§ 43. The Election and Sending Out of the Twelve

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 2



Section Six.

The Instruction of the Twelve.

Matthew 9:35-11:1.


§ 43.

The Election and Sending Out of the Twelve.

Matthew 9:35-10:5.


1. The Occasion.

Among the many unpleasant tasks that the critic must undertake in this final battle with apologetics, one of the least is that he finds himself compelled to explain at length things that are hardly worth proving and that are so clear and obvious in themselves that it only takes a single glance to grasp their true significance. But we must prove them – we must prove them in order to put an end to the theologian’s trade, and it is worth the effort to prove them because the entire world of the mind has been founded until now on these things, not even as they are in themselves, but as they have been wrongly understood and constructed by theologians. Of course, these foundations are no longer absolute truths when they are subjected to free human examination, but that should not stop us from examining them, since the state of the world cannot be founded on letters, let alone on twisted letters, and we cannot even pretend, as the theologian demands, to be despairing when we uncover the mystery of the letters, since in the freedom of self-consciousness we gain a new world and infinite compensation. Should we lament like degenerate slaves when the shackles fall from us, when we leave the prison, and cry out that we are allowed to call ourselves free?


And Jesus, says Matthew (Ch. 9:35), went around to all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every affliction. Already this statement is as incomprehensible as it is inappropriate. “Jesus went around!” But since we were not told that he left Capernaum, that he embarked on a journey and was now in the midst of it, we cannot conceive of him “wandering about.” Matthew had only told us that Jesus (Ch. 9:27) left the house of Jairus and on the way healed the two blind men and the demon-possessed mute person – how could he now be in the middle of a long journey?

Just as we are suddenly thrown from specificity – “Jesus leaves the house of Jairus” – into the broadest vagueness – “he goes around to all the cities and villages,” the Evangelist suddenly throws us back from indefinite generality to individual specificity. But when Jesus, he says in verse 36, saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples in verse 37-38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” “The crowds!” What kind of crowds? Well, we weren’t even told that the crowd had gathered around him. If one were to say that when it is reported earlier that Jesus healed all diseases and afflictions, the presence of the crowd is assumed, that still does not help the matter, because firstly, the multitude that gathered around him in every city is not “this specific multitude” or if it is the same one that Jesus now saw, he had already seen it, and the sight of it could not now bring him to that remark and expression. But it is supposed to be the specific crowd that Jesus only saw now, i.e., the one whose arrival and intentions the Evangelist did not inform us about.


The account is unmotivated and incomprehensible in all places: of course, because its motives lie in the writings of Mark and Luke. Immediately after the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter, Luke reports (C. 9, 1.) that Jesus called the twelve together and sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick, after giving them power and authority over all demons and diseases. Matthew follows Luke and, like him, connects both events, but takes offense at a part of the report he read in the writing of his predecessor. A part! He does not lead his reflection into the specific question of how Jesus could so conveniently go into the wilderness near Bethsaida with them after the return of the sent-out disciples (V. 10.), since it was not stated before that he had gone near that city; but that did not seem appropriate or natural to him that Luke made the transition from the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter to the sending of the apostles so bald and inadequate and gave the latter incident no special background. Therefore, he seeks advice in the writing of Mark. Here he finds that Jesus goes on a journey after the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter (και εξηλθεν εχεοθεν), comes to Nazareth, preaches here, but is rejected by his fellow countrymen. Luke had to omit this report, Matthew does the same, as he hurries to the instruction of the apostles. At the end of Mark’s narrative, however, he finds the note that Jesus traveled to the villages in the surrounding area *); he liked this note and it seemed to be a suitable background for the following incident, he writes it down and does not notice that it does not stand in its place if it was not previously stated that Jesus had gone on a journey. When Jesus teaches, according to Matthew, who abstractly considers everything and likes to use general, comprehensive formulas, he must also heal. He now writes down the same words that he had already used as an introduction to the Sermon on the Mount and that are partly an excerpt from the historical introduction that Mark has given to the account of the selection of the Twelve **). Finally, Matthew wants to precede the instruction and sending out of the Twelve with their historical occasion: but where should he get it from? In the Gospel of Luke, he reads that when Jesus selected and sent ahead the seventy, he said to them: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” Now, is the size of the harvest and the shortage of workers not the best reason for Jesus to decide to teach and send out the apostles to harvest? So it seemed to Matthew, and he therefore puts these words of the Lord in the introduction and must now also create an occasion for Jesus to speak of the harvest and the lack of workers. He writes outright that Jesus saw the crowds, and he even writes, quite fittingly, since the misery of the people demanded the comfort of the Gospel and apostolic help! – the remark by Mark that when Jesus saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd ***). But only Mark makes it understandable to us how Jesus could see the crowds and how they even came before his eyes: he had once seen them as he crossed the lake, so they hurried to the landing place and thus came to him first, and when he landed and got off, he saw the crowd. In Matthew’s account, however, the crowd suddenly appears, and we do not know where it comes from or how Jesus could see anything of which there was no mention of its appearance. Mark says that Jesus taught the crowd much – his pity for their misery opened his heart and gave him the words of comfort – and then, when it was already late, he miraculously fed them. Luke, who is generally brief in this section, says nothing about Jesus feeling compassion for the crowd, he only says that he welcomed them (δεξαμενοσ αυτους), spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed it (Luke 9:11). Later, when he comes to the account of the miraculous feeding, Matthew combines the accounts of his predecessors: he writes again after Mark that Jesus, when he saw the crowd, felt compassion, but he does not take care to write why he had this feeling, nor does he say that Jesus, to lift up the abandoned people and give them spiritual support again, opened the treasure of his teaching, but writes according to Luke that he healed their sick (Matthew 14:14). He has thus provided us with the final proof that he has used Mark’s scripture here as before, but has not used it successfully, because if he had not told us in chapter 9, verse 36 where the crowd came from, this time in chapter 14, verse 14 he did not motivate the feeling of compassion that Jesus felt and gave it a false direction by referring it to physical illnesses rather than the spiritual and historical misery of the people.

