The Source and Sequence of the Gospels
Who wrote what first, who wrote what last?
If the Gospels are not genuine, then whether or not we accept them or reject them is of no real concern. But if on the other hand they are genuine, if they are the real McCoy, then our decision to either accept or reject them then carries with it the most grave consequence.
JOHN 12:49-50 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.
If MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE and JOHN can be trusted to reflect what Yeshua (Jesus) taught (JOHN 13:20), then the Gospels must be our guide, our helmsman, steering us into the truth of what GOD would have us to know. Howbeit, if not, if they are fakes, or so riddled with errors that they can't be trusted, then why spend our time even reading them, or writing upon them? Why not find some other endeavor or past time that better suits our fancy?
Here in this Study we are devoted to the idea that these Gospels do represent the true words of GOD as spoken by HIS Son. Our present-day versions do not necessarily preserve those original GOD-breathed words, but the more we read and re-read, the longer we search and re-search, the deeper we dig and examine and re-examine the relics, the closer we become to those original words of GOD.
Howbeit, it must be admitted at the outset that no one can say with certainty who precisely wrote any ancient document. The best we can do is to gather all of the evidence and then with no preconceived assumptions, make our best judgments.
Among scholars, it has been a common conjecture for some time that none of the Gospels were written by any of Yeshua's immediate followers. They proclaim with certainty that the apostle Matthew did not write MATTHEW nor did the apostle John write JOHN, but later hands assembled scraps of tradition which they found lying or scattered around and then assembled them into the works we now have. They deduce that MARK was written first, then sometime later someone unknown wrote what we call MATTHEW and about the same time someone else wrote what we call LUKE. Thus, few of these scholars believe that any of the Gospels were written even during the lifetime of Yeshua's apostles.
It is further assumed that all three were taken from some unknown source called "Q". The theories are conflicting, sometimes even hostile to one another, but generally this is how they fall out when the dust settles. Of course JOHN was written much later, so the theory goes, by some un-agreed upon John.
Many new students of the scriptures are devastated to learn of these startling theories concerning the origins of the Gospels, and too many leave their studies altogether, never realizing that these are just the notions and speculations of unbelieving theologians and scholars, who possess no proof whatsoever to substantiate their conjectures.
If the apostles Matthew and John were not the original writers of their respective Gospels, and if Luke did not give a faithful rendering of those things which were believed among them (LUKE 1:3), then what are we left with? What is our faith to be built upon if we have no confidence that what is itself deemed to be the gospel of our Lord, is not really so?
If we are not confident that Yeshua taught the Sermon on the Mount, then why even waste our time reading it? If we do not trust the Gospels when it comes to His miracles, then how can we trust the Gospels about Him being raised from among the dead and seated at GOD's right hand?
Our perspective as set forth here, is that all of the Christian scriptures which are generally called the New Testament, were written by the persons to whom they have been attributed since the earliest of Christian times; unless of course it can be proved otherwise. The apostles Matthew and John wrote those accounts accredited to them. Luke, the companion of Paul wrote the Gospel and the ACTS which have his name connected with them. Mark then, probably with Peter's assistance and corroboration, wrote the Gospel attributed to him.
Thus, in this study we will go through the synoptic Gospels, diligently comparing MATTHEW, MARK and LUKE with one another as they crisscross each other's paths, to see if any of this bears up under scrutiny.
If we believe the Gospels to be authentic, then we have no choice but to accept the fact that all of the evangelists had to have written prior to 70 A.D. when the nation of Israel was laid waste by the Romans, and her city and temple were utterly destroyed. The fact that nothing at all is mentioned by any writer of the Christian scriptures about this cataclysmic event, is strong and compelling evidence that they must have been written prior to it.
Shortly thereafter Yeshua returned and gathered together His followers into heaven, exactly as He had promised (MATTHEW 16:28). Any and every Church event which happened after 70 A.D. was without and apart from any influence of the original disciples and apostles. This of course explains why many Church Traditions are so far removed from what is plainly written of in the Bible. To read more on Christ's Return occurring around 70 A.D., refer to Whatever Happened to Timothy?
Matthew was one of the actual eyewitnesses concerning most of the events which he described. Of course he didn't join the Twelve until 9:9 (which parallels closely with MARK 5:21 and LUKE 8:40); therefore much of what he wrote prior to this time had to be gotten from personal interviews, which of course would have been easy for a person in his position.
He evidently wrote for a Jewish audience, for he referenced many passages from their Hebrew Bible which the other evangelists did not. In fact, Matthew himself quoted the Hebrew Bible no less then eleven times. Mark and Luke only quoted it once each, while John quoted it eight times. For a complete list of Gospel quotations from the Hebrew Bible, go here.
Very possibly he wrote first in Aramaic and then he or another disciple later translated his gospel into Greek for the rapidly expanding foreign missions. For a concise and well written elucidation upon Matthew's original Gospel, see Clementine Gospel Tradition, chapter 14, by Dennis Barton. There is a link on our Library page under Biblical History.
Luke was a close companion of the apostle Paul and traveled with him extensively for many years. He no doubt interviewed many old disciples (ACTS 21:16) as they journeyed from home fellowship to home fellowship. Luke even says as much in the opening verses of his Gospel.
RSV LUKE 1:1-3 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.
Luke's sources were eyewitnesses, and he gathered the facts of the case which he had investigated thoroughly so as to work his way back to the truth. Being removed from the actual events by many years, he did his utmost to seek out those who were genuine participants, and then from their testimony to accurately reconstruct what had occurred.
Mark on the other hand, recorded many incidents as though he was actually present with Yeshua and the Twelve, which of course he was not. He wrote of Yeshua feeling, or touching, or looking around on His disciples as if some actual observer was assisting him in his writing.
Though Mark was probably not an original follower of Yeshua, he was nevertheless an early disciple. He is noted to have traveled with the apostle Paul, but later attached himself to Peter (1 PETER 5:13). Luke wrote that when Peter was freed by the angel from Herod's prison, that he then went directly to Mark's mother's house (ACTS 12:12). This suggests to us that there may have been some sort of bond between them.
According to the ancient historian Eusebius, we are told that a certain Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, explained the origin of Mark's Gospel.
But so great a light of godliness shone upon the minds of Peter's listeners that they were not satisfied with a single hearing or with the oral teaching of the divine proclamation. So, with all kinds of exhortations they begged Mark (whose Gospel is extant), since he was Peter's follower, to leave behind a written record of the teaching given to them, and thus they became the immediate cause of the Scripture called "The Gospel According to Mark."
Church History 2.15
Accordingly, there has been put forth a good argument that Mark, with Peter at his side, together wrote the Gospel which has been attributed to him (Re-dating the New Testament, John A. T. Robinson). They may have even had Matthew and Luke's Gospels before them as they wrote, which would explain their similarities. One purpose of this study is to test that theory. Let us now begin our exciting quest.
John the Baptist
(MATTHEW 3:1-4 MARK 1:4-6 LUKE 3:2-3)
Very possibly Matthew was one of the publicans who had heard John the Baptist preach (LUKE 3:12) and this may have been where Yeshua first noticed him. Matthew may even have been introduced to Yeshua there at one of John's Baptisms.
There is also compelling evidence that each of the twelve apostles had witnessed Yeshua's baptism (ACTS 1:21-22). Thus, Peter himself was very likely one of John's early disciples along with his brother Andrew (JOHN 1:40-41). These two (Matthew and Peter) would therefore know John well enough to describe his peculiar attire, even his unusual diet.
Hence, both MATTHEW and MARK (perhaps from Peter's recollection) said that John "had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey". Luke described only what John taught, which is what we would expect from him who only did personal interviews of those who heard John preach, but never himself had actually met John.
We must remember, the purpose of Luke's record is to give a declaration concerning what they believed as it pertained to Yeshua. What John the Baptist taught was vital to his record, but what he wore and ate could have easily of been passed over. Yet Matthew and Peter were describing events which they vividly remembered, thus they would have depicted John as they saw and knew him.
(MATTHEW 3:13-17 MARK 1:9-11 LUKE 3:21-22)
It is curious that only Matthew recorded the personal conversation which occurred between John and Yeshua when He came to be baptized.
MATTHEW 3:14-15 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Even though all twelve of the apostles were apparently present at His baptism, Matthew alone recorded John's hesitation and reluctance about baptizing Yeshua. There is no evidence that anyone recognized Yeshua's uniqueness until after His baptism, so the crowds who had assembled at the river were probably not paying much attention when Yeshua approached to be baptized. No doubt by some accident or coincidence Matthew heard their private exchange.
It should also be observed that only Matthew and Mark noted that the heavens were opened and the spirit descended down upon Yeshua immediately after He came up out of the water (MATTHEW 3:16 and MARK 1:10). This is an observation which perhaps only someone who was present would have noticed and then remembered to include in his Gospel. Luke wrote only that "the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him" (LUKE 3:22) but did not say exactly when it happened. The dove was something all of the witnesses would remember and re-tell through the years, but precisely when it happened might only be noted by an actual witness.
These are critical details we must gather together if we ever hope to arrive at an accurate understanding of what exactly went on. GOD has hid a treasure trove of riches between the lines of HIS word if we are willing to take the time to search them out.
MATTHEW 4:1-11 MARK 1:12-13 LUKE 4:1-13)
It has often been commented upon that MATTHEW and LUKE give the three temptations of Christ in different orders. With MATTHEW, it's first the turning of stones into bread, then setting Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and then finally showing Yeshua all the kingdoms of the world (MATTHEW 4:1-11). But in Luke's account (LUKE 4:1-13), the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world before he set Him on the pinnacle of the temple.
It appears that the answer to what many have wrestled with is a simple one. As an apostle, Matthew was closest to the source of the record. He may even have gotten the account from Yeshua Himself. Yet Luke came to this knowledge many years after the fact and no doubt was not sure of the precise order of the events. This is evident in the wording of both Matthew and Luke.
