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From the September/October, 1998 issue of Touchstone

 

Sacraments, Martyrdom & the Sons of Zebedee by Patrick Henry Reardon

Sacraments, Martyrdom & the Sons of Zebedee

Two Gospel Texts in the Tradition

by Patrick Henry Reardon

The Gospels of Matthew (20:20–23) and Mark (10:35–40) record the occasion on which the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, request of the Lord the privilege of sitting to his immediate right and left when he enters into his kingdom. In both Gospel accounts the Lord responds to the brothers’ request with a further query about their ability to “drink the cup whereof I am to drink,” and Mark’s version contains yet another question about their being “baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.”1

Having elsewhere surveyed and assessed the modern exegesis of the Marcan version of this story,2 I now propose to give expanded attention to the interpretation of both of these Gospel passages in the Tradition of the Church.3 Convinced, moreover, that the transition from the New Testament to the church fathers is something of a seamless robe, I hope to convey some sense of that continuity, demonstrating a single and sustained, albeit complex, understanding of these dominical logia all through the patristic literature.

Mark’s Historical Context

I begin this study with Mark. My reason for doing so is not necessarily a presumption of Marcan priority, still less a persuasion about the full two-source synoptic theory popular in modern critical exegesis. I begin with Mark, rather, for the simple reason that we possess more and clearer information on the historical circumstances of his composition, information that throws considerable contextual light on the passage chosen for our study.

Early patristic testimony to the circumstances of Mark’s writing is remarkably uniform. Our first witness, Papias of Hierapolis, about A.D. 140, quotes an anonymous elder who called Mark the “interpreter of Peter” (hermeneutes Petrou),4 a description repeated within a generation by the Roman Anti-Marcionite Prologue, dated between 160 and 180, which further testifies that “after the death of Peter himself, [Mark] recorded this present Gospel in the regions of Italy.”5 Likewise around 180, that identical expression, interpres Petri, as well as the ascription of Mark’s Gospel to Rome, are found in Irenaeus of Lyons.6 Both the Prologue and Irenaeus, furthermore, agree in dating Mark’s composition after Peter’s death. Within the next generation, Clement of Alexandria, though contradicting their testimony on that last point, does state that this Gospel contains the preaching of Peter at Rome.7

By the year 200, then, we are dealing with an impressive, fairly uniform and widespread consensus, evidenced in material from Hierapolis, Rome, Lyons (and, thus, doubtless Asia Minor), and Egypt, and against which there is not the slightest shred of dissent or contradiction during the entire period. This consensus asserts that Mark’s Gospel was written at Rome, either just before or just after Peter’s death, and reflects the preaching of that apostle.

Now this information is most instructive, because we happen to know quite a bit about the place, time, and circumstances of Peter’s death. Eusebius cites testimonies from the second and early third centuries to bolster his thesis that the chief of the apostles was crucified in Rome during Nero’s persecution (mid-60s): Tertullian, Caius of Rome, Dionysius of Corinth.8 Tertullian himself speaks even more boldly of that crucifixion at Rome, “where Peter equals the Lord’s passion”; he treats the information as though it were common knowledge.9

Indeed, the early Christians seem to have been so familiar with the circumstances of Peter’s martyrdom that Clement of Rome (writing from that city) and Ignatius of Antioch (writing to that city) had not felt the need to elaborate on the place and circumstances.10 The story of the apostle’s crucifixion was so widely reported among the churches that the Gospel of John, probably written at Ephesus, could simply refer to the stretching out of Peter’s hands as “signifying by what death he was to glorify God” (John 21:18f).11 John did not have to explain the point; everyone knew exactly how Peter had died. That this Johannine passage (“thou shalt stretch forth thy hands. . . . signifying by what death he was to glorify God”) did in fact refer to Peter’s crucifixion in Rome was perfectly obvious to Tertullian. Citing that Johannine verse, he wrote: “Then was Peter ‘bound by another,’ when he was fastened to the cross.”12 Moreover, the symbolic extension of the hands as signifying crucifixion is attested to in early Christian and even pagan writings.13

According to the combined and uncontradicted testimony of antiquity, then, Mark’s Gospel was written in Rome near the time of Peter’s martyrdom under Nero. Inasmuch as the crisis that led to that persecution was the fire at Rome in July of 64,14 Mark’s Gospel was written shortly after, or very close to, that date. Moreover, since the historical setting of Mark’s Gospel was the persecution of Nero, and since that setting provides an interpretive key to the understanding of Mark, it will be useful to comment more in detail about Nero’s persecution.

