(1) Omission of Matthew's anti-gentile statements. These offensive statements in Matthew include Mt 1:21b, 5:47, 6:7, 6:32, 10:5, 15:24, 15:26, 18:17 and 24:9b. They are of the type that denigrate gentiles, as in Mt 6:7,
And in praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do....and of the type that seeks to exclude them from discipleship, as in Mt 15:24,
He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."A couple examples of a Matthean anti-gentile statement that was ameliorated follow:
Mt 10:18 And you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.
Mk 13:9 ...and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them.Here we see that the Matthean verse has the disciples being taken against their will before governors and kings, to be delivered up then to the gentiles, while the Markan verse portrays the way disciples should behave, testifying willingly in the name of Jesus, without explicit mention of the gentiles who would persecute them. In addition, two verses later Mark has the Holy Spirit as being the source of what they would testify, whereas in Matthew it is "the Spirit of your Father." Mark's "Holy Spirit" appears to be an upgraded form of Matthew's "Spirit of your Father."
Mk 13:26 reads, "And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory." There is no clue who "they" stands for. It appears within a fresh pericope that had started out with "But in those days." However, in the parallel of Mt 24:30 that the writer of Mark appears to have been following, and continues to follow, we see that it refers back to "all the tribes," a phrase the writer of Mark omitted probably because it implied a reference to the twelve tribes of Israel and thus shunned the gentiles.
Mt 20:25 25..."You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them."
10:42: 42..."You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them."The Markan parallel replaces "rulers" who lord it over the gentiles with "those who are supposed to rule." This alleviates the undesired connotation that gentiles are "lorded over" by their rulers. The writer of Mark had no need to alter the second half of the verse, however, as it concerned the "great men" of the gentiles.
(2) Pro-gentile additions and alterations in Mark. The best known example of this is Mk 7:20, where the woman Jesus replies to disparagingly yet whose daughter he heals is a Syro-Phoenician and hence a gentile, while in Mt 15:22 she is a Canaanite, who does not as easily fall into the gentile category. Other examples are:
Mk 5:20 In this verse the man whom Jesus had healed, paralleled in Mt 8:28-32, went away to the gentile land of Decapolis to say how much Jesus had done for him. This Markan verse is not paralleled in Matthew.
Mk 8:3 Some of those participating in the feeding of the four thousand "have come a long way," thus implying that they came from gentile lands. The parallel of Mt 15:32 does not contain this clause.
Mk 11:17 In quoting from Mt 21:13 and Is 56:7, the writer of Mark added a phrase from Isaiah that is not in Matthew: "for all peoples."
(3) Anti-Jewish additions within Mark. These are very numerous. Some of these will reveal a fiction, relative to the Matthean parallel, which then suggests that the Markan account is secondary. Those that are disparaging towards Jews in general, not just the disciples, are denoted by **.
**Mk 1:34, 1:43, 3:12, 5:43 -- the Markan emphasis of the Messianic secret.These verses admonish the person who was cured, and the near bystanders, not to tell of it to the surrounding people, who were Jews. This is to be contrasted with Mk 5:19-20, where the man cured of being possessed is urged to go home and tell his gentile friends in Decapolis all about it. These latter two verses have no parallel in Matthew, though the pericope itself is paralleled. In Mk 7:36 the "Don't tell" admonition serves to encourage the onlookers to proclaim all the more the miraculous cure of the deaf man, because these onlookers were gentile residents of Decapolis. The "Don't tell" admonitions of Mk 1:34 and 5:43 are not present in Matthew.
One is hard pressed to find any statement in the literature that the Markan emphasis on the Messianic secret may have reflected the attitude of the Gospel's writer himself. My search for such has revealed only one, and it was not in rigorously peer-reviewed literature.
**Mk 1:40-41 40And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." 41In anger [pity -- RSV], he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean."The Matthean parallel (Mt 8:2-3) reads,
2and behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." 3And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean."
