LOY Excursus: Criteria for Identifying Separated Twin Parables and Similes in the Synoptic Gospels

Revised: 20-October-2017

Anyone acquainted with the Synoptic Gospels knows that some of Jesus’ parables and similes are twins.[1] For example, Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl appear as a pair (Matt. 13:44, 45-46), Tower Builder and King Going to War (Luke 14:28-29, 31-32) do the same, as do Lost Sheep and Lost Coin (Luke 15:4-7, 8-10) and Mustard Seed and Starter Dough (Matt. 13:31-32, 33; Luke 13:18-19, 20-21).[2] With respect to the examples we have just mentioned, the twin parables and/or similes not only resemble one another, they also appear adjacent to one another in at least one of the Synoptic Gospels.[3]

From the list of twin parables and similes that remain paired in at least one Gospel we have culled certain formal characteristics common to each of them, which can be used as criteria for evaluating whether other parables or similes in the Synoptic Gospels that strongly resemble one another but that do not appear in the same immediate contexts might be separated twins that were conjoined at a pre-Synoptic stage of the transmission of Gospel materials.[4]

Five Criteria for Identifying Separated Twin Parables and Similes

Common to the twin parables and similes that remain connected in at least one of the Gospels are the following characteristics:

1) The most distinctive feature of twin parables and similes is that both twins play out the same scenarios acted out with different characters and different props.

  • In both Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl the main character finds an item of value and sells everything in order to obtain it.
  • In Tower Builder and King Going to War the main character calculates his chances of success before embarking on a risky venture.
  • In Lost Sheep and Lost Coin the main character loses a valued possession, makes an effort to find it, and invites his/her friends to celebrate with him/her when it is recovered.
  • In Mustard Seed and Starter Dough something expands out of proportion to its original size.

2) In each of the attested twin parables and similes there is a contrast between the social standing of the main characters.

  • Hidden Treasure (poor rural farmer) vs. Priceless Pearl (wealthy urban merchant)
  • Tower Builder (small-time farmer) vs. King Going to War (king)
  • Lost Sheep (male proprietor of a large flock) vs. Lost Coin (female owner of a small savings)
  • Mustard Seed (man) vs. Starter Dough (woman)

3) Both twins illustrate the same point.

  • Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl illustrate the joy of abandoning one’s possessions in order to become Jesus’ full-time disciple.
  • Lost Sheep and Lost Coin illustrate God’s attitude toward repentant sinners: God rejoices over them and wants everyone else to rejoice with him.
  • Tower Builder and King Going to War have unfortunately not come to us in their original context, neither has their original context been convincingly conjectured. It is likely that Tower Builder and King Going to War illustrate either a prospective disciple’s need to consider the seriousness of the commitment he was about to make, or, alternatively, Tower Builder and King Going to War might illustrate Jesus’ rejection of some prospective disciples.
  • Mustard Seed and Starter Dough illustrate the expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven from its small beginnings.

4) Twin parables and similes tell both stories using the same or similar words and phrases.

  • Common to Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl are: both characters are described as a “person” (ἄνθρωπος; Matt. 13:44, 45); both characters sell “all that he has” (πάντα ὅσα ἔχει(ν); Matt. 13:44, 46); and both “buy” (ἀγοράζειν; Matt. 13:44, 46) the special object they have found.
  • Common to Tower Builder and King Going to War are: “Which of you?” (Luke 14:28) // “Which king?” (Luke 14:31); “Will he not first?” (οὐχί πρῶτον; Luke 14:28, 31); “if he has” (Luke 14:28) // “if he is able” (Luke 14:32).
  • Common to Lost Sheep and Lost Coin are: “What man?” (τίς ἄνθρωπος; Luke 15:4) // “What woman?” (τίς γυνή; Luke 15:8); “one” sheep (ἕν; Luke 15:3) // “one” coin (μίαν; Luke 15:8); “until he finds it” (ἕως εὕρῃ αὐτό; Luke 15:5) “until she finds [it]” (ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ; Luke 15:8); “he summons his friends and neighbors” (συγκαλεῖ τοὺς φίλους καὶ τοὺς γείτονας; Luke 15:6) // “she summons her friends and neighbors” (συγκαλεῖ τὰς φίλας καὶ γείτονας; Luke 15:9); “Rejoice with me, because I found” (συγχάρητέ μοι, ὅτι εὗρον; Luke 15:6, 9); “repenting sinner” (ἁμαρτωλῷ μετανοοῦντι; Luke 15:7, 10).
  • Common to Mustard Seed and Starter Dough are: a man “takes” (λαβών; Matt. 13:31; Luke 13:19) the seed // a woman “takes” (λαβοῦσα; Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20) the yeast.

5) Twin parables and similes are of similar length.

  • Hidden Treasure: 31 Greek words; Priceless Pearl: 25 Greek words
  • Tower Builder: 43 Greek words; King Going to War: 41 Greek words
  • Lost Sheep: 81 Greek words (Luke), 65 Greek words (Matt.); Lost Coin: 53 Greek words
  • Mustard Seed: 40 Greek words (Luke), 50 Greek words (Matt.); Starter Dough: 25 Greek words (Luke), 23 Greek words (Matt.)

Observe that the second parable in each set of twins is told with fewer words than the first.

Application of the Five Criteria

The criteria we have identified above can be applied to test whether other suggested couplings of parables and/or similes are true twins. As examples, we will test four sets of parables/similes that Lindsey identified as potentially separated twins: 1) Persistent Widow (Luke 18:2-5) and Friend in Need (Luke 11:5-7); 2) Darnel Among the Wheat (Matt. 13:24-30) and Bad Fish Among the Good (Matt. 13:47-50); 3) Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21) and Rich Man and Lazar (Luke 16:19-13); 4) Two Sons (Matt. 21:28-32) and Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

Persistent Widow and Friend in Need

1) Same scenarios acted out with different characters and different props:

In both illustrations a person makes a request, is initially denied, but then receives what he/she sought.

2) Contrast between the social standing of the main characters:

Friend in Need (man) vs. Persistent Widow (woman).

3) Both twins illustrate the same point:

If even a bad person will give what we need, albeit reluctantly, how much more will your Father in heaven willingly give Jesus’ full-time disciples what they need to serve him?

4) Same or similar words and phrases:

  • Persistent Widow: the widow “came to” (ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτόν; Luke 18:3) the judge. Friend in Need: a friend “comes to” (πορεύσεται πρός; Luke 11:5; cf. παρεγένετο…πρός; Luke 11:6) the man at night.
  • Persistent Widow: the judge says, “Because she keeps bringing me trouble” (διά γε τὸ παρέχειν μοι κόπον; Luke 18:5). Friend in Need: the bad friend says, “Don’t bring me trouble!” (μή μοι κόπους πάρεχε; Luke 11:7)

5) Similar length (second illustration slightly shorter than the first):

Persistent Widow (Luke 18:2-5): 70 Greek words; Friend in Need (Luke 11:5-7): 59 Greek words.

Result:

Persistent Widow and Friend in Need meet all five criteria for true twin parables/similes.

 

 

Darnel Among the Wheat and Bad Fish Among the Good

1) Same scenarios acted out with different characters and different props:

The good and the bad are allowed to remain mixed for the present, but they get sorted in the end.

2) Contrast between the social standing of the main characters:

Darnel Among the Wheat (landowner) vs. Bad Fish Among the Good (fishermen).

3) Both twins illustrate the same point:

God, in his wisdom, permits the righteous and the wicked to coexist.

4) Same or similar words and phrases:

The most important action verbs in both parables are συλλέγειν (“to gather”; Matt. 13:28, 29, 30, 48) and συνάγειν (“to gather”; Matt. 13:30, 47).

5) Similar length (second illustration slightly shorter than the first):

Darnel Among the Wheat (Matt. 13:24-30): 132 Greek words; Bad Fish Among the Good (Matt. 13:47-50): 71 Greek words.

Result:

Darnel Among the Wheat and Bad Fish Among the Good meet four of the five criteria for true twin parables/similes. Only with respect to the fifth criterion does this suggested pair deviate from the norm. However, we think it likely that the author of Matthew somewhat expanded the Darnel Among the Wheat parable.

 

 

Rich Fool and Rich Man and Lazar

1) Same scenarios acted out with different characters and different props:

  • The rich man in Rich Fool has a bumper crop and makes plans for future comfort only to discover that his time is up.
  • The rich man in Rich Man and Lazar enjoys luxury in this life but torment in the afterlife. He observes the reversal of fortunes, since the poor man who was miserable in this world is happy in the world to come.

The two scenarios are completely different.

2) Contrast between the social standing of the main characters:

Rich Fool (rich man) vs. Rich Man and Lazar (rich man). There is no contrast.

3) Both twins illustrate the same point:

  • Rich Fool illustrates the principle “you can’t take it with you.”
  • Rich Man and Lazar wrestles with the question “Why do the wicked prosper.”

Rich Fool and Rich Man and Lazar do not illustrate the same point.

4) Same or similar words and phrases:

Aside from the description of both main characters as a “certain rich man” (ἀνθρώπου τινὸς πλουσίου; Luke 12:16 // ἄνθρωπος δέ τις ἦν πλούσιος; Luke 16:19) there is no distinctive vocabulary common to both illustrations.

5) Similar length (second illustration slightly shorter than the first):

Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21): 94 Greek words; Rich Man and Lazar (Luke 16:19-13): 245 Greek words.

Result:

Rich Fool and Rich Man and Lazar do not meet any of the criteria of twin parables/similes.

 

 

Two Sons and Prodigal Son

1) Same scenarios acted out with different characters and different props:

  • In Two Sons neither son did what he said he would do.
  • In Prodigal Son one son grieves his father by squandering his inheritance while the other toils away trying to earn his father’s approval. When the prodigal returns he, too, wants to work his way back into his father’s favor. The father has to teach both sons that he loves them unconditionally.

The scenarios are not similar.

2) Contrast between the social standing of the main characters:

Two Sons (two sons) vs. Prodigal Son (two sons). There is no contrast.

3) Both twins illustrate the same point:

  • Two Sons illustrates the point that words don’t count as much as deeds.
  • Prodigal Son illustrates the loving character of the Heavenly Father.

Two Sons and Prodigal Son do not illustrate the same point.

4) Same or similar words and phrases:

Aside from “father” and “sons” there is no distinctive vocabulary common to both illustrations.

5) Similar length (second illustration slightly shorter than the first):

Two Sons (Matt. 21:28-32): 106 Greek words; Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32): 391 Greek words.

Result:

Two Sons and Prodigal Son do not meet any of the criteria of true twin parables/similes.

 

Conclusion

The Gemini twins as depicted on the synagogue mosaic in Beit Alpha, Israel. The inscription to the left of the figures reads תאומים (te’ūmim, “twins”). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The five criteria for identifying separated twin parables/similes significantly strengthen the credibility of some of Lindsey’s literary reconstructions, most notably the pairing of the Persistent Widow with Friend in Need in the “How to Pray” complex. Other pairings that Lindsey suggested do not fare quite so well. While it is always possible that Jesus followed up one parable or simile with a second parable or simile that was different in form, style and content, compelling evidence would need to be produced in order to convince us that he in fact did so.

 

 

 


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  • [1] See Burnett H. Streeter, “St. Mark’s Knowledge and Use of Q,” in Studies in the Synoptic Problem (ed. W. Sanday; Oxford: Clarendon, 1911), 165-183, esp. 173.
  • [2] See Jeremias (Parables, 90-92) for a discussion of “double” illustrations (Jeremias’ discussion is not limited to parables and similes). We define parables as brief realistic narratives used to illustrate a particular point. On defining parables, see Notley-Safrai, 3-6. We define similes as a sub-category of parables, which are given in the form of a question (e.g., “Which of you, having a hundred sheep…?”). See Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L1. For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [3] In rabbinic literature we occasionally encounter what we might call “dual parables,” such as the two parables in m. Avot 3:17, which tell the same story with different conclusions in order to illustrate how it is with a person who has accumulated more wisdom than deeds in the first case and how it is with a person who has accumulated more deeds than wisdom in the second. Similarly, m. Avot 4:20 has double parables about learning from the young versus learning from the aged, and t. Kid. 1:11 has three sets of double parables about those who practice a craft versus those who do not. These examples are not quite like the twin parables in the Gospels because they illustrate opposites, rather than using two similar parables to illustrate the same point. In t. Hag. 2:5, on the other hand, we find two parables that illustrate the same point, but the plots of the dual parables are not similar, unlike the twin parables found in the Gospels.
  • [4] For an initial attempt to identify “separated” twins, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Jesus’ Twin Parables”; idem, TJS, 44-52.

LOY Excursus: Greek-Hebrew Equivalents in the LOY Reconstructions

A first-century C.E. fresco from Pompeii of a woman holding a stylus and wax tablet. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Updated: 17-January-2018

The table in the document below indexes Greek terms and their Hebrew equivalents that occur in the Greek Reconstruction and Hebrew Reconstruction columns of the Life of Yeshua reconstruction documents. This is a work in progress, which is subject to change as the LOY team continues to refine their reconstructions in light of their ongoing research. The document was designed as an aid to producing future reconstructions as a way to keep track of the decisions that were made in the reconstructions completed thus far. While partially incomplete and constantly in flux, the LOY team has found this index to be a powerful reconstruction tool.

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LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups

The featured image is of a mosaic photographed in Jerusalem at the Dominus Flevit church on the Mount of Olives by Joshua N. Tilton.
Updated: 3-January-2018

This excursus, which is a work in progress, is an attempt to identify and collect certain redactional words and phrases characteristic of the editorial style of the author of Mark’s Gospel.[1]

Robert Lindsey believed that the Gospel of Mark is a highly edited epitome of Luke’s Gospel. One of the clues that led Lindsey to reach this conclusion was the recurrence of certain words in Mark that are difficult to translate to Hebrew. These un-Hebraic words and phrases interrupt the otherwise highly Hebraic quality of Mark’s Gospel. These words and phrases also appear with unusually high frequency in the Gospel of Mark, especially in comparison with the other Synoptic Gospels. Lindsey referred to such words as “Markan stereotypes.” The most well known of these stereotypes is εὐθύς (evthūs, “immediately”), which occurs 7xx in Matthew, 41xx in Mark and 1x in Luke. Lindsey further observed that the instances of εὐθύς in Matthew are always in parallel with instances in Mark, whereas the single instance of εὐθύς in Luke is not paralleled in Mark. Thus, the author of Matthew was clearly influenced by Mark’s use of εὐθύς, while Luke demonstrates independence from Mark and at the same time produces a more Hebraic text than what we have in Mark’s Gospel. For Lindsey this was one indication that the author of Mark used the Gospel of Luke as his source.[2] This catalog attempts to identify other examples of this kind.

Another indication that drew Lindsey to this conclusion was his observation that there are certain words and phrases employed by Mark that do not appear in the Lukan parallels but that the author of Luke utilized elsewhere in Luke and/or Acts.[3] Lindsey wondered why Luke would have avoided using these terms in parallel with Mark, if indeed the Gospel of Mark was the basis of Luke’s Gospel, as believed by Markan priorists. Lindsey further noted that these words and phrases are frequently rejected in the Matthean parallels as well. The Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark to omit these phrases strongly suggested to Lindsey that they are foreign to the pre-synoptic tradition. Lindsey concluded that the best explanation for the strange phenomenon of Mark’s use of Lukan vocabulary in places where Luke’s parallel lacks the Lukan terminology is the author of Mark’s use of Luke-Acts as the primary source for his Gospel.

A good example of the phenomenon described in the above paragraph is the phrase τὸ εὐαγγέλιον (to evangelion, “the gospel”).[4] Lindsey observed that τὸ εὐαγγέλιον never appears in the Gospel of Luke, but it does occur twice in Acts: once in an address by Peter (Acts 15:7), and once in an address by Paul (Acts 20:24). In contrast to the Gospel of Luke, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον occurs in the Gospel of Mark 8xx. What is more, Luke and Matthew agree 4xx against Mark to omit τὸ εὐαγγέλιον,[5] and Matthew and Mark agree to use τὸ εὐαγγέλιον only once (Matt. 26:13 // Mark 14:9). Lindsey reasoned that it is unlikely that the author of Luke would have rejected τὸ εὐαγγέλιον while copying Mark, as must be assumed by those subscribing to the theory of Markan Priority, since Luke was willing to write τὸ εὐαγγέλιον at appropriate points in Acts. It is more likely, according to Lindsey, that the author of Mark chose to insert τὸ εὐαγγέλιον into his text while copying stories from Luke and that the author of Matthew often rejected τὸ εὐαγγέλιον because he did not find it in his parallel source, a source that Luke had utilized when composing his Gospel.[6]

Another example of this phenomenon is Mark’s use of ἐκτινάσσειν (ektinassein, “to shake off”) in Mark 6:11. Matthew followed Mark in the use of ἐκτινάσσειν (Matt. 10:14) in the phrase “shake off the dust,” whereas Luke, in his parallel, used the verb ἀποτινάσσειν (apotinassein, “to shake off”; Luke 9:5). Although the difference in vocabulary may initially seem insignificant, the variation becomes important when we discover that, in Acts, Luke used ἐκτινάσσειν for Paul’s wiping off the dust from his feet (Acts 13:51; cf. Acts 18:6).[7] Why would Luke have avoided ἐκτινάσσειν in Luke 9:5 if this verb had been in his source, especially since this is his preferred vocabulary for situations in which a person wipes the dust from his feet?[8] Lindsey suggested that in such situations Mark intentionally borrowed vocabulary from Acts in the course of rewriting Gospel stories in order to remind his audience how the stories of the later believers in Jesus resonate with Jesus’ own story. In so doing, Mark’s vocabulary sometimes became more Lukan than the Gospel of Luke. Lindsey coined the term “Markan pick-up” to describe the phenomenon of Lukan terminology appearing in the text of Mark. Further examples of this kind can be observed in the catalog below.

Lindsey also identified a clear motivation for the Markan pick-ups: the pick-ups were intended to echo the experiences of Jesus’ later followers in the stories the author of Mark told about Jesus. For instance, in the story of the paralyzed man, Matthew and Luke agree against Mark to use a word other than κράβαττος (krabattos, “pallet”) to refer to the paralyzed man’s bed (κλινίδιον in Luke; κλίνη in Matthew).[9] Lindsey noted that although κράβαττος never appears in Matthew or Luke, it is used twice in Acts (Acts 5:15; 9:33). The story of the paralyzed man in Mark 2 is similar to the story in Acts 9 of Peter’s healing of Aeneas. Likewise, the story in Mark 6 of the healing of many, where the people bring out the sick on pallets (ἐπὶ τοῖς κραβάττοις; Mark 6:55), is similar to the story in Acts 5 where the sick are brought out on cots and pallets (ἐπὶ κλιναρίων καὶ κραβάττων; Acts 5:15) in order to be healed by Peter. Lindsey believed that for the edification of his audience Mark imported the word κράβαττος from Acts into his versions of the Gospel stories about Jesus in order to allude to the similar experiences of Peter.

Having identified the phenomenon of Markan pick-ups from Luke-Acts, Lindsey later concluded that the author of Mark also picked up words and phrases from other sources, most notably from the Epistles of Paul and the Epistle of James.[10] For example, Lindsey noticed that only two places in the entire NT mention anointing the sick with oil: Mark 6:13 and James 5:14. Lindsey suggested that the author of Mark told a story about Jesus’ disciples anointing the sick with oil in order to reflect the practice of later followers as described in the Epistle of James. By means of the Markan pick-ups, the author of Mark was able to show continuity between Jesus’ story and the experiences of Jesus’ later followers, right up to the experiences of the communities for whom his Gospel was composed.[11]

As already mentioned, this catalog is a work in progress and is therefore not exhaustive. We will continue to add to the catalog as further Markan pick-ups and Markan stereotypes are identified in the course of our research for “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.” We also hasten to add that the catalog is not intended to be definitive: the catalog includes possible examples of Markan pick-ups for which there undoubtedly are alternative explanations. The purpose of the catalog is to collect in one place all the examples that might qualify as Markan pick-ups so that the cumulative effect of the phenomenon can be measured.

For a word or phrase to qualify as a possible Markan pick-up, it is not sufficient that the word or phrase in question appears, for example, in both Mark and Acts. It is also necessary to show that the word or phrase appears in contexts that are in some way similar, like the example of κράβαττος discussed above. We realize, of course, that the explanation itself does not constitute proof of Lindsey’s theory, however the more often a possible pick-up can plausibly be explained in this way, the more likely it becomes that Lindsey’s explanation is correct. It is, therefore, important to include examples of possible pick-ups that are not certain, since it is the cumulative effect that must be evaluated.[12] While it may be easy to dismiss any one example as random, or inconclusive, or explicable on other grounds, the cumulative evidence becomes more impressive. Thus, the catalog is not intended to prove that the author of Mark picked up words and phrases from Acts, the Pauline Epistles and the Epistle of James. The catalog’s purpose is rather to collect the raw data that supports Lindsey’s hypothesis so that the cumulative evidence can be considered and scholars can evaluate whether or not Lindsey’s hypothesis is convincing.[13]

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  • [1] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style.” For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes.”
  • [3] Abbott remarked that there are several Markan words that are “rejected by Lk. in the Gospel but retained by him in…Acts.” See Edwin A. Abbott, The Corrections of Mark Adopted by Matthew and Luke (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1901), 113 n. 7. Foakes Jackson and Lake likewise noted that there are “several cases where a motif in the gospel of Mark is omitted by the parallel in the gospel of Luke only to reappear in Acts” (Foakes Jackson-Lake, 4:134). The cases Foakes Jackson and Lake cited include:

    • Acts 1:7 and Mark 13:23 (unparalleled in Luke); cf. Foakes Jackson-Lake 4:8.
    • Acts 5:15-16 and Mark 6:55-56 (unparalleled in Luke); cf. Foakes Jackson-Lake 4:54-55.
    • Acts 6:11-14 and Mark 14:56-64 (unparalleled in Luke); cf. Foakes Jackson-Lake 4:69.
    • Acts 9:40 and Mark 5:40 (cf. Luke 8:53); cf. Foakes Jackson-Lake 4:111.
    • Acts 12:4 and Mark 14:2 (cf. Luke 22:2); Foakes Jackson-Lake 4:134.
    • Acts 28:8 and Mark 1:31 (cf. Luke 4:39); cf. Foakes Jackson-Lake 4:343.

    Foakes Jackson and Lake considered this phenomenon to be the product of Luke’s dependence on the Gospel of Mark. Lindsey accounted for the same phenomenon by suggesting that the literary dependence flowed in the opposite direction: Mark embellished his gospel narratives with details from Luke-Acts. At the very least, this phenomenon is evidence that there is a direct literary relationship between Mark and Luke-Acts.

  • [4] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes.”
  • [5] Luke and Matthew agree against Mark to omit τὸ εὐαγγέλιον at Matt. 4:17 and Luke 4:14 opposite Mark 1:14; Matt. 16:25 and Luke 9:24 opposite Mark 8:35; Matt. 19:29 and Luke 18:29 opposite Mark 10:29; Matt. 10:18 and Luke 21:13 opposite Mark 13:10.
  • [6] For an overview of Lindsey’s solution to the Synoptic Problem, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [7] For further evidence of editorial activity in Mark 6:11, note the Lukan-Matthean agreement to write τὸν κονιορτόν (ton koniorton, “the dust”; Luke 9:5 // Matt. 10:14) against Mark’s τὸν χοῦν (ton choun, “the dust”), as well as their agreement against Mark to omit τὸν ὑποκάτω (ton hūpokatō, “[that is] under”).
  • [8] See Cadbury’s comments on Acts 13:51 in Henry J. Cadbury, “Note XXIV: Dust and Garments” (Foakes Jackson-Lake, 5:269 n. 4).
  • [9] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Pick-ups”; idem, “My Search for the Synoptic Problem’s Solution (1959-1969),” under the subheading “Markan Pick-ups.”
  • [10] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Further Proof of Mark’s Dependence on Luke”; idem, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew: A Discussion of the Sources of Markan ‘Pick-ups’ and the Use of a Basic Non-canonical Source by All the Synoptists.”
  • [11] On the pastoral function of the Markan pick-ups, see Joshua N. Tilton, “Reflections on Mark.”
  • [12] Climate scientists run into a similar problem when they are asked whether a particular storm is due to global climate change. While it is extremely difficult to definitely attribute any individual storm to global climate change, the cumulative evidence does show a pattern that there are more frequent and more powerful storms. If the scientists dismissed as evidence every storm that could not conclusively be proven to be the result of global climate change, they would never be able to see the overall pattern. Likewise, the cumulative examples of possible Markan pick-ups may indicate an overall pattern, but the overall pattern cannot be identified without documenting all of the possible pick-ups.
  • [13] Special thanks are due to Lauren Asperschlager who diligently checked all the Scripture references in the catalog.

LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua

Revised: 29-June-2016


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A key concept in Jesus’ teaching is the Kingdom of Heaven.[1] The Kingdom of Heaven is the subject of many of Jesus’ parables and is at the heart of his proclamation. The Kingdom of Heaven has, nevertheless, frequently been misunderstood and misconstrued by numerous scholars. The Kingdom of Heaven is neither a place we can visit nor a time for which we must wait.[2] According to Jesus’ teachings, the Kingdom is not up in heaven, it is taking place here on earth. Likewise, for Jesus the Kingdom is not in the near or distant future, the Kingdom has already begun.[3]

The Kingdom of Heaven in Jewish Literature

“The Kingdom of Heaven” is not a phrase that is familiar from the Hebrew Bible, because it does not appear in the Jewish Scriptures.[4] Neither can the phrase “the Kingdom of Heaven” be found in the writings of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha[5] or in the Dead Sea Scrolls.[6] “The Kingdom of Heaven” is not known from the writings of Hellenistic Judaism. The phrase is common only to the New Testament and rabbinic literature.[7] This fact is one example of Jesus’ familiarity with and sympathy for the teachings of the Jewish sages.

In rabbinic literature מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם (malchūt shāmayim, “the Kingdom of Heaven”) refers to the reign of Israel’s God over his people and over his creation. “Heaven” in the rabbinic phrase does not refer to a place (i.e., heaven) but stands as a substitute for the divine name (i.e., the Tetragrammaton).[8] It should also be noted that in Hebrew the word for “kingdom” in the phrase מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם is a verbal noun,[9] which suggests that the focus of the term is on divine activity (God’s reign) rather than a sphere of influence.[10]

The Kingdom of Heaven in Jewish Literature: The Shema and the Kingdom of Heaven

Becker has shown that rabbinic references to the Kingdom of Heaven are most often linked either to the recitation of the Shema or to the giving of the Torah at Sinai.[11] Rabbinic literature refers to reciting the Shema as קִבּוּל מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם (qibūl malchūt shāmayim, “receiving the Kingdom of Heaven”; Sifre Num. § 115 [ed. Horovitz, 126]). According to Safrai, “The essence of the Kingdom of Heaven is not in the first verse, which proclaims the unity of God (Deut. 6:4), but in the continuation: the requirement to love God and to do his commandments.”[12] This usage indicates a relational aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven: God reigns over a human being when that person determines to perform God’s commandments.[13] The relational aspect of the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven can be observed in the following examples:

אָמַ′ רֶ′ יְהוֹשֻׁע בֶּן קָרְחָה וְלָמָּה קָדְמָהּ שְׁמַע לִוְהָיָה אִם שָׁמֹעַ אֶלָּא יְקַבֵּל עָלָיו מַלְכוּת שׁמַיִם תְּחִילָּה וְאַחַר כָּךְ יְקַבֵּל עָלָיו עוֹל מִצְווֹת

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korhah said: “Why does the section Hear, O Israel precede And it shall come to pass if you obey? So that a person may first accept the Kingdom of Heaven and afterwards accept the yoke of the commandments.” (m. Ber. 2:2)[14]

מַעֲשֶׂה בְרַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵ′ שֶׁנָּשָׂא וְקָרָא בְלַיְלָה שֶׁנָּשָׂא אָמְרוּ לוֹ לֹא לִימַּדְתָּנוּ שֶׁחָתָן פָּטוּר מִקִּרְיַת שְׁמַע בְּלַיְלָה הָרִאשׁוֹן אָמָ′ לָהֶן אֵינִי שׁוֹמֵעַ לָכֶם לְבַטֵּל מִמֶּנִּי מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם שָׁעָה אַחַת

An anecdote about Rabban Gamaliel: When he got married he recited the Shema on his wedding night. His disciples said to him, “Didn’t you teach us that a bridegroom is exempt from reciting the Shema on the first night?” He said to them, “I will not listen to you to annul the Kingdom of Heaven[15] even for a moment.” (m. Ber. 2:5)

The Kingdom of Heaven in Jewish Literature: The Kingdom of Heaven and Israel’s History

The rabbinic association of the Kingdom of Heaven with the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah at Sinai connects the relational aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven to another facet of the Kingdom of Heaven concept: the Kingdom of Heaven’s connotations of redemptive history. Rabbinic tradition identifies the celebration of God’s victory at the Red Sea as the first allusion to the Kingdom of Heaven in Scripture. In response to the defeat of Pharaoh, Israel sang “The LORD shall reign forever and ever” (Exod. 15:18).[16] Thus it is through the LORD’s redemptive intervention in history that the Kingdom of Heaven is revealed. In response to God’s salvation, the children of Israel gladly accepted the Torah as their constitution:

אנכי ה′ אלהיך. מפני מה לא נאמרו עשרת הדברות בתחלת התורה משלו משל למה הדבר דומה לאחד שנכנס במדינה אמר להם אמלוך עליכם אמרו לו כלום עשית לנו שתמלוך עלינו מה עשה בנה להם את החומ′ הכניס להם את המים עשה להם מלחמות אמר להם אמלוך עליכם אמרו עליכם אמרו לו הן והן. כך המקום הוציא ישראל ממצרים קרע להם הים הוריד להם המן העלה להם הבאר הגיז להם השלו עשה להם מלחמת עמלק אמר להם אמלוך עליכם אמרו לו הן והן. רבי אומר להודיע שבחן של ישראל שכשעמדו כולן על הר סיני לקבל התורה השוו כלם לב אחד לקבל מלכות שמים בשמחה.‏

I am the Lord Thy God. Why were the Ten Commandments not said at the beginning of the Torah? A parable is told, to what may the matter be compared? To one who entered a country and said, “May I rule over you?” They replied to him, “Have you done anything good for us that you should rule over us?” What did he do? He built the [city] wall for them, brought water [into the city] for them and fought battles for them. Then he said to them, “May I rule over you?” They replied, “Yes, yes.” So, also the Omnipresent brought Israel out of Egypt, parted the sea for them, brought down the manna for them, raised the well for them, brought the quail for them and fought the battle against Amalek for them. He said to them, “May I rule over you?” and they responded, “Yes, yes.” Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] says: This makes the excellence of Israel known, for when they all stood before Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, they were all of one mind to receive the Kingdom of Heaven joyfully.[17] (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaHodesh chpt. 5, on Exod. 20:2)[18]

The Kingdom of Heaven in Jewish Literature: Future Completion of the Kingdom of Heaven

Thus, the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven is linked to Israel’s redemptive history and God’s relationship to Israel as a redeemer. The Kingdom of Heaven is revealed when God acts as Israel’s savior, and in response Israel cheerfully accepts the LORD as their king. The connection of the Kingdom of Heaven to Israel’s redemption history encompasses not only events from the biblical past, but also looks forward to future instances of God’s redemptive action. According to one rabbinic tradition, Israel’s song at the sea alludes to the future rebuilding of the Temple:

אימתי תבנהו בשתי ידיך. משל ללסטים שנכנסו לפלטרין של מלך בזזו נכסיו והרגו פמליא של מלך והחריצו פלטרין של מלך לאחר זמן ישב מלך עמהם בדין תפש מהם הרג מהם צלב מהן וישב בפלטרין שלו ואחר כך נתודעה מלכותו לעולם לכך נאמר מקדש ה′ כוננו ידיך ה′ ימלוך לעולם ועד.‏

The LORD shall reign [Exod. 15:18]. When? When you build it [i.e., the Temple—DNB and JNT] with your two hands. A parable. [To what may the matter be compared?] To robbers who entered the palace of the king, stole his property, killed the royal servants and destroyed the palace of the king. After awhile the king sat in judgment over them. He imprisoned some, he executed some and he crucified some. He dwelt in his palace and afterwards his reign [מלכותו] was recognized in the world. Accordingly, it says, The sanctuary, O LORD, your hands established [Exod. 15:17].[19] (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 10, on Exod. 15:17)

From the point of view of this parable, the Kingdom of Heaven awaits a future completion. The Kingdom of Heaven is compared to an earthly king whose palace has been destroyed. Only when the king’s authority is recognized in the world is his kingdom established. Likewise, only when the LORD’s authority is recognized by all the peoples of the world will the Kingdom of Heaven be complete. As Notely-Safrai note (109), this midrash on Exod. 15:17-18 looks forward to a fuller realization of the Kingdom of Heaven in the future, when the nations of the world are made to recognize God’s reign by vindicating Israel through the rebuilding of the Temple and punishment of Israel’s enemies.

