A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels according to the King James Bible

With Emphasis on Parts of the Passion Narrative

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2014 24 Pages

Literature - Comparative Literature


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Constitution of the Synoptic Gospels with Emphasis On the Passion Narrative
2.1. The Gospel According to St. Mark
2.1.1. An Introduction to the Gospel of St. Mark with Emphasis on Structure and Outline
2.1.2 An Analysis of Chosen Passages of the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of St. Mark
2.1.3 An Abstract about the Gospel of St. Mark
2.2 The Gospel According to St. Matthew
2.2.1 An Introduction to the Gospel of St. Matthew with Emphasis on the Structure and Outline
2.2.2 An Analysis of Chosen Passages of the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of St. Matthew
2.2.3 An Abstract about the Gospel of St. Matthew
2.3 The Gospel According to St. Luke
2.3.1 An Introduction to the Gospel of St. Luke with Emphasis on the Structure and Outline
2.3.2 An Analysis of Chosen Passages of the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of St. Luke
2.3.3 An Abstract about the Gospel of St. Luke

3. Conclusion

Works Cited

1. Introduction

The word 'gospel' derives its origin from the Greek word 'evangelion' and can be translated as 'good news'. The four gospels are part of the New Testament and mainly tell about the Nativity, the work of Christi, his crucifixion and his resurrection. Whereas the gospel of John stands out with its narrative, the other three, Mark, Matthew and Luke, mainly coincide in the structure and array of their gospels. Therefore they are known as the Synoptic gospels. Often they are replicated side by side, which makes it easier to compare them to each other. But all four gospels superficially concentrate on the life and doing of Jesus, connected to his death and resurrection.

This paper is going to concentrate on the synoptic gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke to compare them with each other and illustrate the differences and consonances. The gospel of John is left out, for the peculiarities and characteristic features of this gospel deserve a particular investigation and not only a short look-over, but to stay within the limits of this paper, it is not possible to examine and compare all four gospels.

It is widely believed, that the gospel of St. Mark is the oldest one. It is the shortest and partially formulated very briefly. Next there is the gospel of St. Matthew, which is written more detailed and includes a prologue and an epilogue, but still sticks to its precept. The last one to be examined is the gospel of St. Luke. This gospel is, like Matthews, much longer than the gospel of Mark. Here as well, the description is much more detailed and the reader gets additional information. Historians are still trying to figure out how it is possible, that those gospels on the one hand differ from each other, but on the other hand, correspond with each other in structure and array and partly even resemble in wording.

With the years, many theories came up trying to understand and explain the reason for it, some of them partly reasonable, some of them virtually impossible. The most common theory is the “Zwei-Quellen-Theorie“ by C.

H. Weisse. This theory believes that everything exceeding the material from Mark comes from a second written source and is used by Matthew and Luke.

Mostly, this second source is called “Q“, shortened from the German word

“Quelle“(Ebner, Schreiber 75). It is presumed that the one by Mark is the first gospel that has been written, then the following gospels used the second source “Q“ and in addition to this, some special material. According to Ebner and Schreiber, it seems plausible, for “Mt und Lk stimmen nur dann in ihrer Reihenfolge überein, wenn sie dem Erzählfaden des MkEv folgen. Verlassen sie die Markusakoluthie, gehen sie in der Darbietung der Stoffe getrennte Wege“ (76). Furthermore, this theory would explain why the gospel of Mark is the shortest and does not include any extra information: because Mark does not know the additional source and does not have any special material.

All in all, it seems like “Mt und Lk nehmen das MkEv als narratives Rückgrat ihres eigenen Evangeliums und schieben jeweils den Redestoff aus der zweiten Quelle in diesen Handlungsablauf ein. Zusätzlich bereichern sie ihr Evangelium durch Sonderguttraditionen“ (Ebner, Schreiber 78). Of course, like all theories, this one as well has some contradictions, but compared to others, it gives the best explanations and is the most comprehensible.

