The Gospel of Jesus: The Pastoral Relevance of the Synoptic Problem

Article excerpt

FARMER IS WELL KNOWN for his critique of the "two-source" (i.e., "two-document": Mark + Q) hypothesis and his advocacy of the "two-Gospel" (Griesbach-Farmer) hypothesis that Matthew was used by Luke and both of these Gospels were synthesized by Mark, thus obviating the need of a hypothetical Q (or a protoMark) to explain the origin of the canonical Gospels. In this book he shows the theological consequences of adopting one or another of these two reconstructions. He offers a critical appraisal of the origins and social history of the two-source theory, with special attention to developments in Germany and contemporary movements in the United States, and concludes that "the heart of the gospel," that is, Jesus' understanding of his role as the Suffering Servant (esp. Isa. 53), is reflected by Paul (1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:19ff.) and best appreciated in the Gospels on a two-Gospels view of their origins.

Farmer is strongest in his critique of Q, especially its "wax nose" quality that has enabled it to take whatever shape a particular scholar wished to give it. Pointing out the uncritical interpretation of the Gospels' (and Papias's) logia to identify Q currently as "wisdom sayings," he rightly asks in what conceivable historical circumstances of the apostolic period Jesus' teachings could have been transmitted in isolation from the redemptive message of salvation, as the Q visionaries postulate. It is less clear to me that the two-source hypothesis itself requires, as Farmer thinks, a lesser theological appreciation of, for example, the Lord's Prayer, the Lord's Supper, justification by faith, and the role of women or of the poor or of Peter in the church's constitution and mission. …