Scholarly Support For Some Disputed Texts Of Scripture

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
Spearfish, SD

    The genuineness of many texts of the Bible are disputed for one reason or another. Examples of such disputed texts are Mark 16:9 – 20, John 7:53 – 8:11, and 1 John 5:7. In this article, I will present scholarly support for these verses. It is up to the reader to consider the evidence presented, and to reach one’s own conclusions based on that evidence. The scholars that will be quoted are Arthur Farstad, E. H. Bickersteth, and John Gill. Each one of these authors believed in the historic, orthodox view of the Bible’s verbal inspiration. That is, they believed the Bible to be the Word of God, and without error in the original writings.
ARTHUR FARSTAD’S SUPPORT FOR THE VERSES IN MARK 16 & JOHN 7 AND 8
Arthur Farstad was the Executive Editor of the New King James Version. He also wrote a book called “The New King James Version — In The Great Tradition.” This a very interesting book that deserves careful reading. His support for the verses in question is found on pages 112, 113, and 114.
Here is what he said about the verses in Mark 16: “Frankly one fears that some would like to be rid of the passage because of verses 16 – 18 on the doctrines of baptism and miracles. The point that the footnotes in most Bibles fail to report is that 1,400 manuscripts do contain this passage. Further, St. Jerome, when he translated the New Testament into Latin, included Mark 16:9 – 20. It is significant that he did so in the fourth century, when the dissenting Egyptian manuscripts were also written! Apparently these two copies which lacked this passage were not representative in their own time. In short, the long ending of Mark is on a firm foundation and widely supported.”
Here is what Farstad wrote about the verses in John 7:53 – 8:11: “The manuscript evidence for this story is not nearly as strong as for Mark 16, but as far back as 1913 there were 900 copies of John that did contain it, and many more are known to exist today. The NIV note says, ‘The earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not have John 7:53 – 8:11.’ Let it be emphasized again that the EARLIEST Greek copies of John – those from Egypt – do indeed lack this text, but their superior reliability is only a theory.”
Farstad also wrote, “Perhaps the best way for the Bible reader to test the passage is to read John 7:52, skip over 7:53 – 8:11 to verse 12, and see if it hangs together well. It does not! The NIV obscures this NON SEQUITUR by supplying the word ‘people’ to the text of 8:12. Every Greek text says ‘them,’ and if 7:53 were the verse right before it, the term ’them’ would refer to the meeting of Nicodemus and the Sanhedrin. BUT OUR LORD WAS NOT AT THAT MEETING.”
Though it is not directly related to the point under discussion, one should read Farstad’s presentation on pages 114 and 115 of two historical errors in the critical text of Matthew 1 and Luke 23. It is quite interesting.
E. H. BICKERSTETH’S SUPPORT FOR MARK 16:9 – 20 E. H. Bickersteth is a well-known author from the 1800’s who wrote many books on Biblical subjects from a Bible-believing perspective. One of his books is on the Trinity, and another one is on the Holy Spirit. He also wrote poem-hymns.
In his introduction to his commentary in the Pulpit Commentary on Mark’s Gospel, Bickersteth has a section called “Observations On The genuineness and authenticity of the last twelve verses of St. Mark’s Gospel.” Under the subheading, “The evidence of manuscripts,” he wrote, ”With these three exceptions (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and L), all the Uncial Manuscripts maintain the twelve verses in their integrity. The evidence of Cursives is unanimous in favor of the disputed verses.” Under the subheading “The Evidence Of Ancient Versions,” Bickersteth wrote, “The most ancient versions, both of the Eastern and of the Western churches, without a single exception, recognize this passage.” Under the subheading, “Internal Evidence,” Bickersteth wrote, Now, to begin with. If it is assumed that St. Mark’s Gospel ended at the close of verse 8, the abruptness of the conclusion is very striking in the English, and still more so in the Greek….It seems scarcely possible to suppose that it could have ended here.”
