|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
It is now possible to register for the SBL Global Virtual Meeting to held 27-31 March 2023, which features a panel discussion of the forthcoming Olegs Andrejevs, Simon J Joseph, Edmondo Lupieri and Joseph Verheyden (eds), The Synoptic Problem 2022: Proceedings of the Loyola University Conference (Leuven, Peeters, April 2023), The session will take place online at 15:00 New York, 21:00 Brussels, 6:00 Melbourne on Thursday 30th March (31st in Melbourne).
The Matthean Posteriority Hypothesis (MPH) has begun to attract critical attention. After an earlier response by Gerald Downing in 2017, 2022 saw the publication of two essays that specifically challenge the idea that Matthew used Luke. My response, 'Gnats, Camels and Matthew's use of Luke', JSNT (2023), asks which of these criticisms is most telling.
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the $1,000 Challenge to Bart Ehrman (in December 2017) here is the story of a student who was considering similar questions at roughly the same time.
Hendry Ongkowidjojo is a senior pastor at G.K.A. Elyon, Surabaya, and a New Testament lecturer at STT Reformed-Injili International, Jakarta. He first became interested in the possibility of Matthew using Mark and Luke, while working on a proposal for his dissertation at Trinity Theological College, Singapore (completed in 2017). Here is his story:
“Before applying to the doctoral program, the area of New Testament that I studied was Paul. My thesis at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois, deals with the History of the Interpretation of Romans 9. In fact, initially I planned to do a dissertation on Paul use of Isaiah.
Everything changed when I read John Kloppenborg's, Excavating Q. I became interested in the Synoptic Problem for the very first time. Previously, Robert Stein's The Synoptic Problem had convinced me that Q was the best explanation to the Synoptic Problem. Since then I had never questioned Q, and had even promoted Q to the students I teach. But after I read Kloppenborg, who is actually one of the main proponents of Q, it dawned on me that things weren't that simple.
My interest in these issues was strengthened by dozens of years of experience serving in Indonesia. As a servant of God living in the largest Muslim country in the world, I often receive questions about Christ and his history. And the differences found in the Synoptic Gospels are often used as ammunition to question Christianity. Kloppenborg's book therefore made me want to understand more about the relationship between the Synoptic Gospels.
As I prepared my research proposal I became aware that the possibility of Matthew using Mark and Luke was barely mentioned in the literature. I read a lot about Q, Farrer, Griesbach, and even other much more complicated theories, but very rarely did anyone even mention, let alone propose, that Matthew might have used Mark and Luke. As a novice, I wondered if this was because the experts all knew a reason why Matthew could not have used Mark and Luke that was so obvious that no further discussion as needed.
But then I discovered that, towards the end of his career, Martin Hengel proposed that Matthew used Luke. This was interesting to me. On the one hand, if Hengel supported this theory, why was it not more popular? On the other, surely Hengel would not have gone against the grain without good reason. Furthermore, given the impasse in the debate between Q and Farrer supporters, it seemed sensible to study the only "simple" possibility that had been overlooked - the idea that Matthew used Mark and Luke.
The more I study, the more I see the explanatory power of the Matthean Posteriority Hypothesis (MPH). I find that it is particularly helpful in understanding and applying Matthew's Gospel, both academically and pastorally.
More recently, I was overjoyed to discover that there are now many more New Testament scholars who hold the MPH. I do believe that reading Matthew's Gospel with the perspective that Matthew knows Luke and Mark is very promising in both solving the Synoptic Problem and in helping us to understand and apply Matthew's Gospel.”
A video version of Ron's SBL paper: 'Luke's Chronic-Fatigue Syndrome or Matthew's Quest for Order and Universal Applicability' is now available.
Chakrita Saulina, a native of Jakarta, Indonesia, is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies (New Testament) at Seattle Pacific University. She holds degrees from the University of Indonesia (B.Eng, 2006); Acadia Divinity College (M.Div, 2013); Yale University (S.T.M., 2016) and the University of Cambridge (PhD, 2021). Her doctoral dissertation, supervised by Prof Judith Lieu, was entitled: “The Narrative Function(s) of Evil Spirits in the Gospel of Luke”. Chakrita is a member of the steering group for “The Interrelations of the Gospels Consultation” at SBL, and will be presenting a paper in this section in Denver on Sunday 20th November, 2022. Here she describes the steps that caused her to suspect that Matthew used Luke:
“I first encountered the Synoptic Problem about 11 years ago when, in my first New Testament class, Craig Evans explained Markan Priority and the concept of Q. For many years I never questioned what I’d been taught. Then I started teaching and working on my PhD.
