Friday, May 26, 2017

Exploring The Style Of Matthew In Light Of The Synoptic Problem (Part 2)

Part 1 is available here.

TWH: So, in the previous post, Antonio explored an event in Jesus' ministry that is found in each of the Synoptic Gospels. When an event is found in three texts, we call them "triple tradition" accounts. By the way, if an event was only included in two of the Gospels, they'd be called "double tradition," and if only in one, "single tradition." We need to step back and think about some of the conclusions that Antonio makes though. He begins with the assertion that Mark is the first Gospel that was written, or rather the first among the four canonical Gospels. I disagree. I argue, based on as much (and in my opinion stronger) evidence, that Matthew was the first Gospel written. My position is that Matthew wrote the Gospel down, but it was very much the Gospel of the apostles. We need to understand just how much one's position on the origin of the Gospels affects his or her conclusions in other matters, and this includes the style of Matthew.

I agree with Antonio when he says, referring to Matt. 8:14–15 and parallel passages in Mark and Luke, "It becomes obvious that each tells the same story, but each does so maintaining his own style." When he discusses what happens to this passage though, Antonio argues that Matthew has cleaned up the account. He's removed any distractions, and he's provided a personal encounter between Jesus and the woman. I'm in agreement with the latter point, namely that Matthew creates a personal encounter between Jesus and the woman, but saying Jesus removed any distractions to do so hinges on the presupposition that Mark wrote first. If Mark did write first, okay, then it looks like Matthew pruned the passage and presented the account in a manner that was different than what actually occurred. In this line of thinking, Mathew took away.

But what if Matthew wrote first? What would that tell us about the style? Well, first of all, we'd be able to make a huge observation about the Gospel of Mark. Peter, who I believe is the Gospel's source and author, expanded the details that were included in Matthew in his preaching in Rome. When we study the Gospels, looking at parallel passages is important to give us the fullest picture of what occurred. If we just looked at the Gospel of Matthew, for example, we might be tempted to stress a point that is actually nowhere in the text. In Matt. 8:14–15, Jesus comes to Peter’s home, sees Peter’s mother-in-law, and touches her hand. Warren Carter makes this observation: “[Peter’s mother-in-law] does not speak. Having noticed her need, Jesus initiates her healing” (Matthew and the Margins: A Socio-Political and Religious Reading [New York: T&T Clark International, 2004], 205; for another example, see David L. Turner, Matthew, BECNT [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008], 234). Jesus does not initiate her healing, though. He knew what he was going to do before he arrived, certainly, but he did not initiate the healing. He waited until the disciples interceded on behalf of Peter’s mother-in-law. Matthew, by the way, does not mention the request made by the disciples. Does this tell us anything about Matthew's style though? In my opinion, the reason for why these details were left out in Matthew are explained by the breadth of Jesus' ministry covered in that Gospel, especially the attention given to Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, the parables, and the Olivet Discourse. So, is it accurate in the passage selected by Antonio at random to say that Matthew reduced the number of words found in Mark. In my opinion, no, but it all depends on what you think about the origin and dependency of the Gospels. It is interesting, though, how Matthew is consistent throughout his Gospel, which Antonio points out. Certain details surrounding events are usually left out so that miracle stories tend to move from need to encounter with Jesus. The Gospels written after Matthew are the ones that fill in the details.

Antonio mentioned that the narrative content is less semitic in Matthew, though the teachings of Jesus do include semitisms. Of this, I'm not sure. I need to think about it a little bit and do some further study. It is interesting though. If that's the case, it raises a number of questions, especially since I would expect that to be true of Mark (Peter's preaching in Rome, depending on the audience) and especially of Luke.

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