Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hort’s Review of Burgon’s Last Twelve Verses

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In 1871, F. J. A. Hort wrote a short review of Dean Burgon’s well-known defense of the longer ending of Mark in The Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark. The review itself isn’t especially noteworthy. Hort found himself unconvinced and unimpressed by Burgon’s case. Burgon was no fan of Hort’s text critical work either, of course.

What is a bit more interesting is that Hort wrote his review just before the committee of the Revised Version was set to meet in Westminster to discuss this very text. So Hort must have gone into the meeting with the issues fresh on his mind. Here is what Hort wrote to Westcott about the review.
To the Rev. Dr. Westcott
St Ippolyts, All Saints’ Eve [Thursday, November 2], 1871 
Mr Burgon, aided by various interruptions, has swallowed up two precious days:—not more, I hope. I send you the result for correction or approval. I want to send it to Cheyne as early as possible, hoping that it may be in the Academy of the 15th, which will appear just when we are discussing Mark xvi.9–20 at Westminster. If you have not seen the book, you will still be able to judge on most points. Even the brief statement of principle may be useful. It was useless to attempt particulars without more space, and I have already transgressed. Is not what little I have said about Mr Burgon’s style necessary? It was difficult not to say much more. The point about + τέλος + is very curious and deserves further working.
Here is the review that was published in The Academy the same year (vol 2, pp. 518-519):

The Rev. J. W. Burgon maintains unreservedly the authenticity and originality of The Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark, in 323 pages of somewhat acrid declamatian interspersed with minute research. It was worth while to show, in detail, that the writers in various centuries who notice the absence of this section of our Gospel from MSS., few or many, were for the most part only copying Eusebius; for their names are arranged in the editions too much as if they were all independent witnesses. An investigation of the neglected Catenæ on St. Mark and of certain marginal scholia found in late MSS. has corrected some errors of collators, and slightly reduced the force of this patristic evidence. Under these heads Mr. Burgon has done good service, grave errors and exaggerations notwithstanding. As a new and “decisive” testimony on the other side he sets up “the Lectionary of the East,” that is, the system of lessons which Bingham’s diligent reading of Chrysostom proved to have been used in northern Syria late in the fourth century, extended by imaginative processes to all the Greek and Syrian churches, and backwards in time almost to the Apostles. The new and striking facts about + τέλος +, which stands within the text of many Cursive MSS. after xvi. 8 and 20, point not to the marking of ancient lections, but to the recognition of a first and a second ending to this one Gospel, just as many Armenian MSS. insert Εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Μάρκον in both places. Mr. Burgon’s way of exhibiting the principal evidence could not fail to mislead an unwary reader. He never displays it all together, and often speaks of a part as if it were the whole. He treats the short duplicate ending of the Gospel as if it had no bearing on the question at issue. He boldly cites the Old Latin as rendering “emphatic witness” to the genuineness of the twelve verses, though its three primary MSS. are wanting here, and one of the surviving three substitutes the duplicate ending ; and though Tertullian and Cyprian never cite the section, as they must certainly have done had they known and accepted it, Tertullian, De Baptismo, 12, 13, Cyprian his Testimonia and divers epistles, if not (both writers) elsewhere. The one Latin testimony previous to Augustine and Jerome comes from an African bishop at the Council of Carthage in 256, as the one clear Greek ante-Nicene testimony (Mr. Burgon numbers six) is that of Irenæus : and the inherent weakness of negative evidence cannot be pleaded for such verses as the last six of St. Mark. But when authorities are in conflict, clear principles of criticism become indispensable, and here Mr. Burgon signally breaks down. Etymological guessing, without knowledge of the filiation of languages, is a true image of textual criticism of the New Testament conducted without reference to the hidden genealogies and circumstances of transmission to which the extant evidence owes its form. With all his industry and learning Mr. Burgon betrays no conception of the delicate and complex investigations by which alone it can be decided how far an authority or a group of authorities can be safely trusted in a given reading. This is the more unfortunate as he desires his book to lead the way in displacing multitudes of readings which have been adopted on early manuscript evidence within the last hundred years. In the present state of our knowledge even the most conservative criticism, if it be unscientific, must generate only universal doubt and confusion. Mr. Burgon, it ought to be said, successfully disposes of many applications of the “Concordance text,” by which Mark xvi.9–20 has been distinguished from the rest of the Gospel, while he injures the effect of his argument by refusing to see the two or three real difficulties of this kind which remain. He does not notice the significance of the opening phrase Ἀναστὰς δὲ πρωῒ πρώτῃ σαββάτου, so otiose in its triple repetition of facts already told, if taken as an original part of the chapter ; so natural and apposite as the first words of a complete succinct narrative from the Resurrection to the Ascension, transferred entire from another record, whether written or oral. The high antiquity of the narrative cannot reasonably be doubted, and almost as little its ultimate if not proximate Apostolic origin. F. J. A. HORT.

11 comments :

  1. Has the nature of the evidence changed in any way over the intervening decades that would likely make Hort retract anything from this critique?

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  2. Burgon's τελος discussion also was cited in Hort's "Notes on Select Readings," W-H Introduction and Appendix, 27-51.

