A New Comprehensive Approach to the Gospels

Preface: The Legacy of Dr. John H. Ludlum, Jr.

In The Real Jesus DVD, we mention a little known linguistics prodigy, Dr. John Henry Ludlum, Jr., a Bible scholar whose experience was the mirror image of many liberal theologians. Too often conservatives are corrupted by seminary education. Ludlum began as a liberal, but as his education was steeped in skepticism, it only made him question the foundation of such skepticism. As a expert fluent in several languages, Ludlum was able to scrutinize the very source of liberal theology.

His most notable work was in a series of articles and lectures debunking the Marcan Priority Hypothesis. Many at the time thought his argument was irrefutable. One article that was published in four parts in Christianity Today in the 1950s (“New Light The Synoptic Problem,” Vol. III, Nos. 3 and 4, 1958; “Are We Sure of Mark’s Priority?” Vol. III, Nos. 24 and 25, 1959). One book that cites the CT articles is The Jesus Crisis: The Inroads of Historical Criticism into Evangelical Scholarship by Robert L.Thomas and F. David Farnell. You can read a limited version on Google Books.

I am not committed to any synoptic hypothesis — neither Matthean, Marcan nor independence — but I am concerned that so many evangelicals accept the Marcan hypothesis without understanding the liberal presuppositions that gave rise to its popularity. Even if you don’t have time to read all of it carefully, just skimming through the following paper, I am sure you’ll find a few fascinating insights.

— Jay Rogers

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A Short Biography

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 New York City 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 works; 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, New Jersey. 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.

— David Lutweiler

*Editor's note:* I have yet to finish the formatting of the following paper to reflect the style of the original with its numerous block quotes and charts. The main content, however, is the same. _-JCR_

A New Comprehensive Approach to the Gospels

by John H. Ludlum, Jr.
420 Valley View Road Englewood, New Jersey
Copyright, 1955


The present work began as a lecture, which has been given in varying form for six or seven years past to successive classes in New Testament at the Biblical Seminary in New York City, at the invitation of Dr. Richard M. Suffern. From tape recordings a typescript was prepared, which was intended to be the basis for a book, to which documentation would be added in the form of extensive footnotes.

The work has not developed as originally planned. It has grown in volume and has assumed new outlines. About the only thing retained from the typescript is the mode of direct address. This has been kept as a fair way of speaking directly to a reader. I have continued to assume that I am addressing members of the classes for whom the lecture was originally prepared.

The level of comprehension at which the work is aimed is that of an intelligent laymen or theological students, who are assumed to know only as much about the subject as those would know who are alert and interested but who are as yet quite unfamiliar with the technical studies on the subject.

The process of composition may be explained as follows. The writer’s aim has been to produce a page a day, unless prevented by the necessity for special and prolonged research. It is not always easy to locate a passage in an author which you surely know is somewhere or other there in his pages. There is no written manuscript. Longhand pages and notes have been transferred directly to stencils and mimeographed into fifty copies. The mimeographed sheets are the uncorrected first draft of the author’s work. Any purchasers of these pages should understand clearly that they are buying copies of the writer’s work sheets.

Footnotes are inserted in the body of the text in the manner suggested for manuscripts that are to go to the printer. The unsatisfactory form of many of these is due to the fact that progress has been the main aim in producing a first draft of the work. Correctness and fastidious forms of citation etc. come later. In due time and place it is our hope to supply them.

The writer sends this small first edition of the first part of his book on its way without any hesitation or mental reservations as to its substantial correctness and truth. If he is in error in its pages, he wants to know it. He is willing and ready to accept the consequences of being wrong both in matters small and great.

And may the only wise God use our faculties, as they are His gifts, to His glory alone, while the ages run, and we see darkly here below, until the day come when He who is all and in all, shall be All in all.

I. Preparatory Remarks

This afternoon I’ve been asked to speak to your class about the gospels. The remarks I shall make cover a wide field of study. A good title for my talk would be “A New, Comprehensive Approach to the Gospels.” That title will be satisfactory provided you remember one thing. We are not going to discuss the fourth gospel. We will limit ourselves to the first three gospels — those which are commonly called the “synoptic” gospels.

Now the first thing I want to do is to set before you a chart. Not that you are going to understand it at once. It covers certain developments in gospel study through 150 years. You will see that it contains twenty-two separately labeled blocks. It will be our job to show what these are, and to show how they are built on one another (from no. 7 thru no. 22). For the present you should not try to master any of the details in the chart. It will mean a lot more after the next two hours are over. We will be referring to it again and again in our discussion. However, I want you to understand clearly that we will not make any attempt to give any complete coverage of all developments in the study of the gospels. Our emphasis is selective, and it is critical. It is that way, because we are aiming to bring together and into focus a picture of the lines of thought that have gradually come to be dominant. That is the thing we are interested in — not in what somebody thought a long while ago and the rest of the world paid no attention to it ever since. You want to come to grips with real issues of today. So do I. And that is what I shall be aiming at.

Now as we go along through this discussion step by step, I will bring certain things — certain developments in the field of Biblical scholarship to your attention. There will be various hypotheses men hold concerning the origin of the gospels, concerning their mutual relations, and concerning other such matters. In each case we will first try to describe simply and clearly what each separate development is, or is supposed to be. Then we will discuss it. Discussion will cover the reasons the hypothesis is accepted, what problems or difficulties it is supposed to account for, and such related matters.

As we do this, I am going to stop at each step; I am going to evaluate these things as well as I can in the light of work or thinking and research that has been done. You have some of the samples of such research here, before your eyes. Now these evaluations could be put at the end of my talk. However, if they came at the end, you would find it very difficult, perhaps impossible, to remember enough of what you had heard in the first part of the talk to make the critique or evaluation as meaningful as it will be when it comes to you step by step on the way.

On the other hand, when I bring in evaluations at each step of the discussion, they are bound to disrupt the continuity of the story of scholarly work. It is very important not to destroy the impression of logical connection and continuing development in that story. The logical connection of those items you will find on your charts must stand out clearly, or this talk will fail in its intended purpose to be useful to you. The logical connections of the stages in the development of gospel criticism are of vital importance both to those who accept its findings and to those who may come to feel that it is not valid in method or results. Therefore, in order to compensate for any loss of the sense of continuity and logical connection that might arise from our step by step evaluations, we shall follow this plan. Our talk will take the following regular pattern:

1) Presentation: the simple, clear description and definition of a specific development, a new theory, for example.

2) Discussion: a statement of the connection between the new theory and the previously existing situation out of which it arose; reasons for the new hypothesis, and so forth.

3) Evaluation: a critique of the specific development under study.

4) Prospect: a forward look at the next stage of development; statement of the connection between the last discussed development and the one next to be considered.

This plan ought to enable us to give the evaluations while you still possess a strong, fresh recollection of the matters under critical scrutiny. At the same time, we need sacrifice nothing of the impression you ought to receive of the logical coherence of the whole long development. That logical precision and coherence will turn out to be either the greatest strength or the weakest feature of the whole business. With so much, then, in the way of preparatory remarks, let us proceed to a study of the dominant lines of scholarly work on the first three gospels. Our sketch will cover a period of about 150 years in length.

II. Source Criticism

If you will be so good as to look at the mimeographed chart you have in your hands, you will notice that the left hand column contains three sections labeled as follows: “Data,” “Source Criticism,” and “Life of Jesus Questions, Form Criticism.” Now, if you will be so good as to look at the center column, you will see an arrangement which suggests that from a certain starting-point a development has taken place. The chart is meant to suggest that in that development there were certain clearly marked stages. It is further suggested that three of those stages can be described under a single title, namely “Source Criticism.”

We may very well begin, then, by giving a simple definition. You ought to be sure you understand without fail what is meant by Source Criticism. The idea is simple enough. It is a belief that in our Gospels in particular in the first three Gospels — when you study them by means of critical analysis, you can find there certain sources that were employed in the construction and composition of those documents. That is the idea of it. That is all there is to it as far as its main idea is concerned.

You start with three Gospels. You study them, analyze them. From the analysis you feel you can detect in those Gospels traces and outlines of sources that were used by the authors of those writings in composing them.

At this point it would not be right to say anything in detail about Form Criticism, which is the next big block in the left-hand column on your chart. But one thing might usefully be pointed out to you right now. It is this. Form Criticism begins where Source Criticism leaves off. The idea is easy enough. After you become convinced that you know the sources behind the Gospels, what more can be done? Some people would answer, “Nothing more!” But others would say: “The next step is obvious! It now becomes the task of scholarship to try to find ‘the sources behind the sources.’” Analysis and study must be made of the units (the documents, or hypothetical documents), which have come to be considered as the sources behind Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This is what Form Criticism does. We will consider it more carefully later. For the moment you only need to see its relation to Source Criticism. It takes the results reached by Source Criticism. It works with those results, and attempts to go beyond them to further results. “The sources” are the business of Source Criticism. “The sources behind the sources” are the business of Form Criticism.

Now to consider Gospel Source Criticism. When and how did it begin? Well, we may say one thing at once. Judging by what the books tell us, Source Criticism of the Gospels began around the time of the American Revolution. I do not know of any efforts that were made along this line prior to the year 1775, or perhaps a bit later.2 Next we may ask, how did it begin? How did it connect up with what went before? Here is the situation. A certain view was held for 1700 long years after the Gospels were first written and read. It was, of course, the view of the church. It was also the view of the scholars. And it was likewise the view of unbelievers.3 The view was this: the first three Gospels were written by three men, namely, Matthew, Mark and Luke. They were three men of recognized standing in the church of the very earliest days. It was this view that Source Criticism was to question. Let us just make it very clear how things stood for 1700 years before Source Criticism began its work.

The first Gospel, we have said, was believed to have been written by Matthew. His qualification to write was that he was one of the original twelve apostles of Jesus. Whether or not he personally saw and heard the things which his Gospel relates is not the critical point. The critical point in regard to Matthew is that he was considered to have had a certain official standing in the church as one of twelve original apostles. He was therefore at least in a position to learn and to verify any things that are related in his Gospel; that is, in addition to those which he had himself seen or heard.

It was stated by early writers that Matthew had written a Gospel especially designed for the Jews who had believed.4 It is always stated, when language is mentioned, that Matthew wrote in the speech of the “Hebrews.“5 This is generally, and I think rightly, taken to mean that Matthew wrote in Aramaic. It has, of course, been maintained that one or more Gospels were written in Biblical Hebrew. However, the significant point does not lie in any decision one might make as to whether Aramaic or Hebrew was meant. The great point to watch is the alleged fact that Matthew did not write in Greek. Whichever of the Semitic languages was used, if any one of them was used, then, in such a case, one or more translations would have to be made into Greek, Latin, Coptic, and possibly Syriac. Of course, the Gospel could also later have been translated into any one of the languages mentioned from any of the others.

In what I have just said, perhaps the word “later” ought to have been left unspoken. I myself would think that wherever a missionary went he would take whatever gospel he had in his own language and would translate it into the language of his hearers, whoever they might be. This is the only realistic view of the matter I can take. I know that there is a widely held view that the early church did not use writing to any extent. But I think the evidence and commonsense judgment on the basis of experience are against that view. And this suggestion I have made as to what a missionary would do, moreover, is specifically asserted to have been the actual case in reference to Matthew’s Gospel. That is to say, what experience and knowledge of missionary practice in every age would lead one to expect, we are told did in fact occur. This is exactly what the earliest statement on record, as far as we know, tells us about the first Gospel. It says: “Matthew therefore indeed composed the Logia in Hebrew, and each one translated them as he was able.,6 This statement and others, which the subscriptions in the manuscripts of Matthew contain, and which point the same way, if we let them make their natural, easy, and full strength impression on us, suggest to us a situation somewhat as follows. In the early days of the church7 Matthew wrote a Gospel which the first apostles and missionaries carried with them into the world.8 Then, in different places, different Greek translations, different Latin translations, different Coptic translations, perhaps also different Syriac translations, and so forth, might often come into existence independently of one another. In one and the same language there might well be more than one independently made translation of a Gospel such as Matthew’s. Everything would depend, of course, upon the needs and necessities of various situations.9

As a general principle to follow, in studying such matters as these, I would suggest the following. We should make it our constant aim to keep an open mind to the possibility of any developments which the needs and necessities of any special situation may seem to suggest. Besides this, there are simple general considerations most decidedly not to be overlooked. For example, who can doubt that the existence of an apostolic record would meet a need wherever missionaries went, if they had available to them any such record? And further, if they had any such record, translations of it into any and every language would meet a need, not to say a necessity, almost anywhere. So that the real question is simply whether a development of many translations (the various early versions), which no one doubts actually took place before the end of the second century, could not just as easily and with the same natural inevitableness have been in process all through the last half of the first century, perhaps beginning even a few years earlier than that time.

It is necessary for serious students of the Bible to keep an open mind on such a question as this. It may be that you cannot point out any of the “leading scholars” who do so. Nevertheless, scholars or no scholars, however that may be, the plain fact is that what we have modestly put forward as a possibility deserving of serious attention is distinctly affirmed to have been the actual case by the earliest statements that historians can find to work with. They, those earliest statements, state explicitly that our suggested possibility was the actual course which unfolding events took. To ignore the possible correctness of such statements, to fail to keep an open mind towards what the evidences (as distinct from hypothetical speculations) state — that would be the perfect betrayal of all that is deserving of the name of science.

With the foregoing remarks about the first Gospel we content ourselves. Let us look away now from that Gospel toward the second, the Gospel according to Mark.

The second Gospel, we have said (supra page 12), was believed to have been written by Mark. His qualification to write was not that of an eye-witness or ear-witness. Neither was he qualified to write a Gospel because he had been one of Jesus’ twelve apostles.10 The critical point in the case of Mark is that he was considered to have had a most intimate share in the lives and labors of Paul, Barnabas, and Peter. It was especially his acquaintance with Peter that qualified him to give the church a Gospel. He was believed to have been Peter’s partner in missionary work at Rome. They had worked together as a team. Peter preached. Mark interpreted for him. And it was the supposedly constant and faithful service at Peter’s side that had made him fully equipped to take pen in hand and write a Gospel.11 The question might be asked, “Why did he write?” Or the same question may be asked, and usually is asked, in a form of words which implies that Mark’s Gospel never would have been written at all if the accepted view of the church in regard to the first Gospel were correct. It may be asked, “What reason under the sun could there have been, supposing the first Gospel were everywhere received in the churches, for anyone to produce a much shorter Gospel like Mark, omitting most of the sayings of Jesus given in the earlier Gospel, while at the same time telling over again the very same narratives as the first contained?” The form of the question is loaded to make the very idea sound silly. The most natural and thoroughly sensible answer to this question is given by Clement of Alexandria as information which had come down in the church from the original elders. For fuller explanation, see the preceding footnote,11. It is an explanation which has explained the writing of thousands of other books. It ought, in our estimation, to satisfy any one. However, should it not seem a satisfactory explanation one thing must be remembered. It is this. We are often able to be sure of facts, whether such-and-such a thing was done or not done. At the same time we know very well that things can be done for reasons and motives which impel others but seem in our judgment to be entirely devoid either of force or plausibility. The big question here is: Who did what? It is relatively unimportant whether our research can or cannot penetrate to the motives which led an evangelist to put a Gospel in writing.

But to go on with our discussion of Mark.

It was further stated by early writers that Mark had written a Gospel for the use of Italian Christians. The scene of the writing of the second Gospel is given as Rome.12 Egypt is also mentioned as a place connected with Mark’s Gospel. Two statements connecting it with Egypt may be found in subscriptions to the manuscripts. Some connection with that country would be natural enough in view of the fact that Mark is supposed to have labored there. The early writers certainly credit him with being the first Bishop of the church in Alexandria. The connection is natural and need involve no contradiction of a Roman origin. But we will drop the matter here, saying no more about it, since it is uncertain what the statements mean.

Another question is that as to the language in which Mark wrote. The original language of the second Gospel is rarely mentioned. Whenever it is mentioned, as far as I have been able to learn, it is always said to be Latin,l4 This may come to you as a surprise, as it also did to me.15 The important point to watch is the alleged fact that Mark did not write in Greek. If he used Latin, then, in such a case, one or more translations would have been made into Greek, Coptic, and Syriac. And of course the Gospel could also have been translated later into any one of the languages mentioned from any of the others. It could also have been translated back again into Latin.16 It is not my desire to repeat again the general remarks I have regarding Matthew. I shall only say here me that it seems to me that what is most helpful is to take a realistic view of missionary work based on experience. Any one who needed to, or any translation and could or would, might take any Gospel he had in his own language and translate it into the speech of his audience almost regardless of who they might be. What we have outlined as possible (and what could was directly asserted by the ancients to have happened) in the case of Matthew, could equally well have happened with of Mark: the early apostles and missionaries, if they had it, might have taken it with them into any part of the world. St. Augustine wrote as follows:

“Those who translated the Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek can be counted, but the Latin translators are out of all number. For in the early days of the faith, every man who happened to gain possession of a Greek manuscript and who imagined he had any facility in both languages, however slight that might be, dared to make a translation.”
(De Doctrina Christiana, II, 11, 16)

To which we may add that it seems to us that what is asserted by Augustine to have happened in the production of Latin translations may likely have happened in other cases.17 Everything would naturally depend upon the needs and requirements of various situations.

Another matter is the question as to when Mark was written. The subscriptions in the manuscripts give a date far earlier than you have ever, probably, heard suggested. Ten years and twelve years after the ascension of Christ are the dates given. Your first tendency might be to feel that such dates are so early as to be almost impossible. For my part I refuse to disallow the suggestion. We know far too little to reject these dates outright as sheer impossibilities.18 The whole question is interesting, but aside from our real purpose, and therefore we may well pass over it and go on to a matter of more vital importance.19

That more vital question, of course, is the question as to the faithfulness and trustworthiness of the accounts given in Mark. The earliest known statement of an ancient writer concerning Mark is that of Papias, who relates what the Elder told him. The whole point of that statement is to affirm the trustworthiness of Mark. It affirms that Mark’s whole effort was to write down exactly what Peter had said, adding nothing and leaving nothing out. The only thing you need to remember; the Elder told Papias, is that while Mark is absolutely to be depended on for all he gives, he did not attempt to put down the events in the strict order of their actual occurrence. Why not? Because it was Peter’s custom to give the information in the course of his teaching, as needs arose and required! Peter was not at pains to give the actual order of events, and therefore it does not come out in Mark’s gospel.20 This criticism of Mark is repeated in substance by Jerome.21 What it may be worth is hard to decide. It could of course easily be correct. But on the other hand it might have arisen simply because in places Mark’s order of events did not exactly coincide with Matthew’s. Fault may have been found with it because it differed from an accepted authority. The mere fact of difference could have been interpreted as a defect. It might also be an improvement. Who can say? It certainly happens often enough in real life that the greatest virtues, the true strong points both in men and books, are plausibly explained as defects. Two things make me hesitate to accept the criticism of Mark’s order without reservation. For one thing, the position of Matthew’s conversion in the first Gospel makes it likely that he became a follower of the Lord after a good many of the things he describes had already happened. Another thing to remember is that Matthew was not one of the little circle of three or four (Peter, James, John, and Andrew) who alone were present with Jesus when a good many things happened of which the Gospels tell. Therefore my feeling is that it is surely at least possible that what came on Peter’s authority, though different, may well have been more accurately ordered than an earlier account even if written by Matthew. The point is not very important. What is important is whether Mark is substantially correct in what he tells. On that point the early church had no doubts.

The statements in early writers, especially those of Clement and those given in the subscriptions, if we let them make their natural, easy, and full-strength impression on us, suggest a situation somewhat as follows. In the early days of the church Mark wrote a Gospel because the brothers at Rome urged him to do so. It had the authority of the apostle Peter behind it. Indeed it was thought to give Peter’s actual words, for Mark was regarded as Peter’s interpreter. By interpreter they meant translator, just what we have in mind when we see a photograph of a missionary at work preaching on the foreign field. The missionary speaks. No one understands. At his side stands another, who sentence by sentence, or even phrase by phrase, puts into the listeners’ speech the message of the alien gospeller. Everything Mark remembered, he wrote down. He was careful to add nothing and to leave nothing out. The written Gospel therefore had both an unusual value (it being the Apostle Peter’s witness) and a popular appeal (the lively way in which the stories of Jesus were told). It would certainly be well deserving of the name by which Justin describes the books which were read in the early Christian meetings — “The Recollections of the Apostles,” or, “The Records of the Apostles.” The repute of Peter and the vivid forms of the stories would work together to insure the circulation of the new Gospel among the churches. Whenever need required, it would be translated from the original Latin into one or more Greek versions, Coptic versions, Syriac versions, and so forth.

The question was early raised as to whether the second Gospel could be trusted, its order of events being for some reason questioned. From the same early times the assurance was unequivocally expressed that the very point with which fault was being found was due to Peter’s way of working. All that has already been said about the impression as to how Matthew seems to have been taken up and used would apply in full force to Mark also. There is no need to repeat all over again what was said before. For missionary work Mark would be just as useful as Matthew was. I find it so even now. Nineteen hundred years ago it would probably have been the same.

With the foregoing remarks on the second of our Gospels we may rest content. It would be possible to turn to the third Gospel. We might, if we desired, discuss it along the same lines followed in our comments on Matthew and Mark. We shall not do so, however. You may, if you wish, look up for yourselves what the manuscripts and early writers say about Luke. Our purpose, you will recall, is to describe the situation as it stood before Source Criticism began its work. For that purpose, the foregoing discussion of Matthew and Mark is ample. As a matter of fact, we lose nothing by passing Luke by. You will see, as the story of Gospel Criticism unfolds, that the position of Luke is not of fundamental importance. The actual course of criticism has been to attempt to decide whether Matthew or Mark came first. Then, after questions concerning the first two Gospels had been settled, the matter of where Luke comes in was faced. Nogroup of scholars ever seems to have taken seriously the idea that Luke might have been the first Gospel to be written.22 We will therefore go back to the main thread of our outline and let the sequel justify the way in which we have passed by Luke at this point.

Our task until now has been to show how things stood before Source Criticism began its work. If you will glance now at your charts you will see six boxes in the lower part of the page labeled DATA. Until 1775, or thereabouts, if asked to tell what was known about Matthew, Mark, or Luke, scholars simply went to the data and interpreted it in a straightforward way. It might be useful to you if I explained their method and its logic. You will see on your chart (bottom of page) three boxes marked “Manuscripts, Texts of Matthew,” “Manuscripts, Texts of Mark,” and “Manuscripts, Texts of Luke.” These are in various languages. These were considered to be a fundamental part of the evidences or data for a reason which I will now explain.

Now here, in this explanation, is a matter of basic importance. Take any book outside of the Bible, any secular book that has come to us out of the ancient world. Why do we believe in reference to any such work, say a writing of Plato, that it was written by the man we think of as being its author? The primary reason was then (and still is now) that there exist manuscript copies of the work which carry the man’s name as an inscription. Then, in addition to that, as a corroborating reason, we usually find that centuries after the supposed writer’s death, a few later writers have quoted his book. They either state, or imply clearly, that the man in question wrote the book. The statements of these later writers are called testimonies. The two things mentioned are all the evidence that exists. It is small in amount and centuries later in date than the time of the writer’s life and the original autograph. But in books outside of the Bible it is generally accepted. It is the only reason we can give for accepting any books that are accepted as the authentic works of an ancient author.

In the case of the Gospels, therefore, you might think that the same standards of judgment would be followed. If they were the only standards, and were fair standards, for judging of the trustworthiness of other books, why not try the Gospels and let them stand or fall according as they met or failed to meet the tests required of other books? This was the way scholars felt until 1775. They took stock of their data. The manuscripts were overabundant. They were in many different languages, which is a point of considerable importance. 23 Besides the manuscripts, which furnish the broad foundation for assurance, there are also the testimonies. These consist of two kinds, which in your chart are represented in boxes numbered five and six. In order to give you as clear as possible an understanding of the original posture of Gospel studies before Source Criticism, let me hurriedly describe this other bit of evidence which in those days was given great weight.

First of all, in the manuscripts themselves statements were given before and after the texts of the Gospels. The inscriptions have been mentioned. There were also in some manuscripts prologues and short “Lives” of the supposed writers. At the end of the Gospels in some manuscripts there were colophons or subscriptions. These purported to give facts about the book, its language, manner and place of origin, and so forth, and also about its writer. Box number six in your chart is meant to represent “testimonies” of this kind. Until 1775 reliance was placed on these statements for the most part. In regard to them I do not know too much. But what I do know, I want to tell you.

First, they are almost never mentioned in books. They are treated either as if they did not even exist or, if mentioned, they are always treated as things of no value whatever, at least in all the books you will be likely to read. Second, some of them are listed in the critical apparatuses of the larger editions of the Greek New Testament such as Tischendorf and Legg. When mentioned, however, they are so abbreviated and so grouped that it is usually impossible to make out clearly and reconstruct with assurance what is said and by what manuscript. Once more, von Soden has some information on them, but he gives it in the form of samples of patterns rather than as transcripts and citations from specified manuscripts. The result of all this is that there is no means known to me whereby we can gauge their extent or value. I have read somewhere that “Schleiermacher cashiered the subscriptions.” But I have never been able to locate the statement again, though I have often tried to do so. It is very possible that my recollection is wrong. However that may be, I suspect from what I have read in early books that there may exist a vast body of such statements. I understand, and agree that they must be used critically. I do not understand, nor do I agree, that they must be rejected summarily. I am completely open-minded to the possibility that we may have here a mine of rich materials, which may be ignored more because its statements are unwanted than because they are discredited. I await not so much the progress as the beginning of study in this department. And meanwhile I have not scrupled to use such materials, nor offered any apologies for so doing. They are in any case a legitimate part of a fair picture of the posture of Gospel studies before 1775. No one, I dare say, will deny that. And the question as to what value they may still have, or rather, ought still to have, if any, is, I feel, a completely unsettled question. For me at least, materials in the primary sources, the manuscripts, will stand up until I see them fairly and convincingly knocked down.

Now let us pass over into another, a second part of the evidences. This is represented on your chart by box number five. We call these “Historical Evidences.” They are sometimes called “External Testimonies.” They consist of statements which have survived from the writings of early authors, in which facts are purportedly given about the Gospels. Until 1775, these statements were trusted. They came from some of the early church fathers who were most noted for a knowledge of literature, philosophy and history, of libraries and books. It would be hard to match the list of their names in any period of the church’s long history: Papias, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome; not to mention numbers of other worthies who come later but say the same things. For the Gospels, as there were more manuscripts to begin with, so there were more testimonies, better testimonies, and earlier testimonies than for any other ancient book you could probably name. In saying this I only assert what would not be denied even by those who deny that Matthew wrote the first Gospel, that is to say, by those who would reject the external testimonies as unworthy of credit.24 These statements constitute all the direct evidence available.

Now here is something you can see right away. If your conclusions about the Gospels, as you study them, agree with the direct attestations of ancient authors, then there is no problem. But if, on the other hand, your conclusions contradict the historical evidences, then you have a situation that cannot too easily be ignored. Either you must be wrong, or those early writers must be wrong. Both they and you cannot be right. And since scholars have for the past 150 years been taking positions and reaching conclusions contrary to what the external testimonies assert, you may be pretty sure that practically every one who has written a book or commentary has also published his reasons for thinking that the direct evidence was in error, at least in so far as it contradicted his own findings and conclusions. You will no doubt sense that hereby hangs a tale, which we perforce will leave untold, in order that we may hurry on to explain and discuss Source Criticism.25 But you will readily see, I think, that it was not without reason that up until around 1775 it was felt that the historical evidences gave a direct and in every way reasonable answer to men’s questions. After that time, as new views began to be held and to become popular, those same evidences, you can readily understand, became an embarrassment. It became a necessity to explain away the force of their simple straightforward assertions.26

I have now given you, as clearly and fairly as I can do it, the picture of the status of the Gospels before the advent of Source Criticism. And if those who reject the whole traditional approach, as by now you can clearly see that I do not, if they, I say, are ready to be reasonable and fair, then I think that they would themselves be willing to admit that up to around 1775 things stood as we have described them, except perhaps that little emphasis was ever laid on the idea of an Aramaic original for Matthew and a Latin autograph for Mark. Aside from emphasis on such points, we have served up a pretty straight pitch across the center of the plate. We are now set to give a report on the scholars who began the modern study of the Gospels. It becomes our task to report on the game as it moves into the last half of the first inning.

