An Analysis of a Story in Three Versions

Introduction I find it fascinating but also a bit confusing that the bible has more than one account of similar stories. The versions are alike yet have obvious differences as well. How can we explain these discrepancies? Do we need to? It is understandable to me why people have trouble sorting through the different versions, in the hopes of finding the truth. Will we ever be able to find out what the true stories are? Did the authors of the gospel even really know what the truth was?

This we will never really know for sure, but what we can do is look at the analogous passages and sort out the comparable phrasing, parallel surroundings, and matching backgrounds to see if one straightforward version can be derived from a melding of all three. Step # 1 Inventory What I did to start sorting through the three versions from the gospels was I highlighted in the same colour anything that was comparable, and if something was unique to a particular version I underlined it. If a passage was word for word with it’s counterpart, I made it bold.

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Here is what I found: Similarities There were a number of passages that were strikingly similar with each other in all three gospels, in some cases they matched word for word. Similar phrasing in all three accounts: 1 ~ Matthew 12: 24 // Mark 3: 22 // Luke 11: 15 2 ~ Matthew 12: 25 // Mark 3: 24 // Luke 11: 17 3 ~ Matthew 12: 26 // Mark 3: 26 // Luke 11: 18 4 ~ Matthew 12: 29 // Mark 3: 27 // Luke 11: 21 Word for word accounts: 1 ~ Matthew 12:22 // Luke 11: 14 ~ in both accounts they use the word AMAZED to describe the crowds.

2 ~ Matthew 12: 25 // Luke 11: 17 ~ First sentence only 3 ~ Matthew 12: 27 // Luke 11: 19 4 ~ Matthew 12: 29 // Mark 3: 27 5 ~ Matthew 12: 30 // Luke 11: 23 Differences 1 ~ In Matthew the Demoniac is a blind and mute man. In Mark there is no mention of anyone being exorcised. In Luke the man is only mute. 2 ~ Only in Matthew does the crowd ask, “Can this be the son of David? ” (Matthew 12:23) 3 ~ Only in Mark is there any mention of Jesus’ family being present. His family goes out to restrain him, because people were saying that he had gone out of his mind.

(Mark 3: 21) 4 ~ Only in Mark is there mention of a large crowd, in fact the crowd is so large that “they could not even eat”. (Mark 3:20) 5 ~ Only in Mark is there mention of Jesus speaking to the crowd in Parables. “And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables,” (Mark 3:23) 6 ~ There are five passages spoken in Matthew and Luke that are not in Mark’s version at all. 1) Matthew 12: 22 // Luke 11: 14 2) Matthew 12: 25 // Luke 11: 17 3) Matthew 12: 27 // Luke 11: 19 4) Matthew 12: 28 // Luke 11: 20 5) Matthew 12: 30 // Luke 11: 23 Step # 2 Explanation

How can we explain the similarities from version to version? Well the obvious answer for that would be that each of the writers of the gospels drew their information from a common source. Although this mysterious source has never been found, the Q gospel as it is commonly known would be an easy answer as to how similar and exact quotes can be found in different versions of the stories. If you were in a classroom and three of the students handed in a test with exact word-for-word phrasing, the teacher would be sure to charge the students with plagiarism.

If you were in a courtroom, and two witnesses gave exact word-for-word testimonies, then the judge would be sure to throw out their testimonies accusing the witnesses of corroborating their stories in advance. The students and the witnesses were drawing from a common source to get their answers right. The gospel writers were not worried about copying the stories from others, because their goal was not to write a unique story that they could take credit for, instead they are trying to record for posterity the teachings and sayings of Jesus as they have been told them.

In this case I think it is a matter of the gospel writers referring to a Q gospel source in order to make sure that they got the story correct. It looks as though Matthew and Luke might have had access to this Q gospel as their versions of the story have too many similarities to make it a chance happening. Mark on the other hand seems to have gotten his information from a different source. How can we explain the discrepancies from version to version? What we have to do is keep in mind that these versions of the story were written decades after the actual event occurred. Because of this there is bound to be discrepancies in the stories.

