SermonIndex Audio Sermons
SermonIndex - Promoting Revival to this Generation

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


The Peshito, -- the Curetonian Syriac, -- and the Recension of Thomas of Markel (p.33.) -- The Vulgate (p.34) -- and the Vetus Itala (p.35) -- the Gothic (p.35) -- and the Egyptian Versions (p.35). -- Review of the Evidence up to this point, (p.36).

IT was declared at the outset that when we are seeking to establish in detail the Text of the Gospels, the testimony of Manuscripts is incomparably the most important of all. To early Versions, the second place was assigned. To Patristic citations, the third. But it was explained that whenever (as here) the only question to be decided is whether a considerable portion of Scripture be genuine or not, then, Patristic references yield to no class of evidence in importance. To which statement it must now be added that second only to the testimony of Fathers on such occasions is to be reckoned the evidence of the oldest of the Versions. The reason is obvious. (a.) We know for the most part the approximate date of the principal ancient Versions of the New Testament: -- (b.) Each Version is represented by at least one very ancient Codex: -- and (c.) It may be safely assumed that Translators were never dependant on a single copy of the original Greek when they executed their several Translations. Proceed we now to ascertain what evidence the oldest of the Versions bear concerning the concluding verses of S. Mark's Gospel: and first of all for the Syriac.

I. |Literary history,| (says Mr. Scrivener,) |can hardly afford a more powerful case than has been established for the identity of the Version of the Syriac now called the Peshito' with that used by the Eastern Church long before the great schism had its beginning, in the native land of the blessed Gospel.| The Peshito is referred by common consent to the ii^nd century of our æra; and is found to contain the verses in question.

II. This, however, is not all. Within the last thirty years, fragments of another very ancient Syriac translation of the Gospels, (called from the name of its discoverer |The Curetonian Syriac,|) have come to light : and in this translation also the verses in question are found . This fragmentary codex is referred by Cureton to the middle of the v^th century. At what earlier date the Translation may have been executed, -- as well as how much older the original Greek copy may have been which this translator employed, -- can of course only be conjectured. But it is clear that we are listening to another truly primitive witness to the genuineness of the text now under consideration; -- a witness (like the last) vastly more ancient than either the Vatican Codex B, or the Sinaitic Codex '; more ancient, therefore, than any Greek copy of the Gospels in existence. We shall not be thought rash if we claim it for the iii^rd century.

III. Even this, however, does not fully represent the sum of the testimony which the Syriac language bears on this subject. Philoxenus, Monophysite Bishop of Mabug (Hierapolis) in Eastern Syria, caused a revision of the Peshito Syriac to be executed by his Chorepiscopus Polycarp, A.D.508; and by the aid of three approved and accurate Greek manuscripts, this revised version of Polycarp was again revised by Thomas of Hharkel, in the monastery of Antonia at Alexandria, A.D.616. The Hharklensian Revision, (commonly called the |Philoxenian,|) is therefore an extraordinary monument of ecclesiastical antiquity indeed: for, being the Revision of a revised Translation of the New Testament known to have been executed from MSS. which must have been at least as old as the v^th century, it exhibits the result of what may be called a collation of copies made at a time when only four of our extant uncials were in existence. Here, then, is a singularly important accumulation of manuscript evidence on the subject of the verses which of late years it has become the fashion to treat as spurious. And yet, neither by Polycarp nor by Thomas of Hharkel, are the last twelve verses of S. Mark's Gospel omitted .

To these, if I do not add the |Jerusalem version,| -- (as an independent Syriac translation of the Ecclesiastical Sections, perhaps of the v^th century, is called ,) -- it is because our fourfold Syriac evidence is already abundantly sufficient. In itself, it far outweighs in respect of antiquity anything that can be shewn on the other side. Turn we next to the Churches of the West.

IV. That Jerome, at the bidding of Pope Damasus (A.D.382), was the author of that famous Latin version of the Scriptures called The Vulgate, is known to all. It seems scarcely possible to overestimate the critical importance of such a work, -- executed at such a time, -- under such auspices, -- and by a man of so much learning and sagacity as Jerome. When it is considered that we are here presented with the results of a careful examination of the best Greek Manuscripts to which a competent scholar had access in the middle of the fourth century, -- (and Jerome assures us that he consulted several,) -- we learn to survey with diminished complacency our own slender stores (if indeed any at all exist) of corresponding antiquity. It is needless to add that the Vulgate contains the disputed verses: that from no copy of this Version are they away. Now, in such a matter as this, Jerome's testimony is very weighty indeed.

