Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Stylistic Differences between Mark and Luke

Yesterday in my Luke-Acts course at the Augustine Institute we examined some of the stylistic differences between the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

As is well known, Luke seems to smooth out some of the features of Mark.

I thought this might make for a brief but interesting blog post. Here are some examples - obviously, much more could be said!

Luke's Smoother Renderings of Awkward Constructions

Mark's Greek can be a bit awkward in places. Luke's expressions are a bit easier to read. 

For example, 
  • Mark 2:7: “Who can forgive sins except one, God?” (literal; likely alluding to the Shema)
  • Luke 5:21: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Here's another:
  • Mark 1:32: “That evening, at sundown…” 
  • Luke 4:40: “Now when the sun was setting…”

Luke's More Elegant Style

For example, instead of the simple conjunction kai ("and"), Luke uses phrases that make for an easier "flow". As one student observed, the conjunction in Mark may reflect Semitic tendencies (e.g., Hebrew). Either way, Luke's Greek is just a bit more sophisticated. 
  • Mark 14:12:And [kai] on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?”
  • Luke 22:7–9: 7 But then came [─ôlthon de] the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?”
Luke's Less “Harsh” Jesus

Certain scenes in Mark depict Jesus showing frustration. Luke eliminates them.
  • Mark 4:13: And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 
    • (No parallel in Luke 8:10–11)
  • Mark 3:4–5: 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.” 
    • (cf. Luke 6:9–10)
  • Mark 10:14: “But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, “Let the children come to me…” 
    • (No parallel frustration in Luke 18:16: “But Jesus called them to him…”)
It's fun to speculate about the causes for these differences. Could it be that Mark is, as Papias apparently held (cf. Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 3.39.14–16), presenting the Gospel preached by Peter? If so, perhaps Mark reflects the fact that Peter used himself as a foil and was hard on himself for regularly misunderstanding Jesus (e.g., "I was really dense!"). 

Conversely, maybe Luke wants to show a bit more deference to the disciples. Thus, instead of, like Mark, telling us that Jesus implied the apostles had "no faith" (Mark 4:40), Luke says Jesus complained they had "little faith" (Luke 12:28).


DimBulb said...

Any recommendations for the study of Luke/Acts?

J_Bob said...

Or maybe Mark was copying while Peter was reading parts of Luke's gospel.