The Synoptic Problem

Part 4 of 14

By J. F. Springer, New York


Assumption That Mark Is Not Chronological

That the order of events in Mark is not chronological is, to a greater or less extent, asserted by certain writers on Synoptic matters. The following excerpts will substantiate this statement:

“. . . in the same order and grouping, although this is in Mark by no means always chronological, but is for the most part governed by literary motives.” B. Weiss, Das Matthdusevangelium und seine Lucas-Parallelen (1876), S. 13 f.

“. . . the narratives which in Mark have been arranged in an order due simply to their content.” Ibid., S. 14.

“The most striking peculiarity of the second Gospel is its descriptive character. It is not intended to give a chronological or pragmatic history of the public life of Jesus, but a picture of it.” Ibid., A Manual of Introduction to the New Testament, Vol. ii (title page 1889, from the German), p. 239.

“In Mk. one is very willingly disposed to recognize an appropriate arrangement of the events of the public ministry of Jesus as a whole. It is certainly the fact that his first chapter gives the impression that the public activity of Jesus may actually have begun in the manner here related. But so far as the rest of the Gospel is concerned, little confidence can be placed even in Mk.’s order.” P. W. Schmiedel, Encyclopaedia Biblica, Vol. ii. (1901), article “Gospels” (second part), Col. 1874 (§133).

“Precisely the same remark applies to S. Mark’s chronological order. Strictly speaking, there is none, except for the Last Week. The only fixed landmarks are the Baptism, Temptation, Confession of S. Peter, and Transfiguration. The events of the ever-memorable Last Week are, of course, indelibly stamped on the memory, and repeated in their exact order; so, in all probability, are S. Peter’s recollections of the eventful day on which he left all to follow Christ (S. Mark, chap. 1).” J. R. Cohu, The Gospels in the Light of Modern Research (1909), p. 212.

“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. This is true not only for Mark, as ‘the Elder’ frankly confesses, but for Matthew, Luke and everyone else. Unchronological as Mark’s order often is (and the tradition as to the ‘casual anecdotes’ agrees with the critical phenomena of the text), it is vastly more historical than Matthew’s reconstruction.” B. W. Bacon, The Making of the New Testament (1912), p. 139f.

The present writer is, in fact, friendly to the view that Mark is not chronological, especially at the points where it deviates from Matthew. Belief that our Matthew left the hands of its author in the form of a document chronological from beginning to end naturally requires one to regard the Markan departures as deviations from the true historical progression. Moreover, in the very text of Mark are at least two indications favoring the view that the text is not now in its original state, but that dislocations have occurred. And still further, there are what appear to be a displacement and an interchange of text, in which Mark is in agreement with Matthew. It appears to me unnecessary to refer any of this to the original writer of Mark, if exceptions be made of the displacement and of the interchange in connection with both of which he is in accord with Matthew. With respect to these, there is evidence tending to show that, if one or the other of the two Gospels is dependent upon the other, the Markan writer followed the Matthaean text and accepted a slightly deranged form of that text as authoritative.

The reader may perhaps gather from this statement and from the excerpts that it will not be a valueless undertaking to investigate the effects of assuming Mark to be a non-chronological document. And the very fact that we uncovered a dilemma when considering Mark chronological should be a strong incentive to inquiry into the consequences of making the Second Gospel non-chronological. Our object, as before, will be to determine whether any substantial argument favoring Markan priority has emerged in the past or is likely to emerge in the future—that is, any argument based upon a comparison of the order of events in the two Gospels.

Four alternatives may be listed:

1. The Markan chronological departures may occur at the points where Matthew deviates from Mark.

2. The Markan chronological departures may be in agreement with Matthaean sequences.

3. The Markan chronological departures may be sequences each represented in Matthew only by a single member of the sequence or by neither.

4. The Markan chronological departures may be such as to require some mixture or combination of statements Nos. 1, 2, and 3.

Consider Alternative No. 1. Let it be noted, in the first place, that even if the chronological departures of Mark occur at the points where the First Gospel deviates from the Second, this carries no necessary implication that the Matthaean sequences are at these points the true reflection of the historical advance. At the same time, a certain amount of support would be acquired by the hypothesis of a chronological Matthew by the establishment of the non-historical character of the Markan sequences that are in disagreement with the Matthaean order.

As a matter of fact, certain of the Markan deviations from the Matthaean order may be shown to be probable instances of variations due to some other cause than the purpose of the author. And such variations may very well be chronologically wrong. Without going into this matter very fully just now, I will nevertheless call attention to two notable cases of the kind described. The transition from Mk. 1:32–38 to 1:39 is doubtless not only a deviation from the Matthaean order (Mt. 8:16–17 to 8:18–27) but also a variation from what was originally penned; for in Mk. 1:38, the Savior proposes that they visit “the next towns” and in 1:39 is briefly described a tour “throughout all Galilee.”

Again, Mk. 11:11 may reasonably be viewed as containing a transition which is at once a deviation from the Matthaean order (Mt. 21:10–11 to 21:12–16) and a variation from the original textual order. The seam runs between “temple” and the following “and.” As it now stands, Mk. 11:11 has the form of a complete incident, but contains insufficient matter.

It would seem rather easy to believe that both these deviations from the Matthaean order and apparently from the original Markan order are also instances of a wrong historical progression. But, whether we accept the view that these or other members of the group of twelve Markan deviations from Matthew’s order are also departures from the true chronology, or whether we reject it, we have no argument for Markan priority. And this is the matter which immediately concerns us.

I do not wish, at this stage of our investigation into the matter of order, to consider the effect of balancing Markan priority and Matthaean priority, one against the other, in an endeavor to reach a decision in favor of the one. This matter, in so far as it relates to the possibility of deriving an argument on the side of the priority of Mark, I reserve for treatment under the head of “The Indirect Argument.” But it does seem desirable, at this juncture, to discuss in some detail the question whether the hypothesis of Markan priority and Matthaean dependence is given substantial support by any facility with which such a relation between the two Gospels may be explained when we take the view that the Second Gospel departs from the historical progression at the points of deviation, that the Matthaean writer was aware of these departures from chronology, and that he varied the order on his own account in consequence of a desire to carry out a purpose. This purpose may have been one of two alternatives. (1) The writer may have desired to correct the chronology. Or, (2) he may have wanted to utilize the opportunities for a change of arrangement in order that he might present the material in accordance with a non-chronological but didactic or literary plan.

With respect to the former alternative, it may be said that the conception of a compiler changing incorrect chronology into correct is a very understandable view. In support of the proposition that the Second Gospel is more of less non-chronological, may be cited the statement of the presbyter John, recorded in the lost work of Papias and preserved to us in the Church History of Eusebius (3:39:15). This statement recites: “Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not indeed in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ.” It is, in fact, not at all difficult to believe that the twelve Markan deviations from Matthew are also departures from the historical progression. The hypothesis of a prior and non-chronological Mark corrected by a subsequent writer is accordingly made plausible to a certain extent because of the statement by the presbyter John.

