Matthew, Mark, and LXX

Over at Nick Norelli’s Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, in the post Just Ordered…, he was describing how he’d purchased a copy of One Gospel From Two: Mark’s Use of Matthew and Luke, which I’d recommended here a few days ago. In the comments, I responded to some of the objections to Matthean Priority, which is a component of the Two Gospel Hypothesis presented in the above-mentioned book. One of the commenters to the post, John Poirier, brought up an interesting objection to Matthean Priority that I’d never heard before:

One problem with Matthean priority has to do with the patterns of agreement between Matthew’s quotations of the Old Testament, and Mark’s quotations. When Matthew quotes the OT in a Markan context, he quotes according to the LXX (as does Mark), but when he quotes the OT in a non-Markan context, he quotes according a non-aligned text (viz. proto-Aquila, kaige, whatever you want to call it). Supposing that he could know which contexts would be Markan when there as yet is no Mark simply defies the odds.

One may read my more superficial responses there, or continue reading here for the detailed examination of this idea.

Frankly, this conception is completely wrong. There is no correlation between Matthew and Mark and the LXX. Below I list all the instances in which a Markan quotation of the Old Testament is paralleled in Matthew, which also occasionally entails a parallel in Luke. I have not included Johannine parallels, as they are irrelevant to the Synoptic Problem and the specific “problem” in view. I used the (partly incorrect) list of quotations at the back of the UBS GNT4, along with the Septuagint Editio Altera (Rahlfs and Hanhart) and the Kurt Aland Synopsis of the Four Gospels, in order to get this done quickly. The passages are ordered according to their appearance in Mark. My notes are cursory. To understand what they mean, you’ll really have to be reading the texts involved. Here are the results:

1.) Malachi 3.1 in Matthew 11.10, Mark 1.2, Luke 7.27: None are LXX. In Mt, the first phrase matches LXX: “Ιδου εγω αποστελλω τον αγγελον μου.” Both Lk and Mk omit the εγω. The continuation of this allusion is as follows: Mt and Lk: προ προσωπον σου ος κατασκευασει την οδον σου εμπροσθεν σου. Mk: προ προσωπον σου ος κατασκευασει την οδον σου. Between LXX and these allusions lie a difference in pronoun in this second phrase, with LXX having μου, not σου.

2.) Isaiah 40.3 in Matthew 3.3, Mark 1.3, Luke 3.4: Almost LXX. In all three, the LXX τας τριβους του θεου ημων becomes τας τριβους αυτου. Mt and Mk end the allusion there. Luke continues through Isaiah 40.4 and into verse 5, with an almost identical text to the LXX, altering παντα τα σχολια to τα σχολια, and omitting the first phrase of verse 5, και οφθησεται η δοξα κυριου.

3.) Isaiah 6.9-10 in Matthew 13.13, Mark 4.12, Luke 8.10: Not LXX. The tripartite allusion in Mt (βλεποντες…ακουοντες…ουδε συνιουσιν) is shortened in Lk, with tenses adjusted, to a bipartite, balanced gnomic phrase through conflation of Mt’s 2nd and 3rd phrases. Mk follows Lk’s conflation of the 2nd and 3rd elements, and includes further allusions to the verse, but jumbled.

4.) Isaiah 29.13 in Matthew 15.8-9, Mark 7.6-7. Almost LXX. Mt’s ο λαος ουτος is LXX, not Mk’s ουτος ο λαος. LXX has τιμωσιν με, while Mt/Mk has με τιμα. LXX has διδασκοντες ενταλματα ανθρωπων και διδασκαλιας. Mt/Mk has διδασκοντες διδασκαλιας ενταλματα ανθρωπων.

5.) Exodus 20.12 in Matthew 15.4, Mark 7.10. Almost LXX. LXX has τιμα τον πατερα σου και την μητερα. Mt omits σου, while Mk inserts one after μητερα. (See #6 below for the importance of this.)

