2013-09-02

Reading Wrede Again for the First Time (10)

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by Tim Widowfield

William Wrede’s The Messianic Secret

Part 10: How Matthew and Luke changed Mark

The Martyrdom of the Apostle St.Matthew
The Martyrdom of the Apostle St.Matthew
(The evangelist prepares for the final cut.)
Jan de Beer (c.1530-1535)

Five months have passed since my previous post on The Messianic Secret. In the interim, I have focused on material related to the genre of the gospels, which has consumed most of my attention.

Recently, however, I’ve been simultaneously reading or re-reading several works on the problem of the Synoptic Gospels, including E.P. Sanders’ The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition, William Farmer’s The Synoptic Problem, and Mark Goodacre’s The Case Against Q. I’ve learned much from reading each of these authors, but I would like to point out that we often will not necessarily understand what is important or significant until we read a work the second or third time.

Let me explain further. About a month ago I began reading The Synoptic Problem by William Farmer, and much to my surprise I learned quite a bit about how we arrived at the “Two-Source” (Mark and Q) consensus — things I didn’t pick up from reading Streeter or anyone else, for that matter. Farmer’s perspective gave him free rein to look for inconsistencies, bad logic, and questionable motives. I now feel the need to go back and re-read The Four Gospels with this new information in mind.

Reading Sanders and Goodacre (again) helped change my perspective on the problem. And as luck would have it, reading Schmidt’s The Place of the Gospels in the General History of Literature as well as the later chapters of The Messianic Secret forced me to re-evaluate those thorny questions.

Synoptic questions

The basic questions we ask ourselves concerning the Synoptic Problem — once we admit that the first three evangelists were somehow copying one another — are:

  1. Who copied whom?
  2. Who changed what?
  3. Why did they change it?

In order to mount a convincing argument as to which gospel came first we need some set of criteria that convincingly explains why an author would change his source material. That is, can we detect any editorial tendencies of an author that caused him to truncate or expand a story? What theological preconceptions might cause a later author to gloss over “difficult” or “uncongenial” passages?

Wrede tackled these sorts of questions in Part Two, “The Later Gospels: Matthew and Luke.”

A primary question will then have to be how the Markan material we have examined is treated in both Gospels.(p. 152)

He’s referring to the passages in Mark that deal with concealment and misunderstanding. If, in Wrede’s view, both Matthew and Luke recapitulate much of Mark, taking over his historical sequence (such as it is), then we should be able to acquire a “direct insight into the history of the approach, which is of interest to us.” (p. 152)

In his examination of Matthew’s use of Mark, Wrede closely examined several pericopae, identified the differences, and tried to develop a coherent reason or set of reasons for the author to change his source material. We will look at two of those stories now.

Jesus withdraws and heals many

Matthew Mark
12:15a  But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, 3:7  Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea,
3:8  and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great number of people heard of all that He was doing and came to Him.
3:9  And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him;
12:15b  and He healed them all, 3:10  for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him.
3:11  Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, “You are the Son of God!”
12:16  and warned them not to tell who He was. 3:12  And He earnestly warned them not to tell who He was.

(All quotations from the NASB translation)

In both gospels, the incipient plot on Jesus’ life serves as the impetus for his withdrawal from the area. Since the wording in Greek in the parallel verses is at times almost verbatim, we can logically assume a literary relationship between the two works. Now the question becomes: Did Mark embellish upon Matthew or did Matthew heavily edit Mark?

We may find a clue in the verse that contains Jesus’ warning. The wording in both verses is practically identical except for the extra πολλὰ (polla) in Mark, which the NASB translates as “earnestly.” However, notice that the word “them” (αὐτοῖς/autois) has a different antecedent in Matthew. In Mark, Jesus warns the demons to keep his identity a secret. In Matthew, Jesus warns the crowd of people who had just been healed to keep his identity a secret.

How are we to make sense out of the Matthean account? Anyone reading the NIV would get the impression that Jesus merely shunned publicity.

Matt. 12:16  He warned them not to tell others about him. (NIV)

That interpretation is simply inaccurate. The NIV translators stick to the same false impression for the Markan account.

