Saturday, October 22, 2016

Word Magazine # 61: Review: Sermon on the Ending of Mark.Part Two: External Evidence

Image:  The Ending of Mark in Codex Alexandrinus, c. AD 5th century.  This is one of the oldest uncial witnesses to the traditional ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20).

I recorded yesterday and posted today WM # 61 continuing the review of Pastor Carey Hardy’s 2012 sermon “The Added Ending” on the ending of Mark’s Gospel in which he rejects the inspiration and authenticity of Mark 16:9-20.  In this episode I offer analysis of the sermon’s covering of the external evidence for the ending of Mark.

As do most who reject the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, Hardy gives central importance to the fact that two early Greek mss. end the Gospel at Mark 16:8.  Those two are codices Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (Aleph).  Here is a table of the Greek mss. for the ending of Mark:

Greek manuscripts
End at 16:8 (“Abrupt Ending”)

Aleph, B
16:1-8 plus “Shorter Ending”

16:1-8 plus “Shorter Ending” plus 16:9-20 (“Longer Ending”)

L, Psi, 083, 099, 579, L-1602, plus 274 [in margin]
End at 16:20 with “Freer Logion” after v. 14
End at 16:20 (“Longer Ending”)
A, C, D, Q, family 13, and about a thousand other Greek mss.

Even Vaticanus and Sinaiticus give evidence that they knew of the longer ending.  See my blog post on the odd ending of Mark in Vaticanus and in Sinaiticus.

Hardy also calls attention to the versional evidence, citing one Old Latin codex k [as Lunn points out, this ms. has notable irregularities even in its transmission of Mark 16:1-8:  it omits the names of the women at the tomb, v. 1; it omits the clause “and they said nothing to anyone in v. 8; it inserts a lengthy text between vv. 3 and 4, describing darkness and angels, possibly taken from the apocryphal Gospel of Peter]; one Syriac ms. Sinaitic; about a hundred Armenian mss; and two Georgian mss.

Hardy does not cite, however, the significant versional evidence in favor of Mark 16:9-20, which includes:  the Old Latin, the Vulgate, the Syriac (the Ditessaron, the Curetonian, the Peshitta, and the Harklean), etc.

When it comes to the Church Fathers, Hardy cites evidence from Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, and Victor ofAntioch.

Responses:  The references to Clement of Alexandria and Origen are arguments ex silencio.  Clement of Alexndria also offers no references from Matthew 28 or Mark 16:1-8, though these are not challenged.  We have neither a commentary or a collection of sermons from Origen on Mark, so it is not surprising that we find no references to them in his writings.

The often cited reference from Eusebius’ epistle Ad Marinum concerning Mark’s ending must be read in context of Eusebius addressing a perceived conflict between the resurrection accounts in Matthew and Mark, and his suggestion of one hypothetical option [which he does not necessarily endorse] which would be to deny the authenticity of Mark’s ending.

The supposed evidence from Jerome and Victor of Antioch is simply their citation from Eusebius.

With regard to Jerome, he clearly did not reject the traditional ending of Mark, as chiefly evidenced by the fact that he included it in the Vulgate.

Hardy concedes reference to the traditional ending of Mark in the writings of the early Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian.

He downplays, however, the significance of and does not quote the direct citation of Mark 16:19 in Irenaeus and his clear reference to the fact that it comes from Mark’s ending [as cited in Lunn, The Original Ending of Mark p. 82]:

Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says, “So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God”; confirming what had been spoken by the prophet [Ps. 110:1]. (Haer. 3.10.5).

This citation from c. AD 175, makes it the earliest witness to the ending of Mark.

