Professor William R. Farmer
When discussing those who vindicated The Clementine Gospel Tradition (that the Gospels were written in the Matthew, Luke, Mark order), the names of Owen, Griesbach, Riley, Chapman, Butler and Orchard spring to mind. But, often the great contribution of William Farmer is unmentioned.
Farmer was a Methodist Minister who became Professor of New Testament Studies at the Southern Methodist University of Dallas, Texas. He combined this with being research scholar at Dallas University. For years he dutifully taught his students the Markan priority theory which states that Mark was the first to write a Gospel. But in 1961, during a lecture, he publically made known that he had come to reject the theory.
In1964, as part of his the Introduction to: The Synoptic Problem, he explained why he had done so. He had studied a book, published by Christopher Butler in 1951, which had convinced him that the Markan priority theory was a fallacy. He accepted that the Synoptic Problem still needed to be solved, but not with the unproved Markan priority theory or the imaginary ‘Q’ document. Farmer had also become fascinated by the question of how and why such a theory had come to be widely accepted, including by himself. In his book he traced the history of the theory in England. And later, in his ‘Bismarck and the Four Gospels’ (1996) he detailed the political domination which had enforced the teaching of the theory in Germany.
In 1987 the Anglican priest Harold Riley and the Catholic Bernard Orchard o.s.b. co-authored: ‘The Order of the Synoptics’. In the first part of the book, Riley praised Farmer’s researches and ideas. Then, and on pages 114 and 115 of the same book, Orchard explained that the first modern attempt to reject Markan Priority had come from John Chapman and Christopher Butler. But,
So both Riley and Orchard recognised and proclaimed the important part played by Farmer in modern research. The 2GH organisation in America which plans, in the near future, to update its website, owes much to William R. Farmer who was born in America in 1921 and died there in 2000.
Copies (html and pdf) of: Bismarck and the Four Gospels by William R. Farmer are available elsewhere on this www.churchinhistory.org website: See: Item [G 290].