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 Compare and Contrast the Stilling Of the Storm As Narrated In Mark 4:35-41 and Mathew 8:23-27

Introduction

Miracle narratives are extensively used to show the impact Jesus had in the world as well as the powers of God. There are several types of miracles among them the nature miracles; nature miracles deal with power of the natural forces like wind and water. The stilling of the storm is among the ranks of nature miracles[1].

The stilling of the storm was such a remarkable event following Jesus’s teaching to the crowd near the Sea of Galilee. However his disciples beliefs where shaken when “a great wind storm arose and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was being swamped” (Mark 4:37). It seems like none of Jesus’s disciples had been attentive to His teaching about the storm. They began to panic and woke Him up. Two of Jesus’s disciples by the names of Matthew and Mark produced records of his ministry. The discussion the below indicates compares and contrast the narratives as given by the two disciples. The discussion will concentrate on the difference between the two authors’ scriptures, and what caused these differences. The discussion will borrow heavily from the two scripture – Mark 4:35-41 and Mathew 8:23-27 as well as from the works done by other scholars[2].

Discussion

The stilling of the storm miracle might appear same, as narrated by different authors. The authors who wrote about the miracle are Matthew, Mark and Luke. The analysis will concentrate on Matthew and Mark as the two had the first hand information on the occurrence of the miracle[3]. Luke was a scholar, thus his work was mainly dependent on the research and secondhand information. To properly analyze the narration according to the two authors it will be prudent to understand their background, perception and understanding of situations. These features impacted on the ways in which the two articulated their points.

  1. Background

Mathew is known to have been a dishonest tax collector under the Roman Empire who collected more tax than what was owed for personal profit. He must have been in his tax booth at the time probably calculating his day’s take when Jesus passed by and invited him to follow him (as mentioned in Mathew 9:9)[4]. Without resistance Mathew is believed to have abandoned everything and followed him. Mathew began collecting souls for Christ instead of collecting tax money (as stated in Luke 5:28-29).

According to the scriptures, Mark is believed to have been Apostle Peter’s interpreter. According to church elders, the author does not identify himself but it is believed that he was the Son of Mary who provided a meeting place for the early Christians (Acts 12:12)[5]. It also indicates that Apostle Peter calls Mark his son (1Peter 5:13). Although Mark was not one of the original disciples of Jesus, he is believed to have been a teenager at the time of Jesus’s ministry on earth but later got involved in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

Mathew is mentioned to have been an accurate record keeper whereas Mark was a good interpreter and Peter’s reference to Mark as “my son” in 1Peter 5:13 suggests that years before, Peter had led Mark to Christ and nurtured him in the faith. Both Mathew and Mark became active in the ministry of Jesus, the two gospels were written on the account of the words and works of Jesus[6]. There are similarities and differences in their writing styles as both gospels were targeting different audiences. The narration itself shows significant difference; the differences can be articulated from the scripture. Below is a summary of the narration verse by verse as per the two authors.

                           Mark 4                            Mathew 8
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side[7].” 23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him[8].
36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 24A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.

 

37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 25 And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm.
39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 27 They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

 

40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”  
41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”[9]  
  1. Perception and Understanding of Situations

The background of these two disciples impacted on how the viewed things and in the manner in which they narrated what they saw. In Mathew’s gospel Jesus is far more direct in His teachings, whereas in Mark’s gospel he is somewhat ambiguous. The difference can be identified by looking through the accounts of Jesus’s teachings of his message and by how his disciples perceived it.

For example in Mathew it says, “And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him”. Whereas in Mark it says, “On that day, when evening had come, He said to them, let us go across to the other side” Mark goes on to say “and leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat just as he was.[10]” Unlike Mathew, Mark tells the full story of how Jesus left the crowd behind and travelled from the other side of Lake Galilee with them, whilst indicating the time of the day it was (evening).

Again Mathew states, “He was asleep.” Whereas in Mark it says: “But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” This points out that in Mathew they did not know where exactly Jesus was on the boat at the time of the storm although in Mark they knew exactly where Jesus was as he describes clearly where Jesus was sleeping and what he was sleeping on[11]. This indicates that Marks writing style was way more informative than Mathews.

