Dependence of Mark upon Matthew (Continued)

4. Markan Improvements of Matthew's Textual Content

The writer of Mark avoided copying many sections of Matthew, either because, in many instances, its use of Judaisms seemed unnecessary for a gentile audience to hear or read, or because, in other instances, it was not understandable to him or did not agree with his own views. He at the same time avoided a large number of Matthew's errors. So in this sense alone Mark can be said to be an improvement over Matthew. However, in this section I give some 58 examples of Markan improvements and reverential upgradings that involve significant alterations to parallel Matthean text. However, an occasional improvement through Mark's omission of a few words or up to a verse in length is included below.

Mk 1:1    "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." In Mt 1:1 its writer spoke quite inappropriately of his gospel as a genealogy. The writer of Mark has partially corrected that here by calling it the beginning of the gospel. However he retained an echo of Matthew's introduction by referring to it as the beginning rather than the gospel itself, in analogy to Matthew's genealogy being the beginning of that gospel.

He has also upgraded Matthew's "Son of David" to "Son of God." Of course, since he decided not to include the genealogy as being any necessity for gentiles to learn, he did not need to mention David here, and could let "Son of God" substitute for a genealogy. The possibility does exist, however, that "Son of God" is a later scribal addition.

His use of the word "gospel" here, which is not in the Matthean parallel, could reflect the fact that until the first written gospel appeared, the word had implied only the "good news" of the Christian faith or of the kingdom of heaven. After the first gospel (Matthew) appeared, however, its entirety would become known as a gospel, and so the writer of Mark wished his writing to be known as a gospel from its beginning, and also favored the use of the word in his text. Had Mark come before Matthew, the writer of Matthew would surely have also used the word "gospel" in the introductory lines of his gospel.

Mk 1:7    "...the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie." The parallel verse of Mt 3:11 instead has it "....whose sandals I am not worthy to carry." We notice that the Markan form portrays Jesus as even more worthy relative to John the Baptist than does the Matthean verse -- John is not worthy even to touch the thong of Jesus' sandals, let alone carry them. This Markan improvement towards greater reverence for Jesus relative to John is consistent with Mark's omission of Mt 11:1-14, which contains Jesus' high praise for John.

Mk 1:8    "....he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." We notice that the parallel verse of Mt 3:11 has it "....he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." The extraneous, italicized phrase is well explained under the Mt-TJ Verse Comparisons, but otherwise it doesn't make sense if the writer of Matthew had followed Mark since in both Matthew and Mark fire is otherwise the symbol of hell or Gehenna. Nor would it make sense to suppose that the writer of Matthew added the phrase to give it some obscure meaning like "fire of judgment," since baptism has a meaning of initiation into something new, while judgment involves the very different meaning of a decision on one's fate based upon one's actions of the past. Thus the writer of Mark omitted it because the phrase in Matthew seemed inexplicable and incompatible with baptism by water.

Mk 1:11     "and a voice came from heaven, 'Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.'" In the Matthean parallel (Mt 3:17), the saying is "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Since the voice came from heaven, i.e., from the sky (ouranioV), it would have been heard by all present. Even if only Jesus had been present with John, this statement from the heavens doesn't distinguish which one was being addressed. In all probability others were present, too, as implied by Mk 1:5, and would God be addressing all of them? The Markan verse then accords less with reality than the Matthean verse, in which "This" indicated to the people present that the person they had just witnessed, stepping out of the water after being baptized, was the one being referred to. The writer of Mark then bears the greater burden of having been the redactor, making the change because in his mind, and that of his potential readers, it would have been obvious that it was Jesus who was being referred to.

Mk 1:34b    In this healing of the sick and casting out of demons, this portion of the verse is: "and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him." It is not present in the Matthean parallel at Mt 8:16. It appears to be an addition inserted to further bolster Jesus' image as an authority figure so deserving of respect that the possessing demons would not even speak out if he ordered them not to. The writer of Mark may have inserted it partially as a substitution for Matthew's quotation from Isaiah (Mt 8:17), which he felt was unnecessary for gentiles to read or would be confusing to them; i.e., if Jesus took on their infirmities [or weaknesses, as the Greek text reads], why did he then not appear to be sick or weak? Already by this point in Mark one notices that its writer wished to portray Jesus as strong, not weak, as in the inserted clause of Mk 1:13b, "and he was with the wild beasts," and would not have desired that he take on weaknesses. At the same time, the writer of Mark expounded upon one of his favorite themes: the Messianic secret, which was a secret to be kept except in gentile lands.

On the other hand, if the writer of Matthew had been including most of Mark and expanding upon it, he would not likely have wished to omit this half verse in Mark, since he would not wish to downgrade Jesus' authority, and since he showed no aversion toward writing about demons or the Messianic secret.

Mk 2:7     In the healing of the paralytic, in which Jesus forgives the man for his sins, Mk 2:7 has the scribes questioning, "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" However, in the Matthean parallel (Mt 9:3) the scribes only say, "This man is blaspheming." Thus, Matthew supplied no explanation why this was blasphemy, and so the writer of Mark corrected this omission, which allowed him to add some non-Matthean substance to his text.

Although this pericope is among those we believe was available to the writer of Mark from the document Peter had brought to Rome decades earlier, the forgiveness-of-sins theme suggests that for this portion of his text the writer was making use of Matthew.

Mk 2:12

12And he [the paralytic] rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
This may be compared with the Matthean parallel (Mt 9:7-8), which reads,
7And he rose and went home. 8When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
We see here that the writer of Mark did not wish to dilute the power and authority of Jesus by implying that "men" in general had this same authority to heal, as stated in the Matthean parallel. In fact, he was reluctant to even grant such authority to Jesus' disciples (e.g., see Mk 6:7 and Mt 10:8, where authority in Mark is given for the disciples only to cast out demons; or see Mk 6:47-51 and Mt 14:23-32, where the walking-on-water episode in Mark is restricted to Jesus only). Hence he made a significant reverential improvement by omitting the Matthean clause that gave such authority to men.

Mk 2:15

15And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.
The Matthean parallel (Mt 9:10) lacks the final clause "for there were many who followed him." This clause is seen to be a bit of apologia for the purpose of explaining why Jesus would be eating with such unsavory table companions -- among many people it couldn't be helped that there would be many tax collectors and sinners. Hence this is an upgrading of Matthew, albeit not a logical one, since it does not follow logically that out of all those who were following him there, those at the table would be predominantly tax collectors and sinners.

