The Sabbath was not Made for Matthew and Luke

In a recent post I mentioned Jesus' statement (recorded in Mark 2:27) about the Sabbath being made for human beings, not vice versa. A commenter asked about the omission of this statement from the other Gospels, and I thought the subject deserved a follow-up post of its own.

The other Gospels omit that element from Mark, and in so doing turn the rest of the saying into a Christological one, meaning Jesus the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, whereas what Jesus said in Mark meant “the human being is lord of the Sabbath.”

Ironically, the NIV interprets Mark's account in the way that Matthew and Luke did, as being about Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath.


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  • dangjin

    “about the Sabbath not being made for human beings, but vice versa” Are you sure you got that statement right for Mark 2″27 specifically states that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

    • James F. McGrath

      Whoops! Thanks for catching that blunder, I will fix it…

  • Scott__F

    “Ironically, the NIV interprets Mark’s account in the way that Matthew and Luke did, as being about Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath.”

    Ironically? “Sadly” is more like it? Ken Schenk had a good take on the NIV’s history of “fixing up” the scriptures (

  • smijer

    I don’t understand “NIV … Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath”.

    I checked and it seems 2:27 is nearly identical in most of the translations, including the NIV, and all express that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way round.

    2:28, in all translations, seems to indicate that the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.

    Is there something unique about the NIV’s presentation of either that I am missing? Does 2:28 not suggest Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath in each version?

    • Peter Kirk

      Indeed. NIV is identical to NRSV in Mark 2:27-28, except for NRSV “humankind” and NIV “man” in v.27, and some minor capitalization differences which don’t affect the meaning. Both versions clearly imply that v.28 refers to Jesus. So why are having a go at NIV and not NRSV? Could it be because one version is “evangelical” and the other “liberal” or “scholarly”?

      • James F. McGrath

        The point is that “son of man” means “human being” and so the natural way to understand Mark’s version is that Jesus is saying that a human being is lord of the Sabbath, rather than vice versa. The other Gospels interpret son of man as a title for Jesus and thus treat the statement as Christological in nature. The heading in the NIV, not part of the text, reads that interpretation back into Mark.

        • Peter Kirk

          OK, understood about the heading. But my point is that any version which capitalizes “Son of Man” is reading that same interpretation back into Mark, if perhaps more subtly. And nearly every version seems to do that.

          Now I am sure some scholars would dispute whether “son of man” ever simply means “human being” in the New Testament, even in Hebrews 2:6. But that is another issue, one on which I won’t take a side.

          • James F. McGrath

            It’s a fair point that the capitalization does read the others back too, even if more subtly. Thank you for making it!