Dependence of Mark upon Matthew

Introduction and index. There are several different lines of evidence all indicating that the Gospel of Mark is, for the most part, secondary to Matthew and dependent upon it. These are pointed out here. The numerous assumptions to the contrary made by Markan priorists are all reversible using plausible arguments, but it would take a book to discuss most of them. Some of them are discussed in A. J. Bellinzoni's The Two-Source Hypothesis: A Critical Appraisal (1985), and others in my book The Problems of New Testament Gospel Origins (1992) and in its references. A refutation of eight key arguments supposedly indicating Markan priority is given here. Of primary interest here, however, is to present the positive evidence and arguments indicating Mark came after Matthew and why they are more plausible than arguments that would try to reverse this conclusion. Although some of the arguments presented in Secs. 3-7 could be reversed to favor Markan priority, they are nevertheless presented to indicate that such reversed forms are themselves reversible.

A relatively brief account of the present hypothesis explaining Matthean priority over Mark is presented under the title of MAH, which stands for Modified Augustine Hypothesis. There, the means are given by which the MAH renders inapplicable or incorrect the assumptions within standard treatments that support Markan priority.

1. The External Evidence
2. Mark's Order Relative to Matthew's
3. Markan Foreknowledge of Matthew
4. Markan Improvements of Matthew's Textual Content
5. Unsuccessful Markan Improvements
6. Markan Reaction to Matthew's Anti-gentile Statements
7. Markan "Fictions & Changes for the Sake of Change"
8. Implications of Semitic Matthew's Translation into Greek
9. Summary: Character Profile of the Writer of Mark

Index of Key Verses in Secs. 3-7

This index is presented for convenience in jumping to the commentary on any of the verses, or groups of verses, for which the arguments that Mark depends upon Matthew are found here to be stronger, or much stronger, than vice versa. Many of the Markan verses not represented in the table below also exhibit Markan dependence upon Matthew, but could be assumed to exhibit Matthean dependence upon Mark almost as strongly, upon adopting assumptions used by advocates of Markan priority. Verses located in Section 3 are in blue, Section 4 in red, Section 5 in green, Section 6 in black, and the blatant-fiction alterations of Section 7 are in pink. Verses in parentheses indicate a further problem within a passage that is discussed in a different section.

Mk 1: 1, 2, 6, 7, (7), 8, 10, 13, 14, 16, 19, 22,27, 34b, 44
2: 7, 10, 12, 14, 26, 27
3: 1-6, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 13, 15, 19-21, 19b,31-32, 29, 30
4: 2, 8, 9, 10f, 10-34, 12, 13, 21-22, 24, 26-29, (33), 34, 38
5: 6, 8, 19, 30-32, (31), 33, 42
6: 3, (3), 4, 6, 7-11a, 9, 10, 11b, 12-13, 14, 14-16, 19, 14-29, 20,26,
29-31, 30-35, 32, 37, (37), 39, 39-44, 41,43, 45, 45,53, 48a, 48b-49, 51-52, 54-55
7: 9, 17, 18-19, 20, 25, 32
8: 1, 10, 12, 14-17, (17), 21, 22-26, 27-29, 32, 33, 34, 35, 38
9: 1, 10, 13, 14-29, 25, 30-31, 32, 33, (33), (33-34), 33-35, 36-37, 38-39, 41, 47, 49-50
10: 13-16, (14), 17, 17-18, 23-26, (24), 29-30, 31, 32, 35, 38, 46, 50, 52
11: 2-7, 3, 11-17, 13, 15, 18-19, 21-23, 24, 25, 30-33
12: 1, 6, 9, 27b, 28, 29, 34b, 36, 38-40
13: 1-2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 14, 18, 26, 27, 33-37
14: 4, 4-5, 9, 11, 13-17, 20, 21-22, 24, 26,31-32, 30,72, (31), 40, 47, 50, 51-52, 54, 65, (65), ((65)), 68, 70
15: 1, (1), 8-9, 13, 17-19, 20, 21, 26, 32, 38-39, 42-43, 43, 44-45, 46, 47-
16: -1, 2-8, 6-7, (7), (8)

1. The External Evidence

The written evidence outside of what can be deduced from the Gospels themselves is called the external evidence. It is well known to scholars, who, however, have dismissed most of it.

