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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER III. THE EARLY FATHERS APPEALED TO, AND OBSERVED TO BEAR FAVOURABLE WITNESS.

The Last Twelve Verses Of The Gospel According To S Mark by John William Burgon

CHAPTER III. THE EARLY FATHERS APPEALED TO, AND OBSERVED TO BEAR FAVOURABLE WITNESS.

Patristic evidence sometimes the most important of any (p.20). -- The importance of such evidence explained (p.21). -- Nineteen Patristic witnesses to these Verses, produced (p.23). -- Summary (p.30).

The present inquiry must be conducted solely on grounds of Evidence, external and internal. For the full consideration of the former, seven Chapters will be necessary:(27) for a discussion of the latter, one seventh of that space will suffice.(28) We have first to ascertain whether the external testimony concerning S. Mark xvi.9-20 is of such a nature as to constrain us to admit that it is highly probable that those twelve verses are a spurious appendix to S. Mark's Gospel.

1. It is well known that for determining the Text of the New Testament, we are dependent on three chief sources of information: viz. (1.) on MANUSCRIPTS, -- (2.) on VERSIONS, -- (3.) on FATHERS. And it is even self-evident that the most ancient MSS., -- the earliest Versions, -- the oldest of the Fathers, will probably be in every instance the most trustworthy witnesses.

2. Further, it is obvious that a really ancient Codex of the Gospels must needs supply more valuable critical help in establishing the precise Text of Scripture than can possibly be rendered by any Translation, however faithful: while Patristic citations are on the whole a less decisive authority, even than Versions. The reasons are chiefly these: -- (a.) Fathers often quote Scripture loosely, if not licentiously; and sometimes allude only when they seem to quote. (b.) They appear to have too often depended on their memory, and sometimes are demonstrably loose and inaccurate in their citations; the same Father being observed to quote the same place in different ways. (c.) Copyists and Editors may not be altogether depended upon for the exact form of such supposed quotations. Thus the evidence of Fathers must always be to some extent precarious.

3. On the other hand, it cannot be too plainly pointed out that when, -- instead of certifying ourselves of the actual words employed by an Evangelist, their precise form and exact sequence, -- our object is only to ascertain whether a considerable passage of Scripture is genuine or not; is to be rejected or retained; was known or was not known in the earliest ages of the Church; then, instead of supplying the least important evidence, Fathers become by far the most valuable witnesses of all. This entire subject may be conveniently illustrated by an appeal to the problem before us.

4. Of course, if we possessed copies of the Gospels coeval with their authors, nothing could compete with such evidence. But then unhappily nothing of the kind is the case. The facts admit of being stated within the compass of a few lines. We have one Codex (the Vatican, B) which is thought to belong to the first half of the ivth century; and another, the newly discovered Codex Sinaiticus, (at St. Petersburg, {HEBREW LETTER ALEF}) which is certainly not quite so old, -- perhaps by 50 years. Next come two famous codices; the Alexandrine (in the British Museum, A) and the Codex Ephraemi (in the Paris Library, C), which are probably from 50 to 100 years more recent still. The Codex Bezae (at Cambridge, D) is considered by competent judges to be the depository of a recension of the text as ancient as any of the others. Notwithstanding its strangely depraved condition therefore, -- the many |monstra potius quam variae lectiones| which it contains, -- it may be reckoned with the preceding four, though it must be 50 or 100 years later than the latest of them. After this, we drop down, (as far as S. Mark is concerned,) to 2 uncial MSS. of the viiith century, -- 7 of the ixth, -- 4 of the ixth or xth,(29) while cursives of the xith and xiith centuries are very numerous indeed, -- the copies increasing in number in a rapid ratio as we descend the stream of Time. Our primitive manuscript witnesses, therefore, are but five in number at the utmost. And of these it has never been pretended that the oldest is to be referred to an earlier date than the beginning of the ivth century, while it is thought by competent judges that the last named may very possibly have been written quite late in the vith.

