|Alan Garrow Didache|
the problem page
[The $1,000 challenge was created when Evan Powell invited Bart Ehrman to find a hole in my solution to the Synoptic Problem as presented at www.alangarrow.com/mch.html. The initial story is outlined in blog post (1).
Mark Goodacre took up this challenge on Ehrman’s behalf – and noted one ‘hole’ in particular. His arguments are set out on his blog. My initial response to Goodacre is in this blog post (3). Goodacre then argued that I had failed to engage with his central point. Again, his full text is available on his blog. In the current post (5) I respond more specifically to the issue at the heart of Goodacre's attempt to win the $1,000 Challenge.]
The ‘flaw’ Goodacre identified concerned the accuracy of a summarising statement I made in the published version of the article, ‘An Extant Instance of ‘Q’’, on p. 399:
The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis (MCH) argues that there is no scope for ‘Q’ in the Double Tradition passages where Luke and Matthew agree almost verbatim (High DT passages) since these are best explained by Matthew’s copying of Luke without distraction.
Goodacre points out that what I claim to be the case is not actually the case on at least three occasions. That is to say, there are places where Matthew and Luke agree very closely despite the fact that Mark also includes a version of the same episode. When we get down to the detail there are actually exceptionally few occasions where Luke and Matthew achieve a string of verbatim agreement or four words or more at a point where an immediate parallel in Mark is also available (cf. my definition of a High DT passage in the published version of the article ‘Streeter’s ‘Other’ Synoptic Solution’, p. 212). However, even if this were sometimes the case I don’t think it would fundamentally undermine my key observation: when there are exceptionally high levels of agreement between Matthew and Luke this is best explained by direct copying between Matthew and Luke (cf. ‘Streeter’, p. 213). If Matthew sometimes decided to copy Luke verbatim, even while the option to draw on Mark’s slightly different version was theoretical available, this would only show that Matthew was not motivated to conflate Luke and Mark at every opportunity – which would not be especially surprising given the considerable effort required to achieve conflation.
At the level of the precise use of language, therefore, Goodacre has a point. Inasmuch as my summarising statement may be read as suggesting that Matthew will always be ‘distracted’ from the direct copying of Luke if another version of the same event is available then I have overreached myself. If, however, I may be read as saying that, when Matthew and Luke agree almost verbatim this is best explained by Matthew choosing to focus solely on Luke (whatever other versions might also be available), then my claim, in the larger context of my argument, remains defensible.
An irony of the situation is that, on the critical point, Goodacre and I agree: where there is very high agreement between Matthew and Luke this is best explained by direct copying between the two texts. In the initial stages of my argument (‘Streeter’, pp. 212-3) I reserve judgement on the direction of any such direct copying. It is only after other factors have been taken into account that I ultimately draw the conclusion that High DT passages are the result of Matthew copying Luke without distraction. To respond to Goodacre’s criticism, however, I should perhaps expand the summarising sentence in question to read:
The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis (MCH) argues that there is no scope for ‘Q’ in the Double Tradition passages where Luke and Matthew agree almost verbatim (High DT passages) since these are best explained by Matthew’s copying of Luke without distraction – or his choosing (for whatever reason) not to be distracted by other versions of that episode of which he might also have been aware.
This is the only correction required to repair what Goodacre identifies as a key flaw.
Alan Garrow is Vicar of St Peter's Harrogate and a member of SCIBS at the University of Sheffield.