Re: Critique of Wallace in Perspectives on the Ending of Mark
- Some things I've never understood about the theory that the blank space at the end of Mark is long enough for the long ending:
(1) Why would the scribe leave space for the ending but not go back to fill it in or at least leave a scribal note or symbol to indicate why the space was left?
(2) Letter size seems relatively consistent, so why would the scribe all of a sudden write the ending in a smaller font to fit it into the space which is only big enough for the long ending if the writing is "slightly" smaller?
--- In email@example.com, "Peter M. Head" <pmh15@...> wrote:
> Thanks for the critique Jim, I look forward to hearing about the
> other chapters.
> I struggle with blank spaces. It seems to me that they prove that the
> scribes did not write on that bit of the manuscript.
- Peter and Bryan,
Even though this sort of things involves a high amount of speculation, I think we may be able to clear away the hesitance to affirm that the blank space here at the end of Mark in B reflects the scribe's text-critical thoughtfulness, and is not accidental. I am replying to invitations to hypotheses here, so this post is peppered with "possibly," "probably," "apparently," and so forth. Nevertheless I think you will see that while exact answers are elusive, the evidence strongly favors the theory that the blank space in B after Mark 16:8 is the result of text-critical thoughtfulness, and that the claim, "It is a myth to suppose that Vaticanus' scribe knew of Mark 16.9-20 and left room for it," stands on smoke.
(It might help if we reduce our ambition, so that our primary question is, "Is this blank space the result of text-critical thoughtfulness, or not?" Then, if our answer is, "Yes; the evidence strongly favors the idea that it is the result of text-critical thoughtfulness," we can begin sorting out the secondary question of what text-critical thoughts might have been involved, and be somewhat satisfied even if at the end of the day the word "might" is still in our answer to the secondary question.)
I'll address Peter's comment first. Let's slowly approach the blank space at the end of Mark in B from a distance, and I think you may form a very strong impression of what are, and are not, the most probable reasons why the scribes did not write on that bit of the manuscript.
First, consider the black space in L, and the blank space in Delta, where the PA is absent. Check and see if those blank spaces are of adequate size to contain Jn. 7:53-8:11. (As I recall, one is, and one isn't.) We could conclude only that the scribes did not write on that bit of the manuscript, but I think most observers will affirm that the blank space in L and Delta is extremely obviously a conscious attempt by the scribes to signify something, namely, his awareness of the existence of the PA. We may justifiably conclude that the PA, though absent from the scribes' exemplar (or exemplars), was known to the scribes. Nothing but that can account for what we see in Delta, where the scribe, after Jn. 7:52, began to write 8:12, but then crossed out PALIN OUN AUTOIS ELALHSEN O _IS_ LEGWN, left the rest of the page blank, left the first part of the next page blank, and only then began writing 8:12 (PALIN OUN. . .).
Second, moving a little closer to the blank space at the end of Mark, consider B's scribes' treatment of the format of the beginnings and endings of books. The scribes of B begin a book in the column which immediately follows the column in which the preceding book concludes, with four exceptions: there are blank spaces after Tobit, after Second Esdras, after Daniel, and after Mark. At the risk of repeating what I wrote earlier, let's consider the first three.
(1) The reason for the blank space after Tobit is easy to discern (although Wallace and Elliott both failed to notice it in the "Perspectives" book; Wieland made a note of it on his website about Vaticanus): there is a change of hands at this point, and the blank space is leftover space. It looks as if two scribes were working simultaneously on two consecutive portions of text, and one scribe finished his assigned text-portion without making an effort to finish it at the end of the last column of the last page.
(2) The reason for the blank space after Second Esdras is easy to discern: the format shifts to two-column format at the beginning of Psalms, which follows Second Esdras. For that reason, the beginning of Psalms could not be placed alongside the end of Second Esdras on the same page; Psalm had to begin on a page with two-column ruling.
(3) The reason for the blank space after Daniel is easy to discern: this is where the OT-portion ends. The scribes very naturally wanted Matthew to start on a fresh page; this was so much the common practice (Gospels-MSS being much more common than OT+NT Bibles) that the idea of beginning the NT on the same page on which the OT concluded probably never entered their minds.
Now we reach the blank space at the end of Mark in B. There is no change of scribal hand, so gap-causing mechanism #1 is not in play. There is no shift in column-format, so gap-causing mechanism #2 is not in play. And there is no genre-shift, large or small, so gap-causing mechanism #3 is not in play.
