The Order of Events in Matthew and Mark

J. F. Springer

A Problem and Its Solution In Two Parts


Part I—The Problem

The New Testament is perhaps the best attested of all the ancient writings, comparable in size, whose earliest witnesses to the text are separated by a similar interval from the autograph. So much is this the case that we feel confident that our modern recensions set before us what are substantially the original compositions. Nevertheless, there remain some textual phenomena which still await explanation. And nowhere do such problems occur with greater frequency than in the Synoptic Gospels. It is to one of the most considerable of these questions that I desire in the present paper to call attention; and, having done this, I propose then to offer what appears to be a satisfactory solution. The facts which require explanation are concerned with the divergences in the sequence of incidents, as these divergencies are disclosed by a comparison of the texts of Matthew and Mark. Assuming that our recensions of these Gospels are approximate equivalents of the autographs, both in form and content, we find ourselves, immediately we examine into the matter, confronted with difficulties of a very formidable character. Let us nevertheless investigate the consequences of this assumption.

It is a notable fact that nearly all of the incidents in the Second Gospel are parallels of incidents in the First. For the most part, there is exact agreement in respect to the order of occurrence in the two texts; but the first third of Mark and the Matthaean region broadly paralleled by this third are in remarkable disagreement in so far as the progression of events is concerned. Accurately defined, the two sections are Mt. 3:1–13:58 and Mk. 1:1–6:13. Of the twenty-four incidents in the Markan section, The man with the unclean spirit is not a parallel of a Matthaean event, and the Appointment of the Twelve is only doubtfully so. The remaining twenty-two are all parallels. In the Matthaean section, there is much unparalleled matter, chiefly though of a didactic character. Further on in the Ministry, the two narratives are in disagreement in arrangement for a short space. The textual regions may be broadly denned as Mt. 21:10–22 and Mk. 11:11–26. The one progression of events differs from the other in respect to the sequence of just two incidents. In Matthew, Purging the Temple precedes Cursing the fig tree, whereas in Mark the order of these events is reversed.

The following tabulations exhibit the orders of parallel incidents as these orders are disclosed in Mark and Matthew in the two parts of the Ministry where divergences of sequence occur.


Mark   Matthew
A John the Baptist 1:2–8
The Baptism 1:9:11
The Temptation 1:12–13
Summoning of certain disciples 1:14:20
A John the Baptist 3:1–12
The Baptism 3:13–17
The Temptation 4:1–11
Summoning of certain disciples 4:12–22
B Curing of Simon’s mother-in-law 1:29–31
Healing and delivering of many 1:32–38
C Preaching in many places 4:23–7:29
Touching the leper 8:1–4
C Preaching in many places 1:39
Touching the leper 1:40–45
B Curing of Simon’s mother-in-law 8:14–15
Healing and delivering of many 8:16–17
D The paralytic 2:1–12
Calling of Levi 2:13–17
Children of the bride-chamber 2:18–22
F Calming the storm 8:18–27
The great herd of swine 8:28–34
E Plucking of ears of grain on the Sabbath 2:23–28
The man with the withered hand 3:1–6
Withdrawal of Jesus 3:7–12
The kingdom divided against itself 3:21–30
Visit of mother and brethren 3;31–35
The Sower and other parables 3:4:1–34
D The paralytic 9:1–8
Calling of Matthew 9:9–13
Children of the bridechamber 9:14–17
G The ruler’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood 9:18–26
I The Twelve sent forth 9:35–11:1
F Calming the storm 4:35–41
The great herd of swine 5:1–21
E Plucking of ears of grain on the Sabbath 12:1–8
The man with the withered hand 12:9–14
Withdrawal of Jesus 12:15–21
The kingdom divided against itself 12:22–37
Visit of mother and brethren 12:38–50
The Sower and other parables 13:1–52
G The ruler’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood 5:22–43
H Visit to His own country 6:1–6a
I The Twelve sent forth 6:6b–13
H Visit to His won country 13:53–58

The introductory words of Mk. 1:1 are omitted. Mk. 1:21–28, where the incident of The man with the unclean spirit is recounted, is omitted as having corresponding incident in Matthew. In Mk. 3:13–20, the Twelve are appointed and listed, but there is no account of an appointment. The general parallelism of the two passages is recognized; but the Markan is not given in the foregoing tabulation of parallel incidents, the Matthaen list scarcely warranting classification as an incident or as something separate from the context dealing with the sending forth of the Twelve.

