The Synoptic Problem

Part 7 of 14

By J. F. Springer, New York


Probability that a Matthaean Compiler would have made Considerable Additions to the Markan Framework of the Ministry Narrative.

We come now to the additions of whole incidents that the Matthaean writer must be conceived as having made, once we have assumed him a compiler working with Mark before him. A rather casual comparison of the two documents is sufficient to show that the First Gospel is a considerably larger book than the Second. In fact, Matthew contains about 18,000 words and Mark about 11,000. It is fairly evident, then, that the Matthaean compiler must have added greatly to the text presented by his exemplar. As he also omitted a good deal, the total textual matter added must have been much in excess of 7,000 words. However, our interest now centers upon added topics and not upon added text. When the two Gospels are compared from this point of view, we find that the Matthaean table of contents does not contain many topics in addition to its acceptances from the Markan table.

If we confine our attention to the Ministry, thus omitting the Genealogy and the Infancy Section from consideration, and exclude the topics treated in that part of Matthew which extends the history beyond the point defined by the present terminus of Mark at 16:8, we learn upon comparison that the First Gospel makes but few additions of whole incidents. I tabulate these.1


The Sermon on the Mount . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5:1—7.29

The centurion’s servant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8:5–13

The two blind men . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9:27–31

The mute demoniac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9:32–33 [34]

John’s messengers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11:2–6

Discourse concerning John . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11:7–19

The unbelieving cities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11:20–24

Words of thanks and words of comfort . . . . . . . . 11:25–30

The demand for a sign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12:38–45

The healings on the mountain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15:29–31

The fish and the stater . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17:24–27

Peter’s question as to forgiveness . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18:21–35

The return of the thirty pieces of silver . . . . . . . . .  27:3–10

The guard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27:62–66


An examination of the list—and the reader may, if he thinks it desirable, make additions from footnote No. 1— will show that the accounts of whole incidents are not especially numerous. However, I wish to direct our attention particularly to the sections which are occupied more or less with the narration of a miracle. The accounts of miracles are few in number, if only those be chosen which may properly be viewed as distinct narratives. Five may be selected from the list in the main text, and perhaps one (Peter’s walking on the sea) from the list in the footnote. We have thus no more than six miracle topics added by the Matthaean writer to his acceptances from the table of contents of Mark. Is this a reasonable total of such additions for an author as well informed with respect to the history and as competent with regard to literary composition as the compiler of Matthew must be assumed to have been? I doubt it.

Nay, more—the accounts of the five or six whole incidents of a miraculous character are scattered through the Gospel. Neither all of them nor any group of them constitute anything that may be described as a non-Markan, Matthaean section or as an important and independent division of the history. They add nothing to the framework of Mark. Would a writer as well equipped as the Matthaean compiler have been content to produce a document so nearly identical in its structure with Mark as to contain no fresh chapter in which miraculous events are recounted? I question it.

In order, however, to feel something approaching the


  Mt. Number of verses
The Sermon on the Mount. 5:1–7:27 109
Discourse to the Twelve. (latter portion) 10:24–11:1 20
Discourse concerning John. 11:2–19
(omitting v. 10)
The Unbelieving cities. 11:20–24 5
Words of thanks and words of comfort. 11:25–30 6
The demand for a sign. 12:38–45 8
Parables. 13:24–30, 36–52 24
The final Galilean instruction (latter part) 18:10–35 25
The wicked husbandmen. 20:1–16 16
The two sons. 21:28–32 5
The marriage supper. 22:1–14 14
Warning against scribes and Pharisees (latter part). 23:8–39 31
The Second Advent (latter part). 25:1–46 46
    Total. 326


full force of the foregoing objections against making the Matthaean author a compiler from Mark and at the same time the producer of but five or six additional topics having to do with miraculous events, topics not only scattered but constituting no part of any new feature of the history of the Ministry, it will be necessary to get before us a considerable part of the evidence which makes manifest what this compiler must have known in excess of the information supplied by the Markan exemplar. But, before going on to an exposition of details, it will be advisable to take due notice of the fact that when, by proper eliminations, the Matthaean text is made comparable with that of Mark in respect to the general character of its contents, the two Gospels are of about the same length. Omitting the verses excluded by WH from the main text, I find that the entire First Gospel contains 1,064 verses. When the 48 verses of the Genealogy and the Infancy Section are removed and also the last 10 of the whole document which recount events not represented in our present Gospel of Mark, we have left 1,006 verses. From these it is proposed to eliminate the considerable sections of unparalleled didactic matter. The .accompanying tabulation enumerates these, their positions and their amounts.

Subtracting the 326 verses of unparalleled didactic material, we have for the Gospel of Matthew when made comparable, in the character of its content, to the Gospel of Mark a length of 680 verses. The two documents will then be about the same size, Mark having a length of 661 verses. For certain comparisons, it will accordingly not be permissible to claim that allowance must be made for difference in size.

The Six Matthaean Summaries Involving Miracle.
Let us now go on with an inquiry into the fund of independent information that the compiler of the First Gospel must be allowed as having possessed, if we propose to assume his dependence upon the Second. There are in Matthew six summarized statements of the Savior’s activity in working miracles that are to be viewed, when this Gospel is assumed to have been produced by a compiler with Mark before him, as six independent assertions. Nevertheless, these indications of extra-Markan resources are all in situations denned by the Second Gospel. This is a matter of importance and merits our close attention. The six statements are at the following Matthaean locations: (1) 4:23–24; (2) 9:35; (3) 14:14; (4) 15:30–31; (5) 19:2; (6) 21:14. I proceed to show that we have at these six places statements which go beyond any known source of information. It will be desirable to give the passages, and also the parallels, if such exist.