Mark 3:12  But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him. (NIV)

The NASB’s translation of φανερὸν αὐτὸν ποιήσωσιν (phaneron auton poiēsōsin) as “tell who He was” closely approximates the original meaning. What we need is an English equivalent of a phrase that encompasses the idea of making Jesus’ true identity “known,” “manifest,” or “conspicuous.” The phrase “telling others about him” is misleading, because the reader could infer that it means telling other people (somewhere else) what Jesus did, not who he is. The simplest reading of Mark is that the demons knew who Jesus really was, shouted out the truth, and were ordered (threatened) to shut up.

At least the NIV didn’t follow the example of Jerome, who translated the Markan account fairly accurately but fudged the Matthean parallel.

Mark 3:12  tu es Filius Dei et vehementer comminabatur eis ne manifestarent illum (Vulgate)

Here he expressed the Greek word ἐπετίμα (epetima) as comminabatur, which captures the forcefulness of Jesus’ words. He didn’t just warn them (either the demons or the people); he threatened (with consequences) or menaced them. These are not the words of a gentle physician who shies away from the public spotlight.

But when Jerome saw a form of the same word (ἐπετίμησεν/epetimēsen) in Matthew, he realized that the context rendered Jesus’ harangue rather problematic. So he translated it like this:

Matt 12:16  et praecepit eis ne manifestum eum facerent (Vulgate)

Rather than threatening or menacing the people he just healed, Jesus in the Vulgate merely orders them or perhaps advises them to keep mum.

It seems highly unlikely that Matthew is original here, given the actual meaning of verse 16. Matthean priority is hard to defend in this pericope for the following reasons.

  1. At no point are we led to understand that the crowd has discovered Jesus’ true nature. Note that Jesus does not tell them to keep the healings a secret, but rather “who he is.”
  2. It is difficult to make sense of a story in which a large crowd, gathering in public, witnesses healings on a massive scale, but then is told to keep it a secret. However, see point one above. They are not told to keep the fact that he healed many a secret but rather “not to tell who he was.”
  3. If Jesus is talking to the people and not the demons, then why is he threatening them? Why would he use such harsh and menacing language on a group of people to whom he has just shown kindness and mercy?

I’m sure that those who follow Griesbach and Farmer can come up with interesting and clever explanations. Perhaps, they might argue, Jesus was aware of the Pharisees’ plot mentioned in the preceding verses and he was protecting himself. But then if he had intended to keep a low profile, we have to explain why he would perform mass healings in front of a large crowd.

We aren’t alone in wondering why Jesus rebuked the crowd. Matthew himself appears to have recognized the jarring discontinuity and felt the need to explain it. And what better way to explain your way out of a jam than with a quote from the OT? Matthew explains:

This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

(Matt. 12:17-21, ESV)

So for Matthew, Jesus’ reticent nature can be explained away by prophecy. By the way, Luke handles the problem by omitting the troubling parts altogether. (See Luke 6:17-19.)

Wrede’s assessment is succinct:

The proof from scripture is, however, so artificial and forced that one might suppose it would not have occurred to the author had he not already understood the prohibition as a mode of thinking opposed to all vainglory. At all events, here the meaning of the prohibition has been transformed over against its Markan sense and amounts to an abandonment of the original meaning. . . . Mark’s idea has already become strange to Matthew. (p. 156, emphasis mine)

If, as it seems likely, Matthew copied Mark, then we see a clear recession of the prohibitions — those blistering demands of silence Jesus doled out to demons (or demoniacs), healed lepers, and raised corpses (and their thankful kinfolk). What about other features of the Messianic Secret, such as the poor understanding of the disciples?

