Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Looking into the Alexandrian Text at John 12:12

            War – what is it good for?  “Absolutely nothing,” many have answered.

            And when the question is asked, “What is the Alexandrian text good for?”, quite a few people have responded with the same answer.  Independent Fundamentalist Baptists tend to insistently subscribe to the Textus Receptus, and some KJV-Onlyists even make it a formal condition of church fellowship to use the KJV or versions in languages other than English that conform to the meaning of the KJV New Testament.

            Simultaneously you might think, listening to other folks, that the Alexandrian text is the greatest invention since sliced bread.  The text of the New Testament portion of the ESV, NIV, CSB, and NRSV are all based primarily on the Alexandrian Text – the “critical text” that is published in the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece and the UBS Greek New Testament.  (And why is this compilation referred to as the critical text?  Weren’t all compilations critical, i.e., thoughtfully compiled?  Are we supposed to be given the impression that other compilations are not critical, and merely reproduce the text found in a particular manuscript??) 

            I reckon that 99% of American preachers who promote English versions based on the NA/UBS compilation(s) still get their justification for using it, at any given point of variation, from Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament – apparently never realizing that Metzger’s Textual Commentary was made with the intention of promoting the UBS compilation.  (So if you’re looking for an objective textual commentary, Metzger-readers, or for one written by an author who wasn’t writing under the influence of the Lucianic recension delusion, you’re digging in the wrong place.)

            Meanwhile, advocates of the Byzantine Text tend to reject the Alexandrian text as a matter of course; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be majority-text advocates. 

            I would argue, though, that the Alexandrian text excels in at least one area:  the preservation of the original grammar.  For example:  there’s a little variation-unit in John 12:12 that doesn’t get attention often, because its effect on translation is so slight:  between τη επαύριον and ἐλθὼν, did John write ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ or ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς or simply ὄχλος πολὺς?  The Byzantine text has ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ, and its allies include Codex Alexandrinus, D K W X Π Ψ f1 579 700 1424 (etc.) plus the Peshitta, the Sahidic version, and the Gothic version.  Even Origen is cited in the UBS GNT as support for ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ – apparently the only patristic reference the editors considered worth mentioning.  Papyrus 2vid, assigned to the 500s, also supports ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ.

            Codex Sinaiticus initially read ὄχλος πολὺς but a corrector has conformed its text to the  Byzantine/Western/Caesarean reading.  D 565 892 and 1195 agree with À’s initial reading.  But that’s not the true Alexandrian reading.   The Alexandrian reading here is what Vaticanus has:  ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ.  And Codex B is allied with P75 P66vid B L 1241, the Sinaitic Syriac, and the Bohairic version.  (The UBS apparatus listed f13 as if it supports ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ; Swanson lists f13 as support for ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ).

            Bruce Metzger, a few verses earlier, treated support from multiple transmission-streams as a strong indicator of a reading’s genuineness (“the overwhelming manuscript support for the verse seemed to a majority of the Committee to justify retaining it in the text,” wrote Metzger).  That’s a general principle with which I enthusiastically agree.  But in this case, despite the shallowness of the external evidence in favor of the minority reading, there’s a valid reason for favoring it:  the internal evidence.  It’s the reading more likely to have been written by John, and it’s the reading more likely to have been altered by scribes.    

            Metzger’s colleagues seem to have had some misgivings about the Alexandrian reading here, giving their decision a “C” rating.  Metzger wrote, “The expression ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς serving as the subject of a verb [in verse 9] is such unusual Greek (with πολὺς in the predicate position) that serious doubts arise whether the evangelist could have written it thus.”  The counter-argument should be obvious:  are later scribes likely to have changed the text from ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ to ὁ ὄχλος πολὺς ὁ?

            Granting that some Alexandrian scribes were not particularly attentive in the vicinity of this variant-unit (P75’s scribe skipped the second part of verse 8), I am content to accept the Alexandrian reading, not on the grounds that its external support is stronger, but on the grounds than internal considerations are in its favor.  There are many other examples that could be selected to show the Alexandrian tendency to preserve original grammatical quirks – not errors; just grammatical quirks, like when a baseball umpire correctly says, “That ain’t a strike” – but this one may suffice for today.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Mark 13:14 - Who Said What?

