Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mike Bird on Luke's use of Matthew and Q

Mike Bird has an enjoyable post up on the Synoptic Problem.  It's really refreshing for Synoptic nerds like me to see others enjoying the Synoptic Problem and taking it seriously and offering helpful critical engagement.  And it's good to see that Mike is not far from the kingdom, now openly working with the idea that Luke knew Matthew, albeit in what Michael Goulder calls a "soft line" approach, retaining a place for Q:

The Holtzmann-Gundry Solution to the Synoptic Problem (Three Source Hypothesis)

The solution that Mike is flirting with is one that attempts to retain what he sees as some of the advantages of the Two-Source Theory, Matthew's and Luke's knowledge of Mark and Q, while at the same time embracing what he sees as some of the advantages of the alternative theory that Luke knows Matthew as well as Mark.

On a basic level, the difficulty with this hypothesis is that it concedes defeat on the key premise for the postulation of Q.  Normally speaking, the existence of Q is predicated on the basis of arguments that Luke could not have known Matthew's Gospel.  If Luke knows Matthew, then there is no need to explain the double tradition material on the grounds that they both independently accessed a hypothetical document.

While commenting on Mike's post, I realized that my comment was taking on the proportions of a blog post of its own, so I am moving a revised version of that comment here.

In support of the solution, Mike notes E. P. Sanders's prophecy in 1969:
I rather suspect that when and if a new view of the Synoptic problem becomes accepted, it will be more flexible and complicated than the tidy two-document hypothesis. With all due respect for scientific preference for the simpler view, the evidence seems to require a more complicated one.
It is perhaps worth bearing in mind, though, how Sanders's own view changed over the subsequent twenty years.  In Studying the Synoptic Gospels, co-authored with Margaret Davies in 1989, he accepts Goulder's hypothesis that Luke knew Matthew as well as Mark, with the important modification that he does think Luke has other sources too, a modification with which I agree and for which I have argued too.

There is a general issue here too that the discussion of "simple" against "complex" can mask.  Scholars of yesteryear were often reticent to think seriously about issues of memory and oral tradition in the way that they configured the problem. Gundry's half-way house between Farrer and the 2ST is symptomatic of this -- he is thinking in purely literary terms as a means of configuring his solution.

Mike's post is to some extent falling prey to the same issue by finding Q a solution to issues of "alternating primitivity". The Two-Source Theory projects every variation onto a textual base and does not take seriously what Luke himself tells us, that he was working with both oral and literary sources (Luke 1.1-4).  It's a point I have often made, but here is a quotation of one iteration of it:
One of the potential difficulties with the Q hypothesis, and something endemic to the discussion of “alternating primitivity”, is the routine confusion between literary priority and the relative age of traditions.  For a long time scholars have accepted that Matthew and Luke might witness to different, sometimes more primitive versions of material they share with Mark.  It is an obvious extension of this principle to see Luke sometimes witnessing to more primitive versions of material he nevertheless shares with Matthew.  The reduction of the variety and richness of oral tradition to the level of the reconstruction of the precise wording of an hypothetical document is one of the more unfortunate consequences of the Q theory, in which consideration of the double tradition is inevitably forced into purely literary terms.  The recognition that Luke was literarily dependent on Matthew (as well as Mark) challenges the exegete to take seriously those places where he apparently witnesses to a different, perhaps more primitive tradition, leading to a reassessment of – and perhaps ultimately a more nuanced role for – oral tradition in Synoptic relationships (Case Against Q, 188).
The main difficulty, though, with the Holtzmann-Simons-Gundry approach is that once Luke's knowledge of Matthew is (rightly) conceded, there is no need for Q. The high verbatim agreement between Matthew and Luke means that we are not dealing with later, secondary overlay, but direct copying by Luke of Matthew -- Q actually causes problems for making sense of that high verbatim agreement.

