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THE HOSTILE VERDICT OF BIBLICAL CRITICS SHEWN TO BE QUITE OF RECENT DATE.
Griesbach the first to deny the genuineness of these Verses (p. 6.)—Lachmann’s fatal principle (p. 8) the clue to the unfavourable verdict of Tischendorf (p. 9), of Tregelles (p. 10), of Alford (p. 12); which has been generally adopted by subsequent Scholars and Divines (p. 13).—The nature of the present inquiry explained (p. 15.)
IT is only since the appearance of Griesbach’s second edition [1796-1806] that Critics of the New Testament have permitted themselves to handle the last twelve verses of S. Mark’s Gospel with disrespect. Previous critical editions of the New Testament are free from this reproach. “There is no reason for doubting the genuineness of this portion of Scripture,” wrote Mill in 1707, after a review of the evidence (as far as lie was acquainted with it) for and against. Twenty-seven years later, appeared Bengel’s edition of the New Testament (1734); and Wetstein, at the end of another seventeen years (1751-2), followed in the same field. Both editors, after rehearsing the adverse testimony in extenso, left the passage in undisputed possession of its place. Alter in 1786-7, and Birch in 178877 Quatuor Evangelia Graece cum variantibus a textu lectionibus Codd. MSS. Bibliothecae Vaticanae, etc. Jussu et sumtibus regiis edidit Andreas Birch, Havniae, 1788. A copy of this very rare and sumptuous folio may be seen in the King’s Library (Brit. Mus.), (suspicious as the latter evidently was of its genuineness,) followed their predecessors’ example. But Matthaei, (who also brought his labours to a close in the year 1788,) was not content to give a silent suffrage. He had been for upwards of fourteen years a laborious collator of Greek MSS. of the New Testament, and was so convinced of the insufficiency of the arguments which had been brought against these twelve verses of S. Mark, 6that with no ordinary warmth, no common acuteness, he insisted on their genuineness.
“With Griesbach,” (remarks Dr. Tregelles88 Account of the Printed Text, p. 83.,) “Texts which may be called really critical begin;” and Griesbach is the first to insist that the concluding verses of S. Mark are spurious. That he did not suppose the second Gospel to have always ended at verse 8, we have seen already99 See above, p. 3.. He was of opinion, however, that “at some very remote period, the original ending of the Gospel perished,—disappeared perhaps from the Evangelist’s own copy,—and that the present ending was by some one substituted in its place.” Griesbach further invented the following elaborate and extraordinary hypothesis to account for the existence of S. Mark xvi. 9-20.
He invites his readers to believe that when, (before the end of the second century,) the four Evangelical narratives were collected into a volume and dignified with the title of “The Gospel,”—S. Mark’s narrative was furnished by some unknown individual with its actual termination in order to remedy its manifest incompleteness; and that this volume became the standard of the Alexandrine recension of the text: in other words, became the fontal source of a mighty family of MSS. by Griesbach designated as “Alexandrine.” But there will have been here and there in existence isolated copies of one or more of the Gospels; and in all of these, S. Mark’s Gospel, (by the hypothesis,) will have ended abruptly at the eighth verse. These copies of single Gospels, when collected together, are presumed by Griesbach to have constituted “the Western recension.” If, in codices of this family also, the self-same termination is now all but universally found, the fact is to be accounted for, (Griesbach says,) by the natural desire which possessors of the Gospels will have experienced to supplement their imperfect copies as best they might. “Let this conjecture be accepted,” proceeds the learned veteran,—(unconscious apparently that he has been demanding acceptance for at least half-a-dozen wholly unsupported as well as entirely gratuitous conjectures,)—“and every difficulty disappears; and 7it becomes perfectly intelligible how there has crept into almost every codex which has been written, from the second century downwards, a section quite different from the original and genuine ending of S. Mark, which disappeared before the four Gospels were collected into a single volume.”—In other words, if men will but be so accommodating as to assume that the conclusion of S. Mark’s Gospel disappeared before any one had the opportunity of transcribing the Evangelist’s inspired autograph, they will have no difficulty in understanding that the present conclusion of S. Mark’s Gospel was not really written by S. Mark.
