AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by A H McNeile. Copyright A H McNeile - first published at the University Press, Oxford 1927. 2nd Edition revised by C S C Williams 1953. - This Edition prepared for Katapi in Arial Unicode MS by Paul Ingram 2003.

Chapter II - Part 1


HOME | Early Stages | Characteristics and Motives | Arrangement


A little group of Jews in the capital of Judaism began one day to proclaim to all and sundry that a Young Man, who had just been executed as a revolutionary, had risen from the dead, and was the Messiah.
This obviously invited derision, and worse, unless convincing proof were forthcoming.
The repeated and confident witness of those who had seen Him alive after His death, and the ecstatic and moving inspiration with which they pressed their message, were enough at the outset to convince quite a number of persons.
But in the conservative air of Judaism no message could gain wide acceptance without the only sort of proof that was felt to be worth anything ‑ the proof from Scripture.
If Jesus was the Messiah, Scripture must have foretold His death and resurrection.
The early Christians found no difficulty in showing that it did.

Very soon the apostolic preaching (κήρυγμα) (as opposed to teaching (διδαχή) which consisted mainly of ethical exhortation) began to follow a pattern, as Dr. C. H. Dodd has shown from an examination of the Pauline epistles and the speeches in the book of Acts: [The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments, 1936.]

Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled and the promised Messianic age has dawned at the coming of Jesus,
Who was born of David's seed,
Who died for us according to the Scriptures to deliver us from the power of this present evil age,
Who was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures,
Who has been exalted at the right hand of God as God's Son, to be Lord of quick and dead,
Who will come again as judge and as Saviour,
Therefore repent and be baptized, receiving the Holy Spirit.

Christian preaching inevitably took the form of apologia, 'proving that this is the Messiah' (Acts ix.22).
When St. Paul had given this message at Beroea, his hearers each day looked up in the Scriptures the passages adduced in order to verify and understand them (Acts xvii.11).

It was from this invariable need of apologia that Christian literature must have taken its rise, in the writing down of Old Testament passages, Perhaps together with the events in which they found fulfilment.
This practice began at an early date; and the writings would be in the native Aramaic of Palestinian Jews.

J. R. Harris and V. Burch, have shown that testimonia or Old Testament proofs of an anti‑Judaic character were drawn up in lists and known not only to Barnabas, Justin, Irenaeus, Cyprian, and other Fathers but also to the Evangelists themselves. [Testimonies, ii, 1920.]

Recently a papyrus has been discovered which contains such testimonia.
[Papyrus of the 4th cent., Catalogue of the Greek and Latin papyri in the John Rylands Library, iii, by C. H. Roberts, pp. 10‑13.]

While proofs were needed to convince opponents, believers in Jesus as Messiah would seek for more information about Him, not perhaps at the very beginning, when His advent was expected any day in the immediate future, but increasingly as time elapsed.
What manner of man was this?
How did He spend His time?
Above all, what did He teach?
Thus round the reminiscences of the events for which Old Testament predictions could be adduced other reminiscences would grow, all glowing with the character and spirit of Him who was believed to be the foreordained Son of God.

Behind our Gospels, then, lay these two strata‑written testimonia, or Old Testament proofs, and oral reminiscences; the latter, however, in many cases would before long be written down, also in Aramaic, and treasured as fresh material by mission preachers, teachers, and exorcists. (For the study of the Gospel tradition during its oral stage, see on Form‑criticism below, Ch. Ill.)
The testimonia, according to many, are referred to in the statement of Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, in the first half of the second century, for which he claims the authority of an 'Elder', i.e. probably a Christian of an earlier date, who lived very near to the events which he relates:

Ματθαῖος μὲν οῦν ῾Εβραΐδι διαλεκτῳ τὰ λόγια συνεγράψατο·ἡρμήνευσε δ᾽ αὺτὰ ὡς ἦν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος.
(ap. Eus. H.E. iii.39).

'Matthew compiled the logia in the Hebrew [i.e. Aramaic] language, and each person interpreted them as he was able'

[Papias himself wrote a work in five books entitled (according to Eus., loc. cit.) 'Expositions of Oracles of the Lord', λογίων κυριακῶν ξηγήσεως [sic; probably ‑ γήσεις or ‑ γησις).
Dr. Lawlor ('Eusebius on Papias', in Hermathena, vol.xx) argues that logia does not mean simply 'Sayings'.
He suggests that the expression
λόγια κυριακά is borrowed from Papias by Irenaeus, who seems to use it in the sense of matters relating to the Lord', from which heretics drew false inferences.
He also has the expression
τὰ λόγια τοῦ κυρίου, which appears to mean specifically 'the Gospels'.
If so, the work of Papias was, in fact, an exposition of some of the contents of the Gospel.
Similarly H. J. Lawlor and J. E. L. Oulton, Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, ii.112, said that the 'Dominical Oracles' are apparently authoritative writings relating to the Lord Jesus Christ, giving an account of His deeds as well as His sayings, i.e. Gospels, though not necessarily our canonical Gospels.
But when Papias quotes the Elder as saying simply that Matthew compiled the
λόγια, he cannot mean 'the Gospels'; and the article forbids either 'a Gospel' or 'some of the contents of the Gospel'.
Bp. Westcott thought that the word must be given 'its necessary notion of scriptural authority'; but its notion of sacred authority is all that is necessary.
Streeter explains it as 'the (original) discourses'.
They were sacred and authoritative, they were divine oracles, because they were Christ's.]

The First Gospel is not a translation from the Aramaic; so that if the evidence of Papias is to have any weight, the work of the apostle, whatever it was, must have been earlier.
But since much of it may have been incorporated in the First Gospel, his name became attached to it in tradition.
The occurrence in the First Gospel of expressions such as 'that it might be fulfilled' (ii.15, 17, 23; iv.14; viii.7; .17; i.35; xxi.4) is thought to favour the idea that the apostle made the earliest, or the most popular, collection of proof texts from the Old Testament, and that each reader 'interpreted', i.e. thought out for himself, to the best of his ability the fulfilments of them; or that to his collection of texts he himself added short accounts of the events in which they were fulfilled, and each reader 'translated' them from Aramaic into his own tongue.
But the passages in Matthew that speak of the fulfilment of the Old Testament are not, after all, numerous or important enough to have caused the compiler's name to be attached to it.

