Although a fourfold Gospel canon is defended by the time of Irenaeus on the basis of numerological arguments (e.g., four zones, four principal winds, four pillars, four faces of the cherubim), some other Christian groups privileged one particular Gospel (e.g., the Ebionites use of a Gospel like Matthew or Marcion of one like Luke). Another option was to harmonize the four into one consistent account as seen in Tatian’s Diatessaron (dia through/by and tessarōn of four). In an open-access archaeological journal The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe 15 (2012), James Snapp, Jr makes a text critical case for knowledge of ”Mark 16:9-20 in Tatian’s Diatessaron.” This could also be taken as added support for the argument of James A. Kelhoffer, Miracle and Mission: the Authentication of Missionaries and their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark (Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2000, pp 170-176) that Tatian’s teacher, Justin Martyr, was also familiar with the longer ending of Mark. James Snapp left further resources on the longer ending of Mark in the comments of my “student resources” if anyone is interested further in his own take on the text critical issues (note: my own position, however, would be closer to Kelhoffer’s that the longer ending was an addition by a 2nd century scribe trying to correct Mark’s ending at 16:8 by harmonizing it with other Easter traditions).
Καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ, Ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου· φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου, εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ
As it has been written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way; a voice of (one) crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” (Mk 1:2-3).
Mk 1:2-3 quotes the Septuagint (LXX) (in English) Exodus 23:20; Malachi 3:1 (a good argument is made that Mark is working with the Hebrew text for this passage) and Isaiah 40:3. The messenger seems identified with John the Baptist (cf. 1:4) while interestingly the 1st person singular of Mal 3:1 is altered to the 2nd person singular ”of you” (σου) and Isa 40:3 paths “of God” (τοῦ θεοῦ) becomes “of him” (αὐτοῦ) meaning that the Lord (κύριος) is now identified with Jesus. This could be read as high christology but other passages we will wrestle with in this series seem to imply a low christology (“high” and “low” are problematic terms in that they apply a later theological standard by which to judge the varying christologies of the NT but I’m using them as shorthands) and Mark elsewhere distinguishes the “Lord” (God) from the “Lord” (Jesus) (12:36) so is it that Jesus’ way is being closely identified with God’s way or that Jesus acts on behalf of God as his representative and even bears the divine name (for varying viewpoints see here, here, here, here)?
Anyways, the problem I want to highlight is the attribution of the composite quotation to Isaiah: the parallel in Matthew 3:3/Luke 3:4-6 recognizes the issue by omitting Exod 23:20/Mal 3:1 (the conflated text appears in Matt 11:10/Lk 7:27 = Q?) and there is signs of scribal editing in the alternative reading “in the prophets” (Dan Wallace lays out the textual data and why the reading above is superior on text-critical grounds here). So one option is the evangelist just grabbed a conflated prooftext from a testimony collection and mistakenly attributed it to Isaiah or a later gloss (1:2) was interpolated into Mark’s quotation early enough to not leave a trace in the manuscript tradition, but I have issues with both solutions. I checked out two major works arguing for a great deal of influence of Deutero-Isaiah in Mark, Joel Marcus The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark (ch 2) and Rikki Watts Isaiah’s New Exodus and Mark (ch 3, 4). There is other Jewish evidence of the conflation of Exod 23:20/Mal 3:1 (cf. Exodus Rabbah 32:9) and Mark deliberately conflated it with Isa 40:3 (saw links in the Hebrew/Aramaic expression for ”prepare the way” not observable in LXX Greek, other inter-textual connections with the Malachi passage sandwiched between the ascription and quotation of Isaiah to add a threat element if they are unprepared for the arrival of the forerunner and Yahweh) and the emphasis on Isaiah is because Isaianic themes are key to the gospel (announcing “good news”, wilderness as scene of new exodus, Yahweh as divine warrior with cosmic imagery and shepherd of Israel, return to Zion, the rule of God translated into eschatological expection, restoration of sight to the blind, the Servant of the Lord). I also read Morna D. Hooker, “Isaiah in Mark’s Gospel” in Isaiah in the New Testament who acknowledges Isaiah’s importance in the prologue in setting forth themes such as “good news” and eschatological salvation in Jesus but does not see the influence of Isaiah to the extent of Marcus or Watts (e.g., she has long been skeptical of a link between the ransom saying in Mk 10:45 and the suffering servant) and notes that explicit citations of Isaiah revolve around judgment (4:12; 7:6-7; 9:48; 12:1-12; 13:23-4; even 11:17 positive temple function becomes a judgment in light of Jer 7:11). What do you think about Mk 1:2-3?
