The Contribution of Dr. John Henry Ludlum, Jr.
Refuting the Marcan Priority Hypothesis and the Fabled “Q” Gospel
One of the theologians mentioned in The Real Jesus is a little known linguistics prodigy named John Henry Ludlum, Jr.
Ludlum is known today for a groundbreaking article that was published in four parts in Christianity Today.
“New Light On The Synoptic Problem,” Vol. III, Nos. 3 and 4, 1958
“Are We Sure of Mark’s Priority?” Vol. III, Nos. 24 and 25, 1959
The article is cited in lots of places, but isn’t on the WWW at this point. I am currently trying to locate copies of the article and if you know quick and easy way I can get them, let me know.
One book that cites the articles is The Jesus Crisis: The Inroads of Historical Criticism into Evangelical Scholarship by Robert L.Thomas and F. David Farnell, which is on my reading list. You can read a limited version here:
If you are like me, you can’t get your hands on nearly enough articles and books on textual criticism for your reading pleasure, so I’ve pointed you to this paper by John Henry Ludlum. Sorry that it’s 260 pages of tiff files and hence the size.
You can download the PDF file from the following link:
John Henry Ludlum, Jr. was the only doctoral candidate at Yale University to receive honors in all seven of his oral examinations. He was a linguistics expert and textual criticism prodigy. His first assignment after graduating gave him enough free time to read many of the German Higher Critics including Bruno Bauer, who has only one theological work translated into English.
He was shocked as a liberal to find out how flimsy the arguments of the historical criticism — so widely accepted as iron-clad among liberals — really were. They were so bad in fact, that Ludlum did his own Synoptic harmony of the Gospels and found many errors on the part of the liberal critics. He spent the rest of his career lambasting the liberals and he was blacklisted in his own denomination — eventually founding a Bible College in Maine.
Today, there is very little published by Ludlum. His most notable work is the series of articles published in Christianity Today in the 1950s debunking the Marcan Priority Hypothesis. Many at the time thought his argument — in embryonic form in the attached paper — was irrefutable. I am not committed to any Synoptic hypothesis — Matthean, Marcan or Independence — at this point, but I am concerned that so many evangelicals accept the Marcan Hypothesis without understanding the liberal presuppositions that gave rise to its popularity.
Anyway, if you skim through the paper, I am sure you’ll find a few fascinating insights even if you don’t have time to read all of it carefully.
A Short Bio
Dr. John H. Ludlum, Jr. is one of those Bible scholars whose experience was the mirror image of other liberal theologians. Too often conservatives are corrupted by seminary education. Ludlum was one who began as a liberal, but as his education was steeped in skepticism, it made him question the foundation of such skepticism.
David Lutzweiler has written the following biography of Ludlum:
Back in 1951, Dr. Ludlum received his Ph.D. from Yale University and received on his orals in seven fields at the Department. of Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literature the highest scores that anyone ever had received as far as they had records going back for the department at the time. (I have a copy of the department’s report on his rating). At that time, of course, he was a liberal. He studied under Marvin Pope and that crowd.
Then he got a job that was more or less a sinecure, an office which requires or involves little or no responsibility, in NYC at a Reformed Church, and had a lot of time to pursue his own studies independently. He read the whole German higher criticism in the original language, and a lot of other stuff; and the more he read, the more he saw that the whole liberal position was just plain silly, not to mention dishonest. In a few years, he moved out of liberalism (or “Up From Liberalism,” as William F. Buckley put it) and into evangelicalism.
This created problems. The RCA liberals could not stand up to him, because he was too good. He knew the scholarship inside out and backwards. Thus, the word went around that under no circumstances was Ludlum going to be permitted ever to teach at New Brunswick, etc.
They shunted him off to pastor a small church in Englewood, NJ.It was a bad decision on their part. That only gave him more time to study, write, and fight, which he did. I came to know him when he was in Englewood, in the middle of his prime, and that was one of the most enriching contacts in my life.