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On the Origin of the Gospels

Besides the gospels, the New Testament contains also other books, mainly epistles. Although the epistles emphasize Jesus, they don’t base their appeals on the sayings of Jesus. Jesus teaches something in the gospels, and the writers of the epistles conceive it differently by themselves. They try hard to give authority to their appeals and referring to the sayings of Jesus which we know from the gospels would certainly help them, but for a mysterious reason they don’t refer to them. Jesus is a mute authority in the epistles. The gospel of Mark provides a cagey explanation, but it is hidden by placing Mark between Matthew and Luke. Someone starts reading the gospels from Matthew, someone is used to hearing parts of the gospels. There is something that escapes attention in both the cases. We notice it when we start reading from Mark and focus on the content of Jesus’ teaching:

The Baptism of Christ by Paolo Veronese

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15) And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:22)

We would expect to learn something more about what Jesus taught, instead we read only about what Jesus did. There is not even a brief outline of Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps the first general-sounding statement which looks like a teaching is:

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. [But new wine is for fresh wineskins.]” (Mark 2:21-22)

It looks like some general wisdom, like a part of the teaching, but it is a statement about the teaching itself. The teaching itself is like an unshrunk cloth and new wine. And also the reason for the silence about the teaching is eventually disclosed to us.

Fragment of Mark

Finally something: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

And he appointed twelve so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach (Mark 3:14) we do not know what.

Finally, a clear and explicit teaching: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29). But it is in a passage, by which the original story was secondarily expanded. We will return to this below.

And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.” (Mark 4:2-3). For the first time since Mark 1:15 we learn what Jesus taught when he was teaching. And just like in a joke we read a parable about different reactions to the teaching and nothing about its content.

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables.” (Mark 4:10-11)

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13)

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mark 4:21-25)

So there is actually no secret, however a predisposition is critical for the understanding. Matthew 7:1-2 and Luke 6:37-38 interpreted “With the measure you use, ...” in a way that more people were disposed to understand.

Matthew left out some mentions of teaching (Mark 1:21; 2:2; 2:13; 6:6; 6:30; 11:18) and changed some others to healing (Mark 3:14-15 / Matthew 10:1; Mark 6:34 / Matthew 14:14; Mark 10:1 / Matthew 19:1-2). The moment we start wondering that Jesus is preaching and we don’t know what, Matthew submits the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). When creating it, he used a Jewish writing, which has been preserved in a Latin translation Doctrina Apostolorum and in Didache 1:1-2a,3a,5b; 2:2-6:1 (see David Flusser: Esejské dobrodružství, pages 95-120).

To the parable of the wine and the wineskins (Mark 2:22), Matthew added that both are preserved (Matthew 9:17). He concluded a short report about Jesus’ teaching Mark 4:1-34 - Matthew 13:1-52 by “what is new and what is old”. We can see on Mark 4:26-29 / Matthew 13:24-30 how he fabricated.

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The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

Paul wrote:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1 Corinthians 10:1-2)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14)

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. (1 Corinthians 10:19-20b)

Manuscript of Didache

This inspired Mark 14:22-24, by which is Matthew 26:26-28. Luke 22:17-19a changed the words over the cup by Mark 14:25 - Matthew 26:29 and shortened the words over the bread to “This is my body”. Luke 22:19b-20 is a later addition.

1 Corinthians 11:23-25 was taken from Mark 14:17-24. Before that, somebody else had written an opposite thought in 1 Corinthians 6:13-14 (translation by the author, omitting later extensions):

Foods are for the stomach and the stomach for foods – God will cancel both it and them.
The body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body – God both raised the Lord and will raise up us.

1 Corinthians is further developed in John 6:30-35; 6:41; 6:48-58 but the John’s gospel is curiously silent about the eucharist when describing the last supper. Didache instructs us to use a completely different eucharistic prayer.

Papyrus manuscript of the epistle to the Romans

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The gospels resemble Romans 13:7-10:

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

The author of the epistle to the Romans fluently connects the issue of paying taxes with the issue of the greatest commandment, making no reference to Jesus who, according to Mark 12:13-17 and 12:28-34, answered such questions shortly after each other. The attempt to trap Jesus in his talk by asking him about paying taxes to Caesar looks quite plausibly, especially when we consider that the question directed to Jesus (Mark 12:14) guides to a bold statement by referring to Isaiah 11:3-4:

And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

For Jesus, the wicked to be killed by the breath of the lips should have been Caesar. It is hard to believe that the author of the gospel of Mark made it up based on Romans 13:7. Let’s rather explore more deeply the epistle to the Romans.

It’s weird that Paul would send his epistle somewhere where he hadn’t been. The explanation in Romans 15:14-32 is unconvincing. “I was once alive apart from the law” (Romans 7:9) contradicts Philippians 3:5-6. Could Paul write “when we first believed” (Romans 13:11)?

If Paul was not the author of the epistle to the Romans, then its dating is not bounded by Paul’s death. The conciliatoriness towards Jews (Romans 1:16; 2:9-10; 3:1-4; 9:1-5; 10:1-2; 11) together with Romans 9:22; 9:27-32; 11:12; 11:21 indicates that the epistle was written after the defeat of Jews. Romans 10:20-21 cites Isaiah 65:1-2 which is preceded by a very explicit description of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (64:10-11). Noteworthy is also that the epistle is addressed to the victorious Romans.

Romans 1:1-4 resembles Mark 1:1-2. No New Testament book other than Mark and Romans contains the word “gospel” in its first 4 verses. The epistle to the Romans imitates Paul's epistles, its beginning seems all the more to be inspired by Mark. It is less likely that the austere beginning of Mark would be inspired by the epistle to the Romans.

Romans 1:16,18-32 corresponds with “whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation” (Mark 8:38). If this is not a coincidence, then it is more likely that Romans was affected by Mark, because the themes of being ashamed and sinfulness are just placed one after the other in Romans, while in Mark they form a coherent thought.

In Romans 8:34 we read that Jesus is at the right hand of God. In Mark, Jesus quotes “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, ...’” (12:36) and says “... you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power” (14:62). There is no similar mention of the right hand in 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Philippians 1 Thessalonians.

The reference to Scripture “... eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear ...” in Romans 11:8 corresponds with Mark 4:9; 4:12; 4:23; 8:18. It is not in 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Philippians 1 Thessalonians.

