Culture Source Hypothesis Statement

On By In 1

"JE" redirects here. For other uses, see JE (disambiguation).

The documentary hypothesis (DH) is one of three models used to explain the origins and composition of the first five books of the Bible,[Note 1] called collectively the Torah or Pentateuch. The other two theories are the supplementary hypothesis and the fragmentary hypothesis. All three agree that the Torah is not a unified work from a single author (traditionally Moses) but is made up of sources combined over many centuries by many hands. They differ on the nature of these sources and how they were combined. According to the documentary hypothesis there were four sources, each originally a separate and independent book (a "document"), joined together at various points in time by a series of editors ("redactors"). Fragmentary hypotheses see the Torah as a collection of small fragments, and supplementary hypotheses as a single core document supplemented by fragments taken from many sources.

A version of the documentary hypothesis, frequently identified with the German scholar Julius Wellhausen, was almost universally accepted for most of the 20th century, but the consensus has now collapsed. As a result, there has been a revival of interest in fragmentary and supplementary approaches, frequently in combination with each other and with a documentary model, making it difficult to classify contemporary theories as strictly one or another. Modern scholars increasingly see the completed Torah as a product of the time of the Achaemenid Empire (probably 450–350 BCE), although some would place its production in the Hellenistic period (333–164 BCE) or even the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 BCE). Of its constituent sources, Deuteronomy is generally dated between the 7th and 5th centuries; there is much discussion of the unity, extent, nature, and date of the Priestly material. Deuteronomy continues to be seen as having had a history separate from the first four books, and there is a growing recognition that Genesis developed apart from the Exodus stories until joined to it by the Priestly writer.

Basic approaches: documentary, fragmentary and supplementary hypotheses[edit]

The Torah (or Pentateuch) is the collective name for the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. According to tradition they were dictated by God to Moses, but when modern critical scholarship began to be applied to the Bible it was discovered that the Pentateuch was not the unified text one would expect from a single author. As a result, the Mosaic authorship of the Torah had been largely rejected by leading scholars by the 17th century, and the modern consensus is that it is the product of a long evolutionary process.[Note 2]

In the mid-18th century, some authors started a critical study of doublets (parallel accounts of the same incidents), inconsistencies, and changes in style and vocabulary. In 1780 Johann Eichhorn, building on the work of the French doctor and exeget Jean Astruc's "Conjectures" and others, formulated the "older documentary hypothesis": the idea that Genesis was composed by combining two identifiable sources, the Jehovist ("J"; also called the Yahwist) and the Elohist ("E"). These sources were subsequently found to run through the first four books of the Torah, and the number was later expanded to three when Wilhelm de Wette identified the Deuteronomist as an additional source found only in Deuteronomy ("D"). Later still the Elohist was split into Elohist and Priestly ("P") sources, increasing the number to four.

These documentary approaches were in competition with two other models, the fragmentary and the supplementary. The fragmentary hypothesis argued that fragments of varying lengths, rather than continuous documents, lay behind the Torah; this approach accounted for the Torah's diversity but could not account for its structural consistency, particularly regarding chronology. The supplementary hypothesis was better able to explain this unity: it maintained that the Torah was made up of a central core document, the Elohist, supplemented by fragments taken from many sources. The supplementary approach was dominant by the early 1860s, but it was challenged by an important book published by Hermann Hupfeld in 1853, who argued that the Pentateuch was made up of four documentary sources, the Priestly, Yahwist, and Elohist intertwined in Genesis-Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers, and the stand-alone source of Deuteronomy. At around the same period Karl Heinrich Graf argued that the Yahwist and Elohist were the earliest sources and the Priestly source the latest, while Wilhelm Vatke linked the four to an evolutionary framework, the Yahwist and Elohist to a time of primitive nature and fertility cults, the Deuteronomist to the ethical religion of the Hebrew prophets, and the Priestly source to a form of religion dominated by ritual, sacrifice and law.

Table: documentary, fragmentary and supplementary hypotheses[edit]

The table is based on that in Walter Houston's "The Pentateuch", with expansions as indicated. Note that the three hypotheses are not mutually exclusive.