It should perhaps be stated in passing, that Griesbach was driven into this curious maze of unsupported conjecture by the exigencies of his “Recension Theory;” which, inasmuch as it has been long since exploded, need not now occupy us. But it is worth observing that the argument already exhibited, (such as it is,) breaks down under the weight of the very first fact which its learned author is obliged to lay upon it. Codex B.,—the solitary manuscript witness for omitting the clause in question, (for Codex א had not yet been discovered,)—had been already claimed by Griesbach as a chief exponent of his so-called “Alexandrine Recension.” But then, on the Critic’s own hypothesis, (as we have seen already,) Codex B. ought, on the contrary, to have contained it. How was that inconvenient fact to be got over? Griesbach quietly remarks in a foot-note that Codex B. “has affinity with the Eastern family of MSS.”—The misfortune of being saddled with a worthless theory was surely never more apparent. By the time we have reached this point in the investigation, we are reminded of nothing so much as of the weary traveller who, having patiently pursued an ignis fatuus through half the night, beholds it at last vanish; but not until it has conducted him up to his chin in the mire.
Neither Hug, nor Scholz his pupil,—who in 1808 and 1830 respectively followed Griesbach with modifications of his recension-theory,—concurred in the unfavourable sentence which their illustrious predecessor had passed on the concluding portion of S. Mark’s Gospel. The latter even 8eagerly vindicated its genuinenesss1010 “Eam esse authenticam rationes internae et externae probant gravissimae.””. But with Lachmann,—whose unsatisfactory text of the Gospels appeared in 1842,—originated a new principle of Textual Revision; the principle, namely, of paying exclusive and absolute deference to the testimony of a few arbitrarily selected ancient documents; no regard being paid to others of the same or of yet higher antiquity. This is not the right place for discussing this plausible and certainly most convenient scheme of textual revision. That it leads to conclusions little short of irrational, is certain. I notice it only because it supplies the clue to the result which, as far as S. Mark xvi. 9-20 is concerned, has been since arrived at by Dr. Tischendorf, Dr. Tregelles, and Dean Alford1111 I find it difficult to say what distress the sudden removal of this amiable and accomplished Scholar occasions me, just as I am finishing my task. I consign these pages to the press with a sense of downright reluctance,—(constrained however by the importance of the subject,)—seeing that he is no longer among us either to accept or to dispute a single proposition. All I can do is to erase every word which might have occasioned him the least annoyance; and indeed, as seldom as possible to introduce his respected name. An open grave reminds one of the nothingness of earthly controversy; as nothing else does, or indeed can do.—the three latest critics who have formally undertaken to reconstruct the sacred Text.
They agree in assuring their readers that the genuine Gospel of S. Mark extends no further than ch. xvi. ver. 8: in other words, that all that follows the words ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ is an unauthorized addition by some later hand; “a fragment,”—distinguishable from the rest of the Gospel not less by internal evidence than by external testimony. This verdict becomes the more important because it proceeds from men of undoubted earnestness and high ability; who cannot be suspected of being either unacquainted with the evidence on which the point in dispute rests, nor inexperienced in the art of weighing such evidence. Moreover, their verdict has been independently reached; is unanimous; is unhesitating; has been eagerly proclaimed by all three on many different occasions as well as in many different places1212 Tischendorf; besides eight editions of his laborious critical revision of the Greek Text, has edited our English “Authorized Version” (Tauchnitz, 1869,) with an “Introduction” addressed to unlearned readers, and the various readings of Codd. א, B and A, set down in English at the foot of every page.—Tregelles, besides his edition of the Text of the N. T., is very full on the subject of S. Mark xvi. 9-20, in his “Account of the Printed Text,” and in his “Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the N. T.” (vol. iv. of Horne’s Introd.)—Dean Alford, besides six editions of his Greek Testament, and an abridgment “for the upper forms of Schools and for passmen at the Universities,” put forth two editions of a “N. T. for English Readers,” and three editions of “the Authorized Version newly compared with the original Greek and revised;”—in every one of which it is stated that these twelve verses are “probably an addition, placed here in very early times.”; and 9may be said to be at present in all but undisputed possession of the field1313 The Rev. P. H. Scrivener, Bp. Ellicott, and Bp. Wordsworth, are honourable exceptions to this remark. the last-named excellent Divine reluctantly admitting that “this portion may not have been penned by S. Mark himself;” and Bishop Ellicott (Historical Lectures, pp. 26-7) asking “Why may not this portion have been written by S. Mark at a later period?;”—both alike resolutely insist on its genuineness and canonicity. To the honour of the best living master of Textual Criticism, the Rev. F. H. Scrivener, (of whom I desire to be understood to speak as a disciple of his master,) he it stated that he has never at any time given the least sanction to the popular outcry against this portion of the Gospel. “Without the slightest misgiving” he has uniformly maintained the genuineness of S. Mark xvi. 9-20. (Introduction, pp. 7 and 429-32.). The first-named Editor enjoys a vast reputation, and has been generously styled by Mr. Scrivener, “the first Biblical Critic in Europe.” The other two have produced text-books which are deservedly held in high esteem, and are in the hands of every student. The views of such men will undoubtedly colour the convictions of the next generation of English Churchmen. It becomes absolutely necessary, therefore, to examine with the utmost care the grounds of their verdict, the direct result of which is to present us with a mutilated Gospel. If they are right, there is no help for it but that the convictions of eighteen centuries in this respect must be surrendered. But if Tischendorf and Tregelles are wrong in this particular, it follows of necessity that doubt is thrown over the whole of their critical method. The case is a crucial one. Every page of theirs incurs suspicion, if their deliberate verdict in this instance shall prove to be mistaken.
