Get the CD Now!

The Origins of the New Testament

The Origins of the New Testament: Chapter 5

Chapter V




THE other witnesses to the Gospel catechesis must now be examined. The Gospel named after Matthew, in view of its close dependence on Mark, will be taken first; the writings ascribed to Luke and the Gospel named after John, which require special examination, will be considered later.


The sketch of the legend of Jesus Christ as presented by Mark is meagre enough; but, meagre as it is, the Gospels rest upon it, especially Matthew, and Luke also, while John, who would correct it, has no other. In this we have conclusive proof of the initial poverty of what we are wont to call the Gospel tradition. In Mark it consists more of invention and of compiler's arrangement than of tradition in the strict sense. The same is true of the others, and of Matthew in the first place, which has, moreover, even more distinctly than Mark, the character of a compilation. The evidence is unmistakable that the latest revision of Mark has been absorbed, almost entire, into Matthew, though not without a partial dislocation of the material; numerous discourses, largely common to Matthew and Luke, have been inserted; and just as the construction of Mark reveals a long process of editorial operations, so the collection or collections of these discourses are progressively constructed compilations, while some of the discourses embodied in the compilation are themselves compiled. From this and from what our previous study of the Gospel catechesis and our analysis of Mark have taught us, we may safely conclude that the elements of moral instruction, with which the discourses in Matthew are almost exclusively occupied, represent, in their totality, the moral part of the eschatological catechesis, both in the elements which were simply borrowed


from Jewish tradition and in those which, at first, were directly attributed to the risen Christ.

Before proceeding to relate the public ministry of Jesus, for which our Gospel borrows the sketchy frame given it by Mark it presents a kind of pre-history, parallel to what we read in Luke, but so completely different as to leave no sign that the two disparate but equally fictitious stories are closely related by dependence on a common source, though we may say that they answered the same demand of the Christian consciousness. In our Gospel this pre-history comprises a genealogy of Jesus, his miraculous conception and early infancy (i-ii). Having next described the preliminaries of the Gospel preaching (iii-iv, 22) parallel to Mark (i, 1-20), the writer announces the two-fold activity he attributes to Jesus, the chief object of most of the book: "to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and to heal all manner of disease and all manner of sickness among the peoples." We find, accordingly, all through the book, that the teaching function takes precedence of the healing activity, each main section beginning with a great discourse, or compilation of sayings, followed by a series of narrated events. These sections are as follows :

(1) The discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount (v-vii), a veritable summary of the Christian Law expressly confronted with the Jewish Law, followed by ten miracles (viii-ix, 26) freely selected from those which Mark recounts before the death of John the Baptist.

(2) The discourse on the apostolic mission (ix, 35-x) which brings in a succession of precepts intermixed with some fragments of Mark omitted from the preceding selection.

(3) The discourse in parables (xiii, 1-52), dominating the rest of the Galilean ministry (xiii, 53-xvii) in which the directing hand follows the order laid down in Mark.

(4) A less extensive discourse (xviii) but important for the evangelist as bearing on the organization of the churches; this introduces the departure from Judea and the stories of the Jerusalem ministry (xxi-xxii).

(5) The discourse against the Pharisees (xxiii) and the great apocalyptic discourse (xxiv-xxv), which close the preaching of Jesus and bring on the stories of the Passion and of the resurrection (xxvi-xxviii). In all probability the distribution of this book of initiation to the mystery of the Christ into five


sections — it may equally be called the book of the Christian Law — as conceived with an eye to the five books of the Jewish Law. In virtue of the influences it has undergone and the preoccupations it reveals, the Gospel according to Matthew can be described as Jewish Christian. Beyond doubt it is of Syrian origin; but it does not seem to be of great antiquity.

Genealogy and Birth Story

The Christian catechesis, at the beginning, knew very little about the life of Jesus prior to his public preaching; it knew, in fact next to nothing. When curiosity arose as to these antecedents it led, not to investigation of the real facts of his earlier life — it was probably too late to make useful inquiries into that — but to imagination of what ought to have happened. The early stories in Matthew, no less than those in Luke, are adhesions to the main body of the Gospel of which they constitute the preamble, and the part whose mythical character is most obvious; they are fables built up on biblical texts in fulfilment of prophecies. Their character as fabulous is easiest to verify in Matthew because most of the texts in the writer's mind are expressly cited. The material of the stories may have been partly borrowed, consciously or not, from ancient mythologies of Eastern origin, and then worked up with an eye to Old Testament texts deemed to be prophetic.

The material begins (i, 1-17) with a genealogical list from Abraham to Joseph. Of Joseph we are told, not without some embarrassment, [1] that he was only the putative father of Jesus, espoused to the Virgin Mary, of whom was born Jesus. Evidently the evangelist found ready to his hand a list at first constructed to show how Jesus, through his father Joseph, was the authentic descendant of the patriarch Abraham, father of the faithful, recipient of the divine promises, and of King David from whom the Scriptures declared — or so it was believed — the Messiah was to issue. To prove the genealogy entirely fictitious would be

[1] Embarrassment is shown by the variation in the ancient readings, notably by the reading of the Syrian Codex Sinaiticus: "Jacob begat Joseph; Joseph, to whom the Virgin Mary was betrothed, begat Jesus who is called Christ." It is vain to contend that this cannot be true reading when compared with the equally awkward reading of the canonical version: "Joseph, espoused to Mary, of whom was born Jesus," etc., which deprives the genealogy of all meaning. The true reading, pre-evangelical, is surely: "Joseph begat Jesus, called Christ."


waste of argument; it is even doubly so; first, because its fundamental datum, the biblical point of departure, the patriarchal legend namely, does not hold together and, second, because the dates corresponding to the monarchy and to the later times are inexact or simply imagined. Three series, of fourteen names each, were aimed at, which ought to give a total of forty-two ancestors from Abraham to Joseph (or to Mary); actually there are only forty, since that was the number wanted; doubtless then David must be counted twice over as last of the first series and first of the second, and the same with Josiah, chosen for no reason, as last of the second and first of the third. A mystical number-play intended to show that Jesus was the Messiah promised to Israel.

The symbolic fiction of the genealogy was in currency before the stories of the miraculous birth, no less fabulous and symbolic, were elaborated. The two fictions were co-ordinated. First comes the story of the virgin conception (i, 18-25) forming a commentary on the prophecy in Isaiah (vii, 14) with the names of Joseph and Mary, furnished by tradition as the parents of Jesus. In the Septuagint translation [1] Isaiah speaks of a virgin who would conceive; this our story understands of a virgin who would conceive without intercourse with a man; which is not what the text in Isaiah was intended to convey. Mary is presented as betrothed to Joseph and impregnate by the action of the Holy Spirit, that is, by God himself. This causes perplexity to Joseph who, observing Mary's condition, plans to repudiate her privately; whereupon an angel intervenes in a dream and informs Joseph of the miracle, Mary's husband thus becoming the guarantor of his wife's virginity. This artless fable, though modelled on the text in Isaiah, may have been invented as an answer to some sally of Jewish wit about the virgin conception of Jesus — for example, the slanderous legend preserved in rabbinic tradition — at the time when the idea of it first saw the light among Christian circles in the East. The text in Isaiah would not have sufficed, by itself, to produce the belief; this was suggested quite simply by ancient mythology. The story as it originally stood in Luke, also

[1] Moreover it is not certain that the word virgin (parthenos) which appears in the original translation is equivalent of the Hebrew alma. It may have been substituted by a Christian hand for the more exact translation "young woman" (neanis). The detail is unimportant for our subject.


founded on the text, had nothing to say about the virgin conception.

