Saturday, January 17, 2004

Carlson's Review of Foster, Part 3

Stephen Carlson's excellent review of Paul Foster, "Is it Possible to Dispense with Q?", NovT 45 (2003): 313-337 continues on Hypotyposeis, now in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. I have commented on Parts 1 and 2. I'd now like to comment on Part 3. Carlson comments on Foster's attempt to bring Luke's Prologue into play against the Farrer Theory, and specifically Luke's mention of the πολλοί (many) predecessors. As Carlson points out, the Two-Source Theory is no better off than Farrer here (Mark and Q rather than Mark and Matthew) and he makes the useful point that the wording "a narrative (or account, διήγησιν) of the events that were fulfilled among us" could tell in Matthew's favour since that sounds more like a description of Matthew than of Q.

I would add that Foster is walking a difficult line here. On the one hand, in the context being discussed above, he is keen to criticise Farrer and Goulder for their minimal sources position, no Q, no M, no L, and to make this criticism in the light of Luke's Preface. On the other hand, later in the article, he wishes to criticise me for not adhering to a minimal sources position, arguing that my acceptance of the role of oral traditions places me in a "thin end of the wedge" situation, that if I accept the role of oral tradition, I may as well accept Q. There is one minor problem and one major problem here. The minor problem is that Foster is misrepresenting Austin Farrer's views. As Carlson points out here, and as I pointed out to Foster before the publication of the article, Farrer accepted the role of oral tradition alongside Matthew's use of Mark and Luke's use of both (particularly "Dispensing": 85). The major problem is that the acceptance of the role played by oral tradition in the development of the Gospels is, I think, a real strength and it cannot realistically be used against me. Two-Source theorists do not see the acceptance of the role of oral tradition as compromising their theory and nor should Farrer theorists either. The only reason that we have got into the kind of situation where people think it is a weakness is because of the way that Michael Goulder has attempted to set up the terms of the debate. He set up a kind of hard-line version of the Farrer theory in which there are only literary sources with no oral tradition. He has been rightly criticised for this by E. P. Sanders and M. Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels, Eric Franklin, Luke: Critic of Matthew, Interpreter of Paul and most extensively by me in Goulder and the Gospels, Part 2 and Case Against Q: 64-66 (etc.). All in all I think Foster needs to decide whether it is a weakness for the Farrer theory to embrace a role for oral tradition (Farrer, Sanders and Davies, Franklin, me), in which case it is necessary to explain why this is not a weakness for the Two-Source Theory, or whether it is a weakness to deny a role for oral tradition (Goulder), in which case there can be no objection to my endorsement of it. Otherwise we simply have a "heads I win, tails you lose" scenario.

On a related note, Farrer was ahead of his time in dispensing with M and L as Streeterian written sources that could be dated and located. I've read very little in recent times that endorses M and L as literary entities, one of the few being Kim Paffenroth's The Story of Jesus According to L (JSNTSup, 147; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), cf. my review.

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