The Enigma of Mark 16: The Role of Contemplating Greek Manuscript Evidence Online

The ability to consult New Testament manuscripts online is transforming the practice of New Testament textual criticism. This is eminently the case for prominent fourth- and fifth-century codices such as the Codex Vaticanus (B 03), the Codex Sinaiticus (ℵ 01) and the Codex Washingtonensis (W 032). But less famous New Testament minuscule manuscripts are also available online and play a role in understanding the enigma of Mark 16, the passage upon which this paper focuses. What effects does the availability of New Testament manuscripts online have upon research? Firstly, it will argued that it reinforces the status of the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, which can be considered diverse “editions” of the New Testament. But secondly, it reveals diversity among early NT manuscript evidence. Referring to Chester Beatty Codex I in 1933, Kenyon observed that “the Vaticanus text represents the result, not of continuous unaltered tradition, but of skilled scholarship working on the best available authorities”. Beatty Codex I has the Gospels in the Western order, as does the Codex Washingtonensis (W 032), which contains the “Freer logion” in Mark 16 (known already from Jerome). Nongbri (2018) recently summarized debate around the dating of W 032, based on Schmid’s analysis (2006), and noted that W 032 is probably earlier than often thought. In any case, these witnesses clearly attest diversity in early NT manuscript evidence. They also support Elliott’s observations (2008) on Mark 16.8 in ℵ 01 and B 03: both manuscripts appear to show an awareness of other endings. Greek minuscule manuscripts 304, 1420 and 2386 are also illuminating in this aspect: often used in favour of the short ending at Mark 16.8, they lead to another evaluation when observed online. Preliminary remarks in this paper are part of a five-year project called MARK16 supported by the Swiss National Foundation (