Mt 18:1 1At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
TJ 19:1 1It came to pass that the disciples stepped up to Jmmanuel and asked, "Who is the greatest in consciousness?"
TJ 19:1 1Es begab sich, dass die Jünger zu Jmmanuel traten und sprachen: «Wer ist der Grösste im Bewusstsein?»
THE PROBLEM. Beare (p. 374) commented that the phrase "At that time" cannot be taken literally. The disciples could not have asked Jesus about this at the very moment he was discussing the temple tax with Peter. (The Greek text scholars rely upon reads similarly: "In that hour.") Besides, the disciples were, at that very hour, already with Jesus, judging from Mt 17:25, and did not need to come to Jesus.
SOLUTION. This is a minor problem, but it is of interest that the TJ does not suffer from it. Its "It came to pass" or, alternatively, "It happened" allows an indefinite amount of time to have elapsed. It is pointed out here as yet another example of the problem faced by the TJ-hoax hypothesis, in imagining that any literary hoaxer intent upon overturning the fundamentals of Christianity would have noticed and acted upon this tiny a discrepancy. PHoax ≈ 0.3.
TJ 19:3-4 3and [Jmmanuel] spoke, "Truly, I say to you, unless you change and become like the children, you will not be great in consciousness. 4Those who search, seek and gather cognitions and thirst for knowledge like this child will be great in consciousness."
TJ 19:3-4 3Und er sprach: «Wahrlich, ich sage euch: Wenn ihr nicht umkehret und werdet wie die Kinder, so werdet ihr im Bewusstsein nicht gross sein. 4Wer forschet und suchet, und wer Erkenntnisse häuft und nach dem Wissen dürstet wie dieses Kind, der wird im Bewusstsein gross sein.»
THE PROBLEM. Beare (pp. 375-376) observed that children are not usually considered humble. Instead, we all know that they are free of pretense and full of curiosity. As expressed by James Van Praagh,
A child is one of life's greatest teachers. Children's points of view are honest and free. Their minds have not become imprisoned and conditioned by fears and insecurities that grip adults. A child understands simplicity and views life as a playful adventure. There is no judgment or motive behind the words of a child. They know who they are and what they want and will tell you so without your even asking.
If some children seem humble in the presence of adults, it is only because they are shy, or have been disciplined to remain quiet then, or taught to be wary of strangers. But this represents inexperience or obedience, not humility.
SOLUTION. By not being subject to this problem, while at the same time being meaningful and inspiring, the TJ passage can be seen to have been the source of the Matthean verses. Jmmanuel's emphasis on seeking knowledge and wisdom as the purpose of life for all people was considered by the compiler of Matthew to be heretical or threatening to the clergy and/or church. This compiler had earlier in his gospel promoted humility as a Christian virtue, and in repeating the theme here, he evidently failed to realize that fallaciousness crept in during his editing. PHoax ≈ 0.2.
TJ 19:5 5"Those who search, seek and find like such a child will always reach their fullest potential within themselves."
TJ 19:5 5«Und wer forschet und suchet und findet wie ein solches Kind, der wird in sich selbst immer der Grösste sein.»
THE PROBLEM. As Sanders has pointed out, phrases like "in your name" cannot have been genuine utterances during the time of Jesus' ministry. They are instead phrases of worship used by the early church. "In my name" as used in the present context falls into the same category.
SOLUTION. The TJ verse was altered so much when the Matthean verse was formed from it that the two can be seen to be cognates only by virtue of their common subject of "child," by comparison of the verses' relative locations, and because "Those who" is equivalent to "Whoever." The thrust of the TJ verse is seen to have been unacceptable, since it involves taking responsibility for oneself rather than depending upon Jesus.
This TJ verse is another meaningful, uplifting statement, which very competently enlarges upon its previous verse. A literary hoaxer would scarcely be capable of creating a verse of such significance, but would more likely follow Matthew's direction here and let this verse start a new topic. PHoax ≈ 0.2.
