Parallel Texts in Matthew, Mark
Matt 13:12 // Mark 4:24-25 //
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Which source hypothesis
has a simpler explanation of this data?
Any source theory needs to be supported by redaction
criticism. It must be able to account for both narrative transpositions
well as any parallels or variations in content. For a source theory is no better than its ability to account for the
details of the actual construction of the texts in question.
A hypothesis that presupposes that Matthew
is the primary source of this pericope (A & B)
must be able to explain why both of the other synoptics would
transpose the aphorism in Matt 12:13 from
Matthew's context [in Jesus'
explanation of why he speaks in parables] preceding the interpretation
of the parable of the sower to a point following that pericope.
Any hypothesis that Mark is the basic
source (C & D) only has to explain why
Matthew presents versions of the aphorisms in Mark 4:21-25 at other points in
his narrative rather than in their Markan context.
A hypothesis that Luke used Matthew as a
secondary source (C) also has to explain why Luke preferred
to follow the Markan sequence at this point even though he reproduces
parallels to Matthew's version of these sayings elsewhere. A hypothesis
that Matthew & Luke used the same collection of sayings [Q] in addition to
Mark need only explain why Luke dropped the principle of equal measures from
Mark's context. So, the construction of this
aphoristic cluster is more easily explained on the basis of the Two Source hypothesis (D)
than other source theories.
Testing the Theories
Augustine's claim that Mark condensed Matthew's gospel does not accurately
describe the construction of this pericope. For Mark here presents three aphorisms -- an alert,
the principle of equal reciprocal measures [Mark 4:24], & the riddle about the haves
& the have-nots [Mark 4:25] -- at a point somewhat
later in the sequence of sayings where Matthew presents just one
of these (the riddle), Moreover, the scribal gymnastics
required to derive Mark 4:24-25 from the text of Matthew are complex enough
to create serious doubts about the adequacy of a theory that Mark was
directly dependent for these sayings on Matthew's gospel.
If Mark edited Matthew:
- he must have first decided to extract the
riddle of the haves & the have-nots [Matt 13:12]
from Matthew's logical context [Jesus' explanation of his
rationale for speaking in parables
before the interpretation of the parable of the sower] where it fits well, only to record it in a
new context 13 verses later [after the allegorical interpretation of the
parable of the sower] at the end of a cluster of aphorisms that he
had extracted from elsewhere in Matthew, even though there was no obvious
thematic reason for linking these sayings or preferring to locate them at
this particular point in the gospel narrative;
- then Mark must have retrieved 2 small
aphorisms -- about the placement of lamps [Matt 5:15] &
the disclosure of secrets [Matt 10:26]
-- one each from two long widely separated speeches in Matthew (the
Sermon on the Mount &
Jesus' missionary instructions to the 12)
that he had previously decided not to copy & used them to open this new cluster of
aphorisms, even though there was no clear verbal or logical link that
would have led him to recall these sayings together;
- finally, Mark would have had to recall
Matthew's principle of equal measures [Matt 7:2b]
-- another minute saying from the Sermon on the Mount
-- out of context & insert it right before the riddle of the haves & the have-nots,
despite the fact that the logic of the two sayings conflict.
These sayings not only lack internal coherence but
disrupt the sequence of pericopes with a seed theme [parables of
sower, harvest &
that Mark 4 shares with Matthew 13. So it is puzzling why Mark would have bothered to
extract these particular aphorisms from the contexts in which Matthew had
recorded them & interpolate
them at this point in his narrative sequence. Therefore, the hypothesis that the gospel of Matthew was the
source of this aphoristic cluster in Mark creates more redactional problems
than it solves.
Did Mark conflate Matthew & Luke?
The Griesbach hypothesis avoids some of
the problems that the Augustinian theory of synoptic relationships has in
accounting for the construction of this aphoristic cluster by proposing that
Mark followed Luke's reworking of Matthew at this point.
