Saturday, March 29, 2008

Farrer on the Matthean context of double tradition

The story of the Centurion is commonly supposed to have been derived by St Matthew from Q. But surely the moral to be drawn from the extraordinary neatness with which the story nestles into its Matthaean context is that it was cast into written form for the first time by the man who placed it in that context, that is, by St Matthew himself. St Luke re-shapes the story somewhat, but even so it has no such vital or manifold connexions with the context in which he places it. The same is true of several other pieces of the so-called Q tradition: they appear to be made for their Matthaean place, and adjusted to their Lucan place. The fact is admitted by the friends of the Q hypothesis and actually twisted into an argument in support of it. St Luke, they say, could never have found his material in St Matthew, or he would not have dreamt tearing it from the perfect setting it there has, to place it less happily in his own Gospel. It is wiser to say: St Luke, wishing to write his own book in his own way, re-arranged his material he found in his authors. He did it skilfully, but no amount of skill could make an adapted context fit as tight as the context for which the material was composed.
Austin Farrer, St Matthew and St Mark (The Edward Cadbury Lectures, 1953-4; Westminster: Dacre Press, 1954), 46-7, n.2


Michael Barber said...

Hmmm...almost worthy of being cited on the "Key Quotations" page!

Which, since I'm mentioning it, has only one flaw. You left out a quote I think many would be suprised to find in the book by Sanders and Davies. After discussing the two-source hypothesis, they conclude: “Of all the solutions [to the Synoptic Problem], this one, which remains the dominant hypothesis, is least satisfactory” (p. 117).

T LEWIS said...

This seems an important quote, Mark, and not discussed enough. I wonder how influential is this notion in the thinking of Farrer theorists? Though I'm not a Farrer theorist I do tend to agree that examples like this seem to have been "cast into written form for the first time" in Matthew.

steph said...

I disagree with Farrer. He makes value judgements just like the Qbies. And also like them, he makes broad brush stroke assertions: if something suggests Luke could have used Matthew, when something else doesn't look so convincing, force it to conform to the Luke used Matthew for the sake of simplicity. The Qbies operate on the same principle. Force it into the single written Greek document.

I don't think the Centurion's Servant works so well for Farrer. It's completely out of Matthew's order in Luke and the verbal similarity is not very encouraging either. Luke's version has more characteristic of Luke than Matt has characteristic of him (footnote to you).

It doesn't work well for Farrer and it doesn't work well for "Q" for other reasons. In this case I wonder about an oral source or something. Parsimony doesn't reflect historical reality (Kloppenborg(!)).

BTW your paper isn't uploaded yet?

Geoff Hudson said...

So was the editor of Matthew improving on the obvious mistakes that the editor of Luke had made? One obvious error in Luke is the awareness of the Centurion of the imminent arrival of Jesus. The editor of Matthew overcomes this problem by having the Centurion go to Jesus in person. So the story in Matthew is a more polished version of that in Luke. Luke was thus more original but full of holes.

In both instances the later editorial reference to a Centurion's servant was to provide a link between Jesus and the Gentile mission.

The original story used by the editor of Luke was entirely in a Jewish context. Thus in the original, the prophet did enter the house where the sick servant was. In fact the original story seems to be about an important servant who had servants under him.

Jim Deardorff said...

Here’s what one can find by using a modified Augustinian solution. The writer of Matthew’s account reads well because he retained its essence from his well-written Aramaic source (not Mark or Q). The writer of Mark omitted it from Matthew because it degraded the gentile as being unworthy to have a non-gentile come under his roof. (Unfortunately, Mark contains all too many anti-Jewish statements along with pro-gentile ones.) The conciliatory writer of Luke, though favoring Mark over Matthew, could see value in the pericope; he alleviated the problem by having both gentile friends and Jewish elders speak on behalf of the centurion, and by having the Jewish elders mention that the centurion was worthy of having Jesus come to his house.

Geoff Hudson said...

Considering the passage in Luke as more original, and looking at Luke 7:8, you might think the 'man' should have said, "For I myself am a man OF authority" parallelling his view of the prophet as a prophet with authority in 7:7. In that case, the 'man' of 7:8 was hardly a servant, but in a Jewish context possibly a chief priest, who was a supporter of the prophet. A chief priest would have had other priests under him.

And a sick priest (presumably considered to have an unclean spirit) would have fully understood the difficulty of asking the prophet to come into his house. Uncleanness would also explain why the sick 'man' did not go in person to ask for the prophet to come and visit. Thus when the prophet did visit, it would have been entirely appropriate for the sick 'man' to have said, quite naturally, "don't trouble yourself, for I am not clean to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not come to you."

The key word is 'come' (7:8). When the prophet with authority prayed for the Spirit to come, the Spirit came. This prophet was a 'rainmaker' type (see Eisenman). Thus the sick 'man' said to the prophet, in effect, "Say to the Spirit come (not 'say the word')and MY SPIRIT (not 'my servant') will be cleansed (not 'healed'). For I myself am a priest of authority with priests under me. I tell this one, 'Go', and he goes; and that one, 'Come', and he comes."

Geoff Hudson said...

Going into the house of a sick person was an act of law-breaking. I have come to the conclusion that the prophet was out to defy the law and to encourage others to do so. He faced-down the priests who were afraid of him as a prophet with authority. The later editors moderated the original prophet's law-breaking stories to stories about not keeping the Sabbath. Typical is the story in Jn.5.8 with this interpolation: "The day on which this took place was a Sabbath."

Frank McCoy said...

What a coincidence! On 28-29 March, I attended the Upper Midwest Region SBL meeting at Luther Seminary in St Paul as an associate member. In the morning of the 29th, I attended the undergraduate session, where a senior at UW Oahkosh named Erik Koepnick read a paper entitled, "The Historical Jesus and the Slave of the Centurion: How the Themes of Slavery, Sexuality, and Military Service Intersect in Matthew 8:5-13". This paper was *very* creative and he is going to Chicago Theological Seminary next year, so I strongly suspect that he will succeed in becoming a scholar. He wrote his paper based on the premise of the validity of the Two Source Theory. In the discussion period, I suggested that he should not tie his thesis to that theory and I specifically stated to him that he should read some works by you and Michael Goulder. His response was very informative. He appreciated the advice, but with his advisor being Dr Kathleen Corley, who studied under a Dr. Robinson (I didn't write down his full name), he felt it prudent, at least over the near future, to stick to the Two Source Theory. Since she studied at Claremont, I strongly suspect that Dr. Robinson is, more fully, Dr. James Robinson--who is a major player in the IQP. I just thanked him for his response. If you had been in my place, would you have said anything more in response to his comment than a simple thank you and, if so, what would your advice to him have been?

Geoff Hudson said...

Romans revered their law. Thus the Pauline editors were happy to have their Jesus seen as breaking the Jewish Sabbath, but not Jewish law. Many of the stories in the NT were originally about the prophet breaking Jewish law deliberately. For the prophet, Jewish law was defunct. It was to be superseded by the Spirit.