St. Matthew wrote first: a critique of modern liberal Synoptic theories.
#1
Dear Friends, the Church Fathers unanimously tell us St. Matthew the Apostle himself wrote the First Gospel and wrote before St. Mark and St. Luke. This Patristic Testimony was universally accepted for around 1800 years. Over the last 200 odd years, one of the claims of liberals and modernists has been that, allegedly, (1) Gospel of Matthew was not written first, but that of St. Mark (2) St. Matthew himself did not write the Gospel. (3) It was supposedly written after 70 A.D., along with numerous other such liberal theories.

Your thoughts on this subject, dear friends? An article arguing for Matthean Priority: https://onepeterfive.com/matthew-first-dates-gospels/

"Oxford-educated archaeologist Sir William Ramsay, embarking on a journey to investigate the historicity of the Gospel records and Acts, was skeptical. Taught by liberals and having adopted prevalent errors on the alleged late origin and supposed non-historicity of the Gospels and Acts, Sir William fully expected his own work to corroborate those liberal theories. Instead, to his utter amazement, after lifelong study on the Book of Acts, he wrote later, “Further study … showed that the book could bear the most minute scrutiny as an authority for the facts of the Aegean world, and that it was written with such judgment, skill, art and perception of truth as to be a model of historical statement.” Sir William was awarded a gold medal by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII and ended by becoming a Catholic.

Sir William said about Saint Luke in particular, author of Luke and the Acts to Theophilus (who may have been the high priest Theophilus ben Ananas), “You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian and they meet the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment.” Other scholars commenting on his work have agreed: “Ramsay, after a lifetime of research, ranks Luke as the greatest of all historians, ancient or modern. The Gospel stands the same test that the Acts has undergone. It is not only the most beautiful book in the world, but it is written with the utmost care and skill.” The Gospels are early historical records.

External Evidence from the Fathers for Matthean priority (St. Matthew writing first)

The first and most important dispute in Gospel studies between conservative and liberal scholars is whether (1) the Patristic Tradition, universally accepted for 1,800 years, of Matthean priority or (2) the recent theory, of Markan priority, requiring a lost Q document, which has no ancient historical attestation, is correct. This latter theory was promoted during the Kulturkampf in Germany by Otto von Bismarck for political reasons, as an anti-Catholic endeavor to reduce the authority of the papacy (which is especially evident in the Gospel of St. Matthew). Let’s examine where the evidence points.

External evidence is absolutely demonstrative that St. Matthew the Apostle himself wrote the Gospel of Matthew, wrote first, and wrote well before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This is attested to by Bishop Saint Papias, who knew St. John the Apostle; Tertullian in Africa; Saint Irenaeus, who was bishop of Lyons in Europe but well acquainted with the Tradition of the East, having spent a significant time in Asia; and several other witnesses. Thus we have the unanimous witness of three whole continents and virtually the entire early Christian world that Saint Matthew the Apostle is the first of the Evangelists and wrote his Gospel well before 70 A.D.

Saint Jerome had even seen the original Gospel of Saint Matthew — which had been carried by St. Bartholomew the Apostle to India — in the library of Caesarea, in the Hebrew dialect. “The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Cæsarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Berœa, a city of Syria, who use it” (De Viris Illustribus, 3, on Saint Matthew).

Saint Irenaeus records:
Quote:Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Adversus Haereses BIII, C1)
Since having an idea of when St. Peter preached and when he died would help in outlining dates for the first Gospel, and also the others, we can investigate when this took place. St. Jerome tells us on St. Peter:
Quote:Simon Peter the son of John, from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee … pushed on to Rome in the second year of Claudius (A.D. 42) to overthrow Simon Magus, and held the sacerdotal chair there for twenty-five years until the last, that is the fourteenth, year of Nero (A.D. 67) … then too the Gospel according to Mark, who was his disciple and interpreter, is ascribed to him[.] … Buried at Rome in the Vatican near the triumphal way he is venerated by the whole world.
The time of St. Peter’s preaching being known, we can arrive at broad dates to begin with:

