So far, the main point that I've been trying to make in this discussion is that the Aramaic text of Mk 9:39 is more original than the canonical Greek version. And I think this is quite self-evident, since there's so much textual support for this view.
But, of course, we can also go even beyond this, and ask, Was there a version of this saying of Jesus that was even earlier than the Aramaic version? And, in my view, the answer would be in the positive. Indeed, I think that the Magdalene Gospel preserves this text in its earliest shape.
So now, let us compare these three versions of Mk 9:39 side by side.
(Mk 9:39 Greek RSV) But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work (DUNAMIN) in my name will be able soon after (TAXU) to speak evil of me."
(Mk 9:39 Aramaic) But he says to them, "Do not forbid him; for there is no one who does something in my name, and can speak evil of me."
(MG 63:19) And Jesus commanded them that they should not hinder him. For no one, he said, who did miracles in his name will ever be able to speak ill of him.
So what we observe here is that, in the Magdalene Gospel's version of this saying, Jesus fully endorses the actions of this unaffiliated Exorcist. And this is very important, since this seems like an indication that this Magdalene text had been composed at the time when the movement was far less exclusivist, and more open to outsiders. It would only be logical that, later on, as the early Christian movement grew, and gradually became more institutionalised, there would have been more concern about the proper lines of authority -- about obedience to the bishops.
In the Aramaic version, on the other hand, the endorsement of the Strange Exorcist is somewhat less enthusiastic. What we observe is that the crucial word "ever", as found in the Magdalene Gospel, is missing in our extant Old Syriac MSS.
And, finally, in our canonical Greek version of this text, the endorsement of the Strange Exorcist by Jesus appears highly qualified. And so, this highly problematic word TAXU is added up. As a result, the meaning of the whole verse becomes rather obscure, and presents a problem for translators.
Thus, we can see that the meaning of the Magdalene Gospel's version
of this verse is almost diametrically opposed to what we find in the Greek
text, while the Aramaic version seems half-way between MG and the Greek.
"MIRACLES" OR "POWER"?
Now, we can also examine the first part of this saying of Jesus, because this will tend to confirm the above reasoning.
The Magdalene Gospel uses the word "miracles" there, which sounds very simple and natural, and entirely suitable to its context; Jesus fully endorses the "miracles" as performed by this unaffiliated Exorcist. And one can easily see how, in later times, this version would have raised eyebrows of Church leaders -- because of their concern about fighting various heresies of the second century and later, of which there were great many including the charismatic ones.
So, in light of the above, it appears like an editor of the Old Syriac version may have replaced the word "miracles" with a very tame and inoffensive word "something" (Aramaic /medem/).
On the other hand, the Greek version uses the expression DUNAMIS (singular), which might mean "a mighty work", or "a miracle", but most often means "power". The peculiarities here are, Why was this particular word used, and why was it used in the singular? Both features seem quite uncomfortable and strained. One can surmise that these features were likewise used as a way to cast some doubt on the possibility that any unaffiliated Exorcists could do anything good.
Thus, it seems like the word "miracles", as found in the Magdalene Gospel, is the most natural for its context, and fits very well with the second part of this saying, where Jesus fully endorses the actions of the Strange Exorcist.
So these are the main reasons that I see for the priority of the Magdalene version of this saying over all others.
And also, I have now discovered some further textual support for all this. This support comes from the Aramaic versions of Lk 9:49 (parallel to Mk 9:38). Now, it turns out that the Aramaic Luke MSS actually contain two additional close parallels with the Magdalene text! Both of them have already been noted by the famous biblical scholar Dr. Daniel Plooij (in his textual commentary to the Liege Diatessaron). These two textual parallels also have wide support in some other ancient MSS, including the Old Latin. I can supply more details later.
Thus, it looks like there's now even further evidence supporting the view that the Magdalene Gospel's version of this saying of Jesus goes back to the very early age of the Christian movement -- to the time when the movement seems to have been less exclusivist, more optimistic in spirit, and less concerned about "the proper lines of authority".
