TJ Comments

Comments are welcomed on the comparisons between the verses or passages shown from the Gospel of Matthew and their TJ parallels. TJ stands for Talmud of Jmmanuel, discovered in 1963 by Eduard Meier and Isa Rashid.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gospel Studies: Letting Matthew Regain Priority over Mark

It has always been problematic that Mark should be placed ahead of Matthew, considering that the earliest tradition, of the church fathers, was that a Semitic version of Matthew preceded the other Gospels. The portion of this tradition that affirms the Gospels to have been written early and by their attributed namesakes is easily suspect of being wrong, because such affirmation was demanded by theological commitment. However, the order in which the Gospels were written was just a matter of history, not faith.

One reason that this situation changed, in the 19th century after the Gospels had come under more careful scrutiny, was an unspoken reason. When Matthew is placed ahead of Mark, it can become apparent from comparing parallel passages that the writer of Mark was strongly anti-Semitic. Not only were the Jewish disciples therein treated as unworthy of discipleship in various ways, so were the Jewish people as contrasted with gentiles living in the Decapolis region. Mark's emphasis of the "Don't tell" admonition after a healing (the "Messianic Secret") served to deprive Jews of the good news while not withholding it from gentiles. Other examples include the (Jewish) leper whom Jesus looked upon with anger (as in the Western text D, not pity; compare Mk 1:41 and Mt 8:3), and the people in the synagogue he looked upon with anger (compare Mk 3:5 and Mt 12:13).

A different set of examples of Mark's anti-Semitism (directed at the Jewish people in general and not just at their clerics as in Matthew) occurs at Mk 6:34 (when compared with Mt 14:14), Mk 10:1 (compare with Mt 19:2), and at Mk 11:7 (compare with Mt 21:14). There in Matthew Jesus heals the (Jewish) people, while in Mark they are not healed, but rather are taught. An anti-Semitic attitude of the 1st and 2nd centuries would portray ignorant Jews as being taught while denying them healing.

There are too many other examples of Markan anti-Semitism than can be mentioned here. By placing Mark ahead of Matthew, however, scholars could then say that for whatever reason Mark was rough on people (except gentiles), a problem which the writers of Matthew and Luke eliminated or ameliorated. To have to think that the writer of Mark was blatantly anti-Semitic was too deplorable to contemplate or speak of. Hence, other reasons -- non-compelling ones -- were set forth to try to explain that Mark had been the first gospel. It didn't require the Holocaust for scholars to realize that it was not at all good for their profession and for Christianity if it was undeniable that one of the Gospel writers had been unashamedly anti-Semitic.