None of the authors of the gospels were eyewitnesses to the accounts they wrote about; therefore every story that they tell is coming from a secondary source. When these stories were finally written down they had gone through generations of oral storytellers, if you remember the old telephone game that you played as a child, it is easy to see how a story can warp and change as it passes through the lips of one person to another. Information was preserved in a very haphazard way in those days, and perhaps the need to correlate the stories into one succinct version was not understood to be important.

The gospels were also written to persuade the reader of a certain viewpoint, and each individual gospel writer, would have had their own method of persuasion. The gospels were also translated from the original Aramaic language into Greek, and some of the authenticity of the stories could have been literally lost in translation. My final thought is that these could be a retelling of three separate and different events. Perhaps Jesus used a standard rebuttal for doubters and had said similar things many times in different situations.

It is well known that Jesus was at odds with the scribes, priests and Pharisees throughout the gospels, so perhaps each of these stories are just one in an series of similar confrontations with them. Step # 3 What you learned about Jesus and what he is about In all three stories Jesus had followers (many followers in the Mark version), but he also seemed to have a band of skeptics who wanted to plant the seeds of doubt in the believers minds. Jesus seems to be an articulate man, able to deal with doubters in a calm and eloquent manner. He seems to be intellectual, drawing from a wide source of knowledge.

He is quick to think on his toes, and able to give answers immediately when they are asked of him. Jesus also seems to be a rebel, upsetting the balance and messing with the traditions and rituals that had been handed down for generations. I can see why this would not be taken lightly. Here is a man claiming that everything that was being taught was wrong. He was threatening the balance and understanding of what life is about, who God is and what it all means. This was a young man, coming in and announcing that he was right, and that changes needed to be made. He was a threat to the traditional society.

This is my explanation for why his family chose to restrain him in the Mark version of the story. I don’t think that they didn’t believe him necessarily; more that they were trying to protect him from the people that felt threatened by his message, and those who would deem him insane. I think back to all the news programs I have seen about people claiming that they are the new saviors, David Koresh, L. Ron Hubbard, Warren Jeffs, just to name a few off the top of my head. I can’t help but wonder if Jesus had come to earth in this day and age would he have been successful in his goals?

Would Christianity have been dubbed the new cult religion and tossed aside as fanatical? If the Pharisees, scribes or priests were able to convince the crowds that Jesus was insane or in league with the devil, then they could justify squashing his message forever, and get back to the traditions and teachings that they were more comfortable with. The facts seem to show that Jesus did have powers that defy explanation; he believed that he was the instrument of God, and he used that power for good. He used his power to prove the existence of a higher power, to help people, and to gain a following.

Time and time again we see that in the stories passed down through the gospel, what we choose to do with that information is each person’s own decision, what we have to do is take the stories at face value and try to assemble an understanding that suits our beliefs. Jesus’ teachings were to persuade people to believe, and regardless of who’s version you feel is correct, if you believe even one of them, then his job has been well served. My attempt to create a common version of the story: The crowd formed around him again, so tightly that they could not even eat.

They brought forth to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that one who had been mute could speak and see. Many in the crowd were amazed, and said, “Can this be the son of David? ” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons. ” When his family heard of this, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind. ” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “How can Satan cast out Satan?

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. An amalgamation from sources: Matthew 12:22-32//Mark 3:20-30//Luke 11:14-23 This is the essence of what the story means to me, but even by going through the process of picking out the parts of the stories that I wanted to include, I am changing the meaning of the story yet again.

It makes it easy to see how through the ages there could be discrepancies in the narrative. We are given four gospels in the bible so that we are able to do just what I did, pick and choose form the stories to make it our own, to take from it the meaning and lessons that suggest something to us personally, find the version that speaks to you and learn from it. That is what the gospel writers were trying to do, each of them telling their version of the stories to try to persuade their audience to believe.


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