Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

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!

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