“The First Dionysian Gospel: Imitational and Redactional Layers in Luke and John”: Extended Summary

This chapter in my recently published Classical Greek Models of the Gospels and Acts proposes a novel solution to the synoptic problem. Noting the gradual expansion of classical/mimetic sources over time, as well as the key role of Marcion’s Gospel and Pliny the Younger’s correspondence as pioneering legal precedent, I summarize the history and interrelationships of the canonical Gospels as follows:

  • Early/Shorter Mark (ca. 70–80) thoroughly imitated Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey;
  • Matthew (ca. 80–100) used Q and Mark, borrowing Mark’s imitations of Homer, and adding imitations of Plutarch (Vita Alexandri);
  • First Edition of Luke (ca. 80–100) used Q and Mark, borrowing Mark’s imitations of Homer, and added emulations of the Bacchae (Luke 4:29–30; 5:1–11; 8:1–3; 19:1-2, 8-10) which were later attested by Marcion;
  • First Edition of John (ca. 100–111) used Mark (including its imitations of Homer) and Luke (including its Dionysian content, e.g., Luke 4:29–30 inspired John 8:58b–59 and 10:39), but developed its own focused, thoroughgoing imitation of the Bacchae of Euripides;
  • Second and Third Edition of John (ca. 112–138) qualified its earlier Dionysian imitations by adding new imitations of Plato (Socrates);
  • Second Edition of Luke (ca. 117–150), inspired by the second and/or third edition of John and using Matthew, added new imitations of Euripides, Homer, Josephus, Livy, Plato (Socrates), Plutarch, Suetonius, Vergil, and Xenophon, all of which are not present or unattested in Marcion and all of which lack clear parallels in John;
  • Acts, created jointly with the Second Edition of Luke (ca. 117–150) and inspired by the second and/or third edition of John, developed new imitations of Aeschylus, Euripides, Homer, Josephus, Pindar, Plato (Socrates), Vergil, and Xenophon.

This solution resolves the classic debate between the majority of critical scholars who support the existence of Q, while also making sense of the objections raised by those arguing for Matthew as a source for Luke.

My hope is that this argument gets taken seriously as a major, new proposed solution for the synoptic problem, one that simultaneously shows the value of Mimesis Criticism as key to understand the ever-expanding literary/classical/mythic models across the history of earliest Christian literature.