Bible Contradictions Bible Textual Integrity The Bible

Cor­rec­tion of Mark by Matthew and Luke

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Bib­li­cal schol­ars agree almost uni­ver­sal­ly that Mark is our ear­li­est gospel which was lat­er used by Matthew and Luke as a major source. As Matthew and Luke used Mark, they made cer­tain changes and alter­ations to its accounts. The alter­ations range from improv­ing Mark’s gram­mar, smooth­ing Mark’s neg­a­tive por­tray­al of the apos­tles, chang­ing the order of events, enhanc­ing Mark’s image of Jesus, expand­ing Mar­can sto­ries, and edit­ing Mark in cer­tain oth­er ways. Thus, Matthew and Luke cor­rect­ed Mark since they did not find Mark to be an alto­geth­er sat­is­fac­to­ry account. That Matthew and Luke made a vari­ety of changes to Mar­can sto­ries is no longer a con­tro­ver­sial issue and vir­tu­al­ly all schol­ars acknowl­edge Matthew and Luke’s use of Mark. The dif­fer­ent types of cor­rec­tions and adap­tions of Mark’s sto­ries by Matthew and Luke can be clear­ly seen when sim­i­lar sto­ries between the three are com­pared with one another.

Ran­del Helms writes :

All things con­sid­ered, then, Mark does not begin his sto­ry of Jesus very sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly. Indeed, with­in two or three decades of Mark’s com­ple­tion, there were at least two, and per­haps three, dif­fer­ent writ­ers (or Chris­t­ian groups) who felt the need to pro­duce an expand­ed and cor­rect­ed ver­sion. Viewed from their pre­spec­tive, the Gospel of Mark has some major short­com­ings : It con­tains no birth nar­ra­tive ; it implies that Jesus, a repen­tant sin­ner, became the Son of God only at his bap­tism ; it recounts no res­ur­rec­tion nar­ra­tives appear­ances ; and it ends with the very unsat­is­fac­to­ry notion that the women who found the Emp­ty Tomb were too afraid to speak to any­one about it. More­over, Mark includes very lit­tle of Jesus’ teach­ings ; worse yet, (from Matthew’s point of view) he even mis­un­der­stood total­ly the pur­pose of Jesus’ use of para­bles. Indeed, by the last two decades of the first cen­tu­ry, Mark’s the­ol­o­gy seemed already old-fash­ioned and even slight­ly sug­ges­tive of heresy. So, work­ing appar­ent­ly with­out knowl­edge of each oth­er, with­in per­haps twen­ty or thir­ty years after Mark, two authors (or Chris­t­ian groups), now known to us a Matthew” and Luke” (and even a third, in the view of some — John”) set about rewrit­ing and cor­rect­ing the first unsat­is­fac­to­ryGospel.Randel Helms, Gospel Fic­tions, p. 34

The late emi­nent Catholic schol­ar, Ray­mond Brown, wrote :

nei­ther evan­ge­list liked Mark­s’s redun­dan­cies, awk­ward Greek expres­sions, uncom­pli­men­ta­ry pre­sen­ta­tion of the dis­ci­ples and Mary, and embar­rass­ing state­ments about Jesus. When using Mark, both expand­ed the Markan accounts in the light of post-res­ur­rec­tion­al faith.Ray­mond E. Brown, S.S, An Intro­duc­tion To The New Tes­ta­ment (The Anchor Bible Ref­er­ence Library, 1997, Dou­ble­day), p. 115

The fact that Matthew and Luke freely altered and cor­rect­ed” Mark strong­ly sug­gests that they did not con­sid­er it to be invi­o­lable inspired scrip­ture”, as Al-A’za­mi cor­rect­ly notes :

The ear­li­est gospel, Mark, was scav­enged as source mate­r­i­al by the lat­er authors of Matthew and Luke, who altered, omit­ted, and abbre­vi­at­ed many of Mark’s sto­ries. Such treat­ment would nev­er have tak­en place had they thought that Mark was inspired by God, or that his words were the unqual­i­fied truth.Muham­mad Mustafa Al‑A?zami, The His­to­ry Of The Qur?anic Text From Rev­e­la­tion To Com­pi­la­tion : A Com­par­a­tive Study with the Old and New Tes­ta­ments (2003, UK Islam­ic Acad­e­my, Leices­ter, Eng­land), p. 282

If Matthew and Luke did deem Mark to be the inerrant inspired” word of God, or Scrip­ture,” then why did they make such adap­ta­tions to its stories ?

A study of these gospels shows that Matthew and Luke made a num­ber of changes to Mark. They cor­rect­ed Mark’s poor Greek and gram­mat­i­cal errors, cor­rect­ed what they per­ceived to be errors with­in Mark, changed the sequence of the sto­ries with­in Mark and even edit­ed the sto­ries them­selves — in both major and minor ways. This is not how one is expect­ed to treat an inspired, inerrant Scrip­ture,” or the word of God.” Since Matthew and Luke freely made use of Mark and cor­rect­ed its con­tents, that log­i­cal­ly implies that they believed Mark to con­tain errors and mis­takes and thus did not view it as invi­o­lable Scrip­ture.”

So when the mod­ern-day Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies and apol­o­gists deny the pres­ence of errors and mis­takes with­in Mark, they are actu­al­ly oppos­ing the beliefs of the authors of Matthew and Luke, who, after­all, corrected/​edited Mar­can sto­ries in a vari­ety of ways. Amaz­ing­ly, Chris­tians also believe that the authors of Matthew and Luke were inspired,” if so, should Chris­tians not then fol­low their inspired” belief — that Mark was not inspired” and need­ed editing/​correcting ? If Chris­tians tru­ly believe that Matthew and Luke were inspired” authors and writ­ing the very words of God,” then they should log­i­cal­ly con­clude that Mark is not inspired” and is an inad­e­quate doc­u­ment for con­tain­ing defe­cien­cies, which Matthew and Luke, of course, tried to wash away as best they could. How­ev­er, if Chris­tians con­tin­ue to believe that the gospel of Mark is inerrant,” Scrip­ture,” and inspired,” then they only end up oppos­ing the views and beliefs of Matthew and Luke.

