Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Burnett Hillman Streeter by John Court

The latest Expository Times (Volume 118, no. 1, October 2006) is announced today and it includes a most enjoyable piece on the life of B. H. Streeter:

Burnett Hillman Streeter (17th November 1874–10th September 1937)
Abstract: B. H. Streeter was one of the most distinguished of his generation of English New Testament scholars who wrote the standard work on the sources of the four Gospels, in which he drew heavily on German scholarship but also introduced ideas of his own. He was an academic and a churchman, a canon of Hereford Cathedral who was also attracted to Moral Rearmament.
I'm afraid that access is only to subscribers and subscribing institutions, but if you get a chance, do give it a read. It prevents a vivid, rounded picture of the man and his achievements and has several nice little anecdotes in there too, for example:
A personal impression of Streeter, on a visit to Cambridge, is contained in this anecdote by Christopher Evans. He describes how in 1931 he was
reading an essay to Hoskyns at a supervision on a Saturday morning when there was a knock on the door and Hoskyns said ‘Just a minute, Evans. You are about to see the largest pair of feet in the Church of England. Come in Streeter.’ He had come to preach on the Sunday, a terrible sermon because he said ‘Er’ every other word. I counted fifty and then gave up.
I was also amused by the following:
In support of his interests he travelled widely, with extensive tours of China and Japan, as well as visits to India and the USA. He never went to Jerusalem; he commented: ‘I don’t think my faith’s robust enough to go there. It was hopeless in the time of Christ and it has degenerated ever since!’
The only thing that slightly spoilt my enjoyment of the article was the following comment, which I thought unnecessary:
On the internet it is this work [on the Synoptic Problem] which still receives prominent documentation, as on the Stephen C. Carlson web pages dedicated to the Synoptic Problem:
The magnus (sic.) opus of B. H. Streeter, this book is responsible for firmly establishing the 2 Source Hypothesis in the English speaking world. A must-read for its influence and rhetoric, even if its main arguments have been shown to be fallacious.
Such a sweeping and somewhat illiterate judgment would have offended Streeter greatly; a more balanced assessment of his Synoptic work can be seen below.
Stephen Carlson's comment (which is not referenced) is of course "sweeping" in that it is a sentence in part of an Annotated Bibliography, which is necessarily succinct. The notion that it is "illiterate" will strike anyone who knows Carlson's work as particularly unfair. If that characterization is to do with the "magnus" typo, then I think it is an odd overstatement, especially as the typo is not present where Streeter's magnum opus is discussed in context (Two-Source Hypothesis).

But with that odd sentence aside, it's a super article and I am most grateful to John Court for a fine appreciation of the great man.


crystal said...

An off-the-subject question - Mark, doesn't theologian David Bently Hart teach at Duke? What do you think of him?

Mark Goodacre said...

I don't know, Crystal. I've not met him yet. All best, Mark

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Thanks for pointing out the typo. It is now fixed.

As far as Streeter's being "offended" at my characterization of main arguments as fallacious, that would be shooting the messenger, because the problems with Streeter's abstract arguments have been admitted by friend and foe alike.

For example, C. M. Tuckett in his ABD article on the Synoptic Problem, concedes the problems in Streeter's argumentation before fixing them with his own, better grounded arguments. On Streeter's first argument, for instance, Tuckett argues: "On its own this argument can carry no weight at all. ... However, when one ceases to argue abstractly and considers the actual contents of the gospels themselves, then the case for Markan priority can be strengthed." (6:242)

Mark Goodacre said...

Precisely. Thanks for that. And of course the great thing about [sic]ing a website is that it can then be corrected quickly, unlike something in print, which is why I regret John Court's remarks there.