To install click the Add extension button. That's it.

The source code for the WIKI 2 extension is being checked by specialists of the Mozilla Foundation, Google, and Apple. You could also do it yourself at any point in time.

Kelly Slayton
Congratulations on this excellent venture… what a great idea!
Alexander Grigorievskiy
I use WIKI 2 every day and almost forgot how the original Wikipedia looks like.
Live Statistics
English Articles
Improved in 24 Hours
Added in 24 Hours
What we do. Every page goes through several hundred of perfecting techniques; in live mode. Quite the same Wikipedia. Just better.

Two-source hypothesis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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.
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.

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.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/3
    4 587
    1 192
  • ✪ Q
  • ✪ Two-Source Hypothesis
  • ✪ Two-source hypothesis


The mythicism versus historicity debate is peripheral to mainstream scholarship, and consequently receives little scholastic attention, but there are issues within mainstream scholarship that do bear on the debate and first among these is the matter of Q. Q falls within the remit of the synoptic problem. A synopsis in new Testament studies is a table where each of the four Gospels have their own columns, and the rows are arranged so that the entries in the four Gospels that discuss the same things appear in the same row so they can be read together and compared. A cursory glance at such as synopsis explains why the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels and John is separate. The synoptic gospels share many pericopes and these appear often in very similar or even identical wording. This means that there must have been some copying going on. Either the Evangelist were copying each other, or they were copying common sources. The Synoptic problem is perhaps misnamed as it is not so much a problem as a puzzle, but the term is so entrenched in scholarship that we cannot change it. The problem is working out who copied who. Many textural relationships are used to address this problem but the one that started scholars on Q is the matter of triple and double traditions. Triple traditions are pericopes that appear in all three Synoptic Gospels. Double traditions refer not simply to pericopes that appear in two of the Synoptic Gospels, but specifically to those that appear in Matthew and Luke, and not in Mark. Many hypotheses to solve the Synoptic problem have been advanced but a large majority of scholars subscribe to one of four. The most commonly held view is the two source hypothesis which holds that Mark was written first, and that Matthew and Luke were written independently of each other but both copied Mark and another source called Q which is short for the German word quelle meaning source, and Q contained, in essence, the double tradition material, I.e. that common to Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. The two gospel (as opposed to the two source) hypothesis holds that Matthew was written first, then Luke used Matthew and Mark was written third using both Luke and Matthew. The Farrer hypothesis holds that Mark was written first, followed by Matthew, who used Mark, and then Luke used both Matthew and Mark. The oral tradition hypothesis is the fourth one, and it holds that much of the commonality between the Gospels is based on them using the same oral traditions rather than relying on each other or external written sources. The two source hypothesis was first proposed in 1838. It has been the subject of prolonged and intensive scholarly attention. It is by no means the unanimous opinion of scholars, but does remain the majority view. Despite this lack of consensus, the study of Q has become a Scholastic discipline in its own right. Scholars in the field have reconstructed Q from the double tradition material, have analysed it in detail and have identified chronological layers of its development. Q supports historicity. Within the mysticism versus historicity debate, the most obvious reason for believing this is that mythicists almost universally reject the two source hypothesis and Q. Back in the mainstream, there are several reasons why Q support historicity. One is that if the hypothesis is true, then it makes it difficult to argue that historicisation began with Mark. Because Matthew and Luke had access to a source that locates Jesus on Earth and that was independent of Mark. Another is that the content of Q argues for historicity. If Q is true, then its dissection into chronological layers by Mack and others does seem to be reasonable. And that chronology mirrors the historicist, rather than the mythicist position because its earliest layer has Jesus as a sage kicking off a movement similar to the cynic school of Greek philosophy. Then later layers ascribed first miracle working and then divinity to Jesus. Reflecting the same progression of belief of regular human, to human with supernatural powers to God-man, as is proposed by historicists. The oldest layer, called Q1, contains the opening lines of the beatitudes, love your enemies and bless those who