Monday, March 21, 2011

Answering Muslim attacks on the Bible and Christianity when they use Mark 16:9-20

Recently I was interacting with some Muslims about the longer ending of Mark 16. One Muslim on his web-site says that the longer ending of Mark discredits all of Christianity itself!

Christians are honest about the manuscripts, so that is actually a very positive point about the manuscript evidence of Mark 16:9-20. We have nothing to fear from the archeological and manuscript evidence. The evidence is positive for the OT and NT.

Mark 16:1-8 includes the empty tomb, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which includes the crucifixion and the necessity of His death - so, this is not a strike against Christianity itself. (and solid manuscript evidence of His trial and sufferings and crucifixion and death in Mark chapters 14-15)

6 And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

7"But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'"

8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. " Mark 16:6-8

The fact that the last few verses (Mark 16:6-8), which are not disputed, contains the testimony of the crucifixion, empty tomb, and the resurrection, should stop the mouths of those who want to cast doubt on the rest of Mark and all of Christianity, just because of Mark 16:9-20.

The death and resurrection of Christ are included in the rest of Mark (1:1-16:8), including Jesus' predicting his trial and death and resurrection in chapters 8-9; so it is valid and contradicts the Qur'an denial of real history (the crucifixion and death of Jesus Al Masih) in Surah 4:157.

Islam denies real history - in Surah 4:157, (but believes the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ, which Muslims affirm in Surah 19:19-21; Surah 3:45-48), whereas even liberal and skeptic and unbelieving scholars in the west like John Dominic Crossan, the late Robert Funk, John Shelby Spong, and Bart Ehrman ALL agree that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and died in history under Pontius Pilate, the Romans, and the Jewish council (Caiaphas, Annas, chief priest, scribes, Pharisees, etc.) around 30 AD.

Furthermore, the correct doctrinal content of Mark 16:9-20 is testified to and repeated in Matthew, Luke, John, and Acts. (the resurrection appearances and the Great Commission in 16:15 are in Matthew 28, Luke 24; John 20-21; and Acts chapter 1) The only questions in the Mark passage are about
a. appearing to them in "another form" (that may be another way of talking about Luke 24:13-33 and that they did not recognize Jesus until He opened their eyes.)
b. including baptism as he does in Mark 16:16 - even so, baptism is not included in the condemnation.
c. the part about tongues and snakes. (although God did do a miracle and protected Paul from the snake bite in Acts 28)

The rest of it is all orthodox (correct) in doctrine.

I asked this Muslim, "Have you read Dr. White's discussion of the longer version of Mark (16:9-20) in his book, The King James Only Controversy??" ( pp. 225-227 in the first edition, 1995) (He has a newer edition out which is even better)

Dr. White answers the questions that arise about this passage, and shows the evidence that many manuscripts that do contain the passage.

So, the issues of the longer ending of Mark (16:9-20) in no way takes down the rest of the Scriptures of the NT or the Bible, nor Christianity itself.

There are no real contradictions in the gospels; (they have all been answered) and there is no evolution from Mark to John, etc. That idea of "evolution" of the gospels and "redaction", etc. is an anti-supernatural bias against miracles and against God being able to speak and reveal Himself through prophets and books. Since Islam agrees with the truth of God, monotheism, and that He send prophets and books; Islamic apologists should not use arguments from liberals who operate from the same anti-supernatural bias.

The telescoping and including some details that other Gospels don't; and other writers excluding details are not contradictions, they are actually stronger evidences of a real eyewitness testimony, because if it was the exact same words four times, they would know that there was collusion. (as a detective or policemen know when investigating the historical circumstances of a case.)

