Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mark 16:9-20

A good long while ago I completed a contract job to produce a thoroughly researched and argued case against the authenticity of the verses in Mark 16:9-20, which the mainstream consensus has long since rejected as an interpolation but fundamentalists keep trying to rescue. The final product has now finally been published at Errancy Wiki (which years ago also published a concise summary of my case for the historical contradiction regarding the date of Jesus' birth in Matthew and Luke: Luke vs. Matthew on the Year of Christ's Birth).

The new article is: Mark 16:9-20 as Forgery or Fabrication. Like the earlier article, which decisively proves the bible historically errant, this article decisively proves the bible textually errant. It's the most egregious and appalling case of doctoring the text of the New Testament on record. You may have often heard references to scholars having proved that the ending of Mark is an interpolation from manuscript and stylistic evidence. Well, if you are wondering exactly what that evidence is and how well it holds up, especially against any competent attempts to argue the contrary, this new article is for you. It is now the definitive treatment of the ending of Mark, being the most comprehensive summary of the evidence that I know. In fact when combined with the scholarship in its bibliography, it is the most complete treatment you'll ever find.

I discussed this issue of New Testament textual errancy in general (and the ending of Mark in particular) in a recent debate with J.P. Holding, a video of which the producers assure me will eventually become available online. I also plan to blog the case for two other interpolations (in the letters of Paul), which came up in that debate, adding even more material I chose not to present during the debate in order to open up time for other arguments. 
  

16 comments:

The Nerd said...

This passage is of particular interest to me, because it was the topic of the very last church service I ever attended as a Christian. Despite the fact that the text [The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.] appears in just about every print version (and online version) of the Bible I've ever seen, the pastor of that church thought it prudent to dedicate an entire sermon on the topic of why anyone who isn't actively witnessing to everyone at every possible moment is in constant danger of hellfire for disobeying Jesus. I was baffled primarily because it's impossible to get away from the Gospel message in our society even if we wanted, but I'm sure anyone who has ever been around good old-fashioned snake-handling will be even more assured that the Bible is not lacking without this passage.

sgreene25 said...

Since you believe this article definitively does what it claims it does; I suspect you will be presenting a paper at SBL, or submitting it to an academical journal for publication....am I correct? If so which ones and when?

Ben said...

Why do we need the ending of Mark to make this point for us when any given apologist will already admit we don't have the original autographs?  Mark could have been reasonably wrapped up better in a sentence or two and a few drops here and there in an enormous collection of books probably won't matter much on balance to people. This seems to be ultimately more of a "why don't we have indestructable Bibles?" philosophical issue (as you've argued elsewhere), than a textual one, I would think.

kilo papa said...

Interpolations in the letters of Paul sounds very interesting. Are they related to the case for Mythicism?

JoeWallack said...

Congratulations on your article Dr. Carrier. I think it is immediately the best article ever written on the subject but can be improved. In my related dedicated Thread at FRDB:

http://www.freeratio.org/showpost.php?p=6787725&postcount=64

I've offered some suggestions for improvement. Eusebius is a star witness for your conclusion due to his identification of the textual criticism issue and his standing as an outstanding textual critic of the early Church. In general I think you need to expand his discussion beyond the two present paragraphs to make it proportional to his importance to your conclusion. Specifically I think you need to address his possible bias for apologetic reasons (avoiding a contradiction with "Matthew" in the context of a private letter) and whether he was qualified to conclude on the state of the Western textual tradition. See my related FRDB post for more details.

I think a good subject for the next article would be a demonstration of Markan priority. This would create a powerful combination from an evidential standpoint of the original resurrection narrative lacking a resurrection sighting and throwing supposed Christian evidence for the supposed resurrection back to the revelation of Paul.


Joseph

Otishpote said...

When you write about interpolations in the Pauline epistles be sure to take this crucial article into consideration:

The First Edition of the Paulina
by Paul-Louis Couchoud (1928)
http://www.radikalkritik.de/couch_engl.htm

(Better to read the linked PDF file, as the HTML version has typographical flaws.)


Couchoud argued that when we compare the traditional Catholic text of the Pauline epistles to the text of Marcion's version (as partially reconstructed by Harnack) that the differences are better explained by the Catholic version being a redaction to the Marcionite version. According to Couchoud, the idea that Marcion shortened the longer version just doesn't make sense in light of the peculiarities within the actual texts.

If Couchoud is correct, it would imply that nearly a third of the content in the Pauline epistles originated as second-century interpolation or revision.

Lucretius said...

When I was reevaluating my Christian beliefs I instinctively knew to go for the "jugular" so to speak, i.e. the resurrection accounts. Part of my studies was Mark 9-16 quite naturally. I recall that even in English translation, the break in style between 8 and 9 is quite marked and after further study it became plain to me very quickly that the LE is not part of the original Mark.

To address Ben's comment about why this quite thorough treatment of the issue is needed I would say that it is just part of building the case against Christianity. Some may "need" it and of course others may not. I would agree that for you and me not having the original autographs is a very powerful argument and pretty much settles it. But there are certainly others who are not necessarily impressed with that argument. This article may jar them loose from their commitment to inerrancy.

Richard Carrier said...

sgreene25 said...

I suspect you will be presenting a paper at SBL, or submitting it to an academical journal for publication....am I correct?

No. Because nothing in it is new. SBL conferences and journals don't sponsor or print things that are already known and established. "It's been done; we already know that" is what they'd all say. You must be mistaking me for making a novel argument. To the contrary, I'm just communicating to the public what has already been proven and is now mainstream knowledge in the field (hence the bibliography I provided, which establishes every point).

