Problem: Jesus tries to keep a secret in front of great crowds
Verses: Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-44; Status: Minor

At several points, Jesus tries to keep his status as Son of God a secret. This is known as the Messianic Secret and occurs mostly in Mark. But this is Matthew 8:1-4:

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them." (ESV)

This makes little sense. The great crowds would surely have seen what has occurred, so how can it be kept a secret? I suppose inerrantists will say that the crowds were not necessarily that close to Jesus, and for this reason I file the problem as Minor.

However, to academic Bible scholars, it is obvious what has happened. Matthew, who used Mark as a source, has been sloppy in his copying. He has repeated the incident from Mark, but has added "great crowds" for dramatic effect. These crowds are simply not present in Mark's version, and Matthew evidently did not notice that adding them would create a problem.

Updated: Summer 2008

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