Matthias Klinghardt responded to Mark Goodacre’s 2002 book, The Case Against Q, with an article proposing a Marcionite solution to the Synoptic Problem: “The Marcionite Gospel and the Synoptic Problem: A New Suggestion” published in Novum Testamentum, 2008.
For those of us who like to be reminded, here are the traditional theories on the Synoptic Problem:
The Griesbach or Two-Gospel theory — that Mark was the last gospel to be composed — is a minority view. Recently published proponents are William R. Farmer, Allan McNicol and David Peabody (Klinghardt, p.2).
Arguments for Markan priority — summed up in Goodacre’s book as the case against the Griesbach hypothesis — have persuaded most scholars so for the purposes of this discussion Klinghardt [MK] does not call this into question. It is the major part of The Case Against Q that has proved controversial and that MK addresses. Criticism against Goodacre’s thesis has also come from
- John S. Kloppenborg (2003),
- F. G. Downing (2001),
- Paul Foster (2003),
- Christopher M. Tuckett (2004) (review)
- and C. S. Rodd (2003) (review).
- (The above are referenced by MK. Other responses can be found via Mark Goodacre’s site.)
MK begins by noting two positive arguments supporting Goodacre’s argument for the Farrer hypothesis (also known as the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis) that Mark alone (without Q) was the primary source for both Matthew and Luke, and that Luke also knew and revised Matthew:
- the minor agreements (e.g. both Luke (22:64) and Matthew (26:68) have the mockers of Jesus taunt with “Who is it who struck you?”, but this is not found in Mark)
- the hypothetical nature of Q
On the question of the minor agreements MK sides with Goodacre:
As for the minor agreements, Goodacre has a strong point insisting on the principal independence of Matthew and Luke according to the 2DH. This excludes the evasive solution that, although basically independent from one another, Luke knew and used Matthew in certain instances.
Methodologically, it is not permissible to develop a theory on a certain assumption and then abandon this very assumption in order to get rid of some left over problems the theory could not sufficiently explain. The methodological inconsistency of this solution would be less severe, if “Q” existed. But since “Q” owes its existence completely to the conclusions drawn from a hypothetical model, such an argument flies in the face of logic: it annuls its own basis.
This is the reason why Goodacre’s reference to the hypothetical character of “Q” carries a lot of weight. More weight, certainly, than Kloppenborg would concede: he tries to insinuate that Mark is as hypothetical as “Q”, since Mark “is not an extant document, but a text that is reconstructed from much later manuscripts.” This exaggeration disguises the critical point: the hypothetical character of the “document Q” would certainly not pose a problem, if “Q” was based on existing manuscript evidence the way Mark is.
It is, therefore, important to see that these two objections are closely related to each other: They prove that the minor agreements are, in fact, “fatal to the Q hypothesis”. (my formatting)
But there are problems with thinking that Luke knew Matthew, as MK notes:
- Luke gives no evidence of his knowing material that is “special” to Matthew (“M”). (My interjection here: this is an odd way to phrase the problem, is it not? If Luke gave us evidence he “knew” of “M” it wouldn’t be “M”.) Consider also Matthew’s unique account of Pilate’s wife’s dream (27:19) and Peter’s confession and beatitude (16:16-19)
- MK: “Then there is the problem of alternating priority: Although in some instances Luke’s version of double tradition material seems to presuppose Matthew, there are a number of striking counter-examples, among which Luke’s wording of the Lord’s prayer or the first beatitude rank highest.”
- The double tradition is the material (circa 200 verses) shared by Matthew and Luke, but absent in Mark. It consists almost entirely of Jesus’ sayings and teachings, and includes most of the Sermon on the Mount and most parables. In addition to these, the double tradition includes a three-verse quotation (Mt. 3:8-10) that is attributed to John the Baptist (the last verse of this quotation also appears in Mt. 7:19, attributed to Jesus) and the story of centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5-13).
- MK: In some cases, the arrangement of double tradition material does not make any sense at all if Luke made use of Matthew as it becomes particularly apparent with the material of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and its Lukan counterparts. Although these observations carry different weight, their cumulative force renders Luke’s simple dependence on Matthew highly improbable. In light of the double tradition material, one is inclined to suggest a Matthean dependence on Luke rather than the other way round.
Klinghardt acknowledges the strength of Goodacre’s critique of the existing hypotheses, but is forced to concede that his solution to the problem is less convincing.
