In a couple or so works, Mark Goodacre has argued that the first third of Q has a narrative sequence. [He bases this on the delineation of Q in the International Q Project’s Critical Edition.] His assessment brings into question, therefore, those who would categorize Q as a “sayings source” or “Sayings Gospel”. In The Synoptic Problem (pp. 151-52) he sets out this sequence, making further comments on it in chapter 9 of The Case Against Q. The alleged sequence in Q is as follows:
(a) John the Baptist appears in the region of the Jordan (Mt.
(b) John baptizes people with ‘his baptism’ (Mt. 3.7//Lk. 3.7), a
baptism apparently connected with ‘repentance’ (Mt. 3.8//Lk.
(c) John preaches about a ‘coming one’ (Mt. 3.11//Lk. 3.16).
(d) Jesus appears on the scene and there is a baptism involving
the ‘spirit’ in which Jesus is recognized as a ‘son’ (Mt. 3.13-
(e) Jesus is led into the wilderness by ‘the spirit’ to be tested as
‘son’ (Mt. 4.1-1 1//Lk. 4.1-13).
(f) Jesus appears in a place called ‘Nazara’ (Mt. 4.13//Lk. 4.16).
(g) Jesus preaches a great Sermon (Mt. 5-7//Lk. 6.20-49).
(h) Jesus finishes his Sermon and goes to Capernaum where a
Centurion’s Boy is healed (Mt. 7.28-29; 8.5//Lk. 7.1).
(i) Messengers come from John the Baptist, asking whether Jesus
is indeed ‘the coming one’ (Mt. 11.2-19//Lk. 7.18-35).
[In this, Goodacre is followed by Francis Watson, who in Gospel Writing (p. 249), distinguishes Q from the Gospel of Thomas on certain grounds, the first of which is that “unlike Thomas, Q contains extensive narrative material (the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism and temptations, the centurion’s servant).”]
But are these really narrative sequences found in Q? Or is it the result of Matthew (then Luke) placing Q material into what is essentially Mark’s narrative sequence? I argue it’s the latter [contrary to the Critical Edition of Q, on which Goodacre bases his narrative sequence]. (In what follows, I leave the larger questions of Q’s existence or Luke’s use of Matthew largely to the side – just so Q skeptics, like Goodacre himself, shouldn’t feel left out!)
Matthew 3:1–4.22, in which the first five elements of Goodacre’s narrative sequence occur, closely follows the sequence in Mark 1:1-21. The parallel material in this passage consists of the introduction of John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-8//Matt 3:1-5, 11); John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9-11//Matt 1:13, 16-17); Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the desert (Mark 1:12-13//Matt 4:1-2, 11); Jesus’ arrival in Galilee (Mark 1:14a//Matt 4:12); Jesus’ proclamation that the kingdom of God has come near (Mark 1:14b-15//Matt 4:17); and Jesus’ calling of Simon, Andrew, James, and John as followers (Mark 1:16-20//Matt 4:18-22). Matthew expands this with other material, including double tradition (Matt 7b-10, 12; 4:3-10) and material unique to Matthew (Matt 3:7a, 14-15).
The Markan sequence clearly provides the basis for the sequence in Matthew. Moreover, the triple tradition follows the sequence from John the Baptist’s baptism of many people in the Jordan (Mark 1:5//Matt 3:5-6//Luke 3:7), to John’s prediction of the coming of one more powerful than he (Mark 3:7; Matt 3:11; Luke 3:16), to Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:10-11//Matt 3:16-17//Luke 3:21-22), and finally to Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the desert (Mark 1:12-13//Matt 4:1-2, 11//Luke 4:1-2). The Q material which refers to John the Baptist and the temptation in the desert need not have itself included any chronological markers. Only when combined with Mark’s sequence did it receive its own sequence. Goodacre’s narrative sequence (a)-(e) is supported by Mark, but not by Q.
What is more, Matthew continues to rely upon Mark’s narrative sequence right up until chapter 8, and this accounts for most of the remainder of Goodacre’s narrative sequence. Matthew’s continued adherence to Mark’s narrative sequence is obscured by the insertion of the large sermon in Matt 5:1–7:27. But we should not let that distract us from the continued dependence on Mark’s narrative sequence.
We had examined the sequence up until Jesus’ calling of his first followers (Mark 1:16-20//Matt 4:18-22). From there, Matthew employs Mark’s statement that Jesus came to Capernaum (Mark 1:21) as his introduction to the healing of the Centurion’s boy in Matt 8:5a. Immediately before the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew had made a more general geographical description of Jesus’ teaching and healing in Galilee (Matt 4:23-25)–which he had also taken from the first chapter of Mark (1:28, 35-39). Then, shortly after the completion of the Sermon, Matthew follows Mark 1:21 in having Jesus enter Capernaum. Matthew employs the following verse in Mark (Mark 1:22) immediately after the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:28-29), describing the crowds as astounded at Jesus’ teaching. The episode of the healing of the centurion’s boy is itself double tradition, so does not appear in Mark. But Mark has furnished the geographical introduction to the healing of the centurion’s boy as Capernaum (Mark 1:22) in close connection to the the crowd reaction which Matthew places at the end of his Sermon (Mark 1:22). Mark’s sequence has therefore provided the material for Matthew’s narrative sequence, even though Matthew has altered the sequence. In addition, Mark 1:23-24 refers to Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth”, a reference picked up in Matt 4:13a.
Thus while Matthew does not follow Mark’s sequence in Matt 4:23–8:5 as closely as he does in Matt 3:1–4:22, there is a good basis for attributing the later sequence not to Q but to Mark. Mark’s narrative sequence furnishes Matthew with Jesus’ departure from “Nazara” (Mark 1:23-24//Matt 4:13a//Luke 4:16a), the crowd reaction to Jesus’ sermon (Mark 1:22//Matt 7:28-29//Luke 4:32), and the entry into Capernaum to heal the Centurion’s boy following the Sermon (Mark 1:21//Matt 8:5a//Luke 7:1). Matthew certainly departs from strict adherence to Mark’s narrative sequence, with insertion of the lengthy Sermon and relocation of the account of the healing of the leper (Mark 1:40-44//Matt 8:1-4), but he also–in creating that sequence–relies on Mark’s own narrative sequence. Mark furnishes Matthew’s narrative sequence in 4:23–8:5, not Q. Goodacre’s narrative sequence (f)-(h) is supported by Mark, not Q. And that only leaves (i), which is no longer part of a narrative sequence without (a)-(h).
In conclusion, while Matthew differs from Mark’s narrative sequence in Matt 3:1–8:5, inserting material attributed to Q and other material, it has been argued that Matthew relies on Mark’s sequence in order to construct his own. By comparison with the chronological and geographical markers in Mark 1, we see that the narrative sequence in Matthew 3-8 is – far from a “radically restructured Mark” – based essentially on Mark 1. If we accept the existence of Q, there are insufficient grounds to treat it as possessing any sustained narrative progression. In this respect, Q is much like that extant sayings gospel, The Gospel of Thomas.