Mark established churches in Egypt in the 50s, and traveled from there to Rome in 62, leaving behind Annianus in Egypt. Immediately after the deaths of Paul and Peter, Mark left Rome and returned to Egypt.

            The martyrdoms of Paul and Peter are generally assigned to the year 67. Eusebius of Caesarean, in Book Two, chapter 25 of Church History, states that Paul was beheaded in Rome, and that Peter was crucified in the reign of Nero. He also reports that they were both martyred at the same time, and cites as his source for this information a man named Dionysius of Corinth.  Dionysius of Corinth is a fairly early source.  Eusebius reports that he served the church in the early 170s. Jerome, in the first and fifth chapters of De Viris Illustribus, echoes Eusebius’ information, stating that Peter and Paul were both martyred “in the fourteen year of the reign of Nero, which is the 37th year after the Lord’s Sufferings.”  

            The account preserved by Severus of Al-Ushmunain specifically states that Mark was seized by unbelievers in Alexandria on Easter, when one of their religious festivals, dedicated to the deity Serapis, occurred, on the 29th day of the month called Barmudah (the eighth month of the Egyptian calendar), and that he died the next day.   Although this is a late document, its author states that he relied upon earlier sources. One such earlier text, although it does not say anything about the specific date of Mark’s martyrdom, agrees regarding the location: the author of The Martyrdom of Peter of Alexandria (a bishop who was martyred in 311) states, “They took him up and brought him to the place called Bucolia, where the holy St. Mark underwent martyrdom for Christ.” The same author states that Peter of Alexandria entreated his persecutors “to allow him to go to the tomb of St. Mark.”  

            Only in certain years would Easter coincide on the calendar with the festival of Serapis, and the year 68 is one of those years. Thus, it appears Mark was martyred in 68, in Alexandria, less than a year after Paul and Peter were martyred in 67 in Rome. If the gist of the tradition preserved by Irenaeus is followed, then Mark must have had only a small window of opportunity, if any, after the martyrdoms of Paul and Peter to finish his Gospel-account.

            This does not mean that the tradition reported by Clement of Alexandria is entirely untrue.  After Mark had been in Rome long enough to be recognized as Peter’s assistant and interpreter, he would have had opportunities to respond to requests for copies of collections of Peter’s sayings. These collections, though, may have been shorter than the final form of the Gospel of Mark. A definitive collection of all of Peter’s remembrances would not be feasible until after Peter stopped recollecting.

            The tradition preserved by Irenaeus is not likely to be a later invention; creative tradition inventors would tend to emphasize the apostolic authority of the text. Clement’s tradition, by stating that Peter neither approved nor disapproved Mark’s undertaking, certainly does not seem to have been designed to ensure that readers would regard the Gospel of Mark as apostolically approved, but Irenaeus’ tradition, by stating that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark after Peter had departed (that is, died), is even less positive, inasmuch as the martyred apostle Peter cannot even acquiesce to the text’s contents.

            If we thus accept Irenaeus’ basic version of events, and assign a date in 67 for the martyrdom of Peter in Rome, and a date in 68 for the martyrdom of Mark in Alexandria, then the date for the composition of the Gospel of Mark must be somewhere in between.

            All this provides the background for the following hypothesis:

            In the second half of the year 67, following the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, as Mark was almost finished writing his Gospel-account, he was in imminent danger and had to suddenly stop writing his nearly-complete text, leaving it, and whatever else he had written, in the hands of his colleagues. Thus, when Mark left Rome, his definitive collection of Peter’s remembrances was unfinished and unpublished.

            Mark’s Roman colleagues were thus entrusted with an incomplete and unfinished text. They had no desire to insert material of their own invention into Mark’s text, but they also had no desire to publish a composition which they all knew was not only unfinished, but which would be recognized as unfinished by everyone who was familiar with Peter’s preaching – indeed, by everyone acquainted at all with the message about Jesus. Therefore, rather than publish the Gospel of Mark without an ending (that is, with the abrupt ending), they completed it by supplementing it with a short text which Mark, at an earlier time, had composed about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. Only after this supplement was added did the Roman church begin to make copies of the Gospel of Mark.

            Now let us turn to the subject of scribes in Egypt as canon-framers.