TJ 19:6 6"But whosoever does not heed this truth and embraces erroneous teachings, and neither searches nor finds, would be better off with a millstone hung around the neck and drowned in the deepest part of the sea."
TJ 19:6 6«Wer aber dieser Wahrheit nicht achtet und irren Lehren frönt und weder suchet noch findet, dem wäre besser, dass ein Mühlestein an seinen Hals gehängt und er ersäufet würde im Meer, wo es am tiefsten ist.»
THE PROBLEMS. Consider: "these little ones who believe in me." "These little ones" must stand for children, for that is what the preceding four verses were talking about: "child...children...child...child." However, it is unlikely that little children (or adults either) would have developed a belief or faith in Jesus years before the first church formed, and before any belief in a risen Christ was even possible. Instead, "who believe in me" is an anachronistic clause placed upon the lips of Jesus. This is in agreement with Davies & Allison.
In addition, very often the person who causes a little child to sin, with "sin" properly defined, is another child. And this child could be as much a "believer" in Jesus as the sinning child. Thus the saying fails to cover the frequent case of a sinning, "believing" child causing another child to sin. Another case it fails to cover is if an adult causes a "believing" child to become an "unbelieving" child; for then the drowning punishment might or might not apply, as the child involved is no longer a "believer."
SOLUTION. The TJ verse is not subject to such problems, but is fully consistent with previous TJ text stressing the importance of seeking and finding—learning. Preventing others from seeking truth, as through imposing false teachings or quenching the will to seek and learn, is then considered a deplorable act, since it retards spiritual evolution.
Again, the TJ verse is meaningful, is not subject to Matthew's problems, and continues along the same general thought in a natural manner consistent with what a true teacher of wisdom would have voiced. PHoax ≈ 0.2.
TJ 19:11 11"Don't be concerned if your hand or foot troubles you and falls off. It is better to lose a limb and grow great in conscousness than to have two hands and two feet and a consciousness that remains small, or even wastes away."
TJ 19:11 11«Wenn aber deine Hand oder dein Fuss dir Ärgernis schafft und dir verloren geht, so achte dessen nicht, denn es ist dir besser, dass du ein Glied verlierest und aber im Bewusstsein gross werdest, als dass du zwei Hände und zwei Füsse habest und aber im Bewusstsein klein bleibest oder gar verkümmerst.»
THE PROBLEM. Even if one strains hard, the Matthean verse does not make sense. In order that you use your hand or foot when committing some sin, you would have to be many months, if not years, old. Your sin would occur at least that long after you entered life, i.e., after birth. Thus you could not at that later point in time "enter life," whether in a maimed condition or not (within the Christian framework, which denies reincarnation).
If the meaning is taken to be: "It would have been better for you if you had been born maimed or lame," then what is to prevent that maimed person from sinning? In Mt 9:2 a paralytic is told that his sins are forgiven, indicating that even within Matthew's framework a seriously handicapped person can sin.
If "enter life" is assumed to mean to start out on the proper (Christian) path, is it OK to have chopped off your hand or foot in order to have gained this new beginning? If you wished someone else to maim youmaim your sinning member then is it OK for you to do the same to someone else you see sinning, according to the Golden Rule? Actually, the pericope on the danger of riches (Mt 19:16-22f) equates entering life with entering heaven. If that is its meaning here, one wonders if it implies that a crippled person remains crippled in the Matthean concept of heaven.
The threat of the eternal fire of hell shows up again as one of the favorite themes of the writer of Matthew.
SOLUTION. In order to avoid the TJ's use of "spirit" and "consciousness," the writer of Matthew made some alterations and brought in "entering life" and the threat of hell. The result was a verse that does not make good sense. The TJ verse emphasizes the great importance of spiritual development, without suggesting that it's OK to maim yourself.
This Matthean problem seems to be unknown within New Testament scholasticism. Had a literary hoaxer written the TJ verse, therefore, he is unlikely to have perceived the problem and avoid it. However, the evidence is strong that the writer of Matthew altered the TJ verse. PHoax ≈ 0.25.
