Questions About Q
- Clips from Email
Ed. Note: The following is a collection of my contributions
to various debates regarding Q, on Crosstalk (the
pioneer email conference hosted by Harper San Francisco), its
successor Crosstalk 2 (moderated by Jeffrey Gibson) & the
Westar Egroup. These
have been conservatively cleaned up for publication while preserving
the original ad hoc character of the discussion. Besides
orthographical & grammatical corrections, the current edition has
some added typographical polish and editorial clarification. But other features characteristic of email have
been retained -- e.g. common abbreviations or technical scholarly
shorthand & Latinate transcription of Greek or Semitic characters.
An alphabetical table of these items is provided in the appendix to
The issues in dispute in the posts below are:
1. Whether there is a solution to the
synoptic problem that is simpler than Q.
2. Whether Luke is independent of Matt.
3. Whether Farrer's hypothesis that Luke used
Matt is easily dismissed.
4. Whether Q is easily dismissed if one assumes
Luke used Matt.
5. Whether Luke edited Mark & Matt in a
6. Whether Luke's version of a Q saying is more
primitive than Matt's.
7. Whether Luke's Q sayings use wording
typical of Matt.
8. Whether Mark used Q.
9. Whether GThom used Q. [see also
letters 8 & 9
under Testing Thomas]
10. Whether Q sayings were formed like Cynic chreiai.
11. Whether Q tends to make sayings about God's
kingdom refer to future events.
12. Whether Q contained apocalyptic predictions.
I am indebted to the following partners in dialog for having
provided the intellectual stimuli that prompted me to think these
Stevan L. Davies, Prof. of Religious Studies, College of
Misericordia. Website: Thomas
Mark S. Goodacre, Department of Theology, U of Birmingham, UK.
Website: NT Gateway.
W. Liknes, instructor, Prairie Bible College, Alberta CA.
business program coordinator for Northern Arizona U.
I have not space here to represent their arguments in full..
Messages dated after May 1999 are still found
in the archives of Crosstalk
2 & Westar.
Mahlon H. Smith
Department of Religion
New Brunswick NJ
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 01:32
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Westar Egroups
Dean Pielstick wrote:
All of the sources that I have read about the Q hypothesis refer
to the independence of Matthew and Luke. This seems to be critical to the
existence of a real Q. However, these sources seem to gloss over the background regarding this independence. To me Mt/Lk don't read as being
independent at all, and scholars seem to date them 5-10 years apart (most
dating Matthew first). This seems to make it highly probable that the author
of Luke would have had ample opportunity to have seen Matthew and Mark
before or during his writing. Can anyone point me to better sources attesting to
the independence of Matthew and Luke?
Dean et al:
This is good place to break my month long silence, since -- after years
of questioning evidence of a written sayings source common to Matt &
Luke other than Mark -- I have, over the past decade or so, emerged as a
spokesman for (if not necessarily expert on) that hypothetical sayings
gospel that we scholars call Q.
First, Dean & Brian you are not alone in challenging the 2 source hypothesis as a solution to the synoptic problem. There are many
respectable scholars who ascribe to some alternative, primarily theories
1. Augustine of Hippo (ca. 400 CE): Mark condensed Matt, Luke drew on both;
2. J. J. Griesbach (ca. 1790): Luke revised Matt, Mark produced a condensed version of both
(à la Readers Digest);
3. A.M. Farrer (1955): Matt expanded Mark, Luke drew on both.
The last 2 are have the most adherents among current scholars who dissent from the majority that support the 2 source hypothesis. Wm.
Farmer revived the Griesbach hypothesis in 1964. Current followers prefer to call this the 2 Gospel hypothesis. This is preferred by
conservative scholars in the U.S. who put their historical faith in the
2nd c. patristic tradition that Matt was written first. But outside the
U.S. the Farrer thesis has the most support among critics of the 2SH. British scholars Michael Goulder & Mark Goodacre are the primary current
champions of this solution to the synoptic problem.
In my early days I was a Farrerite as I believe Daryl Schmidt was. And
Mark Goodacre claims E. P. Sanders was (is?). Sanders himself shies from
identifying himself with any synoptic theory, however, because as he pointed out in his book on the Synoptic Problem:
none of the "solutions" to the synoptic problem that have been proposed thus far
is itself without problems.
The question is which hypothesis causes the fewest problems in explaining the relationship of the synoptic texts. Which theory gives
the most plausible explanation of the linguistic data that we find in
the texts themselves.
There are 3 observations that continue to convince most synoptic specialists -- myself now included -- that the
2SH presents the fewest problems for interpreting the literary relationship of Matt, Mark &
1. Mark is the roughest of the gospels from a grammatical & rhetorical standpoint, Matt & Luke are both more polished & present fewer problems.
This points to the priority of Mark.
2. Luke almost never uses any of Matt's grammatical & substantive
improvements of Mark (other than omissions). This points to the independence of Matt & Luke in making revised expanded editions of
3. Where Matt & Luke share non-Markan material, Luke almost never
puts it in Matt's narrative context. The only 2 exceptions to this are
the prophetic warnings of JB & the temptation dialogue between
J & the devil. But in both cases Mark has a shorter account, which would
have led any editor to insert additional material at these points. But
where Mark does not have any parallel (e.g., J's sermon) or even if he does (e.g., mission instructions, parable of the mustard, etc.) Luke
does not follow Matt's narrative sequence in inserting non-Markan
material into his gospel.
What this means from the standpoint of editorial theory is that if
Luke used Matt he deconstructed Matthew's gospel, disassembling Matt's long
well-organized speeches & recalling bits & pieces of them in random
locations throughout his gospel. He would have acted as literary equivalent to the Sower, scattering to the wind the seed that Matt had
gathered into neat stacks in his barn. For what purpose is unclear, since Luke's use of this non-Markan sayings material that he shares with
Matt is less thematically organized than Matt's.
To appreciate the incongruity of such editorial activity on Luke's part,
one has to work through a detailed comparison of Matt & Luke's texts.
There have been 2 recent books that have tried to explain in detail how
& why Luke edited Matt. From the Farrerite perspective there is M.
Goulder's massive commentary Luke: A New Paradigm & from the
Griesbachian perspective there is Beyond the Q Impasse by Farmer's
group. Both, however, fail to present a rationale for the
elaborate editorial gymnastics that they claim Luke went through (in the
pre-computer age!) to rearrange non-Markan material he extracted from
Matt that sounds convincing to most current synoptic scholars. Moreover, neither adequately explains why Luke would have
dismantled a polished coherent work like Matt & followed the rough &
problematic text of Mark instead.
To get a sampling of the editorial problems raised by the chief rivals
of the 2SH I invite you to look at my on-line Synoptic Gospels
To avoid such inexplicable problems other scholars have proposed more complicated source hypotheses that envision Luke as having access to
other non-extant sources (proto-Luke or other sayings sources). Some
recent advocates of the Griesbachian & Farrerite theories even identify
this sayings source as Q (although the contents they propose for it differ from the non-Markan parallels in Matt & Luke that 2SH scholars
have long called Q). For an easily accessible sampler of these variations see Stephen Carlson's
Therefore, for whatever problems & questions it may raise scholars are
not yet ready to dispense with Q. If anything, Q is now more certain than it was a century ago.
Date: Sat, 11 Sep 1999 13:41
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Westar Egroup
Gail Dawson wrote:
For a well-presented web page on the canonical status of Q (which is a
revised edition of a paper presented at the Spring 1997 meeting of the
Westar Institute by Mahlon Smith) <SNIP>
It is a difficult issue, even to be able to read enough to begin to
understand the complexity of the problem.
