Mark 1:2 is still an error

Response to Sam Shamoun on Mark 1:2

by Ibn Anwar

I have been away from Unveiling Christianity for a good long while due to engagements elsewhere. However, a couple of days ago a friend of mine brought my attention to an article written by Sam Shamoun in rebuttal to my article on Mark 1:2. Though Shamoun raises some interesting points in his “examination”, his main argument really boils down to a standard Christian apologetic ploy. In this article we will illustrate the deficiencies of Sam Shamoun’s position and reaffirm the conclusion that was made in my previous article on mark 1:2.  This is a counter-rebuttal to his claim “Mark’s Prologue Examined In light of the assertions of an Incompetent Dawagandist”. To begin, let us reproduce the short article that I wrote for the benefit of the readers.

Human Error or Divine Incompetence?

by Ibn Anwar

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 -end of article on Mark 1- (

In his response Sam Shamoun makes the claim that I have simply recycled “liberal attacks and criticisms” against the Bible:

Muslim dawagandist Ibn Anwar has become rather fond of rehashing the same old liberal attacks and criticisms against the Holy Bible that have been refuted over and over again. Just recently Ibn Anwar produced a short piece (1; 2) attacking Mark for ignorantly attributing a wrong quote to the Prophet Isaiah in Mark 1:2-3.

He then says that if I was honest I would do good to consult Bible commentaries that will provide me with the data to understand “what Mark was doing here”.

If Ibn Anwar was honest and truly interested in finding an answer to this alleged discrepancy all he had to do was consult some Biblical commentaries which would have provided him with the data to understand what Mark was doing here. In fact he could have found the answer on our site since we have addressed this assertion before, namely in response to another Muslim polemicist named MENJ.

The fact of the matter is that it is Ibn Anwar who is ignorant, not Mark, and he is the one who has made a gross blunder by erroneously assuming that Mark was mistaken since this exposes his ignorance of the Jewish exegetical practices employed during the time of Christ. It was a common practice amongst the Jews to take citations from different biblical writings – especially when such references touched on similar themes or ideas and/or used the same words – and attribute them to a single author. The rabbis even coined a term for this particular method of exegesis, namely gezera shewa.

From the above we can adduce that his main argument that I am wrong is that it was common practice for Jews to make citations  to different sources that have similar themes, ideas or words and attribute them to a single author. He then says that this is a particular method of exegesis used by Rabbis that is called gezera shewa. First of all, let us understand what this word means in the Judaic tradition.

The word itself literally means “equal category”. It is one of the Seven Rules of Hillel who is attributed as the earliest source for the said midrashic or Jewish exegetical principle.[1] Former Dean of the Yale Divinity school Harold W. Attridge explains:

“…the Rabbinic technique gezera shewa, which draws together two passages linked by a common word. At its simplest, this technique interpreted an ambiguous word in one context by its clear meaning in another. The technique could also link passages whose themes or motifs might be mutually illuminating.” [2]

A handbook for interpreting scripture for the clergy defines it similarly:

“The use of the same word (or phrase) in different contexts means the same considerations apply to each context and each passage helps interpret the other.” [3]

The following is a very detailed brief exposition from the Jewish Encyclopedia on the gezerah shawah,

