Parking Place for this alternative opening – no time to integrate it now 4/4/14
Mark’s Is The First of the Gospels
Though for much of Christian history the gospel of Matthew has been given primacy that honor actually belongs to the gospel of Mark, the shortest of the gospels.
According To Date Range Written
Mark 68 – 73 Mathew 70 – 100 Luke 80 – 100 John 90 – 110
Mark is First to Introduce the Empty Tomb
Amazingly, Mark’s original writing* ended with nothing more than an “empty tomb” – except that the tomb wasn’t empty. The visitors receive an explanation from the conveniently waiting angel (a “man in white”) – “It was a resurrection!”
“And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were afraid.” – Mark 16.5
This “young man” verbalizes the sacred message; Jesus is not here, but is risen, and will be seen again in Galilee. Thus the first “witness” to the resurrection is neither man nor woman but angel. The bewildered women flee the tomb, having received the angel’s assurance that a resurrection has occurred.
The earliest extant gospel manuscripts – whether Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, or Armenian – make it obvious that the original version of Mark (upon which the other three evangelists built their own stories) finished with this verse , Mark 16.8:
And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
Thus the most critical elements of the Resurrection story were not in the first written gospel of Mark. This includes his appearances to Mary Magdalene and “the eleven” (but some doubted) as they sat at meat.
* Gospel of Mark Has Been Augmented
Verses 16:9-20, the “appearance” verses, are not found in the earlier manuscripts and are therefore considered later additions. The original gospel of Mark ended without anyone seeing the resurrected Jesus or any of the “advice” about snake handling, drinking poison, or healing the sick and most importantly, any reference to the Resurrection i.e. “received up into heaven”.
But Mark is NOT Even an “Eyewitness”
Whoever “Mark” was, he was not an eye-witness to either the life or death of Jesus. Church tradition maintains that “Mark” went to Rome and wrote down the testimony of Peter. But, on Mark’s own evidence, Peter himself was NOT a witness to many of the events described in his own gospel, including the baptism of Jesus, the temptation of Jesus, the healing of the Phoenician woman’s daughter, Jesus’ prayers in the garden of Gethsemane (all possible witnesses were asleep!) and the crucifixion itself.
“They all forsook him and fled.” – Mark 14:50.
As for the resurrection appearances, Peter could only rely on information from Mary Magdalen, or perhaps the other Mary or Salome. And yet the women themselves relied on the testimony of an angel – and said nothing!
“neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid” And yet, if the women told no one, how could Mark , Matthew, Luke or John be telling his story?!
The naivety – and brevity – of this foundational “event” is breathtaking. Later, Matthew and Luke will embellish this “eye-witness testimony” and provide responses to the obvious objections.
Matthew and Luke Copied From From A NON-Witness – Mark
Matthew, Luke and John >copied from Mark, who heard from Peter, who heard from Mary, who heard from an angel.
76% of Mark is reproduced almost word-for-word in both Matthew and Luke. An additional 18% of Mark is reproduced in Matthew but not in Luke, and an further 3% of Mark is in Luke but not in Matthew. This means that 97% of Mark is reproduced in Matthew and/or Luke. Only 3% of Mark’s material is unique to Mark and not found in Matthew or Luke.
Matthew contains 606 of Mark’s 661 verses. Luke contains 320 of Mark’s 661 verses. Of the 55 verses of Mark which Matthew does not reproduce, Luke reproduces 31; therefore there are only 24 verses in all of Mark not reproduced somewhere in Matthew or Luke.
The chart shows that 23% of Luke is word-for-word identical to 25% of Matthew, but this is material unique to these gospels and not found in Mark. This suggests another literary source independent of Mark used by Matthew and Luke in the evolution of the synoptic gospels tradition.
So, we have the interesting paradox of a non-eye witness describing events he didn’t witness being copied, often word for word, by those (Matthew and John) who are alleged to be eye-witnesses. Believers… doesn’t that bother you?
John differs significantly from the synoptic gospels in theme, content, time duration, order of events, and style. Only ca. 8% of it is parallel to these other gospels, and even then, no such word-for-word parallelism occurs as we find among the synoptic gospels. The Gospel of John reflects a Christian tradition that is different from that of the other gospels. It was rejected as heretical by many individuals and groups within the early Christian movement. It was used extensively by the Gnostic Christians. But it was ultimately accepted into the official canon, over many objections. It is now the favorite gospel of many conservative Christians, and the gospel least referred to by many liberal Christians.
They have a totally different agenda in mind for their audience than did the authors of the synoptic gospels. The authors of the synoptic gospels were writing to their fellow Jews and trying to convince them that they could accept Jesus as the Messiah and still remain Jewish. Matthew even indicates that the men should still be circumcised .
John’s teachings , as summed up in John 3:16 are just the opposite of those of the writers of Mark, Matthew and Luke. Whereas John welcomes anyone into the fold, Mark, Matthew and Luke write for and to Jews only. They see Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who has come to return Israel to its former glory.