A better explanation is that the apostle compiled in Aramaic a collection of Gospel material of which the discourses and sayings of Jesus formed the larger part, with perhaps short narratives describing the occasions on which they were uttered and various persons translated it according to their ability.
[Dalman, The Words of Jesus (trans. Kay, 1902, PP. 57‑71), is sceptical about any written Semitic original.
On this see Stanton, The Gospels as Historical Documents, ii.63 f.]

An even better suggestion has been made by Dr. T. W. Manson,' according to whom the statement of Papias cannot be made to fit the Gospel of Matthew but does, 'when taken in its simple and natural meaning, fit a document such as Q [the other source besides Mark common to Matthew and Luke] like a glove'.
[The Sayings of Jesus, 1949, p.18; cf. K. Lake, An Introduction to the New Testament, p.26. Contrast G. D. Kilpatrick, Origins of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, 1946, pp.3‑7.]
[For Q see below, pp.79‑84]

Other apostles, disciples, and eye‑witnesses of the Lord's ministry would constantly relate reminiscences of His sayings and doings.
What the Elder says about St. Peter (Eus., ibid.) must have been true of them all , that they related them πρὸς τὰς χρείας as the needs, moral or apologetic, of their audiences on each occasion required, and not as making a σύνταξις, a formal or logical arrangement.
Early tradition, starting with this passage of Papias, has it that Mark followed Peter as his interpreter.
And he collected, as fully and accurately as he could, and wrote down in Greek, as much as he could remember of these scattered and occasional teachings of the apostle.
The passage is full of ambiguities, and each reader must 'interpret it as he is able':

Καὶ τοῦθ πρεσβύτερος ἔλεγε.
Μάρκος μὲν ἑρμηνευτὴς Πέτρου μενόμενος ὅσα ἐμνημόνεθσεν ἀκριβῶς ἔγραφεν, οὐ μέντοι τάξει, τὰ ὑπὸ Χριστοῦ ἢ λεχθέντα ἢ πραχθέντα.
οὄτε γὰρ ἔκουσε τοῦ Κυρίου οὄτε παρηκολούθησεν αὐτῷ·

ὕστερον δέ
, ὡς ἔφην, Πέτρῳ, ὅς πρὸς τὰς χρείαςἐ ποιεῖτο τὰς διδασκαλίας, ἀλλ᾽ οὐχ ὥσπερ σύνταξιν τῶν Κυριακῶν ποιούμενος λόγων·
ὥστε οὐδὲν ἥμαρτε Μάρκος
, οὕτως ἔνια γράψας ὡς ἀπεμνημόνευσεν
ἑνὸς γὰρ ἐποιήσατο πρόνοιαν, τοῦ μηδὲν ὧν ἤκουσε παραλιπεῖνἢ ψεύσασθαί τι ἐν αὐτοῖς.

This also the Elder used to say:
Mark, having been Peter's interpreter [Private secretary or aide‑de‑camp', T. W. Manson, The Teaching of Jesus, p.23, n.i.], wrote down accurately ‑ not, however, in order - all that he remembered of the things either said or done by Christ.
For he was neither a hearer nor a follower of the Lord, but a follower, as I have said, of Peter at a later time; and Peter delivered his instructions to meet the needs [of the moment], but with no attempt to give the Lord's words in any systematic arrangement.
So that Mark was not wrong in thus writing down some things as he recollected them, for the one thing that he was careful of was to omit nothing of what he had heard or to make any false statement.

[Dr. A. M. Farrer (A Study in St. Mark, 1951), who finds that Mark conforms to a pattern (pp.30 ff., 187‑202), rejects Papias's evidence as being 'too clever by half'; he thinks that the Papian tradition arose to account for the tradition that there were two Gospels, Matt. and Mk., in two languages.
He thinks, too, that this tradition of Papias would explain the discrepancies between the two Gospels (pp.1‑21).
Papias is simply describing the standing of the two Gospels in the Greek Church at an imaginary time before St. Matthew had been translated (sc. from the Aramaic)' (p.18).
But Papias's evidence conflicts with Dr. Farrer's hypothesis that an 'over‑all' pattern of Mark exists owing to the influence of the Holy Spirit.]

Thus behind our Gospels two lines of tradition are traceable ‑an Aramaic collection (St. Matthew's?) of the Lord's sayings, and St. Peter's Aramaic instructions.
Other lines that cannot be traced are the Aramaic instructions given by the apostles and others, which doubtless left a precipitate in the sources used by the evangelists. (See on Form‑criticism below.)
The first stages of the written sources, the development in Greek of 'St. Matthew's collection', known as Q, St. Mark's Greek reproduction of St. Peter's teaching, and others, will be studied later; and the way in which the authors of the First and Third Gospels seem to have used them to build up their writings.
These two, together with St. Mark's, are called 'synoptic' because the three give in general the same view of our Lord's life, and follow broadly the same narrative framework, with a similarity in language, vocabulary, and the selection of material, which marks a kinship in which they stand apart from the Fourth Gospel.

But all four evangelists aimed at setting forth the 'Gospel', the good tidings of Jesus Christ.
So that some time after the separate Gospels had become known and reverenced everywhere, there were prefixed to them in the earliest manuscripts that we possess (dating from the fourth century) the titles κατὰ Μαθθαῖον, κατὰ Μάρκονand so on ‑ the one Gospel 'according to Matthew', &c.

Streeter, however, suggests that following the Jewish custom of referring to books by one of the opening words, Christians would refer to Mark by 'Gospel' from Mk. i. 1.
Later the titles ' according to...' had to be added to differentiate between the 'Gospels'. [The Four Gospels, pp.497 f.]