1. Tischendorf disposes of the whole question in a single sentence. “That these verses were not written by Mark,” 10(he says,) “admits of satisfactory proof.” He then recites in detail the adverse external testimony which his predecessors had accumulated; remarking, that it is abundantly confirmed by internal evidence. Of this he supplies a solitary sample; but declares that the whole passage is “abhorrent” to S. Mark’s manner. “The facts of the case being such,” (and with this he dismisses the subject,) “a healthy piety reclaims against the endeavours of those who are for palming off as Mark’s what the Evangelist is so plainly shewn to have known nothing at all about1414 “Haec non a Marco scripta esse argumentis probatur idoneis,” (p. 320.) “Quae testimonia aliis corroborantur argumentis, ut quod conlatis prioribus versu 9. parum apte adduntur verba ἀφ᾽ ἧς ἐκβεβ. item quod singula multifariam a Marci ratione abhorrent.” (p. 322)—I quote from the 7th Leipsic ed.; but in Tischendorf’s 8th ed. (1866, pp. 403, 406,) the same verdict is repeated, with the following addition:—“Quae quum ita sint, sanae erga sacrum textum pietati adversari videntur qui pro apostolicis venditare pergunt quae a Marco aliena esse tam luculenter docemur.” (p. 407.).” A mass of laborious annotation which comes surging in at the close of verse 8, and fills two of Tischendorf’s pages, has the effect of entirely divorcing the twelve verses in question from the inspired text of the Evangelist. On the other hand, the evidence in favour of the place is despatched in less than twelve lines. What can be the reason that an Editor of the New Testament parades elaborately every particular of the evidence, (such as it is,) against the genuineness of a considerable portion of the Gospel; and yet makes summary work with the evidence in its favour? That Tischendorf has at least entirely made up his mind on the matter in hand is plain. Elsewhere, he speaks of the Author of these verses as “Pseudo Marcus1515 Evangelia Apocrypha, 1853, Prolog. p. lvi..”
2. Dr. Tregelles has expressed himself most fully on this subject in his “Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament” (1854). The respected author undertakes to show “that the early testimony that S. Mark did not write these verses is confirmed by existing monuments.” Accordingly, he announces as the result of the propositions which he thinks he has established, “that the book of Mark himself extends no further than ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.” He is the 11only critic I have met with to whom it does not seem incredible that S. Mark did actually conclude his Gospel in this abrupt way: observing that “perhaps we do not know enough of the circumstances of S. Mark when he wrote his Gospel to say whether he did or did not leave it with a complete termination.” In this modest suggestion at least Dr. Tregelles is unassailable, since we know absolutely nothing whatever about “the circumstances of S. Mark,” (or of any other Evangelist,) “when he wrote his Gospel:” neither indeed are we quite sure who S. Mark was. But when he goes on to declare, notwithstanding, “that the remaining twelve verses, by whomsoever written, have a full claim to be received as an authentic part of the second Gospel;” and complains that “there is in some minds a kind of timidity with regard to Holy Scripture, as if all our notions of its authority depended on our knowing who was the writer of each particular portion; instead of simply seeing and owning that it was given forth from God, and that it is as much His as were the Commandments of the Law written by His own finger on the tables of stone1616 pp. 253, 7-9.;”—the learned writer betrays a misapprehension of the question at issue, which we are least of all prepared to encounter in such a quarter. We admire his piety but it is at the expense of his critical sagacity. For the question is not at all one of authorship, but only one of genuineness. Have the codices been mutilated which do not contain these verses? If they have, then must these verses be held to be genuine. But on the contrary, Have the codices been supplemented which contain them? Then are these verses certainly spurious. There is no help for it but they must either be held to be an integral part of the Gospel, and therefore, in default of any proof to the contrary, as certainly by S. Mark as any other twelve verses which can be named; or else an unauthorized addition to it. If they belong to the post-apostolic age it is idle to insist on their Inspiration, and to claim that this “authentic anonymous addition to what Mark himself wrote down” is as much the work of God “as were the Ten Commandments written by His own 12finger on the tables of stone.” On the other hand, if they “ought as much to be received as part of our second Gospel as the last chapter of Deuteronomy (unknown as the writer is) is received as the