5. Are we then reduced to this fourfold, (or at most fivefold,) evidence concerning the text of the Gospels, -- on evidence of not quite certain date, and yet (as we all believe) not reaching further back than to the ivth century of our aera? Certainly not. Here, FATHERS come to our aid. There are perhaps as many as an hundred Ecclesiastical Writers older than the oldest extant Codex of the N. T.: while between A.D.300 and A.D.600, (within which limits our five oldest MSS. may be considered certainly to fall,) there exist about two hundred Fathers more. True, that many of these have left wondrous little behind them; and that the quotations from Holy Scripture of the greater part may justly be described as rare and unsatisfactory. But what then? From the three hundred, make a liberal reduction; and an hundred writers will remain who frequently quote the New Testament, and who, when they do quote it, are probably as trustworthy witnesses to the Truth of Scripture as either Cod. {HEBREW LETTER ALEF} or Cod. B. We have indeed heard a great deal too much of the precariousness of this class of evidence: not nearly enough of the gross inaccuracies which disfigure the text of those two Codices. Quite surprising is it to discover to what an extent Patristic quotations from the New Testament have evidently retained their exact original form. What we chiefly desiderate at this time is a more careful revision of the text of the Fathers, and more skilfully elaborated indices of the works of each: not one of them having been hitherto satisfactorily indexed. It would be easy to demonstrate the importance of bestowing far more attention on this subject than it seems to have hitherto enjoyed: but I shall content myself with citing a single instance; and for this, (in order not to distract the reader's attention), I shall refer him to the Appendix.(30) What is at least beyond the limits of controversy, whenever the genuineness of a considerable passage of Scripture is the point in dispute, the testimony of Fathers who undoubtedly recognise that passage, is beyond comparison the most valuable testimony we can enjoy.

6. For let it be only considered what is implied by a Patristic appeal to the Gospel. It amounts to this: -- that a conspicuous personage, probably a Bishop of the Church, -- one, therefore, whose history, date, place, are all more or less matter of notoriety, -- gives us his written assurance that the passage in question was found in that copy of the Gospels which he was accustomed himself to employ; the uncial codex, (it has long since perished) which belonged to himself or to the Church which he served. It is evident, in short, that any objection to quotations from Scripture in the writings of the ancient Fathers can only apply to the form of those quotations; not to their substance. It is just as certain that a verse of Scripture was actually read by the Father who unmistakedly refers to it, as if we had read it with him; even though the gravest doubts may be entertained as to the |ipsissima verba| which were found in his own particular copy. He may have trusted to his memory: or copyists may have taken liberties with his writings: or editors may have misrepresented what they found in the written copies. The form of the quoted verse, I repeat, may have suffered almost to any extent. The substance, on the contrary, inasmuch as it lay wholly beyond their province, may be looked upon as an indisputable fact.

7. Some such preliminary remarks, (never out of place when quotations from the Fathers are to be considered,) cannot well be withheld when the most venerable Ecclesiastical writings are appealed to. The earliest of the Fathers are observed to quote with singular licence, -- to allude rather than to quote. Strange to relate, those ancient men seem scarcely to have been aware of the grave responsibility they incurred when they substituted expressions of their own for the utterances of the SPIRIT. It is evidently not so much that their memory is in fault, as their judgment, -- in that they evidently hold themselves at liberty to paraphrase, to recast, to reconstruct.(31)

I. Thus, it is impossible to resist the inference that PAPIAS refers to S. Mark xvi.18 when he records a marvellous tradition concerning |Justus surnamed Barsabas,| |how that after drinking noxious poison, through the LORD's grace he experienced no evil consequence.|(32) He does not give the words of the Evangelist. It is even surprising how completely he passes them by; and yet the allusion to the place just cited is manifest. Now, Papias is a writer who lived so near the time of the Apostles that he made it his delight to collect their traditional sayings. His date (according to Clinton) is A.D.100.

II. JUSTIN MARTYR, the date of whose first Apology is A.D.151, is observed to say concerning the Apostles that, after our LORD's Ascension, -- {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER XI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER THETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER CHI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON WITH PERISPOMENI} {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER XI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}:(33) which is nothing else but a quotation from the last verse of S. Mark's Gospel, -- {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH PERISPOMENI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER DELTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH VARIA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER XI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER THETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER XI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU} {GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER CHI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON WITH PERISPOMENI}. And thus it is found that the conclusion of S. Mark's Gospel was familiarly known within fifty years of the death of the last of the Evangelists.

III. When IRENAEUS, in his third Book against Heresies, deliberately quotes and remarks upon the 19th verse of the last chapter of S. Mark's Gospel,(34) we are put in possession of the certain fact that the entire passage now under consideration was extant in a copy of the Gospels which was used by the Bishop of the Church of Lyons sometime about the year A.D.180, and which therefore cannot possibly have been written much more than a hundred years after the date of the Evangelist himself: while it may have been written by a contemporary of S. Mark, and probably was written by one who lived immediately after his time. -- Who sees not that this single piece of evidence is in itself sufficient to outweigh the testimony of any codex extant? It is in fact a mere trifling with words to distinguish between |Manuscript| and |Patristic| testimony in a case like this: for (as I have already explained) the passage quoted from S. Mark's Gospel by Irenaeus is to all intents and purposes a fragment from a dated manuscript; and that MS., demonstrably older by at least one hundred and fifty years than the oldest copy of the Gospels which has come down to our times.

