Did Jesus Exist?–-Review of Bart Ehrman’s New Book

November 30, 2012

At the SBL conference I ran across a new book of Bart Ehrman’s titled Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. Why, you might ask, does a whole book need to be written about whether or not Jesus existed as an actual historical human being?  The reason is that a large body of literature has arisen that advocates a so-called “mythicist” view according to which the story of Jesus was created out of thin air by the earliest Christians. Examples are Did Jesus Exist? by George A. Wells, The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems by Robert Price, and The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David by Thomas L. Thompson.  Ehrman himself takes it for granted that Jesus was a historical person, but in Did Jesus Exist? he defends that view explicitly against the mythicists.

I found the book disappointing, for two main reasons. The first is that it spends an inordinate amount of time in ad hominem argument. Again and again Erhman confidently informs the reader that everyone trained in the field who teaches biblical studies at reputable institutions agrees with him. Those who disagree are at best “marginal” and at worst ill-informed amateurs driven by ulterior motives for wanting Jesus to be a myth rather than a person.

The second disappointment is related to the first:  there are in fact reputable scholars who do not agree with Ehrman’s key arguments, but he ignores them.  For example:

  • Much of the weight of Ehrman’s argument rests on the value of having multiple “independent” witnesses with stories about Jesus. But the independence of the sources that he relies on is highly debatable. Thomas Brodie’s Birthing of the New Testament presents a plausible scenario in which each Gospel builds on the ones written before it. David Trobisch’s First Edition of the New Testament argues that the whole New Testament was assembled and edited by a single publisher who controlled its contents. Michael Goulder’s Luke: A New Paradigm, along with many other scholarly works in recent years, argues against the two-source hypothesis. (The hypothesis that postulates Q presumes that Luke and Matthew were independent.)  Goulder’s book shows in great detail the evidence for Luke being dependent on Matthew.
  • Among the supposedly independent sources that Ehrman cites are the non-canonical gospels of Peter and Thomas. Both are highly questionable sources, the dating and reliability of which commands no consensus even among scholars Ehrman would consider to be mainstream.   
  • Ehrman stresses the reliability of oral tradition, but other scholars such as Thomas Brodie in Birthing of the New Testament call the whole oral tradition paradigm into question. My book Mark, Canonizer of Paul expands on Brodie’s critique of oral tradition. In Luke: A New Paradigm, Midrash and Lection in Matthew, and other works, Michael Goulder presents evidence that suggests the material unique to Luke and Matthew was composed by them, not reflective either of oral tradition or an earlier written source. 
  • A lot of the weight of Erhman’s argument rests on Mark as the earliest gospel. But his assumption that Mark intended to write historically accurate stories is in turn based on his stated assumption that Mark did not intend to write scripture. That assumption is questionable. The second half of my book Mark, Canonizer of Paul presents evidence for concluding that Mark did in fact intend to write scripture — and historical accuracy is by far not the prime directive for a scripture writer. Any critical commentary such as the two-volume one by Joel Marcus shows that Mark was not especially interested in literal historical accuracy, and other books such as Dennis R. MacDonald’s The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark stress that point.

The whole point about relying on scholarly “consensus” and writing off those on the “margins” also is worthy of closer examination. Anyone inclined to see biblical scholarship as a field in which consensus = truth owes it to himself or herself to read Michael Goulder’s Five Stones and a Sling and Dennis R. MacDonald’s My Turn. Actually, any field in the humanities is subject to groupthink, even more than the hard sciences. As Dean Koontz laments in a book about his dog, scholarly training and an attachment to scholarly consensus can be a handicap rather than a guarantee of clear judgment:

Scientists and animal behaviorists have written libraries full of nonsense about the emotions of dogs, suggesting that they do not have emotions as we know them, or that their exhibitions that appear to be emotionally based do not mean what we interpret them to mean in our sentimental determination to see a fellowship between humanity and canines. Like too many specialists in every field, they are educated not out of their ignorance but into ignorance, because they are raised to an imagined state of enlightenment — which is actually dogmatism — where they no longer experience the light of intuition and the fierce brightness of common sense. They see the world through cloudy windows of theory and ideology, which obscure reality. This is why most experts in economics never see the financial disaster coming until the wave breaks over them, why most experts in statecraft and military strategy can be undone by an enemy’s surprise attack.

