This article by Bible translator Mark Hore was recovered from the cults.org archive.
I’ve now had a chance to look at the Mark 16 document on the TRF web site.
Before I comment, I would recommend anybody interested having a look at this document rather than just accepting what I’m going to say about it, since I’m going to be rather critical. I invite everyone to see for themselves if what I’m saying is reasonable.
This document reads as polemic rather than as a scholarly text. For example, the heading “Cumulative Evidence Versus Modernistic Unbelief”, and the subheading “Modernists Attack Authenticity Of Mark 16: 9-20”, give an indication of where this document is coming from. Who are these unbelieving modernists? People who have spent their lives studying the whole complex field of text transmission. “Modernists” is used as a pejorative term. These people are not unbelievers. I think it would be true to say that they generally believe in the divine inspiration of scripture. However at some points their conclusions disagree with RF doctrine, so they’re accused of “unbelief”. Oh well…
The document draws much of its material heavily from “The Pulpit Commentary”. I’ve never heard of that, but they say “…the Pulpit Commentary, one of the most famous Bible commentaries printed in the English language.” And I thought I’d looked at a lot of commentaries – somehow I missed it.
I suspect this commentary is old, and the name of the author of the many quotations is not given. This is another way in which this document looks suspiciously unscholarly.
Anyway, let me get to the arguments. These come under 6 main headings:
- Evidence Of The Greek Manuscripts [these people love capital letters!]
- Evidence Of The Ancient Versions
- Evidence From The Writings Of The Early Church Leaders.
- Numeric Evidence Of Divine Inspiration.
- The Evidence Of The Bible.
- The Evidence Of The Believer’s Experience.
I’m only going to look at 1, 2, 3, and 5. I regard 4 as lunatic fringe stuff, frankly. Where in the Bible is there any suggestion that its text should follow some numeric pattern, which as others have shown, can be found in any text if you try? And as for 6, no doubt people who have seen apparitions of Mary at Lourdes can claim just as much from experience. That’s all I’m going to say about 4 and 6.
Turning to (1), the evidence of the Greek manuscripts. I have no particular argument with some shortcomings that are given regarding Codex Sinaiticus (also known as Aleph) and Codex Vaticanus (also known as B). These are both witnesses to what’s called the Alexandrian text tradition, and so are not independent. Some problems with this text tradition are now well understood, as are the problems with the other traditions. Just citing a list of problems in isolation is not particularly helpful. But the fact is, the Alexandrian tradition is now considered to be the most reliable, and Aleph and B are the oldest manuscripts we have in this tradition. The Chester Beatty Papyrus attests to the antiquity of this tradition.
(2) The cursive manuscripts are all much later than the uncials, and so don’t help us much here. It’s hardly surprising that they contain the disputed verses, since a scribe would naturally include something doubtful rather than leave it out. The versions translated into other languages are important witnesses, but the document only mentions those that support its position, not the many that don’t. Selective citation is no way to carry on a reasonable argument.
(3) Here again we have selective citation. The evidence of the early church writers really goes the other way.
To back up what I’m saying, I’m going to quote from A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, by Bruce M. Metzger. This is a commentary on the deliberations of the United Bible Society committee that had to make textual decisions for the third edition of their Greek text. This is slightly old now (it goes back to when I was at Moore College) but I doubt that later revisions differ substantially in the areas we’re looking at here.
Quoting from p.122-3, “The Ending(s) of Mark”:
Four endings of the Gospel according to Mark are current in the manuscripts. (1) The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (Aleph and B), from the Old Latin cedex Bobiensis, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913). Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the [tongues] passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16.8. Not a few manuscripts which contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document. …
The longer ending (3) [the traditional ending], though current in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary. (a) The vocabulary and style of verses 9-20 are non- Markan (e.g. apisteo, blapto, bebaioo, epakoloutheo, theaomai, sunergeo, husteron are found nowhere else in Mark; and thanasimon and tois met’ autou genomenois, as designations of the disciples, occur only here in the New Testament). (b) The connection between ver.8 and verses 9-20 is so awkward that it is difficult to believe that the evangelist intended the section to be a continuation of the Gospel. Thus, the subject of ver.8 is the women, whereas Jesus is the presumed subject in ver.9; in ver.9 Mary Magdalene is identified even though she has been mentioned only a few lines before (15.47 and 16.1); the other women of verses 1-8 are now forgotten; the use of anastas de and the position of proton are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive narrative, but they are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8. In short, all these features indicate that the section was added by someone who knew a form of Mark that ended abruptly with ver.8 and who wished to supply a more appropriate conclusion. In view of the inconcinnities between verses 1-8 and 9-20, it is unlikely that the long ending was composed ad hoc to full up an obvious gap; it is more likely that the section was excerpted from another document, dating perhaps from the first half of the second century.
I don’t really think I can add to that – the UBS scholars know a lot more about the complex issues of text transmission than I do. It’s easy to push a point of view by selective quotation of evidence to an uncritical audience. However this is a large and complex area, to which justice is not done by this document on the web site.
Let me just add, though, that I don’t think the question of the ending of Mark is hugely important. As the Revival Fellowship document states, there is really not much there that isn’t in other places in the NT – especially Acts. The ending could well have been written by someone familiar with Acts as a more fitting ending to the Gospel than the original abrupt ending at v.8. What I do disagree with is the elevating of this passage to a major proof text for the RF doctrines, and the unnecessarily pejorative tone of the RF document, towards modern New Testament scholarship. This is the mark of a sect, to concentrate on discrediting everyone who disagrees, rather than try to have a reasonable discussion.
If the passage I quoted above reads like an attempt to discredit a piece of scripture because it teaches uncomfortable things, I can only suggest you re-read it.