Bickersteth also wrote, “On the other hand, having regard to the mode in which St. Mark opens his Gospel, we might suppose that he would condense at the close as he condensed at the beginning. The first year of our Lord’s ministry is disposed of very briefly; we might, therefore, expect a rapid and compendious conclusion. Two or three important evidences of our Lord’s resurrection are concisely stated; then, without any break, but where the reader must supply an interval, he is transported into Galilee. St. Mark had already recorded the words of Christ (xiv.28), ‘But after that I am risen I will go before you into Galilee.’ How natural, therefore, that he should refer in some way to our Lord’s presence in Galilee after his resurrection; which he does in the most effective manner by quoting the words which St. Matthew (xxvii.16, etc.) tells us were spoken by him in Galilee. Then another stride from Galilee to Bethany, to the last earthly scene of all – the Ascension. The whole is eminently characteristic of St. Mark. His Gospel ends, as we might expect it to end, from the character of its beginning. On the whole, the evidence as to the genuineness and authenticity of this passage seems irresistible.”
JOHN GILL’S SUPPORT FOR 1 JOHN 5:7. John Gill is the famous Baptist and Calvinist author of many books, including a massive, multi-volume commentary on the Bible. You can read about him in C. H. Spurgeon’s book, “Commenting And Commentaries.”
The following quote is taken from John Gill’s commentary on 1 John 5:7. It is not a complete quote of his comments on the verse. Rather, it is a quote sufficient to serve the purpose of this article. Though I have the complete set of Gill’s commentaries, this quote is taken from an internet resource: http://www.GodRules.Net. His works are available online from several websites.
Gill wrote this on 1 John 5:7: “Ver. 7. For there are three that bear record in heaven, &c.] That is, that Jesus is the Son of God The genuineness of this text has been called in question by some, because it is wanting in the Syriac version, as it also is in the Arabic and Ethiopic versions; and because the old Latin interpreter has it not; and it is not to be found in many Greek manuscripts; nor cited by many of the ancient fathers, even by such who wrote against the Arians, when it might have been of great service to them: to all which it may be replied, that as to the Syriac version, which is the most ancient, and of the greatest consequence, it is but a version, and a defective one. The history of the adulterous woman in the eighth of John, the second epistle of Peter, the second and third epistles of John, the epistle of Jude, and the book of the Revelations, were formerly wanting in it, till restored from Bishop Usher’s copy by Deuteronomy Dieu and Dr. Pocock, and who also, from an eastern copy, has supplied this version with this text. As to the old Latin interpreter, it is certain it is to be seen in many Latin manuscripts of an early date, and stands in the Vulgate Latin edition of the London Polyglot Bible: and the Latin translation, which bears the name of Jerom, has it, and who, in an epistle of his to Eustochium, prefixed to his translation of these canonical epistles, complains of the omission of it by unfaithful interpreters. And as to its being wanting in some Greek manuscripts, as the Alexandrian, and others, it need only be said, that it is to be found in many others; it is in an old British copy, and in the Complutensian edition, the compilers of which made use of various copies; and out of sixteen ancient copies of Robert Stephens’s, nine of them had it: and as to its not being cited by some of the ancient fathers, this can be no sufficient proof of the spuriousness of it, since it might be in the original copy, though not in the copies used by them, through the carelessness or unfaithfulness of transcribers; or it might be in their copies, and yet not cited by them, they having Scriptures enough without it, to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ: and yet, after all, certain it is, that it is cited by many of them; by Fulgentius f46 , in the beginning of the “sixth” century, against the Arians, without any scruple or hesitation; and Jerom, as before observed, has it in his translation made in the latter end of the “fourth” century; and it is cited by Athanasius about the year 350; and before him by Cyprian f48 , in the middle, of the “third” century, about the year 250; and is referred to by Tertullian about, the year 200; and which was within a “hundred” years, or little more, of the writing of the epistle; which may be enough to satisfy anyone of the genuineness of this passage; and besides, there never was any dispute about it till Erasmus left it out in the, first edition of his translation of the New Testament; and yet he himself, upon the credit of the old British copy before mentioned, put it into another edition of his translation.”
CONCLUSION
    One of the goals I have had in writing this article was to give evidence in support of these disputed verses. Another goal is remind us that one can be a firm believer in the Bible’s verbal inspiration, but not be in agreement on some disputed texts of the Bible. If one affirms historic, orthodox Christianity as it is found in the pages of the Word of God, one will affirm that the original writings of the Bible were infallible, and that the teachings of the Bible are, therefore, infallible. But that does not require everyone to come to the same conclusions about the evidence for or against disputed Bible verses.
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