Tag Archives: gospel

Is Part of the New Testament Lost?

Most believers in the tenacity of the New Testament would tell you the answer is absolutely “no”, but there is reason to disagree once one takes a look at the manuscript evidence. Today we’ll be taking a look at Mark 16, but not in the way you’re usually accustomed. As a quick recap, Mark 16 in the earliest Greek manuscripts, ends presumably at verse 8. Later manuscripts in Latin extend the ending up to verse 20. Let’s take a quick look at what these look like in the English language:

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Trans.: NIV, verse 8).

and…

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Trans.: NIV, verses 9-20).

Both codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B) date from the 4th century CE, roughly 300 years after Jesus (peace be upon him) walked the earth. They both end at verse 8. However, verses 9-20 can be found in codices Alexandrinus (A, 5th century CE), Ephraemi-Rescriptus (C, 5th century CE), Bezae (D, 6th century CE) and Washingtonianus (W, 5th century CE). You may be familiar with the claim of a longer ending, but there are actually five endings. In one of those five endings there is the case where the women then proceed from the tomb to a group of people who were with the disciple Peter. This ending can be found more notably in the Latin Codex Bobbiensis from the 5th century CE.

There is also another version where an addition is at Mark 16:14 which can be found in Codex Washingtonianus (circa 5th century CE) where it speaks of a more apocalyptic ending. In this ending Satan rules the world and the manuscript quite oddly says that due to Satan, God cannot rule the world…:

“This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits.”

The text in Koine Greek reads as follows:

οτι ο αιων ουτος της ανομιαϛ και της απιστιας υπο τον σαταναν εστιν ο μη εων τα υπο των πνευματων ακαθαρτα την αληθειαν του θεου καταλαβεσθαι δυναμιν

Moving on, the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament (the Greek text used for most of today’s modern translations) renders verse 8 as follows:

Καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν· ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ

It uses codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus as the basis for the above Greek version. Do note that the sentence ends with the word “gar” (γάρ), I’ll explain more on the significance of that word shortly. So what do the manuscripts read? We are looking at the ending of verse 8. Codex Sinaiticus reads as follows (here’s the link to view page online):

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Folio 228 of Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus ends verse (and by extension the Gospel of Mark) 8 with the word “gar” (γάρ – do note the text is written in majuscule not minuscule Koine Greek so while the words appear to be different, they’re exactly the same). In majuscule Greek as we find in Codex Sinaiticus we will see γάρ written as ΓΑΡ. Codex Vaticanus reads as follows (here’s the link to view the page online):

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Folio 1303 of Codex Vaticanus

Verse 8 once again ends with the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”), and by extension the Gospel of Mark ends with this word. So what is the significance of the word “ΓΑΡ” (gar)? The word “ΓΑΡ” (gar) is a conjunctive. A conjunction is a word that combines two clauses, phrases or sentences. HELPS Word-studies states on the use of the word:

1063 gár (a conjunction) – for. While “for” is usually the best translation of 1063 (gár), its sense is shaped by the preceding statement – the “A” statement which precedes the 1063 (gár) statement in the “A-B” unit.

Do note, the Strong’s number for this word is 1063 and can be read here. In other words, ΓΑΡ (“gar”) is a word that combines two phrases, for example in the English we can understand it to operate like the word “and” or like the terms “because”, “therefore”, “due to”, “hence”, “henceforth”, etc. This means that the verse is essentially incomplete if it ends with a conjunction. Normally in a sentence when you read the word “because”, you expect something to be written afterwards.

  • they were afraid because…what?
  • they were afraid therefore…what?
  • they were afraid due to…what?
  • they were afraid hence..what?

