F. C. Grant's Multiple Source Theory
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F. C. Grant’s Multiple Source Theory was postulated by Frederick Clifton Grant (1891–1974), a professor of Biblical Theology at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. He published titles such as The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth, The Age of Syncretism and The Earliest Gospel. In his book The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth (1957), Grant posited that the synoptic problem could be solved by looking into historical context and oral tradition, as well as in defining the centrality and the priority of Mark.
Grant’s Approach to New Testament Studies
An innovative process, new to the time of his study, framed Grant’s focus on the origins of the synoptic Gospels. In the 1950s the church no longer held exclusive rights on the interpretation of the New Testament, allowing for the Gospels to be considered syncretic. This new approach emphasized the importance, value and character of the underlying oral traditions, which provided the material used by the evangelists. Grant felt it was necessary to reconsider the Gospel’s stages of development and understand their syncretic history.
Proving the Syncretic Nature of the Gospels
To prove the syncretic nature of the Gospels, Grant centered on grouping the New Testament into genres. By defining each group of writings, he was able to show a reflection of stages within the authorship of the Gospels, as well as other New Testament writings. These groupings gave evidence for Grant’s theory of the origins of each genre.
The Six Genres of the New Testament:
1) The Epistles of Paul: The earliest group, categorized into three main groups (via authorship) written over the course of years.
2) The Synoptic Gospels: (Including Acts) Incorporates earlier documents, blocks of oral tradition and rests on a steadily growing body of evangelist and liturgical preaching.
3) The Apocalypse of John: Apparently isolated, but really one of a large number of Jewish and Christian apocalypses.
4) The Pastoral Epistles: Based on earlier epistolary writings.
5) Catholic Apostolic Writings: Ascribed to the Apostles, an attempt to hold apostolic authority in light of Gnostics.
6) The Johannine Literature: (3 epistles and a gospel) To refute both Gnostic and Jewish Interpretations.
The Influence of Gnosticism:
Grant considered Gnosticism to be a great influence on the authorship of the Gospels. The Gnostics set Jesus and Christ in opposition; according to Grant the authors of the Gospels were attempting to refute such thoughts in the creation of their writings. This gives further evidence for thinking of the Gospels as syncretic.
Grant’s Method for Studying the Synoptics
Grant outlines a specific methodology for dissecting the synoptic Gospels. This method is as follows:
1) Go through Matthew and Luke picking out exact equivalents to the earliest Gospel, Mark. By obtaining these parallels, one gains a grasp of the problem and of the proposed solution.
2) Test the Urmarcus Hypothesis, which states that Matthew or Luke, or both, used an “edition” of Mark differing from, and presumably earlier than, the one included in the New Testament. At this point one could look to Q, but Grant truly believes in the Urmarcus Hypothesis and feels it clarifies the Matthew–Luke omissions from Mark, or later additions to Mark.
3) Go through passages where Matthew and Luke are parallel outside of Mark, it is here that Grant believes Q to be a possible influence.
4) Carry this process back to Markan narratives and underline agreements of Matthew and Luke in Markan context, known as “doublets”.
5) Isolate these “doublets” taking note of words and phrases, order of words, etc. that suggest the influence of oral or documentary source materials, which are not contemplated by the Two-Source Hypothesis. Grant proposes that these doublets are Matthew and Luke incorporating materials from Mark or Q.
6) Material left over (especially in Luke) alludes to Q being much more extensive then originally considered. Here, Grant merely lumps unused information into Q material.
7) The left over material could also be attributed to B.H. Streeter’s hypothesis of M?, a fourth document derived from its “appearance” in the particulars of Matthew. Although, he states, this could just be the flair of Matthew’s authorship.
8) After mechanical isolation of Q, hypothetical isolation of Luke (Proto-Luke) and more hypothetical isolation of Streeter’s Matthew, Grant states one must look for editorial editions, revisions and introductions to their source material, as well as oral tradition as a means of influence on the synoptics.
