The time has come to stop posting regularly at this blog, which was originally intended to supplement my research on Mark’s Gospel while undertaking a PhD, but I will leave it up as an educational resource. I decided that I wanted to keep a select post or two under each major category on the right-hand side, so I combined or reworked older posts and removed the comments since they were responses to older forms of the posts. There are discussions of issues pertaining to the Gospel of Mark (authorship, date, provenance, genre, reception, Christology, eschatology, “Secret Mark”), critical methodologies (source, form, redaction, literary, and ideological criticism), introductory New Testament discussions (timeline of early Christianity, historical Jesus, Synoptic Problem, John and the Synoptics, non-canonical Gospels, perspectives on Paul, the book of Acts), and other student resources. I plan to write the odd guest post that will be more directed to the person in the pew for the site Bible Study and the Christian Life and continue to interact with the many excellent biblioblogs out there; I will also occasionally update this space to announce future publications or guest lectures. I hope this site will be useful for scholars, students, pastors, and interested laypersons. Thank you to everyone who has read and provided critical feedback to my posts over the years.
The dates below are approximate and I am open to correction on any of them. In the next post I will slot in the texts of the New Testament and other early Christian writings into the picture.
721 BCE – Assyrian Deportation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
586 BCE – second deportation of exiles from Southern Kingdom of Judah to Babylon, third deportation (581 BCE)
539/8 BCE – Cyrus the Great (rule 550-530 BCE) conquers Babylon and beginning of return to Jerusalem
520-515 BCE – Zerubabbel governor of Persian state of Yehud, Joshua the high priest, re-establishment of temple cult
- 458 BCE [?] Ezra arrives in Jerusalem; 445/4 BCE Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem
333/2 BCE – conquest of Persian Empire by Alexander the Great (reign 356 -323 BCE)
300-198 BCE – Palestine under control of Ptolemies of Egypt
ca 250 BCE – translation of the Pentateuch into Greek in the Septuagint (LXX) and later versions added Prophets and Writings. The legend is that Ptolemy II Philadelphus asked 72 elders to translate the Law into Greek to be included in the library of Alexandria (cf. The Letter to Aristeas)
198 BCE – Palestine under control of Seleucids of Syria
- Antiochus III “the Great” (ruled 222–187 BCE)
- 175-164 BCE – Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”
- 162-150 BCE – Demetrius I “Soter” (Savior)
- 150-146 BCE – Alexander Balas
- 146-139, 129-125 BCE – Demetrius II Nicator (Victor)
- 143-142 BCE – general Diodotus Typho sets Balas’ son Antiochus VI Dionyisus on throne in city of Antioch
- 142-129 BCE – general Diodotus Trypho sets himself up as king, slain by Antiochus VII
- 138-129 BCE – Antiochus VII Euergetes (benefactor) Sidetes
167 BCE – profanation of the temple under Antiochus IV
166 BCE – Jewish priest Mattathias, who had fled into the wilderness with five sons (John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, Jonathan) after he killed a fellow kinsman who was going to sacrifice to the Greek gods, dies
166-160 BCE – third son Judas the Maccabeus (“hammer”), re-dedication of the temple (164 BCE)
160-143 BCE leadership and high priesthood of Jonathan, tricked and executed by Trypho
- Josephus introduces Pharisees (from Perushim or “separate ones”), Saduccees (associated with priestly line of “Zadok” or from saddiqim [righteous ones]?), and Essenes at this time (cf. Antiquities 13.171). The “Wicked Priest” (=Jonathan? Simon?) is opposed by the “Teacher of Righteousness” and remembered as a significant figure by a sectarian community at Khirbet Qumran (=Essenes?)
142-134 BCE – leadership of Simon and beginning of full autonomy
134-104 BCE – John “Hyrcanus”
- 132 BCE siege of Jerusalem by Antiochus VII. Hyrcanus pays 3000 talents from the sepulcher of David, recognizes Seleucid authority, and join campaigns against the Parthians until Antiochus slain in 129 BCE
- expansion of Judean state in Samaria, Idumea (forced proselytism to Judaizing rites), and the Transjordan
104-103 BCE – Aristobulus I
103-76 BCE – Alexander Jannaeus
- wars and territorial expansion, sided with the Sadducees against the Pharisees and ruthless against his internal enemies such as butchering 6000 during the Feast of Tabernacles or crucifying 800 Jews (Ant. 13.372-383; cf. 4QpNah)
76-67 BCE – Salome Alexandra queen and eldest son Hyrcanus II high priest
- In taking Alexander’s last advice to win over the Pharisees who commanded popular support, the Pharisees effectively ruled through her and got some revenge on their enemies
67-63 BCE – Aristobulus II king and high priest
- A partisan for the Sadducees like his father and victorious over his brother Hyrcanus II, but Antipater the Idumaean convinced Hyrcanus II to join with Aretas king of Arabia to make war with Aristobulus II. Continued civil war leads to Roman intervention
63 BCE – Roman conquest by Pompey
- Hyrcanus II restored as high priest and ethnarch (63-40 BCE)
- after Pompey was killed (48 BCE) Antipater’s support for Julius Caesar in campaign against Egypt granted him Roman citizenship and the title of Roman Procurator of Judea (Ant. 14.8.5), forced to side with one of Caesar’s assassins Cassius against Marc Antony, poisoned in 43 BCE
44 BCE – assassination of Julius Caesar
40-37 BCE – short-lived rebellion of the king and high priest Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus II
37-4 BCE – the client-king Herod the Great, the son of Antipater
- appointed king of the Jews by the Romans in 39 BCE and married the grand-daughter of Hyrcanus II Mariamne, victorious in re-capturing city of Sepphoris and Antigonus executed by Marc Antony in 37 BCE.
- constructed cities of Caesarea Maritima and Sebaste, restoration work on the Jerusalem Temple, and extended his rule over Samaria and other territory
- had family members including Mariamne and sons put to death out of paranoia and burned alive Judas and Matthias for inciting a group to tear down a golden eagle erected on the temple
31 BCE – Marc Antony defeated by Octavian at the battle of Actium and afterwards Antony/Cleopatra killed themselves
27 BCE – 14 CE – Octavian “Augustus” (revered), the adopted great-nephew of Caesar and divi filius (son of god), leads transition from the Roman Republic to the Empire and starts Julio-Claudian dynasty
- Tiberius (14-37 CE), Gaius “Caligula” (37-41 CE), Claudius (41-54 CE), and Nero (54-68 CE)
5/4 BCE – birth of Jesus of Nazareth
4 BCE – 39 CE – Herod’s son Antipas appointed tetrarch, ruling Galilee and Peraea
- rebuilt Sepphoris to be his main center before he later constructed his capital Tiberius in 17 CE upon a cemetary
- had John the Baptist executed on political charges (Josephus, Ant. 18.5.2) and perhaps objections to Antipas’ marriage to his niece and wife of his half-brother Herodias (Ant. 18.5.1; cf. Mk 6:22-28 par)
4 BCE – 6 CE – Herod’s son Archelaus named ethnarch, ruling Judea, Samaria and Idumea until it came under direct Roman rule.
6 CE – census of Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, appointed governor of Syria, for purposes of taxation of the provinces of Syria and Judea under the new arrangement of direct Roman rule, leads to the uprising of Judas the Galilee (alleged founder of Josephus’s “fourth philosophy” or zealots)
6-41 CE – Judea governed by prefects: Coponius (6-9 CE), Marcus Ambibulus (9-12 CE), Rufus Tineus (12-15 CE), Valerius Gratus (15-26 CE), Pontius Pilate (26-36 CE), Marcellus (36-37 CE), Marullus (37-41 CE)
29-34 CE – Jesus crucified under Pontius Pilate on the 14th or 15th of Nisan during one of these years (cf. Helen Bond’s article challenge to scholarly certainty of dating it precisely to April 7, 30 CE)
30 – 64 CE – Jerusalem Church under the leadership of the Pillars (Cephas, the Twelve, Jesus’ brother James), Stephen and the Hellenists (?), missionary activity of Paul, other non-kerygmatic hypothetical Jesus groups (?)
- The sources of the Gospel tradition
- Paul’s letters (1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philemon, Philippians), possible 2 Thessalonians and Colossians are authentic or else written shortly after Paul’s death. If genuine (?), the epistle of James pre-date the death of Jesus’ brother and react against a (distorted?) interpretation of Paul’s teaching.
- Jesus’ brother James executed by the high priest in 62 CE in the transition between the procurators Porcius Festus and Albinus (Ant. 20.9). In the tradition it is believed the apostle Paul was beheaded (1 Clem 5:6 [?]; Ignatius, Rom. 4.2-3; Acts Paul 11:3-6; Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.22.2) and Peter crucified (cf. John 21:18-19 [?]; 1 Clem 5:4 [?]; Ignatius, Rom. 4.2-3; Dionysius of Corinth in Hist .Eccl. 2.26; Acts Pet 36-39; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.3) during Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome.
40/41 CE – Caligula crisis: Caligula threatened to set up his statue in the temple that did not come to pass due to the persuasion of Agrippa I and then Caligula’s assassination
37-44 CE – due to his friendship with Caligula Agrippa I takes over rule of Antipas’ territory after the latter’s banishment and his support for Claudius Judea and Samaria come under his control
- had the apostle James, the son of Zebedee, executed according to the Book of Acts.
49/50 CE – expulsion of (some?) Jews at instigation of “Chrestus” (=Christos) (Acts 18:2; Seutonius, Divus Claudius 25)
44-66 CE - Judea, Samaria, and part of Galilee again under Roman procurators: Cuspius Fadus (44-46 CE), Tiberius Julius Alexander (46-48 CE), Ventidius Cumanus (48-52 CE), Antonius Felix (52-60 CE), Porcius Festus (60-62 CE), Albinus (62-64 CE), Gessius Florus (64-66 CE). Meanwhile Agrippa II the last of the Herodian dynasty and ruled over less territory than his father (48-66 CE)
- Theudas led some people out to the Jordan river and persuaded them that the water would part before the procurator Faudus crushed him and his followers (Ant. 20.97-98) (ca. 44-46 CE). The Egyptian gathered a crowd to the Mount of Olives so that the walls of the city would fall at his command and fled when Felix ordered troops to attack (War 2.261-262; Ant. 20.169-171) (ca. 52-58 CE)
66-74 CE – the Jewish War against Rome, the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE by the Roman general Titus, the rebels last stand at Masada (fortress) before the Romans took it in 74 CE
- The Gospel of Mark (ca. 65-75 CE)
69 CE – after Nero’s suicide the year of the four emperor’s Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian
69-96 CE – the Flavian Dynasty: Vespasian (69-79 CE), Titus (79-81 CE), and Domitian (81-96 CE)
- The Gospel of Matthew, Luke-Acts (?), the Gospel of John (?), Ephesians (?), 1 Peter, Hebrews (?), James (?), Johannine Epistles (?), Jude (?) Revelation (cf. Ireneaus, Adv. Haer. 5.30.3), the Didache (?), 1 Clement (?)
96-98 CE – Nerva elected by the Senate as emperor after Domitian’s assassination. The start of a stable Nerva-Antonine dynasty (96-192 CE) including Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, and Commodus
- Luke-Acts (?), the Gospel of John (?), Ephesians (?), Hebrews (?), James (?), Johannine Epistles (?), Jude (?), the Didache (?), 1 Clement (?)
98-117 CE - Trajan, the adopted heir of Nerva, reigns as emperor
- Luke-Acts (?), the Gospel of John (?), Ephesians (?), James (?), Johannine Epistles (?), Jude (?), the Didache (?), 1 Clement (?), Papias’ Exegesis of the Lord’s Logia (ca. 110 CE), the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, 2 Peter (?)
- Rome reaches the height of the territorial extent of its dominion, suppressed Jewish revolts in Egypt and Cyrene, wrote the famous correspondence with Pliny the Younger which included a discussion about trials against Christians
117-138 CE – emperor Hadrian
- 132-135 CE – The second Jewish War led by Simon bar Kochba (son of the star) resulted in the banishment of Jews from the city of Jerusalem renamed Aelia Capitolina. The Christian apologetic strategy to treat this as a punishment for the rejection of Jesus is exploited in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew (e.g., chapter 16).
