This eTalk highlights some early 2023 research results about the endings of Mark in the Greek manuscript GA 044 – codex Ψ or Lavra B.52.


This eTalk first demonstrates that GA 044 was copied with an awareness of a Markan version of the ending including 16:8/38–104, as attested in VL 1 (Codex Bobbiensis). Secondly, it demonstrates that GA 044 editorial marks are due to at least two different scribes and are traces of ancient interpretations. Finally, this evidence helps to explain why one always finds the longer ending of Mark following the conclusio brevior in the manuscripts that contain both. Thanks are due to the anonymous reviewer for the useful improvements suggested to this text.


On the next slide, you can read how to quote this eTalk. Each part can be quoted with the shared bottom and the related url. Open research data are available in CC BY 4.0 license in the public open repository of the CNRS/Human-Num, Nakala.

1 Introduction: The Conclusio Brevior in Scholarship

In “Der wiedergefundene Markusschluss?” (1970), Kurt Aland highlighted that the conclusio brevior of the Gospel of Mark was very ancient and widespread, detailing a flexible situation in the second century: “The Gospel was transmitted in these three forms at the beginning of the second century: with the short ending [kurzer Schluss], with the long ending [langer Schluss], with the shorter ending [kürzerer Schluss]. When they met, the existence of the short ending in principle stopped; it was just a matter of time until the long ending imposed itself, also against the shorter.” Since the seventies, these competing hypotheses about the three endings have been set aside in scholarly debates about Mark’s ending, focusing mainly on the comparison between the short ending (kurzer Schluss) and the long ending (langer Schluss).
The five-year Swiss National Science Foundation project MARK16 has shed new light on the Markan conclusio brevior, with four articles referred in the joint slide, all in open access.
The shorter ending can be found in at least seven ancient languages and 155 manuscripts: Greek, Latin, Coptic (Sahidic, Bohairic and Fayyumic), Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Ethiopic, in the order of languages in the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) digital NT manuscript list. A first manuscript list has been published in 2021 in Claire Clivaz, “Mk 16 im Codex Bobbiensis,” p. 63 n. 38.
Three further attestations have been highlighted after this list: arm 798, pointed by Colwell in 1937 and then forgotten; remembered by Dan Batovici; transcribed and translated by Armine Melkonyan and Dan Batovici; encoded by Mina Monier. syP1, pointed, transcribed and translated by David Taylor; encoded by Elisa Nury. syH7, pointed by Mina Monier; transcribed and translated by David Taylor; encoding by Elisa Nury. All are available on MARK16 VRE.

2 GA 044, or codex Ψ, or Lavra B.52 and Mark 16

The images of GA 044 have been kindly made available in black and white by the Lavra Monastery on the Library of Congress website. Free reuses are allowed for academic purpose, with due thanks and information to the Lavra Monastery.
Among the nine Greek witnesses of the conclusio brevior, GA 044 f.14v is a special case: it shows the complete verse of Mark 16:8/2¬–104, followed by an editorial note in the full text introducing the longer ending: ἔστιν καὶ ταὐτα φερομένα μετὰ τὸ ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ, “there are also these [words] reported after the ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ”. An accent can be seen on the epsilon in ἔστιν, meaning “there is”, “it exists”.
The designation of the complete verse 16:8 as “Mark 16:8/2–104” refers to the 2021 Editio Critica Maior of Mark, volume I.2.1, p. 828–830.
According to John James Lias (1893), codex Ψ gives “the shorter ending as the genuine one, and then adds the other.” Let’s inquiry further about this affirmation of Lias, starting with the state of research.

