Parallel Texts in Matthew, Mark
1. True Kin
Matt 12:46-50 // Mark 3:31-35
// Luke 8:19-21
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Which source hypothesis has a simpler explanation of
All hypotheses that presuppose a literary source have to account for the fact that none of the versions of
Jesus' pronouncement --- the focal point of this whole pericope --- are identical. 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 considered plausible.
Any hypothesis that Matthew is the basic source (A & B) needs to explain why Mark & Luke both
altered Matthew's literate Greek style,
added a line not found in Matthew, &
changed Jesus' pronouncement.
Any hypothesis that Mark is the basic source
(C & D) only has to explain why Matthew & Luke
A hypothesis that presupposes that Luke used Matthew as a secondary source
(C) must also explain why
Luke used none of the editorial changes introduced by Matthew. A hypothesis that Matthew & Luke
edited Mark independently (D) need only explain why Matthew & Luke thought it necessary to
paraphrase Jesus' pronouncement.
Clearly, from an editorial point of view, the Two Source hypothesis
(D) has the simplest task in accounting for the patterns of parallels & omissions in this pericope about Jesus' true kin.
Testing the Theories
This passage does not support Augustine's theory
that Mark abbreviated Matthew, since Mark's account is
longer than Matthew's (unless one counts the 17 Greek words in
12:47, which are not in the earliest mss.).
Word counts are not as important as style, however, when it comes to the question of who edited
Editors generally improve texts by
If Mark edited Matthew, he did just the opposite. Instead of refining his alleged source, he would have
opening temporal clause with a colloquial "and";
butchered the rest of Matthew's opening sentence,
by replacing a good
Greek grammatical construction
(main verb + participle + infinitive) with an awkward one (main verb + "and" + participle + main
verb + participle);
added a redundant verse (Mark
3:32) in which a "crowd" simply relays to Jesus the information
the narrator gave in the previous verse;
turned Jesus' clear graphic gesture
towards his disciples in
Matt 12:49 into a vague nod to anonymous bystanders;
Jesus' pronouncement word for word
except for his reference to a celestial "Father."
In Matthew, Jesus regularly refers to God as "Father (in heaven)": 42 times in fact, almost twice as much
as Mark (5 times) & Luke (17 times) combined. In Mark, Jesus never refers to "my Father in heaven." But
Mark had no clear reason to suppress that phrase here, since later he has no trouble reporting this
instruction by Jesus to his disciples regarding prayer:
||"And whenever you stand praying,
|| forgive if you have anything against any one;
|| so that
your Father who is in heaven
||may also forgive you your trespasses."
In four other places in Mark, Jesus refers to or addresses God simply as "Father." So it would be odd for
him to drop that phrase from a passage that is focused on the question of family & kinship.
Mark's grammatical, stylistic & logical lapses in this pericope are understandable if he is writing this
story from oral memory. But they are practically impossible to explain with the hypothesis that he was
editing a written text of Matthew.
Did Mark conflate Matthew & Luke?
hypothesis that Mark conflated the texts of Matthew & Luke can account for parallels
between Mark's & Luke's versions of this story, which the traditional Augustinian
hypothesis cannot. Yet, from the perspective of redactional theory,
it is just as problematic as the Augustinian.
The theory that Mark omitted Matthew's opening temporal clause because he regularly
suppressed Matthean material that is not in Luke just will not work here, because
two verses later he presents an unnecessary
rhetorical question that is in Matthew but not
his version of Jesus' final pronouncement is practically identical with Matthew's precisely in
the wording that is not found in Luke.
The theory that Mark composed his version of this story by alternately borrowing details from both
Matthew & Luke is plausible only if he had the texts of both open before him. But that type of
meticulous scribal activity makes it virtually impossible to explain why he regularly ignores the
good Greek grammatical constructions in both his alleged sources & prefers a colloquial Semitic
style. If Mark could copy nouns from two Greek texts, he certainly could copy their verbs &
Yet, the primary weakness of the Griesbach hypothesis is its difficulty in accounting for Luke's version of
this pericope. Some of Luke's changes can be traced to his decision to move this story to a new location
in the gospel sequence, but others cannot.
If Luke used Matthew, he has deliberately rewritten the whole story (including Jesus'
pronouncement), keeping only the repeated words "his mother & his brothers" & even increasing
the redundancy by inserting a repetitive report
that probably was not originally in Matthew.
