Essays on the Historical Jesus

Evan Powell
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4.  The Imaginary Q

 

There are two fundamental errors responsible for the seemingly futile quest for the historical Jesus. The first, discussed at length thus far, is the failure to recognize the central historical value of John’s underlying narrative. The second is the widespread belief that Matthew and Luke both used a hypothetical sayings gospel Q. To be sure, the notion that Q existed as a primitive collection of sayings is a popular belief among many scholars, so to suggest that it did not exist may appear at first to be somewhat reckless. Nevertheless, an important objective of this chapter will be to illustrate that there is no evidence that Q ever existed, and no logical reason to assume that it ever did. As an appeal to Q is frequently used to establish the authenticity of particular sayings of Jesus, it has had substantial influence in the historical Jesus quest. It is certainly true that if Q did exist as a primitive collection of sayings, there would be good reason to imagine that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet as Bart Erhman and many others have alleged. Yet there would also be good evidence to argue that he was a wandering Cynic sage as per John Dominic Crossan, or a Galilean rabbi as per Bruce Chilton. For the fact is, the Q sayings (or more accurately, the double tradition sayings common to Luke and Matthew) are remarkably accommodating in their ability to support any number of Jesus reconstructions that might appeal to the historian. When the existence and priority of Q is assumed as a foundational starting point in the quest, a variety of plausible interpreta-tions of Jesus are the inevitable result.

As the Q theory is so central to modern Jesus studies and so muddling in its effect, its defeat is required if there is to be any hope for progress in the Jesus quest. Yet the existence of Q is considered to be beyond doubt by many scholars, so the bar is set extremely high for anyone wishing to challenge the credibility of the theory. The burden falls to challengers of the theory to prove that Q did not exist, rather than to advocates to prove that it did. Unfortunately one cannot disprove the existence of Q anymore than one can disprove the existence of unicorns. However, once we dismantle the arguments commonly alleged to support Q’s existence we can establish that (a) there are no reasons to believe Q ever existed, (b) the Q theory fails to explain the Synoptic data that it is purported to explain, and (c) there is a simpler and more comprehensive solution to the Synoptic Problem.  

Lack of historical evidence

Within academic literature the Q theory is conventionally referred to by either of two more formal titles, either the Two-Document Hypothesis (2DH) or the Two-Source Hypothesis (2SH). In both cases they refer to the proposition that the authors of Matthew and Luke each independently relied upon Mark and Q as their two primary source documents. The 2DH is currently the most popular of several hypotheses offers as solutions to the Synoptic Problem, which is the field of study that addresses questions of the temporal sequence in which the Synoptics were composed, and which of the later authors may have relied upon the earlier gospels as literary sources. Herein we will use the Two-Document Hypothesis, or 2DH, and the less formal “Q theory” interchangeably.

Despite the widespread popularity of the 2DH, all scholars concede that there is no historical evidence for the existence of Q. No full or partial manuscripts have ever been found, nor are there any obvious references in early church writings to a sayings gospel that circulated prior to the publication of the NT gospels. Q theorists rationalize the disappearance of Q from the historical record on the grounds that the replication of the entire document by both Luke and Matthew rendered Q’s continued existence as a discrete publication superfluous. Yet it is just at this point that we encounter the first of many improbable assumptions that undergird the Q theory. The only evidence we have of editorial behavior on the part of Luke and Matthew is their respective use of Mark. Matthew replicates over 90% of the material in Mark, and Luke over 40%. Neither one reproduces Mark in its entirety, and the Markan materials taken over by Luke and Matthew are only occasionally copied verbatim; both authors applied numerous edits, corrections, and expansions to their Markan source. On what grounds, then, would we assume that either of these authors, writing independently, would choose to replicate the entire Q collection without applying their own omissions and edits to it? And if there were portions of the Q document that were omitted or noticeably edited by Matthew and Luke, why would Q have been regarded as superfluous? Indeed, why would a discrete collection of Jesus’ sayings that was widely regarded by the movement as an authentic record of his teachings have been unceremoniously expunged from the movement’s traditions, even if Luke and Matthew had folded the entire collection into their own more extensive accounts? The movement appears to have gone to great lengths to preserve the writings of John, even when it was clearly against its political interests. Why would it have retired a unique collection of Jesus’ sayings that was, according to Q theorists, revered by the faithful at least to the degree that Mark must have been? Thus, at the outset of the inquiry, the Q theory requires that we accept two highly improbable assumptions: One, that the movement discontinued and successfully removed all trace of a document that had been held in high regard, and two, that the editorial behavior of Matthew and Luke with respect to Q was entirely inconsistent with their use of Mark.

An Absurd Foundational Premise

Once we move past this improbable prelude, we encounter another implausible premise upon which the entire apparatus of Q scholarship is dependent: the author of the later of Luke or Matthew was not aware that the earlier of the two gospels had been published. This has been repeated so often that we have become desensitized to the extreme improbability of the claim. Yet on the face of it, this premise is difficult to believe. Matthew and Luke are the two most extensive collections of Jesus traditions known to have been published in the first century. According to the Q theory, both authors were involved with outwardly focused evangelical Jesus communities with a world mission in view. Both of these communities held Mark and Q in high regard as their two primary documents of faith. Since they were an oppressed minority sharing common beliefs and common documents of faith, the most obvious inference would be that there must have been at least some communication between them. Moreover, Luke and Matthew each conducted extensive research, collecting, and organizing the evolving traditions. Both produced masterful conflations of Mark and the double tradition sayings, and to them added a variety of other similar materials including infancy narratives, genealogies, the great sermon format, and a final call to take the gospel to all nations. At the time that the first of either Matthew or Luke was published, it would have been the greatest compendium of Jesus traditions yet assembled. So it seems unlikely in the extreme that the publication of either Matthew or Luke in one community would have remained unknown to the other. Yet it is upon this proposition that the edifice of Q scholarship has been precariously erected. The Q theorist insists, “Neither Matthew nor Luke could have been aware of and dependent upon the other’s work, therefore we must posit the existence of Q as the source of the double tradition.”

In order to sustain the 2DH it must be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that Luke cannot have known and copied from Matthew, and that Matthew cannot have known and copied from Luke. The fact that at least one of them did not know the other is a given since the earlier writer could not have known the latter. However, since the publication dates of Luke and Matthew are unknown, it is necessary to demonstrate the improbability of dependence in both directions in order to justify the leap to a hypothetical solution. Nevertheless, in the scholarly works on Q there is an overwhelming preoccupation with the notion that Luke cannot have known and copied from Matthew, whereas there is mostly silence on whether Matthew could have known Luke. And while we may readily acknowledge that Q theorists have marshaled an impressive array of compelling arguments to demonstrate Luke’s unawareness of Matthew, if Luke was the earlier of the two then all of these arguments are beside the point. In this case, the only relevant inquiry would be whether Matthew knew Luke, and on this possible direction of dependence, Q theorists fall surprisingly silent. This is a remarkable oversight, for if Matthew postdated Luke and there are no compelling arguments that he could not have known and copied Luke, the rationale for assuming the existence of Q collapses.

In point of fact, the Synoptic Problem is easily resolved by assuming that Matthew was the last of the three, and that the author composed his gospel with Mark and Luke in front of him. No eccentric editorial behavior is suggested by his editing. He appears to have scanned and recompiled sayings material from Luke in precisely the same manner that Q theorists allege that he scanned Q. He tightened up Luke’s verbose redundancies. He refocused the Jesus story as a fulfillment of Jewish heritage. And he cleaned up a number of loose ends that were left dangling in the earlier gospels. Matthew’s rational use of both Mark and Luke obviates the need to imagine a hypothetical Q.

This simple solution notwithstanding, Q advocates often write as if Matthew’s use of Luke is not worthy of mention even as a theoretical possibility. John Kloppenborg, the best known contemporary proponent of the Two-Document Hypothesis, excludes Matthew’s use of Luke from his summary of potential Synoptic solutions:

... several solutions to the Synoptic Problem are logically possible: those in which Mark is medial. Each of the major hypotheses—the 2DH, Griesbach, Farrer-Goulder, and “Augustinian” hypotheses—offer logically possible accountings for the Synoptic data. The real point of disagreement among Synoptic Problem specialists is not what is logically possible, but which hypotheses imply plausible editorial procedures on the part of the evangelists. In my view, it is far easier to accommodate the few significant minor agreements against Mark, for which various, if not completely satisfying explanations have been proposed, than it is to accept a Luke who drastically rearranged Matthew, or a Mark who conflated and abbreviated Matthew and Luke and in doing so darkened the portrait of Jesus’ family and disciples. Advocates of the other hypotheses, all fair-minded and careful scholars, evidently do not sense these difficulties so acutely and hence the Synoptic Problem remains a problem.[1] 

 Kloppenborg correctly identifies the essential issue as plausible editorial procedure. Do the writings of any given Synoptic author make coherent sense as edits to the text(s) he was allegedly dependent upon? The problem is that in all of the hypotheses cited by Kloppenborg the answer is no. The 2DH, Griesbach, Farrer-Goulder, and Augustine, are all improbable solutions to the Synoptic Problem in that they each in different ways posit absurd editorial behavior. Scholars find themselves debating which among these hypotheses is the least logically problematic, and though the 2DH is the most popular thesis, no ultimate consensus has yet been achieved. The Q theory’s popularity is not due to its logical integrity or intrinsic resolving power, but rather due to the greater improbability of the hypotheses alleged to compete against it. In short, Q tends to win by default as the least offensive of poorly conceived solutions. We will argue here that Synoptic Problem remains a problem because the actual solution has not been admitted into the arena of possible alternatives. Kloppenborg’s assessment is that the Q hypothesis is logically preferable to the theories arguing for Luke’s use of Matthew, which is true as far as it goes. The same argument appears in Helmut Koester’s commentary:

All attempts to disprove the two-source hypothesis favor the priority of Matthew… This is a very problematic position, burdened with great difficulties, especially with regard to the sayings materials of Matthew’s Gospel. In most instances, very good arguments can be brought forward to show that the Gospel of Luke has preserved more original forms of the sayings shared by Matthew and Luke; thus Matthew cannot have been the source of these Lukan sayings. Moreover, if there was no common sayings source shared by Matthew and Luke, an explanation of the source or sources, of Matthew’s sayings must still work with the assumption of some earlier document(s) through which these sayings came to the author of the First Gospel. Scholars who deny the existence of a Synoptic Sayings Source [Q] still have to find a theory by which the transmission of the sayings to the author of Matthew’s Gospel can be explained. In other words, the rejection of the two-source hypothesis solves nothing and creates new riddles for which even more complex and more improbable hypotheses have to be proposed.[2]

 Since in Koester’s view there are “good arguments” to show that Luke could not have been dependent on Matthew, he concludes that the double tradition material must have been transmitted to Matthew’s Gospel via access to a common Q source. As with Kloppenborg, Koester does not discuss the possibility that Matthew may have known Luke. The result is that contemporary dialogue on the Synoptic Problem is reduced to an odd spectacle in which nothing but highly improbable hypotheses are brought to the table for discussion.

The Peculiar Case for the Existence of Q

On what grounds are people led to believe that Q existed? The quotation from Helmut Koester above is an opening preamble for his review of evidence that he believes justifies the assumption. He follows that statement with three observations that he alleges “argue strongly for the existence of a Synoptic Sayings Source and its use by Matthew and Luke.” The first of them is as follows:

What Matthew and Luke share in addition to their common Markan pericopes consists almost exclusively of sayings. The only exceptions are: one miracle story (Matt 8:5-13 = Luke 7:1-10), materials about John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism (parts of Matt. 3:1-17 = Luke 3:2-9, 16-17, 21-22), and the story of Jesus’ temptation (Matt 4:1-11 = Luke 4:1-13). This requires the assumption of a common source which consisted mostly of sayings of Jesus and probably of some other shared non-Markan materials.[3]

The first portion of this observation is a simple statement of fact—the double tradition (material appearing in Matthew and Luke but not Mark) does indeed consist primarily of Jesus’ sayings. However, in the last sentence, Koester makes a leap without justification, claiming that the fact that the double tradition consists mostly of sayings requires “the assumption of a common source which consisted mostly of sayings of Jesus.” Logically, it does not. It requires the assumption that either (a) Matthew or Luke copied from the other, or (b) both copied from a common source. Koester’s previous statement argues against Luke’s use of Matthew, but remains silent on Matthew’s use of Luke. Unless one can dismiss the possibility of dependence in both directions, the leap to the conclusion that Q is the only viable solution is premature.