- The completed Gospel of Thomas (cf. saying 70)?
- Epistle of Barnabas?
- 2 Peter?
144 CE – traditional date of the excommunication of Marcion by the Church of Rome
200 CE – Codification of Jewish oral traditions in the Mishnah, the first major text of Rabbinic Judaism and the source of the commentaries in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds.
Addendum on the Dating of Christian Texts
If a text does not give explicit information on when or where to locate it, scholars try to establish a terminus a quo (limit from which) and terminus ad quem (limit to which). It must date before its first manuscript attestation and the earliest writer to cite it as a source, while it must postdate any historical persons or events or writings referenced in it. Scholars may try to further pinpoint a date based on other internal clues in the text or its place in one’s overall reconstruction of Christian history (e.g., comparing a text to earlier or later developments represented in other texts).
- Paul’s Epistles: Mark Goodacre had a post on the sequence. 1 Thessalonians is likely the earliest sent from Athens or Corinth (1 Thess 3:1, 6 cf. Acts 17:16-18:18) and lacks key ideas (e.g., justification) in later epistles. I favor Galatians being sent to the geographical region of Galatia (Acts 16:6; 18:23) rather than the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia which included Pisidian Antioch Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (cf. Acts 13:13-14) (against a defense of South Galatian theory) and the intertextual links of Gal 2:1-10/Acts 15 puts it after the Jerusalem Council and feud at Antioch (Gal 2:11-14; cf. Acts 15:30-39). Goodacre’s date of 1 Corinthians before Galatians seems plausible and Paul is headed to Jerusalem with the collection before he plans to go to Rome and Spain in Rom 15:22-29 (did he make it to Spain as 1 Clem 5 hints?). The Prison Epistles (Philemon, Philippians, Colossians [?]) are from Rome (cf. Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, subscripts of some mss, silence on the collection, imperial guard in Phil 1:13 and “Caesar’s household” in 4:22, development of Paul’s thought in Philippians/Colossians) or Ephesus (less distant from Philippi in Phil 2:19-30 and Colossae in Phlm 10, 12, Col 4:7-9, plans to visit Colossae instead of Spain in Phlm 23, Marcionite Prologue to Colossians, speculative reconstruction of Ephesian imprisonment from 1 Cor 15:32/2 Cor 1:8-10); a Roman provenance makes these epistles Paul’s last.
- Deutero-Paulines: 2 Thessalonians (cf. Paul Foster’s article) and Colossians are arguably Pauline. If Colossians is judged pseudonymous based on style, eschatology, Christology, household code, etc, I would attribute it to Paul’s circle (Col 4:7-18) shortly after Paul’s death. Ephesians may be a later circular letter (“in Ephesus” an addition) that richly sums up Pauline theology and imitates Colossians.
- Sources of the Gospel Tradition: The form critics noted that before the Passion Narrative, which reads like a unified story with events in succession, sayings or deeds of Jesus are loosely arranged in Mark and many could be passed down as individual anecdotes. Whether one accepts that the non-Markan double tradition in Matthew/Luke goes back to a single sayings source Q or reflects Luke’s use of Matthew, in either scenario I find it unlikely that Matthew invented all the non-Markan sayings shared with Luke and sayings sources is a completely reasonable hypothesis (cf. behind individual aphorisms in Mark, some or all of the shared non-Markan sayings in Matthew/Luke, some sayings in the Gospel of Thomas [?], the Egerton Gospel [?], sayings of the Lord in the NT Epistles and some Apostolic Fathers). Other sources may include collections of parables (e.g., Mk 4), pronouncement stories (e.g., Mk 2-3:6), miracle stories, an eschatological discourse (e.g., is the Caligula crisis behind the “abomination of desolation” in Mk 13:14), or a Passion Narrative.
- Mark, Matthew: With notable exceptions (e.g., Maurice Casey, James Crossley), most date Mark shortly before or after the Jewish War. The question is whether the polemic against the Temple throughout Mark 11-14 and predictions of its demise in 13:1-2 are vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy from the event) after 70 CE. Matthew and Luke postdate Mark, while knowledge of Matthew is reflected early in Papias, the Didache, and Ignatius.
- Catholic Epistles: Hebrews’ anonymous author may be associated with Pauline circle including Timothy (Heb 13:23-4), has a supersessionary development of the new covenant theme (cf. 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:1-18), may be pre-70 in its discussion of the ongoing temple cult as it does not exploit the temple’s destruction or else just reflecting on the cultus from the Scriptures, and is known as early as 1 Clement. 1 Peter’s level of Greek and rhetoric, the cipher “Babylon” for Rome, the spread of Christ followers in Asia Minor, the label Christian, the Pauline influences, the silence on earlier disputes over Torah observance in mixed congregations, etc, suggest a post-70 date. It is known by Papias, Polycarp, and 2 Peter and the sporadic harassment faced by Christians may date before Domitian or Trajan (cf. epistle of Trajan to Pliny). If not by Jesus’ brother Judas, Jude looks back on the apostles in v. 17 and there is debate if it is at home in emergent catholicism (vv. 3, 20-21) or Jewish apocalyptic (vv 5-16). The epistle of James, if not authentic, leaves little clues to date it and Origen is the first to explicitly refer to it. Knowledge of 1 Peter (2 Pet 3:1), Jude, and Pauline epistles as “scripture” (3:16) as well as the rebuttal against scoffer’s of the Lord’s delayed return (3:4-10) and doubts of the Church Fathers shows 2 Peter may be the last NT book in the early-mid 2nd century.
- Revelation: the 12 apostles are figures of the past (Rev 21:14) and the seer’s exile to Patmos suggests that relations have deteriorated with “Babylon” (Rev 19-20), perhaps to the end of Domitian’s reign (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 5.30.3). It may have influenced Papias’ millennialism.
- Johannine Writings: P52 established the latest possible date at 125-50 CE and it is arguably known by Ignatius (ca. 110). It is plausible that John knew Mark’s outline but I am uncertain about the literary relationship of John with Luke – whether it depended on Luke, Luke depended on John, or both independently relied on some common oral traditions – to date John before/after Luke. While I agree with some scholars (Körtner, Norelli, Watson, MacDonald) against others (Deeks, Hengel, Hill, Bauckham) that there is no clear reference in Papias to John’s Gospel, Papias seems to have known 1 John (cf. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.39.17) and the epistles may postdate the Gospel in reflecting a debate in the community over the nature of Christ’s humanity in light of the Gospel portrait. Late 1st or early 2nd century?
- Luke-Acts: is commonly dated 70-100 CE. Arguments advanced for a date around 62 CE as Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome without disclosing his execution or the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, but the additions of Luke 19:42-44 and 21:24 make explicit the aftermath of the Jewish War which is at best implicit in Mark (and Matthew) and Acts is a narrative about the gospel spreading from Judea to the ends of the earth rather than a biography of Paul. I am persuaded by Steve Mason and Richard Pervo that Luke-Acts postdates the Pauline Epistles and Josephus’ Antiquities in reflecting knowledge of them.
- Pastorals: the lack of attestation in early Pauline collections, their stylistic unity and difference from the rest of Paul’s epistles, the chronological discrepancies, and the exchange of the charismatic excitement over the apocalyptic Christ event for settled formulas to be believed and hierarchical church structures suggests a later date. The church structure of bishops, elders, and deacons seems to be closer to Ignatius of Antioch.
- Apostolic Fathers: For an early 2nd century dating of Papias’ writing see Robert Yarbrough’s article online, though the knowledge of some NT writings (Mark, Matthew, 1 Peter, 1 John, Revelation) inclines me to date it closer to 110 CE in his 95-110 range. The dating of Barnabas depends on whether the little horn in 4:4-5 is a reference to Nerva after the reigns of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, unless it is taken from an earlier oracle on Vespasian after the Year of the Three Emperors or a prediction of a future antichrist, and questions over whether Nerva excited the hopes for a rebuilt Jewish temple (16:3-4). Otherwise, it may be read in light of Hadrian’s ban of circumcision (9:4) and plans for a Pagan temple (16:3-4). The Didache preserves very old Jewish Christian traditions and the only reason to put it at the turn of the century is it seems know Matthew (8.2; 11.3; 15.3, 4).
- Gospel of Thomas: I find convincing that at least some sayings reflect Matthean or Lukan redaction while others may be independent, perhaps as Matthew and Luke influenced the oral stream that reached Thomas, and no one rebuilding this house in saying 70 might be post Bar-Kochba.
- Marcion: traditional date of his excommunication is 144 CE, but Justin Martyr (1 Apol. 50) suggests Justin’s complaint that an elderly Marcion is still active in his day may indicate that Marcion’s ministry dates back earlier.
In the Two Source Theory, Matthew and Luke relied on Mark’s narrative (i.e. triple tradition) and a hypothetical source called “Q” from Quelle (source) to account for the shared non-Markan sayings in Matthew/Luke (i.e. double tradition). Scholars posited a hypothetical source, rather than assume that Luke just took over the sayings from Matthew or vice-versa, and gave a number of reasons for the independence of Matthew and Luke. Since a number of passages in the double tradition are near verbatim, it seems unlikely that Matthew and Luke drew independently on oral tradition alone rather than a written source(s). The second most popular theory to account for the Synoptic Problem, the Farrer Theory, argues that Luke used Matthew and eliminates the need for Q. Here are some arguments for and against the existence of Q.
Lack of Matthew’s Additions to Mark
If Luke knows both Mark and Matthew, we would expect Luke to be familiar with Matthew’s redaction of Mark. John Kloppenborg (“On Dispensing with Q? Goodacre on the Relation of Luke to Matthew” NTS 49 : 210-36) argues that it would be odd for Luke to not reproduce the following additions to Mark (p. 219):
- Matt 3:14-15 – the dialogue between Jesus and John the Baptist.
- Matt 12:5-7 – additional justifications for Jesus’ Sabbath practices including that Jesus is greater than the Temple and the Hosea proof-text about desiring mercy rather than sacrifice
- Matt 13:14-17 – the Isaiah proof-text to explain why the crowd was unable to grasp the parables. One could add that Luke frequently does not reproduce the scriptural proof-texts by which Matthew legitimates Mark’s story
- Matt 14:28-31 – Peter walks on water [BUT Mark's whole episode is cut out in Luke's great omission]
- Matt 16:16-19 – blessing Peter for his divinely given insight into Jesus’ identity and giving him the keys of the kingdom and power to bind/loose on earth as it is in heaven
- Matt 19:19b – Matthew’s exception to the divorce prohibition [BUT Luke omits Mark's section on divorce]
- Matt 27:19, 24 – the dream of Pilate’s wife to having nothing to do with an innocent man and Pilate washing his hands of the guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus
Farrer theorists might respond that this objection is framed according to the Two Source Hypothesis. That is, not only does Luke follow Matthew in the innovation of re-writing Mark with the addition of birth/Easter narratives and expanded teaching material, but Luke does reproduce some of Matthew’s additions to Mark in the minor agreements (e.g., ‘who hit you’ in Matt 26:68/Luke 22:64 against Mark 14:65) and major agreements/so-called Mark-Q overlaps (e.g., temptations in Matt 4:1-11/Luke 4:1-13 against Mark 1:12-13) against Mark. Second, if Luke knew Mark for a long time before coming into contact with Matthew, perhaps Luke was hesitant to include Matthew’s redactional changes to Mark’s text that had long been used by the community. Third, Mark Goodacre invokes Austin Farrer’s notion of “Luke pleasing” to explain why Luke takes over some but not many of Matthew’s additions to the triple tradition. Sometimes we can make educated guesses about why Luke did not reproduce something from Matthew while other times we may be at a loss on Luke’s reasons, though the same applies to discerning the cause for Luke’s omissions from Mark. Lets take an example: Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q, p. 50) points out that there is a very good reason to omit the dialogue between Jesus and the Baptist in Luke: Luke has imprisoned John before the baptism (Luke 3:20)! However, Kloppenborg (pp. 219-20) retorts that this is Luke’s solution to get over the embarrassment that Jesus underwent John’s baptism for the forgiveness of sins, an expedient that would not have been necessary if he knew Matthew’s solution to have the Baptist protest how he needs to be baptized by Jesus and Jesus respond that his baptism is necessary to fulfill all righteousness. The question is whether Luke’s omissions can be explained by fidelity to Mark’s text and/or for redactional reasons or better accounted for by Luke’s ignorance of Matthew.