HypothesisMethod of compositionAgency (redactor/collector/author)Mode of analysisStrengths and weaknesses
DocumentaryA small number of continuous documents (traditionally four) combined to form one continuous final text.Combined by editors who altered as little as possible of the texts available to them.Source criticismExplains both the unity of the Torah (due to the unity of the constituent documents) and its diversity (due to disagreements/repetitions between them). Difficulty distinguishing J from E outside Genesis. Greatest weakness is the role of the redactors (editors), who seem to function as a deus ex machina to explain away difficulties.
SupplementaryProduced by the successive addition of layers of supplementary material to a core text or group of texts.Editors are also authors, creating original narrative and interpretation.Redaction criticismAccounts for the structural consistency of the Pentateuch better than the fragmentary approach, the central core explaining its unity of theme and structure, the fragments embedded in this its diversity of language and style.
FragmentaryThe combination of a large number of short texts.Editors also create linking narrative.Form criticismHas difficulty accounting for the structural consistency of the Pentateuch, especially its chronology.

Julius Wellhausen and the documentary hypothesis[edit]

In 1878 Julius Wellhausen published Geschichte Israels, Bd 1 ("History of Israel, Vol 1"); the second edition he printed as Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels ("Prolegomena to the History of Israel"), in 1883, and the work is better known under that name.[25] (The second volume, a synthetic history titled Israelitische und jüdische Geschichte ["Israelite and Jewish History"], did not appear until 1894 and remains untranslated.) Crucially, this historical portrait was based upon two earlier works of his technical analysis: "Die Composition des Hexateuchs" ("The Composition of the Hexateuch") of 1876/77 and sections on the "historical books" (Judges–Kings) in his 1878 edition of Friedrich Bleek's Einleitung in das Alte Testament ("Introduction to the Old Testament").

Wellhausen's documentary hypothesis owed little to Wellhausen himself but was mainly the work of Hupfeld, Eduard Eugène Reuss, Graf, and others, who in turn had built on earlier scholarship. He accepted Hupfeld's four sources and, in agreement with Graf, placed the Priestly work last. J was the earliest document, a product of the 900s and the court of Solomon; E was from the 8th century BCE in the northern Kingdom of Israel, and had been combined by a redactor (editor) with J to form a document JE; D, the third source, was a product of the 7th century BC, by 620 BCE, during the reign of King Josiah; P (what Wellhausen first named "Q") was a product of the priest-and-temple dominated world of the 6th century; and the final redaction, when P was combined with JED to produce the Torah as we now know it, took place in the mid-5th century, possible by the hand of the scribe and sacrificator Ezra by 450 BCE, during the reign of Ezra.

Wellhausen's explanation of the formation of the Torah was also an explanation of the religious history of Israel. The Yahwist and Elohist described a primitive, spontaneous and personal world, in keeping with the earliest stage of Israel's history; in Deuteronomy he saw the influence of the prophets and the development of an ethical outlook, which he felt represented the pinnacle of Jewish religion; and the Priestly source reflected the rigid, ritualistic world of the priest-dominated post-exilic period.

His work, notable for its detailed and wide-ranging scholarship and close argument, entrenched the newer documentary hypothesis as the dominant explanation of Pentateuchal origins from the late 19th to the late 20th centuries.[Note 3]

Contemporary approaches: end of the documentary consensus and revival of supplementary and fragmentary models[edit]

The consensus around the documentary hypothesis has partly collapsed in the last decades of the 20th century. The groundwork was laid with the investigation of the origins of the written sources in oral compositions, implying that the creators of J and E were collectors and editors and not authors and historians.Rolf Rendtorff (1925–2014), building on this insight, argued that the basis of the Pentateuch lay in short, independent narratives, gradually formed into larger units and brought together in two editorial phases, the first Deuteronomic, the second Priestly. This led to the current position which sees only two major sources in the Pentateuch, the Deuteronomist (confined to the Book of Deuteronomy) and the Priestly (confined to the books Genesis-Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers).

