Biblical errancy in Mark 1

Human Error or Divine Incompetence?

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

Can you imagine a book that claims to convey factual information and data making a terrible factual error in its first paragraph? Let’s say we have a book called “101 Facts on Animals” and in the first supposed fact it makes an UNFACTUAL claim. Would you be taking that book seriously anymore or will you consider chucking it in the bin and find other books instead? This is the predicament that Christians face when the claim is made that the Gospel according to Mark is divinely inspired or “god-breathed”. At the very beginning of the book and in the first chapter of Mark we have a truly irreconcilable textual error.

In the beginning was an error…..

“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I am sending my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way;” (Mark 1:2)

I challenge every Christian in the world to show me where I can find in Isaiah the verse “Behold, I am sending my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way”. Believe me when I say that not even the Pope can help you here. That is because the verse does not exist  in Isaiah, although you can actually find it in the Old Testament. To be more specific it is in the Torah. To be even more specific it is in Exodus! The words are different but the meaning is basically the same.

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20)

How far apart exactly is Exodus from Isaiah? The answer to that is about 1000 years! How could such a mistake happened if God was guiding the hand of the anonymous author of Mark? Did God forget that it was His prophet Moses and not Isaiah who mentioned the verse? God forbid! It is more reasonable to contend that the reason for the unequivocal error is because Mark was written by anonymous individual who was not guided by God. The text is a clear corruption that should not be attributed to the divine.

Some might try to argue that the verse actually reads, “in the Prophets” as opposed to “in Isaiah” as found in the King James Version. No doubt that the KJV based on manuscripts containing such a reading does say that. But that reading is only to be found in the majority of rather late manuscripts e.g. A, E, F, G, H, P, W, S, family 13, the majority of minuscules, Syriac Harclean of the Byzantine version and others. The earliest witness for the reading “in the Prophets” dates only to the fourth century. On the other hand the reading for “in Isaiah” as retained in most Bibles today are based on the most ancient witnesses(manuscripts) such as in Aleph, B, L, D, Q, family 1, 33, 205, 565, 700, 892, 1071, 1241, 1243, 2427, Itala MSS (a, aur, b, c, d, f , ff2, l, q, Vulgate, Syriac Peshitta, Syriac Palestinian, Coptic and so on.  The reading is widespread and is found in almost all the Alexandrian, Caesarean and Western witnesses.* Thus the reading “in Isaiah” is closer to the original.  Even if for the sake of argument we were to entertain the veracity of the KJV reading “in the Prophets” the textual predicament still remains. Exodus was not by Prophets but by a Prophet i.e. Moses. The Old Testament according to Jewish tradition is divided into three categories namely, Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim. Nevi’im means Prophets referring to the books attributed to Prophets. If the reading “in the Prophets” were to be true then it would be referring to the category of Nevi’im which does not include the Torah wherein Exodus is found. Whichever position one takes Mark 1:2 remains nothing more than a corruption! Mark 1:2 is yet another falsehood in “the book of God”.

*Daniel Wallace on Mark 1

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34 Responses to “Biblical errancy in Mark 1”

  1. bfoali says:

    As-Sallamu-Alaykom,
    Masha Allah brother what a great article and glad to see your back to updating.

    I have a question; I would hope you could answer.

    Would you say it would be a plausible assumption in saying that, the latter manuscripts which contain the phrase ‘’ in the prophets’’ was added by the writers of the gospel due to the fact that they realized the problem of the original copy which says ‘’ in Isaiah’’?

    Quite a fascinating article, and as one who has begun the task of reading all of Bart Ehrmans books, this topic of textual variants is quite interesting.