In 1993, on a street in Istanbul, Turkey, during the month of Ramadan, one of my Turkish neighbors asked me, "why do you have four gospels? there must only be one Injeel!" (Injeel is the word for "gospel".) As we stood there at the intersection, and he spoke his broken English and I my broken Turkish, other young men began to gather round. I asked him, "what do you think? If there is a car accident here at the intersection; then, in a Turkish court of law, what is better; one witness on one corner, or one witness on each corner, making it four witnesses?" He paused and said, "Doru!" ("that's right!") "Dort tane daha iyidir!" ("Four of them are better!") Then he explained his new understanding to the other 10-15 or so other young Turks who had gathered around in curiosity. Then he asked me, "I would like an Injeel in Turkish, can you get one for me?" Yes, and I did. He enjoyed reading it in secret for about 3 months. Then his father discovered him reading it, pulled a knife on him (threatening), ripped it up and burned most of it. (he later told me) A few days later, one page of the Turkish NT (Injeel, "Incil" (In Turkish, the letter "c" is a "j" sound) was on my doorstep. It seemed to be a warning - "don't give the Injeel to my son!". My Turkish friend later also told me he was sad, because he enjoyed reading the Injeel; and that Isa Masih (Jesus the Messiah) was the most noble and sinless character he had ever read about. He said the Injeel was very different than what the Mollahs ("Hoca" - Turkish, pronounced, "Hoja") had said that the Christian Bible was about.

"How shall they hear without a preacher?"

27 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"How shall they hear without a preacher?"

I really don't know. If all they have is the Bible, they need the Holy Spirit.

Ken said...

see Romans 10:13-17

RPV said...

One of the older and classic defenses of the longer ending is Burgon's The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to St. Mark (1871). The infamous Jay Green put out a 1959 edition that had a foreword by EF Hills, who . . . wrote the King James Version Defended.
Yup. I know, James White, KJVOnly etc. (It's hysteria time!)
So what?
Neither Burgon or Hills believed in the divine inspiration of the AV like Ruckman.
The TR? That's another matter.
But maybe, just maybe Hort and Westcott's Lucianic recension is about on par with Darwin's missing link or the liberal's search for the historic Jesus.
Are we picking straws this time or is it colored beads again?

Nick said...

While your overall analysis is valid, the question remains: is the "longer ending" of Mark's Epilogue inspired Scripture?

Obviously, an answer along the lines of "it doesn't matter" wont cut it, since we're dealing with inspiration and not contradiction. If the Holy Spirit really guides regenerate Christians to recognition of the true Canon, this question should be simple.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Nick said:

If the Holy Spirit really guides regenerate Christians to recognition of the true Canon, this question should be simple.

Can you quote any Reformed theologians who argue that Protestant pneumatology requires an easy identification of the entire canon in all its parts? If not, then you're going to have to argue that our view of the Holy Spirit "should" make "recognition of the true canon" a "simple" matter.

That is, of course, if Ken finds your repackaging of a standard Catholic critique of Protestantism relevant to a thread on Islam.

Ken said...

Nick,
Based on the evidence, it is unwise to build a particular doctrine from those verses that are unique and strange (like the snake handling) and that might be contradictory to the rest of Scripture. (ie, the "different form", that all would speak in tongues, the snake handling issue, and baptism as a requirement for salvation. - although, it is like Acts 2:38, a true believer by faith will follow the Lord in baptism after repentance and faith. The baptism verse is probably the one that you as a Roman Catholic are very keep to defend, I would assume.)

However, the resurrection, the Great Commission, the ascension are all repeated in the other gospels and Acts, so those verses are consistent with inspired Scripture.

Most evangelicals just want to be honest with the textual variant evidence, and they usually approach it the way I have. (Except for KJV Only-ists/ Fundamentalists; and Textus Receptus / majority text folks.)

There were other variant endings also; so it seems like something consistent with the other gospels existed. There may be a discovery later that clears the issue up one or the other.

In the mean time, the Spirit witnesses to our hearts regarding the verses that are consistent with the rest of Scripture; and we dont' say "it doesn't matter", but that we are not sure about those unique and strange verses.

Nick said...

Matthew,

The Westminster Confession (Ch1), among other respected Reformed sources, state that the 'deciding factor' in canonicity is the 'inner testimony of the Holy Spirit' speaking to the individual.

It should be a given that this process is not complicated, else it's of no value, since you cannot begin to study theology without first knowing God's Word.