*) Mark 6:6: και περιήγε τας κώμας κύκλω διδάσκων. Matthew 9:35: και περιήγεν ο Ι. τας πόλεις πάσας και τας κώμας διδάσκων.

**) Matthew 4:23 (και περιήγεν …) διδάσκων εν ταϊς συναγωγαίς αυτών και κηρύσσων το ευαγγέλιον της βασιλείας και θεραπεύων πά- σαν νόσον και πάσαν μαλακίαν. Literally the same as 9:35. Matthew 5:1 ιδών δε τους όχλους. 9:36 ιδών δε τους όχλους.

***) Mark 6:24: και εξελθών είδεν ο Ι. πολύν όχλον και έσπλαγχνίσθη επ’ αυτοίς· ότι ήσαν ως πρόβατα μη έχοντα ποιμένα. Matthew 9:36: ιδών δε τους όχλους εσπλαγχνίσθη περί αυτών, ότι ήσαν έσκυλμένοι και ερριμμένοι ωσεί πρ. μη έχ. ποιμ. Compare Jerem. 14, 16: ἔσονται ἐρριμμένοι ἐν ταῖς όδοις.


Matthew has therefore not informed us about the occasion on which Jesus called the Twelve and sent them out after instruction, and it is even questionable whether he wanted to report on the calling and initial election of the Twelve at all in this moment.

2. The Calling of the Apostles.

No! He does not want to present the matter as if the Twelve were chosen only now *), how else could he say that Jesus called “the Twelve” to him, the Twelve whom he must have had around him for a longer time as this designated group of disciples, before they could be referred to as “his twelve disciples” **)! While some are content with this exegetical remark, others who like to see their own theories confirmed by the letter and do not ask what the writer actually wrote, but only have in mind what he had to write to please them, go so far as to say that not even Luke, although he apparently distinguishes between the calling of the Twelve (ch. 6, 13) and their mission (ch. 9, 1), knows anything about a calling of them. Only Mark, who misunderstood the information of his predecessor Luke, really speaks of an election and calling of the Twelve. Luke, however, does not, for, as Schleiermacher argues, “no matter how much the word “after he had chosen” – εκλεξαμενος απ’ αυτων δωδεκα – Luk 6:13, may appear to designate the selection and appointment of the apostles in their definite relationship to Christ, the context is not at all favourable to this appearance. “After he had chosen” – εκλεξαμενος – stands with the other “after he had come down” – καραβας – so exactly connected between the indication: “he called them to him” – προςεφωνησε – and the other: “he stood there” – εστη – that it cannot possibly express a great, solemn, and very important act.” And, Schleiermacher adds, would such an important act be described with a mere participle phrase or casually indicated with a wording that only reluctantly instructs the reader where to imagine this act as having taken place? Surely, Saunier remarks *), “Luke does not want to report a solemn installation that was too important for Jesus to have perceived so hastily when descending from the mountain.” Well, then Luke may justify it if he portrays the matter as if Jesus had hastily called the Twelve, or if he only “casually **)” adds the note of the “selection” of the apostles! First, however, we must protect him against a misunderstanding that makes his representation more flawed than it really is: he does not say that Jesus chose the Twelve “when descending from the mountain,” but still up on the mountain, after he had spent the night in prayer; nor does it even occur to him to say ***), that Jesus had “gathered the Twelve on a slope of the mountain.” Schleiermacher and his followers now believe that Jesus called the twelve only for the purpose of bringing them to his proximity, so that they could serve him among the crowds that were streaming towards him. However, later, when he heals the crowds of sick people, we hear nothing about why he needed this proximity, and when he delivers the sermon that Matthew has made into the Sermon on the Mount, we do not see that it had a special relationship to the disciples, although he initially directs his gaze towards them. But we free ourselves and Luke’s account from all these torturous interpretations when we note that Jesus called his disciples early in the morning after a sleepless night and chose the twelve before he knew anything about the crowds that had gathered below in the plain – how could he have known anything about these crowds, since even Luke did not know how to explain their sudden presence in the plain?

*) de Wette, l, 1, 97.

**) so also explained Fritzsche, Matth, p. 357. 

***) a. a. O. p. 84.

*) p. 64.

**) as Neander says, loc. cit. p. 147.

***) as Neander thinks, ibid.


Luke wants to report the calling of the twelve apostles, just like Mark did. Why else would he add the remark that Jesus called them “apostles” or why else would he list the names of the twelve and interrupt the narrative, which rushes on to the following speech, so unnaturally? But he must be responsible alone for reporting such an important event in a participle construction and so quickly – although the list of apostles always presents a very inconvenient hindrance to the intended progress of the narrative – sending the Lord down from the mountain to the crowd in the valley.

Matthew also wants to report the first calling and election of the twelve at the same moment when he sends them out. It is true: he already assumes the existence of this narrower circle of disciples when he says, “Jesus called ‘his twelve disciples'” (C. 10, 1). However, the fact that he could speak at all, and when it comes to this topic, think of “the twelve” as ready and available, was only possible because he is the latest and thus stands from the outset in the view of the community, which is familiar with the twelve and the solemn surroundings of the Lord. Even Luke was able to mention the calling of the twelve only incidentally and in passing, but the first, Mark, knew that if the Gospel were to speak of the twelve, their election had to be reported as a special act. Despite all the abstraction of his perspective, however, Matthew was not so sure that he would immediately fall from the clouds with the note of the sending of the disciples and say something like, “Jesus called his twelve and sent them out among the people” – only Mark was allowed to speak like that (C. 6, 7), because he had previously reported their election – on the contrary, Matthew feels very well that he has to catch up with a not unimportant little thing before he can say that Jesus sent the twelve out. He therefore reports beforehand what purpose the twelve had received from their Lord and what their names are; thus he confuses both, the note of their election and sending, and that he has combined both is proven to us redundantly in the way he mixes the information of Mark about the purpose and actual equipment of the twelve with each other. “He gave them, he says 10, 1, authority over the unclean spirits, so that they could cast them out and heal every disease and every weakness.” Either the power over unclean spirits should be the same that gave them the ability to heal every other disease — but those are just other diseases that have nothing to do with demons — or the power over the other diseases should still be a separate one, but in this case, the word “power” would be too separate from the other part of the sentence: “and that they could heal every disease.” Now read how Mark writes properly and naturally (3:14,14): “they were to have the authority to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons **).” That’s the right way, and that’s how a man writes who doesn’t look at another scripture or even at different passages of a foreign scripture before putting his pen in motion. Now Mark can later briefly mention when he reports the sending out of the twelve, “Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits ***),” and they drove out many demons and healed many sick people, for now Jesus gives them the power that he had already designated for them, and they actually exercise it. Luke had to work partly the same way as Matthew, he reports how Jesus chose the twelve, but he couldn’t say what authority the Lord had intended for them because he had to hurry to bring the company from the mountain to the plain, but when he reports the sending out of the twelve later, he combines the information from Mark better than Matthew and now says in chapter 9, verse 1: he gave them power and authority over all demons and diseases *).

