1. Introduction of the Issue
Most Bible translations such as American Standard Version translate Mark 1:41 as follows:
And being moved with compassion, he stretched forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou made clean.The New International Version though has Mark 1:41:
Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. he said.This difference in using "compassion" vs. "indignant" is due to different Greek words in the supporting evidence. There is actually only one extant Greek Manuscript supporting "indignant". A better translation of the Greek word is "angry". Almost all other Greek Manuscripts have "compassion".
Despite this lopsided Greek Manuscript evidence, Bart Ehrman, generally thought to be one of the top Textual Critics of all time, has argued that "angry" is the more likely original based primarily on The Difficult Reading Principle. This has caused a split in modern Bible scholarship regarding opinion as to which word was more likely original with the majority of modern Bible scholars thinking that both words are serious candidates for originality.
The related issue involves how Jesus' character is described in the Gospels. Overall, Jesus is generally described with positive emotions such as compassion. GMark is different from the other Gospels though in that it is more likely to describe Jesus with negative emotions such as anger. Specifically in GMark though, the narrative always appears to give a plausible reason why Jesus would be angry, except at 1:41.
Summary of the argument for Angry:
Greek = Bezae. 6th best full witness to GMark. No better witness to GMark for the most difficult readings. 169 505 508 1358 l866 omit.
Latin = ita itd itff2 itr1. itb omit. These are some of the best Latin witnesses.
Fits pattern of extremely little quantitative support for very difficult readings. Has the least Manuscript support for perhaps the most difficult reading.
GMatthew and GLuke omit even though they otherwise copy the story almost word for word. No good reason to exorcise "compassion". GMatthew/GLuke likewise exorcise the closely following two strongly negative emotional words ascribed to Jesus. GMatthew/GLuke only show their Jesus as compassionate and never angry. Diatessaron (Ephraem commentary). Egerton Gospel omit. All of this is the earliest Patristic reaction.
- Text Critics
Bart Ehrman and other top Textual Critics
Authority is mixed but generally those against are also against other likely original very Difficult Readings
- Text Critics
NIV. NRSV footnote (probably the best translation)
In general most translations have the less likely reading for very Difficult Readings
- The Difficult Reading Principle
Very Difficult Reading, especially with the choice between "angry" and "compassion". Possibly the most difficult reading.
The emotion of anger by Jesus frames the Galilean Healing Ministry and is a demonstrated literary technique of "Mark". Undisputed angry Jesus at 3:5. "Mark" never shows Jesus as compassionate during healing. Context also matches as 1:41 & 3:5 both involve the issue of breaking the Ritual Law in order to heal. These stories also frame the six consecutive Conflict stories.
While the External evidence quantitatively overwhelmingly supports "compassion", qualitatively its advantage is not overwhelming. The Internal evidence and especially The Difficult Reading Principle strongly favor "anger". Thus from an overall basis "anger" is more likely to be original. This illustrates that a clear manuscript advantage, even if overwhelming, does not necessarily demonstrate a likely original as in the above example where "anger" is only supported by one Greek Manuscript.
Difficult original readings may have very little Manuscript support and there is likely an inverse relationship between degree of difficulty and Manuscript support and the inverse relationship may be extreme.