Thursday, May 31, 2012

Matthean and Lukan Special Material, Part 2

Last week I posted part one of my review of Brice Jones, Matthean and Lukan Special Material in Matthean and Lukan Special Material, Part 1. I focused there mainly on Jones's selection of M and L passages, which is derived from Mark Allan Powell's partial list in the Fortress Introduction.

In the second part of this review, I will look at Jones's essay, "Literary Relationships Among the Gospels", which he uses to explain the role played by M and L in discussions of the Synoptic Problem.

Jones's essay forms Chapter 1 of the book (1-17) and is subtitled "A Brief Introduction to the Synoptic Problem and Matthew and Luke's Special Source Material".  He defines the Synoptic Problem and provides a little history (2-3), introducing the Griesbach Hypothesis (4) and explaining the Two-Source Theory (5), briefly offering arguments for it (6) before answering objections (7-8). Jones then introduces M and L, the main topics of the book, looking at how they functioned in Streeter's work (8-10) and in scholarship today with special reference to Stephenson Brooks and Kim Paffenroth (10-13).  The remainder of the chapter (13-17) explains the presentation and selection of data in the rest of the book.

Jones's essay typifies an approach to Synoptic Problem introduction that I have often criticized, working on the basis of the Two-Source Theory and refracting the Synoptic data through that theory.  Thus there is no encouragement for the new student to attempt to understand the data first, to study the Synopsis without prejudice to a particular way of describing the evidence.

The dominance of the Two-Source Theory is expressed in other ways in the chapter.  The Griesbach Hypothesis and the Two-Source Theory each have their own diagrams (4-5) but the Farrer Theory does not.  This is also important for new students, where visualizing a theory can greatly help in properly understanding it.   And while I am grateful to Jones for his brief reference to my work (7), I am a little disappointed to see no reference to my main book on the topic which is called The Case Against Q.

Jones lists Streeter's five points in favour of Marcan Priority (6), most of which are simple descriptions of how Matthew and Luke proceeded if they used Mark and several of which are reversible.  I think there are better arguments for Marcan Priority than those offered by Streeter and, on the whole, those supporting the "Two Gospel Theory" have had little trouble demonstrating this.  References to more recent literature by Two Gospel advocates might have helped here, especially Beyond the Q Impasse and One Gospel from Two.

Somewhat surprisingly, Jones does not offer any arguments in favour of the Q hypothesis and appears to regard it as established on the basis of Streeter's arguments for Marcan Priority.  He does, however, discuss three arguments against the Two-Source Theory (7-8), the Mark-Q overlaps, the minor agreements and the hypothetical nature of Q.  I will deal with each in turn.

(1) Mark-Q Overlaps.  Jones notes that there are Mark-Q overlap passages but does not explain why they are problematic for the Two-Source Theory.  He says:
Most advocates of the Two-Source hypothesis, however, do not think that the Mark-Q overlaps pose any real threat, since two independent yet similar traditions are bound to have existed prior to the composition of the Gospels as we know them (7).
Jones is right that advocates of the Farrer theory draw attention to the Mark-Q overlaps, but they do not do so because they think it surprising that "independent yet similar traditions" existed.  This would be a weak argument, and it is not one that I have seen. The difficulty with Mark-Q overlaps is not a general one about the plausibility or otherwise of overlapping materials.  Rather, it is specific: this data set contradicts the claim that Matthew and Luke never agree against Mark in major ways, and it contradicts the claim that Luke never takes over Matthew's redaction of Mark.  These are used as arguments for the existence of Q, arguments that are contradicted by this data set.

(2) Minor Agreements.  Jones refers to "the few cases where Matthew and Luke agree on wording with each other against Mark" (7), drawing attention specially to the minor agreement at Mark 14.65, and asking "How is this to be explained if Matthew and Luke did not know each other and the story is not found in Q?" (7).

Jones suggests that they could have been caused by shared oral tradition, or by corruption of the texts or by harmonization (though he does not explain how the last two differ).  The difficulty with the oral tradition theory is that several of the key minor agreements, including the one at Mark 14.65, feature verbatim agreement in Greek including the use of hapaxes in the Gospel in question.  The difficulty with the text-critical explanation is that it cuts both ways -- harmonization is as likely if not more likely to have diminished the number of minor agreements than to have increased them.

