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)


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