Saturday, September 9, 2017

"Last 12 verses of Mark" Part II

Wow, two post in the same week, that goes to show you what a little time off will do to a guy who likes to write his opinions!

In the previous post, I suggested that the notations in the newer translations of the Bible or the decision to leave out certain verses all together because they were most likely added later, should be something we should question and not readily accept all together.

It is said by most not to be an issue because there is nothing doctrinal affecting in those verses, so added or not, little difference is made. I on the other hand have difficulty telling someone causally who inquires concerning these verses or any other verses, "Just never mind them, they were probably not in there to start with." As I noted in the previous post, this does have a tendency to cast doubt upon the reliability of our scripture. Once a small portion comes into question, all portions are weakened.

So, since I have difficulty telling you that, I'm not going to tell you that. But one does need to give an answer to why there is a question concerning these verses. That is going to be the attempt made in this post. There are much more qualified persons to address this issue, and I would encourage you to seek them out. Try to find the one who is truly looking for the truth, and not some scholar wanting to defend a personal position. I suppose all positions are personal to some extent, but some will ignore or even obscure unfavorable evidence in order to hold to a certain view. Avoid these types of people, regardless of how knowledgeable or credited they may be.

One thing to keep in mind, whether new or old translations and regardless of the language outside of the original, they are all translations. The West Minister Confession of 1646 states, (VIII. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.

IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

X. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.)

This is excellent instruction, it is of the greatest blessings that we have the translations (even various versions) both the older and newer. We have such great advantage with such valuable resources at our disposal to help aid us in our study of scripture. A prudent scholar will make use of all his resources.

All translations and versions are not equal, some are better than others. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. But it is evident we all don't speak or read the original languages nor will we all learn them adequately, so our learning will be aided by these translations.

As we read them it is helpful to understand why there has developed a need to make notations such as the one we find in the last 12 verses of Mark. When a translation is in progress, many different sources are used to attain the clearest and most accurate rendering of the text. But some resources are given primary authority or influence when there are differences in the reading of the text. One can clearly see if this primary authority or influence is shifted the text rendering will be changed. That is one of the major factors involved in the notations arising in the newer translations. There was a shift in which resources would be the primary strength in deciding the true meaning.

For the Old Testament, the scholars of the older translations relied heavily upon the Septuagint Translation or (LXX). It is a Greek translation of the Hebrew text written 285-270 BC.  This was the primary document used during the New Testament times, and most New Testament quotes of the Hebrew text were from the Septuagint. The fact it was in use during the period in which Jesus walked the earth and considered a reliable source gives much credence to its authority.

This Septuagint was based upon the "Vorlage Text" of about 440 BC which was essentially the original complete Old Testament Text. It also gave rise to the Samaritan Pentateuch. These factors give us great confidence that it is a trust worthy source to be reliable and trusted.

You also have the Masoretic text, which is derived from the Council of Jamnia in 90 AD. The Masoretes who established this work rejected the LXX and the Hebrew version on which it was based because it had become the "Bible of the Christians." This Masoretic text differs in about 6,000 places from the LXX. Most of these are simply textual differences which has little effect on the meaning. But there are about 1,000 that need consideration. In these differences the older translations would most likely lean toward the LXX. Especially where secondary resources confirmed and agreed with the LXX against the Masoretic.

In the 1730's scholars deviated from this practice and began to place primary weight and authority upon the Masoretic text. When this occurred it obviously affected the rendering of our English Bibles.

For the new Testament a similar shifting occurred around 1853. Prior to this date, scholars relied heavily upon Textus Receptus.  

"Textus Receptus" means received text. It is a representation of the manuscripts used in the church since the 4th century. It agrees with over 95% of the manuscripts in common Greek.

Ancient Versions that follow the rendering of Textus Receptus are the Peshitta Version (AD 150), The Italic Bible (AD 157), The Waldensian (AD 120 & onwards), The Gallic Bible (Southern France) (AD177), The Gothic Bible (AD 330-350), The Old Syriac Bible (AD 400), The Armenian Bible (AD 400 There are 1244 copies of this version still in existence.), The Palestinian Syriac (AD 450), The French Bible of Oliveton (AD 1535), The Czech Bible (AD 1602), The Italian Bible of Diodati (AD 1606), The Greek Orthodox Bible (Used from Apostolic times to the present day by the Greek Orthodox Church).

Our English translations which date prior to 1853 relied primarily upon this resource. The shift after this date occurred when two scholars by the name of Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort finished a Greek New Testament based upon two old Codex's called Vaticanus and Siniaticus. This work became the standard and primary reference resource for Bible translations and is used in all our newer English versions.

There are three old Codex's referred to as the Alexandrian Codices.

Codex Alexandrinus is dated around the 5th century and contains the entire New Testament. Codex Siniaticus is dated around 350 AD, and is one of the two oldest manuscripts of the Greek New Testament available to us. Codex Vaticanus is dated slightly earlier around 325 AD and is regarded by many as one of the most reliable copies of the Greek New Testament.

I suppose one reason for Westcott and Hort to deviate from Testus Receptus to the Codex's was these early dates. That would be a reasonable consideration, to look to them as a primary source. The problem is however, they have over 3,000 contradictions in the four Gospels alone between them. And they changed the common Greek text in 8,413 places. The last 12 verses of Mark being one of them.

Again, you can easily see how English versions translated before 1853 would differ with those translated after 1853. So there is your reason why the last 12 verses are noted in the newer versions as not being in the oldest text, or are left out all together. So what do we do with this information? Simply be aware of it. The new translations can be much more precise in the language and convey a much better understanding of the text, but their weakness is their reliance upon old codex's  that convey such differences even between themselves. In this case, I would prefer a more consistent translation with the Textus Receptus text than to rely upon contradictory text just because they were the oldest text available. It is good to review them, but I prefer the former practice of considering them secondary sources and allowing Textus Receptus to settle manners of difficulty. You see, it's really not about old Bible versions vs. New Bible versions. The issue is the source text that was given primary influence in the translation process. Had there not been a shift in primary sources there would not be notations in our newer versions. Perhaps God in His Providence will give a new translation in the future once again giving primary influence back to the Septuagint and Textus Receptus.

That all being said, when reading a newer translation and taking notice of a notation the translators placed on certain verses stating this was added at a later date because it does not appear in the oldest copies, I simply say, that's interesting. But knowing the sources the older translations used, I refer to one of them. If it is there, with this information in view, I can feel confident that indeed it was always there.

I hope this has been helpful and reassures you of the reliability of the scriptures we possess.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,


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