Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Maurice Robinson Responds to T.B. Williams pt. 2

This is the second part of Maurice Robinson's response to T. B. Williams concerning the Longer Ending of Mark (first part here):

Robinson Responds to T.B. Williams pt. 2
4. When dealing with the “unexpected shift” between 16:8 and 16:9, Williams (409) notes that “the nominative singular participle in v. 9 seems to have no referent,” and that this “participial function in Mark 16:9 is different from what is found in the rest of the Gospel.” He further notes that “one could hardly argue that Jesus has been the subject up to this point,” even though that “while he has been mentioned [16:6-7], the events have primarily surrounded the women who have come to the tomb. Therefore, this sudden and uninformed shift weighs against authenticity.” However, once more the fallacy in this claim can be demonstrated from a similar shift in a neighboring undoubted segment of Mark, Note the context of 15:44-46 in particular:
44. ὁ δὲ Πιλᾶτος ἐθαύμασεν εἰ ἤδη τέθνηκεν . . . 45. καὶ γνοὺς ἀπὸ τοῦ κεντυρίωνος ἐδωρήσατο τὸ πτῶμα τῷ Ἰωσήφ. 46. καὶ ἀγοράσας σινδόνα καθελὼν αὐτὸν ἐνείλησεν τῇ σινδόνι καὶ ἔθηκεν αὐτὸν ἐν μνημείῳ . . .

44. Now Pilate marveled that he had already died . . . 45. and having known [this] from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46. And having bought linen cloth and taking him down he wrapped him in the linen and placed him in the tomb . . .

The point in parallel here is that, even though “while [Joseph] has been mentioned, the events have primarily surrounded [Pilate].” In fact, the shift from an obliquely mentioned Joseph of v.45 to him suddenly becoming the subject in v.46 is awkward in the same manner as Jesus becoming subject in 16:9 after having been mentioned obliquely in 16:6-7. The situation is further compounded in view of the fact that the aorist participles ἀγοράσας and καθελών otherwise match the γνούς of v.45, where Pilate is the clear subject. Such an awkward shift of referent forces the reader to do the same sorting out of the intended subject in 15:46 as occurs in 16:9. Thus, in view of this nearneighbor parallel instance, the issue in 16:9 should not be considered “different from what is found in the rest of the Gospel,” contra Williams’ claim to that effect.

5. Williams cites (410-11) as “another oddity” in 16:9 “the combination of ἐκβάλλω and παρά,” and builds an entire case on the awkwardness of this collocation:
In fact, the combination . . . is not found anywhere else in the NT. Thus, its presence in 16:9 is not only awkward for Mark but it would be unusual for any NT author . . . . The conjunction would have to carry a sense that is unknown in the NT — that of separation.

In particular, Williams points out (411) that ἐκ or ἀπό would be more appropriate to the context. Yet this entire claim is seriously flawed, since Williams focuses on the weakly supported minority reading of several aberrant MSS (C* D L W 0112 33 579 892 pc) while totally failing to mention the overwhelming majority reading of this passage found in all other witnesses, which is αφ᾿ ἧς ἐκβεβλήκει and not παρ᾿ ἧς ἐκβεβλήκει. This variant is clearly noted in the Nestle apparatus, even though the editors (peculiarly) chose to follow the aberrancy of παρά rather than the more correct consensus involving the fully appropriate ἀπό. At best, failure to take note of the variant that would obviate this difficulty is an unconscious oversight on Williams’ part; at worst, it is a matter of unfairly stacking the deck by ignoring and not mentioning the known legitimate alternatives even when such are immediately available.

In summary, these five examples represent only a portion of what I see as serious methodological flaws in Williams’ “Method or Madness” article — flaws that taken in concert seriously call into question both the method and its conclusions. In light of these considerations, I see no reason to modify or abandon what I have stated previously in my “Amid Perfect Contempt” article in the Perspectives on the Ending of Mark volume [see reference and link in previous part].

1 comment

  1. Robinson: "5. Williams cites (410-11) as “another oddity” in 16:9 “the combination of ἐκβάλλω and παρά,” and builds an entire case on the awkwardness of this collocation."

    As pointed out, this is a major oversight on Williams' part. It has been pointed out since the early 19th century that Mark would have been more apt to have used εκ in 16:9 (cf. 5:28, 30; 7:15, 29; 9:25, etc.) rather than απο, which is more characteristic of Luke's style (4:41; 8:2, 33, 38, 46; 11:24, etc.). But what if Mark was drawing on the same source material as Luke (8:2)? Regardless, it is an obvious oversight that Williams sought to choose the more weakly attested παρα to argue his case.