Matthew | Mark | Luke | Top

But historians are not mere chroniclers of bare events.
To the true historian the past is not the 'dead past' which can be left to bury its dead; it is alive, with a meaning for the present. And an ancient historian generally allowed his conceptions of its meaning to set their mark upon his narrative more strongly than is permitted by the modern feeling of the importance of accuracy.
He always wrote with presuppositions and a purpose, political, moral, religious, and so on.
And the writers of the Gospels show that they were not exceptions; each of them emphasizes particular aspects of the message that he felt to be important.


Although the First Gospel was composed from existing material, the evangelist used it in such a way as to serve a definite purpose.
By selection, arrangement, and comment, and by numerous alterations of wording, he made clear the meaning that he found in the events and in the utterances of Jesus.
His aim was to show that Christianity was the true consummation of Judaism.
It was an apologia pro vita sua of the Christian Church, offered to the Jews.

'Jesus the true messiah, born and trained under the Jewish law, and yet Lord of a Church whose inward faith, organization, procedure, and world‑wide scope transcended the legal limitations of Judaism ‑this is the dominant conception of Matthew's Gospel from beginning to end.'
'He wishes to show that, in spite of the contemporary rupture between Judaism and Christianity, there has been a divine continuity realized in the origin and issues of faith in Jesus as the Christ.'
'The three sacred possessions of Judaism' ‑ the chosen People, the Temple, and the Law' have thus passed into higher uses, as a result of the life of Jesus the Christian messiah.
It is Matthew's aim to justify this transition by showing from the life of Jesus how it was not the claim of a heretical sect who misread the Bible by the light of their own presumptuousness, but the realization of a divine purpose and the verification of divine prophecies in die sphere of history.'
[J. Moffatt, Introd. to the Literature of the NT., p.244.]
The same thought, that Christians are the true Israel, is expressed in other ways elsewhere in the New Testament, in the Lucan writings, Hebrews, I Peter, and the Apocalypse.
It is not a leading thought of St. Paul; he was too much occupied with the 'contemporary rupture'.
But when his victory for the Gentiles was won, the continuity was recognized to be an essential factor in the Church's life, which it was important to claim and prove.
But the First Evangelist does it by a method peculiar to himself.
He was both a thorough Jew, acquainted with Rabbinic thought, and not averse to the use of Midrash, and at the same time a Christian Churchman; and he fuses sources written from different points of view in such a way that the two aspects sometimes appear side by side, so that they can be studied separately.

(1) As a Jew he is interested in everything which can be interpreted with a particularistic force, showing the importance and permanence of Jewish ideas and customs: e.g. v.18, 19; vii.6; viii.7 [If, as is probable, the words are to be understood as a question.), 11; x.5b, 6; i.52; xv.24; xix.28; xi.2, together with the many eschatological utterances attributed to Jesus.
And he reveals his Rabbinic habit of mind by the devices which he adopts in the arrangement of his material.
For convenience to the memory in Church instruction he groups incidents and sayings in twos, threes, fives, and sevens, and the Genealogy in fourteens, thus offering what appears to be a sort of acrostic on the name David, of which the numerical value of the Hebrew letters is fourteen. [See W. C. Allen, St. Matthew p.lxv.]

[G. H. Box, Interpreter, Jan. 1906.]
That which made it possible for him to be a scribe, bringing forth from his treasure things new and old, was the fact that Jesus who wields universal sovereignty was at the same time the Messiah of Hebrew ancestry.
This is taught in the Genealogy traced through the royal line, and in the worship offered by the Magians to Him that was born King of the Jews.
The royal authority of the King is seen in the repeated 'But I say unto you' in the Sermon on the Mount, expressing His independence in interpreting the Jewish law in its true inwardness.
The same independence is shown in His repudiation of some of the enactments, in the 'tradition of the elders'.
And if He was superior to the law and the tradition, He was superior to the law and the prophets, a truth conveyed in the vision of the Transfiguration. Again,
He was superior to the claims of Caesar the earthly monarch, as He asserted in the statement that 'the children are free' of the duty of paying the stater or didrachm, which He paid only to avoid giving offence.
Eight times His royal descent is recognized when He is addressed as 'Son of David', and the same title is given to Joseph (i. 20).
The entry into Jerusalem was a manifestation of loyalty to One who was popularly supposed to be about to restore the Jewish monarchy; and He accepted it as symbolic of something greater and more spiritual.
When Pilate asked Him, 'Art thou the king of the Jews?'
He again accepted the title, but as expressing something which the procurator was quite unable to understand.
And there was a deep irony in the mockery by the soldiers, and in the titulus on the Cross.

The evangelist saw in Him also the more spiritual hopes of the Jewish apocalyptic.
St. Peter's confession of His Messiah-ship forms an important turning point in His history.
Jesus then began to speak of Himself as 'the Son of Man', and openly to predict His future Messianic glory,
His Advent and judgement.
Finally, He claimed to have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
Add to these the references to the fulfilment in Him of Old Testament predictions, and it will be seen that the author's heart, like the Psalmist's, overflowed with a goodly matter: he spoke of the things that he had made touching the King.

(2) But with the King is bound up the Kingdom.
If Christ was the fulfilment of Israelite hopes, the Christian Church was the fulfilment of Israel.
The national privileges of the Jews had passed into the possession of the few who were the true Israelites: see iii.12; viii.11 f.; i.11‑17, 36‑43, 47‑50; xix.27‑30; xxi.28‑31, 33‑43; x.8‑10, 14; and all the teaching on those who were fitted to enter or possess the Kingdom.
They were the sacred ecclesia as it ought to be.
The evangelist writes as a 'Churchman', and shows a strong ecclesiastical interest.
Christ's followers were His ecelesia, which He would build upon the rock, the sure foundation of His Messiahship, which St. Peter had confessed (xvi.18).
To St. Peter (v.18) and to the members of the Church as a body (xviii.18) was given the authority to bind and loose, i.e. to declare things forbidden and permitted.
And the latter passage immediately follows an injunction (v.17) to report an offending and contumacious brother to the ecclesia; and, if he disregarded the ecclesia, to treat him as outside the pale of society.
They were to possess, therefore, the powers, such as were exercised in the Jewish Church, of legislature and excommunication.
To St. Peter would be given administrative power, 'the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven' (xvi.19), and all the Twelve should sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (xix.28).
Membership in this community was to be acquired by Baptism (xxviii.19).
Wherever two or three members met for prayer, Christ would be in their midst (xviii.20).
And, as in the Jewish Church, there would be prophets (x.41; xi.34), wise men (xi.34), and scribes (i.52; xi.34).