Four times in Matthew's account he used the Greek word tote, which means then; "Then was Jesus led up" (verse one), "Then the devil taketh him" (verse five), "Then saith Jesus unto him" (verse ten), and "Then the devil leaveth him" (verse eleven). Matthew was very sure of his sequence. Yet Luke never used any reference to a sequence. With him it's "Jesus....was led" (4:1), "And the devil taking him" (4:5), "And he brought him to Jerusalem" (4:9), and "when the devil had ended all the temptation" (4:13). Luke was careful not to say that these temptations necessarily happened in the order which he lists them, but Matthew was. Therefore it is a safe bet to allow Matthew's order as the correct one and Luke's an order that was obtained from sources long after the event.
Something else important to be noticed in the three Gospels. Matthew and Mark (through Peter) both noted that after Yeshua's temptations, He began His preaching only after John the Baptist was cast into prison, yet Luke made no connection at all between John's imprisonment and Yeshua beginning His ministry. He only gave a passing comment early on concerning John's imprisonment, even before he baptized Yeshua (LUKE 3:20).
Perhaps this is because Peter and probably Matthew were both followers, if not disciples of the Baptist and were keenly aware of his movements and consequent imprisonment and death. Matthew was called by Yeshua to join Him only after John's imprisonment (MATTHEW 9:9), and there is every reason to believe that Peter himself did not commit fully to Yeshua until sometime after John's imprisonment (LUKE 5:1-11). Of course Luke never knew John personally, and his imprisonment had little bearing upon Luke's purpose for writing.
Yeshua departed into Galilee
(MATTHEW 4:12 to 8:17 MARK 1:14-39 LUKE 4:14-44 JOHN 1:40 to 4:42)
After His temptations, we are told that Yeshua departed into Galilee (MATTHEW 4:12). But much happened immediately after these temptations which we are not told of by either Matthew, Mark or Luke. The apostle John wrote that right after Yeshua's temptation He returned to the Baptist, where He met the two brothers, Andrew and Simon Peter (JOHN 1:40-42).
Evidently Andrew and Peter did not become followers of Yeshua at this time; perhaps because they were still disciples of the Baptist. Maybe they just didn't like Yeshua's style, or it could have been because they didn't think that they were financially able to completely abandon their fishing trade and join Him. At any rate, after that first meeting with Andrew and Peter, Yeshua went to Cana where He turned the water into wine (JOHN 2:8); then He went to Jerusalem where He drove out of the temple all those who sold and exchanged monies (JOHN 2:15). Then He conversed with Nicodemus (JOHN 3:1) and then, after finding out that the Pharisees had heard that He was baptizing more disciples than John (JOHN 4:1-3), He left Judaea and went into Samaria where He converted the woman at the well along with many from her city (JOHN 4:39-42). After all of this, then He departed into Galilee where Matthew, Mark and Luke all pick up the record.
In Matthew's account (4:18-22), which is quite similar to Mark's (as given by Peter), we are told of the second time when Peter and Andrew met Yeshua (MARK 1:16-20). They wrote of Yeshua walking along the Sea of Galilee while Peter and his brother Andrew were casting in a net. Calling them to follow Him they left their nets and did as He asked. Then they came to where their cousins James and John were mending their nets. At His invitation, they too left and followed Yeshua.
Howbeit, in Mark's account we have a detail which few others might have noted, unless they were actually there when Yeshua called them. Mark wrote that along with Zebedee and his two sons, that there were also hired servants working with them in the ship (MARK 1:20). Mark noting this minor fact reinforces for us the theory that Peter (or someone who was actually there) was helping Mark add these details to his Gospel.
According to both MARK and LUKE, the entourage next arrived at Capernaum. Howbeit, before arriving there, Matthew filled in for us a whole itinerary covering the next three or four chapters, of which Mark, Luke nor John said little if anything at all.
MATTHEW 4:23-25 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
Subsequent to seeing all these multitudes wandering after Him, Yeshua delivered His astounding Sermon on the Mount (MATTHEW 5-7), which as a publican writing short-hand only Matthew might have been able to record. Then, coming down from the mountain, He healed a leper. Then arriving in Capernaum, where Mark (1:21) and Luke (4:31) pick up the record, He healed the centurion's servant of the palsy (which they leave out). Mark and Luke gave us their own account in Capernaum of Yeshua casting the spirit out of another man (MARK 1:23-26 LUKE 4:33-35). Then, Yeshua came to Peter's house where all three evangelists met again.
Howbeit, Mark yet again had details which both Matthew and Luke were evidently not aware of, such as that Simon Peter's house was also Andrew's, and that James and John entered with them (1:29), and further, that Peter himself led the search to find Yeshua the next morning (1:36). If MATTHEW and LUKE were written after or from MARK, as many suppose, why then did they leave out these fine points? But if Peter was reviewing Matthew and Luke's Gospels, he may very well have filled Mark in with these missing details.
The Cripple Carried by Four
(MATTHEW 9:2-8 MARK 2:1-12 LUKE 5:17-26)
Next we come to the familiar record of the crippled man who was carried by four of his friends, hoping to be healed by Yeshua. Matthew gave us the least information, saying not much more than that one sick of the palsy was brought to Yeshua to be healed. Mark and Luke gave almost identical testimonies, except again, Mark revealed certain details which only one present would have recalled.
Both Mark and Luke wrote that the room was crowded and thus the four men carried their friend to the roof and then lowered him down through an opening. Curiously, Mark mentioned that they made an opening while Luke only said that they lowered him down through an opening. This may be because Luke wrote for a reader who was probably not familiar with the way homes were constructed in Palestine, where the roofing could be easily removed and replaced. Luke's word keramos, which the translators have rendered as tiling, suggests some kind of opening which was already there (see Was Christ Born in Bethlehem, by Sir William Ramsay, page 63).
Mark further pictured for us a scene where there were so many gathered together, "insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door". No doubt Peter well remembered the crowded room, and gave his recollection to Mark so as to have it accurately portrayed in the record.
He calmed the Sea
(MATTHEW 8:23-27 MARK 4:35-41 LUKE 8:22-25)
There is little difference between the three depictions of this miracle of Yeshua calming a stormy sea. Howbeit, Mark again gave us further details which only a person present would probably know. Only he wrote that it was evening, sometime late afternoon when they decided to sail across the Sea. Mark also noted that some other little ships accompanied them. Someone like Luke who was getting his story from a participant, perhaps many years after the event, very likely would not have thought that these facts were worthy of preserving. Peter, however, as he re-lived the moment for Mark's Gospel, could easily have recalled these unimportant details.
(MATTHEW 9:18-26 MARK 5:22-43 LUKE 8:41-56)
We have here a somewhat significant difference in the Gospel accounts. The three evangelists agreed perfectly on the chronology of the event, when and where it happened in their itinerary, but MATTHEW differed on a key point.
1st. A ruler from the synagogue approached Yeshua concerning his daughter.
2nd. Yeshua agreed to accompany him back to where his daughter was.
3rd. On the way a woman who had suffered a grievous ailment for twelve years forced her way through the crowd so as to touch Yeshua's clothes.
4th. In the midst the thronging crowd, Yeshua noticed the woman's touch.
5th. The woman was healed when she touched His garment.
6th. They arrived at the ruler's house.
7th. Yeshua raised the young girl from the dead.
It is quite interesting that the three evangelists agreed so totally on the sequence of these events, and yet Matthew differed on one most important point. In his account, when the ruler first beseeched Yeshua, his daughter was already dead, yet Mark and Luke did not say that she was dead, but that she was at the point of death, very near death.
Then, in Mark and Luke's account, as they approached the ruler's house the father's servant came out saying not to trouble to heal the girl for she had already died, at which point Yeshua immediately encouraged the father to be not afraid, but only believe and his daughter will still be made whole.
Thus, if Matthew was correct and the girl was already dead when the father first came to Yeshua, then there is a real contradiction here between what he wrote and what Mark and Luke wrote. But in reality, this shows forth the marvelous beauty of the separate Gospel accounts. The fact that Matthew diverged from the other two on this important point, that being whether or not the damsel was already dead, or simply near death, tells us that the three evangelists didn't just copy this episode from one another, or even from an earlier tradition. They had to have had separate resources and perspectives.
The key to the understanding of this record, is in one important detail which we find recorded only in MARK and LUKE, "And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James" (MARK 5:37). When Yeshua entered into the home, Matthew and the others were left out. Matthew was evidently on the periphery of events and knew not all of the details which Peter, James and John witnessed. He probably observed when this ruler had approached Yeshua for some reason, and amidst all the clamour he deduced that it was evidently because the daughter had died.
Matthew evidently wasn't close enough to hear exactly what was said by the servant who came rushing up, telling Jairus that his daughter had just died. We can picture a tumult swirling around Yeshua, with many people pushing and shoving, no doubt hollering at one another. Matthew only assumed that she was already dead when the father first came to Yeshua, and as his intention in writing his account was to show that Yeshua raised the girl from the dead, he was little concerned with exactly what Jairus' servant might have said.
But let us now consider what new details Mark (through Peter) brought to the record. Matthew was a witness from afar, Luke only interviewed witnesses years after the event, but Peter was in the thick of it. Undoubtedly Mark wrote many years after the event as did Luke, but if Peter was at Mark's side, re-living those events, then we can understand where Mark came up with such interesting details as we have in his Gospel.
The first thing which we notice is that with Luke, it reads more like a narrative. He tells us that this ruler came beseeching Yeshua to come to his house, and then Luke gave us the reason, "For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying" (LUKE 8:42). Yet in Mark's Gospel, he wrote as if he was standing right there beside Yeshua, seeing and hearing every word which Jairus was saying, "....when he saw him, he fell at his feet, and besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live" (MARK 5:22-23). One can't fail to notice the difference between the two accounts. And Matthew gave only a brief summary as if he was evidently out of earshot.
Next we read of the woman with the issue of blood twelve years. Matthew and Luke both told the bare essentials; that this woman had been afflicted twelve years but had thought that if she touched the hem, or tassels of Yeshua's garment, that she would somehow be healed. Luke, being a physician himself, added the fact that she had spent all of her wealth on physicians in a futile effort to be healed. But Mark added the additional note that even after all of her money and efforts to be healed, that she "was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse" (MARK 5:26). Of course Matthew just skimmed over the surface as if too far away to be anything more than an observer.
At last we arrive at Jairus' house where Yeshua had put all out except the parents and His three disciples, Peter, James and John. Here LUKE and MARK followed each other closely, except again, Mark added details which only one of those who were present would have known.
