Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Farrer fails to get a look in

Today's post on Jesus Creed, Knowing the Currents 2 was one of those useful reality checks for Q sceptics like me. In summarising the "basic streams that flowed into this current", i.e. "Gospel Criticism", Scot McKnight summarizes source criticism and writes that "The basic theories are what I call the Oxford hypothesis [= the Two-Source Theory] and then also the Griesbach hypothesis." So the Farrer Theory fails to get a look in. Perhaps Scot is right that the Two-Source Theory and Griesbach deserve to be listed side by side as the basics, but I would want to add several brief comments: (1) Griesbach has had no real currency in the UK since Farmer revived it in the US; (2) An adherent of the Griesbach theory recently told me that he thought Farrer had now edged ahead of Griesbach in the US, and it clearly gave him no pleasure to say this; (3) Curiously, the Farrer Theory is itself an "Oxford hypothesis" since it originated there and was dominant for a long time (though not since Christopher Tuckett arrived in Oxford in the 90s); (4) One of the three books Scot recommends for exploring the currents, Sanders and Davies's Studying the Synoptic Gospels, in fact advocates the Farrer Theory.


Stephen C. Carlson said...

Scot's comments may have been accurate when he was in grad school, but times do change.

Christopher Shell said...

In my thesis viva Prof Dunn pointed out the difficulty of calling FGH the 'Oxford hypothesis' given the work of Sanday and Streeter. Conclusion: since two main theories merit the title, it is best not to speak of an 'Oxford hypothesis' at all.

Mark Goodacre said...

Stephen: I think that may be right. I wonder too whether the Griesbach / 2ST approach provides us with a helpful narrative for introducting the Synoptic Problem to students. One can introduce Griesbach as the originator of interest in the issue, introduce his theory, speak about its revival in the twentieth century, and then dispense with it in favour of the Two Source Theory as the theory of choice, allowing one to focus specially on the issue of Marcan Priority and the independence of Matthew and Luke, both of which contradict Griesbach. This has a certain attractive narrative that makes teaching the topic straightforward; introducing Farrer here spoils things.

Christopher: I agree.