Pericope Adulterae: Outside the Box

    In Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman writes this concerning John 7:53-8:12, “Despite the brilliance of the story, its captivating quality, and its inherent intrigue, there is one other enormous problem that it poses.  As it turns out, it was not originally in the Gospel of John.  In fact, it was not originally part of any of the Gospels.  It was added by later scribes.  How do we know this? In fact, scholars who work on the manuscript tradition have no doubts about this particular case…:  the story is not found in our oldest and best manuscripts of the gospel of John; its writing style is very different from what we find in the rest of John (including the stories immediately before and after); and it includes a large number of words and phrases that are otherwise alien to the Gospel.  The conclusion is unavoidable:  this passage was not originally part of the Gospel.” (1)  In answering this, let us take a look at textual criticism before we dive into discussing the various claims of Ehrman’s statement. 

     The science of textual criticism seeks to restore the original autographs of the New Testament.  As such, the critic invested in this science must believe that such an endeavor is possible.  If it is impossible, then textual criticism ceases to have importance and becomes an extreme exercise in futility.  Who, but a madman, would seek to restore something that he believed was impossible to restore?  So, the critics, in order to continue his endeavors in the science, must somewhere, perhaps deep down in the hidden recesses of the soul, must believe that the original text is attainable.  We have seen this with Dr. Ehrman and noted it already. The point here is this. Despite all the data we have regarding the New Testament, and it is a substantial amount of data (more than any other book in the history of humanity), we still lack the most crucial piece of evidence pertaining to what was in the originals.  Mainly, the originals themselves remain aloof.  Again, in order for the textual critic to say that “this or that passage is not in the originals” is a statement made in arrogance.  We can say that, “according to all the present data that we posses, this or that passage of scripture may be suspect of a later interpolation.  But to say, flat out, that it wasn’t in the original is to say that one has complete knowledge, from beginning to end, of all that is included in the original.  This is the only way to make a complete and absolute statement about the original.  To date, this remains impossible. Hence, here, like with the defense of the Marcan appendix, the attempt will be to mount another plausible defense to the woman caught in adultery (or the Pericope Adulterae as it is often called and abbreviated as PA.  For brevity sake, we will use PA when referring to it from here forward).  It is our supposition that a full and exhaustive view of the data has not been completed by Dr. Ehrman.  It is our opinion that this review will allow for its placement within the canon of scripture.  Additionally, it is our position that to completely axe it from the text, as “Ehrman seems to imply, is, to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water.  The fact that the Editorial Committee of the United bible Societies of the Greek New Testament headed by Bruce Metzger (who is largely considered the most celebrated textual critic of our time) states, “Although the Committee was unanimous that the periscope was originally no part of the Fourth Gospel, in deference to the evident antiquity of the passage a majority decided to print it, enclosed within double square brackets, at its traditional place following John 7:5” (2) demonstrates that they were responsible enough scholars to agree with what I’m saying here.  We will examine the manuscript evidence for and against PA.  We will also view the writing styles comparatively, and lastly, we will consider whether the incident actually occurred in history and, if so, it is reliable.

 

Manuscripts/External Evidence

     The manuscript evidence against PA is colossal to say the least.  It is the primary piece of evidence that textual critics use to “toss out” the section.  Bruce Metzger writes, “The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the periscope of the adulteress is overwhelming.  It is absent from such early and diverse manuscripts as P66, 75 a B L N T W X Y D Q Y 0141 0211 22 33 124 157 209 788 828 1230 1241 1242 1253 2193 al. Codices A and C are defective in this part of John, but it is highly probable that neither contained the periscope, for careful measurement discloses that there would not have been space enough on the missing leaves to include the section along with the rest of the text.  In the East the passage is absent from the oldest form of the Syraic version, as well as the Sahidic and the sub-Achmimic versions and the older Bohairic manuscripts.  Some Armenian manuscripts and the Old Georgian version omit it.  In the West the passage is absent from the Gothic version and form several Old Latin manuscripts.  No Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (twelfth century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declare that the accurate copies of the Gospel do not contain it.” (3) SHEW!!  WOW!!  If we just took this at face value, and it is very impressive, we might just close the case on it, get out our scissors and systematically remove it from our gospels (even if this were the case, it would change nothing of major Christian doctrine).  However, it is not the end of the story.  There are some manuscripts that do contain it.  Again Metzger, “At the same time the account has all the earmarks of historical veracity.  It is obviously a piece of oral tradition which circulated in certain parts of the Western church and which was subsequently incorporated into various manuscripts at various places.  Most copyists apparently thought that it would interrupt John’s narrative least if it were inserted after 7.52 (D E F G H K M U G 28 P 700 892 al) others placed it after 7.36 (ms 225) or after 7.44 (several Georgina mss.) or after 21.25 (1 55 1076 1570 1582 arm.mss) or after Luke 21.38 (f13).” (4)  Let’s re-cap what Dr. Metzger is saying.  He is taking the position that this is a piece of oral tradition that eventually found its way into the writing of scripture.  This is significant.  In a society, that Dr. Ehrman presents, as being largely illiterate, oral transmission was crucial for the transmission of actual sayings and events of Christ.  This means that this event, in all probability, did happen in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Thus, it may not have been included in the “originals” but nevertheless, deserves a place among them. Hence, many scribes thought to add it and were unsure of where to place it, as Dr. Metzger has pointed out.  Simply because it is not in the same place in all manuscripts, missing from the majority, and appears in different places and at different times, does not mean that it has no place in the canon of scripture.  I would like to ask textual critics to think outside of the box in regards to this passage and regards to this evidence.  PA is certainly unlike any other piece of New Testament scripture.  Perhaps an overall review of this data would permit, if not justify, its continued placement in scripture.  As well as, continuing its right to be seen as an authoritative piece of scripture.  Before leaving the external evidence of manuscripts, I would like to draw our attention to the placement of PA at Luke 21.38.

