|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
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.
The following is an extract from James R Edwards: The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Gospel Tradition (Eerdmans, 2009) pp.245-252
“Posteriority,” a rarely used antonym of “priority,” needs a word of interpretation. The historical-critical method endeavored to uncover or recover the oldest and earliest forms of a given tradition. “Earlier” connoted (more) genuine, whereas “later” was regarded as derivative and less authoritative. On this scale of values, “posterior” is at least slightly denigrating. In the current discussion, however, I wish, if possible, to free “posterior” of any pejorative connotations, for the Gospel of Matthew is not a lesser and redundant work. Throughout the history of the church, the Gospel of Matthew, along with the Gospel of John, has been held in special esteem as one of the two most important gospels. Readings for Sundays and holy days have traditionally been taken from Matthew, and only from other gospels where Matthew was thought to be deficient. At least until modern times, Matthew has always been regarded as the “primary” gospel among the Synoptics. If Matthew was not primary in terms of chronology, from a historical perspective it rightly claims a primacy in terms of definitiveness.
But exactly how is Matthew definitive? Certainly, it is definitive in terms of structure. None of the four gospels exhibits the symmetry of the First Gospel. The other gospels display basic structures, to be sure, even elementary symmetrical structures. Both Mark and John devote roughly the first halves of their gospels to Jesus’ initial ministry in Galilee, and the second halves to his concluding ministry in Judea and Jerusalem. The Third Gospel adds a lengthy travel narrative in 9:51-18:14 between the Galilean and Jerusalem ministries of Jesus, creating a three-part structure. But none of the three gospels exhibits the complex design and proportion of the First Gospel, which begins with two chapters of infancy prologue, and ends with two chapters of passion narrative. In between, the body of Matthew consists of five major divisions, each consisting of three subdivisions, contain-[p. 246] ing a block of narrative material, followed by a block of didactic material, and a summary refrain in conclusion, “When Jesus had finished all these things . . . . “ The Gospel of Matthew displays greater design, balance, proportion, and order than any of the other three gospels.
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the Gospel of Matthew is the Sermon on the Mount. The material in Matthew’s Sermon, gathered in chapters 5-7, is also present in Luke, but in Luke the material is dispersed throughout chapters 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16 where it is intermingled with Jesus’ travels and healings and parables. The same material is decidedly less distinctive and accessible in Luke. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, on the contrary, presents readers with an arranged manual of Jesus’ teaching. Delimited by subjects and presented in formulaic refrains (e.g., “You have heard it said of old . . . . but I say to you”), Matthew offers the church an anthology of Jesus’ teaching, primarily on ethical matters. It is a catechetical handbook that can be memorized, taught, and transmitted.
To somewhat lesser degrees the blocks of didactic material elsewhere in Matthew follow similar canons of arrangement. The instructions to disciples in Matthew 10, for example, or the unit on parables in Matthew 13, the litany of woes against Pharisees in Matthew 23, and the eschatological discourse in Matthew 24, all display similar editorial intent and design. None of the other gospels orders material into the clearly defined categories that are evident in Matthew.
[p. 247] The same attention to symmetry and formulaic harmony is evident in Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer. Luke’s prayer in 11:1-4 seems truncated and incomplete compared to Matthew’s prayer in 6:9-13. In Luke, God is addressed simply as “Father,” and two brief ascriptions of praise (“hallowed be your name; your kingdom come”) are followed by three petitions (for bread, forgiveness, and deliverance from temptation). Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, by contrast, is perfectly crafted and balanced: three formulaic ascriptions of praise to God are complemented by three subsequent petitions, the whole of which is prefaced and concluded (at least in a large portion of the textual tradition) with liturgical formulas. Few literary critics will doubt that Matthew’s version represents the full flowering of an earlier version of Luke’s prayer.