“The second rule of Hillel and of Ishmael, and the seventh of Eliezer b. Jose ha-Gelili. This may be described as argument by analogy, which infers from the similarity of two cases that the legal decision given for the one holds good for the other also. The term “gezerah shawah” originally included arguments based on analogies either in word or in fact. Before long, however, the latter class was designated as “heḳḳesh,” while the phrase “gezerah shawah” was limited to analogy in the case of two different Biblical laws containing a word common to both. The gezerah shawah was originally restricted to a δὶς λερόμευον, i.e., a word occurring only in the two passages offering the analogy. Since such a word is found nowhere else, there is no reason to assume that it bears different meanings in the two passages. The gezerah shawah consequently attaches to the word in the one passage the entire sequence of ideas which it bears in the other. Such a gezerah shawah is purely lexicographical, as seeking to determine the exact signification of a word by comparison with another passage in which the full meaning of such word is clear. The rule thus demonstrates itself. An example will illustrate this more clearly. The phrase (“to wring off the head”) occurs only twice in the Pentateuch, namely, in Lev. i. 15 and ib. v. 8. In the latter passage, however, the meaning of the phrase is more closely defined by (“from the neck”). The Sifra (ed. Weiss, p. 9a) concludes, therefore, that the nearer definition, “from the neck,” in the second passage, is part of the concept of the word , and, consequently, that in the former passage, also, means “to wring the head from the neck.” At a later period, however, the gezerah shawah emerged from these narrow bounds and inferred the identity of legal requirements from the identity of their terminology, even when such terminology occurred in many passages besides the two which formed the analogy. Thereby the gezerah shawah lost its inherent power of demonstration; for it is wholly unreasonable to attribute to a word a meaning which happens to be associated with it in a single passage, when various other passages connect ideas entirely different with the same word. Since, moreover, each individual teacher might choose which two expressions he would select for a gezerah shawah, contradictory conclusions might be drawn, which would each have the same claim to validity, since both were obtained by a gezerah shawah. Consequently, in order to be binding, a gezerah shawah was obliged to conform to two requirements which, on the one hand, greatly restricted its application, and, on the other, gave legal decisions thus obtained the value of those deduced from a superfluous word in the Holy Scriptures. These conditions are: (a) (“No one may draw a conclusion from analogy upon his own authority”; Pes. 66a; Niddah 19b). This rule, however, is not to be regarded as implying that every gezerah shawah must have been handed down from Sinai, as Rashi (on the various passages) and many expositors who followed him explained it, but that the use of this method of hermeneutics is to be permitted only to an entire board or council, and is to be employed only when its results agree with the traditional halakah, which thereby acquires the importance of alaw implied in the Scriptures. In Yerushalmi this rule reads: (“From a gezerah shawah conclusions may be deduced which support tradition, but not such as are opposed to tradition”; comp. Maimonides in the introduction to his “Mishneh Torah”). (b) The words of the text which form the basis of the deduction from analogy must be free, i.e., they must be superfluous and non-essential, or they may not be used ( ). This limitation of the gezerah shawah, however, to superfluous words is not generally recognized. Akiba considers the gezerah shawah valid when neither of the two words is superfluous ( ). According to Ishmael, it is sufficient if the analogy is free on one side (), i.e., if one of the two words forming the basis of the analogy is pleonastic. Eliezer alone requires both words to be superfluous (; comp. Hoffmann, “Zur Einleitung in die Halachischen Midrashchim,” p. 6)” [4]
The specialist in Talmudic and Halachic literature from Hebrew Union College, Prof. Michael L. Chernick explains:
“Gezerah shawah, one of the thirteen classical midrashic methods, connects two pentateuchal verses by comparing similar words which appear in each thus allowing one verse to clarify some ambiguity, usually legal, in the other. Occasionally both verses clarify each other. Not all similar words in the Pentateuch, however, are interpreted in this fashion. Here I explain the criteria of choice used in the classical halakhic midrashim. Analysis of gezerah shawah expositions shows: 1) The “simple” gezerah shawah has three forms. Form 1 permits a gezerah shawah interpretation when a word or phrase of two words repeats only twice in the Pentateuch. Form 2 allows a gezerah shawah when a formula of three words or more appears only twice in the Pentateuch. Form 3 authorizes a gezerah shawah when similar words appear twice in two verses of a single pentateuchal pericope or legal framework. 2) Another type of gezerah shawah exists in which only a word or phrase “free” or “open” (‮מופנה‬) for interpretation may generate a word-comparison. A “free” word or phrase occurs when it is a) redundant in its verse; b) obviated by a successful ‮קל וחומר‬; c) redundant in light of a midrashic definition; or d) contextually inappropriate. Gezerah shawah mufnah also requires that generative words appear in a single pericope or share related legal rubrics. Thus internal formal constraints limit gezerah shawah’s application. Word-comparison interpretations introduced by the formula ‮ונאמר להלן נאמר כאן‬… but not designated gezerah shawah appear in the classical halakhic midrashim. They are not called gezerah shawah because they do not adhere to gezerah shawah’s formal requirements. I call these sources “‮נאמר כאן‬ interpretations.” Because some early amoraim called ‮נאמר כאן‬ interpretations gezerah shawahs, it appeared that gezerah shawah operated without any logical pattern or restraints. This led to external controls on gezerah shawah interpretation like the rule, “No one may create a gezerah shawah on his own.”” [5]
Does the hypothesis posited by Sam Shamoun carry any weight after a careful examination of the definitions and explanations given above from both Christian and Jewish scholars ? What is his claim? Let us reproduce it once more:
It was a common practice amongst the Jews to take citations from different biblical writings – especially when such references touched on similar themes or ideas and/or used the same words – and attribute them to a single author