Mk 3:3    "And he said to the man who had the withered hand, 'Come here.'" Then followed the healing. Actually, the command in Greek is better translated "Rise into the midst." In Matthew (Mt 12:10-11) there is no such corresponding command. It appears to be a Markan addition designed to further portray Jesus as a commanding figure, and if Mark were written first and Matthew second one would not expect it to be absent from Matthew.

Mk 3:7    In this verse Jesus and disciples depart to the sea, after the Pharisees went out of the synagogue to conspire against him as to how to destroy him. However, in the Matthean parallel (Mt 12:15) their withdrawal is preceded by a clause indicating that Jesus was aware of this conspiracy. Thus Matthew strongly implies that Jesus withdrew out of fear of being killed, while Mark, by its omission of Matthew's "aware of this," gives little or no hint of this. Hence this very much appears to be a Markan omission so as to avoid any implication of fear on Jesus' part. If Matthew had come second, however, its writer is very unlikely to have added the implication of fear by the Son of God to the Markan account.

In addition, where Matthew reads, "And many followed him," Mark reads, "a great multitude from Galilee followed," along with a great multitude from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and from Tyre and Sidon, also not in Matthew. The writer of Mark greatly escalated the size of the crowd, apparently in order to enhance Jesus' image.

The Matthean verses immediately following (Mt 12:17-21) do not appear in Mark even though they are favorable towards gentiles; the present hypothesis explains this by allowing that it was the later translator of Hebraic Matthew into Greek who added the pro-gentile quotation from Isaiah.

Mk 3:19b,31-32     This pertains to the house that Jesus is said to have gone to in Mk 3:19b or 3:20a and preached in, and to which his mother and brothers are said to have come. In the parallel of Mt 12:46 it is implied that Jesus was inside a house while continuing with his various preachings, but nowhere earlier is there any mention or indication that he had been in a house for any of it. Thus the writer of Mark made the indicated improvement, unless it was an accidental improvement due to his greater tendency, relative to Matthew, to give Jesus a house to stay at.

Mk 3:29     Comparison of this verse with Matthew's parallel at Mt 12:32 indicates that Mark omits "And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven." As pointed out by Butler, it should be self-explanatory why the writer of Mark omitted it.[1] Disrespect towards Jesus should be discouraged, not tolerated. This omission represents a strong reverential upgrading of Mark relative to Matthew's text.

Mk 3:30     The first intervening pericope, where Jesus is said to have been "beside himself" and to be possessed by Beelzebul, has an inclusio at Mk 3:30. It may be considered a Markan improvement over Matthew, as it clarifies just why it was that Jesus spoke about the sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit at Mk 3:29. In Matthew this was rather obscure because of the distraction of the intervening story about entering the strong man's house and plundering his goods, which was not followed up by any concluding inclusio. But here in Mark its writer has tied 3:30 back to 3:21-22, so that this intervening story, which he utilized from Matthew, would not cause the point to be lost that Jesus' Jewish friends did not even appreciate him. They had blasphemed against his spirit when saying "He is besides himself" and "He is possessed by Beelzebul," because Jesus' spirit could be equated with the Holy Spirit. Thus, these Jewish folk who supposedly had blasphemed against Jesus' spirit were never to be forgiven for that.

Mk 4:8    In the Matthean parallel the order of the degree of bounty from the seeds that fell on good soil (Mt 13:8) is listed as 100-60-30-fold. In the Markan verse it is reversed to read 30-60-100-fold, which is the arrangement that maximizes the climax of the parable and most emphasizes the value of the good soil. It was a natural improvement for an editor/copyist to make, although we cannot be sure it wasn't just a "change for the sake of change."

Mk 5:6    Here the Gerasene demoniac sees Jesus from afar, and then runs and worships him. In the Matthean story (Mt 8:28b) the two demoniacs simply come out of the tombs and meet Jesus -- no worshiping. Thus this is a Markan editorial touch of added reverence towards Jesus on the part of the demon. The entire verse, moreover, betrays itself as an insert to the Matthean story, because in Mk 5:2, which parallels Mt 8:28, the demoniac had just met up with Jesus already; thus he did not need to back off and then run up to him from afar to worship him!

Mk 5:8    "For he [Jesus] had said to him, 'Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!'" This verse is a parenthetical insert by the writer of Mark to explain the situation of who was speaking in the previous verse, namely the demon. As such it can be seen to be an explanation relative to Mt 8:29, which did not make it clear that it had been the demon(s) speaking through the man (or men) until two verses later. The writer of Mark appears to have been quite knowledgeable about possessing spirits and the symptoms they could produce.

Mk 5:19    "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." The use of "the Lord" here to mean "Jesus Christ" is a Christian usage that developed some years after his Palestinian ministry had ended. Hence the writer of Mark himself placed it on the lips of Jesus, as the verse has no parallel within Matthew although the same pericope about the Gerasene demoniac does occur there (Mt 8:28-34). This represents another reverential upgrading of Mark relative to Matthew. If Matthew had originally come out after Mark and been based on it, it is not likely the writer of Matthew would have omitted this reverential statement. Although it might be argued that the writer of Matthew omitted it because it is complimentary to gentiles -- the country of the Gerasenes and the Decapolis being outside of the land of Israel -- this would not explain why he would then have retained the pericope itself or would not have retained this verse but omit the mention of the Decapolis.

Mk 6:3     Here is the same verse as in the preceding section (3), but viewed with a different slant. During the incident when Jesus was rejected in Nazareth, Mark has the people in the temple say,

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of...?

In Matthew, however, the parallel verse (Mt 13:55) reads:

Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers...?

Now, carpentry was an honorable profession, and if Jesus had indeed been a carpenter before his ministry began, and Mark had preceded Matthew, the writer of Matthew would have had no plausible reason for not stating so within his gospel.

However, the writer of Mark, following Matthew, did have a plausible reason for not stating that Jesus was the son of a carpenter or the son of Joseph.[2]. He would have learned from Matthew's nativity section that Jesus was not the son of Joseph, but merely his stepson. Moreover, he did not include any of the nativity information in his own gospel, which suggests he had a serious problem with it. The immaculate conception he read of in Matthew may not have been acceptable to him, with its involvement with angels, and/or he may not have wished to think of Jesus either as stepson of a Jewish father or as an illegitimate son. And so he made the correction, or improvement, that Jesus was the son of Mary. In so doing, he apparently did not wish to mention Joseph, since he had omitted all mention of him previously, but did apparently feel he could retain the carpentry detail. This he accomplished by wrongly altering Jesus into the carpenter and not mentioning his stepfather.

