Evangelical Textual Criticism

Monday, October 18, 2010

Maurice Robinson Responds to T.B. Williams pt. 1

About two weeks ago Peter Head drew attention to an interesting article in the recent Bulletin for Biblical Research: Travis B. Williams, "Bringing Method to the Madness: Examining the Style of the Longer Ending of Mark" BBR 20.3 (2010), 397-418. Peter summarized:
Basically Williams argues that previous discussions of the style of the Long Ending have been methodologically unsound. So he proposes a sound method and procedure (or methodological procedure), applies this to the evidence (well, half of the evidence), and proposes that the style of the Long Ending is distinctly non-Markan. So no surprises there then.

Interestingly he states: 'due to spatial limitations and the fact that dissimilarity reveals more about authenticity than similarity, our discusson will be confined to strong indications of an un-Markan style plus instances that have wrongly been labelled un-Markan' (p. 404). This looks like dealing with only half the evidence to me.

In his article Travis Williams addresses co-blogger Maurice Robinson's own study of the Longer Ending of Mark (LE) in Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views (ed. D.A. Black; Nashwille: B&H Academic, 2008), 40-79. (The other three views are those of D. A. Black, Keith Elliott and Daniel Wallace). Look inside the book here (Amazon). I selected this book for the Eisenbrauns/ETC sales which is still up.

Robinson has now written a response to Williams which will be published in two parts (the full response will eventually be published under TC-Files).

Robinson's Response to Travis Williams on the Long Ending of Mark
Since my own study of the Longer Ending of Mark (LE) is addressed in Travis Williams’ article (“Bringing Method to the Madness: Examining the Style of the Longer Ending of Mark,” BBR 20.3 [2010] 397-418), I consider it valid to offer a brief comment.

I suggest that this study, like most others claiming to deal definitively with matters of style and syntax, remains flawed, and serves only to further muddle the discussion. Among the many fallacies that could be noted, I select five that occur in close sequence in the middle of the article (Williams, 406-411), in the order they occur.

1. Williams claims (406) that the unique use of ἕτερος in 16:12 is out of step with the exclusive Markan use of ἄλλος. This is supported by a footnote (406n23) that points out a supposed Markan failure to differentiate between different types of seed in the parable of the sower, claiming on this basis that “Mark uses the term [ἄλλος] to denote both ‘another of the same kind’ as well as ‘another of a different kind.’” This is supported by mention that the Lukan parallel uses ἕτερος in place of the Markan ἄλλος, concluding that “this reveals that Mark prefers ἄλλος even in situations in which another term may have been more specific.” But such a line of reasoning simply is incorrect on two major grounds: first, one cannot make Lukan word preference a touchstone for Markan style and usage (this particularly if one holds to Markan priority!); second, the seeds in the Markan version of the parable in fact are not different — rather, the same type of seed is merely sown in different soils. Within a proper Markan context, ἄλλος then remains the only appropriate term for the Sower, whereas in 16:12, ἕτερος is clearly required. This then becomes a non-issue.

2. Williams claims (407) that the absence in the LE of such a “distinctive Markan stylistic feature” as the term εὐθύς is “glaring,” and that “it is striking to find it absent from the Long Ending.” Yet there are many long stretches of Mark in which εὐθύς does not occur that extend far beyond the 12 verses of the LE. Examples include 2:13-3:5 (20vv); 3:7-4:4 (33vv); 6:55-7:34 (37vv); 8:11-9:14 (43vv); 9:25-10:51 (78vv); 11:4-14:42 (154vv), etc. In fact, even in the portion up to 16:8, the last appearance of εὐθύς was in 15:1 — some 55 verses earlier! Obviously Williams’ claim on this point is seriously flawed.

3. Similarly, Williams also claims (407) that the absence of πάλιν in the LE is “glaring,” since such is “another favorite of Mark.” Leaving aside the fact that πάλιν is far more characteristic of John, indeed Mark does hold second place among the four gospels in the use of this word. However, the same facts apply as in the case of εὐθύς: numerous long stretches exist in Mark in which παλιν simply does not appear. Examples include 1:1-2:1 (45vv); 4:1-5:20 (60vv); 5:22-7:31 (109vv), etc. And once more, even in the portion up to 16:8, the last occurrence of πάλιν was at 15:13 — some 42 verses earlier. Once more, Williams’ claim is flawed.

