Making Sense of MS 304
- Minuscule 304 is a manuscript stored in the National Library at Paris. It is assigned a date in the 1100's. It contains the text of Matthew and Mark, accompanied by a commentary. Maurice Robinson has viewed microfilm of MS 304 and observed that the text is not continuous; the text is interspersed with the commentary. J. K. Elliott recently suggested that it may be the first volume of a two-volume set of a commentary on the four Gospels. Wieland Willker has noted that the text of 304 is 94% Byzantine.
This manuscript would be just one of the many Byzantine MSS that are spared the attention of modern-day compilers, and that are never mentioned specifically in the textual apparatus, except for one thing: it is cited as a witness for the abrupt ending of Mark. Because MS 1420 has been shown to lack Mark 16:9-20 due to damage, and because MS 2386 has been shown to lack Mark 16:9-20 because a thief took out the last page of Mark in order to obtain the portrait of Luke that was on the other side of the page, MS 304 now stands as the only Greek MS in agreement with Vaticanus and Sinaiticus in ending Mark at 16:8.
Robinson has expressed a strong reservation about interpreting MS 304 as a witness for the abrupt ending: "The primary matter is the commentary. The gospel text is merely interspersed between the blocks of commentary material, and should not be considered the same as a `normal' continuous-text MS. Also, it is often very difficult to discern the text in contrast to the contents . . . . Following GAR at the close of 16:8, the MS has a mark like a filled-in "o," followed by many pages of commentary, all of which summarize the endings of the other gospels and even quote portions of them. Following this, the commentary then begins to summarize the ETERON DE TA PARA TOU MARKOU, presumably to cover the non-duplicated portions germane to that gospel in contrast to the others. There remain quotes and references to the other gospels in regard to Mary Magdalene, Peter, Galilee, the fear of the women, etc. But at this point the commentary abruptly ends, without completing the remainder of the narrative or the parallels. I suspect that the commentary (which contains only Mt and Mk) continued the discussion and that a final page or pages at the end of this volume likely were lost . . . . I would suggest that MS 304 should not be claimed as a witness to the shortest ending . . . ."
Enter Peter Poussin, also known as Petrus Possinus. Poussin/Possinus published the text of the Commentary of Victor of Antioch in 1673. Let's see how John Burgon described Poussin's endeavor:
"The Greek text of Victor was first published at Rome by Peter Possinus in 1673, from a MS. existing somewhere in Germany; which Bathazar Corderius had transcribed and presented to Possinus about thirty years before. Corderius gave Possinus at the same time his transcript of an anonymous Commentary on S. Mark preserved in the Vatican; and Possinus had already in his possession the transcript of a third Commentary on the same Evangelist (also anonymous) which he had obtained from the Library of Charles de Montchal, Abp. of Toulouse. These three transcripts Possinus published in a well-known volume. It is to be wished that he had kept them distinct, instead of to some extent blending their contents confusedly into one. Still, the dislocated paragraphs of Victor of Antioch are recognizable by the name of their author ("Victor Antiochenus") prefixed to each : while "Tolosanus" designates the Toulouse MS. : "Vaticanus" (or simply "Anonymus") the Vatican."
I do not have access to a copy of Poussin's 1673 book. But it seems safe to picture it as a presentation of the contents of (1) Corderius' transcript of a MS he accessed in Germany, (2) Corderius' transcript of a MS he accessed at the Vatican Library, and (3) Poussin's own transcript of a MS he had accessed at Toulouse. And the contents of all three MSS were presented together but their separate parts were differentiated by their names as their contents were presented.
Burgon also noted that a Latin translation of Victor's Commentary was published by Theodore Peltanus in 1580 (under a lengthy title which began, "Victoris Antiocheni in Marcum, et Titi Bostrorum Episcopi in Evangelium Lucae commentarii"). In addition, in 1840, J. A. Cramer published the Greek text of Victor's Commentary based on two very closely related MSS in the Paris Library (MSS #186 and #188), supplemented by a few other MSS. Burgon criticized the text that appeared in Cramer's edition, expressing a doubt that Cramer had ever actually inspected the MSS at the Paris Library in person. But the thing to see is what Burgon observed about the relationship between Peltanus' Latin text and Cramer's Greek text: "the Latin version of Peltanus (1580), represents the same Greek text which Possinus gave to the world in 1673. Peltanus translates very loosely; in fact he paraphrases rather than translates his author, and confesses that he has taken great liberties with Victor's text. But I believe it will be found that there can have been no considerable discrepancy between the MS. which Peltanus employed, and that which Possinus afterwards published."
Burgon also noted, "There seem to be only a few lines in Possinus, here and there, which are not to be met with in Cramer." That is a helpful note, because Cramer's "Catenae" collection is available online at Google Books.