Parts of Ehrman’s book do make a fairly good case against the extreme mythicist viewpoint. Unfortunately, he goes way beyond that in the last chapter. When he gives details about what the “historical Jesus” must have been like, the weaknesses in his method of establishing historicity become more pronounced. For example, he describes the historical Jesus as (a) an apocalyptic prophet who (b) told parables, (c) had a conflict with the residents of his home town, (d) thought the main commandment of the Torah was love of God and neighbor, (e) ate with sinners and tax collectors, and (f) was betrayed by Judas. It happens that I address each of these issues in my book Mark, Canonizer of Paul.

  • (a) Paul too was an apocalyptic prophet.  Jesus the apocalyptic prophet sounds suspiciously like he could have been created by narrativizing Paul’s epistles. That process began with Mark, and I agree with Jesper Svartvik’s assessment that “The Gospel of Mark may best be described as a narrative presentation of the Pauline Gospel” (Mark and Mission, 345).
  • (b) Mark (and by extension the other evangelists) had a vested interest in presenting his points in parables because he was trying to make points that would otherwise be too obviously anachronistic when set in Jesus’ day. Also, Michael Goulder in Five Stones and a Sling and other works argues that the parables in each gospel have a character unique to the gospel in which they occur, which suggests that the evangelists composed them. 
  • (c) The story about Jesus’ rejection by his relatives and home town can be seen as a way of symbolizing the rejection of Paul’s version of Christianity by the Jews.  The feasibility of this explanation also negates Ehrman’s “criterion of dissimilarity” which he assumes makes said rejection likely to be historical.
  • (d) Paul’s identification of the command to love God and neighbor as the primary commandment of the Torah predates Mark.  The Jesus of the gospels again sounds suspiciously like the Paul of the epistles.
  • (e) The portrayal of Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors can be seen as a way to defend Paul’s Gentile mission, a way of showing receptivity to social outcasts. Again, this negates Erhman’s “criterion of dissimilarity” because it gives a plausible reason for the evangelist to have made up such stories.
  • (f) Judas’s betrayal can be seen as a way to symbolize what Mark conceived of as the Christian Jews’  “betrayal” of Christ – that is, their rejection of Paul’s interpretation of what adherence to Christ meant with regard to acceptance of Gentiles.  Once again this explanation negates the “criterion of dissimilarity” and provides a motive for making up the story.

Despite the weaknesses in Ehrman’s book, he does present some valid arguments against the mythicist viewpoint. I find various references in Paul’s epistles to be the strongest, especially the mention of James as Jesus’ brother in Galatians, considering also his appearing out of nowhere in Acts 15. The problem is, Ehrman does not present solid arguments for a historical Christ that we can know a lot about.  How different is a mythical Christ from a historical Jesus that we can’t know much about with any degree of confidence?  In either case, if we want to know the Christ of Christianity we are left with the portrayal in the New Testament.  It’s the New Testament Christ that Christianity is all about, not an imaginary historical Jesus that historians construct by accepting or rejecting various parts of the gospels by applying questionable criteria and by mining equally questionable extra-Biblical sources.

Ehrman refers to one of the mythicists in a way that might just as well refer to him and this book: “He is one smart fellow. But I’m afraid he falls down on this one. Even smart people make mistakes.” (p. 167)


SBL Conference 2012

November 22, 2012

Earlier this week I was in Chicago attending the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) conference. Last year I presented a paper, much of the content of which ended up in my recently published book. This year I chaired one session but didn’t present anything. Here is a sampling of some of the interesting presentations I attended.

Ute E. Eisen spoke on metalepsis in Luke-Acts.  In literature, one form of metalepsis is when the narrator’s voice intrudes into the narrative.  For example, the story in Mark is told by an omniscient narrator but at one point (13:14) the narrator’s voice breaks in to say “let the reader understand.”  Likewise, in John 20:30 suddenly the narrator addresses the reader directly:

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

In modern literature, such transformations of authorial voice are typically not meant to be serious; in ancient literature it is a device that is often intended to enhance the realism and authority of the narrative. Examples in Luke-Acts where this appears to be the purpose are the prologue of each work, where the narrator says his investigative work enabled him to create the narrative, and the “we” passages in Acts, where the narrative starts to use the first person.  The “we” passages may also have been intended to enhance empathy for the characters of the narrative. Given how well known this is as a literary device, Eisen expressed surprise that there are still commentators who interpret these passages in Acts as an eyewitness account.

