Saturday, November 12, 2005

Q sceptical Brits?

Over on one of my favourite blogs, The Busybody, Loren Rosson has an interesting post based on Akenson's Saint Saul:

Q: Sceptical Brits, Credulous Americans

Among other things, Loren asks:
Akenson's book was published only months before Mark Goodacre's Case Against Q -- the book which, on second reading, finally persuaded me to give up my belief in Q. I wonder what Mark thinks of Akenson's contrast between the continents, especially now that he's been transplanted to U.S. soil. Do the Brits have an edge on us here? Is it a coincidence that the three most formidable challenges to Q have come out of the U.K.? Do Americans, on the whole, need more skepticism and less credulity?
Thanks for reading my book, Loren. On this question, what I think is that all such broad-sweep characterizations are pretty useless. At best, the exceptions are so great that they render the generalizations invalid. Take the International Q Project, for example. Its strength is that it is just that -- international. Of course it is dominated by North America, but then so is everything else -- it's just that there are more American scholars out there. Or take the fact that Michael Goulder's Q scepticism has, on the whole, persuaded only a handful of Brits. Look at his peers, the great senior British NT scholars like Morna Hooker, Jimmy Dunn, Graham Stanton, Christopher Tuckett, David Catchpole, Howard Marshall, John Riches. Which of these has been persuaded by Goulder? Sadly, not a single one.

I don't think it's anything to do with great credulity or anything like that. If being on US soil has persuaded me of any generalization, it is that you can't generalize. Many of my own preconceptions about America and Americans, good and bad, have been overturned in the last two months. In any case, bear in mind that America too has produced Q sceptics, James Hardy Ropes, Morton Scott Enslin, Edward Hobbs, E. P. Sanders. I suppose that the interesting question for me is: why have these been just as unsuccessful in persuading people as the Brits mentioned? The answer is complex, and to some extent it is a thing I try to answer in the first chapter of The Case Against Q. Essentially, I think it comes down to strategy, palatability and plausibility. Farrer was no tactician (he did not think about strategy); Goulder has problems with palatability (the perceived unattractiveness of the associated claims); yet both had an essentially plausible thesis, which is why the seeds that they have sown are bearing fruit, perhaps not yet one hundredfold, but bearing fruit nonetheless.

Update (Sunday, 22.58): AKMA comments
Wasn’t it you, Mark, who proposed the Q skepticism in the U.S. tended toward the neo-Griesbach School (Farmer, Dungan, Longstaff, Peabody) whereas in the U.K. Q skepticism tended toward the Farrer-Goulder approach?

Certainly Q skepticism has a long, persistent tradition on these shores; it’s a little odd to hear that the Atlantic Isles might have an edge on us. . . .
Yes, I have certainly spent some time outlining the extent to which the dominant alternative to the Two-Source Theory in North America has been Griesbach (e.g. Case Against Q, Chapter 1). I suppose that I am being a little possessive about the term "Q scepticism" since I see Ropes, Farrer, Goulder, Franklin, Green, Drury et al as true "Q sceptics" in that they are strong Marcan Priorists, whereas the neo-Griesbach theory is sceptical not only about the existence of Q but also about Marcan Priority. I tend to think of the Griesbach theory as pivoting around their rejection of Marcan Priority rather than around their rejection of Q. The latter is something of a by-product, no? In the end, I don't suppose that that matters very much, but I hope that it goes some way to elucidating the language in my comments above.

3 comments:

Loren Rosson III said...

Thanks Mark; these are good points. I'll put in an update link.

AKMA said...

Wasn’t it you, Mark, who proposed the Q skepticism in the U.S. tended toward the neo-Griesbach School (Farmer, Dungan, Longstaff, Peabody) whereas in the U.K. Q skepticism tended toward the Farrer-Goulder approach?

Certainly Q skepticism has a long, persistent tradition on these shores; it’s a little odd to hear that the Atlantic Isles might have an edge on us. . . .

John C. Poirier said...

I have to agree with Loren's comments: I find that American academia is much more trendy than European academia. I find many more American scholars who simply take over the latest trend without looking closely at the arguments supporting it. In terms of credulity, that translates into always believing in the latest thing hatched. Of course, Q isn't the latest thing hatched--and to that extent the difference between here and over there might be mitigated to some degree--but I do think that the same blind trust in the fruits of scholarship is at work.