My Search for the Synoptic Problem’s Solution (1959-1969)

Dr. Lindsey wrote this article in preparation for the press conference that took place in October 1969 upon the publication of his A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark.[1] This press conference was held at the Baptist House, Narkis Street 4, in the Jerusalem suburb of Rehaviah. The book contains, in addition to the Greek and Hebrew texts of Mark, which Lindsey spent nearly ten years in perfecting, a Foreword by Professor David Flusser of the Department of Comparative Religions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a 76-page English Introduction by Lindsey.

Mark’s Unpopularity

The Gospel of Mark was never popular in the Greek-speaking Hellenistic church. Papias, the mid-second-century bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, was the first church father to mention the Gospel and his statement was probably dictated by the general criticism voiced against Mark by the early Greek readers of the Gospel: “Mark,” Papias says, “did no wrong in writing down the things [he had only heard Peter say].”[2]

The order of the four Gospels in the earliest manuscripts often placed Mark at the end of the four, but in any case always secondary to Matthew (as in the modern order). It is now clear that ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament like Codex Bezae show a deliberate scribal attempt to revise the text of Mark through harmonization with Matthew and Luke. Mark’s Gospel is not quoted at all by such early writers as Clement of Rome or Ignatius of Antioch, and it was only in the fifth century that Mark even rated a commentator: Victor of Antioch.

Saint Augustine wrote rather contemptuously of Mark as “a camp-follower and abridger” of Matthew.[3] Even in modern times the sections for Sundays and Saints’ Days in the Church of England Prayer Book show only three readings from Mark out of a total of seventy from the Gospels.

Various reasons have been given for Mark’s unpopularity. One is that he was not an apostle like Matthew and John to whom Gospels are credited. Another is that his book does not, like theirs, contain many of Jesus’ longer discourses. Whatever the reasons, Mark’s Gospel was never popular in ancient times.

The Theory of Markan Priority

Despite this rather remarkable consensus of ancient authors, modern critical study of the Gospels, which began less than two hundred years ago, has since the 1880’s held almost unanimously that Mark was the first of the Gospels and was used by Matthew and Luke as their principal source when writing their own story of Jesus’ life. The occasional voices lifted in protest—Roman Catholic scholars held out until recent times against the theory due to Augustine’s writings—have again and again been silenced by the weighty words of New Testament scholars, usually of Protestant background, who back Markan priority. The theological libraries and journals of today, like the denominational literature of all the larger Protestant churches, base their studies and remarks on the Markan Priority Theory as a matter of course.

The first Markan priorists, particularly the earlier German and English ones, had glowing words of praise for the author of Mark. He had written, they said, in rough, popular Greek, but he was, like the Grandma Moses of modern art, a primitive genius. His style showed oddities and cliches, but also had a directness and “freshness” which suggested he may even have been an eyewitness of the events he described. According to these Markan priorists, Matthew and Luke had “smoothed out” Mark’s rough Greek and corrected his non-theological language, often agreeing with one another against Mark in some small, word agreement as they did so.

By the early 1900s, however, German scholars were having second thoughts about the authenticity of Mark’s picture. Facing serious verbal discrepancies between Mark’s text and those of Matthew and Luke, these scholars concluded that Mark was a late writer who had strung together a series of narratives and sayings largely developed through the oral retelling of them by Greek Christians. Mark had placed these oral narratives in a chronological frame that was purely of his own invention.

As a result of these academic doubts there issued a new search for the earliest form of the Gospel stories and it was soon held, notably by Rudolf Bultmann in his monumental Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition (1921)[4] that most of the stories in the Gospels had been developed secondarily from some remembered sayings of Jesus. The stories were therefore unhistorical. Bultmann found that even the longer sayings of Jesus had been seriously distorted by Greek Christians (in a process he called the Sitz im Leben, or “life situation,” of the Church) and held that only a small number of these sayings could be said to be closely parallel to their original Semitic counterpart. Almost all the serious critical works of the past ninety years have either been based on Bultmann’s theories or have been the result of an attempt to modify his position.

A “Re-write Man”

As a consequence of my endeavor to produce a Modern Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Mark, however, I began to develop a different picture of the interrelationship of the Synoptic Gospels. This new picture began to emerge from my observation that whereas the portions of Matthew and Luke that have no parallel to Mark translate quite naturally into Hebrew, Mark’s Gospel (and Matthew’s parallel passages) presented certain difficulties. Although Mark also had many lines and phrases that translated easily into Hebrew, these were often interrupted with words and expressions that are nearly impossible to translate into Hebrew. Luke, on the other hand, even when in parallel to Mark, presented no such difficulties. These observations led me to develop the theory that the Synoptic Gospels drew on an earlier account of the life and teachings of Jesus originally written in Hebrew and later translated into a highly literal Greek version.

I further came to the surprising conclusion that Mark was not the earliest of the Synoptic Gospels, but that Mark followed Luke, rewriting and revising Luke’s wording, and that Matthew later followed Mark, but also had access to the earlier Hebraic-Greek account of the life of Jesus that was the basis of Luke’s Gospel. I realized that, if true, my theory would both explain Mark’s traditional unpopularity, and lead to a serious reassessment of the prevailing view of Mark’s position among the Gospels. The basic reason for Mark’s unpopularity is that it was written by an early Jewish Christian who rewrote the gospel story using the midrashic methods of early rabbis, sometimes described as those of “darshehu and sarsehu,” a rabbinic phrase which can be paraphrastically translated as “homilize it [the text, usually of the Bible] and bend it to apply to your need.”

And rather than assuming that Luke used Mark as the basis of his Gospel, as is commonly held by most New Testament scholars, it appears that the opposite is true. Mark employed Luke’s Gospel, along with another early source, and the result is a Gospel that is almost as much annotation and comment as original story. Mark’s principal method was to replace about half of Luke’s earlier and more authentic wording with a variety of synonyms and expressions he culled from certain Old and New Testament books that, today, we can identify usually simply by consulting Greek and Hebrew concordances of the Bible.

Like the rabbis, Mark loved to find linguistic parallels to the text he was copying in other, often unrelated, books, and then mix words and phrases taken from these parallels with others of his sources. This method resulted in an amplified text that many scholars had thought gave an authenticity to Mark’s work, but which, in reality, should be described as a fascinating but rather inauthentic dramatization of the Gospel story. Due to Mark’s quite normal midrashic and aggadic Jewish methods, his Gospel is the “first cartoon life of Christ.” Mark was a “re-write man.”[5]

I am convinced that Mark, who may indeed be the John Mark of tradition, had before him not only Luke and a parallel early source, which I call the “Anthology,” but also Luke’s Book of Acts, five of the earliest epistles of the Apostle Paul (1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Romans), and the epistle of James. He also knew and quoted from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts of the Old Testament. Mark’s method was to follow story by story and verse by verse the Anthology and Luke, dropping some stories only to bring them back at a later point in his Gospel, and constantly replacing his discarded stories, sentences or words by other stories, sentences or words found in non-parallel portions of Luke’s Gospel, the Acts, and the other books mentioned above.

I admit that to the modern Bible exegete Mark’s method I have just described sounds too mechanical to be true, but this method would not be strange to Jews of the first century. I myself had the greatest difficulty accepting the picture I paint of Mark when I first encountered the evidence. In fact, I hesitated for some years to publish my conclusions until the picture became clear in most of its details.[6]

A New Understanding of Synoptic Interdependence

The first observation that eventually led to the development of my new theory was that the Greek text of Mark was just a little too easy to translate to Hebrew. The word order and idiom sounded too Hebraic to be good Greek, and too sophisticatedly Semitic to be explained by the usual theory that the Gospels are imitations of the second-century B.C. Greek translation of the Old Testament know as the Septuagint.

At first I supposed that Mark may have been translating directly to Greek from a Semitic text. But this explanation proved unreliable when it became clear to me that Mark’s text had some dozens of odd, non-Hebrew-sounding words that kept reappearing an inordinate number of times. One of these peculiar phrases was the oft-repeated (more than forty times) “and immediately” of Mark. This phrase has annoyed everyone who has ever read a literal translation of Mark’s Gospel. Slowly I realized that these odd stereotypes and redundancies had to be the work of a redactor who was operating from a Greek text and adding expressions that could only be translated to Hebrew with considerable circumlocution.

Faced with the challenge of trying to translate these “non-Hebraisms” in Mark, I turned in some desperation to a word-by-word comparison of the parallel stories and sayings in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Working with the help of Huck’s Greek synopsis of the Gospels[7] and Moulton-Geden’s concordance of the New Testament[8] for two years (1960-1961), I came to my first tentative conclusions, conclusions that surprised me.

The first conclusion was a quite “orthodox” one: the strange non-Hebraisms of Mark often, although not always, appeared in Matthew at points of exact parallel with Mark. In contrast with the seeming dependence of Matthew on Mark was the near absence of the Markan stereotypes from Matthean stories that had no parallel to Mark (in the so-called “Q” and unique Matthean materials). Following this cue, I found that it was remarkably easy to translate the non-Markan portions of Matthew to Hebrew. It thus seemed reasonable to assume that the usual theory of Matthean dependence on Mark was essentially correct.

My second conclusion, however, was disturbing. Luke’s text showed almost no sign or hint of the Markan redactive expressions. Moreover, whether I translated from Markan or non-Markan portions of Luke, I found that the text translated with relative ease to Hebrew, indeed with about the same ease Matthew provides in his non-Markan portions. I am not sure why I did not suspect from this evidence that Luke may not have used Mark’s Gospel, but I think it was due to my supposition that the theory of Lukan use of Mark was too well-attested by modern scholarship to be incorrect.

The third conclusion was the most disturbing of all. Comparing the texts of the first three Gospels, I slowly became aware of the so-called “Minor Agreements” of Matthew and Luke against Mark, one of the points at which the theory of Markan priority has often been attacked by adherents of the time-honored Augustinian theory and the Griesbach theory.[9] Neither of these  theories has difficulty in explaining the Minor Agreements, whereas the usual view of Markan Priority (according to which Matthew and Luke are uninfluenced by each other’s work) has difficulty accounting for the approximately six hundred points at which Matthew and Luke agree to disagree with the Markan parallels with respect to wording and omissions.

I decided very quickly that the only way to combine the first and third conclusions was to posit the existence of a common document known to Matthew and Luke and basically parallel in story order with Mark, but verbally very different from it. (This meant that I had returned to a view not unlike that of the first Markan priorists, who had held that a kind of Ur-Markus or Proto-Mark was known to Matthew and Luke instead of Mark, and that the Gospel of Mark was in some ways not quite like Ur-Markus. The major difference between my view and that of the first Markan priorists is that, according to my theory, the common source included not only Ur-Markus narratives, but also Q sayings.) But what was one to do with the second conclusion? Why did Luke show little or no indication that he had seen the redacted expressions in Mark?

Markan Pick-ups

When I arrived at the solution, the second conclusion made sense. I discovered that Luke had not used Mark. Rather, Mark had used Luke. It soon became clear to me that my Markan stereotypes and non-Hebraisms were word “pick-ups,” which I could prove had been borrowed directly from Acts and distant Lukan contexts. For instance, the strange “and immediately” turned out to be first used by Mark in rewriting the scene of Jesus’ baptism as a result of having compared the story with the scene in Acts 10 of Peter’s vision on the Jaffa rooftop. In Acts 10:16 we find Luke’s only use of καὶ εὐθύς (“and immediately”) in the Book of Acts.

And there was that odd word for bed, κράβαττος (krabatos), which Mark had used in two stories (Mark 2:1-12 and 6:53-56) where Matthew and Luke had used a quite different word in parallel. Only in Acts and Mark did the word appear among the Synoptic writers. As in Mark, Luke had used krabatos in two different stories. In Acts 9:33 he stated that a paralyzed man, παραλελυμένος (paralelumenos), had been laid on a krabatos and been healed by Peter. In Acts 5:15 Luke told of people being brought into the streets on krabatoi (plural of krabatos) so that the shadow of Peter might fall on them for healing. Mark, too, had a paralyzed man in 2:1-12 who was brought on a krabatos to be touched by Jesus. Mark had seen paralelumenos in the Lukan parallel (Luke 5:18) and had turned to Acts 9:32-35 to read the story of Aeneas, the paralelumenos there. And, in parallel to the story in Acts 5:15-16, Mark had written of people who were brought on krabatoi into the marketplaces (!) so that Jesus “could touch them” (see Mark 6:53-56).

I kept a growing list of “pick-ups” and soon noticed some were coming from the epistle of James and many more from Acts and the Pauline epistles. One of my greatest surprises was the discovery that the words coming to Mark from Paul were limited to certain epistles—1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Romans—epistles usually thought to be Paul’s earliest letters.

A Better Way Forward

Despite the support of Professor David Flusser[10] and a few other scholars in Jerusalem, I was under no illusion about the difficulty of proving my theory to modern New Testament scholars. My problem is that I am a source critic living in a post-source-critical age. People suppose the Synoptic problem was solved long ago. Hundreds of living scholars have written books espousing Markan Priority, or at least basing their studies on the “assured” results of this point of scholarship. The latest fad among New Testament students is to ferret out the differences between the writers of the Gospels with a view to finding out how they differ theologically, actually an old discipline of early German scholars.

But it appears that the true solution to the Synoptic Problem has never really been resolved by scholars until now. The theory of Markan Priority is very close to the truth and for this reason has held the field so long. Both Professor Flusser and I view my theory as more a correction of the prevailing hypothesis than a radical departure from it.

However, the whole structure of modern New Testament research has been erected on the scaffold of Mark’s originality. Doubt in the very resurrection of Jesus, that central node of all Christian tradition, stems not a little from the fragmentary Markan account of the resurrection,[11] which differs significantly from that in Luke, whose detailed account is doubted because it is so unlike that of Mark. My theory, by contrast, suggests that the Lukan version of the resurrection may very well be the correct one. Modern skeptical Christian theology has often reveled in the uncertainty of the accounts of the resurrection story and has treated faith as “faith only if it has no facts at its command.”

This is not the traditional view of Christian faith, and it is pretty certain no Christian church would ever have been born without the early apostolic certainty that Christ rose literally from the grave, a fact many have pointed out. My synoptic theory, which maintains that the Gospel discrepancies are due to the odd secondary methods of Mark, opens a road to greater certainty in the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. For the moment, however, this is not my primary interest. What fascinates me is the possibility that the Matthean-Lukan agreements against Mark, and the more Hebraic texts of Matthew and Luke, can be shown to be the earliest Greek materials and may even be processed to yield much of their basic Semitic undertext, which Flusser and I are convinced was in Hebrew.

We even know what kind of Hebrew lies back of the Greek text and we can sometimes reconstruct the Hebrew text with great certainty. The narrative portions and some of Jesus’ formal teaching are clearly in Biblical Hebrew. The conversations of Jesus, on the other hand, are full of late-biblical and post-biblical Hebrew words and expressions. All this fits the linguistic scene of the first half of the first century, as we now know from the Dead Sea Scrolls and recent research in Mishnaic Hebrew sources. The Semitic sophistication of most of the Synoptic texts makes it impossible to hold that they are the creation of a Greek-speaking church, as many scholars think today. When we have laid aside the secondary elements so strongly seen in Mark and sometimes in Matthew (due to Mark’s influence), we have a straightforward story modeled after the Hebrew narratives of the Old Testament. This story had to have been composed very early in the first century, although we cannot tell when it was composed with exactitude.

*This article, originally published in 1969, has been here emended and updated by Lauren S. Asperschlager, David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton.


Sidebar by David Flusser: Who Was John Mark?

Professor David Flusser on R. L. Lindsey’s “revolutionary step” in New Testament scholarship, showing that the Gospel of Mark, which made Jesus “less of a Jew,” was written latter than Luke.

John Mark is the supposed author of the second Gospel in the New Testament. He was evidently a Cypriot Jew and a member of the first Christian community in Jerusalem. He became Paul’s companion in his missionary journeys, quarreled with him, returned to Jerusalem and finally went with Peter to Rome where he met Paul again and was reconciled with him. According to a Christian tradition, he was buried in Alexandria, but his body was finally brought to Venice and buried in the famous San Marco church. His symbol in Christian art is a lion, and this animal became the emblem of the Venetian republic.

The Gospel that John Mark is supposed to have written has recently been translated anew into Hebrew by Robert Lisle Lindsey, the head of the Baptist Church in Israel. This translation has now been published, together with the Greek original and a long introduction. It seems to me to be a revolutionary step in New Testament scholarship.

The first three Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—are called by scholars the Synoptic Gospels because all are based on similar material and can be seen together. They can even be printed in three parallel columns, creating a book called a Synopsis. So it is clear that there is a literary connection between these three Gospels and it is also evident that to understand their interdependence means greater knowledge of Jesus and his teachings. To know more about Jesus’ life and doctrines should be the central aim of all Christian research. This was the opinion of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Dutch humanist and scholar born 500 years ago. His aim was to propagate the “Christian philosophy,” or, in other words, Jesus’ doctrines. For this purpose he published in 1516 the first edition of the original Greek text of the New Testament. But, as we will see, the “historical Jesus” is not always at the center of Christian thought.