(Dr. Wallace seems to propose, in a footnote in "Perspectives" on p. 17, that the scribe of B may have left the blank column after Mark 16:8 because his exemplar placed Mark last among the Gospels and there was a blank space after Mark in that exemplar but this would require an exemplar of the Alexandrian Text in "Western" order, this collides with the order of Luke-then-John in P75 (that is, if P75 had a brother-volume, containing Matthew-then-Mark, that brother-volume would be Gospels Volume #1, not Gospel Volume #2). This would also mean that when the scribe came to the end of Mark in his exemplar and saw ordinary blank space (i.e., something seen in every MS in which the text does not end at the end of the last column of a page), he regarded it as something so special that it was worth replicating in Codex B between Mark and Luke, even though he did not even put an entire blank column between John and Acts, or between Acts and James, or between Jude and Romans.)
So it looks like the scribe's reason for abandoning his usual practice of beginning a book in the column immediately following the end of the preceding book had nothing to do with the mechanisms that caused the gaps in the OT-portion of B. The existence of those gaps is so much tea in China (or, in England, I think, the price of fish), because they are all "seams" resulting from normal mechanisms in the MS' production. The blank column at the end of Mark, however, is not.
If you haven't already visited http://www.curtisvillechristian.org/Vaticanus.html , please notice the materials there, which demonstrate the following:
(a) Mk. 16:9-20 cannot be contained in the blank space using the scribe's normal lettering. If the text of Mark 16:9-20 is written in the scribe's normal lettering, the end of the third column is reached at the end of the word PANTACOU in 16:20, with 67 letters left unwritten.
(b) Mk. 16:9-20 can be contained in the blank space using a moderate level of letter-compression.
(c) The Shorter Ending, if attached to the end of Mk. 16:8, will conclude in the second column.
(d) The Shorter Ending, if begun in the line immediately after 16:8, will conclude in the third column, if moderate letter-expansion is used.
Now we can make some further observations and construct some hypotheses about possible reasons why the scribe did not write on that bit of the manuscript.
Although the blank space from the end of 16:8 to the end of col. 3 is four lines too short to contain 16:9-20 in the scribe's normal handwriting, it is very plausible that a scribe who recollected 16:9-20, but who did not have access to a MS of Mark in which 16:9-20 appeared, would think that the passage could fit in this blank space.
So one possible reason for the blank space is that the scribe recollected the existence of 16:9-20, did not have access to a MS of Mark in which 16:9-20 appeared, and left the blank space because he sensed that his exemplar was incomplete, and wished to give to the scriptorium-supervisor, or to the eventual owner of the MS, the option of consulting another exemplar (with the LE) and adding the absent text. This would be essentially the same sort of impetus for the blank spaces at the location of the PA in L and Delta.
A second possibility, drawn from the same data, is that the scribe had access to a MS of Mark containing 16:9-20, but had a high regard for Eusebius' statements in Ad Marinum. (Or, if we suspect what Hort suspected, a high regard for Origen's statements in some composition which Eusebius recast in Ad Marinum.) In light of Eusebius' statement that most of the accurate copies do not have the passage, the scribe did not copy the disputed verses; in light of Eusebius' statement that it could be accepted if one were so inclined, the scribe left room where it could be (barely) inserted.
The SE can be formatted (by lettering-expansion) to end in the third column, and the LE can be formatted (by lettering-compression) to end in the third column, too.
So a third possible reason for the blank space is that the scribe knew of at least one copy with the SE, and at least one copy with the LE, and, in order to allow the scriptorium-supervisor, or to the eventual owner of the MS, to decide which ending should be included and he managed to format the text in such a way that either ending could be chosen without causing an unusual blank space between books.
When deciding between these three possibilities, we need to ask when the SE was made. Kurt Aland strongly suspected that it was made in the second century, because of the reference to "Peter and those with him." But Eusebius, in the early 300's, with the resources of the library at Caesarea at his disposal, seems altogether clueless about the existence of the Shorter Ending. Jerome never mentions it either. Neither does Augustine. All three of these writers mentioned copies of Mark; all three cited Greek MSS that contained the LE; none of them mention any MSS containing the SE.
