An Introduction to the New Testament

By Adolf Jülicher


Chapter 1 - Section 24


§ 24. The Contents of the Synoptic Gospels

In Matthew an introduction (chaps. i. and ii.), containing the birth-story etc., and a conclusion (chaps. xxvi—xxviii.), dealing with the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, are clearly marked out from the main body of the Gospel, which is a narrative of the public ministry of Jesus. In the introduction we have a genealogy of Jesus,1 his birth in Bethlehem,2 and the flight into Egypt3 in consequence of the coming of the Magi, and the migration to Nazareth. Chaps. iii. 1-iv. 16 contain the preaching of the Baptist as a preparation for the appearance of Jesus, the baptism of Jesus, the temptation, and the return to Galilee (Capernaum). Chaps. iv. 17—ix. 34 describe his first activity in Galilee, and how, taking up the Baptistʼs cry of ʽrepentance,ʼ he gathers disciples about him and goes through the country with them as Teacher and Healer. Examples to illustrate both functions are given: chaps. v.—vii. with the so-called Sermon on the Mount—almost a Messianic manifesto—exemplify his teaching, and chaps. viii—ix. give ten cases of healing (the leper, the centurionʼs servant at Capernaum, Simonʼs wifeʼs mother, the calming of the storm on the lake, the two demoniacs in the country of the Gadarenes, the man sick of the palsy, the raising of the rulerʼs daughter, the woman with an issue of blood, the two blind men, the dumb man possessed with a devil). Chaps. ix. 85-xiii. 58 are, as it were, a second act, to be read side by side with the first rather than after it; the introductory passage (ix. 85-38) is a complete parallel to iv. 28 fol. and the calling of the disciples4 corresponds to iv. 18-22. But the difficulty of the task of Christ is now becoming more apparent; in x. 1-42, with forebodings already dark and sad, he appoints the Twelve to be assistant preachers of the Kingdom; ą propos of the mission of the imprisoned Baptist, in chap. xi., he prophesies—or asserts —the partial failure of his own Gospel (Chorazin and Bethsaida). Now we see him in conflict with the self-conceited piety and the wilful blindness of the Pharisees (the plucking of the ears of corn, the healing of the sick on the Sabbath-day, and the ascription of his miraculous powers to Beelzebub), and next with the insensibility of his own near kin and of his Nazarene fellow-countrymen (chap. xii., and xiii. 58-58). The parables inserted in xiii. 1-52 show that he has by now given up the hope of a recognition of the truth by the multitude at large. Chaps xiv. 1-xviii. 35 form the third act of his Galilean activity; the separation is now complete between him and his countrymen. The story of the execution of the Baptist (xiv. 1-12) is a fitting prologue; after this Jesus flees into the wilderness, feeds the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes (duplicated in xv. 32 fol.), appears to his disciples walking on the lake, and is acknowledged by them to be the Son of God (xiv. 23).

