Marcan Priority Claim is Invalid
[Excerpted from Standford Rives, Original Gospel of Matthew (2012) Vol. 2, Appendices. It is available at our Amazon store.]
Matthean Priority: Unanimous Church Tradition
“According to church tradition, Mark wrote later” than Matthew or Luke. (Wilhelm Martin L. de Wette, An Historico-critical Introduction to the Canonical Books of the New Testament (tr.F. Frothingham) (from the Lehrbuch, pt. 2) (1858) at 163.) Throughout this discussion, we will abbreviate this book citation as Wette.
Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette (12 January 1780 - 16 June 1849) was a German evangelical theologian and biblical scholar. His father was a pastor. Wette became professor of theology at Heidelberg.
Wette in the Historico-Critical Introduction did an excellent job proving that Mark was dependent on both Luke and Matthew. Wette recreated systematically and simply how Mark took fragments from both Matthew and Luke. See Wette: 166-169.
However, since Wette’s effort, a different theory emerged—that both Matthew and Luke were dependent upon Mark. If you read Wette’s excellent points, however, this notion is inconceivable, as we shall revive below.
Marcan Priority Claim
Scholars today generally believe the Greek Mark came before the Greek Matthew. I will concede the point despite it being conjectural. However, these scholars do not factor into their thinking the importance that our Greek Matthew unquestionably derived from a Hebrew Matthew, and the Hebrew Matthew preceded the Greek Mark, as all early history records. In other words, the Hebrew Matthew is what predates both the Greek Mark and Greek Matthew. But the consensus now is that Mark came before Matthew—yet scholars mean the Greek Matthew came after the Greek Mark. They do not take into serious account the fact there was a Hebrew Matthew before both of them. I call this error the Marcan priority claim.
The Marcan priority claim largely depends upon the simplistic argument that had Matthew in Greek pre-existed Mark’s Gospel, then why did Mark not use the Sermon on the Mount? All other proofs are conjectural, as the notion of copying by Matthew of Mark can be stated with equal plausibility as Mark copying from Matthew. See see Alan Barber, Did Jesus Really Say that? A Restoration of the First Gospel (Kindle book, 2011).
So let’s examine this issue of what explains why Mark would omit the Sermon on the Mount if Matthew which contains it actually came prior to Mark’s Gospel.
Assuming there was only a Greek Matthew, Baur long ago replied, and said that Mark did not wish to repeat the heart of the Sermon—Matthew 5:17-20—which says the Law (Torah) was still to be upheld. As Wette relates: “Baur, p. 565, explains the omission of the Sermon on the Mount by its character as a statement of principles, and by the Evangelist’s caution in avoiding the dispute concerning the validity of the Mosaic Law.” (Wette: 174 fn. c.)
Indeed, Mark never uses the word Law anywhere in his gospel. As we discuss below in more depth, Mark was identified in early church history as an associate of Paul’s. (2 Tim. 4:11.) It is obvious he has a clearly pro-Paul bias in his Gospel. This explains why Mark omits the Sermon on the Mount with its repetitious emphasis on righteous behavior linked to membership in the kingdom, e.g., peacemakers are called ‘sons of the kingdom,’ merciful receive mercy, humble belong to the kingdom of heaven, etc.
But an equally valid explanation for Mark omitting the Sermon on the Mount is that if Matthew was first written in Hebrew (as all the evidence proves), and Mark could not read Hebrew, as appears clearly to be the case from his poor use of Hebrew vocabulary, Mark would not be able to read the Gospel according to the Hebrews by Matthew (GATHM, for short) where the Sermon on the Mount first appeared. Mark then relied upon a sayings collection in Greek derived from the Hebrew Matthew, but like the sayings collection in the Gospel of Thomas from 100 AD, it lacked the Sermon on the Mount.
Regardless of either explanation’s validity, we can agree in one sense with the Marcan priority claim. The Greek Mark could have preceded the Greek Matthew. Thus, the absence of the Sermon on the Mount in Mark is explained by either (a) Mark had a bias not to repeat what Matthew wrote in Hebrew or (b) Mark could not read Matthew in Hebrew but had access to a sayings collection in Greek which lacked the Sermon on the Mount. For example, the Gospel of Thomas is just such a Greek sayings-collection which lacks the Sermon on the Mount. Otherwise, it has many passages in common with Matthew that do not appear in Mark. Hence, either one of these reasonable possibilities (both consistent with the known history that Matthew came first) explains perfectly why the Sermon on the Mount is absent in Mark’s Gospel. The most likely explanation is indeed (a), as we discuss next.
Pro-Paul Bias Explains Mark Edited Matthew
So is it demonstrable that Mark had a pro-Paul bias as Bauer claimed?
John Mark was a companion of Paul referenced in Colossians 4:10, Philemon 24 and 2 Tim. 4:11. The Coptic church—the most ancient Christian Church of Egypt—maintains this same John Mark was the author of Mark’s Gospel. See “Mark the Evangelist,” Wikipedia (2011).
