The Gospel Prologues and Their Function
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or return to Mark Exegetical
[This was published as "Mark 1,1-15, Matthew 1,1-4,16, Luke 1,1-4,30, John 1,1-51: The Gospel Prologues and their Function", Studia Evangelica VI, ed. by E. A. Livingstone (Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 1973), pp. 154-188. As of 2008 I stand by the conclusions for the prologues of Mark, Matthew and Luke. I am not so sure about John. I am reasonably convinced that John 1.1-14, with the reading peuma instead of sarx, was the prologue for the first (?) edition of John that ended with John 19, but after that I am not clear.]
I. Some other first-century prologues
A Structural Analysis of I Thessalonians
II. Determining the end of each prologue
A. Mission to all men
B. Locality at the end: Galilee and Rome
C. Presence of Jesus
D. The End of the Prologues
Motifs of John 1 recurring in John 20 and 21
III. Smaller patterns and the overall pattern
IV. Structural relationship of the gospels to their prologues
A provisional triadic outline of Mark 1.16-8.26
Markan Prologue: An Overall Chiasmus?
The Temptation Narrative (Matt. 3.1-11) and its Themes
The Drama (Matt. 4.17-28.2) and its Themes
Outline of Luke 4.31-Acts 28.31
The Lukan Prologue (Luke 1.1-4.40 and some of its Apparent Counterparts
V. Three Hypotheses
2004: A Postcript
The thesis of this essay is that each of the canonical gospels begins with a section, either brief or extended, which precedes the main gospel narrative. The apparent function of this prologue we may summarize in three statements. (1) The prologue functions as a précis of the remainder of the gospel, and thus it includes a guide to the structure of the gospel. (2) It provides the setting or frame of reference in terms of which the whole of each gospel is to be understood. (3) It is also, so to speak, a table of contents which indicates, either explicitly or implicitly, the major themes and motifs of each gospel.
I. Some other first-century prologues
If we look
for examples of this type of prologue in other literature of the first century
A.D., then Livy's Preface to his History of Rome is one such example. In
it Livy indicates both the scope of his work (which is the history of Rome from
the beginning to the present) and his intention in writing it (which is to show
Rome's past glories and later degeneration). But this example from Livy is
not fully comparable to the gospel prologues inasmuch as it is very obviously a
preface and it is set apart as such, while the gospel prologues are not
explicitly set apart.
However, we find implicit examples of prologues in those Christian writings which precede the gospels, namely, in the thanksgiving sections of the Pauline epistles, as Paul Schubert demonstrated over thirty years ago1. Schubert showed that the Pauline thanksgiving sections indicate the subjects about which Paul intended to write.
I Thessalonians1b furnishes a good example of how such a thanksgiving section is in effect a guide to both subject matter and structure in the remainder of the epistle. Here we find in the thanksgiving (1.2-10) a threefold subject which is repeated approximately twelve times in the remainder of the epistle in a basically cyclical structure. We may note that the subject appears to be announced succinctly at least once, if not quite twice, with 1.2-3 before being introduced at greater length in 1.4-10. This multiple announcement is a phenomenon which probably also occurs within the gospel prologues as we shall see subsequently.
Below is a provisional analysis of I Thessalonians along the lines just indicated.
A Structural Analysis of I Thessalonians
|Introduction of subjects||.2-10||Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians' eager acceptance of the gospel:|
|First time||a.||.2-3||We give thanks ... for your all, constantly mentioning you ..., remembering ... your work of faith [begun in the past in Paul's presence]|
|b.||and labour of love [continuing now]|
|c.||and steadfastness of hope [looking to End]|
|Second time||a.||.4-5||Reception of gospel through preaching and behaviour of Paul, et. al. [i.e., reception through those present]|
|b.||.6-9||Thessalonians' exemplary living of the gospel in the face of adversity.|
|c.||.10||Waiting for the Coming of the Son and the wrath at the End.|
|Cycle A||a.||2.1-10||Reminder of Paul's own behaviour when he was among them.|
|b.||.11-12a||Thessalonians' reception and perseverance in gospel.|
|c.||.12b||The End: God's kingdom and glory.|
|Cycle B||.13-15||Renewed thanksgiving:|
|a.||.13||re Thessalonians' reception of gospel from 'us' [Paul, etc.]|
|b.||.14||re Thessalonians' suffering imitation of churches in Judaea.|
|.15-16a||An aside about the persecuting Jews.|
|c.||.16b||The wrath [of the End-Time] is come upon them [i.e., Jews].|
|Cycle C||a.||.17-18a||Paul's desire to be with the Thessalonians.|
|b.?||.18b||"Satan hindered us" [paralleled to the Thessalonians' adversities?]|
|"You are our hope, joy, crown
of glory ..."
Before our Lord Jesus at his Coming.
You are our glory and joy.
||Sent Timothy [in Paul's place] to encourage Thessalonians by his presence|
|b.||.3||So that they might be enabled to endure the appointed afflictions -|
|c.||.4||which we predicted beforehand would be coming [of the End-Time].|
|Cycle E||a.||.5a||I sent Timothy to find out|
|b.||.5b||if the Tempter had tempted you|
|c.||.5c||and our labour should be in vain [i.e., ultimately at the End].|
|Cycle F||a.||.6||Timothy came to us from you; you long to see us and we to see you.|
||We are comforted in our afflictions by your persevering faith and love.|
||which have yet to be perfected, however [i.e., they will be perfected only at the End].|
|a.||.11||May God and Jesus direct our way to you;|
|b.||.12||May you grow in love toward all men like ours;|
|c.||.13||May you appear holy before God at the Coming of Jesus.|
||Finally, we beseech and exhort you (as we have always done in the past):|
|b.||.9-12||You are already continuing to love one another; abound in it.|
||We all, whether alive or "asleep in Jesus" [ i.e., dead], have sure hope of life with the Lord at his C9ming, so do not worry about those who have died already.|
|Inverted Cycle I||c.||5.1-3||You know of the suddenness/unexpectedness of the Day of the Lord.|
||You (and we) are sons of Light: keep sober watch in the armour of God.|
|.9-10||Recapitulation of gospel: you are appointed for salvation through Jesus who died for us that we all should live together with him.|
|.11||Exhort each other and build up each other - as you do [together].|
||Acknowledge and esteem in love those among you [your leaders] who work for your sake.|
|b.||.13b-22||Persevere in peace, love, concern, joy, prayer, thanksgiving, etc.|
||May God sanctify and preserve you entire at the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.|
|Imperfect Cycle K?||b.||.24a||Faithful is he [Now]|
|a, b.||.24b||who is calling you [From beginning up to now]|
|b, c.||.24c||who will also do it. [Now and at the End]|
|Cycle L?||a.||.25||Brethren, pray for us.|
|b.||.26||Salute all brothers with a holy kiss.|
|a, b.||.27||Read epistle [from us] to all brothers.|
||Grace of our Lord be with you [Now and at the End - cf. Didache 10.6: "Let grace come and let this world pass away."]|
The above analysis of I Thessalonians indicates how clearly the epistle is structured around the subjects announced in the opening thanksgiving. This detailed example and Livy's preface are enough to indicate that prologues of the type posited in this essay were being used in the first century A.D. apart from and prior to the writing of the gospels.
II. Determining the end of each prologue
If the gospel prologues are indeed a paradigm of all that is to follow, then we have what appears to be an easy way of determining the length of each prologue. We only need to look at the end of each gospel and then see how far we have to go from the beginning of that gospel in order to reach something which corresponds to its end. We must therefore begin with the ends of the gospels, and our first question is, what is the subject of the end of each gospel?
A. Mission to all men
John. Let us begin with the Fourth Gospel and work back to Mark.
John 21 may well be an epilogue added to the autograph, but let us take it, at
least for the time being, as the intended end of the Fourth Gospel.
Aileen Guilding2 has shown very good grounds for believing that John 21 is built upon the lections and themes of the feast of Pentecost. In the first century A.D. this feast had as a dominant theme, the making of proselytes. This outward-looking missionary theme may be seen explicitly in the three commands given to Peter at his restoration. If he loves the Lord, then he will "feed my lambs" (21.15), "feed my sheep" (21.16), and "feed my little sheep" (21.17). Thus those who love Jesus are to participate in the fulfilment of the prediction of John 10.s fold are to be brought in so that there may be one flock under one shepherd. Hence the close of our canonical Fourth Gospel is concerned with the mission to all men.
2. Luke-Acts. The Third Gospel, Luke-Acts, ends with Paul in Rome, the heart of the Gentile world3, and the very last words of the second volume are concerned with the continuing mission to all men (Acts 28.28-31), as we may note when we begin with the closing words of Paul to the Jews at Rome:
|"Let is be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they indeed will listen." And he lived there two whole years in his own rented lodgings, and welcomed all who came in to him, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lords Jesus quite openly and unhindered.|
Luke-Acts ends with the ongoing mission to Jews and Gentiles alike.
3. Matthew. Matthew's Gospel originally ended with the words, "Go make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them to hold fast all that I have taught you, and lo, I am with you all the days until the completion of the age" (Matt. 28.19-20)4. Once more, it is the mission to all men that is the closing subject of this gospel.
4. Mark. The Gospel according to Mark ends with the necessity for the disciples to follow Jesus into Galilee if they would see him (Mark 16.7). I would suggest that this necessity of following Jesus into Galilee of the Gentile, as it is called in Isa. 9.1, is what fills the women with fear. It is the same fear that the disciples felt in following Jesus to Jerusalem in the way of the cross (Mark 10.32). It is the same fear which the disciples felt twice before as they moved across the Sea of Galilee into the Gentile mission: once (Mark 4.41) when the storm was stilled on their way to the Decapolis and the Gerasene demoniac5, and again (Mark 6.50) when Jesus walked on the water as they struggled in rowing toward the wilderness feeding of about 4,000 mixed Jews and Gentiles. Therefore it seems that we have good grounds for concluding that Mark ends with the demand that the Church go in the way of the cross into the mission to the Gentiles. If we hark back to the Fourth Gospel, we may note the same dual thrust at the end, for not only is Peter (as the typical disciple?) given the command to feed and tend the sheep, but he is also told, "What is that to thee? Follow me!" (John 21.22; cf. 21.18 f.), which we may take as the demand to follow Jesus in the way of the cross no matter what happens.
B. Locality at the end: Galilee and Rome
Let us look for the moment at locality. Mark ends with a saying about the necessity of going into Galilee (Mark 16.7; cf. 14.28). Matthew ends on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28.16). John ends by the Sea of Tiberius in Galilee (John 21.1), and Luke-Acts ends in Rome, the very heart of Gentile territory. Therefore, for at least Mark, Matthew and John, we may also look for a mention of Galilee at the end of the prologue.
C. Presence of Jesus
third and last common motif concerns the presence of Jesus. If Jesus is
with the disciples at the end of the age in Matthew (Matt. 28.20), he is also
with the disciples as he goes before them in Mark (Mark 16.7). In the
Fourth Gospel it is the risen and ascended Jesus (cf. John 20.17) who appears to
the disciples, and although he is said to come to them (John 20.19, 26; cf.
21.4, 23) he is never said to leave them, neither in John 20 nor John 21.
