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Matthew's Use of Mark: Did Matthew Intend to Supplement or to Replace His Primary Source?*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2011

David C. Sim
School of Theology/Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University, Locked Bag 4115, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065, Australia. email:


Most scholars acknowledge Matthew's debt to Mark in the composition of his own Gospel, and they are fully aware of his extensive redaction and expansion of this major source. Yet few scholars pose what is an obvious question that arises from these points: What was Matthew's intention for Mark once he had composed and circulated his own revised and enlarged account of Jesus' mission? Did he intend to supplement Mark, in which case he wished his readers to continue to consult Mark as well as his own narrative, or was it his intention to replace the earlier Gospel? It is argued in this study that the evidence suggests that Matthew viewed Mark as seriously flawed, and that he wrote his own Gospel to replace the inadequate Marcan account.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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1 The major dissenting voices are from the proponents of the neo-Griesbach or Two Gospel Hypothesis. This theory, which has its origins in the eighteenth century, holds that Matthew was written first, that Luke made use of Matthew, and then Mark both abbreviated and conflated these two Gospels. The classic defence of this hypothesis in modern times is that of Farmer, W. R., The Synoptic Problem: A Critical Analysis (Dillsboro: Western North Carolina, 2d ed. 1976)Google Scholar. See too his later The Gospel of Jesus: The Pastoral Relevance of the Synoptic Problem (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994)Google Scholar. The neo-Griesbach Hypothesis has found a number of adherents over the past few decades, but it has been most vigorously defended in recent times by a number of Farmer's former students. See in particular McNicol, A. J., ed., with Dungan, D. L. and Peabody, D. B., Beyond the Q Impasse: Luke's Use of Matthew (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1996)Google Scholar, and Peabody, D. B., ed., with Cope, L. and McNicol, A. J., One Gospel From Two: Mark's Use of Matthew and Luke (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2002)Google Scholar.

2 For an early statement of this view, see Farrer, A. M., ‘On Dispensing with Q’, Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R. H. Lightfoot (ed. Nineham, D. E.; Oxford: Blackwell, 1959) 5588Google Scholar. Farrer's hypothesis was extensively reproduced, defended and extended in the many works of M. D. Goulder. Goulder's major contribution to Matthean studies is his Midrash and Lection in Matthew (London: SPCK, 1974)Google Scholar, which deals with Matthew's expansion of Mark without recourse to the Q hypothesis. In recent times the major defender of this view has been M. Goodacre, who rejects some of Goulder's more exotic views but still accepts the general principle that Matthew used Mark while Luke knew both of these texts. See Goodacre, M., Goulder and the Gospels: An Examination of a New Paradigm (JSNTSup 133; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1996)Google Scholar; Goodacre, , The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze (TBS 80; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2001)Google Scholar; Goodacre, , The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem (Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 2002)Google Scholar. Cf. too Goodacre, M. and Perrin, N., eds., Questioning Q (London: SPCK, 2004)Google Scholar.

3 Beaton, R. C., ‘How Matthew Writes’, The Written Gospel (ed. Bockmuehl, M. and Hagner, D. A.; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2005) 116–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar (120).

4 See Allen, W. C., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to S. Matthew (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2d ed. 1907) xiiixviiGoogle Scholar. Cf. too Beaton, ‘How Matthew Writes’, 120 n. 26, and Davies, W. D. and Allison, D. C., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew (ICC; 3 vols.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988, 1991, 1997)Google Scholar 1.100-103. Other scholars posit that Matthew began to follow Mark's order without deviation even earlier than 14.1. U. Luz contends that this begins at 12.1; see Luz, U., Matthew 1–7: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, rev. ed. 2007)Google Scholar 4.

5 See the discussion of Mark/Q overlaps in Streeter, B. H., The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins (London: Macmillan, 1924) 186–91Google Scholar.

6 For a thorough analysis of this topic, see Streeter, Four Gospels, 169–72. Cf. too Nolland, J., The Gospel of Matthew (NIGTC; Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2005)Google Scholar 10.

7 Streeter, Four Gospels, 151. Cf. too Hagner, D. A., Matthew 1–13 (WBC 33A; Dallas: Word, 1993)Google Scholar xlvii; Witherington, B., Matthew (SHBC; Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2006)Google Scholar 3, and Turner, D. L., Matthew (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008)Google Scholar 13. Beaton, ‘How Matthew Writes’, 120, prefers the slightly lower figure of 80%. So too Brown, R. E., An Introduction to the New Testament (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1997)Google Scholar 111.