Think about it, if 10 "regenerate" Reformed scholars are in a room and cannot come to agree on whether Mark's 'longer' Epilogue is inspired or not, then this logically calls into question whether they were able to accurately determine the canonicty of other texts.

Nick said...

Ken,

Your answer, to me, undermines the whole notion that the Holy Spirit testifies to the 'true believer' what is and is not inspired. Here you are, a pretty well studied Christian, yet you admit these verses are 'strange' and you cannot personally detect if it is inspired or not. All you can do is say this or that verse is in harmony or at least doesn't contradict other 'verified' Scripture. But this latter approach is more that of a theological liberal (not that you are one!), in which an "emperic study" of Scripture can at best lead to probability but not certainty.

John Lollard said...

Nick,

FTR, your own ecclesial community has declared that those verses, the beginning of John 8, and the comma Johannem are all part of the inspired text and that Paul wrote Hebrews.

All of which is discredited by New Testament scholarship, pretty independently of the scholar's beliefs or epistemology.

So I wouldn't belabor this point if I were you. I'd rather have uncertainty about the exact nature of some verses than "certainty" in something that was demonstrably false.

Nick said...

John,

How do you discredit/disprove the inspiration of Mark's Epilogue and Jn 8:1ff (and similar texts) using "scholarship"? It seems you've fallen into a Modernist error in which the text of Scripture is to be taken as a merely human document that can be analyzed and interpreted like any other historical work. All a scholar can do is apply emperic tests and make educated guesses, but inspiration transcends this. Worse yet, there is little in any of those 'disputed' texts that is disputed theologically, so the only basis to make such a claim is on whether the passages are found in a given manuscript - but at that point you're merely settling upon your favorite manuscript(s) which is anything but theological.

It's ironic that you say "I'd rather have uncertainty," when you were able to discern the inspiration of 66 specific books, including the non-inspiration of the 7 Deutero-Canonical books. The only question is, did the Holy Spirit lead you to discern this, or did you simply accept whatever a consensus of scholars told you? If the former, then you have no consistent basis to claim "uncertainty" for those passages. If the latter, then you've merely replaced the Divinely Guided Magisterium with a panel of admittedly fallible scholars who were awarded their status by secular institutions after paying and saying the right things.

John Lollard said...

Hey Nick,

You asked me how modern scholarship can discern the "inspiration" of the texts. It can't. What it can determine is that the original author did not write the words in question. John did not write the pericope of the woman caught in adultery, and it is therefore not a part of John's gospel.

The pericope did not appear until something like a hundred years later, first in Luke and later in its final resting place in the middle of John. No one at the time this story was first written down believed that anyone was still writing revelation, and I would hope that no one believes that today, either.

Inscripturation stopped shortly after the Apostles. That's what every early Christian affirmed and it has always been believed. Anything added to their works decades later is not Scripture.

I'm sorry for how gravely offended you are that Protestant theologians actually do historical research to better understand the Scriptures and the Church, rather than merely declaring things by pontifical fiat and demanding the evidence comply.

I'd rather have admittedly fallible scholars than an unadmittedly fallible Magisterium. If you want to know how Proestants discern the canon (which is not the "bosom burning" you seem to imply), then I'm sure someone else can provide you with better information.

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

Greetings.

Regarding the last 12 verses of Mark -- no passage of Scripture has had more misinformation spread about it than Mk. 16:9-20 -- often because some commentator or another parroted Metzger's Textual Commentary instead of doing independent research. (I'm looking at you, Ben Witherington III.) I welcome you to re-examine the issue and consider the evidence presented in the multi-part series beginning at
http://www.curtisvillechristian.org/public/MarkOne.html .

Yours in Christ,

James Snapp, Jr.

Nick said...

John,

Like I said, your argument merely comes down to whether your favorite manuscript(s) contain a given passage, but that's dangerous since the age of a manuscript says nothing about it's inspiration nor does older always equate to more accurate. It is a fallacy to equate "Not part of X Gospel" with "Not found in X manuscript".