*) έδωκεν αυτοίς εξουσίαν πνευμάτων ακαθάρτων, ώστε εκβάλλειν αυτά και θεραπεύειν πάσαν νόσον και πάσαν μαλακίαν.

**) έχειν εξουσίαν θεραπεύειν τας νόσους και εκβάλλειν τα δαιμόνια.

***) C. 6, 7 εδίδου αυτοίς εξουσίας των πνευμάτων των ακαθάρτων.

*) έδωκεν αυτοίς δύναμιν και εξουσίαν επί πάντα τα δαιμόνια και νόσους θεραπεύειν.


If the proof did not have to be grounded from all sides, we could have said from the outset: Matthew had to merge the account of the election and sending of the twelve in this confused manner because he had combined the second and fourth sections of Mark’s account of Jesus’ public activity into one in his two-day work, had skipped the third section, which included the election of the twelve, and now comes to the account of the sending of the twelve after the fourth section. Here he really stops, but cannot help looking back at the report of the first election, and so it was natural that he combined the elements of both reports so clumsily, as he did.

Only in passing do we note how another feature of the progression from the original, free, and unprejudiced to the positive and firm can be demonstrated. Mark only says that Jesus “appointed” the twelve to be with him and to send them out **), Luke says Jesus had already called the twelve apostles himself, and Matthew finally reports that Jesus had “called” the twelve, and as if it were self-evident that the men who the church at the time called “the apostles” had always been called that, he introduces the list of their names with the words: “The names of the twelve apostles are as follows” (Matt. 10:2).

**) ίνα αποστέλλη αυτούς Mark 3, 14.


We will not discuss the apostle list that the three Synoptics provide in greater detail here, since some difficulties can only be resolved later, when we deal with the origin of the Gospels in general, as far as possible. Here we only note that all three lists place Peter at the head, naming Judas, whom they expressly designate as the betrayer, last. Already from this contrast it is clear that Peter is named first because of a special dignity – Matthew, the latest, even draws the reader’s attention to this point about Peter by saying “first” Peter – and that it was the hierarchical significance that gave the apostle the first place in the list. Mark already found the twelve names and among them the name of Peter in possession of the first place.

First, we reflect on some additions that interrupt the list of names. “To Simon,” says Mark (3:16), “he gave the name Peter.” Luke notes the same thing by naming Simon, but neither of them tells us when and on what occasion Jesus gave the apostle Peter this nickname. Matthew, on the other hand, simply says “Simon, called Peter” (10:2) in the list, but later tells us that the rock-solid faith of the disciple prompted the Lord to give him this name. Later we will see if Matthew had more detailed information than his predecessors.

“And the two sons of Zebedee,” Mark continues (v. 17), “he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder,” as the evangelist adds himself. Neither Luke nor Matthew included this note in their catalog, of course, says Wilke *), because they did not read it in Mark’s scripture. It is a later addition because, asks Wilke, is it not striking that in the list as provided by Luke and Matthew, Andrew immediately follows his brother Simon Peter, while in Mark he only appears after the sons of thunder and only received a later place “so that this nickname could be added”? However, this reason is not tenable – indeed, if Mark always paired two names together without any connection, as the others did, then the matter would be more questionable and we would indeed have to say that Simon and his brother Andrew were unnaturally separated by that addition. But he makes a separate start with each name, before each one he uses the particle “and,” so what harm is it if the two brothers are separated once, especially if he had an interest in mentioning at the beginning those apostles who had received a remarkable nickname from the Lord? And does he not seem to have had this interest if he starts the list so abruptly with the remark: “And he gave Simon the name Peter”? Is it any wonder then that he immediately cites two others who also received a nickname from their master, and if Andrew is separated from his brother for a moment this time? The addition seems genuine and original. Luke did not include it in the list because he later turned it into a separate story in chapter 9, verse 54, and Matthew omitted it because he does not want to represent the Lord as giving names at that moment.

*) p. 673


The other difficulty, that the names in the lists are not all the same, cannot prompt us to unhappy attempts at solutions anymore, since we have already seen how casually and carelessly the evangelists dealt with these highly important matters. The first evangelist had turned Levi into the Matthew of the apostle list, and this into a tax collector, so what was not possible for him and his colleagues? Or should we imitate him now and, like the apologists, be amazed that the Nathanael of the fourth evangelist is not in the list, and boldly claim that this Nathanael is the Bartholomew whom the Synoptics, no! only Luke and Matthew – because Mark doesn’t list him yet – list together with Philip? We wouldn’t even do that if the Synoptics reported that Bartholomew was born in Bethsaida, because the historical existence of Nathanael would have to be better established, we would have to have more reliable information about him than the fourth evangelist offers us, and he would have to be a better guarantor in such matters, as he has not yet proven to be. So let us not cause ourselves and the Synoptics any more trouble with Nathanael, as they already have such great concerns among themselves; for can they and us get into greater difficulties than when Matthew lists a Lebbaeus instead of Thaddaeus of Mark, and Luke even lists a Judas of James? It would be very easy, indeed, if we wanted to help ourselves and the evangelists with the verdict that all three names belonged to one and the same person; but we leave the glory of creating this tripartite person to the apologists and only note that the similarity of the name could easily have tempted the latest of the Synoptics to add the name Lebbaeus instead of Thaddaeus. But how Luke came to blacken his Judas of James in the list of apostles, whether he had a special interest in doing so, i.e. whether there was such a Judas known at his time whom he liked to see among the apostles, this we will have to examine later when we look for the time in which the Gospels were written.


