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Joel Marcus and the Ending of Mark

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  • James Snapp, Jr.
    Joel Marcus is the professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Duke Divinity School. He is the author of volume 27A of the Anchor Yale Bible, which
    Message 1 of 65 , May 26 10:24 PM
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      Joel Marcus is the professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Duke Divinity School. He is the author of volume 27A of the Anchor Yale Bible, which covers Mark 8-16 - - 8:22 to 16:8, to be precise. His comments on Mark 16:9-20 are contained in "Postscript: The Markan Ending," on pages 1088-1096. He begins to describe the evidence:

      "These verses are found in the overwhelming majority of manuscripts and in all major manuscript families and are attested already by Irenaeus (/Against Heresies/ 3.10.5) in 185 C.E. and perhaps, even earlier, by Justin (/1 Apology/ 45, around 155 C.E.). But they were almost certainly not penned by Mark, nor were they the original ending of the Gospel. Matthew and Luke follow Mark's narrative closely up to 16:8, whereas beyond it they diverge radically, suggesting that their version of Mark did not contain anything subsequent to 16:8 (see Lane, 601)."

      Up to this point, Marcus' description of the external evidence is reasonably accurate (except his claim that Luke closely follows Mark in Lk. 24:1-9). He doesn't point out the likelihood that Justin was employing a phrase from a 3-Gospel Harmony; nor does he mention the testimony of Tatian or the Epistula Apostolorum. But I've seem worse.

      However, next comes a feature all too common to modern-day commentaries on Mark: the author leans on Metzger, and, in the process of rephrasing Metzger's statements, distorts the evidence:

      Metzger: "The last twelve verses are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (Aleph and B), from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis (it-k), the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913)."

      Marcus:
      "Verses 9-20, moreover, do not exist in our earliest and best Greek manuscripts, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, both of which terminate at 16:8, as do the Sinaitic Syriac, about a hundred Armenian manuscripts, the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (from 897 and 913 C.E.), and all but one manuscript of the Sahidic Coptic (Metzger, 122-23; cf. Birdsall, "Review," 154)."

      One would have to read Metzger rather carelessly to derive from his words the notion that all Sahidic MSS except one terminate at 16:8; on p. 123 of "Textual Commentary" Metzger plainly states that several Sahidic MSS continue after verse 8 with the SE. But a way was found.

      What seems to have happened is that Marcus misunderstood a statement made by J. N. Birdsall in his 1975 review of William Farmer's book "The Last Twelve Verses of Mark." Birdsall noted that Farmer inaccurately described the Sahidic evidence. Birdsall was correct but Farmer's description of the evidence was only barely obsolete: Farmer's book was published in 1974, and the one Sahidic MS of Mark that stops the text at the end of 16:8 was not published until 1972. Apparently, Marcus misinterpreted Birdsall's remark about one Sahidic MS (P.Palau Inv. 182; let's just call it Barcelona Mark).

      However it happened, we have a commentary claiming that all Sahidic copies of Mark except one "terminate at 16:8," whereas in the real world the situation is the opposite: all Sahidic copies of Mark except one do not terminate at 16:8. They continue with either the SE+LE or, in the case of British Museum MS. Or. 7029, with the LE.

      At the Sahidica website, J. Warren Wells offers some descriptions of real evidence. From
      http://sahidica.warpco.com/SahidicaIntro.htm --

      "Kahle pointed out that only one manuscript (the latest) "regards [Mark] 16.9-20 as part of the original text and indicates no alternative." The other five manuscripts all contain both the shorter and longer endings of Mark but "indicate by short notes that these [two alternative endings are] found in some manuscripts." On this basis, he goes on to say, "the other [earlier] Sahidic manuscripts . . . all contain evidence that some (older) manuscripts ended at [Mark] 16.8."

      The five Sahidic MSS with the SE and LE are:
      Horner's 50,
      Horner's 108,
      Pierpont Morgan MS XI (M 615),
      Pierpont Morgan MS IV (M 569), and
      Vienna K. 9075, 9076.

      Somehow, Kahle's comment that all but one Sahidic MS known to him implied that earlier Sahidic MSS terminated at 16:8 morphed into Marcus' comment that all but one Sahidic MS terminates at 16:8!

      The Duke professor continues:

      "When verses 9-20 do appear, moreover, they are often separated from 16:8 by scribal signs (asterisks or obeli) or by notations that state or suggest that what follows is not found in some witnesses (see Aland, "Markusschluss," 442-46)."