     The placement of PA in Luke is contained in a group of manuscripts called family 13 or f13.  “In 1868, a professor of Latin at Dublin University, William Hugh Ferrar, discovered that four medieval manuscripts, namely 13, 69, 124, and 346, were closely related textually.  His collations were published posthumously in 1877 by his friend and colleague, T.K. Abbott.  It is known today that this group (the Ferrar group) comprises about a dozen members (including manuscripts 230, 543, 788, 826, 983, 1689, and 1709).  They were copied between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries and are descendants of an archetype that came either from Calabira in southern Italy or from Sicily.” (5)  Kurt and Barbara Aland describes this family as a category III uncial.  This means “Manuscripts of a distinctive character with an independent text, usually important for establishing the original text, but particularly important for the history of the text.” (6)  This tells us that the Greek text that was preserved here in f 13 represented an independent work from the regions in Italy.  This means that there were not any other manuscripts around from which to compare their text.  Hence, it is preserved without much change.  Indeed, “There were of course Greek-speaking enclaves which continued to thrive and preserve their texts well in the medieval period, e.g. in Italy (cf. the manuscript groups of f1 and f 13 which developed in southern Italy).” (7)  What we may be seeing here is an ancient saying that has been preserved for centuries through a largely isolated text.  Given that it was originally a saying, and then preserved in the text in various places, f 13 demonstrates this but it also demonstrates that is can be traced to an ancient root.  Dr. Bart Ehrman explains to us how this makes a manuscript reliable.  He writes, “In terms of logic, suppose a manuscript of the fifth century has one reading, but a manuscript of the eight century ahs a different one.  Is the reading from in the fifth-century manuscript necessarily the older form of the text?  No, not necessarily.  What if the firth-century manuscript had been produced from a copy of the fourth century but the eighth-century manuscript had been produced from one of the third century? In that case, the eight-century manuscript would preserve the older reading.” (8)  Perhaps that is what we are seeing here with f13 and PA.

     While the manuscript evidence appears to be overwhelming, we have here answered that it is largely absent from the oldest and earliest manuscripts because of its early oral transmission.  At some point, it was included into the scripture as authentic only the scribes were unsure of where to place it.  So, the massive case against PA doesn’t quite seem so massive when it is viewed in this context.  This theory is “outside the box” for most textual critics, but then again, real life human events that bear marks of actual history occasionally don’t fit inside of the boxes of Academia.  Many will, but some will not.  PA doesn’t fit in the box.  Does this mean that it should be axed from the text?  I think not. 

Are There Differences in Style and who was the Author?

          The data concerning the internal evidence is somewhat stronger.  There has recently been a surge of scholarship that has discerned the internal evidence in favor of PA.  I think the motivating factor behind this is the desire to show some justification for keeping it in the text despite all the external evidence against it.  No question, that it is a piece of oral tradition really, the question becomes is it reliable oral transmission as it was transmitted at the time or shortly thereafter of Jesus.  Stylistic differences here should demonstrate that the oral transmission is reliable. It style, content, and vocabulary are all strikingly similar to the other gospels.  Hence, it would appear that this oral transmission is historically reliable and it deserves a place in the canon as an actual saying and happening in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Hence, we will demonstrate the similarities, in this section, between PA and the gospels, in particular, John.

     There are 12-15 words used in PA that are found nowhere else in John.  Most of these can be reconciled to the distinction of this occurrence.  Specifically, the vocabulary is different because of the content, being solely a Jewish occurrence and John’s frequent use of language from the Septuagint.  Many of those words are used in the Septuagint and are used here.  For example, the Greek phrase, panti laos is used in this section meaning, “all of the people.” This is the only occurrence of this phrase in John.  (Normally John uses the more common oclos meaning “the crowd).  However,  laos is the common designation used in the Septuagint describing the Jewish people.  Most of the words used here can have a similar explanation.  None of them are earth shattering as far as the case for validity is concerned. It should also be pointed out here that 26 of John’s favorite phrases are used in this section.  That almost 50 percent frequency of the phrases in the section are the favorites of John.  This is particularly compelling.  

