Did Mark Even Read Isaiah?

     The New Testament is a profoundly Jewish book.  Many variants that have arisen over time have arisen from seemingly un-clarified sections of the text.  Mark 1:2&3 are no exceptions to this rule.  It reads, “As it is written by Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” (ESV)  However, it should be noted that many translations change the passage and write, “As it is written in the prophets.”  The oldest manuscripts do ascribe the passage to Isaiah.  It should also be noted that these passages are not found in Isaiah.  The first part in the verse is found in Malachi 3:1 while the second part of the text is found in Isaiah 40:3.  So, was Mark wrong?  It is my belief that Mark originally wrote, “Isaiah the prophet” and that his Jewish audience would have understood what he meant.  It is the purpose of this article to present two valid reasons for believing such.

     To begin with, John Lightfoot, the author of the Commentary on the New Testament, from the Talmud and Hebraica, explains, “He that reads the prophets in the synagogues let him not skip from one prophet to another.  But in the lesser prophets he may skip; with this provision only, that he skip not backward; that is, not from the latter to the former.  But you see how Mark skips here from a prophet of one rank, namely from a prophet who was one of the twelve, to a prophet of another rank; and you see also how he skips backward from Malachi to Isaiah.” (1)  Thus, it would’ve been very obvious to Mark’s Jewish readers that he was not making an error but was upholding a Jewish tradition.  So, why would a later scribe change the reading to “in the prophets.”

     For the most part, scribes that changed the text sought to clarify the text that they copied. A general guideline for textual critics reads that the “strangest reading or the oddest reading, is probably the original.”  In this case, a scribe is more likely to have dropped “Isaiah” from the reading and left “ in the prophets” due to a seemingly obvious error on the part of Mark.  As Bruce Metzger writes, “The quotation in verses 2 and 3 is composite, the first part being from Malachi 3:1 and the second part from Is 40:3.  It is easy to see, therefore, why copyist would have altered the words “In Isaiah the prophet” (a reading found in the earliest representative witnesses of the Alexandrian and the Western types of text) to the more comprehensive introductory formula “in the prophets.” (2)  Because scribes who didn’t understand the Jewish tradition thought it erroneous, they changed the reading.  However, when we understand the traditions of Mark’s Jewish audience, we have no problem accepting the older and more reliable reading of “Isaiah the prophet.”

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.       Lightfoot, J.B. “Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica” Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass, vol 2;2003; page 395.
  2. 2.      Metzger, Bruce, “A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament”  United Bible Societies, U.S.A., 1971, page 62.
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The Church Under Marcion’s Shadow, An Investigation Into his Prologues

       Marcion was born in 100 AD  in Sinope in Asia Minor.  He was raised in the apostolic faith and his father was a leader in the church.  Marcion devoted himself to studying scripture and later came to the conclusion that only Paul saw the message of Jesus with purity.  “Marcion came to Rome about A.D. 140, and there founded a sect which persisted for many years.  His distinctive doctrine was that the Old Testament was inferior to the New and had been rendered obsolete by Christ.  Marcion stressed the contrast between the two testaments so far as to say that the god revealed in the one was quite a different being from the God revealed in the other.  The righteous God, the Creator, Israel’s Jehovah, revealed in the Old Testament was different and inferior deity to the good God revealed by Jesus under the name ‘Father’ this, Marcion thought, was rendered sufficiently obvious by the fact that it was the worshippers of the righteous God of the Old Testament who sent the Revealer of the good God to His death.  Marcion, therefore, repudiated the authority of the Old Testament, and defined the Christian canon as consisting of one Gospel and a collection of ten Pauline epistles.  Paul, to Marcion’s way of thinking, was the only real apostle of Christ, who had remained true to His mind and revelation.” (1)  His theology was a blend of Gnosticism and Christianity.

Marcion was convinced that all the early apostles, including Peter, got the message of Jesus all wrong and only Paul had retained the true gospel.  To Marcion, the false apostles of the New Testament were actually Peter, John, James, and Apollos.  The one true apostle, Paul, had to follow after them and correct their teaching.  (Marcion’s basis for this was primarily the book of Galatians)  Marcion set out to develop his own “canon” of scripture that supported his views.  He rejected all the gospels and apostolic writing except for Luke and the writing of Paul.   In regards to Luke, Marcion edited out all references that support the Old Testament.  In July of 144,the church out rightly rejected Marcion but he continued to have influence for a number of years.  That influence is still within the church today and it is the theology that the Old Testament “has been done away with.”  This is evident in the Marcionite prologues to the epistles that the church retained from ancient origin.

     A prologue is a short summary (a type of twitter if you will) statement that Marcion placed at the beginnings of each of his books.  It gives a short synopsis of what the book was about.  For example, Marcion’s prologue to the epistle to the Romans reads, “The Romans are in the regions of Italy. They had been reached by false apostles and under the name of our Lord Jesus Christ they were led away into the law and the prophets. The apostle calls them back to the true evangelical faith, writing to them from Corinth.”  The anti-old testament theology is, of course, evident in this prologue.  These prologues exist in a number of copies of the Latin Vulgate, including the codex Fuldenesis of 546 AD.  “The codex Fuldensis, now in the Landesbibliothek of Fulda was written between AD 541 and 546 at Capua by order of Victor, the bishop of that see, and was corrected by him personally.” (2)  Please take note that the bishops of the see himself, Victor, edited the copy of this Vulgate.  This means that Victor included the prologues as part of his theology.  This demonstrates that the anti-nominal viewpoint was already deeply entrenched in the church by this time frame.  However, there is further evidence that points to an original that is deeper.  Notice that in the prologue to the Romans, the writer has to tell his readers that “The Romans are in the regions of Italy” certainly, as Adolf von Harnack points out, no western theologian would’ve written this.  Hence, the original was probably in the Greek language.
The church just adopted them into their canon.  Bruce Metzger writes, “Later the Catholic Church took over these Prologues practically unaltered.” (3) They have an ancient root that has continued throughout the centuries.  Again Metzger, “For centuries they have been a regular part of the Latin New Testament, and were taken over in pre-Reformation vernacular versions of the Bible.” (4)  Hence, the Marcionite theology that the Old Testament has been “done away with” successfully infiltrated the Catholic church and the subsequent churches/denominations that have been established since the Reformation.  Now, it is just so old that no one recognizes it as a heresy.  It has become the norm.

     Ironically, it was a Benedictine scholar named Donatien De Bruyne that discovered the origin of these prologues.  His work won almost immediate acceptance by the scholars of his day.  The one question that remains unanswered is “why?”  Why would the Catholic Church adopt the prologues of a notorious heretic as Marcion?  As far as I know, nobody knows.  Any suggestions, at this point, would be merely conjecture and I will refrain from that.  Suffice it to say, that the theology that the Old Testament has been done away with has a definite root in the writings of an early church heretic.