The working out of this conception that Christ and His ecclesia are the fulfilment of the Jewish Messianic hopes and of the Jewish sacred people explains the presence in the Gospel of a strong anti‑Pharisaic polemic (see Allen, pp.lxxvi ff.), since it was the Pharisees who prevented the Jewish ecclesia from being what it might be.
At the same time the evangelist was glad to include passages which pointed to the drawing in of the Gentiles into the embrace of this Church which has reached that for which the Jewish Church was destined.
This is not the universalism of St. Paul or St. Luke ' but of the highest minds in Israel of old. Magians from the East (ii.1‑12), 'Galilee of the Gentiles' (iv.14-?16), a centurion's servant (viii.5‑13; see especially vv.11 f.), a Canaanite woman (xv.22‑28), 'all the world' (xxvi. 13), could share in the blessings available through the coming of the King.
'In His name shall the Gentiles trust' (. 21).
'This Gospel shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all the Gentiles' (xxiv. 14).
'Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the Gentiles' (xxviii.19).

Lastly, for life in the new ecclesia the Jewish law and tradition are transcended by the law as interpreted by the Messiah (v.21‑48; vi.1‑18; ix.10‑13; .1‑8, 9‑4; xv.1‑20; xvi.11 f ; xvii.1‑5; x.23‑33, 34‑40; xi.1‑28; xxv.31‑46).

The keynote of the Gospel is 'I am not come to destroy but to fulfil'.
That principle conserved all that was good in Judaism by finding it in Christianity.
Particularism and universalism thus stand side by side as in post‑exilic Judaism.
And it is unnecessary to think of either as introduced by interpolation or editing; the author, as has been said, used sources written from the two points of view, and his own bent of mind was such that he would not neglect either of them, but amalgamated them.

(3) The First Gospel is a 'revised Gospel lectionary', as Dr. G. D. Kilpatrick has shown.
It was composed for liturgical use, which had already modified a large part of the material used by the First Evangelist.
To this extent he reflects the situation in the life of the Church of his day.
[The Origins of the Gospel according to St. Matthew (1946).]

b) MARK.

The Second Gospel is less complex in its character and purpose.
'Messiah' did not connote for the writer the royalty of the Son of David but the power of the Son of God.
All that was contained in his reminiscences of apostolic teaching impressed him deeply with this great fact.
His Gospel is not an apologia to Jews but an apologia to the world of the truth of Christianity.
He therefore makes small use of proof‑texts, and few suggestions that Christianity is the real and 'fulfilled' Judaism.
His sole 'proofs' are the actual words and deeds of the Master and the effects that they produced.
He uses Old Testament references subtly and allusively to show that Jesus is the Messiah; e.g. the use of μογιλάλος in vii. 32 indicates that Isa.xxxv.4‑6 is now fulfilled; [Sir E. C. Hoskyns and N. Davey, The Riddle of the New Testament, pp.167‑8 and the former in Mysterium Christi, p.73.] in ix.2‑8 he alludes to Exod.xxiv.13 ff.; in xi.1‑10 to Zech.ix.9; in .1‑12 to Isa.v.2 ff.; it is probable that Jesus ‑ not the 'community behind Mark' nor an eyewitness like St. Peter nor Mark himself ‑ was the first to perceive the relevance of some at least of these allusive references to the LXX, pace the Form‑critics.
He offers his portrait of the Christ to speak for itself.
The power is seen first and foremost in His preaching.
'After John was delivered up Jesus came into Galilee preaching the good tidings of the Kingdom of God' (i.14).
The first effect was the immediate attachment to Him of the two pairs of brothers, Simon and Andrew, James and John (vv.16‑20).
On the Sabbath He entered into the synagogue and taught, 'and they were astonished at His teaching, for He used to teach as one having authority and not as the scribes' (v.22).
At Capharnaum 'they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves saying, What is this? A new teaching!' (v.27).
After praying in a deserted place He said, 'Let us go elsewhere into the adjoining villages that I may preach there also, for therefore came I forth.
And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout the whole of Galilee'. (vv.38 f.).
In Capharnaum, again, a crowd came to the house, 'and He spake to them the word' (ii.2).
And by the sea 'the whole multitude came to Him and He taught them (v.13).
The number of his followers increased (vv.13‑15).
'And again He began to teach by the sea, and a very great multitude was gathered unto Him' (iv.1).
Later He returned to His own country and preached in the synagogue, and 'the majority were astonished', though they stumbled at the possession of such power by a local carpenter (vi.1‑5).
'And He went round the villages in circuit preaching' (v.7), and was besieged by crowds (vv.31‑33).
At the Transfiguration the Voice said, 'This is My Son, the Beloved [i.e. unique]; hear Him' (ix.7).
When He moved into Peraea 'multitudes came together again unto Him, and as He was wont He taught them again' (x.1).
And in Jerusalem the authorities hesitated to arrest Him 'for all the multitudes were astonished at His teaching' (xi.18).
Though the evangelist records very few of His words, he emphasizes by this reiteration the effect which they produced.

