Saturday à Machen: The Heart of the Gospel

J. Gresham Machen“The Christian Church, then, is founded upon the resurrection of Christ from the dead. If the resurrection be denied, then the origin of the Church becomes an insoluble problem. The Church itself is a witness to the resurrection. Not merely isolated passages, but the whole of the New Testament, bears testimony. [. . .]

“If Jesus was raised from the dead, then his lofty claims are established. If the resurrection is a fact, then Jesus of Nazareth was no mere manbut God and man, God come in the flesh.

“The Church is founded not upon the memory of a dead teacher, but upon the presence of a living Lord. The message, ‘He is risen’that is the very heart of the gospel.”

(J. Gresham Machen, The New Testament: An Introduction to its Literature and History [Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1990], pages 58-59.)

Saturday à Machen: Joy in the Fear of God

“Chapters 9-11 of this epistle [to the Romans] are interesting in a great many ways. They are interesting, for example, in their tremendous conception of the mystery of the divine will. The ninth chapter is a good corrective for any carelessness in our attitude towards God. After all, God is a mystery. How little we know of his eternal plan! We must ever tremble before him. Yet it is such a God who has invited us, through Christ, to hold communion with himself. There is the true wonder of the gospelthat it brings us into fellowship, not with a God of our own devising, not with one who is a Father and nothing else, but with the awful, holy, mysterious Maker and Ruler of all things. The joy of the believer is the deepest of all joys. It is a joy that is akin to holy fear.”

(J. Gresham Machen, The New Testament: An Introduction to its Literature and History [Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1990], pages 152-3.)

Δουλεύσατε τῷ Κυρίῳ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε αὐτῷ ἐν τρόμῳ.
(Ψαλμός 2:11)

Serve ye the Lord with fear, and rejoice in Him with trembling.
(Psalm 2:11)

Saturday à Machen: Reading Paul in Light of Paul

Was St Paul’s thought consistent? It can hardly be denied that the Apostle makes statements in his various epistles that appear to be in tension (or, some cases, even to flatly contradict) one another. Not a few scholars argue on the these grounds that it is impossible to read St Paul’s writings as a coherent corpuswith some, to borrow Moisés Silva’s words, raising questions “not just about the authority of apostolic teaching but about Paul’s basic intelligence.” But of course, this need not be so, as a sympathetic reading of the Pauline epistles readily demonstrates. Machen addresses the point as it relates to the claims of independence that St Paul makes for “his Gospel” in the Epistle to the Galatians, and concludes that far from being an impossibility, reading St Paul’s epistles as a coherent whole is necessary if we wish to avoid a myopic reading of these texts.

J. Gresham Machen” . . . 2 Cor. v. 16, rightly interpreted, does not attest any indifference on the part of Paul toward the information about Jesus which came to him through contact with Jesus disciples. Such indifference, however, is also thought to be attested by the Epistle to the Galatians. In Gal. i, ii, Paul emphasizes his complete independence over against the original disciples. He received his gospel, he says, not by the instrumentality of men, but by direct revelation from the risen Christ. Even after the revelation he felt no need of instruction from those who had been apostles before him. It was three years before he saw any of them, and then he was with Peter only fifteen days. Even when he did finally have a conference with the original apostles, he received nothing from them; they recognized that God had already entrusted him with his gospel and that they had nothing to add. What can this passage mean, it is asked, except that Paul was indifferent to tradition, and derived his knowledge of Christ entirely from revelation?

“In answer, it is sufficient to point to 1 Cor. xv. 1-11. Was Paul indifferent to tradition? In 1 Cor. xv. 3 he himself attests the contrary; he places traditionsomething that he had receivedat the very foundation of his missionary preaching. “For I delivered unto you among the first things,” he says, “that which I also received.” The word “received” here certainly designates information obtained by ordinary word of mouth, not direct revelation from the risen Christ; and the content of what was “received” fixes the source of the information pretty definitely in the fifteen days which Paul spent with Peter at Jerusalem. It is almost universally admitted that 1 Cor. xv. 3ff. contains the tradition of the Jerusalem Church with regard to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

