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The Priority of Mark - Patton's View

This excerpt is taken from Carl S. Patton in Sources of the Synoptic Gospels (London: The Macmillan Company 1915), pp. 13-16.

We add here a brief statement of the theory that Mark's Gospel is an abstract of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Tho this theory is no longer defended, it may be worth while to summarize the more general considerations which have led to its abandonment.

1. It is impossible, upon this theory, to account for the omission by Mark of so much of the material that stood before him in Matthew and Luke. He has omitted most of the parables and sayings. He has added no narrative. He has therefore made an abstract in which much is omitted, nothing is added, and no improvement is introduced. No reason can be assigned for the making of such a Gospel by abstracting from the fuller and better Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The abstract not only adds nothing of its own, but fails to preserve the distinctive character of either of its exemplars.

2. If Mark had wished to make such an abstract, it is impossible to explain why in practically every instance he follows, as between Matthew and Luke, the longer narrative, while his own narrative is longer than either of those he copied. In the story of the healing of the leper, for example, Matthew (viii, 1-4) has 62 words, Luke (v, 12-16, without his introduction) has 87, and Mark (i, 40-45) has 97. In the healing of the paralytic (Mk ii, 1-12; Mt ix, 1-8; Lk v, 17-26) Matthew has 125 words, Luke 93, and Mark 110 (Mk ii, 13-17; Mt ix, 9-13; Lk v, 27-32). In the parable of the Sower (Mk iv, 1-9; Mt xiii, 1-9; Lk viii, 4-8) Matthew has 134 words, Luke 90, and Mark 151. In the interpretation of that parable (Mk iv, 13-20; Mt xiii, 18-23; Lk viii, 11-15) Matthew has 128 words, Luke 109, and Mark 147. Many more such instances might be given. In every case the additional words of Mark contain no substantial addition to the narrative. They are mere redundancies, which Matthew and Luke, each in his own way, have eliminated.

3. Mark contains a large number of otherwise unknown or unliterary words and phrases. For example, scizomenous, i, 10; en pneumati akaqartw, i, 23; krabattoV, ii, 4, and in five other places; epiraptei, ii, 21; qugatrion, v, 23; vii, 25; escatwV ecei, v, 23; spekougatwr, vi, 27; sumposia sumposia, vi, 39; eisin tineV wde twn esthkotwn, ix, 1; eis kata eis, xiv, 19; ekperisswV, xiv, 31. Such expressions might easily have been replaced by Matthew and Luke with the better expressions which they use instead of these; they could hardly have been substituted by Mark for those better expressions.

4. Mark contains many broken or incomplete constructions; as in iii, 16+; iv, 31+; v, 23; vi, 8+; xi, 32; xii, 38-40; xiii, 11, 14, 16, 19; xiv, 49. Such constructions would be easily corrected by Matthew and Luke; they would not easily be inserted into the narratives of Matthew and Luke by Mark.

5. Mark has many double or redundant expressions, of which Matthew has taken a part, Luke sometimes the same part, sometimes another. Such instances may be found in Mark's Gospel at ii, 20, 25; iv, 39; xi, 2; xii, 14; the corresponding passages in Matthew and Luke will show their treatment of these redundancies.

6. Mark uses uniformly kai, where Matthew and Luke have sometimes kai and sometimes de. Mark's use shows him to be nearer the Hebrew or Aramaic. No explanation can be given for his substitution of this monotonous conjunction in the place of the two conjunctions used by Matthew and Luke. The variation in Matthew and Luke of Mark's one conjunction is entirely natural.

7. Mark has many Aramaic words, which he translates into the Greek; see especially iii, 17; v, 41; vii, 11; vii, 34. It would be easy for these to be dropped out by writers making use of Mark's material for Hellenistic readers; but very unnatural for Mark to have inserted these Aramaic words into the Greek texts of Matthew and luke.

8. Mark's narrative thruout is more spirited and vivid than either Matthew's or Luke's. It would be much easier for these graphic touches to be omitted for various reasons by Matthew and Luke, even tho they found these before them in the Gospel of Mark, than for Mark to have added these touches in copying the narratives of Matthew and Luke. One may mention especially the details about the appearance and dress of the Baptist (Mk i, 6); the four men carrying the litter (ii, 3); the statement, "He looked around upon them with wrath, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts" (Mk iii, 5); the names of persons, and their relatives, unknown to the other evangelists, the description of the Gadarene demoniac, the additional details of the conversation between Jesus and the parents of the epileptic boy (ix, 20-24), and many similar items.

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Kirby, Peter. "Greek Reconstruction of 0212." Early Christian Writings. <>.