Gospel prologues.

Matthew 1.1; Mark 1.1; Luke 1.1-4  (John 1.1-18).

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Notes and quotes.

§ The patronymic υιου θεου in Mark 1.1 is not found in Θ or in א*. It is found in אcorrected, B, D, L, and W. The expanded υιου του θεου is found in A and Δ.

§ Mark, Luke, and John all speak of the αρχη (beginning)...:

Mark 1.1. Luke 1.2. John 1.1.

Αρχη
του ευαγγελιου Ιησου
Χριστου....
...οι
απ αρχης
 
 
αυτοπται και υπηρεται
γενομενοι
του λογου....

Εν αρχη
 
 
 
 
ην ο λογος....

...but in very different ways.

  1. In Mark the beginning of the gospel is coincident with the days of John the baptist, whose ministry is the first topic of choice after the prologue.
  2. In Luke the beginning is somewhat less distinct. The beginning is simply some point from which certain persons could become αυτοπται or υπηρεται (eyewitnesses or attendants) of the word. The term appears to divide those who were actual participants in the foundational events from those to whom, like the author himself, the participants handed down (παρεδοσαν) the traditions.
  3. In John the beginning is the beginning of the world.

§ The first couple of lines in John echo Genesis 1.1...:

John 1.1-2. Genesis 1.1 (Masoretic). Genesis 1.1 (LXX).
Εν αρχη
 
ην ο λογος, και ο λογος
ην προς τον θεον,
και θεος
 
ην ο λογος.
ουτος ην εν αρχη
προς τον θεον. 
בראשית
ברא
 
 
אלהים
את השמים ואת הארץ׃
Εν αρχη
εποιησεν
 
 
ο θεος
τον ουρανον και την γην.

...but now it is the λογος that is in view, not just God.

§ How should Mark 1.1 be punctuated? Should it end with a period, or should it continue with the conjunction καθως in the next verse?

Αρχη του ευαγγελιου Ιησου Χριστου υιου θεου. καθως γεγραπται εν τω Ησαια τω προφητη....
Αρχη του ευαγγελιου Ιησου Χριστου υιου θεου, καθως γεγραπται εν τω Ησαια τω προφητη....

The quote from Isaiah is very clearly applied to John the baptist. In the latter scenario, then, the beginning (αρχη) of the gospel happens just as (καθως) Isaiah prophesied about John the baptist. In the former, the connection between the beginning of the gospel and the ministry of John is not quite so explicit. But it still seems implicit. This gospel is about how the gospel of Jesus Christ began, and it begins with John the baptist.

And Mark 1.1 is not the only passage that links the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the ministry of John. So too Acts 10.37, Peter speaking:

Υμεις οιδατε το γενομενον ρημα καθ ολης της Ιουδαιας, αρξαμενος απο της Γαλιλαιας μετα το βαπτισμα ο εκηρυξεν Ιωαννης....

You yourselves know the word that happened in the whole of Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached....

The exact timing is slightly different, as Acts 10.37 places the beginning after the baptism (μετα το βαπτισμα) preached by John while Mark 1.1 and the following verses appear to place the beginning during the ministry of John, but both passages refuse to focus solely on the baptism of Jesus by John. Both bring up the preaching of John himself.

§ The Matthean prologue anticipates the Matthean epilogue:

Βιβλος γενεσεως Ιησου Χριστου....

The book of the genesis of Jesus Christ....

Και ιδου, εγω μεθ υμων ειμι πασας τας ημερας εως της συντελειας του αιωνος.

And behold, I myself am with you all the days until the consummation of the age.

