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A Final Statement on a Different Approach to the Synoptic Problem: Evan Powell

OK, this will be the last post in this current thread involving the Synoptic Problem.  Some of you will be glad to know that this one is written not at the scholarly but for normal human beings (as opposed to abnormal academics….).   It should be very accessible.   It is written by the blog-member who started this whole thing off with a challenge, Evan Powell.  Thanks to all the participants in the back and forth – Evan, Allan Garrow, and Mark Goodacre.  I don’t know about you, but I think it’s been a helpful interchange, and a (nicely) unusual thread for the blog.   ***********************************************   EVAN POWELL – A Solution to the Synoptic Problem The literary relationships between the Synoptic Gospels, and specifically the issue of whether Q existed as a lost sayings gospel, are vitally important questions to anyone who studies the historical Jesus and the evolution of first century Christianity. We all want to know which gospel traditions were early, perhaps originating with Jesus, and which were later ideas incorporated into the movement’s [...]

2020-04-03T01:42:28-04:00December 15th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Brief Reply to Garrow

I'm taking the day off from the blog (a vacation day!), but received this comment from Mark Goodacre and didn't want it to be lost in the comment section, as I think it is important.  (And for balance, I will indeed be posting, later,  blog-member Evan's assessment of the whole thing, since he started it!).  Here is Mark's response to what Alan Garrow's post.   Many thanks to Dr Garrow for his interesting response. I should point out, though, that this does not respond to my point, which is not a question about degrees of plausibility, but a question about the consistency and coherence of Garrow's model. The issue to which I am drawing attention is straightforward: Garrow claims that high verbatim agreement in double tradition is diagnostic that Matthew is working from Luke alone. I am pointing out that on his model, high verbatim agreement does not illustrate this. I've added some additional comments on my blog at Many thanks, by the way, to everyone for the fascinating responses to my post, and [...]

2018-01-09T12:32:24-05:00December 14th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Back Again: Did Matthew Use Luke? Alan Garrow’s Reply to Mark Goodacre

As you know, I agreed to allow Mark Goodacre to respond to Alan Garrow’s unusual view of how to explain the “Synoptic Problem,” as part of the $1000 challenge by blog-participant Evan.  Some of you enjoyed going down into the weeds yesterday with Mark; today I post Alan Garrow’s reply to Mark’s Response, and if you like the weeds, here are some more!  If nothing else, these posts show why it is hard to make scholarship simple and accessible to the non-expert, without simplifying it out of recognition --  which is the ultimate goal of this blog. If you prefer other kinds of (less weedy) fields, no worries!  I’m not planning on continuing this back and forth, with one exception.  Evan himself would like to post his views, and I’ve agreed to allow him to do so.  But first I’ll let these two posts settle in for you, and tomorrow get back onto other things. Here now is Alan’s reply to Mark’s response.  See which side you line up with!  (Just one point of clarification [...]

2021-01-29T02:34:46-05:00December 13th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Did Matthew Copy Luke? Mark Goodacre’s Rebuttal

Here now is Mark Goodacre’s response to Alan Garrow’s attempt to show that the author of Matthew had access to and used the Gospel of Luke in constructing his own account of Jesus’ life.   This kind of argument, to carry any weight, has to get down into the weeds a bit.  So brace yourself!   I consider it a compelling response. Many thanks to Evan for issuing this challenge and for making such a generous donation to the blog.   And many thanks as well to Mark Goodacre, who could resist dealing with an intriguing thesis that sits comfortably in his wheelhouse. I have told Evan and Alan Garrow himself that I would be happy to post a reply to Mark’s post. Alan Garrow’s most popular books are The Gospel of Matthew's Dependence on the Didache and Revelation.  Mark Goodacre is the author of several books, including The Case Against Q, and Thomas and the Gospels.   ********************************************************* Garrow's Flaw  In a recent comment on this blog, "Evan" suggested that Alan Garrow's arguments are so compelling that he [...]

2021-01-29T02:34:23-05:00December 12th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

A $1000 Challenge to Me: Did the Author of Matthew Use Luke?