[Part 3 of this article]
So now here's some further textual support for the Strange Exorcist passage in the Magdalene Gospel. This support is found in the Aramaic versions of Lk 9:49 (parallel to Mk 9:38). There are two more close parallels there with the Magdalene text. Both of them have already been noted by Dr. Daniel Plooij, one of the leading textual scholars of his time, in his textual commentary to the Liege Diatessaron. These two parallels also have wide support in some other ancient MSS, including the Old Latin.
They are both pretty subtle parallels, and I would have probably missed them myself if not for the work of Plooij, who, with his extraordinary knowledge of ancient MSS, was able to provide substantial backing for both readings in various other texts.
First, here's how this passage goes in the Magdalene Gospel. The two
readings that I will be focusing on are underlined below.
(MG 63:17) And then, St. John replied, and said that he saw a man driving away demons in Jesus' name, who did not follow him. (18) And they had objected that he should not do it any more. (19) And Jesus commanded them that they should not hinder him.
1. The first parallel is shared by the Magdalene Gospel, Aramaic Curetonian MS, as well as the Liege Diatessaron. Here's how the Curetonian MS goes,
(Lk 9:49 Aramaic Curetonian) And John answered and said to him: "We saw a certain man casting out devils in your name, and we forbade him, because he comes not with us after you". (50) Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid..."
As we can see, there's a clear parallel there between these two texts, because the Aramaic adds the phrase "after you", which is lacking in the canonical Greek versions. Thus, according to both MG and the Aramaic, this anonymous Exorcist seems to stand even further away from Church authority. Not only is he not following the disciples, but he doesn't even seem to follow Jesus, himself! (Whereas the canonical text can be interpreted to mean that this Exorcist might have followed Jesus independently from the disciples.)
According to Dr. Plooij (p. 285 of his Commentary on the Liege DT), this same reading is also found in the following texts,
Sahidic Coptic versions
Old Latin MS b
All these parallels indicate that this text is very old indeed. No Greek MSS seem to feature this reading. (Some of these parallels above are also listed in Von Soden's edition of the NT.)
2. The second parallel between the Magdalene Gospel and the Old Syriac is in the phrase "Jesus commanded them".
Here, the parallel is with the Aramaic Sinaitic MS only (just like the
previous parallel was with the Curetonian MS only). While the Sinaitic
omits the phrase "after you", that we've examined above, it continues as
follows in Lk 9:50,
(Lk 9:50 Aramaic Sinaitic) Jesus said to them, "Do not forbid..."
But what we find in the canonical Greek is as follows,
(Lk 9:50 Canonical Greek) Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid..."
According to Dr. Plooij, this Magdalene Gospel reading is also found in the following texts,
Greek MSS of the "Ferrar Group", and others
Syriac Harclensian versions (margin notes)
Old Latin MSS b c q
some Vulgate MSS
Bohairic Coptic versions
It seems like this reading is not found in any of the Diatessarons, other than the Magdalene Gospel. (Some of the above parallels are also listed in Aland's Synopsis.)
Thus, we can see that this passage in the Magdalene Gospel seems to preserve the elements of both the Sinaitic and the Curetonian Old Syriac Luke MSS. Shouldn't the logical conclusion here be that the Magdalene text goes back to the time before our two existing Old Syriac texts got separated -- a very ancient times indeed?
And here's how this passage reads in the Liege Diatessaron. As you can
see, only the first of these two parallels is found there,
Liege DT (Plooij, p. 285):
"We saw a man casting out the evil spirit in your name, and we forbade him, for he follows you not with us". And Jesus answered him thus: "Do not forbid it him again; for there is no one who does good works in my name, and can hastily speak evil of me."
Some may recall that, in my previous posts on this subject, I've been talking about the word "miracles", as found in the Magdalene Gospel. So I've been trying to show that the temporal progression was as follows, from MG to Greek,
miracles (MG) ---> something (Aramaic Mark 9:39) ---> power (canonical Greek Mark)
So now, it looks like the Liege DT actually happens to provide some further support for this Magdalene reading. First of all, the Liege DT expression "good works" is in plural, just like in MG. And, anyway, in general, "good works" does sound very similar to "miracles".
All this provides further support for the idea that the Magdalene Gospel's version of this passage goes back to the earliest edition of Luke's Gospel.
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