The Virgin Mary in Mark, Matthew and Luke.

In a recent video Mary the Mother of WHO??? I briefly discussed how Mark and Luke offered radically different portrayals of the Mother of Jesus: the former has Mary as an unbeliever, the latter shows Mary as the first and most faithful of disciples. This has long been noticed by New Testament scholars. A ground-breaking ecumenical study by Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant scholars produced an agreed statement on Mary in the New Testament (Mary in the New Testament A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars). I discussed some of their findings in an essay I wrote a few years back:

The Virgin Mary in Mark, Matthew and Luke.

On a first reading of the gospels it is tempting to take these stories at face value: here are ancient texts that tell us what Mary the Mother of Jesus said and did. Their reliability and facticity is usually assumed without question. And this way of reading of the gospels has been ubiquitous in the Christian churches for much of the last 2000 years.

Today, however, such a reading of the gospels is no longer possible. As we have seen there are four gospels, and each has a different picture of Jesus and his teaching. It is illuminating to apply the same methodology to the Gospel portraits of Mary that we have employed with such powerful effect concerning the gospel portraits of Jesus. I want to examine how the gospel writers depict Mary the mother of Jesus.

The earliest surviving gospel, that of Mark, portrays Mary (along with Jesus’ brothers) in a negative light, placing them literally outside the crowded circle of those who make up his eschatological family – which is based on faith.

Mark 3:20-35 reads:

‘…and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

The scholarly consensus is that Mark was the first to be written. Matthew and Luke then used Mark as a source, as well as a hypothetical sayings source known as Q. I think this is the most plausible explanation (though a few scholars disagree). So Matthew relies on Mark as one of his sources. But he clearly thought Mark was inadequate and incomplete. Sometimes Matthew paraphrases Mark, sometimes he deliberately alters Mark. This shows us that for Matthew ‘facts’ could be changed to enhance his message. A good example of this change is to note how Matthew improves the negative portrayal of Jesus’ mother and brothers in Mark: in the latter they are shown as outsiders who think Jesus is mad and they repeatedly fail to understand Jesus’ message.

Matthew has a very different positive picture: perhaps wanting to show the disciples as good role models for Christians, he is happy to change the facts of history to fit his viewpoint.

He omits Mark’s negative story where Mary (and Jesus’ brothers) all try to ‘restrain’ Jesus because they thought he was ‘out of his mind’. So it is clear that there has been a development in the way Mary is presented in the Gospels. In Matthew’s gospel Mark’s negative portrayal is eliminated.

Luke (unlike Mark) also presents a highly positive portrait of Mary. In the scene parallel to Mark’s (with the brothers in the house) she is now included in the eschatological family – those who hear the word of God and do it (see Luke 8:19-21). Luke, like Matthew, omits the embarrassing and offensive passage (Mark 3: 20-21).

In a ground-breaking ecumenical study a team of Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant scholars collaborated in producing an agreed statement on Mary in the New Testament (Mary in the New Testament A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars published by Paulist Press 1978, edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer and others.)

In reference to Mark’s gospel chapter 3, verse 21, the study concludes:

We understand the verse to mean: “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him; for they were saying, ‘He is beside himself.’”

Concerning Matthew 12:46-50 (equivalent to Mark 3:31-35) the scholars comment,

‘The Matthean form of the passage is not very different from Mark’s. However, it is not so much in the passage itself that Matthew differs from Mark but in the context. The introductory scene [Mark 3: 20-21] in which “his own” think he is beside himself is completely absent. Presumably the omission was deliberate, and it can be understood if Matthew interpreted Mark’s “his own” to include Jesus’ mother.’ p. 99 (emphasis added).

The study concludes with this assessment of the Synoptic gospels depiction of Mary:

‘We have spoken of a “negative portrait” of Mary in the Gospel of Mark. The principal text which leads to that designation is Mark 3:20-35.

The Matthean and Lucan parallels to Mark 3:20-35 (Matt 12:24-50; Luke 8: 19-21) give a rather different picture, largely by modification of the Marcan text. Both evangelists have dropped the harsh introduction in Mark 3:20-21. Luke goes further in softening the Marcan picture by eliminating also the question of Jesus, “Who are my mother and brothers?” and by transferring the Beelzebul controversy to another place (11:14-23).

Thus, in the Synoptic depiction of Mary during Jesus’ ministry, we have a development from the negative estimation of Mark to the positive one of Luke, with Matthew representing the middle term.’

pp. 286-287.

 ***

So what is the truth about Mary? With the gospel writers contradicting each other (Matthew and Luke contradict/disagree with Mark) what has God reliably told us about the Mother of Jesus? Unfortunately the New Testament gospels are not a reliable source of information at this point.

As Muslims we hold Mary in the highest regard. A chapter in the Holy Qur’an is named after her: Surah Maryam.

Surah 3:42 states,

‘The angels said to Mary: ‘Mary, God has chosen you and made you pure: He has truly chosen you above all women.

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Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship, Jesus, Quran

50 replies

  1. Wow, thank you so much for putting this information to us all. Well “”all”” mean Christians too , but unfortunately logic is a very slippery concept to Christians, the mental gymnastics they must do in order to stabilise the scaffolding of faith is very impressive.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. //////////

    Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”

    makes sense in light of what you wrote above.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul did you read the verses referred to?

    > Matthew has a very different positive picture: perhaps wanting to show the disciples as good role models for Christians, he is happy to change the facts of history to fit his viewpoint.
    He omits Mark’s negative story where Mary (and Jesus’ brothers) all try to ‘restrain’ Jesus because they thought he was ‘out of his mind’. So it is clear that there has been a development in the way Mary is presented in the Gospels. In Matthew’s gospel Mark’s negative portrayal is eliminated.

    This is simply false.

    Mar 3:31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
    Mar 3:32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
    Mar 3:33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
    Mar 3:34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!
    Mar 3:35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

    Here it is in Matthew

    Mat 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.
    Mat 12:47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
    Mat 12:48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
    Mat 12:49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.
    Mat 12:50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

    There is no change in attitude in the conclusion of the account. Matthew may not include the beginning but he ends with exactly the same sentiment.

    > Luke (unlike Mark) also presents a highly positive portrait of Mary. In the scene parallel to Mark’s (with the brothers in the house) she is now included in the eschatological family – those who hear the word of God and do it (see Luke 8:19-21). Luke, like Matthew, omits the embarrassing and offensive passage (Mark 3: 20-21).

    Do you even read it?

    Luk 8:19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd.
    Luk 8:20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”
    Luk 8:21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

    Again, Luke gives the same conclusion to the event as Mark and Matthew. Luke may not include the beginning but he ends with exactly the same sentiment.

    And you ignore the following

    Luk 11:27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
    Luk 11:28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

    In the gospels Mary is seen as a blessed woman who had the disruptive task of being the mother of the Messiah. There is simply no evidence for development of her character between the gospel.

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    • Samuel, you completely missed the point. Did Matthew remove the story about Jesus’ family thinking he was insane or not?

      Liked by 3 people

    • Samuel, I will reply in detail later, but note I have cited your own eminent scholars who disagree with you on this.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Faiz asked:
      «Did Matthew remove the story about Jesus’ family thinking he was insane or not?»

      An even more preliminary question might be, is there such a text in Mark? In other words, is it necessary to understand Mark 3:21 as meaning Christ’s family thought He was insane? Permit me to share here an excerpt from a comment I posted to the other thread on this subject:

        When Mark 3:21 states that they went to take him, I have to wonder if κρατησαι can’t be read in a more positive light, like when Mark uses the nearly identical κρατησας when describing Jesus taking the hand of Simon’s mother in law (Mark 1:31 [we find a similar locution in Mark 5:41, which I will mention below]). I realize the latter is in the participle while the former is in the indicative, but I still think that the ‘taking’ need not be akin to an arrest (which is how it can be used), but rather a gentle, protective holding, akin to Jesus grabbing an old woman’s (or little girl’s) hand.

        This takes us, of course, to εξεστη, at the end of 3:21. Many read that as meaning they took him to be crazy, but that need not be the only possible meaning. For example, the exact same verb (only in the plural, εξεστησαν) is employed in the above-mentioned Mark 5:41, to describe the surprise at a girl being healed/rasied. The Septuagint uses εξεστη in Exodus 19:18 to describe the astonishment of the folk when God enveloped the mountain in smoke. Perhaps most potentially relevant, the Septuagint uses the same verb in 1 Samuel 28:5 to describe the fear and heart trembling of Saul upon seeing the Philistine forces. [On a barely related side note, the Septuagint uses the verb in Exodus 18:9 to describe Jethro being moved in a positive sense (I share this only to show that the semantic range is broad).]

        With all this in mind, note the considerable crowds mentioned in Mark 3:20. Ergo, it seems to me it is possible to understand verse 21 as alluding to his family coming to aid him, perhaps even protect him, out of concern that he may be overwhelmed (whether physically or emotionally) by the oncoming masses.

      So, with that in mind, it is far from obvious that the Marcan text has Christ’s family thinking He was insane. This then allows us to turn to the claim that if Matthew does not include a parallel to this text, it is because he found it embarrassing. But how do we know he found it embarrassing? If the answer is such is assumed based on it not appearing, we seem to move in a circle. But the root problem is the assumption that Matthew would have necessarily understood the text the same way as those who read it negatively.

      ***

      Paul wrote to Samuel:
      «I have cited your own eminent scholars who disagree with you»

      But in what sense are they necessarily his scholars? Simply because they fall within the broad spectrum of Christians? Is it not possible for persons who identify as Christian to have disagreements, even bitter disagreements?

      And the same phenomenon exists in Islam. For example, some men recognized by some Muslims as scholars are accused by other Muslims of being perennialists, or (at least in the past) pantheists, or today too liberal, or too extreme, et cetera. Do all who identify as Muslim agree with Joseph Lumbard, or Seyyed Hossein Nasr, or `Ammar Naqshawani, or `Ali al-Sistani, or the current Grand Mufti of Sa`udi `Arabia (`Abdul-`Aziz ibn `Abdullah Al ash-Shaykh)? Or are there actually different sets of people who identify as Muslim and disagree bitterly with any one of those men? I doubt any of us think those who disagree with one or more of those men might be swayed simply by being told “but he’s your scholar”.

      In light of the disagreements which exist within broad faith spectrums (including disagreements with men who might hold tenured positions at prestigious universities), perhaps it is better to examine the arguments themselves.

      Like

  4. Hi Paul
    I see you don’t allow for a person to be different or change their mind or act out of character.

    Are you saying to me that Mary was perfect throughout her whole life and never sinned?

    Or that there was never a disagreement with Jesus?

    That she didnt struggle with who her son was.

    If all the gospels writers said the same things what would you be saying today?

    “The gospels are true they all say the same thing”

    I doubt that very much!

    Can you quote me from the koran something that Jesus taught with Mary responding to that teaching.

    Like

    • Oy vei, as usual, you missed the point. I am not arguing about who is telling the truth. Mark, Matthew, Luke and John all have trust issues, in my view.

      The point here is why did Mark say one thing about Jesus’ family and Matthew omitted it? It is a well-known fact that Matthew and Luke took liberties with Mark’s gospel and made amendments to it as they chose. This is a fact that is acknowledged by Christian and non-Christian scholars. The only ones who try to dance around this fact are apologists like you.

      Like

  5. Hi Faiz
    How do you know what Mark wrote was all truth?

    And how do you know if God didnt want that particular part of the story in Matthew.

    For your religion to be true you have pull down the characters of Jesus disciples by making them out to be liars.

    You guys claim things like Paul didnt meet Jesus in the flesh, yet Prophet Muhammad didn’t meet anyone at all.

    So all this stuff about “Did Matthew remove that part of the story out”

    how do you know?

    Like

    • Muhammad (sws) was a Prophet and Messenger of God……..Paul was not. So it matters more if Paul actually met a Jesus or not, since Jesus was also a Prophet and messenger, and again……..Paul was not.

      In regard to the synoptics and how do we know? We Muslims don’t have to make this stuff up, because as Paul Williams has made clear in the article above, we have Biblical scholars who tell us so.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oy vei, as usual, you missed the point. I am not arguing about who is telling the truth. Mark, Matthew, Luke and John all have trust issues, in my view.

      The point here is why did Mark say one thing about Jesus’ family and Matthew omitted it? Just compare Mark to Matthew!

      It is a well-known fact that Matthew and Luke took liberties with Mark’s gospel and made amendments to it as they chose. This is a fact that is acknowledged by Christian and non-Christian scholars. The only ones who try to dance around this fact are apologists like you.

      Like

    • Faiz wrote:
      «It is a well-known fact that Matthew and Luke took liberties with Mark’s gospel and made amendments to it as they chose.»

      It’s not a well-known fact; rather it is a very popular theory. But let’s explore this.

      Similar to what is being discussed in another entry on this blog, I’d like to offer a bit of a thought experiment, here. [As a disclaimer, however, note that I am not actually attacking your faith, here; rather I am engaging in a thought experiment designed to dig out some relevant points.]

      Note that there are similarities (even points of agreement) between the 1st chapter of Luke and surat Al `Imran in the Qur’an (they even follow similar narrative layouts, e.g. following the muting of Zechariah with the angelic annunciation to Mary). One possible naturalistic hypothesis could be that surat Al `Imran was influenced by the Gospel of Luke (not necessarily in the sense of the author of the Qur’anic text using the text of Luke directly; rather it could be indirectly via people familiar with the Lucan narrative). If one begins with the hypothesis that the relevant sura is influenced by Luke, one can then speculate about what the author’s motivations (or the motivations of an intermediary) might have been for “altering” the text (e.g. the Lucan narrative of the annunciation has an explicit reference to Jesus as son of the Most High which is absent from the Qur’anic text).

      At this point a Muslim can rightly object that even if two texts have material in common, that need not mean one employed the other (rather it is possible both draw from a common source, even if such is not apparent). Let’s keep that rule in mind.

      But then there is another question for Muslims who presuppose the Qur’an: what are we to make of those points of agreement between the Qur’an and Luke? Wouldn’t that (from a perspective which presupposes the Qur’an) have to entail that at least those points reflect reality (i.e. that those portions are historically accurate)? If Luke has material which goes back to the fact of the matter, wouldn’t that mean some material in Luke predates Mark? This is another point worth keeping in mind.

      It seems to me that, even from a Muslim perspective, we should have two interesting points:

      (1) Common material between texts does not mean one text employed the other (rather there could have been a common source).

      (2) Luke had access to material which ultimately predated Mark.

      If we can agree on those points, we can return to the claim that Luke used Mark as a source. What are the reasons we should conclude that’s the case? [Note: I’m asking what the actual argument is, not whether the conclusion is popular among scholars; and I hope we agree that we cannot buttress the argument by calling skeptics names (e.g. “apologists,” or, worse, in other circles, “fundamentalists,” et cetera).]

      Like

    • «It is a well-known fact that Matthew and Luke took liberties with Mark’s gospel and made amendments to it as they chose.»

      Indeed it is. Most top scholars (Christian and otherwise) agree.

      The arguments in its favour are compelling in my view. Some theological conservatives, motivated by their presuppositions, are uncomfortable with the idea of course. When I was a Christian I found it quite distressing. But not anymore.

      Like

    • Denis, your analogy is flawed for the simple reason that while the Quran never states that it used other “sources”, Luke actually says that he “investigated”. Thus, there is no reason to deny that Luke could have used Mark.

      As for the “source” that you say predated Luke, I think it’s clear that it was Mark. But, you are not entirely incorrect. There was a source that predated both Mark and Luke, and that is the Q gospel, which Mark probably used.

      Liked by 2 people

    • you said that luke may have used sources which predate mark.
      now it is said that more than 40 % of mark is to be found in luke
      there are even those who say that when luke goes against mark, he still reproduces markan wording and order.

      if luke used older sources, then have they been changed to align with marks version? if yes, how are the older sources recoverable from the 40 % which luke has in his account?

      Like

    • This is in response to QuranAndBibleBlog and Robster (greetings to both).

      ***

      QuranAndBibleBlog wrote:
      «your analogy is flawed for the simple reason that while the Quran never states that it used other “sources”, Luke actually says that he “investigated”. Thus, there is no reason to deny that Luke could have used Mark.»

      Nothing in my text denied that Luke had access to other accounts (I myself raised the possibility of Luke using sources older than Mark, which you yourself responded to). I was merely exploring how obvious specifically Marcan primacy is.

      QuranAndBibleBlog wrote:
      «As for the “source” that you say predated Luke, I think it’s clear that it was Mark.»

      In the relevant thought experiment, I wanted to contemplatet the source for that material in which Luke agrees with the Qur’an. For example, the muting Zechariah, or the angelic annunciation to Mary. Mark does not mention such things, therefore it is unlikely that Mark was the source for that.

      But, more importantly, I wanted to explore how a person who presupposes the Qur’an should contemplate those texts in Luke which agree with the Qur’an. You assume those traditions in Luke which agree with the Qur’an, yet are not found in Luke, are historically accurate, correct? If so, in order for Luke to contain a non-Markan tradition which (at least in part) goes all the way back to the actual events, that would seem to entail that Luke had access to traditions which predate Mark, wouldn’t it?

      This begs a question: knowing that similarities between two texts need not entail that one employed the other (rather there could be a common third source), and being open to the possibility that Luke had access to traditions which predate Mark (which a Qur’anic presupposition seems to require), why should we conclude that material common to Mark and Luke was taken by Luke from Mark?

      QuranAndBibleBlog wrote:
      «There was a source that predated both Mark and Luke, and that is the Q gospel, which Mark probably used.»