One would not find fault with the definition that he gives starting from “it was common” right up to “the same words”, but, the part where he claims that they “attribute them to a single author” should be rejected. None of the definitions and explanations cited mention anything at all about lumping together different verses from different authors and attributing them all together to a single author. Prof. Michael Chernick states that a gezerah shawah is usually related to legalistic ideas. What is the legal feature of Mark 1:2? It is a theological citation and has nothing to do with laws. The Jewish Encyclopedia mentions the strict feature of the gezera shawah is that it should not be employed by a single author without support [ (“No one may draw a conclusion from analogy upon his own authority”; Pes. 66a; Niddah 19b)]. Was Mark helped by other authorities to apply this particular exegetical principle? No, he was speaking on his own. In fact, we do not even know who he is since the gospel according to Mark is an anonymous piece of literature! [6] Neither Attridge nor the clergy publication cited mention anything about attributing collated quotations from different persons to a single author either.

To prove his point Sam Shamoun cites nine different commentaries for support. He says:

Ibn Anwar has no excuse for not being aware of this information since this is common knowledge to NT scholars, whether liberal or conservative.

The first scholar that he cites as proof positive for his case is John C. Fenton,

Case in point, liberal NT scholar John C. Fenton refers to this Jewish practice in his commentary on Matthew 2:5-6 where the passage attributes Micah 5:2 and 2 Samuel 5:2 to the Prophet Micah:

“The prophecy is from Mic. 5.2, but it is not given in the LXX translation, nor is it an exact rendering of the Hebrew text, 2 Sam 5.2 may have been combined with the Micah prophecy; combining of similar Old Testament passages WAS A REGULAR FEATURE OF RABBINIC STUDY OF THE SCRIPTURES.” (Fenton, Saint Matthew (The Penguin New Testament Commentaries) [Penguin Books, 1963], p. 46; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Recalling the definitions given for gezerah shawah one would not find fault with the bolded and capitalised section in the above quotation from John C. Fenton. What one should ask however, is where exactly does Fenton agree with the idea of lumping together different quotations from different authors and attribute them to only one individual? It’s not mentioned is it? Furthermore, there is an underlying presumption behind Sam Shamoun’s argument. The presumption is that the author of Mark along with the other gospel writers were schooled in the intricacies of Rabbinical Jewish exegesis. Where is the proof for this? It is very convenient and also fallacious to simply equate two things because of apparent similarities without establishing clearly the connection between them.  He then goes on to quote Evangelical scholars Robert H. Gundry and Craig S. Keener who both refer to Matthew 27:9-10 thereafter putting it together with mark 1:2 as another example of the same utilisation of the alleged Jewish literary device found in the verse in question with Keener specifically invoking the gezera shewa. According to Sam Shamoun what he argues is common knowledge among New Testament scholars, “whether liberal or conservative”. If that is true why is it that the eminent Bible and Jewish History scholar Prof. Geza Vermes seems to be unaware of it?!? Commenting on the text cited by Gundry and Keener i.e. Matthew 27:9-10, Prof. Geza Vermes says: “The quotation is said to be of Jeremiah, but it is invented or is more exactly a garbled mixture of Zechariah 11:12-13 and Jeremiah 18-2-3, 36:6-15.” [7] The eminent New Testament scholar Prof. Raymond Brown who was hailed as the preeminent scholar of the New Testament by Sam Shamoun’s hero Dr. William Lane Craig did not know about this “common knowledge” that Shamoun talks about either as he says, “That conglomeration of words cited by Matt exists nowhere in the standard OT.” [8]As the other six quotations that Sam Shamoun cites propounds the same basic idea posited by Gundry and Keener we do not have to reproduce them here. Thus far Sam Shamoun’s defense can be listed as follows: 1. Mark 1:2 is an example of an exegetical device found in Judaism which is employed by the author of Mark. 2. The Bible commentaries provide support for Shamoun’s case. He further claims that point number 1 is common knowledge to New Testament scholars. 3. If we refer to bible commentaries then the issue will be clarified and Sam Shamoun’s position solidified, hence, he says,