Mt. 4:23–24   Mk. 1:39
“And Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness among the people. Anf the report of him went forth into all Syria: and they brought unto him all that were sick, holden with divers diseases and torments, possessed with demons, and epileptic, and palsied; and he healed them.”   “And he went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons.”


It will be noted at once, perhaps, that the Matthaean statement far transcends the Markan in respect to the fullness of detail as to the miraculous. In the latter statement, we are merely told that the tour extended to the synagogues throughout the whole of Galilee and that upon this tour the Savior was in part engaged in the casting out of demons. In the statement in Matthew, however, we find an enumeration of the classes of diseases cured as well as reference to demoniac possession.

Let it be noted in addition that the Matthaean statement is concerned with a situation defined in Mark by the parallel.


Mt. 9:35   Mk. 6:6b
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness.”   “And he went round about the and villages teaching.”


There is doubt whether the pasage from Mark belongs with the preceding or the succeeding context. In the one case, we have no parallel to the Matthaean statement; in the other, we find that the parallel contains no reference to miraculous events. In either case, we have in the passage from Matthew a compendious reference to miracles that is of an independent character.

This comprehensive notice of miraculous occurrences occupies a position defined in Mark, since it belongs in the introduction to the account of The Twelve sent forth, a narrative occurring also in Mark.


Mt. 14:14

“and healed their sick.”


This statement occurs in the Matthaean narrative of Feeding the five thousand, and there is nothing to correspond in the Markan account of the same event. We do have a reference to these same miracles in Lk. 9:11, but this cannot be regarded as a source for Matthew unless we are prepared to make the Gospel of Luke prior. We have in Jn. 6:2 and 26 references to miracles that were more or less associated with the feeding of the five thousand. Whether these miracles are to be identified with those of Mt. 14:14 is not clear. At all events, unless we are prepared to make the Gospel of John earlier than the Gospel of Matthew, we cannot view these Johannine passages as the source.

Again, we have an independent Matthaean notice as to miracles which is to be found in a situation defined in Mark.


Mt. 15:30–31

“And there came unto him great multitudes, having with them the lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and they cast them down at his feet; and he healed them: insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing: and they glorified the God of Israel.”2


Even after allowing the marginal omission of WH and that of their main text, we still have, in the latter portion of the passage:

“when they saw the dumb speaking, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing”.

Consequently, at the minimum, we have in effect a notice implying Matthaean knowledge of a series of miracles. If the incident of Mk. 7:31–37 be considered as having occurred at this juncture, it is to be noted that the Markan text recounts only a single miracle, though it does so in detail, and so cannot be regarded as a sufficient source for the statement in Matthew.

The Matthaean notice occurs between the narrative of The Syrophoenician woman (Mt. 15:21–28) and that concerning Feeding the four thousand (Mt. 15:32–39). It is thus placed in Matthew in a situation intermediate between the points defined by the positions of the accounts of these events in Mark.


Mt. 19:2   Mk. 10:1b
“and great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.”   “and multitudes come together unti him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.”


Here, obviously, the Matthaean statement goes beyond the Markan insofar as miracles are concerned, the latter making no reference at all to such events.

And, evidently, the Matthaean notice occurs in a situation defined by the Markan text.


Mt. 21:14

“and the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.”


This passage occurs in the midst of the account in Matthew which is mainly occupied with Purging the Temple, an event related also in Mark. But this Matthaean statement is unparalleled.

Moreover, the statement evidently occurs in a position defined by the Markan text.3

We have now before us six statements by the Matthaean writer which show that, in Markan situations, his information as to the activity of the Savior in connection with miracles considerably transcends that supplied by his assumed exemplar. We are not able to make a similar assertion when Matthew is made primary and Mark secondary. Apparently, there are only two instances which may be brought forward to show that the Markan writer, when conceived as a compiler, would have to be viewed as possessing knowledge, not disclosed in his exemplar, of groups or series of miracles. One of these occurs in the Markan account of the Withdrawal of Jesus, an event narrated in both Gospels. At Mk. 3:10, the writer explains the direction to have a little boat in waiting by stating that, in consequence of many having been healed, the afflicted were crowding upon the Savior, and then (verse 11) goes on to mention how the unclean spirits behaved when they saw Him. The text of Mt. 12:15 merely states that He healed them all and does not divide the afflicted into two groups—those having plagues and those possessed with devils. It is doubtful, however, whether the Markan writer refers to any miracles not included in the Matthaean statement. Then there is Mk. 6:13, where the Markan writer speaks of the cures effected in consequence of The Twelve sent forth. The First Gospel gives no account of the actual happenings. At most, we have in Mark only two instances against three times as many in Matthew. Nor, as already more or less indicated, can we explain the greater number in the one case by saying that they occur in a larger document. We have three times the number in a writing of the same size.

The Six Would Imply A Compiler Further Informed.

What interpretation are we to place upon the presence in Matthew of the six comprehensive statements as to the occurrence of miracles? If we look simply to their total content of information, we must conclude that the compiler had resources outside of his narrative exemplar. If, however, we not only give attention to the informative content of the six statements but conjoin with this broad fact two considerations. (1) that they are all attached more or less closely to the Markan framework, and (2) that there is a complete absence in Matthew of any section constituting an addition to this Markan framework and at the same time containing one or more descriptions of miraculous events, then we shall have a good and ample basis upon which to found a conclusion as to the improbability that Matthew is a compilation from Mark. At the present moment, however, I propose that we confine our attention to the import as to miracle contained in the six statements, and reserve for future consideration the implications involved when we add other facts.

