Was Matthew Trying to Replace Mark? (Mark Allan Powell)

Mark Allan Powell writes this regarding Matthew’s redaction of and improvement on Mark:

Matthew appears to have regarded Mark’s Gospel as theologically inadequate in at least three ways: (1) Mark does not present Christ as currently present among his followers, and thus the locus of God’s continuing presence in the world is ambiguous; (2) Mark offers little insight with regard to the discernment of God’s will for contemporary situations; and (3) Mark’s portrait of discipleship does not address the possibility of progress and so provides little hope or incentive for improvement. All three of these points may be gathered under one umbrella observation: from Matthew’s perspective, the Gospel of Mark contains no effective doctrine of the church. Addressing this concern may have been Matthew’s major incentive for producing a replacement Gospel. (Fortress Introduction to the Gospels, p. 45)


14 thoughts on “Was Matthew Trying to Replace Mark? (Mark Allan Powell)

  1. Are you using Powell’s Fortress introduction for a class? I used that when I taught the seminarians at St.Mary’s in Baltimore. Powell is one of those rare authors who (in my opinion) hits a homerun nearly every time he puts pen to paper (so to speak….I’m sure he’s using a computer).

    1. Hi Chris. I am teaching Gospel of Matthew this semester, but I am not using Powell as a textbook. We are reading France’s tome (NICNT) as well as The Sermon on the Mount through the Centuries. I agree that Powell’s analysis is excellent.

  2. “Redaction and improvement” and “replacement” are really two separate issues, aren’t they?

    To use the example of NT textbooks: the fact that the author sees silences or even deficiencies in a textbook does not necessarily mean that his own volume was written as a “replacement” for the other. It could be written as a supplement to it, or in engagement with it.

    Is Chronicles a “replacement” for Samuel-Kings?

    Is 1 Enoch a “replacement” for Genesis?

    Is Jubilees a “replacement” for the Pentateuch?

    What criteria could we use to determine whether a literary work is a replacement or a supplement or a commentary or ????

    1. Hi Michael. Thanks. I was drawing my post title from the last line of the quote. I agree that Powell is making a more direct and serious statement than one about “redaction.”

  3. It’s a great question. I answer in the affirmative and for two reasons: (1) You don’t copy so much out of your source if you don’t intend to take over all your source’s best bits; (2) Matthew nearly succeeded.

    1. Hi Mark,

      I’m interested in refining this further, so let me push back for the fun of it:

      (1) doesn’t extensive replication of material from the source text betray an indebtedness to it and agreement with it that conflicts in some way with the putative desire to replace it?

      (2) To what extent can we use “near success” as a criteria for determining what an author intended to do? Does the success of the Diatessaron in the East indicate that Tatian “intended to replace” his sources? On the flip side, how do we relate the putative desire of an author or redactor to replace a source text with the apparent tendency of readers in the Second Temple period to retain both source and target texts as authoritative?

      1. I don’t think that there is a conflict between indebtedness / broad agreement with a source and an intent to replace it. Matthew has added much more material to Mark and left out very little. In other words, Matthew can be seen as a new and improved Mark, and that to me is evidence of an intent to replace.

        As for near success in replacing Mark, results are a kind of evidence of one’s intent (but not the only evidence or conclusive proof, of course–it is a factor to weigh) . Of course, one does not alway achieve the results one intended and sometimes results obtain that weren’t intended. But because humans are purposeful creatures, there is a correlation between results and intentions, and having the expected correlation is much better for one’s argument than being put in the uncomfortable position of explaining it away.

  4. I am glad I found this post through the links at Near Emmaus. You have provided a great quote and I agree with Mark Allan Powell’s assessment (and Mark and Stephen in the comments) that there would have been little incentive to go back to Mark once one had Matthew’s enlarged and revised Gospel. I was generally persuaded by David Sim’s article “Matthew’s Use of Mark: Did Matthew Intend to Supplement or to Replace His Primary Source?” in NTS 57 (2011), though a new book I have not read by J. Andrew Doole seems to answer exactly opposite (“What was Mark for Matthew? An Examination of Matthew’s Relationship and Attitude to his Primary Source”). I have also argued in a Neotestamentica article that Luke had an even stronger intent to replace Mark as can be seen not only in how Luke redacts Mark but also in the Lukan preface to the many unsuccessful attempts to draw up an ordered account and in the depiction of John Mark.

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