The blocks of aphorisms in Mark, Matthew and Luke

"The lack of logical coherence in certain passages, such as the discourses attributed to Jesus, suggest that they may be ..... extracts from a sayings source or sources "
W. R. Telford, "Mark", in "The Synoptic Gospels", J.Riches et al. (Sheffield Academic Press, 2001, p.159)

Introduction

Each synoptic gospel has several blocks of aphorisms, a block being here taken to be text comprising at least two adjacent sayings units, in which each unit contains a part or full aphorism. However the units must not be closely related in meaning (e.g. all linked together by parallelism as in e.g. Mk 2:21-22 or Mt 13:44-48). Such a block would be much too coherent to suggest an external source.

Each block must be unsourced, by which I mean that a block is not dependent on a similar block in an earlier gospel, and therefore its source is yet to be determined. Thus Mt 16:24-28 contains 4 aphorisms (16:24b, 25, 27a, 28) with some elaboration (16:24a, 26, 27b). But it clearly depends on Mk 8:34-9:1 which contains the same 4 aphorisms in the same order (though differently elaborated) and is therefore not an unsourced block of aphorisms.

In any block there may be some extra verses deemed to be redactional. These are restricted to no more than half a verse per aphoristic sayings unit on average, in order to ensure that the block can reasonably be described as a block of aphorisms.


Overview of the blocks in the synoptic gospels

Mark Matthew Luke
text full or part extra text full or part extra text full or part extra
  aphorisms verses   aphorisms verses   aphorisms verses
4:21-25 4 1 5:3-15 3 1 6:20b-49 12 3
8:34b - 9:1 4 2 5:29-32 2 1 9:57 - 10:12 5 1
9:35b-37 2 1 6:19-7:27 13 3.5 11:27-35 4 0.5
9:40-50a 5 2 10:5b-42 12 3 11:39b-52 7 1
11:23-25 3 0 18:12-15 2 1 12:2-12 2 1
13:9-11 5 0 23:11-13 3 0 12:51-59 4 2
13:21-22 2 0 23:23-36 4 1 16:17-18 2 0
13:31-33 2 1 24:26-28 3 0 17:1-6 3 1
      24:37-44 3 0 17:23-27 3 1
            17:33-37 3 1



In the following tables, '--' indicates verse(s) which I take to be the gospel writer's redaction (i.e. his own composition).

Blocks in Mark

 verse(s)  my aphorism label  my logia id
 
 4:21  lamp  A3
 4:22  hidden  B9
 4:23  --  
 4:24  measure  A13
 4:25  more given  C20
 
 8:34b  cross  B11
 8:35  save/lose  B12
 8:36-37  --  
 8:38  ashamed  B9
 9:1  power  C12
 
 9:35b  first/last  C10
 9:36  --  
 9:37  welcomes me  B13
 
 9:40  for/against  B14
 9:41  cup of water  B2
 9:42  stumbling block  C9
 9:43,45,47  cut it off  A6
 9:48-49  --  
 9:50a  salt  A2
 
 11:23  faith  C17
 11:24  ask  A19
 11:25  forgive  C1
 
 13:9  hand you over  B8
 13:10  to all nations  B7
 13:11  hand you over  B8
 13:12  father vs. son  B10
 13:13  hated/endure  B6
 
 13:21  false messiahs  D9
 13:22  look here or there  D8
 
 13:31  heaven & earth  A4
 13:32  --  
 13:33  keep awake  D14

All the aphorisms in my seven blocks of aphorisms are included within the five compilations of sayings observed by William Telford (c.f. the quotation at the top of this web page)

Blocks in Matthew

 verse(s)  my aphorism label  my logia id
 
 5:3-12  blessings  A1
 5:13  salt  A2
 5:14  --  
 5:15  lamp  A3
 
 5:29-30  right eye  A6
 5:31  --  
 5:32  divorce  A7
 
 6:19-21  treasures  C18
 6:22-23a  healthy eye  C3
 6:23b  --  
 6:24  two masters  C16
 6:25-33  life's necessities  C19
 6:34  --  
 7:1-2  do not judge  A14
 7:3-5  a log in your eye  A13
 7:6  pearls to pigs  A15
 7:7-11  ask then receive  A19
 7:12  golden rule  A20
 7:13-14  two gates  A16
 7:15-18  good tree  A17
 7:19-20  --  
 7:21-23  disowned  A21
 7:24-27  rock or sand  A22
 