Our evangelist, believing that he had warrant in the prophet Micah (v, 2) for the birth of the Messiah at Bethlehem, supposes it to have been the home of Joseph and Mary. He gives no account of the actual birth of Jesus but illustrates it by a fantastic tale. As became a Son of God, Jesus had his star, and certain wise men from the East who were expecting the appearance of the star, because Balaam, one of their ancestors, had predicted it (Numbers xxiv, 17), set out to pay homage to the newly born King of the Jews. Arrived at Jerusalem, they inform Herod of the place where his birth is due to happen; this causes a great commotion; the learned men are summoned to council; yes, Bethlehem is the place, for Micah has said it. To Bethlehem the magi accordingly go, and there the star reappears to show them the house where the Christ is laid; they enter, adore and present their gifts, as announced in Psalm lxxii, 10-15 and Isaiah lx, 6. The lore of fairyland has no tale more marvellous.

The life of the infant Christ is now to be threatened by the wicked Herod. We are told that the magi, warned by a dream, did not return to Jerusalem to report as the King had ordered, while Joseph, on his part equally warned by a heavenly messenger in a dream, took flight into Egypt with the mother and child. But the tyrant, in his rage, makes a futile slaughter of all the children in Bethlehem and the neighbouring region, and succeeds only in procuring the fulfilment of an oracle of Jeremiah (xxxi, 15) concerning the sorrows of Rachel (ii, 13-18). The text in Jeremiah refers to certain events of the Captivity; the legend was conceived independently of the text and is, in the last analysis, the myth of the divine child, a solar deity, whom the dragon of darkness would devour at his birth. We find this myth again in the Apocalypse (xii) applied to the Son of the Heavenly Virgin, the Christ, and almost in its native form. The Gospel transports the myth from heaven to earth, where it has no more reality than in heaven.

The sojourn in Egypt was suggested by historical types (Abraham and Moses) and our evangelist has the hardihood to apply to the infant Christ a text of Hosea (xi, 1) which refers to the Jewish people. His next task was to manage the coming of the


holy family into Galilee, where tradition located the manifestation of Jesus. So, on the death of Herod, another angel comes in a dream to Joseph with the order to return. But Bethlehem of Judea is too dangerous for a place of abode, since a son of Herod Archelaus, is now reigning in that province. A new dream, accordingly, guides them towards Galilee — our evangelist being apparently unaware that another son of Herod (Antipas) is reigning there — and Joseph settles down at Nazareth, thereby fulfilling the saying of prophets: "He shall be called a Nazorean." Which of the prophets said this, and where it is to be found, the commentators have had some difficulty in discovering. The name "Nazorean" is intended by the evangelist to mean "belonging to Nazareth." But mention of Nazareth is made nowhere in the Old Testament. The pretended prophecy rests on a play of words, and probably refers to what is said in the Book of Judges (xiii, 5) about Samson and the "nazir." We have seen above (p. 34) what seems to have been the original meaning of "Nazorean."

The whole of this birth legend thus resolves itself, on analysis, into a phantasmagory of myth and symbol. But let us never forget that what was always held to be the main theme of the Gospel was the doctrine of salvation, and not the legend by which it was conveyed. This remark covers our whole study of the evangelical legend.

The Baptism and Temptation

The baptism of John, the baptism of Jesus and the temptation in the desert serve as introduction, in Matthew as in Mark, to the main theme of the catechesis, to which they are preliminary. A transition of the most artificial kind, and inaccurate into the bargain, here attaches the account of John to the birth stories — "in those days" (iii, i). It was not at the time of the Christ's birth, and probably not for many years afterwards, that John appeared on the banks of the Jordan. For the account it gives of John (iii, 1-12) our Gospel made use of Mark and of the source from which Mark borrowed what he chose to take from the discourse there attributed to John. The account has been arranged so as to allow for the usual introduction by a prophecy (Isaiah xl, 3). The writer is also mistaken in making John address


his allocution "to the Pharisees and Sadducees," for it was not among them but from the common people that John gathered his following. The discourse is edited from the Christian point of view which subordinates John to Jesus. And a difficulty is created by what is said about baptism "in holy Spirit and fire." At the end of the discourse (iii, 12) the fire is that of eternal punishment, which is hardly to be associated with the Spirit in the baptismal formula. It would seem that in the common source of the three Synoptics there was no mention of baptism with the Spirit but only of baptism with fire; that Mark, in substituting Spirit for fire, in that part of the discourse to which he gives a Christian turn, has radically changed the meaning of the statement attributed to John; that Matthew and Luke have followed Mark by combining his reading with that of the source-document, and by taking "fire" as here the symbolic accompaniment of baptism (recall the "tongues of fire" in the miracle of Pentecost); and, finally, that the document behind it all originated in the Baptist's sect and that, in it, John was represented as the precursor of God (rather than of Messiah) in the coming judgment. "Fire," in the two passages where it is mentioned, would thus refer to the fire of judgment and punishment. It remains to add that John, having adopted the role of Elijah, would clothe himself accordingly, or be said to do so.

It has already been pointed out that the baptism of Jesus by John in the Gospel catechesis is the institution of Christian baptism mythically presented and the antedating of his messianic consecration when risen from the dead. The editors of our Gospel, in which Jesus is born of the Spirit and so consecrated Messiah at the moment of his conception, were therefore bound to explain in some way why Jesus wished to be baptized by John, and for this purpose an imaginary interplay of dialogue is introduced between John, who would refuse to baptize him by whom he, John, ought rather to be baptized, and Jesus, who overcomes the reluctance of his precursor by alleging the obligation on both of them to fulfil "all righteousness." Thus the baptism of Jesus acquires for all believers the authority of a great example, while remaining, as before and always, the moment of Messiah's epiphany, clearly signified by the descent of the Spirit and the voice of the Father proclaiming his well-beloved Son (iii, 13-17).


The story of the baptism, though mythical, has some historical foundation in the relations of the Christian sect and, at first of Jesus himself, with John the Baptist. In distinction from this the story of the temptation is purely mythical. It reflects speculations which arose in early Christianity about the great trial through which Jesus passed in order to prove his obedience to God. Originally the great ordeal lay in the death he voluntarily accepted; it is shown forth in advance, as we have already seen and shall see again, in the agony of Gethsemane connected with the imminent reality of the redeemer's death. The scene of the temptation in the desert is another anticipation, but bears a different sense. It is here the personal trial of the Messiah as such, led by the Spirit itself into the wilderness, there to be assaulted by the prince of this world, "Satan" in Matthew, "the devil" in Luke, who appears in the story to have earthly royalty in the present age, and all its splendour, at his sovereign disposition, or thinks that he has. Two myths seem to be combined in the Christian version: that of the man of God retiring into the desert for initiation before entering on his providential mission, and that of the combat between God's agent and the Power of Evil, who tries to give him a fall or to win him over to his own service. Without entering into minute details of exegesis we may observe that the three assaults, or passages of arms, are, to judge by the blows exchanged, theological contests in which the weapons are biblical texts, as in rabbinical arguments, and that the first two temptations solicit Jesus to work miracles of supernatural magic, by turning stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, or by flinging himself from a pinnacle of the temple to prove that God is with him — miracles which, in themselves, are not so very different from those attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, but with a different significance; and, lastly, that the third solicitation, that of obtaining the kingdoms of this world by an act of homage to its prince, has a distinctly moral character — the betrayal of God to the advantage of Satan in order to usurp the power of divine authority which God alone can confer on his agent. In other words, the Christ cannot, ought not and will not be a conjurer as, for example, Simon Magus is said to be, nor a spurious Lord, invested by Satan with authority falsely called divine such as are the Roman empire and its emperor, Rome's Caesar, the


Beast of the Apocalypse, whom we are not surprised to find linked in the myth before us with Simon the Magician. The whole picture has a profound meaning which can hardly have been put into form before the years 120-130. It may be added that the vague outline of the scene in which the action is set attests the mythical character of the subject. The mountain, for example, from which all the kingdoms of the world can be viewed, is not to be found on any map.

