|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
“If we want Q to survive, we need to avoid putting too much into it”. This remark, made at a Q session of the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), suggests that Q’s supporters (proponents of the Two Document Hypothesis, or 2DH) are feeling under attack. At one level this is nothing new, Farrer Hypothesis (FH) scholars, who argue that Luke used Matthew, have been challenging the existence of Q for decades. Now, however, the attacks on Q are coming from two directions at once. At this year's SBL a relatively new hypothesis was debated; the Matthean Posteriority Hypothesis (MPH). This development increases the threat to Q because classic arguments against Farrer (e.g. why would Luke break up Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount) don’t apply if Matthew used Luke. This is because the way Matthew treats Luke under the MPH is largely similar to the way Matthew treats Q under the 2DH. What is more, the MPH does not suffer from the problems, listed below, that cause scholars to question the credibility of Q.
1) The curious genre of Q
Q, as classically conceived, is a curious beast. It starts with elements of narrative (John the Baptist, the Temptations and the Centurion’s Servant) and finishes with a collection of sayings. No other surviving text contains this type of genre bifurcation.
2) The precise sculpting of Q
Q, under the 2DH, must consistently and in every case bridge the gap between Matthew and Luke. Suppose for sake of argument we discovered a text that was very like Q – but which differed in a few key details. This would simultaneously present both a stunning vindication of the Q hypothesis and a threat to a fundamental tenet of the 2DH. To be specific, suppose this newly discovered Q included everything from the Centurion’s Servant onwards – but did not include the material about John the Baptist and the Temptations. How then did Matthew and Luke come to agree in these two sections? The obvious answer is that one copied the other directly. And, if this is so, the possibility of such copying taking place later in the text must also be reckoned with – even while the newly discovered Q is also likely to be in view. It is sometimes said that Q is infinitely flexible and can shape-shift to avoid any presenting problem. An aspect of Q that is brittle, however, is that it must (at minimum) precisely fit the shape of the material shared by Matthew and Luke (the Double Tradition). It may, of course, include more than just the Double Tradition, but the risk here is that the larger Q becomes the more it starts to look like Luke. This dual pressure sculpts Q into a curious shape, as noted above.
3) Sometimes Matthew and Luke agree against Mark
That Matthew and Luke agree for extensive periods when Mark is not present is not a problem for the Q hypothesis – because that is where Q is supposedly in play. The problem comes when Matthew and Luke agree against Mark when Mark is also part of the picture. How could this happen if there is no direct contact between Matthew and Luke? This question has long been a thorn in the flesh of the 2DH – something that must be explained away every time it happens (which is very often).
4) The network breaks down - just once
The more we learn about the world of the first Christians the more reason there is to suspect that, from a very early period, churches were in communication with a wide network of other churches. A study of the travels of named characters in the New Testament would show that these individuals travelled extensively and often. The presence of such a network is also suggested by the fact that Gospel harmonies start to appear from a very early period – as evidenced, for example, in Justin and 2 Clement. Ironically, even the 2DH relies on the presence of such a network since it needs it to deliver both Mark and Q to both Luke and Matthew. What the 2DH also requires, however, is that on just one occasion the network broke down. For some reason Luke never gained access to Matthew, or alternatively, Matthew never gained access to Luke.
5) Sections of Q survived unchanged and/or were changed identically by both Matthew and Luke
Q, as classically conceived, preserves a record of a very early form of Christianity. It is sometimes suggested that Q was written by Galilean village scribes in the 40s CE. This requires, however, that Matthew and Luke (decades later) inherited sections of Q with virtually identical wording, and then decided that this wording was incapable of improvement – or both decided to improve this wording in virtually identical ways. This is particularly improbable in the case of the Beezlebul Controversy since, as the differing versions in Mark and Luke illustrate, this story was vulnerable to significant variation in the retelling (see also the echoes in John 10.19-21 and Thomas 35).
