Monday, May 3, 2010

Textus Receptus, Looking like a stuck-up Nerd, and Mark 16


Aha. Aha.

So, once again, this is a school assignment. This blog should really be very thankful for my Omnibus class. :-P This post is partly to revive my reputation that I'm sure took a nasty fall when I posted

The only drawback is that I stand a great chance of looking like a nerdy bloated stuck up know it all. Which I'm not. But this may make it look like I am.

Will you all forgive me for forcing my school paper upon you?

All for the sake of keeping the blog alive, you know :)

Ugh, I just realized, the paper is rather long....

If you decide to waste 7.3 minutes of your life reading this, I would appreciate comments/criticizms/controversy/compliments or anything you want to say.


Hadley Ayers
Omnibus IV section C, 4th quarter assignment

Not very long ago, I was reading the book of Mark. I was nearing the end of this captivating book, in chapter 16. I had just finished verse 8, and was starting on verse 9: [Now, after he had risen early on the first day of the week…I stopped reading. Wait a moment, I thought. Why was the beginning of verse nine in parentheses? I turned the page to the end of the book. The last word of verse 20 also had parentheses around it: …confirmed the word by the signs that followed]. I looked back down at the page. The wonders continued, for right after verse 20, both in parentheses and italics, were the words, [And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. By now, I was thoroughly confused. I had never encountered anything like this in the Bible before. Now, I had been reading the New American Standard version. Curious, I turned to my New King James version. When I read the same chapter, there were no parentheses around verses 9-20, and it did not include the italicized addition to verse 20. My curiosity now further awakened, I looked up the passages on The website had this footnote: Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9-20 immediately after verse 8. A few manuscripts insert additional material after verse 14; one Latin manuscript adds after verse 8 the following: And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter, etc. Other manuscripts include this same wording after verse 8, then continue with verses 9-20. Aha, I thought. There must be some controversy over this chapter! I decided it needed some looking into. Mouse in hand, I set out to uncover this mystery.

There are two ‘families’ of Greek New Testament manuscripts that have been found. The first is called the Byzantine text-type. The Byzantine text-type is made up of a vast amount of manuscripts, and its manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark contain verses 9-20 of chapter 16. The Byzantine text also does not include the addition to verse 20. These Byzantine manuscripts became the commonly accepted New Testaments. In the 14th century, Erasmus compiled most of the Byzantine manuscripts and translated them into Latin, which was called the Textus Receptus. From the Textus Receptus, the King James and New King James versions were both translated. The second family of manuscripts is the Alexandrian text-type, which was not discovered till the 19th century. The Alexandrian text is made up of far fewer manuscripts than the Byzantine, but what manuscripts it consists of are older and closer to the time of Christ. The oldest of these Alexandrian manuscripts, the Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus, do not include verses 9-20 of chapter 16, and some texts include the addition to verse 20. In 1850, Karl Lachmann published the first New Testament that relied only on the Alexandrian manuscripts. The Critical Text, which is compiled from the Alexandrian manuscripts, is the basis for all English translations (except the King James and New King James), and is now in modern times the accepted New Testament.

These two families of texts from whence the Bibles we read come from have different endings for Mark. Which text is more reliable? The Alexandrian Text is older than the Byzantine. If it is older, and thus closer to when the New Testament was actually being written, then the chances of it being the original are more likely. On the other hand, though the Byzantine text is not as old as the Alexandrian, it has the majority on its side; for its manuscripts are more numerous, and all these manuscripts agree. How shall we weigh these arguments?

This is a rather tricky matter, but not unsolvable. Not only does the Byzantine text have the Majority in its favor, it also has a longer history of acceptance. From about the 5th century till quite modern times, The Byzantine Text and the Textus Receptus became the accepted New Testament. The Reformers used it. The vote of confidence of all the great men of Church History has to amount for something. There is a reason the Alexandrian text type was not common in ancient times, and why we have not discovered it till late. There is a reason the early church fathers must have rejected it in favor of the Byzantine texts. Also, just because we can’t find any manuscripts that are dated closer to the writing of the original document doesn’t mean that the Byzantine manuscripts are not original. The quantity of agreeing manuscripts points to something. If you are hiking, and come to a point where you can see a great big river, but are unable to see its source, you never the less know that the source exists. Merely being older does not give the Alexandrian text automatic authenticity. Being a little younger does not mean the Byzantine Text is any less authentic than it is. Thus, the Byzantine text is more reliable, and as it includes verses 9-20, we know that these verses are legitimate; also, the addition to verse 20, which the Byzantine text does not include, must not be legitimate.

Even though we have established that the Byzantine text is probably the more reliable, and thus we can trust the addition of verses 9-20, we must still go over a few criticisms with Mark 16 itself. One objection to verses 9-20 is that it uses several words and phrases that Mark never uses before. It doesn’t seem to be written in Mark’s style, and thus it is assumed that these verses must have been added later by someone else. The main question here is the authority of writing style. Should an author’s writing style be the law that says a work belongs to a certain author? Would you take a book that had been written by J.R.R. Tolkien, discovered that it had a few words that he either didn’t use very often or never had before, and start up a ruckus claiming that J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t write the book? Is an author to be given no freedom to write differently from works previous? A biblical author’s writing style does not carry as much weight as some people make it out to carry. It should be an interesting, enjoyable study, and no more. Also, why would Mark end his book at verse 8 with these words: And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid. This does not seem like a very complete or good news-like ending to the great story of Jesus Christ. Moreover, though this ending briefly mentions that Christ has risen, it does not include any actual appearance of Christ after his crucifixion, as all the other gospels do. Thus, these objections to Mark 16:9-20 are shown to be of no weight.

I leaned back in my chair. Through the course of my research, I came to the conclusion that verses 9-20 were indeed a part of Mark. The arguments in favor of the Byzantine text, which is the basis for the versions that include verses 9-20, outweighed the arguments in favor of the Alexandrian text. The objections to this passage in Mark did not carry enough weight to convince me of their validity. However, as I was researching this information, I found it necessary to remind myself of the big picture. It’s easy to get caught up in the debate over which version to use, which versions are superior, and what not. While we may hold that a certain translation is more correct than another, we shouldn’t get too wound up over it. We can still be good Christians if we read the NASV, or the ESV. This whole subject about the ending of Mark is important, but it should not estrange us from other Christians. To close with a quote:

“The New Testament was inspired by God, and came from the pens of its writers or their amanuenses in infallible form, free from any defect of any sort, including scribal mistakes. However, God in His providence did not choose to protect that infallible original text from alterations and corruptions in the copying and printing process.” –Douglas Kutilek


Rachel said...

What ho Esmerelda,

Excellent paper! I wrote one on the same topic, and its amazing how different they are!

Rachel Lawyer

Esmeralda Gatsby said...

Hahah thanks Rachel! I know, it's so funny, our papers are always so different :)

Miss Jane said...

Great job! It is wonderful that you took the time to research this and find things out. Also very well written, it held interest well and was personal along with being informational.

Elinor D. said...

Bravo, Esmeralda!