But His preaching called forth the recognition of evil spirits, and His power showed itself in their exorcism, to the amazement of those who witnessed it (i.23‑27, 39; iii.11, 22; v.2‑16; vii.25‑30; ix.14‑27).
He gave His disciples the same power (iii.15); and one man, though he was not of their number, was found exorcizing spirits in His name (ix.38).
But this at once led people with all kinds of diseases to come to Him for healing, and He showed His power, and astonished those who saw it, by performing the cures (i.29‑34, 40‑45; ii.3‑12; iii.1‑5, 8‑10; v.21‑42; vii.32‑35; viii.22‑26; x.46‑52).
This growing popularity as a healer troubled Him.
He was 'angry' (with righteous indignation against the forces of evil seen in human suffering) when the leper came for healing (i.41), and sternly charged him to tell no one about it.
[ὀργισθείς, so D a ff2. The v.l σπλαγχνισθείςhas the mass of support; but it would be so natural for that to be substituted that the harder word is probably right; cf. C. S. C. Williams, Alterations to the text of the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, pp.23 f.]
When unclean spirits recognized Him, 'He rebuked them much that they should not make Him manifest' (iii.12).
And when He healed the daughter of Jairus, 'He enjoined them much that no one should know this' (v.43): see also vii.36; viii.26.
Finally, His power is shown in miracles other than healing‑the stilling of the sea (vi.47‑51), the feeding of the five thousand (vi.35‑44) and the four thousand (viii.1‑9), and the withering of the fig‑tree (xi.3 f., 20).

All this is the power of the Messiah, the Son of God.
That Sonship is repeatedly emphasized (i.11; iii.11; v.7; i.32; xv.39);
He is called 'the Holy One of God' (i.24);
and in the power of the 'Holy Spirit' He cast out demons (iii.29).


The leading note of the First Gospel is royalty, and of the Second power, that of the Third is love.
The writers of the two former appear to have had apologetic needs in mind; and the same must be said of St. Luke.
In writing to offer to the Gentile Theophilus a true presentation of Christian facts, he depicts the Messiah as the Saviour of all men and the Satisfier of all human needs, the anointed Prophet who brings good tidings to the poor, the blind, and the bruised (iv. 18 f.).
But there is no argument or display of any apologetic intention.
While he writes with a purpose, he is himself absorbed in the beauty of the fairest human life.
This is the first and abiding impression felt by the reader; and some of the narratives, notably those of the Nativity, are among the gems of literature.
The other evangelists sometimes tell the same stories, but the aesthetic effect is not quite the same.
St. Matthew impresses us by what Moffatt calls the 'massive unity' of his Gospel;
St. Mark by the steady force and directness of plain, even uncouth, language;
St. Luke by the artistry of grace.

St. Luke emphasizes the universality of salvation, and of the satisfaction of human needs.
The very word 'salvation', which does not occur in the first two Gospels, is found thirteen times in Luke and Acts.
In the account of the Baptist in Matthew and Mark Isa.xl.3 ff. is quoted as far as the words 'make His paths straight'; but in Lk.iii.4 ff. it is continued to the words 'and all flesh shall see the salvation of God'.
The full meaning, moreover, is given to 'all flesh'. It includes not only Jews, but Samaritans whom the Jews despised as being more than half Gentiles (ix.51‑56; x.30‑3 7; xvii.11‑19), and Gentiles (ii.32; iv.25 ff.; vii.2‑10; i.29; xxiv.47); and the mission of the Seventy is generally understood as a mission to Gentiles (x.1 ff.: compare v.7 with I Cor.xi.25‑27).
But within the Jewish nation there were those whom the upper classes treated as beyond the pale of respectable society.
The religious leaders, learned in the Law, thought of the populace, the 'am ha'ares, with pious scorn.
[See Jackson and Lake, The Beginnings of Christianity, I.i, App. E.] 
But to the Lord, who was one of them, the poor were very dear (iv.18; vi.20 f.; vii.22; xiv.13, 21; xvi.19 ff.); and not only the poor, but also the disreputable customs officers and sinners (v.27‑32; vii.37‑50; xv.1 ff, 11‑32; xviii.9‑14; xix.2‑10; xi.43).
At the same time He did not avoid the rich and respectable (vii.36; xi.37; xiv.1; and see xi.50‑53).
Again, women were little accounted of in Jewish life.
'But all through this Gospel they are allowed a prominent place.
And many types of womanhood are placed before us:

Elizabeth, the Virgin Mary, the prophetess Anna, the widow at Nain, the nameless sinner in the house of Simon, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, the woman with the issue, Martha and Mary, the widow with the two mites, the 'daughters of Jerusalem', and the women at the tomb. (Plummer, St. Luke, xlii f.; he quotes Dante [De Monarchia, i.18.), who speaks of the evangelist as scriba mansuetudinis Christi).

Not all, but a large number, of these incidents and passages are peculiar to the Third Gospel.
The same purpose is seen in the Genealogy (iii.23‑38), in which the human descent of Jesus is traced to 'Adam the son of God', whereas in Matthew the royal descent is traced to Abraham the father of the Jewish race.
Notice also the favourable description of a Gentile given only in Luke (vii.5); the omission of the incident of the Canaanite woman who obtained a blessing with great difficulty, and as a dog ate of the children's crumbs (Matt.xv.21‑28; Mk.vii.24‑30) ; the indication that the family of Jesus was poor (ii.24) ; and the special references to the poor (i.53; ii.8), and to customs officers (iii.12) ; and the woes pronounced against the rich (vi.25).

The aspects of Christianity revealed in the Gospel are those of a personal and spiritual religion resulting from the experience of God's love and forgiveness.
As compared with the first two Gospels there is a frequent use in Luke and Acts of such words as 'repentance', 'grace', 'mercy', 'merciful', 'forgiveness of sins'.
The expression 'Holy Spirit', which occurs nine times in Matthew, Mark, is found twelve times in Luke and forty‑one times in Acts.
And the attitude of God to man, which is thus indicated, is met on man's side by prayer and praise.
Plummer, pp.xiv f., shows the prominence of these in detail.
These instances are far from exhausting the characteristic features of the Third Gospel.
But they serve to show their general colour, and to place in a bright light the warm and human character of the evangelist, to whom these aspects of the Lord's Person and work made a special appeal.

