Farrer hypothesis solution of the synoptic problem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am in the midst of a lot of outside things at the moment and cannot contribute like I would want to the discussion. However, for background on the current discussion regarding Q, see the poll here as well as Mark Goodacre’s post.
I do not believe the methodology behind Q is measurable nor demonstrable. Rather, it begins with a presupposition based on a previous generation’s lack of concern over writing styles in the ancient world. (in a really simplified version of the Q hypothesis:) It suggests that Matthew and Luke used several sources because their verbiage, when they are in agreement, doesn’t fully agree. But, as some have dared to demonstrate, innovation (adding to, rewording, making use of in some way) was required even when borrowing a previous text.
This is why we can demonstrate the changes Matthew applied to Mark via a lot of articles by Mark Goodacre and by an impressive book on Matthew’s Judaization of Mark by Anne O’Leary. For instance, Matthew could have easily taken Matthew 6.9-15 directly from various parts of Mark. While Sanders and others would allow for undefined sources, I would suggest pointing Matthew’s unique passages, such as the Sermon on the Mount, to Deuteronomy or other important books to his community.
Q cannot be demonstrated except by extrapolation. On the other hand, the Farrer-Goulder and Goodacre theory can be demonstrated by first understanding ancient writing styles and then by showing how Matthew first expanded Mark and then by showing how Luke used both Mark and Matthew. We can discuss, using the same methodology, how John used Mark and Luke as his primary sources if you would like, but I’m afraid that may bog us down at the moment.
While Q was a valid hypothesis was a long time and the work poured into it by Q scholars (learned scholars who must have our respect) it simply is not needed when we have a firmer, and established, pattern of literary development.
WHY dig up solid foundations, why open questions long taken for settled? Much critical and expository work rests squarely on the Q hypothesis, and if the hypothesis loses credit, the nuisance will be great. The books we rely upon to guide our thought about the history of Christ will need to be read with painful and unrelaxing re-interpretation. Nor is it only the effect on past studies that disquiets us. We want an accepted foundation for our present studies, and it seems a grievous thing that we cannot proceed with them until we have re-investigated what was unanimously settled by a previous generation. Is there to be no progress in learning? Now that criticism is a science, are we not to hold any established positions as permanent conquests, from which a fresh generation can make a further advance? Have we always to fight the old battles over again? Minds of high ability and scrupulous integrity were brought to bear on the Q question in the great days of source-criticism. They sifted to the bottom, they counted every syllable, and they agreed in the substance of their findings. Is it likely that we, whose attention is distracted by the questions of our day, can profitably do their work again? And what reason have we to trust our judgement against theirs, if we find ourselves dissenting from their conclusions?
Q does not, in my opinion, qualify itself with the literary innovations and structures of the time. Further, as I pointed out in my book, Matthew would need no other literary source related to Jesus but Mark.
I am reading through the books surrendered to me for review. So I’ll post quotes or insights from them as I progress.
Anthony Le Donne (while I think ascribing to GThom a too-early-date) has written a marvelous little book, laying a trap for us I think. Anyway, one quote at the moment stands out. In writing about Salome and the Proto-Gospel of James, Le Donne notes the explosion of post-canonical detail given to this unique woman in the Gospel narratives. He concludes,
When silenced by historical memory, historical fiction filled in the gaps. (34)
I am uneasy about the word “fiction” as far too often we associated fiction with such tropes as Vampires and Zombies. Further, poetry and rhetoric fiction is often used to create a truth in the audience’s mind more real than fact.
However, I think his quote here is monumental in understanding the Gospels, although he doesn’t apply it to the Gospels. Note Paul. Or, go with Le Donne and note GThom. Neither of which include historical details of the life of Jesus beyond the necessary. It is rather easy to understand why Paul, a theologian and exegetical preacher, would not need to relate the details of the life of Jesus. He expected to see Jesus return in his lifetime. His eschatological framework silenced the historical facts of Jesus except for the death and resurrection because nothing else was needed. Thus, after the Destruction of the Temple (which I believe is meant to be understood by Mark as the return of Christ), “fiction” had to fill in the gaps.