Similarly, commenting upon the story of the war with Amalek (Exod. 17), Rabbi Eliezer said:

אימתי יאבד שמן של אלו בשעה שנעקר עבודה זרה היא ועובדיה ויהא המקו′ יחידי בעולם ותהי מלכותו לעולם ולעולמי עולמים באותה שעה (שם י″ד) ויצא ה′ ונלחם בגוים ההם והיה ה’ למלך וגו′.‏

When will the name of these people [the Amalekites—DNB and JNT] perish? In the hour when idolatry is uprooted together with the idolaters and the Omnipresent will be unique [i.e., worshipped exclusively—DNB and JNT] in the world and his Kingdom [מלכותו] will be [established—DNB and JNT] forever and ever. In that hour, the LORD will go out and wage war etc. [Zech. 14:3], and the LORD will be king [over all the earth, and on that day the LORD will be one, and his name one (Zech. 14:9)]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek chpt. 2, on Exod. 17:14)[20]

Rabbi Eliezer’s comment unites all the aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven we have discussed thus far, and highlights another facet yet to be explored. Here we see the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven linked to Israel’s redemptive history—the defeat of Amalek—which awaits completion in the final redemption when Israel is vindicated before the nations and idolatry is uprooted from the earth. On that day the LORD will be one, and his name one, an allusion to the Shema. Rabbi Eliezer’s comment also makes it clear that Israel’s redemption is not merely a spiritual concept, but anticipates a this-worldly transformation of social and political realities. The realization of the Kingdom of Heaven involves the abolition of idolatry, the liberation of Israel from foreign oppression, and the submission of the Gentiles to God’s rule (or even their complete destruction). Just as the Kingdom of Heaven was revealed through Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt, so the completion of the Kingdom of Heaven will result in a future political liberation of Israel from foreign oppression. Thus the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven has a political as well as a religious dimension.[21]

The Kingdom of Heaven in Jewish Literature: Political Aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven[22]

Flusser discussed the political aspect of the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, arguing that originally “the Kingdom of Heaven” was an anti-Zealot slogan.[23] At the end of the Second Temple period there were various groups of militant Jewish nationalists who advocated armed revolt against the Roman Empire. These insurgent groups believed that national liberation could be achieved through violent means. They believed that their armed struggle would provoke divine intervention on Israel’s behalf and the eschatological events of the final redemption would be set in motion as a result of their terrorist activities. It seems likely that at least one stream of militant Jewish nationalism emerged from the School of Shammai.[24] This militant Jewish nationalist ideology was countered by the Hillelite stream of Pharisaic Judaism[25] with the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven.[26] According to Hillelite ideology, violent militant insurgence can only replace the Roman Empire with a kingdom of flesh and blood:

רבי חנניה סגן הכהנים אומר כל הנותן דברי תורה על לבו מבטלין ממנו הרהורי חרב. הרהורי רעב. הרהורי שטות. הרהורי זנות. הרהורי יצר הרע. הרהורי אשה רעה. הרהורי דברים בטלים. הרהורי עול בשר ודם…. וכל שאינו נותן דברי תורה על לבו נותנין לו הרהורי חרב. הרהורי רעב. הרהורי שטות. הרהורי זנות. הרהורי יצר הרע. הרהורי אשה רעה. הרהורי דברים בטלים. הרהורי עול בשר ודם…. הוא היה אומר אל תראוני שאני שחרחורת ששזפתני השמש [בני אמי נחרו בי שמוני נוטרה את הכרמים כרמי שלי לא נטרתי (שיר השירים א′ ו′). אל תראוני שאני שחרחורת ששזפתני השמש בני אמי נחרו בי] אלו בולאות שביהודה שפרקו עולו של הקב″ה מעליהם והמליכו עליהם מלך ב″ו י.‏

Rabbi Hananiah,[27] prefect of the priests, says: He who takes to heart the words of the Torah is relieved of many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. But he who does not take to heart the words of the Torah is given over to many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. He used to say: Do not look at me because I am dark and the sun has tanned me [my mother’s sons were angry with me (Song 1:6)]—these are the assemblies of Judah who broke off the yoke of the Holy One, blessed be he, and caused a king of flesh and blood to reign over them.[28] (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 20 [ed. Schechter, 70-72])[29]

In contrast to the aspirations of the militant Jewish nationalists who hoped to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression by resorting to violence, the Hillelite stream of Pharisaic Judaism taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is realized through the performance of mitzvot and acts of mercy:

אילו הסתכלו ישראל במה שאמר להם יעקב אביהם לא שלטה בהם אומה ומלכות ומה אמר להם קבלו עליכם מלכות שמים והכריעו זה את זה ביראת שמים [והתנהגו זה את זה בגמילות חסדים] וכ″ו

If Israel had kept the words that Jacob, their father, spoke to them, no people or kingdom would rule over them. And what did he say to them? “Take upon yourselves the Kingdom of Heaven and emulate one another in the fear of Heaven [i.e., God—DNB and JNT] and practice kindness to one another. (Sifre, Ha’azinu chpt. 18, on Deut. 32:29 [Finkelstein, 372])

Despite this peaceful approach, the concept of redemption (גְּאוּלָּה; ge’ūlāh) itself was not spiritualized: the peace-seeking Hillelites still retained hope for political liberation from foreign oppression.[30] This hope for political freedom is expressed in statements such as the following:

ר′ נְחוֹנְיָה בֶן הַקָּנָה אוֹ′ כָּל הַמְקַבֵּל <עָלָיו> [[עוֹל]] תּוֹרָה מַעֲבִירִים מִמֶּנּוּ עוֹל מַלְכוּת וְעוֹל דֶּרֶךְ הָאָרֶץ וְכָל הַפּוֹרֵק מִמֶּנּוּ עוֹל תּוֹרָה נוֹתְנִים עָלָיו עוֹל מַלְכוּת וְעוֹל דֶּרֶךְ הָאָרֶץ

Rabbi Nehunyah ben ha-Kanah says: Anyone who receives the yoke of the Torah removes from himself the yoke of the empire and the yoke of daily sorrows, but anyone who breaks himself away from the yoke of the Torah takes upon himself the yoke of the empire and the yoke of daily sorrows. (m. Avot 3:5)[31]

The political aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven is also present in a saying attributed to Rabbi Yose ha-Gelili.[32] Commenting on the grammar of Exod. 15:18, he said:

רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר אלו אמרו ישראל על הים יי מלך עולם ועד לא היתה אומה ומלכות שולטת בהן לעולם אלא אמרו יי ימלוך לעולם ועד לעתיד לבא.‏

If at the [Red] Sea Israel had said, “The LORD reigns forever and ever,” no nation or kingdom would ever have ruled over them. But they said, The LORD shall reign forever and ever,—in the future tense…. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 10, on Exod. 15:17)

In other words, had the children of Israel recognized the Kingdom of Heaven in the present, and not merely as a future event, God’s reign would have continued uninterrupted from the time of the splitting of the Red Sea until today. Only God, and no one else, would ever have reigned over Israel. The political aspect of Rabbi Yose ha-Gelili’s statement is clear: the Kingdom of Heaven and the reign of foreign powers over Israel cannot coexist. Kingdoms of flesh and blood are displaced wherever the Kingdom of Heaven has been realized.[33]

Thus, there is a certain tension in the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. The sages who articulated this concept rejected the violent tactics of the militant Jewish nationalists, yet they clung to the hope that Israel would be liberated through the realization of the Kingdom of Heaven.[34] The means, and not the ends, were the locus of their disagreement with those who called for armed revolt against the Roman Empire. Rather than resorting to violence, the Hillelite stream of Pharisaic Judaism insisted that redemption would be achieved through unswerving loyalty to the Torah.

The political aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven is highlighted in the Babylonian Talmud’s version of the story of Rabbi Akiva’s martyrdom:

תנו רבנן פעם אחת גזרה מלכות הרשעה שלא יעסקו ישראל בתורה בא פפוס בן יהודה ומצאו לרבי עקיבא שהיה מקהיל קהלות ברבים ועוסק בתורה. אמר ליה: עקיבא, אי אתה מתירא מפני מלכות…. אמרו לא היו ימים מועטים עד שתפסוהו לרבי עקיבא וחבשוהו בבית האסורים, ותפסו לפפוס בן יהודה וחבשוהו אצלו אמר לו פפוס מי הביאך לכאן אמר ליה אשריך רבי עקיבא שנתפסת על דברי תורה אוי לו לפפוס שנתפס על דברים בטלים בשעה שהוציאו את רבי עקיבא להריגה זמן קריאת שמע היה והיו סורקים את בשרו במסרקות של ברזל והיה מקבל עליו עול מלכות שמים…. היה מאריך באחד עד שיצתה נשמתו באחד

Our Rabbis taught: Once the wicked Government [מלכות הרשעה] issued a decree forbidding the Jews to study and practice the Torah. Pappus b. Judah came and found R. Akiba publicly bringing gatherings together and occupying himself with the Torah. He said to him: Akiba, are you not afraid of the Government [מלכות]?… It is related that soon afterwards R. Akiba was arrested and thrown into prison, and Pappus b. Judah was also arrested and imprisoned next to him. He said to him: Pappus, who brought you here? He replied: Happy are you, R. Akiba, that you have been seized for busying yourself with the Torah! Alas for Pappus who has been seized for busying himself with idle things! When R. Akiba was taken out for execution, it was the hour for the recital of the Shema’, and while they combed his flesh with iron combs, he was accepting upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven [והיה מקבל עליו עול מלכות שמים]…. He prolonged the word ehad [“one”] until he expired while saying it. (b. Ber. 61b; Soncino [adapted])

In this story, the Roman Empire (מלכות הרשעה; lit., “the wicked kingdom”) is opposed to the Kingdom of Heaven. Rabbi Akiva’s commitment to the Kingdom of Heaven leads to his defiance of the emperor’s decree and costs him his life. Simply reciting the Shema was a political act, because it meant declaring loyalty to the God of Israel in defiance of Caesar’s decree. As Harvey writes, “…allegiance to the metaphysical malkhut of God enjoins resistance to the tyrannical malkhut of Rome. The Roman government (malkhut) had prohibited the study of Torah, but Rabbi Akiva continued teaching and was imprisoned and sentenced to death by torture…. Proclaiming in extremis the divine oneness, Rabbi Akiva affirmed his absolute allegiance to the kingdom of God while defying the imperial oppressors.”[35]

Comparison of the versions of Rabbi Akiva’s martyrdom in the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmuds is instructive. In the Jerusalem Talmud’s version, the phrases “the wicked kingdom” and “the Kingdom of Heaven” do not appear. The version in the Jerusalem Talmud (y. Ber. 9:5 [67b]; y. Sot. 5:5 [25a-b]) does not report the reasons for Rabbi Akiva’s execution, whereas the version in the Babylonian Talmud (b. Ber. 61b) stresses that Rabbi Akiva was martyred simply for teaching Torah in defiance of Caesar’s decree. Although both versions omit any mention of Rabbi Akiva’s support for Bar Kochva’s revolt, it is clear that the Babylonian version intentionally suppressed Rabbi Akiva’s pro-revolutionary stance in order to portray him as a martyr who was executed solely for his commitment to the Kingdom of Heaven.[36] It therefore appears that the Babylonian version has manipulated its source in order to express the anti-revolutionary ideology expressed by the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. Nevertheless, even in the Babylonian Talmud’s recasting of the story of Rabbi Akiva’s martyrdom, Rabbi Akiva’s commitment to the Kingdom of Heaven remains a political act every bit as much as it was also religious. This reformulation of the story of Rabbi Akiva’s martyrdom shows that the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven could express an anti-revolutionary sentiment and a critique of the Roman Empire at the same time. The rejection of militant Jewish nationalism did not imply support for Rome. In the minds of the Jewish sages who developed the Kingdom of Heaven concept, anti-revolutionary sentiment and critique of the Roman Empire were two sides of the same coin.[37]

The rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, therefore, is multifaceted. As Becker writes, “the term malkhut shamayim points to a bundle of closely associated and interconnected motifs: God’s unity, his presence in his realm, his redeeming acts in the present and future, his precepts for Israel by which Israel realizes God’s kingdom in the present…and the idea of martyrdom for heaven’s sake.”[38]

The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus

Many of the aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven that we observe in rabbinic literature are also discernible in Jesus’ teaching, but we also find that Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven in distinctive ways.

The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus: Divine Activity

Jesus referred to the healing of the sick and the driving out of impure spirits as evidence that God was actively working through Jesus to redeem his people. When he sent out his twelve apostles to heal and exorcise demons, Jesus instructed them to proclaim that Ἤγγικεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (“The Kingdom of God has come near to you”; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L105; Luke 10:9; cf. Matt. 10:7). In other words, God’s redemptive power has broken into the human sphere.

On another occasion Jesus declared: “If I cast out demons by the finger of God then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20; cf. Matt. 12:28). As Notley observed, the phrase “the finger of God” appears only three times in the Hebrew Bible: once in reference to the plagues in Egypt, when Pharaoh’s magicians recognized the LORD’s power (Exod. 8:19), and twice in reference to the giving of the Torah at Sinai (Exod. 31:18; Deut. 9:10).[39] By this sophisticated biblical allusion, Jesus connected the divine activity taking place through his healing and teaching mission to Israel’s redemption history. In much the same way as the sages connected the Kingdom of Heaven to the redemption from Egypt and the giving of the Torah, Jesus drew a connection between the first redemption and the redemption breaking out through his own mission.

The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus: Political Aspect[40]

It also seems that, as in rabbinic sources, the Kingdom of Heaven has a political aspect in Jesus’ teaching.[41] Like the Hillelite Pharisees, the political opponents of the militant Jewish nationalist parties, Jesus opposed armed rebellion against the Roman Empire.[42] This much is clear from Jesus’ statement that taxes must be paid to Caesar (Question Concerning Tribute to Caesar; Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26) and that one must turn the other cheek, and walk the extra mile (On Retaliation; Matt. 5:38-42).[43] Jesus’ opposition to armed rebellion is likewise evident in his blessing of the peacemakers, “for they shall be called sons of God” (Beatitudes; Matt. 5:9). But Jesus’ political opposition to the militant Jewish nationalists included more than sharing the opinion of the Hillelites that armed resistance was futile and perilous; Jesus also adopted their terminology: the anti-Zealot slogan “the Kingdom of Heaven.”

As with the Hillelite concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus stressed that love of neighbor (including even love for one’s enemy), forgiveness of debt, repentance and faithfulness to the Torah would be the catalyst for Israel’s redemption.[44] Nevertheless, Jesus’ understanding of redemption was not spiritualized. According to Luke’s version of Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction and liberation of Jerusalem, Jesus envisioned a time when the “days of the Gentiles” would come to an end (Luke 21:24).[45] Jesus did not abandon the hope for Israel’s freedom and vindication, rather he abandoned the notion that redemption would be achieved through violent means.[46]

Jesus’ opposition to revolt, therefore, should not be equated with support for the Roman Empire. We have already seen that, in the minds of the Jewish sages who formulated the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, opposition to the militant Jewish nationalists and critique of the Roman Empire were two sides of the same coin. Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven is likewise a rejection of militant Jewish nationalist ideology on the one hand and Roman imperialist policy on the other.[47] Jesus explicitly critiques the Roman Empire in his teaching on greatness among his disciples (i.e., the Kingdom of Heaven):

“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. (Luke 22:25-26; RSV)[48]

Jesus’ command to “render unto Caesar” (Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26) should not be taken as an affirmation of the Roman occupation of the land of Israel.[49] Rather, Jesus’ teaching on paying tribute can be compared to the Essene doctrine to relinquish one’s goods “like one oppressed before someone domineering him” (1QS IX, 22-23). According to Jesus, Caesar might be able to demand tribute because the coins with which it was paid bore his image, but one’s life and one’s being is owed to God in whose image human beings are made.[50] This highly subversive saying contrasts the claims and the rights of Caesar with those of God.[51] The negative comparison of God and Caesar is hardly complimentary toward the empire.[52]

The political aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus’ teaching is also seen in his association of the Kingdom of Heaven with persecution and martyrdom. As with the Jewish martyrs, for whom faithfulness to the Torah became an action within the political arena,[53] Jesus recognized that proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven could earn the enmity of the Roman authorities and even those within the Jewish community who benefitted from the status quo. Although Jesus did not pose a military threat to the Roman Empire, Jesus’ message that God was actively redeeming Israel through his healing and teaching ministry would not have been welcomed by the Roman Empire, which had no interest in seeing Israel’s liberation. It was the policy of the Romans to stamp out messianic expectations, and it is unlikely that they would have distinguished between peaceful and militant movements.[54] From the Roman point of view, it was the hope of redemption, not only the means, that was threatening.[55] Hope, as all oppressive regimes recognize, is subversive, which is why, throughout history, oppressive regimes have gone to great lengths to crush the hopes of the people who are under their control.[56] One of the most effective means for crushing the hopes of Israel that was practiced by the Roman Empire was the brutal practice of crucifixion.[57]

The strongest link between the Kingdom of Heaven and martyrdom in Jesus’ teaching, however, is located in his statement that “Whoever does not take up his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Demands of Discipleship; Luke 14:27; cf. Matt. 10:38).[58] The connection of this saying to the Kingdom of Heaven may not be immediately apparent; however, as we will demonstrate below, Jesus referred to his band of itinerating disciples as “the Kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus’ equation of discipleship with the Kingdom of Heaven, and his warning that his disciples might face persecution and even martyrdom at the hands of the Roman authorities,[59] indicates that Jesus understood that proclaiming God’s reign was a religious action that was also felt within the political arena.

The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus: Jesus’ Band of Itinerating Disciples

The phrase “to enter the Kingdom of Heaven” is a distinctive usage in Jesus’ teaching. In rabbinic literature we find the phrase “to receive the Kingdom of Heaven,”[60] but not “to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” This distinctive usage highlights an important innovation to the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus’ teaching.

The phrase “to enter the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God” is found in the following statements:

Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matt. 5:20)

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matt. 7:21)

Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child cannot enter it. (Luke 18:17)

The wealthy enter the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. (Matt. 19:23; cf. Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24)

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25)

The statement in Luke 18:17 that “whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child cannot enter it” demonstrates that Jesus was familiar with the Pharisaic-rabbinic phrase “receive the Kingdom of Heaven,” and also marks a point of departure for Jesus’ distinctive usage. In Jesus’ teaching, entering the Kingdom of Heaven refers to joining a clearly defined community.

Jesus’ innovative use of the the Kingdom of Heaven to refer to a community that is united for a common purpose is most clearly illustrated in the Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven incident, in which Jesus compared entering the Kingdom of Heaven to passing a camel through the eye of a needle. Many interpreters have supposed that the rich man forfeited his share in the life of the world to come by declining Jesus’ invitation to follow him, but this conclusion does not concur with Jesus’ prior affirmation that by observing the commandments the rich man would inherit eternal life. What the rich man declined was not eternal life, but an opportunity to join Jesus’ band of disciples, a process Jesus described as “entering the Kingdom of Heaven.”[61] In other words, Jesus referred to the community of disciples who joined his itinerating mission, who studied his interpretation of Torah and practiced his halachah, as the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, for Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven was not only a divine activity—God’s rescue mission to redeem Israel—the Kingdom of Heaven was also the community of Jesus’ disciples who participated with God in his redemptive mission.[62]

That in Jesus’ teachings the Kingdom of Heaven refers to a specific community is also indicated by the way Jesus could speak of gradations within the Kingdom of Heaven. For example: “Whoever loosens one of the least of these commandments and teaches other people to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever does and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Yeshua’s Words about Torah; Matt. 5:19). Or again: “No one born of woman is greater than John the Baptist. But the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he” (Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser; Matt. 11:11; Luke 7:28). The first example indicates that there are members of great standing within Jesus’ band of disciples, and there are some of lesser standing. Disciples who do not neglect the least, or the “light,”[63] commandments will attain respect and recognition among Jesus’ followers. In the second example we find that Jesus considered John the Baptist, who did not become one of his disciples, to be a great human being. But belonging to his band of disciples meant participating in something of such great significance—for it was through his Kingdom of Heaven movement that God was bringing redemption to Israel—that it surpassed John’s individual greatness.

The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus: Between Qumran and the Bet Midrash

Perhaps Jesus coined the phrase “enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” in order to highlight the communal aspect of his understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven as opposed to the private and individual connotations of the Pharisaic-rabbinic use of “receive the Kingdom of Heaven” to refer to the recitation of the Shema. But why chose the phrase “enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” in particular?

A few Jerusalem School scholars have suggested that the expression “enter the Kingdom of Heaven” combines the Pharisaic-rabbinic phrase “receive the Kingdom of Heaven,” with the Essene phrase “enter the covenant.”[64] Like “receive the Kingdom of Heaven” in rabbinic sources, “enter the covenant” is sometimes used in DSS to refer to the recitation of the Shema,[65] but more often “enter the covenant” means “join the Essene community.”[66] The semantic overlap between “receive the Kingdom of Heaven” in the Pharisaic-rabbinic tradition and “enter the covenant” in Essene terminology makes the fusion of these two phrases plausible, while the communal aspect of the Essene phrase “enter the covenant” explains why Jesus might have found such a fusion to be desirable: conjoining the Pharisaic-rabbinic and Essene phrases allowed Jesus to indicate his indebtedness to Pharisaic-rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven while at the same time extending its meaning to include a communal dimension.[67]

If Buth’s suggestion is correct, “enter the Kingdom of Heaven” is one of a handful of examples of Pharisaic-rabbinic/Essene hybrid phrases that Jesus coined.[68] Other such hybrid phrases include “mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven”[69] and the combination of “poor in spirit” with “Kingdom of Heaven” in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3).[70]

The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus: Temporal Aspect

A second distinctive usage of the “Kingdom of Heaven” in the Gospels is found in Jesus’ statement that “the prophets prophesied until John,” but “from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through” (Matt. 11:12-13). Jesus’ words can be compared to the following statement in rabbinic literature:

אמר רבי חייא בר אבא אמר רבי יוחנן כל הנביאים כולן לא נתנבאו אלא לימות המשיח אבל לעולם הבא עין לא ראתה אלהים זולתך

Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yohanan, “All the prophets prophesied only for the days of the Messiah. But as for the world to come, the eye has not seen, O God, except you [Isa. 64:3].” (b. Ber. 34b; cf. b. Shab. 63a; b. Sanh. 99a)

This rabbinic statement testifies to a tripartite division of history: the days of the prophets, the days of the Messiah, and the world to come.[71] This same tripartite division of history appears to be implied in Jesus’ saying about John the Baptist; however, in place of “the days of the Messiah,” Jesus speaks about “the Kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus’ tripartite division of history is also implied in the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement: “Many prophets and messengers desired to see what you see [i.e., the manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven], but did not see it” (Matt. 13:17; Luke 10:24).[72] As in the statement “the prophets prophesied until John,” so too, in this saying, Jesus divides history into the days of the prophets, and the present era that is witnessing the dawning of messianic redemption. Likewise, in the Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven pericope, where a rich man refused Jesus’ invitation to join his band of disciples, Jesus speaks of entering the Kingdom of Heaven in the present and inheriting eternal life in the world to come.

According to Flusser, “Jesus made a tripartite division of the history of salvation. The first was the ‘biblical’ period, which climaxed with the career of John the Baptist. The second period began with his own ministry in which the kingdom of heaven was breaking through. The third period will be inaugurated with the coming of the Son of Man and the Last Judgement at a future time which is unknown to anyone.”[73]

Jesus’ tripartite division of history conflicted with the two-part division of history witnessed in the sayings of John the Baptist, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in certain rabbinic traditions. According to the writings of the Essenes, the eschatological era might commence at any moment. The end of history was close at hand. The final judgment of the wicked and the vindication of the righteous was imminent. This two-part division of history is also attested in the sayings of John the Baptist: “Already the axe is at the root of the trees. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire…. One is coming after me who is more powerful than I…the winnowing fork is in his hand and he will purify his threshing floor and gather the wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will destroy with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:10-12). For John the Baptist, then, the end of the present age was coming quickly, and fast on its heels was the final judgment.

For Jesus, however, there was an intervening period between the normal course of history and the final judgment. In this intervening period, the righteous would coexist with the wicked, for this would be a period of grace in which sinners were called to repentance and welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. In this middle period, God’s redemptive mission would be breaking into the human sphere through acts of faithfulness, mercy and love. In this messianic era of redemption, which Jesus referred to as “the Kingdom of Heaven,” evil would indeed be uprooted, but not through coercion, warfare or violence. The Kingdom of Heaven would advance through peacemaking, forgiveness, and discerning the divine image in one’s fellow human being, even discerning it in the face of one’s enemy.

In order to counter the expectation of imminent judgment, Jesus told parables in which he compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a net that scoops up good fish together with the bad (Matt. 13:47-50), and to a field in which tares grow among the wheat (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43). At the final judgment the evil will be sorted from the good, but in the intervening period saints and sinners continue to coexist.

Summary: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus

Detail of Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Master of the Mansi Magdalen (c.1490 – 1530).
Detail of Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Master of the Mansi Magdalen (c. 1490 – 1530). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the teachings of Jesus we find numerous points of contact with the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. In agreement with the Jewish sages, Jesus linked the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven to Israel’s history of redemption, both present and future. As with the Hillelite stream of Pharisaic Judaism, which used “the Kingdom of Heaven” as an anti-Zealot slogan,[74] Jesus adopted this phrase because it agreed with his understanding of the means by which God intended to redeem Israel. And, like the sages, Jesus could not escape the political aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven. Although Jesus did not have political ambitions, he was aware that the totalitarian Roman regime would perceive his absolute commitment to the reign of God to be subversive, and he knew that he might be opposed even by some members of the Jewish community who stood to gain from the status quo.

These points of agreement with the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven notwithstanding, Jesus’ appropriation of the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven also involved innovation. We do not find that Jesus connected the Kingdom of Heaven with the recitation of the Shema. To claim that Jesus rejected this connection would be going too far, but absence of this connection in the Synoptic Gospels cannot be ignored. We also find that, although Jesus was familiar with the rabbinic phrase “to receive the Kingdom of Heaven,” Jesus more frequently spoke about “entering the Kingdom of Heaven.” This distinctive vocabulary appears to be the result of Jesus’ unique application of the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven to his own band of itinerating disciples. Finally, Jesus used the Kingdom of Heaven to signal his understanding of a tripartite division of history. The Kingdom of Heaven, in this sense, referred to the messianic period of redemption, an era of grace and repentance, which would be concluded at some future date with the advent of the Son of Man to render judgment on the earth and inaugurate the eschatological era.

For Jesus the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven was multifaceted, and the different nuances of the concept could all be present to varying degrees at the same time. It is not always necessary to choose which nuance of the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus intended in a given saying, and to do so can actually distort his meaning because the many aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven are not mutually exclusive.

FR’s Secondary Use of “Kingdom of God” as a Substitute for “Coming of the Son of Man”

Lindsey observed that, in a handful of cases, Luke uses the Kingdom of God in a way that does not agree with the nuances of the Kingdom of Heaven we have outlined above. Lindsey further observed that these anomalous usages appeared in the more refined, less Hebraic of Luke’s sources (First Reconstruction or FR). Certain passages where Luke copied FR are easily identifiable because they consist entirely of Lukan doublets, sayings that appear twice in Luke’s Gospel, albeit in slightly different forms. Lindsey noted that the Lukan doublets can be sorted into two groups: those that appear in collections of pithy statements that are only loosely connected, and those that appear in longer contexts and are stylistically poorer Greek and markedly Hebraic in form.[75] One collection of Lukan doublets from FR appears in Luke 9:23-27. Each of the verses in this passage have counterparts elsewhere in Luke that are more Hebraic in form. The one exception is Luke 9:27, which is a doublet, but its counterpart also appears to have been the product of FR:

FR Version Anth. Version
Luke 9:23 Luke 14:26-27
Luke 9:24 Luke 17:33
Luke 9:25 Luke 12:19-21
Luke 9:26 Luke 12:8-9
Luke 9:27 = 21:[31-]32

Let us examine Luke 9:26-27, which will help us to understand FR’s anomalous usage of “the Kingdom of God”:

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God. (RSV)

In this passage, FR appears to equate the coming of the Son of Man with the future revelation of the Kingdom of God. The entire section, Luke 9:23-27, is derived from FR, but only Luke 9:27, which contains the anomalous usage of Kingdom of God, lacks a parallel in Anthology (Luke’s Hebraic source). This unusual fact suggests the Luke 9:27 is the product of FR’s own editorial creativity, and not the reflection of an original Hebrew saying of Jesus. The counterpart to Luke 9:27 is found in Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction and liberation of Jerusalem. According to Luke 21:29-33, Jesus said:

Observe the fig tree, and all the trees. When they put out [fruit],[76] seeing it for yourselves you know that already summer is near. So also you, when you see these things happening, you will know that near is the Kingdom of God. Amen! I say to you, this generation will not pass away until everything has happened. The heaven and the earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

This passage probably does go back to a Hebrew source, but there are indications that the text has suffered redaction at the hand of a Greek editor. The phrase “and all the trees” (Luke 21:29), for instance, interrupts the flow of Jesus’ simile, and is likely secondary.[77] Also, the phrase “Kingdom of God” destroys what looks to be a wordplay in Hebrew between קַיִץ (qayitz, “summer,” “summer fruit”) and קֵיץ (qētz, “end”).[78] It seems probable that, in its original form, the saying meant that just as when a fig tree begins to put forth fruit a person knows the summer (קַיִץ) is near, so when the disciples see Jerusalem surrounded by armies they will know that the end (קֵיץ) is near. The editor of Luke’s source either did not understand the wordplay after it had been translated into Greek, or perhaps he intentionally changed the reading to say, “you will know that the Kingdom of God is near.”[79] The verses immediately following this prediction (Luke 21:34-36) describe the coming of the Son of Man. So, in the context of Jesus’ prophecy, it appears that the First Reconstructor (the creator of FR) again equated the Kingdom of God with the coming of the Son of Man. The opinion that the Kingdom of God will be revealed in the generation of the apostles appears to be the innovation of FR, for originally Jesus spoke not of the Kingdom of God, but of the destruction of Jerusalem as the event that would take place during the apostles’ lifetime. The First Reconstructor imported the idea of the Kingdom of God into Jesus’ prophecy, and he evidently repeated the notion that the Kingdom of God would be revealed through the coming of the Son of Man during the apostles’ lifetime in Luke 9:26-27.

