Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mark 15.28: Is rehabilitation possible?

Missing verses are always interesting, and Mark has its fair share (7.16; 9.44, 46; 11.26; 15.28; 16.9-20). These are passages that were printed, with verse numbers assigned, in Stephanus 1551 but are no longer generally regarded as part of the original text of Mark and not printed as such in recent critical editions.

But what about Mark 15.28? Is rehabilitation possible? Or is this verse destined for life in the margins?

Evidence in support of this reading includes Eusebius (certainly was included in Eusebius' canon lists noting the parallel in Luke 277—this could reflect an earlier tradition). Other early evidence is in the Old Latin. So it was clearly in existence well before the fourth century (the date of our earliest manuscripts which lack the verse). It is also obviously no simple harmonisation to Luke 22.37 (since the introductory formula is quite different). It is clearly congruent with Markan style and forms a striking inclusio with the initial citation of Isaiah in Mark 1.2-3.

So against it is only a good selection of the best early manuscripts of Mark, the earliest witnesses in Syriac and Coptic, and the small transcriptional matter that its inclusion is far more easily explained than its omission.


  1. Peter Head wrote:

    "It is clearly congruent with Markan style ..."

    Mark's narrator doesn't cite scripture very often. Citations are most often found in the words of Jesus and other narrative participants.

    The citation formula is typically KAQWS GEGRAPTAI or WS GEGRAPTAI with some variations like hOTI GEGRAPTAI and OU GEGRAPTAI hOTI. In Mark 12:10 we find OUDE THN GRAFHN TAUTHN ANEGNWTE.

    Apart from Mark 15:28 PLHROW is not used with GRAPH as a citation formula. There is one other place in Mark 14:49 where PLHROW is found with GRAPH as a subject of the passive (semantic patient). In this case ' hINA PLHRWQWSIN hAI GRAFAI is not an introduction to a citation.


    Of course none of these observations prove that Mark could not have written MK15:28.

  2. Although appeals to "Markan style" might represent more of a chimera than definitive substance, CSB is correct that the phraseology here is otherwise unparalleled in Mark.

    Such, of course, does not preclude Markan authorship or derived usage, particularly if such were derived from some form of oral tradition within a florilegium of fulfillment testimonia.

    Transcriptionally, of course, it would be extremely easy to omit the verse by hom. of KAI ^ KAI; and for such to occur among a quite small number of witnesses (many of which share a common archetype) would be relatively simple.

  3. Maurice wrote:

    " 'Markan style' might represent more of a chimera than definitive substance ..."

    I agree, it is a chimera. In fact arguments that take the form: The author cannot say something like that here because he never says something like that anywhere else ..., are IMHO very weak arguments. Go read the complete works of any major 20th century author and you will find this sort of logic never fails to fail.

  4. Looking at the witnesses, we see some interesting exceptions to the norm:

    L and 33, which are usually Alexandrian in Mark, include.

    A, X, Delta and 047, which are usually Byzantine in Mark, omit.

    Several traditions are split:
    Italic, Syriac, Boharic, Byz.

    The Double-Ending-to-Mark mss all include it. But the presence of the verse in the margin of Y indicates a possible route by which it found its way into their exemplars.

    Thus while this highly interesting variant certainly bears more study, at present there looks to be no evidence in the record excluding the possibility that it was a very early corruption--

    whether of addition or omission, it's impossible to say for sure.

  5. Upon closer inspection, I find that the split cuts more deeply than I stated; there is in fact no unanimity here among mss that have the double ending. But this search caused me to take a closer look at L--in particular, the last page showing 16:6-9.

    The scribe of L must have fancied himself a critic and a scholar, for at the end of v. 8 he writes, (if the standard deciphering be correct)
    "Something to this effect is also met with:"
    and, following the short ending (clearly read here):
    "But this also is met with:"

    Rather than blaming the idiosyncracies of L on a partially corrected exemplar alone, I'm forced to reckon with the fact that this self-important scribe had several codices before him as he composed his edition of the gospels, apparently picking and choosing among them for the reading which most struck him as genuine. Perhaps we can say the same for the scribes of Psi, 083, and 579. And like the textual critics of modern times, no two of them settled on the same cocktail of readings for their final product--in fact, typically their final product ended differently than it had begun.

    As far as L went, 7:16 was out, but 15:28 was in--reversing the criticism of A. 579 was a bit more inclusive and kept them both.

    All I can conclude from this is that textual critics in the last half of the 1st millennium were as confused on this matter as those in the last half of the second.

  6. Peter Rodgers informs me that he has written on this previously: 'The Text of Mark 15:28', Evangelical Quarterly 61 (1989) 81-84. There he refers to an earlier article by G.D. Kilpatrick.

  7. This comment added 8.8.06:
    On Mark 15:28, I wonder if you are aware that Burgon discussed this passage. He maintained that it was omitted in MSS due to influence from the lectionary tradition, and supported this with the obervation that Codex 71 in the Bibliothèque National in Paris (which seems to be 7e in the Gregory system) has a rubric instructing the reader to omit it from certain lections. His discussion comes on pp. 75-78 of "The Causes of the Corruption of the Tradtional Text of the Holy Gospels", (on-line at www.ccel.org if that's more convenient). Unfortunately he does not give a rationale as to why one would wish to omit the verse in reading. Perhaps the reference to explicitly classing the Lord with criminals may have been perceived as problematic in public reading. Anyway it seems striking that the lectionary tradition omits while all the Byzantine MSS include. (It is perhaps also worth noting that the uncials M and Δ (037) mark the verse with asterisks and obeli respectively, if I am not mistaken. Perhaps this is similarly a relic of the lectionary rubric.) Incidentally I wonder if the influence of the lectionaries on the text is a subject that has been too much neglected.
    Tony Pope