But was Mark instead close to Peter and written under Peter’s influence, as is commonly asserted? Not if you listen to the earliest source on the origin of Mark’s Gospel: Clement. Eusebius quoted Clement, an early leader at Rome about 92 AD, who said Peter was unaware Mark had written a gospel until it was completed, “and that when the matter came to Peter’s knowledge, he neither strongly forbad it nor urged it forward.” Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 6.14.6-10, cited in Powell, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, supra, at 71.
The notion that Peter gave Mark his Gospel originated almost 100 years later and much farther from Rome where Mark wrote. It came from Egypt’s Origen (ca. 185 AD). But that means that it “appears the farther from Peter’s lifetime we get, the closer Mark is to him [i.e., Peter].” Powell, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, supra, at 71.
Conversely, when we move closer to Peter’s lifetime, there is absolutely no link between Mark’s Gospel and Peter.
Hence, as a matter of history, there is more reason to support a Pauline connection than a Petrine connection to the origin of Mark’s Gospel. And this will help us identify the likely reason that Mark omitted the Sermon on the Mount.
Why does a connection between Mark and Paul best explain the absence of the Sermon on the Mount rather than that Mark was written before Matthew, and thus Matthew added the Sermon for his own reasons?
As explained by scholar David C. Sim from the Department of New Testament Studies University of Pretoriain in his article “Matthew’s anti-Paulinism: A neglected feature of Matthean studies,” HTS 58(2) 2002 at 776-777 [PDF link]:
H D Betz...argued that the Sermon on the Mount...reflected a conservative Jewish Christian perspective that was overtly anti-Pauline (cf Mt 5:17-20; 7:13-27.)
How so? The Sermon on the Mount emphasized the Law and obedience for kingdom entry. For Matthew 5:20 said “your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees” who Jesus in Matthew depicts as anti-legalists / shallow adherents to the Law. See Matt 15:6, 23:23. See also “Matthew 23:23: Pharisees As Anti-Legalists” on page 178 infra.
To confirm this, do we find a consistent bias in Mark which similarly explains why other passages in Matthew do not appear?
Indeed, there are numerous examples that Mark removes verses which have an anti-Paul flavor but which permeate Matthew’s Gospel, whether GATHM or the Greek version, including the Sermon on the Mount (viz., Matt 5:19).
For example, in Mark, gone is the reference in Matthew 5:17-19 that the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens teaches the Law, but the one loosening the Law will be known as the LEAST—the meaning of Paul’s Latin name of Paulus, a contraction of Pauxillus which means the LEAST. (See “Matthew 5:19: A Reference To Paul?” on page 158 infra.) In fact, the word Law never appears in Mark!
In Mark, gone is the reference to the false prophets as “ravening wolves” in “sheep’s clothing” as we find in Matthew 7:15—an obvious allusion to the “Benjamite Ravening Wolf” prophecy of Genesis 49:27 which was hardly complimentary of Paul. (See “Matthew 7:15: The Benjamite Wolf Prophecy” on page 160 infra.)
Gone also in Mark’s account of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Mark 4:26-29 cfr. Matthew 13:24-29; 36-40) is that the Tares are first taken from the earth when Christ returns, not Christians. Thus, Mark removes the fact that Matthew’s account of the same parable is at odds with Paul in 1 Thess. 4:17. There Paul says instead that Christians are raptured first, leaving the evil behind. Mark’s Gospel tells the same parable by Jesus but without the fact the evil are raptured, not Christians, when Christ returns. Mark similarly omits Matthew 24:31 which repeats that the evil are first raptured out of the earth, leaving the righteous to inherit the earth (which matches Revelation ch. 14 as well). See Matthew 24:31.
Also disappearing from the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is the allusion to an “enemy” sowing tares among wheat. As several commentators point out, the Parable of the Tares in Matthew was apparently intended as a direction to orthodox Christians to tolerate Paul’s followers in the church as sown by an “enemy.” Even though this message was kind and tolerant, Mark, with a pro-Paul bias, evidently would not want it to appear Jesus was giving any prophetic attention to the problem of Paul. Especially if Jesus depicted Paul as an enemy. This would explain again why Mark dropped “enemy” out of the parable. See Matthew 13:25, 39
Gone also in Mark’s account is Peter’s confession of Jesus as “Messiah, Son of God.” (Matt 16:17.) As a result, gone is that Jesus says Heaven revealed this to Peter, implying Peter received this directly from the Father. Cfr. Mark 8:29. And Matthew adds that Jesus says that upon this rock (Peter’s faith? or Peter whose name means rock?), Jesus will found His church.
David C Sim in his article, “Matthew’s anti-Paulinism: A neglected feature of Matthean studies,” HTS 58(2) (2002) [PDF link] explains the anti-Pauline feature to this passage of Matthew:
“[T]he words of Jesus in Mt 16:17 bear a striking similarity to Paul’s words of his own revelation and commission by the risen Christ in Gl 1:12 and 16-17. Matthew [sic: Jesus] is making the point that it was Peter and not Paul who experienced divine revelations and who was commissioned by Jesus to lead the church.” See also, Sim, The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The history and social setting of the Matthean community (Edinburgh: T& T Clark, 1998) at 200-203.