In Romans 16:13 we read: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.” This is the only verse in chapter 16 which mentions parental relation. In Mark 15:21 we read: “And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” It is very unlikely that Mark would be affected by the Romans 16:13. The evangelist had no reason to make up that somebody carried Jesus’ cross.

In both Romans 11:16-24 and Mark 11:12-14,20, Israel is compared to a tree. According to Mark, the fig tree is withered to its roots for ever. The epistle to the Romans speaks very differently about the root and about the time perspective. The idea of Mark being inspired here by the epistle is grossly cynical. It is much more likely that the epistle argues with Mark.

Parallel Matthew 21:18-19 leaves out “to its roots”, instead Matthew 3:10 says “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down ...” Matthew knew the epistle to the Romans, see Romans 2:19 - Matthew 15:14 and Romans 8:36 - Matthew 10:16.

Let’s go back to Romans 13:7-10. The verses 8-10 are similar to Galatians 5:13-14: ... through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Mark 12:28-34 deals with the question of the most important or greatest commandment. The idea that the law is fulfilled is not present. Therefore Mark is based more likely on an authentic Jesus’ dialogue than on Romans 13:7-10 or Galatians 5:13-14.

Parallel Matthew 22:40 says “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” A more thorough examination of Paul's epistles brings this solution:

The start version of the epistle to the Romans was written after Mark, then the gospel of Matthew was written, and then a next author wrote Romans 13:7-10 and Galatians 5:13b-14. This author is based on Matthew also in Matthew 25:40 - 1 Corinthians 8:12; Matthew 10:10 - 1 Corinthians 9:14; Matthew 5:14 - Philippians 2:15; Matthew 3:7 - 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Matthew 5:11-12 23:13 23:29-36 - 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; Matthew 24:30-31 - 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Matthew 24:43-44 - 1 Thessalonians 5:2. He wrote also 1 Corinthians 5:6 and Galatians 5:9, which is probably from Matthew 13:33.

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Mosaic in the Church of the Multiplication

In both the gospels of Mark and Matthew we read that Jesus twice miraculously fed thousands. For the first time he multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish, 12 baskets were taken up and 5000 men ate (Mark 6:35-44 - Matthew 14:15-21). For the second time he multiplied 7 loaves, 7 baskets were taken up and 4000 men ate (Mark 8:1-10 - Matthew 15:32-39). Mark follows it with this passage:

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:14-21)

Matthew changes Herod to the Sadducees:

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-12)

The gospels of Luke and John contain each only one feeding of thousands (Luke 9:12-17 - John 6:5-13) and no passage similar to the above cited denouement Mark 8:14-21 - Matthew 16:5-12 except Luke 12:1.

In Jesus’ time, there were three main Jewish sects: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The word “Essene” comes from the Aramaic chasen, or chasaia, which means “pious” (Kurt Schubert: Židovské náboženství v proměnách věků, page 82). People did not call them so, because of their hook up with Herod they called them Herodians. For more details, see chapter “Byli herodiání esejci?” by Otto Betz, pages 92-94 in the book “Ježíš a svitky od Mrtvého moře”, whose editor is James H. Charlesworth.

The end of the Great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran

The gospel of Matthew is rigid like the Essenes, see for example Mark 9:38-40 / Matthew 12:30. After healing of a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, Mark continues:

The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:6)

And again, a sinister mention of the Herodians is eliminated by Matthew:

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. (Matthew 12:14)

According to Josephus Flavius, there were above 6000 Pharisees (Antiq 17.2.4) and about 4000 Essenes (Antiq 18.1.5). Otto Betz explains what Yigael Yadin found: “The Pharisees emphasized twelve loaves of the Presence, which priests ate, to be sacrificed in the temple every week, whilst for the Essenes sacrificing seven loaves of bread at the Feast of Dedication was characteristic.” In Mark, the two feedings of thousands function as a symbolic contrast between the teaching of Jesus and the teachings of the Pharisees and Essenes.

The Sadducees were not appreciated by any spiritually oriented group. Jesus said a joke about them, and the Pharisees liked it. In the Babylonian Talmud in Avodah Zarah 17a (www.come-and-hear.com/zarah/zarah_17.html), Rabbi Eliezer tells:

I was once walking in the upper-market of Sepphoris when I came across one [of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene] Jacob of Kefar-Sekaniah by name, who said to me: It is written in your Torah, Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot ... into the house of the Lord thy God (Deuteronomy 23:18). May such money be applied to the erection of a retiring place for the High Priest? To which I made no reply. Said he to me: Thus was I taught [by Jesus the Nazarene], For of the hire of a harlot hath she gathered them and unto the hire of a harlot shall they return (Micah 1:7). They came from a place of filth, let them go to a place of filth. Those words pleased me very much, and that is why I was arrested for apostacy.

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Matthew 13:44-46 are short and unexplained parables, thus likely of an older origin. One of them says:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Mark 5:2,6-7 says:

And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. (...) And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”

And in Mark 10:17,21 we read:

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (...) And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The story about a rich man, who ran up and knelt before Jesus, is based on the parable of the hidden treasure. The idea of gaining heavenly merit is very human, anyone could have invented it. It is not in accord with Jesus, who mingled with tax collectors (Mark 2:15-16 - Matthew 9:10-11 - Luke 5:29-30).

The Entombment by Lieven van Lathem

The tax collectors were collecting money from people for occupants. A motivating portion of the collected money was being left for them. Already Mark had the need to explain it acceptably. According to him, Jesus thought of his companions just as people did – they are sick and sinners (Mark 2:17 - Matthew 9:12-13 - Luke 5:31-32).

Jesus encounters a tax collector, who hasn’t seen him before, and moves him to give his goods to the poor in Luke 19:1-10. Everything is excused and reconciled by this. Luke’s Jesus is not with tax collectors, he comes to them as an advocate of the poor.

We know Jesus as an advocate of Samaritans from Luke 9:52-56; 10:30-36; 17:11-19. Mark writes nothing about Samaritans, Matthew just “enter no town of the Samaritans” (Matthew 10:5).

One of only three Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Thomas

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The gospel of Mark was later updated by a different author, as we can reason from a cluster of doublets Mark 6:45-7:5. A criticism of the Pharisees follows in Mark 7:6-13, that they change the law. This type of criticism, which we find also in Matthew 23:16-24, can be expected from the Essenes.

