« Prev Chapter VI. Manuscript Testimony Shewn to Be… Next »



S. Mark xvi. 9-20, contained in every HS. in the world except two.—Irrational Claim to Infallibility set up on behalf of Cod. B (p. 73) and Cod. א (p. 75).—These two Codices shewn to be full of gross Omissions (p. 78),—Interpolations (p. 80),—Corruptions of the Text (p. 81),—and Perversions of the Truth (p. 83).—The testimony of Cod. B to S. Mark xvi. 9-20, shewn to be favorable, notwithstanding (p. 86).

THE two oldest Copies of the Gospels in existence are the famous Codex in the Vatican Library at Rome, known as “Codex B;” and the Codex which Tischendorf brought from Mount Sinai in 1859, and which he designates by the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet (א). These two manuscripts are probably not of equal antiquity121121   For some remarks on this subject the reader is referred to the Appendix (F).. An interval of fifty years at least seems to be required to account for the marked difference between them. If the first belongs to the beginning, the second may be referred to the middle or latter part of the ivth century. But the two Manuscripts agree in this,—that they are without the last twelve verses of S. Mark’s Gospel. In both, after ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ (ver. 8), comes the subscription: in Cod. B,—ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΡΚΟΝ; in Cod. א,—ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΡΚΟΝ.

Let it not be supposed that we have any more facts of this class to produce. All has been stated. It is not that the evidence of Manuscripts is one,—the evidence of Fathers and Versions another. The very reverse is the case. Manuscripts, Fathers, and Versions alike, are only not unanimous in bearing consistent testimony. But the consentient witness 71of the MSS. is even extraordinary. With the exception of the two uncial MSS. which have just been named, there is not one Codex in existence, uncial or cursive,—(and we are acquainted with, at least, eighteen other uncials122122   Viz. A, C [v]; D [vi]; E, L [viii]; F, K, M, V, Γ, Δ, Λ (quaere), Π [ix]; G, H, X, S, U [ix, x]., and about six hundred cursive Copies of this Gospel,)—which leaves out the last twelve verses of S. Mark.

The inference which an unscientific observer would draw from this fact, is no doubt in this instance the correct one. He demands to be shewn the Alexandrine (A) and the Parisian Codex (C),—neither of them probably removed by much more than fifty years from the date of the Codex Sinaiticus, and both unquestionably derived from different originals;—and he ascertains that no countenance is lent by either of those venerable monuments to the proposed omission of this part of the sacred text. He discovers that the Codex Bezae (D), the only remaining very ancient MS. authority,—notwithstanding that it is observed on most occasions to exhibit an extraordinary sympathy with the Vatican (B),—here sides with A and C against B and א. He inquires after all the other uncials and all the cursive MSS. in existence, (some of them dating from the xth century,) and requests to have it explained to him why it is to be supposed that all these many witnesses,—belonging to so many different patriarchates, provinces, ages of the Church,—have entered into a grand conspiracy to bear false witness on a point of this magnitude and importance But he obtains no intelligible answer to this question. How, then, is an unprejudiced student to draw any inference but one from the premisses? That single peculiarity (he tells himself) of bringing the second Gospel abruptly to a close at the 8th verse of the xvith chapter, is absolutely fatal to the two Codices in question. It is useless to din into his ears that those Codices are probably both of the ivth century,—unless men are prepared to add the assurance that a Codex of the ivth century is of necessity a more trustworthy witness to the text of the Gospels than a Codex of the vth. The omission of these twelve verses, I repeat, in itself, destroys his confidence in 72Cod. B and Cod. א: for it is obvious that a copy of the Gospels which has been so seriously mutilated in one place may have been slightly tampered with in another. He is willing to suspend his judgment, of course. The two oldest copies of the Gospels in existence are entitled to great reverence because of their high antiquity. They must be allowed a most patient, most unprejudiced, most respectful, nay, a most indulgent hearing. But when all this has been freely accorded, on no intelligible principle can more be claimed for any two MSS. in the world.

The rejoinder to all this is sufficiently obvious. Mistrust will no doubt have been thrown over the evidence borne to the text of Scripture in a thousand other places by Cod. B and Cod. א, after demonstration that those two Codices exhibit a mutilated text in the present place. But what else is this but the very point requiring demonstration? Why may not these two be right, and all the other MSS. wrong?

I propose, therefore, that we reverse the process. Proceed we to examine the evidence borne by these two witnesses on certain other occasions which admit of no difference of opinion; or next to none. Let us endeavour, I say, to ascertain the character of the Witnesses by a patient and unprejudiced examination of their Evidence,—not in one place, or in two, or in three; but on several important occasions, and throughout. If we find it invariably consentient and invariably truthful, then of course a mighty presumption will have been established, the very strongest possible, that their adverse testimony in .respect of the conclusion of S. Mark’s Gospel must needs be worthy of all acceptation. But if, on the contrary, our inquiries shall conduct us to the very opposite result,—what else can happen but that our confidence in these two MSS. will be hopelessly shaken? We must in such case be prepared to admit that it is just as likely as not that this is only one more occasion on which these “two false witnesses” have conspired to witness falsely. If, at this juncture, extraneous evidence of an entirely trustworthy kind can be procured to confront them: above all, if some one ancient witness of unimpeachable veracity can be found who shall bear contradictory evidence: what other 73alternative will be left us but to reject their testimony in respect of S. Mark xvi. 9-20 with something like indignation; and to acquiesce in the belief of universal Christendom for eighteen hundred years that these twelve verses are just as much entitled to our unhesitating acceptance as any other twelve verses in the Gospel which can be named?