IV. Take another proof that these concluding verses of S. Mark were in the second century accounted an integral part of his Gospel. HIPPOLYTUS, Bishop of Portus near Borne (190-227), a contemporary of Irenaeus, quotes the 17th and 18th verses in his fragment {GREEK CAPITAL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH VARIA} {GREEK CAPITAL LETTER CHI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER MU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMEGA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}.(35) Also in his Homily on the heresy of Noetus,(36) Hippolytus has a plain reference to this section of S. Mark's Gospel. To an inattentive reader, the passage alluded to might seem to be only the fragment of a Creed; but this is not the case. In the Creeds, CHRIST is invariably spoken of as {GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER THETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}: in the Scriptures, invariably as {GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER THETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}.(37) So that when Hippolytus says of Him, {GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER MU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON WITH VARIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH VARIA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER DELTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER XI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMEGA WITH PERISPOMENI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU} {GREEK CAPITAL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON WITH VARIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER THETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ZETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}, the reference must needs be to S. Mark xvi.19.

V. At the Seventh COUNCIL OF CARTHAGE held under Cyprian, A.D.256, (on the baptizing of Heretics,) Vincentius, Bishop of Thibari, (a place not far from Carthage,) in the presence of the eighty-seven assembled African bishops, quoted two of the verses under consideration;(38) and Augustine, about a century and a half later, in his reply, recited the words afresh.(39)

VI. The Apocryphal ACTA PILATI (sometimes called the |Gospel of Nicodemus|) Tischendorf assigns without hesitation to the iiird century; whether rightly or wrongly I have no means of ascertaining. It is at all events a very ancient forgery, and it contains the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th verses of this chapter.(40)

VII. This is probably the right place to mention that ver.15 is clearly alluded to in two places of the (so-called) |APOSTOLICAL CONSTITUTIONS;|(41) and that verse 16 is quoted (with no variety of reading from the Textus Receptus(42)) in an earlier part of the same ancient work. The |Constitutions| are assigned to the iiird or the ivth century.(43)

VIII and IX. It will be shewn in Chapter V. that EUSEBIUS, the Ecclesiastical Historian, was profoundly well acquainted with these verses. He discusses them largely, and (as I shall prove in the chapter referred to) was by no means disposed to question their genuineness. His Church History was published A.D.325.

MARINUS also, (whoever that individual may have been,) a contemporary of Eusebius, -- inasmuch as he is introduced to our notice by Eusebius himself as asking a question concerning the last twelve verses of S. Mark's Gospel without a trace of misgiving as to the genuineness of that about which he inquires, -- is a competent witness in their favor who has hitherto been overlooked in this discussion.

X. Tischendorf and his followers state that Jacobus Nisibenus quotes these verses. For |Jacobus Nisibenus| read |APHRAATES the Persian Sage,| and the statement will be correct. The history of the mistake is curious.

Jerome, in his Catalogue of Ecclesiastical writers, makes no mention of Jacob of Nisibis, -- a famous Syrian Bishop who was present at the Council of Nicaea, A.D.325. Gennadius of Marseille, (who carried on Jerome's list to the year 495) asserts that the reason of this omission was Jerome's ignorance of the Syriac language; and explains that Jacob was the author of twenty-two Syriac Homilies.(44) Of these, there exists a very ancient Armenian translation; which was accordingly edited as the work of Jacobus Nisibenus with a Latin version, at Rome, in 1756. Gallandius reprinted both the Armenian and the Latin; and to Gallandius (vol. v.) we are referred whenever |Jacobus Nisibenus| is quoted.

But the proposed attribution of the Homilies in question, -- though it has been acquiesced in for nearly 1400 years, -- is incorrect. Quite lately the Syriac originals have come to light, and they prove to be the work of Aphraates, |the Persian Sage,| -- a Bishop, and the earliest known Father of the Syrian Church. In the first Homily, (which bears date A.D.337), verses 16, 17, 18 of S. Mark xvi. are quoted,(45) -- yet not from the version known as the Curetonian Syriac, nor yet from the Peshito exactly.(46) -- Here, then, is another wholly independent witness to the last twelve verses of S. Mark, coeval certainly with the two oldest copies of the Gospel extant, -- B and {HEBREW LETTER ALEF}.

