|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
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.”
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.
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".
"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
I first began to think of Matthew as being written later than Luke during my research on the Dead Sea Scrolls. My first idea of a topic for my habilitation was just that: the dead Sea Scrolls, a body of writings that is new to all scholars and that has no traditionally established categories, solutions, criteria, dating, etc. I read them all, and I read almost all literature that was published on them thus far. Trying to analyse various versions of the penal codes that are contained in the so-called Damascus Document and in the so-called Community Rule, I realized how difficult it is to assess the relative priority and posteriority of texts that are quite similar to each other and that have no contextual or traditional relative dating. In particular, I discovered how reversible the criteria to assess such priority and posteriority are: shorter and longer version, elaboration and simplification, development and compactness, one occurrence and numerous occurrences of a given term, etc. In this context, I understood that all our traditional solutions of the Synoptic Problem are in fact based on the sand of such largely reversible criteria.
Moreover, when I studied Luke’s Gospel against this pre-70 CE Jewish background, Luke struck me as being well acquainted with particular Jewish ideas that were not typically biblical and that were somehow discussed in the Dead Sea Scrolls: heptadic calculations of time from the beginning of the world until the present decisive era (Apocalypse of Weeks), saving a man in a body of water/dropsy on the Sabbath day (Damascus Document), etc. On the other hand, I perceived Matthew as generally based on the standard biblical ideas of the Old Testament, with no great acquaintance with the ideas of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Accordingly, I realized that, in contrast to the traditional views, Luke is not typically Greek, and Matthew is not typically Jewish. In fact, Mathew seems to be more distant from the pre-70 CE Judaism of the Dead Sea Scrolls but closer to later Rabbinic Judaism. This led me to entertain the possibility that Matthew was written later than Luke.
Further encouragement to perceive Matthew as later than Luke came with reading Martin Hengel’s English-language paperback book on the Four Gospels (2000), which he published in his own native German language only later, shortly before his death, probably being afraid of the reaction of the conservative Q-oriented German scholars.
The development of my own hypothesis came with the analysis of the Lukan ‘travel narrative’. Having worked many times as a guide in the Holy Land, I realized that the lament over Jerusalem in Lk 13:34–35 could not be uttered in Galilee because of its great distance from Jerusalem, even today in a comfortable air-conditioned bus. Moreover, the following stories on table fellowship in Lk 14 have nothing to do with this lament. Having written my PhD on Paul’s theology, I realized that I knew such a sequence: it originates from Galatians 2: the fierce dispute in Jerusalem (Gal 2:1-10) and the following discussion on table fellowship in Antioch (Gal 2:11-14). Consequently, I investigated the Lukan Gospel as a sequentially organized, highly creative (hypertextual) reworking of the contents of Paul’s letters. A similar discovery came later in my analysis of the Gospel of Mark.
As concerns Matthew, I often taught my Catholic seminarians that Peter plays an important role in several stories in its central section. I realized that Peter plays a similarly important role also in the central section of the Acts of the Apostles (esp. Acts 15). This led me to develop my hypothesis that Matthew used the whole Luke: not only his Gospel but also his Acts of the Apostles. Even if the wording of Matthew largely comes from the Lukan Gospel, the order of topics and ideas reflects that of the Acts of the Apostles.
Having read Michael Goulder’s works on his reverse hypothesis (Luke’s use of Matthew), I knew that in order to prove such a non-Q hypotheses, we need detailed commentaries on the whole works, not only publications concerning minor issues, which can always be treated as reversible (Luke influencing Matthew or Matthew influencing Luke). Therefore, the final (thus far) development of my hypothesis has been formulated in a thorough hypertextual commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, in which I argue that Matthew followed the sequence of the contents of the Acts of the Apostles, and used the Gospels of Mark and Luke to illustrate these contents.
