The Synoptic Problem

Part 3 of 14

By J. F. Springer, New York


No Argument for Markan Priority Obtainable from Explanations of the Matthaean Deviations as Departures from the Chronology.

Let us proceed to a close study of the effects consequent upon viewing the Matthaean deviations from Mark as departures from the true chronology made because of the desire to conform to some literary or other necessity, or to carry out some purpose or plan. That is, let us examine to what extent the Matthaean deviations may be considered to have arisen from editorial activity applied to the compilation of the First Gospel from some source exhibiting the order of the Second.

1835—Lachmann’s Conjectural Non-Chronological Order Of Discourses

Lachmann appears to have made the first considerable comparative study of the order of events disclosed in the Synoptic Gospels. His paper was published in Latin many years ago. It seeks to establish the view, not that the Gospel of Mark was composed prior to either or both of the others, but that it exhibits the primitive chronology, and that the Matthaean and Lukan deviations from the Markan order resulted from purposive considerations of various kinds.1

While Lachmann is not engaged in an effort to establish the priority of Mark or that of either of the others, nevertheless he does endeavor to set up the Markan order as the primitive one, and to explain the deviations of the others as purposive. In the course of examining his exposition of the Matthaean departures from the Markan succession, we will get before us what this eminent and pioneer investigator of the order of events thought constituted a satisfactory explanation. I propose to follow this by a sufficient consideration of H. J. Holtzmann’s efforts to explain the Matthaean deviations from Mark as departures from the true chronology. Afterwards, it will be in order to examine the reasons given by W. C. Allen in explanation of the view that the digressions of Matthew from Mark arose from editorial considerations influencing a supposed compiler of Matthew who was working with Mark before him. Finally, it will be desirable to investigate the proposals made by B. W. Bacon in an effort to conceive what must have been in the mind of the Matthaean writer if he wrote with Mark as exemplar. The attention is here directed particularly to the arrangement of the incidents in Mt. 8 and 9. Upon concluding our examination of this writer’s views, we shall have before us four representative attempts to explain, from purposive considerations, the Matthaean deviations from what is assumed to be a more primitive order. The period covered will be a very long one, Lachmann’s essay having appeared in 1835 and Bacon’s exposition in 1920. Holtzmann’s and Allen’s views were published at intermediate dates. Moreover, all of these writers are regarded as leading expositors of matters having to do with Synoptic questions.2 Having considered their principal arguments, we shall be in good position to judge whether it is not probable that insuperable difficulties exist, founded in the facts of the case, which forbid us from entertaining the view that Matthew is a derivative of a chronological Mark.

Let us attend now to Lachmann. He acquiesces in the proposition that the book of Matthew as we now have it is the work of compilers who made use of an assumed document containing the discourses of our Matthew as the basis of what they produced. They inserted into this writing and more or less filled it up with narrative material which is also to be found in our Mark. The source of this material, whether documentary or traditional, furnished not only the narrative substance now to be found in both the First and the Second Gospels but also the Markan succession of events. In order to make this plausible, it was necessary to show that the Matthaean deviations from Mark are explicable as due to various purposive considerations present in the minds of the compilers.

If the few deviations occurring in Mt. 21 are omitted, all the remaining instances of Matthaean departures from the order of events in Mark may be found in a single limited division defined by Lachmann as Mt. 4:24— 13:58. The corresponding portion of Mark, he defines as Mk. 1:21—6:13.

The discourses belonging to the portion of Matthew ending at 13:58 may be tabulated as follows:

1. Sermon on the Mount, Mt. 5:1—7:27.

2. Injunctions to the Missionaries, 10:1—11:1.

3. Concerning John, 11:2—11:30.

4. Concerning Satan, 12:22—12:45.

5. The Seven Parables, 13:1—13:52.

This is the order disclosed in our Matthew. It is set up as a framework employed in the compilation of this Gospel, the narrative portions now interposed coming for the most part from the same source as that behind Mark. It is not assumed as disclosing at all points the actual sequence in which the several discourses were delivered. On the contrary, a certain chronological dislocation is assumed in the discourse order, and this made responsible for certain deviations of our Matthew from the succession of events disclosed by Mark. In fact, Lachmann explains the Matthaean deviations from Mark as due in part to necessity. And this necessity consists largely or entirely of the order in which the discourses succeed one another.

In order to get this matter squarely before us, it will be advisable to have at hand a comparative tabulation of the part of the Ministry involved. The table I give is substantially the same as that printed on pp. 132-133 in my investigation of “The Order of Events in Matthew and Mark” (Bibliotheca Sacra, April and July, 1922).

The tabulation exhibits lists of Markan and Matthaean parallels. The order of events within corresponding blocks is the same for both Gospels. As the blocks of Mark are lettered alphabetically, the order of the letters in the Matthaean column discloses the deviations of the First

Mark. Matthew.
 John the Baptist

 The Baptism

 The Temptation

 Summoning of certain disciples





A  John the Baptist

 The Baptism

 The Temptation

 Summoning of certain disciples





B  Curing of Simon’s mother-in-law

 Healing and delivering of many



C  Preaching in many places

 Touching the leper



C  Preaching in many places

 Touching the leper



B  Curing of Peter’s mother-in-law

 Healing and delivering of many



D  The paralytic

 Calling of Levi

 Children of the bride-chamber




F  Calming the storm

 The great herd of swine





E  Plucking of ears of grain on the Sabbath

 The man with the withered hand

 Withdrawal of Jesus

 The kingdom divided against itself

 Visit of mother and brethren

 The Sower and other parables







D  The paralytic

 Calling of Matthew

 Children of the bride-chamber




G  The ruler’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood 18–26
I  The Twelve sent forth 9: 35–11:1
F  Calming the storm

 The great herd of swine



E  Plucking of ears of grain on the Sabbath

 The man with the withered hand

 Withdrawal of Jesus

 The kingdom divided against itself

 Visit of mother and brethren

 The Sower and other parables







G  The ruler’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood 22–43
H  Visit to His own country 6:1-6a
I  The Twelve sent forth 6b–13
H  Visit to His own country 53–58


Gospel from the Second. The most violent of the dislocations consists in the succession


This means that the blocks F, G and H, chronologically belonging between E and I, have been disregarded and E and I brought together; and also that the chronological sequence has been reversed, I being set before E.

Lachmann explains this dislocation as due to fear, on the part of the compilers of our Matthew, of making a change in the order disclosed by the sequences of the discourses. Consider, for a moment, the table showing these sequences. Nos. 2 and 3 stand ahead of Nos. 4 and 5. Now the Markan block I contains part of the discourse No. 2, though no portion of No. 3; and the Markan block E contains portions of discourses Nos. 4 and 5. It is conceived that the presence or presence in part, in the Markan I and E, of the discourse material mentioned imposed upon the compilers of our First Gospel the necessity of choosing whether they would maintain the discourse order in arranging the narrative matter or whether they would change the order of the discourses. They elected, according to Lachmann, to dislocate the chronology of the narratives and maintain the sequence of the discourses as that order had been handed down to them.3

The Lachmann line of argument here is exceedingly weak. In the first place, even if we grant the actual existence of a document or established body of tradition, consisting of a series of discourses whose order of succession is in part seriously out of accord with the chronology, and in addition concede that Lachmann has shown how, under these concessions, the order of our Matthew may be plausibly explained as derivable by necessity or otherwise from the order extant in Mark, this does not establish the hypothesis that the Markan order is earlier than the Matthaean. It only nominates. It does not elect. It is common, every-day knowledge that the nomination of a candidate does not necessarily mean his election. So here, even if a case is made out where the Markan order can be shown to be competent to produce the Matthaean, this merely makes the hypothesis of a prior Markan order a candidate. To establish the hypothesis, it is necessary to eliminate all other alternatives. The Lachmann argument labors under this general disability.

But there are special disabilities which operate to hinder the Lachmann exposition from becoming an acceptable explanation. These have already been intimated in stating the concessions that we would have to make. We would have to concede both the following matters:

1. That a document, or body of tradition, consisting of discourses now seen in our Matthew, once existed.

2. That this primitive document, or body of tradition, placed the Injunctions to the missionaries and the discourse Concerning John in advance of the discourse Concerning Satan and the account of The Seven Parables, despite the fact that chronologically this order should be reversed.

As to the first of these, it may be said at once that no such document or body of tradition is known ever to have existed. Papias, in the early part of the second century, did indeed state that Matthew wrote the logia, but we cannot assume that what was meant was merely a series of discourses. Nor has it ever been proved that this Matthaean document was of such a character.