The issue of order is similar.  Gundry appeals to Q in order to explain Luke's order.  This approach works with the notion that an evangelist's order was largely dictated by source constraints, the kind of perspective that made sense in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but makes less sense now. Further, as I have often pointed out before, postulating a Q to explain Luke's order only throws the problem back to Matthew's order. The different ordering of the double tradition is a fact; at least one person, Matthew or Luke or both, has done some rearranging.

Mike's specific concern, though, is that Luke's use of Matthew "leaves us wondering why he broke up Matthew’s speeches quite so abruptly and artlessly".  This remark takes us back to the value judgements that I and others have criticized in the past. I suppose that I have a higher opinion of Luke's art than Mike who is here in the tradition of Streeter, K├╝mmel and others, but I would repeat that (a) Luke does the same with Mark's speeches; (b) the value judgement is not shared by contemporary artists; (c) narrative-critical reflection on the alleged artless episodes provides further pause.  There is no point repeating all of these arguments here, though I would encourage at least some reflection on the issues raised in any assessment of Luke's alleged abrupt and artless rearrangement.

Mike rightly points out that Luke's knowledge of Matthew helps to explain the minor agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark, but he adds that the "three source" approach may also help to explain the Mark-Q overlaps.  I am not so sure.  If anything, it tends to confuse the issue. The problem with the so-called Mark-Q overlap material is that it contradicts the assertion that Luke and Matthew never agree in major ways against Mark, something that is used to argue for the independence of Matthew and Luke, and so Q. But since Matthew and Luke do indeed agree in major ways against Mark, one of the key reasons for postulating Q is removed. Having Luke working with Q and Matthew here has no explanatory advantage.

To illustrate the point rather than leaving it at the abstract level, Mark has "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1.8).  Matthew and Luke have "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand . . ." (Matt. 3.11-12, Luke 3.16-17).  We gain nothing by suggesting that Q is finishing Mark's sentences here if one already has a theory in which Matthew is redacting Mark. No, Matthew is the one finishing Mark's sentences and he is copied by Luke.

Thanks again to Mike for his stimulating post.


20 comments:

AKMA said...

I don't see Luke's use of Matthew as 'artless' -- I suppose, though I don't have access to books, that you've said this in your own work -- but that Luke rearranges Matthew's implausibly homogeneous discourses into a much more believably miscellaneous sequence of parables, hearings, sayings, and so on.

Mark Goodacre said...

Yes, spot on, AKMA. Exactly how I think it worked. He's not going to have those great wedges of discourse. I like the term "implausibly homogeneous". It's actually straightforward to see Matthew's and Luke's contrasting attitudes to discourse material. Mark's 34 verse parable chapter (Mark 4) is massively expanded by Matthew (Matt. 13) to a 52 verse chapter whereas it is greatly reduced by Luke, to 18 verses (Luke 8), with the remainder omitted or relocated to appropriate contexts.

Geoff Hudson said...

This makes some sense to me at least. The order of production was basically Mark, followed by Matthew followed by Luke. It seems that Matthew went off on his exaggerations of Mark. Then Luke realised that it was all too much.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Great post. I actually find the 3SH more plausible than the 2SH, because I think a good case can be made that Luke knows Matthew in places where Q as currently configured by the 2SH cannot explain.

One major drawback to the 3SH is that once Luke's use of Matthew is admitted, it become very hard to delineate what's in this Q because all the controls that the 2SH people have with independence are gone. Even the Q under the 2SH is hard to delineate because of the lack of control given by the Mark/Q overlaps. With the additional possibility of Matt/Mark/Q overlap, the Q of the 3SH becomes almost unreconstructable.

Perhaps some people will find this to be a feature rather than a bug.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Stephen. Good point about the drawback of delineating what is in Q in the 3SH. Yes, I'm sure that some might think of it as a feature rather than a bug! I think the lack of certainty in reconstruction is similarly a frustration for those who wish to play down the role of oral tradition in discussing the Synoptic Problem. Projecting every variant between Matthew and Luke in double tradition onto a literary document (Q) is a "feature" for many Two-Source theorists, especially those involved in the reconstruction of Q.

