|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
The Didache: what lies beneath?
[The $1,000 challenge was created when Evan Powell invited Bart Ehrman to find a hole in my solution to the Synoptic Problem as presented at www.alangarrow.com/mch.html. The initial story is outlined in blog post (1).
Mark Goodacre took up this challenge on Ehrman’s behalf – and noted one ‘hole’ in particular. His arguments are set out on his blog. My initial response to Goodacre is in this blog post (3). Goodacre then argued that I had failed to engage with his central point. Again, his full text is available on his blog. In the current post (5) I respond more specifically to the issue at the heart of Goodacre's attempt to win the $1,000 Challenge.]
The ‘flaw’ Goodacre identified concerned the accuracy of a summarising statement I made in the published version of the article, ‘An Extant Instance of ‘Q’’, on p. 399:
The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis (MCH) argues that there is no scope for ‘Q’ in the Double Tradition passages where Luke and Matthew agree almost verbatim (High DT passages) since these are best explained by Matthew’s copying of Luke without distraction.
Goodacre points out that what I claim to be the case is not actually the case on at least three occasions. That is to say, there are places where Matthew and Luke agree very closely despite the fact that Mark also includes a version of the same episode. When we get down to the detail there are actually exceptionally few occasions where Luke and Matthew achieve a string of verbatim agreement or four words or more at a point where an immediate parallel in Mark is also available (cf. my definition of a High DT passage in the published version of the article ‘Streeter’s ‘Other’ Synoptic Solution’, p. 212). However, even if this were sometimes the case I don’t think it would fundamentally undermine my key observation: when there are exceptionally high levels of agreement between Matthew and Luke this is best explained by direct copying between Matthew and Luke (cf. ‘Streeter’, p. 213). If Matthew sometimes decided to copy Luke verbatim, even while the option to draw on Mark’s slightly different version was theoretical available, this would only show that Matthew was not motivated to conflate Luke and Mark at every opportunity – which would not be especially surprising given the considerable effort required to achieve conflation.
At the level of the precise use of language, therefore, Goodacre has a point. Inasmuch as my summarising statement may be read as suggesting that Matthew will always be ‘distracted’ from the direct copying of Luke if another version of the same event is available then I have overreached myself. If, however, I may be read as saying that, when Matthew and Luke agree almost verbatim this is best explained by Matthew choosing to focus solely on Luke (whatever other versions might also be available), then my claim, in the larger context of my argument, remains defensible.
An irony of the situation is that, on the critical point, Goodacre and I agree: where there is very high agreement between Matthew and Luke this is best explained by direct copying between the two texts. In the initial stages of my argument (‘Streeter’, pp. 212-3) I reserve judgement on the direction of any such direct copying. It is only after other factors have been taken into account that I ultimately draw the conclusion that High DT passages are the result of Matthew copying Luke without distraction. To respond to Goodacre’s criticism, however, I should perhaps expand the summarising sentence in question to read:
The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis (MCH) argues that there is no scope for ‘Q’ in the Double Tradition passages where Luke and Matthew agree almost verbatim (High DT passages) since these are best explained by Matthew’s copying of Luke without distraction – or his choosing (for whatever reason) not to be distracted by other versions of that episode of which he might also have been aware.
This is the only correction required to repair what Goodacre identifies as a key flaw.
Mark Goodacre wasn't satisfied that I'd dealt with his specific criticism. He restates his point in this further blog post.
[The following was originally posted on Bart Ehrman's blog on December 13th 2017]
First of all I’d like to thank Evan Powell. Evan is a particularly incisive and original thinker. You can find more about his ideas at http://synoptic-problem.com. Evan’s $1000 challenge has injected fresh energy into a tired and moribund debate. Evan’s particular concern is to dispense with Q – which creates an amusing irony: to keep the flame of Q burning brightly, Ehrman accepts the services of Mark Goodacre, a man who has worked harder than any living scholar to put it out. Evan will offer his own response to Goodacre in due course.