In my doctoral studies I examined the narrative function(s) of evil spirits in Luke. I was drawn to this topic because Luke highlights these malevolent characters more than any other gospel and I wanted to find out why. While studying the relevant stories as individual units and within the broad sweep of the gospel, I considered Luke’s distinctive voice when compared with parallel episodes in Mark and Matthew. This caused me to appreciate for the first time how closely Matthew and Luke agree at certain points in the Double Tradition. Particularly, I was drawn by the verbatim agreements in the Temptations and Beelzebul Controversy. In the latter, the word-for-word parallels are particularly striking in the two accounts of the return of the evil spirit (Luke 11:24-26//Matt 12:42-45).
Besides these similarities, the differences between Luke and the other two Synoptics are also apparent, particularly in the travel narrative. There is a huge spectrum between the similarities and differences in terms of order and wording of the synoptics: they can be very similar, and they can also be very different. It means that each evangelist has some degree of freedom both at the micro-level (the wording used for a particular part) or macro-level (order of passages with the whole) in departing from or following their sources.
Given this freedom, if Luke and Matthew independently used Q, it is hugely coincidental that they both wrote virtually identical passages in similar contexts. This coincidence is even more extraordinary if we consider that Luke and Matthew may have had two or more sources. How then did they come to the same decision in writing a very similar passage in a very similar context independently? As Mark Goodacre puts it, this is surely, ‘Too Good to be Q’. I remember my own experience as a teacher several years ago, when I noticed that two students had very similar answers to the same question. I was certain that one was influenced by the other, which was indeed the case. I wondered at that moment: besides having Mark as one of their primary sources, could it be that Luke “plagiarized” Matthew or vice versa? I also recalled that Luke’s Double Tradition was closer to Q. So, was it really necessary for Q to be a separate tradition independently consulted by Luke and Matthew? Why couldn’t Luke have influenced Matthew or vice versa? Could it be that the “Q” used by Matthew was actually Luke?
While looking for Luke’s distinct voice, his overall plot and the role of evil spirits in it, I came across other reasons to suspect that Luke may have been one of Matthew’s sources. Given Luke’s generally extensive use of synonyms, his range of names for evil spirits is surprisingly limited. This is particularly surprising if Luke used Matthew since Matthew has a relatively rich list of names denoting Satan.
In many ways, Luke is much more similar to Mark in this naming issue, which may also signify an older tradition than what we find in Matthew. Worth noting, for instance, Mark only uses Σατανᾶς in describing the archenemy of God throughout his gospel. The use of this term might not appear surprising unless we consider how it comes to be the most common name for the chief of demons in the New Testament. Luke’s use of the terms σατανᾶς and διάβολος convey a new development of the meaning of these two terms in the Jewish tradition, which refers to the archenemy of God.