Another illustration of the same developmental flow occurs in the NT accounts of the Lord’s Supper. All three Synoptics preserve a generally fixed Eucharistic form in which Jesus first institutes the bread and then the cup (Matt 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20). The Eucharistic liturgy of the early church antedated (e.g., 1 Cor 11:23-26) and undoubtedly influenced the earliest gospel accounts of the Lord’s Supper. But Luke is unique among the canonical gospels, and other early Christian Eucharistic texts preserved in the Didache, for example, in prefacing the words of institution with a preliminary cup attended by eschatological sayings. This produces a Lucan Eucharist sequence of cup—bread—second cup. The only other early Christian Eucharistic account known to include the Lucan preface to the Lord’s Supper is the Hebrew Gospel quoted by Epiphanius. On form-critical grounds scholars have long suspected that Luke 22:15-18 preserves the earliest authentic Eucharistic words of Jesus. The agreement of this material with the wording of the Hebrew Gospel not only confirms that suspicion but makes it highly probable that the source of Luke 22:15-18 is the Hebrew Gospel itself. In contrast to Luke’s longer and complex account of the Lord’s Supper, Matthew (and Mark also) presents a concise account of the words of institution, evenly proportioned between bread and cup. Matthew’s account is close to Paul’s account of the same in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, and appears to preserve the ultimate consensus on the Eucharist.
[p. 248] The Greek of the First Gospel must also be mentioned in regard to its dating. Although the Gospel of Mark exhibits dramatic structural features by sandwiching a defining narrative into the midst of a host narrative,or signaling a relationship between two texts by placing them side-by-side (e.g., Mark 4:35-5:20), the Greek of the Second Gospel can be and often is less than felicitous. Luke writes a technically superior Greek to Mark, but it is generally more complex, not the least because of its Hebraisms. Matthew’s Greek, on the other hand, is clean and consistent, and his style and wording rarely need to be (or can be) improved. The Gospel of Matthew appears to have passed through many editorial filters. The result is a gospel that affords memorization and is eminently suitable for public reading.
Matthew also presents a more developed Christology than does Mark or Luke. This is especially true of titular Christology, as evinced by Matthew’s use—or frequency of use—of such terms as Son of Abraham, Son of David, Son of God, Emmanuel, Prophet, Christ, Son of Man, and The Coming One. These titles appear in greater frequency in Matthew than they do in Mark and Luke. If Matthew were the source of the Synoptic tradition or Double Tradition, it is difficult to explain why such terms would be reduced or eliminated in Mark and/or Luke. Matthew also exhibits a sophisticated implicit Christology, an example of which appears in the use of prose,rcomai, which occurs 52 times in Matthew, but only five times in Mark and 10 times in Luke. In the Pentateuch, προσέρχομαιbears unmistakable cultic connotations, indicating an approach to God (or a representative of God in priest, altar, tabernacle, etc). In Matthew, Jesusis overwhelmingly made the object of this verb, thus implicitly transferring divine status to him. Luke, in particular, knew the LXX too well to have missed the significance of Matthew’s achievement with προσέρχομαι) It seems inexplicable why Luke, who otherwise showcases Hebraisms in his gospel, would omit such a term if he were drawing on canonical Matthew as one of his written sources.