Comprehensive statements as to miracles are found in all four Gospels, and some of these cannot be referred to any known external source. We have already had before us the case of Mk. 3:10–11, and also that of Mk. 6:13. Then there is a clear example in Lk. 5:15, and perhaps a second instance in Lk. 6:18–19. In the Fourth Gospel, I may cite Jn. 2:23 (with 3:2 and 4:45) and 11:47. The mere occurrence then of a comprehensive statement in a Gospel is no sufficient proof that the document is an independent writing, since all of the Synoptic Gospels contain individually at least one such statement. However, the Gospel of Matthew contains six, and this puts the case of this document into a different class. The First Gospel is notable as containing at six separated points information as to miracles that is not to be found elsewhere. The six, then, constitute part of the evidence that the compiler of Matthew added considerably to the information obtainable from his exemplar.

I proceed to consider other evidences of an independent knowledge of miracles performed.

Matthaean Detailed Accounts Of Non-Markan Miracles.

A close examination of Matthew and Mark discloses that the writer of the former possessed a good deal of information relating to well-defined miracles and their details which is not to be found in the latter. I am now adding other independent information to that supplied by the six statements as to groups of miracles. Furthermore, the Matthaean information as to non-Markan incidents of a miraculous character is closely connected with the framework of the Second Gospel.

A couple of incidents may first be enumerated:


1. Peter’s walking on the sea. . . . . . . . . . 14:28–31

2. The fish and the stater. . . . . . . . . . . . . 17:24–27

Neither of these is paralleled in Mark,4 but both are closely connected up with events which are narrated in this Gospel.5

It may be observed that all these events are narrated in that part of Matthew which parallels the first third of Mark. There is a good deal of reason to suppose that this section of the Second Gospel underwent a physical derangement. It is quite possible that upon this occasion the accounts of these miracles may have been lost. It is reasonable to understand, then, if Matthew is a compilation based largely upon Mark, that the compiler obtained them from this latter Gospel. Their original presence in Mark is, naturally, only a hypothesis, but, apparently, it is a thoroughly tenable one. In view of this fact, there is some question whether I ought to list these miracles with those in the main text. Moreover, I propose, later on, to cite this tenable hypothesis in opposition to the claim that Mark can not very well be considered as a compilation from Matthew because of the difficulty of accounting for its omissions of Matthaean miracles.

At the same time, the reader is invited to give attention to the fact that all four accounts in Matthew are in close connection with narratives paralleled in Mark. The account of (a) lies between that of Touching the leper (Mt. 8:1–4) and that of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt. 8:14–15). Both incidents are also narrated in Mark, and fairly close together, though the order is there different. The narrative of (b) is intimately linked to that of The ruler’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood (Mt. 9:18–26), which is also a Markan occurrence, by the words, “And as Jesus passed from thence” (verse 27); and the account of (b) is united with that of (c) by the connecting language, “And as they went forth, behold” (verse 32). The narrative of (d) is the basis of the claim of the Pharisees against the Savior which occasioned the disclosure concerning The kingdom divided against itself. This discourse is found also in Mark.

Those who think that the non-Markan material possessed in common by the First and Third Gospels once existed as a part or the whole of a separate document would, perhaps, have an additional reason for omitting (a) from the list in the main text.

The incident listed as No. 1 is obviously recounted as part of the miracle of Walking on the sea, an event belonging to both Gospels. The incident listed as No. 2 is plainly described in association with The final Galilean instruction, which is Markan as well as Matthaean. In short, then, we have two additional miracles narrated by the Matthaean writer in close connection with Markan situations.

Matthaean Context Supplements Associated With Miracles.

In addition to these examples of independent knowledge on the part of the writer of the First Gospel, even when he is made a compiler, it will be pertinent to consider what may be called context supplements. In the case of about ten of the miraculous events narrated in both of the first two Gospels, we have supplementary matter of importance. It consists, sometimes, of an added detail, and, sometimes, of added words of participants.

1. Touching the leper (Mt. 8:l-4=Mk. 1:40–45).— The setting in Matthew is such as to make the miracle an event shortly following the Sermon on the Mount. In Mark, there is no connection with the prior history stated.

2. Calming the storm (Mt. 8:18–27=Mk. 4:35–41).— In Matthew, we have the reproofs given to two hesitant followers as something linked up with the departure of the Savior for the other side of the sea. But, as this account (verses 19–22) is part of the non-Markan material found both in Matthew and Luke, the reader may wish to omit it on the ground that he views it as derived from the hypothetical document “Q.”

3. The ruler’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood (Mt. 9:18–26=Mk. 5:22–43) .—There is in Matthew (verse 18) a context supplement in the form of a statement of close chronological connection with the preceding account of the Children of the bride-chamber: “While he spake these things unto them.”

4. The man with the withered hand (Mt. 12:9–14= Mk. 3:1–6).—We have in the Matthaean account a very considerable addition in the form of an illustration given by the Savior: “And he said unto them, What man shall there be of you, that shall have one sheep, and if this fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man of more value than a sheep?” (verses ll-12a).

5. Feeding the five thousand (Mt. 14:13–21=Mk. 6:30–44).—This incident is recorded in all four Gospels. Nevertheless, Matthew alone contains two certain quotations from the words uttered by the Savior upon this occasion: (1) “They have no need to go away” (verse 16) and (2) “And he said, bring them hither to me” (verse 18).