 10:5b-15  mission instructions  B4
 10:16  lambs among wolves  B5
 10:17-20  help in testifying  B8
 10:21  --  
 10:22  hated by all  B6
 10:23  through all Israel  B7
 10:24-25  teacher/disciple  A10
 10:26-33  bold confession  B9
 10:34-35  a sword  B10
 10:36  --  
 10:37-38  my disciple?  B11
 10:39  losing one's life  B12
 10:40  welcome  B13
 10:41  --  
 10:42  cup of water  B2
 
 18:12-13  lost sheep  C15
 18:14  --  
 18:15  forgiveness  C8
 
 23:11  great/servant  C10
 23:12  humble exalted  C11
 23:13  following Jesus  D1
 
 23:23-24  tithe mint  D3
 23:25-26  clean cup  D2
 23:27  whitewashed tombs  D5
 23:28  --  
 23:29-36  memorials  D7
 
 24:26  hearsay  D9
 24:27  lightning  D10
 24:28  vultures  D11
 
 24:37-39  in the days of Noah  D12
 24:40-41  taken or left  D13
 24:42-44  keep awake  D14

The texts Mt 18:8-9 and 24:35 are aphorisms. They are close to the fifth and ninth blocks respectively. But comparisons with Mark show that they are clearly both taken from that earlier gospel and therefore they do not directly indicate an external source and so neither of them should be included in a block.

Blocks in Luke

 verse(s)  my aphorism label  my logia id
 
 6:20b-23  blessings  A1
 6:24-26  -- (woes)  
 6:27-30  love your enemies  A8
 6:31  golden rule  A20
 6:32-36  love your enemies  A8
 6:37-38  do not judge  A14
 6:39  blind guide  A9
 6:40  teacher/disciple  A10
 6:41-42  a log in your eye  A13
 6:43-44  good tree  A17
 6:45  good treasure  A18
 6:46  why call me Lord, Lord  C16
 6:47-49  rock or sand  A22
 
 9:57-62  following Jesus  B1
 10:1  --  
 10:2  harvest  B3
 10:3a  go  B4
 10:3b  lambs among wolves  B5
 10:4-12  mission instructions  B4
 
 11:27-28  womb  C7
 11:29a  --  
 11:29b-32  request for a sign  C5
 11:33  lighting a lamp  A3
 11:34-35  eye as lamp  C3
 
 11:39b-41  clean cup  D2
 11:42  tithe mint  D3
 11:43  craving respect  D4
 11:44  unmarked graves  D5
 11:45  --  
 11:46  burdens  D6
 11:47-51  memorials  D7
 11:52  hinder entrance  D1
 
 12:2-9  bold confession  B9
 12:10  --  
 12:11-12  help in testifying  B8
 
 12:51  no peace  B10
 12:52  --  
 12:53  family division  B10
 12:54-56  weather signs  C13
 12:57  --  
 12:58-59  your accuser  A5
 
 16:17  law  A4
 16:18  divorce  A7
 
 17:1-2  millstone  C9
 17:3-4  forgiveness  C8
 17:5  --  
 17:6  mulberry tree  C17
 
 17:23  hearsay  D9
 17:24  lightning  D10
 17:25  --  
 17:26-27  in the days of Noah  D12
 
 17:33  losing one's life  B12
 17:34-35  taken or left  D13
 17:37a  --  
 17:37b  vultures  D11


If the aphorisms indicated in the above tables had been in the minds of the respective synoptic authors, they would surely have been better integrated into their accounts.
The 27 sayings blocks contain a total of 117 aphoristic texts representing 64 different logia sayings. The latter two numbers show clearly that a particular saying may be wholly or partially present in a block in more than one gospel. Indeed seven of the 72 logia sayings (A3, A13, B8, B9, B10, B12, D9) are attested in blocks in all three synoptic gospels.
None of these blocks appear to be dependent on a different gospel. Indeed the evidence points to the probability that they were all dependent on non-synoptic source(s). Moreover the fact that 64% (41/64) of the sayings attested in the blocks are present in part or in full in blocks in at least two synoptic gospels, strongly suggests that each synoptic writer had access to a copy of the same pre-Markan written collection of aphorisms.