This leper was a Jewish supplicant; so, assuming Matthean priority over Mark, "in anger" was a strongly anti-Jewish addition by the writer of Mark. It has been noted by Bart Ehrman (in Bible Review (vol. 21, Winter 2005, pp. 18-22) that "in anger" rather than "moved with pity" is surprisingly well attested (in Codex Bezae and four other manuscripts cited by Nestle-Aland 27). Ehrman uses the standard argument of textual critics here that a "hard" reading like this would not have appeared in major manuscripts of Mark unless it had actually been present in the original. It is not surprising, of course, that all Bible editions have chosen the "moved with pity" reading, since how could Jesus have been moved "by anger" to perform this healing? The present solution treats both sides of this problem realistically, though it is of course not "politically correct" to postulate that the writer of Mark was anti-Jewish in his outlook. The writer also caused the leper to treat Jesus less respectfully, by omitting "Lord."
**Mk 3:5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man...This clause, involving the accusation of hardness of heart, was supposedly spoken within the synagogue and thus was directed to the Jewish people within. It is not present in the Matthean parallel (Mt 12:11-12).
**Mk 3:19-21 19...Then he went home; 20and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21And when his friends heard it, they went out to seize him, for they said, "He is beside himself."Here we see that Jesus' Jewish friends, probably not referring just to the disciples, for no indicated reason think Jesus is crazy, or "beside himself." This indicates how unworthy these non-gentiles are to have been privileged to have contact with Jesusthey don't recognize Jesus as Lord even when they see him. The inclusio of Mk 3:30, not in Matthew, confirms how unworthy they arethey who will never be forgiven for their sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit when they said Jesus was beside himself, or possessed.
Mk 4:10f 10And when he was alone, those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning the parables. 11And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret...."At first this seems like a mere Markan bumble -- to be alone yet be with the twelve and with certain others from the crowd. In the Matthean parallel (Mt 13:10) Jesus and the twelve at this point have withdrawn out of earshot from the crowds. However, in light of Mark's other more obvious instances of rude treatment of the disciples (see the continuation of Sec. 6(3) below), we see that this Markan alteration represents more of the same: the disciples have not been singled out after all to be the recipients of the secret of the kingdom of God. Instead, an indeterminate number of others -- perhaps 5 or 10 or 20 from the crowd -- are allowed to share these secrets with them. Yet, these extra persons plus the twelve disciples themselves, being non-gentiles, do not even understand what they are told, as indicated by the "Do you not understand...?" of Mk 4:13, whereas in Mt 13:16, which verse is omitted from Mark, the disciples are blessed for having heard and presumably understood the parable.
**Mk 5:29-34. In the case of the hemorrhaging woman (Mk 5:29), she touches Jesus' garment and is cured. Five verses later he tells her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." In the intervening verses, inserted relative to Mt 9:21-22, Jesus wants to know who touched his garments, the disciples are insolent to him, and the woman is portrayed as trembling with fear as she admits to Jesus that it had been she. If the healing had occurred in a gentile land, with the woman being a gentile, there is little doubt but what the writer of Mark would not have portrayed her as coming "in fear and trembling."
**Mk 6:4 And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house."This follows the parallel of Mt 13:57 very closely except for the addition of the phrase "and among his own kin." Here the writer of Mark found an opportunity to emphasize that Jesus' own (Jewish) kinfolk did not appreciate him.
**Mk 6:6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.This pertains to Jesus not being able to do any mighty work there in his own country, presumably because of the unbelief of the Israelites. So Jesus could only marvel, or shake his head, at this great degree of unbelief. This verse has no parallel in Matthew. It portrays the Israelites as being especially hard-hearted or ignorant.
Mk 6:48b-49 ...And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea...This rendition of the walking-on-water scene is very close to the Matthean parallel from which it was derived, Mt 14:29, except for the addition "He meant to pass by them." In both versions Jesus is coming towards the disciples in their boat. Thus Jesus obviously would not have gone from his spot in the hills out onto the lake (if we accept the reality of the event), coming right towards the boat, only to pass them by. So this can only represent more Markan denigration of the disciples, shown by Jesus' supposed indifferent attitude towards them. Since the writer of Mark strongly favored making gentiles into disciples of Jesus, a plausible conclusion is that his strong disapproval of Jewish disciples is part of the same theme. Whether his purpose behind this was also in retaliation of Matthew's anti-gentile slurs is an additional possibility. Whichever the reason, this verse is one that discloses Mark's dependence upon Matthew.