The Zebedee brothers or their mother asks a favor of Jesus

Matthew Mark
20:20  Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 10:35  James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”
20:21a  And He said to her, “What do you wish?” 10:36  And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
20:21b  She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” 10:37  They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”
20:22a  Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” 10:38  But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
20:22b  They said to him, “We are able.” 10:39a  They said to Him, “We are able.”
20:23a  He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; 10:39b  And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.
20:23b  but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” 10:40  “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

(All quotations from the NASB translation)

Matthew’s gospel does not portray the Twelve as colossally bumbling fools. When Mark’s Jesus rants about the leaven of the Pharisees and then asks the disciples if they understand what he’s talking about, they remain silent and confused. But in Matthew, they’re right on the ball:

Matt. 16:12  Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (NASB)

Matthew’s Twelve aren’t groping in the dark, looking for clues. They don’t have to wait for the Resurrection to understand the hidden teachings of Jesus. In fact, when asked directly if they understand, they answer quickly and affirmatively:

Matt. 13:51  “Do you understand all these things?” They told him, “Yes.” (NASB)

But in Mark’s gospel they remain foolish and feckless to the bitter end. In Mark, James’ and John’s question is doubly foolish, because it’s an open-ended request. They’re asking for a blank check.

When Matthew reaches the point in Mark’s gospel in which the sons of Zebedee make their absurd request, he has a problem. How can two of his rehabilitated disciples act in such a clueless manner? Answer: Blame it on their mother. (Note that she remains nameless, even when inserted into the Passion narrative.)

An interesting problem happens as a result of Matthew’s invention of a new character. You can’t see it in modern English, but Matthew has to change the “you” to singular in his question, “What do you want?” Jesus asks, “Τί θέλεις;” (Ti theleis? — second-person singular) In the original Markan passage he asks, “Τί θέλετε;” (Ti thelete? — second-person plural)

However, once asked the question, Jesus’ response is rendered in the same words.

You (plural) don’t know what you’re asking for

Οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε

Ouk oidate ti aitesthe

Matthew removed Mark’s introductory phrase — “Jesus said to them” — but he left the verb in the plural form. The mother of the sons of Zebedee has served her narrative purpose, and Jesus now addresses the men (as if they had asked the question), while she recedes into the background until verse 27:55.

Matthew’s gospel shifts the responsibility from James and John to their mother. Yet she at least approaches her Lord with proper deference, and does not ask for “whatever” she might ask of him. The Matthean rewrite provides a less jarring way for Matthew to recapitulate Mark’s story with its foreshadowing of the crucifixion.

Selective tradition or creative invention?

Reaching such commonsense conclusions helped cement Wrede’s reputation as a “thoroughgoing skeptic.” Unlike the majority of today’s scholars, he would right walk up to the line, and then cheerfully step right over it.


The request is too foolish for the two apostles themselves. That Matthew has consciously altered the text here also emerges from the fact that
he does not carry out the alteration to its logical conclusion. (In German: “. . . er die Anderung nicht durchführt.” (p. 159, emphasis mine)N.B., Wrede didn’t call Mrs. Zebedee a literary invention, as I do. However, he did point out that Matthew’s text is obviously secondary because:

One Matthean addition that Wrede did call an invention was Jesus’ praise of Peter following his confession. We should pay close attention, because Wrede explains here why at certain points we can dispense with the idea that the evangelists, when adding material, were always “referring to another tradition.” He explains:

. . . I consider it probable that Matthew himself made the addition. This is what most obviously comes to mind. An actual source does not seem to be a probability because it would be remarkable — this we can certainly say — that the entire scene should be told in the Markan fashion, and only a single word adopted from the second prototype. And at least without the Confession the blessing cannot have existed. (p. 162, emphasis mine)

Reaching such commonsense conclusions helped cement Wrede’s reputation as a “thoroughgoing skeptic.” Unlike the majority of today’s scholars, he would right walk up to the line, and then cheerfully step right over it.

Inconcinnities, editorial fatigue, or “not carrying out the alteration to its logical conclusion”

Mark Goodacre has recently popularized what he calls “editorial fatigue” — that is, the fact that we can detect later writers’ redactions of their sources by the incongruities they inadvertently introduce.  In “Fatigue in the Synoptics,” he writes:

Editorial fatigue is a phenomenon that will inevitably occur when a writer is heavily dependent on another’s work. In telling the same story as his predecessor, a writer makes changes in the early stages which he is unable to sustain throughout.