Koester’s second observation favoring the existence of Q is this:

The numerous verbal agreements of these parallel passages cannot be explained as dependence of either Matthew upon Luke or dependence of Luke upon Matthew because in numerous instances Luke’s version is evidently the more original one. But there are also passages in which Matthew rather than Luke has preserved words and phrases which cannot be explained as the product of Matthew’s editorial work.[4]

Here Koester acknowledges that Matthew’s potential use of Luke must be dismissed in order for the Q theory to stand. To argue this point he notes that there are occasional elements in Matthew’s double tradition material that cannot have been derived from Matthew’s editing of Luke. Once again, the factual observation is correct but the inference is not. There are indeed instances in which Matthew records a more original form, and Luke appears to have recorded a later edited version. However Koester’s inference from this that Matthew did not know Luke is another unjustified leap.

To illustrate, let us consider the distinctive Semitic parallelisms that exist in Matthew such as The House Built upon the Rock (Luke 6:46-49 = Matt 7:21-27), and Treasures of Heaven (Luke 12:33-34 = Matt 6:19-21). Matthew’s versions of these sayings are presented in the form of a structured parallelism, whereas Luke renders them in prose. The parallelisms are regarded as the earlier forms of the sayings due to the advantage of their structure in oral transmission. The assumption is certainly reasonable. Does this indicate that Matthew could not have been using Luke as a source? Not at all. For it is evident that Matthew would have known various forms of numerous sayings, one version appearing in Luke and another in a different oral or written source. That he would sometimes opt for variants he may have considered more authentic, or more poetic, or more popular in his community than those recorded by Luke is to be expected. Perhaps he was motivated to distinguish his work from Luke’s by presenting the different variation. Thus Matthew may easily have been aware of both the parallel form of these sayings and Luke’s prose rendering of them, and opted to include the parallel form for any of several reasons. In short, Matthew’s occasional use of an alternative form of a saying that has a later counterpart in Luke indicates nothing about Matthew’s awareness of Luke. On the other hand, Matthew’s direct editing of Luke would create a body of double tradition sayings in which, as Koester admits, “in numerous instances Luke’s version is evidently the more original one.” Koester presents this observation as one that “argues strongly for the existence of a Synoptic Saying Source and its use by Matthew and Luke.” In reality, it does not.  

Koester continues:

Indeed, in some instances what is certainly original in a particular saying may occur partially in Luke and partially in Matthew. A striking example of this is  [Matthew 7:23 = Luke 13:27] The second half of this saying is a quotation of Psalm 6:8. But while the first words of the sentence from this psalm are accurately preserved only in Luke, the last words of the quotation have an exact parallel only in Matthew. One must assume that there was a common source used by both authors and that this common source quotes the sentence exactly as it occurred in Ps. 6:8.[5]

If one presupposes the existence of Q, one may assume that Q must have been the source used by both authors that contained the sentence exactly as it occurred in Psalms 6:8. On the other hand, those unconvinced of Q’s existence might suppose the common source was the Septuagint, which was used by both Matthew and Luke. Here we might imagine that Matthew sees the quotation in Luke, and in cross-referencing the Psalm in the Septuagint, finds a preferred way to present the saying. Yet Koester interprets the citation of Ps 6:8 as evidence that Matthew and Luke must necessarily have drawn from Q. On what grounds would one assume that Q was the only source available to Matthew and Luke that could have contained the exact wording of the Psalm?

The third of Koester’s arguments for the existence of Q is this:

The sequence in which certain groups of sayings occur in the Gospel of Luke often reveals an association and composition of sayings that is more directly related to the process of the collection of oral materials, while Matthew interrupts or disturbs such sequences whenever his motivations as an author of literature are evident. In his version of Jesus’ speech for the “sending of the disciples” (Matt 9:37-11:1), Matthew parallels Luke in the reproduction of a series of sayings which instruct missionaries with respect to their conduct. But he repeatedly interpolates materials which belong to other contexts and often do not fit the genre of an older collection of originally oral sayings.

Q/Luke 10:2-12 exhibits all the features of an early collection of rules for the conduct of the missionary. Its composition most likely took place in the oral transmission of such regulations, and Q still reflects the loose connection of such a unit of tradition. That Matthew’s text is the result of a secondary redaction, revealing the use of written sources, is evident in the manner of his composition. He employed one primary source, i.e., Q, still intact in Luke’s version, in which he included additional materials which were mostly drawn from his other major source, i.e., Mark, then adding materials drawn from other contexts of both sources. In the case of Mark, the materials which Matthew used from his collection of rules about missionaries appear in the same sequence. But in the case of Q, Matthew changed their original order.[6]

Once again, the missing logical element is that which would require us to presume that Matthew used Q instead of Luke. For there would have been no difference in Matthew’s results had he drawn from Q, or from the Gospel of Luke in which Q allegedly remains “intact.” The fact is that Koester describes precisely the process by which Matthew conflated Mark and Luke, reorganizing and editing Luke’s materials to contextualize them into a Markan framework. Absent a proof that Matthew did not know Luke, this description of Matthew’s editorial procedure lends no weight to the theory that the authors drew from Q. Koester presupposes the existence of Q in order to make the case for its existence.

In summary, Koester’s observations that are alleged to argue for the existence of Q do not do so. Each of his observations can be interpreted and resolved within the context of the simpler alternative that Matthew conflated Mark and Luke, without attributing to Matthew any unusual or eccentric editorial behavior. Koester is by no means unusual in this. Many Q advocates exhibit the same tendency to seize upon questionable data and ascribe to them decisive evidentiary value that does not hold up under critical examination. Consider the claim by Arland Jacobson that appears at the beginning of his discussion on the literary unity of Q:

…we may note one small but very striking example of the distinctive usage of Q over against that of Mark. In Q, the quotation formula, “I say to you,” never occurs with the word “truly” ….. In fact, the word “truly” does not occur anywhere in Q; at least, there is no double attestation of it. But Mark has fourteen instances of the “I say to you” formula, and in all but two he has “truly.”  In at least one case the absence of “truly” is easily explained: it is used in the previous verse. The consistency of Markan usage is as dramatic as the fact that “truly” is never found in Q, even though it occurs often in Matthew and six times in Luke. Not only does this illustrate the difference in usage between Mark and Q, but it is also a potent argument for the Two-document hypothesis.[7]

Is this really a potent argument for the Q theory? Once again, the argument is on thin ice. First, the claim that “truly” does not occur anywhere in Q is not well-founded. In the double tradition saying Luke 12:44 = Matt 24:47, Matthew uses “amen (truly) I say to you,” whereas Luke uses “alethos (of a truth) I say to you.” Based upon this, Q theorists claim that it is doubtful that amen was in the original Q text. However, in the saying concerning the poor widow’s contribution which Luke takes over from Mark, Luke sees amen in Mark 12:43, and changes it to alethos in Luke 21:3. Similarly, amen appears in Mark 9:1, and Luke changes it to alethos in his reproduction of this saying (Luke 9:27). So Luke’s propensity to substitute alethos for amen is demonstrable. Moreover, 9:27, 12:44, and 21:3 are the only three occurrences of alethos in the Gospel of Luke.  On what grounds would one argue that he changed amen to alethos twice in his use of Mark, but he must have found and reproduced alethos as it was in his Q source? It is more likely that Luke had a source for this saying that included the formal amen, and that he altered it to alethos just as he did Mark.

Let us consider further Luke’s redactional use of Mark. Of the thirteen instances of the phrase “Truly (amen), I say to you” that are found in Mark, only three are duplicated by Luke with the amen intact (18:17, 18:29, 21:32). Other than these three, Luke draws three more sayings from Mark in which he either deletes the amen itself, or the entire phrase amen I say to you. On two occasions just noted, he switches amen to alethos. The five remaining amen sayings in Mark are not taken over by Luke at all. It is evident that Luke does not appear to favor the use of this phrase. He typically either deletes it or modifies it when he is drawing a saying from a Markan text in which it appears, or ignores the saying altogether. There is one anomalous instance in which Luke adds the amen quotation formula to a Markan saying where it does not exist in Mark (Mark 6:4=Luke 4:24). However, Luke most frequently omits truly as part of the quotation formula, if not the formula altogether.

How might this data be explained? It is possible that the phrase “truly I say to you” was a uniquely popular quotation formula within the community behind the Markan tradition, and that the non-Markan sources that Luke collected and edited did not feature it, at least with the same frequency. Furthermore, on those occasions in which it may have appeared in his non-Markan sources, Luke would have tended to edit or omit it as he often did with his Markan source. If this was the case the fact that truly appears only six times in Luke is unremarkable.

Moreover, of the three instances of amen that Luke draws from Mark, Matthew reproduces all three, thereby rendering them by definition part of the triple tradition. So by the logic of Q theory they cannot have been in Q. A fourth occurrence in Luke 4:24 is the anomalous triple tradition saying in which Luke inserts the amen where it does not exist in either Mark or Matthew. This leaves only two remaining uses of amen in the Gospel of Luke, one in a long parable that Matthew understandably does not replicate (12:37) and the other in the conversation which Jesus has with the criminal crucified with him (23:43), also a scene which does not appear in Mark or Matthew. Thus if Matthew drew his double tradition material directly from Luke rather than Q, there is no mystery in the fact that the material he copied over from Luke did not contain the word truly—for it is rare in Luke to begin with. This would have produced a double tradition in which truly does not appear by double attestation—causing Q theorists to declare that Q did not feature it.

Nevertheless, on numerous occasions as Matthew copied over Lukan sayings he inserted the formal Truly I say to you quotation formula in place of Luke’s less formal “I tell you” (examples include Matt 5:18 = Luke 16:17, Matt 5:26 = Luke 12:59, Matt 8:10 = Luke 7:9, Matt 11:11 = Luke 7:28, Matt 13:17 = Luke 10:24). Matthew ended up producing a gospel that features Truly I say to you about thirty times compared to Luke’s six, so it is evident that the formality of the amen saying tradition appealed to Matthew much more than it did Luke. All of this is perfectly coherent under theory that Matthew used both Mark and Luke. A hypothetical Q is not required to explain anything. There is nothing dramatic or even puzzling about the fact that truly does not exist by double attestation in the double tradition (or in the rhetoric of the Q theorist, “truly is never found in Q.”) This observation that Jacobson heralds as a “potent argument” for the 2DH in the end has no logical foundation.

The Affinity of Q with Luke

One of the remarkable aspects of the debate on the Synoptic Problem is that scholars already recognize that the Q Gospel as they envision it and Luke’s version of the double tradition are practically identical. As Koester notes above, there is general accord among Q theorists that Luke best preserves the sequence of the Q sayings as they originally appeared in Q, while Matthew liberally reorganizes the material. Kloppenborg observes:

Matthew has clusters of double tradition materials that in Luke are scattered, but nonetheless, Matthew presents the sayings in Lukan order, as if he had scanned Q, lifting out and collecting sayings as he found them in Q.”[8]

No imagination is required to conclude that Matthew could as easily have scanned Luke directly to achieve the same result. There is also a general academic consensus that Luke far more frequently records an earlier version of a Q saying than does Matthew. So it is an extremely small step from the position that Luke retained the more authentic version of Q to the position that Luke contains the exact original wording and order of the double tradition as found and defined by Matthew. The Q theorist’s adopted convention of referring to the Q materials as Q/Luke is consistent with the theory that Matthew was drawing directly from Luke. 

