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