There are a number of points where Matthew and Luke agree against Mark in their reading, but which cannot be explained by their supposed reliance on the Q source.

For instance, in the narrative of Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin Mark records:

Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.

Mark 14:65

While Matthew and Luke add another detail to what was said:

Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, "Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?"

Matthew 26:67-68

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?"

Luke 22:63-65

In reading a book by Ulrich Luz, he offers two possible solutions: that either there is another lost recension of Mark that was available to both Matthew and Luke or that Luke had access to Matthew but only used it with rarity as a source. He prefers the first option; but frankly, I find neither terribly satisfactory.

Are there other solutions to the so-called "minor agreements" offered by proponents of the two-source theory?

  • Can you provide an example or two of these minor agreements?
    – user2910
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 1:18
  • 1
    The example you cite is not an agreement 'against' Mark, for that to be the case there would need to be some sort of contradiction, all we have here is extra information in Matthew and Luke that Mark does not include. Commented May 12, 2015 at 7:19
  • 2
    By 'against' Soldarnal just means 'distinct from', not 'contradictory to'. He's wondering why both Matthew and Luke have the same addition to Mark, if neither Matthew nor Luke borrowed from each other.
    – user2910
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 12:05
  • I was reading a text criticism blog, and came across this pair of articles, relevant to the original question: The author suggests (citing 'small but increasing number of scholars') that Matthew may have, in fact, borrowed from an early version of Luke, while the version of Luke we are familiar with was later padded out with additional material.
    – user2910
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 16:15
  • 1
    I have tried to rewrite objections to this questions, but I hope this rewrite will suffice: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_source#Case_against ... Either way, the Q Source /could be/ oral tradition, and/or a specific witness. ... which this question and comments seem to overlook. Commented May 26, 2015 at 3:47

4 Answers 4


An excellent discussion of this question can be found in “The Synoptic Problem – Four Views” (hereafter “Four Views”), edited by Porter and Dyer. (See esp. pp. 39-40, 54-56, 80-82, 119-125)

Andreas Ennulat has suggested that there are more than 1,000 places in which Matthew & Luke agree against Mark (Die “Minor Agreements”: Untersuchungen zu einer offenen Frage des synoptischen Problems) in either common addition or common omission.

The minor agreements – or not-so-minor-agreements as some would label them – are frequently used as evidence against the Two Source Hypothesis. Both the Farrer Hypothesis and the Two-Gospel Hypothesis suggest that the minor agreements demonstrate that Luke used Matthew as a source, thereby dispensing with the need to appeal to the hypothetical source Q.

Defenders of the Two Source Hypothesis have suggested a variety of possibilities to account for this evidence, including scribal harmonization, the influence of oral tradition, and multiple editions of the Gospels (Four Views p. 124). Allowing for multiple versions of each Gospel opens up a wide variety of considerations—if you can imagine it you can build a theory around it—but like the Q document this possibility suffers from a complete absence of evidence in the manuscripts or patristic writings.

Scribal edits at this level would suggest a significant early effort to harmonize the Gospels, but when in the early Christian movement did a centralized structure exist that could both coordinate the effort and disseminate it? (and disseminate it so thoroughly that all evidence of other readings has been lost). By the time the church developed its 4th century structure, it was far too late to manufacture the minor agreements, as we have Gospel manuscripts that predate this period. (e.g. P4, P45, P64, P75, and others. A nice summary of early manuscripts with links to greater to detail is available on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_Testament_papyri)

Oral tradition may be a promising avenue. It would have to be a very tightly controlled oral tradition though. How was it controlled?

Additionally, the possibility of Mark-Q overlap is sometimes suggested to account for Matthew-Luke agreements, although there is a risk in doing so: the number of agreements is so great that Q starts looking more and more like the Gospel of Matthew, defeating the idea of a Q document in the first place. (see One Gospel from Two - Mark’s Use of Matthew and Luke, pp. 6-7)

In speaking of the minor agreements Craig Evans, a proponent of the Two Source Hypothesis, has acknowledged “Supporters of the Two Source Hypothesis agree that this is the most vulnerable point in their hypothesis.” (Four Views p. 40)