Mk 6:51-52 51...and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.It is totally unrealistic that immediately after having been confronted with the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, followed by the storm wind ceasing as soon as he got into the boat, that the disciples would at that time be wondering about the loaves of bread and how they had fed 5,000. At this time, the loaves would not have astounded them, but what they had just witnessed a few seconds before would have. Quite evidently, Mk 6:52 is an inept Markan substitution for Matthean text (Mt 14:33) in which the disciples once again show themselves as being unfit to bear that title.
Mk 8:17 "....Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?"Only Mark has the added question by Jesus to his disciples: "Are your hearts hardened?" It is not in the parallel of Mt 16:9. It is a serious implication or charge against the morality of the disciples. In most places within Matthew it is directed towards the Pharisees, but in Mark it is often directed against the disciples, too.
Mk 8:21 And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"The Matthean parallel continues on with both the explanation of what Jesus had meant about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees and with narration mentioning that finally the disciples understood what he meant (Mt 16:11-12). By omitting this, the writer of Mark was again portraying the Jewish disciples as being extra dumb: they just could not comprehend. In so doing, however, he failed to complete the main point of the passage -- the meaning of the warning being to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. As Chapman has noted, this then indeed appears to be a Markan omission rather than a Matthean addition because, if Mark had come first, its writer would have had no reason for introducing Jesus' statement "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod" (Mk 8:15), if he was not even going to explain what it meant to his audience. In addition, Mk 8:21 simply repeats 8:17, further suggesting a Markan redaction. Chapman went on to explain that the writer of Mark had substituted the Herodians for Matthew's Sadducees in this pericope very likely because Herod Agrippa had lived in Rome and so Herodians would be much more familiar to his Roman audience than would Sadducees. This example, then, exhibits Markan dependence upon Matthew in addition to emphasizing the disciples' stupidity.
Mk 9:10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.The "matter" here refers to what the disciples had seen during the transfiguration. It is a sentence not in the Matthean parallel (around Mt 17:10). It impugns the intelligence of Peter, James and John that they did not even know what it means to "rise from the dead."
Mk 9:32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him.This follows Jesus' warning to his disciples of what would befall him in his coming ordeal. In the Matthean parallel (Mt 17:22) the disciples are distressed at the news, but here in Mark they are portrayed as being both non-understanding and fearful.
Mk 9:33-34 ....and when he was in the house he asked them [the disciples], "What were you discussing on the way?" But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.Here the writer of Mark denigrated the disciples relative to Matthew by making a more shameful issue out of what the disciples had been discussing, as well as by having them fail to respond to a question from Jesus. In the Matthean parallel the disciples instead merely ask the question of Jesus "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Mt 18:1). The writer then found a way to denigrate the disciples a second time in the same verse, by additionally implying much more strongly than in Matthew that they had been discussing which of them was the greatest.
Mk 9:38-39 John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us. But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him..."Here one of the Jewish disciples was so insolent as to complain to Jesus about the man (a gentile?) who did a healing or exorcism, because he was not following them, the disciples. In fact in this pericope, which is not in Matthew, we see the disciples as being both ignorant (for forbidding the man), and impertinent (for expecting that the man should be following them instead of Jesus). The writer of Luke retained this pericope (Lk 9:49-50), as might be expected since Mark deviated greatly from Matthew at this point; however, he removed the disciples' impertinence by slipping in "with": "and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us."
Mk 10:14 But when Jesus saw it [the disciples rebuking the children] he was indignant...In the close Matthean parallel at Mt 19:14 there is no mention of Jesus being indignant at the disciples. Can't those disciples in Mark do anything right?
**Mk 10:32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.
This nonsensical attitude, of followers of Jesus being astonished and even afraid of seeing Jesus walk ahead of them, could well be further disreputable attributes placed by the writer of Mark upon Jewish folk, if not upon the disciples, too. It doesn't make sense in any other light.
Mk 10:35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."In the Matthean parallel (Mt 20:20-21) the request is instead by the mother that her two sons sit at Jesus' left and right in the kingdom of heaven. The writer of Mark has made it more insolent in two ways: eliminating the mother so that the request comes straight from the two disciples, and altering the request into a selfish demand that Jesus was supposed to satisfy in their present lives on earth. Reasons why even the Matthean verse and its pericope were just a Matthean invention in the first place are given in the Mt-TJ Verse Comparison section of this website.