In “Luke’s Naming of Evil Spirits and The Three Layers of Interpretation”, a paper presented at SBL 2019, I argued: 1) The use of either διάβολος or σατανᾶς in each scene where they appear in Luke is intentional and not merely for the sake of literary variety; and 2) The historical Jesus may have been the reason for σατανᾶς, an adaptation of aramaic term סָטָנָא, becoming the most popular term referring to the chief of demons. In the second temple period, the term ‘satan’ is not the most popular word used to denote the leader of demons. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, we find ‘Mastema’ (18 times) and ‘Belial’ (88 times) appear more frequently than ‘Satan’. Several other references to the ruler of the demons in the second-temple apocalyptic texts include Semyaz and Azazel as chiefs of the fallen angels in 1 Enoch 9; Sammael (1:8, 11:2:1), Beliar (1:8f; 2:4; 3:11), and Satan (2:2,7; 5:16) in the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah. Contrary to this ‘reservoir’ of names for the leaders in the demonic world, it is striking that in Luke and the NT in general, an unpopular term like σατανᾶς gains popularity. The historical Jesus may have used this term and it became common within his circles of disciples. This is also supported by Foerster who argues, “Study[sic] of the Synopt. and Ac. suggest that Σατανᾶς is closer to Palestinian usage…”
Hence, in my PhD dissertation I claim that Luke’s use of Σατανᾶς may represent an earlier tradition (which may include Markan influence) that Luke follows closely. Luke uses σατανᾶς five times in his gospel: 10:18, 11:18, 13:16, 22:3, 31, and noticeably most of these are unique (except 11:18). Moreover, in this gospel, σατανᾶς appears almost exclusively in Jesus’s speech (10:18, 11:18, 13:16, 22:31, except, 22:3). A similar pattern can also be found in Mark (except, 4:15) and Matthew. Also, Breytenbach and P.L. Day (in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (DDD)) argue that prior and contemporary to the gospel, there is no datum of σατανᾶς among Greek writings associated with non-Jewish or non-Christian writers. The meaning of the root word śāṭān itself can only be developed from its occurrences in the Hebrew Bible, since there is no other occurrence of this term prior or contemporary to the Scripture. However, Luke’s use of διάβολος comes from his adaptation of the Septuagint. This term may have been used because it was more familiar to the readers; the word διάβολος is found in both Hellenistic and Jewish literature. Among Greek texts that were written between the 4th century BCE and the1st century CE, διάβολος appears significantly more often than σατανᾶς.
If Luke had access to Matthew, Matthew’s effect on Luke’s vocabulary seems to be very minimal. In the temptation of Jesus (in which the two evangelists present many close parallels), Luke employs the term διάβολος four times. Luke could have changed one of these to another term such as σατανᾶς or ὁ ἐχθρός (which he uses in 10:10), similar to what we can observe in Matthew’s version of the temptation where Matthew refers to Satan once as ὁ πειράζων (4:3). Luke, however, applies an unvarying title throughout the passage. The absence of ὁ πειράζων and ὁ πονηρός in Luke is striking if he had access to Matthew since these titles fit well with Luke’s theological agenda. Luke underlines the role of the Devil as the tempter in at least in three places: Jesus’s temptation scene, the parable of the sower, and Jesus’s passion. It seems more probable, therefore, that it is Matthew who has developed Luke’s limited vocabulary, rather than the reverse.
There are two other issues that also lead me to suspect Luke’s influence over Matthew. First, Luke’s central section (the travel narrative) has many parallels to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Many Lukan scholars would agree that the travel narrative is the crux in Luke’s Gospel; many have pondered how Luke may have ordered his material in this section. If Luke had access to Matthew, the way Luke dispersed or scattered many passages in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is difficult to explain and runs against the grain of ancient compositional practices. However, if Matthew had access to Luke, the former may have decided to gather Luke’s “scattered” material, much as other ancient authors coordinated parallel sources to create a more comprehensive whole.
Second, examining Luke’s plot, I observed how Isaiah has an important role in Luke’s Promise-Fulfillment framework. Luke highlights how Jesus’s life and ministry fulfills Isaiah’s exodus motif (often known as Isaiah’s new exodus). If Luke had access to Matthew, it is surprising how Luke reduces the space that Isaiah gains in Matthew’s Gospel. Luke only incorporates a small number of direct citations from Isaiah (fewer than Matthew). Even more surprising is the omissions of some direct mentions of Isaiah’s name; Matthew mentions Isaiah’s name in: 3:3, 4:14, 8:17, 12:17, 13:14: 15:7. It makes more sense to suppose that Matthew’s adaptation of Isaiah was influenced by Luke, rather than the other way around.
At one point in my dissertation research, I took a bit of a “detour” into the Synoptic Problem. Reading Mark Goodacre (who thinks Luke used Matthew) and Rob MacEwen (who thinks Matthew used Luke) I certainly agreed more with Rob. At some point during my time in Cambridge, I also got the chance to talk with Richard Bauckham. I forget how the conversation started, but I remember vividly that he also supports the idea that Matthew used Luke rather than the other way around. During that period, I also heard Alan Garrow’s presentation ‘Why not Matthew’s use of Luke?’ at the Graduate Seminar. Alan’s presentation of the macrostructure of Matthew’s indebtedness to Luke was really persuasive.
Each of these factors has contributed to my growing interest in the case for Matthew’s use of Luke. I look forward to participating in this rapidly developing debate."
Chakrita will be presenting at SBL Denver, 2022
Session 20-128: November 20th 9.00-11.30am.