     As far as literary patters, Heil has four similarities with the rest of the gospel of John.  He identifies, ‘The Narrator Asides in John 8 and also in John 6.”  Meaning, that the narrator will interrupt the story to give us “aside” comments and details.  Secondly, the phrase, “to throw a stone” is used twice in John 8, once in PA and then later in the chapter.  Thirdly, “Teaching in the Temple” occurs in John 7 and also in John 8.  On a side note, it seems to fit nicely here in the section that details the Feast of Tabernacles.  There would’ve been a huge crowd in Jerusalem as this is one of the commanded pilgrimages.  This may also account for John’s use of os in describing “the people” meaning God’s people who have obediently come up for the feast.  Heil also identifies, the phrase “sin no longer” as being used in PA as well in John 5:14.  All these suggest Johanine similarities, if not, authorship. (9). Another wonderful work concerning the internal evidence supporting PA is done by J.D. Punch.  It is exhaustive and won’t be given in detail here.  However, the reader is referred to his work for further details.  However, we will quote his conclusion here.  He states, “The internal evidence of vocabulary and style may not be as much of a hindrance to belief that Pericope Adulterae is Johannine as at first imagined.  In fact, the evidence actually tends to point in favor of Johannine authorship in many cases.” (10)

    Another possibility is that Luke was the author.  Here is some of the evidence that supports Luke as the author.  (Remember that it is found in Luke in some manuscripts)  My point in including it here is only to validate the oral transmission as reliable.  What I mean is that it has striking similarities to other pieces of scripture which validates its place in the canon.  Here is some of the evidence:

    • The inclusion of the story in some mss. of Luke.
    • The use of unique Lukan or Synoptic vocabulary:
      • orthros (“early” — John 8:2; Luke 24:1, Acts 5:21
      • “all the people” (John 8:2; appears almost 20 times in Luke-Acts, but only 5 times in Mark and Matthew together)
      • paraginomai (“appear” — John 8:2; appears over two dozen times in Luke-Acts, but only 3 times in Matt, once in Mark, and once elsewhere in John)
      • kategoros (“accusers” — found elsewhere only in Acts, 5 times)
      • suneideis (“conscience” — found only here, and twice in Acts)
      • “Mount of Olives”, “scribes and Pharisees”, “eldest” (8:1, 8:3, 8:9) — unique to the Synoptics, other than here in John
    • The story fits well with Luke’s special interest in women. (11)

     At the end of the day, authorship by an apostle doesn’t necessarily qualify the passage as original.  It is possible that PA existed as oral tradition until John penned his gospel, which is the latest of the four, and then he included it.  It is also possible that Luke, by his own admission, collected the account; likewise from oral tradition, and had difficulty placing it somewhere.  It is also possible that a later scribe inserted it recognizing it as a genuine and trustworthy piece of information.  Either way, it seems appropriate that PA deserves a place among the canon.

Historical Evidence

        We have already quoted that Metzger believed that PA was a historical event.  He writes, “It is obviously a piece of oral tradition which circulated in certain parts of the Western church.” (12)  Additionally, FF Bruce had a similar opinion in regards to PA.  He writes, “They constitute, in fact, a fragment of authentic gospel material not originally included in any of the four Gospels.  Its preservation (for which we should be thankful) is due to the fact that it was inserted at what seemed to be a not inappropriate place in the Gospel of John and Luke.” (13) Both of these, trustworthy scholars considered tops in their fields, regard PA as historically reliable.  We could stop here and take their expert testimony on the matter.  However, let’s dive a little deeper into how they drew their conclusions.

     Perhaps the oldest piece of information comes from Papias through Eusebius.  Papias tells his methods for collecting data and it fits well with the oral transmission of PA.  Papias states, “But if I met with anyone who had been a follower of the elders anywhere, I made it a point to inquire what the declarations of the elders were.  What was said by Andrew, Peter or Philip?  What by Thomas, James, John, Matthew, or any other of the disciples of our Lord.  What was said by Aristion, and the presbyter John, disciples of the Lord; for I do not think that I derived so much benefit from books as from the living voice of those that are still surviving.”(14)  (So much for Ehrman’s theory that early Christianity was a “religion of the book”, it was a religion of experience and of oral transmission, (because the society was largely illiterate) as Papias tells us.)  This witness tells us that Papias would’ve been very familiar with the oral transmissions of the first century.  He is dated at about 100 AD.  Eusebius points to Papias knowledge of PA.  He writes, “The same author (Papias) made use of testimonies from the first epistle of John and likewise from that of Peter.  He also gave another history of a woman who had been accused of many sins before the Lord, which was also contained in the gospel according to the Hebrews.” (15)  If he is referring to PA, this is awesome evidence in support of the passage.  First, it is very early, around 100 AD.  Second, it tells us that by the time of Papias, it was already considered authoritative and being placed in the writings.  Lastly, this makes PA a historically reliable gem as the oral transmission and the writing would have occurred within perhaps a few as 30 years from the events that it describes.  Unprecedented as historically reliable in the history of antiquity!