Moreover, if the author of Matthew used Luke, then by definition he was the final redactor of “Q” as it is defined in modern scholarship. Matthew’s editorial decisions to reproduce some portions of Luke’s non-Markan text and exclude others would have defined the boundaries of the double tradition. Under this scenario the “Q gospel” should have a perceptible Matthean bias. Thus Burton Mack’s observation is intriguing:

If one were to ask which of the narrative gospels most nearly represents an ethos toward which the community of Q may have tended, it would be the Gospel of Matthew.”[9]

Under the Q theory a unique ideological affinity between Q and Matthew as opposed to Luke is quite an oddity since Luke is alleged to have preserved the original order and text of Q more faithfully. However if Matthew used and edited Luke, then Matthew’s editorial decisions defined the content of Q as imagined by Q theorists and its “ethos” toward the Gospel of Matthew would have been unavoidable.

Traditional Arguments in Support of the 2DH

Is there a compelling argument for the existence of Q? If we could identify any textual phenomena that are resolvable by the Q theory, but inexplicable under Matthean posteriority,[10] it might render the Q theory more credible. Yet no such data exist. To the contrary, though many observations have been made that appear to support the existence of Q, in each instance Matthean posteriority is at least equally compelling, and on occasion more comprehensive, in its ability to resolve the data. Once the critical reader becomes aware that Matthew’s use of Mark and Luke can generally resolve the data with equal or better satisfaction, any argument for Q can be turned on its head in the same manner as the claim that truly does not exist in Q. This can be demonstrated with a review of the conventional arguments made in favor of the 2DH.

The arguments used to buttress the Q theory tend to (a) illustrate the superior resolving power of the Q theory as compared to theories promoting Luke’s use of Matthew, or (b) argue for the status of Q as a written document rather than an oral source. Since Matthean posteriority has not been viewed as a viable competing theory it has gone unnoticed that the textual phenomena advanced in support of the Q theory can always be resolved by Matthean posteriority. The case for the existence of Q consists of a random assortment of anecdotal observations that individually and collectively are insufficient to support the theory, for they beg the fundamental question of Matthew’s knowledge of Luke. Other than the arguments reviewed thus far, the common arguments for Q’s existence are these:

Peculiar phrases in common. It has been observed that Matthew and Luke on occasion use certain phrases in common in the double tradition that constitute unusual grammatical constructs. It is argued that both Matthew and Luke reproduced these phrases from Q. However, if Matthew had a propensity to copy unusual constructs from Q, he would have had an equal propensity to copy them from Luke. Indeed, Matthew tends to reproduce his sources fairly close to verbatim unless there is a specific reason to correct them, to alter them for ideological reasons, or to eliminate extraneous language. He does not paraphrase simply to render material in different language as Luke so often does. If Luke had incorporated peculiar grammatical constructs that were present in written sources he had before him, or if he had created them himself in the process of transcribing oral traditions, it is not unlikely that Matthew would have taken them over directly. The result would be a double tradition that featured unusual phrases introduced into the Gospel record by Luke and subsequently copied by Matthew.

Common sequence of double tradition pericopae. Many of the double tradition sayings appear in the same sequence in both Gospels. It is often alleged that this indicates the use of a common written source by both evangelists. However, this is only true if it can otherwise be proven that Luke and Matthew were written independently of one another. Absent such a proof, if we are to imagine that both authors achieved a similar sequence of sayings by progressively scanning and copying from Q, then it is obvious that Matthew would have achieved the same result by progressively scanning and copying from Luke. This argument, like those of frequent verbal agreements and the presence of peculiar phrases, could be relevant in establishing the “written” nature of the Q source if and only if the independence of Matthew and Luke could be established on other grounds.

The presence of the doublets. An intriguing feature of Matthew and Luke is that they sometimes record variations of the same sayings twice, creating a “doublet.” There are nineteen sets of doublets in Matthew and twelve in Luke. Moreover, six of the twelve in Luke are also replicated in Matthew. Under the Q theory, it is supposed that Matthew and Luke each drew one version of the saying from Mark and the other from Q or some other sayings source, so the phenomenon is offered as evidence of the existence of Q. The problem, once again, is that the phenomenon can be as easily resolved by assuming Matthew drew one saying from Mark and another from Luke rather than Q. In fact, the doublets are not evidence of Q, but rather evidence of direct awareness between the authors, so this will be discussed in greater detail later in this chapter.

Luke is never aware of the modifications and expansions that Matthew makes to his Markan source. This statement of fact is a compelling argument against the proposal that Luke knew Matthew. Hence, it is among the important observations that favor the Q theory over Griesbach, Farrer-Goulder, Augustine—all theories that argue for Luke’s dependence upon Matthew. However, it is irrelevant in weighing the Q theory against Matthean posteriority. Clearly, if Matthew was the last of the three Synoptics to be written, Luke would have had no awareness of Matthean expansions to Mark. This is one of the solid arguments against Luke’s awareness of Matthew that only work in one direction; it has no bearing on whether Matthew knew Luke.

Luke would have removed all Q sayings from their Markan context in Matthew. Q theorists point to several phenomena that suggest eccentric editorial behavior on the part of Luke, were he to have relied upon Matthew as a source. The notion that Luke would have methodically removed all Q sayings from their Markan context in Matthew is one of them. However, this argument like the previous one only casts doubt upon one direction of potential dependence between Matthew and Luke, that of Luke upon Matthew. There is no difficulty in supposing that Matthew used Luke as a source and in so doing, intentionally resituated Luke’s non-Markan sayings into Markan contexts. Indeed, based upon several observations already discussed, this is precisely what he did.

Literary unity in the double tradition. Among the circular arguments used to sustain the Q theory is the presumption and assertion of its literary unity: If Q was indeed a distinct Gospel in its own right, then it must have been compiled within some coherent ideological context. Thus the text should thus bear signs of literary unity. Therefore the discovery of apparent “unities” in the double tradition may in turn be used to confirm Q’s existence. Thus, we find arguments such as the absence of truly in the double tradition being cited as evidence for the 2DH. The logical fallacy is always the failure to ask if there are other means by which evidence of literary cohesion may have come to exist in the double tradition other than by its alleged origin in Q.

A fundamental observation must be made at this point: The double tradition is clearly not a random collection of miscellaneous pericopae, regardless of its literary origin. If Q did not exist, Luke would have selected his non-Markan materials from a wider assortment of collected oral traditions and written notes that consisted of smaller collections of sayings and/or activities of Jesus. The process of selecting, organizing and editing this material would have imparted some degree of ideological and grammatical form to the material. If Matthew were then to have used Luke as a source, his subsequent scanning, selection, and editing of the non-Markan materials in Luke would have added further contours and definition to a double tradition that would eventually be interpreted as Q. It is not realistic to assume that the double tradition, having gone through two editorial filters under this scenario, would not manifest any characteristics of literary and ideological unity except those that might be attributable to an origin in Q.

Thus, Q theorists face a daunting task. In order to cite literary unity in the double tradition as evidence of the existence of Q, it must be demonstrated that ideological and/or grammatical content is present that cannot have been the result of the material passing through two successive editorial filters. The data do not support such a long reach. To the contrary, scholars have found it necessary to posit three successive recensions of the Q document in order to adequately explain the diversity of its content. Nevertheless, Q theorists persist in the attempt to identify alleged unities in the text. Jacobson believes he has identified a deuteronomistic motif in the double tradition:

The suggestion is at hand that it is the deuteronomistic tradition which provides the theological framework for the redaction of Q, and thus is the theological basis for its literary unity.[11]

Kloppenborg attempts to mitigate this claim while at the same time affirming Jacobson’s conclusion:

It will be noticed that deuteronomistic influence is in fact restricted to a relatively few passages; large portions of Q (including 6:20b-49 and 10:2-12, 16, notwithstanding Jacobson’s attempt to label either a “call to repentance”) lack this motif. Nevertheless, Jacobson’s observations are of utmost significance since they are coupled with a redaction-critical judgment that this theology dominated one stage of Q redaction. Hence, although he has not attempted to prove that deuteronomistic theology pervades the whole of Q, Jacobson successfully demonstrates that at one point in its literary evolution, Q was organized and redacted from a coherent theological perspective. This redaction lends to the collection an important theological unity.[12]

Notice that when Q’s existence is presupposed, the data must be resolvable under the Q hypothesis. If Q existed as a discrete literary document, one must assume that it was created within some coherent ideological context. Q theorists thus reach to identify that context, being tethered by the reality of the data at hand. In Kloppenborg’s statement the tension between observable fact and desired outcome is palpable. The facts as acknowledged by Kloppenborg are that “large portions of Q lack [the deuteronomistic] motif” and “deuteronomistic influence is restricted to a relatively few passages.” It is assumed that these relatively few passages were compiled at a particular redactional stage in Q’s chronological development. Yet, it is the obvious lack of literary unity in the double tradition that requires the assumption of multiple recensions to begin with. From the premise that one subset of the Q corpus was redacted under the influence of deuteronomistic thought, Kloppenborg makes an unwarranted leap to the conclusion that this “lends to the collection an important theological unity.” In fact it does not. There is no connection between the data and this conclusion. Even Kloppenborg’s reference to the double tradition as a collection is rhetorically unjustified as there is no evidence that it ever existed as an independent collection. What scholars view as Q is merely the subset of the non-Markan material compiled by Luke that Matthew subsequently deemed worthy of reproduction in his own gospel. Yet to those already convinced of Q’s existence, a literary unity must exist—it cannot be otherwise. Thus, it is simply declared to exist, the paucity of evidence and frailty of logic notwithstanding.

Within the context of Matthean posteriority, the data that suggest literary unities can be resolved by assuming that Luke assembled and edited a variety of oral and written traditions that had evolved independently over time, bearing no literary association with one another until being incorporated into Luke’s Gospel. The signs of deuteronomistic thought in some of this material are likely products of post-70 creative reinterpretation prompted by the movement’s need to rationalize the holocaust of 70 CE. Matthew’s subsequent application of, among other things, an “anti-universalist” editorial filter to Luke resulted in a double tradition that, as an imagined collection of sayings, is comparatively provincial in outlook.

The Gospel of Thomas. Many scholars have argued that the discovery of Thomas increases the likelihood of Q’s existence. In fact it was the discovery of Thomas that ignited the inferno of academic fervor for the 2DH in the last fifty years. However, the enthusiastic claims made of Thomas—that it must have been composed in the mid-first century, that it is likely just one example of a whole genre of Jesus sayings literature that may have existed at the time, that Q must therefore be another example of the same genre—are not adequately founded. The primary difficulty is that Thomas cannot be dated with any certainty to the first century. Though some scholars including Crossan argue for a date of the earliest edition around 50 CE, others see Thomas as a mid- to late-second century work. In Fabricating Jesus, Craig Evans includes a lengthy discussion on the dating of Thomas that argues convincingly for a date in the late second century.[13] Evans’ observations include the fact that Thomas knows many of the NT writings, either quoting or alluding to material in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 John, Revelation. Thus, “Thomas seems to be a collage of NT and apocryphal materials that have been interpreted, often allegorically, in such a way as to advance late-second-century Gnostic ideas.”[14]

Another observation by Evans is that Thomas contains fourteen sayings that have parallels in Special Matthew (M), five sayings drawn from Special Luke (L), and five sayings from the Gospel of John. Of the five taken from John, three are located in text identified herein as late first century editorial expansions (John 1:9=Thom 24, John 1:14=Thom 28, John 8:12; 9:5=Thom 77), and two are in the present Ur-John reconstruction (John 4:13-15=Thom 13, John 7:32-36=Thom 38). The author of Thomas’ familiarity with materials widely presumed to be late first century writings argues against a composition in the mid-first century.  

