The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Markan Priority vs Matthean Priority

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Debate Round Forfeited
Nicholaspanda has forfeited round #3.
Our system has not yet updated this debate. Please check back in a few minutes for more options.
Time Remaining
Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 3/28/2018 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 1,273 times Debate No: 111888
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (24)
Votes (0)




[Knowledge of New Testament Studies is presupposed for this debate]
[This debate is about gospel priority, not two-source hypothesis or stuff like that]

My dream is to be a biblical scholar, and i want to put to the test the knowledge that i have of NT scholarship in this place, debating in a not well known (for the laity) but important topic in NT studies, that is, gospel priority.

-The topic is about gospel priority, stick to it.
-Be polite, no need for bad words or disrespects.
-Do not misrepresent any position, be honest.
-Let the best position wins!


Should we take for granted that the Gospel of Mark was the first one to be written, or should we take a new look to the classical position that the Gospel of Matthew was first?
In this debate, i will argue for two points:
- That recent scholars in the subject are correct in making the assumption that Mark's Gospel was the first to be written.
- That tradition has been misread/given to much importance in order to make a good case for Matthean priority.

[Looking for someone who wants to defend Matthean Priority!]
[I will unfold my argument(s) until round 2!]


I'm quite enthusiastic to be having a discussion with another major in Biblical studies. I wish you the best in the future to come with your work and research. I'll agree with your first premise that most NT Biblical scholars agree that Mark's Gospel was written first. However, I believe our knowledge of scripture can be flawed. Just like my opponent, I'll also be offering two basic contentions. First, the early Christian writings on the topic say that Matthew was written first, and secondly, Textual evidence.

Early Christian Writings/Farmer's Argument

"Augustine was not the first to articulate this view [Matthean priority], as Irenaeus and Origen, among others, shared this ordering. However, Augustine was the first author to give a detailed scholarly textual analysis of the three texts' interdependence, and to articulate a theory for the express purpose of explaining this fact. ... [1]

The Church Fathers who wrote about the order and authorship of the canonical gospels all supported some basic ideas of the Augustinian hypothesis. The fathers whose writings survive and who wrote about authorship are almost unanimous in agreement that Matthew the apostle was the author, wrote first, and did so for the Hebrews in their language. A number of sources in antiquity asserted that Mark wrote his Gospel after Matthew based on the preaching of Peter. Various elements of this tradition are found in the writings of Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, et al.

...Jerome [c.150 AD] even claimed to have seen the original Aramaic Matthew in the library of Pamphilus the Martyr.

"As the church rose out of the mission to the gentiles, it is interesting that the church fathers supported the Judaic gospel of Matthew instead of Mark. Also consider that they testify that Mark was the companion of the Apostle Peter in Rome which became one of the five sees of the early church (Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, Egypt). Unless the tradition of Matthean priority were very early, it is unlikely that they would all arrive at it independently." [2]

"There are NO scraps of Mark know in existence that predate about AD 350. There is a scrap of Matthew from AD 160, and a scrap of John from AD 120. As a side note, the copy of The Didache is dated to be AD 100!" [3]

Farmer's Argument

"IX. It is possible to understand the redactional process through which Mark went, on the hypothesis that he composed his Gospel based primarily on Matthew and Luke.


In Rev. Sir John C. Hawkins's Contributions to the Study of the Synoptic Problem, he lists 19 "favorite expressions" of Matthew that are not unique to Matthew—14 of these are found at least once in Mark, and 10 also in Luke. Likewise, of 7 Lukan expressions, 5 are paralleled verbatim in Mark and 2 also in Matthew. There seem to be no such expressions characteristic of Mark, however, which show up in either Matthew or Luke. There is only one solution that affords a ready explanation; namely, that Mark copied Matthew and Luke.

XVI. A historico-critical analysis of the Synoptic tradition

That form of a particular tradition found in the gospels which reflects an extra-Palestinian or non-Jewish provenance is to be adjudged secondary to a form of the same tradition which reflects a Palestinian or Jewish provenance. questions of literary dependence between two documents, that document is to be adjudged dependent which contains features of a secondary character. The following are to be regarded as evidences of a secondary character:

Manifest misunderstanding of what stands in one document on the part of the writer of the other; C. Considerations which sometimes have influenced students of the gospels in their statements about the Synoptic Problem, but which are either irrelevant or inconclusive. The Christology of a given passage. Since the letters of Paul disclose the fact that Christology was already both complex and highly developed in some circles in the period before the gospels were written, and since our knowledge of Christological developments in the Churches in the post-Pauline period depends upon a correct solution to the problem of the chronological and literary relationship between the gospels, and not vice-versa, the Christology of a given passage in the gospels affords the critic no reliable criteria by which to adjudge it primary or secondary to its parallel in another gospel." [4]

Textual Evidence

1. "There are a significant number of places in Matthew where the parallel account in Mark makes more sense to have been edited down than for Matthew to expand. It is possible to read Mark with the hypothesis that it came from Matthew and run into no redactional problems that challenge said hypothesis. However, reading Matthew as a redaction of Mark does cause such problems.

