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The Gospel According to Saint Mark


Vincent Sapone © After-Hourz.Net 2004

Sections 1-5 Completed. Section 6-10 Are in (long) Progress.

1. Canonical Mark
1A. Intro
1B Gethsemane
1C Conclusion: Mark is an "Interpretation of Jesus".

2. Narrative Links in Mark and Biography
2A. Chronological and Connecting Links
2B. Movable Pericopes
2C. The Gospel of Mark is not a Biography

3. Gospel of Mark's Development
3A. Formation of the Gospel of Mark
3B. Pre-Markan Collections
3C. Evidence for a Proto-Gospel

4. Form Criticism and the Markan Pericopes
4A. What is form criticism?
4B. Identifying the Earliest Form?
4C. The Formal Characteristics of Several Markan Pericopes

5. Mark and the Transmission of HJ Material
5A. Pen, Paper and Jesus' Disciples
5B Jesus' Statement on Divorce
5C The Lord's Supper
5D. Things Learned in Prayer
5E. Ancient Writing Practices.

6. Textual Critical Issues
6A. Attestation For Mark
6B. Textual Problems in Mark
6C The Original Ending of Mark
6D Was Mark Redacted?

7. Mark's Structure and Jesus' Itinerary
7A Mark's Overall Structure
7B Jesus' Itinerary.
7B Is it Historical?
7C Palestinian Geography Errors in Mark

8. Mark' Polemical Hobbyhorses
8A The Food Laws
8B The Controversy Traditions
8C Programmatic Denigration of Jesus' Followers

9 Dating the Gospel of Mark
9A Basic Rules for Dating
9B External Attestation
9C Dating by Content

10. Authorship of Mark
10A The Testimony of Papias
10B. Recap of Relevant Data from Previous Sections
10B. Author Detectable from Contents

1. Canonical Mark?

1A Intro

I find the shortest and earliest Gospel of the New Testament Canon to be the most interesting. Possibly since its the most difficult to understand in my opinion. I also think the church largely misunderstood and still misunderstands the Gospel of Mark, otherwise they scarcely would have included this "anti-apostolic" narrative (see below) into their official canon. Even the evangelist behind the Gospel of Luke was not too fond of the Gospel of Mark (given all the alterations Luke made when using Mark as a source).

Luke 1:1-3 reads: "1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught".

Notice that "Many have undertaken such an account". Luke must have Mark in his mind (among other works) if we grant Marcan priority, which this article does (see below). What sets Luke apart is that he has "carefully investigated everything from the beginning" and is writing an "orderly account." Given all the changes made regarding Mark's portrait of Jesus, we are justified in seeing an implicit critique of Mark (and other works) in the opening statements of Luke. Otherwise, given all these other works, one wonders why Luke had to create his own?

Many pericopes are evident. Luke omits the Marcan nullification of the food laws (Mk 7) and opts for visions to Peter in Acts. Mark programmatically denigrated the apostles and Luke certainly tones this portrait down showing that he esteemed "the Twelve" an so forth.

Matthew also found that Mark was not entirely sufficient and made some editorial changes (largely through addition of material). He added a bunch of sayings material and attached a different ending to his Gospel (Mark's originally ended at 16:8; see below) but there are also clear theological differences.

For a brief starting defense of these statements we turn to Gethsemane (Mark 13:32-42; Luke 22:39-46 (= Mount of Olives); Matthew 26:36-45). Different theological images of Jesus are evident.


First Notice the Posture: Notice how in Mark Jesus "falls to the ground" in distress. Matthew softens this slightly (not easily seen in the English version) as he did with the verb "to be sorrowful" (see just below) in the account. Matthew used the aorist tense of the verb and substituted "on his face" which softens Mark's portrait. Luke, on the other hand has Jesus kneel down and pray. He will not have Jesus "fall to the ground" deeply disturbed as in Mark.

Second, Notice Jesus State of Mind: Mark's "he began to be deeply disturbed" is uniquely Markan in the NT. Ekthambeisthai means to be greatly distraught and it occurs in the LXX in Sir 30:9. Raymond Brown writes that "It indicates a profound disarray, expressed physically before a terrifying event: a shuddering of horror. Ademonein, "to be troubled," has a root connotation of being separated from others, a situation that results in anguish. It is not found in the LXX but in the Symmachus version of Ps 61:3, where Aquila reads thambeishai. Not surprisingly, Luke (who would never attribute psychological disarray to Jesus) omits the whole Marcan description; and Matt softens the first verb to lypeisthai, "to be sorrowful" (which is consonant with the following verse where Jesus' soul is very sorrowful, perilypos)."[1]

Third, Notice the Preface of the the Prayers:
Mark: Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.
Matt: My father, if it is possible
Luke: Father is you desire

There is an increasing trend towards softening here. Matthew includes the clause "if its possible" but negates it with his preface to Jesus' second Gethsemane prayer: "My Father, if it is not possible." Jesus is recorded as praying this one twice in Matthew as well (v. 44).Luke goes further than this. Raymond Brown wrote that "Luke favors boulesthai when God is the subject: It carries the tone of a preordained divine decision, somewhat more deliberate than thelein. Thus the Lucan Jesus is first of all concerned with the direction of the divine planning before he asks whether in the execution of that plan the cup can be taken from him." [2].

Fourth, Compare what GJohn Contains About Jesus' Saying:: John 12:27. "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour." In the synoptics Jesus prays for the cup to be taken. John's Jesus has his heart troubled but he scoffs at and dismisses this synoptic notion of praying for the cup to be taken. In fact, John puts a completely different prayer of Jesus in his narrative right before Jesus is arrested.

1C Conclusion: Mark is an "Interpretation of Jesus"

If one were to carefully compare the Gospel accounts with one another, competing theological images of Jesus would become transparent. This is especially obvious when comparing the Gospel of John to the Synoptic Gospels. There are of course notable similarities as well but as John Dominic Crossan observed, “If you read the four gospels vertically and consecutively, from the start to finish and one after another, you get a generally persuasive impression of unity, harmony, and agreement. But if you read them horizontally and comparatively, focusing on this or that unit and comparing it across two, three or four versions, it is disagreement rather than agreement that strikes you most forcibly. And those divergences stem not from the random vagaries of memory and recall but from the coherent and consistent theologies of individual texts. The gospels are, in other words, interpretations.”[3]

We will see further documentation of these conscious and calculated theological differences as the study progresses (e.g. the food laws in Mark). It is then quite intriguing, that not only did the church canonize four different, competing images of Jesus, one of them (Luke) even has a statement which, at the least, implicitly critiques the contents of another work (Mark) deemed canonical. The important point to take from section one is:

Section 1 Point: Carefully, and critically comparing the four gospels horizontally, demonstrates that they are interpretations of Jesus. Thus, Mark, is a theological interpretation of Jesus, not a strict historical biography of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Section 1 Notes:

[1] Raymond Brown, Death of the Messiah, v1 p. 153.

[2] Raymond Brown, Death of the Messiah, v1 p. 171.

