Who Made the “Omission,” Luke or Mark?

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Did Luke see and omit Mark 6:45-8:21, or did Mark see and omit Luke 9:51-18:14? The present article explores the possibility that the Markan pericope, “What Makes a Person Impure” in Mark 7:1-23 is dependent upon the Lukan pericope on “Discourse against the Pharisees” in Luke 11:37-41.

The question: Did Luke see and omit Mark 6:45-8:21 (in which the “Defilement” pericope is located), or did Mark see and omit Luke 9:51-18:14 (in which the anti-Pharisaic discourse is located)? The present article explores the possibility that the Markan pericope “What Makes a Person Impure” in Mark 7:1-23 is dependent upon the Lukan pericope “Discourse against the Pharisees” in Luke 11:37-41 (part of the longer pericope “Discourses against the Pharisees and Lawyers” [Luke 11:37-54]). This specific investigation is intended as a contribution toward the larger issue of the validity of the theory of Markan Priority as a solution to the Synoptic Problem.

Markan Priority?

Adherents to the theory of Markan Priority must argue that Luke is the secondary author who made the omission. Markan priorists argue that the pericope in question (Mark 7:1-23) is a segment of some two chapters in Mark that Luke decided to omit. Following the pericope of the “Feeding of the Five Thousand”—which all three Synoptic Gospels give in parallel order—Luke theoretically dropped nine Markan pericopae (Mark 6:45-8:21—some 70 verses) and continued with the pericope of “Peter’s Confession,” which all three Synoptic Gospels again present in parallel order. Markan priorists reject the notion that Mark saw the Lukan “Discourse against Pharisees” because this Lukan pericope is found within the central ten chapters of Luke (Luke 9:51-18:14, which comprise some 351 verses of Luke’s text) that are not found as such in Mark. Markan priorists do not find it tenable that Mark could have seen so much material and dropped it. They find it more likely that Luke dropped 70 verses from Mark than that Mark dropped 351 verses from Luke.

This article, in contrast, will attempt to sustain the claim that Mark, not Luke, is the more sophisticated secondary editor and author. This article claims that secondary authorship is not a simple principle of relative length of what is dropped or what is retained, but that Mark is acting like a normal Jewish storyteller of the first century A.D.

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  • Halvor Ronning

    Halvor Ronning

    Halvor Ronning (B.A., St. Olaf Lutheran College; B.D., Lutheran Theological Seminary; M.A., Yale University) is a founding member and past director of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. An officially licensed Israeli tour guide, he has lived in Israel for over fifty years. Although born…
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