Lack of “M” material
In addition to Q, B.H. Streeter argued that the special material found only in Matthew and Luke went back to distinct sources (“M” and “L”). Today, most scholars view Matthew and Luke drawing on a diversity of oral or written traditions for their special material rather than treating “M” and “L” as distinct sources (but see Kim Paffenroth, The Story of Jesus According to L; RBL review). J. Andrew Doole’s What Was Mark for Matthew distinguishes “M” traditions loosely connected to Mark’s narrative and others that appear to embellish upon Mark itself (33-4). His list of the latter (e.g., priests work on the Sabbath, Peter walks on water, Peter given the keys to the kingdom, eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, become as children, the innocence of Pilate, other narrative details) belong above under additions to the triple tradition, though Doole sees pre-Matthean oral tradents rather than the conservative Matthew as embellishing Mark, but here are examples of the former:
- Nativity (genealogy, Joseph’s dream, Immanuel, star and magi, slaughter in Bethlehem and flight to Egypt) (Matt 1-2)
- The healing of two blind persons and a mute one (9:27-34)
- The scribe trained for the kingdom of heaven brings out new treasure along with the old (13:51-52)
- Paying the Temple Tax with a coin from a fishes mouth (17:24-27)
- Judas’ death by hanging (27:3-10) (*note: Acts 1:17-20 describes Judas’ death very differently)
- The earthquake and the resurrection of the saints (27:51b-53)
- The Great Commission (28:16-20)
- Parables – hidden treasure, fine pearl, good and bad fish, 2 sons, maidens’ lamps, sheep & goats (13:44-50; 21:28-31; 25:1-13, 31-40) (*note: other famous parables are the unmerciful servant in 18:23-35 or workers in the vineyard in 20:1-16)
- Logia – uprooted plants, eschatological predictions (Matt 15:13; 24:10-12, 26) (*note: 24:10-12, 26 does not seem to me loosely connected but other examples might be the yoke saying of 11:28-30 or church rules of 18:15-20)
An obvious retort to why more “M” is not Luke is, if it was included, it would not be “M” since it would be part of the double tradition in Matthew/Luke and Two Source theorists would classify it as “Q” or Farrer theorists what Luke took from Matthew. Yet Two Source Theorists deem many “M” traditions to nicely align with Luke’s theology (Gentiles, grace/forgiveness, poverty), and ask why Luke would exclude these traditions. Farrer theorists argue “M” was Luke -displeasing: “Must we therefore distinguish in Matthew two elements, M and Q, M rabbinic in tone, Q popular and nonrabbinic, of which St. Luke knew Q, but not M? Will it not do as well to say that St. Luke let alone what he did not care for, viz., the rabbinic parts of Matthew?” (Austin Farrer, “On Dispensing with Q“, 58). But this may not accurately characterize “L” with its birth narratives in the style of the Septuagint, scriptural proof-texts in the Nazarene synagogue episode, additional halakhic arguments for Sabbath practices, and so on (cf. the Jerusalem Decree in Acts). Did Luke have other reasons to pass over M? Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q) observes that Luke reproduces much of Matthew’s birth narrative (Virgin Birth, Mary/Joseph, Bethlehem), replaces the gloom of Herod’s atrocity with the joy of Elizabeth and Mary or rejoicing angels and shepherds, and eliminates the Magi due to disliking magicians. Francis Watson (Gospel Writing, 131-6, 141-3) emphasizes Luke’s account as a reaction to Matthew: the annunciation is to Mary as the main subject rather than Joseph, Luke’s wording echoes Matthew, and Luke’s geneology rejects descent through Solomon’s line (cf. Jer 22:28-30; 36:30-1). Can one find redactional reasons for Luke excluding M, or revising it (Goodacre notes that Luke 24:46-9 adapts the Great Commission; Watson argues the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 reworks the two sons in Matthew 21:28-31), or are the omissions better accounted for by Luke’s ignorance of Matthew?
Lack of Agreement When Departing From Mark’s Order
Start with a Synopsis and look at when Matthew or Luke depart from Mark’s order. Matthew switches the healing of the leper (Mt 8:14-7; Mk 1:40-5) and Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt 8:14-7; Mk 1:29-34), relocates the calming of the storm followed by the demoniacs (doubled) (Mt 8:23-34; Mk 4:36-5:20) and the healing of Jairus’ daughter as well as hemorrhaging woman (Mt 9:18-26; Mk 5:22-43), has Jesus designate the “Twelve” later in the narrative (Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-9), and moves back predictions of persecution (Mt 10:17-23; Mk 13:9-13). Luke moves John’s imprisonment (Lk 3:19-20; Mk 6:17-8) and the Nazarene synagogue (Lk 4:16-30; Mk 6:1-6) and the woman anointing Jesus (Lk 7:36-50; Mk 14:3-9) forward in the narrative, moves the call of the first disciples (Lk 5:1-11; Mk 1:16-20) and Jesus’ true family (Lk 8:19-21; Mk 3:31-5) later in the narrative, switches the crowds following Jesus and the designation of the Twelve (Lk 6:12-19; Mk 3:7-19), and puts the saying about Jesus as one who serves at the Last Supper (Lk 22:24-7; Mk 10:45).
The fact that Matthew and Luke rarely agree when departing from Mark’s order is explained on the Two Source Theory as due to their independent use of Mark. How might Farrer theorists respond? By not taking over Matthew’s alterations, Luke may have wanted to restore Mark’s order as his primary source. Yet Luke also straightens out weak spots in Mark’s order: John’s imprisonment gets around the problem of John baptizing Jesus, Luke’s Nazarene synagogue is Jesus’ inaugural proclamation that sets the tone (e.g., foreshadowing the Gentile mission), or the call of the disciples is left until after some of the ministry so it is not so random to drop everything to follow a yet-unknown teacher. In Michael Goulder’s Luke: A New Paradigm, he argues that Luke’s prologue on past attempts “to arrange in sequence” (anataxasthai) a narrative and the author’s goal to write an “orderly” account means that Luke wanted to reconcile chronological disputes between Mark and Matthew (199-200). Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q) argues that Luke knew, preached, and memorized Mark for 20 years before coming into contact with Matthew (51, 89). He writes, “In this way, Luke stands at a unique moment in Christian origins, a moment when Matthew’s importance is beginning to be felt, but when Mark is still in many ways valued more highly” (90). But does the attitude towards the sources in the Lukan prologue (and possibly the representation of “John Mark”) and Luke’s liberty to make changes to Mark, including major alterations (cf. Passion Narrative), expansions (e.g., Lk 4:16-30; 7:36-50), and omissions (Mk 6:45-8:27), suggest that Luke had such fidelity to Mark that the author would not go along with Matthew’s relocation of Markan episodes? Or is Luke’s ignorance of Matthew’s re-arrangements of Mark more likely?
Sometimes the form of the double tradition seems more primitive in Matthew and other times in Luke. This makes sense if either Matthew or Luke alternate between sticking closely to Q or adapting the wording/content of the source to their redactional interests, but, if Luke is copying Matthew (or vice-versa), would we expect Luke (or Matthew) to always be secondary? Michael Goulder (Luke: A New Paradigm) takes the line that Matthew is the creative originator of the non-Markan material and so Luke’s formulation must be secondary, while Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q) is open to oral/written sources so Luke may sometimes know pre-Matthean formulations. To decide what is a more primitive formulation, John Kloppenborg and Robert A. Derrenbacker, “Self-Contradiction in the IQP? A Reply to Michael Goulder” JBL 120 (2001): 57-76 explain the reasoning behind determining whether Matthew or Luke better approximate Q in select cases even without having Q to double check:
[A] phrase or word should be treated as secondary (that is, not deriving from Q), (a) when it can be shown by reference to Matthew’s treatment of Mark and by reference to editorial or transitional portions of Matthew that Matthew has a tendency to add the phrase or word, and (b) when Luke has no aversion to the phrase or word. (The same logic applies mutatis mutandis to Lukan phrases and words.) (p. 63)
Additionally, they take from text criticism the preference for the shorter or difficult reading, for a scribe is more likely to expand (elaborate, clarify) than abbreviate and solve than create theological tensions, and use a similar rating system to the United Bible Society on the probability of reconstructions (pp. 59-63). Lets look at examples.
Lord’s Prayer: is Luke’s shorter version earlier and “debts” or “sins” more primitive?
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to a time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one (Matt 6:9-13)
“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial. (Luke 11:2-4)
Beatitudes: did Matthew spiritualize the blessing or Luke abbreviate Matthew’s beatitude out of concern for the poor?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3)
“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)
Finger or Spirit: has Matthew replaced Q’s wording since it is unlikely that Luke would skip a reference to the Spirit given the interest in the Spirit in Luke-Acts or Luke change Matthew to “finger of God” to connect Jesus with Moses (Exod 8:19; 31:18)?
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matt 12:28)
But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)
The Sender: does Matthew change Q to identify Jesus with wisdom or Luke find Matthew problematic that Jesus sent the prophets of old? Or Matthew 11:19 has wisdom vindicated by her deeds (done byJesus and/or John?) and Luke 7:35 by her children (Jesus and John?), so is Matthew again altering Q to make the identification with Wisdom explicit or Luke not like Matthew’s wisdom Christology (cf. “M” yoke saying in Matt 11:28-30; cf. Sir. 51:25-6)?
Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari′ah the son of Barachi′ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. (Matt 23:34-5)
Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechari′ah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. (Luke 11:49)
Sign of Jonah: did Matthew expand an original Q sign about Jesus’ preaching (cf. Ninevah repented at Jonah’s preaching and the queen of the south traveled far to hear Solomon) into a sign about his death and resurrection or Luke abbreviate Matthew?
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt 13:40)
For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nin′eveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation. (Luke 11:30)
The Different Order of the Double Tradition
(1) [S]ubsequent to the Temptation story, there is not a single case in which Matthew and Luke agree in inserting the same saying at the same point in the Marcan outline. (2) If then Luke derived this material from Matthew, he must have gone through both Matthew and Mark so as to discriminate with meticulous precision between Marcan and non-Marcan material; (3) he must then have proceeded with the utmost care to tear every little piece of non-Marcan material he desired to use from the context of Mark in which it appeared in Matthew—(4) in spite of the fact that contexts in Matthew are always exceedingly appropriate—(5) in order to re-insert it into a different context of Mark having no special appropriateness. (6) A theory which would make an author capable of such a proceeding would only be tenable if, on other grounds, we had reason to believe he was a crank. (B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, 183
Matthew has tidily collected the Q material into great blocks. Luke, we must then suppose, has broken up this tidy arrangement and scattered the Q material without rhyme or reason all over his gospel — a case of unscrambling the egg with a vengeance! (R.H. Fuller, The New Testament in Current Study, 87)
We are not bound to show that what St. Luke did to St. Matthew turned out to be a literary improvement on St. Matthew. All we have to show is that St. Luke’s plan was capable of attracting St. Luke. You do not like what I have done to the garden my predecessor left me. You are welcome to your opinion, but I did what I did because I thought I should prefer the new arrangement. And if you want to enjoy whatever special merit my gardening has, you must forget my predecessor’s ideas and try to appreciate mine. (Austin Farrer “On Dispensing with Q“, 65)
Classically stated, Two Source theorists argue that Matthew integrated Q in Mark’s framework and organized it into five thematic discourses that ended with a statement about “when Jesus had finished these words/parables/teachings” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1), while Luke separated out Q in two main blocks (6:20-8:3; 9:51-18:15; + 3:1-4:16). Of course, this is a simplification as Mark Goodacre points out double tradition/Q in Matt 3-4; 8:5-13; 8:19-22; 9:37-8; 11:2-27; 12:22-45; 22:1-10 and Matthew’s five discourses are not all mainly made up of Q (Case Against Q, 82-3). But on the Farrer Theory, why would Luke 1. detach Matthew’s new material (i.e. Q) from Markan contexts in which Matthew placed it and 2. break up Matthew’s arrangement of the material with the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6-8) as a test case. Here are examples of #1:
Matt 10:10b, 12-16/Luke 10:3-11 – the mission discourse
Matthew has the mission discourse after the commissioning and naming of the Twelve (cf. Mark 6:7, 3:16-19 moved back) and an “M” tradition restricting their mission to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew conflates the double tradition with Mark’s mission discourse (Mark 6:8-13). Luke covered the naming of the Twelve in 6:13-16 and has Mark’s mission discourse after the Commission of the Twelve in 9:1-6, so the double tradition passages are located separately after the “L” tradition of the commission of the seventy (Luke 10:1). Note also how the sayings in Luke 10:2, 13-15/Matt 9:37-8; 11:21-24 are placed around the commission of the seventy in Luke and in separate contexts in Matthew.