Regarding Luke, we see that its writer had no problem with inclusion of nativity material in his gospel. He, unlike the writer of Mark, had had some access to Matthew's source, the Talmud of Jmmanuel, and its wealth of material. He realized he could form his own nativity section using items from this source, while avoiding the use of nativity material already utilized within Matthew. He was evidently not averse to the idea of an immaculate conception, and could even go so far as to include the participation of the angel Gabriel in it (Lk 1:26-35). Hence he had no problem with Jesus being Joseph's son (Lk 4:22b). However, rather than correcting Mark where it was wrong he avoided mention of the carpenter issue; this was one of his many compromises between greatly preferring Mark over Matthew while avoiding some of Mark's errors.

Mk 6:9     In Matthew's instructions to the disciples they are strangely told not to provide themselves with any sandals (i.e., Mt 10:10. A plausible though obscure reason why Matthew reads this way is presented within the Mt-TJ Verse Comparisons of this website.). The Markan verse fixes this up by specifying that they wear sandals. In fact, if Matthew hadn't contained this weird instruction, there would have been no need for the writer of Mark to even mention sandals.

Mk 6:12-13    These two verses give vague statements as to what the disciples went out and did on their mission. This, in conjunction with Mk 6:30, is an improvement over Matthew, in which no accomplishments at all of the disciples are reported, nor is their return reported though they had been sent out (in Mt 10:5). Had Matthew followed after Mark, surely its writer would have included the disciples' supposed deeds, from Mk 6:12-13, of preaching repentance, casting out demons and healing the sick.

From here on, the order of the pericopes that the writer of Mark included in his text follows that in Matthew, except for a few stray verses.

Mk 6:14-29    This episode on the beheading of John the Baptist contains several Markan sentences, clauses and/or phrases that are additional to what's in the parallel Matthean account (at Mt 14:1-12). Depending upon one's viewpoint, it can again either be argued that the writer of Mark added to Matthew, in order to make his account seem like an improvement over that of his source, or that the writer of Matthew omitted portions of Mark's account for the same reason. In such a case, the version that is argued to have come first should most closely represent a historical event, since the editor/writer of the secondary version would be more distant from the time and source information of the event, and would therefore be more likely to introduce fictional or erroneous features. Harold Riley, for one, has noted that the Markan additions to the Matthean text contain such features,[3] and are sufficiently numerous, to qualify as being secondary additions.

Some of the additions are redundancies, which are merely the Markan style, and thus cannot be argued against here. However, Mk 6:20 reads "for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man," while Mt 14:5 has "he [Herod] feared the people". Only the latter makes historical sense, since Herod would not have feared John himself after John was in prison.

The same Markan verse states that "When he [Herod] heard him [John] he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly," which has no Matthean parallel. This also represents probable fiction, since one does not, psychologically speaking, go and listen to a man speak if his preaching perplexes you, and do this gladly.

Mk 6:21 starts out, "But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet..." On the other hand, Mt 14:6 simply has, "But when Herod's birthday came..." As noted by Riley, this "But an opportunity came" appears to be a Markan editorial clause in support of Mk 6:19, which presupposes that Herodias had had a grudge against John for quite some time. In Matthew, the thought that Herod's wife, Herodias, wanted to have John killed is not made explicit until two verses later (Mt 14:8). But here in Mark this motivation expressed in Matthew is anticipated and added in editorially. Neither the writer of Mark nor we would have any way of knowing if and for how long Herodias harbored the thought of having John actually be killed before she expressed the thought.

Mk 6:21 also adds, "[Herod...gave a banquet] for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee." Here Riley has noted that it would have been awkward for the leading men of Galilee to have traveled all the way to the banquet, which was in Machaerus, where John was being held in prison. This was on the east side of the Dead Sea, some 90 miles from Galilee.

In Mk 6:23 Herod states to Herodias's daughter, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." This has no parallel in Matthew. Riley notes that it is most unlikely Herod would have granted any such thing to her, and that the saying appears prominently in the book of Esther (Est 5:3,6; 7:2). It is the writer of Matthew who is most noted for having inserted Scriptural verses into his text; thus if Mark had come before Matthew, the latter writer would likely have eagerly retained this sentence in Mark. And of course the word "kingdom" was not appropriate for describing Herod's jurisdiction. So this also appears to be a Markan addition, associated with lack of knowledge on the part of the writer/editor.

These five items within this one pericope, due to their improbable or fictional character, strongly point to the Markan version not being based upon historical reality. Therefore the Matthean version, which Mark parallels, deserves priority over Mark.

Mk 6:20,26     Here there is a particular Markan improvement over Matthew to be noted, not mentioned in the above. Herod is described as knowing that John the Baptist was righteous and being glad to hear him, and then being sad when the daughter asked him to have John beheaded. In the Matthean parallels of Mt 14:5,9, on the other hand, Herod is pictured as wanting to put John to death, but then being sad when he had to have it done. The writer of Mark eliminated this inconsistency of Matthew.

Mk 6:29-31    In the Matthean parallel Jesus withdraws "to a lonely place apart" (Mt 14:13) when he hears of the beheading of John the Baptist, as if he had been shocked and fearful. Mark removes this undesired possibility by having Jesus tell his disciples to come (with him?) to a lonely place so that they -- the disciples -- can rest from their labors after having earlier been sent out two by two. Relative to Matthew, the writer of Mark portrayed Jesus as being fearless and his disciples as being tired -- perhaps too lacking in stamina to be good disciples?

Another interpretation of Mk 6:31, "And he said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a lonely place...'" is that the variant reading within the uncial D is actually more original, being a "harder" reading. It is, "And he said to them, 'Go away by yourselves to a lonely place apart...'" By this reading, the writer of Mark was again downgrading the Jewish disciples, this time, as in Mk 6:48c, by indicating that Jesus didn't want to have them around. The occurrence of the phrase "by yourselves" here (and in the Greek) instead of "with me" strongly supports this interpretation.

Mk 6:41,43    In Mark's version of the feeding of the five thousand the following clause occurs that's not in the Matthean parallel (not in Mt 14:19): "and he divided the two fish among them all." This appears to be a Markan improvement over Matthew; although in Matthew it is mentioned how the loaves were distributed by the disciples, there is no explicit mention of the distribution of the fish. The writer of Mark thus corrected this oversight in his gospel. By so doing, he heightened the miraculousness of the event. At the same time, he added to the reverential aspect by specifying that it was Jesus, not the disciples, who should receive full credit for the multiplication and distribution of the fish.

Towards the end of this pericope, the writer of Mark completed his improvement of Matthew by awkwardly adding the phrase "and of the fish" to the statement he had copied from Matthew so that he rendered Mk 6:43 as: "And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish." C. S. Mann has commented upon how awkward this verse is, and how the above phrase "seems almost an afterthought."[4] Such awkwardness, when combined with other indications of editing as noted above, is strong additional indication of editorial action. In his awkward editorial improvement, however, the writer of Mark forgot, when he came to the last verse of the feeding pericope, to include the fish when stating how many had eaten the loaves. Thus, he failed to follow through on his improvement over Matthew, thereby exhibiting "editorial fatigue."

