This eTalk presents a step of the five years Swiss National Science Foundation PRIMA project, MARK16. An eTalk is a multimodal digital object, with references and hyperlinks, entirely quotable in details with the share button. To know how it works, please look at the demonstration video by clicking on the link under the slide.
My purpose is to contribute establishing a history of Mark 16 readings, notably based on manuscript evidence and scribal practices. It should allow us to understand in a deeper way what has been at stake historically and culturally in the diverse endings of the Gospel according to Mark.
To read Mark 16 manuscripts can still reveal new elements, as this eTalk wishes to demonstrate for nine items, ranging between the fifth and thirteenth centuries.
Seven Greek manuscripts (083, 099, 019, 044, 1, 304 and 579, chronological order), one Latin codex (k),
and in the recent edition of the Harklean Syriac version of Mark by Samer Soreshow Yohanna. These nine items are a first step to demonstrate that a plurality of readings for Mk 16 has been kept through centuries.
Secondly, what we customarily call the “shorter ending” is in fact different in codex k from the shorter ending transmitted by the Greek manuscript tradition. Thirdly, codex k transmits a very specific version of Mk 16 and deserves to get more attention from scholarship than it has been the case until now.
A detailed article presenting these elements and others has been accepted to publication in the journal Henoch, in a special issue about the proceedings of a conference held in Paris in November 2018. It is co-edited by Patrick Pouchelle (Centre Sèvres, Paris) and Jean-Sébastien Rey (Université de Lorraine, France).
2. Minuscules 1, 304 and 579, 12th-13th centuries
Let’s begin with the newest three of the nine witnesses. Minuscule 579 is a 13th century manuscript, described as an “independent witness” by Leopold Foullah in his 1991 PhD thesis. Indeed, it presents the shorter ending after 16,8 in the main text as a normal ending, without comment or annotation on folio 70r. The long ending then begins on the next page, folio 70v, without further comment or annotation. This example is, so far in our research, a unique case of a manuscript with the shorter and long endings as fluently copied in the manuscript, both fully included in the usual text. The word τέλος appears at the end of 16,8, but it is a usual reading indication frequently present in other manuscripts at this location.
Foullah simply counts 579 in a list of manuscripts with the shorter and the long endings without signalling its particularity; even Kurt Aland did not notice it in his exhaustive 1974 article. This key observation underlines the crucial importance of examining the manuscripts themselves in the NTTC.
One century before, minuscule 1 and 304 present two cases different from 579.
The folio 220v of minuscule 1, 12th century, begins with this comment, written in the main text but with a different purple ink instead of the brown ink used for the biblical text. The THGNT follows f1 by editing the comment in minuscule 1 following Mk 16,8, and so assumes the point of view of the history of reading in its editorial choice.
ἔν τισι μὲν τῶν ἀντιγράφων, ἕως ὧδε πληροῦται ὁ εὐαγγελιστής· ἕως οὗ καὶ Εὐσέβιος ὁ Παμφίλου ἐκανόνισεν· ἐν πολλοῖς δὲ καὶ ταῦτα φέρεται.
In some of the copies, the evangelist finishes here, up to which (point) also Eusebius of Pamphilus made canon sections. But in many the following is also contained (THGNT translation). The comment, found also in other f1 witnesses, presents a flexible point of view on the variants: the end of the gospel in 16,8 is “accomplished” in some copies by way of the Eusebian canonical numeration, whereas other copies present vv. 9-20. The THGNT follows f1 by editing the comment in minuscule 1 following Mk 16,8, and so assumes the point of view of the history of reading in its editorial choice.
But in the same century, minuscule 304 makes the contrary choice, ending Mark at 16,8. 304 has been only seldom analysed, for example by Burgon or Devreesse.
But in a 2019 article, Mina Monier confirms that 304 is correctly quoted in the NA28 alongside 01 and 03 as witness of the short ending.
The scribe and compiler of 304 knew of the existence of the long ending, since he/she preserves the Byzantine text of Mark, yet he willingly concludes the text at 16,8 as it is clearly manifested by the epigram he adds at the end of the text, on folio 241r.
as Monier notes, “the copyist signals the end of the commentary with a classic epigram that says: ‘As the travellers rejoice upon reaching their homeland, likewise the scribe is upon the end of this book’”. In other words, in the 12th century we have a scribe in minuscule 1 that proposes two different endings for Mark, a scribe in 304 who ends Mark at 16,8, sealed with an epigram. It underlines that the end of the book has been reached, potentially then erased and rewritten by two subsequent scribes, according to Monier. Therefore, in contrary to the dominant critical consensus, the long version was not the only possible ending of Mark in the 12th century or in the Byzantine tradition more broadly. Considering minuscules 1, 304, and 579 together
leads to the following conclusion: in the 12th and 13th centuries, some scribes read Mark 16 with possible diverse endings. Only the first scribe of 304 affirms that it is the end of the book; the scribe of 579 even presents the text with both endings in a continuous way.