Matt 13:16-17/Luke 10:23-24 = blessed for what they see and hear.
Matthew has this statement after the Isaiah proof-text about how the crowd is hardened to not grasp the parables. Luke has it after the double tradition Christological passage about how the Son alone knows and reveals the Father (Luke 10:22/Matt 11:27)
Matt 18:12-13/Luke 15:4-5 = the parable of the lost sheep
Matthew has this after the warning not to lead little ones (disciples?) into sin and to cut off the source of sin (cf. Mark 9:42-7) and “M” tradition about not looking down on little ones because their angels behold the Father. Luke has the accusation that Jesus eats with sinners to introduce the parable and follows with related L parables (lost coin, lost son).
Matt 19:28/Luke 22:30 = sitting on (twelve) thrones
Matthew’s promise occurs after Mark’s challenging story of the rich person and Peter’s comment that the disciples left everything (Mark 10:17-28). Luke puts it in the Last Supper where Jesus confers on the disciples a kingdom and may omit “twelve” to not have the betrayer in the list (Luke also relocates the greatest as a servant from Mark 10:42-5a).
Matt 24:26-8, 37-41/Luke 17:23-4, 26-37 = Unexpected Judgment
Matthew inserts this material fittingly within Mark’s eschatological discourse while Luke has a separate discussion with the Pharisees and disciples on the timing of the kingdom and day of the Son of Man.
Farrer theorists note times Luke has Matthean additions (Q) within Markan contexts in the baptism. temptations, and Beelzebub incident. Matthew’s/Luke’s agree against Mark in setting up the incident after the exorcism of a dumb demon (Matt 12:22/Luke 11:14; cf. Matt 9:32-4), though Matthew has this shortly after Sabbath controversies and Luke after a section on prayer. The Centurion’s servant takes place shortly after the Sermon (Luke 7:1-10/Matt 8:5-13), despite Matthew placing the Sermon far earlier in Jesus’ career, with only the healing of the Leper intervening in Matthew (8:1-4; cf. Mark 1:40-5; Luke 5:12-15) (Goodacre, Case Against Q, 91). Watson argues that Matthew and Luke draw on Mark 3:7-19 to set up the Sermon: Matthew’s Sermon is after the healing/exorcism ministry to diverse crowds and Jesus is on a mountain (deleted from the naming of the Twelve in Matt 10:2-4) while in Luke Jesus names the Twelve on a mountain and then heals/exorcizes among diverse crowds before the Sermon on the Plain (Gospel Writing, 151-5). These examples show that Luke may be aware of Matthew’s location of double tradition and yet, if Mark was Luke’s primary source, mostly moved Matthew’s additions out from the original material in Mark.
The next issue is why break up and relocate whole sections of double tradition in Matthew, truncating Matthew’s Sermon (Lk 6:20-49) and scattering parts in Luke 11-16? Goulder (“Juggernaut“) and Goodacre (Case Against Q, 92-6) insist, on analogy to how Luke 8:4-18 treats Mark 4:1-34 (omits Mk 4:26-9, 33-4, relocates Mk 4:30-2 to Lk 13:18-9) and Luke 9:46-8 treats Mark 9:33-50 (omits Mk 9:43-8, relocates Mk 9:42 to Lk 17:1-2, Mk 9:49-50 to Lk 14:34-5), Luke dislikes long speeches. Goodacre defends Goulder against criticisms that Luke-Acts has lengthy speeches (e.g., Lk 12:22-53; 21:5-36; Acts 2:14-36; 7:2-53): many are not much longer than Goulder’s 12-20 verses rule in averaging about 30 verses, Luke tends to not take over wholesale long speeches from sources while the speeches in Acts may be original, and Luke tolerates long speeches when suiting his agenda (e.g., rehearsal of Israel’s history in Acts 7, the difficulty of detaching Mark’s eschatological calendar in Luke 21 so even Matthew, who relocates Mk 13:9-12 in Mt 10:17-22, reproduces the verses in the eschatological discourse). Kloppenborg (“Dispensing with Q?“, 229-30) responds that Luke 12:1-13:9 is 52 verses of mostly direct discourse with few interjections to address different persons (cf. Lk 14:7-17:11 at a Pharisee’s house). Whether Farrer proponents make a convincing case that Luke’s rearrangements make redactional sense, see Farrer (“On Dispensing with Q“, 67-84), Goulder (Luke: A New Paradigm), Mark Matson (“Luke’s Rewriting of the Sermon on the Mount“), Goodacre (The Case Against Q, 97-102), or Watson (Gospel Writing, ch 4). Luke may forge new links: Luke 6:20 beatitudes concentrate on the reversal for the poor/mistreated are supplemented with “L” woes against the well-to-do and continues to counsel the mistreated to love enemies, not retaliate, live by the golden rule, and not judge. Luke 11 detaches the Lord’s prayer from Matthew’s context of Jewish praxis (alms, fasting) to precede parables about not giving up hope for answered prayer. Kloppenborg (228-9) wonders why the eyes as a lamp from Matt 6:22-3 (after the evil eye) would be moved to Luke 11:34-6 and Matt 6:24 on God vs Mammon from Matthew’s next verse about material cares to Luke 16:13 by the “L” parable in 16:1-12 of the unjust manager who uses Mammon to his advantage, but Watson sees links (189-90, 209). Luke takes the lamp on its stand in Mt 5:15 where it was a call to shine for all to see (Mt 5:16) and links it to the eyes as a lamp so like a lamb the eyes reveal ones inner light (lacking in this generation of Lk 11:29-32). The L parable about faithful vs unfaithful uses of unrighteous Mammon is supplemented by how we ultimately serve God rather than Mammon (cf. Matson, 23-4). So does Luke locate the double tradition different than Matthew because both independently used Q, with Matthew re-arranging Q into Mark’s framework and organized discourses, or are there reasons for Luke to re-arrange Matthew’s non-Markan material?
The Distinct Profile of Q
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 “after an exordium so full of dogmatic weight and historical destiny, 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). In contrast, William 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). Arnal’s statement takes on Farrer theorists and those who propose that some of the double tradition goes back to oral tradition (Dunn, Horsley) or multiple Greek/Aramaic sources (Casey), though even strict defenders of the classic Two Source formulation tend to admit that the reality was more messy than the model of two sources (Mark, Q) used for heuristic purposes. Yet Q specialists argue that Q has a coherent genre as either a prophetic book (Schult, Sato, Boring) or wisdom collection (Robinson, Kloppenborg, Kirk) and distinct themes (Jesus as Wisdom’s emissary, judgment on an unrepentant generation similar to Sodom, the death of Jesus in line with the rejected prophets according to a Deuteronomistic History). Here are some Q studies.
For Farrer theorists, “Q” is really the material that Luke was favorably disposed to and took over from Matthew, so it is not a surprise that its themes stand out from the material that Luke did not take over from Matthew (“M”) and some are in accordance with Luke’s interests (e.g., the speeches in Acts where the leaders are condemned for their rejection of the prophets culminating in the death of the Righteous One according to a Deuteronomistic interpretation of history). Moreover, the surprise that, by isolating the double tradition in Matthew and Luke (as opposed to Mark, Matthew or Luke’s special material), it would form a coherent source in its own right may just be a product of so much intensive scholarly interest in this section of the Synoptic Gospels.
The Parallel with How Other Ancient Writers Used their Sources
Robert Allen Derrenbacker, Ancient Compositional Practices and the Synoptic Problem (PhD thesis; Toronto, 2001), F. Gerald Downing, Doing Things with Words in the First Christian Century, and J. Andrew Doole, What was Mark for Matthew argue that the Two Source Theory better accords with ancient compositional practices. The ancients avoided complex harmonizations of multiple sources and, if a discrepancy arose between sources, the agreements between them served as the basis for a new account. Instead they stuck to one major source at a time, though it might be supplemented from their memory or brief notes from other material, or they alternated between sources in whole blocks. So on this theory, Luke chiefly alternates between blocks on Mark and on Q (6:20-8:3, 9:51-18:14; exception 3-4, 19:11-27). Matthew is more difficult as it conflates Mark with Q on occasion, but Matthew still keeps much of the Q material in blocks. This is another reason why the Griesbach hypothesis, which envisions Mark conflating Matthew and Luke, is impractical. Goulder, who has Luke jumping around over Matthew and moving forwards and then backwards, must explain this impractical procedure. Interestingly, Watson agreed on the weakness of Goulder “necessitating a complex to-and-fro movement within the Matthean text” and posits that Luke relied on a notebook when first reading through Matthew and drew from his notes in rearranging pieces of Matthew to forge new connections (Gospel Writing, 170-1, 171 n. 27). John C. Poirier’s “The Roll, the Codex, the Wax Tablet and the Synoptic Problem” JSNT 35 (2012): 3-30 argues Derrenbacker and Downing overestimate the difficulty of handling a scroll in the way Farrer theorists assume when Luke read through Matthew and that wax tablets could allow Luke to experiment with new arrangements in his notes before the final copy.
If Matthew and Luke independently used Mark, agreements in their changes Matthew and Luke make to Mark should be coincidental. Yet there are literally hundreds of minor agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark; virtually every episode in the triple tradition has them. Many examples are trivial, but some create an issue for the presumed independence of Luke from Matthew in the Two Source Theory:
- Jesus is moved with “anger” (or “compassion”) at the request of the leper to make him clean (Mark 1:40-42), but the emotion is omitted in Matt 8:2-3/Luke 5:12-3.
- The Sabbath is made for humankind in Mark 2:27, but this line is omitted in Matt 12:8/Luke 6:5 as only Jesus as the Son of Man is the Sabbath’s Lord.
- The disciples given the mystery of the kingdom in Mark 4:11, but the mysteries of the kingdom to know in Matt 13:11/Luke 8:10.
- Jesus rise in three days in Mark 8:31, but on the third day in Matt 16:21/Luke 9:22.
- The guards mock Jesus to prophesy in Mark 14:65, even as they fulfill prophecy in their treatment of Jesus, but they specify to prophesy “who hit you” in Matt 26:67-8/Luke 22:64.
The Farrer theorists point out that Luke reproduces Matthew’s changes to Mark. The strongest attempt to deal with the minor agreements from the Two Source Theory is Frans Neirynck, The Minor Agreements of Matthew and Luke Against Mark with a Cumulative List. An appeal that Neirynck does not make in the points below, as opposed to other Two Source theorists (Helmut Koester), is that Matthew and Luke knew a proto-Mark different from our Mark.