Troy M. Troftgruben talked about the long sea voyage in Acts 27:1-28:15.  Why all the minute detail in this section of Acts?  Some interpreters see it as a symbolic way to highlight Paul’s sufferings. Sea voyages were indeed perilous in the first century, especially during winter, and the text does stress the perils that Paul endured and was saved from. But others ask: if the story is allegorical, why so much elaborate detail? If the intended message isn’t really in the details, and details are ultimately to be ignored, why spill so much ink?  And why does the narrative “decelerate” so much toward the end of Acts?  Earlier in Acts, a lot of historical time is covered in relatively short sections of the narrative; here in chapter 27 relatively little historical time is covered in a very large part of the narrative. The answer Troftgruben proposes is that the long passage is intended to cultivate suspense.  Acts is a story, Luke is a good storyteller, and the whole story of Acts is building toward a climax of Paul landing in Rome.  The long sea voyage draws the story out, building in the reader or hearer suspense and expectant waiting for that climax.

A questioner raised the question about why in that case the ending of Acts seems to be so anti-climactic, with Paul just preaching to Jews, the Jews not being interested, and Paul proclaiming his intention to go to the Gentiles thenceforth. Troftgruben explained that he addresses this question in his dissertation, now published as A Conclusion Unhindered. Essentially he sees Acts as deliberately open-ended.  It shows that the story of the spread of the gospel to Rome and throughout the Roman empire is a story that is ongoing, one which the hearer is a part of.  This conclusion is remarkably similar to what I say in my own book about the ending of Mark being deliberately open-ended.

I went to one session about Q, feeling like a spy invading the enemy camp. Winking smile It was devoted to reviewing a book written 25 years ago that went way beyond establishing the text of Q:  The Formation of Q actually elaborated three versions of Q, three stages in the development of this imaginary document!  The author (John Kloppenborg) and four prominent scholars were assembled on the panel to sing hymns of praise to this landmark book.  The room was packed with about 50 people, unlike most sessions at SBL, where the number in attendance often barely exceeds the number of presenters. I thought I would see if anyone there expressed any doubts about the reality of the imaginary Q, any acknowledgement of all the scholarly works that have been written to debunk it in the intervening 25 years since The Formation of Q was written.  But as I listened to the first presentation I got the distinct feeling that in this group I wasn’t going to hear anything remotely like that.  That’s when it occurred to me that another session might be more interesting, and I left early, and that’s how I got to hear the excellent Eisen and Troftgruben presentations.

Another interesting presentation was the one by Tom Nelligan proposing that the story of John the Baptist’s beheading (Mark 6:14-29) in Mark’s gospel is in part dependent on 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.  Both texts revolve around a story of sexual impropriety with a close relative. I learned later that Dr. Nelligan recently completed a dissertation on the links between Mark and 1 Corinthians, and I’m looking forward to reading that.

Also very interesting was Thomas Brodie’s presentation of his thesis that the story of the paralytic being let down through the roof in Mark was inspired by the story of a sheet with pictures of animals being let down from the sky in front of Peter in Acts (part of God’s method of convincing Peter that associating with Gentiles was OK).  Not that Brodie thinks Acts as it stands now is earlier than Mark:  he sees Mark as dependent on an earlier version of Luke-Acts that he calls Proto-Luke. He expounds the basis for his Proto-Luke theory in his book The Birthing of the New Testament. The introductory chapters in that book provided much material for my own recent book, but I never had a chance to look closely at the detailed evidence he provides for Proto-Luke.  I’m just getting started on that now.  Most of the people at the session were not familiar with the Proto-Luke theory, and he gave a remarkably dynamic, and one might even say inspiring, introduction to it as part of his paper presentation. He has a new book out, Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus, which I will be reviewing when I can get a copy of it – the publisher was sold out at the SBL exhibit hall.

