Parallel Texts in Matthew, Mark
Allegorical Interpretation of Harvest
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This pericope interprets the
parable of the
Wheat & the Weeds, which is recorded in the gospels of Matthew &
Thomas, but not those of Mark & Luke. Yet Thomas does not
provide an interpretation of the Wheat & the Weeds (or any parable) but,
instead, invites readers to find their own interpretation of Jesus'
sayings (Thom 1). So, Matthew is the sole source for the contents of this
hypothesis has a simpler explanation of this data?
|| Mark condensed Matthew; Luke drew on both
|| Luke edited Matthew; Mark condensed both
|| Matthew expanded Mark; Luke drew on both
|| Two Source
|| Matthew & Luke independently edited Mark & Q
Any source theory needs to be supported by redaction
criticism. For only a hypothesis that
is consistent with each gospel's editorial tendencies at other points can be
Hypotheses that Matthew wrote first
& was a source for the other synoptic gospels (A & B)
must provide a plausible explanation of why Mark & Luke deliberately
omit this passage & the parable on which it depends. Hypotheses that Mark
was the primary source for the other synoptics (C & D)
have to explain why Matthew decided to add it.
A theory that Luke used Matthew as a secondary
source (C) must still explain, however, why Luke chose to
omit this passage, while preserving sayings that Matthew presents
just before this. A theory that Matthew & Luke independently supplement
Mark with other material (D) need only explain Matthew's
motives for adding this allegorical explanation of a parable that he knew, but
apparently Mark & Luke did not. So, the Two Source hypothesis (D)
clearly presents the simplest explanation of the synoptic evidence for this
Testing the Theories
passes over the parables in this section without dealing with differences in
the synoptic accounts [On
Consensus of the Gospels 2.41.88],
but elsewhere offers the general theory that the gospel writers
"abstained from adding to their distinct works any extra compositions
That explanation simply does not
account for the textual data in this case. For just before this Mark does not
abstain from presenting close parallels to Matthew's account of the
Sower & its
interpretation; and he does not just omit
the parable of the Weeds & Wheat, he presents another
harvest parable in its place.
Speculation that Mark omitted this passage
& the parable on which it depends because he did not find the contents
appropriate to his purpose is also inadequate. For this allegorical
interpretation simply develops themes that Mark stresses elsewhere:
- the appearance of the Son of man with angels
at the close of the current era;
- warning that those who are unprepared will
face a crisis when he comes.
||For whoever is ashamed of me
||in this adulterous and sinful
||of him will the Son of man also be
||when he comes in the glory of his Father
||with the holy angels.
||And then they will see the Son of man
||coming in clouds with great power and
||And then he will send out the angels,
||and gather his elect from the four
||from the ends of the earth to the ends
Of all passages in Matthew that
lack a parallel in Mark, the interpretation of the parable of the Weeds &
Wheat is one that Mark would not have been disposed to omit on his
own. Thus, the traditional western view of the relation of the gospels fails
to account for the textual data in this case.
conflate Matthew & Luke?
hypothesis that Mark conflated the other two synoptic gospels credits
Mark's omission of the parable of the Weeds & its interpretation to the
theory that Mark kept an eye on Luke as he was editing Matthew. Mark often
omits material found in Matthew that has no direct parallel in Luke. Thus, in
this case, Mark's omissions can be credited to strict critical standards in
editing his sources rather than to any personal aversion to the substance of
the parable & its interpretation.
This theory still does not explain
why Mark would have substituted a harvest
parable that is neither in Matthew nor Luke for one that
is only in Matthew. Nor does it account for those times when Mark omits
passages, such as the parable of the
Leaven, that are practically identical in Matthew & Luke. But
it does shift responsibility for the deliberate omission of the parable of the
Weeds & its interpretation from Mark to Luke.
Luke's view of the future has
often been characterized as less catastrophic than Matthew's & Mark's. He
does not mention the theme of the "coming" of the Son of man as
frequently as Matthew. Instead, the parallel version of these sayings in Luke
often refers more vaguely to "the days" of the Son of man. So one could
speculate that Luke suppressed the parable of the Weeds & its
interpretation because he did not want to present such a vivid picture of the
Such a theory of Luke's editorial
intentions, however, does not account for the fact that Luke keeps
other synoptic sayings that present the same imagery. If he
wanted to suppress expectations that the Son of man would act as ultimate
judge, then he should also have eliminated---or at least emended---the Son of
man sayings in Mark 8
Instead, he not only repeats them with only minor wording differences
from Mark, he even adds a warning about the last judgment
that is not found in the other synoptic gospels [Luke's own wording presented here in teal
||For whoever is ashamed of me
||and of my words,
||of him will the Son of man be ashamed
||when he comes in his
the glory of the Father
the holy angels.
||And then they will see the Son of man
||coming in cloud with power and
||But watch at all times,
||praying that you may
have strength to escape
||all these things that
will take place,
||and to stand before the
Son of man.
These sayings are proof that Luke had no more
inclination than Mark to initiate the suppression of Matthew's
interpretation of the parable of the Weeds. So, the Griesbach hypothesis is
not adequate to explain why this passage is found only in Matthew.
Mark's omission of Matthew's
interpretation of this harvest parable makes more sense if one
assumes Mark wrote prior to Matthew. The simplest explanation is that Mark did
not record it because he did not know it.
Luke's omission of the parable of
the Weeds & its interpretation is then easily credited to his dependence
on Mark rather than Matthew. If Luke knew the gospel of Matthew &
used it as a secondary source, however, his omission of this material is
harder to explain. He was not averse to allegory, since he preserved the interpretation
of the parable of the Sower. Nor did he have philosophical reservations
about the substance of Matthew's apocalyptic interpretation of the harvest
motif, as his preservation of similar imagery in later Son of man sayings (Luke
9 & 21) demonstrates. Moreover, Luke preserves elsewhere a close
parallel to the parables of the Mustard
& the Leaven, which are presented in Matthew between the
parable of the Weeds & its allegorical interpretation. If Luke
got those parables from Matthew, his reason for omitting the passages that
frame them is even more puzzling.
Thus, in this case, any theory
that Luke used both Mark & Matthew only creates unsolvable &
unnecessary redactional problems. The Farrer
hypothesis is not much better than Augustine's
(A) in explaining the synoptic evidence here.
Are Matthew &
Luke independent revisions of Mark?
Source hypothesis offers the most logical explanation of the presence
& absence of the allegorical explanation of the parable of the Weeds in
Mark wrote first without any
apparent knowledge of the parable of the Wheat & Weeds or Matthew's
interpretation of it.
Matthew edited Mark by
replacing one harvest parable with another (the Wheat & Weeds) &
creating an allegorical explanation of it.
Luke edited Mark
evidently unaware of Matthew's additions.
Matthew's creation of an
allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Weeds is easily accounted for
as imitation of Mark's allegorization of the parable of the Sower. His
inspiration for this interpretation is not purely personal speculation, but
rather his familiarity with the apocalyptic Son of man sayings in Mark
8 & 13. This allegorical interpretation is the product of an early
Christian scholar's research in his sources: research that neither Mark nor
Luke show any evidence of having read.
Moreover, Matthew justifies his
own right as a trained scribe to introduce this novel paraphrase of ideas
ascribed elsewhere to Jesus (Mark 8:38 & 13:26-27) by
appending the parable of the Trained
Scribe to this section, a passage also omitted by the other synoptic
11 April 2008