Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fatigue in keeping time

Fatigue is one of the clues utilized by biblical scholars to determine whether or not one gospel is dependent upon another. Mark Goodacre explains that “Editorial fatigue is a phenomenon that will inevitably occur when a writer is heavily dependent on another's work. In telling the same story as his predecessor, a writer makes changes in the early stages which he is unable to sustain throughout.” Goodacre examined fatigue at the pericope level. However he did not consider fatigue in the larger context.

It is undisputed that the synoptic gospels presents the passion account using Jewish time while the Gospel of John presents the passion account using Roman time. In John 19:14-15, Jesus was before Pilate at about the sixth hour; but in Matthew 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34 and Luke 23:42-46, Jesus was on the cross at the sixth hour. Some scholars assert that the conflict is easily resolved by recognizing John is using Roman time. F.F. Bruce disagrees.

The interesting question is whether the Synoptics consistently presented the gospel narrative using Jewish time. If one or more of the synoptic gospels presented other portion of the gospel narrative using Roman time, would this be an example of editorial fatigue?

The Jewish night was divided into three watches: (Exodus 14:24; Judges 7:19; 1 Samuel 11:11). Under the Roman system, the period from sunrise to sunset had four watches in twelve hours, the sixth hour being at midday. This is the Roman time divisions:
First watch - Sunset To 9 P. M.
Second Watch - 9 P. M. To Midnight
Third Watch - Midnight To 3 A. M.
Fourth Watch - 3 A. M. To Sunrise.

In the “walking on the sea” pericope, Matthew [14:25] and Mark [6:48] both describe the event as occurring during the fourth watch. This story does not appear in Luke but in Lk. 12:38 the Lucan Jesus says: “If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those servants!” The Gospel of Luke does not have any examples of the use of Roman time.

Are Matthew and Mark guilty of editorial fatigue? Were they unable to sustain the use of Roman time throughout their gospel? It is rather easy to demonstrate that both Matthew and Mark have copied the Lucan passion account which we will do so in another article. In doing so Matthew and Mark slipped and switched from Roman time to Jewish time without realizing it.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted © 2011

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Re-dating the NT: Burned their city

John A.T. Robinson begins Chapter 2 of his masterpiece in these words: “ONE of the oddest facts about the New Testament is that what on any showing would appear to be the single most datable and climactic event of the period - the fall of Jerusalem in ad 70, and with it the collapse of institutional Judaism based on the temple - is never once mentioned as a past fact.” It is this statement, established by a detailed analysis, that has caused many scholars to re-visit the dating of the New Testament. However, Robinson did not discuss the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.

Matthew 22:7 reads: The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and ἐνέπρησεν their city. This Greek word for “burned” appears only in Matthew in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet and nowhere else in the New Testament. None of the New Testament accounts note the separate fates of the city and the Temple. In 70 CE, the Roman general Titus destroyed the city of Jerusalem and his legion burned the Temple.

Does Matthew reveal his knowledge of the destruction with his Parable of the Wedding Banquet?

Matthew also uses the word κατακαύσει in the story of John Baptist when he informed his audience that “the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luke likewise uses this Greek word for burn and includes this phrase. Matthew uses κατακαύσει in his telling of the Parable of the Weeds and in its interpretation which are unique to his gospel. Matthew has clearly indicated that the weeds are the evildoers who are to be collected at the end and bind into bundles to be thrown into the fire. Consequently, we should understand the Parable of the Wedding Feast in the same way as the Parable of the Weeds and recognize that Matthew believed that the burning of the Temple represented God’s judgment against the Temple and the temple establishment for its iniquity and wickedness thus revealing his knowledge of the destruction of the city of the city and the Temple.

The inference that Matthew knew the fate of the Temple is weak and therefore does not qualify as a valid one way indicator. The inference is weak because Matthew could have been alluding to Jeremiah 52:13 wherein Jeremiah tells us that the king of Babylon came and “set on fire the house of the Lord.” The first temple and the city were destroyed by fire in 586 B.C.E. Since the Septuagint uses the Greek word ἐνέπρησεν in Jeremiah 52:13 and 11 other books of the LXX, it is not a rare word allusion since ἐνέπρησεν is a common word in the Septuagint but is a hapax in Matthew.

It is examples such as this that confirms the radical proposal of John A.T. Robinson that all of the books of the New Testament should be dated prior to the destruction of the City and Temple in 70 C.E.

