Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Exploring The Style Of Matthew In Light Of The Synoptic Problem (Part 1)

The following is taken from The Study of the New Testament: A Comprehensive Introduction by Antonio Piñero and Jesús Peláez, published by Deo in 2003. David E. Orton and Paul Ellingworth provided the translation for that volume, here modified for the blog.

AP: The focus of our attention in this post is going to be the style of the author of the Gospel of Matthew. To glean some insights into his style, it seems appropriate to illustrate what's going on by examining a triple-tradition account, in this case, Matt. 8:14–15 and the parallel accounts in Mark (1:28–31) and Luke (4:38–39):
Matt. 8:14–15: "When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her. Then she got up and began to wait on him."
Mark 1:29–31: "As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her by the hand, and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them." 
Luke 4:38–39: "Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he leaned over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She immediately got up and began to wait on them." 
When we view these texts in connection to each other, it becomes obvious that each tells the same story, but each does so maintaining his own style. If we count up the words that appear in the Greek text, we find the following: 30 words in Matthew, 44 in Mark, and 38 in Luke.

Let's just compare Matthew to Mark. This will uncover a number of characteristics of Matthew's style. Matthew significantly reduces the number of words in Mark. I should point out that I adopt the view known as Marcan Priority. I mention that because Thomas does not. He holds a position known as Matthean Priority. I believe Matthew used Mark, and Thomas, that Mark used Matthew. Okay, back to the analysis. This reduction in lexemes in Matthew creates a sober, elevated, and even grandiose style. He narrates what he considers essential, eliminating secondary circumstances or characters that may distract the reader (e.g., the mention of Andrew, James, and John). Matthew has put his narrative together to present a direct and personal encounter between Jesus and the patient. In Matthew, no one appears to have informed Jesus about her sickness. There are no intermediaries between Peter's mother-in-law and Jesus. It is Jesus who takes the initiative.

Matthew applies the same stylistic technique not only to the other miracle accounts in his Gospel, but to the whole Gospel in general. His is more concise and polished than that of Mark and Luke.

Regarding the language, if we compare it to Mark and Q, Matthew's Greek less semitizing and less popular, though––especially when it comes to the actual discourses of Jesus––we do find more semitisms.

Matthew makes numerous stylistic corrections to Mark's text, including the logia of Jesus. He avoids the term κράβαττος (Mark 2:4, 9, 11, 12), eliminates βοανηργές (Mark 3:17), ταλιθα κουμ (Mark 5:41), κορβᾶν (Mark 7:11), ἀββᾶ (Mark 14:36). In place of τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων (Mark 3:28), Matthew writes τοῖς ἀνθρώποις. For ἔσονται πίπτοντες (Mark 13:25), we find the elegant πεσοῦνται. Some instances of καί disappear, substituted by τότε or δέ, and in place of two coordinated finite verbs, Matthew writes a participial phrase (ἥψατο καὶ λέγει = ἥψατο λέγων). Very important is the influence of the LXX on Matthew. Besides the forty-three direct quotations, there are at least sixty-five allusions. The number of compounds is not less in Matthew than in Mark. The syntax does not display slips contrary to the spirit of Greek.

In relation to the structure and configuration of his Gospel, Matthew edits a text full of narrative or formal features and schemes that help above all to delimit the small sections of the work, which may be considered, in this sense, repetitive, or perhaps more didactic than the others. In effect, the abundant repetition of formulas and keywords that place the idea of a section or pericope in central position, inclusios in broad and small contexts, the chiastic structures around a center, the use of parallelism and numerous other signals that are found scattered through the Gospel as a whole, are valid structuring elements of the lesser units of the text, not thus of its structure, so that the most varied suggestions have been made.

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