|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
The issue at the heart of the $1,000 Challenge will be debated at this year's British New Testament Conference at St Mary's University, Twickenham, 6-8th September.
I will present a 30 minute paper in the Synoptic Gospels Seminar (abstract below) and Mark Goodacre (who is also to deliver one of the plenary papers at the Conference) has generously agreed to offer a 15 minute response. There will be a further 45 minutes available for discussion. I am grateful to the chairs of the Synoptics Seminar for providing a context for this live debate.
Reflections on the $1,000 Challenge - conference paper abstract
Something very unusual happened in December 2017: a piece of entertaining drama took place within the world of New Testament Studies. Bart Ehrman was offered $1,000 for charity if he could find a flaw in Alan Garrow’s solution to the Synoptic Problem: the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis. Mark Goodacre took up the challenge on Ehrman’s behalf and the $1,000 was subsequently paid. At one level, everyone was a winner. Powell (who set up the Challenge) and Garrow got a lot of publicity for the case for Matthews’ use of Luke (with Markan Priority); Goodacre had the pleasure of helping out a friend; and Ehrman got $1,000 for charity. At another level, however, the discipline of New Testament suffered a loss. The alliance of Ehrman and Goodacre served to reinforce the very longstanding perception that there must be some obvious reason why Matthew could not have used Luke – a perception that, as Martin Hengel noted in 2000, has no tangible basis. To get a sense of how damaging this misperception might possibly be it is only necessary to imagine the consequences if our predecessors had similarly persisted in avoiding the notion of Markan Priority. This paper examines the issues at stake by: reviewing arguments for Matthew's use of Luke; responding to the detail of Goodacre’s critique; and reflecting on the limitations of Ehrman’s response.
The idea that a satisfying solution to the Synoptic Problem must always, somehow, be out of reach is unnecessarily pessimistic. There are only main three types of solution possible (accepting Markan Priority). If the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis preserves the strengths of older hypotheses, while avoiding their weaknesses, then the implications for Synoptic Gospels studies could be very extensive indeed. Certainly, they would utterly dwarf Evan Powell’s generous initial outlay of $1,000.
Alan Garrow is Vicar of St Peter's Harrogate and a member of SCIBS at the University of Sheffield.