Monday, October 31, 2016

Book Note: Peter Barnes, "Both Sides Now: Ecclesiastes and the Human Condition"

Note:  A pastor friend who stayed the night at our house last month gave me this book as hospitality gift.  I took it as a kind providence, since he did not know I was considering preaching through Ecclesiastes. I read the book last week and thought I’d offer a brief note on it.

Peter Barnes, Both Sides Now:  Ecclesiastes and the Human Condition (Banner of Truth, 2004):  104 pp.

Barnes is a Presbyterian pastor in Sydney, Australia.  I’ve enjoyed reading a couple of other Banner works by Barnes, including his booklet on abortion “Open Your Mouth for the Dumb” and the short books, The Milk of the Word:  An Introduction to the Christian Faith (1985), and  A Handful of Pebbles:  Theological Liberalism and the Church (2008). He has also written John Calvin:  Man of God’s Word, Written and Preached (2011), but I have not yet read that one.

Both Sides Now is not a commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes.  It does not provide a chapter by chapter or verse by verse exposition of the text.  Rather, it is a collection of devotional thoughts and reflections on various themes drawn from the Old Testament wisdom book.

Barnes is an engaging writer whose prose frequently offers memorable and aphoristic lines.  Examples:

We seem to have something in common with the angels and something in common with the cockroach.  So here we are, with eternity and madness in our hearts (p. 3).

The more we are gratified, the less we are satisfied (p. 13).

Before we confront the issue of life after death, we need to ask whether there is life before death (p. 94).

We cannot know everything, but we can know life in Christ (p. 104).

The book is also filled with various anecdotes, quotations, and biographical snippets.  Barnes draws not just from theologians and Christian circles but also from pop culture.  So, we not only read quotes from Augustine, Pascal, and Kierkegaard but we also learn about the tragic death of Eric Clapton’s three year old child inspiring the song “Tears in Heaven” and the last words of Frank Sinatra (not “I did it my way” but “I am losing”) (see pp. 83, 87). The book’s title is taken from a line in a Joni Mitchell song, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now” (cited at the beginning and end of the work, see pp. 1, 103-104).  Certainly the varied references show the breadth of the author’s reading.  If anything might be said in criticism, the book sometimes seems to lose its focus in the heaping up of these anecdotes.  Still, the preacher in search of a fitting illustration might well find it a treasure trove.

The “both sides now” of the title is the realization of a repeated theme in Ecclesiastes that human beings have both eternity and madness in their hearts.  Barnes effectively points the reader to Christ as the solution to this inner conflict.

I commend it as a devotional work and a homiletical resource.  It is brief, easy to read and understand, and could readily be digested in a day or two.  The preacher who takes Ecclesiastes as his subject will find it a helpful work to supplement his study of exegetical commentaries.

Just one more criticism:  Bible citations are from the ESV. I would have preferred a translation based on the traditional text.  I won’t hold that, however, against it.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cessationism and Consistent Confessionalism

Here are some notes adapted from the closing to last Sunday afternoon’s sermon on Cessationism from our series through the 1689 Baptist Confession:

There has been an ongoing challenge throughout the history of the church to the sufficiency of Scripture from those who crave extra-Biblical experiences.  As Solomon puts it, “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecc 1:9).

In the early church there was a movement known as Montanism led by a charismatic self-proclaimed prophet named Montanus.  His followers considered themselves “the enlightened ones.”  Eusebius records it was boasted that Montanus was “the Paraclete” and that two women of his sect named Priscilla and Maximilla were “the prophetesses of Montanus.”  Eusebius’ own assessment was that they were “like poisonous reptiles” (see E. H., V.xiv).

In medieval times there were the self-proclaimed mystics.

During the Reformation period, Luther was opposed by a group of men known as “the Zwickau prophets” who claimed to be led by visions and dreams.  In an encounter with Luther, they pleaded, “The Spirit, Dr. Luther!  The Spirit!”  To which Luther replied, “I slap your spirit on the snout!” [as cited in J. P. Thackway, “Lessons from the Charismatic Movement” Bible League Quarterly (No. 467, Oct-Dec 2016):  p. 451].

In the post-Reformation period men like John Bunyan and John Owen opposed the excesses of the Society of Friends or the “Quakers,” as they were called for their frenzied movements while supposedly seized by the Spirit.  Before there were the “holy rollers” there were the Quakers and the Shakers!

