The repetition and transposition of synoptic formulae.

Matthean, Marcan, and Lucan verbal formulae.

In 1899 Sir John S. Hawkins published in a single book, Horae Synopticae (Latin for synoptic hours, so called from the enormous amount of time that Hawkins spent studying the synoptic problem), lists and lists of synoptic data that have proven useful to researchers ever since. On pages 168-173 he listed examples of formulae which are repeated or transferred between the three synoptic gospels. By the term formulae (or formulas) Hawkins meant (page 168):

...the short sentences, or collocations of two or more words, which recur mainly or exclusively in one or the other of the Synoptic Gospels, so that they appear to be favourite or habitual expressions of the writer of it.

He then provided two groups of lists along those lines. The first group had three lists, each of which compiled formulae peculiar to each of the synoptics. The second group had only two lists, one for Matthew and one for Luke, which compiled formulae held in common by two or more of the synoptics, but used in more spots in one gospel than in the others (apparently he could find no examples of Mark using a formula more often than the other two).

Hawkins, however, went even further and offered another pair of lists. These lists compiled phrases placed entirely differently (A) by Matthew and Mark, and (B) by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, respectively. The phrases on these two lists do not qualify as formulae by the definition given by Hawkins, but I shall define a formula a bit differently than he so as to include this grouping as well.

For my purposes here a formula is:

A sentence or phrase of two or more words which is either repeated or transposed, or both, amongst the synoptic gospels, and which does not count as a distinct pericope in my synoptic inventory.

It is, then, the repeatability or transposability of a phrase that makes it a formula, even if it cannot be proven that it was a favorite of one or more of the authors.

That definition gives us three classes of formula to examine:

  1. Repeated formulae.
  2. Transposed formulae.
  3. Repeated and transposed formulae.

I shall, then, distribute the relevant formulae across these three classes. I am relying, of course, on the work of Hawkins, but shall feel free to compile extra instances as they surface, especially some that he categorized separately as doublets. Hawkins admitted that at least some of these lists were not exhaustive (page 169).

Some of the formulae are not repeated exactly between the various instances, but are close enough that they are clearly of a kind and serve the same purpose. In such cases I have written out only one version of the formula; the references that contain another version are then italicized.

Repeated formulae.

These formulae are extant only in one of the synoptic gospels, but in more than one spot. As they appear in only one gospel, they have not been transposed. Each formula is listed under the gospel in which it is repeated.


απο τοτε ηρξατο
from then he began
Matthew 4.17; 16.21.
μη νομισητε οτι ηλθον
do not think that I came
Matthew 5.17; 10.34.
προσελθων προσεκυνει αυτω
coming he worshipped him
Matthew 8.2; 9.18; 20.20; 25.25; 28.9.
υιοι της βασιλειας
sons of the kingdom
Matthew 8.12; 13.38.
εις το σκοτος το εξωτερον
into the outer darkness
Matthew 8.12; 22.13; 25.30.
ειδως... τας ενθυμησεις αυτων
knowing... their thoughts
Matthew 9.4; 12.25. (Ενθυμησις: 2-0-0+1; 0 LXX.)
πορευθεντες δε μαθετε τι εστιν· Ελεος θελω και ου θυσιαν
but go and learn what it means: I want mercy and not sacrifice
Matthew 9.13; 12.7.
τα προβατα τα απολωλοτα οικου Ισραηλ
the lost sheep of the house of Israel
Matthew 10.6; 15.24.
εν ταις συναγωγαις αυτων μαστιγωσουσιν υμας
in their synagogues they will scourge you
Matthew 10.17; 23.24.
εν εκεινω τω καιρω
in that time
Matthew 11.25; 12.1. (Confer Luke 13.1; Acts 12.1; 19.23.)
ως ο ηλιος
as the sun
Matthew 13.43; 17.2. (Also in Revelation 1.19; 10.1.)
χωρις γυναικων και παιδιων
apart from women and children
Matthew 14.21; 15.38.
οδηγοι τυφλοι
blind road-guides
Matthew 15.14; 23.16, 24.
τοτε συνηκαν οτι... ειπεν
then they understood that... he had spoken
Matthew 16.12; 17.13.
του θεου του ζωντος
of the living God
Matthew 16.16; 26.63.
ο εαν δησης επι της γης εσται δεδεμενον εν τοις ουρανοις, και ο εαν λυσης επι της γης εσται λελυμενον εν τοις ουρανοις
what you bind upon the earth shall be bound in the heavens, and what you loosen upon the earth shall be loosened in the heavens
Matthew 16.19; 18.18.
εφοβηθησαν σφοδρα
they were very afraid
Matthew 17.6; 27.54.
ελυπηθησαν σφοδρα
they were very grieved
Matthew 17.23; 18.31.
ωστε μη δυνασθαι αυτους μηδε αρτον φαγειν
so that they could not even eat bread
Mark 3.20; 6.31.
ελεγεν... εν τη διδαχη αυτου
he was saying... in his teaching
Mark 4.2; 12.38.
ηδεως αυτου ηκουεν
he [or they] were hearing him with pleasure
Mark 6.20; 12.37.
ουδενα ηθελεν γνωναι
he wished no one to know
Mark 7.24; 9.30.
ου γαρ ηδει τι αποκριθη
for he knew not what to answer
Mark 9.6; 14.40.
και εναγκαλισαμενος (of a child or children)
and having taken into his arms
Mark 9.36; 10.16.
δοξα εν υψιστοις
glory in the highest
Luke 2.14; 19.38. (With ειρηνη, or peace, in both cases.)
ποιειν ομοιως
do likewise
Luke 3.11; 6.31; 10.37. (Elsewhere only in John 5.19.)
πολλα... και ετερα
many... and other things
Luke 3.18; 22.65.
δοχην ποιειν
make a banquet
Luke 5.29; 14.13.
μονογενης in miracle stories
only begotten
Luke 7.12; 8.42; 9.38.
(Elsewhere only Christological.)
προφητης τις των αρχαιων ανεστη
some prophet of the ancients was risen
Luke 9.8, 19.
η δε ημερα ηρξατο κλινειν
and the day began to decline
Luke 9.12; 24.29.
εν τω ειναι αυτον προσευχομενον
while he was praying
Luke 9.18; 11.1.
πτωχους, αναπειρους, χωλους, τυφλους
poor, crippled, lame, blind
Luke 14.13, 21.
και την γυναικα (listed among deprecated family members)
and the wife
Luke 14.26; 18.29.
οι υιοι του αιωνος τουτου
the sons of this age
Luke 16.8; 20.34.
ετυπτε το στηθος εαυτου
he beat his own breast
Luke 18.13; 23.48.

