Matthew: Orthodox Redactor of Mark?

Mark Goodacre, whose podcasts are simply delightful, has been weighing in recently on the absence of Joseph in the text of Mark:

Take, for example, the question of Jesus’ father.  In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus does not have a human father.  He is “the craftsman, the son of Mary” (Mark 6.3); his father is in heaven and addresses Jesus directly as his son (Mark 1.119.7) and Jesus calls him “Abba” (Mark 14.36).  Other supernatural beings know that he is God’s son too (3.11).  The unwary reader of Mark might easily assume that Mark’s Jesus, who simply appears on the scene as an adult in Mark 1, is some kind of god, perhaps the product of a union between a god and Mary.  Matthew sees the problem.  He gives Jesus a father, named Joseph; indeed, he begins the book with him (Matt. 1).  In redacting the Rejection and Nazareth story, he makes Jesus “the son of the craftsman” (Matt. 13.55) so that there can be no doubt about the matter.

With respect to Dr. Goodacre’s superior level of education and careful reflection on the synoptic relationships, I find this to be a very odd sort of argument to come from him. Elsewhere, Dr. Goodacre has argued for Markan priority on the basis of Mark’s unique portrayals of Jesus. An example that he  uses is the story in Mark 8:22-26 wherein it takes Jesus two tries to heal the blind man. This story is of course one of the few pieces of text found only in Mark. If I remember correctly, Dr. Goodacre made an argument along the lines of the later Synoptic witnesses being uncomfortable with the implied fallibility of Jesus’ failure to heal the first time. I am having some small measure of difficulty reconciling such an argument with the one being presented now. Are we to suppose that a Mark who unabashedly reports such imperfection on the part of Jesus might also intentionally leave open the idea that Jesus is a god? Beyond that, are we to view Mark as leaving open the possibility that Jesus is something like the divine offspring found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (given that we are firmly told he is the son of Mary)? In any case, it seems a little inconsistent to pair such notions with Markan primacy via low Christology so to speak.

  6 comments for “Matthew: Orthodox Redactor of Mark?

  1. October 14, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Thanks for your comments. My post is just a sketch, just a few thoughts as they occur to me. Brainstorming, if you like. My point, though, is about how Matthew might have perceived some of the risks and rougher edges in the Marcan text, his concern about how those rough edges might have been taken. He is making sure, in his “orthodox” redaction, that he prevents people from making what he sees as the wrong decisions about Mark’s text. I think just the same kind of thing is in play over the healing of the Blind Man of Bethsaida, as you mention, that he is rescuing Mark from being misinterpreted (as he sees it). As for Mark’s Christology itself, I think it is pretty high, with a voice from heaven confirming Jesus’ divine origin on two occasions, albeit a Christology that has a few rough edges and primitive elements.

  2. October 14, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Thanks for the response! Does that mean you view Mark and Matthew as having fundamentally similar Christological viewpoints, but Matthew as part of the group of people receiving Mark’s text corrects deficiencies he sees in the way others have received Mark?

  3. Ashleigh
    October 14, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I could see (what I understand as) Goodacre’s position as plausible. The point doesn’t have to be that Mark had an ultra-high or ultra-low Christology, just that certain aspects of the way he told his story could have been misread as supporting a higher or lower Christology, something later authors/redactors might have wanted to clarify. It’s true that it’s odd, perhaps, that there would be issues in Mark that could push readers toward either extreme, but if it was something unintentional (something that perhaps even Mark would have told differently if he realized how it would be misunderstood), it perhaps makes sense.

  4. October 14, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Yes, Jeremiah, that’s pretty much how I think I would see it, though in this sketch I was more interested in Mark’s text and how it might be perceived.

    You are spot on, Ashleigh, in interpreting what I was trying to say.

  5. Ashleigh
    October 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Hooray! Whether or not I can interpret the Gospel of Mark, I have succeeded (at least once) at interpreting Mark Goodacre! :o)

    More seriously, these are some interesting ideas you have on Mark/Matthew, which I think make a lot of sense. I do not have the level of NT expertise necessary to make my own judgment on this particular issue, but it is certainly something interesting to ponder.

  6. October 18, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Ah, but everybody knows that Matthew was first, so there!

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