Lecture 3: Biographies vs. Monographs
Course: New Testament Introduction
Lecture: Biographies vs. Monographs
We have been talking about the nature of the gospels and we need to continue to talk about the whole issue of genre because genre sets up for us the signals of what we are dealing with. Alright.
The first attempt to write a gospel was Mark's gospel. When we ask the genre question "What is it?", the thing...thing to do, to figure out what it is, is to compare it to other documents from the same time period and ask the question: "How would the audience of Mark's gospel have viewed this?"
Would they have seen it as [inaudible 00:01:21] and say it’s some kind of unique document, unlike anything they had ever seen before? But if they saw it that way, if they saw the Gospel of Mark as some kind of unique document, then how would they know how to read it? You see, the way that you know how to read a document is when you know the literary signals of a document. I mean, when you go to a bookstore and you go to one section or another of the bookstore and pick out something that's prose and fiction as opposed to prose and historical fact, you know that you're expecting different kinds of literature from different times of intended documents.
When you're dealing with the genre question about gospels, here is what I think we have to say: That we have some gospels that are like ancient biographies, not modern biographies, but ancient biographies that are like the biographies of Plutarch and Tacitus and others who wrote biographies in antiquity. And those would be Mark and Matthew and John and then we have a two-volume work, and it really is a two-volume work, Luke-Acts. And it's not a biography. It's far more like an ancient historical monograph. So we have within the first five books of our canon two different types of ancient literature.
We have three samples of ancient biographies and we talked about what were the conventions of those a little bit last night. We didn't talk a lot about the conventions of ancient historical monographs, but we're going to do that some.
But let me explain to you a few things about ancient biographies and ancient historical monographs in general. Because ancient documents were written as oral texts and in scriptum continuum, that's continual flow of letters, right? The way you figured out what kind of document it was, was chiefly by reading the first few lines of it.
That is, the genre signals are in the first few lines of a given document. Are you with me now? Do you get the picture? And the reason for that was, because it doesn't come with headings. It doesn't come with a title. It just begins this continual flow of letters. That's the way the ancient document worked.
Now ancient documents also had at the end of the document, on the end flap if you will, the end of the piece of papyrus, they would sometimes put on what I would call a toe tag. That is an identification marker. And it would always be at the end of the document, not at the beginning.
Now why would you guess that they would put it at the end of the document? Why wouldn't they have, "According to John" or [unintelligible 00:04:51] according to Mark" at the beginning of the document instead of at the end of the document?
Man: Maybe give him more authority so it wouldn't look like it was coming from "a person", perhaps?
You know, that's not a bad idea. I hadn't really thought about that one, but actually it's a practical thing.
Remember VHS tapes? Do you remember how you watched a movie on a VHS tape and then if you had rented it, it said right on there: "Please be kind. Rewind." Ancient people were no more apt to rewind things than we are. So what they would do is they would create a document like this from left to right if it's Greek, from right to left if it's Hebrew. When they got to the end of the document did they rewind it all the way back to the beginning of the papyrus? Not so much. They'd simply put it in the pigeon hole where it came from. And therefore the identification marker of what this document was, was at the end flap at the bottom of the piece of papyrus to let you know what it is. So that when you go back to the pigeon hole and you're looking for a particular document the identification marker would be at the end. Now with gospels, with gospels, the identification marker would be very simple. It would be something like this to give you translated, read in English. It would be like "Cata Luka". Okay? That's all it would say. Or "Cata Matheos", or Cata Markos, or Cato Iowanes. Okay? That's all it would say. According to Luke. According to Mark. Very brief telegraphic title, not a great big, long wordy title because of course you couldn't get all that on a label. Right?And that's the way it would be identified. Especially when it came to a document like an ancient biography or an ancient historical monograph. It mattered who wrote these documents. Why? Because the documents were making historical claims. Are you with me now? If it was simply a novel or a novella, and there were ancient novels, right? It doesn't matter so much who wrote them. Its fiction anyway. But when you have a document that's making some kind of truth claims...truth claims, right? Then you need to have an identification as to where it came from. Sometimes modern people will tell you, "Well, you know the ancients were primitive. They didn't have a big concern over intellectual property rights, and that sort of... That's a modern preoccupation." This is absolutely false. Ancient writers were very concerned that somebody else did not claim that they wrote what they wrote. In fact, [laughing] Galen, the famous ancient physician, once published a book that simply listed the books that he had written so that his audience would not buy phony Galen books. Phony books by Galen. So yes, there was a concern for who wrote something. If it was making historical or some kind of truth claims. Philosophical claims. So the labels on these documents would not give you the genre of the document. They would refer to who? The supposed source or author of the document. Now this leads me to another point as we're beginning to explore these gospels. And this point is sometimes hard for us to understand. The concept of authorship in antiquity was a little different than it would be today. Okay?
What do I mean by that? I mean, that a document would be labeled in one of several ways. And I can illustrate this from the psalms. In Hebrew, if you go to the psalms, you will remember that many of the psalms begin with the phrase that says "A Psalm of David". Right? See the problem with that is, that's the tag. Right. The problem with that is that that could mean one of three things.
It could mean, in Hebrew, [inaudible 09:15] is the Hebrew. It could mean a psalm about David. A good example of this would be Psalm 51. "Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me." The Bathsheba story...you know, the aftermath of Bathsheba story. That whole thing. Alright. It could mean a song about David. It could mean a psalm written for David, dedicated to David. Right? Or it could mean a psalm written by David.
There are three possibilities. A psalm about David; a psalm written for David; or a psalm written by David. Well, that phrase is just as ambiguous as [inaudible 10:00] is in the psalms. This could mean a story according to Luke. Okay? And immediately that leads to two possibilities. Luke is the ultimate source of this material, but he didn't write the document. Some scribe has written the document. Compiled some sources and written the document. Right?
He's anonymous. We don't know who he is. The point is: Who is the source of the material? Luke. With me now? Okay. The other thing this phrase could mean is that this person actually wrote the document. So this phrase could have one or two meanings. According to Luke could mean the ultimate source of this material was Luke, or it could mean that he actually wrote this document.
What you must not assume is that when you see a label on a document it means that they actually produced the document. It is making some kind of claim of the connection of this person to the document, but the question is: What kind of claim? Now we know, in the case of Paul, that he used scribes.
He tells us that he did and he tells the audience how you can know it's a document by Paul. Namely, that he signed the document near the end. He tells this to us in Thessalonians, and also Galatians: "See with which large letters I write my name. This is the way I write my name in all my documents," says Paul. And the reason he mentions that is because he has just now taken up the pen. Who's been producing the document? It's the scribe...the secretary slaving away over a piece of papyrus and some water and some soot, writing away at 900 miles an hour. Right?
One of my favorite verses in the Bible...in the New Testament is in Romans 16. After writing 16 chapters of Romans, in the middle of Paul greeting people and sending greetings from people, we have these words: "I, Tertius,greet you in the Lord."
Who is Tertius? Tertius is the scribe who got himself into Holy scripture [laughing] after slaving away,writing 16 long chapters of Romans. And he got in there and said I'm gon' greet these babies, too.
Audience: [laughing ]
You know? The production of documents in antiquity was different from the production in documents today. And the way you look at the question of authorship in antiquity was different than the way you would look at it now. Okay? So that's the important word.
Man: You're talking about scribes...could you be more...explain that a little bit more. I mean...to me that would mean strictly a secretary writing down things, but...
Man: ...could be a researcher, or something else.
Alright. There's a sliding scale as to what scribes did. And part of it depends on how much the author trusts the scribe. Okay? Here is the sliding scale. On one hand, a scribe could take dictation, right? And when he took dictation, there were slow scribes and there were fast scribes. Just like there are slow writers today, and fast writers. Right?