So we have a situation where sometimes the material in Luke seems to be earlier than what we find in Matthew (e.g. Luke’s “blessed are the poor” against Matthew’s “blessed are the poor in spirit”), and in other times we have Matthean material that looks earlier than what we find in Luke. To resolve this dilemma MK introduces Marcion’s gospel:
There is, however, an additional, yet long neglected text which indubitably belongs in the maze of the synoptic tradition and which, contrary to the hypothetically reconstructed document “Q”, is well attested by ancient sources: the gospel of Marcion, or, more precisely, the gospel which was used by Marcion and the Marcionites (hereafter: Mcn).
Adding Macion’s Gospel to the Question
Marcion’s gospel has never been considered as part of a solution before because it has long been considered to have been an abridged version of the Gospel of Luke. Church Fathers had accused Marcion of deleting passages contrary to his own theology, and scholarship ceased to seriously debate the question from the mid nineteenth century on.
Nonetheless, MK informs us that throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries there was a considerable number of scholars
who proposed the opposite view and claimed that Mcn be prior to Luke, Luke thus being an enlarged re-edition of Mcn. Among them were exegetical heavyweights such as Johann Salomo Semler, Johann Georg Eichhorn, and Albrecht Ritschl. . . . . [T]heir critique of the traditional view has never really been disproved: many cogent reasons for Mcn’s priority to Luke are still valid, which means that in many ways it is much easier to regard Luke as an enlarged edition of Mcn than the other way round. This view was convincingly, yet without any consequences, repeated in the 20th century by John Knox.
MK’s note: Knox reflected on why his theses were never accepted in Jesus, the Gospels, and the Church: Essays in Honor of William R. Farmer)
MK sums up his previously argued case for the priority of Mcn’s gospel to our Gospel of Luke:
- All the ancient sources — Irenaeus 1.27.4; 3.12.12; Tertullian 4.6.2-4; Epiphanius 42.9.5-6; 10.3, 5; Adamantius, Dial. 2.18 — admit they are attempting to refute Marcion “on the ground of his own gospel”. That is, if Marcion had really edited the gospel to suit his own theological agenda, he had done a very poor job of it. Tertullian tried to argue that Marcion had deliberately retained passages that contradicted his own views in order to claim that he made no changes at all (4.43.7)!
- “I am sorry for you, Marcion: your labour has been in vain. Even in your gospel Christ Jesus is mine” (Tertullian 4.43.9).
- Who edited whom? Marcion did not complain that catholic Christians changed his gospel after he presumably edited it to reflect Pauline teachings. Rather, he accused them of altering his gospel in order to make it compatible with the Old Testament. Tertullian, similarly, accused Marcion of editing his canonical version of Luke. It thus appears “that Marcion’s assessment as reported by Tertullian might be correct.”
- Marcion’s gospel “did not contain any additional, non-Lukan texts”. If Marcion were editing canonical Luke then this procedure would be unique. “There is not a single example of a contemporary re-edition of an older text that did not support its editorial concept by including additional material.”
- The relation of Luke-Acts poses a problem.
- Either Marcion found Luke-Acts as a combined text in a New Testament canon, in which case he removed both Acts and the prologues. This would assume that substantial parts of the New Testament canon preceded Marcion which seems improbable given Harnack’s and Campenhausen’s ideas on the emergence of the canon;
- Or Marcion did not know Luke-Acts as part of a New Testament canon, and only chose to use Luke. But this runs into the problem of the the combined work being written by an anonymous “I” in the prologue. The identity of this “I” in Luke 1:1-4 would not be an issue given the superscription ascribing the work to Luke in the canon.
- The easy solution, MK says, is that “Marcion’s charge was correct and that a catholic interpolation incorporated ‘his’ gospel into the canonical bible of the Old and New Testament, made some editorial additions and feigned Luke-Acts as a literary unity.”
- The differences between Marcion’s gospel and canonical Luke “are best understood as editorial additions in Luke rather than reductions by Mcn.” Most obvious: Luke’s adding to Mcn’s beginning of 3:1a (that admiral place to start a gospel); and the change of sequence of 4:31-37 and 4:16-30 (having Jesus appear in Nazareth before Capernaum).
It is apparent that the historical Marcion did not create “his” gospel but simply shared an older, already existing gospel. It is labelled “Mcn” here because this particular “Proto-Luke” is well attested to be utilized later by Marcion and the Marcionites.
Testing the Case
To test whether Marcion’s gospel thus does indeed have a rightful place among “the usual suspects responsible for the literary relations between the synoptics”, MK takes a number of examples from Mark Goodacre’s Case Against Q that particularly focus on the relation between Matthew and Luke. Although there is uncertainty about much of Marcion’s gospel, “the general picture is clear enough: in a good number of cases [Tertullian and Epiphanius] explicitly claim certain passages (of Luke) to be present or absent in Mcn.”