Why would Mark leave out something that elevates Peter? Because a defender of Paul would wish to take such recognition from Peter, as Paul attacked Peter in Galatians as a hypocrite (Gal. 2:11-12), dismissing him as a “seeming” pillar of the church (Gal. 2:9) who “imparted nothing to me” (Gal 2:7) and “whatsoever they [i.e., Peter, James and John] were makes no difference to me,” i.e., Paul is unimpressed by their stature with Jesus. Gal 2:6. Mark’s Gospel by deleting these passages supportive of Peter in Matthew would present a gospel easier for Paul’s followers to read.
Gone in Mark is also Jesus’ statement to call no man ‘father’ in Matt 23:9, when Paul told the Corinthians he was their “spiritual father” in Christ. See “Matthew 23:9: Don’t Call Anyone Father” on page 177 infra.
Also gone in Mark is Matthew 23:21 where Jesus says not to swear by the Temple where “God resides” when Paul teaches at Athens that God “does not live in temples built by human hands.” (Acts 17:24.)
Gone in Mark is also Jesus’ depiction of the Pharisees as anti-legalists in Matthew 23:23 whom Jesus faults for obeying the smaller parts of the Law but not teaching the greater parts of the Law, i.e., justice, piety and mercy. But Paul had the contrary view the Pharisees were strict legalists. He states this in Philippians 3:5-6 and Acts 26:5. See “Matthew 23:23: Pharisees As Anti-Legalists” on page 178 et seq.
In addition, gone in Mark is the reference that Jesus says the Pharisees were excellent at performing the outward acts necessary to appear in compliance with the Law, but inwardly were deceitful and corrupt. (Matt 23:28.) Jesus in Matthew similarly says the Pharisees were white-washed tombs on the outside to make others believe they were law-abiding. They cleaned the outside of the cup when their external behavior was solely to appear Law-compliant—an expedient to gain honors and money; it was not to truly obey God. (Matt 23:25, 27.) But Paul openly endorsed and practiced exactly the same outward-Law-conformance practices, acknowledging inwardly he was not subject to the Law but obeyed the Law solely for expedience-sake to gain adherents among Jews. (1 Cor 9:20-21 (“to the Jews I became as a Jew that I might win Jews...myself not being myself under the Law....”) Paul even extolled hypocrisy for the sake of gaining followers: “But be it so, I did not myself burden you; but, being crafty, I caught you with guile.” (2 Cor. 12:16, ASV.) Mark deleted all condemnations by Jesus of the Pharisees’ tactic of hypocritical obedience to the Law to gain adherents. Any follower of Paul aware of such passages must cringe when reading Matthew. But such problem is absent with Mark.
There is no doubt about Paul’s principles that are implicated by our Lord’s words. For example, Paul taught that he was free to violate the Exodus command not to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but Paul said that only if he were around someone who thought it was wrong, Paul would refrain from eating such meat. (1 Cor 8:11.) Paul’s moral explanation for such behavior appears to be what Jesus condemned—obedience solely for expediency but otherwise Paul thought he did not have to obey any inward duties imposed by the Law. Paul wrote: “All things are lawful but not all things are necessarily expedient.” (1 Cor 6:12.) Paul also explained that on eating such foods, the rule was not to offend by insisting upon any principles so as to gain adherents: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do...[g]ive no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things,..seeking...the profit of many, that they may be saved.” (1Corinthians 10:31-33.)
So in Mark’s Gospel, we find Jesus’s words are erased which condemn similar hypocrisy of the Pharisees whom Jesus said obeyed the Law for appearance-sake and expediency to gain followers. Thus, Mark’s gospel served to cleanse such embarrassing commands from our Savior—thereby becoming an important text to use if one were to have a gospel acceptable to Paul’s followers.
Likewise, gone in Mark is the command “do not take wages” (OGM) and “freely you received, freely give” (ASV) which we find in Matthew 10:8. These Matthean lessons were similarly at odds with Paul who tells the Corinthians: “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you.” 2 Cor 11:8 (ASV.) Paul also defended preachers taking wages of the churches in 1 Tim. 5:17, where Paul wrote: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor [i.e., payment] especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” Paul defends this by using a verse about not muzzling an ox, applying that agricultural rule to imply churchgoers have a duty to pay the elders for their service. (1 Tim. 5:18.) Hence, Jesus’ blunt lesson not to take wages for preaching was evidently removed by Mark as Mark apparently did with so many other passages where Jesus’ words otherwise trouble a follower of Paul.
Sermon On The Mount: Why Remove It?
We mentioned briefly above why in Mark the Sermon on the Mount would be difficult to explain by a Paul-advocate. The Sermon is not omitted in Mark because Matthew came second, as is typically claimed today. Rather, Matthew first wrote the Sermon, as all historical accounts of the sequence of writing were recorded. Consistent with all the foregoing examples of passages Mark removed, the Sermon on the Mount reflects salvation principles which a follower of Paul would disagree with. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount promises mercy to the merciful, the kingdom of heaven to the peacemakers, “entry into heaven” to those whose conduct exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees—Matthew 5:20—who are depicted as shallow-followers of the Law by Jesus in Matthew 23:23, etc. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repetitiously links behaviors to salvation.