There was actually an art that had developed just before the New Testament period, which was called tachygraphy. Tachygraphy. That means literally fast writing. Shorthand. The ancient equivalent of shorthand. Right? This skill had actually only developed in the first century B.C. He wanted a scribe who knew shorthand, because you didn't want to have to stop. You didn't want to have to slow down when you're dictating a document, or a letter. Especially not a big old hunkin' long document, like Romans, or 1st Corinthians. You wanted a good scribe. Right?
What tended to happen in the dictation of long documents is you end up with incomplete sentences. And guess what. That's exactly what we have in 1st Corinthians. Sosthenes, who's mentioned at the beginning of 1st Corinthians as a Christian brother, is probably the scribe of this document. And it's pretty clear he's not as good a scribe, not as fast a scribe, as the person Tertius, who produced Romans.
How do we know this? In the Greek, in 1st Corinthians we have a good number of incomplete sentences. And it's like taking notes when Dr. Ben's lecturing at 900 miles an hour after having drunk a white chocolate mocha. Right?
Can't keep up! Right? So skip to the next sentence. We'll start over again. And you do have that in 1st Corinthians. There are several places that are called lacunae, or a [inaudible 14:55], or incomplete sentences. Right? And the reason for that is the scribe, bless his heart, has gotta move on, 'cause Paul ain't slowin' down. You know? That's kinda the way it is.
Romans is the much more complete document that really doesn't have too many incongruities, or incomplete Greek sentences. So...so, a scribe, to answer your question, on the one hand could simply take dictation. More often than not, if you worked with a scribe for considerable period of time...let's say a scribe for 1st Thessalonians was Timothy, a co-worker of Paul.
In fact, if you look at 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, this is a jointly authored two documents. Have you noticed that? It's by Paul and Sylvanus, aka Silas. Sylvanus is the Latin form of the name Silas, Jewish name, Silas. Okay? And Timothy. We have three authors of those documents. So here is the trick question now. New Testament 101, who wrote 1st Thessalonians? You get one-third credit if you say Paul.
Right. Because there were several people involved. If the person had had a long relationship with the speaker, in this case Paul, but the author might well say to the scribe, "Look, you know what I want to say in this case. Compose the document for me. I will review it at the end, and if it's fine, I'll sign it." Okay? Now...so on one end of the scale, you could have a scribe who composes the document, knowing the mind of the author very well. On the other end of the scale, you could have a scribe who simply takes dictation. And there were variations in between, in that spectrum. Okay? So there would be some times, when a person would say, you know, "Okay, I need to dictate to you these bits of the document. You know what I already think about idolatry, so give them a couple of paragraphs about idolatry. You compose it."
I do think we have that variation within the Pauline corpus. How many documents in the New Testament are attributed to Paul? Come on now. We have 27 total documents. How many are attributed to Paul? And I'm not counting Hebrews.
That would be...about 13. You with me? Okay. Now, of those 13 documents, you do have some variations. Most importantly, the pastoral epistles use pretty different grammar and syntax, and vocabulary to the earlier Paulines. Okay? This is part of the reason why you have debates about authorship of some of Paul's letters. Because the grammar and vocabulary and syntax are different.
Especially so between the pastoral epistles and the earlier Paulines. Okay? So what's going on there? Well, you could say he's using a different scribe and he's not dictating here. He's just asked the scribe to compose these documents, and he's accepted them. But where was Paul when the pastoral epistles were composed? Let's think about that just for a minute. Where was he? Well at the very least he was under house arrest. At worst case scenario, he was, in fact, in the Mamertime Prison, in a dark hole in the ground, which you can still see today in the Roman forum. Okay?
Not composing too many documents without papyrus and ink and stylus, in a dark hole in the ground. Right?
Audience member: [coughing]
So what does the pastoral epistles tell us about who can get access to him? Well he says in a telling moment, "Luke alone is with me." Uh-huh. Okay. Now you got to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and think a little bit. Why are the pastoral epistles so different from the earlier Pauline letters? Because a trusted co-worker of Paul wrote these documents for him.
Now, it's from the mind of Paul, but the hands, probably the hands of Luke. And here's the reason I say this: Because guess what? In those three short documents we call 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus, there are over 50 Greek words that you find no where else in the New Testament except in Luke Acts. But that's not all. In addition to the word count, you've got about seven or eight distinctive Greek phrases that you find in the pastoral epistles, that you do not find in the earlier Pauline letters, but you do find in Luke Acts.
Hello? You know, the more you explore the grammar and the vocabulary and the syntax of the pastoral epistles, the more it looks like Luke wrote these documents. Now...he wrote them on behalf of Paul. He would not want credit as the author of these documents. But here is a trusted colleague who knew the mind of Paul, who had traveled with Paul, who was with Paul at the end as well. Who has helped in the composition of the document, and yet he doesn't want that document to say on the toe tag "Cata Luka". Why not? Because it didn't come from his mind.
The question of authorship has to do who is the originator of this source material, not who wrote it down. Okay? These are two different questions and we tend to look at authorship so differently because of modern concerns about copyright. That is a text-based culture concern. They weren't concerned about copyright. They were concerned about idea rights. Where did these ideas come from. Okay?
Now how does that help us when we're going back to look at the gospels. Okay. First of all, our four gospels are formally anonymous. That is, the name of the author is not mentioned within the inspired verses of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John as the author. There is no sentence in any of those documents that says, "Hi. My name is Mark and I wrote this document." You know, there is nothing like that in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Those four documents internally are formally anonymous. Now they provide us clues with who they came from.
One of them says it's by an eyewitness whom is simply called "the beloved disciple" and there has been endless debate as to who the beloved disciple is throughout church history. Here are three answers that the church fathers have given about who the beloved disciple was:
A. It's John's son of Zebidee;
B. It's Lazarrus;
C. It's John of Patmos
Those are three options from the early church as to who in the world the beloved disciple was. The point is, he's anonymous. In the text he's anonymous. He's not identified with a particular named character in the text, clearly. Okay?These documents are formally anonymous. So, the labels on our gospels are added after the fact to make clear where they came from. You with me now? You get the picture? However, this phrase could mean Luke is the source, Luke is the writer. There are a lot of things it could mean. Okay, here's where it gets even more, as my granny used to say, "complexified".
Audience member: [laughing]
My grandmother made up all kinds of wonderful words. She used send us to the store for "complexionary sugar". unidentified sound 23:22]
"Son, I need some complexionary sugar." "Okay, Grannie." Were we patted directly on the cheeks when we get it, you know? Then we'll be sweeter. What complexifies this whole thing is that these labels on the gospels are not part of the original inspired text. This inspired text starts with verse one and ends with the last verse of each document. The label in your English Bible, "The Gospel According to John", is a traditional label that has some basis in church history, but it's not an original part of the document. Okay? You with me now? You've seen the documents. You saw what they looked like. They just start with a flow of words. There's no labels. The labels are added to the document after the fact.
Alright. Now here's something else interesting about this label. You don't use this phrase unless there's multiples of them. That is, you don't talk about a Gospel According to Luke unless there is also a Gospel According to "somebody else". If there was only one gospel created by one person, you don't use the phrase "Cata Luka". You just simply say "Luke's". You don't say "According to Luke" because "According to Luke" means as opposed to "According to Mark" or as opposed to "According to Matthew" or whoever. Alright? These labels were given after the fact.
So what do we know about ancient biographies? Did people care about who wrote them? Well, yes they did. And they knew who wrote them but the name of the author is not always mentioned in the document. For example, if you look at Plutarch's "Parallel Lives", one of the things he liked to write about was the lives of the Caesars. Okay? And he'd take one of the Caesars and he'd compare him to Alexander the Great. Now, not surprisingly he compared Julius Caesar to Alexander the Great. Why? Because these two people were world-changing rulers. Right?