      I doubt any scholar would say Q is the source of the stories about the muting of Zechariah and the angelic annunciation to Mary (mainly because scholars who hold to the hypothetical Q assume that corpus was limited to those non-Marcan sayings of Jesus which Matthew and Luke have in common [a restriction that strikes me as completely artificial and arbitrary, though of course I understand that such is because the hypothesis’ origins are rooted precisely in the contemplation of non-Marcan sayings common to the other two Synoptic Gospels]).

      Nonetheless, at the very least, I appreciate your openness to the possibility of Luke having access to sources which predate Mark. That’s an important step.

      ***

      Robster asked:
      «if luke used older sources, then have they been changed to align with marks version?»

      Why would that be necessary? If a given narrative in Mark and Luke follow the same order, couldn’t it be the case that they each drew upon a source which had the relevant narrative in that order?

      Now, permit me to say that I find it unfortunate when I put forth an argument, and subsequent responses move farther and farther away from that argument, without grappling with its nuances. So, Robster, I wish to ask you a question, which will attempt to bring our discussion back to my argument. Note that I put forth two propositions which I feel Muslims should agree to:

      1. Common material between texts does not mean one text employed the other (rather there could have been a common source).
      2. Luke had access to material which ultimately predated Mark.

      Do you agree or disagree with one or both of those propositions? If you disagree with one or both, why?

      Like

  6. Hi Paul / Faiz
    Maybe we join John with Mark’s description of Mary’s by Jesus.

    John 2:3-4
    3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

    4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

    or maybe we use John 19:26

    26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

    You guys are saying there was a development does that ring true according to the text above?

    Like

    • DC,
      It is well known and generally accepted by Biblical scholarship that there was a development of the Gospel narrative. It is hard to believe that some Christians still attempt to argue against this given the massive amounts of scholarly work, and evidence to the contrary that has accumulated over the past 100 years and more.

      You are arguing a lost cause.

      Like

    • LOL, of course there was a development in the gospels. You would have to be blind not to see it!

      Like

  7. “He omits Mark’s negative story where Mary (and Jesus’ brothers) all try to ‘restrain’ Jesus because they thought he was ‘out of his mind’. ”

    Actually the whole thing is based on a faulty translation.

    King James Bible, Mark 3 v 21

    And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.

    Thus Mary and the family of Jesus certainly did not believe that Jesus was “beside himself” or mad.

    Like

  8. Denis said:

    “Nothing in my text denied that Luke had access to other accounts (I myself raised the possibility of Luke using sources older than Mark, which you yourself responded to). I was merely exploring how obvious specifically Marcan primacy is.”

    My point was in regard to your “thought experiment” about the Quran. The Quran never claims to be basing its narrative on other sources. Luke, on the other hand, says so in the beginning of his gospel. So there is no comparison. The Quran claims to be the direct word of God. Luke never made that claim. He never even claimed to be “inspired”.

    “In the relevant thought experiment, I wanted to contemplatet the source for that material in which Luke agrees with the Qur’an. For example, the muting Zechariah, or the angelic annunciation to Mary. Mark does not mention such things, therefore it is unlikely that Mark was the source for that.”

    I agree, but that doesn’t exactly refute the view that Luke copied and edited Mark with regard to the story of Jesus’ family. You are arguing based on a hypothetical scenario. I never said that Luke only used Mark. But it is clear that Mark was one of his sources.

    You should remember that Matthew also does not contain the muting of Zechariah or the angelic annunciation of Mary. In fact, it doesn’t mention Zechariah at all and only says that Joseph was visited by angels.

    “But, more importantly, I wanted to explore how a person who presupposes the Qur’an should contemplate those texts in Luke which agree with the Qur’an. You assume those traditions in Luke which agree with the Qur’an, yet are not found in Luke, are historically accurate, correct? If so, in order for Luke to contain a non-Markan tradition which (at least in part) goes all the way back to the actual events, that would seem to entail that Luke had access to traditions which predate Mark, wouldn’t it?”

    Yes, and I never denied that. But that still does not explain why Luke’s description of Jesus’ family is slightly different from Mark’s.

    It also does not explain why Matthew, who seems to be much more reliant on Mark, also omitted the negative view of Jesus’ family.

    “This begs a question: knowing that similarities between two texts need not entail that one employed the other (rather there could be a common third source), and being open to the possibility that Luke had access to traditions which predate Mark (which a Qur’anic presupposition seems to require), why should we conclude that material common to Mark and Luke was taken by Luke from Mark?”

    Because Luke said that he used other sources, and his gospel has many similarities with Mark and Matthew’s gospels.

    “I doubt any scholar would say Q is the source of the stories about the muting of Zechariah and the angelic annunciation to Mary (mainly because scholars who hold to the hypothetical Q assume that corpus was limited to those non-Marcan sayings of Jesus which Matthew and Luke have in common [a restriction that strikes me as completely artificial and arbitrary, though of course I understand that such is because the hypothesis’ origins are rooted precisely in the contemplation of non-Marcan sayings common to the other two Synoptic Gospels]).”

    That is true, but I am merely pointing out that there was a source that predated all of the synoptic gospels.

    Now since there is considerable evidence that Luke used other sources, including Mark, when he differs from the known sources (like Mark) or when he skips things that are found in Mark or Matthew, then it seems to be a reasonable conclusion that Luke simply edited which parts he wanted his readers to know and which parts were best kept out of his gospel. Being a Gentile, his motivation is understandable. For example, he omitted the story of the Syrophonecian woman, which makes sense because it doesn’t exactly put Gentiles in a positive light. I don’t think Luke would want his Gentile readers to see Jesus referring to Gentiles as being somehow beneath the Jews.

    “Nonetheless, at the very least, I appreciate your openness to the possibility of Luke having access to sources which predate Mark. That’s an important step.”

    Yes, and that was something that I never denied in the first place.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Greetings again, Faiz

      Faiz wrote:
      «The Quran never claims to be basing its narrative on other sources.»

      Honestly, and with all due respect, this is of questionable relevance, insofar that I was not going after the Qur’an (rather the thought experiment was actually trying to work within the paradigm of a presupposition of the Qur’an). I fear this might even be needlessly defensive (as, again, I wasn’t actually attacking your faith).

      Nonetheless, if you really want to insist on this, I have to ask: is it your position that only those texts which explicitly mention earlier sources can be considered as having used earlier sources? If so, does Matthew make any explicit claim of using earlier sources? If Matthew does not, should scholars conclude that speculating about what sources Matthew used is no longer possible? Or can we agree that a lack of an explicit mention of earlier sources does not in itself preclude the possibility that earlier sources were employed?

      Faiz wrote:
      «that doesn’t exactly refute the view that Luke copied and edited Mark»

      I feel as though the burden of proof may have shifted, here. I was merely laying some ground work for why the issue is open to question (rather than some sort of undeniable fact), and I was inviting those who posit Marcan primacy to make the case for it (by actually presenting arguments, not merely appealing to the hypothesis’ popularity among scholars).

      Faiz wrote:
      «with regard to the story of Jesus’ family»

      I would note that I presented an argument on that subject, both in this blog entry and the other blog entry on the subject. I’m happy to consider any responses to that. In the mean time, here I am more generally exploring Marcan primacy and the sources employed by Luke.

      I (Denis) asked:
      «why should we conclude that material common to Mark and Luke was taken by Luke from Mark?”»

      Faiz responded:
      «his gospel has many similarities with Mark and Matthew’s gospels.»

      As was already covered, a similarity between two texts does not mean one exployed the other (rather their common material can come from another source). So mere common material between Luke and Mark does not mean Luke employed Mark. So I ask you: is there any other reason?

      Faiz wrote:
      «I am merely pointing out that there was a source that predated all of the synoptic gospels.»

      But there was a reason why I wanted to establish the possibility (or even likelihood) of Luke having access to traditions which predate Mark. If Luke had access to traditions which predate Mark, then the material which Luke has in common with Mark could have come from a pre-Marcan source. Hence this point (about Luke having access to traditions earlier than Mark) seems to undermine the certainty of the case for Marcan primacy a bit.

      Faiz wrote:
      «there is considerable evidence that Luke used other sources, including Mark»

      What is the considerable evidence that Luke used Mark? Remember: similarities between two texts does not mean one text employed the other. So I ask: is there something other than the material they have in common?

      ***

      Now, before I close, I would like to recall that I previously presented to you two points which I felt we could agree on:

      1. Common material between texts does not mean one text employed the other (rather there could have been a common source).
      2. Luke had access to material which ultimately predated Mark.

      I feel those two points, while uncontroversial, undermine the certainty of Marcan primacy. So I wish to ask you, Faiz, do you agree or disagree with one or both of those propositions? If you disagree with one or both, on what grounds?

      Like

    • “Honestly, and with all due respect, this is of questionable relevance, insofar that I was not going after the Qur’an (rather the thought experiment was actually trying to work within the paradigm of a presupposition of the Qur’an). I fear this might even be needlessly defensive (as, again, I wasn’t actually attacking your faith).”

      Actually, I think it is completely relevant. And no, I am not being defensive. I am responding to your methodology, which is flawed.

      The presupposition about the Quran is based on the Quran’s own claims, just as the presupposition about Luke’s gospel is based on Luke’s own claims. Luke says that he used other sources. His gospel shares many similarities with Mark. Why would we not assume that Mark was one of his sources?

      “Nonetheless, if you really want to insist on this, I have to ask: is it your position that only those texts which explicitly mention earlier sources can be considered as having used earlier sources? If so, does Matthew make any explicit claim of using earlier sources? If Matthew does not, should scholars conclude that speculating about what sources Matthew used is no longer possible? Or can we agree that a lack of an explicit mention of earlier sources does not in itself preclude the possibility that earlier sources were employed?”

      Of course not, and that is not what I said. Again, I am merely responding to your “though experiment”, which I find to be flawed.

      The evidence for Matthew’s use of other sources, including Mark, is the same as for Luke. The similarities in the narratives shows that Matthew also used a similar source as Luke did.

      “I feel as though the burden of proof may have shifted, here. I was merely laying some ground work for why the issue is open to question (rather than some sort of undeniable fact), and I was inviting those who posit Marcan primacy to make the case for it (by actually presenting arguments, not merely appealing to the hypothesis’ popularity among scholars).”

      What exactly would constitute as “proof” for you? Let’s consider the following:

      “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.””

      Now, when Jude wrote this, claiming that he was quoting Enoch, would you agree that he was relying on the apocryphal book of Enoch? Why or why not?

      In my view, which is the view shared by virtually every NT scholar, it is clear that Jude was familiar with the book of Enoch and used it as the source for that quote. The similarity is too convenient. The same can be said for Luke’s use of Mark.

      “As was already covered, a similarity between two texts does not mean one exployed the other (rather their common material can come from another source). So mere common material between Luke and Mark does not mean Luke employed Mark. So I ask you: is there any other reason?”

      You have not presented any good reason to deny the reasonable assumption that when an ancient source has similarities with another ancient source, it implies that one used the other. The burden of proof is on you to show that there could have been a “common source”.

      As for areas where they depart, that could be due to the author’s own additions/subtractions or his use of other sources. That can explain why Luke is so similar to Mark, yet also has different stories as well (such as the muting of Zechariah). Luke used Mark, but also used other sources, possibly oral traditions.

      “But there was a reason why I wanted to establish the possibility (or even likelihood) of Luke having access to traditions which predate Mark. If Luke had access to traditions which predate Mark, then the material which Luke has in common with Mark could have come from a pre-Marcan source. Hence this point (about Luke having access to traditions earlier than Mark) seems to undermine the certainty of the case for Marcan primacy a bit.”

      Luke may have had access to other sources. I never denied that. But you are making a rather large leap of faith by suggesting that just because Luke has unique stories (the muting of Zechariah and the annunciation of Mary), it means that he used a source other than Mark, and which also pre-dated Mark. There is no reason to assume this.

      “What is the considerable evidence that Luke used Mark? Remember: similarities between two texts does not mean one text employed the other. So I ask: is there something other than the material they have in common?”

      Well for one thing, as scholars point out, most of the omission of “Markan” material from Matthew and Luke can only be explained as being due to the author’s preference, whereas the omission of “Matthean” and “Lukan” material from Mark cannot be explained this way (http://cdn.bakerpublishinggroup.com/processed/esource-assets/files/775/original/hyperlink-04-06.pdf?1417381813).

      The above source gives the examples of the “Lord’s Prayer”, the “Beatitudes” and Jesus’ birth and resurrection. All of them are absent from Mark, but found in Matthew and Mark. But the Markan material that is absent from both Matthew and Luke is not on the same level. For example, as I mentioned, Luke omitted the story of the Syrophoenician woman. Why would he do that? It is reasonable to assume that his motivation was his Gentile audience.

      But why would Mark have skipped something as important as the “Lord’s Prayer”, if he used a “common source” which also mentioned it?

      “Common material between texts does not mean one text employed the other (rather there could have been a common source).
      Luke had access to material which ultimately predated Mark.

      I feel those two points, while uncontroversial, undermine the certainty of Marcan primacy. So I wish to ask you, Faiz, do you agree or disagree with one or both of those propositions? If you disagree with one or both, on what grounds?”

      I agree that there “could” be a common source. There “could” also be Bigfoot running around in the American northwest. But until you can prove that Bigfoot exists, I have no reason to believe that it exists. The same applies to your “common source”. You need to prove that it exists and then explain why Mark omitted important material such as the “Lord’s Prayer”.

      I think both Luke and Mark had access to older traditions. Of course, that does not mean that those traditions were necessarily reliable. It also does not mean that Luke did not use Mark.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings again, Faiz

      Faiz wrote:
      «Of course not, and that is not what I said.»

      You argued that Luke mentions earlier sources while the Qur’an does not. It was a needless argument, as I wasn’t actually attacking the Qur’an, but the line of thought seems problematic, as it then begs the question: is Matthew similarly above charges of employing earlier sources by virtue of not explicitly mentioning such?

      But consider this proposed rule:

        If a text does not mention earlier sources, that silence does not necessarily preclude the possibility of the text employing earlier sources.

      Can we agree on that rule?

      Faiz asked:
      «Now, when Jude wrote this, claiming that he was quoting Enoch, would you agree that he was relying on the apocryphal book of Enoch?»

      Consider two different sets of propositions:

      (1a) Jude used the book of Enoch.
      (2a) Luke used Mark.

      (1b) Jude did not use the book of Enoch.
      (2b) Luke used Mark.

      In neither case does the first proposition imply the second proposition (therefore, irrespective of what position I actually took on Jude and the book of Enoch, it would not really moves us towards a demonstration that Luke used Mark).

      Faiz wrote:
      «have not presented any good reason to deny the reasonable assumption that when an ancient source has similarities with another ancient source, it implies that one used the other»

      I never denied the possibility. My point is that such is far from an obvious conclusion. Take again the example of surat Al `Imran and the first chapter of Luke. There are similarities between those texts, yet you would say it is not the case that one employed the other, thereby at least tacitly agreeing with a rule I proposed:

        Similarities between two texts does not necessarily mean one employed the other.

      That rule doesn’t preclude the possibility. It’s merely noting that the similarities do not logically imply such a conclusion.

      Faiz wrote:
      «The burden of proof is on you to show that there could have been a “common source”.»
      [emphasis added]

      So you’re saying you don’t agree that there even could have been a common source? You deny even the possibility? I assume don’t. And if you do not deny the possibility, that would seem to mean you accept it as possible, would it not?

      But here’s another line of thought for you: where do you think Mark got the material which is also found in Luke? Is the only possibility that Mark made up such claims from thin air? Or that they fell from the sky directly to Mark, with no middlemen in between? Or do you agree that there is a real possibility that Mark employed earlier (currently unknown, no longer extant) sources? For example, even among scholars who invoked Marcan primacy, there have been some who proposed an “Ur-Mark hypothesis,” in which extant Mark drew upon “Ur-Mark,” and Matthew and Luke likewise drew on Ur-Mark rather than extant Mark. That’s purely speculative, but the speculation itself nonetheless concedes that it is possible that material found in both Mark and Luke was found in a source which predated Mark (and that Luke could have drawn upon that rather than Mark itself).

      And here’s yet still another thought: you yourself wrote the following, under the QuranAndBibleBog handle:

        «There was a source that predated both Mark and Luke, and that is the Q»

      With that in mind, consider a question: was the parable of the vineyard (found in Mark 12:1-9, Matthew 21:33-41 and Luke 20:9-16) in the hypothetical Q-source? Note that I have deliberately asked this question about a saying of Jesus which appears in Mark. Why? Precisely because, while the Q-source hypothesis is rooted in extrapolating a common source for specifically non-Marcan sayings common to Luke and Matthew, some go the extra step of leaping to the conclusion that the hypothetical Q-source did not include what is in Mark. But such a rule comes off as completely arbitrary and artificial! There is no reason to conclude Q could not have had any material in common with Mark. I go down this road because it is certainly significant to this discussion if you acknowledge a pre-Marcan source employed by Luke but are unable to say whether that source had material also found in Mark. But I ask you now: do you acknowledge that the hypothetical Q-source could have included sayings which are now found in Mark?

      Faiz wrote:
      «you are making a rather large leap of faith by suggesting that just because Luke has unique stories (the muting of Zechariah and the annunciation of Mary), it means that he used a source other than Mark, and which also pre-dated Mark»

      Again, the reason why I zeroed in on specifically the muting of Zechariah and the angelic annunciation of Mary was because of what they represent within the paradigm of a presupposition of the Qur’an. Of course those narratives constintute unique, non-Markan material, but, more significantly, if we are presupposing the Qur’an, they represent traditions which are also true in large swaths. In order for Luke to contain unique material which is also historically accurate, that would seem to entail Luke had access to some traditions which go all the way back to the fact of the matter (and thus which predate Mark). The acknowledgment that Luke could have had access to non-Markan material which predated Mark opens the door to the possibility of Luke also having access to whatever sources Mark might’ve employed.

