Monday, July 5, 2010

NT Pod 39: Fatigue in the Synoptics

NT Pod 39 discusses Fatigue in the Synoptic Gospels, an aspect of the Synoptic Problem. It is twelve minutes long.

NT Pod 39: Fatigue in the Synoptics (mp3)
NT Pod 39: Fatigue in the Synoptics (mp3) (Alternative location)

Key texts: Matt. 8.1-4 // Mark 1.40-45; Mark 6.14-29 // Matt 14.1-12; Mark 6.30-44 // Luke 9.10-17; Mark 4.1-20 // Luke 8.4-15; Matt. 10.11-14 // Luke 9.4-5; Matt 25.14-30 // Luke 19.11-27.

For a more detailed argument, see Mark Goodacre, "Fatigue in the Synoptics", New Testament Studies 44 (1998): 45-58

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Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement.


  1. Mark, the synoptic problem is outside my field, so my question is not a well informed one. In textual criticism the harder reading is generally to be preferred, so could we not also suppose that the text of Luke is more original than that of Matthew, for example? In other words, did Matthew simply remove the apparent contradictions found in Luke?

    Secondly, the phenomenon of fatigue would imply that the gospel writers did not go to too much trouble in writing their texts. How do you reconcile this with your other theories, which require that they went to quite a lot of trouble? For example, you have the author of John's gospel carefully setting up a connection between the beloved disciple and Peter in order to imply that the beloved disciple was John. You also have Luke going to the trouble of doing a chronological 'flash forward'.

  2. Thanks, Richard. Your first point is a good one and to an extent I try to answer it in the article, asking whether the fatigue explanation makes better sense than a correction-of-contradiction explanation.

    On the issue of how much trouble the evangelists took, I think they took lots of trouble, but these are minor inconcinnities that naturally arise in the process of constructing a narrative. That's why I rather like the continuity error analogy -- continuity errors are often parts of very carefully planned and plotted programmes or films.

  3. Just discovered this podcast. Awesome! Very accessible, short bits. Keep up the great work. You do a tremendous job of orienting your uninformed listeners to understand the context and significance of each episode's content.

  4. Hello, Mark,

    I was reading Delbert Burkett's defence of Q in his book "Rethinking the Gospel Sources, Volume 2: The Unity and Plurality of Q." On page 10, he argued, referencing Foster's arguments, that in fact there is an example of Matthew showing fatigue over his source for the double tradition material --- in Matt 12:28 (parallel at Luke 11:20) he appears to lapse into "Kingdom of God" instead of his more characteristic "Kingdom of Heaven." What do you make of this example?

  5. Thanks, arigiery. Paul was kind enough to send a copy of his article before it went to print. Here is what I wrote in reply on the point you mention:

    "I enjoyed this section very much. Your example of Matthaean fatigue in double tradition material doesn't really work on my definition,
    does it, in that Matthew does not begin the passage with a "kingdom of heaven" that then lapses into "kingdom of God"? This is unlike even your Matthew // Mark example which goes from kgm of heaven to kgm of God. So
    it seems a weak example to me. You go on to deal with this point on p. 24, which, it seems to me, suggests that you are using the term "editorial fatigue" differently from the way I am. I am not talking about the inadvertent agreement with a source usage in alleged deviations from standard redactional practices. Rather, I am discussing a specific procedure whereby an evangelist's inadvertence happens in a sequence of uncharacteristic material agreeing with a source that comes not long after
    characteristic material disagreeing with a source.

    But you will ask why does Matthew use "God" here? Well, he's just said "If I by the Spirit of *God* cast out demons . . .", which
    required "therefore the kingdom of *God* has come upon you". Would it work the same with "heaven" here? I don't think so. Further, on your own theory Matthew is not "mechanically following source material" here because he has changed "finger" to "Spirit". This, it seems to me, limits further the force of your argument."