The above evidence of Matthean posteriority can be illustrated and augmented by considering, briefly, a number of specific Matthean texts that are best explained as developments of earlier Lucan texts. [p. 249]
This conclusion appears to be corroborated in a study of textual transmission, in which Robert McIver and Marie Carroll argue that “[a]ny sequence of exactly the same 16 or more words that is not an aphorism, poetry, or words to a song is almost certain to have been copied from a written document.” McIver and Carroll note 46 passages, each consisting of 16 or more words, that two of the Synoptic gospels have in common. In no case do all three Synoptics share a text of 16 or more words in common. Luke and Mark have three passages in common,and Luke and Matthew have 11 passages in common. In addition to the three passages that Mark has in common with Luke, Mark has nine passages in common with Matthew. Of the 46 passages, 14 appear in Luke, 12 appear in Mark, and 20 [p. 251]appear in Matthew. Of a total of 23 pairs shared by Luke and Mark, or Luke and Matthew, or Mark and Matthew, Matthew shares 20of them. Matthew, in other words, is almost twice as likely to share material in common with Mark, or in common with Luke, as either Luke or Mark is to share material in common with the other. This statistic suggests that Matthew is either the sourceof material for Mark and Luke; or, conversely, that Matthew is the recipientof material from either Mark or Luke. The theory of Markan priority supplies solid and repeated evidence for the assumption that Matthew has been the recipient of Markan material. The foregoing arguments, and especially the list of examples on pages 7-8 above, argue the same, that Matthew is the recipient of Lucan material. The work of McIver and Carroll seems to supply further statistical evidence that Matthew concludes and consummates the Synoptic tradition.
Already in 1838, Christian Gottlob Wilke argued that the similarities between Luke and Matthew could best be explained by Matthew’s use of Luke. The Gospel of Matthew appears to represent positions on women, sinners, tax-collectors, lawless people, wealth, and possessions that reflect a time period later than the Gospel of Luke. Detailed literary analyses of the relationship between Matthew and Luke are offered by Ronald Huggins and George Blair. Huggins argues that the problem of the relationship between Matthew and Luke is reasonably and satisfactorily resolved on the supposition that Matthew used Mark as his main source, which he supplemented by the use of Luke. In a thorough and minute comparison of Matthew and Luke, Blair sets forth the similar thesis that Mark was the first gospel, Luke’s a revision of Mark’s, with additions, and that Matthew was a revision of both.
[p. 252] The posteriority of Matthew can also be advocated on historical grounds. Martin Hengel argues that Luke stands closer to the catastrophic fall of Jerusalem in 70 than does Matthew, and that he displays better knowledge of Judaism prior to it. Hengel further argues that the divide between the Christian movement and the Roman state is less critical in Luke than in later Matthew, and that Matthew presupposes the consolidation of Judaism under later rabbinic programs. Hengel’s arguments that the gospels named for apostles are laterthan those named for non-apostles are also well-known.
From both a global and detailed perspective, the Gospel of Matthew looks like the terminus of a long process of kerygmatic incubation in the early church. If Matthew were prior to the other two Synoptics, it would be difficult to conceive why its symmetry, practical design, topical organization, and structural felicity would be dismembered and parceled into more pedestrian roles in both Mark and Luke. According to virtually every standard of literary creativity and development, the design and content of canonical Matthew suggest a later provenance in the Synoptic birth order.
As a supplement to the above, James Edwards adds the following:
Matt 26:55 uses the expression καθ᾽ ἡμεραν only here, but this expression is frequently used in Luke and is considered quintessentially Lukan. The sole appearance of καθ᾽ ἡμεραν in Matt. seems explainable on the basis of its frequent usage in Luke. Again, Matt 27:8, the temporal delimiter "still to this day" suggests a long time after Jesus' death. This phrase assumes the writing of the Gospel at a significantly later date.
Finally, in my article "The Hermeneutical Significance of Chapter Divisions in Ancient Gospel Manuscripts" NTS 56/3 (2010) 423, I note that the precision of Matthew's Passion Narrative produces a symmetry in the Passion Narrative that rivals the otherwise symmetry in his Gospel as a whole. No other Gospel achieves the symmetry that Matthew does in notes #63-68 in the Eusebian Canons (= Matt 26:17-28:20). I attach a typescript of this art., pp. 18-20 discuss Matt's Passion Narrative.
Footnotes to The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Gospel Tradition (Eerdmans, 2009)
G. A. Blair, The Synoptic Gospels Compared, 311:“Matthew was called the ‘first’ Gospel . . . because [it] was the most important of the Gospels, the ‘definitive Gospel’ (at least with respect to the three Synoptics).”