When the luxury of consideration was taken, the Gospels used the remnants of historical memory to create historical “fiction.” This doesn’t mean the stories in the Gospels are less true or based only on myth or legend, but that they are engineered to tell a story. This is not uncommon.
Francis Watson’s newest tome, Gospel Writing, A Canonical Perspective, presents fresh ideas, refocuses others, and forces Gospel Critics into reconsidering cherished beliefs. It is a rather long examination of the totality of Gospel writing — including the process of validation for what is canonical. While Watson has many fine points along the way, some of which we will discuss shortly, his central thesis is not truly found until the later portion of the book.
“No book is inherently canonical: texts become canonical because their readers stipulate that they shall henceforth be so, and they stay that way only insofar as later readers uphold the earlier decision.” Around this statement is built a premise of reading the Gospels not as a set of four, but as a line from existing sources, so that one may include known non-canonical writings as well as speculating on yet unknown sources. What Watson accomplishes is nothing less than expanding the canonical reading while at the same time preserving the Four-Fold tradition in ways even Augustine and Origen would have to admire.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One begins with Augustine and ends with the enlightened discovery of Q. Part Two examines various theories on the origins of the Gospels assuming a less-than-eyewitness account, focusing instead on the literary lineage. Finally, Part Three begins with Clement and marches us through time and space to Jerome whereby we see the preservation of the Four-Fold Gospel as something liturgical and ecumenical.
Part One, The Eclipse of the Fourfold Gospel, is filled with expert analysis of the criticism of the Gospels from Augustine to Schleiermacher and comprises two chapters. Watson begins not with the expected Irenaeus, who is saved for chapter 9, but with Augustine who is the first of what we might call the Gospel Critics. As Watson reminds us, however, Augustine’s mission was to harmonize the Gospels rather than to seek any clues about their literary origins. The strength of these chapters lies not in the detailed history of Augustine’s textual comparison, but in the scholarly approach to each of the figureheads’ theological (or psychological) reading of the differences among the Gospels. Simply put, Augustine harmonized the Gospels with one another. Lessing and his descendants harmonized the Gospels with Reason.
Part One is the history of the interpretation of the individual passages of the Gospels, but of the reason we have four Gospels along with how do we understand them next to one another. Further, in this examination is a brief understanding of the rise of historical criticism. Without a doubt, my favorite portion thus far is Watson’s examination of Lessing.
Augustine was ready to throw away all of the Gospels if he could not harmonize them — if the story was not exactly the same. We see this same attitude today with those who rather than see the differences brought about by different methods of narrative recapitulation, call the disjointed similarities contradictions. Lessing, rather, could see them plainly as differences and allow the Gospels were not reporting historical fact. They were reporting the truth.
Part Two has five chapters, each examining one of the Gospels, either canonical or non-canonical. His focus here is not on why the first Gospel was written, but assuming that such a thing occurs, utilizes what Mark Goodacre called for in his 2001 work, The Synoptic Problem, A Way Through the Maze — Narrative Criticism. Watson accepts Markan priority, and generally holds to a non-Q theory of Matthew and Lukan expansion. This occupies chapters 3–5, with chapter 5 focused on the Gospel of Thomas. While Watson builds a solid defense against Q, he allows for a sayings collection (SC) to have existed before or even along side the earliest literary accounts of Jesus. Thomas, for Watson, is not the SC, but represents a likely derivative of the SC.
Early on in chapter 5, Watson blatantly defies standard New Testament scholarship first by de-Gnosticizing Thomas and then by suggesting, “The enduring influence of the canonical decision is also evident in connection with the Gospel of Thomas… which, some decades after its discovery, has still not been successfully integrated into any overarching account of gospel origins.” What he does then is to in my opinion do what many have failed — he incorporates Thomas successfully into the “overarching account of gospel origins.” It is reminiscent of what Sanders and Davies’ once called “undefined sources.”