First Syllogism: (1) St. Matthew the Apostle wrote when St. Peter (and St. Paul) were preaching in Rome. (2) But St. Peter began to preach in Rome in 42 A.D., and St. Peter was martyred by 67 A.D. (with St. Paul). (3) Therefore, St. Matthew wrote the First Gospel between the years 42 and 67 A.D.
Can we narrow it down further? Yes, since St. Matthew wrote before St. Luke, we have, in addition:

Second Syllogism: (1) St. Matthew the Apostle wrote before St. Luke the disciple (one of the 72) and Evangelist, the disciple of St. Paul the Apostle. (2) But St. Luke wrote Acts before 61 A.D. and the Gospel of St. Luke before 55 A.D. (3) Therefore, St. Matthew wrote well before 55 A.D. as well.

The proof of premise 2 can read in the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Gospel of Saint Luke. Briefly, it may be summarized as follows: (i) St. Luke wrote Acts when St. Paul was still alive (thus before 67 A.D.) and almost certainly during his Roman imprisonment (thus the abrupt ending of Acts) (round A.D. 61), and (ii) the Gospel was certainly written before this time, therefore well before 61 A.D.

Next, can we arrive still further in our consideration of dates? Yes: St. Luke, so the Church Fathers tell us, and it is internally evident, is “the brother, whose praise is in the gospel through all the churches (2 Cor. 8:18). The secularist Encyclopedia Brittanica admits: “The Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (II Corinthians in the New Testament) was written from Macedonia in about 55 CE [sic].”

We conclude, therefore, that the Gospel of St. Luke was widely distributed already by this time.
Finally, a recent discovery, of an early papyrus of St. Mark’s Gospel, allows us to advance it further:

Third Syllogism: (1) St. Mark the Evangelist (also one of the 72), disciple and secretary of St. Peter the Apostle, on summarizing his preaching, manifestly wrote before 50 A.D., as we have the 7Q5 papyrus that shows us that his Gospel was written before that time. (2) But St. Matthew the Apostle, as the Fathers unanimously hand down the historical Tradition, wrote before St. Mark (3). Therefore, likewise, we can conclude as a certain historical truth that St. Matthew wrote well before even 50 A.D.

Likely Dates of the Synoptic Gospels

Gospel of St. Matthew: 42 A.D. (most likely). Possible range: 42–45 A.D., within about a decade of Christ’s resurrection, pre-dating the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem in A.D. 48 (Acts 15).

Gospel of St. Mark: 45 A.D. (most likely). Possible range: 44–48 A.D. (St. Peter’s preaching in Rome).

Gospel of St. Luke: 48 A.D. (most likely). Possible range: 48–52 A.D., with ample time for distribution, so that what St. Paul says in 2 Cor. 8:18 in 55 A.D. could have come about by then.

Since, in the Council of Jerusalem, the apostles began to lay greater emphasis on the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles also, it is likely that St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, with the other apostles, would have seen to it that this Gospel, written by his disciple, would be released then.

Image: The Calling of St. Matthew (1599–1600) by Caravaggio."
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#2
I think the case is quite solid that all of the Gospels were written before 70AD.

It is obvious that Matthew's Gospel was held in highest esteem by the early Church, and may have been the one to widely circulate first.

But an honest reading of the synoptic Gospels easily leads one to develop the theory that Mark wrote first. There is just too much extra material in Matthew and Luke to think that Mark not only would have eliminated it, but would have written a more unpolished Gospel. Not that it is inferior by any means - Mark is my favorite Gospel.

However, if one holds to the tradition that Mark wrote his Gospel based on the words of Peter, then I don't really see a problem with this. After all, it would kind of make sense that Peter, first among the apostles, would have had his words captured first. I don't have a problem with the theory that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. I can see the problems with "Q," as there are no mentions of it anywhere in the Fathers or early Church, but obviously Matthew and Luke got their additional information elsewhere.

Also, there is no evidence of a complete Gospel of Matthew in "the Hebrew language." This seems to be wishful thinking, but the vast majority of scholarship rejects this. Not that the scholars are always right about everything, but I'm not sure what their motive would be to deny it if they didn't have a sound reason. The way Matthew is written in Greek in the most ancient and reliable manuscripts does not have any strong evidence of it having been translated from another language. There may have been some type of Matthean source document or sayings of Jesus in Aramaic, but again, it's just a theory.