3 State of research

In preliminary remark and to fully appreciate this manuscript in the debate about the endings of Mark, it is useful to keep in mind that we do not have Greek manuscripts anterior to GA 01 and GA 03, Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, that contain the chapter 16 of Mark. A speculative calculation was published in 1993 by Skeat about P45, agreeing with Suter and Harris that it could have contained the longer ending: “It should be mentioned at this point that all these measurements include the Long Ending of Mark (xvi. 9–20) but exclude the Pericope de Adultera (John 7:53–8:11).” But from the strict point of view of manuscript materiality, Greek manuscript evidence of Mark 16 only began in the fourth century CE.
Next to 01 and 03, one finds that at that time of the Latin VL 1 or Codex Bobbiensis, Mark concludes with the shorter ending. VL 1 is dated between 380 and 420 CE, but “contains an ancient and pure form of the African text and one that antedates Cyprian” (Keith Elliott et al., p. 10). Considering that the Greek and Latin manuscript evidence of Mark 16 starts only at the fourth century, it is worth paying attention to later witnesses with alternative readings, like GA 044.
In 1886, Caspar René Gregory wrote a Latin statement on GA 044, quoted by Lake in 1903, but self-translated into German in 1900: “The ending of the Gospel of Mark looks like this one in L and Ti. But our manuscript has no comment before πάντα δὲ, and it seems to show a more ancient form of the text, the terms ἐφάνη, μέχρι, ἀμήν not all referring to a later textual form. Of course, there is a τέλος after ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ: the end of an ecclesial reading [lectionis ecclesiasticae], but not the end of the Gospel.” In 1903, Kirsopp Lake supported this analysis: “So far as description goes, there is nothing to add to Dr. Gregory’s account beyond the fact that Ψ is now numbered 172 (B 52) in the Laura catalogue.” (Lake, 1903, p. 95)
Gregory and Lake’s point of view agree with the 1893 statement of Lias. In the next decades, the liturgical aspect of τέλος in the right margin next to Mark 16:8 was also noted by Hatch in 1939 and Metzger in 1981: “The Ammonian section and Eusebian canon numbers stand in the margin, and the abbreviation of τέλος, marking the close of a liturgical lesson, appears within the text itself (e.g., end of line 17, after Mark 16:8).”
Moreover, Gregory, Lias, and Lake’s observations about the shorter ending in GA 044 are supported by the fact that Mark belongs to an older tradition than Luke and John in this codex, as asserted by Lake: “The text of Mark is far more valuable than that of Luke and John. […] We may therefore say with some confidence that in Mark Ψ gives us a pre-Syrian text of which the basis is Alexandrian (in the widest sense).” This opinion was reaffirmed in 2005 by Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman: “According to Kirsopp Lake, [GA 044] text in Mark is an early one, with readings both Alexandrian and Western but chiefly akin to the group A, C, L and Δ. The other Gospels are predominantly Byzantine, with a somewhat larger proportion of Alexandrian readings than in Δ.” Despite this anteriority of Mark on Luke and John, GA 044 has been globally attributed to category III by Kurt and Barbara Aland and dated between the eighth and ninth century (Der Text des Neuen Testaments, 1981, p. 123).
For one century – from Gregory to Metzger and the Alands – GA 044 has kept this date, except by Lauriotis and Eustratiades in 1925, who chose the ninth century. But this date has been largely revised after the publication of a 1985 article by Eduardo Crisci.
Consequently, scholarship has switched to either between the ninth and tenth century, or the tenth century, and online information can be different, as one can check by comparing three online catalogs. The Library of Congress has kept the 8th-9th century; the INTF list of the manuscripts proposes the 9th-10th century; the IRHT Pinakes database proposes the 10th century. Moreover, in 2015, Efthymios Litsas, classified Lavra B.52 among the three most ancient uncials of the monastery written on one column.
Beyond the question of the date of the copy itself, the first point to keep in mind for the present inquiry is the anteriority of the Markan text over those of Luke and John (Lake, Metzger, Ehrman), and secondly, the liturgical meaning of the τέλος in the right margin after Mark 16:8/36 (Gregory, Lake, Hatch, and Metzger). It remains then an important point to discuss before supporting Gregory, Lias, and Lake’s point of view: what stands exactly after the ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ in the right margin?