TJ 19:12-13 12"Don't be concerned if an eye troubles you and becomes blind. It is better for you to see the laws of Creation in the power of your spirit and consciousness than to have two eyes and yet be blind in consciousness. 13See to it that you are not one of those who is sound in body but sick and lacking in consciousness."
TJ 19:12-13 12«Und wenn dir ein Auge Ärgernis schafft und der Blindheit verfällt, so achte dessen nicht, denn es ist dir besser, dass du die Gesetze der Schöpfung in der Kraft deines Geistes und Bewusstseins sehest, als dass du zwei Augen habest und doch im Bewusstsein blind bist. 13Sehet zu, dass ihr nicht zu denen gehöret, die am Leibe gesund sind, die aber im Bewusstsein krank und mangelnd sind.»
THE PROBLEMS. Mt 18:6 speaks about the "little ones" (children), then verses 7-9 switch to a discussion of temptations within the world, then verse 10 switches back to a discussion of the little ones. B. C. Butler noticed how incongruous this is, and believed that editorial alterations caused it. The break from verse 9 to 10 is the more pronounced, so it is displayed here with a new paragraph, just as Bibles present it.
With respect to Mt 18:10, Beare (p. 377) has noted how striking or strange it is that Jesus would speak of angels as being capable of seeing God, and that angels have a special charge over children. Nothing in the Jewish literature suggests this. This becomes a problem, then, because Jesus does not explain any of it to his disciples.
It is also a problem that Jesus would admonish one to pluck out one's eye(s) upon sinning after seeing something or someone that helped prompt the sin. In that case, if the advice were followed, most people, being sinners, would become blind. And of what use would it be for Jesus to go around curing all the blind, if their regained eyesight would again cause them to sin all over again?
SOLUTION. The TJ is seen to have a cognate for the Matthean passage about the blind (Mt 18:9). Following that passage and starting with "See to it," the TJ verses continue on with the same theme, contrasting physical and spiritual blindness, and do not change the subject to children. (The German word for "consciousness" that appears here can also mean "awareness," and seems to refer to awareness of both the physical and spiritual realms.) So Butler's criticism does not apply to the TJ verses. The compiler of Matthew evidently was able to make use of TJ 19:12 upon inventing extensive substitutions in words and meaning, but could think of no good way to utilize TJ 19:13, except for its very beginning portion. He then reverted to his earlier theme involving children, in substituting for the rest of TJ 19:13.
In the TJ verse there is no suggestion of plucking out one's eye, but instead an emphasis upon what is even more important than one's eyesight. The consequent discussion of spirituality then needed to be replaced by a Christian topic—sinning and punishment—favorite themes of the compiler of Matthew. TJ 19:11-12 should not be taken to mean one should not take care of one's body, since, contrary to Matthew, the TJ does urge one to have concern for the body (TJ 6:36-37). Instead, if a physical ailment persists despite attempted treatments or cures, the TJ advice is not to let the problem deter you from continued personal growth in consciousness and spirituality.
Since the Matthean verse can scarcely be genuine or come from a wisdom teacher, while the TJ verse effortlessly avoids all three Matthean problems in presenting its unified teaching, I estimate that, at most, PHoax ≈ 0.2 here.
TJ [No cognate]
THE PROBLEM. This verse, like Mt 17:21, is totally out of place here (Beare, p. 374). That is, it does not fit in with the context of adjacent verses.
SOLUTION. Bibles print it only as a footnote, and only because it does appear in the main text of many old Bible manuscripts, though not in those considered most reliable. It appears to be a later scribal interpolation. Obviously the TJ would not contain it. PHoax ≈ 0.5.
TJ [No cognate]
THE PROBLEM. In leaving the 99 other sheep, the shepherd who is trying to save his one sheep is implied to leave them all untended for a while. Experts on Palestinian life all agree, according to Jeremias, that a shepherd there cannot possibly leave his flock to itself.