From what I understand, the ancient papyrus fragment of Mark cited in the article is up for debate.

Anglican scholar John A.T. Robinson wrote a great piece defending all of the New Testament writings as having been written before 70AD. For me, the dating of the New Testament, and authorship of the books, is more important to defend than which Gospel came first. If we hold that they were all written by apostles, or disciples of the apostles before 70AD, I think that's enough to uphold their historicity and apostolicity.
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#3
(05-21-2020, 08:03 AM)LionHippo Wrote: But an honest reading of the synoptic Gospels easily leads one to develop the theory that Mark wrote first.  There is just too much extra material in Matthew and Luke to think that Mark not only would have eliminated it, but would have written a more unpolished Gospel. Not that it is inferior by any means - Mark is my favorite Gospel.

By that logic, the 1960 Breviary was written before the pre-1911 ones, since there's far more material in it, and the Lessons for the Saints are so short. Obviously those were written first, and then someone expanded them into three Lessons, because why would someone cut out so much material? Given that we know the dates, that's nonsense. But if we didn't know, and just had the texts, it would be easy to conclude that the newer one came first, and then all the other things were added later, when what actually happened is that the texts were intentionally abbreviated, prayers were dropped, and the rubrics were simplified.

Maybe St Mark wasn't as good a writer as St Matthew or St Luke. Maybe, if St Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience, who knew their Scripture, and St Mark was writing to the Gentiles, he cut out a lot of stuff that wouldn't mean much (I don't know if the differences fit that idea, since I'm not familiar enough with what's different between the two, but that could be looked at). Or maybe St Peter preached from St Matthew's Gospel, and St Mark wrote down some of what was preached, but not all, since St Matthew's Gospel already existed. Or he just summarised St Matthew's Gospel, and God inspired him to make it shorter. There are all sorts of reasons why shorter versions of things exist.

The Church fathers place St Matthew's Gospel first. Did they all get it wrong? They disagreed on whether St Mark or St Luke was next, but they all say St Matthew was first. It's very Enlightenment and very Protestant to just dismiss this, and very 19th-century to think that the ancients were so much dumber than we modern people are, so we can't trust the ancient sources - especially if they support anything Catholic.
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#4
I enjoyed this article on this same topic:
http://www.catholicdigest.com/faith/spir...ness-news/
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#5
(05-21-2020, 11:26 AM)Paul Wrote:
(05-21-2020, 08:03 AM)LionHippo Wrote: But an honest reading of the synoptic Gospels easily leads one to develop the theory that Mark wrote first.  There is just too much extra material in Matthew and Luke to think that Mark not only would have eliminated it, but would have written a more unpolished Gospel. Not that it is inferior by any means - Mark is my favorite Gospel.

By that logic, the 1960 Breviary was written before the pre-1911 ones, since there's far more material in it, and the Lessons for the Saints are so short. Obviously those were written first, and then someone expanded them into three Lessons, because why would someone cut out so much material? Given that we know the dates, that's nonsense. But if we didn't know, and just had the texts, it would be easy to conclude that the newer one came first, and then all the other things were added later, when what actually happened is that the texts were intentionally abbreviated, prayers were dropped, and the rubrics were simplified.

Maybe St Mark wasn't as good a writer as St Matthew or St Luke. Maybe, if St Matthew was writing for a Jewish audience, who knew their Scripture, and St Mark was writing to the Gentiles, he cut out a lot of stuff that wouldn't mean much (I don't know if the differences fit that idea, since I'm not familiar enough with what's different between the two, but that could be looked at). Or maybe St Peter preached from St Matthew's Gospel, and St Mark wrote down some of what was preached, but not all, since St Matthew's Gospel already existed. Or he just summarised St Matthew's Gospel, and God inspired him to make it shorter. There are all sorts of reasons why shorter versions of things exist.