Mark (through Peter) wrote the very Aramaic words which Yeshua spoke so as to raise the girl from the dead, "Talitha cumi", along with the necessary interpretation, "Damsel, I say unto thee, arise". Only one present would know this. Then Mark added the interesting detail that the young girl walked. Who would care? Evidently not Matthew or Luke. But Mark added it because Peter was re-visualizing the entire scene before him in that room. He saw Yeshua speak to this corpse, then take her by the hand as she rose from the dead and began to walk!
The Twelve Sent Out
(MATTHEW 10:1-42 MARK 6:7-13 LUKE 9:1-6)
When Yeshua sent out the twelve apostles on their missionary journey, He gave them quite explicit instructions, which Matthew was able to record the most of, if not all of. This was probably because as a tax gatherer he would have been able to take what we refer to today as short-hand, recording the gist of much of what Yeshua taught. Howbeit, of Matthew's forty two verses, not a single one gave us any clue of their actual experiences on that missionary journey.
Luke gave a very brief six verse synopsis of the mission, evidently having little information pertaining to it. Of his six verses, five were Yeshua's instruction to them and one was concerning their experience in the field.
LUKE 9:6 And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.
It is curious that Mark alone (through Peter), told his readers that Yeshua sent them forth by two's. Of his seven verses devoted to this mission, Mark gave us two concerning their experiences, which is more than either one of the other two evangelists.
MARK 6:12-13 And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
Once again Peter seems to be filling in the details for Mark, which the other evangelists left out.
They Retired to a Desert Place
(MATTHEW 14:1-13 MARK 6:14-32 LUKE 9:7-10)
Passages like this help to fashion and re-shape our understanding of what inspiration really entails.
All three evangelists told this story at precisely the same time in the sequence of the events in the ministry of Yeshua, howbeit, as to the details they each varied, Matthew and Mark quite substantially from one another. This tells us two important things. First, if two evangelists told the same story but with conflicting details, then not everything which they wrote could possibly have been inspired by GOD. HE cannot give two entirely different variations of the same event.
The second important thing to take from this record, is that it indicates for us that for the most part these accounts are probably authentic and genuine, for if a later hand had fabricated these stories, then they would surely have made certain that they harmonized in all of their particulars. The differences between MATHEW and MARK are so blatant and obvious, that no Church synod would ever have let them be published in their current form.
Thus, this record as given by Matthew and Mark (through Peter) demonstrate again for us that inspiration is not about GOD dictating to the writer every single word he was to write, but it is rather as we have said, about GOD filling out one's sail so as to push them along; and then letting them sail on in the direction they so choose. GOD gave the evangelist a certain thought or remembrance, which stirred within him other thoughts and memories. While the original thought may have been from GOD, much of what followed was from the writers own recollections.
Let us recall that Matthew wrote nothing at all here about the actual missionary journey of the Twelve, but instead he took this opportunity to explain in detail the killing of John the Baptist, which had evidently occurred not long before.
We must therefore ask ourselves and try to imagine what kind of a missionary journey Matthew might have had, being a hated publican? It might have been similar to sending Martin Luther King to Missionize the Ku Klux Klan. How much success could Matthew have expected, being perceived as a corrupt tax collector? Could he even have gotten a hearing? Is it no wonder that he avoided describing the experience altogether?
Luke however said little in his Gospel about the Baptist being killed, but instead he wrote primarily concerning this missionary journey of the Twelve. Mark (through Peter) brought both events together and probably gave for us the most complete picture of what actually happened.
Both Peter and Matthew were hearers of John the Baptist, and very possibly they were also his disciples. His death meant much more to them then it would have to Luke who wrote many years later and had evidently never met John nor heard him preach. This would of course clarify their interest in explaining in some detail his imprisonment and recent death, but also why Luke didn't.
Matthew began his section with "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, and said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him". Then Matthew went on to explain what John had done to cause Herod to imprison him, and some of the details which led up to his death. Matthew then finished the record by saying, "When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart" (14:13).
The way that this passage was rendered makes it sound as if when Yeshua heard of the death of John, that for that reason alone he quickly departed into a hideout somewhere. But when read more carefully, it seems more reasonable to understand Matthew's whole telling of John's imprisonment, death and burial, as a parenthesis simply inserted to explain Herod's motives and intentions. This is especially so when read MATTHEW in light of MARK and LUKE.
Luke gave an entirely different impression for Yeshua's reason in departing.
LUKE 9:10 And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
Luke wrote nothing here concerning the Baptist's imprisonment, or the events leading up to his death, but simply related that Yeshua departed after the apostles had told Him all that they had accomplished on their missionary journey. In MATTHEW we are left with the impression that Yeshua went into hiding because He had heard of John's beheading, while in LUKE it is written that they all retired to the vicinity of Bethsaida as a result of Him hearing all that they had accomplished during their missionary journey.
Both accounts could be accurate. If John had been killed around the time of Yeshua sending out the Twelve, then He might have gotten word of it as the Twelve were returning. Then, upon hearing of their accomplishments, He could have deemed it prudent to vacate to the vicinity of Bethsaida for both reasons; because of what Herod might do next, and because the disciples needed rest and encouragement following their missionary journey.
Mark again (through Peter) filled in many details not in the other two Gospels. He alone wrote that Herod had acknowledged that he had beheaded John the Baptist (6:16). He further noted that Herodias would have killed John if she could have, while Matthew plainly stated that Herod himself would have killed him, but refrained because he feared the people, who took John for a prophet. Contrary to either Matthew or Luke, Mark explained that Herod feared John, not the people, because he knew John to be a just and holy man (6:20). Mark even wrote that Herod kept him safe (RSV) from Herodias, and heard him gladly.
Mark added further details to Herod's festive birthday party by writing that he had invited his lords, high captains, and the chief men of Galilee (6:21), of which Matthew and Luke say nothing. Herodias' daughter had danced before the gathering and so pleased Herod that he had offered to give her whatsoever she asked. Mark alone added, "to the half of my kingdom" (6:23).
Matthew wrote that after Herod's promise to the dancer, that she immediately asked for John's head, and further that she had previously arranged all of this with her mother. Mark however wrote that after Herod's promise to her, that she left the gathering and went and asked her mother what she should ask from Herod. Having obtained her mother's desire, she returned and asked for John's head on a platter (6:25). Reluctantly Herod succumbed to her wishes and had the prophet's head brought.
The section closes with Peter expounding through Mark's Gospel the full essence of what had transpired.
MARK 6:30-32 And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
As many were coming and going, we can picture a scene of some chaos. No doubt word of the Baptist's death was on everyone's lips and filled their thoughts. We can imagine that many wondered what lie ahead for themselves. Would Herod seek them out also? And could John really be the announcer of the coming Kingdom if he had been beheaded by this earthly king?
Yet their missionary journey had just ended with them preaching the gospel, casting out many devils and healing everywhere. We can well understand how their hearts might have been fraught with consternation and bewilderment. Thus, "they departed into a desert place by ship privately".
The Feeding of the Five Thousand
(MATTHEW 14:15-21 MARK 6:35-44 LUKE 9:12-17 JOHN 6:5-13)
Here is one of the rare occasions where the apostle John chimed in with the other three evangelists to give us four separate accounts of a single event in Yeshua's life and ministry. It is of course the feeding of more than five thousand with only a couple of fish and five loaves of bread.
Each evangelist added his own perspective to the scene, with the apostles Matthew and John demonstrating that they were indeed eyewitnesses of the events, while Luke was obviously getting his information from interviews from witnesses. Of course Mark (through Peter) again added the most intricate details as Peter was no doubt re-experiencing the entire episode so as to fill out Mark's Gospel account.
Matthew began his telling of the events by saying that the disciples came to Yeshua beseeching Him to send the multitude away so as to obtain for themselves something to eat. Luke however, not being one of the original apostles did not hesitate to call these disciples the "twelve", which the other three humbly referred to as simply disciples. In fact, only once does Matthew, Mark (through Peter) and John ever describe themselves as apostles. Luke however in reference to the Twelve used the word five times in his Gospel alone.
John, who was right there with his fellow apostles, tells of a conversation which Yeshua was having with Philip as this whole scene began to unfold. Yeshua had asked Philip how they were going to feed this multitude of five thousand men, plus women and children. Philip responded by saying that they had not the resources to feed so many people (JOHN 6:5-7).
Then the other disciples implored Him to send the multitude away to find for themselves food and shelter for the night (LUKE 9:12). Mark (through Peter) wrote that Yeshua asked them to find out just how much food that they had among themselves (MARK 6:38). John wrote that it was Andrew who gave Yeshua the count, only five loaves and two fishes (JOHN 6:8-9), hardly enough for even themselves.
This is where the four accounts begin to become real interesting. Matthew, an eyewitness, wrote that Yeshua had commanded them to sit down on the grass (MATTHEW 14:19). He actually noted that there was grass for them to sit down on. John however, another eyewitness, recalled that there was much grass upon which to sit (JOHN 6:10), and Peter who was no doubt again re-living the events, told Mark that they sat down upon green grass (MARK 6:39). Only someone who was present at that miracle would have thought to include this unique detail about the grass. Luke however, who was not there and would not have been impressed about what they sat upon, said nothing whatever about the grass, only that they sat down in groups of fifties (LUKE 9:14).
Then Yeshua took the five loaves of bread and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven He blessed them and then distributed the food to His disciples and they to the multitude. All did eat and were filled. Then the Twelve gathered up twelve wicker baskets full of what was left, one for each apostle.
Peter walked on the water...
(MATTHEW 14:22-33 MARK 6:45-51)
Both Matthew and Mark told pretty much the same story here, with one significant difference. Each wrote of Yeshua sending them away by ship so that He could dismiss the crowd. They agreed that He then went up into a mountain to pray, and that when evening was come He was there alone. Each evangelist described the boat as being upon the raging sea. Both again recorded that He then appeared to them walking upon the sea, and that they all were frightened; and then how He calmed them saying that it was only He, and "Be of good cheer".
But then Matthew described how Peter answered back that if it was indeed their Lord, that He should bid Peter to come unto Him upon the water. And so Yeshua did; and so Peter walked upon the water to go to Yeshua. However, when Peter saw the wind boisterous he feared and began to sink pleading for Yeshua to save him, which of course He did.
