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I am not a scholar - I do not know Greek or Latin and I do not know much about NT manuscripts. In modern translations of Mark 7:4 there is one thing that I would like to understand. That is, why translators decided to omit καὶ κλινῶν at the end of the verse. I am not talking only about English translations as I saw it also in my native Polish modern translations.

From what I could find using the Internet, old translations rendered κλινῶν as "tables", "beds", "dining couches". Strong's Greek Lexicon translates it as "a couch (for sleep, sickness, sitting or eating); bed, table". In Latin Vulgata there is a word lectorum which means "bed, couch, lounge, sofa; bridal bed;". Also I've checked that in Aramaic Peshitta this ends with ܘܕܥܪܣܬܐ which means "beds, pallets".

This is old translation (KJV):

And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.

And new (NIV):

When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.

I am interested in this verse and this particular word, as it was used as a part of David B. Gain's proof of Mark's Gospel being written in Latin, in which language there is little difference between lectorum and electrorum (scribe could have done mistake). Electrorum means "of alloy of gold and silver" and fits nicely to word before, which is aeramentorum ("of copper/bronze") in Latin, χαλκίων in Greek ("a copper dish, brazen vessel"), ܘܕܡܐܢܝ ܢܚܫܐ in Aramaic ("brass vessel"). Original meaning could be washing of cups, and pots, brasen and electrum vessels.

  • You seem to be raising questions from a book making an issue of minor flaws, rather then encountering them yourself from personal study. anyway does not matter questions are still valid..from what I have read it is hard to decide which manuscripts to follow as arguments for keeping or removing the 'tables' are both good (but keeping might have more manuscript support in terms of numbers). However to use this as an argument for claiming that Mark was originally written in Latin seems not be taken seriously by expositors I read. – Mike May 7 '14 at 10:31
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    @Mike, all this theory of Mark being written in Latin is just a background for my question. I'm not looking for "flaws" in translations or in theories. It just suprised me that those words and the end of the verse were omitted and I'm curious why is that. – Grzegorz Adam Kowalski May 7 '14 at 10:37
  • Yes understood and this is a good site to rise the question. Cheers. – Mike May 7 '14 at 11:00
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The NET Bible has a long note dealing with this verse. They decided to retain the reading.

Mark 7:3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they perform a ritual washing, holding fast to the tradition of the elders. 7:4 And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. They hold fast to many other traditions: the washing of cups, pots, kettles, and dining couches.)

Their reasoning:

tc Several important witnesses (Ì45vid א B L Δ 28* pc) lack “and dining couches” (καὶ κλινῶν, kai klinwn), while the majority of mss (A D W Θ Ë1,13 33 Ï latt) have the reading. Although normally the shorter reading is to be preferred, especially when it is backed by excellent witnesses as in this case, there are some good reasons to consider καὶ κλινῶν as authentic: (1) Although the addition of κλινῶν could be seen as motivated by a general assimilation to the purity regulations in Lev 15 (as some have argued), there are three problems with such a supposition: (a) the word κλίνη (klinh) does not occur in the LXX of Lev 15; (b) nowhere in Lev 15 is the furniture washed or sprinkled; and (c) the context of Lev 15 is about sexual impurity, while the most recent evidence suggests that κλίνη in Mark 7:4, in keeping with the other terms used here, refers to a dining couch (cf. BDAG 549 s.v. κλίνη 2). Thus, it is difficult to see καὶ κλινῶν as a motivated reading. (2) κλίνη, though a relatively rare term in the NT, is in keeping with Markan usage (cf. Mark 4:21; 7:30). (3) The phrase could have been dropped accidentally, at least in some cases, via homoioteleuton. (4) The phrase may have been deliberately expunged by some scribes who thought the imagery of washing a dining couch quite odd. The longer reading, in this case, can thus be argued as the harder reading. On balance, even though a decision is difficult (especially because of the weighty external evidence for the shorter reading), it is preferable to retain καὶ κλινῶν in the text.