But when you read this parallel life of Caesar and Alexander within the document he nowhere mentions his name. His own name. "I, Plutarch, say this to you." Right? He doesn't. That's something added to the document after the fact as a label and it was important who wrote it. So, did they care when they wrote ancient biographies about the issue of authorship? Yes, they did. It wasn't the primary concern. Did they care when they wrote ancient historical monographs about authorship? Yes, yes they did. But they cared about it in a different way than we do.
Now let's consider, if we can, how we got what we got. [unidentifiable sound] One scholar has suggested, and I think this is probably right, that these labels "According to Matthew", "According to Mark", "According to John", first originated in the early second century A.D. to distinguish the most widely circulating gospels about Jesus. And in fact, they may have originated when the gospels were first put together in a single book. One of the things we know that happened in the second century A.D. is that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - stick with those and you can't go wrong - circulated in the form of a codex, which is the earliest form of a book in the early second century A.D.
Martin Hengle, a good German scholar, says: "Probably these labels distinguishing the four gospels were first fully and widely used when they...the four canonical gospels were circulating together as a single document." Because if you've got four iterations of the same story, you want to know which one is by whom. Right? This one's according to him, this one's according to him, and so on. So it looks like that by about 125 A.D., we had a codex, which is the ancient form of a book, not a papyrus roll, but papyrus pages, somehow glued or tied together that had four gospels clearly labeled.
Now what do we know about these labels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Lets concentrate on Mark and Luke for a minute. What do we know about Mark and Luke? Were Mark or Luke, or either one of them members of the Twelve? Were they original disciples of Jesus? No. Were they disciples of Jesus at all during the ministry of Jesus? No. So our earliest gospel Mark, and either our second or third earliest gospel Luke is written by non-apostle, non-eyewitnesses. And here's the good news about that. The good news is the early church would not have made up these names and slapped them on gospels.
Why not? These are relatively obscure figures that are co-workers of some of the early Christian leaders. Right? If you're going to make up a name to append to a document to add authority to it, right, what kind of name are you going to add? You're going to add a name like Peter. Do we have a Gospel of Peter in the New Testament? No we don't. We do have an apocryphal Gospel of Peter from the end of the second century A.D. Within the canon we do not have a Gospel of Peter.
Now that leads to this [inaudible 29:18] historical conclusion. Whoever it is who told us that Mark wrote a gospel and Luke wrote a gospel, they were probably telling us the absolute truth because there's no reason to have made up those names and appended it to our earliest stories about Jesus. So, most scholars accept, most scholars - liberal, moderate, conservative - accept the label Mark and Luke as appropriate for these documents, because there's no reason to suspect that these are important authoritative names later add...later added to the document. Pseudonymously. Okay?
Mark was a co-worker of first Paul - that didn't go so well - and then Peter. When we catch up with the story about our earliest gospel the story of our earliest gospel comes from a church father, a bishop whose name is Papias, about whom I have written my third novel. Papias is an exceedingly important figure. He was born in the late first century A.D. He traversed the end of the first century A.D. He became a bishop in the early second century A.D. and his bailiwick was Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis. Three cities all mentioned in the NewTestament. Pauline territory. You with me now? Okay.
Here's the important thing about Papias. Papias wrote a commentary on the oracles of our Lord Jesus. And, he comments on the authors of our gospels. More specifically, he talks about the gospel that was composed by Mark, and he talks about the Gospel of Matthew, and he talks about the gospel we call John's. He doesn't say anything about Luke, really. Okay? But this is a Christian bishop in the early second century A.D., that believed that Mark wrote Mark, and that Matthew had something to do with the composition of Matthew, and then there is this fourth gospel which he's especially fond of. And he says that somebody named John had something to do with that. Okay?
Now here's where it gets really interesting. In regard to Mark he's most specific. He says Mark was the intepreter of Peter and so that what you have in a Mark's gospel is in fact, the testimony of Peter, written down by Mark. And here's the other thing that he says which is so interesting. He says that Peter normally gave his testimony to Jews and he spoke to them in their ancient language. That would not be Greek. That would be in this case, Aramaic. So what we are dealing with in the Gospel of Mark, is not merely Mark writing down what Peter said, but what? We are dealing with a translation of the way that Peter told Jesus's story, translated from Aramaic to Greek.
Jesus's spoken language was Aramaic as well. We shouldn't be surprised that that was true of Peter as well, though I'm quite sure that Peter knew some Greek and certainly spoke some Greek. Pathias says Mark was the interpreter of Peter and he wrote down an account of the life of Jesus but not in chronological order, says Papias. About the Gospel of Mark, he says not in chronological order. He wrote down the words and deeds of Jesus, but not in a clear chronological order.
When was this document written? It's the earliest of our gospels. It was probably written shortly before the fall of the temple in Jerusalem. Which is to say, shortly before 70 A.D. Our earliest gospel was written during the lifetime of some of the eyewitnesses and certainly of their co-workers and written before the fall of the temple. Now why do scholars think that?
Well, there's a very specific historical reason. One of those reasons is that in Mark 13 when he's talking about the abomination that makes desolate in the temple in Jerusalem there is this little inserted phrase. "Let the reader understand." The verse says this: "When you see the abomination that makes desolate in the place that ought not to be, parenthesis, let the reader understand, that's a way of saying, "Hello. Wakey, wakey! This is happening now."
Okay, you should realize that this prophecy of Jesus is coming true. Correlate what's happening, that you know is happening in Jerusalem with what Jesus said. That's the whole point. That's the whole point of a parenthetical remark like that. Okay? Gospel scholars have concluded from that remark, and quite a few other ones in the Gospel of Mark that he must be writing during the '60s, before the fall of the temple in Jerusalem. But he foresees it's going to happen soon. So most scholars would date Mark in the late '60s.
Now lets go to our second gospel just for a minute, and lets deal with it. The second gospel composed probably was Matthew. And here's where it gets interesting. First of all, what Papias says. Papias says that the Gospel of Matthew was originally composed in Hebrew. Well that's not quite what he says. What he says is that Matthew [coughing] the scribe, which is what he was, he was a tax collector and a scribe, also known as Levi, okay? See you could preach a sermon on Levi's jeans and talk about his heredity. [chuckling] What Papias says is Matthew wrote down the oracles of Christ in Hebrew. He doesn't quite say Matthew's gospel was composed entirely in Hebrew. What he says is basically that the sayings of Jesus were composed in a Semitic language. Whether make of that that he's referring to Hebrew or Aramaic we could debate that. But clearly that's not what we have in this document, is it?
Is our Gospel According to Matthew in Hebrew? No. Are even the sayings of Jesus in this gospel in either Hebrew or Aramaic? Not so much. No. What we have is a Greek Matthew here. Right? So whatever Papias's talking about, that's not actually what we ended up having in our canon. And there is reason to think that Papias is not talking about the final form of the document that we have. What he's talking about is what Matthew originally had to do with it. Here's the important point. Now lets consider what we actually have in the Gospel of Matthew. The Gospel of Matthew is much longer than the Gospel of Mark. Have you noticed this? The shortest of our gospels is Mark. Matthew is, oh, not quite a third longer.
But here are some facts that we have to take intoconsideration. First of all, 95 percent of Mark - Mark's content is found also in Matthew. Of that 95 percent of Mark that also occurs in the Gospel of Matthew, 52 percent of it is verbatim. [tapping sound] Okay? Now, lets do a little deduction here for a minute. If two term papers are submitted to me in this class and I find 95 percent of one term paper in the other, and of that 95 percent it's 52 percent verbatim, I'm going to know there's some kind of literary relationship between these two documents.