The Church fathers place St Matthew's Gospel first. Did they all get it wrong? They disagreed on whether St Mark or St Luke was next, but they all say St Matthew was first. It's very Enlightenment and very Protestant to just dismiss this, and very 19th-century to think that the ancients were so much dumber than we modern people are, so we can't trust the ancient sources - especially if they support anything Catholic.
The Breviary example is not the same, because there you're talking about a collection of prayers, whereas with the Gospels you have three of them which are very similar, and it becomes extremely evident on a side-by-side-by-side comparison what they have in common, where they deviate, and who borrowed from whom.  Building upon an original narrative is different than just adding / subtracting from a collected work.

Most of the Church Fathers echoed Papias through Eusebius, so this chronology of the Gospel writing may ultimately rest on just one source who was wrong.  And if I recall, Papias didn't even use a word that meant what we would consider a "Gospel," but more like some sayings or passages.  

You are taking an "all or nothing" approach to this topic that the liberals use to deny the historicity and authorship of the Gospels.  They claim that Mark wrote first, during or just before 70AD, and that all of the other Gospels came 10-30 years after that.  Therefore, according to them, by this time none of the apostles would have been alive, so whatever authors wrote them were far removed from the life of Jesus.  I'm not sure why accepting that Matthew may have been written after Mark is such a big deal, as long as we still accept that the authors were the apostle Matthew, and Mark, the disciple of Peter and Paul.

I believe that they were all written before 70AD, like the timeline in the article, along with all of the other New Testament books, including the Gospel of John and Revelation.  This fits well within the timeframe of the traditionally accepted authors being able to write within living memory.
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#6
(05-21-2020, 01:43 PM)LionHippo Wrote: The Breviary example is not the same, because there you're talking about a collection of prayers, whereas with the Gospels you have three of them which are very similar, and it becomes extremely evident on a side-by-side-by-side comparison what they have in common, where they deviate, and who borrowed from whom.  Building upon an original narrative is different than just adding / subtracting from a collected work.

If the argument is "shorter = earlier", it fits. Which of these came first? Is the first a shortening of the second text, or is the second an enlargement of the first? If the former, what possible reason would someone have to cut out so much material?

At the age of fifteen, Venantius of Camerino was denounced for his Christian religion to Antiochus, who was Prefect of Camerino under the Emperor Decius. Venantius presented himself to the prefect at the city gates. For a long time the prefect tempted him by means of promises and threats, then commanded that he be beaten and chained. Miraculously freed by an angel, Venantius was then burned with torches and suspended face down over a smoking fire. Led back again to the governor, he had all his teeth and jaws broken and, thus mutilated, he was thrown into a pit of dung. Rescued from this pit by an Angel, he stood once more before the judge, who, even as Venantius was speaking to him, fell from his tribunal, crying out, “Venantius, his God is true, take away our gods!” and expired. At length, after new and exquisite torments, Venantius was beheaded, along with ten others, and so finished the course of his glorious struggle. The Christians gave honourable burial to the bodies of these martyrs, who now rest in Camerino, in the church dedicated to Venantius.