      More distortion. Verses 9-20 appear in over 1,500 MSS and there are special asterisks or obeli or notations accompanying the passage in, I estimate, 20 MSS. (Can anyone verify these features in more than 20 Greek MSS that do not have the SE??) 20 MSS out of 1,500 = 1.3%. In addition, Dr. Marcus allows the reader no opportunity to consider the contents of the notations up close, so as to realize that some of them are practically identical (and related), and that they tend to justify the passage's inclusion: to the effect of, "some copies don't have this but the old ones have it all," or, "some copies don't have this but most of them do," or, "In some copies, the evangelist's work stops here, and Eusebius' Canons stop here (at 16:8), but these verses are present in many copies."

      Next, Dr. Marcus selectively described some patristic evidence:
      "Several church fathers corroborate the secondary nature of the Longer Ending; Eusebius, for example, asserts in /To Marinus/ that "the accurate ones of the copies" of Mark end with the women running away from the tomb, and this testimony is seconded by Jerome (Letter 120.3), Hesychius of Jerusalem (Collection of Difficulties and Solutions [PG 93.1440]), and Severus of Antioch (Homily 77; cf. Kelhoffer, "Witness," 83-91)." The main problem here is that Jerome and Severus were paraphrasing Eusebius' material. A second problem is (according to Hort) that Hesychius proceeds to use material from the LE. A third problem is that Eusebius also explained to Marinus how to harmonize Mark 16:9 with Matthew 28:1.

      At one time, I accepted the idea that the writers who echo Eusebius would not have done so unless Eusebius' comment accurately described the state of the evidence known to them. That sounded reasonable. But if we bring the same reasonable assumption to the commentators of our own era, what do we find? Typically when a modern-day commentator goes into any sort of detail about the external evidence pertaining to Mark 16:9-20, I find significant distortions, and over-reliance upon Metzger's statements. We cannot say that the Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Duke Divinity School would not say that all of the Sahidic MSS terminate at 16:8, if he did not know this to be true. So is it truly safe to say that professors in the 400's would not act similarly?

      The more commentaries on Mark I read, the more convinced I am that it is very possible for scholars to make confident assertions about the contents of MSS -- egregiously erroneous statements -- that are based on very little, if any, firsthand evidence. I suspect that the same thing was possible in the early 400's, especially when scholars were writing to readers who would probably have no means to check the authors' statements, and when scholars (such as Jerome) were willing to pass along, under their own names, excerpts from earlier writers.

      Finally: on p. 1091, as Dr. Marcus considers different theories about the origin of the Abrupt Ending, he states, "With regard to the arrest/illness hypothesis, moreover, one may wonder why, if Mark was suddenly removed from the scene, a member of his community did not complete the Gospel for him." I would point out that a slight variation upon this idea – which is not original to Marcus – in which a colleague of Mark finished the Gospel, by attaching what had been a freestanding Markan/Petrine composition about Christ's post-resurrection appearances, goes a long way toward explaining the internal and external evidence.

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
    • schmuel
      Hi Folks, Jay Rogers ... James Snapp ... Steven All of them ? As their first language or second ? James Snapp ... Steven Since a translation from Latin or a
      Message 65 of 65 , Aug 12, 2009
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        Hi Folks,

        Jay Rogers
        >Why Greek if it was written to Italians? I realize that the vast
        >consensus is Greek, but this question seems logical. If one were
        >writing to Latin speakers, and if Mark was indeed the "interpreter"
        >of Peter, who was likely speaking in Aramaic or Greek, why not write
        >in the Italians' own language?

        James Snapp
        >The reason why Mark would write for Italians in Greek is that the
        >Italians, then and there, were speaking and reading and writing in
        >Greek.

        Steven
        All of them ? As their first language or second ?

        James Snapp
        >If you would like to see demonstrations of the extensive verbal
        >affinities (in Greek) between Mark, Matthew, and Luke, consult John
        >Hawkins' "Horae Synopticae," which can be downloaded for free from
        >Google Books or Archive.org.

        Steven
        Since a translation from Latin or a Graeco-Latin dialect to Greek
        would likely have been done by someone aware of Mark and Matthew,
        such verbal affinities are expected in all scenarios.

        >Jaay Rogers:
        >"Just how would (theoretically) a Latin copy be involved in the loss
        >of the longer ending?"

        James Snapp
        > Theoretically ..- if Mark had written the Gospel of Mark in Latin,
        someone could have translated an early draft of it into Greek,

        Steven
        And this was the theory of Herman Hoskier, accompanied with extensive
        analysis, that Mark was written in either Latin or a Graeco-Latin dialect.

        Shalom,
        Steven Avery
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