      [Interesting side note: Luke 1:3 stating that everything has been followed/examined/understood “ανωθεν” might be interpreted three ways — (1) looking at the material anew, afresh, (2) having an ability to contemplate such “from above,” or (3) having an understanding which goes all the way back to the beginning. Ergo, the prologue to Luke could be read as including a declaration of having information stretching all the way to the beginning (and thus, perhaps, predating other extant accounts?).]

      I (Denis) wrote:
      «What is the considerable evidence that Luke used Mark?»

      Faiz responded:
      «most of the omission of “Markan” material from Matthew and Luke can only be explained as being due to the author’s preference, whereas the omission of “Matthean” and “Lukan” material from Mark cannot be explained this way»

      This argument seems to set up a potentially false dichotomy, where the only possible scenarios are (a) Luke took from Mark or (b) Mark took from Luke, and then siding with the former after treating the latter as unlikely. That tells us nothing about whether it is possible for Luke to draw from a source which predates Mark but was also used by Mark.

      Faiz wrote:
      «For example, as I mentioned, Luke omitted the story of the Syrophoenician woman. Why would he do that?»

      Here’s a question to also consider when examining precisely this example: what is your evidence that Luke’s sources included that story? Simply because we presuppose Mark was Luke’s source? If so, wouldn’t this argument move in a circle by concluding with a tacitly assumed premise?

      Now, as a disclaimer, I don’t claim to be able to read Luke’s mind (we often cannot read the minds of people in our immediate environment whom we know well and thus we should be less comfortable speaking about the motivations of persons we never met, from times, cultures and paradigms we never directly experienced), and I wish others would be more forthcoming about the level of speculation involved in trying to posit Luke’s motivations.

      But beyond that, the more salient point is that it is unhelpful to begin such speculation with the assumption that Luke had access to a source which included the relevant tradition, that source was Mark in particular, and Luke made a conscious decision to exclude it despite having it in his copy of Mark. Such is not demonstrated, rather it is assumed, and thus, for our thought experiments, in which we are exploring how certain it is that Luke used Mark as a source, such comes off as circular.

      Faiz wrote:
      «why would Mark have skipped something as important as the “Lord’s Prayer”, if he used a “common source” which also mentioned it?»

      Why would we be required to assume that a hypothetical common source employed by both Mark and Luke would necessarily include it?

      Like

    • “Greetings again, Faiz”

      And to you.

      “You argued that Luke mentions earlier sources while the Qur’an does not. It was a needless argument, as I wasn’t actually attacking the Qur’an, but the line of thought seems problematic, as it then begs the question: is Matthew similarly above charges of employing earlier sources by virtue of not explicitly mentioning such?”

      No, we can say that Matthew used earlier sources by the internal similarity to said sources. For example, compare Mark 13:14 and Matthew 24:15:

      Mark – “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’[a] standing where it[b] does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

      Matthew – “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’[a] spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—”

      Since both use the phrase “let the reader understand”, it precludes the possibility that Matthew did not use Mark (or vice versa). So, the similarity in syntax shows that Matthew did indeed use some other source, even though he never actually said it.

      In contrast, the Quran does not employ syntax that is similar to other sources. For example, when you compare the Quran’s narrative about Zechariah (pbuh) to that of Luke, you don’t find any indication that the former copied the latter (I know you are not saying that, but I am just pointing this out for the sake of argument).

      “But consider this proposed rule:

      If a text does not mention earlier sources, that silence does not necessarily preclude the possibility of the text employing earlier sources.

      Can we agree on that rule?”

      Yes.

      “Consider two different sets of propositions:

      (1a) Jude used the book of Enoch.
      (2a) Luke used Mark.

      (1b) Jude did not use the book of Enoch.
      (2b) Luke used Mark.

      In neither case does the first proposition imply the second proposition (therefore, irrespective of what position I actually took on Jude and the book of Enoch, it would not really moves us towards a demonstration that Luke used Mark).”

      But my point is that similarity in syntax would be a strong indicator that one source used another source. In the absence of a “common source”, the logical conclusion is that Luke used Mark and made additions or deletions when he saw fit.

      “I never denied the possibility. My point is that such is far from an obvious conclusion. Take again the example of surat Al `Imran and the first chapter of Luke. There are similarities between those texts, yet you would say it is not the case that one employed the other, thereby at least tacitly agreeing with a rule I proposed:

      Similarities between two texts does not necessarily mean one employed the other.

      That rule doesn’t preclude the possibility. It’s merely noting that the similarities do not logically imply such a conclusion.”

      This is not a good comparison because I am not merely talking about similarities in the narratives, but rather similarities in syntax. The latter would be a strong indicator of copying.

      “So you’re saying you don’t agree that there even could have been a common source? You deny even the possibility? I assume don’t. And if you do not deny the possibility, that would seem to mean you accept it as possible, would it not?”

      Sorry, I meant to say that the burden of proof is on you to prove that this “common source” existed. Of course it “could” have existed. But like I said, Bigfoot “could” also exist. But there is no proof for it so there is no reason to believe in it. In the absence of proof for the “common source”, the logical conclusion is that Matthew and Luke both used Mark, given the similarities between them and the lack of similarity between Mark and the unique Matthean/Lukan passages.

      “But here’s another line of thought for you: where do you think Mark got the material which is also found in Luke? Is the only possibility that Mark made up such claims from thin air? Or that they fell from the sky directly to Mark, with no middlemen in between? Or do you agree that there is a real possibility that Mark employed earlier (currently unknown, no longer extant) sources? For example, even among scholars who invoked Marcan primacy, there have been some who proposed an “Ur-Mark hypothesis,” in which extant Mark drew upon “Ur-Mark,” and Matthew and Luke likewise drew on Ur-Mark rather than extant Mark. That’s purely speculative, but the speculation itself nonetheless concedes that it is possible that material found in both Mark and Luke was found in a source which predated Mark (and that Luke could have drawn upon that rather than Mark itself).”

      I think it is likely that Mark drew on mostly oral traditions and possibly on Q.

      “With that in mind, consider a question: was the parable of the vineyard (found in Mark 12:1-9, Matthew 21:33-41 and Luke 20:9-16) in the hypothetical Q-source? Note that I have deliberately asked this question about a saying of Jesus which appears in Mark. Why? Precisely because, while the Q-source hypothesis is rooted in extrapolating a common source for specifically non-Marcan sayings common to Luke and Matthew, some go the extra step of leaping to the conclusion that the hypothetical Q-source did not include what is in Mark. But such a rule comes off as completely arbitrary and artificial! There is no reason to conclude Q could not have had any material in common with Mark. I go down this road because it is certainly significant to this discussion if you acknowledge a pre-Marcan source employed by Luke but are unable to say whether that source had material also found in Mark. But I ask you now: do you acknowledge that the hypothetical Q-source could have included sayings which are now found in Mark?”

      It is likely that Mark used Q as well, but it does not appear that Q contained the parable of the vineyard.

      http://earlychristianwritings.com/q-contents.html

      “This argument seems to set up a potentially false dichotomy, where the only possible scenarios are (a) Luke took from Mark or (b) Mark took from Luke, and then siding with the former after treating the latter as unlikely. That tells us nothing about whether it is possible for Luke to draw from a source which predates Mark but was also used by Mark.”

      If there was a “common source” for Mark and Luke, and if this source mentioned the Lord’s Prayer, the resurrection, the Beatitudes etc., then there is no reason why Mark would have skipped over such important information. You would have to explain why he would have done that.

      “Here’s a question to also consider when examining precisely this example: what is your evidence that Luke’s sources included that story? Simply because we presuppose Mark was Luke’s source? If so, wouldn’t this argument move in a circle by concluding with a tacitly assumed premise?”

      If Luke’s sources didn’t include the story, then we can conclude outright that that story is false and has no historical value.

      If, however, Luke’s sources did include the story, then we would have to explain why he would not include it. Of course, this possibility does not mean that the story has historical value.

      “Now, as a disclaimer, I don’t claim to be able to read Luke’s mind (we often cannot read the minds of people in our immediate environment whom we know well and thus we should be less comfortable speaking about the motivations of persons we never met, from times, cultures and paradigms we never directly experienced), and I wish others would be more forthcoming about the level of speculation involved in trying to posit Luke’s motivations.”

      You don’t have to be able to read his mind. You also don’t have to avoid answering the question, since there is a logical reason why he would have decided not to include it. Do you agree that it is possible that Luke was aware of the story and decided not to include it for the sake of his Gentile audience. I am not asking you if that is what happened. I am asking you if think it is at least “possible”.

      “Why would we be required to assume that a hypothetical common source employed by both Mark and Luke would necessarily include it?”

      If this older source did not include such important Christian concepts as the Lord’s prayer, the resurrection, the birth of Jesus etc., then it would mean that these concepts have very little historical value. Imagine a source which presumably existed before 55 CE and didn’t mention important events in the life of Jesus within 25 years of his death. What historical value would such a source have?

      Liked by 3 people

    • brilliant!

      Like

    • Here is what Daniel Wallace says about the similarity between Matthew/Luke and Mark, which indicates a strong preference for Markan priority:

      “When one compares the synoptic parallels, some startling results are noticed. Of Mark’s 11,025 words, only 132 have no parallel in either Matthew or Luke. Percentage-wise, 97% of Mark’s Gospel is duplicated in Matthew; and 88% is found in Luke. On the other hand, less than 60% of Matthew is duplicated in Mark, and only 47% of Luke is found in Mark.”

      https://bible.org/article/synoptic-problem

      Liked by 2 people

    • Greetings again, Faiz

      Regarding sources for Matthew, I only brought such up rhetorically in response to the apparent argument (or insinuation?) that a text which does not specifically invoke previous sources therefore did not employ such. We came to explicitly agree that such silence about sources does not actually preclude the use of such sources, but I still wish to address this:

      Faiz wrote:
      «Since both use the phrase “let the reader understand”, it precludes the possibility that Matthew did not use Mark (or vice versa).»

      This line of thought seems to have embedded within it an assumption that the phrase begins with Mark (e.g. that it could not appear in any source employed by Mark), but what would such an assumption be based on? If however, you acknowledge that a source used by Mark could have had the phrase, then what you appealed to does not actually preclude the possibility that Matthew did not use Mark.

      Faiz wrote:
      «the burden of proof is on you to prove that this “common source” existed»

      “Prove” in what sense? In light of your support for the Q-source hypothesis, I doubt you mean furnish an extant copy. You may object that Q is needed to explain non-Marcan sayings common to the other two Synoptic Gospels, but for more than six decades we have had scholars like Austin Farrer, then Michael Goulder, and now Mark Goodacre, positing instead Lucan employment of Matthew, without any recourse to a hypothetical Q [yes, I realize some have offered counter-arguments, but Goulder responded to some and Goodacre continues to address them]. I don’t wish to get into a fight over Q, here — that’s for another thread 😉 — rather I’m merely noting that arguing for hypothetical sources is not outside the scope of modern scholarship (also seen in various proposals for “Ur-Mark” or “proto-Mark”). But consider, too, this next exchange:

      I (Denis) asked:
      «where do you think Mark got the material which is also found in Luke?»

      Faiz replied:
      «I think it is likely that Mark drew on mostly oral traditions and possibly on Q.»

      Think about what this means, though. Now you are positing the existence of pre-Markan sources which contained material now found in Mark, are you not? That would raise a serious question: if such a source existed, why couldn’t Luke draw something he has in common with Mark from that source rather than from Mark? [And I’m not just talking about Q.]

      Faiz wrote:
      «It is likely that Mark used Q as well, but it does not appear that Q contained the parable of the vineyard.»

      While this may take us farther off course, I have to wonder: how is the conclusion that Q excluded the parable of the Vineyard reached?

      Faiz wrote:
      «If there was a “common source” for Mark and Luke, and if this source mentioned the Lord’s Prayer, the resurrection, the Beatitudes etc., then there is no reason why Mark would have skipped over such important information.»

      There are three problems here:

      First, even if you are unable to discern a reason for why an author did not include something, that does not mean the author therefore had no reason. There is a difference between (a) “Faiz does not know what reason Mark would have” and (b) “Mark had no reason”. There are people whom you know well who will engage in things for reasons which are unknown to you, so surely a person whom you never met (who lived in an environment you never experienced) could have reasons which are unknown to you. You have no idea what catechetical or pedagogical motivations Mark could have had, or even what his initially intended audience might have been (or what resources he already understood them to have).

      Second, I sense a potential irony here, as you previously said Mark had access to Q, and
      you presumably agree Q included the Lord’s Prayer.
      It seems your own positions point to what you claim as unlikely actually still being the case: that Mark employed a source which included the Lord’s Prayer yet Mark did not include the Lord’s Prayer. I suppose the way out of this is to take an approach like that posited in Maurice Casey’s An Aramaic Approach to Q, and propose that Q was not a single text but rather a plurality of sources (which then leads down an interesting road).

      Third, a hypothesis about a common source for material found in both Mark and Luke does not require that said source included the Lord’s Prayer.

      [Side note: on two occasions you seem to have insinuated that Mark did not include the Resurrection. Just to be clear, Mark includes the Resurrection (even without the longer ending) — cf. Mark 16:5-7.]

      ***

      When I asked how you, Faiz, knew whether Luke’s sources included the story of the Syrophoenician woman…

      Faiz replied:
      «If Luke’s sources didn’t include the story, then we can conclude outright that that story is false and has no historical value.»

      How does that follow? Is the assumption that if a story was not in Luke’s sources, then that story must be false? If so, consider this: the Qur’an includes a story that the infant Jesus spoke while still an infant, defending His mother against insinuations of sexual impropriety. Let me share with you, I have no problem with the possibility that the story is true. But Luke doesn’t include it, and we can engage in similar reasoning like what you offered on Mark and the Lord’s Prayer: being that Luke sought to convince his readers of the Virgin Birth, it would seem curious that Luke not include the story of Jesus defending His mother, if Luke had access to that story. So, while we cannot know for certain, it seems there is a real possibility that Luke’s sources did not include the story of the infant Jesus speaking on His mother’s behalf, but I am confident that you will agree with me that such would not mean the story is therefore false.

      That aside, getting back to a previous point, for you to say “if Luke’s sources didn’t include the story,” it would seem you do not know for certain whether Luke’s sources included that story, correct?

      Faiz wrote:
      «I am asking you if think it is at least “possible”.»

      Of course. All the alternatives we have discussed are possible. The two source hypothesis proposes something possible. The aforementioned Q-skeptics Goulder and Goodacre have posited scenarios which are possible. The scenarios proposed by Marcan primacy/priority skeptics like William Farmer and Delbert Burkett are possible. It is precisely my point to show that the spectrum of possibilities is diverse and nebulous (as such has relevance to the question of whether we should just accept a given theory as fact simply because it is currently popular).

      Faiz wrote:
      «If this older source did not include such important Christian concepts as the Lord’s prayer, the resurrection, the birth of Jesus etc., then it would mean that these concepts have very little historical value.»

      Well, consider this: if there was a common source employed by both Mark and Luke, there would be a possibility that such source did not include the Virgin Birth or the story of the infant Jesus defending his mother, right? Yet even if that were the case, that would not impugn the historicity of either story, correct?

      Like

    • after i read ehrmans view, i don’t know how to answer the question .

      “Common material between texts does not mean one text employed the other (rather there could have been a common source).”

      how is it possible that both luke and mark were faithful to 51 % of the common source but went in different directions when it came to other similar stories?
      there should have been some 80-90 % agreement on other stuff too.

      after i read this argument from ehrman :

      Some of my students have trouble seeing that if two documents are word-for-word the same, one must be copying the other (or they both are copying a third source). Older adults don’t seem to have any problem seeing that, right off the bat. But younger adults need to be convinced. And so I do a little experiment with them that more or less proves it. I do this every year in my New Testament class, which normally has 200-300 students in it.

      I come to class a minute or two late to make sure everyone is there, and then I start fiddling around – I take off my jacket, take my books out of my bag, check the computer hook up, take a drink, put my coat back on, rummage around some more in my bag, and so on. Students wonder why I’m not starting the lecture. And then I tell them that I want everyone to take out a pen and a piece of paper. They think I’m going to be giving them a pop quiz. Nope. I ask everyone in the class to write down everything they’ve seen me do since I came into the room.

      After three or four minutes, when everyone is done, I ask for four volunteers and I collect their accounts. I then tell everyone else that I want them to compare carefully what *they* wrote with what each of these four wrote. And then I do a Synoptic comparison, reading each of the four volunteered papers and comparing them with one another in detail.

      NEVER, ever, does any of the four have an entire sentence or large part of a sentence the same as any of the others. And no one in the entire class ever has a sentence or large part of a sentence the same. At mostthere will be three or four words in sequence in common (“He came in”).

      So then I ask them what they would think if I picked up two papers and they had an entire paragraph of several sentences that was word-for-word the same? And they always say – someone cheated!! Yes, someone cheated! Or maybe it wasn’t cheating, maybe someone simply copied what someone else said.
      And then I ask, what if I didn’t ask *you*, the eyewitnesses, to write down what you just now saw. What if I waited, say, 40, 50, or 60 yearsand I asked someone who had a brother whose wife knew someone whose cousin’s best friend had a sister in the class, and three other people like that, to write down what I did that day. And what if three of the responses had entire paragraphs that were exactly the same, word for word? What would you say then?

      Inevitably, some guy in the back of the room shouts out: “It’s a miracle!”
      Ha! Right! It’s a miracle. Or someone is copying someone else.

      ////

      this means LUKE clearly employed markan detail . luke clearly says he knows of other writings .

      “Luke had access to material which ultimately predated Mark.”

      we know what happens when luke and matthew agree against mark or when they don’t have mark as a source they go in different directions. if luke had access to material which predated mark we have no way of knowing now because all we have is luke sharing markan material .

      tatian conflated all four gospels together and we know he used luke and mark when he was doing conflation. sometime he preserve markan wording better than luke, does that mean that if only we had tatians gospels then tatian must have had source older than luke ?