Copyrighted © 2011

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Matthew said that “the prophet” predicted that the birthplace of the messiah would be the town of Bethlehem. All agree that Matthew considered the prophecy contained in Micah 5:2 to have been fulfilled with the birth of Jesus. Several verses before the prophecy in Micah, we read about the birth-pangs in Micah 4:9-11 which we quoted in last week’s blog, Dating the Synoptics. Matthew has included both the birth-pangs and the prediction in reverse order with different meaning. Micah, who has the two ideas close together and in correct order, is talking about a new age to be announced by birth pangs. Matthew believes the new age is yet to come.

Matthew has included “For all the prophets and the law prophesized until John” [11:13] and the “birth pangs” [24:8] without recognizing that the new age which Jesus had announced had already begun. Mark has only the “birth pangs” [13:8] In this instance it looks like Matthew used both Luke and Micah as sources.

Matthew is confused. He includes the language in 11:13 which is considered to be parallel to Luke 16:16 and also the birth pangs language of a new age in 24:8. Verse 16 of Luke appears in variant form in Matthew 11:12f and verse 17 in Matthew 5:18 in reverse order with Luke preserving the original wording.

Matthew in chapter 13:14-15 provides another example of the juxtaposition arrangement he has employed. Initially, Matthew introduces Psalm 78:2 in his 13th chapter with a quotation formula that has resulted in considerably scholarly speculation.

“All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet [Isaiah]: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.’” This passage from Matthew 13:34-35 is one of fourteen fulfillment formula quotations appearing in the Gospel of Matthew.

The words, in bold type, follow the Septuagint of Psalm 78. The MT uses the word, “parable.” In the second half of the verse, the Septuagint states: “I will utter dark sayings which have been from the beginning” while the MT states: “I will utter dark sayings of old.” The second half of what Matthew wrote may be based upon these words from Isaiah 29:14 which state: “and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hid."

Although I have included Isaiah in brackets as the prophet who spoke, the Revised Standard Version omits Isaiah. Yet it appears, there is a good basis for including Isaiah in that some of the early manuscripts have included the name. In the transmission, some copyists believing that Matthew was in error, as to who spoke, omitted his name. It is mere speculation but if Matthew intends to allude to Isaiah 29:14, then the ascription to him is done to direct the attention of the reader to this verse from Isaiah.

Neither Luke nor Mark used Psalm 78 in their gospel. Mark does include in 4:33-34, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” However, as Michael Turton has noted, with respect to these verses: “Redactional from the writer of Mark, containing his themes of secrecy. Note the irony of ‘he explained everything to his disciples’ in conjunction with the author's presentation of the Twelve as confused, ignorant, hard-hearted, and anxious for personal aggrandizement. Numerous exegetes have argued that v34 is an insertion (Sellew 1990).”

The theme of secrecy that is present in Mark use to puzzle me. Matthew and Luke (8:10) both include: “To you has been given the secrets of the kingdom of God;” which in Luke continues: “but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’” Mark’s version differs slightly.

Matthew’s continuation in verses 14 and 15 appears to be a quotation from Isaiah 6:9-10. Gundry asserts the quotation is in “exact agreement with Acts [28:26-27], even in the omission of the same word, shows that the quotation has been interpolated from Acts.”

The passage that Luke uses in Acts is a very slightly altered version of Isa. 6:9-10 LXX. The quotation itself agrees with LXX even where the LXX disagrees with the MT.

The exact agreement with Acts 28:26-27 has led some scholars including Gundry to argue that Acts is the source for Matthew while other scholars such as Stendhal “treat the exact agreement and the unusual character of the formula citation as a post-Matthean interpolation.” However there is no manuscript evidence to support the post-Matthean interpolation.

After inserting two verses from Acts 28, Matthew in verses 16 and 17 follows Luke 10:23-24, which would not be obvious but for the fact that Matthew previously copied Acts 28:26-27.

Seven verses later, Luke in 8:17 states: “For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.” Mark in 4:22 includes: “For there is nothing hidden except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.”

Matthew does not have anything comparable. Luke utilized Deuteronomy 30:11 which states: “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it [is] not hidden from thee, neither [is] it far off” and Mark copied it from Luke. Neither Plummer not Bock recognized that Luke utilized Deuteronomy as the source of his allusion.

Mark constructed a secrecy theme contrary to what he wrote in 4:22. The idea of unbelief and obduracy present in the 14:35 quotation in its Matthean context is probably the source of Mark’s secrecy theme. Matthew demonized the crowd which to him represented the Jews who do not believe. Mark demonized the disciples because they did not understand that there no longer was a need to offer sacrifices in the Temple.