Jesus Begins to Preach

Mark brings Jesus directly from the desert to the Sea of Galilee by way of the Jordan (i, 14-15); Matthew, on the other hand (iv, 12-13), supposes that Jesus, having learnt of John's imprisonment (effected during the sojourn in the desert), withdrew from Judea to Nazareth and afterwards made his way to Capernaum, to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, because a prophecy of Isaiah (viii, 22-ix, i) required him so to do. There is no need to linger over the situation beyond saying that it is in the manner of our evangelist, who has a turn for situations which he thinks prophetic. Arrived at the lake-side Jesus begins to preach, saying: "Repent, for the reign of Heaven is at hand." Matthew constantly uses the phrase "the reign (or kingdom) of Heaven" in passages when the other Synoptics say "the reign of God." The two phrases are synonymous; but Matthew conforms to the rabbinical usage which employs the word "Heaven" in order to avoid naming God. Whether the evangelist chose the word on his own account or found it in the source, or sources, from which he took the discourses of the Lord, the point is interesting as attesting a relation between our Gospel and the Jewish Christianity of Palestinian Syria.

In the calling of the first four disciples (iv, 18-22) Matthew follows Mark exactly (i, 16-20). But immediately afterwards, omitting the preaching scene at Capernaum, he constructs his introduction to the Discourse on the Mountain (iv, 23-v, 2), where he reproduces Mark's setting of the omitted scene (i, 28, 39; iii, 7-8, 10-13) of the preaching at Capernaum, and of the calling of the Twelve, stories not preserved by the editors of Matthew. It is another illustration of the truth that what our


Gospels are concerned with is the symbolic presentation of their topics while unconcerned with their historical accuracy.

The Discourse on the Mountain

The common source of the Sermon or Discourse on the Mountain (v, 3-viii), which has its parallel in Luke (vi, 20-49) where it takes place in a plain, seems to have contained the Beatitudes (Luke vi, 20-2,3) as an isolated exordium, the antithetical comparison of the Law and the Gospel (the principal theme of Matthew v, 17-48); the comparison (Luke vi, 43-45) of the good and the evil tree; the warning to those who give Jesus lip-service without observing his precepts (Matthew vii, 21-23); the parable of the two houses (Matthew vii, 24-49) illustrating the contrast of the diligent and the negligent hearer of his word. This shows that, already in the source, the Discourse was a compilation of detached sayings, a discourse, therefore, never delivered. None the less it has a preamble suggesting delivery, which Mark himself has used for another occasion, the calling of the Twelve, and in which we find again the gathering of crowds, numerous cures and even the mountain, which has nothing to do with the matter in hand.

Originally the Beatitudes (v, 3-12) were four in number (as in Luke vi, 20-23), eschatological in meaning and reflecting the situation of persecuted believers. They are the outpouring of some Christian prophet, selected as a kind of exordium for the discourse before us. Either our evangelist, or the version he has chosen for reproduction, has given the Beatitudes a moral turn by paraphrases and by addition, making the real poor into "the poor in spirit," the hungry into "those who hunger for righteousness," and adding to them "the gentle," "the merciful," "the pure in heart" and "the peacemakers." Before coming to the parallel between Law and Gospel he inserts the similes of "salt" (v, 13) and "the lamp" (v, 14-16), applying them to the disciples and pointing to the Good Example (cf. Mark ix, 49-50; iv, 21; Luke xiv, 34-35; xi, 33).

The long instruction on the relations of Gospel and Law (v, 17-48) is addressed to Christian communities already formed outside Judaism. The moral sayings of which it is composed were originally independent, but the work of bringing it to its present


form as a collection must have been earlier than the compilation of our first Gospel. The dominant idea, expressed in the preamble (v, 17-18) was that the Law subsists as an integral element, but completed, in the Gospel; the idea of a spiritual and moral realization of the Law, more perfect than the literal fulfilment of prescriptions by the Pharisees, is superimposed upon it (v 17 20). The antithetic presentation of the two moralities is not carried through without considered design in the arrangement. The first example (v, 21-22) opposes the Mosaic prohibition of murder to the Christian prohibition of anger and insult; but while the Law forbids murder, that is not with a view to permitting or commending outrageous language. Before passing to the second antithesis the writer inserts two counsels of practical wisdom; the first, on reconciliation (v, 23-24) which alludes to the temple cult, is, in all probability, a precept of Jewish morality; the other, on the drawbacks of litigation (v, 25-26) is a counsel of common prudence, awkwardly applied, by suggestion, to the question of salvation. Such various proceedings make it plain that we are here in the presence of a compilation of moral precepts, not of an ethical treatise logically constructed, still less of a discourse continuously spoken.

The second antithesis, which bears on adultery and evil desires, is more forced than the first, since evil desires are forbidden by the Law no less than by the Gospel, which shows this play of antitheses to be an exercise in academic debate, as malevolent as it is uncalled-for. To the second antithesis the Gospel editors have judged it opportune to annex an injunction against yielding to the involuntary suggestion of the senses in general, which Mark had found in a collection of sayings on "causing to stumble" (ix, 42-48).

The third antithesis (v, 31-32) brings out the Christian reprobation of divorce which the Law allows: it is derivative in relation to Mark x, 2-9. An exception is introduced into the prohibition by Matthew: "save in case of fornication," which upsets the balance of the antithesis and weakens its effect.

The fourth antithesis (v, 33-37) is directed against oath-taking which the Law allows while forbidding perjury. The entire piece, a discussion in rabbinical casuistry, may well be a personal con-


tribution of the compiler who drew up this whole series of oppositions.

In the fifth antithesis (v, 38-42) a subtle contrast is drawn between the legal rule of an eye for an eye and the teaching of long-suffering and renunciation, a lesson which must originally have stood alone.

The same applies to the sixth antithesis (v, 43-47) in which the lesson on loving enemies is opposed, quite improperly, to the legal precept "thou shalt love thy neighbour" interpreted as though it meant "thou shalt hate thy enemy," which the Law says nowhere, and which the evangelist has no right to make it say. Thus we are bound to conclude that the famous parallel between Law and Gospel, which dominates the Discourse on the Mountain, is far from deserving the admiration bestowed upon it by commentators.

Complete in itself and composed in very accurate rhythm, the teaching of the three works of piety, almsgiving and fasting (vi, 1-6, 16-i 8), which is found only in Matthew, has been introduced into the Discourse by an editorial combination. This lesson, also, is addressed to Christians already separated from Judaism, whose essential practice it preserves, while forbidding practice after the manner of the "hypocrites," by which no doubt we are to understand the Pharisees, who are supposed to do these works less to please God than to win applause from men. In the second paragraph, relating to prayer, the Gospel editors have thought it fitting to introduce the Lord's Prayer with a didactic preamble (vi, 7-8) and a complementary lesson on the need to pardon men their offences if we wish to be ourselves pardoned by God (vi, 14-15). Luke (xi, 1-4) gives the same prayer in a shorter form and in a different connection, from which it would seem that the prayer itself, of which the core is Jewish, was not worded at first in the traditional form as given in Matthew. While it goes back to the earliest times of Christianity, there is no certainty that it was enjoined by Jesus himself.