6) If Q was highly valued by Luke and Matthew why has no other record of it survived?
There is no law that says an early Christian text must survive - especially if most of it is incorporated into some other text. Nevertheless, it is surprising that a document filled with the words of Jesus and valued by authors as diverse as Luke and Matthew should disappear completely without any trace.
If Matthew using Luke has all the strengths of the 2DH, but without the above weaknesses, it’s easy to see why someone who loves Q might talk in terms of the need to work to ensure Q’s survival. But why might such a survival be thought of as valuable in the first place? Q, as classically conceived, takes us back to the earliest roots of Christianity. It is said to reveal what Jesus really taught and what his earliest followers believed. Seen in this light, efforts to ensure its survival make sense. My counter-intuitive advice, however, is if you love Q, set it free.
For anyone interested in Christian origins there is everything to be gained, and nothing to be lost, by allowing the old Q to die. In place of the hypothetical Q, which supposedly gave us access to the beliefs of the first Christians, we gain a new view of Luke’s Gospel – a record of the teaching of Jesus before it is deradicalized by Matthew. Not only that, if we remove everything in Matthew that could derive from Luke and Mark, something remarkable emerges; discrete portions of what remains contain dense sets of parallels with James and the Didache. Who knows, if we say goodbye to the old Q, perhaps we will receive back something even more valuable.
"Like many other students of the New Testament, I initially accepted B. H. Streeter’s Two-Document Hypothesis (2DH) without asking too many questions. It seemed to solve many of the puzzles that comprise the Synoptic Problem. First, the 2DH operates with the premise that Mark was written first (Markan Priority), giving a plausible explanation for the triple tradition that is common to all of the synoptic gospels. Second, the postulation that Matthew and Luke were composed independently of each other explained why 1) some of the content found in Matthew and Luke’s gospels were so different from each other (e.g. the birth narrative, genealogy, resurrection narratives, etc.) and 2) why seemingly important materials from each gospel omitted in the other (notable parables in Luke, teaching material in Matthew). To account for the common material that did exist between Matthew and Luke (but not found in Mark), an additional common source, “Q,” was suggested. All this seemed to make sense at the time: Mark was written first, Matthew and Luke both used Mark and Q independently, Q was a literary source known to both Matthew and Luke but has not survived past antiquity despite its importance.
It made good sense to me that Mark was written first. Compared to the relatively more “complete” narratives of Jesus’ life found in Matthew and Luke (Mark does not even have an account of Jesus post-resurrection!), Mark’s gospel does appear to be a more primitive version of the gospel with fewer accounts of Jesus’ words and deeds, but told in greater detail. The proposal that Matthew and Luke edited/condensed Mark to make room for their other sources is more plausible than Mark summarizing either by expanding some episodes whilst omitting others (e.g. the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, the Birth/Resurrection narratives, etc.) entirely.
Other claims of the 2DH were, however, not quite as airtight. For example, the assumption that Matthew could not have used Luke (and vice versa) because of their contradictory genealogies, birth/resurrection/commissioning narratives and conclusions might be challenged by appealing to the fact that they had at their disposal source materials which better align with their particular biases and emphases. That is to say, the idea of Matthew’s independence from Luke (and vice versa) is not based on literary evidence, but rather a modern assumption about what we think the evangelists were capable or incapable of doing in terms of style and redaction. Observing both Matthew and Luke’s use of Mark, however, tells us that their modus operandi was not just to amass materials about Jesus, but to modify it, adapt it, curate it, and improve upon it for the sake of their communities. Matthew and Luke’s selection, arrangement, abbreviation, and adaptation of Markan materials clearly demonstrates the extent of their innovation and the liberty they exercised in adapting and even omitting source materials. The minor agreements between Matthew and Luke over against Mark further suggest that there may very well be a link between them, contrary to the the 2DH. And if this were true then there would be no need to hypothesize the existence of Q, because the Q material would just be parts of Matthew used by Luke, or parts of Luke used by Matthew. Although it must be conceded that the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, and to some extent, the Didache, raises the likelihood that other early saying sources of Jesus could have circulated.