“The comparison with 1 Cor. xv. 1-11 thus exhibits the danger of interpreting the Epistle to the Galatians in one-sided fashion. If Galatians stood by itself, the reader might suppose that at least the resurrection of Christ, the central fact of Paul’s gospel, was founded, in Paul’s preaching, upon Paul’s own testimony alone. In Galatians Paul says that his gospel was not derived from men. But his gospel was grounded upon the resurrection of Christ. Surely, it might be said, therefore, he based at least the resurrection not at all upon the testimony of others but upon the revelation which came to him from Christ. Is it possible to conceive of the author of Galatians as appealing for the foundation of his gospel to the testimony of Peter and the twelve and other brethren in the primitive Churchto the testimony of exactly those men whose mediatorship he is excluding in Galatians? Yet as a matter of fact, that is exactly what Paul did. That he did so is attested not by the Book of Acts or by any source upon which doubt might be cast, but by one of the accepted epistles. The Epistle to the Galatians must always be interpreted in the light of 1 Cor. xv. 1-11.”

(J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul’s Religion [1925; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973], pages 144-145.)

Also, for a masterful elucidation of whether St. Paul was a systematic thinker, see Moisés Silva, “Systematic Theology and the Apostle to the Gentiles” (Trinity Journal 15.1 [1994]:3-26), available online at the link, and in a reworked format as chapter 8 of Interpreting Galatians: Explorations in Exegetical Method (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001).

Saturday à Machen: On the Causes for the Rejection of Christianity

Lately I have been reading various books on apologetics: Tim Keller’s The Reason for God and Alister McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion?, both of which are excellent, and more recently David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions and Mel Lawrenz’s I Want to Believe. A common complaint in works of this kind is that the “fashionable enemies” of Christianity fail to engage their chosen foe with any degree of seriousness, and in the end, they reject the Christian faith not for what it is, but for that they think it is. Machen agrees, of course; he bemoans the loss of real education and cultural refinement (which loss is often identified as the reason behind this sorry state of affairs) more loudly than any contemporary apologist. But, typically, Machen goes a step further: at the root of such ignorance of Christianity in the culture at large is the scandalous ignorance of Christianity in the church. It is this call for us Christians to own up to our own neglect in this connection that is not very often articulated, and much less heeded.

J. Gresham Machen“The rejection of Christianity is due to various causes. But a very potent cause is simple ignorance. In countless cases, Christianity is rejected simply because men have not the slightest notion of what Christianity is. An outstanding fact of recent Church history is the appalling growth of ignorance in the Church. Various causes, no doubt, can be assigned for this lamentable development. The development is due partly to the general decline of educationat least so far as literature and history are concerned. The schools of the present day are being ruined by the absurd notion that education should follow the line of least resistance, and that something can be “drawn out” of the mind before anything is put in. They are also being ruined by an exaggerated emphasis on methodology at the expense of content and on what is materially useful at the expense of the high spiritual heritage of mankind. These lamentable tendencies, moreover, are in danger of being made permanent through the sinister extension of state control. But something more than the general decline in education is needed to account for the special growth of ignorance in the Church. The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever be the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is; and the fair and logical thing is to learn what Christianity is, not from its opponents, but from those who themselves are Christians. That method of procedure would be the only fair method in the case of any movement. But it is still more in place in the case of a movement such as Christianity which has laid the foundation of all that we hold most dear. Men have abundant opportunity today to learn what can be said against Christianity, and it is only fair that they should also learn something about the thing that is being attacked.”

(J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism [1923; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], pages 176-177.)

Saturday à Machen: On Miracles

In the last Saturday à Machen, we had the opportunity to consider Machen’s argument for the miraculous occurrences of the New Testament. But in order to arrive there, he had previously addressed the idea of the “supernatutural” and the character of miracles, in that order. Since we started at the end, so to speak, let us then pursue Machen’s argument backward, moving from the particular to the general.

J. Gresham Machen“[I]t has often been said that all events are works of creation. On this view, it is only a concession to popular phraseology to say that one body is attracted toward another in accordance with a law of gravitation; what really ought to be said is that when two bodies are in proximity under certain conditions they come together. Certain phenomena in nature, on this view, are always followed by certain other phenomena, and it is really only this regularity of sequence which is indicated by the assertion that the former phenomena ’cause’ the latter; the only real cause is in all cases God. On the basis of this view, there can be no distinction between events wrought by the immediate power of God and those that are not; for on this view all events are so wrought. Against such a view, those who accept our definition of miracle will naturally accept the commonsense notion of cause. God is always the first cause, but there are truly second causes; and they are the means which God uses, in the ordinary course of the world, for the accomplishment of His ends. It is the exclusion of such second causes which makes an event a miracle.