Conclusion

       It has been my attempt here to present PA outside of the box.  Why?  Because it is unlike any other piece of scripture and it really is “outside” the box if we are going to consider all of the evidence.  It is not listed among the ancient manuscripts and yet textual critics and historians consider it a reliable oral transmission.  It turns up in an isolated manuscript in Luke that point to an early origin.  It is very historically reliable by the testimony of Papias.  Finally, there is evidence to suggest that either John or Luke composed PA.  Considering all this, should we follow Ehrman’s implied suggestion that is should not be considered authoritative simply because it is not in the oldest and reliable manuscripts.  If we just looked at the manuscript evidence alone, this might be the case.  However, if we step outside the box and consider PA from a more holistic approach, we can see that it does deserve a place of authority in the canon of scripture.  In my opinion, to simply axe it or to relegate it to some insignificance because of the manuscript evidence would be at best, irresponsible and short-sided scholarship, and at worst, biased to support a skeptical view of scripture. 

 

Endnotes

  1.  Ehrman, Bart, Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Harper Collins Pub, New York, NY, 2005, page 64-65.
  2. Metzger, Bruce, A Textual Commentary on The Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, USA, Second Edition, 1971, page 189.
  3. Ibid, page 187-188.
  4. Ibid, page 188-189.
  5. Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 87. Emphasis added is my own.
  6. Aland, Kurt, and Aland, Barbara, The Text of the New Testament, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, second edition, 1981, page 106. Emphasis added is my own
  7. Ibid, page 68.
  8. Ehrman, Bart, MJ, page 129.
  9. Heil, J.P.  “The story of Jesus and the Adulteress Reconsidered” as viewed on line at”  http://adultera.awardspace.com/INT-EV/Heil1.html.
  10. Punch, J.D.  The Pericope Adulterae: Theories of Insertion & Omission ,  as viewed on line at:  http://adultera.awardspace.com/AB/Punch1.html.
  11. Author unknown, Is John 8 Genuine?  As viewed on line @:  http://www.tektonics.org/af/adulterypericope.html.
  12. Ibid, Metzger, TCGNT.
  13. Bruce, F.F., The Gospel and Epistles of John, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1983, page 413.
  14. Cruse, C.F. “Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History” Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass., 2003, third printing, book 3: 39:14-16, page, 104.
  15. Ibid, page 106.
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A Defense for the Marcan Appendix

Preface:  A Brief Observation on Textual Criticism

           Before we dive into the issue of the Marcan appendix, I would like to step back for a minute and consider the science of textual criticism.  In a nutshell, the science is geared towards reproducing the most original text as possible.  One thing is certain about this, many have said that they have done it, (including Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort) only to have their work updated at a later time.  Hence, we have not, as of yet, discovered the original autographs.  This point is substantial.  We can have a pretty good idea of what the originals looked like, and we can say that the major doctrines of Christianity have remained to this day, but we cannot say, “Here is the original text!”  On that day, the science of textual criticism would cease to be necessary and subsequently become extinct.  In light of the fact that we have not the originals, a note of caution is in order.  What is it that we are saying when we say, “This or that piece of scripture was not in the originals.”  On the surface, critics toss this around all the time.  I would point out that this is an extremely arrogant statement.  Why?  In order to make this statement with absolute certainty, the proclaimer is saying that he has actually seen the originals and has traversed them from beginning to end and can tell you beyond all reason that this or that piece of scripture is absent in the original autographs.  Since no one has ever seen the originals in our day, at best, that statement is conjecture.  Even if it is based upon pretty good data, it is still conjecture.  Simply put, no one really knows what the originals say, in their entirety, because they have yet to be recovered so any assessment of what is or is not in them, is at best a hypothesis.   They may even be making this assumption on really good data that is currently possessed.  However, there is one crucial piece of data that is missing.  The original.  Coming to the piece of scripture at hand, the majority of textual critics will tell us that this is not included in the originals.  In Misquoting Jesus, Dr. Ehrman agrees with them.  He tells us this to throw doubt on the character of scripture.  Was this section in the originals?  Perhaps not.  It is possible that it was included in the original and got lost.  It is the point of this article to be a voice in the opposite direction of most textual critics.  Why?  To, at least, make a plausible case, beyond a reasonable doubt, that to toss it out completely, might be hasty.  The fact that Jerome, who doubted its inclusion, kept it in the Vulgate demonstrates that he, like me, may have been thinking along these lines.  Furthermore, every major translation of the scripture to date includes it in their manuscripts, even if a footnote identifies it as “suspect.”  This demonstrates that many translators, like me, may be thinking along these lines.  So, having said that, let me decry an “apologia”, a defense for the Marcan appendix.