A literary relationship. Somebody has copied from somebody. You with me now? Well now, that then leads to the question. Here's Mark's gospel. Here's Matthew over here. Ninety-five percent of Mark plus other unique material shows up in Matthew, and of that 95 percent 52 percent is verbatim. Now that's very interesting. Matthew was one of the original Twelve.
Why would origin...an original apostolic eyewitness be busily copying from a non-eyewitness's gospel? See this is the historical question you gotta ask. How come, why? What's up with that? Well that's weird. That doesn't make sense. Matthew traveled with Jesus as one of the original Twelve. He saw it with his own eyes. Why in the world would he be copying from Mark? Well that's a good question to ask. It's a really good question to ask.
Here's the way I think it goes down. The Gospel of Matthew is called "According to Matthew" because there is unique material in this Gospel that goes directly back to Matthew. When you look at the composition of Matthew's gospel, there are three parts:
A. There's Mark. That's his biggest source;
B. He's got a source of sayings material; and
C. He's got material that you don't find in any other gospel.
We're going to call that Special M. Not to be confused with Special K. Okay? There are three sources of material in Matthew's gospel. Markan material, sayings material that is not found in Mark, and Special M material, like the birth narratives. A classic example would be the birth narratives. Clearly not found in, nor derived from, a reading of Mark. Okay? What I'm saying is, that the unique material in the Gospel of Matthew, this stuff, which there's a considerable amount of, okay? This stuff comes from Matthew, the tax collector, the eyewitness. This material comes from, wait for it...Mark. the Markan material comes from Mark. This material comes from Matthew. And then you have collections of important sayings of Jesus, in addition.
Now here's another practice that you need to understand about ancients. When you have a composite document - so I'm arguing that Matthew is a composite document - what the Matthew that we have in Greek is a composite document. Okay? When you have a composite document the normal ancient practice was to attribute it to its most famous author. Okay? The other practice was to attribute it to the author whose portion of the document is mentioned first. Okay? Well, of Matthew and Mark who's the more famous? Clearly Matthew. Right? And of Matthew and Mark, if you're reading Seriatim through the document and you start with Matthew 1:1, who's the first contributor? That would also be Matthew. The birth narratives: Matthew 1 and 2. That's uniquely Matthean material not found in any other gospel.
So on both counts the reason for calling this document Matthew's gospel is he's the most famous and most unique contributor. Whereas Mark is repeating material that he himself has heard second-hand from Peter. Much more important to mention the apostle than the non-apostle contributor. Right? Now for us, I mean we do have documents like that. I mean, I have been the editor of documents where you know I've had 10 or 15 scholars collect essays and contribute essays to a compiled document, a compilation document. Right? But the document is attributed to me. I'm the editor. Why is that? Well, because I'm the most well-known person and the publisher decides that they want this to sell, so they want my name on the document. Right?
The more things change the more they stay the same. The ancients felt the same way. Who's the most important contributor to this document? Who is the most famous contributor to this document? In the case of the Gospel of Matthew, yes, there is original eyewitness material from Matthew in this gospel. What is it? It's the uniquely Mattheen material in this gospel. Now when you get to Luke, he has a disclaimer. Now listen closely to the beginning of the document. [background chatter]
Remember when I told you that the way you tell what the genre of a document is is by reading the first few verses? That's how you tell what kind of literature it is. Well that's clearly true in Luke. It's not always true, but it's clearly true in Luke.
Here's what he says. We're going to look at the beginning of Luke and the beginning of Acts. He says: "Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled amongst us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word, I, too decided after investigating everything carefully from the very first to write an orderly account for you, Most Excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed."
Now that's the beginning of his gospel, as we call it. If you turn to the very first two verses of the Book of Acts, we have these words: "In the first book Theophilus wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up into Heaven..." and so on. Okay? Now clearly, two points: Number one: Acts is seen as a continuation of Luke. Written to the same person. Who is this person? Theophilus. This is probably an actual individual, although his name means lover of God. Theos...philos...lover of God. Okay. But it's probably an actual person. It's probably Luke's patron.
It's probably the dude who paid for the writing down of this document...both of these documents. Let's go back now to the prefix, the preface, to the Gospel of Luke. We need to look at that in some detail and listen to what he says. The first thing I need to tell you about Luke 1:1-4 is this would clearly signal to the audience that this is not a biography. In fact, if you're reading the Greek of Luke Chapter 1, this word just in: Jesus is nowhere mentioned in the first few paragraphs of this document. You would never guess that this document was about Jesus. Not from reading the first few paragraphs because you have the preface and then you have the story of whom? Elizabeth and Zach and John.
You wouldn't know it's about Jesus. In fact, Luke says this is not a biography, it's about the things that have happened amongst us. It's not about a personality study. It's about the events that have happened amongst us. Not a biography, no, this is a historical monograph. The important historic events that have happened amongst us. You know, it's like a documentary on the History Channel. That's what he's writing. He's writing history, ancient style, but nevertheless, he's writing history. That's what he's writing. He's writing history. Very important. Now listen to what he says about this history.
First of all, he says "Since many have undertaken to write an account." Now what does that tell you? Have there been documents like this written before? He says they have been written before. He doesn't just say, "Since many have told the story of Jesus." No, this is very significant in an oral culture. Since many have attempted to write an account before. Hello? Now this means Luke is writing late in the game. He's not writing the first gospel. Definitely not. What he is doing is he's writing a document that he wants to be considered a document that is in a certain kind of order.
Now listen to his claim about himself: "Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled amongst us. Just as they were handed onto us by those who from the beginning were eyewitness servants of the word."
Now lets listen to that. Who's the "us"? That would be the author and others. Is he claiming to be an eyewitness, or original servant or preacher of the word? No, he is not. He's claiming that he's in touch with those folks. Right? All he's claiming is "I sought out the eyewitnesses. I did my homework. I did good research." That's all he's claiming. "I consulted with the original eyewitnesses and the servants of the word who were from the beginning eyewitnesses. I, too, decided after investigating everything carefully..." [musically] Ta-dum, ta-dum, ta-dum, ta-dum, ta-dum.
Now, we're talking about writing critical history. Said, "I have explored all of these stories and tales and claims, and I'm going to give you the straight poop." I'm mean, that's what Luke is saying. "I am gonna to give it to you straight. I am not gonna sugar-coat it. You're gonna get it straight. And since some of the other accounts were not a particular kind of order, I'm gonna give you an orderly account that'll make sense to your historical sensibilities, " says Luke.
That's what he's going to do. He's not going to write a biography. Now here's the big difference between a biography and historical monograph. A biography is person-focused. It's concerned with the character about whom the "bios” is written. The word biography comes from two Greek words: "bios" which means life, and "graphy" - writing. A writing about somebody's life. Right?
That's not what Luke's gospel is. It's a writing about the events that have happened amongst us. And by the way, that's also true about Acts. You know a lot of people have puzzled, "I don't get Acts. I don't get the end of Acts. What happens at the end of Acts?" Did we hear about the death of Peter? Did we hear about the death of Paul? No. Now if these had been biographies, if Acts was in fact the stories of Peter and Paul, if that's what they were, we would have expected to hear about the end of their life. Why? What did I tell you last night about how people viewed the end of somebody's life?