[3] John Dominic Crossan, Jesus A Revolutionary Biography. Prologue X.

2. Narrative Links in Mark & Biography

2A. Chronological and Connecting Links

Randel Helms outlined some of the connecting links marking transitions between different episodes in Mark up until chapter 10:
Once he was approached by a leper (1:40)
When after some days (2:1)
Once more (2:13)
When Jesus was at table (2:15)
Once, when (2:18)
One Sabbath (2:23)
On another occasion (3:1)
On another occasion (4:1)
When he was alone (4:10)
That [same unspecified] day (4:35)
He left that place (6:1)
On one of his teaching journeys (6:6)
On another occasion (7:14)
There was another occasion about this time (8:1)
Jesus and his disciples set out (8:27)
On leaving those parts (10:1) [1]

Mark's arrangement of pericopes (units) is thematic rather than chronological. The narrative structure is pervaded by fictional links. One of Mark's favorite for narrating subsequent events appears to have been "immediately". A search of the NIV online (Bible Gateway) yielded these results:
Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. (1:42)
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things?
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (5:29)
Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. (5:42)
So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, (6:27)
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. (6:45)
So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. (9:20)
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (9:24)
"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (10:52)
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. (14:72)

Also the NIV (Bible Gateway) translates some verses as "at once":
At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, (1:12)
At once they left their nets and followed him. (1:18)
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: (1:43)
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. (5:30)
At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: (6:25)
Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him. (14:45)

This narrative "chronology" is predominantly artificial. Specific and precise time frames are not given. Though some are naturally warranted, the constant "immediately" and "at once" markers have an artificial flavor to them. Mark is obviously just stringing together independent units he inherited. This is not strict, biographical reporting. More emphasis would have been spent on specific dates and times, and the narrative links would be far less artificial if this were the case.

Other examples include Mark 1:21, 1:29 etc. There are variations like "this evening" (1:32) and the others mentioned above. E.P. Sanders writes, "Most often, there is no chronological marker at all:

1.39f. he went throughout all Galilee . . . and a leper came to him
2:13 he went out again beside beside the sea [listed above under Helms]
3:1 again he entered the synagogue [listed above under Helms]

The use of 'immediately' is a narrative device to give pace and drive to the account, and it works very well. But the impression is overwhelming that Mark had isolated events and sayings (see section 3b) , and that he put them together.[2]

2B. Movable Pericopes

The Gospels consists largely of individual units (minus the passion accounts and birth narratives). As we saw, Mark is connecting lots of diverse material with artificial links. Most of this can be cut and pasted in different positions with little trouble. Each unit usually has a brief introduction and a saying and/or action that concludes the message and teaches a point. These little units would have been very useful to Christian preachers in the early church.

An example of this is found in Mark 9:33-37, Matthew 18:1-4 and Luke 9:46-50. It is a pericope that can be used as an example to illustrate Jesus' concern for those who were powerless.

Who is the Greatest...

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 18:1-4 Niv)

The pericope is introduced by "at that time" and this implies a chronological setting but its entirely artificial. E.P. Sanders writes, "Matthew puts the passage about being like a child late in the narrative, just three chapters before the entry to Jerusalem. It immediately follows discussion of the Temple tax, a discussion which, he wrote, took place in Capernaum (Mtt. 17:24-7). Mark places the same passage late, and also in Capernaum (9:33-7), but not after the story of the Temple tax, which he does not have. Luke puts the pericope about the child quite early in his Gospel, ten chapters before the entry to Jerusalem (9:46-50). There is no reason to think that any of the authors knew precisely when Jesus uttered the statement about being childlike, or the particular circumstances that triggered it. Rather, each of them situated it where he wished." [3]

Temple Cleansing

Another example of thematic or topological order rather than chronological concerns the temple cleansing in John (compare Mark 11:15-18, Matthew 21:10-17 and Luke 19:45-48 with John 2:12-17). John places it at the beginning of his Gospel//Jesus' ministry whereas the synoptic authors all place it at the end. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy makes headway for this: “Since, for instance, nonchronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers.”[4] This type of apologetics tends to miss the point. Interpreters agree that the author of John placed the account at the beginning for theological reasons. As Paula Fredriksen notes, “n Mark, it sets up the passion; in John it serves as a vehicle for Christology”.[5] Its “Mark’s finale and John’s debut”. It is somewhat inconceivable that one eyewitness would report this at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and another at the end. Raymond Brown summed this up very well,

“The recognition that the evangelists were not eyewitnesses of Jesus' ministry is important for understanding the differences among the Gospels. In the older approach, wherein the evangelists themselves were thought to have seen what they reported, it was very difficult to explain differences among their Gospels. How could eyewitness John (chap 2) report the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of the ministry and eyewitness Matthew (chap. 21) report the cleansing of the Temple at the end of the ministry? In order to reconcile them, interpreters would contend that the Temple-cleansing happened twice and that each evangelist chose to report only one of the two instances. However, if neither evangelist was an eyewitness and each had received an account of the Temple-cleansing from an intermediate source, neither one (or only one) may have known when it occurred during the public ministry. Rather than depending on a personal memory of events, each evangelist has arranged the material he received in order to portray Jesus in a way that would meet the spiritual needs of the community to which he was addressing the Gospel. Thus the Gospels have been arranged in logical order, not necessarily in Chronological order. The evangelists emerge as authors, shaping, developing, pruning the transmitted Jesus material, and as theologians, orienting that material to a particular goal.”[6]

The Lost Sheep:

There are numerous other examples of this phenomenon throughout the Gospels. A further example concerns the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew and Luke (Matthew 18:10-14 and Luke 15:4-7). In Matthew the parable is directed to the disciples, in Luke it is told against the Pharisees. Given such different settings it is obvious the parable had a life of its own and could be used in various ways as the evangelists saw fit.

2C The Gospel of Mark is Not a Biography.

Sections 1A-2B (collectively) should have made this fact obvious. Mark contains very little of what we would expect from a modern biography. It does not describe what Jesus looked like. Of his personality and character, we know very little. Mark does not give the age of Jesus. The year of his birth. The date of his baptism. His eating habits. His education or lack thereof. Was Jesus literate? Illiterate? Interests before his mission? The year of his death? The age of his parents? What was Jesus' childhood like? What was life in Galilee and Palestine like (social, religious and political aspects of it)?

Those around Jesus are not illuminated with very much either (except they are dumb, some were fishermen, etc). Many of the members of the Twelve (special chosen disciples in Mark who are supposed to be Jesus' closest companions) are little more than names on a list! As we noted above, there are hardly any concrete settings and there is no chronological order. Just various pericopes stitched together. This makes interpreting the historical Jesus very difficult as there is truth to maxim that "A text without a context is a pretext". We do not know the context, setting and trigger for Jesus' sayings and actions (or most of them anyways). For instance, was the parable of the lost sheep directed at the Pharisees or was it given to Jesus' followers? In some scenarios the context of something can have an important influence on its meaning.