If, on the other hand, it is supposed that Mark preceded Matthew, then one would need to argue for the improbability that the writer of Matthew would have omitted important details about the fish, present in Mark's account. The improbability of this is to be considered along with the preceding indications that the writer of Mark edited Matthew's account.

Mk 6:45,53     Just before the walking-on-water incident, both Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus instructed his disciples to go in their boat to the other side of Lake Galilee. However, Mk 6:45 adds that they were to go towards Bethsaida, while Matthew fails to specify any particular destination. Just after this incident, when they had crossed over, both Matthew (Mt 14:34) and Mark (6:53) mention that they reached land at Gennesaret, not Bethsaida! (Bethsaida is on the northeast corner of the lake, while Gennesaret is on the northwest side, seven miles distant.) Thus it appears that, once again, the writer of Mark made a typical addition ("to Bethsaida") to the text he was copying from Matthew in order that his gospel would seem more original due to possessing increased detail, while omitting Peter's walking-on-water attempt. But then when he went back to copying from Matthew, he copied/translated Mt 14:34 without alteration into the first part of Mk 6:53, forgetting that this would conflict with his Bethsaida insertion. This could again be called "Markan fatigue." His preoccupation with adding his next insertion ("and moored to the shore"), to the last part of Mk 6:53, may have contributed to his careless editing here.

Although it might be argued that the strong winds blew the disciples off course, this is unlikely, as it would have required winds from the east to do this, while strong winds are more likely to be comprised of a component from the west. In any event, after Jesus stepped into the boat the wind ceased, and they could have continued on their predetermined course towards Bethsaida, if that had been their actual destination.

Mk 7:18-19     These verses read,

18"...Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, 19since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
The Matthean parallel at this point (Mt 15:17-18) reads,

17"Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and so passes on? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man."

The Matthean verse did not make it absolutely clear from its two verses here that the food you eat cannot defile you; rather it went on to emphasize what can defile you -- words out of the mouth. Thus the writer of Mark made the improvement of clarification by speaking of what comes in from the outside as not defiling a man. To emphasize this even further, he added the remark shown in parentheses (not in Matthew), so that it would be perfectly clear to gentiles who would be Christians that they need not adopt the Jewish custom of washing their hands before eating. This stands as plausible enhancement of Matthean text by the writer of Mark, because if viewed the other way around, the writer of Matthew would have had no motivation for de-emphasizing the Markan emphasis here, because at the end of his pericope (Mt 15:20b) one sees that he agreed anyway with what the writer of Mark would emphasize.

Mk 7:25    This verse occurs in the pericope of the Syrophoenician (a Greek, i.e. gentile) woman whose daughter was possessed. In the parallel Matthean verse (Mt 15:22), where she is a Canaanite (non-gentile), she comes forth to Jesus and makes her plea. But in this Markan verse she first prostrates herself at his feet, another strong reverential upgrading by the writer of Mark. The gentile supplicant thus showed proper respect for Jesus.

Mk 8:1     At the beginning of Mark's Feeding of the Four Thousand, it is a "great crowd" (or actually a "much" crowd) that had gathered, while in the parallel Matthean text (Mt 15:32) it is just "the crowd." This again appears as a minor Markan enhancement of Jesus' importance.

Mk 8:22-26     This little miracle story, not in Matthew, may be an invention of the writer of Mark made to enhance his gospel relative to Matthew. This possibility arises because it could well be a doublet of the healing story of Mk 7:32-37, as follows, from the translation of C. S. Mann:[5]

Mk 7:32-37         Mk 8:22-26                 
32 and they bring to him
22 and they bring to him
     and they beseech him to
     lay his hand on him

     and beseech him to touch him
33 and taking him away
23 he led him forth
     he put his fingers into
     his ears and spitting

     and spitting in his eyes
     he touched his tongue
     putting his hands on him
34 and looking up
24 and looking up
     and says
     he said
36 and he ordered them
     to tell no one

26 and he...said, Do not enter the village

On the other hand, we must also allow for the possibility that this was a genuine event recorded in the recovered stolen writing later available to the writer of Mark but forgotten by the writer of the Talmud of Jmmanuel. In either event, it is almost inconceivable that the writer of Matthew, if basing his gospel upon Mark, would have omitted this Markan miracle story.

Mk 8:33     This verse, which rebukes Peter, follows Mt 16:23 very closely except that it lacks Matthew's "You are a hindrance to me." On the hypothesis that the writer of Matthew was dependent upon the Gospel of Mark, and softened Mark's harsh portayal of the disciples, it would not make sense that the writer of Matthew would have added it in. On the other hand, it makes sense that the writer of Mark, if not omitting the sentence through oversight or the desire to abbreviate, did so because he felt that nothing a disciple could do should have been any stumbling block or problem for the Son of God.

Mk 8:34     This verse reads,

34And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

The Matthean parallel (Mt 16:24), however, just starts out as "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If any man would come after me..."' This then appears to be an upgrading of Matthew by the writer of Mark, having the purpose of showing that a message of which he particularly approved had gotten across to a much larger audience (the multitude) than to just the disciples.

If viewed the other way around, the writer of Matthew, had he been following Mark, would have had no reason in his gospel to omit "the multitude" or "the crowd" here, and thus greatly limit the audience who had received this important advice.

Mk 8:35     Here the writer of Mark showed his interest that the gospel -- a tangible written account of how to be a Christian -- be shown the same respect and priority as the name of Jesus itself. Thus he added "and [for] the gospel's [sake]" to the Matthean parallel he was following at that point (Mt 16:25). If Matthew had followed after Mark, its writer would have had no reason whatsoever to remove this phrase about the gospel.

Mk 8:38     At the parallel point in Matthew we find that Mt 16:26 speaks of forfeiting one's life while Mt 16:27 speaks of the Son of man's coming some time in the future. Yet they are supposed to be connected thoughts, since a "for" (or Greek "gar") is used to connect them. The first part of Mk 8:38, involving not being ashamed of Jesus, is not in Matthew and mediates between these two thoughts, forming a transition. This then appears to be a Markan improvement, which, if Matthew had come second, its writer would not likely have omitted.