 

A Summary of the Evidence against It

       Crucial objections have been raised regarding the authenticity of the “Marcan appendix”.  The argument attempts to weaken the case for the appendix by attacking the authorship, mainly, that Mark did not write it and it was a later interpolation into the text.  Secondly, it is not found in the oldest of the New Testament manuscripts. Thirdly, the writing style varies from what we have seen in Mark previously.  Lastly, Eusebius and Jerome question its authenticity.

                                                                              Authorship

      Many scholars question rather Mark really wrote this part of the gospel. The case for Marcan authorship is linked to its inclusion in the gospel as a whole.  That is, despite the differences in style and lack of inclusion in the oldest manuscripts (which we will discuss in a minute) Mark did actually write the appendix and it was included in his gospel.  To begin with, Papias, an early church father from around 125 AD, quotes an earlier church father, John the Presbyter, who could have been an elder at the church of Ephesus.  Papias tells us that this was his practice.  He says, “But if I met with anyone who had been a follower of the elders anywhere, I made it a point to inquire what the declarations of the elders were.  What was said by Andrew, Peter or Philip?  What by Thomas, James, John, Matthew, or any other of the disciples of our Lord.  What was said by Aristion, and the presbyter John, disciples of the Lord; for I do not think that I derived so much benefit from books as from the living voice of those that are still surviving.” (1) Regarding what he learned about Marcan authorship of the gospel, he states, “And John the Presbyter also said this, Mark being the interpreter of Peter whatsoever he recorded he wrote with great accuracy but not however, in the order in which it was spoken or done by our Lord, for he neither heard nor followed our Lord, but as before said, he was in company with Peter, who gave him such instruction as was necessary, but not to give a history of our Lord’s discourses; wherefore, Mark has not erred in anything, by writing some things as he has recorded them; for he was carefully attentive to one thing, not to pass by anything that he heard, or to state anything falsely in these accounts.” (2) This testimony may account for why the transition seems somewhat awkward.(another point we will come to later)  The appendix may have been written earlier, by Mark, then inserted at this particular place when Mark was editing and piecing together his gospel.  Additionally, this testimony dates the gospel before the time that the church at Ephesus had ceased. This makes the date for Mark very earlier.  Additionally, Eusebius testifies of Marcan authorship of the gospel.  He writes, “So greatly, however, did the splendor of piety enlighten the minds of Peter’s hearers that it was not sufficient to hear but once, nor to receive the unwritten doctrine of the gospel of God, but they persevered in every variety of entreaties to solicit Mark as the companion of Peter, and whose Gospel we have, that he should leave them a monument in writing of the doctrine thus orally communicated.  Nor did they cease their solicitations until they had prevailed with the man and thus became the means of that history which is called the gospel according to Mark…This account is given by Clement in the sixth book of his Institutions…” (3) Additionally, Ireanus testifies of Marcan authorship in his “Against Heresies.” He writes, “After their departure [of Peter and Paul from earth], Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.” (4)  Hence, we see that the unanimous testimony of history declares that Mark is the author of the gospel.  Subsequently, if the appendix was in the gospel, it would have been written by Mark.  Also, the style of Mark seems to match the style of Peter’s speech in Acts, so that Mark wrote down the teachings of Peter seems to also be accurate.  Lastly, if Mark wrote sections of the gospel and then pieced them together, as Papias tells us, this may account for why it is missing in the older manuscripts (which we will discuss later) and why the transition seems awkward. (Again, we will discuss this later) 

 

Manuscript Evidence

     The external evidence for the inclusion of the Marcan appendix in Mark’s original is massive.  Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones writes, “The external evidence is massive.  Not only is the Greek manuscript attestation ratio over 600 to 1 in support of the verses (99.99%)-around 8,000 Latin mss about 1,000 Syriac versions as well as all the over 2,000 known Greek Lectionaries contain the verses.” (5)  Even those who would not include it in the canon will admit this fact.  However, manuscript evidence comes against the appendix because the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.  The two principle witnesses are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanas.  Many scholars reject the Marcan appendix because it is not found in these two manuscripts.  However, Dr. Jones has an interesting comment about the missing section.  He writes, “Further, the Vatican MSS has a blank space exactly the six required to include the 12 verses at the end of the 16th chapter.  The scribe who prepared B obviously knew of the existence of the verses and their precise content.  Indeed, as Tischendorf observed, Sinaiticus exhibit’s a different handwriting and ink on this page, and there is a change in spacing and size of the individual letter in an attempt to fill up the void left by the removal of the verses.” (6)  So, it would appear that the scribe writing these oldest and most reliable manuscripts knew of their existence.  In addition, the Nelson Study Bible Commentary states:   “The authenticity of these last twelve verses has been disputed.  Those who doubt Mark’s authorship of this passage point to two fourth-century manuscripts that omit these verses.  Others believe that they should be included because even these two manuscripts leave space for all or some of the verses, indication that their copyists knew of their existence.  ” (7) It is possible that the scribe who wrote these manuscripts left out the appendix.  If he had left them in place, the issue of the authenticity of this gospel would never be questioned.  Considering the fact that 99 percent of the manuscript evidence points to its inclusion and spaces were provided for its inclusion in the oldest and most reliable, the appendix does appear to have a place at the end of the gospel.  It does seem doubtful that Mark would end his gospel on a note of fear.  