The majority of scholars today continue to recognise Deuteronomy as a source, with its origin in the law-code produced at the court of Josiah as described by De Wette, subsequently given a frame during the exile (the speeches and descriptions at the front and back of the code) to identify it as the words of Moses. Most scholars also agree that some form of Priestly source existed, although its extent, especially its end-point, is uncertain. The remainder is called collectively non-Priestly, a grouping which includes both pre-Priestly and post-Priestly material. The final Torah is increasingly seen as a product of the Persian period (539–333 BCE, probably 450–350 BCE), although some would place it somewhat later, in the Hellenistic (333–164 BCE) or even Hasmonean (140–37 BCE) periods – the latter remains a minority view, but the Elephantine papyri, the records of a Jewish colony in Egypt dating from the last quarter of the 5th century BCE, show no knowledge of a Torah or of an exodus, though the 'Passover letter' among them gives detailed instructions for properly keeping the passover, which is traditionally tied to the exodus.[37][38] There is also a growing recognition that Genesis developed separately from Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers, and was joined to the story of Moses by the Priestly writer.

A revised version of the documentary hypothesis still has adherents, especially in North America and Israel.[41][42] The revised or neo-documentary hypothesis distinguishes sources by means of plot and continuity rather than stylistic and linguistic concerns, and does not tie them to stages in the evolution of Israel's religious history. Its resurrection of an E source is probably the single element most often criticised by other scholars, as European scholars have largely rejected it as fragmentary or non-existent (it is rarely distinguishable from the classical J source).

The Torah and the history of Israel's religion[edit]

Wellhausen, the father of the documentary hypothesis, which dominated scholarship for much of the 20th century, used the sources of the Torah as evidence of changes in the history of Israelite religion as it moved from free, simple and natural to fixed, formal and institutional.

Modern reconstructions of Israel's religion have become much more circumspect in how they use the Old Testament, not least because comparative data (the comparison of ancient Israel with other cultures) and archaeology have led many to the conclusion that the Bible is not a reliable witness to the religion of ancient Israel and Judah and represents the beliefs of only a small segment of the ancient Israelite community, the members of a late Judean religious tradition centred in Jerusalem and devoted to the exclusive worship of the god Yahweh.

See also[edit]



  1. ^Kurtz, Paul Michael (2015-03-20). "The Way of War: Wellhausen, Israel, and Bellicose Reiche". Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. 127 (1): 1–19. doi:10.1515/zaw-2015-0002. ISSN 1613-0103. 
  2. ^Arnold, William R. (1912). "The Passover Papyrus from Elephantine". Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 31, no. 1. Retrieved 3 November 2017. 
  3. ^Kratz, Reinhard Gregor. Historical and Biblical Israel: The History, Tradition, and Archives of Israel and Judah. ISBN 978-0-19-872877-1. OCLC 913852781. 
  4. ^Gertz, Jan C.; Levinson, Bernard M.; Rom-Shiloni, Dalit; Schmid, Konrad; Mohr Siebeck GmbH & Co. KG. The Formation of the Pentateuch: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Europe, Israel, and North America. ISBN 978-3-16-153883-4. OCLC 951826412. 
  5. ^Dozeman, Thomas B.; Schmid, Konrad; Schwartz. The Pentateuch: International Perspectives on Current Research. Mohr Siebeck. ISBN 978-3-16-150613-0. OCLC 754222793. 


