December 17, 2022

Unitarian Questions Regarding our "Relationship with Jesus"


Someone in the Biblical Unitarian Alliance Facebook group postulated the following questions: 

  • What is the nature of your relationship with Jesus now?
  • If we are to pray to Father alone as God, what role does Jesus have in your daily life?
  • Is he just a name you tack on to the end of your prayers or do you actually have an intimate, personal fellowship with him?
  • If you are not supposed to pray to him or worship him as God, “what shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”

The person who raised these concerns followed up by stating:

"Biblical unitarians need to be able to clearly express not only who Jesus was and is, but also what role he now plays in our worship services, our prayer lives, in our daily walk. It's not enough to be able to explain that the Father alone is God and that Jesus is His human Messiah...  biblical unitarians struggle with what to do with Jesus now that we freely acknowledge that he is the Son of God, the human Messiah, but not God himself."

Overview of Apostolic Testimony

We are to model our life after Jesus. addresses many ways that Jesus is a model for us. Most especially, we are to mirror the spiritual walk of Jesus as affirmed by the most reliable Gospel witness of Luke-Acts. ( The emphasis of Jesus' ministry is the importance of prayer, and he demonstrated a dependence on prayer ( Jesus would continue all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12) At times he took disciples with him to the mountain to pray (Luke 9:28) When Jesus was under great distress, he prayed to the Father, not my will but yours be done (Luke 22:39-46) Jesus gave his disciples instructions on how to pray to the Father in Luke 11:1-4 To Jesus, prayer was a process of humbling yourself before God, being under the influence and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, receiving revelation and empowerment from God, remaining in a state of forgiveness, and averting temptation.

Jesus implied that we should seek from prayer the Holy Spirit and that it is the Father's will to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to them that ask him. (Luke 11:13)  What happens when one receives and prays in the Holy Spirit? The answer is that when one utters mysteries in the Spirit, one speaks not to men but to God. (1 Cor 14:1) The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Rom 8:26) The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:28) Thus, praying in the Holy Spirit, corresponds to praying how we ought, according to the will of God, and this involves speaking “not to men but to God.”

Paul was clear that we shouldn't be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God. (Phil 4:6). Paul prayed to God. (1Cor 13:7) When he wanted others to be saved, it was his heart's desire and prayer to God. (Rom 10:1) When Paul prayed for others, he always thanked God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Col 1:3) Thus, we should bring our needs before the one God and Father, Just as Jesus and Paul did and Paul instructed.

When Peter was kept in prison, prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him (Acts 12:5) When Paul and Silas were in jail they were “praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25)  When the apostles were persecuted, they prayed for boldness. This is recorded in Acts 4:23-30.

Acts 4:23-30 (ESV)

24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,
25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,1 said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 
29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
We can see from the above passages that prayers were directed to the one God and Father who created all things. In Acts 4:23-30, Jesus is referenced in the second person. Clearly, prayer should be directed toward the one God and Father.

What about John?

To justify doctrines involving prayer to Jesus or prayer to saints, one has to go outside the New Testament or read things into a verse in the Gospel of John where Jesus is claimed to have said to his disciples “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,” in reference to Jesus's going to the Father. (John 14:14) We know that John is highly metaphorical, and many things are not intended to be understood literally. Later in John 15:16 and John 16:23, Jesus speaks of asking the Father in Jesus' name, that the Father may do it. Jesus also speaks of the day when his disciples will ask nothing of him:

John 15:16 (ESV) 
  16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

John 16:23 (ESV) 
  23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus helped the disciples by praying for them, but there would be a day when Jesus would not need to ask of the Father on their behalf because the Father himself loves them. The implication of John 16:25-27 is that they would no longer be in need of an intercessor, that is, relying on Jesus to ask or pray on their behalf: 
 John 16:25-27 (ESV) 
25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

Furthermore, in Jesus' prayer of John 17 to the Father, he requested that those who would believe in him through the word of his disciples would have the same oneness with the Father that Jesus had with the Father. Again, the implication of John, is that believers would have direct access to the father as Jesus did: 

John 17:20-23 (ESV) 

  20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Although the Fourth Gospel reflects a later tradition that is not historically reliable and is also the cause of much misunderstanding, it still indicates that prayer to Jesus would not be necessary. This is considering our status with the Father of being one with the Father and loved by the Father as he was. Some try to use the esoteric language in John to suggest certain notions about Jesus. John, however, has been the source of much confusion and misunderstanding through the centuries. It is best to not depart from the clear and straightforward apostolic testimony of Luke-Acts + Paul. 

Of the few things in John that are explicit, it is that Jesus prays to the one God and Father and confesses the Father as the only True God after Jesus told his disciples that “I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” (John 16:28)

 John 17:1-3 (ESV) 
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Few other verses in John are as explicit as this. Another one is at the end, where the author expresses his motivation. 

John 20:31 (ESV) 

31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Thus, salvation comes down to believing in Jesus being God's chosen Messiah. There is no indication here of maintaining a personal relationship with Jesus as if he were, himself, God. 

What about Stephen?

After preaching the Gospel in Acts 7, Steven gazed into heaven and “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” and he said “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56) After this those in the council he was speaking to rushed at him and cast him out of the city and stoned him. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 2:59) And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60). 

Some claim that Stephen addressed the Lord Jesus asking him to receive his spirit. That this is akin to praying to Jesus and identifying Jesus as God (the one who receives spirits). In this case, however, Stephen has an open vision in which he sees Jesus. In this vision, there is a distinction between Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and the Glory of God. Thus, Jesus is distinguished from God in the vision. “Receive my spirit” is another way of saying “receive my life” in the context of Stephen showing allegiance and dying for the Lord Jesus. It is not an indication that Jesus is God in any ontological sense. 

The reason this is not a normative case of prayer is that it is in the context of an open vision of Jesus being within view. Paul also had a direct encounter with Jesus on his road to Damascus experience. Despite encountering Jesus, and receiving instruction from him, he continued to pray to God and did not give any indications in his many letters that others are to pray to Jesus. Paul's instructions on prayer being what we have covered in the Overview of Apostolic Testimony section above. 

Specific Answers

  • What is the nature of your relationship with Jesus now?
We acknowledge him as Messiah (Christ) and confess him as Lord. This includes acknowledging him as King of Kings and maintaining our allegiance toward him as God's chosen one. We acknowledge Jesus and confess him as the blessed one, the most favored over all creation, the Son of God.