A recognition of these characteristics of the Synoptic Gospels is essential to their study.
They were understood and made use of at an early date.
Matthew, the Jewish Gospel, was preferred by Jewish Christians, orthodox and unorthodox, if the modern expression is allowable, and was the basis of apocryphal Gospels such as the Gospel of the Nazarenes.
[There was considerable confusion in Patristic writers between this, and the Gospel of [or according to] the Hebrews (written in Greek), the closely allied Gospel of the Ebionites, and the Gospel of the Twelve [Apostles].
See Moffatt in Hastings's D.A.C. i.489‑94, and Schmidtke, Texte u. Untersuch. (Harnack and Gebhardt), xxxvii.]

Conversely, Luke, the non‑Jewish Gospel, was congenial to Marcion, who issued it in a mutilated recension.
And even Mark is said to have been a favourite with a certain class.
Irenaeus (Haer. M. xi.7) speaks of 'those who separate Jesus from Christ, and say that Christ remained always impassible, but that Jesus suffered, preferring that Gospel which is according to Mark'.
Whether the statement is trustworthy or not, it shows that the picture of divine power which St. Mark draws could be interpreted in a docetic sense, the Son of God being thought of as separable from the human Jesus.


Mark | Luke | Top


As was usual in ancient times the evangelist incorporated existing documents and traditions.
To determine what these were is part of the Synoptic problem [Ch.IV).
Here we must note his arrangement of the material.
As the following table shows, he closely followed the general outline and framework of St. Mark, with only the few departures from his order which are italicized:




i.1‑8 *

John the Baptist and his message

iii.1‑6, 11, 12  


The baptism of Jesus


i.12, 13

The temptations


i.14, 15

Jesus moves to Galilee; His message

iv.12, 17


Call of the first disciples



Preaching in Galilee



He taught with authority

vii.28, 29


Healing of a leper



Healing of Simon's mother‑in‑law, and others



Proposal to cross the lake: the storm

viii.18, 23-27


The Gerasene demoniac



Healing of a paralytic at Capharnaum



Call of Levi (Matthew), and reply to the complaint that He ate with publicans



Question about fasting



Daughter of jairus, and woman with issue



Mission of the Twelve, and their names



Charge to the Twelve

x.11, 14


Plucking ears on Sabbath



Man with withered hand



Crowds and healings

xii.15, 16





Mother and brethren



Parable of Sower



Reason for parables



Interpretation of the Sower



Parable of the Mustard Seed

xiii.31, 32

iv.33, 34

Speaking in parables



Rejection at Nazareth



Herod's idea of Jesus

xiv.1, 2


Death of the Baptist



Return of disciples, and feeding of 5,000



Walking on the lake



Return to Gennesaret



On the washing of hands



The woman of Canaan



Feeding Of 4,000



Pharisees' request for a sign



The leaven of the Pharisees



Peter's confession, and first prediction of the Passion



The way of suffering



Transfiguration, and discourse on Elijah



The epileptic boy



Second prediction of the Passion

xvii.22, 23


Who is the greatest?









Blessing of children



The danger of riches



Third prediction of the Passion



The sons of Zebedee






Entry into Jerusalem



Cleansing of the Temple

xxi.12, 13


Cursing of the fig‑tree

xxi.18, 19

xi.20‑25 **

Discourse on the fig‑tree



'By what authority?'



Parable of Wicked Husbandmen






Discourse against the Pharisees



Eschatological discourse



Passion and Resurrection


*[Dr. R. H. Lightfoot holds that Mark's Prologue consists of i.1‑13 not 1‑8 and that it corresponds to the Prologue in the Fourth Gospel (The Gospel Message of St. Mark, 1950, pp.15‑19).]
**[The best manuscripts of the Alexandrian, African, Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian 'families' omit v.,26.]

The following passages of Mark are absent from Matthew:






i.21, 23‑28

Unclean spirit at Capharnaum.



Many sick brought at eventide.



The disciples seek Jesus; 'therefore came I forth'.

Given in Lk.


'The Sabbath was made for man'.


iii.20, 21

'He is beside himself'.



Miscellaneous sayings.

Given in Lk.


Parable of Seed growing secretly.


vi.12, 13

The Apostles' work.



Their return from their tour.


vii.3, 4

The Jews' tradition of washings.






Blind man healed gradually.



The exorcizer;

Given in Lk.

ix.49, 50

Miscellaneous sayings.



'Who desire widows' houses'.

Given in Lk.


The widow with two mites.

Given in Lk.


Sayings and a parable on watching.

Similar material in Matt.xxiv.42; xxv.13‑15; cf. also Lk..38‑40; xix.12.]


But to some of these ‑ parts of:






Matthew has equivalents elsewhere;

Similar material in Matt.xxiv.42; xxv.13‑15; cf. also Lk..38‑40; xix.12.


and when Mark tells of the dumb man to whom our Lord said Ephphatha, Matthew, in the same Marcan context, has a general account of healings and mentions similarly the wonder of the multitude.


The omissions are extraordinarily few, and more or less probable reasons can be given for them in nearly every case.
The return of the Apostles Matthew has altered into a statement about John's disciples (xiv.12).
The incidents in Mk.iii.20, 21 and ix.38‑40 he probably avoided because he did not like them, and perhaps thought that the use of material means in vii.32‑37 detracted from the dignity of the cure.
The story of the Two Mites he omitted probably to bring the statement 'Jesus having gone out of the temple went His way' (Matt.xxiv.1) into conjunction with the saying 'Behold your house is left unto you, &c.' (xi.38 f).
In the story of the Passion two incidents, the young man's flight from the garden (Mk.xiv.51), and Pilate's inquiry as to the death Of Jesus (xv.44 f.), were omitted for no traceable reason; Possibly they were later additions in Mark, but there is no textual evidence against either passage.

The departures from the Marcan order at the beginning of the Ministry are noteworthy.
The Marcan order is:



First Capharnaum visit and proposal to preach throughout Galilee.



Preaching in Galilee and the healing of the leper.



Second Capharnaum visit.



Crossing of the lake and healing of the demoniac.



Third Capharnaum visit; daughter of Jairus; woman with issue.