"Hamilton College prepared me for New Testament studies with four years of Greek and strong training in English Literature. I arrived at Union Theological Seminary in 1963 with a passion to support those who suffered racial injustice. The Civil Rights Movement relied on the Hebrew prophets and Jesus’ concern for the poor, but countless white Christians, especially in the Bible Belt, refused to repent of America’s original sin. I hoped to find the real Jesus beyond conflicted church practices.
Union Seminary introduced students to historical critical study of scriptures: first, sources of the Pentateuch, then the Synoptic Problem. One key text was B.H. Streeter’s seminal 1924 book, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins. Streeter defined Q — Quelle, or source — by listing material common to Matthew and Luke that did not appear in Mark.
Marcion and the Synoptics
During my first two years at Union, Professor John Knox encouraged me to examine the history and editing of the Synoptic Gospels. He had published Marcion and the New Testament in 1942, but amid the turmoil of World War II, his book got little attention. Knox described deeply human struggles that shaped the New Testament.
Marcion had preached that the harsh God of the Torah could not be the loving Father that Jesus proclaimed. The Church destroyed Marcion’s scriptures, but Tertullian and Epiphanius refuted him in such detail that scholars have used their attacks to recreate most of the lost gospel. Knox thought it contained the bulk of Luke between Jesus’ baptism and his resurrection. Few doubted that Marcion’s version of Luke had once existed, but Q remained a literary ghost.
During a year I took at Cambridge University, 1965-66, Professor C.F.D. “Charlie” Moule guided my study, and I relied on his 1962 volume The Birth of the New Testament. He urged me to examine the Synoptic Problem in its ecclesiastical context, including whether Matthew might have copied from an early version of Luke, rather than Q.
I recognized Matthew as a brilliant editor. It appeared that he used Mark as a framework, then gathered material into a topical gospel that was superbly suited for preaching. It appeared that he condensed Marcan pericopes to save space. If he hoped to have his gospel copied and circulated, he needed to fit his material onto a standard size scroll or codex.
William R. Farmer had offered a contrarian view in his 1964 study, The Synoptic Problem: A Critical Analysis. He argued that Matthew wrote first, that Mark copied from Matthew, and Luke adapted material from both. Farmer built his argument for Matthean priority in sixteen steps, but he never asked why Luke or Mark — if they used Matthew — would have dismembered Matthew’s five magnificent topical discourses, only to scatter the fragments in sometimes jarring catchword groups. Nor did Farmer explain why Mark or Luke might have omitted cogent parables that appear only in Matthew: the Unforgiving Servant (Mt 18:25-35), Workers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:1-16), the Two Sons (Mt 21:28-32), and the Wise and Foolish Wedding Guests (Mt 25:1-13).
I wondered why Farmer dedicated his 1964 book to John Knox but never mentioned Knox’s work on Marcion. Nor did he explore what part Marcion’s version of Luke might have played in gospel editing.
The evidence lay in contested ground between Streeter, Farmer, Knox, Moule, Austin Farrer, B.C. Butler, George Kilpatrick, Rudolf Bultmann, and other scholars.
Questions about Omissions — Women
Streeter listed one condition under which Matthew might have omitted material from Q: “To feel confidently that any at all notable saying in Q was omitted by Matthew one must see clearly that the saying would lend itself to an interpretation by the faithful which he definitely disliked.”
Both Streeter and Bultmann were baffled by the possibility that Matthew had seen and rejected the story of the Widow’s Mite (Mk 12:41-44/Lk 21:1-4). The poor widow had not served Jesus, shown faith in him, or humbled herself before him, yet he singled her out for high praise. Jesus said she had given more than rich men who contributed large sums.
Over the centuries, commentators had noted Luke’s interest in women. In fact, Mark, Luke and John all show Jesus responding empathetically to women and welcoming them among his followers. Such practice would have been extraordinary for a traveling rabbi in Palestine, and it would have shocked male leaders in the early Church.
Under the principle of lectio difficilior potior, I believed it more plausible that Jesus dealt with women in ways described by Mark, Luke and John than that these three gospels all embellished Jesus’ treatment of women.