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      Wa’alaikum salam Warahmatullah. Thank you akhi Bfoali. Yes, it’s been quite sometime since my last post, eh? I’m on a short holiday right now so I have time to spare to write some new articles. Thank you for your question akhi. I am happy to see that your observational skills are as astute as ever. You are quite right in suggesting that latter scribes(perhaps well-meaning) saw the problem with the citation and attempted a modification. However, it would be pertinent to note that had their intention been to correct the error would it not have been better to simply replace Isaiah with Moses(or the Law[Torah])? As I have pointed out in the article saying that the verse is from the Prophets(navi’im) does not resolve the discrepency. The best conclusion would be that the scribes handling the manuscripts were not very apt and were quite unintelligent. Thank God for that!

  2. Bfoali says:

    Ah yes, what a great point. Had their intention truly been to correct the mistake, they wouldn’t have still made yet another mistake…but then again as you say it is very possible that they were ‘’ quite unintelligent.’’

    It really is quite a scary thought to conceive that these writers could have possibly hid mistakes, from the public and cover them up from the world. What deceptive people, but then again as your latest article shows: Christians will do anything to ‘’win’’ people over.
    Sallam

  3. Tridax says:

    Assalamualaikum

    So nice to see you back in action .Where were you hibernating all this time? 🙂

    i just wanted to comment that the verse which you have quoted in Mark was probably paraphrasing what was stated in Isaiah 40:3

    A voice of one calling:
    “In the desert prepare
    the way for the LORD [a] ;
    make straight in the wilderness
    a highway for our God. [b]

    Keep uploading those great articles.

    Take care.
    Tridax.
    PS: You can keep this private if you wish.

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      Wa’alaikum salam warahmatullah,
      No, I do not have to keep that comment private. Thank you for sharing with us the exact answer that I have received from the Christians regarding this. Isaiah 40:3 actually corroborates verse 3 in Mark 1 WORD FOR WORD. The implication of this is that verse 2 should also be a word for word quotation from Isaiah, but of course we do not find that anywhere in Isaiah. In fact, Bible scholars like Daniel Wallace and others have called this a difficulty in the NT. I would extend that further and say it’s a corruption. The beginning of the quotation in verse two is partially attested by a verse in Malachi and we find in Exodus as we have seen in the article a similar verse. If it is a paraphrase of anything it would be that verse from Exodus. Neither Malachi nor Exodus are Isaiah. Thanks.

  4. Tridax says:

    Assalamualaikum !

    Your rebuttal is brilliant as anticipated. You are becoming better day by day :)Masha Allah.

    May Allah swt grant you success in everything in the cause of truth.

    Take care.

  5. Zayed Ahmed says:

    does it really matters if jesus got crucified or not…or did he ressurected or not…what matters is he preached love and harmony between people…he was one of the greatest man i admire…the way he went was truly amazing…if only i could trust the gospels!thats the saddest part

  6. Ahmed says:

    Salam alikum brother

    very well written article i just hav a question some xtians say that this is talking about Isaiah 40:3 but when i read Isaiah 40:3 i dont see it that way anyways could you plz shade some light on this one Isaiah 40:3

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      Wa’alaikum salam warahmatullah.
      JazakAllah khair. Yes, thank you for bringing that up. I’ve already explained that in my last response to brother Tridax who raised the same question. Check it out. It’s comment #3 ;).

  7. Seyed says:

    Assalamu Alaykum

    It seems that the King James Version/New King James Version of the Bible has translated Mark 1:3 as:

    2As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

    if that version is correct, then wouldnt Malachi be considered as one of the biblical Prophets and well, there would be no discrepancy? Interestingly, all the other versions Ive checked, specify that it was Isaiah the Prophet.

  8. Ryan says:

    Hi,

    Interesting site.