However, beyond the author’s evident familiarity with a variety of late NT writings, Evans cites the work of Nicholas Perrin in which he translates the Coptic version of Thomas into Syriac and Greek, and in so doing reveals over five hundred catchwords in the Syriac translation that tie almost all of the 114 units together into a literary whole. It appears that Thomas was not originally composed in Greek as is conventionally presumed, but rather Syriac. Evans points to many contacts between the Syraic edition of Thomas, the Syriac Matthew, and Tatian’s Diatessaron (written circa 170 CE), noting that where Thomas disagrees with the NT gospels it agrees with Syriac versions. All of this evidence collectively leads Evans to conclude that arguments for a mid-first century composition date have been decisively undermined, and that Thomas could not have been written prior to the late second century.

Though the discovery of Thomas inspired speculation regarding the existence of a first century “sayings gospel genre,” the only potential examples of such a genre are Thomas and Q. Since Thomas appears to be a late second century work and there is no evidence that Q ever existed, there is no actual evidence that a sayings gospel genre existed during or prior to the composition of the narrative Gospels. This is not to suggest that there were no written records of Jesus’ sayings; to the contrary it is quite likely that there were innumerable informal written notes being produced by movement leaders and traveling evangelists that contained lists of the sayings and activities of Jesus. It is likely that Matthew and Luke collected many such writings and used them as sources. The Q theory is not problematic because it suggests the existence of written sources behind the NT gospels; rather it is problematic because it advances the notion that the entire double tradition is derived from a discrete primitive collection that provides a unique window in to the teachings of the historical Jesus.

 

Where is the evidence that Matthew did not know Luke?

 

In order to remain standing, the Q hypothesis requires a decisive argument that Matthew could not have known and copied from Luke. Yet it is precisely on this point that the debate goes silent. For though Q advocates are accustomed to defending the 2DH against challengers arguing for Luke’s use of Matthew, there is no perceived need to address the reverse. No formal school ever evolved among Bible scholars to argue that the most elegant and comprehensive gospel in the NT, and the one that the Church heralded as the First Gospel, was in fact the last. Thus it is commonly assumed that there is no need to demonstrate Matthew’s unawareness of Luke. With Matthean posteriority off the table, the working assumption among scholars is that since the many arguments against Luke’s use of Matthew are sufficient to dismiss Farrer-Goulder, Griesbach, and Augustine, the 2DH wins by default as the last man standing. It is on this point that the Q theory will ultimately meet its demise, for there is no compelling evidence that Matthew could not have known Luke and there are several surprisingly strong indications that he did.

 

Nevertheless, on those infrequent occasions when the possibility of Matthean posteriority is raised, two initial observations are made to call Matthew’s awareness of Luke into doubt. The first is that Matthew and Luke contain conflicting genealogies and infancy narratives; the second is that they present incompatible resurrection narratives. It is sometimes suggested that the later author would not have intentionally introduced conflicting traditions into the gospel record, and thus the later author must not have been aware of the earlier work. These two arguments warrant discussion.

 

It is obvious that Matthew and Luke contain incompatible genealogies and infancy narratives that were produced by two different camps within the movement. However, from the fact that these two camps were intent upon creating both an extensive genealogy and a virgin birth story that resolved the Bethlehem/Nazareth problem we may presume that there was an active debate underway between them—these ideas are unlikely to have evolved independently in two mutually isolated communities. 1 Timothy, an epistle that appears to have been finalized within the same general timeframe as Luke and Matthew, complains of those occupying themselves with “myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations” (1Tim 1:4). The two conflicting sets of genealogies and miraculous birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are evidently the products of the creative debates to which the author of 1 Timothy was objecting. The fact that there was disagreement between the communities of Matthew and Luke over these traditions is not surprising. In this event, each Gospel writer would have been expected to document the traditions favored within his own community. Moreover, the genealogies and birth narratives have quite different theological agendas that support the unique theological outlook of each evangelist. For example, Luke’s genealogy goes back to Adam without highlighting any key events in the history of Judaism, thus laying the groundwork for a universal interpretation of the Jesus story. Conversely, Matthew’s genealogy goes back to Abraham and segments Jewish history into fourteen generations each between Abraham and David, David and the deportation, and the deportation to the Christ. Matthew’s genealogy is intended to portray the Christ event as the ultimate fulfillment of Jewish history. Thus, on ideological grounds there is little chance Matthew would have abandoned his theology-driven genealogy in favor of Luke’s simply because he had been aware of it.  So the fact that the Gospels are in conflict as they stand is no indication that the later author did not know the earlier work.

 

In addition to the incompatible opening materials, Matthew and Luke contain different resurrection narratives. Their storylines diverge significantly beyond the point where their Markan source was truncated at 16:8. The argument here is similar to that of the infancy narratives and genealogies—since Matthew shows no awareness of the resurrection appearances in Luke, he must not have been using Luke as a source. At issue is the relative authority of Mark over Luke as perceived by the author of Matthew. Mark clearly predicts in 14:28 and 16:7 that after the resurrection, Jesus will first appear to his disciples in Galilee. Matthew, using Mark as a source, affirms and reproduces this Markan tradition and also twice records the prediction (Matt 26:32, 28:7). In order to show these predictions fulfilled, Matthew is committed to reporting a primary resurrection appearance in Galilee. On the other hand, Luke does not commit himself to Mark’s foreshadowing. Mark’s predictions of a first resurrection appearance in Galilee are simply omitted by Luke. Without this constraint, Luke is free to offer his reports of Jesus appearing to two persons on the road to Emmaus, and subsequently to others in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Thus, Luke’s account is in fundamental disharmony with Mark.

 

There is no reason to assume Matthew did not know Luke simply because he opted to follow Mark instead of Luke in the resurrection account. From the fact that Luke does not record Mark’s predictions of a primary resurrection appearance in Galilee, few would claim that Luke was not aware of Mark. Just as Luke’s diversion from Mark has no bearing on his awareness of Mark, Matthew’s choice to follow Mark over Luke in the resurrection tradition has no probative value in determining his awareness of Luke.

 

Q theorists have always been able to assemble numerous compelling arguments to illustrate that Luke could not have used Matthew. These arguments typically focus on the exceedingly implausible editorial behavior of Luke implied by his alleged use of Matthew. For most scholars these arguments comprise a formidable case against Luke’s awareness of Matthew. Accordingly, Q advocates have never needed to resort to the tenuous claim that conflicting genealogies and resurrection narratives indicate that Luke did not know Matthew. That this argument is drafted into service only when debating Matthean posteriority is itself an indication of how feeble the case against it is.

 

Q advocates have never compiled a collection of arguments against Matthew’s awareness of Luke that rivals the power of their arguments against Luke’s use of Matthew, largely because they have never had to. However, the fact is that it is not possible; the data simply do not exist to make a case against Matthew’s awareness of Luke. When we examine the Gospels side-by-side while trying to imagine that Luke used and edited Matthew, Luke’s editorial decisions routinely look suspicious, logically tenuous, and on occasion outright nonsensical. Conversely, when we compare these texts and imagine that Matthew used Luke, Matthew’s editorial decisions most frequently appear to be rational—it is easy to infer why Matthew would have made the modifications that he did to Luke’s text. Furthermore, and perhaps just as importantly, Matthew’s editorial use of Luke is consistent with his use of Mark; we see similar changes being applied to both sources, which is what we would expect if Matthew had used both Mark and Luke.

 

Evidence of Matthew’s awareness of Luke

 

If Matthew was indeed using Luke as a source, we should be able to locate compelling evidence to that effect. It would be unusual indeed if Matthew had relied upon both Mark and Luke but ended up leaving no evidence that he had done so. There are four phenomena in the Synoptic texts that indicate the direct awareness between Matthew and Luke, and two of them specifically indicate that the direction of dependence is that of Matthew upon Luke. The first of these is that Matthew’s narrative often looks like a conflation of elements from Mark and Luke, but Luke’s narrative never looks like a conflation of elements from Mark and Matthew. The second is that the distribution of doublets in Luke and Matthew is most easily explained by Matthew’s dependence upon Luke. The third is that Matthew and Luke each follow Mark closely only when the other does not, a strong indication that one knew what the other was doing with Mark. Finally, the dozens of minor agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark indicates a direct dependence that Q theorists have never fully explained. We will examine each of these phenomena in turn.

 

1. Matthew’s conflation of Mark and Luke. Matthew contains a great deal of material that exists in either Mark or Luke or both, and it is evident that his objective was to conflate these two sources along with other materials into a more comprehensive Gospel. One of the important indications that the direct dependence between Matthew and Luke was that of Matthew’s use of Luke rather than the reverse is that in numerous passages it is apparent that Matthew collected elements from both Mark and Luke in order to create his narrative. Conversely, we never find passages in Luke that are constructed from elements in Mark and Matthew. One example is found in The Calling of the Twelve (Fig. 4.1 below). This sequence of eight verses in Matthew 9:35-10:4 has been assembled from material found in chapters 3 and 6 of Mark, and chapters 6, 8, 9, and 10 of Luke.

 

Q proponents allege that Luke 10:2 and its Matthean parallel were drawn from Q. However the larger Matthean text looks like a direct conflation of Mark and Luke that is difficult to interpret as a conflation of Mark and Q due to subtle interleaved phrases that have no alleged parallels in Q. Matthew 10:1 contains “gave them authority over” demons or unclean spirits which appears in Luke but not in Mark; it also contains the concept of casting out demons which appears in Mark but not in Luke; it incorporates curing/healing of disease, which appears in Luke but not in Mark. Immediately following this is the conflation of Mark and Luke’s account of the twelve: the first portion of the list is from Luke, the last is from Mark. One can imagine any number of hypothetical sources that Matthew had to draw from to account for this phenomenon, but the simple solution is that Matthew created his text by combining elements from the Gospels of Mark and Luke that were in front of him at the time.

 

 

 

4.1:  The Calling of the Twelve 

Mark 6:6b

And he went about the villages teaching.

 

 

 

Mark 6:34

As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark 3:14-19

       14 And he appointed twelve to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons:

 

Simon, who he surnamed Peter James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder, Andrew, and Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas and James

 

the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; and  4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Luke 8:1

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages,     preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God

 

 

 

 

 

Luke 10:2

And he said to them,  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;       pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Luke 9:1b

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.

Luke 6:13-16

And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles; Simon, who he named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Matt 9:35-10:4

35And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples,                     “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

 

10:1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over  unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.

 

                               2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

 

 

The Calling of the Twelve is a dramatic but by no means isolated example of Matthew’s tendency to compose his text using fragments from Mark and Luke. The same creative process is evident in The Beelzebul Controversy (Fig. 4.2), wherein Matthew’s version consists of a combination of elements found in Mark and Luke. Meanwhile Luke’s text is a blend of edited Markan elements with several complementary expansions woven into it. Note that in the Beelzebul Controversy there is very little verbatim duplication between Mark and Luke. Matthew’s text, on the other hand, has been assembled from elements that are virtual verbatim duplications from both Mark and Luke. This is not unusual. The fact that Luke tends to paraphrase Mark while Matthew tends to replicate Mark and Luke is a recurring pattern.

 

 

 

4.2:  The Beelzebul Controversy 

Mark 3:22-27

 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said,

 

 

 

 

 

“He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables,

 

 

 

 

 

“How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.

 

 

27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.

Luke 11:14-23

14 Now he was casting out a demon that was dumb; when the demon had gone out,                the dumb man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said,

 

“He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons”; 16 while others, to test him, sought from him a sign from heaven.

17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you

 

 

 

 

                            23 He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.

Matt 12:22-30

22 Then a blind and dumb demoniac was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”

 

25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand; 26 and if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27

                       And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?  Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.