- In revising the
narrative sequence of synoptic passages, Luke chose to reproduce only a condensed
version of the complex of sayings associated with one parable (the
sower & its allegorical explanation) at this point. So it is at least
conceivable that he could have recalled the riddle of the haves & the
have-nots [Matt 13:12] that he had dropped
from his version of Jesus' rationale for speaking in parables a few lines
earlier & recorded it as an appropriate concluding moral for this
- According to this hypothesis, Mark's only
revision of Luke at this point would have been his interpolation of a single
brief principle -- that of equal reciprocal measures -- between
the Lukan alert concerning proper hearing & the riddle of the haves
& the have-nots [Mark 4:24].
Such a redactional scenario does not, however,
confirm Griesbach's general observations
that Mark's text is usually closer to Matthew and favors a brief
presentation. If these were really Mark's predilections, then it is a
mystery why he would have abandoned them to interpolate an expansion of
a cluster of aphorisms -- including those of the lamp & disclosed
secrets -- that he derived from Luke into the longer collection of 3
seed parables allegedly drawn from Matthew, when Matthew presented none
of these sayings at this particular point in his narrative.
- If Mark knew the other two synoptic
gospels & was really concerned to be brief, one might expect
him to favor the complex of sayings in Luke 8:4-18 associated with the single
parable of the sower, especially since he does not present either
the version of a harvest parable that
immediately follows the allegorical explanation
of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 or most of the subsequent parables
in that chapter [the leaven,
or net]. But instead
of ending this section where Luke does [with the riddle of the haves &
the have-nots], Mark -- like Matthew -- goes on to present 2 more seed
parables: (a) a version of a harvest parable
that is found in neither Luke nor Matthew & (b) a parable of
the mustard seed that differs in
significant detail from the versions in both Matthew & Luke. In
fact, Mark's version of virtually every saying with a parallel in Luke
8:4-18, including this aphoristic cluster, is longer than Luke's
So, it is difficult to account for both the phrasing and sequence of
sayings in this section of Mark on the assumption that he preferred the briefer format of Luke.
- If, on the other hand, Mark
favored Matthew, as Griesbach alleged, then it is doubly inexplicable why
he inserted this aphoristic cluster at this particular point in his
narrative. For Matthew presents none of these sayings where Mark
does. If Mark was in fact dependent in part on Matthew, then one
might expect him to insert any other sayings he wished to associate with
Matt 13:12 in the sequence of Matthew's narrative syntax. But he
obviously did not.
- Moreover, in presenting his version of the
riddle of the haves & the have-nots, Mark omits the promise in Matt
13:12 -- "and he will have in abundance" -- even though it
makes practically the same point as the concluding words of Mark's own
phrasing of the principle of equal measures
("and still more will be given to you") that he used to preface
this saying. If Mark phrased the riddle of the haves & have-nots as Matthew did, then one might plausibly argue that this concept of
receiving with abundance is what prompted him to link these two sayings.
But since he does not, the logic of his presentation of these sayings shows
even less dependence on the text of Matthew than it does on that of Luke.
- Finally, if Mark was actually dependent for
his material on the other two synoptics, he should have been aware that Matthew
& Luke each present versions of both the principle of equal measures
& the riddle of the haves & have-nots in substantially the same contexts
[Jesus' sermon & the
parable of the entrusted
funds] at other
points in their gospels. Yet, he did not present these sayings in
either of those contexts, despite the clear narrative agreement between
his alleged sources. Why Mark would prefer instead to create a hybrid
composition by extracting a cluster including these aphorisms that
just in Luke & planting it in a block of parables drawn from Matthew, at
a point where there was no prior logical connection is a complete mystery.
Thus, it is difficult to account for the
various versions of this pericope on the basis of the Griesbach hypothesis,
since this source theory raises more questions than it answers.
Did Luke use Matthew to revise Mark?
