Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah,
v.1, Introduction: General Gospel Issues Pertinent to the Passion Narratives, pp 36-93

(detailed summary)

General Gospel Issues Pertinent to the Passion Narratives


This study is confined to that portion of the passion story that begins with the departure for the Mount of Olives and ends with the burial. Because of a great similarity in the vocabulary of the passion narratives in the synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke), it must be recognized that they are interdependent. Specifically, Mark was the first to write his Gospel, and later Matthew and Luke would have taken up Mark's text, but modified it according to their theology or view of the disciples.

While he was the first to write a Gospel, Mark did not invent the genre. Examples can be found in the Old Testament such as the cycle of Elijah and Elisha and in intertestamentary literature. He certainly had in his possession a number of oral traditions that he put into writing. And his Gospel itself was written in such a way as to be proclaimed orally: so he simplified his narrative by concentrating on Jesus' ministry in Galilee and presenting only a trip to Jerusalem, he dramatized certain scenes, or used techniques proper to storytelling, such as ternary rhythm.

Although he copied Mark and used Q document, Matthew incorporated his own material, probably from the popular traditions of his milieu. This contributes to the anti-Jewish character of his Gospel.

Like Matthew, Luke uses Mark and the Q-source, while integrating isolated pieces of information or short episodes that come either from his creative work or from a tradition that may have been passed on orally. The liberty in relation to Mark is explained by the fact that he composed two works, a Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, so that we note in it an effort to synchronize the passion with events of the first Christian community.

The evangelist John did not know the other Gospels, and therefore his independence must be recognized. The similarity in the sequence of events can be explained by the existence at the pre-evangelical level of a basic outline of the sequence of events. As for certain similarities between Luke and John, we can see the existence of common oral traditions that may have circulated in both circles.

  1. The Extent and Context of the Gospel Passion Narratives
  2. Interdependence among the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke)
  3. Mark as a Gospel and the Issue of a PreMarcan Passion Narrative
  4. The Matthean Passion Narrative and Its Special Material
  5. The Lucan Passion Narrative and Its Possible Sources
  6. The Origin of the Johannine Passion Narrative

  1. The Extent and Context of the Gospel Passion Narratives

    Our breakdown of the passion narratives begins with Gethsemane and ends with the burial: Mark 14:26 - 15:47; Matthew 26:30 - 27:66; Luke 22:39 - 23:56; John 18:1 - 19:42. It is not certain that the evangelists would agree, depending on the place these stories occupy in the structure of their Gospel.

    1. John

      The fourth Gospel is the one that comes closest to the division we propose.

      1 - 12 : Part One
      13 – 20: 31 : Part Two
              13-17 : Jesus' meal with his own people where he delivers his last discourse
              18-19 : Arrest of Jesus until he is laid in the tomb
              20 : Various reactions in front of the tomb

    2. Mark

      The narrative begins with 14:26, which presents a transition to the last supper, and ends with the end of ch. 15. Even though 15:42-47 points to chapter 16, it is primarily a conclusion to the passion narrative.

    3. Matthew

      We limit his account to 26: 30 - 27: 66. First of all, ch. 26-28 form a dramatic unit after the long speech of 24-25. But ch. 27 is a separate subdivision. We recognize, however, that Matthew probably wanted to present the burial of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus (27: 57 - 28: 20) as a unit.

    4. Luke

      His account is circumscribed to 22:39 - 23:56. Before 22:39 we have the last supper that we eliminate from our study, and ch. 24 concerns the resurrection of Jesus.

  2. Interdependence among the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke)

    The vocabulary in the synoptic passion narratives is so similar that one must assume that the evangelists had a written version of the other. There are several theories to explain this interdependence.

    • Marc's priority. This theory is adopted by the majority of biblical scholars. Matthew and Luke would have taken Mark's structure, as well as the core of his stories and his vocabulary. It is called the theory of the two sources. Material that is shared only by Matthew and Luke is attributed to Q document.

    • Griesbach's hypothesis (modified). Matthew would have written the first Gospel on which Luke would depend, and Mark would depend on both Matthew and Luke. Some biblical scholars have adopted this hypothesis.

