I commend a newly-published study of what is called “harmonization” of texts of the Gospels: Cambry G. Pardee, Scribal Harmonization in the Synoptic Gospels, NTTSD, 60 (Leiden: Brill, 2019). I have just completed a larger review for Review of Biblical Literature which won’t appear till November this year, but the book deserves to be noticed […]
James Anderson has a PhD in computer simulation from the University of Edinburgh so he knows what he speaks about regarding this concept. To me the concept is purely atheistic since it denies the obvious creation, design, and word of God. However, Dr. Anderson explains using logic what the better solution is:
A couple of commentators on a previous post pointed me to an Arc Digital article by Thomas Metcalf which contends that the Simulation Argument (SA) ought to be taken more seriously. (Metcalf’s article wasn’t written in response to mine, although it appeared a week or so afterward: post hoc sed non propter hoc.) I don’t…
Craig Keener identifies some of the ideas that has led many to think that membership in a certain group is salvific. A better reading of the Torah sees both authentic believers in Israel’s history alongside “wicked fools” (see 2 Samuel 13.13). For certain, the New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant but nowhere does the bible speak of a replacement of peoples. For sure God worked with National Israel but most (10 tribes) were divorced by the Lord for unfaithfulness. Salvation is from the Lord and not based on affiliation of group membership. Since Jesus inaugurated The New Covenant, all peoples weather Jew or Gentile have equal status and are accepted having their hearts cleansed by faith:
Paul certainly cared about Gentiles; his letters are replete with signs of his intimate concern for the members of the many congregations he started, many of whose members were Gentiles. The Bible also suggests that the Lord will return after the good news has been proclaimed among all peoples (Matt 24:14), probably related to Paul’s…
By “Modern Science” I mean the Post-Enlightenment idea that man is the standard for explaining himself and his environment. It is as if reality is perceived only through the things that resister from his own sensors. If God cannot be seen or touched then He must not be there according to fallen man. We moderns are easily dazzled by discovery of knowledge and the making of gizmos but often fail to realize that the laws of science which enabled that knowledge and gizmo presuppose an absolute Lawgiver. Those gizmos will not work without His laws either. Here is a post about something that Cornelius Van Til wrote which touches upon and expands this point. Van Til was probably the most incisive theologian of the Twentieth Century.
“It was useful to seek to apply the method of reasoning discussed in the previous chapters to the various schools of philosophy about us. However, since we have constantly sought to bring out that all forms of antitheistic thinking can be reduced to one, and since the issue is fundamentally that of the acceptance or […]
Larry Hurtado’s posts are succinct, incisive, clear, and filled with carefully studied positions. There is no “filler” in his writings. So, here is his latest post along with plenty of evidence to bolster his position.
One reader of my posts seems to have difficulty in grasping what scholars refer to as “pre-existence”. It’s a technical term, scholarly jargon/shorthand, to designate a motif or concept evident in a number of early Jewish and early Christian texts. In particular, a number of early Christian texts ascribe a “pre-existence” to Jesus. But there […]
If you’re a parent and a Christian, you’ve probably read your share of parenting books. Of the making of self-help parenting books, there is seemingly no end. If, like the writer of Ecclesiastes, you’ve been wearied by such study, Christina Fox’s new book, Idols of a Mother’s Heart, will be a balm for your soul.…
Here is Goodacre on the Synoptic Problem and a response. I agree with the response and conclusion but do not think much of the “fatigue” theory of editing.
(A review, by Robert K. MacEwen, of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, 18 November 2018)
It was standing room only in room 302 of the Denver Convention Center when Dr. Mark Goodacre, Frances Hill Fox Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, took his place behind the lectern. Looking around, Goodacre expressed surprise at the size of the crowd. “You do realize this is a session on the Synoptic problem, don’t you?” he asked.
