In yesterday’s post I mentioned the interesting story found in the Unknown Gospel (as it is called – even though part of it is now known!) contained in the second-century manuscript Papyrus Egerton 2.   There’s an intriguing aspect of that story that I wanted to post on today, but I realized that to make sense of what I have to say would take *so* much background that – well, I should discuss the background instead of the point I want to make.

So here’s the deal.  There is an interesting textual variant in Mark’s story of the man cured of leprosy by Jesus – that is, some of our textual witnesses have one way of reading one of the verses, and other textual witnesses have a different way.  And it really matters.   Here is the passage (Mark 1:39-45) in a literal translation.  The textual variant I am interested in is in v. 41 (there are lots of other textual variants among our manuscripts in this passage; this particular one is the only one I’m interested in here):

39 And he [Jesus] came preaching in their synagogues in all of Galilee and casting out the demons.  40 And a leper came to him beseeching him and saying to him, “If you will, you are able to cleanse me.”  41 And [feeling compassion (splangxnisqeis)/ becoming angry (orgisqeis)] reaching out his hand, he touched him and said to him, “I do will, be cleansed.” 42 And immediately the leprosy went out from him, and he was cleansed. 43 And rebuking him severely, immediately he cast him out 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing that which Moses commanded, as a witness to them.” 45 But when he went out he began to preach many things and to spread the word, so that he [Jesus] was no longer able to enter publicly into a city…..

As you can see, it is a rather important textual variant.  In the vast majority of manuscripts we are told – as one might expect – that Jesus felt compassion for the man (poor guy: has leprosy!) and so healed him.  But in one fifth century Greek manuscript and several old Latin manuscripts, instead we are told that Jesus became angry (at what exactly??) and then healed him.  So which is it?  Did Jesus feel compassion or did he get angry?


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