John the baptist.

Matthew 3.1-6 = Mark 1.2-6 = Luke 3.1-6  (John 1.19-23).

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Notes and quotes.

§ There are by my count five agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark in these parallel passages:

  1. Matthew 3.1 has εν δε; Luke 3.1 has εν... δε.
  2. Both Matthew 3.1 and Luke 3.2 introduce John the baptist before referring Isaiah 40.3 to him. Mark 1.2-3 quotes Isaiah 40.3 before introducing John in 1.4.
  3. Matthew 3.3 has δια Ησαιου του προφητου λεγοντος; Luke 3.4 has εν βιβλω λογων Ησαιου του προφητου. Mark has εν τω Ησαια τω προφητη. The genitive case in Matthew follows δια; the genitive case in Luke is possessive. There is also agreement in the stem λογ- (λεγ-).
  4. Matthew 3.3 and Luke 3.4 omit the quotation from Malachi 3.1 in Mark 1.2. Both use the same reference elsewhere, in the same context of the double tradition (Matthew 11.10 = Luke 7.27).
  5. Matthew 3.5 has πασα η περιχωρος του Ιορδανου; Luke 3.3 has πασαν περιχωρον του Ιορδανου. This geographical phrase is relatively rare.

The first agreement is interesting inasmuch as both Matthew and Luke decide to begin this narrative section with a timing statement, but the Matthean statement is quite general, while the Lucan statement is an elaborate synchronization of the reigns, governorships, and priesthoods of seven different individuals. Also, the Matthean statement looks back to what has gone before (εν δε ταις ημεραις εκειναις, and in those days), while the Lucan statement is so fresh and introductory at this point that some have supposed that the book once began with 3.1, with Luke adding chapters 1-2 later. On its own, this agreement appears, on the Mark-Q theory, quite incidental and innocuous. It remains to be seen whether it might gain strength in combination with other agreements, such as the mutual decision on the part of Matthew and Luke to include infancy narratives and genealogies, however different the actual material may be.

I think that the second can be fairly accounted for on the Mark-Q theory if we note that it seems rather unusual in the New Testament to quote the fulfilled scripture before the fulfillment is even mentioned. If, in other words, Mark wrote his gospel first, it is not altogether surprising that Matthew and Luke might independently choose to place the fulfillment, that is, the ministry of John, before the fulfilled scripture.

In the third agreement, the genitive case appears in Matthew and Luke for very different reasons; the agreement appears quite coincidental.

The fourth agreement, likewise, I think can be fairly accounted for. Mark introduces his combined scriptural quotation under the name of Isaiah, but then quotes Malachi 3.1 before getting to Isaiah 40.3. Two independent editors might well either eliminate or postpone the Malachi quotation in order to get rid of a perceived contradiction. Indeed, we have evidence that Christian scribes sought to resolve precisely this issue: Alexandrinus (A) and Washingtoniensis (W), both from century V, read εν τοις προφηταις (in the prophets) instead of εν τω Ησαια τω προφητη (in Isaiah the prophet) at Mark 1.2. These codices are joined by a broad swath of the Byzantine tradition. This textual variant is certainly secondary.

Is it then too much of a coincidence on the Mark-Q theory that both Matthew and Luke choose to eliminate the Malachi quotation instead of reversing Malachi and Isaiah? I do not think so. Both planned on using Malachi 3.1 later in their respective gospels (Matthew 11.10 = Luke 7.27), so there was no need to include the Old Testament verse at this point.

The fifth agreement, on the other hand, can be explained within the Mark-Q theory only, I think, by the hypothetical influence of Q. The phrase η περιχωρος του Ιορδανου is found in the Greek Septuagint twice in the story of Lot, in Genesis 13.10, 11. There are related instances of the term περιχωρος in the story of Lot in Genesis 13.12; 19.17, 28. The phrase occurs only once elsewhere in the Septuagint, in 2 Chronicles 4.17 (whose parallel in 1 Kings 7.46 has a different phrase).

This concord between Matthew and Luke thus earns a place on my list of major agreements.

§ The verb παραγινεται in Matthew 3.1 is an instance of Matthew having an historic present where Mark, who uses the historic present twice as often as Matthew, has an aorist. Luke, too, has an aorist, which is not surprising given that he uses the historic present so infrequently.

§ The phrase ηγγικεν γαρ ο βασιλεια των ουρανων (for the kingdom of the heavens has come near) in Matthew 3.2 is a repeated and transposed formula in Matthew. Its other appearances are:

Matthew 4.17 = Mark 1.15;
Matthew 10.7 = Luke 10.9, 11.

§ Matthew 3.4 has η δε τροφη αυτου (and his food was), while Mark 1.6 has και εσθιων (and eating). The word τροφη is characteristically Matthean (4-0-1+7).