Blaming (subdidit according to Tacitus, implying innocence) the Christians for the fire, Nero took advantage of their relatively low social standing and bad reputation among the populace (“a class despised for their abominations,” says the same source) to divert the guilt from himself. Tacitus describes their unjust punishment in detail:

Every kind of mockery was added to their deaths. Covered in beast skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs and thus perished. Or they were crucified [recall Peter], or burned in the flames to serve as torches during the night after daylight was gone. Nero offered his gardens for the show.15

In this vivid and moving account a pagan historian is describing the very church for whom Mark wrote his Gospel. It was a congregation suffering severely for their faith, and, as we shall see, Mark’s message would emphasize, above all, the mystery of the cross and the necessity of Christians suffering with their Lord. This is the historical context to be borne in mind as we now turn to examine the structure and literary themes of Mark’s story.

Mark’s Literary Context

That text of Eusebius, noted earlier, refers to an important ancient source descriptive of Mark’s literary effort. Eusebius quotes Irenaeus who, writing about 180, was citing another work called Interpretation of the Sayings of the Lord. This work, now lost, was written by Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis, about the year 140, some 40 years before Irenaeus’s testimony, and it recorded information that Papias himself had “carefully learned from the elders,” he tells us, of a yet earlier period.

How early? According to Irenaeus who, born and raised in Asia Minor, was in a position to know, Papias himself was personally familiar with the Apostle John (as was Polycarp, of whom Irenaeus also speaks in this context). Even though Eusebius himself doubts that Papias’s memory goes back quite so far, he does admit that Papias was familiar with those who had been friends of the apostles. Thus, what Papias had to say, Eusebius asserts, came “from a living and abiding voice” (para zoses phones kai menouses) going back to the apostles themselves.16

What, then, on the basis of such ancient and trustworthy testimony, did Papias’s source have to say about the composition of the Gospel of Mark? The passage is worth quoting at length:

Mark, having become an interpreter of Peter, recorded accurately whatever he could remember, though not in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but later, as I said, he followed Peter, who crafted (epoieto) the teachings according to needs, but not as though making a correct sequence of the Lord’s sayings. Thus Mark did not err in writing the single components as he remembered them.17

Attention should be drawn, I believe, to several features of this precious and remarkable text written within the living memory of men who had known the apostles personally. First, the link of Mark to the preaching of Peter.

Second, the admission that Peter himself had been accustomed (such being the force of the imperfect epoieto) to adapt the story of Jesus to the needs of his hearers. Papias is very clear on this point: discrete pastoral disposition of the inherited traditions about what Jesus did and said was already at work prior to the composition of the Gospels. That is to say, what was handed down and received was not only preserved but also pastorally interpreted and applied.

Third, the further assertion that Mark’s Gospel itself reflects this earlier “preached” Gospel already familiar to his hearers, the believers at Rome. That is to say, Mark had in mind to tell the Church only what the Church already knew and believed, on the basis of the apostolic preaching, specifically Peter’s.

It is not surprising, therefore, given the historical context of actual martyrdom in Rome, that Mark lays a special stress on the necessity of the cross. This emphasis is obvious in so many places, almost from the beginning: “But the days will come when the Bridegroom shall be taken away (2:20). . . . And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him how they might destroy him (3:6). . . . And Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him (3:19). . . . Afterward, when affliction or persecution arises for the sake of the word (4:17). . . . Whoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (8:34). . . . Whoever will lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it (8:35). . . . For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many (10:45). . . . And they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard (12:8) . . .”, and so on. Although the account of the Lord’s passion is covered in only two (though the two longest) chapters, it is fair to say that the mystery of the cross permeates the entire perspective of the Evangelist Mark.

This assessment has special relevance to the story under consideration in this study, particularly with respect to the questions that the Lord puts to James and John about baptism and the cup. An analysis of Mark’s immediate literary context for this story, chapters 8–10, shows how this is so. These three chapters of Mark are structured around three prophecies that the Lord gives of his coming suffering, death, and resurrection (8:32; 9:31; 10:33f). Then, in turn, each of these dominical prophecies is followed by some totally inappropriate response of the disciples, who are habitually portrayed by Mark as resistant to Lord’s message of the cross (8:32; 9:32–34; 10:35–38). Then, again in each instance, the Lord goes on to say something further about the implications of the message of the cross, particularly as it affects the actual lives and attitudes of his disciples (8:34f; 9:35; 10:39–45). By unifying image, chapters 8–10 are especially dominated by the theme of the “way” (hodos)18 of the cross, which for Mark means true discipleship, humility, service, and even martyrdom.