- Common stylistic changes (the obvious need to edit Mark’s awkward grammar, style or Aramaisms)
- Common theological changes (coincidentally editing Mark’s theological liabilities in a similar manner)
- Influence from oral tradition on the text of Matt/Luke
- Later scribal harmonizations of the text of Matt/Luke
Major Agreements or Mark-Q Overlaps
There are times Matthew and Luke agree to a larger extent against Mark. John Kloppenborg’s Q: the Earliest Gospel has a list on page 34 (Q follows Luke’s references). Two Source theorists argue that Mark and Q recounted some similar episodes (e.g., the Baptizer, the temptation, the Beelzebub accusation) and sayings (e.g., note the doublet on divorce), so they categorize these examples as Mark-Q overlaps and note that, after Matthew 4:13/Luke 4:16, Matthew and Luke do not use the Q overlapping points in the same context (e.g., missionary discourse, eschatological discourse) or the same way. Goodacre posts here, here, here, here, and here on why this is a weakness for the Two Source Theory and the simpler explanation is that Luke takes over these extended additions to Mark directly from Matthew.
Literary fatigue happens when a writer makes changes to his or her source, but does not carry the changes all the way forward but accidentally reverts back to the source at points, despite the inconsistencies this creates. Mark Goodacre’s “Fatigue in the Synoptics” NTS 44 (1998): 45-58 and The Synoptic Problem: A Way through the Maze pp. 154-6 offers examples where Luke seems to revert back to the way Matthew reports something, overlooking that it no longer makes sense in the new context established by Luke. But why cannot Luke be making changes to “Q” wording that is better preserved in Matthew and then unintentionally revert back to it? In that case, we would expect to find other examples where Matthew shows signs of editorial fatigue in reverting back to Q as it is better preserved in Luke after making changes, but Goodacre cannot find any examples to this effect. Delbert Burkett has attempted a rebuttal to this point in an appendix of his Rethinking the Gospel Sources, Volume 2: The Unity and Plurality of Q (cf. Goodacre’s response to an example of editorial fatigue in Matthew in the comments on his podcast on the subject). If Goodacre persuades his peers, this may be a smoking gun for Luke’s knowledge of Matthew.
To begin the series, here are some online resources about Q. I have tried to include as many academic links as I can find (in addition to ntgateway.com I linked to articles available in full online rather than just articles/books where one can only get a preview) and will try to continue to expand the list as I come across more resources or hear suggestions in the comments. I do not endorse every link I have posted, but it gives a good idea of the breadth of academic opinion on the subject:
The Synoptic Problem and the Case for/Against Q
- The Five Gospels Parallels, by John W. Marshall
- Synoptic Problem Website, by Stephen Carlson
- A Synoptic Gospels Primer, by Mahlon H. Smith
- The Synoptic Problem, by Daniel Wallace
- The Synoptic Problem, by Felix Just
- Synoptic-L, Yahoo Discussion Group
- The Sayings Gospel Q at earlychristianwritings.com (includes The Existence of Q and other online links), by Peter Kirby
- Synoptic Problem and Q, by Mark Goodacre (websites, books/articles, Q web materials)
- The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze, by Mark Goodacre
- The Case Against Q, by Mark Goodacre (summary of the case against the existence of Q and includes articles by Austin Farrer, Michael Goulder, Edward C. Hobbs, and Mark Goodacre)
- NT Pod 25: Q, NT Pod 26: The Case Against Q, by Mark Goodacre
- Q as Hypothesis: A Study in Methodology, by Francis Watson
- The Lost Gospel Q: Fact or Fantasy?, by Eta Linnemann (*use with caution: apologetic and tendentious review)
- Publications, by John S. Kloppenborg (includes responses to Goulder and Goodacre)
- Three Source Theory, by Ron Price (note: Q is reconstructed out of Matt’s/Luke’s shared material on the assumption of their independence, but Price accepts Luke’s use of Matthew yet uses other criteria to reconstruct a hypothetical sayings source)
The Text of Q as reconstructed from Matthew/Luke (Q verses follow Luke since scholars generally think that Luke sticks closer to Q’s order whereas Matthew integrates it within Markan frameworks)
- The Sayings Gospel Q in English Translation (Fortress, 2001), by the Editorial Board of the International Q Project
- The Text of Q according to Funk/Miller, by Gregory Riley (posted by Peter Kirby)
- The Gospel According to Q, The Q source based on Luke, by James Tabor
- Q/Thomas Parallels in the Thomas Version, by Stevan Davies
Theories about Q and Christian Origins
- The Sayings Gospel Q: a Bibliography, by Rick Fowler (posted by Peter Kirby)
- The Current State of Q, by Nancy R. Heisey
- Synoptic Problem and Q: Books and Articles, by Mark Goodacre
- “The Sayings Source Q“, “The Sayings Gospel Q“, “The Synoptic Problem” (Google books searches)
- The Real Jesus of the Sayings Gospel Q, by James Robinson
- The Historical Jesus and the Sayings Tradition: Comments on Current Research, by Jens Schroeter
- Q Review, by Peter Head and P.J. Williams
- The Historical Jesus and the Final Judgment Sayings in Q, by Brian Hann Gregg
- Jesus’ Death in Q, Blessings and Boundaries: Interpretations of Jesus’ Death in Q, by David Seely
- Testing Temptation: the Meaning of Q 11:4b, by Jeffrey Gibson
- Loving Our Enemies: The Core of Jesus’ Vision in the Sayings Gospel Q, by Robert Perry
- The Canonical Status of Q, by Mahlon H. Smith
- The Trouble with Q, by Daniel A. Smith
- The Post-Mortem Vindication of Jesus in the Sayings Gospel Q, by Daniel A. Smith
- John Kloppenborg’s Theories of the Stratification of Q, by William Arnal
- Q: The Lost Sayings Source Burton Mack’s Translation, (features Mack’s literary stratification of Q), by Sam Gibson (posted by Tony Burke)
- The Wisdom and Apocalyptic Layers of the Sayings Gospel Q: What is Their Significance?, by P.J. Hartin
- John Kloppenborg’s Stratification of Q and Its Significance for Historical Jesus Studies, by Dennis Ingolfsland
When we come across a text, it is necessary to understand the type of literary work we are dealing with, whether to classify it as a history, biography, novel, fairly tale, lab report, letter, and so on. For instance, if the opening line is “once upon a time in a far away land,” you may instantly recognize the “genre” to which this text belongs. Mary Anne Tolbert notes that genre can broadly cover archetypal plot patterns (e.g., tragedy, comedy, romance), more narrowly classify texts that possess related traits (plotting, characterization, motifs/themes) as belonging in a category (e.g., novels, biography, poetry), or specifically describe features of a single text. She defines genre as “a prior agreement between authors and readers or as a set of shared expectations or as a consensus of ‘fore-understandings exterior to a text which enable us to follow that text’” [citing Frank Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy, 30] (Sowing the Gospel, 49). Likewise, Richard Burridge explains that speaking or writing happen in a system of conventions (traits, rules, customs, necessities, properties that constitute verbal meaning) and genre is a contract between author and reader based on shared expectations about what traits make up an utterance (Graeco-Roman Biography, 34-6, 43-4; cf. John C. Meagher, “Literary Uniqueness,” 205-6). Meagher adds that a unique genre violates two standard assumptions in literary history: humans rarely have the ability to produce something genuinely original, as novelty often relates to content rather than to forms which are culturally conditioned, and meaning is understood in the context of shared conventions (211). What is the Gospel genre?
Form Critics and the Unique Kerygmatic Genre
Martin Dibelius judged the early Christians to be unliterary persons who had no need to record history in light of the imminent end of the age, so the only form in which the Jesus tradition could be preserved was in missionary preaching (kerygma) (Tradition, 60-61). The evangelists too were not literary composers but, principally, collectors/editors of traditions (1, 3).Rudolf Bultmann outlines how the death and resurrection kerygma became fixed in creeds (1 Cor 15:3-5), expanded to prophetic prooftexts and Jesus’ anointing at the baptism and the Eucharist, expanded with miracles and pronouncement stories confirming Jesus’ authority, and lastly adding sayings originally passed down separately for exhortation or instruction (Mark has some sayings, Matthew/Luke take over “Q”) (Theology, 86). For Dibelius (5-6) and Bultmann (Synoptic Tradition, 6-7), the closest analogy to the oral traditions are folktales, fairy-stories, folk songs, and cult legends (e.g., hagiography of saints, anecdotes about Rabbis, tales of Hellenistic heroes, the Jataka collection of Buddhist canon). K.L. Schmidt emphasized that the Gospels are not Hochliteratur (high literature) but like folk books or cult legends, the Gospel tradition developed akin to German folktales (e.g., Dr. Faustus) or hagiographic tales in a cultic context, and the Gospels lack an authorial “I” or distinct personality or intention of the author present even in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius (“Literaturgeschichte,” 76, 82, 114). Boring adds that, unlike biographies, the Gospels juxtapose images of Jesus’ humanity and divinity through the secrecy motif, proclaim the climax of universal history, do not distinguish the past historical figure and present Lord, are constituted by oral units formed out of preaching, and express the Christ-event in parabolic imagery (Mark, 7-8). As kerygmatic narratives, they are unparalleled Christian creations sui generis.
Criticisms: the evangelist’s limited literary ability has no implications for the genre of their writings, the fact that the evangelist had access to an abundance of types of material that originated in different settings (e.g., preaching) has no implications for the genre of the finished product, the view of the evangelists as compilers of tradition has given way to redaction and literary critical interest in them as creative authors, and a unique genre is a contradiction of terms if genre is a system of shared conventions.
- Boring, M. Eugene. Mark: A Commentary. The New Testament Library. Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, London, 2006.
- Bultmann, Rudolf. The History of the Synoptic Tradtion. Translated by John Marsh; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1972; The Theology of the New Testament: Volume I. New York: Schribner, 1951.
- Dibelius, Martin. From Tradition to Gospel. Translated by Bertram Lee Woolf. Cambridge: James Clarke, 1971.
- Meagher, John C. “The Implications for Theology of a Shift from the K. L. Schmidt Hypothesis of the Literary Uniqueness of the Gospels.” Pages 203-33 in Colloquy on New Testament Studies. Edited by Bruce C. Corley. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1983. [Critiques the Form Critical View]
- Schmidt, K.L. “Die Stellung der Evangelien in der allgemeinen Literaturgeschichte” in EYXAPIΣTHPION: Studien zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments ['The Place of the Gospels in the General History of Literature' in Eucharisterion: Studies on Religion and Literature of the Old and New Testaments].
Hadas and Smith label Luke, Porphyry’s Pythagoras, Philo’s Moses,and Philostratus’ Apolonius of Tyana as aretalogies, a type of biography on a subject’s supernatural birth, wisdom, miracles, defiance of tyranny, martyrdom, and post-mortem vindication. In Smith’s article, an aretalogus (aretai or miracles) is a “teller of miracle stories” (175): temple functionary (e.g., hymns to Isis) or spinner of tales (e.g., Seutonius, Augustus, 74 on entertainers and aretalogi at dinner parties; Juvenal 15.16 on a lying aretalogus; Manetho Apotelesmaticorum, 4, 445-49 on myth-makers’ aretalogies) (174-5). Aretalogia is “telling tall stories and the praises of a god” (175-6). There are no extant texts, but he notes a miracle story entitled Dios Hēliou megalou Sarapidos aretē (p. Oxy. 11, 1382, lines 22ff [2nd cent CE]) or thanksgiving inscription aretēn Amenōtou (Egyptian Museum, Cairo, No. 67300 [261/60 BCE]) (176). Later he admits that Aretalogia, though used for reporting or the reports themselves (Manetho 4.445ff.; Sir. 36:13, 19), may not have a literary form (“genre”) but distinct content (hero’s wonderful deeds) (196). Few miracle collections survive outside scattered references or inscriptions and these are unlikethe Gospels in lacking linking material in a narrative “life” (cf. 177-8 n. 27, 178), but Damis’ hupomnēmata of Apollonius, Philostratus’ source, allegedly had prophecies, sayings, travels, post-mortem appearances, and miracles (177-9). Elite writers only mentioned prophets, magicians, or saviors if involved in politics (e.g., Thucydides 7.50.4 on prophets who led the admiral Nicias astray, Livy 39.15-16 on the Roman suppression of the Bacchanalia; Josephus War 2.258-64 on false prophets or messiahs) or to mock (Celsus on possessed prophets in Palestine in Cels. 7.9; Lucian’s satire of Alexander or Peregrinus) (179-81). The ancients knew of deities/daimones in human guise, demigods born of a god and human who achieved deification, the heroization of benefactors or rulers, historical figures with pretenses to divinity (181-2), and the goal of deification (Platonism, Eleusinian mysteries, magic) (182-4). Like Asclepius, Jesus was a famed healer, given a folk birth story, represented as a moral teacher or initiator of mysteries, became the principle of the cosmic order (logos) and solar deity (“light”), accused of magic by foes, and ascended to heaven (186). The issue with categorizing the ‘divine man’ (theios anēr) into types (prophet, magician, ruler, athlete, philosopher, doctor, poet) is that the borders are fuzzy and one’s god is another’s magician (187). Smith argues Jesus fits this type better that Jewish categories (196) and reconstructs an aretalogy underlying Mark 1-10 that runs from the baptism epiphany to the transfiguration (197-8).