We will discuss Jesus' itinerary in further depth below.

Section 2 Point: Mark is not a biography or history in the sense that we understand those terms. The chronology in Mark is artificial. "Artificial in the sense of not arising from observation." [7] Mark consists mainly of individual units or pericopes stitched together as the evangelist saw fit. We do not know the actual context or settings of the majority of these units ( = Jesus' teachings).

Section 2 Notes:

[1] Randel Helms, Who Wrote the Gospels?, p. 5.

[2] E.P. Sanders, Historical Figure of Jesus, pp. 73-74

[3] E.P. Sanders, Historical Figure of Jesus, pp. 61

[4] Chicago Statement On biblical Inerrancy, Exposition Section III Heading C.

[5] Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth, p 230

[6] Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament, pp 109-110

[7] E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels, p. 25

3. Gospel of Mark's Development

3A. Formation of the Gospel of Mark:

The last section posed two problems with traditional authorship of the Gospel of Mark. This section will pose another one. Keep these in mind as we will be later discussing whether or not John Mark actually wrote the Gospel now attributed to him. For now, we turn to another question: How did Gospel material develop? We do not know exactly how it formed but scholars have put together a coherent picture based upon a careful evaluation of the finished products:
Jesus's ministry occurs. He has close disciples (male and female).
He teaches, preaches, speaks in parables, performs healings and debates those who disagree with him on many different things.
Jesus is crucified by Rome.
His followers continued his message (even if modified greatly by some groups).
In their preaching of him after his death, Jesus' followers would use select teachings and sayings of Jesus to score a point. E.P. Sanders provides an example, 'Jesus was extremely compassionate. Those of you who are poor and downtrodden should follow him as Lord. Once he said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.' On another occasion. He commanded us to let children come to him, 'for such is the kingdom of God.'
They would also, in addition to winning new converts, use it for instructing one another and their growing number of converts.
They would use it in debates with Jewish teachers who rejected Jesus and his message.
Years went by and select passages from Jesus life began taking on distinctive, short forms (the pericopes in the Gospels).
Some of this material was combined into lists (miracles, parables, etc. see below). There is evidence in the Gospels of pericopes being listed thematically. The pericope on children in Matthew 18:1-4 is followed by further sayings on children and little ones (probably meaning meek and lowly, not children). Matthew 18:1-14 contains several pericopes that are thematically similar to one another. This may have been taken from a list composed around this theme or Matthew may have done this himself with diverse materials (which shows there is a clear rationale behind doing so).
Some of it may have been combined into a proto-Gospel (See below)
And finally, we have our New Testament Gospel as it now stands.

For the historian, points 5-7 are positive in that they show clear lines of transmission in how Jesus material would be preserved by the early church. On the other hand (as will become more explicit in section 4) they usually took on a fictional form that was valuable to the church. Thus, as section two showed, the original context and settings of this material is now lost. This explains section explains why.

As noted above, we infer this stage from the finished product. We know the Gospels (synoptics) consist of individual and movable pericopes. We know the final authors moved them as they saw fit since they appear in different positions and contexts from one Gospel to the next. We know that their forms were moldable in that sometimes a pericope is directed at one group in a Gospel and at a totally different one in another (see above; the lost Sheep). We also have a plausible rational and some evidence of thematic or topical linking of material ("fly-sheets"). We also see evidence of proto-Gospels in our Gospels as they now stand (see below).

When all this considerations are taken into account, they point to the general outline mentioned above. E.P. Sanders summarized this discussion as follows:

"I have offered a sketch of four stages: (1) units used in homiletical or pedagogical contexts; (2) collection of related units into groups or pericopes (perhaps circulated on individual sheets of papyrus(; (3) proto-gospels; (4) our gospels. It is not necessary to believe in this four stage process in order to understand the material. Some scholars, in fact, doubt (2) and some doubt (3). that is necessary is to comprehend the general development of the tradition. Jesus said and did things in a context, the context of his own life; he responded to the people he met and to the circumstances as he perceived them. But we do not move directly from his life to the gospels. We move, rather, from his life to the early Christian use of individual incidents as examples to score some point or other. Only gradually were pericope assembled in books that purport to describe his career. But decades had passed, and the original context that inspired a given saying or action had been lost." [1]

3B. Pre-Marcan Collections:

We include this section merely to point out some evidence for the outline above. First, we have two potential first century documents, Thomas and Q. Thomas is a raw list in the most rudimentary sense of the word. There are a few catchword associations but there is no overarching order or structure. This is one example of a sayings Gospel. I date it to the first century and view it as independent of the canonical Gospels but we cannot get into that here. [2]

Another example deals with Q. The majority of New Testament exegetes accept the Two-Source-Theory. The summary of synoptic relations warranting direct dependence was laid out by Raymond Brown: "Mark has 661 verses (vv.); Matt has 1,068, and Luke has 1,149. Eighty percent of Mark's vv. are reproduced in Matt and 65 percent in Luke. The Marcan material found in both the other two is called the "Triple Tradition". The approximate 220-235 vv. (in whole or in part) of nonMarcan material that Matt and Luke have in common is called the "Double Tradition." In both instances so much of the order in which that common material is presented, and so much of the wording in which it is phrased are the same that dependence at the written rather than simply at he oral level has to be posited." [3]

The double tradition is primarily sayings material. Those who think Matthew and Luke were written independent of one another believe in the existence of a hypothetical Q text, now embedded within both of them. Q is naturally a sayings Gospel as that is what the double tradition material is. So we have another example of a large list of Jesus' sayings and teachings. But even if you do not accept Q, and think Luke knew Matthew (and both knew Mark) one has to posit some sayings sources most likely oral and written) behind all double tradition material in Matthew. We will feature a discussion of the synoptic problem below as it has a significant influence on how we interpret the Gospels.

We noted the thematic linking of "children and meek ones" in Matthew 18:1-14 above. In Mark 12, the evangelists uses "parables" (plural) but only one parable follows. "He then began to speak to them in parables". This leads scholars to think that Mark was using a parable source Many scholars think there is evidence Mark and John shared a miracle list. For example, John Dominic Crossan has a "Miracles Collection" in his inventory of the Jesus tradition and source stratification: "Now embedded within the Gospels of Mark and John. Of the seven miracles in John 2-9, the five in John 5, 6 (two), 9, 11 that have Markan parallels appear in the same order in Mark 2, 6 (two), 8." [4]

Helmut Koester writes, "Among other narrative materials used by Mark were one or two catenae of miracle stories, probably in written form. They exhibit certain similarities to the material that was collected in the Semia Source of the Gospel of John; compare the stilling of the tempest (Mark 4:35-41 ; also Mark 6:45-52) with John 6:16-21, the feeding of the multitudes (Mark 6:30-44; also Mark 8:1-10) with John 6:1-13, the healing of the blind man (Mark 8:22-26; also Mark 10:46-52) with John 9:1-7..

