Saturday, January 31, 2015

NT: Luke 5-8

I’d forgotten how (comparatively) beautifully written the Gospel According to Luke is. It almost reads like Shakespeare - lilting and flowing - containing more imagery than Mark, less choppy, less crude. I know, I know - over the years, I have probably been indoctrinated by other commentators, but it’s true. Luke is readable, and it conveys much of the imagery that sticks with you when you construct your mental image of Jesus. Too bad they coupled this to the Hebrew Bible’s cosmology and deity. They could have really had something!

It’s the longest book in the NT - both by word count and verse count. The author of Luke and Acts was a wordy so-and-so! I did mention that both books are believed to have the same author, didn’t I?

Chapter 5 depicts the “miraculous catch of fish”, which appears no where else. We also are treated to a couple of healings, a few parables, and the parabolic questions about fasting and the presence of the bridegroom. Clearly, we are being shown Jesus’ care for the ailing and disadvantaged (as opposed to the well-off), while He also intimates “Last Days”.

Chapter 6 finds Jesus and his followers plucking ears of corn on the sabbath, which raises the ire of the Pharisees. It seems that he’s always getting the stink-eye from the Pharisees, but since these events tend to be recapitulated across the Gospels, it’s less often than it seems.

We also see Jesus explicitly pick his apostles from among his disciples. I don’t believe it’s done this way elsewhere, although it really makes no difference.

13 And when it was day, he called [unto him] his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;

...then proceeds to speak many of the blessings that we’re so familiar with:

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed [be ye] poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

It goes on like this for the rest of the chapter. He must have done a quadruple espresso that day!

In Chapter 7 we get a healing of a centurion’s servant, and a raising from the dead. Naturally, John the Baptist is intrigued, so sends some of his people to inquire about whether Jesus is the one that they seek:

19 And John calling [unto him] two of his disciples sent [them] to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

...so Jesus performs some more healings, JB’s entourage Entourage is suitably impressed and leaves with the news. Jesus then begins preaching again, using JB’s greatness (as a prophet) as a milestone against which He compares the greatness of those that belong to the Kingdom of God. Jesus is quite an effective salesman!

Chapter 8 brings us “The Ministering Women”, the “Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower”, “He who has Ears to Hear, Let him Hear”, “Jesus' True Kindred Relatives”, “Stilling the Storm”, the “The Gerasene Demoniac”, and “Jairus' Daughter and the Woman with a Hemorrhage”. If it looks like I’m cribbing from another source, I am! I have no analysis to add, just a crude list. My only comment is that each of these events is mirrored in both Matthew and Mark, except for The Ministering Women. Well done, author of Luke and Acts!

Parallels


As I just alluded, Luke chapters 5 through 8 are pretty consistent with Matthew and Mark. In fact only one pericope in each chapter is unique to Luke, all others are found in either or both of the other Synoptics. The only concern is how they’re dispersed, as the ordering varies more between Luke and the other two, as opposed to just between Matthew and Mark alone.

Interesting stuff!

Friday, January 30, 2015

NT: Luke 1-4

1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Thus begins the book of Luke. Chapter 1 gives us details about John the Baptist, which is (apparently) intended to allow parallels between John and Jesus to be drawn for the readers. There may have been a motive for this, possibly the audience for this was mainly followers of John, so drawing parallels to Jesus might have been just the grease to smooth the transition to this new, improved prophet. I'm just speculating.

Notice that the gospel is addressed to “most excellent Theophilus” but who Theophilus might have been remains a mystery. Here’s a site that ponders this fact. And, as always, here’s Wikipedia’s take.

Anyway - Chapter 1 is a looonnnggg one - by Bible standards - and traces John’s parent’s relationship with Mary and Joseph, through the conception of Jesus. We saw none of this in Matthew or Mark.

Chapter 2 presents us with material that we didn't see in Mark, and some that mostly - but not all - appears in Matthew. Here we get the truly lovely verbiage that we’ve all heard around Christmas time, and which probably formed my childhood understanding of Jesus:

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

There is also His circumcision, childhood in Nazareth, and boyhood hijinks in the Temple

43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not [of it].
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among [their] kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

Clearly he was growing up to be special!

Chapter 3 is largely John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism, John’s capture, and some (always) boring geneological stuff.

Chapter 4 finds Jesus being tempted in the wilderness

1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.

