Let me first affirm that I wholeheartedly believe in the sonship of Jesus. The title serves more as an attention getter than anything.
With that said, I have been spending sometime in the Gospel of Mark, and one of the first things the reader notices is the variant reading found in Mark 1:1. Let us look the text and then explore this a little.
Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ [υἱοῦ θεοῦ].
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, [the Son of God].
Now, I am no text-critic. But I do dabble from time to time in this field of study. I find it rewarding and exciting following to follow these rabbit trails to wherever they may lead. But what of Mark and this addition/omission to his opening title? Is the reading υἱοῦ θεοῦ (Son of God) Mark’s original reading, or was it a scribal addition added later to expand upon the name of Christ?
I will not focus too much on the various readings, other than mention them here and give relevant information. First note some major manuscript witnesses to each reading:
- Omission of υἱοῦ θεοῦ: א* Θ Or. (Most of the marginal notes in the major English translations make not of the subtraction in some manuscripts).
- Inclusion of υἱοῦ θεοῦ: א1 B D (The majority of English translations include “son of God” in their base text).
The majority of textual evidence seem to indicate that the inclusion of υἱοῦ θεοῦ is the original reading. This also has strength from the whole of Marks Gospel, being that the topic of sonship is a major theme in the Gospel (cf. 1.11; 3.11; 5.7; 9.7; 14.61; 15.39). Therefore, the omission of υἱοῦ θεοῦ may have likely been due to a scribal mistake.
Another interesting insight is the inclusio which is formed with 1.1 and 15.39. This in turn would likely indicate an original reading of υἱοῦ θεοῦ in 1.1.
This all came to my mind as I was sitting in the dentist chair today. While I was waiting for the dentist to come and prep my tooth for a root canal (fun times, let me tell you!) I began to think about this verse. What would be the reasons for both adding υἱοῦ θεοῦ as well as omitting it? I could understand the possibility of a scribe adding it due to the sonship theme spread throughout Mark. But I could not understand why a scribe would want to omit υἱοῦ θεοῦ. Just some more musings on the text, this time from a dentist’s chair.