The source doublets: a template for the logia

"No one should underestimate the importance of the doublets."
H. T. Fleddermann, "Q : A Reconstruction and Commentary" (Peeters, 2005) p. 60

The doublets constitute one of the most interesting features of the sayings in the synoptic gospels. To many people they are merely a curiosity. But here they are shown to provide a sound basis for identifying the whole set of logia sayings.

Identifying the doublets

A doublet consists of duplicate versions of a saying in the same gospel. Our concern here is with a particular type of doublet which occurs in either Matthew or Luke and in which one version of the saying appears to have been derived from Mark and the other from a sayings source. These are called "source doublets". [1]  The members of a source doublet must be stand-alone, i.e. not requiring a context in order to make it meaningful, as in e.g. Lk 8:8 "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!" which, by itself, begs the question:"hear what?".

The source doublet sayings belong to the logia with a greater certainty than any other candidate sayings. They will thus form a template which can be used to assess the compatibility of other candidate sayings for admission to the reconstructed logia.

Source doublets in Luke

Mark Luke Luke Luke label
  ex-Mark ex-logia ex-Matt  
4:21 8:16 11:33   Lighting a lamp
4:22 8:17 12:2   Secrets exposed
4:25 8:18 12:48b 19:26 More given
6:7-11 9:1-5 10:1-12   Carry no money
8:34 9:23 14:27   Cross
8:35 9:24 17:33   Save/lose
8:38 9:26 12:9   Ashamed?
9:37 9:48 10:16   Welcome
9:40 9:50 11:23   For/against
12:38-39 20:46 11:43   Seats/greetings
13:9,11 21:12-15 12:11-12   Formal defence
13:12 21:16 12:51-53   Family division
13:31 21:33 16:17   Law

In Luke, 'More given' satisfies the criteria for a source doublet. But on the other hand it could equally well be described as a 'source triplet', with the third version of the saying being created from Luke's third written source when Matthew's Parable of the Talents was adapted to form Luke's Parable of the Pounds.

The table has been set out in Markan order mainly to highlight the fact that all the ex-logia members of these doublets occur within the 'Journey to Jerusalem' (Lk 9:51 - 19:27), and all the ex-Mark members occur outside this block. Luke's discipline in this respect should increase our confidence that all these doublets really are source doublets, i.e. that one member of each was derived from Mark and the other from a separate written sayings source. While the central arrangement in Matthew has five blocks of narrative and five discourses, there is sometimes no clear distinction in location between doublet members derived from Mark and doublet members derived from another source. In an attempt to compensate for this and increase confidence in the Matthean source doublets, a Matthean doublet will only be accepted here as a source doublet if its posited Markan and non-Markan members are not in the same or adjacent chapters. The reasoning is that if the Markan and non-Markan members are situated fairly close together in Matthew, it is more likely than would otherwise be the case that the perceived duplication was created by the gospel author. By implication this test rules out for admission to the template Fleddermann's "condensed doublets" because they are not actually doublets, having no member which appears to have been derived from Mark. Thus they cannot provide reliable testimony to their derivation from the logia in the form of a minimum separation between a member in a later gospel (Matthew or Luke) apparently derived from Mark and a member in that later gospel apparently derived from an early sayings source.

Source doublets in Matthew

Mark Matthew Matthew label
  ex-Mark ex-logia  
1:15b 4:17b 10:7b Kingdom near
4:25 13:12 25:29 More given
8:12 16:4 12:39 No sign
8:34 16:24 10:38 Cross
8:35 16:25 10:39 Save/lose
8:38 16:27 10:33 Ashamed?
9:37 18:5 10:40 Welcome
9:43,47 18:8-9 5:30,29 Hand/eye
10:11 19:9 5:32 Divorce
10:43 20:26 23:11 Great/servant
11:23 21:21 17:20 Mountain
11:24 21:22 7:7a,8a Ask/receive
13:10 24:14 10:23 Through all Israel
13:13 24:9b,13 10:22 Hated/endure
13:31 24:35 5:18 Law

Doublets in which the member derived from the logia is not part of the double tradition are identified by the colour ochre.

Six of the sayings are source doublets in both Matthew and Luke: More given, Cross, Save/lose, Ashamed?, Welcome, and Law.