At the beginning of Acts the evangelist says, "In the former book ... I told you all that Jesus began to do and to say" (Acts 1.1), which implies that thus second volume will continue the story of what Jesus does and says. This is confirmed by the answer given to Paul's question on the road to Damascus: "Who are you, Lord?" "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9.5). The Church in its ministry is Jesus in action; he is no absentee Lord. It is also to be seen in Philip's preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch. He does not preach to the eunuch about Jesus; he instead, in the Greek, preaches to him "Jesus" (Acts 8.35).
Thus in all four gospels Jesus is present to the disciples and active in the Church as his disciples carry on the work of Jesus in his mission of bringing the demand, the grace, and the promise of the Gospel of God to all men.
D. The End of the Prologues
we are ready to try to ascertain where each prologue ends. What we are
looking for concerns Jesus, the Gentiles, and the proclaiming of the
gospel. In the case of Mark, Matthew and John, we are also looking for a
mention of Galilee. Therefore, what we want in Mark, Matthew and John is
something like Jesus entering Galilee proclaiming the gospel, and in the case of
Luke, we may encounter a speech about Gentiles addressed to recalcitrant Jews.
1. Mark. In Mark we find what we are looking for in 1.14-15:
|Now after that John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel."|
We may therefore take the Markan prologue to be 1.1-15.
2. Matthew. In Matthew the relevant passage is 4.12-16:
|Now when he heard that John was delivered up, he withdrew to Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the borders of Zebulun and Napthali; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying,|
|"Toward the land of Zebulun and the
land of Napthali, Toward the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the
Gentiles, The people which sat in darkness saw a great light,
And to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, to them did light spring up."
Therefore we shall take as our Matthaean prologue 1.1-4.16. This is the
same result as that of Edgar Krentz6
who arrived at it by a different method.
You may well wonder why we do not also include in the prologue the next verse, 4.17, which reads: ' From then on Jesus began to preach, and to say, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."'
Briefly, the reason is that this verse begins with the phrase ἀπὸ τότε, "from then on", and in each of its three Matthaean occurrences the evangelist uses it to mark the onset of a major section of the main gospel narrative. We shall see this later when we look at the structure of the whole of Matthew's gospel.
3. Luke-Acts. Let us begin by looking more closely at the final section of Acts 28. We see that Paul is in Rome speaking to Jews. He says that their reaction fulfils a prophecy of Isaiah, and then he speaks bout the salvation of God being sent to the Gentiles. Finally, at the very end Paul is preaching unhindered to all who come to him. Therefore, what we are looking for at the end of the prologue is Jesus speaking to Jews about the fulfilment of Isaiah, and also speaking to them about salvation coming to the Gentiles, probably in their own territory. The final motif should be that of Jesus not being hindered.
All this we find in Luke 4.16-30, where Jesus reads and preaches in the synagogue at Nazareth. Jesus receives the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He finds Isa. 61 and reads the first verse and only part of the second verse. He ends with the words, "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord". The very next phrase is, "and the day of vengeance of our God". Jesus does not simply omit this phrase; he effectively shuts it off by rolling up the scroll, handing it back, and sitting down to preach. There is to be no note of vengeance against the Gentiles.
When Jesus begins to tell the assembly, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4.21), the assembly is amazed at his words and then begin to reject him by questioning his status, saying, "Is not this Joseph's son?" (4.22). Jesus replies with what we may take to be a passion motif, for he says, "Doubtless you will say to me this parable: Physician, heal thyself!" (4.23), and this same motif is repeated to Jesus on the cross in Luke 23.35 in the words, "He saved others; let him save himself," and in Luke 23.39 in the words, "Save thyself!"
After this passion motif Jesus goes on to say, "Amen, I say to you that no prophet is acceptable in his own country." Here I believe we may see the (at least temporary) rejection of the gospel by most of the Jews, a theme which occurs repeatedly throughout the second volume, as well as at the very end of Acts. Jesus immediately tells of Elijah being sent to a Gentile widow in her own land of Sidon, and of Naaman the Syrian being cleansed in the days of Elisha, Naaman being a Gentile who comes from a Gentile land and returns to it.
In the last three verses of the story we see the motif of Jesus being ultimately unhindered (Luke 4.28-30):
|When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them, he went away.|
words of the subtitle of the Torch commentary on Acts by R. R. Williams7,
"Nothing can stop the Gospel!" - either here in the prologue or at the
end of Acts.
The significance which we attributed to the omission of vengeance in Jesus' reading from Isaiah is borne out in the whole of Luke-Acts by the evangelist's frequent and distinctive use of the phrase "signs and wonders." When we look at the Old Testament, the phrase "signs and wonders" invariably denotes God's judgements and actions against the oppressors of Israel8, but in Luke-Acts they are always "signs and wonders" of God's mercy and favour toward all men in whom he is pleased. This perhaps will enable us to be somewhat more confident about concluding that in Luke 4.16-30 we have the last section of the Lukan prologue.
4. John. When we look for the first mention of Galilee in John, we do not find it until we reach John 1.43 in which it says that Jesus was minded to go forth into Galilee. Jesus then finds Philip and says to him, "Follow me" (John 1.44). Philip actively evangelizes by finding Nathaniel, preaching to him,, and bringing him to Jesus. In John 21.1 Nathaniel is specified as belonging to Cana of Galilee, so that in the eyes of the author of John 21 we are apparently already in Galilee or at least dealing with a Galilean at this point in John 1. The discussion with Nathanael ends with the passion motif of verse 51: "Amen, Amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." This refers to Jesus on his glory on the cross as the means of access to God for men. This double theme of the the glory and the access on the cross is already to be found in the Gospel according to Mark9, but John intensifies it, as can be seen in John 12.20 ff. when it is to Philip once again that the Greeks come, wishing to see Jesus. And Jesus' reply to this information is that, "Now is the hour for the Son of man to be glorified." John's message is that, if you would see Jesus in his glory, you must know him as the crucified one, and it is as the one lifted up upon the cross that Jesus draws all men to him (John 12.32). Furthermore, in John 20.19-23 the gifts of peace, Holy Spirit, and forgiveness of sins - that is, the new genesis - come from the one who bears the marks of the passion in his hands and side. For all these reasons John 1.51 is an appropriate conclusion to the prologue.
In John 2.1, the phrase "on the third day," which looks like a resurrection motif, might lead us to think that the wedding in Cana should also be included in the prologue. But this is highly unlikely in view of the apparent relationship of John 1 to John 29 and 21. As can be seen from the table below, both John 20 and John 21 appear to be carefully structured against John 1. Thus, whether or not one accepts John 21 as integral to the intended scheme of the Fourth Gospel, we nevertheless have a reasonable warrant for concluding that the Johannine prologue is the whole of the first chapter of John.9b
Motifs of John 1 recurring in John 20 and 21
John 1 John 20
|(Spirit descends and remains on him)||33b||17||I ascend to my Father10|
|He who sent me||33a||21||As Father has sent me, I send you|
|He baptizes with Holy Spirit||33c||22||Receive Holy Spirit|
|Behold Lamb of God, taking away sin of world||29||23||Remit, retain sins|
|Philip to Nathanael: 'We have found him'||45||25||Disciples to Thomas: 'We have seen the Lord'|
|Nathanael: 'Can any good....? Philip: 'Come and see!'||46||25b||Thomas: 'Unless I see ... I will not believe'|
|Jesus: 'I saw you under the fig tree'||48||27||Jesus: 'Put your finger here and see'|
|Nathanael: 'Son of God, King of Israel!'||49||28||Thomas: 'My Lord and my God!'|
|Jesus: 'Do you believe because I saw you?'||50||29||Jesus: 'Have you believed because you saw me?'|
|'You will see greater ...'||50b||28b||'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe|
|'... angels of God ascending and descending on Son of Man (Vision of faith?)||51||31||'You may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son 'You may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son|
|John 1||John 21|
|Nathanael||45, 47, 49||2||Nathanael (only occurrences)|
|'Son of God, King of Israel'||49||7||Beloved disciple: 'It is the Lord!'|
|Peter the Rock||40-42||15-19||Peter: reconciliation and mission|
|'Come and see!'||39||19b||'Follow me!'|
|John's witness||(6-8, 15,) 19-36||24||Beloved disciple, bearing witness, has written these things|
|The Law (Books? - cf. 1.45: 'wrote'), grace and truth (deeds)||17||25||Things Jesus did - written books|
|Word dwelt among us||14||25||World itself could not contain the books (of what he did)|
|The cosmos||9, 10, (29)||25||The cosmos|
|In the beginning (Genesis)||1||25||The Books|
III. Smaller patterns and the overall pattern
have arrived at our simple prologues, simple in the sense of entire, but it
would appear that there are smaller units within each of these
prologues. In Luke, for instance, there are at least two explicit
Gentile motifs an possibly four more implicit ones before we reach the synagogue
at Nazareth. The explicit ones are "a light for revelation to the
Gentiles" in the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2.32), and "Adam, the son of
God" at the end of he genealogy (Luke 3.38)11.
The possibly implicit ones occur at the end of the Magnificat with its mention
of Abraham's seed (Luke 1.55), at the end of the Benedictus where the morning
sun will shine on those that sit in darkness (Luke 1.79), in the song of the
heavenly host with its promise of peace on earth for men of good will (Luke
2.14), and finally at the end of the quotation from Isaiah in Luke 3, namely,
that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke
Within John 1 some apparent miniature paradigms within the overall paradigm of the prologue may be seen, for example, in vv. 1-5, vv. 10-14, and vv. 15-18.
In Matthew three people pose threats to Jesus' course before the temptation narrative is reached, viz., Joseph (Matt. 1.19), Herod (2.13), and John (3.14). of these three at least the story of the wise men, Herod, the flight, and the coming up out of Egypt is a passion prefigurement. The elements in this sequence are based on Jewish Passover traditions as has been indicated by Cyril Cave12. In these same infancy stories we find the same Davidic "King of the Jews" theme which is later stressed in the passion narrative.
We shall be in a better position to look at subdivisions within the Matthaean prologue later in this essay.
In general these smaller patterns within a prologue appear to be repetitions of the larger pattern of the whole of each prologue. Despite their differing emphases all four gospel prologues (and many, if not all, smaller units within them) seem to have a common overall pattern, which we may roughly outline as follows13.
A. A Genesis motif (i.e. a concern with creation).
B. Israel and the promise of the scriptures.
C. John the forerunner.
D. Jesus and the cross (with Passover/Exodus motifs, and elements of Isaac typology in at least Mark, Matthew and John).
E. The Holy Spirit and the good news for all men.
This appears to be a building upon, and extension of the final development of the confessional pattern in the Old Testament as presented in Nehemiah 9.6-3714.
Thus far we have argued that there is a definite prologue to each gospel and that these prologues have a skeletal outline in common. Let us now see how each prologue may be related structurally to the remainder of the gospel.
IV. Structural relationship of the
gospels to their prologues
Mark was written ca. A.D. 60-65, then it was intended to meet the needs of
Christians of the second generation. Perhaps it was written at Rome after
the fire and the trouble with Nero. Therefore it was written for a
situation in which many apparently were saying, "If only I could walk and
talk with the Lord, how easy it would be to be strong enough to persevere now in
obeying his voice and in following in his steps."