In Mark’s structure, then, the story of James and John (10:35–45) is the third and climactic example of an inappropriate response to the Lord’s prophecies of his impending passion. The two brothers are here portrayed, like Peter in Mark 8:32f, as resistant to the message of the cross. Still worldly and without understanding, they covet the chief places to the Lord’s right and left when he comes into his kingdom. There is a particular irony in the fact that they make this ambitious request in the very next verse after the Lord’s third prophecy of his passion, indicating they had not grasped a single word of it.19 In sum, then, Mark’s account of the incident makes it the culminating point of a growing emphasis on the inability of the disciples to come to grips with mystery of the cross.

The Sacraments & Martyrdom

Both images, baptism and the cup, are found elsewhere in the New Testament as symbolic of the Lord’s passion. Relative to baptism one thinks immediately of Luke 12:50—“But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am straightened until it be accomplished.” Interpreters since the second century have appealed to this Lukan passage to interpret the story of James and John.20 Relative to the cup, of course, the synoptic descriptions of the Lord’s agony in the garden and his arrest show it to refer to his sufferings, and earlier exegetes normally cited those texts when interpreting the account of Zebedee’s sons.21 The Lord called “his crucifixion a cup and his death a baptism.”22

In the context of the New Testament churches it is obvious that the symbolisms of baptism and the cup likewise referred to two of the sacraments, and it was understood, moreover, that these two sacraments place their communicants into a special relationship with the Lord’s passion. With respect to the sacrament of baptism, one thinks of Romans 6:3f (“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death. . . .”) and Colossians 2:12 (“buried with him in baptism. . . .”). The sacramental relationship to the Lord’s passion is no less clear with respect to the Eucharist: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Thus Hippolytus identified the cup of Mark 10 with the chalice of the Eucharist.23

Mark’s account of the Lord’s questions about baptism and the cup, then, were especially poignant for the Christians at Rome, who were thereby instructed about an important dimension of their own participation in the sacraments. Even to be a Christian at Rome was a risky business, for Christians were regarded as enemies of the state, and actual martyrdom was a true possibility for anyone in the Church. Thus to each catechumen presenting himself for sacramental immersion into the life of the Church, this question was implicitly addressed by Jesus himself: “Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I am to be baptized?”24 And to each believer who came forward, Sunday by Sunday, to share in the mystic cup of the Lord’s blood, this question was implicitly addressed by Jesus himself: “Can you drink that cup of which I am to drink?”

The cup’s reference to martyrdom as a participation in the passion of the Lord is virtually ubiquitous in early Christian literature. One may begin with the second-century prayer of Polycarp as he stood in his sacrificial pyre: “I bless You that You have brought me to this day and to this hour, that I might receive a portion, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup of Your Christ unto the resurrection of eternal life.”25 Chrysostom paraphrases the Lord’s question about the cup thus: “That is, you will be martyrs (martyresete), you will be killed for my sake.”26 This was the “cup of martyrdom,”27 the “cup of the martyrs,”28 the “to-be-imitated chalice of the Passion.”29 Similar statements abound.30

In particular, the history of Christian exegesis saw in Psalm 115 (Hebrew 116, second half) a rich confluence of all these themes: “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” In this single text, as read by the Tradition of the Church, we find the Lord’s passion, the mystery of the Eucharist, and Christian martyrdom—all in the unifying symbol of the chalice. It is no wonder that the Fathers were particularly fond of citing the Lord’s cup-question to James and John in explaining this passage from the Psalms. The apparently earliest to take this interpretive path was Origen in the third century,31 whose lead was quickly followed by Athanasius,32 and then by others, both East33 and West.34

Matthew’s Account

We may now turn to Matthew’s version of the story (20:20–23), which differs from Mark’s in two material respects.