The genesis, as it were, thus anticipates the consummation. Malina and Rohrbaugh write in their Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, page 24:

The title [id est, the first line of Matthew] is a pun that has a variety of possible meanings: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Messiah," or "The book of (the) Genesis of Jesus Messiah," or "The book of the origin of Jesus Messiah," and the like. This opening pun connects with the last words of the work: "to the end of the age" (28:20), marking off beginning and end. Moreover, the last passage of the work, an edict by the risen Jesus (28:18-20) closes the Gospel with the same type of passage that closes the Hebrew Scriptures, the edict of Cyrus in 2 Chron. 36:23. Thus the Gospel begins with "the book of genesis" and ends with a final edict of one empowered by God, just like the Sacred Scriptures of Matthew's day. Further, by beginning with a genealogy and closing with an edict, Matthew's work likewise follows the pattern of the last book of the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles. For Chronicles (called in Hebrew "The Book of Days" = genealogy) begins with a genealogy and ends with an edict from one with power over "all the kingdoms of the earth" (2 Chron. 36:22-23; used by Ezra 1:1-2), namely, God's Messiah, Cyrus (Isa. 45:1; see Isa. 44:28).

The finale of the Hebrew scriptures, 2 Chronicles 36.23 (LXX):

Ταδε λεγει Κυρος βασιλευς Περσων· Πασας τας βασιλειας της γης εδωκεν μοι κυριος ο θεος του ουρανου και αυτος ενετειλατο μοι οικοδομησαι αυτω οικον εν Ιερουσαλημ εν τη Ιουδαια. τις εξ υμων εκ παντος του λαου αυτου εσται, ο θεος αυτου μετ αυτου, και αναβητω.

Cyrus, king of the Persians, says these things: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given to me, and he himself commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem in Judea. Anyone that is from among you from all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up.

This same passage in the Masoretic text:

כה־אמר כורשׁ׀ מלך פרס כל־ממלכות הארץ נתן לי יהוה אלהי השׁמים והוא־פקד עלי לבנות־לו בית בירושׁלם אשׁר ביהודה מי־בכם מכל־עמו יהוה אלהיו עמו ויעל׃

§ Ignatius to the Magnesians 8.2:

Οι γαρ θειοτατοι προφηται κατα Χριστον Ιησουν εζησαν. δια τουτο και εδιωχθησαν, εμπνεομενοι υπο της χαριτος αυτου εις το πληροφορηθηναι τους απειθουντας οτι εις θεος εστιν ο φανερωσας εαυτον δια Ιησου Χριστου του υιου αυτου, ος εστιν αυτου λογος απο σιγης προελθων, ος κατα παντα ευηρεστησεν τω πεμψαντι αυτον.

For the most divine prophets lived according to Christ Jesus. On account of this they were also persecuted, being inspired by his grace to fully convince the faithless that there is one God who has made himself apparent through Jesus Christ his son, who is his word who came forth out of silence, and who according to all things pleased him well who sent him.

§ Justin Martyr, Apology 2.6.3:

Ο δε υιος εκεινου, ο μονος λεγομενος κυριως υιος, ο λογος προ των ποιηματων και συνων και γεννωμενος οτε την αρχην δι αυτου παντα εκτισε και εκοσμησε, Χριστος μεν κατα το κεχρισθαι και κοσμησαι τα παντα δι αυτου τον θεον λεγεται, ονομα και αυτο περιεχον αγνωστον σημασιαν, ον τροπον και το θεος προσαγορευμα ουκ ονομα εστιν, αλλα πραγματος δυσεξηγητου εμφυτος τη φυσει των ανθρωπων δοξα.

And his son, who alone is authoritatively called son, the word who also was with him and was begotten before the deeds, when in the beginning he created and arranged all things through him, is called Christ according to his being anointed and God arranging all things through him, this name itself also holding an unknown significance, in like manner as the appellation God is not a name, but rather an opinion impressed in the nature of men of a matter that cannot be explicated.

§ From Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 2.22.2:

Οθεν διδασκουσιν ημας αι αγιαι γραφαι και παντες οι πνευματοφοροι, εξ ων Ιωαννης λεγει· Εν αρχη ην ο λογος, και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον, δεικνυς οτι εν πρωτοις μονος ην ο θεος και εν αυτω ο λογος. επειτα λεγει· Και θεος ην ο λογος· παντα δι αυτου εγενετο, και χωρις αυτου εγενετο ουδεν.

Whence the holy writings and all those borne by the spirit teach us, from among whom John says: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, showing that at first God was alone and the word was in him. Then he says: The word was God; all things came to be through him; and apart from him nothing came to be.

