|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
This is another post provoked by The Synoptic Problem: Four Views (Baker, 2016). The fourth view included in this introductory guide is the Orality and Memory Hypothesis. In presenting this option Rainer Riesner points out that orality and memory were an important feature of the first century context. In consequence, he suggests that we should think of the relationships between Mark, Luke and Matthew as always indirect rather than direct. When his theory is presented in diagram form (p. 107) there are multiple lines of connection between the sources (oral and written) used by Matthew, Mark and Luke but no lines of direct connection between them. In effect Riesner seems to suggest that Matthew, Luke and Mark were willing to use any number of other sources (written and oral) - just so long as it wasn't one of the other Synoptic Gospels. This is bizarre. Assuming that one of the Synoptic writers wrote after the other two, why would he specifically avoid using earlier texts from the textual tradition in which he was actually working? This seems to be the flip side of the usual 'all or nothing' mentality. Usually, scholars assume, for example, that if Matthew used Mark then he cannot also have used sources used by Mark. In this case, however, Riesner appears to assume that, if Matthew used Mark's sources, then he cannot also have used Mark! There is, in reality, no reason why Matthew should not have used Mark as well as Mark's sources. And this brings us back to the essential question. The first step towards solving the Synoptic Problem is to determine whether there is any direct borrowing between Mark, Luke and Matthew. Once this basic issue has been decided, then it makes sense to consider other factors, such as the role of orality and memory. First things first, however. There are high levels of agreement in order and specific wording between Mark, Luke and Matthew. Given that there are no good reasons to suggest that a later gospel writer would have specifically avoided direct copying from an earlier gospel writer, it is reasonable to expect that there is some degree of direct copying between them. The first question to answer, therefore is: who, regardless of whatever else might also have been going on, was directly copying from whom?
The editor the British Medical Journal, Fiona Godlee, made a startling remark at a HealthWatch event I attended last month. She recalled a study on the effectiveness of peer view in which reviewers were sent papers with known flaws - the detection rate was distressingly low. When these reviewers received training the detection rate became worse. The reviewers who fared best, however, were those under 40.
I've just been reading The Synoptic Problem: Four Views (Baker, 2016). Amongst the four views included is the Two Gospels Hypothesis (Mark conflates Matthew and Luke). This has received a great deal of attention in the past - the upshot of which is to persuade virtually everyone that it is a substantially flawed hypothesis. It is included here, however, because it qualifies as a 'major' view - where 'major' denotes a view that has received a lot of attention in the past. According to this criterion, however, no progress can ever be made. Instead we must forever condemn each fresh generation of students to mire themselves in the same moribund arguments. The time has come, therefore, to give the Two Gospel Hypothesis a decent burial. Perhaps then authors and publishers can be released from the sense of obligation to include the 2GH as a viable option in every introductory text book on the Synoptic Problem forevermore. Then, perhaps, there will be room to consider relatively unexplored and potentially more productive theories instead.
People sometimes ask me, 'What does Mark Goodacre make of your theory that Matthew used Luke?' The best answer I can give, for the time being, is to refer to passages in his past publications. The following are (I think) all the specific arguments he's presented against Matthew's use of Luke. I'd be glad to know if there are more ...
Mark Goodacre (pictured) is a leading advocate of Luke's use of Matthew. He is Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Duke University.
i) Matthean language reappears in Luke
Mark Goodacre notes that Matthew uses a particular form of words at the end of each of his great Discourses (The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze, 2001, p. 153):
Mt 7.28-29 And it came to pass that when Jesus had completed these words …
Mt 11.1: ‘After Jesus had finished instruct[ing] his twelve disciples …’
Mt 13.53: ‘When Jesus had finished these parables …’
Mt 19.1: ‘When Jesus had finished saying all these things …’
Mt 26.1: ‘When Jesus had finished saying all these things …’
This type of arrangement, Goodacre claims, bears the "unmistakable mark of Matthew’s hand" (p. 153) and that it is significant, therefore, that Luke uses a similar formula:
Lk 7.1: ‘When Jesus had finished all these sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered into Capernaum. And a certain Centurion’s slave …
According to Goodacre, this shows "if further indication were needed" that Luke knows Matthew. But is this the only possible explanation for the data?
