Oxford, Thursday, 00:47; last full day of the Synoptic Problem conference. First session, 9a.m.: Andrew Gregory chaired what was perhaps the meatiest section yet, four papers on issues relating to compositional issues and the Synoptic Problem. Three of the presenters were present and Gregory summarised the fourth paper, Kirk's, on "Memory, scribal media and the synoptic problem". Alex Damm spoke first on "Ancient Rhetoric and the Synoptic Problem"; then Robert Derrenbacker talked about "Ancient Compositional Practices and the Synoptic Problem"; then Gerald Downing on "Writers' use or abuse of written sources". Discussion was wide ranging and enthusiastic. There was perhaps most discussion on Gerald Downing's paper, and some comment on his claim that the minor agreements are in fact problematic for all synoptic theories. Several of us have picked up the feeling that this session provided a good indication of where the debate is likely to develop in the coming years -- compositional issues are clearly going to be key in future discussion of the Synoptic Problem.
After morning coffee, the next section was chaired by John Kloppenborg and featured two main papers, Eugene Boring on "The 'Minor Agreements' and Their Bearing on the Synoptic Problem" and Peter Head on "Textual Criticism and the Synoptic Problem". John Kloppenborg also read out a summary of Robert Stein's paper, "Duplicate Expressions in Mark". The discussion focused mainly on Gene Boring and Peter Head's papers. I attempted to make my point, with respect to Eugene Boring's paper, that the postulation of a "Revised Mark" may not actually aid the Two Source Theory with respect to the Minor Agreements since a Revised Mark might, in fact, have been less like our Matthew and Luke than our Mark is. On such a scenario, there might in fact have been more minor agreements in the earliest texts, and not less. I had only limited success articulating this point, however, and it may be that I need to think carefully about how to articulate it more clearly on future occasions -- or to drop it.
Before lunch, there was a group photograph. Just as we were gathering, I had a phone call from Q; we had planned to get together today, as we usually do when I am in the UK. Someone suggested that Q take the group photograph, which he was delighted to do. I hope that some kind person will email me one of the photographs taken so that I can upload it to the blog. After the photograph, Q and I wandered to the covered market, as we used to do when we were students together, and enjoyed a splendid lunch in Mortons.
The next event on the schedule, after tea, was my paper, the third of the main papers, on "The Evangelists' Use of the Old Testament and the Synoptic Problem". I enjoyed speaking on the topic, and was honoured to have it chaired by my Doctorvater John Muddiman. I began my talk by sending Michael Goulder's greetings to the conference. (I had spent Sunday afternoon with him). The discussion after my paper was perhaps a little more subdued than some of the other discussions, and I hope that that was not a reflection on its quality or interest. Nevertheless, there were lots of useful and interesting questions, including from the chair.
Drinks were at 6.30; dinner was at 7. The main course was duck and it was excellent. Once again, the relatively early end to proceedings allowed a little time for additional socializing for those so inclined.
Alas, I have to miss the last morning of the conference. I need to get the coach to Heathrow to meet the family and get the plane back to DC, and I don't think I will be able to make it to any of the morning activities. Nevertheless, I hope to add concluding comments tomorrow. Needless to say, an excellent conference, intellectually stimulating and conducted in a generous, positive spirit. Congratulations and thanks to the convenors, John Kloppenborg, Andrew Gregory, Paul Foster and Joseph Verheyden, who have done a superb job.