    • The various theories of Proto-Gospel. According to this hypothesis, stories would have existed in an older and unpreserved form, so that our Gospels result from both these ancient stories and our canonical Gospels. There are several versions of these accounts.
      • L. Vaganay: there is said to have been a protoMatthew that Marcus would have known.

      • B. H. Streeter: Luke would have first written a protoLuc by combining the Q source with his own material, before reusing Mark.

      • Lachmann and H. J. Holtzmann: before the present canonical text of Mark, there would have been a protoMark that Matthew and Luke would have known.

      • X. Léon-Dufour and M.-É. Boismard: The Gospel narratives would have undergone multiple versions before reaching their present form.

    • The influence of an oral tradition. According to Papias (70-163, bishop of Hierapolis), this tradition would have lasted until the 2nd century. Thus, the Gospels would have reused this tradition in addition to their usual sources. This is the point of view of B. Gerhardsson and W. Kelber.

    For my part, here are the conclusions I have come to.

    1. We have no firm knowledge of how the authors composed the Gospels (by writing them themselves or by dictation), the value or authority they attributed to their source, the number of copies produced and how they circulated. Therefore, I cannot hope to reconstruct with great accuracy the interrelation between the Gospels.

    2. For this reason, I keep away from overly complicated theories that assume each time a new source or a new stage to resolve a difficult point. One can guess that the composition of the Gospels was a very complex process. But, given the little chance of arriving at a clear understanding, it is better to stick to a general approach that solves most of the difficult points, accepting that the others will remain insoluble. This is why I accept Marc's priority.

    3. The proponents of the Griesbach hypothesis (Matthew's priority, which Luke would have used, while Mark uses both Matthew and Luke) complain of a conspiracy of silence among the biblical scholars to ignore their approach. So I honestly tried to see in my detailed analysis whether this hypothesis could shed light on the story. As a result, it poses more problems than it solves. Why would Luke not repeat certain striking scenes such as the silver coins thrown by Judas in the temple or the dream of Pilate's wife, when his mention of Judas in Acts contradicts Matthew's version? As for Mark, who would take up the well-written accounts of Matthew and Luke, he would have found a way to confuse them and rewrite them in a less grammatically correct language. And why does he ignore certain minor agreements between Matthew and Luke?

    4. In these minor agreements, there are first of all negative agreements: Matthew and Luke do not repeat certain scenes from Mark, such as the one about the young man who runs away naked. The probable explanation is simple: such a scene does not fit with their respect for the disciples, whereas Mark does not hesitate to show their weakness.

    5. In these minor agreements there are also the positive agreements that are more important. For example, Mark uses the verb eneilein (unique throughout the New Testament) to describe the action of Joseph of Arimathea who "wraps" Jesus in a shroud, while Matthew and Luke prefer the entylissein verb "to roll". A plausible explanation is that Matthew and Luke, without consulting each other, correct Mark's bizarre term by using a more common and reverential verb. Here, the influence of oral tradition must also be admitted. For it is quite improbable that Matthew and Luke would have only known the written text of Mark, and would never have heard about the passion before they knew Mark. This would be ignoring the way the message of Jesus, who wrote nothing, spread through early preaching. In other cases, the usual terms of the time come to the surface. For example, the expression "tell us who hit you" (Matthew 26:68; Luke 22:64) can easily be explained by the use of the usual expression of the followers of the blindfolded game that has existed since ancient Greece: in the mocking scene of Mark, Matthew and Luke would have associated it with this well-known game and with the usual words of the game.

  3. Mark as a Gospel and the Issue of a PreMarcan Passion Narrative

    1. Mark as a Gospel

      Unlike Luke or John, Mark did not explain why he wrote his Gospel. This gave rise to various conjectures among the biblical scholars. For some, he is a true innovator in creating the Gospel genre, gathering the words and actions of Jesus in the form of a narrative, distancing himself from the oral tradition. For others, he attacks the overly prestigious image of the Twelve in the Church by portraying them as weak beings who have abandoned their master. For others, finally, he represents a harmonious evolution from the tradition that preceded him.

