Thursday, July 06, 2006

E. W. Lummis, A Case Against "Q"

Some recent discussion on Synoptic-L led me to nibble around in some earlier twentieth century British Synoptic scholarship. The specific thing we were discussing was the reception of the Q scepticism of E. W. Lummis, whose How Luke was Written (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915) anticipated Austin Farrer's On Dispensing with Q by some forty years. B. H. Streeter does not mention Lummis in The Four Gospels, in spite of the fact that he had earlier reviewed the book for the Journal of Theological Studies 17 (1915–1916): 125. Vincent Taylor does mention Lummis on several occasions, but he groups him together with Matthean priorist H. G. Jameson, The Origin of the Synoptic Gospels (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1922), and one is easily thrown off the scent, as I once was. See, for example, Vincent Taylor, The Synoptic Gospels, and Some Recent British Criticism, The Journal of Religion, Vol. 8, No. 2. (Apr., 1928): 225-246 (228). Others make the same mistake, e.g. Peter Head, Christology and the Synoptic Problem: An Argument for Markan Priority (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 17 and Edward C. Hobbs, A Quarter-Century Without "Q", 11 n. 4.

Now what was new to me was a reference in the above mentioned Vincent Taylor article to the effect that "Mr Lummis has recently defended his theory in the Hibbert Journal (July, 1925)" (228, n. 12). My good friend and fellow Q sceptic Jeff Peterson has kindly supplied me with a copy of the hitherto unknown (to us) article from the Hibbert Journal and it turns out that it has a great title and some very interesting content. Bibliographical details are:

The Rev. E. W. Lummis, D.D., "The Case Against 'Q'", Hibbert Journal 24 (1925-6): 755-65

It is my intention to make the article available on-line, on the assumption that it is now out of copyright (though I'll check), as I earlier made Farrer's and other Q sceptics' articles available on-line on my Case Against Q website. In the mean time, here are some choice quotations, with thanks to Jeff Peterson for transcribing:
"Many (if not most) theologians are unable to appreciate the law of probability. They are often, in fact, indignant at the introduction of such a peremptory thing as a mathematical argument into their guessing-game. A rigid measure ought not, they maintain, to be applied to an elastic material. But the value of the mathematical check is that it defines the degree of elasticity in the material. It disposes of the contention 'Since this material is elastic, we may stretch it as far as we please.'" (759)

"This imaginary document [Q] will not do the work for which it was invented unless it accounts for the non-Marcan community of Luke and Matthew in the Baptism, the Temptation, and certain other passages to which Mark presents a parallel. But when the common non-Marcan passages are detached it as at once to be seen that they cannot have stood in any document without connecting links, and the links which are logically required are precisely those which appear in due place in Matthew and Luke. These links, however, appear also in Mark. Hence it is held that Mark was acquainted with 'Q,' and that in these places his work represents a 'mutilation' or abridgement of 'Q.' . . . Now it can also be shown beyond reasonable doubt that the passage which occurs in Matthew iv.23–25 was made use of by Luke in his paraphrase of certain Marcan notices; and also that this passage is, in Matthew, a summary of those same Marcan notices. If 'Q' is to work, this passage, since it was known both to Matthew and to Luke, and is non-Marcan, must have appeared in 'Q.' That is to say, 'Q' must have contained a synopsis of certain consecutive passages in Mark. We obtain the curious result that Mark was familiar with 'Q,' and 'Q' was skillfuly avoided in Mark's supplementary work; but this supplementary work of Mark was at the same time a basis for a passage in 'Q.' One is reminded of Baron Munchausen sitting on his horse whle he lifts it by its ears out of the bog. The 'Q' hypothesis lands in an absurdity." (761)

"My grudge against 'Q' is this, that it inaugurated a vicious fashion in New Testament scholarship. Instead of obeying the tenor of facts that lay before them, scholars have taken to calling up imaginary documents out of the unknown. There is not the slightest scrap of evidence for 'Q,' or for 'Corrected Mark,' or for Dr Stanton's 'other documents' which served as sources both for Matthew and for Luke, or for such special selective assimilation sa he posits in the ancestral manuscripts of the New Testament. Such facile fabrications, invented to evade the clear suggestion of the actual texts as we have them, are a sin against learning. Nor can I understand the grounds of the obstinate refusal of divines to admit—in face of overwhelming evidence—that Luke was acquainted with Matthew." (761-2)

8 comments:

Sean du Toit said...