Now it would be incorrect to let you think that when the newer scholars came to bat they latched on to the clean straight pitch that we have just served up. The ball that they went for was a different pitch, one that had breaking stuff on it. Centuries before their time St. Augustine had described Mark as one who followed Matthew as if walking in his footprints, appearing to be Matthew’s abbreviator.27 Now there need be nothing derogatory in such a description. Yet it is certainly very easy to understand it as an express devaluation of Mark as compared with Matthew. And through the years it was certainly understood to mean that Mark is an inferior abridgment, an impoverished second edition of Matthew. This opinion of St. Augustine’s apparently went almost unchallenged down through the centuries. It became entrenched. It became a dogma.

Now it commonly happens, it usually happens, as we can see plainly in Biblical studies, and clearly in the present case, that scholars do not write a book in general, merely for the sake of a discussion. Instead, they write because they are convinced that a widely accepted view is wrong. They want to show its wrongness. They want to convince people that they ought to reject it. And if we trace the movement of trends we can see quite clearly the general pattern. Scholars try to establish a thesis, a position. Or, they try to refute someone’s thesis. There are many cases of this, which might be pointed out. We have one before us now; there will be another of special interest later. Remembering this, there is a matter to be watched for. It often happens that a debate develops. Two views come into conflict. Then one is decisively defeated. When this happens, the conclusion is often drawn, quite automatically, that the undefeated side has the correct view. Scholars become so accustomed to thinking in terms of the debate that it comes to be quite natural to suppose that when a view is defeated the opposing view, which then is left alone in possession of the field, is, of course, the right view.

Scholars early began to attack the traditional view of the Gospels. They took their swings at it. But they went after the ball, so to speak, not so much in the form of the pitch we have been serving up. They went after St. Augustine’s fast curve ball, which just nicks the outside edge of the plate. In the sequel you will recognize that we are here, in advance, mentioning a rather important point. I have told you of it here because it was the common, concrete form in which the traditional view of the Gospels came before the minds and the attention of students for consideration. The traditional view itself, fairly considered, is a broader and much more substantial thing than the form of it which we meet in Augustine’s “dogma.” That special, narrower form, however, is the form in which it came before the scholars. In that form it was attacked. You will, when the time comes, have to judge for yourselves whether a refutation of Augustine’s view does or does not overthrow the broader traditional position, which held the authenticity of both Matthew and Mark.

Now we are fully ready to consider Source Criticism. Shortly after the time of the American Revolution scholars began to go to work on the first three Gospels. Of course, there had always been those who had studied the Gospels closely and compared them carefully. Many manuscripts contained a system for telling the reader immediately whether or not a story in one Gospel was in any or all the others, or if only in some, then in which. It was an old system devised by Ammonius at Alexandria in the days of Origen, followed by Eusebius. Augustine had studied and compared the Gospels carefully. This, then, was exactly what the eighteenth century scholars did. They began to study the three first Gospels with an eye to determining what possible relation they could have to one another. They had to a great extent the same stories, often in the same or practically the same words, largely in the same arrangement, and so on. What then could be a truly satisfying explanation of their extremely close relation to one another? The scholars began their work and very early came up with two attacks on commonly held views.

The first attack was directed against the commonly accepted view — Augustine’s view — of the Gospels, and in particular against his evaluation of Mark. Its title was: Mark not the Abbreviator of Matthew. It appeared in 1782, and was written by a German scholar named Koppe.28 I have never seen this work, though I hope some day to read it. But for my present purpose that is not necessary. Using it only as a clue in a bit of detective work, I may make a couple of suggestions. How does it fit in with the other pieces of the puzzle? There were later large numbers of writers who were greatly impressed with the many features and traits of Mark which show freshness, vitality, and originality. Such traits and features, I hope to show you after a bit, became the foundation for the claim that Mark, rather than Matthew, was the earliest written of our Gospel s. 29 1 suggest that it will probably prove to be the case that Koppe was the first to call attention to such characteristics in Mark.
This emphasis and stress on the eyewitness qualities of the stories of Jesus in Mark, by the way, is one of the most important things for a student to watch, and to trace as it appears and reappears down through the years. That is why I mention it now and call your attention to its probable fountainhead in Koppe’s thesis. One reason for the importance of watching this emphasis has just been suggested. It is this. You will want to observe closely to determine exactly to what extent the accepted theory that Mark is the earliest Gospel has been built on its autoptic or eyewitness character. There is, however, an additional and quite new reason for careful notice of this emphasis. That reason came into existence about thirty-five years ago with the school of Form Critics. It is this. The Form Critics have a theory of the origin of Gospel stories that leaves no room for eyewitness accounts. They contend that various needs in the early church called forth in different ways the creation of the stories in the Gospels. The idea of eyewitness accounts is repugnant to Form Criticism, which today has become the dominant school of Gospel interpretation, at least in academic circles. Into this in detail I must not now go. But it would not be right to neglect to explain to you the reasons for the importance of watching this matter of the stress that is laid on eyewitness qualities in Mark. I have described its importance in earlier phases of Gospel study. Now let me state its importance in studying the latest phase of such work.

Now you must be the judges of this, and I am only asking you to watch, as you study, for the significance of this emphasis. But unless I am very greatly mistaken, here is what I think you will find:

1) Eyewitness qualities were seen to abound in Mark.
2) Eighty years later such traits were made the foundation of the proof that Mark must be the earliest Gospel.
3) Then, sixty years later still, after two more generations passed, a new group of scholars arose using a new method, which excludes the notion of eyewitness accounts in our Gospels.
4) Yet they assume Mark has been proven to be the earliest Gospel, and in seeking to find “the sources behind the sources” they analyze Mark. For since the so-called “Q”-source is a theoretical entity, they are left with Mark as their only concrete, really existent, documentary source.

Later on I will have two questions to ask about this. I state them here, because a large part of the answer to them must be found in a knowledge of things that happened sixty to a hundred years before the days of the first Form Critics. You will want to be on the watch for the answers to these questions from now on. The first question is: Is it possible for Form Critics to deny the eyewitness character of the Gospels (including Mark), while at the same time continuing to treat Mark as if it had been proved to be the earliest Gospel, considering the degree in which eyewitness character is the foundation and pillar of the proof of the theory that Mark is the earliest Gospel? Is it consistent on their part to rest their Source Criticism on the affirmation of eyewitness character in their source, and then, at the next step, to analyze their source by means of a new method based on a denial of eyewitness qualities in the very same source? That is the second question, namely, whether Form Criticism, building on Source Criticism, has not perhaps unawares committed itself to affirm and to deny the eyewitness character of its primary source. I cannot say it too strongly. I have no desire to get you to prejudge these questions at this point in my explanation. I only wish to underline the importance of watching this emphasis. In early and late Gospel study it is most significant. If the possibility I have outlined should prove to be the actual case, then it would be a mark of no common negligence on our part not to have noticed that the Form Critics had gone out on a limb, and that their very method had been a saw, which while they meant it to prune the dead branches out of the tree, had, without their intending it, sawed off the limb on which they were standing. Let us be clear. I do not at present say that this has happened. I only say: If it should prove to have happened, then, in that case, we should convict ourselves of being very dull tools if we failed to observe the fact. Let us keep our eyes open, then, and proceed.

One other remark about Koppe’s book and we are done with it. Please remember that its title clearly implies an attack on St. Augustine’s evaluation of Mark, rather than on the much broader foundation of the traditional account of how the Gospels originated. That is to say, it is one thing to assert that Mark was written first. This is a question of priority. It is quite another matter to claim that Mark’s stories are fresher, more lifelike, more vibrant with reality than the same tales as given in Matthew. The evaluation of Mark given by St. Augustine might be quite wrong. But that, in itself, does not make Mark the first Gospel to be written. In order to make it appear that such qualities in Mark require it to be considered the earliest Gospel, the way must first be prepared by persuading students to accept another assertion about the Gospels. This other assertion was the thesis of the second early attack on the accepted view of the Gospels which has already been mentioned. This we come now to consider.

The second early attack on accepted views of how our Gospels came to be written took the following form. It was asserted that facts observed in the first three Gospels themselves 30 afforded proof that they could not have originated independently of one another, as was claimed in the accepted view that Matthew wrote one, Mark another, and Luke the third. That is to say, there was an attack on the very foundation of the common idea that we possessed three independently qualified witnesses for the accounts contained in our three Gospels. It was said that the close resemblances between our first three Gospels forced on scholars the conclusion that the only possible rational explanation of the origin of our Gospels must be in terms of borrowing. Either all borrowed from some earlier Gospel (written or unwritten), or some one of our three present Gospels must have been used by the writers of the other two.

What about this? First of all let me make a few remarks which will put this new development in perspective for us. We will soon mention a great many matters which have perhaps already popped into your minds in the form of various questions. One thing you should note is the new principle that has been introduced into scholarly writings, a deluge of them, dealing with the Gospels. It is this: the only kind of explanation that is considered as valid is the kind that rests on borrowing, in one way or another. Different ways and kinds of borrowing are considered as possible explanations. But the old method of seeking an explanation from the external evidences is pushed into the background. You must watch the way scholars use this principle of borrowing. All use it, even those whose theories are called by names not suggestive of borrowing. Another thing to note is the practical consequence of the new method. Before the method of explaining by borrowing was used, the faithful had in Matthew, Mark, and Luke a triple attestation for the stories they had in common. But after the new method came in vogue, this was changed. It became easy and widespread to think of all three Gospels, or at least of two of them, as getting their accounts by copying them from a source, either one already in writing or one orally handed down in a quite rigidly fixed form. The result is this. At least two (and possibly three) of our Gospels are no longer considered independently qualified primary sources for the facts thy give in common. What we really have, according to the “new look” of 1800, is two (or three) dependent repeats, borrowed from one primary source. What was that one primary source? The answer was a matter of opinion. Some said Matthew, some Mark, and others Luke. Some said an oral Gospel, but others a written primitive Gospel (in one or in several divergent forms). Indeed, there might have been as many opinions as there were men on the question as to how it had happened. But on the question as to what had happened there was one opinion only: all said, “Borrowing.” And borrowing was interpreted to mean that one witness replaced three witnesses for the most important and numerous facts about Jesus’ words and works. Here, then, was one of the most fundamental and thoroughgoing attacks imaginable. You would do well to get the clearest possible idea of its nature and critical method.

It began in this way. Scholars started to study in order to see what might be the relation between our first three Gospels. They noticed things that had probably been noticed all through the preceding ages. 31 But they held them up to view in a new light. Here is what they observed. To begin with, they saw that our first three Gospels contained similar materials. Next, they noticed that those same similar materials were organized in three greatly similar arrangements. Lastly, they observed that similarities extended even to words and phrases. That is to say, the same expressions, the same idioms, and the identical words would often be found in all three Gospels, which often agreed in verbal minutiae.

It was thought especially significant that whereas Matthew was said to have been written in Aramaic, the minute verbal agreements were in Greek words and phrases. This was considered to be so astonishing that many of the scholars at once assumed that copying from some Greek document must be the only key to unlock the mystery of the origin of the Gospels. Another contention was also made. It was this. The Gospels were often the same at the most inconsequential and unlikely places. For example, the very connecting links that joined one story to another were the same in different Gospels. This, if true, would suggest wholesale plagiarism. However, on this point they were stretching the claims of similarity a bit too far. And this claim which was once put forth has never been stressed much, probably because it is too weak to support much weight.

Just to round out the picture, we mention one other argument that was used. It was this. The claim was made that expressions and words, used in two different Gospels, sometimes used in all three, were so unusual as never to be found anywhere else in all Greek literature. Yet they are found in all three (or in two) Gospels. This argument was put forth as an incontrovertible proof of copying.

Commenting on these arguments, we may say of the last two that they would have been tremendously convincing, if they could have been capitalized on. However, the first did not yield any number of instances of small agreements in connecting links that were worth much to prove anything. And the second sort of argument failed to produce any list of rare words or unusual idioms worthy of very serious consideration. These lines of argument, which we mention for completeness’ sake, were not destined to become fruitful. So that the great weight of argument had to rest on more general considerations, namely, the three kinds of resemblance first mentioned: similar materials, arrangements, and details. 32

Up to this point, with the exceptions mentioned, you and I and indeed anyone, could freely agree that their observation was correct enough. And without much doubt they were substantially right in insisting that the facts proved the existence of some kind of interdependence, some very considerable degree of contact, direct or indirect, in or behind the origin of the first three Gospels. These observations and conclusions, I may remind you, at least so far, do not necessarily contradict the broad traditional view of how the Gospels came into existence. That is to say, if Matthew wrote the first Gospel, there is no reason why Peter could not have or should not have preached in Rome with a copy of it rolled up under his arm, or even spread open before his eyes. There is no reason why Mark could not have or should not have prepared his Gospel, recollecting the words of Peter, with a copy of Matthew lying on his writing table, or unrolled in sight for reference. And as far as Luke is concerned, has not its writer used his opening words to tell us that “many have attempted to compose an account concerning those things which have been fully established among us”? Well, if any one wishes to insist that Matthew and Mark could not have been among those “many,” he may do so. It is possible to do so, though I would not dare attempt to put together an argument trying to prove any such thing. Consequently, I must admit that in the case of Luke also, any degree of dependence on Matthew and Mark, however great it could be shown to have been, would not in itself be very significant. I mean, it would not contradict and invalidate the traditional view as to how the Gospels came to be written. Observations that show the closeness of relation between any of the first three Gospels do not, of themselves, overturn the broad traditional view of Gospel origins. That view is not contradicted by such facts, nor is it in any way made inconsistent with itself. 33

All the facts noted, therefore, would seem to be in decent enough consistency with the traditional view as I have put it up to you. Indeed, our own personal view is that they not only seem to be compatible with that view, but are so. However, as we said, the German scholars held up these facts in a different light. They argued that the quantity and the quality of the resemblances which our first three Gospels showed forced on them the conclusion that so many and such close agreements in the Greek texts could only be accounted for rationally by assuming a degree and kind of direct literary dependence inconsistent with the traditional view, with its Aramaic Matthew, and which seemed, as they understood (or misunderstood) it, to assert that each of our three Gospels had been independently produced by writers who never saw one another’s works.

Now what about this view? You know already, judging by my general attitude and approach, that I do not accept it. That is correct. I do not. But I would not let you think for a moment that the chapter in German scholarship which we are considering is a simple story of misguided ingenuity. Indeed, though I do not accept it, I have reflected on it a good deal. And it seems to me the more I think of it that it is a view which must appear to men a nearly inescapable conclusion, at least so long as no decisive refutation is forthcoming. The quantity and quality of similarities are both very impressive.

Let me tell you what the quantity is, and how I got to know it. The latter first. Back in 1945, while on vacation in August, I determined to dig out the facts in regard to the similarities and differences found in the comparison of the first three Gospels. I had a strong suspicion that I might even come to the conclusion that the whole problem was insoluble. But, on the other hand, I might find an answer. What I did, then, was this. I copied out the Greek texts of Matthew and Mark (as they stand printed in the ninth edition of Huck-Lietzmann) in parallel columns. I used large sheets of paper so as to be able to have lots of room and so as to be able to give a separate.line on my sheets to every similarity and every difference. Yes, even if only one word was the same in both Gospels, I gave it a separate line all its own. I found that the two Gospels (I am speaking now of Matthew and Mark) lent themselves with ease to the layout I used, so similar were they in materials and plan and arrangement. But above all in details they proved out to exhibit a remarkable parallelism.

When I had got all the similarities permanently isolated, I found that there were 1,877 places where Matthew and Mark had the same words or phrases, word for word, letter for letter identical. These 1,877 places, moreover, contained a total of 4,573 words in Matthew, and the same in Mark. But, in addition to this, there were 746 other places where the same Greek root occurred in words in both Gospels, though not in quite the same form or inflection, or not compounded with the same prefixes, etc. And these additional places contained a total of 866 words in Matthew and 868 words in Mark. This is a high degree of similarity. It could hardly help impressing the scholars because it could hardly help impressing anyone. Taken by itself, it does suggest the conclusion which scholars drew, namely, that the first three Gospels might have been composed in some such interdependent way that two of three were dependent on the third in such great measure that they have no value as independent witnesses for the facts given in them.

Before going further, let me put the facts I have just given you into a table. These are “the facts of close resemblance,” box no. 7, in the chart I gave you at the start of this talk. My isolation of these facts has been exhaustive, as you can understand from the method of copying them out in a permanently available form with a separate line for each of the thousands of instances of similarity and of divergence. Others may have made out a case for direct, Greek-on-Greek, literary dependence. However, I doubt if you can find anywhere in print the same complete coverage of all the facts as the figures in the following table offer.

(18,315 words) MARK
(11,263 words)
Places Number
Words % of
Total Number
Places Number
Words % of
1,877 = 4,573 24.98 1,877 4,573 40.63
746 `t 866 4.73 746 868 7.71
767 884 4.83 767 ~ 904
r 8.03
= Means exact word for word, letter for letter agreement in
= Means same Greek roots but with different inflections,
~ Means different Greek words (roots) but same in meaning.

These, then, are the facts of closeness for Matthew and Mark. See box number seven on chart. You will notice that into the chart I have thrown a third class of similarities not mentioned so far. Both the second and third classes of resemblance are differences as well as similarities. They have to be explained in one way or another both as divergences and as likenesses. I have tried to make the quantity and quality of agreement as impressive as possible. We will come back later to this matter in our discussion and evaluation, which will consider the above facts and others. Meanwhile, we will let our chart stand as a sample of the kind of facts which so strongly impressed the early German scholars that they felt compelled to deny the historically given explanations about Matthew, Mark and Luke.

In order to set before you at this time a full picture of the data, we may interrupt the course of our talk just long enough to let you look at another chart. In this chart we give a summary of the facts of divergence and difference. Two classes given under resemblances are repeated in this chart and a third group is added. They are repeated, of course, because they need to be explained as much for their differences as for their likenesses. Indeed, the two repeated classes of data are the most difficult to explain, it being nearly impossible to conceive why, if changes were being made, any editor would ever have made the fifteen hundred odd insignificant alterations which the hypothesis of borrowing requires us to think of someone as having consciously made. This whole matter will be up for later consideration.

(18,315 words) MARK
(11,263 words)
Places Number
Words % of
Total Number
Places Number
Words % of
746 ‘ 866 4.73 746 = 868 7.71
767 = 884
f 4.83 767 - 904 8.03
1,092 + 11,992 65.47 1,196 + 4,918 43.69
_` Means same Greek roots but with different inflections,
`= Means different Greek words (roots) but same in meaning.
I+ Means place and words are in one Gospel only of the two.

Resuming, now, with what we were saying about the case for interdependence based on resemblance. I may say that not only was I once impressed with the strength of the case, but I was even held a prisoner to the view. For a number of years I worked with eyes riveted on the facts of similarity and closeness alone. I accepted greatly exaggerated statements as to the facts without ever dreaming of questioning them. 34 As a result of this unquestioning acceptance of what I had read, I vainly strove for a number of years to solve the problem of the Gospels — the so-called Synoptic Problem — on the assumption that one Gospel must have been the source out of which the other two had been created by direct, Greek-on-Greek, literary dependence. And I still vividly recall (and thankfully!) the luminous moment when I first asked, “What am I doing here?” and “What do my primary sources and historical evidences say about this?” Then it dawned on me that I was in a rut on a by-way. At that point I saw that other solutions were possible and were stated or suggested by the historical testimonies. Not having, at that point, a real background, I made up my own expression for purposes of describing what was happening. I called the view that held me captive till then “the Synoptic Problem Hypothesis.” Let me explain this, for here is the meat of the business, and an explanation will help you to get a grip on the commoner way of describing it that will soon receive mention.

Now let us look! Let us distinguish! It is one thing to say simply and without further qualification: The Synoptic Problem is the problem of explaining how the similarities and differences arose which are found when we compare the first three Gospels with one another period!

But it is a very different matter to say (or to assume without saying it, or even without being consciously aware of the assumption): The Synoptic Problem is the problem of explaining how the similarities and differences arose which we find when we compare the first three Gospels with one another, on the assumption of a degree and kind of direct Greek-on-Greek literary dependence (that is, borrowing, copying) that would disqualify the authors of the two dependent Gospels from any right to be considered independent witnesses for the facts they give or repeat in agreement with the other Gospel, their supposed source.

This second view is much different from the first. The difference lies in this: that it is possible, on the first view, to have direct literary dependence of certain kinds without prejudice to the claim of apostolic authority for all three Gospels. But the second view with its assumption of one special kind of borrowing, namely, Greek-on-Greek direct literary dependence, originates conflicts with the direct evidence. The second view also carries in it the suggestion that the two Gospels which were dependent on the other were totally dependent on it for their knowledge of the information they repeat. The tendency is, and focusing attention on minute similarities of detail greatly encourages that tendency, to imagine that the gospel writers were servile compilers, slavish copyists, whose only literary method consisted in the use of scissors and paste work.

The critic easily imagines himself, when he studies the details, to be walking in the very footsteps of the evangelists after them. Indeed, so long as students gaze continually and steadily, in total preoccupation, on the facts of similarity alone, it is practically certain that they will arrive at a very low estimate of the writers of the Gospels. Just as horses wearing blinders lose more than half their field of vision, so here. The psychological effects on, and conditioning of the student, which result from the very nature of the narrow lines limiting his field of attention, will influence his views on how the Gospels must have been composed.

In saying this, of course, I have others in mind. But foremost of all I have myself in mind. When I started to study the Gospels I was unconsciously a prisoner of the second view. I was in a groove, blindly struggling to find a solution of the problem on assumptions that were not strictly necessary. I was held captive by an hypothesis. Finally, however, the quantity and character of the differences, which seemingly could not be explained or explained away, made it necessary for me to wake up to what was really happening. So that there is no doubt whatever in my mind, judging from personal experience, that the assumptions involved in the second way of stating the Synoptic Problem can quite overpower the mind of a scholar. As a result it becomes the most natural thing in the world for him to think that he knows with complete certainty that the Gospels could have been written, must have been written, in a certain way only. And then when conflict arises between the way the direct evidences assert and the way he thinks of it, he has no hesitation whatever to conclude that his view is right and the testimonies must be in error.

From the foregoing you will see that the most material point for each of you as students to decide is this: whether or not you think the facts of resemblance can or cannot be explained without assuming a kind and quantity of borrowing that is fatal to any claim of apostolic authorship and authority for all three of the Gospels in question.

It is further of the utmost importance to note that the evidences on which the traditionally received view of Gospel origins rests must in some way or other be refuted or disallowed, if either the apostle Matthew, or the interpreter of Peter, or the companion of Paul are not to be regarded as the fully qualified authors of Matthew, Mark and Luke respectively. It is therefore necessary to watch and see where and how a decisive refutation of the direct evidence is attempted. We mean this. The direct evidences, the ancient testimonies, contain a view which stood and was accepted for above 1,700 years. It would still be standing and accepted, if it had not been knocked down. The question then for you to observe is this: why is it considered to be knocked down? Where is the refutation? What are the reasons given for refusing to believe the historically given view about Gospel origins? We want to pin down answers to these questions, if that is possible, so that we may test the refutation. For it stands to reason that if we test the refutation and find it solid, then we will not hesitate to disbelieve the external evidences. And it also follows, necessarily, that if we find the refutation lacking in power to convince us, then for us the external evidences still stand firm. For us, if the refutation seems defective, then it has not knocked down the foundation of the older view at all.

Now I think it will be found that no systematic demolition of the evidences was at first attempted. What happened was that a new viewpoint became dominant. The view of interdependence took over. Men’s interpretation of the meaning of the facts of resemblance settled the matter in their minds. They concluded that the “internal evidence” of closeness refuted and overthrew the “external evidence” of independently qualified apostolic authority and authorship. As the new view gained influence the older view became passe and obsolescent. And as far as I can learn, if we are to find a refutation of the external evidences anywhere, it must be found to follow as a corollary of the general argument that the facts of closeness prove interdependence, and therefore interdependence, being proved, knocks to the ground the very possibility of independently qualified testimony in two of our three Gospels.

These various points are worth watching for a number of reasons. For example, your own willingness or unwillingness to trust the Gospels will depend very much on how greatly you value the facts of resemblance as proving one kind or another of interdependence. Also, practical issues are at stake. Here is the point where most men have entered the door with a triply-attested faith in the main facts about the Lord’s work, and have gone back into the world stripped of faith in two of the three Gospels. The issue is this. The uncontradicted direct evidence, all of it, says one thing. The special hypothetical statement of a general problem says the opposite. It is one of those questions on which no one can remain undecided. You will want to do your best to decide it aright.

Now if you will glance quickly at the chart which I gave you at the start of my talk, you will see the general picture clearly. The original posture of the question gives place to stage number one. That stage is an original hypothetical statement (or misstatement) of a general problem.

Box number seven (“FACTS of close resemblance”) is the foundation of the newer view. The view itself is represented by box number eight labeled “The Benutzungshypothese (The Use Hypothesis).” And if you wanted to do so, you might draw into your charts several arrows with arrowheads on both ends, as a means of indicating the opposition between the original posture of the question and stage number one with its hypothetical statement (or, misstatement) of the problem. For it stands to reason that there must always be a kind of mortal combat between what the external evidences say and what the Use-Hypothesis assumes. Those who take the testimony of the external evidences seriously will not be much impressed by the viewpoint of the Hypothesis of Borrowing. And contrariwise, those who take seriously the Hypothesis of Borrowing will take a very dim view of the assertions of the early Christian writers.

We come now to give a fuller description of this development which we label stage number one. But before that we must explain these different names we have been using. Needless to say, all these expressions which we have used mean the same thing. My original phrase was “the Synoptic Problem Hypothesis.” After I had been using that expression for some time, I found that there was a better name for what I had noticed. Research showed that the scholars understood with perfect clarity what they were doing, and that they had given it a very lucid name. They called it the Benutzungshypothese. What does this mean? How is it best translated into English? I once translated it in a literal way as “the Use-Hypothesis.” A smoother translation would be “the Hypothesis of Borrowing”, or “Borrowing-Hypothesis.” Possibly a still better translation would be “the Plagiarism-Hypothesis,” which is a suggestion of a man whose native tongue is German. 35 The last suggestion certainly expresses very clearly the idea which the early scholars were working with.

Many, of course, do not like to use the word “plagiarism” in describing their own theories as to how various Biblical documents were written. To avoid using such words they commonly offer explanations to the effect that ancient writers would see nothing wrong in taking over what someone else had written and then, without any acknowledgment, giving it out as if it were their own. Or, it might be claimed, ancient writers would see no wrong in setting down a famous man’s name as the author of their books. Then people would think that the famous man had written the books and would read them. We are sometimes told that forgery, plagiarism, pirating, and so on, were not regarded as reprehensible in the ancient world. My own personal view of the matter is this. I think the explanations of this kind that I have seen are not very convincing. I also think that if scholars think plagiarism has occurred, then they ought not to be afraid to call it by the plain name. For why should anyone connive with the original anonymous deceiver by trying to make out a case that deception is not deceitful so long as the customs of certain times and places encourage it? But you will need to make up your minds on this issue often enough, that is, whenever you see explanations offered as to how “godly” men could have forged nearly the whole Bible, though really they had done nothing wrong in doing this. Such explanations may convince you for all I know. They do not cut much ice with me, however. Nevertheless, though I am not afraid of the word “plagiarism,” I am not going to use it in the rest of this talk. I shall use the term “Borrowing-Theory,” which is more neutral and objective. It is therefore better for our purposes.

Now what about this Borrowing-Theory? First of all, this. You will probably not even find it mentioned in most of the books written in English which you will study. That is the inevitable result of working in the murky twilight world of subscholarship and half-knowledge. Nearly all English books on the Gospels are heavily dependent on German scholarship for the results they hand on to you. However, they are not by any means always perfectly acquainted with what they take over wholesale and retail out to us. It would be perfectly possible for you to read over twenty or thirty discussions of the gospels in English, and yet to know of nothing except what is called “the Two-Document Theory.” At a later point I will try to show you that the socalled Two-Document Theory is an academic mirage. The term is an unfortunate bit of learned shorthand, which filters out more light than it transmits. The Two-Document Theory is really a complex menage of hypotheticals, and accurately speaking there is no such thing as a two-document hypothesis. More of this later.