V. The Vulgate, however, was but the revision of a much older translation, generally known as the Vetus Itala. This Old Latin, which is of African origin and of almost Apostolic antiquity, (supposed of the ii^nd century,) conspires with the Vulgate in the testimony which it bears to the genuineness of the end of S. Mark's Gospel : -- an emphatic witness that in the African province, from the earliest time, no doubt whatever was entertained concerning the genuineness of these last twelve verses.

The next place may well be given to the venerable version of the Gothic Bishop Ulphilas, -- A.D.350. Himself a Cappadocian, Ulphilas probably derived his copies from Asia Minor. His version is said to have been exposed to certain corrupting influences; but the unequivocal evidence which it bears to the last verses of S. Mark is at least unimpeachable, and must be regarded as important in the highest degree . The oldest extant copy of the Gothic of Ulphilas is assigned to the v^th or early in the vi^th century: and the verses in question are there also met with.

VII. and VIII. The ancient Egyptian versions call next for notice: their testimony being so exceedingly ancient and respectable. The Memphitic, or dialect of Lower Egypt, (less properly called the |Coptic| version), which is assigned to the iv^th or v^th century, contains S. Mark xvi.9-20. -- Fragments of the Thebaic, or dialect of Upper Egypt, (a distinct version and of considerably earlier date, less properly called the |Sahidic,|) survive in MSS. of very nearly the same antiquity: and one of these fragments happily contains the last verse of the Gospel according to S. Mark. The Thebaic version is referred to the iii^rd century.

After this mass of evidence, it will be enough to record concerning the Armenian version, that it yields inconstant testimony: some of the MSS. ending at ver.8; others putting after these words the subscription, (euangelion kata Markon,) and then giving the additional verses with a new subscription: others going on without any break to the end. This version may be as old as the v^th century; but like the Ethiopic [iv -- vii?] and the Georgian [vi?] it comes to us in codices of comparatively recent date. All this makes it impossible for us to care much for its testimony. The two last-named versions, whatever their disadvantages may be, at least bear constant witness to the genuineness of the verses in dispute.

1. And thus we are presented with a mass of additional evidence, -- so various, so weighty, so multitudinous, so venerable, -- in support of this disputed portion of the Gospel, that it might well be deemed in itself decisive.

2. For these Versions do not so much chew what individuals held, as what Churches have believed and taught concerning the sacred Text, -- mighty Churches in Syria and Mesopotamia, in Africa and Italy, in Palestine and Egypt.

3. We may here, in fact, conveniently review the progress which has been hitherto made in this investigation. And in order to bar the door against dispute and cavil, let us be content to waive the testimony of Papias as precarious, and that of Justin Martyr as too fragmentary to be decisive. Let us frankly admit that the citation of Vincentius à Thibari at the vii^th Carthaginian Council is sufficiently inexact to make it unsafe to build upon it. The |Acta Pilati| and the |Apostolical Constitutions,| since their date is somewhat doubtful, shall be claimed for the iv^th century only, and not for the iii^rd. And now, how will the evidence stand for the last Twelve Verses of S. Mark's Gospel?

(a) In the v^th century, to which Codex A and Codex C are referred, (for Codex D is certainly later,) at least three famous Greeks and the most illustrious of the Latin Fathers, -- (four authorities in all,) -- are observed to recognise these verses.

(b) In the iv^th century, (to which Codex B and Codex ' probably belong, five Greek writers, one Syriac, and two Latin Fathers, -- besides the Vulgate, Gothic and Memphitic Versions, -- (eleven authorities in all,) -- testify to familiar acquaintance with this portion of S. Mark's Gospel.

(c) In the iii^rd century, (and by this time MS. evidence has entirely forsaken us,) we find Hippolytus, the Curetonian Syriac, and the Thebaic Version, bearing plain testimony that at that early period, in at least three distinct provinces of primitive Christendom, no suspicion whatever attached to these verses. Lastly, --

(d) In the find century, Irenæus, the Peshito, and the Italic Version as plainly attest that in Gaul, in Mesopotamia and in the African province, the same verses were unhesitatingly received within a century (more or less) of the date of the inspired autograph of the Evangelist himself.

4. Thus, we are in possession of the testimony of at least six independent witnesses, of a date considerably anterior to the earliest extant Codex of the Gospels. They are all of the best class. They deliver themselves in the most unequivocal way. And their testimony to the genuineness of these Verses is unfaltering.

5. It is clear that nothing short of direct adverse evidence of the weightiest kind can sensibly affect so formidable an array of independent authorities as this. What must the evidence be which shall set it entirely aside, and induce us to believe, with the most recent editors of the inspired Text, that the last chapter of S. Mark's Gospel, as it came from the hands of its inspired author, ended abruptly at ver.8?

The grounds for assuming that his |last Twelve Verses| are spurious, shall be exhibited in the ensuing chapter.

<<  Contents  >>

Promoting Revival to this Generation.
Privacy Policy