Michael said...

Good points. Not that I will often come to Gundry's defense (or is it 'defence'?), but he allows a lot of leeway in defining Q. He explained in JETS - "Yet as an equal matter of fact I myself am unsure whether Q was a single document. In particular, it seems doubtful to me that the nativity tradition (which I assign to an enlarged Q only in the sense that Q represents non-Markan traditions shared by Matthew and Luke) was written in the same document with the sayings tradition. But nothing in my thesis rides on the singleness of an enlarged Q." Gundry's Q is so flexible (flimsy?) that it easily encompasses oral and written traditions shared by Matthew and Luke. This echoes Stephen's point above. So do we even know what Q is under the 3SH?

Geoff Hudson said...

The scholars, carelessly in my view, use language like Matthew knows Mark, or Luke knows Mark and Matthew, when they don't mean it. What they are really saying is, for example, that the writer of Luke is aware of the writings in Mark. It does seem to me that we have a fairly normal development from one manuscript to another in a basic time sequence of Mark followed by Matthew followed by Luke. Proving any input from oral transmissions (I don't like the word traditions) is practically impossible. From a historical point of view, did the writer of Luke know the writers of Matthew and of Mark? And did the writer of Matthew know the writer of Mark? Were the writers of Mark, Matthew and Luke alive at the same time? Did they know each other? Were they from the same stable? Rome?

Jim Deardorff said...

Mark, let me comment upon your concrete example of Mark not containing Matthew’s (and Luke’s) “and fire.” I find the reasoning below, which makes use of (Hebraic) Matthean priority, no more reversible than that of Markan priority.

It makes little sense that the writer of Matthew would have added the phrase “and fire” to the Markan sentence on baptizing with water and the Holy Spirit. It would have required rather too much creativity on his part to add in “fire” and also invent a threshing floor, wheat & chaff, so as to be able to connect the “fire” with the burning of chaff. With Matthean priority, one does of course need to assume a source that he heavily redacted, and one may assume that source did explain what the “fire” was – e.g., the “fire of truth” that destroys the evil of lies. (In Matthew Jesus never preaches about truth.)

On the other hand, when utilizing Hebraic Matthew, the writer of Mark could easily have asked, What has fire got to do with baptism? Baptism is for repentance, symbolized with the baptismal ritual that uses cleansing water. Water quenches fire. So he could afford to abbreviate out the “fire” connection, along with non-essential Judaisms and all else in Matthew that didn’t make much sense to him, while adding in his own pro-gentile and anti-Jewish redactions.

Re the writer of Luke, in expressing his preference for Mark over the anti-gentile Hebraic Matthew, while following Mark especially where that gospel differed from Matthew, he frequently slipped up or even occasionally preferred Matthew, causing the minor agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark.

mjkok said...

Having recently blogged on Gundry's response to Koester's theories on the textual evolution of Mark in his commentary on the Apology for the Cross, I did notice how often Gundry explains away the minor agreements (which Koester saw as evidence of a proto-Mark) as a redactional change of Mark by Matthew with subsidiary influence on Luke. I have seen Dennis Macdonald is coming out with a similar approach (though he joins the 2nd cent daters for Luke-Acts and sees Mark, Q+, Matthew and Aristion and Papias as among Luke's sources). Perhaps a 3ST approach or alternatively a more chaotic approach with multiple Greek and Aramaic sources behind the double tradition might make sense of Luke's prologue that many had attempted to draw up an account (not just Mark/Q, or Mark/Matthew)??

Mike Bird said...