In our own day, we have the modern charismatic movement, whose influence is widely felt even in conservative and evangelical churches, especially through so-called “third wave” worship music. “Contemporary” worship has become the norm and churches guided by the Regulative Principle the exception to the rule. Many have embraced soteriological Calvinism, claim to be “Reformed,” but say they are “open yet cautious” to charismatic expressions. They do not grasp, however, the fundamental contradiction in this kind of stance, given the closing words of chapter one "Of the Holy Scriptures" in the confession: “which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.” Clearly the confession takes a cessationist position. Mixing continuationism with Reformed theology is like mixing oil and water. You cannot be confessional and continuationist. The framers of the confession clearly saw cessationism as essential to the defense of the sufficiency and necessity of Scripture.


Friday, October 28, 2016

The Vision (10.30.16): Vanity of Vanities

Image: Fall leaves, North Garden, Virginia, October 2016

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday morning's opening sermon in the Ecclesiastes series.

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

Ecclesiastes 1:2 offers an inspired, albeit bleak, assessment of human life.  Five times in this verse, we see the use of the word “vanity.”  It is a favorite word in this book as a whole, appearing again and again, nearly 40 times.

The Hebrew word for “vanity” is hebel.  It is also used for wind or breath.  So, it means something that it light, of little substance, and of brief duration (see Currid, Ecclesiastes:  A Quest for Meaning? pp. 15-16).  The OT name “Abel” comes from this word, and Abel lived a brief life, cut short by his own brother.

He uses it here in a superlative sense, as also in the Holy of Holies (the holiest place), or the Song of Songs (the best of songs).  But here, vanity of vanities, or most meaningless of the meaningless, most fleeting of the fleeting, emptiest of the empty.  When he says, “all is vanity” he is saying that life is meaningless, life is purposeless.

It recalls that great line from Shakespeare’s MacBeth:

Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The Australian Pastor Peter Barnes in his little book on Ecclesiastes, captures the natural despair that many feel when he writes:

We are constantly being exhorted to make a difference, but the reality is that the world hardly seems much different because we have heeded the alarm clock, eaten breakfast, said good-bye to the family, boarded the train [got in the car], put in our eight hours’ work, returned home, all in order to flop down in front of the television set.  There is activity and apparent change, but no sense of getting anywhere.  The world at large remains much the same (Both Sides Now, pp. 9-10).

Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!

This book is going to tell us about what life is like apart from Christ.  It is going to tell us about sin, sinful longings, and sinful attitudes with the precision of a Puritan divine. “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).  But it is also going to point us toward a Redeemer.  He is the “one man among a thousand” (Ecclesiastes 7:28) who gives meaning and purpose to our lives.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Note: Gordon H. Clark, "God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics"

Note:  I've had this book on my shelf for a while.  I finally picked it up and read it last week, as I'm continuing to preach through chapter one in the Baptist Confession.

Gordon H. Clark, God’s Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics (The Trinity Foundation, 1982):  212 pp.

This book is a collection of various essays and papers on the doctrine of Scripture from the Reformed Presbyterian philosopher Gordon H. Clark (1902-1985).

The essays are largely written against the backdrop of the mid to late twentieth century “battle for the Bible.” The forward is by Harold Lindsell.  There are various jabs at and warnings against liberal and Neo-Orthodox views on Biblical inspiration (see especially, “The Concept of Biblical Authority,” pp. 127-155).  Several of the essays also reflect Clark’s conflict with Reformed theologian Cornelius Van Til and his disciples (see especially “The Bible as Truth,” pp. 24-38).  For Clark the truth of Scripture is propositional, comprehensible, and logical.  [Aside:  For a podcast offering a Van Tilian reflection on this controversy, listen to this episode of the Reformed Forum.  For a Clarkian perspective on this controversy see this article and this one].

The essays also provide some interesting insights into Clark’s hopes for the Evangelical Theological Society, of which he was a founding member, and his vision of it as a bulwark against liberalism (see especially “The Evangelical Theological Society Tomorrow,” pp. 51-63).  One wonders how Clark would assess the contemporary construal of inerrancy within evangelical academic circles and the state of that society today.

The closing article is titled, “The Reformed Faith and the Westminster Confession” (pp. 186-198).  In it Clark calls the first chapter of the confession on Scripture “a continental divide,” “the great divide between two types of religion” (p. 187).  On one side, with the denial of Biblical authority, is “naturalism, secularism, or humanism” (p. 187).  On the other is faithful, Biblical Christianity.  Even here, however, the waters divide into two streams that generally seem to flow in the same direction. The weaker of the two may accept Biblical infallibility and be “broadly evangelical” even though it rejects other details of the confession.  Sadly, it often flows through “stony ground” and oozes “through swamps” (p. 196).  The superior of the two is that of confessional Christianity which is “identified with the doctrines of the great Reformers” (p. 196).