Papias. Around A.D. 140 Bishop Papias of Hierapolis wrote, as presented or summarized by Eusebius nearly two centuries later:[1]

Mark became Peter's interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not indeed in order, of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had he followed him, but later on, as I said, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord's oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.
This reads primarily as an apology saying that Mark (that is, the writer of Mark) had done nothing wrong in writing down some events within his gospel in the wrong order. Now this gospel, though shorter than Matthew in length, is still much too long and varied for its order to have been known to be "improper" through any remembrance of oral tradition. Its order had to be improper relative to some other, written document, which then must have been a gospel that preceded it. Hence Mark could not have been the first gospel written.

What Papias said about Matthew, however, is consistent with it having been this first gospel satisfactory for use in churches where the audiences were fluent in Aramaic or Hebrew:

Matthew compiled the Logia in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could.[2]
And as we have seen elsewhere on this website, these Logia were the prime candidate to have been the Talmud of Jmmanuel (TJ), out of which the writer of Matthew formed his gospel.

We know that these Logia did not constitute the written Gospel of Matthew itself, because Papias wrote five treatises about the Logia; also, from one of them Eusebius mentioned a teaching or saying not in Matthew (about the millennium). From what may be learned about the TJ, or Logia, from elsewhere in this website, one may learn that it would have been impossibly heretical for Christianity. Thus those who made use of it -- not only the writer of Matthew but to a small extent the writers of Luke and John also -- had to be very careful what they extracted from it and how they altered it to make it acceptable. This process seems to be what Papias had in mind by "and each interpreted them as best he could." This of course also explains why these Logia did not survive, why Papias's treatises about the Logia did not survive, why there is no historical or literary evidence of any document resembling the scholars' "Q", and why next to nothing has survived describing where, when, under what circumstances and by whom the Gospels were really written. The hypotheses of New Testament scholars within academia cannot explain any of this.

In interpreting these quotations from Eusebius, it must be kept in mind that long before his time, it had become a very important orthodoxy to accept that the writers of the Gospels were the persons to whom they were attributed. Thus one cannot be sure if Papias himself had spoken as if Mark and Matthew were the authors of the respective gospels, or if it was Eusebius who had worded it to read as if they were.

Irenaeus. Around A.D. 170 or 180 one finds that Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, clearly expressed the tradition of the order in which the Gospels were written in his famous work, Against Heresies:

So Matthew among the Hebrews issued a writing of the gospel in their own tongue, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel at Rome and founding the Church. After their decease Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also handed down to us in writing what Peter had preached. Then Luke, the follower of Paul, recorded in a book the gospel as it was preached by him. Finally John, the disciple of the Lord, who had lain on his breast, himself published the Gospel, while he was residing at Ephesus in Asia.[3]
This tradition was later seconded by other church fathers, including Origen and Augustine. It should not seem surprising that the writer of Mark would have abbreviated Matthew heavily, while at the same time usually expanding upon what he retained. It has been noted by Thomas Fischer that the same thing was done by a redactor of 2 Maccabees:

The somewhat verbose epitomizer (or abridger), who modestly remained anonymous, abbreviated the five books of Jason (whose existence we are not to doubt...) into a single book.... This redactor organized and partly expanded the contents, as was the current practice..." [4]

Although this took place one or two centuries before Mark was written, 2 Maccabees, like Mark, was written or preserved in Greek.

Aristides. The writing of this Greek philosopher, who became a Christian, is especially important in several respects. It is the only testimony which, at least in passing, can be accurately dated. Around A.D. 120-130 he wrote an "apology" to the Roman emperor, Hadrian, explaining how the ways of the Christians were better than those of the barbarians, Greeks and Jews. Key portions of his apology are:

The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven. Thereupon these twelve disciples went forth throughout the known parts of the world, and kept showing his greatness with all modesty and uprightness. And hence also those of the present day who believe that preaching are called Christians, and they are become famous.