Mark's answer to them is that they are wrong. Jesus is the only man who has been truly strong, and his strength as God's Son lay in his total dependence upon his Father in prayer15. You can hear Jesus to heed him and see him to follow him only by grace, for those who heard him and saw him in the flesh all fell away when they tried to obey him or follow him in their own strength16. And if you would follow him to see and know him, you must follow him in the way of the cross (Mark 8.34)17. If you would know him now as your Lord, God's Son, who is present to sustain you, then you must confess him as Lord in your life, and you must confess him at three levels. (1) You must have a personal relationship with him in terms of taking up your cross and following him (Mark 8.34-38). (2) You must live out that relationship with your brothers and sisters in the Church, which is the Temple made without hands (Mark 9.36 f.; cf. 14.58). And (3) you must live out that relationship with all men in the mission to the Gentiles (Mark 10.42-45).
As you do this, the crucified Son of God is present to you, for his parousia was in his passion18, and you are already in the new life of the End-time, although the final consummation will not come until the gospel has been preached to all the nations (Mark 13.10).
When we look to see what controls the structure of the gospel, it appears to be the triadic concern for the relationship of one-to-one, of one to the Church, and of one to all men (by way of the cross)18b. Let us look at two major triads and then at two minor ones.
The first major triad consists of (1) God's witness to Jesus alone at his baptism that he is God's Son (1.11), (2) God's witness to the disciples, that is, to the Church, at the transfiguration that Jesus is his Son who is to be obeyed (9.7), and (3) the Centurion's witness to all men at the cross on the basis of how Jesus died: "Truly, this man was God's Son" (15.39).
The second major triad is exactly parallel to the first one, and it consists of the witness of the unclean spirits. (1) In mark 1.24 a single unclean spirit calls Jesus "the Holy One of God." (2) In 3.111 unclean spirits (plural) say that Jesus is "the Son of God." And (3) in 5.7, at Gerasa in the Decapolis, a legion of unclean spirits cry out in the vocative, and hence without definite articles, "Jesus, Son of God Most High!" This is in Gentile territory, it is anarthrous, and it uses a predominantly Hellenistic designation for God: "God Most High." Thus it corresponds precisely to the Centurion's confession in 15.39.
Our examples of two smaller triads concern Judas and Peter. Judas denies Jesus three times in a reversal of the usual order: (1) before the chief priests of all the people (14.10 f.), (2) by guilty silence in the midst of the Church's fellowship at the last supper (14.20), and (3) in his direct relationship with Jesus when he kisses him (14.44 f.). Peter's denials are similar but in the more common order. (1) He first denies Jesus in a direct confrontation with the maid of the high priest (14.67), (2) next he denies him when she speaks to the bystanders (14.69), and (3) finally he denies him when the bystanders accost him as a Galilean (14.70 f.). This last denial parallels the Centurion's confession, for the bystanders say, "Truly of them you are," and Peter says, "I do not know this man." In 15.39 the Centurion says, "Truly, this man God's Son was," and these are the only two occurrences in Mark of ἀληθῶς, "truly," and of the phrase οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος, "this man."
It is our contention that the whole of the gospel according to Mark is a continuous repetition of the triadic pattern of concern with the individual, with the Church, and with all men. The concern for all men comes only through the Son of man on the cross (cf. Mark 10.45), so that it is not surprising if passion motifs often form the third member of any particular triad. Below is an outline which attempts to work out this structure for the first half of the gospel after the prologue (Mark 1.16-8.26). We shall return to the prologue subsequently.
A provisional triadic outline of Mark 1.16-8.26
|1||- concerned with Jesus alone or with Jesus and one disciple.|
|Ch||- concerned with the Church.|
|All||- concerned with the mission to all men through Jesus on his cross|
|Cross||- concerned with confessing Jesus on the cross as the Centurion does for all men (Mark 15.39) (i.e., "All" and "Cross" are equivalents).|
|// - parallel|
|//s - parallels|
|re - with regard to|
|First stage: Men beheld as trees walking (cf. Judg. 9.8-15, Jotham's parable)||1.16-18||CALL OF FIRST DISCIPLES|
|1||Simon (1) plus Andrew (1) =|
|All||fishers of men19|
|1||1.19-20||James (1) plus John (1)=|
|Ch||2 (Church), forsaking father and livelihood (old ways).|
|1.21-22||TEACHING IN SYNAGOGUE AT CAPERNAUM|
|Cross||They were amazed (ἐξεπλήσσοντο) at his teaching20|
|1.23-28||HEALING OF MAN WITH AN UNCLEAN SPIRIT IN SYNAGOGUE|
|Cross||They were amazed (ἐξεπλήσσοντο) at his teaching20|
|1.23-28||HEALING OF MAN WITH AN UNCLEAN SPIRIT IN SYNAGOGUE|
|1||.24||Unclean spirit: I know (or see) who you are21|
|Ch||The Holy One of Israel!" (cp. 1.11; 15.39)|
|All||.27||All were amazed (ἐθαμβήθησαν) at his teaching.|
|All||Unclean spirits obey (ὑπακούουσιν) him (cf. 4.41; cp.9.7)|
|All||.28||Report spread throughout Galilee.|
|1.29-31||HEALING OF PETER'S MOTHER-IN-LAW|
|Ch||.29||in the house = Church in Mark22|
|.30||they (Church) speak to him about her.|
|1||.31a||He raised her (resurrection to new life - similarly in all uses of ἐγείρω and ἀνίστημι)|
|Ch||.31b||She was serving them (i.e., she is raised to service of others).|
|1.32-34||SICK HEALED LATE AT EVENING (cf. 4.35; cp. 1 Cor. 10.11b)|
|All &||.32||all having evil|
|Cross||.33||to the door (access theme - cf. 1.10; 15.38)|
|.34a||casting out many demons|
|.34b||He did not permit the demons to speak because they saw (or knew) him. (cf. 15.39)|
|1||1.35-38||JESUS DEPARTS TO DESERT VERY EARLY IN THE MORNING (Resurrection, etc.)|
|Ch||.36||Simon and those with him following closely (κατεδίωξεν - cp. προάγει in 16.7)|
|All||.38||Task: to proclaim "there also" - why I came out (cf. 1.45)|
|.39||preaching, casting out demons - in their synagogues (to Jews) and in the whole of Galilee (to Gentiles, figuratively)|
|1.40-45||CLEANSING OF LEPER|
|Geth-||40b||If you will (cf. 14.36)|
|semane||you are able (δύνασαι)23|
|.41||And being angered (cf. 3.5)|
|... "I will, be cleansed!" (cf. 14.36)|
|.43||charging sternly (ἐμβριμησάμενος)|
|Cross||.44||"See that you say (cf. 15.39)|
|nothing to no one! (cf. 15.39; 1.24, 34, etc.)|
|Go, show yourself to the priest24|
|All||offer what Moses for a witness to them commanded" (cf. 13.9)25|
|.45||But he, having gone out (cf. 1.35),|
|______||began ( ἤρξατο- cf. 1.1: ἀρχή) to proclaim (κηρύσσειν - cf. 1.14, 38 f.) many things and to make known widely the Word (cp. sowing the Word, 4.14, in the Gentile-mission setting of chapter 4) so that he was not able openly to enter city, but was out in the desert places (cf. 1.35, 38; cp.1.3, 4) and they came to him from all directions (πάντοθεν).26|
|2.1-12||HEALING OF A PARALYTIC|
|All||.1||It was heard that he was "in house" (i.e. those outside heard he was in Church)|
|.2||And many gathered so that there was no longer room, no, not even about the door (τὰ πρὸς τὴν θύραν - cf. 1.33). And he was speaking to them the Word (cf. 1.14, 45; 4.14).|
|Gentiles coming?||.3||And they were coming, bearing to him a paralytic carried by four. [Does this four correspond to the 4,000 in 8.1-10, so that this means mixed Jews and Gentiles?]|
|Now in Church||.4||(They are not put off by the crowd but come through the roof to Jesus "in house", in Church)|
|.5a||And Jesus, seeing their faith, says to the paralytic,|
|1 (a||.5b||"Child, thy sins are forgiven."|
|Gentile)||.6-11||(Controversy with scribes re access to forgiveness and life.)|
|.9, 11, 12||"Arise!" - resurrection to new life.|
|.11||"Go to thy house" (Gentile convert motif; cp. 5.19 with 3.14)|
|1||2.14||THE CALL OF LEVI (//s: 1.16-18, 19-20)|
|Ch||.15||"In his house": taxgatherers and sinners (i.e. Church)|
|All a.||.16-17||(Controversy with scribes of Pharisees. Jesus: all men are sinners in need of physician.)|
|b.||.18-20||(Fasting: old disciplines are not appropriate for Gentiles, but "they will fast in|
|Cross||That Day" (= Cross - cf. 4.35; 13.32)|
|.21-22||(New wine in fresh skins: "new wine" = Spirit-filled community) σχίσμα - theme of loss - cf.15.38: Shekinah lost from Temple, and 1.10: access theme, ergo 15.38 also means Gentiles have access)|
|2.23-28||PLUCKING GRAIN ON THE SABBATH|
|1||.23a||He was going ...|
|Ch||.23b||His disciples began to pluck ...|
|All a.||.24-28||(Controversy with Pharisees)|
|.26||House of God (Temple motif - new disciplines needed for Gentile mission; cf. 2.21-22)|
|.27||Sabbath made for man|
|.28||Son of man lord of Sabbath|
|b.||3.1-6||THE MAN WITH THE WITHERED HAND ON THE SABBATH|
|.2-5||(Controversy with Pharisees)|
|Cross||.6||Pharisees go out (as vs being "in house"), counsel with Herodians to destroy him.|
|All c.||3.7-10||JEWS AND GENTILES COME TO HIM WITH HIS DISCIPLES AT THE SEA|
|_____||.11-12||Unclean spirits: "Thou art the Son of God" (cf. 15.39)|
|3.13-19a||THE CHOOSING OF THE TWELVE|
|1||.13a||And he goes up into the mountain|
|Ch||.13b-18||Calling of the Twelve|
|.14||to be with him (cp. 5.18 f., etc.)|
|Cross||.19a||Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.|
|3.19b-30||ASCRIPTION OF JESUS' WORKS TO SATAN AS SIN AGAINST HOLY SPIRIT|
|1||.19b||And he comes|
|Ch||.19c||into a house|
|Ch/All||.22||ὁ ὄχλος, the crowd, gathers again (= those waiting to become the Church?)|
|Cross||.21||Disaffection of those "by him" who go out to seize him.|
|Cross/All||.22-30||Scribes from Jerusalem:|
|.23-27||Casting out Satan (cf. 1.3, and ergo Gethsemane, 14.32-42; also 9.14-29, especially 9.18, 25, 28 f.)|
|.24||Kingdom (Cf. King of the Jews, 15.9, 18, 26, 32)|
|.25||House divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand (Temple motif - cf. 15.38; 13.2)|
|.26||Satan has an end27 (cp. 1.15b: Kingdom of God )|
|.27||Binding of the strong one.|
|All||.28||All sins shall be forgiven the sons of men|
|.29-30||except ascription of Holy Spirit's work to Satan.|
|3.31-35||JESUS' TRUE KINDRED|
|All||.31||Mother and brothers outside, seeking Jesus (i.e. must enter)|
|Ch||.32-35||Those "in house" who do will of God are|
|1||Jesus' brother, sister, mother (1 to 1 relation)|
|All||4.1-34||PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM|
|(Encouragement for the Church in the mission to all men - cf. 4.10-20, addressed to the Church, namely "The Twelve and others with him." Here "the Twelve" is apparently the Jewish nucleus and "the others" are apparently Gentile Christians.)|
|.1||The chapter is basically addressed to those "near and far," including Gentiles - cf. Ps. 65.5|
|4.35-6.14||THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH TO ALL MEN PREFIGURED|
|4.35-41||Stilling of the storm28|
|Cross||.35||On that day (cf. 2.20; 13.32 - cross motif)|
|when even was come, (cf. 1.32)|
|1||he says to|
|All||"Let us go to the other side."|
|All (Jews)||.36||Leaving the crowd,|
|Ch||they take him with them|
|1||even as he was|
|Ch in||in the boat.|
|Gentile||And other boats were with them (cf. Ps. 107.23 ff.)29|
|mission||.41||They feared a great fear (cf. 6.50; 9.32; 10.32; 16.8 - fear of disciples in way of cross and mission to all men; cf. 1.27)|
|"Who is this (OT answer: God-with-us, cf. e.g. Ps. 104.3) that even wind and sea obey him?" (cf. 1.27; cp. 9.7)|
|5.1-20||Gerasene with unclean spirit (Gentile convert, cp. 5.18 f. to 3.14)|
|.6||Legion of unclean spirits: "Jesus, Son of God Most High" (=El Elyôn, a title of non-Israelite origin; cf. anarthrous confession of Gentile Centurion, 15.39)|
|5.21-43||Jairus' daughter and the haemorrhaging woman|
|b.||Am ha-aretz,||'people of the land', unclean Jews: Haemorrhaging woman - these push into Kingdom before the 'good Jews.'|
|c.||the 'good Jew'||The good Jews come in last of all, which explains the position of the next item (cf. Rom. 11.25-27; Rev. 2.9; 3.9):|
|6.1-3||Rejection in his own country (or, why the Jews do not yet respond to the preaching of the gospel by the Church)|
of rejections: A prophet is not without honour except
in his own country (cf. 6.1-3)
and among his own kin (cf. 3.31-35)
and in his own house (cf. 3.21. I.e. the list is chiastic.)
