§ 79. The fight between Jesus and his opponents

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 79.

The fight between Jesus and his opponents.

Mark 12, 13 -40.

As the people have their outpost in the blind man of Jericho, so representatives of the learned and influential power of the capital had appeared before (C. 7, 1.) to show the Lord what to expect from his opponents. Now that Jesus had come out in Jerusalem, and with the cleansing of the temple had proclaimed himself not only the judge of the decayed theocracy, but also the one who must accuse the corrupt leaders of the church of unfaithfulness and take over the leadership of the host in their stead, the superiors decided to overthrow him, but for fear of the people who clung to him, they decided to tread carefully and now sought to catch him by asking questions about difficult points of contention. The fight becomes a learned contest.


1. Overview.

First – we turn immediately to the writing of Mark – they send off some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to catch him with one word. They ask him about
the tribute and are astonished at him when he solved the matter so surprisingly simply.

Then the Sadducees also turned to him, but when they had given him to consider the folly of believing in resurrection, they had to hear that they were very much mistaken on this point.

This is the terrible battle! Jesus has emerged victorious, the matter becomes milder, a scribe, who had been listening to the learned contest, sees that Jesus has answered well, and therefore puts a question to him about the first of all the commandments. Jesus tells him which commandment it is, the matter ends amicably, the scribe praises and approves the answer, adds that obedience to this commandment is better than sacrifice, and Jesus remarks to him in response to this intelligent answer: “You are not far from the kingdom of heaven.”


But now no one dares to ask him any more and so Jesus now takes the opportunity to present a question himself in order to shame the opponents. It is the question about David’s son. No one, of course, can confront him, but the people, who had gathered in great numbers, listened to him with pleasure, and in teaching them, he gives that thunderous warning to the scribes.

That Matthew had already set the entrance to this contest in confusion, we have already noted. The note that the opponents “left him and went away” is later attributed to Mark and is placed at the end of his account of the interest, although he had already attributed the one conclusion of this story: that the opponents were astonished.

Then (C. 22, 23) the Sadducees appear, but since at the end of Jesus’ answer he writes [die drucker?]: He goes further in the following part of the original report, taking up the note about the people’s approval, the note which is only in its place at the end and before the exhortation about the scribes, and says: the multitudes were astonished at his teaching (v. 33).

He took away its friendly character from the negotiation for the highest bid; a law teacher throws it on, who appears before the Lord after an agreement of the Pharisees, and the Pharisees felt encouraged for this new undertaking against their enemy, because they – what a beautiful reason! especially after their early defeat! – had heard that he had silenced the Sadducees. Of course – as Matthew was still very consistent this time – the friendly conclusion is not missing, that the scribe approved of Jesus’ answer and also earned the approval of Jesus. The report concludes with the indication of the highest bid. But in order not to leave the conclusion too bare, Matthew must replace Jesus’ words (Mark 12:31): “There is no greater commandment than these” with the fuller formula: “On these two commandments depend the law and the prophets.”


Again the Pharisees come together and Jesus asks them about the formula: Son of David, i.e. Matthew has changed the position of the matter in such a way that Jesus is no longer the aggressor, and the note that no one dared to ask him, which had to precede the question about the Son of David, he has put in the wrong place, because he put it only after Jesus’ statement about the Son of David.

Now follows – but it is not mentioned as in Mark that the people were present – in chapter 23, verse 1, the speech against the Pharisees in the presence of the people.

Luke still leaves the transition to the question about the tribute as he finds it in the writing of Mark, but he does not say that it was Pharisees who sent some of them to catch their enemy by a dangerous question: he rather calls these delegates people who imagined themselves to be just! (C. 20, 20). A very appropriate description in a story that was not in the least about Pharisaic self-righteousness! If Luke had preferred to use this formula of love (C. 16, 15), from which he even created the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (C. 18, 9 -14), he would have used it. 18, 9 -14), as Mark said, that it was the Pharisees and Herodians who carried out the attack against Jesus and who first started the battle that was to be fought, because the purpose of this whole passage is obviously no other than to set all Jewish parties in motion against the Messiah and to let Him triumph over all of them.

Luke was therefore also very wrong to omit the question of the “scholar of Christ” about the highest commandment from this passage and to put the formula that no one dared to ask Jesus any more, the formula that is only in its place after the negotiation about the highest commandment, the formula that he himself puts in place after the rejection of the Saddueans (C. 20, 40), before the question of the deniers of the resurrection and at the end of the passage about the nugget of interest (v. 26). Of course, he speaks twice, when he says “they were silent”, “they dared not ask him any more”, in a way that it is clear that he wants to make the unfruitful and useless remark that these particular opponents did not dare to ask anymore. But this “anymore” after the dismissal of the Sadducees betrays him and accuses him of having misunderstood the “no one dared to ask him anymore” of Mark quite substantially.


After the dismissal of the Sadducees, the question about the son of David follows, and then the speech against the scribes. However, in the introduction to the former section, he, just like Matthew, wrongly neglects the transition that Mark provides: Jesus answered (that is, now that the opponents were defeated, he took the opportunity to ask them a question).

Luke has placed the negotiation for the highest bid in a random position, after tearing it out of its context. He reports on it in chapter 10, verse 25. However, he unfortunately reveals very inappropriately that he read it in Mark after the dismissal of the Sadducees, when he presents the scribe’s response “You have spoken the truth” (Mark 12:32) in the form of “Some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well!'” (Luke 20:39) after the refutation of the denial of the resurrection. Where did these scribes suddenly come from if not from Mark’s account?


2. The tribute

The story of the tax coin came into being in those times which, as the New Testament epistles teach us, had to deal very often and very variously with the question of how the congregation was to relate to the Roman authorities, even though the only answer was always the same, that obedience was not to be withdrawn from the authorities, although the only and true Lord was to be worshipped in the Messiah. The Christian principle, in itself destructive in nature and necessarily hostile to the world and the state, helped itself for the moment and for the empirical existing conditions with the information that one had to submit to what existed. But that the world would soon and completely be put to an end – this hope and certainty was not given away even when, once pressed by accusations, one patiently offered one’s neck to the yoke.


3. The resurrection.

The ponderings about the resurrection were also very much in vogue at that time, when one had to contend with the scoffers who did not want to know anything about the resurrection of the Lord. Of course, if Jesus is to decide on the question, it must be Sadducees with whom he disputes, just as it was fitting that Mark should also lead Herodians out of the place when it concerns a question which at the same time touches on politics.

If we only had Luke’s synoptic gospel left to us, we would have to think that the Christians did not consider their savior particularly skilled in the art of reasoning and deduction. After the question of the Sadducees about whose wife the woman who had lived successively with seven brothers in levirate marriage would be at the resurrection, a question intended to make belief in the resurrection ridiculous, Jesus answers in Luke (chapter 20, verses 34-38): “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.” (So, is that supposed to prove immortality and its consequence? It would either have to be proved first or, more boldly and from the outset, be taken as a presupposition) – they are like the angels, and they are children of God, since they are children of the resurrection. But the fact that the dead are resurrected has also! Moses showed in the passage from the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But God is not a God of the dead, but of the living. All live unto him. But is there any proof of the resurrection beforehand, so that it can be said that Moses also proved it?


Luke misunderstood the account of Mark, thinking that in the first chapter, where the angelic likeness of the resurrected is spoken of, there was also an argument for the resurrection. For Mark, however, this is only an argument in so far as the objection raised by the Sadducees against the impossibility of the resurrection is thereby removed. Luke came to his wrong idea especially because of the fact that Jesus (Mark 12, 24) denies the opponents that they were wrong because they knew neither the scriptures nor the power of God. He quickly says that there must now be two proofs of the resurrection. But according to Mark, the power of God proves itself not only in the resurrection of the dead, but also in the transformation of men into angels; the power of God, therefore, is to support both parts of the argument; the proof from Scripture, and only now really the proof of the resurrection, is only given in the second part.

Matthew has remained faithful to Mark.


4. The highest commandment.

Luke has treated the question of the highest commandment extraordinarily well. He improved the passage greatly when he copied it from Mark. The divine art of sacred historiography is great.

Firstly, the question should be purely theoretical, as Luke himself indicates, but highly inappropriate, by adding that the questioner had the intention of testing Jesus (Luke 10:25). And yet, the same Luke, who adds this inappropriate indication, gives it a purely practical interest when he has turned it into the question of the rich man: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”


Furthermore, this is a beautiful tempter who, as soon as Jesus asks him what is written, immediately knows how to combine those two commandments of love for God and one’s neighbour, no! how to count them out like clockwork! A beautiful tempter, who parrots the discovery, which in the case of Mark is supposed to be a discovery of Jesus, and must certainly appear as such, like a catechism! Not a word more about it! That is what is supposed to be new, that there is no higher commandment than these two! And Luke makes the seeker complain about this discovery, so that Jesus now replies: you have answered correctly, while in Mark the scribe, moved by the greatness of the discovery, says to Jesus: you have spoken according to the truth, “for – hear! hear! – there is only One God”, i.e. there is also only One Commandment!

Beautiful tempter, whose mouth is not yet shut, who immediately asks: who is my neighbour (Luk 10, 29)! Nice connoisseur of the catechism, who does not yet know that! And how inappropriate, after what has been said so far, is Luke’s remark, this repetition of his formula, that this man wanted to make himself stretched.

A part – but only a part – of the blame for all these improvements was borne by the fact that Luke here – in order to teach who is next – wants to use the parable of the Good Samaritan. Because the Samaritan is set up as an example, because this strange tempter is to be challenged to imitation, Jesus must finally turn the matter around at the end, namely, ask who was the neighbour of the poor man who had fallen into the hands of the robbers, and the teacher of the law must then also answer (C. 10, 30 to 37).

Since the word Samaritan has just been mentioned, we can still – but it is not worth the effort to even casually remind us that Luke, in order to contrast the Samaritans with the ungrateful Jews, invented the story of the Samaritan who alone thanked the Lord for the deliverance from leprosy, while the nine Jews, who had received the same benefit at the same time as him, were inaccessible to the feeling of thanks. Luk 17, 11 -19*).

*) Luk 17, 13: ιησου επιστάτα ελέησον ημάς.
Mark 10, 47 : ο υιός Δ. ιησού ελέησόν με.
Luke 17, 14: πορευθέντες επιδείξατε εαυτούς τους ιερεύσι. In order to explain how someone suddenly converted, Luke creates the miracle that Jesus only spoke these words to them, and they were healed on the way as they were going to the priests according to his command.
Mark 1, 44 : ύπαγε, σεαυτόν δειξον τώ ερεί.
Luke 17, 19: αναστας πορεύου: η πίστις σου σέσωκέ σε.
Mark 5, 34: η πίστις σου σέσωκέ σε. ύπαγε εις ειρήνην.
The beginning of Luke 17:12 is a reproduction of Mark 10:46.


5. The son of David.

What do you think of Christ? Whose son is he? asks Jesus – as Matthew tells us, C. 22, 42 – and in fact the people hit it so well with their answer: David’s! that they bring the conversation exactly into the direction that Jesus himself probably already had in mind. How then – continues Jesus; as if he should not have said: but how – does David call him in the spirit? – i.e. David according to the dictates of the Holy Spirit, when he says: “The Lord says to my Lord: sit down, etc.” If, then, David calls him Lord – now comes the right turn of phrase – how is he his son?

How can the opponents, whom Jesus is to embarrass, set up even one side of the difficulty? How can the negotiation be dragged back and forth so long that we only find out at the end what the difficulty is? Jesus is supposed to carry out an attack, so he has to attack the opponents right at the beginning and embarrass them. Matthew has copied badly.

“How is it,” Jesus asks in Mark, “that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” Now follows the objection taken against this assertion from that Psalm, and then at the end the knot is pulled together: whence then is he his Son?


Thus wrote the same evangelist who posed the question above: “How do the scholars of Christ say that Elias etc. “Mark 9, 11.

The difficulty we have already explained above could of course only be formed by the evangelist from the point of view from which it was considered certain that David was the author of that Psalm.


6. The gowns.

Mark 12, 38 – 40.

Mark has done very well in the speech of Jesus against his opponents – we would almost venture the tautology. It is short and to the point, but striking. Beware,” says Jesus, and he says no more and no less, “of the Christian scholars, who go about in robes, and are saluted in the markets, and seek the first seat in the synagogues, and the first place at dinner; who eat up the houses of widows, and pray much for a pretence! “

Do you not see the Christian scholars before you? All the Christian scholars, as they live and breathe?

O, hear how the robes rustle! 

“They shall receive the more condemnation. ” 

At the same place, Luke has copied the same speech verbatim, and from one keyword, he has formed his parable of the first seat at the banquet (Luke 14:7). But Matthew has placed such a long speech against the scribes and Pharisees here, and this speech grows so much out of all proportion in its excessive length and out of any context, that we can conveniently consider it in a separate paragraph.



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