One of the thrusts of James's post is to question the idea of Luke's direct, literary dependence on Matthew,
. . . even after reading the book I still find it unlikely that Luke used Matthew's Gospel as a source in the sense of having it open in front of him as he composed his Gospel (Italics original).I think the topic of the mode of one author's use of another text is a useful one. I have not claimed myself that Luke had a copy of Matthew "open in front of him", though I think that that is likely when it comes to passages of very close verbatim agreement, which are common in the double tradition. But even there, I would be wary of the idea of the author-as-scribe. I am more inclined to imagine Luke having a copy of his source text in his hands and dictating to his scribe. Nor would I rule out the use of memory. I think Luke knew his sources very well, but he knows Mark much better than Matthew, which is why he consults Matthew directly more often. In his composition, I would imagine that Luke's use of his sources varied, sometimes close, sometimes free, sometimes in between. In the case of the Birth Narratives, my guess would be that Luke did not have a copy of Matthew's Gospel in his hands, and that the agreements are the result of his memory of Matthew's text.
The differences between Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 are clearly important to James and I doubt that there is anything extra that I can say here that would persuade him of my view. I would just underline that history and tradition have generally preferred Luke's version and so his revision of Matthew's idea, if that's what it was, was a success. I would again mention that contradicting source material does not necessarily indicate non-use of the source and, moreover, it is worth asking how it was that Luke came up with the idea of appending a Birth Narrative to the Marcan structure? It is particularly odd to find Luke making this move when he clearly sees the "beginning" of the key events as marked by the baptism of John (Luke 3.1-2, Acts 1.22, Acts 10.37).
I am pleased to see that James welcomes my "recognition that the dichotomy between literary dependence and independence of Gospels is a false one". I tend to think that the Q hypothesis is actually stuck in a literary mind-set because of its inclination to project everything onto a hypothetical document, so that tradition-history often gets confused with literary priority.
But James asks about the possibility that oral tradition might have conveyed Minor Agreements between Matthew and Luke like that against Mark 14.65 ("Who is it that smote you?"). Of course this is possible, but I think it is problematic in this context. The argument from the Minor Agreements is a specific response to the claim that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. It is hardly an answer to that data-claim to say that the agreement could have been mediated through oral tradition. The admission nullifies the claim that Matthew and Luke do not agree together against Mark. The fact is that they often do. And regularly, it is agreement of the kind that we would normally ascribe to simple redactional reworking, and not to variant tradition. To put it another way, if we had only Matthew and Mark here, would we hesitate to say that Matthew has simply redacted Mark? It is only the presence of agreement with Luke in a theory that postulates independence that is leading to the oral tradition claim.
As it happens, I think that verbatim agreement in Greek does need to be taken seriously. A string of five words including one that is rare is striking. Similar strings of verbatim agreement also often indicate direct links between texts. James's example of Mark 2.9 // John 5.8 is a case in point. It is close and may be a good case of John's familiarity with the Synoptics, all the more so as the NA27 text of Mark is much closer than in the TR that James quotes:
Mark 2.9: Ἔγειρε καὶ ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ περιπάτει
John 5.8: Ἔγειρε ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ περιπάτει.
This is a six word verbatim agreement, seven if not broken by καί, including an unusual word, κράβαττόν. It's the kind of material that may show familiarity (not direct "literary dependence") between John and the Synoptics (cf. my earlier post about the direct links between the Synoptics and John 12.1-8).
One more point. James mentions that he sticks with Q as a "working hypothesis". My difficulty with this kind of argument for Q (cf. Case Against Q, 75-77) is that a hypothesis is not tested by its usefulness. All sorts of erroneous hypotheses are useful and, on a certain level, they work. Seven-day Biblical creation was a useful working hypothesis for millennia. The reason that erroneous hypotheses remain persuasive is often because they work; they are attractive; they appeal to culturally determined elements in our thinking.
Thanks again, though, James for some enjoyable reflections and for taking the time to think seriously about my stuff -- a real compliment.