A theory that envisions the literary
dependence of the other synoptics on Mark can more easily explain the various
forms in which the aphorisms in Mark 4:24-25 and parallels were recorded than
a theory that presupposes the
priority of Matthew. Mark's reasons for recalling these particular aphorisms
in tandem & introducing them as a cluster at this point in his narrative
may not be more scrutable by presuming that Mark wrote first. But at least
the mental mechanics involved in Mark's recalling these sayings from oral
tradition presents a simpler & more normal model of creative
composition than the intricate mental gymnastics required if one presupposes
that Mark based his work on one or both of the other written synoptic texts.
Since the logical coherence of these aphorisms
& their relevance to Mark's narrative context is tenuous at best, it is
easy to see why Matthew preferred to record them elsewhere. Luke, on the other
hand, obviously had no problem leaving most of these aphorisms where Mark had
recorded them, insofar as the principle of equal measures is the only saying
he dropped from this cluster of maxims.
Yet, the question remains: Does Luke's
presentation of these aphorisms indicate that he knew & used Matthew also, as
Luke clearly did not follow Matthew in constructing the cluster of
aphorisms appended to the allegorical interpretation of the parable of the
sower, since Matthew presents none of the sayings there that Luke & Mark
do. Moreover, the formulation of the riddle of the haves & have-nots
with which Luke concludes this sayings cluster follows Mark
4:25 rather than Matthew 13:12 in omitting the phrase: "and he will
have abundance." So, if Luke knew the
gospel of Matthew, he obviously chose to ignore it when he edited this section
Elsewhere, however, Luke associates both the
principle of equal measures & a second version of the riddle of the
haves & have-nots with sayings complexes like those in Matthew.
- In Jesus' sermon
on the mount in Matthew, the principle of equal measures is linked
directly to a warning against judging others [Matt
7:1-2]. The wording & sequence of sayings in Luke's version of
that sermon, which he locates on a "plain," is too similar to
Matthew's to be accidental. For there is no necessary logical link
between the principle of equal transactions
& the idea of not judging others, as the traditional Jewish rule of fair
retaliation -- "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth"
(Deut 19:21) -- proves. So, the fact that both
Luke & Matthew present a speech in which Jesus cites the principle of equal measures as reason for
not judging indicates a common source. That source cannot be
Mark, since his gospel does not report this sermon of Jesus or most of
the sayings that Matthew & Luke identify with it.
- In a parable set at the conclusion of Jesus'
public career, Matthew presents a second version of the riddle of the
haves & have-nots [Matt 25:29] as the
reason for stripping a conservative servant of entrusted funds he had
Luke's own second version of this riddle is closely parallel,
even though he records his version of the parable of entrusted funds
much earlier in his narrative. Note that, while the
two synoptic versions of this parable vary extensively in
narrative detail, the concluding aphorism
is worded almost identically
in both gospels. In fact, Matt 25:29 and Luke
19:26 agree even in the verb forms used to describe the subjects
(having/not having), although these differ from the grammatical
constructions used to describe the haves & the have-nots in Mark 4:25
and parallels. While such minor grammatical
details may seem trivial since they do not alter the sense of
the aphorism itself, such a pattern of close agreement in Matthew & Luke's
formulation of a saying that is not from Mark probably
indicates dependence on a single source.
The two simplest ways of accounting for such
patterns of rhetorical agreement between Matthew & Luke are:
- Luke used the gospel of Matthew as well as
- Matthew & Luke each used some
common source (Q).
In general, Farrer's theory that Luke
drew material directly from Matthew seems the simplest explanation. But
in this instance, at least, it requires envisioning editorial activity by both
Matthew & Luke that is almost as complex as that required by the Griesbach hypothesis.
