Luke used Matthew and a sayings source

"While the independence of Matthew and Luke must necessarily imply some common source for the double tradition passages, the converse, that if Matthew and Luke are dependent at some points they cannot share a common source, is obviously false."
P. Foster, "Is it possible to dispense with Q?" NovT XLV 4 (2003) p.326

1.  Evidence that Luke used Matthew

  1. General

    Many Accounts

    Luke's "many" (Lk 1:1) is a nonsense unless he knew both Mark and Matthew, for there is no trace of any other pre-Lukan narrative of Jesus' life.
  2. In the Triple Tradition

    Minor Agreements: General

    There are around 700 Minor Agreements (U.Schnelle) between Matthew and Luke against Mark and they are spread throughout the Triple Tradition. By far the simplest explanation is that Luke knew and made use of Matthew's gospel.
    Excluding three special cases involving quotations from Isaiah 40, Psalm 118 and Psalm 110 respectively, there are 11 cases in the Triple Tradition where Matthew and Luke have 10 or more consecutive identical words in the NA27 Greek text. The predominant synoptic theory would lead us to expect these 11 cases to be the result of both evangelists accurately copying Mark. Yet in only 2 of them does Mark have the identical text.[1]

    It is thus much more likely that in the majority of these cases Luke was either copying Matthew, or (perhaps more likely) editing Markan pericopes but here preferring Matthew's wording where it differed from that of Mark.

    Minor Agreements: Specific

    Among the minor agreements which, taken individually, cause serious problems for defenders of the 2ST are κλινη (Mt 9:2 // Lk 5:18); υστερον (Mt 22:27 // Lk 20:32); τις εστιν ο παισας σε (Mt 26:68 // Lk 22:64) (M.S.Goodacre).
  3. In the Double Tradition

    Mattheanisms in Luke

    Luke contains several features characteristic of Matthew's style, including "you brood of vipers", "weeping and gnashing of teeth", combination of "law" and "prophets", ανθρωπος + noun. In each of these four cases there is one example (a related pair) in the Double Tradition, and all the other examples are redactional texts in Matthew.

    Missing Contexts

    Some Double Tradition texts are only properly understood in their Matthean context, e.g. "If you are the Son of God" (Mt 4:3, c.f. 3:17), and the summary of healings in Mt 11:5 (c.f. chs. 8-9).
  4. Other traces of Luke's use of Matthew

    Birth Narratives

    Freed provides a convenient comparison of the details of the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. [2] Goodacre rightly argues for Luke's dependence on Matthew here, with particular reference to Mt 1:21 // Lk 1:31. [3]

    Why 'Plain' ?

    The "level place" (Lk 6:17) is best understood as Luke's dislike of "mountain" (Mt 5:1; 8:1) because of its association with the lawgiving of Moses.

    Animal in a pit (Mt 12:11 // Lk 14:5)

    There is considerable dispute as to whether these two texts should be assigned to the Double Tradition, though most would agree that the texts are related in some way. They present a challenge to strict sabbath observance, and each is embedded in a healing story in its respective gospel. However the synoptic gospels' polemic on Sabbath observance appears to be for the benefit of their Gentile readers, and seems to have originated in Mark's gospel (Mk 2:23-3:6). The saying would be out of place in the logia, which consistently sees the Gentiles as alien. [4] Therefore Lk 14:5 was probably dependent on Mt 12:11.

2.  Evidence that Luke also used a sayings source

  1. There really was a sayings document

    Papias mentioned it

    Papias wrote about the 'oracles' which each person 'interpreted' (translated ?!) as he was able. The most natural understanding of this statement is that it referred to a collection of sayings of Jesus.