Sir Bedivere returning Excalibur, Arthur’s sword, to the lake from which it came, illustration by Aubrey Beardsley for an edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur. Le Morte Darthur, the first English-language prose version of the Arthurian legend, completed by Sir Thomas Malory about 1470 and printed by William Caxton in 1485. The only extant manuscript that predates Caxton’s edition is in the British Library, London. It retells the adventures of the knights of the Round Table in chronological sequence from the birth of Arthur. Based on French romances, Malory’s account differs from his models in its emphasis on the brotherhood of the knights rather than on courtly love, and on the conflicts of loyalty (brought about by the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere) that finally destroy the fellowship.
Sir Bedivere returning Excalibur, Arthur’s sword, to the lake from which it came, illustration by Aubrey Beardsley for an edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur.
Le Morte Darthur, the first English-language prose version of the Arthurian legend, completed by Sir Thomas Malory about 1470 and printed by William Caxton in 1485. The only extant manuscript that predates Caxton’s edition is in the British Library, London. It retells the adventures of the knights of the Round Table in chronological sequence from the birth of Arthur. Based on French romances, Malory’s account differs from his models in its emphasis on the brotherhood of the knights rather than on courtly love, and on the conflicts of loyalty (brought about by the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere) that finally destroy the fellowship.

Rewritten Source

Modern scholars have, I think rightly, stated that Mark, or another gospel on which Mark is based, was one of the two main sources of both Matthew and Luke. Unfortunately, the laziness of the human spirit later led scholars astray and instead of trying to find out whether the common source of both Matthew and Luke was Mark or his supposed source, they increasingly identified this source with Mark. This led to deplorable consequences for modern New Testament scholarship. As we shall see, Mark is a completely rewritten source. The adaptor had the popular Hellenistic taste for dramatization and his theological acumen was not very strong. One may compare his way of rewriting his sources with that of Sir Thomas Mallory.

For someone who does not know literary criticism, the popular form of expression of this kind of literature may evoke the false impression of original freshness. For instance: “Then Sir Gawayne and Sir Tristram departed and rode on their wayes a day or two and there by adventure they mette with Sir Kay and with Sir Sagramour le Desyrous. And then they were glad of Sir Gawayne and he of them, but they wyst not what he was with the shylde of Cornwayle but by….” An uninformed reader would say: “How many details! This has the freshness of an eye-witness report.”

Let me give an even more characteristic parallel case from Mark’s Gospel, the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26). Jesus “took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked him: ‘Do you see anything?’ And he looked up and said: ‘I see men but they look like trees walking.’ Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and he was restored, and saw everything clearly” (see also Mark 7:31-37, and compare with Matt. 15:29-31).

This is not an archaic way of writing, but a popular form of vivid description. Later scholars abandoned the idea of Mark’s original freshness, but, not being versed in literary criticism, they assumed that Mark was the fruit of an “oral tradition” and, because they thought that Mark was the source of both Matthew and Luke, they extended the hypothesis of oral origin to all three Synoptic Gospels.

The following step in New Testament scholarship was caused by modern theology. Today it seems to be difficult to believe in facts and Jesus does not fit modern idealistic theology. Thus, it is easier for many theologians to believe in the kerygmatic Christ, as depicted in the Gospels, than to follow the “historical Jesus.” This historical tour de force is supported by the theory of the oral origin of the Gospels: the oral tradition has, so to speak, its place in the creative power of the Church; the object of its preaching was not the historical Jesus, but the kerygmatic Christ; the Gospels are mainly the reflection of the faith in the resurrected Lord. (Most of the champions of this approach do not believe in the resurrection.)

Even before I had the pleasure of meeting Lindsey, I did not accept all these beautiful ideas. I saw, from my experience with other sources, that also in the case of the Gospels, the philological approach was better suited to the matter at hand. Knowing both Greek and Jewish sources, I recognized that Mark was the fruit of thorough editing. And then I met Lindsey.

Two Crucial Facts

Lindsey approached the problem from another angle. He wanted to make a new Hebrew translation of Mark’s Gospel for his community and thus he was forced to recognize that Mark was rewritten, because his text is a strange mixture of Hebrew memories and of Greek popular style. He pursued this line of investigation and discovered two crucial facts. He saw that, in passages where Mark is lacking, Matthew is more Hebraic and is not imbued with the typical Greek style of Mark. He also discovered that Luke shows no traces of being influenced by the editorial activity of Mark, and the third Gospel, written by a Greek physician, is far more Hebraic than the Gospel supposedly written by the Jew, John Mark. From these two facts Lindsey concluded that Mark had entirely rewritten a source which was known to Luke before it was edited and that Matthew used Mark. But there are many minor agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark in passages from Mark. Thus, Matthew used both Mark and his original source. Further, Lindsey rightly supposes that in rewriting his source, Mark was helped by the extant Gospel of Luke.

Lindsey’s arguments are stringent, but his approach can be tested only when at least two conditions are fulfilled: the investigator must first study most of, if not all, the relevant Gospel materials in the light of the theory, and secondly, he must know enough Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic to understand the argument. Lindsey himself could see the truth only because he speaks Hebrew fluently and can thus read the relevant old Hebrew sources. I do not know if there are scholars studying Chinese or Tibetan Buddhist texts without knowing Sanskrit and Pali. If such scholars indeed exist, it is a great pity. I remember attending in Germany a very important colloquium about New Testament problems. Important German professors were present and I met no opposition—until I claimed that a certain passage in Matthew is a literal translation from Hebrew. Then I was attacked by the whole learned crowd: “How do you know?” they said. Last year I read the same passage at the Hebrew University where the reaction of a Dutch student who has lived here for some years and speaks fluent Hebrew was: “But these words are literally translated from Hebrew!”

Let me provide only one example of the importance of knowledge of Hebrew for an understanding of the Gospels. Jesus said, according to Matthew 6:31-32: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things.” In Luke 12:30 we read instead of “the Gentiles”: “all the nations of the world.” This is a translation of the Hebrew “kol oomot ha’olam,” an expression common in rabbinical writings. If I am not wrong, Jesus’ words are the first example of the use of this expression (in a not very friendly context).

Thus the greatest difficulties for the acceptance of Lindsey’s approach to the synoptic problem will be: 1. Ignorance of Greek and Hebrew linguistics; 2. Lack of training in literary criticism; 3. A hypertrophy of idealistic theological mist; 4. The inveterate “oral” approach to the Gospels; 5. The belief in a kerygmatic Christ and the distrust of a Jewish “historical Jesus.” Thus, the psychological obstacles for Lindsey’s solution will be great today, but it is always difficult to find belief on earth.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying the good fortune of being able to use Lindsey’s achievements for my own research. My German book about Jesus, which has already appeared in English, is based upon Lindsey’s solution to the synoptic problem. I hope that my book will pave the way for the acceptance of Lindsey’s method by non-committed scholars, and especially by students. It seems to me that it is of vital importance for the understanding of Jesus that the new hypothesis be tested. To what extent Mark obscured the intentions of his source by rewriting and dramatizing his source can be shown by inner analysis and by comparison with the other two Synoptic Gospels. My own experience has proven that these profound changes made by Mark had the effect of making Jesus’ image less clear. And if in Mark the picture of Jesus the man became unclear, it is natural that Jesus became also less of a Jew. This can now, after Lindsey’s discovery, be proved by objective textual analysis. Thus, even if Lindsey’s achievements are not immediately accepted by academic pontificators, it will eventually help the real pontifices, the “bridge builders,” those who want better understanding between Judaism and Christianity.[12]

  • [1] Robert L. Lindsey, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark. Jerusalem: Dugith Publishers, 1969 (1st ed.); 1973 (2d ed.). xxvi + 162 pp. (Preface to the 2nd ed., pp. v-xxvi. Foreword by David Flusser, pp. 1-8. Introduction, pp. 9-84. Greek text and Hebrew trans., pp. 85-159.)
  • [2] Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.15.
  • [3] De Consensu Evangelistarum 1.2.4.
  • [4] English translation: Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (trans. John Marsh; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1963).
  • [5] David Flusser remarked at the press conference that Lindsey’s Hebrew translation of Mark is of much significance in the long history of New Testament Hebrew translations, but that the importance of Lindsey’s work lies mainly in Lindsey’s theory of the composition of Mark and Mark’s relationship to that of Matthew and Luke. See David Flusser’s references to Lindsey’s research in David Flusser, The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 3-4, 122. Flusser states: “My approach to the [“Synoptic Problem” is]…chiefly based on the research of the late R. L. Lindsey…The present biography [The Sage from Galilee] intends to apply the methods of literary criticism and Lindsey’s solution to unlock these ancient sources [the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke]” (pp. 3-4). See also the references to Lindsey in Flusser’s entry, “Jesus,” in The Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter; New York: Macmillan, 1972), 10:10.
  • [6] Flusser explained at the press conference that the very way in which Lindsey came to his conclusions has a certain authenticity which is to be admired: “Lindsey started out only to get a modern Hebrew text of the Gospel of Mark that would update the excellent but antiquated translation of Franz Delitzsch. He had been taught, as we all were, that from the last quarter of the nineteenth century it had been proved that Mark had served as one of the sources of Matthew and Luke. He had no reason to disbelieve this theory. It was while he was making his first draft that he ran into the difficulties that drove him to his long and painstaking research and which, in my view, ended in the most important and decisive correction of the usual view of Markan priority ever made.”
  • [7] Albert Huck, Synopsis of the First Three Gospels (9th ed. rev. by Hans Lietzmann; New York: American Bible, 1936).
  • [8] William F. Moulton and Alfred S. Geden, eds., A Concordance to the Greek Testament According to the Texts of Westcott and Hort, Tischendorf, and the English Revisers (3rd ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1950).
  • [9] The Augustinian theory insists that Mark used Matthew only to be followed by Luke who used both Mark and Matthew. A modern defense of this position may be found in B. C. Butler’s The Originality of St. Matthew: A Critique of the Two-Document Hypothesis (Cambridge, 1951). On the other hand, the Griesbach theory concludes that Luke used Matthew only to be followed by Mark who used both Luke and Matthew. The strongest defense of this theory is provided by W. R. Farmer’s book, The Synoptic Problem: A Critical Analysis (2nd ed.; Dillsboro, NC: Western North Carolina Press, 1976).
  • [10] I met Professor Flusser for the first time in the summer of 1961.
  • [11] The end of Mark’s Gospel was lost at an early stage, but some scholars believe it may have been preserved in the last chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.
  • [12] This article appeared on page 11 of the Friday, October 24, 1969 Jerusalem Post Magazine [the weekend supplement].

“They Didn’t Dare” (Matt 22:46; Mark 12:34; Luke 20:40): A Window on the Literary and Redactional Methods of the Synoptic Gospel Writers

Revised: 08-Jul-2013

Mark’s placement of Jesus’ “no longer dared” comment is very awkward: first, because the comment comes in the middle of a lovefest between Jesus and a scribe; and second, because the comment immediately follows Jesus’ appreciation of the scribe’s wisdom: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

The Texts

Here are the three “no longer dared” texts in Greek and in literal English translation, from the shortest to the longest:

Luke 20:40: οὐκέτι γὰρ ἐτόλμων ἐπερωτᾶν αὐτὸν οὐδέν (ouketi gar etolmon eperotan auton ouden; For no longer were they daring to keep questioning him anything).

Mark 12:34c: καὶ οὐδεὶς οὐκέτι ἐτόλμα αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι (kai oudeis ouketi etolma auton eperotesai; And no one no longer was daring him to question).

Matt 22:46: καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο ἀποκριθῆναι αὐτῷ λόγον οὐδὲ ἐτόλμησέν τις ἀπ᾽ ἐκείνης τῆς ἡμέρας ἐπερωτῆσαι αὐτὸν οὐκέτι (kai oudeis edynato apokrithevai auto logon oude etolmesen tis ap’ ekeines tes hemeras eperotesai auton ouketi; And no one was able to answer him a word nor dared anyone from that day to question him any longer).

The Terrain

Let’s look at the terrain in which these three texts are found: “The Question about the Resurrection” (Aland pericope no. 281); “The Great Commandment” (Aland 282); and “The Question about David’s Son” (Aland 283). Here are the observable details:

Luke, Mark and Matthew conclude successive pericopae with similar words, “No one dared to question him [that is, Jesus] any longer” (Matt 22:46; Mark 12:34; Luke 20:40). Luke places the phrase at the conclusion of the “Question about the Resurrection” (Luke 20:27-40). Mark positions the phrase at the end of the discussion of the “Great Commandment” (Mark 12:28-34), and Matthew uses it to conclude the “Question about David’s Son” (Matt 22:41-46). Not only does the “no longer dared” statement appear in a certain sequence, but it is always one gospel writer who has the statement against the other two, who do not have it. All three gospels agree in placing the statement during the events of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, and each of the Evangelists places the statement at the conclusion of a series of dispute episodes between Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

A major difference between the three synoptic writers in this series of stories (Aland 281-283) is that Luke drops out of order with Matthew and Mark by giving the “Great Commandment” pericope in his chapter 10. Matthew matches Mark’s placement of the “Great Commandment” pericope, yet he drops Mark’s expansion (Mark 12:32-34), creating an agreement (in omission) with Luke. In addition, there are several Matthean-Lukan “minor agreements” against Mark, the most obvious being νομικός (nomikos, lawyer; Luke 10:25; Matt 22:35), against Mark’s εἷς τῶν γραμματέων (heis ton grammateon, one of the scribes; Mark 12:28). Jesus is addressed as διδάσκαλε (didaskale, teacher; Luke 10:25; Matt 22:36), against Mark’s absence of an epithet. Furthermore, Luke and Matthew agree on ἐν τῷ νόμῳ (en to nomo, in the law; Luke 10:26; Matt 22:36) against Mark’s πάντων (panton, [first] of all; Mark 12:28).

The most dramatic difference between the three versions of the “Great Commandment” story is that in the Lukan account it is not Jesus who responds to the lawyer’s question, but, following a counterquestion from Jesus, the lawyer answers his own question! If, historically, it was the lawyer who linked the two וְאָהַבְתָּ (ve-‘ahavta, and you shall love) scriptures—and we know that this linking was already part of first-century Judaism[1] then, the “Great Commandment” story is inherently non-confrontational! Luke has preserved an original form of the story since it is implausible that Luke would place “innovative teaching” of Jesus in the mouth of a bystander unless that was what Luke found in his source.

The “Two-gospel” View

The “Two-gospel” solution to the synoptic problem assumes that Matthew was copied by Luke, who was in turn copied by Mark. Mark also used Matthew in creating his account.[2] However, if Mark saw Matthew’s account of these three stories (Aland 281-283), why did Mark not leave the “no one dared to question” comment in Matthew’s more logical and rhetorically forceful location? Why did Mark transfer this comment from the “David’s Son” story to the “Great Commandment” story? Why would Mark (in the “David’s Son” story) omit Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisees, which caused them to be afraid to question Jesus further? Finally, if Mark was looking at the texts of Matthew and Luke when he wrote the “Great Commandment” story (Aland 282), why did he drop the reference to “lawyer” (vomikos) and to “to test (him)” found in Matt 22:35 (πειράζων, peirazon) and Luke 10:25 (ἐκπειράζων, ekpeirazon).

The “Two-source” View

The Two-source Hypothesis is today’s most widely accepted solution to the synoptic problem.[3] Proponents of this view assume that Luke 20:40 is “a modified form of Mark 12:34” (so Joseph A. Fitzmyer).[4] “For this verse Luke draws on Mark 12:34b” (so John Nolland).[5]

In copying Mark, Luke drops the “Great Commandment” story from its original location (Aland 282). Matthew follows Mark in pericope order, yet produces minor agreements with Luke’s version of the “Great Commandment” story (located in Luke 10), and Matthew, like Luke, eliminates the scribe’s praise of Jesus (Mark 12:32-34), creating with Luke a major agreement in omission. If the author of Matthew does not know Luke’s Gospel, how does Matthew in copying Mark reach such agreement with Luke?

Compared to Matthew and Luke’s accounts of the “Great Commandment,” Mark’s account is expansive. A Markan priorist must say that at this point in the synoptic tradition (Aland 282), Luke is a reductionist, and explain Luke’s reason for dropping the “Great Commandment.” Two-Source adherents also must explain why Matthew drops and replaces Markan words, creating agreements with Luke, whom, by definition, Matthew has not seen.

Markan priorists acknowledge the difficulties this synoptic situation poses for the Two-source Hypothesis. R. T. France remarks about Mark 12:34: “After such an encouraging comment [France refers to Jesus’ words to the scribe, ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of God’] it is surprising to read that no one dared ask any more questions.”[6] Craig Evans comments: “The most difficult question facing interpreters concerns the relationship of Mark 12:28-34 to Matt 22:34-40 and Luke 10:25-29. Matthean and Lukan dependence upon Mark cannot account for Luke’s very different form and context of the tradition, for in Luke the question is ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ and it is the one who asks the question, not Jesus, who articulates the famous double commandment to love God and one’s neighbor….”[7]

A New View

Let us assume that Mark is the middle term, but that the order of writing of the synoptic gospels is linear, and that this order is Luke-Mark-Matthew. Let us also assume that Luke has before him two extracanonical sources, the first of which is the source he shares with Matthew—call it Q if you wish—and the second source, an abridgment of the first. Let us further assume, like Two-Source adherents, that Matthew and Luke did not see each other’s gospels.

Assuming such an hypothesis, then Luke has copied from one of his two sources (or both) the “no longer dared” statement, which constitutes the conclusion of the “Question about the Resurrection” pericope. Mark notices Luke’s string of “Jesus in conflict with the Temple authorities” stories. Remembering Jesus’ encounter with a lawyer ten chapters earlier in Luke’s account, Mark moves his heavily redacted version of the story to a position following the “Question about the Resurrection” story. Matthew follows Mark in making this move.