   Here are the remainders of the Prologues:

Prologue to the epistle to the Romans:

The Romans are in the regions of Italy. They had been reached by false apostles and under the name of our Lord Jesus Christ they were led away into the law and the prophets. The apostle calls them back to the true evangelical faith, writing to them from Corinth.

Prologue to the epistle to the Galatians:

The Galatians are Greeks. They at first accepted the word of truth from the apostle, but after his departure they were tempted by false apostles to be converted to the law and circumcision. The apostle calls them back to the faith of truth, writing to them from Ephesus.

Prologue to the epistle to Titus:

He warns and instructs Titus concerning the constitution of the presbytery and concerning spiritual conversation and heretics to be avoided who believe in the Jewish scriptures.

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.       Bruce, F.F. “The Books and The Parchments”, Revel Books, Old Tappan New Jersey, 1963, page 79.
  2. 2.      Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 108.
  3. 3.      Metzger, Bruce, Flack, Elmer, and others, The Text, Canon, and Principal Versions of the Bible, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1956, page 24.
  4. 4.      Metzger, Bruce, The Canon of the New Testament, Claredon Press, Oxford, 1987, page 96.

Chapter Six: Theologically Motivated Alterations to the Text

     Dr. Ehrman attempts to prove that early scribes altered the New Testament text in order to fit their own theology.  He writes, “The New Testament itself emerged out of these conflicts over God (or gods), as one group of believers acquired more converts than all the others and decided which books should be included in the canon of scripture,  During the second and third centuries, however, there was no agreed upon canon and no agreed upon theology. Instead, there was a wide range of diversity: diverse groups asserting diverse theologies based on diverse written texts, all claiming to be written by apostle of Jesus.” (1)  Basically, Dr. Ehrman would have us believe that “proto-orthodox” scribes are the ones that fashioned the New Testament to fit their own ideologies.  This is preposterous and frankly, it requires more faith to believe Ehrman’s thesis than it does to believe that the New Testament established itself in history.  Bruce Metzger’s book, “The Canon of the New Testament” is regarded by scholars, including Dr. Ehrman, and laypersons alike to be the authority on how the New Testament came into being.  In it, Dr, Metzger writes, “the church did not create the canon, but came to recognize, accept, affirm, and confirm the self-authenticating quality of certain documents that imposed themselves as such upon the Church.  If this fact is obscured, one comes into serious conflict not with dogma but with history.” (2)  These are strong words from a man who is regarded internationally as the greatest of all New Testament textual critics of our time.  According to him, Ehrman has come into serious conflict with history.  Agreed.  Nevertheless, let us press on to consider what Ehrman has to say.

     Ehrman will begin by reiterating that early manuscripts were not solidified and that they can’t really be trusted.  Much of this we have already debunked in the first few chapters of the book.  However, here we will add some things.  Metzger writes, “The Christian community soon discovered how laborious it was to try to find specific passages in their sacred books when they were written in roll form.  Early in the second century (or perhaps even at the close of the first century), the codex or leaf form of book, came into use in the Church.  A codex was made by folding one or more sheets of papyrus in the middle and sewing them together, Christians found that this for had a number of advantages over the roll:  1)  it permitted all four Gospels or all the Epistles of Paul to be bound intone book, a format that was impossible so long as the roll was used; 2)  it facilitated the consultation of proof texts; and 3) it was better adapted to receiving writing on both sides of the page, thus keeping the cost of production down.” (3)  Ehrman is not willing to admit that this is more organization than he wants his readers of Misquoting Jesus to know, so he doesn’t mention it.  However, Ehrman himself knows this because he co-wrote this book with Bruce Metzger.  Hence, he doesn’t present an unbiased opinion in Misquoting Jesus because if he did, the premise behind Misquoting Jesus would fall, particularly in this section.

     The basic thesis behind the remainder of the book is a repackaged form of Ehrman’s book, “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.”  This thesis is that there were competing ideas of what Christianity was, and, when the orthodox had obtained the major following by winning more converts, they altered the text to fit their theology.  As we have already stated, this supposition is a stretch.  Perhaps a brief synopsis of how the New Testament came into being would be in order because lots of this information Ehrman glosses over. Then, he will present a few passages from the gospels to support his thesis.  But, we should be wise to review all the history.

     Eusebius quotes a church father named Papias in his history.  We have already seen this in the section on the “Defense of the Marcan Appendix.”  Papias tells us that Mark recorded the teachings of Peter, some have suggested memorized (4) and then recorded them down at the request of the church. Many suggest that this was very early and that Mark is the earliest of the gospels, even as early as 50’s AD.  It is apparent that Mark was a primary source for Luke and Matthew, as previously noted 600 some verses of Mark are reproduced in Matthew and Luke.  This gives them a date of between 60-80 AD.  Additionally, Eusebius tells that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, which would also give a date before 70AD and the fall of the temple.  John was the last gospel composed, near the end of the apostles life, and most scholars date it around 90-100 AD.  Early manuscript evidence for gospels being placed together points to about AD 125.  P 4, P64, P67, are very early second century manuscripts that contain all four gospels.  This is significant because it points to a widespread distributed codex (a collection of all four gospels) within a hundred years of the crucifixion.  It is also significant because all four gospels would’ve been recognized as having authority early in the development of the church.  Additionally, the letters of Paul and Acts are included in these manuscripts.  Additionally, this tells us that a Pauline corpus was developed very early as well.  Most agree that all of Paul’s letter were written before late 60’s AD before his martyrdom. Thus, within a few short years, the Pauline corpus was formulated and widely circulated among the church.  Please keep in mind that all of this took place very early in the church before the mid second century.  Thus, as Bruce Metzger has already pointed out and FF Bruce will reiterate, “People frequently speak and write as if the authority with which the books of the Bible are invested in the minds of Christians is the result of their having been included in the sacred list.  But the historical fact is the other way about; they were and are included in the list because they were acknowledged as authoritative…Both logically and historically, authority precedes canonicity…We are not dealing so much with the recognition of the Biblical oracles a authoritative as with the formation of a canon of those writings which had already the stamp of authority upon them.” (5)  Ehrman will argue that the manuscripts were “in-flux” and wouldn’t be finalized until after proto-orthodox scribes pushing a theological position would alter the text.  We will demonstrate how this is fanciful logic.

     The fact that centuries ago, not much unlike today, a vast array of Christian theologies existed doesn’t necessarily mean that the bulk of the text was corrupted to solidify a particular sects core beliefs. It seems more likely that the church Fathers including Tertullian, Ireaneus, and Justin developed their theologies from what was written rather than from writing them themselves.  Meaning, they developed their teachings from the apostolic writings, which we have already demonstrated, to have been widely recognized as having authority.  So, let us press into Ehrman’s position.

