Pericopes wrongly assigned to Q

"The embarrassment in which reconstructors of Q continually find themselves is that their Q contains so many expressions characteristic of Matthew ..."
M. D. Goulder, "Luke: A New Paradigm" (Sheffield Academic Press, 1994, p.297)

1. Terminology and procedure

Some of the pericopes normally assigned to Q include stylistic and other features which make it likely that they were never in Q but were adapted by Luke from a copy of Matthew. For convenience, the sayings thus extracted from Q will be designated "xQ", for 'ex-Q', and the remaining Q sayings will be designated "sQ", for '(pure) sayings-Q'.
We examine in turn four reasons for classifying a pericope as originating in Matthew rather than Q. At least two of these reasons apply to each of the pericopes which will be assigned to xQ.

2. Narratives

There is at least a prima facie case by analogy with the extant Gospel of Thomas that Q contained only sayings, indeed only sayings attributed to Jesus. This would eliminate the lopsidedness mentioned above.
The following Matthean pericopes contain narrative, with distinct sentences having non-trivial story content (ignoring asked/said/replied & came/went) indicated in parentheses:

3. Matthean Style

The following phrases look distinctly Matthean:
  1. "You brood of vipers" (Mt 3:7 // Lk 3:7, plus Mt 2; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  2. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Mt 3:10 // Lk 3:9, plus Mt 1; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  3. "gather ... wheat ... into ... barn" (Mt 3:12 // Lk 3:17, plus Mt 1; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  4. "If you are the Son of God..." (Temptation (twice), plus Mt 1; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  5. "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mt 8:12 // Lk 13:28, plus Mt 5; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  6. "man" (ανθρωπος) + a noun (Mt 11:19 // Lk 7:34, plus Mt 5; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  7. "not/no one... in Israel" (Mt 8:10 // Lk 7:9, plus Mt 1; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  8. "take offence at" (σκανδαλιζομαι εν) (Mt 11:6 // Lk 7:23, plus Mt 3; Mk 1; Lk 0)
  9. "prophets ... law"/"law ... prophets" (Mt 11:13 // Lk 16:16, plus Mt 3; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  10. "my Father" (Mt 11:27 // Lk 10:22, plus Mt 16; Mk 0; Lk 3)
  11. "last ... worse than first" (Mt 12:45 // Lk 11:26, plus Mt 1; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  12. "would not" (Mt 23:37) is comparable to the refusals in 22:3 (also xQ) and 21:29.

Goulder [1] recognizes phrases as being better than individual words as indicators of Matthean authorship. The idea is that the longer the repeated phrase, the more likely that it is a characteristic of the author. [2] The first six phrases on this list are all in Goulder's list. He does claim some other phrases to be Matthean, but they are in pericopes which otherwise show no signs of a Matthean origin.
The Lament for Jerusalem contains a whole set of words which are arguably Matthean::
  1. "stoning" (λιθοβολεω, Mt 23:37 // Lk 13:34, plus Mt 1; Mk 0; Lk 0)
  2. "how often" (ποσακις, Mt 23:37 // Lk 13:34, plus Mt 1; Mk 0; Lk 0 )
  3. "brood", though translating different Greek words, used only here and in the phrase "brood of vipers" (see above).
Other individual Matthean words worth noting are "burn" (κατακαιω, Mt 3:12 // Lk 3:17 plus Mt 2; Mk 0; Lk 0); "[play the] flute" (Mt 11:17 // Lk 7:32 plus Mt 1; Mk 0; Lk 0); "babies" (νηπιος, Mt 11:25 // Lk 10:21, plus Mt 1; Mk 0; Lk 0); "whence" (οθεν, Mt 12:44 // Lk 14:24, plus Mt 3; Mk 0; Lk 0); "faithful" (πιστος) applied to a servant (Mt 24:45 // Lk 12:42, plus Mt 2; Mk 0; Lk 0).
Matthew was very keen on quoting the Old Testament in support of his presentation of the gospel. The following pericopes contain explicit OT quotations using the standard formula: "it is written":
  1. 4:1-11 Temptation (multiple references)
  2. 11:2-19 John the Baptist's Inquiry (composite reference in 11:10)
Finally only Matthew has parables which look as if they were specifically written in order to illustrate an aphorism. These are the Workers in the Vineyard (20:1-10, M) illustrating Mt 20:16; the Wedding Banquet (22:1-10, xQ) illustrating Mt 22:14; the Ten Maidens (25:1-12, M) illustrating 25:13; the Talents (25:14-30, xQ) illustrating Mt 25:29. Thus the Wedding Banquet and the Talents are characteristically Matthean. (The former is "thoroughly Matthean" and is tentatively assigned to M by Davies & Allison [3] With regard to the latter, the "straightforward explanation" of the muddle in the Lukan version is that "Luke has attempted to reframe the parable that he found in Matthew but his ambition, on this occasion, exceeds his capability". [4]