Matthew’s use of Micah and Luke in our first example is consistent with our second example in that he has rearranged Acts and Luke in juxtaposition to the material which he found in his sources. More importantly for our purposes, these two examples provide further evidence that Matthew is dependent upon Luke-Acts.

These things are no longer hidden!

Copyrighted © 2011

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Dating the Synoptics

The dating problem should proceed from physical to literary evidence. For instance the earliest fragment of the Gospel of John (John Rylands Papyri, P52) can be dated to 125 C.E. Therefore we can conclude that the Gospel of John must have been written between the resurrection of Jesus and 125 C.E. For the synoptic gospels, no credible statement can be made with respect to the various known fragments. Therefore we must resort to literary considerations.

If an early Church father quoted from a book of the New Testament and that author can be dated conclusively, then we can establish the terminus ad quem. The latest possible date, in this instance is determined by writings that quote, reference or allude to the Synoptic Gospels. The earliest quotations from the New Testament come from an epistle written by Clement of Rome (1st Clement) that quotes from Matthew, Mark and several Pauline epistles. 1st Clement can be dated quite accurately to 95-96 C.E. The author of 2nd Clement clearly alludes to Luke 16:13, a saying which does not appear in Matthew or Mark. 2nd Clement was written between 120 and 140 C.E. Approximately 130 C.E., Marcion extensively modified the Gospel of Luke to his satisfaction. Polycarp of Smyrna wrote his Letter to the Philippians ca. 110-135 C.E. Polycarp quotes, references and alludes to every book of the New Testament. Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.27-71 “is possibly the earliest commentary on Luke-Acts.” This text, according to James M. Scott “can possibly be dated to ca. 100-15, somewhere in the traditional land of Israel.”

Internal quotations, by one New Testament author of another, also provide important clues. A second internal consideration is whether the text makes any reference to a historical event, person, or group. For example, Acts 18:12 places Paul in Corinth when Gallio (51-52 C.E.) was proconsul. Dating an event in the text provides a date after which the text must have been composed, typically referred to by scholars as the terminus ante quam - the point before which a text must have been written - and the terminus post quam - the point after which a text must have been written.

With these principles in mind, consider the following:

25. Luke did not include the verse “False messiahs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect” which appears in Matthew 24:23-25 and Mark 13:21-23 with minor variation; 72. Only Mark includes in his gospel Mk. 11:16: “and he would not allow any one to carry any vessels through the temple”; 84. There are no birth pangs in the Gospel of Luke; 56. The apocalypticism apparent in Matthew and Mark; and 11. Matthew and Mark use the phrase the “abomination of desolation.”

These five examples are datable events. Joel Marcus uses the false messiahs verse as one argument for dating the publication of the Gospel of Mark near the end of the Jewish War. The emergence of false prophets appear to reflect the circumstances from the mid-fifties C.E. to the end of the Jewish War as described by Josephus.
The second datable example is an allusion to the event of 66 C.E. that triggered the revolt. Florus ordered his men to enter the Temple at Jerusalem to remove silver coins to satisfy the tribute obligation owing Rome [BJ 2.300]. The Roman garrison is overrun by rebels who take control of the city and the temple. The daily sacrifices to the Roman Emperor are terminated. This event and the numerous signs and portents recorded by Josephus as occurring at this time elevated apocalyptic tensions. Mark is telling Rome that Jesus will stop the Romans from removing vessels of coins from the Temple.

The third datable example, “birth pangs” require a more detailed explanation. Birth pangs and labor pains signal destruction in sight with new beginnings promised from the ruins of that destruction. According to the War Scroll the final age was to be preceded by a period of tribulation or "birth pangs [of the Messiah]" (1QH 3:7-10), which "shall be a time of salvation for the People of God ..." (1QM 1)(B.C.E.). This 1st statement is best illustrated by three verses from the fourth chapter of Micah where the Prophet states:

9: Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pangs have seized you like a woman in travail?
10: Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail; for now you shall go forth from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued, there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.
11: Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, “Let her be profaned, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.”

With respect to verses 9-11 in Micah, Stephen L. Cook, The Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism, writes: “New life will come for the people only after they have suffered the fall of Jerusalem to their enemies.”

Beginning in the mid-first century, we see the first reference to birth pangs in one of Paul’s earliest letters. In 1 Th. 5:3 we read: “When people say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape.” The emergence of false prophets appear to reflect the circumstances from the mid-fifties CE to the end of the Jewish War as described by Josephus. Both Matthew and Mark include “all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.” The calamities existing at the close of the present age and the beginning of the new age are said to present the birth-pangs of the new age.