In any case, if Markan Priority is to be maintained, the interdependence of Matthew and Luke can be explained in two ways: 1) Luke used both Mark and Matthew (the Farrer/Goulder/Drury Hypothesis) or 2) Matthew used both Mark and Luke (the Wilke/Matthew Posteriority Hypothesis). The Farrer Hypothesis, championed by careful and brilliant scholars such as Mark Goodacre, has much to commend it. It is a simpler hypothesis than the 2DH because positing the interdependence of Matthew and Luke takes away the need to depend on Q. It also accounts for the minor agreements between Matthew and Luke. However, if Luke is the final synoptic evangelist, it is odd that his version of the double tradition appears to be more primitive than Matthew’s, and that Luke seems to be unaware of many of Matthew’s additions to Mark. A good example is Luke 11:20 (εἰ δὲ ἐν δακτύλῳ θεοῦ [ἐγὼ] ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια/ “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God..”) where Matthew has: εἰ δὲ ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ ἐγὼ ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια / But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God” (12:28). Luke’s version is more obscure and seems to be unaware of Matthew’s version, whose emphasis on God’s Spirit might have been useful to Luke given his focus on the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the arrangement of the double tradition in Matthew exhibits more refinement than in Luke, raising the question, if Luke was composed last, why he would have taken the time to dismantle a coherent existing literary structure and insert the material in a less intuitive way. An example of this would be the material found in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (chs. 5-7), a neatly packaged collection of Jesus’ notable teachings. In Luke’s gospel, these teachings are broken up and interspersed throughout his narrative throughout chapters 11-16 without any obvious clues regarding their relationship to the surrounding narratives (e.g. Luke 11:33-36). Might it not make more sense to suppose that Matthew collected these loose sayings in Luke and compiled them into a single section dedicated to Jesus’ teaching?
Enter Ron Huggins, Robert McEwen, Alan Garrow, etc. and the revival of the Matthean Posteriority Hypothesis (MPH), which begins as the Farrer Hypothesis does, but instead of Luke being the final redactor, proposes that Matthew is the final redactor (“conflator,” according to Garrow). In particular, the work of Alan Garrow, proposing as he did a solution for the “alternating primitivity” problem, swayed me towards the possibility that Matthew knew Mark and Luke AND Luke’s sources and conflated all these into his own masterpiece. The fact that Matthew’s gospel sometimes contains the more primitive version of double tradition material is a difficulty for the theory that Matthew and Luke knew each other’s work in general, and for the MPH in particular. Robert McEwen has suggested that where Matthew contains more primitive double tradition material, it is because he intentionally preserved a liturgical form known to his community. Alan Garrow proposes that the primitive parts of Matthew are due to a conscious editorial decision by Matthew because he had at hand not only Luke’s gospel but possibly, also Luke’s source(s).
I came across Alan Garrow and his work on the MPH in my own study of the triple tradition passage where Matthew, Mark, and Luke all make use of Isaiah 6:9-10 to explain why Jesus speaks in parables. My own research interest and focus has always been on the NT use of the Hebrew scriptures. The fact that so many NT writers employed citations, allusions, and references to the Hebrew scriptures to make their point fascinated me, because it opened a window into understanding a larger story/worldview that is often implied or assumed, often under the surface but highly important to the meaning of the text. And so, in my doctoral dissertation at Edinburgh University, I explored the influence of the Book of Daniel on Mark’s Gospel by observing the contours and functions of the constellation of Markan references to Daniel. Ever since, I have been trying to apply my expertise in locating and analyzing Hebrew Bible references to other areas of NT research, including the Synoptic Problem.