The Farrer Hypothesis suggests that the best explanation is that Matthew, writing second, used Mark as a source, and Luke, writing third, used both. The Two Gospel Hypothesis suggests that the best explanation is that Luke wrote second using Matthew as a/the principle source. David Barrett Peabody has written “If the hundreds of ‘minor agreements’ scattered throughout the Triple Tradition are seen to merge with and form a pattern with the scores of ‘major agreements’…then it becomes increasingly apparent that Luke was primarily dependent on Matthew and not Mark, and there is no need for Q or the priority of Mark.” (One Gospel from Two - Mark’s Use of Matthew and Luke, p. 6)

The following thought experiment is interesting. I give a story to two students, tell them to work separately, and ask them to re-write the story, add their own touch to it, and make it nearly twice as long. Later, the students come back with their revisions—and although there are numerous differences, they have also made exactly the same change in the same place in the story not once or twice, but hundreds of times! Am I going to appeal to chance or to collusion? Perhaps I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and search for a similar story that both of them might have read, to provide such common inspiration. But if none can be found, I’m going to strongly suspect collaboration or collusion.

In my view the minor agreements of Matthew & Luke against Mark are devastating evidence against the popular Two Source Hypothesis, and efforts to harmonize the theory with the minor agreements—while plausible—come up of short on the evidence. The cleanest solution common in the literature—requiring no hypotheticals—is that Luke knew Matthew’s Gospel.


A third solution is that the two Evangelists simply recalled events differently and the two accounts never were completely identical.

This is the view espoused, for example, by Church Father John Chrysostom (349-407), as he explains in the introduction to his Homilies on the Gospel According to Matthew:

And why can it have been, that when there were so many disciples, two write only from among the apostles, and two from among their followers? (For one that was a disciple of Paul, and another of Peter, together with Matthew and John, wrote the Gospels.) It was because they did nothing for vainglory, but all things for use.

“What then? Was not one evangelist sufficient to tell all?” One indeed was sufficient; but if there be four that write, not at the same times, nor in the same places, neither after having met together, and conversed one with another, and then they speak all things as it were out of one mouth, this becomes a very great demonstration of the truth.

“But the contrary,” it may be said, “hath come to pass, for in many places they are convicted of discordance.” Nay, this very thing is a very great evidence of their truth. For if they had agreed in all things exactly even to time, and place, and to the very words, none of our enemies would have believed but that they had met together, and had written what they wrote by some human compact; because such entire agreement as this cometh not of simplicity. But now even that discordance which seems to exist in little matters delivers them from all suspicion, and speaks clearly in behalf of the character of the writers.

To my knowledge, not a single Church Father in the first millennium of Christianity ever maintained that the Gospel accounts were without any factual discrepancy whatsoever.

  • ...right on :-) Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 6:50

The best solution is that Luke was fully aware of Matthew, and had a copy of Matthew in front of him as he wrote. Two verses before this, we are told Peter "outside wept bitterly". The word for "bitterly" is used twice in the NT. First in Mt 26:75, and again in Luke 22:62. The phrase is identical in Greek, as is the "who was it who struck you" cited above. Verbatim. And there are several more instances like this. Remember that the passion story in not part of Q, so they didn't both get it there. And in the "prophesy" passage, it is not in Mark at all. So rather than invent yet another work, let's face facts that Luke simply used Matthew and that Q never existed. Simple and elegant, covers all the bases, answers all the questions.

  • Welcome to BH. Please see the Tour and the Help regarding the purpose and the functioning of the site. +1 Up-voted. I don't agree with the idea of 'Q' either. Just a thought for next time, remember that people don't like a 'wall of text' and prefer separate points of argument to be in separate paragraphs.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 1:23

Though not a popular view, I find satisfaction in assuming that each subsequent author had access to those preceding him. In the order of Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, each was a snapshot of the current teaching at 10-15 year intervals.

The differences are attributed to their continuing study of the OT in light of Jesus's teaching on the Road to Emmaus, and his teaching before the cross, which his disciples forgot and were reminded by the Holy Spirit.

By analyzing the differences, the hermeneutical tools they used to read the OT, can be deduced. John demonstrates the greatest mastery of the 'mystery hidden from the beginning'.

To address the OP, we would assume that Matthew, in his study of scripture in light of Christ, recorded the added information because the Holy Spirit reminded him of the detail when he read the scripture. Luke likely had access to Matthew's book and probably was reminded of it by that.

Isa 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were [our] faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

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