Follow Up on Codex Siniaticus
After posting the article on Codex Siniaticus a couple of days ago here on the blog, a pastor friend of mine from the United Kingdom wrote to me asking a couple of questions about Mark 16:9-20 (which was referred to in the Dr. Dan Wallace article I pointed people to). I thought that it might be useful to post our interchange here (my pastor friend's questions are in italics to help the reader understand who is writing):
Quick question for you John - did you know that Mark 16:9 onwards was historically disputable as being part of the authentic original texts, and do you accept it as the Word of God? ie, do you think there is enough evidence, and does it really matter in the Sovereignty of God over His Word? I mean, Luther slated James, didn't he? (Although for different reasons than this case).
I am sure you know this already, but just to cover the James issue first - Luther was young when he called James' letter "an epistle of straw" and saw no way to harmonize James' teaching on justification with Paul's, especially as the Roman Catholics would quote James to combat sola fide (justification by faith alone). Luther, over time, came to see how Paul and James could be harmonized and received the book of James as Scripture. He never doubted the word of God, just doubted the claim that the book of James was in fact Scripture. But that was very much a young Luther, not an older one. The following is a quotation from R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture; InterVarsity Press, p. 83, 84
"In Romans 3:28 Paul says, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." In James 2:24 we read, "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." If the word justify means the same thing in both cases, we have an irreconcilable contradiction between two biblical writers on an issue that concerns our eternal destinies. Luther called "justification by faith" the article upon which the church stands or falls. The meaning of justification and the question of how it takes place is no mere trifle. Yet Paul says it is by faith apart from works, and James says it is by works and not by faith alone.
To make matters more difficult, Paul insists in Romans 4 that Abraham is justified when he believes the promise of God before he is circumcised. He has Abraham justified in Genesis 15. James says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?" (James 2:21). James does not have Abraham justified until Genesis 22.
This question of justification is easily resolved if we examine the possible meanings of the term justify and apply them within the context of the respective passages. The term justify may mean (1) to restore to a state of reconciliation with God those who stand under the judgment of his law or (2) to demonstrate or vindicate.
Jesus says for example, "Wisdom is justified of all her children" (Lk 7:35 KJV). What does he mean? Does he mean that wisdom is restored to fellowship with God and saved from his wrath? Obviously not. The plain meaning of his words is that a wise act produces good fruit. The claim to wisdom is vindicated by the result. A wise decision is shown to be wise by its results. Jesus is speaking in practical terms, not theological terms, when he uses the word justified in this way.
How does Paul use the word in Romans 3? Here, there is no dispute. Paul is clearly speaking about justification in the ultimate theological sense.
What about James? If we examine the context of James, we will see that he is dealing with a different question from Paul. James says in 2:14, "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?" James is raising a question of what kind of faith is necessary for salvation. He is saying that true faith brings forth works. A faith without works he calls a dead faith, a faith that is not genuine. The point is that people can say they have faith when in fact they have no faith. The claim to faith is vindicated or justified when it is manifested by the fruit of faith, namely works. Abraham is justified or vindicated in our sight by his fruit. In a sense, Abraham's claim to justification is justified by his works. The Reformers understood that when they stated the formula, "Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.""
OK... now to your question about Mark 16. I am not convinced it was part of the original text. The same is true for the woman caught in adultery story and the most disputed verse in the New Testament, when Jesus said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." It makes a great sermon, except, all the scholarly research shows this to be a later scribal addition to the text. Same with the well known 1 John 5 text in the KJV with scribal additions (removed from just about all modern day versions). Thankfully the doctrine of the Trinity does not need this text to be proved to be a scriptural concept as is the case for all major doctrines. No major doctrine is at issue with these textual variants or textual additions.
Have you preached from Mark 16:9, and would you continue to do so?
I have certainly preached from Mark 16:9-20 in the past but now would not do so, but would explain it as a later addition to the text - explaining to the people why the footnotes in most of their Bibles say what they do. I think it is time the Christian Church as a whole became more familiar with these issues, for their own sake, but also so they can defend the Bible in their own conversations with non-Christians and so they are prepared when they come across the inevitable attack on the Bible from critics on television, or through newspaper headlines and articles. This is why I put a you-tube lecture on this theme on my Church web site here.
I think consistency is the key. My friend, Dr. James White's book, The King James Only Controversy (available from www.aomin.org) is a super help in all this, and thankfully it is easy to read, even for those with no previous knowledge on the issues. I have bought multiple copies and given them away and have always been blessed to see the smile return to Christian's faces (after being totally shocked and shaken to the core when confronted on these issues in conversations with non-Christian friends) when they understand the issues and know why they believe what they believe. The day when we could ignore these issues is long gone (in my opinion) because the supposed scholars attacks are so mainstream now and "in our faces" through the media. I think part of what we do as Pastors is prepare people for such things, though it is not in any way a major focus of my ministry - maybe a Saturday seminar is sufficient - but then again, I have an advantage in that Dr. James White is a friend of mine and I have had him come to the church to do exactly this. The result of it was an informed church and a prepared one.
Every blessing my friend,