Thanks for the plug, Gail. I posted my Westar paper on the internet simply because of the volume of cyber-material & debate that I found
that was critical of Q without facing the problems with the alternatives. It is gratifying when someone cites my work as a useful source.
It is relatively easy to be skeptical of a hypothetical source. But once
one begins to weigh alternative explanations of the patterns of verbal
agreement/disagreement among the synoptic gospels, the Q hypothesis begins to commend itself for its relative simplicity. Of course there
are many places where appeal to Q does not explain all the features of
non-Markan material common to Matt & Luke. But we need to remind ourselves that in reading any gospel we are working with a reconstructed
text. So judgments about the content of sources always rest on which reconstruction is more historically
The thing that continues to persuade most synoptic scholars to prefer working with a non-extant Q is simply that other theories, such as the
Griesbach-Farmer hypothesis (that Mark edited Matt & Luke) or the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis (that Luke used both Mark & Matt) prove to be
far more complicated when it comes to explaining the differences between
the synoptic texts. In theory, the alternatives to Q may sound simpler.
But the difficulties become evident when they are applied to explain the
texts themselves. On the basis of either major alternative to Q, Luke --
the most rational & systematic of the gospel writers -- would have
adopted capricious, extremely complex editorial techniques. So relatively few synoptic scholars regard this as a more logical &
preferable solution to the synoptic problem than wrestling with the vagaries
Mon, Dec 15 1997 11:30
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Stevan L. Davies
CC: Crosstalk; Mark S. Goodacre
Subject: Farrer and GThomas
Greetings Steve, Mark G. et al:
Can a former Farrer fan be admitted to the fray? Former, that is, in the
sense of supporter of his position (which I was as a Drew seminarian in
the early 60's). I still have the greatest admiration for his logical clarity & rhetorical skills, even though my own analysis of the texts
has led me now to champion an opposing camp.
Stevan Davies wrote:
I have read as much of Austin Farrer as I can bear. You can too, via
Mark G.'s website.
The richness of Farrer's language and the ease with which he writes are not untypical of scholarship of yore, and a curse and damnation placed upon the scholarly writing of today. He's fun to read just for the prose.
Thanks, Steve, for such a quick response to Mark's posting of an article
that every biblical scholar should read & now can, thanks to Mark's
I was always puzzled why Farrer's argument made so little impact on North American synoptic scholarship. I used to think that it was the
continental prejudice of the SBL. But I'm now convinced that Farrer's publishers & ultimately Farrer himself were to blame. If you want to
bury an important thesis --- or at least impede its circulation in the
market place --- publish it in a Festschrift or collection edited by someone else, where it will be weighted down by a dozen or so ho-hum
theses until it sinks into academic oblivion. Farrer's thesis merited more detailed critical analysis than it initially got over here.
Fortunately, Mark & others Brits have not let it die. Now that Mark has
resurrected it & guided its ascent into cyberspace, no gospel scholar
who owns a computer & a telephone line has any excuse for unfamiliarity
with it. Pity that research advances in the field & the American liberation of gospel studies from the context of ecclesiastical theology
now make so much of it seem dated.
Your opening line puzzles me a bit, Steve. Does your expression of de
trop in reading Farrer mean "I can't bear to read any more of this!" or
"There's too much there to digest & rebut in one cyber-note"? I would
hope it's the latter. Farrer's prose is to be admired, to be sure. But
even more admirable & worthy of imitiation is his rigorous clarity of
logic & gentlemanly grace in intellectual sparring. As a charter member
of the oft-maligned but seldom fairly or accurately reviewed Jesus Seminar, I have often wished that more American gospel scholars would
prove themselves worthy to carry Farrer's scholarly sandals (if not his
The reason why Farrer's arguments cannot be dismissed as lightly as proponents of other theses might like is that Farrer built his thesis on
empirical evidence & logic rather than traditional opinions, either
ecclesiastical or academic. Long before Farmer, Farrer emerged as a Socrates in an arena of academic dogmas & challenged critical scholars
to prove that there was any substance to the unseen Source that all professed but none (up to that time) dared reveal. Unlike the
Griesbachians, Farrer is not easily dismissed as a traditional conservative, since his theory of gospel authorship allows for a
substantial amount of synoptic material to be complete theological fabrications by Matthew or Luke. If two decades or more after Farrer's
death, proponents of Q (& Thomas) finally produced tangible evidence to
support a century & a half old hypothesis of a synoptic sayings source,
Farrer himself cannot be faulted for not recognizing the existence of such.
Indeed, the real value of Farrer for the 21st century is in keeping supporters of Q honest. After more than two centuries it is relatively
easy for critical scholars to challenge the hypothesis of Matthean primacy. But the fact that it is easy to convince even undergraduates
of this, is apt to promote smugness & a false sense of security among
us. The 2SH may still be the majority position among synoptic specialists, but the silent majority of non-specialists out
there remains to be convinced. Markan priority does not prove Q. The only way to establish the probability of a documentary
sayings source is to disarm Farrer's argument. You began the task, but
have hardly mortally wounded it.
So, please forgive me for asking you to digest more Farrer than you may
now care to stomach. Despite my own championship of Q in cyberspace, I'm going to act as devil's advocate to provoke you into refining your
defense. As I've discovered in developing my
Synoptic Primer, Farrer remains an agile & worthy opponent, whose position is not so easily
undermined as your comments assume. If Mark G. jumps into the fray, I reserve the option to switch sides & defend a fellow Q-Thomas musketeer.
"For the hypothesis wholly depends on the incredibility of St. Luke's
having read St. Matthew's book. That incredibility depends in turn on the supposition that St. Luke was essentially an adapter and
compiler. We do not now, or ought not now, so to regard him. And being once rid of such a
supposition, we can conceive well enough how St. Luke could have both read St. Matthew's book as it
stands, and written the gospel he has left us. Then at one stroke the question is erased to which the Q
hypothesis supplied an answer. For the hypothesis answered the question, "From what does the
common non-Marcan material of Matthew and Luke derive, since neither had read the other?"
There's a pretty easy answer to this question. If we assume that Luke
had read Matthew (and I do) then Luke can do one of two things. He can take Matthew and revise it to fit his own notions. Or he can take
Matthew's sources and revise them to fit his own notions. Farrer concedes that Luke did that. He took Matthew's source Mark and
revised it. One can therefore hypothesize that he also took Matthew's source Q and revised that. As Luke did not depend on Matthew for his
Mark, he did not depend on Matthew for his Q. This possibility undermines completely Farrer's strong assertion that if Luke knew
Matthew therefore the Q hypothesis necessarily fails.
Touché! But no kill. You have merely parried Farrer's thrust by which he
sought to disarm supporters of Q. You astutely use Farrer's own argument
to show that it is "possible to hypothesize" that Luke knew Matthew &
his source. But you are too over-confident in concluding that a hypothetical possibility "completely undermines" Farrer's position. For
we have a text of Mark on which Luke can be shown to be literarily dependent. But we do not have such a text of Q (Documenta Q
notwithstanding). Much of reconstructed Q is simply Lukan sayings paralleled in Matthew. To say that Luke knew this is
think Mark & Goulder & other Farrerphiles would retort: What is to prove
that this is a "source" & not just Luke's editing of Matthew? The force
of Farrer's argument is that if Luke knew Matthew then it is not necessary to posit Q. Mere possibility does not have the weight of
necessity. The reason for the ascendancy of the Q hypothesis in the skeptical world of biblical scholarship is not that it was thought
possible but that it was thought necessary. A necessary object is one that is either empirically or logically
If Farrer can adequately explain the non-Markan Matthean parallels in Luke as Lukan
redaction of Matthew, then Q is both logically & empirically
dispensible. For the footing on which the reconstruction of Q as an independent source rests (the hypothesis that Luke sometimes preserves a
more primitive form of the tradition than Matthew) would be an illusion.