“It is sometimes said that the actuality of miracles would destroy the basis of science. Science, it is said, is founded upon the regularity of sequences; it assumes that if certain conditions within the course of nature are given, certain other conditions will always follow. But if there is to be any intrusion of events which by their very definition are independent of all previous conditions, then, it is said, the regularity of nature upon which science bases itself is broken up. Miracle, in other words, seems to introduce an element of arbitrariness and unaccountability into the course of the world.

“The objection ignores what is really fundamental the Christian conception of miracle. According to the Christian conception, a miracle is wrought by the immediate power of God. It is not wrought by an arbitrary and fantastic despot, but by the very God to whom the regularity of nature itself is due by the God, moreover, whose character is known through the Bible. Such a God, we may be sure, will not do despite to the reason that He has given to His creatures; His interposition will introduce no disorder into the world that He has made. There is nothing arbitrary about a miracle, according to the Christian conception. It is not an uncaused event, but an event that is caused by the very source of all the order that is in the world. It is dependent altogether upon the least arbitrary and the most firmly fixed of all the things that arenamely upon the character of God.

“The possibility of miracle, then, is indissolubly joined with ‘theism.’ Once admit the existence of a personal God, Maker and Ruler of the world, and no limits, temporal or otherwise, can be set to the creative power of such a God. Admit that God once created the world, and you cannot deny that He might engage in creation again.”

(J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism [1923; reprint, Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1999], pages 101-102)

Saturday à Machen: On the Miracles in the Gospels

This coming Wednesday, December 25/January 7, we will celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. As is well known, the “birth narratives” in the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke are filled with one miraculous occurrence after another, which admittedly cause a great deal of trouble to many “modern,” “enlightened” readers. Of course, this difficulty is neither new nor peculiar to the modern age, and (as we would expect) Machen had some words to say on the subject. Today I have chosen to post the main thrust of his comments, and in later “Saturdays à Machen” I will expand on their context, which elucidates his argument.

J. Gresham Machen“. . . It may be admitted that miracles conceivably might occur. But have they actually occurred?

This question looms very large in the minds of modern men. The burden of the question seems to rest heavily even upon many who still accept the miracles of the New Testament. The miracles used to be regarded as an aid to faith, it is often said, but now they are a hindrance to faith; faith used to come on account of the miracles, but now it comes in despite of them; men used to believe in Jesus because He wrought miracles, but now we accept the miracles because on other grounds we have come to believe in Him.

A strange confusion underlies this common way of speaking. In one sense, certainly, miracles are a hindrance to faithbut who ever thought the contrary? It may certainly be admitted that if the New Testament narrative had no miracles in it, it would be far easier to believe. The more commonplace a story is, the easier it is to accept it as true. But commonplace narratives have little value. The New Testament without the miracles would be far easier to believe. But the trouble is, it would not be worth believing. Without the miracles the New Testament would contain an account of a holy mannot a perfect man, it is true, for He was led to make lofty claims to which He had no right but a man at least far holier than the rest of men. But of what benefit would such a man, and the death which marked His failure, be to us? The loftier be the example which Jesus set, the greater becomes our sorrow at our failure to attain to it; and the greater our hopelessness under the burden of sin. The sage of Nazareth may satisfy those who have never faced the problem of evil in their own lives; but to talk about an ideal to those who are under the thralldom of sin is a cruel mockery. Yet if Jesus was merely a man like the rest of men, then an ideal is all that we have in Him. Far more is needed by a sinful world. It is small comfort to be told that there was goodness in the world, when what we need is goodness triumphant over sin. But goodness triumphant over sin involves an entrance of the creative power of God, and that creative power of God is manifested by the miracles. Without the miracles, the New Testament might be easier to believe. But the thing that would be believed would be entirely different from that which presents itself to us now. Without the miracles we should have a teacher; with the miracles we have a Savior.”

