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Friday, July 14, 2006

Did Matthew Put Words in Jesus' Mouth?

As we begin to dig into Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9, it has been critical to approach these passages with the right framework. Therefore, prior to examining those passages, we’ve already introduced the pain caused by misrepresenting this text, examined Jesus’ other words in Matthew 5 and considered similar sayings in the other gospels. We also examined that we must disciple people considering divorce differently than those already suffering from divorce.

Context Argument B2

As we looked in CA-B1, we must conclude that Matthew added the phrases “except for the reason of unchastity” and “except for immorality.” It is not showing proper intellectual integrity to conclude Mark and Luke merely omitted them. But then, the question must be asked:
    Did Matthew put words in Jesus’ mouth?
Let’s consider a few things regarding quotations found in Scripture:
    There are no quotation marks in the Greek.
In fact, one area that makes reading ancient manuscripts tricky is that there is rarely punctuation, spacing or different cases (it was typically reproduced in all caps). Therefore, anytime we approach a quotation, it takes interpretive tools to discern where a quote begins and where it ends.
    We have very few direct quotes in Scripture.
Revelation seems to offer us a couple moments where John is instructed exact words to write, but most of the time he is told just to record what he sees. There are very few times where we are told that the exact words have been recorded for our sake.
    Direct quotations of Jesus are virtually impossible.
Jesus spoke in Aramaic. The New Testament was recorded in Greek. Therefore, any quote we attribute to Jesus (except Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? which Matthew [in 27:46] chose to preserve in Aramaic) has already been translated so that it could be recorded in Greek. Just as any translation of Scripture requires the addition of words to preserve the original meaning, the authors of the gospels certainly had to add words or phrases to Jesus’ teaching so that it would make sense in translation.

Therefore, an orthodox understanding of inspiration requires us to believe the authors were very careful in their selection of every word. Few question Jesus’ precision in everything He said. Likewise, through the divine work of the Holy Spirit, we should not question the Spirit's work as the texts were recorded. Every author had as his goal, with the Spirit working as a Divine Guide to make sure the goal was accomplished, to accurately represent the words of Christ.

So Matthew, with the same intent as Mark and Luke, saw fit to add these two phrases when repeating the teaching of Christ. Why is that? Was there something unique about Matthew’s audience that required this addition?

Certainly, there is (again, I am grateful to my father for always articulating this distinction). And we will get to that very important distinction eventually. But first, we’ll carefully examine the words of Matthew, knowing that he very deliberately chose (and the Spirit oversaw) the words as recorded.


  • At 9:40 AM, Anonymous peppo said…

    It sounds like you're saying that if particular words of Jesus are not recorded in Mark and Luke then He didn't actually say them, even if they're recorded in Matthew. That can't really be what you mean, can it?

  • At 10:12 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    nope. that's not what i'm saying.

    but consider it this way, brad. if each recording (matthew 5, 19 and luke and mark) are all four different sermon presentations (which very much can be possible. certainly He repeated the same messages, thought they would be slightly different) given to different crowds.

    is it not concerning, if that is the case, that Jesus chose to only list this exception half the time?

    i think "the exceptions" are very much words from Jesus, but i believe they've been distorted out of their meaning. perhaps these "exceptions" come from matthew going to Jesus for clarification, and Jesus explaining to Him the uniqueness of His "exceptions." that is certainly feasible. again, our Scripture is not tainted in authority to believe that neither quote is a direct quote from Christ. they can still be a summary of His words, and i believe each "exception clause" is from the mouth of Christ (in some way or form).

    but i also believe to leave a statement out from the Lord that makes a major difference is to present a half truth. and therefore, we must see the recordings of luke and mark (without the listed exceptions) as valid statements, as they stand, from Christ.

    i think both are authoritative in that they are God breathed. both are in some fasion words from Christ. both should be examined.

  • At 11:44 AM, Anonymous peppo said…

    I'm going to stick to my comments on the previous post and say that because the scriputres already clearly taught the fornication exception, Mark and Luke's ommission would not be as significant as you claim. I hope you can still regard me as having at least a little bit of "proper intellectual integrity".

  • At 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Um, so is divorce the unpardonable sin?


  • At 1:15 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    i'm not sure why you are arguing the addition of words here. it doesn't seem that Jesus is making an allowance for divorce in this statement but is instead simply saying that if you divorce for any OTHER reason (than fornication) you cause your partner to commit adultery when he/she remarries.

    and if we still practiced the OT punishment for adultery (Deut. 22:22) we wouldn't have to worry about divorce :p

  • At 7:44 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    who said divorce was impardonable?

    but because something can be forgiven, we should go ahead and do it?

  • At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Unfortunately, we are living in a culture where 50% of adults are divorced.

    So, we have a lot of people walking around with heartache and guilt.

  • At 7:01 AM, Blogger fj1cm said…

    Matthew was written with Jewish mindset. In the Jewish culture, you were espoused before marriage (example Mary) but still considered a holy union. If during this time Mary had an affair with another man, she would in fact be commtting fornication, because she wasn't really married. She also would have been unfaithful to her previous engagment, thus giving Joseph reason to put her away; which he was going to do, until the angel told him the truth.

  • At 1:42 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i agree fj1cm


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