Embellishments of Mark
Embellishments of Mark

Embellishments of Mark


The Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research has demonstrated Lukan Priority after noting that Luke preserved whole blocks of material that are more consistently easy to translate into Hebrew than the parallel material in Mark or Matthew. (See Lukan Priority and the Jerusalem School). The conclusion is that Mark was not the earliest of the Synoptic Gospels, but that Mark followed Luke, rewriting and revising Luke’s wording. In the examination of Mark as compared to the other Gospels, Lindsey came to the realization of this understanding:

The basic reason for Mark’s unpopularity is that it was written by an early Jewish Christian who rewrote the gospel story using the midrashic methods of early rabbis. Mark’s principal method was to replace about half of Luke’s earlier and more authentic wording with a variety of synonyms and expressions he culled from certain Old and New Testament books … Mark loved to find linguistic parallels to the text he was copying in other, often unrelated, books, and then mix words and phrases taken from these parallels with others of his sources. This method resulted in an amplified text that many scholars had thought gave an authenticity to Mark’s work, but which, in reality, should be described as a fascinating but rather inauthentic dramatization of the Gospel story. (Robert L. Lindsey, “My Search for the Synoptic Problem’s Solution,” Jerusalem Perspective (2013))

Halvor Ronning observed the same findings in his four-part series conducting a statistical approach to the Synoptic Problem (See Statistical Validation of Lukan Priority). In Part 4 after summarizing the results, Ronning added some final notes on Mark as a Dramatizer. He makes the following observations as compared to Luke: 

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Mark’s Gospel, on the other hand, exhibits the expansionist characteristics of a Jewish midrashic or targumistic storyteller. Like a targumist, Mark absolutely refused to replicate the wording of Luke… Mark’s editorial activity is not a matter of high theological interference with his sources. As a Jewish author, Mark simply followed in the footsteps of good targumic style: he dramatized his source by substituting synonyms, adding words from elsewhere, and rearranging and reversing word orders; anything to hold the reader’s attention and fascination.

Due to this ‘targumic’ activity the stories Mark told are almost always (literally 80% of the time) longer than the parallel accounts in Luke and Matthew. Mark is the longest Gospel, not the shortest in terms of the actual stories he decided to incorporate. Mark is shortest only in terms of overall length, but that is only because of the stories and sayings he chose to omit. Mark’s expansionist style fits his character as a sophisticated targumic story teller. (Halvor Ronning, “A Statistical Approach to the Synoptic Problem: Part 4—Non-Linear Hypotheses,” Jerusalem Perspective (2016))

Embellishments of Mark listed below include material unique to Mark or material in which Mark amplifies or significantly modifies the text. This is material that is not attested or rejected by Matthew and Luke or, in special cases, there is a parallel in all three Synoptic Gospels and Matthew inherits a defective reading from Mark, and they are both is inconsistent with Luke. In such cases, the reading in Luke is more Hebraic (Luke exhibiting greater ease to translate back into Hebrew) than Mark.

Mark 1:2-3, Misquote of Isaiah

2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” (English Standard Version)

Pertaining to the bold text, Mark is quoting Malachi 3:1 but misattributing the quote to Isaiah. Reference is made to Malachi 3:1 much later in the narrative of Luke (Luke 7:27) when Jesus is speaking about John the Baptist.  

Mark 1:9-10, “Immediately he saw the heavens being torn open”

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with  you I am well pleased.” (ESV)

“Immediately he saw” and “being torn open” are clearly Markan Pick-ups that Luke does not exhibit. In Luke 3:21-22, the heavens were opened while Jesus was praying. The Markan account is accentuated by the added words. Matthew also incorporated the Markan embellishment of “immediately” but  lacks “he saw” and “torn.” 

Mark 1:12-13, “immediately,”  “Satan,” “wild animals,” and “and the angels were ministering to him”

Mark 1:12-13 ESV

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him

Mark likes to add “immediately” and substitute words. In this case, changing Devil of Luke 4:1-2 to “Satan.”  Also, the grammar of Mark (and Matthew 4:1-2 even more so) gives a stronger impression that Jesus was tempted for 40 days, as opposed to being tempted during the 40 days. Mark also adds, “And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him” as a further embellishment that Matthew 4:11 partially incorporates. 