    Are you aware that because the New Testament is in greek and the old testament in hebrew, the greek wording will on a number of occasions be different to the Hebrew, simply because of the constraints in both languages with portraying what the other is saying. You will then note that the issue with the translation does not come from the apostles/prophets who received the original messages, but from the lack of congruity between ancient Hebrew (the earliest of which used pictures to dictate messages, the hebrew in which the old testamnt was written, the translation of the aramaic spoken by the disciples then translated into greek which then is translated into modern english so unfortunately you are mistaken regarding the errors. Please dont get me started on the errors in the Koran

    Regards

    Ryan

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      Yes, I am well aware that there are differences between the Mesoretic Hebrew of the OT and the Koine Greek of the New Testament. In fact, I have the Hebrew Bible and the New testament in Greek. It is noteworthy however that the Old Testament exist also in Greek i.e. the Septuagint. There is evidence that the authors of the gospels made use of the Septuagint such as in the example of Matthew 1:23 which is almost a verbatim quotation of Isaiah 9:6 from the Septuagint(note the word parthenos as opposed to alma). However, these are red herrings and do not really address the subject of the post. the differences between in OT and NT in terms of language do not account for the problem of Mark 1:2 which identifies Isaiah as the prophet who supposedly prophesied the verse. The argument that you have postulated concerning the constraints between Hebrew and Greek does not stand when we look at Mark 1 verse 3 which is a verbatim(word for word) quotation of Isaiah 40:3. The fact of the matter is that the author of Mark got it wrong and I have proven that in the article. Thanks for the try, but try harder.

      • Ryan says:

        okay okay sheesh so demanding

        in verse 2-3 the literal translation is ‘it is written in the prophet ‘yesha ‘yahu’. One messianic author notes that the last two verses are from Isaiah, and the first two from Malachi (as you have referred to earlier on). However, the author also notes that it was common to refer to a scroll by its first book, and the first book of the scroll of the prophets was Isaiah.

  9. Ibn Anwar says:

    Greetings,
    Yesha yahu? Where did you get that? This is what the Greek says(from Westcott and Hort), “Καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ· ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελον μου πρὸ προσώπου σου· ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὅδον σου.” The word in question is Ἠσαΐᾳ which is pronounced as esaiah. But of course in the Tanakh the book of Isaiah is called (sepher) yeshayahu(one word). What exactly do you mean that it was common to refer to a scroll by its first book? What scroll? The Nevi’im begins with Yehoshua. Yeshayahu is the 7th book in the Nevi’im. If it was simply a matter of quoting the first book of a scroll(if that is true[which it isn’t]) then I do not think conservative and staunch Christian scholars like Daniel Wallace would describe it as a difficulty and would instead use that argument that you have proposed as a way of reconciliation. Truth be told it is disingenous to ascribe a writing to an author that never wrote it however you try to reason it out. Even if for the sake of argument we were to placate that it was a common practice to ascribe a piece of writing to another individual that does not make it right. A similar problem can be found in Matthew 27 in which a prophecy is falsely ascribed to Jeremiah. In fact, if what you say about common practice is true then the author should have just mentioned Isaiah. Where is the consistency? You refuse to accept the truth that is staring you in the face because of your own religious prejudice.

    • Ryan says:

      no consistency at all. The talmad writing addresses the Matthew 27 prob as originally called the beginning of the scroll (of prophets) as it was the longest book. Isaiah became first in the scroll (of prophets) later, although I am not aware of any reasoning (just like I am not aware of the reasoning behind Mohammed attempting to take for himself a Jewish wife???). Levi wrote the book of Matthew in terms of the Jewish people, so it is obvious that 27 would refer to Jeremiah being first in the scroll (of prophets).

      • Ibn Anwar says:

        You’re not making much sense, Ryan. It is interesting that you appeal to the Talmud which is the same book that says Jesus is boiling in dung in hell. Mark 1:2 CANNOT be found in Isaiah at all. This is an undeniable fact. You’re clutching at straws. Levi wrote Matthew?? What in the world are you talking about? lol Matthew was an unknown piece of writing just like the other three gospels prior to Iranaeus. I have discussed this at length in my article on the anonymity of the gospels.