3. The Harklean Syriac version, codex 083, 099, 019 and 044
The persistence of a plural reading of Mark endings through centuries is confirmed by several manuscripts. The exploration of manuscripts by the project MARK16 brings every day elements that confirm this continuous plural reading. In his 2015 edition of The Gospel of Mark in the Syriac Harklean Version, 615/616 CE, Yohanna translates so a double marginal note: “‘It is given somewhere and these’: all these things ordered to the household of Peter we have reported briefly. Afterwards Jesus himself, through them, sent forth from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Am[en]; […] in a [f]ew of those more accurate manuscripts, the Gospel of Mark finishes at: ‘for [they were afraid]’. In some others, instead, they add even […]”. Then the long ending is given in the main text.
Before this attestation, uncial 083 of the 6th-7th century also gives a clear attestation of three endings, with the title in subscriptio after 16,8 (page 71, end of col. 1). Then, it is followed by the shorter ending (col. 2) – perhaps introduced by a comment, but the page is damaged here. Then, the longer ending is introduced by a comment similar to the one in the Harklean version, yet not in the margin, but introduced with smaller characters in the full text.
Along with 083, 099 and 019 attest to a practice of copying all endings in the continuous text but with comments, whereas 579 gives them in a continuous text, without comment, and the Harklean version keeps the long ending in, with the shorter ending and the comments in the margin.
A fourth way to deal with the different endings is represented by 044, 9th-10th centuries: the shorter ending concludes the text without a sign of interruption after 16,8; then a comment in the main text introduces the long ending on f. 14v.
As in 579, the shorter ending in 044 seems to be just the continuous text after 16,8, and it is fully integrated in the text, as in the Latin codex k known as Codex Bobiensis.
4. The Latin codex Bobiensis (k): another tradition
As a final piece of our overview, k preserves some surprises in Mk 16 and it should be considered, in our opinion, as an old witness conveying a peculiar tradition. Dated by Bruce Metzger to the fourth century, with a “text going back to the early third century” (Elliott), k presents a particularly interesting case in Mk 16. It is well known for having only the shorter ending, but k preserves a slightly different version of the shorter ending, along with other peculiar features in the rest of chapter 16.
A few scholars noticed them. Camille Focant points rightly to the fact that k does not mention the silence of the women in 16,8, a detail not signalled in NA28, mentioned only in the previous edition of NA27.
As Elliott summarizes, one can observe in Mk 16 in k three “significant variants in 16, 1, 3 and 8b”, and a full verse has been added between 16,3 and 16,4. Moreover, a puzzling particularity is the mention of qui cum puero erant, “those who were with the boy”, whereas the Greek version mentions “those around Peter”.
Herrmann von Soden emended in 1911 puero to Petro, but Adolf Jülicher kept puero in his 1940 transcription. In 2018, the publication of Mark in the Vetus Latina was completed by Jean-Claude Haelewyck, who has chosen to make no less than five corrections in the shorter k ending, including Petro for puero, harmonizing it as much as possible with the Greek shorter ending.
But Mark 16 in k could also be considered as an alternate tradition, taking in account all its particularities. The transcription and translation of the k shorter ending by Hughes Houghton keeps it open: “omnia autem quaecumque praecepta erant et qui cum puero erant breuiter exposuerunt. post haec et ipse Iesus adparuit et ab orientem usque in orientem misit per illos sanctam et incorruptam praedicationis salutis aeternae. amen”.
“But those who were also with the boy [for Petro, Peter?] told in brief everything which they had been instructed. After this, Jesus himself appeared too and sent the holy and unchanging <message> of the preaching of eternal salvation through them from the east all the way right to the east [west?]. Amen”.
One should notice that Mk 16 in k has never been studied as an alternative tradition, either in the field of NT studies or in Christian apocrypha. The quest promises to be fascinating, as even a preliminary observation regarding cum puero suggests. First of all, as anyone can check on folio 41 recto available on wikicommons: cum puero is written in a very clear way, without hesitation, and cannot be read as cum Petro. A mistake is not a natural solution between these two words.
Moreover, I suggest that the expression echoes the polymorphic Christ present in apocryphal literature. Jean-Daniel Kaestli suggested that a useful reference to this phenomenon that exists in the Acta Petri 21,29. In this passage, some blind widows are made able to see again and they narrate to Peter what they have seen during the miracle:
“They said: 'We saw an old man of such comeliness as we are not able to declare to thee'; but others said: 'We saw a young man'; and others: 'We saw a boy touching our eyes delicately, and so were our eyes opened'. Peter therefore magnified the Lord, saying: “[...] God that is constant is greater than our thoughts, even as we have learned of these aged widows, how that they beheld the Lord in diverse forms”. This apocryphal reference could support the conclusion that k preserves an independent tradition with qui cum puero erant.
Considering all the particularities of k in Mk 16, it is wise from now on to consider it a third witness to Mark 16 at the end of the 4th century, alongside 01 and 03. The mention of cum puero presents a potential case not only of freedom in the scribal practices in biblical texts, but also a clear case of scribal practices in contemporary scholarship, either accepting puero (Jülicher), questioning it (Houghton), or emending it (von Soden, Haelewyck). Moreover, in Mk 16 in k the women are for once not reduced to silence. Looking back to the end of the 4th century, the nine cases presented here – in a chronological order k, 083, syhmg, 019, 044, 099, 1, 304 and 579 – attest to the continuity of various readings in Mark 16. The quest for understanding this NT textual critical enigma is being reinvigorated.