to Matthew, Mark & Luke

1. True Kin
Matt 12:46-50 // Mark 3:31-35 // Luke 8:19-21

  context     Greek synopsis     English synopsis     analysis     source hypotheses     variants 

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Other Versions

Matthew's revision of Mark's version of the chreia about true kinship has indirect textual support from three early Christian texts that were not accepted in the Greek churches' canon of scripture. For all record a version of Jesus' pronouncement that is closer to Matthew than to the other synoptic gospels in at least one respect: reference to "my Father's will."

Ebionites 5 Thomas 99 2 Clement 9
 1 When it was reported  1  The disciples said    
  to him:   to him:    
  your mother *        
  and your brothers   "Your brothers and     
      your mother*    
  are standing outside,"   are standing outside."    
  [he said]:        
  "Who are my mother        
  and my brothers?"        
 3  And  2 And  11  For
  stretching out his hand        
  over his disciples,        
  he said:   he said to them:    the Lord said:
  "These here who   "Those here who   "Those who
  do my Father's will   do my Father's will   do my Father's will
  are my brothers   are my brothers   are my brothers."
  and mother,   and my mother.    
  and sisters."        
    3 These will enter    
      my Father's kingdom."    

Color Code
 Blue  Three gospels use same vocabulary.
 Teal  Two gospels use same vocabulary.
 Black   Words unique to a particular gospel.

Textual Variants 

If these documents simply echoed Matthew's account they would only be evidence of the influence of that gospel. But close comparison shows that they are not directly dependent on any of the synoptic versions of this pericope.

The wording of this pericope in the gospel used by the group of Jewish Christians called Ebionites is identical with Matthew's in only one place: the narrator's preface to Jesus' pronouncement. The Ebionite version differs from Matthew's in other details:

The pericope on kinship in the sayings gospel of Thomas is simpler than any of the synoptic versions & has no sign of direct dependence on any of them.

  • It has no narrative details other than the identification of the speakers. It is just a minimal dialogue consisting of an announcement & a reply.

  • The announcement in Thomas differs from the synoptic versions in two respects: it is attributed to disciples & it mentions Jesus' brothers before his mother.

  • Its version of Jesus' pronouncement differs from all the synoptics, but is virtually identical with the Ebionite version (except it omits "sisters" & adds a statement about the Father's domain).

The Greek sermon called 2 Clement did not cite any element of this chreia except a briefer version of Jesus' pronouncement in which there is no mention of Jesus' mother (or sisters).

Common Wording

Note that the core of Jesus' pronouncement (in blue) is worded exactly the same in all these non-canonical texts & that it differs from every synoptic version. Since there are no parallels between these non-canonical texts in the wording of the rest of this pericope, their word-for-word agreement in the pronouncement shows that this version of Jesus' saying was widely known in early oral Christian tradition. So, Matthew could have known this & adjusted Mark's wording accordingly. After all, Matthew is the gospel writer who justifies the right of a trained scribe to introduce new material from the things he has stored away.

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last revised 28 February 2023  

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