    Paul alluded to it

    The words "persuasive words of wisdom" (πειθοις σοφιας λογοις 1 Cor 2:4) make a very apt description of the logia as a whole. For as R. E. Murphy pointed out: "Jesus is presented in the synoptic Gospels as a wisdom teacher ... The many logia (sayings) attributed to him are cast in the aphoristic style of the sages ..." [5]

    There are also many allusions to its individual sayings [6] in the letters of Paul, the clearest being the following:
    (1) "the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel" (1 Cor 9:14, c.f. "the worker deserves his pay" in saying B4, where the context shows that the "worker" is a missionary)
    (2) "consider your call", followed by the threefold repetition of "not many" and "God chose" (1 Cor 1:26-29, c.f. saying C2: "Many are called, but few are chosen")
    (3) "wisdom ... preach ... Jews demand signs" (1 Cor 1:21-23a, c.f. "It is an evil generation which demands a sign ... the wisdom of Solomon ... the preaching of Jonah" in saying C5)
    (4) "the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night ... keep awake" (1 Thess 5:2,6, c.f. "Keep awake ... day your master is coming ... time of night the thief was coming" in saying D14).
  2. It was used by the synoptic gospels

    Semitic Aphorisms

    There are more than sixty-five distinct cases of parallelism spread over more than fifty different aphorisms attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels. Parallelism is a key characteristic of Semitic poetry, and therefore these cases constitute evidence that the bulk of the corresponding aphorisms go back at least as far as the Aramaic-speaking Jesus community in Jerusalem sometime between 30 CE and 60 CE (and perhaps even to Jesus himself). If they were not written down during this early period, and if a copy of the document had not been available to the author of the gospel of Matthew, it is difficult to see how upwards of fifty obviously Semitic and largely reliable cases of parallelism found their way into this relatively late gospel. For in redactional texts where Matthew seems unlikely to have been dependent on a written source, this gospel can be highly implausible (Mt 17:27; 27:52-53).

    Source Doublets

    15 doublets in Matthew and 13 in Luke look as if they arose because the author had two written sources: Mark plus a sayings source. [7] Had the latter been oral and thus in the author's memory, it is unlikely that so many sayings would have been duplicated.

    Occasional Lukan Originality

    In the Double Tradition sometimes Luke appears to have (in whole or in part) the more original text. Therefore in those places Luke does not seem to have been dependent on Matthew, but instead Matthew and Luke seem to have been dependent on a common source. Here are some examples of cases where the text in Luke appears to be more original than that in Matthew. Of the clearest cases, none are in narrative material and all occur in aphorisms. I have chosen examples where the greater originality of the Lukan text is also supported by Mack in "The Lost Gospel", Robinson et al. in "The Sayings Gospel Q ..." and Fleddermann in "Q: A Reconstruction ...".

    Lk 6:20 "poor" (not Matthew's "poor in spirit")
    Lk 6:36 "merciful / full of pity" (not Matthew's "perfect")
    Lk 6:39 'blind guides' as two rhetorical questions
    Lk 10:4 "greet no one on the way"
    Lk 10:5 "say: 'Peace to this house'"
    Lk 10:7 "eating ... whatever they provide"
    Lk 10:24 "prophets and kings" (not Matthew's "prophets and saints")
    Lk 11:2 "Father" (not Matthew's "Our Father")
    Lk 11:30 "... a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation"
    Lk 11:49 "persecute" (not Matthew's "crucify")
    Lk 12:8 & 12:9 "angels ..." (not Matthew's "my Father in heaven")
    Lk 12:24 "ravens" (not Matthew's "birds of the air")
    Lk 12:24 "God feeds them" (not Matthew's "your heavenly Father feeds them")
    Lk 14:26 "hate" (not Matthew's "love more ...")
    Lk 14:35 "the earth or the dung heap"
    Lk 16:17 "it is easier for" (not Matthew's "until")
    Lk 17:6 "mulberry tree" (not Matthew's "mountain")
    Lk 17:30 "the day the Son of Man is revealed" (not Matthew's "the coming of the Son of Man")