4 The Editorial Marks after ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ in GA 044, f.14v, l. 17

Mina Monier is the first scholar to note that a dash follows the dicolon, written after ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ. As an additional note, I also indicate that the liturgical τέλος noted by Gregory and others has been overwritten on this dicolon and dash, at a later point.
Monier considers that “the Short Ending (16:8) concludes with a dicolon and a horizontal stroke, which marks the end, while the Shorter Ending concludes with a dicolon only.” This comment implies that the scribe would point to the stronger or real ending in 16:8/36. But observing GA 044 allows for another evaluation of this punctuation. First, the other Gospels (Matthew being lost), and almost all the other books, are concluded by an ἀμήν in GA 044. Apart from James and the three letters of John, all other writings are concluded by an ἀμήν in this manuscript, after the doble ἀμήν in Mark.
In the case of Mark, two ἀμήν signal two endings: one after Mark 16:8/104 (shorter ending, f.14v), and another one after Mark 16:20 (f.15r), the longer ending. The first scribe of the manuscript obviously inherited a doble ending tradition. Consequently, what is the meaning of the dicolon followed by a wavy dash after ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ, an editorial sign that one cannot find elsewhere in the gospels of GA 044?
According to Turner and Parsons, “the double dot, often called dicolon can certainly be traced back to iv B.C. […] and is probably a simplification of the common older row of three vertical dots. Its function also is to divide. We are especially familiar with its employment (usually coupled with the paragraph) in dramatic texts, especially those of comedy, to mark changes of speaker, both at the end of a line and inside a line, and to mark a change of speakers in a Platonic dialogue”. The situation is less clear for the dicolon followed by a dash. William Hatch notes that it is a “mark that occurs rarely,” encountered in later manuscripts such as GA 427 or GA 693, to which one can notably add GA 1422 and GA 2937.
According to Hatch, “the doble point, with or without a dash (: or :–), is sometimes put at the end of a paragraph or chapter.” Turner notes its apparition in later papyri; it means a break, a pause, and it is what we have after ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ: the first scribe signals the end of a paragraph before the next scene starts by πάντα δὲ παρηγγελμένα. But a later scribe had another reading, as one can see by observing the editorial marks added above the dicolon + dash. Let’s look at them further.
A later scribe has overwritten the τέλος on the dicolon + dash. Moreover, another dicolon, followed by a dotted obelos, has been added in the right margin after τέλος. As explained in Brill’s Companion to Ancient Greek Scholarship (2015), the dotted obelos belongs to the “less clear” editorial signs: “Aristarchus’ semeia became the standard philological signs for centuries to follow, also adopted early on by scholars in Rome. […] The meanings of other signs surviving on papyrus are less clear or vary more strongly, as those of the diple (˃) in non-Homeric texts, the simple diagonal stroke, the dotted obelos, or the letter Χ (chi)” (Dubischar, p. 553). As it is well known, two core signs of Aristarchus’s annotation, the obelos and the asterisk, have been reused by Origen in the Hexapla (see e.g. Francesca Schironi, 2012).
Is it possible to push further the quest of the meaning of an unclear sign, such as the dotted obelos in GA 044? In the present case, one can fortunately answer yes. Indeed, one finds another example of a similar addition on f. 19r. Just after Luke 1:56, one observes a τέλος and a dotted obelos. The dotted obelos is repeated in the right margin to introduce this comment: ΠΑΛΙΝ ΤΟΥ ΠΡΟΔΡΟΜΟΥ, “again of the precursor,” John the Baptist. The use of the dotted obelos to refer to marginal notes is attested in other manuscripts, see for example GA 1187, f.254r. This marginal note echoes a subtitle added on f.17r: ΕΙC ΤΟ ΓΕΝΕCΙΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΠΡΟΔΡΟΜΟΥ, “about the birth of the precursor”, usually celebrated on the 24th of June. On f.18r and f.18v, added titles indicate an intermediate story focused on Mary theotokos.
In a similar way, this later scribe points to the order of the resurrection story in Mark 16 with the τέλος followed by a dicolon and dotted obelos. He/she overwrites the previous editorial mark to signal to the readers that they must jump to the ἀρχή in the left margin of f.14v and read the editorial note starting with ἔστιν καὶ ταὐτα φερομένα, etc. Since this editorial note is written in plain text, there is no need for the scribe to repeat the dotted obelos next to it; on f.19r, the dotted obelos is repeated in the right margin to introduce a supplementary editorial note.
By paying attention to the successive editorial marks after ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ, one gets examples of two different ways to read the endings of Mark. The first scribe kept two options, the shorter ending and the longer ending, with two conclusive ἀμήν, whereas the later scribe focused on the longer ending.

5 Conclusion

The analysis of the editorial marks after Mark 16:8/36 in GA 044 f.14v confirms that its first scribe was aware of a version of Mark that concluded with the shorter ending, as noted by Gregory, Lias, and Lake. It represents a different case from the Codex Regius (GA 019, f.113r), having no introductory remark before the shorter ending. It also includes a scribal awareness of the alternative longer ending, introduced by an editorial note in the plain text. Both the shorter and the longer endings are concluded by an ἀμήν, like almost all the other books in GA 044.
The editorial marks after 16:8 are also clues to understand how the reading of the endings of Mark has developed. The first scribe punctuated the ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ with a dicolon + dash, signifying the end of a paragraph. A later scribe overwrote this first punctuation with a τέλος followed by a dicolon + dotted obelos, inviting the reader to skip the shorter ending and move directly to the next ἀρχή and the editorial note introducing the longer ending.
Finally, the analysis of GA 044 in Mark 16:8 allows to understand why one always sees the shorter ending before the longer one in the manuscripts that contain both. It supports the anteriority of the conclusio brevior over the longer ending, first argued by William Lane: “this primacy of position is understandable only on the hypothesis of an early origin of the shorter ending. A date near the middle of the second century is probable.”
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