James,

Good research, but I don't think it removes the Protestant bind at all, and in fact highlights the danger of turning scholars into magisterial authorities. Ultimately, the Protestant is stuck arguing on the basis of manuscript, rather than the only condition that really matters, which is whether the Holy Spirit tells the individual if is inspired or not.

John Lollard said...

Nick,

I'm not a textual critic, so I will not pretend to speak from knowledge on the issue of textual criticism. From what I understand, however, based on what I have heard from various researchers, for things like the longer ending of Mark it isn't an issue of your favorite manuscript, but that there is a point of time before which copies of Mark do not have this ending. There is likewise a geographic point in space where this ending first appears, and later it starts showing up in a widening circle from that place.

Again, as I said last time, it's inclusion in one manuscript over another says nothing about its inspiration, with one exception. That one exception is the original autograph. If it is not in the original autograph that Mark wrote when he was inspired, then it is not inspired. So textual criticism doesn't tell us what is inspired or not, the Church tells us what is inspired by telling us the canon, and the Church does not tell us that anything was written that is Scripture after the book of Hebrews, which is when things like the longer ending of Mark and the beginning of John 8 first appear.

What textual criticism does tell us is that the ending of Mark almost certainly was added later. The alternative is that Mark wrote it, centuries of Christians neglected to write it down and it was lost (I'm unsure of the exact time scale), some started adding in their own endings at some point and one of them managed to recover the original ending written by Mark and added it back in. Plausible, but not likely.

Is it fallible? Yes. All human knowledge is. It's still better than your system, in that this system admits its own fallibility and can correct itself on its errors.

Of course, I'm hardly on expert on the canon, and if any of the wiser brethren feel I have misspoken I will gladly accept correction.

Nick said...

Hi John,

Obviously, if it wasn't in the original autograph of Mark, then it wasn't part of Scripture - but we don't have the original, only copies. And with only copies you can only speculate.

If the original autograph of Mark DID have the Longer Ending, even if we have 100 manuscripts dating from 150AD *without* the Long Ending and don't see the Longer Ending appear until manuscripts from 300AD, then obviously quantity and date don't matter.

One interesting thing you said was:
"the Church tells us what is inspired by telling us the canon, and the Church does not tell us that anything was written that is Scripture after the book of Hebrews, which is when things like the longer ending of Mark and the beginning of John 8 first appear"

I don't know any Protestants who would defend what you just said about the Church telling you the canon and Hebrews being written last (and before Jh8A and Mk16B).

John Lollard said...

Nick,

How exactly do you explain, then, the manuscript evidence? Why did the Christian scribes not include the longer ending for a hundred years, started adding their own endings, and then decided to resume writing the original ending?

You've said that you don't know of any Protestants who would agree that the Church tells us what the canon is. I don't know of any who would disagree. I myself didn't decide the canon. If any of the bloggers or commenters wish to correct me on my statement, when I will gladly accept their wiser counsel.

I'm fairly certain Hebrews was written last. I may be mistaken in this regard. I will gladly accept correction.

In Christ,
JL

Nick said...

Hi John,

I haven't done enough research into the matter to know which manuscripts included what.

You said "Why did the Christian scribes not include the longer ending for a hundred years"

I don't consider 100 years a long time in this context, especially considering the first 100-200 years Christians had to keep a low profile. The way you are speaking is as if there are a massive number of manuscripts dated very closely to 50AD but only have the short ending, but I highly doubt this is accurate. It is well known that Church Fathers such as St Irenaeus in 180AD explicitly quoted the Longer Ending as part of the original, so that alone should give pause to the idea this was inserted an undue length of time after the Apostles.

As for the canon issue, the 'traditional' Reformed teaching in the Confessions is that while the Church can be helpful in determining the canon, the final judge and determinant is the regenerate individual.

Westminster Confession 1:5 states (briefly): "We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. ... yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts."

John Lollard said...