Certainly, Ron Huggins and I, seated in the front row, were not there by accident. We were eager to hear what Goodacre would say in response to our view of the relationships between the Gospels. The Matthean Posteriority Hypothesis (MPH) has often been ignored by scholars, ever since it was first proposed by G. C. Storr in 1786. Therefore, it is gratifying to proponents of the MPH that Goodacre is engaging with their theory. A year ago, Goodacre debated online with Alan Garrow in a “$1,000 Challenge.” More recently, he gave a response to a paper by Garrow at the British New Testament Conference. And now, Goodacre was taking on the MPH in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.
Goodacre is today the most prominent advocate of the Farrer Hypothesis (FH)—the view that Luke used Matthew as well as Mark as sources in composing his Gospel. In defending his preferred solution to the Synoptic problem, Goodacre has primarily engaged with scholarship’s dominant theory, the Two Source Hypothesis (2SH), which argues that Matthew and Luke independently used Mark and the hypothetical “Q” document as sources. The MPH, which is the view that Matthew came third and used Mark and Luke as his sources, is the logical third alternative to the other two hypotheses.
Goodacre’s Arguments against Matthew’s Use of Luke
Goodacre began and ended his paper by praising the MPH for its points of agreement with his own theory. He noted that the MPH correctly builds on the priority of Mark, insists on “a literary solution” to the Synoptic problem, and views Q with skepticism (1-3, 22). Naturally, the bulk of Goodacre’s paper was devoted to arguing that Luke’s use of Matthew explains the phenomena of the Gospels better than Matthew’s use of Luke.
Following his introduction, in a section titled, “First Impressions,” Goodacre set out features of Luke that he feels support dating it later than Matthew. These include Luke’s reference to earlier writings about Jesus (Luke 1:1), his use of the first person (Luke 1:1-4 and the “we” passages in Acts)—characteristic of later Gospels, and the historical references he has in common with Josephus.
The next section of Goodacre’s paper was titled, “Matthew’s Redactional Fingerprints”. Here, Goodacre presents two verses in the triple tradition containing minor agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark (Matt 14:13; 22:27; and parr.), arguing that these are examples in which Luke adopted Matthew’s characteristic wording. Next, he displayed the double tradition pericope John the Baptist’s Preaching (Matt 3:7-10//Luke 3:7-9) and argued that its key elements are distinctive of Matthew’s literary and theological features.
Goodacre’s next section presented his argument from “editorial fatigue” (already well-known to his readers), involving passages in which “an author inadvertently betrays his use of a source by making characteristic changes at the beginning of a passage only to revert to the source’s wording later in the same passage”. Goodacre presented the Parable of the Entrusted Money (Matt 25:14-30//Luke 19:11-27) as “[o]ne of the best examples” of Luke fatiguing in his use of Matthew. He also asserts that there are “multiple examples of fatigue” in both Matthew’s and Luke’s use of Mark, “several cases” of fatigue in Luke’s use of Matthew in the double tradition, but no examples of Matthew apparently fatiguing in using Luke.
The following section is on Luke’s “Knowledge of Matthew’s Literary Structures”. Here Goodacre gave the example of Luke 7:1, where Luke concludes the Sermon on the Plain with a construction similar to those used by Matthew at the end of all five of his major discourses of Jesus. Goodacre’s point being that Luke has, in this single instance, adopted a motif that is characteristic of Matthew.
After this, Goodacre discussed “Matthew’s Failure to Include Congenial Lukan Details”. Here the argument is that, since Matthew includes more information about contemporary political leaders than does Mark, it is surprising that he omits Luke’s list of seven rulers in Luke 3:1-2 (cf. Matt 3:1) if Luke were also his source.
Goodacre’s final section was titled, “What is the Appeal of Matthean Posteriority?” Here he states that MPH proponents make use of two “popular arguments for Q” that are actually invalid “old chestnuts, the argument from order, and the argument from Lucan primitivity”. Regarding Luke’s alleged primitiveness in the double tradition, Goodacre makes three substantive points in response. Regarding the argument from order, he suggests that scholars have been hoodwinked by B. H. Streeter’s “rhetoric” and, in a footnote, refers readers to his earlier discussion of this topic.