In the following Mark 7:14-23 Jesus, like Paul, declares all foods clean. If Jesus really opposed the dietary laws, it would have stirred a strong response, which would somehow affect the gospels. In all four gospels, Jesus is denounced for breaking the Sabbath, not for breaking the dietary laws.

Mark 7:17-18 is based on Mark 4:10-13. With 6:45-7:23 excluded, 7:24 appears after the feeding of 5000, which corresponds with 8:10 after the feeding of 4000.

Jesus called the crowd to him in 7:14 and 8:34. The presence of a crowd after 8:27-33 is surprising.

The verse 9:1 may, at first glance, look like an authentic unfulfilled apocalyptic statement of Jesus. At second glance, it is very strange that Jesus would aim his apocalyptic expectations to the time when many of his hearers would already be dead.

The pair of verses 8:38-9:1 may be a reaction to the inglorious 8:11-13. That the 8:11-13 was perceived as inglorious is indicated by it being surrounded with a glorious feeding of four thousand 8:1-10 and the denouement of the feedings 8:14-21, and even further with a healing of a deaf man 7:32-37 and a healing of a blind man 8:22-26. Sighing while doing a miracle in 7:34 prepares the reader for sighing in 8:12. The later author of the inserted passage 8:34-9:1 solved the 8:11-13 differently, being inspired by 13:26-30.

Like in 8:34, a crowd appears in 9:14-15, before 9:30. Generation gets an adjective only in 8:38 and 9:19. The verse 9:28 corresponds with 7:17. The inspiration for 9:25-27 could have been drawn from 1:25-26; 1:31.

The question of 8:37 is developed by 9:43-48. The passages 8:34-38 and 9:42-49 are similarly strict and polarized, Essene. In the verse 9:42, the author unconsciously repeats themes from 9:22-24. The verse 9:50 originated probably after the destruction of the temple worship, we have already dealt with it.

The verse 10:1 is an opening analogous to 8:22 or 9:33 but related to 7:24. The verse 10:10 corresponds with 7:17 and 9:28. The doctrine 10:2-12 accords with the Essene Damascus Document 4:19-21:

The builders of the wall (...) shall be caught in fornication twice by taking a sacond wife while the first is alive, whereas the principle of creation is, Male and female created He them. (G. Vermes: The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, page 101)

Like the criticism of the Pharisees in 7:8-10, the verse 10:19 is interested in commandments. The verses 10:29-30 are much like 8:35. We find the theme of not entering the kingdom of God 10:23-26 also in 10:15, which is a part of the preceding, seemingly very different passage 10:13-16. However, the preceding passage 10:13-16 is derived from 9:36-39 and the closing statement 10:29-31 from 9:41 and 9:35.

With the above-identified passages 6:45-7:23; 8:34-9:1; 9:14-29; 9:42-10:31 excluded, Mark’s topics are in pairs: The first feeding, 2 topics, The second feeding ... The denouement, 2 topics, The first foretelling, 2 topics, The second foretelling, 2 topics, The third foretelling, 2 topics, Jerusalem.

The curse of the fig tree 11:12-14; 11:20-25 also belongs to the above-identified passages. We meet the themes from 9:22-23 and 9:42 again in 11:22-23. The next verse 11:24 restricts the power of belief to prayer, which corresponds with 9:29. The inspiration could have been especially 13:28, which is located in the above-mentioned 13:26-30.

There is a next layer under the Essene layer in the gospel of Mark. It consists of the parable of the tenants 12:1-12 and of the chapter 13, which is called the Little Apocalypse. The verse 12:9 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem. The Little Apocalypse reacts to the chaos caused by the destruction. The two passages further share the theme of a lord who traveled away (12:1; 13:34) and of a stone (12:10; 13:1-2).

Nothing in the rest of the gospel of Mark has to be dated after the destruction of Jerusalem. The feedings of thousands, which are pointed against the Pharisees and against the Essenes, actually fit into an earlier time.

The feeding 6:34,41-42 is based on 14:22-23,27. The beginning of the denouement 8:13-17 is based on 4:35-40. With the feedings excluded, Jesus’ exile 7:24 follows 6:14-29.

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We find passages which consist largely of doublets in the gospel of Matthew, too. They are Matthew 9:26-38 and Matthew 12:33-45. The same statement about the sign of Jonah as in Matthew 12:39 is in Matthew 16:4, where it follows Mark’s story. Matthew makes smart references to the Old Testament, expecting the reader to be smart too, and doesn’t explain the reference to Jonah in the verse Matthew 16:4, however, the need to add an explanation arose apparently soon. A conjunction between Jonah 3:6 and Matthew 11:21 hints that rather than the three days in the belly of the fish (Matthew 12:40), the original author meant that Jonah called out “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4) and Jerusalem was destroyed forty years (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6-7) after the death of Jesus. In the Pesher Nahum scroll from Qumran, which must have seemed prophetic after the Jewish War, the Essenes applied the destruction of Nineveh to Jews. We can deduce from the opening sentences of the Damascus Document that the Essenes derived their origin from the 390 years in Ezekiel 4:5. The forty years in the following Ezekiel 4:6-7 may then be referred by the Damascus Document 20:13-16:

From the day of the gathering in of the Teacher of the Community until the end of all the men of war who returned with the Liar there shall pass about forty years. And during that age the wrath of God shall be kindled against Israel; ... (using G. Vermes: The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, page 107, and Stanislav Segert: Rukopisy od Mrtvého moře, page 363)

The Teacher of the Community was the founder of the Essenes. He suffered violence from the Jerusalem high priest. It is very probable that some Essenes saw in the Teacher of the Community a prefigure of Jesus and became Christians after the destruction of Jerusalem.

At that time, being out of mind was identified as possession. Mark 3:20-22.31-35 tells:

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

The passage Mark 3:23-30 is inserted. It does not take into account the context when starting “And he called them to him”.

Matthew and Luke, who write about the virgin birth of Jesus, leave out that Jesus’ family went to seize him (Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 8:19-21). The relatives disappear also in Mark 6:4 / Matthew 13:57 / Luke 4:24. The above-mentioned Matthew 12:33-45 is placed between the statement about blaspheming the Holy Spirit and the arrival of Jesus’ mother.