|1||6.6b||And he went round ... preaching|
|Ch||.7a||And he called unto him the Twelve|
|.7b-13||and began to send them forth two by two (cf. 1.2: "I send my messenger..."; two by two: two witnesses (cf. 6.11) required in Jewish jurisprudence.)|
|1/Cross||6.14-29||JOHN'S PASSION (//s Jesus' Passion)30|
|.19||Herodias had a grudge against John (// 15.10: envy of chief priests as cause of their betrayal of Jesus)|
(// Feast of Passover, ergo possibly // Feedings of 5,000, 4,000, and
Last Supper as well)
leading men of Galilee (// 15.39: Centurion and Gentile mission?)
|.23||"What you ask of me, I will give you, (// Lectisternium?) even half of my kingdom." (// 15.6-15: Pilate's offer of one of two prisoners? cp. Matt. 27.17.)|
|.24||"What shall I ask?" (// 15.11: crowd, pushed on by chief priests and elders)|
|.26||King was exceedingly sorry. (// 15.9, 10, 14): Pilate's efforts to extricate Jesus)|
|.27||Beheading of John (// cross)|
|.29||John's corpse laid in tomb (// 15.43 ff.: Jesus' burial)|
|Ch||6.30-34||APOSTLES (cf. 1.2) GATHER THEMSELVES TOGETHER UNTO JESUS and Church grows (cf. 16.7; 1.36).|
|All||.34||As sheep without a shepherd (cf. 14.27 f.; 16.7)|
|a. Jews||6.35-44||PASCHAL FEEDING IN DESERT OF 5,000 JEWISH MEN31|
|.37, 38 (bis)||Three imperatives to disciples, whose recalcitrance (6.36) contrasts with Jesus' compassion (6.34)|
|6.45-7.37||CONCERNED WITH ENABLING THE DISCIPLES TO HEED (6.45-52; 7.31-37) AND THE CONDITIONS OF THE GENTILE MISSION (7.1-30).|
|6.45-52||Jesus walks on the sea (Sea = Chaos and troubled world)|
|.45||Jesus forces disciples to enter boat toward other side to Bethsaida.32|
|.47||When even was come (cf. 13.35)|
the fourth watch of the night (cf. 13.35)
walking on the sea (Jesus = God with us - cf. Job 9.8; Ps. 77.19; Isa. 43.2, 16)
|.50||"Be of good cheer, I AM, fear not!" (= God with and for us - cf. Josh. 1.9, 18; Deut. 1.29, etc.; Isa. 35.3 f.; 43.1-3, etc.)|
|.52||They did not understand.|
|b. Am ha-aretz?|
|6.53-56||Healings at Gennesaret (probably unclean Jews - note "fringe of garment", 6.56; cf. 5.28)|
|7.1-23||What defiles a man.|
|.8||Men versus God.|
|.19b||All foods clean (ergo, Jews may eat with Gentiles!)|
|.21||Sin from within defiles a man.|
|Jews are children of promise; Gentiles are dogs, copming by mercy and grace, not by right. (Re position of Gentiles in Markan Church? Note Matthaean strengthening: Jewish Christians acknowledged as "masters" in Matt. 15.27.)|
|.30||She returns home (cf. 5.18-20; cp. 3.14)|
|7.31-37||DEAF-MUTE HEALED WITH SPIT AT SAIDA33 (= BETHSAIDA) - CF. 9.22-26.|
|(Healing transferred to disciples)34|
|c. Jews and Gentiles together|
|8.1-10||DESERT FEEDING OF ABOUT 4,000 MIXED JEWS AND GENTILES.|
|.3||Some (not all) from far away (= Gentiles)|
|______||(Note that no imperatives are needed this time. Does 4,000 represent the 4,000 who shall offer praise in the Temple, 1 Chron. 23.5?)|
|8.11-21||SUMMARY OF BLINDNESS OF MEN TO ALL THAT THE FEEDINGS HAVE IMPLIED|
|.11-13||Pharisees seek a sign (but they have been blind since 3.6; cp. 8.11 to Exod. 17.2b).|
|.14-21||Disciples' obtuseness over leaven and feedings while in the boat (and they are still blind and not understanding)|
|8.22-26||BLIND MAN HEALED WITH SPIT IN TWO STAGES AT BETHSAIDA - cf. 7.31-37|
|(Healing transferred to disciples)34|
|.24||First stage: Men beheld as trees walking (cf. Judg. 9.8-15, Jotham's parable)|
who men say that I am.
8.33: Peter still on man-side, not God-side of things.
|.25||Second stage: restored, saw everything clearly.|
|Repetition: 10.46-52: Bartimaeus.|
foregoing outline can be continued to the end of Mark in the same
basically triadic fashion. However, assuming that the outline carries
conviction, we have seen enough of the Markan structure and concerns to provide
sufficient support for what we are now about to suggest concerning the prologue.
If our argument up to now has been essentially correct, then the beginning of the prologue, Mark 1.1., presents us with an intentional triad in the phrase "Jesus Christ God's Son." "Jesus" is the one; "Christ" is Peter's confession of him in the midst of the disciples as the Messiah of Israel, and "God's Son2 is what the Gentile centurion confesses him as having been to all and sundry. This same pattern appears to be discernible throughout much of the remainder of the prologue, and the following table attempts to show some of these patterns.
Some apparent triads in the Markan prologue
|Ch||Christ (Peter the Jew's confession in the Church at the middle of the gospel, 8.29)|
|All||God's Son (Gentile centurion's confession to the world, 15.39)|
|1.2||I shall send (ἀποστέλλω) my mesenger (ἄγγελον) before thy face who shall prepare thy way.36|
|1||1) God sends John before Jesus.|
|Ch||2) God sends Jesus before the Church (cf. 16.7).|
|All||3) Jesus sends (3.14; 6.7) the apostles (6.30) into mission.|
|1||1.3||A voice of one crying in the wilderness37 (a)|
|Ch||make ye ready (b)|
|Cross||the way of the Lord (c)|
|All||make his paths straight (d)|
|1) (a) John, (b) Jews, as Church, (c) cross, (d) mission to all.|
|2) (a) God (1.11), (b) Jesus cum Church, (c) way of cross for Jesus and Church, (d) conditions of mission to all.|
|3) (a) Jesus (15.34, 37), (b) Church (14.28; 16.7), (c & d) cf. 16.7 f.|
|1.4, 5, 738|
|Ch||.5||All Judaea and Jerusalem|
|All||.7||Stronger one (= Jesus in the way of the cross, which is the Church's way in the mission).|
|Cross||he will baptize|
|Cf. Jesus' baptism, 10.38, where it appears that cup = the passion (cf. 14.36), and baptism = the passing through the Red Sea in the Messianic Exodus,39 as Israel passed through the Red Sea three days after Passover (Exod. 3.18; 5.13; cf. Exod. 13.21 f.). Note that Mark speaks of Jesus' resurrection as being after three days (8.31; 9.31; 10.34).|
|Ch/All||you with Holy Spirit. (= Church in mission to all)|
|1||1.11||Thou (Jesus alone)|
|Ch||art my son, the beloved (Gen. 22.2: Isaac = Israel; cf. other Isaac typology passages in Mark, 9.7; 12.6 f.; 15.2140|
|All||in thee I am well pleased41 (The Servant of Isa. 42.1,through whom comes "justice in the earth", Isa. 42.4, and "covenant to the people, a light to the nations", Isa. 42.6)|
The repeated coupling together of John and Jesus in the prologue is an
indication at the beginning of the gospel that their ways are linked, and it
appears to be the case that everything which is narrated about John has its
exact counterpart in what is narrated about Jesus. This can be seen most
readily by referring back to Mark 6.14-28 in our outline of Mark
1.16-8.26. Thus we may conclude that John's betrayal in Mark 1.14 stands
for Jesus' betrayal and passion, so that in 1.14-15 we have good warrant for
seeing the sequence of the passion and mission to all men.42
By now we have seen most of the major motifs of Mark's gospel which are to be found explicitly in the prologue. The ones which are implicit in the prologue seem to lie in the OT quotations. It is now widely recognized that the NT writers often used the scriptures allusively, so that a citation may be a pointer to a longer portion of an OT book than merely the words which are quoted.
In Mark 1.2 the passage cited is from Mal. 3.1. The following are significant Markan themes which are to be found in Mal. 3.1-4:
|Mal. 3.1:||the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant ... behold, he cometh ...|
|3.3:||he shall purify the sons of Levi ...|
|3.4:||Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the [Lord].|
The temple theme runs through the gospel, but Jesus' coming to the temple is to
be found at its most obvious level in Mark 11.11, 15-18. Mal. 3.3-4 find
their immediate explication in the work of John in Mark 1.4-5.
In Mark 1.3 we have a modified quotation of Isa. 40.3. From Isa. 40.3-11 we may gather the following elements which are significant for Mark:
|Isa. 40.5:||The glory of the LORD shall be revealed and all fllesh shall see it together.|
|40.9:||Behold, your God!|
|40.10:||Behold the LORD God will come as a mighty one.|
|40.11:||He shall fed his
flock like a shepherd,
he shall gather the lambs in his arm, ...
shall gently lead those that give suck.
For the glory as being revealed in the cross see Mark 10.37, 40; 15.27.