One clear example Goodacre offers comes from Matt. 8:1-4 and Mark 1:40-45, the Cleansing of the Leper. At the close of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew takes up Mark again, but he runs into problems with “many crowds” not present in the Markan account. Goodacre writes:

As it stands in Matthew this is inexplicable: a miracle that has been witnessed by many crowds is to be kept secret. The parallel in Mark makes it clear how Matthew has become involved in the contradiction: Mark does not have crowds; the leper meets Jesus privately and the command to silence is coherent. That Matthew is involved in docile reproduction here is all the more plausible given the little stress in his Gospel on the secrecy theme that is so prominent a feature of Mark. (emphasis mine)

A century ago Wrede did in fact note that Jesus “enjoins silence on the leper in front of the assembled ὄχλος (ochlos)” in Matt. 8:1, which demonstrates “the secondary nature of the account” with respect to Mark.  And he reminds us: “This was already the view of [Carl Gottlob] Wilke and [Bruno] Bauer.(see footnote 5, p. 155).

We’ve mentioned in earlier posts that among modern scholars, Goodacre stands out as “less wrong” when it comes to explaining Wrede’s contributions on the Messianic Secret. I highly recommend his podcast on the subject (which is actually a recorded classroom session). However, while his treatment is generally correct, he does pass on some erroneous information. For example, in his lecture notes he writes:

  • How consistent is Mark? Is Wrede imposing uniformity on Mark where it does not exist, a problem that bedevilled later redaction critics?
    • e.g. 5.19-20 a major exception to the rule: Jesus commands the Gerasene Demoniac to share the gospel.

Sadly, the misconception that Wrede imposed uniformity upon the Markan tradition runs rife in NT scholarly circles. As we have pointed out both in this series and the companion piece — “What Is the Messianic Secret?” — Wrede knew very well that in Mark’s gospel the stories of concealment lie side by side with the stories of openness and proclamation. In a nutshell:

The Messianic Secret arose as an apologetic, transitional idea during the evolution from the earliest christological view — namely, that of Jesus becoming the Messiah after his death, upon his ascension into heaven (see, e.g., Philippians 2:5-11) — to the view that he became the Messiah at the baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended into him. Finally, it became firm Christian doctrine that Jesus was the pre-existent only Son of God, eternally begotten, and present before the creation. But in Mark’s day, traditions were less clear and more varied. He had before him some traditions in which Jesus fiercely hid his identity, but others in which he performed great works in public with no qualms at all.  (from “What Is the Messianic Secret?”)

Getting back to the subject of incongruities arising from the editorial process . . . naturally, Goodacre doesn’t take credit for the concept of editorial fatigue. He cites G.M. Styler from his piece, “The Priority of Mark” in C.F.D. Moule’s The Birth of the New Testament, and notes that Davies and Allison in their commentary on Matthew refer to these editorial goofs “inconcinnities.”

Similarly, Wrede credits Gustav Volkmar (Die Evangelien, p. 239) for pointing out the “auton inaptness” in Matt. 12:16 way back in 1870. While they did not use the term “editorial fatigue,” earlier scholars recognized the phenomenon and wrote about it. You just never know what you might find in these old, unread works from the past.

I do not mean to accuse Styler, Davies, Allison, or Goodacre of not reading Wrede. (Who could blame them for not reading Volkmar?) I presume that all of today’s biblical scholars and their graduate student assistants must have read Wrede, Dibelius, Wellhausen, Bultmann, Bauer, et al., or they would not have earned their degrees. I instead theorize that they all started out intending to mention Wrede, but during the editing process they grew somewhat, shall we say — fatigued — and forgot to mention him.

Conclusion

Wrede wraps up this chapter concluding that Matthew and Luke must have used Mark, a point that he finds especially clear in the former case.

One has only to try to think of Matthew here as a source for Mark and to imagine Mark enlarging upon the fragmentary motifs of the Matthaean account, completing them and transforming them into a self-consistent approach, in order to see the absurdity of the attempt.  (p. 180)

We did not fully cover Wrede’s treatment of Luke in this post, but we may return to the other gospel in a future post. Suffice it to say that he believed that “Luke stands decidedly closer to Mark”; however, Wrede’s analysis indicates that like Matthew the third evangelist used Mark as source.