Mk 11:12-14, 20-21 -- The cursing of the fig tree.In the Matthean account, the fig tree withered as soon as Jesus cursed it. The disciples all marveled at this (Mt 21:18-20). In the Markan parallel, Jesus cursed the fig tree and the disciples definitely noticed it. But on the next day as they passed by the same point and saw the fig tree totally withered, apparently only Peter of the Twelve remembered the curse. And neither he nor the others is said to have marveled at the miracle. It seems that, relative to Matthew, 11 of the 12 were portrayed as being demented, and all twelve as being incognizant of the marvel of this display of Jesus' spiritual power. It is noteworthy that only in Mark is it stated that the disciples heard the cursing, which was a preparatory addition setting the stage for the next day's lack of marveling at the miracle by the disciples.
Mk 14:4-5 4But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment thus wasted? 5For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor."The above two verses are quite similar to the parallels of Mt 26:8-9, with the exception highlighted here being some in place of Matthew's the disciples. Why would the writer of Mark have made this alteration towards ambiguity? In the light of all the other anti-Semitic remarks we have seen he added in, the answer can only be that he did not wish to credit the Jewish disciples with such a righteous, intelligent suggestion. Worthy Christian disciples were indeed expected to have concern for the poor. Therefore, he substituted "others" for Matthew's "the disciples." There could have been a few gentiles eating dinner at Simon's along with Jewish folk, since the writer of Mark does not even mention presence of the disciples. At the same time, we see that he specified 300 denarii for what Matthew calls "a large sum" in order to lend seeming substance to his gospel.
**Mk 14:11a And when they [the chief priests] heard it [Judas's intention of betraying Jesus] they were glad.This bit is not in Matthew. It can be seen to serve the writer's purpose of portraying the Jewish clergy in the worst possible lightbeing glad that one of Jesus' disciples would wish to betray himwhile at the same time supplying what might seem to be a vivid detail that would lend authority to his gospel. Although the Gospel of Matthew often portrays the chief priests in a bad light, which the writer of Mark incorporated, here we see that he added such a statement of his own.
Mk 14:31 But he [Peter] said vehemently, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." And they all said the same.In the Matthean parallel at Mt 26:35 there is no descriptor like "vehemently" that would emphasize Peter's upcoming failure to rally around his Lord.
Mk 14:40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer him.This occurs at the end of the second lament of the Gethsemane passion scene. The Matthean parallel does not contain the clause "and they did not know what to answer him." Again the writer of Mark was portraying the disciples (Peter, James and John) as extra dumb. However, the addition is seen to contain an error that helps give it away as a redaction: since Jesus had not asked them any question this time around, they could not have provided him with any "answer."
Mk 14:47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.This closely parallels Mt 26:51, which reads, "And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear." The difference between them is that the writer of Mark apparently did not wish to credit this act to any of the twelve Jewish disciples. In downgrading the worthiness of the Twelve to have been disciples, he did not wish to attribute any courageous act to them. Hence he removed the inference that the defender of Jesus had been a disciple. This solution ties in well with that of the following passage, Mk 14:51-52, below.
Mk 14:51-52 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.This incident, not in Matthew (or Luke) at all, occurs immediately following the disciples' forsaking of Jesus and their fleeing. In light of the preceding slurs against the disciples, we may, without undue speculation, interpret this incident in the same light. The idea that the disciples would forsake their Master and flee rather than try to defend him must have been very repugnant to the writer of Mark, judging from his editorial personality displayed elsewhere in his gospel, and his omission of Mt 26:52 ("Put your sword back into its place..."). Thus we may view this young man as being a caricature of the disciples, and at the point of being seized, he flees so shamefully as to run away totally naked.
This interpretation is consistent with the fact that the pericope starts out stating that the young man followed Jesus. This stands in direct contrast to the preceding verse stating that the disciples had forsaken him and fled. However, at this point in the story Jesus was standing, talking to the surrounding arresting party, and not in any position to be followed anywhere. Hence this again betrays the inept hand of the writer of Mark as an inventive editor.
Mk 14:54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.All that Matthew has at this point is Peter sitting outside in the courtyard (Mt 26:69). Peter is being denigrated here through becoming cozy with the enemythe guards. The writer of Mark "rubs it in" by mentioning Peter warming himself by the fire once again, at Mk 15:67. The writer's distaste for the Jewish disciples, including Peter in particular, extended even to the title/attribution of his gospel. Although he had utilized the document that stemmed from Peter and (John) Mark with which to supplement parts of Matthew, he chose to name his gospel after Mark rather than after Peter.
