Teaching with Authority: The Development of Jesus’ Portrayal as a Teacher within the Synoptic Tradition

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When Jesus’ teaching is falsely portrayed as entirely new, it obscures what in Jesus’ message is truly unique.

This article is a translation of an excerpt from David Flusser’s German book on parables entitled Die rabbinischen Gleichnisse und der Gleichniserzähler Jesus.[1] It appears here in English for the first time.[2]


Not long ago, while I was lecturing on the rabbinic background of the Sermon on the Mount, a New Testament professor objected, “How can you speak of Jesus’ rabbinic exegesis when we learn from Mark [In a redactional sentence!—DF] that Jesus taught ‘as one having authority, and not like the scribes’ (Mark 1:22)?” I replied to the theologian with all seriousness: “If Jesus was a person with authority, then he could also make rabbinic arguments based on his personal authority.” It was not until later that I [210] realized how this curious sentence in Mark’s version of the Capernaum Synagogue narrative (Mark 1:21-28) came into being. Without Lindsey’s synoptic theory[3] —according to which Luke is the earliest of the Synoptic Gospels, Mark is based primarily on Luke, and Matthew is based on two sources, Mark and one of the sources known to Luke—I would not have been able to understand the process that led to its formation.

Conjectured stages of transmission of the synoptic tradition according to Lindsey’s hypothesis.

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Stone relief from the site of Capernaum. Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton.

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  • David Flusser [1917-2000]

    David Flusser [1917-2000]

    Professor David Flusser died and was buried in Jerusalem on Friday, September 15, 2000, his 83rd birthday. A founding member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, Flusser was one of the world's leading Jewish authorities on Early Christianity. His pioneering research on Jesus and…
    [Read more about author]

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