The Unanswered Dean John William Burgon (1813-1888) on the Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel of Mark, part 2.

Dean John William Burgon was a contemporary of Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort and the formulation of The New Testament in the Original Greek published in 1881. This volume was followed by the Introduction to the New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1882) which describes the scientific method used in its creation to the end that the false claim that it was the “Original Greek” would replace the Received Text. Burgon took up the challenge of this novel Greek contender and exposed the fallacies underlying its construction. An unparalleled expert in the writings of the Early Church Fathers, Burgon’s research exposed the erroneous suppositions of the novel text with erudite comprehensiveness. His arguments to this day remain unanswered. We pick up his discussion on page 326.

“Now in the face of facts like these, [see part 1 of this series], and in the absence of any Evidence whatever to prove that S. Mark’s Gospel was imperfect from the first, –I submit that an hypothesis so violent and improbable, as well as so wholly uncalled for, is simply undeserving of serious attention, For,

1st. It is plain from internal considerations that the improbability of the hypothesis is excessive; “the contents of these Verses being such as to preclude the supposition that they were the work of a post-Apostolic period. The very difficulties which they present afford the strongest presumption of their genuineness.” No fabricator of a supplement to S. Mark’s Gospel would have ventured on introducing so many minute seeming discrepancies: and certainly “his contemporaries would not have accepted and transmitted such an addition,” if he had. It is also been shown at great length that the Internal Evidence for the genuineness of the Verses is overwhelmingly strong.[1] But,

2nd. Even external Evidence is not wanting. It has been acutely pointed out long since, that the absence of a vast assemblage of various Readings in this place, is, in itself, a convincing argument that we have here to do with no spurious appendage to the Gospel. Were this a deservedly suspect passage, it must have shared the fate of all other deservedly (or undeservedly) suspect passages. It never could have come to pass that the various Readings which were these Twelve Verses exhibit would be considerably fewer than those which attach to the last twelve verses of any of the other three Gospels.

3rd. And then surely, if the original Gospel of S. Mark had been such an incomplete work as is feigned, the fact would have been notorious from the first and must needs have become the subject of general comment.[2] It may be regarded as certain that so extraordinary a circumstance would have been largely remarked upon by the Ancients, and that evidence of the fact would have survived in a hundred quarters. It is, I repeat, simply incredible that Tradition would remain quite silent on such a subject, if the facts had been such as are imagined. Either Papists, or else John the Presbyter, –Justin Martyr, or Hegesippus, or one of the “Seniores apud Irenaeum,” –Clemens Alexandrinus, or Tertullian, or Hippolytus, –if not Origen, yet at least Eusebius, –if not Eusebius, yet certainly Jerome, —some early Writer, I say, must certainly have recorded the tradition of S. Mark’s Gospel, as it came from the hands of its inspired author, was an incomplete or unfinished work. The silence of the Ancients, joined with the improbability of the conjecture, — (that silence so profound this improbability so gross!) – is enough, I submit, in the entire absence of the Evidence on the other side, to establish the very contradictory of the alternative which recent Critics are so strenuous in recommending to our acceptance.

4th. But on the contrary. We have direct yet convincing testimony that the oldest copies of all did contain the Verses in question: while so far are any of the Writers just now enumerated from the recording that these verses were absent from the early copies, that five out of those ten Fathers actually quote, no less refer to the verse in question in a way which shows that in their day they were the recognized termination of S. Mark’s Gospel.”[3]

During my undergraduate work I argued for the superiority of the TR/KJV position based on Burgon’s research. My professor, also aware of the witness to TR readings by the Early Church Fathers, knew the academic assertion that the TR was only based on newer manuscripts was a prevarication, which lead him to say, “The King James, Received Text position is the only logically defensible tradition, but don’t get the idea I’m in your camp.”

John W. Burgon, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark (Erlanger, KY: Faith and Facts Press, nd, 1871), 326-328


            [1] See Chapter 9.

                [2] Speaking of the abrupt termination of the second Gospel at ver. 8, Dr. Tregelles asks, –“Would this have been transmitted as a fact by good witnesses, if there had not been real grounds for regarding it to be true?” (Printed Text, 257.) Certainly not, we answer. But where are the “good witnesses” of the transmitted fact?” There is not so much as one.

            [3] See Chapter 3.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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