Formation of the Synoptic Gospels: Mark, Matthew, Luke
Basic Explanation of Theory
The dominant theory accepted by most Newer Testament scholars is the Two Source Hypothesis (2SH). According to this hypothesis, Mark, the earliest gospel, is used by Matthew and Luke independently of each other. Matthew and Luke do not use each other. However, because Matthew and Luke agree or share common material that is absent from Mark, another source of material is postulated that Matthew and Luke also used independently of each other. This source is referred to as Q, which is short for Quelle, a German term that only means “source”. Keep in mind, the argument for the Two Source Hypothesis is a cumulative one: There is no direct evidence available to us that definitively indicates the absolute validity of this theory. Furthermore, any one, two or three details or points taken in isolation or even together can suggest a variety of possibilities. In other words, various minor details, all taken together, lead scholars to accept this explanation as the most likely one.
Here’s the dominant model showing the relationships between the texts:
(No model. Go to the following url to see: http://www.mindspring...)
Before we move on to explain why specifically it is believed that Mark takes priority, that is, the argument that Matthew and Luke use Mark independently, I want to first answer the question: Why couldn’t Matthew have used Luke, or vice versa?
Reasons for Luke and Matthew's independence
1. There is a large amount of material in Matthew and Luke absent from Mark that is also exclusive to Matthew and Luke. In other words, Matthew has material that Luke doesn’t, and vice versa. Thus, it is easier, for example, to understand that Luke omits large portions of Matthew because he doesn’t have Matthew in front of him.
2. Shared material between Matthew and Luke occurs in different narrative settings, that is, similar or the same material is placed in very different parts of each narrative. This contrasts their common use of Mark. Matthew and Luke, where they both agree with Mark, follow the basic structure of Mark’s narrative. Yet, narratively Matthew and Luke don’t follow each other where they agree.
3. Both Matthew and Luke contain the same or similar material, which appears in a more primitive form or narrative structure relative to the other. Sometimes Matthew’s material that is parallel to Luke’s appears in a form that is more refined than Luke’s, and vice versa. The question that arises is, for example, if Luke used Matthew to compose his Gospel, why are there passages in Luke that use the material in a context that appears less refined than how Matthew uses it? If Luke depended on Matthew, or vice versa, one would at least expect a certain consistent level of refinement, if not improvement on the other. Thus, scholars posit that Matthew and Luke wrote independently of which other, with Q, of course, being the common source of material. Again, see Matthew 6.24 and Luke 16.13, and Matthew 7.7-8 and Luke 11:9-10. In the former case, Matthew’s passage appears in the context of various loosely connected sayings of Jesus; Luke’s passage appears in the context of a parable to help explain the parable.
4. There are doublets throughout Matthew and Luke. Doublets are two differing accounts of one event. One part of the doublet in Matthew and Luke clearly comes out of Mark, given wording and its placement in the narratives (Mark 8.34-35, Matthew 16.24, and Luke 9.23: The same phrase appears right after Peter’s confession). The other part of the doublet is absent from Mark, but present in differing contexts in Matthew and Luke. Thus, another source that accounts for this second part of the doublet is postulated, again, that is, Q. This analysis is a sort of combination of analyses of numbers 2 and 3.
5. Obviously, one can safely assume that to some extent divergences in Matthew and Luke between Matthew and Luke, and between them and Mark are due to each author’s originality and the contexts and interests of the communities for whom each wrote. Some scholars, in addition to positing originality on the part of Matthew and Luke, assign a unique source to account for this unique information, called Special Matthew and Special Luke. Most likely, each had unique material they relied upon, in addition to adding their own original material.
Reasons Mark is the Primary Source for Matthew and Luke
1. Argument from Omission: More reasonable that certain material (infancy accounts, Sermon on the Mount, etc.) added to Mark by Matthew and Luke, than it is for Mark to omit them. (Stein, 48-49; Tuckett, 264)
2. Argument from Length: More reasonable that Matthew and Luke compress Mark’s text to add their own material, rather than Mark abridge the content and then add words to accounts of Matthew and/or Luke. (Stein, 49-51; Tuckett, 264)
3. Argument from Diction: More reasonable that Matthew and Luke improve or expand upon Mark's colloquialisms (i.e., informal word/phrase common in speaking) in vocabulary, rather than Mark being intentionally or incompetently less literary. (Stein, 52-53)
4. Argument from Grammar: More reasonable that Matthew and Luke improve Mark's grammar, rather than Mark "dumbing down" either or both of them. (Stein, 54)
5. Argument from Aramaic Expressions: More reasonable that Matthew and Luke remove Aramaic phrases for their Greek-speaking audience, than Mark add them to his sources later. (Stein, 55-58)
6. Argument from Redundancy: More reasonable that Matthew and Luke eliminate Mark's redundancies, than it is for Mark to add them after Matthew and/or Luke. (Stein, 58-62; Tuckett, 267)
7. Argument from Difficulty: More reasonable that both Matthew and Luke modify certain "harder readings" of Mark, rather than Mark making them harder or more difficult to understand. (Stein, 62-67; Tuckett, 265-66)
8. Argument from Order: If Mark is considered the primary common source of Matthew and Luke, it makes sense that they would follow the basic order of Mark’s narrative, and thus agree with each other when they also agree with Mark. When Matthew and Luke diverge from Mark’s narrative order, neither Matthew, nor Luke, appear to be following the other’s narrative. (Tuckett, 264-65)
9. Argument from Literary Agreements: It’s easier to explain how Matthew and Luke occasionally seem to refer to explanatory material found in Mark that they, for whatever reason, finally decided to omit. (Stein, 70-76)
10. Argument from Redaction: Easier to see Matthew adding his theological emphases, than it is to see Mark removing them. It’s easier to account for the uneven distribution of Mark's stylistic features that pop up throughout Matthew. (Stein, 77-83)
11. Argument from Theology: More reasonable that Matthew and Luke's more frequent use of "Lord" is later development, rather than Mark later eliminating this usage in reference to Jesus. Mark uses the term only once. (Stein, 84-86)
Sources for above material: Robert H. Stein, The Synoptic Problem, 1987, and C. M. Tuckett, The Synoptic Problem, 1992; Summary from mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/2sh/index.htm
Edited by Chester O'Gorman on Apr 2, 2009 1:28 PM