When you end a sentence abruptly with any of the terms above, you necessarily expect a word or phrase to follow. Grammatically this is known as an anacoluthon (see the definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary):

syntactical inconsistency or incoherence within a sentence; especially : a shift in an unfinished sentence from one syntactic construction to another

In other words, verse 8 is an unfinished sentence. This explains why there were additional endings that were later developed and added to the text, because the way the verse ends is incorrect and suggests that something is missing. This ultimately brings us to our question, if the verse is grammatically incorrect and unfinished, it possibly means that something followed from the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”) and is now no longer evidenced by the earliest surviving Greek manuscripts some 300 years after Jesus (peace be upon him) walked the earth. One may argue apologetically that perhaps the verse was phrased this way for rhetorical effect. That is possible but unlikely due to the authors of Mark never having done this previously in the entire gospel. In fact, I’m not aware of any other instance in the New Testament where ΓΑΡ (“gar”) is used to end a sentence where nothing follows after it. Such an argument is also implausible because it is clearly grammatically incorrect to the point we have multiple endings having been added to it thus showing that readers correctly noted an error has been made.

In the English language, if someone wrote:

There was a boy with a cat. The cat was afraid because…

The cat was afraid because what? The sentence does not continue and so we don’t know. Therefore in either English or Greek, there is a mistake here and so we must ask what did the sentence originally contain and what words did it end with? Were there just a few words more, or many sentences after? How much have we lost? We cannot clearly determine the amount that is lost to us. It is then clear that the last words of the Gospel attributed to Mark are lost to us and therefore a portion of the New Testament is lost to us. Ipso facto, the theological beliefs of tenacity and the preservation of the New Testament are proven to be false.

and God knows best.


Author’s Post Publication Note:

In this article I assumed the A-B unit as the structure of the verse, however given that Mark 16:8 contains two sentences, the first sentence contains this A-B structure (emphasis mine own, taken from the NA 28 GNT online):

Καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις· καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν·

In this first sentence of Mark 16:8, we see this A-B formula in work. In the very next sentence, we do not see it at work:

ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

While this is a correct sentence in and of itself, if we only and absolutely take this sentence into isolation, it would be grammatically correct (there is disagreement on this and it is discussed below). However, when we take it into the context of the author’s normal usage of the term ΓΑΡ (“gar”) within this very verse, then it would break the pattern and thus establish itself as being against the norm and therefore in error.

Furthermore, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (scroll down) argues for a succeeding repetition [with the word ΓΑΡ (“gar”)] as the norm (emphasis mine own):

When in successive statements γάρ is repeated twice or thrice, or even four or five times, either a. one and the same thought is confirmed by as many arguments, each having its own force, as there are repetitions of the particle…

There is no argument for the second sentence of the verse, therefore it also breaks this norm. There is one more alternative (emphasis mine own):

b. every succeeding statement contains the reason for its immediate predecessor, so that the statements are subordinate one to another: Mark 6:52…

Again, there is no reason explaining the fear, thus breaking the norm again. Regardless of the apologetic arguments to defend the incompleteness of Mark 16:8, there is no sufficient argument to plainly excuse the break in grammatical norms for this specific verse, though I want to thank at least one individual with knowledge of Greek for trying.

Further Reading

As mentioned above, the same individual raised the point of “ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ” being a complete sentence and has argued it is perfectly reasonable to end a sentence with such a word. Though I did not argue the point that “ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ” was the start of a new sentence (as incorrectly stated by the person), they also argued that no Greek scholar would agree with my conclusions. It should be noted though that I am not the person that has made these conclusions. One noted scholar of Greek and the New Testament, Robert Gundry states in his book Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross on page 1009 that verse 8 in the autograph of the Gospel attributed to Mark was not a conclusion but the beginning of a new unit, “the rest of which is now lost.” He also clarifies that while there is at least one possible example for the word “γάρ” in ending a book, which is possibly the case in the thirty second treatise of Plotinus as edited by Porphyry (though many others disagree), it is rather the exception to the norm and he conclusively states that no other book ends with the word “γάρ”. It should also be noted that New Testament scholar N. Clayton Croy in his work, “The Mutilation of Mark’s Gospel”, also argues that the ending of Mark is incomplete at verse 8 and he also argues that this is in part due to the presence of “γάρ” which he notes is extremely rare and thus unlikely the author of Mark intended to end the Gospel with such a word.