In Matthew our Lord's preaching in Galilee is made the first and all‑important event in the Ministry, though the settling at Capharnaum and the calling of the first disciples are related in anticipatory notes (iv.12‑22).
The words of Mk. i.22 were taken from their context to form a useful comment at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (chs.v‑vii), and consequently their context was omitted, i.e. the arrival at Capharnaum and the events in the synagogue (Mk.i.21, 23‑28), and the subsequent proposal to preach throughout Galilee (vv.35‑38).
Thus Mark's No. 1 melts away, except the healing of Simon's mother‑in‑law and others, which Matthew inserts later. No. 2 is expanded into the Sermon on the Mount, followed by the healing of the leper.
Then comes in Matthew the first Capharnaum visit, where are placed the healing of the centurion's servant (absent from Mark) and others.

All the events of No. 3 are held over till No. 4 has been related, and are finally combined with the stories of Jairus's daughter and the woman with the issue in Matthew's second Capharnaum visit.
The mission of the Twelve, with the parenthetical mention of their names, is placed at a point, which the compiler found convenient for the discourse collected from various quarters into ch.x.
The only other departure from the Marcan order is the placing of the cleansing of the Temple immediately on the arrival at Jerusalem, so that the cursing and the withering of the fig‑tree are brought ought together.

But while adhering thus closely to the Marcan framework, the First Evangelist has enriched his Gospel with numerous parables and sayings of our Lord, the latter of which he has for the most part collected into five extended discourses (chs.v‑vii, x, i, xviii, xi‑xxv) each concluded with the formula, 'And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these words', or the like.
In so far as these parables and sayings are found closely similar in Luke, they may, with some confidence, be explained as derived from Q, but it must remain doubtful which of the others were derived from Q and which from other sources.
Matthew contains also a few narratives which are found in Luke but not in Mark:
the three Temptations (iv.2‑10), the centurion (viii.5‑13), the two [Lk. three] aspirants (viii.19‑22), the Baptist's question and the reply (xi. 2‑6) ;
and several which are peculiar to the Gospel, some of which may be Midrashic comments on Christian traditions:
two blind men (ix.27‑31), a deaf demoniac (ix.32‑34);
healing on the mountain (xv.29‑31), the didrachma (xvii.24‑27), the remorse of Judas, and the potter's field (xxvii.3‑10), Pilate's handwashing (xxvii.24, 25), earthquake at the Crucifixion (xxvii.51b‑53), scaling of the tomb (xxvii.62‑66), earthquake, and rolling away the stone by an angel (xxviii.2‑4), payment of the soldiers (xxviii.11‑15).

2. MARK.

Papias, in giving the statement of 'the presbyter' that St. Mark wrote down accurately what he remembered of St. Peter's preaching of the words and deeds of Christ, adds 'not however in order', which may be a parenthesis of his own, not the words of the presbyter.
Very likely it implies a contrast with the Fourth Gospel.
It strikes as disparaging a note about the order of events in Mark as a modern Form‑critic would do.

But from St. Peter's teaching, and possibly from that of St. Paul and St. Barnabas and others, three main chronological divisions of the Ministry stood out in his memory, and he prefixes to them a brief survey of incidents preparatory to it, viz. the Ministry of the Baptist (i. 1‑8), his Baptism of Jesus (m. 9‑i 11), and the Temptation (m. 12, 13).



The Galilean Ministry (i.I4‑ix.50] carried on in two districts:



Eastern Galilee, with Capharnaum as its centre (i.I4‑vii.23), including one crossing to Gerasa (v.i), and one to Bethsaida (vi. 45).



North and cast of Galilee, the Tyrian district, Decapolis, Dalmanutha, Bethsaida, Caesarea Philippi (vii.24‑ix.29), after which Jesus passed through Galilee and returned to Capharnaum before moving southwards (ix.30‑50): There is a strong but unwarranted tendency among Form-critics to suspect notes of place and notes of time (mentioned below) in this Gospel, as though it were a mere religious drama to which an editor has attached geographical and temporal links at random.
[This place‑name has not been identified.
The variant Magedan (P45) may be original; 'Dalmanutha' appears to be 'quod est iuxta partes'; cf. Dalman, Ex. T. ix, 1897, p.45; P. R, B. Brown, Theology, 1935, p.350, F. C. Burkitt,. J.T.S. xvii, 1915‑16, p.16.]




The Judaean Ministry (x.1‑i.37).



He travelled on the eastern side of the Jordan (x.1‑45), i.e. through Peraea; then



across the river to Jericho (x. 46‑52), whence to Bethphage, Bethany, and the Mount of Olives (xi.1), from which He made the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (xi.1‑10).



Arrived at Jerusalem He went out to Bethany each night, and on successive days He cleansed the Temple, engaged in controversies with the authorities, and delivered the eschatological discourse (xi.11‑i.37).




The Passion and Resurrection (xiv‑xvi. 8).

The compiler of Matthew, as we have seen, follows this outline substantially.
But in the traditions incorporated in Luke there appear to be indications of work in Judaea before the closing visit to Jerusalem [see p.24).
If this is accurate, we must suppose that St. Peter and other sources, being interested mainly in Galilee, were silent about earlier visits to the south, or mentioned them only incidentally, so that St. Mark did not recall them as important.
It is noticeable that in the last of his three divisions St. Mark gives careful notes of time, assigning events to each day in the week (xi.11 ; xi.12 ; xi.19, 20; xiv.12 ; xv.1; xvi.1 ; xvi.2).
But in the first two divisions there is only one definite note of time: the Transfiguration took place 'after six days' (ix.2), for which Lk. ix.28 has more vaguely 'about eight days'.
Elsewhere St. Mark contents himself with such expressions as 'in those days' (i.9; viii.1); 'and after John was delivered up' (i.14); 'on the Sabbath' (i.21; ii.23); 'after an interval of some days' (ii.1), 'again' [sc. on the Sabbath] (iii.1).
There is therefore plenty of room for visits to Judaea; and such are clearly related in the Fourth Gospel.
It is thus impossible to think that St. Mark had any accurate knowledge of the sequence of individual events.
But the broad divisions are historically important. In eastern Galilee the Lord's ministry began with a large measure of success; disciples joined Him, the fame of His miracles of healing spread rapidly, and crowds followed Him, though St. Mark places some collisions with the authorities at an early date.
The collisions culminated in a deliberate gathering of Pharisees and scribes against Him, and His repudiation of Jewish traditions of ceremonial pollution (vii.1‑23).
This sufficiently explains His retirement to the north.
At the only meeting with the Pharisees recorded during His movements in the north they are described as 'tempting Him' (viii.11).
He warned His disciples against their 'leaven' (v.15), and then began to predict to them His Passion (v.31), and to speak of their 'losing their life for His sake' (v.35).
It was a deepening presentiment of evil. And as He moved on the cast of the Jordan 'tempting' by the Pharisees began again (x.2), and the shadow of the Passion darkened upon Him (x.32‑34, 38 f., 45).
This course of events has the ring of truth, and the stages of the ministry are represented as an apostle might relate it in his teaching of Christians.
[Cf. F. C. Burkitt, Jesus Christ, an historical outline, 1932, pp. 65‑71.]

