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GENERAL REVIEW OF THE QUESTION: SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE; AND CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE SUBJECT.
This discussion narrowed to a single issue (p. 244).—That S. Mark’s Gospel was imperfect from the very first, a thing altogether incredible (p. 246):—But that at some very remote period Copies have suffered mutilation, a supposition probable in the highest degree (p. 248).—Consequences of this admission (p. 252).—Parting words (p. 254.)
THIS Inquiry has at last reached its close. The problem was fully explained at the outset460460 Chap. I. and II.. All the known evidence has since been produced461461 Chap. IV, VI—X., every Witness examined462462 Chap. III, V, and VIII.. Counsel has been heard on both sides. A just Sentence will assuredly follow. But it may not be improper that I should in conclusion ask leave to direct attention to the single issue which has to be decided, and which has been strangely thrust into the background and practically kept out of sight, by those who have preceded me in this Investigation. The case stands simply thus:—
It being freely admitted that, in the beginning of the ivth century, there must have existed Copies of the Gospels in which the last chapter of S. Mark extended no further than ver. 8, the Question arises,—How is this phenomenon to be accounted for? . . . The problem is not only highly interesting and strictly legitimate, but it is even inevitable. In the immediately preceding chapter, I have endeavoured to solve it, and I believe in a wholly unsuspected way.
But the most recent Editors of the text of the New Testament, declining to entertain so much as the possibility that certain copies of the second Gospel had experienced mutilation in very early times in respect of these Twelve concluding 244Verses, have chosen to occupy themselves rather with conjectures as to how it may have happened that S. Mark’s Gospel was without a conclusion from the very first. Persuaded that no more probable account is to be given of the phenomenon than that the Evangelist himself put forth a Gospel which (for some unexplained reason) terminated abruptly at the words ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ (chap. xvi. 8),—they have unhappily seen fit to illustrate the liveliness of this conviction of theirs, by presenting the world with his Gospel mutilated in this particular way. Practically, therefore, the question has been reduced to the following single issue:—Whether of the two suppositions which follow is the more reasonable:
First,—That the Gospel according to S. Mark, as it left the hands of its inspired Author, was in this impeded or unfinished state; ending abruptly at (what we call now) the 8th verse of the last chapter:—of which solemn circumstance, at the end of eighteen centuries, Cod. B and Cod. א are the alone surviving Manuscript witnesses? . . . or,
Secondly,—That certain copies of S. Mark’s Gospel having suffered mutilation in respect of their Twelve concluding Verses in the post-Apostolic age, Cod. B and Cod. א are the only examples of MSS. so mutilated which are known to exist at the present day?
I. Editors who adopt the former hypothesis, are observed (a) to sever the Verses in question from their context463463 Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford.:—(b) to introduce after ver. 8, the subscription “ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΡΚΟΝ464464 Tregelles, Alford.”—(c) to shut up verses 9-20 within brackets465465 Alford.. Regarding them as “no integral part of the Gospel466466 “Haec non a Marco scripta esse argumentis probatur idoneis.”—See the rest of Tischendorf’s verdict, suprà, p. 10; and opposite, p. 245.,”—“as an authentic anonymous addition to what Mark himself wrote down467467 Tregelles’ Account of the Printed Text, p. 259.,”—a “remarkable Fragment,” “placed as a completion of the Gospel in very early times468468 Alford’s New Test. vol. i. Proleg. [p. 38] and p. 437.;”—they consider themselves at liberty to go on to suggest that “the Evangelist may have been interrupted in his work:” at any rate, 245that “something may have occurred, (as the death of S. Peter,) to cause him to leave it unfinished469469 So Norton, Tregelles, and others..” But “the most probable supposition” (we are assured) “is, that the last leaf of the original Gospel was torn away470470 This suggestion, which was originally Griesbach’s, is found in Alford’s New Test. vol. i. p. 433, (ed. 1868.)—See above, p. 12. The italics are not mine..”