§ Victorinus of Pettau (late century III), Commentary on the Apocalypse 4.3-4a:

Quattuor {animalia quattuor} sunt evangelia. primum, inquit, simile leoni, secundum simile vitulo, tertium simile homini, quartum simile aquilae volanti, {habentes} alas senas, in circuitu oculos et intus et deforis; et non cessant dicere, inquit: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, dominus deus omnipotens.

The four animals are the four gospels. The first, he says, was similar to a lion, the second similar to a calf, the third similar to a man, the fourth similar to an eagle flying, [each] having six wings, eyes roundabout both within and without. And, he says, they do not cease to say: Holy, holy, holy, omnipotent Lord God.

Sedentes XXIIII seniores habentes tribunalia XXIIII libri {sunt} prophetarum et legis referentes testimonia iudicii. sunt autem viginti quattuor patres, duodecim apostoli et duodecim patriarchae. animalia igitur quod differenti vultu sunt, hanc habent rationem.

The twenty-four seated elders who have twenty-four thrones are the books of the prophets and of the law, handing testimonies of judgment. They are, moreover, twenty-four fathers, twelve apostles and twelve patriarchs. In that, therefore, the animals are of different appearance, this is the reason.

Simile leoni animal evangelium cata Iohannem, quod, cum omnes evangelistae hominem factum Christum praedicaverunt, ille autem illum antequam descenderet et carnem sumeret deum praedicavit dicendo: Deus erat verbum, et quoniam tamquam leo fremens exclamavit, leonis vultum sustinet praedicatio eius. hominis Matheus enititur enuntiare nobis genus Mariae, unde carnem accepit Christus. ergo dum enumerat ab Abraham usque ad David et ab David usque ad Ioseph, tamquam de homine locutus est; ideo praedicatio eius effigiem hominis accepit. Lucas quoque {a} sacerdotio Zachariae offerentis hostiam pro populo et apparente sibi angelo dum enumerat, propter sacerdotium et hostiam ipsa conscriptio vituli tulit imaginem. Marcus, interpres Petri, ea quae in munere docebat commemoratus conscripsit, sed non ordine, et incipit prophetiae verbo per Esaiam praenuntiato.

The animal similar to a lion is the gospel according to John, because, since all the evangelists had preached that the Christ had become a man, he preaches that God had previously descended and assumed flesh, saying: God was the word, and it is because he exclaimed in the manner of a lion roaring that his preaching takes on the appearance of a lion. [In the figure] of a man Matthew strives to announce to us the genealogy of Mary, whence Christ received flesh. When, therefore, he enumerates from Abraham even to David and from David even to Joseph, he spoke as if of a man; thus his preaching recieves the effigy of a man. Luke, when he enumerates from the priesthood of Zacharias as he offers a sacrificial victim for the people, and from the angel who appears to him, on account of the priesthood and of the sacrificial victim this writing bore the image of a calf. Mark, the interpreter of Peter, having remembered the things that he taught in his duty wrote it down, but not in order, and began with the word of prophecy announced beforehand through Isaiah.

Incipiunt ergo sic dicendo. Iohannes: In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud deum, et deus erat verbum; haec facies leonis. Matheus autem: Liber generationis Iesu Christi filii dei filii David filii Abrahae; haec facies hominis. Lucas autem sic: Fuit sacerdos nomine Zacharias de vice Abia {et} mulier illi erat de filiabus Aaron; haec est imago vituli. Marcus incipit sic: Initium evangelii Iesu Christi sicut scriptum est in Esaia; advolante spiritu coeptum est, ideo volantis aquilae habet et effigiem.

They began, therefore, speaking thus. John [writes]: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the word; this is the figure of a lion. But Matthew [writes]: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of God, the son of David, the son of Abraham; this is the figure of a man. But Luke [writes] thus: There was a priest by the name of Zacharias, from the division of Abijah, {and} his wife was from the daughters of Aaron; this is the image of a calf. Mark starts off thus: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ just as it was written in Isaiah; it begins with the spirit flying, thus it also has the effigy of a flying eagle.