3. The Sending and Return of the Twelve.

While Matthew has combined both the calling and sending of the Twelve into one act and narrates the calling in such a way that it cannot compete with the greater interest of the sending, he now suffers on the other hand that the sending does not make itself felt as such and finally converges into a mere calling and instruction. Indeed, he wants to report the sending of the Twelve (v. 5…) but does he then say at the end, when Jesus’ instruction speech is over, “And so they went home and preached repentance and drove out demons and healed many sick people *)?” No! Matthew says that Jesus went away from there, after he had finished the speech to the disciples – we do not know from where – to teach and preach in their towns. As if everyone should expect to hear now: so the disciples went out to preach and heal. The evangelist must have had good reasons to suppress this conclusion, which everyone expected, this conclusion that must have been on his mind and that he reads in Mark’s scripture, and to transform it into a completely different one. And he really had very strong reasons. Firstly, Jesus’ speech is so long that one can easily forget the note in v. 5; it takes into account, if we may mention this, circumstances that lie so far in the future that it would almost seem adventurous if the disciples went out only to the Jewish towns and villages after such far-reaching instructions. Finally, both Mark and Luke let the disciples return very soon; between the news of their departure and their return, they only insert the note that King Herod became aware of Jesus at that time and suspected that he might be the resurrected John the Baptist, whom he had had beheaded. But before he gets to Herod, Matthew reports the message of the Baptist and a series of complications with the Pharisees, in which the disciples also play a role; so may the Twelve leave, may the Lord even be left alone for such a long period of time? Even if the disciples are not personally important for those conflicts with the Pharisees, they must not be absent for this reason alone, so that the Lord has the environment without which the evangelists cannot think of him. And how necessary the disciples are when the parables follow in chapter 13, which gave them such important questions and occasion for new teachings from the Lord! They must not depart, Matthew had to let the instruction speech have a different conclusion than the one prescribed by Mark, but the conclusion he formed remains inappropriate because it does not satisfy the expectation that every reader must have had.

*) this is how Mark 6, 12 closes his report: και εξελθοντες εκηρυσσον ινα μετανοησωσιν και δαιμονια πολλα εξεβαλλον και ηλειφον ελαιω πολλους αρρωστους και εθεραπευον. The same says Luke C. 9, 6 εξερχομενοι δε διηρχοντο κατα τας κωμας ευαγγελιζομενοι και θεραπευοντες πανταχου. Matt. 11:1 μετεβη εκειθεν του διδασκειν και κηρυσσειν εν ταις πολεσιν αυτων.  One still notices how this αυτών hovers in the air and affects a specificity that fundamentally determines nothing. Indeed, the αυτοι are the people in whose land Jesus traveled around; but there was no mention of them before. Not even the place where Jesus gave the instructional speech had been determined beforehand. Fritzsche refers αυτων to the disciples who were mentioned immediately before (Matth, p. 393.): Qui αυτων de Galilaeis sumunt, summam scriptori negligentiam obtrudunt. But can he not be careless once in a while? Must he write crazily and call the cities of Galilee the cities of the disciples? He wrote the αυτων in his thoughtless manner, imparting a specificity to his presentation that is motivated by nothing and truly groundless. This time, he was grasping for this specificity because he wanted to give the concluding remark (V. 1.) a firm ground, but of course he could not succeed in doing so.


The evangelist had to forcefully change things in another place if he did not want to create a new story or if he could not completely break away from Mark’s account. However, he oscillates between the state of freedom and slavery – he barely frees himself from the letter, and then he has to submit to it again.

Finally, after inserting chapters 11-13, he comes to the note about Herod, which Mark immediately follows with the account of the departure of the Twelve. He also tells us that Herod heard about Jesus at that time and expressed the suspicion that he was the Baptist who had risen from the dead. If he continues in chapter 14, verse 3, “For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her,'” we immediately understand that the fact that the prince speaks of the Baptist as if he were dead (in Mark’s account, the fact that Herod had the Baptist beheaded) must be explained, and thus the narrative must go back to a long-elapsed time. We must therefore be extremely surprised when the remote past and the present touch each other directly at the end of this account. “His [that is, John’s] disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” From there! We don’t know where? Although Matthew has reported that Jesus was poorly received in Nazareth before (13:53-58), he did not say that he left from there. So can he immediately withdraw across the sea to the desert from there? But that is just a trifle compared to the other difficulties. The beheading of the Baptist has long since happened and is assumed to have happened when Herod suspects in Jesus the risen John; the account of the unfortunate end of the Baptist is even referred to as such by the introduction (“For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her'”) as one that catches up on the past in order to explain the present – the suspicion of Herod – and yet suddenly at the end of the narrative the past appears as present when the disciples of the Baptist bury the body of their master, report the incident to Jesus, and he is moved to flee to the desert! Impossible! More than impossible, since Herod’s suspicion that Jesus might be the risen Baptist is not characterized as one that would have arisen from a malicious attitude towards the Lord or that would have been associated with one. And now the disciples of the Baptist! We must marvel when we see how they go to the Lord, as if it were self-evident that they must go to Jesus immediately after the death of their master and join him. We must be even more amazed because we hear nothing about such a close relationship between both groups either before or afterwards, nor do we hear anything about the disciples of John being in Jesus’ entourage after the death of their master.


