I have recently started think again about the Great Omission, and (prompted by Google) have just re-read several 2010
posts on the subject on CrossTalk, beginning here http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crosstalk2/message/23389
. There are
several theories regarding why the Great Omission exists, one of which (championed by Bruce Brooks) I find appealing.
This is the theory that all aLk had access to (initially, at least) was an early, unfinished, or damaged copy of Mk that
did not contain the omitted portion of Mk, approximately 6:45-8:26 (I say approximately because there seems to be no
agreement as to exactly where the omission begins and ends, which is curious in itself). I seems to me that there are
other clues that suggest that this copy of Mk was not just pristine except for this one omission, but that the damage
(if that is what it was) occurred elsewhere, and the start and end of the damaged portions were not at 'clean' textual
First, the Great Omission itself does not have clean boundaries. Lk 9:17 marks the end of the feeding of the 5000, and
the last part of Lk 9:19 "and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?" appears to directly parallel Mk
8:27b, but Lk 9:18 makes a very awkward switch from Jesus being with his disciples in 9:17, to being alone praying in
9:18a, to being back with his disciples and talking to them in 9:18b. It would seem to have been much better to simply
leave out the 'alone' mention, unless aLk saw it in his copy of Mk, with the obvious places being either Mk 6:46 or 47.
However, if aLk saw Mk 6:45 there is no suggestion of it here. Instead, an echo of this verse can be found in Lk 9:10c,
where Bethsaida is mentioned. The problem is that verse has several variants, breaking basically breaking down into
three 'clusters': A deserted place; Bethsaida; or a combination of the two. As feeding 5000 in a city is unlikely, it
seems that the mention of Bethsaida here is a secondary addition. Because Bethsaida is not mentioned between Lk 9:17 and
18 (where it would be expected) it is possible that aLk had a loose fragment of text (or a torn leaf) that mentioned
Bethsaida, but that he did not know exactly where to locate it. Given that, adding it to Lk 9:10 may have made the most
The other obvious possible point of damage is the ending of Mk. Although many people have argued that Mk ends where it
was supposed to, it is also clear that many people were not satisfied with this suggestion, hence the various attempts
to provide a new ending, including both aMt and aLk. If Mk 16:8 was not the intended end, then either it was never
finished, or it was damaged.
Hints of other another possible fragment that aLk could have had can be found at the beginning of Lk 12, where Lk 12:1
may be an echo of Mk 8:1, and Lk 12:2 may be an echo of Mk 8:15. If so, it tempting to suggest that this may be all that
was left of a leaf that originally contained Mk 8:1-16, and aLk inserted the fragments of text into the beginning of
chapter 12. Perhaps someone could 'do the math' to see if Mk 8:1 and 8:15 could have been back-to-back on a leaf of a
Finally, if aLk's copy of Mk did have more extensive damage than just one single large 'Great Omission,' then it is not
at all unreasonable to suppose that the damage could extend to leaves being loose and in the wrong order, thus providing
a very simple explanation of why aLk re-arranged much of Mk.
This is of course little more than speculation, but I think it would be at least worth looking into whether Mk 8:1 and
8:15 could have been back-to-back. Does anyone feel like attempting this?
David Inglis, Lafayette, CA, 94549, USA
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