If Matthew edited Mark, his editing reduced personal detail about women to a minimum. In the stories of Jairus’s daughter and the woman with chronic bleeding (Mt 9:18-26/Mk 5:21-43/Lk 8:40-56), Mark tells readers that the woman had suffered under many doctors and spent all she had, but her condition worsened. In the Marcan story of Jairus’s daughter, the mourners express anguish over the child’s death. Matthew drops these dramatic details. By sheer word count, he trims Mark’s nested narratives by more than half. Similarly, in the empty tomb narratives (Mt 28:1-10/Mk 16:1-8/Luke 24:1-11), Matthew drops the plaintive question the women ask in Mark: “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb?”
I could not find any example in Matthew where Jesus heals unless the sufferers, their relatives, or friends approach him humbly and with faith. Both Marcion’s reconstructed gospel and canonical Luke both show Jesus responding empathetically to women, even though they showed no prior faith, devotion, or humility. In the Widow’s Son at Nain (Lk 7:11-17) and the Woman Healed on the Sabbath (Lk 13:10-17), Jesus approaches the women involved and performs miraculous cures.
I wondered how Matthew and his congregation would have reacted to the Lucan story, which appeared in Marcion, where Martha wants Jesus to send Mary to help her prepare dinner (Lk 10:38-42). “Martha, Martha,” Jesus replies, “you are worried and upset about many things. One thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” In a similar vein, the parable of the Unjust Judge (Lk 18:1-8) affirms a widow’s relentless demand for justice, while comparing God to a cynical magistrate.
None of this proves that Matthew actually saw these stories in Q or an early version of Luke, or that he decided to exclude such pericopes from his gospel. But if Matthew held traditional views on the place of women, he would probably have found Jesus’ treatment of women disturbing, particularly the stories of the Sinful Woman with Ointment (Lk 7:36-50) and the women who traveled with Jesus (Lk 8:1-3). These pericopes appear in both Marcion’s Gospel and canonical Luke. They satisfy Streeter’s criterion: sayings or stories that lent themselves “to an interpretation by the faithful which [Matthew] definitely disliked.”
Professor Moule welcomed my approach and shared insights he would soon publish in his introduction to a collection of scholarly papers: The Significance of the Message of the Resurrection for Faith in Jesus Christ (1968). In all four gospels the Empty Tomb narratives name the women who went to do the traditional women’s work of washing and anointing a body. Moule argued that this unanimous record of women as first witnesses provided striking proof of the resurrection. He noted that since Jewish and Roman rules of evidence discounted or barred women’s testimony, anyone perpetrating a hoax would have produced male witnesses.
Scholars writing about the Synoptic Problem in the 1960s were all men, and I shared their blind spots about women. During my senior year in college, several of us went to hear a woman preach. One joked afterward by quoting Samuel Johnson’s comment about a female preacher: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”
Now my work on the Synoptic Problem forced me to face my own prejudices. I recognized that gender bias had played a decisive but overlooked role in gospel editing.
Streeter made what seemed to be two dubious assumptions: first, that all the material in Q was as useful and as acceptable to Matthew as Mark was; second, that Q had no greater proportion of sayings which Matthew found offensive than was to be found in Mark.
I asked how Matthew might have reacted if his second source resembled what we knew of Marcion’s Luke. It seemed unlikely that Matthew would have used anything like Marcion’s gospel as fully as he used Mark. I wondered what other biases might have affected Matthew’s editing.
Disputes over Law
Streeter and Bultmann were baffled by Matthew’s apparent omission from Mark of the Widow’s Mite. Nor could either explain Matthew discarded Mark’s story of the Strange Exorcist (Mk 9:38-41/Lk 9:49-50). This apparent deletion alerted me to another apparent bias in Matthew’s editing. In contrast to Marcion and others who rejected the Hebrew scriptures, Matthew shows Jesus fulfilling the law and commanding his followers to obey it. In verses peculiar to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus insists on keeping the Law, down to the tiniest letter or pronunciation mark. He also commands his followers to surpass the scribes and Pharisees in fulfilling it. Only Matthew quotes Jesus warning against those who relax the commandments and teach others to do so (Mt 5:17-20). He calls them “false prophets . . . wolves in the clothing of sheep,” and “evildoers” (Mt 7:15-6, 23). These unique Matthean texts took direct aim at antinomian Christians who shared Marcion’s approach.
