Thread: The Corruption Of Mark's Gospel
January 3rd 2008, 05:41 AM #1
The Corruption Of Mark's Gospel
Mark’s Gospel is found with four different endings amongst the ancient manuscripts, but only two have any possible (yet flimsy) claim to authenticity: (1) the ending that concludes the gospel at 16:8; and (2) the ‘Longer Ending’ (16:9-20). However, most scholars, the oldest and best-attested manuscripts and versions, plus principles of textual criticism, all end Mark at 16:8. Thus, one question still arises: Did Mark actually intend to end his gospel at 16:8? If so, the following need to be explained:
(1.) why the early church felt so strongly its lack of completion, witnessed by the insertion of a variety of longer endings;
(2.) why a book that purports to be the "good news about Jesus Christ" should end with the women being afraid; and
(3) why it records no resurrection appearances to Peter and the other disciples (cf. 16:7).
The best solution is that Mark did write an ending to his gospel, but that it was somehow lost, or perhaps intentionally destroyed because of some undesirable (to orthodoxy) information! The various longer endings we now possess represent attempts by the church to supply what was obviously lacking, or to amend something that they considered unacceptable! There are many other examples of such variations (additions, omissions, changes, etc.) in the most ancient manuscripts, see e.g. John 7:53 – 8:11 (a later addition); and also in Matthew 18:11; Luke 9:55; 11:2-4; 22:19-20, 43-44; 23:34; 24:5, 12, 40, & 51.
Peace, Love, & Understanding
January 4th 2008, 06:09 PM #2
Re: The Corruption Of Mark's Gospel
I agree. The original ending was lost.
As the Mark 16:1-8 parallels the last chapter of Matthew most closely, the original ending was probably much like Matthew 28:9-10, 16-20.
January 15th 2008, 12:05 PM #3
Re: The Corruption Of Mark's Gospel
Greetings Ben Shema.
Let me start slowly. How many men are in the following list? --
(3) Fred and his suitcase.
(4) Fred and Sam.
There’s just nobody and Fred and Sam, right? Right. Similarly, there are essentially just three different endings of Mark in the manuscripts: the abrupt ending at 16:8, the inclusion of 16:9-20, and the Short Ending (sometimes called the “Shorter Ending,” which is potentially confusing because it is longer than the abrupt ending at 16:8). Six Greek manuscripts have both the Short Ending and 16:9-20 and one Greek manuscript has 16:9-20 with an interpolation between v. 14 and v. 15. A presentation of both the Short Ending and 16:9-20, however, does not constitute an all-new different ending.
By the phrase “the oldest and best-attested manuscripts and versions,” you seem to mean Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus and the Sahidic version. I suspect that you derived this information from some commentary. The oldest manuscript of Mark is Papyrus 45, and it does not have any text at all from Mark 16 because Papyrus 45 is so thoroughly damaged, so we can’t really say whether Papyrus 45 originally contained Mark 16:9-20 or not. Your source probably did not mention the patristic evidence, or the unusual features in Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus -- the two manuscripts which your source described as “the oldest and best-attested manuscripts” -- the *only* unmutilated Greek manuscripts which lack Mark 16:9-20. So I will:
Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus both are usually assigned production-dates in the 300’s -- c. 325 for Vaticanus and slightly later for Sinaiticus. After Mark 16:8, Vaticanus has a prolonged blank space. The blank space is not quite long enough to fit 16:9-20 into it when written with the copyist’s normal handwriting, but a skilled copyist could fit the entire passage into the blank space by slightly shrinking the lettering. In addition, throughout the NT portion of Codex Vaticanus, there are no other blank columns. There are no blank columns between the front-and-back of the same page throughout the entire manuscript. This plainly indicates that the copyist of Codex Vaticanus was aware of the existence of Mark 16:9-20 and essentially reserved space to allow for its future inclusion. As for Codex Sinaiticus, the original pages of Sinaiticus at the end of Mark and the beginning of Luke are not extant. The four pages there in this manuscript are a supplement, produced to replace the pages made by the main copyist. It is impossible to tell if the original pages contained the abrupt ending or the Short Ending. In addition, Codex Sinaiticus has long been suspected of being one of the 50 codices produced by Eusebius for Emperor Constantine.
About patristic evidence:
Justin Martyr makes a strong allusion to Mark 16:20 in ch. 45 of his First Apology, composed in about 160. Hort, a prominent textual critic of the late 1800’s, doubted this, on the grounds that Mark 16:9-20 does not convey the point that Justin was making (i.e., that the disciples went forth from Jerusalem). But after Hort made that objection, Ciasca’s translation of the Arabic Diatessaron was published -- a text which echoes a Gospels-Harmony made by Justin’s student Tatian in about 172. In the Diatessaron, Mark 16:9-20 is incorporated in such a way that the point that Justin was making is emphasized. Figuring that Tatian did not make the Diatessaron entirely from scratch, but used the Synoptics-harmony of his teacher Justin as a model, Hort’s objection evaporates -- and Justin Martyr’s use of Mark 16:9-20 gains importance, because it indicates not only that Mark 16:9-20 was known to Justin in 160, but that it was known to him as part of the Gospel of Mark when he constructed his Harmony at some yet-earlier date.