Further, the conception that the Matthaean compiler was versed in the chronology and was disposed to correct the departures from the historical succession found in his exemplar is made easy of belief by the fact that at a number of points where he deviates from Mark the author of the First Gospel explicitly asserts the historical correctness of his own order of events. And still further, the view at the moment under discussion is supported by the fact that he has inserted everywhere throughout his Gospel—upon about one hundred occasions, in fact—indications that the documentary sequence reflects the historical succession, and by the consideration that no one seems to have been able to prove the existence of a single departure from the true chronology that is certainly referable to the Matthaean author. We find, then, that the hypothesis of a Second Gospel, faulty in chronology, corrected by a writer informed as to the sequence of events and disposed to write in accordance with it, is facilitated to the extent that we may rather confidently say that the Second Gospel is such a book and that the Matthaean author was such a writer. This is, naturally, a good deal less than enough to warrant us in making Mark the prior Gospel and Matthew a dependent writing.

Let us now take into account considerations opposed to the view that sets up the Markan deviations from Matthew as also departures from the chronology and makes the Matthaean writer a compiler who corrected the erroneous order of events. Since the Second Gospel is set up as exemplar, we must grant that it was the earlier writer who was at fault in his chronology and that it was the later writer who was better informed at the points of deviation. In fact, we would hardly be able to maintain that the later writer was better advised merely at twelve points when we consider that none was of his own selection. We would in consequence have to extend indefinitely the range of his information upon the true chronology. To attribute such knowledge to the later writer is more or less difficult.

Furthermore, the extent and amount of dependence that must necessarily be attributed to the later writer, once we set up Mark as the exemplar of Matthew, is too considerable to make this dependence easily compatible with the hypothesis of a compiler well informed as to the chronology. The dependence would amount to a great deal, about one-third of the total Matthaean text closely paralleling perhaps 55 per cent, of the Markan. There are in the First Gospel, if we omit the Infancy Section consisting of two chapters, only a small number of incidents narrated in addition to those found in Mark. However, the parallelism extends not merely to the choice of incidents but also to the mode of presentation and to the language employed. If we are going to grant that the Matthaean writer was so dependent upon the Second Gospel as these statements indicate, then we involve ourselves in making such dependence, including as we have seen the choice by some one else of the events belonging to so large a part of the Matthaean table of contents, compatible with a thoroughgoing knowledge of the chronological succession of these same events. In short, reviewing what we have had before us, we find that considerable difficulty attends the assumption that the later Matthaean writer was a compiler better informed as to the chronology than the earlier Markan author. And, further, the dependence of this compiler in respect to choice of incidents, presentation and language add to the difficulty of conceiving him as one especially versed in the chronology of so considerable a range of events chosen by someone else.

We come now to the difficulty which arises out of the necessity to grant that the writer of Mark made his chronological errors not here and there throughout the range of the Ministry as set forth in his Gospel but mostly in a restricted portion of this range. Much the greater part of his erroneous chronology is concentrated in the first third of his narrative.

Again the Markan narrative asserts throughout its course its chronological character, so that the text itself opposes the hypothesis of departures from the historical advance. There are perhaps forty-odd such indications of historical order. We find them even at points where, in accordance with the hypothesis under consideration, the Second Gospel is in error. The reader desirous of details is referred to the tabulation on page 137 of the issue of Bibliotheca Sacra for April, 1922, in the first of two installments of the present writer’s paper on “The Order of Events in Matthew and Mark.” Among these chronological indications, the ones at 4:35 and 6:1–2 occur at points where the order of incidents deviates from that disclosed in Matthew, and are accordingly, ex hypothesi, departures from the historical succession.

But perhaps the most important objection of all arises out of the difficulty of conceiving a chronological scheme as compatible with a literary plan. When the author is writing de novo and is abundantly supplied with material, he is in good position to combine the two purposes. He is at liberty to condense didactic matter, if it interferes with what he has in contemplation. If he has too many incidents, he has it in his own power to omit the necessary number. In the present case, however, it seems almost necessary to conceive of the Matthaean compiler as requiring the friendly hand of coincidence and as making a rather inexplicable omission of a notable incident.

That the Matthaean author superimposed upon a chronological scheme a simple literary plan in the composition of that part of his Gospel which deals with the earlier portion of the Ministry as narrated by him seems probable. The first detailed event in the Ministry proper is a great discourse, The Sermon on the Mount. No comparable discourse then occurs until we reach the account concerning The Twelve sent forth. No narratives of miracles precede the Sermon, but between the two notable discourses are set forth Ten Mighty Works. That the foregoing describes the results of a literary plan seems probable, especially in view of the fact that attention is drawn to the part played by the number 14 in the account of the Genealogy, of the fact that there are 7 parables in the group of chapter 13, and perhaps other numerical arrangements attributable probably to the writer. There is no difficulty in understanding an apostolic eye-witness, with a memory full of incidents, carrying out a broad plan of the character specified, without departing from the true historical succession of events. It was apparently only necessary to refrain from giving details of the tour through all Galilee (Mt. 5:23–25), and to shorten any lengthy discourses until he had completed the series of ten miracles. It is in fact quite possible that no especial effort was really required.

But when we come to a consideration of the view that we do not have an apostolic eye-witness and a mind replete with vivid memories of much more material than is required, but a compiler limited to a very considerable degree to the matter in his exemplar, then we may expect difficulty to arise in carrying out the double programme imposed by a combination of literary and chronological purposes.

If we compare the texts of the two Gospels, we find that Matthew contains parallels to all narratives in the first third of Mark with the exception of the accounts of The man with the unclean spirit and The appointment of the Twelve. The textual matter constituting the latter is mostly included in the Matthaean account of The Twelve sent forth, in the form of a list of the names of the twelve disciples. The incident related in the former did, as a matter of historical fact, occur immediately prior to the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, an event recounted in both Gospels. Of this close chronological connection, a connection so close as to require the occurrence of both events upon the same Sabbath day, we have assurance when in Mk. 1:29 we read: “And straightway, when they were come out of the synagogue.” Accordingly, a compiler intent upon chronology would accept both and use them together, refuse both, or else accept one and reject the other. If the First Gospel was constructed upon the foundation of the Second, then the compiler must purposely have omitted the account of The man with the unclean spirit. Why did he reject it? Everything seems to have favored its acceptance. The narrative had to do with a notable miracle, eminently suited, it would seem, to be one of the Ten Mighty Works. Moreover, the account is detailed. The chronology favored its retention, because, as we have just seen, it belongs to the Sabbath upon which Peter’s mother-in-law was healed. There was accordingly no chronological difficulty in placing it between the accounts of the Sermon and the sending forth of the Twelve and in fact immediately in advance of the narrative of the cure effected in Peter’s household. The general situation also favored the retention of this extended account of the casting out of the unclean spirit, for the Markan material available afforded an insufficient number of miracles. As it was, the series of Ten Mighty Works was only completed by the introduction of three non-Markan miraculous incidents—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)). It would seem as if one or the other of the latter two might have been omitted rather than the incident of the unclean spirit. The absence, then, of this notable miracle from the Mat-thaean series of ten great deeds constitutes a considerable difficulty in connection with our acceptance of the view that the Matthaean narrative was derived from Mark by a compiler controlled by the chronology and working out a literary plan requiring a series of ten great miracles.