In reality, Mark does not add his version of the “Great Commandment” story after the “Question about the Resurrection” story, but rather he inserts it before the “no longer dared” comment. That is, Mark interjects his “Great Commandment” story between Luke 20:39 and 20:40, between “And some of the scribes, answering, said: ‘Teacher, you have spoken well'” and “For they no longer dared to ask him anything.” Notice that the first verse of Mark’s “Great Commandment” story contains γραμματέων (grammateon, scribes) and καλῶς (kalos, well), while Mark’s long expansion (Mark 12:32-34) begins with γραμματεύς (grammateus, scribe), διδάσκαλε (didaskale, teacher) and καλῶς (kalos, well). These words Mark brings over from Luke 20:39 (or Luke’s source for 20:39). In effect, Mark expands on Luke 20:39 with its grammateondidaskale, and kalos. Mark simply postpones the “no longer dared” comment until the end of his “Great Commandment” insertion. Mark agrees with Luke that the “no longer dared” statement comes after Jesus had disposed of the Sadducees and after the scribes’ compliment, except that Mark has expanded the scribe’s compliment and repeated it. In Luke 20:39, the scribes (probably Pharisees) are pleased with Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees. By his “Great Commandment” insertion, Mark continues the joy of one of these scribes (Mark 12:28), even extending it by creating an expansion (Mark 12:32-34). Mark takes a story without the tension and hostility of the previous story and places it at the rhetorical pinnacle. He lengthens the confrontation, but also exposes his editorial insertion. Apparently, Matthew wanted to have Jesus demolish the Pharisees, as well as the Sadducees and the scribes; therefore, he postponed the “no longer dared” statement until the end of his next pericope (Aland 283), in which Matthew alone identifies Jesus’ hearers—these are “the Pharisees.” Because there is only one Pharisee in the “Great Commandment” story—one scribe in Mark’s account, and one Pharisaic lawyer in Matthew’s account—Matthew needs an additional dispute (Aland 283) before he can sum up by using the “no longer dared” comment. Matthew has Jesus first defeat the Sadducees (Aland 281), then one Pharisee (Aland 282), and finally, many Pharisees (Aland 283).[8]

How can a synoptic theory of Lukan priority account for the “minor agreements” in the “Great Commandment” story? After all, Aland 281-283 are Triple Tradition stories, and according to most Markan priorists, Q is a sayings source. In this new hypothesis, these Matthean-Lukan agreements can be accounted for by the assumption of a shared source like Q that contained narrative as well as sayings material.

The Jewish-Semitic Element in Aland 282-283

According to Luke’s account, a lawyer puts a question to Jesus “to test him” (Luke: ekpeirazon auton; Matt: peirazon auton) (in Jewish parlance, to test his orthodoxy; perhaps the Mishnaic Hebrew לבדוק אותו [livdok ‘oto]). Instead of providing an answer (as in Mark and Matthew’s accounts), Jesus, the master teacher, in traditional Jewish style, responds to the lawyer’s question with a question, eliciting the correct answer from the lawyer. Jesus asks, “What is written in the Torah? How do you read?” (Luke 10:26), a significant Semitic doublet, probably reflecting, מה כתוב בתורה כיצד אתה קורא (Mah katuv ba-torah? Ketsad ’atah kore’?). The lawyer responds with the “And you shall love…and you shall love” (ve-‘ahavtave-‘ahavta) midrash (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18), and all that remains for Jesus to do is to pat the lawyer on the back. There is no conflict, rather, a rare glimpse of the harmony of beliefs that existed between Jesus and the Pharisees.

The “David’s Son” story, too, is Jewish and Semitic. Jesus opens with a question, a common way for a Jewish sage to begin a lesson (This pedagogic technique culminated in a collection of midrash known as Tanhuma Yelammedenu.) Moreover, in Luke’s account only, Jesus’ opening contains a probable Semitism: πῶς λέγουσιν (pos legousin, “How can they say…” that is, “How can one say…?” or “How can it be said…?”), the 3rd person of the plural form of the verb used idiomatically in an impersonal sense.[9]

We might retrovert Jesus’ question found in Luke 20:41 to Hebrew as, כֵּיצַד אוֹמְרִים שֶׁהַמָּשִׁיחַ בֶּן דָּוִד (ketsad ‘omrim she-ha-mashi’ah ben David? How can they say that the Messiah is the son of David?). In Luke’s account there is not necessarily conflict or animosity. However, Mark specifies the subject, “How can the scribes say…?” altering his source from impersonal to personal. Matthew turns the story into a dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees.

The Semitic Element in the “No longer dared” Comment

Although penned later than Luke, the Matthean version of the “no longer dared” statement preserves Semitic elements absent in Luke. These Semitisms point to an earlier form of the text. Whereas Luke adds the postpositive γάρ (gar), and gives the verbs τολμᾶν (tolman) and ἐπερωτᾶν (eperotan) in the continuative tense (that is, “were daring” and “to keep questioning”), Matthew prefaces the statement with καί (kai, and), and preserves both verbs (ἐτόλμησεν [etolmesen]; ἐπερωτῆσαι [eperotesai]) in the aorist tense, features which better fit a Semitic narrative. Matthew also exhibits verb-first word order in his second clause. In addition, and perhaps most strikingly, in Matthew’s version, the sentence is in the form of a parallelism (“nobody could answer…nobody dared ask”), a classic feature of Hebrew. Matthew’s version of the sentence is much longer, but it is closer to an original Semitized Greek source. Although Luke has the more original placement of the “no longer dared” saying, Matthew has better preserved its wording.

Mark’s editorial hand is evident in his version of the “no one dared” sentence. Mark fronted two items, οὐδεὶς οὐκέτι (oudeis ouketi, no one no longer), changed the order of ἐπερωτῆσαι (eperotesai, to ask) and αὐτόν (auton, him), and gave the verb τολμᾶν (tolman) in the imperfect (i.e., “was daring”). Vincent Taylor wrote: “As in [12:]28, so in 34b Mark’s hand is to be seen in the concluding statement…. For the double negative v. the note on 1.44; ἐπερωτάω v. 9. τολμάω, xv. 43.”[10]


It is unlikely that Luke got his “no longer dared” comment from Matthew or Mark since the comment makes sense contextually only in Luke’s “Question about the Resurrection” story. Only in Luke does the comment find its context within a true dispute. Matthew follows Mark’s story order as well as Mark’s text, but his agreements with Luke and his omissions of Markan material show that he is also copying from the source he shares with Luke. While it is true that Luke, or the second extracanonical source he was copying, has redacted the “no longer dared” comment, Luke’s version of the comment is not dependent on Matthew or Mark. The “no longer dared” statement has been relocated by Mark and Matthew, or their source(s), even though Matthew has retained more of the statement’s hypothetical Semitic undertext.

This study illustrates the importance of a correct and full methodology for interpreting the synoptic gospels. Although necessary, a correct synoptic hypothesis is not enough! Without sensitivity to the Semitic elements embedded in the text, one might assume, based on the “no longer dared” comment’s correct placement by Luke, that Luke preserves the earliest form of the text. However, by paying close attention to Semitisms in the text, one can correct first impressions, illustrating the added value of a Semitic approach to the synoptic gospels.

  • [1] See David Flusser, “The Ten Commandments and the New Testament,” in The Ten Commandments in History and Tradition (ed. Ben-Zion Segal; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1990), 229-30.
  • [2] The Griesbach Hypothesis was revived in 1964 by William R. Farmer (see Farmer, The Synoptic Problem: A Critical Analysis [2nd ed.; Dillsboro, NC: Western North Carolina Press, 1976]). This solution to the synoptic problem posits that the Gospel of Matthew was written first, that Matthew was used by Luke in writing his Gospel, and that Mark’s Gospel was a conflation of Matthew and Luke.
  • [3] The Two-source hypothesis assumes that the authors of Matthew and Luke independently copied from the Gospel of Mark and a non-canonical collection of sayings of Jesus known as “Q.”
  • [4] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke (AB 28A; Garden City: Doubleday, 1981), 1307.
  • [5] John Nolland, Luke (WBC 35C; Dallas: Word Books, 1993), 968.
  • [6] R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 482.
  • [7] Craig A. Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20 (WBC 34B; Dallas: Word Books, 2001), 262.
  • [8] For the analysis of Mark’s redactive activity described in this paragraph, I am indebted to Randall Buth.
  • [9] For a discussion of the use of impersonal plural in the New Testament, see Matthew Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts (3d ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 126-28.
  • [10] Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark (2d ed.; London: Macmillan, 1966), 490.

Selected Examples of Rewriting in Mark’s Account of Jesus’ Last Week

Revised: 02-Jul-2013

It has been noted that in instances where Mark’s editorial hand restructured his story, Luke has preserved a more primitive form of the account, a form that is independent of Mark’s influence. Gospel scholars need to properly evaluate Mark’s editorial style and acknowledge that frequently a theological agenda influenced his rewriting.[1]

In 1922 William Lockton proposed a theory of Lukan priority. According to Lockton’s hypothesis, Luke was written first, copied by Mark, who was in turn copied by Matthew who copied from Luke.[2] Forty years later Robert L. Lindsey independently reached a similar solution to the so-called “synoptic problem.” He proposed a theory which argues that Luke was written first and was used by Mark, who in turn was used by Matthew (according to Lindsey, Matthew did not know Luke’s Gospel).[3] As in the more popular Two-document (or Two-source) Hypothesis, Mark is the middle term between Matthew and Luke.

Lindsey arrived at his theory by accident. Attempting, for the benefit of modern speakers of Hebrew, to replace Franz Delitzsch’s outdated translation of the New Testament, Lindsey began by translating the Gospel of Mark, assuming it to be the earliest of the Synoptic Gospels. Although Mark’s text is relatively Semitic, it contains hundreds of non-Semitisms that are not present in Lukan parallels. This suggested to Lindsey the possibility that Mark was copying Luke and not vice versa.[4] With further research Lindsey came to his solution to the synoptic problem.

A number of researchers in Israel, most prominently David Flusser, espoused Lindsey’s source theory.[5] These scholars believe that a Hebrew Vorlage lies behind the Greek texts of the Gospels and that by translating the Greek texts back into Hebrew and considering how this Hebrew text would have been understood by first-century readers, one gains a fuller understanding of the Gospel texts’ original meaning.

In their emphasis on the importance of Hebrew for synoptic studies, Lindsey, Flusser, and their students, are a product of the pioneering work of Hebrew University professor M. H. Segal, who suggested as early as 1909 that Mishnaic Hebrew showed the characteristics of a living language.[6] Segal’s conclusions have largely been borne out by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Bar Kochva letters and other documents from the Dead Sea area.

Lindsey’s synoptic theory is a minority opinion. The vast majority of today’s New Testament scholars assume the Two-document Hypothesis: Luke and Matthew wrote independently using Mark and a common source, which is sometimes termed Q. Since, according to this theory, Matthew and Luke relied in their Triple Tradition material upon Mark, one would not expect texts of their Triple Tradition to be superior to Mark’s. Certainly, one would not expect to find Luke and Matthew agreeing against Mark (such agreements are termed “minor agreements”[7] )to preserve a more primitive wording. Yet, this is sometimes the case. In the Synoptic Gospels there are examples of what appear to be Markan rewriting of Luke’s account (or one of Luke’s sources or a Lukan-like source).[8]

Let us compare the Matthean, Markan and Lukan versions of the following passages, or portions of them, from the last week of Jesus’ life (only the first in some depth): 1. Jesus’ Last Visit to the Temple (Aland pericopae 271-274); 2. the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Aland 278); 3. The Great Commandment (Aland 282); 4. the Last Supper (Aland 311); 5. Jesus before the Sanhedrin (Aland 332); and 6. Jesus’ Death on the Cross (Aland 347-348).[9] Examination of a limited corpus of material from the last week of Jesus’ life could shed light on Mark’s editorial methods and indicate the interdependency of two of the Synoptic Gospels (Luke and Mark). Obviously, for these examples to be compelling, it would be necessary to integrate them into a fuller treatment of the synoptic problem.

Jesus’ Last Visit(s) to the Temple

The “Cleansing” according to the Synoptic Gospels

Luke’s version of the Cleansing is brief and straightforward: “And he entered the temple and began to take out the sellers, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house will be a house of prayer,” but you have turned it into “a den of bandits.”’” According to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus cleansed the temple on the same day that he and his disciples reached Jerusalem. Matthew’s Gospel agrees with Luke’s that Jesus “cleansed” the temple immediately after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The two writers agree against Mark that the Cleansing did not take place on the day following Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In contrast to Luke and Matthew’s accounts, Mark’s account of the temple’s cleansing is much more complex: Jesus entered Jerusalem and went straight to the temple. After “he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve” (vs. 11).[10] The next day—“In the morning,” according to Matthew—on their way to Jerusalem from Bethany, Jesus cursed a fig tree. (Matthew adds: “And the fig tree withered at once.”) Arriving in Jerusalem for the second time, Jesus entered the temple. According to Mark, it was on this second visit to the temple that he “cleansed” it, driving out not only the merchants, but their customers, as well. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the pigeon sellers’ chairs, even preventing the transporting of burdens in the temple. (Matthew, following Mark up to this point, omits “he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.”)

Apparently, on their way back to Bethany—for they passed the same fig tree that Jesus had cursed earlier in the day—Jesus and his disciples found that the fig tree had withered.


A. Jesus in the Temple (Luke 19:45-46; Mark 11:11; Matt. 21:10-17; Aland 271).

And he entered Jerusalem. According to Mark, Jesus “entered into Jerusalem into the temple.” Upon his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went straight to the temple, but only “looked around[11] at everything” in it. Unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke does not mention that Jesus “entered Jerusalem.” Luke already had mentioned that Jesus reached the “descent of the Mount of Olives” (Luke 19:37) and that he “saw the city” (Luke 19:41). Mark had not included these details, and perhaps felt it necessary to bring Jesus into Jerusalem.

B. The Cursing of the Fig Tree (Mark 11:12-14; Matt. 21:18-19; Aland 272).

Vincent Taylor suggested that Mark’s Cursing of the Fig Tree reflects Luke 13:6-9,[12] which begins, “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard,[13] and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.” Rudolf Bultmann, too, came to the conclusion that Mark 11:12-14 was a literary creation,[14] although he suggested that Hosea 9:10, 16 or Micah 7:1 may have sparked its creation.[15]

In Scripture the vineyard symbolizes the “house of Israel,” that is, the people of Israel.[16] The fig tree, which towered over the vines, may symbolize the leaders of the people. The fig tree in the Luke 13:6-9 parable, which may have given Mark his lead, probably symbolized the Sadducean high priestly families, the temple’s leadership.

for it was not the season for figs. Jesus’ action as portrayed by Mark and Matthew is strange to say the least:[17] he cursed a poor fig tree because he found no fruit on it, “although it was not the season for figs”![18] The addition in Mark 11:13, ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς οὐκ ἦν σύκων, absent in Matthew, appears to be a Markan editorial comment. According to Lindsey, ὁ γάρ is a Markan formula indicating an editorial addition.[19]

C. The Cleansing of the Temple (Luke 19:45-48; Mark 11:15-19; Matt. 21:12-13; Aland 273).

Luke’s account of the Cleansing (Luke 19:45-46) is brief, just twenty-five Greek words, compared to Mark’s sixty-five (Mark 11:15-17). The author of Matthew (Matt. 21:12-13), attempting to be faithful to Mark and the source he shared with Luke, was, as often in Triple Tradition, somewhere in between Luke and Mark in length—Matthew’s account is forty-five words.

Put yourself in the picture! Imagine yourself standing on Valley Street, about 65 meters south of the southwest corner of the Temple Mount, late in the morning of an ordinary day between 10 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. The broad stairway to your left leads over a series of arches, the last and highest of which is known today as Robinson's Arch. This stairway leads to the Royal Stoa, also known as Solomon's Colonnade or Portico (John 10:23; Acts 3:11; 5:12), a huge hall that stretches along the top of the Temple platform's southern wall. The Valley Street runs from the area of today's Damascus Gate in the north, passes by the Antonia Fortress (at the northwest corner of the Temple Mount), and continues south to the Siloam Pool in the City of David, at the junction of the Kidron and Tyropean Valleys. The street is flanked on both sides by shops. When excavated (since 1968), these shops yielded the finds one would expect—coins, storage jars and stone weights. Through Robinson's Arch you can see Wilson's Arch, which forms the eastern part of a bridge that connects the upper city on the western hill with the Temple Mount. On the pavement beside a manhole, you see an employee of the Department of Public Works. Herod the Great's urban renewal includes not only vast building projects above ground, but also an extensive system for water collection and drainage.
The vendors’ stalls in the vicinity of Robinson’s Arch at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount.

entered the temple. In light of recent research and archaeological evidence, a reinterpretation of Luke 19:45 is needed. On the face of it, εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸ ἱερόν (Luke 19:45) should mean “to go into the temple proper,” that is, into the Court of the Women, or into the outer court, the Court of the Gentiles. However, since monetary transactions and other commercial activities were not permitted in the temple itself (not even in the Court of the Gentiles), in this context, “temple” probably refers to the area surrounding the temple platform, particularly the commercial area immediately south of the Huldah Gates, the double gates that served as the entrance for temple pilgrims. (In rabbinic sources this area, or even the whole of Jerusalem, could be called “the temple.”) Jesus apparently entered this vicinity, an area of great sanctity because it was the area of preparation for the ascent to the temple. Here there were scores of mikva’ot for the ritual purification of pilgrims before their ascent, but also scores of encroaching stalls of merchants. The noise of the hawkers was a terrible distraction for pilgrims, but, more importantly, the shops reeked of corruption because the high priestly families operated there like the Mafia. Jesus was not against the use of money or the sale of sacrificial animals in the temple, which was stipulated in the Torah (Deut. 14:25);[20] but, like many others of his day, he was incensed by the actions of the people running the system, the ruthless high priests, who did not shrink even from murder: “You, who are robbers, are turning the temple into a ‘den of robbers,’” was Jesus’ indictment.

and began to take out those who sold. The Greek ἐκβάλλειν (ekballein) could mean “take out” or “cast out” (of the temple courts); but if Jesus had not entered the temple proper, the “out” does not make sense (although it could mean “out of the commercial area” located outside the temple proper). Although not the most common Hebrew equivalent for ekballein,[21] Lindsey suggested that the Hebrew verb להוציא (lehotsi’; take out, bring out) underlies ekballein.[22] If so, then ekballein could have the sense, “take aside,” “pull off to the side,” or “take outside [their stalls (or outside the area)].” Jesus did not use force, but skillfully combined texts of Scripture to rebuke the sellers for being part of a corrupt system organized and run by the high priests. We might translate Luke 19:45 as: “Jesus entered [the commercial area of] the temple and began to take the merchants (or the high priests’ enforcers) aside (or, outside the area) [to rebuke them]….” Jesus entered the temple and began[23] to remove the merchants who were selling in the temple,[24] rebuking them for desecrating the sanctity of the temple. Since Lindsey assumed that behind the Greek word ἐκβάλλειν (ekballein; drive out, banish; throw out; throw away, reject; cast out of a place, expel; remove, get rid of; put out), stood the Hebrew להוציא (lehotsi’; bring out, take out), Lindsey used that word in his translation of Mark 11:15.[25] However, if lehotsi’ was in the hypothetical Semitic undertext, one would expect ἐξάγειν (lead out, bring out), or ἐκφέρειν (ekferein; carry out, bring out), to be its Greek equivalent—to translate lehotsi’, the translators of the Septuagint used ἐξάγειν 171 times and ἐκφέρειν sixty-seven times, but ἐκβάλλειν (ekballein) only five times (2 Chron. 23:14; 29:5, 16 [twice]; Ezra 10:3). Nevertheless, as Lindsey suggested, lehotsi’ is a possible equivalent of ekballein, and if lehotsi’ is behind ekballein, then the sense originally might have been, “take [the sellers] aside,” or “take [them] outside [their stalls],” or even, “take [them] out [of the area].”[26] The Hebrew lehotsi’ might provide a more satisfactory explanation of Jesus’ action: he did not use physical violence to “cleanse” the temple, but rather, used strong words of reproof, warning the sellers about the gravity of their deeds by combining texts of Scripture.