We listen with astonishment; contenting ourselves with modestly suggesting that surely it will be time to conjecture why S. Mark’s Gospel was left by its Divinely inspired Author in an unfinished state, when the fact has been established that it probably was so left. In the meantime, we request to be furnished with some evidence of that fact.
But not a particle of Evidence is forthcoming. It is not even pretended that any such evidence exists. Instead, we are magisterially informed by “the first Biblical Critic in Europe,”—(I desire to speak of him with gratitude and respect, but S. Mark’s Gospel is a vast deal more precious to me than Dr. Tischendorf’s reputation,)—that “a healthy piety reclaims against the endeavours of those who are for palming off as Mark’s what the Evangelist is so plainly shewn [where?] to have known nothing at all about471471 Vide suprà, p. 10..” In the meanwhile, it is assumed to be a more reasonable supposition,—(α) That S. Mark published an imperfect Gospel; and that the Twelve Verses with which his Gospel concludes were the fabrication of a subsequent age; than,—(β) That some ancient Scribe having with design or by accident left out these Twelve concluding Verses, copies of the second Gospel so mutilated become multiplied, and in the beginning of the ivth century existed in considerable numbers.
And yet it is notorious that very soon after the Apostolic age, liberties precisely of this kind were freely taken with the text of the New Testament. Origen (A.D. 185-254) complains of the licentious tampering with the Scriptures which prevailed in his day. “Men add to them,” (he says) “or leave out,—as seems good to themselves472472 Opp. vol. iii. p. 671..” Dionysius of Corinth, yet earlier, (A.D. 168-176) remarks that it was no wonder his own writings were added to and taken from, seeing that men presumed to deprave the Word of God 246in the same manner473473 Eusebius Eccl. Hist. iv. 23. Consider Rev. xxii. 18, 19.. Irenaeus, his contemporary, (living within seventy years of S. John’s death,) complains of a corrupted Text474474 Note the remarkable adjuration of Irenaeus, Opp. i. 821, preserved by Eusebius, lib. v. 20.—See Scrivener’s Introduction, p. 383-4. Consider the attestations at the end of the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom, PP. App. ii. 614-6.. We are able to go back yet half a century, and the depravations of Holy Writ become avowed and flagrant475475 Allusion is made to the Gnostics Basilides and Valentinus; especially to the work of Marcion.. A competent authority has declared it “no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound, that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has been ever subjected originated within a hundred years after it was composed476476 Scrivener’s Introduction, pp.381-391..” Above all, it is demonstrable that Cod. B and Cod. א abound in unwarrantable omissions very like the present477477 See Chap. VI.; omissions which only do not provoke the same amount of attention because they are of less moment. One such extraordinary depravation of the Text, in which they also stand alone among MSS. and to which their patrons are observed to appeal with triumphant complacency, has been already made the subject of distinct investigation. I am much mistaken if it has not been shewn in my VIIIth chapter, that the omission of the words ἐν Ἐφέσῳ from Ephes. i. 1, is just as unauthorized,—quite as serious a blemish,—as the suppression of S. Mark xvi. 9-20.
