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[Synoptic-L] Re: Matthean & Markan fatigue?

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  • John Lupia
    Synoptic-L@bham.ac.uk Leonard wrote: Why does it matter (for this discussion) what Matt 18:1-5 has? In my article on Lk 9:46-48 [snip] Thank you Leonard for
    Message 1 of 9 , Apr 2, 2002
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      Leonard wrote:
      Why does it matter (for this discussion) what Matt
      18:1-5 has? In my article on Lk 9:46-48 [snip]

      Thank you Leonard for drawing attention to this
      particular parallel. I think a good discussion on it
      should be very helpful and quite useful for those who
      hold to different positions regarding Gospel priority.

      Who is the Greatest? (Mt 18:1-5//Mk 9:33-37//Lk
      9:46-48) [Mohammed Ali's question to the magic-mirror
      on the wall]

      1. The Setting

      Lk 9:46-48 Jesus and the disciples are still in the
      vicinity outside of Bethsaida, north on the Sea of
      Galilee, on the east bank in Herod-Philip's territory.
      It is their tenth day there (Lk 9:28 + 37) and they
      have just descended the mountain after the
      transfiguration. Immediately preceding this narrative
      of Lk 9:46-48 Jesus cast out a demon of a sick boy
      which the disciples could not do on the father's
      request. Jesus rebukes both the demon in the boy to
      expel it, and the disciples for their lack of faith.
      Jesus predicts that he will be betrayed (Mt
      17:22-23//Mk 9:30-32//Lk 9:43b-45), but the disciples
      do not understand what he is saying in this regard.
      Then Lk describes a quarrel among the disciples as to
      which among them is greatest. (Note: Joseph Fitzmyer,
      The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (AB 28; Doubleday,
      N.Y., 1979):815-18 is clearly dated especially
      regarding the analysis of the geography and of little
      or no use.)

      Mt 18:1-5 takes place at Capernaum. What is
      interesting is the previous itinerary: they had left
      Galilee (Mt 14:34) to go to Tyre and Sidon (Mt 15:21)
      then moved on to some unidentified place to a mountain
      there (Mt 15:29); then they went to Magadan (Mt
      16:39) a place unidentifiable somewhere perhaps along
      the Golanian Bethsaida plain on the western bank of
      the Sea of Galilee, and not identifiable with either
      Megiddo too far to the SW, nor with Magdala on the
      west bank side in Galilee. In Mt 16:5 they cross over
      to the other side apparently still on foot and go to
      Caesarea-Philippi (Mt 16:13//Mk 8:27). However,
      Magadan might have been a scribal corruption in MS
      transmission of Magdala in Galilee and Mt 16:5
      crossing over would then signify going back to the
      east bank where they arrive in Caesarea-Philippi (Mt
      16:13). In Mt 17:22 they are in Galilee and reach
      Capernaum (Mt 17:24). No text is given regarding the
      sojourn from the east to the west bank of the Sea of
      Galilee. We must assume it and extrapolate it from
      the Matthean text. Once at Capernaum the question
      arises of the temple tax and Peter's miraculous catch
      of the fish with a coin for the tax payment takes
      place (Mt 17:24-27). Then there is a question posed
      to Jesus by the disciples about who is greatest in

      Mt's itinerary starts (1) on the west Galilean shore
      and then (2) goes north to the Sidonian region then
      (3) SE to some unidentified place (4) to Magadan, (5)
      to Caesarea-Philippi, (6) return to Galilee, (7) to
      enter Capernaum.

      Mk 9:33-37 Jesus and the disciples pass from
      Caesarea-Philippi (Mk 8:27) then go into Galilee (Mk
      9:30) and arrive in Capernaum. In Galilee, Jesus'
      prediction of his betrayal, death and resurrection (Mt
      17:22-23//Mk 9:30-32//Lk 9:43b-45), which they could
      not understand, precedes their arrival into Capernaum.
      Mk 2:1 states that Jesus lived in a house there (EN
      OIKWN ESTIN) which signifies in Mk 9:33 (EN TH OIKIA
      GENOMENOS) that they were in Jesus' house in
      Capernaum. Jesus asks them what they were arguing
      about on their way to his home.


      The Synoptics disagree where the "Who is the
      Greatest?" question takes place. It is near
      Julias-Bethsaida in Luke and at Capernaum in Galilee
      in Mt and Mk.