(J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism [1923; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], pages 102-104)

Saturday à Machen: Jesus, Paul, and the Kingdom

J. Gresham Machen” . . . Jesus and Paul present the same view of the Kingdom of God. The term ‘kingdom of God’ is not very frequent in the Epistles; but it is used as though familiar to the readers, and when it does occur, it has the same meaning as in the teaching of Jesus. The similarity appears, in the first place, in a negative featureboth in Jesus and in Paul, the idea of the Kingdom is divorced from all political and materialistic associations. That may seem to us to be a matter of course. But in the Judaism of the first century it was far from being a matter of course. On the contrary, it meant nothing less than a revolution in thought and in life. How did Paul, the patriot and the Pharisee, come to separate the thought of the Kingdom from political associations? How did he come to do so even if he had come to think that the Messiah had already appeared? How did he come to do so unless he was influenced in some way by the teaching of Jesus? But the similarity is not merely negative. In positive aspects also, the Kingdom of God in Paul is similar to that which appears in the teaching of Jesus. Both in Jesus and Paul, the implications of entrance are ethical. ‘Or know ye not,’ says Paul, ‘that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?’ (1 Cor. vi. 9). Then follows, after these words, as in Gal. v. 19-21, a long list of sins which exclude a man from participation in the Kingdom. Paul is here continuing faithfully the teaching of Him who said, ‘Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Finally both in Jesus and in Paul the kingdom appears partly as present and partly as future. In the above passages from Galatians and 1 Corinthians, for example, and in 1 Cor. xv. 50, it is future; whereas in such passages as Rom. xiv. 17 (‘for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’), the present aspect is rather in view. The same two aspects of the Kingdom appear also in the teaching of Jesus; all attempts at making Jesus’ conception thoroughly eschatological have failed. Both in Jesus and in Paul, therefore, the Kingdom of God is both transcendent and ethical. Both in Jesus and in Paul, finally, the coming of the Kingdom means joy as well as judgment. When Paul says that the Kingdom of God is ‘righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,’ he is like Jesus not merely in word but in the whole spirit of his message; Jesus also proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom as a ‘gospel.'”

(J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul’s Religion [1921; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973], pages 160-161.)

A Very Special "Saturday à Machen": What’s the Name, Please?

Nearly a year ago, the Rev Mr Hobbins posted a very valuable note in anticipation of the yearly meeting of SBL in which he ruefully observed, among other things, that certain scholars’ names are routinely mispronounced even by their academic peers, and that surely something ought to be done about that. John’s brilliant and helpful suggestions may routinely be ignored by the ungrateful biblioblogging community, but this is never so at The Voice of Stefan. It is in response to John’s proposal, then, that I post this Very Special Saturday a’Machen for your edification.

Over the years, one of the more common and grievous errors in pronunciation I have had the displeasure to encounter relate to the name of our hero, J. Gresham Machen. While it has been my dubious privilege to hear several mistaken pronunciations of his name in my time, it seems that the more popular one is that which applies to it the rules of German pronunciation. [UPDATE: Or, alternatively, the Welsh pronunciation used by the horror writer Arthur Machen. With thanks to Maureen for suggesting this in the comments.]

J. Gresham MachenIn happier times, general interest magazines such as the Literary Digest (an ancestor, so to speak, of Time magazine) would request that scholars and other persons of note explain in a brief, popular manner how to pronounce their names. Indeed, there was even a regular column in the Digest dedicated to this, and compilation was published by Charles Earle Funk under the title What’s the Name, Please?: A Guide to the Correct Pronunciation of Current Prominent Names (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1936). Fortunately for us, our hero being just such a person of note, he was asked by the magazine to elucidate the matter of the pronunciation of his name, which he did with the following note:

“The first syllable is pronounced like May, the name of the month. In the second syllable the ch is as in chin, with e as in pen: may’chen. In Gresham, the h is silent: gres’am.”

Here, then, we have as close to a final word on the matter as we can hope for. This text is included in Funk’s compilation, and as I recall, originally appeared in the Literary Digest in 1917. Full bibliographical data for the magazine column is given in Ned B. Stonehouse’s J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir, my copy of which I regrettably cannot find.