30 Comments

  • Giuseppe
    2013-09-03 07:07:41 UTC - 07:07 | Permalink

    I’m reading Isaiah New Exodus in Mark, by Rikki Watts. Do yo think that his explanation, especially via Isaiah 42:16, to the partial blindness of disciples along the ”Way” fails to resolve – or resolves only partially – the apparent absurdity of disciples being total idiots in Mark ?
    If the problem of blindness of Peter & company clearly embarassed Matthew and Luke, I lean to think that the answer is yes. For later gospellers, Mark appealing to Isaia 42:16 was not sufficient to hide the embarassment of Messianic Secret effects on disciples, evidently.
    Giuseppe

    • 2013-09-03 09:07:26 UTC - 09:07 | Permalink

      I don’t know what Tim’s thoughts are on this, but I don’t see Mark as appealing to Isaiah 42:16 to explain or excuse the blindness of the disciples. Mark has many allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures, but he rarely points to them to “proof-text” or justify some interpretation. Mostly the scriptures are just there in the background. I think it better explanation that Mark has created a story out of these scriptures. That is, he did not use the scriptures to explain or justify some theme. He created the theme or events out of the scriptures themselves. This way he created a narrative that naturally fell in to a similar sort of narrative as those we read in the Jewish scriptures.

      His creation was “blind disciples” who became the founding fathers of the Church — after they eventually saw, of course. (Although Mark leaves it open-ended how much the Twelve became the founding pillars and to what extent that job was really the task of all who read/heard his gospel and made themselves part of that “new Israel”.)

      I wonder if the later extension of the disciples’ sight back to the pre-resurrection period of Jesus was part of the attempt to give credibility to the twelve against other apostles (e.g. Paul) who could only trace their conviction back to a post-resurrection vision or a vision of the heavenly Christ. By giving the disciples some insight even before Jesus was resurrected, while he was in flesh, would, I think, be a sure way to enhance their spiritual status against the others.

    • 2013-09-04 15:02:11 UTC - 15:02 | Permalink

      Hi Giuseppe

      Mark seems to take an idea from other sources and put his characters into that place as with, say, stories from the Odyssey or miracles performed by Moses, Elijah, or Elisha. So the Isaiah passage may have been a guide.

      But we can see lots of Galatians in Mark with “Abba, Father”, the Deut. 19:18 reference and Paul’s side of the Gal. 2 argument put in Jesus’ mouth in Mark 7. Paul expresses disdain for those three disciples “reputed to be pillars” in Galatians. Those same three disciples are the three main sidekicks in Mark.

      In Mark 10, James and John want to be Castor and Pollux, like the pillar reference. In Gal. 2, Peter acts one way with the Gentiles but changes his behavior when James’ men arrive. In Mark, Peter promises to be loyal to Jesus but denies him almost immediately.

      The Epistle of James appears to be a response to Galatians. Their opinions are in opposition. Mark seems to think Paul is correct and the disciples are wrong. Mark takes that idea that disciples never did get it right, and even failed to go to Galilee because of the women’s fear.

      • Giuseppe
        2013-09-04 17:40:45 UTC - 17:40 | Permalink

        Thanks, ggwizz.
        I must say that some of your examples of ideological conflict were completely escaped to my view.

        For example:
        In Gal. 2, Peter acts one way with the Gentiles but changes his behavior when James’ men arrive. In Mark, Peter promises to be loyal to Jesus but denies him almost immediately.

        Can you give me some bibliographic reference?
        Thanks in advance.
        Giuseppe

        • 2013-09-05 03:29:19 UTC - 03:29 | Permalink

          Sorry, I don’t have references for that other than the text itself. I tried Googling but all I got was apologetics trying to explain away the faith/ works contradictions. I wavered on the existence of Jesus until I read Ehrman’s “Did Jesus Exist?” and expected good reasons for that position but was disappointed. Doherty’s book was argued far more cogently. After reading Price’s book on the topic, I got interested in the sources of the gos0el authors.

          I found the Deut 10:18 reference in Mark Galatians and James, and began to contemplate it. Googling showed that some thought Paul was responding to James and some argued James was responding to Galatians. I decided to check it out myself before looking at the other arguments. After nearly 20 years experience in Internet conversation and debate from Usenet to YouTube, I recognized that James was responding to Galatians. For nearly every point, James responded with a similar point in the opposite direction. I could almost see the patagraph from Galatians with the greater than signs above each James response.