Let us focus on chapter 5 just a bit more, as along with chapter 6, promises to be the highlight of this tome. I was pleasantly surprised to see him speak to the “gnosticism” of Thomas. Beginning with a discussion of what gnostic really means in regards to early belief systems and later literary developments, Watson cautiously demonstrates the uniqueness of Thomas among other Gnostic literature, arriving at the conclusion whereby we doubt Thomas‘ usually stated (by some) reason of its place at Nag Hammadi. This is very most helpful because while Thomas does include secret sayings and a few liberating tendencies, we should no longer really ascribe to the book the belief system of later Gnostics if we actually compare it to other gnostic literature. Rightly so, the Fourth Gospel is sometimes alluded to as a gnostic type of literature. Further, we know from reading Clement of Alexandria the word and connotation of ‘gnostic’ was often a positive appellate for early Christians.
Equally so, I found Watson’s allowance for a non-Q sayings collection (SC) as typified by Thomas very intriguing. By creating such an allowance, scholars can allow for Papias’ Logia and the non-cited sayings scattered in early Christian writings as still a non-Q document. I believe, if I have read him correctly, his thesis still allows room for Goodacre ‘s proposal for a Thomasine redaction of the Synoptics. He does, after all, allow for the independence of the SC and the narrative of the Gospels.
To show how a SC may provide a link between orality and textuality, Watson delves into Mark 4. Here, I am not so sure about his hypothesis, with Watson almost insisting on a shared source between Mark and Thomas. This is where our author seems to diverge from Goodacre’s excellent thesis. Further, he attempts to demonstrate Thomas as a SC, but not the SC that gave rise to Mark and Matthew. (Luke is still dependent upon Mark and Matthew.) Here, I find it interesting Watson has not referred to John Horman‘s book on a common Greek source shared by the authors of Mark and Thomas.
I hesitate to admit this, but a SC would help to answer some of the unknowns in the search for Mark’s literary sources, especially, as Watson points out, in the parables. Even without a narrative, several of the statements in Mark 9.14–29 (specially v19 and v23, and the exorcism formula in v25) could be part of the SC collection. Watson is right to recommend that any such SC remain hypothetical, cautioning scholars against spending precious time producing a critical edition, as they have done with Q.
All of this is immensely important as Watson turns to John and a probable (he insists and I am inclined to agree) connection between our Fourth Gospel as the Egerton fragments, or what Watson calls the Egerton Gospel. He begins this chapter with another thesis-like statement, writing “The creation of the canonical/non-canonical divide has a retroactive effect on the entire field, making it appear that canonical normativity is inherent to some texts while apocryphal marginality is equally inherent to others. This appearance cannot be dismissed as an illusion, for the fourfold canonical gospel remains a communally normative text which both includes and excludes.”
I maintain a distinctive Jewish quality to Mark and Matthew (based in Deuteronomy) but a different sort to L(eviticus)uke. Where does John fit in? We know John has some issues with ‘us v. them’, ‘us v. Jews.’ This has been explained in a variety of ways. But, in the literary sense, there is little to mark the transition. I mean, how did we go from Mark to John?
This is where the work Watson has done begins to solve this problem. He provides for us a literary connection, even if he does not fully see it yet.
After discussing the movement from Egerton to John, Watson comments, “the Egerton evangelist is consciously seeking to counter the Johannine distancing of Jesus from Judaism, reincorporating him into the community” of a more Judaism-centric Christianity. He goes on, ‘This Jewish-Christian or Christian-Jewish feature of GEger is of a piece with its pre-occupation with the Moses/Jesus relationship… it is more likely to be pre-Johannine.”