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Of the four gospels, Matthew’s is the most loyal to Jewish tradition. It leaves out “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), ascribes to Jesus a passive role in the conversation before the healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-4 / Matthew 12:9-12), extends “Pray that it may not happen in winter” (Mark 13:18) to “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath” (Matthew 24:20), leaves out “Thus he declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19), does not mention that Jesus entered a house in the region of Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24-26 / Matthew 15:21-22), and only it says “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you” (Matthew 23:2-3).

The gospel of Matthew systematically adds the not yet used material from Mark in chapters Matthew 12-13 and then it follows the rest of Mark to the end (Mark 6:14-16:8 - Matthew 14-28). The not yet used material is breaking the Sabbath and the activity that followed (Mark 2:23-3:12 - Matthew 12:1-16), Beelzebul, Jesus’ family, and Jesus’ teaching (Mark 3:21-4:34 - Matthew 12:24-13:36), and a prophet without honor (Mark 6:1-6 - Matthew 13:53-58).

There are clues indicating that the author of the gospel of Matthew accounted himself a scribe. He left out some sinister mentions of scribes (Mark 9:14-17 / Matthew 17:14-15; Mark 11:27 / Matthew 21:23; Mark 14:43 / Matthew 26:47; Mark 15:1 / Matthew 27:1) and changed some others to the Pharisees (Mark 2:16 / Matthew 9:11; Mark 3:22 / Matthew 12:24; Mark 12:35 / Matthew 22:41-42) or to the elders of the people (Mark 14:1 / Matthew 26:3). When Mark writes about both the scribes and the Pharisees, he names the Pharisees first, and then the scribes (Mark 7:1,5). Parallel Matthew 15:1 preserves it but everywhere else (Matthew 5:20; 23:2,13,15,23-29) the scribes are named first, and after them the Pharisees. In the chapter Matthew 23, the frontal placement of scribes could be explained by parallel Mark 12:38-39 criticizing the scribes only, without Pharisees, but the elders and the scribes (Mark 14:53) is also swapped to the scribes and the elders (Matthew 26:57). When the chief priests with the scribes mocked (Mark 15:31) the crucified Jesus, Matthew added elders to them (Matthew 27:41). He changed not as the scribes (Mark 1:22) to not as their scribes (Matthew 7:29). And finally there are these statements about scribes:

Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old. (Matthew 13:52)

Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, ... (Matthew 23:34)

Paul of Tarsus by Bernardo Daddi

Paul taught the abolishment of the law. The author of the gospel of Matthew protests against it: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19). To escape the conflict, he continues “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20) and stuns the issue of the law by toughening the law (Matthew 5:21-48), impugning Paul’s criticism in 2 Corinthians 11:20 by Matthew 5:39-41.

The Four Evangelists by Jacob Jordaens

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Matthew’s gospel is called Matthew’s because it identifies the tax collector Levi, who was the son of Alphaeus and whom Jesus called (Mark 2:14 - Matthew 9:9), with the apostle Matthew, who is near to James the son of Alphaeus in the list of the apostles (Mark 3:18 - Matthew 10:3). The gospel of Luke leaves out that the tax collector Levi, whom Jesus called, was the son of Alphaeus (Luke 5:27).

The author of the gospel of Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. According to Miloš Pavlík’s Czech Study Bible Translation, there is a lot of professional medical terminology in Luke and Acts. Only the gospel of Luke contains “Physician, heal yourself” (Luke 4:23). It leaves out that a woman spent all that she had on physicians (Mark 5:26) and says “she could not be healed by anyone” (Luke 8:43). Thus it is probable that the author of the gospel of Luke was a physician.

Bible in Czech Ecumenical Translation states in the preface to Acts: “The author deals with some sources that can be guessed under the text still today. Between chap. 16 and 28, he places four times passages in which he speaks in the 1st person plural. This can be seen as a use of a travel daybook.” The use of the 1st person tempts to the identification of the author of Acts with some of Paul’s co-workers. The word “physician” occurs in the New Testament outside the gospels only in Colossians 4:14: “Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.” Perhaps for that reason the Luke’s gospel began to be called Luke’s. But Colossians was not written by Paul. Luke is further mentioned as Paul’s co-worker in Philemon, which is based on Colossians, and in 2 Timothy, which also is not from Paul.

The same three epistles – Colossians, Philemon, and 2 Timothy – mention another Paul’s associate Mark. Perhaps it was 2 Timothy 4:11 who gave the name to the shortest gospel: “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” Moreover, in Jerusalem, Peter “went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12:12) and who wants can identify this John Mark with the young man of Mark 14:51-52.

In 1 Peter 5:13 we read: “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.” In apocalyptic parlance, Babylon represented Rome. Based on the cited verse 1 Peter 5:13, there is a tradition that the gospel of Mark was written by a companion of the apostle Peter in Rome. Bible in Czech Ecumenical Translation says in the preface to Mark that some Latinisms in Mark’s Greek could indicate the creation in Rome. But if the name to the gospel of Mark was given as described above, then the tradition based on the name Mark is void, not to mention that the epistles of Peter were not written by the apostle Peter.

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Perhaps the most typical example that demonstrates the relation between the gospel of Luke and the gospels of Mark and Matthew is the sending out of the twelve apostles and of another seventy-two disciples. Mark 6:7-13, and similarly Matthew 10:5-15, describe the sending out of the twelve apostles. Luke 9:1-6 describes the sending out of the twelve apostles and this description resembles the Mark’s description. Luke 10:1-12 describes the sending out of another seventy-two disciples and this description resembles the Matthew’s description, Matthew 9:37-38 being near.

Because there are different opinions on textual criticism, such as that it is arbitrariness and a matter of fashion, which changes over time, I will expand on it a little more here. First of all, there are more ways to handle the fact that two texts are similar. It can be explained as a miracle: The Holy Spirit confirms the words through similar writing of several independent authors. But the Holy Spirit also knew that there would be individuals who would not think of the similarity of the gospels as a miracle and would explain it satisfactorily by seeing them as mutually dependent or as having a common source. I don’t have to write more about the theory of miraculous similarity of the gospels, because a more thorough familiarity with the gospels reveals things that also piety dictates to disclaim miraculous origin of such similarities and to look for a better explanation.