XI. AMBROSE, Archbishop of Milan (A.D.374-397) freely quotes this portion of the Gospel, -- citing ver.15 four times: verses 16, 17 and 18, each three times: ver.20, once.(47)

XII. The testimony of CHRYSOSTOM (A.D.400) has been all but overlooked. In part of a Homily claimed for him by his Benedictine Editors, he points out that S. Luke alone of the Evangelists describes the Ascension: S. Matthew and S. John not speaking of it, -- S. Mark recording the event only. Then he quotes verses 19, 20. |This| (he adds) |is the end of the Gospel. Mark makes no extended mention of the Ascension.|(48) Elsewhere he has an unmistakable reference to S. Mark xvi.9.(49)

XIII. JEROME, on a point like this, is entitled to more attention than any other Father of the Church. Living at a very early period, (for he was born in 331 and died in 420,) -- endowed with extraordinary Biblical learning, -- a man of excellent judgment, -- and a professed Editor of the New Testament, for the execution of which task he enjoyed extraordinary facilities, -- his testimony is most weighty. Not unaware am I that Jerome is commonly supposed to be a witness on the opposite side: concerning which mistake I shall have to speak largely in Chapter V. But it ought to be enough to point out that we should not have met with these last twelve verses in the Vulgate, had Jerome held them to be spurious.(50) He familiarly quotes the 9th verse in one place of his writings;(51) in another place he makes the extraordinary statement that in certain of the copies, (especially the Greek,) was found after ver.14 the reply of the eleven Apostles, when our SAVIOUR |upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen.|(52) To discuss so weak and worthless a forgery, -- no trace of which is found in any MS. in existence, and of which nothing whatever is known except what Jerome here tells us, -- would be to waste our time indeed. The fact remains, however, that Jerome, besides giving these last twelve verses a place in the Vulgate, quotes S. Mark xvi.14, as well as ver.9, in the course of his writings.

XIV. It was to have been expected that AUGUSTINE would quote these verses: but he more than quotes them. He brings them forward again and again,(53) -- discusses them as the work of S. Mark, -- remarks that |in diebus Paschalibus,| S. Mark's narrative of the Resurrection was publicly read in the Church.(54) All this is noteworthy. Augustine flourished A.D.395-430.

XV. and XVI. Another very important testimony to the genuineness of the concluding part of S. Mark's Gospel is furnished by the unhesitating manner in which NESTORIUS, the heresiarch, quotes ver.20; and CYRIL of ALEXANDRIA accepts his quotation, adding a few words of his own.(55) Let it be borne in mind that this is tantamount to the discovery of two dated codices containing the last twelve verses of S. Mark, -- and that date anterior (it is impossible to say by how many years) to A.D.430.

XVII. VICTOR OF ANTIOCH, (concerning whom I shall have to speak very largely in Chapter V.,) flourished about A.D.425. The critical testimony which he bears to the genuineness of these verses is more emphatic than is to be met with in the pages of any other ancient Father. It may be characterized as the most conclusive testimony which it was in his power to render.

XVIII. HESYCHIUS of Jerusalem, by a singular oversight, has been reckoned among the impugners of these verses. He is on the contrary their eager advocate and champion. It seems to have escaped observation that towards the close of his |Homily on the Resurrection,| (published in the works of Gregory of Nyssa, and erroneously ascribed to that Father,) Hesychius appeals to the 19th verse, and quotes it as S. Mark's at length.(56) The date of Hesychius is uncertain; but he may, I suppose, be considered to belong to the vith century. His evidence is discussed in Chapter V.

XIX. This list shall be brought to a close with a reference to the SYNOPSIS SCRIPTURAE SACRAE, -- an ancient work ascribed to Athanasius,(57) but probably not the production of that Father. It is at all events of much older date than any of the later uncials; and it rehearses in detail the contents of S. Mark xvi.9-20.(58)

It would be easy to prolong this enumeration of Patristic authorities; as, by appealing to Gregentius in the vith century, and to Gregory the Great, and Modestus, patriarch of Constantinople in the viith; -- to Ven. Bede and John Damascene in the viiith; -- to Theophylact in the xith; -- to Euthymius in the xiith(59): but I forbear. It would add no strength to my argument that I should by such evidence support it; as the reader will admit when he has read my Xth chapter.

It will be observed then that three competent Patristic witnesses of the iind century, -- four of the iiird, -- six of the ivth, -- four of the vth, -- and two (of uncertain date, but probably) of the vith, -- have admitted their familiarity with these |last Twelve Verses.| Yet do they not belong to one particular age, school, or country. They come, on the contrary, from every part of the ancient Church: Antioch and Constantinople, -- Hierapolis, Caesarea and Edessa, -- Carthage, Alexandria and Hippo, -- Rome and Portus. And thus, upwards of nineteen early codexes have been to all intents and purposes inspected for us in various lands by unprejudiced witnesses, -- seven of them at least of more ancient date than the oldest copy of the Gospels extant.

I propose to recur to this subject for an instant when the reader has been made acquainted with the decisive testimony which ancient Versions supply. But the Versions deserve a short Chapter to themselves.

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