A Comparison Between Matthew and Mark

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A Comparison between Matthew and Mark

While both books of Mark and Matthew depict Peter as a significant follower of Jesus, Mark focuses more on Jesus’ spiritual journey, whereas Matthew delves deeper into the various aspects of Jesus’ life. Peter consistently emerges as Jesus’ foremost disciple in both narratives. However, the two passages present contrasting portrayals of this distinguished disciple. In Matthew, Peter assumes a more prominent role in Jesus’ teachings and holds greater significance throughout the book. In Mark, although still important, Peter’s role is comparatively diminished in the eyes of the author. Mark even excludes Peter from certain stories and only briefly mentions his importance to Jesus towards the very end. These discrepancies in the narratives pertaining to Peter provide slightly diverging accounts of his personality and role.

Both Matthew 4.18 and Mark 1.16 introduce Peter as one of Jesus’ initial followers, depicting Jesus’ speech to Simon (also known as Peter) and his brother in a similar manner. Jesus said, “‘Follow me and I will make you fish for the people'” (Matthew 4.19, Mark 1.17). The brothers responded by immediately leaving their nets and following him (4.20, 1.18). This narrative demonstrates the unwavering dedication of Peter and his brother towards their leader right from the beginning. Despite being prosperous fishermen, they abandoned everything for a stranger, an act that required faith. Both authors include this story among their teachings to highlight Jesus’ leadership prowess and the devotion of his followers.

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In the story of Jesus walking on water, Matthew’s account (Matthew 14.22-14.33) differs from Mark’s version (Mark 6.47-6.52). In Matthew’s version, Peter plays a significant role by calling out to Jesus when he sees him on the water and asking to come to him (Mt.14.28). Although Peter initially succeeds in walking on water, his fear causes him to start sinking. Jesus scolds him for doubting and having little faith (14.31). This portrayal of Peter shows that he actively participates in Jesus’ teachings rather than just listening passively. This participation is further demonstrated in Matthew 15:15 when Peter asks Jesus to explain a parable, despite Jesus responding impatiently. Their close relationship allows for open communication where Peter can seek clarity and deeper understanding without being deterred by impatience shown by Jesus. The gospel highlights Jesus’ favoritism towards Peter, seen in the transfiguration and throughout the gospel, suggesting a friendship built on trust and mutual respect. This bond facilitates honest and informal communication between them, which is emphasized by Matthew but overlooked by Mark as it does not significantly convey the message of the LordNonetheless, the reader gains a deeper understanding of how the divine Jesus engaged with his close companions and displayed his human qualities in daily life through these glimpses into their interaction.

Peter’s conviction in Jesus is evident from his daring feat of walking on water in Matthew’s narrative. His unwavering faith enables him to set aside his apprehensions and trust God wholeheartedly, emulating the purity displayed by his teacher. In this brief episode, he demonstrates a remarkable ability to surpass his fellow disciples in both courage and faith. Despite his remarkable progress, however, Peter’s mortal fears prevent him from attaining the same level of unwavering belief that Jesus possesses. With his life hanging in the balance, God seems distant and ethereal, making it challenging to maintain one’s trust in such dire circumstances. Mark’s omission of this account may signify a certain intention to disregard or downplay its significance. One possible interpretation is that he believes only Jesus, the Savior himself, can produce such miracles, and including this story could undermine Jesus’ power. Alternatively, Mark may desire to shield Peter from potential humiliation by portraying him as weak and lacking in faith. Nonetheless, this parable continues to hold significant value for all followers of Jesus, as it explores the dichotomy between humanity’s fears and material attachments and Jesus’ selflessness, while also offering further insights into Peter’s character.

The main difference between the two stories lies in Peter’s confession. In both Matthew 16.13 and Mark 8.30, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter responds in both accounts. However, in Mark, he simply states, “You are the Messiah.” On the other hand, in Matthew’s version, he adds “…the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16.16). This addition may serve to clarify Jesus’ role and make a stronger statement. It is possible that Mark considered this detail unimportant as he focuses on concisely telling the story. Interestingly though, Mark entirely omits Jesus’ subsequent speech that holds significance for Peter’s portrayal. In this speech, Jesus continues to praise Peter:

son of Jonah! For mortal humans do not have

My father in revealed this to you, but

Heaven and I will inform you that you are Peter.

and the gates of Hades will not be able to overcome

against it, I will give you the keys of

What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.