I. It is undeniable, in the meantime, that for the last quarter of a century, it has become the fashion to demand for the readings of. Codex B something very like absolute deference. The grounds for this superstitious sentiment, (for really I can describe it in no apter way,) I profess myself unable to discover. Codex B comes to us without a history: without recommendation of any kind, except that of its antiquity. It bears traces of careless transcription in every page. The mistakes which the original transcriber made are of perpetual recurrence. “They are chiefly omissions, of one, two, or three words; but sometimes of half a verse, a whole verse, or even of several verses . . . . I hesitate not to assert that it would be easier to find a folio containing three or four such omissions than to light on one which should be without any123123   Vercellone,—Del antichissimo Codice Vaticano della Bibbia Greca, Roma, 1860. (pp. 21.).” In the Gospels alone, Codex B leaves out words or whole clauses no less than 1,491 times124124   Dublin Univ. Mag. (Nov. 1859,) p. 620, quoted by Scrivener, p. 93.: of which by far the largest proportion is found in S. Mark’s Gospel. Many of these, no doubt, are to be accounted for by the proximity of a “like ending125125   ὁμοιοτέλευτον..” The Vatican MS. (like the Sinaitic126126   See Scrivener’s Introduction to his ed. of the Codex Bezae, p. xxiii. The passage referred to reappears at the end of his Preface to the 2nd ed. of his Collation of the Cod. Sinaiticus.—Add to his instances, this from S. Matth. xxviii. 2, 3:—

   It is plain why the scribe of א wrote επανω αυτου ως αστραπη.—The next is from S. Luke xxiv. 31:—

   Hence the omission of και επεγνωσαν αυτον in א.—The following explains the omission from א (and D) of the Ascension at S. Luke xxiv. 52:—


   The next explains why א reads περικαλυψαντες επηρωτων αυτον in S. Luke xxii. 64:—


   The next explains why the words και πας εις αυτην βιαζεται are absent in א (and G) at S. Luke xvi. 16:—

) was originally derived from an older Codex which contained about twelve or thirteen letters in a line128128   In this way, (at S. John xvii. 15, 16), the obviously corrupt reading of Cod. B (ινα τηρησης αυτους εκ του κοσμου)—which, however, was the reading of the copy used by Athanusius (Opp. p. 1035: al. ed. p.825)—is explained:—

   Thus also is explained why B (with א, A, D, L) omits a precious clause in S. Luke xxiv. 42:—


   And why the same MSS. (all but A) omit an important clause in S. Luke xxiv. 53:—

   ΕΝ Τω ΙΕΡω [ΑΙΝ

   And why B (with א, L) omits an important clause in the history of the Temptation (S. Luke iv. 5):—

. And it will be found that some of its omissions which have given rise to prolonged 75discussion are probably to be referred to nothing else but the oscitancy of a transcriber with such a codex before him129129   In this way the famous omission (א, B, L) of the word δευτεροπρώτῳ, in S. Luke vi. 1, is (to say the least) capable of being explained:—

   and υιου Βαραχιου (א) in S. Matth. xxvii. 35:—

: Without having recourse to any more abstruse hypothesis; without any imputation of bad faith;—certainly without supposing that the words omitted did not exist in the inspired autograph of the Evangelist. But then it is undeniable that some of the omissions in Cod. B are not to be so explained. On the other hand, I can testify to the fact that the codex is disfigured throughout with repetitions. The original scribe is often found to have not only written the same words twice over, but to have failed whenever he did so to take any notice with his pen of what he had done.

What then, (I must again inquire,) are the grounds for the superstitious reverence which is entertained in certain quarters for the readings of Codex B? If it be a secret known to the recent Editors of the New Testament, they have certainly contrived to keep it wondrous close.

II. More recently, a claim to co-ordinate primacy has been set up on behalf of the Codex Sinaiticus. Tischendorf is actually engaged in remodelling his seventh Leipsic edition, chiefly in conformity with the readings of his lately discovered MS.130130   He has reached the 480th page of vol. ii. (1 Cor. v. 7.) And yet the Codex in question abounds with “errors of the eye and pen, to an extent not unparalleled, but happily rather unusual in documents of first-rate importance.” On many occasions, 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness131131   In this way 14 words have been omitted from Cod. א in S. Mark xv. 47-xvi. 1:—19 words in S. Mark i. 32-4:—20 words in S. John xx. 5, 6:—39 words in S. John xix. 20, 21.. “Letters and words, even whole sentences, are frequently written twice 76over, or begun and immediately cancelled: while that gross blunder ... whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs no less than 115 times in the New Testament. Tregelles has freely pronounced that the state of the text, as proceeding from the first scribe, may be regarded as very rough132132   Scrivener’s Full Collation, &c., p. iv.; quoting Tregelles’ N. T. Part II. page ii.).’” But when “the first scribe” and his “very rough” performance have been thus unceremoniously disposed of, one would like to be informed what remains to command respect in Codex א? Is, then, manuscript authority to be confounded with editorial caprice,—exercising itself upon the corrections of “at least ten different revisers,” who, from the vith to the xiith century, have been endeavouring to lick into shape a text which its original author left “very rough?”

