Inconsistencies between Mark and Luke where Luke provides a more reliable reading
Mark 3:1-6, Man with the withered hand
There is a striking difference between the Lukan and Markan/Matthean conclusions to Man’s Withered Hand. Luke’s version ends with the bystanders wondering what they might do (τί ἂν ποιήσαιεν) with Jesus (Luke 6:11) In Mark (and Matthew) they conspire about how they might destroy (ἀπολέσωσιν) Jesus (Mark 3:6 ∥ Matt. 12:14).
In the story, Jesus’ opponents watch to see if he will heal a man on the Sabbath in a way opposed to the halacha. None of the Synoptists suggest that there was any open criticism of Jesus’ action. There is no discoverable reason why there should have been such criticism, for this kind of healing (by command) was not in opposition to the halacha. Yet, both Mark and Matthew, in almost identical words, state that “the Pharisees” (Mark adds also “the Herodians”) took counsel against Jesus “to destroy him”. Luke significantly says only that Jesus’ opponents “discussed among themselves” what to do “to” Jesus.
Flusser noted that Luke’s non-violent conclusion to the story is more realistic. Partially this is because it is verbally similar to the response of a prominent Pharisee to another miracle worker, Honi the Circle-maker (m. Ta‘an. 3:8). However, Mark’s violent conclusion is wildly disproportionate to the situation, since the healing Jesus performed was not even a violation of the Sabbath.
Flusser suggested that Mark’s conclusion was inspired by Luke’s ending of the cleansing of the temple, where the authorities seek to destroy (ἀπολέσαι) Jesus (Luke 19:47) but was unable to find anything to do (τί ποιήσωσιν) because of the popular support Jesus enjoyed (Luke 19:48). On account of the similarity between τί ἂν ποιήσαιεν in Luke 6:11 and τίποιήσωσιν in Luke 19:48, the author of Mark apparently drew forward the Temple authorities’ wish to destroy Jesus into Man’s Withered Hand.
Mark 3:1-6 (ESV)
1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Luke 6:6-11 (ESV)
6 On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Mark 3:16-19 (ESV)
16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Luke 6:14-16 (ESV)
14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Mark 5:9-10 (ESV)
9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.
Luke 8:30-31 (ESV)
30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.
Mark 6:8 (ESV)
He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—
Luke 9:3 (ESV)
And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.
Mark 9:1-2 (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.” 2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,
Luke 9:27-28 (ESV)
27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” 28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.
Mark 10:46-52 (ESV)
46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
- They were going out of Jericho
Luke 18:35-43 (ESV)
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
- They were drawing near to Jericho
Mark 11:1-15 (ESV)
1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. 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. 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.
- Jesus cleanses the temple day after the triumphal entry.
Luke 19:35-45 (ESV)
35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold
- Jesus cleanses the temple on the day of triumphal entry
- Mark’s account, the tenants murder the son in his father’s vineyard, then throw the son’s body out of the vineyard (Mark 12:8).
- In Matthew and Luke’s accounts, however, the tenants throw the son out of the vineyard and then murder him (Matt. 21:39; Luke 20:15).
- In his retelling of the parable, Mark seems to have changed the parable so that instead of it being a condemnation of the temple high priests for not tithing, it became a statement about the pollution of the temple—Mark has the son killed by the tenants in the vineyard, thus defiling it.
- This suggests that in the authors’ eyes, the temple was already defiled. The essenes believed the temple had been defiled, so it appears that Mark may have been again influenced by essene beliefs.
Mark 14:30 (ESV)
30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
Mark 14:67-72 (ESV)
67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
- Jesus says the rooster will crow twice before Peter denies him three times.
- Rooster crows once after the first denial and once after the third denial.
Luke 22:34 (ESV)
34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Luke 22:56-60 (ESV)
56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
- Jesus says the rooster will not crow at all, until Peter denies Jesus three times.
- Rooster did not crow at all, until Peter denied him three times.
David Flusser in the forward to A Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Mark makes the following observations:
The high originality of Luke and the secondary character of Mark (so often repeated in Matthew) can be further illustrated in one of the most important areas of the Gospel story, the so-called trial of Jesus. Most of the difficulties which have plagued students of the “trial” have come as a result of the concentration of scholars on the Matthaean-Markan version of this event to the neglect of Luke. I want here only to mention two important points connected with the discussion…
In the Gospel of Luke, no mention of a condemnation of Jesus by the Jewish authorities is recorded. This is of special interest in view of the failure of Luke to follow Mark in such a mention either at the point of the “trial” or in the recording of Jesus’ third prophecy of his demise in Jerusalem… Luke does not hesitate to report the delivery of Jesus to Pilate by the Jewish authorities yet does not mention the Markan “condemnation,” and when we note that Mark’s “all judged him worthy of death” (Mark 14:64) can easily be Mark’s interpretation and extension of the conclusion of the high priest’s decision in Luke 22:71.
The second point concerns the Matthaean-Markan agreement that the high priests accused Jesus of blasphemy. Scholars have labored long and lovingly to explain what might have been the nature of this blasphemy… None of our Synoptic materials give any facts which clarify the charge of blasphemy. The accusation of blasphemy is absent from Luke, as it the Markan reference to the tearing of the high priest’s cloths. There is only an interrogation by the high priests and a most remarkable description of Jesus’ dialogue with the priests the rabbinic sophistication of which is not less astounding than the Hebrew word order and idiom of the account. There is every reason to accept the Lukan version in preference to that of Matthew and Mark. (Robert Lisle Lindsey, A Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Mark, Dugith Publishers, 1973, pp. 6-7)
Mark 14:53-65 (ESV)
53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.
Luke 22:66-71 (ESV)
66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
- According to Luke 22:63-71, Jesus was blindfolded, and Jesus’ guards, slaves of the high priest, amused themselves, by cruelly using Jesus in a children’s game. The next morning, the “assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes.”
- In Mark 14:53-65, followed by Matthew Matt 26:59-68, this order of events is reversed, with the guessing game coming at the end of a night session of the Sanhedrin.
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
- Luke 23:46 records Jesus last words as “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” based on Psalm 31:5.
- The words as recorded in Luke are what one would expect from a dying Jew. We see a similar statement by Stephen in Acts 7:59
- In contrast to Luke, Mark adds a despair framework where Mark portrays Jesus as being deserted first by his people, then by his disciples, including Peter, and finally, by God himself.
- Mark 15:34 states Jesus’ last words as “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
- Jesus’ last words in Mark have been changed to fit the despair narrative.
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.
- Jesus utters a loud cry and dies. Temple curtain gets torn afterwards.
- The order of events does not match Luke.
45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
- Temple curtain gets torn. Jesus dies afterwards.
Mark 16:5 (ESV)
And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.
- One man
- He is sitting
Luke 24:4 (ESV)
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.
- Two men
- They are standing
Mark 16:7 (ESV)
But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
Luke 24:33-37 (ESV)
33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. 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.