  10. sonic says:

    brother ibn anwar quotes from an EARLY READING of that specific verse. the missionaries like to quote from LATER readings CREATED by scribes ,because the scribes (and missionaries) realised that the earlier reading was problematic and needed to be ammended.similar to what KJV translations does to the many CORRUPTIONS in the hebrew tanak.

  11. Ryan says:

    hmm, Ibn, your not making much sense. I clearly noted earlier on:
    – Mark 1:3 was attributed to Isaiah and verse 2 was attributed to Malachi (you know, the whole ‘scroll’ thing:))
    – Jesus never quoted anything about the Talmud in the Bible, however I would agree that the Talmud is not the word of God, and scholars agree on this, however scholars do agree that it is thoroughly used for finding our context for things that did occur, just like writings by Josephus and Niacin etc are used to support some of the biblical truths, although are not used as the word of God.

    Looking forward to looking at your errors about the anonymity of the gospels.

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      I’m afraid it is you who is not making much sense, Ryan. I’m sure the discerning readers agree with me on that. You said that Mark 1:3 was attributed to Isaiah and Mark 1:2 was attributed to Malachi and you mention the “scroll” again. What scroll are you talking about? There is not a single extant manuscript that is either an early or late witness that mentions Malachi in Mark 1:2 or anywhere in Mark 1 for that matter. The extant manuscripts that we have show that the earliest reading is “in Isaiah” as opposed to the later reading “in the prophets” which was interpolated by later scribes after realising that the reading “in Isaiah” posed a textual problem. The reading is found in late witnesses such as in the Byzantine text type. I have discussed these in the article. I need to repeat them again from A to Z. All the early manuscripts attests that the author of Mark attributes a verse to Isaiah which in reality is partially attested by Malachi and a paraphrase of it is found in Exodus. Neither of them are Isaiah. You mention the Talmud as a document relied upon by scholars for historical information yet are not accepted as the word of God. Well, I’m not sure which age you’re living in but many Biblical scholars today reject the Bible as “the word of God”. As for the Talmud..which exactly do you mean? Bavli or Yerushalmi Talmud? I fail to see the correlation between the problems of Mark 1:2 with the Jewish Talmud. I suggest you elaborate on this further and perhaps with proper citations to scholarly material and the Talmud itself. You have mentioned Josephus and Niacin. I am quite familiar with the former but I cannot say that I know the latter. Niacin? Is that not a type of drug alternatively known as Vitamin B3? lol. Yes, Josephus is heavily depended upon by Christian and non-Christian authors to lend historical data to incidences that happened within the first century of the Common Era. Besides Josephus we also have Tacitus and others. However, it is noteworthy that not all of the information found in the writings attributed to Josephus can be said to be original most notable of which is the so called Testimonium Flavianum. What about the supposed prophesy from Jeremiah found in Matthew 27? Eminent scholars such as Geza Vermes(The Passion) and Raymond Brown(The Death of the Messiah) have discarded it as an invention of the author of Matthew. I look forward to your assessment of my article on the anonymity of the Gospels :D.

  12. mrsonic says:

    it doesn’t matter which verse was shuffled around and put in to different books of the bible by the jewish scribes who came LATER, what matters is that did the original authour ,when he penned the book of isaiah include the quote of mark 1:3?

  13. mrsonic says:

    “Jesus never quoted anything about the Talmud in”

    but scholars argue that many of the statements attributed to jesus have been BORROWED from the talmud. the differences are there because the talmudic verse put into jesus’s mouth was translated in to pagan greek language which corrupted the hebrew of the talmudic verse.