SOLUTION. At the least, in failing to mention that the shepherd must first ask a friend to tend the flock while he goes out searching for the one lost sheep, this verse is illogical and supports the TJ's absence of the verse. A contemporary teacher of wisdom would not likely have preached thus, yet a literary hoaxer may well have included it because of its compassionate appeal. PHoax ≈ 0.4.
Mt 18:13-14 13"And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."
TJ [No cognate]
THE PROBLEMS. One cannot expect these last two verses of the story to be genuine when the first three were found not to be. Further, regarding verse 13, the shepherd who adheres to certain teachings of Jesus up to this point would not have gone out searching for the one sheep that went astray, and would not then have cause to rejoice. He would instead reason that since "He who finds his life will lose it" (Mt 10:39), why should he hunt to try to save the life of one sheep, since a sheep is of so much less value than a man (Mt 12:12)? Or, why should he be anxious over one sheep, or anxious over tomorrow if tomorrow the one sheep is still lost (Mt 6:25,34)? Or, why should he try to maintain all his precious sheephis treasures on earthwhen he should be laying up treasures for himself in heaven (Mt 6:20)?
Verse 14 attempts to provide a conclusion to this section, reverting back to the little ones of verse 10, which itself referred back to verse 6. However, in discussing that one of the little ones should not perish it jumps off of the theme that a little one should not be despised or caused to sin.
A teacher of wisdom is not expected to be this irrational.
SOLUTION. The TJ verses in this location of the text that were unacceptable to the writer of Matthew, and for which he substituted the story of the lost sheep, are these:
TJ 19:14-15 14"Search for the meaning and truth in my teachings. Since I am human like you, I, too, have had to search and recognize. 15Since I am human like you and have gathered my knowledge, you are also capable of learning, searching, recognizing and knowing; in so doing you may grasp and observe the laws of Creation."
TJ 19:14-15 14«Forschet den Sinn und die Wahrheit meiner Lehre, denn so ich Mensch bin wie ihr, musste auch ich forschen und erkennen. 15So ich aber Mensch bin wie ihr und mein Wissen sammelte, also seid ihr fähig zu lernen und zu forschen und zu erkennen und zu wissen, so ihr dadurch die Gesetze der Schöpfung erfassen und befolgen könnt.»
These TJ sentences were unacceptable because Jesus, being the Son of God, was already essentially all knowing and did not need to search and perceive. Others were to follow what the church teaches rather than search and perceive for themselves. [PHoax ≈ 0.4.]
TJ 19:18 18"If your neighbor does not listen and continues to be enslaved by a lack of understanding, leave that person be, for he is not worthy of your teaching, once you have done everything possible."
TJ 19:18 18«Hört er dich nicht und frönt weiter seinem Unverstande, so lasse von ihm, denn er ist deiner Lehre nicht wert, wenn du dein Möglichstes gegeben hast.»
THE PROBLEMS. Beare noticed (p. 379), as have many others, that Mt 18:16 concerning the obtaining of justice is really just a citation from Deuteronomy that is not very relevant here, where the point is to try to get the sinner to repent rather than to convict him. This Old Testament reference reads:
Dt 19:15 A single witness shall not prevail against a man for any crime... only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained.
Mt 18:17 refers to your friend who commits an offense but will not heed the advice from you or from other witnesses. Beare (p. 380), along with practically all other scholars, could state with certainty that its words represented the belief of a Jewish-Christian group who still regarded gentiles as unholy or unclean. The use of the word "church" (ekklhsia), some years before the first church formed, further gives it away as an inauthentic saying of Jesus.
Sanders has also noted its inauthenticity on the basis of tax collectors not actually having been distasteful to Jesus, as in Mt 9:10-11, unlike what is said in Mt 18:17. And in the words of G. A. Wells, "It is obvious that the evangelist is here writing in the belief that practices of the Christians of his own day were ordained by Jesus."
SOLUTION. Relative to the TJ's absence of any cognates to Mt 18:16, the Matthean verse with its unattributed citation looms as an insert. Regarding Mt 18:17, one can easily surmise that it reads the way the compiler had wished the parallel TJ verse had read, with his distaste for tax collectors overflowing to include gentiles as well. In the TJ, Jmmanuel's harsh language is directed primarily towards scribes, Pharisees and chief priests, not gentiles or tax collectors.