By contrast, Paul in Romans 4:4-5 says God justifies the “ungodly” based on faith alone, to the one who “worketh not.”
The key example is where Jesus elevates behaviors as a necessary component of salvation in the Sermon on the Mount is when Jesus spoke of the necessity to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees to be saved. (Matt. 5:20.) Jesus meant the Pharisees were shallow adherents to the Law, as He explained in Matt 23:23. Thus, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly says that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:20.) But Paul clearly taught that seeking to be righteous by more than mere faith such as by obeying the Law could actually sever you from Christ. Supposedly, now you sought to please God by adding obedience to the Law rather than simply relying upon just having faith, and this attitude alone allegedly severs you from Christ. (Gal. 5:4.)
Many defenders of Paul acknowledge the Sermon on the Mount repeatedly contradicts Paul. They offer up the Dispensational solution to avoid the importance of the contradictions. For example, Clarence Larkin was the founder of this dispensational theology in his work Dispensational Truth (Philadelphia: Larkin, 1918). Larkin claims Paul came with a superseding gospel to that found in Matthew through John. Thus, Larkin freely acknowledged Paul contradicts Christ’s message in the Sermon on the Mount. But Larkin’s Dispensationalism theory explains this away, claiming that Jesus was talking to Jews under an old covenant while Paul was talking to all in the new covenant. And thus Larkin says Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount “have no application to the Christian, but only to those who are under the Law, and therefore must apply to another Dispensation than this.” (Id., at 87.) Thus, Larkin teaches that we are free to stay in Paul’s Gospel despite a contrary lesson from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
This underscores why Mark took the path he did. Mark did not know of such a dispensational theory to explain away Jesus’ words. Thus, Mark had to find a different resolution. Mark simply erased what Pauline scholars today acknowledge are contradictions between Paul and Jesus. Hence, Mark drops Matthew 5:17—the greatest teach the Law, and the least do not—with all the Sermon’s illustrations by simply eliminating the Sermon altogether. Confirming that the Sermon on the Mount is the thorn Mark deliberately removed is a lesson from Pastor Mike Paulson at Touchet Bible Church. He put it bluntly that we must only follow Paul’s Gospel and disregard that belonging to Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount as a supposedly superseded Gospel, saying:
The stuff in the Sermon on the Mount actually contradicts Paul’s teachings in everything from salvation to doctrinal belief! You would think folks would see this—but like Jesus said of them, ye err not knowing the Scriptures....Pastor Mike Paulson, WWJD v. WWPD? and is reprinted at http://www.touchet1611.org/ (accessed 2005).
Thus, Bauer who first noted this as Mark’s likely motivation was correct. Mark knew the Sermon on the Mount would make followers of Paul feel very uncomfortable. Paul was Mark’s mentor and companion. “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:11.) Thus, Mark helped Paul’s ministry by redacting from the gospel passages like the Sermon on the Mount which would cause tension for a defender of Paul.
And further confirming this as true is that Mark’s Gospel borrows from Luke, but also omits any passages in Luke that are at apparent odds with doctrines of Paul. As Ernst von Bunsen—one who holds Paul has the superseding Gospel to that of Matthew, concluded: “Throughout this Gospel [of Mark] we have traced an evident design to place Paul on par with the other apostles, by harmonizing the principal differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels.” (Ernst von Bunsen, The Hidden Wisdom of Christ and the Key of Knowledge (Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1865) Vol. 2 at 295.)
Luke, whom most assume would edit to serve Paul’s interest, does not do so. He actually repeats many of the passages in Matthew at odds with Paul’s doctrine. Thus, Bunsen goes on, noting Mark’s Gospel deliberately left out those parts of “Luke’s Gospel in which the public doctrine and its apostolic promulgators are too unfavorably contrasted with the more perfect, because more complete, Hidden Wisdom of Christ, as first openly proclaimed by Paul.” So Mark even edits down Luke to omit any principles which might cause difficulty in accepting Paul.
Mark’s Pattern To Bolster Paul’s Doctrines
Hence, the omission of the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew fits a clear pattern in Mark to promote a gospel that Paul’s followers could read without any tension.
At the same time, Mark’s Gospel repeatedly contains Paul’s theory of the emptying (kenosis) of Christ of any presence of deity (Phil. 2:6-7). Paul taught Christ “counted equality with God” as not something to hold onto, and instead “emptied himself” (kenosis) and came to earth in the appearance of a man. Thus, even though Jesus in Matthew always knows what people are thinking and is not excluded from the Father’s counsel (e.g., Matt 26:10 OGM “Jesus who knows everything in regard to any matter done”), in Mark’s Gospel, we find the opposite. Mark’s Gospel repeatedly insists upon Jesus’ ignorance or inability to do things in the same context where Matthew lacks any such statements. For example, Mark, not Matthew, says the Father but “not the Son” knows when the end will come. See Footnote 431 in OGM Vol. I on page 187. See also “Matthew 24:36: ‘Neither The Son’ Is Inauthentic” on page 197 et seq.