These stories of Jesus' exorcisms, however, have no parallels in the Fourth Gospel and must have been derived from a different collection which could have comprised Mark 1:21-28; 5:1-20; 7:24-30; 9:14-29. That such collections existed in written form prior to the composition of Mark is fairly certain. But it is not possible to determine either the exact extent of these sources or their precise wording." [5]

Koester also writes that "With respect to the sources for sayings materials, written documents used by Mark are clearly recognizable: a collection of parables (4:1-34) and a composition of apocalyptic materials (13:1-37)." [6] There is also evidence that topical collections of short stories which conclude with a saying of Jesus (these are officially termed "apophthegmata") existed before the composition of Mark (see just below). With all this, then, we have good evidence that Pre-Markan Jesus followers preserved Jesus' material (sayings and actions), collected it into topical lists and distinct categories (miracles, parables, exorcisms). The outline in 3A is fairly well established. We turn to a final element not covered thus far:

3C. Evidence for a Proto-Gospel

E.P. Sanders writes, "Mark may not have been the first to put pericopes together to make a story. Many scholars think that the series of conflict scenes in 2.1-3.6 came to him ready-made. It is noteworthy that the conclusion (the Pharisees and the Herodians plotted Jesus' death) comes too early for the structure of the gospel as a whole. The Pharisees and Herodians are reintroduced nine chapters later (Mark 12:13), where they are said to be trying to entrap Jesus. Historically it is not likely that the fairly minor conflicts in Mark 2.1 - 3.5 actually led to a plot to put Jesus to death (3:6), and editorially it is not likely that Mark himself created the plot where it now stands in 3:6, only to reintroduce a weaker version of opposition from these two parties in 12.13. The most likely explanation of 3.6 is that the conflict stories of 2.1-3.5 had already been put together and that they immediately preceded a story of Jesus' arrest, trial and execution. That is, a previous collection--a proto gospel-- may have consisted of conflict stories, a plot against Jesus, and the successful execution of the plot." [7]

We do not need to grant (or deny at this time) the historicity of the "arrest, trial and execution" as if the passion accounts were history remembered. I cite Sanders exegesis as a demonstration that those conflict stories were probably put together before the Gospel of Mark was written and they probably did lead to plots to kill Jesus and/or his death (the successful execution of the plot). We then have evidence of a Pre-Markan proto-Gospel.

Section 3 Point: The individual pericopes constituting the Markan Gospel material have a long tradition history with several steps displacing them from the historical Jesus. During his ministry, Jesus said and did certain things in specific contexts. His disciples retained some of this information but the context and setting of it was lost over the years. The Gospel material shows itself to be at a remove from eyewitness testimony. Rather, it consists of later, developed material that had been used, collected and modified for some time.

Section 3 Notes:

[1] E.P. Sanders, Historical Figure of Jesus, pp. 60-61

[2] For starters I recommend Stephen Patterson's The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus.

[3] Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament p. 111

[4] John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p. 429.

[5] Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, pp. 286-287.

Koester footnotes on the "not knowing the exact extent" issue that it is possible
an exorcism collection contained such stories as Mark 1:29-31; 2:1-12; 3:1-6, etc.

[6] Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, p. -287.

[7] E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, pp. 130-131.

4. Form Criticism and the Markan Pericopes

4A. What is form criticism?

Form criticism is, more or less, the study of the individual pericopes or units of the Gospels. Its an evaluation of a pericope and its formal characteristics when it is removed from its present context in the Gospel We cannot do this by isolating one pericope. Instead we must first group several pericopes together which share common literary and stylistic features. Once we understand the form, we can usually understand the passage better.

An example of a form includes "controversy dialogues." There are many examples of pericopes with the following format throughout the gospels.

1. Jesus is present with a challenge or question by an opponent that puts him to the test.
2. Jesus responds to the challenge and the reader is to understand that Jesus' response was effective.

There are two normal goals of form criticism:

1. Uncovering the pre-Gospel use of pericopes
2. If applicable, uncovering the setting of the passage in Jesus' life.

Two is practically impossible. This is where the form critics of the past went very wrong. Form criticism had three basic principles:

4B. Identifying the Earliest Form?

1.The Gospels consist of individual units that could be pulled from their contexts. Turning through a synopsis will show how pericopes are often introduced differently throughout the Gospels and the discussion above demonstrates this first point as well.

2. Each form is said to have grown out of a specific activity of the church and church needs are said to have created the forms. This is slightly problematic. Paul is careful to distinguish between the Lord's and his own commands when giving a teaching on divorce in Corinthians and the paucity on sayings materiel in the epistles demonstrates limits on creativty--even if situations would have benefited from it.. These same limits can be found at times in the Gospels (e.g. the paucity of Gentile pericopes in Mark -- see below).It can be demonstrably shown that a text was not invented, nor possibly even cited for that matter, each time a setting seemed to require or necessitate it. Thus, though some forms (and many individual pericopes) may have grown strictly out of the needs of the church, this cannot be applied to all forms or even most or all pericopes.

3. It was claimed that the history of each pericope can be traced by analyzing how close the pericope is to the 'pure form'. Obviously the goal here was finding the original form--the one likely to go back to the historical Jesus. The problems with this view are legion!

1. Life does not unfold like 'pure forms'. Jesus' ministry did not unfold two-dimensionally with episodic question and answer sessions from Jewish teachers or as a series of events where someone who was ill was presented to him and heard. Real life, and especially dialogue is not cast in "pure forms". There are pauses, hesitations, repetitions, expansions and opponents are certainly not always silenced by a shrewd reply. Discovering and freeing the historical Jesus from its synoptic form-imprisonment is a lost cause. Form criticism will not help us go beneath many pericopes (if any) and find out what Jesus actually said.

2. Form critics operated under the assumption that the synoptic material changed under regulated ways and governed laws. No such law have been clearly established and when we evaluate the rules of transmission form-critics employ, none of them tend to hold up. As E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies wrote: A comparison of the quotations of Jesus' sayings in the second- and third-century literature with the synoptic versions does not reveal that the sayings tended to become longer and more detailed, or shorter and less detailed. Individual retellers might expand or abbreviate, might elaborate or epitomize. There are no general laws about length and detail. . . [T]he view that the material tended to be 'smoothed' has no more support than does the opposite view, that it tended to become more complex." [1]

It is also pointed out that Matthew streamlines some of Mark's parable accounts. As John Meier writes, "It is no means invariably true in the Gospel tradition that the shorter text is earlier than and independent of the longer text containing the same material. Matthew usually shortens and streamlines Mark's miracle stories, but he is no less dependent on Mark for all the brevity. In fact, it is quite possible that a tradition may not develop along a straight line of shorter to longer or longer to shorter, but may meander back and forth." [2]

Shorter is not necessarily earlier. This is something Gospel of Thomas scholars seem to forget or ignore when trying to show that the material in Thomas is a) independent of the canonical material and b) earlier in many places. Form criticism cannot be used in such ways.

3. The Gospel material cannot be compared to folk literature in that it was not transmitted orally for a long enough duration. Unlike true folk literature, the Gospels are second and third generation sources which make use of earlier (oral and written) sources.