The simpler is not always the earlier. The possibility of a hypothetical
source like Q becomes the preferred option only when details of the text
cannot be adequately accounted for on the basis of empirical sources. So, the only way to "completely undermine Farrer's strong assertion" is
to demonstrate that one cannot explain Lukan parallels to Matthew simply as the product of the editorial activities of Matthew or Luke.
But this can only be done in detailed exegesis by scholars who are willing to test Farrer's hypothesis. Beware in granting Farrer that
Luke had direct "knowledge" of Matthew, for this gives him an empirical
razor that his heirs (like Mark G.) are prepared to wield like Ockham.
"It is notorious that Q cannot be convincingly reconstructed. No one reconstruction,
to say the least of it, is overwhelmingly evident, and no proposed reconstruction is very firmly patterned."
This is not the case. The International Q Project has done it. Kloppenborg has done it. There is a satisfyingly complete little book. Now, one doesn't have to like that little book or admit that it
is satisfying, but the absence of same cannot any longer be an argument against Q.
Brave try, but only a scratch. Despite my own great admiration for the
scholarship of Jim Robinson, John Kloppenborg & others involved in the Q
project I have to honestly admit that these have not yet become "overwhelmingly evident" to the average reader of the gospels. You & I &
other 2 Sourcers might be convinced that these are valuable tools. But
anyone who has sat in on the SBL Q section should be well aware that we
are still far from the unanimity among Q scholars that Farrer is demanding. If you poll all gospel scholars in the SBL I'd dare say that
the degree of consensus would probably be lower & if you took your poll
into the pulpits & pews...well... You see what I mean?
A stronger parry of Farrer's thrust is to deny the premise. Where in the
reconstruction of any biblical text has there ever been "one reconstruction" that is universally or at least "overwhelmingly"
accepted by experts? What about the text critical history of the ending
of Mark? Or John 8? Or the wording of any passage with textual variants?
If there were overwhelming unanimity in these there would be no need for
a critical edition of the biblical text or a textual apparatus. But who
would ever think to suggest that the lack of unanimity regarding the details of a gospel text is a valid argument against the existence of
such a text?
Back to Farrer:
"We have no reason to suppose documents of the Q type to have been plentiful... . No, in postulating
Q we are postulating the unique, and that is to commit a prima facie
offence against the principle of economy in explanation."
Oops. Gospel of Thomas kills this argument dead.
Nice touch. But watch out, he's still breathing! Thomas is evidence that
sayings collections were used in early Christianity. But how early? Scholars like you, Steve, Marvin, Helmut & Dom have done an impressive
job in getting skeptical non-Coptic specialists like me to recognize much of Thomas as a pre-synoptic source. Three decades ago, I would
never have thought that I would ever accept Thomas as historical evidence of first-century Christianity. And there are
many still today, like Michael Goulder, who simply dismiss Thomas out of hand. We've come
far. Your website provides the single greatest boost in public knowledge
& respect for the historical value of Thomas. But can we honestly say
today that we represent a majority consensus among biblical scholars?
" ... I have yet to be convinced that there were such Christians, or that their existence in the first days was a psychological possibility."
Kills this one dead too. And if Thomas doesn't, Crossan, Mack, Borg, etc. have done so.
Non-passion Christianity isn't a non-starter.
No argument here. Farrer exposed himself to your thrust by this rare lapse
into subjective opinion. In historical knowledge, doubts of a non-witness are not admissible as evidence of non-existence.
Hope I haven't given you more to read than you can bear. Its been good
to resume our dialog after so many years.
Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 22:58
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Stevan Davies
Subject: Q Nomenclature
Stevan Davies commented on a post by Mark Goodacre:
I presume Mark G. means Luke used Matthew (as opposed to Luke knew of Matthew's existence).
In that case I'd agree that it does not seem reasonable that Luke should be thought also
to have used a hypothetical source for material available through Matthew. That's not impossible, but
pretty unlikely and, if the proposition that Luke used Matthew had been accepted in scholarship all along, the hypothesis of Q possibly never would have arisen.
Possibly; even probably, if one means by Q not just Matthew's non-Markan
sayings source but the hypothesis that the scope of that source was NMM
Still I have to disagree that one can make Q vanish simply by producing
a few minor agreements that may be interpreted as evidence that Luke
knew & used the text of Matt as well as Mark. This would be an inevitable conclusion
only if it could be shown that non-Markan material in Matt were inventions of Matt's own imagination & were known
only by those who had read or heard quotations of Matt. M. Goulder was
well aware of this & I think Farrer was too, when he insisted that the
evangelists have to be regarded as creative theologians. For if
Matt did not create his non-Markan sayings, they must have circulated prior to
and independently of the version recorded in Matt's text. If Matt had access to these sayings from prior tradition so too did others,
including possibly Luke. This possibility is magnified to probability,
given the extent to which the Lukan version of non-Markan Matthean sayings vary from the text of Matt in both wording & narrative setting.
There are three plausible explanations of this phenomenon:
1. Luke has freely altered the text of Matt, because he deliberately rejects the Matthean
Gestalt, but reshapes Matt's sayings to fit a vision of Jesus that is uniquely his own creation. OR
2. Luke reshapes Matt because he has good evidence that Matt had himself
reshaped earlier tradition to fit Matt's unique image of Jesus & as a
historian, Luke generally prefers to cite pre-Matthean versions of the
logia rather than Matt's paraphrases. OR
3. Luke simply did not know Matt, but used material from a non-Markan sayings source that Matt had also used.
The third is the simplest solution from a redactional critical perspective, since it does not require one to account for every
deviation of Luke from the text of Matt by speculating on his reasons for making editorial alterations. This is essentially what has commended
it to the majority of modern synoptic scholars.
The first is the simplest solution from a source critical perspective,
since it does not require one to account for the construction & disappearance of a text valued by Matt & Luke but apparently no other
early Xn writer. This is essentially what has commended it to Farrerites &
Griesbachians alike. And for those like Goulder, Goodacre, & Farmer's
associates that is worth the time & effort to try (a) to prove that
Luke knew & used Matt & (b) to develop detailed speculations about
Luke's agenda & method in revising Matt.
But even if advocates of #1 are successful in showing that advocates of
are wrong in asserting Luke's total ignorance of Matt, they still have
not dispensed with #2. And if non-Markan Matthean logia circulated
independently of Matt (which would be the case if Matt did not create them
de novo), then #2 is simpler than #1 from both a redactional & a
source critical perspective. For if Mark is a source of Matt (as most
synoptic scholars have thought for more than a century), it can be
demonstrated that even if Luke knew Matt he regularly preferred to
follow the earlier, less polished wording of Matt's source (Mark) than
to adopt Matt's redactional improvements.
Hence, I predict that Q is not going to disappear "by its own weight"
simply by hammering at the non-Markan minor agreements between Matt & Luke. In the
long run the Q hypothesis might be strengthened by the recognition that
Luke might have gotten from Matt some of the pericopes that now appear
to be misfits in Q.
Thurs, Dec 18 1997 18:20
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Mark S. Goodacre
Subject: Luke's editing of his sources
Mark Goodacre wrote:
The way that Luke treats the Sermon on the Mount is similar to the way in which he treats Mark 4 (etc.).
Really, Mark? If you mean that he seems to condense passages & eliminate
material in both places, you are right in general. But if you launch a
detailed comparison Mark 4//Luke 8 on the one hand (as I do in my Synoptic Gospels
Primer) and Matt 5-7//Luke 6:20-49 there are many obvious differences in the way Luke handles his "sources"
(if one supposes he is editing Matt in the second case).