As to the second matter, there are apparently no considerations of any real weight that favor the hypothesis that the order of the discourses in the section Mt. 3:1–13:58 contains at any point a departure from the true historical sequence. Lachmann supplies nothing but a trivial explanation of the assumed great chronological dislocation I-E, when he says: “as is certainly probable and not without reason.”4

Lachmann has, acordingly, failed to supply us with any substantial reason why we should find in our Matthew the sequence I-E, which must, if the Markan order is chronological and more primitive than the Matthaean, be a notable dislocation of the true historical progression.

Let us turn now to a Matthaean reversal of the chronology disclosed in Mark. In our First Gospel, we have the sequence C-B, which reverses what is given in the Second. The question arises, What were the considerations which could have influenced the compilers of our Matthew when they decided to change the true chronology and put the Curing of Peter’s mother-in-law in advance of Touching the leper? According to Lachmann, it was more suitable that the Sermon on the Mount, followed as it was by the Savior’s descent, should be succeeded by the narrative of the leper who is described in effect as having met Him, rather than by the accounts of The centurion’s servant and the Curing of Peter’s mother-in-law. This seems, in any case, a very mild reason. I doubt if there is really any substance in this consideration.5

We may now proceed to the Matthaean order


What we have here to consider is particularly the reversal F-D. If the order B-D-F-G had been retained, there would have been, within it, no departures from the chronology given in Mark. Lachmann’s solution, of which he himself appears to be more or less doubtful, is to this effect: The compilers desired to place F next after B and also to separate B and D. Both things may be accomplished by reversing the Markan chronology and creating the non-historical sequence F-D. It is to be observed that the order of the Matthaean discourses here plays no part, C having already been placed before B and E having been transposed to a point beyond G and I. Lachmann’s reasons may be stated thus: In placing F immediately after B, the compilers were guided by the consideration that since two mentions (Mt. 4:24 and 8:16) had already been made of the casting out of demons it would be preferable to follow these up promptly with a notable instance of this class of miracle. This would be accomplished by putting F, which contains an account of The great herd of swine, next after B in which block is narrated the Curing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Further, the separation of D from B would also be brought about. This is conceived as desirable, since thus the close association of two accounts of the cure of paralysis would be avoided, the account of The centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5–13) being considered a part of B and the narrative of The paralytic being included in D.6

These considerations appear to be rather mild ones and such as are scarcely to be given weight as the causes of a reversal of the true chronology.

We have now had before us Lachmann’s reasons for the following three reversals of the chronology




That is, these are all reversals of the historical order, if Mark reflects the true chronological progression of events. The Lachmann argument has been unconvincing. But, even if we grant it a strength which it cannot justly be said to possess, this argument is merely permissive. It would, if successful, only permit the reader to believe that the Markan order is of a more primitive character than the Matthaean. It would not compel assent.

As a matter of fact, there is very good reason for this ineffectiveness of the considerations adduced by Lachmann. Other evidence is available, which this distinguished scholar appears to have overlooked. When taken into account, this evidence forbids us from believing that the assumed compilers thought they were changing good chronology into bad when they committed themselves to the sequences

D-G and


These sequences are now to be found in the First Gospel, and so must, according to Lachmann, be regarded as the work of the compilers. The sequence D-G requires the omission of nine events now to be found in Mark in the interval between D and G. (*There are six in E, one in Mk. 3:18–20, and two in F.) And, yet, when the compilers place D and G together they show no consciousness of this great omission. On the contrary they introduce G with an assertion to the effect that no interval at all occurred: —“While He spake these things unto them,” Mt. 9:18. The sequence F-D is a reversal of the order disclosed in Mark. The compilers are undisturbed by such a violent dislocation. In fact, they assert the historical truth of the sequence F-D when they use the words Καὶ ἰδοὐ, Mt. 9:2.

The considerations which have just been set forth in connection with D-G and F-D sweep away the clutter of small reasons advanced by Lachmann in his effort to explain the present Matthaean text as a compilation based upon a more primitive document or body of tradition.

1889—Holtzmann’s Ten Miracles

Holtzmann was a very notable advocate of the Two-Document Hypothesis, whose defense really requires from those who would establish it on a logical basis a detailed consideration of the Matthaean departures from the order of Mark. Let us examine what he has to say by way of explanation of certain principal deviations. The section Mt. 4:23–9:34, he regards as the first principal division of the First Gospel, the preceding portion being considered more or less introductory. He conceives that the writer had the literary purpose of presenting, in the first principal division, the activities of Jesus in such way as to exhibit them from the double point of view of Preaching and Healing, and that the Sermon on the Mount was to occupy the leading position and afford an example of the teaching. It was to be followed by the narratives of a group of ten miraculous deeds. The chain of “ten” can be made out by combining the account of those that were sick in 8:16–17 with the narrative of the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law and by disregarding the incident of the calling of Matthew and the discourse which ensued upon the questioning as to fasting (9:9–17).7

It appears unnecessary to follow his analysis further, as the carrying out of this part of the assumed plan will, if we conceive the Matthaean writer with Mark before him, introduce sufficient illustrations of the difficulties precipitated by setting up the hypothesis that a non-chronological Matthew was derived from a chronological Mark.

Let us now consider what the Matthaean writer must have done. When dealing with Lachmann’s views, I reproduced a comparative table of the parallels contained in the first third of Mark and the section of Matthew corresponding to this third. Referring to that tabulation, the reader will find what the Matthaean writer got from Mark for his first principal division (Mt. 4:23–9:34) and the parts of Mark from which he obtained it. By taking the Markan sections included in C and placing them in advance of B, the way remains open for the insertion of the Sermon on the Mount between the positions indicated in Mark by 1:39 and 1:40–45; no separate miracles are permitted to stand in advance of the Sermon; and a contribution (Curing of Simon’s mother-in-law) is made towards the “ten.” However, in interchanging B and C, he is violently disrupting the order given by chronological Mark. The Markan section indicated by E, he does not use at this time, but reserves it for his second principal division (Mt. 9:35–13:58). But in doing this, he has to disregard the historical sequence given by the Second Gospel. He is taking a group of six incidents from the position where ex hypothesi they belong and putting them where they do not belong. Further, he is disregarding the explicit chronological statement in Mk. 4:35, which states that the concluding event of E is immediately followed by the first incident of F.

It is necessary to assume then a willingness on the part of the Matthaean writer to break up the chronology in the interests of his literary and didactic plan. This is conceivably possible, only we cannot very well assume it without some evidence that this is a kind of thing the author is ready to do. Apparently, there is no substantial evidence of the character required. So far as I know, there is no single instance in Matthew of an incident placed differently from its parallel in Mark that can be shown to have a wrong chronological position.8 Nor do I know of any other chronological misplacements of which it can be said that they are most probably due to the original writer. The position of The Sermon on the Mount can be shown to be quite probably right.9 The place occupied by the incident of The precious ointment can be readily explained as a result of a displacement of a papyrus or parchment leaf in an ancestral codex. The positions of The Jewish Trial (Mt. 26:59–66) and of Peter’s denials (Mt. 26:69–27:1) may similarly be explained as the result of a repair to a codex in which part of a leaf was overturned, thus bringing about the reversal of these two incidents as compared with the account in Luke. Mark is in agreement with Matthew in both of the foregoing cases in which mechanical causes may be introduced in explanation of what are doubtless chronological departures. The passage in Mt. 10:17–23 (Mt. 10:17–22= Mk. 13:9, 11–13) is probably part or all of a portion of text originally contained in the discourse of chapter 24, and its present position is likewise explicable as a mechanical displacement. In view of what has now been set forth, it would seem impossible at present to show, with any considerable probability, that the Matthaean author ever placed an incident in a wrong chronological position. This being the case, it would be absurd to assume without proof that he transferred the six incidents of E from a right chronological position to a wrong one, and that he did so in spite of the chronological statement in his exemplar (Mk. 4:35).

The absurdity of Holtzmann’s view would appear to be much accentuated upon considering the sequence D-G. The blocks E and F, containing a total of eight events, are removed from a position between D and G, where they require a considerable period of time for their occurrence, if we assume Mark to be chronological. Mk. 3:13–20 is also omitted. Nevertheless, D is brought next to G. The compiler of Matthew goes a step farther, and in effect asserts that D and G belong together, since he writes the words which allow no interval of time between D and G—“While he spake these things unto them” (Mt. 9:18).