  14. Critiquing of the Critic says:

    Firstly, the Hebrew Tanakh is a mangled mess worthy of very little consideration, the Jews obviously wrecked the text (to put it lightly). Jesus Does quote the Talmud but only to criticize it in Matthew 15. Jesus does not use the Talmud as a source of doctrine nor a source for teachings. We do not know what the original Hebrew Old Testament contained, quite obviously it was different from the one handed to us today. So why are we so quick to criticize Mark? I would think that even a con-artist would be careful not to misstep by attributing a quote to someone else. So we are left with three different conclusions, we put our faith in the Hebrew text that we know is trash in order to attack Mark’s text; We open to the possibility that texts that relate to the messiah and/or other prophets were taken out/ altered ( as is attested to by people like Justin martyr and gospel writers)and that the original was indeed in writings of Isaiah (though not necessarily in the book of Isaiah); Or we can conclude that perhaps Malachi is not a proper name and the book was actually written by Isaiah (The Talmud claims that Ezra or Mordecai wrote the book which means that had the understanding that Malachi was not a name but rather means My messenger just as the LXX understands it). This is not in defense of the text but rather addressing some of the problems with assumptions made as to the Hebrew text.
    Assalamu Alaikom

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      I have no problem with the beginning of your comment. Indeed, the Jewish scriptures are filled with corruptions and alterations. However, the same can be said concerning the New Testament as Christian scholars themselves will universally acknowledge. There is a degree of assumption on your part as well,that is, the NT is in its pristine purity as over the OT which is ‘wrecked’ as you have astutely concluded. We see the ongoing corruption of the NT throughout the ages. In the Mark 1:2 problem itself we see that there are two different readings for the same verse. Malachi is a name as Isaiah is a name. But most Hebrew names carry certain meanings. For example, Gabriel means Strong/Valiant God. That does not mean Gabriel does not exist as an entity simply because his name means something. Eli means my God, but that certainly does not mean the person named Eli is God or a non-entity. Just by the way, many scholars would say that the LXX was at the disposal of the authors of the gospels as was the Hebrew tanakh as it exists today(supported by the discovery of the dead sea scrolls). None of the extant manuscripts of the Tanakh has the verse in Mark 1:2 anywhere in Isaiah. A similar problem is found in Matthew 27 as I have noted before with the prophesy ascribed to Jeremiah. Scholars such as Geza Vermes have concluded that no such verse exists in the Old Testament but is rather the invention of the author of Matthew(paraphrase). We see that Matthew made things up as he tried to fit Jesus into what he construed as prophecies in the OT. Scholars describe this phenomenon as “prophesy historicised instead of history prophesied”. One notable example is Jesus’ supposed donkey ride into Jerusalem where the author of Matthew thought that Zechariah 9:9 speaks of two animals which is a difficulty corrected by John where only one animal is identified. The OT is corrupted. So is the NT.

      • Critiquing Of The Critic says:

        There is nothing to suggest that Malachi is a name, as I previously stated the rabbis held that Malachi was a title just as the LXX translated Malachi as “angelou autou.” Indeed there seems to be a majority opinion that this is not a name. I am quite familiar with how names are formed in semitic languages, but there are times when there are titles and not names. As far as Matthews style of writing, it has no bearing on Markan literature. I agree there is corruption in the New Testament, however why in this case is it preferable to claim the corrupt is with mark and not with the Old Testament? Although the LXX is a much better text it still is not without its difficulties as well. As far as Geza Vermes is concerned he has bias, he is a Hungarian Jew, I have read many of his works especially ones as they pertain to the DSS. As far as the name Eli. Eli in Hebrew is the same name as the Arabic Ali and means to “rise” or “ascend” it is spelt with an ayin and not an aleph in Hebrew technically there are times when Eli is used as an abbreviation for names like Eliyahu (my God is Yah) but I am doubtful you are talking about these instances. As far as the Zechariah/John verse again this is not Markan literature and I am happy to discuss either the Matthew or the John verse but lets complete this discuss first without going on tangents.