I close this episode by citing Lunn’s conclusion after his discussion of the external evidence for the ending of Mark:

For the vast majority of its history the church as a body has pronounced in favor of this passage.  The indications of doubt on the part of Eusebius and the copyists of a small number of manuscripts do not reflect the view of the church in general.  Its inclusion was unambiguously accepted from the earliest times, with the second century fathers.  The Byzantine, Vulgate, and Peshitta texts, which were to hold sway in the principle sections of the church for a thousand years or more, each embraced it.  The humanist scholars and reformers of the early sixteenth century all received it as authentic, it being published in the Greek NT editions of Erasmus, Stephanus, Elzivir, and Beza.  The Bible translation tradition set in motion by Tyndale included it, the passage appearing in Coverdale’s version, the Great Bible, the Anglican Bishops’ Bible, the Puritan Geneva Bible, the Catholic Rheims-Douai version, as well as the King James Bible which came to dominate the English-speaking world for the next three centuries.  In the Great Awakening of the mid-eighteenth century and other subsequent revivals of the Gospels were preached and read in a form contained the final verses of Mark.  The great missionary movement of the early nineteenth century brought about the translation of the NT into numerous languages of Africa, Asia, Australasia, and the Americas.  With the received Greek text and the King James Bible as the only possible, and indeed the only known base-texts, the longer version of Mark’s Gospel passed into the hands of the indigenous churches.  It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that the long-established acceptance of Mark 16:9-20 began to be seriously challenged in certain academic quarters of the Western world.  This turn-around found its impetus in the re-discovery of Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, two manuscripts which, it should be remarked, had long lain unused by the church.  History shows therefore that also in the matter of ecclesiastical tradition, or what may be termed “canonicity,” the longer ending has received a clear stamp of approval (p. 115).

Lunn closes by noting the superiority of the longer ending, based on external evidence, including its antiquity, ubiquity, diversity, quantity, and canonicity (pp. 115-116).


Note:  For a pdf of this post, look here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Vision (10.21.16): Healthy Growth in Christ

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

In last Sunday morning’s sermon on the Christ Hymn (Philippians 2:5-11), I noted that this passage has both a doctrinal bent (teaching who Jesus is as Christ and Lord, v. 11) and an ethical bent (encouraging believers to have the mind of Christ, v. 5). Indeed, it is never enough just to know about Jesus.  That knowledge must produce the fruit of a changed life.

In his classic work Human Nature In Its Fourfold State, Thomas Boston wrote (pp. 301-302):

….there is a peculiar beauty in the true Christian growth, distinguishing it from false growth:  it is universal, regular, proportional.  It is “growing up into him in all things, which is the head” (Eph 4.15).  The growing Christian grows proportionably in all parts of the new man.  Under the kindly influence of the Sun of Righteousness, believers ‘grow up as calves in the stall’ (Mal 4.2).  You would think it a monstrous growth in these creatures if you saw their heads grow, and not their bodies; or it you saw one leg grow, and another not; if all parts do not grow proportionably.  Aye, but such is the growth of many in religion.  They grow like rickety children, who have a big head but a slender body; they get more knowledge into their heads, but not more holiness into their hearts and lives.  They grow very hot outwardly, but very cold inwardly, like men in fit of the ague [fever].  They are more taken up about the externals of religion than formerly, yet as great strangers to the power of godliness as ever….

The branches ingrafted in Christ, growing aright, grow in all the several ways of growth at once.  They grow inward, growing into Christ (Eph 4.15), uniting more closely with Him; and cleaving more firmly to Him, as the Head of influences, which is the spring of all other true Christian growth.

They grow outward in good works, in their life and conversation…..

They grow upward in heavenly-mindedness, and contempt of the world; for their conversation is in heaven (Phil 3.20).

And finally, they grow downward in humility and self-loathing.  The branches of the largest growth in Christ, are, in their own eyes, ‘less than the least of all the saints’ (Eph 3.8); ‘the chief of sinners’ (1 Tim 1.15); ‘more brutish than any man’ (Prov 30.2).  They see that they can do nothing, no, not so much as ‘think any thing, as of themselves’ (2 Cor 3.5):  that they deserve nothing, being ‘not worthy of the least of all the mercies showed unto them’ (Gen 32.10); and that they are nothing (2 Cor 12.11).