What you will not find in a score of English works, will come out at once if you pick up four of the latest German discussions. You may see at a glance that each of them gives a separate discussion to the Borrowing-Theory (Benutzungshypothese) in its considerattion of the first three Gospels. I add here a comparative table which shows in parallel columns the outline of discussion in four German studies. From this you will be able to recognize at once that I am not trying to put a new and unheard of private interpretation over on you. You will see that in this talk we are moving along recognized and accepted lines. The four books in the chart represent semi-conservative, liberal, and radical viewpoints. In its outline each gives a main division to the Borrowing-Theory.

New, Comprehensive Approach (1955) – 61 Synopsis of Contents

1. Urevangeli
2. Fragmenten
oder Diegesen
3. Traditions
hypothese 1. Traditions
hypothese 1. Urevangelium
2. Fragmenten
3. Traditions 1. Benutzungs
2. Urevangeli
3. Fragmenten Gieseler d. 1854
Godet 2. Benutzungs
Griesbach d. 1812
Bauer (Baur?)
3. Urevangeliums
Lessing – 1778
4. Benutzungs
b) Eichhorn
4. Diegesen
Schleiermacher 4. Benutzungs 4. Traditions
5. History & Form
Explanation. The present form of the above chart is a rough copy of an outline lent to me years ago by Dr. H. S. Murphy, Dept. of Religious Thought, Univ. of Pennsylvania. I hope some day to verify it, correcting it if necessary and filling out its abbreviations. For my present purpose it is good enough as it stands.

This then you must remember. From the first German scholars put forward a Borrowing (or, Plagiarism) Theory. They clearly recognized the assumptions on which they were working. They plainly stated from the first what I only slowly recognized and clumsily termed the Synoptic Problem Hypothesis. And the latest German books, based on an uninterrupted tradition of scholarship, clearly bring out the fact that a main line of thought early began to govern attempted explanations of the similarities and differences found in the first three Gospels. That is, attempted explanations were founded on an assumed borrowing or plagiarism, whichever term you prefer to use.

Here again is a leading point to watch for in your study of the Gospels and of opinions concerning them. Be on guard! Never fail to observe cases where the Borrowing Hypothesis is in the saddle. Most of all, watch for cases where it is unconsciously or only half-consciously held. Watchfulness on this score is essential if you are to work with clear concepts and to know where the tracks are switching. For example, from the chart which I showed you a moment ago you can see that four varieties of attempted solutions to the Synoptic Problem were early put forward. The classification given in the chart and followed in the outlines of books is to a large extent clear and self-explanatory. It has, however, one defect. The term Benutzungshypothese (“Borrowing Theory”) is used for one special type of explanation only, yet the principle of assumed borrowing is equally the foundation of the other three kinds of attempted solution. You see, three kinds of attempted solutions are named from the nature of the original sources from which they think our present Gospels borrowed their materials. The fourth kind of attempted explanation, on the other hand, is named from the general principle of assumed borrowing. And this, naturally, is part of what we meant when we said that you will need to watch closely to observe where the Borrowing Theory is in control whether it is mentioned by name or not.

Now neither the Tradition Theory, nor the Fragment Theory, nor the Primitive Gospel Theory became dominant. For should know their names, however, and the idea with which they worked. As a matter of fact, one of the forms in which the Benutzungshypothese became dominant was actually an Urevangeliumshypothese (a Primitive Gospel theory) although no one ever thought of calling it by that name. At best classifications have limitations. There can be no real substitute for familiarity with the actual history of scholarly work, which may be legitimately arranged into different schemes of classification from different but equally luminous viewpoints. Remembering this, we may ask: “What were the theories that were offered as some of the attempted solutions?”

Now as was said, we are going to avoid a lengthy discussion. Our purpose is to give some samples. These will give you a feeling for the spirit that was in the air. Then, too, we think you will want to know just enough about the various theories to be able to appreciate the fact that that reason we will not discuss them at any length.

You scholars at the present day work with the same concepts to a large extent. 36

First then, let us glance at an example of the theory of a written Primitive Gospel source. This was very popular for quite a long period. I will give it to you in the form of three diagrams, which will be largely self-explanatory.

Original Aramaic Gospel
Four Aramaic Revisions with Various Additions
Our Three Greek Gospels


rt (Aleph): a(hypothetical) Syro-Chaldaic (= Syriac-Aramaic) prim itive, original Gospel, composed around the time Stephen was stoned. This contained the (42 or 44) sections which all
three Gospels have in common.

A: a (hypothetical) revision of K, also in Aramaic, plus additions later included in Matthew.

B: a (hypothetical) revision of K, also in Aramaic, plus additions later included in Luke.

C: a (hypothetical) revision of K, also in Aramaic, in which two previous (hypothetical) revisions were combined. This was translated by St. Mark.
D: a (hypothetical) revision of K, also in Aramaic, plus (I assume) additions later included in both Matthew and Luke. (I add here to what Meyer and Morison say because it seems obvious that D was the means by which what is often called the Double Tradition — what Matthew and Luke share but Mark does not have — was intended to be explained.)

By means of assuming the existence of five hypothetical written Aramaic documents as sources Eichhorn would explain the origin of the similarities and differences which comparisons of the three Gospels with one another show. Two difficulties made a revision of Eichhorn’s first solution necessary, as it was supposed. The first was language; for resemblances were in Greek not Aramaic. The other consisted of agreements in details; for to explain them required a theory of more complicated processes of derivation.

Others had had the idea before Eichhorn,37 who adopted it in 1794, after a few disciples of his had taken it up. When it was taken over by him it was certain to have a wide influence, if for no other reason than Eichhorn’s great reputation as a Biblical scholar. 38 In England Dr. Marsh quickly took up the idea and propounded a solution of his own along the same lines. His attempted solution in his Dissertation on the Origin and Composition of our Three First Canonical Gospels, 1801, is presented in diagram form on page 67.


Original Aramaic Sources

Seven Derived Documents: Some with additions, one Greek.

Our Three Greek Gospels


K + y +

Hebrew Matthew
Mark Luke

Aleph (tt): A (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel.

Beth (5): A (hypothetical) Hebrew gnomology (collection of brief sayings)in various (hypothetical) editions, which was used in the Hebrew Matthew and in Luke.

K: A(hypothetical) Greek version of original (hypothetical) Hebrew Gospel.

• + a+ A: A (hypothetical) transcript of the original Hebrew Gospel with smaller and larger additions later included in the Hebrew Matthew and in Mark.

• + p+ B: A (hypothetical) transcript of the original Hebrew Gospel with smaller and larger additions later included in Luke and Mark.

• + y+ P: A (hypothetical) transcript of the original Hebrew Gospel with smaller and larger additions later included in the Hebrew Matthew and in Luke.

From the above original documentary sources were derived:

1. The Hebrew Matthew consisting of: N + 5+ a+ A+ y+ P.
2. The Gospel of Luke consisting of: tt + s+ p+ B+ y+ P+ K. 3. The Gospel of Mark consisting of: tt + a+ A + ~ + B+ K, 4. The Greek Matthew consisting of a translation of the Hebrew Matthew with the addition of K and of the Gospel of Luke, and of the Gospel of Mark.

Thus, by means of assuming the existence of seven (or eight) hypothetical Aramaic documents and one hypothetical Greek document, Marsh attempted to solve the Synoptic Problem. The diagram is put together from information given in Meyer39 and Morison,40 who gives the words of Marsh if you care to look them over. 41 The solution of Marsh expanded and revised the first proposal of Eichhorn. The alteration consisted in an increase in the number of hypothetical documentary sources. The new sources served two purposes. First, they subdivided the differences into two classes: larger additions, signified by capital alpha, beta, and gamma (A, B, r); and smaller additions, labeled with small alpha, beta, and gamma (a, S, y). And secondly, they were useful in helping to make more plausible the occurrence of Greek resemblances in Greek documents. This was done by making the transition from Aramaic documents to Greek documents take place in the hypothetical sources before those sources were used by the writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This device permitted a process (hypothetical) in which the texts of our Gospels could be made largely conformable to one another in the final stage of their production. You may see clearly from the diagram how Greek Matthew is fitted out and adjusted to conform to Greek Luke and Greek Mark.42

Whenever I look at the diagram I just showed you, or at another one here which I will presently exhibit, I am reminded of a thing which happened on a summer’s day a few years back. I stood watching my son (aged seven) and a friend of his (about six) playing ball. I noticed my son’s playmate going through the oddest contortions. Finally I said, “What in the world are you doing, Joel?” He answered without hesitation, for he had the clearest perception of what he was doing. He said, “There’s an imaginary man on second!” Then I understood. He had just been busy taking routine glances, checking on the whereabouts of the hypothetical base-runner; and as often as seemed necessary he would feint a throw to force the imaginary fellow to stick close to the theoretical base. Now from the first attempt I ever made to diagram these various solutions they struck me as looking more like football or basketball plays than anything else I had ever seen. It was also, rather, they were also, like the children’s ball game, except that here we had imaginary runners weaving all over the field. Take for example this other exhibit:


Documents: Some with additions,

T- ~——~- i
Hebrew Matthew
Greek Matthew
Mark Luke

tt : An (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel.

tt : A(hypothetical) Greek version of the (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel.
K1 : A peculiar (hypothetical) recension of the (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel.

K1 : A(hypothetical) Greek version of the (hypothetical) peculiar recension of the (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel. This Greek version was made with the use of the former (hypothetical) Greek version.

KZ : A second (hypothetical) recension of the (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel.

K3 : A third (hypothetical) recension of the (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel, which was made not directly as the others, but was (hypothetically) created by a combination of the (hypothetical) peculiar recension and the (hypothetical) second recension, both already mentioned.

X4 : A fourth (hypothetical) recension of the (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel with larger additions.

K4 : A(hypothetical) Greek version of the fourth (hypothetical) recension of the (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel with the larger additions. This was (theoretically) made with the use of the earlier (hypothetical) Greek version of the (hypothetical) original Hebrew Gospel.

From the foregoing eight (hypothetical) documents the following were supposedly derived:

A HEBREW MATTHEW from the peculiar recension of the original Hebrew Gospel and the fourth recension of the same with larger additions.

A GREEK MATTHEW from the Hebrew Matthew and the two Greek versions, namely, that of the peculiar recension of the original Hebrew Gospel, which was made with the use of the Greek version of the original Hebrew Gospel, and that of the fourth recension from the original Hebrew Gospel with larger additions, also made with use of the same.

MARK from the third recension of the Hebrew Gospel, which had been derived previously from the peculiar and the second recensions of the original Hebrew Gospel; and from the Greek version of the peculiar recension of the original Hebrew Gospel, which had been made with the use of the earlier Greek version of the original Hebrew Gospel; and from the second recension of the original Hebrew Gospel.

LUKE from the second recension of the original Hebrew Gospel, and from the Greek version of the fourth recension of the original Hebrew Gospel with larger additions. This was made with the use of the earlier Greek version of the original Hebrew Gospel.

We thus have three Greek sources, one going into each of two Gospels, two going into the third Gospel.


‘. y
‘~ -
Here is something that you might regard as an eighth to be added to the seven wonders of the world. I pass it on to you without any special comment.

Now in these various attempted solutions you may feel inclined to see little but a misguided ingenuity. And it is indeed true that they are hopelessly artificial. It is likewise true that there never was and never will be a particle of direct evidence that any of their hypothetical documents, or their theoretical revisions of documents, translations of documents or revisions, etc., etc., ever existed or occurred. Nevertheless, the scholars who propounded the solutions which we have been looking at had a perfectly clear conception of what they were doing. And, though their efforts were soon to be repudiated in the ongoing course of scholarly work, yet they have one great merit, a merit often lacking in later and more popular attempted solutions. We mean, the quality of completeness in their coverage of the data. This is one reason we have not hesitated to give you a rather full sketch of an otherwise unedifying faux pas in the history of scholarship. For example, you might easily make a simple list of the things to be accounted for such as the following:

1. Places where all three Gospels agree.
2. Places where Matthew and Luke alone agree.
3. Larger additions in Matthew.
4. Larger additions in Mark.
5. Larger additions in Luke.
6. Smaller additions in Matthew.
7. Smaller additions in Mark.
8. Smaller additions in Luke.
9. Transition from Aramaic sources (oral or written) to Greek.

These are the basic pieces of the puzzle that require to be combined in some plausible way. Eichhorn and Marsh made an analysis of the data. They then held the mirror up to their analysis. The reflection is what they give us in the form of their theories. 43 Those theories, with all their fatal defects, do at least cover the ground fairly well. And we have given the story at considerable length because it shows you pretty clearly the basic elements of the problem. It is essential to know those elements. Knowing them, you are in a position to test suggested solutions. But if you do not know them, then you will find it impossible to detect inaccurate statements about the Gospels, and you will also lack the power to recognize valuable and accurate statements when you see or hear them. There is no substitute for real knowledge and clear concepts when you study the Gospels.

We also had another excellent reason for going more fully into these matters than you might have thought necessary. It is this. The Theory of a(written) Primitive Gospel source did not die when the name for it passed out of use. Indeed, seventy years after Eichhorn’s first Urevangeliumshypothese another hypothesis with a different name was to become permanently dominant. The name was different, but in one leading form of it, it was in reality an Urevangeliumshypothese, a Primitive (written) Gospel (source) Theory. Again, ninety years later still, one of the most recent assaults on the Synoptic Problem has just advanced the theory of a document “K.” “K” stands for Progonos Koinos, which is, being interpreted, Common Ancestor. Here it is then, again at this late date, 1953, from the University of Chicago Press, a new Urevangeliumshypothese.44 You see, then, looking past the name to the substance of the matter, that what we have been considering, though as old as Eichhorn, is as recent as yesterday. Indeed, it has happened a couple of times right in this room, when I have been explaining the facts of the case to classes of former years, that a student whose brain was working busily has at once asked if the answer might not be that Matthew and Mark had both translated an Aramaic Gospel. The suggestion is one that at once comes to mind because it explains with ease a large part of the data.

Now when Eichhorn’s views got abroad they provoked two chief reactions. First, men were driven to seek less complicated solutions along the same general lines. And secondly, men were impelled to seek solutions along different lines. The result was that two other kinds of attempted solution became quite popular. The solution of the problem along the same general lines as Eichhorn’s view, which was not only to become popular, but dominant until the present day, was one which put one of our present Gospels in the place of the theoretical primitive Gospel in Eichhorn’s scheme. This effected great economies in the theoretical explanations. If we start with one of our present Greek Gospels, and if we make that the source from which the remaining two drew their contents, it follows that we have one less Gospel whose origin needs to be explained. We begin with it, giving no explanation of its derivation. Another advantage is this. Because we start with a Greek Gospel, we are not compelled to account for any change in language from Aramaic documentary sources, nor do we need to invent a process at the end of the road whereby all three Gospels become conformed to one another in the Greek expressions they use. All these things are provided for if we simply start from one of our present three Gospels, and then proceed to explain that the other two were drawn from that one with which we start.

What, we may ask, is the name for this kind of attempted solution? Its name is “the Borrowing Theory” – die Benutzungshypothese. Please observe! We are changing the way in which the word is used. Up to now we have used it in a broad, general sense. But now we take it in stricter sense, namely, the meaning in which the books use the term. We did not hesitate to give it a broader meaning, because it easily expands to cover nearly all attempts to solve the problem of the first three Gospels, inasmuch as nearly all the proposed solutions are based on wholesale borrowing. But the way your textbooks use the term is more restricted. They limit it to those cases in which attempted solutions start from one of our present Greek Gospels which is considered to have been used by the writers of the two other Synoptic Gospels. And I know of no way to make the exact, conventional meaning of the term clearer to ordinary readers than to translate it as “the Plagiarism Theory,” though we are not using that term in favor of the milder translation, namely, “the Borrowing Theory.”

At the present moment we do not want to go into a discussion of this Borrowing Theory. We will save that until we come to consider the particular form of it that arose and became dominant until the present time, namely, the Mark Hypothesis. But we do want to make clear the meaning of the term, and the way in which it got its name. I want to quote to you a single sentence which defines the idea of the theory, and at the same time shows clearly how loosely it was held. That is to say, it was not held in such a way that its champions excluded help from other kinds of theories and maintained that it was the only answer or the whole answer.

Here is the sentence I want to quote: 45

The only view which is fitted for comprehending the relation of the first three gospels in a way that is natural and historically right is that view according to which one gospel writer has used the other; but at the same time however, the gospel tradition, as it was alive long before the written record (Luke i, 2), as well as old written documents composed before our gospels (Luke i,1), come vitally into reckoning.

As I understand this, here is the source of the name of the theory. “… One gospel writer has used the other …” has used, benutzt bat — and from this, we get Benutzungshypothese. Now of course this idea was older than the passage we gave you. As a matter of fact it went back to 1783, and we will later trace it down from its beginning. But for our purposes, since we wish to give you the idea in the form it had when it became permanently dominant, we have taken the words from a much later book.

Another thing. As I understand the words quoted, I take them to leave the door open for us to think of a still living oral tradition and primitive written Gospel sources as being used along with whichever one of our three Gospels is to be considered the source of the other two. Yet, even so, the pillar of this kind of explanation remains this: one Gospel of our present three, in its Greek text, is held to be the main source of the two others. With these remarks we will rest content until we return to this subject a bit later. 46

Now we have already told you that Eichhorn’s theory produced a second reaction. It was this. The common source out of which our Gospels came, it was contended, was an oral tradition. The idea of those who contended for an oral tradition as the source behind our Gospels which accounted for their resemblances was, in general, as follows. In the early church at Jerusalem, it was said, the teachings, deeds, and fate of Christ were the oft-recurring subjects of men’s conversations. The memory of one helped that of another until the speeches and acts of the Lord had become firmly fixed in solid living recollection. This was at first done in Aramaic, but as more and more of the Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles became Christians, the fixity of the oral tradition in Aramaic was transferred to the Greek forms of it. This relatively rigid and fixed oral tradition consisted of the stories, in connection, which all three of our Gospels have in common. From this source the writers of our first three Gospels drew their materials, which, naturally, they used in different ways. Such, in brief, was the Theory of Oral Tradition.

After I had assumed for years that the holders of this theory were die-hards, flying in the face of facts, who were desperately resolved to cling to a theory that would enable them to maintain the authenticity and apostolic origin of our first three Gospels, I was rudely awakened. On reading the writings of some who held this view, I discovered that they made out a very respectable case for their theory. They played down the similarities in the three Gospels, and played up the differences. In doing both of these things they had ample warrant. Also, they pointed out the extreme artificiality in such explanations as Eichhorn’s, contrasting it with the easy and great likelihood in the explanation that the early Christians only did what the Jews did who fixed the entire literatures of their Rabbis and of their Targums in oral form and held them in such fixed oral form for ages before they were committed to writing.

The upshot of the matter is this. Starting with men like Eckermann and Herder (1797), the Theory of Oral Tradition was put into classic form by Gieseler in 1818.47 The view won great popularity for a goodly time. Then, in 1868, Davidson could treat it as if it were dead. However it came to life in England and in France. Especially with champions like Westcott and Godet, the Oral Tradition view convinced all of England and half of France. 48 You may be quite certain, whether you take the Theory of an Oral Tradition seriously or not, that if the idea captivated all the scholars in England for a generation, then it certainly does rest on a solid foundation of excellent plain sense, even if it may not strike you as the most supercolossal theory that was ever heard of. In our day the idea is quite dead. Doubtless many students who write no books still hold it. Occasionally you may even see it still defended in print. 49

Except for giving you this barest of sketches, we are passing over the oral tradition theory. Our leading purpose, is to tell you of the dominant ideas. The others we only outline, partly to fill out the background of our story, and partly because the views commonly thought to be discarded have a way of reappearing in disguise from time to time. 50 But at least this you should know. To a tidal wave of theorizing speculation there was one great reaction. It was the commonsense Theory of Oral Tradition. Its statement of the facts can still be read with great profit by every sincere student of the Gospels. It needs to be read for the perspective it gives. I would urge you to read it, not in order that you might accept it, but that you might evaluate it, noting the features of it that seem to be elements of truth, and forming an impression of your own as to whether or not you consider it to have been a healthy reaction from (that is, against) the spirit of the age. 51

We have now reached the end of our story of what is marked “Stage 1” on your charts. It is time to pause, before going on to “Stage 2,” for one of those critiques, or evaluations, which we promised to give from time to time. 52

First, then, we may say this. If our first three Gospels appear to be a great deal alike, it is certainly a legitimate endeavor to seek to compare them accurately in order to learn what the resemblances are and what they add up to. It is also certainly a legitimate inquiry, once the facts of the case are ascertained and stated, to ask whether the facts may prove anything one way or the other, either for or against the authenticity, genuineness, and general trustworthiness of the documents.

Now, where there is any very considerable amount of resemblance, such as we have in our first three Gospels, there is certainly the possibility that resemblances might conceivably turn out to be such that they would force us to conclude that our first three Gospels were so slavishly dependent on one another, or on some common source, that it would be a grave error to consider the books as three independently qualified testimonies to the facts of which they tell. That is to say, we have here a possibility that one, or two, or, at worst, all three of our Gospels might be so clearly interdependent, or such slavish and impoverished second editions of another source-document, as quite to lose all value as apostolic testimony to historically true facts. In itself, a mere possibility is nothing. Everything depends on the kind of argument that could be convincingly mounted on and wrought out from the facts of resemblance. Different arguments are possible, which in different degrees would be more or less damaging to the value of our Gospels as competent, independently qualified witnesses to historic facts. Without going into the various possibilities however, we can see that the questions which have to be settled one way or the other are two in number.

The first question that has to be settled is the general question: What amount and degree of closeness, borrowing, or copying do the facts prove? This question calls for a general answer. It is conceivably possible that even if we could not find out the specific nature of the process of borrowing, we could be one hundred percent convinced that there had been copying. That then in the first question: Can we, or can we not, prove borrowing as a general proposition? Then, after this comes a second question: What specific process of borrowing, if any, do the known facts of the case suggest? Now this second question does not make sense unless the first question can be answered with a real argument that convincingly proves something. There is a logical relation between the two questions. The answer to the first must provide the only reasonable justification for even undertaking to look into the second.

All of this may seem very abstract, but it is of the utmost importance for you to grasp. Let me make it concrete. You are a teacher and two boys, who have been working under the honor system, bring you examination papers. The answers they have written down to certain questions appear very similar in some respects. You have a “problem.” It is in two parts. The first part is this: “Do I have cheating on my hands here?” The answer is either “Yes,” or “No,” or “I can’t tell.” If the answer is “Yes,” then the next question is: “Who cheated?” If the answer to the first question is “No,” then you never even ask the second question. You have no right to ask it. It makes no sense. Why doesn’t it make sense? Because obviously there can be only one reasonable motive for trying to find out who cheated, namely, a prior conviction that some one must have cheated. Now it is true that we often bump into cases where these two questions are blended into one. For example, I remember hearing one of my fellow students in theological seminary preach a sermon. He spoke impressively. As his sermon drew to its end he closed it with a very stern and threatening warning that if we ever failed to do such-and-such things, then, in that case, he said, we should all be guilty of being false “to the thirty-nine articles of our beloved church.” Now here we have a chance phrase, which is a dead giveaway. There is only one church that has its thirty-nine articles, namely, the Episcopal. And when a student in a Dutch Reformed seminary speaks of “the thirty-nine articles of our beloved church,” there can be only one reasonable interpretation of the anomaly. That explanation is that the speaker was guilty of unacknowledged borrowing. In particular, one could be certain that he had copped part of his sermon from some book of sermons written by some Episcopal clergyman or divine. Obviously, he did not realize that his own church and that of his audience had no thirty-nine articles. Obviously, he was using words, the meaning of which he did not at all comprehend. Obviously, there was cheating, the cheater was unmistakably known, and certain unmistakable clues were given as to the nature of the source he had used. There are then, sometimes, clear cases where experience and knowledge enable us to draw a correct inference instantaneously from an isolated fact or two. But usually we will find that we have two questions to answer. And usually no one even thinks of bothering with the second question (= Who cheated?) until he is pretty clearly convinced to his own satisfaction that he does certainly have a case of real cheating on his hands to deal with.

The distinction we have just tried to make plain was understood and allowed by the scholars to govern their method. You may easily learn for yourself that many scholars took the only logical and reasonable approach. That is, they attempted to prove the fact of interdependence of our three first Gospels. Then, as the next step, using the (as they thought) proved fact of interdependence as the foundation, they sought to ascertain who had borrowed, and from whom. 53 Now what we want to do is to evaluate and test the proofs of interdependence that were offered and which convinced so many both then and since then. And we will begin our critique by estimating the value of the “grand reason,” as we may call it, which is alleged to demonstrate interdependence.

The big reason for believing in the interdependence of our Gospels is the impressive quantity and quality of similarities. These have already been discussed in part. You will remember that I put the facts before you and told you that they were such that so long as no decisive refutation conclusion may be asked to produce anywhere a quantity of similarity and resemblances at all comparable with that were forthcoming it would conclusion which scholars nature of these facts and be put into the form of a be hardly possible to escape the drew. 54 Indeed, the impressive of the argument based on them may be put into the form of a challenge. Any one who doubts the conclusion may be asked to produce anywhere a quantity of similarity and resemblances at all comparable with that which we can show to exist when our three gospels are compared. Let me give you a sample of such a challenge. I give the sample because I think I shall also be able to give you a completely satisfying answer to it. In the International Critical Commentary on the gospel of Mark, the writer, Dr. E. P. Gould, expresses very clearly his views on most of the matters we have been discussing. It would do you no harm to look them up when you have a chance.55 In the course of his “Introduction” he has a section on “Recent Critical Literature,” in which he takes up the views of Dr. James Morison. He is quite baffled to find that Morison, and apparently all the English scholars, rejects the critical theory of interdependence. Their case is hopeless. To show this he puts a challenge to Morison and others of his ilk. Here are his words:

In view of the universal discarding of this critical theory of the Synoptics by English commentators, it is well to call attention to the cumulative nature of the proof. The phenomena of verbal resemblance, on which the traditional view of independence goes to pieces, are not isolated, but prolonged and repeated. And the same is true of the verbal peculiarities of the last twelve verses … Dr. Morison thinks that he answers this objection by citing with each case a parallel instance from some other author. But the real question is whether he can match the accumulation (the italics are Gould’s) of these in the same space elsewhere.

There then, you have a challenge, Can you match, in the same space elsewhere, the accumulation (with emphasis!) of prolonged and repeated verbal resemblance and verbal peculiarities? 56 Is there anything anywhere we can lay hands on which might be considered a decisive answer to the challenge?

You see at once, of course, that the point of the challenge lies in a factor not explicitly stated. It would not at all meet the challenge to show a lot of resemblances outside the Gospels, unless you could also show that your equal or greater quantity of similarities has not formerly been explained, is not even now accounted for, and indeed cannot be understood as a result of processes of borrowing and ~ ying. You do not meet the challenge unless you find something that collides head-on with the argument. The argument which needs to be met may be put into the following, clear and untechnical form. Its advocate says:

Look! See all these resemblances in Greek! How can you avoid explaining them as due to copying? Why, the writer of one of these books must have had the other, in Greek, open right under his eyes as he wrote! No other way of understanding these similarities is rationally possible!

In order to meet such an argument directly you need to be able to say something like this:

Look! See all these other resemblances in Greek which exist elsewhere! They are far more numerous and far closer than the ones you have shown me. But, these which I am showing you were never formerly explained in the way which you insist is necessary! Nor even at the present day would they be accounted for in your way by asserting that the writer of one document must have been copying from the Greek text of the other. Indeed, they cannot ever be explained in the way you tell us is the only way rationally possible.

Now please observe in what follows that in meeting this challenge we are sticking to one point only. We confine ourselves to one limited and absolutely legitimate contention. It is this:

If a large quantity of resemblances does not and cannot prove borrowing and copying, then a smaller quantity does not and cannot prove it either.

Here, then, is the answer to the challenge. I have here in my hands another large tome, like the one I have already showed you which had Matthew and Mark in parallel columns. This volume was prepared in exactly the same way as that other, which you have already heard me describe. 57

Let me repeat the description in different words. Two documents are to be compared. They are copied out in parallel columns. The analysis is simple, purely mechanical, objective, and exhaustive. On the large sheets we give a separate line for every place where both the parallel columns have texts which are word-for-word, letter-for-letter the same. There is also a separate line for words which are similar but not exactly the same, namely, those built on the same Greek stems or roots but which differ in form or inflection or in prefix afformations. Then there is also, lastly, a separate line for every case where different Greek words are used. If a word is in one document but not in the other, the line in the corresponding place of the parallel column is left a blank space. Could anything be simpler than this? The two texts in the parallel columns are either exactly the same, or nearly the same, or different. We just copy down each document. Each is in connected order and may be read easily. Only, each is spread out and spaced in such a way that we may see at a glance every single aspect of an exhaustive comparison, every item of which has been permanently isolated for convenient study at any convenient opportunity. You will notice that the differences naturally fall into two classes. Sometimes when the two documents use different words, the different words have the same meaning. Where such synonyms occur we note the fact by connecting them with a red line, as you can see here. When the synonyms are isolated, the remaining differences consist of pure additions, namely, those places where one document contains nothing whatever corresponding to what the other has. Such then is the method followed in producing this tome.