Saturday à Machen: The Minister and His Greek Testament

Nijay Gupta has posted some introductory thoughts and a couple of interesting articles on the vexing subject of why Christian ministers should learn New Testament Greek. Since I consider this to be a most important matter, I thought it appropriate to temporarily resurrect the Saturday à Machen in order to share with you all this little jewel, which originally appeared in the periodical The Presbyterian on February 7, 1918:

J. Gresham MachenThe widening breach between the minister and his Greek Testament may be traced to two principal causes. The modern minister objects to his Greek New Testament or is indifferent to it, first, because he is becoming less interested in his Greek, and second, because he is becoming less interested in his New Testament.

The former objection is merely one manifestation of the well known tendency in modern education to reject the “humanities” in favor of studies that are more obviously useful, a tendency which is fully as pronounced in the universities as it is in the theological seminaries. In many colleges the study of Greek is almost abandoned; there is little wonder, therefore, that the graduates are not prepared to use their Greek Testament. Plato and Homer are being neglected as much as Paul. A refutation of the arguments by which this tendency is justified would exceed the limits of the present article. This much, however, may be saidthe refutation must recognize the opposing principles that are involved. The advocate of the study of Greek and Latin should never attempt to plead his cause merely before the bar of “efficiency.” Something, no doubt, might be said even there; it might possibly be contended that an acquaintance with Greek and Latin is really necessary to acquaintance with the mother tongue, which is obviously so important for getting on in the world. But why not go straight to the root of the matter? The real trouble with the modern exaltation of “practical” studies at the expense of the humanities is that it is based upon a vicious conception of the whole purpose of education. The modern conception of the purpose of education is that education is merely intended to enable a man to live, but not to give him those things in life that make life worth living.

In the second place, the modern minister is neglecting his Greek New Testament because he is becoming less interested in his New Testament in generalless interested in his Bible. The Bible used to be regarded as providing the very sum and substance of preaching; a preacher was true to his calling only as he succeeded in reproducing and applying the message of the Word of God. Very different is the modern attitude. The Bible is not discarded, to be sure, but it is treated only as one of the sources, even though it be still the chief source, of the preacher’s inspiration. Moreover, a host of duties other than preaching and other than interpretation of the Word of God are required of the modern pastor. He must organize clubs and social activities of a dozen different kinds; he must assume a prominent part in movements for civic reform. In short, the minister has ceased to be a specialist. The change appears, for example, in the attitude of theological students, even of a devout and reverent type. One outstanding difficulty in theological education today is that the students persist in regarding themselves, not as specialists, but as laymen. Critical questions about the Bible they regard as the property of men who are training themselves for theological professorships or the like, while the ordinary minister, in their judgment, may content himself with the most superficial layman’s acquaintance with the problems involved. The minister is thus no longer a specialist in the Bible, but has become merely a sort of general manager of the affairs of a congregation.

The bearing of this modern attitude toward the study of the Bible upon the study of the Greek Testament is sufficiently obvious. If the time allotted to strictly biblical studies must be diminished, obviously the most laborious part of those studies, the part least productive of immediate results, will be the first to go. And that part, for students insufficiently prepared, is the study of Greek and Hebrew. If, on the other hand, the minister is a specialist—if the one thing that he owes his congregation above all others is a thorough acquaintance, scientific as well as experimental, with the Bible—then the importance of Greek requires no elaborate argument. In the first place, almost all the most important books about the New Testament presuppose a knowledge of Greek: the student who is without at least a smattering of Greek is obliged to use for the most part works that are written, figuratively speaking, in words of one syllable. In the second place, such a student cannot deal with all the problems at first hand, but in a thousand important questions is at the mercy of the judgment of others. In the third place, our student without Greek cannot acquaint himself with the form as well as the content of the New Testament books. The New Testament, as well as all other literature, loses something in translation. But why argue the question? Every scientific student of the New Testament without exception knows that Greek is really necessary to his work: the real question is only as to whether our ministry should be manned by scientific students.

