Luke Primacy
The Many Embellishments of Matthew

The Many Embellishments of Matthew

Embellishments of Matthew

The embellishments below go beyond accounts provided in the other synoptic gospels and are not attested anywhere else in the New Testament. These include enhancements to the story including words and events, including the addition of notable accounts of such significance that they would not have been omitted in other Gospels if they were true.

Matthew’s Editorial Changes to Mark

  • Matthew minimizes the faults of the disciples (Matt 13:16-18 with Mark 4:13, cp. Matt 13:51, Matt 14:33 with Mark 6:52; Matt 6:9-12 with Mark 8:17-22 ; cp. the significant omission of Mark 9:6 Mark 9:10 Mark 9:32, the smoothing down of Mark 9:33 in Matt 18:1, the change of Mark 10:32 in Matt 20:17 etc.), and endeavors to eliminate or to soften any trait derogatory to the credit of the twelve. 
  • A similar reverence for the character of Jesus appears in Matthew’s omission of words or passages like Mark 1:43, Mark 3:5, Mark 3:21 (charge of madness) Matt 10:14 and Matt 11:3, and in changes like those of Matt 19:16 (Mark 10:17) and Matt 26:59 (cp. Mk 14:58)
  • The miraculous power of Jesus is heightened in Matthew (contrast Matt 8:16 with Mark 1:32-33, Matt 17:17-18 with Mark 9:20-26 etc.), and the author shrinks as far as possible from allowing demons to recognize him as the Messiah
  • In Matthew, the prophetic power of Jesus is also expanded and made more definite (cp. Matt 7:15, Matt 12:45, Matt 21:43, Matt 24:10, Matt 26:2 etc.)
  • The saying about the spiritual family of Jesus is confined to disciples (Matt 12:49) instead of being addressed generally to the bystanders (Mark 3:34)

Matthew 2:1-12, Adoration of the Infant Jesus

  • According to Matthew, eastern magicians (magi, translated as “wise men”) visit Jesus
  • They follow a star from the east 
  • The encounter king Herald, calls an assembly and seeks to locate the child 
  • They offer gifts, gold and frankincense, and myrrh. 
  • In Luke, the account is significantly toned down: the visitors are nearby shepherds who encounter angels and then travel to Bethlehem to convey the message given to them. 

Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV)

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Luke 2:8-20 (ESV)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Matthew 2:13-21, Flight to Egypt

  • The flight to Egypt is a spectacular story that is not attested by Luke in the infancy narrative.  Luke makes no mention of fleeing to Egypt. There is no reason he would have omitted it unless it was a fabrication.
  • The story of the massacre is found in no gospel other than Matthew, nor in the surviving works of Nicolaus of Damascus (who was a personal friend of Herod the Great), and the historian Josephus makes no mention of it in his Antiquities of the Jews, despite recording many of Herod’s misdeeds including the murder of three of his own sons. (Clarke, Howard (2003). The Gospel of Matthew and Its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel. Indiana University
  • There is no independent confirmation that the event ever occurred, and some scholars consider it folklore inspired by Herod’s reputation. According to Paul L. Maier, a majority of Herod biographers, and “probably a majority of biblical scholars,” hold the event to be myth, or legend (Maier, Paul L. (1998). “Herod and the Infants of Bethlehem”. In Summers, Ray; Vardaman, Jerry (eds.). Chronos, Kairos, Christos II: Chronological, Nativity, and Religious Studies in Memory of Ray Summers. Mercer University Press. p.170-171)
  • The author appears to have modeled the episode on the biblical story of Pharaoh’s attempt to kill the Israelite children in the Book of Exodus, as told in an expanded version that was current in the 1st century. (Lincoln, Andrew (2013). Born of a Virgin?: Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition, and Theology. Eerdmans., p.44)

Matthew 2:13-21 (ESV)

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.


Matthew 3:7, You Brood of Vipers!

  • Matthew limits the strong words to being directed to the Pharisees and Sadducees (not the crowds)

Matthew 3:7 (ESV)

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Luke 3:7 (ESV)

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Matthew 3:14-15,  “John would have prevented him”

  • As this is not attested else ware, it appears to be a later interpolation to appeal to the sentiment that it doesn’t seem necessary that Jesus would have needed to be baptized

Matthew 3:14-15 (ESV)

14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.