As for the use of “ἐφοβοῦντο”, Collins and Attridge in their work, “Mark: A Commentary on the Gospel of Mark”, on page 799 states:

Some opponents of the thesis that v. 8* is the original conclusion of the Gospel have argued that the verb “they were afraid” (ἐφοβοῦντο) is incomplete as it stands and must have been followed originally by an object, an infinitive, or a clause introduced with the conjunction μή (“that … [not]” or “lest”). Apart from 16:8*, the verb “to be afraid” (φοβεῖσθαι) occurs eleven times in Mark. It is used with a personal object four times (6:20*; 11:18*, 32*; 12:12*). Once it is used in the phrase ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν (“they were very fearful”; lit. “they feared a great fear”) (4:41*). On one occasion it is used with the infinitive: “they were afraid to ask him” (ἐφοβοῦντο αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι) (9:32*). This verb is never used with the conjunction μή (“that … [not]” or “lest”) in Mark. It is used five times absolutely, as in 16:8*.

Post Publication Note dated 29.08.18, with a note for Further Reading on 06.09.18.

1st Century Markan Fragment?

In 2012, during a debate with Dr. Bart Ehrman, Dr. Daniel Wallace proclaimed that there had been a discovery of a 1st century fragment of the Gospel attributed to Mark. Textual critics have been waiting for over 5 years to finally see a 1st century manuscript only to receive some bad news today. As covered on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, if the fragment published about in the The Oxyrhynchus Papyri Vol. LXXXIII, is the one Daniel Wallace claimed was from the 1st century (and this looks increasingly likely) then it should at least be known now that it actually dates from the late second to early third centuries CE:

markdating

The absolute silence from Wallace, Habermas, Evans and others who promoted a 1st century dating is palpable, they all seem to have gone silent with this recent news. Hopefully more information can be made available soon. Thanks to Peter Gurry for the scan of the journal’s page on the dating of the fragment.

and God knows best.

The Inscriptio of the Gospel Attributed to Matthew

For many Christians the authorial identity behind the first Gospel (as per the Augustinian order), commonly attributed to Matthew usually appears to be a matter of little or no concern. This is in part due to the inscriptio of the Gospel itself as is found in most modern translations of the New Testament. Without this inscriptio, the first mention of the name Matthew appears in Matthew 9:9. While at first this may not seem like an issue of note, a critical examination of the inscriptio with respect to its inception, and eventual adoption and evolution can give us deep insight into the perception of this document by those contemporaneous to its creation and development.

Who was authorship ascribed to, if anyone at all in the manuscript tradition? Was it considered to be scripture from inception? How has the use of the inscriptio in today’s modern translations affected the belief that an individual identified as Matthew did indeed write the first Gospel?

For those who would prefer to download the document or access it through other means, here are some alternative options:

This is the first article in a series of articles that will cover the New Testament and the Qur’an in light of textual criticism.

and Allah knows best.

 

Dialogue Video: Navigating Differences in Theology – Br. Ijaz and Mr. Alex Kerimli

I recently had a dialogue with my friend and colleague, Mr. Alex Kerimli in Toronto. Today the video of that event is being released. The event was graciously hosted by the i3 Institute, which offers courses for young Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area.

Poster

The event went extremely well and in the end I have to say that I definitely enjoyed my time with Mr. Kerimli. We met a second time following the dialogue and had a second more informal dialogue that would be released in the near future. In the meantime, this dialogue took place in the context of a discussion I have been having with Mr. Kerimli for the past two years. It mainly revolves around the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an’s relationship with both of those books. We explore these relationships, the existence of a possible “Madinian Torah” and other fascinating questions about textual preservation in light of historical evidences.

