Saturday, November 03, 2007

Mark Q Overlaps I: Terminology

At this year's SBL Annual Meeting I am speaking in the Q Section. The topic of the session in question is the Mark Q Overlaps, and there is a special focus on Matthew 3.7-12 // Mark 1.7-8 // Luke 3.7-9, 15-17. It's an honour to be invited to speak in the section, and I would like to blog some thoughts about my paper over the next two weeks before the conference begins.

1. Taking our Leave of Mark-Q Overlaps

The title of my paper is "Taking our Leave of Mark-Q Overlaps: Major Agreements in Matthew 3.7-12 // Mark 1.7-8 // Luke 3.7-9, 15-17". I would like to begin my thoughts here by explaining my concerns about the terminology of "Mark-Q Overlaps". I would like to propose "mandatory retirement" for this term, to use the term Paula Fredriksen has applied to other ideas recently. The problem with the term is that it describes the phenomenon of major agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark using terminology of the Two-Source Theory. It labels the group of data with one potential solution to this group of data. I do not think that this is acceptable if we are to have a level playing field for studying the phenomenon. Imagine if I were to call the Minor Agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark something along the lines of "Luke's minor borrowing from Matthew in triple tradition". People would rightly point out that my description of the set of data was influenced by my explanation of the data. In order to encourage an open and reasonable discussion, therefore, I think we should take our leave of the terminology of Mark-Q overlaps and instead describe the phenomenon neutrally as "Major agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark", or, if one prefers, "triple tradition pericopae where Mark is not the middle term".

Update (16.19): In comments, Rick Sumner points to the problem of succinctness. "Mark-Q overlaps" is succinct and memorable. I agree. Perhaps "Major agreements" as a shorthand will prove helpful, on the analogy of "Minor Agreements". After all, "minor agreements" is a shorthand for a specific group of minor agreements, viz. those between Matthew and Luke against Mark.


Rick Sumner said...

For what my two cents is worth, you're going to have a hard time selling "triple tradition pericopae where Mark is not the middle term," over "Mark-Q overlaps." I'd agree with your general sentiment, insofar as our wording often reflects our own biases (is anything truly free from rhetorical ploys though, intentional or otherwise?). It's just that, IMO, such a verbose terminology is unlikely to win the day.

Unfortunately, I can't think of anything more succinct.

Frank McCoy said...

I don't see anything wrong with using the phrase, "Mark Q Overlaps" as long as one believes in Q. Perhaps one who does not believe in Q should respond by qualifying the phrase, e.g., perhaps exapanding it to, "theorized Mark Q Overlaps"?

I am more bothered by the phrase, "the Synoptic Problem". I think the usage of this phrase marginalizes John and Thomas and, thereby, fosters an atmosphere in which each is held to either be independent of the Synoptics or else later than them and dependent upon one or more of them. The result: Neither John nor Thomas tends to be seriously treated as a possible source utilized by Matthew and/or Luke, even when there is a clear Johannine and/or Thomasine parallel to the Synoptic material.

For example, your paper regards Matthew 3:7-12 // Mark 1:7-8 // Luke 3:7-9, 15-17. Conspicuous by its absence is John 1:26-27, 33.

This is no small matter, e.g., Mt 3:11/Lk 3:16 agree with John 1:26-27 against Mk 1:7-8a that John spoke of baptizing with water before speaking about a coming one mightier than he. This suggests that Matthew modified the order in Mk 1:7-8a in light of the order in John 1:26-27 and that Luke then used Mt 3:11 as his source for Lk 3:16.

Again, in Mt 3:11, John is addressing Jewish religious authorities. However, in Mark 1:7-8a he apparently is addressing all the people who went out to see him and the same is the case in Luke 3:16. Even the IQP version of Q has John addressing crowds coming to be baptized. It is only John 1:26-27 that also has John addressing Jewish religious authorities. This suggests that, in this respect, Matthew is following John.

I'm not sold on the idea that Matthew utilized John as one of his sources when writing 3:11, but I do think that this idea should be seriously discussed. However, due to the fixation on "the Synoptic Problem", discussion seems to be pretty well limited to the two options of either Mt 3:11 and Lk 3:16 follow the order in Q 3:16 or else Matthew reversed the order in Mk 1:7-8a on his own and Luke followed him in this.

Indeed, due to this fixation on "the Synoptic Problem", while the phrase, "Mark Q Overlaps", gets bantered around with regularity regarding Matthew 3:7-12 // Mark 1:7-8 // Luke 3:7-9, 15-17, the phrase, "Mark John Overlaps", apparently isn't heard at all or, at best, only on rare occasions. Isn't this odd?

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for your comments, Frank. You write, "I don't see anything wrong with using the phrase, "Mark Q Overlaps" as long as one believes in Q." But I don't believe in Q, and perhaps there lies the problem. I think the difficulty, more broadly, relates to labelling a data set with one proposed solution to the problem posed by that data set.

Your points about the importance of looking at John (and Thomas) too are well taken.

Doug Chaplin said...

Rather whimsically I agree with the methodological point.