The special lessons which now follow (vi, 19-30) are found dispersed in Luke but are here gathered together by Matthew to give more body to the Discourse: treasures to be amassed in heaven, not on earth (vi, 19-21; Luke xii, 33-34), a saying in harmony with the spirit of the earliest Christian community and


doubtless also with that of Jesus, but possibly borrowed from Jewish wisdom; simile of the eye, light of the body (vi, 22-23; Luke xi, 34-36), a dictum of uncertain application with a slight rabbinical flavour, which somehow found its way into Christian tradition; impossibility of serving two masters, God and money, at the same time (vi, 24; Luke xvi, 13), another proverb of which the moral application may not have been confined to Christians; exhortation against worry about food and raiment, because God provides them (vi, 25-33; Luke xii, 22-31), a lesson on the same note and probably of the same origin as the preceding but with a more distinctively Christian tone; lastly, a saying against anxiety for the morrow, a counsel of common wisdom, to which the evangelist has added a clause ("for the morrow will be anxious for itself") which corrects and slightly contradicts the care-free attitude enjoined by the Gospel.

It is likely that, in the common source of Matthew and Luke, the injunction against judging others (vii, 1-5; Luke vi, 37-38, 41-42) followed the lesson on loving one's enemy (v, 44-48; Luke vi, 35-36): a precept of social discipline, rather than of charity, which must have come from Jewish wisdom. The caution against giving holy things to dogs (vii, 6), peculiar to Matthew, is also in the style of a Jewish proverb which Christian tradition found adaptable to its own use and capable of many different applications. The lesson about prayer (vii, 7-11; Luke xi, 9-13) was probably placed in the source next to the Lord's Prayer. In the first revision of the Discourse the command to do unto others as we would be done by, an ancient precept of Jewish morality, must have come between the lesson on loving one's enemy and the caution against judging. The comparison of the two ways (vii, 13-14), familiar in Jewish morality, is an importation into the Discourse, here combined by the Gospel editors with that of the two gates (cf. Luke xiii, 23-24). The warning against false prophets has no sense except as concerning Christian communities already formed. It makes the transition to the figure of the tree and its fruits (vii, 15-20; Luke vi, 43-45), a proverb of easy moral application, placed in the source after the lesson against judging. The declaration as to who will be admitted into the Kingdom of God is composed of two elements: one on the true disciple (vii, 21), a duplicate of that on the true


parents (xii, 50), and the other a menace against false disciples (vii, 22-23; Luke xiii, 26-27) who are here false Christian teachers; the whole of it must have been first announced to the community in the name of Jesus. The final comparison of the two houses (vii, 24-27; Luke vi, 47-49) was constructed on a given theme to wind up the Discourse. What we read afterwards about the impression made on the crowd (vii, 28-29) is simply transposed from Mark i, 22.

Taking the Discourse as presented in the canonical version we have before us a treatise on Christian perfection, compiled by the evangelist for the edification of the Churches.

The Ten Miracles supporting the Discourse

To start the series of ten miracles in which Jesus now proceeded to manifest his healing power, the story of the leper (viii, 1-4) has been borrowed from Mark (i, 40-44). In the common source of Matthew and Luke, the Discourse on the Mountain was followed immediately by the story of the centurion (viii, 5-11), as in Luke vii,. 1-10: conformably to its symbolic meaning, the saying about the elect who will come from the East and the West has been inserted into it (cf. Luke xiii, 28-29). Thus, while the healed leper represents the elect of Israel, the centurion with his sick servant stands for the elect of the Gentiles. By a free use of editorial discretion the cure of Simon's mother-in-law (viii, 14-15) is next brought in from Mark i, 29-31, along with the numerous miracles of healing which Mark declares were performed on the evening of the same day; in all these our evangelist discovers a fulfilment of prophecy (Isaiah liii, 4). Here he breaks the sequence of stories in Mark, and has Jesus embark on the Sea of Galilee in order to bring on the miracle of the calmed tempest (viii, 18, 23-27; Mark iv, 35-41) and the cure of the demoniacs at Gadara. But before the first of these miracles, he is minded to insert the answers of Jesus to two persons who wished to "follow him,” not in his coming passage of the lake, but as disciples (viii, 19-22; cf. Luke ix, 57-60). Notwithstanding the localization of the two episodes, these doubtless borrowed from the collection of logia, the scene hangs in air, nor is it easy to grasp firmly the meaning of the answers attributed to Jesus. At Gadara (instead of Gerasa) Matthew introduces two demoniacs who make in


concert the same demonstration as Mark's one demoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark i, 23-27) — to the great perplexity of commentators. But our evangelist is concerned to retain only the essential features of the miracle, while compensating for his omission of Mark's demoniac at Capernaum by having two at Gadara. (One might suspect him of not being altogether serious in his miracle stories; but the truth is that he is somewhat indifferent to matters of fact.) After this come the cure of the paralytic (ix, 2-7), with the preliminaries of the miracle, as in Mark ii, 1-12, cut down; the calling of the publican (ix, 9; Mark ii, 14), with the saying about associating with sinners (ix, 10-13; Mark ii, 15-17) and the explanation about fasting (ix, 14-17; Mark ii, 18-22). Here the publican, instead of being named Levi, as in Mark, is called Matthew, which has the effect of bringing him into the apostolic college. The conjecture is not too risky that the change of name is connected with the attribution of the Gospel to Matthew, which is not the better guaranteed on that account, the whole being fiction with a purpose (in the apostolic list of x, 2-4 care is taken to accentuate the identification: Matthew the publican}. The series is concluded by the cure of the woman with the issue of blood and the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus (ix, 18-26) perceptibly abridged from Mark v, 22-43; the cure of two blind men (ix, 27-30), duplicate of the two we shall meet at Jericho (xx, 30-34); and finally by the cure of the deaf-mute demoniac (ix, 32-34), duplicate of the incident (xii, 22-24) which later on will give rise to the dispute about exorcism. The last two miracles may be classed as purely of editorial origin, invented by the evangelist himself to fill up his gallery of prodigies.

Mission of the Twelve

Our Gospel does not relate the calling of the Twelve but presupposes it by inserting, probably from Mark (iii, 13-19), the list of their names in the preamble of the discourse concerning their mission. This preamble (ix, 35-x, 4) draws inspiration from the earlier preamble to the Discourse on the Mountain (iv, 23-v, 2) and also from Mark (vi, 7-13, 30-34), which relate the mission with the preliminaries to the first multiplication of loaves, and are the source of the figure of sheep without a shep-


herd, associated with the remark about the fewness of the harvestmen. The remark seems to have served, in the common source of the three Scriptures, as exordium to the discourse, and like the discourse itself corresponds, not to the situation of Jesus when preaching in Galilee, but to the time of the first efforts to propagate the Christian religion. If the prohibition to go to the Samaritans and the pagans belongs to the original version, the discourse would be clearly revealed as the work of a Judaizing writer contemporary with the first missions to non-Jews and opposed to them. The missionaries are to operate as exorcists and healers of disease, and they are to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (x, 7-8; Luke x, 19; cf. Mark vi, 7; Luke ix, 1-2). The order to carry no money or provisions reflects the conditions of the mission to the Jews. What is said about the house in which the missionary is to lodge, and the care that must be taken not to change it, belongs to a time when the propaganda was carried on, not in public, but privately, to individuals and from house to house. The gesture to be made to mark the reprobation of an inhospitable town is purely Jewish. Woe to the town which repulses the messenger of the Gospel (x, 15; Luke x, 12)! What is said about the likelihood that the apostles will not have gone the round of the Israelite cities before the arrival of the Son of Man (x, 23) was possibly attached, in the source, to these last considerations. The warning: "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves" (x, 16) must originally have introduced the practical instructions, as in Luke x, 3. The conduct prescribed for those who have to confront judges applies to believers of all types and is a later addition to the mission-discourse (cf. Luke xii, n-12; Mark xiii, 9-13; Luke xxi, 12-17): this feature is later than the trial of Paul and Nero's persecution. Here the evangelist, his mind preoccupied with the persecution, remembers the saying "the disciple is not above his master" and works it into his theme (x, 24-25; cf. Luke vi, 40; John xiii, 16; xv, 20). The next saying, on courageous profession of faith (x, 26-33), was at first an independent lesson (cf. Luke xii, 2-9) in which three elements are to be distinguished: the proverb "nothing is hidden that will not be revealed," with its somewhat forced application to the matter of the Gospel (x, 26-27); the exhortation to fear nothing, since God watches over his own (x, 28-31);