Audience member: [inaudible]
It was crucial because it most revealed their character. It most revealed their character. This is not a character study of Jesus in the first book. Nor is it a character study of Paul and Peter in the second book. This is about the historic events that have happened amongst that fulfilled scripture. That's what it's about. That's what Luke Acts is about and therefore it is very different from Mark or Matthew or John, which are indeed, focusing on the character of the central figure: Jesus. That's the difference. So, Luke Acts is a different animal than Matthew, Mark and John. Matthew, Mark and John didn't feel like they needed to sequel. [pause] Luke says we need a sequel 'cause we got to tell the story of the events that kept happening, that were fulfilling scripture after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
So, to ancient peoples, Matthew, Mark and John would have appeared to be some kind of ancient biography and Luke Acts would have appeared to be some kind of historical monograph. And that's exactly what Luke claims that he is doing, and therefore his document stands out from these others as a different kind of critter. And you can see that. [pause] You know, really, already from the birth narratives the only person of those four gospel writers that is concerned about historical synchronisms, matching up the macro history of the empire with the micro history of the Christian movement is Luke. For example, look in the beginning of Luke Chapter 2. This is what Luke says: "Now in those days a decree went out from the emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered." This was the first registration and it was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria and all went to their own towns to be registered.
What has he done? He's connected the macro history of the empire with the specific story of Mary and Joseph and Jesus. Or look at chapter 3. The beginning of chapter 3 is even more convoluted. "In the fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Laussaneus Ruler of Abilene, during the high priest of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John.
Now coulda just cut to the chase and said, "The word of God came to John," if this was just preaching. But it's not just preaching. It's history. He's syncing up the macro story with the micro story. And why? Because he's writing as a historian. This is how ancient historians wrote. What he is saying, dear friends, is that what happened in the lives of Mary and Joseph and Jesus are not merely just as important as the Emperor Tiberius and all of these governors.
No, what had happened in the life of Mary and Joseph and Jesus are even more important because unlike the claims, the grandiose claims of the emperor to be the savior of the world, the real savior of the world was Jesus. That's what Luke wants to say. And it's not an accident that it's only Luke who stresses in his gospel that Jesus is the savior of the world. Not just the savior of Jews; the savior of the world. Okay?
So he's trying to show the significance of Jesus and His followers for world history. That's what he's doing. He's writing to somebody who was probably a new convert - Theophilus - who knew something of the history of the world, who was a literate person, a well-educated person. And he's saying "Now this is the significance of Jesus." And the early Christian who went for world history. And, "Aren't we glad that you're a part of it, Theophilus? Oh, noble, Theophilus. "
Okay? So, something very different is going on in Luke Acts, and it's going on in the other three gospels. In these other three gospels they have less concerns for historical minutia, or chronological precision. Luke has more concern for that. The other writers have less concern because their concern is to portray the character of Jesus authentically and accurately. And how are they going to do that? Well, the same way that other ancient biographers did that. They're gonna use a method of indirect portraiture. That is, let the words and deeds of Jesus tell themselves, without commentary.
In an ancient biography there's not all that commentary. There's not all that explaining the significance of this. It's indirect portraiture, words and deeds. When you have a limited amount of space, and producing a document is expensive, what are you gonna focus on? As my old president of Asbury Seminary used to say, "You gotta make the main thing the main thing."
What's the most important thing? I want to know what Jesus said and did. If I'm gonna understand who He is, I want to know what He said. So that is the main thing in the gospels. What Jesus said and did. Other characters in the story, you know we hardly have a full character description of any of the disciples except maybe Peter. The other figure in the gospels that we know the most about in the synoptic gospels is Peter, and even then the writer of those gospels is not interested in Peter for his own sake. He's only interested in Peter in so far is as he's related to Jesus. He comes on the scene after Jesus comes on the scene. Right? 'Cause there's not an independent interest in these people for themselves. They are only presented in this story because they help us to understand who Jesus was. What he did. Why he did what he did. Indirect portraiture.
Alright. [sighs] Why then are Matthew, Mark and John so different? Oh, boy are they different. But especially John is different from Matthew and Mark. Well, to get at that, we're gonna have to look at, in some detail, some of the specifics about Mark and then Matthew and then John. But unless you're really read these gospels closely, you might glaze over that fact because of course there's a lot of common material in Matthew, Mark and John, and Luke as well. Right? There's a lot of common material.
But here are - there are big differences. For example, in the Gospel of John, how many parables did Jesus tell? Zero. In the gospel of John, how many exorcisms did Jesus do? Zero. Begin to get the picture? The most important public form of Jesus's speech is set in the synoptics to be parables. To everybody out there says Jesus in Mark, "All things in parables." Right? Public discourse: parables. You get to the Gospel of John, not so much.
What's the most frequent miracle of the early Galilean ministry According to Mark? It's exorcisms. You got exorcisms right, left and center in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Zero exorcisms in the Gospel of John. Not a one. How come this big difference in what Jesus said and what Jesus did in these two gospels? Well you gotta explain that. Where did that come from? My answer would be to follow the Gospel of John as written from the perspective of a Judean disciple. The beloved disciple is a Judean disciple. And secondly, it's mainly reflecting on Jesus's Judean, not His Galilean ministry. More on that it a minute, but those two points are crucial. It's written from the perspective of a Judean disciple and from the perspective of what Jesus did in Judea largely.
Here's another fast fact. What's the only miracle story from the Galilean ministry that's in all four gospels? This obviously was a very important story because all four gospel writers thought they had to include it. It's the feeding of the 5,000 and walking on water tandem. Those two stories, which are connected, that's the only Galilean miracle story that's in John that's also in Matthew, Mark and Luke. That's the only one.
Now that's bizarre. I mean, all of the miracles Jesus did in Galilee, right, left and center? John has none of them except the feeding of the 5,000, walking on water which is also found in the Synoptic gospels. So, there are big differences between Mark and Matthew on the one side and John on the other side and we have to figure out why.
Well let's start with the earliest one. As I said, Mark was written in the '60s and it sort of sets the pattern for how to write the story of the adult life of Jesus. It begins, of course, with the story of John the Baptist. Now here is something in which Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all agree. The story of Jesus begins if the - we're talking about the adult story of Jesus. The adult story of Jesus begins with the [coughing ] story of John the Baptist.
Did you catch that? The adult story of Jesus begins with the story of John the Baptist. Now that's very interesting. That's something that all four gospel writers agree on. So, in the middle of the Christological hymn that we looked at on the video in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning, etc., etc., etc.
Right in the middle of that beautiful poetic phrase we hear about "and there was John". Right in the middle of that. Interrupting the beautiful symmetry of the poetry of John 1-14 is a reference to John the Baptist in order to tell us he ain't the one. He had testified to the lie but he wasn't the lie. All four of these gospels start the story of Jesus by telling us something about John. Very important. Obviously John the Baptist is an important figure to understanding Jesus and the relationship of John the Baptist to Jesus was crucial to understanding the identify of Jesus and we're all being told that.
Now when we look at the Gospel of Mark, it has a tripartite structure. Here's where I tell you that ancient biographers and historians, especially biographers, more biographers than historians - ancient biographers believed they had a certain editorial freedom to arrange their material in an order they found most convincing. In Mark we have tripartite structure. Mark 1:1 through Chapter 8, the first part of Chapter 8. Then we have Mark 8:27, that paragraph, and then after that we have the three-fold prediction of the death of the Son of Man, and then we have what I will call "mission accomplished". Mark 11 through 16, mission accomplished.
There are three major parts with a little addition. Mark 1 through 8 is the first half of this gospel. In the first half of this gospel there are no Passion predictions. There is no Son of Man must suffer many things and be killed and on the third day rise. Nothing like that before Caesarea of Philippi in Mark 8. Okay? This is very important. You would never know from reading the first seven and a scosh chapters of Mark, that Jesus was the man born to die. You would never know that he came not to be served but to serve and give his rans- life as a ransom for many. You would never know this just by the first seven and half chapters of Mark.
I had the privilege of going to see a one man performance of the Gospel of Mark, which by the way, there is somebody right here in Columbus who does this, who's connected with Trinity Lutheran Seminary. He's fantastic. You guys ought to have him come and do a one man verbatim performance of the Gospel of Mark from memory. It's electrifying. An oral presentation of the gospel in person. One person. It's powerful.
