December 1, 2022

Matthean Posteriority, Excerpts from The Myth of the Lost Gospel by Evan Powell


Excerpts from The Myth of the Lost Gospel by Evan Powell

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Hidden Synoptic Patterns

When comparing Matthew and Luke, many have noted that Matthew presents more liturgically refined forms of key traditions such as The Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, and the Great Commission, than versions found in Luke. This pattern suggests that some time had elapsed between the composition of Luke and Matthew, during which these traditions evolved as the Church coalesced into a more institutionalized structure. (p. 25)

In addition to the fact that Matthew contains more sophisticated forms of these traditions, there are other indications that Matthew was published after Mark and Luke. Among them is an intriguing clue from the attributions of authorship... Hengel states: (p.27)

A comparison of the titles shows that the 'non-apostolic' titles must be older than the 'apostolic' titles. Once the names of apostles had come to be used in titles to give a work additional authority, it was hardly possible to choose authors with lesser authority. In the second century, the Gospel of Mark would presumably have been named after Peter and that of Luke after Paul (Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 170)

A third-generation author with no recognized nexus with apostolic authority might well be motivated to publish pseudonymously mostly, thereby imbuing the work with the authority of one of the original twelve. That Matthew is the only one of the three to carry an apostolic title suggests that it may have been a later composition.  (p. 28)

The second noteworthy feature of Matthew is that it contains numerous attempts to reconcile problematic elements in the Jesus story that remain unresolved in Mark and Luke. Matthew methodically corrects and explains aspects of the accounts in Mark and Luke that had led to skepticism and doubt. (p. 28)

Seven categories of tradition manifest a common pattern of distribution among the Synoptics, with Matthew containing the highest concentration of material in all seven categories. Since Luke is the longer of the two Gospels (107% as long as Matthew), this is an unexpected result… This is far too much statistical uniformity to pass off as mere coincidence. (P. 41)

Categories of tradition in Luke as a percent of Matthew:

  1. Supernatural Events: Luke has 77% as many references as those in Matthew
  2. Eschatological content: Luke has 71% as much as Matthew
  3. Ethical sayings: Luke has 73% as many references as those in Matthew
  4. Jesus as Christ: Luke has 75% as many references as those in Matthew
  5. Jesus as Son of man: Luke has 83% as many references as those in Matthew
  6. Kingdom of God: Luke has 75% as many references as those in Matthew
  7. God as Father: Luke has 36% as many references as those in Matthew

We find that the community that produced Matthew developed a more refined and expansive interpretation of Jesus' traditions across the entire spectrum of thought. Not only are the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes and the Great Commission presented in more evolved form in Matthew, but the content of Jesus' ethical message is richer., the visions of the end-time events are more extreme, supernatural mythology is more diverse, and the concept of the intimate fatherhood of God is more developed. Collectively, Matthew contains an enrichment of all prominent aspects of the Jesus story, surpassing the material found in Luke, while Luke contains virtual subsets of the material found in Matthew. (p. 42)

Therefore, Matthew presents a more mature expression of the Church's interpretation of Jesus. The statistical distribution of materials between Luke and Matthew, as well as the qualitative enhancements of Matthew over Luke, are consistent with the proposition that Matthew was composed some time after Luke. Moreover, there was an interval of time between the two that would allow for all facets of the Jesus tradition to have evolved into the more sophisticated form that are documented in the Gospel of Matthew. (p. 42-43)

[Some] theories argue that Luke was dependent on Matthew. Yet, the date we have just reviewed is difficult to explain under such a scenario. We must imagine that Luke, in using Matthew as a source, managed to diminish its traditions across the board both qualitatively and quantitatively, while at the same time producing a Gospel that was longer than Matthew by 7%. In the process he eviscerated the Lord's prayer and the Beatitudes; he dismantled the Sermon on the Mount and reformulated it as a more anemic Sermon on the Plain; he diminished the ethical vision of Jesus; he removed most of Matthew's references tot eh intimated fatherhood of God; and finally, he eliminated the decisive command from Matthew's Great Commission to 'go therefore and baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and replaced it with a statement that repentance and forgiveness should be preached to all nations, but that the disciples should wait in the city until further notice. (p. 43)

It is difficult to imagine what Luke would have had in mind to have used Matthew in this manner. Yet, as we shall ultimately discover, these are just the first of many editorial eccentricities of which Luke would be guilty were he to have used Matthew as a source. (p. 43)