But this is not all—the rearrangement neither adds to nor subtracts from the total of “ten.” The reservation of E for a place in the second division leaves the Markan order D-F-G. The rearrangement into F-D-G accomplishes nothing in respect to the total of miracles that was not already accomplished. We find, then, the Matthaean writer rearranging the chronological succession, asserting that his rearrangement is chronological, and doing all this for no purpose.

Whether we postulate for the Matthaean writer the plan set forth by Holtzmann or substitute some other plan or substitute no plan at all, makes but little difference. We still have the secondary writer engaged in making all kinds of dislocations in the order of the chronological document before him. Some of the changes are quite violent. When he places F next after B, he is disregarding all the intervening incidents shown by his exemplar’s C, D and E, eleven of them, and also the narrative of The appointment of the Twelve not represented in Matthew. And he does this in spite of the time indication at the very beginning of the Markan F (Mk. 4:35), which has been referred to already. In short, he dislocates the order of the chronological exemplar and even asserts, in two instances (Mt. 9:2 and 9:18), the correctness of the changes. It is certainly unscientific to assume, without supporting evidence, that the Matthaean writer made any such chronological departures and misstatements of facts.

It should now be apparent that the assumption of a chronological Mark is something which is probably very well suited to bring disastrous results upon the hypothesis of a Mark prior to Matthew.

1900—Allen’s Three Threes

Allen has treated in detail the matter of deriving the order in our Matthew from that in the Second Gospel. It can hardly be said, I think, that he sets up the Markan order as everywhere a true reflection of the chronology. At the same time, he does not claim that the Matthaean deviations were made because of a desire to correct the sequences and make them conform to the actual history. He views the Matthaean writer as a compiler rearranging the Markan material with the purpose of satisfying a plan requiring numerical and topical groupings of incidents and discourses. This compiler has new material to add and is ready upon occasion to omit a Markan incident or two.

An examination of Allen’s reasons for the Matthaean deviations from Mark is pertinent at this juncture, since these reasons will be found to be really insufficient to cover the relatively mild case where the Markan order is not assumed to correspond everywhere with the chronology. These same reasons, under the assumption of a chronological Mark, would be still more inadequate.

It is conceived by Allen that the text of our First Gospel discloses more or less clearly a purpose on the part of the compiler to arrange it in groups.10 Certain of them may be distinguished from one another by the character of the contents.

Thus: 11

Teaching and Works, Mt. 4:23–9:34, C. B. F. D. G

Ministry of the Disciples, Mt. 9:35–11:1, I

The letters here are designations of groups of parallel incidents. The contents of the several groups are given in the tabular statement included in the discussion of Lachmann’s explanation of the Matthaean deviations from Mark.

Allen conceives that the Matthaean C-B-F-D-G was built up from the Markan B-C-D-E-F-G by a postponement of E and a rearrangement of the remainder. The postponement is to be explained on the basis of a desire to create the sections on Controversy and Parables. They would thus need to be kept separate from C-B-F-D-G. The rearrangement of the five groups is to be explained upon several grounds. One principal purpose, however, governs. It is proposed that the Sermon on the Mount shall stand in the lead in a position corresponding to the point of division between Mk. 1:21 and 1:22, as an example of the Savior’s teaching, and that this shall be followed by nine miracles, divided into three clusters of three each. In forming the first group of three, a Markan incident (The man with the unclean spirit, Mk. 1:21–28) is dropped and a non-Markan event substituted (The centurion’s servant, Mt. 8:5–13). The cluster would then consist of the following:

The centurion’s servant, new.

Curing of Simon’s mother-in-law, in B.

Touching the leper, in C.

Although the cluster of “three” healings of disease— “leprosy, paralysis, fever”—is obtainable without disturbing the Markan order B-C, nevertheless the compiler reverses this sequence and produces C-B. Why does he do it? I reproduce Allen’s reasons: “The incident of the leper is recorded by Mk. without any detail of time or place, after a verse which states that Christ ‘came preaching in their synagogues throughout the whole of Galilee.’ It is therefore not unnatural to place the healing of the leper after the Sermon which may be taken as illustrative of this synagogue preaching.” And, “Leprosy was perhaps the most dreaded of all bodily ailments in Palestine, and its cure forms a fitting introduction to a series of three healings of disease.”

At all events, the Matthaean compiler reverses the chronology and is prepared to do so for what appear rather trivial reasons.

We might expect D next and then F so as to avoid reversals of the Markan order. But no, what we find is F-D. We would get the three miracles of power illustrative of “Christ’s power over natural forces ([Mt.] 8:23–27), over the hostility of demons (8:28–34) and in the spiritual sphere (the forgiveness of sins, 9:1–8, ” whether we have F-D or D-F. Why we actually have F-D with its reversal of the order in Mark is to be explained as “perhaps” due to the circumstance that the incident of The paralytic “occurred on a visit to Capernaum different to that just described [in Mt. 8:5–17]. By recording it here the editor would confuse the two visits.” That is, if D-F instead of F-D had been placed next after B, we should have the sequence B-D—a blend, as it were, of two distinct visits to Capernaum. That the compiler preferred a reversal of the Markan order to the sequence B-D because he did not wish to blend two visits, seems a rather trivial reason in view of the ease with which he could have begun D with a statement that a new visit was about to be narrated. In fact, the Markan exemplar indicates in beginning this same D that the writer is aware of entering upon a different visit from any he had before described. This is done by the use of the word πάλιν. It can hardly be said, in view of the foregoing, that anything of weight has been advanced by Allen to account for the sequence F-D, which involves a reversal of the Markan order.

But let us go on. The compiler adds G and continues to postpone E. Two miracles—the restoration of sight to two blind men and of speech to a mute demoniac—added to G produce the third cluster of three, consisting of “three miracles illustrating Christ’s power to restore life, sight and speech.” The continuation of the postponement is to be explained as due to the desire to maintain E separate from the three clusters of three not yet finished. The assignment of G to the position next after D may be taken as a consequence of the placements already carried out—C-B-F-D—when taken in conjunction with the postponement of E, since G will thus be the next in order. Nevertheless, the sequence D-G is a violation of the Markan progression. Two groups, E and F, should intervene between D and G. Allen appears to give no reasons except those I have stated. There seems to be nothing convincing associated with them.

The next change concerns bringing I from beyond H to the position next after G, E being still postponed. That is, E and H are both postponed and I transposed so as to be in advance of seven incidents all of which it followed in Mark. The reason suggested is that the compiler wished to follow up the division containing the Sermon on the Mount and the three sets of three miracles each with a section which would show “how this ministry found extension in the work of the disciples.” This does not seem a reason having any real substance, when adduced to explain the violent change in the Markan order effected by the reversals involved in the transposition of I to a position in advance both of E and H.

In considering Allen’s exposition of reasons assignable for Matthaean deviations from the Markan order, perhaps the greatest weight is to be given to his conception of plan and purpose on the part of the compiler. That topical and numerical groupings should occur is scarcely surprising in view of similar groupings elsewhere in the same Gospel. Accordingly, we may be disposed to grant the reality of such groupings in Mt. 3:1–14:12. But it is one thing to grant their existence and quite another to grant that they were produced by dislocations of chronology or even by dislocations of a documentary^ order. We might believe that the writer intent upon a numerical and topical scheme might omit something here and there from the actual history in order to effect his purpose. That he should disarrange the history is conceivable but does not commend itself as something to be accepted without proof that the writer was quite capable of consciously making such disarrangements.

What is, however, conclusive that we have not found an adequate explanation of the Matthaean deviations when Mark is regarded as the exemplar is that this explanation leaves us with the following dilemma.

On the one hand, we have Mark in chronological order. This we have ex hypothesi. There is confirmation of it in the fact that there are numerous assertions of such order in the text itself. On the other hand, the Matthaean text is still more replete with assertions of historical sequence. And yet, the Matthaean order deviates twelve times from the Markan.12

1920—Bacon's Two Threes And A Four

Bacon may be mentioned as one who has rather recently made an attempt to explain, on the assumption of a prior Mark, how the Matthaean order arose, in so far as that order is disclosed in chapters 8 and 9.13 He rounds out a period of eighty-five years from the point of time at which, with Lachmann’s paper, the modern consideration of the discrepant orders in the Synoptic Gospels began. We are entitled to expect a thoroughly matured treatment of the order of Matthew between the Sermon on the Mount and The Twelve sent forth. Mark is set up as the exemplar for the Matthaean writer, but it is not assumed that the Second Gospel is a chronological narrative. On the contrary, we are, I suppose, to take the view that Bacon is still of the opinion expressed some years before to the effect that the order of events was unknown to the Markan writer.14 Consequently, when he seeks to assign reasons for Matthaean deviations, he is facing a lesser problem than would be the case if an explanation had to be given for departures from chronology. If his reasons are found to be weak when there is usually relief from the burden of explaining the Matthaean deviations as deviations from the historical progression and there remains merely the duty of finding an explanation for the rearrangement of the Markan incidents, the omission of one event of Mark, and the insertion of certain non-Markan materials, then we may safely conclude that these same reasons would be very much weaker when considered as explanations of Matthaean deviations from a chronological Mark. If a log is too short to bridge a six-foot brook, it will hardly be necessary to try it across a twelve-foot stream.