Luke 8:4-18 not only keeps the Mark 4:2-24 structurally intact, it preserves the grammatical & logical features of the source text without
correction, even though the hINA clause in Mark 4:12 (//Luke 8:8) contradicts Luke's own understanding of Jesus' use of parables as
illustrations. Luke's redaction of Mark's text in this case is limited
to (a) a change of setting & (b) elimination of some awkward wording.
Here in editing Jesus' sayings in Mark Luke's editing is here very
conservative. Even though Matthew has a parallel to this section Luke uses
none of Matthew's improvements on Mark, which is why Michael Goulder says Luke has "put Matthew aside" at this point. I suspect that
Luke's inattention to Matthean redaction is rather good evidence that he
did not use Matthew at all. If he had used Matthew we might expect him
to have left the parables of the mustard seed & leaven where Matthew put
them. When Luke presents the parables of the mustard & leaven 5 chapters
later he does not include any of Matthew's adjoining material in the
chapter on parables. Moreover, he does not use any of the
rhetorical details of the mustard seed parable that Matthew shares
with Mark. This looks to me like Luke is using Matthew's source for this pair of parables rather than Matthew himself.
Luke 6:20-49 has only an approximate structural similarity to Matt
5-7. The wording of many sayings (Blessed are you poor... etc.) differs
significantly enough to say that if Luke was using Matt's Sermon on the
Mount he has thoroughly reinterpreted it. The order of sayings in the two sermons is also
not identical (love enemies & turn cheek are transposed). Sayings are found in Luke's sermon (woes & blind leading
the blind) that are not in Matt's & most importantly Matthew's basic
thesis (J comes to fulfill Torah) is missing. If Luke used the Sermon on the Mount
he gutted it & focused it on a saying that was not primary in Matt (love
enemies). Since this is not what he did to his source text in Mark 4, I
suspect his sermon is like his version of the parables of the Mustard Seed & Leaven: a
conservative reproduction of his sayings source. If this is the case, Luke's source cannot be Matthew, but is probably the
same sayings source (Q) that Matthew edited in a completely different
Is this circular reasoning? I call it just plain good sense. To recognize Luke's dependence on Q in these places makes things very
simple. To argue for his dependence on Matthew necessitates a mountain
of unprovable speculation on his motivation for moving, ignoring or eliminating mountains of material. I hope he had a Pentium 200!
Thurs, Dec 18 1997 18:21
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Mark S. Goodacre
Subject: Re: Luke's editing of his sources
Stevan Davies wrote:
We may find that the more primitive forms are generally found in Luke.
We may find that it does not usually happen that authors revert less primitive forms into more primitive forms. If these things are so,
then we'd have good evidence that Luke did not use Matthew.
Mark Goodacre replied:
In principle this is laudable but in practice there are large difficulties. For
Q has largely been constructed on the assumption
that Luke contains some more primitive forms of sayings than those in Matthew, and this observation then gets bound into the argument. Why believe in Q? Because sometimes Luke has the more primitive form of sayings and sometimes Matthew. How do you know what is more primitive? Look at Luke's form of Q sayings. This kind of circular logic is never far away in Gospel scholarship.
Come now, Mark. You know that "more primitive" generally means "less developed." In sayings it can mean a number of things:
1. Less polished -- i.e., rough grammar, awkward style, etc.: e.g., Mark's style & grammar is "more primitive" than Luke's, meaning it is
more likely that Luke edited Mark than the reverse;
2. Less elaborate -- i.e., simpler construction, more consistent:
e.g., Mark's version of
JB's message is "more primitive" than Matthew's
& Luke's because it (a) juxtaposes simple clauses & (b) is more concise;
3. Logically prior -- i.e., this presupposes that: e.g., Mark's narrative outline is "more primitive" than Luke's because Luke 4:23
presupposes cures at Capernaum in Mark 1-2, that Luke narrates later;
"More primitive" is not an arbitrary judgment. True, in sayings material it must be used with caution, since the simpler expression is
not always (or even usually) the earliest written. As an erstwhile poet,
I know too well that it takes work to get a good memorable concise line.
Moreover, with respect to Q sayings -- pardon me NMM //
L -- primitiveness
is not always a criterion that favors the 2 Source hypothesis, since Luke's version of some pericopes are more polished & elaborate than
Matthew's (e.g., love enemies, don't judge, centurion's servant, lost sheep, parable of pounds). In such cases Luke is probably editing his
source. But what source?
Here, fortunately we have a neutral witness: GThom. Thomas' form of some
sayings is closest to Mark's (e.g., parable of Mustard seed), while Thomas has
NM sayings that are only in Matthew (e.g., weeds & wheat) &
others that are only in Luke (e.g., cast fire on earth). Either Thomas is
an eclectic source that has culled sayings from all the gospels with no
discernable pattern of preference for one or the other; or Thomas represents a record of oral tradition that is independent of the
synoptics. To maintain the former one has to construct a redactional hypothesis of Thomas' editorial technique that makes
the task of
explaining Luke's alleged technique of editing Matthew a picnic. It is
far simpler to concede Thomas' independence.
In comparing synoptic/GThom parallels GThom has a "more primitive" form
of a saying most of the time -- that is to say, it lacks rhetorical flourishes & other details that are inherent to the synoptic sayings
(even in passages that are virtually identical in both Matt & Luke). In
other sayings, GThom has similar wording to both M & L but is identical
to neither. A good example is GThom 54: "Blessed are the poor, for
yours is the kingdom to heaven." Note that the basic structure of the saying is
more parallel to Luke than Matt except for the circumlocution for the name of God. Thus GThom confirms that in this case Luke preserves a more
primitive form of the saying than Matt's.
Luke's form of the beatitudes is also "more primitive" than Matthew's because it is (a) shorter, & (b) more coherent (4 blessings of people in
distress vs. 8 commending a variety of ethical virtues & 2 blessings of
the oppressed). Yet Luke is not directly dependent on the form of these
sayings which are scattered throughout GThom. So, in this case it is more probable that Luke is
not editing Matt but is dependent on some
sayings source similar to but not identical with GThom.
Is there anything circular in this logic?
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 15:08
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Mark S. Goodacre
Subject: Thomas an "offshoot" of Q?
Mark Goodacre wrote:
Actually, Q contains a good number of references to the speaker. I
am not quite sure where Peter is seeing the contrast between Q and Thomas on this one. As I have pointed out before, Q is thicker with
narrative interludes than is usually realized.
Admittedly many are simply 'he said' etc., but often it is more than that and there is a good number of different speakers, John, Jesus,
the devil, centurion, John's disciples, some, someone, another, crowds etc.
Thanks for the catalog of references to speakers in Q, Mark. It's always
gratifying to see a scholar who is so objective that he can dispassionately examine the contents of a document that he doubts ever
existed ;-). But the actual list is not quite as long as the 33 references
you give. Note that 10:2, 11:29&39a, & 13:18 are scholars' reconstructions where there is no common Greek wording in Matt & Luke.
And other instances you cite of references to speakers are not part of
the narration of a compiler but are rather integral to the sayings themselves: i.e., 11:2&18. Moreover, the bulk of this type of narration
is in pericopes that many Q advocates regularly assign to Q2 or Q3 (the
Temptation, the Centurion at Capernaum, JB material & the Beelzebul
controversy). As I recall Peter Kirby was replying to a claim that Thomas was
an offshoot of Q1.
Mack gives only 14 narrator's references to a speaker in his reconstruction of Q1 (Lost Gospel 73-80):
1. These are the teachings of Jesus (a hypothetical incipit)
2. Seeing the crowds he said to his disciples (likewise a hypothetical introduction to the Q sermon in Luke 6:20ff)
3. 6 places in the trio of dialogs with erstwhile disciples (Luke 9:57ff).