Mk 9:47     Here Mark reads: is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.

while Matthew (Mt 18:9) reads: is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Mark's "kingdom of God" appears as a reverential upgrading of Matthew's "life."[6] And perhaps by this time, after repeating Matthew's previous "enter life" in two of his own verses (Mk 9:43,45), it occurred to the writer of Mark that it would make sense to improve upon or clarify it. "Enter life" can imply the time of very birth, which does not make much contextual sense, while "enter the kingdom of God" implies at or after death, which is then after the time of sinning and of eye plucking.

Mk 10:13-16     In these verses in which Jesus blesses the children, the Matthean parallel at Mt 19:13 mentions that Jesus was to pray for them, but by the end of the pericope (Mt 19:15) he has failed to do so. The writer of Mark eliminated this inconsistency by not saying that Jesus was to pray in the first place.

Mk 10:17    At this point a man runs up to Jesus, kneels before him and addresses him as "Good Teacher." However, in the Matthean parallel (Mt 19:16) the person simply comes up to Jesus and addresses him as "Teacher," without any kneeling or prostrating of himself. The Markan version is a very significant upgrading in reverence, or improvement, being twofold in character. It is extremely unlikely that if Matthew had come after Mark, its writer would have downgraded this high degree of Markan reverence. Further discussion of this pericope is found in the next section.

Mk 10:29-30    This involves the hundred-fold reward to be received in the present life by those who leave behind houses or relatives or land for Jesus' sake (and for the gospel's sake). In the Matthean parallel (Mt 19:29) it is not clear if this reward will be received in this life or in the afterlife, though the context implies it will be in the afterlife. The Markan improvement makes clear the reward will come in the present life, in keeping with that writer's greater interest in material possessions (as exemplified in Mk 10:19, where the commandment "Do not defraud" is substituted in place of Matthew's "Love your neighbor as yourself"). However, this Markan improvement is not without the customary indications of editorial ineptitude. To receive a hundredfold bounty of houses and of brothers ... and of mothers... and of lands, etc., is quite nonsensical. Does anyone want or need a hundred mothers?

And again, "for the gospel's" sake appears to be a Markan addition, as noted earlier.

Mk 10:38     In the story of the request by James and John, Mark has a clause not present in Matthew (Mt 20:22) where Jesus asks them: "or [are you able] to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" The meaning here is a baptism into death, so that this is a very significant and portentous utterance. It is thus more plausible that Matthew does not contain it because Matthew came first and it was not in its source, than that the writer of Matthew simply omitted it had Matthew been written after Mark.

However, the ineptitude of the writer of Mark as editor shows through here also, in that he wrote "with which I am baptized" instead of "with which I will be baptized."

Mk 10:46

46And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.
The Matthean parallel at Mt 20:29 just starts out: "And as they went out of Jericho." The writer of Matthew had forgotten to say that they had already been in Jericho before leaving it, or else had mistakenly misplaced the scene as occurring as they left instead of as they were arriving. The writer of Mark has corrected this oversight. The progression through Luke is seen by its mention only of "to Jericho" (Lk 18:35).

In this episode of the healing of the blind beggar, Mark mentions his name but Matthew, in its parallel (in which there two blind beggars) does not. This appears to be information available to the writer of Mark from the recovered, old document preserved by the church in Rome that Peter and (John) Mark had brought to Rome decades earlier. Included in the original information was also the mention of Bartimaeus throwing off his mantle as he arose. (The writer repositioned his pericope from this document into a later healing pericope within the Matthean framework.) If Matthew had followed Mark, the writer of Matthew would not likely have omitted such valuable details. But with Matthew's source having been written some years afterwards (after the writing of the recovered document), its writer by then would likely have forgotten quite a few such details.

Mk 10:50    Here the blind man who was about to have his sight restored threw off his outer garment, leaped up and came to Jesus. This was amongst a crowd along the road from Jericho. In the Matthean verses being followed at this point (Mt 20:32-34 along the road from Jericho) Jesus asks the blind men what they want, and then he touches their eyes to restore their sight. Presumably Jesus walked up to them to do this, as nothing to the contrary is mentioned. Thus we see that the writer of Mark has made Jesus into a more respected figure here by having the blind man rush to Jesus without any implication that Jesus came to him.

Mk 10:52     At the end of this same pericope, the writer of Mark similarly enhances the image of Jesus as a commanding figure by having him tell the man with the restored sight to go (depart), which command was not in his Matthean source. Then the writer of Mark went back to following Mt 20:34c by having the man follow Jesus, forgetting that his addition had just ordered the man to "Go." Thus we see another example of "Markan fatigue" here.

Mk 11:2-7    Here Jesus acquires and rides a colt into Jerusalem -- a colt on which no one has ever sat. In the Matthean parallel (Mt 21:2-7) he apparently rides both an ass and a colt, in keeping with a saying from Zechariah. Thus the writer of Mark has improved his gospel over Matthew by eliminating this seeming absurdity. This argument might be reversed, except that the clause about the "colt on which no one has ever sat" can be judged to be a fiction, since Jesus had not been around in previous days to know if anyone had ridden it or not. The clause seems to have been added in order that Jesus be treated more regally, or with greater dignity. Thus it is a Markan fiction, indicative of Mark being secondary to its parallel verses in Matthew, which do not contain the fiction. A similar flourish to lend dignity occurs at Mk 4:38 where Jesus has a cushion in the boat to rest his head on, not present in Mt 8:23-26.

Mk 11:15    Here Jesus begins to "drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple." He may not have succeeded in driving them all out, if he only began to do it. In Mt 21:12 he drives them all out, a seemingly incredible feat for just one person. In Mark, the word all is not present. Thus the writer of Mark has made this angry act less incredible and therefore more believable to his audience.

There are other indications of Markan editing within this same pericope. Jesus could not have taught immediately after the ruckus he raised, yet the writer of Mark inserted the teaching theme at Mk 11:17-18. And in 11:17 the phrase "for all the nations" (not in Matthew) is inserted, which very much appears to be one of many Markan additions designed to enhance the status of gentiles. However, it was an inappropriate addition here, since the temple was obviously a place of worship for Jews, not gentiles.

Mk 12:6    In the Markan form of the parable of the wicked tenants, the owner of the vineyard finally sends his "beloved son" to collect some of the fruit. In Matthew (21:37) it is just "the son" who is sent in this third attempt by the owner. The Markan version is a very substantial upgrading of Matthew, and makes the point clearer that this son represents Jesus in the parable, since "my beloved son" is what he was called in Mt 4:17 & 17:5, and Mk 1:11 & 9:7. It is thus very improbable that Matthew was dependent upon Mark here, but rather the other way around. The writer of Luke (20:13), as customary with him, tended to follow Mark's alterations from Matthew; in particular, he retained the "beloved" son, as would be expected.