Division I: narrative, 3:1-4:25; teaching, 5:1-7:27; summary refrain, 7:27;
Division II: narrative, 7:28-9:38; teaching, 10:1-42; summary refrain, 11:1;
Division III: narrative, 11:2-12:50; teaching, 13:1-51, summary refrain, 13:53;
Division I V: narrative, 13:54-17:27; teaching, 18:1-35; summary refrain, 19:1;
Division V: narrative, 19:2-22:46; teaching, 23:1-25:46; summary refrain, 26:1.
M. Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ, 176-177, summarizes the above situation as follows: “[Matthew’s] five great discourse complexes are predominantly fashioned by this [marked theological concern]. Luke has little to set over against this overarching skill in composition. . . . Luke’s ‘Sermon on the Plain’ is itself a mere ‘shadow’ of the Sermon on the Mount. Therefore, it is utterly improbable that, for example, Luke reshaped a Matthean original. He would not have torn apart discourses which have been worked out so masterfully, but integrated them into his work. One could make a Sermon on the Mount out of a ‘Sermon on the Plain,’ but not vice versa. Therefore, Luke cannot be dependent on Matthew, as is consistently asserted.” Similarly, H. P. West, Jr., “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew,” 91: “it is incredible to think that the Sermon on the Plain comes from the Sermon on the Mount. To argue that Luke has so abridged Matthew’s sermon is to accuse him of using Matthew in a way utterly different from his use of Mark. We remember that Luke nowhere selectively abridges a Marcan block in this way.”
On Luke’s preservation of a more primitive form of the Lord’s Prayer, see S. Hultgren, Narrative Elements in the Double Tradition, 290-309.
Str-B 4.75; J. Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, trans. N. Perrin (New York: Scribners, 1966) 97-100; 164; L. Goppelt, poth,rion( TDNT6.153-154.
See J. Edwards, “Markan Sandwiches: The Significance of Interpolations in Markan Narratives,”NovT31/3 (1989) 193-216. Reprinted in The Composition of Mark’s Gospel(Brill’s Readers in Biblical Studies 3, compiled by D. Orton; Leiden: Brill, 1999) 192-215.
See J. R. Edwards, “The Use of προσέρχεσθαιin the Gospel of Matthew,” JBL 106/1 (1987) 65-74.
See the discussion on the very considerable difficulties in assuming that Luke followed Matthew in S. Hultgren, Narrative Elements in the Double Tradition, 329-335.
So M. Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ, 69-70: “ . . . as a rule the more original version is attributed to Q-Luke as opposed to Q-Matthew.”
“Experiments to Develop Criteria for Determining the Existence of Written Sources, and Their Potential Implications for the Synoptic Problem,” JBL 121/4 (2002) 680 (italics in original).
Luke 18:15-17//Mark 10:13-16; Luke 4:31-37//Mark 1:21-28; Luke 20:45-47//Mark 12:38-40.
Luke 10:21-24//Matt 11:25-30; Luke 12:41-48//Matt 24:45-51; Luke 16:10-13//Matt 6:24; Luke 3:1-20//Matt 3:1-12; Luke 11:9-13//Matt 7:7-12; Luke 9:57-62//Matt 8:18-22; Luke 11:29-32//Matt 12:38-42; Luke 7:18-35//Matt 11:1-19; Luke 7:1-10//Matt 8:5-13; Luke 5:12-16//Matt 8:1-4; Luke 9:21-27//Matt 16:21-28.
Mark 13:3-13//Matt 10:16-25; Mark 8:31-9:1//Matt 16:21-28; Mark 13:14-23//Matt 24:15-28; Mark 14:12-21//Matt 26:17-25; Mark 7:1-23//Matt15:1-20; Mark 12:35-37//Matt 22:41-46; Mark 10:35-45//Matt 20:20-28; Mark 8:1-10//Matt 15:32-39; Mark 13:24-31//Matt 24:29-35. For a chart of all 46 passages and their relationships among the Synoptics, see Ibid, 681.