Mark,
Thanks for your response. For me the dilemma is that positing Luke's use of Matthew certainly eliminates the NEED for Q; conversely, positing a continuing oral tradition that Luke knew but did not know exclusively also leaves the way OPEN for Q/q materials known to Matthew and Luke.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for all the interesting comments. So who said that no one is interested in the Synoptic Problem?!

Your "conversely" I think largely concedes my point, Mike, though I don't see any need to describe Luke's interaction with tradition as "Q/q materials". I think Luke's interactions with traditional materials is likely to have included a range of materials including what we call triple tradition, double tradition, L and so on.

Joel Willitts said...

It seems to me that if we are keeping score what we have is Mark (so Marcan priority) then both an indeterminate number of souces and indefinite understanding of the nature of those sources.

Mark Goodacre said...

Not for me, Joel. I think the case for Luke's familiarity with Matthew is very strong.

Geoff Hudson said...

If academics can propose that Q existed, why not propose that other documents did also? What is so special about Q? I am thinking of a previous version of the writings attributed to Josephus. That is one that existed before the Flavian editors got at it. The original Antiquities was written before War.

The principle is not just about the synoptic problem.

Loren Rosson III said...

Great post Mark, which reiterates some of your key points from Case which so often need repeating. Positing Q is entirely unnecessary.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Loren. One of the things that I have come to realize is the importance of trying to finding new ways of saying the same thing. Certain elements need reiterating until they get grasped.

What's special about Q, Geoff, is that there is high verbatim agreement between Matthew and Luke in material where Mark is not present, and that necessitates the postulation of a hypothetical text if Matthew and Luke are independent of one another.

Geoff Hudson said...

A believer in Q - The writings of Luke and Matthew are independent of one another - the writer of Luke knew nothing about the writings in Matthew - the writer of Luke was more than likely separated by distance from the writer of Matthew, not just time. This may be very convenient for some, and I can see where the desire for Q might come from.

A non believer in Q - The writings of Matthew and Luke are not independent of one another - the writer of Luke knew the writings in Matthew - these authors were from the same geographical location, although separated by time. And we have the normal development of a manuscript.

Robert Gilbert said...

Every theory has difficulties, and it may be difficult to say which theory has the least number of difficulties. The assumption of oral tradition, both preceding or subsequent and dependent upon written works is indeed helpful in explaining some difficulties, as is some kind of deutero-Mark containing numerous minor agreements. In the end, the multiplicity of plausible theories suggests that Occam's razor may be too sharp for what we can only see through a glass darkly. Personally, I prefer a relatively fuzzy two-source theoy that cannot exclude the possibility of other sources, both written and oral, both independent and at least indirectly dependent. Professor Neirynck would not like my fuzzy headed approach, but it seems to me that reality is always more complicated than theories, especially conflicting theories.

Robert Gilbert said...

Every theory has difficulties, and it may be difficult to say which theory has the least number of difficulties. The assumption of oral tradition, both preceding or subsequent and dependent upon written works is indeed helpful in explaining some difficulties, as is some kind of deutero-Mark containing numerous minor agreements. In the end, the multiplicity of plausible theories suggests that Occam's razor may be too sharp for what we can only see through a glass darkly. Personally, I prefer a relatively fuzzy two-source theoy that cannot exclude the possibility of other sources, both written and oral, both independent and at least indirectly dependent. Professor Neirynck would not like my fuzzy headed approach, but it seems to me that reality is always more complicated than theories, especially conflicting theories.

James Rinkevich said...

The real question is why does Luke make use of almost all of Mark that Matthew did not use if Mark was first, which given recent developments in the 2GH (Peabody et al) show that isn't necessarily true, and the historical record which leaves little doubt Matthew came first, leaves that highly doubtful.
But if Matthew came first and Luke used a reordering & refinement filter on Matthew (Peter, John, Mary, Paul et al) and then Peter used Mt and sometimes Lk and acted as a reordering filter on Mt and roughened the Greek a bit with Mark, we have a reasonable presentation of how the synoptics formed.