I believe that triple tradition material that also contained a citation/allusion/reference to the Hebrew Scripture are an invaluable source of information, because in addition to asking how Matthew/Luke used Mark, we can now also ask how they used and understood the reference to a particular Hebrew Bible text in comparison with one another. In other words, the Hebrew Bible citation gives us an extra point of data to triangulate the relationship between the Synoptics. In my work on the Synoptic use of Isaiah 6:9-10, I found evidence to confirm Markan Priority while undermining the 2DH. You can read the article for a fuller discussion, but essentially, I conclude that, while Luke’s use of Matthew is also possible, the MPH is the best explanation for the tangle of literary relationships found in these texts.
Matthew’s tendency is to “correct” Mark’s imprecise uses of the Hebrew Bible:
Throughout his own gospel, Matthew tends to identify Mark’s usage of the Hebrew Scriptures and quoting that text more precisely. For example, when Mark mentions the “desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be…” in the Olivet discourse (Mark 13:14), Matthew recognizes this to be a reference to Daniel and mentions him by name (Matt 24:15). In Mark 1:2 when Mark mentions the prophet Isaiah but proceeds to give a composite citation that includes a text from Malachi, Matthew likewise recognizes that the quoted text is not from Isaiah and removes the prophet’s name. In Mark 13:26, where it says that they will see the Son of Man “coming in clouds,” Matthew’s version has “coming on the clouds of heaven” (ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ), following more closely the wording of the LXX. 
And Matthew does the very same thing here in Matt 13:13. Mark’s reference to Isa 6:9-10 is a bit jumbled, but Matthew recognizes that Mark is alluding to Isa 6:9-10 and reproduces a fuller and more precise quotation that is identical to the LXX. Matthew also uses the wording of the LXX (ὅτι) to underscore the fact that the people’s hearts are already hardened, softening the jarring ἵνα found in Mark that seems to suggest that Jesus’s parables were intended to harden the hearts of his listeners. It is intriguing to see Matthew disagree with, or at least wanting to clarify, Mark’s use of Isaiah, but the main point I want to make is that if Luke was composed last, he ignored the exegetical and theological legwork that Matthew did in improving upon Mark, because in Luke we find the problematic ἵνα and an even shorter quotation to Isa 6:9-10; so short that it is barely discernible that there is a quotation at all. In fact, Luke’s version looks more like Mark’s than it does Isaiah. It is as if Luke is unaware of Matthew’s version. It is much more logical that Matthew came in as the final redactor, made the citation of Isa 6:9-10 explicit and reinterpreted it using the language and meaning of the LXX for good measure.
In short, my research thus far supports the idea that Matthew knew and made use of both Mark and Luke, as well as other sources. This is, of course, a theory that needs to be tested from as many different angles as possible. I believe that the inspection and comparison of the Synoptic use, interpretation, and adaptation of the Hebrew Bible vis-à-vis one another will yield an important set of data points for use towards this endeavour."
Follow this link for ten more MPH Origin Stories.
 Lo, "The Appropriation of Isa 6:9-10 to the Parables of Jesus: Implications for the Synoptic Problem," 59-60.
“I was raised, so to speak, on the Two-Document Hypothesis (2DH). My undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral courses (at three different universities) all presented the composition of the Synoptic gospels through the lens of the 2DH. In a lot of ways, my brain is still a 2DH brain at its base. Theoretically I’m open to any solution if it helps make sense of the data, but still, when I read studies questioning Q or Matthew’s and Luke’s independence, I have a knee-jerk reaction to think, “Well, but…”
Since many of these studies are anecdotal, there’s ample room for “Well, but…”
As it turned out, my first article was a study questioning Q by undermining one of the pillars in the case for Q as a unified document. The article was a statistical analysis of the “argument from order” for Q, which claims that the sequence of the sayings in the double tradition has too much overlap (roughly 40%) to be coincidental. Matthew and Luke must have each used a document with the sayings in the same order, or so the argument goes. Another student once asked an important but unfortunately overlooked question: is 40%, like, a lot? I didn’t have an immediate answer, so I set out to find one.