Anti-adoptionist Changes to the Text

     Ehrman present two different ideas concerning exactly when Jesus became the “Son of God.”  There is a school of thought (Both in ancient history and kept alive today by the Jehovah Witness and the Mormons) that Jesus was not “born divine.”  That, at His baptism, the Father “adopted Him” as His Son and that’s when he became divine with the subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, Christ was never a pre-incarnate being but was flesh and blood and just a man until His baptism by John.  The premise is that because of His good life and works, the Father was so well pleased in Him to adopt Him as His Son.  Thus, the Mormon theology is developed, “As man is, God was, and as God is, man can become.”  There is a plethora of scriptures that debunk this theology and I won’t full discuss them here as Ehrman doesn’t mention them.  I will list them for the perusal of the reader and then we will discuss Ehrman’s arguments of the textual variants that he supposed are evidence of proto-orthodox scribes editing out adoptionist theology.  Here they are:  John 1:1-4; Col1:16; Eph 3:19; Phil 2:5-11, and Hebrews 1:1-4.  The Christology of these passages is not really disputed and many of them(Particularly Philippians 2:5-11 may be very old oral tradition that found its way into the text of scripture which gives it a very early date, before the development of the Pauline corpus, around 30-40 AD) are very archaic.  Setting these five witnesses aside, let’s consider Ehrman’s argument.

     Ehrman begins by making two different arguments where Joseph is referred to as the “father” of Jesus.  Older manuscript support the reading as “father” but later scribes changed the reading and replaced father with Joseph. Their motive was to clarify, perhaps, that Joseph was not the real father.  What does this change really tell us about the divinity of Christ?  Nothing!  Even if father is left in the text, Luke has painstakingly established the virgin birth of Messiah in his first chapter.  Additionally, Joseph would not have been referred to, in Jewish culture, as the “step-father.”  He would have been considered the “father” of the baby.  This is the way that God set it up according to Luke.  This same argument can be made for the incident where Jesus is left in Jerusalem and his “parents” find Him in the Temple.  Of course, Ehrman leaves out the text where Jesus responds, “Did you not know that I would be in My Father House?” (Luke 2:49)  Even if the reading was “his mother and father were looking for Him”, in light of what we have already said, it wouldn’t matter if the reading was “his parents” or “his mother and father.”

     Another interesting variant that Ehrman brings up is the account of the voice from heaven at Jesus baptism.  The common reading of “in whom I am will pleased” may very well be a later interpolation, and an older variant is “Today, I have begotten you.”  His evidence that the original is the latter is threefold.  First, it exist in an old Greek manuscript and in some Latin ones, Secondly, it is quoted by server early church fathers, and lastly, it is the most unlikely reading.  Would this reading make the adoptionist viewpoint a biblical possibility?  Not likely. Ehrman himself explains, “Luke probably did not mean that to be interpreted adoptionistically, since, after all, he had already narrated an account of Jesus’ virgin birth ( In chapters 1-2) But later Christian reading Luke 3:22 may have been take aback by its potential implications as it seems open to an adoptionistic interpretation.” (6)  So, if the older reading is correct, what does this change?  Nothing!  It could even been interpreted as a prophetic fulfillment of Psalm 2, which is a very Messianic Psalm.   So, did proto-orthodox scribes change this to push their theological agenda?  Even if they did, “the original” wouldn’t support adoptionist theology and there is a ton of other scriptures that could be cited against it as well.

I Timothy 3:16

“God (Who) was manifested in the flesh,

Justified in the Spirit

Seen by angels

Preached among the Gentiles

Believed on in the world,

Received up in glory”

 

     Ehrman here revisits a point that we touched on earlier but didn’t full develop.  This passage, which may represent a pre-biblical piece of oral tradition/hymn, has a variant in the first line.  I have included what the “original” probably says in parenthesis, mainly, “Who.”  Ehrman describes how an early textual critic named JJ Wettstein examined the Codex Alexandrinus and discovered a variant that eventually led him away from the faith.  Ehrman writes, “Wettstein examined the Codex Alexandrinus, no in the British Library, and determined that in I Timothy 3:16, where later manuscripts speak of Christ as “God made manifest in the flesh,” this early manuscript originally spoke, instead of Christ “who was made manifest in the flesh.”  The change is very slight in Greek—it is the difference between a theta and an omicron, which look very much alike (QE vs. OE).” (7)  So, let’s suppose that the original reading is “Who” which is, in all probability, the original.  What does this mean?  Well, to begin with it is an ancient hymn or piece of oral tradition that Paul relates to Timothy. This scribal variant from “God” to “Who” takes nothing away from the divinity of Christ.  In fact, it agrees with John 1:1 where the “Word” becomes flesh.  The fact that the “Who” had to be “manifested in the flesh” tends to led us to a pre-incarnate condition of Christ.  Again, this variant changes nothing of our Christology.  The variant may have been introduced by a zealous scribe who, despite his ideological desires to solidify the incarnation, mistakenly changed the text to suit that agenda.  However, the original doesn’t really effect the presentation of Christ as pre-incarnate in the bulk of the New Testament.

John 1:18:  The Unique God verses the Unique Son

“No One has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared Him.” (John 1:18 NKJV)

     The variant we will look at in this verse deals with the phrase “Only-begotten-son.”  To begin with, the Greek phrase is, “monogens Qeos.” To begin with the word, “monogens” is perhaps better translated as “unique.”  The literal translation would be “a single of its kind.”  So, we can say that “unique” is a possible translation but “one of a kind” is probably more accurate.  Even Ehrman will state that the reading, “the Unique God” is the one found in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.  However, he makes a good point about the internal evidence.  He says tha the phrase is never really repeated throughout the gospel of John while the phrase, “the unique Son” is found in John’s gospel.  Ehrman will postulate that the “Unique God” rendering could’ve been a variant started with the Alexandrian scribes and then continued.  This is possible.  Even if it is, then the reading will be “The Unique Son” which again changes nothing of our Christology. (8) Even if we can acquiesce to the thesis that Ehrman is correct with the reading, it, yet again, demonstrates nothing of adversity to the Christ of the New Testament.

Anti-Docetic Changes of the Text

     Docetism is “An early teaching, regarded as heretical, according to which Christ’s incarnation (i.e. taking human form) was only a matter of appearance (Gk dokeo “seem”).  Thus His suffering, death, and resurrection were aspects of the human Jesus’ life in which the divine Christ did not participate (That nature having withdrawn prior to these events). (9)  We must reiterate here that many antidocetic doctrines are abundant in many undisputed places of scripture.  We will, again, not dive into them as Ehrman doesn’t touch on them either.  I will list them here for the reader’s perusal as well as for the reader’s edification that antidocetic viewpoints do not rise or fall on the textual variants that Ehrman will describe.  The biblical doctrine against this teaching predates any “proto-orthodox” scribes.  Please see John 1:1-14; I John 1:1-7. I John 4:2, 2 John 7.

