Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 29th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Why the Farrer-Goulder and Goodacre theory is a “better” methodology

Farrer hypothesis solution of the synoptic problem

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.

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Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


10 Responses to “Why the Farrer-Goulder and Goodacre theory is a “better” methodology”
  1. 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.

    Clearly not a reference to Mark Driscoll. But it does show that Driscoll is a plagiarist not only by modern standards but even by ancient ones.

    • There was one case of ancient plagiarism. Martial found his words under someone else’s name. This wasn’t imitation, etc… but out right theft, something Driscoll is known for it appears.

  2. Just once, I’d like to see one of these synoptic problem diagrams avoid the use of arrows. Must we always use arrows? Wouldn’t it be super cool to see it depicted in sound waves or ripples in a pond?

  3. John C. Poirier says

    On Matthew’s use of Mark, there’s a new book, which I just read: J. Andrew Doole, *What was Mark for Matthew? An Examination of Matthew’s Relationship and Attitude to his Primary Source* (WUNT 2/344; Tuebingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2013).

    Doole disagrees with Sim and O’Leary, thinking that Matthew was not trying to replace Mark, but to supplement him. I can’t say I agree with that.

    • Not having read that book, I don’t know the arguments, but I cannot argue for supplementing Mark. Matthew as preserving Mark, but I do not think in any attempt to have Mark next to his work.

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