  • Baden, Joel S. (2012). The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis. Anchor Yale Reference Library. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-15263-9. 
  • Barton, John (2014). "Biblical Scholarship on the European Continent, in the UK, and Ireland". In Saeboe, Magne; Ska, Jean Louis; Machinist, Peter. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. III: From Modernism to Post-Modernism. Part II: The Twentieth Century – From Modernism to Post-Modernism. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. ISBN 978-3-525-54022-0. 
  • Barton, John; Muddiman, John (2010). The Pentateuch. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-958024-8. 
  • Berlin, Adele (1994). Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 978-1-57506-002-6. 
  • Bos, James M. (2013). Reconsidering the Date and Provenance of the Book of Hosea. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-567-06889-7. 
  • Brettler, Marc Avi (2004). "Torah: Introduction". In Berlin, Adele; Brettler, Marc Zvi. The Jewish Study Bible. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-529751-5. 
  • Campbell, Antony F.; O'Brien, Mark A. (1993). Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-1-4514-1367-0. 
  • Carr, David M. (2007). "Genesis". In Coogan, Michael David; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Newsom, Carol Ann. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-528880-3. 
  • Carr, David M. (2014). "Changes in Pentateuchal Criticism". In Saeboe, Magne; Ska, Jean Louis; Machinist, Peter. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. III: From Modernism to Post-Modernism. Part II: The Twentieth Century – From Modernism to Post-Modernism. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. ISBN 978-3-525-54022-0. 
  • Gaines, Jason M.H. (2015). The Poetic Priestly Source. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-1-5064-0046-4. 
  • Gertz, Jan C.; Levinson, Bernard M.; Rom-Shiloni, Dalit (2017). "Convergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory". In Gertz, Jan C.; Levinson, Bernard M.; Rom-Shiloni, Dalit. The Formation of the Pentateuch: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Europe, Israel, and North America. Mohr Siebeck. 
  • Gmirkin, Russell (2006). Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-567-13439-4. 
  • Greifenhagen, Franz V. (2003). Egypt on the Pentateuch's Ideological Map. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-567-39136-0. 
  • Houston, Walter (2013). The Pentateuch. SCM Press. ISBN 978-0-334-04385-0. 
  • Kawashima, Robert S. (2010). "Sources and Redaction". In Hendel, Ronald. Reading Genesis. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-139-49278-2. 
  • Kratz, Reinhard G. (2013). "Rewriting Torah". In Schipper, Bernd; Teeter, D. Andrew. Wisdom and Torah: The Reception of 'Torah' in the Wisdom Literature of the Second Temple Period. BRILL. ISBN 9789004257368. 
  • Kratz, Reinhard G. (2005). The Composition of the Narrative Books of the Old Testament. A&C Black. ISBN 9780567089205. 
  • Kugel, James L. (2008). How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now. FreePress. ISBN 978-0-7432-3587-7. 
  • Levin, Christoph (2013). Re-Reading the Scriptures. Mohr Siebeck. ISBN 978-3-16-152207-9. 
  • McDermott, John J. (2002). Reading the Pentateuch: a historical introduction. Pauline Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-4082-4. 
  • McEntire, Mark (2008). Struggling with God: An Introduction to the Pentateuch. Mercer University Press. ISBN 978-0-88146-101-5. 
  • McKim, Donald K. (1996). Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms. Westminster John Knox. ISBN 978-0-664-25511-4. 
  • Miller, Patrick D. (2000). Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology: Collected Essays. A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-84127-142-2. 
  • Monroe, Lauren A.S. (2011). Josiah's Reform and the Dynamics of Defilement. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-977536-1. 
  • Moore, Megan Bishop; Kelle, Brad E. (2011). Biblical History and Israel's Past. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-6260-0. 
  • Nicholson, Ernest Wilson (2003). The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-925783-6. 
  • Otto, Eckart (2014). "The Study of Law and Ethics in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament". In Saeboe, Magne; Ska, Jean Louis; Machinist, Peter. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. III: From Modernism to Post-Modernism. Part II: The Twentieth Century – From Modernism to Post-Modernism. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. ISBN 978-3-525-54022-0. 
  • Patrick, Dale (2013). Deuteronomy. Chalice Press. ISBN 978-0-8272-0566-6.
  1. ^The five books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
  2. ^The reasons behind the rejection are covered in more detail in the article on Mosaic authorship.
  3. ^The two-source hypothesis of Eichorn was the "older" documentary hypothesis, and the four-source hypothesis adopted by Wellhausen was the "newer".

Not to be confused with Two-gospel hypothesis.

The two-source hypothesis (or 2SH) is an explanation for the synoptic problem, the pattern of similarities and differences between the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It posits that the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke were based on the Gospel of Mark and a hypothetical sayings collection from the Christian oral tradition called Q.

The two-source hypothesis emerged in the 19th century. B. H. Streeter definitively stated the case in 1924, adding that two other sources, referred to as M and L, lie behind the material in Matthew and Luke respectively. The strengths of the hypothesis are its explanatory power regarding the shared and non-shared material in the three gospels; its weaknesses lie in the exceptions to those patterns, and in the hypothetical nature of its proposed collection of Jesus-sayings. Later scholars have advanced numerous elaborations and variations on the basic hypothesis, and even completely alternative hypotheses. Nevertheless, "the 2SH commands the support of most biblical critics from all continents and denominations."[1]

When Streeter's two additional sources, M and L, are taken into account, this hypothesis is sometimes referred to as the four-document hypothesis.