Mk 12:9     At this point in the parable, Jesus asks the chief priests, scribes and elders in the temple what the owner of the vineyard would do about the killings by the vineyard tenants. Then he immediately answers his own question in 12:9b. However, the reason for speaking a parable is to try to get one's listeners to do the thinking and answering of questions for themselves. In the Matthean text that the writer of Mark was following here (Mt 21:40-41), however, the question was indeed answered by the listeners of the parable, not by Jesus. We may then infer that the Matthean form of this verse is the more original, with this indeed having been Jesus' reason for using parables -- to cause his listeners to think. The writer of Mark could well have been motivated to make the change primarily so that Jesus would be the sole teacher, fully in control, and would not be dependent upon the chief priests, scribes and elders to provide an answer.

This is a more compelling reason for the difference between Matthew and Mark here than that the writer of Matthew, if utilizing Mark, had recognized the more subtle point that the Markan parable could be made more genuine in appearance by allowing the listeners to answer the question. The writer of Matthew did not seem to be aware of this reason for speaking parables, judging from Mt 13:35, where reference is made to a prophet (to Psalm 78) in an attempt to explain it. And he would not likely have put the correct answer to Jesus' question on the lips of the chief priests, scribes and elders had it not been that way in his source, since he repeatedly ascribed Jesus' arrest and its planning to these groups, which he disliked.

Mk 12:27b     At the end of the short discourse to the Sadducees on resurrection, we find the following statement coming from the lips of Jesus: "You are quite wrong." This is not paralleled in Matthew, and therefore stands out as a Markan addition to Matthew because it makes Jesus more of an authority figure. It is less plausible that the writer of Matthew, had he been following Mark, would have removed this statement indicating that Jesus was an absolute authority who could rightfully judge and pronounce others incorrect. Although at the beginning of this pericope both Matthew and Mark have Jesus indicating his questioners were wrong, only Mark emphasizes it by this concluding verse. In so doing, the writer of Mark was also emphasizing the ignorance of Jesus' Jewish listeners, in this case, the Sadducees.

Mk 12:29     The first or greatest commandment stated both here and in the Matthean parallel (Mt 22:37) derives from Dt 6:5. But only Mark includes the Deuteronomic prefix: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." Various arguments can be presented either way on this to favor either Matthean or Markan priority. However, the strongest arguments indicate why the writer of Mark would have included it even when it was not in the Matthean text, and why the writer of Matthew would not have excluded it if he had been following Markan text, as follows.

Within the land of paganism, where the writer of Mark was located, monotheism needed to be emphasized if gentiles were to be converted to Christianity. Thus the writer of Mark in Rome had strong incentive to have included the monotheistic prefix to the quotation from Deuteronomy.[7] In this instance there is little doubt that he was aware of the source of this first commandment from Deuteronomy with its prefix. If the writer of Matthew had been following Mark, however, he would not likely have omitted the monotheistic prefix he would find in Mark because there it is part of a quote from the Lord of a passage from the Torah, and because it was directed to Israel. But as for placing this prefix in his gospel in the first place, when it was not present in his source, this was not necessary since his gospel was intended primarily for Jews, and they had been monotheistic for several centuries. Besides, this prefix was not a commandment but an ancillary statement of belief, and so was not quite appropriate in this context. For purposes of the writer of Mark, on the other hand, the prefix would likely have seemed appropriate to include.

As to why the writer of Matthew would have placed a verse from Deuteronomy followed by one from Leviticus (Mt 22:39) on the lips of Jesus, it was because a substitution was necessary for the unacceptable material in his source at this point.

Mk 12:36     Here in the "Son of David" pericope, Mark reads, "David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand...'". This is a close parallel to Mt 22:43-44, except that in Matthew it is just "Spirit," not the more christological Holy Spirit. Thus this represents a significant reverential improvement by the writer of Mark.

If viewed the other way around, the writer of Matthew would not likely have downgraded Mark's Holy Spirit to Spirit, had he been copying from Mark. He had nothing against the phrase, as he used "Holy Spirit" five times in his gospel.

Mk 13:1-2     In Mt 24:1-2 Jesus' disciples come to him without saying anything, yet Jesus answers them. In this Markan parallel this inconsistency is removed: a disciple first speaks to Jesus, then he responds.

Mk 13:4    In Mt 24:3 the disciples ask Jesus when his coming (the Second Coming) will be. The writer of Matthew had gotten ahead of himself here, as the disciples had not yet been told of a Second Coming. The Markan verse corrects this by having the (four) disciples ask Jesus only when the temple would be destroyed and what the sign for that event would be.

Mk 13:10     This verse: "And the gospel must first be preached to all nations," interrupts the flow of thought between verses 9 and 11, while repeating the Markan theme of the importance of the gospel. Thus it stands out as an attempt by the writer of Mark to add his own emphasis to the text from Matthew he had selected to follow at this particular point,[8] namely Mt 10:17-22. It is easily seen that Mt 24:9, with its mention of the disciples risking being delivered up to tribulation or death, could have brought these earlier Matthean verses to the mind of Mark's writer.

Mk 13:10 is itself a parallel to Mt 24:14a, which reads, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world." So it is Matthew's "gospel of the kingdom" that the writer of Mark has expressed in the secondary form "the gospel."[9]

And the word "first" within the Markan verse is odd, as Butler pointed out,[10] because it makes no practical or historical sense, following Mk 13:9. That is, if the disciples should have to undergo beatings and bear testimony before governors and kings, this would occur at different times and places for the different disciples. Must the gospel then be preached to all nations before the first disciple is so mistreated, or before the second... or the twelfth? And what's to prevent it from being preached later, too? But from the parallel in Matthew that the writer of Mark was following, one sees that "first" here refers to Mt 24:14b, where a single event is mentioned -- the end, or apocalypse. So with the taking of Matthew's verse out of context, where preaching of the gospel will precede the apocalypse, Mark's verse is left with this preaching of the gospel not preceding any particular event and being a falsified prophecy as well.

Mk 13:11     Here, where Mark parallels Mt 10:20, Matthew uses the phrase "the Spirit of your Father" while Mark has "Holy Spirit," which is a christological upgrade. This is indicative of Mark being secondary to Matthew.

Mk 13:18     In the Matthean parallel (Mt 24:20) Jesus says to "pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath." In the Markan verse the sabbath phrase is omitted. The writer of Mark -- having a gentile viewpoint -- recognized that it should be all right to flee on a sabbath since the sabbath was made for man (Mk 2:27), whereas the writer of Matthew at this point had evidently forgotten about his text that relaxed the sabbath restrictions (Mt 12:8).