The beginning of the Book of ExodusThe beginning of the Book of Genesis

Textual criticism does not exclude the possibility that miraculous similarity of texts may have happened somewhere, some day. It provides tools to recognize such a miracle when we come across it. One example of an unsolved mystery are the words TORAH (תורה) at the beginning of Genesis and Exodus on cylinder 50. The occurrence of one such word at the beginning of the Bible can be attributed to chance because there is a certain amount of significant words and a certain amount of significant numbers for the cylinder. The reiteration of the same at the beginning of the second book is already strange.

As an example for thinking about textual criticism, let’s use the above-mentioned sending out of the disciples. We have two pairs of similar texts Mark 6:7-13 - Luke 9:1-6 and Matthew 10:5-15 - Luke 10:1-12 and we are interested in how it happened that they are so similar. Let’s say that we don’t need to know one absolute truth about it. A probable scenario or several different probable scenarios will be sufficient for us.

It is inconceivable that Jesus wouldn’t do something the gospels write he did, and certainly it is unthinkable that some of the evangelists would write something knowing that it was made up by himself or by somebody else. So how is it possible that the words of Jesus to another seventy-two disciples are addressed to the twelve apostles in Matthew? It is logical that the evangelist who wrote more was more informed, he was closer to the source. Therefore we prefer Luke to Matthew. The most probable explanation of the Matthew’s slip is that he received a tradition which confused the sending out of the twelve apostles with the sending out of another seventy-two disciples. Conclusion: Beware of Matthew, it could have happened to him somewhere else too.

When we have admitted that Matthew could have been a victim of a mistake, we may doubt whether the victim really had to be Matthew and not Luke. Mark’s and Matthew’s descriptions of the sending out of the twelve apostles do not differ much, and there is a high probability that both Mark and Matthew describe one and the same event. When we admit that the sending out of another seventy-two disciples did not have to happen, a completely different scenario rises before our mental view: The narrative about the event of sending out of the twelve apostles split into two traditions, one of which got to Mark, the second to Matthew, and both to Luke, and besides that, the tradition captured by Matthew somehow happened to change from the twelve apostles to another seventy-two disciples on its path to Luke. The source common to Matthew and Luke was named Q after the German word “Quelle”, which means “source”.

Further exploration of connections between the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke will lead us to a simpler conclusion. Before that, let me quote two passages from the pen of Dionysius, a 3rd century bishop of Alexandria, as preserved by Eusebius in his Church History in chapter 25 “The Apocalypse of John” (www.newadvent.org/fathers/250107.htm):

The Last Judgment

6. After this he examines the entire Book of Revelation, and having proved that it is impossible to understand it according to the literal sense, proceeds as follows:

Having finished all the prophecy, so to speak, the prophet pronounces those blessed who shall observe it, and also himself. For he says, 'Blessed is he that keeps the words of the prophecy of this book, and I, John, who saw and heard these things.'

7. Therefore that he was called John, and that this book is the work of one John, I do not deny. And I agree also that it is the work of a holy and inspired man. But I cannot readily admit that he was the apostle, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, by whom the Gospel of John and the Catholic Epistle were written.

8. For I judge from the character of both, and the forms of expression, and the entire execution of the book, that it is not his. For the evangelist nowhere gives his name, or proclaims himself, either in the Gospel or Epistle.

9. Farther on he adds:

But John never speaks as if referring to himself, or as if referring to another person. But the author of the Apocalypse introduces himself at the very beginning: 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which he gave him to show unto his servants quickly; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John, who bore witness of the word of God and of his testimony, even of all things that he saw.' (Revelation 1:1-2)

10. Then he writes also an epistle: 'John to the seven churches which are in Asia, grace be with you, and peace.' (Revelation 1:4) But the evangelist did not prefix his name even to the Catholic Epistle; but without introduction he begins with the mystery of the divine revelation itself: 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes.' (1 John 1:1) For because of such a revelation the Lord also blessed Peter, saying, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my heavenly Father.' (Matthew 16:17)

11. But neither in the reputed second or third epistle of John, though they are very short, does the name John appear; but there is written the anonymous phrase, 'the elder.' But this author did not consider it sufficient to give his name once and to proceed with his work; but he takes it up again: 'I, John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and in the patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.' (Revelation 1:9) And toward the close he speaks thus: 'Blessed is he that keeps the words of the prophecy of this book, and I, John, who saw and heard these things.'

12. But that he who wrote these things was called John must be believed, as he says it; but who he was does not appear. For he did not say, as often in the Gospel, that he was the beloved disciple of the Lord, or the one who lay on his breast, or the brother of James, or the eyewitness and hearer of the Lord.

13. For he would have spoken of these things if he had wished to show himself plainly. But he says none of them; but speaks of himself as our brother and companion, and a witness of Jesus, and blessed because he had seen and heard the revelations.

14. But I am of the opinion that there were many with the same name as the apostle John, who, on account of their love for him, and because they admired and emulated him, and desired to be loved by the Lord as he was, took to themselves the same surname, as many of the children of the faithful are called Paul or Peter.

15. For example, there is also another John, surnamed Mark, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, whom Barnabas and Paul took with them; of whom also it is said, 'And they had also John as their attendant.' (Acts 13:5) But that it is he who wrote this, I would not say. For it not written that he went with them into Asia, but, 'Now when Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.' (Acts 13:13)

16. But I think that he was some other one of those in Asia; as they say that there are two monuments in Ephesus, each bearing the name of John.

17. And from the ideas, and from the words and their arrangement, it may be reasonably conjectured that this one is different from that one.

18. For the Gospel and Epistle agree with each other and begin in the same manner. The one says, 'In the beginning was the Word'; (John 1:1) the other, 'That which was from the beginning.' (1 John 1:1) The one: 'And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father'; (John 1:14) the other says the same things slightly altered: 'Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes; which we have looked upon and our hands have handled of the Word of life—and the life was manifested.' (1 John 1:1-2)


19. For he introduces these things at the beginning, maintaining them, as is evident from what follows, in opposition to those who said that the Lord had not come in the flesh. Wherefore also he carefully adds, 'And we have seen and bear witness, and declare unto you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also.' (1 John 1:2-3)

20. He holds to this and does not digress from his subject, but discusses everything under the same heads and names some of which we will briefly mention.

