Friday, January 06, 2023

Houghton: GA 239 & 304 Do Not Attest the Short Ending of Mark


In the latest issue of NTS, Hugh Houghton has a brief article looking at two catena manuscripts (GA 239 and 304) that both break off after Mark 16:8. The latter is even cited as evidence for the short ending in the ECM. But Houghton makes the case that neither provide evidence for the short ending since there are good reasons to conclude that both manuscripts originally had the longer ending. The evidence for this comes both from the catena and from the fact that neither manuscript has typical ending marks after 16:8, suggesting the text originally continued. Here’s the conclusion:

In sum, there are no known Greek minuscule manuscripts which only preserve the Short Ending of Mark. While the tenacity of the early textual variation at this point continues to be visible in such documents in the form of marginal asterisks, other scribal annotations, and comments from early Christian authors in catenae, claims that this ancient reading is attested by a Byzantine manuscript cannot be sustained unless they are supported by detailed investigation of the witness’s codicology, scribal practice, and textual tradition. The present study does not challenge the scholarly consensus on the earliest attainable form of the ending of Mark, but it does demonstrate the imperative to take full account of the context and nature of documents in which an unexpected reading appears before adducing them as evidence for an early form of text.

There are other interesting features about both manuscripts, but the case against citing these two minuscules to support the short ending is convincing to my mind. The article is open access and you can read it here

Mark 16:8 in GA 239


  1. Replies
    1. What does this discovery mean in terms of what was the original ending of Mark?

    2. Norman,
      It means that there is one (or two if 239 is thrown in) less valid, legitimate Greek witnesses to the ending at 16:8 than before.

    3. Interesting! Do you know where I could find additional materials about the ending of Mark? I find your comment about misinformation quite intriguing and would like to dig in a little deeper.

    4. Claire Clivaz3/02/2023 9:14 am

      You can find material about MARK16 in the platform of the five-year project SNSF MARK16: We have published 58 manuscripts in 11 languages with folios of Mark 16. A list of publications is there, as well as multimedia material: enjoy!

    5. This is wonderful! Thank you so much Clair!

  2. << The present study does not challenge the scholarly consensus on the earliest attainable form of the ending of Mark, >>

    I see that that consensus is not the subject of this post. Yet I wish people would be a bit bolder, and acknowledge that many of the scholars involved in creating the "scholarly consensus" are echoing misinformation that was spread by guys who were fixated on the Alexandrian Text.