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If Matthew was an eyewitness, why did he copy Mark?

Postby Pree » Thu Jun 15, 2017 10:05 pm

If Matthew was an eyewitness, why would he have to copy Mark? For those who still believe Matthew was the author of his own gospel, why does he copy word-for-word material from Mark (who wasn't even an eyewitness)?

It would seem that if you witnessed a man walk on water, feed 5000 people, cure blindness, and raise from the dead, you probably wouldn't have a hard time coming up with your own material. But Matthew literally plagiarizes 97% of Mark's work. At best, Matthew was just super lazy. At worst, he didn't write it and the real author is unknown.
Pree
 

Re: If Matthew was an eyewitness, why did he copy Mark?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Jun 15, 2017 10:13 pm

Part of the problem with your assumption is "what qualifies as the report of an eyewitness?" For instance, the Gospel of Matthew includes 5 large blocks of teaching that don't appear in the other Gospels. Are those the reports of an eyewitness? Second, Papias mentions that Matthew "wrote down the sayings of Jesus." Is it possible that Matthew, since he most likely lived in Jerusalem, was one of the teachers telling the stories that possibly ended up in Q, that ended up in Mark, and then he used them himself? There is no reason to believe that Matthew lived in Jerusalem for several decades and was not active in spreading the teachings and stories of Jesus. How do you know Matthew wasn't the source material for large blocks of the Gospel of Mark, and then he used them in his own writing as well?

Matthew is unanimously identified by the early fathers as the author of the Gospel, and this cannot be easily dismissed. It is also undeniable that the titles of all four gospels were unanimously accepted over a large geographical area in the 2nd century. Because travelers networked the early Christian assemblies throughout the empire, there is reason to consider that the early traditions are probably correct.

So, at best, Matthew was the source of stories about Jesus that found their way into all the Synoptic Gospels. At worst, Matthew wrote something, probably a precursor to what we call the Gospel of Matthew, in Hebrew or Aramaic, perhaps a collection of teachings, that were then assembled by another and published under Matthew's name since Matthew was the tradent behind the work.
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Re: If Matthew was an eyewitness, why did he copy Mark?

Postby Chucky » Sun Jun 18, 2017 3:47 pm

> Matthew is unanimously identified by the early fathers as the author of the Gospel, and this cannot be easily dismissed.

They also mentioned that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew, but the gospel we have today was written in Greek. Could it be possible that the gospel of Matthew we have today was a different gospel to the one which the early church fathers were referencing?
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Re: If Matthew was an eyewitness, why did he copy Mark?

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jun 18, 2017 3:57 pm

Great comment. Just so you know, it's not "they" who mention the Gospel was written in Hebrew, but Papias, as reported to us by Eusebius. What Papias wrote (according to Eusebius) is: "Matthew wrote down the sayings of Jesus in Hebrew dialect (en Hebraïdi dialektōi—which may refer to either Hebrew or Aramaic), and everyone translated (hērmēneusen—or 'interpreted') them to the best of their ability." As you know, what's difficult to discern is what Papias was talking about. Some think Matthew wrote the 5 main (and large) blocks of teaching that are in Matthew but scant in the other two Synoptics. Some think that what these "sayings" were somehow contributed to Q. And since Papias uses the same word for the Gospel of Mark, some scholars think it refers to the Gospel of Matthew. As I said, Matthew wrote something. With such limited records, it's tough to pin it down. But the other things I said are still true: Matthew is unanimously identified by the early fathers as the author of the Gospel, and there is no record of any dispute of that, and this cannot be easily dismissed. Although anything is possible, it's not likely that the Gospel of Matthew we have today is a different Gospel to the one that the early church fathers were referencing. Why do I say that? Ignatius of Antioch, who lived and wrote in the 1st century, quotes from the Gospel of Matthew we have today. So does Clement of Rome, also from the first century. Hermas, in The Shepherd, mentions that there are four Gospels. The Didache (about AD 100-105) quotes from Matthew. So also Polykarp in the early 2nd century. So we have a reasonable chain of custody that the work to which Papias refers is also the work to which the others refer, which is the Gospel of Matthew we have today.
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Re: If Matthew was an eyewitness, why did he copy Mark?

Postby Pree » Sun Jun 18, 2017 4:02 pm

> At worst, Matthew wrote something, probably a precursor to what we call the Gospel of Matthew, in Hebrew or Aramaic, perhaps a collection of teachings, that were then assembled by another and published under Matthew's name since Matthew was the tradent behind the work.

Actually.... at worst, Matthew didn't write it. Why is that not an option being considered?
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Re: If Matthew was an eyewitness, why did he copy Mark?

Postby jimwalton » Fri Jun 30, 2017 6:15 am

That's not an option to be considered because the evidence is so strong against it. Papias tells us Matthew wrote something. Papias also uses that same word to describe the Gospel of Mark. Ignatius of Antioch, who lived and wrote in the 1st century, quotes from the Gospel of Matthew we have today. So does Clement of Rome, also from the first century. Hermas, in The Shepherd, mentions that there are four Gospels. The Didache (about AD 100-105) quotes from Matthew. So also Polykarp in the early 2nd century. The early historical records we have are unanimous in attributing Matthew to Matthew, and there is no record of it ever being disputed. That's why "Matthew didn't write it" has so little credibility.

Possibly it came down this way: Suppose Matthew, living in Jerusalem, was actively telling and retelling the stories of Jesus. At one point he wrote down a bunch of it, especially the sayings (the 5 large blocks of speeches in Matthew), (possibly the logia to which Papias refers. As Mark and Matthew, along with others, circulated and spoke in Jerusalem and its environs, many of these stories took on set forms and were assembled into a document or series of documents ("Q"). Mark moved to Rome, spent some time with Peter, and used his exposure to Jesus (as a Jerusalemite and in a family of believers [Acts 12.12]), his exposure to Matthew, and his knowledge of Q to compose his Gospel. Matthew, reading Mark's Gospel a short time later, cribs blocks of it (since he was the source anyway) for his own Gospel, adding to it the logia that he had previously written down. Matthew's material is then possibly edited and enhanced by some later collaborators with other material from Mark, and we end up with Matthew's Gospel, "written" by Matthew, cribbed from Mark (of which Matthew may have been a source), including the logia, and possibly further redacted later by other contributors until it solidified into the Gospel we have today.

That could be why we have quotes from Matthew in the late 1st c., knowledge of the writing known to have Matthew as its tradent, and only later identified as "According to Matthew" by the late 2nd c.


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