The assumption that lehotsi’ stands behind ekballein might also explain the amplification of violence as the story was retold, first by Mark, then by Matthew, and finally, by John. Ekballein’s assumed Hebrew equivalent, lehotsi’, did not necessarily imply violence; however, the Greek ekballein—although it, too, is sometimes nonviolent in meaning—can indicate “to throw out vigorously or violently.”[27] The development from Luke to Mark to Matthew to John is one of increasing violence, until, finally, John portrays Jesus as braiding a whip, with which he drove all sheep and cattle from the temple courts, scattering the coins of the money changers and overturning their tables (John 2:13-16). This appears to be a development that was facilitated by the Greek language, and, thus, a development that occurred only after the Gospel narrative had been rendered into Greek. The increasing level of violence, beginning with Mark and ending with John, may also indicate the direction of synoptic flow.[28]

overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who sold pigeons. Joseph A. Fitzmyer comments:

Denial of the historicity [of the Purging of the Temple, Lk. 19:45-46] stems mainly from the inability to explain how Jesus as a single individual could have cleaned out the great Court of the Gentiles of the sellers and money changers who did business there with the permission of Temple authorities and succeeded in it without opposition or a least the intervention of Temple police. How could he have prevented the court from being used as a thoroughfare for transporting objects (Mark 11:16)? There is, in the long run, no way of answering this question, valid though it may be; we just do not know how Jesus might have done it.[29]

The answer to the conundrum might be found, as Lindsey has suggested, in a Hebraic understanding of “drive out.”[30] A misunderstanding of the Hebraic nuance of ἐκβάλλειν together with a shift to the Greek nuance of the word might explain the expansion and growing violence that took place in the accounts of the other three Gospels, culminating in John’s account.

Even if Mark realized that here ekballein carries the sense of the Hebrew lehotsi’ (to take out, take aside), in order to build his midrash (Mark 11:15-16), he may have taken ekballein in one of its Greek nuances: “to cast, throw out.”[31]

he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. Matthew was apparently unwilling to copy Mark’s “He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple” (vs. 16). With the addition of “in the temple” (vs. 15, which Matthew followed) and “through the temple” (vs. 16), Mark created the impression that temple commerce took place within the temple itself, probably in the Court of the Gentiles, rather than outside the temple.[32]

In Luke’s account Jesus is protesting against the commercialization of the sacred temple.[33] However, in Mark’s account, by not allowing anyone to carry anything through the temple, Jesus virtually shuts down the temple.[34]

my house. Here “house” carries the Hebraic sense of “God’s house,” that is, the temple in Jerusalem. (Compare “Your house is forsaken” in Luke 13:35, and its parallel in Matt. 23:38.) The probable scenario is: Jesus took the vendors aside[35] and said to them, “My house [beti] is a house of prayer, but you have made my house [beti][36] a den of thieves,” a combination of allusions to Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.

house of prayer…den of robbers…. The rabbinic way in which Jesus quoted Scripture (Luke 19:46), combining portions of two verses from distant contexts (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11), should be noted.[37] Jewish sages often employed just a single word or phrase of a scripture verse to allude to the verse’s whole context, for example, Jesus’ reference to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) to allude to Ezekiel 34. When Jesus mentioned “robbers,” was he, perhaps, alluding to the whole of Jeremiah 7 (cf. especially, Jer. 7:14, 20, 30, 32-34)?

The author of Mark, in Mark 11:17, spoils the rabbinic sophistication of Jesus’ saying by 1) quoting more fully, adding “for all the nations”[38] ; 2) changing Jesus’ “It is written” to a question, “Is it not written?”; and 3) prefacing “And he taught,” perhaps a reflection of Luke 19:47, “And he was teaching daily in the temple.”

And he was teaching daily in the temple…. According to Lindsey, Luke 19:47-48 is an editorial summary similar to the summary in Luke 21:37-38.[39] We can conjecture that the two verses were composed in Greek by Luke, or by the second of his two sources.

D. The Meaning of the Withered Fig Tree (Mark 11:20-25; Matt. 21:20-22; Aland 275).

"The Accursed Fig Tree" by James Tissot. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
“The Accursed Fig Tree” by James Tissot. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Like Taylor, Beare and Bultmann conjectured that the Miracle of the Fig Tree pericope is a literary creation of Mark, perhaps reflecting a Lukan fig tree story.[40] Lindsey suggested that the Meaning of the Withered Fig Tree pericope is a reflection of two Lukan passages: Mark 11:22-23, which seems to be based on Luke 17:5-6 (replacing sycamore tree with Paul’s “mountain” in 1 Cor. 13:2); and Mark 11:24-25, which seems to be based on Luke 11:9-13.[41]

Analysis of “Jesus’ Last Visit(s) to the Temple”

The two Markan fig-tree pericopae bracket Jesus’ “cleansing,” or “purging,” of the temple. Mark’s order of presentation is: temple – fig tree – temple – fig tree. He split both stories, making the temple story almost a double cleansing. Both Matthew and Luke recorded only one visit to the temple, and, Matthew, who also recorded the Cursing of the Fig Tree story, did not split the story.

By bracketing the Cleansing of the Temple pericope with the Cursing of the Fig Tree and Withering Fig Tree pericopae, Mark’s intent, apparently, was to point to the temple’s defilement. His presentation reveals his own editorial work. There is literary build-up in Mark’s Gospel.

Flusser points out that in Mark’s presentation, Jesus never weeps over Jerusalem, and suggests that the cursing of the fig tree may be Mark’s way of presenting Jerusalem as already judged and cursed.[42] Perhaps Mark was recounting the last week of Jesus’ life from a sectarian rather than a historical point of view. The author of Mark 11:11-25 may have been influenced by the Essene attitude to the temple in Jerusalem. The Essenes viewed the temple as defiled, and they loathed the temple and its priests.[43] By bracketing the Cleansing with the two fig tree incidents, Mark reveals a similar attitude to the temple.

Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Luke 20:9-19; Mark 12:1-12; Matt. 21:33-46 (Aland 278)

In Mark’s account, the tenants murder the son in his father’s vineyard, then throw the son’s body out of the vineyard (Mark 12:8). In Matthew and Luke’s accounts, however, the tenants throw the son out of the vineyard and then murder him (Matt. 21:39; Luke 20:15). This is a Matthean-Lukan minor agreement in word order: “cast out” and “kill,” in contrast to Mark’s “kill” and “cast out.” Independently, Matthew and Luke have agreed against Mark that the heir was murdered outside the vineyard![44]

This Matthean-Lukan minor agreement in order is strong evidence that the Markan order is secondary. If it could be shown that a theological bent lies behind the evangelist’s change of order, this would further strengthen the argument for the primacy of the Matthean-Lukan order of the events in the parable. Indeed, the Markan version of the parable appears to be theologically motivated.

In what is apparently the story’s earliest form, the tenants murder the owner’s emissaries who were sent “that the tenants should give them from the fruit of the vineyard,” that is, the percentage of the crop that was due the owner. Not giving the owner of the vineyard his share of the fruit may have been Jesus’ veiled criticism of the temple priests’ non-payment of tithes. The “fruit,” which belongs to the owner of the vineyard, perhaps symbolizes the tithes that belong to God.[45] As noted above, in Scripture the “vineyard” symbolizes the people of Israel. In Jesus’ parable, the vineyard’s tenants are possibly the Sadducean religious authorities, particularly the five prominent families from which, during the latter years of the Second Temple’s existence, the high priest was chosen: the houses of Boethus, Hanan, Phiabi, Kathros and Kimhit.[46] They are portrayed negatively in rabbinic literature, as well as in the New Testament, because of their corruption and greed.[47] Jesus may have indicated the punishment that awaited these leaders because they were not giving the “owner of the vineyard” his share of the fruit.

In his retelling of the parable, Mark seems to have subtly changed the parable so that instead of it being a condemnation of the temple high priests for not tithing, it became a statement about the pollution of the temple—Mark has the son killed by the tenants in the vineyard, thus defiling it. Apparently, in Mark’s eyes, the temple was already hopelessly defiled.

Obviously, most Pharisees did not believe that the temple had been defiled, since they continued to participate in temple worship and sacrifices. The Essenes, however, did believe that it had been defiled (see note 43). Was Mark influenced by Essene beliefs? The literary tendencies he displays in this parable may be an indication that he was.

Mark’s version of the Parable of the Wicked Tenants exhibits similarities to his Cursing of the Fig Tree. In both there is a vineyard (assuming Mark created his Cursing of the Fig Tree pericope from Luke’s Fig Tree Parable) and the absence of fruit.[48]

A Question Concerning the Resurrection

Luke 20:27-40; Mark 12:18-27; Matt. 22:23-33 (Aland 281)

For they no longer dared to ask him any question. The Question Concerning the Resurrection, a story from Jesus’ last week, contains an example that, like the mounting violence in the Gospel versions of the Cleansing of the Temple pericope, illustrates the synoptic flow from Luke to Mark to Matthew. Flusser called this example the Synoptic Gospels’ clearest illustration of the synoptic relationship.[49]

This story highlights the conflicts over theological issues that characterized Jesus’ relationship with the Sadducees. Its concluding words, according to Luke, were: “For they no longer dared to ask him any question” (Luke 20:40). However, Mark placed these words at the end of The Great Commandment story: “And after that no one dared to ask him any question” (Mark 12:34); and Matthew placed them at the end of The Question about David’s Son pericope: “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions” (Matt. 22:46).

The statement that “they no longer dared to ask him any question(s)” appears in three consecutive contexts (Aland 281, 282 and 283), yet it fits only where the author of Luke placed it, in the context of Jesus’ dispute with the Sadducees about the resurrection. Mark omitted the statement in his version of the dispute with the Sadducees, but placed it at the end of a scribe’s expansive repetition of Jesus’ words about the great commandment. (It is significant that Matthew and Luke agree to omit Mark’s expansion, Mark 12:32-34.) The Great Commandment story is not a dispute context; therefore, it is probable that Mark has misplaced the statement.

Matthew, perhaps following Mark’s lead, likewise decided not to give the statement within a dispute context—even though he may have seen it in the source he shared with Luke—nor did he give it opposite Mark in The Great Commandment pericope. He placed it at the end of his version of The Question about David’s Son. By so doing, the author of Matthew turned the story into a dispute context. It is unlikely that The Question about David’s Son is a dispute context, since its opening, “How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son?”[50] is a typical rabbinic way of a launching a lesson.[51] The question-riddle in this instance is, “How can one say that the Messiah is the descendant [literally ‘son’] of David? David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit here at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ David calls him lord, so how can he be his descendant?”[52] This is a question that Jesus might well have put to his disciples; and, therefore, it appears to be authentic.

Luke 20:41-44 is the shortest and most difficult of the three versions of the The Question about David’s Son. Luke’s version, unlike Mark and Matthew’s, has no setting, beginning, “And he said to them”—a very rabbinic and Hebraic opening. This opening is followed by another Hebraism, “How they say…?” that is, “How can one say?” or “How is it possible to say?”[53]

The Last Supper

Luke 22:15-20; Mark 14:22-25; Matt. 26:26-29 (Aland 311)

The Pharisaic order for festive meals, including the Passover meal, was wine-bread. That order was preserved in Luke’s version of The Last Supper (Luke 22:17-19). Mark’s order, which is followed by Matthew, is bread-wine. That also appears to be Paul’s order in 1 Cor. 11:23-29.[54]

Mark’s bread-wine order may be due to the influence of Essene theology.[55] R. Steven Notley has suggested that the move to the bread-wine order occurred because the Essenes believed that this would be the order followed by the messiah of the End of Days. They identified this priestly messiah with Melchizedek, and since Melchizedek “brought out bread and wine” (Gen. 14:18) to bless Abraham when he returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and his coalition, it was believed that the coming messiah would continue this practice.[56]

In this example, as in the other cases of Markan rewriting detailed above, the Lukan version appears superior to the Markan version.[57] There appears to be little motivation on the part of the author of Luke to have changed Mark’s order. The wine-bread order in Luke seems unmotivated, insipid, and, therefore, it appears improbable that Luke’s version was copied from Mark’s. The simplest explanation is that Luke’s version is the more historical. On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Mark, influenced by Paul’s writings, Essene theology, eschatological considerations, or a combination of these and other reasons, changed the wine-bread order preserved in the Lukan account.

Here we may have still another Markan editorial change that connects the Gospel’s author with Essene thinking. Rather than viewing the author of Mark as Pharisaic and main-stream like Luke, we must consider the possibility that Mark’s author had a sectarian and eschatological bent.

Jesus before the Sanhedrin

Luke 22:54, 63-71; Mark 14:53, 55-65; Matt. 26:57, 59-68 (Aland 332)

In the account of Jesus’ arrest and confinement in the high priest’s courtyard, or, according to Matthew and Mark, during a court session of the Sanhedrin,[58] we find a significant Matthean-Lukan “minor agreement”: τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε (“Who is it that struck you?” Luke 22:64; Matt. 26:68). Mark’s account omits the question (Mark 14:65). If one assumes that Luke and Matthew wrote independently, this omission is strong evidence that, at this point in his narrative, Mark’s version is secondary.[59] It is easier to suppose that Mark deleted the question, “Who is it that struck you?” from his narrative than that Luke and Matthew, each independently, inserted it in theirs.[60] Streeter considered this agreement of Matthew and Luke against Mark “the most remarkable of all the minor agreements”;[61] nevertheless, in order to eliminate it, he cited some textual support for the reading, “Who is it that struck you?” in Mark’s text. Although all manuscripts of Matthew include the taunt of those who slapped, struck and spit upon Jesus, Streeter suggested, on the basis of assimilation, that the taunt is an interpolation in Matthew.[62]

According to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus was blindfolded, and Jesus’ guards, slaves of the high priest, amused themselves, probably to relieve the boredom of a long night, by cruelly using Jesus in a children’s game.[63] (In this game one of the participants is blindfolded, then struck lightly and asked to guess which of the other participants struck him.[64] The next morning the “assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes.”

In Mark, followed by Matthew, this order of events is reversed, with the guessing game coming at the end of a night session of the Sanhedrin.[65] (Flusser believed that this is just one of many cases in which Mark “deliberately changes the wording and order of his Vorlage.”)[66] However, Mark failed to have the members of the Sanhedrin exit. Since he knew from his source who Jesus’ tormentors were, in order to prevent misunderstanding on the part of his readers, Mark added, “And the guards received him with blows” (Mark 14:65).[67] Matthew’s author, however, made no mention of the guards, and therefore, it appears that some of those attending the council’s meeting, perhaps even members of the Sanhedrin, spit on Jesus and struck him. Matthew also omitted the blindfolding of Jesus, thus making the guards’ question inappropriate.

