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James the Tax Collector?

In a previous post, we saw that there was a western reading that named James as the tax collector in Mark 2:14 due to the scribe’s confusion over the fact that both Levi and James are identified as the son of Alphaeus. This textual variant is crucial to the theory of Benjamin Bacon’s Studies in Matthew (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1930), 39-40. He supposes that this reading was known to the scribe who transmitted the list of the twelve that we find in Matthew 10:2-4 and, in adjusting the list to Mark’s narrative account, he inserted the marginal note “the tax collector” between the names of “Matthew” and “James the son of Alphaeus.” The scribe understood the latter figure to be the tax collector, but the Gospel writer read the note and assumed that “the tax collector” was appended to Matthew’s name and this is the basis for changing the tax collector’s name to Matthew in 9:3. A few of the problems with this theory is that it presupposes that this textual variant is very old, pre-dating the Gospel of Matthew, and that the author of Matthew’s Gospel inherited a list in which the name Matthew immediately preceded the name James. The theory would not work if it was the writer of Matthew’s Gospel who simply revised Mark’s list (Mark 3:16-19) and switched the order of Matthew and Thomas, thus being the one to place Matthew right before James on the list.

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