  • If we are to pray to Father alone as God, what role does Jesus have in your daily life?
We constantly affix our hope on the coming kingdom of Christ's reign. We bring to remembrance Jesus' example and his sacrifice. Furthermore, we model our lives after him, following his example and teachings. We abide in the same love he abided in. Our hearts and attitudes are aligned with his.
  • Is he just a name you tack on to the end of your prayers or do you actually have an intimate, personal fellowship with him?
Does one have an intimate, personal fellowship with a king? People are to love and revere their king, devoting themselves to his service. However, not everyone interacts with the king on a daily basis, although they may constantly bring themselves to the remembrance of their sovereign by saying such things as “God save the King” and affirming their allegiance. So, there is to be an emotional attachment and affinity toward Messiah, but our prayer life should be directed toward God, as was the prayer life of Jesus and the Apostles. 
  • If you are not supposed to pray to him or worship him as God, “what shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”
We pray to the Father and worship him alone as the only true God. We worship as Jesus the servant of God, “The Lamb” who is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing:

Revelation 5:12 (ESV) 
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

He was slain and by his blood, he ransomed people for God, from every tribe and language and people and nations, and made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. (Rev 5:9-10)  Amen!


Luke-Acts + Paul provides a clear answer to this question as to what is normative in Apostolic Christianity with regard to prayer being directed to the Father. Even according to John, Jesus indicates that we can pray to the Father directly, having the same oneness with God that he had, without needing Jesus to ask for us. (John 16;26-27) Although it is apparent that many today would prefer to pray to Jesus, this is a different approach than Jesus and his Apostles of praying to God. Jesus is the model for us! (

For more on Prayer, see

For more on issues with John, see,

For more on Luke-Acts Primacy, see

December 16, 2022

Christmas Poem: "The Tree of Perfect Choosing"


by Christa Selah 


How frantically we search

In wake of the season

for a tree to adorn

with regal splendor

One full branched and stately

with no choppy spaces

with the fragrance of a forest

of fresh wood pine


We scamper up and down the

lots and nurseries

attune to the want

of our eye’s lust

No less in grace and grandeor

than an emerald

our choice must be outstanding

Fit, yes. for a kingly coronation

all the handsome treasures of

A crowning


The aspirant must merit fancy trimming

the ornaments and all the gifts arriving

It’s top must be deserving of an angel

or a star flashing the light of Christmas promise

unlike this lovely decked out tree before us

too soon to be all dry, plundered, and wilted

Yet thank heaven the tree of life’s within reach

whose awesome beauty will not ever perish

The tree of life is God, the Son, Christ Jesus

the perfect one designed for our heart’s


December 15, 2022

The Didache is Unreliable

What is the Didache

Didache means “Teaching” and is also known as The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. The date of its original work, its authorship, and provenance are unknown, although most modern scholars date it to the first century (90-120 AD) 

Why is it unreliable?

The chief textual witness to the text of the Didache is an eleventh-century Greek parchment manuscript known as Codex Hierosolymitanus or Codex H, (1056 AD). It is highly probable that the Didache was modified during the approximately 950 years from when it originated as compared to Codex H. 

Even in the early part of the fourth century, Eusebius of Caesarea wrote that "the so-called Teachings of the Apostles… was spurious" (Eusebius History 3:25)

In Didache 9, which deals with communion, the writer says, “But let no one eat or drink of this Eucharistic thanksgiving, but they that have been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus”

The Didache 7 states, “But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living (running) water. But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water; and if thou art not able in cold then in warm. But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice (three times) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The internal evidence points to Didache 7 as an interpolation, or later addition. Shortly after saying baptism should be performed in the titles Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Didache states the absolute necessity of being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (the same Greek word as in Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16; Acts 10:48; Acts 19:5). This represents an obvious contradiction and gives validity to the argument that Didache 7 is an interpolation.

The Didache is also silent on repentance and the symbolic death into Christ, which is a key to understanding baptism.

Although there are some interesting contents within the Didache that were likely written in the early second century, it is evident that later interpolations and editions to the Didache cause uncertainty about the veracity of any of its contents.

Quotes from Scholarship:

“the document was tampered with by later insertions… the document does not go back to the apostolic times … Furthermore, such a collection of ecclesiastical ordinances presupposes a period of stabilization of some duration. Scattered details indicate that the apostolic age is no longer contemporary, but has passed into history.” (Johannes Quasten, Patrology Vol. 1, Page 36)

“The Didache, an early second-century Christian composition, is also clearly composite, consisting of a “Two Ways” section (chaps. 1-6), a liturgical manual (7-10), instructions on the reception of traveling prophets (11-15), and a brief apocalypse (16). Marked divergences in style and content as well as the presence of doubtless and obvious interpolations, make plain the fact that the Didache was not cut from whole cloth. The dominant view today is that the document was composed on the basis of several independent, preredactional units which were assembled by either one or two redactors (Neiderwimmer 1989:64-70, ET 1998:42-52). Comparison of the “Two Ways” section with several other “Two Ways” documents suggests that Didache 1-6 is itself the result of multistage editing. The document began with rather haphazard organization (cf. Barnabas 18-20), but was reorganized in a source common to the Didache, the Doctrina apostolorum, and the Apostolic Church Order …” (John S. Kloppenborg Verbin, Excavating Q, pp. 134-135)
For more on baptism being originally in the name of Jesus, see