curse you, if someone slaps you on the cheap offer the other cheek, if someone steals your code give them your shirt as well, do not judge or you will be judged, Can the blind lead the blind. How can you look at the splinter in your brother's eye without noticing the plank in your own eye, a limited version of the Lord's prayer. It also contains the line about the lily of the valley who don't work or spin but even Solomon's splendour was not as magnificent along with other sayings attributed to Jesus, there are also a couple of parables: the rich man who built larger barns for his great harvest and the man who held a banquet to which the invited guests did not turn up so he extended the invitation to all comers. There is minimal narrative content in Q1. There reference to God the Father but no indication that Jesus had a unique relationship to him and neither are there any supernatural acts. Q2 contains the miracle of the healing of the centurion's servant by remote control. There is also reference to miracles by instructing John's disciples to "go and tell John what you hear and see, the blind recover their site, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the dead are raised”. Q3 contains, the temptations of Jesus, the statement that those who follow Jesus will sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel, the assertions that those in Jerusalem "will not see me again until you say blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord" and "authority over the world has been given to me by my father”. Another reason why Q support historicity is that it provides a counter to the silence of Paul argument for mythicism, the argument that kicked off mythicist theory and which remains one of its strongest. This is because the earliest layer of Q shows us a religion, or rather a philosophy, that is widely divergent from Paul's. It is focused on lifestyle and behaviour rather than faith and redemption. If Q is true and it does reflect the earliest Galilean Christian community, then it had very little in common with Paul's religion. There are many teachings of Jesus in the Gospels as a whole which Paul would have found useful in propounding his thesis but in Q1, which the theory holds was the element of Jesus teaching which were possibly contemporary with Paul, there is very little you would expect him to have used. There are of course counters to the argument from Q. For one thing the two source hypothesis, which involves Q, maybe a majority view among scholars, but by no means has it attracted what could be called a consensus. There are many dissenting voices, with good reason for their descent. The dissection of Q into 3 chronological layers is primarily dependent on style and content. Q1 is in essence a collection of aphorisms and instructions to Jesus' individual followers. In Q2 the style is one of an authoritative prophet making pronouncements to them and to the whole world. The Q3 layer contains the smallest amount of content, limiting stylistic analysis and one reason for identifying it as a separate strata is that it introduces the idea of Jesus as the son of God. Another issue concerns the chronological of the three layers. There are many cases in which the comments in Q2 follow on from the immediately preceding comments in Q1 enabling us to say the Q2 was added later. While this can also be argued for Q3 versus Q2 it is less obvious and therefore one of the reasons from placing Q3 as the latest is again that it introduces the idea of Jesus as a God. There is therefore a minor circularity in using Q to justify historicity. That is that the historicity progression of man to superman to God-man contributed to the analysis, which led to the conclusion that Q gives a history of progression from man to superman to God-man! However, this is a relatively minor problem because the distinction between Q1 and Q2 is readily justified without reference to this assumption and the later addition of Q3 can be justified without reference to it. The reconstruction and analysis of Q have consumed tens of thousands of scholar hours employing modern methods of criticism and as such individuals without extensive experience of the topic cannot really compete with their analysis. That means there is a large component of argument from authority in the argument from Q, a feature I have already flagged as concerning. Almost all of the scholarly community involved in Q are and have been minimal historicists. Christian apologists reject Q because of the purely secular nature of the scholarship on which it is based. Specifically the assumption that text common to more than one gospel must mean that somebody was copying somebody else is rejected in favour of the idea that divine inspiration lead to the same wording appearing. Mythicists also reject Q and in many cases this is clearly because it does not support their position however this is not universally the case. As we've seen from the issue of Q3, the mythicist position itself to some extent undermines Q, therefore it would be perfectly reasonable for a mythicist to examine the evidence and conclude that, it if mythicism is correct, then Q is unlikely, rather than simply observing the effects of Q and to reject