 

Matthew’s version of The Beelzebul Controversy is a straightforward integration of elements existing in Mark and Luke. How is this phenomenon to be explained if we are to assume Matthew was not aware of Luke? Advocates of the 2DH propose that two parallel traditions of The Beelzebul Controversy existed in Mark and Q respectively. Faced with these variant traditions in his two sources, Luke then did a remarkable thing: He freely paraphrased the material that appeared in Mark, while he copied verbatim just those elements in Q that had no Markan parallels. Meanwhile, the Q theory continues, though it appears that Matthew drew portions of his text from Luke, he actually took them from Q. Thus, we see verbatim replications between Matthew and Luke because both authors independently chose to reproduce this material from Q verbatim. Though this explanation is not impossible it is extremely unlikely, and it does highlight an unspoken presupposition upon which the Q theory rests: Luke routinely paraphrases his Markan source; however, when he turns to his Q source he transforms himself into a copyist, duplicating Q for the most part without change. This “Jekyll and Hyde” editorial behavior of Luke is woven into the fabric of the Q hypothesis, for there is no other way to explain the high verbal agreements in the double tradition. The Beelzebul Controversy is a glaring example of this editorial dichotomy. Other examples include On Riches and Rewards of Discipleship (Fig. 4.3), The Parable of the Mustard Seed (4.4), False Christs and False Prophets (Fig. 4.5), Sin against the Holy Spirit (Fig. 4.6), and the Question about Fasting (Fig 4.7).

 

4.3: Riches and Rewards of Discipleship

Mark 10:23-31

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And       

                 they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said,

                        “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you.”

                 29 Jesus said,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Truly I say to you,

       there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.  31 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.”

Luke 18:24-29a:

24 Jesus looking at him said,             

                                   “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard it said,

 

“Then who can be saved?”

 

 

 

 

             28 And Peter said, “Lo, we have left our homes and followed you.”

29 And he said to them,

Luke 22:29-30:

 I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and

                                             sit on         

                 thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Luke 18:29b-30:

“…there is no man who has left his house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive manifold more in this time, ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ and in the age to come eternal life.”

Matthew 19:23-30

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When his disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, 

“Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with

        God all things are possible.”

27 Then Peter said in reply, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” 28 Jesus said to them,

 

“Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also      

                                             sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

 

29 And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will   

                                        receive a hundredfold, ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- and inherit eternal life. 30

But many that are first will be last, and the last first.”

 

Figure 4.3, Riches and Rewards of Discipleship, is a particularly striking amalgam of Markan and Lukan influence in Matthew. As one studies these texts side by side one can read Matthew’s mind as he follows Luke’s lead in deleting irrelevant Markan material; these common omissions are of a kind with the dozens of recognized minor agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark. Q theorists argue that these common omissions are editorial decisions arrived at independently by two authors working with Mark who had no idea of each other’s edits. While this is possible, it is more likely that the power of suggestion was at work; Matthew was aware of Luke’s deletions of Mark’s extraneous verbiage and he simply carried them forward. One can also understand Matthew’s discomfort with Luke’s notion that the disciples will be inheriting separate kingdoms and eating and drinking on the thrones, so he edits those suggestions out.

 

4.4: Parable of the Mustard Seed

Mark 4:30-32

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Luke 13:18-19

He said therefore “What is the kingdom of God and what is it like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like                the grain of mustard seed               which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew

                                                 

                    and became a tree        and                     the   birds of the air   made nests in its branches.

Matthew 13:31-32

Another parable he put before them, saying, "The Kingdom of heaven is like

a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has

grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree,     so that                   the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

 

4.5: False Christs and False Prophets

 

Mark 13:21-23

21 “And then if any one says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.         24 False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders,           to lead astray, if possible,          the elect. 23 But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand.”

 

 

Luke 17:23-24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23 “And they will say to you, ‘Lo, there!’ or ‘Lo, here!’ Do not go, do not follow them.

                        24 For as the lightening flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day. 

Luke 17:37b:   

“Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

Matthew 24:23-28

23 “And then if any one says to you, ‘Lo, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Lo, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Lo, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; if they say, ‘Lo, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightening comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man.

 

Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

 

4.6:  Sin against the Holy Spirit

 

Mark 3:28-29

“Truly, I say to you, all sins

                        will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;

 

 

 

 

 

 

but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.

 

Luke 12:10

 

 

 

 

 

 And every one who speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven;

 

but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

 Matthew 12:31-32

 “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

 

 

And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven;

 

 

but whoever speaks against      the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven

 

 

4.7:  Question about Fasting

 

Mark 2:18-22

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  

                  22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins;

but new wine is for fresh skins.”

Luke 5:33-38

 33 And they said to him,

“The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”

 

34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?

 

35 The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He told them a parable also: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it upon an old garment; if he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old 37 and no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”

Matthew 9:14-17

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying

 

Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?

 

 

The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

 

 16 And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for             the patch tears away from the garment,

             and a worse tear is made.

                           17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins will burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are        destroyed;

but new wine is          put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

 

 

 

John Kloppenborg provides an outstanding description of the process by which Matthew assembled his narratives by conflating components of Mark and Luke, although he does so under the presumption of Q’s existence:

 

The mission speeches in Matthew and Luke begin with a cluster of Q sayings... At 10:16 Luke finished his speech and turns to other subjects. But Matthew continues, employing diverse materials, some drawn from Mark (13:9-13) and some from Q passages which are scattered throughout Luke. What is striking is that Matt 10:24-39, comprising ten Q sayings, reproduces these sayings in Lucan order … even though they do not appear together in Luke.

 

After reproducing and rearranging the Q mission speech, and after interpolating part of Mark 13, Matthew scanned Q and removed, in the original Q (= Lucan) order, 11 sayings appropriate to the theme of mission and used these as the balance of his mission speech. Only in the case of Q 17:33 (Matt 10:39), which occurs with a cluster of discipleship sayings (Q 14:26, 27 // Matt 10:37, 38), is it likely that the Matthean order is primary. Otherwise, it is the most economical and intelligible solution to suppose that Matthew scanned Q and collected these sayings than to argue that Luke distributed them in a capricious fashion.[15]

 

Kloppenborg’s intent in this passage is to illustrate the potency of the Q theory over the notion that Luke had used Matthew, for it makes more sense for Matthew to have scanned Q and assembled the sayings in the Lukan order in which they existed in Q rather than to imagine Luke disassembling the Matthean text and scattering the sayings while retaining their essential order. And this is true as long as one limits the discussion to the Q theory versus any solution that proposes Luke used Matthew. Yet it is obvious that if Matthew had scanned Luke directly he would have achieved the same result.  

 

In each of these comparisons, if the Q theory did not exist and there were no preconceived notions about composition dates, scholars would look at these patterns and universally agree that Matthew had composed his gospel by methodically evaluating and conflating elements from Mark and Luke. The theory is fully sufficient to resolve the data. Furthermore, the phenomenon of Matthew appearing to be a conflation of Mark and Luke is exclusive to Matthew. We never find a passage in Luke that appears to be a conflation of elements from Mark and Matthew. If Matthew and Luke had each independently used Mark and Q without knowledge of the other’s work, one would imagine that at some point Luke would have accidentally compiled a sequence that would look as if it had been drawn from Mark and Matthew, in the same way that Matthew routinely does the reverse. The Q theory is at a loss to explain why this pattern of apparent dependence of Matthew upon Luke only exists in one direction.

 

2. The Doublets. An intriguing feature of Matthew and Luke is that they sometimes record variations of the same sayings twice, creating a “doublet.” There are nineteen sets of doublets in Matthew and twelve in Luke. Of particular interest is that six of the twelve sets of doublets in Luke are also replicated in Matthew. Under the Q theory, it is supposed that Matthew and Luke each typically drew one version of the saying from Mark and the other from Q, so the phenomenon is offered as evidence of the existence of Q. The problem, once again, is that the phenomenon can as easily be resolved by assuming Matthew drew one saying from Mark and another from Luke rather than Q.

Let us first consider that it is not clear why the authors chose to duplicate certain sayings. On occasion they may have been duplicated for special emphasis, or to create a literary frame or set of “parentheses” in the text for interpretive purposes. Some may represent two variant forms of the sayings that the authors may have wished to document. Perhaps they wanted to present them in two different contexts (not unlike the rationale for reproducing the previous paragraph twice in this chapter). It is also probable that, given the vast inventory of raw material, some (perhaps most of them) were simply duplicated in error. Given the array of sources available to the authors, unintentional replications are to be expected. What is more noteworthy is that (a) there are more doublets in Matthew than there are in Luke, and (b) half of the doublets in Luke are reproduced by Matthew. What might be the most logical accounting of this phenomenon? Despite some conceivable rationales, it does not seem probable that both authors would independently duplicate the same sayings no matter what reason they may have had to do so. The circumstances under which this may have occurred are worth pondering. The Q theory argues that the two authors, either by design or error, independently drew six common sets of doublets, one each from Mark and Q respectively. Practically speaking, the odds of this occurring would seem to be quite low.

Consider then the alternative that Matthew drew upon both Mark and Luke. In this situation, Luke would have created twelve sets of doublets in his own Gospel by drawing one saying from Mark, and another from one of the many oral and written sources he had at his disposal. Whether this was done by design or error is immaterial. In either case, this produces an interesting scenario: Matthew was using two sources in which twelve sets of sayings appeared three times—once in Mark and twice in Luke. If Matthew compiled his Gospel using these two primary sources, the odds of duplicating some of the sayings that appeared in triplicate, either intentionally or erroneously, would have been increased just from the power of suggestion. Under this scenario it would not be surprising to find that Matthew would replicate many of the same doublets that appeared in Luke; so the fact that he reproduced six of the twelve is not remarkable. The Q theory has a difficult time explaining how half of the doublets in Luke were also reproduced by Matthew if both authors were working independently. Since the doublets can be more rationally explained by assuming Matthew’s direct use of Luke, they comprise evidence against the existence of Q rather than in favor of it.

3. The Alternating Use of Mark by Matthew and Luke. A third key pattern in the Synoptic texts is that Matthew tends to follow Mark closely when Luke does not, and diverge from Mark when Luke follows him closely. Practically speaking, this can only be explained by assuming a direct literary dependence between Matthew and Luke. William Farmer describes it well, and draws attention to this phenomenon as evidence that Matthew and Luke could not have used Mark independently:

 

When Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not all three agree in order…..either Matthew and Mark will agree, or Luke and Mark will agree. The point is that when Matthew and Mark are following the same order, but Luke exhibits a different order, the texts of Matthew and Mark tend to be very close to one another. And when Luke and Mark are following the same order, but Matthew exhibits a different order, the texts of Luke and Mark tend to be very close to one another. This is quite noticeable in the first half of Mark, and requires an explanation.

 

This phenomenon is especially difficult to explain on any hypothesis which presupposes Matthew and Luke independently copied Mark…. For since Matthew had no knowledge of Luke’s redactional use of Mark, there is no way he could have known to begin copying the text of Mark more closely where Luke’s order was different from that of Mark. Conversely, there is no way in which Luke could have known to begin copying the text of Mark more closely at the point where Mark’s order and that of Matthew departed from one another.[16]

 

It is as if Matthew and Luke each knew what the other was doing, and that each had agreed to support Mark whenever the other departed from Mark.[17]

 

Farmer holds the logical high ground in highlighting this evidence of direct literary dependence among the authors. Unfortunately, Farmer goes on to argue that the direction of dependence is that of Luke upon Matthew, and that Mark was composed third as an epitomized edition, as per Griesbach’s hypothesis. Very few scholars accept this theory for a host of good reasons, so Farmer’s devastating observation tends to be ignored along with the rest of his arguments. However, Kloppenborg acknowledges in a footnote the difficulty posed by this phenomenon as it relates to Markan priority and the 2DH:

 

Farmer (1964:213) first formulated this argument as a corrective to Streeter’s assertion that “[t]he relative order of incidents and sections in Mark is in general supported by both Matthew and Luke; where either of them deserts Mark, the other is usually found supporting him” (1924:151). Focusing only on the second half of Streeter’s statement, Farmer correctly argues that alternating agreement with Mark constitutes a problem, not a support for Markan priority, since one would have to explain how Matthew could (nearly) always agree with Mark when Luke disagreed and vice versa.”[18]

 

To suggest that alternating agreement with Mark “constitutes a problem” is an understatement, however it is not a problem for Markan priority as Kloppenborg suggests. Rather it is a problem exclusively for the Q theory. For under Markan priority, the textual pattern simply indicates that the later of Matthew or Luke must have been aware of the earlier author’s use of Mark. If this was not the case as the Q theory alleges, it is a mystery as to how each could have departed from Mark only when the other did not. On the other hand, in the case of Farmer’s theory of Markan posteriority, we must visualize Mark following Matthew and Luke when they were in agreement, and randomly alternating between the two when they diverged to no apparent purpose. Though this procedure is not inconceivable it is at least peculiar. The larger difficulty with Mark’s alleged used of Matthew and Luke is that he would have edited out major traditions such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, and many other compelling moral teachings of Jesus while at the same time adding darker references to hostility between Jesus and his family. Most scholars understandably reject this as highly improbable.

