Sunday, August 20, 2006

still looking for a satisfactory source theory. . .

I first encountered the notion that the synoptic Gospels were not independently composed in December 1999 when I read Spong who was advocating Michael Goulder's theory (Lk used both Mk & Mt). The notion came as quite a shock (I was raised in very conservative churches, with no idea of what a Gospel commentary was let alone a synoptic source theory!), but it also seemed rather logical to me (perhaps the only logical thing about Spong!). Next, I went to my local library and discovered John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, and was quite impressed by the logic of a reconstructed Q source behind Matthew and Luke (Yes Q is more interesting than Lk's use of Mk & Mt!). I was happy with this "two-source theory" until I read C. S. Mann's commentary on Mk based on the Griesbach theory (Mk used both Mt & Lk) unsettling me once again. Fortunately for my own sanity I returned to "orthodoxy" (hopefully also to the delight of my lecturers!) mid-1st semester into my BTheol after reading Kloppenbrog's Excavating Q.

I was impressed by Kloppenborg's sensible-sounding, even-headed discussion of various source-theories and his advocacy of the two-source theory. Conversly it did seem like other theorists had an axe to grind. Farmer and others seemed so resentful of being led up the garden path by previous scholarship (I recall the phrase "spoon-fed" used resentfully against the Q hypothesis) as though they wanted me to be upset with them. I then happily discovered the Huggins-Hengel theory in about Dec 2001 (i.e. Mt used Lk & Mk & and other pieces of oral-tradition) and I wondered why this theory was so unheard of (all the introductions to the synoptic problem merely said "No one argues for this theory.") However, further investigation did not vindicate it--one could easily argue for it but there were still no impelling reasons to my mind for interpreting Mt in light of Lk's Gospel. One needn't take recourse to Lk to explain Mt. I realised I would be tossed to-and-fro by every next book I read unless I could come to my own reasons/my own source theory.

More to come. . .(but no solid answers, sorry)

1 comment:

Jim Deardorff said...


I believe you didn't mention the Augustinian type hypothesis in which a Hebraic Matthew preceded Mark, and Mark preceded Luke. In looking into it myself, I find it the best one if the social contexts of the gospel writers are taken into account. Matthew, written by a man of strong Jewish background, contains alot of anti-gentile statements. How would this have affected subsequent Gospel writers who had been engaged for years or decades in evangelizing gentiles?

In Rome, the writer of Mark, if following Matthew, is easily viewed as strongly anti-Jewish. He portrayed the Jewish disciples (even the Jewish people) as unworthy of Jesus, upon comparing many parallel passages of Mark & Matthew. He removed Matthew's anti-gentile comments and slurs.

The writer of Luke valued the Judaic teachings in Matthew more favorably, and so re-instated much of what Mark omits from Matthew. However, he did so in totally different contexts, thereby showing his disdain for the writer of Matthew and its statement that Jesus had come only to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel. So he went out of his way to show his preference for pro-gentile Mark over anti-gentile Matthew.

The later translator of Hebraic Matthew into Greek played a role in rendering Matthew less unfavorable to gentiles by adding some pro-gentile passages, like Mt 28:18-20.

So far, this Modified Augustinian Hypothesis (MAH) solves the Synoptic Problem well, and overcomes arguments by supporters of the Two-Source hypothesis; see .

I believe the obviousness of this approach is a primary reason why NT scholars of the 19th-century decided to opt for Markan priority and a "Q". Though obvious, the appraoch is quite "unspeakable." With Mark first, the unflattering warts of Mark are only that, subsequently ameliorated by the writers of Luke and Matthew. With Q, the "cranky" editorial behavior of the writer of Luke is avoided.

What I'm wondering, is: Do you also find this MAH approach unspeakable? If not, may I hear back from you?
Jim --