I saw this done on the stage in London by Alec McGowan, who is the Shakespearean actor, and it was done [inaudible 1:04:18] in the authorized version, King James, so we had a lot of "thee's" and "thou's". But it was still powerful. It was still really good. The first half was Mark 1 through 8 and then we had intermission. We went out and had popcorn in the middle of the gospel story.
When I was standing in the lobby, half-way through, one person - I was just a fly on the wall listening to conversations, because I was by myself - one person said, [imitates woman's voice with British accent] "It began rather abruptly. Where were the birth narratives then?" Well, at least she knew there were birth narratives. They're just not in Mark. You know? Another person, [imitates man's voice with British accent] "Where is the Sermon on the Mount? I miss that bit. Will it be in the second half, then?"
Well, no, there's no Sermon on the Mount in Mark, but God bless him for knowing there is a Sermon on the Mount and it's in some gospel. That's better than no knowledge of the gospels and I'm encouraged. They knew something about the gospels, you know. Mark 8 - Mark 1:1 through Chapter 8 was the first half of the story and then Mark 9 through 16 was the second half of the story. And roughly speaking, that's actually how Mark divides up his account.
Remember I told you last night that in the first half of Gospel of Mark the adverb "euthus" - "immediately" - is used 40 some times, and immediately Jesus [inaudible 01:05:40]. It starts to disappear in Mark 8. Suddenly things slow way down and then when you get to the last week of Jesus's life, it's blow-by-blow. It's minute-by-minute. Wow! What happened? A modern biography that squished into ten chapters the whole story of Jesus's life up to the last week of his life, and then spent a third of the account on the last week of His life, would be considered grossly out of balance in proportion even if somebody was martyred.
You wouldn't write a modern biography that way. Each of the four gospels spent a third of their verbiage on the last week of Jesus's life. And there's a reason for that. I've already given you that reason. It's because they had to explain how it is that the savior of the world could end up on a cross. They had to explain that in detail. And they had to show how it fulfilled scripture because nobody was expecting it.
They were not looking for a crucified Messiah. That also was as much of an oxymoron as Microsoft Works. It was an oxymoron. They were not looking for that. In this part of Mark, we have a whole series of questions raised. [imitates high-pitched voice] "Why do your disciples not - why do you eat with the sinners? And why do your disciples pluck the grain?" Oh. There are all of these people asking questions. The crowd in the synagogue and Kepher Nahoom, Calpurnia says, "What's this? A new teaching and with authority. Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
In the first half of the Gospel of Mark all kinds of questions were being raised about Jesus. Even the disciples, the [in voice] "duh-sciples", don't get it. Jesus is in the boat. He stills the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and the disciples say, "Shazam. Who then is this who can still storms?" They're kind of like, "Whoa, Dude." But they don't get it. They don't understand.
So what is happening in the first half of the Gospel of Mark is the who and why questions are being raised. Who is this? Why is He doing what He's doing? Why is He saying what He's saying? Who is this? The "who" question is going to be answered in Mark 8. At Caesarea Philippi. [pause] And for the first time a disciple is going to clear his throat and say something that matches up with the very first verse of the Gospel of Mark. The very first verse of the Gospel of Mark says: "This is the beginning of the good news about 'whom'"? Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. That's the preface to the Gospel of Mark. Verse 1 - the heading, if you will, to what this document is all about. Good news about Jesus, who's the Son of God. Right?
So what happens at Caesarea Philippi? This story is powerful. First of all, where is he? He's not in the Holy Land. Caesarea Philippi is out of bounds. It's not part of the Holy Lands. It's Herod Phillip's territory. It's in a town that was a Greek city, originally called Panias or Banias, named after the Greek god Pan. Remember him? Greek god, Pan, the piper, right? Not to be confused with Peter Pan. Okay?
The city was renamed by Herod Phillip after himself and after the emperor. Caesarea, the emperor; Philippi - Herod. The city was becoming his capital city. It was a city full of pagan statues and statues of pagan gods as well as pagan heroes. Probably statues of the emperor, too, since it had been renamed from - for Caesar Tiberius. Okay. Why would Jesus leave the Holy Land, go to a city full of pagan statues, and statues of pagan deities and at that juncture ask his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" Think about this for a minute.
Audience member: [inaudible 01:10:21]
Absolutely. I think that's part of it. I absolutely do. I think part of it was to get away from - mainly to get away from the clamor for healing. 'Cause Jesus was being trailed by all kinds of people who wanted to be healed and in Mark's gospel you get the sense that this is a huge burden.
At one point early in the Markan narrative, Jesus says, "We need to go to another town because I came to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. I didn't come mainly to be - you know - Dr. Oz here. I came mainly to proclaim the good news of the gospel." So, yes, you're right. I think part of it is to get away from the clamor of the crowds so that they could focus. I think - I think that's - but there's another reason that has to do with the nature of Caesarea Philippi itself.
So let me describe for you a little bit about Caesarea Philippi and then you're gonna get the picture, I think better. Caesarea Philippi is probably one of the first places near the Holy Land where you begin to have emperor worship. In fact, just outside, just south of Caesarea Philippi at Omrete, they have now dug up a temple of Augustus. This is a pagan temple, not only in honor of, but recognizing the divinity of the Emperor Augustus. Are you with me now?
This is a pagan temple, just north of the Holy Land, just south of Caesarea Philippi. It's on the road to Caesarea Philippi. It's just about a mile out of town. A temple to the Emperor Augustus. They would have gone right by this on the way to Caesarea Philippi. That's point number one.
I do think that in our gospels there is a deliberate, implicit critique. Jesus is the savior of the world and the emperor is so not. Jesus is the Son of God, and the emperor is not. And see, here's the thing - about only two historical figures in the first century A.D. was it ever claimed that they were the savior of the world and the Son of God. I mean, real living human beings. right? Only two persons was this claimed about in the first century A.D. The emperor and Jesus. That's it. Nobody else.
About nobody else was it said this person is the savior of the world and the Son of God. So I think we are dealing with, at - not just an affirmation, but a denial here. The affirmation is Jesus is the Son of God and the implicit denial is the emperor is not. The emperor has no clothes. Right? I think that's part of what's going on here.
But there's more to it than that. Because also at Caesarea Philippi, there is this huge cave. A cave that has a river and it was believed by Gentiles that this was one of the entrances to the River Styx and hints to the underworld. Hades! Are you with me now? You gettin' the picture? So what happened at Caesarea Philippi was not just an affirmation of who Jesus was. It was also an affirmation about who His lead disciple was. Remember? You are Caiaphas, the Rock.
They went to Rock City to affirm that Peter was "the Rock". And then what does Jesus say to him? Jesus says, "The gates of Hades will not prevail against my community." And he could have simply pointed to this hole in the ground. He's not talking about Hell in the Biblical sense. He's talking about death. Hades, the underworld, where the dead people go. Alright? What is He saying? "The gates of Hades will not prevail against my community." It will not die out. You. I will build my community on you and those like you who make this confession. And this community is going to be deathless.
It's not going to go down to the underworld. It's not going to die. Jesus very specifically chose this location because of what was there. Peter says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." And Jesus could have turned around and said, "These boys right here - Augustus, Tiberius - not so much. They're not the Son of the Living God." And then when he talks about Peter, he says, "You are Caiaphas, the Rock." And on this Caipha in Aramaic is a shelf of rocks. "On this shelf of rocks I will build my community, and the gates of death will not prevail against it." This is a powerful moment.
And in Mark's outline, here's the significance. Until you know who Jesus is, you can not understand why he came to die. You gotta answer the "who" questions first. And the first eight chapters of the Gospel of Mark are about answering the "who" question. Which is finally correctly answered in Mark 8:27-30. It's only after that in the Mark outline that we hear this: "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be killed, and on the third day rise." Or an elaboration of that, a further spinning out of that.