Some rules of form criticism are generally accepted, however, For example, the church tended to retain only that material which was most beneficial to it (or it had to). Material superfluous to the needs of the earliest Christian communities did not survive. That is why so few details are presented about Jesus, his followers and so on. The complete lack of biographically details pointed out in section 2C demonstrates this.

There are other rules of Gospel transmission, for example, that settings are more prone to change than sayings. This is evident by pericopes like the "lost sheep." Its setting is different in Matthew and Luke but the sayings are similar.

4C. The Formal Characteristics of Several Markan Pericopes

The most beneficial use of form criticism is for evaluating what a certain pericope was intended to do or accomplish by the evangelists who used them. Basically, form criticism tells us more about the later church, than about the historical Jesus. By isolating a unit from the artificial gospel narrative we can more easily look at some of its features. Let's look at a few examples of Markan "controversy dialogues":

Mark 7:5 "So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"

Mark 2:18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?"

2: 23One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

The attentive reader using form-critical lenses immediately notices details, such as why it is Jesus' disciples are accused in these pericopes and not also Jesus himself. We will cover these verses in much more detail below, but for now we note that it is entirely implausible to think that Jesus washed his hands before eating but his disciples didn't and were thus accused. Rather, this saying (whether it is authentic or has an authentic core or not) has become modified into an ideal scene where Jesus is defending the practices of the later church.

This presents another problem with Mark writing strict history or presenting basically the eyewitness testimony of Peter. The Gospel contains ideal scenes which projects material back onto the lips of the historical Jesus. For more information on Form Criticism we recommend E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels, pp.123-197.

Section 4 Point: Form criticism is useful for understanding the practices of the church, rather than the ministry of the historical Jesus. One will not locate Jesus by appealing to shorter and less detailed material in one source versus complex and longer material in another. There is no set rule and we have learned a general principle that a) cautions us in our use of the synoptic material and more specifically, Mark in our study and b) can be used later when searching through Mark and comparing it with other Christian works in search of historical information about Jesus. Form critical analysis also shows that Mark contains "ideal scenes" which are little more than creativity, polemic, retrojection and apologetics.

Section 4 Notes:

[1] E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels, p. 128.

[2] John Meier, A Marginal Jew, V. 1 p.132

5. Mark and the Transmission of HJ Material

5A. Pen, Paper and Jesus' Disciples

How accurate was the transmission of Jesus material? Wouldn't Jesus have taken the proper steps to make sure his disciples understood what he was teaching them? Further, wouldn't the disciples have taken the appropriate steps of remembering and preaching what their Lord taught them?

Preliminary Observations

These types of apologetics are very common from conservative theologians. We of course run into several immediate historical issues. This question may be asked under the conservative rubric that Jesus knew hew would die all along and therefore, had to make sure his disciples understood him and would remember his message. This very much with the grain portrait of the Gospels runs into severe problems if one tries to argue that it goes back to the historical Jesus. I opt for a different historical picture: Jesus' crucifixion came as a surprise to him and his followers.

The passion predictions are difficult to demonstrate and look like post-Easter literary creations[1]. "The quite detailed correspondence between them and what happens in Mark's passion story suggest so." [2] There are also traces of this in the Gospels that Jesus death was a shock and hope-shattering initially. For example, on the road to Emmaus the two disciples say "but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel." (Lk. 24:21). Also, despite Jesus' constant predictions the disciples fled when he was arrested.

Also, we note that many scholars believe Jesus expected an imminent end to the world [3]. This would mean that Jesus did not have a vision where he needed to teach his disciples everything and make sure they remembered it all perfectly and would transmit it as such for the indefinite future. Also, if Jesus crucifixion had come as a surprise this same general conclusion is established. We can expect Jesus' followers to have a normal and fallible knowledge of Jesus ministry. For this we would need to look at studies done on how accurate human memory is and how these can be applied to first century Jews of Palestine.

Precise Rabbinical Transmission?

Gerdhardsson [4] sought to propose ways in which the synoptic material was carefully handed down like rabbinical material. In the Talmud it is said that Rabbis would repeat a section of the law forty times until their students got it right. So thus, it is argued, Jesus would have taken the proper steps to make sure his disciples understood and remember his sayings.

E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies write: "As is the case with many theories about the gospels, this sounds eminently plausible. Yet it has not persuaded many scholars. Doubts start with the Rabbis' description of their techniques. They are usually thought to have been exaggerated, and many scholars of rabbinic literature think that its transmission was not purely oral, but was aided by notes. But the principal objection to Gerhardsson's view is that the synoptic material does not in fact show itself to have been transmitted verbatim." [5]

There are numerous pericopes in the Gospels that this theory of precise memorization cannot account for. Turning through a synopsis will reveal this and we shall discuss some below. Sander's and Davies note this and continue saying, "Gerhardsson had anticipated this objection, and he proposed that the variations among the gospels are to be accounted for by the hypothesis of various schools--again on the rabbinic model. This has also been unpersuasive, since the variations among the gospels do not seem to reflect the sort of changes that organized schools would introduce. . . . [but] . . This sort of change is not entirely missing from the gospels. In the pericope on divorce, for example, Mark ends by forbidding wives to leave their husbands, a prohibition not in Matthew or Luke (Mark 10.12 and parr.). Matthew has an 'except' clause', 'except in the case of [prior] sexual immorality' in both his versions of the saying on divorce (Matt. 5.32; 19:9), a variation not in the other gospels or in Paul (1 Cor 7.10-11). These may justly be considered 'school' alterations, but there is relatively little of this sort of change in the synoptics. Parallel passages have lots of variations, but not many which would seem to correspond to different Christian schools of interpretation." [6]

How Did the Oral Stage Work?

We must also note that we do not know how to concretely imagine the period of oral preaching after Jesus' death. How long did it last and how did the oral transmission actually function? What were the primary uses of Jesus materials? Debate? Instruction? Sermons?

We also do not know to what extent any of Jesus' immediate followers could read or write. It would also be incorrect to assume Jesus lived in a preliterate world where everyone memorized everything. The process of memorization requires just as much discipline today as it did then. Documents abounded and memorization was not automatic. It is also noted that the time or oral epics was long past in Jesus' day.

Evidence for Precise Memorization?

Two passages from the second century are also commonly cited which supposedly demonstrate a precise form of oral memorization. Eusebius' report of Ireneaus' statements about Polycarp as an old man [7] and Papias [8] also reported by Eusebius. But both statements actually show the opposite. We shall evaluate only one:

". . . if ever anyone came who had followed the presbyters [elders], I inquired into the words of the presbyters: what Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any of the Lord's disciples, had said, and what Ariston and the presbyter John, the Lord's disciples were saying. For I did not suppose that information from books would help me so much as the word of a living and surviving voice." Papias ala Eusebius.

Papias sought attentively to find out the words of Andrew, Peter and the rest. He also did not apparently trust all the material in books. This means that there probably was not a strict, apostolic core of oral tradition precisely memorized and carried on by their students to future generations.