          "But when ye see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not (let him that readeth understand), then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains."  Thus read the words of Jesus in Mark 13:14 in the Revised Version (1881). But in the KJV, NKJV, EOB-NT, MEV, and WEB, the verse is a bit longer:  before the word "then" is the phrase, "spoken of by Daniel the prophet," based on the words τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου, which appears in the Textus Receptus and in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts (including A K M U Y Γ Δ Θ Π 157), as well as in the Peshitta, the Harklean Syriac, and six Old Latin copies (aur, c, e, k, l, q).   

          The basis for "spoken of by Daniel the prophet" is not supported by À (Sinaiticus) B D L W Ψ and  565 700 892.  Nor are the words found in the Old Latin copies d, ff2, i, n, and r1,  or the Vulgate (though the phrase is included in some copies of the Vulgate), or in the Sahidic version, the Armenian version, and the Old Georgian version (according to Wieland Willker, who covered this variant-unit in his Textual Commentary on the Gospels).

Codex Macedonianus (Y/034), shown here,
includes the words in Mark 13:14 that are
not included in the Alexandrian Text
    Neither the UBS Greek New Testament (4th edition) nor the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (27th edition) mention this six-word variant.  That's right:  a six-word Byzantine variant goes entirely uncovered in the GNT and NTG, as if it never existed.

          What has happened here in Mark 13:14?  The editors of the Greek New Testament apparently felt that the Byzantine reading is a harmonization to Matthew 24:15.  The phrase in Matthew is similar; Matthew 24:15 has διὰ instead of ὑπὸ.  Some members of f1 read διὰ, and so do 28 579 and 1424.  It seems to me the theory that a harmonizer added τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου is not very tenable, partly because a harmonizer would be unlikely to be so picky as to change διὰ into ὑπὸ.

          But how can the omission of τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου be explained, especially considering that it missing not only in the Alexandrian?  Therein lies a tale:

          In the 200s, the authorship of certain portion of Daniel and Susanna in the Septuagint (LXX) were debated; Origen and his colleague Julius Africanus exchanged letters about Susanna.  In addition, the third-century pagan author Porphyry argued (as many interpreters still argue today) that the entire book of Daniel was composed in intertestamental times, during the reign of the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes.  No Christians seem to have objected to Christ's reference to Daniel in Matthew 24:15 as the source of Daniel 9:27.  But in the first centuries of Christianity, when copies of the Gospels were being circulated individually, a thoughtful copyist of the Gospel of Mark, seeing a reference to the book of Daniel coming from the mouth of Jesus, may have thought that source of the words τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου was a marginal note that an earlier copyist, or an individual who supervised copyists, had inserted into the text ‒ and, satisfied with the thought that the phrase was not original, declined to include it in subsequent copies.  

          That this happened, and happened early enough to influence some Old Latin copies, the text of the Sinaitic Syriac, and the text of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, is more probable than the idea that someone creating the Byzantine text, selecting readings from the Alexandrian and Western copies, threw τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου into Mark 13:14, especially considering that the words are not in Mark 13:14 in the earliest representatives of the Alexandrian or Western Greek text.

          This implies that the Alexandrian Text of the Gospel of Mark was not mechanically copied by scribes.  It implies that the Alexandrian Text of the Gospel of Mark was (slightly) edited by an editor who  removed features that appeared to him to run the risk of inviting objections from outsiders.  Lest this might seem to be a conspiracy theory, I leave you with the words of Bruce Metzger (from The Text of the New Testament, 4th edition, p. 312) that the Alexandrian Text is considered "on the whole the best ancient recension."