6.) Exodus 21.16 in Matthew 7.10 and Mark 7.10. Almost LXX. LXX has ο κακολογων πατερα αυτου η μητερα αυτου τελευτησει θανατω. Mt has ο κακολογων πατερα η μητερα θανατω τελευτατω. Mk is identical. Which is original? As Mt, in the Ex 20.12 quotation above, also displays the stripping of personal pronouns, while Mk inserts one, so Mt may be reckoned the source of this rendering of Ex 21.16 which is likewise stripped of its personal pronouns. Mk follows Mt in this, here.

7.) Genesis 1.27 (or 5.2) in Matthew 19.4, Mark 10.6. LXX. All read αρσεν και θηλυ εποιησεν αυτους.

8.) Genesis 2.24 in Matthew 19.5, Mark 10.7-8. Mk follows LXX, Mt is independent. Mt is not dependent upon Mk or LXX.

9.) Exodus 20.12-16 in Matthew 19.18-19, Mark 10.19, Luke 18.20. First part: Mt has LXX. Mk follows Lk’s forms in Mt’s order, with addition of μη αποστερησης. In Mt 19.19, τιμα…, again Mt lacks the personal pronoun, showing this lack as a characteristic of Mt. Lk supplies it and Mk follows Lk, both showing the LXX text. In Mt 19.19 is added και αγαπησεις τον πλησιον σου ως σεαυτον. Throughout, Mt follows LXX, Lk has an alteration thereof including the omission of και αγαπησεις…, which Mk follows, adding the anomalous (and non-Biblical) μη αποστερησης.

10.) Psalm 118.25-26 (LXX 117.25-26) in Matthew 21.9, Mark 11.9-10, Luke 19.38. Only ωσαννα comes from Ps 117.25, but this is not LXX. Both Mt and Mk follow LXX of 117.26. Lk has ερχομενος ο βασιλευς.

11.) Isaiah 56.7 in Matthew 21.13, Mark 11.17, Luke 19.46. All reflect LXX. Mt stops at κληθησεται, while Lk stops at the preceding προσευχης. Mk includes κληθησεται and continues the quotation from Isaiah: πασιν τοις εθνεσιν, a phrase of obvious interest to his Gentile audience. Lk is odd for omitting a verb here.

12.) Psalm 118.22-23 (LXX 117.22-23) in Matthew 21.42, Mark 12.10-11, Luke 20.17. LXX in all. Lk omits 117.23 though Mk includes it. (Note especially the conflation of Mt 21.46 and Lk 20.19 in Mk 12.12.)

13.) Deuteronomy 25.5 in Matthew 22.24, Mark 12.19, Luke 20.28. Not an LXX quotation at all, but a paraphrase. Again, however, Mk shows itself as dependent primarily on Lk, but adjusting to Mt. Note the expansion of Mt’s terse protaxis, which assumes the dead man to have had a brother, yet which for Gentile readers needs to be expanded to make that explicit.

14.) Exodus 3.6 (or 3.15) in Matthew 22.32, Mark 12.26, Luke 20.37. Almost LXX. Lk is a paraphrase. LXX lacks the definite article in all three positions before each θεος. Perhaps Mk does too, though this is textually questionable; in the UBS4 text, the article stands before the first, and is bracketed in the second and third position. Mt has definite article for each: ο θεος.

15.) Deuteronomy 6.4-5 in Matthew 22.37, Mark 12.29-30. Not LXX throughout, though Mk has that text for the first two items (καρδιας and ψυχης), and is consistent in using εξ, as does LXX. Mt uses εν throughout, and Lk uses εξ first, then switches to εν. Mt ends with διανοια rather than the expected LXX δυναμεως. Lk inserts a representation of the latter in the proper position as ισχυι, before Mt’s διανοια. Mk then switches the order of Lk’s last two items, as διανοια is better paired with ψυχης.

