Interrelationships in versions of a Jesuine saying

by Leolaia 2 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Leolaia

    The sayings of Jesus, as oral formulations that eventually take written form, can differ widely among each other in the gospels. I decided to take one example to study in detail the interrelationships between the recorded forms of the saying so I chose the "True Family" saying that occurs in a wide variety of sayings, and which did not originate in Q. I present the sayings below in their narrative settings and highlighted the different distinctive features of the forms. Then I list below the occurrence of 15 features in the extant sayings:

    "And his mother and his brothers came; standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, 'Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.' And he replied, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.' " (Mark 3:31-35)
    "While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.' " (Matthew 12:46-50)
    "Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, 'Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.' But he said to them, 'My mother and my brothers arethose who hear the word of God and do it.' " (Luke 8:19-21)
    "The disciples said to him, 'Your brothers and your mother are standing outside.' He said to them, 'Those here who do the will of my father are my brothers and my mother. It is they who will enter the Kingdom of my father.' " (Gospel of Thomas 99:1-2)
    "The Savior spoke when it was reported to him: 'Behold, your mother and your brothers stand outside,' namely: 'Who is my mother and who are my brothers?' And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples and said: 'These are my brothers and mothers and sisters, who do the will of my father.' " (Gospel of the Ebionites, 5)
    "For the Lord said, 'My brothers are these who do the will of my Father.' " (2 Clement 9:10-11)

    Distinctive features


    Initial question with "behold": MT, EB
    Initial question with tag ending: MK, MT, LK
    Tag ending of initial question with a verb "asking": MK, MT
    Jesuine saying in two parts: MK, MT, EB
    Jesus stretches out hand: MT, EB
    1st Jesuine sentence is a question: MK, MT, EB
    Jesus answers with deictic "here": MK, MT, TH
    Jesus answers with deictic "these/those": LK, TH, EB, CL
    begins sentence: MK, MT
    brothers / relatives
    < will of my father in final Jesuine sentence: LK, CL
    will of my father
    < brothers/relatives in final Jesuine sentence: MK, MT, TH, EB
    instead of word: MK, MT, TH, EB, CL
    will/word of my father: MT, TH, EB, CL
    added to final sentence: MK, MT, EB
    brother < mother order in final sentence: MK, MT, TH, EB

    Then we can rank pairs of gospels to examine the degree to which they resemble each other in the rendering of the "True Family" saying:

    MT, MK: 10
    MT, EB: 9
    EB, MK: 6
    MT, TH: 5
    TH, EB: 5
    TH, MK: 4
    TH, CL: 3
    EB, CL: 3
    MT, CL: 2
    LK, CL: 2
    MT, LK: 1
    LK, MK: 1
    LK, TH: 1
    LK, EB: 1
    CL, MK: 1

    The result is quite interesting. Matthew and Mark appear to be most closely related in the way they handle this saying. The probable reason for this is that Matthew copied his version of the saying from Mark, altering the narrative setting somewhat but leaving the saying itself mostly unchanged. The next closest similarity is between Matthew and the Gospel of the Ebionites. This is undoubtedly because the Ebionite gospel was a Jewish-Christian version of Matthew, as most church fathers believed. The dependence of the Ebionite gospel on certain unique features of Matthew (such as "behold" and Jesus stretching out his hand) would constitute evidence of this. The strong but less close similarity between the Ebionite gospel and Mark would necessarily follow from the fact that Matthew is dependent on Mark. The rest of the resemblances between the gospels are far less intense and thus likely likely reflect common oral history rather than direct literary dependence. The Gospel of Thomas is closest to both Matthew and the Gospel of the Ebionites. This means that the oral tradition that contributed to this saying in Thomas is closer to that of Matthew (and the Ebionite gospel inspired by it) than Mark and Luke, so Thomas may have known some of the developments that led between Mark and Matthew -- or more likely, developed the saying in a similar manner to Matthew. The citation in 2 Clement is very brief and does not reproduce the narrative context so it cannot be compared to the other gospels in the same way. Still, we may observe that the pseudo-Clementine citation is closest to Thomas and the Ebionite gospel than the other contenders. 2 Clement elsewhere shows dependence on sayings that resemble Thomas more than that of the canonical gospels. Finally, the big surprise is Luke. It shows little similarity to Mark and has either radically reformulated the Markan saying and narrative, or taken the pericope from an independent source. Its formulation however contains some non-Markan features elsewhere found in Thomas and 2 Clement, such as the deictic "these/those" and the use of brothers/relatives < will of my father order. This would suggest indeed that the Lukan saying was derived from an independent source but the narrative context was borrowed from Mark.


  • Narkissos

    Still thinking of Fleddermann and others who hold that actually Mark knew Q, I wonder if the gnomic form of the saying in Luke (// GTh 2Cl) might not be derived from its Q-form. What do you think of this hypothesis generally, and the large expansion of Q it implies?

  • peacefulpete

    and mark's dependence on Matt

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