The same thing with the Gospel of Luke. Why did Luke decide to write "an orderly account" when so many others had already undertaken such narratives if their was a strict, precisely memorized and transmitted apostolic core or oral teachings? Why does Papias not trust the books but instead eagerly embrace anyone who can tell him stories about what the Lord's disciples had preached?

The strongest evidence does not come from Luke, Papias or Irenaeus, however. The strongest evidence comes through a comparison of Jesus materials in the Christian writings that have survived to us. So, the best way to resolve this debate is to go to the text itself. We shall now point out two examples of where "precise transmission" theories should work the best in the next two sections. Unfortunately, they do not fair so well.

5B Jesus' Statement on Divorce

Jesus' statement on divorce is extremely well attested. Points in favor of it:
It receives triple, independent attestation (Paul, and Two Versions in the Synoptic Gospels).
It is multiply attested not only in sources, but in THREE different forms of writing under the two source theory (epistle (Paul), narrative gospel (Mark) and sayings gospel (Q)).
It appears in the record very early (it occurs in a first stratum, authentic Pauline work).
Paul is certainly not at any liberty of putting sayings into Jesus' mouth. The paucity of such material and his careful distinction between his own and the Lord's commands demonstrates this. Judging by the context, Paul could have written the chapter without the saying. He is clearly not making it up.
There are some "school variations" in it.
It also occurs in two different forms (long form and short form).
Two of the evangelists had slight difficulty with the passage.

We have an extremely good form of "multiple attestation" here between these texts as the teaching on divorce is not related to the passion account or the Pauline kerygma in any way. As Helmut Koester wrote regarding the pre-Gospel sources, "Gunther Bornkamm has correctly remarked that such collections are formed "according to genre and conventions which can be observed also in other popular, secular, and religious literatures." The kerygma of cross and resurrection has had no influence whatsoever upon the formation of these literatures. Rather, their genre has been determined by theological and sociological motifs of a very different character, such as "sapiential invitation," "aretalogy," and "dialogue." Moreover, these and other factors have also had an influence upon the further development of the gospel form created by Mark as well as upon the writings which are commonly known as the apocryphal gospels." [9] Paul's repetitive failure to cite even beneficial sayings also argues for substantial independence. For example, Mark 2:28 could have been used nicely in Galatians 4:10 and Romans 14:5-6). Paul's letters also were collected and became popular after Mark wrote and the Q logion was formed.

In light of these considerations we can be absolutely certain Jesus did say something on divorce and his followers remembered and passed this teaching on. But now, given that we have three-fold independent attestation, and very early attestation, we would expect the theories of those like Gerhardsson's to shine here. So let's quote the texts and see how "precisely" this material was transmitted:

1 Corinthians 7:10-11: To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

In regards to Paul we must note that in Cor 7:14-15 Paul prefers staying together as the believer may make the other holy but he is prepared to grant divorce in certain circumstances (7:15). Left to his how he would not have come up with a strict prohibition of divorce as found in 7:10-11. Thus. He probably adds in his own commentary to the saying: "but if she does". Divorce is not entirely forbidden here and Paul is open to granting it in certain circumstances. Remarriage is forbidden in the saying.

Long Form:
Mark 10:2-12 : 2Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" 3"What did Moses command you?" he replied. 4They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." 5"It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 7'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 10When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."

Both Taken From the Niv Matthew 19:3-12 : 3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" 4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." 7"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." 10The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." 11Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have

Short Form
Luke 16:18 : 18"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 5:31-32 : 31"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

Comments on the Short Form:

1. The short form basically agrees with Paul. The fault of divorce lies not in itself, but the consequence of leading to remarriage which is cast as adultery. Sanders and Davies think that Luke applies this to both men and women and in the short form, Matthew applies it only to the woman who remarries. In his longer version he includes the statement about the man remarrying.

2. Matthew's"except" clause is tautological. The thrust of the saying is that a man should not divorce his wife since it will drive her into remarriage which is adultery. But if she has already committed adultery, then remarriage will not aggravate her situation much as she is already there as an adulteress. Both of Matthew's passages have this "except" clause while no other version does. The vast majority of critical scholarship sees it as a Matthean addition.

3. E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies write, "The wording of the three short forms (Matt., Luke and Paul) is appreciably different. (a) Paul begins with the case of a woman who wishes divorce, whereas Matthew and Luke deal only with the man (See further below on Mark's version of the long form) (b) The sayings in Matthew and Paul state (Matthew) or imply (Paul) that the woman who remarries commits adultery, while Luke mentions only the man. (c) Matthew, however, assumes that a divorced woman must remarry (presumably for financial reasons), while Paul thinks that she has a choice. Matthew apparently assumes that the man who divorce his wife need not remarry. (d) Paul's version is in the third person imperative (wife/husband should not), while in the gospels the saying is in the third person indicative, a simple statement of fact." [10]

Comments on the Long Form:

1. The conclusions found in Mark 10:10-12 and Matthew 10:7-9 agree with that of the short form: divorce leads to remarriage which is adultery.

2. Scriptural proof-texts are given in the long form (Genesis 1:27 and 2:24).

3. From the proof texts comes a hard saying, "let no man separate what God has put together." This looks like it leads to a total prohibition of divorce (rather than an admonishing against) followed a warning that it leads to remarriage.

4. Sanders and Davies cite several differences between the two different long forms: "(a) Mark mentions the case of a woman who divorces her husband, while Matthew does not.. Mark here supports Paul. We should note that Paul's terminology reflects his own knowledge of Jewish law. He states that a woman should not 'separate from' or 'leave' her husband, while the man should not 'put away' his wife. In Jewish law only the man could initiate a legal divorce, which he did by writing for the woman bill of divorce and (at least in some traditions) repaying her the dowry which he had received from her father. The woman could 'leave' the man, but not 'put him away'. Mark uses the verb 'leave' for both the husband and the wife, probably being ignorant of this rather fine point of Jewish law. It remains uncertain, however, whether Jesus himself explicitly dealt with the issue of a woman who leaves her husband. (b) Mark has the adultery count on both sides, the man's and the woman's. Matthew mentions only the man who divorces and remarries. He had dealt with the woman in the short form. (c) Matthew again has an exceptive clause. The effect this time is to allow a man to remarry if his divorce was the result of his wife's infidelity. (d) In Mark the conclusion to the passages comes 'in the house', away from the Pharisees, while in Matthew the scene does not change. (e) This leads to alterations in the sequence: the counter argument, that Moses allowed divorce, comes earlier in Mark than in Matthew." [11]

Further Comments on Both:

It should be clear that a different nuance is found in each one. Sander's and Davies list five summary statements which more easily show the variations in each one and catch their precise meanings. Which of the wordings actually catches the nuance of what Jesus said?
'It is better not to divorce, and I counsel you against it, but if you do divorce do not remarry' (so Paul)
'Do not divorce because this leads inevitably to remarriage=adultery on both sides' (so the conclusion of Mark's version).
'Do not divorce your wife, since that makes her an adulteress, unless she had already committed adultery; and do not marry a divorced woman' (so Matt.'s short form).
'Do not divorce your wife and remarry, since that is adultery, unless your wife previously committed adultery (the conclusion to Matt.'s long form).
'It is against the order of creation to divorce; do not do it' (the proof texts of the long form).[12]

This is one of the most secure sayings of Jesus we have. Yet we see that Jesus' saying was not carefully memorized and transmitted. It was revised and altered, apparently, as it was applied to new situations. It is here we must disagree with Gerhardsson and company. Also we note that this text is a "legal" or semi-legal" text and that makes it one where we would expect more agreement! If Christian "schools" were willing to alter material as much as this example indicates, "we must be prepared to think that in other cases Jesus' own view has been so overlaid that one cannot recover it."[13]

5C The Lord's Supper

Another example of where we would expect one of Jesus' sayings to be transmitted accurately occurs in the Lord's Supper.[14]

1 Cor 11:23-25 The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."

Mark 14:22-25 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
24"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."