The only exception is my take on the Irenaeus passage, but that isn't necessary to the conclusion (which is why all mainstream scholarship reached that conclusion without it). I might publish that someday, but I'd first have to research to see if anyone already did publish the argument, which would amount to possibly a week of labor (checking all the scholarship and commentaries on Irenaeus for the last hundred years). Since I have much more important work to do, that's not high on my list. In the meantime, I laid out all the facts, so anyone can decide for themselves how sound that argument is.

Ditto my discovery of the error made by Kelhoffer on that Irenaeus passage: it's too minor for any journal to be interested or to base a conference talk around, but the facts are clear cut so you don't need to be an expert to see he made a mistake. I informed him directly. So if you are really concerned, you can ask him about it.

Richard Carrier said...

Ben said... Why do we need the ending of Mark to make this point for us ...?

That's a question for the Errancy Wiki site owner. I'm just a paid contractor. He wanted the most complete presentation of the evidence and scholarship on that matter, and paid me to produce it. That's the extent of my real interest.

(Although as an educator it always annoys me when Christians lie or bullshit about things like this, so I do get satisfaction putting everything in one place and iron clad to shut their asses up. Now I can just point people there and be done with it. They can't claim this hasn't been done anymore; now they have to face the facts. At the very least, they'll either go even more insane, or give up attempting to rescue this passage and change tack. And thus their defensible positions shrink yet further. And then they're on their way to joining the Amish...)

Richard Carrier said...

kilo papa said... Interpolations in the letters of Paul sounds very interesting. Are they related to the case for Mythicism?

One is, but only in an uninteresting way (uninteresting because mainstream scholars already agree it's an interpolation, so there is nothing controversial about mythicists saying so). I'll say more in a future blog post.

Richard Carrier said...

JoeWallack said... I think you need to expand his discussion beyond the two present paragraphs to make it proportional to his importance to your conclusion. Specifically I think you need to address his possible bias for apologetic reasons (avoiding a contradiction with "Matthew" in the context of a private letter) and whether he was qualified to conclude on the state of the Western textual tradition.

If you can think of anything more to actually say on those issues that isn't just cataloging illogical arguments, let me know. The facts otherwise speak for themselves.

The argument that he's lying simply because he's biased, for example, is already rebutted by the fact that Jerome corroborates him (and by the fact that Eusebius argues for harmonization as well, and thus doesn't need to posit fabrication); and more importantly it's special pleading anyway (to just "presume" he's lying about manuscript frequencies, despite such a claim being a fact easily checked by anyone at the time, even at best gets you no evidence to the contrary, and at worst has no actual support and is thus just making shit up, and I see no reason to address the folly of making shit up).

To the contrary, all the other evidence supports Eusebius' remark, which is why I don't attach as much importance to it as you do: it is corroboratory; the aim of citing the patristics is to support authenticity, so my aim is to show this doesn't work; claiming Eusebius is a liar doesn't gain proponents of authenticity anything--they would then still have no support in the patristics for authenticity (apart from Irenaeus, which is either authentic or inauthentic regardless of what anyone thinks of Eusebius).

The issue of the Western text is irrelevant. I already point out the scholarship on the Western text being derivative of and more corrupt than the Eastern (so saying the Markan ending is only common in the Western text is actually an argument in favor of fabrication). Even if the frequency was greater in Western mss. (and even if it could be proved Eusebius wouldn't know this--remember, the burden is on anyone who issues an argument of special pleading like this, otherwise it's just a garden variety fallacy), then there would be only two possibilities: it was fabricated in the West, or it was deleted in the East. No evidence supports the latter. All the other evidence supports the former (as my article already extensively shows).

If you can tease out from this (or your own discussions) what would actually be worth adding to the article, do email me. But I do not want to clutter the article with elaborations addressing garden variety fallacies or the rank making of shit up. Additions need to be tight, brief, relevant, and correct.

...They also need to reference real scholarship making whatever argument is being responded to (in no way should the article be cluttered with responses to amateur bulletin and blog posts and other spin festivals). So if someone wants to propose a new challenge, ask them to find a scholarly book or article making the argument first.

Richard Carrier said...

Lucretius said... To address Ben's comment about why this quite thorough treatment of the issue is needed I would say that it is just part of building the case against Christianity. Some may "need" it and of course others may not.

I would add it's also a numbers game. The value of an extensive case is that the odds go up that something in there will stick. For example, Pentecostals who discover (from this article) that even their own scholars admit its a forgery but try to pass it off as an inspired forgery: many will swallow that Kool-Aid, but some percentage will always be immediately disillusioned and set on their path toward unbelief. Iterate that effect for every other point in that article that most Christians will have been unaware of before reading it, and we are making an increasing number of converts to sanity and reason, which we would not have otherwise.

Whether the effect is enough to have warranted what was paid for it isn't my worry, since I wasn't paying for it. But it's certainly something I would have loved to have had at hand years ago. So I'm sure it will be found useful by countless others now and in future.

Richard Carrier said...

P.S. On how the Holding debate went, see my remark in the appropriate thread.

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Greetings Richard.

There are dozens of errors and inaccuracies in your essay on Mark 16:9-20. Please contact me for more information.

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.
Minister, Curtisville Christian Church
Indiana

Richard Carrier said...

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...
There are dozens of errors and inaccuracies in your essay on Mark 16:9-20. Please contact me for more information.

Just email me: rcarrier@infidels.org. Present your list of errors and the documentation for each that establishes it's an error. If there really are any, I'll make the requisite corrections.

XucinxgaronX said...

I'm sure these mark 16:9-20 are absolutely forgery .... none of Jesus's disciple spread around the world to teach the gentiles as the verses said. Jesus's disciples ignore the great comission.