The co-ordinate primacy, (as I must needs call it.,) which, within the last few years, has been claimed for Codex B and Codex א, threatens to grow into a species of tyranny,—from which I venture to predict there will come in the end an unreasonable and unsalutary recoil. It behoves us, therefore, to look closely into this matter, and to require a reason for what is being done. The text of the sacred deposit is far too precious a thing to be sacrificed to an irrational, or at least a superstitious devotion to two MSS.,—simply because they may possibly be older by a hundred years than any other which we possess. “Id verius quod prius,” is an axiom which holds every bit as true in Textual Criticism as in Dogmatic Truth. But on that principle, (as I have already shewn,) the last twelve verses of S. Mark’s Gospel are fully established133133   See Chap. IV. p. 37.; and by consequence,. the credit of Codd. B and א sustains a severe shock. Again, “Id verius quod prius;” but it does not of course follow that a Codex of the ivth century shall exhibit a more correct text of Scripture than one written in the vth, or even than one written in the xth. For the proof of this statement, (if it can be supposed to require proof,) it is enough to appeal to Codex D. That venerable copy of the Gospels is of the vith century. 77It is, in fact, one of our five great uncials. No older MS. of the Greek Text is known to exist,—excepting always A, B, C and א. And yet no text is more thoroughly disfigured by corruptions and interpolations than that of Codex D. In the Acts, (to use the language of its learned and accurate Editor,) “it is hardly an exaggeration to assert that it reproduces the textus receptus much in the same way that one of the best Chaldee Targums does the Hebrew of the Old Testament: so wide are the variations in the diction, so constant and inveterate the practice of expanding the narrative by means of interpolations which seldom recommend themselves as genuine by even a semblance of internal probability134134   Scrivener’s Introduction to con. Bezae, p. liv..” Where, then, is the à priori probability that two MSS. of the ivth century shall have not only a superior claim to be heard, but almost an exclusive right to dictate which readings are to be rejected, which retained?

How ready the most recent editors of the New Testament have shown themselves to hammer the sacred text on the anvil of Codd. B and א,—not unfrequently in defiance of the evidence of all other MSS., and sometimes to the serious detriment of the deposit,—would admit of striking illustration were this place for such details. Tischendorf’s English “New Testament,”—“with various readings from the three most celebrated manuscripts of the Greek Text” translated at the foot of every page,—is a recent attempt (1869) to popularize the doctrine that we have to look exclusively to two or three of the oldest copies, if we would possess the Word of God in its integrity. Dean Alford’s constant appeal in his revision of the Authorized Version (1870) to “the oldest MSS.,” (meaning thereby generally Codd. א and B with one or two others135135   e.g. in S. John i. 42 (meaning only א, B, L): iv. 42 (א, B, C): v. 12 (א, B, C, L): vi. 22 (A, B, L), &c.), is an abler endeavour to familiarize the public mind with the same belief. I am bent on chewing that there is nothing whatever in the character of either of the Codices in question to warrant this servile deference.

(a) And first,—Ought it not sensibly to detract from our 78opinion of the value of their evidence to discover that it is easier to find two consecutive verses in which the two MSS. differ, the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree? Now this is a plain matter of fact, of which any one who pleases may easily convince himself. But the character of two witnesses who habitually contradict one another has been accounted, in every age, precarious. On every such occasion, only one of them can possibly be speaking the truth. Shall I be thought unreasonable if I confess that these perpetual inconsistencies between Codd. B and א,—grave inconsistencies, and occasionally even gross ones,—altogether destroy my confidence in either?

(b) On the other hand, discrepant as the testimony of these two MSS. is throughout, they yet, strange to say, conspire every here and there in exhibiting minute corruptions of such an unique and peculiar kind as to betray a (probably not very remote) common corrupt original. These coincidences in fact are so numerous and so extraordinary as to establish a real connexion between those two codices; and that connexion is fatal to any claim which might be set up on their behalf as wholly independent witnesses136136   e.g. S. Matth. x. 26; xii. 24, 27: S. Luke xi. 15, 18, 19 (βεεζεβουλ).—1 Cor. xiii. 3 (καυχησωμαι).—5. James i. 17 (αποσκιασματος).—Acts i. 5 (εν πν. βαπ. αγ.).—S. Mark vi. 20 (ηπορει).—S. Matth. xiv. 30 (ισχυρον).—S. Luke iii. 32 (ἴωβηλ).—Acts i. 19 (ἰδίᾳ omitted).—S. Matth. xxv. 27 (τα 1;γυρια).—S. Matth. xvii. 22 (συστρεφομενων).—S. Luke vi. 1 (δευτεροπρώτῳ omitted).—See more in Tischendorf’s Prolegomena to his 4to. reprint of the Cod. Sin. p. xxxvi. On this head the reader is also referred to Scrivener’s very interesting Collation of the Cod. Sinaiticus, Introduction, p. xliii. seq..

(c) Further, it is evident that both alike have been subjected, probably during the process of transcription, to the same depraving influences. But because such statements require to be established by an induction of instances, the reader’s attention must now be invited to a few samples of the grave blemishes which disfigure our two oldest copies of the Gospel.