      Like

    • Greetings Robster

      Robster wrote:
      «how is it possible that both luke and mark were faithful to 51 % of the common source but went in different directions when it came to other similar stories?»

      I raised the possibility of a common source for Mark and Luke, but I don’t see how we can leap from that to conclusions regarding what percentage of that source appears in both Mark and Luke, ergo I’m not sure I understand the question.

      Robster wrote:
      «there should have been some 80-90 % agreement on other stuff too.»

      Could you share an example of what you have in mind? Mind you, I’m asking for an example which would fly in the face of the possibility of Mark and Luke having a common source.

      As for what you shared from Ehrman, while I appreciate the point, I question the relevance. Yes, it is very possible for multiple witnesses to an event to report an event differently. However, while that happens all the time, surely it is also possible for different individuals to memorize entire sentences. Among Christians who have never cracked their Bibles open, you can still find multiple people [including children] within a single church who have memorized the same version of the Lord’s Prayer (or the Hail Mary), or the 23rd Psalm [especially the KJV of that Psalm], word for word. Among secular folk, we can find multiple people remembering the same song word for word (even children in preschool will remember songs, and even non-musical sentences, word for word). Your own faith posits that revelation is not only transmitted textually but also via individuals who memorize large blocks of material, word for word.

      Admittedly, in all those analogies (prayers, songs, Qur’anic recitations), the people are drawing from a common source (whether written or oral), and I think that goes to Ehrman’s point: for Luke and Mark to agree on something word for word, it is reasonable to think one or both of them is drawing on a source already possessing such a construction. But that point need not entail that Luke therefore employed Mark. It is possible for Luke to draw from a pre-Marcan source.

      Robster wrote:
      «if luke had access to material which predated mark we have no way of knowing now because all we have is luke sharing markan material»

      We have Luke including material which is also found in Mark. But consider a question I also asked Faiz (in a slightly different form): do you believe all of Mark’s material simply originates with Mark or are you open to the possibilty that Mark too had sources? The reason this question is important is because if material found in Mark could have come from a pre-Marcan source, it begs the question, why couldn’t Luke have drawn material common with Mark from that pre-Marcan source?

      Robster wrote:
      «sometime [Tatian] preserve markan wording better than luke, does that mean that if only we had tatians gospels then tatian must have had source older than luke ?»

      I’m not sure I understand the question, but if it is your position that Tatian had access to Mark, and Mark is older than Luke, then yes, obviously, that would mean Tatian had access to sources older than Luke. But perhaps you could clarify your question?

      Like

  9. By the way, just to avoid any confusion, “quranandbibleblog” is also me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • i quote ehrman :

      I come to class a minute or two late to make sure everyone is there, and then I start fiddling around – I take off my jacket, take my books out of my bag, check the computer hook up, take a drink, put my coat back on, rummage around some more in my bag, and so on. Students wonder why I’m not starting the lecture. And then I tell them that I want everyone to take out a pen and a piece of paper. They think I’m going to be giving them a pop quiz. Nope. I ask everyone in the class to write down everything they’ve seen me do since I came into the room.

      After three or four minutes, when everyone is done, I ask for four volunteers and I collect their accounts. I then tell everyone else that I want them to compare carefully what *they* wrote with what each of these four wrote. And then I do a Synoptic comparison, reading each of the four volunteered papers and comparing them with one another in detail.

      NEVER, ever, does any of the four have an entire sentence or large part of a sentence the same as any of the others. And no one in the entire class ever has a sentence or large part of a sentence the same. At most there will be three or four words in sequence in common (“He came in”).


      Why would that be necessary? If a given narrative in Mark and Luke follow the same order, couldn’t it be the case that they each drew upon a source which had the relevant narrative in that order?”

      .
      luke has 41 % of mark in his account and we have no old version of mark and neither do we have the older 41% which you think both writers had access to. with ehrmans experiment in mind, we know that luke has ripped of large chunks from mark .

      Like


  10. Common material between texts does not mean one text employed the other (rather there could have been a common source).”

    tatian used 4 gospels and smashed them together, if we only had tatians smashed together account, you would probably say tatian had an older account.

    Like

    • 41 % of shared detail and shared order which imply 41 % of chunk is found in luke . my question is, if luke is using other than mark and mark is using the same source as luke, what arguments are used to recover the primitive version ? for example, which wording is more primitive? lukes or marks? what back ground source have scholars recovered in the 41 % ?

      Like

    • Greetings Robster

      Before I respond to what you wrote, permit me to recall that I previously proposed the following two rules to you…

      1. Common material between texts does not mean one text employed the other (rather there could have been a common source).
      2. Luke had access to material which ultimately predated Mark.

      …and asked you: do you agree or disagree with one or both of those propositions?

      I continue to be interested in your answer to that question. While I await your answer to that, I will now attempt to answer your question(s)…

      Robster asked:
      «if luke is using other than mark and mark is using the same source as luke, what arguments are used to recover the primitive version ? for example, which wording is more primitive? lukes or marks?»

      Well, first let me note that the possibility of Luke and Mark having a common source need not stand or fall on my ability to say which is more primitive. I think arguments either way are going to be speculative.

      Nonetheless, the question is an interesting one. Relevant to it, have you seen the second appendix in E.P. Sanders’ The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition (titled “Suggested Exceptions to the Priority of Mark”)? William R. Farmer’s review of Sanders’ book sums up that appendix’s significance thusly:

        «Sanders lists and discusses in a sentence or two, passages in Mark where some well established New Testament scholar (he cites, for example, major works by J. Weiss, Bultmann, Vincent Taylor, Matthew Black, Streeter, and so on) has concluded that either Matthew or Luke are more original than Mark. The importance of this list is enhanced by the fact that all scholars cited hold the view that Mark is the earliest Gospel. Since each of these scholars lists only a few such passages, no one of them is moved by the evidence to which he draws attention to question Marcan priority. But when all these passages are compiled together (these passages are found to occur throughout Mark) it is difficult to see how to escape the conclusion that the conventional and orthodox solution to the Synoptic problem as it is yet being presented in texts books on the New Testament, is in clear need of serious reconsideration for which Sanders calls.»
        [SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 39, No. 4, Dec. 1971, p. 532.]

      Elsewhere Farmer had the following to say about the corpus of Marcan texts which various scholars considered to likely be later than their Matthean or Lucan counterparts:

        «This constitutes very telling evidence against the priority of Mark because the scholars making their critical judgments are effectively hostile witnesses in that they are drawing attention to evidence which is anomalous to their own theory.»
        [SOURCE: William Reuben Farmer, The Gospel of Jesus: The Pastoral Relevance of the Synoptic Problem (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), p. 212, n. 6.]

      In short, the question you asked is an interesting one precisely because, regardless of whether we posit Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source or posit that all three used some other (no longer extant) source, questions about which extant reading is the earliest still linger. There are a number of Marcan readings that may be later than corresponding texts in the other two Synoptic Gospels (which in turn lends credence to the possibility that narratives common to the Synoptics could go back to a pre-Marcan source).

      Like

    • “Common material between texts does not mean one text employed the other (rather there could have been a common source).”

      how is it possible that both luke and mark were faithful to 51 % of the common source but went in different directions when it came to stuff which they did not share?

      after i read this argument from ehrman :

      Some of my students have trouble seeing that if two documents are word-for-word the same, one must be copying the other (or they both are copying a third source). Older adults don’t seem to have any problem seeing that, right off the bat. But younger adults need to be convinced. And so I do a little experiment with them that more or less proves it. I do this every year in my New Testament class, which normally has 200-300 students in it.

      I come to class a minute or two late to make sure everyone is there, and then I start fiddling around – I take off my jacket, take my books out of my bag, check the computer hook up, take a drink, put my coat back on, rummage around some more in my bag, and so on. Students wonder why I’m not starting the lecture. And then I tell them that I want everyone to take out a pen and a piece of paper. They think I’m going to be giving them a pop quiz. Nope. I ask everyone in the class to write down everything they’ve seen me do since I came into the room.

      After three or four minutes, when everyone is done, I ask for four volunteers and I collect their accounts. I then tell everyone else that I want them to compare carefully what *they* wrote with what each of these four wrote. And then I do a Synoptic comparison, reading each of the four volunteered papers and comparing them with one another in detail.

      NEVER, ever, does any of the four have an entire sentence or large part of a sentence the same as any of the others. And no one in the entire class ever has a sentence or large part of a sentence the same. At mostthere will be three or four words in sequence in common (“He came in”).

      So then I ask them what they would think if I picked up two papers and they had an entire paragraph of several sentences that was word-for-word the same? And they always say – someone cheated!! Yes, someone cheated! Or maybe it wasn’t cheating, maybe someone simply copied what someone else said.
      And then I ask, what if I didn’t ask *you*, the eyewitnesses, to write down what you just now saw. What if I waited, say, 40, 50, or 60 yearsand I asked someone who had a brother whose wife knew someone whose cousin’s best friend had a sister in the class, and three other people like that, to write down what I did that day. And what if three of the responses had entire paragraphs that were exactly the same, word for word? What would you say then?

      Inevitably, some guy in the back of the room shouts out: “It’s a miracle!”
      Ha! Right! It’s a miracle. Or someone is copying someone else.

      ////

      this means LUKE clearly employed markan detail . luke clearly says he knows of other writings .

      “Luke had access to material which ultimately predated Mark.”

      we know what happens when luke and matthew agree against mark or when they don’t have mark as a source they go in different directions. if luke had access to material which predated mark we have no way of knowing now because all we have is luke sharing markan material .

      tatian conflated all four gospels together and we know he used luke and mark when he was doing conflation. sometime he preserve markan wording better than luke, does that mean that if only we had tatians gospels then tatian must have had source older than luke ?

      Like

  11. Denis – “This line of thought seems to have embedded within it an assumption that the phrase begins with Mark (e.g. that it could not appear in any source employed by Mark), but what would such an assumption be based on? If however, you acknowledge that a source used by Mark could have had the phrase, then what you appealed to does not actually preclude the possibility that Matthew did not use Mark.”

    Response – You are still arguing based purely on speculation. The mere “possibility” of another source does not refute the logical conclusion we can make based on the actual available evidence. Until you can provide evidence of an earlier source, I find no reason to doubt that Matthew used Mark. That is the logical conclusion, given the syntactical similarity.

    Denis – ““Prove” in what sense? In light of your support for the Q-source hypothesis, I doubt you mean furnish an extant copy. You may object that Q is needed to explain non-Marcan sayings common to the other two Synoptic Gospels, but for more than six decades we have had scholars like Austin Farrer, then Michael Goulder, and now Mark Goodacre, positing instead Lucan employment of Matthew, without any recourse to a hypothetical Q [yes, I realize some have offered counter-arguments, but Goulder responded to some and Goodacre continues to address them]. I don’t wish to get into a fight over Q, here — that’s for another thread 😉 — rather I’m merely noting that arguing for hypothetical sources is not outside the scope of modern scholarship (also seen in various proposals for “Ur-Mark” or “proto-Mark”). But consider, too, this next exchange:”

    Response – No, I am not asking for an extant copy. I am asking for logical proof that can be furnished by studying the gospels, like scholars have done with Q. Thus far, you have not provided any such proof but merely the possibility that such proof may exist.

    Denis – “Think about what this means, though. Now you are positing the existence of pre-Markan sources which contained material now found in Mark, are you not? That would raise a serious question: if such a source existed, why couldn’t Luke draw something he has in common with Mark from that source rather than from Mark? [And I’m not just talking about Q.]”

    Response – I don’t recall ever denying that there were pre-Markan sources. But given the high textual similarity between Mark and Matthew/Luke, why would we not assume that the latter used the former?

    Denis – “While this may take us farther off course, I have to wonder: how is the conclusion that Q excluded the parable of the Vineyard reached?”

    Response – I am sure there is a good reason for scholars to propose this. It would require a more thorough study of the scholarly literature though.

    Denis – “First, even if you are unable to discern a reason for why an author did not include something, that does not mean the author therefore had no reason. There is a difference between (a) “Faiz does not know what reason Mark would have” and (b) “Mark had no reason”. There are people whom you know well who will engage in things for reasons which are unknown to you, so surely a person whom you never met (who lived in an environment you never experienced) could have reasons which are unknown to you. You have no idea what catechetical or pedagogical motivations Mark could have had, or even what his initially intended audience might have been (or what resources he already understood them to have).

    Second, I sense a potential irony here, as you previously said Mark had access to Q, and
    you presumably agree Q included the Lord’s Prayer. It seems your own positions point to what you claim as unlikely actually still being the case: that Mark employed a source which included the Lord’s Prayer yet Mark did not include the Lord’s Prayer. I suppose the way out of this is to take an approach like that posited in Maurice Casey’s An Aramaic Approach to Q, and propose that Q was not a single text but rather a plurality of sources (which then leads down an interesting road)”

    Response – You are forgetting that Q was most likely an oral tradition, and not a written one. Therefore, there is no reason why Mark could not have been aware of certain traditions and unaware of others. But the point here is that, given the importance of such concepts as the Lord’s Prayer, and more importantly, the resurrection, their absence from Mark is quite telling. If, as you suggest, there was a “common source” which was used by Mark, Matthew and Luke, you would have to explain why Mark did not deem it important to mention the resurrection, the single most important tenet of Christianity, in his gospel even though the resurrection story would presumably have been mentioned in the pre-Markan “common source”. That would be like an early Muslim source failing to mention that there is no god but Allah (swt)!

    Denis – “Third, a hypothesis about a common source for material found in both Mark and Luke does not require that said source included the Lord’s Prayer.”

    Response – Why not? Why would you not expect a pre-55 CE source to mention something as important as the Lord’s Prayer? This was one of Jesus’ most important teachings.

    But okay, let’s say the Lord’s Prayer is not mentioned in this “common source”. What about the resurrection appearances? What about the Beatitudes? What kind of source is this, that it does not mention so many important concepts of Christianity? Again I ask, what historical value does this document have then?

    Denis – “[Side note: on two occasions you seem to have insinuated that Mark did not include the Resurrection. Just to be clear, Mark includes the Resurrection (even without the longer ending) — cf. Mark 16:5-7.]”

    Response – I am referring to the resurrection appearances. They are not found in the short-ending of Mark. One would think that mentioning these appearances would have been worth it instead of simply ending the gospel with “he is risen” and go to Galilee and you will see him there.

    Denis – “How does that follow? Is the assumption that if a story was not in Luke’s sources, then that story must be false? If so, consider this: the Qur’an includes a story that the infant Jesus spoke while still an infant, defending His mother against insinuations of sexual impropriety. Let me share with you, I have no problem with the possibility that the story is true. But Luke doesn’t include it, and we can engage in similar reasoning like what you offered on Mark and the Lord’s Prayer: being that Luke sought to convince his readers of the Virgin Birth, it would seem curious that Luke not include the story of Jesus defending His mother, if Luke had access to that story. So, while we cannot know for certain, it seems there is a real possibility that Luke’s sources did not include the story of the infant Jesus speaking on His mother’s behalf, but I am confident that you will agree with me that such would not mean the story is therefore false.”

    Response – Again, I am not at all impressed with your appeal to the Quran since the Quran does not claim to be using earlier sources. I don’t know why we keep coming back to this false analogy. 😉

    Coming back to the Syrophoenician woman, given Luke’s obvious dependence on other sources, and if we assume that there was a “common source” which predated Mark, the failure of this source to mention the story is strong historical evidence of the story’s later origin. If we don’t bother to place any importance on dates, then what is the purpose of historical investigation? The best way to ascertain if a story is true is to trace it to as close a date as possible to the original source, which would be Jesus (pbuh). If we have gaps in this tracing, then what historical value is there in the story?

    Denis – “Of course. All the alternatives we have discussed are possible. The two source hypothesis proposes something possible. The aforementioned Q-skeptics Goulder and Goodacre have posited scenarios which are possible. The scenarios proposed by Marcan primacy/priority skeptics like William Farmer and Delbert Burkett are possible. It is precisely my point to show that the spectrum of possibilities is diverse and nebulous (as such has relevance to the question of whether we should just accept a given theory as fact simply because it is currently popular).”

    Response – But mere “possibility” cannot be used as an argument. Would you accept a Bigfoot believer’s excuse that there is no reason to deny Bigfoot’s existence purely on the basis that it is “possible” that it exists?

    We must go by the available evidence, and that evidence, in my view, shows conclusively that Luke aware of the story of the Syrophoenician woman and willingly decided to omit it from his gospel. Both Mark and Matthew mention it, but Luke diverged. I don’t think it is a coincidence that both Mark and Matthew were Jews, whereas Luke was a Gentile (and so was the Syrophoenician woman).

    Denis – “Well, consider this: if there was a common source employed by both Mark and Luke, there would be a possibility that such source did not include the Virgin Birth or the story of the infant Jesus defending his mother, right? Yet even if that were the case, that would not impugn the historicity of either story, correct?”

    Response – I would say that it would depend on whether this “common source” was a written source or an oral one. If it was the latter, Mark or Luke’s failure to mention those stories can be understood. If it was the former, then it would not be unreasonable for historians to show skepticism about the historicity of those stories, at least until the discovery of yet another “source”. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

    Like

    • Greetings again, Faiz

      I want to first touch on the following, as I think it is near the heart of our disagreement:

      Faiz wrote:
      «I don’t recall ever denying that there were pre-Markan sources.»

      Right, but it’s more specific than that. We’re talking about pre-Markan sources, separate from Q, which Mark used (and thus which contained material now found in Mark). We seem to have reached an agreement that those sorts of sources existed. If so, then consider the significance: if Mark existed, and these pre-Marcan sources which also contained material now found in Mark and Luke existed, then it is far from obvious (or necessary) that Luke used Mark as a source. It is entirely possible that Luke used the same sources Mark used.