The interesting thing about this incident is, that Mark said nothing at all about this venture of Peter upon the water. There is complete silence and not a hint of any kind that Peter attempted this incredible deed. One has to of course wonder why? How can we account for Mark totally eclipsing this entire scene from his record, especially if Peter was filling out for Mark what actually transpired during all of their incredible experiences?
Perhaps an explanation is that Peter no longer wanted to divert attention to himself, therefore deciding to remain silent about what he had done. We must remember, that Peter had always been the one who spoke before he thought. He was the one who boldly and thoughtlessly rebuked his Lord, when he foolishly declared that Yeshua was wrong in saying that He would be killed when they got to Jerusalem. Peter was the one who boastfully claimed that he would never deny Him, and yet within twenty-four hours had done so on several occasions. In the last chapter of JOHN we sense that Peter had finally learned a little bit of humility, when he answered, "Lord, thou knowest all things".
The Tradition of the Elders
(MATTHEW 15:1-9 MARK 7:1-13)
This section demonstrates well the supposition that Matthew, probably first writing his Gospel in the common Aramaic, wrote to the Palestinian Jews. Mark then wrote some years later for Greek speaking believers who were scattered across the Roman Empire. Peter most likely helped Mark with his account, possibly even with MATTHEW and LUKE spread out in front of them.
The incident began with the scribes and Pharisees arriving from Jerusalem, no doubt to inspect this unusual teacher from Nazareth. Matthew simply wrote that they asked Yeshua why His disciples "transgressed the tradition of the elders", while Mark went on to explain in detail exactly what this tradition was.
MARK 7:2-4 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Every Jew of the Land would have instinctively known what the tradition of the elders was, and thus would need no explanation. But a new proselyte to Judaism, or a new convert to Christianity would probably not have known and therefore would have benefited from Mark's explanation. This of course suggests to us that Mark wrote for a Gentile audience while Matthew, who left out all of these clarifications, probably wrote for a Jewish audience.
While the Pharisees and scribes found comfort and assurance in the writings of their elders, Yeshua cut the legs out from under them by contradicting their cherished traditions, quoting the eminent prophet Isaiah and the distinguished lawgiver Moses. It is further interesting that when Matthew recorded Yeshua quoting Moses, he wrote that "GOD commanded, saying...", but when Mark recorded Yeshua quoting Moses, he simply wrote, "For Moses said....". As we should expect, Matthew evidently considered the words of Moses to be equal with the words of GOD, while Mark considered the words of Moses as the words of Moses.
Yeshua went on to give them a prime example of how the traditions of their elders cut right across the scriptures.
RSV MARK 7:10-13 For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother'; and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die'; but you say, `If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God) then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.
What this meant was that if a parent who was destitute and in need of sustenance, when they came to a son who had little inclination to help relieve their suffering, that according to Pharisaic tradition the son could be excused from his duty to help by simply telling his parent that whatsoever they had needed or desired, he had previously pledged as a gift to GOD, a Corban.
Corban was an Aramaic word which Mark inserts here but Matthew does not. Perhaps this is because Matthew originally wrote in Aramaic and when he translated his Aramaic Gospel into Greek, he simply translated the Aramaic words into Greek and saw no point in leaving in his Gospel this word Corban, which means gift of GOD.
Howbeit, when Mark wrote his Gospel, he more often than the others, made the conscious effort to insert some of the Aramaic words which Yeshua spoke. Matthew and John occasionally left in Hebrew words (MATTHEW 1:23; 27:46 JOHN 1:41), but it is usually only Mark who inserted the actual Aramaic (talitha cumi, boanerges, abba, ephphatha).
Ephphatha, be opened
(MATTHEW 15:29-31 MARK 7:31-37)
By this point in Yeshua's ministry, He was accustomed to taking aside Peter, James and John on certain occasions while leaving the other apostles to wait for their return. For some reason unknown to us, these three had been called out to witness things which the others were not. Thus it should not surprise us, if Mark (through Peter) had certain details in his Gospel which the others were not aware of. One such incident is concerning this deaf man who also had an impediment in his speech.
Luke had nothing at all concerning this scene, and Matthew only had the bare essentials, saying that "great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them" (MATTHEW 15:30).
Mark however (with Peter at his side), unfolded for us a healing which Matthew was perhaps not aware of, the healing of the deaf man who also had difficulty speaking.
MARK 7:31-37 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him.
And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; and were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
It is of course possible that Matthew was a witness to this peculiar healing and just decided not to include it in his Gospel; but him not being present at the miracle would certainly better explain why he didn't make mention of it at all. He did after all, mention the bare essentials of what Yeshua was then doing, but for some reason not this particular healing which Mark, years later somehow had minute details concerning.
the feeding of the Four Thousand
(MATTHEW 15:32-38 MARK 8:1-9)
This incident might not fit so much with our theme of laying out the sequence of the Gospels, but there is an important detail here which we should not pass by without notice. It is of the seven baskets into which they put the fragments of food which were not eaten.
First let us notice that Yeshua commanded them to sit down, not on the green grass as He had done when He fed the five thousand, but simply on the ground. Both evangelists agreed on this. The reason for them being seated upon plain hard dirt, was because now they were in the wilderness. They had ventured out a dangerous distance for anyone not well prepared with the proper supplies.
Earlier, when Yeshua fed the five thousand, the people followed Him on foot out of their cities (MATTHEW 14:13). Howbeit, it was not into the desert as the KJV has it, but into a solitary or lonely place, as the RSV has it. This was not far out into the wilderness, but rather as Luke tells us, it was in the vicinity of Bethsaida (LUKE 9:10).
But later, when Yeshua was preparing to feed the four thousand, then they were far removed from any city, indeed they were in the wilderness, "an uninhabited region, a waste". This is why all of the evangelists agreed that here they had large wicker baskets (spuris) for their supplies, hampers if you will. They would have needed provisions for several days on the road, so only spuris would have satisfied their need. But when they were near Bethsaida on a simple day trip into the hills, then they would have only needed small wicker baskets (kophinos), and this is what both evangelists tell us that they had. The precision of these words simply astounds us.
These baskets came up again in conversation a short time later when Yeshua asked his disciples to recall the two miracles of feeding the multitudes. Both Matthew and Mark had it right in their Greek, but the English often blurs this important difference.
MATTHEW 16:9-10 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets (kophinos) ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets (spuris) ye took up?
MARK 8:19-20 When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets (kophinos) full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets (spuris) full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.
It is nothing short of shameful how so many of these English versions recklessly gloss over the precision with which the evangelists chose their words. Treasure is often buried beneath the surface, found only when one is willing to expend the necessary effort to dig for it, and we find this to often be the case in scripture.
Whom do men say that I am?
(MATTHEW 16:13-28 MARK 8:27-38 LUKE 9:18-27)
The general chronology of these events continue to be right on track. Though each evangelist had his own version of the happenings, while some left out certain incidents even as others added various events to their itinerary, with few exceptions they all continued along the same route to the end. Each evangelist may separate himself from the others and develop certain details not even mentioned by his fellow laborers, but eventually they all come together again at some mutual point.
Here the three synoptic Gospels meet again. This episode could be divided up into five distinct parts;
a). Yeshua asked the disciples whom people thought that He was and Peter affirmed that he himself believed Yeshua to be the Christ of GOD.
b). He told Peter that upon "this rock I will build My Church and that the gates of hell (hades, death) shall not prevail against it".
c). They were then instructed to tell no man about Him.
d). He plainly explained to them that when they got to Jerusalem that He would suffer and be slain but then on the third day that He would rise again. This saying resulted in Peter rebuking Him.
e). Finally speaking to all the people, He told them to deny self, to take up their crosses and follow Him, and that he who looses his life for Yeshua and the gospel shall be justly rewarded when He returns, which will happen within the lifetime of some of His hearers.
Perhaps the most curious thing in all of this, is that only Matthew recorded the intriguing incident where Yeshua told His disciples that He was going to build His Church and that the gates of hell (death) would not prevail against it (MATTHEW 16:18). Several questions jump out at us here, which we will consider as we go.
Church tradition has from an early date interpreted this passage as if Yeshua was saying to Peter that He would build His Church upon Peter. The entire structure of the Roman Catholic Church has this verse as its foundation. They claim that Yeshua handed all authority to Peter, and then when Peter died, this authority was passed along to the next Bishop, who then passed it along to the next, and so on down the line till we come to the present time when the Pope is believed to have direct authority from Christ Himself. But is that what the verse actually says?
When we consider the Greek behind the English, we are given a hint as to Yeshua's true intentions. Matthew wrote, "thou art Peter [petros, a cut stone] and upon this rock [petra, a foundation stone] I will build my Church". In the scriptures we will find that Peter is always referred to as petros while Yeshua is always referred to as petra. We must therefore consider the likelihood that Yeshua was actually saying that upon Himself, not Peter, He was going to build His church.
There are two passages here which might put us on the right scent. The first is the opening verse of this section, "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi" (MATTHEW 16:13). In Luke's Gospel, he did not identify where they were, for as Luke was not there he may have missed the importance of that location. But Matthew and Peter (who was helping Mark with his Gospel) knew very well precisely where they were, for they were both there on the spot with their Lord.
Caesarea Philippi was in the very northern part of the country, near the fountainhead of the Jordan River. This is where a multitude of springs broke forth from the ground and gradually collected themselves into the river Jordan. Around this area are massive cliffs of rock that for centuries before Yeshua's time had been harvested for the huge stones which had been cut out of the mountain.
Because of this being the fountainhead of this mighty river, a number of pagan temples had been built around Caesarea Philippi, and over the ages many had been torn down and their stones thus strewn about the hills. These stones which had been cut out of the mountain were called petros, and we can well imagine Yeshua pointing to one of them when He reiterated that Simon was a petros.
Standing possibly among those temple stones, somewhere in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, Simon Peter may have finally seen the significance of why Yeshua had renamed him many months before. Yeshua was not belittling him with this new name, petros, but He was exclaiming that this rough stone would be finely shaped by the Master's hand so as to be a foundation stone under this new Church which Christ Himself was going to build. Simon Peter was to be a stone cut out from the mountain, a stone shaped and trimmed for its special place in the holy Temple of GOD (EPHESIAN 2:20).