Ten Mighty Works are counted by Bacon for the interval between the two lengthy discourses. In this, he is in accord with Holtzmann and in slight disagreement with Allen. Within the group of “ten,” three sub-groups are discerned. These may be set forth in tabular form.

The Ten Mighty Works In Matthew 8-9

(C) 1.  Touching the leper (8:1–4).
( - )    The centurion’s servant (8:5–13).
(B)    Curing of Peter’s mother-in-law (8:14–17).
(F) 2.  Calming the storm (8:18–27).
(F)    The great herd of swine (8:28–34).
(D)    The paralytic (9:1–8).
(G) 3.  The ruler’s daughter (9:18–19; 23–26).
(G)    The woman with the issue of blood (9:20–22).
( - )    The two blind men (9:27–31).
( - )    The mute demoniac (9:32–33 [34]).


The last group, consisting of four events, is considered by him as formed by a double incident followed by two single ones. I have indicated by capital letters, set down on the left, the groups of Matthaean-Markan parallels to which the several incidents belong. The reader is referred to the tabulation in the section devoted to Lach-mann’s views for a full statement of the contents of these groups. Three incidents, it may be noted, are unparalleled in Mark. Moreover, the Markan incident of The man with the unclean spirit (Mk. 1:21–28) is omitted in Matthew.

All the events included in the Ten Mighty Works that are paralleled in Mark are found in the Markan sections B-C-D-E-F-G. In order to get the arrangement in Matthew, it is necessary

To postpone E,

To reverse B-C,

To reverse D-F.

In fact, not only Bacon’s explanation must deal with these three matters but all explanations must do so that seek to show how it came about, under the hypothesis of a prior Mark, that a compiler produced the order which we now observe in Matthew.

It is also necessary for the compiler

To omit The man with the unclean spirit (Mk.

1:21–28). To add The two blind men (Mt. 9:27–31).

To add The mute demoniac (Mt. 9:32–33 [34]).

Suppose we allow that the Matthaean writer intended to set forth Ten Mighty Works between the accounts of The Sermon on the Mount and of The Twelve sent forth. This amounts by no means to a concession that he was willing to shift the Markan groups of incidents in order to bring this about. Let us inquire as to the problem before the compiler in his effort to construct the series of “ten.” The Markan exemplar does not contain the Sermon, so that the terminus a quo for the series is not so readily discerned. The account of The Twelve sent forth is, however, given at 6:6b–13. Counting all miracles from the beginning of Mark to this point, we find nine, such allusions as 1:32–34, 39; 3:10, 11, 22 being disregarded. That is, we have at best an insufficient number. But the deficiency may naturally be overcome by addition. A more serious matter concerns blocks of interspersed Markan material having little or nothing to do with miracles. Such a block is 3:7–4:34. As it stands, it would be too considerable an interruption of the presentation of a series of Mighty Works. And, with the expansion of the section occupied with parables (4:1–34) to such a prolonged account as that given in Mt. 13:1–52, the total of uninterrupted non-miraculous material would be still greater. Even if we allow that The appointment of the Twelve is to be omitted from near the beginning (Mk. 3:13–20) and that The kingdom divided against itself (Mk. 3:21–30) is to be associated with a distinct miracle (Mt. 12:22–37), the remaining block consisting of the Visit of mother and brethren and 52 verses of material devoted mostly to parables would constitute too much of an interruption to be incorporated into the series of ten miracles. This block may be regarded as indivisible— if not the whole, then at least the 52 verses.

In view of the situation now before us, it seems impossible for the Matthaean compiler to leave the Markan material undisturbed, whether he places the Sermon on the Mount between Mk. 1:21 and 1:22 or between 1:39 and 1:40. He may drop a miraculous incident—as The man with the unclean spirit (Mk. 1:21–28)—or add other miracles—as The centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5–13), The two blind men (Mt. 9:27–31) and The mute demoniac (Mt. 9:32–33 [34])—he may add and drop, but he will nevertheless have to do something about the indivisible block of 52 verses of non-miraculous material. It would seem as if the only solution were postponement to a position subsequent to that of The Twelve sent forth. This brings us to the conclusion that the setting up of the purpose to place a series of Ten Mighty Works where this series is now observed to be is apparently involved in the requirement that a portion of E or else the whole of E is to be taken out of its Markan position and postponed to one subsequent to I.

However, it would appear as if the single main assumption of a purpose to present ten miracles in the interval stated might be sufficient to account for the presence, in a derivative Matthew, of the ten miracles now to be found there in the region 8:2–9:33(34), provided we add the auxiliary assumption that the compiler was willing to postpone E or a portion of E. But, even so, we should still be without an explanation for the order in which the miracles are presented. Obviously, we should still have ten whatever the order. It is not enough, accordingly, to assume that the Matthaean writer had the purpose of narrating a series of Ten Mighty Works between the Sermon and the departure of the Twelve and to view him as willing to shift material to a later position than that disclosed in his exemplar; but it is necessary to go further and find reasons for the order of the “ten.”

Bacon seeks to do this through subdivision. The purpose to form a group of ten may have its reasonableness supported. Such a purpose is one thing. It is quite a different thing, however, that the compiler should plan to sub-divide the “ten” into two “threes” and a “four.” However, Bacon proposes that the “four” should be viewed as a double followed by two singles. The only support he suggests for this conception of a “ten” broken up into two “threes” and a “four” consisting of a double and two singles is a reference to the introduction of the Gospel of John. Here, there are three statements in verse 1, three in verses 2–3; then two in verse 4, and finally a double one, or so Bacon thinks,15 in verse 5. In Matthew, we have the double, if anywhere, in the account of The ruler’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood. Two single incidents follow. In John, however, the two singles precede the statement considered as a double. The correspondence is, accordingly, not exact. But even if we disregard this, we can have no especially strong conviction that in Jn. 1:4–5 there has been carried out an intention to complete a “ten.” It would appear, then, that with only one case in support, and that one more or less doubtful, the existence in Matthew of a purposely sub-divided “ten” is to be viewed as not especially probable.

If the Matthaean text really had two “threes” and a “four” marked off from one another, as Bacon seems to think, then this would lend support to the view that the Matthaean writer intended to sub-divide the “ten.” The incident of the Curing of Peter’s mother-in-law has appended to it a very brief account of how, after the close of the Sabbath on which she had been cured, many demoniacs had been brought to the Savior and how he drove out the evil spirits by his word of command, and how he cured all the sick. Then follows (Mt. 8:17) a short conclusion which reads: “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bore our diseases.” Could this be a colophon marking the end of a section? I do not think that this can be maintained with any degree of assurance. There are, scattered through the First Gospel, quite a number of similar passages in which a prophecy is introduced in a formal manner and applied to the context. But they are loosely jointed to the text and may consequently be early interpolations. However, even if we grant that they are genuine, there seems no reason for making this one the conclusion for anything more than the immediately preceding context. That is to say, there appears to be no substantial justification for the view that it is a concluding passage for a section consisting of the three preceding miraculous incidents.

The next incident is that where the Savior stills the storm. The non-miraculous text given in verses 19–22 is not a division separating two miracles. It is, in fact, included within the incident of Calming the storm. That incident begins with verse 18, then comes the non-miraculous matter. It is part and parcel of the incident. Indeed, the narrative of the event has already gotten under way (verse 18) when this matter is introduced. Verses 18 and 23, between which the material lies, are closely connected in thought. Verse 18 recites how the Savior commanded to cross the lake, and verse 23 how He embarked upon the boat and how His disciples followed. The intervening matter recounts occurrences between the Savior’s command and the embarkation.

In short, we have six miracles succeeding one another and no convincing indication that the Matthaean writer intended to insert either a conclusion or an introduction between the first “three” and the second. Allowing that Mt. 9:9–17 is textual matter separating the sixth miracle (The paralytic) from the remaining ones, we have on one side of this textual partition six accounts of miracles and on the other side four.

