Now we must ask: Is it possible to accept the Mark-hypothesis and maintain nonetheless that Matthew is to be considered a genuine and authentic work of the Apostle Matthew? The writer of the essay, “More Light on the Synoptics,” thinks so. He holds that it is not necessary to regard Matthew as unauthentic, even if we accept the theory of Mark’s priority. We heartily sympathize with his desire to defend the genuineness of our first Gospel. But to take his position is not so easy as he seems to think.

He accepts the Mark-theory. He asks, then, if that theory forces him to abandon belief in the authenticity of Matthew. He sees no compelling reason for doing so. And so he affirms both that the Mark-theory is true and also that Matthew is genuine. He thinks this position is unassailable, and implies that to hold that Matthew is unauthentic would be to draw an illogical and unnecessary conclusion.

But when we study the history of the development and triumph of the Mark-theory, we find that leading advocates originally proved it by assuming, as already proved, and as part of their proof of it, that Matthew was unauthentic and unapostolic. And even their opponents, who assumed Matthew had been written first, regarded it as unauthentic and non-apostolic. So that it is, ordinarily, not a question of whether now we are willing to abandon ship. The ship was abandoned long ago. In fact, it was abandoned before the grandfather of the writer of “More Light” was born. And therefore, unless someone comes up with a new and convincing proof of the Mark-hypothesis, a proof differing from the ordinary and the historical one, has he a right to presume that the Mark-theory does not compel him to deny the genuineness of Matthew? For the fact of the matter is that accepting the Mark-hypothesis means, ordinarily, that one accepts the common versions of the proof for it, including the preproved unauthenticity of Matthew. And this may, or it may not, apply to the writer of “More Light,” but one thing I know: many scholars, in this matter, are managing with consummate adroitness and amazing finesse not to let their left hand know what their right hand has done.

But we must recall an additional factor in answering the writer of “More Light.” The critical view today in vogue is not simply the Mark-theory. It consists of that theory plus the “Q”-theory, and perhaps plus a few other theories as well. This means that our canonical Matthew is thought to have been put together out of several documents. Most of its narratives came from Mark on the modern view. If the modern view is held to be right, then we are committed to belief in a process of mangling, chopping, and random supplementing involved in the belief that Mark’s narratives have been reworked so as to produce an impoverished version of them in Matthew. As to the second document (“Q”), we do not even know that it was a document, nor do we know its contents, its arrangement, its purpose, its original language, its author, and so on. As to this second source (and any others), all is guesswork. And hence it is at least intelligible that critical opinion should, under such conditions as these, drop any contention for Matthew’s genuineness and authenticity. In the present writer’s opinion, it is distinctly a credit to their intelligence that they do so.

While, on the other hand, to face facts of this kind of redaction in Matthew and the anonymity and fog-shrouded indefiniteness of “Q” and other sources, and then to try to reaffirm Matthew’s genuineness with a mere array of “may-have-beens” and “could-have-beens” in an unevidenced and purely imaginary reconstruction of “history,” however plausible—this is to take up a very weak and unenviable position. What is required is a vindication of Matthew’s genuineness and authenticity. The greatest single step towards a real rehabilitation and vindication of Matthew would be to get it reinstated in its rightful place as the earliest Gospel. And this can be done without pushing Mark (with its rich supplements) or Luke into the background, and without in any way impugning their genuineness, authenticity, and semi-apostolic authority. But “may-have-beens” and “could-have-beens” are in their very nature weak. They show nothing. They do but cover the absence of evidence and the dearth of probability with a spider’s web of special pleading.

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There is, moreover, a further weakness in the special instance of the “may-have-been” apologetic we meet in “More Light.” I may be wrong, and if so, I will cheerfully furnish suitable public retractions, but I have never seen or heard of any external evidence connecting Matthew with Antioch. Everything I have been able to collect on the subject says Matthew (was first written and) was written in Palestine, or in Judea, or in Jerusalem for Jewish converts to Christianity. Until I am better informed, it helps me little to be simply told that Antioch was the place where Matthew wrote the first Gospel. Imaginary scenery is not the same thing as historical truth. It is most doubtful that the defense of Matthew given in “More Light” will be able to gain any followers except those who wish to defend the fame of the Mark-theory more than they wish to see Matthew vindicated and restored to its ancient place of honor in the canon of Holy Writ.