...And they do not proclaim in the ears of the multitude the kind deeds they do, but are careful that no one should notice them; and they conceal their giving just as he who finds a treasure and conceals it.[5]

Here one notices that the topics from the gospel Aristides speaks about are prominent in the Gospel of Matthew, but not necessarily in Mark or Luke. Mark doesn't have any nativity account, and the last sentence presented suggests the gospel Aristides primarily had in mind was Matthew, not Luke, because its verses summarize what's in Mt 6:1-6, which was left out of Luke. Unfortunately, however, Aristides did not bother to mention if this dominant gospel was written in Hebrew or not, as the other external evidence has indicated.

The Gospels' authors. If the Gospels were not written by their namesakes, as we find here and as most scholars agree, it is not surprising that that fact would have been kept covered up during the first decade or two after the gospels came out, and only then supplanted by the orthodox belief that they had been written by their namesakes as further decades elapsed. Thus Aristides did not speak of Matthew, and Justin, some dozen years later, did not mention any of the Gospel namesakes though he quoted heavily from them. It is to be expected, then, that silence on this would prevail, given that the earliest Gospel users, from around A.D. 125-150, knew that the Gospels could not have been written by their namesakes, who must have died decades earlier. Later still, however, as by the time of Irenaeus, the time of first appearance of the Gospels could be argued to have occurred over a century before, when their attributed writers could have been still living.

Gospel order. However, there was no good reason for early church fathers to invent a false tradition about the order in which the Gospels had appeared, and in which language Matthew had been first written. There is nothing heretical about one gospel coming out first and another second, etc., which order would have been common knowledge among the clergy, at least, at the church where Matthew was written, and in Rome where Mark was apparently written, and at other churches to which transcriptions of these gospels had been delivered. Hence this tradition of Matthean priority over Mark should be given heavy weight in any consideration of the priority among the Gospels (the Synoptic Problem). That it is given very little or no weight by most of today's scholars reflects the desire of the past century and a half that Mark be the first gospel written. This desire, in turn, was fueled by the unacceptability, as far as theologically committed scholars were concerned, for the writer of Mark to have omitted important teachings of Jesus, if he had copied from Matthew.

It should be mentioned that the connection of the man Mark (presumably John Mark of Acts 12:12) with Peter in Rome is supported by Clement of Alexandria. A key part of what Clement wrote, as relayed by Eusebius, is:

And in the same books Clement has inserted a tradition of the primitive elders with regard to the order of the Gospels as follows. He said that those Gospels were first written [openly pubished] which include the genealogies, but that the Gospel according to Mark came into being in this manner: When Peter had publicly preached the word in Rome, and by the Spirit had proclaimed the Gospel, that those present, who were many, exhorted Mark, as one who had followed him for a long time and remembered what had been spoken, to make a record of what was said; and that he did this, and distributed the Gospel among those that asked him. And that when the matter came to Peter's knowledge he neither strongly forbade it nor urged it forward.[6]
Clement's statement about the gospels containing genealogies having been the ones written first conflicts with the portion of the tradition that says Mark preceded Luke, as Mark has no genealogy. It has recently been interpreted intelligently upon noting that the Greek "pro" could mean not only a sense of "before" in time, but a sense of being "before the public" when the context is right, as in this instance.[7] This would indicate that soon after Matthew and Luke were written, they were set forth before the public, but after Mark was written, it was not. This accords with the much greater number of allusions to verses from Matthew and/or Luke than from Mark by mid-2nd-century writers, such as Justin, Marcion, and the writer of the Gospel of Thomas.

