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The Passion Story, Part 9

August 5, 2011

I need to note that, since my last post, I read that there was a type of material used in the Mediterranean at the time that was variously described as “scarlet” and “purple.” So it’s very possible that Matthew and Mark/John do not disagree about the color, but instead only disagree about how to describe it.

It might not just be a particular material or the color of such material, either. I also read that the descriptions “scarlet” and “purple” referred to very similar colors in ancient Mediterranean usage. I have not studied such things, so this is just hearsay. However, I feel responsible to make note of these findings right now.

The color being referenced was Tyrian purple, but by the photos from Wikipedia I don’t know why it would be described as scarlet. However, see this entry from There might have been a range of shades of Tyrian purple. That’s actually reopens the question of contradiction, though.

Mark refers to Simon of Cyrene as “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” However, this description is not found in Matthew or Luke. I’m don’t know if this means much, especially because both Gospels may just have not repeated it because the writers didn’t know who Alexander and Rufus were.

I don’t know for sure how to pronounce “Golgotha.” Most Christians seem to pronounce the word “Gol-GOTH-a.” I only say that, though, because the conservative Baptists I have been around pronounce it that way. I once heard Alex Trebek on the TV show Jeopardy! pronounce Golgotha “GOL-go-tha.” That’s also how the pronunciation marks put it in the only edition of the Bible I have seen use them for the word.

Another of the curious Matthew-Luke additions to Mark in the Passion Story is in the inscription above Jesus’s cross. Mark says the inscription was “The king of the Jews,” but Matthew and Luke both add “This is.” Matthew also puts the name Jesus after the last phrase. These only concern minor verbal arrangements and therefore I wouldn’t say they contradict, but these also don’t even disagree in word order. The full inscription could have been “This is Jesus (of Nazareth, according to John) king of the Jews.”

The reason I note this is the possible problem it would cause for the theory that there wasn’t any “Q Passion Story” or “Pre-Markan Passion Story.” It is, of course, a very minor difference. It might even owe its existence to later scribal transmission. It’s just another piece of evidence that there might be more behind the Passion Stories of Matthew and Luke besides Mark.

I assume that the “sixth hour” of Jn. 19:14 is according to a different measuring system from the reference to the “sixth hour” of Mk. 15:33, Mt. 27:45, and Lk. 23:44. While reading them, I just noticed another anti-Markan omission common to Matthew and Luke. Neither of them say, “It was the third hour when they crucified Him,” as Mark does in 15:25.

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