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How many words are there in the Gospel of Mark?

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Answered 2007-11-13 19:29:43

This question can have no positive answer because there are lots of different translations of the gospel, eg the Authorised Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, and various translations such as that of J B Phillips. Because each translator, or group of translators working on the same book, will have different ways of translating and rendering the Greek into English, means that the number of words in a gospel will vary. For example, the Authorized Version has the words of Jesus translated as "Verily, verily I say unto you..." which can be rendered into modern English as "I say to you truly", or "I tell you truly", or "Listen to me". Translations of the Greek into Italian, French, German and so on will also vary the number of words because of the different grammar of these languages. There is also not one "original" Greek document of St Mark's gospel because all translations have been made from copies of the original, and even these copies are known to have a diffferent number of words. Which version? The present or the oldest? Some of the oldest copies of the Gospel of Mark, the Sinaitic (circa 370 CE) and Vatican (circa 325 CE), end at Mark 16:8. Papyrus-45 (a.k.a. P-45) is an even older version of Mark, but it is incomplete; none of its text from Mark 16 has survived. Various additions after Mark 16:8 appear to have been added later by unknown Christian forgers. One addition was quoted in the writings of Irenaeus and Hippolytus in the second or third century CE. source; " Alleged forgery in the Gospel of Mark " see link on left

If one takes only the contrary evidence and completely ignores the overwhelming positive evidence that in fact exists, then it is clear that some kind of deception is involved here. Or else the author is grossly ignorant of the actual manuscript evidence for the ending as well as the unreliability of the manuscripts cited. Perhaps it is hoped that people will not be made aware of the facts of the matter, as detailed below. The unreliability of the manuscripts makes the arguments used to defend the alleged forgery are quite irrelevant as no forgery occurred. To suggest a forgery is making an allegation not against the words of man but of God. No doubt human error is a consideration, but the massive number of extant manuscripts acts as a corrective to this.

Certainly read the link but be aware of its limitations.

Unfortunately some of the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament are not the most reliable. Vaticanus in particular was not copied carefully as it omits words and clauses numerous times, with most of these omissions being in the Gospel of Mark. Codex Sinaiticus also has many errors, which makes it stand out as unreliable, unlike many other New Testament manuscripts. In fact, the space for the ending of Mark is there in both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus indicating that it was meant to be in there but for some reason was omitted. An incomplete manuscript such as 'Papyrus -45' cannot be used to prove anything either way.

Dean Burgon says of Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus: ' The impurity of the text exhibited by these codices is not a question of opinion but of fact. In the Gospels alone Codex Vaticanus leaves out words or whole clauses no less than 1491 times. It bears traces of careless transciption on every page. Codex Sinaiticus abounds with errors of the eye and pen to an extent not indeed unparalelled, but happily rather unusual in documents of first-rate importance. On many occasions 10, 20, 30, 40 words are dropped through very carelessness. Letters and words, even whole sentences are frequently written twice over, or begun and immediately canceled; while that gross blunder, whereby a clause is omitted because it happens to end in the same words as the clause preceding, occurs 115 times in the New Testament.' *(Dean Burgon reference from 'The Revision Revised' )

The ending of Mark 16 was in fact accepted as genuine very early in church history as it is present in the majority of manuscripts containing Mark. It would also appear that Mark is quite incomplete without it and would then end abruptly and without the resurrection.

The overall manuscript evidence for the ending of Mark being genuine is quite strong. The vast majority of manuscripts of Mark contain the passage. It is thought likely that some copyist from 200-300 AD left a copy of Marks Gospel unfinished and this became the source for the very small number of defective copies that exist today. The total manuscript evidence is this - it is in 18 out of 20 Uncials and 600 Cursive manuscripts making a total of 618.

Another compelling argument is that 18 early church writers quote from the ending of Mark. Well over half of these (including Irenaeus in 180 AD who commented on v19 and Hippolytus 190-227 AD who quotes v17-18) quoted from it well before either Sinaiticus or Vaticanus were copied. This indicates that it existed from an early stage and is genuine, definitely not the work of 'Christian forgers.' These early church writers were also from every area of the ancient church, indicating that the ending was widely known. To all readers, read the link including the footnotes and decide for yourself if the report is subjective or objective.

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