I wondered how well-documented disputes between Jewish Christians and gentile converts over keeping the law might have influenced Matthew’s editing. It appeared that Matthew inserted a peculiar comment in Mark’s story of the Canaanite woman. He quotes Jesus telling her he was sent “only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 15:21-28/Mk 7:24-30). This idiosyncratic theme appears again in Matthew’s Mission Discourse where Jesus commands the disciples: “Do not take the gentile road, and do not enter a Samaritan city, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:5-6). Only Matthew explicitly opposes a mission to the Samaritans and Gentiles.
I could not believe that both the anti-Samaritan and pro-Samaritan elements in the Gospels were authentic from the ministry of Jesus. It seemed to me that either Jesus refused to deal with Samaritans and commanded his disciples to do the same, or he dealt with them and allowed his disciples to do so. Although Mark reveals nothing about this, Luke and John are fully aware of the mutual loathing between Jews and Samaritans, yet both show Jesus deliberately establishing contact. Matthew’s opposition to the Samaritans includes only isolated sayings, but Luke and John include vivid narratives of Jesus shattering anti-Samaritan stereotypes.
In one Lucan story, residents of a Samaritan village refuse to receive Jesus and his followers as they walk toward Jerusalem (Lk 9:51-6). James and John offer to call down fire on them — in Marcion’s text, they cite the example of Elijah — but Jesus rebukes them. Luke also shows Jesus telling an unforgettable parable about a Samaritan who fulfills the high command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:29-37). The parable’s torque springs from the fact that the Samaritans had no status under Jewish Law, yet this Samaritan far surpasses religious leaders. This struck me as precisely what Streeter would have considered “an interpretation by the faithful which [Matthew] definitely disliked.”
Wealth and Poverty
A third major difference between Matthew and Luke — or Marcion’s version of Luke — involved questions of wealth and poverty. G. D. Kilpatrick argued in 1950 that Matthew was compiled for use in a wealthy urban Jewish Church. Kilpatrick demonstrated how Matthew modified material he found in Mark and other sources, making it more palatable to rich Christians. Few commentators asked whether the radical blessings and curses in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-26) might represent words of Jesus more accurately than the highly spiritual beatitudes in the Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:3-11). It seemed to me that the rhetorical power of Matthew’s sermon concealed its tolerance of wealth. This visible editorial bias provided a second reason for Matthew to pass over Mark’s story of Jesus praising the poor widow for giving more than the “many rich people.”
Tension between Luke and Matthew over wealth may also appear in their editing of Mark’s story of the Rich Young Man (Mt 19:16-22/Mk 10:17-22/Lk 18:18-23). Luke shows Jesus telling the devout young man to sell everything he owns and give to the poor. Matthew softens that challenge when he quotes Jesus saying: “If you want to be perfect (teleios), go, sell your possessions and give to the poor…” Matthew apparently inserted this notion of aspiring to perfection through radical sacrifice. That concept took root in the early church and continues both in Roman Catholic and Methodist traditions. Of four questions John Wesley asked candidates for ministry, three were about “going on to perfection . . . [being] made perfect in love in this life,” and “earnestly striving after it.” Matthew admits that Jesus occasionally asked his followers to renounce possessions, but he does not suggest that all Christians must surrender all wealth. He calls for charity but shuns pericopes that equate possessions with evil.
The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) seems, at first glance, as deserving of a place in Matthew’s Gospel as the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Mt 25:31-46). Both demand charity for the poor, and both threaten hell for those who refuse. But here, as in other Lucan parables, judgement falls harshly on the rich man “who dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury,” while sympathy flows to the poor beggar outside his gate. In Matthew’s parable of the Sheep and the Goats, the judgement has nothing to do with the distinction between the rich on one hand and the poor on the other. The only Matthean criterion is whether they have cared for least of these.