Venantius was a lad of Camerino (in the neighbourhood of Ancona,) who at fifteen years of age was accused of Christianity before Antiochus, Praefect of Camerino under the Emperor Decius. Venantius therefore appeared before Antiochus at the gate of the city, and when the Praefect had striven with him for a long while, by promises and threats, he commanded him to be scourged and thrown into irons, but an Angel loosed his bonds. He was afterwards scarified with lamps, and hung head downwards in smoke. Anastasius the trumpeter was amazed at his hardiness under suffering, and when it appeared to him that the Martyr was a second time loosed by an Angel, and was walking in white raiment on the smoke, he believed in Christ, and was baptized, with all his house, by the blessed Priest Porphyry, and a little while after they both together earned the palm of martyrdom. Now Venantius stood before the Praefect, and when he had again vainly tempted him to give up his faith in Christ, he cast him into prison, and sent unto him Attalus the crier. Attalus told him how that he also had been a Christian, but had denied that name, seeing it was a foolish faith which made Christians to throw away things present for a groundless hope of things to come. But Christ's brave champion, well knowing the wiles of our subtle enemy, drove the devil's servant from his presence. When he appeared again before the Praefect, his teeth and jaws were broken, and so mangled he was cast out upon a dunghill. But thence also an Angel delivered him, and he stood again before the judge. And there while Venantius was yet speaking, the judge fell from off the judgment-seat, and when he had cried with a loud voice, "Venantius, his God is true, take away our gods," he died. Then they told the President of it, he commanded Venantius to be straightway thrown to the lions. But the beasts were not wild to him, and lay down at his feet. And meanwhile he taught the Christian faith to the people. So they took him away from thence and cast him once more into prison. The next day Porphyry came to the President, and told him how that he had seen in a vision of the night Venantius sprinkling certain ones with water, and they that were sprinkled shone with a marvellous light, and the President himself hidden in deep darkness. Then the President was moved to great anger and commanded forthwith to behead Porphyry. As for Venantius, he bade them drag him about in rough places, full of briars and thistles, until the evening. When it was over, he was left half dead, but in the morning he stood for the last time before the President, who commanded to cast him down from a steep rock. It pleased God that this should not kill him, and he was haled again through rough places for about a mile. There the soldiers were athirst, and Venantius, by the sign of the Cross, made waters to flow from a stone in a gulley hard by. This is that stone whereon also he left the imprint of his knees, and which can be seen to this day in his Church. By this wonder many were moved to believe in Christ and the President commanded them all, and Venantius with them, to be beheaded in the same place where they were. When it was done there were great lightnings and earthquakes, so that the President fled, but he could not fly from the judgment of God, and but a few days thereafter he died a most shameful death. Meanwhile the Christians took the bodies of Venantius and the others, and buried them in an honourable place, wherein they lie to this day, under the Church at Camerino which is dedicated to Venantius.


(05-21-2020, 01:43 PM)LionHippo Wrote: You are taking an "all or nothing" approach to this topic that the liberals use to deny the historicity and authorship of the Gospels.  They claim that Mark wrote first, during or just before 70AD, and that all of the other Gospels came 10-30 years after that.  Therefore, according to them, by this time none of the apostles would have been alive, so whatever authors wrote them were far removed from the life of Jesus.  I'm not sure why accepting that Matthew may have been written after Mark is such a big deal, as long as we still accept that the authors were the apostle Matthew, and Mark, the disciple of Peter and Paul.



Nobody claimed Mark was first until the 19th century, and there's no reason to go against the unanimous opinion of the Fathers, and 2000 years of tradition, based only on "shorter = earlier". If Papias was wrong, why aren't there other traditions? Why didn't someone say Mark was first? Clement says Luke was before Mark; Augustine says he has been told Mark was before Luke, showing competing theories, but both put Matthew first. Given how important St Matthe's gospel was to the early Church, would they really forget which one was first? People remember the first of something.

The post-70 timeline is likewise nonsense, at least for the first three Gospels; the only reason for it is to deny that our Lord is God, and could therefore tell the future.
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#7
Even if in your first example, it is "proven" that the longer version came first, it still wouldn't mean that Matthew came first, if that is what you're trying to prove. Also, you're dealing with an account a paragraph long...if part of a larger book, to make more room for other material? To correct inaccuracies? It isn't an exact comparison. And I'm sure there are plenty of examples of the opposite, i.e. of a "proven" shorter first account, followed up by longer accounts. The study of the Gospels and the consensus that Mark came first isn't based on a couple of rogue scholars, but across many decades of work. The reason why the Matthean "priority" held on for so long is because the Gospels weren't subject to certain types of scholarship before then.

Notice again, I do not subscribe to all of the "modern" theories of this scholarship. I believe the authors are who we say they are. I just don't think it makes much difference to my faith if we concede that Mark was written first.

I agree with you that the post-70 timeline is nonsense, if you didn't notice from my two earlier posts. I think the majority of John was written pre-70, but the last chapter may have been added later. It's a mystery of his Gospel.

