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5926Stanford Lecture at YouTube - Some Thoughts

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  • james_snapp_jr
    Aug 2 1:03 AM
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      At YouTube, there is a ten-part video series featuring Dr. Bart Ehrman, entitled "Misquoting Jesus, Stanford Lecture, How Bible Tainted." Dr. Ehrman comments about various passages, including the Pericope of the Adulteress, the ending of Mark, Mark 1:41, and Luke 23:34a.

      It's always nice when such free materials are made available. I haven't had time to go through the entire lecture, but there were a few passages that I have had time to look at. I attempted to transcribe some snippets.

      At about 9:05 of Part 3, Mark 1:2 is mentioned:

      "In Mark chapter 1 - Gospel of Mark, we read at the very beginning, that, we read, 'As was written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before your face to prepare your way for you.' Okay? This is in Isaiah the prophet: behold, I send my messenger before you. This is a very interesting passage, because the passage that's quoted is not Isaiah, where it says, 'In Isaiah the prophet,' and it gives the quotation; the passage quoted is actually Exodus. So it's interesting that in the later manuscripts of Mark's gospel, the text is changed . . . So that it no longer says, 'As is written in Isaiah the prophet.' Now it says, 'As is written in the prophets.' You see? Getting rid of the problem that in fact this isn't a quotation from Isaiah. Right? So, maybe that's a slip of the pen, but it looks to me like somebody saw that this could be taken as a mistake, and they changed it as a result."

      Seems a bit one-sided. (See my earlier post about Mark 1:2 for all the reasons why.) Nothing at all about scribal tendencies to replace imprecise references with precise references??

      Near the beginning of Part 4, Dr. Ehrman refers specifically to Luke 2:48 – "And she [Mary] says, `Son, why have you done this? Your father and I have been looking all over for you.' Now when scribes copied this, they were taken aback. `Your father and I?' But Joseph wasn't his father – right? Jesus was born of a virgin. So it doesn't make sense for Mary to say `Your father and I have been looking all over for you," and so there are changes in the manuscripts. Some manuscripts simply say, `Joseph and I have been looking all over for you.' Some manuscripts say, `We have been looking all over for you.' But somebody's changing the text because it could be read as a problem, and so they got rid of the problem."

      Seems a bit inaccurate. Are these comments really about 2:48? Istm that they describe 2:41, and 2:43 better; scribes seem to have sufficiently appreciated the balanced repartee in 2:48-49 not to change 2:48 in the ways that Dr. Ehrman describes, except for the Curetonian Syriac. Maybe there are such copies, but they aren't mentioned in NA-27.

      In Part 5 he comments about the ending of Mark: (See if you can count how many times the word "added" is used)

      "The Gospel of Mark. Mark is probably my favorite Gospel, because it's so subtle and understated in places, and it says things you don't expect. And nowhere is this more true than in the ending of Mark's Gospel. In Mark's Gospel, Jesus is put on trial and he's crucified; he's dead; he's buried, and on the third day, the women go to the tomb. The tomb is empty, and Jesus is not in it. There's some man in there, and the man tells the women that Jesus is not here; he's been raised from the dead. He tells the women, `Go tell the disciples that he will meet them in Galilee. And then it says, `The women fled from the tomb, and they didn't say anything to anyone, for they were afraid.' Period. That's where it ends. That's the end of the Gospel of Mark.
      You think, Ay, ay, ay, how could it end there? They're told to tell the disciples but they don't tell anybody! Didn't the disciples ever learn? Didn't they go to Galilee? Didn't they see Jesus? How could that be the end of the story? And that's exactly the reaction the scribes had. They got to that ending; they said, Ay ay ay; how could it end there? And scribes, then, decided it couldn't add [end] there, and so they added 12 verses. So that in your English Bibles today, you'll find 12 more verses after that – after chapter 16 verse 8 – and often they'll be in double-brackets, 'cause the translators will tell you in a footnote, these verses weren't originally in here; these were added by later scribes. In these verses, in these added verses the scribes added later – we know they're added later because they're not in the earliest and best manuscripts, the writing style is different from the rest of the Gospel of Mark, and in fact there are inconsistencies between this ending and the verses that precede it, so this is clearly an addition to the Gospel of Mark.
      In these final verses, according to these final verses, the women do go tell the disciples, the disciples do go to Galilee, they do meet Jesus there, and Jesus then tells them that they're to make disciples of all the nations, and people who become his disciples will be able to speak in foreign languages that they previously didn't know; they'll be able to handle deadly snakes, and they'll be able to drink poison and it won't harm them. These are the verses that the Appalachian snake-handlers in my part of the world use to base their liturgical practices on. I've always thought that sometime, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, somebody should point out, well, y'know, actually those verses aren't in the Gospel of Mark. [Audience laughs.] So: Mark actually ends with the women not saying anything to anyone for they were afraid; someone else added the last twelve."