4. The "he said" of Luke 10:2 (introducing the Q version of mission instructions)
5. 3 places in the dialog introducing the parable of barn builder (Luke 12:13ff) &
6. 2 "he said"s introducing the parables of mustard & leaven (Luke 13:18ff).
Of these note:
1. 1,2 & 4 are scholarly guesses unsupported by verbatim agreement between the text of Matthew & Luke;
2. 5 is a solely Lukan passage that was debatably derived from Q.
3. The third dialog with a would-be disciple (3) is found only in Luke & is not even found in all reconstructions of Q [I note that you do not
Thus there are only 7 narrator's references to a speaker in Matt & Luke
that are incontestably traceable to Q1. And apart from the pair of dialogs on discipleship these consist simply of 3 "he said"s. Of course,
there may have been many more. The more Q passages one traces to Q1, the
more narration there will be. (Because of parallels in GThom, I'd include some of the JB sayings in Matt 11 that Kloppenborg & Mack assign
to Q2). But, still, compared with the regular identification of the speaker in virtually every aphorism in
GThom, textual evidence for such phenomena in Q1 is slight indeed. I conclude that Q1 has the
characteristics of a written collection while GThom, though written, preserves the monotonous marks introducing a transcription of originally
independent oral chreiai.
The problem of proving GThom's dependence on Q is analogous to the problem of proving Luke's dependence on Matthew. In
both cases the author of the allegedly dependent work would have had
to have been a disciple of Derrida bent dismantling well-constructed compositions.
Mark G. commented:
The more that I see this objection to Luke's use of Matthew, the more implausible I find it. But I have written about this several
times before on Crosstalk, and on the web site, and I don't want to
bore people once again except to summarise:
You never bore people, Mark, at least not me. I'm quite familiar with your argument on this point. But as a good debater you know that it is
always good tactics to hammer at a point that one perceives as a weakness in an opponent's position. You keep bringing up the
I'll keep bringing up the randomness of Luke's presentation of Q material
When it comes to the act of composition, I think anybody should be able
to grant that it is easier to envision an author acting like Matthew, combining material that was previously found in different sources (Mark
& Q) or different places in the same source (Q) than to explain an
editor's reasons for dismantling a well-built structure (like the sermon
on the Mount), preserving the skeleton of the edifice but moving it to a
different site & scattering some of the other pieces around the narrative landscape. But I was not intending to open the issue of Luke's
alleged use of Matthew anew. I was merely using this as an analogy to argue that Thomas would have had to be even more of a deconstructionist
than that if as Peter's correspondent alleges, GThom is an "offshoot" of
Date: Fri, 05 Jun 1998 14:24
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Mark S.Goodacre
CC: Stevan Davies, Crosstalk
Subject: Matthew's sources
Pardon my belated intrusion in this stimulating debate on calculating literary dependence on distinctive language. But I have 2 cents to
contribute that cannot wait until I've digested the whole volume of
backed-up e-mail in my in-box.
Mark Goodacre wrote:
2. The calculation that the Lucan form of certain Q sayings is prior to the Matthean form is based partly on recognising distinctively Matthean language among such sayings.
This is true only if one is doing intellectual history. The notion that
the Lukan version of a saying of Jesus is closer to the original Jesus
sayings source can be traced to critical scholars who observed that
the Matthean version often contained phrases or ideas that were elsewhere typical of Matthew. But for the past 30 years or so it has not
been "based" even partly on this observation. Recent analysis of the original form of Q sayings has been influenced primarily by 2 other
1. The first is based on study of the mechanics of orality. The Lukan form of Q sayings is generally "simpler" in logic, syntax & vocabulary
than the Matthean parallel & hence more memorable orally. Thus, it is
better credited to a residue of oral transmission than to literary redaction of Matthew. Where this is not the case, as in the pericope of
the centurion's son or the parables of the pound & banquet, most Q
proponents are prepared to grant the priority of the Matthean form in the sayings source.
2. This observation is confirmed by analysis of the gospel of Thomas. Luke's form of Q sayings is generally supported by Thomas against
Matthew. Thomas is an excellent point of reference because it is primarily a compilation of oral units & it includes many pericopes that
otherwise are in Matthew (e.g., parables of weeds, pearl, treasure) but
not Luke. So Thomas cannot be plausibly held to have an anti-Matthean bias. The major flaw in Goulder's analysis is that he totally rejects
the evidence of Thomas in accounting for the formation of the gospel tradition. As one who now admits to leaning towards Thomas' independence
of the synoptics, you Mark should at least recognize the weight of Thomas as evidence of Luke's independence from Matthew.
Thus, the contemporary argument for the priority of the Lukan form of Q
sayings is really "based" on evidence that has nothing to do with typical Matthean vocabulary. The results would be the same whether the
wording peculiar to Matthew's version of Q sayings were used nowhere else in Matthew. The fact that Matthew echoes his special language
elsewhere merely confirms a conclusion that now rests on a foundation of
totally independent research. So Goulder's argument about the Matthean
vocabulary fallacy doesn't disturb the Q hypothesis one wit. The progress in Q studies is analogous to developments in the physical
sciences. The theories of evolution & relativity can be historically
traced to the calculations of Darwin & Einstein. But they are no longer
based simply on the initial observations of these pioneers.
Mark G wrote:
The difficulty with this is that Luke, as I have often claimed, does show signs of the retention of 'demonstrably redactional elements' of the kind that seem so noticeably lacking in Thomas. Take "hypocrites!" for example. Kevin Johnson was rightly pointing to the lack of this kind of thing in Thomas. Not so with Luke and Matthew: this phrase, characteristic of Matthew's redaction of Mark,
crops up in Q, i.e. in Luke's use of Matthew. Likewise "O ye of little faith" and many more such. That is one of the reasons that I am inclining against the
Thomas-dependence-on-the-Synoptics theory. Luke's use of Matthew gains strength from the presence of these Matthean redactional elements.
This is what I dub the real Matthean vocabulary fallacy,
Mark. Just because vocabulary is typical of a person does not mean that that person is the
source for occurrence of parallel wording in other works. My personal experience shows that the opposite is more often the case. Someone who
repeatedly echoes pet phrases is more apt to have derived them from some
other source than to have invented them. Here are a few test cases:
1. If you would compare the number of occurrences of academic theological jargon in modern scholarship, I bet you would find that
terms like heilsgeschichte, Sitz im Leben, hermeneutics,
eschatological, etc. occur less frequently in the works of the scholars who
introduced them than in the works of their successors. I remember as a
student in seminary showing off my comprehension of my wonderful new erudition by using such phrases more than my teachers. I have not
conducted a scientific study of the matter but I suspect this is generally true in most peoples' experience. We all tend to repeat
striking terminology that we pick up from someone else.
2. Reading my CrossTalk backlog of e-mail supports this suspicion. More than a month ago I intervened in the debate between Bob Schacht &
Mike Grondin regarding historicity by claiming that a believer has to "bracket out" his personal theological convictions when making
historical judgments if those judgments are to be accepted as anything
more than faith statements. I used the phrase "bracket out" only once,
but have counted at least 5 references to that phrase in the posts of Mike G. since then. Obviously my phrasing stuck in his mind & he has
thought about it so much that he has used it over & over again. If one
judged the source of that phrase merely on the basis of statistical frequency, one would conclude that Smith got the phrase from
Grondin. But this stylistic judgment would be historically in error.
Hence, Matthew's frequent use of the term hypocrite is not good evidence
that Matthew is the source of that term in Luke's version of the speck/timber aphorism. On the basis of logical analysis, Thomas' wording
of this logion is more original than either of the synoptic versions. "You hypocrite" was obviously inserted as a rhetorical flourish. But on
the basis of historical analysis the author who inserted it is more likely to have been the compiler of Q than Matthew.
