And that, gentle reader, is news. I will leave it to you to decide whether it is good or bad.
In 1998 I was an undergraduate studying the Synoptic Gospels in a class cleverly titled “The Synoptic Gospels.” I was introduced to two competing solutions to the Synoptic Problem. According to my professor (an extremely learned fellow and one who was observant of scholarly trends) there were only two solutions that held any sway in the guild:
Option One: Mark's Gospel was composed first. Matthew and Luke gathered the bulk of their material from Mark and another source (Q). This solution had been around since the 1800s and was now (as of 1998) held by 80 to 90 percent of Gospels scholars. This view existed before H.J. Holtzmann (1832–1910), but it was Holtzmann who gave full voice to the theory.
Option Two: Matthew was written first (cf. Patristic tradition). Luke was written second, adapting Matthew. Then Mark was a composed using both Matthew and Luke as sources. Previously known as the Griesbach hypothesis, this theory was given new life in the voice of (recently passed) William Farmer.There was no mention to the Farrer-Goulder in my 1998 classroom. There was no third option offered. It wasn’t until a couple years later (I think it was 2000, in Nashville) that I first learned of the Farrer-Goulder approach to the Synoptic Problem. Mark Goodacre and Mark Matson were presenting at the annual SBL meeting. Sadly, I missed Matson’s paper as I entered late. But Goodacre’s presentation was brilliant. He was compelling, funny, and looked to be about 15-years-old. He skated out of that lecture hall on a Tony Hawk, singing “Can't Nobody Hold Me Down” by Puff Daddy, and sucking down a strawberry milkshake. Or something like that; my memory is a bit foggy on the finer details. I spent the next few months charting the Gospels, trying to decide for myself what to do with this no-Q business (oh, the things we will do to avoid working our our MA theses!).
Ultimately I concluded that the most glaring fact of the Synoptic Problem must be the kept front and center: where Matthew and Luke have Mark to follow they look very much the same. Where they don’t have Mark to follow, they diverge dramatically in content and chronology. So for me the most elegant solution is one whereby Matthew and Luke are relatively independent in the early stages of composition. But the purpose of this post is not to lobby for Q.
I really have nothing invested in the Q hypothesis and remain open to being convinced otherwise. The purpose of this post is to point out that Mark Goodacre has changed the field in a very short period of time. In less than two decades, the four-source solution has gone from the consensus theory to a contested theory. I cannot imagine teaching a class on the Synoptics without offering the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre theory among the available options.
If you corner Mark on this point, he always credits Farrer, Goulder, and his contemporary colleagues. Mark will never tell you that he is anything more than a fellow conspirator. But don’t be fooled. It is because of his influence (not first, but certainly foremost) that we can no longer use the terms “dominance” or “consensus” relative to Q.
So what does this mean for us Q*berts? Well for me, I just don’t often refer to Q unless I absolutely must. Why create wrinkles for up to half of my readers? If I must refer to Q (I think I’ve done so twice in print), I include the obligatory footnote to remind me and my readers that the game has changed.