Also worthy of mention is K. L. Noll’s presentation titled Inventing Yahwism: The Religion of Ancient Israelite Religion.” By “Yahwism” he means the modern conception that something like the religion we now call Judaism existed very early, long before Judaism itself developed. He argues that there was no such “religion” earlier than the Hellenistic period. He points out that if the Hebrew Bible didn’t exist, we would still have plenty of early records that refer to Yahweh, and Yahweh would appear to be a normal run-of-the-mill Canaanite god, just like Chemosh or Baal. But those texts weren’t widely disseminated until the Hellenistic period. The only way you can have anything recognizable as a religion is if you have a system for distributing texts to ensure some kind of uniformity of practice and thinking.  There was no such mechanism before  synagogues arose in the Hellenistic period. You do have mentions in some early texts about public distribution of Yahwist-like texts, but we have no evidence that it actually happened.  What was actually happening was that elites were gathering lore and combining bits and pieces of it into literary texts, and preserving those texts among themselves. The whole idea of “Yahwism” rests on a handful of passages about teaching the people.  Those passages were composed by scribes who never did it and couldn’t do it.  A religious system requires construction of texts, dissemination of them, and maintenance – that is, keeping people attached to the texts.  No system can be disseminated unless the average person can assimilate it.  As Noll puts it, the average person shuns religious esoterica (which also probably means my blog is not destined to break any web traffic records). Yahwism would have required: 1. an effective system for disseminating the teachings of the system among ordinary people; 2. ritual reinforcement of those teachings; 3. a system of defense against the tendency to abandon the religious system.  Only when synagogues arose in the Herodian period does this framework arise. Therefore, Yahwism only emerged in the Hellenistic period.  Some Yahwist literature existed before Ptolemaic times, but it was not disseminated among the hoi polloi.  E.g., Jeremiah wasn’t known; the documents were handled by a small cadre of scribes.  The scribes wrote stories about public dissemination, and the stories might have been used later, but not before the Hellenistic period. Therefore, there was no Iron Age or Persian era Palestinian Yahwism.

Conferences are always a mixed bag. Sessions are often dry and boring, and presenters’ presentation skills are often remarkably poor considering they’re almost all professors who teach for a living. Many or most people attend academic conferences mainly for the social connections or to get a paper presentation into their CV, but these examples show that you can also learn about interesting current research. I was fortunate to hear mostly interesting papers presented in an engaging manner.

More Minor Lucan Muddles

November 10, 2012

Here are some more examples of editorial fatigue in Luke, from Michael Goulder’s Luke: A New Paradigm.

What Evil did Capernaum do?

At the end of the text where Jesus commissions the seventy, Luke has a negative reference to Capernaum that doesn’t make sense in this gospel because nothing has been said about anything negative happening there:

“But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. (Luke 10:13-15)

This reference to Capernaum is out of the blue with no indication of why it should be condemned.  In Luke all we have heard of Capernaum up to this point is that Jesus did miracles there (4:23), taught and healed people there (4:31-41) and at a distance healed the slave of a Centurion who lived there (7:1-10).

In Matthew the story makes sense from beginning to end.  Matthew introduces the saying with an explanation:

Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. (Matt 11:20)

And then the text of Jesus’ monologue that Matthew introduced in this manner makes it clear why Capernaum is being singled out:

“Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.

In Matthew everything fits together and makes sense.  In Luke, we have a fragment taken out of context, with an explanatory clause (italicized in the quotation above) dropped. The direction of borrowing appears clear: Luke is copying from Matthew, and in a move that you are by now seeing to be his typical modus operandi, he reworks the text adapted from Matthew in a way that leaves out key pieces of data. Reading Luke alone you would have to guess at what the reference to Capernaum was about.

Tomb Building as Evidence of Complicity in Murder

The saying of Jesus in Luke 11:46-50 contains a couple of muddles:

And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! for you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore (διὰ τοῦτο) also the Wisdom of God said, `I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ that (ἵνα) the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation . . . (Luke 11:46-50)

One builds a tomb to honor the one buried in it; building the tombs of the prophets is certainly not evidence in and of itself that the builders witnessed the prophets being killed, much less that they must have approved of the killings (“for you build the tombs . . . so you are witnesses and consent”).

And who are the prophets in this saying?  “The prophets whom your fathers killed” is clearly a reference to the Old Testament prophets. The same word appears again later apparently in reference to the same group, here alongside New Testament apostles:  “I will send them prophets and apostles . . .”  The problem here is the text that follows “Therefore” (διὰ τοῦτο).  This clause means that because lawyers in Jesus’ day consented to their fathers’ deeds of killing prophets, God promised to send those very prophets whom the lawyers’ fathers killed. The text goes on to assert that the purpose of sending the prophets (note the ἵνα in v.50) was to make the lawyers of Jesus’ day pay the penalty for all of the prophet killings “from the foundation of the world.” Meanwhile, it isn’t clear anywhere in the text that the lawyers themselves have done anything themselves to merit this extreme penalty, aside from consenting to what “their fathers” did.

