Parallel Texts in Matthew, Mark
Treasure, the Pearl & the Net
Matt 13:44- 50
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While the non-canonical gospel of Thomas
contains a variant of each of the three parables in this Matthean catena,
none of this material is echoed by the other synoptic authors.
hypothesis has a simpler explanation of this data?
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. Hypotheses that Mark was the primary source for the other
synoptics (C & D)
only 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. A theory that Matthew & Luke
independently supplement Mark with other material (D)
need only explain Matthew's motives for adding these parables that he knew, but apparently Mark & Luke did not. So, the Two
Source hypothesis (D) clearly
offers the simplest explanation of the synoptic evidence for this passage.
Testing the Theories
In the abstract, Augustine's theory
that Mark wanted to condense Matthew's work offers a reasonable
explanation of why this parable complex is omitted from his gospel. But
when one considers the material itself, that theory is hardly adequate.
If Mark was really concerned to abbreviate Matthew, then
it is odd that he omitted these particular parables since each of them
is far shorter than those he records in this chapter.
Greek Word Count
Clearly, Mark had no objection to
parables or explanations in general. For he begins and concludes this
section of his narrative with these sweeping generalizations:
||And he taught
them many things in parables...
||He did not
speak to them without a parable,
but privately to his own disciples he explained
Moreover, Mark had no
reason to object to these particular parables. For later, he
stresses the need to sell all to attain God's kingdom when he
recounts Jesus' advice to the rich man and reaction when the rich
||"You lack one
what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven"...
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
"How hard it will be for those who have riches
to enter the kingdom of God."
If Mark was
editing Matthew, this would be the perfect spot for him to have
recalled either the parable of the buried treasure or the pearl,
especially given his insistence that Jesus did not teach without
using a parable.
synoptic theory does not offer a convincing explanation of why
these Matthean parables are not found in the gospel of Mark. For
it presupposes that Mark deliberately deleted words that Matthew
ascribes to Jesus, which emphasize an element of Jesus' teaching
that Mark himself stresses.
conflate Matthew & Luke?
The Griesbach hypothesis is hardly
better at explaining Mark's failure to report any element of this
cluster of parables. For it simply shifts the initial decision to drop
this material from Mark to Luke, without offering a cogent rationale for
Luke suppressing these parables. Besides reporting parallels to many
Matthean sayings that are not found in Mark, Luke presents many more
parables -- some of which are the longest ascribed to Jesus --
that have no parallel in either of the other synoptic gospels (e.g., the
Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the Shrewd Manager).
Moreover, Luke's omission of three short Matthean parables hardly
provides a cogent reason for their absence in Mark, since Griesbach
himself stressed that Mark tried "to be brief" and "most often
If Luke knew and used the
gospel of Matthew, as Farrer's hypothesis alleges, his omission of the
parables of the buried treasure and priceless pearl is even more
inexplicable than Mark's. For unlike Mark, Luke frequently presents
Jesus sayings cited by Matthew in other non-Matthean contexts. The
parables of the mustard seed and the leaven (Matt 13:31-33 // Luke
13:18-21) are a perfect example of this. So, if, Luke drew
this pair of parables from Matthew's gospel, as Farrer presupposes,
it is odd that he apparently overlooked or forgot the linked parables of
the treasure and pearl (Matt 13:44-46) that Matthew adds to his
Such an oversight is all
the more surprising, since Luke makes the theme of "selling all" a more
recurrent theme of Jesus' message than either Matthew or Mark. While
Matthew presents Jesus advising people against "laying up treasures on
earth" (Matt 6:19), Luke has Jesus introduce a variant of this counsel
with the explicit command "sell your possessions, and give alms"
(Luke 12:33), anticipating his later injunction to the rich young ruler:
thing you still lack:
all that you have and distribute to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven"...
Either of these
places in the Lukan narrative provides a perfect context for the
Luke to have inserted one or both of the Matthean parables of the
buried treasure or pearl. For either provides graphic and
practically verbatim support for Luke's version of Jesus'
instructions to erstwhile followers. Thus, why he did not present them
if he actually knew them is a conundrum that cannot be
resolved with any certainty.
Thus, here Farrer's
synoptic hypothesis creates unnecessary redactional puzzles that can
be avoided simply by presupposing that Luke did not use
Matthew as a source.
Are Matthew &
Luke independent revisions of Mark?
The Two Source hypothesis clearly offers
the least problematic explanation of why Matthew's well-constructed
catena of three parables plus explanation is not found in the gospels of
Mark and Luke:
- Mark wrote first, apparently
unfamiliar with any of this material.
- Matthew edited the gospel of
Mark, supplementing his trio of seed parables with parables that he
knew from other sources, oral or written, and weaving them into an
elegant three-looped catena.
- Luke edited the gospel of Mark
without consulting Matthew's gospel. So his omission of this
Matthean catena is hardly surprising. But Luke's failure to cite
either the parable of the buried treasure or the pearl indicates
that they were not included in the non-Markan source -- call
it "Q" -- from which both he and Matthew independently drew
many of the same sayings, such as the paired parables of the mustard
seed and leaven.
11 January 2019