Charles Powell provides a list from Mark of these kenotic statements (i.e., where Jesus is described by Mark as emptied of divine knowledge) with this explanation:
Texts in Mark, but not in Matthew where Jesus expresses ignorance or inability include Mark 1:45; 5:9, 30; 6:5, 38, 48; 7:24; 8:12, 23; 9:16, 21, 33; 11:13; 14:14. However, none of these statements in Mark appear in the manuscripts of Matthew surveyed.
These kenosis-edits by Mark had a benefit to a Paul confidant as John Mark. Not only did they support the kenotic claims by Paul about Jesus that He “emptied Himself” of what made Him equal to God, but they significantly increased the importance of Paul. For the way Mark wrote his gospel, Jesus was ignorant of the Father’s truths while in the flesh, e.g., when the Son of Man would return. The consequence was, as pro-Paul advocate Marcion claimed in 144 AD, that the only “Jesus” who was in true contact with the Father was the Jesus who had ascended. It is this Jesus who then came to earth in the wilderness near Damascus to reveal Himself to Paul alone, supposedly giving Paul therefore the superior revelation. See Dr. Peter M. Head (New Testament Research Fellow, Tyndale House), The History of the Interpretation of the Apostle Paul (2001).
The influential theologian Rudolf Bultmann claimed Paul actually taught this in 2 Cor. 5:16. There Paul says that “even though we once knew Christ by means of the flesh [kata sarka], we know him thus no longer.” Bultmann explained Paul meant that we once knew Jesus in the flesh before the Ascension—when Jesus had experienced kenosis—“emptied himself”—of any aspects of Deity / equality with God. These ‘flesh’ experiences with Jesus are, in Bultmann’s reading of Paul’s 2 Cor. 5:16, the gospel accounts of Jesus’ pre-ascension life such as contained in Matthew. In that time, Jesus was supposedly ignorant of God’s true will due to kenosis. But once Jesus’ ascended, Paul meant we know Jesus only in the way God revealed Christ in Paul where Jesus then supposedly knew the true will of God-the-Father. Paul then became the divine conduit of this very different Christ. As proof this was Paul’s view, in Galatians 1:15-16 Paul said: “But when it pleased him who had set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace to reveal his son in me....” Also, the fact Paul never quotes Jesus from the gospels (except for the liturgy of communion) makes Bultmann’s interpretation of Paul’s meaning quite plausible. (Footnote 110)
The quandary of Paul is always how can we understand his persistent non-mention about Jesus’s life or words from the gospels. Bultmann says this proves Paul adamantly refused to know Jesus that way, bolstering his reading of 2 Cor. 5:16. The quandary is well-explained by Hermann Detering, a Berlin pastor, in The Falsified Paul (1995) (reprinted by Institute for Higher Critical Studies, 2003) at 10: “Can one imagine that someone who had just experienced the decisive turning-point of his life through a revelation took no notice and had no interest in the earthly past of the one who stood in the center of this revelation? In any case, I myself was not able to replicate the tenacious ignorance with which Paul dealt with the history of Jesus.” Bultmann takes this same point, and says when Paul claims he received his revelation directly from the Jesus (Gal. 1:16-17) on that road to Damascus, and the twelve “imparted nothing to me” (Gal. 2:6), this means Paul is telling us we need not know Jesus through the written gospels but only listen to the Christ revealed “in me” as Paul put it. (Gal. 1:16.) [End FN]
This kenosis doctrine repeated in Mark’s Gospel thus makes it appear Paul is the only apostle to whom we must listen to post-ascension. As explained in Paul Barnett, Paul: Missionary of Jesus (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008) at 13:
Bultmann...regards the historical Jesus as irrelevant as to the kerygma [i.e., preaching] of the risen Lord whom Paul proclaimed. Bultmann understood 2 Corinthians 5:16 (“even though we once knew Christ kata sarka [through/by means of the flesh], we know him thus no longer”) to mean that Paul chose not to employ his knowledge of Jesus kerygmatically, a view with which Bultmann agreed [with Paul]. Accordingly, the influential scholar of Marburg [i.e., Bultmann] declared Paul the “founder of Christian theology.”
And this is how Marcion in 144 AD made the similar claim that only Paul was the apostle of Jesus Christ—the one who ascended--to whom we should listen.
There are many other reasons to see Mark as a rewrite of a Greek translation source that contained select sayings from Matthew. As Martin de Wette said:
If the parallel passages, especially those in Matthew, be compared with it, the Gospel of Mark shows unmistakable signs of non-originality, both in the representation of the teachings of Jesus, which are given sometimes in wrong connections, sometimes more or less disfigured, and in the historic accounts, which are sometimes arbitrarily altered, sometimes amplified by more or less suspicious additions. (Wilhelm Martin L. de Wette, An Historico-critical Introduction to the Canonical Books of the New Testament (tr.F. Frothingham) (from the Lehrbuch, pt. 2] (1858) at 164.)