Why? Not just because Matthew uses it more frequently but because Matthew regularly uses it in condemnations of the Pharisees (Matt 23)
whereas the Lukan & Thomas parallels totally omit it. Luke's omission of
"hypocrites" in these sayings is not plausibly credited to Lukan
redaction, since he has no trouble putting this accusation on Jesus' lips in the special Lukan story of the woman with osteoporosis (Luke
13:15) & more significantly he uses it in his version of the Q/Thom
saying on meteorological signs (Luke 12:56) whereas it is found in neither Thomas (91)
nor Matthew (Matt 16:2-3).
Conclusion: "hypocrite" is a technical epithet introduced into the Jesus
tradition by the author of Q in the speck/timber logion & independently echoed in
different contexts by both Matthew & Luke (but not Thomas). If Thomas is not dependent of the synoptic versions of
these sayings, then it is clear that Luke is not dependent on Matthew.
Thus, the sole instance of a common use of "hypocrite" in a saying in Luke & Matthew is more easily credited to mutual dependence on a common
source than to editorial fatigue by Luke who otherwise excised every instance of the term in Matt only to reintroduce it in 2 non-Matthean
So much for the use of "typically Matthean" vocabulary to determine literary dependence on sources.
Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2000 21:39
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Mark S. Goodacre
CC: Crosstalk 2
Subject: Burton Mack's Q hypothesis
Mark Goodacre wrote:
There are, however, major problems with the idea that Mark knew and used
Q. Sanders has pushed the case for saying that one
might as well just say that Mark knew Matthew.
That is precisely why other Q scholars have been reluctant to follow
Mack down this yellow brick road. To maintain that Mark knew Q means one
would have to be prepared to explain why Mark omits not only major blocks of Q material like the sermon, Q apocalypse, parables etc. but
deletes central portions of the Q pericopes that he allegedly knows:
e.g., JB's call for repentance, J's dialog with the devil, many mission
instructions, the sign of Jonah, J's rhetorical question about
Beelzebul, etc. But Sanders objection founders when it comes to non-Q
Mark/Matt parallels. For it is here that Markan priorists can make their
best case, since Matt demonstrably polishes, augments & corrects problem
passages in Mark. So Markan knowledge of redaction of Matt is harder to
demonstrate than the reverse. Else the traditional Augustinian or Griesbachian solutions to the synoptic problem would still be
Mark G. goes on:
My own worry about the theory is that it cannot account for the fact that the Q
material often apparently presupposes the narrative development of Mark's Gospel, i.e. it presupposes that there was a baptism by
John for repentance, that John was arrested, that he was an ascetic, that Jesus mixed with tax-collectors and sinners, that
Jesus had an extensive healing ministry etc.
To characterize this as "narrative development of Mark" presupposes that Mark is the ultimate & sole possible source of
knowledge of such details. If these were pure fictions then you might
have a point. But was Josephus also dependent on the Markan narrative
when he described JB's baptism, call for repentance & arrest? Isn't it
more likely that such things were just common knowledge among 1st c.
As for J's association with tax-collectors & sinners: the Markan
pericope (Mark 2:15ff) is less damaging to J's reputation than is the Q
parallel (Matt 11:16ff//Luke 7:31ff). Do your really think Matt would
have invented the allegation that J was a drunk & a glutton on the basis
of the Markan story of J's dinner at Levi's & failed to compose a more
effective rebuttal than "Wisdom is justified by all her deeds"? Isn't it
more likely that these allegations against J by his critics were well
known quite apart from Mark's narrative?
As for "healing ministry" I don't think it is quite accurate to characterize Q's description of J's personal participation in such
activity as "extensive" (1 cure of a centurion's son, 1 exorcism of a
deaf-mute). To be sure, both of these pericopes presuppose that J has
cured others that are not described in Q. But where is there indication
in Q material that these other healings & exorcisms are those described
in Mark? Isn't it just plausible that HJ had the public reputation of
being a healer, quite apart from any knowledge of the Markan narrative.
The one Q passage that presupposes an "extensive" healing ministry is
J's mission instruction to his disciples to "cure the sick" (Matt 10:8//Luke 10:9). Mark doesn't represent J as giving such an instruction
but instead has J give the disciples authority over demons (Mark 3:15) &
unclean spirits (6:7) & even stresses that they were not very successful
at that (9:17ff). So how does this Q instruction presuppose knowledge of
Back to Mark G.:
As usual, there is a sound explanation for this: that there is no Q document and that
these presuppositions are simply those made by an evangelist who is composing this sayings material around a Markan foundation in
which these things are directly narrated.
There is also another "sound explanation" for this: that the Q passages
are independent of Mark & that both sources are evidence of pre-Markan
oral tradition. Since none of the Q-Markan parallels are exact equivalents I find this explanation more probable than the theory that
the author of the Q passages was directly dependent on Mark or vice versa.
Date: 18 Oct 2001 01:18
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Corey Liknes
CC: Crosstalk 2
Subject: Chreia Formation & Q
Corey Liknes wrote:
I have recently read an older article by Burton Mack in which he
suggests that Cynic-like aphorisms associated with Jesus were
elaborated upon or expanded by the Q community (or
other Jesus communities I suppose) for the purpose of social
formation. (Burton Mack, "Q and a Cynic-like Jesus" in Whose
Historical Jesus? Michael Desjardins & William Arnal, Eds.
Waterloo, ON: 1997).
I have two questions about this thesis. First, <SNIP>
I wonder where these original sayings came from. Gerald Downing and
Robert Price point out the connections with cynical sayings of the
time, but why would these sayings have to have been associated with
the teachings of Jesus? In other words, did someone just compile a
compendium of cynical sayings out of thin air as it were, and then apply the name
"Jesus" to them? And what purpose would that serve the
I guess I am just wondering how this concept of chreiai
elaboration works. It seems to me that the elaboration cannot take
place in a vacuum, but must instead be reliant to some degree on the
original narrative context in which these statements were made
-- unless of course the statements were never made by Jesus at all.
I sympathize with your quandry Corey, since it is difficult to get
Mack to commit himself on specifying what particular items in the
sayings tradition are traceable to HJ. One of the
reasons he left the JS was his lack of confidence in
the project of distinguishing the voice of HJ from that of his
tradants. Since he was more interested in the social formation of
knowledge, he preferred to speak of communities rather than
identifiable individuals generating/collecting sayings.
Without intending to champion Burt's reconstruction of Q or the social
history of the early Jesus movement, however, I think a couple of
clarifications will be help.
1. The Cynic hypothesis. Note that Mack postulates the sayings
tradition as originating with a "Cynic-like Jesus."
He doesn't identify HJ as a Cynic. But he calls attention to certain
parallels to Hellenistic Cynic traditions in the type of rhetoric
(social critique), forms (aphorism & chreia), & lifestyle (independence, itinerancy) found in the JS sayings tradition
(particularly the Q stratum but also Thomas). The fact that
these Cynic-like elements in Q are diluted, modified & transformed
in -- or many of those in GThom even excluded from
-- the fully developed canonical gospel tradition, leads Burt to
conclude that these elements must be from the original stages of the
Jesus movement. Thus, Burt concludes that the founder of that movement
(HJ) must also have been Cynic-like (not "cynical" in the
popular sense of that word).
2. Social Formation. In The Lost Gospel Mack writes:
"If we ask about the character of the speaker of this kind of
material, it has its nearest analogy in contemporary profiles of the
Cynic-sage. This is as close to the historical Jesus as Q allows
us to get, but it is close enough for us to reconstruct a beginning of
the movement that is both plausible and understandable. One should not
underestimate the attraction of a Cynic-like sagery capable of
enticing individuals into forming a discursive association."