Now, as you clearly perceive, every step of the process of analysis is well nigh totally objective. A first year student in Greek, and not a very bright one at that, might easily check every element of the analysis. Indeed, in less than ten minutes he could master the procedures sufficiently well so as to be able to execute an analysis like this for himself. Either similarities are exact and complete, or not. If so, they go into Class 1, marked with an equal sign (=).

If not, then the same Greek root is present in both documents or it is not. If the same Greek root is found on both sides of the middle line, the place goes into Class 2, marked with the standard sign for congruity, the curlicue over a blue equal sign ~).58 Then we are left with cases where different Greek words occur. These are either synonyms or they are not. If they are synonyms, the place goes into Class 3, marked with a red curlicue above a red equal sign All that is left over cannot be anything else except words found in only one of the two documents. They are additional elements. Such places go into Class 4, marked with a plus sign (+). Anyone could do this and get a crude, but thoroughly objective and completely exhaustive, analysis. In these two volumes we have two such analyses. One is for Matthew and Mark. The other is for two different Greek translations of the Hebrew text of the Biblical book of Judges. Of course, the cases are different. And of course, in each case, the crude analysis is subject to intelligent interpretation and suitable explications. We will later be tossing in a few comments along such lines. But for the present let us compare the two sets of results from the pair of analyses which we have in these two tomes, which were prepared on identical principles of one and the same method. Then, afterwards, we will explain and elucidate to the extent that seems desirable.

Here, now, are the results. We first compare the exact and complete equivalences, namely, the data of Class 1, marked with the equal sign.

(18,315 words) MARK
(11,263 words)
Places, Number
Words % of
Total j Number
Places Number
Words % of
1,877 = 4,573 24.98 , 1,877 = 4,573 40.63
(15,954 words) ! B-TEXT of GREEK JUDGES
(15,585 words)
Places Number
Words % of !’.
Total f
! of
Places Number
Words % of
2,506 = 12,299 77.10 i 2,506 = 12,300 78.92

The significance of these figures will be apparent at once to any one who is versed in scholarly studies of the Gospels. But, as most of you are not too familiar with such studies, permit me to spell out a few basic matters. First, in regard to the Gospels, the scholarly world, very nearly the whole of it, has a very different impression as to the facts than what is given in the upper half of the above chart. The current impression is well represented by a sentence in a book review that has just reached a good many readers in the mails. Here it is: 59

In The Gospel Before Mark … a radical and highly significant restudy of the Synoptic Problem. The basic data are the same customarily considered: about 90 per cent of Mark is incorporated in Matthew …

I feel certain that the book reviewer never batted an eyelash when he penned the foregoing sentence. You may be equally sure that the learned readers will peruse his words without a gasp, a cough, or even a sputter. So thoroughly has an exaggerated statement of the facts gained acceptance among students. They are all reading, and trusting, the same books. You may of course do as you wish, but we strongly advise you to take the figures we have given you seriously. You know and understand the method we have followed in arriving at them. They will be found to rest on a broader base of comparison than those figures in Hawkins on which current misconceptions are based. In making our analysis we always tried to make the amount and degree of similarity as high as we possibly could. Every possible item of resemblance was included in our count. Still, comparing our count with the current view, and counting in the 7.71% of Class 2, which makes our count strictly comparable to the basis used by Hawkins, the 90o figure is 41.7% too high. The margin of error here is 86.3%.60

Now far more important than showing up any erroneous impression of the quantity of resemblance is the thing we now consider. For the figures just displayed, it seems to me, absolutely destroy the very foundation upon which scholars everywhere for upwards of one hundred years have been resting their work. We mean this. Everywhere you turn, and everything you read seems to assume that we may, nay, must, take it as proved beyond all question that when our Gospels were written, not only were documentary sources used by the authors, but those documentary sources could only have been written in one language, namely, Greek. For example, let me give you a couple very recent statements that show clearly how scholars reason on this subject. In explaining why it is that we may not believe the apostle Matthew wrote the first gospel and why we must not trust what early Christians have reported about it, a modern writer says: 61

The principal difficulty with the tradition is not its attestation or its intrinsic character … The difficulty is rather the character of the Gospel itself — a Greek Gospel, using Greek sources, written for a predominantly Gentile church, etc. etc.

In another recent book, you may read as follows: 62

It is then quite clear that the tradition is not, as it stands, compatible with what is demanded by the literary analysis of the gospels themselves. Since Matthew is sequent to Mark; and since its author corrected Mark’s Greek, it must have been written originally in Greek and in no other language.

These two quotations are simply meant to illustrate how men’s minds work. For above a century now scholars have been conceiving the problem as this: to explain how a second Greek Gospel was produced from an original Greek documentary source. Normally, at the present day, the question is:

How did our Greek Mark, or a Greek Mark practically identical with it, get transformed into our Greek Matthew?

If a hypothetical primitive documentary source is considered possible, it is not thought of as Eichhorn and others used to think of an Aramaic written source. It is always a Greek primitive Gospel (Urevangelium). This assumption is like the air we breathe. Sometimes it is plainly stated. At other times it is just taken for granted as if nothing else were even possible.

Now we may ask a question. What is the bearing of the facts we have given on the arguments for interdependence of our three Gospels? The answer is this. The facts given do not affect the general argument for interdependence in any very specific way that we can define, at least without long discussion after instituting a lengthy comparison. The facts do, however, directly affect the argument for one specific kind of interdependence. They completely undercut nay, they demolish the argument that the Greek resemblances in the Gospels could only be due to one author in Greek copying from a book written in Greek. They meet that argument by showing that not only the amount of Greek resemblance in the Gospels, but far more, could equally well be produced by independently working translators, rendering element for element into Greek from an original in another language. We do not assert that this was the case. We will discuss the matter later. All we want to point out here is that a concrete example proves the possibility of Greek resemblances arising in greater quantities than the Gospels have them in other ways than by Greek-on-Greek direct literary dependence. There is no compelling necessity whatsoever for thinking that one or more of our Gospels had to have been written in Greek by authors copying from Greek documents. To assume that no other cause but copying could have produced the Greek resemblances in the Gospels is no longer possible. Why? Because we are confronted with an actual case in which another cause has produced similar resemblances in greater quantities. The challenge of Gould, which I suppose he never imagined could be met, has been met.

It is with great reluctance that we leave the present subject. Our desire would be to run off ten pages of comments on aspects and angles in which the comparison of the two texts of Greek Judges throws light on the comparison of our Gospels. However, we have just singled out two matters for mention. The first was the grossly exaggerated character of many statements to which multitudes of students are giving implicit faith. The second was the way in which the new facts we have presented 63 take away not only all necessity for working exclusively with the concept of Greek-on-Greek literary dependence, but all justification for doing so as well. What has for one hundred years been plausibly alleged as a certainty; what has been the foundation on which all further study was based: that has now become a most assured uncertainty. We go now to a third matter. We ask the question: Just what do these resemblances add up to? The answer may make me appear light-hearted in the eyes of some, though I trust not in yours. Some may think I am unduly depreciating the resemblances. Nevertheless, I want to suggest that the similarities do not add up to anything much at all. I shall put the reasons for this view and the facts of the case before you. You judge for yourselves.

To begin with, to be sure, the quantity of exact resemblances is relatively large. At 1,877 places 64 we find exact, letter-for-letter, word-for-word agreements. Sometimes they are only one word long. The longest is twenty-nine words in length. But though the quantity is large, what are these agreements? The average length of each exact agreement is less than two and a half words. It is exactly 2.43 words. For this to be the average length the vast bulk of the exact resemblances must be single words and pairs of words. That is, they are not even phrases, but only scraps of phrases two or three words long. So that, to take a simple example, where both Matthew and Mark state that John preached “in the wilderness,” even such an insignificant agreement consisting of three words is over 20% longer than the average for such agreements. And thus, if you consider the extent to which Matthew and Mark tell the same stories, about the same persons doing similar and identical things in the same settings amid identical circumstances, you are almost certain to feel that much of that large quantity of agreements seems fairly natural, not to say, unavoidable.

But since almost the only places useful for proving Greek-on-Greek direct literary dependence are longer passages where exact agreements are somewhat prolonged and extended; since, we say, it is really the longer passages which make the copying-theory seem plausible, let us consider the longest examples of exact agreement. For this purpose I have in past years usually told your class the facts regarding all places where Matthew and Mark show exact agreements for ten words or more in a row. I picked the figure of ten words arbitrarily because it seemed that anything shorter could hardly be felt to be long enough to prove anything. Anything shorter than ten words would not occupy a single printed line in most books. If then you will let me take this figure as an arbitrary standard, I will give you a list of all the places where Matthew and Mark are in exact agreement for ten words or more in a row. Now in Matthew and Mark there are only thirty-eight such places. That is to say, just barely over 2% of the 1,877 places have exact agreements of ten words or more in length. Of course, 1,877 places are a lot. But just barely two out of every hundred of those places reaches the length of ten words. It is possible, by counting otherwise than we count in our analysis, to add two more passages to the list we shall give you. That would make a total of forty places, and it would raise the percentage from 2.0% to 2.1%.

Now what we find in the Gospels may be compared with what we find in Judges. It is a little hard to describe what we are comparing. If we were physicists we might call it “density of agreements.” If we were farmers, we might think in terms of “bushels per acre.” But however we describe it, the idea is simple, and the comparison legitimate and instructive. When the two texts of Judges are studied, we discover 341 places (out of 2,506) in which exact agreements go to ten words or more in length. In the Gospels at most 2.1%, but in the two texts of Judges 13.6% of the exact agreements go to ten words or more in length. The length of the average exact agreement in the two texts of Judges is 4.908 words, over twice as long as the average agreement in the Gospels’ comparison.

But forgetting comparisons, we may take the exact agreements in the Gospels just as they are for what they are. The longest of them are, we affirm, insignificant in themselves. But you need not take our word for this. We are going to put the English translations of all forty of them before you. You may judge for yourselves. As you study these agreements, remember, every quotation of Scripture must in fairness be subtracted from the list. Passages of Scripture would have a fairly fixed form in their own right and would be much the same if quoted by two absolutely independent writers. Further, in order to be fair, you must remove from the list every passage that contains an easily memorable saying of Jesus, indeed anything sufficiently striking so that we may conceive of even a weak, an incomplete, and an unsystematized oral tradition easily and effortlessly preserving it in a fixed form. You judge what you think it fair to remove. Then see what you have left. Then ask whether what is left is any kind of foundation for a theory of copying.

Here are the exact agreements — forty items. We give English translations from the American Standard Version of the Greek words that agree exactly in Matthew and Mark.

I. One place 29 words long:
1. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; and whosoever …” (30 English words = 29 Greek)

II. Two places 23 words long:
1. “… back to take his cloak. But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that it be not …” (29 English words = 23 Greek)

2. “… For the Son of man goeth, even as it is written of him: but woe unto that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed! Good …” (27 English words = 23 Greek)

III. Two places 20 words long:
1. “… honoreth me with their lips, But their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men.” (27 English words = 20 Greek)

2. “The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; This was from the Lord, And it is marvellous in our eyes”? (27 English words = 20 Greek)

IV. One place 19 words long:
1. “The Lord said unto my Lord,
Sit thou on my right hand,
Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet.” (22 English words = 19 Greek)

V. One place 18 words long:
1. “… (let him that readeth understand), then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains: and let him that is on the housetop not go down …” (27 English words = 18 Greek)

VI. One place 17 words long:

1. “… the son of man … came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (22 English words = 1? Greek)

VII. Three places 16 words long:
1. “… at his teaching; for he taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes.” (15 English words = 16 Greek)

2. “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and …” (20 English words = 16 Greek)

3. “… know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away …” (21 English words = 16 Greek)

VIII. One place 15 words long:
1. “… brother .. brother to death, and the father his child; and children shall rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death .. “ (24 English words = 15 Greek)

IX. Three places 14 words long:

1. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight;” (20 English words = 14 Greek)

2. “… he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and …” (17 English words = 14 Greek)

3. “… the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars .” (16 English words = 14 Greek)

X. Three places 13 words long:
1. “. fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the sons of the bridechamber …” (13 English words = 13 Greek)

2. “. . Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and …” (19 English words = 13 Greek)

3. “. he saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death: abide ye here and watch.” (17 English words = 13 Greek)
XI. Seven places 12 words long:
1. “… and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath authority …” (14 English words = 12 Greek)

2. “But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then will they fast …” (19 English words = 12 Greek)

3. “… and the two shall become one flesh: so that they are no more two, but .. “ (15 English words = 12 Greek)

4. “. shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you, shall be ..” (13 English words = 12 Greek)

5. “… and carest not for any one; for thou regardest not the person of men .” (14 English words = 12 Greek)

6. “Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch … now …” (12 English words = 12 Greek)

7. “… Are ye come out as against a robber, with swords and staves to seize me? … daily …” (16 English words = 12 Greek)
XII. Four places 11 words long:

1. “.. and they that were with him? How he entered into
the house of God …” (14 English words = 11 Greek)

2. “… and, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death: but ye say …” (17 English words = 11 Greek)

3. “… the end … For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom …” (12 English words = 11 Greek)

4. “, the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it …” (12 English words = 11 Greek)
XIII. Nine places 10 words long:

1. “…and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. And …” (14 English words = 10 Greek)

2. “… they that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick .” (13 English words = 10 Greek)

3. “… for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men.” (13 English words = 10 Greek)

4. “… three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (13 English words = 10 Greek)

5. “Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I…” (15 English words = 10 Greek)

6. “And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?” (11 English words = 10 Greek)

7. “… ye err, that ye know not the scriptures, nor the power of God?” (13 English words = 10 Greek)

8. “… said, Verily I say unto you, One of you shall betray me …” (12 English words = 10 Greek)

9. “… into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (12 English words = 10 Greek)

To the foregoing may be added the following two places:

1. “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way;” (13 English words = 14 Greek)

2. “… for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” (16 English words = 11 Greek)

The first we did not include in our list because it is an Old Testament citation which might have a fixed form in its own right, and which does not occur in Matthew and Mark in places that are in any way parallel to one another. The second we did not include because the passage in Mark 13:13 is fully and naturally paralleled at Matthew 24:9 and 13. There was no reasonable justification evident to us for pairing it off artificially with a doublet in Matthew 10:22. Mark 13:13 belongs with the passage in Matthew 24, not with Matthew 10:22.

There, then, you have the facts. It is not our desire to give a full analysis or evaluation of these passages. It is obvious that seven of the forty are citations from the Old Testament. It is also obvious that the longest passage —“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, etc.” — it is obvious, we say, that this saying of the Lord would burn itself into the hearts of those who loved Him. Other sayings are also striking, in lesser degree, perhaps. The eight places from the prophecy and dire warnings in Chapter 13 would be readily retained in memory. As to the rest, it is a pretty subjective business to try to say what would or could easily be accounted for as a result of memory and oral tradition. However, it might easily turn out that different men would come up with nearly the same judgment. In any case, the important thing is for each of you to decide for yourself what you think these resemblances in Greek are worth for proving anything. My own personal opinion is as follows. After examining the forty passages several times, I observe that seven contain quotations from the Old Testament. That leaves 33 to be judged. The question is: What are they? All but one are fragments, incompleted statements at one or both ends of the resemblance. If this is copying we have before us, it strikes me as strange indeed that only one out of 33 instances results in giving us a unit which is logically or grammatically complete. Another question is: How striking, how easily memorable are they? My personal answer to this question is that all but six cases are striking and easily memorable. Even those six could be considered somewhat impressive. The six I have in mind as semi-doubtful cases are those given above: VII, 2; IX, 2; XI, 5; XII, 1; XIII, 1& 4. I do not expect that you will agree with my analysis. You might feel differently about certain passages. Where I come out is with only three-tenths of one percent of the 1,877 places. These might be used to make a very doubtful argument for copying in Greek. If they were so used, the argument would be very doubtful at best.

It is always a good idea to listen carefully to comments which men of practical experience make. I remember one time speaking with a president of a certain theological seminary. He asked carefully, in order to be sure, whether he had heard me say that the longest case of exact resemblance was only 29 words long. I said, “Here’s the book. If there is a longer one you can see it at a glance. It only takes about four minutes to check the statement.” He answered in this way. He held up his right hand and made a space between his thumb and index finger. “How much is twenty-nine words?” he asked, measuring it off in imagination in the space between his thumb and index finger. “Twenty-nine words are not very many,” he continued thoughtfully. “I’m thinking,” he then added, “of what we find around here at thesis time!” As he said this, he greatly enlarged the space between his fingers to suggest cases where students had been copying a half a page, a quarter of a page. Such a practical comment puts our problem in an interesting light. It makes the similarities which we find in the Gospels seem quite insignificant. Only a few days ago an engineer was bewailing the fact that in his plant the research department did not give references to the sources of information they used. The reason was that a report contained errors, and the errors were in the original work which had been copied in making the report. I said to the engineer: “This is an interesting case of direct literary dependence. How long was the place copied? Thirty words? Twenty words?” He responded: “Thirty words, nothing! It was five full pages long!” These comments of practical men threw an entirely new light on these similarities for me. I was grateful for the new perspective. You may not feel inclined to value such comments very much. I have given them only for what they may be worth. I do feel they have value. They bring the matters we are studying into comparison with actual facts from real life. The comparison at least suggests that the theory of copying in Greek might have been a bit guilty of magnifying a molehill into a mountain.

Now it may be that eventually you will decide in favor of the theory of copying in Greek. However, you should not decide in favor of that view before you have fully considered a few other-facts, which we will now mention. First of all there is this to be remembered. You must not suppose that the theory of copying in Greek is either the simplest or the best way of fully showing the resemblances between the Gospels. The theory of copying in Greek explains well the facts of similarity which come under our figure of 1,877 places where exact resemblance is found totaling 4,573 words in each Gospel. But there are other facts of similarity. There are the facts which are expressed in our statement that at 746 places both Matthew and Mark have almost the same Greek words. These similarities total 866 words in Matthew and 868 words in Mark. And in addition to the facts just mentioned there is another set of facts of similarity. These are covered in our statement that at 767 places Matthew and Mark have synonyms. Matthew has 884 words and Mark has 904 words. The words are different, but in meaning they are the same. Now here we have two rather large classes of facts. They clearly must be counted in if we are to give a correct impression of the closeness of the resemblance between Matthew and Mark. Now these facts, which are also facts of resemblance, are better accounted for if we give up the idea of copying in Greek and think of these differences as arising naturally and easily because two writers of our Gospels are independently translating the same document out of a language other than Greek. We do not give this as our view. We give it as a possible view, the clear possibility of which is evidenced by the actual case of the two texts of Judges. In comparing the two texts of Judges we find more than two thousand of the kinds of similarities that we have in the Gospels. In the case of Judges the more than two thousand facts of similarity of these two kinds are naturally and easily conceived of as arising from two independently working translators who are turning the Hebrew into Greek with extreme literalness. Here are the facts.

(18,315 words) MARK
(11,263 words)
Places Number
Words % of
Total Number
Places Number
Words % of
746 I
866 4.73 746 1
868 7.71
(15,954 words) B-TEXT of GREEK JUDGES
(15,585 words)
Places Number
Words % of
Total Number
Places Number
Words % of
1,112 ‘” 1,235 7.744 1,112 1,234 7.919

The facts which we find in the Gospels are the same kind of facts as those which we find in the two texts of Judges. If we cling to a theory of copying in Greek we are forced to find some plausible explanation of the fact that in hundreds of cases changes are introduced. How may they be explained? In a scholarly view of the problem various explanations are possible. One possible explanation is that the writer of one Gospel, who was copying in Greek, corrected and improved the Greek of the Gospel he copied from. But it is equally possible, as you can see from the concrete example of the case we have in the two Greek texts of Judges, to seek to explain the same facts as a result of independent translation of an original in another language. This possibility, when we become specific, presents itself to us in this form: Are the facts of divergence explicable, are they easily and naturally accounted for, if we think of an Aramaic Matthew behind Matthew and Mark? In the case of Matthew we may think of it as being translated directly into Greek. In the case of Mark we may think of it as altered when used by Peter in preaching. It then might be thought of as going directly in that altered form into Greek. Or, it might be thought of as going at first into a Latin form, which would then be translated into Greek. These are possibilities which must be tested for their fitness and ability to explain the facts above given and those we now give in the following table.

(18,315 words) MARK
(11,263 words)
Places Number
Words % of
Total Number
Places Number
Words % of
767 ~ 884
i 4.83 767 ‘~ 904 8.03
(15,954 words) B-TEXT of GREEK JUDGES
(15,585 words)
Places Number
Words %, of
Total Number
Places Number
Words % of
1,114 11~ 1,207 7.566 1,114 I” 1,221 7.833

The class of facts comprehensively summarized in the above table are undoubtedly facts of close resemblance, for nothing different is said, though different words are used.

What explanation may be given as to why the changes arose? Once again, we have several possibilities to test. We may test the possible explanation that the differences are due to an effort on the part of one writer to improve, correct, smoothen the Greek of the other. Or we may test another possible explanation. We may see how the facts are accounted for on the assumption that an original in Aramaic has been translated into Greek, giving us our Greek Matthew, but was altered by the Apostle Peter and put in augmented form in the narrative parts. The new form then, on this supposition might have been put directly into Greek, or into Latin first, and from the Latin into Greek. You perhaps think I am unduly complicating matters by continually dragging in the possibility of Latin for Mark. Not so. We have here a linguistic question. Latin is a real possibility which we are obligated not to ignore. I have reason to think that it will greatly simplify the solution of the problem, but that remains to be seen.

Now you will probably think that we have finished giving the points of resemblance between the Gospels. And indeed we have already shown you that there is a far greater degree of similarity than the scholars have claimed. Indeed, I think it would be safe to claim that nowhere will you find in print an exactly stated argument that the Gospels are so closely related in detail as we show them to be in the tables on pages 93, 111, and 112. We have argued that there is more similarity than others have said. But we have pointed out that it is different in kind and capable of being explained in other ways than the one way they insist on. Even so the picture is not complete until we add one further group of facts, which are also facts of resemblance to a certain extent. How can that be, if we have left only the facts of divergence to deal with? It arises from the nature of our analysis, which is so mechanical. In many similarities and resemblances we have a case of one phrase or expression which is equivalent to another. The meaning is not changed, but we have synonymous phrases. One expression or phrase often contains more words than its equivalent. The mechanical analysis counts the extra words as “additions.” In actuality such additions are not real additions, real differences. Remembering this, look now, if you will, at our statement of the facts of divergence.

(18,315 words) MARK
(11,263 words)
Places Number
Words % of
Total Number
Places Number
Words % of
1,092 11,992 65.47 1,196 + 4,918
‘ 43.69
(15,954 words) B-TEXT of GREEK JUDGES
(15,585 words)
Number Number % of Number Number % of
of of the of of the
Places Words Total Places Words Total
799 ~ 1,213 7.605 643 j 830 5.326

These, then, are the facts of difference. Some of them, we have said, must be considered facts of resemblance for the reason given above. How many must be so considered? In the case of the two texts of Greek Judges, nearly all would probably have to be so interpreted. But in the case of the Gospels probably very few. The reason for the difference is this. The analysis of Judges is to the last degree mechanical. The analysis of the Gospels was a bit less mechanical. In obvious cases we put with the synonyms many items which a rigidly mechanical analysis would have listed only in part with the synonyms and partly with the additions. Do not jump to the conclusion that these remarks contradict the claim we made for rigid, mechanical, objective accuracy in the two analyses. The claim holds completely for the comparison of the two Greek texts of Judges. But the relation of the two Gospels is less close than that of the texts of Judges. Nevertheless, the materials quite naturally suggest to the one making the comparison how he ought to arrange them in his parallel columns and how he ought to distribute them in the fourfold classification we have used.

At this point let us leave this subject temporarily. As we do so, however, let me ask you to notice two things. Notice, then, please, that I have not said that an Aramaic document behind Matthew and Mark is the answer to the problem of resemblances. I have put forth that idea as a possible explanation of all the facts of resemblance. Its value as a possible explanation of those facts is left undemonstrated, for the moment. The reason we leave it unsettled is this. It has been asserted that the writer of Matthew was changing and correcting the Greek text of Mark, which he used as his source. That is the only dominant form of the counterargument to our suggestion. That argument did not arise until long after the time we are considering. It arose only after it had been widely accepted that Mark should be considered the earliest Gospel. To meet that argument at this point would carry us far ahead of our story. The second thing to notice is this: regardless of how you may explain the facts of resemblance, the facts of divergence and difference must also be reasonably accounted for. These consist of more than 2,200 items which total nearly 17,000 words. These must not be overlooked or simply pushed aside as if they were of no account. Remembering these things, let us recapitulate the scope and argument of our evaluation to this point.

Let me summarize and restate exactly the precise lines within which our argument has moved in this evaluation.

1. We limit attention to facts of resemblance, temporarily forgetting the facts of difference which may finally prove to be of decisive importance.

2. We first (pages 82 & 83) concluded that three inquiries were thoroughly reasonable and legitimate, namely:
a. inquiry to determine specifically the facts of similarity and resemblance;
b. inquiry to determine what the facts of resemblance may prove or tend to prove;
c. inquiry to determine whether the facts directly contradict or affect in any way the view that Matthew and Mark are two authentic, apostolic documents of value as independent witnesses for what they both tell in common.

3. We next found (pages 83-86) that scholars reasonably and legitimately tackled the problem in two parts, namely:

a. a general question: “Was there copying?” and, if so, what kind of copying?
b. a specific question: “Supposing there was copying, who copied?” The second of these questions is not discussed because it comes up at the next stage after that which we are evaluating.

4. We found it generally asserted or assumed by scholars that a large quantity of exact resemblance in Greek, between, say, Matthew and Mark, proved that there had been copying, and that the copying had been of one special kind, namely, copying by a writer writing in Greek from a written source that had been written in Greek (page 86 and earlier pages 41-55).

5. We found this affirmation as to the fact of copying and as to the fact of one specific kind of copying put into the form of a pointed challenge by Dr. Gould (pages 86-89). The challenge was clear and well-taken. Was it fair? That is another question.

6. We produced an answer to the challenge (pages 89-117) in the form of an actual case in which other causes than copying in Greek gave rise to closer and more similarities in Greek than we find when the closest of the two Gospels are compared.
7. We argue from the actual case not against a high degree of resemblance and similarity, but only against one specific kind and cause of interdependence. Our argument runs as follows:
a. The exact resemblance in Greek is far less than the scholars everywhere seem to think nowadays (pages 93-94 and former pages 50-51);
b. Such exact resemblance as we find in no way makes it necessary as the only reasonable or possible explanation of the facts a theory of copying in Greek. Please note that we use the case of the two Greek texts of Judges in order to prove one thing only, namely, that the theory of a Greek writer copying a Greek document is not a necessary assumption. We use it only to prove the one thing which Gould’s challenge implies could be proved if a mass of exact resemblances were found outside the Gospels. We use it only to show that the case for one specific kind of interdependence is not a necessary case. Our argument, if valid, strikes at the foundation of nearly all the work which scholars have done during the past 100 years and longer on the origin of the Gospels. It may be put in the form of a diagram:

(15,954 words)

(15,585 words)

GREEK GOSPEL of MATTHEW (18,315 words)

(11,263 words)

(2,506 instances totaling 12,229 words)

This amount of exact agreement never proved copying in Greek!

YET the Use-Hypothesis rejects all the early direct EVIDENCE BECAUSE, it says, THIS AMOUNT of exact agreement must prove copying in Greek!