But let us go on. We have to consider another difficulty in the way of the acceptance of a mixture of motives in control of a compiler largely dependent upon the Markan material. A considerable coincidence is required in order that chronology and plan may harmonize. The block of narratives contained in Mk. 2:23—4:34 is completely paralleled in Mt. 12:1—13:52, if we except the account of The appointment of the Twelve. In dealing with this block, the compiler found that chronology required that it be transferred from the position in the midst of incidents destined for the series of ten miracles to a point entirely clear of them—to a point in fact beyond the time when the Savior sent forth the Twelve. It was unfortunate indeed that chronology made this demand, for such a transference was sorely needed. That is to say, the discourse, consisting of parables and constituting part of the block, was too extensive, even in the Markan form and after the omission of Mk. 4:26–29, to be allowed to interrupt the series of ten miraculous deeds. Naturally, they had to stand in a series where they might be discerned as a group. The Matthaean compiler was prepared to add five parables and an explanation of one of them, as may be seen by comparing the account in Mark with that in Matthew. The resulting didactic passage would thus have destroyed the continuity of the series, wherever it might be placed. It was very necessary, then, to get the block of incidents clear of all interference with the series. How fortunate that Coincidence came to the assistance of the compiler! Chronology required just the transference that the literary plan needed!

We have, in the foregoing, considered a number of difficulties which are encountered when we seek to explain the First Gospel as the product due to an effort to rectify the incorrect chronology of the exemplar and at the same time carry out a literary plan. We need to grant not only that the earlier writer was at fault in his chronology but also that the later was well informed as to the historical order not merely at the twelve points of deviation but throughout the Ministry. Then, we learned that we must also allow that this writer so thoroughly informed in connection with the chronology is nevertheless notably dependent upon the primary document in respect to choice of incidents, mode of presentation, and the very language of his text. Still another difficulty which claimed our attention arises out of the fact that most of the assumed departures from the true historical progression are concentrated in the first third of Mark. Again, we found difficulty in the fact that we are required to admit faulty chronology in the Second Gospel, despite the fact that this document has scattered through it some forty-odd indications that its narrative is to be taken as one written with a chronological purpose. But the difficulties did not end here. We found that it is not at all easy to understand that a compiler combined chronology with a plan to present Ten Mighty Works between the Sermon on the Mount and the discourse section where it is recounted how the Savior sent forth the Twelve, when we came to consider that this view requires the rejection of a notable miracle from the series instead of the omission of one of two miracles now occupying positions at the end of the series; and that the conception of a mixture of chronology and literary plan entails acceptance of the notable coincidence that what the literary plan requires in respect to the avoidance of a considerable didactic interruption chronology also requires—that is, the transference of a considerable block of narratives to a position outside of the section, denned by the Sermon at the beginning and the account of the sending forth of the Twelve at the end.

We found that there are some considerations in favor of the hypothesis. It is clear, however, that no such logical situation is created by an examination of the evidence on both sides as would require us to see, in the facility with which the Matthaean text may be explained as one produced by the correction of the Markan deviations considered as chronological departures, an argument for the priority of the Second Gospel. There is no such facility. And, naturally, no such argument emerges.

It is necessary, however, to examine the alternative hypothesis which permits the Matthaean compiler to utilize his exemplar’s departures from the historical order as opportunities to rearrange the succession of blocks of incidents without requiring him to make his rearrangement in conformity with the chronology. Conceivably, he might thus be able to carry out a literary plan, being in this way released from chronological necessity. The Markan deviations from the Matthaean order are still departures from the historical progression, but the sequences in Matthew at these points are to be viewed as having been made for reasons other than a desire to correct the errors in chronology.

There is something to be said in favor of this hypothesis. Reasons exist for viewing the Markan deviations from Matthew as departures from the historical order. We have already had this matter before us. There is also reason to think that the First Gospel discloses a plan. But there appears to be no substantial evidence for claiming that the Matthaean author set in a wrong chronological place a single one of all the incidents he described in his narrative. In fact, there is strong evidence that his entire work left his hands with all the incidents in their proper historical order. Everywhere he asserts chronological succession.1 These assertions are to be found even in the textual regions where his documentary order deviates from that of Mark. Some are to be found at the very points of deviation—Mt. 9:18; 13:53–54; 21:18.

Let us now go on to Alternative No. 2. The attempt has been made to use the agreements in order between Mt. 14:1—28:20 and Mk. 6:14—16:8 as a proof of the dependence of Matthew upon Mark. Consider, in this connection, the following excerpt from a noted writer upon Synoptic matters.

“This [dependence of Matthew upon Mark] is proved not only through the fact that the entire contents of it [i.e., of the Second Gospel], with insignificant, easily explained exceptions, have been taken over into the First [Gospel], but also through the circumstance that its materials have been reproduced in the whole second half of the Gospel (from ch. 14 on) exactly in the order of the Second Gospel, although the [order] in this [Gospel] rests upon a grouping according to content that only in the First [Gospel] is conceived as a chronological one.” B. Weiss, Die vier Evangelien im Berichtigten Text (1900), Einleitung, S. 2f.

This sentence seems to me to be unfortunate in its presentation of facts and in its interpretation of their significance. First, as to the matters of fact. About the only way to save the presentation of one of them from the charge of being out of accord with the real situation is to interpret “contents” (Inhalt) as having reference not to the mass of statements found in the text of the Second Gospel but to the aggregation of whole incidents. Matthew does contain in some form or other, nearly all the incidents narrated in Mark. On the other hand, the First Gospel contains only about three-fifths of the matter actually narrated in the Second. With reference to “insignificant, easily explained exceptions” (verschwindenden, leicht erklärlichen Ausnahmen), it may be remarked that these would include the narratives of The man with the unclean spirit (Mk. 1:21–28) and of The widow’s mite (Mk. 12:41–44). As it was found necessary to give “contents” a certain, perhaps charitable, interpretation, so is it now required to perform a similar office for “materials” (Stoffe). We must not understand the writer to mean that all the details contained in the Markan document from 6:14 on have been reproduced in Matthew from 14:1 on. This would also be greatly at variance with the facts, as Mark in this long portion contains a great deal not to be found anywhere in Matthew. Interpreting “materials,” then, to mean aggregate of whole incidents, we find that Weiss claims the two series of parallel incidents, one series in Matthew and the other in Mark, to be “exactly” (genau) in the same order. Even this can hardly be claimed to represent the actual facts. Matthew sets forth the incident of Purging the Temple in advance of that of Cursing the fig tree. Mark reverses this order. (Mt. 21:12–17=Mk. 11:15–19 and Mt. 21:18–19=Mk. 11:12–14.)

