The doublets: a template for the logia

"No one should underestimate the importance of the doublets."
H. T. Fleddermann, "Q : A Reconstruction and Commentary" (Peeters, 2005) p. 60

The doublets constitute one of the most interesting features of the sayings in the synoptic gospels. To many people they are merely a curiosity. But here they are shown to provide a sound basis for identifying the whole set of logia sayings.

Identifying the doublets

A doublet consists of duplicate versions of a saying in the same gospel. Our concern here is with a particular type of doublet which occurs in either Matthew or Luke and in which one version of the saying appears to have been derived from Mark and the other from a sayings source. These are called "source doublets". [1]  The source doublet sayings belong to the logia with a greater certainty than any other candidate sayings. They will thus form the core of the reconstructed logia.

Source doublets in both Matthew and Luke

Matthew Matthew Mark Luke Luke Luke theme
ex-Mark ex-logia   ex-logia ex-Mark ex-Matt  
24:35 5:18 13:31 16:17 21:33   Law
16:27 10:33 8:38 12:9 9:26   Ashamed?
16:24 10:38 8:34 14:27 9:23   Cross
16:25 10:39 8:35 17:33 9:24   Save/lose
18:5 10:40 9:37 10:16 9:48   Welcome
13:12 25:29 4:25 12:48b 8:18 19:26 More given

In Luke, 'More given' satisfies the criteria for a source doublet. But on the other hand it could equally well be described as a 'source triplet', with the third version of the saying being created from Luke's third written source when Matthew's Parable of the Talents was adapted to form Luke's Parable of the Pounds.

Source doublets in Matthew only

Matthew Matthew Mark Luke theme
ex-Mark ex-logia   ex-logia  
18:8-9 5:30,29 9:43,47   Hand/eye
19:9 5:32 10:11 16:18 Divorce
6:14 6:9,12 11:25 11:2,4 Forgive us
21:22 7:7a,8a 11:24 11:9a,10a Ask/receive
4:17b 10:7b 1:15b 10:11c Kingdom near
24:9b,13 10:22 13:13   Hated/endure
16:4 12:39 8:12 11:29 No sign
21:21 17:20 11:23 17:6 Mountain
19:30 20:16 10:31 13:30 Last/first
20:26 23:11 10:43   Great/servant
24:24 24:11 13:22   False prophets
24:23 24:26 13:21 17:23 Look he is ...
25:13 24:42 13:33   Watch

Source doublets in Luke only

Matthew Mark Luke Luke theme
ex-logia   ex-logia ex-Mark  
(10:7-15) 6:7-11 10:1-12 9:1-5 Carry no money
12:30a 9:40 11:23 9:50 For/against
5:15a 4:21 11:33 8:16 Lighting a lamp
(23:6b-7a) 12:38-39 11:43 20:46 Seats/greetings
10:26 4:22 12:2 8:17 Secrets exposed
(10:19-20) 13:9,11 12:11-12 21:12-15 Formal defence

Parentheses are used to enclose Matthean passages which are conflations of Mark and the sayings source.

Source doublets as evidence for a sayings source

category in Matthew in Luke
In both Matthew and Luke 6 6
In Matthew only 13 ----
In Luke only ---- 6

We have thus identified a total of 19 doublets in Matthew and 12 in Luke which can best be explained by Matthew or Luke taking one member of each doublet from Mark, and the other from a non-synoptic sayings source. This constitutes strong evidence for the existence of the logia.

Doublets as template: summary

The source doublets identified above represent the following 25 sayings which appear to have come from a separate written sayings source. Of these, five are not designated by Two Source Theory scholars as Q material (Hand/eye, Hated/endure, Great/servant, False prophets, Watch). Here is the complete set, listed in Matthean order, and set out in full because of the importance of the template for determining the range of style and outlook against which other candidate sayings can be assessed.