He perseveres, returns to Galilee to preach, then

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

...is presented with a sign that he is special - something I don’t think we’ve seen at this early stage of his ministry. We also see that some of the passages are getting out-of-order, when looked at from Luke’s perspective back to Mark and Matthew. It’s not prevalent, but enough to - again - catch the eye of the inquisitive.

Parallels


As I already mentioned, Luke adds new material that is missing from Mark, and partially missing from Matthew. I think the weaving together of John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ stories is most significant, as well as is the lovely images given to us by the birth and adoration narrative. Have a look at Gospel Parallels, if you feel the need to get more in-depth.

NT: Mark 13-16

The Gospel According to Mark is the shortest of the gospels, and as we noted, somewhat unpolished in comparison to Matthew and Luke. I suppose that the first time I read it verse-by-verse - which was as a newly born-again Christian - I had no deep thoughts about why Jesus’ story needed to be retold after reading Matthew, other than a vague acknowledgement that multiple attestations of Jesus’ miracles, ministry and resurrection make for a more convincing case to the faithful. After re-reading the Gospels and other selected New Testament books more than a few times, it has become more like re-reading a surveillance report - I already know how it ends. If you’re a believer, then Jesus’ crucifixion signals good things. If you’re not a believer, then Jesus just dies. Jesus has a bad six hours either way you look at it, but I expect most of us know someone who has suffered for days or weeks to an extent that make Jesus’ suffering look trivial by comparison. Anyway, let’s wrap this up.

Mark Chapter 13 begins with Jesus giving some of the disciples insight into the coming “last days”, with destruction and desolation on the menu as prophesied by Daniel in the Old Testament. Clearly Jesus’ words appear to be an extension of Jewish lore, at least in the eyes of the author of Mark.

1 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings [are here]!
2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,
4 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?

...

23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

He tells us that “Heaven and Earth shall pass away” but His words will not. He clearly indicates that the “master of the house” is coming, so be on watch.

Chapter 14 is most momentous, with the Last Supper, betrayal by Judas, Jesus’ arrest by the multitudes, and Peter’s two denials. Worth reading in its entirety, no need to quote from it here.

Chapter 15 brings us to Jesus’ crucifixion and the appearance of Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of Joses, Salome, and Joseph of Arimathea. After six hours, Jesus gives up the ghost, and is entombed by Joseph of Arimathea.

Mark Chapter 16 is notable for the controversy about its length. Bible historians tell us that the earliest copies of Mark end at 16:8, and describe Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James coming to the tomb, finding it unoccupied except by a young man, and fleeing in fear. The version of Mark that was canonized contains verses 9 through 20, which include Jesus’ reappearance to first Mary Magdalene, then to the remaining eleven disciples, whom he then charges with spreading the word. Then he ascends into heaven. Consequently, Mark 16:9-20 appear to be later additions that were not written by the original author of Mark. I don’t need to belabor this at the moment, but it’s worth noting that, in general, many books of the New Testament, maybe all, bear signs of being edited. Some edits are clearly innocuous, others appear significant. There are plenty of good resources on this kind of stuff (see Bart Ehrman’s “Forged”, Robert M. Price’s “The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man”, et al.)

A brief digression: notice that in Chapter 15, it’s “Mary mother of Joses”, whereas in Chapter 16, it’s “Mary mother of James”. Compare to Matthew 28:1, where’s it’s “the other Mary”. I’m not saying this is either important or controversial, but it’s something that gets the attention of the moderately inquisitive. When you Google “Mary mother of James and Joses” without the quotes, you get references to sites that are as likely to ignore this as to clarify it. Among my first few hits were The Bible Gateway - which ignores Joses in the description of this other Mary, and Bible Hub - which seems to ignore the difference as well. Don’t you wish the Bible was more unambiguous? You’d think the divinely inspired authors would have had some guidance on how to accomplish this. Alas!

Parallels


The Olivet Discourse in Mark maps to Matthew cleanly, while Mark and Matthew follow a similar chronology, with the exception of additions in Matthew prior to the Passion narrative, and Matthew’s Great Commission, which does not explicitly map to Mark. If you’re using the Gospel Parallels site (as I am) to see how each book and verse maps to the other Gospels, you’ll see that the end of Mark and Matthew *appear* not to be “parallel”, while only a few verses of Mark map to Luke’s ending (which we’ll get to soon enough). The slight differences in the endings of the three Synoptics are worth commenting on in a separate post.