    Unsourced blocks of aphorisms in the synoptic gospels

    Each synoptic gospel has several blocks of unsourced aphorisms, a block being here defined as text comprising at least three adjacent sayings units, in which each unit contains an aphorism, [8]  sometimes elaborated or placed in a context designed to help explain its meaning. By "unsourced" I mean that a block is not dependent on a similar block in an earlier gospel, and therefore its source is yet to be determined. Thus, for example, Mt 16:24-28 contains 4 aphorisms (16:24b, 25, 27a, 28) [9]  with some elaboration (16:24a, 26, 27b). But it clearly depends on Mk 8:34-9:1 which contains the same 4 aphorisms in the same order (though differently elaborated) and is therefore not an "unsourced" block of aphorisms. In each block the associated elaboration with non-aphorism material is restricted to an average of no more than one verse per aphorism, in order to ensure that the block can reasonably be described as a block of aphorisms.


    Matthew Mark Luke
    text aphorisms text aphorisms text aphorisms
    5:3-32 7 4:21-25 4 6:20-49 11
    6:19 - 7:27 13 8:34 - 9:1 4 9:57 - 10:12 4
    10:5 - 42 12 9:33 - 50 7 11:27-52 11
    23:1-13 5 11:22-25 3 12:22 - 40 3
    23:23-36 4 13:9-13 4 12:58b - 59 4
    24:26-28 3     13:22 - 30 3
    24:37-44 3     17:1 - 6 3
            17:22 - 37 6

    My five blocks of aphorisms in Mark are similar to the five compilations of sayings observed by William Telford. [10]  To be more exact, his passages have a one-to-one correspondence with my blocks. The middle three are identical, and my first and fifth blocks are subsets of his first and fifth passages respectively.

    The 20 sayings blocks represent 61 different sayings. A particular saying will often occur in a similar form in more than one gospel. The numbers of these sayings occurring (in whole or in part) in at least one block in a gospel are as follows:

      5 in all three gospels,
    25 in Matthew and Luke (but not in Mark),
    10 in Mark and Matthew (but not in Luke),
      3 in Mark and Luke (but not in Matthew),
    18 in only one gospel.

    However never more than two adjacent sayings in a block appear adjacent and in the same order in a later writer's sayings block, and there are only three examples of this limited sequence (one pair common to Mark and Matthew and two pairs common to Matthew and Luke). This shows that the blocks are not dependent on one another.
    The fact that Matthew, Mark and Luke each have several similar blocks of sayings, that there is considerable overlap between the sayings in these three gospels, and yet that these gospels do not appear to be dependent on each other as far as the sayings blocks are concerned, strongly suggests that each synoptic writer had access to a copy of the same pre-Markan written collection of aphorisms.

  3. Additional evidence that it was used by Luke

    Luke's research

    Luke stated that he had "followed all things closely for some time past" (Lk 1:3). It therefore seems most likely that Luke would have known about these 'oracles', and that in his gospel which is centred on Jesus he would have made use of them.

    Lukan mistranslations

    The words "give alms" (Lk 11:41) and "you build" (Lk 11:48) cannot have derived from Matthew, which has the more intelligible "cleanse" and "you are descendants of" respectively. But they are readily explained as Lukan mistranslations from a common Aramaic source.

    Lukan paronomasia

    In two cases, only the Lukan version of a clause or sentence in a saying incorporates a play on words when translated back into Aramaic. This is very unlikely if it had been derived from the differently-worded Matthean version. In Lk 12:33 the words involved are 'comes near' and 'destroys'. [11] In Lk 12:24 the words involved are 'ravens' and 'feed'. [12]