Beyond My Biases
Research into what appeared to be Matthew’s editorial bias helped me see the way I and other men routinely undervalued women. Only days before my first term at Cambridge, I married a family friend. On our ocean voyage to England, she practiced signing her new name “Mrs. H. Philip West Jr.” During our year there, she struggled with depression and her identity as a woman.
Back in New York, marriage and motherhood seemed to make her feel worse. At that point, we recognized parallels between the self-loathing of many blacks who lived with the legacy of chattel slavery and women who had long been treated as their husbands’ property. Slaves and women were routinely given their masters’ names, denied educational opportunities, treated as inferiors, and beaten into submission. Many blacks and women internalized a sense of inferiority, even self-hatred.
My wife and I joined the National Organization for Women. As she began advocating for equal treatment under law, her depression lifted, and our marriage improved. She went back to using her birth name, Anne Grant. She worked for girls’ equal education and produced award-winning programs on women’s history. Her graduate thesis explored how Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a committee of women who were barred from voting challenged male supremacy and started publishing The Woman’s Bible in 1895.
In 1971, Professor Leonard Swidler published his persuasive declaration that “Jesus was a Feminist.” He argued that women in Jesus’ time were segregated in an outer court of the Temple, forbidden to pray publicly, and not counted toward a quorum for worship. Swidler quoted one First Century rabbi who declared that “the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman.” He concluded: “Jesus vigorously promoted the dignity and equality of women in the midst of a very male-dominated society: Jesus was a feminist, and a very radical one.”
I remain grateful that Professor C.F.D. Moule proposed my paper, “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew,” for publication in New Testament Studies. He and Professor John Knox encouraged me to continue this scholarship, but in the turbulent 1960s I felt an urgent call to urban ministry.
I spent 22 years in church work, then 18 years leading a secular reform group, Common Cause Rhode Island. In retirement, I wrote a first-person account of how scandals shook a state that was notorious for public corruption. Coalitions of angry citizens rallied to demand changes in the system of government, and historic reforms followed.
Recently, I reviewed current research on the Synoptic problem. I was delighted to find scholars challenging the existence of Q and presenting evidence that Matthew had copied from Mark. I applaud the work of Ronald V. Huggins, Evan Powell, Erik Aurelius, Robert MacEwen, and Alan Garrow.
During more than fifty years since my paper about Matthew’s likely omissions from an early version of Luke appeared in NTS, scholars have wrestled over Q and largely reconstructed Marcion’s gospel. In 2015, Dieter T. Roth published an exhaustive historical recreation of Marcion’s Gospel. It shows Jesus embracing women, people outside the law, and the poor. Even a quick reading shows why Matthew would have found this portrait of Jesus disturbing.
I recently found David Inglis on the Internet. He describes himself as a computer professional, not a scholar. But he has created a comprehensive website on the Synoptic Problem. His research on Marcion includes a chapter-by-chapter parallel layout of Marcion and Luke. Inglis proposes what he calls “MwEL: A New Synoptic Hypothesis,” which goes far beyond what I proposed in 1967.
One dynamic remains clear: those who proclaim Jesus often tailor their message for particular audiences. As the gospel spread across the Roman Empire, evangelists inevitably colored Jesus and edited his words for congregations they cherished. It appears that Matthew reworked his material to soften Jesus’ shocking empathy for women, poor people, antinomians and those outside the fold.
Some may object that my research revealed what I wanted to find. I would counter with a metaphor of digging for fossils. The challenge for paleontologists is to uncover and recognize evidence that has been hidden from view. Only further study will tell whether Matthew edited material from an early version of Luke. For now, it appears that scholars who argue that Matthew edited and compiled material from Mark and other sources will prevail.
I can say with certainty that Jesus’ responses to women helped me break out of cultural assumptions I had absorbed in the 1950s. His example made me a better pastor and advocate. Since our year at Cambridge, Anne Grant and I have become equal partners in a liberating marriage adventure of nearly 55 years.