If Matthew had only Mark as a
source for the parallel sayings in his gospel, then he would have
deliberately had to deconstruct & eliminate the cluster of aphorisms in Mark 4:21-25
only to cite four of these sayings in separate contexts earlier
in his narrative -- with only the last even remotely related to its use in
Mark. Then much later, near the conclusion of Jesus'
public preaching in Matthew, he repeated the last of
these aphorisms in yet another context, as the moral of a long narrative
parable that he did not derive from Mark. The following diagram illustrates the complexity
of Matthew's reorganization of Markan material if Mark was
Matthew's sole source:
ears to hear
& Have Nots
||Reason for parables
Not only the location but the wording
of Matthew's four sayings that resemble those in this Markan cluster diverge enough from Mark to make it clear that
the Matthean versions are at best free paraphrases
recalled in contexts unrelated to Mark. The fact that both
Matthean versions of the riddle of the haves & have-nots contain a
clause not used by Mark ["and he will have abundance"]
shows Matthew's persistent divergence from Mark's phrasing of these sayings.
Since Matthew repeatedly demonstrates his independence from the
Markan version of these sayings, it is not at all clear that the Matthean
parallels were even indirectly derived from the gospel of Mark itself.
Likewise, if Luke used Matthew's
versions of these sayings, he deliberately obscured this second source by totally rewriting
with which Matthew associated them & moving them to other points in
his narrative for no apparent reason.
- In Matthew the parable of the entrusted
funds is sandwiched between two other long
parables [about awaiting a bridegroom & the last judgment] at the
conclusion of Jesus' last speech, which is
filled with crisis motifs associated with the end-time. Since this
parable concerns a final reckoning when a master returns, it fits well
in such a context.
Luke relates it instead to Jesus' much earlier
encounter with a tax-collector [Zacchaeus]
at Jericho, an incident not reported by Matthew. The relevance of
the parable of entrusted funded to motifs in that story are less clear
than to those in Matthew's context. Moreover, most of the details
of Luke's telling of this parable differ so much from those found in
Matthew it is clear that, if Luke knew Matthew's version of this
parable, he did not like it & thought it had to be totally
Besides, Luke's version of Jesus' eschatological final
speech contains none of the parables & other sayings that
Matthew has in this context which lack parallels in Mark. So, it is
not at all certain that Luke was familiar with Matthew's version of
Jesus' last speech at all, much less extracted material from it rather than some other source. If
Luke used Matthew, it is unclear why he omits Matthew's phrase "and he
will have abundance" from the parable of entrusted fund's
conclusion about haves & have-nots,
since this point is illustrated by Luke's version of that parable [where
servants are rewarded in direct ratio to their productivity] even
better than Matthew's [where all funds are returned to the master].
- As for the
principle of equal measures: both Matthew & Luke introduce this as reason
to withhold judgment. Yet, the
logical & rhetorical syntax of these ideas in Luke's sermon is much
more complex than Matthew's, as the following diagram indicates [words
in pink indicate wording unique to Matthew;
those in green are peculiar to Luke]:
Not only does Luke fail to use the
mediating formula in Matthew's version of Jesus' sermon that links a
grammatically negative injunction with a grammatically positive
principle, he introduces positive actions (forgiving, giving) that
stretch the tight logic of the Matthean formula.
Moreover, Luke's sermon does not contain any of the aphorisms in
the whole chapter [Matt 6] immediately
preceding this passage in Matthew's sermon on the mount. Luke also omits
many other sayings that follow this cluster of aphorisms in Matthew, yet
appends sayings to the principle of equal measures
that are not in Matthew's version of Jesus' sermon. So
whatever the source of Luke's formulation of this material, it is clear
that -- at this point at least -- his sermon on the plain does not
follow the composition of Matthew's sermon on the mount.
Such observations fail to confirm Luke's
dependence on the text of Matthew or Matthew's sole reliance on
the text of Mark. Farrer's theory of synoptic relationships may
seem simple in the abstract. But when placed under a microscope, it fails to
explain the variation in performances of these
Did Matthew & Luke
use a common source other than Mark?