December 14, 2022

Matthew Caters to the Rich

 Matthew Caters to the Rich

G. D. Kilpatrick has argued that Matthew was compiled for use in a wealthy urban Jewish Church and showed that Matthew tends to modify its source material in the direction of making it more relevant to the rich. (G. D. Kirkpatrick, The Origins of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, pp. 124-5) 
Matthew exhibits technical competence in its editing. In some places, it appears that Matthew has softened derogatory references to the rich, including Matt 6:19 vs. Luke 11:33 and Matt 11:7-11 and Luke 7:24-28. 
The Beelzebul controversy of Luke 11:17-23, Mark 3:23-30 and Matt 12:25-37 is an example where Matthew's close editing reflects his attitude toward wealth. Luke's reading is more authentic than Matthew's in the material they share. For example, the instance of  'by the finger of God' is generally regarded as prior to 'by the spirit of God'. With respect to the rich, the crucial difference in the examination is that Matthew has a preference for Mark's parable of the Strong man over Luke's (Compare Luke 11:21-22, Mark 3:27, and Matt 12:29). Considering that Matthew has Lukan verses immediately before and after the implementation of the Strong Man from Mark, suggest that the author knew the Lukan parable as well. Wealth is apparently the reason he chooses to follow Mark. The parable in Luke describes Beelzebul as a strong rich man who guards his palace and possessions in peace until a stronger one seizes his armor and distributes the spoil. The parable in Luke would be perceived as equating riches with evil, but the Marcan version of the strong man would avoid this association. 
Matt 25:31-46 contains a parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Since it appears to demand charity for the poor, and both threaten hell for refusal, it would also seem that the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus of Luke 16:19-31 would also warrant a place in Matthew since it has the same theme of charity and threat of hell. The likely reason for the omission of the parable in Matthew is that judgment falls harshly on the excessively wealthy man, while sympathy is given to the poor man. The parable of the Sheep and the Goats is much more fitting for Matthew, since the judgment has nothing to do with the distinction between the rich and the poor. 
In conclusion, West observed…
“Matthew calls for charity, but he shuns pericopes which equate possessions with evil or which take it for granted that the rich are wicked.” (H.P. West Jr., “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew,” New Test. Stud. 14, p.87)
The view of Matthew with respect to possessions can be discerned from the editorial actions of the author in consideration of the following passages. 
  • Matt 5:3,6 vs. Luke 6:20-21
  • Matt 5:46-47 vs. Luke 6:32-36
  • Matt 6:19-21 vs. Luke 7:33-34
  • Matt 10:37-38 vs. Luke 14:26-27
  • Matt 11:7-11 vs. Luke 7:24-28
  • Matt 12:25-27 vs. Luke 11:17-23 and Mark 3:23-30
  • Matthew omits Luke 12:13-15
  • Matthew omits Luke 12:16-21
  • Matthew omits Luke 14:7-14
  • Matthew omits Luke 14:28-33
  • Matthew omits Luke 16:14-15
  • Matthew omits Luke 16:19-31
  • Matthew omits Luke 18:9-14
  • Matt 19:16-22 vs. Luke 18:18-23 and Mark 10:17-22
  • Matt 19:23-40 vs. Luke 18:24-30 and Mark 10:23-31
  • Matt 24:45-51 vs. Luke 12:42-6
  • Matt 25:14-30 vs. Luke 19:11-27
  • Matt 26:6-13 vs. Mark 14:3-9 and Luke 7:36-50
Some might question if the author of Matthew saw and omitted the peculiar Lukan material. They might attribute the material from a documentary source of a separate tradition from the source common to Matthew and Luke.  However, such a source would be hard to imagine, considering what that collection of material that source would necessarily exhibit. It would be an absurd collection unlike anything else known. The collection would contain virtually no independent sayings and comprise mostly striking parables. All of its material would display a particular interest in making moral examples out of persons without Jewish status, or at every opportunity, would attack the rich and their possessions. It is far more reasonable to see Primitive Luke as a source common to Matthew and Luke than to presume distinct sources to account for the materials common to Matthew and for those materials particular to Luke. 

Matthew's poor attitude toward non-Jews


Matthew's poor attitude toward non-Jews 

Matthew's editorial behavior in light of Mark and Primitive Luke gives us an indication of the authors' attitude toward non-Jews.
Scholars have been puzzled by Matthew's omission of the pericope of the Strange Exorcist of Luke 9:49-50 and Mark 9:38-41. This omission provides an important clue of Matthew's preference to exclude passages in which lawless persons, or persons without status under the Law, become good examples. As Matthew clearly is a Judaizing document and the author held strict ideas of Law.
Matthew omits the saying common to Mark and Luke 'he that is not against us is for us' of Luke 9:50 and Mark 9:40, but he includes a related saying in Luke' he who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters' of Luke 9:23 and Matt 12:30. It is also evident that Matthew has inverted the saying of Mark 9:41, 'whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ' to read in Matt 10:42, 'whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple. 
These examples of the editorial character of Matthew represent strict legal formal demands.  This perspective attitude can likely account for the addition of Matt 22:11-14 of the parable of the Wedding Garment to the parable of the Great Banquet exhibited in Luke 14:16-24 and Matt 22:1-10. The wedding garment of Matthew symbolizes righteousness, and it presents that as the criteria for entering the kingdom. Matthew puts the highest embodiment of the Law over all other factors, including the interpolation of Matt 5:19 that those who would relax the least of these commandments would be least in the Kingdom.
Thus, Matthew adds various anti-charismatic verses, including Matt 7:13-23.  Matthew's anti-charismatic tendencies are exhibited further in Matt 6:7-8 and elsewhere in chapter 6 where the author portrays Jesus as prescribing that prayer, fasting, and giving should be done in secret. 
In using those outside the Law as negative examples, the author of Matthew typically demonstrates his rejection of them. According to Matthew, believers are not to be like Gentiles (Matt 6:7-8) and those who are to be regarded no better than tax collectors (Matt 5:46-47)
Despite Mark making no reference to Samaritans and Gentiles, Matthew's comments establish a clear anti-gentile pattern. Matt 15:24, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel' is an obvious insertion into a pericope taken from Mark. This attitude is even more explicit in the saying of Matt 10:5-6, 'Do not take the gentile road, and do not enter a Samaritan city, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'
It is unlikely the case that both anti-Samaritan and pro-Samaritan pericopes in the Gospels are both authentic. Jesus either refused to deal with Samaritans and commanded his disciples to do the same (as the Later tradition of Matthew attests) or Jesus dealt with them and allowed his disciples to do so (according to the more primitive traditions of Luke and Mark). Only Matthew explicitly opposes a mission to outsiders or makes implicit references of an anti-Samaritan or anti-Gentile nature. Although antagonism between Jews and Samaritans is seen in Luke, it features accounts of Jesus deliberately establishing contact with them. Luke has a narrative recalling various meetings as well as an in which the ancient feud is a central part of the context. Few scholars doubt the authenticity of the parable of the Good Samaritan of Luke 10:29-37, the very conception which arises from the fact that the Samaritans had no status under Jewish Law. Yet, this Samaritan had fulfilled the Law. In contrast, Matthew's opposition to the Samaritans is exhibited only in isolated sayings apart from narrative or parables. 
It is easy to see how Matthew's anti-Samartian and anti-Gentile sayings could have sprung up in opposition toward ministries incorporating Samaritan and Gentile missions. Matthew emerges from a Jewish sect, as is evident by the editorial omissions and modifications of any Samaritan or Gentile material.
Luke and Matthew provide contrasting views regarding justification for tax collectors. The parable of Luke 18:9-14 of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector doesn't fit with the Matthean notion of righteousness under the Law. The easy justification of the tax collector doesn't fit with Matthew's theological agenda. Accordingly, the implication that a humble request of the tax collector, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' would be sufficient for the tax collector to go home justified is counter to the Matthean notion of rigorousness. 
Similar elements are featured in the Zacchaeus story of Luke 19:1-10 in which he declares that he will pay back all his fraudulent gains fourfold. Jesus declared  to a long-time chief tax collector, 'Today salvation has come to this house since he also is a son of Abraham.' Jesus' declaration indicates that he is a son of Abraham by faith based on this bare declaration of penitence alone, although he has not actually done any righteous thing according to Matthean standards. Although Matthew allows for sins to be forgiven quickly, it maintains that salvation can only be found in the quest for righteousness under the Law. 
Matthew has not, however, eliminated all favorable references to Gentiles, tax collectors, and other immoral people. Whenever it praises them it is for their 'faith'. In various contexts, the Syrophoenician Woman or the Centurion may demonstrate a faith that puts the disciples to shame. Yet according to Matthew, these are outsiders who must gather the crumbs under the Jewish table. For Matthew, it is only Jewish Christians who have inherited the promise. The Gentiles remain outsiders and strangers to the Law, as do most women.
The following editorial actions are reflective of Matthew's attitude of an anti-Samaritan and anti-Gentile character. 
  • Matt 8:5-13 vs. Luke 7:1-10 and Luke 8:28-30
  • Matt 9:9-13 vs. Luke 5:27-32 and Mark 2:13-17
  • Matthew omits Luke 9:49-50 and Mark 9:38-41
  • Matthew omits Luke 9:51-56
  • Matthew omits Luke 10:29-37
  • Matthew omits Luke 11:5-8
  • Matthew omits Luke 16:1-9
  • Matthew omits Luke 17:11-19
  • Matthew omits Luke 18:1-8
  • Matthew omits Luke 18:9-14
  • Matthew omits Luke 19:1-10
  • Addition of Matt 18:17
  • Addition of Matt 21:28-32

