Goodacre Defends Luke Using the Gospel of Matthew

I’m continuing my way through Mark Goodacre’s The Case Against QIn my latest reading, Goodacre is defending against detractors the view that the Gospel of Luke drew from the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark, as opposed to drawing from a Q source that the Gospel of Matthew also uses.  In this post, I’ll talk about how Goodacre responds to two arguments.  I won’t mention every single argument that Goodacre attempts to refute, nor will I mention every argument that Goodacre gives in response, but I will select the arguments that stood out to me.

1.  One argument that defenders of the existence of Q use against the notion that Luke drew from Matthew is that there is an absence of Matthean-like phrases in the Gospel of Luke.  Goodacre has a variety of responses to this argument.

First, Goodacre says that Luke may have a reason to strip the peculiarly Matthean content of the stuff that he draws from Matthew.  For example, Luke’s Sermon on the Plain has “Blessed are the poor” rather than Matthew’s “Blessed are the poor in spirit” because Luke likes to emphasize the poor.  Moreover, according to Goodacre, Luke says in the preface to his work that he drew from a variety of sources, and so he may have sometimes preferred other versions than what he found in Matthew, but that does not mean that Luke was unaware of Matthew’s Gospel or never used it.  Luke’s Lord’s Prayer, for example, is more succinct than the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew, but that could be because Luke was accustomed to the shorter version and chose to use that, even though Luke was aware of Matthew’s version.  Similarly, Catholics recite a particular version of the Lord’s Prayer in their services, even though they know about other versions.

Second, Goodacre argues that there are cases in which Luke indeed does draw from Matthean phraseology.  For example, when discussing what John the Baptist was saying in exhorting people, Luke’s telling of the event resembles what is found in Matthew more than what is found in Mark (Luke 3:16-17; Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8).  

Third, in response to the argument that Luke often fails to use the order of events found in the Gospel of Matthew and omits things from Matthew, which would be odd if Luke were actually using Matthew’s Gospel, Goodacre looks at how Luke is using Mark.  Luke shortens some things that he finds in Mark, or he redistributes what he finds to other contexts.  If Luke could do that with Mark’s Gospel, why couldn’t Luke do so with the Gospel of Matthew?

2.  I remember when I heard a New Testament professor present the view that Luke used Matthew, and I wondered why Luke and Matthew would have such different and contradictory infancy narratives, if such were the case.  Goodacre addresses that issue.

First of all, Goodacre notes commonalities between the two infancy narratives: Jesus is born of a virgin, Jesus is born in Bethlehem, etc.  Matthew 1:21 is also similar to Luke 1:31.  In Matthew 1:21, Joseph is told, “She will give birth to a son and you shall call him Jesus.”  In Luke 1:31, Mary is told, “You will give birth to a son and you will call him Jesus.”  According to Goodacre, the statement is more appropriate in Matthew’s Gospel, for even Luke acknowledges that the father (or both parents) named the children (Luke 1:13, 59-66; 2:21).  But Luke “has taken over a clause that was more appropriate in its original context in Matthew” (page 57).

Second, Goodacre argues that Luke may diverge from Matthew because he dislikes elements of Matthew’s story.  Defenders of the idea that Luke did not use Matthew have asked why, if Luke knew of Matthew’s infancy story, Luke did not mention the magi, when that would have coincided with Luke’s pro-Gentile message.  Goodacre responds that Luke’s Gospel is often silent about Jesus’ interaction with Gentiles, for Luke goes to great lengths to “keep the Centurion out of Jesus’ sight” (Matthew 8:5-13//Luke 7:1-11) (56).  Goodacre also notes that Luke has a negative view of magi in Acts 8:9-24 (the story of Simon Magus), and so Luke’s omission of the magi from his infancy narrative is not surprising.

Third, Goodacre speculates that Luke decided to write an infancy story because he saw the one in Matthew and wanted to improve upon it.  And, in the eyes of many, he did, Goodacre notes, for many churches use Luke’s infancy story.

I think that Goodacre’s arguments are powerful, but I have three points to make.  First, in determining whether Luke used Matthew or Matthew and Luke both used Q, I think it’s important to look at the parallels and see where Luke omits Mattheanisms, and to ask if Luke would have a reason to make such an omission.  When the omission would accord with Luke’s ideology, fine, but what if it does not in certain cases?  Should we assume that Luke simply had it in for Mattheanisms and wanted to omit them in his own telling of events?  Or does it make more sense to say that Luke does not use those Mattheanisms because he was not using Matthew, but rather the Q source?

Second, on a related note, I can see why Luke would omit pieces of Matthew’s infancy narrative that contradict his own ideology.  But why would Luke totally disregard elements of Matthew’s narrative that do not appear to relate to his ideology, one way or the other?  Why would Luke present Joseph and Mary going from Nazareth to Bethlehem due to a census, when he could have simply imitated Matthew by placing Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem at the outset?