That question is merely one phase of the most important question that is now facing the church the question of Christianity and culture. The modern world is dominated by a type of thought that is either contradictory to Christianity or else out of vital connection with Christianity. This type of thought applied directly to the Bible has resulted in the naturalistic view of the biblical historythe view that rejects the supernatural not merely in the Old Testament narratives, but also in the Gospel account of the life of Jesus. According to such a view the Bible is valuable because it teaches certain ideas about God and his relations to the world, because it teaches by symbols and example, as well as by formal presentation, certain great principles that have always been true. According to the supernaturalistic view, on the other hand, the Bible contains not merely a presentation of something that was always true, but also a record of something that happenednamely, the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. If this latter view be correct, then the Bible is unique; it is not merely one of the sources of the preacher’s inspiration, but the very sum and substance of what he has to say. But, if so, then whatever else the preacher need not know, he must know the Bible; he must know it at first hand, and be able to interpret and defend it. Especially while doubt remains in the world as to the great central question, who more properly than the ministers should engage in the work of resolving such doubtby intellectual instruction even more than by argument? The work cannot be turned over to a few professors whose work is of interest only to themselves, but must be undertaken energetically by spiritually minded men throughout the church. But obviously this work can be undertaken to best advantage only by those who have an important prerequisite for the study in a knowledge of the original languages upon which a large part of the discussion is based.

If, however, it is important for the minister to use his Greek Testament, what is to be done about it? Suppose early opportunities were neglected, or what was once required has been lost in the busy rush of ministerial life. Here we may come forward boldly with a message of hope. The Greek of the New Testament is by no means a difficult language; a very fair knowledge of it may be acquired by any minister of average intelligence. And to that end two homely directions may be given. In the first place, the Greek should be read aloud. A language cannot easily be learned by the eye alone. The sound as well as the sense of familiar passages should be impressed upon the mind, until sound and sense are connected without the medium of translation. Let this result not be hastened; it will come of itself if the simple direction be followed. In the second place, the Greek Testament should be read every day without fail, Sabbaths included. Ten minutes a day is of vastly more value than seventy minutes once a week. If the student keeps a “morning watch,” the Greek Testament ought to be given a place in it; at any rate, the Greek Testament should be read devotionally. The Greek Testament is a sacred book, and should be treated as such. If it is treated so, the reading of it will soon become a source of joy and power.

Saturday à Machen: Literary Dependence, Oral Tradition, and the Synoptics

J. Gresham Machen “One of the most interesting and difficult of the problems that confront the student of the New Testament must here be dismissed with little more than a word. What is the literary relation between the first three Gospels? How did they come to be so much alike?

“Our first impulse, perhaps, is to say that the Synoptic Gospels are similar because they are concerned with the same things. This explanation, however, is quickly seen to be insufficient. It would explain the agreement in matters of fact. But the similarity between the Gospels extends also to the minutest coincidences of expression. Two trustworthy narrators of the same events, although they will agree in the facts, will, if they are independent of each other, differ widely in expression.

“A second explanation, therefore, suggests itself. Perhaps one of the Gospels was dependent upon one or both of the others. This explanation might serve to explain the similarity between Mark and Matthew and between Mark and Luke. But it utterly fails to explain the similarity between Matthew and Luke in those portions where both of these Gospels have no parallel in Mark. For if one thing is clear, is that Matthew and Luke are quite independent of each another. That is demonstrated, if by nothing else, by a comparison of the infancy narratives at the beginning of these two Gospels.

“In order, therefore, to supplement the theory of dependence of one Gospel upon another, it has been suggested that Matthew and Luke used in addition to Mark another common source which has now been lost. This so-called ‘two-document theory’ has won exceedingly wide acceptance among modern scholars. It is held in many modifications, but the essence of it is that Matthew and Luke had two written sources in common: (a) Mark, and (b) a source containing chiefly discourses of Jesus.

“The detailed evidence for and against the ‘two-document theory’ cannot be here discussed. At least this much, however, must be said: this theory, even if correct—which is by no means certain—is insufficient. It fails to explain the differences between the Gospels which run along with the similarities. If, for example, in the passages where Mark and Matthew are parallel, Matthew was dependent upon Mark and only upon Mark, then it is difficult to explain why he made just the changes that he did in the Marcan text. Some of the changes can no doubt be explained—as due to a desire for brevity or smoothness or the like—but many, if they be merely changes of what Mark wrote, seem to lack both rhyme and reason. What needs to be emphasized, therefore, against the modern one-sided acceptance of the two-document theory is that all of the evangelists stood in the full current of oral tradition. When Luke or Matthew differ from Mark the differences should not be dismissed as mere unauthorized editorial changes, but should be regarded as preserving valuable independent information.”

(J. Gresham Machen, The New Testament: An Introduction to its Literature and History [Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1990], pages 211-2.)