Once the equation of the coming of the Son of Man with the Kingdom of God is recognized as a secondary feature of FR’s redactional activity, other instances of this secondary usage become more easily identifiable. Lindsey suggested that Luke 17:20-21 is simply FR’s secondary reworking of Jesus’ saying in Luke 17:22-24. Presenting these verses in parallel columns will enable readers to observe their similarity:

Luke 17:20-21 Luke 17:22-24
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, And he said to the disciples,
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it.
nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ And they will say to you, ‘Lo, there!’ or ‘Lo, here!’ Do not go, do not follow them.
for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (RSV) For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day.” (RSV)

In the saying about the coming of the Son of Man (Luke 17:22-24), Jesus tells his disciples that they should not listen to people who report that the Son of Man has come, because on the Day of the Son of Man everyone will be aware of his arrival. The First Reconstructor refashioned this authentic saying into a saying about the Kingdom of God that does not accord with Jesus’ habitual manner of speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven. Ordinarily, Jesus claimed “the Kingdom of Heaven has come near” or “the Kingdom of Heaven has come upon you.” He did not speak of the Kingdom of Heaven as something that cannot be observed, but rather as a divine activity with empirical results.

The redactional activity of FR has given the mistaken impression that Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God as something distinct from his healing and teaching mission, something that was to be revealed in the apostles’ lifetime following the destruction of Jerusalem. In these passages FR described the Kingdom of God in terms of and in conjunction with the coming of the Son of Man. Luke, who used FR as one of the primary sources for his Gospel, incorporated FR’s secondary usage of the Kingdom of God, but this anomalous usage did not originate with Jesus.

Which is Correct: “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God”?

Perceptive readers will have noticed that in our discussion of FR’s secondary usage of Kingdom vocabulary, the phrase we considered was “Kingdom of God,” or in Greek, ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. The phrase Jesus himself would have spoken in Hebrew is מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם (malchūt shāmayim, lit., “kingdom of heavens”).[80] In the Gospels we find both ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (hē basileia tou theou, “the kingdom of the god”) and ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (hē basileia tōn ouranōn, “the kingdom of the heavens”). However, the distribution of “Kingdom of Heaven” vs. “Kingdom of God” is far from even. Luke and Mark exclusively write ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, whereas Matthew predominantly writes ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, but occasionally writes ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. How are we to account for this unusual phenomenon?

First, it is clear that one of the Synoptic writers (or one of their sources) is responsible for changing the reading either from Kingdom of God to Kingdom of Heaven or from Kingdom of Heaven to Kingdom of God. We find that in Triple Tradition pericopae where Luke and Mark agree to write ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, Matthew often (but not always) writes ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.[81] In Double Tradition pericopae where Luke has ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, Matthew always has ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.[82] From the perspective of a Markan priorist the solution is simple. Since Luke and Matthew are based on Mark, and since Mark never writes ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, and since Luke follows Mark in writing ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, it must be Matthew who is responsible for the change. But since we accept Lindsey’s synoptic hypothesis, the problem is not so straightforward. According to Lindsey’s hypothesis, Mark copied Luke, and therefore Mark’s agreement with Luke to write ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ proves nothing more than that Mark copied Luke in those places. Matthew, on the other hand, had access to one of Luke’s pre-synoptic sources, and therefore it is possible that Matthew reflects an earlier reading, which Luke for some reason decided to change. Let us examine the two hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Matthew is responsible for changing ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ into ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.[83] According to this view, when the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was translated into Greek, the translator made an exception to his usual practice of rendering his Hebrew source in a highly literal style and chose instead to translate מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם as ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. The Greek translator’s motivation for making this exception to his usual practice may have been to avoid confusion for his non-Jewish, Greek-speaking readers. For Gentile readers, “Kingdom of Heaven” might have been unclear in two ways: 1) it might have sounded as though the kingdom were located in heaven or even in the sky; 2) “heavens” might suggest a multiplicity of deities (the Greek pantheon) to Gentiles from a polytheistic background.[84] Once the Greek Translation was made, ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ was copied by Anthology, followed by FR, followed by Luke, followed by Mark. Matthew, however, decided to change ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ into ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν for reasons of his own.

Support for the hypothesis that Matthew is responsible for changing ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ into ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν is found in the few places where Matthew actually does write ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (Matt. 12:28; Matt. 19:24; Matt. 21:31, 43). Matthew 19:24 is a Triple Tradition pericope (Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven), and is therefore the weakest example, since it is possible that in this instance Matthew simply copied the reading he found in Mark 10:25. Matthew 21:31 and Matt. 21:43 are much stronger examples since Matt. 21:31 comes from a unique Matthean pericope (Two Sons parable), and Matt. 21:43 is unique to Matthew, despite belonging to a Triple Tradition pericope (Wicked Tenants parable). These examples may therefore reflect the reading of Matthew’s non-Markan source. Matthew 12:28 is also a very strong example since this verse appears in a Triple Tradition pericope (The Finger of God), but in a verse that is omitted in Mark. The only way Matthew and Luke could have agreed against Mark to include this verse is by relying on their shared, non-Markan source, and therefore their agreement to write ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in this pericope strongly suggests that this was the reading they both found in Anthology.

Hypothesis 2: Luke is responsible for changing ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, which he found in his Hebraic source (Anthology), into ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. According to this view, the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua did not make an exception to his highly literal style of translation when it came to מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם. The editor of Anthology copied ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν from the Greek Translation, but the First Reconstructor sometimes, perhaps always, changed ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν into ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ for the sake of his non-Jewish, Greek-speaking readers. That the First Reconstructor would make such a change conforms to his usual practice of improving the Greek style of his revised material. Luke observed the change to ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in FR, adopted it, and decided to systematically replace ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν wherever he found it in Anthology, for the same reason that had motivated FR: Luke addressed his Gospel to a non-Jewish, Greek-speaking audience. The author of Luke, who was a traveling companion of Paul, was probably aware that Paul himself used the phrase “Kingdom of God” when writing in Greek (cf. 1 Cor. 6:10; 15:50), as shown, for example, in Acts 14:22 (cf. Acts 19:8). Luke’s desire to use Paul’s vocabulary may have been an additional factor that influenced his decision to systematically replace ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν with ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

When Matthew sat down to compose his Gospel, he found “Kingdom of God” in Mark and “Kingdom of Heaven” in Anthology. When copying a pericope, Matthew’s habit was to weave words from Anthology’s parallel into the text of Mark[85] with the result that Matthew often replaced “Kingdom of God” in Mark with “Kingdom of Heaven.” In Double Tradition pericopae, where Matthew’s source was Anthology, we find that Matthew always writes ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, and in unique Matthean pericopae, where Matthew must either be relying on Anthology or writing his own composition,[86] Matthew writes “Kingdom of Heaven” 12xx and “Kingdom of God” 1x.

Verdict: Luke is responsible for changing ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, which he found in his Hebraic source (Anthology), into ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.[87] Although it is impossible to be certain, we believe that the following arguments should cause us to favor Hypothesis 2:

  1. Luke is known to de-Judaize his material in order to make it more understandable for a non-Jewish, Greek-speaking audience.[88] For example, Luke changed “the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), a phrase familiar from Qumran, to “the poor” (Luke 6:20).[89] Luke changed “Our Father who art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9), a familiar phrase from rabbinic literature, to “Father” (Luke 11:2) because Greek doesn’t like possessive pronouns and “in heaven” could be misleading to a Gentile audience.[90] We also find that Luke often omitted “amen,” or changed it to “truly” or “yes” when he found it in his sources, presumably because amen is a foreign word that would not have been familiar to non-Jewish Greek-speakers.[91]
  2. Matthew’s tendency is not toward Judaism, but is rather distinctly anti-Jewish.[92] Only Matthew has the Jews say “Let his blood be upon us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). Only Matthew implicates the Pharisees in Jesus’ passion.[93] Only Matthew has Jesus reject the “Sons of the Kingdom” in favor of “another nation” (cf. Matt. 8:12; 21:43). The passages in Matthew that appear to be more especially Jewish are not the result of his feelings of sympathy for Jews and Judaism, but evidence of his reliance on an excellent Hebraic Greek source.[94]
  3. An author who is totally consistent in his use of terminology may be suspected of editing his sources to achieve consistency. In other words, total consistency may be indicative of an agenda. Luke is totally consistent in his use of ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. Matthew, on the other hand, is inconsistent. On one occasion Matthew accepted ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ from Mark (cf. Matt. 19:24). On two other occasions Matthew wrote ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ even though we believe his source probably read ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (Matt. 12:28; 21:31).[95] If Matthew had an ideological motivation for replacing ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ with ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, why was he unsuccessful in three instances?[96]
  4. In order for Matthew to know that behind ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in the pre-synoptic sources was the phrase מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, Matthew would have needed to know Hebrew, since the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν is not found in LXX or in Jewish literature composed in Greek.[97] But there is no evidence that the author of Matthew knew Hebrew.[98] To the contrary, in the passages that are unique to Matthew and clearly the product of Matthew’s pen, Matthew writes in a popular Greek style, not in Hebraic Greek.[99]
  5. Lindsey’s hypothesis predicts that where Matthew is independent of Mark, his text is likely to be as Hebraic as Luke’s, or even more Hebraic than Luke’s,[100] because Matthew’s only source apart from Mark is the very Hebraic Anthology. In pericopae where Luke relied on FR and Matthew relied on Anthology, Matthew was often able to achieve a more Hebraic text than Luke’s. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to find that in Double Tradition pericopae Matthew has the more Hebraic ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν opposite Luke’s ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

Of course, not all instances of ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν in Matthew are necessarily copied from Anthology. Having seen ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν so frequently in Anthology, Matthew sometimes inserted the phrase where it did not originally belong. In a similar way, we have seen that some instances of ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in Luke do not reflect Jesus’ usage of מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם.

Addendum

Bivin Rebuts Tilton’s View of the Political Aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus’ Teaching

I have some hesitation about Tilton’s understanding of the political aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus’ teaching. Here are the reasons why.

The political chaos that swirled around Jesus—the desire for vengeance upon the Roman occupiers, especially in the Galilee, yes, even in Jesus’ own hometown synagogue, the inept Roman governors and evil Jewish kings, ethnarch and tetrarchs (such as Herod the Great and his sons, including Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee)—makes Jesus’ reading of the Prophets in the Nazareth synagogue recorded in Luke 4:18-19 (Isa. 61:1-2; 58:6; especially his purposeful omission of “a day of vengeance of our God”), and his message to John in Luke 7:22 (= Matt. 11:5), stand out. In both places, in similar words, Jesus spelled out his agenda:

εὐαγγελίσασθαι πτωχοῖς…κηρύξαι αἰχμαλώτοις ἄφεσιν καὶ τυφλοῖς ἀνάβλεψιν, ἀποστεῖλαι τεθραυσμένους ἐν ἀφέσει, κηρύξαι ἐνιαυτὸν κυρίου δεκτόν

To preach good news to the humble…to proclaim release to the captives and sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)[101]

τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν καὶ χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν, νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται καὶ πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται

The blind receive sight and the lame walk, lepers are cured, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life and the humble have good news preached to them. (Luke 7:22; Matt. 11:5)[102]

Jesus was not unaware that Israel’s liberation from foreign rule was inherent in the concept of redemption, but he ignored it. It distracted and detracted from the urgent necessity of getting more and more people under God’s reign.

While the winds of despair and rebellion engulfing the land of Israel swirled around Jesus, although he wasn’t a pacifist,[103] he never waivered in his belief that armed resistance to the Roman rulers was wasted time and energy—there were just too many dead, oppressed, lepers, blind, deaf and lame, in both the physical and spiritual senses. Now was the long-awaited time of salvation, and in spite of, and even because of, the political situation, the work of Jesus and his disciples was of extreme urgency.

In the midst of passionate cries for armed rebellion, in the midst of a deteriorating political situation, Jesus consistently proclaimed that now was the time of salvation and spiritual redemption. Jesus’ interest was in יְשׁוּעָה (yeshū‘āh, “help”), in the physical senses of this word, but more importantly, in its spiritual senses (“salvation”).

The kingdom that Jesus and his disciples proclaimed was not a political, nationalistic, or military kingdom, although some who perhaps had not listened long enough or closely enough to their message may have misunderstood it, taking “kingdom” in a political sense as meaning an armed struggle, and taking Jesus’ claim to be the long-awaited Messiah as a call to armed resistance. Rather, when Jesus and his disciples referred to “kingdom,” they meant a kingdom of personal surrender to a loving and benevolent God who brings down his rain on saints and sinners alike (Matt. 5:45), a kingdom of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

Jesus’ call to discipleship meant putting God’s Kingdom first in one’s life, even putting it above life itself. It meant being willing to die for the Kingdom, but Jesus’ “taking up your cross” did not mean joining the armed resistance. Jesus was likely talking about the difficulty of a disciple’s life of service to a sage (שימוש חכמים, shimūsh ḥachāmim). Davies suggested that “take up your cross” was a rabbinic technical term for following a rabbi as his servant.[104]

Although frequently Roman authorities, ignorant of Jewish custom and insensitive to Jewish religious feelings, caused civil disobedience, too often responsibility for outbreaks of violence could be laid at the feet of Jewish residents of the land of Israel who fell prey to human emotions and calls by zealots and terrorists for revenge on the Romans and throwing off of the foreign yoke. Inept Roman administrators and cruel and adulterous[105] Jewish kings, such as Herod the Great and his sons, made matters much worse, but it was those whose hearts Jesus’ message had not reached who, following their own human passions, indirectly contributed to the deaths of a huge part of the Jewish residents of the land, as well as the destruction of their Temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus was well able to show righteous indignation, for instance, when he saw the commercialism and graft in the Holy Temple of God. He took aside the hawkers (from whose profits the Sadducean high-priestly mafia took a huge cut) and chastised them for their impious activities, saying, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves'” (Luke 19:45-46; cf. Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11).

Often, perhaps every year since his birth, as was the custom of his parents (Luke 2:41), Jesus had made a pilgrimage to the Temple. He noticed with pain the change that had taken place during his lifetime in the way the Temple was administered. Year after year graft and corruption increased. The Sadducean high priestly families, a cartel who controlled the income connected with the Temple, were indeed a mafia, eliminating anyone who was a threat to their profits:

Abba Saul ben Bothnith said in the name of Abba Joseph ben Hanan: “Woe is me because of the house of Boethus; woe is me because of their staves. Woe is me because of the house of Hanan; woe is me because of their whisperings [i.e., informing to the civil authorities, apparently]. Woe is me because of the house of Kathros; woe is me because of their pens.[106] Woe is me because of the house of Ishmael ben Phiabi; woe is me because of their fists. For they are high priests, and their sons are [temple] treasurers, and their sons-in-law are trustees, and their servants beat the people with staves.” (t. Men. 13:21; b. Pes. 57a)[107]

Jesus was arrested by the Gentile[108] slaves of the high priest Caiaphas (Matt. 26:3, 57), who instigated his death, bringing him to the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate on trumped up charges. Still later, the Sadducean priestly families persecuted Jesus’ disciples, executing, for example, Jesus’ brother James in 62 C.E. (Jos., Ant. 20:197-200). This execution took place during the high priesthood of Ananus the son of Ananus, greatly offending some of the Pharisees of the city (Jos., Ant. 20:201) who viewed James as a righteous man.[109]

Tilton Responds to Bivin’s Rebuttal

Bivin and I are in substantial agreement on a number of issues regarding the political aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus’ teaching. Most importantly, Bivin and I agree that Jesus was not a zealot and had no intention of leading a military uprising. I believe that Jesus’ ethic of peacemaking and universal love was explicitly opposed to vengeance, hatred and violence.[110] We agree, as Bivin has it, that “The kingdom that Jesus and his disciples proclaimed was not a political, nationalistic, or military kingdom.” Bivin and I also agree that Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth was provocative precisely because Jesus did not call for vengeance upon the enemies of Israel. It appears that the school of Shammai, which dominated the Pharisaic party in the first century C.E., was closer to the nationalist populist center of the political spectrum in Jesus’ time. It was not until after the destruction of the Temple that the Hillelite stream of Pharisaic Judaism became dominant.[111] Thus, Jesus’ anti-militant stance was probably a minority position in Nazareth, and may have seemed disloyal and unpatriotic to the members of the synagogue who listened to his sermon. Finally, I agree with Bivin that “Jesus’ ‘taking up your cross’ did not mean joining the armed resistance.” One did not have to be a militant Jewish nationalist to resent the injustice of foreign oppression. Twentieth-century disciples of Jesus such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu prove that nonviolent religious movements can have a profound political aspect without attempting to topple governments by resorting to violence.[112]

I believe our difference of opinion regarding the political aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus’ teaching is one of nuance and emphasis. Bivin maintains that “Jesus was not unaware that Israel’s liberation from foreign rule was inherent in the concept of redemption, but he ignored it.” Thus, in Bivin’s opinion there appears to be a dichotomy between the political and the spiritual. Essentially, Jesus abandoned the hope of political liberation in favor of a spiritual experience of salvation. I regard Bivin’s alternatives as a false dichotomy, and maintain that one need not choose between the political and the spiritual dimensions of the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, I believe that Jesus shared the yearning of his people for political liberation from the Roman Empire. Although I am convinced that Jesus rejected violent resistance, it appears to me that Jesus expected that God would miraculously bring about Israel’s redemption without weapons or bloodshed by means of his followers’ participation in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Israel’s liberation from the Roman Empire was, in my opinion, only one aspect of Jesus’ rich concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. Complete redemption would include the liberation of the whole creation from the power of Satan. Political oppression is only one manifestation of Satan’s reign, but there are others: fear, disease, ignorance, inequality, injustice, idolatry, sexual immorality and violence are all aspects of Satan’s reign that the Kingdom of Heaven dismantles. The rule of one people by another is inherently unjust, and is one of the evils that the Kingdom of Heaven addresses. Therefore, I cannot say that Jesus ignored the injustice his people suffered, and I have attempted to demonstrate that many of Jesus’ statements were critical of Roman imperialism.

It is true, as Bivin points out, that the Roman-appointed high priests caught up with Jesus before the Romans did. On the other hand, Antipas, the Roman-appointed tetrarch of the Galilee (Jos., J.W. 17:94), had been seeking to execute Jesus for some time (Luke 13:31), and when the high priests handed Jesus over to the Roman governor of Judea, Pilate executed Jesus as an enemy of the Roman state. I do not regard the fact that the pro-Roman high priests got to Jesus first as proof that the Roman authorities looked favorably on Jesus’ message, his movement, or his hope for redemption. It seems to me that the pro-Roman high priests understood the subversive political implications inherent in Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven and perceived that it struck at the basis of their power: the Roman military presence in the land of Israel.

 


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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] Pace Schweitzer, who regarded the Kingdom of God as a purely eschatological concept. Cf. Albert Schweitzer, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God: The Secret of Jesus’ Messiahship and Passion (trans. Walter Lowrie; New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1914). For a critique of Schweitzer’s hypothesis, see Young, JHJP, 191-194. On the temporal aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus’ teaching, see the subsection entitled “The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus: Temporal Aspect” below.
  • [3] Pope and Buth stress that “the Kingdom of Heaven” is not a concept that pertains to the afterlife, i.e., going to heaven after you die. See Anthony Pope and Randall Buth, “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven,” Notes On Translation 119 (1987): 1-31, esp. 7.
  • [4] Cf. Ephraim E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (trans. Israel Abrahams; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1975), 4; Pope and Buth, “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven,” 3.
  • [5] Young notes, however, that there are phrases that come close to “the Kingdom of Heaven” in pseudepigraphical literature (Young, JHJP, 194). Note, for example, T. Benj. 9:1 (ἡ βασιλεία κυρίου; “the Kingdom of the Lord”); Sib. Or. 3:47-48 (βασιλεία μεγίστη ἀθανάτου βασιλῆος; “great Kingdom of the immortal king”); Pss. Sol. 17:4 (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν; “the Kingdom of our God”). Nevertheless, Young stresses that “The expression itself, ‘the kingdom of heaven,’ in early Jewish apocalyptic literature is unknown and variations of the term are quite rare even if the concept does surface from the background in a number of texts” (Young, JHJP, 196).
  • [6] See Pope and Buth, “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven,” 6.
  • [7] This point was emphasized by Safrai. See Shmuel Safrai, “Sidebar,” in Robert L. Lindsey, “The Kingdom Of God: God’s Power Among Believers.”
  • [8] See Kaufmann Kohler, “Kingdom of God,” JE 7:502; Pope and Buth, “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven,” 2. The use of “Heaven” as a substitute for “God,” “Lord” or the Tetragrammaton is attested already in 1 Maccabees. See Daniel R. Schwartz, Judeans and Jews: Four Faces of Dichotomy in Ancient Jewish History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), 122 n. 26, 123 n. 32.
  • [9] The noun מַלְכוּת occurs 91xx in MT, 58xx in DSS and 20xx in the Mishnah. The most common translation of מַלְכוּת in LXX is βασιλεία (81xx). In several cases where βασιλεία is the translation of מַלְכוּת, the meaning of both terms is clearly “reign” as opposed to “kingdom.” Examples include:

    וּבְמַלְכוּת אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ בִּתְחִלַּת מַלְכוּתוֹ כָּתְבוּ שִׂטְנָה עַל־יֹשְׁבֵי יְהוּדָה וִירוּשָׁלִָם (Ezra 4:6)

    καὶ ἐν βασιλείᾳ Ασουηρου ἐν ἀρχῇ βασιλείας αὐτοῦ ἔγραψαν ἐπιστολὴν ἐπὶ οἰκοῦντας Ιουδα καὶ Ιερουσαλημ (2 Esdr. 4:6)

    And in the reign of Ahasuerus, at the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. (Ezra 4:6)

    וְאַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה בְּמַלְכוּת אַרְתַּחְשַׁ֣סְתְּא מֶלֶךְ־פָּרָס עֶזְרָא בֶּן־שְׂרָיָה בֶּן־עֲזַרְיָה בֶּן־חִלְקִיָּה (Ezra 7:1)

    καὶ μετὰ τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα ἐν βασιλείᾳ Αρθασασθα βασιλέως Περσῶν ἀνέβη Εσδρας υἱὸς Σαραιου υἱοῦ Αζαριου υἱοῦ Ελκια…. (2 Esdr. 7:1)

    And after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, Ezra son of Seria, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah…. (Ezra 7:1)

     וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל־הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אֶל־בֵּית מַלְכוּתוֹ בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִי הוּא־חֹדֶשׁ טֵבֵת בִּשְׁנַת־שֶׁבַע לְמַלְכוּתוֹ

    καὶ εἰσῆλθεν Εσθηρ πρὸς Ἀρταξέρξην τὸν βασιλέα τῷ δωδεκάτῳ μηνί ὅς ἐστιν Αδαρ τῷ ἑβδόμῳ ἔτει τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ

    And Esther took herself to king Ahasuerus, to the royal house, in the tenth month, the month of Tevet, in the seventh year of his reign. (Esther 2:16)

    וּבִשְׁנַת שְׁתַּיִם לְמַלְכוּת נְבֻכַדְנֶצַּר חָלַם נְבֻכַדְנֶצַּר חֲלֹמוֹת

    καὶ ἐν τῷ ἔτει τῷ δευτέρῳ τῆς βασιλείας Ναβουχοδονοσορ συνέβη εἰς ὁράματα….

    And in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams…. (Dan. 2:1)

    There are further examples in the MT and LXX where βασιλεία/מַלְכוּת could mean either “reign” or “kingdom.” There are also examples in DSS where מלכות likely means “reign” rather than “kingdom,” for instance:

    פשרו על מנשה לקץ האחרון אשר תשפל מלכותו ביש[ראל]‏

    Its interpretation concerns Manasseh in the final end when his reign will weaken in Is[rael.] (4QpNah [4Q169] 3-4 IV, 3)

  • [10] See Young, JHJP, 196; cf. Günther Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth (trans. Irene and Fraser McLuskey; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1960), 200 n.1.
  • [11] Hans-Jürgen Becker, “Matthew, the Rabbis and Billerbeck on the Kingdom of Heaven,” in The Sermon on the Mount and its Jewish Setting (Cahiers de la Revue Biblique 60; ed. Hans-Jürgen Becker and Serge Ruzer; Paris: J. Gabalda, 2005), 57-69, esp. 62.
  • [12] Shmuel Safrai, “Oral Tora,” in The Literature of the Sages: First Part: Oral Tora, Halakha, Mishna, Tosefta, Talmud, External Tractates (CRINT II.3; ed. Shmuel Safrai; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 1:93.
  • [13] Cf. Pope and Buth, “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven,” 4; and Becker, “Matthew, the Rabbis and Billerbeck,” 63.
  • [14] The phrase “yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” which appears in printed editions of the Mishnah, is a secondary reading, as its absence from the Kaufmann, Cambridge and Parma codices of the Mishnah and the parallel version of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korhah’s saying in the Jerusalem Talmud (y. Ber. 2:3 [4b]) proves. The addition of the word “yoke” appears to be an assimilation to the phrase “yoke of the commandments” which is juxtaposed to “the Kingdom of Heaven.” One can easily see what happened. The word עוֹל (“yoke”) was added to יְקַבֵּל עָלָיו מַלְכוּת שׁמַיִם (“will receive upon himself the Kingdom of Heaven”) because it stands parallel to יְקַבֵּל עָלָיו עוֹל מִצְווֹת (“will receive upon himself the yoke of the mitzvot [commandments]”), a phrase which is identical in form, except for the addition of the word “yoke.” Afterwards, the expression “yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven” was proliferated in rabbinic literature (e.g., m. Ber. 2:5). See Young, JHJP, 227 n. 30a; and David N. Bivin, “Jesus’ Yoke and Burden,” n. 34. An additional example of the proliferation of “yoke” with “Kingdom of Heaven” in inferior mss. of tannaic literature is found in Sifre, Ha’azinu, Piska 23, on Deut. 32:29 (cited below). Cf. Finkelstein’s critical edition: Sifre on Deuteronomy (ed. Louis Finkelstein; New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1969), 372.
  • [15] On the phrase “yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” which occurs in some printed editions of this mishnah, but which is absent in the Kaufmann manuscript, see the preceding footnote.
  • [16] The connection between the Kingdom of Heaven and Exod. 15:18 is explicit in the second paragraph of the Aleinu prayer (of uncertain date). The connection between the events at the Red Sea and the Kingdom of Heaven is implicit in the tradition regarding the right of Judah to rule over the other tribes of Israel (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BeShallah chpt. 6, on Exod. 14:22), and in a saying of Rabbi Eliezer (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 3, on Exod. 15:2 [ed. Horovitz-Rabin, 126, lines 19-20]; see Blessedness of the Twelve, Comment to L16-18).
  • [17] In other words, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi means that Israel happily accepted God’s reign over the people as a collective.
  • [18] Translation based on Notley-Safrai, 112.
  • [19] Translation based on Notley-Safrai, 108.
  • [20] According to Schechter, Rabbi Eliezer’s statement was “calculated to give the kingdom of heaven a national aspect, when we remember that Amalek is only another name for his ancestor Esau…who is but a prototype for Rome” (Solomon Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology: Major Concepts of the Talmud [New York: Schocken, 1961], 99).
  • [21] In Tilton’s view, the Kingdom of Heaven metaphor is inherently political. The designation of God as a king, and the description of God’s activity as reigning, derive from the political lexicon. See Richard Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (San Fancisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 170.
  • [22] The view presented in this section reflects Tilton’s opinion. Bivin believes that the mainstream Pharisaic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven was not directed against the Roman regime.
  • [23] See Flusser, Jesus, 105-108; cf. Shimon Applebaum, “The Zealots: The Case for Revaluation,” Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971): 155-170, esp. 161.
  • [24] On the origins of the Zealot and Sicarii movements, two prominent militant Jewish nationalist groups in the first cent. C.E., and their distinctions, see Menahem Stern, “Zealots,” in Encyclopedia Judaica Year Book 1973 (Jerusalem: Keter, 1973), 135-152. See also, Uriel Rappaport, “Who Were the Sicarii?” in Jewish Revolt Against Rome: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (ed. Mladen Popovic; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 323-342. On the emergence of militant Jewish nationalism from the School of Shammai, see David Flusser, “Gamaliel and Nicodemus,” under the subheading “Nicodemus”; Peter J. Tomson, “Zavim 5:12—Reflections on Dating Mishnaic Halakhah,” in History and Form: Dutch Studies in the Mishnah (ed. A. Kuyt and N. A. van Uchelen; Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 1988), 53-69; idem, Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles (CRINT III.1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 173-177; idem, “Gamaliel’s Counsel and the Apologetic Strategy of Luke-Acts,” in The Unity of Luke-Acts (ed. J. Verheyden; Leuven: Peeters, 1999), 585-604, esp. 588.
  • [25] During the first century C.E., the Pharisees were divided into two main branches, the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. On these two Pharisaic schools, see Shmuel Safrai, “Halakha,” in The Literature of the Sages: First Part: Oral Tora, Halakha, Mishna, Tosefta, Talmud, External Tractates (CRINT II.3; ed. Shmuel Safrai; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 1:185-194; idem, “Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai,” in Encyclopedia Judaica (2d ed.; 22 vols.; New York: Macmillan, 2006), 3:530-533.
  • [26] See David Flusser, “Gamaliel and Nicodemus.”
  • [27] Rabbi Hananiah, who lived before the destruction of the Temple, belonged to circles that opposed revolt against the Roman Empire, as sayings such as “Pray for the peace of the ruling power, since but for fear of it, men would have swallowed up each other alive” (m. Avot 3:2) make clear.
  • [28] Another saying that seems to refer to the tumultuous period leading up to the Jewish revolt against Rome is found in the mouth of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai who survived the destruction of Jerusalem:

    רבי יוחנן בן זכאי אומר משרבו הרצחנים בטלה עגלה ערופה לפי שאין עגלה ערופה באה אלא על הספק עכשיו רבו ההורגין בגלוי משרבו המנאפין פסקו מי מרים לפי שאין מי מרים באין אלא על הספק עכשיו כבר רבו הרואין בגלוי משרבו בעלי הנאות בא חרון אף לעולם ובטל כבוד תורה משרבו לוחשי לחישות בב″ד נתעותו המעשים ונתקלקלו הדינין ופסקה השכינה מישראל משרבו רואין לפנים בטל (דברים א) לא תכירו פנים במשפט ולא תגורו מפני איש ופרקו מהן עול שמים והמליכו עליהם עול בשר ודם

    Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai says, “From the time murderers increased, the calf’s neck rite was annulled, because the calf’s neck rite is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now murderers increased in the open. From the time adulterers increased, they stopped the ordeal of the bitter waters, because the ordeal of the bitter waters is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now those who see [their lovers] in the open are many. From the time the lovers of pleasure increased, wrath came to the world and the glory of the Torah was annulled. From the time whisperers increased in the Sanhedrin, deeds were perverted, the judges were cursed, and the Shekhinah ceased from Israel. From the time respecters of persons increased, You must not show partiality in judgment…you must not respect persons [Deut. 1:17] was annulled and they cast off the yoke of Heaven and caused a yoke of flesh and blood to reign over them. (t. Sot. 14:1[1-4])

    In this saying Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticizes those who set up a yoke of flesh and blood and who cast off the yoke of Heaven. The terminology is similar to that of Hananiah the prefect of the priests. Does “murderers” who kill “in the open” refer to terrorist groups like the Sicarii? Does “whisperers…in the Sanhedrin” refer to the chief priests, and in particular those of the House of Hanan (cf. t. Men. 13:21; b. Pes. 57a)? If so, then Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticized both the militant Jewish nationalists on one extreme and the high priests who colluded with the Romans on the other. If so, Jesus was not unique in his rejection of violent insurgence and condemnation of the corrupt priesthood.