2. There are places where Mark uses a certain word but Matthew does not, even though he used that word in other places (for example "pherein"). This makes more sense with Mark editing Matthew than of Matthew copying Mark.

3. There are places where Matthew has phrases he likes and uses them consistently. Mark has parallels of most of these accounts and is very free in his translations of the phrases. It makes more sense for Mark to be free styling from Matthew than it does for Matthew to be forcing the phrase into his wording whenever he sees it in Mark. One of these phrases is opias de genomenes, found first in Mt 8:16 and Mk 1:32. Markan priority has to conclude that Matthew copied the form exactly as Mark had it the first time, then always and consistently used the same grammar whenever he found a similar phrase in Mark and introducing it himself in Mt 20:8 which has no parallel in Mark.

There are places where Mark combines details from both Matthew and Luke. An example of these duplicate expressions can be seen in Mark 1:32 compared to Mt 8:16 and Luk 4:40:

- Mk 1:32 When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed.

- Mt 8:16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill.

- Lk 4:40 While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them.

In these parallels, Mark combines the introductory phrases from both Matthew and Luke. In this case, Markan priority would require that Luke know of both Matthew and Mark and consciously choose to use the exact phrase that Matthew does not. However, if Matthew writes first and Luke second, there is no such problem.

4. Matthew leaves semitisms in place where Mark smoothens them. This includes wording and patterns that Mark breaks. Yes, Mark has eight semitic words, but Matthew has many more semitisms (so does Luke, a plethora of semitisms). Many of Mark's semitisms seem to be added for drama while Matthew's flow naturally.

5. Adding to the semitisms are 12 times where Matthew (and Luke) uses the participle of a verb while Mark uses the past tense. Using a participle for the second verb in a set (and he answered, saying) is well-known when coming from a semitic language (all over the Septuagint) but is not used in normal Greek. Mark also uses these participles but not as often. It would be more likely to edit them out than to edit them back in. Many more examples exist where Matthew and Luke agree with one another in wording and Mark is different." [5]
Debate Round No. 1


[I apologize if you find spelling/grammar errors, english is not my first language]
[Although my opponent make a positive case for Matthean priority in his first argument, i will not adress him until round 3, instead,
i will make a positive case for Markan priority]

I will unfold my first argument in three sub-arguments:
1.Mark's Gospel is the shortest gospel, and writers tend to expand writings more than contracting them, therefore, Mark's Gospel was first and Matthew and Luke used it as a source.
2.In places where Mark's Gospel makes mistakes or says embarrassing and/or meaningless stuff,
Matthew and Luke embellish or omit the embarrassing and/or meaningless stuff of Mark.
3.Mark's Gospel presupposes some knowledge that a later audience could not have access to, therefore,
Mark's Gospel was written first and the other two evangelists use Mark's Gospel as a source, clarifying the data omitted by Mark in their own gospels.
[This does not pretend to be an exhaustive defence of Markan priority, there are works by professional scholars (not an amateur scholar one like me)
who defend this position very well [See “The Case against Q” by Mark Goodacre) ]

Sub-argument #1: Mark's Gospel as the shortest one
It should be noted that when we compare the synoptic gospels there is a striking “coincidence”, that is, that virtually all of Mark's Gospel is contained in Matthew and Luke,
with little if no content that is unique to Mark, that is to say, virtually all the text of Mark is contained in the other two synoptic gospels.
For example, in Mark's Gospel, the infancy narrative and the Lord's prayer are absent, and it is hard to think that if Mark is writing after the other two he is going to omit that two important episodes and a lot of other
material that it is present in the other two gospels.

We can measure Mark in terms of verses:
MatthewMark Luke
Verses1068 661 1149

97% of Mark's Gospel is contained in Matthew and Luke (Matthew containing 94% of Mark and Luke containing 79% of Mark),
while in the other two more than the half of their content is information that cannot be found in Mark's Gospel
(Being this information called the hypothetical Q source).
We should note that Luke's Gospel begin with a preface that characterizes most antiquity historians:
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,
just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you,
most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4, ESV)
Here Luke is making the claim that he investigated the eyewitnesses and sources that talked about the events that have taken place,
being explicit about a fact, that he was not and eyewitness and that he needed to use earlier sources to build his work,
making very plausible the usage of Mark's Gospel by his part.

