Using Matthew as a case in point, we notice that the writers who came after Mark repeatedly changed the story line, in the following ways:
1) They often inserted the title “Son of God” for Jesus.
2) They often inserted the title “Father” for God.
3) They magnified the miracles of Jesus.
4) They covered up the limitations of Jesus.
5) They called Jesus “Lord”.
6) They represented people praying to Jesus.
7) They portrayed Jesus with more knowledge.
8) The blurred the distinction between Jesus and God.
To illustrate the type of changes that occurred, I will show how individual episodes in the gospels of Matthew and Mark are similar and yet significantly different. The differences have been noted by Biblical scholars and explained as modifications introduced by Matthew.
Pls view textual comparison: The Greatest Commandment (Mark 12: 28-35, Matthew 22:34-40)
* All quotes are from The New International Version.
In Mark’s gospel, a teacher of the law asks Jesus as to what is the greatest commandment. Jesus replied that the greatest commandment was that God is one. Hearing Jesus’ response, than man agrees with Jesus, that to believe that God is One is the greatest commandment. Jesus realizes that the man had answered wisely and tells him that he is not far from the Kingdom of God.
In Matthew, loving God becomes the greatest commandment and no mention of God being one is made.
Pls view textual comparison: The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10: 17-19, Matthew 19: 16-20)
Hearing the two together, you do not detect any difference and this is what happens. By the time you finish reading Matthew, then Mark and then Luke. One does not remember what he read in which gospel. The reader thinks that all three gospels say exactly the same thing. Yet, when we study them together closely, we realize that the gospel writers were able to use the information to their advantage, to teach the precise point they wanted to preach.
In the above passage, the opening exchange between the man and Jesus has been altered by Matthew. In Mark, the man addresses Jesus as “good teacher”. Jesus replies with a mild rebuke, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Once again, Matthew tries to change the passage. First he alters the man’s initial question by moving the word “good” from the address and putting it as the object of the sentence.
Mark: “Good teacher, what must I do…?”
Matthew: “Teacher, what good deed must I do…?”
Finally, embarrassed by the fact that Jesus had reprimand the man for calling him good, Matthew changes Mark’s second sentence, hence leaving Jesus no chance to refuse that address and protecting him from the implicit suggestion that he was not good. Yet in doing so, Matthew has made his version lack coherency, indicating as though Jesus did not understand the question.