One need not yet be convinced of the priority of the Gospel of Mark; but if one just yields to the impression of the natural narration of the primal evangelist and performs an almost mechanical operation – an operation that is no more and no less mechanical than the procedure of Matthew – the manner in which the report, no! the confusion of the first Gospel has arisen becomes clear. The parenthesis in which he explains Herod’s statement – “he is John, whom I had beheaded” – and recalls the past, Mark (6:29) concludes with the words: “And his disciples came and took up the body and buried it.” And the apostles, Mark continues (6:30), came together to Jesus and reported to him everything they had done and taught, and he said to them: “Come, let us go to the wilderness and rest a little!” That is, rest, because here (6:31) the crowd is so great that you cannot gather and recover properly. Matthew was very embarrassed when he came to this point of the original Gospel, he had not reported on the departure of the disciples, he could not report it; but here he still reads about an arrival of the disciples – what was to be done then? He did not hesitate for long, could not even contemplate it, for in his embarrassment he could not even scrutinize the report closely – the elements of it – that disciples are mentioned, that there is talk of receiving a message, of arriving at Jesus, of delivering a report – all flowed together for him and so now the disciples of the Baptist, of whom we have just spoken, come to Jesus after paying their last respects to their master, report to him what needed to be reported, and after receiving the message, he retreats into the wilderness.

*) Mark 6:29-30: και ακούσαντες οι μαθηταί αυτού ήλθον και ήραν το πτώμα αυτού και έθηκαν αυτό εν μνημείω. Και συνάγονται οι απόστολοι προς τον Ι. και απήγγειλαν αυτώ πάντα, όσα εποίησαν και όσα εδίδαξαν. και είπεν αυτοίς…. Matthew 14:12-13: και προςελθόντες οι μαθηταί αυτού ήραν το σώμα και έθαψαν αυτό και ελθοντες απηγγειλαν τω ιησου και ακουσας ο ιησους . . . . Compare Wilke p. 623.


Matthew was more mistaken than Luke, but even with his account, it is not entirely correct. The disciples, as he says in chapter 9, verse 6, went out, preached, and healed. Herod (verses 7-9) becomes aware of Jesus and speaks of having beheaded John the Baptist. Then (verse 10), the disciples return from their journey, report what they have done, and Jesus takes them and retreats with them into the wilderness. We cannot yet attribute to Luke’s account any error for not telling us why Jesus withdraws with the disciples into seclusion, but it was not right of him not to tell his readers anything about how the beheading of the Baptist had occurred. What are his readers to think when they suddenly hear Herod’s statement without knowing what it refers to? Could he have expected them to fill the gap in his account from the writing of his predecessor? Certainly not! Otherwise, he would have had to omit much else. He was mistaken before when he put together everything he knew about the fate of the Baptist in the wrong place, in chapter 3, verses 19-20. He had taken an excerpt from the later account of Mark and reported why Herod had imprisoned the Baptist. He could not report the same thing twice. When he came to that account of Mark’s, he left it out, but he could not have given a complete excerpt at that earlier place either, for it was already inappropriate that he mentioned the imprisonment of the Baptist before describing the baptism of Jesus. It would have become even more inappropriate if he had already reported on the execution of the Baptist before he had baptized Jesus – so he could no longer help himself, and the gap had to remain since he could not freely master the details of his predecessor’s account. We think that if he found the account of the Baptist’s suffering later in Mark’s writing, he should not have left it out just because he had already spoken of the relationship between the Baptist and Herod and Herodias. He should have described the last fate of John in a parenthesis with a free and bold turn, no matter how it turned out. But he did not see that far, he was not free from the letter. His gaze was only fixed on the fact that he had spoken of Herod, Herodias, and the imprisonment of John, he only thinks of that, and so he now also leaves out what he had not yet copied but would have been very welcome to his readers. For now, they do not know what to make of it when they suddenly hear of the beheading of the Baptist as if it were a long-past event and have not heard anything about the matter itself.


We are gradually approaching the point where the question arises of what we should think about the credibility of the accounts of the calling and sending of the twelve disciples, as we are about to recognize the original report in its simplicity and purity. Just one more moment and it has risen above the other two in its originality and ideal power.

Mark says (6:7) that Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs (two by two). Matthew simply says that Jesus sent out the twelve, and he could not say more, for he did not have the opportunity to report on their actual departure and later return. Therefore, he also could not describe the sending so precisely and vividly that the reader would become completely engaged in the matter and could demand news of the outcome. In the way that Matthew writes, “these twelve Jesus sent out,” and at the same time allows the Lord’s speech to extend to the farthest and most complex situations and entanglements, the matter remains just in that suspension and becomes so transcendent and lifted beyond the present moment that the reader has almost forgotten the limited reason for Jesus’ speech by the end.


Also Luke also says nothing about Jesus sending the Twelve out in pairs. Where he finds them in Mark, he omits this specific note, but not without intention, for he wants to use it later when he tells us that the Lord also selected seventy others and sent them out in pairs ahead of him to every town and place where he himself was about to go (Luke 10:1). Seventy? Thirty-five pairs? Yes, seventy!


4. The calling, sending, and return of the seventy.

We ask the apologist, who must become incensed when we express our certainty that Jesus never thought of drawing such a strange group of seventy around him beside the Twelve, to kindly solve the following difficulties for us: we must confess that they are too great for our understanding.

Mark knows nothing of the seventy, Matthew did not think it worth the trouble to mention them, although he became familiar with them through Luke, and we are to blame if we explicitly describe a note that Matthew sufficiently respects by ignoring it? When Luke has the Twelve depart, he does not say that Jesus sent them out in pairs. But if he now uses this detail for his story of the seventy, where did he get it? From his own specific, only accessible information? Ah! why do we ask: he got it from Mark’s scripture, from a scripture that knows nothing of these seventy.