Might whatever Egerton represents be the literary transition between Luke and John? Unfortunately, Watson does not begin to tackle this question, failing to examine convincingly the connection between Egerton and the Synoptics. Where he does find a connection, he quickly assigns it to the SC. For example, Watson, after comparing Egerton and P. Köln 255r to Mark 1.40–5, suggests the Egerton-Köln story “may derive from a version independent of Mark. Unfortunately, I think Watson stresses too much the importance of direct literary parallels. See Adam Winn‘s notes on this in his monograph on the Elijah-Elisha narratives. Watson does, however, allow for some similar language at this point between Egerton–Köln and John. Had Watson allowed for a dependence on Mark, we might have seen another hallmark of a transition from the rather rabbinical Jewishness of the Synoptics to whatever new creation John is trying to be.
Watson’s seventh chapter, Reinterpreting in Parallel, examines the literary trajectory from Mark (and maybe before Mark) to John through Thomas and the afore-not-mentioned Gospel of Peter. Several of his conclusions are going to be rather essential in examining John’s relationship with the Synoptics, specifically Mark. This chapter is filled with example after examples of the trajectory we can see develop if we remove the subjective and imposed notion of canonical and non-canonical. Watson’s Figure 7.1 examines the parallel accounts of the trial narrative in Mark 15.2–18 and John 18.33–19.16. This examination is one of the most powerful examples of John’s reliance upon Mark. Watson concludes this chapter by saying, “It is only as the texts deemed non-canonical are taken into account that the true significance of the canonical boundary becomes clear.“
Part Three consists of four chapters and a closing series of theses. Watson began the book by examining Gospel Criticism from Augustine to the near present. This time, he begins with Clement and studies the method by which the four gospels were selected as canonical. After all, he has shown persuasively that the literary trajectory from Mark to John includes an expanded collection.
Watson instigates the study in the East with Clement of Alexandria and a plurality of Gospels and agrapha. He pits this against the West, personified by Irenaeus. The Tradition in the East seeks to limit the number of canonical gospels while Irenaeus attempts to include just enough to keep the balance in the Church. While this may not be of interest to literary critics, Watson concedes time to the canonical theologians, showing essentially how their own view (pre-dating Childs) came to be. He does this primarily with a chapter on Origen. Wrapping up his work, he moves to showcase earlier liturgical reception of the Four-Fold Gospel in art and other imaginative spaces.
Instead of a conclusion, Watson offers a series of seven propositions. Theses I–IV center on the literary reception of Jesus. I find this rather odd as earlier in the book, Watson allows that a Jesus is not needed for the unfolding narrative of the Gospels. Yet, a majority of his propositions deal with the ongoing development of the Jesus Tradition, something I could not easily tag to any particular section of the book. The remaining three statements, however, do match the thesis of the book and provide a fitting conclusion to his work in this volume.
As I have mentioned throughout this review, there are but a few issues. The first and perhaps the one encompassing all others is the length of the book. I would rather have seen this a two-volume work, with ample attention given to chapters 5 and 6 in the first volume with the second volume encompassing the sum of chapter 7. Finally, there are instances I felt Watson simply kept writing when he should have stopped. There are sometimes giant swaths of material I did not find germane to the overall thesis of the work. Beyond this, and a few minor disagreements with Watson’s conclusions, I can find nothing of serious concern. Some, no doubt, will (and rightfully so) find cause to question the publisher’s choice of paperback rather than hardback, although undoubtedly, this is kept the price low.
There will be a great distance in time between this volume and one successfully unseating it. What Watson provides is not a start or a stop, but a real way forward in the examination of the literary origins of the Gospels and canonical status. Perhaps it is up to later scholars — the New Testament scholar as well as the Patristic Scholar — to split this work into two heuristic volumes and continue the research more than begun here. Francis Watson’s work serves as a keystone in Gospel Criticism and will not be forgotten.
 Adam Winn, Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material, Pickwick, 2011, specially pages 3–4, for no less a reason than he specifically compares a story from Matt/Luke to John.
The more I read, the less I believe anyone in the near future will have enough newness to add to the discussion. Watson is slowly taking all ground in the discussion of Gospel writing.