          I tried looking at it the other way but that Deut quote goes one way IMO. Paul essentially quotes Rabbi Hillel’s one foot argument that doing 19:18 was the whole law and the rest was commentary. James said that was a good start but breaking one part of the law breaks the whole law. It doesn’t make sense for James to bring up an objection to Hillel first. Nearly every point after that is answered in order.

          Acts 22:3 says Paul studied under Gamaliel, Hillel’s grandson and that Paul was from Tarsus. Paul claims to have been advanced in Judaism beyond his years and he went to Tarsus after meeting with Peter in Galatiajs. I wonder if Luke inferred that Paul was from Cilicia and that Paul studied under Hillel from Galatians.

          • Giuseppe
            2013-09-05 05:56:31 UTC - 05:56 | Permalink

            …I wavered on the existence of Jesus until I read Ehrman’s “Did Jesus Exist?” and expected good reasons for that position but was disappointed. Doherty’s book was argued far more cogently.

            exactly the same identical my experience!

  • Giuseppe
    2013-09-03 10:00:58 UTC - 10:00 | Permalink

    I’m not saying that Mark was based only on Isaiah 42:16 as a source of midrashic inspiration and certainly that’s not what means R. Watts.
    Rather, I’m saying something else. If, for example, Matthew is embarrassed of the figure of idiots made ​​by the sons of Zebedee, to the point of appeal to Mrs.Zebedee (let be clear: literary fiction that replaces other fiction…) then it means that all the midrash from Isaiah made ​​by Mark was not enough to cover the embarrassment that would be born in Matthew, due the literary representation of the disciples like idiots in Mark (Messianic Secret effects).

    But why Matthew is embarrassed of midrash of its source Mark, though he knew that in essentia Mark was (and indeed is) only Midrash?

  • Giuseppe
    2013-09-03 10:10:14 UTC - 10:10 | Permalink

    yes, this is the more probable answer:
    By giving the disciples some insight even before Jesus was resurrected, while he was in flesh, would, I think, be a sure way to enhance their spiritual status against the others.
    but then Matthew had the claim to write history, despite its original readers – and himself – knew that he was writing only midrash?

    Giuseppe

  • 2013-09-03 20:36:32 UTC - 20:36 | Permalink

    I don’t see “embarrassment” as a factor, really. That’s a concept introduced by modern scholars looking for ways to establish historicity and assumes the authors were engaged in some form of historiography. A less anachronistic perspective would be to see what Matthew and co were doing was engaging in doctrinal debate or dialogue.

    • Tim Widowfield
      2013-09-03 20:43:45 UTC - 20:43 | Permalink

      I prefer to think of the author(s) of Matthew as “amending” Mark, not reacting to embarrassment.

      • Bob Moore
        2013-09-12 02:29:44 UTC - 02:29 | Permalink

        I’m beginning to think the Gospel authors just don’t get embarrassed about anything. For example, John would note that the promises in Mark 11:24 or Matthew 21:21-22 were not really working, but why then would he raise the stakes with promises like John 14:13-14; John 15:7; and John 16:23-24? How embarrassing!

  • Giuseppe
    2013-09-04 06:17:13 UTC - 06:17 | Permalink

    Ok, but ”to amend” Mark assumes a priori that the Midrash of Mark (that for Mark was enough, de facto) for Matthew no longer is: why?

    I have the impression, sometimes, that only Mark was making a fiction, knowing – with all his readers – that what he was writing was a fiction.
    Matthew and Luke are taking Mark as a history, although knowing that Mark was pure fiction, and correct Mark replacing it whit another fiction, but selling it as history.

    In short, only Mark writes fiction and sells fiction and his readers know he’s doing that.
    The later gospellers write fiction and sell history, and their readers, from begin to end, take it as history.

    Why this basic difference between Mark and Matthew?

    Securely between Mark and Matthew something must to be happened that explains this apparent paradox.

    And that can be only a mystery.

