Is there any evidence for a proto-Mark in the Markian categories,
121, 020, 021, and 120?

(see all hypotheses
(see category descriptions
(see all results

The short answer is that the results of the study are consistent with a proto-Mark, that was edited almost exclusively by minor additions to produce our version of Mark. However, there is another plausible explanation for the observed results. Therefore we can not say a proto-Mark is indicated by the study. All we can say is that the possibility of a proto-Mark can neither be confirmed nor excluded.

Here are some relevant results:
120-121 8E-25
120-122 .0017

021-121 5E-36
021-221 .0003

020-021 5E-06
020-022 .064

020-120 1E-06
020-220 .0387

All of these show an asymmetric relationship. The “0” category is always more related to the “1” category than it is to the “2” category. At first glance, this is not the pattern we would expect to see. If Luke or Matthew are editing Mark, we would expect to see the “2” category and the “1” category more symmetric around the “0” category. The pattern observed here is consistent with late additions to Mark, that neither Matthew nor Luke had the opportunity to copy.

A closer look at the details, shows that this pattern is caused by words that are atypically common in Mark, that tend to be ignored by both Matthew and Luke. For example Mark uses various forms of POLUS or POLLA frequently to mean “many” or "much" or as a general intensifier. Both Matthew and Luke tend to omit these frequent occurrences.

There are at least two reasonable explanations for this. One possibility is that a late editor of Mark went through and added words and comments here and there to emphasis and clarify things. The other possibility is that Mark overused these words and that Matthew and Luke tended to agree that the word needed to be used less frequently. Thus if we find a word used with atypical frequency in Mark, and mostly omitted by Matthew, we could then speculate that Luke would also tend to omit the same overused word from Mark.

Both explanations, or a combination of them, are plausible and the study can not distinguish between them. The study can however put limits on what a proto-Mark might have looked like. From other results, we know that agreements between Mark and the other synoptics seem to be attributable to Mark as the original author. We also know that the “minor agreements” look Matthian in character, which would exclude the possibility of much material being omitted from proto-Mark to form our Mark. Certainly a very limited omission like that of
secret Mark would still be possible, but such omissions would have had to have been very limited indeed. The only sorts of changes that are consistent with the results of the study are additions to proto-Mark to form our Mark. Although, again, the study does not indicate that a proto-Mark must have existed, only that it could have.
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