Thus for Mack the analogy works at several levels. On the one hand HJ,
like Diogenes, was remembered to have uttered several startling quips
that challenged social conventions. These were largely unpremeditated,
off-the-cuff responses to situations he encountered. The force of HJ's
wit/radical wisdom in such situations. however, attracted followers
who recalled these sayings & repeated them [analogous to Diogenes
HJ's original sayings were simple quips or aphorisms -- i.e., sharp
pithy comments as distinct from common proverbs or maxims. In
repeating them & transmitting them to others the people attracted
to HJ had to contextualize them by creating a brief description
of a situation that prompted them (since HJ did not himself describe
the situtation that prompted his response). This contextualizing
creates the chreia. Once formulated, it provides "the
official" account of what prompted the sage to say what he did.
Mack, however, remains reluctant to identify the setting of any chreia
as an accurate recollection of the original occasion that
actually provoked the bon mot simply because we have ample
evidence in the gospels & in other chreia collections of
the same aphorism with very different chreia settings or without any chreia frame at all. So Burt would deny your
contention that the "elaboration" of the chreia
"must...be reliant to some degree on the original narrative
The narrative context is precisely what is not original. Narrative
contexts are always invented after the fact. How long after
& by whom (an eye-witness or a later orator or scribe) is often
impossible to tell. Even the ascription of a particular aphorism to a
particular sage is often questionable since communities tend to credit
their founder hero as the source of all the wisdom that that community
embraces. With the notable exception of rabbinic tradition, oral
communities generally resist complicating loyalties thru multiplying
the names/voices of authoritative teachers. And they tend to preserve
only those sayings that they find useful (hence the name chreia).
Once things get reduced to writing, a greater variety becomes
possible. Chreiai can be strung together & edited into
definitive biographies like the canonical gospels. But with the rise
of scribalism one comes to a stage of social formation that is even
further removed from the actual original social context of the radical itinerant "Cynic-like" sage --
in this case HJ.
Such are the observations/reasoning behind Mack's historical
P.S. Criticism of the Cynic hypothesis (à la Horsley) or
attempts to identify HJ as a millennial prophet (à la Allison)
only serve to increase historical skepticism that the
"Cynic-like" elements of the gospel sayings tradition can be
traced to HJ or force modern interpreters to recontextualize
these sayings by providing them with an apocalyptic narrative frame
that these sayings do not have in Q or even our canonical gospel
Date: Sat, 07 Feb 1998 03:42:28 -0500
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Stevan L. Davies
Subject: Thom 104 and Luke 11:1-3
Stevan Davies wrote:
One of the few things we can suspect that Thomas did do was to delete "coming
Kingdom" references, if any, in his sources, for he does construct a polemic against "looking to the future."
It does seem a phrase like "say to them, The reign of God has come near to
you," is one we have reason to think Thomas would delete. The phrase "heal the sick" isn't a phrase we have reason to think Thomas would delete.
Right. Thomas is getting it from wherever Q is getting it. [If Luke is getting it from Q.] Presumably Q is getting it from oral tradition. Presumably Thomas is also getting it from oral tradition. We can
suspect that the Thomas community oral tradition did not carry forward future kingdom references.
One might argue that Q has added "and say to them the Kingdom of God has come near to you" in light of its tendency to
create material about the future Kingdom and so we cannot be certain that it was contained in pre-Q oral tradition.
So we have two texts from oral tradition:
Q (which tends to add material about a coming kingdom)
Thomas (which tends to oppose the idea of the coming kingdom and, one may assume, deletes such material)
Mark Goodacre argues that Luke took this business and revised it into "Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you, heal the sick in it and say to them, 'the Kingdom of God has come close to you."
But I suggest that Luke took the saying found in Matthew (from Q, basically deleted by Luke as it stands) and conflated it with the Thomas saying. Luke dropped all the objectionable parts about gentiles and
Samaritans, but preserved the "As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near.' " business by adding it to the saying we know from Thomas.
Mahlon butts in:
I count myself an amateur when it comes to Thomas. But I know a bit about redaction criticism & I've done enough detailed tradition history
analyses of several Thomas/synoptic parallels to know that it is next to
impossible to prove that Thomas' version of any saying was directly dependent on any known synoptic text. Luke, on the other hand, expressly
claims that POLLOI have written before him. Unless this is a great exaggeration, this claim can be taken as evidence that Luke was familiar
with more than 2 sources (Mark + either Q or Matt, depending on your
redaction hypothesis). I think this tips the balance in favor of Steve
D's argument that Luke knew & used GThom in some stage of its composition rather than vice versa.
Steve D continues:
From a redactional perspective, it is certainly easier to envision Luke
inserting GThom 14:4 into Q's mission speech (which certainly contained
catchwords about visiting homes & curing the sick) than to picture
"Thomas" extracting Luke 10:8-9a from a coherent context, appending it
to irrelevant sayings (GThom 14:1-3) prohibiting prayer & alms (themes
that are treated Matt 6) & then justifying it by recalling (GThom 14:5)
the Matthean version of Jesus' paradoxical dictum on what does/does not
defile (Matt 15:11) that lacks any parallel in Luke. Any person who did
the latter would have had to have a highly selective memory for the details of controversial sayings but total amnesia when it came to the
context these sayings had in his alleged sources.
Yet, Steve, I cannot let pass your generalization that Q "tends to add
material about a coming kingdom." If you said this about Mark, I would
say: Amen! [e.g.: Mk 9:1]. But the only explicit reference to a "coming"
kingdom in Q is the prayer invocation (Luke 11:2 // Matt 6:10) that is
traceable to the Qaddish. A phrase that is integral to a common Jewish
prayer could be cited as typical of a Christian writer's perspective
only if one could point to the same phrase in other passages. But where
are they? Luke 10:9 (// Matt 10:7) declares that the kingdom has
arrived [HGGIKEN] as does Luke 11:20 (// Matt 12:28) [albeit with a different
verb (EFQASEN)]. True, these verbs imply a transition. But the point is,
in Q the BASILEIA is no longer imminent (i.e., not yet present but due
to arrive in the near future); rather, it is just as present & immanent
as it is in GThom. The analogies to mustard seed & leaven presuppose a
mundane presence that is open to expansion. In fact, its presence is
datable to the transition from John to Jesus (Luke 16:16 // Matt 11:12).
The fact, that people are urged to seek it (Luke 12:31 // Matt 6:33) is
no more a sign of the BASILEIA's absence in Q than in Thomas. God's kingdom is here; people just fail to perceive it since they are looking
for something great like John (Luke 7:28 // Matt 11:11). Q does not anticipate the advent of God's kingdom but rather the advent of gentiles
coming to dine with the patriarchs (Luke 13:28 // Matt 8:11).
Date: Sun, 08 Feb 1998 22:51
From: Mahlon H. Smith
To: Stevan L. Davies
Subject: Re: Th 104 and Luke 11:1-3
I wrote (regarding the hypothesis that GThom used the synoptics):
Any person who did the latter would have had to have a highly selective memory for the details of controversial sayings but total amnesia when it came to the context these sayings had in his alleged sources.
Steve D. replied:
Boy doesn't that sentence cry out for somebody, perhaps moi, to observe "this is exactly the nature of oral tradition!" which remembers details of controversial sayings but knows nothing of
the context of those sayings in written sources.
I agree with you, Steve! That was precisely my point: Thomas is always
easier to explain as compiling fragments of oral tradition (sometimes in
weird contexts) rather than recalling material from any known synoptic
text (including Q). Thomas admittedly has many parallels to material
found in Q, special M & special L. But GThom's total disregard for the
Matthean and Lukan contexts is better interpreted as evidence that he
was ignorant of the latter than as the result of selective editing.