For "Behold, your God!" (Isa. 40.9) see, for example, the stilling of
the storm (Mark 4.39-41) and the walking on the water (Mark 6.50). The
shepherd theme is to be found explicitly in Mark 6.34 and 14.27 f. It is
to be found implicitly in such passages as Mark 1.36 and 16.7. To the
motif of taking a lamb "in his arm" we may compare Mark 9.36 in which
Jesus takes a little child in his arms. The motif of Jesus as the strong
one we have examined earlier.43
If we look at the many missionary elements of the prologue (e.g. 1.2, 3, 12, 14 f.), then it seems reasonable to conclude that a very major concern of the leadership of the Markan community was to prevent the Church from turning defensively in upon itself in the face of probably external harassment.44 This may very well explain why Mark used a repeated triadic structure which always ends up with the mission to all men.
The last thing we shall note about the Markan prologue is its own internal structure which appears to be that of an overall chiasmus. That the chiasmus does not work perfectly may perhaps indicate that interpolations have been made in an earlier and more cohesive unit.
Markan Prologue: An Overall Chiasmus?
|(This column is to be read from bottom to top)|
|1.1||Beginning||is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel.|
|that fulfilled is the time and the Kingdom of God|
|of the Gospel of Jesus||proclaiming the Gospel of God|
|came Jesus into Galilee|
|Christ||1.14||and after the delivering up of John|
|God's Son.||and the angels were ministering to him;|
|and he was with the beasts|
|being tempted under Satan,|
|1.13||And he was in the wilderness 40 days|
|into the wilderness|
|1.12||And straightway the Spirit casts him out45|
|1.2||Even as it has been written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face who shall prepare thy way."|
|1.3||"A voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare the Lord's way, straight make ye his paths.'"||(1.11||And a voice ...)|
|1.4||John came, who baptized in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins.|
|1.5||And there went out unto him all the country of Judaea and all they of Jerusalem; and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.|
|1.6||(John's credentials as Elijah)||in thee I am well pleased."|
|1.7||And he preached, saying "There cometh after||heavens: "Thou art my Son, the beloved;|
|me he that is stronger than I, the latchet of||1.11||upon him. And [there was] a voice out of the|
|whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down||asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending|
|and unloose.||up out of the water, he saw the heavens rent|
|1.8||I baptized you with water; but he shall||1.10||of John in the Jordan. And straightway coming|
|baptize you with Holy Spirit.||came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized|
|1.9||And it came to pass in those days that Jesus|
We have intentionally dealt with Mark at some length, for if our argument has carried conviction in the case of our earliest gospel, then similar contentions about the structural unity of each of the later gospels should be easier to take seriously.
Matthew basically seems to have felt one worry and one anger far more
intensively than Mark (even though Mark was not unaware of them), and Matthew
appears to have proposed one basic solution for both of them. He was
worried about the influence of Hellenistic syncretism within the Church which
might make Jesus into a mere Hellenistic wonder-worker, a θεῖος
ἀνήρ to whom one might sit lightly.46
And he was angry, according to Krister Stendahl,47
about the Pharisaic leaders of the synagogue across the street who were keeping
all those good Jews from coming to Jesus and the Christian fellowship.
His solution is to anchor Jesus securely to Israel, the Covenant and the Scriptures by proclaiming that Jesus is the enfleshing of the Torah in word, in will, and in deed.48
Before we look at this further, we may note that Matthew also handles the problem of incipient syncretism by omitting the strange exorcist (Mark 9.38-41),49 for one must follow Jesus. In Matthew Jesus' name and the power that comes through it are consistently connected with the demand for discipleship. He also removes the δύναμις, the power, that goes forth from Jesus to heal the haemorrhaging woman (Mark 5.30), and she is not healed until Jesus overtly wills it.50 In a similar vein, no one is healed in Matthew unless Jesus expressly wills it (cp. Matt. 12.15b to Mark 3.10). And note also how the phrase "Son of God" does not occur in Matthew (2.15, quoting Hos. 11.1) until it has been strongly anchored tomthe calling oif Israel in the Covenant (Exod. 4.22 f.).51 It is not to be used loosely as though it were simply one more title for a Hellenistic wonder-worker or a Roman emperor.
Let us now return to Matthew's solution of presenting Jesus as the Torah incarnate. The paradigm of word, testing of the will, and deed is to be found in Jesus' three answers (Matt. 4.4, 7, 10) from Deuteronomy (Deut. 8.3; 6.16; 6.13) to the temptations of the devil. Man shall live by the Word of God; he shall not put God o the test, and he shall worship and serve God alone. Word, testing, deed: these denote the three major divisions of the remainder of the gospel.
The onset of these divisions is indicated by the phrase ἀπὸ τότε, "from then." Matthew uses ἀπό 113 times and τότε 90 times, but only three times does he use the phrase ἀπὸ τότε.52 The first occurrence of the phrase is in 4.17: "From then Jesus began to preach ..." Here is the Word of God. The second use of it is in 16.21: "From then Jesus began to show that he must suffer." Here is the willing of the Word. The third and last time is in 26.16: "From then Judas sought opportunity to betray him." Here is the beginning of the deed.
Matthew also indicates when each division closes by an indication of height from which Jesus is said to descend, using the verb καταβαίνειν. If the first temptation took place at ground level (4.3 f.), then Jesus is said to descend (singular aorist participle) from a higher height, from the mountain at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (8.1). If the second temptation is raised to the pinnacle of the temple (4.5-7), then after casting the die at the Transfiguration, Jesus and the disciples are said to be descending (plural present indicative participle) from an even greater height, a high mountain (17.1). If the third temptation occurs on a very high mountain (4.8-10), then Jesus' surrogate, the ἄγγελος κυρίου, the angel of the Lord, is said to descend (singular aorist participle) at the end of the whole passion-entombment-resurrection event from the only place that is higher: from heaven itself (28.2). The Word and Deed are Jesus' alone, but the disciples are joined to him in his Sonship in willing it. The three progressive heights of the temptations are surmounted by the progressively greater heights of their overcoming.
All this, along with apparent parallels in the Lord's Prayer (which in its Matthaean form is the prayer of the way of the cross, since the Matthaean additions recur in the passion narrative) and in the crucifixion itself, is set out in the two tables below.
The Temptation Narrative (Matt. 4.1-11) and its Themes
|Temptations||Height at which they occur||Jesus' answer||Theme||The Lord's Prayer||Repetition on the Cross|
|1.||4.3 f.||Ground level ("these stones")||Man not to live by bread alone but by Word of God||WORD||Give us daily bread (6.11)||27.40-42 (refusal to use power)|
|2.||4.5-7||Pinnacle of Temple||Not to tempt God||Tempting-
|Deliver us from evil (6.13)||27.43 (tempting God)|
|3.||4.8-10||Very high mountain||Worship and serve God alone||DEED||Thy will be done (6.10b)||27.50 (voluntary dying|
|End||4.11||Unspecified||Angels came and ministered to Jesus|
The Drama (Matt. 4.17-28.1) and its Themes
"From then ..."
|Completion: Jesus "descends"||Height from which he descends:||Event completed at descent:||Theme:|
|1'.||4.17: Jesus began to preach||8.1||"the mountain" (5.1; 8.1)||Sermon on the Mount||WORD|
|2'a.||16.21: Jesus began to show that he must suffer||17.9||"high mountain" (17.1)||Transfiguration||Willing of WORD leading to DEED|
|3'a.||26.16: Judas sought to betray him|
|[2'b.||[26.36-46, no "descent" mentioned]||[Gethsemane (Mount of Olives)]||[Triple agony: "Thy will be done" (v. 42; cf. vv. 39, 44; cp. 6.10)]||[Tempting before DEED of Cross]|
|2'c.||27.42||"the cross"||Jewish leaders: "come down now"||Tempting to leave DEED incomplete|
|3'b.||28.2||"from heaven"||The Angel of the LORD came, acted, spoke, aiding Jesus' followers||DEED now fulfilled|
We shall close this section with a very brief outline of Matthew:
|(This sets the stage: Jesus = Son of God = Israel)|
|(Jesus as Son of God is the Torah enfleshed in:|
|Testing of will||16.21-17.9 (initial casting of die)|
|-27.50 (final act of will)|
|(Jesus as the Christ,53 the Son of Man, God with us, sends the disciples forth into the mission.)|
Luke-Acts differs from mark, Matthew and even John in a number of ways which
bear on how we are to discern the relationship of the prologue, Luke 1.1-4.30,
to the remainder of the gospel. Four of these differences are especially
pertinent to us.
1) Luke-Acts appears to be addressed to those outside the Church ("Most excellent Theophilus," (Luke 1.3) as well as those within, while the other three gospels are, in my estimation, addressed almost exclusively to those within the Church. Luke-Acts appears to be addressed to Gentiles as potential converts (cf. Luke 4.24-27; Acts 28.28. These passages seem to be for Gentile ears as well as Jewish ones). It also gives evidence of being addressed to Roman officials and citizens to convince them that they should not view the Christians as a seditious group, inasmuch as Christians are part of tolerated Judaism and have always been exonerated by Roman officials (usually two of them) when charges have been looked into. This probably helps to explain the emphasis upon the cities of Jerusalem and Rome, the respective centres of Judaism and the Empire.
2) The Third Gospel is in two volumes, not one, and the first volume is concerned primarily (although by no means exclusively) with Jesus' course, while the second volume is concerned with the Church's course, a course which follows in large measure that already laid out by Jesus. In the other gospels the ongoing life of the Church in the way of the cross and the mission to all men is superimposed on, and fused with, the narrative concerning Jesus. This difference between the gospels means that in Luke-Acts we may expect to find that at least some parts of the prologue appear to be related both to the remainder of Luke and to Acts.
3) The other gospels do much of their cross-referencing by exact repetition of vocabulary and phrases as well as by parallel structuring of narratives. While the third evangelist uses a great number of repeated structures,54 he is much more inclined to use similar vocabulary and phrases than identical ones. For example, the description of Joseph who takes the body of Jesus for burial (Luke 23.50 f.) is very similar in content to the description of Simeon in the prologue who takes the baby Jesus into his arms (Luke 2.25-28), although the vocabulary used is not the same.
4) Far more than the other gospels, Luke-Acts appears to have a predominantly positive approach to the continuing non-believing (Pharisaic)55 Jews of post-70 A.D., attempting at the least to further relative peace with them as fellow-members of Israel, and if possible to rehabilitate the appeal of the gospel to them.56 This probably lies behind, for example, the setting of the beginning of the prologue and a great deal of Acts 1-5 in th temple in Jerusalem. It probably bears on why the seat of apostolic authority in Acts, to which even Paul keeps returning, is solidly located in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 8.1, where it is said that the apostles remain in Jerusalem even when the rest of the Church is scattered).
Acts has often been described as "the tale of two cities," namely Jerusalem and Rome, which we may take to be the seats of the Jews and the Gentiles. But there is more theological geography to be seen in Luke-Acts than this, and the key passage appears to be Acts 1.8, in which Jesus commissions the disciples to be his witnesses in:
| (1) Jerusalem,
(2) all Judaea,
(3) Samaria, and
(4) to the end of the earth.