Mark’s version of the temptation narrative was likely inspired by T. Naph. 8:1-6: “the devil will flee from you, and the wild beasts will fear you, and the Lord will love you, and the angels will help you”. (See Lindsey, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew,” under the subheading “Mark’s Editorial Method: An Examination of Mark Chapter 1.” See also, Benjamin Bacon, The Beginnings of the Gospel Story: A Historico-Critical Inquiry into the Sources and Structure of the Gospel According to Mark, with Expository Notes upon the Text, for English Readers (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1909), 13; Claude G. Montefiore, The Synoptic Gospels: Edited with an Introduction and a Commentary (2 vols.; 2d ed.; London: Macmillan, 1927), 1:9, (Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups, Jerusalem Perspective, updated May 19, 2022

Mark 1:14-15, “Now after John was arrested,” and “proclaiming the gospel of God”

Mark 1:14-15, ESV

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

To add intrigue to the story, Mark 1:14 (and Matthew 4:12 even more so) imply that Jesus withdrew into Galilee due to John being arrested as compared to Luke 4:14 which simply describes Jesus as returning to Galilee without reference to John. Mark turns Jesus from the teacher of Luke 4:14-15, into a repentance preacher in a similar likeness of John the Baptist. Matthew 4:17 maintains some embellishment of Mark, but dials back on “repent and believe in the gospel” 

Mark 1:16-20, “Fishers of Men” and “immediately they left their nets”

Mark 1:16-20, ESV

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him

Markan embellishments of immediately occur here twice. Mark significantly revises and embellishes Luke 5:10-11. Matthew 4:18-22 also mostly incorporates the Markan embellishments. The more primitive account in Luke 5:10-11 maintains that Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” and that “when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him” instead of Mark 1:17 “I will make you fishers of men” and Mark 1:20, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Opposite Luke’s non-Septuagintal (“beside the Lake of Gennesaret”; Luke 5:1), Mark has (“beside the Sea of Galilee”; Mark 1:16), a name that has no equivalent in Hebrew sources. Mark 1:16 is the first reference in Mark’s Gospel to the Sea of Galilee, and thereafter the author of Mark consistently used the noun θάλασσα (“sea”) to refer to the freshwater lake. The author of Luke, by contrast, never used θάλασσα with reference to the freshwater lake he knew as Genessaret. 

Not only did the author of Mark replace Luke’s “lake” with “sea,” the author of Mark added a sea-side setting to several stories where no such setting is found in the Gospel of Luke. That Mark’s seaside setting was at least sometimes redactional is shown by three Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark to omit a reference to the sea. Mark’s use of the noun θάλασσα about the Galilean lake thus appears to be a Markan stereotype (idiosyncrasy). 

Lukan vocabulary pertaining to “Lake of Gennesaret” is Hebraic. The Markan vocabulary of “See of Galilee” is not. (Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups, Mark 1:16, Jerusalem Perspective, updated May 19, 2022)

Mark 1:23-28, Healing of the demoniac in the synagogue

  • Mark 1:26, “And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him” is a dramatization of Luke 4:35, “And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm.”
  • Mark 1:28, “And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee” is an embellishment of Luke 4:37, “And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.”

Mark 3:1-6, Man with the withered hand

There is a striking difference between the Lukan and Markan/Matthean conclusions to Man’s Withered Hand. Luke’s version ends with the bystanders wondering what they might do (τί ἂν ποιήσαιεν) with Jesus (Luke 6:11) In Mark (and Matthew) they conspire about how they might destroy (ἀπολέσωσιν) Jesus (Mark 3:6 ∥ Matt. 12:14).

Mark 3:1-6, ESV

1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him

In the story, Jesus’ opponents watch to see if he will heal a man on the Sabbath in a way opposed to the halacha. None of the Synoptists suggest that there was any open criticism of Jesus’ action. There is no discoverable reason why there should have been such criticism, for this kind of healing (by command) was not in opposition to the halacha. Yet, both Mark and Matthew, in almost identical words, state that “the Pharisees” (Mark adds also “the Herodians”) took counsel against Jesus “to destroy him”. Luke significantly says only that Jesus’ opponents “discussed among themselves” what to do “to” Jesus.

Flusser noted that Luke’s non-violent conclusion to the story is more realistic. Partially this is because it is verbally similar to the response of a prominent Pharisee to another miracle worker, Honi the Circle-maker (m. Ta‘an. 3:8). However, Mark’s violent conclusion is wildly disproportionate to the situation, since the healing Jesus performed was not even a violation of the Sabbath.

Flusser suggested that Mark’s conclusion was inspired by Luke’s ending of the cleansing of the temple, where the authorities seek to destroy (ἀπολέσαι) Jesus (Luke 19:47) but was unable to find anything to do (τί ποιήσωσιν) because of the popular support Jesus enjoyed (Luke 19:48). On account of the similarity between τί ἂν ποιήσαιεν in Luke 6:11 and τίποιήσωσιν in Luke 19:48, the author of Mark apparently drew forward the Temple authorities’ wish to destroy Jesus into Man’s Withered Hand.