Transposed formulae.

These formulae are extant in more than one of the synoptic gospels, but in only one spot per gospel. As they appear only once in a gospel, they are not repeated. Each formula is listed under the pair (or even trio) of gospels between which it is transposed. In some cases two of the gospels have the formula in the same position, while the third has transposed it.

The references are ordered from those that have parallels to those that do not, and then from Matthew to Mark to Luke.

Matthew and Mark.
Matthew and Luke.
Mark and Luke.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Matthew and Mark.
ην γαρ διδασκων αυτους ως εξουσιαν εχων, και ουχ ως οι γραμματεις
for he was teaching them as having authority, and not as the scribes
Mark 1.22 = Luke 4.32;
Matthew 7.29.
κακως εχοντας ποικιλαις νοσοις
those doing badly with various diseases
Mark 1.34 = Luke 4.40;
Matthew 4.24.
οτι ησαν... ως[ει] προβατα μη εχοντα ποιμενα
since they were... as sheep not having a shepherd
Matthew 9.36;
Mark 6.34.
(From Numbers 27.17.)
αφεις τους οχλους ηλθεν εις την οικιαν
having left the crowds he went into the house
Matthew 13.36;
Mark 7.17.
οι μαθηται αυτου... διασαφησον ημιν την παραβολην
his disciples... make clear to us the parable
Matthew 13.36;
Mark 7.17.
και αφεντες αυτον απηλθαν
and having left him they went away
Matthew 22.22;
Mark 12.12.
Matthew and Luke.
εν εξουσια ην ο λογος αυτου
his word was with authority
Luke 4.32 = Mark 1.22;
Matthew 7.29.
ασθενουντας νοσοις ποικιλαις
sick with various diseases
Luke 4.40 = Mark 1.34;
Matthew 4.24.
Mark and Luke.
καλως, διδασκαλε... ειπες
teacher... you spoke well
Mark 12.32;
Luke 20.39.
This single instance Hawkins footnotes on page 172.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
ουδε ετολμησεν τις... επερωτησαι αυτον ουκετι
nor did anyone dare... to ask him any longer
Matthew 22.46;
Mark 12.34;
Luke 20.40.

Repeated and transposed formulae.

These formulae are extant in more than one of the synoptic gospels, and in more than one spot in at least one of the gospels. They are, therefore, both repeated and transposed. Each formula is listed under the gospel in which it is repeated most often.

The references are ordered from those that have parallels to those that do not.