Anyway, while continuing to read Watson’s chapter on Thomas, I was pleasantly surprised to see him speak to the “gnosticism” of Thomas. Beginning on 221 with a discussion of what gnostic really means in regards to early belief systems and later literary developments, Watson cautiously demonstrates the uniqueness of Thomas among other Gnostic literature, arriving at the conclusion whereby we doubt Thomas‘ usually stated (by some) reason of its place at Nag Hammadi. This is very interesting because while Thomas does include secret sayings and a few liberating tendencies, we should no longer really ascribe to the book the belief system of later gnostics if we actually compare it to other gnostic literature. I mean, rightly so, the Fourth Gospel is sometimes alluded to as a gnostic type of literature. Further, we know from reading Clement of Alexandria the word and connotation of ‘gnostic’ was often a positive appellate for early Christians.
This can go further, of course, but we won’t.
Anyway, I found Watson’s allowance for a non-Q sayings collection (SC) as typified by Thomas 271) very interesting. By creating so an allowance, scholars can allow for Papias’ Logia and the unattributed sayings scattered in early Christian writings as still a non-Q document. I believe, if I have read him correctly, his thesis still allows room for Mark Goodacre‘s proposal for a Thomasine redaction of the Synoptics. He does, after all, allow for the independence of the SC and the narrative of the Gospels (272).
To show how a SC may provide a link between orality and textuality, Watson delves into Mark 4. Here, I am not so sure about his hypothesis, with Watson almost insisting on a shared source between Mark and Thomas. This is where Watson seems to diverge from Goodacre’s excellent thesis.
Further, Watson attempts to demonstrate Thomas as a SC, but not the SC that gave rise to Mark and Matthew. (Luke is still dependent upon Mark and Matthew.) He allows for Thomas to be only a descendent of an SC. Here, I find it interesting Watson has not referred to John Horman‘s book on a common Greek source shared by the authors of Mark and Thomas.
As I said in my own recent work, I do not believe Mark created everything without an oral tradition. Again, there are some markers of a previous oral tradition for Mark, but I do not think a sayings collection is needed any more than a complete oral tradition.
I am hesitant to admit this, but a SC would help to answer some of the unknowns in the search for Mark’s literary sources, especially, as Watson points out, in the parables. Even without a narrative, several of the statements in Mark 9.14–29 (specially v19, 23, and the exorcism formula in v25) could be part of the SC collection. Watson is right to recommend that any such SC remain hypothetical rather than scholars spend time producing a critical edition, as they have done with Q.
This is a rather long book and this is going to be a rather long series of reflections. Snippets really.
Part One, The Eclipse of the Fourfold Gospel, is filled with expert analysis of the criticism of the Gospels from Augustine to Schleiermacher. I am a bit disappointed Watson did not begin with more of an examination of Irenaeus and Origen and how they received the various differences in the Gospels; however, his examination of Augustine (chapter one) and Lessing (chapter two) more than make up for this. Indeed, the strength of these chapters lies not in the detailed history of Augustine’s textual comparison, but in the scholarly approach to each of the figureheads’ theological (or psychological) reading of the differences among the Gospels. Simply put, Augustine harmonized the Gospels with one another. Lessing and his descendents harmonized the Gospels with Reason.
Part One is the history of the interpretation of the individual passages of the Gospels, but of the reason we have four Gospels along with how do we understand them next to one another. Further, in this examination is a brief understanding of the rise of historical criticism. Without a doubt, my favorite portion thus far is Watson’s examination of Lessing. This is why I say the approach employed by both men is not simply theological, but must turn to the psychological.
Augustine was ready to throw away all of the Gospels if he could not harmonize them — if the story was not exactly the same. We see this same attitude today with those who rather than see the differences brought about by different methods of narrative recapitulation, call the differences contradictions. Lessing, rather, could see them plainly as differences and allow that the Gospels were not reporting historical fact. They were reporting the truth.
