The Clementine Gospel Tradition - In a few words

For over 200 years there has been debate over the order in which the Gospels were written. But, just before he died, Bernard Orchard put forward a solution which makes the Markan priority theory and ‘Q’ redundant. This is a summary built on his solution.


The Apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew for the Jewish Christians to read at the: “Breaking of bread.”  It was in thematic form and illustrated the fulfilment of the Jewish prophesies. Matthew or a colleague translated it into Greek. Next, Luke wrote a Gospel in Greek in historical order for the Gentiles. As Luke had not been a companion of Jesus, he needed an Apostle to indorse his Gospel. So when he arrived in Rome he asked Peter to do this. Peter agreed and gave a talk in which he quoted alternatively from Matthew and Luke. In this manner he indorsed Luke’s Gospel by merging it with that authored by a well known Apostle. Peter’s secretary Mark used Greek shorthand to record Peter’s words.


Peter, not being a native Greek speaker or an academic, spoke in koine (common) Greek. Linguists agree that what became known as Mark’s Gospel has poor Greek grammar and style. Mark’s shorthand faithfully records Peter’s poor Greek, together with his memory slips. The large audience of leading Christians: ‘Incessantly begged Mark to make copies for them’. To which Mark agreed. When Peter saw the good the Gospel of Mark was achieving, he agreed to him issuing a second edition: ‘to all the churches’. In the meantime Luke had published his Gospel.


So the Gospels were written in the Matthew – Luke – Mark- John order, but published in the: Matthew – Mark – Luke – Mark (2nd Edition) – John order. This led to libraries cataloguing them in differing sequences and preachers quoting from them in differing orders. In following generations this would have caused discussion and raised questions. So, to clarify the situation, Clement of Alexandria, the leading teacher in the diocese originally founded by Mark, explained: “The first written of the Gospels were those with the infancy narratives”. Archaeologists have found copies of both editions of Mark’s Gospel. They are distinguished by one edition omitting the last 12 verses, which recorded Peter’s answers to questions asked following the meeting.


At the time Jerome wrote, the Matthew- Mark – Luke – John order was popular, so he adopted it for his Latin translation. Its purpose was to standardise Gospels usage throughout the Christian world. He never said it was the order of their composure.


Augustine of Hippo was writing his first book at about the same time. He saw the order of dignity as Matthew and John followed by the other two. Regarding their order of writing, he said Matthew wrote first and John last. He added that Mark seems to have been next. So Augustine was hesitant to give his opinion on the order of writing and publishing. But some years later, after carful internal analysis of the Gospels, he stated in his fourth book that Mark’s theology had been influenced by that of both Matthew and Luke. He says “Probably Mark goes in step with both”


[G 202]                                                                                       October 2016