With these preliminary matters in mind, the argument of Weiss may be stated as follows: The dependence of Matthew upon Mark is proved not only by the fact that the First Gospel contains parallels to nearly all the incidents in the Second but also by the consideration that from the point where Herod hears of Jesus the two Gospels have, except for certain events in the early part of the Last Week, exactly the same order. Let it at once be

BSac 81:322 (April 1924) p. 336

said that the agreement in order has absolutely no influence in respect to the matter of priority. It is as good an argument for the priority of Matthew as for that of Mark. It is not permissible to use it, as perhaps it would be uncharitable to say that Weiss has done, for the purpose of awarding priority to one’s favorite. No doubt, there is an argument in the agreements between Matthew and Mark, especially agreements where the historical order is not observed (as in the position occupied by the incident of The precious ointment), which tends to establish some variety of dependence. But this does not disturb the fact that the agreements do not, in themselves, tend to determine priority.

We come now to Alternative No. 3. It is our business to inquire whether any argument for Markan priority can be derived from the assumption that Mark contains chronologically misplaced incidents which have no parallels in Matthew. The Markan incidents unparalleled in Matthew are given by Wernle substantially as follows: 2


1:21–28, The man with the unclean spirit.

1:35–38, Tour of near-by town-cities.

4:26–29, The self-producing ground.

7:31–37, The deaf-mute.

8:22–26, The blind man of Bethsaida.

9:38–40, The stranger who cast out demons.

11:11, - The first day of the Last Week.

12:41–44, The widow and the two mites.

Two of the incidents listed may be more or less closely associated with chronological misplacements. Mk. 1:38 and 1:39 both refer to tours, but the one tour is concerned with the near-by centers of population, while the other has to do with all Galilee. It would appear then that the two verses now in juxtaposition were not originally so placed.

The other incident, or part incident, is narrated in Mk. 11:11. Matthew seems clearly to put the account of Purging the Temple upon the first day of the Last Week (Mt. 21:12). Apparently, the Lukan narrative also places it upon the first day (Lk. 19:45). Moreover, that seems the fitting time. The Markan text, as it now stands, is out of accord with this, the purging of the Temple occurring on the second day. Moreover, Mk. 11:11 is lacking in respect to significant content. These matters may be harmoniously adjusted if we accept the view that the textual matter καὶ περιβλεψάμενος…εἰς ᾿Ιεροσόλυμα (Mk. 11:11b–15a) and the passage Καὶ εἰσελθών . . . ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτου (Mk. 11:15b–18) will when interchanged reproduce the original text. This is not difficult to do, especially since it is possible to suggest a competent cause. We note that the two blocks of textual matter consist of 73 and 84 words, respectively. These blocks may accordingly very well have been consecutive columns of a roll or the first and second pages of a codex leaf. The interchange of two column-portions of a papyrus or parchment roll or the reversal of a page portion of a papyrus or parchment codex might easily occur, if we assume proper breaks in the roll material or the breaking out of the leaf from the codex.

In short, it is quite possible to maintain that, at this stage of the account of the Ministry, Mark was originally in close accord with Matthew. We have only to understand that a night intervened between Mt. 21:19 and 21:20. That is, the Matthaean writer begins a new day without giving any express indication of doing so. We have, then, a good explanation of the present deviation of the Markan text. As long as this explanation can be maintained as a reasonable one, it will be impossible to base an argument for the priority of Mark upon the difficulty of conceiving a secondary Mark as having been produced with the present contradiction of the Matthaean order that we find associated with Mk. 11:11.

The reader is not asked to accept the assumption of a misplacement having taken place on one side or the other of the point between Mk. 1:38 and 1:39. But, as this may very well have occurred, it is pertinent to inquire whether, even so, any priority argument favorable to Mark may be obtained. Such an argument might arise, under the assumption of a primary Matthew and a secondary Mark, because of some difficulty in assuming that the Markan writer originally produced a narrative consistent with Matthew at the point under consideration. Would we be required to understand that he had inserted something at a point where the Matthaean text shows by its close connection that nothing could be introduced? Or, would we have to allow that the Markan interpolation effected too much of a chosure to be consistent with the Matthaean narrative? Or, would we have to grant some other inconsistency? Any such requirement would create difficulty for the hypothesis of a prior Matthew; and, as, under the assumption of direct dependence, one or the other of the first two Gospels must be viewed as primary to the other, a difficulty for Matthaean priority means an argument for the priority of Mark.

Now the incidents narrated in Mk. 1:21–28; 29–31; 32–34 and 35–38 seem to belong together. ᾿Σκ τῆς συναγωγῆς (1:29) is explained by the preceding ἐν συναγωγῇ (1:23), and πρὸς τὴν θύραν (1:33) likewise by ἐἰς τὴν οἰκίαν (1:29). Similarly, πρωί and ἐξῆλθεν (1:35) are explained by ᾿Οψίας δὲ γενομέης (1:32) and εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν (1:29). If this reasoning is good, then the portion of text 1:21–38 is to be taken as a single Markan block, or an indivisible portion of such a block. There is no necessary connection with Mk. 1:14–20. The going into Capernaum (Mk. 1:21) may belong either to the preceding or the following text.

If we assume that originally Mk. 1:38 and 1:39 did not occur together, apparently the only suggestion as to the primitive position of 1:21–38 is that it followed 1:39–45 and preceded 4:35—5:21. This suggestion comes from the Matthaean order. Mk. 1:21–38 is to be put into the position of Mt. 8:14–17. This is required because of the parallelism of Mk. 1:29–34 with Mt. 8:14–17; and by the requirement that Mk. 1:21–38 is to be taken as indivisible. In Matthew, 8:14–17 is preceded by 4:23—8:4 and followed by 8:18–27; so that the incident narrated in Mk. 1:21–28 is to be viewed as having taken place between what is narrated in Mt. 8:1–4 and 8:18–27 and the incident of Mk. 1:35–38 is to be understood as having occurred between the events of Mt. 8:16–17 and 8:18–27. If, now, these interpolations are impossible, then we will be brought face to face with rather serious difficulties arising out of the assumption that Matthew was an exemplar for Mark. As already explained, this would amount to an argument for Markan priority.