Once again, an equally careful examination of the parallel text in Matthew reveals a text that makes sense in its context:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. (Matt 23:29-36)

Here the building of tombs does not ipso facto prove anything, it’s the builders’ own words that witness to the fact that their fathers killed the prophets.  Here the sending of “prophets and wise men” is clearly a future act that gives the scribes and Pharisees themselves an opportunity to “fill up the measure of their fathers” by doing the evil deeds against the prophets themselves. It is then their own evil deeds that will result in their being “sentenced to hell” to pay the penalty for “all the righteous blood shed on earth.” The penalty sounds harsh in the extreme, but there are no illogical leaps or temporal mix-ups here. 

Once again, the direction of borrowing and adapting is from Matthew to Luke.  The mistakes are typically Lucan mistakes in transcribing and editing, especially the omission of crucial explanatory clauses. 

It can seem monotonous to continue to point out all of these instances of editorial fatigue.  But the only way to reach a conclusion with any degree of certainty is to build up a cumulative argument based on a preponderance of evidence.  It is the number of times these kinds of instances show up in Luke, along with the fact that the only editorial fatigue in Matthew occurs in borrowings from Mark, that creates serious difficulties for the Q hypothesis.

Some Less Well Known Lucan Muddles

November 2, 2012

In my previous post I reviewed some of the best known instances of editorial fatigue in Luke. But there are many more that are not so well known. Michael Goulder did a thorough job of digging these up and here are a few from his book Luke: A New Paradigm.

As I explain in Q or No Q: What Difference Does it Make?, each of these may be considered a nail for Q’s coffin because (a) they point toward Luke copying from Matthew and (b) Matthew doesn’t seem to have any that point toward Matthew copying from Luke.

Follow Me and Go Away

In Luke 9:59-60, Jesus tells a man to follow him, then in response to a question from the same man he tells him to go away:

To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go (ἀπελθὼν) and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)

In Matthew, there is no discordant note because the story ends with “Let the dead bury their dead”. Luke has created a characteristic minor muddle by adding a clause that is out of sync with what went before it.  In the Greek the contrast is even more obvious because ἀπελθὼν literally means “go away,” not simply “go” as RSV translates it.

Goulder suggests that the additional clause comes from Jesus’ words to the twelve in Matthew 10:7 (“And preach as you go, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”)

Another possible explanation is that Luke added the “go away and proclaim the kingdom of God” clause because he wanted a parallel between this reluctant follower episode and another one that he wanted to add.  Below is the whole passage in Matthew followed by the whole passage in Luke, with the added parts italicized:

. . . a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matt 8:18-22)

. . . a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

Notice how adding a reference to the kingdom of God after “Leave the dead to bury their own dead” sets up a parallel to what Jesus says to the additional reluctant follower.

The fact that “go away and proclaim” doesn’t fit with “follow me” is what indicates that the extra wording in Luke was added by him, rather than it being part of a longer original text that Matthew cut off.

Commissioning the Seventy

In Luke 10:1ff., Jesus commissions “seventy others” (other than the twelve) to go before him as he travels. But his opening words to them sound more appropriate as an address to some other audience, since it presumes that someone else will be sent:

After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:1-2)

As Goulder points out, “These are not in fact very suitable words with which to open a discourse sending disciples on mission; prayer is suited to a situation when other people are to be sent on mission, as in the Matthean context.” (p. 466) Where Luke found this saying in Matthew it made sense because there Jesus was commenting to his disciples about the lack of shepherds for the crowds:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matt 9:36-38)

In Luke, the commissioning of the seventy continues with another Lucan muddle:

Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. (Luke 10:3)

This remark also doesn’t fit the context here, because the the worst that Jesus predicts for the seventy is the possibility that the residents of a town might “not receive you”:

Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ (Luke 10:4-11)

In Matthew, the comment about sheep amidst wolves fits very well because it is addressed to the twelve and comes with a prediction about persecution and martyrdom:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. . . . Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes. . . . And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. . . . and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. . . . and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:16-39)

Once again, copying by Luke from Matthew is the only conclusion that makes sense in these cases because the copied text makes sense in its Matthean context while in Luke it appears to have been taken out of context.

My next post will relate some more examples of Lucan muddles that create difficulties for the Q hypothesis.