First, Matthew’s account does not contain Mark’s reference to baptism. Since, as we have seen, this latter reference is very important to Mark’s conjunction of soteriological and sacramental symbolism, its absence in Matthew does render the latter proportionately less rich. It is not surprising, then, that this detail from Mark occasionally found its way into the Matthean manuscripts and into the patristic interpretation of Matthew by way of filling out the story, the two accounts becoming conflated in the sermons and commentaries of the church fathers.

Second, Matthew’s narrative presents Zebedee’s wife, the mother of the two brothers, approaching the Lord to make the request on their behalf. The historicity of this detail, unreasonably doubted by some more recent scholars, provided no difficulties for patristic exegesis.35

Nothing would be easier, of course, than to regard the wife of Zebedee as simply the unscrupulous promoter of her sons’ selfish aspirations. Scenes of ambitious mothers endeavoring to promote the political fortunes of their sons are absolutely commonplace in ancient history, with examples from Assyria (Sammurammat, mother of Adad-Nerari III), Macedonia (Olympias, mother of Alexander), Rome (Agrippina the Younger, mother of Nero), and so forth. The Bible’s memorable instance is the mother of Solomon, Bathsheba, in 1 Kings 1:11f.

For all that, patristic and medieval comments on the incident tend to “go easy” on Zebedee’s wife, excusing her request as a weakness born of excessive maternal affection,36 pardonable anxiety,37 “womanly error,”38 “simplicity and inexperience,”39 or “female enthusiasm.”40 Indeed, does not Mark’s very omission of the detail indicate that the fault lay rather with the sons than with their mother? Surely the whole idea was theirs, not their mother’s, it was argued.41 Her two sons had prevailed upon her,42 thinking thereby more easily to prevail upon the Lord.43

Whatever the merits of these suggestions, I believe they do less than full justice to a certain subtlety in Matthew’s account, for he is surely implicating the mother in her sons’ failure to understand the message of the cross. This woman, elsewhere known as Salome,44 Matthew calls simply “the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” The detail is certainly significant, inasmuch as this designation, “mother of Zebedee’s sons,” appears only twice in the entire New Testament, both times in Matthew: here in 20:20 and later, in 27:56, at the foot of the cross. In the first of these instances Zebedee’s wife is portrayed as an enterprising and somewhat ambitious worldling who fails to grasp the message of the cross, while in the later scene we find her standing vigil as her Lord dies, now a model of the converted and enlightened Christian who follows Jesus to the very end. This marvelous correspondence between the two scenes—a before and after—is proper to Matthew and points to a delicate nuance of his thought.

The Mystery of the Cross

In both Mark and Matthew, then, the dominical questions put to the sons of Zebedee are in truth addressed to all Christians, pointing to a special dimension of their very participation in the sacramental life of the Church. Following the traditional exegesis of this story, we may say that properly to share in baptism and the Holy Eucharist means a deep commitment to the mystery of the Lord’s cross, even to the point of martyrdom.

But not only to martyrdom in its ultimate, defining sense. There is more than one way to be martyred, after all, nor will every Christian be called to shed his blood for Christ in that final and dramatic way. Still, the same question is put equally to all believers, whether or not they are to die as martyrs. James, the elder son of Zebedee, was actually put to death with a sword, according to Acts 12:2, which may be read as a partial fulfillment of the prophecy in Matthew 20:23 and Mark 10:39.45 But it was also well known that his brother John, though he suffered many things for the name of Christ, was not actually put to death by the enemies of the gospel. Did he any less drink of the cup of Christ’s sufferings? Was not he too a martyr?

The Tradition emphatically says yes. “What is expressed by ‘cup’ except the torment of the Passion?” asked Ambrose Autpert, and then went on to comment: “We all know that James was beheaded by Herod, while John died peacefully. But both of them drank of the cup, for the one was crowned with an open martyrdom and the other was martyred in secret.”46 Origen believed John’s exile on the island of Patmos to be a kind of martyrdom,47 while Rupert of Deutz thought that John amply fulfilled the Lord’s cup-prophecy by standing beside the Mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross and watching the Savior die, the only one of the Twelve so to do.48 Other commentators made similar observations to the same effect.49

Whether or not we are to die as martyrs in the strictest sense, then, the questions put to the sons of Zebedee stand at the center of our participation in baptism and the Eucharist. The sacraments of the Church, these dominical questions show, are the proper setting for stating and renewing our commitment to the mystery of the cross. As in the case of Nero’s Rome, the Lord’s questions to Zebedee’s sons indicate how some Christians may be called upon to die; but more especially they proclaim how all Christians are summoned to live.

