LOY Excursus: Criteria for Distinguishing Type 1 from Type 2 Double Tradition Pericopae

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How to tell the difference between the two types of Lukan-Matthean Double Tradition pericopae, and what the distinction can tell us about Luke's pre-synoptic sources.

Revised: 16 November 2022

An important breakthrough in the formulation of Robert Lindsey’s solution to the Synoptic Problem was his recognition that there are really two sets of Lukan-Matthean Double Tradition (DT) pericopae. Lindsey noted that one set of pericopae is characterized by high levels of verbal identity, whereas the other set of pericopae is characterized by somewhat lower levels of verbal identity, despite the fact that the Lukan and Matthean pericopae are clearly parallels. Lindsey ascribed the root cause of the existence of these two sets of DT pericopae to Luke’s reliance upon two different, though related, sources.

Causes of Verbal Disparity in DT Pericopae

Lindsey’s Stemma. (Graphic created by Pieter Lechner.)

According to Lindsey,[1] Luke’s first source, which we refer to as the Anthology (Anth.), was highly Hebraic in style and tended to arrange content by genre (parables, sayings, narratives) and themes (e.g., materials on John the Baptist were clumped together). The Anthology was also used by the author of Matthew as one of his two main sources (Anth. and Mark), and it was the exclusive source for all the DT pericopae in Matthew. Luke’s second source, which we refer to as the First Reconstruction (FR), was a polished epitome of Anth., which is to say, the First Reconstructor (the creator of FR) excerpted some of Anth.’s material, reworded it in stylistically superior Greek, and rearranged these materials according to his own purposes and preferences. According to Lindsey, FR was completely unknown to the author of Matthew.

Lindsey believed that the high degree of verbal identity in the first type of DT pericopae (henceforth, Type 1 DT pericopae) was achieved as a result of both the authors of Luke and Matthew relying on the same source (Anth.) for a particular pericope. Lindsey attributed the low level of verbal identity in the second type of DT pericopae (henceforth, Type 2 DT pericopae) to the author of Luke’s use of FR for a particular pericope whereas the author of Matthew had used Anth. (Matthew’s only source for DT pericopae).

Our work of testing Lindsey’s Synoptic hypothesis in the course of attempting to reconstruct the Hebrew Life of Yeshua—the conjectured ancestor of the Synoptic Gospels—has led us to a slightly more nuanced view regarding the origins of the two types of DT pericopae. While Lukan reliance on FR parallel to Matthean reliance on Anth. may be one cause of low verbal identity in DT pericopae, there are other factors as well. Sometimes the author of Luke or the author of Matthew trimmed down a pericope or added explanatory glosses, which lowered the degree of verbal identity even though both authors were relying on Anth.[2] An example of this phenomenon is found in Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, a pericope that probably depended on Anth. in both its Lukan and Matthean versions. Nevertheless, we find that only about 44% of Luke’s wording is identical to the Matthean parallel. This low level of verbal identity, we believe, is due mainly to Matthew’s omission of the third episode of a prospective disciple. Overall, we agree with Lindsey’s assessment that the main cause of verbal disparity in DT pericopae is due to Luke’s use of FR. However, verbal identity is only one indicator of which source is behind Luke’s version of a DT pericope, it is not decisive on its own.

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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). Joshua continued his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree in 2005. After seminary…
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