Mt. 8:5-13, where the incident of The centurion’s servant is related, is omitted as unparalleled in Mark. The incidents in Mt. 9:27–31 and 32–33(34) are also omitted as improbably parallel to Mk. 8:22–26 and 7:31–37, respectively. Not only does the earlier Matthaean account have reference to two blind men, but the miracle is apparently completed inside the house; whereas in Mark there is but the one blind man and he has his sight restored outside the village. In the second Matthaean incident, the dumb (perhaps deaf and dumb) man is also possessed with a demon, while in Mark, there is no suggestion of possession. Finally, Mt. 11:2–30 is omitted, the only parallel matter being the quotation from Malachi in 5:10. See Mk. 1.2.





Entrance in Jerusalem 11:11 Entrance into Jerusalem 21:10–11
Cursing the fig tree 12:14 Purging the Temple 21:12–17
Purging the Temple 12:15–19 Cursing the fig tree 21:18–19a
Lesson from the withered fig tree 12:20–26 Lesson from the withered fig tree 21:19b–22


If now we examine the two texts still more closely, we shall discover further facts. We shall find, for example, that each Gospel contains, at a certain point where the narrative in the other Gospel diverges, a clear statement of the proper historical sequence. Thus, at Mt. 9:18, the ruler made request on behalf of his little daughter at the very moment that Jesus was dealing with the matter of the Children of the bride-chamber—Ταῦτα αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος αὐτοις ἰδοὺ ἄρχων εἶς προσελθὼν προσεκύνει αὐτῶ λέγων. The one incident occurred immediately after the other. There was, at the time the events transpired, no interval at all. The Matthaean narrative so says and thus makes an explicit statement of the sequence. In Mark, however, the discourse as to the Children of the bride-chamber concludes with 2:22 and the incident of the ruler commences, say, at 5:22. In the three chapters of the intervening text are nine separate incidents. That is, the Markan narrative begins to diverge from the Matthaean one at 2:23 and does not record the second part of the immediate sequence until nine other events have been narrated. In view of the explicit statement in Matthew as to the immediacy of the sequence, we must apparently conclude that the interposition of these nine events in Mark is a very considerable departure from the actual chronology. Again, in Mk. 4:35, we find our texts of the Second Gospel require us to understand that the incident of Calming the storm followed, in the course of a few hours, at most, the discourse which began with The Sower, Upon turning to the First Gospel, we find that this discourse is not even set down in advance of the incident of the storm, but occurs after an interval of more than four chapters in which intervening text fourteen separate incidents are recounted. The Markan narrative, however, is uncompromising in its language and demands that we put little or no interval between the two incidents: Καὶ λέγει αὐτοίς ἐν ἐκείῃ τῆ ἡμέρᾳ ὀψίας γενομένης Διέλθωεν εὶς το πέραν. With this before us, together with the preceding and following contexts, we would seem constrained to grant that the Matthaean narrative manifests a large divergence from the order of events. In fact, there is in Matthew a reversal of the sequence in addition to the interposition of the fourteen incidents.

Again, the Matthaean narrative seems very clearly to place Purging the Temple on the day of the entry (Mt. 21:10, 12), while the Markan text puts it just as clearly on the day after (Mk. 11:11, 12, 15). Moreover, the Lesson from the withered fig tree occurs, in Matthew, on the day after the entry (Mt. 21:17, 18, 19b); but, in Mark, on the second day after that event (Mk. 11:12, 20). In short, each narrative is very explicit in defining differently from the other the days upon which the two incidents are placed by it.

The divergences adduced in the preceding examination do not include all the departures from the chronological order. There is at least one instance of both Gospels agreeing in a non-chronological placing of an event. In both Matthew and Mark, the incident of The precious ointment is similarly placed in the narrative, but the position is not the chronological one. John very explicitly puts the Entrance into Jerusalem on the day following the incident of the ointment—Τῆ ἐπαύριον (Jn. 12:12). In Matthew and Mark, the narrative of the entry precedes that of the breaking of the alabaster box. That is, this latter incident occurs in Mt. 26:6–13 when its proper chronological position is at the end of chapter 20; and it is found in Mk. 14:3–9, whereas in the historical progression of events it belongs at the end of chapter 10.

