Monday, January 26, 2009

Getting More Sceptical on Q

In recent years I have been becoming more and more pessimistic about the existence of Q due to my readings of Luke. Two particular texts burn in my mind:

1. Jesus' Confession Before Caiaphas

Mark 14.62: καὶ ὄψεσθε τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκ δεξιῶν καθήμενον τῆς δυνάμεως καὶ ἐρχόμενον μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.

Matt 26.64: ἀπ' ἄρτι ὄψεσθε τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καθήμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τῆς δυνάμεως καὶ ἐρχόμενον ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.

Luke 22.69: ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν δὲ ἔσται υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καθήμενος ἐκ δεξιῶν τῆς δυνάμεως τοῦ θεοῦ.

I find it an amazing coincidence that Mattew and Luke would both independently qualify the Marcan Jesus' statement to the effect that "from now on" you will see/it will be the Son of Man seated besides the Power.

2. Jesus and the Centurion and the Eschatological Reversal Saying

Matt 8.5-10 and Luke 7.1-10 both include stories of Jesus' encounter with a centurion at Capernaum. This is unique among Q material as it is the only narrative in Q itself (and some rightly attribute it to an independent tradition known to both Matthew and Luke). However, Matthew finishes this story with a reference to a saying of eschatological reversal (8.11-13) and yet Luke has this same saying but in a completely different context (13.28-30).

Now earlier I thought that it would be unlikely for Luke to split up Matt 8.5-13 into two parts (Luke 7.1-10 and 13.28-29) if he had access to it when it would be so congenial to his pro Gentile interests. But there again, Matt 8.11-12/Luke 13.28-29 might be another independent saying known to both authors. Luke can also omit some missional material because he intends to bring it up in his second volume (e.g. Mk 13.10).

More telling is the fact that Luke inverts the order of the saying in contrast to Matthew, but Luke also includes "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (ἔσται κλαυθμὸς καὶ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων) which is arguably a distinctive Matthean expression.

3. Conclusion

I am gradually coming around to the position that Luke used Matthew, but I don't think I'm prepared as of yet to give up the notion that there were still some shared and independent traditions between Matthew and Luke consisting of both oral (e.g. the centurion at Capernaum) and perhaps even written materials (e.g. parable of the mustard seed).

But I'm not Synoptic problem guru and I'll leave it to other minds to figure out.


Michael Pahl said...

Nice to see you're finally coming around. I'm sure you'll come around on a few other things eventually as well... :-)

By the way, a Mark-without-Q theory doesn't of necessity dispense with "some shared and independent traditions between Matthew and Luke" - there was almost certainly that sort of "messiness" involved in the whole process all along the way.

Geoff Hudson said...

But there are also a number of subtle differences between Mk.14.62, Mt.26.64 and Lk.22.69 that represent progression from Mk.

Josh McManaway said...

Have you read John Wenham's book on the subject? I just got it last week and he has a solution (some literary dependence for structure coupled with indepdent oral traditions) that you may like.

steph said...

It is not pessimistic to be released from the myth of "Q" as a single written Greek document reconstructed in "The Critical Edition of Q". You have correctly noted that Lukan knowledge of Matthew does not disqualify other sources. However at the same time, coincidences between Matthew and Luke in the passion narrative do not necessitate Luke's dependence on Matthew. In fact there is strong evidence to suggest that other written sources existed in the passion narrative as well, both Aramaic and Greek, particularly in the parallels of Mark 14.62, 65 and 72.

steph said...

Of course, Maurice Casey has already done some work on this.

The Pook said...

I've never believed in 'Q' (or 'M' or James Bond himself for that matter...)

I rather naively cling to the notion that Augustine got it right and the gospels were written pretty much in the order we find them in our bibles today.

It makes sense to me:
1. theologically, since Matthew is the most "Jewish" of the gospels, and the gospel goes first to the Jews, and
2. the order of the synoptic pericopes favours Matthean priority, as Ward Powers showed about twenty five years ago.

However, I don't think it's a case of simple borrowing. Since the authors (if we accept that they were written by those whom the church has always held they were written by) all knew one another, and in the case of Mark and Luke quite intimately, there is no reason not to think that they actively collaborated, and that some joint editing process is at work here that confuses our attempts to explain it by treating them as completely separate authors/redactors.

steph said...

Even in 2009 Matthean priority is still clung to by a small group of mainly Catholic American male scholars but modern scholarship clearly demonstrates the priority of Mark. The authors knew each other intimately and collaborated? Why on earth didn't they write a single gospel then?

The Pook said...

Who knows for sure, but that's not an argument against its plausibility.

The gospels are written to different target audiences and with slightly different ends in mind. Members of the same literary circles have often written very different works on the same subject or using the same or overlapping source material. There's nothing inherently strange in that.

Also, a thing is true or not true depending entirely on whether it is true or not true, regardless of how many people believe it. Most biblical scholars probably don't believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus or the virgin birth. So what?

The Pook said...

...oh and for the record I'm neither Catholic nor American.

steph said...

No, I know, and you're not a scholar who has published work on the synoptic problem either. And yes I know that Ward Powers is Australian too. So what indeed. Scholars' religious affiliations shouldn't have anything to do with a textual study of the synoptic problem. Unfortunately they do as is demonstrated in alot of the arguments for Matthean priority - primacy of Peter, reliability of church fathers etc. - none of which are textual arguments. Biblical scholarship has demonstrated that the gospels were written decades apart, in different locations. Your suggestion is regrettably implausible. The literary relationship between the texts suggests a linear progression.

The Pook said...

Ah the old elitist line. Only published people know anything. Can't argue against that.

Steph - I think you are quite wrong that holding to Matthean priority necessarily infers any of those things. Matthew doesn't teach the primacy of Peter no matter when it was written - that's just the interpretation of the Roman church. I've come to my conclusions solely by a study of the texts.

Biblical scholarship has not demonstrated the things you say at all, if by demonstrated you mean proven beyond reasonable doubt. There is a wide divergence of belief over dating the gospels, and there is no irrefutable evidence either way. If there were it wouldn't still be a "problem."

I never said they weren't written in different locations, btw.

Robin - I didn't mean salvation by faith in Jesus when talking about the later prophets, I meant that they begin to 'spiritualise' (I dislike that word but don't know what else to call it) the promises to Abraham, seeing them in cosmic terms of a new heavens and a new earth (effectively a return to Eden), rather than the more limited revival of an earthly Davidic kingdom.

Dispensationalism is not the same as a millennial view, btw. You can be premillennial without being dispensationalist. I'm not a hundred percent convinced by any millennial position. But I am convinced that covenantal theology is much truer to the bible's own theological framework than ideas made up by Americans in the 19th century.

steph said...

That's a bit silly. No, it's not the "old elitist line". In fact I am inferring that the arguments of those particular published scholars are flawed. But the point of mentioning this sub group of scholars was to highlight where detailed arguments of Matthean priority can be found.

Of course there is no agreement on the dates of the gospels but nobody thinks they were written at the same time because of their linear progression. You may not think Matthew teaches Petrine primacy but Catholic scholars of Matthean priority do interpret him this way in their list of evidence. These scholars are generally associated with the recently deceased William Farmer.

My guess is that you have come to your own conclusions solely by study of the translated text. Perhaps you should read the biblical scholarship before you brush it off.

And no, I know you didn't Pook, but they didn't write them together in their different locations and in their different times.