it because it doesn't support their possition. Notable in this regard is the prominent mythicist Robert M Price who has proposed an intriguing solution to the synoptic problem. That is that Marcion, who composed the first New Testament Cannon that were aware of, or his followers, wrote what we now know as the Gospel of Luke which they referred to as their “Gospel of the Lord”. Marcion was a gnostic and saw the god of the Old Testament as a flawed inferior god not relevant to Christians who worshipped a superior god. The Gospel of Matthew is replete with parallels between Jesus and Old Testament figures and this could explain why much of it was either discarded or heavily edited in the writing of Luke. It is interesting that Price's hypothesis also works for the two source hypothesis. If the writer of Luke had access to both Matthew Mark and Q, the rejection of much of Matthew and reliance on Q for those areas where Q and Matthew overlap is explained. There are several scholarly arguments levelled against two source hypothesis and hence Q. The Farrer hypothesis maintains Markian Priority but argues that Luke copied material in the double tradition directly from Matthew rather than that both copied from a third source. This is basically a simpler hypothesis than Q and so one would be favoured by Occam's Razor. Then there is the matter of minor agreements. These concern material in the triple tradition, i.e., that which is found in Mark Matthew and Luke, rather than the Q material which is found in Matthew and Luke only. In this triple tradition material there are a number of instances, in fact it has been counted as 347 instances by Neirynck, where one or more words have been added to Mark's text and where both Matthew and Luke agree against Mark. This implies that Luke had access to Matthew, thus undermining one of the main contentions of the two source hypothesis which is that Matthew and Luke were written independently each other. If so, then the obvious conclusion is that Luke simply copied the Q material directly from Matthew, possibly editing and revising it to be friendly to Marcionits as suggested by Price. This would be a strong argument if we were confident that the Gospels we currently have reflect their original wording, but we are not confident of that. Specifically, the versions we have have came down to us through a process of multiple copying, and presumably editing, by scribes who at least in some cases properly had access to both Matthew and Luke. Also the Farrer hypothesis, that Luke used Matthew, leaves open the question of where Matthew got his non Markian material from. Asserting that Matthew simply made it up fails to explain how Q appears to naturally fall into chronological layers. In other words, historically, Q was discovered as a consequence of the two source hypothesis, but more recent scholarship has identified credible reasons for believing in its existence, whether or not the two source hypothesis is correct. Finally, and perhaps most damning is the fact that this apparently highly prized and crucial document of early Christianity has neither survived nor has any reference to a document that sounds like it survived In the writings of early Christians. This criticism was partly blunted by the discovery of the gospel of Thomas in the Nag Hamadi library in 1945. The gospel of Thomas is a list of sayings. This argues that sayings Gospels like Q were used by early Christians. While Q as currently reconstructed is not purely a list of sayings but also has some narrative content, the earliest layer of Q, Q1, is a list of sayings. So in the end the issues surrounding Q to my mind does favour historicity. Even if Q was not a single document, and the two source hypothesis does not require that it was, but rather was multiple documents with possibly a component of oral tradition, there is still a discernible progression from Sage to miracle worker to God-man, that can be extracted from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. There is of course the issue of argument from authority, but in this case. perhaps, just perhaps, the authorities do have good reason for their position.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 19:15 (Matthew + Mark, → Luke), was proposed by Eta Linnemann, following rejection of the view of her teacher Rudolf Bultmann.

See also

Notes and references

  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. ^ a b "The Two-Source Hypothesis", Archived 15 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica
  6. ^ a b "The Two-Source Hypothesis", Synoptic Problem Website
  7. ^ Mark Goodacre (10 January 2003). "Ten Reasons to Question Q". The Case Against Q website. Archived from the original on 15 October 2008. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
  8. ^ Pierson Parker (December 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.

This page was last edited on 27 September 2019, at 22:36
Basis of this page is in Wikipedia. Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License. Non-text media are available under their specified licenses. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. WIKI 2 is an independent company and has no affiliation with Wikimedia Foundation.