The Gospels of Mark and Luke contain many of the same stories, often in similar sequences and comparable wording when describing the events. However, distinct similarities in the way the events are expressed can be seen when comparing Mark 14:3-9 with Luke 7:36-50 and Mark 3:31-35 with Luke 8:19-21. This paper will examine different passages from Mark’s and Luke’s gospels to determine why and how they were edited.
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It is believed that Marks’ gospel is highly accurate from the historical perspective, which poses the question of why Luke edited it. Clay argues that one possibility is that Mark borrowed some passages and stories from Luke’s gospel, which is why there are many similarities between the two texts. This is consistent with the two-source or synoptic gospels hypothesis, according to which, both authors had one reference source and wanted to present specific events in their texts. Therefore, Luke wanted to include the events depicted in Mark’s work, which is why the two have many similarities but wanted to present them differently.
A notable difference between the two sources is that Luke’s Gospel there are certain omissions. For example, in Mark 14:3-9, where the anointing of Jesus is portrayed, Mark clearly states that the events happen in Bethayem. Luke, however, does not mention the location when describing the same circumstances (Luke 7:36-50). Additionally, in the story itself, a woman is anointing Jesus with oil, as part of the prophecy of a priest and king that was meant to suffer and die. After the anointing, Jesus explains that he will not always be there, and explains the prophecy to the people with whom he had dinner. While in Mark 14:3-9, the concluding part of the story helps one understand that the woman’s actions were actually good, Luke’s version is different. In it, he refers to her as “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life” (Luke 7:37). Such a harsh description is not present in Mark’s version, and the latter only stated that people who were dining with Jesus rebuked her after she poured the oil on his had.
Luke’s narrative contains a lot more detail about the events when compared to Mark’s text. Something that is mentioned in Luke’s text but not in Mark’s is that Jesus had dinner with the “one of the Pharisees” (Luke 7:36). Moreover, Luke places emphasis on the sins of the women and the morale about her many sins that were forgiven because of the great love she has shown with her actions. Additionally, here, she put oil on Jesus’s feed, while in Mark’s version, she puts it on his head.
One possible explanation is that these two events are actually separate occurrences – one which happened at Pharisee’s house and one at Simon the Leper’s home. This explains the great variation in the sequence of events, the differences in where the ointments were placed, the reaction of the house owner and others, and the explanation of Jesus. In one case, according to Mark, he refers to a prophecy and cites his subsequent death (Mark 14:3-9). In the other, he tells a story of a moneylender and the forgiven sins (Luke 7:36-50). Therefore, it is possible that Mark and Luke describe similar but separate events where two women put ointments on Jesus.
Another example is Mark 3:31-35, in contrast to Luke 8:19-21, where Jesus is surrounded by a crowd of people. His relatives, mainly his mother and father come to see him, but he states that his “mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:21). Mark reflects a similar idea, and the main difference is the wording he uses in this story. However, in Mark’s version, Jesus also asks who his relatives are, or mother and brothers, while in Luke’s, he does not do this. Here, a possible reason why Luke changed the wording is that he wanted to tell this story as is, but have some distinction from Mark.
Another reason why Luke edited Marks’ gospel is that he used it as a reference for his narrative. In that case, the events in Mark’s gospel are just reference points, and Luke edited them to present different morale of each story and put emphasis on other important matters. Muddiman and Barton state that Luke’s style of writing is very similar to Mark’s, meaning that the latter was possibly used as a source of information.
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To conclude, this paper examined the question of Luke editing Mark’s Gospel and why this happened. In general, both gospels appear to depict similar events, however, it is evident that Luke made some substantial changes to the way he presented the anointing of Jesus. One reason explaining why this happened is that Luke used Mark’s work as a reference, or they had the same source for reference. Another possibility is that they depicted similar events that were, in fact, different occurrences, which explains the substantial differences in the two texts.
Barton, John and John Muddiman. The Gospels. Oxford University Press, 2010.
The Bible. The New Oxford Annotated Version, 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2001.
Clay, Chloee. “Comparing The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, And John”. Owlcation. Web.