6. Walking on the sea (Mt. 14:22–33=Mk. 6:45–52). —This miracle is recounted both in Matthew and in Mark, and perhaps originally in Luke. The import of Mt. 14:33 is, at all events, now found only in the First Gospel: “And they that were in the boat worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”

7. The Canaanitish woman (Mt. 15:21–28=Mk. 7:24–30).—Whether this incident was narrated in the autograph of the Third Gospel is not known. It is now told in Matthew and Mark; and, in the account given in the First Gospel, we find that nearly all of verses 22b–24 is matter absent from the Second: “... came out from those borders [that is, from the parts of Tyre and Sidon], and cried, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

8. The Transfiguration (Mt. 17:l-13=Mk. 9:2–13).— This occurrence is narrated in all three of the Synoptic Gospels and is referred to in Jn. 1:14 and 2 Pt. 1:16–18. But we have no extant authority that is probably prior to the First Gospel for verses 6a and 7 of the Matthaean account: “While he was yet speaking . . . And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them and said, Arise, and be not afraid.”

9. The deaf and dumb spirit (Mt. 17:14–20[21] = Mk. 9:14–29).—Here again we have an incident which is narrated in all of the first three Gospels. In verses 14 and 20 of the Matthaean narrative, we have, however, matter not elsewhere to be found: “. . . there came to him a man, kneeling to him . . . Because of your little faith: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

10. The Death (Mt. 27:45–56=Mk. 15:33–41).—An account of the last three hours is contained in both of the first two Gospels, but in Matthew alone we find narrated a brief description of the miraculous earthquake (parts of verses 51, 52, 54):”and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent; and the tombs were opened . . . when they saw the earthquake, and the things that were done, feared exceedingly.”

There remains the unparalleled account contained in Mt. 27:52b–53. Whether this passage is or is not genuine, it is nevertheless closely associated with narrative paralleled in Mark.

We have now had before us presumably all of the passages in Mt. 3.1—28:10 which have to do with miracles and which can not be viewed as having been derived from Mark or from any other known source. And all, whether mentioned in the main text or in footnotes, are closely associated with Markan situations. That is to say, all Matthaean additions, both references to and entire descriptions of non-Markan miracles and important context supplements to parallel accounts of miraculous events, belong to the framework of the Second Gospel. The Matthaean compiler was so well informed upon the history of the miraculous side of the Savior’s public life that he could connect up with a table of contents chosen by another man, the following new material:

1. Six summarized statements of groups of miracles.

2. Two or more descriptions of individual miracles.

3. Important additions to the accounts of say, eight or ten different miracles.

The question that now presses for answer is this— Would a writer so thoroughly informed that he can make additions, of the character and extent indicated by this statement, to the series of events and situations chosen by another be content to limit his own presentation to that series? The fact that he knows so much that can be connected up with another man’s selections means he was also informed outside the other’s table of contents. He knows at six points of a narrative, whose choice of events was settled by someone else, that groups of miracles were performed. This makes it probable that he knew of individual miracles and of tours or the like, involving the miraculous to a greater or lesser extent, that were completely outside the Markan presentation. It is not as if the miracles performed by the Savior were few in number and capable of being put into a few groups. As to the number, we are told: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that should be written” (Jn. 21:25). The additions in John are notable and indicate that the Savior’s activities included journeys not indicated in the first two Gospels.

If we are going to set up Mark as an exemplar used by a Matthaean compiler, then we must grant that there are strong indications that this compiler had a good deal of information as to miracles which he did not use. He was a man of marked literary ability, so that it is difficult to see why he did not add to the Markan framework a section or two containing detailed descriptions of miracles. We may well ask, Where are the added sections which do contain descriptions of miraculous events?6

What are the facts in the case of Luke? Here is a Gospel which, if we are going to allow interdependence among the Synoptic Gospels, must be considered as quite probably compiled in part from Mark. This compilation contains, as we have already seen, one or two compendious statements as to miracles, statements which are not to be found in the exemplar. The total import is small and not comparable with that contained in the six Matthaean passages of a similar character. Nevertheless, we do find in Luke what may very well be an addition to the framework of Mark. I refer to the narrative of The woman healed on the Sabbath (Lk. 13:10–17). This account is connected neither with the preceding nor with the following context. The incident is, so far as we know, nothing that has any close connection with the series of events which make up the framework of the Second Gospel. Accordingly, the case of Luke, if it affords anything, affords support to the view that, if Matthew is assumed to be a compilation, then we should find in it what we do not find—namely, a section or two occupied to some extent with detailed accounts of miracles and having no close connection with the Markan framework.

The absence from Matthew of a section of the kind described must be considered as a serious objection to the hypothesis that this Gospel originated as a compilation based on Mark.

The Markan Writer When Assumed To Be A Compiler Has A Thoroughly Reasonable Purpose

In accordance with our programme of investigation, we might now enter upon the discussion of the amount and character of the details pertaining to acceptances, omissions and additions when Matthew is conceived as a compilation based on Mark. I propose, however, that these matters, for the most part, be held in reserve for a time, and that at the present moment we proceed to a consideration of the number and character of whole incidents which are to be viewed as having been accepted, omitted and added when we reverse the general situation and make Mark a derivative of Matthew. Let us focus attention upon the question of impossibility of purpose. Is it an impossibility that the Markan writer would have made these acceptances, omissions and additions? If so, then we have a cogent argument favoring the dependence of Matthew. I have the business in hand of showing that this impossibility cannot be maintained.

Let the reader understand that I am not at this juncture engaged in proving Mark a compilation from Matthew. But I am occupied in demonstrating that this is a tenable proposition. All I have to do is to make clear that the arguments directed at the establishment of the view that the Second Gospel could not have been compiled from the First are ineffective and fail in making good the claim of impossibility.