(1,877 instances totaling 4,573 words)

(This argument is found on pages 94-98).
8. Having denied the necessity of the theory of Greek copying, we next argue against its probability or even likelihood.
a. We produce and evaluate (pages 98-109) the longest passages where the two closest Gospels agree exactly.
b. We suggest that the copying theory is incapable o€ easily and naturally explaining facts of resemblance other than those of exact agreement. We suggest that the theory of independent translation out of an original in a tongue other than Greek ought to be tested for its value in explaining the inexact resemblances in the Gospels. As this theory accounts for 1,112 close resemblances, and for 1,114 synonymous resemblances, and for a large part of over 1,400 differences in the two texts of Judges; so it ought to be tested (1) on the 746 items of close resemblance, (2) on the 767 items of synonymous resemblance, and (3) on part of the 2,200 odd differences in the comparison of Matthew and Mark. (See pages 109-117). We set this forth only as a suggestion because a proof depends on refuting a special argument only developed seventy years after the time we now consider. We also give it as a suggestion because the writer is not going to try to claim that the true answer to the problem of the Synoptic Gospels is to be found from a comparison and study of documents alone. There is a human factor involved, to be brought out later.

You can see clearly now that there are three leading questions on which you must sooner or later make up your mind. They are:

1. Do the facts of resemblance prove copying, or do they not? Or, otherwise, and more specifically put, do the facts of resemblance demonstrate the necessity of a theory that writers of two of our Gospels, at least, wrote in Greek and copied their materials from a Gospel already written in Greek?

2. Do the facts of resemblance of conclusions we draw from them contradict or make improbable the view of the churches through the centuries in regard to Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

3. What kind of foundation have we here on which to build the next steps of scholarly work? Do we have a foundation that ties in with and is able to carry the upper stories of the structure?

In regard to the first question, three answers are possible. You may say:

Yes, I regard the theory of copying in Greek as proved.

In that case, you are in step with practically the whole body of New Testament scholars of the past two In that case, you also have a positive result, the whole generations. though not necessarily a sound one, upon which to base further work. Or, you may say, as we do:

No, I do not think that the theory of copying in Greek has been proved.

In that case, you and we are out of step with practically the whole body of New Testament scholars of the past two generations. That, of course, is disappointing. But, if we have a clear idea of what we are doing and why we are out of step, it may cause us discomfort to be so, but no sorrow.

In the present case, we feel that we are out of step because we have in hand a full answer to the most pointed and flooring challenge ever put forth by the champions of the view we make bold to disagree with. We also have disagreed because we have collected and studied closely all the items of resemblance found in the two Gospels which are closest in resemblance. In particular we have examined all the longest items of exact similarity. What more could we do? How could we be any fairer? We take the argument with which we disagreed. We build it up in strength, making claims for it beyond the claims made for it even by its champions. We add new information and assert that there are many items in the comparison of the Gospels which ought to be added to the lists of items of similarity hitherto presented by those we disagree with. We build up the case for resemblance, close interrelation, even for interdependence, if you want to use that word. We sympathetically enter into the mind and viewpoint of those with whom we are in disagreement. To be sure, we did not accept widely current estimates based on crude verse counts. But following after the student of the Gospels who gave the highest estimate of items of resemblance, we gave far, far more.

Still, we dissent. We did so because resemblance in general does not prove copying in Greek. We did so because the longest passages with exact agreements, which might prove copying in Greek, were all but one, either Old Testament quotations or fragments without grammatical or logical unity. Most were striking or impressive items, which could easily be explained as due to a half-developed oral tradition. Not that we explain them that way. We only say this: “If they could or can be explained that way, then they give no solid foundation for any theory of copying in Greek.” Lastly, we disagree because the theory of copying in Greek is just too narrow and constricted to explain true elements of resemblance outside the exact similarities. These reasons are simple, clear, and fairly drawn from the facts in the case. We make no appeal to the authority of Mother Church or to dogmatic definitions of inspiration or to the implications of theological beliefs. The latter, in practical life, rightly overrule the proud claims of human reason to autonomy and final authority. But in our discussion, as was proper for such a discussion, we have kept wholly within the bounds of that ring of the circus where so many people of today think that the human mind is the creator and finisher and measure of all things. If we have dissented, we have done so from the standpoint on their own ground which our opponents hold. If we have disagreed, we have done so for reasons of that impoverished, second-rate sort which the great body of our opponents consider to be mightier than the authority of Church and more potent than the Word of God. Not that we share this view. We condescended to this standpoint for the sake of a discussion that there might be a true meeting of minds and that we might test a case on the ground chosen by human science for the trial. On that ground, alone, we disagreed. We are out of step, though, as we deem, for reasons absolutely sufficient, not to say compelling.

But we have overlooked a third possible answer to the first question. You may answer by saying:

I am uncertain about the theory of copying in Greek.

That is a respectable answer. You will certainly not be held to be lacking in clarity if you say this. But please note the consequences. You are operating with an uncertain theory. What you build on it is rested on an uncertain foundation. And as to the scholarly world, you are not distinctly out of step with it. You are only in uncertain step with it. It is a great gain if you only accept this limited result. You at least know that you are dealing with uncertainties. Others think the same shadows are “assured facts.”

Sooner or later you must also make up your mind on a second question:

Do the facts of resemblance or conclusions we draw from them contradict or make improbable the view of the churches through the centuries in regard to Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

We have seen the facts stated. Do the facts necessitate, or even tend to make us regard our Gospels as untrustworthy, unauthentic, etc.? We answer without hesitation. The facts of resemblance, taken alone, do not even tend to make us distrust the Gospels. Even on the supposition of the utmost stupidity in the Gospel writers; even on the supposition of the most unimaginative and slavish copying; it is hard to see how any facts of resemblance would in any way directly touch the questions of authenticity or trustworthiness of our Gospels. We can easily conceive of John Mark as using Matthew. We can easily conceive of Luke using both Matthew and Mark. If these possibilities can easily be conceived, then we can build an argument for stupidity or for unimaginativeness on the facts of resemblance. But how can we make those facts the basis for a contention that the writers had not apostolic authority or were not trustworthy, independently qualified witnesses?

Hence, it is not from the facts of resemblance alone that any argument can be made out along such lines. It is only when other (real or imaginary) factors are introduced in combination with the facts of resemblance that any such argument can be mounted. For example, when differences are brought into the consideration, then you can try to say that the writers have contradicted each other. Or, when you have decided in favor of a certain definite answer to the question as to how the Gospels were written, then you can say that you believe the way the Gospels were written is inconsistent with belief in their apostolic authority, authenticity, trustworthiness, etc. Or, thirdly, you can come up with a theory as to when the Gospels were written. If you place one Gospel at a relatively late date, and then say that the other two were still later copied from it, then one, two, or even all three may be dated so late that apostolic authority, authenticity, and trustworthiness become unthinkable. After all, if you date any Gospel after you think the supposed author was dead, no one would be amazed to hear you claim that the supposed author had not written it. Date Mark at 60 A. D. Then date Luke at 80 or 90 A. D. Then date Matthew at 100 A. D. Then imagine a process of stupid and slavish copying plus scissors-and-paste work. Assuming this, how could you feel any confidence that the Gospels had come from apostles and their companions? Very good, if you think so. But, let us be clear. The facts of resemblance and closeness do not, in themselves, in any way affect the question of authenticity, trustworthiness, and apostolic authority. Supposed contradictions resting on differences, theories of how the Gospels were composed, and attempts to date the Gospels will in every case prove to be the means by which facts of resemblance have to be supplemented in order to be used as a reason for denying that Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote our first three Gospels.

It seems to us, further, an undoubted fact that at the start of the modern period in Gospel study scholars attempted no systematic denial of the value of the historical evidences (the testimonies) on which the view of the churches was built. Proof of this lies in the notorious fact that early modern scholars tried to use the statements of early writers as props for their theories. When statements of early writers conflicted with theories of the scholars, they usually gave us a new way of interpreting the old statements. They patiently explained how the statement had been really quite correct. It had just been misunderstood by everyone. “Rightly understood” (that is, according to the special interpretation suggested by the scholar) it really reinforced rather than contradicted his theory. Among the early scholars of the modern period there was of course some distrust of the ancient testimonies. But it was fragmentary and unsystematic. When a theory came into conflict with an ancient statement, then that particular statement was questioned, but only to the extent that it gave the theorizer trouble. To the extent that it afforded him help (or could be made by means of a special interpretation to seem to do so) it would be considered absolutely valid. So that, in this early period we are talking about, as no need existed to devalue the testimonies, no general devaluation of them was attempted. It was later, when need arose for finding them unreliable, that such devaluations were attempted.

Indeed, we may go one step farther. The view of the Gospels held by the churches, the historically witnessed and historically received view, as we have seen, seems to offer us the easy and useful key which effortlessly gives us a full explanation of the whole range of the facts of similarity and closeness, not just the exact resemblances alone. Take seriously the assertion that Matthew wrote in Aramaic and you, apparently, have at once a simple, uncomplicated explanation as to how 1,500 odd items of inexact resemblance may have arisen. Of course, we have only put this up to you as a suggestion. Later we hope to be able to show you that for sheer theoretical economy and unforced inclusiveness there is no answer that has ever been suggested to the Synoptic Problem that can compare in adequacy with the view held in the churches. We will do this after the whole picture of the development of Gospel study has been put before you. Meanwhile, we only assert this, to which we suppose all would consent, namely, that in themselves the facts of resemblance tend to prove nothing against the claims of apostolic authority, trustworthiness, and authenticity for Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The third question you must decide is this. What kind of foundation have we on which to build for the future? It is clear that if you think copying in Greek has been proved, then it is proper and inevitable for you to go further and ask which Gospel must we think of as having been copied by the writers of the other two? The right to do this is clear. If you have proved the existence of a process of copying, and if you have proved to your satisfaction that it was copying in Greek, then it is entirely reasonable to inquire who copied from whom. On the assumptions stated the connection between two distinct stages and operations in Gospel study is logically and methodically sound. If the assumptions are right, you do have a solid foundation for seeking an answer to the following three questions, and only to these three questions, namely:

1. Was Greek Matthew the Gospel copied by (the compilers of) Mark and Luke?
2. Was Greek Mark the Gospel copied by (the compilers of) Matthew and Luke?
3. Was Greek Luke the Gospel copied by (the compilers of) Matthew and Mark?

This was the course taken by the line of scholarship which became permanently dominant. It is correct and reasonable if the foundation on which it rests is correct. This is the Theory of Use, the Benutzungshypothese, as strictly defined and as understood by scholars. But it is equally clear that if the underlying assumptions are questionable, this method is illogical and artificially oversimplified. Let us see where we stand if we decide that copying in Greek is not proved.

We have already seen one thing very clearly. It is this. It is not necessary to believe the theory of copying in Greek in order to believe in a very close interconnection of our first three Gospels. Indeed, the truth is just the reverse. Not being committed to the theory of copying in Greek, but keeping our minds open for other possible explanations, we have a broader foundation for believing that a close interconnection of our Gospels is proved. The theory of copying in Greek, when tested by the concrete facts, does not help us, it hinders us from seeing the full range of the facts of resemblance. It does so for the simple reason that 1,500 odd items of inexact similarity and synonymous similarity create a problem for the theory of copying in Greek. On that theory they must be explained as differences. The question is this: On the theory of copying in Greek, why were 1,500 odd changes in Greek made? You have to study the “changes,” as you imagine them to be. And when you do examine them you find that they are indeed odd changes. The largest part of them are paltry changes; they are insignificant, that is, they do not change the meaning as a rule. They are inconsistent. You find that the facts force you to suppose that a certain writer is changing the Greek of his source in certain ways. They are definite ways. You can list and specify them. And, if you do this, you will see that the same writer completely reverses himself. Over and over again he does the opposite of what the theory requires us to imagine he has done before. Now when you drop the theory of copying in Greek, all these various problems and questions become imaginary. The embarrassing problems vanish. The facts of resemblance stand forth in augmented strength. What embarrasses the theory of copying in Greek is the strongest part of the proof of close interdependence.

Now assuming that we have proved close interconnection, we have a most solid foundation for future work. It is entirely proper to seek to find out what kind of interconnection we have. It is right to try to learn the process by which later writers (who may well have been Mark and Luke) used certain sources (which may well have been a Gospel by the apostle Matthew), so that a large amount of similarity came to exist in their finished works. We do not say that this was the case. We only say that we have a solid foundation for studying to see what might have been the case. We also say that the answers we have suggested are not shut out beforehand as impossible. Further, we are not shut up to (a consideration) of Greek documents only as the only possible source from which the facts of resemblance may possibly have arisen. An Aramaic Matthew is possible. A Latin Mark is possible. So that our foundation for future work is ample and solid, while at the same time we are much less restricted in the number of possible solutions which we may try and test than those who have adopted the theory of copying in Greek. For us very early dates are possible. For us sources in other languages than Greek are possible. For us the view that the churches have held through the centuries is perfectly possible. Freedom to consider these possibilities in no way detracts from a full certainty as to the facts of close resemblance. What we may find is not rigidly limited and defined beforehand for us, as it would be if we accepted the Benutzungshypothese.

We have now reached a point where we may let the first part of our presentation draw to a close. The stage is set for our consideration of the second chapter of the story We will go now to the next chapter. But before doing so there are certain remarks that should be made concerning the texts which we have used, and upon which all that we have said so far has been based.

1. We have assumed the value of the texts we have analyzed in making our comparisons of the Gospels. Did we have a right to do so? It is at least doubtful. From where did our texts in Huck-Lietzmann, ed. 9. come? Did Huck make up his own critical text? What changes did Lietzmann introduce, and why? We know he inserted words in Luke 3:22, which are found in only one Greek manuscript, against the evidence of all the others. The question is: How often did he make changes and for what reasons?

2. If we had taken the commonly used Nestle text as basis for comparison, we would still have little certainty of its value. That text is a resultant text. It was made up by taking three critical texts and putting in every reading on which two of them agreed. For full details see Nestle’s “Explanations.” Now, if you take three critical editions, prepared on different foundations of differing critical principles, and then average out the differences, what have you got? Frankly, I do not know. Then, your resultant text takes it upon itself to feel perfectly free to correct any spellings in the manuscripts according to the views of classical scholars as to how the words should have been spelled. See again Nestle’s “Explanations.” The question arises: What are we working with? My answer: “I wouldn’t know.”

3. How did Rahlfs make up his two texts of Judges? These formed the basis of our comparison. I do not know. I have copied out more than half of Judges in the two texts as they appear in two manuscripts. It is not at all the same as using the two critical texts.

4. Lastly, the amount of exact resemblance or of difference that will come out of a comparison of any two critical texts could be made to vary very materially by rigging one’s construction of the critical text. By insisting that numerous readings in Huck-Lietzmann’s texts were poor readings, we could substitute others, which would absolutely break to pieces all those long cases of exact resemblance which we gave you on pages 102-105 above.

Our comparisons have value only this far. They show that when we take the most commonly used texts there appears to be no real foundation, in the facts as those texts give them, for any proof of the theory of copying in Greek. This theory, which is the most basic assumption of all accepted scholarly work on the Gospels, is the thing we have been seeking to weigh in the balances. If some one says to us that the weights we put into the scales for weighing it are no good, we are perfectly willing to agree. However, we will insist on the consequence, which is this: that no materials which you refuse to permit us to use in testing or disproving your foundation can be used as valid in establishing that same foundation. The same set of facts cannot be valid for proving, but at the same time invalid for disproving, the identical proposition. 65

We have added these statements chiefly in order to put important matters in perspective. It is common for theological students to assume that when they buy a Greek New Testament they have in their hands a text that for all practical purposes contains the actual words of the original autographs. Actually, a critical edition of the text of the Gospels contains what the basic critical standards of the editor determine. If the principles are sound, the text may be solid. If not, not. It is the peculiar weakness of a resultant text (such as Nestle’s) that if either Tischendorf’s procedure is sound, or Westcott and Hort’s is sound, then whenever they chance to disagree and either chances to stand alone in advocating certain readings, then their readings are dropped out of the text. The basic principle used in making a resultant text is this. We must not ask the question: “What is the right way to get the correct reading?” Experts disagree on the answer to this question.

That being the case, we can only state what they agree on in spite of their basic disagreements. This is the way a resultant text is shaped up and brought into existence. It is the child of disappointment. The effort to agree on a sound method of finding correct readings has ended in defeat and stalemate. If amy method was right all the readings it stood alone in insisting on must be eliminated in or from the resultant text. It would, you see, be a sad fatuity were a student to buy such a text and to carry it triumphantly home supposing he had the original autographs (almost) in his library. There are also other equally serious uncertainties underlying every attempt to compare in detail the Gospels. It is necessary to choose some definite texts to compare. We have used the form of text most commonly used for such comparative studies. Here we leave the matter. Let us go on now to take up the consideration of a new stage in the development of Source Criticism.

Not everywhere at the same time, to be sure, but in many places and over the years, the theory of copying in Greek won adherents. And the general view of the Use-Hypothesis became widely triumphant. This, however, was not a solution of the problem of the first three Gospels. It was only an outline of a solution. One of the three was copied by the others. But which one? As you all know, the answer to this question which finally emerged triumphantly was the Mark-Hypothesis, the theory that Mark was the Greek source from which the writers of Matthew and Luke had copied when they composed their books. It will be our purpose to try to find out why scholars came to regard Mark as the earliest Gospel. If you will glance at the chart I gave you, you will see that there are five boxes, numbers nine through fourteen, which are grouped together and labeled as “Stage 2: Attempt to solve the ‘Synoptic Problem’ as (mis-)stated.” Box 14 (= the Mark-Hypothesis) is at the end of this section of our road. Box 8 (= the Use-Hypothesis) is the starting point of this leg of the journey.

You will greatly mistake the nature of scholarly work on the Gospels if you allow yourself to suppose that we are still at a stage where students are looking for a general answer, for any kind of answer that might prove satisfactory as a proposed solution of a general problem. That is not the case. At the stage of work we are now to consider it is assumed that certain things are very definitely proved. As a result, it is further assumed that the true answer will only be found within very narrow and definite limits. It is assumed that there was copying in Greek from a source in Greek. It is assumed that the source in Greek which was copied could only have been one of our three Greek Gospels. That source must have been Greek Matthew, or Greek Mark, or Greek Luke. This is the meaning of the Benutzungshypothese. It is, only naturally, assumed that this theory provides a surer method of learning the truth about the Gospels than the method of trusting the ancient testimonies which the churches have believed in through the centuries. If you grant these assumptions, what follows is perfectly legitimate. As you know, we do not grant the assumptions. For the simple reason that we do not grant the assumptions, we do not regard what follows as a legitimate procedure. It is important, however, for you to remember that those whose views we are about to describe were sold on the legitimacy of the method they had accepted. They thought they were building on a solid foundation.

Now we have the background necessary for understanding what was going on. The next question is this: Within the general outline of the Use-Hypothesis, which Gospel did the scholars suggest was the one to be regarded as the source of the other two? The answer is that some thought Matthew had been the source of Mark and Luke. Others thought Luke had been the source of Matthew and Mark. Still others thought that Mark had been copied by Matthew and Luke. There was wide disagreement. After a while one answer became very widely accepted. That answer was the exact opposite of the modern view. It held that Mark was the last gospel to be composed, and that it had been copied out almost entirely from Matthew and Luke, both of which the writer had before him as he compiled his Gospel. Let me reduce a good number of the answers that were proposed into a table, so that you may see at a glance the variety and relative popularity of the various proposed solutions.

The table which follows consists of the names of various scholars who worked on the Gospel problem before 1864. The names are arranged according to the different possible solutions of the question as to the order in which the first three Gospels were written. To this question there are only six possible answers, as follows:

- First Second Third
1. Matthew Mark Luke

2. Matthew Luke Mark

3. Mark Matthew Luke

4. Mark Luke Matthew

5. Luke Matthew Mark

6. Luke Mark Matthew

We have selected the date of 1864 because by that year the dominance of the Mark-Hypothesis was assured. It has continued practically unshaken until the present time, ninety years later. We have taken the names of the scholars, whom we list, from a survey published in 1864, which classifies the views of over fifty scholars. We are thus, by means of our table, able to survey the total scene as it stood ninety years ago. We get a bird’s-eye view of the section of the scholarly world which was just then in the process of shaping up the view which was to become dominant until the present time. We take these names from the Introduction to the 5th (1864) edition of Meyer’s Commentary on Matthew. To the names Meyer gives we add only one, his own. After the names we occasionally add a significant date, as the date when a book written by a certain scholar was published. The dates, we think, will show you quite clearly when and by whom the battle was fought which resulted in the victory of the Mark-Hypothesis.

In the table on the following page the names of fifty odd scholars are grouped according to the solution of the Synoptic Problem they reached, usually within the general framework of the Benutzungshypothese.66

Solution Names of Scholars
holding view named at left
1 Matthew Grotius (d. 1645) Seiler (1805)
Mill (d. 1707) Hug
Wetstein (d. 1754) Credner
Bengel (d. 1752) Hengstenberg
Townson (1783, Ger- Hilgenfeld (1850,
man edition) 2, 4, 5, 7, 9,
61, 2, 3)
2 Mark
3 Luke

1 Matthew Owen (1764) Strauss
Stroth Schwarz (1844)
Griesbach (1789) Bleek
Ammon (1805) Schwegler (1843)
Saunier (1825) Baur (1851, 3, 4)
Theile (1825) Dollinger
Sieffert Kostlin
Fritzsche Kahnis
Neudecker Delitzsch
Kern (Meyer)
de Wette Keim (?)
2 Luke
3 Mark

1 Mark Storr (1794) Ritschl (1851)
Lachmann (1835) Meyer
Weisse (1838, 1856) Plitt (1860)
Ewald Weiss (1861)
Reuss Wittichen (1862)
Thiersch Holtzmann (1861,
Tobler (1855) 1863)
2 Matthew
3 Luke

1 Mark Wilke (1838) Hitzig (1843)
B. Bauer Volkmar (1858)
2 Luke
3 Matthew

1 Luke Busching (1766) Evanson (1792)
2 Matthew
3 Mark

1 Luke Vogel
2 Mark
3 Matthew

Now, if the table just given is at all accurate, and if it gives any fairly complete coverage of the picture, we may look at it for a moment, asking what it shows. I do not hesitate to suggest that you trust the table. Meyer was a prodigious worker. He rose every morning before dawn, settled down in his study, singing “Deutschland uber Alles,” and went to work. He scoured the whole field of New Testament scholarship. His published works attained a tremendous and thoroughly deserved popularity. And, as was said, if the table is trustworthy, it shows certain things pretty clearly to a moment’s consideration.

First of all, the table shows that a fundamental matter that had to be decided was whether the first Gospel to be written was Matthew or Mark. Luke is hardly in the running for first place.

Another thing. The table shows plainly that the fundamental question as to whether Matthew or Mark should be considered as the earlier Gospel was not going to be settled in a general way and on the merits of the case considering the whole problem, in its totality. The table suggests that the concrete form in which the question would come up for decision would be a contest between the large party of those who put Mark last and a more recent and rather large party of those who put Mark first. Let me make this clear. I remember well some time back when I first began to read arguments in favor of the view that Mark was the first Gospel to be written. I read an argument with amazement. It tried to show that it was absurd to think of the writer of Mark as composing his Gospel by taking here a word there a word, here a phrase, there a phrase from Matthew and Luke alternately. The writer showed quite convincingly that Mark could not reasonably be considered to have arisen last of our three Gospels by means of such an artificial process of compilation out of Matthew and Luke. I read all this. I agree. This convinces me that Mark is not to be put in the last place. But nothing that has been said proves to me that Mark should be put in the first place. That simply doesn’t follow. I refuse to believe my eyes. I say to myself, “You have missed the road! Go back and read that page over carefully.” I go over the ground again. The writer promises “to indicate a method by which the originality of Mark may be established on an immovable basis.” He prints a page of Greek for me to read. He says: “That Mark (at all events in many parts) contains the original document or tradition from which Matthew and Luke have borrowed can be proved to demonstration by a necessary inference from the following specimen of narrative common to the three writers.” He next explains away all the places where Matthew agrees with Luke against Mark. These are additions which independent editors would easily and naturally insert. Then he shows that it is absurd to think of the writer of Mark as piecing his narrative together a word and a phrase at a time by scissors and paste work out of Matthew and Luke. Then he stops. I fail to see a proof to a demonstration. The necessary inference nowhere suggests itself to me. I say to myself: “This man refutes the Griesbach theory, which puts Mark last. He thinks that if Mark isn’t to be considered last it has to be considered first. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that if he puts Mark in the middle position and allows the possibility that Luke may have known both Matthew and Mark all the facts can be pretty well accounted for. Moreover, he would not need to explain as chance or coincidences those places where according to his theory Matthew and Luke, acting independently, agree in adding the very same words to Mark’s story at the very same points.” Now all this becomes clear and natural at once in the light of the table that I have given you. 67

Just look at the table. Out of fifty names, only one scholar considers putting Mark in second place at the time when the controversy was in swing which decided the matter. We mean Hilgenfeld. For all the rest, practically, those who were still living and working, writing and publishing, Mark was either last or first. And as the fight actually developed it was a question whether Baur would win or lose. And when it was settled that he had lost, that meant that the view that Mark was first was left alone in control of the field, practically unopposed. From all this, when you see the background, and when you regard the concrete features of the actual conflict, it seems the most natural thing in the world to suppose that the originality of Mark is proved if the theory of Griesbach and Baur is refuted. It is natural enough. But it is not logical. It is not necessary. It is not a demonstration.

In making the foregoing remarks we do not want to get you to prejudge the arguments for the originality of Mark, for the Mark-Hypothesis. Those arguments must be given a fair hearing. We are, however, most anxious, if possible, to have you come to the study of the case with your head up and your eyes open. And for that purpose it is extremely vital to notice that even within the already unduly constricted, as we think it, framework of the Benutzuhgshypothese, it is a false and mistaken view to think that we have only a choice between the Griesbach …

The work, so abruptly broken off at the end of page 147, will be continued, God willing, as rapidly as possible. The first installment now published consists of only about fifty-five copies. It will be revised and reworked. If there is any interest awakened, it will be reissued in revised form, as soon as possible. If any who chance to read these pages have any corrections to suggest, please communicate with the writer. Or, if you think of any suitable additions, please express your mind to the author. For it is undoubtedly true that many aspects of these large questions escape those who try to be thorough. And it is also true that those who are mere novices may catch a glimpse of some fact or implication which eludes those who have pondered the same matters for years. Any expression of criticism, friendly or otherwise, will be welcomed.

Footnotes, New, Comprehensive Approach (1955)

1) The reference is chiefly to two impressive “tomes.” In one of them I had created a “Synopsis” by copying the Greek texts of Matthew and Mark into parallel columns on large sheets of 13” × 14” paper. In it I gave a separate line (or series of lines) for every place where the parallel columns contained texts which were word-for-word, letter-for-letter the same. Even when the two Gospels had only one word in common, or one of them had only one “added” word, I gave it a separate line in the synopsis. These passages were underlined with solid blue lines. Moreover, there was also a separate line for words which were similar but not exactly the same; namely, those which were built on the same Greek stems or roots, but which differed in form or inflection, or in prefix afformations. These passages were underlined with broken blue lines. Then lastly, there was a separate line for every instance where the two texts used different Greek words. These were underlined with solid red lines. If a word was in one document but not in the other, the line in the corresponding place of the parallel column was left blank. The last-mentioned differences naturally fall into two classes. Sometimes when the two documents use different words in parallel positions, the words have the same meaning. Where such synonyms occur we placed them on separate lines, and indicated the fact of synonymity by connecting pure “additions”; namely, those places where one document contains nothing whatever corresponding to what the other has.

The other tome was similar. It contained a collation of two ancient Greek texts of Judges, which hade been copied out in parallel columns. It was prepared in exactly the same way as the first.

2) If a reference to an “authority” is desired, see Abbott, Edwin A., article “Gospels” in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th. He gave years to the study of the Gospels. Here is what he wrote.
For fourteen centuries the church was content to follow Augustine (De Consensu Evangelistarum, i. 4) in believing that Mark was “as it were the humble companion (pedissequus) and abridger” of Matthew. Towards the end of the 18th century this dogma was shaken, and two different hypotheses were put forward: (1) that the evangelists had borrowed from one another, either Matthew from Mark, or Mark from Luke, or even (so capricious and baseless were the hypotheses which now started into existence) Matthew and Mark from Luke; (2) that all the three Gospels depended upon an original and common Gospel. The first of these hypotheses may for convenience be called the “borrowing” hypothesis; the second may be called the “traditional” hypothesis. Eichhorn was the first to systematize the “traditional” hypothesis, ed., vol. X, pp. 841b-843b. Abbott was a competent scholar. maintaining (1794) that the original tradition was a written Aramaic Gospel, known to the three synoptists, but afterwards (1804) so far modifying his views as to recognize that the Aramaic tradition had been translated into Greek, and passed through several documentary stages, before it assumed the form preserved in the triple version of our synoptists.