      In my opinion, the evolutionary approach is preferable, for there are examples in the Old Testament and in intertestamentary literature where the actions and words of the prophets have been put into narrative form, such as the cycle of Elijah and Elisha. One could refer to the apocryphal account of The Lives of the Prophets, which belongs to the same period as Mark.

      Papias presents Mark as the interpreter of Peter. This statement should not be taken literally, but rather reflects the tendency to make Peter the spokesman for the Twelve. When Paul writes, "In short, they or I preach" (1 Corinthians 15:11), he is referring to a common tradition shared by all. Thus, Mark is a good summary of a tradition familiar to all Christians.

      To make Mark's Gospel an attempt to discredit the Twelve is not only exaggerated, it misses its message. What he basically states is this: only through the support of Jesus who died and rose again will they finally be able to fulfil their mission.

      It is also inaccurate to claim that the Gospel of Mark represents an effort to stabilize the oral tradition. As we have seen in Paul, the apostolic tradition was careful to ensure a certain orthodoxy. Moreover, even with the writing of the Gospel of Mark, the oral tradition continued, as we see in certain passages. It is also probable that this oral tradition was present in the liturgical cycle where, on the occasion of the Eucharist, one recalled what Jesus did and said.

      Even more, the Gospel of Mark was composed in such a way that it could be proclaimed orally. Thus he simplified or dramatized certain scenes, or used techniques proper to storytelling, such as the ternary rhythm. For example, John's Gospel, which was composed to be read only, presents several of Jesus' journeys to Jerusalem, which is probably closer to historical truth. Mark, on the other hand, simplified everything by limiting Jesus' ministry to Galilee, even though he went to Jerusalem only to die. John presents several confrontations of Jesus with the Jewish authorities concerning his identity, scattered throughout his Gospel; Mark summarizes them in two confrontations, first with the Sanhedrin concerning his Messiahship, then with Pilate concerning his title of king of the Jews.

    2. A PreMarcan Passion Narrative

      At the time Mark was about to write his Gospel, how much detail had been achieved in the passion narrative? There is, of course, a logical sequence that cannot be avoided, from his betrayal and arrest to his trial and crucifixion. So the question becomes: how was this basic structure filled with different scenes? Were these scenes written or oral? Several biblical scholars have tried to reconstruct this pre-Marcan narrative. For my part, I refuse to do so, for several reasons.

      First of all, there are a posteriori reasons: none of those who have tackled this question have been able to reach a consensus. But there are also a priori reasons: the criteria used by the biblical scholars are hardly applicable.

      1. One of these criteria concerns the agreements between Mark and John. But the question then becomes: which of these two Gospels would represent the oldest pre-Gospel tradition.
      2. If Mark used a pre-marcan tradition, did he reuse the style of that tradition or adapt it to his own?
      3. Is the fact that Mark has different styles a sign of stitches between different traditions or is it a deliberate variation of his style?

  4. The Matthean Passion Narrative and Its Special Material

    Matthew usually follows the material received from Mark very closely. Differences can be explained by a different style or theology, or by an audience familiar with Jewish practices. What interests us here, however, are the passages which he is the only one to report and which represent about one-sixth of the passion narrative.

    • The suicide of Judas
    • The story of the thirty pieces of silver and the insensitivity of the high priests and elders to hand over an innocent man, while being scrupulous not to keep the money brought back by Judas.
    • The dream of Pilate's wife and the washing of his hands to clear himself of the act he is doing, while the crowd is asking for the blood of Jesus to fall on them.
    • The apocalyptic scene following the death of Jesus
    • The story of the tomb guards and the purchase of their silence

    When we know that Matthew draws from two sources, Mark and the Q source, we can ask ourselves the question: where does this special material come from? First of all, it should be noted that there is a continuity between the material in the childhood stories and the unique material in the passion story: it is very colourful, full of imagination. The dream of Pilate's wife is reminiscent of Joseph's dream, the plot to get rid of baby Jesus announces his execution as an adult. The analysis of his childhood story shows that Matthew drew from a set of popular narratives in which the history of Israel was combined with the identity of Jesus: the dreams of the patriarch Joseph, the birth of Moses, the twisted intervention of the Pharaoh, the magician Balaam. These popular narratives were fairly well formed, and the same can be said for what is found in the passion narrative.