In view of what has now been set forth, it cannot, I think, be claimed with any confidence that the accounts of the Ten Mighty Works are sub-divided into three groups by textual matter having a content of a diverse character. If the sub-division into three sections is to be maintained, some other basis for it must be sought. Accordingly, we begin the examination of the hypothesis that the several groups are each a unit bound together by a similarity of purpose capable of being discerned in the parts of the unit.

The First Sub-Division

The motive uppermost in the mind of the compiler in forming the first sub-division of three miracles is stated by Bacon as follows:

“The motive is pragmatic. They are typical works of Testimony to Israel.” B. W. Bacon, The Expositor (London), March, 1920, article “Editorial Arrangement in Matthew VIII-IX,” p. 209.

We are to understand, then, that the grouping of the three accounts—Touching the leper, The centurion’s servant and Curing of Peter’s mother-in-law—is founded upon a purpose to present examples of a testimony rendered in some form to the nation. We must remember in this connection that if we are going to elevate motives to be found in the generality of the miracles to a position where they are to be advanced as motives governing the formation of groups, then we must find in the several members of the group something which constitutes a very distinct emphasis of the motive. In the present case, we have in the motive, testimony to Israel, something that may be read into pretty much all miracles. Consequently, we are to examine these three accounts as they appear in Matthew and note whether each is so worded as to present an outstanding example of testimony to Israel. The account of Touching the leper is claimed to emphasize the motive by means of the direction given to the cleansed man to report to the Temple authorities. He was to show himself to the priest and to offer the gift that Moses had commanded, “for a testimony unto them.” Suppose we accept this. Suppose also that we raise no objection to the next miracle, but accept it as an outstanding example because of the contrast between the faith of the Gentile centurion and that which had been exhibited within the nation itself. We come now to the third account which tells of the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law and of the casting out of evil spirits and the healing of the sick. There is in all this nothing which in its mode of presentation marks the section as an outstanding example of testimony to Israel. The cure of Peter’s mother-in-law was private, and the public cures of sickness and castings-out of evil spirits contain no emphasis of the supposed motive. However, we may regard 8:17 perhaps as giving emphasis to the proposed motive when we note that it points out that the cures were in fulfillment of the Scriptures. To get this result, it is necessary, however, that the verse be genuine. We do not know that Mt. 8:17 comes from the Matthaean writer. It is one of a certain series of ten or eleven passages containing quotations from the O. T. introduced in a formal way, passages appearing to have been penned originally by the writer of the book. They are found at the following points: Mt. 1:22–23; 2:15, 17–18, 23; 3:3; 4:14–16; 8:17; 12:17–21; 13:35; 21:4–5; 27:9–10. Some may demur perhaps as to 3:3. It may be that it cannot be altogether proved that the series consists of interpolations originating from another hand. Nevertheless, there are considerations which when taken together constitute a very considerable basis for this view. 1. The O. T. quotations which make up the bulk of the textual matter of the series are, on the whole, in marked contrast with the remaining O. T. quotations of the book in respect to verbal correspondence with the LXX versions of the passages to which the quotations are referable. The eleven quotations in the series contain 209 Greek words.16 Of these, 96 words are not to be found at the proper places in the LXX, while 113 are to be so found there. That is, about 46 per cent, of the words in these quotations are not founded on the language of the LXX. The words in the remaining quotations number, according to Sir J. C. Hawkins’ tabulations, 370. The words which are to be found in the LXX and those which are not to be found there number 293 and 77, respectively; so that the proportion of words not based upon this version is only 21 per cent, of the whole. This is less than one-half of 46 per cent.

2. All the eleven passages may be lifted out without affecting the smoothness, consecutiveness and intelligibility of the remaining text. No broken links are left behind.

3. The word μεθερμηνεύομαι occurs in one of the passages in non-quoted matter (1:23), but nowhere else in the entire book, though at 27:33 and 46 are two points where opportunities occurred. At the corresponding points in Mark (15:22 and 34) the word is used.

4. The total number of words in all the quotations found in the eleven passages is only 209. The vocabulary list would naturally disclose a much smaller number. And yet, there are three words whose presence cannot be explained as due to the influence of the LXX passages to which the word might be thought referable. These three words may very well be strangers to the Matthaean vocabulary, since other words are elsewhere used in Matthew for similar significations. The first to which I call attention is κάθημαι. It occurs at least once and perhaps twice in 4:16 in the sense of dwell. The word used elsewhere in Matthew for this signification is κατοικέω—2:23; 4:13; 12:45; 23:21. The second word is ἀσθένεια, sickness, used in Mt. 8:17. Elsewhere in Matthew we have νόσος, μαλακία, but not ἀσθένεια. Something different from νόσος was perhaps desired because of the use of this word in the immediate context; but μαλακία was still available. This word occurred elsewhere in the First Gospel at 4:23; 9:35; 10:1. Finally there is κραυγάζω, used in the quotation found in 12:18–21. It occurs nowhere else in Matthew. For the signification, cry aloud or shout, we find principally κράζω (9:27; 14:26, 30; 15:22, 23; 21:15; 27:50). I have omitted, in the case of the references for κράζω, several passages (8:29; 20:30, 31; 21:9; 27:23) because the word is used also in Mark at corresponding points and so might be claimed as conceivably due to Markan influence. For a similar reason, I have not given βοάω as a Matthaean word although it occurs at 27:46, which instance is paralleled in Mk. 15:34. We have then three words which the Matthaean writer does not use elsewhere, but whose significations he expresses by other words.

The foregoing facts and considerations may be excellently explained, if we assume that the passages did not originate with the Matthaean writer, but were at first mere marginal annotations which were later on incorporated into the main text or else that they are simple interpolations. Of course, the fact that we have, in the assumption of another hand than that of the writer of the book, an adequate explanation of the observed phenomena is insufficient in itself to establish the truth of that assumption. At the same time, it is an explanation, and a good one, and as such it must be considered an alternative hypothesis until its tenability is overthrown or another alternative hypothesis is proved. No other hypothesis is, apparently, in the present state of our knowledge, provable. I do not wish to deny that the pertinent facts are conceivably consistent with the hypothesis that the Matthaean writer penned these passages, though it is perhaps not especially easy to maintain this view. At all events, it cannot be established. The two hypotheses are to be regarded as two alternatives, neither of which can today be proved.

In view of this situation, it appears inadmissible to use Mt. 8:17 as the basis of an argument; or, if it be used, it seems only just and proper that its much reduced status be clearly and explicitly recognized.

In view of the uncertainty that Mt. 8:17, which contains the only substantial basis for the claim that the third miraculous account is so presented as to enforce the motive of testimony to Israel, really comes from the hand of the Matthaean writer, it is not permissible to assent to the view that this motive controlled in the last member of the first series.

The motive assigned for the second group of three is increase of faith—that is, the fuller development of faith in people who were already disciples. This is a motive that might be ascribed as a reason for the presentation of just about any miracle at all. Let us look sharp then and note whether, not one, not two, but all three, miracles of the group are presented in such way as to call attention in a marked way to this motive.

I give two excerpts from Bacon, beginning with the following one:

“Introduced by the two sayings to Half-hearted Followers [8:19–22], and beginning with the miracle of Rebuke to Men of Little Faith [8:26], no doubt can reasonably remain as to the motive controlling the formation of triad b (Matt. 8:18—9:8). Unlike triad a (Works of Testimony to Israel) they are addressed to disciples. They have as their motive Increase of Faith. They instruct men soon to be sent forth ‘to have authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of disease and all manner of sickness.’ “ B. W. Bacon, Ibid., p. 214.

Let it be noticed in the foregoing excerpt that the motive for the whole group is set forth as discernible in an introduction.

It has already been pointed out in effect that 8:19–22 does not precede the account of Calming the storm, but stands within it. Consequently, it is not in proper position for a formal introduction. Is the passage, then, aside from form, a de facto introductory account having reference to the whole group? This cannot be answered affirmatively. No point is made of increasing faith in the second miracle of the group (The great herd of swine, 8:28–34), nor of presenting a testimony to half-hearted followers. The verses may very well be an introduction to the particular account in which they stand but not to the entire group.

The second excerpt follows:

“If the first and last members of sub-group 6 reveal its character as testimonies to half-hearted followers we shall have little difficulty with the central member of the triad [The great herd of swine. A group of the Mighty Works arranged with the design of increasing the faith of those who are to take up the Lord’s ministry of healing and forgiveness could find no example more appropriate in the feeling of that age than the Markan anecdote [sic] of the Exorcism of The Gerasene Demoniac who ‘came forth out of the tombs exceeding fierce so that no man could pass by that way.’ Moreover, this incident followed immediately in Mk. 5:1–20 on that which opens the Matthaean triad, and the two stood first in a series (Mark 4:36—6:6) which seems to have had the same design which Matthew here adopts.” Ibid., p. 215.

