Can you believe that on the last word of a sentence there could be no less than nine variations? That is the situation with Mark 13:8! How would one discern which could represent the original? Only one can be in accordance with the original autograph as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Let us first look at what these variations are and how much support each has in the available manuscripts.
This is called the external criteria.
1. External criteria.
1. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, ‘there will be famines.’ These are the beginnings of birth pains.” Four Greek codices (±350 – 750 A.D.) and three Antique Translations (±250 – 450). This variation is found in the New International Version.
2. ‘… and there will be famines and troubles.’ (And troubles added). Five Greek uncials, (450 – 850} 21 Greek minuscules (after 900) as well as four ancient translations (450 – 950) This variation is found in the King James Version.
3. ‘… and famines.’ One Greek codex (450), the Vulgate (350) and eleven Old Latin translations (350 – 1250). (This illustrates that the repeated verb “there will be” could be replaced with “and” without altering the meaning, yet it is an alteration that people that refer to the many variations in the Bible, like to count!)
4. ‘… troubling famines.’ One Greek codex (375) and two antique translations (250 and 350). (By altering the sequence of “famine” and “trouble”, the two words form a new meaning, but still making perfect sense.)
5. ‘… and plagues and troubles. ‘ One Greek codex (750), two Greek minuscules (after 900), and one antique translation (950). (Here famines ‘limoi’ is replaced with pestilence or plagues ‘loimoi’, a reading mistake that could easily happen.)
6. ‘… and there will be famines and plagues and troubles.’ One Greek uncial and one Greek minuscule. (If you have one manuscript reading “famines and troubles” and another reading “plagues and troubles” how would you decide? For fear of leaving out the correct word, a scribe would rather put them in both!)
7. ‘… and there will be earthquakes, and famines in various places and troubles.’ One Greek lectionary. (Here “in various places” was transposed from “earthquakes” to “famines”. Something that can happen!)
8. ‘… plagues and famines and troubles.’ One antique translation. (Once again the sequence of words come into play.)
9. ‘… hunger and thirst.’ One antique translation. (Could it be that the scribe had to swot a fly and then completed the sentence from his memory with two words belonging together?)
We have to consider only the first two variations. The others I added with my personal notes in brackets to illustrate an important human trait concerning the habits of scribes. This just shows the human factor that can cause variations without any mala fide intention.
One can immediately see that the first variation is present in the oldest Greek codices and oldest antique translations. Many late manuscripts, especially the minuscule manuscripts after 900 A.D. only prove that they were copied from a source text containing that version. Many copies of any document do not prove anything concerning the original autograph.
According to the manuscripts the version as is found in the NIV has the greater possibility to represent the original autograph.
2. Internal criteria.
Our next criterion is to try and discern how the variations could have originated. I have explained possibilities for all the variations except the first two that are of real importance.
Had the original been only “earthquakes and famines” (like the NIV), someone had to add “and troubles”. But there is no reason to indicate the need for such an addition.
If however the original had been “earthquakes and famines and troubles” (like the KJV) someone had deliberately removed “troubles”. Again no reason for such an alteration can be found.
Since about 92% of Mark is taken up in Matthews and 85% in Luke, we can deduce that the authors of both these gospels have used Mark in compiling their gospels. In Matthew 24;7 we find “earthquakes and famines” like the NIV version. In Luke 21;11, we find “earthquakes and famines and pestilence” (limoi and loimoi) but not “troubles” (tarachai). If “troubles” had been part of Mark, why then would both Matthew and Luke remove that word? It just makes no sense.
This is a strong indication that the original autograph had to be without the word “troubles” (tarachai).
3. Intrinsic criteria.
Our last indication can come from an intrinsic study, looking at the context of this passage.
Looking at this passage as a whole, Jesus is explaining the signs that will precede the second coming. And in verse eight He first mentions what will happen between humans. “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” Here “troubles” could fit in. But then Jesus indicates things that will happen in nature: “Earthquakes and famines” coming over men without their involvement. Here “troubles” does not fit in for it again reflects back to the actions of man.
According to the context this word also does not fit in.
With all three objective criteria in agreement that the original autograph would have been without “troubles”, the removal of it from the version found in the familiar King James Version, is just restoring the Scripture to its original as had been inspired by the Holy Spirit.
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