right and proper conclusion of the book of Moses,”—it is difficult to understand why the learned editor should think himself at liberty to sever them from their context, and introduce the subscription ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΡΚΟΝ after ver. 8. In short, “How persons who believe that these verses did not form a part of the original Gospel of Mark, but were added afterwards, can say that they have a good claim to be received as an authentic or genuine part of the second Gospel, that is, a portion of canonical Scripture, passes comprehension.” It passes even Dr. Davidson’s comprehension; (for the foregoing words are his;) and Dr. Davidson, as some of us are aware, is not a man to stick at trifles1717 In his first edition (1848, vol. i. p.163) Dr. Davidson pronounced it “manifestly untenable” that S. Mark’s Gospel was the last written; and assigned A.D. 64 as “its most probable” date. In his second (1868, vol. ii. p. 117), lie says:—“When we consider that the Gospel was not written till the second century, internal evidence loses much of its force against the authenticity of these verses.”—Introduction to N. T..
3. Dean Alford went a little further than any of his predecessors. He says that this passage “was placed as a completion of the Gospel soon after the Apostolic period,—the Gospel itself having been, for some reason unknown to us, left incomplete. The most probable supposition” (he adds) “is, that the last leaf of the original Gospel was torn away.” The italics in this conjecture (which was originally Griesbach’s) are not mine. The internal evidence (declares the same learned writer) “preponderates vastly against the authorship of Mark;” or (as he elsewhere expresses it) against “its genuineness as a work of the Evangelist.” Accordingly, in his Prolegomena, (p. 38) he describes it as “the remarkable fragment at the end of the Gospel.” After this, we are the less astonished to find that he closes the second Gospel at ver. 8; introduces the Subscription there; and encloses the twelve verses which follow within heavy brackets. Thus, whereas from the days of our illustrious countryman 13Mill (1707), the editors of the N. T. have either been silent on the subject, or else have whispered only that this section of the Gospel is to be received with less of confidence than the rest,—it has been reserved for the present century to convert the ancient suspicions into actual charges. The latest to enter the field have been the first to execute Griesbach’s adverse sentence pronounced fifty years ago, and to load the blessed Evangelist with bonds.
It might have been foreseen that when Critics so conspicuous permit themselves thus to handle the precious deposit, others would take courage to hurl their thunderbolts in the same direction with the less concern. “It is probable,” (says Abp. Thomson in the Bible Dictionary,) “that this section is from a different hand, and was annexed to the Gospels soon after the times of the Apostles1818 Vol. ii. p. 239..”—The Rev. T. S. Green1919 “Developed Criticism, , p. 53., (an able scholar, never to be mentioned without respect,) considers that “the hypothesis of very early interpolation satisfies the body of facts in evidence,”—which “point unmistakably in the direction of a spurious origin.”—“In respect of Mark’s Gospel,” (writes Professor Norton in a recent work on the Genuineness of the Gospels,) “there is ground for believing that the last twelve verses were not written by the Evangelist, but were added by some other writer to supply a short conclusion to the work, which some cause had prevented the author from completing2020 Ed. 1847, i. p.17. Ho recommends this view to his reader’s acceptance in five pages,—pp. 216 to 221..”—Professor Westcott—who, jointly with the Rev. F. J. A. Hort, announces a revised Text—assures us that “the original text, from whatever cause it may have happened, terminated abruptly after the account of the Angelic vision.” The rest “was added at another time, and probably by another hand.” “It is in vain to speculate on the causes of this abrupt close.” “The remaining verses cannot be regarded as part of the original narrative of S. Mark2121 Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, p.311..”—Meyer insists that this is an “apocryphal fragment,” and reproduces all the arguments, external and internal, which have ever been 14arrayed against it, without a particle of misgiving. The “note” with which he takes leave of the subject is even insolent2222 Critical and Exegetical Commentary, 1865, 8vo. pp. 182, 186-92... A comparison (he says) of these “fragments” (ver. 9-18 and 19) with the parallel places in the other Gospels and in the Acts, shews how vacillating and various were the Apostolical traditions concerning the appearances of our Lord after His Resurrection, and concerning His Ascension. (“Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?”)