Peter & Mark's document in Rome. Most scholars who have studied Mark find that it is not consistent with being the remembrances of Peter; further, it is named after (John) Mark, not Peter. Yet the above quotation, together with that of Papias, does indicate that Peter and (John) Mark had been together in Rome and had had some document that Peter did not urge forward. (Verse Rom 15:20 also strongly implies that Peter had been to Rome ahead of Paul.) Study of the Talmud of Jmmanuel (TJ) strongly suggests that this document in Rome was an early written gospel that had, very early in its existence, been stolen and turned over to a chief priest in hopes of gaining evidence of blasphemy against Jmmanuel. The point at which it was stolen in the TJ's story corresponds to around Matthew's 12th chapter, which is the point beyond which Mark's order of pericopes suddenly agrees very well with Matthew's. Quite possibly Peter was able to recover the document some time after the crucifixion and later take it to Rome with him and John Mark.

This writing then must have been what was later erroneously referred to as Peter's remembrances, but was actually a short gospel-like writing. To give it a name, we may call it Ur-Talmud-Jmmanuel, or Ur-TJ. The fact that the Ur-TJ was not urged forward by Peter and did not, therefore, become a known gospel at that time suggests it had been stolen before much of Jmmanuel's/Jesus' ministry had been fulfilled and thus failed to incorporate the essence of Christianity involving the passion and resurrection. Another reason Peter could not likely have urged it forward is that it spoke of Immanuel, not "Jesus" as he was becoming known, and did not treat him as a savior figure or forgiver of sins, but rather as a teacher of spiritual truths. Hence it is understandable that the Ur-TJ -- the first, aborted version of the Talmud of Jmmanuel -- languished for decades in some house-church in Rome until the Gospel of Matthew appeared on the scene in Semitic form. Then the Ur-TJ, along with Matthew, provided the incentive for a writer in Rome to compile a gospel for gentiles, as he could insert information from it not present in the Gospel of Matthew, and at the same time could alter Matthew into a gospel suitable for gentiles, namely Mark. This is an important aspect of the present neo-Augustinian hypothesis relative to the Synoptic Problem.

As to who this later writer was, I know of one interesting clue: his name may have been Glaucias. That is the name supplied by Clement of Alexandria for Peter's interpreter in Book 7.17 of his Stromata:

It was later, in the times of Adrian the king, that those who invented the heresies arose; and they extended to the age of Antoninus the elder, as, for instance, Basilides, though he claims (as they boast) for his master, Glaucias, the interpreter of Peter.

Adrian (Hadrian) was Roman emperor from 117-138. Basilides was "the earliest of the Alexandrian Gnostics, a native of Alexandria and flourished under the Emperors Adrian and Antoninus Pius, about 120-140," according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. This chronology is then consistent for Mark to have been written around 120 by Glaucias, who might have been called writer of Mark by Basilides. However, when Clement of Alexandria wrote of Basilides, circa A.D. 195-200, he had to abide by the orthodoxy established by the time of Irenaeus, that the writers of the Gospels were those whom the Gospels were attributed to. Hence, Clement needed to "correct" Basilides here so that the writer of Mark would be Peter's interpreter, John Mark. By referring to Glaucias as "Peter's interpreter," Clement could have it both ways, as the phrase might be interpreted either as "Peter's disciple" or as the writer of Mark as Papias had done.

Clement of Alexandria (150-~211) may then have been among the first to have telescoped the time of the late writing of Mark circa A.D. 120 into the time when the Ur-TJ possessed by Peter and John Mark in Rome was being circulated to interested persons, circa A.D. 50-60. This alteration of chronology would serve to promote the orthodoxy that the Gospels were written early and by their namesakes.

We therefore have incentive to examine the order of Mark's sequence of verses relative to Matthew's to ascertain if it gives indication of extra dependence upon Matthew at and beyond the point where the document recovered by Peter had been aborted due to its theft. This is done in the next section.


1. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (EH) 3.39.15.

2. Eusebius, EH 3.39.16.

3. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3.1.1.

4. Fischer, Thomas, in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, p. 442. Thanks to Stephen Carlson for making this observation known via the Internet.

5. See the Internet translation by C. D. May.

6. Eusebius, EH 6.14.5-7.

7. Carlson, Stephen C., "Clement of Alexandria and the 'Order' of the Gospels," New Testament Studies 47 (2001) 118-125.

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