An examination of the Matthaean text will, however, disclose no impossibilities in understanding that, between the incident of Touching the leper (Mt. 8:1–4) and that of Curing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt. 8:14–15), both the incident of The centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5–13) and also that of The man with the unclean spirit (Mk. 1:21–28) might very will have occurred. Nor is there any real difficulty in assuming that between the incidents in Mt. 8:16–17 and 8:18–27 a night intervened during which the Savior lodged at the house of Simon and Andrew. The healing and casting out took place on the evening immediately following the Sabbath. On the evening immediately succeeding the first day of the week, Jesus and His disciples cross to the other side of the Lake, the incident of the storm occurring during the passage. In Matthew (8:18), we learn the reason for the departure from the words ᾿Ιδὼν δὲ ὁ ᾿Ιησυ`ς ᾿όχλον περὶ αὐτόν. In Mark (4:36), the multitude is mentioned, but is not referred to as the reason for the departure to the other side.

The entire series of events may, in accordance with the foregoing, be tabulated as follows, beginning before and continuing after the Markan block.

Having reached the conclusion that there seems to be no reason why, under the assumption of a primary Matthew, the Markan writer may not have omitted the incident of The centurion’s servant and have introduced those of The man with the unclean spirit and of the Tour of the near-by town-cities, and having found it unnecessary to perceive any conflict in order between the two Gospels because of Mk. 11:11, we are, it would appear, entitled to claim that there are in Mark no known chronologically misplaced incidents, unparalleled in Matthew, which afford a basis for inferring Markan priority.

Probable Chronological Order

Incident Mt. Mk.
Tour through all Galilee 4:23–25 1:39
(Sermon on the Mount) (5:1—8:1)  
Touching the leper 8:2–4 1:40–45
The centurion’s servant 8:5–13 ------------
The man with the unclean spirit ------------ 1:21–28
Curing of Peter’s mother-in-law 8:14–15 1:29–31
Healing and delivering of many 8:16–17 1:32–34
Tour of near-by town-cities ------------ 1:35–38
Calming the storm 8:18–27 4:35–41


Under Alternative No. 4, we are permitted a good deal of latitude in framing an hypothesis to account for the production of a Matthaean compilation from a Markan exemplar. The Mark we set up as the primary document may be assumed, almost at will, to be chronological here and non-chronological there, to agree with and disagree from Matthew in adhering to and diverging from the historical progression. If necessary, we may assume non-chronological sequences in Mark at points where Matthew, because of partial or complete absence of parallels, neither agrees nor disagrees. In short, we have so much liberty of choice that it would seem possible now, if ever, so to construct the hypothesis that from the facility with which it explains the facts an argument favoring the priority of the Second Gospel would surely emerge. However, the hypothesis must not contravene the facts, as this would simply invite early destruction. At the same time, the possibilities of adjustment between assumptions and data are so considerable in the present case that, in view of the negative results already obtained from a study of the possible assumptions under the heads of a chronological and a non-chronological Second Gospel, failure would now appear to warrant us in entertaining very serious doubts as to whether any arguments in favor of Markan priority are really derivable from a comparison of the orders of the first two Gospels.

A formidable difficulty arises out of the high probability that in the First Gospel we have a document which as it left the hands of the author contained a narrative that was presented in an absolutely chronological order.3 As soon as we make the primitive Matthew chronological throughout, the original Markan deviations automatically become departures from the historical order. This clamps the vise on the hypothesis. All the deviations of Mark become non-chronological and all the paralleled sequences become chronological. There remains but little opportunity for the exercise, under the general hypothesis of a non-chronological Mark, of any liberty of choice. We have already seen, under Alternatives Nos. 2 and 3, little or no reason to expect that any argument for the priority of Mark is to be obtained by viewing the Matthaean writer as a compiler who followed the Second Gospel in departures from the historical order or by conceiving that Markan pairs of incidents in erroneous sequence are in Matthew represented at most by a single incident. Nor does it now appear that these assumptions will give assistance in the matter of developing an argument favoring Markan priority, particularly in view of the fact that it seems impossible to charge up against the Matthaean writer any departures from chronological order.

It is true, however, that if we make the first Gospel a compilation based on the Second, the position in Matthew of the incident of The precious ointment becomes at once an example of acquiescence in wrong chronology. John very explicitly states that the entrance into the city occurred subsequently (Jn. 12:12). It is important, logically, to show that the erroneous position of this incident in Matthew cannot be cited by advocates of Markan priority as evidence of insufficient chronological knowledge upon the part of the writer of the First Gospel. The incident is wrongly placed in our extant versions and copies but this cannot be attributed with any confidence to the Matthaean author. Let us now attend to this matter.

If the First Gospel is the prior document, there is no especial difficulty in understanding that originally this little narrative occupied a position between chapters 20 and 21, and that the present position is due to a mechanical displacement in no way referable to the author, a displacement arising out of an accident to a very ancient copy, whether in the form of a roll or a codex. But, if Mark be set up as the prior document, it would be almost necessary to ascribe acquiescence in the wrong placement of the incident to the Matthaean author. That is to say, whatever necessity there is to refer acquiescence in the misplacing of the incident to the original writer of the First Gospel arises only when Mark is made the prior document. As the priority of Mark is the thing to be proved and is not yet proved, we have, in consequence, no evidence that the incident of The precious ointment was accepted as belonging in its present position by the writer of Matthew. Furthermore, if we take the reasonable view—the scientific view—that if possible the Synoptic and the Johannine accounts are to be brought into accord, then an argument favoring Matthaean priority may be derived from what appears to be the only available explanation of the present Matthaean-Markan position of the event. The reconciliation with John seems to require that it was the writer of the earlier of the two Gospels who set the account of this incident in its right chronological place. The later writer merely followed his exemplar and acquiesced in the wrong placement. These considerations result in making Matthew that earlier Gospel. For, it is in Matthew and not in Mark that it can well be conceived that a transfer from the right place to the present one occurred. While the detachment of the passage from the position it now has in both Gospels may readily be effected without disturbance of the continuity of the narrative, it is only in Matthew that replacement to the Johannine position can be carried out. Insertion of the Markan account at the proper place—that is, between chapters 10 and 11 is unsuitable. In Mk. 14:3, we have the words: “And while he was in Bethany.” If we attempt to place the passage Mk. 14:3–9 in the position designated, we will have in the following context—that is, at Mk. 11:1—a second reference to Bethany. And this second reference seems to imply that Bethany is now first approached upon the present journey to Jerusalem: “And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany.” Accordingly, the situation is substantially this: It is necessary to assume the thing which is to be proved—namely, the priority of Mark— in order to obtain evidence that the Matthaean writer acquiesced in the wrong placement. If, however, Matthew is made prior, the wrong position is readily explained as due to an accident and is accordingly not referable to the writer. It would seem then that we are not required to debit the wrong placement or acquiescence in such a placement to the writer of Matthew.