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  3. Isn't interesting how skeptic academics of every age always drip with the same obnoxious arrogance

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  4. I'm not at all sure that "skeptic" is quite the right label for Hort. As for arrogance, it would be difficult (though not impossible) to find a better (worse) example than "The Revision Revised."

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  5. Which, I hasten to add, doesn't necessarily invalidate Burgon's arguments, though it does give some perspective.

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  6. I'm certain that skeptic is an absolutely accurate word to describe a man who was so impious as to deliberately corrupt a church committee, that had a very clear set of guidelines to follow, for his own aggrandizement. As for Burgon's tone in his writings, which I consider a righteous indignation, it is completely understandable considering the kind of men he had to conflict with, That is, skeptic academics.

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  7. When one surveys the crowd of falsehoods which were being spread about Mark 16:9-20, it is impressive that Burgon dialed down his frustration as much as he did. Also, Burgon acknowledged his bombasticness, and said he'd apologize for it, after error-spreading commentators apologize to Mark.

    Hort’s statement that Burgon’s research on some patristic evidence "slightly reduced” its force is a considerable understatement. Hort, at least, grants that Burgon “has done good service” about this. (Unfortunately some of the errors that Burgon corrected were revived by Metzger et al).

    Hort properly rejects the part of Burgon’s theory that involves the introduction of a lectionary-note after Mark 16:8; at the same time he himself misinterprets “the new and striking facts about + τέλος +, which stands within the text of many Cursive MSS. after xvi. 8 and 20” as if it indicates scribal awareness of “a first and a second ending to this one Gospel.” It is instead an ordinary part of the lectionary-apparatus (esp. in MSS with rubrics for the Heothinon-series).

    Hort criticizes Burgon for citing “the Old Latin as rendering “emphatic witness” to the genuineness of the twelve verses, though its three primary MSS. are wanting here,” but when Old Latin breves and capitula are added to the equation, Burgon is right; k has the SE (more or less) but k is the raven in a flock of doves.

    Hort overstates the silence (?) of Cyprian, who fails to mention passages when discussing subjects regarding which we would consider those passages highly relevant. I would also draw your attention to H. A. G. Houghton’s statement that “Cyprian seems to be familiar with the ‘longer ending’ of Mark 16:9 onwards” -- Houghton mentions “cum dominus dicerit . . . in baptismo praeterita peccata dimitti” in Ep. 27:3 as a possible allusion to Mk 16:16.

    Regarding Justin and Tatian: Hort cannot be faulted for not considering information that he did not have. Ciasca’s work on the Diatessaron was not available until 1888. Almost as soon as it was available, J. R. Harris deduced what Hort would have seen: Tatian is to be added to the witnesses for Mark 16:9-20, and Hort’s flimsy objection to admitting Justin, too, as support for Mark 16:9-20, has been dissolved.

    Continuing: Hort wrote, “Etymological guessing, without knowledge of the filiation of languages, is a true image of textual criticism of the New Testament conducted without reference to the hidden genealogies and circumstances of transmission to which the extant evidence owes its form.” Would anyone care to hazard a guess as to what that means, and what statements of Burgon it was intended to address? Istm that Hort was basically saying that Burgon failed to appreciate that he was relying on non-Alexandrian witnesses and that since they are non-Alexandrian they are not reliable.

    Hort agrees with Burgon, sort of, at one point, stating, “In the present state of our knowledge even the most conservative criticism, if it be unscientific, must generate only universal doubt and confusion.” Burgon believed that “the present state of our knowledge” in the early 1880’s was insufficient, and that the means to undertake an accurate revision of the Greek text had not yet come; even the most scientific guesswork is doomed if those undertaking the enterprise have insufficient evidence with which to work as a basis for their hypotheses. (Burgon was not against the idea of revision as such; he was staunchly opposed to the revision that Westcott and Hort produced, mainly on the grounds that it required a transmission-model that he considered historically implausible. And on this point, who -- outside of Dallas and Wheaton -- would not agree that Hort's transmission-model was severely flawed?)

    Finally: . . . well, 4,096 character is not quite enough.

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  8. Finally: as Hort closes, he does not make a specific challenge anything that Burgon said about the internal evidence (other than mentioning that there are “two or three real difficulties” that still belong on the scales against Marcan authorship) except to say that the opening phrase of 16:9 is “So natural and apposite as the first words of a complete succinct narrative from the Resurrection to the Ascension, transferred entire from another record, whether written or oral.” Of course, as I have already written, on this point I agree with Hort. I would add that Hort’s affirmation that “The high antiquity of the narrative cannot reasonably be doubted, and almost as little its ultimate if not proximate Apostolic origin” interlocks very well with my view that verses 9-20, before being integrated into the text of the Gospel of Mark, existed as a Marcan summary of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, which Mark’s colleagues attached, before any copies of the Gospel of Mark were made, in order to wrap up the otherwise-unfinished narrative.

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  9. What precisely, Anonymous, do you mean by "aggrandizement" and what do you mean by "corrupt"? As to "having a clear agenda," I fail to see why anyone would consider that objectionable.

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  10. Snapp:"Burgon acknowledged his bombasticness, and said he’d apologize for it, after error-spreading commentators apologize to Mark."

    I.e., he would acknowledge the system not to be rigged, were he later to win?

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