8 See the definitive discussion in Allen, Matthew, xix-xxxi.

9 Streeter, Four Gospels, 159. In general agreement with Streeter are Witherington, Matthew, 3; Turner, Matthew, 13, and Honoré, A. M., ‘A Statistical Study of the Synoptic Problem’, The Synoptic Problem and Q: Selected Studies from Novum Testamentum (ed. Orton, D. E.; Leiden: Brill, 1999) 70122 (111–15)Google Scholar. D. Baum also concurs with a figure of 50%, but he notes that Matthew is not consistent in his retention of Marcan wording. In some traditions the verbal agreement is high, while in others it is much lower. See his ‘Matthew's Sources: Written or Oral? A Rabbinic Analogy and Empirical Insights’, Built Upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew (ed. Gurtner, D. M. and Nolland, J.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008) 123Google Scholar (2–5). Other scholars calculate a much higher percentage. Tyson, J. B. and Longstaff, T. W., Synoptic Abstract (The Computer Bible 15; Wooster: College of Wooster, 1978) 169–71Google Scholar, estimate that Matthew has taken over as much as 97% of Mark's wording. That high percentage is based upon their calculation that Matthew adopted all but 304 of Mark's 11,025 words. Similar views are presented by Stein, R. H., Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2d ed. 2001) 50–2Google Scholar, and Carson, D. A. and Moo, D. J., An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005)Google Scholar 96. According to Beaton, ‘How Matthew Writes’, 120 n. 25, Matthew adopted 73% of Mark's words. This percentage is reached on the basis of Beaton's estimation that Matthew reproduced 8,555 of the 11,708 words in Mark. These much higher percentages reflect different approaches to the phenomenon in question. See Honoré, ‘Statistical Study’, 71–3.

10 So Hagner, D. A., Matthew 14–28 (WBC 33B; Dallas: Word, 1995) 463–4Google Scholar.

11 See Allen, Matthew, xxxi-xxxiii for full discussion of this aspect of Matthew's redaction.

12 For detailed analyses of the Torah in Mark's Gospel, see Loader, W. R. G., Jesus' Attitude Toward the Law: A Study of the Gospels (WUNT 2/97; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997) 9136Google Scholar, and more recently, Repschinski, B., Nicht aufzulösen, sondern zu erfüllen: Das jüdische Gesetz in den synoptischen Jesuserzählungen (FzB 120; Würzburg: Echter, 2009) 143216Google Scholar.

13 See the analyses in Loader, Jesus' Attitude Toward the Law, 137–272, and Repschinski, Nicht aufzulösen, sondern zu erfüllen, 57–141.

14 See Sim, D. C., The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community (SNTW; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1998) 132–5Google Scholar.

15 Hagner, Matthew 1–13, lxiv, and Beaton, ‘How Matthew Writes’, 122–3. See too the recent discussion of this theme in O'Leary, A. M., Matthew's Judaization of Mark: Examined in the Context of the Use of Sources in Graeco-Roman Antiquity (LNTS 323; London: T&T Clark International, 2006)Google Scholar.

16 See especially Luz, U., Studies in Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005) 1928Google Scholar. Cf. too Beaton, ‘How Matthew Writes’, 123–34, and Hagner, Matthew 1–13, lxv-lxxi.

17 For a thorough analysis of this theme, see Overman, J. A., Matthew's Gospel and Formative Judaism: The Social World of the Matthean Community (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990)Google Scholar, and, more recently, Repschinski, B., The Controversy Stories in the Gospel of Matthew: Their Redaction, Form and Relevance for the Relationship Between the Matthean Community and Formative Judaism (FRLANT 189; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

18 On this Matthean theme, see Sim, D. C., Apocalyptic Eschatology in the Gospel of Matthew (SNTSMS 88; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19 Stanton, G. N., ‘The Fourfold Gospel’, NTS 43 (1997) 317–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar (341); Bauckham, R., ‘For Whom Were Gospels Written?’, The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences (ed. Bauckham, R.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 948Google Scholar (13).

20 Luz, Studies in Matthew, 35 (original emphasis).

21 Stanton, ‘Fourfold Gospel’, 341.

22 Riches, J. K., Conflicting Mythologies: Identity Formation in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew (SNTW; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2000)Google Scholar 305. Cf. too Hill, D., The Gospel of Matthew (NCBC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972)Google Scholar 30.

23 Hagner, Matthew 1–13, lx.

24 Beaton, ‘How Matthew Writes’, 120.

25 Meier, J. P., ‘Antioch’, Brown, R. E. and Meier, J. P., Antioch and Rome (New York: Paulist, 1983) 1286Google Scholar (51–2). Similarly Luz, Matthew 1–7, 50.