“If Ibn Anwar was honest and truly interested in finding an answer to this alleged discrepancy all he had to do was consult some Biblical commentaries which would have provided him with the data to understand what Mark was doing here.”

Let us now turn our attention to some noted Bible commentaries as suggested and recommended by Sam Shamoun which as he contends would clarify the issue. Firstly, let us look at a New Testament commentary by a notable Jewish scholar, Prof. Samuel Tobias Lachs. His commentary according to Dr. Jeffrey H. Tigay who is A.M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania is based on Talmudic and Midrashic texts contemporaneous to and after the New Testament. Dr. Jeffrey Tigay says that, “In his book A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (1987) he adduced Talmudic and Midrashic texts that were contemporary with, or a little later than, the New Testament, for the purpose of identifying and clarifying the Jewish elements in the New Testament.” [9] The following is from Prof. Samuel Tobias Lachs’ A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament:

“Mark, v. 1 in Isaiah the prophet As the text stands it is incorrect, since verses are taken from Mal. 3.1 and Isa. 40.3. “The mistake may have arisen because the Malachi quotation was added later or possibly St. Mark took the texts, already combined, from a testimony-book i.e. a collection of passages from the Old Testament put together by the early Church as throwing light on the life and work of Christ.” The variant reading “the prophets” if not original was substituted to solve the problem.” [10] (emphasis added)

Is it conceivable that this notable professor in Jewish studies was absolutely unaware of gezerah shawah? The above quotation sufficiently demolishes Shamoun’s argument whereby he claims that what he contends is common knowledge among scholars and that Bible commentaries will certainly explain. Yes, the above Bible commentary does explain. It explains that Mark 1:2 is a corruption/error. Dr. R. McL. Wilson was lecturer of New testament Language and Literature at St. Andrews University. He echoes the same message as Prof. Lachs in his commentary on Mark 1:2 in Peake’s Commentary on the Bible in which he says:

“2-8 The Ministry of John-The first quotation is from Mal. (3:1; cf. Exod. 23:20), hence some MSS emend to read ‘in the prophets’ ; whether Mk was in error or 2 is a later insertion (it is missing here from Mt. and Lk.), ‘in Isaiah the prophet’ is probably original.[11] (emphasis added)

Though the gist of what Wilson says correlates with Lachs’ comments he adds something extra that deserves further attention. He talks about the absence of the text in Mark in the other gospels. That is to say if Mark 1:2 is true why is it absent in both Matthew and Luke? Matthew(3:3) and Luke(3:4) and also John(1.23) cite the same prophecy as Mark 1:3 i.e. Isaiah 40:3 and attributes it correctly to Isaiah omitting all together any reference that would corroborate Mark 1:2. This can be seen clearly when comparing the gospels together. [12] This additional datum gives further credence to our case particularly when we take into consideration the so called Synoptic Problem in which the vast majority of scholars today commonly concur that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a common source. The significance of this is that now one can effectively posit the contention that if the reading “in Isaiah” is original to Mark then the other authors of the gospels omitted that piece of information. They would not have done so had they been aware of Shamoun’s version of gezera shawah especially the author of Matthew who according to Shamoun uses the same technique in chapter 27. The only reasonable conclusion is that they noticed the error in Mark 1:2 and decided to simply omit it and retain only the prophecy that is correctly referenced to Isaiah(40:3) as Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University and Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible, Timothy K. Beal notes in his The Rise and Fall of the Bible:

