|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
In yesterday’s post I tried to explain the basis for Gerald Downing’s claim that Matt3rd is ‘impossible’.
Downing’s contention, in essence, is that: if Matthew knew Mark and Luke, then, when Mark and Luke agree verbatim for 30+ letters, Matthew ought to mimic this double attestation exactly. Here is his point in his own words:
Mt3rd appears to have refused to include such further common matter [which Downing calls ‘UCVSTs’ (Unconventional Verbatim Shared Texts) by which he means passages that are not: words addressed to Jesus, words of Jesus, challenges to Jesus, words of the Baptist, or words of God] as it stands, or, on occasion, even refused to paraphrase it, all alongside often accepting extensive single witness verbatim. … To repeat, apart from one thirty-letter instance, no full-length triple UCVSTs appears in Matt, despite the numerous double UCVSTs in Mark-with-Luke waiting to be accepted. This puzzles me, and perhaps will or should in due course puzzle the reader. (p. 320)
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, it is important to understand precisely what Downing means by ‘refuse’ or ‘avoid’ or, ‘assiduously avoid’. What he does not mean is ‘completely omit’, what he does mean is ‘fail to copy exactly’. To provide a more precise understanding of this point, here are the first ten instances (out of a total of forty-two) where Downing spots strings of 30+ letters in Mark and Luke which, he claims, Mt3rd assiduously avoids (with the exception of Example 6, where Downing detects a single example of Mt3rd behaving as he would expect).
Mark 1.4//Luke 3.3:
κηρύσσω βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν
[preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins].
Matthew: omits entirely.
Mark 1.7//Luke 3.16:
ἔρχεται [δὲ] ὁἰσχυρότερος μου [ὀπίσω μου] οὗοὐκ εἰμι ἱκανος [κύψας] λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ
[after me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie] (Mark 1.7//Luke 3.16).
ὁδὲὀπίσω μουἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερος μου ἐστιν οὗοὐκ εἰμι ἱκανος τὰὑποδημάτων βαστάσαι
[but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry]
Mark 1.13//Luke 4.1: ἐν τῇἐρήμῳ[τεσσεράκοντα ἡμερας reverse order in Luke] πειραζόμενος ὑπο τοῦ...
[in the wilderness forty days tempted by ...]
Matthew 4.1-2: εἰς τὴν ἔρημον ὑπὸτοῦπνεύματος πειρασθῆναι ὑπὸδιαβόλου και νηστεύσας ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα
[into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days].
Example 4 and 5
Mark 1.23-28//Luke 4.33-37 ‘The Healing of the Demoniac in the Synagogue’ includes duplicate strings, one 114 characters long and the other 35.
Matthew omits the entire episode.
Example 6 (not numbered by Downing)
Mark 1.22//Luke 4.32: καὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο ἐπὶτῇδιδαχῇαὐτοῦ
[And they were astonished at his teaching]
Matthew 7.28:ἐξεπλήσσοντο [οἱ ὄχλοι] ἐπὶτῇδιδαχῇαὐτοῦ
[the crowds were astonished at his teaching]
Example 7 (Downing 6)
Mark 1.4b//Luke 5.14a: τῷἱερεῖκαὶπροσένεγκε περι τοῦκαθαρισμοῦσου
[… to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded you]
Matthew 8.4a: τῷἱερεῖκαὶπροσένεγκον
[ … to the priest and offer (the gift that Moses commanded)]
Example 8 (Downing 7)
Mark 4.41//Luke 8.25: πρὸς ἀλλήλους τίς ἄρα οὗτός ἐστιν ὅτι και
[… to one another: “Who then is this …].
Matthew 8.27: ποταπός ἐστιν οὗτος ὅτι και
[“What sort of man is this …].
Example 9 (Downing 8)
Mark 5.7-8//Luke 8.28-29: τί ἐμοὶκαὶσοί Ἰησοῦυἱε τοῦθεοῦτοῦὑψίστου;
[‘What you you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?’].
Matthew 8.29: τί ἡμῖν καὶσοί υἱε τοῦθεοῦ;
[‘What do you have to do with us, O Son of God?’].
Example 10 (Downing 9)
Mark 5.13/Luke 8.33: εἰσῆλθον εἰς τοὺς χοίρους καὶὥρμησεν ἡἀγέλη κατὰτοῦκρημνοῦεἰς τὴν...
[entered the swine and the herd rushed down the steep bank] (into the sea/lake). Matthew 8.32: ἀπῆλθον εἰς τοὺς χοίρους καὶἰδοὺὥρμησεν πασα ἡἀγέλη κατὰτοῦκρημνοῦεἰς τὴν θάλασσαν
[and went into the swine and behold the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea].