With all the excitement about the Mark fragment, I missed calling attention to other interesting Mark-related posts. Peter Williams posts on his recent article where he argues that, in the story where Jesus heals the leper, σπλαγχνισθείς (having been moved with compassion) was the original reading at Mk 1:41 and explains how it was altered to ὀργισθείς (having been moved with anger) (see the comments on the post). This is a tricky issue because this is unquestionably the majority reading, but other scholars argue “anger” is the more difficult reading (i.e. why was Jesus angry?) which explains why a scribe might have changed it and why Mattew/Luke (independently or Luke influenced by Matthew?) omit Jesus’ emotions altogether. A good discussion of the text critical issues is here and Joel Watts provides one explanation for the anger (others propose Jesus’ anger is at the demon causing the disease as there may be remnants of an exorcist account when Jesus sternly charges the man or drives him out [ἐξέβαλεν] or alternatively M. Casey’s aramaic solution here). Tim Henderson has a series on the authorship of Mark here, here and here and hints at a future post on the gospel titles that I anticipate will be similar to the views of the late Martin Hengel and is a good counterpoint to my series on authorship. Amanda MacInnis has a good summary of NT Wright’s view of the “coming of the Son of Man in Mark” though I explain why I am not persuaded by Wright here. Matthew Montonini compares a healing story in Mark to Elisha and I agree that traditions about the northern prophets Elijah & Elisha influenced Mark’s portrayal. Anyways, those were some of the posts that jumped out at me this month and I would like to more regularly highlight the contributions of bloggers on Mark, so if I have missed your post let me know in the comments or if you ever want to do a guest post at this blog email me your post along with who you are and where you study.
Ben Witherington has viewed the manuscripts and comments on the contents of the Green Collection (which includes the fragment of Mark). Andreas Köstenberger also weighs in on what the discovery might mean (though perhaps a tad too apologetical and makes too sweeping a statement about Secret Mark as a forgery when the issue remains widely debated) (HT Jim West). An alleged photograph of the fragment appears to have been debunked by Mark Goodacre, Brian Leport, Jim Davila, James McGrath, Tim Henderson, Jim West, Thomas Verenna, etc.
Other bloggers were quicker to note that Dan Wallace has expanded on his claim of a first century fragment of Mark here and responses here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here (please if I have missed your link add it to the comments as I would like to track all the various posts). I look forward to future updates on this and, whether it turns out to be first or second century, it seems like it could be an important find nonetheless!
The chance that we might have a first century fragment of the gospel of Mark has recently caught alot of attention (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, add your link in the comments if I missed you). First, I agree with Jim West that caution is the order of the day until more scholars are able to independently examine the manuscript, though from the initial report at least it does not appear to be just a repeat of some apologetic claim such as the one that still circulates around sometimes about the discovery of Mark among the Dead Sea Scrolls (see my post here). Second, against all the hype, lets consider the possibility of what a discovery of a first century fragment would mean for the guild: 1) although there is the occasional scholarship on the fringe that wants to date the gospel of Mark well into the second century or even after Bar Kochba (H. Detering, R. Price), there is good reason already on the external and internal evidence to date Mark to the first century with the consensus dating from the mid-late 60s or early 70s (though for earlier dating, cf. E.E. Ellis, R. Gundry, M. Casey, J. Crossley); 2) Mark is pretty weakly attested with the oldest manuscript evidence is the third century Chester Beatty papyri (p45) so I would be interested in knowing about the provenance of the manuscript as maybe a clue on who was actually reading Mark whether in the late first or in the second century. Lets wait and see how this one turns out.