Summary of Paul-Louis Couchoud:


(by Klaus Schilling)



The original and a German version by F.J. Fabri are available on You need to go there for looking up longer Greek quotes which I can't reproduce here Since patristic times (e.g. Ephraim) this gospel has been assumed to be written at Rome in Latin language. While it is also safe to assume that most early Christian intellectuals preferred Greek, this is not a contradiction. Hoskier noted especially the deviations within Greek manuscripts. His compromise solution was that translations abounded almost instantaneously. But this isn't of much help for determining the environment in which the gospel has been authored The oldest accessible Latin versions (back then) are the Bobiensis and the Palatinus, Couchoud uses the letters 'k' and 'e' respectively. For Greek manuscripts, Vaticanus, Beza, and the Washington Manuscript, represented by B,D, and W respectively, are used Pernot charged the copyist of k with severe imbecillity. Attempts of correction have been made, Couchoud essentially uses von Soden's reconstruction


I. The parable of the gatekeeper

The Latin and Greek versions of Mk 13:37-47 are compared. There are 2 Latin words lacking Greek counterpats: "sic" and "uni". A master goes on a trip and orders one of his slaves to watch out for his return which may happen any time. Jesus then generalises: As the master said it to one of his slave, I'll say it to all of you The parable and its application are linked, in the Latin version, clearly by the pairs quomodo - sic and uni - omnibus : as was said to one, I say it now to all of you. The Greek version lacks such a logical link between the parable and Jesus' order of vigilance directed to his listeners

II. Sleep! Wake up!

Mk 14:41-42 in both versions diverge strangely. Half of the Latin text is missing in the Greek, the remainder being somewhat displaced In the Latin version, the disciples are ordered first to sleep, after some break they are awakened and ordered to follow Jesus. In the Greek version, they are oredered at the same time to sleep, to wake up, and to follow him. This is of course absurd. Ireneus is still familiar with the separation of the commands.

One term is superfluous in D version: to telos, the end. Copyists often placed notes to mark beginning and end of passages. In this case, such a note was unfortunately left in the text The copyist of B has understood telos as a mark and thus deleted it.

The Latin text lets the words in question be preceded by an "Iam nunc", and a bit after these words, a phrase starts with "Iam hora est". Thus it's most likely that a translator first skipped inadvertedly the Iam-nuncphrase, being confused by the analogous structure, but afterwards noted that there was something amiss and reinserted part of them in the sequel, marking the end of the correction with a "telos" In 19:29 the reverse happened: In 13:29 a "finis" was mistaken as a mark, leaving the Greek phrase without subject!

III. Jesus' Cry

At the cross, Jesus cries something to the avail of "Oh God, you cursed me." Some mistake this as an invocation of prophet Eliah, only a centurion understands it, seeing that Jesus is the son of God The cry is supposed to be a transscription from Hebrew, and it's not perfectly clear which semitic terms are meant exactly, but it's clesr that the author deliberately conceived the misunderstanding for a dogmatic purpose.

The B version shows more scholarly insight, as it transcribes consistantly with other Aramaic quotations in the Markan text, alas, this leads to a severely diminished source for a misunderstanding Deuteronomy 21:23 ans Psalm 22 combine in this location. In the latin text, Jesus sees himself as accursed. This is exactly in line with the Pauline notion of Jesus having become accursed for the sake of human race. Jesus becoming cursed is thus seen as a ransom The Greek text of D misunderstands the malediction as an invective, rather than a curse, destroying completely the sense of the passage.

The B-text clinges closer to the meaning of Psalm 22, understanding Jesus as complaining about having been let down, abandoning the mystic sense of the curse as issued by Paul The Greek grammar seems to suggest that the Centurion recognised Jesus's divinity from the fast death, which of course is hilarious IV. Elias has come

According to prophet Malachi, Elia will come in order to prepare the way for the Son of Man. Apparently the early death of John the Baptist, understood as the new Elia, casts doubts on this mission The Latin text of 9:12 clearly serves to remove these doubts: Not the glory of the Son of Man/Messiah is to be prepared, but his passion This conforms with revelations 11 The Greek version is confusing, yet the confusion is easily explainable if a 'quia' in the Latin text is - in error - read as a 'quid'.