“In any case, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, both of which appear to have used Mark as one of their literary sources, implicitly correct Mark’s merging of the two prophetic passages by quoting the passage from Isaiah alone (Matthew 3:3 and Luke 3:4).” [13]

The Oxford New Testament scholar Prof. C.M. Tuckett in the Oxford Bible Commentary says:

“They first bring on to the stage not Jesus himself but the figure of John the Baptist, and in turn john is introduced by a (mixed) OT citation. (v. 2 is a mixture of Ex. 23:20 and Mal 3:1; v.3 is from Isa 40:3. The reference to Isaiah in the introductory words in v.2 is probably a mistake.) [14] (emphasis added)

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible which says:

“Verse b might be a conflation of Mal 3:1 and Exod 23:20, though the fit is not exact. Whatever its origin, it is not from the prophet Isaiah, which raises the question of the level of scriptural knowledge held by the author of Mark or the level the author believed the audience would have. Both Matthew and Luke remove the verse from the Isaiah quotation…” [22](emphasis added)

Let us now look at some major classical Bible commentaries for a change. Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible commentary says:

“(Intead of the words, “it is written in the Prophets,” there is weighty evidence in favour of the following reading: “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet.” This reading is adopted by all the latest critical editors. If it be the true one, it is to be explained thus-that of the two quotations, the one from Malachi is but a later development of the great primary one in Isaiah, from which the whole prophetical matter here quoted takes its name. But the received text is quoted by Iranaeus, before the end of the second century, and the evidence in its favour is greater in amount, if not in weight. The chief objection to it is, that if this was the true reading, it is difficult to see how the other one could have got in at all; whereas, if it be found its way into the text, as it removes the startling difficulty of a prophecy beginning with the words of Malachi being ascribed to Isaiah).” [16] (emphasis added)

Joining the ranks, the Methodist and Biblical scholar Adam Clarke remarks in his commentary on mark 1:2:

“As it is written in the prophets. Rather, “As it is written by Isaiah the prophet.” I think this reading should be adopted, instead of that in the common text. It is the reading of several MSS. and versions of great repute, and in several of the Fathers. As this prophecy is found in Isaiah and Malachi, early scribes probably changed the reading to the prophets, that it might comprehend both.[17] (emphasis added)

What the above indicates is that Adam Clarke was not at all aware of the argument postulated by Sam Shamoun(and others) that he cited which says that it was common practice in Jewish studies of scripture to name a combination of verses from different authors with only one of them. The last part of the quotation is indicative that without altering the text to “the prophets” the reading “in Isaiah” stands confusing and erroneous which is why it was altered!

Robert A. Spivey in the Anatomy of the New Testament and Philip J. Cunningham in Mark: the good news preached to the Romans both cite Mark 1:2, but neither of them mention anything close to Sam Shamoun’s hypothesis which they should if it is indeed as Sam Shamoun claims “common knowledge” to New Testament scholars.

Ralph Earle, Professor of New Testament at Nazarene Seminary, Harvey J.S. Blaney, Professor of Religion and Chairman of the Graduate Division of Theological Studies at Eastern Nazarene College and Charles W. Carter, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Taylor University in their The Wesleyan Bible Commentary say: “Isaiah the prophet is the correct reading here rather than “the prophets”(KJV). It is easy to understand why some copyists would change to the latter, since the first part of the quotation (v. 2) is from Malachi 3:1. Only in verse 3 does Mark quote from Isaiah (40.3). It would appear that he had mainly in mind the words from Isaiah and then inserted the ones from Malachi as “an afterthought”. Matthew (3:3) and Luke (3:4) have only the quotation from Isaiah.” [18] (emphasis added)