Thanks for this Mark, and I look forward to reading the essay. I was wondering: How do those who reject Q explain the Jesus tradition in James? Do you know of any material that specifically deals with this? Is it just oral tradition? Or could there be a literary relationship? I'm currently reading on James and would appreciate any thoughts or comments.

Thanks, sean D.

Christopher Shell said...

Lummis's whole approach is spot-on: he seems to me ahead of 90% of writers on the SP in this regard. Why? Because he starts with a blank slate, and is unaffected by the history of scholarship (whcih is so often, unaccountably and fatally, used as a 'medium' or 'lens'). Rather, he proceeds from first logical principles and sees where they take him. I have never carried out the identical project fully, but supposing one did, I don't honestly know whether Q would be mentioned from beginning to end. One might find that some basic logical principle more or less ruled it out fairly early on.
The important lesson to learn from him is this methodology.

Peter M. Head said...

Oh dear! A mistake. It is possible, I seem to recall making one before. So I shall have to have another look at the book. I admit, the subtitle makes it sound plausible that he affirms the priority of Mark, but do you have a reference to this being discussed in the book?

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Peter. I think I may have made a couple of mistakes before too. I don't have Lummis's book to hand, but I do have some copies of pertinent pages at work so I'll check. As I recall, it is assumed but he does not bang on about it at any length. For me it was important to do that in The Case Against Q because there were so many on the contemporary scene (not you!) who didn't know the difference between Farrer and Griesbach or Augustine. But Marcan Priority is clear in Lummis's "A Case Against 'Q'"; I'll dig out a couple of quotations later.

Mark Goodacre said...

Sean: thanks for the interesting question. I don't know of anyone who deals with it from the Farrer Theory perspective, though I touch on the issue in the epilogue of The Case Against Q. I am interested by the fact that James, like Thomas and the Didache, does not appear to differentiate between M and Q material, i.e. it may be witnessing to the existence of some of the same non-Marcan oral tradition to which Matthew had access. But it will take me a while to tease this out in detail. Michael Goulder thinks that James just used Matthew.

Mark Goodacre said...

Chris: I know what you mean, and I wonder whether it's one of the reasons that undergraduate students find the Farrer Theory so straightforward when it is introduced to them. They can see that the data are explained satisfactorily on it and so cannot get their heads around the needs for adding an hypothetical document.

Whit said...

Mark said, "They can see that the data are explained satisfactorily on it and so cannot get their heads around the needs for adding an hypothetical document."

The simplist theory should be given priority. Per Occam's razor, "when multiple competing theories have equal predictive powers, the principle recommends selecting those that introduce the fewest assumptions and postulate the fewest hypothetical entities." (from Wikipedia)

But, you can buy a copy of "Q" at Amazon ;-)

Rick Sumner said...

Mark: I am interested by the fact that James, like Thomas and the Didache, does not appear to differentiate between M and Q material, i.e. it may be witnessing to the existence of some of the same non-Marcan oral tradition to which Matthew had access. But it will take me a while to tease this out in detail. Michael Goulder thinks that James just used Matthew.

Rick: Doesn't the same application of Occam's Razor against Q likewise apply here to demand that either Goulder is right, or the converse is--that Matthew knew James?

I suppose the flipside of that is that the "Q" material in James is both memorable and easily remembered--it's the type of stuff we could reasonably expect an oral tradition to account for.