Before getting onto the substance of Mark’s critique I need to offer a very important – but perhaps confusingly subtle – clarification. When I use the term Q (*without* quotation marks) I mean the document as conceived by the International Q Project (IQP). This is a hypothetical/reconstructed entity of about 4,500 words, which Bart Ehrman, and many other scholars, believes actually existed. By contrast, I use the term “Q” (*with* quotation marks) to refer to a basket of resources (written or oral) known and used by both Luke and Matthew (not including Mark’s Gospel). I have had cause to regret the subtlety of this distinction more than once – with more, no doubt, to come! Nevertheless, against this background it is significant that the title of my article is ‘An Extant Instance of “Q”’ not ‘An Extant Instance of Q’. This is important when it comes to addressing Mark Goodacre’s initial complaint that, far from compiling a compelling argument that Q never existed: ‘Garrow is actually arguing that Matthew and Luke did use Q’. This is not the case. My approach has no place for the IQP-style Q. What I do allow, however, is that Mark’s Gospel need not be the only source shared by both Luke and Matthew – even if there is also direct contact between those two Gospels. In the video/article ‘An Extant Instance of “Q”’ [https://www.alangarrow.com/extantq.html] I back up this suggestion with a concrete example provided by a handful of sayings in the Didache. For reasons too complicated to go into here it would be exceptionally unwise to claim that what is true of one part in the Didache must be true of all parts. That’s why I do *not* claim, as Goodacre states, that: ‘Q is, in fact, the Didache!’
So now to the substance of Goodacre’s rebuttal …
A good solution to the Synoptic Problem is one that allows each Evangelist to behave in a consistently plausible manner. To rebut my thesis, therefore, Goodacre must show that, under my proposal, Matthew is required to do something that is essentially implausible. The unbelievable behavior he identifies is that Matthew (according to me) sometimes very closely conflates two or more related sources (e.g. The Sin against the Holy Spirit, where Matt. 31.31-32 conflates Mark 3.28-30, Luke 12.10 and Did. 11.7), sometimes switches between sources at intervals (e.g. the Beelzebul Controversy, where Matt. 12.22-30 alternates between Mark 3.22-27 and Luke 11.14-23), and sometimes decides to forego the labor of conflation where the rewards for doing so are limited (e.g. John’s messianic preaching and the sign of Jonah: Matt. 3.12 // Luke 3.17 and Matt. 12.38-42 // Luke 11.16, 29-32 respectively). I must leave you to judge whether this variation is so extraordinary as to justify Ehrman’s view that this is a ‘completely compelling’ reason to declare that Matthew could not have known Luke.
In the space that remains I’d like to focus on the main problem with Farrer Hypothesis (Luke used Matthew – as supported by Goodacre) and Two Document Hypothesis (Matthew and Luke both independently used Q – as supported by Ehrman).
According to the Farrer Hypothesis (FH) Luke indulged in what might be called ‘reverse conflation’ or ‘unpicking’. So, for example, in the Beelzebul Controversy, Goodacre’s Luke is required to follow Matthew 12.27-28 very closely but then, just as Matthew (12.29) starts to follow Mark very closely, Luke stops following Matthew – only to return to following Matthew as soon as, once again, Matthew has no parallel in Mark. This is just one of a series of editorial procedures required of Luke, under the FH, that are exceptionally difficult to achieve from a practical point of view and that are not exhibited in any contemporary literature. This is one of the reasons, I suspect, why Ehrman rejects the notion that Luke used Matthew.