With this second verse we can then sense ourselves nearer the truth when we visualize Yeshua gesturing first to the stones situated all around them, which had long before been cut out of the mountain, and saying, "Simon, thou are petros", thou art one of these cut stones. But then, Yeshua demonstrated to them the truth of what was to come, when, pointing to himself He said, "But upon this rock, upon this Petra, I will build My Church".
Simon Peter was of course a vital member of the Church of GOD. He was the first to step forward and lead the early Church. Peter not only opened the doors of the kingdom of GOD to the Judeans in ACTS 2, but he also opened the same door to the Gentiles in ACTS 10. But that does not suggest that He was the only one upon which the Church was being built. All of the apostles and prophets were these petros, the stones cut for the foundation, but only Christ was the true foundation upon which everything else rested.
Early on in His ministry, when Yeshua was concluding His Sermon on the Mount, He said that whosoever heard and did as He instructed was building his house upon the rock, the petra, and not even the wind, nor the floods would be able to move it (MATTHEW 7:24-25). The apostle Paul wrote that Yeshua was that rock, that petra (ROMANS 9:33 & 1CORINTHIANS 10:4). Peter himself called Christ the rock, the petra (1 PETER 2:8). Paul wrote that while one man may say that he is of Paul, or that he is of Apollos, or Cephas (Aramaic for petros), really the only true foundation is Christ (1 CORINTHIANS 3:4, 11, 22). And again he wrote that even though the Church may be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, only Yeshua was the chief corner stone (EPHESIANS 2:20). Thus we can have every confidence that the Church was not built upon Peter, nor upon any other Roman Bishop.
Next let us consider the incident of Yeshua telling His disciples not to reveal to others that He was indeed the Christ; and that when they reached Jerusalem that He would suffer and be slain but then rise from the dead on the third day. We would do well to remember just a short time prior to this that Peter (and no doubt other disciples) had finally come to the realization that Yeshua was indeed the long awaited Messiah of Israel.
When we consider what this new consciousness meant to them, we realize that they probably saw a new kingdom about to be set up by Yeshua, of which they would surely play a prominent role. As a conquering Messiah and King, Yeshua would need His disciples around Him as dignitaries and heads of State. Finally, at long last, all which they had sacrificed and abandoned, their businesses, their families and their fortunes, would all be rewarded with interest, so they thought.
But Yeshua was now suggesting a very different future for them. He was to be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes. And did we hear that right? He was to be killed? How could that make any sense? The crowd which had been traveling with them He would need as His army if He was going to take control when they reached Jerusalem, so they may have speculated. If word of His impending death got out, they would surely be abandoned, perhaps even stoned by a violent mob.
And so Peter, the ever so bold and tenacious Peter, stepped forward and took his Lord by the arm so as to talk some sense into Him, saying "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you" (RSV MATTHEW 16:22). But He turned away from Peter and facing His disciples He said to Peter what must have seemed to be very harsh words, "Get thee behind me Satan", but then followed His reasoning, "For thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men". It was as if Satan himself was once again trying to divert Yeshua from His given course.
And for what reason was Peter so upset concerning what Yeshua had foretold? Because he had other plans. Peter had left all so as to be privileged, not persecuted. He had counted on being out front of an unstoppable army as they chased the Romans from their Land. His recent hopes were being dashed by the very one by whom he had banked on. We can't imagine the shock to his senses that must have been sweeping over him.
And that is the end of their private meeting, as far as we know. Scripture moves on and we are left to wonder if they just stood there dumbfounded, or if others joined in with Peter, or possibly Yeshua endeavored to enlighten them to some other extent.
He then called the crowd unto Him and encouraged them to entirely renounce their own personal hopes and aspirations. Whosoever places at the top of his priority list the preserving of his own precious life and livelihood, will no doubt someday find that he has instead wasted away his entire existence. If we really want to preserve our life, then we should just let it go. Let go all of our own hopes and dreams and determine instead to seek the truth, to search out His purpose for our lives, to strive to be that cut stone made ready for His Temple.
Yeshua promised them that if they would do this, if they were willing to forsake all and follow Him, that they would be duly rewarded when He returned with his angels in the glory of his Father. But they weren't going to have to wait for thousands of years to be thus rewarded, for He specifically said, that there were some in His audience, even on that very day, who were not going to die, "till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (MATTHEW 16:28).
(MATTHEW 17:1-13 MARK 9:2-13 LUKE 9:28-36)
Our next occasion is that which is called The Transfiguration. All three evangelists again recorded this episode, but already in the first verse we have an apparent discrepancy. As only Peter, James and John were present, if Mark's account was obtained through Peter, then perhaps it should be trusted first. Then, as a fellow apostle Matthew's account should be relied upon next. Luke, probably who wrote years after the event, may have gotten his information from an eye witness such as Peter or John, but we can't know.
MATTHEW and MARK both concurred that six days after the previous event, that Yeshua took Peter, James and John and departed into a mountain; yet Luke wrote that it was about eight days. Matthew and Peter were no doubt right, for Luke, looking back several decades only approximated the times.
Of course, in that culture a part of a day could be counted as a whole day (unless the writer said that it was a day and a night, in which case it was then counted as a twenty four hour period), so Luke could have been right if he was counting the two days on either side if the six days. If a later hand had tried to re-edit the Gospel accounts, no doubt he (or they) would have changed the text so that the three agreed with one another. Thus, this is again good evidence for us that these accounts have not been significantly tampered with.
All three evangelists again agreed that when Yeshua was transfigured, that His clothing became glistening white; yet only Mark (through Peter) added the interesting detail that it was "white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them" (MARK 9:3). This sounds very much like what someone would say who actually experienced the sight of it, rather than one who was told the story by another. Thus, again we have cumulative evidence that Mark was being guided by Peter, who as an actual eyewitness could have recorded these fascinating events.
All three again agreed that two men appeared there with Yeshua, and that they were talking to Him. These men were noted to be Moses and Elijah. One might wonder how the three apostles knew that they were Moses and Elijah, but we are not told so we must be content to wonder.
We might also wonder why Moses and Elijah? Of all of the remarkable men who had lived before them, why was it Moses and Elijah who were there standing and talking with Yeshua? Why not Noah, or Abraham, or David, or Isaiah? Of course we can only speculate, but it so happens that Elijah had never died, but was carried up into heaven by a whirlwind in a chariot of fire (2 KINGS 2:11). Scripture also tells us that the archangel Michael disputed with the devil concerning the body of Moses (JUDE 9), and that his body was never found (DEUTERONOMY 34:6).
Nevertheless, we are told that the entire scene was only a vision, a horama (MATTHEW 17:9), which according to Luke in ACTS 12:9 is not a real event but as the word denotes, simply a vision.
What was said between Yeshua, Moses and Elijah in this vision? Luke seems to have an idea (LUKE 9:31), but Matthew and Peter (in MARK) have no comment. This might indicate for us that Luke's source was not Peter but possibly John (James was probably already martyred by the time that Luke became a Christian). Luke later indicated that Peter did not know what was said (LUKE 9:33), thus John might alone have been able to hear and then to relate this to Luke years later. If that was indeed the case, then of course Peter would not have been able to relate to Mark what was said, which would explain why it wasn't in his Gospel account.
After this, Peter offered to build three tabernacles, one each for Yeshua, Moses and Elijah; but then a cloud overshadowed them. A voice out of the cloud declared that Yeshua was HIS Son and that they were to obey Him. They of course fell to the ground on their faces and the cloud departed. The three evangelists pretty much agreed on all of this.
Luke then ended his account, but Matthew and Mark added that the disciples asked Yeshua concerning Elijah coming first. Yeshua responded by telling them that Elijah had already come, and that they had already done unto him what they would. They perceived that He was referring to John the Baptist.
O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?
(MATTHEW 17:14-21 MARK 9:14-29 LUKE 9:37-43)
After the Transfiguration, Yeshua was now ready to depart for Jerusalem, where there awaited His fate. Howbeit, when they descended from the mountain they came upon quite a ruckus. His disciples seemed to be under interrogation by the scribes, so Yeshua asked them what they all were disputing about.
Matthew gave us just the bare essentials; that a man came to Yeshua's disciples seeking healing for his son, but they were unable to help. Yeshua then rebuked the devil and the boy was cured. Luke added that it was his only son, and further, that when they were bringing the boy to Yeshua, that the devil threw him down and tare him. This is where Luke ended the matter.
But Mark went on and added much more to the record. He wrote that when the spirit saw Yeshua, that it was then that the devil threw the boy down. Mark also noted the detail that the child was foaming. Then, before Yeshua healed the boy, a conversation ensued between Him and the boy's father which neither Matthew nor Luke included in their record.
Yeshua asked the father how long the boy had suffered this affliction? "From boyhood" the father replied, but added "if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us" (MARK 9:22).
The interpretation of the next verse is a little dubious. The KJV gives Yeshua's response as "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth", but the first believe is probably not in the original text. The RSV renders Yeshua's response as, ""If you can! All things are possible to him who believes", but that seems to make little sense. If the father can what?
Perhaps our answer is found in the preceding verse when the father pleaded, If Thou canst? Yeshua may have then repeated the father's question exactly as it had been spoken to Him, If Thou canst? It would appear that Yeshua was saying unto the father, "Wait a minute, you ask if I canst? All things are possible to Me, because I believe" (for further on this, the reader may wish to consult A Practical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Mark, by James Morison, pages 149-150). Then the father cried out, "I believe, help thou my unbelief".
Yeshua then went on and cast out the spirit, but it left the boy lying motionless on the ground, insomuch that many said that he was dead. Nevertheless, Yeshua took him by the hand and he arose. Then the disciples asked Yeshua why they themselves could not cast the spirit out of the boy? Matthew wrote that it was because of their unbelief, their little faith (RSV MATTHEW 17:20).
This passage is perhaps made clearer, when we realize that believing is not some magical power whereby the possessor can order mountains to move about the countryside. Believing is always a reaction. It is a response to something that has been previously promised. If GOD tells me to cast the foul spirit out of a boy, then I am quite able to do so. If not, all the tomfoolery in the world will not accomplish the task.