May we indeed, experience growth in Christ that is “universal, regular, proportional.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Odd Features at the Ending of Mark in Codex Sinaiticus

Image:  Ending of Mark in Codex Sinaiticus

With the current WM series on the ending of Mark (which started with WM # 60), I have been examining again the external evidence for the ending of Mark.

There are only two extant Greek manuscripts that end Mark at Mark 16:8:  Codices Vaticanus (B) and Sinaiticus (Aleph).  IMHO, such slim external evidence makes the firm rejection of the so-called Longer Ending indefensible.

Furthermore, in both cases the endings in these codices have peculiar features.  With Vaticanus, the ending of Mark is followed by an odd empty column (see my previous post on this with images here).

With Sinaiticus there are two odd features:

First, the final line ends with the words togar which leaves an empty remainder of the line.  This is filled in with what Nicholas P. Lunn describes as "an elaborate arabesque" (The Original Ending of Mark, p. 31).  Here is a closeup of the line:

Other NT books in Sinaiticus end with incomplete lines, but in none of them do we find a decorative devise to fill the empty space. Typically, the space is simply left blank. Here is the ending of Matthew with an incomplete line in Sinaiticus as an example:

Second, there is an extended "ornamental line underneath the final line of the text" (Lunn, p. 32).  Throughout Sinaiticus, books end with an ornamental design in the left margin of the column at the final line.  It consists of a vertical line extending several lines above and below the ending, intersected by a horizontal line below the final line which only partially extends across the column.  Some of these are very simple lines with little ornamentation.  Here are some examples:

Image:  Ending of John in Sinaiticus

Image:  Ending of Romans in Sinaiticus

Others are more detailed and decorative.  Here are some examples:

Image:  Ending 1 Thessalonians in Sinaiticus

Image:  Ending of Revelation in Sinaiticus

As Lunn points out, there are two things that are strange about this line feature at Mark's ending in Sinaiticus.  First, the horizontal line extends completely across the column.  Second, the design changes at about the point where other lines usually end (see discussion in Lunn, p. 32). Here is the closeup again:

As Lunn concludes:  "No other final ornamentation in the manuscript is comparable in these two respects to that seen in Mark" (p. 32).  Lunn adds that these features were no doubt "deliberate" (p. 33).

Oddly enough, there are ONLY two extant Greek manuscripts which end Mark at Mark 16:8 and both have distinctive presentation elements indicating that the scribes knew these endings were controversial.  As Lunn puts it, codices Aleph and B thus bear "implicit testimony to the existence of a Markan ending beyond that which these two present."  He rightly adds:  "For the sake of accuracy, as well as for honesty, this important qualification ought to be appended to statements to the effect that the earliest copies of Mark conclude at 16:8" (p. 33).


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Word Magazine # 60: Review: A Sermon on Mark's Ending.Part One: Preliminary Issues

This episode begins a review of a 2012 sermon by Pastor Carey Hardy of Twin City BC in Winston-Salem, NC titled "The Added Ending" (listen to the entire sermon here).

In this message Pastor Hardy rejects the authenticity of the traditional ending of Mark:  Mark 16:9-20.

In this episode I respond to some of the preliminary issues related to text criticism covered by Pastor Hardy.  In general, I point out how the sermon assumes and embraces the modern text critical canons of reasoned eclecticticism, and I offer some challenges to these assumptions.  Among the issues covered:

  • The tendency to confuse translation issues with textual issues.
  • The tendency to confuse KJV-Onlyism with the defense of the traditional original language text of the Bible.
  • Challenging the assumption that early Christians would not have been careful in copying the NT.
  • Challenging the assumption that some uncial manuscripts are necessarily the earliest and best for defining the text of the Greek NT.
  • Challenging the notion that the most common kind of scribal error was "addition" to the text.
  • Challenging the related assumption that the "shorter reading" is to be preferred. 
  • Challenging the assumption that the so-called "more difficult" reading is to be preferred.
Regarding the "shorter reading" argument, I make reference to Maurice Robinson's principles for internal evidence in his article, "The Case for Byzantine Priority" in which he disputes the assumed preeminence of the shorter reading.  He writes:

Neither the shorter nor longer reading is to be preferred. The reasoned eclectic principle here omitted is the familiar lectio brevior potior, or giving preference to the shorter reading, assuming all other matters to be equal--a principle which has come under fire even from modern eclectics. Not only can its legitimacy be called into question, but its rejection as a working principle can readily be justified. The net effect of such a principle is to produce an a priori bias on insufficient internal grounds which favors the shorter Alexandrian text. The underlying premise is faulty: it assumes that scribes have a constant tendency to expand the text, whether in regard to sacred names, or by a conflationary combination of disparate narratives, lest anything original be lost. Yet scribal habits as exemplified in the extant data simply do not support such a hypothesis. Had the later scribes done according to all that has been claimed for them, the resultant Byzantine Textform would be far longer than that currently found: divine titles would be extensively expanded, parallel passages would be in greater harmony, and a universally-conflated text would dominate. Such simply is not the case.

Hardy closes the opening of the sermon by setting out two basic positions:

1.  Mark did write it;

2.  Mark did not write it.

He concludes by supporting position number two:  Mark did not write Mark 16:9-20.  This is a striking statement.  If true it means that Christians have accepted a spurious reading in their Bibles for the majority of their history. This spurious reading still appears in most Bibles today.

Though I appreciate the fact that Pastor Hardy has forthrightly addressed this issue in this sermon, I respectfully disagree with him.  I do not believe that this conclusion is warranted.  On the contrary, I believe that Mark 16:9-20 is a legitimate part of the authentic and genuine Word of God.

DV, future issues of this sermon review will cover the external evidence (part two) and internal evidence (part three) on the longer ending of Mark.


Friday, October 14, 2016

The Vision (10.14.16): Our Mission Statement

Matthew 28: 9 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

A few years back “mission statements” were all the rage in corporate America. It seemed that almost every business, school, or organization formulated a mission statement and posted it on their wall.  People were even encouraged to make personal mission statements.  And, like nearly everything else from the world, this eventually trickled down into the church.  So, churches large and small created mission statements.

The truth is that we do not need to create a man-made mission statement to tell us what the church is to be about.  We do not need to be creative or articulate.  We have a mission statement that has been given to the apostles by the risen Jesus himself and recorded in the final verses of Matthew’s Gospel.  We call this passage the Great Commission.

One of the beautiful things about this mission statement is that it is timeless.  It works for the twenty-first century church as well as it did for the first century church, and it will work for the church in generations to come, should the Lord tarry.  It works across cultures, for people of every race, tribe, and tongue.  In fact, it was written down before the English language was ever even invented.  It is written for the church in every condition and circumstance, whether prosperous or in need, whether strong or weak, whether at peace or persecuted.  It is written for the local church of whatever size, large or small.

You may know that grammatically speaking this commission has one main verb:  Teach (make disciples).  And it is supplemented by three participial phrases:  go, baptizing, and teaching.  Let us look at each of these four directives:

Go:  The Christian faith is a going faith.  It is a centrifugal faith.  It is an evangelizing faith.  It is not an insular faith.  There is a place for family care, for pastoral care for those who are already part of the family, but this faith is always sending us out to a lost and dying world.  Every time we gather on the Lord’s Day we gaze in three directions:  We are looking up to God; we are looking around at each other; we are looking out at the world.

Teach (make disciples of) all nations:  The verb is matheteuo.  In has in it the noun mathetes, disciple.  The verb means to make disciples, to make students or scholars.  We recruit those who desire to enroll in the School of Jesus, who desire to learn from him, and to take him as their Lord and Master.

Notice the object of this command:  all nations.  Christianity is not limited to those of one nation or of one ethnicity.  Though national and ethnic distinctions have not yet passed away as they one day will, there are already no ethnic distinctions, spiritually speaking, in the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:28).  There is, therefore, no room for exclusivity in this faith. The gospel is for all people.