Now, in the face of facts like these, and in the absence of any Evidence whatever to prove that S. Mark’s Gospel was imperfect from the first,—I submit that an hypothesis so violent and improbable, as well as so wholly uncalled for, is simply undeserving of serious attention. For,
(1st.) It is plain from internal considerations that the improbability of the hypothesis is excessive; “the contents of these Verses being such as to preclude the supposition that they were the work of a post-Apostolic period. The very difficulties which they present afford the strongest presumption of their genuineness.” No fabricator of a supplement to S. Mark’s Gospel would have ventured on introducing so many minute seeming discrepancies: and certainly 247“his contemporaries would not have accepted and transmitted such an addition,” if he had. It has also been shewn at great length that the Internal Evidence for the genuineness of these Verses is overwhelmingly strong478478 Chap. IX.. But,
(2nd.) Even external Evidence is not wanting. It has been acutely pointed out long since, that the absence of a vast assemblage of various Readings in this place, is, in itself, a convincing argument that we have here to do with no spurious appendage to the Gospel479479 “Ad defendendum hunc locum in primis etiam valet mirus Codicum consensus in vocabulis et loquendi formulis singulis. Nam in locis παρεγγράπτοις, etiam multo brevioribus, quo plures sunt Codices, eo plures quoque sunt varietates. Comparetur mode Act. xi,. 18, Matth. viii. 13, et loca similia.”—C. F. Matthaei’s Nov. Test. (1788) vol. ii. p. 271.. Were this a deservedly suspected passage, it must have shared the fate of all other deservedly (or undeservedly) suspected passages. It never could have come to pass that the various Readings which these Twelve Verses exhibit would be considerably fewer than those which attach to the last twelve verses of any of the other three Gospels.
(3rd.) And then surely, if the original Gospel of S. Mark had been such an incomplete work as is feigned, the fact would have been notorious from the first, and. must needs have become the subject of general comment480480 Speaking of the abrupt termination of the second Gospel at ver. 8, Dr. Tregelles asks,—“Would this have been transmitted as a fact by good witnesses, if there had not been real grounds for regarding it to be true?”—(Printed Text, p. 257.) Certainly not, we answer. But where are the “good witnesses” of the “transmitted fact?” There is not to much as one.. It may be regarded as certain that so extraordinary a circumstance would have been largely remarked upon by the Ancients, and that evidence of the fact would have survived in a hundred quarters. It is, I repeat, simply incredible that Tradition would have proved so utterly neglectful of her office as to remain quite silent on such a subject, if the facts had been such as are imagined. Either Papias, or else John the Presbyter,—Justin Martyr, or Hegesippus, or one of the “Seniores apud Irenaeum,”—Clemens Alexandrinus, or Tertullian, or Hippolytus,—if not Origen, yet at least Eusebius,—if not 248Eusebius, yet certainly Jerome,—some early Writer, I say, must certainly have recorded the tradition that S. Mark’s Gospel, as it came from the hands of its inspired author, was an incomplete or unfinished work. The silence of the Ancients, joined to the inherent improbability of the conjecture,—(that silence so profound, this improbability so gross!)—is enough, I submit, in the entire absence of Evidence on the other side, to establish the very contradictory of the alternative which recent Critics are so strenuous in recommending to our acceptance.
(4th.) But on the contrary. We have indirect yet convincing testimony that the oldest copies of all did contain the Verses in question481481 See above, pp. 86-90.: while so far are any of the Writers just now enumerated from recording that these verses were absent from the early copies, that five out of those ten Fathers actually quote, or else refer to the verses in question in a way which shews that in their day they were the recognised termination of S. Mark’s Gospel482482 See Chap. III..
We consider ourselves at liberty, therefore, to turn our attention to the rival alternative. Our astonishment is even excessive that it should have been seriously expected of us that we could accept without Proof of any sort,—without a particle of Evidence, external, internal, or even traditional,—the extravagant hypothesis that S. Mark put forth an unfinished Gospel; when the obvious and easy alternative solicits us, of supposing,
II. That, at some period subsequent to the time of the Evangelist, certain copies of S. Mark’s Gospel suffered that mutilation in respect of their last Twelve Verses of which we meet with no trace whatever, no record of any sort, until the beginning of the fourth century.
(i.) And the facts which now meet us on the very threshold, are in a manner conclusive: for if Papias and Justin Martyr [A.D. 150] do not refer to, yet certainly Irenaeus [A.D. 185] and Hippolytus [A.D. 190-227] distinctly quote Six out of the Twelve suspected Verses,—which are also met with in the two oldest Syriac Versions, as well as in the old Latin Translation. Now the latest of these authorities is 249earlier by full a hundred years than the earliest record that the verses in question were ever absent from ancient MSS. At the eighth Council of Carthage, (as Cyprian relates,) [A.D. 256] Vincentius a Thiberi, one of the eighty-seven African Bishops there assembled, quoted the 17th verse in the presence of the Council.
