THE PROGRESSIVE PUBLICATION OF MATTHEW’S GOSPEL:
AN APPROACH TO THE ANALYSIS OF SYNOPTIC RELATIONSHIPS
B Ward Powers
THE HYPOTHESIS: The five Propositions upon which the approach is founded
Proposition 1: Matthew Responds to a Growing Need
Proposition 2: Many Take It In Hand
Once short accounts of this nature began circulating, and meeting a felt need, other eyewitnesses would be motivated to take pen in hand in similar fashion and begin recording Christ’s teaching and deeds of which they were aware. We have the evidence of Luke’s Prologue to tell us this.
Proposition 3: Luke Collects His Material
Between AD 56 and 58, while Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, Luke engaged in discussions with eyewitnesses and collected information to provide the basis for his record of the events from Pentecost onwards and used the same opportunities, and questioned the same people, about the life of Christ. Amongst the documents he collected, about which he tells us, were numbers which had been written by Matthew.
Proposition 4: Publication of the Two Major Synoptic Gospels
Given, then, the different plan on which the two authors constructed their Gospels, it is not surprising to see them placing particular events or sayings in different order.
Proposition 5: Mark Produces A Special-purpose Gospel
Within a few years of when the Gospels of Matthew and Luke
began to circulate in the church - the early church Fathers identify the date
as being about AD 65 - Mark, in
Mark consists almost entirely of "action stories" which show Jesus healing, performing miracles, engaged in conflict with his opponents, and so on: such teaching as there is, either arises out of these situations or is illustrative of the teaching aspect of Jesus's ministry, and in any case is always related directly to one or more of the main themes of Mark. In his Gospel, he does not assume the post-Easter faith, as do Matthew and Luke. Mark traces the journey of the disciples from doubt and disbelief, and aims to take his readers and hearers on that same journey. His Gospel is an evangelistic tool - a resource book for evangelists - aimed at introducing Jesus to the interested outsider. It was intended to be used as a source-book in evangelistic preaching, and even to be read aloud in places where people gathered. So it is worded (unlike the more literary Matthew and Luke) in the common colloquial speech of the people.
Mark’s Gospel quite consistently includes material that is in Matthew and Luke which was in accord with his themes, and excludes the rest. Mark’s Gospel sets out the kerygma being preached to unbelievers. It is "pure" kerygma, while Matthew and Luke are combinations of kerygma and didache. Mark’s Gospel climaxes with the cross, and with the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God - which he does not teach earlier. His motivation in producing his Gospel is exactly the same as that of those Christians today who publish extracts from Scripture in modern speech for use in evangelistic outreach: like those who do this today, Mark knew that the rest of the Gospel story was readily available in the church for those who became interested.
To explain the order of Mark: (a) In accordance with his intention to produce a Gospel of the deeds rather than the teaching of Jesus, Mark adopted a framework which avoided the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain, and Luke’s Central Teaching Section. He followed the framework of Luke’s Gospel to Mark 6:14 (Herod’s comment about Jesus), and thereafter the framework of Matthew’s Gospel. (b) Into his Lukan framework he added four sections from Matthew; into his Matthean framework he added four short sections drawn from Luke. These insertions were placed in Mark’s Gospel at the same point at which they occurred in his source.