Whether a Made-Up Text-Critical Problem Can Be Solved?: Mark 13:33 in the Manuscript Tradition, Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea, and Hilary of Poitiers’ De Trinitate

“Whenever a transcriber of a patristic treatise was copying a [biblical] quotation differing from the text to which he was accustomed, he had virtually two originals before him, one present to his eyes, the other to his mind; and if the difference struck him, he was not unlikely to treat the written exemplar as having blundered.”[1]
—F
.J.A. Hort

* * *

Mark 13:33’s Variant Readings

I have an abiding interest in Mark 13:33 and the scribal addition therein that creates an interesting narrative parallel to 14:38. I’ve been reading a lot of NT text criticism lately and have been thinking, on and off, about Mark 13 for the better part of the last five years. Today the two came together in a way that has turned out to be pretty fun.

The text of Mark 13:33, in NA28 and the NRSV, reads as follows:

Βλέπετε, ἀγρυπνεῖτε· οὐκ οἴδατε γὰρ πότε ὁ καιρός ἐστιν (NA28).
Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come (NRSV).

In a slew of manuscripts (some quite weighty and important), however, it reads:

Βλέπετε, ἀγρυπνεῖτε, καὶ προσεύχεσθε· οὐκ οἴδατε γὰρ πότε ὁ καιρός ἐστιν.[2]
Beware, keep alert, and pray; for you do not know when the time will come.

The initial text of Mark 13:33 likely did not include the addition of καὶ προσεύχεσθε to Jesus’ exhortation but, as early as the fourth century (and likely earlier!), a competing tradition arose that included it. The addition likely reflects a change on the part of an early Christian scribe (whether intentional or unintentional) that brought Mark 13:33 into striking harmony with Mark 14:38, which reads:

γρηγορεῖτε καὶ προσεύχεσθε, ἵνα μὴ ἔλθητε εἰς πειρασμόν· τὸ μὲν πνεῦμα πρόθυμον ἡ δὲ σὰρξ ἀσθενής (NA28).
Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (NRSV).

Whether the change is likely intentional or unintentional is best left for another discussion. What matters here is that the tradition with the addition of καὶ προσεύχεσθε was widely adopted across many important manuscripts, notably in א A C K L W Γ Δ Θ and the Vulgate, among others. The reading that lacks καὶ προσεύχεσθε, however, is also widely attested—notably by Vaticanus (B) and Bezae (D). Thus two traditions split from one another and were used by different groups of Christians in various places.

Mark 13:33 and Hilary of Poitiers (and Matthew 25:13) in Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea

Interestingly, it was in the 13th century that the two readings met—sort of—on the writing desk of Thomas Aquinas as he compiled his Catena Aurea. Aquinas quotes the Latin form of Mark 13:33, which includes the addition of “and pray,” and, in typical fashion for a catena, cites various commentators beneath. In forging his chain of commentaries on Mark 13:33, Aquinas includes Hilary of Poitiers’s De Trinitate:

Denique, ne per infirmitatem ignorare dicatur, continuo subiecit videte, vigilate et orate: nescitis enim quando tempus sit.
Lastly, lest He should be said to be ignorant from weakness, He has immediately added, ‘Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is.’ (Hilary, Trin., 9.65, as quoted in Aquinas’s Catena, Mark 13:33)

Hilary’s original text, however, differs markedly from its quotation in Aquinas’s Catena:

Denique ne per infirmitatem ignorare existimaretur, continuo Apostolis ita locutus est: ‘Vigilate itaque, quia nescitis diem neque horam.’
Hence, in order that we should not impute His ignorance to infirmity, He says immediately to the Apostles, Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour (Hilary, Trin. 9.65).[3]

Not only does Hilary’s text lack the addition of “and pray,” it appears to be quoting Matthew rather than Mark. Matthew 25:13 has “for you know neither the day nor the hour” (ὅτι οὐκ οἴδατε τὴν ἡμέραν οὐδὲ τὴν ὥραν), while it is Mark who forms the phrase as “for you do not know when the time will come” (οὐκ οἴδατε γὰρ πότε ὁ καιρός ἐστιν) in 13:33.

Whether a Made-Up Text-Critical Problem Can Be Solved?

This is pretty meta stuff: Aquinas quotes Hilary quoting Scripture, but Aquinas misreads Hilary’s quotation of Matthew 25:13 as a quotation of Mark 13:33. As Aquinas misreads Hilary as quoting Mark instead of Matthew, he is faced with (read: has created) a text-critical problem. Which reading of Mark 13:33 is more likely correct: the one that includes et orate (καὶ προσεύχεσθε), or Hilary’s quotation of Matthew, which Aquinas apparently perceives as Mark, which lacks it?

For Aquinas, the perceived Hilarian quotation of Mark, which lacks both “and pray” as well as the Markan “when the time will come” is juxtaposed with the Vulgate and the commentary of Theophylactus, which Aquinas also includes in his catena, both of which include the addition (and, of course, the Markan formulation regarding unknown chronology). Faced with two variant readings, Aquinas made an editorial choice and did just what Hort suggested such an editor would do: he assumed that Hilary “had blundered.” Twice.

Since the Vulgate, Aquinas’ holy text, disagreed with Hilary’s quotation of Matthew 25:13 (which, again, Aquinas took to be a citation of Mark 13:33)—and was further supported by Theophylact’s commentary—I suggest that a heavily-edited quotation of Hilary’s De Trinitate was included in Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark as the ‘fix’ for Aquinas’s perceived text-critical problem. Faced with a discrepancy between his Bible (and Theophylact) on one hand and the fourth century commentary of Hilary on the other (which Aquinas misread), it seems to me that Aquinas regarded Hilary’s quotation as faulty and emended it in his Catena to bring Hilary into agreement with the Markan text as it was known to him.

This is, of course, something he did not need to do, since Hilary was quoting Matthew just fine, but far be it from me, a graduate student, to finger-wag a Doctor of the Church.

Kidding aside: has Aquinas simply made a mistake, or is there another explanation for his quotation/emendation of Hilary?

[1] Westcott, B.F., and F.J.A. Hort. The New Testament in the Original Greek. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1896), 202.

[2] The addition is found in these manuscripts: א A C K L W Γ Δ Θ Ψ f13 28. 565. 579. 700. 892. 1241. 1424. 2542. {M} lat sy co

[3] http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/it/ftf.htmhttps://books.google.co.uk/books?id=WSBAAQAAMAAJ&pg=PT2&dq=%22circumspicienti%20mihi%20proprium%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=RkOiVfzUG4X0UKf6vjg&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

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