Wette then gives very detailed proofs of each of these statements in his footnotes. For example, Mark 7:6 has the wrong sequence, demonstrable when you see the correct sequence in Matthew 15:3 ff. The prayer of Mark 14:36, compared to Matthew 26:39,42 is “manifestly distorted.” Mark 10:12 is “inconsistent with the Jewish system of divorce.” (Wette: 164 fn. b.) Mark 7:24 has a “mistaken reason given for Jesus’ mode of proceeding” while “the true one” in Matthew 15:24 is “being omitted.” (Wette: 164 fn. c.)
Mark has made an “unthinking repetition” in Mark 6:14 and 6:16 which evidently was caused by copying from both Matthew and Luke simultaneously. (Wette: 165 fn. c.)
Like the Pauline corpus, Mark’s “selections from the gospel matters...show comparatively little interest in the teachings of Jesus.” (Wette: 163.) Like Paul’s emphasis on historical facts about Jesus as the only ‘gospel,’ Mark’s “notion of the ‘Gospel,’ placed at the beginning and elsewhere introduced (1:45; 8:35; 10:29)...denot[es] the...historic facts concerning the manifestation of the Son of God (1:1)....” (Wette: 163).
Wette concludes Mark simply took “fragments” from both Matthew and Luke, and “subordinated the doctrinal element of the Gospel to the miraculous, and avoided long discourses....” (Wette: 166.)
Mark also leans toward docetism, that is, Jesus supposedly only appeared to have human flesh. For example, Schwegler points out that there is no birth narrative at all, which points to docetism, i.e., Jesus was not a true human being. (Wette:174.) Likewise, Paul endorses docetism in Romans 8:3 (“God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful human flesh”) and Phil 2:7 (“appeared to be a man”).
In fact, Marcion—the docetic heretic of 144 AD—copied Mark’s silence on any birth of Christ:
We have pointed out the striking similarity between the beginning of Marcion’s gospel and that after Mark; also the hidden reference in the latter to the spread of heresy; and the Docetic development of the doctrine about the person of Jesus, as traceable in the Gospels, among which that after Mark represents the nearest approach to the Docetic denial of Christ’s humanity. (Bunsen: 294.)
Hence, Mark came after the original (Hebrew) Matthew, as church tradition always said.
Accordingly, we can trust that the Hebrew Matthew came first, as all the earliest church leaders always affirmed. The alleged modern proof that Mark came first principally rests upon the fact the Sermon on the Mount is missing in Mark. Supposedly Matthew added it rather than Mark omitted it. However, there are far stronger reasons to believe Mark omitted it rather than believe Matthew added it. These reasons thus confirm the unanimous historical accounts that the Hebrew Matthew came before Mark.
And one reason Mark omitted it is simple. This explanation does not even involve bias. Simply, Mark relied upon a sayings gospel in Greek that was similar to the Gospel of Thomas which also omits the Sermon on the Mount. Mark was a Gentile who did not read Hebrew. Thus he could not read the Hebrew Matthew. He was relegated to a sayings gospel in Greek which simply was snippet quotes from Matthew. Hence, Mark omitted the Sermon simply because he could not reliably read the original Matthew.
Second, and the evidence for this is compelling, the explanation is because Mark was a confidant of Paul. Mark’s Gospel is clearly a systemic edit to remove any aspect of Jesus’ teachings that differs from Paul. Mark’s Gospel not coincidentally confirms the kenosis doctrine of Paul that Jesus emptied himself of any aspect of divine indwelling when He was on earth. (Cfr. John 14:7-10, Jesus says Father dwells in Him.) By contrast, in Matthew this divine indwelling happens at Jesus’ baptism when the dove enters Jesus.
My Study Notes (Doug)
George Reber in The Christ of Paul (1876) makes two points about Mark's gospel. First, the quote on the connection to Peter given by Eusebius usually leaves out the red highlighted portion below. This thus detracts from the reliability of Mark's gospel. Second, he explains Mark was pro-Paul, as Paul's companion in line with what the article above says:
What Presbyter John says on this subject is here worthy of notice. Eusebius, speaking of the writings of Papias, says: "He also inserted into his work other accounts of the above-mentioned Aristion respecting our Lord, as also the traditions of the Presbyter John, to which referring those that are desirous of learning them, we shall now subjoin to the extracts from him already given a tradition which he, sets forth concerning Mark, who wrote the Gospel, in the following words: 'And John the Presbyter also said this: Mark being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he recorded he wrote with great accuracy, but not in the order in which it was spoken or done by our Lord, for he neither heard nor followed our Lord, but, as before said, he was in company with Peter, who gave him such instruction as was necessary, but not to give a history of our Lord's discourses.'" (Eusebius, Ecc. Hist., book iii. chap. 39.) Papias here gives a tradition derived through Presbyter John. Slender proof that Peter dictated the Gospel of Mark! To rank among canonical Gospels, and as a corner-stone of Christianity, with the authority of an inspired book, the proof falls far below what we have a right to expect and demand.