With the First Gospel accepted as originally chronological throughout, we have the primitive Markan deviations as departures from the historical order. In fact, we are brought back to Alternative No. 1, where these deviations are so regarded. That is to say, the high probability that the Matthaean writer made no chronological errors entails upon our effort to modify and adjust the hypothesis of a prior and non-chronological Mark all the disabilities which we found attached to Alternative No. 1.

We come now to a difficulty which persists, whatever modifications and adjustments we seek to make. We are compelled to retain a prior Mark and a compiled Matthew. Under these circumstances it becomes difficult to understand the conjunction of notable and rather numerous evidences of independence in chronology with indications of marked and extensive dependence in other matters.

Whatever hypothesis we set up, it is inevitable that the testimony of the two documents themselves be heard. Here is evidence, and evidence of a high order. In the very text of Matthew are to be read chronological indications which cannot be disregarded. There are quite a number of points at which Matthew deviates from Mark. At no less than three of the Matthaean points of deviation, we are not left to infer the historical sequence from the documentary sequence. There are, in the text itself, chronological indications assertive of the order. I cite in this connection the following passages: Mt. 9:18; 13:53–54; 14:1. In Mark, likewise, are to be found similar chronological indications at points where the order of events deviates from the Matthaean order, as may be seen by referring to the passages Mk. 4:35 and 11:12.

The differences in order present a formidable problem. And a notable situation is created by the severe clash between the two documents in respect to the sequence at the close of the section dealing with the discourse concerning The Sower and other parables (Mt. 13:1–52= Mk. 4:1–34). The First Gospel continues its narrative with the account of the Visit to His own country (Mt. 13:53–58), while the Second Gospel proceeds with its narrative by the introduction of a very different incident, that of Calming the storm (Mk. 4:35–41). In both cases, let it be particularly noted, the chronological sequence is asserted. This is the situation in our present texts of Matthew and Mark. In the First Gospel we have: “he departed thence. And coming” (μετῆρεν ἐκεῖθεν. Καὶ ἐλθών) and in the Second Gospel: “On that day, when even was come (ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὀψίας γενομένης) .

Any hypothesis for the derivation of Matthew from Mark must take into account the foregoing facts as to the chronological assertions to be found in the First Gospel at points where deviations occur, and the hypothesis must face not only the asserted deviations, but all deviations from the primitive order of Mark. The phenomena cited are tangible and real.

We have then a considerable number of instances where the writer of the First Gospel displays notable independence of his exemplar insofar as chronology is concerned. How shall this be reconciled with the evidences of dependence that would, under the hypothesis that he was a compiler, have to be admitted as everywhere observable in his narrative of the Ministry? Disregarding all correspondence between the two Gospels in connection with discourse material, we have nevertheless a very extensive amount of similarity. There are but a handful of incidents in Matthew from 3:1 on to the end that are not parallels of Markan events. Except for a very few cases of variations in the order of details, examples of which may be found at Mt. 3:4–6 (=Mk. 1:5–6) and Mt. 8:26 (=Mk. 4:39–40), the First Gospel presents the parallel accounts in such way that the minor matters succeed one another in the same sequence. The language referable to the writer and exclusive of the discourse material is often similar and not infrequently identical. Dependence in the foregoing respects pervades the narrative of the Ministry throughout.

The difficulty to which attention is now being drawn concerns the conjunction of independence and dependence, a difficulty which apparently attaches to any hypothesis which makes Matthew a derivative of Mark. But let us proceed.

Whatever adjustments we may make in the hypothesis, in consequence of our liberty of modification, we still have difficulty in connection with the matter of concentration. We may, perhaps, not be able to say that there is any longer a concentration of chronological error in the Markan exemplar, because we may exercise our discretion and effect a distribution. That is, we may regard some of the Markan deviations from Matthew as correct and thus lessen the concentration, and we may make some of the agreements in order chronological errors. But, no adjustments of assumptions will apparently avail to change the fact that in the first third of Mark occur much the larger part of the chronological deviations from Matthew. This concentration remains.

Again, our hypothesis still continues to assume more or less chronological error on the part of the Second Gospel. So far as I know, there are no chronological departures in Mark that are certainly attributable to the writer. The situation created by Mk. 1:38–39 and 11:11 are to be referred to any other cause than the author of the document. No known errors in the historical progression, taken in connection with the forty-odd assertions of chronological sequence, preclude us from regarding Mark as a non-chronological narrative. Consequently, we seem unable to avoid the difficulty growing out of a basic assumption of the hypothesis under discussion, the difficulty that the hypothesis makes Mark non-chronological.

Finally, however, we adjust and readjust, we still have Ten Mighty Works between the Sermon and the sending forth of the Twelve. We still have no detailed account of a miracle or discourse preceding the Sermon and we have no substantial interruptions of the series of ten miracles. And we still have a Matthaean compiler with Mark as exemplar before him. Accordingly, we will be unable to escape the difficulty created by the necessity of viewing this compiler as refusing the notable miracle of The man with the unclean spirit instead of omitting one of the two non-Markan miracles at the end of the series of “ten.”

In view of what has now been set forth, it would appear impossible to juggle the assumptions and produce by any mixture of Alternatives Nos. 1–3 an hypothesis so capable of explaining the facts as to make this circumstance in effect a direct argument for the priority of Mark. I now close the discussion of the possibility of deriving such an argument under the assumption that Mark is non-chronological.

The Indirect Argument

We have already found that apparently no direct argument of any substantial character may be derived from a comparison of the orders in which the incidents are narrated in the first two Gospels. There remains the duty of inquiring whether indirectness may not succeed where directness has failed. I reproduce W. C. Allen’s statement of the indirect argument.

“Now the dependence of one Gospel upon the other is undeniable. The question is which is prior. In Mt. 14—28=Mk. 6:14— end the two agree, not only in phraseology but also in order of events. It would be possible here to hold that Mark had excerpted from Matthew. But in Mt. 1–8=Mk. 1–6:13 the order of events is very different. The purpose of this paper has been to show that whilst it is easy to explain this difference on the principle that Matthew has rearranged and expanded Mark’s narrative on a literary and artistic basis (not a chronological basis), it is impossible to find any motive which can have led Mark to rearrange the sections as they stand in Matthew.” W. C. Allen, The Expository Times, vol. 11 (1899–1900), (“Two Critical Studies in St. Matthew’s Gospel, II”), The Dependence of St. Matthew 1–13 upon St. Mark, p. 283.

It is assumed here that we now have the two Gospels in substantially their primitive forms—order and all. Naturally, then, if with Allen we conceive also that they stand in the relation of exemplar and derivative, there are but two alternatives. Either the Markan order was constructed by a compiler who had the Matthaean succession of events before him, or else the order of the First Gospel was produced by a dependent writer who worked with our present Second Gospel in hand. Under the conditions stated, there is no third choice; so that, once we find either alternative impossible, the other is automatically established. Allen thinks it impossible to find a motive, assignable to the Markan writer, that is competent to explain the production of the Markan order from the Matthaean.