A Matthean Posteriority Response to Goodacre’s Arguments
Having outlined the contents of Goodacre’s paper, I now offer a Matthean posteriority response. Regarding a second-century date for Luke, the arguments for this are hardly conclusive. Luke’s historical references in common with Josephus do not establish that Luke depended on Josephus; such information could have been known from many sources, including hearsay, in the first century. In favor of a first-century date for Luke, it is possible that some very early Christian writings depended on Luke (cf. Luke 10:17 with 1 Tim 5:18and Luke 24:36-43 with Ign. Smyrn. 3). As for Luke’s similarities to later, non-canonical Gospels, we should not forget that Luke has even greater similarities to Mark and Matthew.
Goodacre’s argument that Luke incorporates Matthean redaction is also not conclusive for his theory; there are also many examples in which Matthew appears to be aware of Lukan redaction. The fact that Matthew uses an expression such as “offspring of vipers” more often than Luke does not necessitate that Luke received it from Matthew. Otherwise, Matthew’s multiple use of Markan items such as the accusation “prince of demons” (Matt 9:34; 10:25; 12:24; Mark 3:22), the proclamation “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15), or the title “son of David” (ten times in Matthew, three times in Mark) would prove that Matthew could not have been dependent on Mark. On the contrary, on a Markan priority view, such Matthean repetitions show that Matthew had the tendency to multiply expressions from his sources that he found congenial.
Helping to confirm this Matthean tendency is an interesting feature of several of the expressions that Goodacre regards as Matthew’s characteristic expressions picked up once by Luke. In each case, it is Matthew’s first use of the expression that is parallel to Luke’s use of it: (1) “offspring of vipers”—Matt 3:7//Luke 3:7; Matt 12:34; 23:33; (2) “weeping and gnashing of teeth”—Matt 8:12//Luke 13:28; Matt 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; (3) “you of little faith”—Matt 6:30//Luke 12:28; Matt 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; (4) “And it happened when Jesus finished . . .”—Matt 7:28//Luke 7:1; Matt 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1. This phenomenon suggests that, in each case, Matthew first encountered the usage in Luke, found it congenial, and chose to use where Luke does and again in other appropriate settings.
As for the alleged Matthean character of John the Baptist’s Preaching (Matt 3:7-10//Luke 3:7-9), this could be explained by Matthew’s desire (worked out later in his Gospel) to show Jesus and John as being in agreement. Certainly, this is what Matthew does in his redaction of Mark, when he puts the initial message of Jesus on the lips of John as well (Matt 3:1-2; Matt 4:17//Mark 1:15).
Goodacre’s discussion of Matt 3:7-10 and Luke 3:7-9 would have been more balanced had he mentioned the different target audiences of John’s preaching in the two Gospels. In Luke 3:7 John warns the crowds in general, while in Matt 3:7John polemicizes against the Pharisees and Sadducees. Here Luke’s usage appears to be more primitive, while Matthew’s appears redactional (Matthew is the only evangelist who groups the Pharisees and Sadducees together. See Matt 16:1, 6, 11-12; 22:34.).
“Editorial fatigue” is an important argument for the FH, at least if Goodacre is entirely correct in his analysis of the phenomena. More work needs to be done on this issue by a variety of scholars. Questions to be answered include: (1) Is it true that there are no plausible examples of Matthew fatiguing when editing Luke? (2) Could it sometimes be editorial alertness rather than editorial fatigue? That is, could it be Gospel A removing inconcinnities in editing Gospel B rather than Gospel B creating inconcinnities in editing Gospel A?
As for Matthew’s failure to include Luke’s list of seven rulers (cf. Matt 3:1; Luke 3:1-2), Goodacre’s argument here may be suggestive, but it is not strong. It is typical for Matthew to shorten his narratives by deleting material from Mark, including material with inherent interest (e.g., cf. Matt 9:1-8 with Mark 2:1-12; Matt 9:18-26 with Mark 5:21-43). Matthew never mentions political leaders unless they are part of his story. He could have easily omitted Luke’s seven-name list because it had no theological or narrative significance for him.
