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).


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