Today was the beginning of a new show/podcast/livestream/radio program (not sure what it really is) called Honest Theology. The aim of Honest Theology is to help you interpret the Bible with honesty and truthfulness.
In this episode, the pilot, we talked about the Synoptic Problem and why most scholars have settled upon Mark and Q being written sources for Matthew and Luke. We also looked at excellent commentaries for Matthew’s Gospel. Furthermore, we performed exegesis upon Rev 1:1-3.
Let me know what you think of the show. The plan is to have the show livestreamed weekly from 10:30am – noon EST every Sunday morning. If you do not have a place of fellowship during that time, please consider joining us on the livestream!
Here is the link to an older class (Fall of 2014) I taught on the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I introduce to the students the Synoptic Problem and the Q document on the first day and use the Two-Source Hypothesis as the basis of my examination of these three New Testament documents. Furthermore, I am influenced by the scholarship of James Dunn in regard to the oral Jesus traditions and how they took their form and shape within a predominantly oral culture.
I hope you enjoy these lectures!
PS: the final lecture was lost in production, so I apologize in advance for that.
Festivus greetings to you all. In today’s post I will continue my ongoing recap/review of James Dunn’s newest volume Neither Jew nor Greek by offering what I felt were the highlights of chapter forty-two (entitled “Retelling the Story of Jesus: Mark, Matthew and Luke). This chapter, which is nearly 100 pages in and of itself, contains Dunn’s analysis on how the three Synoptic evangelists used and interpreted the Jesus traditions available to them. What I am going to suggest is that this chapter offers a significant contribution to scholarship pertaining to the (so-called) ‘Synoptic Problem’, which deals with the questions regarding the literary relationships between Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the dominant answer to the Synoptic Problem has been to suggest that Matthew and Luke used Q and Mark as their sources (along with their own source material often labeled ‘M’ and ‘L’ respectively). This is generally called the Two-Source hypothesis (sometimes called the Four-Source hypothesis, which admittedly could be confusing). Dunn offers what I feel is a more nuanced answer to this hypothesis based upon careful observation and almost scrupulous research of even the most minuscule pieces of data. In this post, I want to point out and comment on Dunn’s proposal regarding the fives sources/collections of Jesus tradition available to Matthew.
In regard to Matthew, Dunn suggests these five categories:
- Mark’s Gospel – This is an obvious place to start, as Matthew clearly demonstrates literary dependence upon Mark, often polishing up and redacting Mark for his own literary and theological purposes.
- Tradition which Mark had transcribed but which Matthew seems to have known in an independent and somewhat different oral form – This means that Matthew had Mark in front of him for various stories, but Matthew was also aware of the same story in another oral form, and it was this alternative which Matthew chose to put into his Gospel instead of copying Mark (cf. Mark 9:43 and Matt. 5:30).
- Written Q tradition – Q is the Greek document containing stories and saying of Jesus which both Matt. and Luke utilized (and this can be observed through literary analysis [cf. the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness in Matt. 4/Luke 4]).
- Q material which circulated in oral form – Dunn suggests this option as the most plausible explanation for the divergences between Matthean and Lukan versions (best explained through understandable differences occurred through oral transmissions [cf. both collections of Beatitudes]).
- Tradition unique to Matthew aka ‘M’ – The birth narratives (chs. 1-2) belonging to Matthew come from his own source.
When Dunn comes to describing Luke’s sources, he offers the same five categories of Jesus traditions (replacing ‘Matthew/M’ with Luke/L’, obviously).
I find this argument to be convincing and very exciting for one interested in the composition of the Synoptic traditions. It also is fascinating because it demonstrates that there was a plethora of Jesus traditions being circulated upon which the Evangelists drew upon to bring about their literary documents exhibited in the pages of the New Testament.
What do you all think? Do you find Dunn’s assessment convincing or a load of rubbish? Leave your comments and subscribe for further updates!
As I was preparing for tomorrow’s lecture in my Synoptic Gospels class, I was reminded of a ‘Q saying’ which involves Wisdom, the often personified attribute of God’s wise dealings with his creation (cf. Prov. 8; Wisdom 6). The Q saying texts to which I am referring are:
Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city… (Matt.23:34)
For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute… (Luke 11:49)
If I had to put my finger in the air and guess which direction the wind is blowing, I would estimate that the original Q saying is found in Luke’s version, where ‘the wisdom of God’ is doing the speaking. If this is the case, then Matthew, having Q in front of him, decided to redact it in a manner which put the words of ‘the wisdom of God’ upon the lips of Jesus (note the shift from wisdom speaking to Jesus speaking in the first person). It would seem awkward for the original Q saying to have Jesus speaking and for Luke to redact that by placing the speech into the mouth of wisdom.
Another Q saying involving Wisdom is located in Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:35. For the record, no official Wisdom sayings appear in Mark’s gospel.
The implications of these observations are worth suggesting. If (and these are pretty big ‘ifs’) the Q collection of Jesus sayings is early, perhaps as early as 40-50 CE, then this places Wisdom christology earlier than its alternative expression located in the Fourth Gospel (God’s personified Logos and God’s Wisdom are closely related). This would mean that John is not saying something so new and innovative compared to the earliest Jesus traditions. If Q records authentic Jesus sayings which indicate that he thought of himself as the embodiment of God’s personified Wisdom, the human expression of God’s wise interaction in the world, then it would be difficult for some of the more critical scholars to write off the Fourth Gospel’s christology as such a late development. It would also posit a legitimate connection between the earliest Jesus tradition and Paul, who considers Jesus to be the fullest expression of Lady Wisdom (eg. 1 Cor. 8:6; 10:4; Col. 1:15-16; etc.).
What do you think?
I recently ran across an interesting gem which adds another dimension to the preaching account of John the Baptist recorded in Matt. 3:1-13 and Luke 3:1-9. Both records indicate that John’s preaching circuit took place in the region of the Jordan – ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (Matt. 3:5; cf. Luke 3:3). This exact phrase shows up twice in, what I think is, a deliberate parallel. It comes from the passage in Genesis 13:10-13:
Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan (τὴν περίχωρον τοῦ Ιορδάνου), that it was well watered everywhere– this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah– like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan (τὴν περίχωρον τοῦ Ιορδάνου), and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.
If attentive readers of the passage in Matthew and Luke made the connection with Gen. 13:10-13, then they would likely connect the ‘region of the Jordan’ with the Sodom and Gomorrah incident. Genesis even tells the reader in 13:10 that the LORD eventually destroys the cities, even though that account does not come until chapter 19. You may recall that Lot was spared because of his relationship to Abraham, and then only by the skin of his teeth.
With this in mind, I find the kerygma of John the Baptist to be rather interesting. He is in the same region at the Sodom and Gomorrah incident. He preaches repentance and the coming wrath which will, coincidentally, involve a judgment with fire, just like the fires of judgment mentioned in Genesis 19. John tells his audience that they should not presume that their relationship to Abraham would grant them immunity in the coming judgment, as it did with Lot. No, they should produce fruit worthy of repentance.
What do you think? Is it likely that John the Baptist is drawing on the memory of Sodom and Gomorrah in his preaching?