The Dispute about Greatness

Matt. 18.1-5

Mark 9.33-37

Luke 9.46-48

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is greater in the kingdom of heaven?"

2 He called a little and put it among them,

3 and said, "Truly 1 you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was greater. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all". 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them,

46 An argument arose among them as to who of them was greater.

47 But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side,

48 and said to them,

207. See below chapter 15 n. 278.

208. One of the famous 'minor agreements' between Matthew and Luke over against Mark.

this little child is greater in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such little child in name

"Whoever welcomes one of such little children in name

"Whoever welcomes this little child in name

welcomes me".

welcomes me. and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me".

welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for he who is lesser among all of you, that one is great".

The basic picture is the same as before. The constants are clear: the disciples' dispute about who was greater; Jesus' rebuke by drawing a little child into the company; and the core saying which climaxes the story. Each retelling elaborates the basic outline in the Evangelist's own way (Mark 9.35; Matt. 18.3-4; Luke 9.48c). Mark and Luke were able also to use the fuller tradition of Jesus' speaking about 'the one who sent me' (Mark 9.37b/Luke 9.48b). And here again the low degree of verbal interdependence tells against literary interdependence, whereas the mix of constancy and flexibility is more suggestive of an oral mode of performance.209

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