Luke had no good reason to drop Matthew's
opening temporal clause, since it works better in his
narrative setting (where Jesus is speaking to the "people") than in Matthew's (where Jesus is
debating with the Pharisees).
On his own,
Luke would not have been inclined to suppress a reference by Jesus to God as "my
Father, " since elsewhere he reports Jesus stressing his personal relation to God with this term. In
a story unique to Luke, the teenage Jesus replies to a scolding from his mother for staying behind
in the Temple:
||"Did you not know that
|| I must be in my
Later Luke reports Jesus
insisting in unequivocal terms that his filial relationship to God is the
basis for all others:
"All things have been delivered to me by my
||and no one knows who the Son is except the Father
or who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
So, if Luke was copying the gospel of Matthew, it would be very strange for
him to have deliberately suppressed "my Father" in this story focused on family relationships.
Thus, the Griesbach hypothesis is not adequate to explain the textual data in this pronouncement story.
The difference in wording between Luke's & Matthew's versions of this story is easy to explain on the
basis of the hypothesis that
This pericope gives no evidence, however, to support the theory that Luke used Matthew as a secondary
source. For he did not use any of Matthew's literary refinements of Mark.
In fact, the theory that Luke was familiar with Matthew at all makes it harder to explain his paraphrase
of Jesus' pronouncement. For then he would deliberately have
ignored the fact that Matthew supports Mark's version of Jesus' words except for the name for the
opted to use Mark's impersonal "God" rather than Matthew's personal "my Father" in a story
focused on the question of personal relationships.
While other passages show that Luke had no qualms about editing sayings his sources ascribed to
Jesus, it would be uncharacteristic of him to be so cavalier in disregarding any source's use of wording
that was pertinent to the point.
It is a lame excuse to say that Luke was not following Matthew at this point or did not catch the
significance of his reference to "my Father" in this context. For the logic of this pericope is parallel to
the logic of Luke's own account of Jesus as a teenager in the temple. In both situations Jesus ignored a
son's responsibility to his mother. Since Luke reported Jesus justifying his lapse in the temple incident
by appealing to a son's duty to his Father, was he apt to forget the similar reference to "my Father" in
Matthew's version of this pericope, if he knew it?
Thus, Farrer's hypothesis that Luke used Matthew as a secondary source not only fails to explain Luke's
version of this passage, it introduces unnecessary redactional complications.
Are Matthew &
Luke independent revisions of Mark?
The varied wording patterns in these three versions of this pericope clearly favors two conclusions:
Mark transcribed an oral chreia.
For frequent repetition of key words ("mother & brothers") & use
of "and" in transitions are normal in informal oral story-telling.
Matthew & Luke independently
edited Mark to make this story read more smoothly as a written
Luke edited Mark's version of Jesus' pronouncement without any evident knowledge of Matthew's
revisions. Note that Luke omitted Jesus' reference to the "will of God" while Matthew did not. Luke's
deliberate omission cannot be credited to his dislike for the concept of doing God's will, since he
includes this Gethsemane prayer that stresses the priority Jesus put upon it:
||"Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me;
|| nevertheless not my will,
but yours be done."
Luke could easily portray Jesus as recognizing God's will. But he probably saw a logical problem with
Mark's version of Jesus' pronouncement: how were people other than Jesus to know God's will?
Luke apparently found an answer to this question in the parable segment that Mark placed immediately
after this pronouncement. There Jesus explains the parable of the Sower as referring to
Word." So, to make it clear that Jesus regarded anyone who responded to his message as kin, Luke
simply reversed the order of these pericopes & rephrased the pronouncement to refer to hearing & doing
God's Word. He could feel justified in making this editorial change because the saying at the end of
Jesus' sermon, which he had recorded just 7 pericopes earlier, stressed hearing & doing Jesus' words
For Matthew, on the other hand, the problem with Mark's version of Jesus' pronouncement was not its
reference to the divine will. Matthew's version of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples included the
petition: "Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt
6:10). Note that in Matthew the
pronouncement on kinship is likewise explicitly addressed to Jesus' disciples.
The only problem that Matthew saw with Mark's version of this pronouncement was its explicit use of
the divine name. As elsewhere, Matthew here substituted a pious
circumlocution: "my Father in heaven." Note that Matthew's version of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples begins by addressing
God as "Our Father who is in heaven" (Matt 6:9). So, in Matthew's interpretation, this pericope on kinship
simply builds on things that Jesus' had already taught his disciples in that prayer.
11 January 2019