Thursday, July 02, 2009

Quick Blurb about Inerrancy

I just wanted to write a quick blurb about some of my thoughts on inerrancy. I mentioned three areas of Scripture that I don't believe are genuine. I don't know, however, if any of them for sure are not authentic, so this is just my opinion. Just beware the mindset that sets up the KJV as the gold standard and compares all other translations as incorrectly "subtracting" verses or differing in interpretation.

The first of these is the Comma Johanneum in 1 John 5:7, which if memory serves me I read that Erasmus only included this in his work because there was one Greek manuscript that included it, but the origin of that Greek manuscript was dubious (there are several Latin manuscripts which include it but of course they are older, and the lack of Greek witnesses seems to indicate that the Comma is not original). The doctrine of the Comma is explicitly Trinitarian, so I endorse it without reservation and have no desire to oppose it based on its Trinitarianism. I only reserve skepticism about it because I've referenced it before in defense of the Trinity without knowing the problems behind its origin.

The second is the pericope of the woman caught in adultery. It is troubling to me because though I like the story a lot, it seems rather strange that the guilty male party of adultery is never mentioned or brought to Jesus (so I am left wondering, how did the Jews KNOW unless they were possibly in on it maybe?). Other problems include having a Lukan syntax so I have read instead of really fitting in syntactically with John. Another problem, worse in my opinion, is the fact that the passage has moved around from different places in manuscripts. So it could be a later addition to Scripture.

The third is the Longer Ending of Mark in Mark 16:9-20. There are three different endings for Mark. One is the normal (perhaps original ending) at 16:8. There is a Shorter Ending which I am not real familiar with which includes one additional verse. The Longer Ending adds twelve different verses (the 16:9-20 in the KJV, for example). I remember a seminary student telling me who was studying Greek who told me that the Greek vocabulary and syntax is completely different in the last twelve verses as opposed to the rest of Chapter 16. If that's true, then that is troubling (but could be just a later addition of actual Scripture by an amanuensis who had different style of writing Greek, perhaps).

My problem with the Longer Ending of Mark is a possible Bible contradiction. Mark 16:12-13 says, "12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them." The commentaries I remember reading all suggest a link to Luke 24:13-34, either in suggestion or outright. The only problem is, this cannot truly be a reference to Luke 24, that I can see. Luke 24:33-36 mentions nothing about unbelief or rejection of the message of the two witnesses by the others, and simply says, "33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, 34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. 36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." It is true however, that verse 11 says, "And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." but this concerns an angelic appearance and not one of Christ (verse 6 begins in the KJV with "He is not here" implying his personal absence at that particular instant but more importantly that the Resurrection had indeed occurred). This does not mean that the last twelve verses of Mark 16:9-20 are not genuine, but it does cause me to seriously doubt that the episode I referenced has anything to do with the episode in Luke which seems to bear a similarity to it. If it truly is referencing Luke, then it seems to me to be difficult to harmonize. But it could be referencing history lost now to us but known to the apostles at the time (seems unlikely?).

Well, guess this wasn't a short blurb. But anyway, I have been thinking about this for several days, and unless I've missed something somewhere, I think it's legitimate to mention. It certainly seems interesting.


James Snapp Jr said...

Greetings Byron.

I think you are correct to reject the Comma Johanneum, and I also think you are correct to suspect that John 7:53-8:11 (the story of the adulteress) is not an original part of the Gospel of John (although I try to keep an open mind about this passage, waiting for those who are researching it to produce a definitive work on the subject).

Regarding Mark 16:9-20, I encourage you to use caution as you investigate the subject because there is a great deal of misinformation about this passage floating around in commentaries, NT surveys, and even some Bible footnotes. Mark 16:9-20 is found in over 99% of all Greek manuscripts, and in all text-types, and it is used in patristic works from the 100's, over a century earlier than the two manuscripts (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) in which Mark clearly ends at the end of 16:8. Also, all the Greek manuscripts that have the "Shorter Ending" also support 16:9-20; only one witness (Latin Codex Bobbiensis, from about 430) ends Mark with the Shorter Ending, and Codex Bobbiensis contains a very quirky interpolation between Mark 16:3 and 16:4.