  • [29] Cf. Flusser, Jesus, 107.
  • [30] According to Flusser, “the term ge’ullah is applied almost exclusively to national redemption, and became a synonym for national freedom. This idea of national freedom from the subjection to other states is the main element in the yearnings of the people for the redemption of Israel, and it became even more pronounced during the period of Roman domination” (David Flusser, “Redemption: In the Talmud,” in Encyclopedia Judaica [2d ed.; 22 vols.; New York: Macmillan, 2006], 17:152). For redemption in the sense of the political liberation of Israel in Second Temple Jewish literature, see also the “Additional Note” to David Flusser’s “The Times of the Gentiles and the Redemption of Jerusalem.” On the sages’ view that the rule of foreign empires over the Holy Land was illegitimate, see Louis Ginzberg, On Jewish Law and Lore (New York: Atheneum, 1970), 86-88.
  • [31] According to Young (JHJP, 198), Rabbi Nehunyah’s statement refers to “the yoke of political oppression,” and that “the yoke of God’s sovereignty can be contrasted to the yoke of an earthly regime.”
  • [32] On Rabbi Yose ha-Gelili, see Shmuel Safrai, “The Jewish Cultural Nature of Galilee in the First Century,” under the subheading “Rabbi Jose ha-Galili.”
  • [33] A later rabbinic source (fifth or sixth cent. C.E.) explicitly contrasts the Kingdom of Heaven with the Roman Empire:

    הגיע זמנה של מלכות הרשעה שתעקר מן העולם, הגיע זמנה של מלכות השמים שתגלה, והיה י″י למלך על כל הארץ וג′. וקול התור נשמע בארצינו, א″ר יוחנן קול תייר טב נשמע בארצינו, זה מלך המשיח

    The time has arrived when the wicked kingdom will be uprooted from the world, the time has come when the Kingdom of Heaven will be revealed, and the LORD will be king over all the earth [Zech. 14:9]. And the voice of the turtle dove will be heard in our land [Song 2:12]: Rabbi Yohanan said, “the voice of the good guide will be heard in our land, this is the anointed king [i.e., the Messiah—DNB and JNT].” (Pesikta de-Rav Kahana 5:9 [ed. Mandelbaum, 1:97)

    The “wicked kingdom” is a common designation for the Roman Empire in talmudic literature. According to this source, Israel’s longed-for redemption will come about through the downfall of Rome, and the Kingdom of Heaven will be ushered in by the Messiah.

  • [34] That slavery of any kind was considered to be antithetical to God’s reign is expressed in a midrash on Exod. 21:6 which stipulates that any slave who prefers to continue serving his master rather than go free at the end of seven years must have his ear pierced with an awl:

    תני רבי אליעזר בן יעקב אומר ולמה אל הדלת שעל ידי דלת יצאו מעבדות לחירות שאלו התלמידים את רבן יוחנן בן זכאי מה ראה העבד הזה לירצע באזנו יותר מכל איבריו אמר להן אוזן ששמעה מהר סיני (שמות כ) לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים על פני ופירקה מעליה עול מלכות שמים וקיבלה עליה עול בשר ודם אוזן ששמעה לפני הר סיני (ויקרא כה) כי לי בני ישראל עבדים והלך זה וקנה אדון אחר לפיכך תבוא האוזן ותירצע לפי שלא שמר מה ששמעה אזנו

    It is taught [in a baraita]: Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya’akov says, “And why unto the door [Exod. 21:6]? Because by the door they go out from slavery to freedom.” The disciples asked Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, “Why does [Scripture] see fit that this slave [who is discussed in Exod. 21—DNB and JNT] should be pierced in his ear rather than any of his other limbs?” He said to them, “The ear that heard from Mount Sinai, There shall be no other gods before me [Exod. 20:3] and cast off from itself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and received upon itself the yoke of flesh and blood is the ear that heard from Mount Sinai For the children of Israel are my slaves [Lev. 25:55] yet this [slave] went and acquired another master. For this reason the ear will come and be pierced, since he did not keep what his ear heard.” (y. Kid. 1:2 [11b]; cf. t. Bab. Kam. 7:5; b. Kid. 22b. In the parallel version we find the phrase “yoke of Heaven” rather than “yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” which may be a scribal error.)

    Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai regarded choosing servitude over freedom to be an affront to God’s reign. It seems inconceivable that if he regarded servitude of an individual to be antithetical to the Kingdom of Heaven that he could regard the subjection of the entire people of Israel to a foreign power with indifference. Although Yohanan ben Zakkai advocated peace, one should not assume that he abandoned hope for Israel’s redemption from political oppression.

  • [35] Warren Zev Harvey, “Kingdom of God מלכות שמים,” in Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought (ed. Arthur A. Cohen and Paul Mendes-Flohr; New York: Scribner’s, 1987), 521-525, quotation on 523.
  • [36] See Moshe David Herr, “Persecutions and Martyrdom in Hadrian’s Days,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 23 (1972): 85-125, esp. 111-112 n. 88.
  • [37] It should be noted that although the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven has a political aspect, it does not have, so to speak, a political agenda. As we have seen, the notion of the Kingdom of Heaven was articulated in opposition to political insurgents. The Kingdom of Heaven would not be a kingdom of flesh and blood. The Kingdom of Heaven is conceived of as a divine activity. Acts of mercy and observance of the commandments would be the catalyst for redemption, not direct political action.
  • [38] Becker, “Matthew, the Rabbis and Billerbeck,” 65.
  • [39] See R. Steven Notley, “By the Finger of God.”
  • [40] This section of “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua” represents Tilton’s view. Bivin views the Roman government as more benevolent than Tilton does, and Bivin sees the Sadducean high priestly families as the main culprits in the arrest and accusation of Jesus before the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. See the addendum below, “Bivin Rebuts Tilton’s View of the Political Aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus’ Teaching.”
  • [41] Tilton believes that in Jesus’ teaching the Kingdom of Heaven is (among other things) a political metaphor that carries with it an implied critique of all human governments. See Kohler, who defined “Kingdom of God” as “Reign or sovereignty of God as contrasted with the kingdom of the worldly powers” (Kohler, “Kingdom of God,” JE 7:502). Jesus contrasts the reign of flawed human beings, who are often unjust, cruel, greedy and self-aggrandizing (cf. Luke 22:25), with God’s better reign. God is generous, merciful, fair and open-hearted (Luke 6:38). He seeks the welfare of all human beings: the evil as well as the good, the deserving and the undeserving alike (Matt. 5:45). Tilton regards Jesus’ implied critique of human governments as an expression of Israel’s prophetic tradition. On the prophetic critique of human governments, see Moshe Weinfeld, “The Protest against Imperialism in Ancient Israelite Prophecy,” in The Origins and Diversity of Axial Age Civilizations (ed. S. N. Eisenstadt; Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1986), 169-182; Binyamin Uffenheimer, “Ancient Hebrew Prophecy—Political Teaching and Practice,” Immanuel 18 (1984): 7-21.
  • [42] In this respect, Jesus followed in the tradition of the prophet Jeremiah who urged the politcal leaders of his day to submit to Nebuchadnezzar’s yoke (Jer. 27:11). Jeremiah did not forsake the hope for the restoration of the Davidic throne and the liberation of Israel (cf. Jer. 23:5-6; 30:8-9; 33:15-16), but he realized that armed revolt would only lead to disaster. See Uffenheimer, “Ancient Hebrew Prophecy—Political Teaching and Practice,” 19-29. In a similar way, Jesus opposed the ideology of the militant Jewish nationalists, and called the people to repentance, for only in this way would Israel be spared the destruction of the Temple (Luke 13:34-35; 19:42-44). See Flusser, Jesus, 200; R. Steven Notley, “‘Give unto Caesar’: Jesus, the Zealots and the Imago Dei.”
  • [43] Jesus’ command to walk the extra mile was likely given in reference to the Roman practice of pressing subjects into forced service. The word for “mile” in the Greek text of Matt. 5:41, μίλιον, is a loanword from the Latin mille. It is possible that μίλιον translates the Hebrew מִיל, also from Latin (via Greek). מִיל occurs 9xx in the Mishnah: m. Yom. 6:4; m. Yom. 6:8 (4xx); m. Bab. Metz. 6:3 (2xx); m. Bech. 9:2 (2xx).
  • [44] See R. Steven Notley, “Jesus’ Jewish Hermeneutical Method in the Nazareth Synagogue,” in Early Christian Literature and Intertextuality (2 vols.; ed. Craig A. Evans and H. Daniel Zacharias; London: T&T Clark, 2009), 2:46-59, esp. 56.
  • [45] On the hope for political liberation that Jesus expressed in this prophecy, see David Flusser, “The Times of the Gentiles and the Redemption of Jerusalem,” under the subheading “Solidarity with Israel.” Cf. Flusser, Jesus, 106.
  • [46] According to Flusser, Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction and liberation of Jerusalem expresses his opposition to revolt against Rome: “He did not share the belief or the hope that Jerusalem would survive the war” (David Flusser, “The Times of the Gentiles and the Redemption of Jerusalem,” under the subheading “Solidarity with Israel”).
  • [47] In Tilton’s opinion, there is an implied critique of the Roman Empire in Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven, which Jesus contrasted with human governments. On the political critique implied by proclaiming God’s reign, see Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 124-125.

    Tilton also detects a critique of the Roman Empire in Jesus’ teaching on non-retaliation (Matt. 5:38-41). See Joshua N. Tilton, Jesus’ Gospel: Searching for the Core of Jesus’ Message, 61.

  • [48] On this passage, cf. Flusser, Jesus, 76-77.
  • [49] Cf. Flusser, Jesus, 104-105.
  • [50] See Randall Buth, “Your Money or Your Life.”
  • [51] It must be recognized that Jesus could not have opposed payment of tribute without supporting revolt, for they amounted to the same thing. Refusing to pay tribute is tantamount to a declaration of independence. Such a political act would unavoidably provoke war with Rome, the very thing Jesus hoped to avoid. A similar political action, refusal to offer sacrifices in the Temple on Caesar’s behalf, did spark the revolt that resulted in the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. (cf. Jos., J.W. 2:409). On taxation as the primary concern of the Roman government in the provinces, see Graham Burton, “Government and the Provinces,” in The Roman World (2d ed.; 2 vols.; ed. John Wacher; New York: Routledge, 2002), 1:423-439, esp. 423 where Burton writes, “The Roman government did not pursue many of the goals which, today, are conventionally associated with the exercise of political power by the state, e.g. the control or modification of economic developments, social welfare, education. Its concerns were more limited, above all the regular exaction of taxes and maintenance of internal order.” See also Martin Goodman, The Roman World 44 BC—AD 180 (New York: Routledge, 1997), 100-101.
  • [52] See Peter J. Tomson, “Jesus and his Judaism,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (ed. Markus Bockmuehl; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 25-40, esp. 31.
  • [53] The persecutions in the days of Antiochus IV (second cent. B.C.E.), for example, were primarily motivated by political interests. According to 1 Macc. 1:41, Antiochus sought to unite his empire by abolishing the ancestral customs of the various peoples he ruled. By creating a single national identity, Antiochus sought to solidify his political hegemony. Jewish commitment to Torah in the face of persecution was motivated by religious piety, but their loyalty to the God of their fathers entered the political arena because it interfered with Antiochus’ political program.

    The memory of the Antiochene persecutions was still vivid in the time of Jesus, in part because Jews in the land of Israel continued to feel that their religious liberty was threatened by the Roman occupation. During Jesus’ time Roman interference in Jewish religious life included the appointment of high priests by the Roman governor (cf. Jos., Ant. 18:26, 34-35), Roman control of the high priestly vestments (Ant. 18:93-94), and constant surveillance of the Temple from the Antonia Fortress. In addition, Roman officials sometimes interfered in the collection (Cicero, Pro Flacco 26:67; Jos., J.W. 14:112; 16:28, 166; cf. Safrai-Stern, 2:678) and use of the half-shekel (J.W. 2:175; Ant. 18:60). We also hear reports of Jewish pilgrims who were massacred in Jerusalem during the feasts (Luke 13:1). Zechariah’s song in Luke is one expression of the Jewish perception of the danger inherent in the practicing of Judaism under foreign rule: Zechariah anticipates the coming of salvation that would bring with it the freedom to serve God (i.e., worship) without fear (Luke 1:74). All of these instances show that at least an important segment of the Jewish population in the land of Israel regarded the Roman Empire as a threatening presence. From their perspective, adherence to their ancestral faith might cost them their lives. It is reasonable, therefore, that Jesus, who proclaimed a message of liberation, anticipated the potential for his martyrdom and the martyrdom of his disciples at the hands of the Roman authorities.

  • [54] On the limits of the Roman empire’s policy of religious tolerance, see Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence, 45.
  • [55] Caesar Augustus, for instance, ordered the burning of books composed in Greek and Latin that contained prophecies of the downfall of the Roman Empire (Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars 2:31). Likewise, Justin Martyr mentions that a sentence of death had been decreed against persons who read certain oracular books (1 Apol. 44:12). The prophecies did not pose a military threat to the Roman Empire, rather the books were burned and the people who read them were killed because they inspired hope among the conquered peoples of the Roman Empire. See David Flusser, “Hystaspes and John of Patmos,” (Flusser, JOC, 393); idem, “The Roman Empire in Hasmonean and Essene Eyes” (Flusser, JSTP1, 199).
  • [56] According to Goodman, the “[Roman] emperors employed a huge military force whose main but unstated purpose was the suppression of dissent.” See the chapter “Military Autocracy,” in Martin Goodman, The Roman World, 81-86, quotation on 81; idem, “Opponents of Rome: Jews and Others,” in Images of Empire (ed. Loveday Alexander; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 222-238.
  • [57] As N. T. Wright observed, crucifixion was an action of the state that sent a strong political message, viz., Caesar is in control (N. T. Wright, “Paul and Caesar: A New Reading of Romans,” in A Royal Priesthood? The Use of the Bible Ethically and Politically: A Dialogue with Oliver O’Donovan [ed. Craig Bartholomew, Jonathan Chaplin, Robert Song, Al Wolters; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002], 173-193, esp. 182). Since Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion, the message was even more pointed. Crucifixion reminded the Jewish people of their political status as a subjugated population who did not have legal standing or civil rights within the empire. Crucifixion was the seruile supplicium (“slave’s punishment”), and its use for the punishment of Jews reflects the opinion of the Roman elite that the Jews are “a people born to be enslaved” (Cicero, Prov. cons. 5:10; cf. Pro Flacco 28:69; Jos., J.W. 6:42; Apion 2:125). Cf. Jean-Jacques Aubert, “A Double Standard in Roman Criminal Law?” in Speculum Iuris: Roman Law as a Reflection of Social and Economic Life in Antiquity (ed. Jean-Jacques Aubert and Adriaan Johan Boudewijn Sirks; Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 2002), 121. According to Aubert, “Among all penalties in use in Roman times, crucifixion conveys the clearest message regarding the symbolism attached to capital punishment and its victims’ status” (111); “Its primary purpose is to emphasize the victim’s final irrevocable rejection from the civic and international community and the total denial of any form of legal protection based on the rights guaranteed by ius civile [i.e., citizen law—DNB and JNT] and ius gentium [i.e., international law—DNB and JNT] and attached to any legal status above slavery” (116).
  • [58] Bivin and Tilton disagree with respect to the meaning of Jesus’ cross-carrying saying (Luke 14:27). Bivin believes that Jesus used crucifixion as a metaphor for the hardships of first-century discipleship. Tilton believes Jesus’ cross-bearing saying is a warning to would-be disciples that joining his movement required accepting the risk of martyrdom for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • [59] In the land of Israel during Jesus’ lifetime the threat of crucifixion came from Roman authorities. Although there are reports of Jewish authorities who practiced crucifixion (e.g., Jos., J.W. 1:97; 4Q169 [4QpNah] 3-4 I, 6-8; Gen. Rab. 65:22; y. Sanh. 6:6 [23c]; y. Hag. 2:2 [78a]), and although the Essenes evidently sanctioned crucifixion for certain crimes (11Q19 [11QTemplea] LXIV, 6-13), in the time of Jesus capital punishment had become the sole prerogative of the Roman government (cf. John 18:31; Jos., J.W. 2:117-118; y. Sanh. 18a; 24b). See Brad H. Young, “An Examination of the Cross, Jesus and the Jewish People” (JS1, 196-199); Aubert, “A Double Standard in Roman Criminal Law?” 123. On crucifixion in DSS, see Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “Crucifixion in Ancient Palestine, Qumran Literature, and the New Testament,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 40.4 (1978): 493-513. On crucifixion in Pharisaic-rabbinic halachah, see David J. Halperin, “Crucifixion, the Nahum Pesher, and the Rabbinic Penalty of Strangulation,” Journal of Jewish Studies 32.1 (1981): 32-46.
  • [60] The phrase קִבֵּל מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם (qibēl malchūt shāmayim, “receive the Kingdom of Heaven”) is found, for example, in m. Ber. 2:2; Sifre. Deut. § 323, on Deut. 32:29 (ed. Finkelstein, 372); b. Ber. 10b, 13a, 14b, 61b.
  • [61] See Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L64.
  • [62] According to Shmuel Safrai and David Flusser, this usage is unique to Jesus (oral communication to DNB). See Robert L. Lindsey, “The Kingdom Of God: God’s Power Among Believers,” under the subheading “Jesus’ Movement.”
  • [63] See David N. Bivin, “Matthew 5:19: The Importance of ‘Light’ Commandments”; Sandt-Flusser, 220-225.
  • [64] Buth discussed this idea at the 2015 Lindsey Legacy Conference in the “Shabbat Morning Bible Study: Panel Discussion with David Bivin, Randall Buth, Brad Young, Steven Notley and Halvor Ronning on the Kingdom of Heaven,” at about the one hour mark. Frankovic also touched on this idea in Joseph Frankovic, “Beyond an Inheritance,” footnote 28.
  • [65] The statement עם מבוא יום ולילה אבואה בברית אל (“With the coming of the day and night I will enter the covenant of God”; 1QS X, 10) evidently refers to the recitation of the Shema. See Moshe Weinfeld, “Prayer and Liturgical Practice in the Qumran Sect,” in his Normative and Sectarian Judaism in the Second Temple Period (London: T&T Clark, 2005), 53-167, esp. 54-55.
  • [66] In DSS we encounter the phrase בא בברית with the meaning “join the Essene community” in CD XV, 5; XIX, 33; 1QS II, 12; V, 8, 20. Similarly, the phrase באי [ה]ברית (“those who enter the covenant”) refers to members of the sect in CD II, 2; VI, 19; VIII, 1, 21; XIII, 14; XX, 25; 1QS II, 18; 1QHa XIII, 23. We should stress that the Essenes did not invent the terminology of entering a covenant, which is borrowed from Scripture (cf. 1 Sam. 20:8; Jer. 34:10; Ezek. 16:8; 2 Chr. 15:12) and is also found in the writings of Ben Sira (cf. Sir. 44:20). Nevertheless the Essenes do appear to have been unique in using this terminology to refer to the recitation of the Shema, and to the joining of their sect.
  • [67] If the fusion of the Pharisaic-rabbinic and Essene expressions was based on their common meaning of “recite the Shema,” however, it is curious that no where in the Gospels does the term Kingdom of Heaven have this connotation.
  • [68] On the reconstruction of the phrase “enter the Kingdom of Heaven” in Hebrew, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comments to L63, L64-65.
  • [69] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L7.
  • [70] The phrase “poor of spirit” (עניי רוח) is a term the Essenes applied to themselves (1QM XIV, 7; cf. ענוי רוח [‘anvē rūaḥ, “meek of spirit”] in 1QHa VI, 3). See David Flusser, “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit” (JOC, 102-114); Robert L. Lindsey, “The Hebrew Life of Jesus,” under the subheading “The Two Versions of the Beatitudes.”
  • [71] A tripartite division of history is also attested in Sifre Deut. § 34 (ed. Finkelstein, 62); Sifre Deut. § 47 (ed. Finkelstein, 104); and Ruth Rab. 5:6, which make reference to this world (העולם הזה), to the days of the Messiah (ימות המשיח), and to the world to come (העולם הבא). On the tendency in rabbinic sources to conflate the world to come with the messianic era, see David Flusser, “The Stages of Redemption History According to John the Baptist and Jesus” (Flusser, Jesus, 258-275, esp.269, 273).
  • [72] The translation given here is of our suggested Hebrew reconstruction of Jesus’ statement. On the temporal aspect of this saying, see Blessedness of the Twelve, Comment to L16-19.
  • [73] Flusser, “The Stages of Redemption History” (Flusser, Jesus, 262).
  • [74] See the discussion above, under the subheading “The Kingdom of Heaven in Jewish Literature: Political Aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
  • [75] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Unlocking the Synoptic Problem: Four Keys for Better Understanding Jesus,” under the subheading “Lukan Doublets”; idem, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew: A Discussion of the Sources of Markan ‘Pick-ups’ and the Use of a Basic Non-canonical Source by All the Synoptists,” under the subheading “Lukan Doublets: Sayings Doublets.”
  • [76] The verb προβάλωσιν (probalōsin, “they put forth”) in Jesus’ saying lacks a direct object. English translations provide the word “leaves,” but it is more likely that Jesus referred to fruit. See R. Steven Notley, “Learn the Lesson of the Fig Tree” (JS1, 108, 112); idem, “The Season of Redemption.”
  • [77] R. Steven Notley, “Learn the Lesson of the Fig Tree” (JS1, 108 n. 3).
  • [78] See R. Steven Notley, “Learn the Lesson of the Fig Tree” (JS1, 110-112); idem, “The Season of Redemption.”
  • [79] See Robert L. Lindsey, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew: A Discussion of the Sources of Markan ‘Pick-ups’ and the Use of a Basic Non-canonical Source by All the Synoptists,” under the subheading “An Examination of the Editorial Activity of the First Reconstructor.” Cf. R. Steven Notley, “Learn the Lesson of the Fig Tree” (JS1, 108 n. 3, 111).
  • [80] The Aramaic equivalent of מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם is מַלְכוּתָא דִשְׁמַיָּא (malchūtā’ dishmayā’). Thus, whether one assumes that Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, there remains the problem of a shift in language from “Heaven” in the Semitic original to “God” in Greek.  See Tomson, “Jesus and His Judaism,” 29. It must be stressed, however, that the term “Kingdom of Heaven” does not appear in Aramaic except in very late sources. In the Mishnah, Tosefta, the Tanaitic Midrashim, and the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, for example, the term “Kingdom of Heaven” appears exclusively in Hebrew. The complete absence of the Aramaic term מַלְכוּתָא דִשְׁמַיָּא in early rabbinic texts makes Dodd’s comment that “there can be no doubt that the expression before us [i.e., ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ in the Gospels—DNB and JNT] represents an Aramaic phrase well-established in Jewish usage,” (emphasis ours) puzzling in the extreme. See C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom (rev. ed.; New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1961), 21; cf. Karl Ludwig Schmidt, “βασιλεία” (TDNT, 1:582).
  • [81]

    Kingdom of Heaven/God: Triple Tradition Pericopae
    1 Matt. 3:2 Μετανοεῖτε, ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark (–)


    Luke 3:3 κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας

    2 Matt. 4:17 Μετανοεῖτε, ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark 1:15 ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ


    Luke 4:15 ἐδίδασκεν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν

    3 Matt. 10:7 Ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark (–)


    (Luke 9:2 κηρύσσειν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ)


    Luke 10:9 Ἤγγικεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ

    4 Matt. 12:28 ἔφθασεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ


    Mark (–)


    Luke 11:20 ἔφθασεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ

    5 Matt. 13:11 τὰ μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark 4:11 τὸ μυστήριον δέδοται τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ


    Luke 8:10 τὰ μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ

    6 Matt. 13:31 Ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark 4:30 Πῶς ὁμοιώσωμεν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ


    Luke 13:18 Τίνι ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ

    7 Matt. 16:19 δώσω σοι τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark (–)


    Luke (–)

    8 Matt. 18:1 Τίς ἄρα μείζων ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark 9:35 Εἴ τις θέλει πρῶτος εἶναι ἔσται πάντων ἔσχατος


    Luke (–)

    9 (Matt. 18:3) εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark 10:15 δέξηται τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ


    Luke 18:17 δέξηται τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ

    10 Matt. 18:4 οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ μείζων ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark (–)


    Luke 9:48 ὁ γὰρ μικρότερος ἐν πᾶσιν ὑμῖν ὑπάρχων οὗτός ἐστιν μέγας

    11 Matt. 19:14 τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark 10:14 τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ


    Luke 18:16 τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ

    12 Matt. 19:23 εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark 10:23 εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελεύσονται


    Luke 18:24 εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσπορεύονται

    13 Matt. 19:24 εἰσελθεῖν…εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ


    Mark 10:25 εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν


    Luke 18:25 εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν

    14 Matt. 21:43 ἀρθήσεται ἀφ’ ὑμῶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ δοθήσεται ἔθνει ποιοῦντι τοὺς καρποὺς αὐτῆς


    Mark (–)


    Luke (–)

    For the creation of this table, the authors relied on Lindsey, GCSG.

  • [82]

    Kingdom of Heaven/God: Double Tradition Pericopae
    1 Matt. 5:3 ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Luke 6:20 ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ

    2 Matt. 7:21 Οὐ πᾶς ὁ λέγων μοι Κύριε κύριε εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Luke 6:46 Τί δέ με καλεῖτε Κύριε κύριε, καὶ οὐ ποιεῖτε ἃ λέγω

    3 Matt. 8:11 ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Luke 13:28 ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ

    4 Matt. 11:11 μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Luke 7:28 μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ

    5 Matt. 11:12 ἕως ἄρτι ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται


    Luke 16:16 ἀπὸ τότε ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίζεται

    6 Matt. 13:33 Ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Luke 13:20 Τίνι ὁμοιώσω τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ

    7 Matt. 22:2 Ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Luke 14:15 Μακάριος ὅστις φάγεται ἄρτον ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ

    8 Matt. 23:13 κλείετε τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων


    Luke 11:52 ἤρατε τὴν κλεῖδα τῆς γνώσεως· αὐτοὶ οὐκ εἰσήλθατε καὶ τοὺς εἰσερχομένους ἐκωλύσατε

    For the creation of this table, the authors relied on Lindsey, GCSG.

  • [83] Allen (203) accounts for the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν in Matthew by suggesting that “it is probable that the editor [of Matthew—DNB and JNT] was a Jewish Christian who…judaised, or rather rabbinised Christ’s sayings.”
  • [84] See David Flusser, “The Synagogue and the Church in the Synoptic Gospels” (JS1, 21).
  • [85] See Robert L. Lindsey, “A New Approach to the Synoptic Gospels,” under the subheading “Mark Secondary to Luke.”
  • [86] We count 12 unique Matthean verses where Matthew writes “Kingdom of Heaven/God.” Of these we consider only one to be a Matthean composition (Matt. 19:12), and in this instance Matthew writes “Kingdom of Heaven.”

    Kingdom of Heaven/God: Unique Matthean Pericopae
    1 Matt. 5:19 κληθήσεται ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν· ὃς δ’ ἂν ποιήσῃ καὶ διδάξῃ, οὗτος μέγας κληθήσεται ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν
    2 Matt. 5:20 εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν
    3 Matt. 13:24 Ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν
    4 Matt. 13:44 Ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν
    5 Matt. 13:45 ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν
    6 Matt. 13:47 ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν
    7 Matt. 13:52 τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν ὅμοιός ἐστιν
    8 Matt. 18:23 ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν
    9 Matt. 19:12 καὶ εἰσὶν εὐνοῦχοι οἵτινες εὐνούχισαν ἑαυτοὺς διὰ τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν


    Mark (–)

    10 Matt. 20:1 Ὁμοία γάρ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν
    11 Matt. 21:31 οἱ τελῶναι καὶ αἱ πόρναι προάγουσιν ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ
    12 Matt. 25:1 Τότε ὁμοιωθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν

    For the creation of this table, the authors relied on Robert L. Lindsey’s Greek Concordance of the Synoptic Gospels (3 vols.; Jerusalem: Dugith, 1985-1989).