Matthew label Reconstruction of the sayings based on the source doublets and their Markan equivalent texts
5:15a Lighting a lamp No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a measuring bowl, but on a lampstand.
5:18 Law It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke in a letter of the law to be dropped.
5:29-30 Hand/eye If your right hand is causing your downfall, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. And if your right eye is causing your downfall, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.
5:32 Divorce Any man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
6:9,12 Forgive us In praying say: 'Father forgive us, as we have forgiven others'.
7:7a,8a Ask/receive Ask, and you will receive, for everyone who asks, receives.
10:7b Kingdom near The kingdom of God is near.
10:7-15 Carry no money Go out and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. Carry no purse, no bag, and no staff. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave. Whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.
10:19-20 Formal defence When they arraign you before synagogues, do not worry about how you are to answer or what you are to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what to say.
10:22 Hated/endure You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
10:26 Secrets exposed Nothing is hidden that will not be made known, or secret that will not come to light.
10:33 Ashamed? Whoever disowns me in front of others, the Son of Man will disown in front of the angels of God.
10:38 Cross Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
10:39 Save/lose Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
10:40 Welcome Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me.
12:30a For/against Whoever is not with me is against me.
12:39 No sign No sign will be given to this generation.
17:20 Mountain If you had faith like a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain: 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea', and it would be done for you.
20:16 Last/first Those who are last will be first, and the first will be last.
23:6b-7a Seats/greetings Woe to you Pharisees, for you love the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market places.
23:11 Great/servant Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.
24:11 False prophets Many false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray.
24:26 Look he is ... If they say to you: 'Look, he is in the wilderness', do not go out. If they say: 'Look, he is in the inner rooms', do not follow.
24:42 Watch Watch, therefore, for you do not know on what day your master is coming.
25:29 More given For to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.

Why healing is not mentioned in the reconstruction based on the Lukan doublet: Carry no money

In both members of this doublet the missionaries are expected to heal the sick ("power ... to cure diseases" in 9:1 and "heal the sick in [the town]" in 10:9). However this is incompatible with the Matthean No sign doublet, which shows that the historical Jesus did not perform signs (miracles). It was probably Mark who first presented Jesus and his followers as miracle workers. [2]  The logia predated Mark, as evidenced above by Paul's allusions to it and by the Markan sayings blocks. Therefore healing is not included in the reconstruction of Carry no money.

Characteristics of the template

Because of the way they were selected, all the source doublet sayings are present in a recognizable form in Mark. Thus the template contains no sayings which Mark completely rejected. If the template contains only sayings of which Mark approved, then it might be unrepresentative of the original set. But this turns out not to be the case. Firstly we see that the missionaries are expected to be 'arraigned before synagogues'. Mark mentioned the synagogues, but added councils, governors and kings (Mk 13:9). The synagogues indicate a Jewish milieu, but the reconstructed saying correctly reflects the original Jewish milieu because it does not include the Markan addition. Secondly, and more importantly, in recognizing Mark's adaptation of a saying about the permanence of the Jewish law into a saying about the permanence of Jesus' words, we already have a template which supports the permanence of the whole law, a position alien to Mark, who argued for the dismissal of parts of the law (Mk 7:14-19). Regarding criteria for authenticity, the sayings in the template constitute examples of multiple attestation. Each saying can be said to be independently attested, insofar as Mark and Matthew/Luke appear to have been for the most part accessing the logia directly for the saying. This does not prove authenticity. But given the political turbulence of the Jewish rebellion in 65-70 CE, and allowing time for a copy of these sayings to reach Mark (in Rome?), it suggests that they originated before 60 CE. At that time the most prominent of the original apostles were still alive. Stylistically, our template sayings have a high degree of uniformity, for all can be designated as aphorisms. They commend a way of life which involves considerable self-discipline. Theologically also we have a coherent collection, with hints of strong loyalty to Judaism, and an apocalyptic fervour. God is perceived as 'Father', and Jesus as 'Lord' or 'Son of Man'. The 'kingdom of God' is mentioned twice in the template. There is no mention of the typical Pauline themes of Jesus as the Son of God, or of a gospel aimed at Gentiles. There is no hint of the later synoptic writers' knowledge of the demise of Jerusalem (Q 13:35), or of their concern that the return of Jesus had been delayed (Q 12:45 and Q 19:15). So in spite of the presence of five non-Q sayings among the source doublets, the template is far more coherent in style and content than the hypothetical Q. This coherence helps to identify which additional sayings belonged to the logia.


1. This phrase is used, for instance, by H.T.Fleddermann, though with a slightly different definition.
2. The absence of any reference in Paul's extant letters to Jesus performing miracles tends to support this conclusion.