Roasting the “Chestnuts”
Goodacre views “alternating primitivity” in the double tradition as a poor argument for Q (one of “two old chestnuts”) that MPH proponents have attempted to co-opt for their theory. I agree that Matthew and Luke’s apparent alternating primitiveness is not sufficient to establish the mutual independence of these two Gospels. Goodacre’s strongest argument here is that Luke could have sometimes replaced the wording he found in Matthew with an expression known to him from oral tradition. Of course, this argument is reversible—one could just as well say, on the MPH, that Matthew could have been influenced by oral tradition while using Luke as a source.
Goodacre is on much shakier ground when it comes to his other “old chestnut,” the argument from order. In accusing MPH proponents of substituting “a repackaging of Streeter for an attempt to engage seriously with his critics” (20), he seems to be engaging in the kind of hand-waving he attributes to others. In fact, the matter of order and arrangement of the double tradition material is a serious problem for the FH, because its proponents must explain why Luke used Matthew in ways that make it look as if it was Matthew who used Luke.
Assuming Markan priority, we can see how both Matthew and Luke used their source Mark. For the most part, Luke does not change Mark’s pericope order, does not recontextualize Mark’s sayings, and does not expand Mark’s discourses. Matthew, however, frequently does all of those things in using Mark. The last four of Matthew’s five major discourses were all created around a smaller core of Markan material, expanded by additional sayings material relevant to each discourse’s theme. Since Matthew’s first major discourse, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7), is a longer version of Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-49), it is logical to assume that Matthew expanded this Lukan discourse just the way he did the four Markan ones.
On the other hand, if Luke used Matthew as a source, he would have picked apart Matthew’s sermon and distributed small bits of it into multiple new contexts throughout his Gospel (in Luke’s chapters 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16). Such a procedure would have been exceedingly complex for an ancient writer. Even a writer equipped with a modern word-processor would find such an operation extremely taxing. It raises the questions, “Why would Luke have done this?” and “How could Luke have done this?” Admittedly, there is also complexity in Matthew’s composition of his discourses using multiple sources. Yet it is much easier to envision Matthew gathering material from multiple contexts in order to compose a discourse with a single large theme in mind than it is to imagine Luke breaking up a discourse with multiple small contexts in mind. To say this is not to deny that Luke was a “great literary artist”; it is simply to affirm that he was a normal ancient writer.
The Crucial Issue: Verbatim Agreement
My main disappointment with Goodacre’s paper is that he did not discuss the issue of verbatim agreement among the Gospels, except to affirm that the Synoptic problem is a literary problem. Here, briefly, is why MPH proponents believe that the patterns of verbatim agreement support their theory:
As anyone who has spent time coloring a Synopsis knows, there is extensive word-for-word agreement (1) between Matthew and Mark wherever they have common material and (2) between Matthew and Luke in the double tradition. There is much less verbatim agreement between Mark and Luke. So, Matthew is the common factor wherever we find the strongest verbatim agreement among the Gospels.
Research into the practices of ancient writers has shown that it was unusual for them to copy extensively from their sources at length; they preferred to show their skill and creativity by changing their sources’ wording. In light of this, it is somewhat unexpected if one of the evangelists regularly copied his sources verbatim at length. And it is surprising and problematic if more than one of the evangelists did so. Yet this is what both the 2SH and the FH require. On the 2SH, Matthew was a close copier of both Mark and Q while Luke was a close copier of Q—but not of Mark. On the FH, Matthew was a close copier of Mark while Luke was a close copier of Matthew—but not of Mark. Note Luke’s inconsistency on both hypotheses.
In terms of verbatim agreement, the MPH is the simplest and most straightforward hypothesis. On the MPH, only one of the evangelists, Matthew, is required to have behaved unusually in terms of ancient conventions for using sources. Also on the MPH, neither Luke nor Matthew need be seen as behaving inconsistently in their use of sources. Luke consistently paraphrases from his one source that we know, Mark; we are free to assume that he did the same with his sources that we do not know. Matthew is consistent in closely copying from his two sources Mark and Luke.