“Competitive Traditions: Luke’s and Matthew’s (Con)textualization of the Beelzebul Controversy”.
An expanded version of this paper is also due for publication in:
The Synoptic Problem 2022: Proceedings of the Loyola University Conference, O. Andrejevs, Simon J. Joseph, Edmondo Lupieri, Joseph Verheyden (eds.) (Leuven: Peeters, forthcoming)
More MPH Origin Stories
Prof Edmondo Lupieri holds the John Cardinal Cody Endowed Chair in New Testament and Early Christianity at Loyola University Chicago. An early advocate of Matthew's use of Luke, Edmondo first published on this subject, in Italian, in 1988.[see below] He is editor, alongside Olegs Andrejevs, Simon J. Joseph and Joseph Verheyden, of the forthcoming: The Synoptic Problem 2022: Proceedings of the Loyola University Conference (BiTS 44: Leuven: Peeters) and author of the forthcoming: “’Q o non Q, questo è il dilemma’. Riflessioni sulle avventure di un’ipotesi,” in Auctores Nostri 25 (2022). Here he recalls how he first came to reject the tradition conception of Q:
"Why not Q? I remember vividly. I was at the University of Turin, Italy, working first as Assistant and then as Associate Professor of “Christian Origins”. It was the mid-Eighties. And, when I was offering courses centered on the Gospels, as I had been taught, I regularly explained the Synoptic Problem with the usual recourse to the Two Sources Hypothesis. Yes, we all knew it, there is no manuscript of Q, but the reconstruction is quite sure and then there is the Gospel of Thomas that proves that there were Gospels that contained almost only logia of Jesus and no Passion narrative. I remember writing with chalks on the blackboard for my students (no computers nor e-mails in those years) various parallel passages of Matthew and Luke, in columns, with arrows and lines to connect the contents…
My background was in Classical Philology: Greek Literature at the University of Pisa and at the Scuola Normale Superiore of the same city, where I had studied under the supervision of a then important Italian philologian, Graziano Arrighetti (1928-2017), a disciple of the great Giorgio Pasquali (1885-1952). I had wanted to become a papyrologist, and I studied indeed under Antonio Carlini (now emeritus) and Edda Bresciani (1930-2020). My first publication, while still a student, had been the critical edition of a literary Greek papyrus fragment, but already my dissertation (on pseudo-Athenagoras’s Treatise on the Resurrection) testifies to my interest in early Christianity and Patristics. After Pisa, I had moved to the University of Rome where, working and teaching with Manlio Simonetti (1926-2017), I matured my interest into the New Testament and what was then called Late Judaism and Early Christianity.
It was in Turin though, discussing the Patristic interpretation of the baptismal imagery in Mark with my new mentor Franco Bolgiani (1922-2012), that he suggested to me to start working on the figure of John the Baptist. That subject was going to keep me busy for the first decades of my academic life. And obliged me to take upfront the Synoptic Problem while trying to identify the earliest historical and literary traditions on John the Baptist.
I decided to consider the synoptic material on John the Baptist like a sort of a “gospel in the Gospels” and, by reading and re-reading it, I started thinking that the traditional explanation of the intrasynoptic relationship, based on the Two Sources Hypothesis, was not working in a satisfactorily way. Why a collection of Jesus logia should have contained logia of John and narrative sections on him? And why Q was more and more identical to Luke?
I began reflecting on the Synoptics as a whole. The explanations of the so-called “minor agreements” had never completely convinced me. The “Lukan lacuna” did not appear to be really such after all. And, if there was a Q, the Passion narrative had to be part of it – and therefore Q ought to be another complete gospel, of which no fragment was extant, and no mention was to be found in any Church Father or heresiologist. But both Luke and Matthew had had independent access to it: a quite peculiar phenomenon, from a strictly historical and literary point of view.
I will not repeat here what I have explained in two recent contributions of mine, presently under press, but in those years, thanks also to the works of other scholars (and having verified that Carl Lachmann had not been a supporter of Q), I reached the conclusion that it is much more probable that whoever was in charge of the redaction of what is now the Gospel of Matthew had reworked the material of what is now the Gospel of Luke. This is not to deny the existence of presynoptic traditions and sources (both oral and written, as Lk 1:1-4 explicitly states), but to stress that a) the very existence of one major written source identifiable as “Q” is an hypothesis that rests on a very slender reed and, especially, that b) it is not practically possible nor theoretically thinkable that its text can be reconstructed upon the agreement of Matthew and Luke, since their reciprocal independence cannot be proved."
