Saturday, November 10, 2007

Does the difference make Q?

I will take a temporary break from my Mark-Q overlap series to comment a post from James McGrath on Exploring Our Matrix headed The Difference Makes Q, which argues that "While the similarities constitute the substance of Q, the differences between Matthew and Luke provide the strongest argument for the existence of Q" (emphasis original). There are, I think, a couple of difficulties with James's interesting post. James writes:
If it were simply a question of similarities, one could account for them reasonably in any number of ways - as evidence that Matthew used Luke (or vice versa), that both knew a common written source, that both knew the same oral traditions, that both heard Jesus say the same things, and so on.
No, I don't think so. The high levels of verbatim agreement between Matthew and Luke in many double tradition passages is too great for this material to be derived from oral tradition. Indeed, I would argue that it is also too great for it to be derived from a shared written source. We have an idea of the degree of verbatim agreement that they exhibit when they share a written source, in the triple tradition material, and it is not as high as the degree of agreement we see between them in double tradition material. The link between Matthew and Luke is a direct one. I will be explaining this point in a little more detail in a forthcoming blog post related to my forthcoming paper at the SBL Annual Meeting Q Section.

James goes on:
It is the differences that make it unlikely that Matthew used Luke or vice versa. It is hard, on the supposition of such a literary link, to understand how they could end up with incompatible genealogies, incompatible infancy narratives, and incompatible accounts of the death of Judas. Differences and alterations could certainly be explained in terms of the hypothesis of direct literary dependence. But agreement on large segments, with variations that make sense in terms of the alteration of a saying for particular reasons, and yet disagreement on narrative and geneological [sic] details without any obvious reason for those differences, suggests that we are not dealing with direct literary dependence and redactional alterations.
This is a form of one of the classic arguments for Q, viz. Luke's lack of M material, on which I have commented extensively in The Case Against Q. In the form in which James states it, the notion that the disagreements between Matthew and Luke have no obvious reason simply begs the question. I would want to add, moreover, that on the assumption of Marcan Priority, both Matthew and Luke make major changes to their source which result in what one might call "incompatible accounts". Did the resurrected Jesus appear in Galilee (Mark) or Jerusalem (Luke)? Was Jesus anointed by a sinner in Simon the Pharisee's house early in his ministry (Luke) or by an anonymous woman in Simon the Leper's house just before Passover (Mark)? The differences between Matthew and Luke no more witness to their independence than the differences between Mark and Luke witness to theirs.


steph fisher said...

Unless you can justify Matthew and Luke's alterations of Mark while not being able to explain all Luke's alterations, omissions and replacements of Matthew. Also I believe that there are reasons to suspect that sometimes the minor differences between Matthew and Luke are due to both having translated differently one of their Aramaic sources.... after all if Jesus spoke the words, they were Aramaic. Of course I've been inspired by Maurice Casey's explorations. I don't believe in "Q" but I don't believe that Matthew and Luke would not have used other historical sources.

James F. McGrath said...

Thanks for taking the time to reply, Mark! (It was long overdue for us to have an interaction on our blogs that didn't relate to Dr. Who). I've replied to your reply there (keeping in mind the wider audience listening in at the same time - I mention this so that my attempt to make things intelligible to that wider audience won't be interpreted as me addressing you in a condescending way.

Geoff Hudson said...

If you like thought experiments then you might consider a more realistic possibility that the the 'woman' poured the perfume on her herself, particularly since 'some of those' present appeared to be indignant with the 'woman'. And why was it suggested that the money (a year's wages) should have been given to the 'poor'. More realistically perhaps, 'some of those' thought the money should have been given to the temple - the money could then have been used to pay a priest a years wages, thus 'some of those' were priests. If the woman put the perfume on herself, then she was preparing hrself for the coming 'Feast' - a term used for the Feast of Tabernacles, not Passover. And the jar of water was for an oblation to be poured out during the celebration, symbolic of the Spirit of God being poured out. The temple they would always have with them, but they would not always have the Spirit of God present. The story was entirely in a Jewish context.

AKMA said...

We have an idea of the degree of verbatim agreement that they exhibit when they share a written source, in the triple tradition material, and it is not as high as the degree of agreement we see between them in double tradition material.

Those of us who doubt Q have a number of strong points, but this (I think) is one of the strongest. Thanks for making this explicit.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

If I'm not mistaken, the usual argument here is that Matthew and Luke were less likely to edit sayings material than narrative material.

It is certainly true that Matthew radically abbreviates Mark's narratives. And of course it is relatively easy to remove details from a narrative: whereas we would expect Jesus' pithy sayings to be reproduced in their entirety.

Thus I don't see any force in your argument, that the higher degree of agreement in the double tradition points to direct dependence of Luke on Matthew. But presumably you can provide further details in support of the argument.