A detailed comparison of the entire texts of the two Gospels will disclose the fact that, except in the two textual regions of divergence in each that have already been defined, the sequence of parallel incidents is precisely the same throughout both narratives. That is, there remain two extensive regions of agreement as to the order of events in each of the two Gospels. These may be defined as Mt. 14:1–21:9 and Mk. 6:14–11:10 for the earlier and Mt. 21:23–28:20 and Mk. 11:27–16:8 for the later. The extent of these sections is very considerable whether we have regard to the later or the earlier. And, as is implied in what has already been said, the agreement in order is exact.

The agreements in order, which occur almost without interruption from the time when Herod hears of Jesus on to the end, do not exhaust the exact correspondences between the two Gospels. In the early part of the Ministry, as that Ministry is set forth by the first two Gospels, in the very part where the two accounts disclose frequent divergences, are to be found seven minor groups, each containing two to six incidents. Both narratives recount the events of each and every group in precisely the same order. When these agreements are taken into account, we find that identity of sequence rules throughout the two Gospels and that differences of order are to be classed as exceptional phenomena.

Everywhere throughout the Matthaean and Markan narratives occur chronological words and phrases. These are found in the regions of divergence as well as elsewhere. The following tabular statement will disclose a large part of the facts. Exhaustiveness is not claimed for the table.

If the two Gospels are independent writings, then the entire Matthaean list and the entire Markan list are to be regarded as evidence of chronological purpose on the part of the respective authors. If, however, the narratives are viewed as primary and secondary, then the list belonging to the primary is to be taken entire and considered as evidence of the primary author’s chronological purpose; but only the residue left after removal of all chronological indications equivalent to similar and parallel indications in the primary may safely be taken as original and therefore expressive of the secondary writer’s own intention to follow a chronological order. Upon inspection of the table, it will be noted that the residue for Matthew is sufficient to constitute evidence of considerable weight in favor of the view that the author purposed setting down the events in the order of their historical occurrence. Accordingly, if Mark be conceived as the primary writing and Matthew as a secondary document, then the evidence for chronological purpose is strong for both writers. However, if Mark be viewed as the secondary document, then the residue totals only a few indications. This means that the Matthaean author is to be considered as having weighty evidence in favor of a chronological purpose on his part; but that the Markan writer’s chronological intention is only moderately supported by the table.

Table of Chronological Indications

Mt.   Mk. Mt.   Mk. Mt.   Mk.




























6:1, 2



9:14, 17
























Let us consider now the matter of the dates when the two orders originated. Apparently, there is extant no old Greek manuscript, no copy of an ancient version, no copy of an old commentary which indicates that the copyist, translator or commentator was aware of a text in which Mark had the Matthaean order or in which Matthew had the Markan order. We thus get back to a date around 200 A. D. In fact, the old Syriac Peshitta and Evangelion da-Mepharreshe carry us back into, say, the latter end of the second century. With the aid of Eusebius, we may, with a good deal of probability, push the origin of a double order back to a date around 100 A. D. He has preserved to us some fragments of a lost work by Papias, a very early writer who knew persons who had known Apostles. He gives us, as from the Presbyter John, a sub-contemporary or perhaps actual contemporary of the Apostle John.

“And the Elder [or Presbyter] John said this also: Mark, having become the interpreter [έρμηνεντής] of Peter, wrote down accurately [ἀκριβῶς] everything that he remembered, without however recording in order [οὐ μέντοιτόξει] what was either said or done by Christ. For neither did he hear the Lord, nor did he follow Him; but afterwards, as I said (attended) Peter, who adapted his instructions to the needs (of his hearers) but had no design of giving a connected account of the Lord’s oracles [ἀλλ’ οὐχ ὤσπερ σύνταςιν τῶν κυριακῶν ποιούρενος].

Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3, 39. J. B. Lightfoot’s translation of Fragments of Papias in his work The Apostolic Fathers (1907), p. 529.”

It seems reasonable to accept τόξει and σύνταξιν here as having the sense of chronological order. If we do accept this signification, then since Papias, in a passage not quoted, affirmatively refers to the Gospel of Matthew, there seems ground to warrant us in supposing that Papias at least and perhaps the Presbyter John were aware of a discrepancy in respect to the order as between the two narratives. However, it is unnecessary to press the point further than to say that, in view of what has been set forth, we could hardly assume a sameness in order in the times of these ancient worthies.