  • [87] Cf. Dalman, 93.
  • [88] Here, our use of the term “de-Judaize” is not intended to indicate that Luke was anti-Jewish. To the contrary, the author of Luke demonstrates a high regard for Judaism and great sensitivity and openness toward the Jewish people (on this point see especially Tomson, 214-247). We use “de-Judaize” to describe Luke’s tendency to downplay that which is specifically Jewish that might seem alien or incomprehensible to Gentile readers. The author of Luke was motivated to make his material universally applicable since he was writing for a non-Jewish audience.
  • [89] See Robert L. Lindsey, “The Hebrew Life of Jesus,” under the subheading “The Two Versions of the Beatitudes.”
  • [90] See Disciples’ Prayer, Comment to L10.
  • [91] “Amen,” which appears with such high frequency in the sayings of Jesus, would have seemed strange even to non-Jewish readers who were familiar with the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Although אָמֵן occurs 30xx in the MT, ἀμήν occurs only 8xx in LXX (1 Chr. 16:36; 1 Esdr. 9:47; Neh. 5:13; 8:6; Tob. 8:8; 3 Macc. 7:23; 4 Macc. 18:24; Pr. Man. 15), all in later books and, with the exception of Neh. 5:13, exclusively in the context of a blessing or prayer (in Neh. 5:13 “amen” appears in the context of a curse). The standard LXX translation of אָמֵן is γένοιτο (23xx).
  • [92] On the anti-Jewish tendency of the author of Matthew, see David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 552-560); idem, “Matthew’s Verus Israel” (Flusser, JOC, 561-574); idem, “Anti-Jewish Sentiment in the Gospel of Matthew” (Flusser, JSTP2, 351-353); R. Steven Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels,” under the subheading “Matthew and the Jewish People”; Tomson, 255-289.
  • [93] Matthew is unique in numbering the Pharisees among those indicted by Jesus’ Wicked Tenants parable ( Matt. 21:45). The chronology of Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees in Matt. 23 is artificially relocated to Jesus’ final days in Jerusalem. Also, according to Matthew, the chief priests and the Pharisees conspire together to put a guard at Jesus’ tomb (Matt. 27:62). On this point, see Tomson, 272-276.
  • [94] See David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 558-559); cf. Tomson, 281.
  • [95] Matthew’s source for Matt. 12:28, a verse appearing in a Triple Tradition pericope, but not found in Mark, was Anthology. In agreement with Luke, Matthew writes ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. However, in Matt. 12:28 Matthew omits an important Hebraism preserved in Luke’s parallel. Instead of “by the finger of God” (Luke 11:20), which alludes to the story of Moses, Matthew writes “by the Spirit of God,” which was probably easier for non-Jewish Greek-speakers to comprehend. Since we already have one example of Matthew’s editorial activity in this verse, it is possible that ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ in Matt. 12:28 is also editorial, and that the agreement with Luke is coincidental.
  • [96] The authors wish to thank Lauren Asperschlager for making this point (personal communication).
  • [97] As noted above, there is no evidence for an Aramaic equivalent to “Kingdom of Heaven” in ancient Jewish sources.
  • [98] See David Flusser, “The Synagogue and the Church in the Synoptic Gospels” (JS1, 35).
  • [99] Instances of Matthew’s writing not dependent on a source include Matt. 19:10-12; 27:3-8; 27:62-66; 28:11-15. See David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 560); R. Steven Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels,” under the subheading “Matthew and the Jewish People.”
  • [100] See Robert L. Lindsey, “A New Two-source Solution to the Synoptic Problem,” point number 4; idem, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Further Proof of Mark’s Dependence on Luke”; David Flusser, “Flusser on Lindsey’s Synoptic Hypothesis.”
  • [101] In this passage, Luke seems to be preserving Anthology.
  • [102] In this DT tradition, there is identical wording, with the exception of a few instances of καί.
  • [103] See David N. Bivin, “‘Do Not Resist Evil’: Jesus’ View of Pacifism.”
  • [104] W. D. Davies, The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964), 422ff.
  • [105] E.g., Herod Antipas, who married his half-brother (by the same father; Ant. 18:136) Herod’s wife, Herodias (Mark 6:17-18). Herodias left her first husband, Herod (son of Herod the Great and Mariamme II) to marry his half-brother Antipas (son of Malthace the Samaritan)—not to marry Philip, as Mark erroneously reports.
  • [106] H. Freedman’s note in Soncino English version: “With which they wrote their evil decrees.”
  • [107] See Shmuel Safrai, “Insulting God’s High Priest,” sub-section “On the Sadducean High Priests and Their Families”; David N. Bivin, “Another Look at the ‘Cleansing of the Temple’ Story,” esp. footnote 10.
  • [108] Jewish halachah did not allow Jewish slaves.
  • [109] Note that Paul, equipped with letters of authority from the high priest in Jerusalem (Acts 9:2), was persecuting followers of Jesus, even traveling as far as Damascus (Acts 9:3ff.).
  • [110] See Joshua N. Tilton, Jesus’ Gospel: Searching for the Core of Jesus’ Message, esp. 73-79.
  • [111] See Shmuel Safrai, “Halakha,” in The Literature of the Sages: First Part: Oral Tora, Halakha, Mishna, Tosefta, Talmud, External Tractates (CRINT II.3; ed. Shmuel Safrai; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 1:194-196.
  • [112] On a few of the sayings that challenge Bivin’s assertion that Jesus was not opposed to violence in principle (i.e., that Jesus was not a “pacifist”), see Joshua N. Tilton, “Whole Stones That Make Peace,” idem, “Perfect Children.”

LOY Excursus: Greek Transliterations of Hebrew, Aramaic and Hebrew/Aramaic Words in the Synoptic Gospels

Revised: 30-November-2017[1]

Although the canonical Gospels were composed in Greek, there are indications that they drew from non-Greek sources. This makes sense because Jesus’ teaching was probably delivered in Hebrew,[2] and according to early church traditions the earliest record of Jesus’ life was written in Hebrew.[3] One of the clues that the Synoptic Gospels descended from a Hebrew Life of Yeshua is the number of foreign words that were transliterated into Greek from either Hebrew or Aramaic (it is often impossible to distinguish Hebrew from Aramaic in Greek transliteration). Since modern translations of the Bible tend to hide these transliterated words, most readers are not aware of how many transliterated words there are in the Synoptic Gospels.

Below we have collected all the transliterated words in the Synoptic Gospels with the exception of personal names and toponyms.[4] Place names and personal names would greatly increase the number of transliterations in our list,[5] but since such names normally retain their (approximate) pronunciations when crossing from one language to another, they are less relevant when considering a possible Hebrew or Aramaic Ur-text standing behind the Synoptic Gospels.[6] In a separate list we have collected Hellenized words derived from Semitic languages that appear in the Synoptic Gospels. These Hellenized Semitic terms are distinguished from transliterations by the fact that they take the various Greek case endings, indicating that these terms have been more fully assimilated into the Greek language. Although less telling than transliterated terms, a Greek translator of a Hebrew or Aramaic source would naturally gravitate toward these Hellenized Semitic terms when confronted with the corresponding Hebrew or Aramaic equivalents in his or her source text.


Transliterated Words in the Synoptic Gospels

Hebrew Words

ἀμήν (amēn) = אָמֵן (’āmēn, “Amen”)[7]

Matt. 5:18, 26; 6:2, 5, 16; 8:10; 10:15, 23, 42; 11:11; 13:17; 16:28; 17:20; 18:3, 13, 18, [19]; 19:23, 28; 21:21, 31; 23:36; 24:2, 34, 47; 25:12, 40, 45; 26:13, 21, 34; Mark 3:28; 8:12; 9:1, 41; 10:15, 29; 11:23; 12:43; 13:30; 14:9, 18, 25, 30; [16:8]; Luke 4:24; 12:37; 18:17, 29; 21:32; 23:43

ἠλί (ēli) = אֵלִי (’ēli, “my God”)

Matt. 27:46 (2xx)

λαμά (lama) = לָמָּה (lāmāh, “why?”)[8]

Matt. 27:46

σαβαχθάνι (sabachthani) = שְׁבַקְתַּנִי (shevaqtani, “you left me”)[9]

Matt. 27:46

ὡσαννά (hōsanna) = הוֹשַׁע נָא (hōsha‘ nā’, “Please save!”)[10]

Matt. 21:9 (2xx), 15; Mark 11:9, 10


Hebrew/Aramaic Words[11]

ἀββά (abba) = אַבָּא (Heb./Aram. ’abā’, “father”)[12]

Mark 14:36

ἐφφαθά (effatha) = הִפָּתַח (Heb. hipātaḥ, “Be opened!”); אֶתְפְּתַח or אֶפְתַּח (Aram. ’etpetaḥ or ’eftaḥ, “Be opened!”)

Mark 7:34

κορβᾶν (korban) = קָרְבָּן (Heb. qorbān, “dedicated to the Temple”); קָרְבָּנָא (Aram. qorbānā’, “dedicated to the Temple”)

Mark 7:11

ῥαββί (rabbi), var. ῥαββεί (rabbei) = רַבִּי (Heb./Aram. rabi, “rabbi,” “my master”)

Matt. 23:7, 8; 26:25, 49; Mark 9:5; 11:21; 14:45

ῥαββουνί (rabbouni), var. ῥαββουνεί (rabbounei) = רַבּוּנִי (Heb. rabūni, “my master”); רַבּוֹנִי (Aram. rabōni, “my master”)

Mark 10:51

ῥακά (raka) = רֵיקָה (Heb. rēqāh, “empty head”); רֵיקָא (Aram. rēqā’, “empty head”)

Matt. 5:22


Aramaic Words

ἐλωΐ (elōi) = אֱלָהִי (elāhi, “my God”)

Mark 15:34 (2xx)

κούμ (koum) = קוּם (qūm, “Rise!”)[13]

Mark 5:41

λεμά (lema), var. λειμά (leima) = לְמָה (lemāh, “why?”)

Mark 15:34

σαβαχθάνι (sabachthani), var. σαβαχθάνει (sabachthanei) = שְׁבַקְתַּנִי (shevaqtani, “you left me”)[14]

Mark 15:34

ταλιθά (talitha) = טַלְיְתָא or טְלִתָא (ṭalyetā’ or elitā’, “little lamb/girl”)

Mark 5:41

From the compilation above, we can observe that many of the transliterated words in the Synoptic Gospels are liturgical or cultic terms (e.g., ἀμήν [amēn]; ὡσαννά [hōsanna]; κορβᾶν [korban, “dedicated to the Temple”]), which naturally had no equivalent in Greek. Other terms that tended to be transliterated were titles of address (e.g., ῥαββί [rabbi, “my teacher”]). Another important observation is that all of the transliterated words in Matthew and Luke belong to the exclusively Hebrew or Hebrew/Aramaic categories. Only the Gospel of Mark contains transliterated words that are exclusively Aramaic.[15]

 


Hellenized Semitic Words in the Synoptic Gospels

βάτος (batos, a liquid measure) = בַּת (Heb. bat, a liquid measure); בֵּיתָא (Aram. bētā’, a liquid measure)[16]

Luke 16:6

βύσσος (būssos, “fine linen”)[17] = בּוּץ (Heb. būtz, “fine linen”);[18] בּוּצָא (Aram. būtzā’, “fine linen”)

Luke 16:19

γέεννα (geenna, “Gehenna”) = גֵּי[א] הִנֹּם (Heb. [] hinom, “Gehenna,” “Hinnom valley”); גֵּיהִנָּם (Aram. gēhinām, “Gehenna,” “Hinnom valley”)[19]

Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5

καναναῖος (kananaios) = קַנַּאי (Heb. qanai, “zealous”); קַנְאָנָא (Aram. qan’ānā’, “the zealous”)[20]

Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:18

κορβανᾶς (korbanas, “item dedicated to the Jewish Temple”) = קָרְבָּן (Heb. qorbān, “dedicated to the Temple”); קָרְבָּנָא (Aram. qorbānā’, “dedicated to the Temple”)

Matt. 27:6

κόρος (koros, a measure of quantity) = כֹּר (Heb. kor, a measure of quantity);[21] כּוֹרָא/כּוֹר (Aram. kōrā’/kōr, a measure of quantity)[22]

Luke 16:7

μαμωνᾶς (mamōnas, “mammon”) = מָמוֹן (Heb. māmōn, “wealth”); מָמוֹנָא (Aram. māmōnā’, “wealth”)

Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:9, 11, 13

μνᾶ (mna, “mina,” a denomination of coinage)[23] = מָנֶה (Heb. māneh, “mina,” a denomination of coinage); מָנָא (Aram. mānā’, a measure of weight)[24]

Luke 19:13, 16 (2xx), 18 (2xx), 20, 24 (2xx), 25

πάσχα (pascha, “Passover,” “Passover lamb”) = פֶּסַח (Heb. pesaḥ, “Passover,” “Passover lamb”);[25] פִּסְחָא (Aram. pisḥā’, “Passover,” “Passover lamb”), var. פַּסְחָא (pasḥā’)[26]

Matt. 26:2, 17, 18, 19; Mark 14:1, 12 (2xx), 14, 16; Luke 2:41; 22:1, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15

σάββατον (sabbaton, “Sabbath”) = שַׁבָּת (Heb. shabāt, “Sabbath”); שַׁבַּתָּא (Aram. shabatā’, “Sabbath”)

Matt. 12:1, 2, 5 (2xx), 8, 10, 11, 12; 24:20; 28:1 (2xx); Mark 1:21; 2:23, 24, 27 (2xx), 28; 3:2, 4; 6:2; 16:1, 2, [9]; Luke 4:16, 31; 6:1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9; 13:10, 14 (2xx), 15, 16; 14:1, 3, 5; 18:12; 23:54, 56; 24:1

σάκκος (sakkos, “sackcloth”)[27] = שַׂק (Heb. saq, “sackcloth”);[28] סַק (Aram. saq, “sackcloth”)

Matt. 11:21; Luke 10:13

σατανᾶς (satanas, “Satan”)[29] = שָׂטָן (Heb. sāṭān, “satan,” “accuser”); סָטָנָא (Aram. sāṭānā’, “satan,” “accuser”)

Matt. 4:10; 12:26 (2xx); 16:23; Mark 1:13; 3:23 (2xx), 26; 4:15; 8:33; Luke 10:18; 11:18; 13:16; 22:3, 31

σάτον (saton, a measure of quantity) = סְאָה (Heb. se’āh, a measure of quantity); סָאתָא (Aram. sā’tā’, a measure of quantity)

Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:21

σίκερα (sikera, “fermented drink,” “beer”)[30] = שֵׁכָר (Heb. shēchār, “fermented drink,” “beer”);[31] שִׁכְרָא (Aram. shichrā’, “fermented drink,” “beer”)

Luke 1:15

συκάμινος (sūkaminos, “mulberry”)[32] = שִׁקְמָה (Heb. shiqmāh, “sycamore”);[33] שִׁיקְמָא (Aram. shiqmā’, “sycamore”)

Luke 17:6

With respect to Hellenized Semitic words, it must first be noted that some of them, especially those attested early on, may have entered the Greek language via Phoenician (Canaanite), through contact with Phoenician traders.[34] Other Hellenized Semitic words, it will be noticed, are phonetically closer to Aramaic than Hebrew (e.g., κορβανᾶς [closer to Aram. קָרְבָּנָא than Heb. קָרְבָּן]; πάσχα [closer to Aram. פַּסְחָא than Heb. פֶּסַח]; σατανᾶς [closer to Aram. סָטָנָא than Heb. שָׂטָן]). Such Hellenized Semitic terms may have entered the Greek lexicon through contacts between Aramaic-speaking local representatives of the Jewish community in the former Persian Empire and Greek-speaking officials of the Ptolemaic and/or Seleucid Empires. A third observation to be made is that in a translated text the mere appearance of Hellenized terms from Aramaic, such as πάσχα, does not indicate from which Semitic language a Greek text might have been translated, since the LXX translators frequently employed Aramaic-derived terms when translating Hebrew texts.[35] The LXX translators naturally preferred to use vocabulary that was already established in their target language, rather than resorting to foreign-sounding transliterations that conveyed no meaning to an exclusively Greek-speaking audience. The same preference would probably have been shared by an ancient translator of a collection of sayings or Hebrew biography of Jesus.

 


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Transliteration
Greek and Hebrew mosaic from the fourth-century synagogue in Hammat Tiberias, with the words ΑΜΗΝ (amēn) and שָׁלוֹם (shālōm).
  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] On the language(s) of Jesus, see Shmuel Safrai, “Spoken Languages in the Time of Jesus”; Randall Buth, “Language Use in the First Century: Spoken Hebrew in a Trilingual Society in the Time of Jesus,” Journal of Translation and Textlinguistics 5.4 (1992): 298-312; Steven E. Fassberg, “Which Semitic Language Did Jesus and Other Contemporary Jews Speak?” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 74 (2012): 263-280.
  • [3] See Papias’ testimony in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.16; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1.1. See also Randall Buth and Chad Pierce, “Hebraisti in Ancient Texts: Does Ἑβραϊστί Ever Mean ‘Aramaic’?” (JS2, 66-109).
  • [4] While some studies give partial lists of transliterated words in the Gospels or the New Testament (e.g., Jehoshua M. Grintz, “Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language in the Last Days of the Second Temple,” Journal of Biblical Literature 79 [1960]: 40; Pinchas Lapide, “Hidden Hebrew in the Gospels,” Immanuel 2 [1973]: 28; Jan Joosten, “Aramaic or Hebrew behind the Greek Gospels?” Analecta Bruxellensia 9 [2004]: 90-91), a complete list of transliterated words in the Synoptic Gospels is difficult to find. Bauer collected all the transliterated words in the New Testament, but did not indicate their language of origin or specify the number of occurrences as does the list below (Walter Bauer, “An Introduction to the Lexicon of the Greek New Testament,” BDAG, xxii). For a recent catalogue of the transliterated words in the Gospels with an attempt to determine their language of origin, see Guido Baltes, Herbraisches Evangelium und Synoptische Uberlieferung: Untersuchungen Zum Hebraischen Hintergrund Der Evangelien (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 2011), 110-121.
  • [5] Two epithets that are treated as names in Greek, but which may have been descriptions in Hebrew or Aramaic, include:
    βοανηργές (boanērges) = בְּנֵי רַעַם (Heb. benē ra‘am, “sons of thunder”); בְּנֵי רַעַשׁ (Heb. benē ra‘ash, “sons of an earthquake”); בְּנֵי רְגָשָׁא (Aram. benē regāshā’, “sons of noise”)

    Mark 3:17

    Ἰσκαριώθ (Iskariōth) = אִישׁ קְרִיּוֹת (Heb. ’ish qeriyōt, “man [from the town] of Kriyot”)?

    Mark 3:19; 14:10; Luke 6:16 (The Hellenized form Ἰσκαριώτης appears in Matt. 10:4; 26:14; Luke 22:3; John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2, 26; 14:22.)

    On βοανηργές, see our discussion in Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L27-28; on Ἰσκαριώθ, see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L41.

  • [6] See the discussion in Buth and Pierce, “Hebraisti in Ancient Texts: Does Ἑβραϊστί Ever Mean ‘Aramaic’?” (JS2, 99, esp. n. 96).
  • [7] On the use of ἀμήν in the Synoptic Gospels, see Robert Lindsey, “‘Verily’ or ‘Amen’—What Did Jesus Say?
  • [8] Λαμά could also reflect the Aramaic word לְמָה (lemāh, “why?”); however, since it appears in a Hebrew sentence, we count this transliteration as exclusively Hebrew. On the Hebrew sentence in Matt. 27:46, see Randall Buth, “The Riddle of Jesus’ Cry from the Cross: The Meaning of ηλι ηλι λαμα σαβαχθανι (Matthew 27:46) and the Literary Function of ελωι ελωι λειμα σαβαχθανι (Mark 15:34)” (JS2, 394-421).
  • [9] Σαβαχθάνι could also reflect the Aramaic word שְׁבַקְתַּנִי (shevaqtani, “you left me”); however, since it appears in a Hebrew sentence, we count this transliteration as exclusively Hebrew. On the Hebrew sentence in Matt. 27:46, see Buth, “The Riddle of Jesus’ Cry from the Cross” (JS2, 416-421).
  • [10] Scholars have shown that this form represents a Hebrew, not an Aramaic, exclamation. See Menahem Kister, “Lexicographical Problems Early and Late,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 37 (1998): 244-263, esp. 259-261; idem, “Words and Formulae in the Gospels in the Light of Hebrew and Aramaic Sources,” in The Sermon on the Mount and its Jewish Setting (Cahiers de la Revue Biblique 60; ed. Hans-Jürgen Becker and Serge Ruzer; Paris: J. Gabalda, 2005), 115-147, esp. 120-122; Buth, “The Riddle of Jesus’ Cry from the Cross” (JS2, 407-408).
  • [11] Taken on their own, the transliterations in this category could represent either Hebrew or Aramaic, since identical or similar forms occur in both languages.
  • [12] On אַבָּא as a Mishnaic Hebrew word, see James Barr, “’Abbā Isn’t Daddy,” Journal of Theological Studies 39.1 (1988): 28-47, esp. 30-32. For examples of אַבָּא as a Hebrew word, see m. Peah 2:4, 6; m. Shab. 1:9; m. Eruv. 6:2; m. Betz. 2:6; m. Ket. 2:10; 12:3; 13:5; m. Ned. 5:6; 9:5; 11:4, 11 (2xx); m. Git. 7:6 (2xx); 9:2; m. Naz. 4:7; m. Kid. 3:6; m. Bab. Bat. 9:3; m. Sanh. 3:2; 4:5; m. Shevu. 6:1; 7:7 (3xx); m. Edu. 3:10; 5:7; m. Zev. 9:3; m. Men. 13:9; m. Tam. 3:8; m. Yad. 3:1.
  • [13] Κούμ could also represent the Hebrew word קוּם (qūm, “Rise!”); however, since it appears in an Aramaic sentence, we count this transliteration as unequivocally Aramaic.
  • [14] Σαβαχθάνι could also reflect the Hebrew word שְׁבַקְתַּנִי (shevaqtani, “you left me”); however, since it appears in an Aramaic sentence in Mark 15:34, we count this transliteration as exclusively Aramaic.
  • [15] On this phenomenon, see Jehoshua Grintz, “Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language,” 33 n. 3; Randall Buth, “Aramaic Language,” in Dictionary of New Testament Background (ed. Craig Evans and Stanley Porter; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2000), 89; and David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style.”
  • [16] The term βάτος appears almost exclusively in Jewish writings: 2 Esd. 7:22 (2xx); Jos., Ant. 8:57 (2xx), 80. Note that Josephus gives an explanation of βάτος for his readers (ὁ δὲ βάτος δύναται ξέστας ἑβδομήκοντα δύο) in Ant. 8:57. In T. Jud. 9:8 we find the transliteration βεθ (beth).
  • [17] The term βύσσος is attested in the works of classical authors, so it was fully assimilated into Greek at an early date. See BDAG, 185.
  • [18] In LXX βύσσος occurs 40xx, usually as the translation of שֵׁשׁ (shēsh, “linen”), but twice as the translation of בּוּץ (2 Chr. 2:13; 3:14).
  • [19] While technically a toponym, the term “Gehenna” had also come to represent a complex of eschatological concepts. We have therefore included this term in our list. Many translations render γέεννα as “hell,” but since the popular conception of hell for modern readers has so many connotations that were not associated with the term “Gehenna” in ancient Jewish literature and the New Testament, we have avoided using “hell” as the equivalent of Gehenna.
  • [20] Opposite Καναναῖος (Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:18), Luke has τὸν καλούμενον ζηλωτὴν (“the one called Zealot”; Luke 6:15; cf. Acts 1:13). The Aramaic form קַנְאָנָא is closer to Καναναῖος than the Hebrew קַנַּאי. See our discussion in Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L39.
  • [21] Κόρος appears in LXX 14xx, where it represents כֹּר‎ 8xx (3 Kgdms. 2:46 [2xx] = 3 Kgdms. 5:2 [2xx]; 3 Kgdms. 5:25; 2 Chr. 2:9 [2xx]; 27:5) and represents חֹמֶר‎ 3xx (Lev. 27:16; Num. 11:32; Ezek. 45:13). Κόρος also occurs once in T. Jud. 9:8 and 4xx in a fragment of Eupolemus (preserved in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica 9.33, who quoted from Alexander Polyhistor, On the Jews). In this fragment Eupolemus gives a Greek equivalent for the Hebrew measure (ὁ δὲ κόρος ἐστὶν ἀρταβῶν ἕξ).
  • [22] In LXX κόρος is used to translate the Aramaic כּוֹר in 2 Esd. 7:22 (= Ezra 7:22).
  • [23] See BDAG, 654. The Semitic loanword μνᾶ was established in classical Greek.
  • [24] The noun μνᾶ occurs 12xx in LXX, almost always as the equivalent of מָנֶה where there is an underlying Hebrew text. See Hatch-Redpath, 2:931.
  • [25] The term πάσχα occurs 43xx in LXX, always as the equivalent of פֶּסַח wherever there is an underlying Hebrew text. See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1103.
  • [26] The form פַּסְחָא is a hypothesized Alexandrian pronunciation. See Buth and Pierce, “Hebraisti in Ancient Texts: Does Ἑβραϊστί Ever Mean ‘Aramaic’?” (JS2, 87).
  • [27] See BDAG, 910. The term σάκκος was well established in classical Greek.
  • [28] The noun σάκκος occurs 62xx in LXX, always as the equivalent of שַׂק wherever there is an underlying Hebrew text. See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1257.
  • [29] We have included σατανᾶς (“satan”) in our list, regarding it as a title rather than as a personal name. See our discussion in Return of the Twelve, Comment to L14.
  • [30] Since in LXX σίκερα occurs exclusively in this form, some scholars consider it to be indeclinable, and hence a transliteration rather than a Hellenized Semitic word. See Moulton-Howard, 153. On the other hand, LSJ (1598) cites an example of σίκερα in Pseudo-Galen De affectuum renibus insidentium diognotione (19:693), which is declined.
  • [31] The term σίκερα occurs 15xx in LXX (Lev. 10:9; Num. 6:3 [2xx]; 28:7; Deut. 14:26; 29:5; Judg. 13:4, 7, 14; Isa. 5:11, 22; 24:9; 28:7 [2xx]; 29:9), always as the equivalent of the Hebrew term שֵׁכָר. See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1266.
  • [32] The term συκάμινος was employed by classical authors (e.g., Aristotle, Theophrasus), but scholars have suggested that the word is of Semitic derivation. See Thackeray, 36; Moulton-Howard, 153.
  • [33] The noun συκάμινος occurs 6xx in LXX, always as the equivalent of שִׁקְמָה (3 Kgdms. 10:27; 1 Chr. 27:28; 2 Chr. 1:15; 9:27; Ps. 77[78]:47; Isa. 9:9).
  • [34] See Thackeray, 34.
  • [35] On the use of the Aramaic-derived πάσχα in LXX to represent the Hebrew term פֶּסַח in MT, see Buth and Pierce, “Hebraisti in Ancient Texts: Does Ἑβραϊστί Ever Mean ‘Aramaic’?” (JS2, 87-88).

LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style

Dedicated to the memory of Professor Eduard Yechezkel Kutscher (1909-1971).
Revised: 11-August-2017
The writing style of the author of the Gospel of Mark has long been regarded as idiosyncratic.[73] Mark’s pervasive use of the “historical present”[74] and its bizarre proliferation of the word εὐθύς are two well-known examples.[75] Despite its awkwardness, and indeed sometimes because of it, Mark’s Gospel has been regarded as the most primitive of the Synoptic Gospels and one of the sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Robert Lindsey challenged this scholarly consensus of Markan Priority when he discovered the more Hebraic quality of Luke vis-à-vis Mark and vis-à-vis Matthew wherever Matthew was dependent on Mark. Lindsey concluded that Luke was the first of the Synoptic Gospels, that Mark reworked Luke, and that Matthew is based on Mark and one of the sources upon which Luke is based.[76]

Lindsey’s theory not only explains why Luke’s Gospel is so much more Hebraic than Mark’s, but also why Luke’s text often seems so much more reliable. For instance, Luke’s version of Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction and liberation of Jerusalem addresses the disciples’ question, “When will these things be?” and retains the theme of the fate of Jerusalem throughout. In Luke 21, Jesus’ prophecy is infused with a Jewish nationalist sentiment that is appropriate to a first-century Jewish teacher. In Mark 13, by contrast, there is no concern for the fate of Jerusalem or the Jewish people. Rather, in Mark’s version the focus is on the elect and on the advent of the Son of Man. Most striking of all, Mark’s version of the prophecy fails to answer the disciples’ question about when the Temple will be destroyed.[1]

Another example of Luke’s greater reliability in comparison with Mark is the conversation between Jesus and the chief priests during Jesus’ interrogation. According to Luke’s version, Jesus engaged in a sophisticated dialogue in which, through subtle biblical allusion, Jesus led his interrogators to draw their own conclusions about his messianic claims (Luke 22:67-70), whereas in Mark’s version (Mark 14:61-62) Jesus’s answer is unequivocal and the chain of biblical allusions is obscured by a single overt citation of Daniel 7.[2]

Lindsey’s Stemma. (Graphic created by Pieter Lechner.)

A third example of Luke’s greater historical reliability is found in the Healing a Man with a Withered Hand story. According to Luke’s account, the Pharisees discuss what they might do with Jesus (Luke 6:11), the point being that there was nothing the Pharisees could do since Jesus had not violated Sabbath prohibitions. Luke’s account resembles the story of the first-century B.C.E. Hasid Honi ha-Me’agel (m. Taan. 3:8; cf. b. Taan. 23a), in which a Pharisaic leader rebukes Honi and remarks אֲבָל מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה לְךָ (’avāl māh ’e‘ eseh lechā, “But what can I do to you?”), because although the Pharisee disapproved of Honi’s behavior, Honi had not actually transgressed the halachah. In Mark’s version of the Healing of Man with Withered Hand, however, the Pharisees plot with the Herodians how they might destroy Jesus (Mark 3:6).[3] Plotting to murder Jesus for the healing of a man on the Sabbath when Jesus had not committed any violation of Sabbath rest[4] is not only a priori unlikely, but the question of whether acts of mercy take precedence over the restrictions of work on the Sabbath was an open one in the first century. It seems clear that Mark artificially attributed the motives and intentions of Jesus’ later opponents to his Pharisaic critics.[5]

One of the main advantages of Lindsey’s hypothesis is that it allows us to observe and evaluate Mark’s editorial style. Lindsey’s hypothesis releases us from the assumption that Mark preserves the most primitive and original forms of the synoptic tradition. Accepting Lindsey’s premise that Luke often preserves a more authentic and reliable account opens our eyes to observe the freedom with which the author of Mark treated his sources.

Mark’s Freedom and Creativity

Lindsey concluded that the author of Mark was not interested in transmitting his sources as he had received them. Instead, Mark’s editorial style is characterized by creativity. Lindsey noted the following characteristics of Mark’s treatment of his sources:

  1. Relocation of pericopae from the Lukan order to a new context.
  2. Rewriting pericopae by substituting synonyms for the words Mark found in his source(s).
  3. Rewriting pericopae using vocabulary Mark had picked up from the sections of Luke that Mark had omitted, from Acts, from the Pauline Epistles and from the Epistle of James. These “Markan pick-ups” allowed Mark to show how the stories about Jesus resonated in the experiences of the later Church.[6]
  4. Radical abbreviation, for example, the Temptation narrative in Mark as compared with the Temptation narratives in Luke and Matthew.
  5. Expansion of pericopae by adding detail and duplicating phrases, for example, in the Lawyer’s Question Mark adds “Hear! O Israel….” to the citation of the double love commandment (Mark 12:29), and he repeats the entire answer (Mark 12:32-33).

Lindsey believed that the Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark are an important witness to the readings of the pre-synoptic source that stands behind all three Synoptic Gospels.[7] The Lukan-Matthean minor agreements reflect traces of the pre-synoptic source shared by Matthew and Luke that escaped Mark’s editorial activity. Therefore, careful examination of the Lukan-Matthean minor agreements provides clues for understanding the author of Mark’s editorial style.

In attempting to classify the Lukan-Matthean minor agreements, Neirynck compiled a list that includes the following categories:[8]

  1. Asyndeton in Mark and conj. in Matt. and Luke, and vice versa
  2. Historical present in Mark and not in Matt. and Luke[9]
  3. Genitive absolute in Mark and not in Matt. and Luke, and vice versa
  4. Active or middle voice in Mark and passive in Matt. and Luke, and vice versa
  5. Simple verb in Mark and compound verb in Matt. and Luke, and vice versa
  6. Object-verb [order] in Mark and verb-object in Matt. and Luke, and vice versa
  7. Verb supplied in Matt. and Luke
  8. Prepositions changed in Matt. and Luke, and vice versa
  9. Changes in vocabulary; diminutive in Mark and not in Matt. and Luke[10]
  10. Singular in Mark and plural in Matt. and Luke, and vice versa
  11. Duplicate expressions in Mark and simple phrases in Matt. and Luke

Neirynck’s list is an excellent, if partial, description of Mark’s editorial method. To Neirynck’s list we add the following changes the author of Mark made to his source(s):

  1. Mark inverts word order. For example in Mark we find, “scribes of the Pharisees” (Mark 2:16), instead of “the Pharisees and their scribes” (Luke 5:30); “lord…the son of man…of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28), instead of the Lukan-Matthean, “lord…of the Sabbath the son of man” (Luke 6:5; Matt. 12:8); “governors and kings” (Mark 13:9) instead of Luke’s “kings and governors” (Luke 21:12).
  2. Mark transposes the order of events. For example, the author of Mark wrote “and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard” (Mark 12:8), opposite the Lukan-Matthean, “and they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him” (Luke 20:15; Matt. 21:39). We also find this type of Markan change in the Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb pericope where the author of Mark transposed the order of Luke 22:8 and 22:9.
  3. Mark repeats words and sentences. Compare, for instance, “fearing and trembling” (Mark 5:33) to Luke’s “trembling” (Luke 8:47). In the Call of Levi story the author of Mark stated that Jesus’ critics seeing “that he is eating with sinners and toll collectors” (ὅτι ἐσθίει μετὰ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ τελωνῶν) ask “Why is he eating with toll collectors and sinners?” (ὅτι μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίει; Mark 2:16).[11] Mark repeats “and he appointed [the] twelve” (Mark 3:14, 16) in the Choosing of the Twelve pericope. Mark repeats Jesus’ statement that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 10:23, 24) in the Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven incident, and likewise repeats the double love command (Mark 12:30-31, 33) in the Lawyer’s Question.
  4. Mark also duplicates stories in his text, creating a second story resembling the first and partially preserving its vocabulary. Examples include Feeding 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10), which duplicates Feeding 5,000 (Mark 6:30-44). The Walking on the Water (Mark 6:45-52) is a duplication of Quieting a Storm (Mark 4:35-41). The Blind Man of Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26) may be a duplication of Man Healed of Blindness (Mark 10:46-52).
  5. Mark adds and expands Scripture quotations. For example, against Matthew and Luke, the author of Mark added the quotation of the Shema (Deut. 6:4) to the Greatest Commandment (Mark 12:29). Against Matthew and Luke, the author of Mark expanded the quotation of Isa. 56:7 in the story of Yeshua’s Protest in the Temple to include the phrase “all nations” (Mark 11:17).[12] Likewise, only Mark has “In the days of Abiathar the high priest” in the Lord of Shabbat story (Mark 2:26).[13]
  6. Mark supplies the names of anonymous individuals. For example, in Man Healed of Blindness only Mark’s version gives the name of the name of a blind beggar (Bartimaeus; Mark 10:46). Likewise in Prediction of Jerusalem’s Destruction where the questioners are anonymous in Luke 21:7 and are designated only as “the disciples” in Matt. 24:3, the author of Mark identified them as Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mark 13:3).
  7. Mark supplies additional biographical detail. For example, the author of Mark supplied information about Jesus’ vocation (Mark 6:3);[14] and he highlighted familial connections: e.g., “Levi the son of Alphaeus” (Mark 2:14) against “Levi” (Luke 5:27) and “Matthew” (Matt. 9:9); “Peter and James and John the brother of James” (Mark 5:37) opposite Luke’s “Peter and John and James” (Luke 8:51);[15] and “Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15:21) opposite Matt. 27:32 and Luke 23:26 where the names of the sons of Simon are omitted.
  8. Mark supplies numerical specificity. For example, the author of Mark specified the age of Yair’s (Jairus’) Daughter (“12 years” [Mark 5:42], against a Lukan-Matthean agreement of omission [Luke 8:55; Matt. 9:25]); he specified the cost of feeding the 5,000 (“200 denarii” [Mark 6:37], against a Lukan-Matthean agreement of omission [Luke 9:13; Matt. 14:17]); and he specified the number of times the rooster crowed (“Before the cock crows twice” [Mark 14:30; cf. Mark 14:72], against Matthew and Luke’s “Before the cock crows” [Matt. 26:34; Luke 22:34; cf. Luke 22:61]).
  9. Mark adds vivid descriptions. For instance, the author of Mark specified that the people sat “on the green grass” (Mark 6:39), against a Lukan-Matthean agreement of omission (Luke 9:14: “sit down”; Matt. 14:19: “sit down on the grass”); and in his account of the Transfiguration, the author of Mark says that Jesus’ clothes became “intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:3; unparalleled in Matthew and Luke). Similarly, according to Mark Jesus “was in the stern asleep on the cushion” (Mark 4:38), against a Lukan-Matthean agreement of omission (Luke 8:23; Matt. 8:24).[16] Compare Mark’s μύλος ὀνικός (“donkey millstone”; Mark 9:42), in place of Luke’s less vivid λίθος μυλικός (“millstone”; Luke 17:2).
  10. Mark, alone of the Synoptic Gospels, inserts Aramaic phrases into his narratives. Many Semitic words in the Gospels (e.g., mammon, korban, rabbi, abba) are found in both Hebrew and Aramaic.[17] However, Mark’s is the only Gospel to incorporate words that are unambiguously Aramaic transliterations.[18] They are: Ταλιθα κουμ (Mark 5:41) and Ἐλωῒ ἐλωῒ λεμὰ σαβαχθάνι (Mark 15:34).[19] The word Εφφαθα (Mark 7:34) is probably also a transliteration of an Aramaic command.[20] The presence of Aramaic phrases in Mark is more likely to inform us about Mark’s linguistic background than about the language spoken by Jesus.[21] In fact, it appears that all of the Aramaic phrases in Mark are secondary. Lindsey argued that Ταλιθὰ κούμ in Mark 5:41 was inspired by Peter’s command Ταβιθά, ἀνάστηθι (Acts 9:40).[22] Buth has shown that Mark reworked the tradition according to which Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 from the cross. In the pre-synoptic tradition the bystanders confused Jesus’ cry of Ἠλὶ ἠλὶ with a summons for the prophet Elijah (Ἠλίας). Mark’s Ἐλωῒ ἐλωῒ makes the reason for the bystanders’ confusion incomprehensible, a clear indication that Mark’s version is secondary.[23] Ἐφφαθά, too, is likely to be a Markan creation. It appears in a story not paralleled in Matthew or Luke that contains thaumaturgical elements that are peculiar to Mark’s Gospel (see below).
  11. Mark introduces Latin loanwords into the text of his Gospel. Latin loanwords appear in all three Synoptic Gospels.[24] We have counted fifteen Latin loanwords that appear at least once in Matthew, Mark, or Luke.[25] Of these fifteen Latin loanwords, six appear in Luke,[26] eleven appear in Mark,[27] and eleven appear in Matthew.[28] Three Latin loanwords are unique to Mark, namely, κεντυρίων (Mark 15:39, 44, 45), ξέστης (Mark 7:4) and σπεκουλάτωρ (Mark 6:27). Three additional Latin loanwords were introduced by Mark and copied by Matthew, namely, πραιτώριον (Mark 15:16; Matt. 27:27), φραγελλοῦν (Mark 15:15; Matt. 27:26) and κῆνσος (Mark 12:14; Matt. 22:17).[29] Thus, supposing Mark relied on Luke as the source for his Gospel, Mark is responsible for introducing six of the fifteen Latin loanwords that appear in the Synoptic Gospels. By contrast, there is only one Latin loanword unique to Luke (σουδάριον [Luke 19:20]), and Matthew is responsible for introducing only two of the Latin loanwords in the Synoptic Gospels (κουστωδία [Matt. 27:65, 66; 28:11]; μίλιον [Matt. 5:41]).[30] There is one Latin loanword shared by Matthew and Luke that is unknown to Mark (ἀσσάριον [Matt. 10:29; Luke 12:6]).[31]
  12. Mark introduces elements of Hellenistic thaumaturgical practice into his healing narratives. Mark 7:32-35 describes the healing of a man who was deaf and unable to speak (unparalleled in Matthew or Luke). Uncharacteristically for healings by Jesus, Mark’s story has Jesus insert his fingers into the man’s ears, spit and touch the man’s tongue. According to Mark, Jesus also sighs deeply. In the Healing of the Man in Bethsaida from Blindness (Mark 8:22-26; unparalleled in Matthew or Luke, cf. John 9:6), Mark reports that Jesus spat on the man’s eyes. The use of spittle, reports of sighing and/or groaning, and the use of magical words are common in Hellenistic descriptions of magical healings.[32] The Jewish Sages, by contrast, expressly opposed the practice of spitting in the context of healing (cf. t. Sanh. 12:10; b. Sanh. 101a; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 36 [ed. Schechter, 108]).[33] The Hellenistic thaumaturgical practices attributed to Jesus appear to have been introduced into the Gospel traditions by Mark.[34]
  13. Mark provides psychological insight.[35] For example, Mark reports that Jesus was “moved with pity” (Mark 1:41), and that Jesus looked at the rich man and loved him (Mark 10:21; unparalleled in Matthew and Luke). Compare Mark’s “Jesus knew in his spirit” (Mark 2:8) with Matthew’s “knowing their thoughts” (Matt. 9:4), and especially Luke 5:22: “When Jesus noticed their argument.” Observe also Mark’s statement that Jesus “looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5) in comparison with Luke 6:10: “He looked around at them all, and said…,” and Matt. 12:13: “Then he said to the man….” Mark likewise informs his readers that Jesus’ family members believed he was out of his mind (Mark 3:21), a statement unparalleled in Matthew or Luke. Mark’s details that Jesus was indignant toward his disciples (Mark 10:14; unparalleled in Matthew and Luke) and that at the Transfiguration Peter did not know what to say “for they were exceedingly afraid” (Mark 9:6; unparalleled in Matthew and Luke) falls within this category.
  14. Mark heightens drama. In Mark, for example, a person can be “guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29), in place of Luke’s Hebraic “he who speaks a word against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Luke 12:10). In Mark 5:5 we learn that the demoniac would cry out and injure himself with stones, dramatic information not present in Luke or Matthew. Similarly, in the story of the Boy Delivered from Demon Mark heightens the drama by describing the demon as “a dumb spirit” (Mark 9:17; unparalleled in Matthew and Luke), by adding dramatic symptoms such as grinding his teeth and becoming rigid, by depicting the attack in graphic detail when the boy approaches Jesus (compare Mark 9:20 with Luke 9:42), and by adding the detail that after the attack the boy seemed to be dead (Mark 9:26; unparalleled in Matthew and Luke). Mark is also the only Gospel to report the dramatic story of the young man who fled naked at Jesus’ arrest (Mark 14:51-52).
  15. Mark multiplies words of astonishment.[36] It is a strange fact that Luke and Mark never agree to use the verb θαυμάζειν at the same point in their Gospels. In Luke θαυμάζειν occurs 12xx and in Mark 4xx. In place of θαυμάζειν in Luke, the author of Mark frequently substituted synonyms. Thus in Yeshua Attends Synagogue in Nazareth, Mark replaced Luke’s καὶ πάντες…ἐθαύμαζον ἐπὶ τοῖς λόγοις τῆς χάριτος (“and everyone…marveled at his gracious words”; Luke 4:22) with καὶ οἱ πολλοὶ ἀκούοντες ἐξεπλήσσοντο (“and the many who heard were astounded”; Mark 6:2), cf. Matthew’s ἐκπλήσσεσθαι (Matt. 13:54). In Quieting a Storm, the author of Mark replaced Luke’s φοβηθέντες δὲ ἐθαύμασαν (“and fearing they marvelled”; Luke 8:25) with καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν (“and they feared a great fear”; Mark 4:41), cf. Matthew’s agreement with Luke against Mark to write ἐθαύμασαν (Matt. 8:27). And in Question Concerning Tribute to Caesar, the author of Mark replaced Luke’s καὶ θαυμάσαντες ἐπὶ τῇ ἀποκρίσει αὐτοῦ (“and they marveling at his answer”; Luke 20:26) with καὶ ἐξεθαύμαζον ἐπ’ αὐτῷ (“and they were amazed by him”; Mark 12:17), cf. Matthew’s ἐθαύμασαν (Matt. 22:22).
    Despite his avoidance of θαυμάζειν wherever it appears in Luke’s Gospel, the author of Mark used a variety of synonyms for wonder or astonishment: θαυμάζειν 4xx (Mark 5:20; 6:6; 15:5, 44); θαυμαστός 1x (Mark 12:11);[37] ἐκθαυάζειν 1x (Mark 12:17); ἐκπλήσσεσθαι 5xx (Mark 1:22; 6:2; 7:37 [ὑπερπερισσῶς ἐξεπλήσσοντο (“completely they were astounded”)]; 10:26 [περισσῶς ἐξεπλήσσοντο (“much they were astounded”)]; 11:18);[38] ἐξίστασθαι 4xx (Mark 2:12; 3:21; 5:42; 6:51);[39] ἔκστασις 2xx (Mark 5:42; 16:8);[40] θαμβεῖσθαι 3xx (Mark 1:27; 10:24, 32); and ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι 4xx (Mark 9:15; 14:33; 16:5, 6).
    Three Markan words for amazement (ἐκθαυάζειν, θαμβεῖσθαι, ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι) do not appear at all in Luke or Matthew. It should also be noted that the author of Mark sometimes attributed astonishment to the crowds and to the disciples for no apparent reason (Mark 9:15; 10:32).
  16. Mark expands sayings and narratives. Partly as a result of the editorial techniques outlined above, Mark’s pericopae are generally longer than their Matthean and Lukan counterparts. Although Mark is the shortest Gospel, this is because the author of Mark elected to report fewer stories, not because he was given to brevity.[41] Two extreme examples of how expansive Mark can be are the Boy Delivered from Demon and Yair’s Daughter and a Woman’s Faith.

Scholars often refer to the unique wordings of Mark (wordings often followed by Matthew) as “vivid detail” or “freshness,” assuming these “primitive” readings to be a sign of Mark’s originality. However, once Mark’s Gospel is recognized as dependent on Luke’s, Mark’s editorial style becomes unmistakable.

A Jewish Model for Mark’s Editorial Style?

The author of Mark’s modus operandi was to make almost every kind of change to his text that an editor can make. Often his changes appear to be without purpose—simply change for the sake of change. Yet, although to post-Enlightenment western readers Mark’s treatment of his sources may seem arbitrary and even indefensible, there are ancient Jewish models for Mark’s editorial techniques in the later rabbinic aggadic midrashim[42] and in the targumim (especially in the Palestinian Targum tradition as represented by Targum Neofiti, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and the Fragmentary Jerusalem Targums).[43]

Aggadic midrash is a rabbinic approach to the Hebrew Scriptures that seeks novel interpretation and fresh encounters with the stories of the Bible. Aggadic midrash is infused with a playful sense of creativity. Hirshman writes, “The Spirit of the aggadic enterprise may be summed up in ben Bag Bag’s dictum in Avot 5:22, ‘Turn it and turn it again, for all is in it….'”[44] The appeal of aggadic midrash was not restricted to highly educated rabbis, but was directed toward a broader audience. Its creative approach was intended to entertain and to draw listeners in and to engage them with the biblical text.[45]

Among the techniques that can be observed in the aggadic midrash is heightened dramatization of biblical stories. For example, in expounding the Binding of Isaac, we read:

“And Abraham took the wood for the burnt-offering [and put it on his son Isaac (Gen. 22:6)]”—as one who bears his cross on his shoulder. (Gen. Rab. 56:3)

Another technique is providing psychological insight to explain the motives of biblical characters. For example, in the story of Lot’s daughters it is stated:

They [the daughters] thought that the whole world was destroyed, as in the generation of the flood. (Gen. Rab. 51:8)

Likewise, when Abraham sent his servant to find Isaac a wife, the servant asks what he should do if a woman was unwilling to return with him (Gen 24:5). The midrash asks: “Why did the servant ask this question?” Answer: “Because he was hoping to give his own daughter to Isaac in marriage” (Gen. Rab. 59:9).

A third technique for engaging listeners was to identify anonymous characters[46] and to supply additional biographical information. Thus the tradition cited above identifies Abraham’s anonymous servant as Eliezer (Gen. 15:2). Likewise, the aggadic midrash supplies a backstory for Sarai’s maidservant Hagar—she was the daughter of Pharaoh:

When Pharaoh saw what was done on Sarah’s behalf in his own house, he took his daughter and gave her to Sarah, saying, “Better let my daughter be a handmaid in this house than a mistress in another house.” (Gen. Rab. 45:1)

Similarly, Ruth and her sister-in-law, Orpah, are said to be the daughters of Eglon, king of Moab (Judges 3:12):

Eglon rose from his throne when Ehud informed the king that he came with a message from God. “The Holy one, blessed be he, said to him: ‘You stood up from your throne to honor me. By your life, I will raise up from you a descendant sitting on the throne of the Lord.'” (Ruth Rab. 2:9)

Yet another feature of aggadic traditions is to provide numerical specificity. Thus, when Rebekah’s family requests that “the maiden remain with us יָמִים [yāmim, lit., “days”; the number is not specified], at least ten days” (Gen. 24:55), an aggadic tradition states, “Yamim refers to seven days of mourning” (Gen. Rab. 60:12).[47]

Many of these aggadic techniques are also reflected in the targumim, the Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Scriptures. The targumim were not merely translations of the Hebrew Scriptures, they also provided a fresh look at the text. Rather than rendering the text literally, the targumists frequently introduced a variety of changes designed to keep the audience engaged. Sperber describes the style, or approach, of the targumists, giving examples from Codex Reuchlinianus of more than 30 categories of targumic change, for example:

  1. Changes in accord with similar biblical passages
  2. Free translation
  3. Figurative speech
  4. Elaboration on a brief text
  5. Additions necessary for a better understanding
  6. Collective nouns treated as plurals
  7. Abstract nouns replaced by corresponding concrete forms
  8. Adding and omitting suffixes with substantives and verbs
  9. Active construction in lieu of passive, and vice versa
  10. Choice of verbal tense adjusted to the context
  11. Addition or omission of particles
  12. Finite verb instead of abs. inf.
  13. Change of place names
  14. Asyndeton instead of polysyndeton, and vice versa

Although the Gospel of Mark is earlier than the rabbinic collections of aggadic midrash and the targumim, these ancient Jewish treatments of Scripture may provide a useful model for understanding Mark’s creative approach to the Gospel traditions.[48] Moreover, many of the methods exhibited in aggadic midrash and the Aramaic targumim are also discernable in Jewish literature from the Second Temple period, including works such as the Book of Jubilees and the Genesis Apocryphon, Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities, Philo’s commentaries on the books of Moses, and Josephus’ re-telling of the biblical narratives.[49]

Roman fresco depicting a man with a papyrus scroll. Herculaneum (first-century C.E.).
First-century C.E. Roman fresco depicting a man with a papyrus scroll (Herculaneum). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Even the Septuagint (ca. 150 B.C.E.), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, exhibits elements of creative exegesis. For example, the Greek translation of Exodus 22:28 reinterprets the verse for a diaspora setting, and rather than saying “You must not curse אֱלֹהִים [God],” it says θεοὺς οὐ κακολογήσεις (“You shall not revile gods [plur.]”; NETS).[50] Another example is LXX’s translation of Ruth 1:14, which reads, Ρουθ δὲ ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῇ (“but Ruth followed her”), as opposed to the Hebrew text which reads, וְרוּת דָּבְקָה בָּהּ (“but Ruth clung to her”). The verbal change may seem insignificant—after all, Ruth did follow Naomi from her homeland in Moab to Bethlehem in Judah—however the Greek verb translated “followed” had another connotation: to adhere to a philosophy or moral code. This same Greek word is used in the Gospels to refer to discipleship. In later Jewish sources, Ruth’s decision became a paradigm for conversion (Ruth Rab. 2:22; Targum of Ruth 1:16). A third example is LXX’s rendering of 1 Sam. 14:42, which greatly expands the original verse.[51]

The method of creative exegesis exists even in the Hebrew Bible itself! Observe how the author of Deuteronomy expanded portions of the Ten Commandments in midrashic fashion. For example, the author of Deuteronomy saw that the expression שׁוֹר וַחֲמוֹר (“ox and donkey”) in Exod. 20:17 is a synonym for בְּהֵמָה (“beast”) in Exod. 20:10, so he combined them in Deut. 5:14, giving all three nouns. Another example is how the Chronicler retells the stories in the Books of Samuel and Kings. In the Chronicler’s retelling of the story of David’s Census, for instance, the Chronicler explains that it was Satan who incited David (1 Chr. 21:1; cf. 2 Sam. 24:1, where it is the LORD who incited David). The Chronicler also identifies the site of the Temple in Jerusalem with the mountain upon which Abraham proved his faithfulness through the Binding of Isaac (2 Chr. 3:1; Gen. 22:2). At another point the Chronicler explains away an apparent contradiction in 2 Sam. 21:19 where we read that Elhanan (not David!) killed Goliath. According to 1 Chr. 20:5, Elhanan slew Lahmi, Goliath’s brother.

These Jewish models of creative exegesis may provide the necessary framework for understanding Mark’s editorial style. Mark attempted to retell the familiar story of Jesus’ words and deeds in a fresh, attention-grabbing manner. Mark’s editorial changes were intended to draw his audience in and to keep them enthralled with the dramatic tale of Jesus’ adventures.

A good example of the author of Mark’s aggadic style is his version of the Mustard Seed parable (Mark 4:30-32). The author of Luke speaks of a seed which, when cast in a garden, becomes a tree. Notice the brevity of Luke’s text (Luke 13:18-19)—only 27 Greek words. Mark expanded the parable by 60% (by 16 words). The author of Mark explains that the mustard seed, when sown on the earth (Luke: “garden”),[52] “is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth” (repeating “earth”), but when sown (repeating “sown”), it becomes the greatest (dramatization) of all the herbs,[53] and puts forth large (dramatization) branches so that (an explanation of Luke’s Hebraic καί) the birds can (added by Mark) dwell in its shade.[54] In the Lukan-Matthean parallels to Mark’s version of the parable (each are only two verses in length), there are six Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark:

  1. ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία
  2. ὃν λαβὼν ἄνθρωπος
  3. αὐτοῦ (Luke: ἑαυτοῦ)
  4. αὐξηθῇ (Luke: ηὔξησεν)
  5. δένδρον
  6. ἐν τοῖς κλάδοις αὐτοῦ

Mark’s version of the parable is dramatic, exaggerated, creative and exciting, just like the creative interpretations of Scripture found in aggadic midrash and the targumim.

Mark’s Portrait of Jesus

If the author of Mark were writing his Gospel today, perhaps he would have chosen to write it as a graphic novel. The Gospel of Mark certainly has features that are reminiscent of comic book stories. Like a comic book, the Gospel of Mark uses bold lines and vivid colors that attract a reader’s attention.[55] Mark’s strange use of εὐθύς (evthūs, “immediately”) reminds one of changes of scene in a comic book from one frame to the next.[56] Like a comic book, Mark has a superhero: Jesus. And just as a comic book is better suited for action than dialogue, Mark’s Gospel mainly focuses on the stories rather than on the teachings of Jesus. The one kind of teaching Mark retains, apart from a highly redacted eschatological discourse in Mark 13, are parables, which are themselves picturesque illustrations.

Comic book-style portrait of Jesus by illustrator Jim Padgett. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Markan portrayal of Jesus is that of a superhero with immense power and authority.[57] In the opening scene of Mark’s narrative, John the Baptist declares that one who is even more powerful is about to arrive (Mark 1:7). And immediately Jesus begins to demonstrate his power and authority by summoning total strangers to leave everything behind to follow him (Mark 1:16-20; cf. 2:14). Synagogue worshippers recognize Jesus’ authoritative teaching (Mark 1:22) even before Jesus has a chance to demonstrate his authority to command demons (Mark 1:27). Jesus not only has authority over human beings and evil spirits, he also has authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:10). Jesus is also able to impart authority to others (Mark 3:15; 6:7). The chief priests and their entourage unsuccessfully challenge Jesus’ authority (Mark 11:27-33).

Neither science, nature, nor religion are a match for Jesus: Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), nature obeys Jesus’ command (Mark 4:41), and Jesus is more potent than the doctors who failed to stop the woman’s bleeding (Mark 5:26; unparalleled in Luke and Matthew). Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ power is demonstrated in his use of the verb δύνασθαι[58] to describe Jesus’ ability or to contrast Jesus’ power with the inability of others to succeed. Jesus is able to cleanse lepers (Mark 1:40); Jesus is proved able to forgive sins, despite the scribes’ belief that only God is capable of this action (Mark 2:7); Jesus is able to bind the strong man and plunder his house (Mark 3:27; δύνασθαι absent in Luke 11:21, but copied in Matt. 12:29); Jesus subdues the demoniac whom no one was able to bind (Mark 5:3; δύνασθαι absent in Luke 8:27, no Matthean parallel); Jesus proves able to procure food in a remote place (Mark 8:4; δύνασθαι absent in Matt. 15:33, no Lukan parallel); Jesus censures the father of a boy with a demon for his doubt in Jesus’ ability to exorcise his son (Mark 9:22-23; no Lukan or Matthean parallel); Jesus’ success is contrasted with the disciples’ inability to exorcise the demon from the boy (Mark 9:28; no Lukan parallel, but copied in Matt. 17:19).

Yet Mark’s superhero is elusive.[59] When crowds seek Jesus, Jesus avoids them and goes elsewhere (Mark 1:38). Mark’s Jesus does not want people to know his whereabouts (Mark 7:24; 9:30; both verses unparalleled in Luke or Matthew). And, in Mark, Jesus insists on secrecy when he performs miracles and drives out evil spirits (Mark 1:44; 3:12 [unparalleled in Luke or Matthew]; 5:43; 7:36 [unparalleled in Luke or Matthew]; 8:26 [unparalleled in Luke or Matthew]). Jesus also demands secrecy about the transfiguration (Mark 9:9; no parallel in Luke, but copied in Matt. 17:9). But it is not only his miraculous powers that Mark’s Jesus attempts to conceal. In Mark Jesus also attempts to conceal his teachings. According to Mark, Jesus hides from the crowds in order to teach the disciples (Mark 9:30-31; cf. 13:3). Jesus’ public instruction was in the form of parables, a term Mark seems to understand in the sense of riddles, in order that the outsiders will not understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God, for otherwise they might be forgiven (Mark 4:12). Only when the disciples are alone does Jesus reveal to them the meaning of the parables (Mark 4:34; unparalleled in Luke and Matthew).

Not only is Mark’s Jesus secretive, Mark also portrays Jesus as impatient and disdainful: “Are you also without understanding?” Mark’s Jesus chides his disciples (Mark 7:18; no parallel in Luke, but copied in Matt. 15:16). Later, when Mark recounts the feeding of the 4,000, Mark’s Jesus chides the disciples again for their lack of understanding (Mark 8:21; no parallel in Luke, in Matt. 16:12 the disciples do understand). When the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign, Jesus groans in exasperation (Mark 8:12; unparalleled in Matthew and Luke). Mark’s Jesus is a lonely figure, a towering genius forced to endure the company of fools.

The author of Mark went to great lenghts to demonstrate Jesus’ alienation from the people around him.[60] The alienation of Mark’s Jesus begins with his own family, who consider him to be insane (Mark 3:21; unparalleled in Luke and Matthew). The people from Jesus’ hometown took offense at Jesus, because although he came from Nazareth he was different from the rest of its inhabitants (Mark 6:3; unparalleled in Luke, but copied in Matt. 13:57). The Jerusalem scribes deemed Jesus to be possessed by Beelzebul (Mark 3:22),[61] and Herod supposes that Jesus is John the Baptist who has come back from the dead (Mark 6:16).[62] Even the disciples sometimes regard Jesus’ actions as ridiculous. In response to Jesus’ suggestion that they feed the multitude, the disciples patiently explain to Jesus that it would cost too much money (Mark 6:37; unparalleled in Luke and Matthew). Later, in the story of the feeding of the 4,000, despite their having witnessed Jesus’ earlier miracle, the disciples protest that it is obviously impossible to obtain bread in the desert (Mark 8:4; absent in Luke, but copied in Matt. 15:33). And when Jesus told his disciples of his impending death, Peter went so far as to rebuke his master (Mark 8:32; unparalleled in Luke but copied in Matt. 16:22). The disciples’ failure to understand Jesus is a major theme in Mark’s Gospel. Despite his best efforts, the disciples continue to misinterpret Jesus’ parables (Mark 4:13; unparalleled in Luke and Matthew), his teachings (Mark 7:18 [unparalleled in Luke, but copied in Matt. 15:17]; 8:16-21 [cf. Matt. 16:12]; 9:10 [unparalleled in Luke and Matthew]), and actions (Mark 6:52; unparalleled in Luke and Matthew).

The estrangement of Mark’s Jesus reaches its climax in the passion narrative.[63] In contrast to Luke’s account, where Jesus’ execution is mourned by the people of Jerusalem, in Mark Jesus is abandoned by all those who are close to him. The disciples flee at Jesus’ arrest, Jesus is brought before Jewish authorities and Roman rulers for reasons that are not clearly stated, at the cross Jesus is mocked by everyone, and Jesus’ dying conviction is that even his heavenly Father has abandoned him. With sound justification, Flusser described Mark’s passion narrative as Kafkaesque.[64]

Flusser remarked that the Markan Jesus’ connection to Judaism and the Jewish people is practically non-existent (ibid). This observation is particularly borne out by the highly redacted version of Jesus’ eschatological prophecy in Mark 13. In Luke’s version of the prophecy, the fate of Jerusalem and of the Jewish people is Jesus’ central concern. In Mark’s version, by contrast, Jesus forgets about the Temple and Jerusalem and focuses instead on the fate of the elect (Mark 13:20, 22) and their gathering into the kingdom (Mark 13:27). Israel has no place in the future redemption envisioned by the Markan Jesus.

However, it is not clear that Mark is anti-Jewish.[65] The author of Mark does not assert that keeping the Sabbath is wrong, only that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). Contrary to the opinion of many interpreters, the Markan Jesus does not abolish the Jewish dietary laws, but simply declares that ritual handwashing is not obligatory.[66] The explanatory note about Jewish ritual customs (Mark 7:3-4) gives the impression that Mark’s audience was non-Jewish, but the author of Mark does not condemn the Jewish customs he describes.[67] It should also be noted that despite the author of Mark’s improbable suggestion that the Pharisees plotted with the Herodians how they might destroy Jesus (Mark 3:6),[68] the Gospel of Mark does not implicate the Pharisees or the Jewish people as a whole in the passion narrative.[69] The last we hear of the Pharisees in Mark is their question about paying taxes (Mark 12:13), which takes place prior to Yesua’s arrest, trial and crucifixion. For the author of Mark, the Jewish people are not Jesus’ enemies, but neither are they the focus of his mission.[70] At worst, the author of Mark was neutral toward Judaism and indifferent toward the Jewish people, and his indifference is reflected in his portrait of Jesus.

The Markan portrait of Jesus is that of an inscrutable, powerful, tragic and lonely individual who is compelling and mysterious. Misunderstood in his time, Jesus will nevertheless be revealed in glory when he gathers the elect into his kingdom.

Appreciation for Mark

Understanding the author of Mark’s editorial style allows for a proper appreciation of Mark’s Gospel. The Gospel of Mark is a retelling of Jesus’ story, an aggadic-type dramatization based on Luke’s text. Although Mark is not the best source for the most authentic and historical traditions about Jesus—for that we must turn to Luke and the non-Markan portions of Matthew—the Gospel of Mark remains an important and valuable witness to the development of pre-synoptic traditions and the way they were understood by the early Church.[71] Mark shows how deeply the early Christian community was influenced by Jewish interpretive techniques. In addition, as Lindsey observed, without Mark’s Gospel it would have been impossible to arrive at a correct solution to the Synoptic Problem:

Without the Gospel of Mark we would not understand the interconnections of the Synoptic Gospels. Without Mark the verbal distance between Matthew and Luke would remain a conundrum and the important distinction between Matthew in his non-Markan and Markan contexts would be unclear. Without Mark the homiletical methods of John would appear to have no antecedent, for John’s use of some of the Markan stereotypes is an important key to understanding the approach of the writer of the Fourth Gospel. Moreover, without Mark the extremely important insight of Markan priorists that Matthew and Luke are independent of each other could not have been achieved.[72]

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  • [1] See David Flusser, “The Times of the Gentiles and the Redemption of Jerusalem.”
  • [2] See Robert Lindsey, “The Hebrew Life of Jesus,” under the subheading “Jesus’ Interrogation by the Chief Priests.”
  • [3] Given the types and volume of change Mark introduces into Gospel stories (see below), one wonders whether οἱ Ἡρῳδιανοί (“the Herodians”; Mark 3:6; 12:13 [= Matt. 22:16]) are a Markan invention. The Herodians are found nowhere else in ancient literature. BDAG (440) suggests that the Herodians are to be identified with “the partisans of Herod” (οἱ τὰ Ἡρῴδου φρονοῦντες; Josephus, Ant. 14:450; trans. Marcus [Loeb ed.]).
  • [4] Note that, just as it was not Honi, but God who sent the rain, so in the Healing of Man with Withered Hand, Jesus takes no action to heal the man. He only tells the man to stretch out his hand and God effects the miraculous healing.
  • [5] See David Flusser, “Foreword to Robert Lindsey’s A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “What they might do…”
  • [6] For a fuller discussion of the Markan pick-ups, see Lindsey, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew: A Discussion of the Sources of Markan ‘Pick-ups’ and the Use of a Basic Non-canonical Source by All the Synoptists.”
  • [7] See Robert L. Lindsey, “The Major Importance of the Minor Agreements“; idem, “Unlocking the Synoptic Problem: Four Keys for Better Understanding Jesus,” under the subheading “‘Minor’ Agreements.”
  • [8] Frans Neirynck, ed., The Minor Agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1974), 7-8, 199-288.
  • [9] We define examples of the historical present as third person indicative present tense verbs that appear in narrative contexts where the action is clearly in the past (see Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996], 526-529). Accordingly, we have identified 156 instances of the historical present in Mark, 99 instances of the historical present in Matthew, and 13 instances of the historical present in Luke:
    156 Instances of the Historical Present in Mark
    1 1:12 [ἐκβάλλει] TT (cf. Luke 4:1 [ἤγετο]; Matt. 4:1 [ἀνήχθη])
    2 1:21 [εἰσπορεύονται] Mark-Luke (cf. Luke 4:31)
    3 1:30 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 4:38 [ἠρώτησαν]; Matt. 8:14 [–])
    4 1:37 [λέγουσιν] Mark-Luke (cf. Luke 4:42)
    5 1:38 [λέγει] Mark-Luke (cf. Luke 4:43)
    6 1:40 [ἔρχεται] TT (cf. Luke 5:12 [καὶ ἐγένετο…καὶ ἰδοὺ]; Matt. 8:2 [καὶ ἰδοὺ…προσελθὼν])
    7 1:41 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 5:13; Matt. 8:3 [λέγων])
    8 1:44 [λέγει] = Matt. 8:4 TT (cf. Luke 5:14)
    9 2:3 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 5:18 []; Matt. 9:2 [])
    10 2:4 [χαλῶσι] TT (cf. Luke 5:19 [καθῆκαν]; Matt. 9:[–] [–])
    11 2:5 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 5:20; Matt. 9:2 [εἶπεν])
    12 2:8 [διαλογίζονται] TT (cf. Luke 5:22 [διαλογισμούς]; Matt. 9:4 [ἐνθυμήσεις])
    13 2:8 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 5:22; Matt. 9:4 [εἶπεν])
    14 2:10 [λέγει] = Matt. 9:6 TT (cf. Luke 5:24)
    15 2:14 [λέγει] = Matt. 9:9 TT (cf. Luke 5:27)
    16 2:15 [γίνεται] TT (cf. Luke 5:29 [–]; Matt. 9:10 [ἐγένετο])
    17 2:17 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 5:31; Matt. 9:12 [εἶπεν])
    18 2:18 [ἔρχονται] = Matt. 9:14 [προσέρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 5:33 [–])
    19 2:18 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 5:33 [εἶπαν]; Matt. 9:14 [λέγοντες])
    20 2:25 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 6:3; Matt. 12:3 [εἶπεν])
    21 3:3 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 6:8 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 12:[–] [–])
    22 3:4 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 6:9; Matt. 12:11 [εἶπεν])
    23 3:5 [λέγει] = Matt. 12:13 TT (cf. Luke 6:10)
    24 3:13 [ἀναβαίνει] TT (cf. Luke 6:12 [ἐξελθεῖν]; Matt. 10:1 [–]; cf. Matt. 5:1 [ἀνέβη])
    25 3:13 [προσκαλεῖται] TT (cf. Luke 6:13 [προσεφώνησεν]; Matt. 10:1 [προσκαλεσάμενος])
    26 3:20 [ἔρχεται] U
    27 3:20 [συνέρχεται] U
    28 3:31 [ἔρχεται] TT (cf. Luke 8:19 [παρεγένετο]; Matt. 12:46 [–])
    29 3:32 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 8:20 [ἀπηγγέλη]; Matt. 12:[47 (εἶπεν)])
    30 3:33 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:[–] [–]; Matt. 12:48 [εἶπεν])
    31 3:34 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:21; Matt. 12:49 [εἶπεν])
    32 4:1 [συνάγεται] TT (cf. Luke 8:4 [συνιόντος]; Matt. 13:2 [συνήχθησαν])
    33 4:13 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:[–] [–]; Matt. 13:[–] [–])
    34 4:35 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:22 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 8:18 [ἐκέλευσεν])
    35 4:36 [παραλαμβάνουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 8:22 [–]; Matt. 8:23 [–])
    36 4:37 [γίνεται] TT (cf. Luke 8:23 [κατέβη]; Matt. 8:24 [ἐγένετο])
    37 4:38 [ἐγείρουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 8:24 [διήγειραν]; Matt. 8:25 [ἤγειραν])
    38 4:38 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 8:24; Matt. 8:25 [λέγοντες])
    39 5:7 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:28 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 8:29 [λέγοντες])
    40 5:9 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:30 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 8:[–] [–])
    41 5:15 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 8:35 [ἦλθον]; Matt. 8:34 [ἐξῆλθεν])
    42 5:15 [θεωροῦσιν] TT (cf. Luke 8:35 [εὗρον]; Matt. 8:34 [])
    43 5:19 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:38 [λέγων]; Matt. 8:[–] [–])
    44 5:22 [ἔρχεται] TT (cf. Luke 8:41 [ἦλθεν]; Matt. 9:18 [ἐλθών])
    45 5:22 [πίπτει] TT (cf. Luke 8:41 [πεσών]; Matt. 9:18 [προσεκύνει])
    46 5:23 [παρακαλεῖ] TT (cf. Luke 8:41 [παρεκάλει]; Matt. 9:18 [])
    47 5:35 [ἔρχονται] = Luke 8:49 [ἔρχεταί] TT (cf. Matt. 9:[–] [–])
    48 5:36 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:50 [ἀπεκρίθη]; Matt. 9:[–] [–])
    49 5:38 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 8:51; Matt. 9:23 [ἐλθών])
    50 5:38 [θεωρεῖ] TT (cf. Luke 8:52 [–]; Matt. 9:23 [ἰδών])
    51 5:39 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:52 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 9:24 [ἔλεγεν])
    52 5:40 [παραλαμβάνει] TT (cf. Luke 8:53 [–]; Matt. 9:25 [–])
    53 5:40 [εἰσπορεύεται] TT (cf. Luke 8:53 [–]; Matt. 9:25 [εἰσελθών])
    54 5:41 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 8:54 [λέγων]; Matt. 9:25 [–])
    55 6:1 [ἔρχεται] TT (cf. Luke 4:16 [ἦλθεν]; Matt. 13:54 [ἐλθών])
    56 6:1 [ἀκολουθοῦσιν] TT (cf. Luke 4:16 [–]; Matt. 13:54 [–])
    57 6:7 [προσκαλεῖται] TT (cf. Luke 9:1 [συγκαλεσάμενος]; Matt. 10:1 [προσκαλεσάμενος])
    58 6:30 [συνάγονται] Mark-Luke (cf. Luke 9:10)
    59 6:31 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 9:[–] [–]; Matt. 14:[–] [–])
    60 6:37 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 9:13 [–]; Matt. 14:16 [–])
    61 6:38 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 9:13 [–]; Matt. 14:17 [–])
    62 6:38 [λέγουσιν] = Matt. 14:17 TT (cf. Luke 9:13)
    63 6:45 [ἀπολύει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 14:22)
    64 6:48 [ἔρχεται] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 14:25)
    65 6:50 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 14:27)
    66 7:1 [συνάγονται] = Matt. 15:1 [προσέρχονται] Mark-Matt.
    67 7:2 [ἐσθίουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 15:[–])
    68 7:5 [ἐπερωτῶσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 15:1)
    69 7:18 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 15:16)
    70 7:28 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 15:27)
    71 7:32 [φέρουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 15:30)
    72 7:32 [παρακαλοῦσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 15:30)
    73 7:34 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 15:[–])
    74 8:1 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 15:32)
    75 8:6 [παραγγέλλει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 15:35)
    76 8:12 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 12:39; 16:2)
    77 8:16 [ἔχουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 16:7)
    78 8:17 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 16:8)
    79 8:19 [λέγουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 16:9)
    80 8:20 [λέγουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 16:10)
    81 8:22 [ἔρχονται] U
    82 8:22 [φέρουσιν] U
    83 8:22 [παρακαλοῦσιν] U
    84 8:29 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 9:20; Matt. 16:16 [εἶπεν])
    85 8:33 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 9:[–] [–]; Matt. 16:23 [εἶπεν])
    86 9:2 [παραλαμβάνει] = Matt. 17:1 TT (cf. Luke 9:28)
    87 9:2 [ἀναφέρει] = Matt. 17:1 TT (cf. Luke 9:28)
    88 9:5 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 9:33; Matt. 17:4 [εἶπεν])
    89 9:19 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 9:41; Matt. 17:17 [εἶπεν])
    90 9:25 [ἐπισυντρέχει] TT (cf. Luke 9:42 [–]; Matt. 17:18 [–])
    91 9:35 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 9:[–] [–]; Matt. 18:[–] [–])
    92 10:1 [ἔρχεται] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 19:1)
    93 10:1 [συμπορεύονται] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 19:2)
    94 10:11 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 19:9)
    95 10:23 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 18:24; Matt. 19:23 [εἶπεν])
    96 10:24 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 18:[–] [–]; Matt. 19:24 [λέγω])
    97 10:27 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 18:27; Matt. 19:26 [εἶπεν])
    98 10:35 [προσπορεύονται] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 20:20)
    99 10:42 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 22:25; Matt. 20:25 [εἶπεν])
    100 10:46 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 18:35 [ἐγένετο…ἐν τῷ ἐγγίζειν]; Matt. 20:29 [ἐκπορευομένων])
    101 10:49 [φωνοῦσιν] TT (cf. Luke 18:40 [–]; Matt. 20:32 [–])
    102 11:1 [ἐγγίζουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 19:29 [ἤγγισεν]; Matt. 21:1 [ἤγγισαν])
    103 11:1 [ἀποστέλλει] TT (cf. Luke 19:29; Matt. 21:1 [ἀπέστειλεν])
    104 11:2 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 19:30; Matt. 21:2 [λέγων])
    105 11:4 [λύουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 19:33 [λυόντων]; Matt. 21:6 [–])
    106 11:7 [φέρουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 19:35; Matt. 21:7 [ἤγαγον])
    107 11:7 [ἐπιβάλλουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 19:35 [ἐπιρίψαντες]; Matt. 21:7 [ἐπέθηκαν])
    108 11:15 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 19:45 [–]; Matt. 21:12 [–])
    109 11:21 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 21:20)
    110 11:22 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 21:21)
    111 11:27 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 20:1 [–]; Matt. 21:23 [–])
    112 11:27 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 20:1 [ἐπέστησαν]; Matt. 21:23 [προσῆλθον])
    113 11:33 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 20:7 [ἀπεκρίθησαν]; Matt. 21:27 [εἶπαν])
    114 11:33 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 20:8 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 21:27 [ἔφη])
    115 12:13 [ἀποστέλλουσιν] = Matt. 22:16 TT (cf. Luke 20:20)
    116 12:14 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 20:21; Matt. 22:16 [λέγοντες])
    117 12:16 [λέγει] = Matt. 22:20 TT (cf. Luke 20:23)
    118 12:18 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 20:27 [προσελθόντες]; Matt. 22:23 [προσῆλθον])
    119 12:41 [βάλλει] Mark-Luke (cf. Luke 21:1)
    120 13:1 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 21:5 [λεγόντων]; Matt. 24:1 [ἐπιδεῖξαι])
    121 14:12 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 22:9 [εἶπαν]; Matt. 26:17 [λέγοντες])
    122 14:13 [ἀποστέλλει] TT (cf. Luke 22:8 [ἀπέστειλεν]; Matt. 26:18 [–])
    123 14:13 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 22:10; Matt. 26:18 [εἶπεν])
    124 14:17 [ἔρχεται] TT (cf. Luke 22:14 []; Matt. 26:20 [])
    125 14:27 [λέγει] = Matt. 26:31 TT (cf. Luke 22:[–])
    126 14:30 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 22:34 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 26:34 [ἔφη])
    127 14:32 [ἔρχονται] = Matt. 26:36 [ἔρχεται] TT (cf. Luke 22:40)
    128 14:32 [λέγει] = Matt. 26:36 TT (cf. Luke 22:40)
    129 14:33 [παραλαμβάνει] TT (cf. Luke 22:[–] [–]; Matt. 26:37 [παραλαβών])
    130 14:34 [λέγει] = Matt. 26:38 TT (cf. Luke 22:[–])
    131 14:37 [ἔρχεται] = Matt. 26:40 TT (cf. Luke 22:45)
    132 14:37 [εὑρίσκει] = Matt. 26:40 TT (cf. Luke 22:45)
    133 14:37 [λέγει] = Matt. 26:40 TT (cf. Luke 22:46)
    134 14:41 [ἔρχεται] = Matt. 26:45 TT (cf. Luke 22:[–])
    135 14:41 [λέγει] = Matt. 26:45 TT (cf. Luke 22:[–])
    136 14:43 [παραγίνεται] TT (cf. Luke 22:47 [προήρχετο]; Matt. 26:47 [ἦλθεν])
    137 14:45 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 22:47 [–]; Matt. 26:49 [εἶπεν])
    138 14:51 [κρατοῦσιν] TT (cf. Luke 22:[–] [–]; Matt. 26:[–] [–])
    139 14:53 [συνέρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 22:54 [–]; Matt. 26:57 [συνήχθησαν])
    140 14:61 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 22:67 [λέγοντες]; Matt. 26:63 [εἶπεν])
    141 14:63 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 22:71 [εἶπαν]; Matt. 26:65 [λέγων])
    142 14:66 [ἔρχεται] TT (cf. Luke 22:56 [–]; Matt. 26:69 [προσῆλθεν])
    143 14:67 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 22:56 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 26:69 [λέγουσα])
    144 15:2 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 23:3; Matt. 27:11 [ἔφη])
    145 15:16 [συγκαλοῦσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 27:27)
    146 15:17 [ἐνδιδύσκουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 27:28)
    147 15:17 [περιτιθέασιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Matt. 27:29)
    148 15:20 [ἐξάγουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 23:26; Matt. 27:31 [ἀπήγαγον])
    149 15:21 [ἀγγαρεύουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 23:26 [ἐπέθηκαν]; Matt. 27:32 [ἠγγάρευσαν])
    150 15:22 [φέρουσιν] TT (cf. Luke 23:33 [ἦλθον]; Matt. 27:33 [ἐλθόντες])
    151 15:24 [σταυροῦσιν] TT (cf. Luke 23:33 [ἐσταύρωσαν]; Matt. 27:35 [σταυρώσαντες])
    152 15:24 [διαμερίζονται] TT (cf. Luke 23:34 [διαμεριζόμενοι]; Matt. 27:35 [διεμερίσαντο])
    153 15:27 [σταυροῦσιν] = Matt. 27:38 [σταυροῦνται] TT (cf. Luke 23:33)
    154 16:2 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 24:1 [ἦλθον]; Matt. 28:1 [ἦλθεν])
    155 16:4 [θεωροῦσιν] TT (cf. Luke 24:2 [εὗρον]; Matt. 28:[–] [–])
    156 16:6 [λέγει] TT (cf. Luke 24:5 [εἶπαν]; Matt. 28:5 [εἶπεν])

     

    99 Instances of the Historical Present in Matthew
    1 2:13 [φαίνεται] U
    2 2:19 [φαίνεται] U
    3 2:22 [βασιλεύει] U
    4 3:1 [παραγίνεται] TT (cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3)
    5 3:13 [παραγίνεται] TT (cf. Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21)
    6 3:15 [ἀφίησιν] TT (cf. Mark 1:[–]; Luke 3:[–])
    7 4:5 [παραλαμβάνει] DT (cf. Luke 4:9)
    8 4:6 [λέγει] DT (cf. Luke 4:9)
    9 4:8 [παραλαμβάνει] DT (cf. Luke 4:5)
    10 4:8 [δείκνυσιν] DT (cf. Luke 4:5)
    11 4:10 [λέγει] DT (cf. Luke 4:8)
    12 4:11 [ἀφίησιν] DT (cf. Luke 4:13)
    13 4:19 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 1:17)
    14 8:4 [λέγει] = Mark 1:44 TT (cf. Luke 5:14)
    15 8:7 [λέγει] DT (cf. Luke 7:[–])
    16 8:20 [λέγει] DT (cf. Luke 9:58)
    17 8:22 [λέγει] DT (cf. Luke 9:60)
    18 8:26 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 4:40; Luke 8:25)
    19 9:6 [λέγει] = Mark 2:10 TT (cf. Luke 5:24)
    20 9:9 [λέγει] = Mark 2:14 TT (cf. Luke 5:27)
    21 9:14 [προσέρχονται] = Mark 2:18 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 5:33 [–])
    22 9:28 [λέγει] U
    23 9:28 [λέγουσιν] U
    24 9:37 [λέγει] DT (cf. Luke 10:2)
    25 12:13 [λέγει] = Mark 3:5 TT (cf. Luke 6:10)
    26 13:28 [λέγουσιν; parable] U
    27 13:29 [φησιν; parable] U
    28 13:44 [ὑπάγει; parable] U
    29 13:44 [πωλεῖ; parable] U
    30 13:44 [ἔχει; parable] U
    31 13:44 [ἀγοράζει; parable] U
    32 13:51 [λέγουσιν] U
    33 14:8 [φησίν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 6:25)
    34 14:17 [λέγουσιν] = Mark 6:38 TT (cf. Luke 9:13)
    35 14:31 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 6:[–])
    36 15:1 [προσέρχονται] = Mark 7:1 [συνάγονται] Mark-Matt.
    37 15:12 [λέγουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 7:[–])
    38 15:33 [λέγουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 8:4)
    39 15:34 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 8:5)
    40 16:15 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20)
    41 17:1 [παραλαμβάνει] = Mark 9:2 TT (cf. Luke 9:28)
    42 17:1 [ἀναφέρει] = Mark 9:2 TT (cf. Luke 9:28)
    43 17:20 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 9:[–]; Luke 17:6)
    44 17:25 [λέγει] U
    45 18:22 [λέγει] DT (cf. Luke 17:4)
    46 18:32 [λέγει; parable] U
    47 19:7 [λέγουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 10:4)
    48 19:8 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 10:5)
    49 19:10 [λέγουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 10:[–])
    50 19:18 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20)
    51 19:20 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 10:20; Luke 18:21)
    52 20:6 [λέγει; parable] U
    53 20:7 [λέγουσιν; parable] U
    54 20:7 [λέγει; parable] U
    55 20:8 [λέγει; parable] U
    56 20:21 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 10:36)
    57 20:22 [λέγουσιν] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 10:39)
    58 20:23 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 10:39)
    59 20:33 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41)
    60 21:13 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46)
    61 21:16 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 11:[–]; Luke 19:[–])
    62 21:19 [λέγει] Mark-Matt. (cf. Mark 11:14)
    63 21:31 [λέγουσιν] U
    64 21:31 [λέγει] U
    65 21:41 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Mark 12:9; Luke 20:16)
    66 21:42 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17)
    67 21:45 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 12:12; Luke 20:19)
    68 22:8 [λέγει; parable] DT (cf. Luke 14:21)
    69 22:12 [λέγει; parable] DT (cf. Luke 14:[–])
    70 22:16 [ἀποστέλλουσιν] = Mark 12:13 TT (cf. Luke 20:20)
    71 22:20 [λέγει] = Mark 12:16 TT (cf. Luke 20:23)
    72 22:21 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Mark 12:16; Luke 20:24)
    73 22:21 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25)
    74 22:42 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Mark 12:35; Luke 20:41)
    75 22:43 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42)
    76 25:11 [ἔρχονται; parable] U
    77 25:19 [ἔρχεται; parable] DT (cf. Luke 19:15)
    78 25:19 [συναίρει; parable] DT (cf. Luke 19:15)
    79 26:25 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 14:[–]; Luke 22:[–])
    80 26:31 [λέγει] = Mark 14:27 TT (cf. Luke 22:[–])
    81 26:35 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 14:31; Luke 22:33)
    82 26:36 [ἔρχεται] = Mark 14:32 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Luke 22:40)
    83 26:36 [λέγει] = Mark 14:32 TT (cf. Luke 22:40)
    84 26:38 [λέγει] = Mark 14:34 TT (cf. Luke 22:[–])
    85 26:40 [ἔρχεται] = Mark 14:37 TT (cf. Luke 22:45)
    86 26:40 [εὑρίσκει] = Mark 14:37 TT (cf. Luke 22:45)
    87 26:40 [λέγει] = Mark 14:37 TT (cf. Luke 22:46)
    88 26:45 [ἔρχεται] = Mark 14:41 TT (cf. Luke 22:[–])
    89 26:45 [λέγει] = Mark 14:41 TT (cf. Luke 22:[–])
    90 26:52 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 14:[–]; Luke 22:51)
    91 26:64 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 14:62; Luke 22:67)
    92 26:71 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 14:69; Luke 22:58)
    93 27:13 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 15:4; Luke 23:[–])
    94 27:22 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 15:12; Luke 23:20)
    95 27:22 [λέγουσιν] TT (cf. Mark 15:13; Luke 23:21)
    96 27:24 [ὠφελεῖ] TT (cf. Mark 15:[–]; Luke 23:[–])
    97 27:24 [γίνεται] TT (cf. Mark 15:[–]; Luke 23:[–])
    98 27:38 [σταυροῦνται] = Mark 15:27 [σταυροῦσιν] TT (cf. Luke 23:33)
    99 28:10 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 16:[–]; Luke 24:[–])

     

    13 Instances of the Historical Present in Luke
    1 7:40 [φησίν] U
    2 8:49 [ἔρχεταί] = Mark 5:35 [ἔρχονται] TT (cf. Matt. 9:[–] [–])
    3 9:33 [λέγει] TT (cf. Mark 9:6; Matt. 17:[–])
    4 11:37 [ἐρωτᾷ] U
    5 11:45 [λέγει] U
    6 13:8 [λέγει; parable] U
    7 16:7 [λέγει; parable] U
    8 16:23 [ὁρᾷ; parable] U
    9 16:29 [λέγει; parable] U
    10 17:37 [λέγουσιν] DT (cf. Matt. 24:28)
    11 19:22 [λέγει; parable] DT (cf. Matt. 25:26)
    12 24:12 [βλέπει] TT (cf. Mark 16:[–]; Matt. 28:[–])
    13 24:36 [λέγει] U

    Not only do we find that the historical present occurs in Mark with a much greater frequency than in Matthew and Luke, but an examination of the distribution of the historical present in the Synoptic Gospels reveals some interesting patterns. In Mark, the historical present occurs 119xx in TT, 27xx in Mark-Matt. pericopae, 5xx in Mark-Luke pericopae, and 5xx in uniquely Markan material. In Matthew, the historical present occurs 49xx in TT (20xx in agreement with Mark, 29xx without Mark’s agreement), 14xx in Mark-Matt. pericopae (agreeing with Mark only 1x), 15xx in DT (never in agreement with Luke), and 21xx in uniquely Matthean material. In Luke, the historical present occurs 3xx in TT (agreeing with Mark only 1x [Luke 8:49 = Mark 5:35; cf. Matt. 9:–]), 2xx in DT (never in agreement with Matthew), and 8xx in uniquely Lukan material. In addition, the historical present occurs 18xx in Acts (19xx if the textual variant in Acts 2:38 is accepted). If Luke depended on Mark, one wonders why he expunged almost every instance of the historical present from Mark, since the instances in DT, uniquely Lukan material, and Acts prove that the author of Luke had no aversion to the historical present in principle. One possible explanation is that Luke did not rely on Mark, but on a pre-synoptic source that rarely used the historical present (if at all), and that the author of Mark was responsible for the introduction of the historical presents in his Gospel. The 84 instances where Luke and Matthew agree against Mark’s use of the historical present may suggest that, at least in these instances, the historical present in Mark is editorial. Note that Matthew and Luke never agree to use the historical present in parallel with one another.