According to the Two Document Hypothesis (2DH) Matthew and Luke sometimes had a virtually identical attitude to a mysterious hypothetical entity called Q. So, despite their differences in theology and geography they sometimes both copied entire paragraphs of this particularly primitive document virtually word for word. This is implausible for two reasons. First, writers of this period tended not to copy verbatim. Second, when observing how Matthew and Luke copy from Mark, they very rarely achieve anything like the levels of shared agreement that, according to the 2DH, they repeatedly achieve when (independently) copying from Q. These passages with very high verbatim agreement are much easier to explain if there is direct copying between Matthew and Luke. This is a point Goodacre makes with force and humor in an essay entitled, ‘Too good to be Q’. (I am puzzled, therefore, by his comment, in the blog: ‘high verbatim agreement is not diagnostic of an author working from only one source’).
So, is it possible simultaneously to avoid the implausibility of ‘unpicking’ while also explaining why Matthew and Luke sometimes agree almost exactly? This may be achieved, I propose, if Matthew is seen as a conflator. This activity has a (more developed) parallel in the Gospel harmonies that became popular from the Second Century onwards.
One pressing problem remains: if Matthew’s use of Luke has such good explanatory power, why has is not had greater exposure? The answer is that the agenda for this particular debate tends to be set by prominent specialists such as Mark Goodacre. And, as Goodacre once famously remarked: "The theory that Matthew has read Luke ... is rarely put forward by sensible scholars and will not be considered here" (The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze, 2001, p. 108). It seems, however, that the promise of a $1000 charitable donation is sufficient to persuade Goodacre to, after all, give the theory a little airtime. Perhaps, now, others will do the same.
Goodacre's response to the challenge was initially published on Bart Ehrman's blog on Dec 12th 2017. Mark then reposted it on his own blog.
Bart's $1000 Challenge (1)
The subscriber, 'Evan', began by writing:
“The British scholar Alan Garrow has complied an extremely compelling argument that Q never existed. In seven short videos totalling 52 minutes of viewing time he pretty much proves beyond any doubt that Matthew used both Mark and Luke, and what we imagine as the “Q source” is actually Matthew copying and reorganising Lukan material directly. See these videos here: https://www.alangarrow.com/mch.html. It is virtually impossible to believe in the Q theory once you’ve seen this data. Bart, if you see any holes in his arguments I would be grateful to hear.”
[I should interject at this point that ‘proving that Q never existed’ isn’t, strictly speaking, the precise implication of my thesis – but I understand what Evan means.] Ehrman responded:
“I’m afraid I don’t know [Garrow] or his work. The problem is always that it is very hard for someone without advanced training in a field (whether neuro-science, astronomy, evolutionary biology, philosophy, of biblical studies!) to see the holes in an argument that an expert can see pretty quickly. So we’ll see if he convinces any scholars!”
Undeterred, Evan comes back with a wager:
“You are an expert. I will lay a wager that you cannot find any holes in Garrow’s argument, and that in fact you will be convinced by his resolution to the Synoptic Problem. If you are not convinced, document whatever holes you see on this page. If you are convinced, post a statement that you believe he may have a viable solution to the Problem. Either way, once your assessment is posted, I will donate $1000 to your blog as a thank you for the time you invested to view his presentation and formulate a response.”
Ehrman can’t loose! If he finds holes in the thesis he gets $1000 for the charities he supports. If he doesn’t find holes in the thesis (and is prepared to say so) he still gets $1000 – and a solution to the Synoptic Problem into the bargain! Ehrman responds:
“Ah, that’s tempting. How long are these videos?”
What do you think Ehrman will do? To find out what actually happens visit this string of the Ehrman Blog and scroll to the end of the discussion ...
Another question you might be asking is: who is 'Evan' and why does he care so much about Garrow's thesis? I don't know the answer, but I suspect it must be Evan Powell, author of The Myth of the Lost Gospel in which he makes an excellent case for Matthew's use of Luke. I'm grateful to Evan for his book and for his wager!
To make up your own mind about the videos visit: www.alangarrow.com/mch.html
For further developments in the Challenge see this Blog's archive for Dec 2017, April 2018 and May 2018.
Alan Garrow is Vicar of St Peter's Harrogate and a member of SCIBS at the University of Sheffield.