We may, in so far as the first third of Mark is concerned, follow this matter back to the Third Gospel. The text of Lk. 3:1-9.6 contains nearly all the incidents of Mk. 1:1–6:13.1 Omitting doubtful cases from consideration, one finds that the remaining events with two exceptions, Visit of mother and brethren (Lk. 8:19–21) and The kingdom divided against itself (Lk. 11:14–28), occur precisely in the Markan order. That is, about nineteen incidents in Lk. 3:1–9:6 are parallels to events in Mk. 1:1-6.13 and occur precisely in the-same sequence. Now, very many think that Luke is, in part, a derivative of Mark. If they are right in this, and the derivation means order as well as substance, then we have, in the Lukan sequence referred to, evidence that Mark possessed its present order even in the days of the author of the Third Gospel. Although, at the present moment, it seems not impossible to maintain that this Lukan progression of events need not be referred to the original writer, nevertheless it would not be safe to ignore the possibility that, at the time of the composition of Luke, Mark had the order disclosed to us in our modern texts. In short, it is scarcely too much to say that any solution of the problem of divergence of order that failed to take this into account would be unsatisfactory.

That the date for the Markan order was perhaps a very early one may be gathered from the following considerations. Apparently, we must put the death of Paul prior to the death of Nero (68 A. D.); and the composition of the book of Acts prior to the death of Paul, because of its failure to go on to that event; and the composition of Luke prior to that of Acts. If this is correct, it requires any one, who proposes to make the Third Gospel dependent for its original order upon the present form of Mark, to place the origin of the Markan order within a short interval of the very events recorded.

As to the Matthaean order, the detailed evidence seems to extend no further back than, say, the end of the second century, the witnesses being the old Syriac Peshitta and Evangelion da-Mepharreshe; but we do appear to have the witness of Justin Martyr and of Papias to the existence of the First Gospel as a whole. These testimonies carry us back, say, to 150 and 125 A. D. And while the remains of these writers can, doubtless, not be made to testify to the order, still the fact that the Matthaean progression existed, say, in 190 A. D., taken in connection with the existence of the Gospel itself 40 and 65 years earlier, certainly tends to push the origin of the order at least to the earlier years of the second century. Here the matter seems to end. However, it appears quite clear that we cannot safely do otherwise than assume the Matthaean sequence of events to be as old as the original writing. It should be pointed out that the hypothesis which assumes that Matthew and Mark are independent documents forbids a wide separation of the date of Matthew from the period of the origin of Mark and Luke. Such a separation would tend to indicate that the later author did not have access to writings which had existed long enough to have a wide distribution. Accordingly, we avoid putting the composition of Matthew long after that of Mark—that is, we find ourselves impelled to push the origin on back into Apostolic times.

If we assume that both writers had a chronological purpose, there are indications of an early date that may be discerned upon considering data already presented. The very deviations of order made by one document from the succession of events presented by the other mean that it is asserting its own order. If the authors were independent, then each independently asserted a progression of incidents. Whether we make Matthew or Mark the primary document, the secondary varies in the early part of the Ministry no less than eight times. At a later stage it reverses the order of two contiguous incidents. Upon at least one occasion, the secondary’s deviation is defined in opposition to the primary sequence. For the secondary writer to have believed in his own knowledge as to such points would seem to require a date near to the very occurrences themselves.

The foregoing discussion may be conveniently summarized as follows.


Chronological Differences


Each narrative, in its account of the early part of the Ministry, frequently diverges from the order of the other.


Matthew diverges at 4:23, 8:14, 18, 9:1, 18, 35, 12:1, 13:53; Mark, at 1:29, 39, 2:1, 23, 4:35, 5:22, 6:1, 6b.


Each narrative, at a later stage of the Ministry, reverses the order of the other with respect to two certain contiguous incidents.


Mt. 21:12 and 18 begin the Purging the Temple and the Cursing the fig tree, the same incidents that are begun in reverse order in Mark at 11:15 and 12, respectively.


Each narrative diverges seriously, at least once, from a sequence expressly defined by the other.


Matthew diverges from the sequence defined by Mk. 4:35; and Mark diverges from the sequence defined by Mt. 9:18.


Both narratives explicitly place each of at least two certain incidents upon different days.


Mt. 21:10 and 12 define, for the Purging the Temple, a date different from that defined by Mk. 11:11, 12 and 15; and similarly, Mt. 21:17, 18 and 19b define, for the Lesson from the withered fig tree, a different date than Mk. 11:12 and 20.