Grant’s Solution – Working Through a Complex Theory
Grant’s theory slightly resembles the Farrer Hypothesis  He agrees with its placement of Mark in priority, however, Grant does not agree with Ferrer’s subsequent ordering of the remaining synoptics, or its exclusion of other outside sources. According to Grant, Mark came first, Luke second and Matthew last, a theory not shared by many scholars. He believes that Q, ancient apocryphal texts, as well as oral tradition, influenced the author of Mark. He thinks the writer of Luke used Mark, Q, Proto-Luke, “Luke’s Notebook”, and some oral tradition. While Mark, Q, Proto-Mark, Secret Mark, and an incalculable amount of oral tradition influenced the author of Matthew. Grant does not see any contact between Luke and Matthew.
Grant bases these theories in his extensive research into the origins of the synoptics. By focusing on the origins of the Gospels, Grant has been able to discover the multitude of influential sources available at the time of authorship. He states that:
“The resulting conception is not that of two, three, or four sources only, but of many, combining in the course of time into two, three, four or more, and ultimately going back, for the part, to the original “eyewitness,” and handed down by the many “ministers of the world” during the first two or three Christian generations…Instead of a Two- or a Four-Source Hypothesis, then, what is really required is one that may be called a Multiple Source Theory”.
Luke Before Matthew?
One Main concern about the Multiple Source Theory is Grant’s placement of Luke in priority to Matthew. Grant proposes an early dating for Luke, around 90CE, and a relatively late dating for Matthew, between 95-112CE. His reasoning for such peculiar dating lies in his comparisons of Luke-Mark, Matthew-Mark, and Luke-Matthew, in his study of origins.
Grant holds to his early dating for three reasons:
1) Luke contains archaic sayings such as “Servant of God”, “Prince and Savior” and “anointed with holy spirit and power”, that belong to the earliest stratum of Christology.
2) The writings of Luke and Acts comprise 149 pages, out of 552 pages (27%), of the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament. Grant feels the quantity of Luke’s material is a fitting symbol of its importance for our knowledge of the life of Jesus and the beginnings of the Christian church.
3) Luke is the third edition of Lukan writings. Before the Luke of the New Testament came Proto-Luke and Luke’s Notebook. Grant posits that since Luke has two previous editions, it would have naturally been written before Matthew.
The Multiple Source Theory and Its Place In Modern Scholarship
The Multiple Source Theory is understood by Grant to be fluid and fits a multitude of hypotheses easily within its framework. The Two-Source Hypothesis forms the basic structure for the Multiple Source Theory. There are two main differences between this hypothesis and Grant’s theory. First, is Grant’s acceptance of a far larger pool of influence in the creation of the synoptics. Secondly, like most other hypotheses, the Two-Source Hypothesis also places Matthew in priority to Luke, in opposition of Grant’s theory.
In the essay “The Two-Source Hypothesis at an Impasse”, M.E. Boismard posited a combination of the Two-Source Hypothesis and the Griesbach Hypothesis. Boismard based this argument in the minor agreements of Matthew/Luke against Mark. Although this theory allows for the inclusion of a wider range of sources, it opposes Grant’s ordering of the synoptics.
A Three-Source Hypothesis is proposed by E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies In their book Studying the Synoptic Gospels. This theory does include more sources than previously supposed, but still does not compare to the multitude of sources suggested by Grant, nor agree with his arrangement of the Gospels. These hypotheses are similar to that posited by Grant, however, they do not compare to its complexity. By broadening the consideration of influence, Grant has attempted to solve the synoptic problem, creating a solution that can never be proven.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 117.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 14.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 21.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 17-18.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 18.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 41-45.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 43.
- Streeter, B.H. The Four Gospels. A Study of Origins. Oxford, 1924.
- Farrer, A.M. "On Dispensing With Q." Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R. H. Lightfoot., 1955. 55-88.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 39.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 50.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 20.
- Grant, F.C. The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957. 127.
- Boismard, M.E. “The Two-Source Theory at an Impasse”. New Testament Studies 26. 1.
- Boismard, M.E. “The Two-Source Theory at an Impasse”. New Testament Studies 26. 2.
- Davies, Margaret, and E.P Sanders. Studying the Synoptic Gospels. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989. ix-374.