     Ehrman will, yet again, state the thesis that “proto-orthodox” scribes will alter the New Testament to fit their theology.  We will argue that this is absurd.  We will see that the oral traditions and doctrines of the apostles were recorded in scripture and then the church father developed their theology from them and not vice versa.  In fact, we will demonstrate that it was the heretics that altered the scriptures to fit their own doctrines.  Therefore, it is of no coincidence that Ehrman’s textual variants arise from one gospel, that of Luke, because it was also the favorite of the early church heretic Marcion.

     Ehrman will return to an argument that he developed in the last chapter and one that we have previously answered.  However, since he brings it up here, we will answer his additions.  He takes us back to Luke 22:43-44.  He writes, “Why, though, did scribes add them to the account?  We are now in a position to answer that question.  It is notable that these verses are alluded to three times by proto-orthodox authors of the mid to late second century (Just Martyr, Irenaues of Gaul, and Hippolytus of Rome); and what is more intriguing still, each time they are mentioned it is in order to counter the view that Jesus was not a real human being.  That is, the deep anguish that Jesus experiences according to these verses was taken to show that he really was a human being that he really could suffer like the rest of us.  Thus, for example, the early Christian apologist Just, after observing that “his sweat fell down like drops of blood while he was praying,” claims that this showed “that the Father wished His Son really to undergo such suffering for our sakes,” so that we “: may mot say that he, being the Son of God, did not feel what was happening to him and inflicted on him.  In other words, Just and his proto-orthodox colleagues understood that the verses showed in graphic form that Jesus did not merely “appear” to be human: he really was human, in every way.  It seems likely, then, that since, as we have seen these verses were not originally part of the gospel of Luke, they were added for an antidocetic purpose, because they portrayed so well the real humanity of Jesus.” (10)  As we have previously listed, there were plenty of other scriptures that Justin could’ve used to demonstrate the same thing.  The fact that Justin and all the other church fathers point to the scriptures as a basis for their doctrine tells us how they viewed the documents.  Additionally, the documents in question were already codified into the “Gospels” by this time as we have previously demonstrated.  It takes more faith to believe that a “proto-orthodox” coup co-opted all the manuscripts and changed them to match their theology.  It takes less faith to believe the testimony of history that testifies that the documents became the basis from which the church drew her doctrine and that it was the heretics that changed them to meet their theologies.  Marcion, is a case in point.

     Marcion was born in 100 AD. (at such a time the New Testament was written and already being codified) in Sinope in Asia Minor.  He was raised in the apostolic faith and his father was a leader in the church.  Marcion devoted himself to studying scripture and later came to the conclusion that only Paul saw the message of Jesus with purity.  “Marcion came to Rome about A.D. 140, and there founded a sect which persisted for many years.  His distinctive doctrine was that the Old Testament was inferior to the New and had been rendered obsolete by Christ.  Marcion stressed the contrast between the two testaments so far as to say that the god revealed in the one was quite a different being from the God revealed in the other.  The righteous God, the Creator, Israel’s Jehovah, revealed in the Old Testament was different and inferior deity to the good God revealed by Jesus under the name ‘Father’ this, Marcion thought, was rendered sufficiently obvious by the fact that it was the worshippers of the righteous God of the Old Testament who sent the Revealer of the good God to His death.  Marcion, therefore, repudiated the authority of the Old Testament, and defined the Christian canon as consisting of one Gospel and a collection of ten Pauline epistles.  Paul, to Marcion’s way of thinking, was the only real apostle of Christ, who had remained true to His mind and revelation.” (11)  Marcion was the very first to organize a canon of scripture.  He rejected all the gospels except for Luke and all other apostolic epistles except for Paul’s.  Marcion would apparently edit many of them to support his theories.  Hence, was it the proto-orthodox scribes who changed the text or was it the heretic Marcion?  It is interesting that Marcion recognized the authority of the gospels and the epistles and then tweaked them to his own theology.  This is evident because Marcion includes nothing from John who writes volumes of stuff against anti-docetic teachings, perhaps unbeknownst to John.  Marcion did use Luke and it is no coincidence that all of Ehrman’s proto-orthodox changes come from that gospels.  Hence, it point stands that perhaps some scribes did alter the text to prevent someone from repeating the same heresy of Marcion.  However, this doesn’t mean that anti-docetic doctrine only existed from these alterations.  AS I have already argued, the gospel of John was written and viewed as authoritative before Marcion was even born.  John writes gospels and letters contain much against Marcion theology.  Hence, anti-docetic doctrine existed prior to any scribal changes to the gospel of Luke.  So, even if Ehrman is correct, his thesis about proto-orthodox developing doctrine from their textual changes sadly crumbles.  Nevertheless, we will review his variants.

Luke 22:17-19

And taking a cup, giving thanks, He said, Take this and divide it among yourselves,  For I say to you that in no way will I drink from the produce of the vine until the kingdom of God has come.”

     Ehrman takes the position that thee verses as are present in mot translations, are not original.  However, there is some evidence that the long and more common reading/ending is more preferred, in this instant, as original.  Bruce Metzger writes, “Considerations in favor of the originality of the longer text include the following: (a) Then external evidence supporting the shorter reading represents only part of the Western type of text, whereas the other representatives of  the Western text join with witnesses belonging to all the other ancient text-types in support of the longer reading. (b) it is easier to suppose that the Bezan editor, puzzled by the sequence of cup-bread-cup, eliminated the second mention of the cup without being concerned about the inverted order of institution thus produced, than that the editor of the longer version, to rectify the inverted order, brought in from Paul the second mention of the cup, while letting the first mention stand.  (c) The rise of the shorter version can be accounted for in terms of the theory of disciplina arcane i.e. in order to protect the Bucharest from profanation, one or more copies of the Gospel according to Luke, prepared for circulation among non-Christian readers, omitted the sacramental formula after the beginning words…Kenyon and Legg, who prefer the longer form of the text, explain the origin of the other readings as follows”  ‘The whole difficulty arose, in our opinion, from a misunderstanding of the longer version.  The first cup given to the disciples to divide among themselves should be taken in connection with the previous verse (ver 16) as referring to the eating of the Passover with them at the reunion in Heaven.  This is fooled by the institution of the Sacrament, to be repeated continually on earth in memory of Him.  This gives an intelligible meaning to the whole, while at the same time it is easy to see that it would occasion difficulties of interpretation, which would give rise to the attempts at revise that appear in various forms of the shorter versions.’” (12)  This explanation seems to make much more sense than a “proto-orthodox” element that modified all the text.

Luke 24:12

“But rising up, Peter ran to the tomb, and stooping down he saw the linen lying alone. An d he went away wondering to himself at what had happened.”