It may be noted that the Gospel of Mark does not retain any of this Matthean language. Its compiler was writing for gentiles and so did not wish to copy or retain these and similar verses from Matthew.
It is easily seen how and why the writer of Matthew altered the TJ versefor him the advice Jesus doled out needed to echo what was in the Scriptures. On the other hand, it is difficult to conceive of a literary hoaxer producing such sound practical advice. PHoax ≈ 0.25.
TJ [No cognate]
THE PROBLEMS. Beare (p. 380) assumed that binding and loosing refer to the retaining and forgiving of sins; he thus concluded that it was "the risen Christ" who was speaking here, indicating the verse to be inauthentic.
Richard Hiers has supplied several other possible reasons why the compiler of Matthew, representing the early church, was inserting verses. This insertion, for example, would authorize the church "to resolve whatever problems or issues arose."
SOLUTION. If it were "the risen Christ" speaking here, the verse as given in Matthew would definitely not be genuine words of Jesus spoken during his ministry. Beare's criticism would agree with the absence of any TJ text dealing with the forgiveness of sins, though in the TJ Jmmanuel does urge repentance of having followed false teachings (TJ 4:53). Matthew's words here also seem suspect because of their literal repetition of the second part of Mt 16:19. A redactor who feels he must edit out large amounts of unacceptable material from his source, and who wishes to replace much of it with material he deems acceptable, risks running out of replacement material and repeating himself.
A literary hoaxer is unlikely to have wished to reproduce or alter this Matthean verse. PHoax ≈ 0.5.
TJ [No cognate]
THE PROBLEMS. John P. Brown here deduces that "Matthew has introduced the 'two' of Mt 18:16 into 18:19." If Mt 18:16 is non-genuine, as we have already deduced, then the present verse is by implication also non-genuine.
And we see that Jesus starts out by continuing to speak directly to his disciples as "you," but then switches to the use of "them" and "they," as could be caused by a careless redactor inventing a story.
SOLUTION. Brown's deduction receives additional support from the fact that it and the following Matthean verse form a set, and this latter verse has received strong criticism also, as is presented next.
The Matthean verse is quite clearly a redaction, but would a literary hoaxer know this for sure? There is a good chance that a New Age hoaxer would make some use of this verse, turning it into a teaching on spiritual power. No such thing happened. Hence I would set PHoax ≈ 0.45, if not less.
TJ [No cognate]
THE PROBLEMS. Of this, Beare (p. 26) observed that no literature or text exists that would indicate that little groups ever met in Jesus' name while he was alive. If more than one group had met at a time, however, Beare stimulated the reader to wonder how Jesus could have been with all groups simultaneously. Yet Beare did feel that such power could later belong to the risen Christ.
In addition, we see that the phrase "in my name" again occurs in an anachronistic context, as discussed already under Mt 18:5.
SOLUTION. This verse, and the previous three, occur in place of TJ material advising Jmmanuel's disciples in effect not to spend excessive time trying to teach reason to an unreasonable person under the influence of false teachings. This material could not have been utilized by the compiler of Matthew because it brings individual reasoning into play, and because it runs counter to the church's view, or to the compiler's view, of never giving up in trying to gain a convert. Mt 18:21-22, with its moral of endlessly forgiving a person his sins against you, exemplifies this latter disposition. [PHoax ≈ 0.45.]
TJ [No cognate]
THE PROBLEMS. This advice is really inconsistent with verses 15-17, in which you are advised to confront your brother who sinned against you and tell him his fault. Then if the sinner refuses to listen to you, or to two or three witnesses, or to the church, you are to treat him as a gentile or tax collector. This would mean that from that point on, whether or not you forgave him once, you are either to treat him disrespectfully or have nothing more to do with him. This is incompatible with an attitude of unlimited forgiveness.