After drawing the distinction between the false and the true conception of uncleanness in xv. 1-20, Jesus consents to shed his blessing even on the pagan districts of Tyre and Sidon (healing of the Canaanitish womanʼs daughter5), and amid the full tide of his miraculous deeds he gives a stern refusal to the demand of the Pharisees and Sadducees for a sign.6 Peterʼs confession at Cesarea Philippi—ʽThou art the Christ, the Son of the living Godʼ7—now fills him with surprise as coming from the ranks of the Twelve, who had but just before8 shown a remarkable want of understanding of his words, but he accepts it joyfully as a divine revelation vouchsafed to the disciple who was appointed as the rock-foundation of the new community of the Kingdom. He proceeds at once, however, to warn them against deceitful hopes: as he himself must suffer and die, in spite of his Messiahship, before the Resurrection came to pass, so must his faithful followers take up his Cross in self-denial, in order that when he returned in glory they should receive an eternal reward.9 To confirm their faith in his Messiahship, three disciples now behold the transfiguration of their Master on a ʽhigh mountain,ʼ10 and to the end of chap. xviii. Jesus exerts himself in many different directions to prepare his followers for the time when they would be left alone, and especially to familiarize them with his own conviction of the necessity of his death. In xix. 1 he turns his steps towards Judaea on the last fatal journey—always ready to make use of any opportunity of strengthening and enlightening his disciples—and enters Jerusalem in triumph as Messiah. By the cleansing of the temple he excites the fury of the authorities, and then foretells their downfall in symbolical actions and in the parables of xxi. 28 fol., 33 fol., and xxii. 1 fol. After a victorious argument with the Pharisees (the tribute-money, the great commandment of the law) and the Sadducees (non-existence of marriage in the resurrection), he casts them off in chap. xxiii., with terrible denunciations. Chaps. xxiv. and xxv. contain his last testament to the disciples, in which he first describes the Last Things in apocalyptic colours, and then shows them, through the parables of the ten virgins and the talents and by the picture of the Last Judgment, how to draw the true practical conclusions from this knowledge. After the preparations described in xxvi. 1 fol. (the anointing in Bethany, to prepare me for burialʼ), Jesus keeps the Passover with his disciples (20-29); now follow (vv. 30-46) the moving scenes on the Mount of Olives and in the Garden of Gethsemane, then (vv. 47-56) his capture, his trial before Caiaphas and the denial by Peter (vv. 52-75). In xxvii. 1-10 we have his death sentence, the repentance of Judas, the confirmation of the sentence by the Roman governor (vv. 11-26), and finally (vv. 27-56) his mockery, crucifixion and death. Vv. xxvii. 57-66 relate the burial of Jesus and the watching by his grave; on the third day11 the women find the grave empty, but are told by an angel that Jesus is risen and will appear to his disciples in Galilee. This comes to pass in xxviii. 16-20, where the risen Christ, invested with all power in heaven and earth, sends them forth to teach and baptise all peoples.

In bulk, Mark falls short of Matthew by about three-eighths, but this discrepancy is due but little to Markʼs concluding section, for in this part12 there is the least amount of divergence between two chroniclers, both in the sequence of events and in detail. But the differences in the beginning are all the greater. In i. 14 Mark has already reached the point which Matthew only arrives at in iv. 17. Mark has no birth-story like that of Matthew, but only a brief introduction skilfully concentrating our interest upon the main point, and giving a short account of Johnʼs preaching of repentance, his baptising and his prophecies concerning the Messiah,13¯ as well as of Jesusʼs baptism by the Holy Ghost and of his life in the wilderness.14 Then he turns to the public ministry of Jesus, with which he occupies himself from i. 14 to xiii. 37. As far as ix. 50 the scene of the ministry is laid in Galilee and the districts lying to the north or east of it; afterwards, in chaps. x.-xiii., in Judea, and in Jerusalem itself after his entry into that city.15 In this last half the arrangement of the material varies very little from the arrangement in Matthew, except that in Mark we have no parallel whatever to Matt. xxv. and only a partial parallel to the ʽWoesʼ uttered in Matt. xxiii. The eschatological discourse in Mark xiii. is also shorter than that in Matt. xxiv. Matthew lacks only the beautiful story of the widowʼs mite given in Mark xii. 41-44, as also in Luke xxi. 1-4. On the other hand, the arrangement adopted in the Galilean part of Mark, 1. 14— ix. 50, is peculiar and worthy of note, because in it we can perceive an approach to historical development. First, in i. 14-45, the appearance of Jesus causes only a sort of amazed excitement; in ii. 1 his struggle begins, and in iii. 6 Pharisees and Herodians are already plotting his downfall; in iii. 7 fol. we have a living picture—lighted up by the dazzling glory of his miracles, proving him as they did to be the Son of God—of the Galilean Messiah in his intercourse, first, with the ʽmultitudeʼ (from whom, however, he is obliged to withdraw himself further and further in painful discouragement), next, with the governing classes roused to mortal hostility against him, and lastly, with his own disciples, who still stood so much in need of careful instruction. Of course Mark does not group his events exclusively or even fundamentally according to a chronological system; here, as in the other two Synoptics, we can detect a preference for connecting events by their subjects: ii. 18-iii. 6 (the dispute about fasting and the two instances of healing on the Sabbath) are examples. In the whole section i. 14 to xii. 37 the deficit in Mark as compared with Matthew is primarily concerned with the sayings of Jesus; Mark contains no Sermon on the Mount at all, and the discourse at the sending forth of the disciples is reduced— like the declaration of woe to the Pharisees—to a few sentences. The chapter of parables and the last words to the disciples are also much more briefly given.