Burgon proceeded to note that when he examined the contents of the copies of Victor's commentary, he noticed that there is extensive variation not just small textual variants, but whole sections are omitted; new material is added; passages are transposed; paraphrasing abounds. Burgon proposed that these features might be explained, in part, by the freedom of transcribers that was begotten by an awareness that Victor's commentary was essentially a compilation, which they felt free to supplement, condense, and otherwise shape at will.
When Burgon examined MS 304, this is how he described it: "The text of S. Mark is here interwoven with a Commentary which I do not recognize. But from the correspondence of a note at the end with what is found in Possinus, pp. 361-3, I am led to suspect that the contents of this MS. will be found to correspond with what Possinus published and designated as "Tolosanus."" In other words, Burgon noticed that the note at the end of MS 304 (which = the note at the end of Mark) corresponds to the contents of the transcript of the Toulouse MS which Possinus had published in 1673.
Now we turn to Hort's comments in "Notes on Select Readings," pp. 34-35. (Hort, it should be remembered, believed that Victor of Antioch was not the author of the note that refers to the claim in "Ad Marinum" about the absence of vv. 9-20 in almost all MSS, and which proceeds to state that the passage was found in a Palestinian exemplar, which the author seems to have regarded in such high esteem that he favored its contents over Eusebius' opinion and over whatever MSS he knew of which ended at verse 8.) After commenting on Victor's (Pseudo-Victor's, as Hort saw it) statement overruling Eusebius in favor of a Palestinian exemplar, Hort said something about the text of the Toulouse MS published by Poussin: "The third commentary printed by Poussin comes likewise to an end at v. 8 in the Toulouse MS employed by him. But it is not yet known whether other MSS attest a similar text; and at all events the Toulouse scholia are here almost identical with those that are attributed to Theophylact, which certainly cover vv. 9-20."
Let's put things together: Burgon noticed that the note at the end of Mark in 304 corresponds to the note at the end of Possinus' Toulouse MS. Hort noticed that the note at the end of Possinus' Toulouse MS is almost identical to a comment attributed to Theophylact, and that in the work in which that comment appears, Theophylact proceeds to comment upon verses 9-20.
Here, taken from Appendix E of Burgon's "The Last 12 Verses of Mark" (1871), are the first few sentences of the concluding note of Victor's commentary:
EI DE KAI TO "ANASTAS DE PRWI PRWTW SABBATOU EFANH PRWTON MARIA TH MAGDALHNH," KAI TA EXHS EPIFEROMENA, EN TW KATA MARKON EUAGGELIW PARA PLEISTOIS ANTIGRAFOIS OU KEINTAI, (WS NOQA GAR ENOMISAN AUTA TINES EINAI) ALL' HMEIS EX AKRIBWN ANTIGRAFWN, WS EN PLEISTOIS EURONTES AUTA, KATA TO PALAISTINAION EUAGGELION MARKOU . . .
Let's dig up Cramer's "Catenae" and turn to p. 447. The last paragraph of commentary there begins as follows: (I'm typing quickly so beware of typos)
EI DE KAI TO, "ANASTAS DE PRWI" META TA EPIFEROMENA PARA PLEISTOIS ANTIGRAFOIS OU KEINTAI EN TW PARONTI EUAGGELIW, WS NOQA NOMISANTES AUTA EINAI, ALL' HMEIS EX AKRIBWN ANTIGRAFWN EN PLEISTOIS EURONTES AUTA, KAI KATA TO PALAISTINAION EUAGGELION, WS ECEI H ALHQEIA MARKOU . . .
If only that told us something about what is written in the commentary on the last page of MS 304! The thing to compare, if we could see that, would not be Victor's commentary alone, though; we should compare it whatever Theophylact wrote about the passage.
In a postscript to Appendix B in the same book, Burgon provides a passage from Theophylact, illustrating the truth of Hort's statement that Theophylact addresses vv. 9-20
ANASTAS DE O IHSOUS. ENTAUQA STIXON, EITA EIPE. PRWI PRWTH SABBATOU EFANH MARIA TH MAGDALHNH. OU GAR ANESTH PRWI. (TIS GAR OIDE POTE ANESTH;) ALL' EFANH PRWI KURIAKH HMERA (AUTH GAR H PRWTH TOU SABBATOU, TOUTESTI, THS EBDOMADOS,) HN ANW EKALESE MIAN SABBATWN.
Burgon adds a note that Theophylact is reproducing Eusebius' comments in "Ad Marinum."
We have further to dig before reaching entirely solid conclusions, but when these aspects of the evidence are considered together, MS 304 increasingly appears not to be a genuine witness to a text of Mark ending at 16:8. It seems very likely that its text of Mark ends at 16:8 due to some accident.
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.