Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mark 1.1: the Long(ish) reading

Tommy's excellent presentation on the text of Mark 1.1 is now available in audio via the CSCO website (where it is also described as argued persuasively):

Tommy Wasserman, ‘The “Son of God” was in the Beginning,’ lecture (44min)

Wasserman, Question and Answer, (28min)


  1. Thanks, Peter.

    Are you also going to post something about your own (SBL) article on this verse? Just curious :)

  2. "...where it is also described as argued persuasively" – academic diplomacy? ;-)

  3. Edgar,
    my article was published as a short note in New Testament Studies in 1991! You can find it here:

  4. Tommy,
    It takes a special skill to argue persuasively for your reading at Mark 1.1.

  5. I know, I know. It doesn't allow any shortcuts.

  6. More seriously,
    Looking ahead there still seems to me to be a few issues which could be sorted out:
    a) the status of the Greek of Irenaeus. I know you follow the latest trend in following the Latin text, but the Greek text is still the Greek text and it lacks son of God. This suggests either the existence of such a reading in Greek, or the tendency to omit SoG.
    b) how useful/relevant is the new P. Oxy amulet as a quotation from Mark?
    c) How shall we evaluate the original text of Sinaiticus at a point where the correction is made early.
    d) Is christological expansion or paraphrastic contraction more likely.

  7. Now I am curious about "Indiginata Theological Consultancy Inc" which you thank in your last footnote of that NTS article, and also in your published dissertation. A company which apparently also sponsored our first annual ETC award in 2005, http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2005/12/and-winner-is.html.

  8. a) The argumentation of Irenaeus supports the notion that "the Son of God" was present in his text. However, his abbreviated citation, as I argue, does not even include Ιησου Χριστου, at least not according to the best available edition of his Greek text!

    b) The amulet is slightly more useful than two other papyrus amulets which attest to the long reading, since it may be a century older or so.

    c) Good question. I have suggested a topic relevant to this question to a certain student in Cambridge for his master thesis; I only hope the proposal is approved by his supervisor.

    d) As my extensive examination of the patristic authors demonstrates, we can at least say that in this milieu it was common to abbreviate the beginning of this (and other) Gospels. We also know that scribes occasionally omitted nomina sacra, even at the beginning of books!

  9. But 'the best available edition of his Greek text' in your view simply follows the Latin text instead of the extant Greek text at the crucial point. There is firstly a text-critical question about the reading of Irenaeus where the Greek witness differs from the Latin witnesses.

  10. Thanks, Peter; got it! Can't wait to read!

  11. PMH: "But 'the best available edition of his Greek text' in your view simply follows the Latin text instead of the extant Greek text at the crucial point."

    I suppose you remember that we discussed this in an e-mail conversation back in January. The edition I have used is Sources Chretienne 211, eds. Rouseeau and Doutreleau (not the older edition by Sanday that you used). Now, there is no Greek MSS of Irenaeus extant at all (which is also apparent from Sanday). Instead the Greek evidence is indirectly inferred from the Greek text of Anastasius Sinaita, Questio 144 who cites Irenaeus (to which Sanday refers). So first there is a matter of text-critical reconstruction of Anastasius. Rosseau and Doutreleau explain, "Le texte d'Anastase ici donné a été établi, avec son apparat critique, dans l'Introduction, p. 114 [this is in SC 210]. And, lo and behold, the Greek text which is referred to in this edition as "Fr. gr. 11" has Αρχη του ευαγγελιου (and yes, it is apparently based on Greek evidence).

    In sum: there is no direct "extant" Greek evidence. Even Sanday whose edition you used refers to MSS of Anastasius' work, whereas the modern SC edition includes an extensive reconstruction even of that work. Moreover, Irenaeus argument suggests that he knows the long reading.

  12. I am grateful to you both, Peter and Tommy, for having this discussion this week. My Exegetical Methods class at Fuller Sacramento has a short paper due on the text of Mark 1:1 next Monday. I will urge them to read this conversation. See you both at SBL. Peter R.

  13. Dear Peter R, today I am making a handout on Mark 1:1 available on the mainpage of this blog (TC Files).

  14. I also just made available a link to my full article. See my institutional webpage www.orebromissionsskola.se/personal/wasserman.

  15. Do they give a page in J.A. Munitiz and M. Richard, Anastasii Sinaitae Questiones et Responsiones [Corpus Christianorum. Series Graeca 59. Turnhout: Brepols, 2006]?

  16. No, the editors unfortunately lacked prophetic ability (SC 210-211 was published in 1974).

    I would of course be very grateful if you could consult that edition and report the result. The relevant part is Question 144.

    In any case, we should be aware that the Greek evidence for Irenaeus' text is indirect.

  17. that is a pity. I can't actually find the reference in TLG.
    Anyway, it was nice to have Irenaeus on our side, but it is hardly essential, since as you have so well demonstrated, the external evidence in the earliest period is pretty much evenly balanced. Only in the later periods does the longer reading predominate. so this casts a lot back on rather subjective judgements about Markan style (not perhaps the best word actually) and transcriptional probabilities.

    I guess another issue is that of caution - some people are cautious of departing from the overwhelming majority of all the witnesses; other people are cautious of asserting the longer form too strongly/firmly since the alternative evidence is so significant.

  18. I actually think that the external evidence in terms of manuscript evidence is in favor of the long reading, especially since the evidence of Sinaiticus is a bit ambiguous concerning a possible scribal error. Apart from that I think the external evidence is rather evenly balanced. Irenaeus is a very important and early (earliest) witness, and according to my evaluation he definitely knew the long reading, and it is apparent too that he abbreviates the Gospel incipit.