This is truly a fascinating read already, and the more so since I am now into chapter 2 where Watson has some forthright words about Q.
James McGrath has a post up detailing some interesting posts on mythicism. He points to an article by Kris Komarnitsky. Komarnitsky stands against the Sherwin-White hypothesis used in defending the historical narratives of Gospels. Sherwin-White gives it more than two generations for myths to develop. Komarnitsky suggests otherwise, but he is not the first.
As I covered earlier, S.V. McCasland writing in 1932, suggests it would have taken something like five years for legends to develop.
Regardless, one must insist (if we are to take the development of myth into consideration) that the authors intended to write a historical narrative akin to what we have today before we ask about the natural development of myth. I do not believe they did, of course.
However, if they didn’t, they would still need acceptance of their stories by their audience — so they must have something of a recognized history in them.
This blogging project is meant to focus on the Synoptics. This post does not really do that; however, it does involve Luke, so you’ll have to forgive me.
A few things we have to note first. Adam Winn‘s work in mimesis has established a few points of methodology, namely that any sources used by the author should be noted early on. Second, only a few scholars that I know of have suggested a Synoptic basis for John’s Gospel. Bultmann was among the first (if not the first) to suggest a Sign’s Gospel that predated John’s Gospel, acting as a redactionary source.
R. Bultmann, from the very first edition of his great commentary (1941 [MeyerK]), gave the classical statement to the Signs Source hypothesis (together with both another prose source, that recounting the passion of Jesus, and a highly artificial poetic Revelation-Sayings Source). Especially in the case of SQ Bultmann acknowledged several precursors, most notably Faure (1922).1
Instead of tackling those objections, I want to show you what I think is the origin of the so-called Sign’s Gospel. John, I contend, pulls directly from Luke’s glory structure.
To start, I want to note the first sign of Jesus as found in John:
This is followed by six more sign-events.3 This first one though is rather unique. It includes the key connection of signs and glorifying (doxa) God. John 9.3 comes the closest to blatantly tying the sign to the act of glorifying and gives away his intention, I think.
Peter Doble has identified a similar structure in Luke. Throughout Luke, the author ties certain events (healings, /an/miracles, etc…) to Scripture (LXX, of course). In fact, Doble has identified eight instances (2.20; 5.25; 5.26; 7.16; 13.13; 17.15; 18.43; and 23.47) where an event is tied to a passive action of glorifying God, leading to a recapitulation to the Old Testament.4 If the reader refused to divide the scene in 5.25 and 5.26 into two events, then you have the same amount of signs/glorifying God in Luke as you do in John.
Therefore, I would propose that John is using Luke’s theological structure for his signs with no real need for an independent narrative tradition (or /an/Christianity?). In order to alert his readers to his use of Luke, he “cites” the previous author during the first sign-event (John2.11). While John’s overarching theology may be different, his underlying pattern is the same as Luke. Thus, we have eliminated any need for an independent trajectory from the Synoptics, especially if John has embedded Luke (and Mark) into his Gospel not as a polemic witness, but one that gives his Gospel authority.
Robert T. Fortna, “Signs/Semeia Source”, in , vol. 6, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary ( ed. David Noel Freedman;New York: Doubleday, 1992), 19. (Logos Bible Software) ↩
Michael W. Holmes, The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition ( (Logos Bible Software, 2010)), Jn 2:11. ↩
John 4:46-54; 5:1-18; 6:5-14; John 6:16-24; John 9:1-7; John 11:1-45 ↩
You will find all posts related to this subject under the tag, Gospel Criticism.
Over the Christmas Holidays, a discussion was held on the Virgin Birth. It started because one scholar suggested that Matthew was a dullard at translating. Other scholars enjoined and one in particular went so far as to produce a podcast. In this podcast, Goodacre mentions brief the genealogy of Jesus as something befitting the controversial birth. After all, Matthew chose to include several women who were notoriously promiscuous or maybe I’ll let you define how we should treat this women. The genealogy of Jesus is absent in the oldest Gospel, Mark. Before I proceed with this, let me establish a few methodological points, a procedure that will no doubt accompany this blogject for some time.