Matthew the Revisionist

Sometime late in the first century an unknown writer/editor, or perhaps more accurately, a group of editors, undertook to compose what would become the most formidable Gospel ever written. It would contain a richness and diversity of Jesus' traditions exceeding all that had come before it. It was an elegant, formal collection that the Church would sanction as the ultimate definition of the Jesus story. Soon after its composition, the Church would begin to represent the Gospel of Matthew as the first Gospel to have been composed. The Church would eventually place Matthew in the strategically significant first position in the New Testament canon. (p.45)

To imbue this new Gospel with authority, the Church attributed it to the apostle Matthew—an apostle who, other than being listed in Mark and Luke as one of the twelve, was an unknown and ideologically neutral figure in the history of the Jesus movement. As such, Matthew would seem to be a peculiar choice for attribution of authorship. (p. 45) 

Consider that if Matthew did indeed conflate Mark and Luke, it becomes apparent from an evaluation of his text in this light that one of Matthew's objectives was to rewrite the Gospel of Luke from both a theological and historical perspective. Matthew produced a more comprehensive version of the Gospel story, embracing much more of Mark than did Luke: he expanded upon many of Luke's key traditions, but at the same time refocused the Jesus story within Jewish tradition and heritage while eliminating Luke's universalism. Though Matthew is guided by the same ideological and literary objectives in use of Mark and Luke, Mark is the primary source of Matthew's narrative structure, while Luke is a secondary source from which additional materials are drawn and integrated with Mark. (Evan Powell, The Myth of the Lost Gospel, p.90)

Though Matthew has a similar scope in the storyline as does Luke, the author was motivated to produce a thoroughly original Gospel, and one that looked as much unlike Luke as the material would allow. Matthew is often guided by a simple “not-Luke” approach—on occasions where Luke followed Mark, Matthew was not motivated to diverge; whenever Luke diverged from Mark, Matthew felt free to follow Mark more closely. In the triple tradition, Matthew never takes over significant Lukan texts against Mark. In the double tradition, when Matthew is aware of earlier forms of Lukan sayings, he substitutes the earlier forms. When he is not, he edits them or recontextualizes them, or both. When Matthew replicates Luke's material with a high verbal agreement, he always chooses to situate it differently relative to Mark. In most cases, he scans, selects, and reassembles Lukan sayings into radically different narrative contexts. Matthew rejects Luke's infancy and genealogy texts, and replaces them with mythologies that are consistent with his own theological agenda. He discards Luke's resurrection narrative and replaces it with a fulfillment of the Markan foreshadowing that Jesus would rejoin his disciples in Galilee. pp. 93-94

On the other hand, Matthew does not ritualistically avoid every change Luke made… resulting in dozens of minor agreements with Luke against Mark. Of particular, Matthew agrees with Luke's assessment that Mark 11:11 is superfluous; like Luke he omits it and compresses the Triumphal Entry and the Cleansing of the Temple into the same day. However, these changes notwithstanding, in every important respect Matthew's Gospel was written with the intent to supersede both Mark and Luke in the depth and diversity of their Jesus traditions. (p. 94)

Clearly, Matthew contains a great deal of material that exists in either Mark or Luke or both, and in using these two primary sources it is evident that his objective was to conflate them along with other materials into a more comprehensive Gospel. In the process, Matthew often combined fragments from both Mark and Luke in order to create his own narratives. One example of this is found in The Calling of the Twelve. This sequence of eight verses in Matthew 9:35-10:4 is compiled from material found in chapters 3 and 6 of Mark and chapters 6, 8, 9, and 10 of Luke. (pp. 94-95)

In the Beelzebul Controversy (Luke 11:14-23// Mark 3:22-27//Matt 12:22-30), there is very little verbatim duplication between Mark and Luke. Matthew's text, on the other hand, has been assembled from elements that are virtual verbatim duplications from both Mark and Luke (p. 95)

The key point to be made... is this: The fact that Matthean texts exist that are conflations of material found in Mark and Luke is a phenomenon unique to Matthew. There is no similar array of texts in Luke that appear to have been composed from elements in Mark and Matthew. Yet if Luke had used Mark and Matthew, as Griesbach and Farrer-Goulder advocates maintain, we should be able to detect a similar pattern in Luke, at least to the degree that it is present in Matthew. Furthermore, if Matthew and Luke and independently drawn upon Mark and Q, it is a mystery how Matthew could routinely generate texts that appear to be conflations of Mark and Luke, while Luke could routinely avoid any indication of having conflated Mark and Matthew. The presence of this textural pattern in Matthew, and its corollary absence from Luke, lends additional weight to the theory of Matthean Posteriority, and poses difficulties for all competing solutions to the Synoptic Problem (p.102)

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