     Finally, here is a graph that demonstrates the manuscript evidence:

 

In Favor of Mark 16:9-20

  • Codex Alexandrinus (A) – (5th c. uncial, Byzantine in Gospels)
  • Ephraemi Rescriptus (C) – (5th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis (D) – (5th/6th c. uncial, Western)
  • K (9th c. uncial, Byzantine)
  • W (5th c. uncial, generally thought to be Caesarean in Mark 5:31-16:20)
  • X (10th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • Delta (9th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • Theta (9th c. uncial, Caesarean)
  • Pi (9th c. uncial, Byzantine)
  • f1 and f13 (total of 16 Caesarean texts, 11th-14th c.)
  • 28 (11th c. minuscule, Caesarean)
  • 33 (9th c. minuscule, Alexandrian)
  • 565 (9th c. minuscule, Caesarean)
  • 700 (11th c. minuscule, Caesarean)
  • 892 (9th c. minuscule, Alexandrian)
  • 1010 (12th c. minuscule, Byzantine)
  • The Byzantine textual set
  • Some of the Greek lectionaries

Opposed to Mark 16:9-20

  • Codex Sinaiticus (À) – (4th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • Codex Vaticanus (B) – (4th c. uncial, Alexandrian)
  • 304 (12th c. minuscule, Byzantine)
  • 2386 (11th c. minuscule, Byzantine)
  • Most of the Greek lectionaries  (8)

A final note of manuscript evidence can be found.  One of the most important majuscule manuscripts was discovered in the twentieth century and is a codex of four gospels.  It dates form the late fourth century and even into the fifth.  It does contain the gospels in the, so called, Western order (That is Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark) It includes the Marcan appendix in a Caesarean format that resembles that of p45, 42, which are two of our oldest papyrus available.  This links our text to an ancient root.  Ehrman knows this because he writes in one of his books, “In the opinion of its editor, Henry A. Sanders, this stratification of different kinds of text is explained by the theory that the codex goes back to an ancestor made up of fragments from different manuscripts of the Gospels pieced together after the attempt of the Emperor Diocletian to crush Christianity by destroying its sacred books.” (9)

 

Church Fathers

 

     The evidence from the “fathers” against the appendix is twofold.  First, Eusebius and Jerome question its authenticity.  Secondly, Origen and Clement of Alexandria never quote from it, so they are silent regarding it.  Some will venture as far as to say that they “had never heard of it.”  Let’s take the fathers one at a time.

 

     Eusebius’ objection is noted mostly in “Questions to Marinum” where he reports that the appendix is missing from some manuscripts.  In this letter, he is attempting to answer a question regarding the harmonization of Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:9.  It is in this, that his objection is noted.  However, it should be pointed out that, “It should not be surprising that the manuscripts with which Eusebius would be familiar should largely lack the longer ending, as they were Alexandrian in origin, and in fact were probably closely related to Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which have been suggested by some to be actual original copies from among the fifty Eusebius prepared for Emperor Constantine in or around 315 AD.”(10) Regarding this, Metzger and Ehrman quote T.C. Skeat of the British Museum “has suggested that Codex Vaticanus was a ‘reject’ among the 50 copies for it is deficient in the Eusebian canon tables, has many corrections by different scribes, and…lacks the books of Macccabees, apparently through an oversight.” (11) This evidence really blows a hole in the objections to the appendix.  It offers a plausible explanation as to why it is missing from the “oldest and most reliable” manuscripts.  Now, coming back to how all this relates to Eusebius.  “Eusebius would likely have lacked much access to the wider catholic body of manuscripts available elsewhere in the Empire and which did contain the disputed ending, which were used by the likes of Irenaeus and Papias. Further, Eusebius’ objection is presented as one of two options for harmonization, with the other actually being an argument based upon punctuating Mark 16:9 in a certain way so as to attain what Eusebius considered to be sufficient harmonization. This suggests that Eusebius himself was not only aware of the ending, but that it also existed in a greater body of manuscripts than his prior statement would suggest, else he would likely have just dismissed the verses as false and been done with them altogether.” (12)  Thus passes the heaviest evidence against the appendix by a church father.  Let us now turn to Jerome.

 

     Jerome’s objections are basically an echo of Eusebius.  However, it should be noted that Jerome does quote from the appendix in some of his letters and, in fact, did include them in the Vulgate.  This is particularly compelling.  If Jerome had found them in no Greek manuscripts, how did he put them in the Vulgate?  It stands to reason that the appendix was in some of the manuscripts that he was using, or he never would’ve known about them to begin with.  Secondly, the appendix may have been missing from the Alexandrian texts, as we have previously noted, and this would also spark the similarity between Jerome’s comments and Eusebius.