First, Mark is written between 72 and 75, Matthew near 80, and Luke some time after that. I am not too concerned about the dating of Luke, although I would suppose that if we give Luke a date between 90 and 100, we are sufficient, as Acts comes shortly there after. I do not think that there are multiple /an/Christianities; nor would I go so far as to suggest that there is one heterodox Christianity. Instead, there is a proto-Christian group, still Jewish and still wrestling with the Gentile question as evidenced by the writing of the “Jerusalem Council,” that retroactively published hallowed history.
Second, as in regards to oral tradition, I find that focusing too much on this is a chore; yet, I maintain that instances such as the exorcism in Mark 9 does reflect something of a historical basis. Counterpose this miracle to other exorcisms in Mark. What one notices is a ritualistic answer to a known medical condition. Exorcists are real, even if the demons are not. Further, the genesis of the Gospels are the oral traditions about a Jesus who died a criminal’s death. Do not loog for a dismal of the historical person of Jesus because I will spend sometime studying the development of the literary tradition enshrined in the Gospels and will call into question from time to time the supposed historical events found therein. There is no crisis if there is no one to have a crisis centered around. This may be a simplistic understanding of literary events; yet, with previous works, such as Adam Winn‘s The Purpose of the Gospel of Mark, we have come to know something of the impetus pushing Mark to write. I will go further in my forth coming work, Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark, giving more detail. In this book, I suggest Matthew’s impetus is continuity, something that explains several of Matthew’s Judaizations of Mark. The reason Luke wrote, no doubt, was to polish for his continuance his received canon.
The idea of canon is not a Christian invention, but found in the Greco-Roman world. Homer’s work led to numerous continuances and (re)modeling. Virgil contributed a sequel. Lucan wrote to finish the canon. I would go so far as to say that Mark wrote in such a way (including his breaking into the story with 1.1 as well as the way he leaves it in Mark 16.8) as to invite sequels in order to build a /an/Christian canon. I think we might see an answer in this not only in Luke’s prologue where he writes so as to suggest that he is finishing the canonical project. John, too, at the end of his work, writes to suggest that everything that needs written is already written, almost as if to say “stop it.” We know that his message was not received, as other Gospels were written, although not accepted. Thus, the lack of Mark’s prologue is an invitation to another writer, answered by Matthew, to add something to Jesus’s story.
The continuity issue, realized by the social science perspective of Matthew’s Antiochian community I would think, in Matthew is answered somewhat by the genealogy. Jesus is now someone with a designated point in history. He is not just Mary’s son, as we have in Mark 6.3, but is the son of David and Abraham. In Luke, Jesus’s role in history developed even past Abraham, having his line traced directly back to God (Luke 3.38). Mark’s Jesus has no such foundation but is left to various interpretations of a wandering prophet or other homeless Sophist. While Mark’s Jesus is a Jew he is also confused by Jewish leaders with a Roman plant or perhaps another client king (Mark 3). It may be that the community had grown through Gentile converts that Matthew needed a more concrete lineage than just saying Jesus was a Jew. No, Jesus had to be a Jew of Jews, so that his line is that of a proper king, as opposed to Simon b. Gioras who may have been born to a Gentile convert on his father’s side. Or, let us compare Jesus to Vespasian, once more.