At the end of the dialogue, it was all smiles from both sides of the theological divide.

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In addition to releasing the video of the dialogue I am also including my PowerPoint presentation slides in PDF form. There are two versions of these slides. There is the original presentation as I used it in the dialogue. Following the event I noted that there was a miscitation of a quote from Mark, instead of Mark 4:15 I accidentally put Mark 4:20. There was also another miscitation, instead of Pslam 40:6-8, I wrote Isaiah 40:6-8. Along with that error, I also clarified my use of terms in the table comparing the contents of the Shema in the Gospels and the Septuagint editions. To be fair, I am releasing both the original version with the errors and the corrected version for clarity. I will follow up with Mr. Kerimli to see if he would be willing to do the same.

Here is the dialogue video:

and Allah knows best.

 

Missionary Mishap: How to Share the Gospel

I often come across Christians telling me how they share the Gospel. This missionary claims that using words such as “b*tch”, “fool” and “stupid” are an accurate means of sharing the Gospel.

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We recommend that Stephen study his Bible, for 2 Timothy 2:25 says the opposite:

“Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth”.

Pray for Stephen and his hateful heart.

Is to Question, to Err?

One of the ways we learn is by asking questions. I don’t believe that someone should be condemned or shunned for asking a question, especially when it is a request for someone to clarify and expound upon what they are saying. This post will highlight the need for meaningful interactions between Muslim and Christian apologists. Forgoing my disagreements with my friend and colleague Jonathan McLatchie, he recently posted in a group of mines regarding a seminar he recently held.

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Given my history with Jonathan, one may think I would comment on his post in an antagonistic manner, but as will be seen, this is not and will not be the case. Though I may disagree with Jonathan’s arguments, I prefer to have meaningful interaction with him, rather than argue without reason. Thus, when he posted his link, I left the following respectful comment:

Screenshot_20170612-082943_1

The aim of my respectful comment was to ask my friend Jonathan to explain his reasoning. To break down his argument(s) and to give me an example to qualify his claim. This is the usual way we approach arguments, by firstly asking for the person to explain their argument, and secondly by giving our response as to why we either agree or disagree with what they have presented. As follows, this was my friend Jonathan’s response:

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I would like to thank Jonathan for his respectful reply, though I may disagree with the conclusions he had reached. In writing this article, I hope to express to Jonathan that Muslims are willing to engage with him, despite past disagreements. With respect to his comment, I am quite uncertain as to how I failed to interact with his presentation, when I asked for him to give us an example from his presentation, an argument which demonstrated his claim of “undesigned coincidences”. I can’t interact with a video seminar, but I can certainly interact by asking the person presenting the argument to illustrate and explicate their claim. Secondly, I am also uncertain as to how simply asking a question would lead one to believe that I had failed to understand the subject. I had yet to respond to an argument he had presented, therefore I’m not sure how I could fail to interact with or to misunderstand something that was not given to me.

The question for us is, is to question, to err?

I don’t believe so. In respectful and meaningful dialogue, we hope that our questions can lead to elucidation as opposed to remonstration. Should Jonathan be willing to engage with Muslims on the subject of his video, I wish him to know that Blogging Theology, Calling Christians, along with my numerous Facebook groups and pages, of which he is a member of a number of them, that they are all available for him to engage in meaningful dialogue about his arguments.

Should there be any Christian willing to take up his cause and argue on his behalf, we would most certainly be welcomed to such a proposition. I firmly do not believe in “undesigned coincidences”, primarily because of the intertextuality of the Gospels, especially in regard to their archetypes, harmonizations and literary borrowing by their authors and scribes. I have discussed this topic previously in other posts, but I am looking for new, well taught out arguments on this topic to challenge the conclusions I already hold. Thus far, I have yet to see such an argument, but then again, this is why I’m posting about it publicly. Perhaps by some undesigned coincidence, I may perhaps find someone willing to provide such an argument.

and God knows best.