Jesus’ Death on the Cross

Luke 23:44-49; Mark 15:33-41; Matt. 27:45-56 (Aland 347-348)

Compared to the Matthean-Lukan portrayal, the Markan Jesus is a lonely individual: Jesus is deserted first by his people, then by his disciples, including his most trusted disciple, Peter, and finally, by God himself.[68] Jesus’ words from the cross, “ελωι ελωι λεμα σαβαχθανι” (Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani; Mark 15:34), seem to fit this Markan despair framework.[69] These words appear to be Mark’s replacement for Luke 23:46.[70] Apparently, Mark substituted Psalms 22:1 (in Aramaic!)[71] for Luke’s more appropriate, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit” (Pss. 31:5), just what one would expect on the lips of a dying, observant Jew.[72]

Mark’s replacement may be a midrashic expansion of an earlier version of Jesus’ death on the cross,[73] a version like that preserved in Luke.[74] Jesus’ words, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” are often viewed as evidence that Jesus spoke Aramaic, since the words are an Aramaic translation of Psalms 22:2 (22:1), “אֵלִי אֵלִי לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי.” However, it is more likely that Jesus, who in the last days before his crucifixion had already told his disciples of his impending death and its meaning, would, in his final moments, have recited the verse from Psalms 31 rather than the verse from Psalms 22.[75] Later, Stephen also quoted from Psalms 31 as he was being put to death (Acts 7:59; cf. John 19:30), and Peter exhorted those who were sharing the sufferings of Jesus to commit their souls to God (1 Pet. 4:19).

Mark’s statement about the bystanders thinking that Jesus was calling for Elijah (Mark 15:35) betrays his report that Jesus cried out: “Eloi, Eloi.” In Mark’s account, the word-play, “my God [eli]” and “Eli,” the shortened form of Eliyahu (Elijah), has been lost—it is in Hebrew and not in Aramaic that “my God” and “Eli” are identical in sound![76] As he copies Mark’s text, Matthew apparently notices this difficulty and corrects to “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”—a mixture of Hebrew (Eli, Eli) and Aramaic (lema sabachthani).

According to Mark’s Gospel, followed by Matthew’s, when Jesus died, “the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). According to Luke’s account, however, the tearing of the curtain occurred before Jesus’ death (Luke 23:45). This apparent Markan change interrupts the flow of the narrative, interfering with the centurion’s reaction in verse 39: “And when the centurion…saw that he thus breathed his last, he said….” The Markan change of order may be theologically motivated, Mark’s way of saying that immediately upon Jesus’ death the defiled temple’s worship began to come to an end.

Summing Up

In this article I have questioned the originality of Mark’s text at certain points in his narrative of Jesus’ last week. The examples I have chosen are glaring; however, since they are relatively few in number, they cannot be expected to move scholarly opinion regarding the priority or originality of the Gospel of Mark. Perhaps I have succeeded in putting a few chinks in the armor with which Markan priorists are covered: the Two Document Hypothesis.

In the accounts of Jesus’ Last Visit to the Temple the brief, straightforward story preserved in Luke’s Gospel must be preferred over the Markan account. There are just too many problems with Mark’s version of the Cleansing of the Temple: Mark’s Gospel has Jesus “cleansing” the temple on the day following the day on which Jesus arrived in Jerusalem; and not, as in Luke and Matthew’s Gospels, on the day in which he arrived in Jerusalem. Jesus’ cursing of a fig tree because he found no fruit on it, “although it was not the season for figs” is difficult to understand. Mark bracketed the Temple’s Cleansing story with the two-part Cursing of the Fig Tree story. Perhaps influenced by the Essene attitude to the temple in Jerusalem, Mark tried to make a statement about the temple’s defilement at the hands of the Sadducean high priestly families who held sway in the temple, and about the coming divine judgment upon these families.

The Markan Jesus drives out the temple merchants, overturning tables and chairs, even preventing the transporting of burdens in the temple; whereas, Luke’s Gospel depicts a Jesus who employs Scripture to criticize the sellers, but does not use force or violence. (Scholars have had difficulty believing that single-handedly Jesus could have shut down temple commerce without the temple guards intervening.) The Markan portrayal of a resort to violence on the part of Jesus may have been facilitated by the range of meaning of the Greek word ἐκβάλλειν, which, in contrast to its conjectured Hebrew translation equivalent, להוציא, could include a nuance of violence.

Mark’s version creates the impression that the stalls of the money changers and the sellers of birds and animals for sacrifice were located within the temple proper, in the Court of the Gentiles, something that is a virtual impossibility.

Luke’s version of the Parable of the Wicked Tenants also appears much superior to Mark’s, certainly in one respect: Mark has the tenants of a vineyard murder the owner’s son within the vineyard and then throw the corpse outside; but Luke, in agreement with Matthew, retains the tradition that the son was murdered after being thrown out of the vineyard. The Matthean-Lukan agreement against Mark is evidence that Mark rewrote the parable, reconstructing it so that the owner’s son was murdered in the vineyard. Like Mark’s Cursing of the Fig Tree story, his Parable of the Vineyard apparently was meant to highlight the pollution of the temple. In this theological conclusion, Mark was more like the Essenes than Jesus and the Pharisees.

The A Question Concerning the Resurrection, like the Cleansing of the Temple, indicates that the synoptic flow is from Luke to Mark to Matthew. Mark placed the words, “And no one any longer dared him to question” (Mark 12:34) at the end of his The Great Commandment pericope. In doing so, Mark caused the story to become a conflict between Jesus and the scribes. Arguing against the originality of Mark’s placement of the “dare to question” note is the fact that the note’s six words conclude a seventy-six-word Markan addition (vss. 32-34) that contains extensive repetition that is copied neither by Matthew nor Luke. Matthew’s placement of the “dare to question” statement in still a third context, also argues against Mark. Luke’s version is the shortest and most difficult of the three versions of the The Question about David’s Son story, which is a further argument against the originality of Matthew and Mark’s placement of the “dare to question” comment.

The Pharisaic order for festive meals—wine-bread—was preserved in Luke’s version of The Last Supper; however, Mark rewrote, changing the order to bread-wine. Bread-wine is the Essene order and may be another example of the influence of Essene theology on the author of Mark. The Essenes believed that this would be the order followed by the Messiah at the messianic banquet. They identified this messiah with Melchizedek. Since, according to Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek offered bread and wine (in that order) to Abraham, surely the coming messiah would continue this practice. Again, following the usual rules of textual criticism, one has to prefer the Lukan order since it is the more difficult reading. One can explain Mark’s text as a result of Pauline or Essene influence, or eschatological desires, but it is difficult to explain Luke’s text. Here too, we may be able to detect, as in Jesus’ attitude to the temple, that the Lukan Jesus is more in line with Pharisaic theology while the Markan Jesus lines up with Essene thought.

The element of despair that permeates Mark’s version of Jesus’ Death on the Cross appears to be tendentious. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is deserted by the Jewish people, his disciples, and hanging from the cross, even by God himself. Jesus’ memorable Aramaic words from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” probably were intended to complement Mark’s despair motif.[77] Luke’s parallel (“Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit”), as well as Matthew’s (“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”), help to confirm the assumption that Mark is responsible for rewriting either Luke’s text, or an extracanonical, Lukan-like source.

The agreement of Matthew and Luke to include the words, “Who is it that struck you?” in the Jesus before the Sanhedrin pericope is perhaps the most significant Matthean-Lukan “minor agreement” in the Synoptic Gospels. Assuming that Matthew and Luke wrote independently, the absence of these words in Mark is very difficult to explain. In addition, Mark and Luke differ on the order of events following Jesus’ arrest. In Mark’s Gospel, the guards’ guessing game follows a night session of the Sanhedrin; however, in Luke’s Gospel the gathering of the Sanhedrin occurs in the morning, and after the guessing game. Support for the assumption that Mark inverted this order of events is found within the text of Mark itself: Mark, for example, failed to have the members of the Sanhedrin exit after their nocturnal meeting, and, therefore, apparently to compensate for this omission, which made it appear that members of the Sanhedrin struck Jesus and spit on him, Mark noted that the guards “received him [Jesus] with blows.”


Luke’s account of Jesus’ last week is often clearer and more logical than Mark’s; however, this does not necessarily mean that Luke’s account has been reworked. Luke contains too much material that a Greek-speaking author could not create, such as Hebraisms that are non-Septuagintalisms. In addition, there are often indications that Mark’s account, when it differs from Luke’s, is theologically driven. For example, Mark bracketed the Cleansing of the Temple story with two fig tree stories; and, in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants story, he had the owner’s son murdered inside the vineyard.

There is reason to hypothesize that the author of Mark’s peculiar theology may have been influenced by Essene ideas. Some of the ideas, or emphases, that Mark introduced into his narrative seem to reflect Essene theology, particularly the Essenes’ attitude to the Temple in Jerusalem. Was the author of Mark an Essene himself, or was he close to Essenes who joined the early community of Jesus?

The examples we have considered from the last week in the life of Jesus indicate that it was Mark who rewrote Luke, and not vice versa.[78] Although limited in number, these examples of Mark’s editorial work have extra significance because they are confined to one section of the synoptic narrative. They call for a reconsideration of the synoptic question. There is reason to believe that the “synoptic flow” is not in the direction that is commonly assumed, from Mark to Luke, but rather from Luke to Mark.

  • [1] A revised and abbreviated version of this unpublished article (written in 2004) was published as “Evidence of an Editor’s Hand in Two Instances of Mark’s Account of Jesus’ Last Week?” in Jesus’ Last Week: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels (ed. R. Steven Notley, Marc Turnage and Brian Becker; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2006), 1:211-24. The “Evidence of an Editor’s Hand in Two Instances of Mark’s Account of Jesus’ Last Week?” contains rewriting carried out by the volume’s editors. Where there are contradictions between the two versions, the text of the original, longer version, here published for the first time, represents the author’s view. I am greatly indebted to Randall Buth for his guidance in writing this article. On numerous occasions we discussed the passages here dealt with and Mark’s theological penchants. Without Buth’s help, I could not have written the article.
  • [2] William Lockton, “The Origin of the Gospels,” CQR 94 (1922): 216-39. Lockton subsequently wrote three books to substantiate his theory, all published by Longmans, Green and Co. of London: The Resurrection and Other Gospel Narratives and The Narratives of the Virgin Birth (1924), The Three Traditions in the Gospels (1926), and Certain Alleged Gospel Sources: A Study of Q, Proto-Luke and M (1927).
  • [3] Robert L. Lindsey, “A Modified Two-Document Theory of the Synoptic Dependence and Interdependence,” NovT 6 (1963): 239-63. Lindsey’s theory postulates four non-canonical documents, all of which preceded the Synoptic Gospels in time, two that were unknown to the synoptists—the original Hebrew biography of Jesus and its literal Greek translation—and two other non-canonical sources known to one or more of the synoptists. Here is how Lindsey described these latter two non-canonical sources: “Anthology (or, Reorganized Scroll). Before the Greek Life of Jesus was widely circulated, its contents were reorganized: opening incidents were collected from teaching-context stories and, together with miracle and healing stories, placed at the beginning of the new scroll; discourses were collected from the teaching-context stories and placed in the second section of the scroll (these discourses were often grouped on the basis of common key words); twin parables, normally the conclusion to teaching-context stories, were collected and placed in the third and final section of the scroll. Thus, parts of the Greek translation were divorced from their original contexts and the original story outline was lost; First Reconstruction. Not long before Luke was written, an attempt was made to reconstruct a chronological record by excerpting units from the Anthology. This resulted in a much shorter version of Jesus’ biography (a condensation of about eighteen chapters), as well as a significant improvement in its quality of Greek” (“Conjectured Process of Gospel Transmission,” Jerusalem Perspective [henceforth, JerPers] 38-39 [1993]: 6). In Lindsey’s theory, Matthew, Mark and Luke were acquainted with the Anthology, but Luke alone was acquainted with the First Reconstruction. Mark used Luke while only rarely referring to the Anthology. Matthew used Mark and the Anthology.
  • [4] Priority of writing order does not necessarily imply originality of text.
  • [5] David Flusser, “Jesus,” EncJud 10:10.
  • [6] M. H. Segal, “Mishnaic Hebrew and Its Relation to Biblical Hebrew and to Aramaic,” in JQR (Old Series) 20 (1908-9): 647-737. See also Segal’s A Grammar of Mishnaic Hebrew (Oxford, 1927).
  • [7] In the Triple Tradition there are approximately 800 Matthean-Lukan minor agreements, and a similar number of Matthean-Lukan agreements in omission (where Matthew and Luke agree to omit words from Mark’s account).
  • [8] One potential type of Markan rewriting is the changing of the order of events, for example, the placement of the tearing of the temple curtain after Jesus’ death rather than before it (Mark 15:37-38; for a fuller discussion, see the section, “Jesus’ Death on the Cross”); or, the placement of the guessing game the guards played after a meeting of the council rather than before it (Mark 14:53, 55-65; for a fuller discussion, see the section, “Jesus before the Sanhedrin”).
  • [9] Two of the examples I will consider (numbers 2 and 5) are Matthean-Lukan minor agreements (against Mark). Such agreements are extremely significant. If, in Triple Tradition, Matthew and Luke, supposedly working independently, agree to disagree with Mark, this would appear to be evidence that Matthew and Luke had a common source other than Mark; however, according to the Two-document Hypothesis, the only source for their Triple Tradition materials was Mark. The improbability that at these points of agreement Matthew and Luke were copying from Mark creates a challenge for proponents of the majority view.
  • [10] “As it was prescribed that the roasted lamb be eaten within the walls of the holy city [m. Zevahim 5:7-8; cf. m. Pesahim 7:9], on the last evening Jesus did not return to Bethany, but remained in Jerusalem [Matt. 26:17-20]” (David Flusser, The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007], 134).
  • [11] The word περιβλέψεσθαι has a profile that Lindsey classified as “a Markan stereotype” (see his A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark [2nd ed.; Jerusalem: Dugith, 1973], 57-63.) The word appears six times in Mark (Mark 3:5, 34; 5:32; 9:8; 10:23; 11:11), but only once in the rest of the New Testament (Luke 6:10 [opposite Mark 3:5]).
  • [12] “Probably the best explanation of the narrative is that the parable of the Fig Tree in Lk. xiii.6-9, or a similar parable, has been transformed into a story of fact, or that in primitive Christian tradition a popular legend came to be attached to a withered fig tree on the way to Jerusalem” (Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark [London: Macmillan, 1955], 459). Earlier, Lockton already had come to the same conclusion (Lockton, The Three Traditions in the Gospels, 111-13). F. W. Beare comments: “The strange episode of the Cursing of the Fig Tree is the only cursing miracle of the Gospels. Its symbolic significance leaps to the eye: it is a symbol of Israel, which has failed to bring forth the fruits for which God planted it, and is therefore condemned to perish. The same symbolism lies behind the parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke xiii. 6-9), and it is not unlikely that the miracle-story is a secondary form of the parable….” (The Earliest Records of Jesus [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962], 206). According to R. Steven Notley, “The ‘Parable of the Fig Tree’ (Luke 13:6-9), which communicates God’s patience and mercy, becomes in Mark the ‘Cursing of the Fig Tree.’” In creating his pericope, Mark has inserted into it “hints to the destruction of Jerusalem that allude to the words and actions of the prophet Jeremiah… The action against the fig tree recalls the words of Jeremiah, ‘When I would gather them, says the Lord, there are…no figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered….’” (Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels,” JerPers 51 [1996]: 25).
  • [13] It was a common practice of farmers in the land of Israel in ancient times to plant fig trees in one or more corners of their vineyards. A fig tree provided a shady spot for vine-tenders to rest or take their meals, and gave the owner a bit of added revenue.
  • [14] “This editorial activity [the separation of Mark 11:15-19 and 11:27-33] is to be ascribed to the evangelist Mark, and in that case we may also have to assume that he has edited the story of the cursing of the fig tree itself” (Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition [trans. John Marsh: Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1963], 218).
  • [15] Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, 230-31. A. Robin also suggested Mic. 7:1 (“The Cursing of the Fig Tree in Mark XI. A Hypothesis,” NTS 8 [1961/62]: 276-81).
  • [16] Cf. Isaiah’s “Song of the Vineyard” in 5:1-2—a vineyard that yielded only bad fruit: “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel” (Isa. 5:7a). See Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke (ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1896), 453. Cf. Isa. 5:7; Matt. 21:28. Elsewhere, the vine represents the people: Pss. 80:8, 14 (gefen); Jer. 2:21 (sorek); Ezek. 17:6; 19:10 (gefen).
  • [17] See Lockton, The Three Traditions in the Gospels, 114-15: “As the account of an actual event the story appears impossible, and must be explained as the result of the materialisation of parables and metaphorical sayings into a narrative historical form in the course of a process of literary development and accretion. If the story stood alone, we might hesitate to postulate such an origin, but other examples of the same thing may be recognised in the second gospel, including…the portents at the time of the crucifixion with the cry of dereliction, and also what is the most important instance, the long discourse of the last things.”
  • [18] From personal knowledge, one would not find ripe, edible figs on fig trees in the land of Israel at the Passover season. The early figs do not ripen until at least a month later. “One theory is that Mark was the first to link this with the entry into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the temple, there being no original connection with these events. If this is so, it is superfluous to ask whether Jesus could expect to find edible fruits on the tree in spring-time at the Passover” (Claus-Hunno Hunzinger, “συκῆ,” TDNT 7:756).
  • [19] Personal communication. See Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark, 460: “The parenthesis ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς οὐκ ἦν σύκων is best ascribed to Mark himself, since such explanations are in accordance with his style.” According to the Babylonian Talmud (b. Ta‘anit 24a), R. Yose’s son commanded a fig tree להוציא פרותיה שלא בזמנה (to bring forth fruit out of season).
  • [20] So Craig A. Evans (Mark 8:27-16:20 [WBC 34B; Dallas: Word Books, 2001], 172): “That animals were to be bought and sold for purposes of the sacrificial offerings is completely in step with the requirements of the Law of Moses.”
  • [21] In the Septuagint ἐκβάλλειν is usually (28 times; cf. 2 Chron. 29:5, 16; 23:14) the translation of לגרש (legaresh; drive out, expel), and only 5 times the translation of להוציא.
  • [22] Lindsey may not have noticed that when ἐκβάλλειν is used in the Septuagint to translate להוציא, the sense is always a removal for the purpose of purifying, or cleansing, the temple: “bring her [Athaliah] out of…[the temple to be executed]” (2 Chron. 23:14); “Sanctify yourselves and sanctify the house of the LORD…and take the defilement out of the holy place” (2 Chron. 29:5); “The priests went into the house of the LORD to purify it, and they brought out of the sanctuary all the unclean things…and they [the Levites] took them out [and got rid of them] in the Kidron Valley” (2 Chron. 29:16); “to put away [send away, get rid of] all such wives and their children” (Ezra 10:3). These wives and children represented the unfaithfulness of the people and their pollution due to intermarriage. It is significant that the people’s admission of guilt as well as their step of repentance took place in the square, or courtyard, before the “house of the LORD” (see Ezra 10:1, 9). Each of these five occurrences of ἐκβάλλειν = להוציא is an occasion of bringing out, or removing, pollution from the temple, that is, each was a cleansing of the temple. Did the translators of the Septuagint distinguish this use of the Hebrew verb להוציא by translating with ἐκβάλλειν? Did, therefore, the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Jesus, aware of this Septuagintal translation pattern, use ἐκβάλλειν as his translation of להוציא in Jesus’ “temple cleansing of pollution”?
  • [23] “Although Luke was following Matthew at this point [Luke 19:45-46], he made a number of changes. For example, Luke changed Matthew’s ἐξέβαλεν in Matt. 21:12 to ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν (Lk 19:45). This pleonastic/inceptive use of ἄρχομαι + the infinitive is a linguistic characteristic of Luke….” (Allan J. McNicol, ed., Beyond the Q Impasse—Luke’s Use of Matthew [Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996], 250. This book was written by a research team made up of Lamar Cope, David Dungan, William R. Farmer, Allan McNicol, David Peabody and Philip Shuler [p. vi], members of the “Farmer School.” Originated by William R. Farmer and Dom Bernard Orchard, the members of this school have returned to the Griesbach Hypothesis as a solution to the synoptic problem [p. xiv].) It is untrue that the use of ἄρξασθαι + infinitive is a linguistic characteristic of Luke. The Farmer School’s approach is methodologically flawed because it has not taken into account the book of Acts, Luke’s second composition. While, in Luke’s Gospel ἄρξασθαι + the infinitive is found twenty-seven times, in Acts this linguistic feature occurs only six times (Acts 1:1; 2:4; 11:15; 18:26; 24:2; 27:35). Such a dramatic drop in occurrence from Luke to Acts suggests that it was not Luke who had a penchant for this idiom, but rather, that he accepted it from a source. A more serious flaw in the Farmer School’s methodology may be its non-use of the Hebrew control: Does the Greek of Matthew, Mark or Luke appear to be Hebrew in Greek guise? The Hebrew control is not just an examination of an isolated Hebrew idiom, but a careful inspection of the idiom’s context, which inquires whether or not the idiom appears in a Semitized Greek context that reflects, for instance, Semitic word-order and Semitized Greek word choices. The “ἄρξασθαι + infinitive” usage—not to speak of the brevity of the passage and the καί with which it opens—is an indication of Luke 19:45-46’s originality. The usage, more common in Middle Hebrew than Biblical Hebrew, is a telltale Hebraism and points to a Hebrew undertext. For a detailed analysis of this usage, see Buth and Kavasnica’s “Excursus on ἄρξασθαι, or Who Was Rewriting Whom?” Critical Note 4 in Randall Buth and Brian Kavasnica, “Temple Authorities and Tithe Evasion: The Linguistic Background and Impact of the Parable of the Vineyard, the Tenants and the Son” in Jesus’ Last Week: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels, 1:261-68.
  • [24] These merchants were selling sacrificial animals and birds to pilgrims who came to the temple from within and without the land of Israel. A few dozen meters south of the Huldah Gates, the entrance to the temple, there were stalls of money changers who provided the Tyrian coin required for payment of the annual half-shekel tax. (See Shmuel Safrai, “The Temple,” in The Jewish People in the First Century [ed. Shmuel Safrai and Menahem Stern; Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 1976], 945-70.)
  • [25] Lindsey, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark, 133. Lindsey’s English translation of Luke 19:45 is “‘…usher out all those who were making business,’ as he shouted, ‘It is written….’” (Robert L. Lindsey, Jesus, Rabbi and Lord: A Lifetime’s Search for the Meaning of Jesus’ Words, 151).
  • [26] For examples of the thrust of the Hebrew verb להוציא, see Gen. 14:18, where Melchizedek “brought out” (LXX: ἐξήνεγκεν) bread and wine; Josh. 6:22, where the spies were commanded to “bring out” (LXX: ἐξαγάγετε) Rahab from Jericho; and b. Ta‘anit 24a, where R. Yose’s son commanded a fig tree to “bring forth” fruit.
  • [27] See BAG, 236-37; Jastrow, 587-88.
  • [28] One should note that there is this same pattern of increasing violence from Luke to Mark to Matthew in the Markan-Matthean parallels to Luke 21:12-13: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.” Mark’s parallel reads, “They will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake” (Mark 13:9). Matthew’s parallel reads, “They will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake” (Matt. 24:17-18). See Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels,” 23.
  • [29] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke (AB 28A and 28B; Garden City: Doubleday, 1981, 1985), 1264. For a discussion of the historicity of Jesus’ dramatic action in the temple, see Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20, 164-69. Evans conclusion: “Recent research in the historical Jesus has by and large come to accept the historicity of the temple demonstration” (Mark, 166).
  • [30] For a detailed explanation of Lindsey’s suggestion, see Joseph Frankovic, “Remember Shiloh!” JerPers 46-47 (1994): 28-29, n. 2.
  • [31] Perhaps Mark noticed the reference in his source(s) to paritzim (robbers) in Jer. 7:11, then read on to Jer. 7:15, where the text says והשלכתי אתכם מעל פני (vehishlachti etchem me’al panai; LXX: ἀπορρίψω, cast out), and expanded his text midrashically in the direction of ekballein’s “cast out” nuance. This may explain Mark’s midrashic-like expansion of Mark 11:15-16. Additionally, Mark may have been influenced by the words of Zech. 14:21, “On that day there shall no longer be any merchant in the house of the LORD of hosts.”
  • [32] The “temple” was not only the temple proper, but also the temple complex, including its commercial areas. Even Jerusalem is sometimes called “the temple” in Jewish sources. “As time passed, the Rabbis taught that the sanctity of the Temple applied to the entire city of Jerusalem, and that the ‘minor sacrifices’ (i.e., those that could be eaten by the people) could be eaten throughout the city (m. Zebah. 5.7-8). Talmudic literature frequently attests that the Paschal sacrifice was in fact eaten in the houses of the city and on its roofs. So also, Philo indicates that on the Festival of Passover every ‘dwelling-house’ (οἰκία; Spec. Laws 2.148) assumes the sanctity of the Temple. The halakah of the Qumran sect was opposed to this ruling, and their literature vehemently challenged the eating of the Paschal sacrifice throughout the entire city of Jerusalem. The author of Jubilees, who was close to the ideology of the Qumran Sect, even mandated the death penalty for anyone who ate this sacrifice outside of the Temple (49.16-20; cf. also 7.36, and 32.4; and 11Q19 17.8-9” (Shmuel Safrai, “Early Testimonies in the New Testament of Laws and Practices Relating to Pilgrimage and Passover,” in Jesus’ Last Week: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels, 1:47-8). An area could be added to the temple court by the Sanhedrin of seventy-one judges (m. Sanhedrin 1:5; m. Shevi’it 2:2).
    Since areas beyond the temple proper, particularly the temple’s commercial areas, could be referred to as “the temple,” the area of stalls located at the base of the temple platform near the southern entrance to the temple compound, the Huldah Gates (m. Middot 1:3), is a candidate for the place of Jesus’ action. Most New Testament commentaries suggest that the outer court of the temple, also known as the Court of the Gentiles, was the site of the Cleansing. According to Safrai (personal communication), there is not the slightest possibility that the Cleansing could have happened in the Court of the Gentiles. No selling was allowed in the temple’s courts, including the temple’s outer court—there was a prohibition against going up on the temple platform carrying a purse (m. Berachot 9:5). Commercial activity also took place in the Royal Stoa, or Solomon’s Portico, a huge hall located on the southern edge of the temple platform; however, it was not possible to enter the temple courts from that hall. The Royal Stoa was enclosed and the only exit (and entrance) was via an arched stairway whose highest arch is today known as Robinson’s Arch. See Joseph Frankovic, “Where Were the Vendors?JerPers 46-47 (1994): 29. Cf. Safrai, “The Temple,” 945-70.
  • [33] Was Jesus protesting commercialization, or, as Buth and Kavasnica suggest, accusing the high priests of stealing from God (“You have made it a den of thieves”)? (see Buth and Kavasnica, “Temple Authorities and Tithe Evasion: The Linguistic Background and Impact of the Parable of the Vineyard, the Tenants and the Son,” in Jesus’ Last Week: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels, 1:65-73). There were Jewish elements in first-century Israel who strongly condemned the mixing of temple commerce, which tended to encourage overcharging and even fraud, with the holy activities of the temple. See Flusser, The Sage from Galilee, 131-2; Shmuel Safrai, Die Wallfahrt im Zeitalter des Zweiten Tempels (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1981), 185-88 (= Pilgrimage in the Second Temple Period [Tel Aviv: Am Hassefer, 1965], 147-49 [Hebrew]). See also, Safrai, “The Temple,” 945-70.
  • [34] See Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels,” 25-6. Cf. E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (London: SCM, 1985), 61-71.
  • [35] The idea of completely removing merchants from the temple, which entered the story as recorded by Mark and Matthew, may have come from the concluding words of the book of Zechariah: ולא יהיה כנעני עוד בבית יי צבאות ביום ההוא (Zech. 14:21). The word כנעני (kena’ani) could be understood as “Canaanite” (“And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty”; NIV); but its original meaning was probably “merchant, trader” (cf. Prov. 31:24), so JPS: “in that day there shall be no more traders [JPS note: ‘To sell ritually pure vessels’] in the House of the LORD of Hosts.” Targum Onkelos rendered the phrase using תגר (merchant): ולא יהי עביד תגרא עוד בבית מקדשא דיוי צבאות בעידנא ההוא (See the entry “תגר” in Michael Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic of the Byzantine Period [Ramat-Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 1990], 575.) If, in writing his midrashic expansion (Mark 11:15-16), Mark was influenced by Zech. 14:21, he must have understood kena’ani as “merchants.”
  • [36] Apparently, the text of Jer. 7:11 that Jesus had memorized, like the text of Isa. 56:7, read ביתי (my house), and not הבית הזה (this house), the reading of the MT (so Joseph Frankovic, “Remember Shiloh!” 27). The words “this house” would have spoiled the rabbinic gezerah shavah (similarity of phrases in two scriptural texts—the principal of inference by analogy) that Jesus created. This hermeneutical principle demanded a common word or phrase, in this case, “my house.” Significantly, “my house” (ὁ οἶκός μου) also is the reading of the LXX for Jer. 7:11.
  • [37] For a description of Jesus’ sophistication in handling Scripture, see Joseph Frankovic, “Remember Shiloh!” 24-31.
  • [38] At this point, both Matthew and Luke omit πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν (for all nations), a Matthean-Lukan minor agreement in omission. Beare, ignoring the significance of this minor agreement, states: “The story of the Cleansing…requires little comment. Matthew and Luke have abbreviated the Marcan story, without affecting its main lines or even its vocabulary in any significant way. Both have omitted the phrase ‘for all the nations’ (Mark xi:11) from the citation, perhaps to throw into high relief the contrast ‘house of prayer’—‘den of thieves’” (The Earliest Records of Jesus, 206).
  • [39] Personal communication.
  • [40] Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark, 459; Beare, The Earliest Records of Jesus, 206; Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, 218.
  • [41] Personal communication.
  • [42] Flusser, The Sage from Galilee, 118-19.
  • [43] Philo, Prob. 75; Josephus, Antiq. 18:19 (see Louis H. Feldman’s note [Note a] to 18:19 in LCL); Damascus Document IV, 15-18; V, 6-7; VI, 11-13. “For the desert sectaries of Qumran, the Temple of Jerusalem was a place of abomination; its precincts were considered polluted, its priests wicked, and the liturgical calendar prevailing there, unlawful” (Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ [175 B.C.-A.D. 135], [ed. Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar and Matthew Black; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1979], 2:582. See also 2:535, 570, 588-89). Privately, Safrai has communicated to me the following: “The Essenes viewed the temple as polluted. They were not really anti-temple, but they could not participate in temple worship because the temple had become unclean as a result of Sadducean corruption and Pharisaic practices. Paradoxically, although the Essenes hated the Sadducees, their halachah was very similar to that of the Sadducees. Since very early in the Second Temple period, they had isolated themselves, the Pharisees’ development of the Oral Torah had passed them by. The Pharisees, however, did not see the temple as defiled. Although they viewed the high priestly families as corrupt, and differed with the Sadducees on the validity of the Oral Torah and innumerable theological and legal issues, they participated in temple worship and sacrifice. The daily service was conducted according to Pharisaic halachah, and many of the simple priests were Pharisees. The half-shekel tax was instituted by the Pharisees. The temple of Jesus’ day did not own land. If someone donated property to the temple, it was sold and the proceeds went to the temple. This practice was unique, since the temples of other contemporary religions became rich in land. The temple’s non-ownership of land was a result of a Pharisaic ruling. Our knowledge of the Essene movement has grown as a result of new archaeological discoveries and the publication and study of additional Judean Desert materials. For instance, although the Essenes at Qumran abstained from marriage, the bones of women were found in the cemetery that adjoined their commune. And although the Essenes’ main center was at Qumran, according to Josephus, they resided throughout the land of Israel (War 2:124). Josephus states that the Essenes sent terumot (heave offerings) to the temple in Jerusalem (Antiq. 18:19), and, although it cannot yet be proven, it is likely that the Essenes, or at least part of them, sent the half-shekel tax to the temple. Apparently, there were a number of streams that made up the Essene movement, and their situation changed from period to period.”
  • [44] Compare the stoning of Stephen: “They…dragged him out of the city and began to stone him” (Acts 7:57-8).
  • [45] These priests viewed tithing on the tithes they received as unnecessary since these offerings had already been tithed. For evidence that “fruit” may have symbolized the tithes the high priest were not paying, see Buth and Kavasnica, “Temple Authorities and Tithe Evasion: The Linguistic Background and Impact of the Parable of the Vineyard, the Tenants and the Son,” in Jesus’ Last Week: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels, 1:72, and n. 72). See also, John A. T. Robinson, “The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen: A Test of Synoptic Relationships,” NTS 21 (1974-1975): 443-61.
  • [46] Menahem Stern, “Aspects of Jewish Society: The Priesthood and Other Classes,” in The Jewish People in the First Century, 604-09. See also Stern, “The Reign of Herod and the Herodian Dynasty,” in The Jewish People in the First Century, 273-74.
  • [47] E.g., “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. 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 treasurers, and their sons-in-law are trustees, and their servants beat the people with staves’” (t. Menahot 13:21; b. Pesahim 57a). For details of the clan of Annas, or Hanan, into which Joseph Caiaphas married, see David Flusser, “To Bury Caiaphas, Not to Praise Him,” JerPers 33-34 (1991): 23-8.
  • [48] To both pericopae, compare Jer. 8:13: “When I would gather them, says the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.” Compare also Isa. 5:4: “What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?”
  • [49] Personal communication. For elaboration, see David Bivin, “‘They Didn’t Dare’ (Matt 22:46; Mark 12:34; Luke 20:40): A Window on the Literary and Redactional Methods of the Synoptic Gospel Writers.”
  • [50] The wording of Luke 20:41. In Matthew’s account, the wording is, “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” (Matt. 22:42).
  • [51] Central to Jewish teaching and learning in the time of Jesus was the asking of questions. Rather than deliver a lecture, a sage would ask his disciples a question and they would answer by asking a further question. The teacher knew that his students had correctly understood the material when they responded with appropriate questions. Hillel remarked, “A timid student does not learn” (m. Avot 2:6), and certainly a pupil who was too shy to ask questions would gain little in an educational system that demanded so much participation. The question-question method of teaching was so prominent in Jesus’ time that a sage often began a study session by putting a question to his disciples. Luke 19:41-44 may be the only example of such an opening question in the Gospels. Perhaps Jesus posed it at the beginning of a study session for his advanced, full-time students. The question is a typical rabbinic riddle based on a seeming contradiction in a passage of Scripture (Pss. 110:1). This pattern of answering questions with questions was so common that in the Hebrew of Jesus’ day the word for “question” came to be a synonym for “answer.” For example, twelve-year-old Jesus was lost and finally found by his parents, “sitting in the temple among the rabbis, listening to them and asking them questions.” The Gospel writer comments in the following verse, “and all those listening to him were amazed by his wise answers” (Luke 2:46-47), in other words, Jesus’ questions were not questions but answers. Another saying of Jesus hinges upon the meaning of the word “question.” After being arrested, Jesus was interrogated by the high priests who demanded, “If you are the Messiah, tell us” (Luke 22:67). Jesus gave his answer in two parts: “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask [a question], you will not answer” (Luke 22:67-8). The first part of Jesus’ answer seems clear enough, but the second part is difficult to understand: one might wonder why Jesus would wish to ask the high priests a question. The second half of Jesus’ answer is a repetition of the first half, and means exactly the same. Jesus simply phrased his answer elegantly, using a basic feature of classical Hebrew poetry known as parallelism. The first half of Jesus’ poetic reply means the same as the second half because the phrase “ask a question” can be a synonym for “answer a question.” “If I ask, you will not answer,” refers to the rabbinic style of discussion that consisted of answering questions with questions. Jesus answered a question with a question on many occasions. When he was asked by the temple authorities what right he had to do “these things” (i.e., cleansing the temple), he answered by saying, “I will also ask you something. Now tell me, was John’s baptism of God or of men?” (Luke 20:3-4). Jesus’ response to the authorities’ question was not simply an evasion intended to silence them, but was directly related to what they asked and mirrored their question exactly. They asked whether Jesus had any authority beyond his own, and Jesus asked whether they felt John had any authority beyond his own. When a lawyer asked Jesus a question, Jesus responded, “What is written in the Torah? How do you read?” (Luke 10:26; another example of a question posed in Hebrew-like parallelism).
  • [52] The question, “How can one say that the Messiah is the son of David?” may represent the Hebrew, כיצד אומרים שהמשיח בן דוד.
  • [53] In Hebrew, the third person, plural, active form of the verb is used in an impersonal sense to avoid a passive construction. Understood Hebraically, כיצד אומרים (How they say…?) contains no reference to specific individuals.
  • [54] Throughout the Church’s history, Christians have remembered 1 Cor. 11:23-29, with its manifold bread-wine references, and all too often overlooked the brief wine-bread reference in 1 Cor. 10:16. Usually unaware of Jewish practice, Christians have not realized that Paul was referring to the third of three cups of wine drunk during and after the Passover meal. Notice that “after supper” Jesus “took the cup” (1 Cor. 11:25). Thus, there appears to be a bread-wine order, although the order followed by Jesus was wine-bread, the usual Pharisaic order for festive meals. Didache, one of the earliest (second century A.D.) church documents, also preserves the wine-bread order (Did. 9:2-3). Idiomatically, the Hebrew order is bread-wine. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the phrase “bread and wine” is found in Gen. 14:18, Jdg. 19:19 and Neh. 5:15. The bread-wine order is found in Hebrew parallelism in Prov. 4:17; 9:5 and Eccl. 9:7; 10:19. The phrase “wine and bread” does not appear in Scripture, nor the parallelism “wine…bread.” Also, “eat and drink,” which appears five times in 1 Cor. 11:23-29, is a Hebrew idiom, “eat” and “drink” always in that order.
  • [55] Flusser suggested that it is the order of the Qumran meal that lies behind the Markan account of Jesus’ celebration of the Passover-Last Supper. See David Flusser, “The Last Supper and the Essenes,” Imm 2 [1973]: 23-27; repr. in Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988): 202-6).
  • [56] See R. Steven Notley, “The Eschatological Thinking of the Dead Sea Sect and the Order of Blessing in the Christian Eucharist,” in Jesus’ Last Week: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels, 1:121-38.
  • [57] Also arguing against the originality of Mark’s text are the plethora of Hebraisms in the Lukan passage: “and he said to them” (sentence and account begin with “and”); “I have earnestly desired (ratso ratsiti; representing the Hebrew infinitive absolute]”; “eat this passover” (i.e., the Passover lamb, not the festival); “suffer” in the Hebraic sense of “die”; “and he took a cup”; “gave thanks” (the rabbinic blessing included the words “fruit of the vine,” which Jesus used immediately afterwards); “I tell you”; “from now on”; “fruit of the vine”; “took bread” (the unleavened bread used in the Passover service is referred to as לֶחֶם [bread]); “and gave thanks,” “and broke”; “and gave it to them.”
  • [58] If we accept Luke’s version of events, there was no trial, but only an interrogation for the purpose of finding a charge against Jesus that could be brought before the Roman governor Pilate. In Luke, the Jewish authorities do not formally condemn Jesus to death (see Flusser, The Sage from Galilee, 139).
  • [59] John C. Hawkins included this Matthean-Lukan “minor agreement” in a list of twenty-one “certain other alterations from, and additions to, the Marcan narrative, as to which it seems almost impossible that Matthew and Luke could have accidentally concurred in making them” (Horae Synopticae [2nd ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1909], 210). For the agreement’s place in catalogs of minor agreements, see Finley Morris Keech, “The Agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark in the Triple Tradition” (M.A. diss, Drew University, 1962), 97-9; and Frans Neirynck, ed., The Minor Agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark (Louvain: Leuven University Press, 1974), 179.
  • [60] The Markan version, “Prophesy!” does not even make sense. Apparently, the author was trying to heighten Jesus’ prophetic identity: “Be a prophet. Show us your prophetic ability. Prophesy on a grand scale!” In the Matthean-Lukan version it was more of a parlor trick that Jesus was asked to do.
  • [61] Burnett Hillman Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (2nd ed.; London: Macmillan, 1930), 325.
  • [62] Streeter, The Four Gospels, 325-28. On the textual problems in Mark 14:65, see Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark, 571.
  • [63] It is very probably that these heartless guards were Gentiles, since by Jesus’ day there were no longer Jewish slaves in the land of Israel (Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, 606-9).
  • [64] For references to the game in ancient and modern times, see Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, 606-9. Flusser states: “Only Luke cites all the components of the game” (Flusser, Judaism and the Origins, 606).)
  • [65] According to Luke’s account, no night session of the Sanhedrin took place. In capital cases a night session of the Sanhedrin was forbidden by Jewish halachah: “In capital cases they hold the trial during the daytime and the verdict also must be reached during the daytime” (m. Sanhedrin 4:1 [trans. Danby]; cf. b. Sanhedrin 32a). See the chapter “Death” in Flusser, The Sage from Galilee, 138-61. See also former justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, Haim H. Cohn, “Reflections on the Trial and Death of Jesus,” Israel Law Review (1967): 332-79. See also Cohn’s book in Hebrew, משפטו ומותו של ישו הנוצרי [The Trial and Death of Jesus], (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1968).
  • [66] Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, 605. Writing on the Jesus before the Sanhedrin story, Taylor asserts: “The basis of the story is assured by the two independent narratives. Of these, that of Luke stands nearer to the actual facts” (The Gospel According to St. Mark, 571). “But,” Flusser complains, “Why not admit that it was Mark who altered the original account of Jesus’ last night, and was thus compelled to distort the episode of the humiliating game of Jesus’ guards?” (Flusser, Judaism and the Origins, 606).
  • [67] In Lindsey’s opinion, “…since Mark has changed the original order, he must get Jesus back into the hands of those holding him (he [Mark] has named them ὑπηρέται). So what he [Mark] is saying is that they ‘received him back with blows’” (a handwritten marginal note in Lindsey’s personal copy of Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark, 571). Flusser classifies καὶ οἱ ὑπηρέται ῥαπίσμασιν αὐτὸν ἔλαβον as “colloquial Greek” (Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, 606).
  • [68] Notley has detailed Mark’s portrayal of Jesus as an abandoned holy man in “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels,” 23-7.
  • [69] I assume that at this point Mark has reworked his source; however, some authorities view “despair” as a claim for authenticity supposing that the note of despair was an embarrassment that Luke “cleaned up” secondarily: “Luke 23:46 and John 19:30 substitute Christologically inoffensive last words of Jesus” (Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993], 966). Based on their understanding of 2 Cor. 5:21 and Gal. 3:13, many Christians believe that God turned his back on Jesus, at least momentarily, while he was hanging on the cross; or, alternatively, that Jesus felt forsaken, and in his pain began to harbor doubts about God’s care and protection. Such popular understandings are illustrated by a sentence in the song, “Sympathy for the Devil,” which the Rolling Stones recorded on June 6, 1968. One of the Devil’s lines is: “I was around when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain.” Commentators, too, echo the assumption that God turned his back on his son: “The darkness of the land signifies judgment; that Jesus cries out the way he does suggests that divine judgment has in part fallen on him…. Darkness covers the land as God looks away from the obscenity that has taken place” (Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20, 507); “Jesus clearly feels abandoned…. Jesus as the sin-bearing sacrifice…must endure the temporary abandonment of his Father, i.e., separation from God” (Donald A. Hagner, Matthew [WBC 33A-33B; Dallas: Word Books, 1993-1995], 844).
  • [70] Evans (Mark 8:27-16:20, 507) takes Mark 15:34 as a parallel to the “concluding utterances” chosen by Luke and John (Luke 23:46; John 19:30).
  • [71] In contrast to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Aramaic words are a feature of Mark’s Gospel, for example: βοανηργές (Mark 3:17); ταλιθα κουμ (Mark 5:41); εφφαθα (Mark 7:34); and αββα (Mark 14:36). Mark’s insertion of Aramaic words into his text should not surprise us since inhabitants of first-century Israel lived in a trilingual environment. See Chaim Rabin, “Hebrew and Aramaic in the First Century,” in The Jewish People in the First Century, 1007-39; and Gerard Mussies, “Greek in Palestine and the Diaspora,” in The Jewish People in the First Century, 1040-64. Compare “Language Backgrounds” in the Introduction to Buth and Kavasnica, “Temple Authorities and Tithe Evasion: The Linguistic Background and Impact of the Parable of the Vineyard, the Tenants and the Son,” in Jesus’ Last Week: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels, 1:54-58. See also Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, 2:20-28. On the languages used in the Dead Sea Scrolls, see The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (trans. Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr. and Edward Cook: New York: HarperCollins, 1996), 8-10.
  • [72] Still today, Pss. 31:5a is the conclusion of the Jewish death bed confession. See The Authorized Daily Prayer Book, rev. ed., ed. Joseph H. Hertz (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1948), 1065. On Jesus’ last cry, see Flusser, The Sage from Galilee, 161, n. 78; cf. 4, n. 4.
  • [73] Here, as in the Temple Cleansing, Mark used a bracketing technique: “He [Mark] accomplishes this feat [i.e., redacting it in ways that make it an object of faith] by means of a double emphasis on superhuman loudness, by framing the cry between the supernatural signs of darkness and veil-rending, and by citing the favorable effect on the centurion of the way in which Jesus expired” (Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross, 966).
  • [74] The cry from the cross as recorded in Matt. and Mark is complicated textually. For a short survey of the Greek witnesses to the Gospel of Mark, see Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20, lviii-lx. For a discussion of the textual variants of the cry, see R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 649, 652; and Hagner, Matthew, 842, n. b-d. For a summary of the deliberations of the editorial committee of the United Bible Societies’ The Greek New Testament on the texts of Matt. 27:46 and Mark 15:34, see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1975), 70, 119-20. Taylor (The Gospel According to St. Mark, 592-93) prefers Ἐλωὶ ἐλωὶ λαμὰ σαβαχθανεί in Mark 15:34; however, the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.) and the United Bible Societies’ The Greek New Testament (4th ed.) read ελωι ελωι λεμα σαβαχθανι (λεμα, representing the Aramaic לְמָה, instead of λαμα, representing the Hebrew לָמָה). There are manuscripts that show ηλι ηλι (Hebrew: אֵלִי אֵלִי) instead of ελωι ελωι (Aramaic: אֱלָהִי), as there are manuscripts that preserve just the opposite at Matt. 27:46. Assuming that Mark’s text was indeed ελωι ελωι λεμα σαβαχθανι, why would the author of this Gospel have Jesus quote Hebrew Scripture in Aramaic? The author of Mark may have been motivated to use Aramaic to give Jesus an other-worldly, divine quality, with the centurion, in effect, saying, “Amen! Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). Perhaps the Aramaic words “Eloi,” “lema” and “sabachthani” were “divine power” words; Mark sometimes had Jesus use Aramaic words after Jesus performed a miracle (e.g., Mark 5:41 and 7:34). Significantly, speaking in Aramaic was characteristic of the bat kol (heavenly voice) (t. Sotah 13:5 [cf. Josephus, Antiq.. 13:282]; t. Sotah 13:6; b. Sotah 48b; b. Sanhedrin 11a; j. Pe’ah 15d; b. Bava Batra 3b. See Shmuel Safrai, “Literary Languages in the Time of Jesus,” JerPers 31 [1991]: 5-6).
  • [75] In this instance, too, as Lindsey suggested, it would appear that Mark substituted a synonymic equivalent for Luke’s more original text (see Lindsey, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark, 40-41). Nor is this the only instance of Mark’s replacing a Scripture quotation in Luke with a substitute Scripture quotation. According to Luke 3:22, at Jesus’ baptism a heavenly voice said, “You are my son, today I have begotten you,” a quotation of Pss. 2:7. However, for this same scenario, Mark substituted, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11, a combination of Pss. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1), the utterance of the heavenly voice at the transfiguration.
  • [76] As Taylor comments, “If Mark is using Palestinian tradition, it is natural that he should give the saying in an Aramaic form, but it is more probable that the cry was uttered in Hebrew, for the comment of the bystanders, ἴδε Ἠλίαν φωνεῖ (xv. 35), is intelligible if Jesus cried ἠλεὶ ἠλεί or ἠλὶ ἠλί rather than ἐλωί” (The Gospel According to St. Mark, 593).
  • [77] Perhaps Mark did not intend to imply despair by highlighting Jesus’ cry from the cross. Walter E. Bundy states, “This cry…has no psychological value as a clue to Jesus’ frame of mind when death came. Mark does not seem to think of it as an exprerssion of despair or dereliction. This seems clear in the reaction of the centurion (39) who sees in Jesus the Son of God, not a frustrated human being. The death story was written for the edification of Christian, ‘not for their bewilderment’ [R. H. Lightfoot, History and Interpretation in the Gospels (New York: Harper, 1934), 159]. The resort to Scripture in the hour of death is in itself an act of faith” (Jesus and the First Three Gospels: An Introduction to the Synoptic Tradition [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1955], 543-44).
  • [78] Advocates of the Griesbach Hypothesis would probably agree, although they would assume that Mark was reworking Matthew, as well. The Griesbach Hypothesis (see Johann Jakob Griesbach, Synopsis Evangeliorum Matthei Marci et Lucae una cum iis Joannis pericopis: Quae historiam passionis et resurrectionis Jesu Christi complectuntu [2nd ed.; Halle: J. J. Curtii Haeredes, 1797]) was revived in 1964 by William R. Farmer (see Farmer, The Synoptic Problem: A Critical Analysis [2nd ed.; Dillsboro, NC: Western North Carolina Press, 1976]). Farmer’s students (Lamar Cope, David L. Dungan, Thomas R. W. Longstaff, Allan J. McNicol, David B. Peabody and Philip L. Shuler) have renamed Farmer’s theory the Two-gospel Hypothesis (2GH). The 2GH posits that the Gospel of Matthew was written first, that Matthew was used by Luke in writing his Gospel, and that Mark’s Gospel was a conflation of Matthew and Luke. Etienne Nodet also rejects the Two Source Hypothesis and is sympathetic to the Griesbach Hypothesis. He considers Mark the most recent of the Gospels, and believes, like proponents of the Griesbach Hypothesis, that Mark depended on and synthesized Matthew and Luke (Le Fils de Dieu: Procès de Jésus et des Evangiles [Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 2002], 317).

The Synoptic Problem Home Page and Other Internet Resources

The Internet has come a long way from its origins as an electronic messaging system for military personnel and researchers in the physical sciences. In recent years, the Internet has blossomed into a global communications system capable of bringing people of common interests together from all parts of the world. In a field as specialized as synoptic source criticism, the Internet promises to be a useful medium for exchanging ideas among those interested in the Synoptic Problem, ranging from the leading theorists and professors to students and devoted amateurs. While the Internet can never replace a well-stocked library nor substitute for high quality peer-reviewed books and journals, the Internet includes a variety of resources that supplements the traditional research tools. Two of the most important Internet resources for researchers of the Synoptic Problem are home pages on the World Wide Web and electronic mailing lists.

A home page on the World Wide Web is an electronically published document accessible to software called a “browser” such as the Netscape Navigator or the Microsoft Internet Explorer. To visit a home page, the user enters the address of the page, called the URL (Uniform Resource Locator), into the browser. In response, the browser retrieves the page from the Internet and displays the page. Web pages are typically formatted in a markup language called HTML and often include text, embedded graphics, and hypertext links. Hypertext links are a significant feature of web documents, because they enable the user to access another page on the Web quickly by a simple click of the button.

Electronic mailing lists are coordinated discussion groups in which people exchange messages by electronic mail. Typically, a person signs up with a mailing list by submitting a subscription request to a specialized software program, responsible for managing the mailing list. Once subscribed, the user receives all messages sent to the list. Some mailing lists are closed so that only subscribed members can post to the list, but other mailing lists allow anyone to reach all the recipients of the list. Many mailing lists have their own home page, which explains the purpose of the list, how to subscribe to the list, the proper list protocols, and hypertext links to related web sites.

SynopticProblemWebsiteThe Synoptic Problem Website (formerly the Synoptic Problem Home Page) is established to survey proposed solutions to the Synoptic Problem and be a clearinghouse of materials related to its resolution. This web site is located at the following URL: The Synoptic Problem Website comprises reference materials for investigating various facets of the Synoptic Problem. The most ambitious of these reference materials is a four-color Greek synopsis, which is designed to highlight the agreements and differences in wording between Matthew, Mark and Luke. A parallel synoptic table exhibits the order and arrangement of the pericopes belonging to the Synoptic Gospels. Other resources provided by the Synoptic Problem Website include a brief overview of the Synoptic Problem, an annotated bibliography, and a chronology of attempts to resolve the Synoptic Problem.

The most prominent feature of the Synoptic Problem Website is its survey of various solutions to the Synoptic Problem. Each proposed solution is displayed with a graphical sketch that diagrams the relationships between the Synoptic Gospels and any hypothetical sources. In addition, each hypothesis is briefly explained with a citation to a leading proponent. The hypotheses are organized into six sections of related solutions.