 “What if? Historical and Literary Hypotheses on Matthean Posteriority,” in O. Andrejevs et alii, The Synoptic Problem 2022: Proceedings of the Loyola University Conference (Biblical Tools and Studies 44), Leuven: Peeters 2023 and “’Q o non Q, questo è il dilemma’. Riflessioni sulle avventure di un’ipotesi,” in Auctores Nostri 25 (2022), forthcoming.
 See my Giovanni Battista nelle tradizioni sinottiche (Studi biblici 82), Brescia: Paideia 1988 and Giovanni Battista fra storia e leggenda (Biblioteca di cultura religiosa 53), Brescia: Paideia 1988, 1-192.
Are you attending SBL 2022 in Denver? look out for:
'Interrelations of the Gospels Consultation'.
Nov 20th, 9.00 - 11.30 am, Room 106 (Street Level) - Convention Center (CC)
This session includes two papers by MPH supporters, Chakrita Saulina and Ronald V Huggins.
More MPH Origin Stories
Fr Brendan Gerard is superior of the house of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, Edinburgh and lecturer in New Testament at Priesterseminar St Petrus (Bavaria).
Here is his account of how he came to suspect that Matthew used Luke:
"About five years ago, I was referred to Alan Garrow’s articles making a case for Matthew’s use of Luke. I had previously been impressed by Mark Goodacre’s defence of Lukan dependence on Matthew, the hypothetical document Q being (on his view) superfluous. Alan’s arguments made me think again, both about the necessity of “Q” in some form (it is sometimes Matthew, sometimes Luke, who seems to give us the older form of this material) and about the real problem with Lukan dependence on Matthew: it is unlikely that Luke would systematically and meticulously have separated out Markan from non-Markan material where Matthew combines them.
With that in mind, what made me positively inclined to see Matthew as the borrower from Luke was some work I was doing on the Gospel burial narratives. Here, the minor agreements between Matthew and Luke are, as Ulrich Luz puts it, “spectacular.” There is verbatim agreement in the two evangelists’ phrasing of Joseph’s approach to Pilate (Matt 27,58 || Luke 23,52) and in their verb for the wrapping up of the body (Matt 27,59 || Luke 23,53). What is more, both have similar formulas (absent in Mark) to say “a man named Joseph” (Matt 27,57 || Luke 23,50), both agree on the new or unused status of the tomb (Matt 27,60 || Luke 23,53), and both omit two Markan features of the story: Pilate’s verification of Jesus’ death, and the purchase of the burial cloth.
For these two accounts to have arrived independently at the same range of divergences from their Markan source would be quite impressive, even when we allow for oral tradition. If we were to suppose that Luke has here made use of Matthew, we would then have to account for what Luke has omitted from Matthew’s version. Given his usual tendencies, it might be understandable for Luke to have suppressed Matthew’s description of Joseph as “a rich person.” But why should he have ignored the description of Joseph as a disciple, or the detail that the tomb belonged to Joseph, if these were available to him? If there is a direct literary relationship between Matthew and Luke in this passage, it is easier to regard Matthew as the borrower from Luke than vice versa. Alternatively, even if one would rather not posit direct dependence, preferring to explain these minor agreements in terms of "secondary orality," it is still more plausible that Matthew has used a post-Lukan retelling of the story than the reverse."
Are you attending SBL 2022 in Denver? look out for:
'Interrelations of the Gospels Consultation'.
Nov 20th, 9.00 - 11.30 am, Room 106 (Street Level) - Convention Center (CC)
This session includes two papers by MPH supporters, Chakrita Saulina and Ronald V Huggins.
Here are twelve more MPH Origin Stories.
A column of smoke that ascends more than twenty miles into the sky, circling electric storms, earthquakes, cascading torrents of super-heated ash, hails of pumice, deafening eruptive roars, the stench of sulphur, and the blotting out of the sun are all phenomena familiar to anyone who has studied a Plinian volcanic eruption – so called because this rare and deadly type was first described by Pliny the Younger after the eruption of Vesuvius on 24th August 79CE. This set of phenomena, albeit more colourfully described, will also be recognised by anyone familiar with the book of Revelation. In the light of these parallels, this presentation argues that the imagery of Revelation is richly and directly informed by recent reports of the eruption of Vesuvius. This has consequences not only for our understanding of the relationship between the visions of Revelation and the events of history but also for our estimate of the date at which Revelation was composed.