The vocabulary in 16:9-20 is not remarkably different from the vocabulary that can be found in some other 12-verse sections of Mark. In 16:9-20 there are 16 words not found elsewhere in Mark, but in 15:40-16:4, there are 20 words not found elsewhere in Mark. In the case of Mark 16:9-20 – like in the case of Jeremiah 52 -- the internal evidence may tell us about something that happened as the text was being made, rather than something that happened after the text was finished. (I suspect that Mark was forced to stop writing at the end of 16:8, and his companions at Rome finished the book by attaching a short, already existing composition which Mark had composed, and only after this did they begin to copy and distribute the Gospel of Mark.)

Regarding the apparent discrepancy you mentioned in Mark 16:12-13, I would tweak your observation, so as to say that because the description of events in Mark 16:12-14 displays independence from the contents of Luke 24, it is extremely unlikely that Mark 16:9-20 was added by a scribe who was familiar with the other Gospels. The work of a copyist dependent upon Matthew and Luke would look more like the contents of Matthew and Luke.

But if you're seeking a way to harmonize Mk. 16:12-14 and Lk. 24:33ff., all that is needed is to picture the discussion in Luke 24:35-36 as occurring slowly rather than rapidly: the two travelers reach the main group of disciples; the disciples announce that the Lord is risen and has appeared to Simon; the two travelers then say that the Lord appeared to them. This would elicit an obvious question: how could Jesus have appeared to Simon – somewhere in Jerusalem, it would seem – and also appear to the two travelers, on the road to Emmaus? As that question was being discussed, some time elapsed, after which we reach the scene described in Mark 16:14 and in Luke 24:36.

For more information about Mark 16:9-20, I welcome you to visit my summarization of research about the passage, at and, if you would like to dig deeper into the subject, download my essay "The Origin of Mark 16:9-20, eMail Edition" which is available at .

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Byroniac said...

Very interesting information. I'm definitely going to have read your site. Truthfully, I wish all three of these passages would prove to be genuine, and I was very uncomfortable when I first encountered this issue concerning Scriptural origins. I wish I knew a lot more about this subject, and I appreciate the information.

Byroniac said...

I still must admit I am having a hard time harmonizing the textual linkage between Mark and Luke for that particular Emmaus road episode, because the harmonization you suggest, though possible, does not seem very probable. In fact, verse 36 seems to prohibit the possibility by beginning with, "And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." This gives no time for the supposed response of unbelief in Mark 16:13, "And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them." Luke 24:36 seems to indicate to me that the events indeed occurred rapidly than slowly, because of the wording found in verse 36 itself, and that causes the problem for me with Mark 16:12-13 because I have no doubts concerning the authenticity of Luke (I'm not a scholar, though). I know this is oversimplifying, and I haven't studied it very deeply, but for me reading in one place that 2+2=4 (Luke) and then in another that 2+2=3 seems like either a contradiction has occurred or some harmonization is badly needed.

There is something else that bothers me though I do not believe it is a true Bible contradiction (I have to be VERY careful when using that word, as I personally affirm inerrancy in the original autographs, but obviously not for inauthentic passages of "Scripture" if such exist in our translations). Luke has Jesus telling the apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem, while to my memory, nothing in Mark or Matthew say this but instead mention Christ showing Himself to them in Galilee. A friend told me this one, because I didn't catch it myself, and it bothers me, but there is probably a simple enough explanation that will harmonize the two.

Byroniac said...

One possible harmonization between Mark 16:13 and Luke 24:36 could be that Mark is simply referring to an inward expression of unbelief rather than an outward rejection, but the problem there is that in the rest of Mark 16 before that point unbelief is openly expressed (and noted as such by the passage), and it seems that Luke 24:36 allows no time for such to have taken place.