The two-source hypothesis was first articulated in 1838 by Christian Hermann Weisse, but it did not gain wide acceptance among German critics until Heinrich Julius Holtzmann endorsed it in 1863. Prior to Holtzmann, most Catholic scholars held to the Augustinian hypothesis (Matthew → Mark → Luke) and Protestant biblical critics favored the Griesbach hypothesis (Matthew → Luke → Mark). The Two-Source Hypothesis crossed the channel into England in the 1880s primarily due to the efforts of William Sanday, culminating in B. H. Streeter's definitive statement of the case in 1924. Streeter further argued that additional sources, referred to as M and L, lie behind the material in Matthew and Luke respectively.[2][3]

Background: the synoptic problem[edit]

The hypothesis is a solution to what is known as the synoptic problem: the question of how best to account for the differences and similarities between the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. The answer to this problem has implications for the order in which the three were composed, and the sources on which their authors drew.

Any solution to the synoptic problem needs to account for two features:

  • The "triple tradition": The three gospels frequently share both wording and arrangement of "pericopes" (incidents, stories - this substantial sharing is what led to them being called "synoptic", or seeing-together). Where they differ on this shared material, Mark and Luke will agree against Matthew, or Mark and Matthew will agree against Luke, but very rarely will Mark be the odd one out. Matthew's and Luke's versions of shared pericopes will usually be shorter than Mark's.
  • The "double tradition": Sometimes Matthew and Luke share material which is not present in Mark. In these cases Matthew and Luke sometimes parallel each other closely, but at other times are widely divergent.[4]

Overview of the hypothesis[edit]

The 2SH attempts to solve the synoptic problem by advancing two propositions, Markan priority to explain the triple tradition, and the existence of a lost Q document to solve the double tradition. In summary, the two-source hypothesis proposes that Matthew and Luke used Mark for its narrative material as well as for the basic structural outline of chronology of Jesus' life; and that Matthew and Luke use a second source, Q (from German Quelle, “source”), not extant, for the sayings (logia) found in both of them but not in Mark.[5]

Marcan priority[edit]

Main article: Marcan priority

The 2SH explains the features of the triple tradition by proposing that both Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. Mark appears more 'primitive': his diction and grammar are less literary than Matthew and Luke, his language is more prone to redundancy and obscurity, his Christology is less supernatural, and he makes more frequent use of Aramaic. The more sophisticated versions of Mark's pericopes in Matthew and Luke must be either the result of those two "cleaning up" Mark, if his is the first gospel, or of Mark "dumbing down" Matthew and/or Luke, if he was later. Critics regard the first explanation as the more likely. On a more specific level, Marcan priority seems to be indicated due to instances where Matthew and Luke apparently omit explanatory material from Mark, where Matthew adds his own theological emphases to Mark's stories, and in the uneven distribution of Mark's stylistic features in Matthew.[6]

The existence of Q[edit]

Main article: Q source

The 2SH explains the double tradition by postulating the existence of a lost "sayings of Jesus" document known as Q, from the German Quelle, "source". It is this, rather than Markan priority, which forms the distinctive feature of the 2SH as against rival theories. The existence of Q follows from the conclusion that, as Luke and Matthew are independent of Mark in the double tradition, the connection between them must be explained by their joint but independent use of a missing source or sources. (That they used Q independently of each other follows from the fact that they frequently differ quite widely in their use of this source).[6]

Problems with the hypothesis[edit]

While the 2SH remains the most popular explanation for the origins of the synoptic gospels, two questions, the existence of the so-called "minor agreements", and problems with the hypothesis of Q, continue at the centre of discussion over its explanatory power.

