Oral Reports with Explanations


In the Gospels written by Matthew, Luke and Mark, there are many places where a report of an event is followed by an explanation of its context. Many see this as a sign of an author passing on information from an oral source, before adding an explanatory note of the context.  So let us consider whether this may add to our understanding of the formation of the Synoptic Gospels.


Matthew was an eyewitness of much of Christ’s public life, but not all – for example the infancy years of Jesus. Not being one of the first Apostles, he needed witnesses to tell him of events concerning John the Baptist. So Mathew would have interviewed witnesses.


When preaching, the Apostles would have found that quoting the words of a witness without providing the context, could caused puzzlement amongst their hearers. The preachers learnt the need to add the context when giving a quotation from an eyewitness. So, when Matthew wrote his Gospel, he did the same.


Luke was not an Apostle and relied on witnesses for information. So, like Matthew, he added explanations after recording the oral words of his interviewees. When Luke copied parts of Matthew’s Gospel, he included Matthew’s context notes.


Peter’s talk was mainly based on quotations from Matthew and Luke. So their words of explanation would have been incorporated into Peter’s delivery. Where Luke had copied Matthew and then Peter had used the same phrase from Luke, it would cause the quotation to appear in the three Gospels. Peter had no need to add an explanation of his own until he responded to a question at the end of his talk (Mark 16: 14).


This line of thought is consistent with The Clementine Gospel Tradition,




Version: 13th March 2016