    Giuseppe

    • Neil Godfrey
      2013-09-05 00:56:45 UTC - 00:56 | Permalink

      Of course we simply don’t know the details of what was going on among whom in the decades after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. I wonder if at some point authors believed they were writing inspired or revealed history? How did they know what happened way back 40 years before the fall of Jerusalem and that explained God’s apparent rejection of Jerusalem and the Mosaic Jews? Revelation — The Greek poets would ask the Muses for inspiration to recall what had happened in the past. Comparison must be speculative . . . .

  • mansubzero
    2013-12-02 19:42:50 UTC - 19:42 | Permalink

    have i understood your first example correctly?
    matthew used a form of a word in mark
    “ἐπετίμησεν/epetimēsen”
    matthew shouldn’t have used a word for rebuke because the next verse reads,

    ““Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

    matthew wasn’t paying attention ?

    • Tim Widowfield
      2013-12-02 20:25:46 UTC - 20:25 | Permalink

      Matthew has a habit of abbreviating Mark’s text, often condensing what he found in Mark’s gospel, but usually keeping the same wording. We could call it an editorial tendency. In this case the result is pretty jarring.

      • mansubzero
        2013-12-03 14:17:19 UTC - 14:17 | Permalink

        in the example mentioned he kept close to keeping the same wording and he shouldnt have done so because his jesus ,”He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets” is this correct?

      • robert
        2014-03-13 15:57:55 UTC - 15:57 | Permalink

        mr W

        please can you explain with examples what you mean by “…in this case the result is pretty jarring”

        • Tim Widowfield
          2014-03-14 13:09:39 UTC - 13:09 | Permalink

          In Mark’s gospel Jesus expels demons and “strongly threatens” them not to reveal who he is. Matthew takes over the exact same wording, but has Jesus direct his speech to the people he has just healed.

          We can tell that some translators have found this sudden turning on the crowd “jarring” because they took exactly the same Greek words and translated them differently. Besides the Jerome example above, we have Darby’s use of the English words “rebuked them” for the demons, but “charged them” for the people. Similarly the World English Bible uses “sternly warned” for the demons, but softens it to “strictly commanded” for the people.

          Wrede held that Matthew himself recognized the abrupt and unexpected shift in mood — i.e., showing mercy and love by healing, followed by threats to keep quiet — and explained it by quoting Scripture.

          • themr
            2014-09-08 11:10:08 UTC - 11:10 | Permalink

            matthew leaving out 3:11 from mark seems like matthew did something clumsy.was he half awake while copying?

            • Neil Godfrey
              2014-09-08 20:45:01 UTC - 20:45 | Permalink

              Questions like this invite us to take a broader look at Matthew’s theological interests, literary structures and general pattern of redacting Mark. It’s a fascinating question and Tim may have an answer more ready at hand. I would like to consult Matthew’s general treatment of demons, confessions and the typological context of this and similar passages vis a vis Mark.

  • Tanya Gregg
    2014-03-16 04:56:51 UTC - 04:56 | Permalink

    Let me challenge your statement concerning Matthew’s use of Mark’s work. Are you sure that is factual?

    We can’t see his facial expressions, body language or hear the tone of his voice. Our understanding of the intent of his words is necessarily limited. But, imagination comes in handy and pursuing him, as he holds us in the palm of his hand, yields impressions, images, an intuitive awareness of his very nature. As the hart pants after the water brooks, so our longing for him drives us. For he is like fresh streams of pure, clear, satisfying water as He reveals Himself; and He is more than words on paper.

    • Tim Widowfield
      2014-03-16 06:46:03 UTC - 06:46 | Permalink

      Tanya: “. . . our longing for him drives us.”

      I’m not sure what your purpose is here. I’m afraid that anything we would say to each other would pass our respective heads.
      I am searching for nothing but the truth, but I don’t accept any truth that is not based in natural reality and cannot be proved by rational analysis.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2014-03-16 05:52:11 UTC - 05:52 | Permalink

    I don’t know of any scholar who denies either Matthew used Mark or Mark used Matthew. It’s obvious. A teacher can tell when a student has copied someone else’s work. You can tell when someone has done that. About 90% of Mark is found in Matthew. Most of it word for word. How do you explain it?