What any reasonable reader can elicit from the above is that the three scholars actually agree that Mark 1:2 with the reading “in Isaiah” is an incorrect attribution which is why the later scribes altered the passage. However, it is interesting to note they posit the hypothesis that what happened was that the author of Mark added in the quotation from Malachi as an “afterthought” which still affirms that the reference given is wrong. Say for example a person were to write, “it is written in the New Testament if a man strikes you on the right cheek give the other to him also.” And then sometime later a new verse that is related occurs in the person’s mind but it is a verse from the Old Testament. So what he does is he simply adds this new verse and retains the rest of what he initially wrote. So to his readers the only reference given to two different verses from two different books is one and the same, the New Testament. Is such a practice accurate and a reasonable method of writing? Of course not. Therefore, the “afterthought” hypothesised in the above quotation does not exonerate the error in Mark 1:2 if there are those who might think that it does. And the scholars do not give  any hints at all that it does away with the problem. In fact, as we can clearly see they state that, “It is easy to understand why some copyists would change to the latter, since the first part of the quotation (v. 2) is from Malachi 3:1. Only in verse 3 does Mark quote from Isaiah (40.3)”

The last quotation Sam Shamoun cites is from a Messianic Jewish commentator David H. Stern who received his Masters in Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. Stern lays the following claim as cited by Shamoun: “2-3 It is written in the prophet Yesha‘yahu. Only the last two lines quoted are from Isaiah; the first two are from Malachi. The scroll of the Prophets begins with Isaiah, and it was common to refer to a scroll by its first book; but see Mt 27:9 N. (Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary [Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc; 1st edition, October 1992], p. 87)”

The conservative textual critic Dr. Daniel Wallace in his assessment of Mark 1:2 questions the above hypothesis and candidly says, ” Some suggest that Isaiah headed up the scroll of the prophets and hence Mark meant “In the scroll of Isaiah.” This may be, but we are lacking sufficient proof. There are other suggestions as well, though no firm answers.” (emphasis added) It is noteworthy that Dr. Daniel Wallace does not mention Sam Shamoun’s hypothesis about the gezerah shawah at all as one of the excuses(and he mentions a few of them in his discussion) to continue t0 believe in the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy by propagators of inerrancy! Is it not clear enough now that Shamoun’s claim that the position he posits is “common knowledge” among New Testament scholars is self-defeating and without foundation? Sam Shamoun further argues:

Ibn Anwar also tries to prove that the reading found in the KJV, “As it is written in the prophets,” is not original but a scribal alteration. It seems that later scribes who were far removed from the time of Christ and who, much like Ibn Anwar, were ignorant of Jewish exegetical practices wrongly assumed that someone had mistakenly corrupted the original reading of Mark since they may have reasoned that Mark could not have attributed all of these quotes to Isaiah. They decided to “restore” the original reading by changing “in Isaiah” to “in the prophets.”

In other words, Sam Shamoun agrees that Mark 1:2 as it stands in the King James Version is a scribal alteration based on a theological motivation. That is good. So the scribes were incompetent and misled by the text. Here’s the thing though. The premise of Sam Shamoun’s whole thesis is that Mark 1:2-3 is merely an example of a Judaic practice in exegesis known as gezerah shawah(even thought we have shown that this is not the case). Granted that this was indeed an exegetical device, was it something that the ordinary man 2000 years ago knew? This exegetical device was used by Rabbis among Rabbis. The common people were illiterate. They were not expected to be able to read a whole sentence let alone carry the capability to understand and appreciate exegetical principles! If scribes who were able to read(according to Dr. Daniel Wallace they were even experts in OT writings) were themselves misled and compelled to change the text so as to facilitate comprehension as Adam Clarke mentions where would that put the common man? Was Mark written for a Rabbinical audience or for the average man and society at large? Biblical scholars are in agreement that the gospels are “propaganda material” as we find stated in the Cambridge Companion to the Bible:

“The primary sources of our knowledge of Jesus, therefore, are the gospels: the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But as the title “gospel” (good news), implies, and as the opening word of Mark makes explicit, they are not objective reports but propaganda.” [19] (emphasis added)

If for the sake of argument we were to agree that indeed what is found in Mark 1:2 is a correct usage of gezera shawa why would it even be used? Why in the world would the author of Mark employ an exegetical device that the ordinary people both literate and illiterate did not understand when his aim was first and foremost to woo people into the faith? How many people have been deceived into thinking that “in the Prophets’ is the correct reading? The reading is still used in the KJV which is one of the most frequently used Bibles in the Protestant denomination. According to Sam Shamoun then the following commentaries along with the scholars who put them together are incompetent(which is ironic because he recommended me to go to Bible commentaries for answers in the first place):

