Monday, May 09, 2005

Matthean Posteriority

On Deinde, Danny Zacharias asks a question prompted in part by previous discussion here.

The Synoptic Problem . . . A Question

The gist of Danny's question relates to the possibility of Matthean Posteriority. I'll come to that in a moment, but first some correction again on terminology:
I think I am right in saying that the majority of NT scholars hold to marcan priority, with the two-source hypothesis and the two-gospel hypothesis being the next line of demarcation within marcan priority.
The first clause is correct, but the next is horribly wrong. "The two-gospel hypothesis" is not a Marcan Priority theory. On the contrary, it is another name for the Griesbach ~Theory, which postulates Matthew first, Luke's use of Matthew, Mark's use of both. I think what Danny meant to write here was the Farrer theory, which holds to Marcan Priority but also postulates Luke's use of Matthew. I know that Synoptic scholars can sometimes seem a bit like nit-pickers, but it is important to get the terminology as accurate as possible in order that everyone can be clear about what is being discussed.

Now on to the specific topic, Matthean Posteriority. Danny brings up Evan Powell's work. I own this; Stevan Davies sent me a copy a few years ago. It's a booklet in the form of an open letter to the Jesus Seminar. The most famous recent advocate of Matthean Posteriority is Martin Hengel, though he holds this theory in addition to the Q theory, and does not have a full defence of the theory -- it is a sketch in his The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ (London: SCM; Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000). Two other advocates are worth mentioning, R. V. Huggins, "Matthean Posteriority: A Preliminary Proposal", NovT 34 (1992): 1-21, and Alan Garrow, The Gospel of Matthew's Dependence on the Didache. It is not a thesis I am persuaded of myself given my own arguments for Luke's familiarity with Matthew, for which I refer the reader to my Case Against Q.

Danny suggests that the theory would have the following "going for it":
1) Matthew has a high Christology, probably the highest in the synoptics. This may indicate a progression in theology. 2) Matthew's careful arrangment of sayings material into 5 discourses seems to make more sense than Luke scattering it. Matthew had a theological purpose in arranging 5 discourses, so Matthew may have been taking Mark and Luke's material and arranging them purposefully. If Luke is using Matthew, why scatter it all about? It seems to me that that sort of organization would argue for posteriority of Matthew.
On Matthew's high Christology, even if Luke's were lower, I don't think it does anything to help establish direction of dependence. Paul's Christology is higher than Luke's, I would say, or at least higher than we can infer Luke's to have been from Luke-Acts, but he clearly pre-dates Luke. I think we have to be wary of the idea of a clear trajectory of low-to-high Christology, all the more so in the light of the work of Hurtado and Bauckham. On the arrangement of sayings material, I am not happy with the language of "scatter[ing] it all about" and can only refer the reader to The Case Against Q, Chapter 3, where I discuss this kind of rhetorical question on Luke's order, and Chapters 4-6, in which I attempt to set out how Luke's re-ordering of Matthew's non-Marcan material can be seen to be plausible. I would now also add three further important articles on the topic, all appearing in Mark Goodacre and Nick Perrin (eds.), Questioning Q, by Jeff Peterson, Mark Matson and Ken Olson, all dealing with different aspects of the question of Luke's ordering of Matthew.

Update (22.54): On Deinde, Danny Zacharias offers an update. One useful question:
I think I have been a living testimony to the confusion of some of this terminology, and I think two-source and two-gospel is the most confusing. After all, wouldn't Lucan posteriority and Matthean posteriority technically be 'two-gospel' theories because they are both using two gospels as their source? Perhaps I am missing something.
I agree -- the "two gospel hypothesis" is one of the more confusing terms in Synoptic criticism. It was coined by adherents of the Griesbach Theory with a view to providing a conscious alternative to "Two-Source Theory". Michael Goulder argued that it should be avoided since his own theory (what I call the Farrer Theory) is also a "two gospel" theory with Matthew and Mark the sources for Luke. I remember at the SNTS in Strasbourg 1996 Michael Goulder himself making a point of this to Bill Farmer over breakfast one morning. Bill Farmer then came over to me, a new unpublished lecturer from Birmingham, to tell me about that conversation. And then in the Synoptic Problem seminar, he also made an announcement of it. In some recent publications, the thesis has gone under the name "Two Gospel (neo-Griesbach) Hypothesis".

1 comment:

Dan said...

As I recall, Hengel's view on Matthew being writtne after Luke was based on his judgment that Luke shows signs of having been written closer in time to the destruction of the Temple than Luke. He doesn't really engage with the various textual arguments that advocates of and opponnets of the various versions of the Q hypothesis bandy about. He also, again as I recall from a reading several months back, only accepts the Q hypothesis in so far as he is willing to conisder, and in fact thinks probable, that there were numerous writings, some perhaps even more or less contemporaneous with Jesus, that the various evangelsits could have used.

This is not my field. I am a lawyer with a strong and long term interest in Greco-Roman history generally, and more recently focusing on first century church history. However, I find Hengel to be more persuasive than much of what I have read lately, in that I think a lot of the focus on Q and so forth squeezes a lot more juice out of the orange than is really possible. I am aware of no other field in ancient history where the written sources would be pushed so far and hard.