To put their argument in layman's terms, even though some important manuscripts omit the clause, many other important ones have them. One of the rules of textual criticism is, all other things being equal, to take the harder reading as the original. That is, a copyist is more likely to make things easier to understand than to make it harder. One exception is when the scribe is purposefully corrupting a manuscript (An answer to your question on the doubled amen in Romans 16 contains a good example of Marcion or at least Marcion's followers corrupting the text).

One question text critics would ask on this verse is "would a scribe be more likely to remove καὶ κλινῶν or add καὶ κλινῶν?" Removal could come about in several ways. The first part of the Pharisee's tradition comes from Leviticus 15, but Leviticus 15 does not mention furniture. Because of that, a scribe could easily think that καὶ κλινῶν was added and remove it (thinking that he is restoring the text). It could have been accidental because there is a near rhyme in the verse. After writing καὶ χαλκίων ("and kettles") the scribe accidentally skipped καὶ κλινῶν ("and dining couches").

They also note that Mark uses κλίνη (a form of κλινῶν) twice. Also, since Leviticus 15 isn't talking about furniture, it is hard to see a scribe wanting to add καὶ κλινῶν (adding it is not a motivated reading and is thus less likely to happen).


Edited: As asked in the OP, many modern translations omit the two words. As this seems to go against the rules of textual criticism, why would they do that?

Answer: In the end, it comes down to a judgment call by different committees of human beings. One set of them is wrong, obviously, but that does not mean that particular set "broke the rules." They weighed things differently and came to different conclusions.

The translators of those versions weighed the evidence differently and concluded that the original more likely omitted the two words. For example, the NET translators said the external evidence for omitting it is "weighty" even though they decided to retain it (and their final decision was "difficult"). Another committee could easily conclude that those early manuscripts (including both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) are preferable. They might reason that it must have been added because Leviticus 15 does not mention dining couches.


One thing I would want to look into is the possibility of the tradition of washing the dining couches being added during this time. At the time of Leviticus, dining couches weren't used. In the first century, they were. The Pharisees were known for expanding the traditions to keep up with contemporary times (this is called "Fence Building" and is a very ancient and respected practice). You wash all of these other items used when eating, washing the dining couch is only a small step.

  • Frank, this is great answer! It explains a lot! But before I accept it officialy, I would like to understand how is my oringal question addressed: Why modern translations of Mark 7:4 omit some words at the end of the verse? Your answer suggests that such omission would be against rules of text criticism. Why would modern translators do it then? What are possible reasons to such action? – Grzegorz Adam Kowalski May 7 '14 at 18:38
  • @GrzegorzAdamKowalski, I have edited to answer your question. I was in such a rush this morning, that I didn't realize I had left that part out. Whoops! – Frank Luke May 7 '14 at 19:33
  • Thanks! You have great knowledge and not only you have answered my question but also added a lot of useful informations related to the question's background. This is just wonderful! :-) – Grzegorz Adam Kowalski May 7 '14 at 20:11
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In my "Proof that the Gospel of Mark was written in Latin" I quote this passage as one of the many proofs. If I am right, then the Greek of Mark is merely a translation, here a translation of a corrupt text and inevitably wrong. Mark says in 7.4 (of Jewish ritual washing)"washing of cups and jars and bronze ware and amber ware (electrorum)" (metal pots looking like amber). This is preserved (slightly corrupted) by manuscripts r1 and w. Other Old Latin manuscripts have lectorum (couches), which are odd objects to find in a catalog of cups and jars; amber ware is clearly right. The corruption lectorum was in the Greek translator's manuscript and duly translated with klinon. kai klinon (and couches) is omitted in papyrus 45, Aleph, B + and the Bohairic, very probably accidentally, a scribe skipping the bracketed in chalchi(on kai klin)on. It is conceivable it was omitted because odd, which may be the reason some modern translations omit it, justifying this by the omission in some manuscripts, but there is little in manuscripts which could be interpreted as omission merely because something is odd.

  • Can you please provide a link for that article? Thank you. On the other hand, why downvote? – Constantin Jinga Aug 6 '18 at 13:19

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