 

     Ehrman writes, “There are excellent reasons for thinking that this verse was not originally part of Luke’s Gospel.  It contains a large number of stylistic features found nowhere else in Luke, including most of the key words of the text, for example, ‘stooping down’ and ‘linen cloths’ (a different word was sued for Jesus’ burial cloths earlier in the account.)  Moreover, it is hard to see why someone would want to remove this verse, if it actually formed part of the Gospel (again, there is no homoeoteleuton, etc., to account for an accidental omission).” (13)  However, the Executive committee of the United Bible Societies of the Greek new Testament write, “Although verse 12 is sometimes thought to be an interpolation, derived from Jn 20.3,5,6,10, a majority of the Committee regarded the passage as a natural antecedent to ver.24, and was inclined to explain the similarity with the verses in John as due to the likelihood that both evangelist had drawn upon a common tradition.” (14)  Hence, there is no reason to jump to any major theological decision regarding this verse.

Luke 24:51-52

“Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that he was parted from them and carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”

     Ehrman writes, “it is interesting to note, however, that in some of our earliest witnesses-including the Alexandrian manuscript Codex Sinaiticus-there is an addition to the text.  After it indicates that ‘he was removed from them,’ in these manuscripts it states, ‘and he was taken up into heaven.’  This is a significant addition because it stresses the physicality of Jesus’ departure at this ascension rather than the bland ‘he was removed’.  In part, this is an intriguing variant because the same author, Luke, in hi second volume, the book of Acts, again narrates Jesus’ ascension into heaven but explicitly states that it took place ‘forty days’ after the resurrection (Acts 1:1-11)  This makes it difficult to believe that Luke wrote the phrase in question in Luke 24:51—since surely he would not think Jesus ascended to heaven on the day of his resurrection if he indicates at the beginning of his second volume that he ascended forty days later.” (15) Suffice it to say, that we could continue to quote scholars who would favor this longer ending. (16)  There is also a theological reason that supports two different ascensions.  The first is the fulfillment of the feast of first fruits (17) and the second is the actual ascension into heaven that marked the end of His ministry and the beginning of the era of the Holy Spirit.

 

Anti-separationist Alterations to the Text

     Ehrman begins this section by giving us an explanation regarding separationism and Gnosticism.  It is a good one, so for those unfamiliar with the terms, we will quote it here.  He writes, “We might call this a ‘separationist’ Christology because it divided Jesus Christ into two:  the man Jesus (who was completely human) and the divine Christ (Who was completely divine).  According to most proponents’ of this view, the man Jesus was temporarily indwelt by the divine being, Christ, enabling him to perform his miracles and deliver his teachings; but before Jesus’ death, the Christ abandoned him, forcing him to face his crucifixion alone.  The separationist Christology was most commonly advocated by groups of Christians that scholars have called Gnostic.  The term Gnosticism comes from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis.  It is applied to a wide range of groups of early Christians who stressed the importance of secret knowledge for salvation.  According to most of these groups, the material world we live in was not the creation of the one true God.  It came about as a result of a disaster in the divine realm, in which one of the (many) divine beings was from some mysterious reasons excluded from the heavenly places; as a result of her fall from divinity the material world came to be created by a lesser deity, who captured her and imprisoned her in human bodies here on earth.  Some human beings thus have a spark of the divine within, the, and they need to learn the truth of who they are, where they came from, how they got here, and how they can return.  Learning this truth will lead to their salvation.  This truth consists of secret teachings, mysterious ‘knowledge’ (gnosis) which can only be imparted by a divine being from the heavenly realm.” (18) The starting place for Ehrman’s thesis is that Gnosticism and orthodox Christinaity “grew up” together and that orthodox Christianity won the most converts and subsequently, changed the text to meet their agenda and beliefs.  However, Gnosticism did not originate with apostolic teaching but was a later heretical development.  Bruce Metzger points out, “it was not until the mid-second century that the real showdown between the two took place.” (19)  Thus, we see that early NT documents were already widely circulated by this time period.  An orthodox corruption simply is not possible looking that the history.  Nevertheless, we will examine the variants Dr. Ehrman points out.

     The first variant Ehrman discusses is Hebrews 2:9.  This is a verse that we have already considered so it won’t be dealt with here.  Suffice it to say that both readings have spiritual benefit for the Christian and a “Gnostic” or “Anti-Gnostic” agenda need not be the case with this variant.  Again, as with the adoptionist position, a plethora of scripture exist that debunk Gnosticism and none of them are seriously questioned by Ehrman.  John seemed to make it his ambition to debunk Gnosticism (John 1:1-4 and I John 1:1-4)  Ehrman never discuses any of these text.  Thus, even if Ehrman is correct and all the variants we are about to dissect could be proven to support Gnostic viewpoints, there would still remain a largely amount of scripture that debunks it.

Mark 15:34

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

     Ehrman begins his argument with, “We have solid evidence to suggest that some Gnostics took this last saying of Jesus literally, to indicate that it was at this point that the divine Christ departed from Jesus (since divinity cannot experience mortality and death).  The evidence comes from Gnostic documents that reflect on the significance of this moment in Jesus’ life.  Thus, for example, the apocryphal Gospel of Peter, which some have suspected of having a separationist Christology quotes the words in a slightly different from, “My power, O power, you have left me!”  Even more striking is the Gnostic texts known as the Gospel of Phillip in which the verse is quoted and then given a separationist interpretation:  ‘My God, my God, why Lord have you forsaken me?’ For it was on the cross that he said these words, for it was there that he was divided.  Proto-orthodox Christians knew of both these Gospels and their interpretations of this climactic moment of Jesus crucifixion.”  (20) 

     To begin with, most scholars would agree that the Gnostic gospels were not composed until, the earliest in the mid-second century, and the latest in the third or the fourth century.  Mark, as we have already written, began with oral tradition and then was written down before the late 70’s of the first century.  So, which is more likely, that scribes changed Mark to debunk Phillip or Peter, or the writers of the Gnostic gospels tweaked the original of mark to fit their own agenda.  This seems must more plausible than Ehrman’s thesis.  Secondly, Ehrman cites “one” Greek manuscript that quotes a variant.  This means that the other 5,000 or so manuscripts agree with the original wording of Mark which is a quote from Psalm 22:1.  According to Ehrman, these proto orthodox scribes were so driven to alter the text in order to prevent any Gnostic ideas from entering into the text and in their fiery zeal they went out and changed one manuscript!  There is also a few latin manuscripts that contain the variant also.  Meaning, that of the 10,000 or so manuscripts of Latin, a few posses this variant and somehow, this proves an orthodox corruption of scripture?  This just doesn’t seem plausible.

I John 4:2-3

“By this you know the Spirit of God.  Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the anti-Christ.”