Such, then, is the hostile verdict concerning these last twelve verses which I venture to dispute, and which I trust I shall live to see reversed. The writers above cited will be found to rely (1.) on the external evidence of certain ancient MSS.; and (2.) on Scholia which state “that the more ancient and accurate copies terminated the Gospel at ver. 8.” (3.) They assure us that this is confirmed by a formidable array of Patristic authorities. (4.) Internal proof is declared not to be wanting. Certain incoherences and inaccuracies are pointed out. In fine, “the phraseology and style of the section” are declared to be “unfavourable to its authenticity;” not a few of the words and expressions being “foreign to the diction of Mark.”—I propose to shew that all these confident and imposing statements are to a great extent either mistakes or exaggerations, and that the slender residuum of fact is about as powerless to achieve the purpose of the critics as were the seven green withs of the Philistines to bind Samson.
In order to exhibit successfully what I have to offer on this subject, I find it necessary to begin (in the next chapter) at the very beginning. I think it right, however, in this place to premise a few plain considerations which will be of use to us throughout all our subsequent inquiry; and which indeed we shall never be able to afford to lose sight of for long.
The question at issue being simply this,—Whether it is reasonable to suspect that the last twelve verses of S. Mark are a spurious accretion and unauthorized supplement to his Gospel, or not?—the whole of our business clearly resolves itself into an examination of what has been urged in proof 15that the former alternative is the correct one. Our opponents maintain that these verses did not form part of the original autograph of the Evangelist. But it is a known rule in the Law of Evidence that the burthen of proof lies on the party who asserts the affirmative of the issue2323 In the Roman law this principle is thus expressed,—“Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat.” Taylor on the Law of Evidence, 1868, p. 369.. We have therefore to ascertain in the present instance what the supposed proof is exactly worth; remembering always that in this subject-matter a high degree of probability is the only kind of proof which is attainable. When, for example, it is contended that the famous words in S. John’s first Epistle (1 S. John v. 7, 8,) are not to be regarded as genuine, the fact that they are away from almost every known Codex is accepted as a proof that they were also away from the autograph of the Evangelist. On far less weighty evidence, in fact, we are at all times prepared to yield the hearty assent of our understanding in this department of sacred science.
And yet, it will be found that evidence of overwhelming weight, if not of an entirely different kind, is required in the present instance: as I proceed to explain.
1. When it is contended that our Lord’s reply to the young ruler (S. Matt. xix. 17) was not Τί με λέγεις ἀγαθον; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς, εἰ μὴ εἷς, ὁ Θεός,—it is at the same time insisted that it was Τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαθός. It is proposed to omit the former words only because an alternative clause is at hand, which it is proposed to substitute in its room.
2. Again. When it is claimed that some given passage of the Textus Receptus,—S. Mark xv. 28, for example, (καὶ ἐπληρώθη ἡ γραφὴ ἡ λέγουσα, Καὶ μετὰ ἀνόμων ἐλογίσθη,) or the Doxology in S. Matth. vi. 13,—is spurious, all that is pretended is that certain words are an unauthorized addition to the inspired text; and that by simply omitting them we are so far restoring the Gospel to its original integrity.—The same is to be said concerning every other charge of interpolation which can be named. If the celebrated “pericopa de adulterâ,” for instance, be indeed 16not genuine, we have but to leave out those twelve verses of S. John’s Gospel, and to read chap. vii. 52 in close sequence with chap. viii. 12; and we are assured that we are put in possession of the text as it came from the hands of its inspired Author. Nor, (it must be admitted), is any difficulty whatever occasioned thereby; for there is no reason assignable why the two last-named verses should not cohere; (there is no internal improbability, I mean, in the supposition;) neither does there exist any à priori reason why a considerable portion of narrative should be looked for in that particular part of the Gospel.
3. But the case is altogether different, as all must see, when it is proposed to get rid of the twelve verses which for 1700 years and upwards have formed the conclusion of S. Mark’s Gospel; no alternative conclusion being proposed to our acceptance. For let it be only observed what this proposal practically amounts to and means.
(a.) And first, it does not mean that S. Mark himself, with design, brought his Gospel to a close at the words ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ. That supposition would in fact be irrational. It does not mean, I say, that by simply leaving out those last twelve verses we shall be restoring the second Gospel to its original integrity. And this it is which makes the present a different case from every other, and necessitates a fuller, if not a different kind of proof.