 

     As far as Origen and Clement, the fact that they simply don’t quote from them doesn’t just make the appendix vanish.  All it tells us is, they didn’t quote from it.  It speaks nothing to the authenticity of the passage.  Now, let us turn our attention to the church fathers that do quote from it.  Please note the early date from which these fathers quote the appendix.  These quotes predate the manuscript evidence against it by two hundred years.  This bespeaks of a substantial amount of historically reliable evidence that the appendix existed and it was used as authoritative.

 

     Perhaps the earliest mention of it comes from Papias.  Please remember the quote above concerning how Papias got his information.  Papias makes reference to Mark 16:18 and this dates the authorship before 100 AD.  One must take into account that Mark had to write it, then it had to be circulated and then seen as authoritative by the early 100’s when Papias quotes from it.  Ireaneus quotes from it around 125 AD.  Tatian, in 172 AD arranged the gospels into a narrative called the Diatessnion that included the appendix. Justin Martyr, mid 100’s quotes from it.  Tertullian included it in his 2nd edition of the New Testament.  Vincentius of Thibris, Bishop of Carthage in 256 AD quotes from it.  Hippolytus died in 235 and he also quotes it.  Lastly, Aphrahat the Persina Sage who died in 345 AD also quotes from it.  All this evidence points to the fact that it was in existence and used as authoritative hundreds of years before our current oldest manuscripts existed.  These are only the references before the fourth century; there are many others afterwards that could be mentioned to support the passage as genuine. (13)

 

 

The Differences of Style (14)

 

     There are three distinct areas in which scholars debate the differences in style with the remainder of mark.  They are that of juncture, vocabulary, and phraseology.  Let’s examine them one at a time.

 

Juncture

 

     First, the objections in juncture are five.  First, there is an abrupt subject change in verse eight to verse nine.  In verse eight, the subject is the woman and in verse nine, it switches to Jesus.  This suggests a later interpolation.  Secondly, the other women of verses 1-8 are lost in the remaining verses of 9-20.  Again, it suggests a later addition.  Thirdly, Mary Magdalene is mentioned in verse 9 but is not mentioned in the previous verses.  Fourthly, the use of “auastas” and the position of “proton” are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive essay and are here added to the middle of a section.  This suggests that it was a literary work that was developed extensively and then inserted here at a later time.  Finally, use of the conjunction “gar” with a two word phrase is unique to this section.  Again, pointing to the difficulty of the flow of the narrative.  One at a time we will address these issues.

 

     To be sure, the transition is awkward and it cannot be imitated in Mark.  What I mean is that there is no other transition that has all five of these characteristics.  However, they are all characteristics that can be found in the gospel.  The first two features, that of the awkward shifts of subject, is frequently found in Mark.  It is noted in Mark 2:13; 6:45; 7:31; 8:1, and 14:3.  All of these transitions meet the first two conditions.  Thus, it is not unusual for Mark to make an abrupt shift of subject matter.

     As far as May Magdalene is concerned, the phraseology that, “he had cast seven demons out of her” is not an identifying phrase as much as it is providing additional information about Mary.  There were several Mary’s present in the section and this addition could’ve given some specific information making her as distinct from the Mary’s previously listed in the section.  Thus, it is flows with the first eight verses.  This type of style is found in mark 3:16, Mark 6:16, and Mark 7:26 where the subject is given some identifying factors despite the fact that they were not mentioned for several previous verses.

 

     The fourth objection is easily dismissed.   Mainly, that mark is not continuing from verse 8 but is beginning a new concluding section that begins with the resurrection.  Additionally, it could’ve been something that mark had written previously and then added to the end of the narrative from 1-8.  It seems that the previously mentioned testimony of Papias supports that fact that Mark wrote out his gospel in sections.  It is possible that the subject matter of the appendix, which covers the commissioning of the apostles, was one of the first sections penned by Mark and then he inserted it after finishing the remainder of the gospel.

 

    The fifth objection is also very valid.  Mainly, that Mark didn’t use the conjunction “gar” with any other two word sentences.  This is true.  However, Mark does use it in three word and four word sentences.  To throw out the section based upon a one word difference, might seem somewhat irresponsible.

 

Vocabulary

 

     There are three main objections to the vocabulary of the appendix.  First, there are 16 words that are used in the appendix that are not used elsewhere in the gospel.  Secondly, three of those words are used more than one in this section.  Finally, the section contains none of Mark’s favorite words such as “euqeus” and “palin” meaning “immediately” and “all” respectively.

