Friday, September 25, 2009

More Synoptic Problem chat

Over on Exploring Our Matrix, James McGrath began by asking Did Matthew use Luke? A Neglected Angle on the Synoptic Problem; I responded here with Why not Matthew's use of Luke? in which I sketched a few reasons for thinking that Luke's use of Matthew is more plausible than the reverse direction, from Luke to Matthew. Mike Bird helpfully provided a quotation from Martin Hengel,
[W]e must reckon that the later Matthew knew the earlier Luke, took over parts which seemed to him appropriate, i.e. the content of which was promising, and in the process of course also altered his theological wishes accordingly. This is already indicated by the fact that as a rule the more original version is attributed to Q-Luke as opposed to Q-Matthew. In addition - and here Papias can put us on the right road - there were certainly also one or more 'Logia collections'. But - as I have already said - we can no longer reconstruct these adequately, especially as we cannot know what the evangelists changed or omitted in the sources, unknown to us, which they probably had in more abundance than we suppose."
I think Hengel's relatively early date for Luke is in part a consequence of the stance he earlier developed on the historicity of Acts (e.g. in Paul from Damascus to Antioch) where he shows impatience for those with more radical perspectives. But the brief statement above is actually misleading. It is not the case that "as a rule", Luke is more primitive in double tradition material. If you work through the Critical Edition of Q and the volumes so far completed of Documenta Q, it's pretty much 50/50 in terms of alternating primitivity, hence the term alternating primitivity. I hate to say it of so great a scholar, and one so recently departed, but I don't see any evidence in Hengel's Gospels work that he has worked through the issues connected with the Synoptic Problem carefully.

James McGrath has an enjoyable and characteristically lively response to my post in Mark's Kung-Q vs. The Bolt from the Johannine Blue. With respect to my point about Matthean language, rhythm and imagery occurring in the double tradition material, James notes that "the bolt from the Johannine blue" (Matt. 11:21 // Luke 10:22) features language remarkably reminiscent of John in a passage that by most accounts pre-dates John. But within the context of discussing direction of dependence in material that is near verbatim identical (Matt. 3:7 // Luke 3:7; Matt. 3:10 // Luke 3:10), I was attempting to make the point that the direction of dependence is more likely to flow from Matthew to Luke than from Luke to Matthew.

What we have in the bolt from the Johannine blue is language that is similar to Johannine language, not language that is similar in a passage where there is verbatim agreement. It is an interesting point that this could be the seed out of which the Johannine discourses grow, but if so, what this gives us is an insight into the matrix of early Christian thought and its evolution. There is no verbatim agreement here between Matthew // Luke and John. In other words, no one seriously doubts that there is a literary link of some kind between Matthew and Luke at 3:7 (etc.), whether directly or mediated via Q. The question, once that literary link has been established, is where the direction of dependence goes.

With respect to my argument about editorial fatigue, James notes that Luke could simply be fatigued with Q. Two responses here. (1) I was responding to James's question "Did Matthew use Luke?" so pointing to Q effectively concedes my point. (2) Of course it could be that Luke was fatigued with Q; here is how I dealt with the issue in the article:
. . . The best way, therefore, to seek an answer to the question will be to bear in mind that if the Two Source Theory is correct, one will expect to see not only Luke but also Matthew showing signs of fatigue in double tradition material. Those who believe in the existence of Q will have to look for their own examples of editorial fatigue in Matthew's versions of double tradition material. I have looked for examples and cannot find any. On the Q theory it does strain plausibility that Luke should often show fatigue in double tradition material and that Matthew should never do so, especially [58] given Matthew's clearly observable tendency to become fatigued in his editing of Mark. (57-8)
.The Synoptic Problem is fascinating, isn't it? Can't imagine why so many apparently find it so dull!

14 comments:

James F. McGrath said...

It is indeed fascinating - but what I'm beginning to wonder is whether it will inspire any new versions of Christmas songs this year! :)

Bob MacDonald said...

Yes it is not dull but it can seem like a red-herring. In what way does it lead us to an understanding of why the evangelists focused with such severe perseveration on Jesus?

Scott F said...

I don't know, Bob. Examining whether Matthew thought that Jesus considered himself God would be of great benefit on that subject. Would knowing where Matthew got his material be useful? If it can cast light on the development of thoughts and views through out the first century, then it may prove very useful.

Scott F said...

... Granted that's a pretty big "IF"

Bill said...

Could Matthew's lack of fatigue potentially mean he spent a much longer time carefully editing his own document?

Scott F said...

Matthew does show fatigue when he treats Markan material

Bob MacDonald said...

I think the question of why they told such stories does not have to depend on the answer to a question that seems unanswerable. It does, however, relate to possible experience of the evangelists. For example, the blind man who saw men as trees walking, unique to Mark, is omitted by Mt and Lk. Is this because they knew that it was a personal parable of the Evangelist. Or if you are a Griesbachian, is it like the young man in the garden, a personal signature of the Evangelist? Does it help reframe our idea of miracle story?

I would like to get past the fatigue and literary or aural dependency. I certainly agree with MG that the parable of the talents is confused in Luke. Fatigue is one explanation for the confusion. What does such confusion tell us beyond that explanation? Is the text corrupt for instance? There are certainly examples of this as a reasonable conjecture in the older scriptures like Job.

Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill said...

SF, I meant "relative lack", but now I see your point. Thank you. (Duh.)

So why would Mt show fatigue with Mk and not Luke? Maybe it's the other way around.

Consider: First, Mark used an earlier, more basic version of Matthew, second, Luke used Mark, and third, Matthew revised his own work, utilizing Luke but ignoring Mark.

Plausible? Anyone?

Bill said...

Ah. It doesn't reverse, does it? (Or does it?)

Either way, NOW I'm intrigued...

Jim Deardorff said...

Bill,

Your suggestion seems quite plausible up to a point: First, Mark used an earlier, more basic version of Matthew, second, Luke used Mark, and third, Matthew revised his own work, utilizing Luke but ignoring Mark.

I've found that it's not the case at all, that Mark shows no signs of "fatigue" relative to Matthew. Instead, the opposite is the case, strongly suggesting Matthean priority. I've posted 16 instances (it used to be 17) of Markan fatigue relative to Matthew here. Mark G's 5 cases in the opposite direction have been shown to be straightforwardly reversible.

But I have yet to hear from Mark about it.

To me it's plausible that the later reviser of Matthew (translator, I contend, of Semitic Matthew into Greek) did make some use of Mark as well as Luke. He apparently added 3 pro-gentile passages (not in Mark or Luke), and generated excessive Greek verbal agreement with Mark as he did with Luke.

Geoff Hudson said...

No, it is boring. It makes me wonder what some academics are about. They have made little progress in 2000 years. There must be another solution.

Scott F said...

Wow, Bill, that's a lot of older versions and self-revisions. Can't say there wasn't so much churn, just don't know what signs there might be of it going on.

James F. McGrath said...

Hi Mark! I read your book, and have posted some thoughts, reflections on and interactions with it - as well as a recommendation that others read it, of course!

The word verification was "expel"...