Notes:

1. Such is the testimony of the manuscripts generally. Some copies and early versions (Syriac and Boharic) of Matthew, as well as patristic citations, have been inflated with the more ample wording from Mark, an inflation long rendered popular among us by the King James Bible. All of the other manuscript variants in the two texts are fairly minor, requiring no further reference to critical textual matters in this study. For exegetical purposes, the two passages are solid.

2. Cf. P. H. Reardon, “The Cross, Sacraments and Martyrdom: An Investigation of Mark 10:35–45,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 36/1&2 (1992), esp. pp. 111–114.

3. Unwilling to burden this article with too many technical points, I will be sticking almost entirely with primary sources. Where I am dependent on secondary literature, the relevant sources are cited in the article mentioned in the previous note.

4. Cited in Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History 3.39.15 (Bibliotheke Hellenon Pateron [hereafter BEP] 19.281).

5. Text in D. de Bruyne, “Les plus anciens prologues latins des Evangiles,” Revue Bénédictine 40 (1928), pp. 193–214. This and all other translations are my own.

6. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses 3.1.2 (PG 7A.845).

7. Quoted in Eusebius, Church History 2:15.1–2 (BEP 19.236f); 6.14.6–7 (360).

8. Eusebius, Church History 2.25.4–8 (BEP 19.247f). From another writer of about 200, Clement of Alexandria, we learn that Peter’s wife was also martyred and that Peter was a witness to it; cf. Stromata 7.11 (BEP 8.274).

9. Tertullian, De Praescriptione 36.3 (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina [hereafter CCL] 1.216): “ubi Petrus passioni dominicae adaequatur. . . .”

10. Clement of Rome, Ad Corinthios 5.4 (BEP 1.15); Ignatius of Antioch, Romans 4 (BEP 2.275).

11. “Glorifying God” was, in context, nearly a technical term for martyrdom; cf. 1 Peter 4:16; Martyrium Polycarpi 14.3 (BEP 3.25); 19.2 (26).

12. Tertullian, Scorpiace 15.3 (CCL 2.1097).

13. Cf. Pseudo-Barnabas 12.1–4 (BEP 2.237); Justin Martyr, Apologia Prima 35 (BEP 3.179); Dialogus cum Tryphone 98 (BEP 3.300) and 114 (313); Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 4.33.12 (PG 7A.1081A); Cyprian of Carthage, Testimonia 2.20 (PL 4.715A). Cf. also Epictetus, Discourses 3.26.22.

14. Cf. Tacitus, Annals 15.38; Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars 6.38.

15. Tacitus, Annals 15.44.

16. Eusebius, Church History 3.39.1–4 (BEP 19.279f).

17. Ibid. 3.39.15 (281).

18. Mark 8:27; 9:33f; 10:17,32,46,52. Each of these passages may be contrasted, in this respect, to their parallels in Matthew and Luke. While Matt. 20:30 and Luke 18:36 do have the word hodos found in Mark 10:46, it is missing in every other instance of synoptic parallels to those verses in Mark. This fact indicates clearly that we are dealing with a special Marcan accent on the “way” of the cross.

19. This irony was noted by John Chrysostom, Homiliae in Matthaeum 65.2 (PG 58.618); Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job 17.7.9 (CCL 143A.856); the anonymous Speculum Virginum 7 (Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Medievalis [hereafter CCM] 5.242); and Rupert of Deutz, In Joannis Evangelium 3.2 (CCM 9.132f).

20. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1.21.2 (BEP 5.138); Basil, De Spiritu Sancto 35 (PG 32.129A); Chrysostom, Homilae in Joannem 25.2 (PG 59.151); Haymo of Halberstadt, Homiliae de Tempore 38 (PL 11.239A–B); Rupert of Deutz, De Divinis Officiis 6.15 (CCM 7.197); In Joannis Evangelium 13.19 (CCM 9.751).

21. Clement of Alexandria, Paidagogos 1.6 (BEP 7.101); Augustine, De Civitate Dei 16.2 (CCL 48.500); Tractatus in Joannem 28.5 (CCL 36.279); Enarrationes in Psalmos 126.4 (CCL 40.1859f); Fulgentius of Ruspe, Epistola XIV ad Ferrandum 41 (CCL 91.435f); Paschasius Radbertus, Epistola ad Fredugardum (CCM 16.158); Ambrose Autpert, In Apocalypsin 5 (CCM 27.415).