In Mark 8, we have this Passion prediction. In Mark 9 we have it again more elaborately. In Mark 10 we have it a third time, more elaborately. And then at the end of Mark 10 we have, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many." In three straight chapters there are four Passion predictions of which we had none before Mark 8:27.
This is a deliberate theological schema. The material is arranged to help us understand not only who Jesus is, but why we have the Passion narrative. Why He had to come and die. So, the basic three-part structure is: The Who and the Why questions are answered. Then we have the prediction of Jesus the Son of Man's suffering many things and being killed and rising again. And then we have the record of mission accomplished.
In the Passion narrative Jesus accomplishes the chief purpose for which he came. Now, I happen to agree with Mark that the chief reason Jesus came was to die. Let me put it to you this way. When we're talking about Soteriology - salvation, alright? If Jesus had never told the parable of the sower, wou - could we still be saved? Sure. If Jesus had never raised Lazarus from the dead, could we still be saved? Sure. But if Jesus had never come and been born, and died on a cross and risen again, could we be saved? The answer is no.
If we're asking the question, "What are the moments in His life that are of most Soteriological weight?" It's the birth, the death and the resurrection and everything else is not window dressing, but everything else is revealing the character of the one who came and saved us. And Mark understands that. Make the main thing the main thing. The main thing is who He is and why did He need to die?
Now this tells us an awful lot about the character of God. I mean we could reflect at length on this. Let me put it to you as starkly as I can. If it was not absolutely necessary for our salvation that Jesus died on the cross, then the father of Jesus is in no sense a loving father. For what father would ask of His only begotten child that He die the most hideous, horrible and painful death known to humanity at that point in time if it was not absolutely the necessary means and the sufficient means of accomplishing God's purpose of saving the world? [pause]
Some scholars have even said, "If this was not necessary to save the world, if God could have just said, 'All is forgiven. Come home now, without the cross." And what we have on the cross is child abuse. We have a god who's asking of His child to do something hideous that was unnecessary." Oh, but friends, if this is the sufficient and necessary means of our salvation, then what you see in the cross is the most complete expression of both divine love and God's holiness; of both righteousness and compassion; of both justice and mercy.
Consider these three statements. Justice is when you get what you deserve and you know there are far too many people in America clamoring for justice. Let me tell you right now, you don't want justice, 'cuz it's going to entail your judgment, too. Okay? Mercy is when you don't get what you deserve. And grace is when you get what you don't deserve. Justice is when you get what you deserve. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and deserve to be judged. Mercy is when you don't get what you deserve. Grace is when you get a good thing that you never deserved.
On the cross we see the completion or fulfillment of justice, mercy and grace. All three things in the cross. It is not an accident that the gospels are Passion narratives with a long introduction. It is not an accident because the most important thing Jesus ever did was die for us, and rise again. It's the heart of the gospel and the gospel writers got it right. And this, by the way, is one of the reasons the Gnostic gospels were never even considered to be included in the canon of our scriptures. Because the Gnostic gospels don't think history really matters.
They have Jesus the talking head, Jesus the pundit, Jesus the pithy quoter. You know, it's kind a like a Jay Leno monologue. Read the Gospel of Thomas. Jesus the talking head. His death and resurrection is not the center of attention at all. The Gnostic gospels got the significance of Jesus all wrong. The canonical gospels got it right. The life and death and resurrection of Jesus is the heart of the matter. It's the center of the universe. It's the axis on which history turned. And the gospel writers got that right. Absolutely. The gospels are Passion narratives, as I have put it, with a long introduction, because the real moment of Soteriological weight is that last week of Jesus's life.
Now, Matthew's gospel, which we turn to now, was in the early church, you may be surprised to hear that, the most popular gospel. That's not so today. Today, the gospel most frequently translated first would be what? What would you guess?
Audience member: [inaudible]
Mm-hm. Absolutely. John's gospel is the first gospel to be translated into a new language for a language group. That's correct. This would not be true in antiquity. In antiquity the gospel that was most frequently copied was Matthew, and that is probably why it's first in the canon. Because it was everybody's fave. It was the most popular gospel of the second and third and fourth century churches. No question. By far the most copied gospel. The least [coughing] copied gospel was Mark.
Well now think about it for a minute. If 95 percent of Mark is in Matthew you got limited paper, limited time and limited scribe. Right? Which of the two gospels are you gonna copy? Matthew, which has value added birth narratives, Sermon on the Mount, etc., etc.? Or Mark? You're not gonna copy Mark. You're gonna copy Matthew 'cause you get far more material on your piece of papyrus. Alright? And that is exactly what happened. Mark became the neglected gospel. Even though it was the earliest gospel it became the neglected gospel. So Matthew was put first in the canon as the most popular of the gospels. It draws on Mark. It draws on sayings material.
Now scholars have a name for the sayings material that are common to Matthew and Luke but are not found in Mark and is called "Q". You may see this in your reading of New Testament material. It comes from the German word "Quelle" which means source. That's where the "Q" comes from. It's a sayings source. It's material that's non-Markan, that's found in both Matthew and Luke.
Matthew's gospel is very interestingly arranged. I think it's written for Jewish Christians. Maybe an Antioch. Maybe even more likely in some place like Capernaum and Galilee Jewish Christians who are struggling to find their identity, vis a vis, the Pharisees and others. It's written after Mark's gospel and draws on Mark's gospel. Whoever actually put it together used Matthew's material as a source, used Mark as a source, used sayings material of Jesus that had been collected and maybe written down as a source. This is a teacher's gospel.
Unlike Mark - Mark has two big blocks of teaching. Mark 4 - a chapter on parables. Mark 13 - a chapter on the Apocalypse. That's it. Right? Two blocks of teaching: early and late. Not in Matthew. You've got six blocks of teaching. Six blocks of teaching material. The way that the compiler of Matthew's gospel has operated is he's taken the Markan outline and he's taken over 95 percent of Mark.
That's the skeleton, into which he has inserted: A. A birth narrative at the beginning, and then six blocks of teaching that you don't find in Mark. It's very interesting, and if you read through Matthew's gospel, what becomes very clear when you compare it to Luke, which also has a lot of teaching material in it, is that Matthew has arranged his material in a schematic way.
Remember I told you biographers were not all that concerned about chronological precision in accounting for certain events. They were more concerned about revealing the character of the central person and what is the significance of these events. Right? Well, in Matthew what you have after the birth narratives is we have a block of narrative followed by a block of teaching and a block of narrative followed by a block of teaching and a block of narrative followed by a block of teaching narrative followed by a block of teaching, and trust me, Jesus didn't get up on a Monday morning and say to his disciples, "You know, this week I'm just doing healings. I'm not saying anything."
Audience member: [chuckles]
"Next week it's all teaching. Get ready. Okay?" That's not the way it happened. The schematization of blocks of teaching versus blocks of narrative about miracles and other events in the life of Jesus is an artificial schema so that you could group together the teaching material. I mean, that's the reason for it because this is a document used to catechize new disciples. This is the gospel that's got the blocks of teaching where you can get into them what is the teaching of Jesus at length. And you can expound on it in various ways. So, the Sermon on the Mount - let's take that first block of teaching of Jesus. Matthew 5 through 7. This is probably Jesus's greatest hits. What I mean by that is it's a collection of some of the things that Jesus sim - some of the most memorable things Jesus said into a single setting in the gospel. Collected together into one place [coughing] so that you would have it conveniently together as the first significant for the Magna Carta of Jesus's teaching.