4. Matthean Context

Several pericopes look as if either they were written specifically for their Matthean context, or they were dependent on information supplied earlier in the gospel, and if so they cannot have been in Q.

5. Incompatibility with core sQ sayings

One of the main arguments for the sayings source is that from doublets. We define the core sQ sayings as those which are doublets in either Mathew or Luke, also occur in Mark, and can reasonably be explained by the use of two written sources. There are around 20 to 25 of them (depending on how they are delineated), and they can be used as the yardstick by which to measure the stylistic and theological compatibility of other candidate sayings.

6. Summary of the evidence

Matthew Pericope Label Narrative Matthean
with core sQ
3:7-12 Jn. B.'s Testimony (*)* **** - -
4:1-11 Temptation ***** ** ** -
8:5-13 Centurion's Servant *** ** - *
11:2-19 Jn. B.'s Inquiry * ***** ** **
11:20-23 Woe to Chorazin... - - * *
11:25-27 Jesus' Thanksgiving - ** - *
12:22-32 Beelzebul ** - - **
12:43-45 Unclean Spirit - ** * -
22:1-10 Wedding Banquet - * * -
23:37-39 Lament for Jerusalem - **** * -
24:45-51 Servant set over household - * - *
25:14-30 Talents - * - *


* An independent indicator
(*) The first double tradition saying in Mt 3:7-10 // Lk 3:7-9 necessitates at least one extra narrative item (sentence) to explain its background, i.e. John appeared by the Jordan river. [9]
- Not present

Thus up to four independent criteria show that the twelve pericopes in the table above were never in Q. These pericopes are therefore labelled xQ.
They were probably mostly composed by Matthew. [10]


1. M.D.Goulder,  "Self-Contradiction in the IQP" in  Journal of Biblical Literature 118 (1999) 506-17
2. Goulder's arguments are countered by R.A.Derrenbacker jr. & J.S.Kloppenborg Verbin: "Self-Contradiction in the IQP? A Reply to Michael Goulder" in JBL 120 (2001) 57-76. They consider Goulder's criteria for identifying Mattheanisms to be too lax. But what Goulder's critics underestimate is the quirkiness of several of these phrases. Thus in the list above, "brood of vipers", "weeping and gnashing of teeth" and ανθρωπος + noun are especially quirky. It is one thing to copy a quirky phrase through reverence for a written source, quite another to use it where there is no such constraint. On the 2ST, these phrases must have been used with no apparent constraint by two different authors. The simpler hypothesis is that all the unconstrained occurrences originated from a single author with an unusual fondness for quirky phrases.
3. Davies & Allison, ibid., III,194
4. Goodacre, ibid., 56
5. J.C.Fenton,  Saint Matthew (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1963) 62
6. Fenton, ibid., 171
7. Davies & Allison, ibid., III,197
8. Fenton, ibid., 378
9. See e.g. B.L.Mack, The Lost Gospel (Shaftesbury, Dorset: Element, 1993) 8
10. According to Goulder, "... the Q material was to a large extent Matthew's own elaboration of Mark" (Luke, ibid., 52). We agree only with regard to the xQ material.