Suppose we allow that the motive has been set forth in a notable way in the accounts of miracles first and third, this will not cover the case of the central account. The Matthaean writer does not present the miracle as one especially suited to develop the faith of half-hearted followers. In fact, if we assume that Mark was his exemplar, he cuts down an account of at least 20 verses and devotes but 7 or 8 to the narrative. Notably, he neglects to emphasize the number of the devils by omitting the reply “My name is Legion: for we are many” and the Markan statement that the number was “about two thousand.” In short, the motive increase of faith does not appear to explain the presence of this account of The great herd of swine in the position in which it appears in Matthew.

We come now to the proposed third group and to a consideration of the motive assigned to it.

“The prologue to Matthew’s third and closing sub-group in the decade of Mighty Works is furnished ready-made. It follows in Mark 2:13–22 as a sequel to the demonstration of Authority to Forgive Sins. What it signified to Matthew becomes apparent through the traits which are made salient in the group of miracles that follow.

“As before in sub-groups a and 6 it is the effect, whether in faith or unbelief, which dominates the descriptive purpose. Only, whereas in sub-groups a the evangelist has in mind the effect upon Israel as a whole, and in sub-group b upon half-hearted followers, in sub-group c he aims primarily to emphasize the parting of belief from unbelief.” Ibid., p. 216.

We have already had under consideration whether Mt. 9:9–17 could be reckoned as non-miraculous text standing between groups; and it has been allowed that it does stand at a point where six miracles lie to one side and four to the other. Now, however, the same verses are to be considered from another point of view. The question of the moment is whether we have in these verses a passage introducing the series of miracles making up the last portion of the “ten.” An examination of the passage shows that if a line of separation is being drawn it is not upon the ground of belief and unbelief. The matter of faith is not in evidence. Doubtless, one may gather from the passage that there is a service to God in keeping one’s self from contact with evil—that is, there is mention of “the righteous” and “sacrifice” and also of “sinners.” But the prominent thing appears to be the rebuke to those who carry their service to the point of failing to have mercy. At all events, whatever the line drawn and whatever the point emphasized, it is not concerned with belief and unbelief in any manifest way.

Nor is there set forth any contrast between belief and unbelief, as Bacon appears to think in verse 14. It seems absurd to make the disciples of John unbelievers. Nor is it admissible to interject unbelief into the question raised by these disciples as to why they and the Pharisees fasted while the disciples of Jesus did not. Whatever contrast is being made in Mt. 9:9–17, it is not concerned with belief and unbelief.

The question that remains is whether the parting of belief from unbelief is markedly emphasized in the presentations of each and everyone of the four succeeding miracles. In the miracle concerned with the ruler’s little daughter, we do have such a contrast when we consider the words of the father when he says, “come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live,” and also the response of the people at the house concerning whom it is said, “And they laughed him to scorn.” But, if we exclude verse 34 whose genuineness is doubtful, there is no further contrast in the series of miracles. The touching of His garment is an exhibition of faith and there is an emphasis on faith in the statement in verse 21 of the purpose of the woman with the issue of blood. So also it is simply faith when we consider the words of the blind men and the words of Jesus in the first of the final pair of miracles. In short, there is a very complete breakdown in the matter of the proposed motive. There is no contrast. Even if verse 34 be allowed genuine, the unbelief expressed in it is set forth only in connection with the final miracle. It has nothing to do with the miracle of the woman with the bloody issue nor with that of the blind men.

It may suitably be noted at this juncture that Bacon regards the last two of the ten miracles as especially manufactured incidents.

“The last two miracles (9:27–31 and 32–34) are duplicated later on (Mt 20:29–34 and 12:22–24), and give every appearance of editorial compositions introduced to fill out the necessary ten.” Ibid., p. 206.

“They have been constructed on the model of the incidents taken from Mark and Q respectively in Matthew 20:29–34 and 12:22–24, for the purpose of filling out the required ten.” Ibid., p. 217.

If the compiler made these incidents “to order,” as it were, it seems a pity that he forgot the motive as to contrasting belief and unbelief when he fashioned the incident of The two blind men and presented only the side of faith. It would appear as if he might have made a better job of it.

I have now given what seems to be a sufficiently full presentation of Bacon’s hypotheses as to sub-divisions of the Ten Mighty Works. We have found that there appears to be no a priori reason leading us to consider the proposed sub-division into two threes and a four as something to be anticipated as probable. Nor have we ascertained that there is a well-founded claim that either a conclusion for the first three accounts of miracles or an introduction to the next three really exists. And, when the several motives have been applied to the respective groups, we have found that there is always at least one member of a group which cannot be considered an outstanding example of the group-motive. I tabulate these exceptions.

We are not, I think, to be surprised at the failures in detail when we consider that a real grouping in exemplification of motives ought not to be hard to discover or difficult to expound.

The Bacon proposals, we may now conclude, are effective as an explanation of nothing further in the matter of arrangement than the formation of the large group of Ten Mighty Works and the postponement of E. They are ineffective in respect to the order of the ten when that order is compared with the Markan progression.

Miracle Accounts Which Are Not Outstanding Examples Of Proposed Motives.

Proposed subdivisions of Ten Mighty Works.   Motives proposed.   Particular miracle accounts which are not outstanding examples.
First (Mt. 8:2–17).   Testimony to Israel.   Curing Peter’s mother-in-law and other miracles.
Second (Mt. 8:18—9:8).   Increase of faith.   The great herd of swine.
Third (Mt 9:9–33 (34).   Parting of belief from unbelief.   The woman with the issue of blood. The two blind men.

A Summary

We have now had before us, I think with sufficient completeness, the efforts of Lachmann, Holtzmann, Allen and Bacon to account for the Matthaean deviations. Their explanations may be taken as fairly illustrative of what can be said in support of the proposition that the departures of the First Gospel from the order of the Second are explicable on the basis of a prior and chronological Mark. That these efforts are failures is, I judge, no more than what it is now proper to claim. And, naturally, as long as the deviations cannot even be explained upon the basis stated, we cannot expect an aggressive argument favoring Markan priority to emerge from a consideration of these departures as disagreements with the order of a Mark deemed chronological.

However, there is this to be said. All four of these investigators have recognized more or less clearly the duty of a detailed explanation. They seem to have perceived that it was not sufficient simply to say that Mark unfolds the history in what is evidently its true order and that the deviations of Matthew are to be regarded as the non-chronological results to be expected from a writer intent upon carrying out numerical and topical groupings.17 Holtzmann has seen more dimly, perhaps, than the others the necessity of attending to the details, since he seems content to let the assumed purpose to present ten miracles stand as a lump explanation covering the detailed change in the Markan order B-C-D-E-F-G after the postponement of E. Nevertheless, all these writers have attacked the problem of making an explanation in some detail of some or all of Matthaean deviations from the order disclosed in the first third of Mark.

On the other hand, all have failed, perhaps to perceive, at any rate to set forth, the chronological indications contained in the Matthaean text. That is, they have considered only part of the relevant evidence. If the order of Mark is chronological, which is the assumption now under consideration, then inevitably the deviations of Matthew are non-chronological. And yet there are two explicit notations of immediate sequence at points where Matthew deviates from Mark. These have already been before us. They assert the immediate sequences F-D, D-G. These block the way of any and all hypotheses that would make our Matthew a derivative of a chronological Mark.

But these two Matthaean deviations do not by any means constitute the whole of the opposition that is to be read from the very text of the First Gospel. There are two regions of deviation—Mt. 3:1—14:12 and 21:10–22. Altogether the number of deviations in them totals twelve. Naturally, the advocate of a prior and chronological Mark has the duty, if he cares to be scientific and logical in his procedure, of explaining not one, not two, but all twelve deviations.