Whatever you loose on earth will en.

Jesus not only presents several intriguing religious ideas in this speech, but also sheds light on Peter’s spirituality. The portrayal is of a man with religious wisdom who has earned the respect of both Jesus and God. However, Mark excludes this lengthy discourse, possibly because it deviates too much from the message he wants to convey about Jesus’ life, appearing as a trivial detail. Another hypothesis, which is widely debated among scholars, suggests that Mark may be attempting to narrate Jesus’ story from Peter’s perspective. This would explain why the story of walking on water, which could potentially embarrass Peter, is omitted by the author. Consequently, a speech like this would be disregarded in order to create a modest depiction of the follower that is understated and unassuming.

If this theory were true, it would clarify many confusing aspects of Mark. For instance, the absence of the story of Jesus’ birth can be explained by Peter’s lack of connection to that time period and its lack of importance to the message God intends to convey. In the first chapter, Peter is swiftly introduced. If the book were written from Peter’s perspective, solely focusing on Jesus’ teachings, it would not include Peter’s personal experiences or opinions. Instead, Peter would portray himself as a humble and devoted follower of a divine man. The absence of first-person narration is not surprising, as it is uncommon in ancient storytelling, especially in the Bible. Furthermore, the author of Mark is not actually Peter himself, even though the author chooses to write from his viewpoint. The main focus remains on Jesus, so there is no need to complicate matters by adding a main character who narrates. By depicting Jesus through Peter’s viewpoint, the author aims to portray him as a spiritual leader at his peak. Peter is an ideal perspective to adopt due to his close proximity and unwavering devotion, which allowed him to witness Jesus’ miracles and the fulfillment of prophecy.

Mark’s portrayal of Peter in the denial scenes (14.66-72) is the most significant in Peter’s role throughout the book. Unlike the other disciples, Peter accompanies Jesus to his trial. As predicted by Jesus earlier, Peter denies any association with his teacher three times while anxiously awaiting news of his friend, prioritizing his own life over loyalty. In Matthew, this event is similarly depicted but with slightly different wording. The inclusion of this personal account of Peter raises the question of why Mark chose to include it at the story’s conclusion. Though it imparts important lessons about humanity, other passages excluded by Mark also convey similar messages. However, this particular scene resonates deeply; it illustrates how a man forsakes his closest companion to save himself. Jesus’ prophecy is realized in this moment, exposing the unintentional cruelty that resides within human souls. Matthew also paints a bleak picture of this event, and both authors conclude the chapter with the poignant depiction of Peter breaking down and weeping (Mark 14.72). While shedding light on Peter, this story is closely intertwined with Jesus, for when facing one’s final moments, friendships and personal bonds hold great significance. It reveals Jesus’ profound solitude during this time and the personal anguish he experiences over his friend specifically, all as part of fulfilling an eternal plan. Both authors treat this passage with equal importance to Jesus’ teachings and his death.

The authors of Mark and Matthew have distinct goals in summarizing Jesus’ life. Matthew offers a comprehensive portrayal, delving into all aspects of Jesus’ existence and showcasing his many intrigues. Conversely, Mark focuses on conveying Jesus’ teachings and actions rather than detailing his followers’ activities. This disparity shapes Peter’s significance, resulting in two contrasting depictions of him. In Matthew, Peter’s personality unfolds through several profound passages, highlighting him as a lively and loyal friend and follower. However, in Mark, Peter is depicted simply as one of the disciples, albeit more important than others but still overshadowed by Jesus. The absence of certain crucial passages casts a shadow over Peter’s portrayal, presenting him more humbly compared to the outspoken and involved figure depicted in Matthew. Nonetheless, Peter’s unwavering faith and deep devotion to Jesus distinguish him among the disciples in both accounts, leading him to experience anguish and despair over denying and losing his friend and teacher.

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A Comparison Between Matthew and Mark. (2018, Sep 11). Retrieved from


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