Ivan Panin and the Gospel of Mark

Perhaps the most impressive work of Ivan Panin concerned the passage Mark 16:9-20 in the Greek New Testament.  Modern scholars are almost unanimous in judging this passage an interpolation, but Panin, in his pamphet "The Last Twelve Verses of Mark" provides a dazzling array of numerical patterns.  In his view, these patterns appeared by design, not by accident, and of course the designer must have been God.  Therefore, the passage is authentic.

As we shall see, this example provides an important lesson about Panin's work.

Accident or Design?

As we have adequately demonstrated elsewhere, any piece of text contains a large number of numerical "patterns" by chance.  All that is needed is the skill to present them in a way that makes them appear extraordinary.  However, some of the patterns presented by Panin were indeed the result of deliberate design: Panin designed them!

Textual analysis or Cheating?

Everyone familiar with the history of the Greek New Testament knows that there are very many editions.  The primary reason for this is that they follow the decisions of editors who have different degrees of access to early manuscripts and different opinions on how discrepancies between them should be resolved.  The result of this subjectivity is that, apart from intentional reprintings, all the editions differ from one another.  Sometimes the differences are small, and sometimes they are large, but almost any difference is harmful to Panin's results.  That is because many of Panin's patterns rely on the exact words, or even the exact letters, that appear in the text.

Panin used the edition of Westcott and Hort as the "basis" for his work, but very often made use of the many alternative readings that those authors suggested.  He was prepared to pick and choose almost arbitrarily from the variations, meaning that in fact he was really working with a huge number of texts, few of them corresponding to any real manuscript.  After this deliberate tweaking of the text to make his patterns work, he then calculated "probabilities" without taking that tweaking into account.  Panin even published his own Greek text, carefully tweaked to provide the patterns that he most liked.

Panin believed that he was reconstructing the original text, but his logic was circular.  By deliberately designing the patterns himself by tweaking the text, he eliminated his own argument that the patterns proved an original design.  The very most he could logically conclude was that his attempt to produce patterns had been successful.

Incidentally, the edition of Westcott and Hort is today regarded as poor scholarship.

Ken Smith's investigation

Ken Smith of Brisbane did an investigation which proves our point forcefully.  Panin's report on the last twelve verse of Mark begins with the observation that there are 175 = 25x7 words in the Greek text.  If that much is wrong, it is obvious that many other things will be wrong also.  So Ken collected a large number of editions and counted the words in that passage.  Here are his findings.
Elzevir's edition of Textus Receptus (1624)
Wilson (1864)
Alford (1874)
Westcott and Hort (1881)
Weymouth (1886)
Nestle (1898)
Souter (1902) for Accepted Version
ditto, for Revised Version
Nestle (1904)
Souter (1910)
Huck (1936)
Souter (1947)
British and Foreign Bible Society (1958)
Tasker (1961)
Nestle/Aland (1975)
Huck/Greeven (1981)

More bibliographic details for these editions are available on request.

We see that none of these editions has even the right number of words for Panin's claims.  What chance do they have for Panin's claims concerning letter counts or numerical values?  We conclude that Panin himself designed the patterns he found.

Another example

A poorly known article of Panin actually describes the process of cooking the data to fit the desired outcome.  The following scans were once available at ftp://tanana.iarc.uaf.edu/panin but that site appears dead:
page1  page2  page3  page4  page5  page6.

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Creator: Brendan McKay, bdm@cs.anu.edu.au.