Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Original Gospel of Mark

On April Fool's Day, I suggested that I would be presenting a paper at SBL-New Orleans which would argue that the New Testament was originally written in Latin. Today, I came across a relevant statement included as a subscription to a 17th18th century Bohairic text of Mark (Horner, Bohairic NT, vol. I, cviii):
ⲉⲩⲁⲅⲅⲉⲗⲓⲟⲛ ⲍⲱⲏⲥ ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲙⲁⲣⲕⲟⲛ .....
ⲁϥⲥϧⲏⲧϥ ϧⲉⲛⲧⲁⲥⲡⲓ ⲙⲙⲉⲧⲣⲱⲙⲉⲟⲥ ⲙⲉⲛⲉⲛⲥⲁϯⲁⲛⲁⲗⲩⲙⲯⲓⲥ ⲛⲧⲉⲡⲉⲛⲥⲱⲧⲏⲣ ⲙⲓⲃ ⲛⲣⲟⲙⲡⲓ ⲟⲩⲟϩ ⲁϥϩⲓⲱⲓϣ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ⲛϫⲉⲡⲉⲧⲣⲟⲥ ϧⲉⲛϯⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲣⲱⲙⲏ ⲟⲩⲟϩ ⲁϥⲥϧⲏⲧϥ ⲛϫⲉⲙⲁⲣⲕⲟⲥ ⲉϥϩⲓⲱⲓϣ ⲙⲙⲟϥ ϧⲉⲛϯⲡⲁⲛⲧⲁⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲛⲉⲙϯⲃⲁⲕⲓ ⲣⲁⲕⲟϯ ⲛⲉⲙⲭⲏⲙⲓ...
"(The) Gospel of Life according to Mark
Peter wrote it in Latin twelve years after the assumption of our savior and he preached it in Rome, and Mark wrote it and was preaching it in the metropolis and village, Alexandria and Egypt..."

While I do not believe that Mark's gospel was authored in Latin, I am amused by this historical reconstruction of Egypt's patron saint and his gospel. Are there any other parallel subscriptions or marginalia? The use of the Coptic subject marker ⲛϫⲉ- could be suggestive of a Greek Vorlage. One wonders why Mark's gospel would not be preserved more often among early Egyptian manuscripts.


  1. The suggest that Mark was originally written in Latin also shows up in Ephraem's commentary on the Diatessaron.

  2. But Latin is not where Mark's style is coming from. It's not Aramaic, either, contra Casey and others, but very idiosyncratic reworked Greek.

  3. Christian, what font are you using here in the Bohairic? Curious.

  4. There is no font specified, it's standard Unicode Coptic so your web browser is using whatever Coptic font it finds handy on your system.

  5. Iirc, numerous Armenian MSS also feature a colophon stating that Mark was written in Latin.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  6. Jeremy,
    Justin is correct. I use Keft for my own writing, although the character forms of this font are not what one would find in the Medieval Bohairic tradition. Keft is still in Beta.

    James and Stephen,
    Is there any evidence that these colophons share a common literary history? In other words, do we have roughly the same subscription in the Armenian or in Ephraem's commentary?

  7. Various Arabic manuscripts contain colophons; showing that Mark was written in Latin.

  8. This reminds me of an argument for the authenticity of Post-Mark that was current 25 years ago, but I don't run across anymore:

    The Alexandrians adopted Mark as their patron saint, but were always a little insecure about it, he never having been a real apostle and all. Thus the fact that his gospel managed to make it to the Final Four was of great importance to them.

    The last few verses of Mark, however, really bothered them. They seemed to imply that true believers would be able to pick up snakes, drink poison, and speak in tongues. When these things didn't happen with any regularity among the Alexandrians, rather than doubting their own salvation, they simply expunged the troublesome verses from their copies of Mark.

  9. Christian,

    Good question. Too bad I don't have a good answer. That the notice appears in Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic sources does indicate a Syriac ancestor, does it not?

  10. The different subscriptions could have arisen independently. If the wording were close enough, then we could try and establish some sort of genetic link which would make this more interesting. The tradition could predate the Medieval period. The question would be, do these other subscriptions have the same pattern of Peter and Mark writing and preaching in Rome and Alexandria respectively?