What is said by Clement of Alexandria and all other writers on the origin of the second Gospel is derived from the extract taken from the works of Papias, and from what is said by Irenaeus: their statements do not better the case, any more than a superstructure will give strength to the base on which it rests. If Mark ever wrote anything, it would contain nothing that did not accord with Paul, for he was not only his fellow-traveller, but he was his fellow-laborer in the spread of the doctrines of Christianity; and so near and dear were the relations between them, that when Paul saw his end approach, he wrote to Timothy to bring Mark with him, as brother would for brother, for a parting inter view. What Paul taught, Mark believed—and Paul dead or Paul in life would have made no difference with Mark.
Hyam Maccoby On Editorial Addition to Mark That Jesus Abolished Food Laws
In Mark 7:19, there is an editorial addition by the gospel-writer that Jesus by teaching certain foods do not make us sinful by eating them "declared all foods clean." Maccoby in his book The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity (1986) at page 40 briefly discusses this passage:
As for Jesus' reforms of Jewish laws, these were nonexistent. We find in Mark 7:19 an expression which has been translated to mean that Jesus 'declared all foods clean,' but this translation has been much disputed, and many scholars regard the phrase is an editorial addition anyway. In another passage, we find Jesus explicitly endorsing the Jewish laws of purity, when he tells the leper he has cured, "Go and show your self to the priest, and make the offering laid down by Moses for your cleansing." (Mark 1:43).
The editorial addition that Jesus made all foods "clean" is not likely original with Mark or the proper translation. This is confirmed by Mark 7.19 KJV and the Geneva Bible 1599 not having these words in Mark 7.19. The KJV is the correct translation of the very same words which the NIV renders as "Jesus thereby declared all foods clean." The KJV reads for Mark 7:19:
19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
So the verse does not speak of all foods but "meats;" nor are they "declared clean", but a verb for purging describes Jesus' point. Jesus simply means that any dirt on the food when you eat the food is purged of dirt through the process of going in and out of the belly. That process does not defile, or render you a sinful person.
See also Bible Hub commentary on Mark 7:19 at this link.
An excellent analysis of this issue exists at this link: http://biblelight.net/unclean-foods-jesus.htm
The author shows you clearly the NIV versus the KJV, and that the NIV renders the passage to make it appear Jesus abrogated the distinction of clean versus unclean -- a distinction that even Noah followed. The author makes a good point that translated correctly Mark 7:19 does not have Jesus abrogate the food laws. Nor does Jesus contradict the food laws that Daniel followed in Babylon. He concludes that this is a deliberate mistranslation by the NIV, and that the KJV has it correct:
So the error in some Bibles in Mark 7:19, I propose, is that of intentional misinterpretation of the following word:
G2511. katharizo, kath-ar-id'-zo; from G2513; to cleanse (lit. or fig.):--(make) clean (-se), purge, purify.
If it is interpreted as "cleansing" the food, it results in all foods being cleansed in the process of consumption. If it is interpreted as "purging", in the sense of all foods being expelled from the body, it means something quite different. I suggest that the latter is the correct interpretation. Here is Merriam Webster's dictionary definition of "purge", which supports this conclusion:
Inflected Form(s): purged; purg·ing
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French purgier, from Latin purigare, purgare to purify, purge, from purus pure + -igare (akin to agere to drive, do) -- more at ACT
Date: 14th century
1 a : to clear of guilt b : to free from moral or ceremonial defilement
2 a : to cause evacuation from (as the bowels) b (1) : to make free of something unwanted <purge a manhole of gas> <purge yourself of fear> (2) : to free (as a boiler) of sediment or relieve (as a steam pipe) of trapped air by bleeding c (1) : to rid (as a nation or party) by a purge (2) : to get rid of <the leaders had been purged> <purge money-losing operations>
It is the second definition that I suggest applies in Mark 7:19, and was the reason the King James uses it instead of "cleansing all meats." So with that interpretation of purging, Jesus was indeed teaching that no food you eat can corrupt your heart, such that it can be blamed for causing you to sin, but He did not remove the prohibitions against eating unclean animals; they remain ... unfit for human consumption, and and a hazard to your health to this day. And as with Daniel, obeying God's prohibition against eating the unclean has not only physical, but spiritual rewards as well.
If Mark Came First, Why Does Justin Martyr Not Rely Upon Mark in Quotes of Jesus?
Justin Martyr has many books that survived. He lived and wrote around 120 AD. Yet, Justin quotes from the synoptic gospels, but never is his quote solely dependent upon a variant of Mark when he differs from Matthew or Luke. Bellinzoni in his work The Sayings of Jesus in Justin Martyr (ed. Bellinzoni 1869)(E.J.Brill, 1967) explains at page 140: "Justin's sources often derived material from a single gospel - either Matthew or Luke, never Mark or John." As to John, the circumstance goes further: "Justin's quotations of the sayings of Jesus show absolutely no dependence on the Gospel of John." Bellinzoni does indicate that Justin's sources sometimes mix Mark with Matthew or Luke. However, his point is that Mark only appears in that context. He is never quoted independently from Matthew or Luke unlike Matthew or Luke from which Justin quotes them separately as legitimate authority that stands alone.