Same with moving a mountain. If GOD tells me to move the mountain, then I have something to believe. The key is in first hearing the command, and then believing that which has been heard. Here is where the disciples were falling short. They were not believing that which they had already been taught, specifically about Yeshua's death and resurrection. The reader may want to refer to the Study, The How of Believing for more on this.
Mark then added that Yeshua replied to their question, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer" (RSV MARK 9:29). Howbeit, prayer was not how Yeshua had just accomplished casting this spirit out. Perhaps Charles Torrey is closer to the truth of what Yeshua said when he rendered the verse, "Such as this cannot by any means be cast out, not even by prayer" (The Four Gospels, A New Translation).
After this, Yeshua embarked upon His final Journey towards Jerusalem.
Who should be the greatest?
(MATTHEW 17:24-18:35 MARK 9:30-50 LUKE 9:46-50)
Yeshua again tried to get His disciples to understand that when they got to Jerusalem, that He would be betrayed and killed but then after three days He would rise again. Howbeit, they just couldn't seem to get their minds around such an insane notion. Luke wrote that Yeshua told the disciples to just let His words sink down into their ears (LUKE 9:44), which may, according to Alfred Plummer in his Gospel According to Luke, page 256, mean, to "store My words in your memories, even if you do not understand them".
Next we have a tapestry of accounts where the three evangelists weaved together for us a complete picture. On some occasions they joined together at some cross-road and then they went their own way, meeting together again later.
Mark told us that along the way to Jerusalem they began to dispute among themselves which of them should be the greatest (MARK 9:34). Then arriving at Capernaum, Matthew wrote of an incident which Mark and Luke curiously leave out, where Peter was asked by the authorities about tribute money for the temple tax. When they arrived at some house, Yeshua instructed Peter to go to the sea and cast in a hook and the fish which he caught would have their tribute money in its mouth (MATTHEW 17:24-27).
This was not as impossible as it might have sounded. Bishop Pillai in his book Orientalisms of the Bible tells us on page 43 that there is a fish in the Eastern Waters called Musht which holds shiny or sparkling objects in its mouth. Thus, Peter believing what Yeshua had told him, obeyed and went out and caught the fish, and paid the tribute. The significance of this telling by Matthew alone is interesting, because as having been a tax collector himself, it might have meant to him what it wouldn't have meant to the others.
While Peter was on his fishing errand, some of the other disciples asked Yeshua who it was that would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (MATTHEW 18:1). Then, probably some time after Peter returned, Yeshua asked His disciples what it was that they disputed about on their way to Capernaum. "But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And He sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all" (MARK 9:34-35).
This statement was obviously so far beyond their comprehension that Yeshua needed something concrete with which to demonstrate this truth.
MATTHEW 18:2-5 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
In what appeared to be a vain attempt to deflect from themselves this reproof, John then asked about someone who had been casting out devils in Yeshua's name, but who was not part of their entourage. Yeshua instructed them to "Forbid him not" (MARK 9:38-41 & LUKE 9:49-50). Matthew was silent about this incident. Then Yeshua again brought up the topic of which He was speaking, and then launched into a lengthy teaching.
MATTHEW 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Was Yeshua speaking exclusively about children? Wouldn't it make more sense if we took his comments in the context in which they were spoken? He was using a child to demonstrate how adults should act and think if they were going to be allowed into GOD's kingdom. He was speaking of His disciples not elbowing each other up the rungs of some imaginary ladder. He was speaking of them not forbidding other disciples from doing the work of Christ, even though they happened to be outside of their own Church or fellowship.
The fact that these three records of Matthew, Mark and Luke followed the exact same story line, yet from three completely different perspectives, should speak loudly to us concerning their authenticity.
On Marriage and Divorce
(MATTHEW 19:1-12 MARK 10:1-12)
The following incident is a good example of two evangelists who though recording the same identical event, followed not the same order of narrative. Both Matthew and Mark (through Peter) were sure about when and where this incident took place, though they each remembered it a little differently.
The two agreed that on leaving Galilee, the group of disciples came into the coasts of Judaea, beyond Jordan. They also agreed that the Pharisees came to Yeshua tempting Him, asking "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?" But here is where the two records diverged somewhat. Matthew wrote the following sequence.
a). And he [Yeshua] answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, that for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? What therefore God hath joined together, let not man separate (MATTHEW 19:4-6).
b). Then the Pharisees asked Him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He then answered them, "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so" (MATTHEW 19:7-8).
Mark however gave an entirely different sequence of the conversation. He started with b). writing that first Yeshua asked them what Moses commanded; then came their response that Moses okayed divorce, and then Yeshua explained that it was only because of the hardness of their hearts that Moses wrote this precept (MARK 10:3-5).
Mark next inserted the comments of a). about how from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female, and that for this cause a man shall leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife, finally explaining that what GOD has joined together let no man separate (MARK 10:6-9).
Matthew and Mark then came together again, with Mark adding the detail that the following occurred after they had come into the house.
MARK 10:10-12 And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. [MATTHEW 10:9]
Then Matthew closed the scene by writing of the disciples asking Yeshua if it was then good for a man not to marry? Yeshua explained that this was not for all men, but "he that is able to receive it, let him receive it".
What does all of this tell us? Surely not that the two evangelist copied from a common source, because in that case their two testimonies would more naturally conform to one another. Nor should we conclude that either evangelist made the whole thing up, or fabricated it from some oral tradition, randomly paste-ing it into their Gospel, for they both have the record falling in exactly the same place in Yeshua's itinerary. Surely the simplest solution is that the two evangelists recorded an event which in fact took place, only that each of them remembered it a little differently.
Then were there brought unto him little children
(MATTHEW 19:13-15 MARK 10:13-16)
It was common in that culture for parents to bring their young children unto a holy man so as to have him touch their child and thereby receive a blessing. We today see the same thing happening when the Pope or some prominent political figure is moving among a crowd. This is what we have here in this next incident. We might keep in mind that forty years later, when Yeshua was about to return and gather together His Church into heaven, these same children were then grown men.
As has been so often the case in this study, Mark added details which only a person who was present would know. Of course Matthew and John were usually nearby, but Mark and Luke were not. Luke had described how he obtained and scrutinized his information through trusted eyewitnesses, whose testimonies he studiously confirmed (LUKE 1:3). But how could Mark have gotten all of these intricate details unless somebody who had actually been in attendance was helping him write. There are many indications which continue to suggest to us that this unknown individual was none other than Simon Peter.
Matthew and Mark began by telling us that children were being brought to Yeshua, but that the disciples were rebuking those who were bringing them. We would expect these disciples to not be the Twelve, for they surely would have known by now that Yeshua had always welcomed these children into His company. Probably they were new disciples who were trying to impress others by thinking that they were protecting the Master from these bothersome parents with their pesky toddlers.
Matthew said that Yeshua had told these disciples to "forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of GOD". Yet Mark (through Peter) added that Yeshua was much displeased with these disciples who were hindering the parents, adding this detail which we have come to expect from Mark. Matthew concluded his record by simply saying that Yeshua laid His hands on them and then departed. Mark however, writes that Yeshua said "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein", which is a pretty powerful statement. Another has translated the phrase as, "Those who receive children are those who receive the kingdom".
Through the Eye of a Needle
(MATTHEW 19:16-30 MARK 10:17-31 LUKE 18:18-30)
It is inspiring for us to see in our study how closely the three evangelists followed each other; yet each with his own individual perspective and nuances. In this instance, all three wrote of a particular person coming to Yeshua seeking to know what it was that he could do so as to inherit eternal life. Luke wrote that this individual was a certain ruler, but it was again Mark (through Peter) who described the scene from the perspective of someone who was re-living it in full color. He wrote that this individual came running up to Yeshua, and then knelt before Him (MARK 10:17).
Next, Yeshua questioned why the man was calling Him good, for GOD alone is good. Yeshua then instructed him that if he wanted eternal life, that then he should keep the commandments, to which the man replied, Which commandments? If we have the notion that Yeshua's mission was to end the Law and usher in some age where all Law breaking is easily forgiven, perhaps we should re-read, re-think and re-consider this passage.
Which commandments? "Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (MATTHEW 19:18-19).
The man assured Yeshua that he had faithfully kept all of these commandments since he was a youth. Still, he felt something was yet lacking. Yeshua affirmed that yes, there was something lacking in his life. Evidently this ruler's wealth had somehow crowded itself in between him and his Creator. Thus Yeshua promised him that if he would sell his possessions and then distribute that money to the poor, that then he would reserve for himself treasure in heaven.
Again, Mark added a comment which we should expect only one close at hand could have known, "Jesus beholding him loved him" (MARK 10:21). Obviously, Mark would probably not have included this detail if Peter or another had not told him.
All three evangelists wrote that the man was grieved, or sorrowful after hearing Yeshua's answer because he was very rich. He came seeking to know how to obtain eternal life, and Yeshua explained the simple process; first keep the commandments of GOD, and then cut yourself loose from earthly treasures.
Yeshua then turned (and according to Mark alone, looked round about MARK 10:23) and explained to His disciples how this principle not only applied to their own lives, but as well to all others who seek an eternal life.
MARK 10:23-25 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it....to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Upon hearing that it would be hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of GOD, His disciples were exceedingly amazed, astonished out of measure, and said (Mark has among themselves), "Who then can be saved?" But Yeshua assured them that although this may be impossible with men, all is possible with GOD.
Peter reminded Yeshua that they had themselves forsaken all, "What shall we have therefore?" Yeshua told them that when He returned to sit upon His throne, that they also would judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Then He assured them that whosoever hath forsaken property or family, that he shall receive back a hundred fold, as well as eternal life in the world to come. Howbeit, Mark alone adds that whatsoever they receive in this world will be with persecutions.
Then Yeshua closed the account by declaring that the "first shall be last; and the last shall be first". Those whom this world esteems as first, the elite and influential, the popular and powerful, the VIPs and VVIPs, they shall in that eternal heavenly kingdom be least esteemed, least worthy.
as they came to Jericho
(MATTHEW 20:29-34 MARK 10:46-52 LUKE 18:35-43)
This next record again provides us good evidence that the three evangelists were not copying from a common source, nor that some later editor reworked their material to make it harmonize with an existing Gospel.
