Mark 16:9-20 and Ariston the Elder
I think the trend was a bad case of Discovery Fever.
Aristion is named by Papias (as cited in Eccl. Hist. III:39), and a character named Ariston is featured in the "Acts of Peter," and in Apostolic Constitutions 7:4, the list of the early bishops of Smyrna beging, "Aristo the first, after whom Strataeas the son of Lois, and the third Aristo." So he's in the right time, and might have been in the right place (in Puteoli and Rome, before venturing to Smyrna), to attach 16:9-20 to the end of 16:8.
But I think the "Of Ariston the Elder" interlinear note in Armenian MS Matenadaran 2374 descends from an exemplar that contained the note in the margin alongside 16:18. Why would anyone place such a note there? To answer a question raised by an ambiguity in the translation of Eccl. Hist. III:39. Eus wrote, "Papias, their contemporary, recalls that he heard an amazing story from Philip's daughters, for he reports that in his day a man rose from the dead, and another amazing story involving Justus, who was surnamed Barsabbas: he drank a deadly poison and yet by the grace of the Lord suffered nothing unpleasant."
Did Papias get the story about Justus' poison-drinking from the daughters of Philip, or from someone else? Initially Eus says that Papias recalls that he heard ONE story from Philip's daughters, but he proceeds to summarize TWO stories.
Philip of Side assumed that Papias got the story about Justus from the daughters of Philip; he states, "Papias recorded, on the authority of the daughters of Philip, that Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, drank the poison of a snake in the name of Christ when put to the test by the unbelievers and was protected from all harm. He also records other amazing things, in particular one about Manaim's mother, who was raised from the dead."
But readers of Rufinus' Latin translation of Eccl. Hist. might have gotten a different impression. Theodore Zahn mentioned "a marginal gloss to Rufinus' translation of Eusebius, H.E. iii. 39.9, though inserted by a later hand, which connects Aristion's name with the story taken by Eusebius from Papias, that Justus, called Barsabbas (Acts i. 23), once drank a deadly poison, but was preserved by the grace of the Lord from all harmful effects." Zahn's statement, made in 1909, intrigued C. R. Williams, who checked Zahn's reference, or, rather, he had it checked by J. Vernon Bartlet, who personally examined this manuscript (a Bodleian MS of Rufinus, "MSS 2. and Miscell. 294"). (This reference is not altogether clear to me, but it's all I've got.)
Bartlet deduced that Zahn was dependent upon a statement by Conybeare, and that Conybeare had seen the words "Quod Justus qui et Barsabas venenum biberit nihilque ex hoc triste pertulerit" in the margin "over against the name of Aristion," and that Conybeare had, on this basis, inferred a link between this statement and Aristion.
"But," continued Bartlet, "the position 'over against' Aristion is a mere accident, due to the fact that there is no room on the inner margin of the Ms. (which is written in 2 columns), where it should come, for the marginal note to be inserted. Hence it comes opposite the name of Aristion, which though a good deal earlier in the text, is in fact parallel (to the matter in question) in the other column. There are similar cases which I have observed elsewhere. Thus the inference was a mistake of Conybeare's, and the observation is of no historical value." (Cf. Williams' 1915 "Appendices" essay.)
I'm not sure I follow Bartlet's reasoning, but I think he means that the note in the margin is just a relocated heading to draw attention to the material in the farther-away column, and that its placement near Ariston's name is merely coincidental. (It's hard to picture Conybeare misinterpreting this, though. Perhaps there is some other clarifying feature in the Rufinus MS??)
Whether the person who placed that note in the Rufinus MS meant to connect Ariston to the Justus-story or not, an Armenian scribe could understand Eccl. Hist. to mean that Papias got the story about a resurrection from Philip's daughters, and the Justus-story from somewhere else. From where? Considering the rest of what Eccl. Hist. preserves from Papias, Aristion would be a natural guess.
If the exemplar of Matenadaran 2374 had "Ariston the Elder" written next to 16:18, the note could be transferred to between the lines after 16:8 by a scribe who (a) was aware that 16:9-20 was questioned, and (b) made the leap that the note in his exemplar was intended to refer to the entire questioned passage, rather than as a cross-reference intended to show the fulfillment of 16:18.
(Something similar could have happened if the interlinear rubric was added later, by an Armenian scribe who had nothing to do with the production of Matenadaran 2374, if "Ariston the elder" was similarly present in some other master-copy, as a cross-reference to 16:18, and this note in this other copy was the basis for his assumption that Ariston was the author of the ending.)
Yours in Christ,
James Snapp, Jr.