In the case of Markan priority, we must envision the third evangelist examining the second’s use of Mark, and using it as an excuse either to follow or to stray from Mark. Rather than sweeping this very significant pattern under the rug, we must explore what possible motives the authors may have had that would have produced such a phenomenon. As always, the central issue is that of plausible editorial procedure as Kloppenborg has indicated. Within the context of Matthean posteriority, not much speculation is required. Let us presume that Matthew did indeed set out to write a new gospel, and that he embraced Mark and Luke as his two primary sources. What would have been his prime objectives? With respect to Mark, he would have intended to produce a far more comprehensive gospel with a much wider array of Jesus traditions. In so doing he would have planned to incorporate the large majority of Mark, correcting several of its errors, eliminating its darker references, and resolving the predicted resurrection appearance in Galilee. In essence, Mark was a gospel in need of a makeover and expansion; by taking over more than 90% of Mark in improved form, it is likely that Matthew anticipated that his gospel would render Mark obsolete.

 

Matthew wrote with the intent to correct and improve Luke as well. Based upon what he accomplished, it is evident that one of Matthew’s objectives was to correct Luke’s failure to emphasize the entire Jesus story as a preordained, prophetic fulfillment of Judaism. Another of his objectives would have been to edit down Luke’s many redundancies, while at the same time adding new moral, theological and eschatological components that did not exist in Luke. A third would have been to replace Luke’s remedial renderings of important traditions with enhanced versions (Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount supersedes Luke’s Sermon on the Plain; his discourses are more refined, and his enhanced renderings of the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Great Commission overshadow those in Luke). Finally, Matthew displays a desire to tie up disconcerting loose ends in the gospel accounts that are left dangling in Mark and Luke (to be discussed in detail later in this book). In the end, Matthew successfully packed a more extensive collection of Jesus traditions into a more tightly composed presentation that is about 7% shorter than Luke in total word length. It is likely that Matthew wrote with the objective of producing the most comprehensive gospel that had yet been composed, one that would supersede both Mark and Luke. The fact that it has been featured ever since as the First Gospel in the NT canon testifies to his success.

 

It is clear that Matthew held Mark in higher regard than did Luke, for he incorporated over 90% of Mark compared to the less than 50% of Mark that Luke adapted. It is also clear that he respected the scope and depth of Luke’s work; not only did he copy 230+ verses from Luke that did not exist in Mark, he also followed Luke’s lead by incorporating an infancy narrative, genealogy, great sermon, and great commission. Matthew composed a gospel of the same scope as Luke, but at the same time making it as original and unlike Luke as possible. When taking over Lukan sayings he rarely reproduced the Lukan context but rather resituated them within a Markan context. He followed Mark by reproducing his predictions that the first resurrection appearances would be in Galilee, and depicted those predictions fulfilled while ignoring Luke’s resurrection account that were incompatible with Mark. Thus Matthew’s general preference for the Markan narrative is palpable.

With this as background, it is easy to imagine how Matthew may have evaluated and responded to Luke’s use of Mark. Whenever Luke diverged from Mark, Matthew was free to follow Mark closely without concern that his gospel would look like a reproduction of Luke. He would have been carrying forward material from an early source that he had every reason to assume his gospel would supplant. On the other hand, on the occasions when Luke followed Mark, Matthew saw no reason to follow Mark for two reasons: it would create a third superfluous record, and it would cause his gospel to look like a replication of Luke. If for these reasons Matthew sought creative ways to diverge from Markan elements that Luke had followed closely, this would have produced the textual pattern that both Farmer and Kloppenborg acknowledge exists, but which neither is able to successfully resolve within their preferred solutions to the Synoptic Problem. In the end, once we see that Matthew was using both Mark and Luke and was motivated to create a new and original gospel that rivaled the scope of Luke, but which at the same time looked as unlike Luke as possible, there is no mystery why Matthew tended to agree with Mark when Luke disagreed, and vice versa.

 

4. The Minor Agreements. The fourth phenomenon in the Synoptic texts that indicates direct awareness between Matthew and Luke are the many editorial agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark, collectively referred to as the minor agreements. The question is this: If Matthew and Luke used Mark independently, how did they come to make so many identical changes to Mark’s text? Some of the minor agreements are the result of common deletions by Matthew and Luke from Mark’s text; others occur when Matthew and Luke make the same additions or changes. There are dozens of examples of this phenomenon as the following samples illustrate:

 

4.7:  Salt of the Earth

 

Mark 9:50

Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltness, how will you season it?

Luke 14:34-35

Salt is good;                      but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? 

Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? 

 

4.8: The Cleansing of the Leper

 

Mark 1:40-41

“If you will, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity,  he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will, be clean”

Luke 5:12-13

Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” ------ And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, -----------------   “I will, be clean.”

Matthew 8:2-3

 “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” ----- And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, -----------------  “I will, be clean.”

 

4.9: Plucking Grain on the Sabbath

 

Mark 2:25

he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him; how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence . . .

Luke 6:3

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he was -----------------------hungry, he and those who were with him; how he entered the house of God --------------------------------and took and ate the bread of the Presence . . .

Matthew 12:3

He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was

-----------------------hungry, he and those who were with him; how he entered the house of God ------------------------------------------ and ate the bread of the Presence . . .

 

 

4.11: New Wine in Old Wineskins

 

Mark 2:22

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins;                  but new wine is

                 for fresh skins.

Luke 5:37-38

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.  But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

Matthew 9:17

Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is the skins burst  and the

wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed;  but new wine is

   put into fresh wineskins.

 

The minor agreements have been flogged incessantly in literature on the Synoptic Problem. Those who hold any theory but the 2DH argue that the minor agreements are persuasive evidence that the later of Luke or Matthew was aware of the earlier writer’s use of Mark—how could so many common edits to Mark be explained otherwise? And all scholars regardless of persuasion agree that the minor agreements are most easily explained by any theory that assumes a direct dependence between Matthew and Luke. However, though the minor agreements are a strong indication that either Matthew or Luke was aware of the other’s use of Mark, advocates of the Q theory argue that this evidence is not conclusive. They are acutely aware of the minor agreements and have developed ideas about how they could have occurred without Luke and Matthew being aware of each other's work. Helmut Koester identifies the possibilities:

 

I shall argue . . . that many of the minor agreements between Matthew and Luke result from the fact that both Matthew and Luke used a text of Mark that was different from the text which is preserved in the manuscript tradition of the canonical Gospel of Mark.[19]

 

It is hardly possible to argue that all these minor agreements can be explained by the assumption that Matthew and Luke used a Markan text that differed from the one preserved in the canonical manuscript tradition. A large number of the minor agreements are due to common stylistic or grammatical corrections of the sometimes awkward Markan text or are caused by accidental common omissions. There is also the possibility that later scribes altered the text of Luke under the influence of the better-known text of Matthew, thus creating secondary agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark.[20]

 

Thus, in Koester’s view, the minor agreements exist due to a variety of factors including obvious edits to Mark that both authors might have made independently, accidental common omissions, and the use by Matthew and Luke of a different edition of the Gospel of Mark than the one we find in the NT. His last speculation that later scribes altered the text of Luke is a subtle way to suggest a modified edition of Luke as well. These rationalizations are not impossible, but they are speculations mandated by the need to explain away evidence that otherwise dooms the Q theory. In essence, the minor agreements are dismissed by Q theorists as an odd array of coincidences and the use of one or more additional hypothetical sources. In the end, any textual replication can be explained by appeal to a common hypothetical source; to posit that Matthew and Luke each used a lost Q source and an unknown edition of Mark and an altered edition of Luke is lot of pure conjecture, quite unnecessary in light of the fact that a simple solution is at hand that is at once more obvious and more comprehensive—Matthew saw Luke’s numerous incidental edits to Mark and copied over those he agreed made sense.

 

Statistical Analysis of Verbal Agreements

 

No argument against the existence of Q is complete without addressing the statistical data often submitted as evidence in its favor. John Kloppenborg presents data developed by C.E. Carlston and D. Norlin.[21] This chart appears in both The Formation of Q[22] and Excavating Q[23], and is an important set of data bearing upon the Synoptic Problem:

 

Verbal Agreement between Matthew and Luke by Source

(C.E. Carlston and D. Norlin)

 

                                                          Triple Tradition                                       Double Tradition

Content type

 Matt

 Luke

 Avg.

 

 Matt

 Luke

 Avg.

Narrative

50.2

46.9

48.5

 

55.7

51.8

53.7

Words of Jesus       

63.5

68.3

65.9

 

69.5

73.6

71.5

Misc. words

56.7

60.6

58.5

 

87.5

80.9

84.1

Average

56.0

56.0

56.0

 

69.8

72.2

71.0

 

This table presents the percentage of agreement between Matthew and Luke relative to their two presumed sources, Mark and Q, by types of material. Kloppenborg notes that the definition of “agreement” is “the use of approximately the same word in both Matthew and Luke…expressed...as a percentage of the total words used by either author.”

Carlston and Norlin draw the following conclusion from their data:

 

[Our samplings] are surely large enough to establish beyond reasonable doubt that Matthew and Luke used Q, as far as the wording of their material is concerned, at least as conservatively as they used Mark. There seems to us to be no reasonable explanation for this phenomenon except a second written source for Matthew and Luke.”

 

If one assumes that the double tradition was drawn from Q independently by Matthew and Luke, then at face value the data indicate that both authors used Q not “at least as conservatively” but rather noticeably more conservatively than they did Mark. The striking difference between the average 56% agreement in the triple tradition versus 71% in the double tradition suggests that both authors must have replicated Q with greater fidelity than they did Mark. If the existence of Q as the source behind the double tradition can be established on other grounds, then these data indicate that Q was afforded greater respect as a source than was Mark. It is not surprising that those already convinced of Q’s existence would see further evidence of it in these numbers. However, not only can the data be easily resolved without any appeal to the Q theory, they actually point decidedly toward direct literary dependency between Matthew and Luke.

 

To illustrate, consider that the data do not conform to the predictions we would normally make assuming Matthew and Luke’s common use of both Mark and Q. It is understandable that the authors would both record the words of Jesus with higher fidelity than narrative text as we see that they have done. However, we would not anticipate that either, much less both authors would record the words of Jesus in Q with higher fidelity than they would the words of Jesus in Mark. Furthermore, since they both selected Mark to provide the fundamental narrative structure for their own Gospels, it is counterintuitive to imagine that both would reproduce Q’s narrative text with greater fidelity than Mark’s narrative text. To the contrary, if Matthew and Luke had each independently used Mark and Q as primary sources, we would expect the data in the double tradition to look similar to the data in the triple tradition, with the sayings of Jesus and the narrative material respectively being recorded with relatively equal fidelity from both sources. The fact that both authors independently chose to reproduce sayings material and narrative material with greater fidelity from Q constitutes an unexpected result.

 

However, this is only the beginning of the mystery. Let us consider Matthew’s usage of both sources more closely. In the triple tradition he intersects with Luke on 50.2% of the narrative text and 63.5% of the sayings material. The ratio of 50.2 to 63.5 is .79. Meanwhile, in the double tradition we find that Matthew intersects with Luke on 55.7% of the narrative and 69.5% of the sayings. The ratio of 55.7 to 69.5 is .80. Thus Matthew, writing independently, manages to achieve a statistically identical ratio of intersection (.79 vs. .80) with Luke in narrative and sayings matter.