Mk 13:27    "....and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven." The parallel Matthean verse instead has it "....and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Mt 24:31). Since the coming of the Son of man would affect those on earth, it apparently did not make sense to the writer of Mark that the elect would be gathered only from heaven and not from earth. So as an improvement he added the "ends of the earth" phrase. As a result early Christians could consider that they might live to be among these elect. In particular, the writer of Mark was ensuring that gentiles "from the ends of the earth" would be among the elect.

Mk 14:4    In Mark's rendition of the woman's anointing of Jesus at Bethany, those present said to themselves what a waste of money it was to pour out the expensive oil when it could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor. In Matthew (Mt 26:8-9), on the other hand, the disciples express this thought aloud to Jesus in indignent tones. Thus the writer of Mark is seen to have portrayed Jesus as exhibiting his mind-reading capability in knowing why those present were reproaching the woman. It is more plausible that the writer of Mark would upgrade an event in his source text, by giving it a touch of the miraculous, than that the writer of Matthew, if following Mark, would edit out the miraculous.

Mk 14:10-11    Here the chief priests promise to pay Judas silver if he would betray Jesus to them. In the Matthean parallel, they pay Judas 30 pieces of silver (Mt 26:15). From the point of view of Matthean priority over Mark, this is a purposeful Markan omission. It is likely that the writer of Mark reasoned that Jesus was worth inestimably more than any 30-shekel bounty, while Judas was undeserving of any bounty. His solution, then, was to omit the value of the silver and not let Judas receive any of it, there being no mention then or later that he was paid any silver.

From the viewpoint of Markan priority, the writer of Matthew decided to amplify Mark's text at this point, choosing the value of silver (30 shekels) that Zechariah was owed upon renouncing his job as a shepherd, because he donated the silver to the treasury of the temple (Zec 11:12-13). However, if the source text of the writer of Matthew had not already mentioned 30 pieces of silver, or a similar amount, it is quite unlikely he would have inserted a relatively small sum like this, on his own initiative, as bounty. It should have been worth much more to the chief priests, he would reason, to put this wisdom teacher and miracle worker out of business. He could, for example, have inserted 200 pieces of silver as the bounty, in allusion to the money hidden away by Achan, who later confessed his misdeed and was then killed (Jos 7:18-25).

Mk 14:13-17    Here Mark has an interesting little story, which deviates considerably from Matthew's parallel at Mt 26:18-19. In it Jesus provides prophetic instructions to two disciples who are sent out to prepare the Passover meal. Since it supplies details not in Matthew, it constitutes an editorial improvement over Matthew. However, if Matthew were secondary, its writer would have had no good reason for omitting this story, with its important details and display of Jesus' faculty for foreknowledge of a situation.

One detail of the story suggests it was written by a gentile (the writer of Mark) located in a gentile land (presumably in Rome) and unfamiliar with customs in Palestine. The two disciples are to look for a man carrying a jug of water, but in Palestine the custom was for the women to tote the water.[11]

A minor error at the end of this pericope helps confirm that this story was an invention of the writer of Mark. After being sent out to prepare the meal for all 13, in all likelihood at least one of the two would have been required to remain there, preparing it, until mealtime. Yet, Mk 14:17 has Jesus coming with the twelve to the "large upper room" for the meal. There is no mention that the two had first returned to rejoin the other ten disciples. This was then an oversight on the part of the writer of Mark.

Lest it be thought that the deviations from Matthew here were too great for the writer of Mark to have invented, one may notice that their essence replicates important portions of Mk 11:1-6, causing C. S. Mann to suggest Mk 14:13-17 may be a doublet of Mk 11:1-6.[12] That is, both passages contain the following elements: Jesus sends out two of his disciples, they go into the city or town, they are to repeat what their Lord or teacher said, and they went and found.

Mk 14:21-22     Here there is an important omission of a single Matthean verse that stands out as being a Markan improvement. That verse is Mt 26:25, which reads, "Judas, who betrayed him, said, 'Is it I, Master?' He said to him, 'You have said so.'" Thus, the reader of Matthew may well wonder here why the other disciples didn't immediately spring up from the table and rush over to constrain Judas at this point. This is not so subtle a point that the writer of Mark would not have noticed it and corrected it by omitting the verse. To defend Matthew at this point, theologians usually assume that this conversation was whispered privately. But since this is not stated in Matthew, it makes sense that the writer of Mark would omit the verse.

From the viewpoint of Markan priority, it isn't plausible that the writer of Matthew, if going to the pains of having inserted this verse into his copyings of the Markan account, would not then have realized the problem it poses. It is instead much more plausible that this problem was overlooked by the writer of Matthew during the course of fabricating the whole Last Supper conversation relative to the contents of his source document -- the Talmud of Jmmanuel.

Mk 14:24     In the Matthean verse (Mt 26:28) the communion wine is likened to Jesus' blood "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." In this Markan parallel the blood is simply "poured out for many;" it would make more sense to a gentile writer that sins be forgiven through repentance at the time of baptism (Mk 1:4). Hence this omission of the forgiveness theme appears to be a Markan improvement over Matthew, at least from an early gentile viewpoint.

Mk 14:26,31-32    When Mark refers to the disciples here it is just as "they" or "they all," which could conceivably allow that Judas Iscariot was no longer with them when they walked to Gethsemane but had earlier slipped out to embark upon his deed of betrayal. In the Matthean parallels, however, "them" refers to "all the disciples" (Mt 26:35-36), forcing Judas to be with the others at Gethsemane, when there would not have been time for him to alert the chief priests who, in turn, would round up their arresting party. This then is a Markan improvement, though quite possibly an accidental one.

Mk 14:30,72    This is the prophecy, and its fulfillment, that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed twice. In the Matthean parallels (Mt 26:34,75), it reads before the cock crows (once). Although this could be classified as a Markan change for the sake of change, or as an added fictitious element, it is most likely also an upgrading by the writer of Mark of Jesus' prophetic powers. Not only does Jesus foretell how many times Peter will deny his lord, but how many times the cock will crow before this has happened -- a greater feat. It can be seen to be an alteration carelessly thought through, however, as Peter would probably have recalled what Jesus said after the cock crowed the first time, and might then have changed his subsequent behavior; moreover, sometimes two crowings of a rooster come in quick succession, leaving it uncertain if it was two or one. These aspects of unreality are not present in the Matthean version, which then is the version that could actually have occurred, assuming Jesus possessed astounding prophetic powers.

Mk 14:65    Here Mark allows for certain members of the Sanhedrin to have covered Jesus' face before ordering him to prophesy. In the Matthean parallel (Mt 26:67-68), he was ordered to prophesy as to who was beating him when he could presumably see who was beating him. Thus the writer of Mark provided the covering of the face as a remedy to Matthew's error. (But still more will be said on this pericope in the next section.)