21. Any one who examines carefully will find the phrases, 'the life,' 'the light,' 'turning from darkness,' frequently occurring in both; also continually, 'truth,' 'grace,' 'joy,' 'the flesh and blood of the Lord,' 'the judgment,' 'the forgiveness of sins,' 'the love of God toward us,' the 'commandment that we love one another,' that we should 'keep all the commandments'; the 'conviction of the world, of the Devil, of Anti-Christ,' the 'promise of the Holy Spirit,' the 'adoption of God,' the 'faith continually required of us,' 'the Father and the Son,' occur everywhere. In fact, it is plainly to be seen that one and the same character marks the Gospel and the Epistle throughout.

22. But the Apocalypse is different from these writings and foreign to them; not touching, nor in the least bordering upon them; almost, so to speak, without even a syllable in common with them.

23. Nay more, the Epistle— for I pass by the Gospel— does not mention nor does it contain any intimation of the Apocalypse, nor does the Apocalypse of the Epistle. But Paul, in his epistles, gives some indication of his revelations, though he has not written them out by themselves.

24. Moreover, it can also be shown that the diction of the Gospel and Epistle differs from that of the Apocalypse.

25. For they were written not only without error as regards the Greek language, but also with elegance in their expression, in their reasonings, and in their entire structure. They are far indeed from betraying any barbarism or solecism, or any vulgarism whatever. For the writer had, as it seems, both the requisites of discourse—that is, the gift of knowledge and the gift of expression—as the Lord had bestowed them both upon him.

26. I do not deny that the other writer saw a revelation and received knowledge and prophecy. I perceive, however, that his dialect and language are not accurate Greek, but that he uses barbarous idioms, and, in some places, solecisms.

27. It is unnecessary to point these out here, for I would not have any one think that I have said these things in a spirit of ridicule, for I have said what I have only with the purpose of showing clearly the difference between the writings.

So much for the textual critic Dionysius from the 3rd century, we return to the gospel of Luke. After the sending out of the twelve apostles (Mark 6:7-13 - Luke 9:1-6), Luke continues to follow Mark’s chapter 6 up to the feeding of the five thousand, where he integrates the diverse Mark 6:34 and Matthew 14:14 into Luke 9:11. After the sending out of another seventy-two disciples (Matthew 10:5-15 - Luke 10:1-12), Luke continues to follow Matthew’s nearby verses, such as are not in Mark.

Luke 8:17 “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” is from Mark 4:22.
Luke 12:2 “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” is from Matthew 10:26.

Much more testifies to the fact that Luke not only had the gospel of Mark, but also the gospel of Matthew. He copied from the above presented Matthew 12:33-45, too. While Matthew then continues with the arrival of Jesus’ mother and brothers, Luke continues:

As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)

Similarly, another parallel passage ends with “Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!” (Matthew 24:19) and Luke instead continues “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).

Christ with Martha and Maria by Henryk Siemiradzki

The healing of a woman with a disabling spirit (Luke 13:10-16) and the healing of a man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-5) are based on the healing of a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1-5 - Matthew 12:9-13). The raising of a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17) is based on the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-42 - Matthew 9:18-26). The story about Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-41) is based on the calming of a storm (Mark 4:36-40), with a Freudian replacement of boats by women. If anyone does not believe, take up and read!

Luke 4:16-30 describes a dramatic conflict at Nazareth resulting in an attempt to throw Jesus down the cliff, which is incompatible with Mark’s result: “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them” (Mark 6:5). It is not that Jesus could not lay his hands on a few sick people while being driven to the brow of the hill. It is that if the situation was really so dramatic, Mark would be creating a false picture by concealing material facts.

To be able to locate the encounter with the risen Jesus to Jerusalem, Luke deliberately leaves out “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mark 14:28 - Matthew 26:32) and changes the angel’s words “he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him” (Mark 16:7 - Matthew 28:7) to “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee” (Luke 24:6).

Only the gospel of Luke contains the thoughts about the attitude of a servant “... We are unworthy servants ...” (Luke 17:7-10). The preceding verse Luke 17:6, which is based on Matthew 17:20 and Mark 11:20,23, says: “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Luke apparently saw it differently and had the need to balance it.

Mark and Matthew describe how John the Baptist was dressed and what he ate (Mark 1:6 - Matthew 3:4). Luke does not mention this, but adds John’s words “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:11).

Luke’s parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) replaces two Matthew’s parables – of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-31) and of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-15).

The parable of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-8a) looks authentic. Its amorality could have been the reason for the other evangelists not to include it, yet the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-34) was probably inspired by it.

The woman in the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7:36-50) replaces the anointing in the house of Simon the leper (Mark 14:3-9 - Matthew 26:6-13) and the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-34). In Luke’s version (Luke 7:40-43), two debts are canceled and two debtors are grateful for it, like in the parable of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-8a).

When we search in Mark for the answer to how to pray, we find Mark 11:24-25; 13:18; 14:35-39. When Matthew was writing Paternoster (Matthew 6:9-13), he exhausted this material thoroughly. In Matthew 26:42 he then used the same words “your will be done” as in Matthew 6:10. Luke, for whom praying was important (Luke 1:10,13; 2:37; Mark 1:9-10 - Matthew 3:16 / Luke 3:21; Mark 1:35 / Luke 5:16; Mark 2:18 - Matthew 9:14 / Luke 5:33; Mark 6:46 - Matthew 14:23 / Luke 6:12; Mark 8:27 - Matthew 16:13 / Luke 9:18; Mark 9:2-3 - Matthew 17:1-2 / Luke 9:28-29; Luke 11:1; Matthew 6:7-8 × Luke 18:1-3; Luke 18:10-11; Mark 13:33 - Matthew 24:42 / Luke 21:36; Mark 14:27 - Matthew 26:31 / Luke 22:31-32), reduced the Matthew’s prayer (Luke 11:2-4).

The following four passages are without comments, for you to think about:

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. (Mark 9:33-34)

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 17:24-18:1)

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” (Luke 7:39-40)

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)

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Luke 11:14-16:18 repeats in cycles roughly this pattern:

  1. take something from Jesus’ teaching after entering Jerusalem Matthew 21-25,
  2. take something from Matthew 10-12,
  3. take something that is neither in Matthew nor in Mark,
  4. take something from the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5-7.

Considering the method with which the neither in Matthew nor in Mark texts are being embodied here, we can hardly conclude anything else than that Luke is using a written collection of Jesus’ sayings, which has not been preserved.

One of only three Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Thomas

What did it contain?

Luke 11:33 says:

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.”