Chronological Agreements


Both Gospels agree in relating a certain incident at one and the same non-chronological point.


Mt. 26:6–13 and Mk. 14:3–9 belong, chronologically, at points immediately following Mt. 20:34 and Mk. 10:52, respectively.


The two Gospels are in exact agreement, in respect to the order of their parallels, from the point at which Herod hears of Jesus on to the end, if an exception be made of two certain incidents as to whose sequence each narrative reverses the other.


Mt. 14:1-21.11=Mk. 6:14-11.11 and Mt. 21:19b–28:20=Mk. 11:20–16:8.


The two Gospels are in exact agreement, in respect to the order of their parallels, in seven minor portions of the early part of the Ministry.

  Mt. 3:1-4.22=Mk. 1:2–20, Mt. 4:23-8.4=Mk. 1:39–45, Mt. 8:14–17 =Mk. 1:29–38, Mt. 8:18–34=Mk. 4:35–5:21, Mt. 9:1–17 = Mk. 2:1–22, Mt. 9:18–26=Mk. 5:22–43, Mt. 12:1-13.52=Mk. 2:23–4:34.

Chronological Indications


Both Gospels contain many assertions and implications of chronological sequence, distributed through the text both in regions of agreement and in regions of disagreement.


See tabulations of these assertions and implications.



The Markan order may very well have originated within two, or perhaps one, decades of the very events. The Matthaean order may have originated just as early, but the evidence is less insistent.


The Gospel of Luke witnesses to a large part of the Markan order; and Luke is referable, with a good deal of probability, to A. D. 60 or earlier. The Matthaean order is witnessed to in early Eastern versions and there is, apparently, no substantial evidence to a different order for the First Gospel.


In view of the foregoing statements of chronological facts and of the probability for early dates for the two orders of incidents, the following conclusions appear justified:


1. Neither writer may be assumed to have had a non-chronological purpose.

(a) Two non-chronological purposes, whether identical or different, are inconsistent with the agreements of the Summary, items 5–7. If the purposes be assumed as identical, it is highly improbable that they would have been carried out in such way as to produce the two extensive regions of exact agreement implied and noted in item 6. If the purposes be assumed as different, the two long stretches of exact agreement would have been impossible.

(b) One non-chronological purpose and one chronological purpose might be conceived as consistent with the facts of agreement, provided the one narrative be made secondary and the non-chronological purpose be assigned to its author, this purpose being to follow his primary, and the other narrative be made primary and the chronological purpose be assigned to its author. While the agreements might be accounted for thus, the facts of disagreement would appear to be fatal to the assumption that the secondary writer had the purpose of following his primary. If the non-chronological purpose be assigned to the primary writer and the chronological purpose to the secondary writer, then the secondary deviations would mark where chronological purpose and knowledge controlled the derivative writer against his exemplar. There are two objections: First, the secondary writer’s deviations would nearly all be concentrated into one part of the Ministry; and, second, item 3 would require that the secondary writer should vary once against his primary’s explicit definition of the chronological sequence.

2. Both writers probably had chronological purposes in view. This may be deduced from the number and distribution of chronological indications in both narratives. See Summary, item 8. This conclusion is supported by conclusion 1.

3. Neither narrative may be set up as in exact chronological order. This follows from the Summary, items 3 and 5.

4. One narrative deviates much from chronological order.

This follows from considering together conclusions 1 and 2 (which are in effect identical) and the Summary, items 1–5.

5. The probable very early dates for the origins of the two orders are scarcely consistent with gross chronological error in either one.

Item 9 of the Summary supports the early dates.

Our investigation of the sequence of events in the two texts, these being accepted as they stand, has brought us face to face with what appear to be some very undesirable results. One or the other of the two presents a narrative replete with deviations from chronological order. Neither the one nor the other may be viewed as having told its story in perfect chronological order. In addition to these conclusions, one is required to reconcile early dates and deviations from chronology.

Enough has now been said to make it clear that we have, in the divergences of the First and Second Gospels from each other, and in their concurrence in an apparent chronological misplacement, what seems to constitute a very formidable problem, one whose satisfactory solution might appear very acceptable to serious students of the Synoptic Gospels. In the succeeding part, I propose to set forth what is, apparently, an answer to the questions raised in the preceding investigation.