γεννηματα εχιδνων
brood of vipers
Matthew 3.7 = Luke 3.7;
Matthew 12.34; 23.33.
παν ουν δενδρον μη ποιουν καρπον καλον εκκοπτεται και εις πυρ βαλλεται
every tree therefore not making good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire
Matthew 3.10 = Luke 3.9;
Matthew 7.19.
εν ω ευδοκησα
in whom I am well pleased
Matthew 3.17 = Mark 1.11 = Luke 3.22;
Matthew 17.5.
μετανοειτε, ηγγικεν γαρ η βασιλεια των ουρανων
repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has come near
Matthew 4.17 = Mark 1.15;
Matthew 10.7 = Luke 10.9, 11;
Matthew 3.2 = Mark 1.4 = Luke 3.3.
και περιηγεν εν ολη τη Γαλιλαια, διδασκων εν ταις συναγωγαις αυτων και κηρυσσων το ευαγγελιον της βασιλειας και θεραπευων πασαν νοσον και πασαν μαλακιαν εν τω λαω
and he was going around in the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every ailment among the people
Matthew 4.23 = Mark 1.39 = Luke 4.44;
Matthew 9.35 = Mark 6.6.
εως αν παρελθη ο ουρανος και η γη
until heaven and earth should pass away
Matthew 5.18 = Luke 16.17;
Matthew 25.35 = Mark 13.31 = Luke 21.33.
πονηροι οντες
being evil
Matthew 7.11 = Luke 11.13;
Matthew 12.34.
και εγενετο οτε ετελεσεν ο Ιησους
and it happened that when Jesus finished
Matthew 7.28 = Luke 7.1;
Matthew 11.1 13.53; 19.1; 26.1.
(The Matthean discourse finales.)*
εκτεινας την χειρα (of Jesus)
having stretched out the hand
Matthew 8.3 = Mark 1.41 = Luke 5.13;
Matthew 12.49; 14.31.
εκει εσται ο κλαυθμος και ο βρυγμος των οδοντων
there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth there
Matthew 8.12 = Luke 13.28;
Matthew 13.42, 50; 22.13; 24.51; 25.30.
λεγω υμιν, ανεκτοτερον εσται γη Σοδομων και Γομορρων εν ημερα κρεσεως η τη πολει εκεινη
I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that city
Matthew 10.15 = Luke 10.12;
Matthew 11.24.
οι προφηται και ο νομος
the prophets and the law
Matthew 11.13 = Luke 16.16;
Matthew 5.17; 7.12; 22.40.
οστις... αν ποιηση το θελημα του πατρος μου
whoever... does the will of my father
Matthew 12.50 = Mark 3.35;
Matthew 7.21; 21.31.
ο εχων ωτα ακουετω
he who has ears, let him hear
Matthew 13.9 = Mark 4.9 = Luke 8.8;
Matthew 11.15; 13.43;
Mark 4.23; 7.16; Luke 14.35.
οστις γαρ εχει, δοθησεται αυτω και περισσευθησεται· οστις δε ου εχει, και ο εχει αρθησεται απ αυτου
for whoever has, it will be given to him and he will have superfluously; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him
Matthew 13.12 = Mark 4.25 = Luke 8.18;
Matthew 25.29 = Luke 19.26.
υπαγε οπισω μου, Σατανα
get behind me, Satan
Matthew 16.23 = Mark 8.33;
Matthew 4.10.
εαν εχητε πιστιν... ερειτε τω ορει τουτω· Μεταβα ενθεν εκει, και μεταβησεται
if you have faith... you will say to this mountain: Move from there to here, and it will move
Matthew 17.20 = Luke 17.6;
Matthew 21.21 = Mark 11.23.
εμε δεχεται
he receives me
Matthew 18.5 = Mark 9.37 = Luke 9.48;
Matthew 10.40.
πολλοι δε εσονται πρωτοι εσχατοι και εσχατοι πρωτοι
and many first shall be last and the last first
Matthew 19.30 = Mark 10.31;
Matthew 20.16 = Luke 13.30.
ος εαν θελη εν υμιν μεγας γενεσθαι εσται υμων διακονος
whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your minister
Matthew 20.26 = Luke 22.26;
Matthew 23.11; Mark 9.35; 10.43.
ελεησον... υιος [or υιε] Δαυιδ
have mercy... son of David
Matthew 20.30 = Mark 10.47 = Luke 18.38;
Matthew 20.31 = Mark 10.48 = Luke 18.39;
Matthew 9.27; 15.22.
φοβουμεθα τον οχλον, παντες γαρ ως προφητην εχουσιν τον Ιωαννην
we fear the crowd, for they all hold John as a prophet
Matthew 21.26 = Mark 11.32;
Matthew 14.5; 21.46.
τους δουλους... ον δε απεκτειναν