Reference: H.P. West Jr., “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew,” New Test. Stud. 14, p.83-85

For more on issues with Matthew, See

December 13, 2022

Primitive Luke is not Identical to Marcion

 Primitive Luke is not Identical to Marcion

H. Philip West, JR. in his paper “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew” (New Test. Stud. 14, pp. 75-95) identifies probable omissions of Marcion with respect to Primitive Luke. Thus, Marcion shouldn't be thought of as being identical to Primitive Luke. 

West also identifies what he thinks are probable additions of Canonical Luke with respect to Primitive Luke. He further outlines material possibly present in Primitive Luke, but absent from both Matthew and Marcion. The probable omissions of Marcion, probable additions of canonical Luke, and material possibly present in Primitive Luke but absent from Matthew and Marcion are denoted in Fig. 3 from his paper below. 

Probable Omissions of Marcion

  • Luke 3:3-Luke 4:13
  • Luke 11:30-32
  • Luke 11:49-51
  • Luke 18:31-34
  • Luke 19:9b
  • Luke 23:35-38

Possible Omissions of Marcion and Matthew

  • Luke 13:1-9
  • Luke 15:11-32
  • Luke 19:41-44
  • Luke 21:20-24
  • Luke 21:37-38
  • Luke 22:35-38

Probable Additions to Canonical Luke

  • Luke 1:1-Luke 3:2
  • Luke 5:39
  • Luke 21:8
  • Luke 22:16
  • Luke 23:13-16
  • Luke 23:39-43, 48
  • Luke 24:13-53

Footnote 1: 

“Pericopes which we find in Luke and which we know were included, in some form, in Marcion, are presumed to have been in Primitive Luke. Similarly, pericopes which we now find in Matthew and Luke but which were absent from Marcion were included in Primitive Luke but omitted from Marcion's Gospel. Matthew and Marcion might well omit pericopes for different reasons. Pericopes absent from both Marcion and Matthew are to be suspected as additions to Primitive Luke, but some of these may have been omitted by Matthew and Marcion for different reasons. These generalizations are not to govern our examination of the material, and the status of each pericope must be determined individually.”

Reference: H.P. West Jr., “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew,” New Test. Stud. 14,

Matthew's Poor Attitude Toward Women

Matthew's Poor Attitude Toward Women

Luke favors women. Matthew diminishes them. A review of Matthew, in contrast to the other more primitive embodiments of the Gospel tradition, reveals that the work product exhibits a low attitude toward women. 

Scholars generally can't explain Matthew's omission from Mark of the Widow's Mite included in Luke 21:1-4 and Mark 12:41-44. This pericope gives us a critical clue for a Matthean pattern on women. 

Luke's interest in women, especially in widows, has been widely recognized. Most don't realize Matthew's restriction of women has a great influence on his editing of Marcan and Lukan material.

Take for example, the Matthean Infancy narrative, in which the angel appears three times to Joseph but never to Mary. According to Matthew, Mary has no words and nothing to ponder in her heart but is only the means of Jesus' birth. According to Matthew she never rises above the humble obscurity of Jewish womanhood. 

Matthew's narrative of the Empty Tomb has parallels in  Luke 24:1-11, Mark 16:1-8 and Matt 28:1-10. Matthew takes away the plaintive question of Mark's women: 'Who will roll away the stone?'

In comparing the parallels of Luke 16:18, Mark 10:11-12 and Matt 5:31-32, Matthew's sayings on divorce deny women the right to divorce their husbands. This is a right that Mark takes for granted. Matthew allows men to divorce their wives for unchastity and then remarry. However, Mark gives no ground for anyone to remarry after a divorce. Matthew has radically altered a reported saying of Jesus to conform with the practice of his particular Jewish sect of Christianity. 

Matthew changes pericopes which are adapted from Mark. While in Matthew the women keep their place to watch and serve, it tends to minimize personal detail about them. Compare Luke 4:38-39 and Mark 1:29-31 against Matt 8:14-15; Mark 14:3-9 against Matt 26:6-13; Mark 15:40-41 against Matt 27:55-56.

Matthew does retain the Marcan miracle stories of the woman with the haemorrhage and Jairus' Daughter, but in doing so he leaves only the barest evidential details. Compare Luke 8:40-56 and Mark 5:21-43 against Matt 9:18-26.

Also, note that Matthew has edited the Marcan pericope of the Syrophoenician Woman to indicate Jesus' reluctance to help. Compare Mark 7:24-30 with Matt 15:21-28. Jesus does not answer the woman's plea, and he says he was sent only to Israel's lost sheep when the disciples want him to send her away. Only her abject humility as indicated by her willingness to come like a dog eating crumbs under the table induce Jesus to help her. Matthew makes both the Syrophoenician. These limited examples within Matthew allow women to be examples of faith but not of righteousness. Matthean exhibits a distinction between faith and righteousness under the Law.

For example, take the pericope of the Widow's Mite of both Luke 11:1-4 and Mark 12:41-44 which is clearly omitted in Matthew. This was apparently objectionable to Matthew in that the widow has neither served Jesus nor humbled herself before him, but he praises her highly for her deed. Although rabbis rarely would not poor widows or scorned their offerings, many did not consider them capable of righteousness.

Matthew omits several pericopes exhibited in Primitive Lukan material which is motivated by this poor attitude toward women. Such primitive material is even found in Marcions' Gospel. A first example is Luke 10:38-42, where we see Martha wants Jesus to send Mary back to her work, but he defends her decision to sit and listen. Matthew rejected this pericope and none of his women approach the kind of freedom which Jesus grants Mary here. 

The parable of the unjust judge of Luke 18:1-8 also falls outside the patterns in Matthew's use of women. None of Matthews' women are capable of this widow's relentless and assertive demand for justice. It is hard to imagine the Matthean disposition being one of encouraging his people to approach God, as the widow comes to the judge in Luke 18:1-8.  Moreover, there is no Matthean passage in which God's action is compared in any way to the behavior of an immoral person like the reluctant and begrudging judge portrayed in Luke. 

A further example of Matthew omitting primitive Lukan material favorable to women is the parable of the Lost Coin of Luke 15:8-10. The central figure is a poor woman who, in a dark lowly house, searches for a lost coin in the dust. The parable is presumably an analogy to illustrate God's search for lost men. It is consistent with Matthew's motives, that it includes no passages in which God's action is compared to such a humble woman's work.

Two miracle stories in Luke involving women also fall outside the pattern recognizable in Matthew that contains no stories of someone being healed unless he, his relatives, or his friends come humbly to Jesus. As indicated previously, this humble approach is especially noticeable where women are involved.

What also was objectionable to the author of Matthew is the more primitive Lukan stories of the Widow's Son at Nain of Luke 7:11-17 and the Woman Healed on the Sabbath of Luke 13:10-17. Here are two cases where Jesus approaches the woman involved and performs the cure without any prior display of devotion or humility on her part. 

Matthew's editing indicates restrictive criteria for women regarding service and devotion. The author of Matthew likely held typical Jewish views on the place of women, finding some of these Lukan pericopes disturbing. The patterns we recognize in his editing reflect the underlying attitudes and prejudices of Matthew and his Church. The instances of the Widow's Mite and the majority of the primitive Lukan pericopes on women did not fit the pattern of Matthew's editorial selection. Accordingly, a review of Matthew in contrast to the other more primitive embodiments of the Gospel tradition, indicates the work product exhibits a low attitude toward women. 

Luke and Mark favor women. Matthew diminishes them. Below is a list of instances that reflect poorly on Matthean attitude toward women:

  • Matt 1:1-2:23 vs. Luke 1:1-2:52, depiction of Mary
  • Matt 5:31-32; Matt 19:9 vs. Luke 16:18 and Mark 10:11-12
  • Matt 8:14-15 vs. Luke 4:38-39 and Mark 1:29-31
  • Matthew omits Luke 7:11-17
  • Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26 vs. Luke 8:40-42,49-56 and Mark 5:21-24,35-43
  • Matt 9:20-22 Vs Luke 8:43-48 and Mark 5:25-34
  • Matthew omits Luke 10:38-42
  • Matthew omits Luke 11:27-28
  • Matthew omits Luke 13:10-17
  • Matthew omits Luke 15:8-10
  • Matt 15:21-28 vs. Mark 7:24-30
  • Matthew omits Luke 18:1-8
  • Matthew omits Luke 21:1-4 and Mark 12:41-44
  • Matt 25:1-13
  • Matt 26:6-13 vs. Mark 14:3-9 and Luke 7:36-50
  • Matt 27:55-56 vs.  Mark 15:40 and Luke 7:1-3
  • Matt 28:1-10 vs. Luke 24:1-11 and Mark 16:1-8

Reference: H.P. West Jr., “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew,” New Test. Stud. 14, p.80-82

For more on issues with Matthew, see

December 12, 2022

Some Muslims believe Jesus died on the Cross

Some Muslims believe Jesus died on the Cross

Within Islam, there are eight different views on the Crucifixion. Two of these views affirm that Jesus died a mortal death on the cross. 

The Ismaili Martyr Theory

The Ismaili Martyr Theory claims that the reason that God denies the killing is because Jesus was not, in fact, killed in the soul but only his body because martyrs don’t actually die.

References for the Ismaili Martyer Theory:

The Divine Rapture Theory

The Divine Rapture Theory is the only Theory derived from the Quran. According to this theory, Jesus died on the cross but was not killed by the cross. He did not die at the hands of his enemies. That's what they thought, but he was raptured up by God directly. Jesus offered up his soul, and God intervened and received it in full directly before they could kill him by asphyxiation.

References for the Divine Rapture Theory:

Full List of Islamic Views

1. The Substitution Theory
Version 1 Judas substituted as a punishment 
Version 2 Tatianos substituted as a punishment 
Version 3 Jesus had thirteen disciples, not twelve and the thirteenth disciple Sergius volunteered to be substituted 
Version 4 An unnamed disciple volunteered to be substituted 
Version 5 Simon of Cyrene volunteered to be substituted 

2. The Swoon Theory
Ahmadiyya version 
Jesus was unconscious, but they thought he died, then after coming out of the tomb he met his disciples and traveled to India, and died there when he was 120 years old. 
This version is held by Muslim apologists Shabir Ally and Imran Hossein
Jesus was unconscious but they thought he died, then after coming out of the tomb he met his disciples and finally ascended. 

3. The Mirage Theory
Abu Hayyan the sunni commentator holds this view
An angel miraculously intervened to save Jesus, and they crucified a mirage in his place, thinking it was him.

4. The Rumor Theory
al-Māturīdī the Sunni scholar held this view
Jesus was raised up and saved before his enemies had the chance to kill him. They understood that his ascension was a miracle proving that he was really a prophet, but they did not want people to know what they had seen. Thus, they simply made up the story that they had killed and crucified Jesus.

5. The Mistaken Identity Theory
‘Abd al-Jabbār the Mu'tazilite theologian's version
Version 1 As no one knew who Jesus was, the Romans asked him to identify him for them. Judas pointed out another, innocent man and identified him as Jesus. The Romans could not have known of the deception, otherwise, why would they have needed someone like Judas to identify Jesus in the first place? Thus, when Judas laments that he has shed innocent blood, the meaning is clear: he caused a completely random and irrelevant death as a result of his desire to protect his master. Thus, he hanged himself in despair. 
Version 2 Jesus had a twin brother Thomas Didymos, and he was crucified instead of him.
Version 3 Jesus Barabbas was Jesus son of Mary, and he was released then another Jesus was crucified.

6. The Romans Crucified Jesus Theory
Since the Quran says Jews didn't kill him by crucifixion, William Montgomery Watt argues that even a Christian might accept the Quran’s statement on the crucifixion, “since the crucifixion was the work of Roman soldiers, and it is also true in a deeper sense since the crucifixion was not a victory for the Jews in view of his resurrection”.
Some western Muslim scholars also hold this view.

7. The Ismaili Martyr Theory
This theory claims that the reason that God denies the killing is because Jesus was not, in fact, killed in the soul but only in the body because martyrs don’t actually die. 

8. The divine rapture Theory
This is the only theory derived from the Quran. According to this theory, Jesus died on the cross but was not killed by the cross. He did not die at the hands of his enemies. That's what they thought, but he was raptured up by God directly. Jesus offered up his soul, and God intervened and received it in full directly before they could kill him by asphyxiation.

See also the post on 'Son of God' terminology and Islam. Not all Muslims object to the Son of God terminology.

Son of God Terminology and Islamic Scholarship

 Is “Son of God” terminology objectionable to all Muslims?

The answer is no. Various Muslim scholars have acknowledged that is not outside the Biblical tradition to give servants of God the title 'Son of God.' Both David and Solomon were called 'Son of God.' Nothing in the Quran rebukes the terminology in this context. The Quranic polemic against the 'Son of God' terminology is against the Trinitarian (Greek/Pagan) use of the terminology. Unfortunately, many Muslims aren't nuanced enough to appreciate that 'Son of God' terminology doesn't necessarily connotate the Greek/pagan idea that God had a literal offspring, that God begets God, or that 'Son of God' is a term indicating being truly God in an ontological sense. 

The 'Son of God' terminology should not be objectionable for a Muslim if understood in the Unitarian sense. No Unitarian Christian believes this is a statement affirming that God begat God. It is a statement that Jesus is favored by God. He is the chosen and blessed one who will inherit dominion over all nations. Jesus has this preeminent title, not because he is in his very nature God, but because he has been exalted by God as an honorific title. Thus, the Son of God is a designation of status and not ontology. There should be no objection to the terminology when used in a metaphorical Hebraic sense, as Christian Unitarians do. 

Quranic Verses 

The Quranic verses regarding “Son of God” terminology is to rebuke theological claims that Jesus is fully God in an ontological sense. 

Quran 5:18

But the Jews and the Christians say, "We are the Son's of Allah and His beloved." Say, "Then why does He punish you for your sins?" Rather, you are human beings from among those He has created. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills. And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, and to Him is the [final] destination.

Quran 21:26

They say: “The Most Compassionate Lord has taken to Himself a son.” Glory be to Him! Those whom they so designate are only His honoured servants.

Muslim Scholarship

Muslim scholars acknowledge the prohibition in the Qur'an is regarding Trinitarian doctrine and theology. These include Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi and Najm ad-Din al-Tufi. These are some classical Sunni scholars who didn't have an issue with the metaphorical usage of the title 'Son of God'. Here is an attestation of their position on this. 

This is from page 149 of the by Lejla Demiri on Muslim Exegesis of the Bible in Medieval Cario.

This is from Najm ad-Din al-Tufi's commentary on the Christian scriptures:

Dr. Ali Ataie is a Muslim theologian and professor at Zaytuna college. He doesn't have an issue with Jesus being son of God metaphorically.

The Quran doesn't specify a legal framework, it specifies a theological framework. Within this framework, Jesus definitely has a special place, but the exact nature of that relationship is obviously debated. The Quranic polemic against the “Son of God” terminology is against the Trinitarian use of the terminology. Most Muslims aren't nuanced enough to appreciate that “Son of God” doesn't necessarily mean God had a literal offspring.

The word “son” at times is used, especially in the Bible, to connote “a loved one” and “a favored one.” Instead of comprehending the responsibilities of the position bestowed on the Israelites by God, they wrongly concluded from this bestowal that they were God’s favorites in the absolute sense and arrogantly assumed that they could do whatever they wanted to and God would not hold them accountable for anything they did.

Dr. Ali Ataie from Zaytuna college Quran does acknowledge it:

According to both Christians and Jews already, those who are referred to as 'Son of God' are honored servants, not divine.

Scholars such as Imam Tufi a Hanbali scholar and student of Ibn Taymiyyah and Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi a Maliki jurist, did not say such things to appease Christians. 


The Quranic verses is affirming what is an acceptable Islamic view of 'Son of God'
The honored slave part is actually simply affirming how Unitarians understand the son of God, its literally makes clear that all these things that are ascribed to these prophets like Jesus or David or any other servant of God called the son of God in the OT or NT, for the most part, is simply an honorary title and not necessarily an attribution of any divine qualities.

Further proof that the Quran has no problem with the honorary title son of God in a non-divine sense is  Psalms 2:7 which uses very similar wording that the Christians use about Jesus. However, the Quran never calls out the Jews for calling David the son of God or deifying David or attributing a son to Allah through David, why? Because it is clear from the text and the clear interpretation, that the second Psalm here is simply giving David an honorary title. The praise he receives is not in any way shape or form deifying him, as Trinitarian Christians did with Christ.

If the language used of David was a case of deification, we would expect the Quran to at least address this fact and call this out and condemn them for calling David the son of God. However, the author of the Quran is completely aware that there is no divine attribution to David. The Quran thus does not call out the terminology as inappropriate in its classical Jewish context. 

Reasonable Muslims will acknowledge that the Quran doesn't deal with semantics, it deals with actual problematic theology, for example when the Quran talks about Mary being deified, this can be argued that this is to address to some forms of Catholicism where Mary is treated like a Goddess despite them saying “we don't worship her.” Reasonable Muslims will understand that the Quran doesn't care about semantics. If the theology is actually problematic, it would call it out, Trinitarianism is problematic. Divine sonship and divine begetting are problematic. Hence, the Quran calls this out, David being begotten by God is not problematic because it's clearly a Hebrew idiomatic phraseology being used in those verses, and it's always been understood this way.

December 8, 2022

An example of Matthean Fatigue using Luke


Matthean Fatigue of Matt 3:7-11, The Preaching of John the Baptist

One might postulate that if Matthew was written last in view of Luke, there would be at least one example of Matthean fatigue using Luke. A clear example is the scene of John the Baptist preaching having the parallels of Luke 3:7-16 and Matthew 3:7-11 shown below. Often, Matthew expands on Luke, but in this case, Matthew redacts much of the Lukan material and changes the subjects whom John the Baptist is addressing. The changes result in the problematic implication that John is telling the Pharisees and Sadducees that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Luke 3:7-16 (ESV)

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.