 

Moreover, this pattern exists in Luke’s data as well. Luke intersects with Matthew on 46.9% of narrative and 68.3% of sayings material in Mark. The ratio of these (46.9/68.3) is .69. Luke’s double tradition statistics are 51.8% narrative and 73.6% sayings. The ratio of the two, 51.8/73.6, is .70.  In summary:

 

                                                                           Matthew                             Luke

 

Triple

Double

 

Triple

Double

        Narrative

50.2

55.7

 

46.9

51.8

        Words of Jesus

63.5

69.5

 

68.3

73.6

        Ratios

.79

.80

 

.69

.70

 

The statistical equality of these ratios should raise red flags. For within the context of the Q theory, the data indicate that Matthew and Luke both used Q with precisely the same percentage increase in their fidelity of replication of both narrative and sayings material. The odds are slim that two different authors independently using the same two texts would increase their accuracy of reproduction of Q’s narrative material and Q’s sayings material in identical proportions relative to Mark. To the contrary, we might expect them to have held Mark and Q in equal regard, drawing from them both with equal fidelity, in which case the rate of verbal agreement under the double tradition would have looked the same as those under the triple tradition. Barring that, if Matthew and Luke did not regard Mark and Q as equal authorities, we might imagine that one or both of them would have held Mark in higher regard at least as a narrative source, just as they might have perceived Q as a higher authority for sayings material. We would then expect them to each interpret their sources differently according to their respective editorial instincts and biases. This would have produced a lower incidence of agreement between the two. The last thing we would anticipate is that they would both view Q as a greater authority in both sayings and narrative material, and thereby increase their fidelity of reproduction of Q over Mark in both sayings and narrative by close to identical percentages.

 

Since these data do not correspond to results we would anticipate from two autonomous writers, the question is by what other means could these results have been achieved? Though Carlston and Norlin’s data do not reflect the anticipated behavior of two independent authors, they are very much in harmony with what we would predict from one author’s direct dependence upon the other. To illustrate, let us assume that Q did not exist, and that Matthew drew the double tradition material directly from Luke. If Matthew relied upon Luke and maintained a 69.8% verbal replication of Luke’s double tradition material, it would account for that number appearing in the chart. Luke’s corresponding value of 72.2% makes sense since the actual statistics would vary only by the total number of words used by both authors in the double tradition.

 

Furthermore, Matthew’s reproduction of Luke’s sayings and narrative material at an average of about 70% is consistent with his reproduction of Mark. In order for Matthew to achieve a subset of 56% verbal intersection with Luke in their respective use of Mark, both authors would individually have had to replicate Mark at the rate of about 75% (75% x 75% = 56%). This of course is an average; one might have replicated Mark at a rate of 80% and the other at 70% and still achieved a 56% intersection. Furthermore, there are other factors such as the frequency of keywords in each pericope that would influence these numbers. So no exactitude is suggested in citing these figures. The point is that in order to achieve a subset of 56% verbal agreement in the triple tradition, each author would have needed to replicate Mark at a rate higher than 56%, and a range of 70% to 75% would be consistent with the end result.

 

Furthermore, Matthew’s direct use of Luke would necessarily produce data showing increases in fidelity in the double tradition across all content types. By defining Luke’s editorial variances from Q as zero (Luke “reproduces Q” with 100% fidelity) the data would inevitably appear to show equivalent increases in the replication of Q in both sayings and narrative material by both authors. Mathematically, it cannot be otherwise. If Matthew “drew from Q” with 70% verbal reproduction and Luke “replicated Q” with 100% accuracy, then both authors would appear to have achieved a subset of verbal agreement of 70% (70% x 100% = 70%).  Thus Carlston and Norlin’s findings are quite in line with what the data should look like if Matthew used Luke directly.

 

In the end we have two possible scenarios. Either Matthew and Luke both used Mark and Q, and through unexpected editorial behavior produced statistical results that look quite peculiar. Or one author was dependent upon the other, thereby producing statistical verbal agreements that are entirely within the bounds of normal expectations. The latter resolves the data efficiently and must be considered the preferred solution absent a demonstration on other grounds that there cannot have been literary dependence between Matthew and Luke. The irony is that Carlston and Norlin’s statistics are alleged to confirm the use of Q by both Matthew and Luke. In point of fact, as with several other arguments for the existence of Q, the data are more easily resolved by assuming Matthew’s direct use of Luke.

 

A Final Incongruity:  Luke’s Editorial Behavior

 

The double tradition material contains more verbal agreement between Matthew and Luke than does the triple tradition, as is clear from Carlston and Norlin’s data.  Not only is there quite a bit of verbatim reproduction, when there is a difference in wording, it most frequently appears that Matthew’s version is the later, or edited version, or as Koester says, that Luke’s is evidently the more original. As an example:

 

Luke 6:41-42

41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the long out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Matt 7:3-5

3  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, “              Let me take the speck       out of your eye,” when                                  there is the log

       in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the long out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of            your brother’s eye.

 

In this pericope there is a great deal of verbal agreement but they are noticeable different; Matthew’s version is obviously the more refined. Anyone looking at these two texts without any preconceived notions as to how they evolved would presume that Matthew had edited the account in Luke directly. He has made no change to the meaning of the saying as it exists in Luke, but has simply rendered it in more concise language.  However, this is not always the case. On some occasions Matthew appears to edit Luke in ways that make material changes to the account. In the following table, Luke depicts the Baptist’s vitriolic tirade as directed toward the masses who had come to him for baptism. In Matthew, this has been corrected to show John’s venom being directed at the Pharisees and Sadducees:

 

Luke 3:7-9

7 He said therefore to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him,

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do  not  begin  to  say  to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matt 3:7-10

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them,

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

 

Other than this, the passage is largely a verbatim reproduction with the exception of two small edits. The singular and plural forms of fruits and befit are switched, and the word begin is changed to presume. This latter edit is particularly noteworthy, for Matthew has a demonstrable aversion to the verb to begin as it is used in Mark and Luke. It appears 23 times in Mark, and as Matthew draws from Mark he routinely rewrites any phrasing in which he feels begin has been used inappropriately. Matthew’s Gospel ends up with only eleven uses of begin, despite it being well over half again as long as Mark. With respect to the above pericope, the fact that begin has been replaced with presume is strong evidence that Matthew is the later edited version.

 

The essential point, however, is that all of this has significant ramifications for the Q theory. For the fact that Matthew frequently appears to be either copying Luke verbatim or editing/correcting Luke is nothing but an illusion according to the 2DH which insists Matthew and Luke did not know one another—the reason that Matthew appears to be copying/editing Luke is that Luke copied his Q source verbatim, while Matthew copied and edited from the same Q source;  this is the only way to explain the fact that Matthew frequently appears to be copying or editing Luke directly.

 

Since the 2DH is wholly dependent upon this assumption, one must ask whether it is reasonable to assume Luke would have used Q in this manner? If Luke’s use of Mark is any guide to his editorial proclivities, the evidence suggests not. Luke routinely exhibits a propensity to paraphrase Mark. Though he often follows the storyline of Mark, he has a need to render Mark’s text in his own words. The following comparison illustrates Luke’s typical paraphrasing of Mark:

 

Mark 1:35-38

35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.  36 And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”  38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.”

Luke 4:42-43

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a lonely place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them;

 

43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.”

 

Here the basic story that Luke tells is similar to that of Mark, but the wording is remarkably different. In particular, the saying of Jesus is entirely rewritten; the meaning is essentially the same but the wording is different. It is as if Luke resists any opportunity to replicate Mark, and instead actively seeks a different way to say the same thing.

 

The same tendency can be observed in Stilling the Storm (Fig. 4.12). There are numerous incidental reproductions of verbiage that are sufficient to justify an inference that Luke is using Mark as a source. Yet, Luke renders the story in his own language while remaining essentially true to the content and meaning of Mark’s version:

 

 

 

 

4.12:  Stilling the Storm

 

Mark 4: 35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them,  “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.  And other boats were with him.  37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  38 but he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?”  39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

Luke 8:22-25

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.”  So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a storm of wind came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, Master, Master, we are perishing!”  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; and they ceased, and there was a calm.  25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?”  And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the wind and water, and they obey him?”

 

 

The comparisons above illustrate Luke’s practice of rewriting Mark in his own words. While there are occasional verbatim reproductions, they are incidental. Indeed, lengthy reproductions of Mark by Luke are rare. The underlined text in The Healing of the Demoniac (Fig 4.13, Luke 4:34-35a below) is the longest continuous duplication of Mark found in the Gospel of Luke—a duplication consisting of 26 words in the Greek text. There are no other verbatim duplications which rival the length of this passage, and there are only a few which exceed half its length. Hence, it stands out as a remarkable anomaly when Luke and Mark are compared:

 

4.13:  The Healing of the Demoniac

 

Mark 1:23-28

23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; 24  and he cried out,                               “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him saying, “Be silent and come out of him!”  26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice came out of him.                        27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”  28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

Luke 4:33-37

33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ah! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”  35 But Jesus rebuked him saying, “Be silent and come out of him!”  And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed, and said to one another, 

                                “What is this word? For with

              authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”  37 And reports of him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

 

 

 

In these examples there is no discernible motive on Luke's part to change the essential meaning of the stories. Rather, he appears to render his source in his own words with colorful embellishments. In Fig 4.13, Mark's unclean spirit becomes the spirit of an unclean demon in Luke. In Mark, the man cries out; in Luke, the man cries out with a loud voice. Again in Mark, Jesus commands with authority; in Luke he commands with authority and power. These additions have no purpose other than to amplify the drama without changing its meaning.

 

Therefore, there is an obvious disconnect between theory and observed evidence at the heart of the 2DH. The theory requires one to believe that Luke manifested two different editorial styles, letting his creative side run free in paraphrasing Mark while slavishly reproducing Q as a mere copyist. Advocates of the 2DH have proposed that the resolution of this dilemma lies in the fact that Q consists mainly of Jesus’ sayings, whereas Mark is primarily narrative. And indeed Carlston and Norlin’s data confirm that Jesus’ sayings were reproduced with higher fidelity than narrative text.

 

However, even with the sayings material that Luke finds in Mark, he shows a tendency to change wording for no apparent reason other than to create an original version. In the Stilling of the Storm (Fig. 4.12), Mark has Jesus say, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Luke alters the saying to read “Where is your faith?” And in Jesus Departs from Capernaum, Mark reports Jesus as saying, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” Here, Luke renders a thorough rewrite: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” Thus there is no sign that Luke feels obligated to render the words of Jesus in his Markan source accurately.

 

The next step would be to consider whether there are two generic types of Jesus’ sayings material that Luke might have treated differently—conversational speech on the one hand versus more highly structured parables and aphorisms on the other. Does Luke exhibit a tendency to reproduce parables and aphorisms of Jesus with greater accuracy than conversational speech? The Question About Fasting (Fig. 4.7, p. 22) which we examined previously offers excellent insight into this, as it provides evidence of Luke’s typical use of Mark, and Matthew’s use of both Mark and Luke.

 

First consider Luke’s use of Mark. Notice that Mark opens the story with a premise, then repeats the premise in the question. Luke evidently sees this as unnecessary, and rephrases the opening question to eliminate the redundancy. He adds the comment about offering prayers, and changes the accusation from your disciples do not fast, to yours eat and drink.  Luke has not made any material change to the scenario, as prayer and fasting go hand in hand. He has simply rewritten the text in his own style and added some color, as we have seen him do previously.

 

Luke reproduces the first half of Jesus’ statement in v. 19 very close to verbatim. However, the second half of Jesus’ statement is considered by Luke to be extraneous, and he drops it entirely. He then replicates Mark 2:20 verbatim until the end of the sentence, where he pluralizes those days to match the plural days with which Mark had opened v. 20. Once the subject switches to the parable of the patched garment, Luke moves into a thorough paraphrasing, showing no sense of obligation to accurately reproduce the words of Jesus in Mark. Finally, in the new wine saying, Luke blends verbatim phrasing with his own original constructions. Overall, an examination of The Question About Fasting reveals that Luke felt no duty to record the words of Jesus as he found them in Mark. While he had no aversion to copying some sayings verbatim, he viewed them as being subject to rearranging, correcting, deleting, and embellishing.

