Recently this question was asked:

What does Matthew 9:5 mean that it is "easier" to say "Your sins are forgiven"?

Which is pretty much a duplicate of this question from six years ago:

What does Jesus imply when posing a question in Mark 2:9?

Except that the recent question is about Matthew and the older one is about the same story in Mark.

In these instances, should the question be closed as a duplicate or do we want to consider it a separate question since it originates from a different book?

2 Answers 2


In these instances, should the question be closed as a duplicate or do we want to consider it a separate question since it originates from a different book?

We should not close questions about different texts as duplicates. Even if the story is the same word for word, the narrative context is always different between the synoptics. Even in the case of an identical question quoting identical text, the best answers will take account of the surrounding narrative.

For example in this particular case, the Mark version is part of a deliberate narrative unfolding of conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities. That can have a bearing on how the Mark question is answered in that an answerer may wish to consider the other questions Jesus directs at those opponents as their conflict ramps up: "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them", "Have you never read what David did…" etc

On a site that accepts a variety of hermeneutical approaches I think we should err on the side of caution in these edge-cases. Some hermeneutics are concerned with 'trying to get at the story behind the gospels' (to a degree), but others are more focussed on the narrative message itself, and interpretation is more heavily dependant on narrative context.

  • 1
    Most people asking and answering disregard context anyway. Why not first let the asker make it clear why the answers on the other question don't apply to the text they are asking about? It seems to me just letting these questions be will generate quite some duplication, and users looking for some explanation of some story may miss the related question which may have better answers.
    – user2672
    Jan 29, 2019 at 16:51
  • Linking in a comment would add the question to the list of 'Related' links by the side — that's always useful if questions are related. I think most of the highest upvoted answers on this site are sensitive to context. Jan 29, 2019 at 19:52
  • Sure, but moderation guidelines should be based on regular instead of exceptional posts.
    – user2672
    Jan 29, 2019 at 19:59
  • If there are only answers that disregard context on a particular question then there is room for a better answer to come along and float to the top. I think this is an orthogonal issue though — my main motive is to respect the different authorial intent with our question moderation guidelines regardless of whether the average answer enhances that. Jan 29, 2019 at 23:43

There is a valid original question, which asks:

Is there a difference between the use of story X in Matthew and Mark, considering [different place in the story / different words / particular features A, B, C]?

If the user has thought of that, they can edit their question to explain why it is not a duplicate, and the question can be reopened.

But because this will usually not be the focus of the question, I think we should close these questions as duplicates and reopen them when necessary. Perhaps we can leave a comment to this meta question to explain what has to be done to get a question reopened.

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