1. And first, since it is the omission of the end of S. Mark’s Gospel which has given rise to the present discussion, it becomes a highly significant circumstance that the original 79scribe of Cod. א had also omitted the end of the Gospel according to S. John137137   See Tischendorf’s note in his reprint of the Cod. Sin., Prolegg. p. lix.. In this suppression of ver. 25, Cod. א stands alone among MSS. A cloud of primitive witnesses vouch for the genuineness of the verse. Surely, it is nothing else but the reductio ad absurdum of a theory of recension, (with Tischendorf in his last edition,) to accommodate our printed text to the vicious standard of the original penman of Cod. א, and bring the last chapter of S. John’s Gospel to a close at ver. 24!

Cod. B, on the other hand, omits the whole of those two solemn verses wherein S. Luke describes our Lord’s “Agony and bloody Sweat,” together with the act of the ministering Angel138138   Ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος—καταβαίνοντα ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν S. Luke xxii. 43, 44.. As to the genuineness of those verses, recognised as they are by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Epiphanius, Didymus, Gregory of Nazianzus, Chrysostom, Theodoret, by all the oldest versions, and by almost every MS. in existence, including Cod. א,—it admits of no doubt. Here then is proof positive that in order to account for omissions from the Gospel in the oldest of the uncials, there is no need whatever to resort to the hypothesis that such portions of the Gospel are not the genuine work of the Evangelist. “The admitted error of Cod. B in this place,” (to quote the words of Scrivener,) “ought to make some of its advocates more chary of their confidence in cases where it is less countenanced by other witnesses than in the instance before us.”

Cod. B (not Cod. א) is further guilty of the “grave error” (as Dean Alford justly styles it,) of omitting that solemn record of the Evangelist:—“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” It also withholds the statement that the inscription on the Cross was “in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew139139   ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς—τί ποιοῦσι, (xxiii. 34):—-γράμμασιν Ἑλληνικοῖς καὶ Ῥωμαϊκοῖς καὶ Ἑβραϊκοῖς, (xxiii. 38.).” Cod א, on the other hand, omits the confession of the man born blind (ὁ δὲ ἔφη, πιστεύω, κύριε· καὶ προσεκύνησεν αὐτῷ) in S. John ix. 38.—Both Cod. א and Cod. B retain nothing but the 80word υἱόν of the expression τὸν υἱόν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, in S. Matth. i. 25; and suppress altogether the important doctrinal statement ὁ ὤν ἐν τῷ οὐρανοῷ, in S. John iii. 13: as well as the clause διελθὼν διὰ μέσσου αὐτῶν· καὶ παρῆγεν οὕτως in S. John viii. 59. Concerning all of which, let it be observed that I am neither imputing motives nor pretending to explain the design with which these several serious omissions were made. All that is asserted is, that they cannot be imputed to the carelessness of a copyist, but were intentional: and I insist that they effectually dispose of the presumption that when an important passage is observed to be wanting from Cod. B or Cod. א, its absence is to be accounted for by assuming that it was also absent from the inspired autograph of the Evangelist.

2. To the foregoing must be added the many places where the text of B or of א, or of both, has clearly been interpolated. There does not exist in the whole compass of the New Testament a more monstrous instance of this than is furnished by the transfer of the incident of the piercing of our Redeemer’s side from S. John xix. 24 to S. Matth. xxvii., in Cod. B and Cod. א, where it is introduced at the end of ver. 49, in defiance of reason as well as of authority140140   αλλος δε λαβων λογχην ενυξεν αυτου την πλευραν, και εξηλθεν υδωρ και αιμα. Yet B, C, L and א contain this!. “This interpolation” (remarks Mr. Scrivener) “which would represent the Saviour as pierced while yet living, is a good example of the fact that some of our highest authorities may combine in attesting a reading unquestionably false141141   Coll. of the Cod. Sin., p. xlvii..” Another singularly gross specimen of interpolation, in my judgment, is supplied by the purely apocryphal statement which is met with in Cod. א, at the end of S. Matthew’s account of the healing of the Centurion’s servant,—και υποστρεψας ο εκατονταρχος εις τον οικον αυτου εν αυτη τη ωρα, ευρεν τον παιδα υγιαινοντα viii. 13.)—Nor can anything well be weaker than the substitution (for ὑστερήσαντος οἴνου, in S. John ii. 3) of the following142142   So, in the margin of the Hharklensian revision., which is found only in Cod. א:—οινον ουκ ειχον, οτι συνετελεσθη ο οινος του γαμου.


But the inspired text has been depraved in the same licentious way throughout, by the responsible authors of Cod. B and Cod. א, although such corruptions have attracted little notice from their comparative unimportance. Thus, the reading (in א) ημας δει εργαζεσθαι τα εργα του πεμψαντος ημας (S. John ix. 4) carries with it its own sufficient condemnation; being scarcely rendered more tolerable by B’s substitution of με for the second ημας.—Instead of τεθεμελίωτο γὰρ ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν (S. Luke vi. 48), B and א present us with the insipid gloss, δια το καλως οικοδομεισθαι αυτην.—In the last-named codex, we find the name of “Isaiah” (ησαιου) thrust into S. Matth. xiii. 35, in defiance of authority and of fact.—Can I be wrong in asserting that the reading ο μονογενης θεος (for υἱός) in S. John i. 18, (a reading found in Cod. B and Cod. א alike,) is undeserving of serious attention?—May it not also be confidently declared that, in the face of all MS. evidence143143   Note, that it is a mistake for the advocates of this reading to claim the Latin versions as allies. Ἀπεκρίθη ἐκεῖνος, Ἄνθρωπος λεγόμενος Ἰησοῦς κ.τ.λ. is not “Respondit, Ille homo qui dicitur Jesus,” (as both Tischendorf and Tregelles assume;) but “Respondit ille, Homo,” &c.,—as in verses 25 and 36., no future Editors of the New Testament will be found to accept the highly improbable reading ο ανθρωπος ο λεγομενος Ιησους, in S. John ix. 11, although the same two Codices conspire in exhibiting it?—or, on the authority of one of them (א), to read εν αυτῳ ζωη εστιν144144   This rending will be found discussed in a footnote (p) at the end of Chap. V1I.,—p. 110. (for ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν) in S. John i. 4?—Certain at least it is that no one will ever be found to read (with B) εβδομηκοντα δυο in S. Luke x. 1,—or (with א) ο εκκεκτος τ9ου θεου (instead of ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ in S. John i. 34.—But let me ask, With what show of reason can the pretence of Infallibility, (as well as the plea of Primacy), be set up on behalf of a pair of MSS. licentiously corrupt as these have already been proved to be? For the readings above enumerated, be it observed, are either critical depravations of the inspired Text, or else unwarrantable interpolations. They cannot have resulted from careless transcription.

