Expanding Mark: How Matthew and Luke Arranged Their Gospels

The Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus in two major phases:

  1. the story of Jesus’s adult life and ministry (1:1–10:52)
  2. the story of Jesus’s passion—the events leading up to and including his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection (11:1–16:8)

According to the Two-Source Hypothesis, Matthew and Luke both had copies of Mark’s Gospel and when they produced their Gospels they added material from Q and other sources (material that we call M when it was used by Matthew, and L when it was used by Luke).

But as these two evangelists went about expanding Mark, each of them had to ask, “Where should I put the additional material?”

Some decisions were obvious:

All of that material would come from M and L. But according to the Two-Source Hypothesis, Matthew and Luke also had copies of Q, which reported the teaching of Jesus, and they also had other traditions regarding things that Jesus had said or done.

They probably did not know the chronology for any of this material—when Jesus had said or done these things—so there was no obvious place where the material should go.

One consequence of these organizing techniques is that Jesus’s teaching is set in different contexts in these two Gospels.