The Literary Relationship of the Raising of Lazarus story to The Secret Gospel of Mark Excerpts quoted in the Mar Saba Letter of Clement, and Miraculous Healing Stories in the Synoptic Gospels

This is a Guest post by David Blocker on Literary Relationship between the Lazarus story in GJohn and Secret Mark and Healing Stories in the Synoptic Gospels. The enclosed table is made as an A0 Oversize PDF of more than one square meter in size. It accordingly needs to be magnified on the screen.

Parallel Passages in the Gospels of SecretMark_John_Mark_Luke and Matthew

Two previous posts on this blog have demonstrated parallels between the “Secret Gospel of Mark” excerpt contained in “Clement’s Letter to Theodore” and canonical and non canonical gospel texts:

Overlaps between Secret Mark, the Raising of Lazarus in John, and the Gerasene Swine episode in Mark

A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery? (as a PDF file here)

This essay discusses the attached table which demonstrates additional parallels between the “Secret Gospel of Mark” and the canonical “Gospel of Mark” and its synoptic counterparts in Luke and Matthew.  These parallel texts appear to be derived from the story of the “Raising of Lazarus”.

The texts have been arranged in parallel columns.  Text parallels appearing in the same row have generally been color coded or given a special font attribute for emphasis.  Text segments that are out of sequence or have been duplicated are enclosed by parenthesizes.

The parallel texts include the “The Raising of Lazarus” (John 11),  “The Long Excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark”, “The Demoniac and the Gadarene Swine” (Mark 5 and synoptic parallels), Healing the Blind (Mark 10 and parallels), “The Epileptic Boy Healed” (Mark 9 and parallels, including Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew 17), “Jesus and the sons of Zebedee” (Mark 10 and parallels), the “Naked Youth in the Garden of Gethsemane” (Mark 14) and “Jesus visits Mary and Martha” (Luke 10).  The interrelationships between these texts and the “Anointing of Jesus” (John 12, Mark 14, and Matthew 26) are also demonstrated.  The dependency of Luke 10 on both the “Raising of Lazarus” and the “Anointing of Jesus” is shown.

As previously noted the long excerpt from Secret Mark contains the phrase “Mystery of the Kingdom of God” which has its counterpart only in “Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew”.  It is unlikely that Morton Smith had been acquainted with this text (see A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany).  If Morton Smith had forged “Secret Mark”, he would have had to have known of at least some of the links to the other texts included in the accompanying table.  Rather than attempting to make his reputation based on the putative discovery of the “Secret Mark” letter, Morton Smith could have made his reputation by publishing his discovery of the linked texts, a significant accomplishment in itself.

The fact is that during his lifetime, even though he wrote extensively about “Secret Mark”, Morton Smith never recognized that it was related to a multiplicity of other texts.  This oversight would have been unlikely had he been the creator of “Secret Mark”.

The fact that multiple miracle stories within the “Gospel of Mark” are related to a single story in the “Gospel of John” means that the order in which the canonical gospels were written must be reconsidered, as well as how solutions to the synoptic problem are formulated.

The Markan miracle stories listed in the accompanying table are based on incompletely overlapping excerpts from the “Raising of Lazarus” (John 11) and its sequel the “Anointing at Bethany” (John 12).  This suggests that the stories from the “Gospel of Mark” are based on the Lazarus story or a precursor of the Lazarus story.  The converse, that the narrative in John was created from an assemblage of several similarly constructed but seemingly independent stories from the “Gospel of Mark” is unlikely.  This leads to the conclusion that there is at least one extended narrative sequence in the “Gospel of John”: (John 11-12) that predates the composition of the “Gospel of Mark”.

The Markan story that is most closely related to the Bethany narratives in the “Gospel of John” is the excerpts from the “Secret Gospel of Mark”.  Next in line, the “The Epileptic Boy Healed” seems to have the greatest narrative similarity to the Bethany narratives in the “Gospel of John”.

However, in spite of the dissimilarity of the stories, it is the canonical Mark story of the “Demoniac and the Gerascene Swine” that has the greatest phrase by phrase overlap with the text of the “Raising of Lazarus”.  The motivation of the author of the “Gospel of Mark” for creating such a lengthy and carefully constructed caricature of the Bethany narratives within his own text is now unknown.  He must have had some now indiscernible reason to lampoon or conceal the “Raising of Lazarus” story and to disconnect it from the “Anointing of Jesus” story.  The author of the “Gospel of Luke” also almost completely expunged all recognizable traces of the Bethany narratives from his text.  Again this suggests that there was something about the Bethany stories that the synoptic Gospel authors thought best to conceal.

“The Naked Youth in the Garden of Gethsemane” (Mark 14) appears to have a tenuous relationship to the “Secret Gospel of Mark”.  One possible hypothesis is that Mark 14.50-52 is a fragment of the “corrupt and unspeakable” Carpocratian version of the “Gospel of Mark” referred to by Clement in his letter to Theodore.