In MATTHEW we are told that when they departed Jericho that Yeshua healed two blind men who were sitting by the way. Howbeit, Mark and Luke both wrote that it was only one blind man, Mark identifying him as a certain Bartimus. Luke however mentioned that Bartimus was healed as they were approaching Jericho, while Mark says that it was as they "went out of Jericho".
Evidently we are dealing with two separate and distinct healings, occurring within a short space of time. Matthew elected to write of the two blind men who were healed while Mark and Luke wrote of Bartimus having his sight restored. And why not? Matthew tells us that there was a great multitude following along with them. This multitude could have been thousands of people, each clamoring for a closer opportunity to observe the Master's movements. No doubt the twelve apostles each had different perspectives as they were jostled about the crowd.
In addition to this, there is every indication that we are dealing with two different Jerichos (see Oxford Bible Maps, page 95). The first Jericho of scripture was destroyed when GOD overthrew it as Israel was entering into the Promised Land (JOSHUA 6). One would expect Matthew, writing to fellow Jews, would have referred to this original Jericho.
The second Jericho which would have been more prominent in Yeshua's day, was built a couple of miles down the road from where the original Jericho had been. Here Herod the Great built a winter palace with ornamental gardens. This Jericho is more likely to have been the one of which Luke would have referred, as he was writing for a Gentile who was not familiar with the ancient history of the Land.
But Mark had evidently been thinking not of Herod's Jericho, but of the original Biblical Jericho; howbeit, he referred to the healing which Luke had described and not the one to which Matthew described. Simply put, there were two healings between the two Jerichos. Thus, there seems to be little reason for dismissing the evangelists for their inconsistencies, when there may in fact be none.
But, as has so often proved to be the case, Mark (through Peter) added details which only one present would recount. We have already noted that Mark alone had the name of any of those healed that day. Then Mark also wrote that when Yeshua commanded Bartimus to come unto Him, that the blind man "cast away his garment" (MARK 10:50). This was no doubt a vivid recollection given to Mark as he was writing.
Thy King cometh, sitting upon an ass.
(MATTHEW 21:1-7 MARK 11:1-7 LUKE 19:29-35 JOHN 12:12-16)
Accounts such as this one help us to further understand just what inspiration entails. Inspiration is not where GOD dictates every word, letter and sentence which HE wants recorded. Rather, it is more along the lines where GOD blows into the ear of HIS subject and then lets them run with it. Inspiration is more like a gust of wind which fills the sails of a boat and drives it some distance across the waters. Then as subtly as it appeared, it is gone.
Matthew wrote here that Yeshua told two of His disciples to go and enter into the next village where they would find an ass tied with her colt. Howbeit, both Mark and Luke wrote of the colt only, and no ass is mentioned.
Even so, there is no reason for us to assume that they were contradicting one another and then suppose that Matthew invented the ass. It is more reasonable to expect that Mark and Luke left off mentioning the ass simply because it played no vital part in their account; Yeshua was after the colt, upon which He could mount and make His way into Jerusalem. The ass just happened to be tied along with it when the disciples found it. Matthew however, who was writing for his Jewish countrymen, needed the ass mentioned because he saw in this incident a fulfillment of prophecy. Evidently, neither Mark nor Luke made this connection.
LXE ZECHARIAH 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King is coming to thee, just, and a Saviour; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal.
This passage written by the prophet Zechariah, which Matthew (and John) inserted into the record, was not necessarily predicting that some day the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem upon an ass, nor the colt of an ass. Zachariah was simply writing that this King, who was more of a savior than a ruler, was meek, and instead of charging into Jerusalem upon a white stallion, He would calmly and peaceably make his way straddled across the back of the colt of an ass.
Thus when Matthew and John put pen to paper to actually record this event, remembering the colt with the ass standing nearby, they realized the connection with what the prophet had long before written (JOHN 12:16), and made mention of it.
Whoever it was that was helping Mark piece together his Gospel, whether Peter or another, Mark again added the detail that the colt was "tied by the door, without in a place where the two ways met" (MARK 11:4). Only someone who was actually present that day, where the two ways met, would recall that the colt was tied by the door. Others who were simply re-telling the incident would no doubt pass over an unimportant detail such as this.
His entry into Jerusalem
(MATTHEW 21:10-20 MARK 11:11-21 LUKE 19:41-46)
Here is another incident in the Gospels which is hailed by many critics as evidence that they routinely contradict one another, and thus can't be trusted. It is concerning Yeshua's entry into Jerusalem. But rather than a contradiction, this is more probably the case where Matthew and Luke left out what seemed to them as unimportant to the record, while Mark (through Peter) inserted it.
Matthew and Luke both wrote that when Yeshua entered into Jerusalem, that He went into the temple and cast out all them that sold and bought there (MATTHEW 21:12 LUKE 19:15). Mark however said that Yeshua only "looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve" (MARK 11:11). Then Mark wrote that the next day they returned to Jerusalem and then it was on that occasion that Yeshua "cast out them that sold and bought in the temple".
Simply put, Yeshua went to Jerusalem and entered into the temple, but being late evening He only inspected the premises and then they left to spend the night in Bethany. The next day they returned and that was when He drove from the Temple the den of thieves. Matthew and Luke didn't tell us that it was indeed their second day in Jerusalem when Yeshua drove out the den of thieves, probably because they didn't deem it relevant to the subject matter, nothing much happening in Jerusalem that first day.
Of course a later disciple such as Mark would not have known of this first entry into Jerusalem if one of the twelve had not told him. There was probably no good reason for it to be included in the account, except by some off handed chance that Peter mentioned it, which he evidently did.
Another apparent contradiction which flows right along with these two entries into Jerusalem, is the cursing of the fig tree, which Matthew and Mark related differently. Matthew wrote that in the morning they returned to Jerusalem and when Yeshua found a fruitless fig tree He cursed it and it withered immediately, the disciples then marveling at how soon it withered. Mark however wrote that the disciples didn't see it withered until the next morning, when they were again returning to Jerusalem.
If we consider the possibility that there were two fig trees on two separate occasions, we will be on the right track. It was written that the first fig tree was in the countryside on the way towards Jerusalem, while the second fig tree was within the city limits of Jerusalem.
On the morning of the second entry into Jerusalem, shortly after they left Bethany, Yeshua saw a fig tree in the distance, and finding no fruit thereon He cursed it (MARK 11:12-15). At the time nothing was noticed about the fig tree withering away. Then on the next day, as they again made there way towards Jerusalem, passing by this same fig tree, Peter noticed that it had withered, and pointed this out to Yeshua (MARK 11:20-21). Following this, they then entered into Jerusalem, where Yeshua found another fig tree without fruit and cursed it also (MATTHEW 21:18-20). This time though the tree withered away right before their eyes.
Who gave Thee this authority?
(MATTHEW 21:23-27 MARK 11:27-33 LUKE 20:1-8)
Next, the evangelists related for us some of Yeshua's teachings as He re-entered the Temple. This first one concerned the chief priests, the scribes and the elders confronting Yeshua about by whose authority He taught and did what He did. Of course on the previous day they had not the courage or confidence to question Him as He drove from the temple the den of thieves, but since then they had re-grouped and re-planned and re-deployed their attack.
Matthew wrote that they confronted Him as He taught in the temple. It was Mark (through Peter) who visually described the scene, when he noted that they came to Yeshua as He was walking (MARK 11:27). We can't imagine that Mark just made this detail up, but rather someone who had been with Yeshua that day in the temple was reliving the event and relating it to Mark, exactly how he had experienced it.
Luke wrote that it happened on one of those days (LUKE 20:1), which is what one might say if he was not sure of his exact chronology. Luke of course wrote many years after the event, from his various interviews with eyewitnesses.
The interested reader may want to refer to Alfred Edersheim's Jesus the Messiah, pages 468-470 for an excellent explanation and portrayal of this event.
thirty pieces of silver
(MATTHEW 26:6-16 MARK 14:3-11 LUKE 22:3-6)
It is curious that Matthew and Mark both recorded the incident which prompted Judas to go to the chief priests seeking to betray Yeshua, but Luke was completely silent concerning his motivation.
Some woman had poured a costly ointment upon Yeshua's head, for His burial He later affirmed, which caused some agitation among some of His disciples. They thought it a waste when the ointment could have been sold and the money used for better purposes. Yeshua rebuked them, saying that the woman had done a good thing, and even further, that her act would be long remembered as a memorial of her.
This evidently enraged Judas for we are told that he immediately went out to seek an opportunity to betray his Master. Howbeit, even though Luke told of Judas going to the chief priests for the purpose of betrayal, he says nothing concerning what spurred Judas to act in this way. Naturally, with Luke not being in attendance, we can well understand how he might not have known of the supposed waste of the ointment and the ensuing events. Of course Matthew and Peter would vividly remember the incident.
Then Matthew tells us that the bargain price for Yeshua's betrayal was thirty pieces of silver. None of the other evangelists note any particular amount. This also should be natural, that only Matthew would record the amount of the money, for he had been a tax gatherer who routinely had dealt with precise amounts of money.
the Last Supper
(MATTHEW 26:20-30 MARK 14:17-26 LUKE 22:14-38 JOHN 13:21-32)
This episode of the Last Supper has some real problems for those who still think that the Gospels are word for word perfect, each line and letter dictated by GOD. We should recognize by now that the scriptures being GOD breathed, doesn't mean that HE instilled every letter in HIS evangelist's minds which He wanted written down on the page. Instead, inspiration is more like a gust of wind which fills out one's sails and pushes them for a bit, then lets them coast along on their own.
In this record, Matthew and Mark followed each other pretty closely, yet Luke, who wrote from other sources probably years later, evidently got some things out of order. There is no real problem with this, as long as we keep it in mind when we are reading and studying these records. We don't doubt the truth of what Luke wrote, but we acknowledge that we need to read his account in light of the other evangelists records.
All four evangelists note that this Last Supper was held in the evening at some unknown location. It was probably not held in the upper room in Jerusalem, and surely not on the day which the passover lamb was sacrificed. Indications seem to point to some place in Bethany a day or two before the passover meal.