Sunday, June 25, 2023

Matthew 26:28: My Blood of the New Covenant

            In Matthew 26:28, did Jesus say, "This is my blood of the new covenant"?  Or did he say, "This is my blood of the covenant'?  The contest, in Greek, is between τὸ τῆς καινῆς and τῆς.  The external evidence - as presented in the apparatus of Wayne Mitchell's The Greek New Testament, 4th edition - shows that representatives of multiple text-types support τὸ τῆς καινῆς or τῆς καινῆς:  the Byzantine text finds allies in A, C, D (without the τὸ), E, F, G. H. K, M, S, U, W, Γ, Δ, Π Ω 074vid f1  f13 28 205 565 579 597 700 892 1006 1071 1241 1243 1342 1505 1582 Lect  the Old Latin and Vulgate, the Peshitta, Palestinian Aramaic, Sahidic and Bohairic versions (except for one Bohairic copy, and Schenke's Middle Egyptian), Armenian, Ethiopic, and part of the Old Georgian version. The Byzantine reading also has support from Irenaeus (in Latin), Origen (in Latin), Theophilus of Alexandria, Theodoret, Jerome, and Augustine.

           P45 (damaged, but with space-considerations taken into account) and P37 agree with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (and 019 035 038 33) on the shorter reading.  Irenaeus (as preserved in Armenian) agrees with the shorter reading, and so do Cyprian and Cyril.
           Both readings are clearly ancient.
           Looking at the parallel in Mark 14:24, the longer reading is paralleled word for word in the Byzantine Text.  Meanwhile, the passage without "new" is supported by Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and L D P W Z Θ Ψ and Old Latin Codex Bobbiensis.  

          Metzger proposed that the longer reading in Mt. 26:28 originated via a harmonization to Luke 22:20.  I propose, however, that something else has affected the text of Matthew 26:28. And it wasn't Marcionism.  It could be imagined that Marcion or a Marcionite created the shorter reading because to Marcion, Jesus Christ did not introduce a new covenant; to Marcion, the one true God had nothing to do with the covenant of the Law. 
           Metzger asserted that if καινῆς had been present in the original text of Matthew 26:28, "there is no good reason why anyone would have deleted it."  Some might insist that a Marcionite's theology would be, to him, a reason to delete it.  But can a Marcionite's influence upon the Alexandrian text of Matthew have been so strong?  Marcion himself only accepted his own edited text of the Gospel of Luke.  So the idea that Marcionism was a factor seems unlikely. 
           But the flimsiness of an arrow thrown at the shorter reading does not really prove the strength of the shorter reading.  If the shorter reading is regarded as original, then the text of Matthew 26:28 must have been harmonized to Luke 22:20 in multiple transmission-streams (affecting the Byzantine Text, the Old Latin and Vulgate, the Sahidic, the Sinaitic Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic, and Slavic versions).  Neither Lachman nor Tregelles seems to have thought that was a plausible option.

            A less sinister mechanism than Marcionism seems to have been at work in the Alexandrian text of Matthew 26:28:  simple parablepsis.  A scribe beginning with τῆς καινῆς before διαθήκης could skip καινῆς by accidentally jumping from the -ῆς in τῆς to the -ῆς at the end of καινῆς.  Perhaps slightly facilitating the omission of καινῆς was the influence of scribes' recollection of Exodus 24:8 as written in the Septuagint, where Moses "took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, 'This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.'"  There is no καινῆς in Exodus 24:8, the passage that Christ's words in Matthew 26 reflect.  Contrary to Metzger's assertion that "there is no good reason" for a deletion in Matthew 26:28, it is easy to see that a mechanism of deliberate harmonization (to Exodus 24:8) and a mechanism of accidental omission could both contribute to the creation of the shorter reading.  (Whenever an accidental omission occurs,  aren't observations about the lack of motive superfluous?)

          A wild card should not be overlooked:  the word τὸ before τῆς καινῆς in the Byzantine Text.  Non-Greek scribes might not have bothered with this; Greek scribes may have naturally added τὸ, regarding the resultant reading to be a slight stylistic improvement not affecting the meaning of the text.  (Conversely, Alexandrian scribes might have considered it unnecessary.)  This detail need not be resolved to maintain the conclusion that καινῆς was part of the original text of Matthew 26:28.

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.