Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Kirk on the Goulder volume

One of the new RBL reviews (see below) is Alan Kirk's of The Gospels According to Michael Goulder. He comments at the end of his review:
The essays in this volume mark significant points of advance in contemporary debates. Taken in aggregate they are weighted against Goulder's various positions, and for the sake of critical balance one could have wished for a contribution by a scholar or two more sympathetic to aspects of Goulder's work.
Agreed; the volume could do with a little more balance. I think my invitation must have been lost in the post! Kirk makes some good points throughout in the review. Goulder is not at his strongest on the lectionary theory, though I argued in Goulder and the Gospels that it deserves a more sympathetic hearing than it usually receives. For example, it is not simply about the existence of correspondences but about where they occur. Kirk draws attention to Matt. 9.1-17 falling on 9th Ab in Goulder's scheme and finds the connection "tenuous". But how many references to fasting are there in Matthew? I can think of only one other, in Matthew 6, and Goulder's point would be that it is striking that one of the only two references occurs here. Kirk also comments that the point of a lectionary is for "commemoration" and suggests that Goulder is deficient here; perhaps so, but I think Goulder is thinking more broadly in terms of "fulfilment", rather like modern day lectionaries.

Kirk summarises Kloppenborg's sophisticated critique of Goulder effectively. I wonder whether either Kirk or Kloppenborg quite deal with the force of Goulder's point about Occam's Razor; the point for Goulder is dispensing with an hypothetical document, i.e. being able to explain the data plausibly without invoking an additional hypothetical document. If I've read Goulder right, it's not simply about auxiliary hypotheses.

Kirk also summarises Derrenbacker's critique of Goulder effectively; as I've said before, I find Goulder's Luke's scrolling backwards through Matthew one of the most implausible elements in his Luke.

I would add that one of the disappointing things about the volume overall is that it gives critics of Goulder a bit too easy a ride -- one might easily get the impression that Goulder's work on the Gospels is all pretty implausible if two of the pieces specially highlighted are the lectionary theory and the backwards-scrolling. This relates to another of my often-expressed concerns. I have objected to the use of the term "Farrer-Goulder Hypothesis" (e.g. in Case Against Q, Chapter 1) because it too easily ties Q scepticism to Goulder's particular take on it, thereby making it much easier for critics to reject opposition to Q. Kirk, for example, says "John Kloppenborg's essay probes for weak points in the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis (FGH)", but I don't think it does. It probes for weak points in Goulder's particular thesis, or Goulder's particular take on the Farrer Theory, Goulder's dismissal of the value of the Gospel of Thomas providing a good example. Overall one of my problems with the Kloppenborg essay discussed here by Kirk is that it does not distinguish clearly enough between the eight or so points that make up Goulder's "new paradigm" generally and the Farrer Theory specifically. The fact that some hold to the latter without by any means endorsing all the points that make up Goulder's "new paradigm" should give one pause.

1 comment:

Neil said...

Has Poirier's article http://jnt.sagepub.com.ezproxy.cdu.edu.au/content/35/1/3 had any impact on scholars' views of the plausibility or otherwise of Luke working backwards through Matthew?