It will, perhaps, assist us in going through the evidence piece by piece to get beforehand a just conception of what may be set up as a broad, reasonable purpose— as a not impossible purpose—of a compiler constructing the Gospel of Mark mainly from the materials supplied by the Gospel of Matthew. This purpose may be inferred from certain large differences between the two documents. (1) The Second Gospel is much smaller. It contains 661 verses as compared with 1,064 in Matthew. That is, it is only 62 per cent, of the size of its assumed exemplar. I suggest that the Markan compiler may very well have desired to produce a small document. (2) If now we turn to a broad consideration of the contents of the two Gospels, we will find that, while Matthew is concerned with the Jewish point of view, Mark is occupied with that which belonged to contemporary Gentiles. The First Gospel connects up with the OT by means of the Genealogy. He that is born in Bethlehem is born King of the Jews. The Messiah is presented as definitely associated with Jewish territory, the Jewish people, and the line of David and Abraham (Mt. 2:1, 5–6; 2:2, 6; 1:1, 16, 20). Scattered all through the document are references to OT things. In the Second Gospel, such references are limited, and those which do occur can for the most part be explained as due to the direct influence of the exemplar. There is no Hebrew genealogy, no emphasis of the idea that Jesus is King of the Jews. The Law is not once mentioned—nor the Land of Israel, nor the lost sheep of the House of Israel, nor the cities of Israel, nor the Tribes of Israel. We find no mention as such of the God of Israel. All these have their place in Matthew. In the First Gospel, the Jewish leaders are at times (Mt. 2:4; 21:23; 26:3; 26:47; 27:1) linked with the phrase “of the people,” but this is never done in the Second. Of the OT worthies, places and events mentioned in Matthew, some are referred to not at all in Mark. Thus, Noah, the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Solomon, the Queen of the South, Jonah, the Ninevites, Jeremiah, the Jewish Captivity, Daniel, Babylon are all mentioned in the one Gospel, but none of them in the other. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Isaiah are named in both, but practically all references to these great names in Hebrew history are in Mark explainable as parallels of Matthaean notices. The assumption that the Gospel of Mark is a compilation based on the Gospel of Matthew is not at all embarrassed by all this apparent avoidance of Jewish things. We have only to conceive the compiler as having Gentile readers primarily in contemplation. (3) Upon going on with the comparison, we note that all matter preliminary to and having no close relationship with the public ministry of the Savior is omitted. I venture upon the further suggestion that the compiler wished to limit his Gospel to the period of the Savior’s activity as a teacher and healer and to those final days occupied with the crucifixion, resurrection and associated matters. Reasons for such a limitation might well have been founded on a wish to save space and to omit matters which were not immediately connected with the presentation of the Messiah as one upon whom Gentiles were called upon to believe. (4) Upon further examination, it is ascertained that the Second Gospel does not contain the Sermon on the Mount, nor a long report of the Savior’s instruction to the Twelve when He sent them forth two by two, nor the several discourses of Mt. 11:2–30, nor a full account of the seven miracles, nor an extended statement of the Savior’s final Galilean instruction, nor a complete presentation of the warnings against the Jewish teachers, nor a setting forth of the prophecies uttered during the Last Days with the fullness of that of Matthew. The tabulation exhibits the differences in these large matters.

Comparative Tabulation Of Space Given To Various Discourses

(Space measured in words, WH text)

  Mt. Mk.
Sermon on the Mount. 1975
The Twelve sent forth. 791
Various Discourses 470
The Sower and other parables 963
The final Galilean instruction 762
Warning against the scribes and Pharisees. 649
The Second Advent. 1569

Totals . . . . . .

7179 1623


It would appear that the great inequality in discourse material exhibited by the table is to be taken as suggestive that the Markan compiler desired to exclude didactic matter to a very considerable extent. Finally, as we have already learned, the Second Gospel contains much more detail in its accounts of most of the miracles. In the case of fourteen accounts concerned with miracle, Mark employed space amounting to 2,089 words and Matthew 1,211 words. We are, accordingly, to conceive the purpose of the compiler of Mark as including a desire to expand the narratives of many miracles, to expand, in fact, wherever he had additional information.

Altogether, then, we may set forth the purpose of this compiler as largely concerned with the intention of producing a small document confined to a presentation of notable facts, particularly miracles, belonging to the life of the Savior from the Baptism to the Resurrection, a document which would give the essentials for the faith of Gentile believers as compared with Jewish. The omission of the material contained in the first two chapters of Matthew and of the bulk of the didactic matter in the remainder of the book is readily understood. As a final feature of the purpose, we may take into consideration the wish to add fresh material available to him. An examination of the two Gospels shows that Mark contains something like a total of 3,000 words of text not found in Matthew. As the whole of the Second Gospel amounts only to about 11,000 words, the new material is a considerable part of the entire document.

It may be desirable to present in schedule form the principal, though not necessarily mutually exclusive, features of what is a perfectly reasonable purpose for a compiler engaged in abridging the Gospel of Matthew viewed as a whole, but also concerned to expand the accounts of miracles:

1. A short document.

2. A presentation suited particularly to Gentile readers.

3. A general restriction of the narrative to the works of the Savior rather than the teachings.

4. An expansion of the total account of miracles by the introduction of a very considerable mass of fresh details.

5. The addition of other new material.

With this conception of the purpose of the Markan writer before us, we will not need to be troubled when it is suggested that a difficulty is involved in the assumption that the compiler omitted the entire introduction of the First Gospel and began his narrative with the appearance of John the Baptist. We need not be surprised that with Gentile readers in view he saw no reason to lengthen his book by including an account of what did not seem essential. Moreover, that the point of beginning is a suitable one is evidenced by the fact that another Gospel writer, John the son of Zebedee, also chose it. Nor need we be alarmed when it is pointed out that, when Matthew is assumed as having been already in existence, there would have been no reason to compile such a book as Mark, as its contents were already available. The purpose outlined in the foregoing schedule is competent to meet this face to face. An abridgment is, by itself, a reasonable thing, even though the unabridged is available. A non-Jewish circle of readers is a sufficient reason for the production of a narrative which would be confined to the essentials necessary to Gentiles. When we keep clearly in mind the purpose to produce a shortened narrative and combine with it the object of meeting the essential requirements of Gentile readers, it will mean little or nothing to us when advocates of the dependence of Matthew ask us whether we think any compiler would omit such excellent material as the Sermon on the Mount. The scheduled statement of purpose appears to set forth a thoroughly reasonable object. This object would become vague and unimportant if the compiler would permit himself to be swayed by such considerations. The purpose is clear as it stands. It would lose in reasonableness, if it once were allowed to be compatible with the acceptance of all the excellent matter of Matthew. Such a view leads in the direction of duplication of the exemplar. To produce a short account of the Savior’s life from the Baptism to the Resurrection, and in doing so to present His works rather than His teachings as the things to be emphasized, constitute a clear-cut and reasonable purpose. It would be confused by continued acceptances of didactic material, which would in the end result in a book not much different from Matthew. The reasonableness of the purpose is largely to be preserved by keeping in view the idea of a narrative different from the exemplar. There would, in fact, be but little reason for the Markan compiler to produce a book, if the book when done was to be approximately another Matthew. However, we must not overlook the fact that the compiler did have fresh material. This consisted in part of the considerable total of details for the accounts of many miracles and in part of other matter. Altogether, the fresh material amounts to about 27 per cent, of the Second Gospel.

In a large way, then, the purpose assignable to the assumed Markan compiler is a thoroughly reasonable one. It remains to consider whether this reasonableness is impaired by a closer examination. I raise the question, Do the acceptances of whole incidents which must be attributed to the Markan compiler affect the suitability of the purpose that has been set forth? The whole incidents accepted number, say, 76. As the entire number of narrative sections in Mark may be taken as 83, we find that the compiler obtained 92 per cent, of his entire table of contents from the Matthaean table. This is not to be taken to mean that this percentage of his text is Matthaean matter. Not at all. The 92 per cent, refers to topics, not to textual matter nor to information. Of the Markan list of topics treated, 92 per cent, of the titles are duplicates or equivalents of Matthaean titles. The completeness of the dependence of the Markan table of contents upon that of his exemplar may perhaps justify the view that in the Second Gospel we have an abridgment—something more than that, because of the presence of new matter, but still an abridgment. This, however, causes no embarrassment. That Mark should be an abridgment is in strict conformity to the purpose that has been set forth in considerable detail.

The Tradition As To Peter And The Gospel Of Mark

There is another question that arises at this point. Can dependence of the writer of the Second Gospel for 92 per cent, of his outline upon the Gospel of Matthew be reconciled with what antiquity seems to report as to the relation of the Second Gospel to the apostle Peter? That is to say, How could Peter have been Mark’s source of information as to the contents of the First Gospel, when examination shows that nearly all of the topics are of Matthaean selection?

I proceed to give just about all the passages of an early date which are informative as to the relation in which Peter was understood by the ancients to stand to our Second Gospel.

“This also the Presbyter [John] said: ‘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. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teachings to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.’ “—Papias (in The Church History of Eusebius, 3.39.15); Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, new series, vol. 1, pp. 172 f. About 100 A. D. for Presbyter John and, say, 110 or 120 A. D. for Papias.


“Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the church in Rome. After their departure [i.e., death] Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing those things which Peter had preached.”—Irenaeus (in passage the Greek original of which has been preserved in Eusebius, CH, 5.8.2–3, N&P-NF, new ser., vol. 1, p. 222). Also, in Irenaeus, Latin translation of Against Heresies, 3.1.1; Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p. 414. Date of third book from which the excerpt originated, about 180 A. D.


“The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it.”—Clement of Alexandria, Hypotyposes (in Eusebius, CH, 6.14.6–7; N&P-NF, new ser., vol. 1, p. 261). Date of Clement’s work, about 200 A. D.


“And so greatly did the splendor of piety illumine the minds of Peter’s hearers [at Rome] that they were not satisfied with hearing once only, and were not content with the unwritten teaching of the divine Gospel, but with all sorts of entreaties they besought Mark, a follower of Peter, and the one whose Gospel is extant, that he would leave them a written monument of the doctrine which had orally been communicated to them. Nor did they cease until they had prevailed with the man, and had thus become the occasion of the written Gospel which bears the name of Mark. And they say that Peter, when he had learned, through a revelation of the Spirit, of that which had been done, was pleased with the zeal of the men, and that the work obtained the sanction of his authority for the purpose of being used in the churches. Clement [of Alexandria] in the eighth book of his Hypotyposes gives this account.”—Eusebius, CH, 2.15.1–2; N&P-NF, new ser., vol. 1, p. 116. Date for Clement’s work, about 200 A. D., and for the CH of Eusebius, about 324 A. D.


“that [Gospel] which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was.”—Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.5; A-NP, vol. 3, p. 350. About 210 A. D., for the fourth book, from which the present excerpt is taken.


“The second [Gospel] is by Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, who in his Catholic epistle [i.e., 1 Peter] acknowledges him as a son, saying, ‘The church that is at Babylon elect together with you, saluteth you, and so doth Marcus, my son.’ “—Origen (in Eusebius, CH, 6.25.5); N&P-NF, new ser., p. 273. Date for the first book of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, from which this excerpt was taken by Eusebius, about 246 A. D.