C. G. Wilke, Der Urevangelist oder kritische Untersuchung über das Verwandtschaftsverhältnis der drei ersten Evangelien (Dresden und Leipzig: Gerhard Fleischer Verlag, 1838) 685-693. On pages 460-462 Wilke specifically argues this case for Matt 3:1-12; 10:1-14; 12:9-14; 12:22-32; and 13:1-35.
H. Ph. West, Jr., “A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew,” 80-88.
R. Huggins, “Matthean Posteriority: A Preliminary Proposal.” Likewise, G. D. Kilpatrick, The Origins of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, (Oxford: University Press, 1946) 7, 140.
G. A. Blair, The Synoptic Gospels Compared, esp. 307-312.
See The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ,169-179; 254-255; and 303-305 (notes 663-670). In a personal letter to me dated 24 May 1998, Hengel succinctly summarizes the same: “Dass Lk früher ist als Mt ergibt sich 1. aus seiner grösseren Nähe zur Katastrophe von 70, 2. aus seiner besseren Kenntnis der Verhältnisse vor 70, 3. aus der Tatsache, dass die den Apostelschülern zugeschriebenen Evangelien älter sind als die angeblich von Aposteln verfassten, 4. dass Mt schon die Konsolidierung des Judentums unter rabbinisher Führung voraussetzt und 5. dass Lk noch denkt, dass ein Kompromiss mit dem römischen Staat möglich ist, d.h. er gehört in die frühere Flavierzeit.”
S. Hultgren, Narrative Elements in the Double Tradition, 333: “In general it has been thought more likely that Matthew grouped disparate sayings material into a few great speeches than that Luke broke up Matthew’s well-constructed speeches and scattered the sayings throughout his gospel. This argument is compelling, and it makes it that much less likely that Luke is dependent on Matthew in the double tradition.”
"When I first encountered the Synoptic Problem, the leading Two-Document Hypothesis appeared to rest on two highly improbable contentions, (1) that a document of faith as ostensibly influential as Q had simply evaporated without a trace from the historical record, and (2) that the later of Matthew or Luke had somehow remained unaware that another gospel of similar scope and content had already been published. To sustain such intuitively improbable premises one would need to demonstrate conclusively that both Matthew and Luke had no awareness of the other. In exploring the arguments favoring Q and the 2DH, it became apparent that the discussion was entirely focused on Luke’s unlikely use of Matthew, while there was a palpable silence on Matthew’s possible awareness of Luke. Moreover, every argument used to show that Luke did not know Matthew did not operate in reverse. Thus I began to suspect that the Q theory was a house built upon sand, and that Matthew’s use of Luke might be a viable solution to the Synoptic Problem."
"My attitude to the Synoptic Problem was influenced, during my undergraduate studies, by RT France. He was highly sceptical of Q and also generally steered clear of favouring any one hypothesis. By the time I finished my BA, therefore, I was definitely a Q skeptic - although one that generally leaned towards the Farrer Hypothesis.
A major change occurred in 1998 during my doctoral studies (supervised by the 2DH advocate Christopher Tuckett). While working on the Didache's relationship to Matthew's Gospel I came across the curious triangular relationship between Did. 1.2-5a, Matt 5.38-48 and Luke 6.27-37:
These Didache sayings are remarkable because there are very good reasons for suspecting that Did. 1.3-5a was added to a version of the text that already included Did. 1.2. This is important because, in Luke 6.27-36, elements similar to both Did. 1.2 and 1.3-5a are combined into a seamless, unified whole. This caused me to suspect that Luke's set of sayings had been woven out of the cloth provided by the whole of Didache 1.2-5a (rather than the reverse as was more commonly assumed). Furthermore, I then noticed a very peculiar pattern of similarity and difference between all the three versions: wherever Matthew's version is dissimilar to Luke's, his version is similar to the Didache's. The only reasonable way to explain this, it seemed to me, was to allow that that Matthew had attempted to conflate Luke's version with the sayings in the Didache. (A fuller presentation of this proposal is offered here).
