The Gospels on the Pharisees IV

(continued from here)

9.) Mt 15.1-20 / Lk 11.37-54 / Mk 7.1-23
In Mt the issue is ritual handwashing prior to a meal, something that concerned some Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem, and is undoubtedly related to the later-attested Rabbinic practice (see Mishnah tractate Yadayim, passim). This would have been a basic issue that apparently would presumably prevent table fellowship between Jesus and his disciples on one side, and the Pharisees and scribes on the other. Jesus’ argument is fascinating. Adducing a presumably Pharisaic and scribal halakhic example regarding vows to the Temple (“Qorban”) and positing a situation in which it would actually break commandments in the Torah rather than preserve them, he follows with a quotation from Isaiah 29.13, a prophetic condemnation of similar behavior. This is then followed by a stunning pronouncement which appears to be related to the Isaiah quotation: what comes from the heart defiles. In Lk the argumentation is completely gone, and the pericope is combined with a Lucan version of the some of the woes of Mt 23. Mk, however, follows Mt more closely, though still not presenting the argumentation in full. Indeed, it appears that in his concern for parenthetical explanation of Jewish customs for his Gentile readers (vv 3-4, 11) and application to their situation (particularly in the parenthesis in v 19: “Thus he declared all foods clean” — patently not the issue in Mt), Mk has taken the pericope in a different direction altogether, one foreign to the argumentation in Mt.

10.) Mt 16.1-4 / Lke 11.16, 29; 12.54-56 / Mk 8.11-13
As noted above in #8, Lk and Mk have harmonized Mt 12.38-42 and Mt 16.1-4, which is most apparent in Mk 8.11 and Lk 11.16 noting that the questioning was in order “to test him,” which is lacking in the parallel in Mt 12.38. Also to be noted is the weather observation saying in Lk 12.54-56, which originates in an appropriate fuller context in Mt 16.1-4.

11.) Mt 16.5-12 / Lk 12.1 / Mk 8.14-21
Lk excerpts only the very beginning of the Matthean pericope on the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but identifies this leaven as the hypocrisy of the Pharisees alone, rather than the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees as in Mt. (The single excerpt is then followed by a Lucan version of Mt 10.26-33, interestingly implying persecution from the quarter of the Pharisees, though this would’ve been in actuality unlikely due to their position as influential intellectually, but lacking official power as a body themselves.) The version in Mk moves the focus, as elsewhere, to the miracles of the multiplication of loaves on two separate occasions, altogether neglecting to inform the reader what this leaven represents. An interesting change is that of “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” in Mt 16.6 to “the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” in Mk 8.15. It is perhaps this unusual alteration in Mk that led to omitting the identification of the leaven. What role would the Pharisees and Herod have in common? Certainly not teaching. Mk probably should be taken, however, to understand the leaven as “hypocrisy” with Lk 12.1, contra Mt 6.12.

12.) Mt 19.3-12 / Lk 16.18 / Mk 10.2-12
In both Mt and Mk, it is the Pharisees asking Jesus about divorce, but there is a crucial difference in the two accounts. Mt has the question posed “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (19.3). Mk has it “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (10.2). Mt’s question will explain why Jesus’ ruling in 16.9 includes the proviso for adultery as the only legitimate reason for divorce. The unqualified question in Mk leads to an unqualified ban on divorce. Lk and Mk have no parallels to the concluding section of this pericope in Mt regarding not marrying as “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” vv 10-12. Such imagery could be construed as distasteful to a Gentile audience, if aversion to circumcision is any guide. Lk and Mk might then simply have avoided presenting this odd saying to their predominantly Gentile audiences.

13.) Mt 21.23-27 / Lk 20.1-8 / Mk 11.27-33
In Mt we find “the chief priests and the elders of the people” (21.23) questioning the source of Jesus’ authority, while in Lk it is “the chief priests and the scribes with the elders” (20.1) and in Mk it is “the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” (11.27). Again, Lk inserts scribes and Mk follows suit, connoting the group against Jesus to be composed of all the rulership of the nation as well as the instructors, while Mt leaves the latter out of this particular episode. Lk and Mt both foster the impression of widespread official opposition to Jesus from the beginning of his teaching, while Mt presents a picture over the course of the gospel of a deteriorating relationship between Jesus and the other parties: Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, et al.