(ii.) Nor is this all483483 See above, Chap. III. and IV.. Besides the Gothic and Egyptian versions in the ivth century; besides Ambrose, Cyril of Alexandria, Jerome, and Augustine in the vth, to say nothing of Codices A and C;—the Lectionary of the Church universal, probably from the second century of our æra, is found to bestow its solemn and emphatic sanction on every one of these Twelve Verses. They are met with in every MS. of the Gospels existence, uncial and cursive,—except two484484 “Habent periocham hanc Codices Graeci, si unum B excipias, omnes.” (Scholz, adopting the statement of Griesbach.)—See above, p. 70.; they are found in every Version; and are contained besides in every known Lectionary, where they are appointed to be read at Easter and on Ascension Day485485 See above, Chap. X..
(iii.) Early in the ivth century, however, we are encountered by a famous place in the writings of Eusebius [A.D. 300-340], who, (as I have elsewhere explained486486 See above, pp. 66-68.) is the only Father who delivers any independent testimony on this subject at all. What he says has been strangely misrepresented. It is simply as follows:—
(a) One, “Marinus,” is introduced quoting this part of S. Mark’s Gospel without suspicion, and enquiring, How its opening statement is to be reconciled with S. Matth. xxviii. 1? Eusebius, in reply, points out that a man whose only object was to get rid of the difficulty, might adopt the expedient of saying that this last section of S. Mark’s Gospel “is not found in all the copies:” (μὴ ἐν ἁπᾶσι φέρεσθαι.) Declining, however, to act thus presumptuously in respect of anything claiming to be a part of Evangelical Scripture, (οὐδ᾽ ὁτιοῦν τολμῶν ἀθετεῖν τῶν ὁπωσοῦν ἐν τῇ τῶν εὐαγγελίων γραφῇ φερομένων,)—he adopts the hypothesis that the text is genuine. Καὶ δὴ τοῦδε τοῦ μέρους συγχωρουμένου εἶναι ἀληθοῦς, he begins: and he enters at once without hesitation on an elaborate 250discussion to shew how the two places may be reconciled487487 See above, pp. 41 to 51: also Appendix (B).. What there is in this to countenance the notion that in the opinion of Eusebius “the Gospel according to S. Mark originally terminated at the 8th verse of the last chapter,”—I profess myself unable to discover. I draw from his words the precisely opposite inference. It is not even clear to me that the Verses in dispute were absent from the copy which Eusebius habitually employed. He certainly quotes one of those verses once and again488488 The reader is referred to Mai’s Nov. PP. Bibl. vol. iv. p. 262, line 12: p. 264 line 28: p. 301, line 3-4,, and 6-8.. On the other hand, the express statement of Victor of Antioch [A. D. 450?] that he knew of the mutilation, but had ascertained by Critical research the genuineness of this Section of Scripture, and had adopted the Text of the authentic “Palestinian” Copy489489 See above, p. 64-5: also Appendix (E).,—is more than enough to outweigh the faint presumption created (as some might think) by the words of Eusebius, that his own copy was without it. And yet, as already stated, there is nothing whatever to shew that Eusebius himself deliberately rejected the last Twelve Verses of S. Mark’s Gospel. Still less does that Father anywhere say, or even hint, that in his judgment the original Text of S. Mark was without them. If he may be judged by his words, he accepted them as genuine: for (what is at least certain) he argues upon their contents at great length, and apparently without misgiving.
