So far in evaluating the case over the existence of Q, I reviewed points about Luke’s relative lack of Matthew’s additions to Mark or Matthew’s special traditions and examples of alternating primitivity (i.e. when either Matthew or Luke may appear to have a more primitive form of double tradition material) that some scholars put forward to demonstrate the independence of Matthew and Luke. I plan to cover the examples where Matthew or Luke disagree when they depart from Mark’s order and their differences in how they arrange the non-Markan double tradition (Q?) next. I have also tried to cover some of the rebuttals from the Farrer Hypothesis (i.e. Luke knew Matthew) and there has been excellent constructive criticism in the comments section from all sides of the debate.
In this post, I will tackle an argument for “Q” that emerged in recent scholarship. For Austin Farrer, “No one reconstruction [of Q], to say the least of it, is overwhelmingly evident, and no proposed reconstruction is very firmly patterned” and “[a]fter an exordium so full of dogmatic weight and historical destiny [i.e. Baptist, Temptation narratives], is it credible that the book should peter out in miscellaneous oracles, and conclude without any account of those events which, to a Christian faith, are supremely significant?” (‘On Dispensing with Q‘, 57, 60). However, intense preoccupation of some specialists with Q in the last decades of the last century onwards has called Farrer’s critique into question. Bill Arnal summarizes: “Once posited on particular grounds (the patterns of agreement and disagreement in sequence and wording among the synoptic gospels), the Q that has emerged (and even mechanically) from this literary evidence has taken on a shape that is theologically coherent, formally coherent, generically coherent and appropriate, socio-historically plausible, and whose general formal shape and theological orientation (including the theological motifs and formal features the reconstructed Q lacks) has been independently confirmed by the unrelated discovery and publication of the Gospel of Thomas (however one dates or classifies this document” (‘The Trouble with Q‘, 11. n. 17).
There may be issues with the comparison to Thomas given it has no narrative shape and its organization of sayings is much harder to discern if present at all, but Arnal’s objection challenges Q skeptics as well as those who propose softer models of the double tradition made up of written & oral traditions (Dunn, Horsley) or Greek & Aramaic sources (Casey; cf. my SBL proposal). Now most Two Source theorists probably allow that reality was probably more complex than Mark & Q as the only 2 sources and this seems evident when one looks at later Christian texts (e.g., Apostolic Fathers) that sometimes seem to know oral/written traditions about Jesus independently of the NT Gospels, but I think Q scholars would retort that Mark is the source behind the triple tradition (though might some differences not be redactional but based on other sources?) and the double tradition also seems to reflect a coherence so that a single sayings source Q is the simplest solution and a useful heuristic device. Specialists argue that the genre of Q is either a prophetic book (Schult, Sato, Boring) or wisdom collection (Robinson, Kloppenborg, Kirk). They argue Q has distinctive themes such as Jesus as an emissary of Lady Wisdom (note in a post where Matthew takes the next step of identifying Jesus with Wisdom), threatens judgment on an unrepentant generation similar to the destruction of Sodom, and the death of Jesus as the last in line of the rejected prophets according to a Deuteromistic view of history. Here is a bibliography for more details.
How do Farrer theorists explain this? Granted on the Farrer hypothesis the double tradition is what Luke found favourable in Matthew to take over, so Luke may have had an interest in a Deuteronomistic theology as seen, for instance, in speeches in Acts where the leaders are condemned for their rejection of the prophets culminating in the death of the Righteous One. But what are the odds that the material that has been isolated, what Luke took over from Matthew’s non-Markan material, would form a coherent genre, structure and theology? Does similar coherence emerge if scholars were to artificially isolate Matthew’s special M material, Luke’s special L material, the shared sayings in Matthew/Luke and Thomas, and so on? These are not rhetorical questions; I am genuinely curious how Farrer theorists respond to this point?