Christian Hermann Weisse     1801-1866  

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Pioneer of the Two Source hypothesis that became the prevailing solution to the synoptic problem among later biblical scholars. Weisse was a native of Leipzig, who had the rare academic opportunity of never having to leave home. In 1828 he joined the philosophy faculty at the University of Leipzig & lectured there in theology as well. His 1838 masterpiece The Gospel History examined critically & philosophically presented a lucid synthesis of the insights of K. Lachmann & F. Schleiermacher. His work was not generally recognized by biblical scholars, however, until H.J. Holtzmann developed it as the basis of his own widely used history of the synoptic gospels. While Weisse's contributions were overshadowed by Holtzmann's, many of his observations on the priority of Mark merit citation:

The very Hebraisms of our gospel [of Mark] are...a tell-tale indication of his independence & originality. On the one hand, it is possible to label this characteristic as awkwardness and clumsiness.... On the other hand, ...[it] conveys the impression of a fresh naturalness and an unpretentious spontaneity, which distinguishes Mark's presentation most markedly from all other gospel accounts...

Where [Matthew] stays closer to his predecessor's account he tries to smooth its roughness, to purge it of its idiomatic expressions, and especially to substitute more varied and complicated constructions for Mark's monotonously recurring connection of independent clauses with "and."

The third evangelist is a model paraphraser who deliberately tries to transform Mark's brittle account into a flowing narrative, to round its edges, and to improve the connection in detail with all kinds of pragmatic asides.

...With respect to both the arrangement as a whole and to the arrangement of words in individual cases, the two other gospels agree with each other always & only insofar as the also agree with Mark. However, whenever they deviate from Mark, they also every instance mutually from each other.

Weisse further noted that Matthew particularly has a number of doublets in which the same material is repeated with little variation. One passage of each pair is always in the same narrative location as in Mark. The other he traced to the Matthean sayings source. While Luke has fewer doublets, Weisse also noted that Luke regularly omits the Markan version of such sayings in favor of the other version found in Matthew. Yet, since Luke did not put these passages in the same location as Matthew, Weisse concluded:

It is our most certain conviction that not only Mark but also Matthew's collection of sayings is a source common to both.

Others had argued for the priority of the gospel of Mark (G. C. Storr, J. G. von Herder, K. Lachman, C. G. Wilke). Schleiermacher argued that Matthew was based on an earlier sayings source. Weisse is to be credited with combining the two & noting that Luke also apparently used the same non-Markan sayings source as Matthew. J. Weiss later dubbed this sayings source Q.

[For further details & quotations see W. G. Kümmel The New Testament: the History of the Investigation of its Problems (ET NY/Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972) pp. 149-151].

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last revised 31 October 2021

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