Any source theory that does not envision the
synoptic authors' access to oral tradition and/or a written document other
than our canonical gospels will inevitably have to resort to radical &
often inexplicable editorial revisions in order to account for the differences
in Matthew, Mark & Luke's presentation of the same aphorisms. So,
despite initial impressions to the contrary, the two
source hypothesis provides a simpler model than rival theories for
explaining the range of permutations in which these synoptic sayings were
- The principle of equal measures & the
riddle of the haves & the have-nots are based on quite independent
observations. Like other aphorisms credited to Jesus, they originally
circulated separately in oral tradition. Yet like any wise saying they
could be combined with other sayings & invoked in any logical context
that someone who recalled them deemed appropriate.
- Mark associated the principle of equal
measures with the riddle of the haves & have-nots and -- for reasons
that are not immediately apparent -- decided to add them to a string of
other aphorisms [e.g., the lamp & disclosed secrets] that he appended
to his interpretation of Jesus' parable of the sower.
- Yet, some other Christian scribe collecting sayings of Jesus,
obviously did not make the same mental associations as Mark but,
instead, associated the principle of equal measures & the riddle of
the haves & have-nots with other sayings [an injunction against
judgment, on the one hand, & a parable, on the other] & recorded
these sayings in quite different contexts.
- Though this is how these aphorisms appear in
the gospel of Matthew, the author of that gospel need not have been
the first scribe who recorded them in this form. The fact
that Luke also records these aphorisms in forms that are similar to
but not identical with those in Matthew makes it likely that both
Matthew & Luke used the same non-Markan sayings source [Q],
when they revised Mark.
- Since Matthew & Luke each locate the
injunction against judging in a sermon of Jesus near the beginning
of their gospels & the parable of entrusted funds near the end,
the sayings source "Q" must have had a stable structure &
thus was probably a written document. The fact that Matthew &
Luke locate these pericopes in totally different contexts in their
narratives is most easily explained by assuming that Luke added Q material
to Mark without any dependence on the text of Matthew.
- Since Matthew cited Q versions of the lamp,
disclosed secrets & principle of equal measures long before he came to
editing the section of Mark that dealt with parables, he simply chose not
to copy the cluster of aphorisms in Mark 4:21-25. The fact that these
sayings were awkward in this context anyway may have influenced his
decision. Yet, Matthew had not yet recorded the riddle of the haves
& have-nots. Rather than just eliminate it or leave it in as
irrelevant transition between the interpretation of the parable of the
sower & the next seed parable, Matthew decided to use this saying in
his expanded revision of Mark's explanation of why Jesus spoke in
parables. Finally, Matthew expanded Mark's version of Jesus' final
speech by including many sayings from Q that had similar crisis motifs,
including the parable of entrusted funds, to which the riddle of the haves
& have-nots had already been linked in Q.
- When Luke edited Mark, he did not use
Matthew's revisions as his guide. So he kept the aphoristic cluster
that Mark appended to Jesus' interpretation of the parable of the sower.
But, like Matthew, Luke had already cited the Q version of the principle
of equal measures when he inserted the sermon from Q early in his
narrative. So, in editing Mark 4:21-25, he simply decided not to repeat
this saying in its Markan context. Since Luke consistently condensed
Markan pericopes this decision was probably made to economize on words.
Like Matthew, Luke used Q's parable of entrusted funds, but instead of
appending it to Mark's version of Jesus' last speech he used it to expand
Mark's passing reference to Jesus' visit to
So, the fact that Matthew & Luke
- only one version of the principle of
equal measures, both in the non-Markan context of Jesus'
- but two versions of the riddle of the
haves & have-nots -- the first linked to the Markan section on
parables & the second to the non-Markan parable of entrusted
- yet in totally different narrative
contexts from each other
is most simply interpreted as evidence that
Matthew & Luke
- are independent revisions of Mark,
- by authors who both had access to copies of
a document [Q] that contained some Jesus sayings that were also in Mark,
but recorded in non-Markan sayings complexes; &
- each valued this collection of Jesus'
sayings [Q] as much or more than Mark.
03 September 2020