Jesus also delivers a speech to the seventy before dismissing them, giving them instructions on how to behave during their journey. However, the core of the speech consists of the same sentences that form the speech Jesus gives to the twelve, which Luke has already transcribed from Mark when he sent the twelve out (Luke 9:3-5). At the earlier occasion, Luke had not yet transcribed the entire speech from his predecessor’s scripture, nor had he worked out the individual instructions as carefully and in as much detail as he does now, when he reworks them into a speech for the seventy. But, we must ask the apologists, could Jesus not say anything different to the seventy than he had already said to the twelve? Was the purpose of the seventy so completely identical to that of the twelve that he had to give them both the same instructions? Impossible! If such a group of seventy existed, they had to form a mediator between Jesus and the people in a completely different way than the twelve did, so their purpose had to be completely different.

However, the speech to the seventy does contain new elements. “The harvest is plentiful,” Jesus immediately says at the beginning (Luke 10:2), “but the workers are few. Therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” But how can it be said that the workers are few when seventy have been found again, and how can this be said to the seventy who are standing in a circle around the Lord? Seventy! What a multitude! What kind of workers must they be if the Lord deems them worthy to send them into the harvest field! Seventy! They are to ask that the Lord of the harvest send out workers? Ask, when there are already so many there? Ask, when their duty should have been to set their hands in motion and bind sheaves? The seventy themselves are a freely formed creation of Luke’s; they are the symbol of the later workers who brought in the divine harvest, and when these seventy appeared, it was to satisfy the growing need for workers everywhere, where the twelve were no longer sufficient as a model for their successors. In short, they appeared to satisfy the universal view of the community, which wanted to see the example of their countless heroes of faith in the Lord’s vicinity. The idea that guided him when he summoned this army of messengers of salvation, Luke has developed, somewhat clumsily, by recommending to the seventy the request for many workers as the beginning of Jesus’ speech. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers,” and behold, the seventy are there, as the evangelist commands, and strangely enough, they must hear the wish of their creator, a wish that was only appropriate when they themselves were not yet created.


“Go, continues the speech, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves” (Luke 10:3). This could certainly be said of later messengers of salvation who went out into a foreign, hostile world, but not of the Seventy who were at home in Palestine and went ahead of the Lord to the cities he himself wanted to visit. Jesus could not possibly call these cities wolf dens, especially at a time when the battle against the gospel had not yet begun. Or were there really wolves gathering in large numbers everywhere the Lord went, no matter where he went? The crowds that gathered everywhere he came were from cities where wolves lived?

And now we are supposed to believe that Jesus always sent the Seventy ahead of him to the cities and villages he wanted to visit! But if their only message as these forerunners was to say, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (v. 9), then Jesus could wait until he himself came to the city and could bring the good news himself. What an unnecessary formality to announce oneself and the arrival of the kingdom of God in advance when he would soon arrive in the city himself! How hasty, as if the good news did not always come in its own time, when he himself would bring it personally, and how adventurous, anxious, and painful, as if Jesus had worked so diligently to win converts in every city! If we are to imagine that Jesus ran hastily into all the cities and even sent forerunners ahead of him to prepare the people for his arrival, he becomes a dogmatist, a theoretician, who anxiously cares for the spread of his “teaching,” and then he is no longer the man who is sure of the infinity of his self-consciousness and calmly excludes the treasure of his inner self when the opportunity presents itself – calmly and confidently without anxious polypragmosyne, knowing that this infinity, which has gone out of his self-consciousness, cannot be forgotten in the world once he has revealed it to others without noise and as it happens, and must also arise in others. Imagine this man with his calmness, self-assurance, and boldness of conviction, and alongside him, if you will and dare, the other, who is driven around restlessly and uncertainly in all the cities of the country, and who, out of impatience and uncertainty, drives the crowds of the Twelve and the Seventy ahead of him so that no city is left where the wolves are not provoked and enraged. Just think what an image emerges when we take these evangelical accounts seriously, instead of repeating them tautologically in a couple of other phrases, as the apologists do!


And then, one may try to make us understand how Jesus could always send the Seventy in pairs ahead to the city he wanted to visit. If he sent them in pairs, the individual pairs would have to go separate ways and together as a whole, they would have to visit at least thirty-five cities. Then we wouldn’t know how the Lord could manage to visit all these cities himself to give the finishing touch to the work of his messengers. However, if he sent them in pairs always ahead to the city he was about to visit, it was unnecessary to send them in pairs, and they would all together create alarm in the city, and then the patchwork of Luke’s account would fall apart nicely – the combination of Mark’s account of the sending out of the Twelve and the other Old Testament-derived note of the Seventy.


Luke did not understand how to properly integrate and structure his new contribution to the gospel story, to the point where he initially presents the matter (Luke 10:1) as if it was Jesus’ custom to always send out the seventy ahead of him, and then later (v.17) suddenly makes this sending a specific event by saying, “When the seventy returned, they joyfully reported, ‘Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!'” Luke forgets so quickly what he has just written that he speaks of a specific return of the seventy, while he had just said that Jesus always sent them ahead to the city he was about to visit, meeting them there soon after.

And what does it mean that when the seventy returned, they had nothing more important to report than the discovery that even the demons obeyed them? Had they nothing more significant to report about their journey or their experience of apostolic life? No! Because earlier (Luke 9:6) Luke had reserved the note that the twelve also cast out demons on their expedition (Mark 6:13) for his report of the seventy, and so now they must return to their Lord with the message that the demons are subject to them, so that the reader learns that they had the same power as the twelve, even if they were not explicitly given power over demons at the time of their sending (v.9).


If the Seventy no longer belong to history, then of course there can be no more talk of Jesus making the statement attributed to him by Luke (C. 10, 18-20.) in response to their joyful news of the demons’ subjection. But perhaps these words were spoken on another occasion? Let’s take a look! “I saw,” Jesus replies to the triumphant Seventy, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” i.e., these words have their true position where they are and – were spoken, i.e., don’t be surprised that the demons cannot resist you, for the devil has lost his power, he is fallen and his associates are subject to the power of faith. “I give you authority,” Jesus continues, “to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy.” Did the present saying need, in addition to the certainty of the community that all demonic and hostile power had no significance for them anymore *), the reminder that Jesus had spoken these words or similar ones for it to find its place here? Only the superstition of the traditional hypothesis can imagine that Jesus ever said he would give his followers the power to tread on snakes and scorpions **), and only this superstition can make it seem impossible that a saying about the fall of Satan could be found in a gospel if the writer, the writer! did not have the most accurate information that Jesus had spoken on this point in just this way or in a similar way.

