Some comments on Matthew and Mark.

I wrote this some 7 years ago but recently rediscovered it hidden away in an archive folder. Hope it’s of benefit!

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A very brief comparison of Mark and Matthew and some of the discrepancies between the two. I can go into alot more depth and bring even more detailed examples but this I guess is a good place to start. Mark is clearly unaware of Jewish laws and customs whereas Matthew seems to have a greater awareness of Jewish law, scripture and customs. Matthew very concerned with linking Christianity to Judaism for Jewish people – Jesus is constantly fulfilling OT prophecies. Mark writing for Gentile audience. When Matthew wrote his gospel some 10 years or so after Mark he noticed the errors that Mark had made and to the best of his ability “corrected” them. This also clearly demonstrates that Mark was not an eyewitness.

(1)

Mark 7:10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,'[1] and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'[2]

Matt 15:4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’

[1] Exodus 20:12 or Deut. 5:16

[2] Exodus 21:17 or Lev. 20:9

As you can see from the footnotes both those quotations are from the Torah. So Mark has presented Jesus (as) as quoting the Torah verbatim and then attributing these quotes to Moses (as). This is akin to me quoting two verses from the Qur’an and saying: “Muhammad (saw) said: ‘<verse 1>’ and, ‘<verse 2>'”. No Muslim would ever do such a thing. Similarly no orthodox Jew would ever attribute two verses of the Torah to Moses (as). As we believe the Qur’an is the literal word of Allah (swt) similarly an orthodox Jew would believe the Torah is the literal word of YHWH (Jehovah) and thus attributing it to a Prophet is tantamount to blasphemy. Just as the Muslim would say: “Allah said:……” the Jew would say: “YHWH said:…..”. This is precisely the sort of mistake that many non-Muslims make when quoting the Qur’an i.e. attributing it to Muhammad. So it’s a clear hint that the author here wasn’t a Jew but a gentile.

So when Matthew – who wrote after Mark and used Mark as a basis for his Gospel – narrated this incident he realises Mark’s mistake and quietly changes what Jesus is alleged to have said.

(2)

Mark 15:42-46 (KJV)

42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,

43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.

44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.

45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.

 

Matt 27:57-62 (KJV)

57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:

58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.

59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.

62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

The day of preparation is the day before the Passover Sabbath i.e. Friday. The problem here is that according to Jewish reckoning the day begins with sunset. So according to Mark it was either already the Sabbath or Jesus was crucified on a Thursday. Also if it was the Sabbath then Joseph of Arimathea, a Jew, would certainly have not (and not even been able to) purchase anything. Matthew’s narrative fixes the problem by having the evening in question Friday evening and dropping the idea of Joseph of Arimathea purchasing something on the Sabbath.

NOTE: NIV tries to translate Mark 15:42 as “evening was approaching” in order to circumvent this problem

(3)

Mark 2:26 (NIV) 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Matt 12:3-4 (NIV) 3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.

From 1 Samue 22:1-5 we learn that the high priest in question was not Abiathar but Ahimelech. Matthew once again notes Mark’s error and drops the name of the high priest in his narrative. Furthermore there seems to be another error in that both evangelist seems to be unaware that David was alone when he encountered Ahimelech. He had no men with him and was certainly not on a secret mission for the King – he was lying to the Priest! Rather he was on the run for his life from King Saul so consequently he could not have shared the bread with his companions as he actually didn’t have any.

(4)

Mark 10:10-12

10 When 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. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Matthew 5:31

31″It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But 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.

Once again Mark makes an error with regards to Jewish law and customs. There was no such thing as a “woman divorcing her husband” for 1st century Jews (even today only a husband can give a “get”: http://www.jewfaq.org/divorce.htm). The right of divorce is the husband’s prerogative so this command is meaningless. For someone from a Roman background where both men and women had the power to initiate divorce it made sense to warn off a woman from divorcing her husband. Matthew realising this mistake drops this line from his narrative.

(5)

Mark 10

18″Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”

Matt 19

18″Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Let’s leave aside the matter of Jesus implicitly denying Godhood (yes I’m acquainted with the standard explanation that he was emphasising that only God is good and just expected his questioner to realise that it was him!). [Interestingly enough though the early Church father, Origen reads this verse on multiple occasions as: “No one is good – except the Father alone.” Read as such it would present a real problem for the later Trinitarians.]

The problem here is that Mark has created a new commandment: “do not defraud”. No such commandment exists. It can’t be claimed that this is merely “do not steal” in another form as that commandment has already been mentioned. Furthermore to argue that he’s not actually referring to the ten commandments per se but is just dispensing general advice in the form of “commandments” is nonsensical given the context. He had just said to the man, “You know the commandments”. So clearly he’s referring to a specific set of commandments that he would expect the man to know i.e. The Ten. Once again Matthew spots the error and quietly drops it from his narrative.

 

(6)

Mark 11:10

10″Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

Matt 21:9

9The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

 

David (as) was not a patriarch. The fathers of the Jewish nation were Abraham (as), Isaac (as) and Jacob (as) – as all Jews (unless converts) are descended from these three men. Most Jews are not descendants of David (as) and I don’t think he’s ever referred to in the Tanakh by the Israelites as “our father” in contrast to the patriarchs. Matthew realising this error drops this alleged chant of the crowd.

 

Furthermore the Hebrew word “Hosanna” means “save!” or “Save, now!” so I’m really not sure what “Hosanna in the highest!” is meant to mean? If you look at Psalm 118:25-26 you’ll see whence Mark gets this narrative. He’s obviously seen the word Hosanna in the verse 25 and assumed it’s an expression of praise and hence his usage of it. It’s essentially meaningless.

