My custom/self-imposed policy is to re-post blog posts only when they are a few years old, in the expectation that most blog members will not have seen them and that some of those who have — if they are at all like me — won’t actually remember them.  In this case I need to post one from 2017.  In a later post I am going to argue that when William Wrede published his book on the Messianic Secret, it disabused scholars of a long held assumption, that Mark, as the earliest Gospel, was a fairly disinterested straight-up report of what actually happened in the life of Jesus.

To get to that, I have to explain why nineteenth century scholars thought Mark was the oldest, earliest, most original Gospel there was, and that Luke and Matthew both used it for many of their own stories about Jesus.  (John is a different kettle of fish: not as closely related to any of the other three as they are to each other.)  That view is called “Markan priority” (Mark is prior to the other two).  Here is a thumbnail sketch of three arguments often cited, as scholars began to work them out especially in the nineteenth century, as laid out in my textbook on the New Testament.


Arguments for Markan Priority

Over the years, three arguments have proved widely convincing for establishing Mark’s priority to Matthew and Luke:

Patterns of Agreement. Since the main reason for thinking that the Gospels share a common source is their verbatim agreements (i.e., someone was obviously copying someone else, since they are word for word the same), it makes sense to examine the nature of these agreements in order to decide which of the books was used by the other two. If you were to make a detailed comparison of the word-for-word agreements among these Gospels, an interesting pattern would emerge. Sometimes …

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