3. Not a few of the foregoing instances are in fact of a kind to convince me that the text with which Cod. B and Cod. א were chiefly acquainted, must have been once and again subjected to a clumsy process of revision. Not unfrequently, as may be imagined, the result (however tasteless and infelicitous) is not of serious importance; as when, (to give examples from Cod. א,) for τὸν ὄχλον ἐπικεῖσθαι αὐτῷ aim? (in S. Luke v. 1) we are presented with συναχθηναι τον οχλον:—when for ζῶν ἀσώτως (in S. Luke xv. 13) we read εις χωραν μακραν; and for οἱ ἐξουσιάζοντες αὐτῶν (in S. Luke xxii. 25), we find οι αρχοντες των [εθνων] εξουσιαζουσιν αυτων, και, (which is only a weak reproduction of S. Matth. xx. 25):—when again, for σκοτία ἤδη ἐγεγόνει (in S. John vi. 17), we are shewn κατελαβεν δε αυτους η σκοτια: and when, for καὶ τίς ἐστιν ὁ παραδώσων αὐτόν (in S. John vi. 64) we are invited to accept και τις ην ο μελλων αυτον παραδιδοναι145145   The following may be added from Cod. א:—μεγάλοι αὐτῶν (in S. Mark x. 42) changed into βασιλεις: ειπεν (in S. Mark xiv. 58) substituted for ἡμεῖς ἡκούσαμεν αὐτου λέγοντος: εβδομηκοντα τεσσαρων (in S. Lu. ii. 37) for ὀγδοηκ: and εωρακεν σε (in S. Jo. viii. 57) for ἑώρακας:—in all which four readings Cod. א is without support. [Scrivener, Coll. Cod. Sin. p. li.] The epithet μεγαν, introduced (in the same codex) before λίθον in S. Mark xv. 46; and και πατριας inserted into the phrase ἐξ οἴκου Δαβίδ in S. Lu. i. 27,—are two more specimens of mistaken officiousness. In the same infelicitous spirit, Cod. B and Cod. א concur in omitting ἰσχυρόν (S. Matt. xiv. 30), and in substituting πυκνα for πυγμῇ, and ραντισωνται for βαπτίσωνται in S. Mark vii. 3 and 4:—while the interpolation of τασσομενος after ἐξουσίαν in S. Matth. viii. 9, because, of the parallel place in S. Luke’s Gospel; and the substitution of ανθρωπος αυστηπος ει (from S. Luke xix. 21) for σκληρὸς εἶ ἄνθρωπος in S. Matth. xxv. 24, are proofs that yet another kind of corrupting influence has been here at work besides those which have been already specified.. But it requires very little acquaintance with the subject to foresee that this kind of license may easily assume serious dimensions, and grow into an intolerable evil. Thus, when the man born blind is asked by the Holy One if he believes ἐπὶ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ (S. John. ix. 35), we are by no means willing to acquiesce in the proposed substitute, τον υιον του ανθρωπου: neither, when the Saviour says, γινώσκομαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐμων (S. John x. 14) are we at all willing to put up with the weak equivalent γινωσκουσι με τα εμα. Still less is και εμοι αυτους εδωκας any equivalent at all for καὶ τὰ ἐμὰ πάντα σά ἐστι, καὶ τὰ σὰ ἐμά, in S. John xvii. 10: or, αλλοι 83ζωσουσιν σε, και ποιησουσιν σοι οσα ου θελεις, for ἄλλος σε ζώσει. καὶ οἴσει ὅπου οὐ θέλεις, in S. John xxi. 18. Indeed, even when our Lord is not the speaker, such licentious depravation of the text is not to be endured. Thus, in S. Luke xxiii. 15, Cod. B and Cod. א conspire in substituting for ἀνέπεμψα γὰρ ὑμᾶς πρὸς αὐτὸν,—ανεπεμψεν γαρ αυτον προς ημας; which leads one to suspect the copyist was misled by the narrative in ver. 7. Similar instances might be multiplied to an indefinite extent.