The minor agreements[edit]

The "minor agreements"—the word "minor" here is not intended to be belittling—are those points where Matthew and Luke agree against Mark (for example, the mocking question at the beating of Jesus, "Who is it that struck you?", found in both Matthew and Luke but not in Mark). The "minor agreements" thus call into question the proposition that Matthew and Luke knew Mark but not each other. Streeter devoted a chapter to the matter, arguing that the Matthew/Luke agreements were due to coincidence, or to the result of the two authors' reworking of Mark into more refined Greek, or to overlaps with Q or oral tradition, or to textual corruption.

A few later scholars explain the minor agreements as being due to Luke's using Matthew in addition to Q and Mark (3SH). But the modern argument for Q requires Matthew and Luke to be independent, so the 3SH raises the question of how to establish a role for Q if Luke is dependent on Matthew. Accordingly, some scholars (like Helmut Koester) who wish to keep Q while acknowledging the force of the minor agreements attribute them to a proto-Mark, such as the Ur-Markus in the Markan Hypothesis (MkH), adapted by Mark independently from its use by Matthew and Luke. Still other scholars feel that the minor agreements are due to a revision of our Mark, called deutero-Mark. In this case, both Matthew and Luke are dependent on proto-Mark, which did not survive the ages.

"Therefore, the minor agreements, if taken seriously, force a choice between accepting pure Markan priority on one hand or the existence of Q on the other hand, but not both simultaneously as the 2SH requires."[4]

Problems with Q[edit]

A principal objection to the 2SH is that it requires a hypothetical document, Q, the existence of which is not attested in any way, either by existing fragments (and a great many fragments of early Christian documents do exist) or by early Church tradition. The minor agreements are also, according to the critics, evidence of the non-existence of, or rather the non-necessity for, Q: if Matthew and Luke have passages which are missing in Mark (the "Who is it that struck you?" sentence quoted above is a famous example), this demonstrates only that Matthew is quoting Luke or vice versa.

Two additional problems are noteworthy, the "problem of fatigue" and the Q narrative problem. The first relates to the phenomenon that a scribe, when copying a text, will tend to converge on his source out of simple fatigue. Thus Mark calls Herod by the incorrect title basileus, "king", throughout, while Matthew begins with the more correct tetrarches but eventually switches to basileus. When similar changes occur in double tradition material, which according to the 2SH are the result of Matthew and Luke relying on Q, they usually show Luke converging on Matthew.[7]

Pierson Parker in 1940 suggested that the non-canonical Gospel of the Hebrews was the second source used in the Gospel of Luke.[8] This view is yet to gain influence.[9]


The two-document hypothesis emerged in the 19th century: Mark as the earliest gospel, Matthew and Luke written independently and reliant on both Mark and the hypothetical Q. In 1924 B. H. Streeter refined the Two Document Hypothesis into the Four Document Hypothesis based on the possibility of a Jewish M source (see the Gospel according to the Hebrews).

While the standard two-source theory holds Mark and Q to be independent, some argue that Q was also a source for Mark.[10] This is sometimes called the Modified two-document hypothesis (although that term was also used in older literature to refer to the Four-document hypothesis).[11]

A number of scholars have suggested a Three-source hypothesis, that Luke actually did make some use of Matthew after all. This allows much more flexibility in the reconstruction of Q.

Dunn proposes an Oral Q hypothesis, in which Q is not a document but a body of oral teachings.[12]

Other hypotheses[edit]

Some form of the Two Source hypothesis continues to be preferred by a majority of New Testament scholars as the theory that is best able to resolve the synoptic problem. Nevertheless, doubts about the problems of the minor agreements and, especially, the hypothetical Q, have produced alternative hypotheses.

In 1955 a British scholar, A. M. Farrer, proposed that one could dispense with Q by arguing that Luke revised both Mark and Matthew. In 1965 an American scholar, William R. Farmer, also seeking to do away with the need for Q, revived an updated version of Griesbach's idea that Mark condensed both Matthew and Luke. In Britain, the most influential modern opponents of the 2SH favor the Farrer hypothesis, while Farmer's revised Griesbach hypothesis, also known as the Two Gospel hypothesis, is probably the chief rival to the Two Source hypothesis in America.[13]