the statement about the witness the Christ will bear before his Father to those who have confessed him before men (x, 32-33). All this is intelligible only as referring to the situation of Christians in the time of the first persecutions. Not more in keeping with the earliest age is what we read about the divisions in families caused by Christian preaching (x, 21; cf. Luke xii, 51-53). The same is true of the call to renunciation (x, 37-39; cf. Luke xiv, 26-27) utilized by Mark (viii, 34-35) as a rectifying complement to Peter's confession; and again of the promise to those who receive the Christ's envoys (x, 40-42; cf. Mark ix, 41; Luke x, 16), a promise here paraphrased into the peroration of the discourse. Putting all this together, what could show more plainly that the discourse was never delivered? What we have before us is a short dissertation on the Christian apostolate composed of elements differing in age and diverse in spirit. It is noteworthy also that "when Jesus had made an end of commanding his disciples" it is not they who go out to preach but Jesus himself who is represented as doing so (xi, 1). The Twelve were never apostles.

Jesus and John the Baptist

Just as in Mark (vi, 14-29), so in Matthew (xi, 2-19) the question of John the Baptist follows after the mission of the Twelve, but with a different sequel, introducing certain fragments from the collection of sayings, thus gathered together in the source, in which John's name makes an appearance. In these passages the earliest Christianity defines its attitude, as well as its apology, with reference to the Baptist sect, from which it was derived, and the statements found in them appear to belong to a layer of catechetical tradition older than the myth of Jesus' baptism by John. The setting of the scene is artificial. John is represented as having heard of Jesus and as sending from his prison to ask him if he is "he who cometh"; Jesus, in answer, unfolds a kind of messianic programme largely founded on texts in Isaiah (xxxv, 5-6) which, it is supposed, John must admit and which Jesus has already fulfilled (xi, 2-3; cf. Luke vii, 18-19, 22-23). It is obvious that the miracles previously recounted in our Gospel have a point to point correspondence with those mentioned in Jesus' answer, and nothing could be more compromising


either to the authenticity of the answer or the historicity of the miracles. At least it is evident that the last two of the ten miracles (the two blind men and the deaf-mute) are invented to support the answer as given. In the same way, the finest of Mark's miracles, reproduced in Matthew and Luke, may have been conceived to fit the same programme, though Mark does not mention it. A second fragment (xi, 7-11) is framed in terms so lyrical in praise of John that we may suspect them borrowed from the Baptist's sect; but the text from Malachi (iii, 1), in which the role of the Baptist is defined, has been given a Christian turn so as to make John appear as herald of the Christ and not of God only, and the praises accorded to John are cancelled out by the final remark: "But his junior in the Kingdom of Heaven," that is, Jesus "is greater than he." Finally, the relation of John to the Kingdom is defined in terms which suppose the Baptist dead and the Christian Church founded long ago (xi, 12-15; cf. Luke xvi, 16).

In the concluding sentence (xi, 16-19; Luke vii, 31-35) application is made of a popular saying to denounce the incredulity of the Jewish people equally deaf to both God's envoys, John and Jesus. To this our Gospel attaches the invective against the Galilean towns (xi, 20-24; Luke x, 13-15), adapted in the source to the mission-discourse, along with the exclamation of thanksgiving (xi, 25-30; Luke x, 21-22) which in the source was connected with the return of the apostles. Both invective and thanksgiving are oracles of Christian prophets speaking in the name of the immortal Christ and, for the thanksgiving, in the spirit of mystical gnosis.

Jesus in Conflict with the Pharisees

After these instructions the evangelist has decided to exhibit Jesus as a target for the hostility of the Pharisees, who reproach him for allowing his disciples to break the Sabbath and for not observing it himself (xii, 1-14), maliciously attribute the success of his exorcisms to Beelzebub, the prince of the devils (xii, 22-27), and invite him to prove his mission by signs (xii, 38-42). The two sabbath stories are taken from Mark (ii, 23-iii, 6, with the significant omission of ii, 27, "the sabbath was made for man," etc.), and are completed, the one by an argument drawn from


the priests' service in the temple and by a quotation from Hosea (vi 6 already utilized in ix, 13); the other by a comparison (the sheep fallen into a pit) borrowed from the same repertoire as the other arguments directed against the Pharisaic sabbath practice (cf. Luke xiii, 15; xiv, 5). Next, after abridging Mark's indications about the afflux of multitudes and the numerous cures operated by Jesus (which he had already copied for his introduction of the Discourse on the Mountain), our editor has judged it opportune to emphasize the command to the cured persons to keep silence (xii, 16-17), by exhibiting it as the fulfilment of an oracle in Isaiah (xlii, 1-4; xii, 9).

The dispute about the exorcisms (xii, 22-37) comes from Mark (iii, 22-30) and the collection of logia (cf. Luke xi, 14-15, 17-23); having been used elsewhere (ix, 32-34 the cure-story which brought on the dispute), the evangelist here adds blindness to the deafness [1] of the demoniac (xii, 22; Luke xi, 14). In the collection of discourses, the two comparisons of the kingdom divided against itself and of the armed man (Mark iii, 23-27) are followed by the saying: "Who is not with me is against me," etc. (xii, 30) [2] these comparisons the evangelist has found already separated by the argument about the Jewish exorcisms (xii, 27-28; cf. Mark iii, 23-27); after the saying about blasphemy against the Spirit (supra, p. 79), he has inserted the comparison of the tree and its fruit (already utilized vii, 16-20) and of the treasure within (xii, 34-35; Luke vi, 45), both lessons of common wisdom here adapted to a Christian moral theme, and he has added to them a rider of his own (xii, 36-37); he has transposed the remark about relapse into demoniacal possession after exorcism, and placed it after the answer to those who asked for a sign (xii, 43-45; Luke xi, 24-26) in order that he may interpret it as aimed at the incredulity of the Jews and as a forecast of their destiny. By this interpretation he neutralizes an experience which attests the futility of the results obtained by exorcism and which, in consequence, cannot be attributed to Jesus or to Christian exorcists.

To the Jews who "ask for signs" — that is for miracles giving better proof of a divine mission than that of simple cures — Christian tradition here answers that the only sign the Christ will

[1] M. Loisy's translation of kwfoV.

[2] In contradiction to Mark ix, 40 and Luke ix, 10, where we read "who is not against me is with me."


give is the miracle of Jonah repeated in his own resurrection (Jonah ii, 1-2), and by denouncing the unbelievers whom the example of the Ninevites and of the Queen of Sheba will confound on the day of judgment (xii, 41-42; Luke xi, 31-32). The saying of the Christ about his true mother and brethren (xii, 46-50) is then brought in from Mark iii, 31-35, but with omission of the motive assigned by Mark for the action of the family, namely their belief that he was out of his mind (Mark iii, 21). The correspondence between the experience of Jonah and the case of Jesus buried and risen from the dead must have been evoked in tradition before the ritual commemoration of the Christ's death and resurrection was attached in common usage to Friday and the following Sunday, with which time-scheme three days and nights of Jonah's experience are incompatible (cf. supra, p. 87), and must have made the comparison compromising and best neglected. In all this it is plain enough that our evangelist editors, if not themselves the inventors of much they tell of the Christ's doings and sayings, freely act on their own initiative in the arrangement and interpretation of the materials they employ.