    In taking up Mark, which was perhaps originally intended to be recited, Matthew retained its character of orality. He did the same in taking up the Q-source, which is a collection of Jesus' words. Also, his special material from folk tales only accentuates this aspect.

    A final feature of this special material is its anti-Jewish flavor. The polemic with the Pharisees is exacerbated and the separation with the Jews seems consummated, so much so that one now speaks of "their" synagogues to distinguish them from the Judeo-Christian synagogues. There is a debate, therefore, as to which of the two groups is the real Israel? Matthew tries to present Jesus as the one who comes to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, Joseph is presented as a righteous man (faithful to the Law), and even Judas, Pilate's wife and Pilate himself declare him righteous. In contrast, Matthew places the responsibility for shedding this innocent blood on all the people. Meanwhile, the door is opened to the Gentiles with the final call of Jesus to go to all people. This anti-Jewish side reflects the popular milieu where the tales Matthew uses are born and where it is common to find rampant intolerance.

  5. The Lucan Passion Narrative and Its Possible Sources

    Like Matthew, Luke draws from Q document for 230 verses. He also draws from Mark: 350 of the 661 verses of Mark are found in Luke. Even though he modifies the elements received from Mark on the ministry of Jesus, he is careful not to disperse them, but to group them into four large blocks, respecting the order, the fifth block being the last supper, the passion and the resurrection. In addition to this, there are passages of his own.

    1. General Observations on the Lucan Special Material

      One third of the Lucanian material cannot be explained by recourse to Mark or Q document. The first example is that of the great interpolation that is the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem (9, 51 - 18, 14). There are healings and parables that are specific to him. Some biblical scholars speak of a source L. Can we also explain in this way his account of the childhood of Jesus, which has little in common with that of Matthew? The Greek style of the story is very Semitic. It is possible that Luke composed most of these stories using the style of the Septuagint. But if we turn to the passion narrative, this Semitic style has disappeared and, if we did not have Mark in front of us, it would be difficult to distinguish its various sources.

      Let us first clarify the vocabulary. A source is a sequential narrative of all or much of the passion, while a tradition represents isolated pieces of information or brief episodes, some of which may have circulated orally.

      Many biblical scholars hypothesize that the source of the passion story in Luke was different from Mark's. But then we are faced with several questions: did he copy this other source word for word, or did he modify it substantially? In the latter case, it is difficult to understand such an attitude, even though he is respectful of Mark's material. In the passion narrative, Mark's material is transposed four times more frequently than into the account of Jesus' ministry. Many biblical scholars, after having hypothesized another source for the passion narrative, have now abandoned this hypothesis.

    2. Survey of the Special Lucan Features in the Pasion Narrative

      Let's look at the differences between Luke and Mark to see if they can be explained without recourse to a special source.

      Act one, scene one: Jesus goes to Gethsemane / Mount of Olives and prays there (Lk 22:39-46; Mk 14:26-42).

      Luke omits the announcement of the abandonment of the disciples and the denial of Peter. For he spoke of it at the last supper, but softened the angles: Jesus congratulates the disciples for staying with him until the end, and tells Peter that he prayed for him so that his faith would not fail. All this is consistent with the presentation of the apostles in Acts as faithful witnesses. Likewise, he omits the extreme distress of Mark's Jesus in Gethsemane, for his Christology cannot accept human weakness. He adds the scene of the angel who comes to comfort him according to his conviction that God is always there to answer our prayer: the scene of the angels serving Jesus at the end of the account of the temptation in Mark is taken back to the Mount of Olives. In short, Luke's changes are easily explained by his theology.

      Scene Two: Jesus is arrested (Lk 22:47-53; Mk 14:43-52).

      First of all, there are two omissions in Luke: Judas' kiss and the young man who runs away naked. This is consistent with Luke's benevolent approach to the disciples. Then there are a number of additions: Jesus knows what Judas is about to do (according to his 'high' Christology); Jesus heals the servant with his ear cut off (according to his image of Jesus as the saviour who always forgives). Finally, there is the addition of the high priests, chief temple guards and elders on the Mount of Olives, which is difficult to explain and is close to the scene in John's Gospel where Jesus appears before Annas.