V. The Gehenna and the salt

Around 9:50, it is recommended to tear out troublesome body parts in order to avoid being lost in eternal hell as a whole. The sense is that formerly valuable community members need to be removed from their impact when they lose their charism, lest the whole community will suffer forever. The integrity and harmony of the community is thus to be preserved. The salt whose taste fades is a metapher for formerly charismatic members that turned useless Gehenna/hell is describes as a placed where each substance is devoured completely. The Greek term for substance is ousia, which can easily be misread as thysia, sacrifice - the difference is just is just a little stroke inside an oval. According to Moses, each sacrifice is to be salted, which urged a copyist to change the statement 'each substance is consumed' (by fire or vermin) to 'each sacrifice is salted' The differences in the various greek versions reflect several extents of the confusion. The expression "hali halisthesetai" (salted with salt) that appears in excess in Greek versions has no counterpart in the Latin version, thus making the reverse misunderstanding (of thysia and ousia) impossible. It even leads to the aburd statement in some Greek version that each sacrifice is salted by means of fire Another absurdity in this passage traced by Couchoud is that pacem (peace) has been firstmisread as panem (bread) and then changed to salem (salt), after the fatal confusion of ousia and thysia has beenmade, leading to the absurd statement 'may salt be among you' instead of 'may peace be among you'

VI. Reading errors

Sloppy reading of a manuscript inevitably causes errors Sometimes the error exists only in some Greek versions For example, in 15:25, custodiebant (took care of) is translated as if it read crucifigebant (crucified), although at this point, Jesus had already been crucified Sometimes it exists in all versions For example, in 15:10, Inivriam (injury) got corrupted into invidiam (envy) In each case, a simple phrase got turned into an obscure one Sometimes Latin words have been skipped completely, maybe due to being illegible,as in 13:9-10 where confortamini, sometimes even the sed before it, have been missed out Couchoud mentions other examples where the errors must have been made through confusion of several greek manuscripts dealing with the same Latin phrase in different manner This is the case in 8:31-32 where lalein has been misread as elalei. This spoils the messianic secret of the gospel which is emphasised elsewhere. Jesus is in this verse made to announce that he's going to preach openly the message of going to die and rise on the third day Sometimes errors are made due to homophony - texts used to be dictated to several copyists

VII. The position of the verb in Greek Mark

While in Latin, the verb regularly is placed at the end of the clause, this is pretty unusual in Greek, where the verb especially precedes its direct object unless other grave reasons apply. In Greek Mark, this syntactic pattern is often violated, in agreement with latin Mark, e.g. 3:10,3:11, 5:10, 8:22, 9:18, 9:37, .. Often Luke's parallel gets the syntax right This had been discovered by Turner who tried to explain it away as Latinisms.

VIII. Ambiguous Latin forms

It happens that several Latin verbs agree in simple perfect and present tense, thus judging which tense is meant remains a matter of the context. The translator sometimes screwed this up, e.g. in 14:16-18, where 3 verbs are inconsistently translated twice as an aorist, once as a present tense form Similarly some nouns don't differ in their nominative and accusative case. Again the translaters got screwed by this in various spots There are some grammatical errors in latin Mark that are due to its popular, informal style, such as using an indicative instead of an imperative mode. The translaters didn't get it as intended, and tried to work around it: When the storm on the sea is calmed, Jesus says to his unbelieving disciples: have faith!, sloppily employing the indicative form. The translator wondered as the disciples obviously were wanting in faith, thus 'you have faith' would be absurd, and turned it into something like 'why don't you have any faith?' The Latin language lacks articles. In the Greek language, those exist, and it is to be decided from the context whether the article is to be used or ommitted. Couchoud gives examples where the translator must have screwed it up.

Thus in 9:36 Jesus takes a kid, the Greek adds the definite article in spite of the child having not yet been introduced Conversely, in 4:38 Jesus sleeps on the front bench, puluinum, of some boat. There obviously can be only one, so the definite article should be used in Greek. Alas, the translator mistook the front bench for a head pillow, making Jesus sleeping on one of those comfortable things, and leaving out the article Often enough Mark's translator takes a popular rhetoric phrase literally, causing humbug Thus 'sermonem tenere' is a colloquial term for a conversation Literally it becomes holding words tightly. In 9:10 , this causes turmoil among those who try to make sense of the Greek version Some think that the disciples keep Jesus' words firmly in their mind (although they don't understand them!), others think that the disciples obey strictly to these words as orders of secrecy, but this only makes sense when they are in company with others that have not been present in that scenario IX. Paraphrases

Translators are often urged to paraphrase expressions that are otherwise beyond comprehension. Couchoud shows examples, where the Greek text adds such comments in order to make the Latin parallel understandable In 6:4, a prophet is said to be without honour in his homeland, the translator adds: in his family and in his house In 8:24, people are compared to walking trees. Some, but not all, Greek versions absurdly make this into people walking around like trees.