The foregoing analysis of the situation as it presents itself today may be regarded as having the purpose of directing attention to the acuteness of the Problem. If the reader believes a lesser degree of acuteness to be closer to the truth, that belief need not make him unmindful of the desirability of finding a satisfactory solution. Thus, he may think the view to be tenable that one or both Gospels were written with a purpose that was at one time chronological and at another rhetorical. This would perhaps render the situation less acute. At the same time, it might seem logically desirable to have a simpler and more convincing mode of reconciliation.

At any rate, whether the reader agrees with the writer’s presentation of the facts, or whether he rejects that presentation, he may nevertheless go on and consider the Solution that is set forth in what follows. In short, it is possible to accept the Solution and reject the writer’s view of the Problem.

Part II—The Solution

Section I

Our investigation of the placements of incidents, as these placements are presented in the first two Gospels, has had the result of requiring us to view the authors as two persons having more or less of a chronological purpose, in the execution of which one or the other has deviated conspicuously from the chronological order and neither has perfectly followed it. However, the conclusions reached have been largely based upon the assumption that we have in our modern recensions what are close approaches to equivalents of the autographs. In so far as the essential substance is concerned, this assumption is probably justified. But, is this assumption, in so far as it pertains to the form, one that can be established? I think not.

If we allow that the Gospel of Luke was existent in early Apostolic times, and assume that it then disclosed in 3:1-9.6 the present order, which is substantially the same as that now seen in Mk. 1:1-6.13, this does not necessarily carry us back to the very authors of the Second and Third Gospels. Nor, if we allow that the Lukan order is derived from the Markan, does this necessarily make the author of the Second Gospel responsible. In short, my solution of the problem of differing chronological placements in Matthew and Mark is based upon a negation of the assumption that we now have these two Gospels in the exact form in which they were composed.

In particular, with respect to Mark 1:1–6:13, I assume that we have a related group of misplacements of incidents and that these misplacements need not be referred to the original writer. In fact, I assume that not only these but certain others in Matthew and Mark may be accounted for by a mechanical derangement of the text.

The 3,349 words in the Greek text of Mk. 1:1–6:132 may be divided into thirty unit amounts, the average length of which is naturally 111.6 words. The points of division may be so placed that, with only moderate variations from the average length, the thirty units may be grouped, as they stand, to form eleven divisions of text, such that a rearrangement of these divisions may be made to result in a presentation of the 3,349 words of Mark in the form of a narrative whose paralleling incidents have precisely the same order as the corresponding Matthaean events.

The following tabulations exhibit (1) the eleven divisions of Mk. 1:1-6.13, the number of Greek words in these several divisions, the number of textual units in them and lists of the several groups of incidents; and (2) the same eleven divisions rearranged to present the Matthaean order, this rearrangement setting forth what I conceive to have been the original form of the first third of Mark.


Divisions of Mark Number of Greek words in the divisions Number of units in the divisions (1 unit = from 101.3 to 129 Greek words) Incidents
322 3 John the Baptist —The Baptism —The Temptation—Summoning of certain disciples.
258 2 The man with the unclean spirit—Cursing of Simon’s mother-in-law—Healing and delivering of many.
110 1 Preaching in many places —Touching the leper
422 4 The paralytic—Calling of Levi—Children of the bride-chamber.
304 3 Plucking of ears of grain on the Sabbath—The man with the withered hand—Withdrawal of Jesus.
109 1 Appointment of the Twelve.
797 7 The kingdom divided against itself—Visit of mother and brethren—The Sower and other parables.
442 4 Calming the storm—The great herd of swine.
353 3 The ruler’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood.
126 1 Visit to His own country.
106 1 The Twelve sent forth.


In the first column, in addition to the definition of the textual regions forming the divisions, will be found indications by letter of the contents of these same regions. This letter has the same signification here as when used in Part I in tabulating the parallel incidents of Mark 1:1–6:13 and Matthew 3:1–13:58. The section of text indicated previously by E is here divided into two parts, designated E1 and E2. A and B are insufficient designations for the contents of the first two divisions. Small letters represent the necessary additions. In particular, k stands for the introductory words of Mk. 1:1; and m, for the account of The man with the unclean spirit. Q stands for the narrative of the Appointment of the Twelve.