Sub-argument #2: Mark's Gospel as historically poorer/meaningless
Various passages in Mark's Gospel can be pointed to illustrate the point:
•As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’.” (Mark 1:2-3, ESV)
In this passage we see that the evangelist is quoting two texts from the Hebrew Bible, in verse 2 Malachi 3:1, and in verse 3 Isaiah 40:3, but in these quotations we note a remarkable mistake, that the quotation from verse 2 is not from Isaiah, but from Malachi,
a embarrassing detail that the other two evangelists omit in order to avoid errors.
•And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: “how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence,
which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” (Mark 2:25-26, ESV). Plain simple, here the author is mistaken in putting the phrase “the time of Abiathar the high priest” in Jesus's mouth,
because in accordance to 1 Samuel 21:1-6 (the passage where this incident is recorded) the high priest was Ahimelech, Abiathar's father, not Ahimelech himself. And here is when we note the embellishment from part of the other two synoptists,
because if we look for the parallel verses in the other gospels here is what we see:
oHe said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence,
which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? (Matthew 12:3-4, ESV)
oAnd Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” (Luke 6:3-4, ESV)
What a remarkable coincidence!
The phrase “the time of Abiathar the high priest” that is present in Mark's Gospel is omitted in the other two,
and here the explanation is simple: the other two gospel authors (Luke and the author of Matthew's Gospel) were better informed
than Mark and knew that he made a mistake attributing that phrase to Jesus, because that information in Mark is incorrect,
and because they were using Mark's Gospel as a source they omitted this passage knowing that it would exalt the literary quality of
their respective works.
•“And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” (Mark 14:51-52, ESV)
What a weird statement! Totally bizarre and introduced in an abrupt way. It is really hard to see why the author added this to the text (perhaps it was of interest for his audience,
or maybe the young man of the incident was the evangelist himself [some scholars would argue for this hypothesis, but because this contradicts tradition, I tend to dismiss it as wrong ])
and for very good reason, it does no get the privilege to appear in the other gospels, making my point, Luke and Matthew keep this incident out because
this was of no interest for their audiences and/or because they saw this as meaningless and wasting space in their writings, because they were basing their passion narratives out of Mark's Gospel.

Sub-argument #3: Mark's Gospel as historically earlier
I can make the case that Mark's Gospel was written around 36-43AD, when there was still public knowledge that Caiphas was the high priest in turn.
In the passion narrative, there is an episode that has an omission that is of special interest for us, in Mark 14:53-63, the author is giving us a vivid image of Jesus's trial before the Sanhedrin,
but what an interesting detail, the name of the high priest is not told, but in the passion narratives in the other gospels (Matthew 26:57-67, Luke 22:63-71
[Although Luke does not mention in the passion narrative the name of the high priest, he does mention it in some other place, Luke 3:2]), you have the name of the high priest mentioned in a handful of occasions,
meaning one thing: that Mark was writing his gospel in a time when Caiphas was still the high priest, not naming him because his position still was of public knowledge; and that Matthew and Luke were writing time later,
because they mention his name to clarify to their audiences in what moment and who was the person who condemned Jesus. Or more specifically, that Matthew and Luke used the Gospel of Mark as a source of their gospels
(this time for the passion narratives) and added details that Mark's audience knew, but that the Matthew and Luke audiences did not.



Due to certain circumstances (Easter), I'll be unable to respond for this round. If you'd like we can still continue our debate, with you refuting my contentions first. I'm sorry for this announcement, and if you'd like I'll allow you to win. I had a short rebuttal, but for another stupid reason, when you stay off the debate screen it deletes your argument. Happy Easter!

- Alex
Debate Round No. 2


Alex, it is better to leave the debate here, if you can not go on because of personal circumstances, that is fine, i understand, i am sorry for the problem with the screen and my argument, i am not used to use this webpage. And i think you presented a more substantial, systematic and justified argument for your position than me, so the win is yours!
Happy easter! God bless!
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 3
This round has not been posted yet.
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 4
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Nicholaspanda 3 years ago
Posted by AJM_310 3 years ago
Thanks @NicholasPanda, good luck in your studies too.
Posted by Nicholaspanda 3 years ago
@AJM_310, some of my friend's say it's easy to learn Greek and some say it's hard. I wish you good luck.
Posted by AJM_310 3 years ago
Well, in reality, I still don't know greek! So I have to rely heavily in what greek scholars say to make my arguments. I personally like the ESV version, or the NASB too.
Posted by Nicholaspanda 3 years ago
@AJM_310, that's awesome! Classical Philology is quite interesting - although, I don't know that much about it honestly. I believe there are good arguments on each side of the argument, and to be frank, I haven't studied the NT that much in depth; so I'm open-minded. Also, if we're going to use Biblical texts, what Bible would you like to use?
Posted by AJM_310 3 years ago
Well, and let's make a clarification, i'm not working in a major in biblical studies (I will do it, but in the future). Actually, the major i will do is in classical philology. The knowledge that I have of bible scholarship is not as good as yours, Nicholaspanda, but I'll do my best to have a very good debate.
Posted by AJM_310 3 years ago
Ok put the references here, no problem
Posted by Nicholaspanda 3 years ago
Even without references, I had 30 something characters left.
Posted by Nicholaspanda 3 years ago
I ran out of space.
This debate has 2 more rounds before the voting begins. If you want to receive email updates for this debate, click the Add to My Favorites link at the top of the page.

By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use.