Thursday, March 11, 2010
Mark 7:4 and Baptized Dining Couches
Thanks to Dr. Pipa and his lecture at the GPTS Spring Theology Conference for this little discussion on text criticism.
The end of Mark 7:4
in the ESV reads: "such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches." The NASB reads: "such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots."
So what happened to the dining couches? The two words kai klinon (and dining couches) are found in the Greek text of the New Testament. A consultation of The Nestle-Aland GNT has the words in the text as does the UBS GNT. The latter gives a C rating. The words are probably retained in the text largely because of the strong support for it, including but not limited to the majority text. The C rating is due to the fact that there are also strong witnesses against retaining the words. Yet most modern versions do not include these words in the translation. A partial listing of modern versions dropping the words from the text are as follows. Both the NASB and the NASB-Update, the NIV, the New Jerusalem Bible, NLT, and the NRSV. Most of these do indicate the additional words in the margin, so the reading is not totally lost.
It seems easy to explain why a translation would omit the words. First, the word for washing is baptismous (baptisms). While "baptizing" cups, pitchers, and copper pots is easy to understand, the idea of "baptizing" a dining couch is less comprehensible. It may be that some translators have been influenced by a baptistic theology, which understands "baptize" always and everywhere to mean "immerse," into removing a possible difficulty. Maybe not. Maybe the translators consider a C rating simply to be insufficient support for retaining the reading.
However, looking at the text on the basis of standard text-critical principles, it appears that not only should the words be retained in the text, but the reading should have a higher rating. It seems easy to explain how the words might have dropped out in some text, even some very good texts. They occur in a long list of "and X" phrases, and it would be easy to skip one of those phrases. It is much more difficult to explain how the words might have accidentally been added to a text where they did not originally appear. The "dining couch" not only has no similarity to the other items in the list, the Greek word is not easily confused with any word in the context. Further, as a point of theology, the inclusion of "dining couches" should serve to draw attention to the fact that a Jewish "baptism" of such items was a purification rite observed by sprinkling (not by immersing) the item to be purified.