As some of you know, a member of the blog, Evan, recently offered a $1000 donation to the blog if I would respond to the claims of New Testament scholar, Alan Garrow, that in studying the Synoptic Gospels, a completely compelling case can be made that the author of Matthew knew and used the Gospel of Luke.  This is a view that almost no one in the academy holds. After a bit of back and forth – which I give below – Evan agreed that if I could find another respected expert in the field to respond to Garrow’s claims, instead of doing it myself, he would still donate the money. One of the scholars on the blog happens to be my colleague in New Testament studies at Duke, Mark Goodacre, who has spent the majority of his distinguished scholarly career researching, writing, and teaching on the Synoptic Problem.  There is no one better to respond.  And as it turns out, he volunteered to write a response without my even asking! Many thanks to Evan [...]

2021-01-29T02:27:45-05:00December 11th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|

Could Q Have Been Lost? Readers’ Mailbag December 3, 2017

I have received a lot of questions about Q this week.  If you’re wondering about why blog members are interested in a figure from Star Trek, you may want to review this week’s posts.  Here is a question that I find particularly intriguing.   QUESTION: It is hard to believe that Q, if it existed, circulated enough to be used by both but then dropped off the face of the Earth without so much as a mention by an early church father, while references to so many other documents survived (with some being found).   RESPONSE: Ah, this is an interesting observation and involves a set of questions that I’m very interested in but have never published (much of) anything about.  How much of the early Christian literature was lost?  Could early Christians simply have allowed important writings to disappear (even if independent once knew them)? To the historian’s eternal chagrin, the answer appears to be yes.  My guess is that most early Christians simply didn’t see a need to preserve their writings for posterity [...]

And Then There Was Q

After my post yesterday about the "priority of Mark" (the view almost universally held among scholars that Mark was the first Gospel written and that Matthew and Luke used it for many of their own stories) I received a number of queries from readers about the "Q" source.   So I better address that as well. Matthew and Luke obviously share a number of stories with Mark, but they also share with each other a number of passages not found in Mark.  Most of these passages (all but two of them) involve sayings of Jesus -- for example, the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer.  Since they didn't get these passages from Mark, where did they get them?   Since the 19th century scholars have argued that Matthew did not get them from Luke or Luke from Matthew (for reasons I'll suggest below); that probably means they got them from some other source, a document that no longer survives. This came to be known as the "Sayings Source."  The scholars who developed this view were principally German, and [...]

2020-04-03T01:46:15-04:00November 29th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Reader’s Questions|

Arguments for Markan Priority (that Mark was the first Gospel written)

For reasons related to an unusually convoluted thread (I’d be surprised if anyone can even detect the thread!  I myself barely can – it has to do with Jesus’ view of the afterlife) I need to answer a reader’s question about why scholars think the Gospel of Mark was the first to be written (once I do that, I can show how Luke often changed Mark, which will get me back to Luke’s treatment of Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth, which will get me back to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which will get me back to the question of whether the parable represents Jesus’ own views….). So far as I can tell, and to my surprise, I’ve never published a blog post showing why scholars – since the 19th century – have typically maintained that Mark was the first of the Synoptic Gospels to be written and that Luke and Matthew both used Mark for many of their own stories about Jesus.   That view is called “Markan priority” (Mark is prior to [...]

2020-04-03T01:46:47-04:00November 28th, 2017|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum|

Similarities and Differences: The Synoptic Problem

  In yesterday’s post I mentioned my New Testament class, and that one of the main lessons I’m trying to convey in it is that each of the Gospels has to be read for what *it* has to say.  This requires the reader to bracket information that is conveyed in some other Gospel (or that they’ve heard before elsewhere), to see what the meaning of this particular text is. That shouldn’t be such a hard idea to grasp.   If I write a book about Jesus, I don’t expect or want my readers to read my book in light of what some other author said (say, Reza Aslan or Bill O’Reilly), interpreting my views in light of the other person’s views, as if my views, as I state them, are not enough or sufficient.  And yet people regularly read the Gospels as if Mark must mean the same thing that John does, or that this passage in Matthew makes best sense in light of that other passage in Luke, and so on.  We don’t do that [...]

2017-12-25T12:36:43-05:00February 11th, 2014|Canonical Gospels, Public Forum, Teaching Christianity|
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