Review of Chapter 3 of Redating Matthew, Mark and Luke

Wenham continues his argument from chapter 2 by focusing on step 4: “Luke may be presumed to keep to the sense of his other sources. The differences of sense between the Q-material of Matthew and of Luke make dependence on Q or large-scale borrowing from Matthew improbable” (p. 41). Luke’s fidelity to the sense of Mark, covered in chapter 2, leads to the belief that he kept the sense of any other sources he used. Furthermore, Luke’s preface (1:1-4) implies he would faithfully follow the sources he found trustworthy.

The exact nature of the Q document is debated even among scholars who accept its existence. Some of the hypotheses concerning Q are difficult, perhaps impossible, to test. Wenham puts these to the side and focuses on hypotheses that propose Q was a finished document. To test the Q hypothesis Wenham tests four possibilities:

  1. Q was like the Matthean form
  2. Q was like the Lukan form
  3. Both Matthew and Luke made significant changes to Q
  4. Luke extracted his material from Matthew

If Matthew preserves the sense of Q then Luke 9:51-18:14 (the Central Section) clearly does not. The order of the Q material in Matthew is not preserved in Luke’s Central Section. In those ten passages in Matthew and Luke where there is general agreement in wording and sense the relation does not appear to be a literary one due to differences that still exist. Then there are nine passages where the sense is markedly different and a literary relation is improbable.

Wenham suggests that the Central Section of Luke derives from the sayings of Jesus. He makes the important point that Jesus would have used similar sayings in different contexts (p. 77):

Their [Matthew and Luke] similarities derive from a common source in the mind of Jesus, rather than from a single utterance of his lips. It is inevitable that an itinerant preacher must repeat himself again and again, sometimes in identical words, sometimes with slight variations, sometimes with new applications; sometimes an old idea will appear in an entirely new dress. All Q-passages set in different contexts in the two gospels (from cases of complete identity to cases of similar imagery) could quite well have come from a preacher who on one occasion had used the Matthean form and on another occasion the Lukan. It could be that we are distorting the material when we insist upon asking which of the two is the more original.

Wenham goes further so as to argue that the section may have come from one of the seventy:

  1. It fits the narrative which speaks of a Galilean ministry and a final trip to Jerusalem. Luke’s Central Section would narrate the events between the two.
  2. It fits with Luke’s claims to be using eyewitnesses.
  3. It would explain Luke’s interest in the mission of the seventy (9:1-6; 10:1-24).
  4. It would explain the order of the material. Luke followed the order of one of the seventy instead of darting back-and-forth with Q or Matthew.
  5. It accounts for verbal likenesses and unlikenesses. Luke’s source heard Jesus speak but Luke is not copying Q or Matthew.

In my opinion, while it is possible Luke knew one of the seventy, this argument does not establish that he used one of the seventy as a source. Only (3) points in that direction. (1), (2), (4), and (5) would seem to fit with any kind of eyewitness. To be fair, it is not clear how strong Wenham thinks this argument is.

Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (6:20-49) has a number of parallels with Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and keeps the same general order. Yet there are still verbal differences that lead Wenham to discount a shared literary source.

There are five major Q passages in the rest of Luke (i.e., outside the Sermon on the Plain and the Central Section). The “brood of vipers” denunciation (Luke 3:7-9) is nearly identical to Matthew’s account. A passage about the Baptist (Luke 7:18-35; Matthew 11:2-19) share 163 verbal identities in parts of the passage (there are differences too). In only these two cases does Wenham think literary dependence is probable.

To sum up our conclusions concerning Luke’s Q-material. It is broadly of four types. 1.) There are nine major passages in the Central Section, totaling sixty verses, where the differences between Luke and Matthew are considerably greater than the differences between the parallel passages of Luke and Mark. The sample applies to the seventeen verses of the parable of the pounds — giving seventy-seven in all. 2.) There are short sayings where the degree of similarity is akin to that in the passages where Luke is parallel to Mark. 3.) In the Baptist passages there are nineteen verses which suggest direct literary dependence. 4.) In the Beelzebul/sign-seeking passage there are nineteen, in the heavenly treasure passage ten, in the Great Sermon thirty, in the temptation thirteen and in the narrative of the centurion’s boy ten verses (in total eighty-two) suggesting not direct literary dependence, but some remoter common origin. This eliminates the idea that Luke’s Q-material is largely derived from Matthew or from a Q of the Matthean form — the order does not correspond, and much of the wording would show departure from Matthew’s sense. (p. 84-85)

The hypothesis that Matthew altered Q while Luke preserved it faces similar difficulties. If Matthew uses Mark (Wenham will later argue he does not) then he keeps the sense and order of Mark, much like Luke does. This would count against him altering another source, Q.

If neither Matthew nor Luke were likely to alter a source then it is unlikely that both of them altered Q. Hence, Wenham has no use for Q.

Wenham believes Luke followed Matthew in a couple places (Luke 3:7-17; 7:18-35). In these places he does follow Matthew’s order and wording. This leads to the question: if Luke knew Matthew, why did he use so little of his material? Wenham proposes that Luke intended for his gospel to supplement, rather than replace, Matthew and that he was hard-pressed for space on the scroll.


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