the servants... one of whom they killed
Matthew 21.35 = Mark 12.5;
Matthew 22.6.
παλιν απεστειλεν αλλους δουλους
again he sent other servants
Matthew 21.36 = Mark 12.4-5 = Luke 20.11-12;
Matthew 22.4.
απολεσει αυτους
he will destroy them
Matthew 21.41 = Mark 12.9 = Luke 20.16;
Matthew 22.7.
αγαπησεις τον πλησιον σου ως σεαυτον
love your neighbor as yourself
Matthew 22.39 = Mark 12.31 = Luke 10.27;
Matthew 19.19. (From Leviticus 19.18.)
οψονται τον υιον του ανθρωπου ερχομενον
they shall see the son of man coming
Matthew 24.30 = Mark 13.26 = Luke 21.27;
Matthew 26.64 = Mark 14.62;
Matthew 16.28 (in Mark 9.1 = Luke 9.27 only the kingdom is seen).
γρηγορειτε ουν, οτι ουκ οιδατε ποια ημερα ο κυριος υμων ερχεται
be awake, therefore, since you do not know which day your Lord is coming
Matthew 24.42 = Mark 13.35;
Matthew 25.13.
αληθως θεου υιος
truly the son of God
Matthew 27.54 = Mark 15.39;
Matthew 14.33.
* Hawkins marks Matthew 7.28 = Luke 7.1 as of doubtful value as a parallel between Matthew and Luke.
εξεπλησσοντο επι τη διδαχη αυτου
they were astonished at his teaching
Mark 1.22 = Luke 4.32;
Matthew 7.28; 22.33;
Mark 11.18. (Confer Acts 13.12.)
This formula could just as easily fall under Matthew, as both Matthew and Mark have it twice.
αφεωνται σοι αι αμαρτιαι σου... τις εστιν ουτος... τις δυναται αμαρτιας αφειναι
your sins are forgiven you... who is this man... who can forgive sins
Luke 5.20-21 = Mark 2.5, 7;
Luke 7.48-49.
ουδεις δε λυχνον αψας καλυπτει αυτον σκευει η υποκατω κλινης τιθησιν, αλλ επι λυχνιας τιθησιν, ινα οι εισπορευομενοι βλεπωσιν το φως
but no one lights a lamp and covers it with a vessel or places it under a bed, but rather places it upon a lampstand so that those who journey in might see the light
Luke 8.16 = Mark 4.21;
Luke 11.33; Matthew 5.15.
ου γαρ εστιν κρυπτον ο ου φανερον γενησεται, ουδε αποκρυφον ο ου μη γνωσθη και εις φανερον ελθη
for there is nothing hidden which will not become apparent, nor secret which will not be made known and come into the open
Luke 8.17 = Mark 4.22;
Luke 12.2 = Matthew 10.26.
η πιστις σου σεσωκεν σε
your faith has saved you
Luke 8.48 = Matthew 9.22 = Mark 5.34;
Luke 18.42 = Mark 10.52;
Luke 7.50; 17.19.
πορευου εις ειρηνην
journey in peace
Luke 8.48 = Mark 5.34;
Luke 7.50.
(Confer Acts 16.36; James 2.16.)
μηκετι σκυλλε τον διδασκαλον
trouble the teacher no longer
Luke 8.49 = Mark 5.35;
Luke 7.6.
οι δε ηγνοουν το ρημα τουτο
but they did not understand this word
Luke 9.45 = Mark 9.32;
Luke 18.34.
εισηλθεν δε διαλογισμος εν αυτοις, το τις αν ειη μειζων αυτων
but a dispute came in among them as to which of them was the greatest
Luke 9.46 = Matthew 18.1 = Mark 9.34;
Luke 22.24.
ουαι υμιν τοις Φαρισαιοις, οτι αγαπατε την πρωτοκαθεδριαν εν ταις συναγωγαις και τους ασπασμους εν ταις αγοραις
woe to you Pharisees, because you love the first seat in the synagogues and greetings in the markets
Luke 11.43;
Luke 20.46 = Matthew 23.6-7 = Mark 12.38-39.
οτι πας ο υψων εαυτον ταπεινωθησεται και ο ταπεινων εαυτον υψωθησεται
because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted
Luke 14.11;
Luke 18.14; Matthew 23.12.
ιδου εκει, ιδου ωδε
look there, look here
Luke 17.23;
Matthew 24.23 = Mark 13.21;
Luke 17.21.
τι ποιησας ζωην αιωνιον κληρονομησω
what shall I do to inherit eternal life
Luke 18.18 = Matthew 19.16 = Mark 10.17;
Luke 10.25.
ουκ αφεθησεται λιθος επι λιθω ωδε
stone shall not be left upon stone here
Luke 21.6 = Matthew 24.2 = Mark 13.2;
Luke 19.44.

Also of interest, the characteristic vocabulary of each synoptic gospel as compiled by Hawkins.