    Historical Present in Acts
    [–] 2:38 [φησίν]* Textual variant
    1 7:25 [δίδωσιν]* Stephen’s historical overview.
    2 8:18 [δίδοται]
    3 8:36 [φησιν]
    4 10:11 [θεωρεῖ]
    5 10:27 [εὑρίσκει]
    6 10:31 [φησίν]* Cornelius’ account of his experience.
    7 12:8 [λέγει]
    8 14:9 [ἔχει]
    9 19:35 [φησίν]
    10 21:37 [λέγει]
    11 22:2 [φησίν]
    12 22:30 [κατηγορεῖται]
    13 23:18 [φησίν]
    14 25:5 [φησίν]
    15 25:22 [φησίν]
    16 25:24 [φησιν]
    17 26:24 [φησιν]
    18 26:25 [φησίν]

     

    84 Lukan-Matthean Agreements Against Mark’s Use of the Historical Present
    Group 1: Lukan-Matthean agreement against historical present in Mark (different vocabulary)
    1 Mark 1:12 [ἐκβάλλει] against Luke 4:1 [ἤγετο]; Matt. 4:1 [ἀνήχθη]
    2 Mark 1:30 [λέγουσιν] against Luke 4:38 [ἠρώτησαν]; Matt. 8:14 [–]
    3 Mark 1:40 [ἔρχεται] against Luke 5:12 [καὶ ἐγένετο…καὶ ἰδοὺ]; Matt. 8:2 [καὶ ἰδοὺ…προσελθὼν]
    [–] Mark 2:4 [χαλῶσι] against Luke 5:19 [καθῆκαν]; Matt. 9:[–] [–]
    4 Mark 2:8 [διαλογίζονται] against Luke 5:22 [διαλογισμούς]; Matt. 9:4 [ἐνθυμήσεις]
    5 Mark 2:15 [γίνεται] against Luke 5:29 [–]; Matt. 9:10 [ἐγένετο]
    6 Mark 2:18 [λέγουσιν] against Luke 5:33 [εἶπαν]; Matt. 9:14 [λέγοντες]
    [–] Mark 3:3 [λέγει] against Luke 6:8 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 12:[–] [–]
    7 Mark 3:13 [ἀναβαίνει] against Luke 6:12 [ἐξελθεῖν]; Matt. 10:1 [–] (cf. Matt. 5:1 [ἀνέβη])
    8 Mark 3:13 [προσκαλεῖται] against Luke 6:13 [προσεφώνησεν]; Matt. 10:1 [προσκαλεσάμενος]
    9 Mark 3:31 [ἔρχεται] against Luke 8:19 [παρεγένετο]; Matt. 12:46 [–]
    10 Mark 3:32 [λέγουσιν] against Luke 8:20 [ἀπηγγέλη]; Matt. 12:[47 (εἶπεν)]
    [–] Mark 3:33 [λέγει] against Luke 8:[–] [–]; Matt. 12:48 [εἶπεν]
    11 Mark 4:1 [συνάγεται] against Luke 8:4 [συνιόντος]; Matt. 13:2 [συνήχθησαν]
    12 Mark 4:35 [λέγει] against Luke 8:22 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 8:18 [ἐκέλευσεν]
    13 Mark 4:37 [γίνεται] against Luke 8:23 [κατέβη]; Matt. 8:24 [ἐγένετο]
    14 Mark 4:38 [ἐγείρουσιν] against Luke 8:24 [διήγειραν]; Matt. 8:25 [ἤγειραν]
    15 Mark 5:7 [λέγει] against Luke 8:28 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 8:29 [λέγοντες]
    [–] Mark 5:9 [λέγει] against Luke 8:30 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 8:[–] [–]
    16 Mark 5:15 [ἔρχονται] against Luke 8:35 [ἦλθον]; Matt. 8:34 [ἐξῆλθεν]
    17 Mark 5:15 [θεωροῦσιν] against Luke 8:35 [εὗρον]; Matt. 8:34 [–]
    [–] Mark 5:19 [λέγει] against Luke 8:38 [λέγων]; Matt. 8:[–] [–]
    18 Mark 5:22 [ἔρχεται] against Luke 8:41 [ἦλθεν]; Matt. 9:18 [ἐλθών]
    19 Mark 5:22 [πίπτει] against Luke 8:41 [πεσών]; Matt. 9:18 [προσεκύνει]
    20 Mark 5:23 [παρακαλεῖ] against Luke 8:41 [παρεκάλει]; Matt. 9:18 []
    [–] Mark 5:36 [λέγει] against Luke 8:50 [ἀπεκρίθη]; Matt. 9:[–] [–]
    21 Mark 5:38 [θεωρεῖ] against Luke 8:52 [–]; Matt. 9:23 [ἰδών]
    22 Mark 5:39 [λέγει] against Luke 8:52 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 9:24 [ἔλεγεν]
    23 Mark 5:40 [εἰσπορεύεται] against Luke 8:53 [–]; Matt. 9:25 [εἰσελθών]
    24 Mark 5:41 [λέγει] against Luke 8:54 [λέγων]; Matt. 9:25 [–]
    25 Mark 6:1 [ἔρχεται] against Luke 4:16 [ἦλθεν]; Matt. 13:54 [ἐλθών]
    26 Mark 6:7 [προσκαλεῖται] against Luke 9:1 [συγκαλεσάμενος]; Matt. 10:1 [προσκαλεσάμενος]
    [–] Mark 8:33 [λέγει] against Luke 9:[–] [–]; Matt. 16:23 [εἶπεν]
    [–] Mark 10:24 [λέγει] against Luke 18:[–] [–]; Matt. 19:24 [λέγω]
    27 Mark 10:46 [ἔρχονται] against Luke 18:35 [ἐγένετο…ἐν τῷ ἐγγίζειν]; Matt. 20:29 [ἐκπορευομένων]
    28 Mark 11:1 [ἐγγίζουσιν] against Luke 19:29 [ἤγγισεν]; Matt. 21:1 [ἤγγισαν]
    29 Mark 11:4 [λύουσιν] against Luke 19:33 [λυόντων]; Matt. 21:6 [–]
    30 Mark 11:7 [ἐπιβάλλουσιν] against Luke 19:35 [ἐπιρίψαντες]; Matt. 21:7 [ἐπέθηκαν]
    31 Mark 11:27 [ἔρχονται] against Luke 20:1 [ἐπέστησαν]; Matt. 21:23 [προσῆλθον]
    32 Mark 11:33 [λέγουσιν] against Luke 20:7 [ἀπεκρίθησαν]; Matt. 21:27 [εἶπαν]
    33 Mark 11:33 [λέγει] against Luke 20:8 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 21:27 [ἔφη]
    34 Mark 12:18 [ἔρχονται] against Luke 20:27 [προσελθόντες]; Matt. 22:23 [προσῆλθον]
    35 Mark 13:1 [λέγει] against Luke 21:5 [λεγόντων]; Matt. 24:1 [ἐπιδεῖξαι]
    36 Mark 14:12 [λέγουσιν] against Luke 22:9 [εἶπαν]; Matt. 26:17 [λέγοντες]
    37 Mark 14:13 [ἀποστέλλει] against Luke 22:8 [ἀπέστειλεν]; Matt. 26:18 [–]
    38 Mark 14:30 [λέγει] against Luke 22:34 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 26:34 [ἔφη]
    [–] Mark 14:33 [παραλαμβάνει] against Luke 22:[–] [–]; Matt. 26:37 [παραλαβών]
    39 Mark 14:43 [παραγίνεται] against Luke 22:47 [προήρχετο]; Matt. 26:47 [ἦλθεν]
    40 Mark 14:45 [λέγει] against Luke 22:47 [–]; Matt. 26:49 [εἶπεν]
    41 Mark 14:53 [συνέρχονται] against Luke 22:54 [–]; Matt. 26:57 [συνήχθησαν]
    42 Mark 14:61 [λέγει] against Luke 22:67 [λέγοντες]; Matt. 26:63 [εἶπεν]
    43 Mark 14:63 [λέγει] against Luke 22:71 [εἶπαν]; Matt. 26:65 [λέγων]
    44 Mark 14:66 [ἔρχεται] against Luke 22:56 [–]; Matt. 26:69 [προσῆλθεν]
    45 Mark 14:67 [λέγει] against Luke 22:56 [εἶπεν]; Matt. 26:69 [λέγουσα]
    46 Mark 15:21 [ἀγγαρεύουσιν] against Luke 23:26 [ἐπέθηκαν]; Matt. 27:32 [ἠγγάρευσαν]
    47 Mark 15:22 [φέρουσιν] against Luke 23:33 [ἦλθον]; Matt. 27:33 [ἐλθόντες]
    48 Mark 15:24 [σταυροῦσιν] against Luke 23:33 [ἐσταύρωσαν]; Matt. 27:35 [σταυρώσαντες]
    49 Mark 15:24 [διαμερίζονται] against Luke 23:34 [διαμεριζόμενοι]; Matt. 27:35 [διεμερίσαντο]
    50 Mark 16:2 [ἔρχονται] against Luke 24:1 [ἦλθον]; Matt. 28:1 [ἦλθεν]
    51 Mark 16:6 [λέγει] against Luke 24:5 [εἶπαν]; Matt. 28:5 [εἶπεν]
    Group 2: Lukan-Matthean agreement against historical present in Mark (identical vocabulary)
    1 Mark 1:41 [λέγει] against Luke 5:13; Matt. 8:3 [λέγων]
    2 Mark 2:3 [ἔρχονται] against Luke 5:18 [–]; Matt. 9:2 [–]
    3 Mark 2:5 [λέγει] against Luke 5:20; Matt. 9:2 [εἶπεν]
    4 Mark 2:8 [λέγει] against Luke 5:22; Matt. 9:4 [εἶπεν]
    5 Mark 2:17 [λέγει] against Luke 5:31; Matt. 9:12 [εἶπεν]
    6 Mark 2:25 [λέγει] against Luke 6:3; Matt. 12:3 [εἶπεν]
    7 Mark 3:4 [λέγει] against Luke 6:9; Matt. 12:11 [εἶπεν]
    8 Mark 3:34 [λέγει] against Luke 8:21; Matt. 12:49 [εἶπεν]
    [–] Mark 4:13 [λέγει] against Luke 8:[–] [–]; Matt. 13:[–] [–]
    9 Mark 4:36 [παραλαμβάνουσιν] against Luke 8:22 [–]; Matt. 8:23 [–]
    10 Mark 4:38 [λέγουσιν] against Luke 8:24; Matt. 8:25 [λέγοντες]
    11 Mark 5:38 [ἔρχονται] against Luke 8:51; Matt. 9:23 [ἐλθών]
    12 Mark 5:40 [παραλαμβάνει] against Luke 8:53 [–]; Matt. 9:25 [–]
    13 Mark 6:1 [ἀκολουθοῦσιν] against Luke 4:16 [–]; Matt. 13:54 [–]
    [–] Mark 6:31 [λέγει] against Luke 9:[–] [–]; Matt. 14:[–] [–]
    14 Mark 6:37 [λέγουσιν] against Luke 9:13 [–]; Matt. 14:16 [–]
    15 Mark 6:38 [λέγει] against Luke 9:13 [–]; Matt. 14:17 [–]
    16 Mark 8:29 [λέγει] against Luke 9:20; Matt. 16:16 [εἶπεν]
    17 Mark 9:5 [λέγει] against Luke 9:33; Matt. 17:4 [εἶπεν]
    18 Mark 9:19 [λέγει] against Luke 9:41; Matt. 17:17 [εἶπεν]
    19 Mark 9:25 [ἐπισυντρέχει] against Luke 9:42 [–]; Matt. 17:18 [–]
    [–] Mark 9:35 [λέγει] against Luke 9:[–] [–]; Matt. 18:[–] [–]
    20 Mark 10:23 [λέγει] against Luke 18:24; Matt. 19:23 [εἶπεν]
    21 Mark 10:27 [λέγει] against Luke 18:27; Matt. 19:26 [εἶπεν]
    22 Mark 10:42 [λέγει] against Luke 22:25; Matt. 20:25 [εἶπεν]
    23 Mark 10:49 [φωνοῦσιν] against Luke 18:40 [–]; Matt. 20:32 [–]
    24 Mark 11:1 [ἀποστέλλει] against Luke 19:29; Matt. 21:1 [ἀπέστειλεν]
    25 Mark 11:2 [λέγει] against Luke 19:30; Matt. 21:2 [λέγων]
    26 Mark 11:7 [φέρουσιν] against Luke 19:35; Matt. 21:7 [ἤγαγον]
    27 Mark 11:15 [ἔρχονται] against Luke 19:45 [–]; Matt. 21:12 [–]
    28 Mark 11:27 [ἔρχονται] against Luke 20:1 [–]; Matt. 21:23 [–]
    29 Mark 12:14 [λέγουσιν] against Luke 20:21; Matt. 22:16 [λέγοντες]
    30 Mark 14:13 [λέγει] against Luke 22:10; Matt. 26:18 [εἶπεν]
    31 Mark 14:17 [ἔρχεται] against Luke 22:14 [–]; Matt. 26:20 [–]
    [–] Mark 14:51 [κρατοῦσιν] against Luke 22:[–] [–]; Matt. 26:[–] [–]
    32 Mark 15:2 [λέγει] against Luke 23:3; Matt. 27:11 [ἔφη]
    33 Mark 15:20 [ἐξάγουσιν] against Luke 23:26; Matt. 27:31 [ἀπήγαγον]

    (Key: U = material unique to the Gospel; TT = Triple Tradition; DT = Double Tradition; [–] = no corresponding verse or word)For all these statistics we are deeply indebted to Hawkins, 143-149.

  • [10] The diminutive nouns in the Gospel of Mark are the following:
    θυγάτριον (thūgatrion; dim. θυγάτηρ [thūgatēr, “daughter”])
    •    Mark 5:23 (TT) θυγάτηρ (Matt. 9:18; Luke 8:42)
    •    Mark 7:25 (Mark-Matt.) θυγάτηρ (Matt. 15:22)
    ἰχθύδιον (ichthūdion; dim. ἰχθύς [ichthūs, “fish”])
    •    Mark 8:7 (Mark-Matt.) = Matt. 15:34
    κοράσιον (korasion; dim. κόρη [korē, “girl,” “young woman”])
    •    Mark 5:41 (TT) Matt. omits verse; ἡ παῖς Luke 8:54
    •    Mark 5:42 (TT) = Matt. 9:25; omitted in Luke 8:55
    •    Mark 6:22 (Mark-Matt.) Matt. omits verse
    •    Mark 6:28 [first instance] (Mark-Matt.) = Matt. 14:11
    •    Mark 6:28 [second instance] (Mark-Matt.) second instance omitted in Matt. 14:11
    κυνάριον (kūnarion; dim. κύων [kūōn, “dog”])
    •    Mark 7:27 (Mark-Matt.) = Matt. 15:26
    •    Mark 7:28 (Mark-Matt.) = Matt. 15:27
    παιδίον (paidion; dim. παῖς [pais, “child,” “servant”])
    •    Mark 5:39 (TT) κοράσιον Matt. 9:24; omitted in Luke 8:52
    •    Mark 5:40 [first instance] (TT) verse omitted in Matt. and Luke
    •    Mark 5:40 [second instance] (TT) verse omitted in Matt. and Luke
    •    Mark 5:41 (TT) αὐτῆς Matt. 9:25; Luke 8:54
    •    Mark 7:28 (Mark-Matt.) omitted in Matt. 15:27
    •    Mark 7:30 (Mark-Matt.) cf. θυγάτηρ Matt. 15:28
    •    Mark 9:24 (TT) verse omitted in Matt. and Luke
    •    Mark 9:36 (TT) = Matt. 18:2; Luke 9:47
    •    Mark 9:37 (TT) = Matt. 18:5; Luke 9:48
    •    Mark 10:13 (TT) = Matt. 19:13; βρέφη Luke 18:15
    •    Mark 10:14 (TT) = Matt. 19:14; Luke 18:16
    •    Mark 10:15 (TT) = Matt. 18:2; Luke 9:47
    σανδάλιον (sandalion; dim. σάνδαλον [sandalon, “sandal”])
    •    Mark 6:9 (TT) ὑποδήματα Matt. 10:10; omitted in Luke 9:3; cf. Luke 10:4 ὑποδήματα
    ψιχίον (psichion; dim. ψίξ [psix, “crumb”])
    •    Mark 7:28 (Mark-Matt.) = Matt. 15:27
    ὠτάριον (ōtarion; dim. οὔς [ous, “ear”])
    •    Mark 14:47 (TT) ὠτίον (dim. οὔς [ous, “ear”]) Matt. 26:51; οὔς Luke 22:50
    Mark uses diminutive forms 25xx in his Gospel (12xx παιδίον); 15xx in TT; 10xx in Markan-Matthean pericopae. Except for παιδίον, Luke never agrees with Mark’s use of diminutive forms. Luke agrees with Mark and Matthew to write παιδίον 4xx. Matthew agrees to copy diminutive forms from Mark 11xx (6xx TT [5xx παιδίον]; 5xx Mark-Matt.), and uses a variant diminutive form in place of Mark’s diminutive 2x (TT). Of the fifteen instances of the diminutive in Mark’s TT pericopae, seven instances have no support from Matt. or Luke (two of these seven instances are Lukan-Matthean minor agreements). We believe the best explanation for these patterns is that the use of diminutives is characteristic of the author of Mark’s own writing style, and the author of Mark frequently added diminutives when rewriting his source (Luke). The author of Matthew accepted many diminutives from Mark, but sometimes rejected them due to his own literary preferences or (in TT pericopae) with the guidance of his non-Markan source (Anth.). On the use of diminutive nouns in Mark, see C. H. Turner, “Marcan Usage: Notes, Critical and Exegetical, on the Second Gospel,” Journal of Theological Studies 29 (1928): 346-361, esp. 349-351. On diminutive nouns in Luke, see Cadbury, 186.
  • [11] This repetition is omitted in the Lukan and Matthean versions of the Call of Levi story.
  • [12] On the secondary nature of Mark’s citation, see R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey P. García,  “Hebrew-Only Exegesis: A Philological Approach to Jesus’ Use of the Hebrew Bible” (JS2, 366-371, esp. 367 n. 59).
  • [13] Admittedly this example is weak since the detail added by the author of Mark is incorrect. Ahimelech was the priest at Nob, not Abiathar (1 Sam. 21), and therefore Markan priorists can explain this minor agreement of omission as a correction on the part of the authors of Luke and Matthew.
  • [14] “Isn’t this the craftsman?” (Mark 6:3), against Matthew’s “Isn’t this the craftsman’s son?” (Matt. 13:55) and Luke’s “Isn’t this [just] the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22).
  • [15] Here Mark also transposes the order of the names John and James.
  • [16] Mark’s version provides the location of Jesus in the boat and the detail about a cushion. Neither Matthew nor Luke have either of these details.
  • [17] On the Greek transliterations of Semitic words in the Synoptic Gospels, see “LOY Excursus: Greek Transliterations of Hebrew, Aramaic and Hebrew/Aramaic Words in the Synoptic Gospels.”
  • [18] Bivin notes that “It is often difficult to distinguish Hebrew from Aramaic in Greek transliteration. Most transliterated proper nouns, e.g., Γεθσημανεί gethsēmanei (Matt. 26.36; Mark 14.32) and Ταβειθά tabeitha (Acts 9.36, 40), may be Hebrew or Aramaic, and, regardless of their origin, could be used in either language (or any language, for that matter)” (David Bivin, “Hebraisms in the New Testament”).
  • [19] Buth has shown that the parallel in Matthew 27:46 is Hebrew, not Aramaic. See Randall Buth, “The Riddle of Jesus’ Cry from the Cross: The Meaning of ηλι ηλι λαμα σαβαχθανι (Matthew 27:46) and the Literary Function of ελωι ελωι λειμα σαβαχθανι (Mark 15:34)” (JS2, 395-421).
  • [20] Buth states that “εφφαθα, ‘be opened,’ is actually closer to a niphal Hebrew word הפתח…. But εφφαθα can also be explained as colloquial development within Aramaic…. Because 5:41 and 15:34 are unambiguously Aramaic, it is best to read 7:35 [sic] as Aramaic, too” (Buth, “The Riddle of Jesus’ Cry from the Cross” [JS2, 398 n. 12]).
  • [21] Grintz writes: “That Mark was written by one versed in Aramaic is clear from the citations of Aramaic expressions peculiar to this gospel. But that it was actually written in Greek and intended for Gentiles is attested by the explanatory glosses relating to specifically Jewish matters. On the other hand, arguments in favor of an Aramaic original of Mark are weak, and expressly refuted by the Aramaic citations. Were the text originally Aramaic, there would be no reason for the Greek translator to retain a few Aramaic expressions (Ταλιθὰ κούμ, 5 41; Ἐφφαθά, 7 34)” (Jehoshua Grintz, “Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language in the Last Days of the Second Temple,” Journal of Biblical Literature 79 [1960]: 33 n. 3). Similarly, Buth comments: “The Aramaic quotations in Mark 5:41, Mark 7:34 (understanding ephphatha not as Hebrew but as a dialectical form of Aramaic ’etpataḥ) and Mark 15:34, are more enigmatic than helpful in revealing the language in which Jesus taught…. If Mark’s language switch implies that Jesus switched languages, then the words would imply that Jesus did not normally teach in Aramaic” (Randall Buth, “Aramaic Language,” in Dictionary of New Testament Background [ed. Craig Evans and Stanley Porter; Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity, 2000], 89).
  • [22] Robert Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Pick-ups.”
  • [23] Buth, “The Riddle of Jesus’ Cry from the Cross” (JS2, 398).
  • [24] On Latin loanwords in the Gospels, see Alan Millard, “Latin in First-Century Palestine,” in Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield (ed. Ziony Zevit, Seymour Gitin, and Michael Sokoloff; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 451-458.
  • [25] We have identified the following Latin loanwords in the Synoptic Gospels:
    1. ἀσσάριον = assarius (a Roman copper coin); also a loanword in Hebrew (אִיסָר): Matt. 10:29; Luke 12:6.
    2. δηνάριον = denarius (a Roman coin); also a loanword in Hebrew (דִּינָר) and Aramaic (דִּינְרָא, דִּינָרָא): Matt. 18:28; 20:2, 9, 10, 13; 22:19; Mark 6:37; 12:15; 14:5; Luke 7:41; 10:35; 20:24.
    3. Καῖσαρ = Caesar (“Caesar”); also a loanword in Hebrew (קֵסָר, קֵיסָר) and Aramaic (קֵיסָרָא): Matt. 22:17, 21 (2xx); Mark 12:14, 16, 17 (2xx); Luke 2:1; 3:1; 20:22, 24, 25 (2xx); 23:2.
    4. κεντυρίων = centurio (“centurion”); also a loanword in Hebrew (קִטְרוֹן): Mark 15:39, 44, 45.
    5. κῆνσος = census (“tax”); also a loanword in Hebrew (קְנָס) and Aramaic (קְנָסָא): Matt. 17:25; 22:17, 19; Mark 12:14.
    6. κοδράντης = quadrans (a Roman coin); also a loanword in Hebrew (קוּדְרַנְטֵיס): Matt. 5:26; Mark 12:42.
    7. κουστωδία = custodia (“guard of soldiers”); also a loanword in Hebrew/Aramaic (קוּסְטוֹדְיָא): Matt. 27:65, 66; 28:11.
    8. λεγιών = legio (a Roman military unit consisting of approx. 6,000 soldiers); also a loanword in Hebrew (לִיגְיוֹן, לִגְיוֹן) and Aramaic (לִגְיוֹנָא): Matt. 26:53; Mark 5:9, 15; Luke 8:30.
    9. μίλιον = mille (“mile”); also a loanword in Hebrew (מִיל): Matt. 5:41.
    10. μόδιος = modius (a measure of quantity); also a loanword in Hebrew (מוֹדְיָיה, מוֹדְיָא) and Aramaic (מוֹדְיָיה, מוֹדְיָא): Matt. 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 11:33.
    11. ξέστης = a corruption of sextarius (“pitcher,” “jug”); also a loanword in Hebrew (‏קִסְטָא, קִיסְטָא, קִיסְטְ; קְסוּסְטָרִין, קְסוּסְטִין, קְסוּסְטְבָן): Mark 7:4.
    12. πραιτώριον = praetorium (official residence of a Roman governor): Matt. 27:27; Mark 15:16.
    13. σπεκουλάτωρ = speculator (“executioner”); also known in Hebrew (סְפִקְלָטוֹר, סְפִקְלָאטוֹר): Mark 6:27.
    14. σουδάριον = sudarium (“face-cloth”): Luke 19:20.
    15. φραγελλοῦν = flagello (“to flog,” “to scourge”): Matt. 27:26; Mark 15:15.

  • [26] The six Latin loanwords in Luke’s Gospel are: ἀσσάριον, δηναρίων, Καῖσαρ, λεγιών, μόδιος and σουδάριον.
  • [27] The eleven Latin loanwords in Mark’s Gospel are: δηναρίων, Καῖσαρ, κεντυρίων, κῆνσος, κοδράντης, λεγιών, μόδιος, ξέστης, πραιτώριον, σπεκουλάτωρ and φραγελλοῦν.
  • [28] The eleven Latin loanwords in Matthew’s Gospel are: ἀσσάριον, δηναρίων, Καῖσαρ, κῆνσος, κοδράντης, κουστωδία, λεγιών, μίλιον, μόδιος, πραιτώριον and φραγελλοῦν.
  • [29] Matthew uses κῆνσος twice on his own (Matt. 17:25; 22:19).
  • [30] It is possible that in Matt. 5:41 μίλιον reflects the Hebrew word מִיל. This word entered Hebrew via Greek and is already attested 9xx in the Mishnah: m. Yom. 6:4; m. Yom. 6:8 (4xx); m. Bab. Metz. 6:3 (2xx); m. Bech. 9:2 (2xx). It would make sense for Jesus to have referred to a Roman measure of distance in Matt. 5:41, since it was the prerogative of the Roman government to force provincials to transport burdens for them over long distances. See  Jonathan P. Roth, The Logistics of the Roman Army at War (264 B.C.-A.D. 235) (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 110-111. For a convenient list of Greek and Latin loanwords in the Mishnah, see Philip Blackman, “Hebrew Words of Greek and Latin Origin in the Mishnah” in Mishnayot (trans. Philip Blackman; 7 vols.; London: Mishnah Press, 1951-1956), 7:103-123.
  • [31] It is possible that, like μίλιον, ἀσσάριον represents a Hebrew word, in this case אִיסָר, which entered Hebrew via Greek, and which is attested in the Mishnah 29xx.
  • [32] See Young, JHJP, 139.
  • [33] See Barry Blackburn, Theios Aner and the Markan Miracle Traditions: A Critique of the Theios Aner Concept as an Interpretive Background of the Miracle Traditions Used by Mark (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1991), 218-219.
  • [34] See Robert Lindsey, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Search for the First and Third Writers.”
  • [35] Lindsey noted that “The Hebrew-styled story we see in Luke, and frequently in Matthew, is, like all Hebrew narrative, not given to picturesque redundancy and dramatization. It is straightforward and concise, emphasizing the verb and noun, nouns in construct, prepositional phrases, etc., but rarely adverbs, adjectives, or other constructions that introduce psychological descriptions of persons or events” (Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Stereotypes: Jesus’ Baptism”). Adding descriptions of a character’s thoughts and feelings is also a feature of the way Josephus retold the biblical narratives. According to Schwartz, Josephus added psychological insights to the narratives in order to make them conform to the standards of respectable Greek literature. See Daniel R. Schwartz, “Many Sources but a Single Author: Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities,” in A Companion to Josephus (ed. Honora Howell Chapman and Zuleika Rodgers; Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, 2016), 36-58, esp. 52-53.
  • [36] On wonder in Markan miracle stories, see Blackburn, Theios Aner and the Markan Miracle Traditons, 225-227.
  • [37] Matthew follows Mark in expanding the quotation from Ps. 118 to include θαυμαστός. This part of the quotation is absent in Luke’s parallel.
  • [38] In Luke ἐκπλήσσεσθαι appears 3xx, and in Matthew ἐκπλήσσεσθαι appears 4xx. Luke and Mark agree to write ἐκπλήσσεσθαι only once, in Yeshua Attends Synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:32; Mark 1:22; Matt. 7:28). The two other instances of ἐκπλήσσεσθαι in Luke (Luke 2:48; 9:43) are unparalleled in Mark and Matthew. Matthew generally agrees to copy ἐκπλήσσεσθαι from Mark.
  • [39] Luke has ἐξίστασθαι 3xx, and Matthew only 1x (Matt. 12:23). Luke and Mark agree to write ἐξίστασθαι only once, in Yair’s Daughter and a Woman’s Faith. Mark intensifies Luke’s καὶ ἐξέστησαν οἱ γονεῖς αὐτῆς (“and were surprised her parents”; Luke 8:56) with καὶ ἐξέστησαν εὐθὺς ἐκστάσει μεγάλῃ (“and were surprised immediately [her parents] with a big surprise”; Mark 5:42). The other two instances of ἐξίστασθαι in Luke have no parallel in Mark or Matthew (Luke 2:47; 24:22).
  • [40] Luke has ἔκστασις once, and the word does not appear at all in Mark. Mark replaces Luke’s καὶ ἔκστασις ἔλαβεν ἅπαντας (“and surprise took everyone”; Luke 5:26) with ὥστε ἐξίστασθαι πάντας (“so was surprised everyone”; Mark 2:12).
  • [41] Lindsey noted that arguments for Markan Priority based on the claim that Mark is the shortest Gospel are inherently flawed: “arguments based on the fact that Mark is shorter are valid only if we are talking about the overall length of Mark’s Gospel, but not valid if we are talking about the comparative length of individual pericopae” (Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Questions Not Answered”).
  • [42] For an introduction to aggadic midrash, see Marc Hirshman, “Aggadic Midrash,” in The Literature of the Sages (CRINT II.3.2; ed. Shmuel Safrai, Zeev Safrai, Joshua Schwartz and Peter. J. Tomson; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 107-132.
  • [43] For an introduction to the targumim, see Philip S. Alexander, “Jewish Aramaic Translations of Hebrew Scriptures,” in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (CRINT II.1; ed. Martin J. Mulder; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1988), 217-251.
  • [44] Hirshman, “Aggadic Midrash,” 114.
  • [45] Hirshman, “Aggadic Midrash,” 113, 124-126.
  • [46] This technique is called זִיהוּי (zihūy). See Hirshman, “Aggadic Midrash,” 116.
  • [47] A different aggadic tradition specifies the length of yāmim as a full year (b. Ket. 57b; cf. Targum Onkelos and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Gen. 24:55).
  • [48] See Robert Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Mark’s Midrashic Technique”; and idem, “Paraphrastic Gospels.”
  • [49] For a comparison of Mark’s editorial techniques with those of Josephus, see Halvor Ronning, “Who made the ‘Omission,’ Luke or Mark?
  • [50] Cf. Philo, Spec. 1.53; Josephus, Ant. 4:207; Ag. Ap. 2:237.
  • [51] On midrashic types of exegesis in LXX, see Emanuel Tov, “The Septuagint,” in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation, 161-188, esp. 177-178.
  • [52] Observe that only a few verses earlier, in Mark’s garbled version of The Parable of the Tares, the author of Mark has ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς (“on the ground”; Mark 4:26), as here in Mark 4:31. Also notice that in Mark 4:26 this author does not write σπαρῇ (“is sown”), as in 4:31 opposite Luke’s ἔβαλεν (“throw”; Luke 13:19), but βάλῃ τὸν σπόρον (“throw the seed”), showing Mark knew Luke 13:19 when he wrote Mark 4:26.
  • [53] The word δένδρον (“tree”) in Luke is replaced in Mark’s version by the plur. of λάχανον (“edible garden herb,” “vegetable”), but Matthew’s use of δένδρον (Matt. 13:32) proves that δένδρον was part of Anth.
  • [54] Against “branches” in Matthew and Luke’s texts. The author of Mark had just used “branches” nine words earlier and so here replaced “branches” with “shade.”
  • [55] This tendency toward dramatization may account for Mark’s disproportionately high use of the historical present. According to Wallace, the main purpose for using the historical present is vivid portrayal. See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 526-527.
  • [56] Brad Young writes: “Mark was interested in compiling a gospel of activity. Indeed his narrative is a story of action par excellence” (Young, JHJP, 137).
  • [57] See Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 44-52; Geza Vermes, The Changing Faces of Jesus (New York: Viking Compass, 2001), 234-235.
  • [58] Δύνασθαι appears 32xx in Mark, compared to 26xx in Luke and 25xx in Matthew, both books about twice the length of Mark.
  • [59] Already in the late eighteenth century, Griesbach noted that secrecy was an important and distinctive theme in Mark’s Gospel. See Bernard Owen, trans., “A Demonstration That Mark Was Written After Matthew and Luke (A translation of J. J. Greisbach’s Commentatio qua Marci Evangelium totum e Matthaei et Lucae commentariis decerptum esse monstratur)” in J. J. Griesbach: Synoptic and Text-Critical Studies 1776-1976 (ed. Bernard Orchard and Thomas R. W. Longstaff; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 103-135, esp. 112-113.
  • [60] On the theme of alienation and abandonment in the Gospel of Mark, see R. Steven Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels,” under the subheading “Mark’s Abandoned Holy Man.”
  • [61] In Luke and Matthew, Jesus is accused of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebul, not of being possessed (Luke 11:15; Matt. 12:24).
  • [62] In Luke 9:9 Herod knows that Jesus cannot be John, because he had ordered John’s execution.
  • [63] See Flusser, Jesus, 21-22 n. 4.
  • [64] See Flusser, Jesus, 250; idem,  “The Synagogue and the Church in the Synoptic Gospels” (JS1, 17-40, esp. 24).
  • [65] See Tomson, 255-263.
  • [66] Mark 7:19 does not say that Jesus declared all foods clean, but only that the process of digestion turns impure kosher food into pure human waste. The Markan Jesus does not condemn the Jews for observing the Torah’s prohibitions against consuming pork and other non-kosher foods. Jesus could hardly do so when he had just denounced the Pharisees for abrogating the Torah’s commands to honor one’s father and mother (Mark 7:8-13). Cf. David N. Bivin, “Mark 7:19: Did Jesus Make ‘Unclean’ Food ‘Clean’?”; Peter J. Tomson, “Jewish Food Laws in Early Christian Community Discourse,” Semeia 86 (1999): 193-211, esp. 205-206.
  • [67] Young suggests that the reason the author of Mark omitted most of Jesus’ teaching is that his Gospel was intended for a non-Jewish audience. A Gentile audience would be less likely to grasp the rabbinic sophistication of Jesus’ teachings than the significance of Jesus’ miracles. Cf. Young, JHJP, 138.
  • [68] On the secondary nature of this report, see David Flusser, “Foreword to Robert Lindsey’s A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “‘What They Might Do…'”
  • [69] On Jesus’ enemies in Mark, see Tomson, 271-272.
  • [70] Indeed, in order to create a mission to the Gentiles, the author of Mark composed a travel account in which Jesus visits Tyre, Sidon and the Decapolis. See R. Steven Notley, “Literary and Geographical Contours of ‘The Great Omission’” (Rainey-Notley, 360-362); David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Jesus and a Canaanite Woman.”
  • [71] For a popular appreciation of the author of the Gospel of Mark, see Joshua N. Tilton, “Reflections on Mark.”
  • [72] Robert Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Study of Mark.”
  • [73] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [74] See Hawkins, 143-149; Taylor, 46-47; Randall Buth, “Mark’s Use of the Historical Present,” Notes On Translation 65 (1977): 13-28.
  • [75] In Mark εὐθύς (evthūs, “immediately”) occurs 41xx, compared to 7xx in Matthew, and 1x in Luke.
  • [76] See “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’