Matthew 26:26-29 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

Luke 22:15-20 And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.


First we note up front that under Marcan priority the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke is dependent upon Mark. Let's compare Mark and Matthew first

Mk: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,
Mt : While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying,

Mk "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
MT "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.

Matthew adds in "eat" and Matthew adds in dialogue of Jesus offering it to them. This cannot be pressed as an error.

Mk. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them.
Mt : This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew adds in "for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew and Mark are not widely different but even this minor variations show that Jesus' exact saying certainly was not memorized and precisely handed down.

Mk: I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."
Mt : I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom.

Matthew omits "the truth" and Mark has "in the kingdom of God" whereas Matthew changes it to "in my Father's kingdom". Both essentially mean the same thing (ipsissima vox vs. ipsissima verba anyone?) but we see that the exact saying of Jesus was not precisely translated, even when one work (Matthew) was writing with another work (Mark) directly in front of him.

We will not treat each one side by side like this with all possible variations. Instead we will simply note a few more differences:
Both Paul and Luke have "in remembrance of me". Matthew and Mark do not.
Luke calls it the "kingdom of God" as does Mark but not Matthew ("Father's kingdom")
Paul lacks the comment about drinking again in the kingdom.
Luke puts the drinking again comment at the beginning. Matthew and Mark conclude with it.
Luke puts the "cup" before the "body" whereas Matthew and Luke do the opposite.

Again, remember that under Marcan priority, Matthew and Luke actually knew the text of Mark and had it in front of them when they wrote. We can hardly maintain that Jesus' sayings were accurately memorized and passed down as such. For the most part we see that there is not a wild level of divergence here. They all pretty much say the same thing. But none of them agree on exactly what was said.

The former example was a stronger challenge against the precise memorization school, as that could be considered a teaching. We might expect, it is argued, Jesus to have ground in his teachings, but one might not expect Rabbi Jesus to repeat this saying at the last supper "forty times until [his] students got it right". But this example still shows us how sayings of Jesus were treated. They were not handled perfectly, or precisely. Components were added, removed, the wording deviates, elements were switched around and so on. It must also be added and cautioned that these are only the changes and forms that we now know about--the ones that have survived. There is a lot of uncertainty .

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Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 09:07 am
For more examples of alterations we encourage you to acquire a synopsis and browse through it carefully with highlighters comparing select pericopes.

5D. Things Learned in Prayer

We must also be willing to grant that things learned in prayer could have become firmly embedded tradition. Christians prayed. That if a fact. Jesus spoke to his followers in prayer. Paul, when he prayed about the thorn in his flesh, was told in 2 Cor 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power if made perfect in weakness." Let's see how a statement like "My grace is sufficient" can turn into a saying of the Lord.

In Paul it is rather easy to distinguish between the sayings from the historical Jesus and those from the risen Lord, or from Paul himself when speaking in the spirit. Paul at one point is careful to distinguish between his own and the words of the Lord. If other Christian teachers and preachers from this time period had left us letters w would doubtless see the same thing in some of them. But not all individuals might have maintained this careful distinction. To some ancient Christian authors and preachers, the boundaries between "the risen Jesus taught me this in prayer" and "the earthy Jesus said this to his disciples" would have been porous at best. Christians truly did believe Jesus spoke to them. Paul is a prime example of this.

But what if we had a prophet preaching and using things learned in prayer? What if he quickly said, "The Lord said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you.'" Not all early Christian teachers would have needed to emphasize their source with such meticulous distinctions and some may have only mentioned "the Lord" in passing. So its possible for someone to say "the Lord said X" and have it misinterpreted as a saying of the historical Jesus.

In many cases it would be easy to understand the meaning. Paul never followed the historical Jesus so if he said, "The Lord said to me" we (and presumably) his audience would know he meant in prayer. If a prophet says, The Spirit says" then both the "spirit" and present tense (says) indicates that it came through prayer. But this forces us to ask if everyone made these meticulous distinctions? And even if they did, how long would such distinctions last?

5E. Ancient Writing Practices.

We must also note some ancient writing practices at this time. Events were often cast, after the fact, in light of the Old Testament.[15] Josephus did this when he tied his discussion of the Jewish War and Vespasian's ending it into OT prophecy. [16] Christians certainly did this as well. The Gospels are loaded with examples (John the Baptist, the crucifixion of Jesus, etc). hen the Jews were not as responsive as the Gentiles to Jesus' message Paul attributed it to OT (see Rom 9-11). We know Jesus spoke in parable (given the sheer diversity of sources and overwhelming number of them) and the synoptic authors took the liberty of telling us why in light of the OT. (e.g. Mk 4:12 but see the different formulation in Matthew and Luke).

We must also be willing to grant that details were created in light of Old Testament passages. One example will suffice:

As most Bible readers know, there is an apparent discrepancy between Matthew and Luke regarding Judas' death. It is possible that only one or neither one knew how Judas actually died. Matthew may have drawn his detail from the Old Testament. As Raymond Brown notes on Gethsemane, "More obviously, however, several of the evangelists are echoing the Ascent of Olives references in II Sam 15:30. Absalom had led Jerusalem to revolt against David with the help of Ahithophel, David's trusted counselor who deserted him; and so David went out (15:16: exerchesthai), crossed "the winter-flowing" Kidron (LXX 15:23), went up the Ascent of Olives, wept there, and prayed to God. As Glasson ("Davidic"), Trudinger ("Davidic") and others have pointed out, this David narrative in II Sam 15 constitutes the background of the Synoptic scene where Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives, soul sorrowful, praying to God, betrayed by a trusted member of the Twelve (a parallelism that Matt 27:5 heightens by having Judas hang himself, even as did Ahithophel in II Sam 17:23--the only two biblical figures to do so). John, who does not mention the Mount of Olives, echoes II Sam 15 as well, since "across the Kidron valley" is literally "across the winter-flowing Kidron," i.e., a wadi or arroyo that has flowing water only in the winter when it rains." (17.)