      Faiz wrote:
      «But given the high textual similarity between Mark and Matthew/Luke, why would we not assume that the latter used the former?»

      I have not ruled out the possibility, and you are free to assume whatever you wish (and so too scholars who are/were skeptical of Marcan priority are/were free to assume their alternative scenarios). But I would hope that in these discussions we all can be more forthcoming about the fact that Marcan priority is not the only option; rather it is one assumption (or line of speculation) from amongst multiple possible assumptions (or lines of speculation).

      On the subject of textual simularity: consider that we have agreed that Mark employed pre-Marcan sources. That seems to clearly mean the employment of said sources can result in something which looks like Mark. Which would mean Luke using those sources could result in something bearing similarities to Mark. Thus the similarities between Mark and Luke do not tell us whether Luke used Mark or one of the sources Mark used.

      I am likely to return to this point multiple times in our correspondence. But for now, moving on…

      Faiz wrote:
      «You are still arguing based purely on speculation. The mere “possibility” of another source does not refute the logical conclusion we can make based on the actual available evidence.»

      First of all, note that what we were discussing in this portion was precisely possibility. Permit me to recall what you had written: “Since both use the phrase “let the reader understand”, it precludes the possibility that Matthew did not use Mark (or vice versa).”

      So, responding to that, I noted that it does not actually preclude that possibility, precisely because there are other possibilities. You agreed that Mark had access to pre-Marcan sources, so it becomes a legitimate question to ask how we know Mark’s own sources did not contain that line (because if one of Mark’s sources could have had the line, then Matthew could have got it from that source).

      Faiz wrote:
      «Until you can provide evidence of an earlier source»

      It seems to me we have already agreed on the existence of such sources.

      Faiz wrote:
      «I am asking for logical proof that can be furnished by studying the gospels, like scholars have done with Q.»

      Some scholars have also proposed such things as “Ur-Mark” and “proto-Mark” (and other scholars have more vaguely referred to the sources of Mark in general), so what is being proposed here is not merely an innovation of this thread or my own mind. But more to the point, we seem to have already agreed that these sources exist (thus I do not think I need to prove their existence if we already agree on their existence). The real issue, here, I think is the question: if Mark existed and Mark’s sources existed, why must we be forced to assume Luke used Mark rather than the sources Mark used?

      ***

      I (Denis) wrote:
      «how is the conclusion that Q excluded the parable of the Vineyard reached?»

      Faiz replied:
      «I am sure there is a good reason for scholars to propose this.»

      I, on the other hand, am not confident about that at all. I know all too well that such conclusions are often reached via artificial rules and restrictions (e.g. some work under the seemingly arbitrary assumption that if it is Mark then it was not in Q). Recall that I mentioned that this is precisely why I asked specifically about the parable of the vineyard.

      As for confidence that the argument is somewhere out there, I’m quite familiar with that feeling. I first got into critical NT scholarship nearly twenty years ago, and did so from an atheist perspective. I remember being pressed for an argument for certain claims, and being tempted to simply encourage the persons making the request to read for themselves the available scholarly literature, even though I myself was yet unable to distill a relevant sound argument from what I had read. And in the years since then, I’ve had many others confidently assure me that this or that argument is somewhere out there, but they were unwilling (dare I say unable?) to distill the relevant argument(s) from what they read.

      [Disclaimer: I’m not including you in that lot, but I do ask you to keep such in mind: why be so sure the argument is out there if you yourself have yet to encounter it? Or contemplate this question: how could one ever positively that such material did not appear in a source they themselves have never seen?]

      Faiz wrote:
      «Q was most likely an oral tradition, and not a written one. Therefore, there is no reason why Mark could not have been aware of certain traditions and unaware of others.»

      As I noted, we go down a road in which we take a position in which the hypothetical Q-source is not a single source, but rather a more amorphous, nebulous plurality of sources. Let’s keep this in mind, as I find it helpful to think of each Gospel writer pulling parts from a larger array or cloud of traditions (John 21:25 seems to allude to such).

      Faiz wrote:
      «you would have to explain why Mark did not deem it important to mention the resurrection, the single most important tenet of Christianity»

      Mark does mention the Resurrection.

      [Now, if you object that you didn’t mean the Resurrection, rather you meant a post-Resurrection appearance, at least note that, in all fairness, the above refers to the former (if merely accidentally so, fine). On a side note, even the latter seems clearly alluded to in Mark 16:7, which includes the prediction “He precedes you into the Galilee; there you will see Him” (προαγει υμας εις την γαλιλαιαν εκει αυτον οψεσθε).]

      Faiz wrote:
      «story would presumably have been mentioned in the pre-Markan “common source”.»

      As I noted previously, it is far from clear that something not mentioned by Mark would be in a source employed by Mark (on the contrary, it is certainly possible that something not mentioned by Mark was likewise not in his sources either).

      But I also agree the reverse is possible: i.e. that something not found in Mark was nonetheless in Mark’s sources. But attempting to discern the reason why he did not include such would require knowing what catechetical or pedagogical motivations he might have had, what he understood his initially intended audience to be (and how he understood what resources were available to them and would be available to them). That really is akin to trying to read the mind of a man we’ve never met, who moved within an environment we never experienced. [On a side note, Mark alludes to a belief in embargoing information on several occasions. I can go into more detail if you’re interested.]

      Faiz asked:
      «Why would you not expect a pre-55 CE source to mention something as important as the Lord’s Prayer?»

      If multiple sources exist, then not every source is required to include every teaching. Even teachings we might consider important are not required to be in every extant source.

      Faiz wrote:
      «let’s say the Lord’s Prayer is not mentioned in this “common source”. What about the resurrection appearances? What about the Beatitudes? What kind of source is this, that it does not mention so many important concepts of Christianity? Again I ask, what historical value does this document have then?»

      I suspect that you believe the following:

      1. Mark’s sources did not include the Lord’s Prayer.
      2. At least one of Mark’s sources did include the material now found in Mark 12:29-31.
      3. The material in Mark 12:29-31 has historical value.

      You can correct me if I’m wrong about the above, but if it turns out you do agree with all of the propositions above, it would mean you believe such a source can still have historical value, right?

      ***

      Faiz wrote:
      «I am not at all impressed with your appeal to the Quran since the Quran does not claim to be using earlier sources. I don’t know why we keep coming back to this false analogy.»

      Permit me to remind you what you wrote (and what I was responding to):

        «If Luke’s sources didn’t include the story, then we can conclude outright that that story is false»

      Now, I suspect you are willing to affirm both of the following propositions:

      1. The story of Christ verbally defending His mother while still an infant was not in Luke’s sources.
      2. The story of Christ verbally defending His mother while still an infant is true (i.e. it records an event which actually happened).

      If you are willing to affirm both those propositions, then it would follow from such that: it is not the case that if a story about Jesus was not in Luke’s sources, then that story is false. On the contrary, it is possible for true stories about Jesus to not have appeared in Luke’s sources.

      So why do I appeal to the Qur’an when conversing and corresponding with Muslims? Precisely because I think some Muslims don’t actually believe some of the lines of reasoning they cull from secular scholarship and lob at Christians. I think that it can be shown that, on certain arguments, Muslims share more common ground with Christians than they might initially realize.

      Faiz wrote:
      «Coming back to the Syrophoenician woman, given Luke’s obvious dependence on other sources, and if we assume that there was a “common source” which predated Mark, the failure of this source to mention the story is strong historical evidence of the story’s later origin.»

      A similar argument will receive a similar response. I suspect you would agree with me that even if the story of Jesus speaking while still an infant was not found in a common source used by Mark and Luke, that would not really constitute “strong historical evidence of the story’s later origin.”

      Faiz wrote:
      «The best way to ascertain if a story is true is to trace it to as close a date as possible to the original source, which would be Jesus (pbuh).»

      Sure, but attempting to date stories which may or may not have appeared in sources we have not actually seen isn’t exactly easy.

      Faiz wrote:
      «mere “possibility” cannot be used as an argument. Would you accept a Bigfoot believer’s excuse that there is no reason to deny Bigfoot’s existence purely on the basis that it is “possible” that it exists?»

      If we do not agree on the existence of a sasquatch, then it becomes more difficult to agree on the possibility of a sasquatch being involved in some event. However, if we did agree on the existence of sasquatches in a given paradigm, the nature of the discussion can become different. [Permit a related analogy: I grew up in Manhattan’s lower east side. There were zero raccoons or bears in that area. But there were humans who would go through the garbage in front of your building. I later lived on the outskirts of Princeton, NJ, and there were raccoons and bears there. Positing that a bear or raccoon was the cause of a tipped over garbage in Manhattan’s LES is hard to take seriously. Positing that a bear or raccoon was the cause of a tipped over garbage on the outskirts of Princeton, however, is quite plausible.]

      With those analogies in mind, it seems to me that you already agree that:

      1. there were pre-Markan sources [not limited to, but including Q], and
      2. Luke is likely to have used some of the sources which Mark used [at the very least, Q].

      So this begs the question: what precludes the possibility of Luke using a source also used by Mark other than Q? The sources existed, and Luke was able to reach for pre-Markan sources, so why not those sources?

      Faiz wrote:
      «that evidence, in my view, shows conclusively that Luke aware of the story of the Syrophoenician woman and willingly decided to omit it from his gospel. Both Mark and Matthew mention it, but Luke diverged. I don’t think it is a coincidence that both Mark and Matthew were Jews, whereas Luke was a Gentile (and so was the Syrophoenician woman).»

      I still don’t see the conclusive evidence that Luke was aware of the story (of course I’m very open to the possibility that he was). Noting that the story appears in Matthew is curious, unless you wish to propose that Matthew was also a source for Luke (a position taken by various Q-skeptics)? Noting that the story appears in Mark only moves us in a circle (as what we are discussing is precisely how obvious it is that Mark was one of Luke’s sources).

      As for the appeal to Luke being a gentile, I accept that (it’s part of Christian tradition, and, in my opinion, it is alluded to in Colossians 4:11-14, which can be read as excluding Luke from those of the circumcision aiding Paul), but I don’t think it is obvious that he would have therefore interpreted the story of the Syrophoenician woman negatively simply because you (and many others) do.

      Interestingly, the same earliest text to seemingly allude to Luke as a gentile (the aforementioned Colossians) would associate Luke with Paul and Paul’s ministry (assuming Colossians is a Pauline text; though if we also assume Luke was the author of Acts, we can associate him with Paul that way). I mention this because Paul provides a framework for understanding the story of the woman differently (a la Romans 2:28-29, Romans 9:6, Romans 11:17-24, Galatians 3:29 and perhaps even Ephesians 2:12-19 [assuming we treat Ephesians as Pauline], where membership in true Israel is determined by whether one follows Christ), so someone closely associated with Paul might be less likely to read the story in the negative way many people today do.

      [On a side note, I actually intend to submit a brief entry on the subject of an alternative understanding of children/dogs story to this blog.]

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    • “If so, then consider the significance: if Mark existed, and these pre-Marcan sources which also contained material now found in Mark and Luke existed, then it is far from obvious (or necessary) that Luke used Mark as a source. It is entirely possible that Luke used the same sources Mark used.”

      where did you get your evidence that the sources luke used were pre-markan? how do you know they are not post-markan (specifically for that 51 % )?

      tatian knew luke, mark , matthew and john

      tatian conflates all four together

      if we only had tatians conflated version , would you say tatian had pre-markan material?

      it is possible that tatian is not even using the original versions of luke, mark, matthew and john, but revised versions which exist in his time and today.

      but he makes uses of writings which were probably revised and post writing of each synoptic.

      i wonder if luke knew of markan version which is quite different from our version which exist today.

      i will now quote british scholar alan garrow

      The level of agreement between Luke and Mark is such that it is highly likely that Luke used Mark directly.
      Very occasionally you might find a string of verbatim agreement shared by Luke and Mark that is 28 words long – and this suggests direct dependence between them. Their very extensive agreement in order also suggests a direct connection between them.

      and scholar bart d ehrman

      The problem with saying the Luke was using a pre-Markan source rather than Mark is that it would be more difficult to explain the massive verbatim agreements after both Mark and Luke had edited the source. It’s simpler simply to say that Luke used Mark.

      yes, we say the simplest argument is that luke not only knew mark BUT ALL of mark.

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    • Denis – “Right, but it’s more specific than that. We’re talking about pre-Markan sources, separate from Q, which Mark used (and thus which contained material now found in Mark). We seem to have reached an agreement that those sorts of sources existed. If so, then consider the significance: if Mark existed, and these pre-Marcan sources which also contained material now found in Mark and Luke existed, then it is far from obvious (or necessary) that Luke used Mark as a source. It is entirely possible that Luke used the same sources Mark used.”

      Response – These sources were most likely oral traditions. Thus, the almost-90% textual similarity of Luke to Mark cannot be explained by appealing to these traditions.

      Denis – “I have not ruled out the possibility, and you are free to assume whatever you wish (and so too scholars who are/were skeptical of Marcan priority are/were free to assume their alternative scenarios). But I would hope that in these discussions we all can be more forthcoming about the fact that Marcan priority is not the only option; rather it is one assumption (or line of speculation) from amongst multiple possible assumptions (or lines of speculation).”

      Response – My “assumption” is based on the available evidence. Therefore, Marcan priority is the logical view. I see no reason to compare that to the skeptical view of Marcan priority, which is based more on speculation and mere “possibilities” rather than logic-based argumentation.

      Denis – “On the subject of textual simularity: consider that we have agreed that Mark employed pre-Marcan sources. That seems to clearly mean the employment of said sources can result in something which looks like Mark. Which would mean Luke using those sources could result in something bearing similarities to Mark. Thus the similarities between Mark and Luke do not tell us whether Luke used Mark or one of the sources Mark used.”

      Response – I agreed that Mark used ORAL sources. If Luke was also using such sources, then the textual similarity to Mark would be non-existent. But since Luke is almost 90% similar to Mark, we must logically conclude that Luke must have used Mark.

      Denis – “First of all, note that what we were discussing in this portion was precisely possibility. Permit me to recall what you had written: “Since both use the phrase “let the reader understand”, it precludes the possibility that Matthew did not use Mark (or vice versa).” ”

      Response – I think you misunderstood what I was saying or maybe I was not clear. What I was saying was given the use of the same exact phrase by both Mark and Matthew, it is impossible that Matthew DID NOT use Mark. If they were both relying on oral traditions, then why would they both use the same phrase? Shouldn’t they both have said “let the hearer understand”?

      Denis – “It seems to me we have already agreed on the existence of such sources.”

      Response – Yes, oral sources. Do you agree?

      Denis – “Some scholars have also proposed such things as “Ur-Mark” and “proto-Mark” (and other scholars have more vaguely referred to the sources of Mark in general), so what is being proposed here is not merely an innovation of this thread or my own mind. But more to the point, we seem to have already agreed that these sources exist (thus I do not think I need to prove their existence if we already agree on their existence). The real issue, here, I think is the question: if Mark existed and Mark’s sources existed, why must we be forced to assume Luke used Mark rather than the sources Mark used?”

      Response – And these scholars are in the minority. Moreover, do these scholars consider Ur-Mark and proto-Mark as WRITTEN sources or ORAL ones?

      Denis – “[Disclaimer: I’m not including you in that lot, but I do ask you to keep such in mind: why be so sure the argument is out there if you yourself have yet to encounter it? Or contemplate this question: how could one ever positively that such material did not appear in a source they themselves have never seen?]”

      Response – That’s like asking why one should believe the earth is round when one has never actually seen the earth in space with one’s own eyes.

      Denis – “If multiple sources exist, then not every source is required to include every teaching. Even teachings we might consider important are not required to be in every extant source.”

      Response – On what basis do you argue this? If multiple sources exist, why would they not include important teachings of Jesus? Are you saying that some communities were deprived of some of Jesus’ most important teachings for decades until the gospels were written? If these sources were so poor in their teaching abilities, then what value did they have?

      Denis – “I suspect that you believe the following:

      Mark’s sources did not include the Lord’s Prayer.
      At least one of Mark’s sources did include the material now found in Mark 12:29-31.
      The material in Mark 12:29-31 has historical value.

      You can correct me if I’m wrong about the above, but if it turns out you do agree with all of the propositions above, it would mean you believe such a source can still have historical value, right?”

      Response – I would appreciate it if you would try to answer my question instead of posing a counter-question.

      I am asking if the pre-Markan “common source” did not include so many important teachings, then what value does it have?

      Consider it from this angle: suppose that Mark is the only surviving gospel that we have. There is no Matthew, no Luke and no John. How much would we know about Jesus?

      Denis – ”
      The story of Christ verbally defending His mother while still an infant was not in Luke’s sources.
      The story of Christ verbally defending His mother while still an infant is true (i.e. it records an event which actually happened).

      Response – I said that since Luke’s alleged source was most probably an oral one, it is possible that he simply did not come across it. It may still have been circulating among different communities, but Luke never came across it. It most certainly did exist since the gospel of Thomas does mention an infant Jesus talking.

      Denis – “A similar argument will receive a similar response. I suspect you would agree with me that even if the story of Jesus speaking while still an infant was not found in a common source used by Mark and Luke, that would not really constitute “strong historical evidence of the story’s later origin.”

      Response – Actually, we don’t have to rely on such an assumption. I seem to remember the gospel of John stating that Jesus performed many miracles which are not mentioned. His miracle of talking as an infant could simply be one of those miracles. The same cannot be said about the story of the Syrophoenician woman.