In 1838, the German theologian Christian Gottlob Wilke argued for a solution that combined Marcan priority with an extensively developed argument for Matthew’s direct dependence upon both Mark and Luke. Thus, like Farrer, Wilke's hypothesis has no need for Q, but it simply reverses the direction of presumed dependence between Matthew and Luke proposed by Farrer. A few other German scholars supported Wilke's hypothesis in the nineteenth century, but in time most came to accept the two-source hypothesis, which remains the dominant theory to this day. The Wilke hypothesis was accepted by Karl Kautsky in his Foundations of Christianity[14] and has begun to receive new attention in recent decades since its revival in 1992 by Huggins,[15] then Hengel,[16] then independently by Blair.[17] Additional recent supporters include Garrow[18] and Powell.[19]

The traditional view is represented by the Augustinian hypothesis, which is that the four gospels were written in the order in which they appear in the bible (Matthew → Mark → Luke), with Mark a condensed edition of Matthew. This hypothesis was based on the claim by the 2nd century AD bishop Papias that he had heard that Matthew wrote first. By the 18th century the problems with Augustine's idea led Johann Jakob Griesbach to put forward the Griesbach hypothesis, which was that Luke had revised Matthew and that Mark had then written a shorter gospel using material on which both Matthew and Luke agreed (Matthew → Luke → Mark).

A variant of the Augustinian hypothesis, attempting to synchronise Matthew and Mark on the basis of the Mosaic "two witnesses" requirement of Deuteronomy 19:5 (Matthew + Mark, → Luke), was proposed by Eta Linnemann, following rejection of the view of her teacher Rudolf Bultmann.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^Montserrat, Joan. 16 June 2005. Two-Source Hypothesis. URL:
  2. ^Burnett Hillman Streeter, The Four Gospels, a Study of Origins treating of the Manuscript Tradition, Sources, Authorship, & Dates, (1924)
  3. ^Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration (Oxford Un. Press, 2005)
  4. ^ ab"The Two-Source Hypothesis",
  5. ^Encyclopædia Britannica
  6. ^ ab"The Two-Source Hypothesis", Synoptic Problem Website
  7. ^Mark Goodacre (10 January 2003). "Ten Reasons to Question Q". The Case Against Q website. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  8. ^Pierson Parker (Dec 1940). "A Proto-Lucan basis for the Gospel according to the Hebrews". Journal of Biblical Literature. 59: 471–478. JSTOR 3262407. 
  9. ^Gregory, Andrew. Prior or Posterior?. Cambridge University Press. pp. 51:3:344–360. 
  10. ^Fleddermann, Harry T. (1995). Mark and Q: A Study of the Overlap Texts. ISBN 906186710X. 
  11. ^MacDonald, Dennis R. (2012). Two Shipwrecked Gospels: The Logoi of Jesus and Papias’s Exposition of Logia about the Lord. pp. 73–75. ISBN 158983691X. 
  12. ^Dunn, James D. G. (2013). The Oral Gospel Tradition. pp. 80–108. ISBN 0802867820. 
  13. ^Jesus Seminar: The Synoptic Problem
  14. ^Karl Kautsky Foundations of Christianity
  15. ^Huggins, Ronald V. (1992). "Matthean Posteriority: a Preliminary Proposal". Novum Testamentum. 34 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1163/156853692X00131. JSTOR 1561093. Reprinted in Huggins, Ronald V. (1999). "Matthean Posteriority: a Preliminary Proposal". In Orton, David E. The Synoptic Problem and Q: Selected Studies from Novum Testamentum. pp. 204–225. ISBN 9004113428.
  16. ^Hengel, Martin (2000). The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ. pp. 169–207. ISBN 1563383004.
  17. ^Blair, George Alfred (2003). The Synoptic Gospels Compared. Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity. 55. ISBN 0773468145.
  18. ^Garrow, Alan (2004). The Gospel of Matthew's Dependence on the Didache. Journal for the study of the New Testament: Supplement series. 254. pp. 225–237. ISBN 0826469779.
  19. ^Powell, Evan (2006). The Myth of the Lost Gospel. ISBN 0977048608.
The two-source hypothesis proposes that the authors of Matthew and Luke drew on the Gospel of Mark and a hypothetical collection of sayings of Jesus known as Q.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *