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The Passion Story, Part 11

August 11, 2011
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Next I would like to compare the eight crucifixion sayings of Jesus and some things that are related to them. Mark and Matthew are the only two the record the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the only saying that those two Gospels record. What happens after Jesus says this is very similar to John 19:29, which is stated to be right before Jesus dies. I have trouble imagining Mark 15:36 coming before John 19:29, although they are both supposed to be near the death of Jesus.

It is harder to imagine that they were the same event, because, first, Mark and Matthew imply that the soldiers’ giving sour wine to Jesus was somehow related to the aforementioned cry, and more important, John gives the impression that the act was not at a time Jesus was crying out. (To keep track of the eight crucifixion sayings, John 19:28 has a second one, “I thirst.”)

A third saying comes from Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I have nothing to comment on this, besides to note the similarity to Acts 7:60. This reminds me of the disagreement about whether Acts comes from the same author as most of Luke or whether Acts was just intended (possibly by the original author) to read as a second volume of Luke. I’m not sure if the similarity between the two passages mentioned before from those two books argues more for that hypothesis or for the traditional understanding that they are, in fact, from the same author. Or since the similarity isn’t too strong, they could very well be completely independent, or the Acts passage could be an unconscious influence of the former.

While reading the text of the passage in Luke I was referring to, I was reminded that I need to note one more stunning Matthew-Luke addition to the Markan story. Mark does not say where the inscription of Jesus’s accusation was placed. Matthew and Luke, however, both say that his accusation was written “over him” (Lk. 23:38) or “over his head” (Mt. 27:37). Maybe this was the customary place to write it, but in that case why did Matthew and Luke perceive a need to record the location? Also, this should be considered along with my previous observation of Matthew’s and Luke’s additions of “This is.”

John, interestingly, does not give the exact location, but does say, “Pilate … wrote an inscription and put it on the cross.” On the other hand, the accusation’s usual location would be able to explain this addition, I think. I will have to save the other five sayings for later.

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