That this sequence in the derivation of one of the orders from the other cannot be entertained was likewise expressed nearly nine decades ago by C. Lachmann:

“In fact I maintain that no suitable reason can be found of such character that Mark, because of its influence, may be conceived as having perverted here the order of Matthew, especially in view of the fact that here Luke also agrees with Mark in pretty much everything.” C. Lachmann, Theologische Studien und Kritiken (1835), article “De ordine narrationum in evangeliis synopticis,” p. 577.4

In spite, however, of the confident language used by both these writers—Allen and Lachmann—there are two answers to the indirect argument, both of them effective. (1) It is not at all impossible to assign a motive to the Markan writer when we conceive him as a compiler working with the First Gospel before him. And this assumption may be made just as plausible as the reverse where the Matthaean writer produces his narrative from the Second Gospel by a process of derivation. (2) We are not shut up to an acceptance of the two Gospels as we now have them. In fact, without excluding derivation, we may account for the deviations between the two Gospels quite apart from any assignment of purpose to the secondary writer. It is quite a tenable proposition that Mark is, in the extant copies and versions, in a condition as to order that is quite different from that which existed at the very outset, when the writer penned his pages.

It is important to maintain clear ideas as to the logical situation. Let the reader not suppose, then, that I am presenting arguments with the immediate object of vindicating the priority of Matthew. Not at all. What I am now engaged in doing is laying down a barrage for the purpose of keeping off the battlefield all those arguments for the priority of the Second Gospel which cluster around the matter of order. The battle will be won and lost in a contest in which they will not participate. At the moment, my business is to show that no substantial argument for the priority of Mark can be coaxed or forced out of considerations arising from a comparison of the two orders of events.

I propose, in setting forth the two answers to the indirect argument, to accept what may be regarded as in effect a challenge to assign a motive for the Markan writer when conceived as a dependent evangelist who nevertheless deviates in the matter of order from his exemplar. I suggest that he deviated for the purpose of correcting the chronology. What we have to examine at the moment is the comparative probability in the matter of priority. Under the assumption that neither Gospel has suffered any substantial derangement in its order, we are to decide whether the considerations favoring Markan priority when compared with those favoring Matthaean priority outweigh these latter. We have already investigated rather thoroughly the direct arguments which may be adduced on the side of the priority of Mark, and we have found no real substance. Accordingly, what remains is simply to consider whether the alleged impossibility of making Mark secondary is sufficiently real to produce an argument of any substantial value in favor of the priority of this Gospel. In view of the lack of substance in the direct arguments favoring the establishment of Mark in the prior place, it will not be necessary to develop any great plausibility for Matthaean priority and Markan dependence. I have only to equal the plausibility on the other side. I care but little about doing more in this present section of my examination than what is certainly enough to complete the clearance of the battlefield.

That the Second Gospel was written with a chronological purpose is testified to by the forty-odd instances of indications in the text that are assertive of historical sequence. The number is less than that of similar indications in Matthew. This is probably still the case after due allowance for the greater amount of narrative in the First Gospel. But forty-odd is quite enough in a little book containing only about 11,000 words altogether. It means a chronological indication for every 275 words or less.

They occur in the regions of deviation as well as elsewhere. So, it can hardly be disputed that the Markan writer meant to be chronological. Further, as we are committed to the assumption that the order of Mark is now substantially what it was in the mind of the writer when he wrote the book, we must allow that his chronological purpose was of such an insistent character that occasionally when altering the Matthaean order he explicitly asserts the correctness of the change. See, in this connection: Mk. 4:35; 5:21; 6:1. In accordance with the foregoing considerations, I set up the Markan writer as a compiler actuated by a chronological purpose when making his deviations from the Matthaean order. It is not necessary to assume him as one who was thoroughly informed, nor that his corrections of Matthew are sound; but only that his intention was to follow the true chronology. We must, however, take into account an opposing consideration. The testimony of the presbyter John, coming down to us through Papias and Eusebius,5 which suggests that the discrepant order of Mark was noticed at an early date, may be explained as due not to knowledge but to what was no more than an opinion that, as between the two Gospels, Matthew was right and the deviations in Mark wrong. As to the consideration that we are setting up the later writer, and an exceedingly dependent writer, as a corrector of an earlier chronology, it is to be remarked that in the present case we may point to the Apostle Peter as one who may very well be made the actual authority for the corrections. That Mark was associated with Peter, we may well believe, not merely because the presbyter John in effect said so, but also because this is a fair inference from the language of the Apostle himself in 1 Pt. 5:13.

It may be further argued in favor of the derivative character of Mark that in the principal region of deviation—that is, in the first third of the book—there do not appear to be evidences of a second purpose superimposed upon the chronological intention. The compiler was accordingly unembarrassed by the double purpose of making what he deemed proper corrections of the Matthaean order and at the same time carrying out a literary plan.

As a final consideration tending to show the secondary character of Mark may be mentioned the position of the incident of The precious ointment. Since both the First and Second Gospels agree in placing this event wrong, we must grant that we have in this fact a very strong argument favoring the existence of a dependent relation between the two documents. If we are going to admit the possibility at all that the first two Gospels stand in the relation of primary and secondary, then either the Matthaean writer was guided by Mark in giving this event a wrong position, or else the Markan writer was similarly guided by Matthew. That the Second Gospel was improbably the original writing may be seen from the fact that only in Matthew may we confidently suppose the narrative of the incident once to have had its right place just prior to the Entrance into Jerusalem. When, as we have before seen, the attempt is made to put the Markan account (Mk. 14:3–9) into its proper chronological position in the Second Gospel, we encounter the absurdity that, subsequently to the explicit portrayal of this event as having occurred at Bethany, we find the Markan text at 11:1 setting forth the next step of the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem as the arrival at “Beth-phage and Bethany.” There is no such absurdity, however, when the Matthaean account is transferred to a position between chapters 20 and 21. So then, if either document ever had this narrative of The precious ointment in the position so explicitly given it by John—that is, just prior to the entrance into the city—then Mark is not that writing, but Matthew. That is to say, Mark is a derivative of the First Gospel.

In view of the considerations set forth in the foregoing discussion of the suitability of regarding our Mark not only as secondary to Matthew but as a document constructed in accordance with a chronological purpose, it does not seem inequitable to claim that a derivative Mark is just as reasonable a conception as an original Mark, in so far as the matter of priority is determinable from a comparison of the two orders of events.