In the case of the first instance Downing generously notes that Matthew might possibly have chosen to omit these words so as to allow the privilege of forgiveness of sins to Jesus alone. However, he goes on to protest: '[A]re we going to have to find a lot of such ad hoc explanations for over forty more Mark/Luke common texts "happening" to displease this redactor?' (p. 322). If, however, Matthew’s redaction of these passages in Mark (under the 2DH) makes sense, then why should Matthew’s redaction of these passages make less sense simply because the passages in question happen to appear in both Mark and Luke? If Matthew had a logical reason to make a change in one case, then exactly the same logic would apply in the other.
Tomorrow I will ask what would satisfy Downing that Matthew had used Luke and Mark – while also asking if this standard could ever, in reality, be achieved.
It struck me as a remarkable exchange at the time. In about 1998 the late Eric Franklin, an advocate of the Farrer Hypothesis, was a guest at the Oxford graduate research seminar. During questions a member of Faculty remarked in an inquiring manner, ‘I’ve never been sure why Matthew could not have used Luke.’ Franklin responded with a rapid expulsion of air (something like) ‘Ppppfffft!!’. And there the matter lay. Nothing more was said.
Since then more sustained and articulate engagements with the case for Matthew's use of Luke have been a distinct rarity. It is a welcome development, therefore, that F Gerald Downing has now published, ‘Plausibility, Probability and Synoptic Hypotheses' ETL (2017) 313-337, a detailed critique of what he calls Matt3rd (Matthew used Luke and Mark). The abstract reads:
Scholars assert their reconstructions are possible, probable, plausible. Even Matthew and Luke quite independently agreeing against Mark in Markan contexts is agreed by sceptics to be possible, if not really plausible. Can “possibility” or “plausibility” be quantified? Perhaps our judgement between hypotheses is inescapably subjective. However, if some proposed reconstruction can be shown to be impossible, then any that are merely possible surely hold the field, alone or “complausible” with others. One evangelist writing third (whether
What Downing sets out to prove, in short, is a basis for suggesting that Matthew’s use of Luke (and Mark) is, in an absolute sense, ‘impossible’. If he can succeed, then it necessarily follows that Matt3rd may be eliminated from the field – leaving only those hypotheses that are ‘possible’. This is, in effect, a version of the ‘least worst option’ argument sometimes favoured by 2DH supporters. That is to say, while admitting that there is some data that their solution does not resolve very well, they nonetheless maintain that these difficulties are relatively slight compared with the alternatives (by which they have, in the past, meant the FH and 2GH).
Downing thus sets himself an admirable target. There will be no pussyfooting around with 'ifs', 'buts' and 'maybes', he will demonstrate that Matt3rd is straightforwardly and absolutely ‘impossible’. To this end he identifies a behaviour in Matt3rd that could not have happened by chance of deliberately. His language is enjoyably emphatic:
The probability of this [Matthean behaviour] occurring ... by chance or deliberately, must be judged simply nil, zero, zilch. (p. 335)
If Gerald Downing has indeed found a reason absolutely to discount the possibility that Matthew used Luke, then we all owe him a debt of gratitude, because the categorical elimination of any one option will greatly speed our progress towards a full and fruitful solution to the Synoptic Problem.
Let me attempt to explain his logic a clearly as I'm able.
1. There are occasions when Mark and Luke agree verbatim (or very close to verbatim) for ‘extensive sequences’. Downing defines an extensive sequence as a string of letters 30+ letters long - which usually amounts to a sequence of between six and thirteen words.
2. About forty of these strings or agreement between Mark and Luke occur in passages outside the following categories: words of Jesus, words addressed to Jesus, words of the Baptist, words of God, and challenges issued to Jesus. That is to say, they fall into passages that might be described (by me) as incidental.
3. When these types of strings of agreement occur, Matt3rd ‘assiduously avoids’ or ‘refuses’ these strings, even though he is sometimes willing to copy Luke's or Mark's solo witness (in the adjoining text) very closely.
NB. Care needs to be taken over what Downing means by Matthew 'refusing' such passages. He states that: '[Matt3rd] appears to have refused to include such further common matter as it stands, or, on occasion, even refused to paraphrase it' (p. 320 emphasis original). It is important to recognise, therefore, that Downing does not use the term ‘refuse’ in the sense of ‘wholly omit’. Rather, Mathew is said to have refused such a string of words if he has chosen not to reproduce it exactly as it stands. Thus, Matthew is said to ‘refuse’ such a string if he alters it by: omission, partial omission, emendation, abbreviation or expansion.