In 16:2, the Greek versions fail to agree whether the resurrection took place at or after sunrise. The Latin says in the morning In 8:38, the translator thought that in 'me et meos', me and the mine, the mine should be made more precise, and arbitrarily changed it into : me and my discourses

X. Multiple translations

Often various Greek versions translate the same Latin term in different manner. it's not possible to say which Greek version is overall closer to the Latin one Couchoud lists some examples where the different translations don't alter the sense. Anyways it's less likely that these differences occur when copying from one Greek version to another In this respect, Mark's gospel differs fundamentally from any other of the canonical gospels where the differences between the Greek manuscript versions are less blatant, and the comparison with Latin versions doesn't help anyways for clarifying the differences between the Greek versions, rather one needs to use the Greek versions in order to understand difficulties in the Latin ones XI. Conflations

Not only do multiple translations occur when comparing Greek versions, sometimes the same Greek texts contains in the same verse multiple translations of the same Latin term, for the reader to choose It happens even that a passage appeares conflated in one Greek versions, with both individual translations of that same Latin term appearing separately in other Greek versions 14:21 B uses hypagei, D uses paradidotai, W both of them It's not always that evident, but Couchoud lists many other examples where the conflation is likely for different reasons XII. Counterproofs

There are many arguments by Pernot et al. for the Latin text being a translation from a Greek original, but those are easily falsified Those who try to establish Greek priority blatantly ignore the characteristics of popular Latin, and try to explain typical popular sloppiness as errors caused by problems of a Greek to Latin translation.

Popular Latin was not very strict w.r.t. declination rules, especially the adaptation of adjectives to case and gender of the noun they refer to. The usage of quia instead of quod is old sloppy Latin The formally incorrect usage of the dative instead of the ablative case even appears in the works of Cicero and Tacitus Similar considerations apply to all the other cases - it's never necessary to assume a Greek original just because the Latin text is not always deemed officially correct w.r.t. grammar or syntax, those constructs have been in popular usage since long time Especially Pernot shows his ignorance w.r.t. the Roman world when he tries to reduce 12:22 to a Greek original. He blatantly ignores that "minutum" is not the name of a Roman coin. "Misit minuta duo quod est quadrans" just means "she put in there two small coins, worth (altogether) a Quadrans". Thus even the Roman reader needed to be informed about the value of those coins, not just the Greek reader Of course there are many Greek words in the Latin text, but these had been in usage among Roman subcultures of Eastern origin since quite some time, e.g. Roman Jews who had to form their own liturgy, approbriating the Septuagint, before the formation of Christianity Roman Jews used the term 'cena pura', which pagan mysteries used to denote the evening/dinner before a holy day, for Friday, as it precedes the celebrations of the Sabbath. So there's no need to resort to seeing cenapura as a corruption of the Greek pareskeve XIII. Clement of Alexandria

Looking at the earliest patristic quotes from Mark's Gospel, it becomes evident that Greek versions in the likeness of our manuscripts were not widely in circulation even in late second century. Ireneus and Clememt of Alexandria plausibly use ad-hoc translations of Latin versions.

For example, 12:30, in the Latin manuscripts, says 'all your soul and all your power'. The Greek manuscripts add stuff like 'all your heart' Neither Justin Martyr nor Clement of Alexandria know of those additions, but stick with the Latin statements This doesn't mean that there was no Greek Mark available at all back then, but the churchfathers weren't aware of an authentic one


All those make it very likely that Mark's Gospel had been authored in Latin. The canonisation required a Greek text for the sake of uniformity. The attempts to reconstruct an original Greek text form various manuscripts, as performed by Westcott, Hort, Nestle' et al., are all full of arbitrarities. The honest solution would be to edit the various manuscripts separately( as had to be done with the Peschitta version anyways) Already La Piana had shown that the group of latin speaking Roman Jews, many of them being from North-Western Africa, became more and more important in Rome throughout second century, and Pope Victor being the first of them in the leading position of Roman christianity.

The affinity to coptic versions suggest an Egyptian origin of the early Greek translations of Mark's. Later Latin versions were retranslations from that Greek translation This is notably parallel to the legendary destiny of St. Mark