16.) Leviticus 19.18 in Matthew 22.39, Mark 12.31, Luke 10.27. Mt and Mk follow LXX. Lk removes the counting of first and second greatest commandments, and so elides the verb for this phrase, linking it to the former αγαπησεις with a simple και. Mk’s extended and repetitive agreement/reply is necessary to bring the dispute material to a close, which he does with the phrase about no one able to question Jesus anymore, wanting to get on with the story. Mt, however, has extended and important discourses following which Mk passes over, as these dealt primarily with halakhic matters, which are not of interest at all in Mk.

17.) Psalm 110.1 (LXX 109.1) in Matthew 22.44, Mark 12.36, Luke 20.43. Almost LXX. Lk has LXX υποποδιον, while Mt and Mk have υποκατω. All lack in this text the initial ο in the ειπεν ο κυριος of LXX.

18.) Daniel 7.13 in Matthew 24.30, Mark 13.26, Luke 21.27. This is only a paraphrase. However, the LXX (OG) phrase επι των νεφελων του ουρανου is in Mt. Lk has εν νεφελη, while Mk has εν νεφελαις. None is fully LXX, though Mt has a partial quotation.

19.) Zechariah 13.7 in Matthew 26.31, Mark 14.27. Not LXX. This is more of an allusion, with the imperative altered to a first person future indicative.

In the above, there are only three cases in which both Matthew and Mark and LXX reflect an identical text. The idea that Mk always follows LXX is simply wrong, as seen from the above. That Mt always follows LXX in a hypothetical use of Marcan quotations is therefore absurd. The patterns of utilization of these OT quotations may, however, demonstrate Mk’s use of Mt and Lk, as I touch on in the above notes in places. This investigation of quotations is something to look into further.


  1. Enjoy, gentlemen! It was a fun thing to look through.

    If you’re looking them up in the Aland Synopsis, look them up in the index by the Mark citation. That’s the quickest way.

  2. There is a short monograph on this that may be of interest, David S. New, Old Testament Quotations in the Synoptic Gospels, and the Two-Document Hypothesis (Septuagint and Cognate Studies 97; Atlanta, Ga.: Scholar’s, 1993). I wrote a bit about this in my paper for the Oxford Synoptic Problem conference last year, from which this is a short extract:

    “New studies several Old Testament quotations in the Synoptic Gospels, testing Holtzmann’s theory that where Matthew parallels Mark, the quotations are Septuagintal, whereas when Matthew writes on his own, the quotations are Matthew’s translations of the Hebrew. Like others, New confirms only the first part of Holtzmann’s case for the Marcan Hypothesis, that the quotations common to Mark and Matthew are Septuagintal. His analysis shows that Holtzmann was wrong about the use of the Hebrew in all the remaining cases. Sometimes Matthew’s unique quotations are also Septuagintal. New also asks, for each example he discusses, whether the Griesbach Theory or the Two-Source Theory better accounts for the evidence of the Old Testament quotations, and he concludes strongly that Marcan Priority is the preferable theory in this category of evidence.”

    There are some difficulties, however, with New’s analysis which I discuss briefly in the paper.

  3. I’ve been wondering something for a long time. Has anyone done an authoritative or at least comprehensive study on how early Christian writers quote the scriptures?

    In my personal study I’ve seen a surprising willingness to be sloppy (of course, if they were using different texts that explains part of the problem, but creates a new one) and definately willing to take things out of context (unless the context was understood very differently then).

    I’m looking for someone who’s well-read but not an academic could understand.

  4. Thanks for that, Mark! Is your paper published yet, too?

    What seems to be going on here is that people have a very loose conception of what is “Septuagintal.” If we go by matching what is actually the diplomatic Rahlfs text, consistent matching is certainly not the case, as I show above. I’ll have to check the Goettingen text, but I doubt the differences are that great. Using Rahlfs, only three of the quotations were identical in Mt, Mk, and LXX. Other than those three, there are quite a number of differences in the quotations, as described above briefly. If Holtzmann or any of the others were using a single text, Alexandrinus or Vaticanus, they may have run into instances of back-contamination from the Gospel texts, so they’d find more matches than really are represented in the Septuagint’s text traditions. The Septuagint is nowhere as neat as the NT manuscript tradition, which is itself not very neat.

