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Anonymous Scribe (Mark 13:14)

Role: Literate Worker

Gender: Unknown

Date:  Late 1st Century CE

Place: Unknown

Language:  Greek

Literary Genre: Bios, History; Narrative

Title of Work: Gospel of Mark

Reference:  Mark 13:14

Original Text:

Ὅταν δὲ ἴδητε τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως ἑστηκότα ὅπου οὐ δεῖ, ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω, τότε οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ φευγέτωσαν εἰς τὰ ὄρη,

English Translation:

But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains…


A scribe suddenly appears in Mark 13, a section of the gospel that some have called the Markan “Little Apocalypse.” Amid a series of warnings about impending destruction and chaos, the authors allude to the “desolating sacrilege” (τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως) described in Daniel 9:27. The phrase “let the reader understand” is a literary aside about how best  to interpret the image. While the aside might have referred to individual readers in general,[1] the note was more likely private advice to the designated reader (lector or ἀναγνώστης) who was tasked with performing the Gospel aloud.[2] Its purpose was to clarify the grammatically awkward flow of the verse. Because of the allusion to the text of Daniel, the neuter “βδέλυγμα” (abomination or sacrilege) is followed by a masculine participle “ἑστηκότα” (standing). The note provided the reader with advance notice about the grammatical incongruity. Perhaps, it even granted the reader interpretive license to explain the passage as they chose.[3]

The author of the note is unknown, it appears in early manuscripts of Mark and is repeated in Matthew 24:15. While a great deal of scholarship assumes that the note is original either to Mark or to the author of Mark’s source it is possible that the note was added by an early scribe. In which case what we might have here is an example of two putatively enslaved workers–a scribe and a reader–communicating with one another.[4]

Keywords: Christian; Copyist; Gospels; Literate Worker; New Testament; Reader 


Heilmann, Jan. Lesen in Antike und frühem Christentum: Kulturgeschichtliche, philologische sowie kognitionswissenschaftliche Perspektiven und deren Bedeutung für die neutestamentliche Exegese. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto, 2021.

Muddiman, John. “The Reader of Mark 13:14B as the (Re-)Interpreter of Apocalyptic.” Pages 170–82 in Revealed Wisdom: Studies in Apocalyptic in Honour of Christopher Rowland. Edited by John Ashton. Leiden: Brill, 2014. 

Moss, Candida R. God’s Ghostwriters: Enslaved Christians and the Making of the Bible. New York: Little Brown, 2024.

Wellhausen, Julius.  Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien. Berlin: Reimer, 1905.

How to Cite:

Moss, Candida R. “Anonymous Scribe  (Mark 13:14).” Ancient Enslaved Christians. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. <URL>.


1 Heilmann, Lesen, 105–34.

2 Julius Wellhausen, in Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien (Berlin: Reimer, 1905), 103; Ernest Best, “The Gospel of Mark: Who Was the Reader?” IBS 11 (1989): 124–32.

3 John Muddiman, “The Reader of Mark 13:14B as the (Re-) Interpreter of Apocalyptic,” in Revealed Wisdom: Studies in Apocalyptic in Honour of Christopher Rowland, ed. John Ashton (Leiden: Brill, 2014): 170–82.

4 Moss, God’s Ghostwriters, 189.



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