*) Cf. John 12, 3!.

**) About Mark 16, 17-18 later!

Luke, i.e., a writer who could be carried away at any moment to the most distant or even opposite places, was only capable of following up one statement which praises power over demonic spirits with another which greatly diminishes the miraculous activity. But about this, it says, “Do not rejoice that the demons are subject to you, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke could not help but form this saying for the consolation of those who did not understand how to cast out demons and trample on snakes and scorpions, and to write it here in the wrong place, where it spoils the point of the previous context.


The Seventy are no longer in our way, the matter is simplified, and now the question is what is in it itself.

5. The Original Account and its Origin.

The idea that Jesus sent out the Twelve on a mission trip is initially such a difficult one to imagine aesthetically – for Jesus appears far too isolated if all Twelve are traveling – that Weisse can find no way to help but to assert that this sending out “should not be taken as a single event that occurred at a specific time, but as a habitual action that happened repeatedly”; Jesus did not “send out all Twelve pairs at the same time, but always two at a time, so that he kept the rest near him *).” But this is not how Mark sees it, on whose account Weisse believes he can rely. Although Mark 6:7 says, “And he called to him the twelve and began to send them out **),” he does not mean to say that now an action happened for the first time that later was repeated and became a habit; the phrase “he began” rather has no other purpose than to form the transition to a particular event that now occurs and starts *) and, as will be noted later, remains a single event. For it is clear that the sending out only happened once and was the only one from which the disciples returned at that time when the miracle of feeding occurred shortly thereafter (Mark 6:30-33). “He began to send them out” therefore only serves to introduce the following narrative and, in particular, to trace the development of this new event from stage to stage. “He began” – as Luther aptly translated – to send them out two by two: this is the beginning of the action or the general plan that is carried out in the following moments, that Jesus gives them authority over unclean spirits and then instructs them on how to behave on their journey.

*) I, 404.

**) και ήρξατο αυτούς αποστέλλειν.

*) Cf. for example, Mark 4:1, 5:1, 8:32.


If Mark only knows about one sending, then the aesthetic stumbling block remains that we cannot imagine Jesus without the company we are used to seeing him with. However, if we are dealing with history here, can something that may not be correct have become a habit for us? Could Jesus not have lived alone without the disciples for a longer period of time? It is unfortunate that we did not come up with this view ourselves, but that the Gospels taught it to us. It had already become a habit for the evangelists to always think of the Lord accompanied by his disciples, and Mark was very aware of how awkward it would be to leave him alone for a longer period of time. He not only ensures that the Twelve return to their master as soon as possible, but he also does not know what to do with the person of the Lord if he is not within his usual surroundings; he says nothing about the Lord, he remains silent about him while the disciples are on their journey. And to at least give the reader the feeling that time has passed until their return, and to create the illusion for himself and the readers that the disciples really had time to travel and work, he tells something about Herod and has him prompted by a word from this prince to tell the story of the execution of the Baptist. This narrative and the time that it required at least achieved something, and the reader’s attention was occupied long enough for the disciples to return immediately and form the solemn surroundings of the Lord.


All of this does not prove anything against the report of the sending out of the twelve, it only proves that the evangelical view cannot think of the Lord without the disciples, like the childlike view cannot think of a king without a crown on his head, and that an evangelist was at a loss and knew nothing to say about the Lord when he left him alone and sent the disciples on a journey. But it is more dangerous that Mark tells us nothing more precise about the mission of the twelve, for no one will convince us that we received accurate information about a matter of such great importance when Mark says (Ch. 6, 11-12) that the twelve preached repentance, cast out demons, and healed many sick people who were anointed with oil. But everything and the whole glorious story is lost when we ask what the disciples … but what is the point of asking further! They had nothing to preach to their fellow countrymen since they had not yet recognized the Lord as the Messiah, and if they could not appear with this message – which was only possible after the death of the Master – they could simply stay at home. Jesus could have sent out the twelve only if he gave them a teaching, a symbol, a positive view for the road; but since he could not do that, since it was neither in his nature to establish a positive dogma nor the disciples were able to grasp the new world principle, which was given in Jesus’ self-awareness, let alone to positively summarize it in one view and make it a symbol, it could not occur to the Lord to send out these uneducated, still indefinite, and incapable people as messengers of a new world among his people. Or did he want to form a medical school by sending them out to heal the sick? Or did he want to turn Galilee into an educational province by sending them out to preach repentance? A character like Jesus, a man who was so sure of the infinity of his self-awareness and the power of his cause in all calmness and humility, was also incapable of acting so hastily and thinking that he could move his people to repentance by sending out a couple of prejudiced people for a few days or weeks. He had already had the repentance preacher as his forerunner, now he was there with the abundance of his inner self and the gushing, driving, and shattering forces of his spirit – for the present, nothing more was needed, he left the rest to the power of his cause.


The sending out of the Twelve is an act of reflection of the religious view of history, which believed that the true consecration and authorization of the apostles to proclaim the gospel would only be given if it could be shown that Jesus himself had intended and authorized it through his life as an example – it is an act of Mark.

And what about the calling of the Twelve?

“To put it briefly, Schleiermacher *) answers, since we lack all definite news about it: I do not believe that there was ever a solemn calling and installation of all twelve apostles; rather, the special relationship of the twelve gradually took shape of its own accord. What a coincidence that no more and no less people came into this special relationship and that Jesus now had such a beautiful opportunity to say to the disciples (Luke 22, 30.) that they would sit on thrones (Matth. 19, 28 on twelve thrones) in his kingdom and judge the twelve tribes of Israel! Strange: this process of crystallisation, in which Jesus’ immediate surroundings were formed, happened to be such that only twelve were left at the end, so that they became a convenient symbol of the tribes of Israel and finally had to be used for every game for which the tribes of the Jewish people were to be used. As twelve they were just right for messengers of salvation who could be sent to the individual tribes of Israel, as twelve they were the spiritual Israel which had gathered around the Messiah, and as twelve they were again right for messengers of salvation when, after a new turn of this witty game, the twelve tribes of Israel had become the symbol of the nations. We have, however, very “definite” news that a coincidence of such an edifying kind did not prevail in this matter; Mark, whose report the two others have only not reproduced purely, rather expressly tells us that the Lord Himself, according to His will (οὓς ἠθέλεν αὐτός, Mark 3, 13.) called twelve from his other greater surroundings to himself and solemnly invested them with the apostolic office, and in the end we would have to assume that Jesus himself first initiated and authorized this game with the sacred number of twelve. Yes, says Weiße, yes, that is so, the number twelve was intended by Jesus and “it points to the founding of a new, world-encompassing Israel, which, like the old Israel according to biblical legend, is to have twelve physical and twelve spiritual patriarchs *)”. But how could Jesus not have better expressed his “consciousness of the individuality and of the world-historical destiny” of his work, could he only have expressed it in a positive statute, which had to push back every thought of universality and be overthrown by the man who first took the generality of the new principle seriously, by Paul? Jesus, who could not grasp and think the content of his self-consciousness at all without opposing the outworn forms of the Jewish people, neither had the Twelve with him as his constant retinue – only in childhood do we think that kings always have the crown on their heads and their knights at their side – nor did he call them to his immediate surroundings, nor did the Twelve exist at all as these Twelve during his lifetime. But this number twelve only came into existence as the community formed, that is, when the new principle entered into the positive boundaries of religious consciousness and had to apply the positive forms of the old Jewish world to its representation. Weisse is well aware of the difficulties of the old traditional view, but he does not eliminate them when he says that the apostolic association was founded so that through the community of life with Jesus, bearers of the “substantiality of the divine spirit” would be gained *). Weisse must set the purpose of the apostolic association as little positive and as general as possible because he cannot understand the triviality of the ordinary idea; this is fine, but now the discrepancy between the purpose and the limited means becomes all the more clear, because the fact that twelve were called, that certain people were called at all, was not necessary nor the right means if the substantiality of a new, infinite principle was to be ensured for its bearers. Jesus could only have drawn a fixed circle of disciples around himself and the larger mass if he had appeared with such a positive dogma, a symbol, or a developed, definite system; but since that was not the case, he could be sure, and he was, when it came to the substantiality of the new principle, that the substance of his self-consciousness was indestructible and that after his death, spirits would be found in which it could continue to live on and determine and shape itself, even if he had not called certain people to be bearers of this substantiality.

*) p. 88.

*) I, 394

*) I, 403.


The twelve apostles, about whom we know so little solely because they belonged to a very limited sphere, only came together in this group of twelve, and even then, probably more in idea than in reality, when the community was forming in its early Jewish limitations and was incorporating the ideal prototypes of Jewish life into its own life and worldview. A renewed critique of the sources from which information about the apostolic age flows is necessary before it can be determined whether the choice of the twelve was meant to meet a specific need for the leadership and organization of the community, or whether it was from the outset a Jewish ideal decoration of the new world. But one thing is certain: it is one of the first acts of the community and soon came to be regarded as an act of the Lord. The number twelve served as a sort of framework for the construction of the new community, which considered itself the true, reborn Israel, and it continued to serve as this ideal framework even after it had gained the validity that it had been intended and actually introduced by the Lord until it finally lost its limited, Jewish significance and the calling of the apostles became a symbol of what the Lord continues to do when he knows how to awaken the messengers of his gospel.

But doesn’t Paul already know “the twelve” in 1 Corinthians 15:5? When he appeared and accepted the new faith, the community had already created and shaped the first elements of its real and ideal world. And the choice of a replacement for Judas, and this choice immediately after the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:15)? Well, it goes without saying that the author of the third Gospel would not deny the assumptions that he holds in it in the Acts of the Apostles, and the choice of a replacement, even if it is told in a work as freely constructed as the Acts of the Apostles, does not necessarily become a historical event. But one may ask further – how does Saul become one of the prophets? Judas one of the twelve? Probably because of the contrast and probably only later, when the idea of the calling of the twelve had acquired a purely ideal meaning. In this stage of its development, it was adopted by Mark. But usually it happens that after such a time of ideal life, a worldview falls into the empirical, embarrassing interpretation: this happened in this case – Luke took care of filling the gap caused by the shameful act of Judas and his eventual death, which had been ascertained, however belatedly.


Where the report of the calling of the Twelve got its form and place has already been excellently demonstrated by Wilke *). Just before, Jesus had healed many sick people and had already had a boat prepared to escape the crowds, but when he finally had to fear exhaustion or too much exertion of his powers—for the sick and possessed were literally falling on him—he withdrew to the mountain and chose twelve from his surroundings so that they could also take part in the healing work. When he arrived home and was again surrounded by an innumerable crowd (Mark 3:20), his relatives came “out of concern that his healings might be too much for him,” and with the intention of taking him into custody; they did not know that he had just chosen helpers. Literally, the evangelist used the Old Testament narrative in developing this account that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, sought out the lawmaker and, seeing him almost overwhelmed by business, advised him to add some helpers **). At the same time, Mark sent the scribes against Jesus, their accusation against Jesus, that he was in league with the devil, relates to his miraculous healings and is only an intensification of the suspicion of Jesus’ relatives that he had “lost his mind” due to too much exertion.

*) p. 573. 574.

**) cf. Exodus 18:1, 5, 6, 18, 25.


Finally, it will be demonstrated to us later that the parable discourse also belongs to this section and is meant to present Jesus as the teacher of the laws of the kingdom of heaven, in contrast to the lawmaker Moses.



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Neil Godfrey

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