**Mk 15:1 "And as soon as it was morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate."In the Matthean parallel (Mt 27:1), it is just the chief priests and elders who took counsel to decide to put Jesus to death by handing him over to Pilate. By including the whole council here (plus scribes), the writer of Mark is, in essence, reconvening the Sanhedrin. But that body had already condemned Jesus as deserving death (Mk 15:64b). It would not likely reconvene very early in the morning to decide the precise method of putting Jesus to death when it could have done so the previous night. Considering Mark's strong anti-Jewish bias, one immediately notices motivation for its writer to have made this addition to the Matthean text: It would implicate more Jews in Jesus' execution, thereby undermining Matthew's stance of favoring discipleship for the children of Israel but not for gentiles.
Mk 16:7 "But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee...."In the Matthean source here we read "Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee...." (Mt 28:7). Thus the writer of Mark has singled out Peter as being other than one of the disciples, so shameful to him was his denial of Jesus three times, followed by fleeing.
**Mk 16:8 And they [the two Mary's] went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.Even the two women, being Jews, do not escape the writer's derogatory treatment. Although Matthew, at Mt 28:8, has its two Mary's departing in both joy and fear, and with the intention of reporting what they experienced to the disciples, only Mark has them be too fearful to even report to a disciple what they saw.
Although some of these Markan additions are reversible -- by claiming that the writer of Matthew softened and made more reverential Mark's rough language -- some really are not reversible. And one must search hard to find just one or two instances in which Matthew seems to be harsher on the disciples than Mark. The most notable, apparent case of this is Mt 17:20 versus Mk 9:29 -- in Matthew the disciples could not cast out the demon due to their little faith, while in Mark it was because "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer." However, under the discussion of this Matthean verse, Mt 17:20 is explained as a later revision, presumably made at the time Matthew was translated into Greek, or shortly thereafter, with the verse of Mt 17:21 having been present earlier, when the writer of Mark copied it, but then not later erased from all transcriptions of Matthew.
(4) Markan omission of Judaistic material. It is now understandable why such a large percentage of the Matthean omissions by the writer of Mark was of Judaistic material. He wished to minimize Jesus' Jewish ancestry (through Joseph) and hence omitted the Genealogy, and so also the Nativity. The omission of Joseph the carpenter as Jesus' father or stepfather at Mk 6:3 (// Mt 13:55) may also have been for this reason, leaving Jesus to have been the carpenter. The omitted Sermon on the Mount contains numerous Scriptural allusions. And so on. It is to be mentioned that when a given Matthean passage contained some text that was probably favored by the writer of Mark but other text disfavored because of a Judaism, he had to decide whether to retain it or not. An example is Mt 3:7-10. He must have looked favorably upon John's castigation of the Pharisees and Sadducees but unfavorably upon the material concerning "Abraham as our father" and raising up children to Abraham out of stones. The latter consideration evidently won out, and this passage does not appear in Mark.
Altogether the Markan depreciation of the disciples and the Jewish people paints a very unsavory picture of the second evangelist's attitude that could only have been (and can only be) totally unacceptable to the church and to many scholars with Christian ties as well. Hence it is no wonder that, starting a century and a half ago, long before the Holocaust, theologically committed scholars decided that instead of Matthew having come first, as the tradition indicates, they had better place Mark first. Then Mark's denigrating slurs upon Jewish followers of Jesus could be ignored or considered to have been original rough language softened by the writer of Matthew (and the embarrassment of Mark having omitted the Sermon of the Mount and other teachings from Matthew could be eliminated as well). However, this attitude was not and is not a truly scholarly one, as it avoids facing up to the harsh truth. The gentile writer of Mark in Rome was anti-Semitic in attitude, and it was not just his dislike of Hebraic Matthew's anti-gentile slurs that prompted him to include anti-Jewish degradations within his own gospel.
1. Parker, Pierson, "The posteriority of Mark," in New Synoptic Studies, W. R. Farmer, ed. (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983), pp. 66-142; see pp. 73-84.
2. Chapman, Matthew, Mark and Luke, p. 19.
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