26 Luz, Matthew 1–7, 41.

27 Luz, Studies in Matthew, 24, 28.

28 Luz, Matthew 1–7, 42.

29 See Sim, Matthew and Christian Judaism, 79–103. For a more recent and more detailed analysis, see Elmer, I. J., Paul, Jerusalem and the Judaisers: The Galatian Crisis in its Broader Historical Context (WUNT 2/258; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009)Google Scholar.

30 Sim, Matthew and Christian Judaism, 172–81, 272–82.

31 See Painter, J., Mark's Gospel: Worlds in Conflict (NTR; London: Routledge, 1997) 46Google Scholar; Telford, W. R., The Theology of the Gospel of Mark (NTT; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1999) 164–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Marcus, J., Mark 1–8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 27; New York: Doubleday, 2000) 73–5Google Scholar; Marcus, , ‘Mark—Interpreter of Paul’, NTS 46 (2000) 473–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Svartvik, J., Mark and Mission: Mark 7:1–23 in Its Narrative and Historical Contexts (CBNTS 32; Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell, 2000) 344–7Google Scholar; Svartvik, , ‘Matthew and Mark’, Matthew and His Christian Contemporaries (ed. Sim, D. C. and Repschinski, B.; LNTS 333; London: T&T Clark International, 2008), 2749Google Scholar (30–4), and Donahue, J. R. and Harrington, D. J., The Gospel of Mark (SP 2; Collegeville: Liturgical, 2002) 3940Google Scholar.

32 See the list of agreements in Marcus, Mark 1–8, 74.

33 On this point, see D. C. Sim, ‘Matthew and Jesus of Nazareth’, in Sim and Repschinski, Matthew and His Christian Contemporaries, 155–72 (156–7).

34 Sim, Matthew and Christian Judaism, 188–90, 192–4. See too Crossan, J. D., ‘Mark and the Relatives of Jesus’, NovT 15 (1973) 82105Google Scholar; Trocmé, E., The Formation of the Gospel according to Mark (London: SPCK, 1975) 120–37Google Scholar, and Tyson, J. B., ‘The Blindness of the Disciples in Mark’, The Messianic Secret (ed. Tuckett, C. M.; IRT 1; London: SPCK, 1983) 3543Google Scholar.

35 Sim, Matthew and Christian Judaism, 207–09. Cf. too Sim, ‘Paul and Matthew on the Torah: Theory and Practice’, Paul, Grace and Freedom: Essays in Honour of John K. Riches (ed. Middleton, P., Paddison, A. and Wenell, K.; London: T&T Clark International, 2009) 5064Google Scholar. For other comparisons of the Torah in Matthean and Pauline thought, see Mohrlang, R., Matthew and Paul: A Comparison of Ethical Perspectives (SNTSMS 48; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1984) 747CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and D. J. Harrington, ‘Matthew and Paul’, Matthew and His Christian Contemporaries (ed. Sim and Repschinski) 11–26 (15–18).

36 Sim, D. C., ‘Matthew, Paul and the Origin and Nature of the Gentile Mission: The Great Commission in Matthew 28:16–20 as an Anti-Pauline Tradition’, Hervormde Teologiese Studies 64 (2008) 377–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

37 Sim, Matthew and Christian Judaism, 190–2, 194–9.

38 See Sim, Matthew and Christian Judaism, 188–211; ‘Paul and Matthew on the Torah’; ‘Matthew, Paul, and the Origin and Nature of the Gentile Mission’; Matthew's Anti-Paulinism: A Neglected Feature of Matthean Studies’, Hervormde Teologiese Studies 58 (2002) 767–83Google Scholar; Matthew 7.21–23: Further Evidence of Its Anti-Pauline Perspective’, NTS 53 (2007) 325–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Matthew and the Pauline Corpus: A Preliminary Intertextual Study’, JSNT 31 (2009) 401–22Google Scholar. For further support of this hypothesis, see Catchpole, D., Resurrection People: Studies in the Resurrection Narratives of the Gospels (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2000) 4362Google Scholar; Theissen, G., ‘Kirche oder Sekte?: Über Einheit und Konflikt in frühen Urchristentum’, Theologie und Gegenwart 48 (2005) 126–75Google Scholar (170–2); Theissen, , ‘Kritik an Paulus im Matthäusevangelium? Von der Kunst verdeckter Polemik im Urchristentum’, Polemik im Neuen Testament. Texte, Themen, Gattungen und Kontexte (ed. Wischmeyer, O. and Scornaienchi, L.; BZNW 170; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010) 465–90Google Scholar, and J. Painter, ‘Matthew and John’, Matthew and His Christian Contemporaries (ed. Sim and Repschinski) 66–86 (74–5). Other scholars, however, remain unconvinced. See Harrington, ‘Matthew and Paul’, 24–25; J. Zangenberg, ‘Matthew and James’, Matthew and His Christian Contemporaries (ed. Sim and Repschinski), 104–22 (120), and Willitts, J., ‘The Friendship of Matthew and Paul: A Response to a Recent Trend in the Interpretation of Matthew's Gospel’, Hervormde Teologiese Studies 65 (2009) 18CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

