5. The Degree of Verbatim Agreement
The point here is a simple one, but it is one that I have not seen anyone else make in discussion of the Synoptic Problem. The degree of agreement between Matthew and Luke in double tradition material is often too high for them to have been copying from another source. John Kloppenborg helpfully draws attention to this "extremely high verbal correspondence . . . in a significant number of instances" (John S. Kloppenborg, "Variation in the Double Tradition and an Oral Q?", ETL 83 (2007), 53-80, 53) including the one currently under discussion:
Matt 6.24 // Luke 16.13 (98%), Matt 12.43-45 // Luke 11.24-26 (93%), Matt 11.20-24 // Luke 10.13-15 (90%), Matt. 3.12 // Luke 3.17 (88%), Matt. 12.27-32 // Luke 11.19-23 (88%), Matt 23.37-39 // Luke 13.34-35 (85%), Matt. 3.7-10 // Luke 3.7-9 (85%).These figures "are based on the number of common words divided by the total number of Lukan words" (53, n. 1). Kloppenborg helpfully draws special attention to our pericope:
In the last named pericope, Matthew has 76 words in Greek, 61 or 80% of which are identical with Luke in lexical form and inflection. This would rise to 63 or 83% if καρπόν and ἄξιον are included as agreements. Luke's version has 72 words in Greek, 61 or 85% are identical with Matthew, 63 or 87.5% if καρπούς and ἀξίους are counted as agreements. (53)As Kloppenborg rightly makes clear, "the extraordinarily high degree of verbatim agreement" here makes theories of an oral mediation of such material impossible. And one might add that there are some striking verbatim strings of agreement here, of 12, 12.5, 20 and 24 words. The latter string, of 24 words, is Matt. 3.9-10 // Luke 3.7b-9.
In the handout that I have produced for the SBL session on Mark-Q overlaps where I will present my paper on this, I have produced a synopsis of Matthew, Q (IQP) and Luke on this so that one can see quickly and easily just how much verbatim agreement there is in this passage. Indeed, what is remarkable is how little disagreement there is. I have coloured all the agreement grey, and there is very little white left. One of the reasons for doing this in three columns is to remind ourselves of the fact that on the Q theory, what we have here are triple agreements. We get so used to thinking about this material as "double tradition", in the sense that it is present only in Matthew and Luke among the extant texts, that we can easily forget that for Q theorists, the agreements here are triple agreements, between Matthew, Q and Luke.
This leads us to an interesting question about the degree of verbatim agreement here between Matthew, Q and Luke. Does one ever see this kind of agreement between Matthew, Mark and Luke? Are the triple agreements in Matthew, Mark and Luke similar in extent to the triple agreements between Matthew, Q and Luke? The question that I am asking here is, I think, a new one. If anyone else has asked this question, then I have missed it. The question itself is an important one, so let me take a little time asking it in another way so that we can be clear about what is at stake.
According to the Two-Source Theory, Matthew and Luke are both independently using Mark and Q. We have access to Mark, so we have an idea what Matthew and Luke look like when they are working from a shared source. We know the degree of verbatim agreement to expect. Our question, then, is whether the degree of verbatim agreement is similar when they are using Q. In his recent ETL article, Kloppenborg reproduces a chart from Charles E. Carlston and Dennis Norlin, "Once More -- Statistics and Q", HTR 64 (1971): 59-78 (71):
|Triple Tradition||Matt||Luke||Avg.||Double Tradition||Matt||Luke||Avg.|
|Words of Jesus||63.5%||68.3%||65.8%||69.5%||73.6%||71.5%|
For those who find figures instantly off-putting, let me express this in words. Matthew and Luke show consistently higher degrees of verbatim agreement in double tradition than they do in triple tradition. One cannot say in response to this, "But this is because double tradition is primarily sayings material" because the pattern is the same with respect to triple tradition sayings vs. double tradition sayings as it is with respect to triple tradition narrative vs. double tradition narrative and so on. Carlston and Norlin sum this up by noting that "the use of 'Q' is even more conservative than the use of Mark, possibly something like 27 per cent. more conservative" (Carlston and Norlin, 1971, 77). This is an anomaly on the Two-Source Theory. Why should Matthew and Luke apparently be so much more conservative in their use of Q, not least given their known respect for Mark's order?
The point of interest here is that the statistics make sense on the assumption that Luke is borrowing directly from Matthew in the double tradition (and Mark-Q overlap) material. They cohere with a scenario in which the double tradition is due to direct borrowing, Matthew to Luke, rather than mutual use of a shared source.
James Robinson once hinted that the all important clues to Q's existence might show up early in the document. I think Robinson was right. The remarkably high degree of verbatim agreement that shows up right at the beginning of Q is an important clue to the identity of the material as a whole. Here, as often elsewhere in Matthew and Luke, the agreement points to direct borrowing by Luke from Matthew, and not mediation via an unknown, hypothetical source.
Note: Carlston and Norlin's figures were criticized by Sharon Lea Mattila and subsequently revised downwards by them, but with the same relative degrees of agreement. Moreover, Carlston and Norlin noted that the same observations hold true with respect to the figures produced by Honore in 1968. (The issue relates to how one counts. Does one count only identical lexical forms, in the same number, case etc.? Can one count synonyms, etc.?). Mattila's 2004 article further criticizes the Carlston and Norlin case, but there are some difficulties with Mattila's re-count which I hope to outline on another occasion.