So if any theories involving the scribe's awareness of the SE are to be adopted, it looks like they have to also involve the idea that the SE existed in an isolated locale isolated enough not to be known to Eusebius, Jerome, and Augustine. But all the evidence that connects B and Aleph (the remarkable similarities in some of the scribes' decorative lines, the shared lection-marginalia in Acts, the lettering and diple-use and orthography of one of the scribes in particular) tends to point to Caesarea as the place where both MSS were made; this connection to Caesarea weakens the idea that Vaticanus was produced in an isolated locale, and in turn the theory that the blank space was made with the SE in mind is weakened. Not destroyed, but weakened.
Also, if B was produced at a date when the scribes knew about Ad Marinum, the scribes probably would have known about the Eusebian Canons, too, and if the scribes respected Eusebius' works so much that they would follow his opinions about the LE, they probably would like his cross-reference system enough to include it. But we don't see the Eusebian Canons in B. So the theory that the scribe was acting on knowledge of Eusebius' comments in Ad Marinum is weakened. (If Eusebius was borrowing from Origen, and the scribe knew Origen's (lost) composition, then the theory is not touched, but there is not much evidence that Eusebius was borrowing from Origen, besides Hort's and Burgon's suspicions.)
So the first theory seems to be the most sustainable.
Now for Bryan's questions.
BC: "Why would the scribe leave space for the ending but not go back to fill it in?"
I can't read the scribe's mind, of course, but one possibility is that B was made in an isolated locale, and the scribe never obtained a copy containing 16:9-20 before being separated from the MS. Another possibility is that the scribe, as he was copying from his exemplar, purposefully left the space with 16:9-20 in mind, intending to settle the question later, and he later settled the question by discovering what Eusebius says in Ad Marinum, and on that basis he added only the subscription KATA MARKON.
BC: "Why would the scribe not at least leave a scribal note or symbol to indicate why the space was left?"
One possibility is that the scribe figured that he could personally explain to the eventual owner of the MS the cause of his hesitation. And, possibly, after weighing his options, he may have concluded that the advantage of such an explanatory note was outweighed by the disadvantage of permanently marring the MS with a distraction from the text. Yet another possibility is that the scribe was instructed by his supervisor not to add such notes, but to simply copy the text that was in the exemplar in front of him. And another possibility, commended by its simplicity, is that the scribe who made the NT portion of Codex Vaticanus was making this codex (with the help of an underling) for his own personal use, and thus there was no need for a note because he knew he wasn't going to forget his own reasons for the blank space.
BC: "Letter size seems relatively consistent, so why would the scribe all of a sudden write the ending in a smaller font to fit it into the space which is only big enough for the long ending if the writing is "slightly" smaller?"
There are two possible answers, one of which is simpler than the other. The simpler answer is that the scribe did not think that it would be necessary to write in a smaller letter-size. All that happened is that without a copy of Mark with 16:9-20 immediately available, he had to estimate from memory the amount of space that would be needed to contain Mark 16:9-20, and he slightly underestimated.
Another possibility involves a scenario in which the scribe of B, whose regular practice is to avoid leaving blank columns between books, had one exemplar with the SE, and one exemplar with the LE. He wanted someone else to be able to decide between them. So he carefully formatted the text in such a way that either the SE or the LE (but not both) could be attached to the end of 16:8 in such a way as to end in the third column, leaving no blank column between the end of Mark and the beginning of Luke. (If he had left another column blank, this would allow the LE to be written in his normal lettering, but this would mean that if the eventual owner (or diorthotes) decided in favor of the SE, there would be a blank column between Mark and Luke.) If he noticed that Mk. 16:9-20 would not quite fit into the blank space, he probably assumed that it was close enough that the task of making it fit would not be difficult for a competent scribe.
Does that clear things up, as far as the primary question is concerned?
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.
- Thanks Jim,
That is interesting, although I agree mostly with your opening
comment, that "this sort of thing involves a high amount of
speculation". I understand that IF the witness of Vaticanus and
Sinaiticus can be somehow minimised then that could open up a broader
reconsideration of the LE; I'm willing to grant that the extra blank
column is marginally unusual, and I'm quite happy to wonder whether
the scribe thought he had left enough space for the LE (which I'm
quite prepared to think that he could have known about since the
problem of the ending of Mark was openly discussed in the fourth
century). But it is all speculation, not evidence. And in any case I
don't see any of that as of any real importance in judging the
contribution of Vaticanus to the problem of the ending of Mark -
given what the scribe does fill the empty space of col. 2 with - this
is the ending of Mark in Vaticanus.
Peter M. Head, PhD
Sir Kirby Laing Senior Lecturer in New Testament
36 Selwyn Gardens
Cambridge CB3 9BA