      Acts II (Lk 22:54-23:1; Mk 14:53-15:1)

      Luke rearranges the scenes of mistreatment and interrogation before the Sanhedrin and the denial of Peter, which Mark presents in parallel in a back and forth motion, to present them in sequence: the denial of Peter in the same place where Jesus is, the mistreatment at the hands of the soldiers, and finally the interrogation before the Sanhedrin early in the morning. And when we look at the interrogation, we notice a number of differences. There are the omissions concerning the false witnesses, the destruction of the temple and the accusation of blasphemy: Luke will report these things about Stephen, the first Christian martyr (Acts 6, 11-14). The Christological question of Mark (the Messiah of Jesus) takes the form in Luke of two questions asked of Jesus, the first question (Is he the Messiah?) receiving a very ambiguous answer. The latter refers to a similar episode in John (10:24-25.36) and raises the hypothesis of a common source.

      Acts III (Lk 23:2-25; Mk 15:2-20a)

      At the beginning of his trial before Pilate, Luke presents three charges against Jesus, of which only the first one will be retained (Are you the King of the Jews?). It is a parallel scene to Paul's trial in the Acts of the Apostles. A major addition of Luke is the trial before Herod, a copy of Paul's trial before Herod Agrippa II; we can think that Luke uses here a tradition about Herod's involvement. Among the omissions is the scene on Barabbas: did Luke, a fine connoisseur of the Greco-Roman world, recognize the implausibility of such a custom?

      Acts IV, scene one: Jesus is crucified and dies (Lk 23:26-49; Mk 15:20b-41).

      There are minor omissions: names like the sons of Simon of Cyrene (of no interest to his audience) or Golgotha (he eliminates everything Aramaic), the mention of the third hour (in conflict with his trial in the morning), and the second presentation of a drink to Jesus on the cross (Luke hates duplication). But above all there are important additions.

      1. On the way of execution, there are compassionate people, especially women (just as there are Jews who are sympathetic to the beginning of his Gospel).
      2. On the cross, there is the prayer of forgiveness for his executioners, similar to that of Stephen in Acts, in accordance with his Christology.
      3. There are changes in the three groups (the passers-by, the authorities and the co-crucifiers) who mock him in Mark: he replaces the passers-by by the soldiers in order to keep the Jewish people in a favorable light. The Jewish people are content to look on without saying a word.
      4. The presence of a triad (women, people, friends) who beat their breasts after his death strengthens the group of people who are in favour of Jesus.
      5. He replaces the cry of abandonment in Mark's prayer with a prayer where Jesus peacefully surrenders himself into God's hands, just as Stephen did in Acts.
      6. The centurion's testimony to Jesus' death becomes, "This man was righteous! "repeating Jesus' innocence.

      Scene Two: Jesus is laid in the tomb (Lk 23:50-56; Mk 15:42-47).

      Luke insists that the Jew Joseph of Arimathea did not agree with what happened. He omits Pilate's surprise when he heard the news that Jesus was already dead, to avoid feeding the rumour that Jesus had not really died. The women are presented as pious Jewish women who respect the Sabbath day before embalming.

      In general, Luke's omissions and transformation are easily explained by his theology and his image of Jesus and his disciples. What is more difficult to explain are his additions to Mark's account.

      1. There are cases where we are in front of Luke's creative work to illustrate his theology: the presence of Jesus at the scene of Peter's denial, or the crowd in favor of Jesus before and after the crucifixion.
      2. There are other cases where Luke seems to use an oral tradition that he integrates creatively into his story: Herod's hostility, forgiveness to his executioners.
      3. Finally, there is his desire to draw a parallel between Jesus and Paul as well as Stephen, for reasons of pastoral pedagogy.

  6. The Origin of the Johannine Passion Narrative

    From the time of Clement of Alexandria (150 - 215) until about 1930, it was believed that John knew Mark and sought to complement him with other traditions. But then certain theories appeared which saw in the 4th Gospel a Gnostic sect that was opposed to the synoptic narratives. It was only in the second part of the 20th century that a series of studies on John appeared which considered him to be substantially independent of the synoptics.