I regret that many men who govern major Christian denominations still claim scriptural authority for excluding women from power. I long for the day when all church leaders will follow Jesus’ example in breaching historic animosities, and I believe Jesus would rebuke those who twist his words as they preach the Prosperity Gospel."
 Knox, John, Marcion and the New Testament: An Essay in the Early History of the Canon, (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1942) 110.
 Farmer, William R., The Synoptic Problem: A Critical Analysis, (New York: Macmillan, 1964) 199-232.
 B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins, (London: Macmillan, 1924) 290.
 Rev. Letty Russell was one of the first women ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (1958) and a founder of the East Harlem Protestant Parish, where she trained church leaders.
 2 Kings 1:10
 Kilpatrick, G. D., The Origins of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1950) 124-26.
 Swidler, Leonard, “Jesus was a Feminist,” Catholic World, Jan. 1971.
 West, H. Philip, Jr., “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew,” NTS, Oct. 1967.
 West, H. Philip, Jr., Secrets and Scandals: Reforming Rhode Island, 1986-2006, (East Providence: Rhode Island Publications Society) 2014.
 Roth, Dieter T., The Text of Marcion’s Gospel, (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill) 2015
 Inglis, David, “MwEL: A Mew Synoptic Hypothesis,” https://sites.google.com/site/inglisonmarcion/Home/the-synoptic-problem/mwel-theory (accessed 5/13/2020).
"My article 'Matthean Posteriority: A Preliminary Proposal' (1992), originated as a paper written for the Q Seminar of the late Professor Heinz O. Guenther, which I took during the first semester of my doctoral studies at the University of Toronto/Toronto School of Theology. My argument was that Q might be dispensed with if we assume that Luke used Mark and that Matthew used both Luke and Mark. The form in which the article appeared in Novum Testamentum is identical to the copy I turned in to Professor Guenther, indeed I submitted both, albeit quite late with regard to the seminar, on the same day, one copy to Professor Guenther and another to the post office addressed to a journal.
Guenther, always extremely fastidious when it came to the interests and scholarly development of his students, returned the paper with several pages of comments made in red ink, concluding that it was “beyond the pale” for the course, but nevertheless, to my great relief, assigning it an A. Not long afterwards, I remember Professor Guenther taking me aside, and, in a fatherly sort of way, urging me that “life was too short,” to strike off on my own looking for a new solution to the Synoptic Problem. Better, he said, to join one of the established schools and engage in meaningful research along with others there.
In those days the University of Toronto was particularly strong in Synoptic Studies, as I suppose it still probably is. This is seen in the fact that prominent Q scholar John Kloppenborg came a little before me in the program and Bob Derrenbacker a little after. As a result, I became cognizant very early of both the elegance and tremendous explanatory power of the dominant two-source theory, a thing I still fully appreciate. I did wonder, however, whether part of the reason it seemed so persuasive to me was that I wasn’t hearing the other side of the arguments. This led me to feel I needed to explore the potential viability of the alternative solutions as well, including of course the one presented in Austin Farrer’s 1955 article “On Dispensing with Q.” Farrer attempted to dispense with Q by proposing that Matthew used Mark and Luke used Matthew and Mark. His most energetic disciple today is Duke University’s Mark Goodacre.
At first Farrer’s hypothesis seemed promising, much more so than other alternative solutions I’d looked at, because unlike them, it affirmed Marcan Priority (the idea that Matthew and Luke used Mark, not the other way around), which by that time seemed to me to be an inescapable fact.
In any case, I set to work trying to make sense of what I saw going on in the Synoptic Gospels (and had been made to see by Heinz Guenther and then afterward by Joseph Plevnik S.J.) through the grid of Farrer’s solution. I understood that since Synoptic Studies had gained a great deal of precision since Farrer’s article, I might even need to refine the theory a bit myself in order to make it work. I very quickly found myself liking Farrer’s view and actually hoping he was right. And yet as I put it to the test point by point, passage by passage, I kept finding myself again and again running up against places where it just didn’t commend itself as a solution, places where Matthew seemed more developed than Luke.