Thus far, Abbott, whose information comes from Holtzmann. We give this quote not so much to prove what the beginnings of Source Criticism really were. Our purpose is only to show you the common view of when it began.

3) It is important to note this fact. Down the ages there were millions of unbelievers, who of course rejected the message of the Church. They naturally refused to believe many of the alleged facts recorded in the Gospels. Still, apart from Faustus the Manichaean, who insisted that Matthew could not have written Matthew, because if he had, he could never have referred to himself in the third person, there is no record that before Source Criticism arose any unbeliever questioned the view of the church that Matthew wrote our first Gospel, Mark the second, and Luke the third.

4) In these notes our only purpose is to nod in passing at a few of the best known and most readily accessible comments of ancient writers and of scribes of Gospel manuscripts. Practically all our citations may be found in Huck, Albert, A Synopsis of the First Three Gospels, 9th ed. (English), by Lietzmann, Hans, and Cross, F. L., pages vii through x; and in Tischendorf, C., Novum Testamentum Graece, Editio Octava Critica Maior, vol. i, pp. 212f. εν τοισ Εβραιοισ (Irenaeus); τοιζ απο Ιουδαισμον πιστευσασιν (Origen); Ματθαιοζ τε γαρ προτερον Εβραιοιζ χηρυξαζ, ωσ ημελλεν χαι εφ ετερουζ ιεναι, πατριω γλωττι γραφη παραδουζ το χαι αυτον ευαγγαλιον, το λειπον τη αυντου παρουσια, τουτοισ αφ ων εστελλετο, δια τηζ γραφηζ απεπληρου (Eusebius).

This last quotation, as given in the German edition of Huck-Lietzmann, is misleading. It seems to say, taken as it stands printed there, that Matthew wrote his Gospel after Mark and Luke had already written theirs. This impression arises because the punctuation has been incorrectly printed. As a result the upshot of the actual words of Eusebius does not come out clearly. There should be a comma, not a period, after the word πεποιημενων. Where I could (with Huck’s 4th edition and with Schwartz’ kleine Ausgabe of Eusebius) the punctuation agrees with my suggested correction. Why there should be a comma after the word ελθεινε ω I cannot imagine. A reader will definitely come away with an erroneous impression of Eusebius’ meaning if he fails to look up the full passage from which the Huck-LietzmannCross excerpt has been made.

… ob eorum vel maxime causam, qui in Jesus crediderant ex Judaeis … (Jerome)

Such are the statements of ancient authors. Accordant therewith are informations given in the subscriptions, colophons, prologues, lives, and so forth, which Gospel manuscripts contain. These are almost always ignored, as if they were unquestionably worthless. Very few books even mention their existence. We give a few from Tischendorf and Legg. Others similar will be found scattered through pages 293-387 in von Soden, H. F., Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments, Part I, vol. i. These pages in von Soden are the only place known to me where one can get a half-decent impression of the sort of statements that abound in New Testament manuscripts. I have never been able to learn why their existence should be so completely ignored. They are mostly simple, matter-of-fact, and short. They seem to me in the main to be solid and trustworthy. I would like to hear what can be alleged against them. I should certainly like to see a complete presentation of their contents in such a form that I and others could form our own independent judgments as to their value or lack of value. ειζ ιερουσαλημ −− εν ιερουσαλημ −− εν ιερουσαλυμοιζ −− ειζ παλαιστινιν −− τοισ εν ανατολη εβραιοιζ — Hebraice in regione Palaestinae — Hebraice in Palaestina (the foregoing are from Tischendorf; the next two, below, are from Legg, and the third, below, is from a Lucas-Prolog given in Huck-Lietzmann): εν Ιλημ −− εβραιστι εν Παλαιστεινι −− εν τη Ιουδαια.

5) Εβραιδι διαλκτω (Papias’ statement, or, the statement of the Elder to Papias, or, possibly, the statement of John the son of Zebedee to Papias); εν τοιζ Εβραιοιζ τη ιδια αυτων διαλεκτω (Origen); in Iudaea hebraeo sermone (Jerome). Clement of Alexandria does not mention the language of the first Gospel.

Among the notes on language given in the subscriptions to manuscripts of the Gospels the following four may be found in Tischendorf. The fifth and last is from Legg. φωνη τη εβραιδι −− τη εβραιδι διαλεκτι −− εβραιστι −− Hebraice — εβραιστη

6) Ματθαιοζ μεν ουν Εβραιδι διαλεκτω τα λογια συνεταξατο ηρμενευδεν δ αυτα ωζ ην δυνατοζ εκαστοζ. By “the Logia” no one doubts that Papias, and Eusebius who quotes him, meant the first Gospel as we know it. It is possible to think either that he was wrong or that he was right, while still agreeing on what he wrote and what he meant by it. A glance at your chart in the right-hand column, boxes number 12 and 16, will show you that the whole question of the accuracy of Papias will be up for consideration later.

Compare with the Papias statement the statements given in subscriptions to certain manuscripts of the Gospel. The following may be found in Tischendorf: ηρμηνευθη δε υπο ιωαννου −− ηρμνυθηυπο του ιακωβου −− ηρμηνευθι δε υπο ιακωβου αδελφου του κυπιου −− υοτεπον δε παρα βαρθολομαιου του πανευφημου αποστολου ερμηνευθεν τη ελληνιδι διαλεκτω ωσ δε τινεζ φασιν υπο ιω. του θεολογου οι και αληθωζ αληθωσ ειρηκασιν.

7) How early? Subscriptions in manuscripts of Matthew say that he wrote his Gospel eight years after the ascension of Christ. Meyer, H. A. W., Kritisch Exegetisches Handbuch uber das Evangelium des Matthaus, 5th ed., page 24, has a short note giving other ascriptions of a very early date to Matthew. “Alles diess im Streben, das Evang. moglichst fruh zu setzen” writes Meyer. Some may fancy these wholesale brush-offs. I do not.

8) For example, Eusebius tells a story that he had heard, or seen, about Pantaenus, a globe-trotting missionary, who became the head of the famed catechetical school in Alexandria. Pantaenus made a journey to India. The journey was not to the south Arabians, as Meyer thought probable (“wahrscheinlich die siidlichen Araber,” Meyer, op. cit., pages 5f.); nor did “India” mean “the Bosphorus region,” as Goodspeed has it (Goodspeed, Edgar J., A History of Early Christian Literature, Chicago, 1942, pages 94f.) I can find no lexical warrant for either of these oddly divergent suggestions. “Ειζ Ινδουζ” I should take to mean “to the Hindoos,” that is, to the people of the region of the Indus River. As a matter of fact, such a long journey corresponds exactly with what Eusebius tells us of Christians in Pantaenus’ day. Telling of the reason for Pantaenus’ journey, he said: “Because there were — yes, even as late as that time — there were very many missionaries of the Word, who exerted themselves to show an inspired zeal, in imitation of that of the apostles, for the expansion and upbuilding of the divine Word. And of these men Pantaenus was one.” (Eusebius, Church History, V. x. 2).

Now the story Eusebius has heard or read is this. Pantaenus went in his travels to India. There he found “among some of those there who had known Christ, the Gospel according to Matthew, which had preceded his own coming. To them Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached, and he had left with them the writing of Matthew in the script of the Hebrews. This had been preserved until the time mentioned” (Eusebius, op. cit., V. x. 3).

I have heard this story described as “pure bosh.” I must admit, however, that as I read it, it does not in the least impress me as “bosh.” It simply states that a couple of men did what we know others have done many times within the past century. In so doing, their paths crossed. There was a lapse of 150 years, at the outside, between their journeys. The later traveller found the results of the earlier’s presence. I do not see how such an intelligent and educated person as Pantaenus was had to be in error on two simple points, namely, the identity and language of a book he is said to have found at his journey’s end. We are also told (by Jerome, De Viris Inlustribus, xxxvi) that Pantaenus brought the book back to the west with him on his return (evangelium … quod hebreis litteris scriptum revertens Alexandriam secum retulit).

Apropos of this subject, I cannot forbear introducing a case of mistaken identity which may also serve as a healthy warning to any young scholar who may chance to read these notes. Goodspeed, op cit., pages 94f., writes:

A Gospel of Bartholomew is spoken of by Jerome … But it is possible he was making a loose use of Eusebius’ statement (Church History, v. 10. 3) that Bartholomew on his mission to “India” (meaning the Bosphorus region) found there an Aramaic form of the Gospel of Matthew. Perhaps Jerome knew no more than this about a Gospel of Bartholomew.

Checking references is of the utmost necessity. If an expert “gloveman” like Goodspeed can “bobble the ball” in this fashion, let all of us beware, both when we read and.when we write. You see! He gives the reference correctly. But, talk about Jerome making a loose use of Eusebius’ statement! It is certainly a most hypothetical misuse that is suggested. The suggestion is not at all generous! There is nothing hypothetical, however, about the loose use of the statement we have from Goodspeed. For it was Pantaenus, not Bartholomew, who found the Aramaic Gospel according to Matthew. Bartholomew did not find it; he had left it there years before. This plus the surely ill-judged suggestion already noted above, that “India” meant the “Bosphorus region.” Recollection will play all of us false. It is best to check every least quotation.

9) Simply to confine our attention to well known matters, it is well worth pondering the fact that in Latin from earliest times different forms of the text of the Gospels were to be found in very many places. Various independently made translations of Gospels into Latin would account better than any other possible explanation for the varying forms of texts. This situation made it necessary for a Pope to ask Jerome to prepare a new text, the Vulgate, in order to end a situation where there were so many different texts in use in various churches.

There is no reason at all to think that the Greek Gospel of Matthew may not have had exactly the same kind of origin, as we have suggested possible for the so-called “Old Latin” Gospels. An examination of thousands of textual variants in Legg’s edition of Matthew has led me to attempt to keep an entirely open mind on this question. I mean this. My mind is open to consider the possibility that the common opinion that Matthew was originally written in Greek may very well be in error. You ought, I think, always to keep in mind the possibility that the different Greek manuscript texts of Matthew, far from being so many corruptions from one original Greek Matthew, might easily be independent translations from an Aramaic original. If so, then in the critical texts now in vogue we do not have an extremely close approximation to the earliest attainable form of the original text. What we have, in such a case, is only a mass of independently made translation-texts (= versions) artificially spliced together into a patchwork of no value whatever. In such a case we would think we had a critical text; we would really have a Piltdown Man, so to speak.

In other words, try to keep an open mind to the possibility that the simple, natural explanation, which the early sources state to have been the actual case, may well turn out to have been the real state of things.

10) Μαρκοζ … ουτε γαρ ηκουσεϖ του κυριου ουτε παρηξολουθησεν αυτω (the Elder to Papias). Marcus … qui dominum quidem salvatorem ipse non vidit (Jerome).

11) In this footnote and those immediately following our chief desire is merely to take a swift glance at the best known comments of ancient authors. We also adduce a few easily verifiable comments found in manuscripts of the Gospel. Practically all may be found in Huck, A., op. cit., and Tischendorf, C., op. cit. A few come from Legg’s edition of Mark. Others may be found in von Soden, H., op. cit. The present footnote gives a few of the statements mentioning Mark’s relation to Peter, or the authority of Peter for what Mark’s Gospel states.
Μαρκυζ μεν ερμηνευτηζ Πετρου γενομενοζ, οσα εμνημονευσεν ακριβωζ εγραφεν … The foregoing is what the Elder told Papias. In Lawlor, H. J., and Oulton, J. E. L., Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, the Ecclesiastical History and the Martyrs of Palestine, vol. ii, pp. 115f. (London, SPCK, 1928), there is a note suggesting that epunvEUins … YEVOU.evos probably means ex-translator.

Marcus … iste interpres fuit Petri, post excessionem ipsius Petri descripsit idem hoc in partibus Italiae evangelium (The Marcan Prologue). Μαπξοσ, ο μαθητηζ και επμηνευτηζ Πετρου, και αυτοζ τα υπο Πετρου κηρυσσομενα εγγραφωζ ημιν παραδεδωκεν (Irenaeus). του Πετρου δημοδια εν Ρομι κηρυξαντοζ τον λογον και πνευματι το ευαγγελιον εξειποντοζ, τουζ παρονταζ, πολλουζ ονταζ, παρακαλεσαι τον Μαρκου, ωσ αν ακολουθηδαυτα αυτω πορρωθεν και μεμνημενον των λεχθεντων, αναγραφαι τα ειρημενα. ποιησαντα δε, το ευαγγελιον μεταδουναι τοισ δεομενοιζ αυτου (Clement). No origin for Mark’s Gospel could be more natural than that which Clement asserts. He asserts it, and says it was an information handed down from the original Elders: παραδοσιν των ανεκαθεν πρεσβυτερων …

We just said that no explanation of the origin of Mark’s Gospel could be more natural than that given by Clement on the authority of the earliest Elders. It is equally natural even on the not unlikely assumption that the very ones who requested Mark to write a Gospel may have had in their hands the Gospel according to Matthew. The reason for this is as follows. An exact comparison can be made between stories of Jesus as told in the first Gospel and the same stories as told in the second. Such a comparison would show Mark’s form of each story is nearly always longer, perhaps always so. In some cases it is nearly twice as long as Matthew’s. Mark’s stories are longer, because of lively details, added bits of information, which are interlarded into almost every verse. The result is that the stories of the same events in Mark are far more vibrant with life than they are in Matthew. To me it is no wonder at all that men would desire to have in writing the stories of Jesus as Peter gave them in addition to having them as they were to be found in Matthew’s Gospel. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the very features of Mark’s Gospel which appeared so striking to the German critics nearly 1800 years later were the ones which would have been most likely to prompt the original demand, the popular demand, which caused Mark to write a Gospel.

It may also be mentioned in passing that Peter may have had Matthew’s Gospel in his hand, while preaching at Rome. Or, Mark may have had it open on a table before him as he wrote his own Gospel. In a word, there may have been the closest imaginable relation between the first two Gospels. This close relation is conceivable without in any way detracting from the independent apostolic authority of both. Let this be perfectly clear. A very close literary relation between the first two Gospels, in itself, need in no way detract from the value of both or either as independent witnesses to the same set of facts. A close literary relation between any two Gospels can only be used to cast doubt upon the value of the dependent Gospel when the conditions under which the dependent Gospel is written are known (or, imagined) to justify its devaluation.

We now take up the threads where they were dropped and give other comments on Mark’s relation to Peter. δευτερον δε το καρτα Μαρκον, ωζ Πετροζ υφηγησατο αυτω, ποιησαντα,ον και υιον … ωμολογησεν … (Origen). Eusebius says nothing of this in his own name. (See correction of this last statement in 1985 edition.)

He merely gives the statements of Papias, Irenaeus, Clement, and Origen. … Marcus interpres apostoli Petri … qui dominum quidem salvatorem ipse non vidit, sed ea quae magistrum audierat praedicantem iuxta fidem magis gestorum narravit quam ordinem (Jerome).

To the foregoing, for comparison, we add statements given in the subscriptions to certain manuscripts of the Gospel. The following may be found in Tischendorf or Legg. Other similar materials may be seen in von Soden. Και εξεδοθη παρα Πετπου του πρωτοξορυφαιου των αποστολων τοιζ εν ρωμη ουσι πιστοισζ αδελφοιζ −− υπηγορευθη υπο Πετρου −− διηγορευθη δε υπο Πετρου −− same as the last two + εκ ρωμηζ −− οσσα περι Χριστοιο θεηγοποζ ενθεα πετροζ κηρυσσων εδιδασκεν απο στοματων ερετιμων. ενθα δε μαρκοσ αγειρε και εν σεγιδεσσιν εθηκεν. τουνεκα και μεροπεσσιν ευαγγελοζ αλλοζ εδεικθη.

12) Ancient writers give us the following impressions as to the scene of Mark’s literary efforts. The Marcan Prologue says: in partibus Italiae. The Lucan Prologue has: ευαγγελιων, του μεν … του δε κατα Μαρκον εν τη Ιταλια. The words of Clement are: εν Ρωμι … τουζ παρονταζ, πολλουσ ονταζ, παρακαλεδαι τον Μαρκον … While not giving positive statements, Irenaeus suggests Rome in his immediate context, and Origen suggests it by quoting explicitly 1 Peter 5:13, where “in Babylon” is commonly taken to be a reference to Rome. Papias and Eusebius do not mention a definite place. (See correction of this last statement in 1985 edition.) Neither does Jerome in the Preface to his Commentary on Matthew quoted in Buck. Elsewhere, however, he writes: Marcus … rogatus Romae a fratribus breve scripsit evangelium (De Viris Inlustribus, viii).

The following are given in subscriptions to manuscripts of the second Gospel: ρωμαιδτι εν ρωμι −− εν αιγυπτω −− εγραφι … εν τη πρεσβυτερα ρωμι … και εξεδοθι … τοιζ εν ρωμη ουσι πιστοιζ αδελφοιζ −− εκ ρωμηζ −− επεδοφη μαρκω τω ευαγγελιστη και εκηρυχθη εν αλεχανδρεια και παση τη περιχωρω αυτηζ −− εγραφη εν τη ρωμη … Marci, qui loquutus est ac praedicavit Latine Romae evangelium sanctum Marci, quod loquutus est Latine Romae.

13) The two statements are given in the preceding footnote. One of them says nothing of the place the Gospel was written, but only that it was preached in Alexandria and the surrounding region. The other statement is not given in full. If we had the full statement, then we could probably tell at once whether it did or did not contradict the alleged Roman birthplace of the Gospel. Tischendorf simply says: aliunde affertur en aigypto. He names no definite manuscript containing the statement.

14) Papias, Marcan Prologue, Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, as quoted in Ruck, mention no language. Clement clearly implies that Mark’s Gospel would be in the language of Peter’s audience, who urged that his words be written for them. Would that be Greek or Latin? Either or both would be possible. Which would be the more probable? The only explicit statements on the present point are given among the subscriptions in Tischendorf: eYPa(Pn pwuaLatL sv pwun and Latine Romae.

The following statement directly contradicts what I have stated about the language of Mark.

Markus schrieb Griechisch, wie die Vater einmuthig theils voraussetzen, theils ausdrucklich bezeugen. Zwar findet sich in der Peschito als Unterschrift, und in der Philoxeniana am Rande (vrgl. auch Ebedjesu HYPERLINK http://b.Assem.Bibl.or.III.1.p.9 b. Assem. Bibl. or. III. 1. p. 9.), die Bemerkung, dass Markus in Rom Romisch gepredigt habe, und mehrere Handschriften des Griechischen Textes (s. Scholz p. XXX.) sagen bestimmt aus, er habe Lateinisch geschrieben; allein these ganze Angabe ist eine voreilige Folgerung aus der Voraussetzung, dass Mark. zu Rom und speciell fur Romer geschrieben habe. Gleichwohl konnte sie den Katholiken im Interesse der Vulgata nur willkommen sein, so dass sie von Baronius (ad ann. 45. Nr. 39ff.) u. M. vertheidiget wurde. Seit R. Simon aber ist sie auch bei den katholischen Gelehrten wieder aufgegeben; und hat man sogar das Lateinische Autographum in Venedig zu besitzen vorgegeben, so ist dasselbe langst als Stuck der Vulgata-entlarvt(s. Dobrowsky fragment. Pragense ev. St. Marci vulgo autographi, HYPERLINK http://Prag.1778.Micha-el.orient.Bibl.XIII.108.Einl.II.p Prag. 1778. Michael. orient. Bibl. XIII. 108. Einl. II. p. 1073ff.).

The quotation is from Meyer, A. A. W., Kritisch Exegetisches Handbuch uber die Evangelien des Markus und Lukas. Vierte, verbesserte und vermehrte Auflage.Gottingen. 1860. Page 10. This says:

Mark wrote Greek, as the Fathers unanimously partly presuppose, partly attest explicitly.

Just what this means is a question. Does he mean that when ante-Nicene writers cite Mark they give his words in Greek? Or does he mean, as we would naturally interpret his words, that Papias, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, and so on, unanimously presuppose or expressly state that Mark wrote in Greek? In any case, I am content to let my statements stand until I have seen the statements, whatever they are, of which Meyer speaks. “The whole assertion is only an over-hasty inference from the presupposition that Mark had written at Rome and especially for Romans.” So says Meyer. I am somewhat less sure of this than the Oberconsistorialrath seems to be.

15) Several years ago there was a time, when for about the period of a year, I had been asking different friends to keep an open mind towards the possibility that Mark had written in Latin. My reason for doing this was that I had read hundreds, probably thousands, of the variant textual readings in Mark. What could be the key, I asked, that would explain these readings in some natural and easy way? The character of the variant readings in Mark appeared so like the nature of those in Matthew that I suspected they might have some explanation similar to that which I suggested possible in the case of Matthew. (See page 15, note 9).

That is to say, I kept my mind open and urged others to do the same to the possible explanation that the different Greek manuscript texts of Mark, far from being corruptions from one original Greek Gospel, might easily prove to be independently made translations from a Latin original in the case of our second Gospel.

After reaching such a standpoint, then, but not before, I discovered that whenever language is mentioned regarding Mark it is always said to have been written in Latin. A bit later still a good friend and I were together in a library. He was skimming through a learned volume, and ran on quite a long argument in favor of the Latin original for Mark. Three chapters were given over to stating textual data and analyzing it in order to show the likelihood of a Latin original for Mark. The book is Codex B and Its Allies by H. C. Hoskier, London, Bernard Quaritch, 1914, 2v. The three chapters are the fourth, fifth and sixth. The fourth chapter is titled: “Concerning the Latin Version of St. Mark.” I would copy the entire first page, page 126, into this footnote, if it were not aside from our main purpose to do so. The fifth chapter is titled: “Two or More Greek Recensions of St. Mark.” It is described in the table of contents as follows: “Selected examples of varieties of readings and renderings throughout the Gospel.” Chapter six is titled: “Concerning the Latin base of St. Mark.”

16) As in the similar case of the first Gospel where an Aramaic original was a possibility, so also here. It is very desirable if possible to keep an open mind for the possibility that the common opinion that Mark was originally written in Greek may well be in error. In such a case, if the Greek manuscript texts of Mark were not corruptions of an original Greek Mark but instead represented independently made translations into Greek, then, in that case, the so-called critical texts now in fashion would not be close approaches to the earliest form of the text of our second Gospel. They would, in the supposed case, be the result of a misguided attempt to fuse independently made secondary versions into a previously non-existent unity. Instead of finding the original stock, the critical text would be an artificially produced hybrid entirely unrelated to the original stock because the artificially produced text would not even be in the right original language.

We have mentioned these matters because they are possibilities inherent in the basic nature of the study of the Gospels as far as textual criticism is concerned. And not only so. But we give them a place because in the case of both Matthew and Mark the actual statements that have come down to us out of antiquity contradict the whole of our modern approach. Anyone who will not try to keep an open mind on these points cannot well be dismayed should he prove to have missed the right way. In such a case he has but his own forgetfulness to thank for his misspent toils.

17) An excellent illustration of our assertion may be found in an article by Bruce M. Metzger, “The Evidence of the Versions for the Text of the New Testament”, pages 25-68 and 177-208 (notes), in New Testament Manuscript Studies, edited by M. M. Parvis and A. P. Wikgren (Univ, of Chicago Press, 1950). The citation from Augustine is copied out of Metzger’s article.

18) Judaeos impulsore Christo (Chresto) assidue tumultuantes Roma expulit. (Suetonius, Claudius, 25). What is the date of this decree? How, if at all, did it affect Christians? If it affected Christians, how long before the decree was a church in existence at Rome? All these matters are involved in great uncertainty and there have been ardent proponents of every possible answer to the questions raised.

19) Here are the statements regarding the date of Mark which may be found in the subscriptions: ευαγγελλιον εξεδοθη μετα χρονουζ ι τηζ του χυ αναληϕεωζ −− : ευαγγελλιον εξεδοθη μετα χρονουζ ι τηζ του χυριου αναληϕεωζ −− μετα χρονουζ δεκα −− μετα χρονοζ ιβ −− μετα χρονουζ δεκα τηζ του ξυ και του θεου ημων αναληϕεωζ −− ιοτεον οτι μετα χρονουζ δεκα τηζ του ξυ ημων και θυ ιυ χυ εκ νεκρων αναστασεωζ ειζ ουνουζ αναληϕεωζ εγραφη το κατα μαρκον αγιον ευαγγελιον −− μετα ιβ ετη τηζ αναληϕεωζ του κυριου.

20) The words of Papias are: Και τουθ ο πρεσβυτερος ελεγεν· Μαρκος μεν ερμηνευτης Πετρου γενομενος, οσα εμνημονευσεν ακριβως εγραψεν, ου μεντοι ταξει, τα υπο του κυριου η λεχθεντα η πραχθεντα. ουτε γαρ ηκουσεν του κυριου ουτε παρηκολουθησεν αυτω, υστερον δε, ως εφην, Πετρω, ος προς τας χρειας εποιειτο τας διδασκαλιας, αλλ ουχ ωσπερ συνταξιν των κυριακων ποιουμενος λογιων, ωστε ουδεν ημαρτεν Μαρκος ουτως ενια γραψας ως απεμνημοσευσεν. ενος γαρ εποιησατο προνοιαν, του μηδεν ων ηκουσεν παραλιπειν η ψευσασθαι τι εν αυτοις.

21) See above in footnote number 11.

22) The only reference to such a claim of priority for Luke that I have ever seen is to be found in Meyer, op. cit., page 35, which states that Busching (Die vier Evangelisten mit ihren eigenen Worten zusammengesetzt, Hamburg, 1766) and Evanson (The Dissonance of the Four Generally Received Evangelists, 1792) held that Luke was written first, Matthew second, and Mark last. Vogel (in Gabl. Journ. fGr auserl. theol. Lit. I. p. 1ff.) put Luke first, Mark second, and Matthew last, These claims were never taken seriously so far as I know.

23) Briefly put, the importance of translations is this. Regardless of the date of the manuscript copy of a translation (version, recension), it is a witness for the original from which it was made from the time of its making, if that can be in any way ascertained. Once the translation is made, it is copied in another language. If correctly copied, though the copy were made in the 16th century, it would represent the contents of the original from which it came, say in the 2nd century, or even possibly earlier.

So that you will see that it is a matter of substantial importance to determine whether Matthew was written in Aramaic or whether Mark was written in Latin. If either or both of these cases were so, it would entirely alter the value of the Greek manuscripts as evidences. In the supposed case, whether we had or did not have the originals, we would be assured fully of the contents of the originals and of their extremely early date and wide diffusion. These are considerations that bear pondering.

24) For example, if you turn to your latest and most widely advertised commentary on the Scriptures, The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. vii, page 242, you may read the following:

The principal difficulty with the tradition (that is, the statements of ancient writers as to Matthew’s authorship of the first Gospel) is not its attestation or its intrinsic character … The difficulty is rather the character of the Gospel itself — a Greek Gospel, using Greek sources, written for a predominantly Gentile church, at a time when the tradition had become mixed with legend, and when the ethical teaching of Jesus was being reinterpreted to apply to new situations and codified into a new law.

Note well that first statement. It goes far, taken alone, to justify the action of scholars before 1775 in trusting the external testimonies. Note well also the second statement, for it gives good enough samples of those “difficulties,” for what they are worth, which make so many bold to reject any and all assertions that have come from early ecclesiastical writers. It will be our task a bit later to test what such considerations are worth.

25) We do not intend to tell the story we just said would go untold. However, there are a few things about the external testimonies you should know. In the case of the Gospels they are usually belittled or explained away. Although they are world-wide in origin, they are usually treated as if they were all just echoes from Papias. Then Papias is questioned. His accuracy and trustworthiness is doubted and devalued. What did the Elder really tell him? How much of what he says is just his own guessing? And so forth. For example, on page 630 of vol. vii, of The Interpreter’s Bible you may read as follows:

Many modern scholars agree with Kirsopp Lake that Papias was only guessing. He had the tradition of Peter’s residence in Rome and martyrdom there, and also the tradition that Mark’s Gospel was written in Rome; and he put the two together in order to frame a theory which would account for (a) Mark’s early date and (b) its obvious divergence in order from the other Gospels, perhaps chiefly from John …

Now, I would not want to be guilty of making anyone within range of my voice
conceited, but I would not hesitate to tell any, even the merest novices in New Testament studies, that they could play the same game as well as any of the famous names in the scholarly world. I could do it myself with an easy finesse. That is, if I wanted to permit myself to play at the game. But after all the reasons in the world have been given with all the plausibility at men’s command, the fact still remains that perfectly competent men, with plenty of opportunity to know the facts in various ways, agree on a few utterly simple propositions in regard to the Gospels which have been read in every church in Christendom for the past 100 to 180 years before their day.