(b) It is high time however to point out that, after all, the question to be decided is, not what Eusebius thought on this subject, but what is historically probable. As a plain matter of fact, the sum of the Patristic Evidence against these Verses is the hypothetical suggestion of Eusebius already quoted; which, (after a fashion well understood by those who have given any attention to these studies), is observed to have rapidly propagated itself in the congenial soil of the vth century. And even if it could be shewn that Eusebius deliberately rejected this portion of Scripture, (which has never been done,)—yet, inasmuch as it may be regarded as certain that those famous codices in the library of his friend 251Pamphilus at Caesarea, to which the ancients habitually referred, recognised it as genuine490490 P. 68 and note (d); p. 119 and note (m).,—the only sufferer from such a conflict of evidence would surely be Eusebius himself: (not S. Mark, I say, but Eusebius:) who is observed to employ an incorrect text of Scripture on many other occasions; and must (in such case) be held to have been unduly partial to copies of S. Mark in the mutilated condition of Cod. B or Cod. א. His words were translated by Jerome491491 P. 51-7.; adopted by Hesychius492492 P. 57-9.; referred to by Victor493493 P. 59-66.; reproduced “with a difference” in more than one ancient scholion494494 P. 114-125.. But they are found to have died away into a very faint echo when Euthymius Zigabenus495495 P. 68-9. rehearsed them for the last time in his Commentary on the Gospels, A.D. 1116. Exaggerated and misunderstood, behold them resuscitated after an interval of seven centuries by Griesbach, and Tischendorf, and Tregelles and the rest: again destined to fall into a congenial, though very differently prepared soil; and again destined (I venture to predict) to die out and soon to be forgotten for ever.
(iv.) After all that has gone before, our two oldest Codices (Cod. B and Cod. א) which alone witness to the truth of Eusebius’ testimony as to the state of certain copies of the Gospels in his own day, need not detain us long. They are thought to be as old as the ivth century: they are certainly without the concluding section of S. Mark’s Gospel. But it may not be forgotten that both Codices alike are disfigured throughout by errors, interpolations and omissions without number; that their testimony is continually divergent; and that it often happens that where they both agree they are both demonstrably in error496496 Chap. VI.. Moreover, it is a highly significant circumstance that the Vatican Codex (B), which is the more ancient of the two, exhibits a vacant column at the end of S. Mark’s Gospel,—the only vacant column in the whole codex: whereby it is shewn that the Copyist was aware of the existence of the Twelve concluding Verses of S. Mark’s Gospel, even though he left them out497497 See above, pp. 86 to 88.: while the 252original Scribe of the Codex Sinaiticus (א) is declared by Tischendorf to have actually omitted the concluding verse of S. John’s Gospel,—in which unenviable peculiarity it stands alone among MSS.498498 Will it be believed that Tischendorf accordingly rejects that verse also as spurious; and brings the fourth Gospel to au end at ver. 24, as he brings the second Gospel to an end at ver. 8? For my own part—having (through the kindness and liberality of the Keeper of the Imperial MSS. at S. Petersburg, aided by the good offices of my friend, the Rev. A. S. Thompson, Chaplain at S. Petersburg,) obtained a photograph of the last page of S. John’s Gospel,—I must be allowed altogether to call in question the accuracy of Dr. Tischendorf’s judgment in this particular. The utmost which can be allowed is that the Scribe may have possibly changed his pen, or been called away from his task, just before bringing the fourth Gospel to a close.