Contemplating this possibility reminded me of a comment made by Michael Goulder in, 'Is Q a Juggernaut' (JBL, 1996): '[I]n a scientific subject a paradigm shift is possible because new and irrefutable evidence may come to light, new evidence in arts subjects is rare, and so are paradigm shifts' (p. 669). Here, it seemed to me, was a tiny piece of new evidence. It was tiny, but it was enough to shake me out of my prior assumptions. Why could not Matthew have used Luke? And why, if Matthew used Luke, could they also not have had access to sources they both shared (in addition to Mark)?
Once I started to look at the Synoptic relationships with these questions in mind I came increasingly to suspect that Matthew was an author who had sought to harmonise and conflate together a range of earlier traditions, including Mark, Luke, portions of the Didache, and probably several other written and oral sources. This line of approach, it seemed to me, preserved all the strengths of the Farrer and Two Document Hypotheses without reproducing their weaknesses.
Sometimes friends suggest that my arguments for Matthew's use of Luke would be more appealing if I kept it simpler - i.e. stopped including Did. 1.2-5a. I understand what they mean, which is why I tried to keep the Didache to one side in my initial presentation of the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis. For me, however, Did. 1.2-5a is the jewel of great price that has lain abandoned in a field since its discovery in 1873. New historical evidence of this quality, as Michael Goulder rightly observed, hardly ever comes to light. It seems a shame, therefore, to refuse to allow it to shake our old assumptions. But, of course, such a suggestion is stupidly naive. If we allowed our old assumptions to be disturbed, we would face the massive upheaval of having to wrestle with something disturbingly new."
Erik answered my question as follows:
"I have read my NTS-article from 2001 again and now I remember.
What put me on the track was the astonishing correspondence between Lk 4:25–27 about the widow in Zarephath in Sidon with a sick child and the pagan officer Naaman on the one hand and on the other hand Mt 8:5–13 about the pagan officer and Mt 15:21–28 about the woman in the district of Tyre and Sidon with a sick child. Only Matthew has both these stories and the Mt-redaction has assimilated them to each other, especially through putting in the "great faith" at the end, in 15:28 (not in Mark 7:24–30 – but in Mt 8:10), making these two pagans, one man and one woman, the only two persons whom Jesus praises for their great faith. Matthew obviously wants the stories to be seen as a pair that belongs together, as the two OT counterparts do in Luke 4:25–27. The Mt-redaction also put in "Sidon" at the beginning, in Mt 15:21, not mentioned in Mk 7:24, but in Lk 4:26 – a sign that Mt also wants us to see the connection between the two NT-pagans and their OT counterparts mentioned in Lk 4:25–27. That was and is enough to convince me that Matthew knew the saying Luke 4:25–27. My reasons are elaborated in paragraphs II-IV (pp. 431-436). And my explanation of the fact that Matthew does not render the saying himself, although it seems to be so important to him, is presented in paragraph VI (p. 439f). In short: he did not want to contradict the program as it is expressed in Mt 10:5f (and 15:24): first to Israel. But he also wanted to show how the incalculable reality, i.e. the surprising great faith of two pagans overcame the program.
If this were the only evidence it might, however, also be explained through the assumption that Matthew just knew (the tradition behind) the saying recorded in Luke 4:25–27, not necessarily the whole Gospel of Luke. The tradition could be Syrian, as both examples are connected to Syria – and Mt is often presumed to emanate from Syria (p. 438). But I was more impressed and convinced especially by von Dobschuetz, Hengel and Huggins, and the last years even more by Garrow, that Mt in fact knew the whole of Luke (as well as the Q-tradition[s], p. 439 n. 41)."
Alan Garrow is Vicar of St Peter's Harrogate and a member of SIIBS at the University of Sheffield.