The transition to the discourse in parables (xiii, 1-32) is made by a clumsy formula which might lead us to think that this discourse was delivered on the same day as the preceding instructions. In what follows our evangelist reproduces Mark for the setting of the scene (xiii, 1-2; Mark, iv, 1); for the declaration concerning the aim of parables (xiii, 10-15; Mark iv, 10-13), but bringing forward into it the dictum "To him that hath shall be given," etc., otherwise placed by Mark (iv, 25), understood of Christians and Jews, expressly citing the prophecy of Isaiah (vi, 9-10) by which Mark was inspired; then inserting a saying (xiii, 16-17) about the advantage enjoyed by believers in the Christ over believers in the Old Covenant, which in the collection of logia was in close proximity to the mission discourse (as in Luke x, 23-24); and, finally, following Mark in his explanation of the sower (xiii, 18-23; Mark iv, 14-20). For the parable of the seed (Mark iv, 26-29) our evangelist substitutes that of the tares (xiii, 24-30), which he has freely developed, if not com


posed entire, in view of the interpretation he intends to give of it a little further on (xiii, 36-43). To the parable of the mustard seed he adds that of the leaven, borrowed from the collection of discourses which has the same application as the mustard seed. He introduced the concluding words of Mark (iv, 33-34) and illustrates them by a biblical quotation (Psalm lxxviii, 2) in which he imagines he can see a prophecy of Jesus' parables. Amplifying, so to say, Mark's statement (iv, 34) about the Christ's explanations of his parables, given to the disciples in particular, he brings in a commentary on the tares (xiii, 36-43) and then the similes, more or less allegorical, of the hidden treasure (44), of the pearl (45-46), of the net (47-50) — a paraphrase of mystical terms already familiar to Christians, rather than similes. Finally, to wind up the discourse, he puts in the parable of the master of the house, figure of the Christian teacher, who can bring out of his coffers things old and new (51-52). It is to be noted that the parable of the tares refers to the recruiting of members by the Christian communities, intimating that the elimination of the unworthy should be postponed to the final judgment.

Next follows the preaching of Jesus at Nazareth (xiii, 53-58), the evangelist here anticipating the stories which Mark places between the discourse in parables and this anecdote, in which he softens down certain features. After that come the sayings of Herod, considerably abridged, about the Christ (xiv, 1-2; Mark vi, 14-16), the story of John's death (xiv, 3-12; Mark vi, 17-29), the mission of the apostles (Mark vi, 7-13) having been mentioned at an earlier stage. The effect of the transpositions thus effected is that the departure of Jesus for the first multiplication of loaves is occasioned by the death of John; instead of the Twelve coming back to their master after their mission, as in Mark vi, 30, it is now the disciples of John who come to announce his death to Jesus — an indication not without meaning.

Light retouchings are discernible in the story of the multiplied loaves (xiv, 13-21; Mark vi, 31-44). Mark's story of the miraculous walking across the sea (xiv, 22-33; Mark vi, 45-52) is repeated, but adorned with a symbolic episode; that of Peter also walking on the sea to join company with the Christ, a great marvel which, like the main body of the story, must have


originally belonged to the resurrection cycle (cf. John xxi, 7). Our evangelist corrects Mark's conclusion by substituting a profession of messianic faith (xiv, 33) for what he says about the blindness of the disciples in presence of a prodigy (Mark vi, 51-52).

He emphasizes the miracles operated in the land of Gennesaret (xiv, 34-36; Mark vi, 53-56); he shortens and retouches the dispute about the washing of hands (xv, 1-20; Mark vii, 1-23) while forcing into it the saying about blind leaders of the blind, to be understood as foretelling the downfall of Pharisaic Judaism. The anecdote of the Canaanite woman (xv, 21-28; Mark vii, 24-30) is somewhat more developed so as to bring out more clearly that the personal ministry of Jesus was confined to Israel. Having spoken twice already of deaf-mutes our author turns Mark's story (vii, 31-37) of another deaf man of the Decapolis into a generalized picture of manifold cures (xv, 29-31). For this story, as for the preceding, he corrects Mark's geography, so as to keep Jesus out of pagan territory.

In the second story of multiplied loaves (xv, 32-39) he follows Mark (viii, 1-9) — without notable variation. The mention of Jonah in the refusal of a sign (xvi, 1-4) recalls the first version (xii, 38-40) of the twice-told incident, which here returns in the form given it by Mark. The strange development that follows about the blindness of the disciples in regard to the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of bread has, in like manner, been copied from Mark (viii, 14-21), but Mark's conclusion is here given a turn to make it appear that the disciples understood the lesson that Jesus would have them learn (xvi, 12). As to the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark viii, 22-26), he is clearly a double of the blind man of Jericho, in whom we have already encountered him, antedated in a colourless miracle (ix, 27-31; supra, p. 125).

In its account of Peter's confession our Gospel has arranged a kind of verbal antithesis between the Son of Man (xvi, 13) and the Son of God (xvi, 16) which seems to foreshadow the distinction between the two natures of the Christ. But his chief alteration of Mark's account (viii, 27-30) is the insertion of the celebrated address to Peter (xvi, 17-19). "Blessed art thou, Simon son of Jonas," etc., a saying which can only be ascribed to the immortal Christ, and goes far beyond the primitive form of the


confession in Mark. There cannot be a doubt that this saying was conceived in the East, in some circle devoted to the memory of Peter, head of the apostles and head of the Church, to counter the claim of the mystical Paul in the Epistles.

For the instructions which follow the Confession (xvi, 20-28) — in which our evangelist seems to be unconscious that Peter's protests against Jesus' announcement of his coming death and resurrection, and the crushing reprimand administered to him (xvi, 22-23) are in flat contradiction with the solemn praise of him as prince of the apostles — for these instructions and for the story of the Transfiguration (xvii, 1-13) Matthew copied Mark almost word for word, adding only a short explanation about Elijah, in regard to which the disciples are credited with intelligence, in substitution for Mark's indication to the contrary a little further back (ix, 10). The incident of the epileptic (xvii, 14-21) is a perceptible abridgment of Mark (ix, 14-29). The lesson on faith forms the epilogue, for the disciples only (xvii, 19-20; Mark ix, 23; Luke xvii, 6). After the second prophecy of the Passion (xvii, 22-23) the disciples are represented as sorrowing instead of not understanding, as in Mark ix, 30-32 and Luke ix, 45. Peculiar to Matthew is the anecdote of the money and the fish (xvii, 24-27) in which an old story is utilized; it answers a question of moment to the Jewish-Christian Churches, even after the destruction of the temple, which question Jesus was supposed to have solved. Contrary to what he is made to say later about tribute to Caesar (xxii, 15-22), he here seems to deny obligation to pay.

The confusion of Mark (ix, 33-50) in his arrangements of the lessons which follow the second prophecy of the Passion is somewhat straightened out and retouched. Instead of disputing as to who among themselves is the greatest (Mark ix, 34) the disciples now ask who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus answers by enjoining a childlike spirit, humility and the service of humble believers (xviii, 1-5; Mark ix, 36-37; x, 15). The incident of the stranger whom the disciples had found casting out devils is omitted, together with the saying "he that is not against us is for us." In the warning against "causing to stumble" our Gospel completes Mark from the collection of discourses and arranges a combination, as ingenious as uncon-


vincing, to bring the parable of the lost sheep into his theme (xviii, 12-14; Luke xv, 4-7).