  15. Ibn Anwar says:

    Very well. Let me try and address the things you’ve said so far in detail.
    You said that the Talmud claims that Malachi was written by Ezra or Mordechai. To be more accurate you should have said the Targum AND the Talmud. It is the Targum of Jonathan(though following the Mesoretic) makes a note that it was written by Ezra. The note says,”My messenger” is Ezra: “by the hand of My messenger whose name is called Ezra the scribe.” This suggestion is disputed but can be said to be the dominant view. The less dominant view is that it was written by Mordechai which is what the Talmud asserts. Prior to mentioning Ezra and Mordechai you claimed that, “Or we can conclude that perhaps Malachi is not a proper name and the book was actually written by Isaiah.” We can conclude that the book was actually written by Isaiah? Really? How exactly can we conclude that? What is the evidence that can lead to such a conclusion and which scholar has ever suggested Malachi as Isaiah’s handiwork? I don’t think there is a single one out there who does. Robert Chisholm in ‘Interpreting the Minor Prophets’ discredits arguments posed for making Malachi into a title instead of a proper name as inconclusive. The tradition suggesting that Malachi is Ezra’s work received support from Jerome who suggested that Ezra is considered a mediator between the prophets and the great synagogue. However, there is no historical substsantiation for this. The Ezra authorship is deemed unworthy because if it is true that he authored it there would not have been any reason for concealing his name. This then will lead the scholar to conclude that the heading Malachi is simply an editorial note added later and the book is in reality anonymous. Is it utterly impossible that the book could have been written by someone named Malachi? Robert L. Alden says, “If a man named Malachi did not write the book bearing this name, he would be the only exception. Moreover, Malachi is neither an unlikely name nor an unsuitable one for the author of this last book of the prophets. After all, Malachi was the Lord’s messenger. His trumpet made no uncertain sound. Clearly and unmistakably he indicted his people and the priests for their sin and summoned them to righteousness” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary). I have yet to come across a scholar proposes Isaiah as the author of Malachi. I would very much like to see your sources if you have any.
    You said that, “Malachi was a title just as the LXX translated Malachi as “angelou autou.”” Your transliteration is inaccurate. The words are αγγελου αυτου or ‘aggelou autou’. There are two Gammas there and no Nu. I mentioned Geza Vermes and you simply discarded him for being bias since he’s a Hungarian Jew. This is not a very academic approach, my friend. What exactly is his bias and who in this world is without it? Geza Vermes is one of the most respected scholars of the Bible in our time. He occupies a position that was established due to his esteemed scholarship in Oxford. His doctoral thesis was the first of its kind in the field of Dead Sea Scrolls studies. His credentials are impressive and his works are peer reviewed. It is a fallacy to discount someone on the basis of his personal background. You should know that unless you’ve never taken a basic course in ‘Discourse Fallacies’ in university before :p.
    You said, “As far as the name Eli. Eli in Hebrew is the same name as the Arabic Ali and means to “rise” or “ascend” it is spelt with an ayin and not an aleph in Hebrew technically there are times when Eli is used as an abbreviation for names like Eliyahu (my God is Yah) but I am doubtful you are talking about these instances.” I’m sorry but you are mistaken. Ali in Arabic is not the same as Eli in Hebrew. Eli in Hebrew means “ascend; my God” whereas Ali in Arabic simply means ‘sublime’ or ‘noble’. Where is the evidence that Malachi was written by Isaiah? Will you not relent and accept the fact that Mark 1:2 is a problem, nay a corruption?

  16. Critiquing of the Critic says:

    Why dont you post my other comments? is it because I found errors? if you wont let me speak atleast remove my other comments, the appearance of victory is a hollow victory indeed, how very venomfang of u.

  17. Ibn Anwar says:

    Which comment is that? There are no comments left. Everything has been approved.

  18. holy ghost says:

    wow of course the christian deceit and shameful lies continue

    the brother was correct in stating that the word “Ἡσαΐας” is “Isaiah”

    http://studybible.info/strongs/G2268

    and the most early and reliable mss such as the Alexandrians (Sinaiticus and Vaticus) contain this error. its also ridiculous to claim that malachi was written by isaiah when the book was around 432-424 B.C and Isaiah lived like 3 centuries before Isaiah. u christians are pathetic

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