It is also in Matthew 5:15 and in Mark 4:21 - Luke 8:16, but the location of Luke 11:33 indicates that it was taken neither from Matthew nor from Mark. In Mark 4:21-22 we read:

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.”

Luke 8:16-17 is parallel to it but alters both the statements:

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”

Matthew 10:26-27, that is not parallel to Mark, sounds similarly:

“... nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear in the ear, proclaim on the housetops.” (altered by the Greek original)

Thus Luke 8:17 altered Mark 4:22 by what we see in Matthew 10:26.

Matthew 5:14b-15, that also is not parallel to Mark, says:

“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”

We find no other statement about a city set on a hill in the canonical gospels. This is what we read in the gospel of Thomas 32-33:

Jesus says: “A city built upon a high mountain (and) fortified cannot fall, nor can it be hidden.”
Jesus says: “What you will hear with your ear {with the other ear} proclaim from your rooftops. For no one lights a lamp (and) puts it under a bushel, nor does he put it in a hidden place. Rather, he puts it on a lampstand, so that everyone who comes in and goes out will see its light.”

Comparing all the statements about a lamp, it is obvious that the Thomas’ version could not have been derived from the short Matthew 5:14b-15. Before the fall of Jerusalem, the striking statement about a fortified city which cannot fall fit into the beginning of a collection. It could have inspired Matthew 7:24-25; 16:18.

Luke 12:2-3, that is parallel to Matthew 10:26-27, says:

“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have spoken toward the ear in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (altered by the Greek original)

The meaning of the statement about proclaiming on the housetops changed. Luke probably wouldn’t change it if he had known the statement from elsewhere. I suppose that the statement about housetops got into Thomas later from Matthew, and that it was created by the author of the gospel of Matthew, who was inspired by the statement about a lamp and by “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear”, which we have in Mark 4:23. The “with your ear {with the other ear}” in Thomas stems from the “I tell you in the dark” and “you hear in the ear” in Matthew, hearing in the ear being gnostically shifted from a body organ to a spiritual perception.

I regard the Thomas’ version of the statement about a lamp as the most original. The order first “under a bushel” then “in a hidden place” matches Mark 4:21 - Luke 8:16 and also Matthew 10:27, because it is dark under a bushel while it is possible to whisper in a hidden place by daylight. The short Matthew 5:15 has “under a basket” only, which also supports the Thomas’ order because leaving out the second part is more probable than leaving out the first part. Luke 11:33 alters the order and is briefer, which is understandable considering that the author wrote Luke 8:16 shortly before.

Unlike Mark 4:22 - Luke 8:17, Matthew 10:26 - Luke 12:2 are almost identical. Matthew 10:26 used complex Greek words, Luke 12:2 rearranged the complex part a little bit. The original source, uncultivated by Matthew, could have been “Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, or secret that will not be known.” It would match a fragment of Thomas 5 in Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 654, which is otherwise considered to be derived from Luke 8:17 (see Jan A. Dus, Petr Pokorný: Neznámá evangelia – Novozákonní apokryfy I., page 92).

With the verse Luke 12:2, the author of the gospel of Luke moved to the middle of the chapter Matthew 10 and started dealing with Matthew 10. He had not used anything from Matthew 10-11 for a long time, the last was Luke 10:1-22. This indicates that the order of the statements in the collection, which he started incorporating with the verse Luke 11:33, was the same as in Mark 4:21-22.

This is how Matthew 7:1-3, that is not parallel to Mark, opens a new topic:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

So we can trust Mark that the collection continued with Mark 4:24. At the same position where Luke 11:33 in the previous cycle was, we find now Luke 12:13-14. It relates to a brother and to judging, thus could have co-inspired the cited Matthew 7:1-3. An analogy of Luke 12:13-14 is in Thomas 72, while Thomas 70 stems from Mark 4:25. The Thomas’ order is supported by a funny link between Mark 4:24-25 and Luke 12:13-14.

Matthew 13:44-50 adds other parables to Mark 4. The parable of the hidden treasure could have inspired Luke 12:16-21. The parable of the pearl of great value could have inspired Matthew 7:6 and is in Thomas 76. The parable of the net stems from the parable of the large fish, which has been preserved in Thomas 8:

And he says: “The human being is like a sensible fisherman who cast his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea filled with little fish. Among them the sensible fisherman found a large, fine fish. He threw all the little fish back into the sea, (and) he chose the large fish effortlessly. Whoever has ears to hear should hear.”

One of only three Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Thomas

Thomas 9 is the parable of the sower, which we know from Mark 4:3-8 - Matthew 13:3-8 - Luke 8:5-8.

Thomas 10 is:

Jesus says: “I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am guarding it until it blazes.”

In the next cycle, there is Luke 12:49-50:

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”

It is located atypically before the use of Matthew 10:34-36, which is explainable by thematic relationship – the statement about fire was an inspiration for Matthew 10:34. It should not escape our attention that Matthew 10:34 follows soon after the above discussed Matthew 10:26-27.

Luke 22:40-46 eliminated Jesus’ distress in Gethsemane Mark 14:32-42 - Matthew 26:36-46. The verses Luke 22:43-44 were added later in order to correct it. This implies that Luke 12:50 was rather copied from somewhere.

Luke 9:54-55 containing “... do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven ...?” is parallel to Mark 10:35-45 containing “... or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”. By the way, Luke then went on from Mark to Matthew, saying that they went on to another village (Luke 9:56).

Luke 13:1-5 is a unique material located between two cycles.

Luke 13:18-21 could be from Matthew 13:31-33, being at the same time strongly influenced by Mark 4:30-32. However, when we consider the location of Luke 13:18-21, a more logical explanation of its relation to Mark 4:30-32 is that Luke did not use Matthew 13:31-33 here but the collection of Jesus’ sayings.

Unlike Mark 4:30-32 and its parallel Matthew 13:31-32, Luke’s version says nothing about the grain being small and the tree being large. It could be explained by abridging, but I think that the Luke’s short version is original. It is like the next parable of the leaven, like the preceding parable of the seed growing Mark 4:26-29, and like Thomas 97:

Jesus says: “The kingdom of the [Father] is like a woman who is carrying a [jar] filled with flour. While she was walking on [the] way, very distant (from home), the handle of the jar broke (and) the flour leaked out [on] the path. (But) she did not know (it); she had not noticed a problem. When she reached her house, she put the jar down on the floor (and) found it empty.”