Now, the eleven divisions, defined in the foregoing table and there designated by letters, may be rearranged to disclose the Matthaean order. And, reciprocally, this rearrangement may again be broken up into the same eleven divisions and these given the present Markan order. The following arrangement of the divisions exhibits the Matthaean progression.3


k+A, C. m+B, Q, F, D, G, I, E1, B2, H

I conceive that this part of the Gospel of Mark was composed, not in the order with which we are familiar, but in the sequence now seen in the Matthaean progression of incidents, and that this was followed by a derangement of the text to the present succession of events.4 Whether this derangement occurred before or after the composition of Matthew, it is, at the present moment, unnecessary to inquire. Suffice it to say that, under the hypothesis that Mark was composed in the Matthaean order, it is possible to provide both for the view that Mark was primary to Matthew and also for the conception that the Second Gospel was a derivative of the First.

There are several ways in which the original Markan text may very early have suffered a derangement of the eleven groups of incidents from a dependent or independent correspondence with the Matthaean progression to the sequence now disclosed in our old Greek copies, copies of old versions and modern recensions of Mark.

In all the explanations, it is assumed that the 3,349 words have already been inscribed on the papyrus or parchment writing material. The codex or roll may, at the time the writing was being put on, have been in a finished or an unfinished state of manufacture.

If a codex, the book may have been still in the form of loose leaves; or, if a roll, it may yet have consisted merely of sheets awaiting the operation of being gummed together. Under these conditions, the derangement of the text could occur in a very simple manner. The inscribed loose leaves or loose sheets might, through some accidental scattering or other disturbance of their proper succession, lose the original order, and when reassembled acquire the present Markan sequence. The imperfect reassembling might very well have been done by someone ignorant of the true progression who was either not alive to the possibility of verifying the order from the Matthaean text or unprovided with a copy of the First Gospel. At all events, it is necessary to assume that the several points where one of the eleven divisions breaks off and another commences coincide with the conclusions and the beginnings, respectively, of textual inscriptions on leaves or sheets. The intervening unit amounts of text are not required to correspond exactly with the unit portions of writing material. That is to say, each of the eleven divisions of text must occupy an integral number of leaves or sheets; but the textual amounts on the several leaves or sheets containing a division of text need not be precisely the same.

The codex or roll may already have been in such form that the order was being preserved by mechanical means or by the continuous writing material. That is, the book may have been completed from a manufacturing point of view prior to any inscription in it. If a codex, the stage of sewed or tied quires may be assumed as coming sufficiently under the classification of completely manufactured articles. Examples of mechanical means are, for individually cut leaves, metal rings or loops arranged either on the side or on the top, and, for sheets of conjugate leaves centrally folded and lying one within the other, binding cords tied or sewed in place. The continuous fabric of a roll is preserved by the gummed joints and the strength of the material. The derangement of the text may occur in consequence of the confusion of unit amounts of text or at least of divisions, which is permitted when loops or rings give way, suffer removal, or cut through; or when binding cord or sewing cuts through along the folds; or when degumming of joints occurs from exposure to water or moisture, or from failure of the gum; or when breaks take place between columns in consequence of the wear brought about by frequent foldings of the roll in order to secure compactness when being read in public or in private. In modern books, constructed much after the manner of the usual ancient codex, the detachment of individual leaves is a common occurrence. Whether the book was a codex or roll or whether it was held together by one means or another, it is necessary to assume that when the break-up occurred the eleven divisions were physically separated from one another. That is, the divisional breaks in the text must have coincided with the physical breaks or discontinuities in the writing material. The imperfect rearrangement of the divisions resulting in the present Markan text may have been due to a cause of the same kind as that suggested in discussing the incompletely manufactured roll or codex.

It is necessary to assume a more or less complete absence of original pagination or a defacement, obliteration, indecipherability or physical removal of marks indicative of order, or else a combination of the foregoing, whether we conceive of the document as a roll or a codex or as a thing completely or incompletely manufactured.