On the basis of this passage we may outline Luke 4.31-Acts 28.31 as follows:
|(4)||Luke 4.31-9.50||Ministry in Galilee
up through the Transfiguration, with Gentiles involved in 7.2-10
and probably in 6.17 and in 8.26-39 as well.57
At 9.31 the die is cast: The Exodus58 is to be accomplished in Jerusalem.
|(3)||Luke 9.51-18.34||The journey toward Jerusalem, involving mention of Samaria and Samaritans, although Jesus does not enter their territory (9.51-56; 10.25-37; 17.11-19).|
|(2)||Luke 18.35-19.27||In Judaea approaching Jerusalem.|
|(1)||Luke 19.28-24.53||In Jerusalem (with disciples in the temple in 24.53).|
|Acts 1.1-11||Jesus' exaltation (i.e. ascension) and commissioning of his witnesses on Mount Olivet.|
|(1)||Acts 1.12-7.60||In Jerusalem and the temple (Acts 1-5)|
|Acts 7.48: God does not dwell in houses made with hands.|
|(2)||Acts 8.1||Church as spiritual temple spreads throughout Judaea,|
|(3)||Acts 8.1-25||and Samaria.59|
|(4)||Acts 8.26-28.31||Mission to outcasts (eunuch brought into temple by baptism, 8.26-40), and then Gentiles through Peter (10.1-12.25)59 and through Paul and Barnabas in the west (13.1-19.20),59 culminating in Paul's witness in Jerusalem and finally in Rome (19.21-28.31).|
From this outline it would appear that Galilee is still for Luke "Galilee
of the Gentiles" in at least some measure, so that the fact that the
prologue begins in the temple and ends in Galilee on a Gentile note is probably
What follows is a very incomplete set of apparent parallels between parts of the Lukan prologue and the remainder of the gospel. The reader is invited to build upon it if he finds it convincing.
The Lukan Prologue (Luke 1.1-4.30) and some of its Apparent Counterparts
|1.9 ff.||Zechariah in temple.||Acts 1-5||Apostles daily in temple.|
|1.32 f.||Son of Most High; throne of father David; endless kingdom||Luke 19.38 & Zech. 9.9 f.||(Entry to Jerusalem)|
|1.37||(Annunciation:) citing of Gen. 18.14 (re Isaac)||(Note that in Jewish writings the sacrifice of Isaac is taken as expiatory and the 'binding' of Isaac as connected with Passover,60 then look at the following:)|
|Luke 9.31||(Transfiguration:) Exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem.|
|22.7||Necessity of sacrificing pascha|
|22.19b||Passover Seder breaks off before they reach the Lamb and third cup, because Jesus is the pascha - note immediate shift to betrayal motif.|
|2.8-14||(Angels to shepherds)||Luke 19.37b||the whole multitude of the disciples|
|.13||multitude of the heavenly host|
|.14||Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace ...||.38||Blessed is the King ... peace in heaven and glory in the highest.|
|2.22||(Purification:) up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.||Luke 19.45 f.||Temple cleansing after entry to Jerusalem.|
|2.5 f.||(Description of Simeon)||23.50 f.||(Description of Joseph)|
|.28||Simeon takes Jesus in his arms.||.53||Joseph
takes body of Jesus.
|2.32||(Nunc Dimittis:) A light for revelation to the Gentiles||Acts 8-28||After Stephen's passion (he having spoken of God not dwelling in house made with hands, 7.48-50): mission to Samaritans, then Gentiles.|
|2.41||To Jerusalem at Passover||Luke 19.28-46||To Jerusalem at Passover|
|.46||after three days||(Resurrection motif?)|
|Jesus teaching in temple||19.47-21.38||Every day teaching in temple.|
|Acts 1-5||Apostles teach daily in temple.|
|.47||All that heard were amazed at his understanding and answers.||Luke 19.47||The people all hung on him, listening (cf. also Luke 21.38).|
|3.21||Jesus' baptism||Acts 2.1-4||(Pentecost:) Baptism with Holy Spirit for the Church.|
|.22-38||Genealogy, going back to Adam (all men), Son of God||.5-11||Devout Jews from every nation under heaven.|
|4.10||Angels ... to guard you (a Lukan addition)||Luke 22.43||Angel from heaven strengthening him. (cp. Peter in Acts 12.7-11)|
|4.16-30||Synagogue at Capernaum||Acts 28.23-31||Paul in Rome (But also //s Jesus' passion)|
|Speech leading to Gentile elements||Acts 7.2-53||Stephen's speech, leading up to 7.48-50 (transferred from Markan passion narrative: motif of temple not made with hands)|
|Attempt to cast Jesus down||7.54-60||Stoning of Stephen, which in turn has many //s to Jesus' passion.|
|8.1-3||Persecution of Church.|
|Jesus passes through their midst||8.1-28.31||Church expands to all Judaea, to Samaritans, then to Gentiles and the heart of the Gentile world, Rome.|
|4.23||Physician, heal thyself.||Luke 23.35||He saved others; let him save himself.|
|.39||Save thyself and us.|
We shall do nothing further with the Fourth Gospel beyond suggesting how the
gospel may be related to its prologue, that is, to John 1. The almost
tedious repetition of vocabulary and phrases in John is well known. The
cyclical structure of writing in the Johannine literature is likewise widely
recognized. We have also seen a structural relationship between John 1 and
John 20 and 21. This suggests that it would be worthwhile to see if each
section of the gospel is related in its entirety to John 1. taken as a whole,
either on the basis of inclusio or chiasmus.
I personally would go one step further and define the sections of the gospel that one might attempt to relate to John 1 by following Aileen Guilding's divisions of of the gospel in terms of Jewish feasts,61 or at least one might well begin here. Dr. Guilding's thesis, simply stated, is (1) that John goes through the feasts in sequence three times; (2) that he shows each time that Jesus is the fulfilment of the scriptures associated with each feast, and (30 that these scriptures are those to be found either in the lessons read on the feasts themselves or in the lessons read about the same time on Sabbath from a three-year lectionary which appears to have been used in all or some of the Palestinian synagogues in the first century A.D. If this is the case, then it helps us to explain and to justify in first century terms the otherwise almost monotonous repetitiveness of the Johannine narrative and dialogues.
V. Three hypotheses
We shall close with three tentative hypotheses. The first one is as
follows. If our canonical gospels are as carefully structures as this
essay has tried to suggest, then perhaps they are four of the best products of a
long process of gospel development, even if some of that development took place
in an oral stage using mnemonic devices. This would increase the
likelihood that Mark is our earliest extant gospel rather than simply the
first gospel that was ever written.
Our second hypothesis is not a new one, but what we have seen seems to reinforce it. If we may liken each gospel to a pearl, then the core of the pearl is the passion narrative, which was apparently the first part of the Jesus-tradition to attain a relatively fixed form. We would suggest that layers were added to it. Some layers were a retrojection back into the ministry and other layers were a projection forward towards the mission to all men. But if our suggestions regarding the structure of the four gospels bear up under analysis, then it would appear that every layer which was added was centred on Christ crucified, vindicated exalted, and working in and through the Church. In Paul's words, "I would know nothing among you save Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2.2.).
The last hypothesis is related to the previous one. It is that the four gospels give evidence of a concern which overrides all questions of historicity. It is a concern to proclaim that "Christ our Passover has been crucified for us" (1 Cor. 5.7). The evangelists draw on narratives of the Exodus and they draw on observances connected with the Feast of Passover and on first century traditions connected with the feast so profusely and so profoundly as to leave little if any reliable data for answering such vexing questions as, what was the last supper? I believe that the evangelists and their communities would have found much of our questing for historicity to be quite irrelevant to what they conceived to be the task of the Church, and, indeed, rather silly and pointless, at least from their point of view, for they seem to be quite convinced that the only way of knowing Jesus is to follow him.
This has been an essay in redaction criticism, and as yet the work of redaction critics cannot claim to have reached that perhaps overly optimistic state of having, or claiming to have, broad area of "assured results." The data which we have presented is objective data, but in order to handle the data we must face up to certain questions. What data is one to select and how? How much data does it take to convince one? What value is one to place on the various data? What interpretation or range of interpretations is one prepared to use not only to explain the data arrived at but also to aid the search for further data? When we turn to these and allied questions, then our answers are dependent upon our own criteria, and these in turn are based on our individual experience and understanding. Therefore I am quite happy to say that this has been an essay in subjective redaction criticism, which has been offered for your inevitably subjective consideration.
2004: A Postscript regarding Johannine Prologue
on the Fourth Gospel (especially in terms of relating it to Jewish lectionar6y
usage) in the years that followed this article have convinced me that John went
through at least four editions, viz.: 1.1-19.end; 1.1-20.23; 1.1-20.end;
1-21. An article by J. C. Meagher on the structure of John 1.1-14
convinced me that John 1.14 originally read πνεῦμα,
not σάρξ. On
this basis the original prologue would indeed be 1.1-14, matching
Jesus' handing over the Spirit in 19.30 (παρέδωκεν
I fully stand by the conclusions regarding Mark, Matthew, and Luke-Acts, but I am much less sure about drawing solid conclusions about a Johannine prologue after the first edition of John 1-19.
1 P. Schubert, The Form and Function of the Pauline Thanksgivings (Beihefte zur ZNW, Beiheft XX; Berlin, 1939). (Back to text)
1b [2004: By the time this essay was published in 1973, I no longer took Paul to be the author of 1 Thessalonians, but the argument still stands for the purposes of the present essay. The parallel structure of 1 Thessalonians argues against it being by Paul, as Paul's own epistles are chiastically structured. See on this site Pauline Authorship.] (Back)
2 A. Guilding, The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship (Oxford, 1960), pp. 220-228. (Back)
3 But there is a nucleus of believing Jews even at Rome (Acts 28.24), so that at the end of his two-volumed gospel the third evangelist still maintains the strong linking of the Christian gospel and community with (Pharisaic) Judaism. (Back)
4 For the primacy of the Eusebian form of Matt. 28.19 see Ernst Lohmeyer, "Mir ist gegeben alle Gewalt." in: In Memoriam Ernst Lohmeyer (ed. W. Schmauch), Stuttgart, 1951, pp. 22 ff., especially 28 ff., and H. B. Green, "The Command to Baptize and Other Matthaean Interpolations," Studia Evangelica IV (ed. F. L. Cross), Berlin, 1968, pp. 60 ff. To their arguments we might add that the phrase "in my name" is central to Matthew's theology and is always concerned with obedience to Jesus and Jesus' presence, so that Matt. 28.19b-20 is the spelling out of this content. (Back)
5 See R. H. Lightfoot, History and Interpretation in the Gospels (London, 1935), pp. 89 f. for evidence that the Gentile mission is involved here. (Back)
6 E. Krentz, "The Extent of Matthew's Prologue", Jour. Bib. Lit. 83 (1964), pp. 409-414. The present writer initially arrived at the length of the prologue by a third method which was as follows. The subjects of the three temptations as defined by Jesus' replies in the Matthaean temptation narrative, 4.1-11, are taken up in turn by the three passages which begin with ἀπὸ τότε (4.17; 16.21; 26.16). On this basis 4.17 marks the beginning of the main narrative, and therefore what precedes it must be prologue. For further details see below. (Back)
7 London, 2nd ed., 1965. (Back)
8 The one seeming exception is Isa. 8.18, for here the "signs and wonders" are directed against Israel. But this is actually no exception, since Isaiah and those given to him by God are the righteous Israelites who stand as "signs and wonders" over against an apostate Israel.