22. Chrysostom, De Petitione Filiorum Zebedaei 5 (PG 48.775).

23. Hippolytus, Refutatio Omnium Haeresium 5.8 (Patristische Texte und Studien 25.157).

24. Indeed, the dominical logion in Mark 10 was also taken to imply that when catechumens were martyred, the martyrdom supplied for baptism itself; cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 3.10 (BEP 39.63).

25. Martyrium Polycarpi 14 (BEP 3.25).

26. Chrysostom, In Primam ad Corinthios 32 (PG 61.271); cf. also his Homiliae in Matthaeum 65 (PG 72.619–620).

27. “martyrii poculum”—Cyprian, Epistolae 57.2.2 (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 3B.652).

28. “poculum martyrorum”—Tertullian, Scorpiace 12 (PL 2.148A).

29. “imitandus calix passionis”—Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job 17.7.9 (CCL 143A.856).

30. E.g., Augustine, Sermones de Scripturis 142.6 (PL 58.781); Enarrationes in Psalmos 37.16 (CCL 38.394); Rupert of Deutz, De Divinis Officiis 6.15 (CCM 7.198).

31. Origen, Exhortatio ad Martyrium 28–30 (BEP 9.51f); Selecta in Psalmos 115 (PG 12.1577B–C); In Matthaeum 16:5–6 (BEP 14.28–31). Cf. also his Homiliae in Jeremiam 12.2 (BEP 11.75–77).

32. Athanasius, Epistolae Heorasticae 5.3 (PG 26.1381).

33. Basil, In Psalmos 115 (PG 30.109); Didymus the Blind, Expositio in Psalmos 115 (PG 39.1556); Theodoret of Cyr, In Psalmos 115 (PG 80.1804A–B).

34. Jerome, Tractatus in Librum Psalmorum 115.13–15 (CCL 78.243f); Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos 115.5 (CCL 40.1655); Cassiodorus, Expositio in Psalmos 115.13 (CCL 98.1043); Haymo of Halberstadt, Homiliae de Tempore 38 (PL 118.239A); Gerard of Csanad, Deliberatio Supra Hymnum Trium Puerorum 5 (CCM 49.70); Thomas of Chobham, Sermones 10 (CCM 82A.105).

35. This item argues that Mark’s version of the story represents a simplification of an event that Matthew narrates in more precise detail, a point perfectly obvious to every church father who commented on the matter (e.g., Chrysostom, De Petitione Filiorum Zebedaei 4 [PG 48.773]). In contrast, E. P. Blair, J. C. Fenton and others have argued that Matthew invented the story about their mother so that James and John would not look quite so bad. The latter is a gratuitous and truly pathetic theory.

36. Gregory Nazianzen, Orationes 37.14 (PG 36.300B).

37. Ambrose, De Fide 5.56 (PL 16.688A).

38. “errore muliebri”—Paul the Deacon, Homiliae 84 (PL 95.1249D).

39. “apo haplotetos kai idioteias”—Origen, In Matthaeum 16.4 (BEP 14.21).

40. “fervore muliebri incitata”—Haymo of Halberstadt, Homiliae de Tempore 38 (PL 118.238D).

41. Paschasius Radbertus, In Matthaeum 9.20 (CCL 56B.992–993).

42. Eric of Auxerre, Homiliae 2.2 (CCL 116B.18).

43. John Chrysostom, Homiliae in Matthaeum 65.2 (PG 58.618).

44. Compare Matt. 27:56 with Mark 15:40; cf. also Mark 16:1.

45. Thus, Origen, In Matthaeum 16.6 (PG 13.1385A), and Chrysostom, In Acta Apostolorum 26.2 (PG 60.199).

46. Ambrose Autpert, In Apocalypsin 4 (CCM 27.284).

47. Origen, In Matthaeum 16.6 (PG 13.1385); also Fragmenta Syriaca in Matthaeum 403 (BEP 14.347).

48. Rupert of Deutz, In Joannis Evangelium 14 (CCM 9.788).

49. Cf. Rather of Verona, De Translatione Sancti Metronis 12 (CCM 46.26); Peter Damien, Sermones 64.2 (CCM 57.377).


Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of Christ in the Psalms, Christ in His Saints, and The Trial of Job (all from Conciliar Press). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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