June 20, 2009

Matthew's Gospel - the first AND the last (?)

Biblical scholars have long since made clear it's okay to reconstruct hypothetical documents. For many reasons, I like my suggestion a thousand times better than "Q". Here's the thought process that led me to it, about one year ago:

Question: If there was ever an early source document for the synoptic gospels, that was composed by one author as a deliberate record of Jesus' life and teachings, which known follower of Jesus would be the most likely person to have written such a document?

My Answer: Matthew's tax collection business required some degree of book keeping, which suggests he had some travel-ready writing tools and basic writing ability. Since Matthew joined Jesus just before the naming of the twelve and the sermon on the mount, it makes sense that the bulk of synoptic events would take place after that point. Finally, if Matthew kept an intermittent journal that was preserved and copied, feeding early source material to Mark and Luke, their completed gospels would most naturally have inspired Matthew to create a more sophisticated composition of his earlier journal - giving this hypothesis a practical application for source theory.

Point: This plausible event sequence would both explain the tradition of Matthean priority and offer a general solution to the Synoptic problem. If all three gospels were written by the early 60's AD, then Mark and Luke used Matthew's journal before Matthew used Mark and Luke.

That's my hypothesis, and some of you know it well. But now let me go back to the original question - assuming there was any such early source document, can anyone suggest a better candidate to have authored such an account? And if so, what are your reasons? And would your candidate fit into any scenario for explaining the synoptic composition process? Or, given the question at top, would you any of you agree that Matthew could be the most likely answer?

Take your time thinking about it. Leave comments here any time in the future. And as always, thanks for stopping by. :-)


Doug Unrau said...

I like your suggestion a thousand times better than "Q" too. Something about the whole "Q" source seems academically contrived to me. I would even suggest that the early disciples may have decided to
focus on the stories that were most easily verifiable. Some of the individuals who were healed by Jesus must have also become followers and the focus on the stories of these people may have helped form the gospel narrative because these stories had solid witnesses. That would explain the similarities as well as the differences between the gospels.

Bill Heroman said...

Hi, Fresh. Thanks for the comment.

Your profile seems to be blocked. FYI.

Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

Have you had opportunity to find any others who may have taken up such a proposal for explaining the Synoptics. I would say that I also agree that this proposal resonates with me far more than the various theories proposed about 'Q'. I would be intrigued if you find any information affirming further examination of this proposal.

James said...

Dave Black's book, Why Four Gospels is helpful on this matter. Matthew first, Luke second, Mark is Peters discourse in Rome using both sources Matthew/Luke for Mark.

John of course...was written by the Beloved Disciple, Lazarus...


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