"Signs and wonders" is employed in its OT sense in its single occurrence in John (4.48) where it is addressed to the (probably) Gentile official at Capernaum. The feast involved is Purim when Esther is read (cf. LXX Est. 10.3). (Back)
9 The desire to be with Jesus in his glory as voiced by the sons of Zebedee (Mark 10.35 ff.) is cross-referenced to the cross by the phrases "left hand and right hand" (Mark 10.37, 40; 15.27). That the rending of the veil stands for access may be seen by comparing Mark 15.38 with 1.10, the only occurrences of σχίζειν. That Mark 15.38 also refers to loss of the Shekinah from the temple is indicated by Mark 2.21 where σχίσμα is used. These are the only Markan occurrences of either σχίζειν or σχίσμα.
9b [2004: While I still think a case can be made for John 1 to be the prologue of the gospel as it now stands, I have long since detected what I am convinced are four different endings to John. The first "edition" ended with John 19 and the cross and entombment (with the handing over of the Spirit at the cross, in 19.30); this was then extended to John 20.23. Next the rest of John 20 was added, and finally John 21 was appended. If one admits the cogency (as I do) of J. C. Meagher's arguments [see note 13] that John 1.14 originally read πνεῦμα rather than σάρξ, then John 1.1-14 would indeed be the Prologue. This would fit both of the first two endings.] (Back)
10 Has this been placed here at 20.17 instead of after 20.22 because Jesus ascending is opposite of Spirit descending? (Back)
11 Luke 3.23-4.12 is apparently written as the antithesis of Ezra 7.1-10. Ezra 7.1-5: genealogy of Ezra back to "Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest"; cp. Lk. 3.23-38: genealogy of Jesus back to "Adam, the son of God". Ezra 7.6-9: Ezra's confident progress to Jerusalem with "the hand of his God" upon him (vv. 6 and 9); cp. Lk. 4.1 f.: the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tested. Ezra 7.10: "For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgements"; cp. Lk. 4.3-12: the temptations are in the same order, with the devil in the third one attempting to teach Jesus (vv. 10 f.). Ezra comes to set clear limits to who may belong to Israel; Jesus comes to break down these limits. (Back)
12 C. H. Cave, "St. Matthew's Infancy Narrative", N.T.S. 9 (1962/3), pp. 382-390. (Back)
13 Most of these items are self-evident in each prologue, but not all of them are. A. Genesis motif: Mk. 1.1: ἀρχή; Mt. 1.1: βίβλος γενέσεως (Gen. 5.1, LXX); Lk. 11.1: ἀπ᾿ ἀρξῆς; Jn. 1.1: ἐν ἀρχῇ.
That Lk. 1.2 is an allusion to Genesis and creation (and even perhaps Johannine in tone) appears more probable when we compare it to 1 Jn. 1.1. L:k. 1.2: "... us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Logos." 1 Jn. 1.1: "That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Logos of life ..."
That ἀρχή in Mk. 1.1 is intended to be a reference to Gen. 1.1 and creation is indicated by the fact that the word is consistently used with these connotations elsewhere in Mark (10.6; 13.8, 9).
On Isaac typology in the prologues and its relation to Jesus' sacrifice see J. E. Wood, "Isaac Typology in the new Testament", N.T.S. 14 (1967/8), pp. 583-589.
On the Holy Spirit, see J. C. Meagher, "John 1, 14 and the New Temple", J.B.L. 88 (1969), pp. 57-58. Meagher argues cogently that Jn. 1.14a originally read "And the Word became spirit" before it was changed to "flesh" as part of an anti-docetic redaction. Two of his arguments are (1) that 1.14 is similar to passages in other works which are concerned with the Shekinah in the temple, and (2) that "flesh" in a positive sense in 1.14a is difficult to understand immediately after it has been used pejoratively in 1.13. (Back)
14 On the OT confessional pattern see G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh and London, 1962), pp. 121-128. A full discussion of its development has been given by R. Wayrider, The Origins and Development of the Apostolic Preaching (unpublished M.A. dissertation, University of Bristol, 1963). (Back)
15 This can be seen by examining all the passages using ἰσχυρός (Mk. 1.7; 3.27 [bis]) and ἰσχύειν (Mk. 2.17; 5.4; 9.18; 14.37). John speaks of the one stronger than he (1.7) who will baptize with Holy Spirit (1.8). In a context that concerns Satan, kingdom and house (3.23--26) Jesus speaks of binding the strong man, entering his house and plundering his goods (3.27). The sequels to this would appear to be the proleptic ravaging of the temple (11.15-19) which was intended to be a house of prayer for all the Gentiles (11.17) and its fulfilment when the veil of the temple is rent (15.38). In 9.14-29, which I take to be a paradigm of the passion-death-resurrection sequence, the disciples are not strong enough (9.18) to call out the unclean spirit, and Jesus specifies that this kind comes out only by prayer (9.29). This, I am sure, points to Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane (14.32-42).
The lack of strength in mere men is pointed up in 2.17; 5.4 and 14.37.
Passages using δύνασθαι are sometimes significant in Mark, but not always. There seem to be a number of pairs of words in Mark of which the evangelist will use only one significantly and the other word in a less controlled fashion. Another such pair is "unclean spirits" (significant) and "demons" (variable in significance). (Back)
16 That the disciples by themselves are unable to hear in the sense of obey and to see in the sense of confessing and following is the meaning of Jesus' charge against them in Mk. 8.18: "Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?" It is widely recognized that Mark applies certain of the miracles to the needs of the disciples as such. Mark employs this technique to show Jesus as the one who provides them with true hearing and sight in the following fashion.
There are two healings in Mark which involve spitting, that of a deaf-mute (7.32-37) and that of a blind man (8.22-26). These two narratives closely parallel one another, as can be seen in Vincent Taylor's St. Mark (London, 1952), pp. 368 f.
The incident with the deaf-mute who, when healed, hears and speaks "correctly" (7.35), falls between the feeding of the five thousand (6.30-44) and the feeding of the four thousand (8.1-10). In the earlier feeding Jesus is compassionate (6.34), but the disciples want to be rid of the problem as being no concern of theirs and as being apparently beyond Jesus' capacity to handle (6.35: "Send them away!"). Jesus has to use three imperatives before they begin to respond (6.37 f.: "You give them ..."; "Go! See!). Immediately after the feeding Jesus forces the disciples to enter the boat and head for Bethsaida (6.45). This is the only time that Jesus is ever said to force the disciples to do anything, so that we are probably correct if we take Mark to be implying here that merely to have commanded them at this point would have been useless. But in the second feeding (8.1-10) Jesus has only to say, "I have compassion on the crowd" (8.2); the disciples confess their own impotence (8.4: "How can one feed ...?"), but they are prepared to answer unhesitatingly Jesus' question about how many loaves they have (8.5). That is, the disciples can now "hear" in the sense of obeying Jesus' will.
The blind man is healed in two stages at Bethsaida (8.22-26), and then Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi follows immediately. But Peter goes only as far as confessing Jesus as the Christ (8.29), for as soon as Jesus says that the Sonof man must suffer (8.31), Peter stops short and objects (8.32 f.). But as Jesus goes up to Jerusalem we have the healing of blind Bartiamaeus (10..46-52). Bartimaeus hails Jesus with the messianic title, "Son of David" (10.48); that is, he starts out from where Peter left off. Then this blind man, having called for mercy (10.48), that is, knowing that he needs God's grace, springs up and comes to Jesus unaided when called (10.50). And when he sees again, he follows Jesus in the way (10.52), the way to the cross.
If we follow Wellhausen's suggestion as taken up by D. E. Nineham in his Pelican commentary on St Mark (Harmondsworth, Middx., 1963, p. 203), that "Sidon" in 7.31 is a mis-rendering of "Saidan", a variant form of Bethsaida, then both of the spitting healings take place at Bethsaida, which appears to mean "House oif the Provider". If we take it as "House of the Fisher" instead, then it may relate to 1.17: "fishers of men". Bethsaida is the place toward which Jesus forced the disciples in 6.45 and the place where he provides for their hearing and sight. It is a providing that comes from Jesus and not from men, for he is not only the one to be heard and followed, but he is also the one who enables men to hear and follow him.
Against the half-healed blind man's seeing "men like trees walking" (Mk. 8.24) we may place Jotham's parable, the only OT passage in which trees travel (Judg. 9.8-15). The trees, seeking a king, approach three non-candidates before reaching the bramble bush. In Mk. 8.27 f. men have three wrong views of Jesus, and in 8.33 Peter is placed again on the side of men rather than of God. (Back)
17 All this and more is superbly brought out by Eduard Schweizer in "Mark's Contribution to the Quest for the Historical Jesus", N.T.S. 10 (1963-64), pp. 421-432. (Back)
18 This is the obvious conclusion to be drawn from R. H. Lightfoot's demonstration that the apocalyptic traditions reproduced iin Mk. 13 have been anchored by the evangelist to his passion narrative. See The Gospel Message of St. Mark (London: Oxford University Pres, 1950), pp. 48-59. (Back)
18b [2004: This is also related to the wise-powerful-wellborn pattern: 1:1- well-being (faith); 1:some - wisdom (mercy/love); 1:all - power (hope/justice). See on this site Wisdom, Power and Well-being.] (Back)
19 All passages employing ἄνθρωποι (plural) are concerned with contrasting men's ways with God and God's ways (Mk. 1.17; 7.8, 21; 8.24, 27, 33; 9.31; 10.27; 11.30, 32; 12.14. If the foregoing passages are viewed first, then the remaining two passages using "men" gain in meaning: Mk. 3.28 and 11.2). (Back)
20 The verb ἐκπλήσσομαι is concerned with the reaction to Jesus' teaching about the way of the cross (Mk. 1.22; 6.2; 7.37; 10.26; 11.18). On Jesus' teaching in Mark as being about the way of the cross, see E. Schweizer, op.cit., pp. 422-425, 427 f. (Back)
21 All occurrences of ὁράω and οἶδα (except 12.15, the one time that Jesus is the subject of οἶδα) are concerned with seeing Jesus as the Son of God in the cross and in his mission to all men. We have seen that the disciples' eyes are opened with regard to the way of the cross (see above n. 16). (Back)
22 Mark contrasts those who are "in a/the house," i.e., followers of Jesus, to those who are "outside," i.e. non-followers of Jesus. See J. C. Fenton, "Paul and Mark," in Studies in the Gospels ed. by D. E. Nineham (Oxford, 1957), p. 99 and n. 1. (Back)
23 See above, n. 15. (Back)
24 Cf. Mk. 2.26 and all passages, especially Mk. 15.31 f. (Back)
25 This is parallel to Jesus before the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, Mk 14.53-72. (Back)
26 Cf. 1.5; cp. 1.38: "Let us go in-another-direction () to the [places] having village-towns." (Back)
27 "End," τέλος, is used in 3.26; 13.7, 13. 13.7: "When you hear of wars, etc. be not troubled. It must come to pass, but the end is not yet." (The motif of "be not troubled2 is probably parallel to the water-walking, 6.50; cf. also 4.39 f.) 13.13: "And you shall be hated by all men for my name's sake, buthe that endures to the end, the same shall be saved." (Cp. Peter's avowal, 14.39, and his denial of the name, 14.66-72.)
