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Ben Withington Is Not Making Sense (imho)

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  • james_snapp_jr
    At http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/02/18/evidence-of-mutilation-and-deterioration-mk-16/ Ben Witherington III has written some strange
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 22, 2012
      Ben Witherington III has written some strange sentences.

      Using, as illustrations of the point he is trying to convey, pictures of the recto-page of P46 that contains II Cor. 11:33-12:9 and the recto-page from P66 that contains John 11:31-11:37, Ben states, "Greek is a language read left to right, and so the extreme right of a document would often be left exposed to the elements. The results are readily apparent. One loses the end of the document."

      Huh? One could similarly teach, with pictures of verso-illustrations to illustrate the point, that it is the extreme *left* of a document that would be left exposed to the elements. What caused the right edges of those recto-pages to deteriorate worse than the left edges is not the fact that they are on the /right/, but that they are on the /outer/ edge of the manuscript.

      How does that observation – which is true of the outer edges of any codex that lacks a protective cover or case – yield the conclusion that one loses the end of a document?

      Ben then says: "I remain utterly unconvinced by the arguments that Mark 16.8 is the original ending of that Gospel." I'm totally with him on this point. But then he says, "It seems quite likely the ending of Mark was lost due to deterioration as with the papyri shown above. If for example p46 is a guide, we can well account for the loss of say 10 lines or so of script in the final column of the Gospel, just enough for a version of Mt. 28.9-10 and an edited form of the appearance to men and women in Galilee later in Mt. 28."

      Can anyone make sense of that for me? How does P46 shed any light whatsoever on the format of the text in the autograph of Mark? And how, if the text of Mark initially included the sort of ending that Ben describes, and if the text of Mark with that ending was disseminated widely enough for Matthew to obtain a copy that contained it, how did it become extinct? Did *all* the extant copies experience the same sort of loss of the final page or pages??

      Then: "The second and later century additions such as the Freer logion, or the long ending (16.9ff.) were attempts in the early church to supply an ending because the church recognized Mark 16.8 couldn't have been the ending." The Freer Logion was an attempt to supply an ending?? Shouldn't that be, rather, the Freer Logion was an attempt to supplement an already-existing ending (namely, 16:9-20)?

      No explanation or defense is given for his statement that Mark 16:9-20 is a second-century addition. He just moves along to say, "Of course this is bad news for the KJV only/Majority Texters, but good news for Protestants in snake handling Kentucky, as it means that those verses about snake handling and drinking poison are not an original part of the inspired text of Mark's Gospel."

      Waitasecond –- how exactly did we get from "Deterioration caused a loss of text in P46 and P66, on the right-hand side" to "Therefore the people in Appalachia can stop handling snakes"?

      It almost seems as if Ben is arguing that one of the reasons for advocating the removal of Mark 16:9-20 is that the text of Mark, minus 16:18, is less embarrassing. Is that a new canon: "prefer the less embarrassing reading"? Is that the real force behind the current push to reject passages such as Mark 16:9-20 and First Corinthians 14:34-35?

      There's more: he states, "If Mk. 16.9ff. is not an original part of Mark's Gospel, which it surely is not, then it shouldn't be in our English translations."

      He sounds pretty sure of that. Then again, he seems pretty sure in his commentary when he tells his readers that Codex Alexandrinus does not contain Mark 16:9-20 (which is not true), and that "Eusebius and Jerome both tell us these verses were absent from all Greek copies known to them" (which is not true), and that "a few Old Latin, Syriac, Sahidic, Ethiopian, and Bohairic" copies contain only the Short Ending after 16:8 (which is not true), and that "the earliest patristic support for this reading is Irenaeus" (which is not true).

      And, as he closes, Ben says: "Final note— Mk. 16.9-20 is probably too long anyway, to have fit at the end and bottom of the final column of Mark's Gospel if it was written in a fair hand in majuscule, or even if it was written in minuscule Greek script."

      This last statement really puzzles me. Whatever can that possibly mean?? Is he suggesting something about the autograph of Mark?? Can anyone here explain this to me?

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
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