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Let us look at the writing style of Luke. There is a Greek word used thirty -two times in chapters 3-53 of Luke’s Gospel and twelve times in Acts. This word has been rendered into English as ‘It came to pass’ or ‘And it came to pass that’. It is a distinctive mark of Luke’s style.


It is rare in Matthew and John and it appears twice only in Mark where he is borrowing from Luke. This ‘fingerprint’ of Luke appears eight times in the infancy narrative of Luke (1: 8, 23, 41, 59, 2:1, 6, 15, 46). It is a clear indication that the author of the Gospel and Acts also wrote the ‘infancy narratives’.


The RSV translation of the New Testament replaces the traditional phrase ‘It came to pass’ or ‘And it came to pass that’, with, ‘while’, ‘now while’, ‘and while’, ‘and when’, or it is omitted. In this way the fingerprint of Luke’s style is lost to view. The more literal translations are to be found in the King James and Douay versions.


When Luke introduces a new person or place, he explains something about them.




Herod, king of Judea

1: 5

a priest named Zachariah



Capernaum, a city of Galilee

7: 11

a city called Na’in.

19: 2

a man called by name Zacchaeus.

19: 29

the mount that is called Olivet.



Yet in verses 3: 1 and 4: 14-16, we find John, Jesus, Galilee, Nazareth mentioned without any explanation of who or what they are. The reason is that they have already been introduced previously in the infancy narratives ((HR 73-74)). This is further evidence of Luke’s infancy narrative being an integral part of his Gospel.







The Clementine tradition holds that Luke borrowed from Matthew, so let us see whether there are signs of this borrowing.


When the Apostle Matthew recounted historical events, he did not place the events in chronological order.


In recent years, Luiz Ruscillo has analysed Matthew’s Gospel ((FM January 2002)). A similar analysis was set out in the 1953: ‘A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture’. ((CCHS 678))


Here we will give a brief outline based on these two analyses.


Matthew’s Gospel consists of narrative followed by a discourse/ sermon on the narrative.

The Structure of Matthew’s Gospel (A Lexionary)


1-4 Narrative: How the birth of Jesus fulfilled prophesies regarding his Infancy. 5-7 Sermon: Blessings and Entering the Kingdom


8-9 Narrative: Start of Our Lord’s ministry, miracles. 10 Sermon: Instructions for Apostles’ ministry.


11-12 Narrative: Opposition to ‘The Kingdom’ by this generation.


13 Sermon: The Kingdom’s mysterious nature is reason for opposition. Parables explaining: ‘The Kingdom’.


14-17 Narrative: Formation of the Disciples and of Peter. 18 Sermon Duties of the disciples.


19-22  Narrative: Mounting opposition of Judaism.


23-25  Sermon:  Messianic Judgement on Judaism.



26-28  Narrative:  The death and Resurrection of Jesus.



Until Markan priority came to be tolerated within Catholic circles, the above was how most Catholics understood the structure of Matthew’s Gospel.


Analysing the relationship between Luke and Matthew’s Gospel, will assist us in determining their order of composition. Here we will show how Luke was influenced by Matthew. This is based on the detailed study of Luke’s Gospel made by Harold Riley ((HR 11-145)).



In his opening words, Luke says many, ‘had taken in hand’, to produce an account ‘in order’. He then says he is going to write an account ‘in order’. So Luke’s Gospel is going to aim at chronological accuracy. Luke, in the opening words of Acts, explains how he used this order in his Gospel. He explains that his Gospel told of all that Jesus began to do and to teach.


We note how he gathered the teaching material into a central section (Luke 9: 52-18: 14). and in so doing changed the order of Matthew’s passages. This could have caused confusion amongst his readers regarding chronology, so he acted to avoid this. When changing the order of a passage from Matthew, which contained a note of place and time, he omits this note and uses the phrase ‘And it came to pass…’



To give a few examples: Christ finishes his sermon, descends the mountain and cures a leper (Mt 7: 28-8: 2). Luke, moving this incident to a different location (Luke 5:12-14), suppresses both time and place ((HR72)).The story of plucking corn is ’at that time’.(Mt 12: 1) but Luke makes it non-specific (Luke 6: 1). In Mt 12: 9 we read ‘He went down from there’, but Luke changes it to the vague ‘on another Sabbath’ (Luke 6: 6).

In 13:1 Matthew says: ‘That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea’, but Luke avoids the chronology (Luke 8: 4). Luke’s policy is highlighted by when there would be no confusion in preserving Matthew’s chronology:- Mt 16: 13-17/ Luke 19: 18-45. ((HR 73)). We should add that the expression: ‘eight days’ designated a week


This presents a question for Markan priorists, who assert that Matthew and Luke borrowed these incidents from ‘Q’ or Mark. Why would Matthew give precise times and places while Luke, who has promised in his first chapter to be accurate, omits them? And why does Luke include them only when he has not altered the timing?


Julius Africanus, also known as Sixtus or Sixtus Julius, was in the army in 195. He later lived in Emmaus and Alexandria, and was involved in rebuilding Nicopolis. Still alive in 240 he was one of the most learned writers of the 3rd century. He wrote a treatise of five volumes on chronology from creation to 221 AD. In it he explained that the genealogies of Christ that had been provided by Matthew and Luke were not at variance with one another. ((EH I: 7)). Why would he have bothered if they were the late symbolic inventions of unknown writers, and not viewed in his time, by Christians and non-Christians, as reliable factual history?


Some Markans argue that Matthew’s Gospel does not have an eyewitness quality like that according to John. But Matthew does not need to claim to be an eyewitness of events, nor explain his personal relationship with Jesus. His readers would already have been very much aware of this. His Gospel reads like a Lectionary to be read at weekly meetings. If it was intended to be a Lectionary, it would have been out of place for him to break into the pattern of worship, prayer and learning with matters of a personal nature.





Orchard pointed out that if we accept Matthew’s Gospel as being composed about 44 AD, we see that it slots in very well with the situation depicted in Acts 1-12. Matthew is responding to the problems to be found there.


To avoid recognising this, the Markans are forced to say that Acts 1-12 does not give a true picture of the Church at that time, or they create an anachronistic Christian Jewish community near Damascus about 75-90 AD, or that Matthew was written in reaction to the obscure workings of the hypothetical Jewish curse of Jamnia. There is little evidence to support any of these proposals. They are attempts to defend the Markan theory ((RO 241)). That Markans propose many such mutually exclusive theories is itself a sign of the weakness of their position.





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. Also, 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,


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(This version 25/3/2016)




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