|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
"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.
Alan Garrow is Vicar of St Peter's Harrogate and a member of SCIBS at the University of Sheffield.