Further musings on whether Matthew was the first gospel written or if Mark was.
I tell you, my father was a sage. If there ever was a difference of opinion (Catholic dogma aside), he would say, "Well, you know, we can't all like chocolate ice cream." So true, dad. (I think he was a vanilla man.)
Well, chocolate ice cream is my favorite, but on the following subject I think I'm falling into the "Matthew is earliest camp."
I did manage to get the New Jerome Biblical Commentary from the UST library and read the chapters on the Synoptic Problem and the Q Source. I also, over the weekend, just started reading Fathers of the Church, by Mike Aquilina. And, along with the Jerome Commentary, I checked out One Gospel from Two, Mark's Use of Matthew and Luke, by David Peabody (with Cope & McNicol), just to balance out Jerome.
Here's my take on things, considering I'm NOT a theologian, not a biblical scholar, and I have only taken a few weeks of the bible study (which doesn't really address this issue. In fact, the issue popped up based on a slightly-more-than-off-hand comment that Father Echert made), read a few chapters in the Jerome Commentary and the intro and a little bit more from the One Gospel from Two book. My summation of these books is that this issue isn't going to be resolved in this lifetime (certainly not by me) and it could be argued until the end of the world without anyone budging an inch. From the sidelines, it seems that the Matthew camp says one thing and cites its passages, the Mark camp says the opposite and cites some other passages. He said - he said, in a sense. This did nothing for a non-biblical scholar like myself, other than to make my head hurt, confound me and make me wish I had never endeavored to climb this contentious mountain.
However, this doesn't mean I haven't resolved things in my own mind. Remember chocolate ice cream, folks. This is my opinion and this hurdle is something I cannot get over, so am making a conclusion based on this stumbling block.
My stumbling block is that I don't believe in Q. Also known as the "Q document." (Sorry, John de Lancie, yours was a great character.) I am a Quatheist.
A bit of background on the Q document from Wiki:
The recognition of 19th-century New Testament scholars that Matthew and Luke share much material not found in their generally recognized common source, the Gospel of Mark, has suggested a second common source, termed the Q document. This hypothetical lost text —also called the Q Gospel, the Sayings Gospel Q, the Synoptic Sayings Source, the Q Manuscript, and in the 19th century The Logia— seems most likely to have comprised a collection of Jesus' sayings. Recognizing such a Q document is one of two key elements in the "two-source hypothesis" alongside the priority of Mark.
The two-source theory is the most widely accepted solution to the Synoptic Problem, which concerns the literary relationships between and among the first three canonical gospels (the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke), known as the Synoptic Gospels. Similarity in word choices and event placement shows an interrelationship. The synoptic problem concerns how this interrelation came to pass and what the nature of this interrelationship is. According to the two-source theory, Matthew and Luke both used the Gospel of Mark, independently of one another. This necessitates the existence of a hypothetical source in order to explain the double tradition material where there is agreement between Matthew and Luke that is not in Mark. This hypothetical source is named Q for convenience.
Mike Aquilina's book did far more to advance my opinion than the other two books and Mike's book didn't even address this issue. It showed that the early Fathers were very concerned with showing a continuation, a hand-off, between the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers, and from the Apostolic Fathers to the next generation on down. These Fathers clearly touted their connections to the Apostles as proof of their validity, established clear lines in their pedigrees and built their reputations. They painstakingly developed early churches and liturgies, reading from the Apostles during Mass from the moments these words were placed on paper. They were very, very careful to preserve the incredible and infantile Church that was now in their hands. They used the weapons they had at their disposal to combat heresy, disobedience and confusion. These weapons were the gospels and books of the New Testament.
So, who then was the author of Q? Why would such an important book of the New Testament, that two other gospel writers supposedly relied on, not appear anywhere in the written or oral history of the Church? Why was this important book lost or not preserved, especially by the Fathers? Why would not even a fragment of the book remain when we have scores of other Gnostic gospels that exist? Why wasn't this book in the canon, since it must've been inspired to a large degree to have two other inspired authors rely so heavily on it? Why wasn't this book used as part of the liturgy when even books of lesser "importance" (those written by early church Fathers, martyrs and saints) were put forward to be included in the canon and were heavily used in the 1st century liturgies?
There are other more scholarly arguments in the One Gospel from Two book, but these are the questions that plague me and make, in my mind, the existence of Q implausible.
The Fathers handed down a vast Catholic Tradition to the subsequent generations, all the way down to the 1500s when a German, Martin Luther, appeared on the scene and decided the way things had been done previously were in error. The Fathers also handed down the Matthew first idea until the 1800s when another German decided what had been previously believed was wrong. I know, this isn't a real argument, but why should we suddenly abandon an idea that was held for nearly two millenia, especially by Fathers who actually knew the Apostles?
The idea of Markan priority, from what I understand, is not completely dependent on Q, but the ideas are heavily interwoven. At this stage, I just have a hard time believing that not even a shred is known about Q, except a 19th century hypothesis.
Knowing humans as thou doth, Captain, wouldst thou be captured helpless by them? - Q