Matthew uses the Greek word 'seismos' in 8:24. This word is used 9 times in the NT and 8 of the 9 times it is translated as "earthquake." In Matthew 8:24 most translations translate it "storm" (NIV,NLT, NASB). Assuming that Matthew had Mark as his source, he would have had to intentionally use a different word.

Mark and Luke use the Greek 'lailaps' meaning fierce gale.

Obviously most Biblical translators assume 'seismos' to mean storm but is there possibly a deeper meaning? What would be Matthew's goal in using a different word?

  • What evidence do you have to make the assumption that 'Matthew had Mark as his source' ? – – Nigel J Jan 8 at 2:27
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    Obviously we cannot know for sure, but: – S. Broberg Jan 9 at 14:50
  • got timed out - Obviously, we cannot know for sure, but: 1. approx. 90% of Mark is either in Matthew or Luke. It seems unlikely that Mark would have edited down (unlike scribe behavior), rather Matt. or Lk. expand for explanation. 2. Mk leaves out a large amt. of important material that Mt./Lk. include. 3. When Mt. or Lk. differ from Mk they almost never agree with each other. 4. Mt./Lk. tend to alter difficult, offensive, or theologically difficult readings. They smooth them out. These come from Dr. Mark Strauss. His commentary on Mark can be found here: tinyurl.com/vx6o962 – S. Broberg Jan 9 at 15:10
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    Another explanation is that Matthew, as is far more likely historically, is much earlier (about 40 AD) and Mark, later, read Matthew and saw, astutely, within it, another book. Mark saw within the pages of Matthew that another, distinct facet of the Person of Christ could be expressed with very much the same material but differently presented. – Nigel J Jan 9 at 16:47

"What would be Matthew's goal in using a different word?"

Matthew 8:24 specifies that it was only the sea that became violent, so the "result" was a tempest, not an earthquake. The earth is not mentioned. Clearly, the Greek, "seismos" covers that result. Moreover, Verse 26 instructs us that the "causation" of that result was the wind, not an upheaval of the earth:

And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

In each of the other NT occasions that "seismos" was translated as "earthquake", the result, the causation, or both mandated the use of the word "earthquake", because the earth actually quaked in each of those cases.

Re: Matthew:27:54, verse 51 states:

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

Likewise, Matthew 28:2, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11, Acts 16:26, and Revelation 6:12; 8:5; 11:13; and 16:18 clearly indicate an upheaval of the earth, not the sea.

Even in Revelation 11:19, though the temple of God was opened in heaven, it cannot be taken that there was a shaking of that temple, or of that heaven where that temple was located.

Although translators and commentators may vary in strictness and understanding, there does not appear to be a difficulty between the INSPIRED WRITERS PERSONAL CHOICE OF INSPIRED WORDS and the INSPIRED WORDS USED--ALL IS WELL.

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Both Mark and Luke use the phrase λαῖλαψ ἀνέμου (lailaps anemon) rather than the single word λαῖλαψ (lailaps) - meaning literally storm of wind. Both the King James and NASB retain the literal phrase in their translations - storm of wind in the KJV, gale of wind in the NASB.

I point this out because I think it is the wind that is important here in understanding Matthew's choice of words. In the Greek Septuagint, σεισμός (seismos) represents variously the unvocalized Hebrew words רעש (r's), סערת (s'rt), and עור ('wr). Not all of the usages of these Hebrew words represent earthquake. Take Jeremiah 23:19, for example:

הִנֵּ֣ה׀ סַעֲרַ֣ת יְהוָ֗ה חֵמָה֙ יָֽצְאָ֔ה וְסַ֖עַר מִתְחוֹלֵ֑ל עַ֛ל רֹ֥אשׁ רְשָׁעִ֖ים יָחֽוּל׃

ἰδοὺ σεισμὸς παρὰ κυρίου καὶ ὀργὴ ἐκπορεύεται εἰς συσσεισμόν, συστρεφομένη ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς ἥξει.

Behold, the storm of the LORD has gone forth in wrath, Even a whirling tempest; It will swirl down on the head of the wicked.

The understanding in antiquity was that Matthew first composed his Gospel in Aramaic and that it was later translated into Greek (see, e.g. Eusebius Church History, 4th c., or Theophylact's introduction to his commentary on Matthew, 10th c. Byzantine), though modern western scholars dispute this. Accepting the earlier hypotheses, however, one might conclude that whatever Matthew originally put down in Aramaic was understood to be identical in meaning to what Mark and Luke wrote in Greek. It would also seem that whoever eventually translated Matthew's Gospel into Greek, assuming this is what happened, did so possibly without consulting what Mark or Luke had put down.

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