Source doublets summary

The unsourced blocks of aphorisms (for which see Luke used Matthew and a sayings source) contain versions of all but three of the doublet aphorisms ('Law', 'Divorce' and 'No sign'). This confirms that the non-Markan members of the doublets almost certainly derive from a pre-Markan source. It also follows that the non-Markan members of the doublets in Luke (apart from Lk 19:26) were almost certainly not derived from Matthew.

category in Matthew in Luke
In both Matthew and Luke 6 6
In Matthew only 9 ----
In Luke only ---- 7

We have thus identified a total of 15 doublets in Matthew and 13 in Luke which can best be explained by Matthew or Luke taking one member of each doublet from Mark, and the other from a non-synoptic sayings source. This constitutes strong evidence for the existence of the logia.

Contents of the template

The above tables identify 28 source doublets representing the following 21 sayings which appear to have come from a separate written sayings source. Below is the complete set of template sayings, listed in Markan order, and set out in full because of the importance of the template for determining the message and milieu to make sure that other candidate sayings are consistent with the template sayings.

Mark label Reconstruction of the sayings based on the source doublets and their Markan equivalent texts
1:15; 6:8-11 Carry no money Go out and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. Carry no purse, no bag, and no staff. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave. Whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.
4:21 Lighting a lamp No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a measuring bowl, but on a lampstand.
4:22 Secrets exposed Nothing is hidden that will not be made known, or secret that will not come to light.
4:25 More given For to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
8:12 No sign No sign will be given to this generation.
8:34 Cross Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
8:35 Save/lose Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
8:38 Ashamed? Whoever disowns me in front of others, the Son of Man will disown in front of the angels of God.
9:37 Welcome Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me.
9:40 For/against Whoever is not with me is against me.
9:43,47 Hand/eye If your right hand is causing your downfall, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. And if your right eye is causing your downfall, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.
10:11 Divorce Any man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
10:43 Great/servant You know that among the Gentiles their so-called rulers lord it over them,
and their great men exercise authority over them.
It shall not be so among you.
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.
11:23 Mountain If you had faith like a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain: 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea', and it would be done for you.
11:24 Ask/receive Ask, and you will receive, for everyone who asks, receives.
12:38-39 Seats/greetings Woe to you Pharisees, for you love the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market places.
13:9,11 Formal defence When they arraign you before synagogues, do not worry about how you are to answer or what you are to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what to say.
13:10 Through all Israel When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
13:12 Family division I have come to divide households: father against son, mother against daughter and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law.
13:13 Hated/endure You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
13:31 Law It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke in a letter of the law to be dropped.

Characteristics of the template

No miracles

Healing is not mentioned in the reconstruction based on the Lukan doublet: 'Carry no money'. In both members of this doublet the missionaries are expected to heal the sick ("power ... to cure diseases" in 9:1 and "heal the sick in [the town]" in 10:9). However this is incompatible with the Matthean 'No sign' doublet, which shows that the historical Jesus did not perform signs (miracles). It was probably Mark who first presented Jesus and his followers as miracle workers. [2] 
Therefore healing is not included in the reconstruction of 'Carry no money'.

The imminence of the kingdom of God

This is attested in the Matthean doublet 'Kingdom near', which has been absorbed into the Lukan doublet 'Carry no money' because the whole of the former appears in both Lk 10:9 and Lk 10:11. The "Go out" is based on Lk 10:3.

Following Jesus is a hard life

It involves 'taking up one's cross' and being 'hated by all'.

Jesus as the Son of Man

The template includes two references to Jesus as the Son of Man, a title never used in the extant letters of Paul.

The permanence of the Jewish law

In recognizing Mark's adaptation of a saying about the permanence of the Jewish law into a saying about the permanence of Jesus' words, we have a template which supports the permanence of the whole law, a position alien to Mark, who argued for the dismissal of parts of the law (Mk 7:14-19).


The template has two references to synagogues, indicating a Jewish milieu.

Gentiles as alien

Mt 23:11 only has one line of the five poetic lines in Mark and in Matthew's copy of Mark's saying. However the five lines were almost certainly original because of the neat parallels between lines 1 and 2 and between lines 4 and 5, because lines 1-2 blend perfectly with lines 4-5, and because the reference to Gentiles as alien indicates a Jewish milieu for the saying.


1. This phrase is used, for instance, by H.T.Fleddermann, though with a slightly different definition.
2. The absence of any reference in Paul's extant letters to Jesus performing miracles tends to support this conclusion.