It seems that, in the collection of the discourses, the teaching of forgiveness followed the warning against causing the "little ones to stumble" (xviii, 15-22; Luke xvii, 1-4), and for that reason Matthew gives it in the place of the exhortation to be at peace among themselves (Mark ix, 50). But within it he intercalates a rudimentary scheme of church discipline which enjoins a triple admonition of sinners and excommunication of him who refuses to hear the voice of the community, and includes the power to bind and loose, and the presence of the Christ at the meetings for prayer. Matthew is alone in daring to put oracles expressly concerning "the Church" into the mouth of Jesus (xvi, 18 and xviii, 7). All these were, originally, oracles of the immortal Christ. The parable of the wicked servant and its moral (xviii, 23-35) naturally follow the teaching of forgiveness, but Luke's tradition seems to have been ignorant of this parable.

For his account of the journey into Judea and the preaching at Jerusalem our evangelist follows Mark with the addition of various sayings and parables. In the preamble (xix, 1-2) he substitutes a number of unspecified cures for the unspecified teaching mentioned by Mark (x, 1). In the dispute with the Pharisees over divorce he is careful to introduce the exception for adultery as he did in the Discourse on the Mountain (v, 32) and he adds a lesson, in the mystical style, on continence and voluntary castration (xix, 10-12) in line with the earliest Christian ruling on celibacy and virginity (cf. i Corinthians vii, 25-26). The story of the blessing of children (xix, 13-15) is lightened, relatively to Mark x, 16, of matter which would have made it a repetition of the story already told (xviii, 1-5).

In the anecdote of the rich young man (xix, 16-22) the evangelist has clumsily corrected the question as it stands in Mark x, 17 ("Good Master, what shall I do ...?") into "Master what good thing shall I do?" and changed the answer ("Why callest thou me good?") into "Why askest thou me about the good?" in order to avoid making Jesus refuse the attribute of goodness which belongs to God. In what is said about the difficulty of salvation for the rich (xix, 16-26) he conforms to Mark. But to Peter's question about the future of the disciples (Mark x, 28)


Jesus first answers (xix, 28-29) by the promise of twelve thrones, •which must come from the collection of logia and which Mark seems to have omitted deliberately, so as not to have it apply to the Galilean disciples (cf. supra, p. 92). The teaching on retribution (xix, 29-30) is completed by the parable of the labourers in the vineyard (xx, 1-16), a theme adopted by Christian tradition and applied to the universality of salvation, but not in very clear agreement with the dictum at the head of the parable about the first becoming the last, evangelically interpreted as meaning the reversal of conditions in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than the bringing of all conditions to an equality.

Jesus in Jerusalem

The confused perspective, obvious in Mark (x, 32-34), before the third prophecy of the coming Passion, is effaced in Matthew's version (xx, 17-19), but the evangelist makes Jesus expressly specify the mode of his death as crucifixion. In order to avoid attributing to the son of Zebedee pretensions disapproved by Jesus, as Mark does (x, 35-45), he brings forward their mother to demand for them the first two thrones in the Kingdom of Heaven (xx, 20-28). We have already seen that he has two blind men at Jericho to compensate for his omission of Mark's blind man at Bethsaida (Mark viii, 22-26). In describing the triumph of the Christ on the Mount of Olives (xxi, 1-9; Mark xi, 1-10) he is at pains to cite Zechariah (ix, 9) and even brings two asses on the scene, wrongly thinking that two are mentioned by the prophet. He makes the demonstration last all the way to Jerusalem in order to describe the commotion in the city on the arrival of Jesus (xxi, 10-11). Probably knowing Mark's source he suppresses the interval placed by him (Mark xi, 11) between the Christ's first visit to the temple and the expulsion of the traders. He has also thought well to fuse into one briefer story the two separated fragments on the withered fig-tree in Mark xi, 12-14 and 20-25. After the expulsion of the traders he introduces a collection of miraculous cures, with a new messianic acclamation in fulfilment of prophecy (Psalm viii, 2) and to the confusion of the high priests and doctors of the Law (xxi, 14-16).

Profiting by the mention of John the Baptist in Jesus' answers


to the priests' question about his authority, the evangelist inserts the parable of the two sons before that of the wicked husbandmen (xxi, 33-46; Mark xii, 1-12), applying the former to the leaders of Judaism, who had not believed in John, and to the sinners, who had (xxi, 32; Luke vii, 29-30). This application, at first independent of the parable, and fitting rather badly to it is intended to assimilate the case of John to that of Jesus in presence of Jewish incredulity (cf. xi, 16-19). Both the parable itself and its direct application have the look of being a retrospective assessment, and a justification, of the results obtained by Jesus and by Christian preaching after him in the attempt to convert the Jews. After the parable place is found for that of the marriage feast, borrowed from the collection of discourses (xxii, 1-10; Luke xiv, 16-24), but here enriched with a second conclusion not found in Luke — that of the man who had no wedding garment (xxii, 11-14). This supplement is aimed at bad Christians (cf. the parable of the tares, xiii, 24-30, 36-43); but the corpus of the parable is probably based on a theme borrowed from Jewish tradition, and here applied allegorically to questions that arose in the early recruiting of converts.

Of a purely editorial kind are the modifications of Mark in the story of the tribute (xxii, 15-22; Mark xii, 13-17), of the polemic with the Sadducees about the resurrection (xxii, 23-33; Mark xii, 18-27), of the question about the great commandment (xxii, 34-40; Mark xii, 28-34), of the relation of the Messiah to David (xxii, 41-46; Mark xii, 35-37). But the question about the great commandment is regarded as being raised by the Pharisees with a sinister motive, and nothing has been retained of the praise accorded by Jesus to the questioner (Mark xii, 34; cf. Luke x, 25-28). In our Gospel the Pharisees are nothing else than an active source of perdition and the implacable enemies of Jesus. They personify refractory Judaism in its hostility to Christian propaganda.

In the discourse against the Pharisees the indictment of Judaism is carried on throughout from the point of a Christianity already separated from Judaism, and is unintelligible if taken otherwise. We have before us the oracle of a Christian prophet aimed at the people and the city held to have crucified Jesus. The original discourse, imitated from the ancient prophets, contained seven


comminatory reproaches, [1] and seems to have been at first presented as the last pronounced in public by the Christ. In Matthew it opens, as an ordinary instruction, with a kind of Judaizing preamble denouncing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, whose teachings are to be followed, but not their example (xxiii, 2-3). The first two invectives (as in Luke xi, 43-46) are spread out by Matthew into a series of reproaches (xxiii, 4-7) the last of which, their love of being called "master," has been added to make way for a lesson addressed to Christians, who must recognize no master on earth save the Christ, nor claim any dominating power one over another (xxiii, 8-12). To compensate for the two maledictions thus transformed the evangelist inserts two others: the first against the proselytizing activities of the Pharisees, as intemperate in zeal as disastrous in effect (xxiii, 15); the second against their casuistry in the matter of oath-taking (xxiii, 16-22; cf. v, 34-37). Thus the prophet's invective becomes a complete indictment of rabbinic Judaism, which was still powerful and active after the fall of Jerusalem.