Not only are there twelve deviations from chronology to explain, but in the case of five the advocate of Markan priority will encounter contradictory assertion. I list these five instances where the Matthaean text itself asserts the chronological character of its deviations from that which is ex hypothesi the true historical progression of events.18

Five Matthaean Deviations Asserted As Chronological

F—D The great herd of swine—The paralytic. Καὶ ἰδού 9:2
D—G Children of the bride-chamber— The ruler’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood. Ταῦτα αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος αὐτοῖς 9:18
E—H The Sower and other parables— Visit to His own country. μετῇρεν ἐκεῖθεν. Καὶ ἐλθών 13:53–54
  Purging the Temple—Cursing the fig tree. ηὐλίσθη ἐκεῖ. Πρωί 21:17–18
  Cursing the fig tree—Lesson from the withered fig tree. Πώς παραχρῆμα 21:20


The point at which we have now arrived may be stated thus: It is apparently impossible to maintain conjointly the propositions that Mark is a parent document from which Matthew was in large part derived, and that the order of events disclosed in Mark is chronological. Nevertheless, it may be advisable to consider what embarrassments accrue to the hypothesis of a prior Matthew from which Mark was derived when this hypothesis is conjoined with the assumption of a chronological Mark. For, if it can be shown that, when we assume the order of the Second Gospel as a true reflection of the progress of the history, the hypothesis of a primary Matthew to which Mark is secondary does not voice the truth, then we will be driven to the only alternative—a prior Mark. Let us get this matter clear. Under the assumption of a chronological Mark, only two hypotheses are possible, derivation being assumed:

1. Mark chronological, Matthew prior to Mark.

2. Mark chronological, Mark prior to Matthew.

If now, No. 1 can be shown to be impossible, then we are compelled to accept No. 2. The reader is warned, however, that this result is based on the assumption that Mark is chronological. The meaning is nothing so far-reaching as that the overthrow of No. 1 leads inevitably to the priority of Mark whether or no Mark be chronological.

Let us now consider effects that flow from hypothesis No. 1—Matthew parent of a chronological Mark. The matter of the twelve deviations comes at once to the fore. Mark deviates twelve times from Matthew at precisely the same points as those at which Matthew deviates from Mark. The departures of the Second Gospel from the order of the First must be viewed as corrections of non-chronological sequences. Mark is, ex hypothesi, chronological, so that at all twelve points of deviation, the Second Gospel must be right and the First Gospel wrong, in so far as chronology is concerned.

Our list of five Matthaean deviations, asserted or implied by the text as truly chronological, comes in here. At five points accordingly, chronological Mark has the opposition of the parent text. The writer of Mark must be conceived as having disregarded chronological indications before him in the very text of his exemplar, despite the fact that he was engaged upon the preparation of a chronological work. Nay, at one point in particular, he not only disregards his exemplars’ implication of the historical sequence but makes an explicit assertion of a different succession. This clash occurs in connection with the continuation of the narrative from the close of the incident in which the Savior sets forth a series of parables, beginning with that of the Sower. The Matthaean text follows this with the incident of the Visit to His own country, stating the transition in the following way— “He departed thence. And coming into his own country” (Mt. 13:53–54). But the Markan writer, although he is to be assumed as having these words before him, not only follows The Sower and other parables with the incident of Calming the storm, but says in making the transition —“And on that day, when even was come” (Mk. 4:35). In view of these matters, it appears impossible to conceive of a chronological Mark derived from Matthew.

Nor can we set up and maintain a chronological Mark prior to Matthew. For the Matthaean text everywhere asserts its chronology from the Infancy Section on through the Resurrection Section. And in the two regions of deviation, the departures from the Markan order total twelve. Furthermore, the text of Matthew is explicit in asserting the historical correctness of nearly one-half of these deviations.

The foregoing constitutes what is practically a dilemma. Under the assumption of a chronological Mark, it is apparently impossible to make either Mark or Matthew the prior document. I am not disquieted by this because I do not claim Mark as chronological in the condition in which we now have the text. I conceive that originally both Gospels disclosed the same order of events. Consequently, for me there are no deviations to explain. Nor does a comparison of the two Gospels in respect to their originally identical but now discordant orders eventually result in an argument for the priority of Mark, but rather in one for the priority of Matthew.

I may end this section of our investigation into the matter of order by stating the conclusion that no substantial argument for the priority of Mark emerges from a comparison of the order of events as disclosed in the first two Gospels, when the assumption of a chronological Second Gospel is made, the list of five sequences asserted or implied in the Matthaean text being a chief bar to the emergence of an argument favorable to Markan priority. Let us pass now to a consideration of the possibilities of the assumption of a non-chronological Mark. Will this assumption be productive of an argument favoring Markan priority?

(To be continued)


1) C. Lachmann: Theologische Studien und Kritiken (1835), article “De ordine narrationum in evangeliis synopticis,” p. 682:“Quid iam videtur? Si haec omnia ita se habent ut dixi, si et Matthaeo et Lucae cum ordine evangelii secundum Marcum per omnia tam exacte convenit ut illi vel minimas traiectiones suo quodam censendi sint fecisse consilio, si in hoc summo consensu tamen illos Marci exemplum quod imitarentur propositum non habuisse manifestum est, quid superest nisi ut ilium quern omnes velut sibi prae-scriptum sequuntur ordinem, prius quam ipsi scriberent, auctoritate ac traditione quadam evangelica constitutum et confirmatum fuisse dicamus?”

(How does the matter now stand? If all these things are as I have said, if both Matthew and Luke have everywhere so exactly fallen in with the order of the Gospel according to Mark that they are to be viewed as having made merely insignificant transpositions in accordance with some purpose of their own, if in this wonderful agreement it is nevertheless manifest that they did not have before them a copy of Mark which they might imitate, what remains for us to say except that that order, which all follow as though it had been prescribed to them before they wrote, had been established and confirmed by some Gospel authority and tradition?)

2) J. Wellhausen harks back to Lachmann in Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien. (1905), S. 43, and in the second edition (1911) more fully, S. 33f. In this later edition, Wellhausen expresses the thought that Lachmann found the clue by which the mazes of the Labyrinth of the Synoptic Gospels might be successfully threaded: “Lachmann hat dem Ariadnefaden für die drei ersten Evangelien entdeckt” (Lachmann discovered the Thread of Ariadne for the first three Gospels).

F. C. Burkitt, in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (Hastings), Vol. VI (1914), article “Gospels,” p. 336, col. 2, makes the following statement: “Moreover, the common order is Mark’s order; Matthew and Luke never agree against Mark in the transposition of a narrative.” In this connection, he remarks in a footnote: “First clearly formulated by the great classical scholar Lachmann in 1835, as Wellhausen has reminded a forgetful world.” The same writer, in commenting on H. G. Jameson’s “The Origin of the Synoptic Gospels,” in The Journal of Theological Studies, July. 1923, p. 442, says: “. . . the classic exposition of the priority of Mark ‘endorsed by Prof. Burkit’ (§7) is not an essay by F. H. Woods in Studia Biblica, Vol. II, but Lachmann’s paper in Studien und Kritiken for 1835. Mr. Wood’s essay is no doubt a good reproduction of the arguments generally used, but it is, I think, wholesome to remember that the foundations of the theory were laid by one of the greatest of Classical scholars.” See also Burkitt’s The Gospel History and Its Transmission, pp. 37f and footnotes.

3) P. 578: “Item orationem de officiis apostolorum, eamque est de Iohanne, si Matthaeus apostolus, ut est sane probabile neque caret ratione, ante orationem de Satana et ante parabolas posuit, non est admirandum quod evangelii secundum Matthaeum conditores, hunc ordinem inmutare veriti, maluerunt narrationes alia quam qua ipsis traditae erant ratione disponere.” (Likewise, if Matthew the apostle, as is certainly probable and not without reason, put the discourse concerning the duties of apostles and that which is about John in advance of the discourse concerning Satan and in advance of the parables, it is not surprising that the compilers of the Gospel according to Matthew, fearing to change this order, preferred to place the narratives in accordance with some other plan than that in agreement with which they had been handed down to them.)

4) This statement has already been given, together with the context, in quoting from p. 678.

5) P. 578: “Nam cum vix dubitari possit quin Matthaeus apostolus earn orationem quae in monte habita esse dicitur in ipso libri sui principio posuerit, aptius videri debuit si Iesu, cum a monte descendisset, leprosus occurrisse diceretur ante quam intraret oppi-dum Capharnaum, in quo et centurionis servum secundum evangelium Matthaei et Petri socrum utroque evangelista teste sanavit.” (For, since one can scarcely doubt but that Matthew the apostle placed that discourse which is said to have been delivered on a mountain at the very beginning of his book, it ought to seem more fitting if the leper should be said to have met Jesus, upon His descent from the mountain, before He should enter the town Capernaum, in which He cured both the servant of the centurion according to the Gospel of Matthew and the mother-in-law of Peter according to the testimony of both evangelists.)

