On M. Goodacre's Arguments of Matthean Fatigue

In an article published in NTS 44, 45-58 (1998), Mark Goodacre argues in favor of the writer of Matthew having exhibited "editorial fatigue" while forming his gospel out of the framework of the Gospel of Mark. The idea of "editorial fatigue" is actually not far-fetched, since, as defined, it represents one of many different ways in which an editor's (or redactor's) alteration to the text he is working from leaves a clue behind that he may have made one or more changes. Goodacre's definition is made clear in his statement, "Editorial fatigue is a phenomenon that will inevitably occur when a writer is heavily dependent on another's work. In telling the same story as his predecessor, a writer makes changes in the early stages which he is unable to sustain throughout." The lack of sustaining the change, which is considered to be a change characteristic of the redactor, then shows up later as an inconsistency or lack of logic after the redactor has continued utilizing his source without making a further change that would eliminate the inconsistency. Goodacre gives four apparent examples of this, with respect to Matthew and Mark.

1. Herod the tetrarch, not "king." The first example is the formally improper use of the word "king" in referring to Herod, in Mt 14:9, after he had first been referred to correctly as the tetrarch, then as Herod three times. On the other hand, in Mark's version of the story (of the beheading of John the Baptist in Mk 6:14-28), Herod is referred to as king four times, as just Herod five times, and never as tetrarch. Goodacre's assumption, based on the belief that the Gospel of Mark preceded Matthew, is that the writer of Matthew at first corrected Mark's improper use of "king," calling him tetrarch, but then overlooked the correction of one of the others. Goodacre argues that since Matthew differs from Mark at the beginning of the pericope, when its writer was writing characteristically (mentioning the correct title, "tetrarch"), while uncharacteristically differing near the end, it indicates that Matthew depends upon Mark in this pericope. His conclusion: editorial fatigue.

Goodacre fails to mention that the fact this pericope in Mark (and most of the others, too) is significantly longer in Mark than in Matthew is normally considered to be an indication of editorial action on the part of the writer who lengthens the stories. Most importantly, however, he fails to consider the matter from the characteristic point of view of the writer of Mark—a writer in Rome who felt it imperative to write a gospel that would not contain Matthew's slurs against gentiles and against discipleship for gentiles; in so doing and writing a gospel for gentiles, he denigrated the Jewish disciples and omitted much material from Matthew that he deemed to be inappropriate for, and/or non-understandable to, gentiles. Thus, even if he knew what a tetrarch was, he believed his gospel's audience probably would not know; therefore he used the word "king" throughout. The fact that "king" was used loosely once in his source (Matthew) could well have been what suggested this course of action to him. Conclusion: not editorial fatigue. The scholar Pierson Parker has discussed a lengthy list of instances in which the writer of Mark displayed his ignorance of Jewish matters (see "The Posteriority of Mark" in New Synoptic Studies, W. F. Farmer, ed. (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983), pp. 73-75).

Goodacre also fails to consider that if the writer of Matthew had a source other than Mark, its writer may have used the word "king" loosely once. Being a prince with a dominion of his own, Herod the tetrarch could once loosely be called "king" by either Matthew's source or the writer of Matthew. This is as likely as not.

2. Was Herod grieved? In the same pericope, Goodacre points out that in Mt 14:9 Herod was sorry of the daughter's request for John's head, whereas earlier in Mt 14:5 we are told that Herod wanted to put John to death. On the other hand, in Mk 6:19-20, though Herod is said to have feared John, he is also said to have regarded him as righteous and wanted to keep him safe; thus in Mk 6:26 Herod was very sorry to have to order him beheaded. Thus Goodacre assumed that the writer of Matthew first made an alteration of Mark to indicate Herod would be glad to see him dead, then later continued with Mark's story of Herod being grieved over ordering the beheading. His conclusion: editorial fatigue.