If Matthew was in the habit of conflating Luke and Mark then the same data could be accounted for as follows:
A problem with arguments from so-called Mattheanisms is that is presupposes Matthew’s interest in being original. However, the very distinctiveness of Matthew’s style may be a sign, not of his own originality, but of his preference for the limited pallete of vocabulary and phraseology provided by his various sources. This can give the impression that a particular word or turn of phrase is somehow characteristic of Matthew, when it might only indicate its presence in one of the sources on which he relied.
ii) Matthew’s explanatory addition is repeated by Luke
In Mark’s version of the Passion Narrative the soldiers taunt Jesus and demand that he ‘Prophesy’ (Mk. 14.65). Intriguingly, Matthew and Luke agree against Mark in making the explanatory addition ‘who was it that struck you?’ (Mt. 26.68 //Lk. 22.64). Goodacre describes Matthew as, "typically attempting to clarify the rather darkly ironic Markan scene", and so the repetition of this additional phrase in Luke is taken as demonstrating Luke’s knowledge of Matthew (Maze, p.146). Goodacre evidently regards this as proof of a high order: "Matthew typically explicates and simplifies the ironic scene by adding a five word question, ‘Who was it who smote you?’, and he is followed by Luke, as clear a sign as one could want that Luke knows Matthew" (Maze, p. 164 – emphasis added). Does Luke really have such evident distaste for clarifying Mark that it is impossible that he could have added these five words - which were then subsequently picked up by Matthew?
Mark Goodacre’s final, and therefore perhaps his favourite, argument for Luke’s knowledge of Matthew uses the concept of fatigue or docile copying. Thus he observes that Matthew and Luke differ distinctly in their presentation of the parable of the talents/pounds. Luke’s version of this parable has a number of curious inconsistencies. He begins with ten servants who each receive ten pounds. As the story progresses only three of servants are featured. The first two servants receive cities as their reward, ten and five respectively. The third servant’s pound is then given to ‘the one who has ten pounds’ – even though this servant has ten cities and, if he’d been allowed to keep his pounds he would have had eleven. Matthew’s version on the other hand does not contain these inconsistencies. Thus, there are three servants throughout. They receive five, two and one talent respectively. The one talent of the final servant is, ultimately, given to the one who has earned another five, and who thus has ten. As Goodacre notes, Matthew’s version is "simpler, more coherent and easier to follow" (‘Fatigue in the Synoptics’, NTS 1998, p. 55). So, what is the best way of accounting for the variation between the two versions? For Goodacre, "a straightforward explanation is at hand: Luke has attempted to reframe the parable that he found in Matthew but his ambition, on this occasion, exceeds his capability. Editorial fatigue soon drags the plot of the parable back to Matthew, with its three coherent servants, the first earning his five coherent talents" (‘Fatigue’, p. 56).
The Gospel writers are human beings and so they can be expected to have the occasional off day. However, it does seem unlikely that Luke, if confronted by Matthew’s simple, coherent and easy to follow parable, would have proceeded to make such a mess of it. Is it not at least as likely, if not more so, that Matthew, if confronted by the inconsistencies of Luke’s version, would have acted to rationalise and improve them?
To bolster his case Goodacre claims that there are "several clear cases in the Double Tradition" (Maze, p. 155) of Luke showing editorial fatigue in his use of Matthew. Given this wealth of choice we can expect a presentation of the best examples. First, in the healing of the Centurion’s slave Goodacre notes that Luke begins by talking about the slave as a ‘doulos’ (Lk 7.2; cf. 7.10) in contrast to Matthew’s use of ‘pais’ (Mt 8.6). Later on in the story, however, Luke, supposedly under the influence of fatigue, drifts into using Matthew’s word ‘pais’ (Lk. 7.7//Mt 8.8) (p.155). What Goodacre fails to mention is that Luke uses doulos, a term of objective description, when describing the slave from the narrator’s point of view, and pais in the context of the Centurion’s direct (reported) speech. There is no inconsistency or ‘error’ to be explained here. Luke’s variation simply serves to indicate that the relationship of the slave to the Centurion is different from the relationship of the slave to the narrator (Lk. 7.2).
Goodacre cites one further example from the stock of "several clear cases in the Double Tradition" (p. 155). In Luke’s description of the mission of the twelve (Lk. 9.1-6; Mk 6.7-12; Mt. 10.5-15) he follows Mark in not specifically mentioning that the disciples are sent to towns. Where then does the mention of leaving a ‘town’ come from towards the end of Luke’s version? According to Goodacre, Luke copied this from Matthew, who does mention towns at the beginning of his version (Maze, p.155). It remains possible, however, that Luke had an independent motivation for inserting ‘town’ into his treatment of Mark 6.8-11, which reads:
He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’
These instructions are potentially ambiguous. What is the ‘place’, is it the house or the town? If it were interpreted as the house, then it might appear legitimate for the disciples to simply go to another house and try again. In the Luke’s sending out of the Seventy, however, the following instructions are given:
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10.1-12)
This passage specifically forbids moving about from house to house. The insertion of ‘town’ in Luke’s version of Mark 6.8-11 confirms that the instructions to the twelve are consistent with the instructions to the seventy; they are not to move from house to house, as Mark’s instructions might otherwise be taken to allow.
