Mt 20:1-16    1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard... 5Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour he did the same... 8And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9And when those hired... came, each of them received a denarius... 16So the last will be first, and the first last."

TJ    [No cognate]

THE PROBLEMS.  The point of this parable is really not clear, and no explanation is later provided. One possible point is that one should not question God or authorities, who may do what they wish with the resources at their disposal. Another, which I prefer, is that it was invented to support and illustrate the "last will be first" thesis, assuming the actual teaching underlying this verse had been altered as discussed under our critique of Mt 19:30. Beare's (p. 404) main interpretation is that Matthew's compiler was trying to educate the complainers who were shocked at Jesus' readiness to welcome the outcast. Another possibility he mentions is to demonstrate that God's rewards are not handed out according to any logical scheme that we can recognize. And the final "first is last" verse of the parable is also non-genuine, as it merely repeats the same words as in Mt 19:30, which itself was found to be a redaction. Robert Gundry is one scholar who finds the whole parable to be a redaction.[1]

SOLUTION.  If it is assumed that Jesus' original parables were or should have been clear and logical, at least after some thought and reflection, then this lack of clarity and logic in Matthew casts grave doubt upon the pericope's genuineness. The fact that it is not in the TJ then again adds support to the TJ's genuineness. Although supporters of the hoax hypothesis can claim that a hoaxer would therefore have omitted this pericope, such is not at all certain. The fact remains that Matthew's genuineness is called into very serious question here, while that of the TJ, through not containing this pericope, is not. PHoax 0.45.

Mt 20:17-19     17And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, 19and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."

TJ    [No cognate]

THE PROBLEMS.  One must suspect that this passage is an editorial invention, for one reason because this is the third time in Matthew that Jesus' death and resurrection is foretold, when once or twice would have sufficed before the theme became a Christian formula. A second reason is that, being on the road to Jerusalem already at the time, Jesus would have no need to tell his disciples that they are on the road to Jerusalem! A third reason is that the disciples show no reaction to the dire fate of their lord that he spelled out for them. A fourth reason is the prophecy is perhaps too specific to have been real, since it even predicts that he would be mocked and scourged. Further, the use of "Son of man" here to refer to Jesus also detracts from the possibility that the passage could be genuine.

SOLUTION.  The TJ's lack of any cognate here supports the above analysis. In the TJ, its last prophecy of Jmmanuel's coming ordeal occurs during the last supper. The writer of Matthew could not utilize it, however, because it indicated he would survive the ordeal, and because he wished to substitute his Judas-as-betrayer verses into the last supper conversation. And so he invented a third prophecy and placed it on the road to Jerusalem, although from Mt 20:29 it would appear that he should have placed it on the road to Jericho.

Again, if either Matthew is a hoax based upon the TJ, or vice versa, one must give the advantage to the TJ. PHoax 0.45.

Mt 20:20-28    20Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons [the disciples James and John], and... 21...said to him, "Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom."... 25But Jesus... said, "....26...whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; 28even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

TJ    [No cognate]

THE PROBLEMS.  On this, Beare (pp. 406-407) raised the question of why the two sons of Zebedee were specifically named here. One possibility is that James and John had actually been eager for a superior position within Jesus' kingdom, and that the other 10 disciples had no such personal ambitions. But this did not seem as likely to him as that there was a jockeying for a position of leadership within the early church. Beare went on to give reasons why Mt 20:20-28 may then be a redaction designed to resolve the rivalry in leadership during the time of formation of Matthew.

Verses 26-27a are not true or realistic, since Jesus was of great stature among the disciples and was their teacher and lord or master, not their servant or slave. Instead, the verses of Mt 10:24 tell it like it was: "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master." Verses 26b-27 contradict this.

Regarding the last verse, Beare (p. 409) mentioned that the word "ransom" is not found anywhere else in Matthew's gospel. Hence, some explanation was owed the disciples by Jesus of what he meant by this ransom statement. Illogically, none was given. Since ransoms are always paid to someone, a question that should have risen is to whom the "Son of man" was to give his life as a ransom. Beare did not feel this question to be appropriate, but preferred God rather than the devil as an answer.

DISCUSSION.  In his analysis, Beare's key criticisms were against statements in Matthew that have no parallels in Mark's version of the same story, due to his belief in Markan priority over Matthew. As usual, this practice ignores the fact that the arguments leading to supposed Markan priority are legitimately reversible. E.g., in this instance the mother of the two sons was very likely omitted in Mark (Mk 10:35) so as to portray the disciples themselves as impertinent and disrespectful towards Jesus—a continuation of the not-so-subtle theme in Mark that gentiles would make as good, or better, disciples than Jews. However, Beare (p. 409) implies that the incident as placed in Mark is non-genuine also.

The idea of ransom expressed by the last verse was doubtless not the original idea of the compiler of Matthew himself. It was instead known centuries earlier from Old Testament times, as explained by James Frazer, an early 20th-century social anthropologist and fellow of Cambridge University.[2] The ransom tradition appears in the Old Testament as follows:

2 Kgs 3:26-27    When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom, but they could not. Then he took his eldest son who was to reign in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. [As a result, this king's opponents—the Israelites— withdrew.]