Note that a word-for-word reading of Mark and Matthew’s accounts of the Passion yield minor discrepancies as well, even though they agree in the broad outline. I can’t see believers being concerned by this, because, for the uncritical types like my twenty-something self, the Gospels - at least the Synoptics - seem to confirm each other. I never questioned in what order they were written, nor why the second Gospel might be less clean and less elaborate than the first. As a non-academic, differences between the first two books are not such a big deal to me - especially if I try to look at it as if I were reading the NT for the first time

Next time, I’ll chip away at the Gospel According to Luke.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

NT: Mark 9-12

As pointed out elsewhere, Mark 8:26 is the point at which Jesus’ pre-Judean miracle-performing days are de-emphasized and the possibility of his divinity comes to the fore.

27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Chapter 9 begins with a continuation of dialogue with his disciples that began at Mark 8:27, then some very supernatural events including visions of Elias and Moses, then a voice from the clouds, which I presume is God or her executive assistant. He performs what appears to be an exorcism, then begins with some sayings about Hell being a bad thing.

43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

Chapter 10 finds our hero in Judea

1 And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.

...where he begins referring back to Moses and (I presume) the prevailing Hebrew laws. He continues to imply what will occur in the end times, while performing another healing

Chapter 11 could be the Olivet Discourse - or fragments thereof. Let’s see.

1 And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,

...but it doesn’t shape up that way. What we get is His entry into Jerusalem, some hosannas and recognition that He comes in the name of the Lord. We see some colt, some fig tree and some tabernacle action, and eventually a conversation between Jesus and his disciples, ending with a back-and-forth on “by what authority I do these things”. The disciples are being telegraphed pretty strongly that Jesus is acting on God’s behalf. I’ll admit that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a lot more subdued than it’s depicted elsewhere.

Chapter 12 brings us some parables and more intimations of God’s authority and a mention of resurrection, although not specifically Jesus’, as far as I can tell.

Parallels


Referring back to the “Gospel Parallels site”, chapters 9-12 fall under the narrative headings “The Way to the Cross”, “The Ministry in Judea” and “The Final Ministry in Jerusalem”. You can see that the end of Mark 8 and all of Mark 9 map to Matthew 16, 17 & 18; Mark 10 maps primarily to Matt 19 & 20; Mark 11 maps to Matt 21, while Mark 12 maps to Matt 21 through 23. This is surprisingly clean.

You can see that Matthew has other pericopes that don’t appear in Mark, and that Luke and John have entire sections that have no parallels in Mark, nor anywhere else. We’ll defer those until later.

Next - Jesus’ Excellent Adventure!

Friday, January 23, 2015

NT: Mark 5-8

I may have neglected to mention that I’m using the King James Version of the Bible in my readings / reviews, via Blue Letter Bible for iPad.

The Gospel According to Mark Chapter 5 begins on the other side of the sea, in the country of the Gadarenes. Who the flip are the Gadarenes? you might ask. I had no idea either. Per Wikipedia:

Many New Testament manuscripts refer to the "Country of the Gadarenes" or "Gerasenes" rather than the Gergesenes. Both Gerasa and Gadara were cities to the east of the Sea of Galilee. ... Today they are the modern towns of Jerash and Umm Qais.

Our friend Jesus performs some crowd favorites:
  • An exorcism, wherein Jesus casts the demons into a herd of swine and causes them to plunge into the sea
  • a healing: Jairus (leader of the synagogue) daughter
In Chapter 6, Jesus continues the Marcan mix of teaching and miracles, now “in his own country”:

1 And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.

The action:
  • He teaches in the synagogue and villages
  • He charges the 12 to go out and teach
  • Herod hears of this (which can’t be good), subsequently, Herodias’ daughter requests the head of John the Baptist. Herodias’ daughter is a sicko.
  • in verse 32 - “And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.”, we see what may be the first foreshadowing of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Priscilla, in performance. Not to mention a unquestionably weird use of a seafaring vehicle to traverse the desert.
  • Loaves and fishes and walking on water - oh my!
Chapter 7 finds some friction with the Pharisees:

1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

To get a little better sense of the “washing of the hands” conflict - refer to this commentary Jesus eventually exposes a really dark view of humanity:

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

...then he goes on to perform an exorcism and heals a deaf/mute man

In Chapter 8, Jesus:
  • Feeds the multitudes (~4000) with 7 loaves and a few small fishes. Compare this to Matthew’s versions.
  • performs more minor miracles
You can tell by my yawning appraisal that I find Mark a relative mish-mash compared to the more crisply organized Matthew.Some insight into scholars’ reaction to Mark from Wikipedia:

There is no agreement on the structure of Mark.[20] There is, however, a widely recognised break at Mark 8:26–31: before 8:26 there are numerous miracle stories, the action is in Galilee, and Jesus preaches to the crowds, while after 8:31 there are hardly any miracles, the action shifts from Galilee to gentile areas or hostile Judea, and Jesus teaches the disciples.[21] Peter's confession at Mark 8:27–30 that Jesus is the messiah thus forms the watershed to the whole gospel.