Independent Attestation

One final word. We know that some at least who read the two previous articles by the present writer (“New Light on the Synoptic Gospels”) drew the conclusion that he was contending for totally independent origination of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Not so. Independent origination is one thing. Independent attestation, authentication, validation, is a very different thing. The wording in “New Light” was carefully designed to assert independent validation and not to rule out literary dependence:

Moreover, a way seemed clearly to be opening up, and that a genuinely scholarly and scientific way, whereby the Gospels might be reinstated as authentic compositions of Matthew (the publican), Mark (Peter’s interpreter), and Luke (Paul’s companion): reliable, primary, historical sources; three independently attested accounts of Jesus’ words and deeds.

And again:

Why rule out the possibility of kinds and degrees of interdependence [Note: “interdependence” not “independence”] which would not require a denial of the authenticity of the Gospels—that is, which would acknowledge the Gospels as three sufficiently independent, and therefore independently attested and authenticated accounts of Jesus’ works and words by the real Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

The stress is not on literary independence; indeed, literary dependence is acknowledged by implication. The stress is on independence in attestation. And therefore, the present writer can agree in principle (but not in detail) with most of what is asserted in “More Light” about a common core of tradition, and about a common selection of materials. There was such a core. “New Light” implies that it could easily have come from an Aramaic Matthew in the first instance. But this common core of tradition and common selection of materials only show some kind of literary dependence. They have no force at all, in themselves, for showing whether Matthew or Mark came first. The articles entitled “New Light” did not aim to gun down all forms of literary dependence. They did aim to gun down one special kind of literary dependence in the case of two specified books, namely, Matthew and Mark. The present writer has no intention of giving up these facts of literary connection. For they are dynamite and in a very simple way (which everyone should have thought of, but apparently no one has thought of) they may be used, God willing, to reinstate the first three Gospels in positions the critics would think it no longer possible for them to occupy. And in all this, let the reader be advised, the present writer’s views have not come to light. In “New Light” and in the present reply to “More Light” we have stated propositions which we think cannot be overthrown, but which we think overthrow views in vogue today. In other words, our aim has been to clear the ground. Laying a new foundation is another business. It must wait for another day.

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Preacher In The Red


PASTORS SMITH, JONES, HAUGEN, AND I lived in different cities. Each of them knew me, but I falsely assumed they knew one another. When Smith called me and invited me to go with him in his car to a state ministerial conference, I consented gladly. Shortly thereafter, I invited Jones to go with us, but did not think it necessary to notify Smith. Smith meantime telephoned Haugen, whom he knew only by name, and they decided that Haugen would drive his car instead of Smith. Smith, of course, did not think it necessary to notify me of this change.

On the day appointed, Jones and I “bummed” a ride to Seattle for our rendezvous with Smith at the Greyhound depot. When Smith arrived, he assumed that Jones must be Haugen, and said, “Well, we’re all here.” (Addressing Jones) “Where’s your car?” Jones looked startled and replied, “Nobody told me to bring my car.” Smith answered, “But it was our understanding that you would drive your car.” I interrupted, “Smith, you joker, you’re kidding, aren’t you! You told me YOU were going to drive.” Smith replied with earnest sincerity, “No, I’m not kidding.” (Nodding at Jones), “I really expected him to bring his car!” I stared at Smith. Smith looked at his toes. Jones looked first at Smith and then at me as if trying to decide whether we had snapped a mental cable. Just then Haugen breezed in, spotted me, and said, “Hi fellows. Sorry I’m late. Get your bags and let’s go!”—The Rev. WILLIAM C. HUNTER, First Baptist Church, Puyallup, Washington.

John H. Ludlum, Jr., here continues his examination of the critical view that Mark is first of our canonical Gospels.

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