[TW: More to follow in part 2]


  1. Tommy, could you correct the Greek? So: ἕτερος, not ἑτερος; ἄλλος, not ἀλλος; εὐθύς, not ἐυθυς; πάλιν, not παλιν.

  2. Thanks, there were no accents in the original response, and I was a bit too lazy.

  3. Could someone please send me Williams' article?

    A first thought is that one can understand that ONE of the typical features is not present, but that none is present is more difficult to explain.

  4. It seems to me that on internal grounds, 16:8 has no more claim to Marcan authorship than vv. 9-20. So where do we draw the line?

  5. So far I haven't received the article.
    Is it not available in digital form?

  6. Regarding accents:

    The normal convention in NT textual criticism is not to include accents or breathings unless necessary for clarification.

    In the present case, I did include breathings, but even these were not strictly necessary per the conventions of the field..

  7. Just a reminder: my own chapter-by-chapter review of the "Perspectives: Four Views on the Ending of Mark" book is available for free download in the Files at the TC-Alternate Yahoo discussion-list.

    Or just e-mail me and I'll be glad to e-mail copies on request.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.
    james (dot) snapp at gmail (dot) com

  8. Did Williams bother to consult Bruce Terry's essay on the Style of the Long Ending of Mark before writing? If Williams used the non-use of EUQUS and PALIN as if it's evidence of anything, I question the depth of his research.

    In your entry you stated that in the "Perspectives" book, there's Dr. Robinson's view, and then "The other three views are those of Darrel Bock, Keith Elliott and Daniel Wallace." Actually the other three views are those of Elliott, Wallace, and Black.

    Black's contribution is, however, mainly an extract from an earlier work, presenting a hypothesis in which Mark used copies of Mt and Lk. Bock was supposed to simply serve as moderator (since, as Wallace has said, Bock is not a NT textual critic) but ended up arguing for Wallace's view.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  9. To answer Mr Snapp's question:

    Bruce Terry is not cited within Williams' article. The interaction seems to be exclusively with printed sources (Kelhoffer, Elliott, Broadus, Burgon, Farmer, McDill, Danove, etc.)

  10. Hi,

    Looking at various claims, it seems that textcrit stylistic claims invariably fall right into a "special pleading" fallacy and that textcrit writers should beef up their logic facilities.

    The concept is rarely, if ever, methodology first.. "let us find the methodologies that apply throughout the NT" . It is in reverse .. I want to find evidences for/against this section .. "oh, look, I found this and that".

    (And then others go and show the irrelevance and convolution in the assertion, as we see here.)

    Using the Fallacy Files

    Rule: Xs are generally Ys.
    x is an X.
    x is an exception to the rule because it is I (where I is an irrelevant characteristic).
    Therefore, x is not a Y.

    Applied here.

    Verses in Mark are original scripture, (and thought to be written by Mark)

    16:9 etc is in Mark

    x is an exception to scripture because there is not some obscure characteristic .... (a characteristic that has never been put to any type of rigorous or even sensible methodological examination)

    Therefore x is not original scripture

    The problem is that this fallacy is normative in modern textcrit.

    Steven Avery

  11. Dr. Robinson has proven once again that he is on his game.

    1. Here MAR clearly has to, and does, succeed in *unmuddying* the waters significantly. The question of seed species is paramount to a correct grasp of similarities and differences between accounts.

    2. Williams is sadly wallowing in the methodology of the early 20th century, long since abandoned as scientific understanding has inevitably increased. How such poor technique still gets published is mind-boggling. If one consults any other field, such as Aramaisms in the NT, one finds that the flaws in such methods were nailed, explained, and solved decades ago. For instance, just read the historical introduction written by another Maurice, Maurice Casey, "Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel" Soc. for NT Studies monograph 102, chapters 1-2, where details of similar errors were made, critiqued, and corrected as early as 1880.

    When are NT textual critics going to get with the program, and stop the naive (and fatal) "vocabulary" tests?

    Hats off to Dr. Robinson for taking the time to hold William's hand and correct him on this matter. Must be tedious after so many repeats.


  12. Williams's article is very critical of other scholars but really has nothing new to say.