This was, of course, what I had in a way expected, since I was already aware of the claim by defenders of the two-source theory, that both in order and in form, Luke is generally “more primitive” than Matthew in the double tradition (i.e., in Q). This is why for example Q passages usually take their chapter and verse references from Luke rather than Matthew. According to The Critical Edition of Q there are only eleven places where Matthew rather than Luke is thought to preserve the original order of Q. So, I faced the question rather early whether Matthew was really ever indisputably “more primitive” than Luke when it came to their shared Q material. And I was surprised to find that even as I looked at those eleven passages, which included, for example, Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness, and his teaching about houses built on rock and sand, it was by no means obvious to me that Matthew really could be shown to be “more primitive” than Luke.
For two-source theorists the idea that sometimes Matthew and sometimes Luke preserves Q in its more original form and/or order, a phenomenon they call “alternating primitivity,” is a key argument given for why Luke and Matthew had to get their shared non-Markan material from Q rather than from one another. Yet looking at those few places where Matthew was deemed “more primitive,” it was not long before I began to suspect that the two-source defenders found their few examples of Matthew’s being “more primitive,” because their theory led them to expect to find them. In other words, alternating primitivity was being discovered, only because it was already presumed to exist. I could not see that it was a position they were in any way pressed into embracing by the evidence itself. This is why I put the matter as definitively as I did in the article: “The solution offered here will ultimately stand or fall on whether it can be demonstrated beyond doubt that Matthew is more primitive than Luke at certain points in the double tradition.”
In any case, the very fact that I was finding myself agreeing that Matthew was anyway most often less primitive than Luke in material designated Q represented a significant blow to Farrer’s thesis. If Luke really was using Matthew, why and how was he making the material consistently look “more primitive”?
As I looked more closely at particular passages, the inadequacy of the Farrer position became even more obvious. The reason was that in order for Farrer to be right it would require Luke taking nicely ordered things from Matthew, picking them apart, and scattering them around in different places in his Gospel for no apparent reason. A case in point is the famous woes passage of Matthew 23. In Matthew we find the woes all neatly presented one after another in a row, each one starting with an identical stereotyped introduction: “Woe to you Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites” (23:13,14,15, 23, 25,27,29). So, if we want to say Luke is getting his woes from this passage in Matthew a number of whys emerge to trouble us. First, why did Luke drop two of the woes (23:15 and 25)? What was his driving 'redactional' (editorial) principle for doing so? Why did he break up the passage itself, putting three woes (in different order) in his 11th chapter, and one in his 20th chapter? But most significantly, why did he get rid of Matthew’s neatly repetitive introductory formula, 'Woe to you Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites,' and replace it with a range of different introductions: 'Woe to you Pharisees!' (11:42 & 43), 'Woe to you...' (11:44-47), “Woe to you lawyers also!” (11:46), 'Woe to you lawyers!' (11:52), 'Beware of the Scribes' (20:46)?
Now I could see of course that with a little ingenuity I could invent what might pass for a reason why Luke had done these things. I could say, for example, that he was interested in being more precise in attributing certain woes to certain groups. But I already knew that the problem was larger than this. This was only one instance where if Matthew came last his editorial activity would be showing evidence of a propensity for greater organization, whereas if Luke came last, his could only be described as being driven by a tendency toward greater disorganization. And yet why should that be the case since where we can also check him against Mark we find that he treated his material there quite differently, quite conservatively.
Two places where this really came home to me in passages shared by Matthew and Luke, were (1) the Salt of the Earth/Light of the World sayings, and (2) the Sign of Jonah saying.