39 For discussion of this point, see Sim, ‘Matthew and Jesus of Nazareth’, 155–72.

40 Whether it was Matthew's intention to replace Mark only in his own setting or right throughout the Christian movement depends upon one's prior view of the intended readers for the Gospels. R. Bauckham has argued that the Gospels were not designed only for local communities but had open-ended readerships in mind. See Bauckham, ‘For Whom Were Gospels Written?’, 9–48. While Bauckham states that his hypothesis is consistent with the view that the later evangelists intended to supplement their Gospel sources or the alternative thesis that they intended to supplant them (39), he himself, as noted earlier, accepts that Matthew intended to replace Mark (13).

41 So Nolland, J., Luke 1–9:20 (WBC 35A; Dallas: Word, 1989) 56Google Scholar, 11–12, and Alexander, L. C. A., The Preface to Luke's Gospel: Literary Convention and Social Context in Luke 1.1–4 and Acts 1.1 (SNTSMS 78; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1993) 115–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 133–6.

42 See, for example, Bovon, F., Luke 1: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1:1–9:50 (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001)Google Scholar 19, and Shellard, B., New Light on Luke: Its Purpose, Sources and Literary Context (JSNTSup 215; London: Sheffield Academic, 2002) 261–2Google Scholar. Cf. too Stanton, ‘Fourfold Gospel’, 342, and Bauckham, ‘For Whom Were Gospels Written?’, 13.

43 Fitzmyer, J. A., The Gospel according to Luke I–IX: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 28; New York: Doubleday, 1981) 291–2Google Scholar.

44 Streeter, Four Gospels, 161–2. Cf. too Creed, J. M., The Gospel according to St. Luke (London: Macmillan, 1930)Google Scholar lviii.

45 See Creed, Luke, lxi-lxii.

46 For further examples, see Creed, Luke, lviii-lix.

47 Streeter, Four Gospels, 160. Brown, Introduction, 263, gives an even lower estimate of 35%.

48 For full discussion, see Schildgen, B. D., Power and Prejudice: The Reception of the Gospel of Mark (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1999) 3581Google Scholar.

49 It is tempting to speculate that the fate of Q could have been analogous to the early demise of Mark. Given the existence of Q as a single and cohesive source or text and its subsequent disappearance from history, there is nothing to preclude the possibility that Matthew and Luke, again independently of one another and for their own individual reasons, believed that this source too needed to be revised and replaced. If that was their intention, then they were more successful in this instance than in the case of Mark. Mark's apostolic connections with Peter prevented it from sliding completely into obscurity, but Q presumably had no such associations to protect it from that fate.

50 See the fascinating historical review of this issue in Smith, D. M., John Among the Gospels: The Relationship in the Twentieth Century (Colombia: University of South Carolina, 2d ed. 2001)Google Scholar.

51 Smith, D. M., ‘John and the Synoptics and the Question of Gospel Genre’, The Four Gospels 1992: Festschrift Frans Neirynck (ed. van Segbroeck, F. et al.; BETL 100; Leuven: Peeters, 1992) 1783–97Google Scholar.

52 See the careful analysis in Kieffer, R., ‘Jean et Marc: Convergences dans la Structure et dans les Details’, John and the Synoptics (ed. Denaux, A.; BETL 101; Leuven: Peeters, 1992) 109–25Google Scholar.

53 R. Schnackenburg, ‘Synoptische und Johanneische Christologie: Ein Vergleich’, The Four Gospels (ed. van Segbroeck et al.) 1723–50.

54 So R. Bauckham, ‘John for Readers of Mark’, The Gospels for All Christians (ed. Bauckham), 147–71, and T. M. Dowell, ‘Why John Rewrote the Synoptics’, John and the Synoptics (ed. Denaux) 453–7.

55 Windisch, H., Johannes und die Synoptiker: Wöllte der vierte Evangelist die älteren Evangelien ergänzen oder ersetzen? (UNT 12; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1926)Google Scholar. In agreement with Windisch is Hengel, M., The Johannine Question (London: SCM, 1989) 193–4Google Scholar n. 8.

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