The following chapters are going to concentrate on the synoptic gospels, so they can be compared to each other regarding not only structure and chronological order, but also regarding their content. Every analysis of a gospel starts with a main overview about the complete gospel, including the structure, the author, the recipient and the time when the gospel was written. Then, the content review concentrates on the most important parts of the Passion narrative. Mainly, this includes the decision of the Jewish authorities about the death of Jesus, the preparations for the Last Supper and the Last Supper itself. Followed by that comes the crucifixion of Jesus, his death and the ensuing of the tomb. Scenes like for example how Judas plans to betray Jesus, when Jesus and his disciples go to the Mount of Olives or the arrest of Jesus, are left out. Of course, those scenes are important for the narrative of the Passion, too, but to stay in the limits of this paper, these scenes had to be pruned.

Finally, a summarising analysis of the survey is given, concentrating on the differences and consonances in the Passion narrative by Mark, Matthew and Luke.

2. The Constitution of the Synoptic Gospels with Emphasis on the Passion Narrative

2.1 The Gospel According to St. Mark

2.1.1 An Introduction to the Gospel of St. Mark with Emphasis on Structure and Outline

The gospel according to Mark is one of three synoptic gospels. In earlier times it was seen as a summary of the gospel of Matthew and therefore it is placed as the second gospel in the Bible. Nowadays scholars think of it as the first gospel, for it seems like a guideline for the gospels of Matthew and Luke. But first of all, we will start with the outline of the gospel of Mark, continuing with the origin, the type, the author and time and place of origin.

Reading the gospel, there are five places noteworthy where the plot takes place. The first place is in the Desert, followed by the part Ocean of Galilee, and then a part that is best described as on the Way. Next there is Jerusalem, where Jesus commutes between Bethany and the temple and last, there is the Tomb. Concentrating on the sections itself, it becomes obvious that they correspond with each other in a way. The longest sections in the gospel, the Galilee and Jerusalem parts, more or less have the same amount of text. Another similarity is to be seen in the contents, where both have a speech of Jesus. In the Galilee-part it is the parable and in the Jerusalem-part Jesus gives a speech about the apocalypse. But whereas in Galilee, Jesus preaches and cures and with it convinces even highly sceptical people, in Jerusalem his supporters leave him and flee. The framing parts as well have the same amount of text. Both are very short and as well the desert and the tomb are places of death. The centre section represents the main part of the gospel. It prepares the readership for the changes in the folk that appear from Galilee to Jerusalem. This part is divided into three proclamations of the suffering of Christ (8:31; 9:31; 10:33), followed by a lack of understanding by the disciples and then Jesus reacts with a lecture or guidance to make his disciples understand. In 8:31 he teaches them, “that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priest, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again“. It is the first announcement of the suffering of Jesus and of his resurrection in the gospel of Mark. This as well is indicated by chapter 9:31: “For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.“ One of the better known examples for Jesus' guidance can be found in chapter 10:33f. where two of the disciples ask Jesus for the honour to sit to his left and right. But he answers “But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared“ (Mark 10:40). When the other disciples hear about it and get angry, Jesus teaches them that there is no reason for displeasure. To understand the Doctrine of Faith of Jesus, one has to go without prestige and status; he will have the position of a servant (Ebner, Schreiber 159). Why this incomprehension and the ensuing indoctrination happens three times and not just once has an easy explanation: you learn things by repeating them over and over again until you remember.

The genre of the gospel reminds of a vita. The name and ancestry are given in the first line. At the centre, words and deeds from the portrayed are listed. His death and the reasons for it are particularised (Ebner, Schneider 168). Concerning the time when the gospel has been written, Chapter 13 gives an important hint. It deals with the apocalypse, describes the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and how the destruction affects the people there. By his description of the event, it seems possible that Mark looks back on this event or experiences it, so the time when the gospel was written is around A.D.

70 or close to that. Thinking about the emergence of the gospel, it can be assumed it is the result of both, oral and written heritage. The stories are a combination of oral and written traditions and by linking those, Mark creates the narration in the sense of his own understanding and with it, creates a narrative that is, even nowadays, known by people all over the world. And even more, he creates a precept for the other gospels.

