Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Back to Q

Regular readers will know of my interest in the Synoptic Problem and Q and it's nice to see the topic returning again to the blogosphere, first in Kevin Scull's Paul of Tarsus and Pat McCullough's kata ta biblia and then in Mike Koke's The Golden Rule. Mike asks whether most bloggers accept the existence of Q or not. My impression is that things are even-stephens on this. A couple of years ago, Brandon Wason ran a Synoptic Problem Poll on his now defunct Novum Testamentum blog. The poll had the Two-Source Theory coming out on top, but Farrer hot in its heels. I made some fairly lengthy comments in Synoptic Problem Poll: Some Reflections, and then more briefly in More on the Synoptic Problem Poll.

Mike is a "believer in Q" who is "relying on Stein's book". I like Robert Stein's book but I find it a little unbalanced on the question of Q. Stein mentions the Farrer theory but does not engage with it, and the arguments Stein presents for the existence of Q are a little weak. Mike helpfully summarizes them as follows:
The reason why some argue that Luke is not just copying Matthew is because Luke rarely has Matthean additions to the triple tradition (e.g. Mark 1:32-34/Matt 8:16-17/Luke 4:40-41; Mark 2:23-28/Matt 12:1-8/Luke 6:1-5; Mark 4:10-12/Matt 13:10-15/Luke 8:9-10), places the “Q” material in different contexts (e.g. why would Luke break up Matt’s beautiful Sermon on the Mount?), Matt/Luke never agree in order against Mark, Luke’s lack of “M” material (e.g. the visit of the Magi, Matt’s great commision), “doublets” (sayings appearing in Mark and in “Q” material), etc.
I have never been able to find myself persuaded by arguments like these and I attempt some counter arguments in my Case Against Q, and in introductory format in The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze.  In brief, each of these arguments is problematic for a variety of reasons, but I'll pick some of my favourite reasons here and state them as concisely as I can:

"Luke rarely has Matthean additions to the triple tradition": actually, Luke regularly has Matthean additions to the triple tradition but Two-Source theorists re-categorize them as "Mark-Q overlaps" and ignore them for the purpose of this argument.

Luke "places the “Q” material in different contexts (e.g. why would Luke break up Matt’s beautiful Sermon on the Mount?)":  Luke treats double tradition sayings material the same way that he treats triple tradition sayings material.  Where there are long discourses in Mark (e.g. 4.1-34), Luke retains some, omits some and redistributes the rest, just as when he finds long discourses in Matthew.  It is just that there are more of them in Matthew, and they are much longer.

"Matt/Luke never agree in order against Mark": In fact they often do;  even Streeter had to build the exceptions into his statement of the supposed rule by noting that they agree all the way through chapters 3 and 4. 

Luke’s lack of “M” material (e.g. the visit of the Magi, Matt’s great commision):  "M" material is by definition not in Q; of course Luke lacks "M".  Luke omits the visit of the magi because of his negative attitude to magi and sorcerers.  The Great Commission is reworded at the end of Luke.

Doublets: an argument that would only be convincing if all doublets could be explained source-critically, which they cannot on the Two-Source Theory.

Well, those answers are a little brief, and there is a lot more to be said to tease out the problems with the traditional arguments for Q, but offer these as concise indications that the arguments for Q may need some more thought.


Stephen C. Carlson said...

That word "never" in "Matt/Luke never agree in order against Mark" is so wrong. Even with the proper disclaimer, there still is the problem of how the pericopes are defined.

Those interested in reading more about this particular point may wish to consult:

E. P. Sanders, "The Argument from Order and the Relationship Between Matthew and Like," New Testament Studies 15 (1968-69): 249-61.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark (and Stephen for the article), I linked to your response in my post. I am a non-committed believer in Q and it is not something I would place a bet on :) I still have objections which you have probably heard before. The independence of Luke and Matthew seems to me to explain the differences so well. It is not just the magi but the infancy narratives are almost completely different, aside from a few core points (virgin birth, Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph). Or in the passion accounts, Luke's account of Judas death is different (Matt 27:1-10, Acts 1:18-19) and would not the wife of Pilate's dream (Matt 27:19) and the "blood curse" (Matt 27:24-25)worked with Luke's emphasis on the innocence of the Romans? But it is interesting that more people seemed critical of the Q theory in the comments in my post; I wonder if you get the opposite response?
- Mike Koke

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Hi Mike, thanks for your comments.

I'm curious to understand how the argument from the differences works. It is true that the infancy narratives differ aside from a few core points (you list 4; Raymond Brown found 10 points in common), but that is not sufficient to justify a conclusion that Luke did not Matthew.

After all, for the Call of Simon Peter, James, and John, Luke 5:1-11 is almost completely different from Mark 1:16-20 aside from a few core points, yet that difference is not thought to doom Markan priority relative to Luke.

As another example, for the Rejection of Nazareth, Luke 4:16-20 is almost completely different from Mark 6:1-6a aside from a few core points, yet that difference too is not thought to doom Luke's use of Mark.

I don't really see why the differences in the infancy accounts speak against Luke's use of Matthew, but similar differences between Luke and Mark do not speak against Luke's use of Mark.

Anonymous said...

Hey Stephen, you make an excellent point. If I were to say that Luke changed the rejection in Nazareth episode to foreshadow Jesus' rejection among his own people and the Gentile mission (with the example of Elijah/Elisha sent to foreigners), then one can easily respond that Luke could have made other similar changes to Matthew for artistic or theological reasons. So I guess the question comes down to if all the differences between Matthew and Luke are better explained on the assumption that Luke made editorial changes for specific reasons in each case or if he simply did not know Matthew. Thanks for the discussion.
- Mike Koke

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks Stephen, and Mike. The Sanders article Stephen refers to is excellent, but Sanders was still heavily influenced by William Farmer at this point in his career where later he became more sympathetic with Michael Goulder's work. A more accessible though less thorough treatment is in the book he co-authored with Margaret Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels. On this issue, see also Jeffrey Peterson's article in the volume I co-edited with Nick Perrin, Questioning Q.

Stephen makes an excellent point about Luke's differences from Mark and Matthew, and the same point could be extended also to the differences between the Passion Narrative in Mark and Luke. Practically all Marcan Priorists (rightly) think that Luke was working with Mark's Passion Narrative in spite of the multiple differences.

I think actually Farrer theorists have the better of the argument over the Birth Narratives. It is extraordinary that Luke should have thought to have done the same as Matthew, fixing Mark by adding Birth Narratives at the beginning and resurrection appearances at the end, with sayings slotted into the narrative, all independent of Matthew.