Downing's central contention is that there is, 'nil, zero, zilch' (p. 335) possibility of Matt3rd consistently ‘refusing’ (as in, not copying exactly) these strings of incidental words when they are doubly attested by Mark and Luke.
Before getting down to cases, two general observations:
1. On every occasion where Matthew ‘refuses’ (omits, alters or expands) these verbatim strings shared by Mark and Luke this has no detrimental effect on Matthew's narrative and theological agenda. This point is demonstrated by the fact that supporters of the 2DH never feel the need to explain why Matthew has treated Mark as he has. All such editorial changes are seen as unproblematic for a model where Matthew makes use of Mark alone.
2. Matthew's treatment of these passages only becomes extraordinary, in Downing's perception, when Matthew 'refuses' (omits, alters or expands) material that is common to both Mark and Luke.
It is critical to Downing's case, therefore, that Matthew should feel compelled exactly to preserve every string of 30+ letters that is common to Mark and Luke - no matter how incidental, redundant or detrimental to Matthew's theological agenda this material may be. In defence of this suggestion Downing quotes Tacitus, "Where the authorities are unanimous, I shall follow them" and Arrian, "Whenever Ptolemy son of Lagus and Aristobulous son of Aristobolous have both given the same accounts ... it is my practice to record what they say as completely true" (p. 322). This is disingenuous. Tacitus and Arrian were not describing their policy in relation to 30+ long strings of letters. Rather, they were speaking about their attitude to the reliability of whole incidents (which they would then go on to recount in their own words).
In short, Downing imposes an entirely arbitrary requirement on how Matthew must behave (if he is aware of both Mark and Luke). And, when Matthew fails to conform, Downing announces that Matt3rd is ‘impossible’.
In the next post I will provide a little more detail as to what Downing means by 'refuse' and 'avoid'.
I'd like to identify some potential weak spots in my preferred solution to the Synoptic Problem (the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis) because scholarship is, ultimately, a collaborative process. No-one gets to 'the answer' on their own. Instead, we help one another towards a best approximation of the truth by testing ideas from every angle - pointing out the weaknesses in other people's positions, for sure - but also admitting the potential vulnerabilities of our own. In the case of the Synoptic Problem, the best solution (at any given time) will be the one with the fewest weaknesses. So there is particular value in comparing and contrasting the weaknesses of each hypothesis. Here, then, is my estimate of the most vulnerable points in the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis.
1. Omissions. If I were to attempt to undermine my own hypothesis I think I would focus on the material that Matthew omits from Luke (of which there is a substantial amount). If it were possible to show that Luke contained material that Matthew would have been all but 'bound' to include, then my hypothesis faces a complication. Having said that, it is remarkably difficult to prove that one evangelist knew nothing of another's work on the grounds that he neglected to record part of it.
2. The Birth Narrative. This is really a sub-set of 'omissions'. Matthew's birth narrative has several points of noteworthy similarity with Luke's - but it is also substantially different. This may be explained by one of two means. Either, Matthew here attempts to conflate Luke's account with another (now lost) alternative narrative, or, Matthew knew proto-Luke (without such a narrative) rather than canonical Luke. Both these suggestions require the existence of hypothetical texts, which is less satisfying than solutions that deal only with extant texts.
3. The scarcity of scholarship. One of the reasons why the 2DH has long enjoyed a strong position is that it has been worked over in tremendous detail by large numbers of able scholars over many decades. This means that there is a vast body of work devoted not only to its defence but also to the exploration of its implications. Similarly, but to a lesser extent, the FH has been the subject of detailed defence by very able scholars over many decades. By comparison, the literature associated with the case for Matthew's use of Luke is very slight. Most particularly, there are almost no published attempts to undermine this hypothesis. To date, the only sustained scholarly attempt to do so is F Gerald Downing's contribution to ETL last year (I plan to engage with this article with my next few blog posts). Without more detailed scholarly investigation it is hard to know what problems might lurk beneath the surface of the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis.
Rob MacEwen writes: "It would be helpful to the MPH if there were more evidence that Matthew knew Luke’s modifications to Mark in the passion narrative. Of course, there is some evidence: (1) The wording καὶἐπὶτὰτέκνα (“and on [y]our children”; Matt. 27:25//Luke 23:28); (2) In the arrest of Jesus, Matthew and Luke insert additional sayings of Jesus at two identical points in Mark’s account, although Matthew’s and Luke’s sayings are different (Matt 26:47-56//Mark 14:43-52//Luke 22:47-53)."
"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)."
Attached is a Matthew's use of Luke bibliography. The quality of these contributions is, as might be expected, variable ...
Alan Garrow is Vicar of St Peter's Harrogate and a member of SIIBS at the University of Sheffield.