§ Isaiah 40.3 (Masoretic and LXX):

קול קורא במדבר פנו דרך יהוה
ישרו בערבה מסלה לאלהינו׃

Φωνη βοωντος εν τη ερημω· Ετοιμασατε την οδον κυριου, ευθειας ποιειτε τας τριβους του θεου ημων.

A voice shouting in the desert: Make ready the road of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.

§ Malachi 3.1 (Masoretic and LXX):

הנני שלח מלאכי ופנה־דרך לפני ופתאם יבוא אל־היכלו האדון
אשר־אתם מבקשים ומלאך הברית אשר־אתם חפצים הנה־בא אמר יהוה צבאות׃

Ιδου, εγω εξαποστελλω τον αγγελον μου, και επιβλεψεται οδον προ προσωπου μου, και εξαιφνης ηξει εις τον ναον εαυτου κυριος ον υμεις ζητειτε, και ο αγγελος της διαθηκης ον υμεις θελετε, ιδου, ερχεται, λεγει κυριος παντοκρατωρ.

Behold, I shall send out my messenger, and he shall clear the road before my face, and the Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come into his own sanctuary, and the messenger of the covenant for whom you wish, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

§ The Ebionite gospel begins, according to Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13, with these words:

Η δε αρχη του παρ αυτοις ευαγγελιου εχει οτι Εγενετο εν ταις ημεραις Ηρωδου του βασιλεως της Ιουδαιας ηλθεν Ιωαννης βαπτιζων βαπτισμα μετανοιας εν τω Ιορδανη ποταμω, ος ελεγετο ειναι εκ γενους Ααρων του ιερεως, παις Ζαχαριου και Ελισαβετ, και εξηρχοντο προς αυτον παντες.

It happened in the days of Herod the king of Judea that John came baptizing a baptism of repentance in the Jordan river, who was said to be from the line of Aaron the priest, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, and all were going out to him.

This introduction appears to be based on Luke 1.5, the introduction to the birth of John the baptist...:

Εγενετο εν ταις ημεραις Ηρωδου βασιλεως της Ιουδαιας ιερευς τις ονοματι Ζαχαριας, εξ εφημεριας Αβια, και γυνη αυτω εκ των θυγατερων Ααρων, και το ονομα αυτης Ελισαβετ.

There was in the days of Herod king of Judea a certain priest, Zacharias by name, from the division of Abijah, as well as his wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

...except that it makes, not the birth, but rather the baptismal ministry of John from Luke 3.1 come into view during the reign of Herod the king. Evidently the compilers of the Ebionite gospel confused Herod the great, a true king of Judea who died shortly after the birth of both John and Jesus, with Herod Antipas the tetrarch (as Luke correctly calls him in 3.1).

§ This same Ebionite gospel changes the diet of John the baptist in Matthew 3.4 = Mark 1.6. From Epiphanius, Panarion 30.13:

Και εγενετο Ιωαννης βαπτιζων, και εξηλθον προς αυτον Φαρισαιοι και εβαπτισθησαν, και πασα Ιεροσολυμα. Και ειχεν ο Ιωαννης ενδυμα απο τριχων καμηλου, και ζωνην δερματινην περι την οσφυν αυτου· και το βρωμα αυτου, φησι, μελι αγριον, ου η γευσις ην του μαννα, ως εγκρις εν ελαιω.

And John was baptizing, and Pharisees went out to him and were baptized, and all Jerusalem. And John had clothing from the hairs of a camel, and a skin belt around his loin. And his food, it says, was wild honey, whose taste was of manna, as cake in oil.

The text is closer to Matthew than to Mark, but in any case the ακριδες και μελι αγριον (locusts and wild honey) have been changed to μελι αγριον, ου η γευσις ην του μαννα, ως εγκρις εν ελαιω (wild honey, whose taste was of manna, as cake in oil). This change is not difficult to account for. The Ebionites were encratics, vegetarian ascetics. The Greek word for locust, ακρις, would sound very much like the Greek word for cake, εγκρις. Locusts would qualify as meat, but neither honey nor cake would. So honey and locusts become honey that tastes like cake.

§ Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 88.7a:

Ιωαννου γαρ καθεζομενου επι του Ιορδανου και κηρυσσοντος βαπτισμα μετανοιας, και ζωνην δερματινην και ενδυμα απο τριχων καμηλου μονον φορουντος, και μηδεν εσθιοντος πλην ακριδας και μελι αγριον, οι ανθρωποι υπελαμβανον αυτον ειναι τον Χριστον· προς ους και αυτος εβοα· Ουκ ειμι ο Χριστος, αλλα φωνη βοωντος.

For, as John was situated at the Jordan and preaching a baptism of repentance, and bearing only a skin belt and clothing out of hairs of a camel, and eating nothing except locusts and wild honey, men took him to be the Christ. He himself also shouted to them: I am not the Christ, but a voice shouting.

§ Josephus discusses John the baptist in Antiquities 18.5.2 §116-119.