Q does not anticipate the advent of God's kingdom but rather the advent of gentiles coming to dine with the patriarchs (Luke 13:28 // Matt 8:11).
13:28-29 You will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and
Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. Men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.
Whatever this means it is something that will happen in the apocalyptic future! Those hoary patriarchs and their Mayan friends are not yet sitting at the table nor are you yourself cast out yet.
I never denied that Q had apocalyptic tendencies or made predictions
about the future. What I was questioning is your generalization that Q
"tends to add material about a coming kingdom." I was simply demanding
precision about terminology in characterizing Q's concept of God's
BASILEIA. I repeat: aside from the prayer petition there is simply no
reference in Q material to God's kingdom "coming." One prayer petition
does not constitute a redactional tendency. If one analyzes the Q
sayings in which the word BASILEIA explicitly occurs (which is the only
way to determine how this author used the "kingdom" motif) God's kingdom
is the subject of a present proclamation. And what is proclaimed is either that the kingdom
arrived (perfect or aorist tenses) or simply simply is.
The reason that this is not often noticed is the persistence of the notion that all references to God's kingdom imply an apocalyptic
framework in which God's BASILEIA is an eternal state at the end of time. But that is not how Q describes it. Q explicitly compares God's
kingdom to mundane things that develop (mustard seed & leaven) & things
happen within it (some enter, some feast, some get tossed out). In fact,
judging from that problematic Q saying (Luke 16:16 // Matt 11:12-13)
about people forcing their way into God's kingdom (BIAZETAI = present
tense!) Q conceived of God's kingdom as a rather lively realm (BIAZW is
the verbal form of BIOS).
The two future tenses in Q's saying about diners in God's BASILEIA predict a radical restructuring of the
clientele who qualify for admission into God's realm. Those who pride themselves as heirs to the
patriarchs will discover that genealogy does not guarantee a free meal
ticket. The future tense in this saying only implies that the Israelites
to whom this was addressed do not yet realize this, not that the standards for admission were not already in effect.
22:28-30 You are those who have continued with me in my trials; as my
Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And this the same. ... this is the apocalyptic future. I note, incidentally, in reference to a previous interminable
Crosstalk thread, that we decided that these twelve tribes were the restored
twelve pre-722, which folks are scattered to the four winds, some in the land of the Maya, mainly around Tikal, I'd suspect, and others digging peat in Ireland. They return, oh happy day, from "east and
west, and from north and south," and so one should read 13:29 not
to have anything to do with gentiles.
Granted, Luke 22:28-30 // Matt 19:28 is an apocalyptic prediction about
occupants of thrones. But note: it says nothing about God's kingdom. And
the fact that Jesus' alleged reference to "my kingdom" (twice) is found
only in Luke leaves this saying with questionable value as an illustration Q's use of the term BASILEIA. Matthew's parallelism between
the Son of Man seated on his throne & the 12 seated on theirs "in
judgment" is a more coherent logical structure for this saying &
therefore arguably closer to the original version in Q.
As for your point about who is admitted to the kingdom in Luke 13:29.
Granted the word "gentile" is not used. And it is plausible that this
saying might have originally referred to an ingathering of Israelites
from the Diaspora à la Isa 66.
But within the context of Q this reading is unlikely. For Q opened with
JB's warning that God could create children for Abraham from the stones
& explicitly identified a centurion (obviously not a Jew) as demonstrating more faith than any in Israel. The towns in which Jesus &
his emissaries worked are warned that even notorious pagan cities like
Sodom & Gomorrah would be better off. And the judgment is portrayed as
having goyim like the Queen of the South & even the men of
up to judge "this evil GENEA" (literally, a genetic line). So, it is
unlikely that the author of Q regarded those who would come from the 4
points of the compass to dine in God's kingdom as Diaspora Jews.
Furthermore, what is one to make of these?
17:24 As the lightning lights up the sky from one side to the other, so
will Son of man be in his day.
17:26-27 As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the
Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the
flood came and destroyed then all.
17:28-30 As it was in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought,
they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and brimstone rained from heaven and
destroyed them all. So will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed.
I have always naively thought that this first century version of
nuclear war was in reference to the Kingdom of God finally showing up. After it shows up the few, the proud, will be gagging down the
grilled ham and cheese (no Torah in the New Dispensation) with the Mayans AFTER the awful Day of the Son of Man.
Am I to think we have two different things? A day of the son of man which is not connected to the arrival of the Kingdom? Or what? I'm open to suggestion here.
To answer your last question first, Steve: in one word, yes. The Day(s) of the
Son of Man cannot simply be equated with the BASILEIA TOU QEOU.
E. A. Abbott long ago pointed out that the terms "Son of Man" and "Kingdom of
God" never occur in the same sayings in the NT. Early writers had a tendency to confuse the two, so Matthew could substitute predictions
about the parousia of the Son of Man for Markan statements about the
kingdom's coming. But for clarity sake one has to analyze the development & connotations of distinct concepts separately.
The parousia of the son of Man is a peculiarly Matthean motif. So you
are probably correct in assuming that the Lukan "day(s)" of the son of
Man is original to Q. Luke 17:30 is an explicit apocalyptic prediction:
there "will be" (ESTAI) a day when the son of man "will be revealed"
(APOKALYPTETAI). The question is whether it comes from Q or Luke, since
Matthew has no parallel to Luke 17:28-30. Reconstructions of Q usually
accept it (hence the designation of this whole group of son of Man sayings in Luke 17 as the Q apocalypse). My own studies of the
development of the son of Man logia, however, led me to the conclusion
that this saying is better traced to Lukan redaction (anticipating Luke's version of the Markan apocalypse of the son of Man in Lk 21:27).
But in either case, none of the sayings in Luke 17 justifies the conclusion that God's kingdom is an order instituted only
after a cataclysm precipitated by the advent of the son of Man. [In fact, Luke
17:21 (which is not from Q) introduces God's BASILEIA as already present
BEFORE predicting the son of Man's "day"]. Q presented God's BASILEIA as
the order initiated after JB -- who was already a figure of the past
(Luke 7:28, 16:16) -- rather than sometime in the apocalyptic future. Q's
interpretation of the day of son of Man as a time of judgment & cataclysm probably was
part of its persistent warning of the rejection of Israelites who did
not receive Jesus.
Note three Q passages:
(1) God's kingdom is described as a table fellowship (Luke 13:29);
(2) The Son of Man is described as one who came eating & drinking (Luke
(3) The days of the the Son of Man are compared to Noah's when people ate & drank (Luke 17:26). But this ceased when Noah (and presumably the
Son of Man) entered "the ark."
Hence, the "deluge" follows the disappearance of the Son of Man and the
open meal fellowship that characterized Q's concept of God's kingdom
(cf. parable of banquet & other Q sayings about eating & drinking). Q's
anticipation of a renewed "day" of the Son of Man is focused on the judgment & exclusion of those Israelites who refused to participate in
the kingdom banquet that HJ initiated.
Does that clarify my intervention?
to Standard Abbreviations
||Two Source hypothesis
||material special to Matt
||The Five Gospels
||minor agreements (of Matt & Luke in non-Q material)
||by the way
||non-Markan material in Matt
||Gospel of John
||Gospel of Thomas
||source of non-Markan sayings
common to Matt & Luke
||the historical Jesus
||earliest draft of Q
||Society of Biblical Literature
||John the Baptist
||Signs Gospel (early stratum of GJohn)
||the Jesus Seminar
|K of G
||kingdom of God
||material special to Luke
||winking smiley face (to