It is to be observed that the foregoing excerpts embodying the earliest statements of the traditions that are extant are not strictly in accord with one another. On the one hand, we find support for the view that the Gospel was written prior to the death of Peter and on the other there is the plain statement that Mark composed it after that event. At the same time, it stands out clear and unmistakable that our Second Gospel in some way or other has Peter back of it, and that John Mark was his interpreter and disciple.

All these forms of the tradition may, I think, be sufficiently explained under the hypothesis of a prior Matthew —the hypothesis which we are at present assuming— in the following way.

Let us conceive that at some time before his death Peter came into possession of a copy of Greek Matthew and that he proceeded to use it in preaching and teaching. And let us also conceive him as introducing additional material embraced in his own knowledge, some in connection with discourse matter and some by way of miracle. Mark may have been associated with Peter from the beginning of this period or from a later point of time. As he was acting as interpreter, he may have done the reading of the passages selected from time to time, translating them or not as occasion may have required. But, whether he took part or not in any public reading or whether it was customary or not with Peter to make such reading a part of his procedure is immaterial. We may conceive that he at least based his preaching and teaching upon the Gospel of Matthew and supplemented its record from his own knowledge, and that eventually Mark made an abridged compilation which included the fresh material. This may have been done for the convenience of Peter and we need not inquire whether it was his convenience in public or in private that was to be served. Or, the document may have been written for the convenience of Mark himself, if indeed he read to the audience. That a copy should be requested by a group of brethren at Rome or elsewhere and that their request should be complied with are things not difficult to believe. Nor is it hard to understand that Mark’s first composition might well have embraced less than the whole of what is now to be found in the Second Gospel and that later on, subsequently to Peter’s death, it might have been made more complete. It seems possible to account in this way for the apparent conflict in the tradition as to the time at which the document was written.

Under the circumstances described, it is easy to see how the Gospel of Mark came to be based, to the extent of 92 per cent, of the topics in its table of contents, upon the Gospel of Matthew. There is no need to think of Peter as ambitious to be an author and as desirous of originating an independent Gospel. Nor are we required by any evidence to see these things in Mark. The fact then that the Second Gospel is, for 92 per cent, of its topics, dependent upon the First, is by no means incompatible with the existence of the early tradition as to Peter and Mark, his interpreter.

That Peter should single out the works of the Savior rather than His teachings is in itself not improbable. It so happens, however, that we have some examples of Peter’s preaching. In two of these, the emphasis is very clearly laid upon what the Savior did. From the address delivered on the day of Pentecost, I excerpt the following:

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know.”—Ac. 2:22.

And there is no reference to the Savior’s teaching. Then, upon the occasion where the word was first preached to the Gentiles, we have:

“Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem.”—Ac. 10:38–39.

This may, perhaps, be the most suitable place at which to call attention to the entire absence in Mark of matter tending to feature Peter in praiseworthy episodes. In Matthew, we find a detailed account of him walking on the sea (Mt. 14:22–23); an explicit statement as to his blessedness revealed upon his confession of faith in the Messiahship of the Savior, and as to his position as holder of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 16:17–19); and a narrative relating to the collection of the Temple tax in which Peter is made very prominent (Mt. 17:24–27). There is nothing of all this in Mark.

If we are going to make Peter the source or channel through which the author of Mark received his information, then, even in the event of making this Gospel an exemplar upon which Matthew is based, we will need to account for the absence of such material. Doubtless, the reason to assign would be the modesty of the apostle. This same reason is, however, good when we reverse the relationship of the two Gospels and view Mark as dependent upon Matthew. Peter’s modesty affords just as acceptable a reason as before. The writer of the Second Gospel was not permitted to include the three passages in which Peter is given such great and favorable prominence.

A Summary

Two questions have come to the fore in this installment. The first of these may be put thus: Under the hypothesis that Matthew is a compilation based on Mark, is its framework what might be expected? The answer to this is, No. Even if we allow that the writer of the First Gospel was a compiler, we must nevertheless grant that there are abundant evidences of literary ability. It is unlikely that a man having organizing and descriptive powers would have stuck so closely to another man’s framework as the evidence shows he must have done, if he had any considerable independent material. That he must be viewed as in possession of such material in generous amount is indicated by the fact that, though he was a compiler, he was able to connect up, with a series of events chosen by another, as many as six compendious statements of the occurrence of miracles not found in his exemplar. I do not emphasize his additional narratives of miracles nor his context supplements, as such things are to be granted whether we make the one or the other of the two Gospels secondary. But I do lay stress upon the occurrence of the six statements. This must be taken to mean that he was widely informed, especially as to the miraculous works of the Savior. He was so abundantly informed that he could supplement another writer’s outline at six points. The book of Matthew viewed as a compilation should accordingly disclose, in the period of the Ministry and Last Days, not necessarily a more extended framework but certainly a different one. Since we do not find anything but essentially the same outline, there is considerable difficulty in conceiving the First Gospel as a derivative document.

The second question that focusses our attention is one which asks, May a thoroughly reasonable purpose be advanced for the compiler, when we conceive of the Gospel of Mark as deriving 92 per cent, of its table of contents from Matthew? The answer to this must be, Yes. Not only is such a purpose capable of being formulated, when we take no account of external evidence, but it may readily be conceived in such form as to be compatible with the most ancient traditions as to the origin of the Second Gospel. There was abundant reason why the Markan writer should compose such a Gospel as that which has come down to us, even though the First Gospel be assumed as already extant. He had new matter, enough in fact to make up 27 per cent, of the book he produced. Further, he may be supposed as having in mind an abridged writing which should emphasize the miracles and should in this and other ways be especially suited to Gentiles. The purpose thus outlined is quite consistent with what we really know as to Peter and John Mark, even though 92 per cent, of the table of contents be identical with the topics presented in Matthew.