David Flusser in the forward to A Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Mark makes the following observation:

The incident in the Gospels must have occurred much as Luke has stated it. Jesus looks at the unfortunate man and in provoking challenge to all present says, “Is it permitted to do good or to do evil on the Sabbath, to save life or destroy it?” He then tells the man to stretch out his hand and as he does so the hand is healed. There is certainly an implied criticism of Sabbath legalism in Jesus’ words but he has done noting wrong. Luke’s “they discussed what to do to Jesus” may only mean “they discussed what could be done to Jesus.”… Mark, however, takes the phrase to mean that “they counselled with each other” with a view to doing what a later group of high priests would counsel together to do, namely, destroy Jesus. Mark has leapt ahead to a later event and attributed motives of a later time to the detractors of Jesus who.. are unhappy with the seeming imprudence of Jesus. (Robert Lisle Lindsey, A Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Mark, Dugith Publishers, 1973, pp.4-5)

Mark 3:7-12, Jesus’ popularity grows

Mark 3:7-12 is not substantiated by Luke. It appears to be a redaction added to Mark to amplify the story. The six verses of Mark 3:7-12 incorporated in Matthew 12:15-16 as only two summary verses.

Mark 3:7-12 (ESV)

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many,1 so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. 


Matthew 12:15-16 (ESV)
15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 

Mark 3:19-20, Jesus is thought to be beside himself

Mark 3:19-21 is an embellishment not substantiated by Luke nor incorporated into Matthew. 

Mark 3:20-21 (ESV)
20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” 

Mark 3:33-35, Mother and brothers

Mark 3:33-35 is an embellishment / dramatization of Luke 8:21.

Mark 3:33-35, ESV
33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” 

Luke 8:21 ESV
21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” 

Mark 4:1-9, The parable of the soils

Mark 4:1-9, comprising 150 Greek words, expands the parable of the soils from Luke 8:4-8 exhibiting only 90 words. This is an increase of over 60%.

Mark 4:26-29, The parable of the seed growing secretly

Mark 4:26-29 is not substantiated by Luke and is not incorporated in Matthew. Most likely this redaction added to Mark is something the author of Matthew regarded as objectionable on the basis of the meaning of the parable not being apparent and that it could be misinterpreted.

Mark 4:26-29 ESV

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:35-41, Stilling the storm

Mark 4:38-39 is an expanded dramatization of Luke 8:24. 

Mark 4:38-39 ESV38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Luke 8:2424 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.

Mark 5:1-20, Gentile demoniac and herd of pigs

Mark 5:1-20 greatly expands, embellishes and dramatizes as the author also rephrases and exchanges terms as compared to the more primitive text of Luke 8:26-93. As a comparison, the passage in Luke has 298 Greek words and Mark expands this by about 10% to 328 words.   

  • Luke and Josephus confirm the geographical realities and consistently calls Gennesaret ‘Lake’ (Luke 4:1-2; Luke 8:22-23, 33). Mark insists on calling Gennesaret ‘sea’ (Mark 1:16, 2:13, 3:7, 4:1, 39, 43; Mark 5:1, 13, 32, Mark 6:47-49 and Mark 7:31). The use of the motif of the sea (and not a lake) in Mark man not be accidental, as it also carries an allusion to the gateway into the world of the Gentiles, the Mediterranean Sea. 
  •  Mark 5:2, ”Immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,” is a revision and dramatization of Luke 8:27, “there met him a man from the city who had demons.” There is no mention of the man coming out of the tombs in Luke. 
  • Mark 5:3, “and no one can bind him anymore, not even with a chain” is an additional dramatization not seen in Luke.
  • Mark 5:4, “for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces” is a dramatization over the Luke 8:29, “He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds.”
  • Mark 5:5, “no one had the strength to subdue him” is an added dramatization not seen in Luke or incorporated in Matthew
  • Mark 5:6, “Night and day among the tombs and the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones” is a further embellishment not seen in Luke or incorporated in Matthew. 
  • Mark 5:7, “I adjure you by God” is an embellishment of Luke 8:28, “I beg you”
  • Mark 5:8, “For he was saying to him, “come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”” is a further dramatization of Luke 8:29 “For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. 
  • Mark 5:9, “He replied, “my name is Legion, for we are many” is a dramatization of Luke 8:30, “And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him.”
  • Mark 5:10, “And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country” is a revision of Luke 8:31, And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.”
  • Mark 5:11, “a great herd of pigs” is an embellishment of Luke 8:32, “a large herd of pigs.”
  • Mark 5:12, “and they begged him saying, “send us to the pigs; let us enter them”” is a dramatization of Luke 8:32, “and they begged him to let them enter these.”
  • Mark 5:13, the herd “numbering about two thousand” is an embellishment not seen in Luke or incorporated in Matthew
  • Mark 5:17, “and they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region” is a dramatization of Luke 8:37, Then all the people… asked him to depart from them”
  • Mark 5:19, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” is an embellishment of Luke 8:39, “Return to your home, and declare ho much God has done for you.” 
  • Mark 5:20, “And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” is an embellishment of Luke 8:39, “And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”