Take an analogous case. If you do not care for my analogy, make your own. Take a document in American history, something as prominent in our history and life as the Gospels were in the early church, say the Declaration of Independence. Then construct a situation similar to what we have in the case of early Christian writers in reference to the Gospels.

Suppose you had a statement by Eisenhower (in 1951), by Warren Harding (1921), and by Uysses Grant (in 1871). All of them said that Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence. That analogy corresponds pretty well with the dates for Papias, Clement, and Origen in relation to an early date for the Gospels. Irenaeus would come before both Clement and Origen, and Eusebius after both, if we included them. If any one desires to make the date of the Gospels late, he puts the witnesses closer to them.

Now suppose that Grant’s statement was the earliest known to us. Here is the argument: Eisenhower and Harding must obviously be considered echoes of Grant. But Grant was probably only guessing. After 1800 years more have passed some one might make that kind of argument sound plausible. But to us, today, does it sound plausible? If you say, “Yes,” I have no answer. But I do not think you will say, “Yes.” As a matter of fact for the first 150 to 175 years of the church all the leading churches claimed the power to trace back their list of bishops to men who knew, or were appointed by, some of the original apostles or their close associates. And on the simple matters as to which they make assertions, they and a great many others would easily be able to know whereof they spake, even though they might live at a distance of 100, or 150, or 180 years after the Gospels were written. It must always be remembered that what has survived to us of what they wrote, after 1800 years, is probably largely accidental. The deficiencies of record are probably very great.

26) The Roman Catholic Church has always held to the traditional position. She has told her scholars that while they are free to study and to speculate about the Gospels, they must not contradict such elementary matters, always and everywhere believed, as that Matthew wrote the first Gospel, and that Mark, Peter’s interpreter, wrote the second Gospel.

In doing this, she has denied her scholars academic freedom. At least they have no freedom to denounce the Gospels as inauthentic, legendary, historically untrustworthy, and so on. Her policy in the case of the Apocrypha is the same. And in that case we may deplore her policy as sadly mistaken. It was unfortunate that Jerome’s advice was not followed. However, though I do not wish to defend her policy even in the case of the Gospels, I must point out to you that it is a very different case from that of the apocryphal books. The great difference is that in this case she is following a recognized principle of law and equity, the principle, namely, that no amount of circumstantial evidence is valid unless used in conjunction with direct testimony. And in this case, of the Gospels, we mean, no one can deny that all — all — the direct testimony ever found is for the authenticity of the Gospels. That principle would be absolutely sound if you or I were on trial in court. We would be grateful to a judge who directed a jury to acquit us on the ground that no direct testimony supported the circumstantial evidence against our innocence.

It is not exactly easy to challenge the fairness of the Roman Catholic position in the case of the Gospels. She only does for them what we would insist on for ourselves in a like case in a court of law. It is of course possible that her position results from fear. That may be. It is equally possible that her position is based on solid good sense.

27) Here are Augustine’s words. You may translate them as you please if my rendering does not suit you. He wrote: Marcus eum subsecutus, tanquam pedissequus et breviator ejus videtur. (Copied from Morison, J., A Practical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Mark, Boston, 1882, page xxxviii. In Salmon’s 9th edition, An Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament, page 138, Augustine’s words are given thus: Matthaeum secutus tanquam pedissequus et breviator.)

Other words of Augustine are: Cum solo quippe Joanne, nihil dixit; solus ipse, perpauca; cum solo Luca, pauciora; cum Matthaeo vero, plurima, et multa pene totidem atque ipsis verbis, sive cum solo, sive cum caeteris consonante. (Copied from Morison, ibid.)

28) Marcus non Epitomator Matthaei. It is published in Pott and Ruppert’s Sylloge, vol.i, pp. 35-69. So says Morison, op. cit., “Introduction,” p. xl.

29) Koppe apparently did not draw this conclusion. I judge from a comment of Morison, who writes: “Koppe … contending … that St. Mark, so far from being a mere abbreviator of St. Matthew, never saw St. Matthew’s Gospel. The coincidences between the two are, he conjectures, to be accounted for on the principle that they both drew from the same fountains, whether oral or written.” Op. cit., p. xlix.

Nevertheless it is a very easy step to take from praising numerous qualities of freshness and originality in Mark, and from steadily dwelling on how impoverished Matthew is in comparison with Mark, to advancing, at the next step, a claim that Mark must have been the earlier Gospel which the writer of Matthew used when he composed his Gospel.

30) Such facts are called “internal evidence,” in order to mark it off from so-called “external evidence”; namely, that found in ancient writers, titles, colophons, indeed anywhere outside of the actual texts of the documents. You will often see it affirmed that internal evidence is far superior to external evidence. Sometimes it is. For example, whenever a forgery is detected, it is usually because someone has noticed something in the contents of the spurious document, which can be shown to be inconsistent with the claims made for it by its defenders. On the other hand, you would do very well to be cautious and to question carefully the claims put up for the value of internal evidence in Gospel studies. Let me tell you why.

Not always perhaps, yet almost always, internal evidence depends for all its force on a special interpretation which some scholar puts on words, phrases, expressions, which normally no one else would even think of. Then the special interpretaion has to be put in a light that makes it appear plausible and convincing to others. Everything, of course, depends on whether the apparent plausibility is easily and naturally forthcoming, or whether it is artificially induced by elaborate and unnatural manipulation of words and expressions which may be easily and naturally understood otherwise. A tremendous amount of philological learning and ingenuity often goes into the discovery and interpretation of so-called internal evidence.

Each case of alleged internal evidence must be studied and judged by itself. Internal evidence cannot be condemned wholesale. On the other hand, if you are not careful, you will be likely to find yourself taken in again and again by chains of reasoning which subsequent experience will cause you to reject as too artificial, academic, and doctrinaire to be worthy of even the slightest respect. Meanwhile, as you live and learn, there is one good concrete test, which you can usually make with ease. It is this. You can look about and try to find out what amount of general agreement the piece of alleged internal evidence in question appears to find among qualified scholars. It will usually be found that little unanimity exists. The reason for the lack of unanimity is that the subjective element enters to such a great degree in the special interpretations and into the arguments used that other independently qualified judges simply refuse to accept what to the author and perhaps to you may appear the most brilliant insight of the centuries.

31) For example, three little words of St. Augustine about Mark, rightly considered, imply extremely careful observation of the close relation of all three Gospels: solus ipse, perpauca. The full statement is: Cum solo quippe Joanne, nihil dixit; solus ipse, perpauca; cum solo Luca, pauciora; cum Matthaeo vero, plurima, et multa pene totidem atque ipsis verbis, sive cum solo, sive cum caeteris consonante.

32) I think my fairly simple statement covers the ground adequately. My purpose is to give an accurate impression of the nature of the argument that influenced scholars, of course. But above all we want to set before you the argument in the form in which it became dominant, not convincing the professional scholars alone, but large numbers of the clergy and of the educated laymen. We would like to exhibit these views as they stood at the time when they began to become permanently dominant. That point comes where such arguments are used to set the stage for the “proof” that Mark was the earliest Gospel. That time was between 1850 and 1865. My problem is that of documenting the statements in the text with quotations from a couple of the most influential books written at that period. For reasons later to be explained very fully I have chosen works by Meyer and Holtzmann. From these we cite a few places. I first give Meyer’s summary of the whole Synoptic Problem.

Verwandtschaft der drei ersten Evangelien 1)

Die seltsame Mischung von Uebereinstimmung und Abweichung der Synoptiker unter einander, in welcher sich theils eine augenfallige Gemeinschaft nicht blos stofflich und im Umfange und Gange der Geschichte, sondern auch in den Worten und Uebergangen, oft bis auf die zufalligsten Kleinigkeiten und besondersten Ausdrucke herab, theils wieder eine sehr verschiedene Eigenthumlichkeit in Aufnahme und Behandlung des Stoffes wie in der Wahl der Ausdrucke und Verbindungen zu Tage legt (s. den nahern Nachweis dieses Verhaltnisses b. de Wette §79. §80. Credner §67. Wilke neutestam. Rhetorik p. 435ff. Holtzm. p. 10ff.), hat, seitdem die mechanische Strenge der altern Inspirations-theorie dem Rechte der wissenschaftlichen Erforschung den gebuhrenden Platz einraumen musste, sehr verschiedene Erklarungsversuche hervorgerufen. Entweder namlich hat man alle drei Evangelien aus gemeinschaftlicher Quelle abgeleitet; oder man hat sich mit der alten Annahme (s. schon Augustin. de consensu evv. 1, 4.) begnugt, dass einer den andern, der Spatere den oder die Fruheren, benutzt habe, wobei man aber urevangelische Schriften und die mundliche Tradition der apostolischen Zeit zu Hulfe genommen hat und nehmen musste.

1) Zur Geschichte der desfallsigen Untersuchungen s. Weiss in HYPERLINK http://d.Stud.u.Krit.1861.p.678ff.94ff.Hilgenf.in d. Stud. u. Krit. 1861. p. 678ff. 94ff. Hilgenf. in s. Zeitschr. 1861. p. lff. 137f. HYPERLINK http://1862.p.1ff.u.in 1862. p. 1ff. u. in s. Schrift: der Kanon u. d. Kritik d. N. T. 1863. Holtzmann d. synopt. Evangelien p. 15 ff.

The foregoing is taken from the introduction to the commentary on Matthew already cited, pp. 24f. A detailed description of the course of scholarly work follows the place we have quoted, pp. 25-41. More quotations from the detailed description will be given later.

We next give Holtzmann’s summary of the Synoptic Problem. In his book, Die synoptischen Evangelien, ihr Ursprung und geschichtlicher Charakter, 1863, he finds proof of interdependence of the Gospels first “in the arrangement of the whole: 1) Prehistory; 2) Entrance on Messianic Office; 3) Open Teaching Activity of Jesus in Galilee; 4) Trip to Jerusalem; 5) Entrance into Jerusalem; and 6) Suffering, Death, and Resurrection.” The second kind of proof he finds is in “verbally agreeing detail: 1) individual notices joined together in the same way; 2) single facts are portrayed in a to-the-word agreement of all three, more frequently in agreement between two; 3) single speech sections in all three, but more between two, reported letter for letter the same, what is so much more amazing in Greek expressions, since Jesus spoke Aramaic; for example, eschatological prophecy M24 Mk13 L21 where not merely affektvollen places run verbally the same but also in insignificant Nebenpartien fast ganz dieselbe Bestimmtheit und Ausfuhrlichkeit der Rede anzutreffen ist; 4) there are turns and expressions used by all three which are elsewhere rare; 5) the same verbs are bound with the same prepositions; 6) similar quotations occur which agree, but vary from the MT and do not either verbally agree with the LXX; and 7) citations common to all three are from the LXX; those peculiar to Matthew from the Urtext.”

The above material is from notes which I made over six years ago. Someday I will get Holtzmann’s book again and replace what I have given with a more satisfactory statement. What I have given is substantially correct, however. I have checked it with the discussion in the third edition of Holtzmann’s Einleitung, 1892, which is much the same. It is not three pages long, and may be easily found and examined. As a temporary substitute, pending the reworking of the above very unsatisfactory notes from the book of 1863, we give the following from the 1892 Einleitung:

Die 3 ersten Evglien … Aber … bieten jene fruheren evangelischen Berichte wieder an sich selbst ein Rathsel dar. Vergleichen wir sie 3 Glasern … so ist zwar sofort klar, dass wir es nur mit einem einzigen Bilde zu thun haben … In der Hauptsache verfolgen immerhin die 3 Berichterstatter denselben Faden; ihre Darstellungen konnen daher abschnittweise nebeneinander gestellt, in gemeinsame Uebersicht gebracht werden … Und zwar besteht these Verwandtschaft 1. in der Anordnung des Ganzen … Diese auffallende Uebereinstimmung in der Totalanlage und in der Hauptmasse des Stoffes ist aber keineswegs lediglich durch die Geschichte selbst und durch die wirkliche Folge von Begebenheiten vorgezeichnet gewesen … Z. Die Verwandtschaft erstreckt sich auf ubereinstimmendes Detail. 1) Schon vor der Geschichte der letzten jerusalemischen Tage sind einzelne Berichte ganz in derselben Weise verknupft (eight examples are given) …

2) Einzelne Thatsachen werden in einer his auf die Minutien des Wortlauts und die Singularitaten der Satzverbindung sich erstreckenden Uebereinstimmung von allen Dreien … haufiger noch von Zweien geschildert …

3) Ebenso sind einzelne Redeabschnitte bei allen Dreien, haufiger noch bei Zweien buchstablich gleich mitgetheilt, was im griechischen Ausdruck um so mehr befremdet, da Jesus aramaisch sprach. So z. B. die eschatologischen Weissagung Mt 24 = Mc 13 = Lc 21, wo nicht bloss die Gliederung des Ganzen … sondern auch … in unbedeutenden Nebenpartien fast ganz dieselbe Bestimmtheit und Ausfuhrlichkeit der Rede anzutreffen ist.

4) Es werden Wendungen und Ausdrucke von allen Dreien gebraucht, die auffallend und sonst selten sind …

5) Es kommen gemeinsame Citate vor, die vom hebraischen Text in der Weise von LXX abweichen und doch auch letzterem Text gegenuber wieder durch gewisse Eigenthumlichkeiten unter sich verbunden sind …

(Conclusion:) Konnen sonach die Synoptiker nicht unabhangig voneinander geschrieben haben, so hat die Kritik darzuthun, welche gegenseitigen Beziehungen unter inhen stattgehabt haben mussen, um ein so auffallendes Verwandtschaftsverhaltniss erklarlich erscheinen zu lassen.

One other matter: the argument from the alleged use of very rare words and unusual expressions by all three Gospels. Gould in ICC on Mark, “Introduction,” p. xi, gives a list of only seven words of this sort. That is, in Mark, less than one word in every fifteen hundred. Then he says: “These verbal resemblances can be explained only by the interdependence of the written accounts (italics his). Either the gospels are drawn from each other, or from some common written source.” Holtzmann gives a list of ten words or expressions of this kind. They come under head number four (“turns and expressions, used by all three, which are striking and are elsewhere rare”). Gould does not use one of the words Holtzmann gives. In the Einleitung of 1892 Holtzmann himself repeats only five of his original ten given in 1863. The plain fact is that this kind of argument, which might have been overpoweringly convincing, simply went starving for suitable facts upon which it could be solidly mounted. Personally, I would not use a single example in either Gould’s or Holtzmann’s list for making an argument of this sort. But supposing I were impressed by a couple of their items, even so, what kind of an argument for interdependence could you build on two or three words in twelve thousand?

Along the lines of what we gave from Meyer and Holtzmann, here is a third illustration from a very different quarter. It is from a man who does not represent the line of thought which was destined to become dominant. He represents rather a view which was practically dead when he wrote. In this, indeed, he is typical enough. We mean he is typical of the way in which so much was taken over by English writers as something new and final, when in its native land it was already decisively outmoded, even moribund. Nevertheless, the quotation we give shows plainly the spirit of the age. Opposing schools fought bitterly, perhaps, but they agreed on basic principles. We give what Samuel Davidson wrote in 1868 (An Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, etc., 2v., London, Longmahs; Green and Co.; vol. i, pp. 451f.):

Introductory Remarks on the Gospels

Mutual Relation

Those who compare the first three gospels cannot fail to perceive that they agree not only in the substance of what they relate, but often in the diction itself. Amid minor diversities they harmonise with one another in general tenor. Hence numerous investigations have been undertaken to explain the resemblances.

The following hypotheses have been proposed to account for them. 1. That the gospels were derived from a common written source or sources. 2. That they were derived from oral tradition which had assumed a fixed form. 3. That earlier gospels were used in the composition of the later ones. 4. Some have combined the last two opinions, making a composite view out of them.

It would be a waste of time at the present day, to discuss these opinions at length. We can only indicate what appears to be settled among the best critics.

The first view has passed away, notwithstanding the amount of ingenuity expended in developing it, by Eichhorn and Marsh. It is clumsy, laboured, and inadequate.

The second has also become obsolete, in spite of Gieseler’s able explanation … (The future was to prove this statement of his absolutely wrong. For eleven years later, in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed., “Gospels,” Abbott wrote: “In Germany no one of any significance as a critic holds the oral theory. In England none of our prominent writers hold anything else. France is divided.” The statement is correct. What had been buried in Germany later came to life in England and was there to thrive until nearly the end of the century.)

The third hypothesis is the only tenable one, provided it be held intelligently, and not limited to the fact that a later evangelist used gospels only, but that he employed with them other written sources, not excluding oral tradition. The writers had various documents at their disposal, which they used in composing their own works. Those who believe in the original independence of the evangelists — that each wrote without seeing what his predecessor had composed — have been fairly driven out of the field of criticism. One valid argument overthrows their belief, viz. the peculiar resemblance of Mark’s gospel to that of Matthew.

33) There is of course a conflict whenever scholars understand the traditional view to imply that none of the evangelists could have known or seen any writings of either of the others. That sort of conflict is between their interpretation and the facts, but not between the facts of closeness and the traditional view itself. For example, Holtzmann says in his work of 1863, Sect. 20, p. 359 (or thereabouts): “Traditional view rests on a further presupposition that all the synoptists not merely had composed independently of one another, but above all independently of any written Vermittlung, and therefore in an original manner had composed their.account.” The same idea is in the words of Davidson: “Those who believe in the original independence of the evangelists — that each wrote without seeing what his predecessor had composed — have been fairly driven out of the field of criticism.” (Already quoted in preceding footnote). Written sources, we may answer, are perfectly consistent with the formation of Luke’s Gospel. He himself tells us, practically, that they exist and he knows them. In the case of Matthew and Mark, the actual historical notices, the primary sources for the traditionally received view, are silent on the point. They do not state that Peter or Mark could not have known or seen Matthew. Interpret them that way, they contradict the facts of closeness. Refuse to read between the lines, no contradiction arises.

34) For example, in The Teaching of Jesus (Cambridge, 1931, ) T. W. Manson wrote:

Nine-tenths of Mark is transcribed in Matthew and rather more than half of Mark in Luke. The position is thus that “Matthew may be regarded as an enlarged edition of Mark; Luke is an independent work incorporating considerable portions of Mark.”

This “nine-tenths,” as you can see, differs considerably from the 40.63% figure I gave you in the table. If we add 7.71%, including cases where different forms of the same Greek roots occur in both Matthew and Mark, we are a bit out of the field of transcription, strictly speaking. Even so, the total would be only 48.34% of Mark, which is no nine-tenths.

Where did the “nine-tenths” come from? Manson gives a footnote reference to page 151 of Streeter’s The Four Gospels. That is where he got the words he quotes. Two lines below what Manson quotes Streeter says:

Matthew reproduces 90% of the subject matter of Mark in language very largely identical with that of Mark.

Later, at page 159, Streeter writes:

The authentic text of Mark contains 661 verses. Matthew reproduces the substance of over 600 of these. Mark’s style is diffuse, Matthew’s succinct; so that in adapting Mark’s language Matthew compresses so much that the 600 odd verses taken from Mark supply rather less than half the material contained in the 1,068 verses of the longer Gospel. Yet, in spite of this abbreviation, it is found that Matthew employs 51% of the actual words used by Mark.

Here, I judge, is the origin of the nine-tenths figure. Streeter mentions 90%, and 600 divided by 661 gives a figure of 90.77%. It is thus based on verse counting, and Streeter does not use the word “transcribe.” He says :“Matthew reproduces the substance &c.”; and “Matthew reproduces 90% of the subject matter of Mark in language very largely identical with that of Mark”. It is a distinct fault in Manson to introduce the word “transcribe” in place of the looser and more accurate expressions in Streeter.

The main purpose of this footnote is to show that exaggerated views of the closeness of the Gospels have got abroad. At present we want to avoid any detailed discussion that will put us ahead of our story. However, as the facts of closeness and the question of interdependence are now up for discussion, it might not be amiss to consider now the presentation of the facts that is current and widely accepted at the present day. We refer to what is given in Streeter’s book, The Four Gospels, which has been reprinted at least six times since 1924. His chapter vii, “The Fundamental Solution,” has probably been read and accepted by more of today’s students than almost any other discussion of the Gospels. From him came the statement Manson gave in such a misleading revised version. He gives, in The Four Gospels, two other statements, which are at least very misleading, and I would add, positively wrong. The first statement I have in mind is this:

Mark’s style is diffuse, Matthew’s succinct; so that in adopting Mark’s language Matthew compresses so much that the 600 odd verses taken from Mark supply rather less than half the material contained in the 1068 verses of the longer gospel.

The second statement is in the very next sentence following the above:

Yet, in spite of this abbreviation, it is found that Matthew employs 51% of the actual words used by Mark. (Oxford Studies in the Synoptic Problem, ed. W. Sanday, pp. 85ff.,
Clarendon Press, 1911).

Now, what about these statements? First, we entirely pass over the whole question as to whether the author of the text of Matthew used Mark as a source. That comes up for discussion later. Next, as to both statements. I judge they are based on Hawkins’ article in the Oxford Studies to which the footnote refers. Also, judging from the larger context of Streeter’s statements, it seems clear, to me at least, that he thinks he is stating the relation between the whole of Matthew and the whole of Mark in a“precise statistical way” (his own words). For example, he writes:

The relation between Mark and Luke cannot be stated in this precise statistical way …


… rather less than half the material contained in the 1068 verses of the longer Gospel …

From these various figures it appears that while Matthew omits less than 10% of the subject matter of Mark, Luke omits …

So that, where he says:

Yet, in spite of this abbreviation, it is found that Matthew
employs 51% of the actual words used by Mark … ,

I think he means 51% of the total words in Mark. This is the fairest interpretation I can take of his words and intention. I feel sure that every ordinary reader would take the same impression at his first careful reading, letting the words as they stand have their natural and easy influence on his mind. If on the other hand, he means 51% of the words in “the 600 odd verses” only, then that is another matter. But in that case he surely does not have the right to suggest that he is serving up a “precise statistical” statement of the relation between Matthew and Mark as a whole, which he seems to think he offers because he uses those very words to describe what he cannot give for Mark and Luke, implying that he has given it for Mark and Matthew. In the second case, he means 51% of the 90%, and it ought to be clearly stated if that is his thought.

In any case, when you go to Hawkins’ paper, the source of Streeter’s facts, you find something entirely different from a precise statistical comparison of the two Gospels in question. Hawkins begins by assuming that the authors of both Matthew and Luke have used Mark. We will later question this assumption, but not now. Then, assuming that both Gospels have used Mark, he tries to find out how each has used Mark and to compare the writer of Matthew’s use of his supposed source with the author of Luke’s use of the same source. He wants to know how closely the compiler of Matthew adheres to Mark’s language, and how closely the author of Luke adheres to it. At the end he concludes that in many places the writers of both Matthew and Luke make about the same kind of use of Mark, but that in the Passion Narrative they use their source very differently.

Now in making his studies Hawkins compares 607 verses in Matthew totaling 10,263 words with an unstated number of verses in Mark having an unstated total of words in Mark. He also compares 434 verses in Luke totaling 7,226 words with an unstated number of verses in Mark of an unstated total of words in Mark. For his purposes he needed to know how many of those 10,263 words in Matthew were also in Mark. He found that 5,243 of the words found in Matthew were “reproduced, wholly or in part” from Mark. Thus 51% of the words of Matthew in the sections of Matthew that were studied, came, on his assumption, out of Mark.

It is obvious that in no case may this figure be used to suggest that 51% of Mark’s words were taken up by the writer of Matthew. 5,243 words, wholly or in part, according to Hawkins’ view, were taken up into Matthew. But he does not tell us anywhere how many words were not taken over, so that we are not in a position to determine, even for the sections compared, the percentage of the words in the text of Mark that the 5,243 words represent, much less to determine what part they form of the whole text of Mark. From Hawkins you cannot get the total number of words in Mark, or even the total number of words in the sections of Mark which he had studied. He wanted to know how much the authors of Matthew and Luke took in comparison with what they added to what they took. He did not try to find out how much they took in comparison with what they did not take from Mark. Consequently it is strictly impossible by any conceivable means to extract from what Hawkins offers the percentage of Mark’s words which wholly or in part occur in Matthew. The figure of 5,243 words is solid, but it hangs helpless. We have no divisor and cannot derive any percentage as to what part of the text of Mark those words form. But that is the very thing Streeter seems to think he is giving us.

Let us make the logic of this mathematics plain. If you have $49, in your pocket, and from my pocket I give you $51, then you can tell me easily that 51% of your money came from me. But what you cannot tell me is what percent of the money in my pocket I gave you, because that could be anything from less than 1% up to 100%. If you knew how much I had in my pocket before I handed over the $ 51., you could easily give me the required percentage. But that is just the thing you do not know, and the situation is exactly the same with Streeter’s use of Hawkins’ data.

I think we are shut up to this conclusion. Streeter cannot mean the 51% figure to tell us what percent of the whole of Matthew those 5,243 words represent, for his other statement deals with that matter: “rather less than half the material contained in the 1,068 verses of the longer Gospel”, as he puts it. Nor can he mean the 51% as Hawkins meant it to give the part of a part of Matthew which contains wholly or in part the same words as are found in Mark. Hence we conclude that Streeter meant to do the one thing we have just shown to be impossible, namely, to give the percentage of Mark’s words that are verbally similar to Matthew’s. Possibly he meant to give the percentage of the 90% of Mark that is in substance similar to Matthew. But if so, he certainly does not make clear any such intention. And even if that were his intention, still without the proper total word-count for the 90% part, that too would be strictly impossible to obtain.

To sum up. Our judgment is that Streeter misunderstood his source completely because his data absolutely fail to provide any foundation for computing the percentage he gives. By accident of chance, however, his figure is fairly close to our figure of 48.34%. The closeness of his figure, be it noted, is entirely due to the lucky but absolutely irrelevant fact that Mark happened to contain about twice the 5,243 words counted by Hawkins. It is just as if by chance I had $100 in my pocket when I gave you the $51. It would be 51% of your total because you chanced to have $49. It would also be 51% of my money, though it could easily have been anything else from 100% down to less than 1%, depending entirely on the one thing you did not know, or did not take the trouble to learn, namely, the total I had on which alone a calculation of the percentage could possibly be made.

As to the other statement that the substance of the 600 odd verses makes up rather less than half of Matthew. What can this mean? It may mean:

1. that the 607 verses of Matthew totaling 10,263 words, with which Hawkins operates, is rather less than half of Matthew. However, by verse count, 607 divided by 1068 is nearly 57%. And by word count, 10,263 divided by 18,315 (Hawkins’ figure and our figure) is just over 56%. Either way we have rather more, not rather less than half.

Or it may mean:

2. that the 5,243 words (Aawkins’ figure) are rather less than half of Matthew’s total words. That would be 5,243 divided by 18,315, which is 28.62%, and which is rather less than half. Rather! The margin of error here is something under 42.8%, depending on how leniently we interpret the writer’s “rather less.”

Now this last figure would be quite close to ours, which is 29.71%. But remember, Streeter does not give us that figure. All he says is: “rather less than half”. We only get this figure by going to his source, adding a piece of information not in his source, and extracting it for ourselves. If I inherited about 30% of an estate, and some one told the bureau of internal revenue that I had fallen heir to rather less than half of it, I would think of the description as a rather grave exaggeration, rather less than half true, and rather far removed from a“precise statistical way” of stating the relation of my portion to the whole from which it had come.

In fine, Manson’s 90% “transcribed” is greatly exaggerated. It should be either 40.63% or 48.34%. Streeter’s 90% more loosely defined is more accurate, but in some ways equally misleading. It obscures the fact that a great mass of differences exist which total more than half the words in Mark. Section by section comparisons and statistics based on verse counts are not suited for giving a fair impression either of the degree of closeness or of the amount of divergence that exist when any two Gospels are compared. The 51% figure, while close to what it should be, is not the result of a scientifically exact scrutiny and word counting. It is a lucky near-miss arising out of a misunderstanding combined with an accidental chance, as I believe, for the reasons a1ready explained. It should be 48.34%. And the “rather less than half” of Matthew that is supposed to have come from Mark on Streeter’s and Hawkins’ assumption, is totally inexplicable as far as I can make out. It should be 29.71%.