All four of the evangelists wrote that during the meal, Yeshua shocked them with the news that one of them would betray Him (MATTHEW 26:21-23 MARK 14:18-20 LUKE 22:21-23 JOHN 13:21-22). We can well imagine that this created quite a sensation among them, each questioning his neighbor concerning what Yeshua could mean. "Is it I?' echoed around the table. Mark (through Peter) wrote that Yeshua affirmed that it was one of the Twelve.
In all of the commotion perhaps the others didn't hear His answer, but Peter evidently did, and may well have then related his hearing unto Mark. Matthew noticed that when Judas asked if it was he that would betray, Yeshua replied "Thou hast said". Judas was crafty, and knew that he needed to ask so as not to bring suspicion upon himself, but in all of the clamor evidently little was thought of it at the time.
John then filled out for us a conversation which Peter had with another disciple, probably Lazarus. Even though we are told that Yeshua sat down with the Twelve, that does not necessarily exclude others from the meal. There is strong evidence in the Gospel accounts that Lazarus was the un-named disciple whom Yeshua is said to have loved (JOHN 11:5). Tradition thinks it was John, but traditions are usually wrong.
JOHN 13:23-26 Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop [morsel], when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
As they sat in a semi-circle, this un-named disciple (Lazarus) was evidently seated next to Yeshua. Peter must therefore have been seated next to Lazarus for him to ask Lazarus to find out who it was that Yeshua was referring to. Yeshua of course responded that it was he to whom He would give a sop when He had dipped it in the common dish. We must suppose that Judas must have been close enough for Yeshua to place the sop in his mouth, as was the custom. Judas was very likely then on Yeshua's other side.
When Yeshua leaned over to place the morsel in Judas' mouth, it was possibly right then that He affirmed, "Thou hast said". For the master to place a morsel of food in one's mouth was a high honor, as was being seated next to Him. Thus Yeshua continued to show kindness to the disciple who was intending to betray Him, no doubt igniting an inner turmoil within the heart of the traitor.
Immediately Satan entered into him, and Yeshua charged him, "That thou doest, do quickly" (JOHN 13:27-30). Judas must have rose up and stormed out of the room, the others assuming he had an errand to run for the Master. This tells us that few if any had heard, or connected the dots of what had just transpired.
With the traitor departed on his devious errand, Yeshua continued with the meal. Matthew and Mark wrote that Yeshua then took the bread and distributed it among them, next taking the cup of wine and doing likewise. Luke however, has the order switched. He wrote that first Yeshua passed around the cup of wine, and then after that He distributed the bread. The effect is the same no matter which record is right, but obviously one of them was wrong.
It is curious that some later hand tried to make Luke's account harmonize with Matthew and Mark's by adding the phrase "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you" (LUKE 22:20). This verse was added to the original according to all of the best sources. Even so, LUKE still differs from both MATTHEW and MARK, regardless how one chooses to tamper with the text.
Luke then added quite a lengthy dialogue between Yeshua and His disciples, first about which of them should be the greatest. Almost the identical subject was handled by Yeshua on at least two previous occasions,
first) MATTHEW 18:1-4 MARK 9:34-37 and LIKE 9:46-48
and second) MATTHEW 20:20-28 MARK 10:35-45
so we cannot rule out the possibility that it wasn't handled a third time here at the Last Supper. Luke said so. Then Luke made mention of Yeshua promising them that whosoever remained faithful shall be appointed a kingdom, and further that they shall be able to sit at Yeshua's table in His kingdom. And still even further that they shall sit upon thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (LUKE 22:18-30).
Then comes the warning to Peter that Satan had desired to sift him as wheat, and Peter declaring his own resolve to remain stedfast. Yeshua warns Peter that "the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me" (LUKE 22:34). Of course this is similar to the warning soon to be issued to Peter after they have departed the meal for the mount of Olives, but that only introduces the possibility that Yeshua had repeated this warning to Peter.
Finally, Luke related how Yeshua encouraged them to take a purse, a traveling bag, extra shoes and even a dagger if they had one. If the had no dagger, they were to sell their garment so as to obtain one. They counted among them two daggers; He said it was enough and they departed for they knew not what or where (LUKE 22:35-38).
Exactly where Luke got all of this additional information concerning what else occurred at the Last Supper we know not, but there is no good reason doubt it.
The supper ended with them singing a psalm and then they departed to the mount of Olives (MATTHEW 26:30 MARK 14:26).
Take away this cup from Me
(MATTHEW 26:36-46 MARK 14:32-42 LUKE 22:40-45)
One would think, that if these stories were all made up, if they were invented to promote some ideology upon which later charlatans could erect a Church or Religion, then this is surely one episode which they would have left out. If you were trying to convince the world that Yeshua was a divine Son of Almighty GOD, perhaps a mystical member of the Trinitarian Godhead, then why portray Him as wrestling with the thought of doing the will of GOD? Wouldn't you want to portray Him as perfectly godlike, never showing any signs of weakness or frailty? Yet here He declared that "He was greatly distressed and troubled" (RSV MARK 14:33).
As on previous occasions, Matthew and Mark (through Peter) followed each other very closely, almost word for word. Yet Luke again had a little different order of events, with a few details which the others didn't include.
They all arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper, and Yeshua singled out Peter, James and John to accompany Him a little further by themselves.
MARK 14:33-34 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; and saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
Evidently, not long before GOD had showed Yeshua what great suffering that He was going to have to endure (JOHN 13:1; 18:4). Perhaps it all began to unfold for Him as they made their way from Bethany to the Mount of Olives. The phrase "sore amazed" means to be struck with terror, or as F. F. Bruce wrote in his Epistle To The Hebrews, page 99, "horror and dismay came over Him".
Yeshua was not GOD dieing for mankind. He was a Man among men, who felt pain and hunger and thirst like any other man. But now He was being shown all that was to transpire over the next forty hours, and it rightly terrified Him. And He prayed to His father that if there was any other way to accomplish this mission, please let it be by some other means. Nevertheless, if not He was willing to succumb.
He had just told them at the Last Supper that His blood was the cup of the covenant which was to be poured out for them; but now that He began to realize the enormity of what that entailed, He asked that that cup pass from Him.
Only Mark (through Peter) noted His affectionate phrase, "Abba, Father" (MARK 14:36). This is what we would expect if Peter heard the beginning of Yeshua's prayer just as he was dozing off to sleep.
LUKE 22:43-44 is questionable, very possibly added to the text by an later hand.
Put up thy sword into the sheath
(MATTHEW 26:51-54 MARK 14:47 LUKE 22:49-51 JOHN 18:10-11)
Here is the curious record of Peter slicing off the ear of one of the high priest's servants. All four evangelists record this event, howbeit only John told us that it was Peter, and also that the name of his victim was Malchus. One can only speculate why only John revealed their names. Perhaps it was because they felt that revealing the identity of Malchus' attacker might put Peter at risk of being arrested by the authorities, and by the time John wrote his Gospel the risk had passed.
We also remember that John was the only evangelist who recorded the incident of Lazarus being raised from among the dead. Perhaps the disciples refrained from disclosing Lazarus' name to help shield him from danger, for the authorities also sought to kill him because "by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus" (JOHN 12:10-11). Yet by the time JOHN was written, that danger also might have passed.
Luke and John wrote that it was the right ear, suggesting that it may have been John who gave Luke this information. Peter again refrained from admitting his hand in this, either because he was ashamed or didn't want to appear boastful.
We might have rightfully wondered why Yeshua's enemies didn't use this attack by Peter upon the high priest's servant in His trial, except that Luke revealed that the ear had been restored. That might have proved an embarrassing charge by His accusers when Malchus was brought before them and found to be in perfect health.
Simon a Cyrenian
(MATTHEW 27:32 MARK 15:21 LUKE 23:26)
After Yeshua's capture in the Garden of Gethsemane and His mock trial before the High Priest, He was ordered to be crucified by Pilate. As they led Him forth towards Golgotha, they found a man returning from the countryside and ordered him to carry the cross. It is notable that only Mark (through Peter) thought it important to mention the names of Simon's sons.
MARK 15:21 And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.
Why even mention this detail? To what purpose or profit for Mark's account was this person, or the names of his two sons? Is this not one of those Scriptural Coincidences of which J. J. Blunt discovered and wrote about?
The apostle Paul had written in one of his epistles concerning a certain Rufus who lived at Rome (ROMANS 16:13). Of course we have no way of knowing if this was the same Rufus whose father carried the cross for Yeshua, but the assumption is certainly a reasonable one. Especially so when we recognize that Mark was very possibly writing from Rome where Rufus lived.
As mentioned at the outset of this study, no one can say with certainty when and by whom any ancient document was written, but having scoured the three Gospel accounts for hints and clues, we are able to at least make some educated guesses.
We have seen ample evidence in this study that Mark had someone helping him piece together his record of Yeshua's life and ministry. This un-named individual must have been close to most of the events which transpired during those times, someone even closer than a regular apostle. Only Peter, James or John, who Yeshua routinely selected out from the others, could qualify as likely prospects. But with James being killed by Herod around 44 A.D., that would have left only Peter and John to open up for Mark all of the fascinating details we find solely in his Gospel.
As scripture has given us sufficient testimony that Peter and Mark had a close relationship (ACT 12:12 1 PETER 5:13), this has to tip the scales in that direction. Then, having Papias declare that Mark did indeed write that which Peter preached, there should be little room for doubt that it was none other than Simon Peter who was responsible for Mark's Gospel.
But who wrote first? Understanding that Matthew probably wrote originally in Aramaic, that would suggest that he wrote his account when the Church was still primarily Jewish. Eusebius again quoting Papius stated,
"So Matthew composed the oracles in the Hebrew language and each person interpreted them as best he could" (Eusebius, Church History 3:39.16).
Thus we can safely assume that Matthew must have written not many years after Yeshua's ascension around 33 A.D., probably before many Greek speaking Jews and Gentiles had joined the Church.
Luke evidently wrote some years later, as there is no record of him even being a disciple until sometime between 48 A.D. (ACTS 15) and 49 A.D. (ACTS 18), when he first met Paul (ACTS 16:10). Besides, according to his own testimony, he stated that even before he had decided to write his Gospel, "many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us" (LUKE 1:1). Thus if we allow a few more years for him to gather his material, that puts his writing of LUKE in the fifties and ACTS probably then in the sixties.