The Supper at Emmaus

3. LUKE.

There is no sign that the Third Evangelist was able to follow any more exact sequence than St. Mark.
The words in the prologue, 'to write in order unto thee ' most excellent Theophilus', cannot be adduced to support the accuracy of his chronological order.
can mean 'one by one', successively' (so Syr. sin Sah); cf. Acts xi. 4; xviii. 23.

Burkitt writes, 'it certainly does imply, in a general way, chronological order.
But it does not necessarily imply a claim of superior chronological order to other "Gospels" or even to Mark.
Rather it is a claim to present a chronological order, as contrasted with a systematic or doctrinal one.' 
[The Beginnings of Christianity, ii.485.]

Cadbury, however (op. Cit., p.505), will not admit as much as that.
He thinks it is a merely formal and literary word.
St. Luke purposes to relate the events in a consecutive narrative.
It might even mean 'as follows', 'hereinafter'; cf. Lk.viii.1 ('soon afterwards'); Acts.iii.24 ('followed after').

After the Infancy narratives he starts off, in iii.1‑iv.30, with a block of non‑Marcan material.
The order of the opening events, the Baptist's work, the Baptism, Temptation, and return to Galilee, would necessarily be the same as in Mark.
But except for a sentence or two he seems to prefer his other sources.
With the removal to Capharnaum (iv. 31) he turns to Mark, and until vi.19 follows Mk.i.21 ‑iii.19 fairly closely.
vi.20‑viii.3 is his second non‑Marcan block, the so‑called 'Lesser Insertion', which completes the non‑Marcan account of the Galilean ministry.
But the next group of incidents in viii.4‑ix.50, which are taken from Mk.iv.1‑ix.40, are still in Galilee.
(Spitta, indeed, on the basis of the reading Ὶουδαίαςin iv.44, suggests that the whole of Lk.v.12‑vi.49 (v.1‑11 is out of its true context) relates a ministry in Judaea.,
[See A. H. McNeile's St. Matthew, pp.48 f.] [Cf. H. Bryant Salmon, Church Quarterly Review, xcix, 1924, pp.59‑68.]
St. Luke does not, however, use the whole of this piece of Mark.
Whether intentionally or not, he Omits vi.45‑viii.26, which is sometimes called the 'Great Omission'.
For Streeter's suggestion that his copy of Mark may have been mutilated see below, p.77.
The next non‑Marcan block, ix.51‑xviii.14, containing more than 30 per cent of the Third Gospel, is often called the 'Great Insertion'.
It has also been named the 'Peraean section', because in Mk.x.1‑45 our Lord travels towards Jericho, on the way to Jerusalem, through Peraea, i.e. on the other side of the Jordan; but there is not a hint of this in Luke.
His collection of narratives pictures Him simply as moving from village to village towards Jerusalem (see ix.51 f., 56 f.; x. 38; xiv.25; xvii.11), till He reached Jericho.
From the first and the last of these references we should gather that the route was not across the Jordan but through Samaria.
Another name, 'the travel document', is ‑ as Streeter says ‑ 'from the critical standpoint, an even more dangerously misleading title, as it implies that this section once existed as a separate document'.
Besides, closer examination shows that the author riveted the theory of a journey upon his material in this section.
Streeter adds: 'The only safe name by which one can call it is the "Central Section" ‑ a title which states a fact but begs no questions.' It is probable that St. Luke has here made no use at all of Mark.
The passage about BeeIzebub and the parable of the Mustard Seed are from Q.
In a few isolated sayings he may have been influenced by Mark; but in every case it is possible to suppose that his other sources overlapped Mark at these points, and that he preferred the former.
After using, in xviii.35‑43, the Marcan story of the blind man at Jericho, he has a short non‑Marcan block, xix.1‑28.
And then from the entry into Jerusalem and onwards he amalgamates Marcan material with much from his other sources.
He bases the eschatological discourse in ch.xxi on Mark's 'little Apocalypse', but adds three verses at the end.
From x.14 to the end it is scarcely possible to distinguish what is Marcan from the rest.
It has been much debated whether in this section St. Luke used his non‑Marcan material as his primary source and the Marcan as his secondary or the reverse. B. H. Streeter,
[The Hibbert, Journal, Oct. 1921, and The Four Gospels, pp.199‑222.]
and V. Taylor [Behind the Third Gospel: a study of the Proto‑Luke hypothesis.] support the former view,
J. M. Creed [The Gospel according to St. Luke, pp. Iviii, Ixiv, 86, 140, 253, 262, 274.]
and M. Goguel [Harvard Theol. Rev. xxvi, 1933, PP. 1‑55.]the latter.
Mark seems to have supplied the greater part of the accounts of Peter's denial, Simon of Cyrene, the Crucifixion, and the Entombment.
But the appearances after the Resurrection, which are confined to Jerusalem and its neighbourhood, are entirely independent of Mark.