Now why do I say it's probably collected from a variety of things that Jesus said on various occasions? Because, in fact, the Sermon on the Mount is spread in various places in the Gospel of Luke. You find some of it in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6, but you will find some of it spread throughout elsewhere in Luke's gospel. Which suggests that Matthew 5 through 7 wasn't originally a single sermon of Jesus given on one occasion. It's a deliberately collected block of teaching materials. Just like the other blocks of teaching materials. For example, in Matthew 13 you have a whole chapter of parables. Okay. Did Jesus wake up one morning and say, "You know, it's riddles today, boys. Just get ready." You know?
Audience members: [chuckles]
No. No I don't think so. I don't think so. No. I think what we have is the pedagogically arranged document. That we have a broad chronological frame. Jesus was born before He had a ministry. He had a ministry before He died. There's the chronological framework. Within that framework an ancient biographer, or even a historian to a lesser degree, had some freedom to arrange his material according to his purposes. And in this case the purposes were theological.
Mark arranges his narrative according to a theological structure. You need to know who Jesus is first. Okay? Once we've gotten that clarity, then we can talk about why He had to die at length. Wh-wh-what was the reason for that, and then we can go carefully and prayerfully, moment by moment, blow by blow through the last week of His life and explain how this was the fulfillment of scripture and what God had intended.
That's kind of the plot line that Mark is working with and it's as Papias says, it's not in strict chronological order. This brings me just for a moment to the Gospel of John, and this is one of the things that of course most puzzles Christians who actually know their gospels, is - [pause]
Now let's, let's approach this this way. How many times did Jesus cleanse the temple in the Gospel of Matthew? [pause] One time. And when does that happen? [pause] The last week of Jesus's life. You with me? How many times did Jesus cleanse the temple in Mark's gospel? [pause] Survey says: Once. And when does he do it? The last week of Jesus's life. How many times does Jesus cleanse the temple in Luke's gospel? Survey says: (There's a pattern here.) Once. During the last week of Jesus's life. Right? How many times does Jesus cleanse the temple in John's gospel? Some people instinctively say twice. Wrong. Jesus does not cleanse the temple during the last week of his life according to the Johanna account? It comes up front. It comes in John, Chapter 2.
Now, modern people may well get their knickers all in a knot about this, but it didn't bother the ancients. Why did it not bother the ancients? Because, chronology was not that crucial in a biography. The placement of the cleansing of the temple in the Gospel of John is not chronological. It's theological. Because at the beginning of the Gospel of John the author is trying to show how Jesus replaces the institutions of Judaism with Himself. His body is the temple. He is the paschal lamb, and so on. He's the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles. He's the fulfillment of the Feast of the Passover, etc., etc. He even turns purification water into the new wine of the gospel. Okay?
So - the placement of materials in Mark's gospel and Matthew's gospels and John's gospel is largely theological and for pedagogical purposes. It's not largely chronological, although, of course, they all would only place the teachings and healing of Jesus during their account of the ministry of Jesus. Of course. They're not going to place it back in the birth narratives, or later in the Passion narrative. That's true. Now, if in Gospel of Matthew there are six blocks of teaching, where in the Old Testament do you find five blocks of teaching, and by whom? [pause]
What are the first five books of the Old Testament called? The Pentateuch. "Penta-" as in five. Like pentangle, right? Who was supposedly the source of this material?
Audience member: [inaudible 1:32:54]
Very good. So, if you have a gospel that presents you with six important blocks of teaching, some of which are given on a mountain, the first of which is given on a mountain. Okay. What would a Jew think about this material? This gospel was written for Jewish Christians? Well, here is somebody who out-Moses Moses. He went one better than Moses. He gave us six blocks of teaching instead of five.
Torah means instruction. That's the basic meaning. It doesn't mean law, it means instruction. The five books of instruction, the Torah, have been exceeded by the six collections of instruction by Jesus the sage. Jesus, the wise man.
Matthew's gospel absolutely thorough-goingly emphasizes the Jewish-ness of Jesus - in many different ways. Not only do you see Jesus having purely Jewish controversies over things like Corban and washing of hands. Which, by the way, were not matters that were of great concern to the church. These kinds of things don't come up in the Book of Acts and they certainly don't come up in Paul's letters. Okay. It is a thoroughly Jewish discussion and debate.
You have a debate about Levirate Marriage. Remember that one? Okay, why was this woman so hard on men that she killed off six brothers? You know? Inquiring minds want to know. [chuckles] Levirate Marriage - what did Jesus think about that. Well, this is not a subject of debate by the time we get to Paul's Gentile churches. It's a thoroughly Jewish issue and a thoroughly Jewish debate.
Even in the way the Kingdon of God is referred to in Matthew, it is largely referred to not as the Kingdom of God but as the Kingdom of Heaven. These are not two different kingdoms. It's just that Jews avoided saying the word "God" by using a circumlocution, namely "Heaven".
It's like my granny. My granny would never "For - For God's sake do this." No she would always say "For Heaven's sake do this." Right? Saying God that way in some kind of strong negative language was too much like cursing for my granny, and that's exactly true for Jews as well. The sacred name you did not want to mispronounce. You would use the sacred name in sparingly if at all, and you'd go a round about way of using it. You'd say "Heaven" instead of "God".
So the Kingdom of Heaven is not a different kingdom that the Kingdom of God. It's just that in the - Matthew's gospel it's called the Kingdom of Heaven because he's avoiding using the word "God" in sensitivity to his Jewish audience. That's the way that works and I'm sure Jesus did that as well.
Now here's what's interesting about this. Early Jews would avoid saying the name "God'. [sound of bumping microphone]They would avoid saying "Yahweh" altogether, and yet right in that first block of teaching in Matthew, what does Jesus teach his disciples to do? Not merely to name God, but to call Him "Abba". Father, dearest. Which, by the way, does not mean "daddy". It's not informal language.
It's a term of endearment. It's not slang. God is not called "daddy" by Jesus. He's called "Father, dearest". Dear Father. It is a term of respect, but it is a term that a child would use for their father. When they honored their father in early Judaism they would call him "Abba". "Father dearest, may I do "x"?" Right? It's a term of respect. It's not slang. Jesus says when you pray, pray this way. "Abba. Father." And that had to have been quite the cup of coffee for them. Because in their whole life they had been told you are distant from God, God is so other than you are, that you should not even be pronouncing his name because you might get it wrong. "No," says Jesus. "God is so close that He is like your human father. Call him Abba. You may have the same intimacy with God that I have," says Jesus. "Call Him as I do. Abba."
Now that's one of the things that makes so striking the end of the story of Jesus. [pause][chuckles] The only time Jesus addresses God as simply "God" is from the cross when he says, quoting the Psalms, Psalm 22, "My God! My God! Why do you forsake me?" That's Psalm 22:1. "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" That's the Aramaic translation of Psalm 22:1. That's what Jesus said. Everywhere else in the gospel He calls God "Abba". Even in the Garden of Gethsamene, "Abba, Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass. Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done."
Matthew's gospel is a Jewish gospel. It's ironic that the Gentile church of the second century liked it better than all the other gospels. Mark's gospel is probably the most Gentile of the gospels, or Luke. Well, you could debate. Maybe Luke's the most [chuckles 1:38:42] but Matthew's gospel was number one on the hit parade, top of the billboard charts for the church in the second and third centuries, even though the church was overwhelmingly Gentile by the second and third century A.D.
Now one of the things that was crucial to Jews was the issue of what was the function of the Twelve? I'm gonna sit down for a minute. What was the function of the Twelve? The Gospel of Matthew is especially concerned about this issue. "I send you only to (whom)?" says Jesus to the Twelve in Matthew's gospel. Only to the lost sheep of [music begins] Israel. "Go nowhere amongst the Gentiles," says Jesus. [music becomes louder; speech ends 1:39:39]