After quot­ing Mark 1:2 – 3, Helms com­ments upon one of Mark’s glar­ing error :

Mark uncrit­i­cal­ly used an already-com­posed account of John the Bap­tist (whether writ­ten or oral is unclear), which was, in a remark­ably free fash­ion, based on the Old Tes­ta­ment. Typ­i­cal­ly, Mark did not con­sult direct­ly the text of Isa­iah, for he is clear­ly unaware that half his quo­ta­tion, sup­pos­ed­ly from Isa. 40:3, is not from Isa­iah at all, but is a mis­quo­ta­tion of Malachi 3:1, which actu­al­ly reads, I am send­ing my mes­sen­ger who will clear a path before me.” Mark’s source has used Malachi as a basis for an inter­pre­ta­tion of John the Bap­tist, changed Malachi to suit his needs, and com­posed in the process a piece of the­o­log­i­cal fic­tion. The ascrip­tion to Malachi prob­a­bly dropped out dur­ing the oral trans­mis­sion (or through scrib­al care­less­ness), and Mark uncrit­i­cal­ly repeat­ed the error.Helms, op. cit., p. 29

Here is what Mark 1:1 – 3 states :

    Mar 1:1 Begin­ning of the glad tid­ings of Jesus Christ, Son of God ;
    Mar 1:2 as it is writ­ten in [Isa­iah] the prophet, Behold, I send my mes­sen­ger before thy face, who shall pre­pare thy way.
    Mar 1:3 Voice of one cry­ing in the wilder­ness, Pre­pare the way of [the] Lord, make his paths straight.Mark 1:1 – 3, J.N.Darby Trans­la­tion 1890
    Mar 1:1 The begin­ning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
    Mar 1:2 As it is writ­ten in Isa­iah the prophet, Behold, I send my mes­sen­ger before thy face, who shall pre­pare thy way ;
    Mar 1:3 the voice of one cry­ing in the wilder­ness : Pre­pare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight – Mark 1:1 – 3, Revised Stan­dard Ver­sion 19471952
    Mar 1:1 The begin­ning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
    Mar 1:2 Even as it is writ­ten in Isa­iah the prophet, Behold, I send my mes­sen­ger before thy face, Who shall pre­pare thy way.
    Mar 1:3 The voice of one cry­ing in the wilder­ness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight ;Mark 1:1 – 3, Amer­i­can Stan­dard Ver­sion 1901
    Mar 1:1 The begin­ning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
    Mar 1:2 As it is writ­ten in Isa­iah the prophet : BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY ;

What were the Chris­t­ian scribes to do when they were faced with the above fac­tu­al error in the inspired” words of the gospel accord­ing to Mark ? Mod­ern day apol­o­gists are more than hap­py to offer con­vo­lut­ed answers” to resolve the dif­fi­cul­ties, but not so the ear­ly Chris­t­ian scribes. Instead of going through all the trou­ble, they sim­ply cor­rect­ed this fac­tu­al error them­selves, dis­re­gard­ing the sacred­ness of the Mar­can text.

In the lat­est edi­tion of Met­zger’s clas­si­cal stan­dard text book on the tex­tu­al crit­i­cism of the New Tes­ta­ment, we read (Greek sen­tences removed):

In the ear­li­est man­u­scripts of Mark 1.2, the com­pos­ite quo­ta­tion from Malachi (3.1) and from Isa­iah (40.3) is intro­duced by the for­mu­la As it is writ­ten in Isa­iah the prophet.” Lat­er scribes, sens­ing that this involves a dif­fi­cul­ty, replaced … with the gen­er­al state­ment…Bruce M. Met­zger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : Its Trans­mis­sion, Cor­rup­tion, and Restora­tion, Fourth Edi­tion, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2005, p. 264

Sim­i­lar­ly, the Alands write :

The quo­ta­tion is actu­al­ly a com­pos­ite from mul­ti­ple sources, so that in the man­u­script tra­di­tion we find the cor­rec­tion Kurt Aland, Bar­bara Aland, The Text of the New Tes­ta­ment : An Intro­duc­tion to the Crit­i­cal Edi­tions and to the The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Mod­ern Tex­tu­al Crit­i­cism, 1989, Sec­ond Edi­tion, William B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny Grand Rapids, Michi­ganp. 290

And only God knows best.Endmark


  1. js, the actu­al fact is that all schol­ars, includ­ing con­ser­v­a­tive and evan­gel­i­cal schol­ars in gen­er­al, agree almost uni­ver­sal­ly that Mark is the ear­li­est gospel which was lat­er used as a source by the authors of Matthew and Luke for the com­po­si­tion of their own gospels. Why do you think this is the sit­u­a­tion if it was a fact” that Luke and Matthew were com­plet­ed before Mark ?

  2. The fact is Matthew was actu­al­ly com­plet­ed before Mark and so was Luke and I don’t know if you actu­al­ly read a bible while writ­ing this, the point about the quote in Isa­iah not being in Isa­iah is a lie and to be hon­est a fee­ble attempt to dis­cred­it the inspired word of Jeho­vah God see­ing as how the Old tes­ta­ment is writ­ten in Hebrew and the New in Greek. So nice try but I do believe you will have to come again with a lit­tle more substance.

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