Nick,

I have no idea what the Westminster Confession definition means. I did not sit down one day and make a list for myself of the books that I thought were in the canon or not. If I did, it would be a much shorter list and include more works by C.S. Lewis. I believe the canon I do because when I became a Christian, the other Christians handed me this book and told me it was the Bible and that book they handed me has a specific table of contents. I have as yet to go through each book in that table and ask the Holy Spirit to give a burning in my bosom if it is really inspired or not. I am not Reformed so I don't really know, but I cannot imagine that any of the Reformed brethren (or sistren) who post or comment here have done either of those. To be perfectly frank, there are times when I read a specific book and wonder if it really ought to be in the canon or not, and yet I receive it anyway because the rest of the Church receives it.

If any of the Reformed or non-Reformed people who frequent here want to correct me, I am perfectly open to their correction on that.

I likewise do not know enough about the end of Mark to comment any further than this.

In Christ,
JL

Nick said...

John,

My thoughts (as a Catholic) exactly! The canon was passed on to me - I didn't sit down and personally verify each book in the way the Reformed tradition suggests should be done, and if they are consistent should admit over 99% of Christians haven't 'verified' the canon in that manner but simply accepted what they were given.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Nick said:

I didn't sit down and personally verify each book in the way the Reformed tradition suggests should be done,

You're never going to be taken seriously until you can avoid making these kinds of obtuse characterizations.

Nick said...

Matthew,

If a Reformed Protestant is going to trust a book handed to him without personally verifying whether it's contents are inspired is nothing short of blind faith. As John admits, he hasn't verified the books for himself, yet has been accepting them on human testimony all this time.

The problem here is that the Protestant position isn't consistent, and is unconsciously accepting the equivalent of Catholic Tradition when it comes to issues such as the Canon. Logically, the first thing all Protestant Seminarians should do is personally verify all books of Scripture for themself.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Nick,

Forgive my momentary lapse in judgment in believing you'd produce something meaningful to engage. I've had too many dialogues with you in the past, and observed too much of your behavior at other sites, to think your uninformed assertions deserve any extended interaction.

John Lollard said...

Matthew,

Forgive me for being underinformed, but it seems neither Nick or myself have a very precise understanding of the Reformed doctrine of the canon. Could you perhaps explain how a Reformed believer would understand the canon? I at least would find it rather edifying.

In Christ,
JL

Nick said...

Matthew,

I fail to see how my claim was not meaningful, and as you can see John himself was the first to bring this up and is also asking for you to explain the true Reformed approach.

The question of "How does one go about identifying the canon?" is not a trivial one, and I quoted the Westminster Confession 1:5 plainly states the ultimate conviction comes by the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit telling you what is inspired.

As for my credibility here and other sites, please give a few examples (especially recently) where I've shown myself so off the mark that I'm not worthy of your time - otherwise please retract.

Nick said...

I'd like to share a quote I just found in the Catholic Encyclopedia on the subject of "Canon of the New Testament":

"As for Protestantism, the Anglicans and Calvinists always kept the entire New Testament. But for over a century the followers of Luther excluded Hebrews, James, Jude, and Apocalypse, and even went further than their master by rejecting the three remaining deuterocanonicals, II Peter, II and III John. The trend of the seventeenth century Lutheran theologians was to class all these writings as of doubtful, or at least inferior, authority."
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03274a.htm

If this account is indeed true, and I'd suspect it is, then there is a clear 'tradition' in Lutheran Protestantism of rejecting and/or reclassifying as 'inferior' 4-7 books of the NT. This 'tradition' only stopped two centuries later when it became clear it reflected poorly on Protestantism when Calvinists and Anglicans kept all 27 books.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Hi John,

Triablogue has written a substantial amount on the issue. Here's a link to a post that complies many of their articles (and additional lists of articles) on the canon:

The Canon of Scripture

Triablogue has done enough work in this area, and I'm otherwise pressed for time these days, so I hope you don't mind if I direct you to search their work, rather than reinvent the wheel over here.

Btw. I hope you didn't think my comment to Nick was in any way applicable to you.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

If that list doesn't suffice, or it's too cumbersome for you, use the search term site:triablogue.blogspot.com and attach whatever terms you need. For example:

site:triablogue.blogspot.com inspiration of the canon

I already see many potentially relevant hits.