Goodacre, a noted expert on the Synoptic problem, is exceptionally qualified to identify the problems of the MPH. It is worth pausing to notice, therefore, a genuinely remarkable feature of this discussion: Goodacre’s best arguments against the MPH are either weak, readily reversible or inconclusive. And not only that, they fail to address the point that the phenomena of (1) order and arrangement of material and (2) verbatim agreement in the Gospels uphold the MPH and work against the FH. “Why not Matthew’s use of Luke?” is still a great question.
Despite my criticisms, Goodacre deserves appreciation for his paper. He has advanced the discussion of the Synoptic problem by his willingness to engage with the MPH, the often neglected third alternative to the relationship between Matthew and Luke. May the debate continue!
Robert K. MacEwen is a missionary with Cru and an adjunct faculty member at East Asia School of Theology, Singapore. He received his PhD in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.
What happened when Mark Goodacre addressed the Synoptic Gospels section at SBL Denver? Rob MacEwen (pictured) reports for the Logos Academic Blog.
Here is another great installment from Farrell’s Travel Blog:
Dibon is mentioned in the account of the defeat of King Sihon (Numbers 21:30), and was later built by the sons of Gad (Numbers 32:34). It is located in the “plain of Medeba [Madaba]” (Joshua 13:9), and is associated with Heshbon (Joshua 13:17). Upon the return from Babylon some of the sons of Judah lived […]
IMHO — this is not to be missed! See the following. The Lanier Theological Library has posted a 72-minute video of an illustrated lecture by Yosef Garfinkel entitled “Searching for the Historical King David: Khirbet Qeiyafa and Khirbet al–Ra’i. Qeiyafa, in the Judean lowlands (=Shephelah), was excavated by him from 2007 through 2013 and is […]
Over the last couple of weeks, many evangelical scholars (including myself) attended the annual conferences of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature (not to mention, the Institute for Biblical Research). Many good papers were delivered (and heard), old friendships were rekindled, and everyone was asked the same question over and over:…
Here is a comment by Tom Oden:
I suggest another point
Lesson 3.5: In research, a bad solution is sometimes “better” than a good solution.
A bad solution to a problem always needs more study, more qualifications, more money for research. A good solution solves the problem and the researchers have to find something else to do. So beware of the latest 1000-page tome. Maybe the subject is that complicated. Or maybe everyone is lost in the weeds.
The “Problem Page” on Alan Garrow’s Blog relates to the “Synoptic Problem” which involves questions on the priority of accounts between the Synoptic Gospels and the organization of their material. What seems to throw researchers off is Luke’s statement that “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us. (Luke 1.1)” Therefore students almost seem to assume these accounts to be Mark and Matthew. Perhaps one account was Mark; but probably not Matthew. Luke interviewed “eyewitnesses” (Luke 1.2) so it had to be early while they were still alive. In my thinking most of these interviews had to happen while Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea for two years. This time frame provides the most obvious opportunity affording Luke to connect with surviving early eyewitnesses including Mary the mother of Jesus, the source, I believe, of the infancy and pre-birth narratives of John The Baptist and Jesus.
Here Vicar Garrow sites Ronald V. Huggins on the Matthean posteriority:
Ronald V Huggins answers the question: ‘What made you first consider the possibility that Matthew used Luke?’ Ron Huggins taught at Moody Bible Institute—Spokane, Salt Lake Theological Seminary, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a former Editor of The Midwestern Journal of Theology.His “Matthean Posteriority: A Preliminary Proposal.” Novum Testamentum 34 (1992): 1-22, has had a pivotal role in…
James R Edwards answers the question: ‘Why do you think Matthew used Luke?’ James Edwards is Bruner-Welch Professor Emeritus of Theology, Whitworth University, Spokane, WA. The following is an extract from James R Edwards: The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Gospel Tradition (Eerdmans, 2009) pp.245-252Matthean Posteriority“Posteriority,” a rarely used antonym of “priority,” needs a word of interpretation. The historical-critical method…
God’s transcendence is beyond our power to imagine it. But even to make that statement we must have in our minds some idea of what the term transcendence means and how it might apply to God. Further, Scripture tells us that God is “high and lifted up.” Theologians and preachers have an obligation to expound…
Peter Lorenz has another installment arguing for Mary’s genealogy in Luke’s Gospel. Utilizing primary sources Peter shows from history that the early Christians held that Luke gives Mary’s lineage.