      Luke has it occur on the tenth day in the region of
      Golanian Bethsaida, (not the same place as Andrew,
      Peter and Philip's home town in Galilee in Jn 1:44;
      12:21 nor identified with the Galilean city which
      Jesus condemns (Mt 11:21//Lk 10:13). This region east
      of the Jordan belonged to Herod-Philip (Josephus,
      Antiq. 17, 189). Golanian Bethsaida was given legal
      status as a city in AD 30, about 7 years before Lk's
      Gospel, and also given the Gentile name Julias,
      honoring Tiberius' mother (see Josephus, Antiq. 18,
      2.1,28 saying correctly that it was Augustus' [and of
      Scribonia] daughter; see also H. W. Kuhn and R. Arav,
      "The Bethsaida Excavations: Historical and
      Archaeological Approaches," in the Festschrift-- The
      Future of Christianity, Essays in Honor of Helmut
      Koester. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991). If a
      coherence is seen between Lk and Jn on this score
      identifying the Galilean Bethsaida then some of the
      apostles were very familiar with the region
      surrounding the city and would help account for the
      prolonged stay there having some rationale and
      practicality. However, I do not hold to this view.
      One must keep in mind that the archaeological evidence
      points to two Bethsaidas: Julias or the Golanian
      Bethsaida and the Galilean Bethsaida. (See B. Pixner,
      "Searching for the New Testament Site of Bethsaida,"
      BA 48 (1985):207-16. However, Pixner gets the
      applications wrong in the NT narratives. R. Arav and
      R. Freund, eds., Bethsaida (Kirksville, MO, 1995)
      however get it correct as modern et-Tell (208255)
      which was first excavated in 1987). Lk 8:26 has them
      opposite Galilee supporting that the Bethsaida
      identified is in Herod Philip's territory on the east
      bank of the Sea of Galilee. Lk 9:7-9 indicates that
      the news of Jesus' activities in Herod-Philip's
      territory had already spread in Galilee so that Herod
      Antipas knew about what was happening there.

      Whereas, Mt and Mk have Jesus and the disciples return
      from the territory of Herod-Philip back to Galilee
      where they enter the city of Capernaum. More
      particularly, Mk 2:1;6:1; 9:33 has Jesus back in his
      hometown, Capernaum.

      The "deserted place" in Mk 6:31ff is apparently in
      Galilee, on the western plain of Genneserat, whereas,
      in Luke and Mt it is opposite Galilee (see Mt 14:34)
      on the eastern plain of the Sea of Galilee known as
      the plain of Golanian Bethsaida. Mk 6:45 has them
      take a boat to Galilean Bethsaida (see Mk 6:53// Mt
      14:34) which necessitates sailing parallel along the
      western Galilean shoreline. Since the crowds follow
      on foot and arrive ahead of them (Mk 6:33) he must be
      speaking of a "deserted place" in Galilee consistent
      with this parallel to the shore sailing. It would
      further complicate the narrative in Mk had they
      actually been in the right place on the Golanian
      Bethsaida plain. Yet, Mk has them cross the lake
      (copying from Mt) to Bethsaida in Mk 6:45 as the
      Galilean city by that name (see Mk 6:53) giving us an
      extraordinarily confused geography and a conundrum
      apodictically demonstrating "fatigue" and perhaps one
      of the best examples.

      According to Luke, regarding the location of the
      question "Who is the Greatest?" they had been in
      Capernaum earlier (Lk 7:1), not now when the question
      is posed. The confusions by the later writer Mk on
      the geography point to his writing in the late 60's
      and less knowledgeable about Palestine, not one like
      Matthew who wrote a decade earlier or Luke who wrote
      30 years earlier who like Matthew knew Palestine and
      Judaism very well.

      2. The Question

      Lk 9:46-48 a discussion among them concerns who is the
      greatest among them. Jesus could read their hearts.
      He takes a "little child" (PAIDION) and places it at
      his side. Then Jesus says something rather curious.
      He says, "Whoever receives this child in my name
      receives me, and having received me receives the one
      who sent me. So, even the least among you is great."
      Lk's narrative shows that greatness has nothing to do
      with any attribute or quality any disciple might have.
      Jesus placing the child next to himself paints the
      picture of a canon [measure] of physical proportion.
      This is especially apparent since the adjective of the
      question is MEIZON the comparative degree. The height
      of Christ is now compared to the physical height of
      the little child to draw the analogy. Jesus is
      obviously the one who is great. There is also an
      obvious sense of humor being demonstrated here. A
      deliberate pun on physical height and being great is
      clearly made. The punchline that even the least or
      physically smallest (or on another level of language
      having less attributes or qualities) is irrelevant
      since they are all great due to Jesus giving them
      authority and dignity as his representatives. Jesus is
      what makes them great. On a literary level one gets
      the sense that Jesus was relieving the tension in the
      air and mood (since he knew their hearts) by his use
      of levity. However, on another level of language a
      philosophical principle is being demonstrated. What
      makes them [the disciples] great is the authority and
      the dignity that goes with it that Jesus equally gives
      to all of them. People will receive them because of
      the authority of Jesus, and doing so they receive them
      as vicars of Christ and so receive Jesus and the
      Father who sent him. The narrative's imagery is
      clean and clear and simple like First through Third
      Style period painting. It is interesting that the boy
      (PAIDA) in Lk 9:42 is contrasted to the "little child"
      (PAIDION) in this narrative.

