Luke's Use of Mark

Victor Jacobs Photo Victor Jacobs
Click to Begin Video

In this section, we will be dealing with Luke’s use of Mark. And at this point, hopefully we have a sense of how this works. Matthew and Luke have their own material. Matthew’s material is called M material. Mark doesn’t have a designation because they use his Gospel. So Luke’s material would be L material, material that’s pertinent to Luke, common to Luke. And of course, we haven’t even mentioned the material that’s common to Matthew and Luke to the tune of about 230 to 250 verses, which we call Q. But we’re not going to be dealing with that. So I’m going to do this by way of example. So I have two examples that I want to work through. The first example involves Luke 3:1-20. And of course, that will be correlated with Mark 1:1-8. Mark 1:1-8 has to do with the beginning, the ministry of John the Baptist, his call to the nation to repentance in light of the soon coming of the Messiah.

So in Luke 3:1, we see immediately L material, Luke’s material. Verse 1, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” So you have chronological information. And of course, we know reasonably well that this is actually about 29 AD. “Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas.” That’s rather extensive information, lining up of administrative positions from the Caesarean rule over the Greco-Roman Empire, all the way down to tetrarchs over the provinces in Palestine and outside of it, to the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. At this point in human history, the Sadducees, the priesthood is secularized. That’s our term. We can read it back safely into that time period. They are secularized and they tend to be Sadducean.

“The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan,” we read in verse 3, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet.” So here you have Luke basically referring to the scroll in the same way that Mark does in verse 4, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” And then verse 5, he goes on with the description. He cites Isaiah 49:11 and Zechariah 4:7. Of course, Zechariah is within the scroll that you have here, the scroll of Isaiah the prophet, which includes a listing, a corpus of Minor Prophets. And so you have Zechariah 4:7. You’ve got Isaiah 49:11. So he goes on in verse 5 of chapter 3, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

So in verse 7, there’s more material. “He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” So Luke’s material here briefly, if you refer back to Matthew 3, there’s a distinction between the material that you see here in Luke and the material that you have in Matthew, because in Matthew, it’s the Pharisees and the Sadducees who come to be baptized by him that John calls a brood of vipers. Here, Luke is much more general. Luke says that John says that to the crowds that come out to be baptized by him. “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”

So basically, Luke’s material matches that of Matthew here, and you don’t find this material in Mark so far. But starting in verse 10, you have L material, Luke’s material. What do we see? Verse 10, “And the crowds asked him, ‘What then shall we do?’” So there’s a dialogue with the crowd in Luke’s retelling of the story. “And he answered them (verse 11), ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’ Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, (verse 12), ’Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’ (Verse 14). Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’” The soldiers there are under the power of Rome, but they aren’t of Roman citizenship. They are probably auxiliary or proxy soldiers that are appointed for soldiering within the Palestinian boundary.

It tells us, verse 15, “The people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ. So John answers them all, saying (verse 16), ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to unloose the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’” And at that point, you see similar language to Matthew, particularly with verse 17. “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” That’s Matthew. Matthew says that stuff. But you don’t find that in Mark. Verse 18, we read that “With many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.” You don’t see that material in Mark.

So Luke adds quite a bit, in summary, of material to Mark 1:1-8. In Mark 1:1-8, if you’ll turn there with me, all we see is the beginning of the Gospel, and then by verse 4, John appears, baptizing in the wilderness. He’s clothed. There’s a description of his clothing that’s given. He preaches about the one coming after him who is mightier than he is. He’s not worthy to unloose the sandals of his feet. “I baptize you with water. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Missing, not present is language about winnowing fork, burning with unquenchable fire, that sort of thing. That’s nowhere to be found in Mark. So Luke adds that material and rounds out the Marcan tradition. That’s how he uses it. That’s the first example.

The next example I want to look at is the temptation in the wilderness. So that’s Luke 4:1-13. So let’s read that. It reads, “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.”

This is an unusual passage in that there is much similarity with the Matthean tradition, with what Matthew says. There is some inversion of the order of the temptations where you compare Matthew and Luke. But Mark only devotes two verses to the temptation in the wilderness. Let’s go back to Mark 1 and take a look at verse 12. It says, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 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.” Now, what does Luke do with that? Luke features the three temptations. Gone from Luke’s description, though, is any notion or mention of angels ministering to him. Luke doesn’t even focus on that. Luke also does not refer to Jesus as being with the wild animals. That’s not there. He does reference the fact that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, just like Matthew does. Mark says the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. I believe the Greek verb is ekballo and it’s used in the historic present, ekballe. Drove him into the wilderness.

Matthew and Luke use different verbs. They don’t use ekballe. They don’t have the notion of the Spirit drove him. They have more of a softer idea. The Spirit led him into the wilderness. And you see that in Luke 4:1 “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days.” So you have quite a bit of Lucan material here. He was led by the Spirit. He ate nothing during those days, in 40 days. He’s full of the Spirit. When he is baptized, he comes up out of the Jordan and the Holy Spirit comes upon him. Luke interprets that as Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit. There are differences between the Matthew tradition and Luke’s tradition. But right now, our main concern is Luke’s use of Mark. So there’s some things in Mark that Luke does not use. Luke’s material almost entirely supersedes and encompasses, I would even use the term “swallows up,” the Marcan tradition. The 40 days are certainly included. “Driven into the wilderness” is changed to “led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” There’s no mention of Jesus being with wild animals. And there is no mention of angels ministering to him.