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Conclusions

Previous page: Stylometric - Synoptic Results

The clearest result from this analysis is support for Markan priority. There is strong evidence pointing to the stylistic homogeneity of Mark as a whole, specifically in the sense that material in Mark common to Matthew and/or Luke is stylistically very similar to the unique Markan material. However, if Mark actually originated in multiple documents (e.g. notebooks) that were then edited by the author of Mark (aMark) so that the resulting whole was homogenous, this analysis cannot tell. In particular, the analysis cannot preclude some (limited) copying (e.g. harmonization) from either Matthew or Luke to Mark.

The second result is not quite the same as the first, although it may appear so. This analysis provides strong evidence suggesting that the majority of the words common to Mark and Matthew and/or Luke came from Mark.

This analysis provides strong evidence suggesting that the words in the Matthew-Luke Double Tradition did not come from Luke. However, it is less clear whether they all came from Matthew, or some from another source. The most likely scenario suggested by the analysis is that both Matthew and Luke used some material from a written source, S, in addition to Mark. Material originally from both S and Matthew was then included in Luke when aLuke edited material he took from Matthew. aLuke also supplemented the material from Matthew with additional material that he also edited from S.

This analysis has no information regarding the size or content of S, in particular its relation (if any) to Q, therefore it cannot tell which parts of the Double Tradition originated in Matthew, and which in S. There is no indication that any part of S (not used by either aMatthew or aLuke) was used as a source by aMark, but the analysis cannot rule out this possibility.

This analysis indicates that in the material common to Luke and Mark, aLuke replaced many of the words used in Mark with other words of his own choosing.

This analysis does not provide strong evidence for the source of the words in the Triple Tradition agreements common to Matthew and Luke but not Mark. The evidence suggesting Matthew as the source is stronger than that suggesting Luke, but it is possible that some words came from changes made by aLuke.

Overall, this analysis finds that Mark is most stylistically homogenous, followed by Matthew, and least so Luke, suggesting a general trajectory of Mark -> Matthew -> Luke. aMatthew made use of Mark, and aLuke made use of both Mark and Matthew. In addition, both aMatthew and aLuke appear to have had access to an additional common source (S) which was the source of some of the Double Tradition material. This scenario is similar to the Three Source Hypothesis (or Theory) (3SH or 3ST) as described on The Synoptic Problem Website, although the content of the additional source is not stated.

A stylistic analysis of the words in the synoptic gospels (such as this) may be able to uncover a lot of information regarding directionality, i.e. which parts of which synoptics contain material that originated in which other synoptics (and possibly from sources other than the synoptics). However, there are some things that this analysis cannot do:
  • Any statistical analysis cannot state anything with 100% certainty. The best that can be stated is that a particular result has a high degree of probability. In this analysis the greater the absolute value of a correlation (whether positive or negative) the greater the degree of certainty.
  • This analysis cannot rule out copying of some words from any one synoptic to another. To some extent this is a corollary of the previous statement. For example, although the study strongly indicates copying from Mark to Matthew, it cannot rule out a smaller amount of copying from Matthew to Mark.
  • The analysis deals with the words that we see in the synoptic gospels today. It can make no statement regarding what might have been in any earlier versions or layers of any of the synoptics (except that source S could posibly have been part of an earlier version of Matthew or Luke).
  • Except for statements above regarding source S, the analysis can say nothing about how the Sondergut material in any of the synoptics was created, nor anything about what sources (written or not) may have contributed to it. Statements regarding words ‘coming from’ or ‘originating in’ one or other synoptic do not preclude any of the synoptic authors (aMark, aMatthew, and aLuke) having gathered material from other people or places, e.g. from the Old Testament.
  • The analysis can suggest the degree of editing (i.e. direct copying vs. replacement of words) between the synoptics. However, it cannot give specific details about particular passages.
  • The analysis knows nothing about subject matter or genre, and therefore cannot tell the type of material in any of the categories used in the analysis.

For all these reasons this analysis (even if 100% correct in every detail) is not a ‘solution’ to the synoptic problem. However, it may be a solution to part of the problem.

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, etc. regarding this topic please email me at davidinglis2@comcast.net

References

Bigg, Howard C: The Present State of the Q Hypothesis, 1988

Bird, Michael F: The Holtzmann-Gundry Solution to the Synoptic Problem (Three Source Hypothesis). Also Goodacre, Mark: Mike Bird on Luke's use of Matthew and Q

Burkett, Delbert Royce: Rethinking the Gospel Sources: Volume 2: The unity or plurality of Q, SBL, 2009

Carlson, Stephen C: The Synoptic Problem Website

Derrenbacker, Robert A, Jr and Kloppenborg Verbin, John S: Self-Contradiction in the IQP? A Reply to Michael Goulder, 2001

Early Christian Writings: The Existence of Q

Farmer, William R: The Present State Of The Synoptic Problem, 1998

Foster, Paul: Is It Possible to Dispense with Q? , 2003

Gentile, David: A statistical approach to the synoptic problem

Godfrey, Neil: Blog post: “The Marcionite Gospel and the Synoptic Problem: A New Suggestion”   

Goodacre, Mark: The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem and The synoptic problem: a way through the maze. Online: The Case Against Q, Ten Reasons to Question Q, A Monopoly on Marcan Priority? Fallacies at the Heart of Q. See also Mark Q Overlaps I: Terminology, II: Major Agreements Between Matthew and Luke, III: Minor Agreements between Mark and Luke, IV: Back to the Continuum, V: the degree of verbatim agreement, VI: The Direction of Dependence

Goulder, Michael: Luke: A New Paradigm

Head, Peter M: Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem, New Studies in the Synoptic Problem, Oxford Conference, Part 1, April 2008

Head, Peter M. and Williams P.J: Q Review, Tyndale Bulletin 54.1, 2003

Huggins, Ronald V: Matthean Posteriority: A Preliminary Proposal, 1992

Just, Felix: The Synoptic Problem

Kelhoffer, James A: Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and Their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark, 2000

Kloppenborg, John S: On Dispensing with Q?: Goodacre on the Relation of Luke to Matthew, 2003

Kok, Michael J.: Euangelion Kata Markon, The Case For and Against Q

McNicol, Allan J, (Ed) with Dungan, David L., and Peabody, David B: Beyond the Q Impasse: Luke’s Use of Matthew, 1996

Powell, Mark Allen: What are They Saying about Luke?, 1989

Sanders E.P, and Davies, Margaret: Studying the synoptic Gospels

Smith, Barry D: The Synoptic Problem, Crandall University

Streeter, B.H: The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins. Treating of the Manuscript Tradition, Sources, Authorship, and Dates

Text Excavation.com: The Synoptic Problem 

Theopedia.com: The Synoptic Problem  

Turton, Michael: Is Mark Q?

Wallace, Daniel B: The Synoptic Problem

Waltz, Robert: The Encyclopedia of New Testament Criticism (online) or in PDF form

West, H. Philip Jr.: A Primitive Version of Luke in the Composition of Matthew, 1967

Wikipedia.com: Synoptic Gospels

Willker, Wieland: A Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels: Vol. 2b The various endings of Mk, and the Western Non-interpolations

The Gospel of Q

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