      Mt 18:1-5 poses a different question. The disciples
      ask Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of
      heaven? Jesus takes a "little child" (PAIDION) and
      places it in their midst. Then Jesus says "unless you
      become like children you will never enter the kingdom
      of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is
      the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever may
      receive such a child in my name receives me. Mt has
      Jesus place a little child in their midst as a canon
      [measure] among them. The saying, "unless you become
      like children you will never enter the kingdom of
      heaven." addresses this canon of comparison, but does
      not address the question. It is a negative answer
      since it demonstrates "being little" or "not great" is
      a criteria to enter heaven. In this sense the analogy
      has disarmed the question and shows that their
      thoughts were misdirected criticizing the form of the
      question. Then Jesus says, Whoever becomes humble
      like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of
      heaven. Now, this second statement is a bit puzzling.
      If one must be like a "little child" in order to
      enter the kingdom of heaven then emulating the
      humility of the child must be part of that criteria to
      begin with. So, to single out that feature "humility"
      makes little sense in the narrative since it is
      implied and understood from the previous verse. The
      third statement of Jesus, " Whoever may receive such a
      child in my name receives me." is now even far more
      puzzling and does not fit into the flow of the
      narrative at all. It is a true howler showing fatigue
      that Mt's changes to Lk slip him up and creates an
      unsustained narrative riddled with inconsistencies.
      The narrative's imagery is cluttered and frilly like
      Fourth Style period painting.

      Mk 9:33-37 after entering Capernaum and then into
      Jesus' house there he asks the disciples: "What were
      you arguing about along the way?" Mk says they became
      silent since they were debating about which among them
      was greatest. Without being told what they were
      arguing about Jesus sits down and says, "Whoever wants
      to be first must be last and servant of all." Then he
      took a "little child" (PAIDION) and put it in their
      midst. Then he picks up the child and holds it in his
      arms and says, "Whoever receives one such as "these
      children" in my name receives me and whoever receives
      me receives not [only] me but [also] the one who sent
      me. Mk 9:35 starts with a fatigue blunder where he
      now calls the disciples "the twelve". Mk copies from
      Lk clearly having known "Jesus could read their
      hearts" but abbreviates the text omitting it. The
      text reads that Jesus is never told what they were
      discussing yet Jesus knows, clearly indicating fatigue
      resulting from changes to Lk. (See Moses Aberbach,
      "The Relations Between Master and Disciple in the
      Talmudic Age" in Essays Presented to Chief Rabbi
      Israel Brodie on the Occasion of His Seventieth
      Birthday (London: Soncino, 1965) The first
      development in Mk's narrative is more like a maxim or
      adage: "Whoever wants to be first must be last and
      servant of all." This focuses on their "humility"
      found in Mt, and adds the service aspect where each
      must serve the rest. Then Mk has Jesus begins to
      exhibit odd behavior. He puts a little child in their
      midst. He says nothing. Howler, howler, howler! Mk
      is clearly using Mt here making very odd changes.
      Then Jesus picks up the little child and holds it in
      his arms and says something strange: "Whoever receives
      one such as "these children" in my name receives me
      and whoever receives me receives not [only] me but
      [also] the one who sent me. It seems as though
      placing the little child in their midst
      ritualistically and magically made the disciples like
      little children. Jesus picks up the "real little
      child" and then says referring to the disciples "these
      children". Howler!! Mk's narrative is suffering from
      obvious fatigue resulting from changes to Lk and Mt.
      The narrative's imagery like Mt's is also cluttered
      and frilly like Fourth Style period painting. Mann
      correctly staes: "Mark, following the Matthean order ,
      severely condensed material he gathered from Matthew
      and Luke and made of that condensation the results
      before us." (C. S. Mann, Mark (AB 27; Doubleday, N.Y.,

      Best regards,

      John N. Lupia
      501 North Avenue B-1
      Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA

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