Matthew’s additions to triple tradition material not found in Luke
If Luke used Matthew, why did he omit
- John the Baptist’s objection to baptizing Jesus in Mat. 3:15?
- Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees when they accused his disciples of plucking corn on the sabbath, Matt. 12:5-7?
- The full quotation of Isaiah to explain why Jesus taught in parables, Matt. 13: 14-17?
- Peter walking on water (Matt. 14:28-31)?
- Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ and the blessing Jesus gave him (Matt. 16:16-19)?
- Jesus’ command to love in his reply to the rich young man (Matt. 19:19)?
- Pilate’s wife’s dream and Pilate washing his hands (Matt. 27: 19, 24)?
(These passages are referred to as Matthew’s additions to the “Triple Tradition” material not found in Luke.)
Some of these additions in Matthew would have suited Luke’s agenda admirably, so their omission from Luke stands as evidence that Luke did not know Matthew’s gospel. But the arguments are negative. MK believes that a check with Marcion’s gospel enables a positive argument:
Luke does not have the Matthean additions to Mark, because his main source was neither Mark nor Matthew, but Mcn. All but one of these examples are reported to be part of Mcn. . . .
- Luke’s abridged account of Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees when challenged over the corn plucking on the sabbath (6:4-5) is what we find in Marcion’s gospel — according to Tertullian and Epiphanius.
- Peter walking on water is part of the “Great Omission” — the absence of all material in Mark 6:45 to 8:26 from Luke. It should appear between Luke 9:17 and 9:18. Tertullian confirms that Marcion’s gospel also had these verses (9:17 and 9:18) together. So here Luke was following Mcn, neither Mark nor Matthew.
- Peter’s confession and Christ’s blessing should appear between Luke 9:20 and 9:21. Again Luke was following Marcion’s text here (according again to Tertullian).
- The restrictive clause of fornication in Jesus’ teaching about adultery and re-marriage is not found in Mcn (Tertullian) and hence not in Luke. Tertullian had to turn to Matthew to argue against Marcion on this point.
- The story of the rich young ruler is well attested as part of Marcion’s gospel, since his critics used its reference to “God the father” against Marcion. Marcion’s text omitted the command to love found in Matt. 19:19 — and Luke followed Marcion’s text here.
- Tertullian and others do not give us enough evidence to know what Marcion’s text included about the trial of Jesus.
- Marcion’s gospel did not contain a baptism scene nor John the Baptist, so Luke could not follow Mcn here. MK suggests that Luke’s omission of Matthew’s claim that Jesus was “fulfilling all righteousness” is not surprising given his own theological agenda.)
(I realize there is a slight mis-match here in my summary between the initial Matthean additions and MK’s responses: but have decided to leave it stand for now — time constraints, etc.)
Special Matthew material (“M”) not present in Luke
Mark Goodacre argues this is not present in Luke because “Luke did not like it” while John Kloppenborg argues that “Luke would have liked it”.
But MK claims that if Luke followed Mcn then he was not “omitting” anything, but simply following this third source.
In the case of the birth narratives, MK agrees with those who argue that Luke did use Matthew here. There are the clear parallels between the virginal conception, the names of Jesus’ parents, the place of birth, etc.
Further, it is possible to show that the direction of influence was from Matthew to Luke — that Matthew’s account was the original one.
The whole logic of the narrative of Jesus being born in Bethlehem makes sense only for Matthew: he knew from Mark 1:9, 24 etc. that Jesus came from Nazareth but nevertheless was interested in depicting him as a descendant of David and did so by locating his birth in “Bethlehem of Judea” (Matt. 2:1, 5-6) whose christological importance is underlined by the formula quotation.
(I still question whether Nazareth was mentioned in Mark and if Matthew was attempting to explain an alternative meaning for the theologically contentious Nazarene epithet.)
So Matthew solved the conflict by bringing in the Herodian slaughter of the innocents, the flight to Egypt, . . . at each step stressing the theme of the “newborn king of the Jews” against the illegitimate (non-Davidic) king with formulaic quotations.
It is, therefore, evident that the Matthean “Bethlehem” is a necessary element in a well-crafted context.
Luke took over Bethlehem but without its central role in the narrative logic. Luke is more interested in the universal circumstances of Jesus’ birth than the Davidic theme.
So Matthew’s birth narrative can no longer be said to be “M” material. It can be seen to have had an influence on Luke.