      Denis – “If we do not agree on the existence of a sasquatch, then it becomes more difficult to agree on the possibility of a sasquatch being involved in some event. However, if we did agree on the existence of sasquatches in a given paradigm, the nature of the discussion can become different. [Permit a related analogy: I grew up in Manhattan’s lower east side. There were zero raccoons or bears in that area. But there were humans who would go through the garbage in front of your building. I later lived on the outskirts of Princeton, NJ, and there were raccoons and bears there. Positing that a bear or raccoon was the cause of a tipped over garbage in Manhattan’s LES is hard to take seriously. Positing that a bear or raccoon was the cause of a tipped over garbage on the outskirts of Princeton, however, is quite plausible.]”

      Response – But my point is that one can simply suggest the mere POSSIBILITY of the existence of Bigfoot, which is I think what your entire premise for this discussion is: the mere POSSIBLE existence of a “common source” for both Mark and Luke. Just as Bigfoot has not been proven to exist, neither has this “common source”.

      Denis – “I still don’t see the conclusive evidence that Luke was aware of the story (of course I’m very open to the possibility that he was). Noting that the story appears in Matthew is curious, unless you wish to propose that Matthew was also a source for Luke (a position taken by various Q-skeptics)? Noting that the story appears in Mark only moves us in a circle (as what we are discussing is precisely how obvious it is that Mark was one of Luke’s sources).”

      Response – The appearance in Matthew is not surprising, as it is even more likely that Matthew used Mark than Luke used Mark (of course, I think they both used Mark).

      Denis – “As for the appeal to Luke being a gentile, I accept that (it’s part of Christian tradition, and, in my opinion, it is alluded to in Colossians 4:11-14, which can be read as excluding Luke from those of the circumcision aiding Paul), but I don’t think it is obvious that he would have therefore interpreted the story of the Syrophoenician woman negatively simply because you (and many others) do. ”

      Response – Why not? Even in the gospels. dogs carry a negative image, that of lowly or filthy animals. I recall Matthew 7:6-

      “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

      Being a Gentile, it seems logical to me that Luke would have been put-off by the story and would not want his Gentile audience to read it. Even if he didn’t interpret the story as most people do (negatively), there is no guarantee that his audience also would not, and so he may have decided to be cautious and remove the story.

      Denis – “Interestingly, the same earliest text to seemingly allude to Luke as a gentile (the aforementioned Colossians) would associate Luke with Paul and Paul’s ministry (assuming Colossians is a Pauline text; though if we also assume Luke was the author of Acts, we can associate him with Paul that way). I mention this because Paul provides a framework for understanding the story of the woman differently (a la Romans 2:28-29, Romans 9:6, Romans 11:17-24, Galatians 3:29 and perhaps even Ephesians 2:12-19 [assuming we treat Ephesians as Pauline], where membership in true Israel is determined by whether one follows Christ), so someone closely associated with Paul might be less likely to read the story in the negative way many people today do. ”

      Response – The problem with this line of reasoning is that, in the story, the woman already showed faith by coming to Jesus and seeking his help. Even then, she was turned away. Only when she agreed with Jesus as to her lowly place at the king’s table (below that of the children) did Jesus help her.

      Like

    • Greetings Robster

      Robster asked:
      «where did you get your evidence that the sources luke used were pre-markan?»

      This was a point of agreement I had reached with Faiz. As for discussing this possibility with you, I specifically asked you about your position on this subject, and you did not answer the question (honestly, and with all due respect, you seem to not engage a large percentage of the responses you receive from me).

      But consider these questions: do you believe Luke employed the hypothetical Q-source? If so, do you believe Q is pre-Marcan? Aside from that, considering that Luke included the muting of Zechariah and the angelic annunciation to Mary, wouldn’t those, from your perspective, be narratives which are largely historical? If so, wouldn’t that point to an ability of Luke to include non-Marcan traditions which go back to the fact of the matter?

      Still another question: do you acknowledge that Mark had sources? If so, what would necessarily preclude Luke from having access to those sources?

      Robster wrote:
      «if we only had tatians conflated version , would you say tatian had pre-markan material?»

      I’m not sure what this means. By “only had Tatian’s version,” do you mean a scenario where we did not have the four canonical Gospels? If so, I doubt I would call Tatian explicitly pre-Mark if I was not aware of Mark having existed. Or is that not what you meant? Please clarify.

      Robster wrote:
      «i wonder if luke knew of markan version which is quite different from our version which exist today

      Scholars have proposed variations of essentially that, arguing that Luke had access to a certain “Ur-Mark” or “proto-Mark,” which differed from extant Mark (though was also quite similar to Mark). It seems now you are agreeing to the possibility of Luke employing as a source something very similar to extant Mark, yet not extant Mark. My question then becomes: what precludes that source from also being a source for extant Mark, or at least from being pre-Marcan?

      Robster quoted:
      «The level of agreement between Luke and Mark is such that it is highly likely that Luke used Mark directly. Very occasionally you might find a string of verbatim agreement shared by Luke and Mark that is 28 words long – and this suggests direct dependence between them.»

      Think about your own faith. If you think about multiple qurā’ (i.e. reciters of the Qur’ān), you would say it is actually quite possible for two or more persons to each, independently of one another, reproduce a tradition which is far more than 28-words long in verbatim agreement. That need not mean the persons necessarily copied each other; rather they could have a common source. Likewise, agreement between Luke and Mark need not entail one copied the other; rather their common material could come from a common source.

      Robster quoted Eherman:
      «The problem with saying the Luke was using a pre-Markan source rather than Mark is that it would be more difficult to explain the massive verbatim agreements after both Mark and Luke had edited the source. It’s simpler simply to say that Luke used Mark.»

      I’m going to put this in bold, in an attempt to make it more likely that you catch it (and respond to it): Robster, could you share with me the source of this statement, so that I may read it in context? I ask because I remember how, in the comments section of the blog entry on the Nativity of the Messiah, someone was posting pieces of my arguments to Ehrman’s blog, and reporting back with some of Ehrman’s responses (but also at times conveniently leaving out portions where Ehrman agreed with me). However, the person who did that didn’t admit to doing so; rather they were simply putting forth unsourced quotes from Ehrman, stripped of their context.

      As for agreement between Luke and Mark, there are also differences, at which point some wave their hand and say Luke “redacted” Mark. Of course, another possibility is that Luke used a source other than Mark (though which agreed in large part with Mark). And as was already covered, your own faith takes it for granted that it perfectly possible for two persons to employ a common source and walk away in large verbatim agreement with one another.

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    • Greetings Faiz

      Faiz wrote:
      «These sources were most likely oral traditions. Thus, the almost-90% textual similarity of Luke to Mark cannot be explained by appealing to these traditions. »

      Why not? I know of children in churches who cannot read, yet who have memorized a number of prayers (e.g. the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the 23rd Psalm) in the exact same versions, agreeing with each other verbatim. In your own faith there are children who memorize blocks of Qur’ānic material, and whose memorizations agree with each other. With the marginalization of religion in the West, we now also see kids who, independently of each other, instead memorize a number of pop songs the same way, or memorize lots of lines from their favorite movies the same way.

      With all due respect, I fear this might be another example of a phenomenon I mentioned before: Muslims putting forth lines of reasoning from secular scholars which they themselves don’t actually agree with [and I don’t mean as an accusation of deliberate deception, but rather of unwittingly putting forth ideas potentially at odds with other ideas held]. Why do I say this? Because your own faith presupposes that the Qur’ān has been transmitted orally (even if there came to be a parallel textual track), and that different people had memorized oral recitations with huge amounts of agreement between them. So on what grounds do you now turn around and claim such cannot happen?

      Getting back to Mark, consider this: the very existence of Mark shows that it is possible for a person to access Mark’s sources and produce a text like Mark. It becomes counter-intuitive to then say it would be impossible for Luke to access those same sources and produce a text which agrees with Mark in many places.

      Faiz wrote:
      «Marcan priority is the logical view.»

      Technically, like all alternative attempts to theorize about the origins, it employs more abduction than deduction, attempting to argue from effects backwards to causes, and thus could be described as deductively invalid, insofar that it affirms the consequent. That’s not to say the conclusion is therefore false, but I wonder about in what sense we call it “logical,” much less “the logical view”.

      Faiz wrote:
      «I think you misunderstood what I was saying or maybe I was not clear. What I was saying was given the use of the same exact phrase by both Mark and Matthew, it is impossible that Matthew DID NOT use Mark.»

      Yes, that’s precisely how I understood you. And I responded by noting that this claim is baseless. The exact same line could have been in Mark’s source. If you are going to claim it was not, on what grounds would you conclude such?

      [And if you object that I’m referring to mere possibilities, note that I’m responding to a claim by you that such is “impossible” (ergo this portion of the correspondence is precisely a discussion on possibility).]

      Faiz wrote:
      «If they were both relying on oral traditions, then why would they both use the same phrase?»

      One easy answer could be: because that line appeared in said traditions.

      Faiz wrote:
      «And these scholars are in the minority.»

      This is at risk of being accused of putting forth an ‘ad populum’ argument.

      ***

      On the subject of the parable of the Vineyard and the hypothetical Q-source…

      I (Denis) asked:
      «how could one ever positively [assert] that such material did not appear in a source they themselves have never seen?»

      Faiz wrote:
      «That’s like asking why one should believe the earth is round when one has never actually seen the earth in space with one’s own eyes.»

      I’m honestly mystified by this response. There are arguments for the earth’s roundness that need not invoke space travel. Perhaps you could share the arguments in favor of the conclusion that the parable of the vineyard was not in Q?

      ***

      Faiz replied:
      «If multiple sources exist, why would they not include important teachings of Jesus?»

      Recall that I wrote: “If multiple sources exist, then not every source is required to include every teaching.” So, for example, if you have multiple sources, and an important teaching appears in one of them, it isn’t required to appear in all other sources.

      Faiz wrote:
      «Are you saying that some communities were deprived of some of Jesus’ most important teachings for decades until the gospels were written?»

      I would say an array of sources (or a cloud of traditions) existed. Were there persons or groups who at certain points only had access to portions of that spectrum? I would assume so (the faith unfolds progressively, and this is a pattern seen historically, with communities, and even in each individual’s life – cf. Proverbs 4:18). [But, of course, I cannot say for certain who had specifically what teaching in the period before the Gospels were penned.]

      Faiz asked:
      «If these sources were so poor in their teaching abilities, then what value did they have?»

      A source can lack a certain important detail yet still have value in the true traditions it does include. I think you agree with me on that, which is why I put forth those propositions which I suspect captured your position on Mark.

      But, for an analogy, suppose we find a new textual fragment, which is dated to the first half of the first century. Suppose it lacks anything explicitly monotheistic (nor does it deny such), it contains no prayers, it has no discussion related to the Crucifixion, or even any event in, or teaching from, Jesus’ adulthood. But suppose one thing it does include is the claim that Jesus miraculously spoke while still an infant. Such a fragment would lack a lot of important stuff, yet I’m sure you would still see it as having tremendous value (I would as well).

      The point: a source can lack important material and still have value, in light of what material it does include.

      Faiz wrote:
      «suppose that Mark is the only surviving gospel that we have. There is no Matthew, no Luke and no John. How much would we know about Jesus?»

      We would presumably know significantly less than we know now (assuming we also exclude extra-Scriptural Ecclesiastical tradition as well). But that would not mean Mark therefore has no value.

      ***

      On the subject of the story of Jesus speaking while still a baby…

      Faiz wrote:
      «I said that since Luke’s alleged source was most probably an oral one, it is possible that he simply did not come across it.»

      Which seems pretty similar to saying it was not in Luke’s sources (i.e. he came across a limited number of oral traditions, and this particular story was not among them). And that’s fine. But there’s a second part to this: even if the story did not appear the traditions Luke came across, that would not mean the story is therefore false. Can we agree to that?

      Faiz wrote:
      «I seem to remember the gospel of John stating that Jesus performed many miracles which are not mentioned.»

      Yes indeed, John 21:25, a verse which posits a much larger spectrum of true tradition (and tacitly treats what is extant as only conveying a small fraction of that tradition). It is a verse I have appealed to for years, and in the seventh endnote of my blog entry on Development in the Gospels, I argue that corroboration for this view can be inferred even from just examining the size of the Gospels.

      Faiz wrote:
      «The same cannot be said about the story of the Syrophoenician woman.»

      My point was that a story (allegedly) not appearing in Luke’s sources would not mean the story is therefore false. If that follows for the story of Jesus speaking as a baby, it can likewise follow for the story of the Syrophoenician woman.

      Faiz said:
      «one can simply suggest the mere POSSIBILITY of the existence of Bigfoot»

      Yes, and it would be awkward to cite a sasquatch as a cause for something within a conversation in which the participants do not yet agree on the existence of sasquatches. However, in our case, it seems to me we have already agreed that Mark had sources and that Luke had access to at least some of the sources that Mark used (e.g. Q). What we have not yet come to terms with is to what extent Luke’s sources overlapped with Mark’s sources.

      Faiz wrote:
      «The appearance in Matthew is not surprising, as it is even more likely that Matthew used Mark»

      Again, in this portion of the exchange we were discussing whether the story (of the Syrophoenician woman) appeared in Luke’s sources. Invoking Matthew is unhelpful, unless you wish to posit that Matthew was one of Luke’s sources. So the question remains: why should we conclude the story was in Luke’s sources? If you say because it was in Mark, that merely takes us in a circle, as it has yet to be demonstrated that Mark was one of Luke’s sources.

      Faiz wrote:
      «dogs carry a negative image, that of lowly or filthy animals. I recall Matthew 7:6-“Do not give dogs what is sacred»

      Yes, but the designation “dog” was not a mere determination of lineage. It applied to wayward Jews, but wouldn’t apply the same to, for example, Ruth.

      Faiz wrote:
      «Being a Gentile, it seems logical to me that Luke would have been put-off by the story»

      But if we are merely speculating, likewise, being connected to Paul, Luke could have seen himself, and all other believing gentiles, as part of the true Israel, and thus distinguishable from dogs, and thus would not have been offended by it. Moreover, if we are speculating, we can likewise speculate that the story simply was not among his sources (and there are other speculations we could go over, like Luke knew his audience already had access to that story, so he did not feel compelled to repeat it, especially if he felt he might have repeated too many other things).

      Faiz wrote:
      «The problem with this line of reasoning is that, in the story, the woman already showed faith by coming to Jesus and seeking his help. Even then, she was turned away.»

      Actually, she is never explicitly turned away. And she winds up receiving precisely that which belonged to Israel. I agree she already had faith, but like God wanting Abraham to actually attempt to kill his son (when surely God already knew Abraham had faith), perhaps Christ wanted a more public display of her acceptance of His authority (via a show of humility [mirroring Paul’s allusion in Romans 11:18-20 to how gentiles joining the true Israel must show humility]).

      Like

    • Greetings Faiz

      Faiz wrote:
      «They are memorizing WRITTEN material.»

      I specifically mentioned children who could not yet read. So even if their parents have what they memorized in written form, it was nonetheless transmitted to them orally. The point is it is possible for individuals to memorize lots of lines verbatim.

      But consider the following, which compares the Greek text of Luke 3:7-9 to the Greek text of Matthew 3:7-10 (capturing John’s “brood of vipers” statement).

      That is supposedly from the Q-source, which you assured me was oral. Sixty-four straight words, almost perfectly verbatim (the only differences are, in Luke karpous axious are in the plural while Matthew has it singular, Luke has arxesthe where Matthew has doxete, Luke has an extra conjunction, and Luke’s used of kalon [marked in grey] may be open to question in light of manuscript variants). And this is not the only time we see such agreement between the two.

      It seems to me you have two options: (1) agree that two different persons can pull long, nearly identical statements from oral traditions, or (2) modify your position to Q was written [there are scholars who have argued precisely that, but then note that you also said Q was pre-Marcan, so this would undermine confidence in your insinuation that pre-Marcan traditions were necessarily oral].

      Faiz wrote:
      «Muslims memorized the Quran because it was easy to memorize.»

      I find your argument rather perplexing. People can transmit 77,000+ words orally, but people could not transmit portions of a corpus one eighth its size orally? [Note that common material between Mark and Luke might number roughly nine to ten thousand words.] Note that in the cloud of oral traditions you have proposed, we do not need one man memorizing all nine or ten thousand words. It could have been some men transmitting one portion, other men transmitting another portion, et cetera. You get nine or ten men (or nine or ten groups of men), it’s only a thousand words a piece. As I noted before, I know small children who have English versions of the Hail Mary, the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm memorized. That’s perhaps 200 words, and if we add on various songs and lines from movies those same kids have memorized, we might push close to 500 words. So there’s nothing absurd about different grown men memorizing a thousand words of tradition (especially since you yourself have said millions have memorized a set of 77,000+ words [simply declaring the 77,000+ words is easier than a mere thousand will not be convincing]).

      And that’s if we continue to insist on the sources necessarily being oral. After the exchange we had a few paragraphs above, I wonder if you might be more open to some sources being written.

      Faiz wrote:
      «the only logical conclusion is that the textual similarity between Mark and Matthew/Luke is due to the latter using the former.»

      I disagree. Marks text itself is evidence that it is possible for a person to look at pre-Marcan sources and produce a text like Mark. Therefore there is nothing implausible about others looking at those same sources and producing a text bearing a number of similarities with Mark.

      Faiz wrote:
      «Luke even mentioned that he was aware of other gospels.»

      Other accounts, yes. And you agreed that there were pre-Marcan sources, so it is possible that one (or more) of the accounts Luke was a ware of were from among those pre-Marcan sources.

      Faiz wrote:
      «Mark’s sources were ORAL. Thus, there would be no reason for both Matthew and Mark to say “let the READER understand”.»

      It could simply mean the reader (or reciter) of Daniel. In Mark 13:14 and Matthew 24:15, Jesus is being quoted as referring to Daniel, so that line may very well be Him noting that those who read/recite Daniel should grasp this meaning He is putting forth.