6) P. 578f: “Sed quintum Marci caput [F] cur noluerint sexto [G] praeponere, sed potius ante tertium [D] traiecerint, non ita apertum est; nisi quod, cum iam bis dictum fuisset (Mt. 4:24; 8:16) daemoniacis quoque Iesum opem attulisse, fortasse magis convenire duxerunt si nobile in hoc genere Gerasenorum exemplum statim curatae Petri socrus febri subiceretur, seposito interim para-lytico, quia hoc eodem morbo laborans centurionis servus paulo ante, capite Matthaei secundo (8:6) [to be prefixed to B], praecesserat.” (But, it is not so clear why they [the compilers of our Matthew] were unwilling to place the fifth section of Mark [F] before the sixth [G], but transposed it rather to a point in advance of the third [D], unless it was this—since it had already been twice said (Mt. 4:24; 8:16) that Jesus had brought help to the demoniacs also, perchance they considered it was more suitable if a resplendent example of this character, that of the Geraseni, should be made to follow the fever of which Peter’s mother-in-law had been immediately cured, the paralytic having been postponed, because the servant of the centurion, a sufferer from the same malady, had occupied a somewhat earlier position, in the second section of Matthew (8:6) [to be prefixed to B].)

7) H. J. Holtzmann, Hand-Commentar zum Neuen Testament,” “Die Synoptiker” (3te Aufl., 1901), S. 5: “Auf die Vorgeschichte, bestehend aus den drei Stücken 1:1–17; 18–25 und Cp. 2, und Introduction (3:1—4:22=Mc. 1:1–20) folgt namlich der 1. Haupttheil, welcher ein Gesammtbild von der dop-pelten Richtung geben soil, darin Jesu Wirksamkeit sich bewegt: κηρύσσειν und θεραπεὖειν. Daher der gemeinsame Faden mit 4:22 (=Mc. 1:20) abbricht, 4:23–25 dagegen ein theils aus dem unmit-telbaren Fortgange (Mc. 1:21, 39), theils aus einer analogen spateren Stelle (Mc. 3:7, 8, 10) gebildeter Uebergang erfolgt, welcher die Bergpredigt einleitet. Aber auch alle weiteren Abweichungen, welche Mt. hier gegenüber der von den Seitenreferenten reprasentirten Akoluthie bietet, erklären sich aus der Absicht, ein Muster von Jesu Lehrweise, wie es in der sog. Bergpredigt (6:1— 8:1) auftritt, an die Spitze zu stellen und diesem eine Kette von Wunderthaten folgen zu lassen, deren einzelne Glieder (8:2—9:34) aus verschiedenen Partien der Quellen zusammengelesen und so ausgewahlt sind, dass jede Klasse der von Jesu zu berichtenden Thaten mit einem Beispiele vertreten ist, zugleich aber auch die Erklärung Jesu 11:5 ‘Blinde sehen (9:27–31), Lahme gehen (8:5–13; 9:1–8), Aussätzige werden gereinigt (8:1–4), Taube hören (9:32–34), Todte stehen auf (9:18, 19, 23–26) und Armen wird das Evangelium verkündigt (9:35; 10:7; 11:1)’ allseitig durch vorangehende Thatsachen belegt erscheint. Die Substanz des Abschnittes bilden sonach 10 Wundergeschichten, welche dem Zusam-menhang von Mc. 1:21—5:43, also mit Ausnahme der antecipirten Blindenheilung Mt. 9:27–31 der 1. Hälfte der galiläischen Wirksamkeit Jesu angehoren” (closely after the pre-history, consisting of the 3 sections 1:1–17, 18–25 and chap. 2, and introduction (3:1—4:22=Mk. 1:1–20) there follows the first chief division, which is to give a comprehensive view in the double direction in which the activity of Jesus is proceeding: κηρύσσειν and θεραπεὐειν. Although the common thread breaks off with 4:22 (=Mk. 1:20), nevertheless 4:23–25, a transition formed partly from the immediately following context (Mk. 1:21, 39) and partly from an analagous later passage (Mk. 3:7, 8, 10), results, and this introduces the Sermon on the Mount. And also all the remaining deviations, which Matthew here makes from the order presented by the parallels, are explained by the purpose to place in the forefront an example of the teaching of Jesus, as is found in the so-called Sermon on the Mount (5:1—8:1), and to put next to it a series of miracles, whose individual members (8:2—9:34) have been gathered from various parts of the sources and so chosen that every class of the works of Jesus that are to be recounted is represented by an example, and also at the same time the declaration of Jesus is seen illustrated in detail by prior events—the declaration in 11:5:‘The blind see (9:27–31), the lame walk (8:5–13; 9:1–8), the lepers are cleansed (8:1–4), the deaf hear, the dead rise (9:18, 19, 23–26) and the poor have the gospel preached to them (9:35; 10:7, 11:1).’ Ten miracle narratives accordingly constitute the material of the division, and these narratives belong to the text of Mk. 1:21—5:43, consequently, with the exception of the anticipated healing of the blind (Mt. 9:27–31), to the first half of the Galilean activity of Jesus.)

8) A recent German writer gives expression to the view that the incident concerning Touching the leper is chronologically out of place at Mt. 8:2–4, on the ground that the Savior’s injunction, “See thou tell no man,” would be unsuitable to the occasion, the “multitude” (Mt. 8:1) being in effect represented as witnesses of the miracle. (Rudolph Knopf, sometime professor at Bonn, Einführung in das Neue Testament (2te Aufl., 1923), S. 105f.) It is sufficient to say that the Matthaean text does not assert that the multitudes had any knowledge of the event nor is there any necessary implication to this effect. Close disciples may very well have been the only witnesses. Moreover, the compiler or compilers of Matthew could not have intended the implication that the multitudes of 8:1 saw the miracle as, ex hypothesi, they were transposing the account from a different connection. We can hardly assume that they not only misrepresented the matter but intended to do so when they used the words K<u ISov (Mt. 8:2).

9) See my article, “The Chronological Place of the Sermon on the Mount,” in The Methodist Quarterly Review for January, 1924.

10) W. C. Allen, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to S. Matthew (1907), Introduction, pp. xiii-xvii.

11) There are some points to be noted. Allen considers that the Sermon on the Mount would, in Mark, precede 1:22, whereas I include it within 1:39. He rejects Mk. 1:35–39 as unparalleled in Matthew. Consequently the Markan B would end with 1:84 and the Markan C—and therefore the Matthaean C—reduces to the one incident, Touching the Leper. Since the letters refer to groups of parallels, non-parallel Matthaean passages like Mt 8:5–13 (The centurion’s servant), 9:27–31 (The two blind men), and 9:32–33 (34) (The mute demoniac) would have to be added to C-B-F-D-G to make it fully equivalent to Mt. 4:23—9:34.

12) This dilemma does not disturb me as I hold that originally Matthew and Mark disclosed one and the same order of events throughout, and that our recensions of Mark are all descendants of the autograph or of an ancient copy, which had suffered mechanical displacements of an accidental character.

13) B. W. Bacon, The Expositor (London), March, 1920, article, “Editorial Arrangement in Matthew VIII—IX,” p. 200ff.

14) B. W. Bacon, The Making of the New Testament (1912), p. 139:“The order of even such events as secured perpetuation was already hopelessly lost at a time more remote than the writing of our earliest gospel.”

15) He refers to Loisy, Le Quatrième Evangile.

16) See Sir J. C. Hawkins, Horae Synopticae (2nd edition, 1909), p. 164f. for details as to the individual quotations.

17) The reader curious over this matter of explaining Matthaean deviations may refer to the following in addition to the authors treated in the text: A. Julicher, An Introduction to the New Testament (1904, from the German), p. 348; C. E. Scott-Moncrieff, SL Mark and the Triple Tradition (1907), p. 80.

18) The present writer does not regard the position of the account of Touching the leper (Mt. 8:2–4) next after The Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1—8:1) as a deviation from the Markan order, because he views Mt. 4:23—8:1 as parallel to Mk. 1:39. Those, however, who do not make substantially this identification and proceed to place The Sermon on the Mount at some other point in the Markan progression will perhaps create a deviation. Under such conditions, the Matthaean sequence becomes an eighth departure from the Markan chronology declared in the Matthaean text to be chronological and immediate by means of the words Καὶ ιδού (Mt. 8:2). This textual indication of sequence would accordingly become an additional bar to the recognition of Mark as prior and chronological. W. C. Allen may be mentioned as one who places The Sermon on the Mount at a different point than that indicated by Mk. 1:39. See op. cit., Introduction, p. xv.