I believe that verses 9-20 of chapter 16 of Mark's Gospel were written by him, or added based on his notes, something along those lines. In any case, I think they were written before Luke's Gospel.
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#8
(05-21-2020, 08:36 PM)LionHippo Wrote: Even if in your first example, it is "proven" that the longer version came first, it still wouldn't mean that Matthew came first, if that is what you're trying to prove.  Also, you're dealing with an account a paragraph long...if part of a larger book, to make more room for other material?  To correct inaccuracies?  It isn't an exact comparison.  And I'm sure there are plenty of examples of the opposite, i.e. of a "proven" shorter first account, followed up by longer accounts.  The study of the Gospels and the consensus that Mark came first isn't based on a couple of rogue scholars, but across many decades of work.  The reason why the Matthean "priority" held on for so long is because the Gospels weren't subject to certain types of scholarship before then.

It's one paragraph, but none of the Gospels are very long. What if it's a couple hundred paragraphs like that on the lives of the Saints? That's more of a book.

But while it might not prove that longer = earlier, it's one example of why a shorter text might be written after a longer one. And if "well, it's shorter" is the best they've got, that's not much of a theory. If it's more than that, let's hear it. But just because it's gone on for decades doesn't make it right. Plenty of theories of modern Biblical scholars are wrong, and it's often because they reject the idea that Scripture is inspired by God. The post-70 theory is the majority view as well, but it's just as faulty, as is the idea that the Gospels aren't meant to be biographies of Jesus.


(05-21-2020, 08:36 PM)LionHippo Wrote: Notice again, I do not subscribe to all of the "modern" theories of this scholarship.  I believe the authors are who we say they are.  I just don't think it makes much difference to my faith if we concede that Mark was written first.


It doesn't prove or disprove anything about the Faith, unless it gets one reading other modern theories about the Bible and ultimately seeing it as something merely human. On the other hand, it does matter, because the truth always matters, and while we should use our reason, we should also always be cautious about rejecting the Fathers and Church tradition without a really good reason. It's on the modern scholars to prove it, and they haven't.
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#9
It matters when dealing with some people who don’t believe. Not everyone is mature and level-headed about their religious opinions, and some (especially younger) people like to use this as evidence of how the Church was wrong about something all this time, until the Enlightenment could come along to instruct us poor, ignorant Catholics, and free us from our oppressive, corrupt Church.
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#10
(05-21-2020, 10:38 PM)Paul Wrote:
(05-21-2020, 08:36 PM)LionHippo Wrote: Even if in your first example, it is "proven" that the longer version came first, it still wouldn't mean that Matthew came first, if that is what you're trying to prove.  Also, you're dealing with an account a paragraph long...if part of a larger book, to make more room for other material?  To correct inaccuracies?  It isn't an exact comparison.  And I'm sure there are plenty of examples of the opposite, i.e. of a "proven" shorter first account, followed up by longer accounts.  The study of the Gospels and the consensus that Mark came first isn't based on a couple of rogue scholars, but across many decades of work.  The reason why the Matthean "priority" held on for so long is because the Gospels weren't subject to certain types of scholarship before then.

It's one paragraph, but none of the Gospels are very long. What if it's a couple hundred paragraphs like that on the lives of the Saints? That's more of a book.

But while it might not prove that longer = earlier, it's one example of why a shorter text might be written after a longer one. And if "well, it's shorter" is the best they've got, that's not much of a theory. If it's more than that, let's hear it. But just because it's gone on for decades doesn't make it right. Plenty of theories of modern Biblical scholars are wrong, and it's often because they reject the idea that Scripture is inspired by God. The post-70 theory is the majority view as well, but it's just as faulty, as is the idea that the Gospels aren't meant to be biographies of Jesus.


(05-21-2020, 08:36 PM)LionHippo Wrote: Notice again, I do not subscribe to all of the "modern" theories of this scholarship.  I believe the authors are who we say they are.  I just don't think it makes much difference to my faith if we concede that Mark was written first.


It doesn't prove or disprove anything about the Faith, unless it gets one reading other modern theories about the Bible and ultimately seeing it as something merely human. On the other hand, it does matter, because the truth always matters, and while we should use our reason, we should also always be cautious about rejecting the Fathers and Church tradition without a really good reason. It's on the modern scholars to prove it, and they haven't.