We may perhaps form a clearer conception of the several alternative explanations, if we concentrate upon a single one. Let us suppose, then, that the whole of Mark has been written upon one or both sides of the leaves of a papyrus codex whose manufacture was completed before the scribe or author began his work, and that the Matthaean order is disclosed to the reader. As 3,349 words are nearly one-third of the total text, we may very well conceive that the title and the 3,349 words constituted the writing inscribed on the first 30 leaves of a single quire formed of 15 or 16 double leaves, and held together by a suitable cord. The first division, consisting of 322 words, occupied, with the title, the first three leaves. The second division has 110 words and required one leaf. The whole of the 30 leaves were in this way taken up by the eleven divisions, the number of leaves to a division ranging from one to seven. The average textual amounts per leaf varies from 101.3 words for the ninth division, Matthaean order, to 129 words for the third. Disregarding the title, the average for the entire block of 30 leaves is 111.6 words. Through accident, wear or other cause, the 30 leaves became detached, the sheets of conjugate leaves having broken along the folds. The detached leaves became mixed and when rearranged the original order was more or less deranged. That is, there were 11 groups of leaves, the order in each of which was the same as before but the succession of these groups was different. The new arrangement was, in fact, that of Mark as we now know it. The partial success of the rearrangement may be attributed in part to memory and in part to textual continuities at transitions from leaf to leaf. The divergences are perhaps to be attributed to ignorance of the former order, absence of a copy of Matthew or of another copy of Mark, or the failure to recognize and use such aids to the reconstruction of the old order.

There are five alternative explanations, any one of which seems competent to provide an adequate cause which may very well have been operative in early Apostolic times and have produced the deviations now observed ill Mark in the first part of its narrative. In all, both papyrus and parchment are assumed to be possible materials. In any explanation involving a codex, the writing may, conceivably, have been inscribed on one or both faces of the leaves. I enumerate the five explanations as follows:

1. The text was inscribed on loose leaves, which later became disarranged and in a condition of imperfect rearrangement were secured together in a primitive form of codex.

2. The text was inscribed on loose sheets, which later became disarranged and in a condition of imperfect rearrangement were gummed or sewed together into a roll.

3. The text was inscribed on leaves of a codex consisting of individual leaves held together by loops or an equivalent, some of which later became detached and disarranged, and in a condition of imperfect rearrangement were again secured in the codex.

4. The text was inscribed on leaves of a codex consisting of centrally folded double leaves held together at the folds, some of which leaves later became detached and disarranged, and in a condition of imperfect rearrangement were secured in the codex.

5. The text was inscribed in columns on a prepared roll, which later suffered separations between columns. The consequent segments became disarranged and in a condition of imperfect rearrangement were gummed or sewed together into the roll, with or without the use of transverse strips.

The Minor Disagreement in Order

In a comparative tabulation following a similar but more extended one referring to Mk. 1:1–6:13 and Mt. 3:1–13:58, the two Gospels are shown to present two incidents in such manner that the order in the one is the reverse of the order in the other. These incidents are Cursing the fig tree and Purging the Temple. Without attempting, at the moment, to decide which order is chronological or whether the present Markan order is due to the original writer, it may be said that the Markan text may be so divided at three points as to produce two blocks whose interchange will give a smooth text in agreement with the Matthaean order. These three points are the following:

(1) Between ἱερον and καὶ, Mk. 11:11.

(2) Between ’Ιεροσολυμα and Kαι, Mk. 11:15.

(3) Between and αὐτοῦ and Καὶ Mk. 11.18-19.

The former block contains 73 words and the latter 84. The variation in passing, from the smaller to the larger, is about 15 per cent.

It is permissible to suggest that in ancient times—perhaps during the life of the autograph—two orders may have been presented by texts of Mark—the one being that which we now have, and the other that which is obtainable by interchanging the blocks I have defined. Descendants of the one text have disappeared. If the interchange occurred not in a copy, but in the autograph itself, then there may never have been any descendants exhibiting one of the two orders.

The interchange of text may have resulted from the interchange of portions of parchment or papyrus containing the textual blocks or from the reversal of a leaf in a folded-leaf codex or perhaps of a leaf in a tabular codex.

It is unnecessary to connect this interchange with the misplacements assumed as having occurred in the first third of Mark. In fact, the sizes of the blocks seem to forbid such connection.

(To be continued)

1) The Visit to His own country, Summoning of certain disciples and Withdrawal of Jesus, are only very doubtfully paralleled in Lk. 4:16–30, 5:1–11 and 6:17b–19.

2) Westcott & Hort, New Testament in Greek. Bracketed and marginal readings are disregarded.

3) There may be a difference of opinion as to the proper point at which Q should be placed. I have settled on the position indicated—that is, the position between m + B and F.

4) It is also possible to conceive the Markan section as having been composed in the present order and subsequently deranged to the Matthaean. This view would fall in with the hypothesis that Mark antedated Matthew and was a source from which a large part of the text of the First Gospel was derived.