 

(7) A bit of faulty geography by Mark.

Mark 7:31

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. [NIV]

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decap’olis. [RSV]

31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. [KJV]

If you look on a map you’ll see that Sidon is to the north of Tyre and the Sea of Galilee is to the south. Going from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee via Sidon is like saying I went from Birmingham to London via Manchester. The KJV doesn’t have this problem as don’t certain other versions based upon it as they render it “departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon” no doubt due to the translators sensing the obvious problem this verse presents.

“Decapolis is the name given in the Bible and by ancient writers to a region in Palestine lying to the east and south of the Sea of Galilee.” [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04664b.htm]

As Decapolis is south of the Sea of Galilee I’m sure you can appreciate the problematic nature of attempting to go to the Sea of Galilee from the north of it via somwhere that is to the south of it!

Matthew 15:29

29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. [NIV]

29 And Jesus went on from there and passed along the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain, and sat down there. [RSV]

29 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. [KJV]

As you can see Matthew, again realising the problem with Mark’s narrative, sidesteps the issue of how exactly Jesus got from the Tyre/Sidon region to the Sea of Galilee.

(8)

Actually this one should have come first but I guess it doesn’t matter what order I put them in.

Mark 1:2-3

2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way—

3 a voice of one calling in the desert,’Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’

Firstly as you are probably already aware the above quote is not found in any book of Isaiah. The standard explanation is that it is an amalgamation (from the Septuagint) of a paraphrase of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 with it being attributed to Isaiah because he was the major Prophet. There are a couple of problems with this. Firstly the Gospel is clearly attributing this writing to Isaiah. He is quoting Isaiah as having written this. Quite simply if this text doesn’t exist in Isaiah then it is misquoting scripture. I don’t think any Jew (or Christian for that matter) would think it acceptable to paraphrase and amalgamate scriptures and then attribute them as being something that a particular Prophet wrote verbatim. Indeed some early scribes realised this problem and altered the opening of Mark 1:2 to: “It is written in the Prophets: …” in order to get around this problem. Once again it’s clear that Mark has simply got his scriptures wrong and as we shall see in a moment Matthew corrected him. The second problem with this explanation is the opening line of Mark 1:2 is not from Malachi at all but rather taken directly from Septuagint Exodus 23:20: ιδου εγω αποστελλω τον αγγελον μου προ προσωπου σου (“I will send my messenger/angel before your face”). The Malachi part is merely the “prepare/survey the way” – once again from the Septuagint.

Lastly the ending of Septuagint Isaiah 40:3 is not “…make straight paths for him.” but rather “…make straight the paths of our God.” So even the actual quote from Isaiah is incorrect.

Are there any cases in the OT of somebody providing a “quote” from scripture and attributing it to a Prophet in this manner?

How does Matthew render this?

Matt 3:3

3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one calling in the desert,’Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’

Once again Matthew realises the mistake of Mark and drops the superfluous text and quotes Septuagint Isaiah 40:3 correctly with one notable exception.

Isaiah 40:3 (Septuagint): “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.”

It would seem that whilst Matthew and Mark were both happy to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, neither were comfortable with the idea of him being God. The word used in the Septuagint is Theou (God) whilst the greek word used by Matthew is Kurion (Lord). Anyway, that’s a side point. The main point is that once again Mark has got it wrong with respect to Jewish scripture/law/custom and Matthew has corrected him.

 

(9) Mark gets it right and Matthew gets it wrong!

After reading all of the above you may be surprised but there’s a actually a good reason for it. As any biblically conversant Christian will tell you, Matthew was written with a Jewish audience in mind. One of the defining characteristics of it is the supposed fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies by Jesus. Hardly a paragraph goes by without some prophecy or other being fulfilled! Although this was the idea of all early Christian writers it is especially pronounced within the Gospel of Matthew.

First of all before I quote the relevant passages from Mark and Matthew let’s take a look at the OT prophecy that both evangelists clearly had in mind:

Zechariah 9

9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Reading the passage of Zechariah above one may be forgiven for being confused by the last two lines. It seems to imply that the king is riding on two animals: the donkey and its colt. However that is only an example of Hebrew poetical parallelisms that involve the repetition of the same idea in different words-mainly for metrical or rhythmical purposes.

So the evangelist Mark or whoever he relied upon for his tradition for this part of his Gospel realised this and thus his depiction of Jesus’ triumphal entry is as so:

Mark 11:1-7

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples,

2 saying to them, Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no-one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.

3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it,

5 some people standing there asked, What are you doing, untying that colt?

6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.

7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.

So Jesus is depicted as riding a colt into Jerusalem in fulfillment of the aforementioned prophecy. Ok, so far so good. So how does Matthew, bearing in mind his proclivity for having Jesus fulfill OT prophecies and his sceptical attituted towards Mark’s usage of Jewish scripture, depict the same event?

Matt 21:1-7

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,

2 saying to them, Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.

3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.

4 This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:

5Say to the Daughter of Zion,’See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’

6The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.

7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.

Need I say anymore? In his zeal to prove that Jesus fulfilled Zechariah 9:9 Matthew has Jesus perform some sort of rodeo trick by riding two animals into town simultaneously! Clearly Matthew had realised that Mark was careless in his use of scripture and having the verse of Zechariah open in front of him thought that Mark had messed up again by leaving out the donkey so decided to include it in his narrative. Unfortunately this time he gets it badly wrong to the point of portraying Jesus performing a type of circus trick maneuver.

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