In Mark the disciples wake him up and say “Teacher do you not care that we are perishing? Whereas in Mathew it says the disciples went and woke him up saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”[12]

In Mark (4:38) the disciples referred to Jesus as “Teacher” whereas in Mathew (8:25) they referred to Jesus as “Lord”.

In Mathew 8:26 it says: And he said to them “why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. In Mark … it says: He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still.[13]” Then the wind ceased, and there was dead calm.

This suggests that in Mark the disciples did not have any faith in Jesus and they didn’t know who he really was up until this point, which is why they called him “Teacher”. However, unlike Mark in Mathew it suggests that they must have already had a little faith in Jesus and had some knowledge about him, which is why they called him “Lord”[14]. Some may argue that this might be the reason why in Mark Jesus rebuked the storm first to reveal who he was whereas in Mathew he rebuked them first because they should have already known.

  1. Other Scholars

Many other scholars and authors have analyzed the two gospels, on this same passage and some of their views are mentioned in the following text.

After studying both gospels carefully scholars have agreed that Mark’s gospel was most likely written first, probably around 70 CE[15] and most of them concluded that Mark’s source was used by Mathew although there are others who feel as though the style of writing in Mathew suggests more of an eye witness account. Because of the two differences in both gospels we can analyze how and why each author intended to write the way they did.

When we look at the passage of the stilling of the storm we can identify the similarities in their writing for example, in Mathew 8:26 he writes: “why are you fearful, O you of little faith”, yet in Mark it says: Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” in Mark 4:40[16]. Here we can see that they are both addressing the importance of the attitude of faith to their audiences after Jesus’s reproach for their disbelief as was quoted in Mark 4:40 and Mathew 8:26[17].

Looking at the difference mentioned in the Exploring the New Testament book (The Gospels and Acts) by David Wenham and Steve Walton. We find that Mark focused on Jesus’s unique authority and the fact that Jesus trusted God through the storm whereas the disciples panicked. In Mathew Jesus’s rebuke comes before the miracle, which is the reverse of Mark.

The book – Synoptic Gospels/Redaction criticism by Reuben Addis, Peter Cole and John Lee: suggests that Mark seemed to see the story as purely Jesus’s power whereas Mathew appears to have turned it into a story about Christian discipleship[18].

During Mark’s time, the Romans were focused on getting things done there and then, which could have been the cause of Mark’s writing style being short and very much to the point. It is stated that his gospel reflected the attitude of Roman culture[19].

Again in Exploring the New Testament (The Gospel and Acts) by David Wenham and Steve Walton it points out that between both of their writing styles, Mathew was less critical[20]. It goes on to suggest that the gospel of Mathew came after the gospel of Mark and this meant that some of the stories would be similar yet written in different ways. One of the main differences mentioned is that Marks gospel is more of an explanation of facts because it was written first. Whereas in Mathew it is suggested that he simply gave the overviews; the reason being that he had less explaining to do which made his writings easy to understand[21]. Also it is pointed out that Mark’s writing was more insightful because it did not take a long time to figure out the true meanings.

Another way in which their styles of writing defer is the sort of background information Mark gives about the Jews by explaining his points clearly, so that his audience can understand the story easier. We can argue this by saying that Mathew did not have to do all the explanation because Mark had already explained it in detail for the audiences[22].

With Mark being widely accepted as the first narrative of the story, and with the given research, we find that Mark gives a far more detailed description of the storm in his narrative; therefore, it is fair to assume that he wrote his Gospel before Mathew[23]. Both Mathew and Marks gospels reveal Gods authority and power at work in Jesus and teach us that the same God, who created the earth and the sea, is the same God who can control it and the same God who controlled the storm then, can control it now[24]. In these two gospels we learn that we shouldn’t panic over the things we know God can deal with, instead we should have faith because had it been a test from God the disciples would have failed in both gospels[25]. The more confused and chaotic our worlds become, the more the good news of Jesus will bring hope and focus in our lives. Indeed Jesus is our Lord and Messiah, eternal King, the treasured truth worth of our trust and hope[26].