This is where Matthew’s genealogy becomes a propaganda tool. Vespasian was a commoner, but more than this. Suetonius writes that Vespasian descended from a traitor and a coward. The emperor’s grandfather was a soldier for Pompey during the Civil War. He fled the battlefield at Pharsalus and returned home to become a banker. His son was a tax collector (this is where parallelomania must be avoided, although I find it tempting to suggest that Mark’s tax collector is a literary wink to Vespasian) who was thought to be honesty by his fellow countrymen. Suetonius goes further, however, and writes of a local myth suggesting that Vespasian’s great-grandfather was nothing more than a day-laborer. Vespasian had no royal blood in him and no connection to Rome’s past. Indeed, his past portrayed a lineage of several who could possibly be an escaped slave, a coward, and a dead tax collector. Jesus, on the other hand, knows his lineage, or rather the read knows the lineage of Jesus, as it reaches through the great heros of Israel’s sacred writings. His line includes not day laborers but kings along with a few heroines that are the anti-hero. Ruth, a Moabitess who used her feminine wiles to gained the attention of Boaz the great Judge and son of Rahab (Joshua 2), accompanies Bathsheda, the Queen who led David to a great fall, as well as Tamar who lured her father-in-law into her bed while acting like a prostitute. Or at least in Matthew’s genealogy. Luke has no problem suggesting men somehow along produced the line of Jesus.1
The question is not to the historical value of the genealogies, if they provide us some form of validation in lieu of a birth certificate. The question, remains, rather, what they provided Matthew’s audience. The use of genealogy in Matthew is two-fold. First, it connects Jesus to a the history of Israel and thus gives his community continuity with David and because of David, the kingdom if Israel. This genealogy not only provides continuity with Israel and her people for the /an/Christian community but likewise, helps to redefine what “Son of David” means, a concept as Horsley has demonstrated was undergoing radical changes during the remnants of the popular social banditry movements. Second, it does suggest, as Goodacre alluded to in his podcast (forgive me if something more substantial has been written on the subject), that Matthew is covering up for an embarrassment to the early community, perhaps of a particular nasty rumor about Jesus’s mother. The women mentioned in Jesus’s lineage have one thing in common, besides Jesus — they were all related to sexual controversies. There is nothing else to gain by alerting the reader to Mary’s indiscretion something Luke forgoes altogether in directing the line to Joseph with no mention of Mary (see footnote above).
As Dewey and Miller note, no other Gospel has Jesus’s genealogy.2 Yet, Thomas has the closest allowance of familiar aspect to it. Thomas opens his work up by calling himself three names already familiar to the readers of the Gospels. He calls himself Didymos, Judas, Thomas. In John’s Gospel, Thomas is twice given the name of Didymus.3 Judas, however, is a now aperture . In a second allowance, which will be discussed later, Thomas includes a scene similar to Mark 3.31-35.4 I will argue later, however, that Thomas is only using the standing tradition. What Thomas may highlight here is that the tradition of Jesus’s family is not important to other segments, say more non-Jewish segments, of later trajectories. If Thomas is somewhat gnostic, this may be explained through gnostic which viewed the body as evil, but both of these are arguments from silence.5
Luke’s changes are perhaps more in line with a less crucial time. Perhaps, I would think, Luke is writing to clear up fringe traditions or even writing to supplement both Mark and Matthew as well as to (re)establish a tradition. Luke has an issue with Matthew’s genealogy including notorious women and so removes them. Further, he corrects some of Matthew’s emendations, stretching out the genealogy to fit a proper inspection. He includes it because Matthew has.
What about John? John’s prologue is as mysterious as Mark’s, although the origin point of Jesus is given before the age. He still appears in the flesh and makes his home (maybe a reference to the womb, given the mention of being born in the same prologue) in a body. I do not want to, otherwise, focus on John; however, I think John’s prologue is purposely similar to Mark’s.
Both genealogies are directed to Joseph. The differences between them are not worth considering at the moment, although it is worth noting that sans the usual Christian apologetics, they are severely different ↩
See page 9, note. No other Gospel except the two under current discussion ↩
Compare Thomas 99.1-3 with the Synoptic versions ↩
We might argue for the inclusion of Ignatius’ writings, especially for the shorter versions in our argument. After all, in the eight considered his, he mentions Mary as both a virgin and the mother of Jesus. If this were so, all of this would only point to the acceptance of Matthew and/or Luke’s story, not any relation to a factual genealogy ↩