“2-3 The forerunner had arrived according to the divine prediction: As it is written in the prophets (Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3).” [20] The Geneva Bible is based on similar sets of manuscripts that the KJV is based on, hence the same reading “in the prophets” is retained instead of “in Isaiah”. Commenting on the verse the Geneva commentators say:

“This is the figure Metonymia, whereby is meant the bookes of the Prophets, Malachie and Esay.”

Thus, the invented reading has persisted into the modern day due to the confusion that was started by the author of Mark. It is unlikely that he would have intentionally given rise to the confusion as he was aiming to propagate and convert. He must have honestly thought that he had correctly quoted from Isaiah. We have shown that Sam Shamoun’s contentions are extremely flimsy at best. The internal evidence i.e. the absence of the part cited by the author of Mark(Mark 1:2) in the other gospels; the clear corruption in the text because scribes themselves recognised the error and actually changed it to make it look better; the absence of any material evidence for the strange type of gezerah shawahin Jewish literature articulated by Sam Shamoun and not supported by Jewish and Christian scholars cited at the beginning; the Christian and Jewish commentaries that refute Sam Shamoun upon his own recommendation are sufficient in totally demolishing Sam Shamoun’s rebuttal to my initial article on Mark 1:2. We reaffirm that Mark 1:2 is in error.

“Instead of “IN THE PROPHETS” the B/ALEPH texts and the English versions have “IN THE PROPHET ISAIAH.” Though Mark 1:3 does refer to the Isaiah 40:3, this verse 2 is found in Malachi 3:1 and NOT Isaiah! The way it stands in these false texts, it makes the Bible out as false and in error.” [21]

Shamoun’s rebuttal may be accessed here



[1] Longenecker, R.(1999). Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans. p. 20

[2] Barton, J. & Muddiman, J. (Ed.)(2001). Oxford Bible Commentary. United States: Oxford University Press. p. 1242

[3] Interpreting Scripture. (2004). Kansas City, MO: Nazarence Publishing House. p. 44


[5] Chernick, M. Internal Restraints on Gezerah Shawah’s Application. The Jewish Quarterly Review, 80, 253-282


[7] Vermes, G. (2005). The Passion. London, England: Penguin Books. pp. 53

[8] Brown, R.E. (1994). The Death of the Messiah, Vol. 1. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. pp. 648


[10]Lachs, S.T. (1987). A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament. U.S.A. : KTAV Publishing House. p. 38

[11] Wilson, R.M. (1962). Mark. In Matthew Black & H. H. Rowley (Eds.), Peake’s Commentary on the Bible. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. pp. 800

[12] Swanson, R. J. (1975).The Horizontal Line Synopsis of the Gospels. Dillsboro, North carolina: Western North Carolina Press, Inc. p. 5

[13] Beal, T. K. (2011). The rise and fall of the Bible: the unexpected history of an accidental book. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. pp. 105

[14] Barton, J. & Muddiman, J. Op. Cit. p. 888

[15] Harelson, W.J. (2003). The New Interpreter’s Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press. pp. 1804

[16] The Bethany Parallel Commentary On the New Testament(1983).

[17] Ibid.

[18] Earle, R, Blaney, H.J.S., Carter, C.W. (1966). Wesleyan Bible Commentary vol. 4. U.S.: Baker Books House. p. 133

[19] Kee, H. C., Meyers, E. M. , Rogerson, J. & Saldarini, A. J. (1997). The Cambridge Companion to the Bible. Cambridge, U.K. : Cambridge University Press. p. 447

[20] Falwell, J., Hindson, E. E. III & Kroll, W. (1982). Liberty Bible Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc. p. 101

[21]Waite, D.A.(1992). Defending the King James Bible. Collingswood, NJ: The Bible for Today. p. 146-147

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17 Responses to “Mark 1:2 is still an error”

  1. sam shamoun says:

    I just saw this. Lord willing, expect my refutation to your “response” to appear within the month or so after I finish my reply to your Isaiah 21 piece and a several part refutation to Ibn Saad’s “challenge.” I am sure you guys will love them. 🙂

  2. holy ghost says:

    the pagan feral foreskin worshiper is embarrassed again

    didnt the holy ghost study his own inspired scriptures? o thats right, you had later christians comming along and rectifying my mistakes in later “versions”

  3. menj says:

    Sa’am Sham is going to have a tough time trying to wiggle his way out of this one.