Two yet graver corruptions of the truth of the Gospel, (but they belong to the same category,) remain to be specified. Mindful, I suppose, of S. James’ explanation “how that by works a man is justified,” the author of the text of Codices B and א has ventured to alter our Lord’s assertion (in S. Matth. xi. 19,) “Wisdom is justified of her children,” into “Wisdom is justified by her works;” and, in the case of Cod. א, his zeal is observed to have so entirely carried him away, that he has actually substituted εργων for τέκνων in the parallel place of S. Luke’s Gospel.—The other example of error (S. Matth. xxi. 31) is calculated to provoke a smile. Finding that our Saviour, in describing the conduct of the two sons in the parable, says of the one,—ὕστερον δὲ μεταμεληθεὶς ἀπῆλθεν, and of the other,—καὶ οὐκ ἀπῆλθεν; some ancient scribe, (who can have been but slenderly acquainted with the Greek language,) seems to have conceived the notion that a more precise way of identifying the son who “afterwards repented and went,” would be to designate him as ὁ ὕστερος. Accordingly, in reply to the question,—τίς ἐκ τῶν δύο ἐποίησεν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρόσ; we are presented (but only in Cod. B) with the astonishing information,—λεγουσιν ο υστερος. And yet, seeing clearly that this made nonsense of the parable, some subsequent critic is found to have transposed the order of the two sons: and in that queer condition the parable comes down to us in the famous Vatican Codex B.

4. Some of the foregoing instances of infelicitous tampering with the text of the Gospels are, it must be confessed, very serious. But it is a yet more fatal circumstance in connexion with Cod. B and Cod. א that they are convicted 84of certain perversions of the truth of Scripture which must have been made with deliberation and purpose. Thus, in S. Mark xiv, they exhibit a set of passages—(verses 30, 68, 72)—“which bear clear marks of wilful and critical correction, thoroughly carried out in Cod. א, only partially in Cod. B; the object being so far to assimilate the narrative of Peter’s denial with those of the other Evangelists, as to suppress the fact, vouched for by S. Mark only, that the cock crowed twice. (In Cod. א, δίς is omitted in ver. 30,”—ἐκ δευτέρου and δίς in ver. 72,—“and καὶ ἀλέκτωρ ἐφώνησε in ver. 68: the last change being countenanced by B146146   Scrivener, Coll. Cod. Sin. p. xlvii..”) One such discovery, I take leave to point out, is enough to destroy all confidence in the text of these two manuscripts: for it proves that another kind of corrupting influence,—besides carelessness, and accident, and tasteless presumption, and unskilful assiduity,—has been at work on Codices B and א. We are constrained to approach these two manuscripts with suspicion in all cases where a supposed critical difficulty in harmonizing the statements of the several Evangelists will account for any of the peculiar readings which they exhibit.

Accordingly, it does not at all surprise me to discover that in both Codices the important word ἐξελθοῦσαι (in S. Matth. xxviii. 8) has been altered into απελθουσαι. I recognise in that substitution of απο for ἔξ the hand of one who was not aware that the women, when addressed by the Angel, were inside the sepulchre; but who accepted the belief (it is found to have been as common in ancient as in modern times) that they beheld him “sitting on the stone147147   Add to the authorities commonly appealed to for ἐξελθ. Chrys.834 (twice,) (also quoted in Cramer’s Cat.241). The mistake adverted to in the text is at least as old as the time of Eusebius, (Mai, iv. p. 264 = 287), who asks,—Πῶς παρά τῷ Ματθάιῳ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ Μαρία μετὰ τῆς ἄλλης Μαρίας ἔξω τοῦ μνήματος ἑώρακεν τὸν ἕνα ἄγγελον ἐπικαθήμενον τῷ λίθῳ τοῦ μνήματος, κ.τ.λ..”—In consequence of a similar misconception, both Codices are observed to present us with the word “wine” instead of “vinegar” in S. Matthew’s phrase ὄξος μετὰ χολῆς μεμιγμένον: which results from a mistaken endeavour on the part of some ancient critic to bring S. Matth. xxvii. 34 into 85harmony with S. Mark xv. 23. The man did not perceive that the cruel insult of the “vinegar and gall” (which the Saviour tasted but would not drink) was quite a distinct thing from the proffered mercy of the “myrrhed wine” which the Saviour put away from Himself altogether.