(I.) What then? It means that although an abrupt and impossible termination would confessedly be the result of omitting verses 9-20, no nearer approximation to the original autograph of the Evangelist is at present attainable. Whether S. Mark was interrupted before he could finish his Gospel,—(as Dr. Tregelles and Professor Norton suggest;)—in which case it will have been published by its Author in au unfinished state: or whether “the last leaf was torn away” before a single copy of the original could be procured,—(a view which is found to have recommended itself to Griesbach;)—in which case it will have once had a different termination from at present; which termination however, by the hypothesis, has since been irrecoverably lost;—(and to one of these two wild hypotheses the critics are 17logically reduced;)—this we are not certainly told. The critics are only agreed in assuming that S. Mark’s Gospel was at first without the verses which at present conclude it.
But this assumption, (that a work which has been held to be a complete work for seventeen centuries and upwards was originally incomplete,) of course requires proof. The foregoing improbable theories, based on a gratuitous assumption, are confronted in limine with a formidable obstacle which must be absolutely got rid of before they can be thought entitled to a serious hearing. It is a familiar and a fatal circumstance that the Gospel of S. Mark has been furnished with its present termination ever since the second century of the Christian æra2424 This is freely allowed by all. “Certiores facti sumus hanc pericopam jam In secundo saeculo lectam fuisso tanquam bujus evangelii partem.” Tregelles N. T. p. 214.. In default, therefore, of distinct historical evidence or definite documentary proof that at some earlier period than that it terminated abruptly, nothing short of the utter unfitness of the verses which at present conclude S. Mark’s Gospel to be regarded as the work of the Evangelist, would warrant us in assuming that they are the spurious accretion of the post-apostolic age: and as such, at the end of eighteen centuries, to be deliberately rejected. We must absolutely be furnished, I say, with internal evidence of the most unequivocal character; or else with external testimony of a direct and definite kind, if we are to admit that the actual conclusion of S. Mark’s Gospel is an unauthorized substitute for something quite different that has been lost. I can only imagine one other thing which could induce us to entertain such an opinion; and that would be the general consent of MSS., Fathers, and Versions in leaving these verses out. Else, it is evident that we are logically forced to adopt the far easier supposition that (not S. Mark, but) some copyist of the third century left a copy of S. Mark’s Gospel unfinished; which unfinished copy became the fontal source of the mutilated copies which have come down to our own times2525 This in fact is how Bengel (N. T. p. 526) accounts for the phenomenon:—“Fieri potuit ut librarius, scripto versu 8, reliquam partem scribere differret, et id exemplar, casu non perfectum, alii quasi perfectum sequerentur, praesertim quum ea pars cum reliquâ historiâ evangelicâ minus congruere videretur.”.18
I have thought it right to explain the matter thus fully at the outset; not in order to prejudge the question, (for that could answer no good purpose,) but only in order that the reader may have clearly set before him the real nature of the issue. “Is it reasonable to suspect that the concluding verses of S. Mark are a spurious accretion and unauthorized supplement to his Gospel, or not?” That is the question which we have to consider,—the one question. And while I proceed to pass under careful review all the evidence on this subject with which I am acquainted, I shall be again and again obliged to direct the attention of my reader to its bearing on the real point at issue. In other words, we shall have again and again to ask ourselves, how far it is rendered probable by each fresh article of evidence that S. Mark’s Gospel, when it left the hands of its inspired Author, was an unfinished work; the last chapter ending abruptly at ver. 8?
I will only point out, before passing on, that the course which has been adopted towards S. Mark xvi. 9-20, by the latest Editors of the New Testament, is simply illogical. Either they regard these verses as possibly genuine, or else as certainly spurious. If they entertain (as they say they do) a decided opinion that they are not genuine, they ought (if they would be consistent) to banish them from the text2626 It is thus that Tischendorf treats S. Luke xxiv. 12, and (in his latest edition) S. John xxi. 25.. Conversely, since they do not banish them from the text, they have no right to pass a fatal sentence upon them; to designate their author as “pseudo-Marcus;” to handle them in contemptuous fashion. The plain truth is, these learned men are better than their theory; the worthlessness of which they are made to feel in the present most conspicuous instance. It reduces them to perplexity. It has landed them in inconsistency and error.—They will find it necessary in the end to reverse their convictions. They cannot too speedily reconsider their verdict, and retrace their steps.19
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