Conclusion

Significant differences are seen in the scripture of Mark and Matthew, and more importantly on the narration of the stilling of the storm miracle. The difference arises from various factors that define them as writers. The main factor that influences how the authors behave and interact is their background[27]. The background defined the characters of these authors. Additionally, the background determined how the two perceived and interacted with life situation. In effect, the background is the main determinant of the writing style adopted by these authors. Another important factor that influence the way the authors narrated the miracle occurrence is the audience. Several studies indicate that Mark had written the gospel before Matthew[28]. As a consequence, Mark had to elaborate his narration more since his narration was the first to reach the people. On the other hand, Matthew was following the footsteps of Mark thus his narration was bound to be shallow.

 

 

 

 

 

References

Addis, Reuben, Peter Cole, and John Lee. Source Criticism. Bromsgrove: Abacus Educational Services, 1994.

Bible.org,. ‘4. Jesus Calms The Storm (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41)’. Bible.Org. Last modified 2012. Accessed February 6, 2015. https://bible.org/seriespage/4-jesus-calms-storm-matthew-823-27-mark-435-41.

GotQuestions.org,. ‘What Is The Significance Of Jesus Calming The Storm?’. Gotquestions.Org. Last modified 2015. Accessed February 6, 2015. http://www.gotquestions.org/calming-the-storm.html.

Jeremiah, David. Understanding The 66 Books Of The Bible. San Diego, CA 92163: Turning Point for God, 2000.

Collins, Martin G. ‘The Miracles Of Jesus Christ: Stilling A Storm’. Cgg.Org. Last modified 2009. Accessed February 6, 2015. http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/BS/k/1461/Miracles-Jesus-Christ-Stilling-Storm.htm.

Wenham, David. Exploring The New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2011.

 

 

 

[1] Matt. 8:23-27 (New Revised Standard Version); Mark 4:35-41 (New Revised Standard Version)

[2] Ibid.;

[3] Reuben Addis, Peter Cole and John Lee, Source Criticism (Bromsgrove: Abacus Educational Services, 1994).

[4]  Matt. 8:23-27 (New Revised Standard Version); Mark 4:35-41 (New Revised Standard Version)

[5] David Jeremiah, Understanding The 66 Books Of The Bible (San Diego, CA 92163: Turning Point for God, 2000).

[6] Ibid.;

[7] Matt. 8:23-27 (New Revised Standard Version); Mark 4:35-41 (New Revised Standard Version)

[8] Ibid.;

[9] Ibid.;

[10] David Wenham, Exploring The New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2011).

[11] David Jeremiah, Understanding The 66 Books Of The Bible (San Diego, CA 92163: Turning Point for God, 2000).

[12] Ibid.;

[13] Matt. 8:23-27 (New Revised Standard Version)

[14] Martin G. Collins, ‘The Miracles Of Jesus Christ: Stilling A Storm’, Cgg.Org, last modified 2009, accessed February 6, 2015, http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/BS/k/1461/Miracles-Jesus-Christ-Stilling-Storm.htm.

[15] Bible.org,. ‘4. Jesus Calms The Storm (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41)’. Bible.Org. Last modified 2012

[16] Mark 4:35-41 (New Revised Standard Version)

[17] Matt. 8:23-27 (New Revised Standard Version); Mark 4:35-41 (New Revised Standard Version)

[18] Reuben Addis, Peter Cole and John Lee, Source Criticism (Bromsgrove: Abacus Educational Services, 1994).

[19] David Jeremiah, Understanding The 66 Books Of The Bible (San Diego, CA 92163: Turning Point for God, 2000). Page 175-184.

[20] David Wenham, Exploring The New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2011).

[21] GotQuestions.org,. ‘What Is The Significance Of Jesus Calming The Storm?’. Gotquestions.Org.

[22] Ibid.;

[23] Bible.org,. ‘4. Jesus Calms The Storm (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41)’. Bible.Org

[24] Ibid.;

[25] David Jeremiah, Understanding The 66 Books Of The Bible (San Diego, CA 92163: Turning Point for God, 2000).

[26] Reuben Addis, Peter Cole and John Lee, Source Criticism (Bromsgrove: Abacus Educational Services, 1994).

[27] David Wenham, Exploring The New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2011).

[28] Ibid.;

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