Many ancient versions of Mark, written in the original Greek,
have survived to the present day .
No two agree perfectly in their wording. Usually, the differences are trivial
and do not impact our understanding of Jesus' personality ,
ministry. However, some do. For example,
consider Mark 1:41 -- the passage where a leper approached Jesus
begging to be
healed. Some of the earliest manuscripts say that Jesus became angry
or indignant at the
leper's intrusion. Later copies indicate that Jesus showed compassion
or pity to the
leper. Usually, Bible translators consider the earliest manuscripts to be the
most accurate, because they are less removed from the original autographs. Thus, there was less opportunity for copyists to alter the original text.
But in many cases, like the King James Version, the New International
Version, and many others, 1 the
translators followed the later, apparently incorrect,
manuscripts, and describe Jesus as
reacting with compassion and pity, rather than with indignation and anger.
Theologian Morton Smith discovered a copy of an ancient letter in a
monastery near Jerusalem in the 1940s. The original letter was apparently written
by Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-213 CE). It
referred to three versions of the Gospel of Mark circulating
during the second century CE:
A full version "....for
those who are advancing with respect to knowledge," and
shorter version for the common believers who were new to
A forgery based on the full version which was circulated by a Christian
group in the second century.
The shorter version is like the text of the Gospel that we
now have in the Bible. The
full version is often referred to as the "Secret Gospel of Mark: "
Two of the fragments which were quoted in the letter from
the full version of Mark are quite controversial . One refers to Jesus
spending the night with a near-naked man. Another passage refers to "the
young man whom Jesus loved."
Most conservative Protestant theologians believe that Clement's letter is a
forgery, perhaps because of its homoerotic overtones. Most Clementine scholars
believe that the letter was written by Clement.
The Living Bible, Revised English Bible, New English
Bible, and Annotated Scholars Version use the phrases "sternly," "anger,"
"in warm indignation" and "indignant." The
Contemporary English Version, English Standard Version, James Moffatt
Translation, Jerusalem Bible, King James Version, Living Bible, New American
Bible, New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New Living
Translation, New Revised Standard Version, New World Translation, Phillips
Modern English, Revised Standard Version, Rheims New Testament, Today's
English Version, and Young's Literal Translation all use terms like
" pity, "
and " compassion. " To their credit, the
New Living Translation includes a
footnote indicating that some early manuscripts state that Jesus was angry.