He closes by noting three convictions he believes are reflected in the Westminster Confession:

First, our forefathers were convinced, the Westminster Confession asserts, and the Bible teaches that God has given us a written revelation.  This revelation is truth…..

Second, our forefathers were convinced and the Reformed Faith asserts that this truth can be known.  God has created us in his image with the intellectual and logical powers of understanding.  He has addressed to men an intelligible revelation and he expects us to read it, to grasp its meaning, and to believe it.  God is not totally other, nor is logic a human invention that distorts God’s statements…..

Third, the Reformers believed that God’s revelation can be formulated accurately.  They were not enamored of ambiguity; they did not identify piety with a confused mind.  They wanted to proclaim truth with the greatest possible clarity.  And so ought we (p. 197).

This summary also, of course, conveniently encapsulates some of Clark’s own distinctive theological convictions.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ananias and Cessationism

Image:  Depiction of the baptism of Paul by Ananias in the Duomo di Monreale, Sicily, Italy.  The Latin inscription reads:  Hic conversus Paulus baptizatur ab Anania [Here the converted Paul is baptized by Ananias].

Last Sunday, I resumed the afternoon series through the Baptist confession with a message on the final clause of chapter one, paragraph one:  “which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing his will to his people being now ceased" (listen to sermon here).

I made the point in the message (1) that the extra-ordinary gifts in the apostolic age were restricted to the apostles and evangelists (apostolic associates) and (2) that those gifts have now ceased since the extra-ordinary offices have ceased.

To cinch the point, I noted that in the book of Acts ordinary Christians are not depicted as performing miracles but this is the special activity of the apostles and their associates, citing:

Acts 5:12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people….

Acts 19:11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:

After the meeting several of us were discussing this point and one person asked about Ananias’ laying hands on Paul when he was blinded on the road to Damascus in Acts 9.  Would this be an example of a non-apostle performing a miracle?

Ananias is simply described as “a certain disciple of Damascus” (Acts 9:10).  He is instructed by the Lord in a vision that Saul “hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight” (v. 12).  Ananias then goes to Saul, “and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (v. 17).  Saul’s eyes were then opened, as if scales had fallen from them, he arose, and was baptized (v. 18).  Ananias is presumably the person who administers the baptism.

So, (1) is Ananias an ordinary disciple and (2) is the restoration of sight to Saul a healing miracle performed by him?

First, who was Ananias?

He was not an apostle.  But, was he merely an ordinary disciple?  The fact that he is sent to Saul and that he apparently baptizes him indicates that Ananias was an officer of the church.  He is in Damascus and not Jerusalem, where the apostles reside, but this does not preclude the possibility that he was sent there by the apostles.  Clearly, Ananias did not live in ordinary but extra-ordinary times.  He lived in the age of the apostles.  The Lord directly entrusted him through a vision with the important task of discipling Saul.  This is not the norm for ordinary believers (but cf. the Spirit’s direction of Philip, an apostolic associate, toward the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26, 29).  The cessationist position does not say that only apostles performed miracles or had extra-ordinary experiences.  The apostolic associates, like Stephen and Philip, also performed such deeds. Compare:

Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Acts 8:6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

Acts 8:13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

So, if the restoration of Saul’s sight was a healing miracle, then Ananias might be considered an apostolic associate like Stephen or Philip.

Second, was the restoration of Saul’s sight a healing miracle?

Nevertheless, it might also be argued that the opening of Saul’s eyes was not, in fact, a healing miracle.  His temporary blindness only comes upon him after his encounter with the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:8-9).  Ananias is told to place his hands on Saul “that he might receive his sight” (v. 12), but the imposition of hands might have more to do with his ordination to service as “a chosen vessel” (v. 15) than to healing.  It might be that Ananias is not sent to “heal” Saul but to baptize and ordain him, upon his reception of spiritual insight into the identity of Jesus.  If this is the case, Ananias need not be an extra-ordinary officer but an ordinary one.

What did Calvin say?

A review of Calvin’s commentary on Acts 9 indicates that the great Reformer also seemed to be pondering these questions.

When discussing the Lord’s instruction to the blinded Saul (“it shall be told thee” v. 6), Calvin’s description of Ananias is as an ordinary teacher rather than as an extra-ordinary healer.  He notes:

Christ putteth Ananias in his place by these words, as touching the office of teaching; not because he resigneth his authority to him, but because he shall be a faithful minister, and a sincere preacher of the gospel.