Matthew 3:7-11 (ESV)

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Matthew revises the text to direct the rebuke to the Pharisees and Sadducees (religious elite), not the crowds (multitudes at large). Another key difference is that the crowds of Luke 3:7 are those who “came out to be baptized by him.” That is, they desired repentance. Matthew 3:7 only indicates that John “saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism” (not that they actually came out to be baptized). The revisionist Matthew apparently felt the rage of the Baptist was more appropriately directed at the Pharisees and Sadducees, who weren't necessarily committed to being baptized. Moreover, the author of Matthew also chooses to omit Luke 3:10-15, including the reference to “the people” of Luke 3:11 “who were in expectation.” In removing the context of the crowds who “came to be baptized,” and the people “who were in expectation,” Matthew makes the baptists' words a specific message to the Pharisees and Sadducees who would be poor candidates for receiving repentance and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The problem with the Matthean text is that those who are the least eligible are being told they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. It is much more logical that this would be a general statement to repentant and faith-filled believers than Pharisees and Sadducees who are just bystanders.

December 7, 2022

Clarifying Luke 14:26, "Hate your own father and mother"

Clarifying Luke 14:26, “hate your own father and mother”

Luke 14:26-27 (ESV)   

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

This saying, like others embedded in the Gospels, contains an important Hebrew idiom.

To understand Luke 14:26, idiomatic expression is central to our very understanding of the verse. If we recognize the Hebrew meaning behind the Greek of Luke, it will become apparent that Luke is not saying what some people think it says.

The hidden Hebrew meaning can be unmasked without good knowledge of Hebrew. Lets look at some instances of the unique Hebraic use of the verbs “love” and “hate” elsewhere in the Bible.

Gen 29:31 reads, “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.” In this context, “hated” simply means that Jacob preferred his beloved Rachel. 

Rom 9:13 reads, 'As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”' Paul's quotation of Malachi 1;1-2 upholds divine sovereignty in God's election. No one who heard this statement in the days of the biblical prophet or read it at the time of Paul would have suggested that the Lord literally hated Esau. Rather it is an inverse way of indicating that God favored Jacob and, although Esau was the first son who would normally receive the inheritance, the inheritance was passed through the younger brother, Jacob. To express preferential treatment, the writer used “to love and hate.” in a Hebrew sense. That is, it is in reference to bestowing relative favor or regard to one versus the other. The one who is not given preferential treatment is hated, and the one who is loved. 

Luke 16:13, provides further context for interpreting Luke 14:26:

Luke 16:13 (ESV) 

  13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

This corresponds with the idea of preference contained in the Hebraic expression to love and hate. Jesus' use of the verbs to express the need for total preference for God over all other relationships and loyalties. Although Luke 16:26 is somewhat ambiguous when interpreted in English, it is most likely it is speaking of simple allegiance and not literal hate and love. The interpretation needs to harmonize with Jesus teaching throughout Luke and the Hebraic use of the words for love and hate in the Bible. 

We cannot serve two masters, we must choose our allegiance to one over the other. We must choose the things of God over worldly wealth. Wealth is not evil in itself, but we must hate it in contrast to the things of God. We should not serve mammon and become its slave. We disregard it in comparison to our loyalty to God. We regard money as our servant rather than our master. 

The later revision of Matthew serves as an interpretive commentary of Luke. The author of Matthew attempts to clarify the more ambiguous wording in Luke.

Matthew 10:37-39 (ESV) 

  37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew, in interpreting Luke, makes the notion of preference much clearer.

If we have our priorities set straight, the Lord is the master of our lives. We hate all else in contrast to our alliance to God, whether it be wealth or relationships.  This is along the lines of what Paul says in Philippians 3:7-11:

Philippians 3:7-11 (ESV) 

  7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

In the direct context of Luke 14:26, Luke 14:27 equates discipleship with death: “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” It is the continuation of Jesus' saying of “hating” one's father and mother. The Lord requires preeminence in our lives and no divided allegiance. We must sever relationships or pursuits that interfere with God's will. We are called to die to ourselves and our worldly ambitions and loyalties, and not even fear death. Our allegiance to the Son of Man, in acknowledging his lordship before men, will gain us his acknowledgment before the angels of God: 

Luke 12:4-8 (ESV) 

  4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. 8 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9 but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.

Thus, the difficult verse of Luke 14:26 can be understood in the proper context that harmonizes with the rest of Luke. As we have seen, this interpretation of hate not being literal hate in this context is consistent with the Hebraic concept of love and hate. 

Reference Article: Steven Notley, Jesus' Command to “Hate”, Jerusalem Perspective (2004)

December 1, 2022

Matthean Posteriority, Excerpts from The Myth of the Lost Gospel by Evan Powell


Excerpts from The Myth of the Lost Gospel by Evan Powell

Amazon Link:

Hidden Synoptic Patterns

When comparing Matthew and Luke, many have noted that Matthew presents more liturgically refined forms of key traditions such as The Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, and the Great Commission, than versions found in Luke. This pattern suggests that some time had elapsed between the composition of Luke and Matthew, during which these traditions evolved as the Church coalesced into a more institutionalized structure. (p. 25)

In addition to the fact that Matthew contains more sophisticated forms of these traditions, there are other indications that Matthew was published after Mark and Luke. Among them is an intriguing clue from the attributions of authorship... Hengel states: (p.27)

A comparison of the titles shows that the 'non-apostolic' titles must be older than the 'apostolic' titles. Once the names of apostles had come to be used in titles to give a work additional authority, it was hardly possible to choose authors with lesser authority. In the second century, the Gospel of Mark would presumably have been named after Peter and that of Luke after Paul (Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 170)

A third-generation author with no recognized nexus with apostolic authority might well be motivated to publish pseudonymously mostly, thereby imbuing the work with the authority of one of the original twelve. That Matthew is the only one of the three to carry an apostolic title suggests that it may have been a later composition.  (p. 28)

The second noteworthy feature of Matthew is that it contains numerous attempts to reconcile problematic elements in the Jesus story that remain unresolved in Mark and Luke. Matthew methodically corrects and explains aspects of the accounts in Mark and Luke that had led to skepticism and doubt. (p. 28)

Seven categories of tradition manifest a common pattern of distribution among the Synoptics, with Matthew containing the highest concentration of material in all seven categories. Since Luke is the longer of the two Gospels (107% as long as Matthew), this is an unexpected result… This is far too much statistical uniformity to pass off as mere coincidence. (P. 41)

Categories of tradition in Luke as a percent of Matthew:

  1. Supernatural Events: Luke has 77% as many references as those in Matthew
  2. Eschatological content: Luke has 71% as much as Matthew
  3. Ethical sayings: Luke has 73% as many references as those in Matthew
  4. Jesus as Christ: Luke has 75% as many references as those in Matthew
  5. Jesus as Son of man: Luke has 83% as many references as those in Matthew
  6. Kingdom of God: Luke has 75% as many references as those in Matthew
  7. God as Father: Luke has 36% as many references as those in Matthew