The Greek word ἀρχὴ occupies the same role in Matthew and Mark as does the three instances of “now” in Micah. Cook writes: “Each passage begins with the word “now” followed by a vivid description of Jerusalem besieged by enemies. These descriptions of the contemporary suffering of Jerusalem, right “now,” use striking quotes and rhetorical questions, forcing Judah to realize that Jerusalem is vulnerable to defeat.”

But Luke has already announced the birth of the new age. Danker said: “All ceremonial requirement is shattered with this one piece of good news, for even unclean shepherds are welcomed in God’s presence.” I suspect that the title of Danker’s book, Jesus and the New Age, A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, explains why Luke does not include the birth-pangs. For Luke, the new age has already begun. “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”

Matthew and Mark, by including the birth pangs, have postponed the arrival of the new age the beginning of which Jesus had already announced. Matthew and Mark have demonstrated their utter lack of understanding of the good news. This is particularly true with respect to Matthew who included the passage where Herod summoned the chief priests and scribes to ask them where the messiah would be born. Herod was told that the Messiah would be born “In Bethlehem of Judea for so it is written by the prophet.” Matthew has alluded to the Prophet Micah who prophesized in Micah 5:2, four verses after the birth pangs verses quoted above. In our next article, entitled Jutaposition we will discuss this further.

The fourth datable event is the apocalypticism apparent in Matthew and Mark. Judaism, as reflected in the Book of Jubilees and a number of other early Jewish writings, anticipated a period of deep trouble before the arrival of the kingdom of God. This feature appears in Isaiah 26:17, Jeremiah 22:23; Daniel 12:1; Hosea 13:13 and Micah 4:9. These troubles later became known as the “woes of the Messiah.” The calamities attendant upon the close of the present age and the beginning of the new age are identified as “the birth-pangs” of the new age. Matthew and Mark both include “this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.”
The woes, in accord with Jewish teaching, are:
1) wars, earthquakes and famines, “the beginning of travail”;
2) the great tribulation;
3) commotions among the heavenly bodies.

Matthew and Mark introduced a number of passages consistent with the rising tensions of apocalyticism. The image of a people, harassed and helpless without a shepherd, present in Matthew 9:36; 25:32; 26:31; Mark 6:34 and 14:27 is absent from Luke. Consistent with this theme, both Matthew and Mark include “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” Matthew and Mark also added the verse “False messiahs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.”

As Marcus points out, the Gospel of Mark can be understood only against the backdrop of the apocalyptic atmosphere of the Jewish rebellions of 66-73 C.E., during which the Roman army destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem (70 C.E.). In agreement, Theißen stated: “Mark was composed around 70, since the Jewish-Roman war (66-74 C.E.) is clearly reflected in the Gospel.” Der historische Jesus, 43.

The apocalypticism apparent in Matthew and Mark is an event subsequent to publication of Luke and is a product of the emergence of false prophets reflecting the circumstances from the mid-fifties CE to the end of the Jewish War as described by Josephus.

The fifth datable event is the “abomination of desolation.” Many modern scholars conclude that Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 are prophecies vaticinium ex eventu relating to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Matthew and Mark have used a Greek phrase which appears in 1 Macc. 1:54 pointing to the action of Antiochus Epiphanes who set up an altar and sacrificed swine on it around 167 B.C.E. If Matthew and Mark alluded to Maccabees and the conduct of Antiochus Epiphanes, then their prophecies of the “abomination of desolation” must have referred to its desecration by Titus' soldiers in sacrificing to their standards [Josephus, BJ 6.316.]. Whether Matthew and Mark are referring to the desecration by Titus' soldiers or the conduct of Florus or the conduct of the zealots in taking control of the Temple temporarily in 66 and permanently in 68, which Josephus speaks of in terms of its “pollution” (BJ 2.422-5; 4.147-92), is not important to the conclusion that Matthew and Mark are later than Luke.

Luke, because he is writing in the late 30s C.E., has not experienced the banditry, birth pangs, false messiahs and the abomination of desolation. Matthew included the birth pangs using Micah as his source. Matthew and Mark has experienced the banditry, false messiahs and the abomination of desolation and included the birth-pangs in his gospel These are datable events occurring subsequent to the publication of the Gospel of Luke. The followers of Jesus have already experienced new life. The kingdom of God has already arrived for them. They do not have to witness the fall of Jerusalem to experience the beginning of the new age.

Copyrighted 2011

Labels: ,