problem with Mark's geography? Not quite... (Mk 7:31)

by Yuri Kuchinsky


Greetings, friends,

How well did the author of Mark's Gospel know the geography of Israel? This is the question that scholars have been debating for a long time. And it's been often said in recent scholarship that the author of Mark was quite ignorant about Israeli geography. (Howard C. Kee, Community of the New Age, p.102-103, offers a good capsule discussion of this.)

But, at the same time, not all such accusations are justified, in my humble opinion... And the following, in regard to Mark 7:31, is a case in point. I've been investigating some of the geographical indicators in the gospels recently, of course, so this is how I came across this very interesting item.

So now, I will quote from a sceptical website, that accuses the author of Mark of being ignorant about the geography of Galilee. But, in actual fact, the problem seems to be not as much with "Mark's ignorance", as with the stupidity of modern Textual Critics, who still insist on printing this verse in its very late and corrupt Alexandrian form... Because, as it turns out, neither many of the Western texts, nor KJV have this problem!

[quote]

 http://www.answering-christianity.com/scholars_refute.htm

This anonymous book (Gospel according to St
Mark--whoever that is) also suffers from massive
geographical problems. Mark 7:31 says that Jesus
and his disciples journeyed "out from the borders of
Tyre ... through Sidon, to the sea of Galilee, through
the midst of the borders of Decapolis." This is
geographically nonsensical. "How many have been
the headaches of commentators, trying to make
sense out of that!"   [H. Anderson, The Gospel of
Mark, NCB (London, 1976).

Also cited by Wells, The Historical Evidence for
Jesus, p. 230. The journey described is like
"travelling from Cornwall to London by way of
Manchester" (A.E.J. Rawlinson, Westminster
Commentary); as cited in D.E. Nineham, The
Gospel of Saint Mark (Penguin New Testament
Commentaries, 1963), p. 203. An American
example might be to go from Los Angeles to San
Diego by way of Santa Barbara; or, New York to
Philadelphia by way of Baltimore.]

[unquote]

So, yes, there's quite a problem here for the supporters of Alexandrian text, which is the basis for most English translations today, including RSV, NIV, etc. But, as I say, neither the King James Version, nor some of the Western texts have this problem! Here's KJV, for example,

(7:31 KJV) And again, departing from the
      coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto
      the sea of Galilee, through the midst of
      the coasts of Decapolis.

So, as we can see, Jesus isn't making any strange detours to Sidon in the KJV/Byzantine text...

And here are the Greek texts, with their differences in italics,

Byzantine Majority
      kai palin exelqwn ek
      twn oriwn turou kai
      sidwnos hlqen pros
      thn qalassan thV
      galilaiaV ana meson
      twn oriwn dekapolewV

Alexandrian
      kai palin exelqwn ek
      twn oriwn turou hlqen
      dia sidwnos eis thn
      qalassan thV
      galilaiaV ana meson
      twn oriwn dekapolewV

As we can see, the main difference here is between kai sidwnos = Byzantine, and dia sidwnos = Alexandrian.

So it sure looks to me like the Byzantine text preserves a more original reading here. This Alexandrian version is obviously late, and was probably doctored by someone who had no idea about Israeli geography!

But how do we know that this Alexandrian version is late? Well, because this KJV/Byzantine reading is also supported by many very early Western manuscripts, including the ancient Aramaic Mark.

So here's the early support for this KJV reading,

-- The complete ancient Aramaic tradition (Old Syriac, as well as later versions),
-- the Old Latin Monacensis manuscript (q),
-- Coptic,
-- Armenian,
-- Georgian manuscripts,
-- as well as two Diatessaronic manuscripts (Arabic and Persian).

And most importantly, we also have,

-- P45, our earliest Papyrus of Mark (3rd century), supporting this Byzantine reading,
-- and one early Alexandrian manuscript (Alexandrinus) even supports it too!

So this is quite a long list of support... This Byzantine/Western reading is obviously more original than what we find in all of our "modern" Bibles.

Thus, the only remaining problem seems to be, Why all of our "modern" Bibles still go with this late Alexandrian Greek corruption here, thereby creating all sorts of problems for the Christian exegetes?

And there are also quite a few Christian fundamentalist Sola Scriptura folks who happen to trust in the authenticity of Alexandrian text... So, for this passage, their lot is truly unenviable, because they do have lots of trouble trying to explain away this late Alexandrian gaffe in Mark's gospel, as if this was really the "original text" of Mark... But why do they even try, when KJV already has the authentic early text?

As I say, so confused are our modern biblical Textual Critics, that they still seem completely blinded by the Alexandrian Frankenstein monster that their 19th century progenitors had created (after they rejected KJV). The problems with Alexandrian text are huge and many, and yet don't tell this to these Text Critical zombies like Aland et al, who have been put in charge of editing the modern editions of the Christian Scriptures.

It's for pointing out problems like this that I've been expelled from TC-List not so long ago.

All the best,

Yuri.
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