(3) A Hypothetical Document.  Here Jones writes:
Another difficulty is that the theory requires a hypothetical document, which is not physically attested outside of the Gospels.  This position is especially popular among advocates of solutions to the Synoptic Problem that posit Matthean and Lukan dependence.  There are difficulties in sustaining this argument, however, and most scholars tend to believe that the Two-Source Hypothesis makes the most sense of the data. (8). 
Jones here characterizes the position he is arguing against in such general terms that it is difficult to know what he is referring to.  It is true that Q sceptics will often have contexts in which noting Q's hypothetical nature will be relevant.  I have, for example, often noted the flexibility that its hypothetical nature allows for the redaction critic.  Similarly, I have drawn attention to problem of scholarly works that fail to mention its hypothetical nature, and so on.

That Q is hypothetical is a fact.  It is not an "argument" or a "position".  The question is whether positing a hypothetical text is the best way of explaining the double tradition in Matthew and Luke and the best way of establishing this is to look carefully at the evidence.


Brett Provance said...

Q is hypothetical; so is Proto-Indo-European. PIE is a reverse-engineered hypothetical language that often is substantiated (and modified) by later discoveries. To some eyes, presuming and reconstructing a hypothetical common source is not merely an option, but is necessary (homology). Of course, homology questions whether the hypothetical source is immediately prior to known variations/developments.

Brice Jones said...

Thanks for the review, Mark. I think the only thing I would say in response is that, while I could have said much more about the Synoptic Problem, I really did not want that to be the point of the introductory essay. As I mention in the second footnote of that essay, only a brief introduction would be given, and I direct the readers' attention to fuller treatments. More or less, I think the introduction reflects the general consensus within scholarship (i.e., the 2ST) and that is really what I wanted to do here. I think the strength of the introductory essay are the sections on M and L, pages 8-17. I really would like to have seen you interact with these pages at least some (especially the status quaestionis and the reviews of Brooks and Paffenroth), since it is really the main point of the introduction. As for why I did not include a textual apparatus, commentary, biblical references, etc. in the printed sections of Matthew and Luke, I really did not want this to be a commentary. And the critical apparatus would have taken a very long time to reproduce. The apparatus could be consulted of course very easily as long as one reads the book in consultation with the NA27/UBS4. Really, the book is meant to be a "starting point" (p. 17), and as such I left out additional details such as commentary, biblical references, etc. Some of the special material passages were left out of the list, but these will be added in a forthcoming revised edition, for which your comments will surely be helpful.

Thanks again, Mark.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for your comments, Brice. That's a good point about the sections on M and L in the intro. I covered 13-17 in my part one, but you are right that I have not commented on Brooks and Paffenroth, etc. Perhaps I should do a part 3!

If anything, I think you are more sanguine than I about the consensus view on M and L. I think that the introductions and commentaries these days are fairly content to be vague about them, i.e. to accept that Matthew and Luke are here drawing from a range of sources, oral traditions, redactional embellishments of Mark, etc.

What I think may have been useful, something that would be good at an introductory level, is a discussion of how special Matthew and special Luke are constituted under other hypotheses. This would encourage students to think about the Synoptic Problem rather than just take the four-source approach as a given. For adherents of the Farrer theory, for example, M and L are constituted slightly differently. As I and others have argued, the Q material is constituted by the Luke-pleasing pieces of the non-Marcan material in Matthew. Similarly, it's interesting to ask the question about the similarity between imagery and vocabulary in the M material and the Q material. In other words, as an exercise in investigating the Synoptic Problem, there is interesting work to be done here.

I wrote a review of Paffenroth in JBL 1998 ( Broadly, he is much too optimistic, I think, about the reconstruction of an L source.

On the issue of apparatus, etc., I was thinking about your pressing the usefulness of the book as a tool for scholars and grad. students. To be frank, I think the usefulness is limited with only the bare essentials, as it were.

Mark Goodacre said...

PS: A couple of typos: "Pharisees and the Publican" (p. 9) and "ibid" for "idem" p. 12, n. 25.