    1. John and Mark

      During the whole ministry of Jesus, there is only ch. 6 (the multiplication of the loaves and walking on the waters) that can be compared to Mark, in addition to a few individual verses (John 5: 8: "Stand up, take your mat and walk"; 6: 7: "Two denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little"; 12: 3: "Then Mary, taking a pound of pure nard of great price, anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair; and the house was filled with the scent of the perfume"). This closeness of the passion story must be explained.

      1. The Data

        Passion Preliminaries

        • Order

          Marcan order:

          1. 11: 1-10: Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem
          2. 11: 15-19: Jesus casts out the sellers from the temple
          3. 14: 3-9: the anointing of Jesus by a woman
          4. 14: 17-25: the last meal

          In the whole sequence from the arrival in Jerusalem to the moment of the passion, these are the only parallel episodes, which is not many. Moreover, the order of John is different: b, c, a, d

        • Content

          1. The analysis of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem shows that he did not draw from the Marcian source, but at the most from certain passages of Matthew.
          2. The analysis of the scene of the vendors chased out of the temple shows that it does not come from the synoptics.
          3. The scene of the anointing of Jesus by a woman seems to be an amalgamation of two separate incidents in John: a sinful woman in a Pharisee's house in Galilee who wipes with her hair the tears from Jesus' feet, and a woman called Mary, in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, who pours perfume on Jesus' head.
          4. The last supper in John is 8 times longer than Mark's, and especially does not include the Eucharistic sayings.

          In short, the differences are enormous.

        Act 1 : Jesus Prays and Is Arrested

        • The prayer scene before the arrest is missing. The place where Jesus goes is called "the other side of the brook Kidron", the announcement of the failure of the disciples takes place during the meal, no longer on the way to Gethsemane as in Mark, Jesus' turmoil over his death takes place towards the end of his ministry (12:27).

        • In the arrest of Jesus, in spite of certain similarities (Judas with guards detached by the chief priests; the cut off ear of the servant of the high priest), the differences are more important: It is Jesus who identifies himself; the initial dialogue is no longer with Judas but with those who came to arrest him; they fall to the ground; we learn the names of the one who cut off the ear (Peter) and the one whose ear was cut off (Malchus); the disciples do not flee, but it is Jesus who asks to let them go.

        Act II : Jewish Interrogation; Peter's Denials

        • The account of Jesus' interrogation in John is half as long as that of Mark's and above all differs in detail: it is no longer a hearing before the Sanhedrin, there are no witnesses, no allusion to the destruction of the temple or to Jesus' Messiahship.

        • As far as Peter's denial is concerned, despite differences in detail, the scenes are quite similar. What is peculiar about the 4th Gospel is the entrance on stage of the other disciple known to the high priest (probably the disciple whom Jesus loved).

        Act III : The Pilate Trial

        • Despite a number of common details ("Are you the King of the Jews?"; the scene around Barabbas; the mistreatment), John's account is twice as long as Mark's, with back and forth movement inside and outside the praetorium and some dramatic scenes.

        Act IV : Crucifixion and Burial

        • John and Mark agree on the place (Golgotha) and the two bandits who accompany him on the cross, as well as on the offering of a vinegar drink before death. The rest is very different. Above all, there is the unique scene where Jesus' legs are not broken, and blood and water come out of his pierced side.

        • John and Mark agree on Joseph of Arimathea who claims the body of Jesus from Pilate, but all the following details are different (the presence of Nicodemus, the description of the tomb, the absence of the women who are observing the scene)

      2. Evaluation

        Mark and John share an overall structure.

        • After the meal, Jesus is betrayed by Judas
        • He's arrested in the area of Mount of Olives, on the other side of the Kidron.
        • The high priest questions him, while he is mistreated and Peter denies him
        • Pilate's questioning him about his kingship.
        • The people prefer Barabbas to Jesus in connection with the custom of releasing a prisoner
        • Roman soldiers beat and mock him.
        • He is crucified on Golgotha between two prisoners
        • They share his clothes
        • The sign on the cross reads: King of the Jews.
        • After drinking a vinegar drink, he dies.
        • Women of Galilee are not far away.
        • Joseph of Arimathea is in charge of claiming the body on the day before the Sabbath.