Criticisms: there are no extant aretalogies with features that might distinguish it as its own genre (e.g., Damis’ notes on Apollonius are irrecoverable if such a source even existed). There has been significant criticism that the “divine man” (theios anēr) is a modern scholarly invention and abstraction from a variety of ancient figures such as philosophers or miracle workers (see here).
- Hadas, Moses and Smith, Morton. Heroes and Gods: Spiritual Biographies in Antiquity. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965.
- Smith, Morton. “Prolegomena to A Discussion of Aretalogies, Divine Men, the Gospels and Jesus.” Journal of Biblical Literature 90 (1971): 174-199
Like the form critics, Kee concludes that there is no real analogy for Mark as a whole (i.e. he rejects origins myth, biography, aretalogy, tragedy, comedy, romance, martyriology on pp. 17-29) and is a new genre of the church (30). However, Kee deems Mark to be akin to apocalyptic literature like Daniel (65). When a minority group is reduced to political impotence through social ostracism or political oppression, they may question their place in the social order and long for the transformation of society to accord with what the group understanding of the divine will (cf. Talcott Parsons on the intellectualism of the non-privileged group). Apocalyptic thought assures that the present historical crisis will be overcome by divine victory over evil forces, often leads to a group’s rethinking of interpersonal social bonds or older traditions (scripture) or relationships to socio-political structures, and encourages unwavering commitment (67, 70-4). Other Judean groups responded to the imperial situation differently – collaboration (Herodians), passive acquiescence while enforcing group purity boundaries (Pharisees), withdrawal from society (Essenes), or revolt (97-9) – Mark chose an open inclusive community that saw itself as a new covenant community, was alienated from the main body and sectarian groups within Second Temple Judaism, and renounced political power through acquiescence to the tribute (Mark 12:17) (100).
Criticisms: apocalyptic may describe features within Mark but not the work itself. Mark lacks many of the features in other apocalyptic texts including pseudonymous authors, angelic guides, otherwordly journeys, coded symbolism of mythical beasts, elaborate timetables (i.e., Mark 13 discourages interpreting wars, natural disasters, or persecution with the end itself and even the Son does not know the exact day or hour of judgment in 13:32).
- Kee, Howard Clark. Community of the New Age: Studies in Mark’s Gospel. Philadelphia: the Westminster Press, 1977.
Historiography or a Historical Monograph
Many scholars consider the Lukan prologue to parallel historiography (contra Loveday Alexander, see David Aune, Sean Adams, David P. Moesner, Clare K. Rothschild, Gregory E. Sterling), while proposals relating Luke-Acts to epic with parallels to Homer or the Aeneid (cf. Dennis MacDonald, Marianne Palmer Bonz), have not won the day. In his study, Byrskog insists on the importance of autopsy in ancient historiography, defined as obtaining info via sight – visiting locales, experiencing events, unearthing artifacts (Story, 48). Beginning with Heraclitus’s dictum that “eyes are surer witnesses than the ears” (cf. Herodotus1.8; Thucydides 1.73.2; Polybius 12.25.6), chapters 2 and 3 explore how historians (Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Josephus, Tacitus) visited the locales in their sources, lived through the events, interrogated living eyewitnesses, and only used written sources as supplements unless they were bad historians (e.g. Timaeus). Locals with anecdotes about Jesus, individual disciples, women (Mark 15:40-16:8), or family members served as informants for the evangelists (65-90, 190-97). Autopsy is emphasized in Christian texts such as the list of resurrection witnesses, Luke’s consultation of autoptai, the requirement of firsthand participation in Jesus’ ministry for apostleship in Acts, and the value of eyewitness testimony in the Johannine writings and 2 Peter (225-244). Papias followed historiographic standards in interviewing the followers of the Elder John and Aristion and Byrskog defends Papias’ tradition that the evangelist Mark relied on Peter as an involved oral informant (Ecclesiastical History 3.39.3-4, 15; cf. 1 Pet 5:13; Acts 12:12) (272-96).
Collins’ calls Mark an “eschatological historical monograph” about the origins and destiny of an ethnic group, with the story as the culmination of Israelite history and its universal implications in the new age (cf. Mark 13:10) as opposed to just a “life” (bios) of an individual subject (18). Shecites Aristotle (Rhet. 1.4.13=1360A) and Quintilian (Inst. Orat. 2.4.2) on history as memorable deeds, primarily in politics (35). Its roots are mythography, ethnography, local reports, and chronography as Herodotus collected such data gathered in sequential development (35-6). Historia (inquiry, research, investigation) stresses the role of interrogation and synthesis of witness’ reports in continuous narrative, though the influence of ethnography meant that not all historians followed Thucydides in testing the accuracy of “reports” (36). There is tension in seeking reliable oral informants and visiting sites OR using written sources and free invention (36). Reflecting on famous persons (Socrates, Alexander the Great), histories could narrow on the deeds of a person (cf. Theopomupus, Philippica) and historians wrote biographical accounts of heroes in Hellenistic and Roman periods (36-7). John Van Seters (In Search of History, p. 1) describes history as “the intellectual form in which a civilization renders account to itself of its past” which befits Israel’s history as more than a sum of its parts (accumulated tradition, biographical anecdotes, prophetic legends); the historian interpreted it together through the lens of Israel’s national history and destiny (37-9). Prophetic legends or improbable ethnographic reports, some of which Herodotus distances himself and others he retells unquestioningly, shows the miraculous was part of history writing (39), though Greeks like Herodotus or Polybius tended to have indirect divine working in human agency by means of dream-visions or “Fortune” (39-40). Mark rarely has direct divine intervention (baptism, transfiguration, resurrection) apart from the level of human interaction (40). Other biblical historians set a precedent in not identifying the author or aims and, while Mark’s literary level is low, episodic style characterizes other histories (OT, Herodotus, Cleitarchus, Duris, Curtius Rufus, Livy) (41). Some deem Mark less concerned with accuracy than divine proclamation, but ancient histories must not be judged by positivistic standards, the miraculous was present in ethnography, and it is unclear how literally took some stories (41). The subject and scope of historia was often politics/war but may focus on individuals (Alexander the Great, Agathocles of Syracuse, Attalus of Pergamum, Ptolemy IV Philopator, Antiochus the Great, Hannibal, Tigranes of Armenia, Pompey) and cultural/religious subjects (41). Universal histories were longer, but historical monographs shorter (41). The only difference is Mark is infused with eschatology (42-3). She concludes that Mark is a “historical monograph that focuses on the activity of a leading individual” (43).
Criticisms: Byrskog’s proposal contrasts with how the evangelists never explicitly identify themselves, their sources, their methods, or (apart from Luke) their aims in writing in a conventional historiographical preface. It seems unrealistic to compare to the best historical practice of elite writers like Thucydides, Polybius, Josephus, or Tacitus. Imitating Ancient Near Eastern historians and the Hebrew Bible may make the problem with anonymity less acute. Collins’ question is to the point: are the Gospels about the fulfillment of the divine plan for Israel and the world OR the subject Jesus of Nazareth to instill discipleship to his life/teachings, rebut polemical attacks, and draw out his significance visa-vie Israel and the world?
- Byskog, Samuel. Story as History – History as Story. Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2000.
- Collins, Adela. Mark. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007.
Bios (life) or ancient biography
Talbert counters the case that the Gospels cannot be bioi due to their mythic content (structure), cultic context (function), and world-negating stance (attitude) (What is a Gospel, 3, 6). Chapters 2 and 3 cover the mythic template of Immortals from unusual birth to ascent and the katabasis-anabasis pattern (descent-ascent) of divine beings, chapter 4 on how biographical subjects may be recipients of cultic devotion, and chapter 5 on how the eschatology of the evangelists did not lead them to spurn profane literature (parable, aretalogy, “words of the wise”) and how other biographers took over mixed materials to correct one-sided distortions of subjects. The Gospels’ static characterization is no different to other bioi (3), their status as Kleinliteratur is irrelevant (i.e. the popular Life of Aesop is as much a bios as Plutarch’s Lives) (4), and treating Luke-Acts alone as history is unwarranted (6). A bios “is prose narrative about a person’s life, presenting supposedly historical facts which are selected to reveal the character or essence of the individual, often with the purpose of affecting the behavior of the reader” (17) and differed from historiography in focus (character vs. “great men” in political/social arena) (16), narration (anecdotes vs. cause/effect), and function (encomium or peripatetic praise, Alexandrian inform, Romance entertain or stir emotions, histories instruct politicians or please citizens) (17). Talbert replaces Leo’s division of bioi as encomium (Isocrates, Evander; Xenophon, Agesilaus; Tacitus, Agricola), Peripatetic (Plutarch, Parallel Lives), Alexandrian /grammarian (Seutonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars), and Romance (Life of Aesop) (92-3) with a taxonomy of function: Type A offer a pattern to copy (Lucian, Demonax) (94), B correct false images (Xenophon, Memorabilia; Philodemus, Epicurus, Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana; Porphyry, Pythagoras) (94-5), C discredits someone (Lucian, Passing of Peregrinus; Alexander the False Prophet) (95), D address succession (Diogenes, Lives of Eminent Philosophers) (95-6), or E legitimates or offers the hermeneutical key to a person’s teaching (Porphyry, Plotinus) (96). Lives of rulers belong in all types except D (96-7). Schools used C to discredit rivals, B to rehabilitate a philosopher in response, or D to claim to be true successors (105-6). Mark fits B in polemicizing against distorted Christology and following the structure of the Immortals (134), Luke-Acts D succession narrative and B reaction against false eschatology (107-8, 134), Matthew E in legitimating and interpreting Jesus’ life and teaching and B in correcting Christology (108, 134), and John B in correcting Christology via a descending-ascending redeemer (135).
Burridge (Graeco-Roman Biography) starts on the lack of consensus (philosopher-vita, Socratic Dialogues, historical monograph, dramatic history, novel, tragi-comedy, bioi) (22-4) and writes “as someone with a classical background, I was unimpressed with the arguments put forward by New Testament scholars, especially in America, to demonstrate the biographical genre of the gospels. Therefore a negative result was expected, exposing the biographical hypothesis as untenable. However, as the work has developed, I have become increasingly convinced that… it is indeed the right one and that the gospels are part of the genre of ancient βίος [Life] literature” (105-6). He warns that literary prefaces, grammarians or rhetoricians (Quintilian, Menander Rhetor) describe ideal forms not consistently observed (56-7) and that, unlike poetry, prose genres were not well defined (62). In contrast to classical prescriptivism (i.e. a genre must have these essential traits) and nominalism (i.e. the name of a category has no effect on an object’s properties), he settles on a ‘family resemblances’ theory in which works in a “genre” may share features in content or form (structure, tone, purpose) even if no one text has every expected trait (39, 42-4). Generic features include structure/form and content/material to enable comparison (110): opening features (title, opening prologue/preface), subject (verbal subjects, space given to a subject’s life), external features (mode, metre, length, structure, scale, literary units, sources, methods of characterization), and internal features (setting, topoi or topics, style, tone or atmosphere, the quality of characterization, function, authorial intention) (111-26). He lists 5 biographies written before the Gospel – Isocrates’ Evagoras, Xenophon’s Agesilaus, Satyrus’ Euripides (Peripatetic bios), Cornelius Nepos’ Atticus, and Philo’s Moses (129-33) and 5 after the Gospels: Tacitus’ Agricola, Plutarch’s Cato Minor, Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, Lucian’s Demonax, and Philostratus Apollonius of Tyana (155-60). Chapter 8 and 9 then compare the findings to the Synoptics and John.
