The Matthean and Marcan miracle pattern.

Has Matthew consolidated a pair of miracles from Mark?


A limited, but interesting, pattern emerges when one compares all the miracles of Jesus in Mark against their parallels in Matthew. The latter has a parallel for all of the miracles except two, but those two missing miracles in Matthew point the way to two other miracles that may contain a clue to the composition of these two synoptic gospels.

I am not employing a very rigorous definition of the term miracle for this excavation, but I do not think that the outcome would substantially change under any definition of the term. I am, however, limiting the miracles to those actually worked by Jesus himself, whether directly or indirectly. Accordingly, incidents like the theophany at the baptism do not count. Even if one were to count such items, however, the outcome would, I believe, remain the same.

What follows is a table listing all the miracles of Jesus present in Mark in the middle column. The left column gives the Matthean parallels. Although this investigation pertains properly to Matthew and Mark, I list the Lucan parallels in the right column as a sort of control over the data. We shall see Matthew relating to Mark in a way that Luke does not.

Matthew. Mark. Luke.
1.23-28. The exorcism of the Capernaum demoniac. 4.33-37. The exorcism of the Capernaum demoniac.
8.14-15. The healing of the mother-in-law of Simon. 1.29-31. The healing of the mother-in-law of Simon. 4.38-39. The healing of the mother-in-law of Simon.
8.16-17. The evening healings. 1.32-34. The evening healings. 4.40-41. The evening healings.
8.1-4. The healing of a leper. 1.40-45. The healing of a leper. 5.12-16. The healing of a leper.
9.1-8. The healing of a paralytic. 2.1-12. The healing of a paralytic. 5.17-26. The healing of a paralytic.
12.9-14. The healing of a man with a withered hand. 3.1-6. The healing of a man with a withered hand. 6.6-11. The healing of a man with a withered hand.
8.23-27. The calming of the sea. 4.35-41. The calming of the sea. 8.22-25. The calming of the sea.
8.28-34. The exorcism of the two Gadarene demoniacs. 5.1-20. The exorcism of the Gadarene demoniac. 8.26-39. The exorcism of the Gadarene demoniac.
9.18-19, 23-26. The raising of the daughter of Jairus. 5.21-24, 35-43. The raising of the daughter of Jairus. 8.40-42, 49-56. The raising of the daughter of Jairus.
9.20-22. The healing of a hemorrhaging woman. 5.25-34. The healing of a hemorrhaging woman. 8.43-48. The healing of a hemorrhaging woman.
13.53-58. Rejection at Nazareth. (Few miracles.) 6.1-6a. Rejection at Nazareth. (Few miracles.) 4.16-30. Rejection at Nazareth. (A saying about healing.)
14.15-21. The feeding of the five thousand. 6.35-44. The feeding of the five thousand. 9.12-17. The feeding of the five thousand.
14.22-33. Walking on the waves. 6.45-52. Walking on the waves.
14.34-36. The healings in Gennesaret. 6.53-56. The healings in Gennesaret.
15.21-28. The healing of the daughter of a Canaanite woman. 7.24-30. The healing of the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman.
15.29-31. Many healings. 7.31-37. The healing of a deaf-mute man.
15.32-39. The feeding of the four thousand. 8.1-10. The feeding of the four thousand.
8.22-26. The healing of a blind man with spittle.
17.14-21. The exorcism of a boy. 9.14-29. The exorcism of a boy. 9.37-43a. The exorcism of a boy.
20.29-34. The healing of two blind men. 10.46-52. The healing of blind Bartimaeus. 18.35-43. The healing of a blind man.
21.18-22. The cursing of the fig tree. 11.11-14, 19-24. The cursing of the fig tree.

A scan of the columns will reveal that Matthew lacks any parallel to the following Marcan (or, in one instance, Lucan) miracles:

  1. The exorcism of the Capernaum demoniac, Mark 1.23-28 = Luke 4.43-47.
  2. The healing of a blind man with spittle, Mark 8.22-26.

It will also reveal another datum of interest. Two miracles are extant in which there are two recipients in Matthew but only one in Mark (and in Luke, our control):

  1. The exorcism of the Gadarene demoniac, Matthew 8.28-34 = Mark 5.1-20 = Luke 8.26-39.
  2. The healing of a blind man, Matthew 20.29-34 = Mark 10.46-52 = Luke 18.35-43.

Is it mere coincidence that Matthew lacks exactly two Marcan miracles and yet has doubled two other miracles that are identical in kind (an exorcism and a healing of the blind)? Could it be that one evangelist has compositionally accounted for the miracle material of the other? This suggestion, I have found, is persuasive to some but not to others. But, presuming for a moment that it has merit, there are two basic options:

  • Mark, copying from Matthew, has subtracted the extra demoniac and blind man from the Matthean stories and replaced them, so to speak, by adding an extra exorcism and an extra healing of blind eyes.
  • Matthew, copying from Mark, has subtracted a Marcan exorcism and a Marcan healing of the blind and replaced them, so to speak, by adding an extra demoniac and an extra blind man to other miracle stories.

Which of these scenarios is more likely? Can we determine a direction of dependence?

I think that we can. For it happens that what I find most suggestive about the idea in the first place is the math of it. Every miracle story in Mark is reproduced in Matthew except two, and each of those two miracles is doubly represented by another story of the same kind.

The converse is not true. Mark, if he is copying Matthew, makes no attempt to comprehensively cover all of the Matthean miracles. The following miracles are present in Matthew but absent in Mark:

  • 8.5-13. The healing at the request of a centurion.
  • 9.32-34. The healing of a dumb man.
  • 11.1-19. The inquiry of John the baptist. (Summary of healings in 11.5.)
  • 12.22-32. The controversy over Beezebul. (Healing of a blind and dumb man in 12.22.)
  • 14.22-33. Walking on the waves. (Jesus grants that Peter walk on the sea in 14.29-30.)
  • 17.24-27. The didrachma tax. (No miracle narrated; possibly just a witticism.)

Why would Mark feel compelled to drop the second demoniac at Gadara and the second blind man at Jericho, and then tell two replacement stories of an exorcism and a healing, if he is making no attempt to copy all of the Matthean miracle stories in the first place? On the other hand, since Matthew has taken the trouble of reproducing all of the Marcan miracle stories except two, it might serve his purposes to symbolically represent those omitted stories by subtly doubling two other miracles.

In other words, it is Matthew that appears to desire to absorb most or all of the Marcan material, not Mark the Matthean material. Therefore, the motivation to pull off such a quirky little compositional trick would fall to Matthew, not to Mark. Luke, in the meantime, seems quite unattached to this pattern. He neither doubles the demoniac or blind man nor appears bent on reproducing every miracle story in his source or sources, be they Mark or Matthew or both (though it must be remarked that most of his omitted miracles occur in the great Lucan omission).

Such a scenario would suggest that Matthew was well aware of the contours of Mark and, therefore, that it was he who copied from Mark and not Mark from Matthew. The Mark-Q, Mark-Matthew, and Mark-Q/Matthew theories all handle these data nicely. The Matthew-Mark or Matthew-Luke theories would, I imagine, have to offer another, more convincing, explanation for the coincidence that the two doubled Matthean miracles happen to match the two omitted Marcan miracles in kind.

Refer to my page on synoptic nomenclature for an explanation of these theory names.