    But overall, I think the evidence is clear that such a simplistic view that “Mt follows Mk in LXX usage” is unrealistic. The data simply don’t support it. Nuancing a too simplistic hypothesis won’t help.

    I’ll dig up New’s little book and see what he says. But I suspect he relies on a very loose application of “Septuagintal” as surely Holtzmann did.

  5. David I have heard about this book, which I think is directed more toward a lay audience, and sounds useful: Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

    If by “early Christian” you mean the Church Fathers, though, I don’t know of a single, accessible, detailed treatment like the Commentary… above. I would suggest two other very accessible books that touch on the subject:
    Fr John Behr, The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death, and
    Fr John Breck, Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church. The former focuses on apostolic/NT readings of the Scriptures and how these were recognized as referring to Christ. The latter includes descriptive articles on something of the “how” of Patristic Biblical interpretation, though not in depth. I’m sure there are other things available nowadays, but those are the only non-technical ones that I have lying around (actually, carefully shelved).

    I would suggest you pop over to Aaron Taylor’s blog Logismoi and drop him a line asking the same question. He will likely have some suggestions that I don’t know of.

    Happy book hunting!

  6. Thanks. I was trying to be vague to cast a wider net.

    The Commentary on NT Use of the OT… has one critical comment on Amazon about some Calvinist POV problems, but it will probably serve.

    Fr Breck’s book might be useful. I wish more Orthodox scholars published online. I’m sure that seminaries and monasteries need income, but essays and large excerpts might actually increase their revenue. Ultimately they are doing this for the Church anyway.

    Besides, if they don’t publish online, then what is online is left to the rest of us yahoos. (implying my own yahooery not yours)

    1. I’ve actually got a copy of that Commentary arriving today sometime. But it’s not here yet, so I can’t really say what it’s like. I’d heard good things about it from others, and it sounds like just a handy thing to have around. Once it’s here and I’ve had a few days to poke around at it, I’ll post some notes on it. It’s from Baker, and they tend to have useful, solid, stuff. The “Calvinist” note on Amazon does raise an eyebrow. We’ll see.

      I think I’ve got plenty of yahooery here, too. We’re all yahoos at one thing or another!

  7. Nick, I remember reading your review (and some others) and had that filed away as a plus for this title. It arrived about an hour ago, and I’ve been poking through. It’s much, much more interesting than I thought it was going to be. I had imagined a much smaller book, just a bare collection of explanations of the OT quotations and commentary on their usage. It’s an enormous book and full of so much interesting commentary that I’m really quite surprised. What a pleasant surprise!

  8. Nick, I didn’t really want to say it, but maybe you were thinking like I was at first: “Baker? Well, this could be hit or miss….” I wasn’t going to get it until I looked at the list of contributors. That decided it for me. Even so, it’s a much, much meatier treatment than I expected.

  9. Kevin: It wasn’t the publisher so much as the subject that had me expecting much less than I got. I expected it to be full of references to direct NT quotations and possibly not-so-direct allusions to OT passages with brief dictionary style articles on them. I thought there’d me some mention of midrash and pesher, maybe even a nod to PaRDeS, but I didn’t expect it to actually be a commentary! Finding out that it was a commentary that took a keen eye to intertextual issues was a very pleasant surprise. Of course I don’t agree with everything in there (some of the commentary on Romans is a bit troubling) but I still respect the depth of the volume. I hope you’ll post some of your thoughts on it after you’ve worked with it for a while. I always gain a lot from your reviews.

    1. Thanks very much, Nick! I appreciate that. You describe exactly what I expected. I thought it was going to be a fairly superficial, dictionary-style treatment as well. I didn’t expect this at all. The variety of presentations is a little bewildering. Since this is something of a first-of-its-kind publication, there’s no established format for presentation. What we expected is only one of the possiblities, one that was obviously unsatisfactory to these highly thoughtful contributors with their variety of approaches. What a fascinating book! It’ll be fun to dive in.

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