Baptize:  We are to baptize those new disciples.  Few things bring more joy to us than to obey this command.  Baptism is the Biblically mandated manner for men to make a serious and public profession of faith (see the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:35-38).

It speaks to who is authorized to baptize:  the appointed officers of the church.  It speaks to the proper subject of baptism:  a believer or a disciple.  It speaks to the mode of baptism:  by full immersion (inherent in the verb baptizo).  It speaks to the doctrinal integrity of baptism:  It is done in the name of the triune God.

Teach Obedience:  Disciples are expected to love God with their minds.  We want to learn more and more about Jesus and his Word.  Every true church must be a teaching church.  The Bible as the whole counsel of God must be thoroughly taught and exposited.  And the goal of that teaching is full obedience to Christ.

So, we have a mission statement.  Let us strive to live it out.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Follow-ups on ESV Permanent Text Edition

A few follow-ups to the recent WM # 58 on the ESV "Permanent Text Edition" fail:

First, a friend pointed me to the 9.13.16 episode on the Lutheran podcast Issues, Etc. (look here). This episode was posted before Crossway pulled back on the ESV Permanent Text Edition decision.  It features an interview with OT scholar Dr. Andrew Steinmann of Concordia University-Chicago. Steinmann is not a traditional text advocate and has worked with committees to produce modern translations. He worked on the God's Word translation and revision of The Holman Christian Standard Bible. He seems to hold a more dynamic equivalent philosophy.

Nevertheless, he had some interesting things to say about the ESV. When asked to evaluate its reliability Steinmann says, "I'm not a big fan of it for people who do not know Greek and Hebrew... If you don't know Greek and Hebrew I think it can be difficult and, at times, misleading."

He discusses, in particular, the recent revision in the ESV of Genesis 3:16 to "your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you" and the related change of Genesis 4:7 to "Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it."  His assessment is that it makes the understanding of Genesis 4:7 particularly vexing:  "This does not mean anything at all to the English reader....  In attempting to solve a problem, they may have introduced another one."

Second, Aimee Byrd recently pointed to a series of three posts by Hannah Anderson and Wendy Alsup posing challenges to the new ESV rendering of Genesis 3:16 (see Part One, Part Two, and Part Three). They raise some interesting questions about whether this change in the ESV goes beyond a literal rendering in order to cinch an ideological position concerning complementarian views of men and women. My interest here is not so much in the complementarian/egalitarian debate but on the inherent problems which come with modern translations and their vulnerability to constant redaction and "improvement" by activist editors.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Nepali Gospel Message 2016

On his recent trip to Malaysia, Steve Clevenger had to the opportunity to join with local RB brethren in outreach to Nepali migrants living in Kuala Lampur.  Here is a video of Steve preaching to a group of these men in their dormitory with the help of interpreter Milan Karki:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

T. S. Eliot's Review of the New English Bible NT (1962)

I just posted an audio reading of T. S. Eliot's review of the New English Bible NT which appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on December 16, 1962 (p. 7).  Listen to it here.  Read it here.

Thomas Stearns (T. S.) Eliot (1888-1965) was an essayist, poet, play-write, publisher, and literary critic, perhaps best known for his poems like The Waste Land (1922). Though born in the US he became a naturalized British citizen in 1927.  He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.  Eliot also converted to Anglicanism from Unitarianism in 1927.  Whatever his spiritual beliefs might have been, Eliot was an admirer of the Authorized Version (King James Version) for its religious, liturgical, and, especially, literary merits.

In this essay he bemoans the fact that the NEB does not even rise to the level of "dignified mediocrity."  In general he questions whether the English language has undergone such drastic changes as advocates for modern translations assume and argues that some changes might just be for the worse, noting, "it is as much our business to attempt to arrest deterioration and combat corruption of our language, as to accept it."  To use the NEB liturgically, he suggests, will only make it "an active agent of decadence."