Dr. Ehrman writes, but there is an interesting textual variant that occurs in the second half of the passage.  Instead of referring to the one ‘that does not confess Jesus,’ several witnesses refer instead to the one ‘that looses Jesus.’  What does that mean –looses Jesus—and why did this textual variant make its way into some manuscripts?  To start with, I should stress that it is not in very many7 manuscripts.  In fact, among the Greek witnesses, it occurs only in the margin of one tenth-century manuscript (Ms. 1739).  But this, as we have seen, is a remarkable manuscript because it appears to have been copied from one of the fourth century, and its marginal notes record the names of church father who had different readings for certain parts of the text.  In this particular instance, the marginal note indicates that the reading ‘looses Jesus’ was known to several late second and early third century church fathers, Irenaeus, Clement, and Origin.  Moreover, it appears in the Latin Vulgate.  Among other things, this shows that the variant was popular during the time in which proto-orthodox Christians were debating with Gnostics over matters of Christology.” (21)  Let me see if I understand this correctly, a tenth century copy of a fourth century manuscript has a marginal note that changes the reading?  Yes, this is correct.  And this is supposed to prove an orthodox corruption of the scripture?  Not likely.

Endnotes

  1.  Ehrman, Bart, Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Harper Collins Pub, New York, NY, 2005, page 153.
  2. Metzger, Bruce, The Canon of the New Testament, Claredon Press, Oxford, 1987, page 287.
  3. Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 12-13.
  4. 4.      See Berger Gerhardssen, “Memory and Manuscript” Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI, 1998.
  5. 5.      Bruce, F.F. “The Books and The Parchments”, Revel Books, Old Tappan New jersey, 1963, page 95-96.
  6. 6.      Ehrman, MJ, page 160.
  7. 7.      Ibid, page 157.
  8. 8.      Metzger and the Committee on the Greek New Testament will argue for the “Unique God” to be the original reading.  I have not included their arguments here for brevities sake.  However, the interested reader is referred to, Metzger, Bruce, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament” second Edition, United Bible Societies, USA, page 169-170.  Also for a dissection of Ehrman Greek syntax and exegesis, see Komoazewski, Sawyer, and Wallace, “Re-inventing Jesus, What the Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You.” Kregel Publications, 2006, page 290-292 in the endnotes section #24.
  9. 9.      Myers, Allen, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1987.
  10. 10.  Ehrman, MJ, page 165.
  11. 11.  Bruce, F.F. TBATP, page 79.
  12. 12.  Metzger, Bruce, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament” second Edition, United Bible Societies, USA, page 149-150.
  13. 13.  Ehrman, MJ, page 168.
  14. 14.  Metzger, ATCOTGNT., page 157-158.
  15. 15.  Ehrman, MJ, page 169.
  16. 16.  See Metzger, ATCOTGNT, page 162-163.
  17. 17.  see my article entitled,  Jesus and First Sheaf, on my blog www.spiritualenrichment.wordpress.com.
  18. 18.  Ehrman, MJ, page 170-171.
  19. 19.  Metzger, TCONT, page 76.
  20. 20.  Ehrman, MJ, page 172-173.
  21. 21.  Ibid, page 174.

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.

Chapter 4: The Quest for Origins

     In chapter 4, Dr. Ehrman begins by describing the motivation behind a Catholic scholar named Richard Simon.  He writes regarding Simon, “Christian faith could not be based solely on the scripture (the Protestant Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura), since the text was unstable and unreliable.  Instead, according to this view, the Catholics must be right that faith required the apostolic tradition preserved in the Catholic Church.” (1)  Simon’s intent was to demonstrate the superiority of the Latin text.  In so doing, he could debunk the ancient Greek manuscripts that the Protestants relied upon.  Simon believed that Jerome had edited out many problem areas form the Greek and penned a sound Latin text.  Since the manuscripts Jerome used to correct the Greek were destroyed, we are only left with error-ridden copies.  He could also demonstrate the superiority of the Latin text.  His theological bias is clearly evident.  Even Ehrman doesn’t buy into it.  He writes, “As clever as the argument is, it has never won widespread support among textual critics.  In effect, it is simply a declaration that our oldest surviving manuscripts cannot be trusted, but the revision of those manuscripts can.  On what grounds, though, did Jerome revise his text?  On the grounds of earlier manuscripts.  Even he trusted the earlier record of the text.  For us not to do likewise would be a giant step backward—even given the diversity of the textual tradition in the early centuries.” (2) Within the historical context, Simon sets the stage for Richard Bentley.

     Richard Bentley was a classic scholar and Master of Trinity College, at Cambridge.  He set his mind to clarify the Greek text and vindicate the Protestant text.  Ehrman describes his activities as, “He had decided to collate (i.e. to compare in detail) the text of the most important Greek manuscript of the New Testament in England, the early-fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus with the oldest available copies of the Latin Vulgate.  What he found was a wide range of remarkable coincidences of readings, in which these manuscripts agreed time and again with each other but against the bulk of Greek manuscripts transcribed in the Middle Ages.  The agreements extended even to such matters as word order, where the various manuscripts differed.  Bentley was convinced, then, that he could edit both the Latin Vulgate and the Greek New testament  to arrive at the most ancient forms of the these texts, so that there would be scarcely any doubt concerning their earliest reading.  Mill’s thirty thousand places of variation would thereby become a near irrelevancy to those invested in the authority of the text.  The logic behind the method was simple:  if, in fact, Jerome used the best Greek manuscripts available for editing his text, then by comparing the oldest manuscripts of the Vulgate (to ascertain Jerome’s original text) with the oldest manuscripts of the Greek New Testament (to ascertain which were the ones used by Jerome), one could determine what the best texts of Jerome’s day had looked like—and skip over more than a thousand years of textual transmission in which  the text came to be repeatedly changed.  Moreover, since Jerome’s text would have been that of his predecessor Origen, one could rest assured that this was the very best text available in the earliest centuries of Christianity.” (3) As wonderful a theory as this was, Bentley efforts would ultimately fail to produce a manuscript.  However there was another protestant working in Germany.

   Johann Bengel was a Lutheran pastor and professor who was profoundly impacted by Mill’s work and the variants that he discovered.  Bengel was deeply challenged by this since his faith was rooted in scripture.  Bengel developed a process of textual criticism that “the more difficult reading is preferable to the easier one…preference should be given not to the reading that has corrected the mistake, harmonized an account, or improved its theology, but to just the opposite one, the reading that is ‘harder’ to explain.  In every case, the more difficult reading is to be preferred.” (4)  Bengel also set out to group manuscripts into families and published his text in 1734.  Ehrman staes that it is basically the Textus Receptus with the corrections that Bengel believed he had discovered.  However, Ehrman leaves out a crucial development that Bengel originated.  Ehrman knows about his because he describes it in his book, “The Text of the New Testament.”  He writes that Bengel, “After extended study, he came to the conclusions that the variant reading were fewer in number than might have been expected and that they did not shake any article of evangelic doctrine.” (5)  While Ehrman knows this, he didn’t write this in Misquoting Jesus. Why?  No one can be sure but it does appear that Dr. Ehrman attempts to control the flow of information to fit his own agenda for the book.  Mainly, that the original text cannot be recovered.   A belief that very few of the early textual critics held.