Note specifically the text in bold (emphasis is mine). It is certainly the case that the evangelists in their narratives pulled certain details or oriented them towards Old Testament events and passages. We will address two more aspects of ancient writers before concluding section five:

First, ancient writers often contain glaring self-contradictions in their writings. It appears that the evangelists did not smooth over their works and make them all completely consistent with. As Sanders and Davies observe, "The assumption may surprise the reader, whose intuition may be that an author of strong views would recast all the material to agree with them. There are two points to be observed: (1) Imposing a completely consistent view on diverse sources is in fact quite hard. Modern academic work will provide a lot of examples. Those of us who read doctoral theses spend spend a fair part of our time checking for consistency from one part to another, but perfect consistency is nevertheless often not obtained. The problem of consistency of of course less acute in a short work than in a long one, and the gospels are short. Despite this, not one of them is perfectly consistent [John possibly the closest]. This leads us to our second point. (2) Ancient writers not infrequently incorporated their sources whole, or only slightly edited, with the result that the final work contains glaring inconsistencies and even contradictions. The ancients seem to have been less troubled by inconsistency that moderns are, and what strikes us as a blatant internal disagreement may have been viewed in some other light by the original author and readers." [19]

Second, ancient authors often supplemented their narratives with freely created material of all kinds. This is a cardinal rule, so to speak. Ancient historians (and even some modern ones) especially liked to supplement their narratives with suitable speeches that have no possible line of transmission. Sander's ad Davies accurately document this phenomenon:

"Josephus, for example who was a very self-conscious historian, and who was also fairly accurate, claimed, in retelling biblical history, that he added nothing and omitted nothing (Antiq. 1.17; cf. Antiq. 4.196; 20.260-261). In fact he omitted a great deal and added numerous items. He attributed to Moses, for example, the commandment to gather each week to study the law (Against Apion 2.175). This represents first-century practice but cannot be found in the Bible; and Josephus, if pressed, would have granted that to be true. He knew the Bible extremely well, and further he knew that many of his readers were equally well versed in it. Then why ascribe to Moses new commandments? We cannot precisely recapture his mental processes, but perhaps they went like this: It is an established tradition in our religion that we gather in synagogues on the Sabbath to study the Scripture; this has been true as far back as anyone can remember; Moses himself must have intended it; I shall use a shortcut and say that he commanded it.

Ancient historians regularly supplemented their narratives with freely created material of various kinds. They paid especial attention to the creation of suitable speeches for their heroes. Staying with Josephus, we may comment especially on the great speech which he attributes to the rebel leader Eleazar just before he and other defenders of Matsada committed suicide rather than be captured (War 7.323-336, 341-389). Eleazar's speech holds up the ideals of Josephus himself (though Josephus did not live up the them); and this, the concluding event of the last battle of the great revolt, is marked by suitable oration, though Josephus could not have known what Eleazar had actually said.

We should not exult too much over ancient historians. Below the very top level of academic biography modern authors frequently attribute statements to their subjects when, in the nature of the case, there could be no possible line of transmission. Most modern readers accept this, since the story is presented smoothly and authoritatively, without noting the absence of evidence. Ancient author's wrote in this way--only more so."[20]

The Gospel of John is a prime example of creative oration. Virtually none of the sayings material (Advanced theological mediations) can be said to go back to the historical Jesus. [21]

Section 5 Point: The form critics sought to find the authentic sayings of Jesus. Some have compared the Gospel material to folklore (very fluid), and others to Rabbinical materials (precisely transmitted). Neither one of these assessments proves true. We must be willing to grant that things learned in prayer from the risen Jesus may have made their way into the pre-Gospel traditions and that ancient authors often supplemented their narratives with creative details of all kinds. Studying the Gospel material shows that the exact words and even sometimes the exact nuance of what Jesus originally meant was not precisely transmitted. In terms of attestation and security, possibly the very best saying we have (divorce) demonstrates this. We learn, through a careful comparison of the Gospels and early Christian writings, that Jesus' teachings were not precisely transmitted but they were not handled with reckless abandon either. To repeat, if Christian "schools" were willing to alter material as much as this example indicates, "we must be prepared to think that in other cases Jesus' own view has been so overlaid that one cannot recover it." How much were Jesus' sayings altered? An honest form-critical assessment is that we simply do not know. "There is no general answer; the synoptics conform to no model which will tell us how much the material changed, not what directions the changes took."[22]

As John Dominic Crossan so wryly observed, "Jesus left behind him thinkers not memorizers, disciples not reciters, people not parrots".[23]

0 Replies
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 11:08 am
Quite a lengthy cut and post.

I'm sorry I don't have time to read.

Perhaps you should post a brief notation of your own reasoning to whet our appetites.
0 Replies
Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2008 08:59 pm
neologist wrote:
Quite a lengthy cut and post.

I'm sorry I don't have time to read.

Perhaps you should post a brief notation of your own reasoning to whet our appetites.

Yeah.. re: "brief"
0 Replies
Reply Thu 3 Apr, 2008 08:21 am
zippo wrote:
Bible Busted !! (must read)

Newsflash: "Red Riding Hood" proven to be a fairy tale. Film at 11, viewer discretion advised.
0 Replies
Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2008 04:20 pm
i read the first line. Even it was too long.

You do know bible paper is great for making cigarettes out of stubs when you are stuck for a smoke, so don't knock it, or in the case of religious nuts, plz put cigarette papers in the hotel drawers instead.
0 Replies
Reply Wed 9 Apr, 2008 08:30 am
neologist wrote:
Quite a lengthy cut and post.

I'm sorry I don't have time to read.

Perhaps you should post a brief notation of your own reasoning to whet our appetites.

Should we hold our breath?
0 Replies
Reply Wed 9 Apr, 2008 03:56 pm
Intrepid wrote:

Should we hold our breath?

I think its about time you people learned to read above single line posts.

The kindergarten forum is around the next block.
0 Replies
Reply Wed 9 Apr, 2008 03:59 pm
Zippo wrote:
Intrepid wrote:

Should we hold our breath?

I think its about time you people learned to read above single line posts.

The kindergarten forum is around the next block.

Nice of you to leave it for a moment to address the big people. Now, what was the point of the unending cut and paste? And, what were your own thoughts?
0 Replies
Reply Wed 9 Apr, 2008 04:02 pm
BDV wrote:
i read the first line. Even it was too long.

You do know bible paper is great for making cigarettes out of stubs when you are stuck for a smoke, so don't knock it, or in the case of religious nuts, plz put cigarette papers in the hotel drawers instead.

I'd never thought of that. Very salutary advice, that . . .
0 Replies
Reply Mon 14 Apr, 2008 03:07 am
Yea Zippo I'm all for reading 500 page essays, but you should just provide a link and comment on it.
0 Replies
Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2008 10:29 am
Zippo, don't leave us hanging, like we were waiting for the next silent film episode of the Perils of Pauline, give us an alternative religious text that you do subscribe too. Wouldn't that be the polite thing to do?
0 Replies

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