So again, it was in order to bring S. Luke xxiv. 13 into harmony with a supposed fact of geography that Cod. א states that Emmaus, (which Josephus also places at sixty stadia from Jerusalem), was “an hundred and sixty” stadia distant. The history of this interpolation of the text is known. It is because some ancient critic (Origen probably) erroneously assumed that Nicopolis was the place intended. The conjecture met with favour, and there are not wanting scholia to declare that this was the reading of “the accurate” copies,—notwithstanding the physical impossibility which is involved by the statement148148   Tischendorf accordingly is forced, for once, to reject the reading of his oracle א,—witnessed to though it be by Origen and Eusebius. His discussion of the text in this place is instructive and even diverting. How is It that such an instance as the present does not open the eyes of Prejudice itself to the danger of pinning its faith to the consentient testimony even of Origen, of Eusebius, and of Cod. א? . . . . The reader is reminded of what was offered above, in the lower part of p. 49..—Another geographical misconception under which the scribe of Cod. Cod. א is found to have laboured was that Nazareth (S. Luke i. 26) and Capernaum (S. Mark i. 28) were in Judaea. Accordingly he has altered the text in both the places referred to, to suit his private notion149149   A similar perversion of the truth of Scripture is found at S. Luke iv. 44, (cf. the parallel place, S. Matth. iv. 23: S. Mark i. 39). It does not mend the matter to find א supported this time by Codd. B, C, L, Q, R..—A yet more striking specimen of the preposterous method of the same scribe is supplied by his substitution of Καισαριας for Σαμαρείας in Acts viii. 5,— evidently misled by what he found in viii. 40 and xxi. 8.—Again, it must have been with a view of bringing Revelation into harmony with the (supposed) facts of physical Science that for the highly significant Theological record καὶ ἐσκοτίσθη ὁ ἥλιος at the Crucifixion150150   S. Lu. xxiii. 45:—ὅπερ οὐδέποτε πρότερον συνέβη, ἀλλ᾽ ἢ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ μόνον, ὅτε τὸ πάσχα τελεῖσθαι ἔμελλε· καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνα τούτων τύπος ἦν. (Chrys. vii. 824 C.), has been substituted both in B and א, του ηλιου εκλιποντος,—a statement 86which (as the ancients were perfectly well aware151151   ὅπως δὲ μὴ εἴπωσί τινες ἔκλειψιν εἶναι τὸ γεγενημένον, ἐν τῇ τεσσαρεσκαιδεκάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς σελήνης γέγονε τὸ σκότος:—ὅτε ἔκλειψιν συμβῆναι ἀμήχανον. So Victor of Antioch, in his Catena on S. Mark (ed. Possin.) He makes the remark twice: first (p. 351) in the midst of an abridgment of the beginning of Chrysostom’s 88th Homily on S. Matthew: next (p. 352) more fully, after quoting “the great Dionysius” of Alexandria. See also an interesting passage on the same subject in Cramer’s Catena is Matth. p. 237,—from whom derived, I know not; but professing to be from Chrysostom. (Note, that the 10 lines ἐξ ἀνεπιγράφου, beginning p. 236, line 33 = Chrys. vii. 824, D, E.) The very next words in Chrysostom’s published Homily (p. 825 A.) are as follows:—-Ὅτε γὤρ οὐκ ἦν ἔκλειψις, ἀλλ᾽ ὀργή τε καὶ ἀγανάκτησις, οὐκ ἐντεῦθεν μόνον δ????λον ἦν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ καιροῦ· τρεῖς γὰρ ὥρας παρέμεινεν, ἡ δὲ ἔκλειψις ἐν μιᾶ γίνεται καιροῦ ῥοπῇ.—Anyone who would investigate this matter further should by all means read Matthaei’s long note on S. Luke xxiii. 45.) introduces into the narrative an astronomical contradiction.—It may be worth adding, that Tischendorf with singular inconsistency admits into his text the astronomical contradiction, while he rejects the geographical impossibility.—And this may suffice concerning the text of Codices B and א.

III. We are by this time in a condition to form a truer estimate of the value of the testimony borne by these two manuscripts in respect of the last twelve verses of S. Mark’s Gospel. If we were disposed before to regard their omission of an important passage as a serious matter, we certainly cannot any longer so regard it. We have by this time seen enough to disabuse our minds of every prejudice. Codd. B and א are the very reverse of infallible guides. Their deflections from the Truth of Scripture are more constant, as well as more licentious by far, than those of their younger brethren: their unauthorized omissions from the sacred text are not only far more frequent but far more flagrant also. And yet the main matter before us,—their omission of the last twelve verses of S. Mark’s Gospel,—when rightly understood, proves to be an entirely different phenomenon from what an ordinary reader might have been led to suppose. Attention is specially requested for the remarks which follow.

IV. To say that in the Vatican Codex (B), which is unquestionably the oldest we possess, S. Mark’s Gospel ends abruptly at the 8th verse of the xvith chapter, and that the 87customary subscription (ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΡΚΟΝ) follows,—is true; but it is far from being the whole truth. It requires to be stated in addition that the scribe, whose plan is found to have been to begin every fresh book of the Bible at the top of the next ensuing column to that which contained the concluding words of the preceding book, has at the close of S. Mark’s Gospel deviated from his else invariable practice. lie has left in this place one column entirely vacant. It is the only vacant column in the whole manuscript;—a blank space abundantly sufficient to contain the twelve verses which he nevertheless withheld. Why did he leave that column vacant? What can have induced the scribe on this solitary occasion to depart from his established rule? The phenomenon,—(I believe I was the first to call distinct attention to it,)—is in the highest degree significant, and admits of only one interpretation. The older MS. from which Cod. B was copied must have infallibly contained the twelve verses in dispute. The copyist was instructed to leave them out,—and he obeyed: but he prudently left a blank space in memoriam rei. Never was blank more intelligible! Never was silence more eloquent! By this simple expedient, strange to relate, the Vatican Codex is made to refute itself even while it seems to be bearing testimony against the concluding verses of S. Mark’s Gospel, by withholding them: for it forbids the inference which, under ordinary circumstances, must have been drawn from that omission. It does more. By leaving room for the verses it omits, it brings into prominent notice at the end of fifteen centuries and a half, a more ancient witness than itself. The venerable Author of the original Codex from which Codex B was copied, is thereby brought to view. And thus, our supposed adversary (Codex B) proves our most useful ally: for it procures us the testimony of an hitherto unsuspected witness. The earlier scribe, I repeat, unmistakably comes forward at this stage of the inquiry, to explain that he at least is prepared to answer for the genuineness of these Twelve concluding Verses with which the later scribe, his copyist, from his omission of them, might unhappily be thought to have been unacquainted.