     After this is glossed over, Ehrman describes the spiritual journey of a scholar named J.J. Wettstein.  His inclusion of this story relates closely to Ehrman’s own spiritual journey.  Wettstein loses faith and becomes an agnostic when he discovers a variant reading of I Timothy 3:16 which he believed detracted from the divinity of Jesus.  The passage read “God made manifest in the flesh.” But the variant reading (because of nomina sacra a system of abbreviating the sacred names of the text) reads, “who was manifested in the flesh.  Wettstein believed the absence of God detracted from the divinity of Jesus.  It doesn’t have to in the context of the passage; nevertheless, this is how Wettstein interpreted it.  At the end of the day, not even Ehrman appreciates Wettstein’s work.  He writes, “Despite the enormous value of Wettstein’s edition, the textual theory lying behind it is usually seen as completely retrograde.  Wettstein ignored the advances in method made by Bentley and Bengel and maintained that the ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament could not be trusted because, in his view, they had all been altered in conformity with the Latin witnesses.  There is no evidence of this having happened, however, and the end result of using it as a major criterion of evaluation is that when one is deciding on a textual variant, the best procedure purportedly is not to see what the oldest witnesses say, but to see what the more recent ones say.  No leading scholar of the text subscribes to this bizarre theory.” (6) I have to ask the question here.  Why put it in the book, if his conclusions don’t jive with the majority of scholarly opinion?  Perhaps, Ehrman wanted to demonstrate an example from history of his own spiritual journey.  Ehrman’s evaluation of the next scholar is particularly similar to Bengel.

     Lobegott Tischendorf is considered one of the most industrious and remarkable textual critics of all time.  It was he who discovered Codex Siniaticus at the monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  He also produces a successful transmission of the Codex Ephremi Rescriptus.  However, Ehrman doesn’t paint the full picture for us.  As Daniel Wallace observes,”Tischendorf is widely acknowledged as the most industrious NT textual critic of all time.  And what motivated him was a desire to recover the earliest form of the text—a text which he believed would vindicate orthodox Christianity against the Hegelian skepticism of F. C Baur and his followers.” (7)  Dr. Ehrman never mentions any of this in Misquoting Jesus.

     Dr. Ehrman closes the chapter by discussing the work of B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort.  Their joint 23 year effort produced a Greek Manuscript that they believed were, “The New testament in the Original Greek” in 1881.  Westcott and Hort picked up on Bengel’s “family” groupings and took to a new level.  Their idea was, “Identity of reading implies identity of origin.”  Meaning, that “if two manuscripts have the same working of a verse, it must be because the two manuscripts ultimately go back to the same source—either the original manuscript or a copy of it.” (8)They developed four major families of witnesses and used as their leading texts, the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus.  Westcott and Hort believed that these two represented what they called the, Neutral text.  Their manuscript was a real breakthrough and has challenged the textus receptus as the accepted text.  However, I must also point out that, again, Westcott and Hort, believed they had actually discovered the “original” text.  Again, this is glossed over in Misquoting Jesus.

 

 

Endnotes

  1. 1.      Ehrman, Bart, Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Harper Collins Pub, New York, NY, 2005, page 102.
  2. 2.      Ibid, page 103.
  3. 3.      Ibid, page 107-107.
  4. 4.      Ibid, page 111.
  5. 5.      Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 158.
  6. 6.      Ehrman, page 115-116.
  7. 7.      Wallace, Daniel, “The Gospel According to Bart” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, June 06, page 2.
  8. 8.      Ehrman, page 124.

Chapter Two: The Copyist of the Early Christian Writings

        Dr. Ehrman begins the chapter by leveling a charge at the manuscripts and the copyist. He writes, “Those few that were produced in multiple copies were not all alike, for the scribes who copied texts inevitably made alterations in those texts-changing the words they copied either by accident (via a slip of the pen or other carelessness) or by design (when the scribe intentionally altered the words he copied).” (1)  He goes on to further describe how the church fathers Origen and Dionysius lamented the mistakes made to manuscripts.  Additionally, he adds that even a non-believer such as Celsus was aware of the problems with Christian manuscripts.  Furthermore, the early manuscripts were written in “scriptuo continua” in which the writings contained no punctuation.  Thus, this process generates problems in translation.  Taken on the surface, Ehrman paints a very bleak picture of having any hope at all of retaining the original meaning and intent of the New Testament authors.  Is this really the case?  To begin with, let’s discuss the mistakes themselves, the testimony of those early church fathers, and the issue of “scriptuo continua”, and see if we can salvage some hope for the scriptures.

     By his own admission, Ehrman writes, “In fact, most of the changes found in our early Christian manuscripts have nothing to do with theology or ideology.  Far and away the most changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple—slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another.” (2)  This is, in fact, is the case and Ehrman seems to downplay it.  Timothy Paul Jones writes, “Most of the 400,000 variations stem from differences in spelling, word order, or the relationship between nouns and definite articles—variants that are easily recognizable and, in most cases, virtually unnoticeable in translations…In the end, more than 99 percent of the 400,000 differences fall into this category of virtually unnoticeable variants.” (3)  As we can plainly see, none of the mistakes effect any changes in Christian doctrine but involve, for the most part, the definite article.  The definite article is simply “the” in English.  While English has simply one way to spell it, Greek has around 24 different spellings depending on the case, number, and gender of the nouns that it precedes.  Additionally, Greek doesn’t use the article like English does.  Dr. Mounce notes, “You will soon discover that the Greeks do not use the article the same way we do.  They use it when we never would, and they omit it when English demands it.  Languages are not codes, and there is not an exact word for word correspondence.  Therefore, we must be a little flexible at this point…Greek often uses the definite article before a proper name. You may omit the article in your translation of proper names…Greek often includes the article with abstract nous such as “the Truth” although English does not normally use the article.” (4)  As we can see, the article was used extensively, with multiple forms, and would be an easy oversight for untrained scribes.  However, this makes absolutely no difference in the main thesis of a text.  To reiterate, not one of these errors will affect one facet of Christian doctrine or belief.  The discrepancies or mistakes that fall into other categories we will address with subsequent posts later.  Here is another point regarding Greek to remember.

    Greek is a descriptive language.  I will list out here that there are actually sixteen ways to write, in Greek, the English phrase, “Jesus loves Paul.”

1. ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ Παῦλον                                                                                                                 2. ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Παῦλον                                                                                                            3. ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ Παῦλον

4. ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Παῦλον

5. Παῦλον ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ

6. τὸν Παῦλον ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ

7. Παῦλον ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ

8. τὸν Παῦλον ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς ἀγαπᾷ

9. ἀγαπᾷ ᾿Ιησοῦς Παῦλον

10. ἀγαπᾷ ᾿Ιησοῦς τὸν Παῦλον

11. ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς Παῦλον

12. ἀγαπᾷ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς τὸν Παῦλον

13. ἀγαπᾷ Παῦλον ᾿Ιησοῦς

14. ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Παῦλον ᾿Ιησοῦς

15. ἀγαπᾷ Παῦλον ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς

16. ἀγαπᾷ τὸν Παῦλον ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς  (5)

 

     As we can see, all these phrases would constitute a variation in the text.  However, it wouldn’t change one thing about the statement that the phrase is making.  Discussing this in relation to “Misquoting Jesus”, Daniel Wallace writes, “The number of variants is as high as 400,000.  This is true enough, but by itself is misleading.  Anyone who teaches NT textual criticism knows that this fact is only part of the picture and that, if left dangling in front of the reader without explanation is a distorted view.  Once it is revealed that the great majority of these variants are inconsequential—involving spelling differences that cannot even be translated, articles with proper nouns, word order changes, and the like—and that only a very small minority of the variants alter the meaning of the text, the whole picture begins to come into focus.  Indeed, only about 1% of the textual variants are both meaningful and viable.” (6)  And again, it is noted that, “Indeed, once a person realizes that such changes are a normal part of the transmission of any historical document, then they cease to be relevant for the discussion of the New Testament’s reliability (lest all antiquity slip into obscurity).  Such variants should be expected in historical documents, not put for as scandalous. (7)

     The early church fathers did notice discrepancies as Ehrman has pointed out.  His point does stand.  However, Origen makes this statement as a side-note uttered out of frustration and not out of a scientific analysis.  Dionysisus appears to do the same.  As far as Celsus, there may be another translation available of what he was actually saying about Christians.  The alternate reading states, “Some believers, like persons who lay violent hand on themselves in drunken rage, have corrupted the gospel from its original wholeness, into threefold, fourfold, and manifold editions and have reworked it so that they can answer objections.’ (8)  In light of this translations, it would appear that Celsus is not discussing New Testament errors but subsequent divisions of the gospel into 3-4 divisions namely, Matthew, Mark , Luke, and John. 

     Another interesting point about Ehrmans logic regarding scribal activity and ancient testimony is here presented by Michael Kruger.  In his review of Ehrman’s book, he writes, “If the overall transmission of manuscripts in the ancient world is as Ehrman describes, then one wonders how all of ancient history is not thrown into obscurity and uncertainty.  Indeed, if manuscript production was such a ‘hit and miss’ affair, we have no grounds to think that any account of ancient events should be received with any confidence—not to mention the very ancient testimonies that Ehrman appeals to in order to show that scribal activity was uncertain (testimonies which themselves are preserved in manuscripts!)  Of course, Ehrman does not question the authenticity of those testimonies, because it is clear that he only desires to call into question the value of Christian manuscripts.” (9) 

     Oftentimes, as I read Dr. Ehrman’s writings, I notice that he seems to have a split personality something akin to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  It’s difficult to tease out if Mr. Bart “the happy agnostic” or Dr. Ehrman “the textual critic who has some remnants of faith” is writing.  A good example of this is the issue of “scriptura continua.”  In Misquoting Jesus, Mr. Bart, “the happy agnostic” writes, “One of the problems with ancient Greek texts (which include all the earliest Christian writings, including those of the New Testament) is that when they were copied, no marks of punctuation were used, not distinction made between lowercase and uppercase letters, and even more bizarre to modern readers, no spaces used to separate words.  This kind of continuous writing is called scriptuo continua, and it obviously could make it difficult at times to read, let alone understand, a text.” (10)  Meanwhile, in his book, “The Text of the New Testament, it Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration,” Dr. Ehrman the critical scholar with remnants of faith writes, “It must not be thought, however, that such ambiguities (those created by scriptuo continua) occur very often in Greek.  In that language it is the rule, with very few exceptions, that native words can end only in a vowel (or a dipthong) or in one of three consonants.  Furthermore, it should not be supposed that scriptio continua presented exceptional difficulties in reading, for apparently it was customary in antiquity to read aloud, even when one was alone.  Thus, despite the absence of spaces between words, by pronouncing to oneself what was read, syllable by syllable, one soon became used to reading scriptio continua…The experience of Hermas, who says he copied a little scroll of heavenly origin “letter by letter, for I could not make out the syllables, suggest that the normal method of copying books was by syllables.” (11 parenthetical note mine for clarity) Please note, that the data presented in Misquoting Jesus is the same data that is presented here.  What has changed?  Not the data, but Dr. Ehrman or Mr. Bart’s interpretation of this data.  What’s even more impressive is that the fourth edition of the “Text of the New Testament” was published the same year that Misquoting Jesus was published.  The explanation offered by Dr. Ehrman and Dr. Metzger in the “Text of the New Testament” seems to make the most scholarly sense.  The one offered in misquoting Jesus discounts the evidence that this issue was not really an issue at all.  Thus, even Dr. Ehrman doesn’t really believe what he is writing in Misquoting Jesus.

     In the conclusion of this chapter, Dr. Ehrman attacks two points of scripture.  First, the Marcan appendix, and secondly, the woman caught in adultery.  I will fully develop a defense for these passages in the future, but for brevity sake, I will post those later.  Suffice it to say that there is some evidence that may point to their original status.

     Again, it must be reiterated, that in a largely illiterate society, with scribes that were making theological and blunderous mistakes to manuscripts, and where writing utensils were very crude, to only have 90 percent of the errors to make absolutely no change in Christian doctrine points to inspiration.  Only God could do something like this and in fact, there is no other book from antiquity that compares to the accomplishments of either the New Testament or the Old for that matter.  This points to God being behind the text despite its errors. 

 

 

Endnotes

  1.  Ehrman, Bart, Misquoting Jesus, The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Harper Collins Pub, New York, NY, 2005, page 46.
  2. Ibid, page 55.
  3. Jones, Timothy Paul, Misquoting Truth, a Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus.” Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2007, page 43-44.
  4. Mounce, William, Basics of Biblical Greek, Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI, 1993, page 39.
  5. Wallace, Daniel, “The Gospel According to Bart” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, June 06, page 3.
  6. Ibid, page 4.
  7. Kruger, Micheal, “Review of Misquoting Jesus:  The Story of Who Changed the Bible and Why.”  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49, 2006 page 1.
  8. Jones, page 40.
  9. Kruger, page 2.
  10. Ehrman, page 48.
  11. Metzger, Bruce, Ehrman, Bart, The Text of the New Testament, Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2005, page 22-23.