        Nevertheless, the dissimilarities far outweigh the similarities. It could be argued that John modified elements to conform to his theology. But the same could be said of Mark. All this tells us nothing about the source of each one. For example, the purification of the temple at the beginning of John's Gospel reflects his theological framework of a fundamental conflict with Judaism, while the same scene at the end of Mark's Gospel allows him to introduce it as an accusation at his trial. Again, who changed whose order?

        In Matthew and Luke, certain differences with Mark are so sharp that it is easy to explain them logically in the context in which they followed his story. But in John the differences with Mark are so much greater than the similarities that it becomes unthinkable to assume a dependency. Therefore, in this commentary, I work with the assumption that John wrote an independent account of Mark.

        The question remains: how do we explain the similarities? One might think that pre-Gospel traditions such as the prayer of Jesus (Hebrews 5:7: It was he who in the days of his flesh, with violent clamor and tears, presented supplications and pleas to the one who could save him from death, and was heard because of his piety) or the involvement of the Jewish authorities (1 Thess 2:14-15: ....the churches of God in Christ Jesus in Judea: you suffered the same treatment from your countrymen as they suffered from the Jews: they killed Jesus the Lord and the prophets). Each evangelist inserted these traditions where they were most appropriate in their basic plan.

        But there is more. Some of these traditions, which circulated orally, may have been given a relatively fixed form even before the Gospels were written down. We can speak of a pre-Gospel because it was not associated with any particular Gospel or any particular sequence: it was stories about figures or incidents that were told during preaching or liturgical celebration. This was probably the case around the passion of Jesus. Thus, for example, a set of these traditions (stage 1) was part of the heritage of the Johannine community which shaped it according to the needs of its teaching and preaching, according to the developing Christology, marked by the new members who entered (Samaritans, for example), or by the members who were rejected from the synagogue after having been confronted by the Jewish authorities about the reasons for their claims (stage 2). Eventually (stage 3), thanks to a talented author, this legacy took the form of a continuous narrative that we call "Gospel", with a dramatic note around the organization and the dialogues.

    2. John and Matthew

      Some similar verses can be found in these two evangelists, but they are so few in number, and above all appear in such a different setting, that it is impossible to speak of John's dependence on Matthew. In addition, nothing of Matthew's special material is echoed in John.

    3. John and Luke

      Biblical scholars who accept a relationship between the two passion narratives adopt one of the following three assumptions:

      • John knew Luke's Gospel, or at least a special pre-Lucan account
      • Luke knew of a pre-Johannic source or tradition
      • Luke and Jean knew of a common oral source or tradition

      We talk about the relationship between the two stories for the following reasons.

      1. Affinities in items or information

        1. The Data

          Act I : Jesus Prays and Is Arrested

          • The place is known: he came there many times (Jn 18:2); he went there as usual (Lk 22:39).
          • God answers Jesus' prayer: voice from heaven (Jn 12:28); an angel comforts him (Lk 22:43).
          • Presence of Jewish officers among those who arrest him: guards detached by the high priests (Jn 18:3); chief of the Temple guards (Lk 22:52).
          • The sword cuts off the "right" ear of the servant of the high priest (Jn 18:10; Lk 22:50).

          Act II : Jewish Interrogation of Jesus; Peter's Denials

          • A fire is lit in the courtyard of the high priest (Jn 18:18; Lk 22:55).
          • The presence of Annas in John (Annas, Caiaphas' father-in-law: Jn 18:13) which is known only to Luke (the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas: Lk 3:2).
          • Absence of the accusation of destroying the temple
          • The Christological problem is divided into two questions (Messiah, Son of God), and the answer to the first is ambiguous
          • In his denial of Jesus, Peter does not take an oath and swear

          Act III : The Pilate Trial

          • Three times Pilate claims to find no case against Jesus (Jn 18:38 - 19:6; Lk 23:4-22).
          • It is the people who take the initiative to propose Barabbas (Jn 18:40; Lk 23:18).
          • Pilate proposes to have him scourged as a compromise (Jn 19:1; Lk 23:22).
          • The audience shouts twice: Crucify him (Jn 19:6; Lk 23:21).
          • "Caesar" is mentioned by Jewish opponents (Jn 19:12; Lk 23:2).

