Thursday, September 20, 2007

Kloppenborg on Variation in the Reproduction of the Double Tradition

Over on Hypotyposeis, Kloppenborg Nixes an Oral Q, Stephen Carlson draws attention to a new article: John S. Kloppenborg, “Variation in the Reproduction of the Double Tradition and an Oral Q?”, ETL 83 (2007): 53-80. As it happens, I have just read the same article myself and I was mighty impressed with it. Kloppenborg's primary targets are James D. G. Dunn and Terence Mournet, though there is surprisingly no reference to Jimmy Dunn's huge Jesus Remembered. What particularly impressed me about the article was its focus on a feature that is not often remarked upon in Synoptic studies, viz. the remarkable degree of verbatim agreement in some double tradition passages, drawing attention to the relative paucity of parallels to this high proportion of agreement among similar kinds of documents. Because of our familiarity with the Synoptics, we often assume that this kind of agreement among dependent texts is the norm, and not unusual.

Perhaps given Kloppenborg's own extensive work on the Synoptic Problem, and given the article's focus specifically on Q, it is churlish of me to make the following remark, but I will make it all the same. A lot of the data gathered here is of interest and relevance more broadly in studies of the Synoptic Problem, and I find it a bit disappointing that the double tradition material is discussed solely in relation to the Q hypothesis, without any mention of competing theories. The issue is particularly focused in relation to verbatim agreement in the double tradition, where one is looking at the coincidence of independent close copying of a hypothetical document by both Matthew and Luke. In other words, it is even more remarkable that Matthew and Luke agree so closely in this double tradition material if they are both doing this independently of one another in relation to another entity (unseen by us). Kloppenborg is right to problematize the high proportion of verbatim agreement in double tradition material with respect to theories about an oral Q; I would like to take it a stage further and problematize the high proportion of verbatim agreement in double tradition material with respect to a written Q.

Those comments, though, require some further teasing out, and I hope to publish on the issue in due course. (I discussed this a bit in my paper in Baltimore in March, and I'll be touching on it in my paper at the SBL Annual Meeting Q Section (abstract here, see number 1). In this blog post, I just wanted to register my opinion on what a fine and valuable article this is, compulsory reading for those researching the Synoptic Gospels.

9 comments:

Greg DeLassus said...

This is an excellent point.

Jim Deardorff said...

One may look at this problem statistically, by analyzing the rate at which the number of consecutive identical words (in Greek) between the parallel passages of two texts, like Matthew and Luke, falls off with increasing length of the word string. Typically this rate follows the geometic distribution, which is the same as an exponential fall-off.

Upon comparing Luke and Mark in this manner, and also Mark and Matthew, the geometric distribution is seen to occur, allowing for sampling error due to the finite lengths of the texts involved. But when comparing Matthew and Luke (Q verses) in this manner one finds a pronounced 2nd hump to the distribution for the longer word strings. It not only indicates that one copied from the other, but that it was done purposely and selectively for the longer word strings. This is shown here. A motivation for this strange editorial behavior is suggested.

Jack Poirier said...

As you know, I have an interest in this. Tell me: Does Kloppenborg deal with statistics or in how one should measure verbal agreement (i.e., raw verbal agreement counts versus length of phrasal agreements)?

JD said...

Actually Mark, I was kinda disappointed that Dunn's book didn't engage some of your work on Q. Do you have thoughts on that?

Jim Deardorff said...

A correction is needed in my comment above. It is not only the Luke-Matthew consecutive-identical-word frequency distribution that has an anomalous tail, but also the Mark-Matthew one. So Matthew is the common term, which, according to a modified Augustinian hypothesis, I attribute to the translator of Hebraic Matthew.

Terence C. Mournet, Ph.D. said...

Mark, et al.- just for clarity...nowhere in any of my work do I suggest that Q is 'oral'. As I make clear at various points throughout my book, there is clearly literary redaction occurring throughout the DT (most clearly in pericopes displaying high levels of verbatim agreement). At the core of my work is the suggestion is that, given the extent to which oral communication dominated ancient discourse, we must be open to the possibility that oral tradition, at times, influenced the final form of the various syn gos parallel pericopes...

However, I do write this brief response not yet having had the opportunity to read Kloppenborg's article.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I didn't understand this post at all. Could you clarify for non-specialists?

Anonymous said...

An example of what I'm talking about: "Kloppenborg is right to problematize the high proportion of verbatim agreement in double tradition material with respect to theories about an oral Q; I would like to take it a stage further and problematize the high proportion of verbatim agreement in double tradition material with respect to a written Q."

Is problematize a word? Even if it is, there is no excuse to use it, especially in such a lengthy sentence with so many competing ideas.

Also, you don't say why Kloppenberg is right or why verbatim agreement etc. would be a problem with respect to theories about Q. Unless somebody knows your views intimately, they will be completely at a loss here as to what is meant.

Look, I understand you are a scholar and not a writer, and this blog is intended for other scholars. So I could be out of school here for reading something not intended for my eyes, and if so, I apologize. But I think everyone is better off, the author included, when writing is more precise.

Nick Kiger said...

To what extent do we try to put everything that seems to be an oral source into the category of Q? Does oral Q simply become terminology for the seemingly vast amount of oral sources the Synoptics may have had? Do we group Greco-Roman sources under the idea of oral Q? Something tells me the notion of Q is just not enough. It seems very limiting in fact.