Mark 5:21-43, Jarius’ daughter and the woman with a hemorrhage

The 22 verses of Mark 5:21-43, the combined account of Jarius Daughter and the woman with a Hemorrhage, is an expanded dramatization of the 17 verses of Luke 8:40-56. The passage in Luke comprises 290 Greek words while the parallel in Mark comprises 377 Greek words, a 30% increase in Mark. 

Mark 6:17, False identification of Herodias’s first husband

Mark 6:17 contains an erroneous identification of Herodias’ first husband as Philip which has long been noted by scholars. Because Luke 3:1 is the only other verse in the New Testament to contain the phrase Φιλίππου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, the antecedent of αὐτοῦ in Luke 3:1 being none other than Herod Antipas, the author of Mark could easily have drawn the mistaken inference that the brother of Herod who was married to Herodias must be Philp, the only person mentioned as being Herod’s brother in Luke.

This corroborates that Mark was intimately acquainted with Luke’s Gospel, since such a hypothesis provides a satisfying explanation of hoe the blunder came to be made by the author of Mark.

Mark 6:18-29, Death of John the Baptist

The account of Mark 8:18-29 is not substantiated in Luke. Matthew 14:4-12 comprises 119 Greek words, compared to Mark’s 225 Greek words.

Mark 6:45-52, The walking on the water

The account of walking on water of Mark 6:45-52 is not substantiated by Luke. Matthew 12:22-33 further embellishes the account by augmenting to it a section of Peter walking on water. 

Mark 6:56, Even the fringe of his garment

Mark 6:56 is an embellishment not substantiated by Luke, but one that was incorporated in Matthew 14:36. 

Mark 6:56 ESV

56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

Mark 7:24-30, The Syrophoenician (Canaanite) Woman

Mark 7:24-30, Including Mark 7:27-28 regarding Gentiles as dogs, is not substantiated by Luke but is incorporated in Matthew 15:31-28.  

Mark 7:27-28
27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Mark 7:31-37, Healing of a deaf mute involving spitting

The sensational account of a healing of a death mute involving Jesus putting his fingers in to his ears, spitting, and touching his tongue of Mark 7:31-37 is not substantiated by Luke, nor is it incorporated in Matthew. 

Mark 7:33-37 ESV

33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”


Mark 8:22-26, A blind man healed involving spittle

The sensational amount of Mark 8:22-26 of a blind man healed involving spittle is not substantiated in Luke, nor incorporated in Matthew.

Mark 8:22-26

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

Mark 9:14-29, Healing of a boy possessed by a spirit

Mark 9:14-29 is a highly embellished account, expanding upon Luke 9:28-36. Mark with 272 Greek words is 50% longer than it’s parallel in Luke with 181 words. The parallel in Matthew 19:14-21 comprising 147 words is more consistent with Luke. 

Mark 9:43-48, Better to cut off your members if they cause sin

Mark 9:43-48 concerning the extreme statements about it being better to cut off members of your body, than to let them be a cause of sin, is not substantiated in Luke, but is incorporated in the parallel of Matthew 18:8-9 and in another context of Matthew 5:29-30.

Mark 9:43-47

43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell

Mark 10:19, “to defraud”

The source for Mark’s insertion of “do not defraud” (Μὴ ἀποστερήσῃς) is not clear, since this prohibition does not appear in the Ten Commandments. Possibly, this insertion was inspired by 1 Cor. 7:5, the only other place in the NT with the negative imperative. The other possibility is Mark was inspired by Mal 3:5 in the Lxx. Compare Mal 3:5 with Mark 10:19 below:

Malachi 3:5 (NETS)

I will be a swift witness against the sorceresses and against the adulteresses and against those who swear by my name falsely and against those who defraud the hired worker of his wages.

Mark 10:19

Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. Do not defraud.

Mark 11:12-14, 20-26, Cursing and withering of the fig tree

The account of the cursing and withering of the fig tree In Mark 11:12-14, and Mark 11:20-26 is not substantiated in Luke but is incorporated in Matthew. 

