At the start of this series, I looked at the three most common solutions to the Synoptic Problem (the Griesbach, Two/Four Source, and Farrer Theories). However, a small minority of scholars have argued for the position known as “Matthean posterity.” That is, they agree with the Two/Four Source and Farrer theorists in arguing that Matthew and Luke both relied on Mark’s biographical outline from Jesus’ baptism to the empty tomb. However, they argue that Matthew copied Luke’s Gospel as well as Mark’s Gospel.
On one level, I can see how this theory works. Luke mainly alternates between Markan and non-Markan sources (cf. Luke 6:20-8:3, 9:51-18:14) in blocks with some exceptions (see Luke 3-4, 19:11-27). Matthew, it would follow, organizes Luke’s additions into five teaching discourses concluding with the line “when Jesus had finished these words/parables/teachings” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1) and more often conflates them with Mark’s material. I can also imagine that Matthew might want to spiritualize Jesus’ blessing to the poor (see Luke 6:20; Matt 5:3), more closely identify Jesus with divine Wisdom (Luke 7:35; 11:49; Matt 11:19; 23:34-35), or make the “sign of Jonah” more explicitly relate to Jesus’ death and resurrection (Luke 11:30; Matt 13:40).
The problem I have is that some evidence seems to me to point to dating Luke later than Matthew. Thus, Luke is already aware of “many” who have drawn up an account of Jesus (Luke 1:1-4), seems further removed from the imminent eschatological expectations of Mark and Matthew (Luke 21:24; Acts 1:6-7), and does not have as early external attestation as Matthew (Papias in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16; Didache 8:2; 15:3-4; Ignatius’s epistles to the Smyrnaeans 1.1, 6.1 Philadelphians 2.2, Ephesians 5.2; 6.1/Romans 9.3, Trallians 11.1, and Polycarp 1.2-3; 2.2) [note: Garrow’s study below reverses the lines of dependence from the Didache to Matthew and sees the “gospel” references in the Didache to be a later redactional layer]. This is not to mention the case recently advanced for an early second century dating for Luke-Acts based on re-opening the question of Luke’s debt to a collection of Pauline Epistles and Josephus’s Antiquities! Mark Goodacre compiled a list of reasons for why he finds Matthew’s use of Luke unlikely, but I am otherwise unaware of any full-scale refutation of this position and I admittedly have not looked at the arguments in detail. For some of the literature, check out:
- Ronald V. Huggins, “Matthean Posterity: A Preliminary Proposal” Novum Testamentum 34 (1992): 1-22. See also his blog.
- Alan Garrow, The Gospel of Matthew’s Dependence on the Didache (JSNTSupp 254: London; Bloomsbury, 2004) and ‘Streeter’s ‘Other’ Synoptic Solution: The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis‘, New Testament Studies 32 (forthcoming April 2016). See also his website.
- Robert K. MacEwen, Matthean Posterity: An Exploration of Matthew’s Use of Mark and Luke as a Solution to the Synoptic Problem (London and New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015).
- Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000), 169-207. *Thanks to Allen Black for pointing out this reference to me.