It seems that you're more familiar with the summary of the scholarship than having actually read it.  It's not as simple as the scholars saying, "hey, Mark's shorter, it must have come first."  One can't really force a scholar to go into their studies under the presumption that the Bible is divinely inspired.  The Bible makes historical claims, and when those claims are investigated, they should hold up to the actual history.

The "traditional" view of the dates of the Exodus have shifted forward based on scholarship and archaeology, and the event is seen more as a long migrating out of Egypt than as a one-time, massive escape, for example.  

Yes, the Gospels are biographies, but they are biographical products of their time.  If one subscribes to the theory that Mark wrote his Gospel first, in Rome, it makes sense because the gospel has a very similar style to other biographies written in the Roman Empire during that time.

For a more thorough summary of this theory:  http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/mark-prior.html

A very brief summary by Biblical scholar Dr. Craig Evans:

Quote:Markan priority appears to be the most prudent position for several reasons: (1) Mark’s literary style sometimes lacks the sophistication and polish often seen in Matthew and Luke. This phenomenon is more easily explained in terms of Matthean and Lukan improvement upon Mark, rather than Markan degradation of Matthean and Lukan style.

(2) In the Markan Gospel Jesus and the disciples are sometimes portrayed in a manner that appears undignified. More often than not these potentially embarrassing passages are touched up or omitted altogether by Matthew and Luke. Again, it is easier to explain the phenomena in terms of Matthean and Lukan improvements upon Mark, rather than the reverse.

(3) The phenomena of agreements and disagreements among the Synoptic Gospels are more easily explained in reference to Markan priority. Among other things, we observe that where there is no Mark to follow (e.g., no infancy narrative, no ‘Q’ material) this is where Matthew and Luke diverge from one another. This observation is more easily explained in terms of Markan priority and Matthew’s and Luke’s independence from one another than in terms of Mark writing last and making use of Matthew and Luke. Markan priority also avoids the problem of trying to explain Luke’s inconsistent use of Matthew.

(4) The small amount of material that is unique to the Gospel of Mark also supports Markan priority. This material consists of 1: 1; 2: 27; 3: 20– 21; 4: 26– 29; 7: 2– 4, 32– 37; 8: 22– 26; 9: 29, 48– 49; 13: 33– 37; 14: 51– 52. In reviewing this material we should ask which explanation seems most probable, that Mark added it or that Matthew and Luke found it in Mark and chose to omit it. The nature of the material supports the latter alternative, for it seems more likely that Matthew and Luke chose to omit the flight of the naked youth (14: 51– 52); the odd saying about being ‘salted with fire’ (9: 48– 49); the strange miracle where Jesus effects healing in two stages (8: 22– 26); the even stranger miracle where Jesus puts his fingers in a man’s ears, spits, and touches his tongue (7: 32– 37); and the episode where Jesus is regarded as mad and his family attempts to restrain him (3: 20– 22). If we accept the Griesbach-Farmer Hypothesis [that Matthew was written first], we would then have to explain why Mark would choose to add these odd, potentially embarrassing materials, only to omit the Sermon on the Mount/ Plain, the Lord’s Prayer, and numerous other teachings and parables found in the larger Gospels.

(5) The final consideration that adds weight to the probability of Markan priority has to do with the results of the respective hypotheses. The true test of any hypothesis is its effectiveness. In biblical studies a theory should aid the exegetical task. The theory of Markan priority has provided just this kind of aid. Not only has Synoptic interpretation been materially advanced because of the conclusion, and now widespread assumption, of Markan priority, but the development of critical methods oriented to Gospel research, such as Form and Redaction Criticism, which have enjoyed success, has also presupposed Markan priority.
In countless studies, whether dealing with this or that pericope, or treating one of the Synoptic Gospels in its entirety, it has been recognized over and over again that Matthew and Luke make the greatest sense as interpretations of Mark; but Mark makes little sense as a conflation and interpretation of Matthew and Luke. The evidence is compelling that Mark represents the oldest surviving account of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. What sources the evangelist Mark made use of, if any, will in all probability remain a mystery. That he made use of some written material seems likely. That he made use of some eyewitness testimony is also probable; it cannot be ruled out.
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