The stories of healing the blind man/men (Mark 10.46-52, Mt 9.27-31, Mt 20.29-34, and Luke 18.35-43) are parallel to the story of Jesus and the sons of Zebedee.  In the “Gospel of Matthew” the story is doubled, with the second version about two blind men.  This increased its similarity to the story about the two Zebedees asking Jesus for more power and influence.  The author of the “Gospel of Matthew” appears to be making a specific literary reference to his disapproval of the Zebedees by likening them to two blind men.

A hypothesis that I plan to explore in greater detail is that a miraculous healing was actually a metaphor for the successful recruitment of an individual or group to the Jesus sect.

The two passages quoted below from the “Gospel of Mark” equate “sickness” with “sin” or unacceptable behavior.  In this case the sinners are tax collectors (Mark 2:15) and presumably other collaborators with the Roman occupation of Judea (See Luke 3:10-14 where John admonishes the well off, tax collectors (publicans) and soldiers (mercenaries drawing wages from the Romans)).

Mark 2:5: And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ”My son, your sins are forgiven.

Mark 2:17: And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ”Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

When the “sinner” rejects his prior way of life and converts to the mind set promulgated by Jesus he is forgiven, and “cured” of his metaphorical diseases.

This essay only touches upon analyzing the relationships between the texts in the comparison table which are based on the Raising of Lazarus story.  The table suggests that there is a recursive or repetitive structure within the “Gospel of Mark”.  Variations of the same story are used over and over to create a set of seemingly independent miracle stories. These stories were assembled into a longer narrative consisting of cycles made up of the variations of the source story.

This is not the only example of creative recycling of a narrative in the “Gospel of Mark”.  The “Miracle of the Feeding the Multitude” is another example of a story found in the “Gospel of John” (John 6:1-4) that was presented in two different forms in the “Gospel of Mark”: (Mark 6:30-44 and Mark 8:1-9).  “The miraculous catch of fish” (Mark 1:16-20) may also belong to this set of stories and be related to the source of the fish in the very earliest version of the narrative.  “Calming the Storm” (Mark 4:35-41) and “Walking on Water” (Mark 6:45-52) is another example of a pair of Markan variations of a story found in the “Gospel of John” (John 6:16-21).

At least superficially, the narrative of the “Gospel of Mark” consists of a series of story cycles centered about miraculous healings or feedings.  These stories are literary variations of narratives found in the “Gospel of John”.  In some cases the stories have been altered almost beyond recognition and only through careful analysis can their common origin be recognized.  In many cases the story cycles seem to be framed by Jesus being followed by crowds and arriving or departing by boat.  The multiplication of stories found in the “Gospel of John”, within the text of the “Gospel of Mark”, suggest that the Johannine narratives predate the “Gospel of Mark”.

The fact that the “Secret Gospel of Mark” narrative belongs to this cluster of stories is consistent with it being an original Markan narrative rather than a modern forgery.

David Blocker

4 kommentarer

  1. mzeddies said,

    27 augusti, 2012 den 01:25

    I should also point out my own work on the relationship between the the healing of Jairus’ daughter, the raising of the man in Secret Mark, and the raising of Lazarus, showing how the third is a conflation of the first and second:

    See also my series on how the Signs Gospel was a source for Secret Mark:


  2. David Blocker said,

    27 augusti, 2012 den 06:51

    @mzeddies sa
    Thanks for the comment. I could not access the tinyurl address but the information you provided shows that there is yet another John based miracle story in Mark. This just confirms my thoughts that large sections of Mark is made up of a series of ”modules” , where each module is based on a rewritten section of John. Have you found any indication that your hypothesised ”signs gospel” was originaly written in Aramaic?


  3. mzeddies said,

    27 augusti, 2012 den 20:17

    I have no idea if it was written in Aramaic–I wish I did! I personally suspect it was, but lack the skill to determine if it was or not.

    I think the idea of ”modules” in GMark is interesting, though mostly I just see a tendency for Mark to both combine and divide source pericopes. I try to summarize and outline this process here:

    You are right, I think, to say that Mark creates parallel structures of pericopes. And these structures could be described as ”modules”.

    I assume you have read Burton Mack’s ”A Myth of Innocence”? He talks about Achtemeyer’s notion of ”pre-Markan miracle catenae” there–starting on p. 216 (much of it is in Google Books, and he cites Achtemeyer’s original article). This sounds similar to your ”modules”, and is worth a look if you haven’t seen it before.

    Sorry the TinyURL link didn’t work: here is the full link if it is any better:


  4. 5 oktober, 2012 den 10:10

    […] The Literary Relationship of the Raising of Lazarus story to The Secret Gospel of Mark Excerpts quot… ( […]



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