      Now, on a side note, you might wonder why I slipped in “recite” next to “read,” twice above. Well, here’s a question: if Jesus said that, what word would He have used? We can only speculate, but it is interesting that both verses in the Peshitta read haw d’QARE nestakal. Here’s how it looks in my copy of the Peshitta:

      That word underlined in the transliteration above, and pointed to in the image, qare, is spelled qaf-reysh-alef (QRA [קרא \ قرا]). Does that look familiar? It’s from the same root as Qur’an. It is very plausible that Jesus said the statement, and used a word that can mean reader or reciter (as in those who deal with Daniel).

      So, with all this before us, I wish to re-ask you: what precludes the possibility of that line being in Mark’s sources?

      Faiz wrote:
      «Wallace also points to Matt. 27:18 and Mark 15:10.»

      What precludes that comment from being in a pre-Markan source?

      Faiz wrote:
      «My point is that since you have never actually seen the earth’s roundness with your own eyes, one could argue that believing the earth is round because scientists say so is akin to just accepting the popular theory.»

      A flat earth skeptic is free to ask scientists (or lay people who follow them) for the arguments in favor of the conclusion that the earth is round. I doubt the response would be a mere assurance that the arguments are out there, somewhere. Now, with that in mind, can you share we me the argument for the conclusion that the parable of the Vineyard did not appear in Q? [Mind you I raised precisely this example because I doubt any coherent argument exists, as I know the line of reasoning employs an arbitrary and artificial restriction.]

      Faiz wrote:
      «presumably, there could have been Christians who were completely unaware of the resurrection appearances»

      Presumably a Christian would not know about such appearances until they are first told about them.

      Faiz wrote:
      «If such major doctrines could be missing from these oral sources, then what good were they?»

      Presumanbly the value of any statement (whether oral or written) is in what it does convey. For example, let’s assume surat al-`Alaq was the first Qur’anic surah recited. What value does it have if it doesn’t include the material from surat al-Ikhlas within it? Well, it has value in what it does convey, right? And your faith continued to unfold from there over time, correct? Same with mine. And just as your faith is not limited to just surat al-`Alaq, so too my faith is not limited to any single pre-Marcan tradition.

      Imagine a man who believes beginning his first day of catechetical instruction. It would seem to me strange to say “you only learned this little bit, and there’s so much important stuff you have not yet learned, so this day was a waste.” So too a person reading the Bible (or the Qur’an) — if he has only read the first page, it would seem a bit of an overreach to declare that his reading is without any value whatsoever, because there is so much important doctrine he did not gain from that small piece.

      Faiz wrote:
      «A source such as that would hardly have been useful for a community»

      A community which has limited information can subsequently receive more infromation.

      I (Denis) wrote:
      «even if the story did not appear the traditions Luke came across, that would not mean the story is therefore false. Can we agree to that?»

      Faiz responsed:
      «Sure»

      Well, thank God we finally agreed to at least that!

      Faiz continued:
      «but it would cast doubt on the historicity of the story»

      Some might feel that way, but it need not do so, since you have already agreed to the possibility of a story being absent from Luke’s sources yet being historical.

      Faiz continued:
      «there is no reason to doubt the infancy story at all, despite the fact that NONE of the canonical gospels mention it.»

      Your faith paradigm seems to imply precisely that, and thus it changes the scope of how we answer questions (i.e. it enables us to come up with different answers from those provided by secular scholars).

      Faiz wrote:
      «there is no reason to doubt the infancy story because even the gospel of John admits that there were many miracles that were never mentioned»

      The text says there were many other things Jesus did. That could have included His healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s child, and even the exchange he had with her.

      Faiz wrote:
      «What other accounts were there in the first century other than Mark and Matthew?»

      Mark’s sources. They existed. Luked used some of them. What are the limitations on how much of Mark’s sources Luke could have used?

      Faiz wrote:
      «the story of the Syrophoenician woman is contradictory. She already had faith, like Ruth. So why did she have to repeatedly beg to be helped?»

      God knew Abraham’s heart, so why lead him to a willingness to kill his son? Different people can be tested in different ways, and some people can be put in extraordinary situations for a lesson for others. Why do some parents have healthy children while others watch their children die painfully of cancer. God’s will is relevant there, no? Isn’t the point of the story of al-Khidr, in surat al-Kahf, that why people are treated a certain way isn’t always going to be apparent to you?

      Faiz wrote:
      «He would have been offended»

      This is pure speculation. I’m of gentile stock, and I’m not offended. Part of the reason is my familiarity with the teachings of Paul. Luke might’ve known Paul well…

      Like

  12. Denis – Why not? I know of children in churches who cannot read, yet who have memorized a number of prayers (e.g. the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the 23rd Psalm) in the exact same versions, agreeing with each other verbatim.

    Response – They are memorizing WRITTEN material. That is not the same thing. Can you demonstrate that early Christians memorized oral traditions verbatim and could recite them by memory?

    Denis – With all due respect, I fear this might be another example of a phenomenon I mentioned before: Muslims putting forth lines of reasoning from secular scholars which they themselves don’t actually agree with [and I don’t mean as an accusation of deliberate deception, but rather of unwittingly putting forth ideas potentially at odds with other ideas held]. Why do I say this? Because your own faith presupposes that the Qur’ān has been transmitted orally (even if there came to be a parallel textual track), and that different people had memorized oral recitations with huge amounts of agreement between them. So on what grounds do you now turn around and claim such cannot happen?

    Response – You are comparing apples to oranges. Muslims memorized the Quran because it was easy to memorize. That is one of its miracles, as Allah (swt) states:

    “And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?” (54:17).

    There have been millions upon millions of Muslims who have memorized the Quran, alhamdulillah. But I have never heard of any Christian who has memorized the entire New Testament word for word. It is simply not possible.

    Denis – Getting back to Mark, consider this: the very existence of Mark shows that it is possible for a person to access Mark’s sources and produce a text like Mark. It becomes counter-intuitive to then say it would be impossible for Luke to access those same sources and produce a text which agrees with Mark in many places.

    Response – Not at all, because as I have said over and over, Mark was probably using oral sources, and there is no indication that these oral sources were memorized verbatim. In the absence of direct evidence, the only logical conclusion is that the textual similarity between Mark and Matthew/Luke is due to the latter using the former.

    Denis – Technically, like all alternative attempts to theorize about the origins, it employs more abduction than deduction, attempting to argue from effects backwards to causes, and thus could be described as deductively invalid, insofar that it affirms the consequent. That’s not to say the conclusion is therefore false, but I wonder about in what sense we call it “logical,” much less “the logical view”.

    Response – Well given that we don’t have much early evidence, all we can do is work backwards. The evidence provided shows conclusively, in my view, that Mark was used by both Matthew and Luke. Luke even mentioned that he was aware of other gospels. Thus, why would we presume that he was only relying on some alleged “common source”? He said that he was knew of other accounts!

    Denis – Yes, that’s precisely how I understood you. And I responded by noting that this claim is baseless. The exact same line could have been in Mark’s source. If you are going to claim it was not, on what grounds would you conclude such?

    Response – Once again, Mark’s sources were ORAL. Thus, there would be no reason for both Matthew and Mark to say “let the READER understand”. As Daniel Wallace admits:

    “It is obvious that this editorial comment could not be due to a common oral heritage, for it does not say, “let the hearer understand.””

    Why would both Mark and Matthew use the same editorial comment? And this is not even the only such occurrence. Wallace also points to Matt. 27:18 and Mark 15:10.

    Denis – One easy answer could be: because that line appeared in said traditions.

    Response – You think the line “let the reader understand” appeared in an oral tradition?

    Denis – I’m honestly mystified by this response. There are arguments for the earth’s roundness that need not invoke space travel. Perhaps you could share the arguments in favor of the conclusion that the parable of the vineyard was not in Q?

    Response – My point is that since you have never actually seen the earth’s roundness with your own eyes, one could argue that believing the earth is round because scientists say so is akin to just accepting the popular theory.

    Denis – I would say an array of sources (or a cloud of traditions) existed. Were there persons or groups who at certain points only had access to portions of that spectrum? I would assume so (the faith unfolds progressively, and this is a pattern seen historically, with communities, and even in each individual’s life – cf. Proverbs 4:18). [But, of course, I cannot say for certain who had specifically what teaching in the period before the Gospels were penned.]

    Response – So presumably, there could have been Christians who were completely unaware of the resurrection appearances or even that Jesus resurrected. Or they could even be unaware that following the law of Moses was no longer required and that they were saved by accepting Jesus’ redemptive death. If such major doctrines could be missing from these oral sources, then what good were they?

    Denis – A source can lack a certain important detail yet still have value in the true traditions it does include. I think you agree with me on that, which is why I put forth those propositions which I suspect captured your position on Mark.

    Response – That looks like special pleading to me. A source that deprives one community of major doctrinal knowledge would not have much value, in my view. In fact, it would be evidence of something like a game of telephone, which would place grave doubt on the veracity of said sources.

    Denis – But, for an analogy, suppose we find a new textual fragment, which is dated to the first half of the first century. Suppose it lacks anything explicitly monotheistic (nor does it deny such), it contains no prayers, it has no discussion related to the Crucifixion, or even any event in, or teaching from, Jesus’ adulthood. But suppose one thing it does include is the claim that Jesus miraculously spoke while still an infant. Such a fragment would lack a lot of important stuff, yet I’m sure you would still see it as having tremendous value (I would as well).

    Response – I think such a fragment would obviously have been part of a larger document which is now lost. I frankly doubt that a document would only mention one particular story anyway. Also, It would not prove anything regarding the other traditions, only that the infancy tradition was known. But that would not be a revolutionary discovery anyway, since we already know that the infancy tradition was known.

    Denis – The point: a source can lack important material and still have value, in light of what material it does include.

    Response – A source such as that would hardly have been useful for a community that did not witness Jesus’ life. Knowing he spoke in the cradle would be spiritually uplifting but hardly useful for teaching.

    Denis – We would presumably know significantly less than we know now (assuming we also exclude extra-Scriptural Ecclesiastical tradition as well). But that would not mean Mark therefore has no value.

    Response – If later on, more documents were found, it would show that Mark was missing some very important information. Essentially, it would change the foundation of the religion as well as its teachings. Christians would be forced to rewrite the most important tenets of their faith. I think that it significant.

    Denis – Which seems pretty similar to saying it was not in Luke’s sources (i.e. he came across a limited number of oral traditions, and this particular story was not among them). And that’s fine. But there’s a second part to this: even if the story did not appear the traditions Luke came across, that would not mean the story is therefore false. Can we agree to that?

    Response – Sure, but it would cast doubt on the historicity of the story.

    Denis – Yes indeed, John 21:25, a verse which posits a much larger spectrum of true tradition (and tacitly treats what is extant as only conveying a small fraction of that tradition). It is a verse I have appealed to for years, and in the seventh endnote of my blog entry on Development in the Gospels, I argue that corroboration for this view can be inferred even from just examining the size of the Gospels.

    Response – So then, there is no reason to doubt the infancy story at all, despite the fact that NONE of the canonical gospels mention it. If anything, this proves that the gospels are not the final authority on these matters.

    Denis – My point was that a story (allegedly) not appearing in Luke’s sources would not mean the story is therefore false. If that follows for the story of Jesus speaking as a baby, it can likewise follow for the story of the Syrophoenician woman.

    Response – I agree but I am saying that there is good reason to cast doubt on the story. In contrast, there is no reason to doubt the infancy story because even the gospel of John admits that there were many miracles that were never mentioned and recorded for posterity. Jesus could have gone to the moon for all we know.

    Denis – Yes, and it would be awkward to cite a sasquatch as a cause for something within a conversation in which the participants do not yet agree on the existence of sasquatches. However, in our case, it seems to me we have already agreed that Mark had sources and that Luke had access to at least some of the sources that Mark used (e.g. Q). What we have not yet come to terms with is to what extent Luke’s sources overlapped with Mark’s sources.

    Response – Agreed.

    Denis – Again, in this portion of the exchange we were discussing whether the story (of the Syrophoenician woman) appeared in Luke’s sources. Invoking Matthew is unhelpful, unless you wish to posit that Matthew was one of Luke’s sources. So the question remains: why should we conclude the story was in Luke’s sources? If you say because it was in Mark, that merely takes us in a circle, as it has yet to be demonstrated that Mark was one of Luke’s sources.

    Response – Actually, I think it has been conclusively proven that Mark was one of Luke’s sources. He admitted to knowing about other accounts. What other accounts were there in the first century other than Mark and Matthew? Add to that the near 90% textual similarity to Mark, and it solidifies the majority scholarly view that Mark was used by Luke.

    Denis – Yes, but the designation “dog” was not a mere determination of lineage. It applied to wayward Jews, but wouldn’t apply the same to, for example, Ruth.

    Response – Agreed, but that just shows that the story of the Syrophoenician woman is contradictory. She already had faith, like Ruth. So why did she have to repeatedly beg to be helped?

    Denis – But if we are merely speculating, likewise, being connected to Paul, Luke could have seen himself, and all other believing gentiles, as part of the true Israel, and thus distinguishable from dogs, and thus would not have been offended by it. Moreover, if we are speculating, we can likewise speculate that the story simply was not among his sources (and there are other speculations we could go over, like Luke knew his audience already had access to that story, so he did not feel compelled to repeat it, especially if he felt he might have repeated too many other things).

    Response – He would have been offended since the woman was clearly a believer and should already have been included in membership of the “true Israel”. Therein lies the problem. Why wasn’t she helped right from the start despite her clear faith?

    Denis -Actually, she is never explicitly turned away. And she winds up receiving precisely that which belonged to Israel. I agree she already had faith, but like God wanting Abraham to actually attempt to kill his son (when surely God already knew Abraham had faith), perhaps Christ wanted a more public display of her acceptance of His authority (via a show of humility [mirroring Paul’s allusion in Romans 11:18-20 to how gentiles joining the true Israel must show humility]).

    Response – A “more public display”? According to Mark, she fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to help her! Matthew says that she even referred to him as “Lord, son of David”! How much more of a public display was needed?

    And yes, it seems to me that she was turned away as I showed in your other thread.

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  13. Denis – I specifically mentioned children who could not yet read. So even if their parents have what they memorized in written form, it was nonetheless transmitted to them orally. The point is it is possible for individuals to memorize lots of lines verbatim.

    Response – Even so, the material is written down. Otherwise, their parents would not have been able to teach them anything because the text would have been lost long ago. Oral traditions inevitably tend to get lost after a short amount of time, which is why they require a written form. But this problem would not exist with the Quran, since it can be memorized in its entirety verbatim, a luxury which does not exist with the New Testament.

    Denis – But consider the following, which compares the Greek text of Luke 3:7-9 to the Greek text of Matthew 3:7-10 (capturing John’s “brood of vipers” statement).

    That is supposedly from the Q-source, which you assured me was oral. Sixty-four straight words, almost perfectly verbatim (the only differences are, in Luke karpous axious are in the plural while Matthew has it singular, Luke has arxesthe where Matthew has doxete, Luke has an extra conjunction, and Luke’s used of kalon [marked in grey] may be open to question in light of manuscript variants). And this is not the only time we see such agreement between the two.

    It seems to me you have two options: (1) agree that two different persons can pull long, nearly identical statements from oral traditions, or (2) modify your position to Q was written [there are scholars who have argued precisely that, but then note that you also said Q was pre-Marcan, so this would undermine confidence in your insinuation that pre-Marcan traditions were necessarily oral].

    Response – It is possible that some of the Jesus sayings, which is what Q was, may have been written down, but that does not refute the argument that it was largely transmitted orally. Wallace argues that Q could have been both a written and oral source.

    It is also possible that Matthew and Luke pulled such a statement from an oral tradition, but that is hardly impressive. Even a child can memorize a long passage, but it is quite another thing to memorize an entire book.

    Also, the eminent Q scholar Kloppenborg argues that Q was a written source, but he also points out that the “degree of verbal agreement” on Q material ranges from 10 to 100 percent. So even though he argues for a written Q, the fact that Matthew and Luke do not always demonstrate a high degree of similarity on the Q material shows that it remains a viable possibility that much of the material was indeed oral. That would explain the passages where Matthew and Luke differ greatly.

    Denis – I find your argument rather perplexing. People can transmit 77,000+ words orally, but people could not transmit portions of a corpus one eighth its size orally? [Note that common material between Mark and Luke might number roughly nine to ten thousand words.] Note that in the cloud of oral traditions you have proposed, we do not need one man memorizing all nine or ten thousand words. It could have been some men transmitting one portion, other men transmitting another portion, et cetera. You get nine or ten men (or nine or ten groups of men), it’s only a thousand words a piece. As I noted before, I know small children who have English versions of the Hail Mary, the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm memorized. That’s perhaps 200 words, and if we add on various songs and lines from movies those same kids have memorized, we might push close to 500 words. So there’s nothing absurd about different grown men memorizing a thousand words of tradition (especially since you yourself have said millions have memorized a set of 77,000+ words [simply declaring the 77,000+ words is easier than a mere thousand will not be convincing]).

    Response – I was talking about memorizing the ENTIRE corpus of material that eventually made its way into the gospels. I pointed out that I have never heard of anyone who has memorized the entire New Testament. Do you know of any such person?

    Denis – I disagree. Marks text itself is evidence that it is possible for a person to look at pre-Marcan sources and produce a text like Mark. Therefore there is nothing implausible about others looking at those same sources and producing a text bearing a number of similarities with Mark.

    Response – You have not demonstrated any of this with any reliable evidence. Again, appealing to possibilities does not prove anything. With that line of reasoning, any thing is possible then. Bigfoot is possible. Aliens are possible. A matrix-like construct designed to enslave humanity to machines is possible. But there is no evidence, so what is the point of appealing to possibilities?

    Denis – Other accounts, yes. And you agreed that there were pre-Marcan sources, so it is possible that one (or more) of the accounts Luke was a ware of were from among those pre-Marcan sources.