    Luke's sermon

    On the Farrer Theory, Luke's Sermon on the Plain is often taken as essentially [13] an abbreviation of the Sermon on the Mount. This would be an understandable procedure if it matched the evidence. But it does not. For a consequence of the Farrer Theory is that Luke incorporated into his version of the sermon 'Blind guide' (Mt 15:14 // Lk 6:39), 'Teacher/disciple' (Mt 10:24-25 // Lk 6:40) and 'Good treasure' (Mt 12:34-35 // Lk 6:45) from elsewhere in Matthew.
    Luke's sermon is much better explained as essentially an abbreviation of a sayings-source section which started with "Blessed are the poor ..." and ended with 'Rock/sand' (Mt 7:24-27 // Lk 6:47-49), with the sermon containing no sayings from any other section of the source. [14]

Notes for this page

1. The cases are as follows, with the number of words identical in Matthew and Luke, whether the text of Mark is identical, the first word(s), and the references.
  18 words; Mk diff; λεγων  ... Mt 8:2-3 // Mk 1:40-41 // Lk 5:12-13
  11 words; Mk diff; εισηλθεν  ... Mt 12:4 // Mk 2:26 // Lk 6:4
  12 words; Mk same; τους πεντε  ... Mt 14:19 // Mk 6:41 // Lk 9:16
  14 words; Mk diff; απο των  ... Mt 16:21 // Mk 8:31 // Lk 9:22
  16 words; Mk diff; θελη  ... Mt 16:25 // Mk 8:35 // Lk 9:24
  10 words; Mk diff; εκ της  ... Mt 17:5 // Mk 9:7 // Lk 9:35
  12 words; Mk diff; αποκρθεις  ... Mt 17:17 // Mk 9:19 // Lk 9:41
  10 words; Mk diff; τα καισαρος  ... Mt 22:21-22 // Mk 12:17 // Lk 20:25-26
  10 words; Mk diff; πολλοι  ... Mt 24:5 // Mk 13:6// Lk 21:8
  11 words; Mk same; ταις εν  ... Mt 24:19 // Mk 13:17 // Lk 21:23
  13 words; Mk diff; αμην  ... Mt 24:34 // Mk 13:30 // Lk 21:32
2. E. D. Freed, "The New Testament: A Critical Introduction" (SCM, 2nd. edn., 1991)
3. Mark Goodacre, "The Case Against Q" (Trinity, 2002, p. 56f. & the references in n.20)
4. Gentiles are portrayed as alien in sayings A8, B4, C1, C10 and C19 - see note 6.
5. P. J. Achtemeier (Ed.), "The HarperCollinsBible Dictionary" (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996, p.1215)
6. For the text and labelling of the sayings, see   The Sayings of Jesus: an English language reconstruction of Papias' logia
7. For the full details of the source doublets, see   The doublets: a template for the logia
8. Of course I don't count aphorisms which look as if they were created by the synoptic author himself, because these would not constitute evidence for an earlier written source. For example, the aphorisms about the treasure, pearl, net and scribe found respectively in the sayings units Mt 13:44, 13:45-6, 13:47-50 and 13:51-2 are the redactional creations of the author of Matthew's gospel (c.f. Goulder, Gundry).
9. It is not always clear where to draw the boundaries of an aphorism. But any reasonable placement of the boundaries should reveal the existence of blocks of aphorisms, so for convenience I have here used the boundaries which became apparent as the sayings source was being reconstructed. This means, for instance, that the blessings of the poor etc. are counted as a single aphorism, whereas each woe is counted separately.
10. Riches, Telford & Tuckett: "The Synoptic Gospels" (Sheffield Academic Press, 2001, p.159)
11. M. Black, "The Aramaic Dimension of Q", 178. Davies & Allison, "Matthew", I, 631.
12. M. Black, "The Aramaic Dimension of Q", 179. Davies & Allison, "Matthew", I, 648.
13. The word "essentially" here and in the next sentence constitutes a recognition that the posited 'abbreviation' incorporates some material probably composed by Luke, e.g. the four woes in Lk 6:24-26.
14. It can be seen from the tables in   The scope and structure of the logia   that in the reconstruction of the sayings source, only section A contains sayings occurring in Lk 6:20-49.