(1) Salt of the Earth / Light of the World:
In this first case we also have a Mark/Q overlap which I didn’t show (see Mark 9:49-50). And Luke does agree with Mark’s version to some extent. Yet there is enough overlap between Matthew and Luke where they are not following Mark to be able to tell they have shared additional material. So, if Luke is following Matthew then it represents, in this case, one piece in his larger project of demolishing and redistributing Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. First of all, Luke would be breaking the passage in two, putting one part in chapter 14 and the other in chapter 8. And at the same time jettisoning Matthew’s nicely balanced doublet “You are the salt of the Earth...You are the light of the world.” But why would he do that? Again, I felt sure that with a little ingenuity I could come up with a reason, yet I knew in my heart of hearts that a better explanation would probably be that Matthew added the nice couplet to his material rather than that Luke took it out.
(2) The Sign of Jonah (Matthew 11:39-40/Luke 11:29)
This was actually for me the straw that broke the camel’s back with regard to my finally rejecting the Farrer hypothesis. In Matthew 12:39 and 40, Jesus says:
'No sign will be given...except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.'
But in Luke 11:29 we read only:
'No sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.'
As I began reflecting on this passage, whatever vestiges of confidence I had in the possibility that Farrer might be salvaged evaporated. The question was whether I thought that if Luke really had the text of Matthew lying there before him, and actually saw and read in Matthew’s text this very striking prophesy of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, from the mouth of Jesus himself, would he really have been likely to remove it as he transferred the passage over into his own Gospel? And for me at least the answer had to be no. No, he would not have removed it. What? Censor a word from the Lord like this? Surely, he would have kept it, wouldn’t he? Surely. And so, with that, I simply surrendered. Farrer’s solution wouldn’t work. Truth be told he had the whole thing ass backwards. And what I was seeing wasn’t Luke crudely pulling things apart but Matthew elegantly pulling them together.
All this meant for me at the time was that the dominant two-source theory—Mark and Q as sources for the independent Matthew and Luke—was probably the most viable one after all. And yet the time I’d spent working through the material from the perspective of the Farrer hypothesis had borne fruit by forcing me to ask myself again and again whether Luke or Matthew looked “more primitive.” In rejecting Farrer’s view passage by passage, I was tacitly affirming to myself that if there was interdependence going on it would have made much more sense to think that Matthew was getting his material from Luke rather than that Luke getting his from Matthew.
And yet at it hadn’t yet occurred to me to ask myself whether Q might actually be set aside by arguing that Matthew used Luke. That would only happen a bit later when I was once more engaged in reading defenses of the two-source theory, especially were they were making their arguments about Matthew and Luke not knowing one another. First of all, of course, they would appeal to alternating primitivity as a proof, which I had already discounted in my own mind, but then they would often move on to present arguments, standard since Streeter, as to why Luke couldn’t have used Matthew. Arguments I now regarded as fully valid. But then they would just jump from there to their conclusion by asserting Luke could not have used Matthew, nor Matthew, Luke. It was there that I saw it. Nobody was actually looking at the evidence the other way around, i.e., thinking through how the evidence would look if one supposed not that Luke used Matthew, but that Matthew used Luke. Instead they all seemed to be tacitly taking for granted that if they’d proved that Luke could not have used Matthew, it followed as well that Matthew could not have used Luke. So I decided one day to sit down to try and see how things would look from that perspective, really expecting to arrive at a dead end rather quickly. To my surprise however that didn’t happen, indeed I found the approach illuminating and more satisfying than I had expected. At the time I had no idea that anyone had attempted this before. I was aware of H. P. West’s similar thesis, but felt that he had framed it in such a way as to sidestep certain issues that I did not feel I could credibly avoid. I only heard quite a bit later from Stephen Carlson that Christian Gottlob Wilke had already argued for my view back in the 1830s."
Ron Huggins' article is available in two locations:
"Matthean Posteriority: A Preliminary Proposal." Novum Testamentum 34 (1992): 1-22.
Reprinted in The Synoptic Problem and Q: Selected Studies from Novum Testamentum, ed. David E. Orton. Brill's Readers in Biblical Studies, vol. 4, 204-25. Leiden: Brill, 1999.
Alan Garrow is Vicar of St Peter's Harrogate and a member of SCIBS at the University of Sheffield.