(I.) And thus we are brought back to the point from which we started. We are reminded that the one thing to be accounted for is the mutilated condition of certain copies of S. Mark’s Gospel in the beginning of the fourth century; of which, Cod. B and Cod. א are the two solitary surviving specimens,—Eusebius, the one historical witness. We have to decide, I mean, between the evidence for this fact,—(namely, that within the first two centuries and a-half of our æra, the Gospel according to S. Mark suffered mutilation;)—and the reasonableness of the other opinion, namely, that S. Mark’s original autograph extended no farther than ch. xvi. 8. All is reduced to this one issue; and unless any are prepared to prove that the Twelve familiar Verses (ver. 9 to ver. 20) with which S. Mark ends his Gospel cannot be his,—(I have proved on the contrary that he must needs be thought to have written them499499 See Chap. IX.,)—I submit that it is simply irrational to persist in asseverating that the reason why those verses are not found in our two Codexes of the ivth century must be because they did not exist in the original autograph of the Evangelist. What else is this but to set unsupported opinion, or rather unreasoning prejudice, before the historical evidence of a fact? The assumption is not only gratuitous, arbitrary, groundless; but it is discountenanced by the evidence of MSS., of Versions, of Fathers, (Versions and Fathers much older than the ivth century:) is rendered in the highest degree improbable by every internal, every 253external consideration: is condemned by the deliberate judgment of the universal Church,—which, in its corporate capacity, for eighteen hundred years, in all places, has not only solemnly accepted the last Twelve Verses of S. Mark’s Gospel as genuine, but has even singled them out for special honour500500 Chapter X..
(II.) Let it be asked in conclusion,—(for this prolonged discussion is now happily at an end,)—Are any inconveniences likely to result from a frank and loyal admission, (in the absence of any Evidence whatever to the contrary,) that doubtless the last Twelve Verses of S. Mark’s Gospel are just as worthy of acceptation as the rest? It might reasonably be supposed, from the strenuous earnestness with which the rejection of these Verses is generally advocated, that some considerations must surely be assignable why the opinion of their genuineness ought on no account to be entertained. Do any such reasons exist? Are any inconveniences whatever likely to supervene?
No reasons whatever are assignable, I reply; neither are there any inconvenient consequences of any sort to be anticipated,—except indeed to the Critics: to whom, it must be confessed, the result proves damaging enough.
It will only follow,
(1st) That Cod. B and Cod. א must be henceforth allowed to be in one more serious particular untrustworthy and erring witnesses. They have been convicted, in fact, of bearing false witness in respect of S. Mark xvi. 9-20, where their evidence had been hitherto reckoned upon with the most undoubting confidence.
(2ndly) That the critical statements of recent Editors, and indeed the remarks of Critics generally, in respect of S. Mark xvi. 9-20, will have to undergo serious revision: in every important particular, will have to be unconditionally withdrawn.
(3rdly) That, in all future critical editions of the New Testament, these “Twelve Verses” will have to be restored to their rightful honours: never more appearing disfigured with brackets, encumbered with doubts, banished from their 254context, or molested with notes of suspicion. On the contrary. A few words of caution against the resuscitation of what has been proved to be a “vulgar error,” will have henceforth to be introduced in memoriam rei.
(4thly) Lastly, men must be no longer taught to look with distrust on this precious part of the Deposit; and encouraged to dispute the Divine sayings which it contains on the plea that perhaps they may not be Divine, after all; for that probably the entire section is not genuine. They must be assured, on the contrary, that these Twelve Verses are wholly undistinguishable in respect of genuineness from the rest of the Gospel of S. Mark; and it may not be amiss to remind them the Creed called the “Athanasian” speaks no other language than that employed by the Divine Author of our Religion and Object of our Faith. The Church warns her children against the peril incurred by as many as wilfully reject the Truth, in no other language but that of the Great Head of the Church. No person may presume to speak disparagingly of S. Mark xvi. 16, any more.
(III.) Whether,—after the foregoing exposure of a very prevalent and highly popular, but at the same time most calamitous misapprehension,—it will not become necessary for Editors of the Text of the New Testament to reconsider their conclusions in countless other places:—whether they must not be required to review their method, and to remodel their text throughout, now that they have been shewn the insecurity of the foundation on which they have so confidently builded, and been forced to reverse their verdict in respect of a place of Scripture where at least they supposed themselves impregnable;—I forbear at this time to inquire.
Enough to have demonstrated, as I claim to have now
done, that not a particle of doubt, that not an
atom of suspicion, attaches to “the
last Twelve Verses of the
Gospel according to
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