Clearly the compiler of Matthew would have been aware of this tradition. Whether or not he was responsible for its introduction into Christianity is uncertain, however, as that might have been due to Paul. There is one mention of ransom in the Epistles, in 1 Tim 2:6; however this is one of the pastoral letters believed by many scholars to have been written well after Paul's time. The TJ does not contain either the ransom or salvation concept.

Hence there is little chance that this pericope could be genuine either, but by the same token little chance that a literary hoaxer would have made use of it. Yet it is Matthew that shows these signs of non-genuineness, not the TJ. PHoax 0.45.

Mt 20:30-34    30And behold, two blind men sitting by the roadside, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" 31The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out the more, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" 32And Jesus stopped and called them, saying, "What do you want me to do for you?" 33"They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened." 34And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they received their sight and followed him."

TJ 21:2-9    2And behold, two blind persons sat by the wayside, and when they heard Jmmanuel going by, they cried out, saying, "O lord, son of a celestial son, have mercy on us!" 3The people threatened them to be quiet, but they screamed even louder, saying, "O lord, son of a celestial son, have mercy on us!" 4And Jmmanuel stood still and called out to them, asking, "What do you want me to do for you?" 5They said to him, "Lord, open our eyes so we can glimpse the splendor of the world." 6And he had pity on them and asked, "Whose power, do you suppose, is it that can make you see?" 7They replied, "The power of Creation, which is in the laws." 8Jmmanuel was astonished and said, "Truly, so far I have never found such faith and knowledge among these people. Be it done to you as you expect." 9And he touched their eyes and immediately they could see; and they followed him.

TJ 21:2-9    2Und siehe, zwei Blinde sassen am Wege; und da sie hörten, dass Jmmanuel vorüberging, schrien sie und sprachen: «Ach Herr, du Sohn eines Himmelssohnes, erbarme dich unser!» 3Aber das Volk bedrohte sie, dass sie schweigen sollten, doch sie schrien noch viel mehr und sprachen: «Ach Herr, du Sohn eines Himmelssohnes, erbarme dich unser!» 4Jmmanuel aber stand still und rief sie und sprach: «Was wollt ihr, dass ich euch tun soll?» 5Sie sprachen zu ihm: «Herr, dass unsere Augen aufgetan werden und wir die Pracht der Welt blicken mögen.» 6Und es jammerte ihn und er sprach: «Was nehmet ihr an, wessen die Kraft ist, die euch sehend machen kann?» 7Sie aber sprachen: «Die Kraft der Schöpfung, die in den Gesetzen liegt.» 8Und Jmmanuel wunderte sich und sprach: «Wahrlich, solches Vertrauen und solches Wissen habe ich bis anhin unter diesem Volke noch nicht gefunden; euch geschehe, wie ihr annehmet.» 9Und er berührte ihre Augen; und alsbald waren sie sehend und folgten ihm nach.

DISCUSSION.  This passage does not seem to provide any compelling evidence as to whether the Matthean version or the TJ version is the more genuine. It is presented nevertheless to show that Jmmanuel not infrequently asked a question of those who besought his help to test their spiritual knowledge or to add to it. It is evident why the writer of Matthew would edit out Jmmanuel's question, so that the healing could be attributed solely to Jesus. A question was similarly asked in the healing of TJ 9:2-7, which the writer of Matthew at Mt 9:2-7 could include with minor editing to make it acceptable.

With hindsight we see that in the TJ the phrase "son of a celestial son" required the writer of Matthew either to edit it out or make a change. The change that came to mind was "Son of David" since the writer always had in mind that Immanuel (who had been known as "Jesus" for a few decades) was the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah.

The accumulation of the individual probability estimates from comparison of Mt 20 against the TJ above gives a summary probability for hoax here of 0.35.

This chapter in Matthew illustrates the risk that an editor/redactor/literary-hoaxer takes when he invents large blocks of text to insert into his edited source document. If he does a perfect job at generating the text, that still doesn't say anything one way or another about whether his fraudulent text would be considered more or less genuine than his source document (if the latter were to survive to be compared against). But if he does a poor job, later readers would be able to decide that his edited text is indeed fraudulent (if, once again, the original source were to survive). Hence, one doesn't expect a literary hoaxer to invent lots of text to insert, unless he knows that his source document is unique and will either be destroyed or kept out of circulation after his literary hoax is completed, transcribed and circulated. The writer of Matthew was in this position (which a 20th-century literary hoaxer would certainly not be). He would have known that the Talmud of Jmmanuel in his possession would be kept well guarded and at some stage probably destroyed, but would not have known that there were original Talmud of Jmmanuel rolls, of which he held a transcription, and that these originals had been secreted away.

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1. Gundry, Robert H., Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), pp. 395-398.

2. Frazer, James George, The New Golden Bough, T. H. Gaster, ed. (Great Meadows, New Jersey: S. G. Phillips, 1965), pp. 245-246.

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