Mark tried to make the parable of the mustard seed more graspable. That could be the reason why he did not introduce the next parable of the leaven, which was probably also available to him. Matthew took the Mark’s graspable extension and completed it with the parable of the leaven from the collection of Jesus’ sayings. He already was not hindered by the discrepance between the one being explained and the other not. The parable of the leaven received its alteration by the Mark’s specimen in Thomas 96.

The meaning of the parable of the sower was probably the same as of the parable of the seed growing. Things happen to seeds without the sower’s knowledge. Someone understood it later so that Jesus spoke to people about himself, and inserted “I came to cast fire on the earth, ...” between the two parables.

Thomas 98 is:

Jesus says: “The kingdom of the Father is like a person who wanted to kill a powerful person. He drew the sword in his house (and) stabbed it into the wall to test whether his hand would be strong (enough). Then he killed the powerful one.”

Luke 13:31-33 is a unique material located between two cycles. We meet Pharisees well disposed towards Jesus, which contradicts the later stereotypical perception of the Pharisees and looks plausibly. According to Mark 14:58; 15:29, Jesus spoke about the third day.

In the next cycle, there is Luke 14:28-32. It could have been an inspiration for Matthew 5:25.

In the next cycle, there is the already above examined Luke 16:1-8a. When using Mark 11:23, Matthew 17:20 inspired himself with the parable of the mustard seed, and when using Mark 11:24-25, Matthew 18:19-35 inspired himself with the parable of the dishonest manager and also with what he had written in Matthew 5:25-26 – see the previous paragraph.

The next and also last cycle Luke 16:14-18 lacks point 3.

Thomas 98 and Luke 14:28-32 form a trio of parables that all have the same meaning. Luke 13:31-33 is inserted between them to mend the problematic likening of the kingdom of God to a person who wanted to kill a powerful person.

The original collection consisted of four thematic areas: On the understanding, on the value of the kingdom of God, on the power of the unconscious happening and, as a counterpoise, on the importance of the conscious shrewdness.

The line between the power of the unconscious happening and the importance of the conscious shrewdness is formed by a couple “The kingdom of God is like a woman ...” – “The kingdom of God is like a man ...”. Female polarity is put in front of male polarity. The thematic areas correspond to air, earth, water, and fire.

✼ ✼ ✼

Mark and Matthew mention flogging in synagogues (Mark 13:9; Matthew 10:17; 23:34), which was an effort of Jews to reclaim Jews who confessed Jesus (Acts 22:19; 26:11). There is no mention of excluding in Mark and Matthew yet, we find it in Luke and John (Luke 6:22; John 9:22; 12:42; 16:2). The gospels of Luke and John no longer mention flogging in synagogues.

The gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke are called the synoptic gospels, which means that their view is the same. In these gospels, the opponents of Jesus are the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians. In the gospel of John, the opponents of Jesus are the Jews. To call the opponents of Jesus in general as Jews was not possible before Christianity turned to other nations and separated from Judaism. Jesus instructs “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28:19, but in reality the turn to other nations was an innovation which many disagreed with:

Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:1-3)

The author of the gospel of John argues with Jews as a unit that didn’t accept Jesus. He chimes in with the end of Luke’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). While Luke puts up with the parable, John employs a miracle – Lazarus really goes to the Jews (John 11:1-44).

The resurrection of Lazarus, though it is the greatest miracle of Jesus, is not mentioned by the synoptics. To give it credibility, John 11:1-2 gathers known characters: The woman who anointed Jesus at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper (Mark 14:3-9 - Matthew 26:6-13) is combined with the woman in the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7:36-50) and identified with Mary, whose sister was Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

Only the gospel of John says what Jesus was doing in Judea before John the Baptist was arrested (John 3:22-24). It is likely that Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist. That would be a reason for the synoptics to be silent about the phase when both John the Baptist and Jesus were baptizing.

The gospel of John puts the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ activity (John 2:13-16), while the other gospels have it at the end (Mark 11:15-17 - Matthew 21:12-13 - Luke 19:45-46). Did Jesus cleanse the temple twice? Apparently only once, because it is followed by this sequence of parallels:

Jesus Counsels Nicodemus by William Hole
And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” (Mark 11:27-28) So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” (John 2:18)
“But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:32-33)But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people (John 2:24)
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, ... (Mark 12:13-15)and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, ...” (John 2:25-3:2)
Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God. (John 16:30)

The gospel of John works with a character called “that disciple whom Jesus loved”, creating an impression that it is the author himself. The disciple whom Jesus loved runs together with Peter towards the tomb and their behavior has a symbolic meaning – Peter represents the power hierarchy of the church (John 20:2-10). At the last supper, when Peter wants to ask Jesus, he motions to that disciple whom Jesus loved and uses him as a mediator (John 13:23-25). The unnamed disciple is reminded before Peter’s denial (John 18:15-16) and in contrast to Peter he stands under the cross (John 19:26-27). Also at the encounter with the risen Jesus in Galilee, that disciple whom Jesus loved is associated with Peter (John 21:1-24). One of John the Baptist’s disciples who come over to Jesus is left unnamed while the apostle Peter is being called secondarily through his brother Andrew (John 1:35-42). Only the gospel of John associates the name Simon with Judas Iscariot (John 6:71; 13:2; 13:26).

Mark 3:16-17; 5:37; 9:2; 14:33 introduces Peter and the Zebedee brothers James and John as the closest disciples of Jesus. Luke puts John before James (Luke 8:51; 9:28; Acts 1:13) and describes what Peter and John were doing together (Luke 22:8; Acts 3:1-4:23; 8:14-17).

In the gospel of John, the only mention of the sons of Zebedee is in the final chapter, which pretends to be appended after the author’s death (John 21:2). The silence about James and John contrasts with the mentions of Andrew and Philip (John 1:40-48; 6:5-8; 12:21-22; 14:8-9), who, together with James and John, are at the beginning of the list of the apostles (Mark 3:16-18 - Matthew 10:2-3 - Luke 6:14 - Acts 1:13), and of Thomas (John 11:16; 14:5; 20:24-28; 21:2), who is joined to Philip in the last list Acts 1:13.

So it is really likely that the gospel of John was already written with the unnamed disciple being John.

Jan Slovan