Matthew 5-7, Sermon on the Mount

Only three beatitudes, three of the antitheses, and the Lord’s prayer (and assorted other bits and pieces) can be traced back to the Historical Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount, in the First Gospel is not a speech made by Jesus, but the literary work of the Evangelist who wrote Matthew. Matthew ethicizes and historizes the traditional material in light of a new situation. Regarding the emphasis of the Law of Matt 5:17-20 in the Sermon on the Mount, these verses are Matthean compositions. There are numerous inconsistencies between the Matthean Jesus and the Historical Jesus. (Georg Strecker, The Sermon on the Mount. An Exegetical Commentary, T. & T. Clark (1988))

The Sermon on the Mount, An Exegetical Commentary

Georg Strecker, Nashville : Abingdon Press 1988

Archive Book Link:


This important volume is based on George Strecker’s assertion that “no proper exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount can ignore the results of more than two hundred years of historical-critical research into the New Testament.” One of these results is the determination that the Sermon on the Mount in the First Gospel is not a speech made by Jesus, but the literary work of the Evangelist. Strecker demonstrates how the words spoken by Jesus were interpreted by the author of Mathew decades later. George Strecker was for many years Professor of New Testament in the Theological faculty at the University of Gottingen, Germany.


Matthew 8: 23-27, The Stilling of the Storm

Günther Bornkamm addresses this in a 1948 essay on Matt 8:23–27 titled “The Stilling of the Storm in Matthew.” Bornkamm’s work with this pericope offers an example of how the author presents material to shape the audience’s understanding and lifestyle… Mark presents a miracle story emphasizing Jesus’ power over nature. Matthew makes changes to “give it a new meaning” as a story about “the danger and glory” of discipleship in “the little ship of the church.” Matthew does not merely pass on the tradition but interprets it, directing the audience’s insight. (Carter, Warren. Matthew (p. 45). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

  1. Mark and Lukek share the same form and the same context, placing the story immediately after the parables of the Kingdom.
  2. Mattt removes the story from its biographical and teaching context and places it in the context of healing miracles.
  3. Whereas Mark presents the story as a clear-cut miracle story, Matthew also makes it a story about discipleship by inserting it after two sayings of Jesus about discipleship. 
  4. Bornkamm believes Matthew is the first to interpret the story of the storm with reference to discipleship and by extension, “with reference to the little ship of the Church”.
  5. Whereas Mark and Luke place the miracle before Jesus’ criticism of the disciple, Matthew places it after. Matthews’s use of the phrase “little faith” here, in correspondence with his typical use of it elsewhere in the gospel, makes this a typical story of discipleship.
  6. Matthew uses the stormy weather to symbolize the suffering of discipleship.
  7. Bornkamm distinguishes the “men” in Matt 8:27 from the disciples, identifying them as those “who are encountered by the story through preaching”. Bornkamm sees this as an extension of the story to a call to discipleship.


Matthew 9:18, “My daughter has just died”

  • According to Matthew as opposed to Mark 5:21 and Luke 8:42, the child is already dead

Matthew 9:18 (ESV)

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

Luke 8:41-42 (ESV)

41 And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

Matthew 9:26, Report of this went through all that district

  • In Matthew, the report of raising of Jairus daughter spreads through the district. In Mark 5:42 and Luke 8:56, Jesus charges them to tell no one what had happened. 

Matthew 9:25-26 (ESV)

25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

Luke 8:55-56 (ESV)

55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

Matthew 9:27-31 and Matthew 20:29-34, Two different accounts of two blind men

  • Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18: 35-43 have only one account of two blind men. Matthew adds a second account. In both accounts, there are “two blind men”, they say “Have mercy on us, Son of David” and Jesus “touches their eyes”. 

Matthew 9:27-31 (ESV)

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Matthew 20:29-34 (ESV)

29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

Matthew 10:1, “to heal every disease and every infirmity”

  • Matthew adds “to heal every disease and every affliction” as compared to Mark

Matthew 10:1 (ESV)

1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

Mark 3:14-15 (ESV)

14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.

Matthew 10:15, Harsh words against those who reject the disciples 

  • The harsh words included in Matthew are not in Mark (Mark 6:11) or Luke (Luke 9:5-6) 

Matthew 10:14-15 (ESV)

14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Luke 9:5-6 (ESV)

5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Matthew 10:34, “But a sword”

  • Matthew uses the stronger language of “sword” rather than Luke 12:51 “division” regarding Jesus not coming to bring peace. 

Matthew 10:34 (ESV)

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Luke 12:51 (ESV)

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

Matthew 12:22-27, The demon-oppressed being both blind and mute

  • In addition to being mute, Matthew adds the demon-oppressed man is also blind (Matt 12:22)
  • Matthew adds that the people who were amazed said, “Can this be the Son of David”? (Matt 22:23)
  • Matthew specifies the Pharisees are the ones who claim Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebul (Matt 12:24)
  • Matthew adds “no city” (Matt 12:25)

Matthew 12:22-37 (ESV)

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 

24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

Luke 11:14-26 (ESV)

14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.