Thus, if this is correct, and Mark was read only as authoritative to the extent it fit Matthew or Luke, why would one think Mark came first? It appears it had lesser regard.
Why Did Mark Remove The Teachings of John the Baptist?
John the Baptist clearly taught salvation, whether Jew or Gentile, turned upon works worthy of repentance. Without such fruit, your destiny was the fire. This was his announcement of the kingdom of the New Covenant -- a bond between man and God-Yahweh, sealed not by lineage of Abraham, circumcision alone, or anything less than works-worthy-of-repentance -- verbalized in a ceremony the repentant honored - water baptism.
Clayton Raymond Bowen's work The Gospel of Jesus Critically Reconstructed from the Earliest Sources (1916) at pages 134-34 explains this Gospel of John the Baptist which Jesus then heartily endorsed in Matthew.
After doing so, Bowen points out that Mark's only summary of John's activity is that John announced the coming One. (Mark 1:7-8.) Mark did not include any of John's teachings. Bowen points out what a great disservice to John, and implicitly to Jesus' Gospel -- to place it as grounded upon the principles John laid out for the New Covenant. Bowen writes at page 135:
3. The Coming One. Mk. 1:7-8 = Mt. 3:U-12 = Lk. 3:16-18.
This is the only bit of John's preaching which Mark gives, and for all the evangelists it is the utterance of greatest interest, to which all else is secondary, because they regard these words as referring to Jesus, the Messiah, who soon followed John; and John himself they present almost exclusively as but the forerunner of Jesus, who prepared Jesus' way and pointed forward to him. This really does John an injustice; he had an independent significance and did an independent work, parallel to that of Jesus, whose great value Jesus, at least, recognized. (Compare sections 38 and 122.) But John did look forward to one who should come after him, to whom he was but the humble forerunner, for whom he would feel himself unworthy to perform the most menial service....The faithful are baptized in the Holy Spirit, i.e., made spiritual, and fit for the garner of God. It is noteworthy that nearly all John's recorded preaching is in the form of vivid and striking figures. They seem as characteristic of him as the parables do of Jesus.
Bowen thus realized Mark, unlike Matthew, Luke and John, ignored the teachings of John the Baptist. Why would Mark do so? Again, one reasonable explanation is that a Paulinist would not want to read the uncomfortable Gospel of John the Baptist which Jesus adopted -- that a tree without fruit goes into the fire. John the Baptist applied this so each individual had to have this. It was not the fruit of a nation. Salvation depended on personal, not family, national or ethnic connection. John the Baptist had the same uncomfortable Gospel that Jesus had. This corroborates the proofs above that Mark wrote his gospel to subtract elements from the gospels that would make Paulinists uncomfortable.
Unilateral Errors of Mark Prove Lack of Inspiration
Mark 2:26 has a parallel to Matt 12:1-4 and Luke 6:1-5 but erroneously adds some fact that both Matthew and Luke do not have. Mark 2:26 quotes Jesus as saying the High Priest was Abiathar. However, the passages at issue to which Jesus referred to mentions Ahimelech was the High Priest. Abiathar was his son. So either Mark is uninspired or Jesus is? Since Matthew and Luke omit this, why would Mark wish to prove Jesus faulty in memory? Again, remember Paul taught Jesus emptied himself of what made himself have an equality with God. Such a Jesus thus could be wrong. Mark would not mind adding errors into Jesus' words.
However, those Christian scholars who cannot accept either Mark is uninspired or that Jesus made an error (if you trust Mark), have devised a solution -- born of obvious desperation. The Treasury of Scripture on Mark 2:26 says:
Abiathar. It appears from the passage referred to here, that Ahimelech was then high priest at Nob; and from other passages, that Abiathar was his son. Various conjectures have been formed in order to solve this difficulty; and some, instead of untying, have cut the knot, by pronouncing it an interpolation. The most probable opinion seems to be, that both father and son had two names, the father being also called Abiathar;
The other alternative is Mark was Pauline in thinking. To insert an error in Jesus' memory missing in both Matthew and Luke would fit the kenotic Jesus of Paul's teachings -- a Jesus who emptied himself of all attributes, knowledge and hence inspiration that connection with God would provide. Hence, Mark could have added this with the deliberate motive to prove, like he did many other places, that Jesus did not know something which the indwelling of the Father (John 16:10) should truly have provided Jesus should or would know about.
Higginson, The Spirit of the Bible (1839) -at 261 Greek translator of Matthew used Hebrew OT except (a) when Mark wrote on same topic, in which case Mark's version was used (indicating Greek Matthew post-dates Greek Mark), and only when Mark did not have an item in common, then Greek translator of Hebrew Matthew borrowed from Luke.
Fulke, A Defense of the sincere and true translations of the NT -- at 50 discusses Jerome's statement that Matthew in Hebrew version never follows LXX, and in particular the Hebrew is the source of 2 quotes not found in the LXX.
Another excellent resource is this PDF in the defense that Mark 7:19b does not abrogate the distinction of clean v unclean: link. He explains the variants in the Greek verbs tense, when it should be a masculine participle.