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Commentary: A Brief Overview of the Passion Story, Part 1

June 9, 2011

I’ll try to give a comparison of the different New Testament versions of the Passion Story. In this overview of the Passion Story of the four New Testament Gospels, I will start off with the scene of a woman, Mary of Bethany, according to John, anointing Jesus’ feet with ointment.

The first thing I notice is that the only Gospel that doesn’t put the anointing incident in the Passion narrative is Luke. This is most intriguing, because John is sometimes thought to have gotten its characters Mary and Martha from Luke 11. Actually, though, Luke doesn’t say these two were from Bethany at all. One of these, assuming they were meant to be the same people, is the same Mary that John has doing the anointing. Another interesting thing is that Luke doesn’t even contain the part about the disciples’ outrage, recorded in Matthew and Mark.

The part about the outrage of “the disciples” or “some of those present” is transformed by John into a sole protest by Judas Iscariot. Granted, John doesn’t say that only Judas objected, but John’s explanation of Judas’ motives might imply that a protest for other reasons didn’t happen. At least, I would expect a protest from purer motives to be more noteworthy. John seems to have just taken this story and used it to create its portrayal as more than just a traitor.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke say that the night of the so-called Last Supper, which included the communion event, was the night that the Passover meal was eaten. (I’m assuming that’s what Matthew is saying in 26:17 and 26:19; regardless, Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7 say specifically that it was.) However, John 19:14 says that the Passover was still being prepared the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Continuing with its divergence from the other Gospels, John has Jesus only reveal the identity of the betrayer to the disciple John. Further, it specifically contradicts the accounts in Matthew and Mark that Jesus revealed this to all of his disciples, because it also says that the disciples (besides John, I assume) thought Jesus was still talking to Judas afterward about the group’s business.

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