15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.

Matthew 12:39-42, “Three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”

  • Matthew has added material that is not in Mark 8:11-12 and Luke 11:29-30. Nowhere else in the New Testament is 3 days and 3 nights attested. Jesus rising on the third day (in the morning) precludes three nights. 

Matthew 12:39-41 (ESV)

39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Luke 11:29-30 (ESV)

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

Matthew 14:27-33, The account of Peter walking on water

  • In the context of Jesus walking on water, Matthew adds an account of Peter walking on water. Mark 6:49-52 and Luke 6:19-21 tell the same story without any mention of Peter going out of the boat and joining Jesus. If true, this would have likely been incorporated into other accounts due to the sensational nature of walking on water. 
  • According to Matthew they worshiped him, saying “Truly you are the Son of God” but in Mark, they were utterly astounded and did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Accordingly, Matthew is an embellishment of the story.
  • Mark was said to be an associate of Peter who wrote down Peter’s testimony. The implication is that Peter did not attest to this. 

Matthew 14:26-33 (ESV)

26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Mark 6:49-52 (ESV)

9 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Matthew 15:37-39, Feeding of four thousand

  • In the account of the feeding of four thousand, Matthew embellishes the account saying “Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children” as compared to Mark 8:9 “and there were about four thousand people”

Matthew 15:37-38 (ESV)

37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

Mark 8:8-9 (ESV)

8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

Matthew 16:16-19, Peter’s confession and Jesus’ response

  • Matthew embellishes the account of Peter’s confession, in which Jesus is said to have spoken words that are not attested by the parallels of Mark 8:27-30 or Luke 9:18-21. Mark was said to be an associate of Peter who wrote down Peter’s testimony. The implication is that not even Peter attested to this.
  • Matthew adds to the confession, “the Son of the Living God” which is not what is quoted in Mark or Luke. 

Matthew 16:13-20 (ESV)

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Mark 8:27-30 (ESV)

27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

Matthew 16:24, “Until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom”

  • Matthew is embellished as compared to Mark 8:9 “until the kingdom of God has come with power” and Luke 9:27 “until they see the kingdom of God.” Matthew indicates a literal return of Christ, whereas Mark and Luke indicate the Kingdom (divine reality) coming in power (on the day of Pentecost). Luke indicates in several places the Kingdom of God is synonymous with the Holy Spirit. 

Matthew 16:28 (ESV)

28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Mark 9:1 (ESV)

1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

Matthew 17:14-21, “and the boy was cured instantly. 

  • Neither the parallels in Mark 9:26 nor Luke 9:42 attest to an instant healing. Mark 9:26 says, “after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out.”
  • Matthew attributes the disciple’s failure to a lack of faith, and Mark attributes it to a lack of prayer. 

Matthew 17:16-20 (ESV)

16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Mark 9:18-29 (ESV)

18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Matthew 17:24-27, The fish with a coin in its mouth to pay the tax

  • Nowhere else in the gospels is the sensational account of Matthew attested of Jesus instructing Simon (Peter) to go get a coin from the mouth of the fish. 
  • Mark was said to be an associate of Peter who wrote down Peter’s testimony. There being no parallel in Mark or Luke gives the implication that Peter did not attest to this. 

Matthew 17:24-27 (ESV)

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Matthew 19:10-12, “Is it better not to marry?”

  • According to Matthew alone, Jesus gives the implication that it is better to be a eunuch (to be castrated) than to marry. 

Matthew 19:8-12 (ESV)

8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.

Matthew 20: 20-24, The mother of the sons of Zebedee asked him

  •  In Mark 10:35-36 it is the sons of Zebedee that ask an inappropriate question that gets rebuked. The author of Matthew appears to do damage control by attributing the question to their mother. 

Matthew 20:20-24 (ESV)

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 

Mark 10:35-41 (ESV) 

  35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.

Matthew 21:14, Healing in the temple

  • It would be most significant if, upon cleansing the temple, Jesus healed the temple in Jerusalem (the center of Jewish religious activity). If this were true, the other parallels would have attested to it.  In Mark 11:15-19
  • Matthew adds additional embellishment not seen in the other parallels of Mark 11:15-19 and Luke 19:45-46

Matthew 21:12-17 (ESV)

12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Mark 11:15-19 (ESV)

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

Matthew 21:18-19, The fig tree withered “at once”

  • Matthew is an embellishment compared to the parallel in Mark 11:12-14 and Mark 11:20-26, in which it is the next day that the tree has withered. 