2.1.2 An Analysis of Chosen Passages of the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of St. Mark

To get a better impression, there is going to be a closer analysis of the most important chapters of the gospel of Mark, mainly concentrating on the

Passion narrative. First of all, there is the decision of the Jewish authorities on the death of Jesus in chapter 14. The reader isn't surprised by the decision, given the fact, that Mark already mentioned the coming death of Jesus in the preceding narrative. Followed by that, Mark points out, that it is Judas Iscariot, who goes to the authorities to betray Jesus (Mark 14:10). The passage about the preparations for the Last Supper reveals Jesus' wondrous foreknowledge. When he sends forth two of his disciples, he describes exactly what will happen and when the two of them come to the city, they “... found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover“ (Mark 14:16). This passage emphasizes the divinity of Jesus, he knows what is going to happen and is awaiting the coming event.

One of the main scenes of the gospel is the Last Supper itself. This depiction can be divided into two parts. First, Jesus reveals that one of his disciples is going to betray him. So far, his disciples only knew that someone is going to betray him, but they didn't know, that it is going to be one of them. Of course, Judas knows, as he decided to betray him before, but Jesus is not exposing him. His disciples cannot believe that it is one of them, asking him “... Is it I? And another said, Is it I? “(Mark 14:19). By not exposing the traitor and just telling them “..., It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish“ (Mark 14:20) he implies, according to Gielen, that all of them have the potential to do so (64). Again, his foreknowledge and foregivness shows his divinity. The second part of this scene concentrates on the bread and wine deed. He breaks the bread and gives it to his disciples, telling them “Take, eat: this is my body“(Mark 14:22) and then when he gives them the cup of wine “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God“ (Mark 14:24-25). Both actions demonstrate how Jesus sacrifices his own life. The bread is meant as his own body, given to his disciples to eat. Also the cup of wine refers to Jesus' sacrifice and his violent death. Blood is the most important essence of life and the wine stands for his own blood, so again, he gives his life for others. At the same time, he makes clear that he believes that the kingdom of God will come and he will be part of it as a living person, telling them he won't drink vine until the day the new Kingdom arrives.

Next there is the crucifixion. Of course in between those two chapters there are other narratives, like for example the arrest of Jesus and the questioning by the authorities, but an examination of those parts would go way too far for this paper. The execution scene is divided into three main parts: on the way to the place of the crucifixion, the crucifixion itself and Jesus on the cross. The first part is kept very short; it only describes the obligation of Simon of Cyrenian, who is said to be the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear the cross. In those times, soldiers, as representatives of the roman occupation force, had the right to place anyone they wanted under an obligation (Gielen 190). Then a description of the crucifixion follows. Mark mentions the place, “Golgotha, which is being interpreted, The place of a skull“ (Mark 15:22), and the offering of wine mingled with myrrh as stupefaction, which Jesus rejects. His rejection of the offering can be understood as another indication that Jesus knows exactly what is going to happen and wants to face his suffering without any simplifications. Next the crucifixion itself is described in short words and that the soldiers part his garments and distribute them among each other. His accusation, being “THE KING OF THE JEWS“ (Mark 15:26) is written on a plate, but where the plate is situated, whether it is nailed to the cross or put around his neck, is not mentioned. Finally, two thieves are mentioned, whose crosses are to the left and right of Jesus. The third part concentrates on the different groups of persons, presenting the chief priests but as well people passing by, and how they mock him. At the end of this segment, Jesus is left alone. Not only his disciples deserted him, the people passing by mock him and make fun of him and even the two thieves, who are crucified with him, revile him (Mark 15:29-32).

The next part introduces the section of Jesus' death. “There was darkness over the whole land“ (Mark 15:33), so the death of Jesus implies a destruction of heaven and the darkness underlines the devastation and tragedy according to Gielen (214). The last words he cries out before dying are “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?“ (Mark 15:34). On the one hand this can be seen as a prayer which indicates his trust into the kingdom of God



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Bible King James Bible Passion Narrative Synoptic Gospels Bible as Literature



Title: A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels according to the King James Bible