§ 75. The request of the Zebedees

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 75.

The request of the Zebedees.

Mark l 0,35 – 45. Matth. 20, 20 – 28.

When Mark reports that the sons of Zebedee themselves directly approached the Lord and asked for the seats at his right and left, and Matthew instead presents the matter as their mother speaking for them, it is not allowed for us to presume or even find it likely that he drew his alleged correction “from historical tradition.” *) If Matthew followed a specific tradition, he would have completely reworked the entire story with confidence in such a firm foundation. But he only did the bare minimum, which even the inexperienced would understand, by only changing the beginning where the mother merely fell down before Jesus and “asked for something!” – how clumsily the words are rendered with which Mark first introduces the sons of Zebedee: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask!” – only here does Matthew change the original words “What do you want me to do for you?” to the other: “What do you want?” But immediately afterward, he has Jesus speak as if the sons of Zebedee had directly made the request – “You don’t know what you’re asking” etc. – that is, he falls back into his dependence on Mark even where any even moderately thoughtful person would not have had to exert themselves particularly to avoid it, and even afterward, he writes according to Mark that the ten were angry when they heard the proposal of the sons of Zebedee.

*) as Weisse does, I, 569.


Matthew has changed extremely clumsily, and he has probably changed at all only because for a weak woman and for a lovingly concerned mother the request seemed to him rather suitable. The way Bathsheba comes before David, prostrates herself before him and makes the request for her son Solomon, seemed to Matthew to be justification enough for his change (1 Kings 1:16).

Another change that Matthew undertook is remarkable. Jesus does not expose the senseless request of the Zebedees in its senselessness, but he pushes its fulfillment by a twofold turn into a far distance, beyond his will: first he asks the two, “whether they drink the cup that he drinks, whether they can be baptized with the baptism with which he himself is baptized?” and since they affirm it, he answers: “Good! But to determine sitting on my right and on my left is not for me, but it is for those to whom it is prepared – that is, from my Father, Matthew adds, forcing the general sentence into the definiteness of the dogmatic formula.

That the incomprehensible request of the children of Zebedee is internally connected with the preceding solemn statement of Jesus about his suffering – hence also the cup and the baptism of death in the rebuke of the supplicants – is invented as a contrast to this statement of Jesus only by Mark, but that at the same time this contrast is not particularly skillfully formed, we have already noted above. Or does one want to pretend to us that Jesus could have already put a formula into his mouth, which only came into being on a long detour, long after his death by a witty combination of the apostle Paul? Only after the baptism of the believers was figuratively described as their suffering and burial, which they suffer with the Lord, Jesus could come to call his suffering his baptism in a gospel.


That finally, when the moral of the whole should be expressed, the opportunity to do so is very poorly brought about, especially when the ten disciples appear and grumble about the ambition of the sons of Zebedee, as if they had not already been rebuked, and as if the malcontents were not guilty of a new offense, which also needed to be reprimanded in a particular way, shows how fragile this pragmatism is and needs no further explanation. —–

In front of his disciples Jesus openly confessed himself to be the Messiah and, in contrast to their childish reveries and claims, set the nature of his messianic destiny into the light.

Now he is recognized and blessed by the people as Messiah, as Messiah he fights with his opponents and is fought by them: the scene changes: the decisive battle must be carried out in Jerusalem.


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