Mark 11:23-24, “do not doubt”

It appears that the author of Mark composed Mark 11:23-24 to echo James 1:5-6. Compare the two below. They both also have a reference to the sea.

Matthew does not incorporate Mark 11:24, likely because the author found it objectionable. This, verse, exclusive to Mark, is the basis for much prosperity type “name it and claim it” preaching.

Mark 11:23-24 (ESV)

23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

James 1:5-6 (ESV)

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

Mark 14:2, “Not during the feast”

The author of Mark likely added the bit of Mark 14:2, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uprising among the people” and the author of Matthew later adopted this from Mark. However, the intention to delay killing Jesus until after the Passover is problematic, since it conflicts with the rest of the passion narrative. This incongruity is addressed in Samuel Sandmel, Judaism and Christian Beginnings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978, p.350)

Luke’s more primitive parallel of Luke 22:2 makes no mention of the priests’ intention to delay. However, Acts 12:4 discloses circumstances in which Herod (Agrippa I) put Peter in prison during the Feast of Unleavened Bread and intended to deliver him up to the people after the Passover. It is apparent that the author of Mark incorporated elements borrowed from Acts 12:4 and implemented them into the narrative of chief priests scheming to kill Jesus in Mark 14:2. 

Mark 14:53-65, Trial of Jesus and accusation of blasphemy 

Mark 14:53-65 (ESV)

53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows. 

David Flusser in the forward to A Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Mark makes the following observations:

The high originality of Luke and the secondary character of Mark (so often repeated in Matthew) can be further illustrated in one of the most important areas of the Gospel story, the so-called trial of Jesus. Most of the difficulties which have plagued students of the “trial” have come as a result of the concentration of scholars on the Matthaean-Markan version of this event to the neglect of Luke. I want here only to mention two important points connected with the discussion…

In the Gospel of Luke, no mention of a condemnation of Jesus by the Jewish authorities is recorded. This is of special interest in view of the failure of Luke to follow Mark in such a mention either at the point of the “trial” or in the recording of Jesus’ third prophecy of his demise in Jerusalem… Luke does not hesitate to report the delivery of Jesus to Pilate by the Jewish authorities yet does not mention the Markan “condemnation,” and when we note that Mark’s “all judged him worthy of death” (Mark 14:64) can easily be Mark’s interpretation and extension of the conclusion of the high priest’s decision in Luke 22:71. 

The second point concerns the Matthaean-Markan agreement that the high priests accused Jesus of blasphemy. Scholars have labored long and lovingly to explain what might have been the nature of this blasphemy… None of our Synoptic materials give any facts which clarify the charge of blasphemy.  The accusation of blasphemy is absent from Luke, as it the Markan reference to the tearing of the high priest’s cloths. There is only an interrogation by the high priests and a most remarkable description of Jesus’ dialogue with the priests the rabbinic sophistication of which is not less astounding than the Hebrew word order and idiom of the account. There is every reason to accept the Lukan version in preference to that of Matthew and Mark. (Robert Lisle Lindsey, A Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Mark, Dugith Publishers, 1973, pp. 6-7) 

Mark 14:72, “a second time”

The author of Mark likely got the inclination to add a mention to the narrative of Mark 14:72 of the rooster crowing “a second time” based on Acts 10:15, where the voice spoke to Peter a second time on the rooftop. Here the author of Mark is embellishing the narrative based on elements borrowed out of context from Acts. 

Mark 15:16-20, Jesus mocked by the soldiers

The account of Mark 15:16-20 of Jesus being mocked by the soldiers (after the decision of Pilate, but before carrying the cross) is not substantiated in Luke but is incorporated in Matthew 27:21-31. Luke, the more primitive tradition, notes instances of mocking when Jesus was first taken captive (Luke 22:63-65) and after Jesus was on the cross (Luke 23:33-39). The question is not whether Jesus was mocked or not, but whether Mark 15:16-20 is a further embellishment of the story that Matthew adopts. It is unlikely that if there was actually a crown of thorns and a purple cloak, that Luke would omit such details. 

Mark 15:16-20

16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.


The general pattern is that Mark relies upon a wide range of source material (including Luke-Acts) and embellishes upon the more primitive Gospel of Luke. The author of Mark clearly engaged in the process of remixing content from various sources, especially Luke-Acts, to further dramatize. Mark exhibits the expansionist characteristics of a Jewish midrashic or targumistic storyteller. Matthew used Mark as a primary reference, often incorporating the embellishments of Mark, but not always.