Torsten Löfstedt is Associate Professor at Linnaeus University, Sweden. He is author of Devil, Demons, Judas, and ‘the Jews’ (Pickwick Publications, 2021). Here he tells his MPH Origin Story.
"I first encountered the Matthean Posteriority hypothesis when I was working on The Devil, Demons, Judas, and ‘the Jews’. I had written a several articles relating to the devil in the Gospels and now I hoped to write a larger book on this topic. Inspired by Neil Forsyth’s brilliant work The Old Enemy and by The Origin of Satan, a rather problematic book by Elaine Pagels, I sought to do a redaction critical study showing how portrayals of the devil and his human counterparts developed over time from one Gospel to the next.
My original plan was to follow the two-source hypothesis, as Pagels did. First I would study Mark, then Q, then Matthew, then Luke, and finally John. That however proved impossible. While I had earlier assumed that the two-source hypothesis was unproblematic, the more I looked at the material the more problematic the theory proved to be. The temptation narrative in Matthew and Luke is central to any study of the devil in the Gospels. But this is a narrative and does not have anything in common with the various logia that are said to have made up the bulk of Q. After many false starts I had to admit that a central problem with the two-source hypothesis is knowing how many sources we are actually working with. Since the postulated Q-source has not been preserved there is no way of knowing what it contained. There is therefore no telling how many documents lie behind the various pericopes that Matthew and Luke have in common but are lacking in Mark.
I looked for alternative solutions to the Synoptic problem. At the time I was not acquainted with the term “Matthean Posteriority Hypothesis” (MPH). It’s not a phrase you come up with spontaneously. The classes I had taken on the Gospels long ago and the standard surveys of the Synoptic problem that I initially examined simply ignored this explanation. They would show how unlikely it is that Luke had access to Matthew’s Gospel (why would Luke chop up the Matthean discourses?) and then they would simply assert it is just as absurd to think that Matthew had access to Luke, without actually explaining why it was so absurd. Finally I came upon a blog post by Paul Davidson, a Japanese-English translator, that showed how the MPH could explain unexpected similarities between the versions of the Beelzebul pericope found in Matthew and Luke. This hypothesis seemed to offer the perfect solution.
The MPH is a simple hypothesis: Mark wrote his Gospel first. Luke wrote a new Gospel, using Mark’s Gospel as a basis, but dropping large chunks of material and adding material from other sources. Matthew is an expanded version of Mark’s Gospel, to which he has added material from other sources, one of which was Luke. The simplicity of the hypothesis is appealing. It does not appeal to a hypothetical document to explain those passages that are found in almost identical form in Matthew and Luke but that are not found in Mark. It resolves the problem with the minor agreements. It makes sense of the feeling many scholars had had that where Matthew and Luke shared material that was lacking in Mark, Luke’s version appeared more primitive. The hypothesis also makes sense of the fact that Matthew had a more developed trinitarian theology than Luke.
My book puts the MPH to the test. I found that when it came to explaining changes to the narrative material in the Gospels it worked just fine. This hypothesis gives a better understanding of the distinctive emphases of the different Gospels. The contrast between Luke and Matthew becomes especially clear. Luke’s Gospel reflects an earlier charismatic form of Christianity; Matthew in contrast comes across as institutional and legalistic. In some respects, Luke is more dualistic —the devil actively seeks Jesus’ death for example. But Luke also has a more nuanced picture of Jewish leaders. He is hopeful that they may yet become followers of Christ. Matthew is considerably more judgmental and less forgiving of Jewish religious leaders. He seems to have given up on them. By the time Matthew’s Gospel was written the division between the church and Judaism had hardened.
In future publications I hope to continue to test the MPH on other Synoptic material. This hypothesis promises to revolutionize our understanding of earliest Christianity and the development of Christian theology".
If you love Q, set it free
“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.
Alan Garrow is Vicar of St Peter's Harrogate and a member of SCIBS at the University of Sheffield.