It will be perceived that nothing is gained by suggesting 88that the scribe of Cod. B. may have copied from a MS. which exhibited the same phenomenon which he has himself reproduced. This, by shifting the question a little further back, does but make the case against Cod. א the stronger.

But in truth, after the revelation which has been already elicited from Cod. B, the evidence of Cod. א may be very summarily disposed of. I have already, on independent grounds, ventured to assign to that Codex a somewhat later date than is claimed for the Codex Vaticanus152152   See above, p. 70, and the Appendix (F).. My opinion is confirmed by observing that the Sinaitic contains no such blank space at the end of S. Mark’s Gospel as is conspicuous in the Vatican Codex. I infer that the Sinaitic was copied from a Codex which had been already mutilated, and reduced to the condition of Cod. B; and that the scribe, only because he knew not what it meant, exhibited S. Mark’s Gospel in consequence as if it really had no claim to those twelve concluding verses which, nevertheless, every authority we have hitherto met with has affirmed to belong to it of right.

Whatever may be thought of the foregoing suggestion, it is at least undeniable that Cod. B and Cod. א are at variance on the main point. They contradict one another concerning the twelve concluding verses of S. Mark’s Gospel. For while Cod. א refuses to know anything at all about those verses, Cod. B admits that it remembers them well, by volunteering the statement that they were found in the older codex, of which it is in every other respect a faithful representative. The older and the better manuscript (B), therefore, refutes its junior (א). And it will be seen that logically this brings the inquiry to a close, as far as the evidence of the manuscripts is concerned. We have referred to the oldest extant copy of the Gospels in order to obtain its testimony: and,—“Though without the Twelve Verses concerning which you are so solicitous,” (it seems to. say,) “I yet hesitate not to confess to you that an older copy than myself,—the ancient Codex from which I was copied,—actually did contain them.”

The problem may, in fact, be briefly stated as follows. Of 89the four oldest Codices of the Gospels extant,—B, א, A, C,—two (B and א) are without these twelve verses: two (A and C) are with them. Are these twelve verses then an unauthorized addition to A and C? or are they an unwarrantable omission from B and א? B itself declares plainly that from itself they are an omission. And B is the oldest Codex of the Gospel in existence. What candid mind will persist in clinging to the solitary fact that from the single Codex א these verses are away, in proof that “S. Mark’s Gospel was at first without the verses which at present conclude it?”

Let others decide, therefore, whether the present discussion has not already reached a stage at which an unprejudiced Arbiter might be expected to address the prosecuting parties somewhat to the following effect:—

“This case must now be dismissed. The charge brought by yourselves against these Verses was, that they are an unauthorized addition to the second Gospel; a spurious appendix, of which the Evangelist S. Mark can have known nothing. But so far from substantiating this charge, you have not adduced a single particle of evidence which renders it even probable.

“The appeal was made by yourselves to Fathers and to MSS. It has been accepted. And with what result?

(a) “Those many Fathers whom you represented as hostile, prove on investigation to be reducible to one, viz. Eusebius: and Eusebius, as we have seen, does not say that the verses are spurious, but on the contrary labours hard to prove that they may very well be genuine. On the other hand, there are earlier Fathers than Eusebius who quote them without any signs of misgiving. In this way, the positive evidence in their favour is carried back to the iind century.

(b) “Declining the testimony of the Versions, you insisted on an appeal to MSS. On the MSS., in fact, you still make your stand,—or rather you rely on the oldest of them; for, (as you are aware,) every MS. in the world except the two oldest are against you.

“I have therefore questioned the elder of those two MSS.; and it has volunteered the avowal that an older MS. than 90itself—the Codex from which it was copied—was furnished with those very Verses which you wish me to believe that some older MS. still must needs have been without. What else can be said, then, of your method but that it is frivolous? and of your charge, but that it is contradicted by the evidence to which you yourselves appeal?

“But it is illogical; that is, it is unreasonable, besides.

“For it is high time to point out that even if it so happened that the oldest known MS. was observed to be without these twelve concluding verses, it would still remain a thing unproved (not to say highly improbable) that from the autograph of the Evangelist himself they were also away. Supposing, further, that no Ecclesiastical writer of the iind or iiird century could be found who quoted them: even so, it would not follow that there existed no such verses for a primitive Father to quote. The earliest of the Versions might in addition yield faltering testimony; but even so, who would be so rash as to raise on such a slender basis the monstrous hypothesis, that S. Mark’s Gospel when it left the hands of its inspired Author was without the verses which at present conclude it? How, then, would you have proposed to account for the consistent testimony of an opposite kind yielded by every other known document in the world?

“But, on the other hand, what are the facts of the case? (1) The earliest of the Fathers,—(2) the most venerable of the Versions,—(3) the oldest MS. of which we can obtain any tidings,—all are observed to recognise these Verses. ‘Cadit quaestio’ therefore. The last shadow of pretext has vanished for maintaining with Tischendorf that ‘Mark the Evangelist knew nothing of these verses:—with Tregelles that ‘The book of Mark himself extends no further than ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ:’—with Griesbach that ‘the last leaf of the original Gospel was probably torn away.’ . . . It is high time, I say, that this case were dismissed. But there are also costs to be paid. Cod. B and Cod. א are convicted of being ‘two false witnesses,’ and must be held to go forth from this inquiry with an injured reputation.”

This entire subject is of so much importance that I must needs yet awhile crave the reader’s patience and attention.

« Prev Chapter VI. Manuscript Testimony Shewn to Be… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection