§ 44. The Instructional Speech

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by Neil Godfrey

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 2



§ 44.

The Instructional Speech.

Matth. 10, 5-42.

If Jesus neither called nor ever sent the Twelve, then he did not give them a special speech at their departure. We could therefore be very brief if asked whether Jesus actually spoke the long speech attributed to him by Matthew on this occasion. Equally brief, we could note that Matthew has composed his long speech from the speeches that Mark and Luke attach to the sending out of the Twelve, and the latter also attaches to the sending out of the Seventy, enriched with sayings that he found elsewhere in the writings of his predecessors. However, we will not rely on the result of the above criticism; rather, we will start the matter again from the beginning,
prove the origin of the speech within Matthew’s own context, and as for the individual sayings from which this speech is composed, they still deserve a separate, independent consideration, and the possibility remains that Jesus spoke them on other occasions.


1. The Lost Sheep of Israel.

Matth. 10, 5-6.

“Go not,” the Lord begins his speech, “into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans*)  enter ye not, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

*) This is correctly translated by Luther; πολις Σαμαρειτων is not the capital, Samaria, but rather any city of the Samaritans and as general and comprehensive as οδος εθνων.


But, but! What must the theologian say to this? Even in the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord commands the disciples (ch. 28, 19): “Go and teach all nations!” and here he forbids them all association with the Gentiles? What does the theologian say to that? He finds the matter very easy, as there is no difficulty for him and he makes no effort to swallow camels. This prohibition, he says, “was only meant to be temporary **)” and it was very wise, as it recommended to the disciples the necessary and salutary restriction at the beginning and prevented them from scattering their strength at the first attempt. But then the Lord would have had to remind the disciples at this moment that this prohibition was only meant for the near future, and he would have had to expressly emphasize the limited validity of it, since he had recently himself associated with a Gentile, the centurion of Capernaum, and had opened up to the disciples the prospect of the time when the peoples would come from the east and the west. On the contrary, Weisse ***), answers, there is no contradiction between this earlier saying and the present one, in the latter the Gentiles and Samaritans are not even “excluded from the Gospel, but it is only commanded to await their voluntary response.” But just listen to the words: “Do not go on the road of the Gentiles, but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel!” How strict they are, how clear and decisive the contrast is, and how determinedly it is stated that they should have nothing to do with the Gentiles! If the disciples were to think that they should indeed accept the Gentiles if they came voluntarily, they must have been reminded explicitly in what limitation that prohibition was to be lifted.

**) so says Strauss I, 571.

***) II, 60.


However, the issue is not only that this prohibition contradicts earlier and later statements of the Lord in the Gospel of Matthew, but it even contradicts individual sayings that follow in this discourse, and it is at odds with the entire situation that is presupposed in the following sayings. In verse 18, it says that the disciples will be brought before princes and kings, as witnesses to them and to the nations. If the theologian responds that this is only referring to governors like Pilate, to kings like Agrippa *), or at most to the Herodian family and the neighboring Arab kings **), then we cannot blink our eyes to weaken the impact of the scene, but we have to open them wide, as the evangelist wants it, and see the world theater before us, where princes, kings, and nations act and the disciples who have gone out to proclaim the gospel bear witness before them. It is the struggle of the gospel against all the powers of the world, whose image the Lord portrays to the disciples, which was only possible if he could assume that they would be thinking about their universal mission at that very moment. In short, this assumption, this situation, this consideration of the future, in which the disciples would work among the nations and bear witness before kings, contradicts the prohibition with which the discourse begins.

*) as de Wette, 1, 1, ior.

**) as Paulus creg. Handb. l, 737.

But this prohibition is at odds with everything else we reliably learn about Jesus. The Jesus of the fourth Gospel, who even establishes a community among the Samaritans himself, who speaks of the time when God will be worshiped in spirit and truth, and not in the sanctuary of Jerusalem, even to a foreign woman, that Jesus cannot have forbidden the disciples to go to the nations and to the Samaritans.


However, regarding the Samaritans, Strauss *) suggests that Jesus “seems to have addressed them personally due to the inexperience of his disciples in dealing with them.” Before we have time to notice that Jesus could not have sent his disciples to even the Jews, much less the Samaritans, without first attempting to send them to such a closely related people, Gfrörer enters the conversation to express his displeasure that the authenticity of that statement could only be considered remotely possible. No, he says **), “Jesus could not have spoken those words. The Ebionite spirit has attributed them to Christ.” However, we do not know how Gfrörer could prevent us from asking the question, “why should he not have spoken them?” since we have recognized the historical Christ, whom he regards as true, and the Johannine Christ, as a work of later reflection. We know nothing of Jesus revealing himself to the Samaritans as the Messiah, or of him speaking to a Samaritan woman about the time when people will worship God in spirit and in truth, we know nothing of this enlightened theorist of the fourth Gospel, and so…

And so… we would come to the conclusion, as the only one remaining, that Matthew portrays to us the true historical Jesus when he commands his disciples not to go to the Gentiles and Samaritans? In the end, was Jesus’ self-awareness nationally restricted, and was it only Paul and later people who liberated this new principle from this barrier? But let us not rush into things; let us just remember where this statement is located, what occasion it is linked to, how it does not harmonize with the other elements of this discourse, let us just hold on to all of this, and another solution will be found. Here it is!

*) l, 584.

**) holy Sage II, 23.


To the Canaanite woman who asked him for help for her daughter (Mark 7:27), Jesus said, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” We do not yet have to worry about what this word means in the portrayal of Mark and how the barrier that seems to exist between the Lord and the Gentiles is abolished in the dialectic of this whole narrative – enough, Matthew has particularly focused on this barrier and reinforced it even more, made it tighter by reworking the words “let the children be fed first” into the others (Matthew 15:24): “I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Exactly the same words that Jesus speaks to the disciples, only that in the instruction discourse he expressly designates and must designate the contrast because at this moment, unlike then when he spoke to the Canaanite woman, the contrast was not personal.

Matthew formed that saying from a not entirely correctly understood, i.e. falsely separated expression of Jesus, which he read in the scripture of Mark.

But now the question had to give us no small difficulty, how on earth was it possible for a man who could only bring together a couple of thoughts to incorporate such opposing elements into his not particularly voluminous scripture. Matthew is the evangelist who speaks most frequently of the admission of the Gentiles into the kingdom of heaven, it is he who separates the Lord from the disciples with the command that they should go and teach all nations, even in the instruction discourse the assumption arises that the Gospel is testified before kings and peoples and that the apostles have gone far into foreign lands, and yet he alone has the saying “do not go on the road to the Gentiles and do not enter any town of the Samaritans!” Gfrörer lets these sayings arise in different, even opposing circles of the community and says now *): “It took a considerable time for such contradictory expressions to reconcile with each other and could dwell peacefully in the legend. Matthew probably did not feel their mutual struggle.” Since we have seen from all the sayings we have learned so far that they did not arise in the legend, did not live in the legend, we must look for another solution. It is true that Matthew did not believe that those sayings were in conflict with each other, but only because he was far beyond the conflict and looked at sayings that scream at us with the utmost impartiality. The man who sent the forerunners of the Gentile hordes to the cradle of the divine child, who has worked out the story of the centurion in Capernaum so extraordinarily beautifully and even in the instruction discourse, where we are now, unconsciously extends the ideal situation to the world stage, was no longer limited by national boundaries and had no dogmatic interest in letting the Lord speak as if the Gentiles were somehow excluded from salvation. Precisely because of his basic view, he could (as in C. 15:24) carry the embarrassment of pragmatism to such an extent in all unpretentiousness, holding on to fleeting moments that he found in the portrayal of his predecessors, working out more into the specific and positive, and this time (C. 10:5-6) he believed he was telling the truth historically if he let the Lord speak that prohibition. He reads, in the scripture of Mark, that the disciples only stayed away for a short time, so he concludes that they only went to their countrymen, so they were only sent to the lost sheep of Israel. However, soon enough he goes beyond this limited assumption, since his spirit drives him further. His abstract view, which does not feel at home in the particular, rushes towards the universal, and his inclination to pile up sayings and present the Lord as a teacher who sheds light on all aspects of the subject at once, leads him to compile everything that looks like an instruction to the apostles – thus the contradiction with the beginning of the discourse arises, but he is not concerned about it, since he soon forgets that beginning.

**) holy Sage II, 80.


Regarding the Samaritans, we note that Mark does not report any statement by Jesus about them; he, as the first gospel writer, did not yet incorporate the interest that the community later had for this people into the life of the Lord. The third synoptic gospel writer, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, already knows more about them to tell. In addition to the one anecdote of Jesus’ bad reception in a Samaritan village, he knows the parable of the Good Samaritan and the story of the thankful Samaritan – of course! The historian of the apostolic era must know something about how the Samaritans had already proved themselves worthy at the time of Jesus, that the kingdom of God also came to them. Later, when the initial interest in the Samaritans receded and was displaced by the greater interest that the conversion of the Gentiles aroused, the double interpretation could arise: either it became a positive statement that Jesus had already recruited Samaritans for the kingdom of God, and then they became in the circle of the gospel story the representatives of the foreigners who would enter the kingdom of heaven, or they were forgotten again and the first type of the gospel story regained its right. The first happened in the fourth gospel, the latter in the first; here it even happened by chance that they were placed in the same category as the Gentiles in the opposition that was to be presented to the lost sheep of Israel.

2. Equipment for the journey.

Matthew 10:7-10.

How his passion for universal ideas, or rather abstractions, could drive him far beyond the limits he had set for himself just a moment before, is shown to us by Matthew in the next verse of this speech. The disciples are to undertake a mission journey within the borders of the Holy Land; the evangelist has read in the writings of his predecessors that they soon returned after preaching, healing the sick, and casting out demons, but he forgets all these details, both his original intention and the assumptions underlying the reports of Mark and Luke, in the second sentence of this speech. And as if they were already being sent to the work that the Acts of the Apostles describes, the Lord now says to the disciples (v. 7-8), “Go and preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.”


“You have received it for free, so give it for free as well.” Only Matthew wrote this sentence, but in a context that absolutely excludes it, since immediately afterwards (verse 9) the disciples are commanded: “Do not acquire gold, nor silver, nor copper for your money belts, nor a bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support.” Now, if they are supposed to expect sustenance for their work, it cannot be said at the same time: give it away for free as you have received it for free. The apologist could still torture us and the report, and claim that it was only said that they should not demand anything for the miracles, but the teaching should be the business from which they thirst for their livelihood. Useless torture! The teaching and the miracles are so closely related that they are not differentiated at all with regard to the instruction that they should work for free, and when they are later commanded to let themselves be fed by the people, and if they then actually find their sustenance on the journey, it could not be determined that they received this support not for the healings but only for the teaching.

The contradiction remains. Furthermore, the verb “do not acquire” (κτήσησθε) does not fit all the objects that Matthew lists, at least not at the same time for “gold, silver, and copper,” especially since it is said “copper in your money belts” and “bags, two tunics, and staff.” Finally, the saying “the worker is worthy of his support,” this imitation of the saying “you shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” is out of place, since there was no mention of food before, but rather of gold, silver, copper, tunics, shoes, and the staff. *) Now listen to how all these disharmonies are silenced when we read in Mark (6:8-9): “He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—(ινα μηδεν αιρωσιν εις οδον)—but to wear sandals; and He added, ‘Do not put on two tunics.'” “And,” the introduced address continues in verse 10, “wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that city;” i.e., you will find bread there.

*) See Wilke, p. 355. 356.


In general, Luke reproduces the same thing when he elaborates the instructional speech to the twelve (C. 9, 3. 4.), only he begins with the direct address from the beginning: “take nothing on the way,” although at the end of the sentence “they should not have two coats” he falls into indirect narration and thus betrays that he is working with a scripture in which both forms of speech alternate at the beginning of the speech. But only Mark gives us the original account when he gradually transitions from indirect narration to direct address, and Luke made a mistake when he suddenly turns into indirect narration in the middle of the address – which anticipates the παρηγγειλεν of Mark C. 6, 8. Furthermore, it is Luke who has caused the apologists so much agony, for he once includes the staff among the things that the disciples should not carry with them on the journey when he is in the process of listing everything: he does not realize that the staff neither hinders the speed of the journey, if that is what it is about, nor belongs to the things with which one usually attends to the stranger during the time when one hosts him. Finally, in the structure of the speech, Luke does not make it clear why the disciples should not provide themselves with provisions and money for the journey, as he does not say, like Mark: “stay there until you leave,” but rather “stay there and leave from there.”


Therefore, this mistake arises because Luke only wants to give a brief account of the speech to the Twelve, in order to later develop it as the Instruction Speech to the Seventy. When he actually reports this, he 1. stays on the track that he has already taken in the former, and believes that Jesus must absolutely only list things that the disciples should not take with them on the journey: he leaves the staff this time, but instead counts the shoes among the things that a messenger of salvation must refrain from carrying – “carry, says Jesus, no bag, no purse, no shoes.” At this moment, 2. the thought comes to him that the disciples should not complain on the journey, so they can move forward faster and he quickly writes down: “and do not greet anyone on the road” (C. 10, 4.). He also writes down these words because he is currently preoccupied with the meaning of the apostolic greeting, and 3. because he is about to write down what this greeting means. “Wherever you enter a house – Jesus must say in verse 5; at Mark it says much better and more concisely: “wherever you enter a house,” because he follows with “stay there until…” which Luke only picks up again in verse 7, after he has introduced his idea of the apostolic greeting – so first say: Peace be to this house! And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him. If not, it will return to you.” “But in that same house, it says at Luke V. 7, stay and eat and drink what they have.” How? In which house? The one where a son of peace lives? But just now it was about the house where no son of peace is found! Not even a specific house of this kind, nor a specific house of the opposite kind, had been mentioned before, but rather the general rule of how to deal with the apostolic greeting. So how does Luke come to a specific house where the disciples could and should stay? Certainly not from his own means! He did not pave the way there himself, but Mark blindly leads him there, “stay there,” says Mark; Luke writes it down for him without specific consideration for the construction and position of his insertion, and he now even goes so far as to 4. elaborate on the thought that Mark associates with these words, by adding: “and eat and drink what they have.” “For, he writes down the proverb that explains the context of the speech that Mark lets the Lord deliver – for the worker is worthy of his wages.” Even more! Luke also interprets the command “stay there” from another angle, as if it were not enough to explain it according to the context in which it is spoken, he presses into it the idea or meaning that the disciples should be given the instruction not to change their lodging, not to run from one lodging to another. “Do not move from one house to another.” The confusion does not stop there. In the speech at Mark, there is also a contrast, whose two parts form the different experiences of the apostles on their journey. We already know the one part (Mark 6:10): the disciples should stay in the house where they have stayed in each town until their departure; it is the part that is connected by a strong thread to the beginning of the speech and serves as a conclusion as well as an explanation of the command that the disciples should not take anything that relates to their daily needs on the road. But, the question remains, what if they don’t find a friendly house in a city? “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them.” However, so that the speech does not end too abruptly and the second part expands and develops in the same proportion as the first, so that this symmetry is achieved, it is added: “Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.”


Let’s take a break! We have now learned the whole speech as created and formed by Mark – created! Because no one will now claim that this beautiful construction of the sentences, this grouping and organization of the whole, has lived in tradition, and no one will think that no one in the community could have put these two thoughts together and written them down if Jesus had not expressed them – we have now learned the whole speech, which is formed for a self-created occasion anyway. How simple it is! How true! The disciples are not to care for their existence, for where they work, they will find their livelihood, and if they do not find ground to work in a city, they should move on and leave the city to judgment. How simple! Did these two thoughts or Mark need a tradition, a legend, and all these ghostly mists? And how beautifully both thoughts touch in the middle, each pulled tightly from its beginning and end and held together as a whole.

In the shorter speech to the Twelve, Luke has taken out only one sentence from the second part: “And if anyone will not receive you, when you go out of that town, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” He omits the printer: “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” And so the short speech, when given to the Twelve, has lost its stylistic balance.

But in the second version, in which the Seventy are to hear it, it not only regains this printer but is even repeated twice in a row. Clearly, the opposite reception that the disciples receive and the instruction that they should expect the satisfaction of their needs from hospitable, believing families are the main content, no, the only content of the speech. But hasn’t Luke already exhausted both thoughts when he explained that contrast between the success of the apostolic greeting and spoke of the worker’s wages? Indeed! But he still wants to give the contrast in the way Mark has explained it, with that printer, not only that: he wants to elaborate on it even more than before.


“And when you enter a city and they receive you,” says Jesus in verse 8, “eat what is set before you, heal the sick there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.'” In other words, work, heal, teach, and trust that the laborer will not miss out on their reward. “But when you enter a city and they do not receive you,” writes Luke with an unfortunate detail and an entirely inappropriate transformation of the symbolic act into a statement by the disciples, “go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.'” (Verses 10-11) “I tell you,” says Jesus in verse 12, “it will be more tolerable for Sodom — why not also Gomorrah? — on that day than for that town.”

That is all for now! Later, we will take a closer look at the other additions with which Luke enriched this speech (verses 13-16). Now let’s turn back to Matthew! Although he copies from Luke the proverb about the laborer and from Mark the command (in chapter 10, verse 11), “stay there, that is, in the welcoming house, until you leave,” he nevertheless writes beforehand on his own (in verse 8) the sentence, “Freely you have received; freely give!” This is where the contradiction arises, because he emphasizes the miraculous work so strongly and must now indeed write the warning that the disciples should not use a power that the Lord has given them for worldly gain or treat their miracles as a profession. Jesus, however, could not have possibly thought that there was any danger of the disciples taking money or anything else from people as wandering miracle workers. It was only possible for the evangelist to add this principle that they should perform their tasks and demonstrate their miraculous powers for free, because he gives the disciples such an enormous power that they should even be able to raise the dead. He immediately thought of the miracle workers that people told stories about in his time, but he did not consider that in that very moment (in verse 7) he gave the disciples the instruction regarding the reward that would not elude their apostolic work. He did not see that in the scripture of Luke, the matter is presented in all simplicity and without any hesitation, that the disciples should eat whatever is set before them where they are kindly received, and then heal and preach as they thirst.


That the disciples should not take a staff on their journey, Matthew learns from Luke (9:3 *), and that they should not even take shoes, he learns from the speech that Luke has addressed to the seventy (10:4). He has combined both passages **). Now, if he wants to make all these individual items—gold, silver, copper, money bag, clothes, shoes, staff—dependent on one verb and remembers that people usually buy clothes, shoes, and the like, and that this verb must be placed first, then the inconvenience arises that the disciples are forbidden to acquire money, clothes, shoes, etc., namely by purchase—κτησησθε.

*) Luke uses the word ραβδους here, because he has in mind the disciples as these several individuals.

**) The earlier apologists, that is, the serious ones who still cared about difficulties and did not take them as lightly as their later followers, have famously struggled to resolve the contradiction between Mark and Matthew. Calvin says that the disciples should not burden themselves with luggage so that the speed of travel would not be impeded. As if they could convert or even just teach their people while running at full speed! Quia tale erat legationis genus, ut discipulos vellet Christus intra paucus (!) dies totam (!) Judaeam lustrare et statim ad se reverti, sarcinas secum gestare vetat, quae celeritatem hanc (!) morentur. But Mark sees the matter entirely differently. What about the staff? Matthew and Luke understand sticks that are a burden to bear(!) – then they could simply throw the staff away and cut a light one from the first, best bush! But Mark means a support that sustains and lifts travelers. Bengel says even more naively: whoever did not have a stick did not need to worry about obtaining one; whoever had one could carry it for convenience’s sake! Instead of asking whether the poor, who did not have one, could not simply cut one by the roadside if convenience was so important and the speech was worth it, we now have to ask how Jesus could have said the same words and in the same moment to different subjects, depending on whether they had a staff or not, or how it came about that the evangelists divided themselves into the two parts of the antithesis when he had spoken both sentences. Otherwise, such parts of an antithesis usually stick very firmly together, since one has value and interest only for the sake of the other. Weisse’s symbolic explanation—that the apparatus of spiritual mediations must be thrown away when it comes to the living communication and preaching of the Gospel—II, 62 cannot even be applied to the convoluted presentation of the first and third Gospels; the coherence of the simple speech that Mark has formed rejects it from the outset. It is precisely this coherence and the confusion of the individual parts in the speeches of Luke and Matthew that refutes those who, like de Wette (1, 1, 101), assume that Mark was disturbed by the striking sayings he found in the writings of his predecessors and “anxiously” improved them.


Finally, Matthew should have written the least: “for the worker is worthy of his food,” since he forbids the disciples to take so many other things with them and does not even mention the bread, which according to Mark (6:8) and Luke (9:3) the apostles should not take with them on their journey. He should rather have simply copied Luke’s saying, “the worker is worthy of his wages,” but he sees in Luke’s scripture the word “eat” and “drink” mentioned so often in the context (10:7-8) that he cannot resist putting the saying in awkward agreement with its context, which unfortunately he did not even indicate in his scripture by a marking.


3. Behavior in a foreign land.

Matthew 10, 5-15.

Oh, why bother with these tiny details? The task sometimes becomes so daunting, even after Wilke’s heroic efforts, that we would gladly leave these details aside and turn to more noble pursuits. However, we must persevere, we must finish with these details, and then these small matters become not insignificant, for once we anatomize them carefully, they reveal their origin, the self-awareness of the element in which we find them, and thus the origin of the Gospels. They must be of the same value to the critic as the tiny creatures encrusted in the exudations of the sea are to the naturalist, or rather, of infinitely greater value, since in the Gospels they often constitute the only specific content.

We already know the entire speech that Mark has elaborated, and we have also seen how Luke has twice imitated the two parts of this speech, the first time by putting hospitable and inhospitable houses in opposition and dissecting them to explain how the apostolic greeting would only be appropriate in the former, the second time by following Mark’s guidance and speaking of the benevolent and unfriendly city. The confusion we encounter on these points in the Gospel of Matthew will be explained and resolved immediately after these experiences.

“Into whatever city or village you go,” the instruction on behavior in a foreign land begins (Matthew 10, 11), “inquire who is worthy in it, and stay there until you leave.” Suddenly, even though the matter is exhausted and finished with the words “until you leave” – see Mark – the speech begins again from the beginning and the matter is once again dealt with at the point where the disciples are still standing in front of the house door. “When you enter the house *), greet it; and if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you” (Matthew 10, 12-13). But it cannot be a question of whether the house is worthy or not, for this specific house, in front of whose door the disciples initially stand and into which they enter, is precisely the house that was previously discussed, whose worthiness they have ascertained, and in which they are to remain until they leave!

*) In his embarrassment, as he realized the danger, Luther translated it as “into a house.”


“And whoever does not receive you or listen to your words, then shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or that city (v. 14-15). Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that city.” However, Matthew noticed the difficulty that the direction he had taken must face and knows that he actually had to speak about the city. Therefore, he cautiously says: leave the house or that city! But he did not speak of the city before, only of an individual in the city, of the one who does not welcome the messengers, so how can the fate of the whole city be made dependent on the reception that the messengers find in one house? Matthew will justify it and, if it should become serious, will ensure the unhappy city against the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then, at that critical moment, on the day of judgment, he will have to admit that he exposed the city to such great danger only because he confused the proverbs from the house and from the city that Luke still kept separate. The confusion has shown itself to us in both points, namely where the first half of the proverb goes from the city to the proverb of the house, and where it transitions from this sentence to the second half of the proverb of the city.


4. The struggle with the world and the sufferings of the believers.

Matthew 10:15-31.

Matthew barely finishes writing Mark’s speech when he rushes into the general, wide, and abstract. He forgets the situation that the disciples should only go to the sheep of Israel and gives a place to Luke’s sentence about the sheep being sent among wolves, which is truly appropriate to his sense and the contrast that it contains, considering that he already has the world stage where the apostles will appear in mind (V. 16). But before he describes the world’s resistance, he adds a remark after the sentence about the sheep, using the concluding formula “therefore” – “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” At the same time, the thought that they must be careful, winding their way shrewdly through the hostile world, occupies him: hence the image of the snakes. He continues in verse 17: “Be on your guard against men” and intends to introduce the following description of their sufferings in the world with this admonition and at the same time connect it with the recommendation of snake-like shrewdness.

However, he couldn’t succeed in doing that. Whether it is because he already has the twelfth chapter of the third Gospel in mind and is led to the speech of Jesus about the last things in Mark’s writing through the saying (12:11-12) that “the disciples should not worry about how they would defend themselves when they are brought before the synagogues and the authorities and rulers, for the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say,” or whether he has turned to this freely – enough, he quotes it verbatim *) – the saying that the disciples would be handed over to the synedria, flogged in the synagogues, and brought before princes and kings, the comfort that they should not worry about what they would say, for the Holy Spirit – Matthew says, the Spirit of their Father – would speak for them, and finally the saying that even the closest relatives would betray each other, that they would be hated by everyone, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:17-22, Mark 13:9-13). But it is incomprehensible how this series of sayings, which predict the inevitable and bring comfort for this hard fate at the same time, could be introduced with the admonition: “be on your guard against men.” The disciples should be prepared to be brought before all the authorities of the world; even their sufferings and persecutions should serve the cause of the gospel – (when they stand before princes and kings, it happens “for them and for the Gentiles as a testimony,” that is, the opponents should not remain without testimony of the truth, “to all nations, as Mark explains the words: as a testimony to them” (13:10) **) or as Luke says (21:13): “this will result in your being witnesses to them,” that is, you will get an opportunity to testify precisely through this situation – how can this opening be so closely connected with the admonition to be on their guard against people? “They may not, they cannot escape their fate and their destiny, to bear witness to the truth under suffering; they have nothing to fear, for the Spirit will inspire them with what to say before kings and rulers—and yet they should be cautious and examine people carefully before engaging with them? The transition is unsuccessful and had to be unsuccessful because Matthew wanted to connect the saying about the free confession of truth in the midst of persecutions directly with the saying about the wolves, which one certainly must be wary of, but he interpreted it one-sidedly and detached it from the consideration of the apostolic work. Perhaps the beginning of the twelfth chapter of the third Gospel brought him to this particular form of transition, where the disciples are also called to “beware!” (Luke 12:1). But certainly, Mark gave him the occasion and the general form for this transition. Mark also introduces the sayings we have just quoted, which in his writing combine into a separate section and round off into a whole, with the admonition: “But be on your guard yourselves!” That is, the misery of the last days, which was described before, will be great, but even greater is yet to come. But just see to it yourselves that you remain steadfast in the general affliction, where you will also have to suffer, because — the section concludes — whoever endures to the end will be saved. The beginning and the end of the section (Mark 13:9-13) harmonize together, each conceived and worked out with reference to the other— but what is the point of this transition: beware of men? What else does it prove to us except that Matthew borrowed the section (Matt. 10:17-22) from Mark but placed it in an inappropriate place? What else does it do except raise the question of whether now, when the disciples were to visit only the sheep of Israel for a short time, it was an appropriate opportunity to speak about preaching before princes, kings, and peoples, or even about the end of history?”

*) Only at one point does he change it, to make the beginning of the section uniform. Mark 13:9 παραδωσουσιν γαρ and likewise, Matthew 10:17. Mark V. 11: οταν δε αγαγωσιν υμας παραδιδοντες, for it established in Matth. V. 19: οταν δε αγαγωσιν υμας παραδιδοντες. The αγαγωσιν he previously used in V. 18 and wrote: επι ηγεμονας δε και βασιλεις αχθησεσθε. In Mark V. 9 it read: επι ηγεμονων και βασιλεων σταθησεσθε. Finally, when Mark V. 12 writes παραδωσει δε αδελφος . . . . so Matthew V. 21 keeps the same beginning of the sentence..

**) From this, Matthew formed his formula εις μαρτυριον αυτοις και τοις εθνεσιν. He has condensed the explanation and what has been explained into a formula.


Later, when Matthew comes to Jesus’ discourse about the last days, he remembers that he had already written this section following Mark, but he sees that he cannot leave it out altogether, and so he shortens it — with what success we shall see in its place — (Ch. 24, 9-14). Later still, Luke writes the saying again, with some modifications, out of obedience to Mark (Ch. 21, 12-15). But the confusion he introduces into it as a result of a careless striving for brevity proves that he did not form it freely in his mind in Ch. 12, 11. “But when they bring you before the synagogues, rulers, and authorities, do not worry” (because of your responsibility), he lets the Lord say. However, synagogues do not belong to the category of rulers, but to that of synods, as Mark well notes when he writes, “they will hand you over to synedria and you will be beaten in synagogues.” Luke brings the saying here only because he had previously dealt with steadfastness under persecution — still a better reason to write this saying here than the one that prompted him to insert the saying about the sin against the Holy Spirit into this context — or rather, both reasons, the better and the baseless, were the same this time. Previously (Ch. 12, 47), Jesus warned the disciples not to fear those who only kill the body, but the persecutions in which they must prove themselves steadfast can only be those in which they are targeted for their evangelical activity and for confessing their Master. Immediately, Jesus must repeat the saying about the man who confesses or denies him before people, the saying he had already presented earlier (Luke 9:26, Mark 8:28). The thought of those who deny Jesus leads the evangelist to the other saying about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-29), and this key phrase about the Holy Spirit, as well as the preceding context of persecution, finally leads him to the other saying of Mark, which speaks of the assistance of the Holy Spirit in persecution.


Let us note that the saying which Matthew has borrowed from Mark (Matt. 10, 17-22) deals with the proclamation of the gospel, but not with the gospel itself; rather, it makes the dangers of the last time the main focus and presents the steadfastness of the believers – “be careful! Whoever endures until the end will be saved” – only as necessary. Thus, from this perspective of the content, it is also proven that Matthew has included a saying in the instructional speech that was originally not intended to instruct the apostles about their evangelical mission. Every believer should be vigilant in the dangers of this world and prove to be steadfast until the end; everyone can have the opportunity to defend themselves before the authorities and through their testimony contribute to the truth being heard even by the adversaries; finally, everyone can experience that even their closest relatives can become enemies for the sake of the truth. In this general respect for the fate and position of the believers, Mark worked out this section. Matthew overlooked this general connection of the saying, and the catchphrase “as a testimony to them” and the parenthesis in Mark “and first, the gospel must be preached to all nations” alone caught his eye and prompted him to incorporate the whole section into this instructional speech.

A catchphrase had great power for Matthew, as the following saying (V. 23) will prove again. Although with the phrase “whoever endures until the end (τελος V. 22)” the speech about persecution has received its conclusion as strongly as possible and the thought is completely exhausted, it still says further: “but when they persecute you*) in this city – in which one? Neither of any nor of a particular one was immediately mentioned before; Matthew returns to the theme of Mark’s instructional speech, thus to a theme that he (V. 11-15) has completely exhausted and that has long been displaced by a completely new one after the new paragraph V. 16 – so flee to the other; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel to the end τελεσητε, until the Son of Man comes.” Suddenly, and as if they had just been mentioned, we are transported to the cities of Israel after the world stage had been opened before us. Moreover, the arrival of the Son of Man is spoken of, and nothing had been said about the sufferings and death that would take the Lord away from his own for some time. Thus, the Lord could only speak in the form of a farewell when he dismissed the disciples for the immediate future, telling them that they would not see him as this individual again for a while, or when he had already spoken to them several times and in plain words about his death. Now, where he was only dismissing them for a moment and expecting them to return to him after completing their mission, where he had said nothing about his death, he could not speak to them about his return either, and the disciples would not have been able to understand him if he had. Or, to put it more intelligently and humanely, Matthew did not have a writer’s motivation for the saying; he borrowed it from a different context. According to Mark’s account, after Peter’s confession, Jesus spoke first about his sufferings, death, and resurrection (Mark 8:31), and openly and unequivocally, as Mark adds (v. 32). Immediately thereafter, he said (v. 38) that he would be ashamed of anyone who denied him and was ashamed of him when he came in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. That is natural, that is progress, as it is right and motivated: first speaking of death and resurrection, then of the return with the holy angels! Thus, it could be said immediately thereafter (9:1), “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” Matthew also borrowed the latter saying from the same context after Peter’s confession (16:28), except that he wrote, “until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom,” and this is the same saying that he inappropriately placed in the Instructions discourse and adapted to the situation as fitting – that is, as unfitting – as he could. Having just spoken of the “end,” what more did he need to think about the return of the Son of Man? Yes, the word “end” even gave him the material that glued the two sayings together: he wrote, “you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes to the ‘end’.”

*) όταν δε διώκωσιν υμάς formed after 28. 19 όταν δε παραδιδώσιν υμάς.


Embarrassing situation! The duty of brevity and the duty of thoroughness both want to determine us and set us at odds with ourselves. Even more embarrassing! The most thorough proofs are almost non-existent for the theologian; he doesn’t care about them since they’re too boring for him anyway, but theological brevity, which settles everything with a yes or no!, is also impossible for us. So what to do? We write as the matter requires and as if there were no more theology in the world!

“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” Jesus wants to say (Matt. 10:24-25) that the disciple has no better fate to expect than his master; so if I have been reviled, how much more will it happen to you? But when was Jesus called Beelzebub? “The fact,” De Wette answers *), “is otherwise never mentioned; for in Matt. 12:24 (the accusation that Jesus was in league with Beelzebub) is something similar indeed, but still different. This points to a separate source.” Matthew saw the matter differently, because for what other reason did he already let the Pharisees (Matt. 9:34) come forward with that accusation earlier than this, if not just so that the reader would know to which incident this saying of the Lord refers? He only gave the accusation a different turn, just as this whole saying is nothing more than a saying that he has taken from Luke and only turned in a different direction, but in a direction that the saying follows only very reluctantly. If it says that the disciple is not above his master, and even adds, it is enough for the disciple to be like his master, then no one, not even the saying itself, can think of a comparison of the life destinies of both – then γενηται in v. 25 would have to be constructed with the dative: it is enough for the disciple that “he” happens to him like his master – but only the degree of education of both should be compared. The general saying and its application is the relationship of the disciples to the Lord, both of which conflict with each other and go in different directions, and so it was necessary when Matthew used a saying of Luke for a new point and maintained its original structure. Luke has the Lord say (Luke 6:40): “The disciple is not above his master, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his master,” he has him say it to provide a general basis for the proverb: the blind cannot lead the blind, i.e., he brings the saying more or less in the right place, but Matthew in the wrong place.

*) De Wette, 1, 1, 104.


Quickly! Briefly! Let us not linger, for with every step we take, it is confirmed that Matthew is compiling. He wants to put together sayings that will recommend courage and fearlessness to the disciples. Just a moment ago he had the twelfth chapter of the third gospel before his eyes *), so he knows where he can find a stock of sayings of that sort and does not fail to use it diligently. His sayings in verses 26-31 are a copy of the section that Luke elaborated in chapter 12, verses 2-7. But the compiler must again reveal himself. He wants to further develop the theme – the exhortation that the disciples should be prepared for the resistance of the world – and make it clear from the outset that what follows is this development, so he hastens to write down the words for the transition (verse 26): therefore do not be afraid. But if he continues, for nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, and if he deduces from this law the necessary consequence that the disciples would preach from the rooftops in broad daylight what their Master had whispered to them in the dark and in their ears, then there is no reason to see why the development of such a significant truth should be introduced with the exhortation not to be afraid. Should we assume that the disciples always stood trembling with fear? And has not this saying already had its true introduction in the law that nothing can remain hidden? Luke has placed the exhortation “Do not be afraid!” only after this saying and knew well that it had nothing to do with its point, which is why he also makes a new, very strongly marked paragraph before he turns to it. “But I tell you, my friends,” he lets the Lord say, and thus draws a similar boundary mark as in chapter 6, verse 39.

*) Luk. 12, 11: μη μεριμνάτε πώς ήτί απολογήσεσθε, ή τι είπατε. Matth. 10, 19: μη μεριμνησητε πως η τι λαλησητε Mark 13, 11: μη προμεριμνάτε τί λαλήσητε.

Only one noteworthy change is made by Matthew in this passage *): that he contrasts not the still limited activity of the disciples with the later free proclamation of the Gospel, as Luke does, but rather the preaching of the Lord kept secret and the free public arena which the disciples would find for their preaching. Whether Matthew objected to the anachronism that Jesus speaks of the disciples’ activity as if it were already past, or whether he even noticed it, cannot be determined with certainty. Suffice it to say that it seemed more appropriate to him to contrast the still limited and the future, freer activity of the apostles with the situation in which Jesus instructed the disciples for the future and had just spoken of the time when they would bear witness before kings and princes.

*) The other changes in the second half of the passage, we leave to the theologian to investigate and appreciate. We must be brief, after all. Let him decide which is original: for example, the beautiful progression in Luke from the admonition (12:4), “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more,” to the warning that they should rather fear the judge of the world: “I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Or the confusion in Matthew, who has brought the word “kill” into both parts of the verse, when the killing attributed to the judge of the world is quite different from that which is within the power of human murderers. “Do not be afraid,” Matthew says (v. 28), “of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” How beautiful in Luke: “who can do nothing further!” How hasty the point in Matthew: “who cannot kill the soul!” The latter belonged more in a consoling speech, which Matthew certainly wants to give, but then the conclusion does not fit: fear him who has power over both body and soul. But we have anticipated the theologian. Let him now decide for himself on the structure of the following two passages: Luke 12:6 ουχι πεντε στρουθια πωλειται ασσαριων δυο ; και εν εξ αυτων ουκ εστιν επιλελησμενον ενωπιον θεου. Matth. 10:29 ουχι δυο στρουθια ασσαριου πωλειται ; και εν εξ αυτων ου πεσειται επι την γην , ανευ του πατρος υμων. But also the hairs of your head are numbered, Luke continues, so do not be afraid, you are more than many sparrows. Matthew writes the same – only not with the beautiful substitution αλλα και αι τριχες – but “the hair” gives him the word “fall, fall to the earth” in the stylus and he now writes of the sparrows: ου τεσειται επι την γην. Luke has the saying from the hair – ου μη αποληται C. 21:18 — once again, in the discourse of the last things, but not well inserted between the sentence: they will kill some of you(l), you will be hated, and the sentence: “procure your souls (seek to win them) by patience! “


The reference to the future success of the apostles’ preaching and the exhortation to fearlessness was linked by Luke to the occasion when the crowd ran together in the tens of thousands, so that they trampled on one another when Jesus was invited to a breakfast by a Pharisee whose caste had had a fierce dispute and the Pharisees began to provoke him so that they could obtain an accusation against him (Luke 11:37-54; 12). Naturally, Schleiermacher*) claims that this discourse “develops entirely from what preceded.” “Jesus could fear that his disciples might become anxious about how they could manage to withdraw from these opponents.” However, that quarrel at breakfast will later prove to be a pure invention of Luke’s, the note that the Pharisees began to lay wait for Jesus is formed according to Mark 12:13, so the danger was not great, and if Jesus had really wanted to give the disciples an instruction on how to protect themselves against these people, it would have had to be completely different, namely consist of a characterization of these opponents. Indeed, the Lord begins his speech with the warning: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” but first of all this saying about the leaven of the Pharisees is borrowed from Mark 8:15, and secondly, it does not even relate to the following saying about the mission of the disciples, since it solely concerns the personal conduct of the disciples. The leaven of the Pharisees only represents the place of the connective tissue to link the following section to the preceding one; but if we were to indicate what even weaker binding agents in Luke’s head held together the following sayings (12:2-7), which created inconveniences because they were supposed to have been delivered in the midst of tens of thousands who trampled on one another, we would have to write volumes – and who knows if we could even characterize the confusion thoroughly enough. At any rate, we would not convince the theologians, since they will insist doggedly on their claim: there is coherence there!

*) p. 185


However, what’s the point of arguing with stubborn people? Let the theologian insist on his interpretation! It is clear where Luke got his statement about the unstoppable spread of the apostolic preaching. After explaining the parable of the sower and the statement that one should put the light on the lampstand and not under a bushel or under a bed, Jesus says (Mark 4:22) to support this statement: “For there is nothing hidden, which shall not be revealed; and there is nothing secret, which shall not come to light.” In the same context, Luke writes the same sentence (Luke 8:17) and later in chapter 12, he explains it in terms of the successes of the apostolic preaching.

A word about the exhortations to fearlessness! Luke adds one in chapter 12, verses 4-7, and specifically addresses them to the apostles, although they are generally applicable to every believer. But when Matthew puts together a collection of such exhortations, the nature of them, which is also evident in each individual one, becomes clear. How? By sending the disciples on their mission, did Jesus have nothing more important to do than to talk about dangers and to instill courage in the disciples? Were there no other topics that would have been much more worthy of discussion? Certainly, Jesus would have made himself guilty of anxiety and worry, which he should warn against. Such a sermon on fear, which Matthew puts into his mouth, Jesus not only did not give, but he also did not speak so often about future dangers and reassure the disciples as Luke and Matthew would have us believe. Why do we not hear this fear, this anxious concern in the scripture of Mark? Why do we not hear it even at the end of the last battles of history? Because Mark has not yet disturbed the calm dignity and noble self-assurance of the Lord with the views that only form later, in the struggles of a community. We do not deny that these statements also express the self-assurance of the principle, but this self-reflection, this opposition of consciousness to be an indestructible purpose against the hostile powers of the world, this achievement of self-assurance in the struggle with the opposing party, this enjoyment of oneself in contrast and in the ironic contemplation of the contrast – all of these are only phenomena that form only when a compact party has gathered around a principle and initially sees itself as the oppressed, persecuted, and doomed to be destroyed, and loves to see itself as such. Luke and Matthew have picked up on the reflection of this phenomenon and spread it over the entire life of their Lord, while Mark has truly artistically restricted himself to the one point, the speech about the last battles of history.


5. Still the sufferings of the believers.

Matthew 10:32-39.

The sufferings of the believers still form the theme or at least the presupposition of the discourse. “Therefore, whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” That is, as you behave towards me in the collisions of this world, so will I behave towards you before my Father.


Matthew borrowed the saying from elsewhere, for had it just been invented by him, he would have known that it has an independent point and cannot be attached as a mere consequence to another statement (v. 31) that is already fully closed. Luke first created it. He knew that with it, a new turn of thought occurs (he separated it from the previous consolation saying through the new introduction “but I tell you” in chapter 12, verse 8), and then he also reveals through the formula “the Son of Man will acknowledge him before the angels of God” that he used a source this time. After Peter’s confession, Jesus says that whoever is ashamed of him, he will also be ashamed of them “when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Luke simultaneously created the complement for this saying: “whoever acknowledges me, etc.,” while Matthew copied the whole and replaced only “the Son of Man” with “I” and “the angels” with “my heavenly Father.”

Moreover, the fact that the saying in Mark’s scripture has its origin is demonstrated by the full rhythm that the other two did not appreciate anymore: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

There is no word about the fact that the following saying (v. 34-36) about the crisis and general division that the new principle will bring about, is not related to the preceding one, unless one were to say that sayings that have the thought of struggle as a presupposition, but with their point turned in completely different directions, were related or could have been preached as mechanically become formulaic.

Although Luke did not put the saying particularly nicely, he did put it abruptly enough, that is, better than Matthew. Moreover, he proves to us through the liveliness of the construction and the rhythm of the clauses that he was the first to create the saying, while Matthew must betray himself as an unskilled epitomizer through the confusion of the expressions and the recalcitrance of the clauses. “Do not think,” it says in Matthew, “that I have come to bring peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, etc.” What an expression, “to bring peace on earth”! Not even a sword can appropriately be said to be thrown on the earth! Then “sword” without an article! One sword! In battle, several swords are needed! At least it had to be said: “the sword” as a symbol of war! And how does the sword fit in here, if only the separation of the son from the father, the daughter from the mother, the bride from her mother-in-law are mentioned? Do daughters and brides carry swords? Or do they require them against them?


Listen to Luke! Chapter 12, verses 49-53: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth (δουναι)? No, I tell you, but rather division! For from now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” When Matthew saw these sentences, he immediately jumped to the question, “Do you think?” (δοκειτε), and transformed it into the formula that he had heard since the Sermon on the Mount, then he took the word “throw” from the skipped sentence about fire, combined it clumsily enough with peace, and instead of translating abstract into concrete and sensory-imagery, he used the exaggerated term “division” sword.

*) C. 5, 17: μη νομισητε οτι ηλθον. Literally the same in Ch. 10, 34.


The saying arose when the community had experienced the divisive and dissolving power of the new principle, and the sufferings and death of Jesus were associated with the symbol of baptism through a process that we will later learn about. Luke used Mark 10:38, which he had omitted along with its occasion, as the basis for a new point.

Nothing more than the external resemblance that the discussion had just been about father and mother prompted Matthew to add a saying that mentions parents in a completely different sense, namely that love for relatives should not compromise love for the Lord (v. 37): “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” “And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me (v. 38) is not worthy of me.” Taken from Luke *)! The mention of the cross led Matthew to the text of Mark; furthermore, in the saying (Luke 14:26-27) that Matthew had just transcribed, Luke had said that the true follower of Jesus must not love his own life either, which prompted Matthew to linger longer at the source of these sayings, and so he now writes down the other saying from Mark (Mark 8:35) immediately (v. 39): “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Unfortunately or fortunately, he reveals to us again through an awkward change that he did not create the saying himself, but rather copied it and made an insensitive substitution of an expression. In the second part of the saying he can say “will find it,” but in the first part the expression is not in its place. “Whoever wants to save their life,” says Mark, “and so says a man who knows what he’s saying, will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Later, when he must write the saying again (C. 16, 25), Matthew has taken better precautions and only exchanges the expression in the second part, keeping the words of Mark in the first part.

*) Only Luke has formed the first two parts into one and offered a stronger expression for the sacrifice of family considerations that Matthew softened because it was too bold. Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” 23, 27:  και όστις ου βαστάζει τον σταυρόν αυτού και έρχεται οπίσω μου, ου δύναται είναι μου μαθητής. For the second saying, Luke borrowed Jesus’ declaration from Mark 8:34, οστις θελει οπισω μου ελθειν απαρνησασθω εαυτον και αρατω τον σταυρον αυτου και ακολουθειτω μοι. The απαρνησασθω εαυτον is extending it to family relationships. After Peter’s confession, Luke also included the saying about the cross (Luke 9:23). When Matthew copied Luke 14:27, he copied Luke’s version of the saying about the cross. When he copied Luke 14:27, he turned to Mark’s text and wrote ερχετ. Οπισ. μου  instead of the word of Mark: ακολουθει οπισ. μ.


6. Conclusion of the speech.

Matthew 10:40-42.

Finally, the disciples, through their expressions, made it very clear to the Lord that they did not understand why he was giving them sayings that were appropriate for all believers except for this occasion, when they would much rather hear a saying that would enlighten them about their apostolic destiny and serve as a guide for their behavior towards people. In fact, Matthew sees how impatient they have already become, and therefore hastens to give them another saying that relates to their position in the world. That is, he feels the need to somehow trace the conclusion of the speech back to the assumed occasion, and thus lets the Lord say the following at the end: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward!”


That a saying of this kind should give us so much trouble, if we do not want to consider it theologically superficial!

We might possibly accept the beginning – no! no! not even possibly! Could that really enlighten the disciples about their duty, purpose, and mission if they heard what reward the person who received them would receive? Was that the right conclusion to a speech with which they were to be sent off on their apostolic journey? Could that saying be spoken behind the backs of the people to whom it was addressed? The others would have had to hear it, so that they would know how to entertain traveling apostles and what merit they would acquire for the Lord and for God if they received an apostle. The others had to hear that they were receiving the Lord and God himself in an apostle! Not the apostles, or did they always have to hear a saying at the end that inspired and moved them, reminding them of their infinite worth!

One should not forcibly close one’s eyes to the enormous inconvenience when the recommendation – for it is a recommendation – of love and compassionate help is led to a new twist to the point (v. 41) that the one who receives the holy men and righteous ones as such and because they are such will receive a reward as they themselves determine. All those concerned must hear it, but the apostles had nothing to do with it at this moment. The others, who are not prophets, must hear it!

Finally, the outcry of contradiction becomes terrifying when, at the very end, it is spoken of those who receive a disciple in the name of a disciple – εις ονομα μαθητου V.42 – when the disciples are spoken of as if others were being pointed out and made aware of them – while no strangers are present – and when finally the disciples are referred to as “the little ones.”


Let the theologians strangle reason if they wish to assume that the apostles could have been called “the little ones” because the rabbis called their disciples *) “the little ones,” or **) because they were insignificant and unremarkable. Let them make nonsense of language ***) and smother reason. We are freed from this torment when we have shown how this entire section (v. 40-42) contradicts itself and when we show how it came into being.

*) Even if the apostles were adults?!

**) De Wette still says so (1, 1, 106). He naively suggests that the word “children” is used in chapter 18 of Matthew. Theology! Are not children “the little ones” from the outset? And if it is said “of” them, can it then be said “of” the apostles without further ado? Can one passage where it is said of children explain another where the apostles are called “the little ones”? As if the former passage did not make the latter null and void! The children are “the little ones” from the outset, not only because of the “subsidiary notion” of being insignificant and unremarkable.

***) Fritzsche, who relies on the Jewish use of language and makes the apostles “the little ones,” refers (to Matthew, p. 391) to Wetstein, who cites a proof text from Berechith Rabba, which reads: si oon suot parvuli von suot äiseipuli, si nou suot äisoipuli von saut sapientes, si nou suat sapientes non sunt seniores, si non sunt seniores non sunt propdetae, si uon sunt pro- pdetae non est äeus. Do we not see that if the “little ones” are the disciples, then according to the same proof text and “according to the Jewish use of language” disciples should mean wise men and prophets should mean God? How can theological anxiety make one blind and theological fever make one mad!

Matthew wants to give the conclusion of the discourse, and what does he do now? The wisest thing he could do, or at least the least he could do, if he had done it properly, was to transcribe literally the conclusion of the Instruction-Address to the seventy. He now wants to take up this conclusion (Luke 10:16), but cannot resist reshaping it according to the original type, which he himself imitated, and thus confusing it properly because he brings the two together mechanically.


We can still tolerate this best if Luke ends the address to the seventy with the remark: “He who hears you hears me, and he who despises you despises me, and he who despises me despises him who sent me.” Although we would still wish that the others who have to follow it would have heard the saying, but in this brevity it may still – if it should be so – be addressed only to the disciples, so that they – but we can hardly write it down! – would be made aware of the importance of their preaching.

Matthew saw at first glance from where Luke had borrowed this saying. When the disciples argued about who was the greatest, Jesus placed a child among them and said (Mark 9:37): “Whoever receives one of these little children in my name receives me, and whoever receives me does not receive me, but him who sent me.” Luke kept this saying in the parallel passage, Mark 9:48, and only left out the antithesis, “he does not receive me, but” and inappropriately placed “this child” instead of “one of these little children.” In the simpler form he had already given to the saying, Luke used it for the Instruction Address to the seventy, but did so freely and thoughtfully that he adapted it quite well to the new situation in which he placed it. Matthew now took it from Luke as one that had also been spoken to the disciples on the occasion of their sending, but in the scripture of Mark, he looked up the original passage, restored the original form, even worked out the thought of what value it would have in heavenly accounting if one received a prophet as such, and had to come back to the disciples at the end, saying that their reward was certain if anyone gave even a drink of water to one on the name of a disciple. However, he sees in the scripture of Mark at the place where he looked it up – forgive the long sentence, but it only resembles the process that created the saying of Matthew – that it speaks of “little ones” and now, regardless of all consequences, brings these little ones into the conclusion of the Instruction Address. In the scripture of Mark (Mark 9:42), the disciples are made aware of the importance of the little ones; Matthew retains this form of reference and even makes it more specific, although he has made the disciples the little ones and there is no one present who could be pointed to as “these little ones.”



§ 43. The Election and Sending Out of the Twelve

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by Neil Godfrey

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.




The Symbolic Characters in the Gospels #2: John the Baptist and the Twelve Disciples

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing the series on Nanine Charbonnel’s Jésus-Christ, sublime figure de paper . . . .


John the Baptist

Maybe I’m just naturally resistant to new ideas but I found myself having some difficulty with Nanine Charbonnel’s [NC] opening stage of her discussion about John the Baptist. (Recall we have been looking at plausibility of gospel figures being personifications of certain groups, with Jesus himself symbolizing a new Israel.) NC begins with an extract from Maximus of Turin’s interpretation: by cross-referencing to Paul’s statements that the “head of a man is Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3) Maximus concluded that the decapitation of John the Baptist represented Christ being cut off from the adherents to the Law, the Jews. Without the head they were a lifeless corpse.

Further, if we accept the passage about Jesus in Josephus’s Antiquities as genuine, NC suggests that it is not impossible that Josephus was writing of what he had heard indirectly from messianic Jews in Rome who had spoken of a figurative or literary figure that was confused at some point with a historical one.

We may not like that interpretation but at least Maximus recognized something symbolic about John the Baptist. As NC reminds us, he was the one who greets the messiah from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:41), the one who asks questions designed to recognize Jesus, the one who acts out Elijah’s confrontation with the lawless Jezebel and king Ahab. Even if we accept the entry about John the Baptist in Josephus as genuine and acknowledge that there was a historical “John the Baptist”, this person is depicted in symbolic roles in the gospels.

John the Baptist by Titian. Wikimedia Commons

NC has more to say but permit me to give my own view, or perhaps a mix of my own with NC’s. John the Baptist is presented initially in the physical image of the arch-prophet, Elijah, and is calling upon all Israel to repent and prepare for the messiah. They all come out into the wilderness to do so. In Luke’s gospel when different groups (soldiers, tax collectors and others) ask John what they should do John replies with the fundamental spiritual intent of the law in each case: be merciful. Surely this is all symbolic of the Law and Prophets being the articles of the covenant made between Israel and God in the wilderness, and just as the early Christians found Jesus predicted in the prophets so John, the final prophet, points them to Jesus the messiah. Later we find the same prophet asking Jesus if he is the one, with Jesus replying with signs as recorded in the Prophets to assure him. John, meanwhile (as NC herself notes as significant), is martyred just as many other prophets before him, and just as Jesus himself will be. The tale is surely told as symbolism and the character John as a literary personification. Jesus emerges from the Prophets. It is the Prophets who all point towards Jesus Christ.

So when John says he is not worthy to baptize Jesus, he is saying that Jesus is greater than the Law and Prophets. Jesus, however, replies that he has come to submit to the Law and Prophets. His baptism represents the emerging in his full spiritual reality the new Israel, the one prophesied in the prophets. This is not the baptism described in Josephus. It is a baptism of repentance, of preparation for the Christ.

The absence of biographical or other historical information is telling. We only have details that call out for symbolic interpretation. The reason each evangelist can modify the narrative is not because they were working with historical data but entirely in their own imaginative interpretation of the way the Prophets pointed readers to Christ.

“John” and Peter race to the tomb

I say “John” for convenience and according to tradition. The Gospel of John notably does not name the disciple, appearing to identify him with the “beloved” disciple

The famous Gregory who became the Pope in the sixth/seventh century identified a possible symbolic meaning of the Gospel of John’s account of John and Peter running to the empty tomb.  Quoted by NC, Gregory sought a meaning in John arriving first at the tomb but not entering, with Peter coming later yet being the first to enter. John was interpreted as the Synagogue, the Jews, who had “come first” to Christ, but failed to “enter”. Peter, representing the gentiles, arrived later but was the first to believe. [See Gregory the Great Homily 22 on the Gospels; see also comments below for further discussion]

The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed . . . (John 20:4-8)

Disciples Running to the Tomb / E. Burnand. Wikimedia Commons

Interesting possibility. But if the “beloved disciple” is rather meant to be an unfalsifiable witness (and he, not Peter, is said to be the one who believed), it is hard to identify the same with the “Jews of the synagogue”. On the other hand, given what we know of Peter as the apostle to the gentiles, the one who stands between Jews and gentiles (hence his “double-minded” reputation?) something along the lines of Gregory’s interpretation does have some appeal.

Other points to consider, as per NC: John (meaning God is gracious) does have a sound similarity to Jonah, another representative of Jews in the old story. (Then we also have Peter being identified in the Gospels of Matthew and John with the son of Jonah.) NC promises to return to Peter in the last chapter. I will be patient.

Again, we have details that are not typically found in biographies. Recall the same point (especially with respect to the Gospel of John) in How the Gospels Became History. Such details appear pointless in themselves; they scream out for symbolic interpretation — and many ministers and preachers have understood this point well enough to prepare many sermons drawing out various meanings for their congregations.

The Twelve Apostles: the twelve tribes of Israel

This one is easier. The twelve patriarchs in Genesis are treated as symbolic representatives of the tribes that bore their names. I think many of us have seen in the Twelve Disciples a new founding group of the “new Israel”.

NC sees three principles underlying any interpretation of the Twelve. Continue reading “The Symbolic Characters in the Gospels #2: John the Baptist and the Twelve Disciples”


The Twelve: Dale Allison’s argument for their historical reality

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by Neil Godfrey

The Last Supper
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This is from pages 67 to 76 of Constructing Jesus (2010) by Dale C. Allison. Allison begins with the evidence for the twelve.

1 Corinthians 15:5 is the earliest reference we think we have to the twelve. The letter is usually dated to the mid-50s, twenty or twenty-five years after the usually accepted date of Jesus’ crucifixion. It refers to the twelve as if the readers of the letter should already know who they are. (Will discuss the Corinthians passage again later in the post.)

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

The Gospel of Mark uses the same designation (“the twelve”) for disciples selected to be with Jesus: Mark 3:14 f.; 4:10; 6:7

[3:14] And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
[3:15] And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:

[4:10] And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

[6:7] And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

John’s gospel also speaks of these:

[6:67] Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

[6:70] Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
[6:71] He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

[20:24] But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

Then there is the story in Acts about the replacement being made for Judas. This is in Acts 1:12-26.

The book of Revelation also speaks of the twelve apostles:

21:14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Then there is the famous passage in Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:28-30 (considered by many to be derived from Q) that presumes the audience of Jesus is the twelve:

Matt: 19:28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Luke 22:28 “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. 29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

All this looks straightforward enough. Why should there be any doubt that Jesus really did have a band of twelve with him? A number of biblical scholars have raised doubts, however, and Allison attempt to persuade readers their doubts are groundless. Continue reading “The Twelve: Dale Allison’s argument for their historical reality”


Why Jesus chose the Twelve: Dale Allison’s exegesis

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by Neil Godfrey

The Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles. Russian, 14th century, Moscow Museum.
The Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles. Russian, 14th century, Moscow Museum.

Dale C. Allison in his recent book, Constructing Jesus, believes that we can learn, or at least “confirm”, what Jesus taught about the “end of the age” by looking at the careers of the Twelve Disciples/Apostles.

He begins by discussing various opinions about whether or not Jesus really did call twelve disciples at all, and if so, whether or not they constituted a formal institution of church leadership. I will look at that discussion in the next post.

So given that Jesus did indeed call “Twelve” as an ongoing institution, Dale Allison asks what was he thinking. Why did he do this?

This seems a strange question to ask if one is interested in a serious historical inquiry into the origins of Christianity. We simply don’t have any evidence to tell us what Jesus was thinking.

But Allison’s discussion is interesting because it does demonstrate for us laypeople just how biblical scholars work. They are not doing historical research by sifting the evidence. They are doing biblical exegesis. And this makes sense, since they are for most part “theologians”, not “historians” in the same sense as the likes of Arnold Toynbee or G. R. Elton or Eric Hobsbawm. Continue reading “Why Jesus chose the Twelve: Dale Allison’s exegesis”


The Twelve Disciples: New Insights from Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey

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by Neil Godfrey

Let’s make this my last post for a little while on Maurice Casey’s ad hominem stained book on the historical Jesus (Jesus of Nazareth) that will surely long stand alone as a truly independent tribute to the Huckleberry Finn criterion for historical authenticity. (robertb will heave a sigh of relief.)

This post looks at the biblical seven number of topics:

  1. Casey’s unassailable proof for the historicity of the Twelve
  2. A schizophrenic case for the disciples being filthy rich (or dirt poor)
  3. The clear evidence that Matthew wrote much of the Q material
  4. How Peter and Jesus changed the course of history by exchanging a bit of idle and nonsensical banter (in Aramaic, of course)
  5. Why the Twelve disappear from history (almost) as soon as the Gospels finish their story
  6. What Jesus did every time one of his Twelve disciples went and died on him
  7. And the evidence Jesus never tolerated a political rebel among his followers.

Continue reading “The Twelve Disciples: New Insights from Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey”


The Twelve Apostles had to be a very late invention, surely

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by Neil Godfrey

Greek Icon of the Twelve Apostles

Almost as fundamental to the Christian narrative as the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is surely the calling, election and sending forth of the twelve disciples to preach the gospel.

But of all the evangelists to which our canonical gospels have been attributed, only one unequivocally delivers this message. Only the author (or final canonical-redactor) of Luke-Acts unambiguously pronounces that the twelve disciples called by Jesus were endowed with power and sent forth (with only one name-switch) as the twelve apostles to be witnesses of Jesus from Jerusalem “unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”

The Gospel of Mark concludes (at 16:8) with the question left hanging as to whether the twelve disciples ever received the message and were converted at all; the Gospel of Matthew concludes (28:17) with the possibility that some of the disciples did not believe that they saw the resurrected Jesus; the Gospel of John’s post-crucifixion scenes portray a rivalry between Peter and John in the race to the tomb and as regards who was the one of these to have faith (20:3-8), and then a diminution of the authority of Thomas (20:24-29). (For reasons I will delay for another post, Thomas appears to be criticized as the leader of a rival sect to the Johannine Christians — Gregory Riley sees the rivalry being prompted over the nature of the resurrected body; April DeConick argues the rivalry is over the need for a vision as opposed to the need for faith. Either way, John’s gospel is written as a rebuttal of another apostle’s – or even apostles’ – doctrines.)

And then we finally have Luke-Acts,  . . . . (I ought to explain that I lean towards the final “canonical” Luke-Acts being completed after the composition of our canonical gospels of Mark, Matthew and John — following Matson, Shellard, Wills . . . ) . . . . and then we see a most diligent effort not only to establish the authority of Twelve Apostles, but even to push the idea that Paul, too, was on the side of the Twelve, and as good as a “thirteenth”, such is the unity proclaimed in this Gospel-Acts narrative. Continue reading “The Twelve Apostles had to be a very late invention, surely”


The Fall of Jesus’ Disciples as Enoch’s Watchers

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by Neil Godfrey

This post concludes the series of posts covering Strelan’s argument that Mark’s disciples are based on Enoch’s Fallen Watchers.

The Mount of Olives was “sacred space” for the author of the Gospel of Mark. This was the place where Jesus took Peter, James and John into to the revelation of the mystery of the signs — Mark 13:3 (the Little Apocalypse/Olivet Prophecy).

Called to Watch, but “like children of the earth” fall asleep

So for the fourth time (see previous post for the previous 3 times) Jesus takes Peter, James and John aside to be “with him” – (14:33). These three are thus appointed to stay awake with Jesus, just as Watchers are ordained to be awake in the presence of the Lord day and night.

Faithful watchers do not sleep.

Enoch 39:12-13

12. Those who sleep not bless Thee: they stand before Thy glory and bless, praise, and extol, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Spirits: He filleth the earth with spirits.”‘ 13. And here my eyes saw all those who sleep not: they stand before Him and bless and say: ‘Blessed be Thou, and blessed be the name of the Lord for ever and ever.’

Enoch 40:2

2. And on the four sides of the Lord of Spirits I saw four presences, different from those that sleep not

Enoch 71:7

7. And round about were Seraphin, Cherubic, and Ophannin:
And these are they who sleep not
And guard the throne of His glory.

Here on the Mount of Olives Jesus addresses his head disciple by his real name, Simon, (not “Peter”), “thus suggesting the ambiguity of their relationship”. This is the same Simon who, in Mark 1:36 (as addressed in my previous and earlier posts) had, along with those “with him”, pursued (with hostile intent) Jesus, to turn him away from the desert place where he had gone to pray.

Now again we find Jesus alone praying. This time, however, Peter lacks the strength to pursue him aggressively, and falls asleep instead. The disciples, like the “children of the earth”, fall asleep. Jesus exhorts them to “watch and pray” (14:38) lest they enter temptation.

Watching and praying are the duties of Enoch’s Watchers and angels in general. Their task is to intercede for humans and bring their prayers to God — e.g. 1 Enoch 9:4-9; 15:1-2; Tobit 3:16, 12:12, 15.

Jesus alone is the true “son of the father” (14:36), or son of heaven. His disciples show themselves to be, instead, sons of the earth.

Temptation and Fall Continue reading “The Fall of Jesus’ Disciples as Enoch’s Watchers”


Peter and the 12 Disciples; Satan and the Fallen Watchers

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing from Rick Strelan’s article notes in Fallen Watchers of Enoch and the 12 Disciples in Mark’s Gospel

I’m taking notes from Strelan’s article without much modification and only little of my own comment. Readers can decide for themselves the strength of his case, how suggestive it might be . . . .

The Gospel of Mark

Rick Strelan sees the author of the Gospel of Mark, like the authors of the pseudepigraphic and Qumran writings, being most conscious of his time being the time of a faithless generation (Mark 9:19). The Gospel begins with a call to repentance, and follows with Jesus battling against and overcoming the powers that ruled and oppressed that generation. These powers of evil were demons, and according to the Enochian legend of the Watchers, were the offspring of fallen angels and human women (Mark 3:22-27).

Like the Enochian Son of Man in Enoch, Jesus gathers angel-disciples around him and gives them authority to cast out demons and unclean spirits (3:15; 6:7). But they can only execute that authority if they are faithful (9:14-29).

The gospel is about faithless generation in a time of testing. The disciples (and Mark’s Christian audience) are tested by persecutions, cares of the world and the desire for riches (4:14-19). Jesus’ followers are commanded to Watch.

He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” (Mark 8:12)

He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? (Mark 9:19)

And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. (Mark 13:37)

The Watchers legend was used to condemn illicit priestly marriages. Strelan suggests the possibility that Mark had something like this in mind from the several times he does very strictly address marriage and sexual issues:

John the Baptist was executed over his condemnation of Herod’s marriage (6:14-29)

Jesus is very strict on divorce and remarriage (10:2-12)

Jesus calls his followers to stand out from “this adulterous and sinful generation” (8:38)

The sins Jesus singles out include illicit sex, adultery, and (possibly relevant for Strelan) “the evil eye” (Mark 7:21-22)

Reading the Gospel of Mark against the background of Enoch’s Watchers

Called to come after/follow behind

Peter, Andrew, James and John are the first and only disciples explicitly called to “come behind” (οπισω) Jesus. Hence they are the leaders of the band appointed to be with Jesus.

Strelan cites H. Seesemann in TDNT, V, pp. 289-92 to explain that this preposition, οπισω, is used in the Septuagint to express the relation between God and his chosen people, and implies full commitment and service to God.

Fishermen Continue reading “Peter and the 12 Disciples; Satan and the Fallen Watchers”


Fallen Watchers of Enoch and the 12 Disciples in Mark’s Gospel

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by Neil Godfrey

I found this article by Rick Strelan interesting reading:

The Fallen Watchers and the Disciples in Mark, Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha, 20 (1999) 73-92

Rick Strelan begins by showing the likelihood that the gospel authors knew and drew upon Enochian legends and themes.

The legend of the Fallen Watchers — those angels who left the high heaven and descended to marry the daughters of humans — is one of the myths most often cited in the Jewish-Christian literature of the period 200 BCE to 300 CE.

The ‘Book of Watchers’ of 1 Enoch is referred to in

  1. Jubilees
  2. 2 Enoch
  3. 3 Enoch
  4. 2 Baruch
  5. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
  6. Philo’s ‘On Giants’
  7. Josephus in Antiquities 1.3.1
  8. Qumran documents
  9. Jude 6
  10. 2 Peter 2:4
  11. 1 Peter 3:19-20
  12. Justin Martyr (2 Apology 5)
  13. Athenagoras (Plea 24-26)
  14. Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.10.1; 1.15.6; 4.16.2; 4.36.4)
  15. Pseudo-Clementine Homilies (8.12-18)
  16. Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions (4.26)
  17. Manichaean writings (The Kephalaia of the Teacher 92, 93, 117, 171)
  18. Nag Hammadi documents (e.g. Ap John 19:16-20:11)

Strelan writes that in nearly all of these references, the myth of the Fallen Watchers is told to illustrate the lesson that the present generation is sinful and is facing a test of faithfulness to the law of God.

A related theme that comes through, especially in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Reuben) is the evil of women. Women are lying schemers and seducers of men. They brought about the fall of the Watcher angels, and the faithful are warned to guard against sexual lust, and women.

Strelan refers to an article by George Nickelsburg in which he sees the Gospel of Mark’s Passion Narrative drawing on Jewish stories of Joseph, Ahikar, Esther, Daniel and Susanna. Strelan sees Mark as also constructing the disciples of Jesus according to the fallen Watchers legend of Enoch. And again, it is to present the same lesson: the unfaithfulness of his own generation. Continue reading “Fallen Watchers of Enoch and the 12 Disciples in Mark’s Gospel”


The Embarrassing Honesty of Matthew

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by Neil Godfrey

Updated with a new para near the end, Or if we take John 20. . .

In response to a few comments on previous posts (Funk’s mix and Cracked argument) I have been giving a few moments to reflect on “embarrassment” as a criterion to establish historicity of a narrative.

In Matthew’s gospel, after Jesus has been born of a virgin, performed all his miracles, preached good things, fulfilled prophecy and been crucified and resurrected, he makes one final appearance to his (presumably eleven) remaining disciples. But some of them doubted (Matt. 28:17). Not all of the remaining eleven disciples believed a resurrected Jesus really did appear to them. Some original disciples did not believe that they had ever witnessed Jesus resurrected.

That is surely an embarrassing admission for a Christian author to make at the conclusion of his gospel. The admission could do nothing to assist the cause of Christianity. It is a damaging admission. One must therefore assume (if we take the criterion of embarrassment seriously) that this is one of the truest of true facts facing the disciples and church after the death and burial of Jesus.

We cannot help but wonder how many is meant by Matthew’s “some”. John’s gospel gives as reason for thinking “some doubters” amounted to as many as four persons. In his last chapter he relates — again with surely stark embarrassment — that the response of the faithful disciples remaining, only seven in total, after supposedly seeing the resurrected Jesus in Jerusalem was to think, “Well, that was an interesting little adventure. Fun and pain while it lasted. But now time to get back to real life and resume fishing.” The resurrected Jesus then appears to these seven. The author refers to this appearance as “the third” one to “his disciples”. Nowhere does the Gospel of John inform readers that the resurrected Jesus actually appeared to all eleven remaining disciples.  In chapter 21 John quietly passes over the missing four in silence.

The Gospel of Mark, likewise, is vague about the final fate of the disciples. It’s ending, like several other details in the gospel, is ambiguous at best. (I am assuming that verse 8 is the original ending. Also here.)

So, in summary, if we are taking the “criterion of embarrassment” seriously, here is how the different evangelists responded to the bedrock certain fact that “some” of the original disciples doubted the resurrection of Jesus.

Matthew openly admitted it. Most honest of all. Does this mean that some of the disciples Jesus sent out were actually false apostles, even from the original twelve? Presumably so.

Mark can be said to be playing with words, leaving readers to make of his narrative what they will.

John passes over the failures in silence. But he implies that only seven of the original Twelve were reliable witnesses. This did not stop him from expecting readers to believe his narrative even though four of Jesus’ real life companions appear not to have believed.

(Or if we take John 20 as the original concluding chapter of this gospel, then the situation is no better. The last we hear of Peter there is that he went home after seeing the empty tomb and not knowing what to make of it (John 20:10). We are given no hint about how many disciples were later in the locked room for fear of the Jews when Jesus supernaturally appeared before them. An early reader unfamiliar with other gospels might well conclude that Peter could not have been among them since he no longer had reason to be in fear of the Jews, having denied Jesus three times. Nor does John’s gospel suggest Peter had any remorse over his denials. Peter does not weep after the cock crows in John’s gospel – 18:26.)

Luke simply lies and implies they all believed. Well, not quite, maybe. He does say that “they could not believe for joy”, whatever that might mean exactly. Either way, they were all sent out by Jesus to preach in his name. Well, not quite that either. Luke for some reason remains quiet about the activities of all but Peter, James and John after Jesus left the earth.

And of Paul’s 500 witnesses to the resurrected Jesus? We are not informed how many of these believed such an appearance was the real thing. Given Matthew’s frankness we should not assume as fact what Paul implies. We do “know” that Paul was quite capable of suppressing uncomfortable details: in his resurrection chapter he hides the fact that the resurrected Jesus first appeared to silly women.

Saint Matthew, from the 9th-century Ebbo Gospels.
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Manufacturing “evidence” for the historicity of 12 apostles

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by Neil Godfrey

An illustration of how evidence is manufactured to support historicity in biblical studies:  the twelve disciples

(The following criteria are taken from John Meier’s defence of the historicity of the Twelve, JBL, 116/4 (1997) 635-672 that promises to apply “with rigor” “the criteria of historicity” (636). This post is also in one sense a complement of my earlier post on the meanings of the names of the twelve disciples — a list that badly needs updating to incorporate a wider range of scholarly views.)

Criteria of multiple attestation

Attestation 1: It can be reasonably inferred that the author of Mark’s gospel knew of a list of names of twelve close followers of Jesus that he chose to edit and adapt to incorporate in his narrative. This is because of certain syntactical oddities in the list of names. John Meier writes of the Gospel of Mark’s list of Twelve (3:13-19) that

various repetitions, parenthetical explanations, and disruptions of syntax . . . create the overall impression that Mark is reworking and explaining an earlier tradition” (p. 645)

I don’t know if the author really was working from an earlier list, but I can accept that this is a reasonable argument to propose. Continue reading “Manufacturing “evidence” for the historicity of 12 apostles”


How the Gospel of Matthew Converted the Gospel of Mark’s Disciples

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by Neil Godfrey

Let’s imagine Mark was the first gospel to be written, and let’s imagine a reader had only the Jewish scriptures in mind with which to compare it. Just suppose there was no prior oral tradition by which the narrative had come to the readers in any form at all. Here (indented in black) are the passages from the Jewish scriptures that I suggest such a discrete or original reading of Mark 8:16-21 would bring to the mind . . . . Continue reading “How the Gospel of Matthew Converted the Gospel of Mark’s Disciples”


The Twelve Disciples: their names, name-meanings, associations, etc

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by Neil Godfrey

This post is nothing more than a bit of idle trivia per se. But maybe Kakadu Dreamtime wisdom somewhere says “Clever bower bird can find something among trivia to relocate so it has power to attract a mate.”

The data comes primarily (not exclusively) from two sources:

The Gospel of Mark as Midrash on Earlier Jewish and New Testament Literature by Dale and Patricia Miller (marked with *)

The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition by Robert M. Price (marked with *)

Both these works discuss some of the following name-meanings within a broader context of what the various gospel authors were attempting to convey through their characters. But for most part here I’m skipping that side of the discussion.

Continue reading “The Twelve Disciples: their names, name-meanings, associations, etc”