Third, how do we know that Luke is using Matthew and not vice-versa?  Luke coming after Matthew in date may simply be assumed within New Testament scholarship.  After all, Luke’s Gospel appears to be late because it admittedly draws on different sources, plus Luke highlights that Christ is taking a long time to return, indicating that much time has passed.  But I still think that Goodacre should interact with how we can tell that Luke is the one using Matthew and not vice-versa.  (Maybe he did address that point and I’ve missed it, or I have not come to that part of the book yet.)

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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7 Responses to Goodacre Defends Luke Using the Gospel of Matthew

  1. truthceeker says:

    Very good! Also, have you heard the explanation regarding Luke genealogy being Mary’s and not Joseph’s?

    Simply stated look at the Greek in Luke 3:23,24 and you will see that it is devoid of the same Greek words as Matthew. In Matthew he clearly states that Joseph was the “son of” Jacob, while Luke’s sentence is a difficult passage to translate. Literally translated with my own paraphrase, Luke states basically:

    “Jesus, who was thought to be the son of Joseph, [that] Heli, the son of Matthat…”

    Clearly this sentence lacks the Greek word for ‘son’ in regard to Joseph and Heli, but it continues to be translated as such?

    The guess is that Luke is saying something like, “Jesus, who was thought to be the son of Joseph, but no, he was the son of Heli…”

    Further speculation regarding ‘Heli’ is that this is an abbreviated name for ‘Elichim’ which can also be rendered ‘Jochim’, who as we know was the legendary father of Mary.

    The speculation is that Luke is giving Jesus’ linage through his mother Mary and stating simply that Jesus is the son of his grandfather Jochim. If we take this view, it clears up the discrepancy’s in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke.

    We are also struck by the fact that if Luke was known for his examination of others accounts, then why would his genealogy diverge so much from Matthew?

    Also regarding Luke’s account as being more Gentile focused, it is certainly not the focus of the first chapters regarding John the Baptist and his parents. It is very Jewish central in the beginning.

    On a side note, it makes sense that Luke’s genealogy is through Mary as he just finishes the portions on Mary and Elisabeth and the Song of Mary.

    The story of the Magi of course is tied up in the prophecy that a “great light” has been shown to the Gentiles. This great light is the “star” of Bethlehem. Matthew relates the story because it is a Jewish fulfillment of prophecy, while Luke perhaps is satisfied with Matthew’s account and has a more Marian focus?

    Peace be with you. 🙂


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    A lot of good stuff there! Here’s a link to my post from a while back on the genealogies:

    But what you wrote gives me more to think about, since you’re arguing that there is no contradiction between Jesus’ father-in-law being Heli, and his father-in-law being Joachim.

    I’m still trying to figure out how your argument from the Greek sits with me. It looks like the genitive (without “son of”) is used throughout the genealogy, meaning that “son of” is implied, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it were saying Joseph of Heli of, et al.

    I like your point on Luke, since it highlights that how scholars stereotype the thoughts of biblical authors does not always fit what the biblical authors themselves say.


  3. truthceeker says:

    Here is a site which makes a case for the alternate translation of the Greek:

    And here is a site which speculates on the name Heli being an abbreviation of Joachim:

    About halfway down the page it reads:

    “This view is supported by a tradition which names the father of the Blessed Virgin “Joachim”, a variant form of Eliacim or its abbreviation Eli, a variant of Heli,…”


  4. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Yeah, it’s in the Protevangelium of James that he’s called Joachim. I’ll take a look at the article on Greek.


  5. jamesbradfordpate says:

    On my blogspot blog, Stephen Carlson says the following:

    “I think the purpose for the census in Luke’s infancy account is to present Jesus’s family as obedient Roman subjects. After all, Jesus’s innocence is a major theme of Luke in the passion (e.g. Luke 23:47).

    “By contrast, Matthew’s infancy account, underscoring Jesus’s birthright to the kingdom of David (and hence not Rome), would have ideologically unacceptable to Luke.”


  6. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Okay, I think I understand his argument. He thinks the passage says: being son (it was supposed of Joseph) of Heli, etc. I don’t really agree with his blanket statement that women were excluded from genealogies, but usually geneaologies do focus on fathers and sons. Plus, a grandfather can be like a father in a genealogies, since genealogies skip people at times, plus ancestors are called fathers. I don’t know.


  7. truthceeker says:

    I would agree regarding the statement about women.

    Basically it doesn’t matter if woman were or were not included as a general rule, but the point is that Luke states, “Jesus was the son of…” and the argument is that Jesus is the son of Heli.


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