However, Mark is inconsistent on Herod's feelings prior to the beheading. He had had John seized and put in prison, and furthermore feared John; later he ordered him beheaded at the request of his wife's daughter.. These actions are quite inconsistent with Herod being grieved over ordering John's beheading. Conclusion: not editorial fatigue. Goodacre's problem here was in assuming that Mark is coherent where it is incoherent. With the help of the TJ, we can understand that for various reasons the various inconsistencies involved both Matthew and Mark. However, without having any interest in the TJ and its solutions, the typical NT scholar cannot be expected to arrive at a creative solution like this.

3. Did the cleansed leper need to stay silent? In Mt 8:4 the cleansed leper is told to say nothing to anyone about his having been healed, but to show himself to the priest as required for official recognition of his cleansed status. However, in Mt 8:1, crowds had followed Jesus down from the hill after the Sermon on the Mount, and they were presumably still around at the time of the leper's cleansing. Goodacre assumed that the crowds would have overheard Jesus' warning to the leper to stay silent about the matter, so that it does not make sense that crowds would have been present. In Mark, the crowds indeed are absent in this instance, so that Jesus' warning there (Mk 1:44) makes sense. Goodacre's conclusion: editorial fatigue.

What Goodacre failed to take into account here is that the writer of Mark, if following Matthew, had omitted Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, and in so doing the crowds from that Sermon were not present during the cleansing of the leper. Thus Mark escapes the criticism against Matthew here. Furthermore, Goodacre's assumption that most or all of the crowds saw the leper being cleansed and overheard Jesus' warning to him is only that—an assumption. The warning would have served its purpose of suppressing somewhat the spread of the news of this healing miracle whether or not a considerable fraction of the crowd had witnessed it. In Matthew and its TJ source there is no mention that the ex-leper then later went about spreading the word freely, only in Mark. This development in Mark, however, can be seen as a "change for the sake of change," as it is a fairly safe assumption that the man did spread the word, at least to some extent. Hence, the writer of Mark could assume this and write it in, to help his gospel take on a different appearance from Matthew. Without being able to think from the point of view that Matthew had actually preceded Mark, a scholar like Goodacre cannot be expected to even be aware of this and many other "change for the sake of change" allegations against the writer of Mark. Conclusion: not necessarily an example of Matthean fatigue at all.

4. Did the pericope on Jesus' mother and brothers take place in a house? In Matthew (12:46) it is implied, though not stated, that a house was present, since Jesus' mother and brothers stood outside. In Mark's parallel of the incident, Jesus had been in a house since Mk 3:19b or 3:20, which initiates a pericope not in Matthew. Thus in Mark's parallel about Jesus' mother and brothers, Jesus is definitely situated in a house. So Goodacre assumed that the writer of Matthew, after omitting Mk 3:19b-21, resumed following Mark, thereby leaving his gospel with only an implication that the event occurred inside a house. His conclusion: editorial fatigue.

However, it is not at all surprising that the writer of Mark's extra pericope, occurring some nine verses before the pericope in question, would involve a house, since its introduction involved the difficulty Jesus and the disciples had in eating, due to the crowd that had formed. My conclusion: this example is a very weak example of editorial fatigue, and one of omission at that. In discussing the matter of editorial fatigue once with certain knowledgeable members of the Synoptic-L list, I was informed that Goodacre's definition of it did not pertain to a redactor making an omission and then not sustaining the results of the omission, but only of making some positive change and not sustaining its consequences. Final conclusion: not even a weak example of editorial fatigue by Goodacre's definition.

If the definition were generalized to include changes of omission, then many instances of "editorial fatigue" suggesting Markan dependence upon Matthew would be noticed. However, in just using the positive-change definition, I have found seven instances of "Markan fatigue" relative to Matthew (search for "fatigue" in the following two links). All of these examples involve more extensive alterations than mere nuances in the Greek; if one were to use the latter as the basis for a conclusion of editorial fatigue, one could easily be mistaken if one failed to consider that Matthew was written first in the Hebraic tongue, and that it was this Hebraic Matthew that the writer of Mark made use of.

Finally, it must be mentioned that 28 instances of editorial fatigue on the part of the writer of Matthew relative to the TJ have been noticed.

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