Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mk 1:15-1:15)

“Jesus said.

‘The time is fulfilled!

The kingdom of God

Is at hand!

Repent!

Believe

In the gospel.’”

 

καὶ λέγων ὅτι Πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς καὶ ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ· μετανοεῖτε καὶ πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ

 

The preaching of Jesus was like that of John the Baptist.  Matthew said that Jesus was proclaiming the same message as John the Baptist.  It almost seemed like Jesus had become a disciple of John.  The preaching messages of John the Baptist and Jesus were very simple and exactly the same.  They both said that people should repent (μετανοεῖτε).  People should turn their lives around, with a profound metanoia, a change of their spirit.  Matthew, chapter 4:17, was very close to Mark here, except that Matthew always used the term “kingdom of heaven (ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν)”, not “the kingdom of God (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ),” as Mark does here.  Matthew used this apocalyptic phrase, “kingdom of heaven” over 30 times, but he was the only one of the canonical gospel writers to use this term.  Luke and John did not mention the content of Jesus’ initial preaching.  Mark recounted that Jesus said (καὶ λέγων) that the time was completed or fulfilled (ὅτι Πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς).  The kingdom of God was at hand or coming near (καὶ ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ).  They had to repent or change their ways in a metanoia (μετανοεῖτε).  They had to believe in the gospel or good news (καὶ πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ).  Belief or faith could be a noun, something believed or a verb, acting in a certain belief style.

Title

The Gospel according to Mark

τὸ κατὰ Μᾶρκον εὐαγγέλιον,

What is a gospel?  Who is Mark?  The musical play “Godspell” that opened on Broadway in 1971, was based on the Old English ‘godspel.’  Like the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, this Germanic based word gospel means good news or good tidings.  This term originally meant the Christian message itself.  However, in the second century, it came to be used for the books where this message was set out.  Thus, the gospels became known as the written accounts of the life, actions, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  This Gospel of Mark is anonymous since there is no explicit mention of a named author within the text itself.  This title (Τὸ κατὰ Μᾶρκον εὐαγγέλιον), however was added some time in the second century, perhaps by Papias of Hierapolis (60–130 CE), an early bishop and apostolic father.  Traditionally, this work has been ascribed to John Mark, the companion of the apostle Peter, who may have transcribed the teachings of Simon Peter.  This John Mark was the son of a widow named Mary as indicated in Acts, chapter 12:12.  He also accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys, since he was also the cousin of Barnabas, as indicated in Colossians, chapter 4:10.  However, he  left Paul and Barnabas for some unknown reasons in Acts, chapter 13:13.  Today, most scholars agree that his anonymous Gospel of Mark was the first written gospel, probably written between 66–70 CE, during Emperor Nero’s persecution of the Christians in Rome or the Jewish revolt.  Thus, the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark with a second document called the Q source.  This short Gospel of Mark was written for a gentile audience in a simple Greek style that is often called “street Greek.”  This Greek style is thus vivid and concrete showing a very active Jesus with less teaching or preaching.  Mark explained Jewish traditions and translated Aramaic terms for his Greek-speaking Christian audience who would not have understood them.  Some suggest Rome as the origin of this gospel since there are some Latin terms.  Others have suggested Antioch, the 3rd largest city in the Roman Empire.  This author may have been influenced by Greco-Roman writings, but all his references are from the Jewish Greek version of the Septuagint Bible or the Old Testament.

 

 

 

 

Jesus goes to the governor’s head quarters (Mt 27:27-27:27)

“Then the soldiers

Of the governor

Took Jesus

Into the praetorium,

The governor’s headquarters.

They gathered

The whole cohort

Around him.”

 

Τότε οἱ στρατιῶται τοῦ ἡγεμόνος παραλαβόντες τὸν Ἰησοῦν εἰς τὸ πραιτώριον συνήγαγον ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ὅλην τὴν σπεῖραν.

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 15:16, while Luke does not have this episode.  Matthew said that the Roman soldiers of the governor (Τότε οἱ στρατιῶται τοῦ ἡγεμόνος) took Jesus (παραλαβόντες τὸν Ἰησοῦν) into the praetorium (εἰς τὸ πραιτώριον) or courtyard.  This governor’s headquarters or home of Pilate was the ancient palace of Herod the Great, who tried to have Jesus killed in the prologue of this gospel.  There they gathered a whole cohort or battalion of about 500-600 Roman soldiers around Jesus (συνήγαγον ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ὅλην τὴν σπεῖραν).  The Jews were no longer in this scene around Jesus here.

Endurance (Mt 24:13-24:14)

“But the one who endures

To the end

Will be saved.

This gospel,

This good news

Of the kingdom

Will be preached

Throughout the whole world,

As a testimony

To all nations.

Then the end will come.”

 

ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος, οὗτος σωθήσεται.

καὶ κηρυχθήσεται τοῦτο τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ οἰκουμένῃ εἰς μαρτύριον πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, καὶ τότε ἥξει τὸ τέλος.

 

There is something similar in Mark, chapter 13:13, and in Luke, chapter 21:19, but in a more succinct way without any qualifiers.  Matthew had the same idea in chapter 10:22, since endurance was important.  Jesus said that the one who endured or stayed firm to the end would be saved (ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος, οὗτος σωθήσεται).  This gospel, this good news, of the kingdom (τοῦτο τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας) would be preached (καὶ κηρυχθήσεται) throughout the whole inhabited world (ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ οἰκουμένῃ), as a witness to all the gentile nations (εἰς μαρτύριον πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν).  Then the end would come (καὶ τότε ἥξει τὸ τέλος).  Matthew seems to set a precondition before the coming of the end times that the gospel would be preached throughout the whole known world.

Teaching and healing in Galilee (Mt 4:23-4:23)

“Jesus

Went throughout all Galilee.

He was teaching

In their synagogues.

He was proclaiming

The good news

Of the kingdom.

He was healing

Every disease

And every sickness

Among the people.

 

Καὶ περιῆγεν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ, διδάσκων ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν καὶ κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας καὶ θεραπεύων πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν ἐν τῷ λαῷ.

 

This summary statement seems to be unique to Matthew, but not inconsistent with the other gospel stories.  There is something similar in Mark 1:39 and Luke 4:14, about Jesus being in Galilee.  Matthew implied that Jesus went all over Galilee (Καὶ περιῆγεν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ), not just around the Sea of Galilee.  He was teaching in their synagogues (διδάσκων ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν).  However, synagogue might mean a group or assembly of Jewish people rather than a building, since some places may not have been able to afford a building.  Matthew said that Jesus was proclaiming the good news or the gospel about the kingdom (καὶ κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας), without saying whether it was the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, or even an earthly kingdom.  Jesus was like a faith healer, also healing all diseases and curing people of all their sicknesses and illnesses (καὶ θεραπεύων πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν).  In other words, he was this itinerant preacher healing people (ἐν τῷ λαῷ).

Title

“The Gospel according to Mathew”

 

Τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον

 

What is a gospel?  Who is Matthew?  The English term gospel comes from the Old English ‘godspel.’  There was a musical play with the name “Godspell” that opened on Broadway in 1971.  Like the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, gospel means good news or good tidings.  This term originally meant the Christian message itself.  However, in the second century, it came to be used for the books where this message was set out.  Thus, the gospels became known as written accounts of the career and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.  This Gospel of Matthew is anonymous, since there is no explicit mention of a named author within the text itself.  This title (Τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον), however was added some time in the second century, perhaps with Papias of Hierapolis (100–140 CE), an early bishop and apostolic father.  The apostle Matthew was among the early followers and apostles of Jesus.  He was a first century Galilean, the son of Alpheus.  As a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek.  His fellow Jews would have despised him because he was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force.  What we do know for certain is that the author of this gospel was probably a traditional male Jew, familiar with the technical and legal aspects of Hebrew Scripture.  He wrote in a polished Semitic synagogue Greek style.  Most scholars hold that the Gospel of Matthew was a product of the last quarter of the 1st century, a work of the second generation of Christians, probably sometime between 70-110 CE, or more precisely between 80-90 CE.  The defining event for this community was the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, during the Jewish–Roman War of 66–73 CE.  The author of this Gospel of Matthew wrote for a community of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians probably located in Syria, just north of Galilee.  Antioch was the largest city in Roman Syria and the third-largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria.  This is where the term “Christian” was first used.  Thus, it would seem like an appropriate place for Jewish Christians in the second half of the first century.   For practical traditional purposes, I will use the name Matthew as the author of this gospel.

The Christian Code of Love

The gospel code of love and the beatitudes are prevalent.  The Jewish Hebrew Ten Commandments remain as the basic tenets of most Christian Churches.  However, nearly every Christian Church has laws or directives that are specific to their denomination or to their particular local Church.  Creation is good, and man is responsible for the earth, so that there is a need for justice and love.

The Q source

The Q source is a hypothetical written or oral collection of Jesus’ sayings that was common to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but not in the Gospel of Mark.  This Q source included many parables and the beatitudes.  According to this hypothesis, these sayings of Jesus was taken from the early Church’s oral tradition.  In the 19th century, some New Testament scholars favored Mark as the first written gospel.  They assumed that that the authors of Matthew and Luke had used the Gospel of Mark.  However, there were large sections of the gospels of Luke and Matthew that were not found in Mark.  They suggested that neither gospel drew upon each other, but from a second common source, termed Q, from the German word Quelle.  Many scholars have tried to reconstruct this lost source with limited success.  Another group of scholars thought that the 20th century discovered Gospel of Thomas might be that source.  Others have maintained that this similarity also demanded a written rather than an oral document.  Did Q even predate the Gospel of Mark?  Another question is whether Luke used Matthew instead of having a common source, the older hypothesis.

The two-source theory

Dating an ancient document is never an exact science.  However, today general scholarship about the New Testament books holds that the short Gospel of Mark was the oldest Gospel.  The first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians was the oldest document, from around the year 50 CE.  Mark, with a hypothetical other source (Q=Quelle) that is now lost, became the source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  The Gospel of John was generally considered to be the last of the gospels, around 90 -100 CE.