Collins has a taxonomy of biographies (30-2): Encomiastic (subtype of epideictic rhetoric that exalts subject, e.g., Isocrates’ Evogoras, Xenophon’s Agesilaus, Polybius lost Philopoimen), Scholarly (or peripatetic or Aristotelian and focus on authors/philosophers or occasionally rulers and impartial or satirical, e.g., Satyrus’ Euripides, Diogenes Laertius Lives), Didactic (instruct on a subject’s way of life to instill allegiance, e.g., Philo’s Moses, Iamblichus Pythagorean Way of Life), Ethical (promote a self-conscious morality or ethical-psychological system; e.g., Plutarch’s Lives of Cato the Younger or Pompey), Entertaining (satisfy curiosity about heroes/poets/rulers, e.g., lives of Homer, Aesop, Secundus, Heraclides, and Plutarch’s Antony) (32), Historical (has awider series of cause-effect in the political arena than just narrowing on a subject’s private life; e.g., Life of Caesar, Tacitus’ Agricola, Seutonius’ Lives of the Caesars though his methods aso fit type 2). Though she sees the Gospels more as historical monographs, she allows that historical and didactic biographies are analogous (33) and accepts affinities with Plutarch’s Lives and lives of philosophers (cf. Lucian’s Demonax), though both have more explicit commentary and biographical interest (43).
Criticism: Unlike biographers the evangelists do not explicitly identify themselves, their sources, or their methods. Mark lacks an account of Jesus’ birth and upbringing and focuses on a narrow window of Jesus ministry and death, which Burridge demonstrates is not unparalleled but remains unusual in a Life. There is considerable blending of the genres (biography, history, apocalyptic, midrash, novelistic elements) that may be a product of both Jewish and Greco-Roman roots as well as the popular nature of the Gospels. It may also be, as argued by David Aune in “Genre Theory and the Genre-Function of Mark and Matthew,” that Mark intend to parody and invert the values of elite biographies by paying no attention to the protagonist’s pedigree or birth, unlike later Gospels with geneologies and nativity stories.
- Burridge, Richard. What are the Gospels: A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography. Cambridge University Press, 1992.
- Hägg, Tomas . The Art of Biography in Antiquity. Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- Talbert, Charles H. What is a Gospel: the Genre of the Canonical Gospels. London: SPCK, 1978.
Novel or Epic
Tolbert argues that the Gospels have no obvious analogue, though the 3rd century Life of Apollonius has a similar pattern (Sowing, 55 n. 20). This may mean 1. Mark is a new genre in light of the Christ event as form critics and “new hermeneutic” supposed (she ruled out a “unique genre” as a contradiction in terms on pp 50, 56 and), 2. the parallels are not extant, or 3. the Gospels are unlike other texts due to the lesser command of literary composition (56-7). Midrash and apocalyptic describe features in Mark rather than the work itself (58). The problem with aretalogia or biography or memorabilia, aside from a lack of catalogues of wonder working “divine men” preceding Mark or a biography’s focus on a whole life from birth to death and the subject’s characterization, is that each over-emphasizes an aspect of Mark (aretalogy – miracles, bios – Jesus’ character, memorabilia – teaching) and all three have a higher literary and philosophical quality (58-9). Elite culture is “individualized”, “subtle”, “profound”; pop culture is “conventionalized”, “stereotypical” and “repetitious” and its literature had semi-educated, taxable working consumers (artisans, traders, free slaves in urban centers), albeit without the leisure of the privileged (60-2). Of her 5 examples of prose novels (Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe, Xenophon’s An Ephesian Tale, Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe, Achilles Titius’s Leucippe and Clitophon, Heliodorus An Ethopian Tale), Chariton of Aphodisias (ca. 100 BCE-50 CE) and (pseudo?-)Xenophon of Ephesus (ca. 50-263 CE) do not reflect the Atticizing style of the Second Sophistic and are the closest parallels to Luke-Acts and Mark respectively (62-3, 66). These erotic texts have plot patterns (couple in love, separated, tested, reunited), but romance is secondary to exotic and thrilling adventures/travels (exception: Longus) (63). The genre has a common myth (a solitary person in a world of danger, filled with gods and mysteries), literary heritage (mixing historiography of known places or figures with drama), conventional style, and authors of varying skill (64-5). “The Gospel of Mark is obviously not an ancient novel of the erotic type” (65), but its blending genres (history, drama, apocalypse), episodic nature, and conventionality fits fragmentary evidence for a biographical novel with an antecedent in Xenophon of Athens Cyropaedia and later in the Alexander Romance and Philostratus’ Apollonius (65). Non-extant lives of Pythagoras or Alexander or the fragmentary Ninus Romance (ca 100 BCE) may have been biographical novels, but our only example of the genre are the Gospels (66). Yet Xenophon of Ephesus and Mark share parallels: the audience situation (66), minimal introduction, journey motif, episodic plot, key turning point (peripeteia), final recognition scene, minimal settings, brief dialogues, repetition, divine plan unfolding in human action, loose chronology (days/nights), and crude Koine (67). Other novels are more complex with multiple protagonists, but they are filled with unjust trials, violent death, apparent deaths, and revivals in tombs to captivate audiences and teach morals (68). As a biographical novel, Mark had mass appeal across the literacy spectrum even while disdained by elite literati (70-4). Mark sets out the divine/human levels in the action right at the start, a turning point (Peter’s confession), final recognition scene (trial, cross), brief dialogues in episodes, a crowd (=chorus in drama) (76), and flat minor characters (76-8).
Vines builds on the literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin that the genre of a narrative is determined by its “chronotype” that situates its world in a certain time and space (Markan Genre, 30-67). Through a comparison of Mark to other “Jewish novels” – Daniel, Susanna, Judith, Tobit, Esther, Joseph and Aseneth – Vines argues that the chronotype of all these works is “realistic apocalyptic”, meaning that it narrates divine intervention accomplished through human protagonists in a more realistic historical setting than in apocalyptic literature (153, 159). Vines argues that the biographical genre does not account for Mark’s emphases on divine activity and eschatology (12).
Criticisms: The Gospel’s low literacy, crude Koine, and popular appeal may be irrelevant to genre. Tolbert has no extant parallels of the sub-type of biographical novels and the subject matter of the Gospels may have far more gravity and serious tone than an entertaining read about romance or exotic traveler tales. Situating the story in the recent rather than distant and unrealistic historical past (e.g., characters in the above “novels” are situated in the patriarchal, Assyrian, Babylonian, or Persian periods and Judith intentionally fictional with Nebuchadnezzar as ruler of the Assyrians!) and focus on the characterization of a single subject through chreiai or brief anecdotes makes the Gospels stand out from the other novels. With some exceptions (e.g., Peter catching a fish with a coin in its mouth), the NT Gospels seem to me to stand out the Infancy Gospel of Thomas or the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles which may have served as more popular entertainment.
- Tolbert, Mary Ann. Sowing the Gospel: Mark’s World in Literary-Historical Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.
- Vines, Michael E. The Problem of Markan Genre: The Gospel of Mark and the Jewish Novel. Atlanta: SBL, 2002.
Though she accepts that the Gospels belong to the bios genre of the popular kind (Aesop) (219-31), defined “as prose narratives of medium length with a strong concentration and focus on a single person which determines the whole setting of the book” (223), Roskam argues that this classification does not aid in understanding the authorial intent or context since bios was a flexible genre with all sorts of purposes (encomiastic, exemplary, informative, didactic, apologetic, polemical) and does not explain Jewish influences (eschatology, typology) or distinct elements or motifs in Mark (226-31). Her proposal (231-6): Mark is an apology in a polemical situation (231) and its literary form is a secondary vehicle to achieve this purpose (232). This explains why Mark is uninterested in biographical details (descent, upbringing, appearance) apart from Jesus’ status as the deity’s envoy (232) and organizes material with a bare chronological framework to support the unfolding argument (e.g., the first half establishes Jesus authority and the second his mission to suffer, the messianic secret, the suffering righteous one) (232-6). She concludes, “Mark’s Gospel is best characterized not as a biography of Jesus, but as an apologetic writing in biographical form” (236). Mark aimed to convince readers that Jesus was not seditious against Rome in favor of an independent Israel, redefining messiahship, and to equip insiders to remain steadfast and refute charges of subversiveness (215-7).
Criticism: an apology does not have distinct generic features. If Mark wished to suppress hints of subversiveness, parallels between the opening verse on the “good news” with the Priene inscription celebrating the good news of Augustus’ rule and the pax Romana, politically charged titles given to Jesus (Christ, son of David, son of God, Lord) and “kingdom” language, images of Jesus driving out the demonic “legion” into the Sea, portrayals of Pilate as a powerless inept governor, and imminent expectations of the return of the Son of Man to gather the elect of all nations and his followers to inherit the vineyard of Israel (I disagree with Roskam that the vineyard is given to the Romans) are not apt.
- Roskam, H.N. The Purpose of the Gospel of Mark in its Historical and Social Context. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2004.
The Apostle to the Gentiles
For an overview of scholarship on Paul, see Magnus Zetterholm Approaches to Paul: A Student’s Guide to Recent Scholarship (Fortress, 2009) and for the social make-up of Pauline congregations see Wayne Meeks The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (Yale University Press, 2003) or Justin Meggitt Paul, Poverty and Survival (T&T Clark, 1998). For bibliographic resources or academic websites on Paul’s life or thought, see Mark Goodacre’s section on Paul at www.ntgateway.com, Mark Mattison’s www.thepaulpage.com/, or Jenee Woodard’s www.textweek.com/pauline/paul.htm.
Paul’s “Conversion” or “Prophetic Call”
You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism [Ioudaismos]. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, ‘The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me. (Gal 1:13-24)
- The story of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, and the purification of the great temple, and the dedication of the altar, and further the wars against Antiochus Epiphanes and his son Eupator, and the appearances which came from heaven to those who strove zealously on behalf of Judaism [Ioudaismos], so that though few in number they seized the whole land and pursued the barbarian hordes, and recovered the temple famous throughout the world and freed the city and restored the laws that were about to be abolished… (2 Macc 2:19-22)
- But Judas, who was also called Maccabeus, and his companions secretly entered the villages and summoned their kinsmen and enlisted those who had continued in the Jewish faith [Ioudaismos], and so they gathered about six thousand men (2 Macc 8:1)
- For in former times, when there was no mingling with the Gentiles, he had been accused of Judaism [Ioudaismos], and for Judaism [Ioudaismos] he had with all zeal risked body and life.
- … when, then, his [Antiochus'] decrees were despised by the people, he himself, through torture, tried to compel everyone in the nation to eat defiling foods and to renounce Judaism (4 Macc 4:26)
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ [faith of Christ], the righteousness from God based on faith[fulness]. (Phil 3:4-8)
‘I [Paul] am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. ‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. (Acts 22:1-9; cf. 9:1-19; 26:4-23)
Differing Views in the “Old Perspective”, “New Perspective” and “Radical New Perspective” on Paul
* Note that these labels broadly cover a diversity of perspectives within them. That is, there may be differences in “Lutheran” or “Reformed” readings of Paul in the “Old Perspective” and there are individual nuances in prominent “New Perspective” scholars (e.g., E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, N.T. Wright).