Omitting the story of the widow with two mites (Mark xii, 41-44) as of mediocre importance, especially in this place, the great apocalyptic discourse immediately follows. Jesus begins by predicting the ruin of the temple (xxiv, 1-2; Mark xiii, 1-2); then, removing to the Mount of Olives, he addresses to the Twelve (xxiv, 3), and not, as in Mark, to the four leading disciples (Mark xiii, 3-4), his great revelation of the Last Things. Here we find all that Mark has (xiii, 5-37) with the addition of inserted supplements mostly taken from the collection of logia: fragments (xxiv, 23-28; perhaps also 36) more abundant than in Mark, of the discourse which Luke reports separately in another connection (Luke xvii, 20-37) and which were intended, in the earliest version, to abate the feverish expectation of the Second Coming; simile of the night-robber (xxiv, 43-44; Luke xii, 39~40), representing an apocalyptic belief of early Christianity rather than a personal teaching of Jesus; parable of the two servants (xxiv, 45-51; Luke xii, 41-48), bearing on the expecta-

[1] As follows: (1) Luke xi, 46; Matthew xxiii, 4. (2) Luke xi, 43; Matthew xxiii, 6. (3) Matthew xxiii, 13; Luke xi, 52. (4) Matthew xxiii, 25-26; Luke xi, 39-40. (5) Matthew xxiii, 26-28; Luke xi, 44. (6) Matthew xxiii, 29-31; Luke xi, 47-48, culminating in (7) the prediction of ruin, Matthew xxiii, 32, 34-39; Luke xi, 49-50; xiii, 34-35 — probably a citation from a Jewish apocalypse.


tion of the parousia in the same way as the preceding figure-parable of the ten virgins (xxv, 1-13; cf. Luke xii, 35-36; xiii 25-27), constructed in Christian tradition as an allegory on the theme of Christ the husband of the Church (cf. 2 Corinthians xi, 2) and bearing on the delay of the parousia in order to bring out the need of positive preparation for the Great Event; parable of the talents (xxv, 14-30; Luke xix, 11-27), a common theme superficially Christianized and adapted, in Christian tradition, to the question of eternal rewards (note in xxv, 29 the insertion of a dictum already recorded in xiii, 12); finally the description of the Great Judgment, a piece peculiar to our Gospel, apparently taken from Jewish eschatology and given a Christian turn (xxv, 31-46).


The stories of the Passion and the Resurrection are transcribed from Mark with variants mostly of little importance. Remark, however, that the date indicated by Mark (xiv, 1) is placed by Matthew in the mouth of Jesus and turned into a prophecy of the coming Passion (xxvi, 1-2). Certain characteristic additions have been introduced: the mention by name of the high priest taken from a good source; the thirty pieces of silver given to Judas, to conform with Zechariah xi, 12, and preparing the way for the legend, to come later, of the traitor's death; the designation of him by name during the last meal (xxvi, 25), a detail intended to bring out the clairvoyance of Jesus, but at the expense of probability; the rebuke to the disciple who draws his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane (xxvi, 52-54), from which it appears that Jesus suffers himself to be captured in order to fulfil the Scriptures; the repentance of Judas who returns the thirty pieces to the priests, commits suicide and buys a field, afterwards called "the field of blood" and made into a cemetery for strangers, thereby fulfilling a prophecy in Jeremiah; [1] the message sent by Pilate's wife to the procurator sitting in court, a romantic fiction

[1] The strangest element in this fiction is not, perhaps, the astonishing liberty of the interpretation given to the prophetic text, in which a passage in Zechariah (xi, 12-13) is combined with a statement in Jeremiah (xxxii, 6-9), but the indication of the burying-place called Aceldama, of which the name itself, to which the Judas legend has been violently adapted, would seem to imply its use as the common place of burial for suicides and executed criminals, that is, very probably, the place where the dead body of Jesus was disposed of.


intended to bring out the witness to Jesus' innocence borne by highly placed Romans; Pilate washing his hands in order, by a symbolic gesture, to throw back on the Jews a responsibility they hasten to accept (xxvii, 24-25), another fiction which is held to discharge Pilate of the death sentence passed on Jesus, and makes the murderers of the Christ invoke the punishment in store for them; the substitution, again for the fulfilment of prophecy (Psalm lxix, 21), of gall for myrrh in the wine offered to Jesus on arriving at Calvary (xxvii, 34); a supplement to this, taken from. Psalm xxii, 7-8, in the insults cried by the chief priests to Jesus on the cross (xxvii, 43); the earthquake, the opening of tombs, the rising of the dead at the very moment when Jesus breathes his last (xxvii, 51-53), miracles easily imagined, but in which the evangelist himself becomes somewhat embarrassed, since he feels constrained to add (53) that the dead did not come forth from their opened tombs till after the Christ had risen from his. But the fact is that this resurrection of the dead was at first conceived in keeping with the original conception of the Christ's resurrection to immortality as taking place, not after death and two days' burial in a tomb, but immediately, at the very instant when he emitted his last breath, the conception of the resurrection found in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Mark's account of the burial and resurrection of Jesus is filled out by Matthew with the following supplements:

The military guard at the tomb deputed by Pilate at the demand of the chief priests and Pharisees to prevent the theft of the dead body by the disciples (xxvii, 62-66), an apologetic fiction (substituted for Pilate's inquiry of the centurion in Mark xv, 44) the intention of which will appear in its completion further on; the earthquake in the night of the resurrection; the angel descending from heaven among the guard, rolling away the great stone under their eyes, seating himself on the stone and addressing the women on their arrival (xxviii, 2-7), a fiction which xxvii, 62-66 seems to require for completion (and substituted for Mark xvi, 3-5)'i Ae apparition of the Christ to the women (xxviii, 9-10) represented as having the duty laid on them to inform the disciples, instead of keeping silence as in Mark xvi, 8; the bargain struck between the chief priests and the guard to deny the resurrection of Jesus and say that the disciples stole the dead body


while the sentinels were asleep (xxviii, 11-15), a fiction of late origin invented to answer the theory of Jewish polemists arguing against the first fiction of the empty tomb; finally the scene of the great apparition to the Eleven on the mountain in Galilee (xxviii 16-20), a scene invented to fill the serious gap which the conclusion of Mark, as it then was, seemed to present, and where our evangelist read no more than what we find there to-day in the oldest manuscripts. Assuredly this scene is admirably drawn and betokens a better and higher inspiration than the invention of a guard at the tomb. Noteworthy is the interpolation into it of the baptismal formula "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," which was not in use before the second half of the second century. Here is a profession of faith in the immortal Christ and in his watch over the church. The outlook towards the Second Coming has now grown dim; the apostolic legend is fully formed, and the Galilean disciples, who were never apostles, here stand forth as endowed by Jesus with power to convert the world.

The Gospel named after Matthew has great interest for the historian, but his interest is not due to positive information he finds there concerning the life and death of the historical Jesus. What he finds is the gospel legend simplified and developed by the same means which created the first form of it; these were meditation on the ancient Jewish Scripture and imagination in the service of apologetic. Most important among the contents of the first Gospel is the mass of teachings attributed to Jesus, of which the second Gospel offers only a very small part. There, again, what Matthew gives us and Luke, in the main, repeats after him, is something wholly different from a collection of discourses really delivered. But, in Matthew as in Luke, we get a glimpse, between the lines, of the labour by means of which tradition, as it furnished the Christ with a legend, furnished him also with a teaching. Legend and teaching, largely antedated from the eschatological catechesis, were far less the expression of memories about the historical Jesus than of faith aroused by him and founded on him, of a morality practised in his spirit by the earliest Christian communities, and of his mystical presence in the Christian cult. The approximate date of this compilation has been already indicated (p. 69).

Return to the Table of Contents of Alfred Loisy's The Origins of the New Testament

Please buy the CD to support the site, view it without ads, and get bonus stuff!

Early Christian Writings is copyright © Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

Get the CD Now!

Kirby, Peter. "Historical Jesus Theories." Early Christian Writings. <>.