It is likely that Jesus was known as from David’s line through Joseph because many times He was referred as “the Son of David.” Those who acclaimed Him as such probably thought Joseph was His real father. They did not necessarily need to know the complete stories of Matthew and Luke to recognize Jesus as Messiah since the signs accompanying Jesus’s ministry would have sufficed.
Contextually, Luke has been showing for most of the first two chapters the miraculous virgin conception and birth of Jesus. Jesus was not a spirit who only appeared human but was fully man as Luke gives His lineage to Adam at the onset of Christ’s ministry. The primary target audience for Luke would be Greeks (Hellenism-whether Jewish or Pagan) with their humanity-focus; and therefore Luke needs to show Christ’s connection to the first human.
The verb nomidzo (supposed) in Lk. 3.23 strongly shows His virgin birth and is parenthetical. In the modern convention of myopic, immediate reference, Luke’s phrasing sounds strange to our ears. We, today, would normally think Heli was Joseph’s father whereas Luke is relying on the reader to be more contextual with his previous material.
As preserved by Origen, Celsus is one of our earliest writers to comment on the genealogies of Jesus. Celsus’s failure to mention any conflict between the genealogies appears to support the view that no conflict was perceived in the second-century context in which he wrote. But if we follow Origen, Celsus seems to have known…
Pete Lorenz has written an excepted post of his longer essay, which deals with Luke’s genealogy in the early Uncial Manuscript “D”. Here, he notes the almost universal early acceptance of Mary’s genealogy, in Luke 3. Justin Martyr is the focus in this post. Females in first century Judea, had a genealogy, just like males since Elizabeth was “from the daughters of Aaron,” in Lk. 1.5. Her offspring would, however, follow the husband’s line. Jesus was virgin born; therefore, Luke traces Mary’s line to show fulfillment of 2 Sam. 7.11-17. This was The Davidic Covenant whose ultimate fulfillment referred to the Messiah. I plan to write another post on this topic from a theological point of view. Lorenz does a fine job tracing the history of interpretation of Luke’s genealogy in the early Christian Church:
Writing in the first half of the third century, Julius Africanus is our earliest writer to raise the two genealogies of Jesus as a potential apologetic issue.1 But before Africanus, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and apparently even Celsus all refer to the two genealogies, yet mention not a word about any conflict between them. Thus, Origen takes…
August 1st, 2018 Proselytism has become a bad word. Like fundamentalism or exclusivism, in today’s religious language, only the negative overtones of the term are retained and are used to convey a derogatory understanding of its meaning. In its original Greek context, the word simply meant “coming closer” to something. In the New Testament, a…
[Leon notes the “retiring ministry of Jesus” a very good point which helps explain a certain phase of Christ’s overall activity]
I’m currently presenting a visualized survey of the Bible, with tonight’s lesson dealing with the Life of Christ. Following Jesus’ Galilean Ministry, He pursued a plan to invest more time alone with the Apostles, preparing them for the great work they were to do. This period is known as the Retirement Ministry, “retiring” from the […]
This is a good post by Shem Tov Sasson.
A week after the two-day trip to the Carmel region, I went on yet another field trip offered by my department at Bar Ilan University. Led by Dr Shawn Zelig-Aster, a Biblical scholar, we were taken to a series of historical and archaeological sites around the Lower Galilee, all having a shared theme: the campaign […]