We find that the community that produced Matthew developed a more refined and expansive interpretation of Jesus' traditions across the entire spectrum of thought. Not only are the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes and the Great Commission presented in more evolved form in Matthew, but the content of Jesus' ethical message is richer., the visions of the end-time events are more extreme, supernatural mythology is more diverse, and the concept of the intimate fatherhood of God is more developed. Collectively, Matthew contains an enrichment of all prominent aspects of the Jesus story, surpassing the material found in Luke, while Luke contains virtual subsets of the material found in Matthew. (p. 42)

Therefore, Matthew presents a more mature expression of the Church's interpretation of Jesus. The statistical distribution of materials between Luke and Matthew, as well as the qualitative enhancements of Matthew over Luke, are consistent with the proposition that Matthew was composed some time after Luke. Moreover, there was an interval of time between the two that would allow for all facets of the Jesus tradition to have evolved into the more sophisticated form that are documented in the Gospel of Matthew. (p. 42-43)

[Some] theories argue that Luke was dependent on Matthew. Yet, the date we have just reviewed is difficult to explain under such a scenario. We must imagine that Luke, in using Matthew as a source, managed to diminish its traditions across the board both qualitatively and quantitatively, while at the same time producing a Gospel that was longer than Matthew by 7%. In the process he eviscerated the Lord's prayer and the Beatitudes; he dismantled the Sermon on the Mount and reformulated it as a more anemic Sermon on the Plain; he diminished the ethical vision of Jesus; he removed most of Matthew's references tot eh intimated fatherhood of God; and finally, he eliminated the decisive command from Matthew's Great Commission to 'go therefore and baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and replaced it with a statement that repentance and forgiveness should be preached to all nations, but that the disciples should wait in the city until further notice. (p. 43)

It is difficult to imagine what Luke would have had in mind to have used Matthew in this manner. Yet, as we shall ultimately discover, these are just the first of many editorial eccentricities of which Luke would be guilty were he to have used Matthew as a source. (p. 43)

Matthew the Revisionist

Sometime late in the first century an unknown writer/editor, or perhaps more accurately, a group of editors, undertook to compose what would become the most formidable Gospel ever written. It would contain a richness and diversity of Jesus' traditions exceeding all that had come before it. It was an elegant, formal collection that the Church would sanction as the ultimate definition of the Jesus story. Soon after its composition, the Church would begin to represent the Gospel of Matthew as the first Gospel to have been composed. The Church would eventually place Matthew in the strategically significant first position in the New Testament canon. (p.45)

To imbue this new Gospel with authority, the Church attributed it to the apostle Matthew—an apostle who, other than being listed in Mark and Luke as one of the twelve, was an unknown and ideologically neutral figure in the history of the Jesus movement. As such, Matthew would seem to be a peculiar choice for attribution of authorship. (p. 45) 

Consider that if Matthew did indeed conflate Mark and Luke, it becomes apparent from an evaluation of his text in this light that one of Matthew's objectives was to rewrite the Gospel of Luke from both a theological and historical perspective. Matthew produced a more comprehensive version of the Gospel story, embracing much more of Mark than did Luke: he expanded upon many of Luke's key traditions, but at the same time refocused the Jesus story within Jewish tradition and heritage while eliminating Luke's universalism. Though Matthew is guided by the same ideological and literary objectives in use of Mark and Luke, Mark is the primary source of Matthew's narrative structure, while Luke is a secondary source from which additional materials are drawn and integrated with Mark. (Evan Powell, The Myth of the Lost Gospel, p.90)

Though Matthew has a similar scope in the storyline as does Luke, the author was motivated to produce a thoroughly original Gospel, and one that looked as much unlike Luke as the material would allow. Matthew is often guided by a simple “not-Luke” approach—on occasions where Luke followed Mark, Matthew was not motivated to diverge; whenever Luke diverged from Mark, Matthew felt free to follow Mark more closely. In the triple tradition, Matthew never takes over significant Lukan texts against Mark. In the double tradition, when Matthew is aware of earlier forms of Lukan sayings, he substitutes the earlier forms. When he is not, he edits them or recontextualizes them, or both. When Matthew replicates Luke's material with a high verbal agreement, he always chooses to situate it differently relative to Mark. In most cases, he scans, selects, and reassembles Lukan sayings into radically different narrative contexts. Matthew rejects Luke's infancy and genealogy texts, and replaces them with mythologies that are consistent with his own theological agenda. He discards Luke's resurrection narrative and replaces it with a fulfillment of the Markan foreshadowing that Jesus would rejoin his disciples in Galilee. pp. 93-94

On the other hand, Matthew does not ritualistically avoid every change Luke made… resulting in dozens of minor agreements with Luke against Mark. Of particular, Matthew agrees with Luke's assessment that Mark 11:11 is superfluous; like Luke he omits it and compresses the Triumphal Entry and the Cleansing of the Temple into the same day. However, these changes notwithstanding, in every important respect Matthew's Gospel was written with the intent to supersede both Mark and Luke in the depth and diversity of their Jesus traditions. (p. 94)

Clearly, Matthew contains a great deal of material that exists in either Mark or Luke or both, and in using these two primary sources it is evident that his objective was to conflate them along with other materials into a more comprehensive Gospel. In the process, Matthew often combined fragments from both Mark and Luke in order to create his own narratives. One example of this is found in The Calling of the Twelve. This sequence of eight verses in Matthew 9:35-10:4 is compiled from material found in chapters 3 and 6 of Mark and chapters 6, 8, 9, and 10 of Luke. (pp. 94-95)

In the Beelzebul Controversy (Luke 11:14-23// Mark 3:22-27//Matt 12:22-30), there is very little verbatim duplication between Mark and Luke. Matthew's text, on the other hand, has been assembled from elements that are virtual verbatim duplications from both Mark and Luke (p. 95)

The key point to be made... is this: The fact that Matthean texts exist that are conflations of material found in Mark and Luke is a phenomenon unique to Matthew. There is no similar array of texts in Luke that appear to have been composed from elements in Mark and Matthew. Yet if Luke had used Mark and Matthew, as Griesbach and Farrer-Goulder advocates maintain, we should be able to detect a similar pattern in Luke, at least to the degree that it is present in Matthew. Furthermore, if Matthew and Luke and independently drawn upon Mark and Q, it is a mystery how Matthew could routinely generate texts that appear to be conflations of Mark and Luke, while Luke could routinely avoid any indication of having conflated Mark and Matthew. The presence of this textural pattern in Matthew, and its corollary absence from Luke, lends additional weight to the theory of Matthean Posteriority, and poses difficulties for all competing solutions to the Synoptic Problem (p.102)

For more on this topic see