Matthew 21:18-22 (ESV)

18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Mark 11:12-14 (ESV)

12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Mark 11:20-23 (ESV)

20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.

Matthew 21:45-46, The chief priest and the Pharisees fear the multitudes

  • Compared to the parallels in Mark 12:12 and Luke 20:19, Matthew, changes the reason from fear of the multitudes on account of them holding him as being a prophet rather than Jesus having told a parable against them. The context shows that it is right after Jesus speaks a parable against them.

Matthew 21:45-46 (ESV)

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Mark 12:12 (ESV)

12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.

Matthew 26:21-25, Judas identified as the traitor

In Matthew alone, Jesus verbally identifies Judas as the one who would betray him. In the parallel accounts of Mark 14:18-21 and Luke 22:21-23 there is no verbal identification 

Matthew 26:20-25 (ESV)

20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

Luke 22:21-23 (ESV)

21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

Matthew 26:52-54, More than a few words at Jesus’ arrest 

  • Matthew appears to expand on the dialogue of Jesus during his arrest, when the slave of the high priest is struck on the ear. The parallel in Mark lacks the quote of Matt 26:52-54 and according to Luke 22:51 he simply says, “No more of this!”

Matthew 26:47-54 (ESV)

47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?

Matthew 27:19, Petition and dream by Pilot’s wife

  • None of the parallels in Mark 15:10-11 or Luke 23:17-18 attest to the account of Pilot’s wife attempting to intervene due to a dream.

Matthew 27:15-20 (ESV)

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

Mark 15:6-11 (ESV) 

  6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.

Matthew 27:29, A scarlet robe and a reed in his right hand

  • Matthew indicates the guards put on Jesus a scarlet robe and a reed in Jesus’ right hand, which they took and struck him with it. Other parallels make no mention of a reed placed in Jesus’ right hand. The color of the robe is inconsistent with parallel accounts of Mark 15:17 and John 19:1 which both attest to a purple cloak.  

Matthew 27:27-31 (ESV)

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:16-20 (ESV)

16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

Matthew 27:50-54, Earthquake and resurrection of the saints at the death of Jesus

  • Matthew contains a number of embellishments in the account of the death of Jesus that are not attested in the parallels of Mark 15:37-39 or Luke 44-47.
  • Matthew includes an earthquake and the bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep having been raised, coming out of the tombs. This is such a spectacular event, it would be attested elsewhere in the parallel accounts if this were true. Many bible scholars acknowledge the resurrection of the saints is a difficult passage and is not likely historically factual.  

Matthew 27:50-54 (ESV)

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Mark 15:37-39 (ESV)

37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:62-66, Soldiers standing guard at the tomb

  • Matthew includes an account of Pilate assigning soldiers to stand guard at the tomb. This is not attested anywhere in the Gospel parallels. 

Matthew 27:62-66 (ESV)

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Matthew 28:2-4, Account of an earthquake and an angel of the Lord having rolled back the stone

  • Matthew enhances the story with additional details not attested by the parallels of Mark 16:2-5 and Luke 24:1-4

Matthew 28:1-6 (ESV)

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

Mark 16:1-6 (ESV)

1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.

According to Mark and Luke, Jesus’ body is laid in a tomb and a stone is rolled in front of it. When Mary Magdalene and others go to the tomb, they find the stone rolled back and the body of Jesus gone. To eliminate the possibility that the disciples had come at night and stolen Jesus’ body, the account was revised in Matthew 27:62-66. The account of the sealed and guarded tomb is added.

Matt 28:1-6 was added to address further complications. Since the stone was sealed, a supernatural force is incorporated to break it. Since the guards are watching, they must see the tomb actually open. They are watching as the stolen is rolled back. When this happens, according to Matthew, Jesus’ body is already gone from the tomb. However, like Luke and Mark, the women arrive at an open and empty tomb. 

Matthew 28:11-15 further adds expansive material to further undermine the stolen-body theory. None of this Matthean material addressing the claims of conspiracy appears in Mark or Luke. This is a special case where, in addition to expanding upon the saying of Jesus, the author of Matthew actually expands the narrative to address later skepticism about the resurrection. 

Matthew 28:16-20, An embellished ending not attested elsewhere

  • If the account truly gives specific instructions by Jesus to his disciples, after the resurrection, this most certainly has been attested by the other Gospels. Matthew is inconsistent with the endings of the other Gospels including Luke 24:46-49
  •  The parting instruction of Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” is incompatible with Luke 24:49, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Luke 24:36-49 (ESV)

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”