The alternating primitivity of the double tradition material
One of the main reasons for the development of the two source hypothesis was the way Matthew sometimes appears to be using a more primitive form of a saying while in other cases it is Luke who appears to contain the more primitive version. By adding Q, one could argue that in some cases Matthew was copying from this in its original form and in others he was modifying his source. Ditto for Luke.
But MK offers something else:
On the assumption of Mcn being prior to Luke the observation of alternating primitivity finds a completely different and rather simple solution.
He considers four main examples where Luke seems to have a more primitive text than Matthew.
- It seems improbable that Luke would have changed Matthew’s “blessed are the poor in spirit” to “blessed are the poor”. But we learn from Tertullian (4.14.1) that Luke was following Mcn.
- The final beatitude in Matthew has Jesus mention suffering evil “on my account” while Luke has “on behalf of the Son of Man”. Tertullian again attests that what we read in Luke was in Mcn.
- Matthew’s Lord’s Prayer is more elaborate than Luke’s. Tertullian’s evidence leads us to infer that the shorter prayer was the form in the original Mcn. Further, Mcn had Jesus pray for “the spirit” to come rather than “the kingdom”. This original Lukan passage survived in a few medieval manuscripts before eventually being uniformly “corrected” to conform to Matthew’s version.
- Matthew 12:28 says that exorcism of demons was the work of the spirit, but Luke 11:29 attributes the feat to “the finger of God”. Tertullian (4.26.11) informs us that Mcn also had “finger of God”.
This evidence points to Luke using Mcn, and to some of Matthew’s elaborations must be Mathew adding to Mcn, also.
Luke’s presumed re-ordering of Matthean material
The major example here is the Sermon on the Mount. MK finds it hard to accept Mark Goodacre’s explanation that Luke would have broken up well-arranged structure of Matthew 5 to 7 and scattered it over a dozen different places throughout Luke 11 to 16.
But again, including Mcn in the discussion changes the picture completely. . . The overall picture [of Tertullian’s evidence of Mcn] confirms not only Luke’s direct dependence on Mcn but also demonstrated that Matthew collected the material for the composition of the Sermon on the Mount from different places in Mcn.
1. Matt. 5:13 // Luke 14:34-35 (parable of salt):—
2. Matt. 5:15 // Luke 11:33 (parable of light): Tert. 4.27.1.
3. Matt. 5:18 // Luke 16:17 (imperishability of the law): Tert. 4.33.9.
4. Matt. 5:25 // Luke 12:57-59 (on reconciling with your opponent): Tert. 4.29.15.
5. Matt. 5:32 // Luke 16:18 (on divorce and re-marriage): Tert. 4.34.1, 4.
6. Matt. 6:9-13 // Luke 11:2-4 (Lord’s prayer): Tert. 4.26.3-5.
7. Matt. 6:19-21 // Luke 12:33-34 (on collecting treasures):—
8. Matt. 6:22-23 // Luke 11:34-36 (parable of the eye):—
9. Matt. 6:24 // Luke 16:13 (on serving two masters): Tert. 4.33.1-2; Adam., Dial. 1.26.
10. Matt. 6:25-34 // Luke 12:22-31 (on anxiety): Tert. 4.29.1-5.58
11. Matt. 7:7-11 // Luke 11:9-13 (God’s answering of prayer): Tert. 4.26.5-10; Epiph. 42.11.6 (schol. 24).
12. Matt. 7:13-14 // Luke 13:23-24 (the narrow gate):—
13. Matt. 7:22-23 // Luke 13:26-27 (warning against self-deception): Tert. 4.30.4.
The minor agreements between Matthew and Luke within the triple tradition material
To cover MK’s argument here would involve too much detailed complexity. I will mention only a few details here.
The prime example is, of course, the addition of the five words τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε [“who struck you”] to Mark 14:65 in Luke 22:64 and Matt. 26:68.
These extra words are “well enough attested for Mcn” (Epiphanius, Panar. 42.11.6)
Another case that can be checked against Mcn:
In the Markan version of the pericope about the true relatives (Mark 3:31-5 par.), Jesus is being told that “his mother and his brothers and his sisters are seeking him outside.”65 Luke (8:20) and Matthew (12:47) agree in leaving out the “sisters” (a negative agreement) and in adding that they were “standing outside” (ἔξω ἑστήκασιν). This is exactly what Tertullian read in Mcn. (my emphasis)
And again with the mustard seed:
Similarly, in the parable of the mustard seed, Luke and Matthew use a formulation different from Mark: Mark describes the action of sowing in the passive voice and does not name a subject. Both Matthew and Luke use the active voice, mention the subject and note that the man threw the seed on his own soil. Tertullian, again, attests this very phrase for Mcn.
