Monday, September 5, 2011

The Canonical Gospel of Mark is Corrupt

In our last post we examined how the canonical gospel of Mark doesn't make any sense in the material leading up to the section of 'additional material' referenced in the Letter to Theodore.  Nobody can possibly argue that the Gospel of Mark is 'just right' the way it is.  The best scholars can do is say that Mark was a 'primitive' text which was further expanded by Matthew and Luke.

Yet I simply can't believe that the transition from chapter 9 to chapter 10 in Mark preserves what the Evangelist originally wrote.  This has nothing to do with my beliefs about the authenticity of 'Secret Mark.'  It just looks like a butchered text.  Here is the transition, I am talking about again where Jesus says:

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

Everyone will be baptized with fire.

Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

How on earth does one go from a discussion about castration (cf. Origen's interpretation or application of this material) to being 'baptized by fire' to salt (cf. the Letter to Theodore)?  There is little or no continuity to any of this and the three principle witnesses - the Byzantine, the Alexandrian and the Western texts can't agree on the proper reading here.

The stuff appears so disjointed that Leviticus's discussion of salting sacrifices is introduced by one textual tradition in order to fill in the gap.  Yet there is almost universal agreement that the text is in tatters here.  Here is a summary of all the variation and emendation that is generally acknowledged to have taken place in this section:

  • 9.44 omit verse {A} The words ὅπου ὁ σκώληξ … οὐ σβέννυται, which are lacking in important early witnesses (including א B C W itk syrs copsa), were added by copyists from ver. 48. 
  • 9.45 εἰς τὴν γέενναν {A} Influenced by the parallel passage in ver. 43, copyists tended to add one or another modifier to the reading that is decisively supported by representatives of the Alexandrian, the Western, the Eastern, and the Egyptian types of text. 
  • 9.46 omit verse {A} See the comment on ver. 44. 
  • 9.49 πᾶς γὰρ πυρὶ ἁλισθήσεται {B} The opening words of this verse have been transmitted in three principal forms: (1) πᾶς γὰρ πυρὶ ἁλισθήσεται (B L Δ f 1 f 13 syrs copsa al, “For every one will be salted with fire”); (2) πᾶσα γὰρ θυσία ἁλὶ ἁλισθήσεται (D itb, c, d, ff2, i, “For every sacrifice will be salted with salt”); and (3) πᾶς γὰρ πυρὶ ἁλισθήσεται καὶ πᾶσα θυσία ἁλὶ ἁλισθήσεται (A K Π al, “For every one will be salted with fire, and every sacrifice will be salted with salt”). The history of the text seems to have been as follows. At a very early period a scribe, having found in Lv 2.13 a clue to the meaning of Jesus’ enigmatic statement, wrote the Old Testament passage in the margin of his copy of Mark. In subsequent copyings the marginal gloss was either substituted for the words of the text, thus creating reading (2), or was added to the text, thus creating reading (3). Other modifications include πυρὶ ἀναλωθήσεται (Θ, “… will be consumed with fire …”), θυσία ἀναλωθήσεται (Ψ, “… sacrifice will be consumed …”), ἐν πυρὶ δοκιμασθήσεται (1195, “… will be tested by fire …”), and πᾶσα δὲ οὐσία ἀναλωθήσεται (implied by itk, “and all [their] substance will be destroyed,” ο being read for θ, and αναλω for αλιαλις). 
  • 10.1 [καὶ] πέραν {C} The reading διὰ τοῦ πέραν (A K X Π most minuscules, followed by the Textus Receptus; cf. the AV rendering “into the coast of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan”) is manifestly an explanatory correction introduced by copyists who were perplexed by the geographical difficulties involved in the earlier readings. In choosing between καὶ πέραν (Alexandrian text) and πέραν (Western and Antiochian texts), the Committee was impressed by the diversity of external support for the second reading, but considered that the absence of the καί may be due to assimilation to the parallel in Matthew (19.1). In order to reflect the balance of external witnesses and internal probabilities, it was decided to retain καί but to enclose it within square brackets. 
  • 10.2 καὶ προσελθόντες Φαρισαῖοι {B} The chief problem presented by the variant readings involves the presence or absence of the words προσελθόντες (οἱ) Φαρισαῖοι. Did the original text read merely ἐπηρώτων, an impersonal plural (“people asked him” or “he was asked”), and has the reference to the Pharisees come into many witnesses by assimilation to the parallel passage in Matthew (19.3)? Despite the plausibility of such a possibility, the fact that the Matthean passage is not absolutely parallel (προσῆλθον αὐτῷ Φαρισαῖοι) and the widespread and impressive support for the longer reading led a majority of the Committee to retain the words in the text. [Inasmuch as the impersonal plural is a feature of Markan style, the words προσελθόντες Φαρισαῖοι are probably an intrusion from Matthew; if retained at all, they should be enclosed within square brackets. B.M.M. and A.W.]

I don't know how people can argue with the basic premise of the Letter to Theodore especially the idea that Clement or someone from antiquity noticed that canonical Mark was a kind of imperfect 'notebook' written early in the career of the Evangelist.  Yes of course, I think that the canonical Mark was deliberately butchered and badly translated by the early third century Roman editors of the present New Testament canon.  But that's not the point.  There has to be an ur-Mark (= an original Aramaic text behind Mark).  Tjitze Baarda has already demonstrated that with respect to a mistranslation of the Aramaic "yittabal" = seasoned, salted from "yitbol/yittbel" = baptized (cf. "For everyone will be baptized with fire ." Compare: Mt 3:11 and Lk 3:16). I consider this evidence to be quite persuasive.

No one outside of someone with the 'Holy Spirit' can make sense of the material at the end of Mark chapter 9.  It is impossible to believe that we have the original text.  Instead we have a bastard text which was so badly preserved that later editors had to 'rescue' it by adding material from elsewhere.  What happened to Mark's original text?  It was preserved in Alexandria, where it was yet most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries."  It has to be.  There is no way to argue against the idea that our version of Mark is incomplete and corrupt.  Until a more plausible explanation comes along,  the existence of Secret Mark is the only explanation to the problem.

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