The Old Perspective on Paul (OPP):
- Pauline theology is interpreted in light of Martin Luther’s protest against Catholicism and the Reformation battle cry “sola fide” (by faith alone).
- In Paul’s former life, he practiced Torah to merit divine favour and as a way to boast of his self-righteousness.
- After his “conversion,” Paul became convicted of the universal sinfulness of humanity, regardless of whether one is under the Law (Jews) or apart from it (Gentiles), and the solution is the atoning death of Christ which took on the “curse of the Law” on behalf of the rest of humankind.
- Humans are made righteous or justified by “faith in Christ” and given the “righteousness of God” in exchange for their sinful nature. The indwelling Spirit enables one to become a “new creation” and is a guarantee of future salvation.
- Scholars who advocate the OPP have softened the depiction of “Second Temple Judaism” as a legalistic system of works-righteousness (e.g., variegated nomism where both grace and good deeds are important), but most continue to see the plight as divine wrath against sin and solution in the justifying faith in the saving death & resurrection of Christ.
- Some key scholars: Rudolf Bultmann, Ernst Kaseman, Donald Carson, Mark A. Seifrid, Peter Stuhlmacher, Donald Hagner, Robert Gundry, Seyoon Kim, Douglas J. Moo, Thomas Schreiner, Stephen Westerholm, Simon Gathercole, Francis Watson
The New Perspective (NPP)
- Unlike Martin Luther’s worries over how to be accepted by a holy God, Paul may not have struggled with an introspective conscience and describes his former life under Torah as “blameless” (cf. Krister Stendahl).
- E.P. Sanders described the “pattern of religion” characteristic of Second Temple Judaism as “covenantal nomism.” That is, Torah observance was the appropriate response to God’s prior gracious election of Israel; it was not a means of “getting in” but “staying in” as a member of the covenant people. Those who flagrantly disobey Torah show themselves to have rejected the covenant, but repentance or cultic atonement was always an available means of restoration. Some criticisms include the assumption of a monolithic “pattern of religion” or reading the Jewish sources through the lens of Protestant soteriology, leading to even more nuanced discussion about election, covenant and works of the Law among diverse Second Temple groups.
- Paul’s criticism of “works of the Law” was not against works-righteousness apart from grace. “Works of the Law” represents a particular Jewish mode of life, but Paul aims his critique at those areas that exclude Gentiles from the covenant people and focuses on specific “boundary markers” that separated Jews from the nations (e.g., circumcision, food, Sabbath). Paul attacks “ethnocentrism” in favour of a universalistic vision in which he believed the “righteousness of God” or God’s faithfulness to his divine or covenant plan was for blessing to go out from Israel to the world.
- In reasoning why the nations can be adopted into Abraham’s family along with Israel apart from practicing Torah as the sign of covenant membership, Paul argues that both Jews and Gentiles are under sin and in need of the saving effects of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. All Christ followers are justified – either made righteous or declared to be in the right in the divine court (cf. NT Wright) – by “faith in Christ” or through the “faithfulness of Christ.”
- The universal family “in Christ” is no longer under Torah, though Paul has a similar pattern of election followed by faithful obedience of the Law of Christ or fruits of the Spirit that fulfills the commandments, yet Paul allows for diversity of social practice among Jewish and non-Jewish members of the community.
- Some key scholars: Krister Stendahl, E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, N.T. Wright, Heikki Räisänen, Richard Hays, Frank Thielman, Don Garlington, Daniel Boyarin
The Radical New Perspective on Paul
- The NPP view on covenantal nomism as a basic framework and Paul’s overriding concern with how the nations can become co-heirs of salvation with the covenant people (Israel) is the starting point.
- Unlike some advocates of the NPP, these scholars consider Paul to remain a faithful Torah-observant Jew and to never encourage his fellow Jews to abandon Torah.
- His letters are addressed almost exclusively to non-Jewish readers and his polemic against the “works of the Law” is solely against those who force non-Jews to become proselytes by adopting circumcision and Torah. Paul believes that the new eschatological age has arrived and that the Scriptures speak of nations streaming into Zion in the last days without the requirement to become Jews (“to Judaize”).
- Some scholars label this approach as a “two-covenant” solution: the atoning effects of Christ’s death and the necessity of “faith in Christ”/”the faithfulness of Christ” was only for the nations who were previously excluded from the means of atonement already available to Israel through the covenant, Torah and cultic apparatus.
- Some key scholars: John Gager, Lloyd Gaston, Mark Nanos, Paula Fredriksen, Pamela Eisenbaum, Caroline Hodge, Stanley Stowers, Neil Elliott, Magnus Zetterholm
The Acts of the Apostles
- A Sequel to the Gospel of Luke: “In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning” (Acts 1:1). Scholars have questioned what genre to categorize the two-volume work: historiography, biography (of the church as an institution?), epic (e.g., Homer, Virgil’s Aeneid) or historical novel?
- The Traditional Position: “But that this Luke was inseparable from Paul, and his fellow-labourer in the Gospel, he himself clearly evinces, not as a matter of boasting, but as bound to do so by the truth itself. For he says that when Barnabas, and John who was called Mark, had parted company from Paul, and sailed to Cyprus,
we came to Troas;and when Paul had beheld in a dream a man of Macedonia, saying,
Come into Macedonia, Paul, and help us,
we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, understanding that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel unto them. Therefore, sailing from Troas, we directed our ship’s course towards Samothracia.And then he carefully indicates all the rest of their journey as far as Philippi, and how they delivered their first address:
for, sitting down,he says,
we spoke unto the women who had assembled;and certain believed, even a great many. And again does he say,
But we sailed from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came to Troas, where we abode seven days.And all the remaining [details] of his course with Paul he recounts, indicating with all diligence both places, and cities, and number of days, until they went up to Jerusalem; and what befell Paul there, how he was sent to Rome in bonds; the name of the centurion who took him in charge; and the signs of the ships, and how they made shipwreck; and the island upon which they escaped, and how they received kindness there, Paul healing the chief man of that island; and how they sailed from thence to Puteoli, and from that arrived at Rome; and for what period they sojourned at Rome. As Luke was present at all these occurrences, he carefully noted them down in writing, so that he cannot be convicted of falsehood or boastfulness, because all these [particulars] proved both that he was senior to all those who now teach otherwise, and that he was not ignorant of the truth. That he was not merely a follower, but also a fellow-labourer of the apostles, but especially of Paul, Paul has himself declared also in the Epistles, saying:
Demas has forsaken me, … and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me [2 Tim 4:10-11].From this he shows that he was always attached to and inseparable from him. And again he says, in the Epistle to the Colossians:
Luke, the beloved physician, greets you [Col 4:14].But surely if Luke, who always preached in company with Paul, and is called by him
the beloved,and with him performed the work of an evangelist, and was entrusted to hand down to us a Gospel, learned nothing different from him (Paul), as has been pointed out from his words, how can these men, who were never attached to Paul, boast that they have learned hidden and unspeakable mysteries?” (Irenaeus, Adversus Haeresis 3.14.1)
- The (in)famous “we” (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-16; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16):
- the author was a firsthand participant in the narrated events
- a dramatic narrative device (cf. Vernon Robbins, “By Land and By Sea: the We-Passages and Ancient Sea Voyages“)
- a sign of an earlier source (e.g., a travel diary) (cf. Stanley Porter, The Paul of Acts, chapter 2 The ‘We’ Passages in Acts as a Source regarding Paul)
- a pseudonymous fiction (cf. Bart Ehrman, Forgery and Counter-Forgery)
- Dates range from the early 60s to 150 CE. The majority of scholars date it to the last quarter of the first century, though one can find good scholarship dating it to the 60s (cf. Colin J. Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History) and between 110-130 CE (cf. Richard Pervo, Dating Acts; Joseph B. Tyson, Marcion and Luke Acts: A Defining Struggle?)
- Why does Acts end before narrating the deaths of Peter, Paul or James? Is it because the book was written before their deaths or is it because the book is more concerned with getting the proclamation of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome (Acts 28)?
- Why does the book close before narrating the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE? Or does Luke 19:43-4 and 21:20-4 exhibit knowledge of the destruction of the Temple?
- Why does Acts never mention that Paul wrote letters? Was it written before a major publication of a collection of Pauline Letters or has the text been influenced by the Letters (see below)?
- Does Acts reflect knowledge of Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities (ca 93-94 CE)? Compare Acts 5:36-37 with Ant. 20.97-102, Luke 2:1-3 with War. 2.117-18; Ant. 18.1-5 or Acts 12:20-23 with Ant. 19.343-50.
- Does Acts envision a situation where the church is composed of a mixture of Jews and Gentiles (especially Gentile “Godfearers” who had a previous relationship with the synagogue rather than ex-Pagans)? Or does Acts envision a self-consciously distinct “Christian” group (11:26; 26:28) with a developed leadership structure of “elders” (Acts 21:18-25)?
- Hans Conzelmann (The Theology of St. Luke) argues that the book of Acts divides history into the epoch of Israel, the time of Jesus and the age of the church. The fervent expectation for the return of Jesus has settled down so the church can witness the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:6-8).
- The church is governed by the Twelve Apostles (see the replacement of Judas with Matthias to restore the number “twelve” in Acts 1:15-26). Paul is excluded from the title “apostle” (exception: Acts 14:4)
- The church is completely united by glossing over the occasional cracks that appear beneath the surface such as the division between the Hebrews and the Hellenists (Acts 6:1-15), the issues debated at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15; cf. Acts 21:17-25) or the separation of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41)
- The church has solid roots in antiquity as Luke-Acts emphasizes the fulfillment of scripture (cf. Luke 1-2) and the Jewish piety of the Apostles. Before Acts 7 the Jerusalem Church wins over thousands of their Jewish compatriots and Paul primarily missionary field is in the synagogue among Jews and Gentile God-fearers (compare the account of Paul’s target audience in Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-9 with Paul’s own account in 1 Thess 1:9-10). However, the book of Acts hints that the majority of Jews increasingly rejected the new Christian movement (Acts 13:46-47; 18:6; 28:25-28), though it concludes open-ended (Acts 28:3o-31).
A Specific Example
Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.` After Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders… But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses’… After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us;and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’ The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, ‘My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favourably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name.This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, “After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.” Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God,but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.’ (Acts 15:1-22; Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Judas deliver letter to Antioch, Syria and Cilicia)
- What social problems might arise between law-observant Jewish and non-observant Gentile Christ followers (circumcision, Sabbath, food, etc.)?
- What solution was reached in Acts? How does the Apostolic Decree compare to the laws enjoined on foreigners in Lev 17-18?
- Is this the same conference in Galatians 2? What are the similarities and differences?
- Would the historical Paul have agreed to the solution as presented in Acts 15 (see 1 Cor 8)?
- And they shall no longer offer their sacrifices to vain gods after which they go a whoring; it shall be a perpetual statute to you for your generations… Whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the sons of the proselytes abiding among you, shall offer a whole-burnt-offering or a sacrifice, and shall not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of witness to sacrifice it to the Lord, that man shall be destroyed from among his people. And whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers abiding among you, shall eat any blood, I will even set my face against that soul that eats blood, and will destroy it from its people. For the life of flesh is its blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls… whatever man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers abiding among you shall take any animal in hunting, beast, or bird, which is eaten, then shall he pour out the blood, and cover it in the dust. For the blood of all flesh is its life; and I said to the children of Israel, Ye shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood: every one that eats it shall be destroyed. And every soul which eats that which has died of itself, or is taken of beasts, either among the natives or among the strangers, shall wash his garments, and bathe himself in water, and shall be unclean until evening: then shall he be clean. (Leviticus 17:7-15 taken from the Septuagint) [Lev 18 has list of prohibitions against uncovering the nakedness of family members, neighbour’s wife, a woman in her period, etc]
- Then after 14 years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us…And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me.On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised… and when James and Cephas and John, acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor… But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned;for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’ (Galatians 2:1-14)
- Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one’… It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled… We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the weak.For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:4, 7-13)