    Response – But is even more possible, indeed highly probable, that Luke primarily relied on Mark. Note that he refers to “many [who] have undertaken to draw up an account…” Q was not an account of Jesus’ life, his miracles or his alleged death and resurrection, like the gospels are. Q was only a collections of “sayings”. So what else was there? Mark is the only main source on the life of Jesus that Luke could have known.

    Denis – It could simply mean the reader (or reciter) of Daniel. In Mark 13:14 and Matthew 24:15, Jesus is being quoted as referring to Daniel, so that line may very well be Him noting that those who read/recite Daniel should grasp this meaning He is putting forth.

    Response – Or, more likely, Mark and Matthew are telling their readers to take heed of what Jesus was allegedly saying.

    Response – Now, on a side note, you might wonder why I slipped in “recite” next to “read,” twice above. Well, here’s a question: if Jesus said that, what word would He have used? We can only speculate, but it is interesting that both verses in the Peshitta read haw d’QARE nestakal. Here’s how it looks in my copy of the Peshitta:

    That word underlined in the transliteration above, and pointed to in the image, qare, is spelled qaf-reysh-alef (QRA [קרא \ قرا]). Does that look familiar? It’s from the same root as Qur’an. It is very plausible that Jesus said the statement, and used a word that can mean reader or reciter (as in those who deal with Daniel).

    Response – Or it could mean that Mark was telling the “reciter” of his gospel to take heed, which Matthew then reproduced.

    Denis – So, with all this before us, I wish to re-ask you: what precludes the possibility of that line being in Mark’s sources?

    Response – All the reasons already given. Your mere suggestion of an alternate possibility does not refute what we know for sure, such as the high degree of textual similarity to Mark.

    Denis – That precludes that comment from being in a pre-Markan source?

    Response – The fact that it seems to be an editorial comment, which would not exist in an oral tradition.

    Denis – A flat earth skeptic is free to ask scientists (or lay people who follow them) for the arguments in favor of the conclusion that the earth is round. I doubt the response would be a mere assurance that the arguments are out there, somewhere. Now, with that in mind, can you share we me the argument for the conclusion that the parable of the Vineyard did not appear in Q? [Mind you I raised precisely this example because I doubt any coherent argument exists, as I know the line of reasoning employs an arbitrary and artificial restriction.]

    Response – Well, I never said that one could not ask scholars about the parable of the vineyard. I merely said that scholars must have good reasons to believe that the parable was not in Q. I also said it would require more research. If you are so interested, be my guest to research further and share with me.

    Denis – Presumably a Christian would not know about such appearances until they are first told about them.

    Response – And yet this Christian might know other details and not know others. That is my point. Of course he would have to be told about them first. But why would he be given snippets instead of the whole corpus?

    Denis – Presumanbly the value of any statement (whether oral or written) is in what it does convey. For example, let’s assume surat al-`Alaq was the first Qur’anic surah recited. What value does it have if it doesn’t include the material from surat al-Ikhlas within it? Well, it has value in what it does convey, right? And your faith continued to unfold from there over time, correct? Same with mine. And just as your faith is not limited to just surat al-`Alaq, so too my faith is not limited to any single pre-Marcan tradition.

    Response – Again, your appeal to the Quran is flawed. The Quran is not a biography. The gospel accounts are. A biography should presumably provide the important details about a religious figure and his important teachings. Your comparison to the Quran fails because the Quran was revealed one surah at a time. Are you saying that the gospels were also revealed in such a way? Of course not. So the comparison fails.

    Denis – A community which has limited information can subsequently receive more infromation.

    Response – But why would it assume or know that there was more information? What if it assumed that that is all there is to know?

    Denis – Well, thank God we finally agreed to at least that!

    Response – It was bound to happen!

    Denis – Some might feel that way, but it need not do so, since you have already agreed to the possibility of a story being absent from Luke’s sources yet being historical.

    Response – It need not be so but one could still be reasonably skeptical.

    Denis – Your faith paradigm seems to imply precisely that, and thus it changes the scope of how we answer questions (i.e. it enables us to come up with different answers from those provided by secular scholars).

    Response – I am simply going by the admission of one of the gospel authors that not all information about Jesus has been recorded for posterity. There is no reason to doubt the infancy story based on this admission? Do you agree?

    Denis – The text says there were many other things Jesus did. That could have included His healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s child, and even the exchange he had with her.

    Response – It could perhaps include the healing, but not necessarily the “exchange”. John only referred to things he did, not things he said. So, John may have known that Jesus spoke in the cradle but not know exactly what he said.

    Denis – Mark’s sources. They existed. Luked used some of them. What are the limitations on how much of Mark’s sources Luke could have used?

    Response – Mark’s sources were not accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. They were a collection of his sayings. That is not the same thing. Luke referred to others who wrote accounts of the events that had transpired, not simply what was said by the main character.

    Denis – God knew Abraham’s heart, so why lead him to a willingness to kill his son? Different people can be tested in different ways, and some people can be put in extraordinary situations for a lesson for others. Why do some parents have healthy children while others watch their children die painfully of cancer. God’s will is relevant there, no? Isn’t the point of the story of al-Khidr, in surat al-Kahf, that why people are treated a certain way isn’t always going to be apparent to you?

    Response – So you are assuming that Jesus knew her heart? How does that follow?

    Denis – This is pure speculation. I’m of gentile stock, and I’m not offended. Part of the reason is my familiarity with the teachings of Paul. Luke might’ve known Paul well…

    Response – With all due respect, that could be due more to your own special pleading.

    If Luke was not offended, then he had even more reason to include the story in his gospel, since his audience was primarily comprised of Gentiles. Why would he not want to clarify the meaning of the story so that his Gentile audience would not get confused if they happened to come across the story, which they eventually would have? This would have been a serious miscalculation on Luke’s part.

    Like

    • Greetings Faiz (and apologies for the delay in response)

      Before I get to specifically what you have written, I wish to note four propositions which it seems from our correspondence we agree upon:

      (1) There were pre-Marcan sources.

      (2) Employing those pre-Marcan sources can result in a text looking like Mark [it happened with Mark].

      (3) Luke had access to at least some of those pre-Marcan sources.

      (4) While the pre-Marcan sources may have been both oral and written, it is possible for those using even an oral source to arrive at verbatim agreement on a particular statement.

      The question that is going to keep coming up is what precludes the possibility of Luke’s agreement with Mark coming from one of those pre-Marcan sources? What forces one to conclude common material came from Mark rather than one of Mark’s sources? With that in mind, below I will address your most recent comments…

      ***

      Faiz wrote:
      «Oral traditions inevitably tend to get lost after a short amount of time»

      What is being proposed here is not that these traditions remain transmitted in a strictly oral form, in perpetuity. On the contrary, what is being proposed is precisely that such was written down, in the Gospels we have extant today.

      Faiz wrote:
      «It is possible that some of the Jesus sayings, which is what Q was, may have been written down»

      Excellent, so we seem to agree on something akin to a cloud of traditions, perhaps some written and others oral. Some pre-Marcan traditions may have been written. If we can agree on that, then that begs the questions of why points of agreement between Mark and Luke would necessarily have to come from an oral source. But even if it was an oral tradition, we get the following…

      Faiz wrote:
      «It is also possible that Matthew and Luke pulled such a statement from an oral tradition, but that is hardly impressive. Even a child can memorize a long passage»

      Excellent! So we agree that (a) some pre-Marcan sources could have been written, and (b) even for the oral traditions, it would not be difficult for people to memorize a statement which spans 60+ words. So, then, any particular point of agreement (any particular parallel passage) between Luke and Mark could have come either a written source or an easily memorized oral tradition, correct?

      Faiz wrote:
      «it is quite another thing to memorize an entire book.»

      Agreed, memorizing an entire book is harder than memorizing a smaller, 60+ word long anecdote. But note that, for the Q-source, you have come to treat it as actually a spectrum of sources. Why couldn’t Mark’s non-Q sources similarly constitute a plurality to some extent? If so, note that transmission of such would not require just one person memorizing an entire book. Rather, different persons (or groups of persons) could possess different portions of what is now found in both Mark and Luke.

      Faiz wrote:
      «I was talking about memorizing the ENTIRE corpus of material that eventually made its way into the gospels.»

      But why would a single person have to memorize all that? In the very post you were responding to (in fact in the very portion you were responding to, the very excerpt included in your post) I noted that I know small children, who cannot read, who have over 200 words worth of statements memorized (and the amount may be as high as 500), so it would not be hard for adults to memorize a thousand words worth the disparate statements or anecdotes. So if we have nine or ten different men (or groups of men), each memorizing roughly a thousand words worth of statements and stories, we could easily cover all the material common to Luke and Matthew (and it becomes even easier keeping in mind the acknowledgment that some pre-Marcan sources may have been written).

      Faiz wrote:
      «I have never heard of anyone who has memorized the entire New Testament.»

      But this strikes me as irrelevant to the question of common sources between Mark and Luke. There are roughly a 138,000 words in the New Testament. There are maybe nine to ten thousand words common to Mark and Luke. Are you honestly saying that because you have never met a person who memorized 138,000 words, it would therefore be impossible for groups of people to memorize portions of a 10,000 word collection?

      ***

      I (Denis wrote:
      «Marks text itself is evidence that it is possible for a person to look at pre-Marcan sources and produce a text like Mark. Therefore there is nothing implausible about others looking at those same sources and producing a text bearing a number of similarities with Mark.»

      Faiz wrote:
      «Response – You have not demonstrated any of this with any reliable evidence.»

      Wait, surely I do not have to prove that it is possible for a person to come away from Mark’s sources with a text similar to Mark, as that is precisely what happened with Mark. That seems undeniable: the author of Mark devlved into the relevant sources, and produced the text we call Mark. It seems to be your position that the author Luke could not come up with a text bearing such similarities to Mark if he were relying on the same sources, but that begs the question, why? If Mark existed and Mark’s sources existed, why do similarities between Luke and Mark have to be explained by recourse to Mark rather than recourse to those sources? The argument seems to be that there would not be as much agreement as we find, but what are the grounds for such an argument?

      Faiz wrote:
      «But is even more possible, indeed highly probable, that Luke primarily relied on Mark.»

      And how, precisely, are you measuring this probability?

      Faiz wrote:
      «Note that he refers to “many [who] have undertaken to draw up an account…” Q was not an account of Jesus’ life»

      I suspect many proponents of Q would say that Q was one of the sources Luke was referring to, but if you’re proposing Luke is referring to multiple accounts other than Q, the question remains: why couldn’t those be some of the very same non-Q sources Mark turned to?

      Faiz wrote:
      «Mark is the only main source on the life of Jesus that Luke could have known.»

      Based on what? And think about what the very passage you are appealing to (Luke’s prologue) actually states. He states that multiple persons (πολλοι) have sought to go over or restate a narration (αναταξασθαι διηγησιν) on the subject. That would be multiple extant accounts. How could Mark be the only extant account? There is no evidence that Mark is even one of the sources, but surely you cannot say Mark was the only source being referred to.

      ***

      I (Denis) wrote:
      «It could simply mean the reader (or reciter) of Daniel. In Mark 13:14 and Matthew 24:15, Jesus is being quoted as referring to Daniel, so that line may very well be Him noting that those who read/recite Daniel should grasp this meaning He is putting forth.»

      Faiz replied:
      «Or, more likely, Mark and Matthew are telling their readers to take heed of what Jesus was allegedly saying.»

      And how, exactly, did you determine that is the more likely possibility?

      Regarding the phrase ο αναγινωσκων νοειτω (ܗܘ ܕܩܪܐ ܢܤܬܟܠ / הו דקרא נסתכל)…

      I (Denis) asked:
      «what precludes the possibility of that line being in Mark’s sources?»

      Faiz replied:
      «All the reasons already given.»

      With all due respect, you have not given me a single reason. You assured me that it is the more likely possibility, but other than that, I have seen no argument in favor of the conclusion that the relevant line could not have been in Mark’s sources.

      ***

      On the subject of the statement in Matthew 27:18 and Mark 15:10

      I (Denis) asked:
      «That precludes that comment from being in a pre-Markan source?

      Faiz replied:
      «The fact that it seems to be an editorial comment, which would not exist in an oral tradition.»

      On what grounds do you declare it an “editorial comment”? What precludes an oral tradition from including the comment that Pilate knew that it was out of envy that the priest had delivered Jesus up?

      ***

      On the subject of arguments in favor of the conclusion that the parable of the vineyard was not in Q…

      Faiz wrote:
      «I never said that one could not ask scholars about the parable of the vineyard. I merely said that scholars must have good reasons to believe that the parable was not in Q. I also said it would require more research. If you are so interested, be my guest to research further and share with me.»

      This brings us back to what I wrote days ago, about assuring others that the argument is out there somewhere, when oneself has never seen the argument in question. And now you seem to have done precisely that. I raised this subject precisely because I have explored it. From my reading, the conclusion seems to be based purely on an artificial restriction, where it is assumed parables in Mark were not in Q. It is an important subject, because it helps to demonstrate the arbitrary nature involved in setting the parameters of Q (which in turn has relevance to speculating about the spectrum of available traditions).

      ***

      Faiz wrote:
      «this Christian might know other details and not know others. That is my point. Of course he would have to be told about them first. But why would he be given snippets instead of the whole corpus?»

      Because no person learns everything in a single instance? The faith unfolded in stages. The information was initially transmitted in pieces. And even to this day, each person learns in steps. You yourself said that you have never met anyone who has memorized the entire New Testament, so surely you agree it is not the case that after a person’s first day at Church, the entire Bible (and all traditional understandings of the Bible) have been downloaded into their brain. On the contrary, they learn piece by piece, over time.

      Faiz declared:
      «The Quran is not a biography. The gospel accounts are.»

      Are you proposing that the various sources which existed before the canonical Gospels were written –a cloud of oral traditions with perhaps some material written– should have each constituted full biographies? I see no requirement for that.

      Faiz wrote:
      «Your comparison to the Quran fails because the Quran was revealed one surah at a time. Are you saying that the gospels were also revealed in such a way?»

      I’m saying in both our faiths, the relevant body of beliefs for either was revealed in stages, over time. And when things are being collected, it is possible for some to only have portions. It wasn’t the case that any person who came into contact with any part of the faith instantly knew everything now considered essential to the faith.

      I (Denis) wrote:
      «A community which has limited information can subsequently receive more infromation.»

      Faiz asked:
      «But why would it assume or know that there was more information? What if it assumed that that is all there is to know?»

      Presumably one could be told that more is coming, or that more is out there. Those who assume to know everything yet only know in part can be corrected (hence part of the point of some of Paul’s epistles, perhaps?).

      Faiz wrote:
      «There is no reason to doubt the infancy story»

      I never claimed the story was ahistorical; rather I raised it in response to your methodology, earlier in this correspondence. It is precisely my position that an absense of story in the Bible does not mean the story is therefore false.

      Faiz wrote:
      «It could perhaps include the healing, but not necessarily the “exchange”. John only referred to things he did, not things he said.»

      Talking is a sort of deed (a thing one does). For example, in Mark 11:27, the Jewish authorities ask him via what authority He does the things He does. It is easy to see that as a reference to miracles, but it can also include His teachings. In Matthew 26:73, Peter is told that his words do a betrayl to him. In John 5:18 it is stated that Jesus’ words did the deed to equating Himself with God. Even in Mark 15:14, when Pilate asks what evil Jesus had done, the mob could have conceivably gone over things they believe He said. In all these verses, the same verb that appears in John 21:25, thus we see that one’s statements can fall under the category of things they have done.

      Faiz wrote:
      «Mark’s sources were not accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.»

      Are you saying that none of the sources employed by Mark mentioned any element of Jesus’ life, death, or resurrection? If so, how did you reach this conclusion?

      ***

      On the subject of the Syrophoenician woman…

      I (Denis) wrote:
      «God knew Abraham’s heart, so why lead him to a willingness to kill his son? Different people can be tested in different ways, and some people can be put in extraordinary situations for a lesson for others. Why do some parents have healthy children while others watch their children die painfully of cancer. God’s will is relevant there, no? Isn’t the point of the story of al-Khidr, in surat al-Kahf, that why people are treated a certain way isn’t always going to be apparent to you?»

      Faiz asked:
      «So you are assuming that Jesus knew her heart?»

      Sure, I believe that. But I think that might be irrelevant to the larger question of whether God (or, if you prefer, a messenger guided by God) can treat different people in different ways. Don’t you agree that (a) God can challenge different people in different ways [e.g. allow your children to be healthy while having your neighbor watch their kids die of cancer], and that (b) the lesson of the al-Khidr story is that the reasons why a person is treated a certain way need not always be apparent to you?

      I (Denis) wrote:
      «I’m of gentile stock, and I’m not offended. Part of the reason is my familiarity with the teachings of Paul. Luke might’ve known Paul well…»

      Faiz replied:
      «With all due respect, that could be due more to your own special pleading.»

      You can speculate about my motivations, but I presented a clear way to interpret the text in a non-offensive way. Sure, you can come up with alternative interpretations, but there is no guatantee that Luke would interpret such that way. And the point still stands: there are gentiles who are not offended by the story (myself included), therefore one cannot simply assume that because Luke was a gentile, he necessarily would have been offended.

      Faiz wrote:
      «If Luke was not offended, then he had even more reason to include the story in his gospel»

      Assuming the story appeared in Luke’s sources (something you have yet to demonstrate). Even if we do assume such appeared in Luke’s sources (and I am happy to assume such), the issue remains that you never met Luke, you have no direct experience with the environment he worked in, you don’t know what his catechetical or pedagogical motivations were, you don’t know how he understood his initially intended audience (what resources he believed were available, or would be available, to his audience), and thus, in short, you cannot read his mind.

      Like

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