The critical point here is that Goodacre’s explanation for Luke’s inclusion of the single word ‘town’ is not the only explanation.
Please shoot in this direction
At a Synoptic Problem conference in Roskilde, Denmark last year I urged those present (pictured): 'Please send more rockets in our direction' (meaning Rob MacEwen and myself). For the past few years virtually all the traffic has been between the Two Document Hypothesis and the Farrer Hypothesis - each pointing out the real weaknesses of the other. Matthew's use of Luke needs, and deserves, to be tested by this kind of sustained attack.
These two quotes from important defenders of the Two Document hypothesis strike me as interesting:
"We are aware ... of the strengths - and weaknesses - of all our hypotheses. The 'dominant' solution ... the 2DH, is no exception to this: and even though I have (unashamedly?!) sought in this paper to argue that the weaknesses of the 2DH are possibly less than those of other competing hypotheses today, I hope that I have shown that this theory too is open to questioning. It would be a brave, even foolhardy, person who claimed absolute certainty for the correctness of his/her viewpoint." Christopher Tuckett
"No hypothesis is without its difficulties, and for any of the existing Synoptic hypotheses there are sets of data which the hypothesis does not explain very well" John Kloppenborg
What these positions have in common is a sense that the Synoptic Problem is very difficult - so we shouldn't expect too much of our solutions. Under such trying circumstances, Tuckett and Kloppenborg would argue, it's fair enough to adopt what might be called the 'least worst option'.
This all sounds very sensible - until you stop to think about it. The Synoptic Problem is very complicated if you demand a total solution - because a total solution requires access to every source, and these are never going to be available. The Synoptic Problem is not, however, especially complicated if you restrict yourself to dealing with the relationship between Matthew, Mark and Luke - especially if you accept that Mark was used by Luke and Matthew. From this point there are only three possible solutions. 1) Luke and Matthew had no contact. 2) Luke used Matthew. 3) Matthew used Luke. Given that one of these must be correct all that is required is to check each in turn until you find the one that fits. Not rocket science. And yet Chris Tuckett and John Kloppenborg, having focussed virtually exclusively on options 1 and 2, conclude that the weaknesses of option 1 are less than those of option 2. This is mad. If neither option 1 nor 2 fit (even if one is more ill-fitting than the other), then the solution must be option 3 - Matthew used Luke. It's got to be worth a try at least?
Videos presenting the case for Matthew's use of Luke are available here.
The New Testament Studies version of this article is available via this link
If you have questions provoked by the Extant 'Q' videos please post them here.
I'm grateful to Richard Bauckham for permission to quote his response to the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis videos as follows:
"Brilliant videos! ...
My only serious query is that you accept 'alternating primitivity' without question. On the usual 2DH account, Luke is more primitive far more often than Matthew is. Judgments about what is 'more primitive' are, of course, often debatable. I am inclined to question whether there is ever a compelling argument for Matthew's version being more primitive. Or if we do conclude that just occasionally he is, then it may only be a case of Matthew's occasional awareness of an oral tradition of the same material. I am really dubious whether the evidence requires anything significant enough to be called a 'common source' or 'common sources.' Matthew certainly has sources other than Mark and Luke and maybe just occasionally they overlapped with Luke, but that doesn't really have to mean that Luke knew the same source as one of Matthew's. ...
The two scribal practices - scroll and codex - is an excellent idea. Of course, working with scrolls needn't be quite as impractical as you suggest - because one could use notebooks and/or assistants with different sources open in front of them. ...
Anyway, your arguments are compelling."
In my reply I made the following response wrt alternating primitivity:
"Everything you say about alternating primitivity is true. In the next set of videos I'll show why, on one or two occasions at least, it looks as though Matthew has conflated Luke with Luke's own source."
Thanks Chris Tilling for blogging about my take on Matthew's use of Luke. This type of solution is, of course, not new to the blogosphere. Mark Goodacre responded to a question about Matthew's use of Luke a few years ago. I've added some 'one line' responses to his arguments in the comments after that blog post. If you'd like more detail on any of Mark's points, or have other objections of your own, then please post them here.