Mk 15:32    "Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe."
Mt 27:42b, on the other hand reads:   "He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him." We see that in Mark, "the Christ" occurs in place of Matthew's "him." This appears as a reverential upgrading, pure and simple.

Mk 15:43     In this verse Joseph of Arimathea enters the scene. He is said to be seeking the kingdom of God, but is not mentioned as being rich, as in Mt 27:57, which however does not explicitly state he was seeking the kingdom of God. Now in Mk 10:23 its writer had followed Matthew in stating how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Hence, this very much appears to be a Markan improvement over Matthew to remove this fairly evident inconsistency in Matthew. Since the presence in Mark of "kingdom of God" and absence of "rich" together result in a self-consistent improvement over Matthew, the two changes point to a purposeful redaction on the part of the writer of Mark.

The verse moreover suffers from another problem that indicates it to be a redaction of Matthew. Here Joseph is described as having been a respected member of the council, whereas earlier in Mk 14:55 it is stated that the whole council sought testimony against Jesus, just as in Mt 26:59. It is inconceivable that Joseph would have asked for Jesus' body, bought a linen shroud, wrapped Jesus in it and laid him in a tomb if the previous night he had been one of those who had condemned Jesus to death (Mk 14:64).

Mk 15:44-45     At this point, when Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and requested Jesus' body, Pilate wondered if he were already dead, summoned a centurion to ask him, and learned that he had been declared dead. There is no equivalent to this in Matthew. It appears to be a christological upgrade to confirm, more convincingly than is presented in Matthew, that the man had really died on the cross, a belief that is demanded of Christians (1 Cor 15:3-4). The questioning on this attributed to Pilate then represents invention on the part of the writer of Mark, who in this instance was on safe grounds, since it is quite plausible that Pilate would have wondered about it.

Mk 15:46     Then Joseph laid the body in a tomb that had been hewn out of rock, not in Joseph's own tomb as Matthew (Mt 27:60) has it. This appears to be a reverential upgrade of Matthew, in that the tomb, if it had just been hewn out, had not yet been put to use, and was not explicitly stated to be the tomb for someone else. Thus Jesus was laid in a tomb meant for him, not for anyone else. As R. H. Gundry expresses it, "Mark's omitting to say who owned the tomb (contrast Matt 27:60) rivets attention on its high grade."[13] Mark's omission here then gives the verse a similar upgrading to that of the addition in Mk 11:2, where Jesus would ride a colt "on which no one has ever sat." The writer of Luke furthered the upgrade by stating explicitly that the rock-hewn tomb was one "where no one had ever yet been laid" (Lk 23:53).

Additionally, it can be seen as quite unusual for a man to have had his own tomb already prepared, if he were strong and healthy enough to have gone to Pilate to ask for permission to take Jesus' body and then go back to the crucifixion site, take him down from the cross, wrap the body and carry it to his own tomb. Hence the writer of Mark's improvement upon Matthew here elminated this circumstance, which might seem all too improbable to his audience. On the other hand, the writer of Matthew, if Mark had come first, would have had no reason to invent an improbable situation that was not at all essential to his story. The fact that Joseph had already had the tomb carved out in advance for eventual use by himself was worthy of mention by the original author, and retained by the writer of Matthew, just because it was an unusual situation. By the same token, the circumstance of the paralytic being lowered through an opening in the roof in order to gain access to Jesus (Mk 2:4) can be taken to represent an unusual but real event, available to the writer of Mark from the truncated source document then in the possession of the church at Rome.

Mk 16:2-8     Now since the writer of Mark was aware that two Mary's had gone to the tomb, and was aware that a stone had been rolled away, etc., and since the pericope shares many detailed thoughts present also in Matthew, especially in Mk 16:6-7, which parallels Mt 28:6-7, it should be clear that the one account is dependent upon the other. With the evidence strong that Mark is secondary here, one must again consider if Matthew isn't the gospel that Mark depends upon.

If, on the other hand, Matthew is considered secondary to Mark, one must wonder why Matthew's writer felt obliged to invent such a complicated story about guards having been requested and posted at the tomb, having become as dead men after an angel appeared, having recovered and then telling the chief priests about their encounter with the angel, and having been advised to relate a cover story about it. He could much more simply, if desiring to invent a posting-of-the-guards story, have merely stated that guards had been requested and posted, and that the stone was not rolled away until the guards did it at the request of the two Mary's. After all, a resurrected body that can pass through a closed door (Jn 20:19,26) or who can vanish from one place and suddenly appear in another (Lk 24:31,36) should not be hampered from vanishing from a tomb by a stone. Thus, if Matthew's source had contained much of the essence of the Matthean story, it all becomes explainable. The writer of Mark, viewed here as a gentile writing in Rome, is then seen to have frowned upon actual intervention in human affairs by an angel, just as he had avoided the angelic influence in Matthew's nativity story by omitting it all. And so he removed Matthew's angel here, along with all elements of the story about Roman guards who had become like dead men due to the angel's intervention, and who were said to have fallen asleep on the job. The young man in white, sitting in the tomb, is then Mark's replacement for Matthew's angel, and by implication the person who had rolled away the stone. Thus, this ending in Mark constitutes his improvement over Matthew, with its final thought -- that the two Mary's and Salome fled in fear and were disobedient in not spreading the good news -- being his final slur against the children of Israel.


1. Butler, B. C., The Originality of St Matthew (Cambridge: University Press, 1951), p. 113.

2. Stoldt, H.-H., History and Criticism of the Marcan Hypothesis, transl. Donald L. Niewyck (Macon, GA: Mercer Univ. Press, 1980), pp. 208-209.

3. Riley, Harold, The Making of Mark (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1989), pp. 74-77.

4. Mann, C. S., in The Anchor Bible, vol. 27 (Mark) (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1986), p. 303.

5. Mann, Anchor Bible, vol. 27, p. 335.

6. This has been pointed out by Mann, Anchor Bible, vol. 27, p. 385, who remarked, "It is difficult not to describe this [Mark's phrase] as secondary."

7. Butler, Originality of St Matthew, p. 137.

8. Mann, Anchor Bible, vol. 27, p. 517.

9. Riley, The Making of Mark, p. 154.

10. Butler, Originality of St Matthew, p. 81.

11. Beach, Curtis, The Gospel of Mark: Its Making and Meaning (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), p. 107.

12. Mann, Anchor Bible, vol. 27, p. 562.

13. Gundry, Robert H., Mark: A Commentary on his Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), p. 982.

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