      Again, this seems one-sided: no mention of the evidence from Justin, Tatian, and Irenaeus; no mention that by the "earliest and best manuscripts" he means, as far as Greek manuscripts are concerned, Vaticanus with its blank column and Sinaiticus with its replacement-pages. No explanation about why someone in the second century would compose or select a text that has "inconsistencies: with the preceding episode to attach to that episode as its conclusion.

      It also seems a little inaccurate:
      "The women do go tell the disciples" – in Mark 16:9-20?? Where does that happen? Only Mary Magdalene goes, and they don't believe her.
      "The disciples do go to Galilee" – in Mark 16:9-20?? Where does it say that the disciples left Jerusalem? Where is Galilee specified or even mentioned?
      "Jesus then tells them that they're to make disciples of all the nations" – that's from Mt. 28:19, not Mark 16:15.
      "They'll be able to handle deadly snakes" – it's the poison that's described as deadly in 16:18, not the snakes.

      Moving along, Dr. Ehrman discusses Mark 1:41: after mention the usual reading, he states (at about 4:25), "But in several ancient manuscripts, it says something different. In these other manuscripts, instead of saying, `Jesus felt compassion for the man,' it says, `And Jesus got angry, and reached out his hand, and said, "I am willing; be cleansed."' Getting angry. Now, scholars have to debate, which is the text that Mark originally wrote, and which is the text that's been changed by a scribe? And one piece of logic that scholars have used over the years is this: ask yourself, Which text is a scribe more likely to have created out of the other? Is a scribe likely to have taken the text that says, `Jesus felt compassion,' and changed it to say, `Jesus got angry,' or is a scribe likely to have found the text that says, `Jesus got angry,' and to change it to say, `Jesus felt compassion'? Well if you put it like that, then, well, the latter is more likely something a scribe would have changed.
      And so this criterion ends up sounding kind of backwards, but the way the criterion works is, that the reading that's the most difficult to understand is probably the original one. The more difficult reading is to be preferred. And that's one reason for thinking that in fact, this text originally said Jesus got angry; and there are actually a whole host of reasons for thinking that's what the text said.
      The next step, then, is to ask, `Well, what's he angry about?' – in other words, to try and figure out what the text means. But you can't know what the text means unless you know what the text says, you see. So you've got to establish the words first. And that's what people who are textual critics do; they try and decide what the words originally were."

      ("In several ancient manuscripts" – he must've been using "manuscript" to include non-Greek copies.)

      This is, I believe, a good illustration of the dangers of spin and detail-selection. It's not that what he says is wrong; it's that what he doesn't say is not right. The listeners at Stanford whose knowledge of Mark 1:41's manuscript-evidence is limited to what Dr. Ehrman says in this lecture will probably believe that Mark wrote that Jesus was angry, because they can't see any reason why a scribe would replace "filled with compassion" with "filled with rage." They're not given the means to see any such reason. (And those who they proceed to teach about these passages will see even less reason.) But if Dr. Ehrman had shared the details that the MSS to which he refers are Codex Bezae + Old Latin copies, and if he had given a better idea of the scope of the support for "filled with compassion," how different the picture would be. Put a Latin scribe who is a less than stellar translator of Greek into the equation: when he reaches SPLANCHNISQEIS he isn't sure what it means; he makes a guess based on 1:43; he renders the phrase as "becoming angry," and his erroneous guess eventually gets retro-translated, affecting the reading in Codex Bezae.

      The theory that ORGISQEIS is original implies that scribes independently made the same word-replacement, rather than harmonize to Mt. 8:2-3. With that consideration in play, which scribal action seems more probable: that a Latin translator mauled the Greek term, or that several scribes independently created essentially the same non-harmonized reading? Probabilities involving the scribes in different locales should be considered, and real-life considerations like the possibility of Latin-based quirk-readings (for which Codex Bezae is notorious) should be given more importance than probabilities about what an idealized editor-scribe seems likely to have preferred to write. At the very least it seems unfair not to mention that the bulk of the witnesses for ORGISQEIS are either Latin or Greek-Latin copies, or else there is no way listeners will get an accurate impression of the quality of the pertinent evidence.

      I wonder if anyone would be willing to make a sequel to this lecture, providing some details and information that was not mentioned.

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
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