Even if verses 16-17 are considered to be the non-genuine culprits that cause the inconsistency, verses 21-22 are hardly compatible with Mt 18:15, since it would be totally impractical to go confront your brother as many as seventy times or more, in response to his multiple sins against you. Presumably it would be for the same or similar sin each time, and there would be nothing new to say to your brother that you had not already said the other 69 times.
Instead, verses 21-22 seem geared, in practice, toward a silent forgiveness of your sinning brother. However, that would conflict with Mt 18:15, which, on the other hand, contains a good deal of substance and thus appears to be the genuine verse. That is, if the forgiveness is considered to be just a silent forgiveness "in the heart," the sinner doesn't know that he has been forgiven, and this doesn't constitute forgiveness in the sense of the word used in the Scriptures. For if God forgives a Christian for some sin, but the sinner is not aware of it, he will not feel or know that he was forgiven.
A minor problem, by comparison, is that Peter is said to have approached Jesus to ask his question about forgiveness. However, the disciples were said (Mt 18:1) to have already approached Jesus at the beginning of this series of teachings. They had not backed away in the meantime, and Peter's simple questions would have been heard by Jesus from wherever he was standing among the Twelve.
SOLUTION. The seriousness of the first inconsistency, as augmented by the others, again indicates that these verses had been fed in by the writer of Matthew rather than by a teacher of wisdom. To about the same degree, a literary hoaxer would be unlikely to make use of this passage. PHoax ≈ 0.5.
TJ [No cognate]
THE PROBLEMS. This is the parable of the king and his slave's debt, regarding unlimited forgiveness. Beare (p. 381) understandably called the slave's refusal to forgive a fellow slave a "horrible example." He felt that this portrayal, with the final order to hand the unforgiving slave over to the torturers, cannot be part of any valid conception of God, or of "Father in heaven," for Christians or Jews. Beare further noted that a debt of ten thousand talents would have been an incredibly large amount for a servant to owe. He found it incongruous that as punishment the servant would be sold, simply to become the slave of another. He noticed how unrealistic it would be for such a servant to plea for time in which to repay his debt, when no amount of time could suffice for that. He found the final verse—a threat that God would exact retribution like thrusting a man into jail for failure to forgive—an "incongruous" statement for the compiler to have made.
One may also note the lack of Golden Rule logic if Jesus or God were to demand forgiveness of one man by another 70 times or more, while the master in the parable, and the heavenly Father, refuse to forgive even one time.
With all these criticisms of particular verses within the parable indicating they are redactions, the entire parable must be a redactive insert.
SOLUTION. The whole parable indeed does appear to be non-genuine, and the absence of TJ cognates supports Beare's analysis. In the TJ, Jmmanuel's parables dealing with the kingdom (of the spirit, not of heaven) never deal with kings. However, many of the compiler's do, probably because he visualized a personified God in heaven ruling like a king, or visualized Jesus as being a king of the Jews.
The apparent lack of genuineness of this pericope can be matched only by the refusal of our hypothetical literary hoaxer to make use of it. PHoax ≈ 0.5.
Upon accumulating the estimated probabilities that the TJ is a hoax from just the TJ 19-Mt 18 verse comparisons above, one finds a cumulative probability of PHoax = 0.00010.
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1. Praagh, James Van, in Return from Heaven by Carol Bowman (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), p. xii.
2. Sanders, E. P., Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), p. 284.
3. Davies, W. D., and Allison, Dale C., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991), p. 761.
4. Butler, B. C., "M. Vaganay and the 'Community Discourse,'" NTS 1 (1955), pp. 283-290; see p. 287.
5. Jeremias, Joachim, The Parables of Jesus, S. H. Hooke, transl. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963), p. 133.
6. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, p. 229.
7. Wells, G.A., Did Jesus Exist? (London: Pemberton, 1986), p. 74.
8. Hiers, Richard H., "'Binding' and 'loosing': the Matthean authorizations," JBL 104 (1985), pp. 233-250; see p. 250.
9. Brown, John Pairman, "Mark as witness to an edited form of Q," JBL 80 (1961), pp. 29-44; see p. 38.