Likewise, in his commentary on Ananias’ vision in v. 10, Calvin says, “And this vision was necessary for Ananias, lest through fear he should withdraw himself from that function which was enjoined to him, to wit, to teach Paul.”

Calvin does not describe the restoration of Saul’s sight as a healing but his focus in on the special call upon the apostle’s life:  “To conclude, Christ pronounceth that Paul was chosen unto great and excellent things” (commentary on v. 15).

Calvin even expresses this cessationist sentiment:  “If any man object that the Lord speaketh not at this day in a vision, I answer, that forasmuch as the Scripture is abundantly confirmed to us, we must hear God thence.”


The description of Ananias’ ministry to Saul does not contradict the cessationist position.  First, Ananias lived in the age of the apostles, and so we should expect he might have been involved in extra-ordinary experiences even if he was not an apostle.  Second, the restoration of Saul’s sight by the imposition of Ananias’ hands does not so much call to mind a healing per se as it does an ordination (cf. Acts 6:6; 13:3).


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ecclesiastes in the New Testament

Last Sunday morning I began a new sermon series through Ecclesiastes.

The NA28 lists the following twelve verses in Ecclesiastes that are cited or alluded to in the NT:

Ecclesiastes passage

New Testament citation/allusion
Ecclesiastes 1:2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Romans 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

Ecclesiastes 3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Matthew 11:17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.

Ecclesiastes 4:8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Ecclesiastes 5:1 Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

Ecclesiastes 5:14 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.

1 Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath
Ecclesiastes 7:18 It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.

Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Luke 11:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

James 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

Luke 12:19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

Ecclesiastes 11:5 As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Luke 12:2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mark and the Papyri

Image:  Fragment from p45 with Mark 8:18-26.

While listening to a recent podcast from a well known apologist who has embraced the modern critical text I heard him say something like, “I love the papyri.” No doubt his professed infatuation with these early NT mss. comes from the fact that he believes the papyri support the critical text.  This is not, however, necessarily the case.

For one thing, contrary to the theory of Westcott and Hort, Harry A. Sturz demonstrated in his book The Byzantine Text Type & New Testament Textual Criticism (Thomas Nelson, 1984) that the witnesses in the papyri are not uniformly Alexandrian but mixed, with all major “text types” represented, including the supposedly late Byzantine.

For another, the number of extant papyri is limited.  When there is a papyri witness to a book it is often only partial.  Many controversial texts are neither supported nor denied by the papyri, because no papyri witnesses for the text have (yet) been found.

My recent podcast series on the Ending of Mark (see WM # 60 and WM # 61), got me interested in the papyri evidence for Mark and especially for Mark 16:9-20.

A review of the papyri as listed in the NA 28 (2012) reveals that the evidence for Mark is meager (only three papyri) and for the ending non-existent.  Here is the papyri evidence for Mark:

Text of Mark
p45 (Chester Beatty Papyrus)
3rd century
Mark 4:36-40; 5:15-26; 5:38-6:3, 16-26, 36-50; 7:3-15; 7:25-8:1, 10-26; 8:34-9:9, 18-31; 11:27-12:1, , 5-8, 13-19, 24-28.
6th century
Mark 2:2-5, 8-9; 6:30-31, 33-34, 36-37, 39-41
4th century
Mark 2:1-26

In his analysis of the papyri evidence for Mark, Peter M. Head notes that the resources are “relatively thin” [see his chapter “The Early Text of Mark” in C. E. Hill and M. J. Kruger, Eds., The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford University Press, 2012):  108].  He adds that the “paucity of manuscripts, alongside the relative absence of information about the text of Mark in the early period, is something that distinguishes it from that of the other three canonical gospels” (p. 108).

When it comes to the ending of Mark, the earliest witnesses are not the papyri but the Church Fathers.  As noted in WM 61 second century men like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian clearly know the traditional ending of Mark.  Still, those who embrace the modern critical text prefer the authority of the two fourth century uncials (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) which omit the ending, despite apparent knowledge of it, and end at 16:8.

One more thought on the papyri evidence for Mark:  Does the fact that so few papyri exist for Mark and the fact that it was apparently so seldom commented upon or preached from in the early church undermine the Markan Priority solution to the so-called Synoptic Problem?  This theory gained prominence in the nineteenth century when the papyri evidence was largely undiscovered.  Does the current papyri evidence undermine any confidence in this theory?


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.