  4. mr rob says:

    all he is going to do is rehash /rewrite the james patrick holdings how it could have been solutions.

  5. Kaz says:

    Does he not tire from spewing untruths all the time?

    I wish he would stop being so blind and stubborn for his own sake.

  6. Pamuk7 says:

    Shamoun will have an answer to any and every error in the Bible (based on his presuppositions), regardless if he himself even believes in it or not. But his answer will only be AN answer, not THE answer. He will probably resort to the conservative Christians now if writes a reply, but will neglect the consensus of scholars.

    This is a similar thing he has done when analysing Islam: he’s taken what the small minority of Muslim scholars/weak Hadiths, and neglects the majority. This is why you will see him quoting from Isra’iliyat Hadiths and using it against us, when according to sciences of Hadith & consensus of scholars, these are rejected.

    When Muslims attempt to rebuke him (including his outrageous behavior), he brings up what xyz Muslim does/behaves and thinks that justifies his bad actions.

    He’s got bad motives & cannot be trusted.

  7. atheistgorilla says:

    It is believed that Mark, Matthew, and Luke share a common source. There is certainly a similarity between them in what they say and when they say it. Did Mark mean to quote Isaiah with the same quote and in the same position as the other Gospels but totally mess up and quote another text? I don’t believe so. I believe he is paraphrasing Isaiah so as to make it easy to read. Mark’s style of writing is recognized to have been intended to be simple and clear. This looks to me to be the best explanation, any other claim of this being a contradiction is even more conjectural and totally unpersuasive.

  8. heman says:

    “Lord willing”

    wtf is lord ? olived skinned palestinian jew? this image worshipping fat pig needs to know that image worship is a sin in the torah.

    when your lord eat fish, did he go for a crap before he departed to heaven?

  9. Beth says:

    My wish is not to argue but simply supply the missing facts: Mark 1:2 says; “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before thee. And Malachi 3:1 says; “Behold I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me…

  10. TheREALTruth says:

    Not so fast.
    The original Greek translated manuscripts actually say…

    Mark 1:2 (King James Version)

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

    it never says “Isaiah”. You are using a bible translation that is notorious for “missing” words. Moses IS a prophet, so if we’re looking at Mark 1:2 of the earlier texts at face value, everything is correct. You may not be aware of this, but do not continue to spread lies and deceive people. There is ONE God and Jesus is His Son and the ONLY way to Heaven.

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      Did you actually read the article? I have already addressed your claim. The set of Greek manuscripts that has the reading ‘in the Prophets’ are found in quite 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. On the other hand, the reading ‘in Isaiah’ is found 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. I have already discussed this in depth in the article. Please read it again carefully.

  11. holy ghost says:

    the gluttonous pagan cross worshiper fails repeatedly

    this literary device of “gezerah shawah” was ONLY used in the Pentateuch or the TORAH and relates 2 different laws together, it in no way attributes 2 different bible passages from 2 different authors to just a single author

    I challenge this pathetic foreskin worshiper to bring proof that this type of interpretation was employed outside of the Torah and was used to link 2 different passages by 2 different authors as a single passage from a single author

  12. holy ghost says:

    your HOLY GHOST is challenging you shamoun

  13. Hamza says:

    There’s no need to ridicule guys.

    Just let the facts speak for themselves. I know it’s hard because Sam tends to be very antagonistic with his article. But I enjoyed this article because Ibn Anwar didn’t insult anyone.

  14. ammenRA says:

    Assalamuallaikum Wa Rahmahtullahi Wabarakatuh, hi guys, i want to ask is that sam character gives his refutation?

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