Parallel Texts in Matthew, Mark
Matt 13:1-9 // Mark 4:1-9 //
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Which source hypothesis
has a simpler explanation of this data?
that presuppose a literary source have to account for the fact that
- Luke deviates from details of setting
& parable in Matthew &
Mark, where both are virtually identical,
- but Luke's aphorism about hearing
echoes an unnecessary infinitive in Mark that is not in the
oldest mss. of Matthew.
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
- regularly changed Matthew's plural forms to
- added superfluous
verbs [teal text] about growth &
- inserted an unnecessary
break between parable & aphorism.
Any hypothesis that Mark is the basic
source (C & D) only has to explain why
Matthew & Luke
- both changed Mark's characterization of the
crowd from "very large" to "great," &
- otherwise edited Mark's text in different
A hypothesis that presupposes that Luke used
Matthew as a secondary source (C) must also explain
why Luke used only one of the editorial changes introduced by
Matthew. A hypothesis that Matthew & Luke edited Mark independently
(D) need only explain why the descriptions of the setting in
Matthew & Luke share a single word ("great") that is not
found in the oldest mss. of Mark.
Thus, the Two Source hypothesis (D)
has the simplest task in accounting for the patterns of parallels &
omissions in the synoptic reports of the parable of the sower.
Testing the Theories
This pericope does not
support Augustine's hypothesis that Mark abbreviated
Matthew, because Mark's version is actually 21 words longer than Matthew's in
the original Greek. In fact, each segment
in Mark is longer than Matthew's:
Moreover, Matthew's version is rhetorically
more refined than Mark's. If Mark edited Matthew, he butchered the
text he was copying by
Editors generally polish a text by eliminating
unnecessary verbiage & smoothing logical transitions. So, Mark's clumsy
narration cannot be adequately accounted for as an epitome of Matthew's text.
Did Mark conflate Matthew & Luke?
This pericope is even more
problematic for Griesbach's hypothesis that Mark
conflated Matthew & Luke, since
The only details of Mark's account
that are closer to Luke's version rather than Matthew's are:
singular subjects [crowd,
seed] & verbs, where Matthew's are
preposition in the parable ["into"], where Matthew has
verbs near the conclusion of the parable ["growing" &
"increasing"] that were not used by Matthew;
verbs in the aphorism ["he said" & "to hear"]
not found in Matthew.
These parallels are too few &
insignificant to use as evidence that Mark revised Matthew in the light of
Luke. In fact, the differences between setting & parable in Mark
& Luke are great enough to make it clear that Mark did not base
his account on the details of Luke's version. If Mark ignored the
bulk of Luke's differences from Matthew's version of this parable, it is all
the more difficult to envision him borrowing trivial variations in Lukan
This pericope also disproves
claims by proponents of Griesbach's hypothesis that Mark tended to preserve
only material where the texts of Matthew & Luke agreed, since
Mark has extensive parallels
to Matthew's version precisely where Luke deviates; &
Mark's version contains many
superfluous statements in both setting & parable that are based on neither
Matthew nor Luke:
"And again he began to teach..."
4:1 "...on the sea...beside the
4:2 "...and in his teaching..."
4:7 "...and it yielded no grain"
4:8 "...and increasing..."
Thus, in this case Griesbach's
hypothesis does not predict the patterns of verbal variation actually
found in the synoptics.
thesis that Matthew edited Mark is better able to account for the rhetorical
patterns in these two versions of this pericope than any hypothesis that
assumes the priority of Matthew. For Matthew's version is a more polished
literary work than Mark's. But the parable of the sower does not
support Farrer's contention that Luke used Matthew as well
as Mark. For Luke's version deviates from Matthew even more than it does from
Mark uses the colloquial
conjunction "and" (Greek kai)
a monotonous 17 times in the 5 verses of this parable. Matthew reduces
this elementary copulative to 5 instances by substituting the rhetorically
more elegant particle de as the
normal sentence transition (6 times). Though Luke's version of this
parable is about 2/3 as long as Mark's or Matthew's, it retains 9
instances of kai & not a single de.
Mark describes the productive
seed as falling into the earth.
Matthew corrects the preposition to "on." Yet, Luke preserves
Mark's phrase unchanged.
Mark concludes the parable
with a cascade of words that produce a motion
picture of organic expansion. A single seed produces grain
that grows up to yield first 30, then 60 then 100 times
itself. Matthew's omission of most of the verbs & inversion of the
sums so that the parable ends with the emphasis on 30 rather than 100,
almost ruins the point. Luke, on the other hand, eliminates the lower
tallies to focus (like Mark) on the hundredfold harvest. But more
significant from a source critical perspective is the fact that Luke
paraphrases the Markan verbs of growth that Matthew omitted & omits
the Markan phrase that Matthew preserved.
Add to this the fact that Luke's
version of the concluding aphorism is closer to the text of Mark than Matthew
& one has conclusive evidence that Luke did not consult the
gospel of Matthew in making his revision of Mark. To speculate that Luke knew
the text of Matthew but just chose not to use it at this point is to admit
that this pericope provides no evidence that Luke was familiar with the gospel
of Matthew at all.
Are Matthew &
Luke independent revisions of Mark?
Mark presents the longest and most colloquial
version of this pericope. Instead of being a literary revision of any text,
Mark's version of the parable of the sower reads like a transcript of an oral
performance. His preference for simple transitions ["and,"
"again"] & strings of similar words to stress a point are
effective rhetorical devices of dramatizing a story for hearers but become
monotonous for readers. Thus, the simplest explanation of the fact that much
of Mark's superfluous wording is not found in one or both of the other synoptics
is that his is the earliest written record of this passage.
Matthew & Luke each independently turned
Mark's material into better literature. Matthew edited Mark conservatively,
polishing Mark's grammar & narrative movement but preserving the substance
of both setting & parable. Luke, on the other hand, recognized that most
of the details of Mark's description of the setting (sea, boat, shore) were
distracting & dispensable. The sole element relevant to a parable about
broadcasting that concluded with a general invitation to hearers was the
presence of a crowd of some size. The fact that Luke, like Matthew,
substituted the normal Greek adjective describing a collection of many (polus)
for Mark's use of the superlative form (pleistos) is only evidence
that both authors considered Mark's term too exaggerated (literally:
"most" or "greatest"). There is no sign that Luke knew
Matthew's version of this pericope, since he uses Mark's singular term
"crowd" rather than Matthew's plural & otherwise follows Mark's
wording of the parable & aphorism instead of Matthew's. Thus, this
pericope supports the basic premise of the Two Source
hypothesis: that Matthew
& Luke edited Mark independently.
11 January 2019