Irenaeus explicitly quotes from Mark 16:19 in “Against Heresies” Book III:10:5-6. He cites directly from the passage and states that he is quoting from near the end of Mark’s Gospel. Since Irenaeus lists the bishops of Rome up to the time of his writing elsewhere in this composition, this reference may be assigned a date of 184.
So there we have three references in the 100’s -- Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus. And in the interest of brevity I am not delving into witnesses such as Papias (108), the Epistula Apostolorum (150), and the “Acts of John” (pre-200), Hippolytus (pre-220), Porphyry/Hierocles and Macarius Magnes (270, 305, and 405), the “Doctrine of Addai” (original form pre-217), and Aphrahat. The point cannot be missed, I think: the patristic evidence demonstrates that copies of Mark with 16:9-20 in them were in the hands of Christian writers (as well as non-Christians such as Porphyry or Hierocles, and Gnostics such as the composes of the “postscript” in the Askew Codex) in the second, third, and fourth centuries. And this handily outweighs two copies from the 300’s, especially when one of the copies has space reserved for the passage and the other copy doesn’t have its original page.
Now about your questions:
B: “(1.) why the early church felt so strongly its lack of completion, witnessed by the insertion of a variety of longer endings”
First let’s set aside that bogus reference to “a variety of longer endings.” That’s just not a realistic description of the endings. (I know something like that is in a footnote in the New Living Translation, but that does not make it any more realistic!)
Now, addressing the question without its second half: Easy: after Mark suddenly departed Rome, leaving behind his unfinished and unpublished Gospel-account, his Christian colleagues who stayed in Rome felt that Mark’s Gospel-account was incomplete because they had heard Peter tell the rest of the story, just as he is depicted doing in the book of Acts.
B: “why a book that purports to be the "good news about Jesus Christ" should end with the women being afraid; and”
Because Mark was suddenly and permanently prevented from continuing to write beyond the end of 16:8. Under the looming threat of persecution, Mark left Rome -- leaving his unfinished Gospel-account there -- and went to Alexandria, where he was martyred in A.D. 68. But this does not mean that the Gospel of Mark, when it was initially released, ended at 16:8. It just means that the portion written by Mark as part of his Gospel-account ends there.
B: “why it records no resurrection appearances to Peter and the other disciples (cf. 16:7).”
The answer to the previous question answers this one. Mark did not describe the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, and the restoration of the disciples, because he was prevented from doing so. His colleagues in Rome, who were hesitant to publish Mark’s Gospel-account in an open-ended, unfinished form, and equally hesitant to make a fresh composition to conclude the book, found a short composition which Mark had written for church-use (perhaps as a short text to read at Easter/Passover) which briefly described the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. They considered this an adequate ending, and attached it to the main text of the Gospel of Mark before releasing the book for church-use.
B: “The best solution is that Mark did write an ending to his gospel, but that it was somehow lost, or perhaps intentionally destroyed because of some undesirable (to orthodoxy) information!”
No it isn’t. The best solution is that Mark unintentionally stopped writing at 16:8; then his colleagues attached 16:9-20, which had existed previously as a freestanding text; then some copyist, who was sharp enough or informed enough to recognize that the attachment had not been added by Mark, considered the ending an intrusion, and removed it from the text of his copy of the Gospel of Mark. Possibly John, in Ephesus, was informed of the problem, and in response he wrote a composition in which he described the Galilean reunion of Jesus and His disciples, but when it became clear that the church in Rome was continuing to produce and disseminate the Gospel of Mark with 16:9-20, John’s Galilean-reunion text was reworked and became what is now known as the first part of John 21. (Which tidily explains why the Gospel of John seems to end twice, at the end of ch. 20 and again at the end of ch. 21.)
B: “The various longer endings” --
Stop; as I explained, that is inaccurate terminology. And I know it’s almost certainly not your fault, Ben Shema; I am sad to say that quite a few commentators who ought to know better (such as Philip W. Comfort) have used such inaccurate wording. But it remains inaccurate.
I hope this clears things up for you.
Yours in Christ, and in the hope that you will not remain a Gnostic but pursue the true faith of the apostles,
May 18th 2012, 12:35 PM #4
Re: The Corruption Of Mark's Gospel
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Last edited by Sparko; May 22nd 2012 at 04:09 PM.
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