14.) Mt 21.33-46 / Lk 20.9-19 / Mk 12.1-12
This is the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen. The three versions are substantially parallel, though Lk omits the removal of the kingdom in Mt 21.43, and Mk omits both that and the following verse regarding being broken on the stone (Mt 21.44; Lk 20.18). The parties who recognize themselves depicted unflatteringly in the parable are “the chief priests and the Pharisees” in Mt 21.45, and “the scribes and the chief priests” in Lk 20.19. In Mk it is simply “they” (12.12), referring back to “the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” of 11.27.

(to be continued)

The Gospels on the Pharisees III

(continued from here)

6.) Matthew 12.9-14 / Luke 6.6-11 / Mark 3.1-6
Pickup on Mt 12.9-14:

Jesus’ words presume a knowledge of Pharisaic practice—specifically, that they would have granted an exception to the Sabbath restriction in the case of a trapped animal. Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of inconsistency in their application of the Torah. More than that, he sees is as an inconsistency that fails to give proper place to the humanitarian requirements of the Law” (p. 91).

Several differences are apparent in this set of parallel pericopes. First, in Mt it is Pharisees who ask Jesus the question on the legality of healing on the Sabbath, and Jesus answers with a question, using a classic qal va-homer (a fortiori) analogy to establish that saving an animal is permitted, thus so is healing a man. In Lk and Mk, however, Jesus asks a slightly different question, skips the halakhic analogy, and heals the man in a confrontational manner. Both Lk and Mk also present the Pharisees (and scribes in Lk) as already antagonistic, just looking for an excuse to accuse Jesus. On the other hand, in Mt there is no such narrative setup, and their (the Pharisees of 12.3) animosity comes only after he has healed the man, once he is perceived to have committed an offense. So again we see, in Lk’s and Mk’s reuse of the material, Mt’s halakhic argumentation stripped out and the pericope transformed into one focusing on how a good act can paradoxically offend some pre-antagonistic viewers (did they need any excuse?), not too surprisingly. The communication between Jesus and the Pharisees, him addressing them with their own manner of argumentation, according to their own form, is important to understand. His use of such forms of halakhic argumentation indicates that it was not restricted to the Pharisees, precursors to the Rabbis, alone, but was also, as we also know from some allusive examples at Qumran, a form of argumentation that was in general circulation among first century Judeans. Eliminating the level of understanding and rapport changes the depiction of the relationship from that of two parties speaking the same language in the same cultural and intellectual context (as the original situation patently was) to that of haughty superiority on one side and craven antagonism on the other. Matthew therefore presents a picture more in line with reality than either Luke or Mark.

7.) Matthew 12.24 / Mark 3.22
In this case we find Mt depicting the speakers as Pharisees, while Mk has “scribes…from Jerusalem” speaking. Pickup (pp 94-95) notes that the scribes are more often depicted in discussion with Jesus in Mk, while in Mt, the Pharisees predominate. Pickup says (p. 95), “Clearly, the author of Matthew believed that while not every Pharisee was a scribe, certain scribes in Mark’s gospel were in fact Pharisees and these Pharisaic scribes in Mark’s gospel were in fact Pharisees and these Pharisees tended to be the ones who objected to Jesus as a teacher of the Law.” Yet there is another way to view the evidence. With the Griesbach Hypothesis, we have Lk between Mt and Mk, and the evidence viewed in this order shows that Lk introduced the scribes into many of the pericopes, where they were either retained or not by Mk, with no apparent pattern. Lk perhaps differentiated the Pharisees in Mt simply for the reason of increasing the impression of organized opposition to Jesus from Judean leadership. The scribes, however, do not get off easy in Mt. Note the repeated refrain in Mt 23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”

8.) Matthew 12.38 (par 16.1-2a, 4) / Lk 11.16, 29-32 / Mk 8.11-12
Here in Mt, scribes and Pharisees seek a sign (at Mt 16.1 is is “the Pharisees and Sadducees”), while Lk has “some” and “others” in a crowd asking (11.14-16), and Mk has simply “the Pharisees” (8.11) arriving and promptly arguing. Note the change: a respectful request in Mt 12.38 (“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you”) is harmonized with Mt 16.1 (“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven”) in first Lk and then Mk. In both, again, Jesus’ initial rapport with the Pharisees and scribes is obscured by this practice of Lk, sustained by Mk, in presenting the Pharisees and Judean leadership as irrationally hostile to Jesus from the beginning. Mt presents a picture of deteriorating relations, which is much more believable, likely, and thereby almost certainly earlier.

(to be continued)