This is the sixth and final post in my current series on the Mark-Q Overlaps (so-called), in which I would like to build on the issue of the high verbatim agreement between Matthew and Luke in the pericope under discussion in the Q Section where I will be presenting, Matt. 3.7-12 // Mark 1.7-8 // Luke 3.7-9, 15-17 (John's Preaching).
6. What is the direction of dependence?
If the extraordinarily high verbatim agreement between Matthew and Luke points to a direct link between them here, we should not bypass the all important question of the direction of dependence. Paul Foster has recently made the point with force -- why Luke's use of Matthew? Why is this almost always the direction of dependence favoured by Q sceptics? In this pericope there is a strong presumption in favour of Matthew's redaction expansion of Mark, and Luke's copying of Matthew. The language, imagery and rhythm of the new material is Matthean through and through, and to the extent that we would not hesitate to ascribe it to Matthew if it were in Matthew alone. Let me give two representative examples:
(1) Matt. 3.7 // Luke 3.7: γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, τίς ὑπέδειξεν ὑμῖν φυγεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς; ("Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?"). Matthew will use this offensive vocative + rhetorical question (labelled an echidnic by Michael Goulder) twice again in remarkably similar forms, 12.34, γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, πῶς δύνασθε ἀγαθὰ λαλεῖν πονηροὶ ὄντες ("Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil?") and 23.33, ὄφεις, γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, πῶς φύγητε ἀπὸ τῆς κρίσεως τῆς γεέννης ("Snakes, brood of vipers! How can you flee from the judgement of gehenna?"). I think we should resist the temptation to play these links down. We are not dealing with everyday phrases. The imagery (snakes' offspring), the rhythm (echidnic) and language (wrath / judgement / gehenna) is strikingly Matthean and tells us in which direction the borrowing is going.
(2) 3.10: πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται ("Therefore every tree not producing good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire"). Virtually the identical sentence occurs again in 7.19. Once again it is not just the language but also the imagery that is Matthean. Even my introductory New Testament class knows that Matthew's is the Gospel that exploits harvest imagery to the tell the story of judgement and hell-fire. The Matthean apocalyptic scenario, here appearing for the first time in the Gospel, will be repeated at regular intervals: (a) Demand for good fruits / good works; (b) Separation at the Eschaton; (c) Burning of those whose deeds are evil.
What we have, then in this pericope, is agreement between Matthew and Luke that is far too close to be mediated via a third source. The strong indication of direct borrowing encourages us to ask the question about direction of dependence, and we are helped by the pervasive presence of Matthean language, imagery, rhythm and thought. These major agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark are at the high end of the spectrum of agreement between Matthew and Luke against Mark, and we should avoid the tendency to group together such passages and treat them as a different category of agreement, so missing the fact that Matthew and Luke agree in major ways against Mark, something that contradicts the case for their independence. It is time to take the evidence for Luke's use of Matthew seriously. It is time to take our leave of Mark Q Overlaps.