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If to fear God is the beginning of wisdom, then to not fear God
Theological Bias of Synoptic Gospels
In contrast to the two eyewitness Gospels of Jesus' public ministry and message, the Synoptic Gospels are compilations of second, third, or later hand accounts that were gathered together some twenty to forty years after the fact. This was done because not only had Jesus not returned as expected but the information about what Jesus had done and said was being lost with the passage of time and the loss of living disciples and other people with the memories of either the events or the stories of the events. The Gospel of Mark was clearly the first effort to gather, compile and document some of the basic content, and evidently this content was copied and distributed to a fair extent. The compilers of Matthew–maybe in Antioch, a Christian center– and Luke in Rome clearly used the content of Mark as a starting text while gathering additional material to supplement.
It has already been mentioned that such content as is in the Synoptic Gospels would not be allowed in a United States court of law, and thus would be precluded or thrown out as unreliable hearsay. The decades of time lapse, the fallible human chain of the verbal retellings, the fading memories, the general or extensive loss of context, the natural predisposition to embellish and exaggerate, etc., make it sound like this material is practically worthless. Actually, considering all this, it wasn't all good nor all that bad. Evidently there was a special awareness of its significance, and some serious attempt to stay faithful to the genuine meaning, although an understanding of the true meaning was often lacking. The final results are far from perfect: there are many discrepancies, much loss of context, loss of sequence, loss of critical accuracy in some places, re-phrasings, some embellishments, some fabricated aspects or accounts, some jumbled together or otherwise garbled statements, etc. We see all of the expected flaws in a wide variety of these communications that took place two decades earlier and passed down verbally by memory. See: Selecting and Rejecting Gospel Material
Yet, what is far worse than the factors described above is the fact that neither these compilers nor the repeaters of the sayings and the accounts were personally close disciples who had been exposed to the full-blown radical contrast in the life and message of Jesus versus the ancient paradigm based on God the lawgiver and the legalism that infuses it. The story tellers and compilers were not "converted" adequately to the vision given by Jesus, but generally were Jews that had not fully or completely divorced themselves from this traditional paradigm and legalistic thinking. This is critical to see, and yet almost unnoted and unmentioned in Christendom.
Of more general interest is a deep and unwarranted yet common assumption that the intellectual culture of the day, whether Greek, Roman or Palestinian, had adequate concepts and or words to describe psychological or spiritual aspects of reality. In the case of "demon possession" we know they did NOT.
That the material in the Synoptic Gospels is just not suitable for the development or delineation of critical theological issues and positions should be an easily reached conclusion. Just as easy should be the realization that the Synoptic Gospel compilers each had his own agenda, and they all had a built-in bias for at least a watered-down version of legalism.
So, when we look at a passage like Matthew 5:25,26, it usually is not made clear that this passage is embellished and/or distorted. Jesus is not fostering gifts at the altar, and he is not speaking legalistically but may have been giving advice, or an illustration of what can happen in that legalistic society. Such an issue or situation could never even arise with true believers, who would never have a formal organization like a temple or church, and give funds to it.
"If then you offer your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and coming, then offer your gift. Quickly be fair with your adversary, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison; truly, I say to you, in no way will you get out until you pay the last penny."
Given that Jesus did NOT say anything at all about the couple of hundred important aspects and issues that concern us in our lives, it is reasonable to challenge this whole passage as not being genuine. See: Why Jesus Didn't Say.
In fact, much of Matthew 5 & 6 is very hard to reconcile with the greater message of Jesus, and it is telling that none of this material is found in the Gospel of Mark, the underlying source for most of the content in the Gospel of Matthew. These chapters generally sounds like a school master lecture, are negative and not inspiring at all. Most probably, much of this material did not originate with Jesus, but was delivered to the compilers by some self-appointed and overzealous embellisher.