  • Tanya Gregg
    2014-03-16 10:21:38 UTC - 10:21 | Permalink

    Jesus said what he said and did what he did. Wouldn’t we expect some who wrote about him to include similar accounts?

    By pursuing him I simply mean that we can develop our relationship with God which may help us to achieve a clearer understanding of what he meant to convey through the words he spoke.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-03-16 12:14:26 UTC - 12:14 | Permalink

      Tanya — you’re not on our wavelength. We are attempting to critically analyze the gospels like any other literature and any other historical sources. We are not interested in reading them for personal religious meaning. This is a blog about historical inquiry and critical analysis. It is not a religious blog. I’m an atheist and don’t give a hoot about religion or God. I’m only interested in understanding how Christianity got started from the point of view of a secular historian. You don’t seem to understand what we are on about here.

      • Tanya Gregg
        2014-03-16 12:56:45 UTC - 12:56 | Permalink

        “I’m only interested in understanding how Christianity got started from the point of view of a secular historian.”

        I’m confused. Hypothetically, if Christianity got started as a virgin gave birth to the son of god, is that not important to one’s understanding whether one is a “secular” or “religious” historian? I ask sincerely.

        • Tim Widowfield
          2014-03-16 18:33:19 UTC - 18:33 | Permalink

          I don’t mean to answer for Neil, but here’s my take on the matter.

          For me, history has to be based on what’s verifiable. So your “secular” history to me is simply “history.” I would not envy religious historians who have to perform mental gymnastics to try to rationalize the supernatural.

          You ask about Christianity starting with a virgin giving birth to the son of God. Many scholars would tell you that history doesn’t have the tools to prove that claim one way or another. It’s like asking a biologist how much a demon weighs. It is a claim that cannot be verified or falsified. I go a step further and claim that the supernatural does not exist, that miracles do not happen, and that those who make extraordinary claims to the contrary must produce extraordinary evidence to prove it.

          I realize that for Christians such claims are taken on faith and feel very real. I understand that you have felt what you think is the warm and calming presence of the spirit. I don’t want to take that away from you, and I’m certain Neil doesn’t want that either.

          So if you’re here out of curiosity, I should warn you that the road to knowledge may take you to an unexpected destination. But if you’re here to witness, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2014-03-16 21:44:35 UTC - 21:44 | Permalink

          I fully endorse all Tim says, Tanya. I believe the gospels accounts of miracles are just stories. If you read other literature of the time, even histories of the day, you will find reports of miracles that were supposedly performed in the name of pagan gods. I consider those accounts to be outright fiction and the gospel accounts of miracles are no different.

          On Tim’s final point — you will note I have taken your posts in good faith as sincere questions. But I have been too trusting before and have eventually come to realize that I have been fooled by someone really trying to evangelize and witness the word of God. If I begin to suspect you are doing the same then I will lose all patience with you and you will not appear here again. I despise Christians who try to wheedle their way in with their witnessing under false-pretenses of appearing to ask genuine questions. I have trusted you are not like that but Tim is not so sure. So be warned.

        • reboho
          2014-03-17 03:00:45 UTC - 03:00 | Permalink

          Tanya, as a lurker who enjoys the comments as much as the writing on this site, please spend some time and explore this website.

          Virgin birth? Whoever wrote Matthew got “virgin” from a misunderstanding of Isaiah 7:14. In a nutshell, that is what this site is all about. Bad translation (or cultural misunderstandings) on top of enthusiastic believers, editors and redactors looking for reassurance in previous Jewish texts leads to irrational orthodoxy and the Christian religion we’re saddled with today. Reading the gospels as “literal” is akin to putting very dark sunglasses on top of blinders. The gospel writers were putting physical “flesh” to the spiritual “bones” that developed from Jewish apocryphal literature because some thought they needed a human “savior”.

          You have to do the hard work, you have to let go of the beliefs in order to comprehend. Belief is blind acceptance, there is little of that to be found here.

  • 2014-03-17 03:51:02 UTC - 03:51 | Permalink

    I have discovered our guest “Tanya Gregg” is a long-time spammer on discussion forums that look at the Bible from a critical perspective. This person goes under a variety of names and has been banned on those, too. We have been had.

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