I now proceed to give a second answer to the proposition that it is impossible to explain the Markan deviations from the Matthaean order. This second answer does not require the rejection of derivation. It is quite compatible with the view that either Matthew or Mark is a derivative of the other. But it dispenses with any necessity for a purpose in accounting for the deviations in the secondary writing. They are conceived as the final outcome of two accidents each resulting in a disarrangement of at least a portion of the text, which was followed by an inadequate effort at replacement in the original order. The writer had nothing to do with the rearrangements which produced the deviations. I have not the space here to set this matter forth in detail. Nor does it seem quite necessary to do so, since a rather exhaustive treatment has already been published in my article on “The Order of Events in Matthew and Mark” in two installments in the issues of Bibliotheca Sacra for April and July, 1922. Suffice it to say here that the hypothesis is set up and shown to be tenable which assumes that two ancestors of our extant copies and versions of Mark each suffered a physical derangement of its textual matter. One of these involved, say, the first third of the book, and the other, say, the part of the roll or codex containing the narrative of certain events beginning with those of the day upon which the Savior rode into Jerusalem. It may be shown in each case that the MS may have very well existed in such form as to make it possible to shift parts in a manner to produce now the order of Matthew, and now the order of our present Mark. There are many points to understand, and the reader is referred to the extended exposition. A new point may, however, now be emphasized. There exists in the extant texts of Mark a place in each of the regions of deviation where the continuity of the narrative appears to be interrupted. These breaks occur, the one at the point where the present text passes from 1:38 to 1:39, the other in the vicinity of 11:11. These phenomena have already received some attention in the section devoted to a discussion of the “Assumption that Mark is not chronological, in the subsection concerned with “Alternative No. 3.” We have then, in the text itself, in both regions of deviation, evidence indicative of some disturbance of the original narrative, of a disturbance, in fact, that is not attributable to the writer. My explanation of a mechanical break-up followed by an inadequate replacement meets this situation. That is to say, my hypothesis which requires perhaps a dozen breaks in the continuity of the first third of Mark is agreeable to a break right at the transition from 1:38 to 1:39, as may be seen by referring to page 132 of the issue of Bibliotheca Sacra for April, 1922, which contains the first installment of the article to which reference has already been made. Or, the reader may turn to page 205 of the issue of the same magazine for April, 1924, in the section of the present article devoted to a consideration of certain of Lachmann’s views. The same hypothesis of mechanical break-ups of ancient Mss. of Mark is likewise agreeable to a division point between “temple” and the “and” next following in 11:11. The theory accounts very well for all the deviations between the two Gospels and makes it a tenable proposition that Mark once disclosed everywhere in its series of parallels to the First Gospel precisely the same order of events that we now find in Matthew.

But this does not settle the matter of priority. Which was the primitive order, that which is now observed in the First Gospel or that which we see in our present Second Gospel? Assuming derivation and Markan priority, we may ask whether Matthew was derived from a Mark which originally displayed the order known to us but which had suffered derangement prior to its use as exemplar by the Matthaean writer, or whether the writer of the First Gospel employed a Markan document which had suffered no derangement and disclosed the Matthaean order. Or, still assuming derivation but making Mark secondary, we may ask whether what actually occurred was not a Mark produced in the Matthaean order and later deranged to its present sequence of events.

All these views are tenable, if we go no further. There are a number of considerations, however, which indicate that the original order of Mark was the Matthaean order. The discontinuities at Mk. 1:38–39 and 11:11 may be cited. These discontinuities are associated with the order we now observe in Mark. We may thus eliminate that one of the three views which sets up a prior Mark originally in the present order of this Gospel but in the Matthaean order when used by the writer of the First Gospel. This elimination applies to the first view stated. But even this reduction of the alternatives does not settle the matter of priority, as we still have left an hypothesis on each side. But it does leave the matter even. It is just as probable that Mark was secondary as that it was primary.

It is possible, then, to maintain that the deviations from the Matthaean order that we observe in Mark were produced in this Gospel after derivation from Matthew and in consequence of a mechanical derangement followed by an inadequate attempt to reproduce the order existent before the accident. We are accordingly not under any compulsion, when Mark is assumed a derivative of Matthew, to assign some motive competent to produce the Markan deviations. Nothing purposive is required.

The foregoing discussion brings us to the conclusion that any effort to establish the priority of Mark by the use of the indirect argument based upon a comparison of the orders of events seems doomed to failure because of two adverse considerations, either of them alone being competent to destroy the force of this argument—(1) it is not at all impossible to make it about as plausible that Mark was derived from Matthew as it is that the reverse derivation occurred; and (2) it is not really necessary to assume that originally there were any disagreements in the order of events between the two Gospels.


In the next installment, I plan to summarize briefly the principal matters concerning order that have occupied our attention from page 553 of the issue for October, 1923, through the installments in the issues for January and April, 1924, and through the present installment—over 100 printed pages. It is perhaps proper to say here that our investigation into the phenomena of order has made it rather clear, I trust, that it is highly improbable that any substantial argument for the priority of Mark over Matthew can be developed from these phenomena.

(To be continued)


1) The reader who wishes to examine this matter in detail is referred to the writer’s article, “Matthew, a Chronological Narrative,” in the January and April (1923) issues of Bibliotheca Sacra. In The Methodist Quarterly Review (Nashville, Tenn.) for January (1924), pp. 111f, will be found a special study of “The Chronological Place of the Sermon on the Mount,” also by the present writer, in which the Matthaean position is vindicated.

2) Paul Wernle, Die Synoptische Frage (1899), S. 125.

To the list should be added: Mk. 3:13–19a (Appointment of the Twelve—absent from Matthew, though the First Gospel does contain an enumeration of the persons, Mt. 10:2–4) and perhaps Mk. 14:51–52 (The young man follows), though this incident may be regarded as a detail belonging to The Betrayal (Mk. 14:47–50). And the textual matters defined by Mk. 4:26–29 and 9:38–40 are scarcely to be classed as separate incidents. The former is one of the parables belonging to the group beginning with The sower; while the latter is to be regarded as giving an account of a prior incident, an incident forming no part of the succession of events presented in Mark, though the narration of it is made part of the incident which may be described as The final Galilean instruction (Mk. 9:33–50). The passage Mk. 11:11 is treated in the main text.

3) The passage concerning the birthday celebration of Herod and the murder of John the Baptist (Mt. 14:3–12) needs be regarded as no exception, but merely as a retrospect intended to give an explanation for the words of Herod when, in Mt. 14:2, he uses language implying that John was already dead. The course of the narrative may, I think, be taken thus: The Savior visited Nazareth and was ill received; at this juncture Herod hears of the miracles; and, at about the same time, the disciples of John report to Jesus who afterwards leaves Nazareth (ἐκει`θεν, Mt. 14:13) and goes to the desert place. It is not necessary so to press the sense of ἀνεχώρησεν ἐκει`θεν ἐν πλοίῳ (He departed thence by boat) as to require the lake shore as the point of departure.

4) Equidem causam idoneam, qua ductus hie Marcus ordinem Matthaei pervertisse putandus sit, nego reperiri posse, praesertim cum Lucas quoque hie paene in omnibus cum Marco consentiat: . . .

5) Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 3:39:15.