 

     In all fairness, these objections are fairly strong.  However, it should be noted that 8 of the root words are used in other places in the gospel.  Additionally, 3 of the 16 words are only found in the gospel accounts that involve post-resurrection events.  But if this to be the test, than all other chapters of Mark should have vocabulary ratios that are substantially less than that of the appendix.  Is this the case?  No, in the section of Mark 15:40-16:4-21 such words are found that don’t match the remainder of Marks’ vocabulary either.  Should those sections be thrown out also?  No one seems to doubt its genuineness.  Therefore, the vocabulary issue while appearing profound on the surface seems to not be a legitimate litmus test to the legitimacy of a piece of scripture.

 

     As far as not containing Mark’s “favorite words,” not only do the last verses of Mark not contain them, that is, in the appendix, but neither do they appear in the last 53 verses of Mark.  Likewise, should those passages be tossed out because they lack the repetitive favorite phrases of the gospel author?  I think not

 

Problems of Phraseology

 

     The argument regarding phraseology consists of two parts.  First, eight phrases are used in this appendix that are not used elsewhere in Mark.  Secondly, the phrase “met autou genmenoi” meaning, “those who were with him” is only used here to designate the disciples.

 

     Again, on the surface, this looks like a really strong argument and this large number of phrases occurring only here does make it looks suspect.  However, let us follow the same logic as previously.  Is this the only place in Mark where such variations occur?  Again, the answer is no.  it should be noted that between verses 15:42-16:6, 9 such phrases can be identified.  That is one more than we find in the appendix.  We seem to be identifying a pattern here.  It seems to be a characteristic of Mark to use additional phrase depending upon the context of his discussion.  So, in all actuality, all of this evidence actually points to Marcan authorship rather than detracting from it.  Simply because, we can find a pattern of linguistic phraseology outside of the appendix itself that matches the appendix itself.

 

     As far as the second objection is concerned, it would hardly have been appropriate in mark’s narrative to refer to the disciples as “those who were with Him” prior to His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.  Thus, the uniqueness of the phrase in relation to the appendix is actually appropriate because of the subject matter in the section.

 

 

   In closing this section, Metzger and Ehrman have some interesting points about the grammar at the end of verse 8.  It doesn’t seem reasonable that Mark would end his “evangelion” of “good news” on a note of fear.  In relation to this, they write, “Furthermore, from a stylistic point of view, to terminate a Greek sentence with the word gar is most unusual and exceedingly rare:  only a relatively few examples have been found throughout the vast range of Greek literary works, and not instance has been found where gar stands at the end of a book.  Moreover, it is possible that in verse 8 Mark uses the verb efobounto to mean ‘they were afraid of’ (as he does in four of the other occurrences of this verb in his Gospel) In that case, obviously something is needed to finish the sentence.  It appears, therefore, that efobounto gar of Mark 16:8 does not represent what mark intended to stand at the end of his Gospel.” (15)  Although Metzger and Ehrman would disagree with our conclusion, it seems reasonable, in light of the data presented in this article, that the appendix was placed exactly where Mark wanted it.  Even the stylistic notes of verse 8 point to it.

 

Conclusion

    

     Was the longer ending Mark included in the gospels?  To be honest, I really don’t know because I have yet to see a copy of the originals.  Does the evidence against it qualify it for removal from the canon of scripture?  I think not.  At the end of the day, it has been my attempt to demonstrate that an argument can be made for its authenticity despite the fact that the school of textual criticism disputes it.  I believe that I have made the case that it is at least possible that it was in the originals.  The bulk of the evidence of manuscripts points to it.  It is only missing in four of those manuscripts.  Two of those, Siniaticus and Vaticanius were of the Alexandrian variety which Eusebius and Jerome tells us were missing the appendix in their manuscripts.  However, the testimony of the church father validates that it was in circulation and considered authoritative long before Constantine commissioned Eusebius to print 50 Bibles.  The alleged differences in style really seem to point to Mark as the author and we have argued that rather than detract from its genuineness, it actually complements it.  In the final analysis, the last verses of Mark should stay exactly where they are in our Bibles.  It seems, this is exactly where they are supposed to be. 

 

Endnotes

  1. Cruse, C.F. “Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History” Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass., 2003, third printing, book 3: 39:14-16, page, 104.
  2. Ibid, page 105-106.
  3. Ibid, book 2:15:1. Page 50.
  4. Irenaeus Against Heresies, 3:1:1.
  5. Floyd Nolan Jones, Which Version is the Bible?,Kings Word Press, Woodlands, T X.                   Pages 21-32.
  6. Ibid    
  7. Earl D Radmacher, The Nelson Study Bible, Nelson Publishing, Nashville, TN-commentary on Mark.  Underlining emphasis is my own.
  8. Found on-line at: author unkown:  http://www.studytoanswer.net/bibleversions/markend.html.
  9. Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 80-81..
  10. Ibid from 8.
  11. Metzger and Ehrman, page 68-69.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid, from 8.
  14. The majority of this section was gleaned from:  Snapp, James Edward, The Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, available on-line at: http://www.textexcavation.com/snapp/PDF/snappmark.pdf, it really is a wonderful read and he puts forth more evidence that just this section.
  15. Metzger and Ehrman, page 326.