“It is impossible to begin to write about this work called The Four Gospels,” says Prof. F. C. Burkitt in the Journal of Theological Studies, “without praise, praise for the justice of its proportions, for the security of its conclusions, for the learning it shows on every page, and the ingenuity and persuasiveness of its argumentation. I venture to think The Four Gospels the most important book that has been written upon its august subject for half a generation … The book will be for a long time an excellent advanced base from which a future generation of students can start for the further investigation of the Gospels.” That is sample of the praise that has rolled Streeter’s book into at least six reprints and a kind of modern record for popularity for books of its class. In spite of such praise, I would strongly advise any friend of mine to be very wary about trusting it.

There is another statement on the closeness of the Gospels which I include here for reference without discussing it. Hawkins writes (p. 29, Oxford Studies):

Rather more than three-fourths of St. Matthew’s Gospel, viz. 816 verses out of 1068, and rather more than two-thirds of St. Luke’s Gospel, viz. 798 verses out of 1149, may be taken as generally supporting the now prevailing opinion that the compilers of those two Gospels used the Gospel of St. Mark — pretty nearly, if not quite, as we have it — not only as one of their most important sources, but as a framework.

35) Mr. H. A. Dinter, an engineer in the Aeronautical Division at Minneapolis-Honeywell, saw the term in The Church Herald articles “The Layman and His Bible.” He asked a fellow engineer from Germany what it meant, and was told that the word should be understood to mean “Plagiarism-Hypothesis.”

36) For example, in what is probably the latest German encyclopedia on religion, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 2nd edition, 1928, article “Synoptic Gospels,” Klostermann mentions the Borrowing Theory, the Theory of a written Primitive Gospel, the Fragment Theory, and the Theory of Oral Tradition. Then he says: “Each of these hypotheses contains some truth, however one-sided. None alone is the solution.” (From copy of notes lent by Dr. H. S. Murphy). It appears that in some ways we are still right where the pioneers were 150 years ago.

37) Among those who had the idea before Eichhorn, the following are usually mentioned: Clericus, Semler, Lessing, Niemeyer, C. F. R’eber, Paulus, Thiess, Schneckenburger, Halfeld, and Russwurm. Then, in 1794, Eichhorn took it up. After him others held it in one form or another; for example, Marsh, Ziegler, Hanlein, Herder, Gratz, Bertholdt, Kuinoel, and many more. Of these, Lessing was one of the best known. He put the idea forward in 1778, and had a considerable following. This information and more can be found in Meyer, op. cit., p. 25, and Morison, op. cit., pp. 1& li.

The following are a few “gleanings” which will be useful to any reader who wants fuller information on matters which our general plan forces us to neglect.
CLERICUS (Le Clerc) in Historia Ecclesiastica, 1716, p. 429, has:

quidni enim credamus, tria haec evangelia gartim petita esse ex similibus aut iisdem fontibus, hoc est, e commentariis eorum, qui varios Christi sermones audiverant, aut actorum ejus testes fuerant, eaque, ne oblivioni traderentur, illico scriptis mandarant.

This is considered to be the first assertion of the view that written sources were used by the Gospel writers. The Latin word commentarium means “written notes” or “written book.”

PRIESTLEY in Observations on the Harmony of the Gospels, 1780, pp. 72f., speaks of the Gospels as having been “originally written in detached parts.” He adds: “Some of these might have been committed to writing by the apostles themselves, and some by their auditors, corrected by themselves.”

KOPPE in Marcus non Epitomator Matthaei, 1782, thought Mark had never seen Matthew’s Gospel. Similarities were due, he felt, to either oral or written sources they used in common.

MICHAELIS in Einleitung (?-edition, ?-date), Sect. 129, p. 929, says: “None of the three evangelists seems to have read the Gospels of the other two.” He speaks of written reports (schriftliche Nachrichten).

SEMLER in notes to his Townson’s Abhandlungen iiber die vier Evangelien, I, pp. 146, 221, 290, thought it probable that the writers of the three Gospels used various Syriac-Aramaic documents.

LESSING in his Neue Hypothese uber die Evangelisten blos als menschliche Geschichtschreiber betrachtet, 1778, §50, wrote:

Matthaeus, Marcus, Lucas sind nichts als verschiedene und nicht verschiedene Ueber setzungen der sogenannten hebraischen Urkun de des Matthaeus, die jeder machte so gut er konnte.

Previously, in 1785, he had published his view that the source used by the writers of the Gospels was the so-called Gospel according to the Hebrews, which he took to be the same thing as the so-called Gospel of the Twelve Apostles.

NIEMEYER in Con,jecturae ad illustrandum plurimorum N. T. Scriptorum silentium de primordiis vitae Jesu Christi, 1790, pp. 8-10, took up the idea and added the suggestion that the differences between Gospels were due to different revisions
of the original Aramaic Gospel,

HALFELD and RUSSRURM, two of Eichhorn’s students, took up the idea in prize essays at the University of GSttingen in 1793.

These notes are all taken from Meyer and Morison. They show how the concept of a Primitive written Gospel Theory slowly grew in different minds before Eichhorn went to work on it.

38) Since so often a scholar’s name, personality, and previous accomplishments have so much to do with the reception of his theories, it is usually of value to know a bit about the person whose views we are considering. Such knowledge is most useful to a student in assisting him to make truly objective judgments.

It is vain for princes to take counsel concerning matters, if they take no counsel likewise concerning persons; for all matters are as dead images, and the life of the execution of affairs resteth in the good choice of persons. (Bacon, Essays, “Of Counsel”).

Every man of experience knows well enough that you must know people if you are to hope to understand their real views on any important subject.

Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1752-1827) was professor of oriental languages at Jena from 1775 through 1788. In 1788, he was made ordinary professor of philosophy at Gottingen. He taught oriental languages, exegesis of Old and New Testaments, and general history. He succeeded a famous teacher (J. D. Michaelis). He lectured to large numbers of students. Before he put forth his ideas about the Gospels, he was already “the authority” in Germany on the Old Testament, as the way of the world has it. He wrote many books, some of which were reprinted many times. And after his death his influence continued to be great in the lives and work of his disciples, among whom was Heinrich Ewald.

We quote here a statement about Eichhorn given in the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica, VII, p. 789a. Though you may not think so, the writer intended the passage to be an expression of the highest praise. It is a voice from days when Eichhorn was still vividly remembered among men as a giant among scholars, the father of Biblical Criticism:

Eichhorn is the author of a good many historical works, but it is as a biblical critic that he is best known. He may almost be said to have originated the science of biblical criticism, for he first properly recognized its scope and the problems it had to solve, and began many of its most important discussions. He was the first to see the necessity of finding a firm historical foundation for everything in Christianity that was to be accepted as fact. Preliminary to his endeavours towards this end, he took for granted that all the so-called supernatural facts relating to the Old and New Testaments were explicable on natural principles. He sought to judge them from the stand-point of the ancient world, and to account for them by the superstitious beliefs which were then generally in vogue. He did not perceive in the biblical books any religious ideas of much importance for modern times; they interested him merely historically, and for the light they cast upon antiquity. The supernatural element which they contained he attributed partly to the artificial delusions of magic, and partly to the natural delusions of a superstitious time. He regarded as ungenuine many books of the Old Testament and some of the Epistles, and he was the first to suggest that the Gospels were compiled by later writers from documents which have now perished. He did not appreciate as sufficiently as Strauss and the Tilbingen critics the difficulties which a natural theory has to surmount, nor did he support his conclusions by such elaborate and minute discussions as they have deemed necessary, but he may be justly denominated the founder of their school of biblical criticism.

A very different estimate is found in pages 194-6 of Edersheim’s Prophecy and History in relation to the Messiah, N. Y., no date, but around 1885:

However we may differ from his views, Eichhorn was one of the most learned and brilliant, and happily also one of the most successful theological writers of Germany … His investigations are thorough, lucid, and able. He may not only be designated the father of modern German criticism, but his investigations have been of such permanent influence that, until the latest development of Pentateuch-criticism, the remark of Diestel held true that, apart from questions about authorship and date, criticism has not since advanced any really new element. And however we may dispute some of his conclusions, or differ from the direction which criticism has since taken, we cannot but agree with Bertheau (Herzog’s Real-Encykl. iv. p. 115) that Eichhorn’s main object was apologetic, in defense — as he conceived it — of the Bible against the Deists and Materialists of his time. This, indeed, impresses itself on my own mind in almost every part of his “Introduction,” and he has even anticipated and answered objections which E. Reuss has lately restated and urged as if they had never been met.

Still another estimate may be found in Cheyne’s Founders of Old Testament Criticism, pp. 13-26.

Here then, clearly, you have a scholar who thought of himself as defending the Bible, but was widely understood to be demolishing it. The quotations we have given are enough to provide you with a hint as to what was in the air in Gottingen in the days when the Theory of a Primitive written Gospel source was first fully launched on its career.

Eichhorn’s first solution of the Synoptic Problem appeared in 1794, in his work Allgemeine Bibliothek der biblischen Literatur (10 vols., Leipzig, 1787-1801), pp. 759ff. His later view is found in his Einleitung in das Neue Testament (5 vols., Gottingen, 1824-27), I, pp. 353ff. It was “spun out,” as Meyer puts it, to meet various attacks on his former view. A leading feature of the revised form of his solution was the introduction of additional hypothetical documents in the form of Greek translations. These were placed between some of his earlier Aramaic sources and our present Greek Gospels. His revised view is diagrammed on page 70.

39) Op. cit., p. 26.

40) Op. cit., HYPERLINK http://pp.li pp. li & lii.

41) “St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, all three, used copies of the common Hebrew document “K”, the materials of which St. Matthew, who wrote in Hebrew, retained in the language in which he found them, but St. Mark and St. Luke translated them into Greek. They had no knowledge of each other’s Gospels; but St. Mark and St. Luke, besides their copies of the Hebrew document “K”, used a Greek translation of it, which had been made before any of the additions “a,” “b,” “y,” “A,” “B” and “r” had been inserted. Lastly, as the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke contain Greek translations of Hebrew materials, which were incorporated into St. Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel, the person who translated St. Matthew’s Hebrew Gospel into Greek frequently derived assistance from the Gospel of St. Mark, where St. Mark had matter in common with St. Matthew; and in those places, but in those places only, where St. Mark had no matter in common with St. Matthew, he had frequently recourse to St. Luke’s Gospel.” Dissertation, chap. xv., p. 195. We copy from pp. li & Iii of Morison, op. cit.

42) See the very last words of Marsh in the preceding footnote.

43) Westcott says:

This hypothesis is certainly capable of being so adapted as to explain all the coincidences and differences of the Gospels, as in fact it is little more than the complement of an analysis of them; but the extreme artificiality by which it is characterized renders it wholly improbable as a true solution of the problem. Such a combination of research and mechanical skill in composition as it involves is wholly alien from the circumstances of the Apostolic age, and at variance with the prevailing power of a wide spread tradition.

He is discussing the view of Marsh in the latter’s Essay on the Origin of the first three Gospels, appended to his translation of Michaelis’ Introduction, 2nd ed., Vol. III. Part 2. London, 1802. We quote from Westcott’s An Introduction to the Study of the gospels, 7th ed., London, 1888, pages 204 & 205.

44) The Gospel Before Mark, by Pierson Parker. Pp. ix plus 266. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1953.

45) This quotation is from Meyer, op. cit., p. 30: Die Ansicht, nach welcher ein Evangelist den andern benutzt hat, wobei aber die evanRelische Ueberlieferung, wie sie langst vor der schriftlichen Aufzeichnung lebendig war (Luk. 1, 2.), so wie alte, vor unsern Evangelien verfasste schriftliche Documente (Luk. 1, 1.) wesentlich mit in Rechnung kommen, ist allein geeignet, das synoptische Verhaltniss naturlich und geschichtsgem3ss zu begreifen.

46) Besides the Borrowing Theory other solutions were put forth along lines similar to those we have seen in Eichhorn. For example, attempts were made to simplify his scheme by Gratz and Bertholdt. And there was also proposed a theory which held that the sources of our first three Gospels were found in many sorts of Primitive Gospel writings and treatises. This is generally called the Fragment Theory. Or, because the fragments were supposed to consist of separate stories, it was called the Stories Theory, which is what Diegesenhypothese, being interpreted, means. The last was Schleiermacher’s idea. The books in which these solutions were proposed may be easily found.

47) Versuch uber die Entstehung und fruhesten Schicksale der schriftlichen Evangelien, Leipzig, 1818.

48) For the above facts see the final part of footnote 32 to page 43.

49) A little over a year ago I received a book in the mail. I cannot give the name of it, at the moment, nor the author’s name. But it was published, as I recall, in 1946. I think the writer’s name was Taylor, but not Vincent Taylor. The book consisted of posthumously published essays. The first 110 pages dealt with the Gospels. An essay on a different subject followed page 110. A friend, in sending me the book, wrote:

I think Dr. Such-and-such wanted you to read this book which I sent on to you because of the wholly new idea both to him and to me of the degree of memorization of the teachings of Jesus which may really have been practiced by the disciples.

This shows perfectly how dead the old Oral Tradition Theory is. It is so dead that when someone presents it today it is considered absolutely new. There is one argument in the work to which I refer that is unusual. The elder told Papias that Peter gave his teachings “according to needs” (Gr., pros tas chreias). The writer interprets the phrase to mean that Peter taught by means of little lesson forms called “chriae.” As I recall his use of this term differs from the use of it by some Form Critics. A considerable amount of research and real thoughtfulness went into the writing of the book. It certainly made a very favorable impression on those who sent it on to me to read. [Editor’s note: The groundwork of the Gospels, by Robert Oswald Patrick Taylor.]

50) Examples of this have already been given. If you will glance back at part of footnote 32 to page 43, you will notice that while Davidson derided the Theory of Oral Tradition, he still was careful to leave the door open so that he might use it to explain things when needed. Note the words “not excluding oral tradition.” Also, you will notice that even though Meyer rejected the Theory of Oral Tradition, he still emphatically insisted on the need for using it in solving the Synoptic Problem. See his words cited on page 78, above, and the German in footnote 45 to the same page. The italics are his. He gave the reference to Luke i, 2, as an historical testimony endorsing the idea. The same holds for the Theory of a written Primitive Gospel, the source of our Gospels. Holtzmann and others argued for a primitive Mark differing from our Mark, an Ur-Markus. Another example is given on page 75 and in footnote 44, viz Parker’s “K” document, “the gospel before Mark.”

51) Westcott’s statement of the facts may easily be read in Chapter iii, “The Origin of the Gospels,” in his An Introduction to the Study of the Gospels. In my copy, which is the 7th edition, 1888, the statement runs from page 165 through page 212. His consideration of “general coincidences of substance and subject” is very fair. Other statements may be true, but I would not be willing to believe them until I checked them independently. Most of his tables of proportions apparently come from Norton’s book, The Genuineness of the Gospels, which is probably the place to study them after reading Westcott’s chapter.

52) See the explanation of our method on pages 9f., above.

53) If the reader will glance again at footnote 32 (to page 43), he will find citations from different scholars that fully bear out the above statement. He will also find references that can be looked up in the writings of scholars other than those quoted.

54) See pages 41-55, above.

55) Footnote 32 to page 43 gives a very significant comment of his.

56) We think we have given a fair impression of Gould`s challenge. However, in the passage under consideration, Gould was talking of two different things at the same time. Therefore, we give here the whole passage. You may read it and form your own judgment.

Of a very different sort is the commentary of Dr. James Morison, to which the present writer has had frequent recourse, and gladly acknowledges indebtedness. There is an abundance of helpful information in it, especially in regard to the various English translations. And his summarizing of different views in many passages, exhaustive, and his archaeological information extensive. But, while his exegetical sense is sometimes fine, it is far from that on the whole. In his criticism of the text, he is free, and his textual conclusions agree with those of the established critical texts in the main. But in the higher criticism, he seems to lack judgment and fairness. He is as well informed in this as in other departments. But when, after a long review of the literature in regard to the Synoptical problem, he concludes that all the theories are alike baseless, and that there is really no problem there; that the resemblances are not uncommon, nor such as may not be accounted for mostly by the growing fixity of the oral tradition, his case becomes hopeless. And his conclusion, after a minute examination of the last twelve verses of ch. 16, that the omission is probably due to an accidental omission in some early copy, and that the “whole fabric of opposition and doubt must, as biblical criticism advances, crumble into dust,” is amazing.

In view of the universal discarding of this critical theory of the Synoptics by English commentators, it is well to call attention to the cumulative nature of the proof. The phenomena of verbal resemblance, on which the traditional view of independence goes to pieces, are not isolated, but prolonged and repeated. And the same is true of the verbal peculiarities of the last twelve verses, which many English textual critics reject, but which English commentaries defend with unanimity and spirit. Dr. Morison thinks that he answers this objection by citing with each case a parallel instance from some other author. But the real question is whether he can match the accumulation of these in the same space elsewhere. (Gould, Ezra P., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Mark, N. Y., Scribner’s Sons, 1896, pages xlviii & xlix.)

There is unmistakable confusion in the passage. Two things are discussed: 1) “this critical theory of the Synoptics”; and 2) the question of the last twelve verses of Mark. The writer’s comments now deal with one subject, now with the other.
The clue to the writer’s thought is this. Where he says, “And the same is true of the verbal peculiarities …” he means that as English commentators reject the critical theory of the Synoptics, so they also reject the critical theory that the last twelve verses of Mark are not genuine. He does not mean that in those twelve verses the phenomena of verbal resemblance are prolonged and repeated. Peculiarities in the last twelve verses are used to show that those verses are different in style from the rest of Mark’s Gospel. Peculiarities in the other verses are used in a different way, namely, to show that because all three Gospels have the same peculiar Greek words and expressions they must be interdependent.
In our judgment the writer’s challenge is clear and well-taken. It is clarified by other parts of his book, e.g., pages ix-xi.

If you will look up and read Morison’s discussion of the last twelve verses of Mark, you will thank me for the suggestion that you do so. And if you think that the last twelve verses of Mark appear different in style from the rest, as I do myself, here is a little suggestion. Take your Greek New Testament and read Mark in Greek, putting the text of Codex A or the Textus Receptus, in place of one of the chapters of Mark. See if you do not notice a difference in style. This is probably what your Greek Testament does. It takes the main part of Mark from the Vatican and Sinaitic manuscripts. Then it adds the last twelve verses from sources which are different in style throughout. Then, forgetting how their critical texts have been made up, scholars compare the last twelve verses with the rest of Mark only to find that they are different in style. Thus ponderous research brings to light what should have been a foregone conclusion.

Two comparisons are possible. The style (verbal peculiarities) of the last twelve verses of Mark can be compared with the style of the text of Mark which is found in Codex B or Codex Sinaiticus, on the one hand. Or, it can be compared with the style of another text of Mark, namely, with that text which is contained in the text of Codex A or the Textus Receptus, on the other. If these twelve verses are compared with the texts in Vaticanus or Sinaiticus, they will seem to be of a different style. When they are compared with the texts in Codex A or Textus Receptus, they will not seem to be different in style. Critics habitually compare them with the first part of Mark in their critical texts which were based upon Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, or which are resultant texts that were based very largely thereon. How natural, therefore, that they seem entirely different in style. But if they would ever compare them with other texts of Mark, they would not form the same impression.

58) We use this sign arbitrarily, as a general mark of equivalency, not to mark exact coincidence throughout. For the latter we employ the simple equal sign, as already explained. If any exact geometrician wishes to quibble over our choice of signs, he may substitute others of his choice.

59) Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. LXXIII, pt. iii, September, 1954, page 184. Other examples of this view have already been given above in footnote 34; namely, statements by Manson, Streeter, and Hawkins. Such statements are fully discussed in that footnote. Reasons have been given there for regarding such statements as errors which arose when later workers misunderstood the sources of information they were quoting. The erroneous statements have been taken up and quoted everywhere.

We add here two statements of Streeter’s, which supplement those given earlier and elucidate the discussion in our footnote no. 34. In The Four Gospels, page 182, he writes: Although Matthew embodies about eleventwelfths of Mark, he compresses so much that the Marcan material only amounts to about half of the total contents of his Gospel.

In the same book, page 397, he writes:

Matthew and Luke, desiring to tell their story faithfully, copied their sources with only such verbal alteration as the exigencies of adaptation, abridgement, and literary embellishment suggested; and, as we have seen, each of them reproduces over 50% of the actual words used in Mark.

This last quotation states clearly in Streeter’s own words what we contended before was really in his mind, and in so doing verifies our contention that he completely misunderstood Hawkins, from whom he was drawing his alleged facts. For elucidation, see again footnote 34.

60) Margin of error is computed by dividing the amount of error by the true answer.

A reader might be interested to know how the writer got started at counting words. It was by accident. In designing a lay-out for the analysis the idea of counting the words of each line and page came up. It seemed an easy thing to do: Preparing only one page a day, as a general rule, it was only a matter of spending ten seconds daily in order to count a couple hundred words at most. Later, when experience showed that counting words was the only real guarantee against overlooking scribal errors, I persevered in it for that reason. When I finished I was astounded at the totals, and more than happy that the work had been done.

61) The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. vii, page 242. For fuller citation see above in footnote 24.

62) Hoskyns, E. C., and Davey, F. N., The Riddle of the New Testament, Ryerson Press, 1936. The citation is from Appendix A.

63) As far as we are aware, the facts as to the Gospels are new. The same holds true for the facts about the Greek translations of Judges, which have been long known and discussed but never at such length drawn out. Also new is the way they have been brought into consideration in their bearing on questions relating to the problem of the relation of the first three Gospels. My discovery of them was quite accidental. One evening, before retiring, the thought came into mind: “What is there to read?” and, “Why don’t you see what is in some of these books that have cost you such a pretty penny?” So it was, by complete chance, which seems to decide for some of us what book we shall look at when we, are half asleep, I ended up in bed with a copy of the Septuagint in my hands. Of course, reading Greek was impossible. There was no question about that. I only wanted to glance over the pages just to see what was in the two volumes. I wondered if anything else had been printed like the book of Daniel, for which two distinct forms of Greek text had been given. So I looked, glancing at each book in turn. Then I came to Judges. What was this? A text marked “A” was at the top of every page. On the bottom half of each page was the corresponding section of a text marked “B.” I began to compare the two texts. It was at once evident that there were hundreds of differences between them. It was also very clear that those differences were just like the differences I had run on in comparing Matthew and Mark. From half asleep I became wide awake. Taking red and blue pencils, I marked off the similarities and differences on three or four pages. I decided that here was something that needed to be exhaustively compared and analyzed, something which might throw a good deal of light on the study of the Gospels. Afterwards, when I read Gould’s challenge, the case of the two texts of Judges came to mind as a possible answer.

64) Please note the corrected figure. I had accidentally recorded one resemblance as two, overlooking two words on one page which should have been counted with the preceding page so as not to break the continuity of one item of exact resemblance. The figure of 1,878, which originally had stood on pages 53, 54, and 92 in the mimeographed pages of 1955, has been changed to read 1,877 on the corresponding pages 47, 48, and 93 of this corrected copy.

65) We leave this matter here without attempting any detailed discussion. The work of Textual Criticism is practically insignificant from a religious point of view. That is, whatever readings in the various manuscripts of the Greek New Testament are put by the textual critic into his text, the meaning of what the text says will stay pretty much unchanged. There are, of course, a small number of exceptions to this assertion. It is this fact that makes so many people impatient with the work of Textual Criticism. Why bother finding the correct answer to a question that will make no practical difference when it is finally found. This is especially a fault of the American mind and temperament. But it is by no means purely American.

As a matter of fact, the question is of fundamental importance in several ways. How can you have any clarity of mind about what you are doing if you do not know where the texts came from and how they were made up? Further, how can you have any solid assurance about your results, unless you first have real assurance of the value of the materials you are working with? Up through the 4th edition of Huck’s Synopse the text is that of Tischendorf. At some point thereafter the text was considerably changed. We will not offer to suggest how it was changed. We will gladly offer to disprove any claim that it was consistently altered to make it conform to any standard known text.

For the purposes of a study like our comparison of the Gospels everything depends on exact knowledge of details. Those details may well be insignificant from a religious point of view. In that one regard they may have no practical consequences. For our study they do have practical consequences. And to the extent that the truth and value of the Gospels depend on the conclusions reached by scholars, as so many nowadays say, the widest practical consequences are at stake. Two men may agree completely on what the New Testament says. But at the same time one may say it is fiction, the other that it is fact; one may call it myth and magic, the other, history and truth. A lot depends on the value of the basic scientific method. Is textual criticism a guessing game? If so, that’s bad!

66) Meyer, op cit., pp. 30-35. Meyer says in so many words that all the scholars named worked within the framework of the Use-Hypothesis. We say “usually,” because it is normal to credit Griesbach (in 1783) with enunciating the Use-Hypothesis. Some of the men in Meyer’s list died long before that time.

67) The argument discussed is that given by Edwin A. Abbott. in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed., vol. x, pp. 789-91.


On page 12, in connection with statement re 1775 and footnote 2, insert a list of books dated before 1775, which are cited in scholarly works. Also a list of books dating from 1775 to 1800, cited in scholarly works.

In footnote 4(= pp. 7-9 of our Footnotes) add English translations of all Greek and Latin. Put smooth breathing sign over the alpha in apo in citation from Origen, and give full citation of passage with word pepoihmenon that needs to be corrected. Explain need for correction in full. Put explanation in brackets so that words of Jerome will appear to be in same list as words of others cited. Give titles of Legg’s books where his name is first mentioned.

In footnote 5(= p. 10 of our Footnotes), add English translations of Greek and Latin.

In footnote 6(= p. 11 of our Footnotes), add statement from Goodspeed which goes against our assertion that “no one doubts” etc. Give English translations of Greek.

In footnote 7(= p. 12 of our Footnotes), give English translation of German.
On page 16, line 11 from bottom, add a footnote quoting Papias’ statement in this light, and words of Eusebius in HE, III, xxxvii, 2. Also story of Peter and Mark in HE, II, xv, 1-2. Discuss date of this in view of the chronological outline of Eusebius’ treatment of history reign by reign.

In footnote 10 (= p. 18 of our Footnotes), translate Greek and Latin.

In footnote 11 (= p. 22 of our Footnotes), at lines 5 and 6 from the top of page, change two sentences to read as follows: “In addition to giving the statements of Papias, Irenaeus, Clement, and Origen, in HE II, xv, 1-2, Eusebius gives a story as his own, but also seems to say that he is following Clement of Alexandria.” Check in Hoskier for still another statement by Eusebius. Give English for Origen’s Greek and Jerome’s Latin, and translate Greek of MSS.

In footnote 12 (= p. 23 of our Footnotes), translate Latin and Greek. Correct 10th and 11th lines from the top. Eusebius mentions Rome, HE, II, xv, 1-2, and cla ms Papias confirms it. Reshape sentence on Jerome to fit corrected statement above.
In footnote 18 (= p. 33 of our Footnotes), add other facts: Acts 18:2, Eusebius, HE, II, xv, 1-2, etc.

In footnote 19 (= p. 34 of our Footnotes), give English translations.

In footnote ZO (= p. 35 of our Footnotes), give English translations.

In footnote 25 (= pp. 40-42 of our Footnotes), add a discussion of Papias, and revamp the analogy in the last paragraph.

In footnote 27 (= p. 45 of our Footnotes), translate Latin.

In footnote 31 (= p. 50 of our Footnotes), spell out why the three words show careful observation.

In footnote 33 (= pp. 60f. of our Footnotes), recast the quotation from Holtzmann.

In footnote 34 (= pp. 62-73 of our Footnotes), insert near page 70 some such statement as: “In giving the 51% figure Streeter lets drop the quite significant words ‘either wholly or partially.’”

Page 61, complete chart and revise if necessary.

In footnote 36 (= p. 75 of our Footnotes), check RGG for Klostermann’s statement and revise note.

In footnote 49 (= pp. 89f in our Footnotes), get title of book and author’s name and rewrite the footnote.

On page 146 or 147, add a footnote briefly explaining who Baur was and the nature of the fight that took place.

Add somewhere a note explaining box #4 on the original chart. Define relation of data signified to the questions discussed.

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