A last example is the annunciation of Jesus’ passion and resurrection (Mark 8:31 par.): Mark dates the resurrection “after three days (μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας),” whereas Matthew (16:21) and Luke (9:22) both give the ordinal number “on the third day (τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ)”, as does Mcn.
MK also explains that Mcn cannot explain all of the minor agreements. I skip the extra details for now. His conclusion, however, Matthew and Luke both used Mcn and that Luke at times did also draw upon Matthew.
Adding Marcion to the picture
Adapting MK’s diagram:
The thick arrows, 1, 2, 3, are the main influences: narrative outline is copied and there is verbal agreement.
The dashed arrows, a and b, indicate additional but minor influences of Mcn on Matthew and Luke, with some influences from Matthew to Luke’s re-edition of Marcion.
Matthew followed Mark closely but at times added some material from Marcion, often editing it in the process:
- The sermon in the plain (Mcn – to beome Lk – 6:20-49)
- The healing of the centurion’s boy (7:1-10)
- John the Baptist’s question (7:18-23)
- On following Jesus (9:57-62)
- Commissioning of the apostles (10:1-11)
- Thanksgiving to the father and the beatitude of the disciples (10:21-24)
- The Lord’s prayer (11:1-4)
- Teaching about prayer (11:9-13)
- Exhortation to fearless confession (parts) (12:2-5, 8-9)
- Teaching on anxiety (12:22-27, 29-32)
- Interpreting the times (12:20-21)
- Parable of the great supper (14:15-24)
- Parable of the lost sheep (15:3-7)
- Concerning law and divorce (16:16-18)
- On forgiveness (17:3-4)
- Parable of the good and wicked servants (12:41-46)
A detailed discussion will have to await another post if there is enough interest — or I simply invite interested readers to acquire a copy of the article. To mention a few points only, here:
There is a double influence on Matthew within the triple tradition material that now shows up in Matthew and Luke. “These are the major and minor agreements.”
The b line influence from Matthew on Luke includes the birth stories, Jesus’ genealogy, Jesus’ baptism and temptation.
Matthew’s “sign of Jonah” is taken over by Luke, but this was not in Mcn.
One detail Luke copied from Mark was the parable of the wicked husbandmen (20:9-18)
Marcion’s gospel ended with 24:43 “so the ascension and the disciples’ return to Jerusalem are Lukan additions as well.”
So far, the diagram and its additional explanations should provide the general idea of how the picture changes when Mcn is included in the solution of the synoptic problem. When I discussed this model with my students, they immediately responded that it was too complicated to be convincing (which was somewhat discouraging at the moment). But how complicated is too complicated?
In its favour MK lists
The inclusion of Mcn avoids the methodological weakness of the 2DH/2SH with regard to the minor agreements and the hypothetical character of Q. The alternating primitivity between Matthew and Luke is explained.
The reason for its initial impression of complexity is the result, MK points out, of “a major shift in methodology when compared to 19th century source-criticism.” Instead of simply adding sources on the assumption that the evangelists were mere compilers and editors, this model accounts for them being competent authors with ability to merge and adapt sources to fit their narrative and theological needs.
[W]hereas the 2DH tried to explain the complexity of the data by the addition of two basic sources (Mark + Q), the inclusion of Mcn demonstrates that both Matthew and Luke received their triple tradi- tion material via two different routes: Matthew read Mark directly and in its revised edition in Mcn, and Luke used Mcn both directly and in Matthew’s revised and enlarged edition. Since Luke, as it was demonstrated, also did know and use Mark, Mark was present in all stages of the synoptic tradition. The editorial procedure of both, Matthew and Luke, was not a mere addition of “sources” but a comparison of texts and concepts. This is fully consonant with the insight of the redaction history that the evangelists were ambitious and competent authors rather than mere editors. (my emphasis)
MK concludes with the comment that his paper does not cover all of the implications and consequences of the Mcn hypothesis, but it does serve as an attempt to break new ground for further discussion of the Synoptic Problem.
Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)
- The Two Witnesses in Revelation 11: the theories - 2022-06-24 21:19:47 GMT+0000
- Revelation 12: The Woman, the Child, the Dragon – Wellhausen’s view - 2022-06-22 10:37:43 GMT+0000
- Measuring the Temple in Revelation 11 – the Questions Arising - 2022-06-20 22:36:35 GMT+0000
If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!