Parallels to other Gospels


I just recently introduced “Gospel Parallels”, and pointed out how

Nothing of Matthew Chapters 1 & 2 is “paralleled” in Mark; passages from Matt 3 and 4 seem to be found in Mark 1 (and to a lesser extent Mark 3); and beginning with Matt 5, the parallels to Mark become even less linear and more disjointed.

Lets look at some Parallels from Mark’s perspective. At the appropriately named Gospel Parallels web site, you can look down the column under “Mark” and see all of the verses that originated in Mark and where they are paralleled in the other gospels. Because Mark is presumed to predate Matthew and Luke, the verse numbers listed for Mark are presumed to be the original text, whether in bold face or in lighter text.

The bold type in the tables indicates the verses in order for each gospel

...so we can see from Mark 1 through Mark 8 how those original verses are distributed throughout the other Gospels, or omitted altogether. Very handy! Mark 1 through 4 are spread out from Matthew 1 through 13, for instance, while Mark 5 through 8 appear throughout Matt 8 through 16. We’ll revisit the parallels every few chapters for each book in the Gospels so that I can familiarize myself with how the stories are distributed.

Wrap-up


I’m clearly not a historian nor a Bible scholar, but it’s not hard to see how, on the face of it, a reading of Mark would give the reader an impression of a rough, unpolished work, and lead to the suspicion that the more polished Matthew and Luke could have been derived from this work. That is (after much more research) just what most scholars conclude. Of course, the relative roughness of Mark is probably a less important datum than other contextual data that are observed, but it is prominent to me, because it reads like a laundry list as opposed to Matthew and Luke.

Next, Jerusalem!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Theory of Supernaturalism - Part 2

In my prior, necessarily shallow, excavation into the mines in which we might find Supernatualism, my digging around yielded a few non-absurd pathways to conceiving of Supernatualism “S” and Naturalism “N” existing in our current reality simultaneously. Let me clarify and elaborate a little bit.

First, I ran across the term “transcendence”, and was inspired to apply it to the relationship between S and N in this reality that we all share. Recall my draft list of ways that I can conceive of S and N related to each other:
  • SR1. N-world and S-world are separate
  • SR2. N and S are partially separate, but share some characteristics
  • SR3. N and S are identical
  • SR4. one supervenes upon the other
  • SR5. one contains the other
  • SR6. they coincide but remain separate
Recall also that SR6 is redundant to SR1, so will be removed from further consideration. The term “transcendence” might be applied whenever we mean “beyond our experience (temporarily or permanently), beyond our comprehension (temporarily or permanently), beyond reality as we know it (and possibly inscrutable), universal in nature (possibly without regard to its effect on humanity)”. There are undoubtedly more and better definitions. The term transcendent, or transcendence, however, can be nearly synonomous with SR1 through SR5 as long as S is at least temporarily mysterious to us so that we cannot recognize it. It might be useful to define S as transcendent regardless of the specifics of its deployment in reality, so be forewarned!

Next, I gravitate to postulates SR4 - N supervenes upon S, and SR5 - S contains N, as the most likely arrangements of S and N in the cosmos, because they appear to require fewer auxiliary explanations in order to ”understand” how S and N could collaborate. This could change, so I won’t dwell on it.

As to how any of the SR postulates provide an environment for the existence of entities capable of affecting N, that is where we go next. Does S - can S - how does S do this? In each SR conception, we assume that there are sufficient dimensions to allow independent S-agents to exist and to retain awareness of N so that S-effects directed at N may appear in the time and place in which they are meaningful, which would be presumably where the S-agent(s) intended them. At the least, you’d expect S-world to require 2 spatial dimensions with a time dimension, and you’d expect that energy exist - but not necessarily matter - as a minimum requirement to support this. I’m making two gigantic assumptions here, both inspired by an ulterior motive. Gigantic Assumption #1 is that intelligence and or independent agency is possible in just two spatial dimensions. I can’t conceive of, nor defend this proposition, but I’m assuming that just because I can’t conceive of it doesn’t mean that it can’t be conceived of, or can’t in fact be real. Gigantic Assumption #2 is that there is no absolute necessity that material beings exist in order to achieve intelligence and or independent agency, thus my omission of matter as a requirement. Ulterior Motive #1 is that I’m trying to conceive of S in a simpler way than I perceive N, thus making the Ockham’s Razor objection harder to level against S, and by comparison to other conceptions, somewhat more plausible.