3. The third synoptist, Luke, also comes closest to the other two in the concluding section, chaps. xxi.—xxiv. But the resurrection episode is a good deal more detailed in Luke, and he makes the risen Lord appear first of all—though it is just possible that verse xxiv. 34 implies a previous appearance to Peter—to two disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and then to the eleven in Jerusalem itself, where Jesus gives them careful instructions before he finally takes leave of them, with a solemn benediction, in Bethany. Lukeʼs version of the public ministry of Jesus between chaps. iv. 14 and xxi. 35 covers about the same ground and strikes about the same balance of word and deed as Matthewʼs narrative. All that precedes, in the one as in the other, falls naturally into an historical introduction and into the preparations for the appearance of Jesus. Nevertheless, the differences are greater than the resemblances. The genealogy of Jesus given by Matthew in i. 1 is only inserted by Luke in iii. 23-38. He begins with a prologue about the purpose of his work (i. 1—4), and his version of the story of the birth and childhood reminds us but occasionally of the far shorter and more compact version of Matthew. In iii. 1-20 Luke gives us the story of John up to his imprisonment, having already related his miraculous birth in chap. i.; then in iii. 21 fol. he passes rapidly over the baptism of Jesus and in iv. 1-18 over his temptation. How little we can count m Luke on a chronologically correct arrangement of the material in the main section (chaps. iv. 14 to xxi. 38), is shown at the very beginning (iv. 16-20), in the story of his rejection by the Nazarenes, where a reference is made to some previous activity in Capernaum, whereas it is not till iv. 31 that his first appearance in Capernaum is described. Down to ix. 50 Luke tells us of Christʼs activity in Galilee in striking agreement with Markʼs arrangement of events, except that in vi. 20-49 he inserts a short pendant to Matthewʼs Sermon on the Mount—a sermon in the plain. At this point, however, the parallel ceases. A mass of narratives, sayings and dialogues are introduced that either do not occur in Mark and Matthew, or else are given there in other places and with wholly different contexts. Only in xviii. 15 does Luke converge again with Mark, shortly before the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in xix. 28 fol. Everything that lies between ix. 50 and this point—generally known as Lukeʼs Itinerary—is supposed to have happened on the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem through Samaria. The last part in Judea is not so long in Luke as in the other two, chiefly because he has already included much of what is then told by them, in his Itinerary. But the facts that are common to all three come in the same order here as in Matthew and Mark: the story of the healing of the blind Bartimeus, for instance, the entry into the capital, the cleansing of the Temple, the questioning of the power of Jesus, the parable of the vineyard, the disputes with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the declaration of Woe and the prophecies concerning the last things.16 Such a widespread agreement makes the peculiarities of Luke in ix. fol. and in chaps. i., ii. and xxiv. all the more remarkable.



1) i. 1-17.

2) i. 18-25.

3) Chap. ii.

4) x. 1-4.

5) xv. 21-28.

6) xv. 29-xvi. 4.

7) xvi. 13-16.

8) xvi. 5-12.

9) xvi. 16-28.

10) xvii. 1-9.

11) xxviii. 1-15.

12) Mark chaps. xiv.-xvi= Matt. chaps. xxvi. xxviii.

13) i. 4-8.

14) i, 9-13.

15) xi. 1-11.

16) Luke xxi. 5 fol.