          Act IV : Crucifixion and Burial

          • The mention of the place of crucifixion is all followed by: they crucified him there.
          • Jesus crucified speaks three times
          • Jesus is offered a vinegar drink only once
          • both mention myrrh and aloe during embalming.

        2. Evaluation

          The most remarkable parallels are, on the one hand, the division of the Christological problem into two questions, and on the other hand, the triple proclamation of Jesus' innocence. The other similarities are insignificant, often with a different vocabulary. Finally, none of Luke's particular traits resonate with John, and vice versa.

      2. Parallels in the sequence of events

        1. The Data

          • Unlike Mark/Matthew who announces Judas' betrayal before the Eucharistic sayings, Luke placed it after, while John, who has no Eucharist, placed it after the washing of the feet.
          • In John, before being sent to Caiaphas, Jesus refers before Annas to the fact that he always preached in the synagogue and temple. In Luke, before appearing in front of the Sanhedrin and at the moment of his arrest, Jesus addresses those who arrest him to refer to the same fact
          • Both of them report no session of the Sanhedrin the night Jesus was arrested. John has no session at all, and Luke has one in the morning
          • Peter's denial takes place before the Jewish interrogation
          • Unlike Mark/Luke, the Roman trial does not end with a scene of mistreatment and mockery (in John's case it occurs in the middle of the trial, in Luke's case there is no mistreatment, at most a scene of mocking at the cross).

        2. Evaluation

          All these parallels are extremely fragile. Sometimes Luke follows Mark's order, while John is different. Other times, Luke and John differ from Mark/Matthew without being similar. Still other times, they differ from Mark/Matthew and are similar, but not in a way that would suggest that one copied the other; it is possible that an older tradition is behind all this.

      3. Similarities of Thought

        1. The Data

          • Unlike Mark/Matthew, Luke and John do not have a scene of the disciples fleeing from the disciples at the time of Jesus' arrest. But their motivation is different. Luke has to spare the disciples who will be his heroes in the Acts of the Apostles. In John, because of his Christology, it is impossible for the enemy to have control over the work of Jesus, and so it is he who explicitly asks to let the disciples go.

          • Luke and John shorten the Jewish trial to emphasize the Roman one. Again, their motivation is different. With a series of objective witnesses Luke wants to prove that Jesus is not a criminal. For John, Pilate is the archetype of the man who does not have the courage to choose the truth and listen to the voice of Jesus, even though he knows he is innocent.

          • Unlike Mark/Matthew, there is no extreme upheaval in Jesus, no unanswered prayer or abandonment of God. If we were to place Christology on a spectrum from Jesus' human weakness to his divine power, we would have Mark at one extreme and John at the other, and in between, Matthew rather on Mark's side and Luke rather on John's side. But the Jesus of Luke still does not have the height and power of that of John.

        2. Evaluation

          It is normal that with time a common thought emerges in the Christian movement. This only warns us against the temptation of believing that one evangelist has copied the other, especially in the case of Luke and John, when we know that the one presents a number of Jewish sympathizers, while the other maintains their hostility.

    It must therefore be concluded that Luke and John did not know each other's work. The similarities can be explained by similar traditions that circulated in both circles. Thus, my main thesis assumes that, at the pre-evangelical level, there was already a sequence of the main stages of Jesus' death, with narratives around certain episodes or figures. This traditional material was used by Mark to write his Gospel, without being able to confidently establish intermediate stages. Mark was unaware of the other Gospels. Matthew, on the other hand, reused Mark extensively while incorporating imaginative folk traditions. Luke, on the other hand, also reused Mark, but with more freedom, and also allowed himself to integrate oral traditions he knew in a very orderly way. John, finally, seems to have known some of the traditions mentioned by Luke. But his account ignores the existence of the synoptic Gospels. And if there is some similarity between Mark and John, it only points to pre-evangelical order and narratives.

Next chapter: Transitional Episode: Jesus Goes with Disciples to the Mount of Olives

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