Accordingly, the present installment has developed the fact that the substantial sameness of the framework of Matthew from 3:1 to 28:10 with the framework of Mark is a difficulty in the way of the hypothesis that makes the First Gospel dependent upon the Second; and also the fact that the reversed hypothesis, which views the Second Gospel as secondary to the First, is not at all embarrassed by the extent to which the secondary writing is dependent for its table of contents upon that of the primary.

(To be continued)


1) The following reasons appear sufficient to warrant the exclusion of certain events and discourses from the list of whole incidents added by the Matthaean writer:

The Twelve sent forth, Mt. 9:35—11:1—This is a much longer passage than Mk. 6:6b–13. At the same time, the two passages are parallels, though doubtless the seven verses, Mt. 10:17–23, once stood in the 24th chapter of the First Gospel.

The long account of The -private instruction, Mt. 13:36–52—This passage may, perhaps, be justly regarded as an account of a separate incident. But, even so, it would not be one unrepresented in Mark. The latter half of Mk. 4:34 reads: “but privately to his own disciples he expounded all things.”

The long account of The example of the little child and other matters, Mt. 18:1–20—This section consists of uninterrupted discourse from a point of verse 3 to the end of verse 20. As an incident, it is paralleled by that narrated in Mk. 9:33–37.

The wicked husbandmen, Mt. 20:1–16—This parable belongs to the preceding context. It is in fact continuous with it, there being no narrative interruption.

The two sons, Mt. 21:28–32—The same reason applies here.

The marriage supper, Mt. 22:1–14—The facts of Mt. 21:45–46 are too casually and briefly told to warrant the account of them standing as an incident separate from that dealt with in the context immediately preceding. Moreover, there is a close connection indicated by the opening words, KaiV ajkouvsante". If we are not to separate verses 45–46 as an account of an incident distinct from the one described in Mt. 21:23–44, then Mt. 22:1–14, is a passage which must also be retained as part of one interview with the chief priests and others (see 21.23 and 45). If, however, the reader prefers to divide the long section 21:23–22:14, say, between 21:44 and 21:45, this may be done.

The long account of Warning against scribes and Pharisees, Mt. 23:1–39—From a point in verse 2 to the end, this is uninterrupted discourse. It is represented in Mark by the short passage Mk. 12:38–40.

The long account of The Second Advent, Mt. 24:1–25:46—The section is much longer than the Markan parallel 13:1–37, but the Matthaean discourse on the Mount of Olives, once begun, is given continuously to the end of chapter 25.

Several miracles may be enumerated here, which upon examination of their settings are found to be incidental to the delivery of a discourse found also in Mark or to some other occurrence. I list the following:

The blind and mute demoniac, Mt. 12:22—This is not a distinct event but the basis of the discourse concerning The kingdom divided against itself.

Peter’s walking on the sea, Mt. 14:28–31—We have here merely an incident belonging to a principal miracle.

Healing the blind and the lame in the Temple, Mt. 21 :14—This is incidental. As shown by the language employed in the following verse, “when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, etc.”, the cures are made merely part of the basis of opposition.

The sleeping saints who rose, Mt. 27:52–5 S—Even if the narrative of this event is genuine—see my article on the passage in Methodist Review (New York), Jan.-Feb., pp. 148 ff.—we have to do only with a detail of a principal occurrence.

2) In their margin WH omit “the lame, maimed, blind, dumb” as perhaps not belonging to the original text of the earlier part of the passage; and, in giving the latter part of the main text, they refuse “the maimed whole”, transferring the words to the margin. The former enumeration, in different orders, is present, however, in all four of the copies usually reckoned as the leading MSS, except A, which in this region is defective. The omission in the main text of WH is supported by the Codex Sinaiticus.

3) There are still other Matthaean passages that refer to a group of miracles that are not individually described. I cite Mt. 11:4–5= Lk. 7:22; Mt. 11: 21=Lk. 10:13; and Mt. 11:23. The information, known to the writer of Matthew in the words of the Savior, could scarcely have been obtained from the Second Gospel; but, if such a document as one made up of the non-Markan passages common to Matthew and Luke existed and existed early enough, it might conceivably have been obtained from this writing. I refrain from listing these passages with the six.

4) It would, perhaps, be proper enough to class The healings on the mountain (Mt. 15:29–31) as a distinct occurrence. However, the comprehensive statement of verses 29c–31 has already been given as one of the Matthaean six.

5) The following are three additional miracle incidents which do not obviously have parallels in Mark:


(a) The centurion’s servant. . . . . . . . . . . 8:5–13

(b) The two blind men. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9:27–31

(c) The mute demoniac. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9:32–33[34]

(d) The blind and mute demoniac. . . . . . .12:22

6) When the situation is reversed and Mark made dependent upon Matthew, we do indeed have a mass of added material having to do with miracle. But the additions are mostly confined to a few whole incidents and to numerous context supplements. What we do not have is a group of comprehensive statements that is comparable with the group of six such statements in Matthew. Furthermore, if it be allowed that the two instances where the Markan writer when considered as a compiler is to be viewed as in possession of information not derivable from his exemplar are indications that he had a still wider circle of knowledge as to miraculous events, this consideration can not be pressed with any strength on the side of the independence of Mark, since the case of this particular Gospel is distinct from that of Matthew. All the additions of Mark having to do with miracle, including these two, are quite compatible with its derivation from Matthew in a manner agreeable to ancient tradition. This will become clear, later on, upon considering the probable purpose of the writer of the Second Gospel.