SPH2The first section is dedicated to variants of the popular Two Source Hypothesis, which holds that both Matthew and Luke are dependent on Mark and a hypothetical source called Q.[1]

The second section of the survey is concerned with the Two Gospel Hypothesis,[2] which postulates that Luke used Matthew and Mark conflated both Matthew and Luke.[3]

SPH3The Farrer Hypothesis, which accepts Markan priority but dispenses with Q in favor of Luke’s use of Matthew,[4] is the subject of the third section.

SPH5The topic of the fourth section is the oldest solution to the Synoptic Problem, the Augustinian Hypothesis,[5] which calls for successive dependence in the order of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

SPH6The survey’s fifth section is devoted to solutions in which Luke is prior to the other Synoptic Gospels. Of the Lukan priority hypotheses, the most active is the Jerusalem School Hypothesis, which owes its origin to Robert L. Lindsey.[6] This hypothesis places much emphasis on the Hebrew background of the Gospels and argues for dependence in the order of Luke, Mark, and Matthew, with all three being dependent on a shared, hypothetical source. The sixth and final section describes theories that are difficult to classify such as the recent Greek Notes (Logia Translation) Hypothesis by Brian E. Wilson. Brian Wilson believes that each of the Synoptic Gospels independently used a Greek notebook, which is a translation of Semitic notebooks. These notebooks contain many of the events and sayings found in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The Synoptic Problem Website also contains hyperlinks to related web sites, including A Synoptic Gospels Primer by Prof. Mahlon H. Smith of Rutgers University, Mark Without Q by Dr. Mark Goodacre of the University of Birmingham, the Two Gospel Hypothesis Home Page sponsored by Prof. Thomas R. W. Longstaff of Colby College, and the Jerusalem School’s Jerusalem Perspective Online.

The Synoptic Gospels Primer, at, is developed by Mahlon Smith mainly from the perspective of the Two Source Hypothesis and is intended to go “beyond the usual superficial discussion of the synoptic problem.” In this respect, it certainly succeeds by presenting a detailed source critical analysis of several pericopes in accordance with the Two Source Hypothesis, the Griesbach or Two Gospel Hypothesis, the Farrer Hypothesis, and the Augustinian Hypothesis. This site also includes an informative glossary of important terms and concepts in synoptic source criticism.

Mark Without Q is the title of Mark Goodacre’s web site, which is located at and argues forcefully for Markan Priority but against the hypothetical Q document. Among Mark Goodacre’s materials are an informative list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about why it is preferable to conclude that Luke used Matthew not Q, and web accessible copy of Austin Farrer’s seminal essay, “On Dispensing with Q.”[7]

Thomas R. W. Longstaff is the maintainer of the Two Gospel Hypothesis Home Page, found at Although this site is still very much “under construction,” it contains a multicolor synopsis developed by David Peabody, designed to elucidate Mark’s conflation of Matthew and Luke, and a bibliography of prominent proponents of the Two Gospel Hypothesis.

Being the Internet presence of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, Jerusalem Perspective Online is a web site that covers all aspects of the Synoptic Gospels, including the Synoptic Problem, with special emphasis on the Hebrew roots behind the Gospels. The web site contains numerous articles, biographies and links to other sites on the World Wide Web.

The Synoptic Problem Home Page also provides subscription information about scholarly mailing lists that have featured active discussions of the Synoptic Problem. The most pertinent of these mailing lists is Synoptic-L, which was started in February 1998 by Mark Goodacre of the University of Birmingham. Synoptic-L is an academic conference specifically dedicated to a critical, scholarly study of the Synoptic Problem and to exegesis of the Synoptic Gospels. Knowledge of Greek is a recommended plus for participating.

The remaining mailing lists mentioned by the Synoptic Problem WebsiteXtalkIoudaios, and B-Greek, while not specifically intended for the Synoptic Problem as Synoptic-L, can shed light on collateral aspects of the Synoptic Problem. Spun off from Crosstalk, a mailing list sponsored by HarperCollins Publishers to supplement an email debate between John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg and Luke Timothy Johnson, the Xtalk mailing list is mostly devoted to a scholarly quest for the Historical Jesus. Since the Gospels constitute the primary documentary sources for the life of Jesus, questions as to their origins have been welcomed and debated. The Ioudaios list is dedicated to discussing Hellenistic Judaism, especially the works of Josephus and Philo. One of the oldest mailing lists in biblical studies, Ioudaios has extensive archives involving debates about Q and other aspects of the Synoptic Problem. While higher critical topics such as the Synoptic Problem are not the focus of the biblical Greek mailing list, B‑Greek is a very helpful place for investigating the meaning of the Greek text of the Bible, including, of course, the Synoptic Gospels.

Like many documents on the Internet, the Synoptic Problem Website is not static but evolving. It will continue to be updated from time to time in order to keep up with the latest developments on the Internet and the World Wide Web relating to synoptic source criticism. Its maintainer, Stephen Carlson, will gratefully accept any comments or suggestions for improving the Synoptic Problem Website, preferably by email.

  • [1] The most influential treatment in the English language remains B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (London: Macmillan, 1924), although some arguments are now considered obsolete. A well-written, modern explanation of the Two Source Hypothesis suitable for textbook use is R. H. Stein, The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987).
  • [2] The “Two Gospel Hypothesis” was coined by its adherents during the Cambridge Conference of 1979 to replace the more usual term, “Griesbach Hypothesis.” See New Synoptic Studies: The Cambridge Gospel Conference & Beyond (ed. W. R. Farmer; Macon, GA: Mercer, 1983) xxxiv.
  • [3] W. R. Farmer, The Synoptic Problem: A Critical Analysis (2d ed.; Dillsboro, NC: Western North Carolina Press, 1976) is largely responsible for its twentieth-century revival.
  • [4] The seminal essay is A. Farrer, “On Dispensing with Q,” in Studies in the Gospels (R. H. Lightfoot Festschrift; ed. D. E. Nineham; Oxford: Blackwell, 1955) 55–88, although J. H. Ropes,The Synoptic Gospels (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936), anticipated at least its broad outlines. The most comprehensive treatment of this hypothesis is M. D. Goulder, Luke: A New Paradigm (JSOTSup 20; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989).
  • [5] The two strongest defenders of the Augustinian Hypothesis in the twentieth century are B. C. Butler, The Originality of St. Matthew: A Critique of the Two-Document Hypothesis (Cambridge: University Press, 1951) and J. Wenham, Redating Matthew, Mark & Luke: A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992).
  • [6] See, especially, R. L. Lindsey, “A Modified Two-Document Theory of the Synoptic Dependence & Interdependence,” NovT 6 (1963), 239–63 and idem, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark: Greek-Hebrew Diglot with English Introduction (2nd ed.; Jerusalem: Dugith, 1973).
  • [7] See supra n. 4.

Book Review: Robert Lindsey’s A Comparative Greek Concordance of the Synoptic Gospels

Revised: 26-Jan-2013

A good teacher not only conveys knowledge, but gives his students the tools by which they may continue learning. With the publication of the third and final volume of A Comparative Greek Concordance of the Synoptic Gospels, Dr. Robert Lindsey has given to the scholars who have been following his work, as well as to future scholarship, a necessary tool for the study of the Synoptic Gospels.

The concordance is laid out in such a way that the vitally important data that Lindsey long ago saw embedded in the literary strata will be more easily seen by others. The verse-by-verse comparison offers building blocks for grasping the literary relationship of the Synoptic Gospels, and more clearly understanding the life and teachings of Jesus.

Parallel References

Anyone who has studied the Synoptic Gospels will quickly realize the valuable contribution this new concordance makes to comparative Gospel research. Most New Testament concordances list entries in order of their appearance, which makes it quite difficult to determine whether a word in the Synoptic Gospels is used in parallel pericopae, omitted or substituted by another word. With Lindsey’s concordance, the student can immediately see the answers to these questions.

Let us take as an example the noun εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion, gospel). An ordinary Greek New Testament concordance would list the four occurrences of euangelion in Matthew before the word’s first occurrence in Mark, but Lindsey’s synoptic concordance lists the first occurrence of euangelion as Mark 1:1 since that is the first occurrence of the word in a synopsis. The concordance indicates by indentation and solid line that there is no parallel to euangelion in this pericope, however there is a general parallel (paragraph or pericope in length) in both Matthew and Luke (an English translation is provided for the convenience of our readers):

Μκ 1:1  Αρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

Μτ  (———)

Λκ  (———)

Mk 1:1  The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Mt  (———)

Lk  (———)

Another reference to euangelion, in Matthew 26:13, is also absent in the Lukan parallel but is found in the Markan parallel. This reference and its parallels are presented in the Lindsey concordance in the following manner:

Μτ  26:13  ὅπου ἐὰν κηρυχθῇ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦτο

Μκ  14:9  ὅπου ἐὰν κηρυχθῇ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον

Λκ  (———)

Mt  26:13  wherever this gospel is preached

Mk  14:9  wherever the gospel is preached

Lk  (———)

Because both Matthew and Mark employ the word euangelion, their references appear in the concordance without indentation. Luke has a general parallel to the Matthean-Markan context in his very similar story (Luke 7:36-50), but without the word euangelion, and so the Lukan reference is indented and shown with a solid line.

Another of the eleven synoptic contexts in which euangelion appears is found in Matthew 4:23:

Μτ  4:23  διδάσκων ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν καὶ κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας

Μκ  1:39  κηρύσσων εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς αὐτῶν εἰς ὅλην

Λκ  4:44  ἦν κηρύσσων εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς

Mt  4:23  teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom

Mk  1:39  preaching in their synagogues in all

Lk  4:44  he was preaching in the synagogues

Here indentation of the Markan and Lukan references indicates that these are phrase- or sentence-length parallels to Matthew, but that Mark and Luke lack the word euangelion. As with other entries, the reader here is able immediately to see whether one of the synoptists has replaced a word with a substitute, and whether there is a pattern of substitution.

Markan Pickups

One of Lindsey’s purposes in producing the concordance was to help others see the phenomenon he calls “Markan pickups.” Lindsey discovered that Mark replaces words and phrases in Lukan parallels with synonyms that are borrowed from other contexts in Luke. For instance, Mark picks up στέγη (stege, roof) from Luke 7:6 in the story of the centurion’s servant and uses it as a replacement in Mark 2:4 for Luke’s δῶμα (doma, roof) in the story of the healing of the paralytic (Luke 5:17-26).

Although Mark’s method may seem inane to the western mind, for students of Jewish literature Mark’s style is very familiar. His Gospel resembles the work of contemporary Jewish commentaries (midrashim and targumim). Lindsey’s concordance helps a student to observe this kind of replacement more easily, and thus to see that Mark is using Luke and not vice versa. In an ordinary concordance of the Greek New Testament, this kind of synonymic replacement is difficult to trace.

The Problem of Agreements

Another important contribution that should not be overlooked is Lindsey’s introduction to the concordance. Most Jerusalem Perspective Online readers are already aware of Lindsey’s pioneering work in identifying linguistic traces of a pre-synoptic Hebrew life of Jesus. The process and result of his discovery were published in A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark (1973) and elsewhere in scholarly and popular formats, yet in no place is his insight into the synoptic relationship presented in such a clear and convincing manner as in his introduction to this concordance. (For an emended and updated version of the introduction, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke.”)

Lindsey outlines the inability of the theory of Markan priority, held by most scholars, to explain the data found in the Synoptic Gospels. For example, Lindsey cites Matthew and Luke’s mutual inclusion of “lengthy additions” to Mark’s version of the Temptation of Jesus (Mark 1:12, 13; Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), as well as to Mark’s account of the Baptist’s preaching (Mark 1:7-8; Matt. 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-9). If, as most scholars think, Matthew and Luke are unaware of each other’s composition, then these common “additions” suggest that they have a source other than Mark at these points.

An even more poignant example of Matthean-Lukan “additions” opposite Mark is found in the Beelzebul controversy.

Matthean-Lukan "additions"
Matthean-Lukan “additions”

Lindsey points out another difficulty for Markan priorists: in Double Tradition, Matthew and Luke are able faithfully to reproduce material from their common non-Markan “sayings source” (which scholars have termed “Q”), but are unable to do so in Triple Tradition. Notice, for instance, the high degree of verbal identity between Matthew and Luke in the passage above when Mark is not present, but the low degree of identity when he is. Matthew consistently follows Mark more closely in Triple Tradition, while Luke demonstrates a distinct independence.

These facts, together with Mark’s influence on the ordering of the synoptic material, led Lindsey to conclude that Mark held the middle position in the synoptic tradition (see Lindsey’s “An Introduction to Synoptic Studies,” Subheading: “The Markan Cross-Factor.”)

Minor Agreements

The challenge presented to Markan priority by the Matthean-Lukan agreements against Mark has been recognized since the time of B. H. Streeter (The Four Gospels, 1924). Streeter reasoned that the “lengthy additions” were overlaps of Mark and Q material, and that where Matthew and Luke independently agree against Mark in making these additions, they are drawing from Q.

If the agreements were limited to the eight pericopae identified by Streeter, then the difficulty for the proponents of Markan priority would be minimal. However, many Matthean-Lukan agreements against Mark occur which involve only slight details—the addition or omission of a word, the replacement of a word with a synonym, a change of word order, use of the singular rather than plural form of a noun. In his introduction Lindsey gives examples of such agreements.

Matthean-Lukan agreements
Matthean-Lukan agreements

Agreements of this sort were considered by Streeter, Bultmann and others to be the result of pure chance and scribal harmonization. In an attempt to minimize their importance, they called them “minor agreements,” and one receives the feeling from Streeter and Bultmann’s evaluation that these agreements are rare accidents in the literary development of the Synoptic Gospels. However, Frans Neirynck has cataloged 1,005 instances of “minor agreements” involving over 4,000 words (The Minor Agreements of Matthew and Luke Against Mark, 1974, pp. 55-195). The sheer number of the “minor agreements” challenges the credibility of Streeter and Bultmann’s explanation.

The implications of “minor agreements” are significant for those embracing Markan priority and the “Two-source” hypothesis. These two pillars of modern synoptic criticism rest upon the assumption that Matthew and Luke independently used Mark and Q. If, however, Matthew knew Luke’s Gospel, or a source on which Luke is based, as well as Mark, then the need for Q to explain non-Markan material would be eliminated. “Further, the priority of Mark itself is threatened, since it is no longer needed as the narrative source which Matthew and Luke combined with Q to produce their Gospels” (E. P. Sanders, “The Overlaps of Mark and Q and the Synoptic Problem,” New Testament Studies 19 [1973]: 454).

Sanders has demonstrated that not all of what Streeter identified as Markan overlaps conforms to Streeter’s own limiting criteria. Conversely, other Markan overlaps are ignored by Streeter. To follow Streeter’s method of identifying Matthean-Lukan agreements as Markan-Q overlaps will produce surprising results: “If Q were made responsible for all these agreements in addition to the traditional Q material, it would be very much like Matthew. To expand the theory of Markan-Q overlaps much beyond Streeter’s bounds is simply to deny the two-source hypothesis” (Sanders, “Overlaps,” 455).

The extent of Q in Streeter’s theory is widened beyond the simple “sayings source” to include narrative material. We may rightly ask with Sanders what compels us to limit Markan-Q overlaps to those instances where Matthew and Luke are in agreement. Streeter explains the differences between Mark and Luke concerning “The Rejection in Nazareth” as a result of an overlap between Mark and L (Luke’s special source). The effect is that Q tends to look more like a “Proto-Gospel” than a simple non-Markan “sayings source.” Such a source removes the necessity for Q and Mark as the primary sources for Matthew and Luke.


Any project of this size must necessarily have its limitations. Lindsey has chosen as his Greek text for the concordance the ninth edition of Albert Huck’s Synopsis of the First Three Gospels, now out of print. Students may find it a bit disconcerting that texts from Kurt Aland’s Synopsis of the Four Gospels (13th edition, 1985) on rare occasions are not to be found in Lindsey’s concordance, however at points Huck has selected a better reading than Aland.

The most stark contrast is Huck’s choice of the reading: “You are my son, today I have begotten you” (Luke 3:23). Aland has chosen the reading of manuscripts that have been harmonized with Mark and Matthew: “You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.” The second reading no doubt is a result of the Church’s struggle against adoptionist tendencies, eliminating any suggestion that it was only at his baptism that Jesus was “begotten” or adopted as God’s son. The ancient Church’s theological position notwithstanding, the text presented in Huck’s synopsis, displaying a clear hint at the messianic Psalms 2:7, is to be preferred.

It is hoped that any future editions of the concordance will include significant textual variants. Of particular importance are some readings found in Codex Bezae. This ancient codex often provides the key to unlocking linguistic and historical problems. Note the omission in Codex Bezae of ἁμαρτωλῶν (hamartolon, sinners), in Luke 5:30, where Jesus and his disciples are accused of eating with tax collectors. The Codex Bezae reading agrees with the setting already depicted in verse 29. The inclusion of “sinners” in some manuscripts results from the tendency to harmonize Gospel texts.

A more important reading is Codex Bezae’s “shorter version” of Luke 22:19-20: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body.'” Many scholars agree that Codex Bezae preserves the better reading here, and that other manuscripts attempt to harmonize Luke with Mark and Matthew by including an extended portion from 1 Corinthians 11.

A Comparative Greek Concordance of the Synoptic Gospels makes a significant contribution to Gospel scholarship. It is laid out in a clear and easily accessible manner, and any student of the Synoptic Gospels will find it a valuable contribution to his or her library.

Page 79 of Volume Three
Page 79 of Volume Three
Graphics for this article were designed by Pieter Lechner. Lindsey’s concordance is out of print, but used copies can be found the sites of online booksellers.