            B. H. Streeter, in his influential book The Four Gospels, made an insightful surmise about Mark 16:9-20: “The hypothesis that Mark 16:9-20 was originally a separate document has the additional advantage of making it somewhat easier to account for the supplement in the text of W known as the “Freer logion.” A catechetical summary is a document which lends itself to expansion; the fact that a copy of it had been added to Mark would not at once put out of existence all other copies or prevent them suffering expansion. No doubt as soon as the addition became thoroughly established in the Roman text of Mark, it would cease to be copied as a separate document. But supposing that a hundred years later an old copy of it in the expanded version turned up. It would then be mistaken for a fragment of a very ancient manuscript of Mark, and the fortunate discoverer would hasten to add to his copy of Mark – which, of course, he would suppose to be defective – the addition preserved in this ancient witness.”  

            That seems to me a very plausible origin for the Freer Logion. Slightly adapted, Streeter’s theory implies that the Freer Logion did not originate as an expansion in the Gospel of Mark, but as an expansion of the freestanding Marcan summary of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances which Mark’s colleagues incorporated into the text of the Gospel of Mark.

            But what was such a text doing in Egypt?  It is possible that Mark composed it earlier, during the period in the 50s-62 when he was in Egypt – the only locale in which the Freer Logion is known to have existed.  (Jerome may have seen the Freer Logion in Didymus’ church’s copies.)

            If Mark’s brief summary of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances was already used in Egypt as a freestanding composition, then when the Gospel of Mark arrived from Rome in the late 60s, it would not be difficult for them to compare it to their copies of the Marcan composition about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, and immediately see that the final portion of the text from Rome was not, and could not be, part of the Petrine Memoirs.

            Some of the first individuals in Alexandria to read the Gospel of Mark would thus be inclined to regard 16:9-20 as a distinct Marcan composition which, though valuable as a Marcan text, simply did not belong in the memoirs of the apostle Peter. As a result, they declined to perpetuate it in their copies of the Gospel of Mark, thinking that it lacked apostolic approval.   Everywhere else, the verses were accepted as part of Mark’s Gospel.


Replica based on an image in a booklet
from the British Museum.

            P.S.  The tendency to apply a sort of higher criticism to justify the excision of verses that did not seem to come from the primary author was apparently shared by one of the copyists of Codex Sinaiticus. At the end of John, Scribe A finished the text at the end of 21:24, and followed this with the decorative coronis and the subscription. Then he had second thoughts, erased the decorative design and subscription, and added 21:25, followed by a new decorative design and a new subscription. Tischendorf had detected this in the 1800s, but it was not until the page was exposed to ultraviolet light in research overseen by Milne and Skeat that the evidence of what the copyist had done literally came to light.

            The initial excision of John 21:25 in Sinaiticus was probably not an altogether isolated case; Theodore of Mopsuestia (350 to 428), in a statement preserved in Ishodad of Merv’s Commentary on the Gospels, claimed that the extra material in the Septuagint version of Job, and the sentence about the angel moving the waters in John 5:4, and this verse, John 21:25, are “Not the text of Scripture, but were put above in the margin, in the place of some exposition; and afterwards, he says, they were introduced into the text by some lovers of knowledge.”  Theodoret may have been repeating a theory of an earlier writer which was also known to Scribe A of Sinaiticus.


Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The Other Samson

           Another Samson?  Yes; today we shall look into the life of Samson of Dol, a Welsh saint (from Dyfed) who was known as one of the seven founder-saints of Brittany (in France).  His biography is preserved in Vita Sancti Samsonis, composed sometime in 610-820.

Samson of Dol
          After growing up as a child of Amon of Demetia and Anna of Gwent, Samson was raised by Illtud, the abbot in Llantwit Fawr, Wales.    When Pyr, abbot of a monastery on Caldey Island, died after falling into a well – being very drunk –  Samson, who abstained from alcoholic drinks, temporarily took on himself the responsibilities of abbot there, but resigned because the monks of the place had become ungovernable under Pyr’s guidance (or misguidance).  Samson then traveled to Ireland.

          In 521, Samson was ordained a bishop, and his industry in evangelism was remarkable.  Samson founded monastic communities in Cornwall, and in the Scilly Isles, and in Guernsey, at Dol (for which he is named, and where he was buried).

         More information about Samson of Dol can be found at Wikipedia.  But I want to zoom in now on a little incident that is recorded about him in Book 1, ch. 16 of his biography:  the author states that Samson, aware that a cup set before him had been poisoned, remembered the word of the Gospel where Christ says concerning his faithful who trust in him, “If they shall drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them,” and so Samson happily entered the refectory, made the sign of the cross over his own vessel, drank it dry without any wavering of mind, and never felt the slightest heartache from it.

          I do not recommend Samson’s decision to others.  This little incident is mentioned as yet another example of the full acceptance of Mark 16:9-20 in the Latin text used in Western Europe.

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.



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.