 

Let us then turn to Matthew’s use of Mark and Luke in this same text. At the outset, Matthew alters the substance of the story for whatever reason he may have had—it is no longer third-party bystanders who pose the question to Jesus as it is in Mark and Luke; it is now the disciples of the Baptist themselves who challenge Jesus. It is not unusual for Matthew to change the identity of characters in the story. He replaces the multitudes with the religious leaders as those who were inciting the wrath of John the Baptist. He reports that it was the mother of the sons of Zebedee, not the sons themselves, who pleaded for their special status at the throne of Jesus. And the apostle Matthew is substituted for Levi the tax collector. So here we find another identity alteration of a similar kind.

 

A second observation in Matthew’s text is that he accomplishes the same initial edits as Luke, in that they both eliminate the redundant language in Mark 2:18 and 2:19b. Though these two common omissions could have been autonomous edits by two authors unaware of the other’s activity, if Matthew had seen this beneficial editing in Luke he would have been likely to adopt it himself. 

 

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this comparison occurs in Matthew’s treatment of the sayings pertaining to the patched garment and the new wine. Matthew uses Mark’s version of the patched garment, rendering it in an epitomized form while ignoring the language in Luke. He then turns to Luke for the new wine saying, and compresses it in much the same way that he does the garment saying. Thus Matthew’s text is an efficient fusion of elements drawn from both Mark and Luke. In Alland’s Greek text of The Question About Fasting, Mark’s version contains 129 words, and Luke’s has 141. By rewriting with more precision, Matthew compresses the same material into 105 words. Writing for precision and efficiency is a hallmark of Matthew’s style.

 

Matthew displays no tendency to introduce new language simply to tell the story in his own words as Luke often does. For the most part he uses the language he finds in his sources and replicates it subject only to refinements for efficient presentation, or to introduce material changes or expansions to the traditions. In The Question About Fasting, Matthew maintains high verbatim agreement with either Mark or Luke, or on occasion both. Other than putting the opening question into the mouths of the Baptist’s disciples instead of bystanders, the only uniquely Matthean elements in the entire passage are mourn in v.15, and the concluding phrase and so both are preserved. The Question about Fasting is an ideal illustration of (a) the use of Mark by both Matthew and Luke, and (b) Matthew’s tendency to conflate elements he finds in Mark and Luke.

 

 

Another demonstration of Matthew and Luke’s respective use of sayings material in Mark is The Parable of the Fig Tree (Fig. 4.14). In this pericope the entire text of Mark is copied almost without change by Matthew, with several small exceptions. Meanwhile, Luke again rewrites the opening portion of this text for no apparent purpose other than to render it in different language. Furthermore he deletes the final statement of Mark’s v.32 entirely. The fact that this is a parable of Jesus that Luke sees recorded in Mark does not inhibit him from performing these extensive edits.

 

4.14:  The Parable of the Fig Tree

 

Mark 13:28-32

 

28 From the fig tree learn its lesson:  as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that         summer is              near.  29

So also, when you see all these things taking place, you know that he    is near, at the very gates.  30  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place.  31 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  32 But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Luke 21:29-33

29 And he told them a parable:                   “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near.  31              

So also, when you see         these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32        Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away    till all has taken place. 33

 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

 

Matthew 24:32-36

 

32 From the fig tree learn its lesson:  as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that          summer is               near. 33

So also, when you see all these things                      you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away   till all these things take place.35

 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but        the Father only.

 

 

The Parable of the Fig Tree is a good illustration due to its length and the fact that it consists exclusively of the words of Jesus. Though Matthew reproduces Mark almost verbatim, there is no similar replication of Mark in Luke. The fact that we can observe Matthew copying sayings of Jesus in Mark word for word indicates that he may have had a similar tendency to copy the sayings in Luke’s double tradition, resulting in the frequent verbatim duplication in that material. On the other hand, Luke’s paraphrasing of the opening text, his alterations in Mark’s v.29, and his deletion of Mark’s final phrase represent editorial manipulations that are inconsistent with the editorial behavior needed to sustain the Q theory, for if Luke routinely performed similar edits on Q it becomes more difficult to explain the frequent duplications in the double tradition.

 

The Signs Before the End (Fig 4.15) is another example in which the same distinctive redactional tendencies of Matthew and Luke are apparent. Luke shows an inclination to embellish the story with colorful, even hyperbolic rhetoric. He changes the word alarmed in Mark to terrified; Mark’s earthquakes become great earthquakes in Luke; he renders the word famines to famines and pestilences, and to ensure his readers get the point, Luke adds and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. Luke enthusiastically embraces his role as creative storyteller, rewording the text to add drama and originality.

4.15:  Signs Before the End

 

Mark 13:3-8

 3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, saying, 4 “Tell us,    when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?”  5 And Jesus began to say to them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray.      

  6  Many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,'                 

           and they will lead many astray.                 

        7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be        

alarmed;    this must            take place, but the end is not yet. 

                               8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;            there will be

earthquakes in various places, there will be     

famines; this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.

Luke 21:7-11

 

 7 And they asked him,                                

“Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?”                         

 8 And he                  said,

 

           “Take heed that you are not led astray'          for many will come in my name, saying,    'I am he!' and 'The time is at hand!'

                Do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and tumults,

do not be        

 terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” 10 Then he said to them, 'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great

earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

Matthew 24:3-8

3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives

                        the disciples came to

      him privately, saying,    “Tell us,    when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”             

 

4 And Jesus      answered them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray.  5For many will come in my name, saying,  'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray.                    

           And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed for this must           take place, but the end is not yet. 

                            7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places;

            all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.

 

 

Conversely, Matthew typically refines Mark's text without altering its dramatic intensity. When Mark writes, And Jesus began to say to them, Matthew changes it to And Jesus answered them (an example of his removal of begin). Mark's cumbersome phrase there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines, is edited by Matthew to read more concisely: there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. Other than changes of this nature, Matthew stays close to Mark, his alterations being both limited and motivated by a desire to clarify or improve the precision of the text.

 

Matthew’s willingness to reproduce his Markan source with limited change—and Luke’s evident need to paraphrase it—undermines the credibility of the 2DH. The editorial behavior of these two evangelists is markedly different, and the behavior of Luke does not fit the requirements of the 2DH. The Q theory requires us to believe that Luke adopted two different editorial persona—a creative reinterpreter of Mark and a disengaged scribe/copyist of Q. Nevertheless, Q theorists insist that there is no reason to preclude this scenario since the Q document was primarily a collection of sayings. It has been suggested that Luke had reason to hold Q in higher esteem as an authentic early collection of sayings. If this were the case, it is argued, Luke would have reproduced the sayings of Jesus in Q with higher fidelity than he did the sayings of Jesus in Mark.

However, there is evidence that even this assumption is not warranted. Let us return to the Semitic parallelisms previously discussed. As noted, Matthew contains several sayings that are rendered in structured parallel form, whereas Luke’s versions appear in free prose. Two such parallelisms are illustrated in The House Built Upon the Rock (Fig. 4.16) and Treasures in Heaven (Fig. 4.17). It is widely assumed that Matthew’s structured forms are closer to the original oral traditions. In both cases, the International Q Project (IQP) identifies the parallel forms in Matthew as the original text of Q:

 

4.16:  The House Built Upon the Rock

 

Luke 6:47-49

47 Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like; he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon the rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 

But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

Matt. 7:24-27

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;

25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand;

27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

 

 

 

4.17:  Treasures in Heaven

 

Luke 12:33-34

Sell your possessions and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 

 

 

For where your treasure is,

there will your heart be also.

Matt. 6:19-21

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,

Where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal,

But lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven,

Where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is,

there will your heart be also.

 

 

This is the end of the line for the Two Document Hypothesis and the imaginary Q. For by declaring the Matthean version of these sayings as the original wording of Q, the IQP has painted itself into a corner. If it is true that Luke found Matthew’s versions of these sayings in his Q source, then it is obvious that Luke was willing to paraphrase Jesus’ sayings in Q just as freely as he did those in Mark. Once we concede that Luke was paraphrasing some of his Q source, there is no reason to imagine that he did not paraphrase it as liberally as he did Mark. At this point, the fundamental premise underlying the Q theory becomes highly problematic, for we are now required to imagine an absurd scenario: Luke paraphrased just the Q material for which we have surviving comparative evidence, while he ritually copied without change only those portions of Q which are coincidentally lost to us today. In short, the Q theory requires us to accept that Luke used his Q source in a manner contrary to all available evidence.

Conclusion

 

In this chapter we have examined four patterns in the Synoptic texts that are difficult to explain under the Q theory’s proposition that Matthew did not know Luke: (1) Matthew often compiles his narratives by conflating unrelated elements in Mark and Luke, whereas Luke never assembles any text from elements in Mark and Matthew; (2) six out of twelve of Luke’s doublets are reproduced in Matthew; (3) Matthew follows Mark closely only when Luke does not, and diverges from Mark when Luke stays with Mark; (4) there are dozens of minor agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark that indicate a direct awareness of one author upon the other. The simplest explanation for all of this data is that Matthew did indeed rely upon both Mark and Luke with the guiding editorial objective of producing a grand synthesis that did not look suspiciously like a rehash of Luke’s use of Mark.  

 

In the final analysis, the Q hypothesis will collapse as a house built upon sand. The critical foundation—a compelling demonstration that Matthew could not have known Luke—has never been laid. Belief in Q requires that one imagine that the author of the later of Matthew or Luke, despite his extensive research into the evolving Jesus traditions, was unable to discover that a gospel identical in scope to the one he was contemplating had already been published. It requires a belief that Luke copied Q verbatim, contrary to all evidence that exists for Luke’s editorial predilections. Belief in Q requires one to argue that a highly respected collection of Jesus sayings, heavily relied upon by both Matthew and Luke as primary documents of faith, evaporated completely from the historical record. Those who are willing to accept such premises still have all of their work ahead of them, for the Q theory struggles in vain to explain the overwhelming evidence that Matthew was indeed aware of Luke. At the end of the day, the Two-Document Hypothesis is incapable of resolving the Synoptic data. There is no reason to believe that Q as a discrete collection of sayings ever existed. The theory should be discarded in light of the fact that a simpler and more comprehensive solution to the Synoptic Problem is at hand.



[1] Kloppenborg, John, Excavating Q, p. 43

[2] Koester, Helmut, Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 130

[3] Ibid, p. 130-131

[4] Ibid, p. 131

[5] Ibid, p. 131

[6] Ibid, p.132-133 (emphasis added)

[7] Jacobson, Arland, The First Gospel, p. 61-2  (emphasis added)

[8] Kloppenborg, John, Excavating Q, p. 59

[9] Mack, Burton, The Lost Gospel, p. 173

[10] Matthean Posteriority is the formal academic term for the theory that Matthew was the last of the three Synoptics to be composed, and that the author relied upon both Mark and Luke as sources.

[11] Jacobson, Arland, The First Gospel, p. 72

[12] Kloppenborg, John, The Formation of Q, p. 93

[13] Evans, Craig, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, pp. 67-77

[14] Ibid, p. 68

[15] Kloppenborg, John, The Formation of Q, p. 78

[16] Farmer, William, The Synoptic Problem, p. 218

[17] Farmer, William, The Synoptic Problem, p. 213 (emphasis added)

[18] Kloppenborg, John, Excavating Q, p. 27-8n

[19] Koester, Helmut, Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 129 (emphasis added)

[20] Koester, Helmut, Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 275

[21] Carlston and Norlin, Statistics and Q, pp. 59-78

[22] Kloppenborg, Formation, p. 44

[23] Kloppenborg, Excavating Q, p. 58