I still don’t have a coherent conception of how S-objects maintain awareness of N, and how they affect N. Luminiferous ether anyone? Let me hallucinate my way through this minor detail. Luminiferous ether - or something SR1 says that S and N are separate. We already devalue this postulate for its complexity, but the implied “super system” in which S and N ostensibly would reside could provide a medium through which S-actions are transmitted to N, and possibly vice-versa. I still haven’t had an epiphany that delivers the solution of how to maintain temporal and spatial awareness between the two. Any help would be appreciated!

SR postulates SR2 through SR5 all give us more hope in regards to how S-agents maintain awareness of and affect N, since S and N seem to be anchored to each other at some fundamentally shared mooring. Consequently, S and N would be “in sync” throughout their shared history. I think I start to rule out SR1 based on this burgeoning idea.

Let me speed through to the possibility that non-deity entities might exist in S, so that we can get to the Truly Big Deal. If S-world presents an environment that allows independent agents to exist, to presumably be born, live, die, and evolve, then we can imagine anything from S-viruses to S-wizards, but need only concern ourselves with S-entities that have intentions and can act on those intentions such that N would be affected. Your faeries, elves, demons, poltergeists, spirit guides (etc) could exist in an environment like this. Although these would be fun to consider, they're just a detour on the road to a Theistic cosmos.

So, I’ve outlined, with many holes in it, an S+N schema that might be a suitable foundation for a discussion of general Theism “T”. We’ll have a look at that next


Saturday, January 17, 2015

NT: Gospel Parallels

There’s probably no better time to introduce the term “Synoptic Gospels” than right now, having dipped our toes into the waters of Mark.

Bible scholars have long recognized the similarity between the first three Gospels in the New Testament - Matthew, Mark and Luke. Obviously, this implies that the Book of John is substantially different, which will be a topic for another time. The similarity between the first three gives rise to the term Synoptic Gospels, in that they agree to a large part. That leads to a related "synoptic problem":

The "synoptic problem" is the question of the specific literary relationship among the three synoptic gospels–that is, the question as to the source upon which gospel depended when it was written.

I’ll leave the question of which source hypothesis is the most compelling as an exercise for the reader. My point is to make use of the copious amounts of comparison and analysis in our further reading of the first three Gospels. The most immediately interesting tools are “Gospel Parallels” - tables which list the common elements of Matthew, Mark and Luke to illustrate where and how they agree, and conversely, where they disagree or omit stories about Jesus.

None of this is new to anyone who has ever looked at the NT critically, but I want to list possible parallels that a reader might use:
  • The Synoptic Gospel Parallels - an in-depth treatment that also includes a comparison of John to the Synoptics
  • Gospel Parallels - listing 367 points of comparison among all four Gospels
  • The Synoptic Gospels Compared - a Mark-centric comparison between the first three Gospels only
  • Wikipedia - The Synoptic Gospels
  • An Introduction To Triple-Tradition Comparisons - possibly more in-depth than the others, showing seven comparisons:
    • one that designates identical words in all three Gospels,
    • one that designates agreements of inclusion by Matthew and Mark against Luke,
    • one that designates agreements of inclusion by Matthew and Luke against Mark,
    • one that designates agreements of inclusion by Luke and Marks against Matthew,
    • one that designates agreements of omission by Matthew and Mark against Luke,
    • one that designates agreements of omission by Matthew and Luke against Mark, and
    • one that designates agreements of omission by Luke and Mark against Matthew.
The first things that jump out at me are:
  1. the nicely delineated sermons in Matthew are not, for the most part, found in the other Gospels. The Olivet Discourse regarding the end times is found (in part or whole) in the three Synoptics, the Sermon on the Mount appears to be very similar to Luke's Sermon on the Plain (this is not a criticism, just a point of interest), but the other three are not apparent in the other Synoptics as written in Matthew
  2. the term “parallel" is really a misnomer. Nothing of Matthew Chapters 1 & 2 is “paralleled” in Mark; passages from Matt 3 and 4 seem to be found in Mark 1 (and to a lesser extent Mark 3); and beginning with Matt 5, the parallels to Mark become even less linear and more disjointed.
I’ll return to my very-high-level overview of Mark soon.