The end of Satan, his kingdom and house, should be seen in contrast to the uses of ἀρχή, 1.1, etc., and
ἤγγικεν, 1.15b, all of which are (new or renewed) creation ideas connected with the Kingdom of God and the spiritual Temple, the "house of prayer for all nations/Gentiles," 11.17. (Back)
28 For indications that the Gentile mission is involved see R. H. Lightfoot, History and Interpretation in the Gospels (London, 1935), pp. 89 f. (Back)
29 Mk. 4.35 f.: He says to them, "Let us go ..." They take him ...; cp. Mk 10.49: Jesus: "You call him" (i.e. Bartimaeus); Disciples: "He calls you." The apparent inversions in each passage serve to indicate that the disciples' mission is the continuation of Jesus' mission. (Back)
30 As John's passion is preceded by a woman dancing (6.22), so Jesus' betrayal by Judas (14.10) is immediately preceded by the anointing of Jesus by a woman at Bethany (14.3-9). Note also that the widow casting her mites into the Temple treasury (12.41-44) is immediately followed by Jesus' pronouncement of the Temple's coming destruction (13.1 f. - cf. 15.38).
We may also note that in the only two occurrences of ἡδέως Herod hears John "gladly" (6.20) and the large crowd hears Jesus "gladly" (12.27). (Back)
31 Gen. 47.2: five men represent all Israel; Gen. 49.28: twelve tribes; Gen. 46.27: seventy total Israelites go to Egypt. Thus the numbers 5, 12 and 70 are symbolic numbers for Israel and 'true Jews.' See the "five brothers" of Lk. 16.28 in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. (Back)
32 See above, note 6, for the significance of the forcing and of Bethsaida. (Back)
33 For Saida, a variant form of Bethsaida, as the location see Nineham, St Mark, p. 203. (Back)
34 See above, note 6. (Back)
35 See above, note 6. (Back)
36 It is our contention that 1.2 and 1.3 are each intende to be taken in more than one sense. With 1.2 we may also compare 13.27: He will send the to gather the elect from everywhere. (Back)
37 The wilderness here and elsewher3 in Mark is a theological motif, not a geographical one. See W. Marxsen, Mark the Evangelist (Nashville, Eng. tr. 1969), p. 37, and U. W. Mauser, Christ in the Wilderness (S.B.T. No. 39; London, 1963). (Back)
38 Mk. 1.6 appears to be an interpolation added to identify John as Elijah returned; cf. 9.11-13. (Back)
39 Targum Jerushalmi taught that there were four Passovers of special significance; o0n the fourth Messiah would come on the clouds with Moses from the wilderness. This same tradition was known to the Samaritans (cf. Memar Marqa). See J. Bowman, The Gospel of Mark: The New Christian Jewish Passover Haggadah (Leiden, 1965), p. 52. (Back)
40 For Mk. 15.21, the laying of the cross on Simon the father of Alexander (= 'striving man' = Jacob) and Rufus (= 'red' = Edom = Esau) as Isaac typology, see G. W. Lampe and K. J. Woollcombe, Essays on Typology (S.B.T. No. 22; London, 1957), p. 40 and n. 1. This is the only time that Mark uses his epiphany-indicating verb παράγειν, "to pass by," without Jesus as its subject, so that Simon is to be seen either as a symbol for Jesus or, as I think more likely, for Simon Peter in his ultimate crucifixion as attested by the tradition of Jn. 21.18 f. On "passing by" as an epiphanous motif see E. Lohmeyer, "Und Jesus ging vorüber," Nieuw Theologisch Tidjschrift (Haarlem, 1934), pp. 206-224. (Back)
41 Note that the parallel to Mk. 1.11 is the cry of the unclean spirit in Mk. 1.24: "I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God." In the Servant Songs God is Israel's Holy One (Isa. 43.15, also 41.20; 43.3); thus this may be coupled in Mk. 1.24 with Israel's calling to be holy as God is holy (Lev. 11.44; etc.). (Back)
42 This is further confirmed by Mk. 9.11-13 with its semi-cryptic linking of John as Elijah with Jesus as Son of man. (Back)
43 See above n. 5. (Back)
44 That this was a major problem as time passed by, and increasingly so, is probably to be seen in the shifts from the strongly missionary thrust of Paul's view of the Church's function to the apparent need to have missionary endings to the gospels (including Jn. 21), and finally to the shift to a blunting of the missionary drive in such ,ate writings as the pastoral epistles and 1 and 2 Peter. On this final shift see F. Hahn, Mission in the New Testament (Eng. tr., London, 1965) pp. 140 ff. (German: 122 ff.). (Back)
45 See the forcing of 'Isaac' in 12.8 and 15.21, and the forcing of the disciples in 6.45. Do these perhaps indicate that the way of the cross is not to be viewed as desirable but rather to be accepted when necessity demands it? Perhaps Ignatius of Antioch was not the only early Christian to desire martyrdom. (Back)
46 For an excellent study of the Hellenistic background see A. D. Nock, "Studies in the Graeco-Roman Beliefs of the Empire," Journal of Hellenic Studies, 45 (1925), pp. 84-101. (Back)
47 K. Stendahl, "The Place of the Matthaean Gospel in the Development of Early Christianity," a lecture delivered on 14 September, 1965, at Oxford to the Third International Congress of New Testament Studies (I know nothing of its subsequent publication). (Back)
48 For a more detailed exposition of this see my earlier articles, "The Son of God as the Torah Incarnate in Matthew," Studia Evangelica IV (Berlin, 1968), pp. 38-46, and "Purpose and Pattern in Matthew's Use of the title 'Son of David,'" N.T.S. 10 (1963-64), pp. 446-464.
A characteristic shift from Mark is that the Markan triad of "Jesus, Christ, God's son" (Mk. 1.1) is changed to "Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham (Mt. 1.1). [2004: I erred in this. Matthew's real triad in 1.1. is "Jesus: Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham. See Wisdom, Power and Well-being.] Equivalents are used which maintain the triad of the One, the Messiah of the Jews, and the promise for all men (Abraham's seed, Gen. 12.3; 22.18; Gal. 3.8, 16-19), but, unlike the terms they replace, these can have no meaning apart from Israel and the scriptures. If we accept that Mt. 1.1 is a conscious re-writing of Mk. 1.1, then Matthew must have read "God's Son" in his copy of Mk. 1.1. (Back)
49 In Mark this incident is concerned with keeping the Church from becoming a tightly closed community that is unwilling to work with all men of good will. Matthew also omits Mk. 9.40: "For he that is not against us is for us." See Matt. 10.33 on the necessity of confessing Jesus before men if one would not be denied by Jesus before his Father. (Back)
50 In Mark this is one of a number of incidents in which Jewish expectations are turned upside down. Instead of uncleanness passing from the woman to Jesus as a Jew would expect, healing power passes from him to her and she herself becomes clean. (Back)
51 In the words of J. L. McKenzie, "It is the history of Israel that sets Jesus apart from all culture heroes, king-saviors, cosmic men, and mythological bearers of life; or, in more modern terms, from political saviors, economic prophets, scientific sages, military heroes, psychotherapist bearers of life. It is remarkable, it is even sharply surprising, when one reflects that only as the Savior of Israel can Jesus be recognized as none of these other things. If this be mythology, make the most of it!" in "The Significance of the Old Testament for Christian Faith in Roman Catholicism," in The Old Testament and Christian Faith ed. by B. W. Anderson (New York, 1963), p. 109. (Back)
52 Cf. Lk. 16.16 where the phrase marks the shift from promissory Torah to inaugurated Kingdom. (Back)
53 The 'earthly' Jesus is confessed by men in Matthew as:
(a) "Son of David" according to the flesh, i.e. confessed by "natural" man (by Gentiles: Magi, 2.1-12; Canaanite, 15.21-28; by the blind: 9.27-31; 20.29-34; by crowd of Jews: 21.8 f.; by children: 20.15);
(b) "Son of God" according to the Spirit, i.e. by disciples under the pressure of the praeternatural (14.33; 16.16 f.; 27.54);
(c) "The Christ" only "before the time" (8.29; cp. 1.16 f. where "Christ" is the fourteenth generation; cf. 16.20 silence that "this is the Christ", 17.9 silence about the vision of glory);
(d) "The King of the Jews" meek and lowly on the cross (cp. Mk. 10.40 to Mt. 22.21: for Mark Jesus is in his glory on the cross, but for Matthew he is in his Kingdom). (Back)
54 An important pair of paralleled narratives consists of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24.13-33) and the story of the Ethiopian eunuch (Ac. 8.26-39). See Luke 24.13-33 and Acts 8.26-39: Emmaus Incident and Eunuch's Baptism. (Back)
55 After A.D. 70 the Herodians, Sadducees, and priests (with their scribes) were no longer a force to be reckoned with. The Pharisees and their scribes were now dominant, and Luke-Acts exonerates them of complicity ij Jesus' death while laying the blame on the Herodians, Sadducees, the priests and priestly scribes. Like Israel murmuring in the wilderness, the Pharisees and their scribes murmur against Jesus (Lk. 15.2; cf. 19.7), but they warn him of Herod's murderous intention (Lk. 13.31). Paul remains a Pharisee in Luke-Acts )Ac. 23.6) and Pharisaic scribes are said to find no evil in him (Ac. 23.9). (Back)
56 See J. van Goudoever, "The Place of Israel in Luke's Gospel," Nov. Test. 8 (1966), pp. 111-123. (Back)
57 The so-called "Lucan Greater Omission" (Mk 6.45-8.26) is chiefly about the Gentile mission, and its components are shifted to Acts. Mk. 7.1-23: all foods are clean (i.e. Jews may eat with Gentiles); cf. Ac. 10.9-16: Peter's vision. Mk. 7.24-30: conditions of Gentile admission (Syro-Phoenician woman); cf. Ac. 15.1-30: the "apostolic decree", Mk. 8.1-10: feeding 4,000 (Jews eat with Gentiles); cf. Ac. 10.48-11.15: Peter and Cornelius. In keeping with this, Jesus never goes to clearly Gentile territory (e.g. Tyre) or into Samaria. (Back)
58 The Exodus pattern as found in Dt. 26.5-9 appears to control the whole of the Jesus narrative and to occur repeatedly in the life of the Church and the work of the apostles in Acts. The pattern in Dt. 26.5-98 is (1) initial success, (2) oppression, (3) vindication, and (4) greater success. In Jesus' way (1) is the ministry with "many thousands" flocking to him (Lk. 12.1, a Lukan addition), (2) is the passion, (3) is the resurrection, an (4) is the ascension and the Church's expanding witness by the power of the Holy Spirit. This may help to explain why the ascension is so clearly a separate event in Luke-acts.
It lies beyond our present purposes to see how this pattern is repeated many times in Acts, but it was obviously germane to the evangelist for the purpose of encouraging Christians to persevere indefinitely, trusting the Holy Spirit in the face of all odds. (Back)
59 Each of these new stages, which are inaugurated by the Spirit, is subsequently ratified by the apostles at Jerusalem. (Back)
60 Isaac's sacifice as expiatory: IV Macc. 7.14; 13.12; 16.20; 18.11; Philo on Balaam Deborah and Jephthah 18.6; 22.2-4; Josephus, J. ant., I, xiii,1-4; cf. Test. Levi 18.6, 7. See J. E. Wood, op. cit. (see above note 13); H. J. Schoeps, "The Sacrifice of Isaac in Paul's Theology," Jour. Bib. Lit. 65 (1946), pp. 141-149; G. Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism (Leiden, 1961), pp. 193-225; S. Spiegel, The Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume (New York, 1950), pp. 471-547. (Back)
61 The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship (Oxford, 1960). (Back)