Now, I began the study fully convinced that I would find a 40% overlap was significant and Q would be vindicated. It wasn’t. The overlap is insignificant, especially when the placement of material arguably influenced by Mark’s order is removed (e.g. the John the Baptist and temptation material). One has a fairly good chance of getting the same agreement in order (or better) by shuffling cards.
Still, my brain was a 2DH brain. The data didn’t disprove Q; it only showed that this particular argument for a unified document is weak. Maybe Matthew or Luke did not care about maintaining the sequence of the sayings in Q, or “Q” could just denote several shorter documents—but otherwise the model still holds. And it still held in the unconscious way I approached studies on the Synoptic problem.
Over the last few years, I’ve become interested in arguments using the minor agreements (MAs) between Matthew and Luke against Mark. The MAs are used to question the independence of Matthew and Luke on the assumption that if Matthew and Luke edited Mark independently, then we should not see both of them change Mark in the same way—or at least, we should not see this very often. For those who find the MAs significant, there are simply too many for Matthew and Luke to be independent. Defenses of the 2DH against MA arguments often claim the similar changes are coincidental. Statistical hypothesis testing is designed for just these situations: to differentiate between the coincidental and the significant.
So I set out to test the hypothesis that Matthew and Luke adapted Mark independently. I built on the work of previous statistical analyses of the MAs, especially by Andris Abakuks, but in my case counting the alterations according to categories any student would know in the first century: transpositions, subtractions, additions, and substitutions. I then analyzed Matthew’s and Luke’s changes to Mark by category. As with previous statistical studies of the MAs, the overlap of choices was significant. So my data agreed with theirs, which again, wasn’t my expectation. Matthew and Luke make the same editorial choices far more often than we would expect if they were truly independent.
But “not independent” doesn’t mean “directly dependent.” Similar editorial choices could be the result of mutually influential variables like similar ideologies (the culprit usually blamed), or more simply of similar educations. After all, Matthew and Luke both seem more comfortable with Greek than Mark. Without getting too bogged down in the details, I tested again using conditional probabilities to see whether Matthew or Luke were influential variables on the other text. The results surprised me.
In short, when the results are clear (and they are not always so), Matthew is not an influential variable on Luke, but Luke is an influential variable on Matthew. That is an unlikely result on the 2DH, which assumes they adapted Mark independently. It is also unlikely on the Farrer model, which has Matthew as an influential variable on Luke, not vice versa. A holistic statistical analysis of the MAs coheres easily with Matthean Posteriority, but not with any of the other major solutions to the Synoptic problem.
This sort of holistic statistical result has the strongest chance of pushing me away from the 2DH and toward Matthean Posteriority, at least more than any anecdotal or case-by-case study has.
Each of the major models used by Synoptic scholars—and even some models overlooked by them—have the potential to make sense of some passages. That is why the same passages appear over and over in textbooks or arguments for the 2DH or Griesbach or Farrer: in those individual cases, the 2DH or Griesbach or Farrer make the best sense of the data. In others, an explanatory case (but really an interpretive case?) could be made using one of the other models. If the sample is so small, the data is simply unclear, undeterminative, literally insignificant in the sense that it provides no clear sign of the compositional history of the passage. In my mind, we have to look at all the data as a whole, or at least at as much as we can.
Of course, I’m still open to challenges. I’m open to any solution really—Augustine, Griesbach, Lukan Priority, all three are different drafts of the same gospel from the same author playing to different audiences, you name it. I try not to pre-judge. And part of me still hopes the 2DH will win the day, show that that my findings are not as significant as I think they are, if only to satisfy my base 2DH brain. But for now, the evidence has me exploring Matthean Posteriority as the model that makes the best sense of the lexical data."
This post first appeared on the Logos Academic Blog
Alan Garrow is Vicar of St Peter's Harrogate and a member of SCIBS at the University of Sheffield.