Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Response to Crook's Response to My Review of Parallel Gospels

I reviewed Zeba Crook's Parallel Gospels at this year's SBL and Crook responded.  I now have a few comments on that response.  I am grateful for Zeba's thoughtful comments.  I will take his points in turn:

(1) On the lack of word-alignment, I had not realized that this was a publisher's decision rather than an author's decision.  I understand the importance of affordability but I think it is a great shame that  something so fundamental to Synopsis construction is here jettisoned because of cost considerations.

In the discussion on Monday, I facetiously suggested that one could save a lot of space by getting rid of Q from the Synopsis, thereby freeing up more space for word-alignment.

(2) On the source-language translation, I understand Zeba's decision but I disagree with it.  The difficulty is that prepositions, for example, do not exist on their own, as individual sense-units.  They only attain meaning in connection with nouns in a particular case, so it makes no sense to translate hypo always as "under" and meta always as "with".  It is misleading to translate every preposition the same way, and it is a decision that greatly detracts from the appeal of the Synopsis.

(3) I am a little surprised by Zeba's response on the inclusion of Q in the Synopsis.  I think the inclusion of Q would be defensible on the grounds that it helps to illustrate the Two-Source Theory or that it facilitates comparison between Matthew, Luke and the reconstructed text of Q, but it is surely not debatable that including one solution to the problem into the presentation of the data prejudices the reader in favour of that solution, is it?

Zeba suggests that his Synopsis offers some encouragement to the Farrer Theory, e.g. placement of double tradition pericopes in the Synopsis and also the generation of more minor agreements.  However, the point about minor agreements is at least in part negated by the fact that Q is present in this synopsis to explain key minor agreements, especially Q 3.3 and Q 4.16.

Zeba also suggests that the inclusion of Q is no different from the inclusion of Thomas or John, but there is, of course, a material difference.  Both Thomas and John are extant works with textual witnesses and patristic citations; they are not hypothetical texts. In fact, the (helpful) inclusion of Thomas and John illustrates my point well -- that a Synopsis should aim to present the data without prejudice to a given solution to the problem.  Integrating Q into the presentation of the data confuses problem with solution in a fundamental way.

But my key point here is the pedagogical difficulty of including Q in the Synopsis, which turns double tradition into a second kind of triple tradition, and makes colouring the Synopsis much more difficult.  These are issues that are worth considering further.


Zeba Crook said...

Mark, is there really no room for a source translation experiment? You and I have agreed this is not a translation at all; it is a rendering, and one developed for a very specific purpose: to allow students to see where words are the same, regardless (initially) of the meaning or context of those words. Target language translations like like NIV or NRSV are often as interested in translating synonymous word or images in the same way, because they mean the same thing. But my synopsis went a different route. I decided that if one parable uses meta with a genitive and the other uses meta with an accusative, the reader ought to be able to note that meta is used by both sources (that's a hypothetical illustration of the principle; I don't have a sample passage in mind). Your method of translation does not allow that because you prefer the target language approach. Criticizing me for not thinking in a target language way is a like translating you for not seriously addressing the identity of Paul's opponents in Galatia in your new book on Thomas. You were doing something different, and it's not fair to assess you on something you weren't trying to do.

Zeba Crook said...

In addition, what I don't understand about your complaint about the non-sense of prepositions in my synopsis is that it's not like I leave the reader hanging, or leave her with the sense that prepositions have meanings they do not. Hypo might always say "under" but whenever it means "by" the reader is told immediately. In the same way, every Greek word has multiple meanings, senses and nuances (prepositions aren't unique in that regard), so my synopsis suffers from this problem at almost every turn. Very often then I need to give the read a sense that this or that word appears here but has a different meaning from other uses (and from the parallel word used in the next column by X gospel).

Mark Goodacre said...

With respect to your first point, Zeb, your Synopsis explicitly invites comparison with Throckmorton and so I think it's reasonable to ask the question about the different approaches. And I do think it's a useful discussion and thank you very much for facilitating it.

I suppose that what we are talking about here is a contrast in how to deal with the limitations of translation. I think you are a little more utopian than I am. I see translations as a necessary evil for the students who do not yet have Greek. The more they understand the limitations, the more they will be encouraged to learn Greek. You tend to feel, on the other hand, that the English-only student *can* come to see something that resembles Greek, and you are attempting to map that out for them. But my worry with the latter is that in the end it is simply impossible to do a good source-language translation that remains true to the source-language, the mangling of the prepositions being just one example.

fatzers said...


Is it possible/permitted for you to post a scan/image of the page-spread(s) of the part(s) you mentioned in your review? I was trying to imagine it after failing to find an Amazon/Google preview, but a pic would help :) (something like this sample )

Mark Goodacre said...

Great idea, Fatzers. I don't have my copy handy at the moment, but will try to remember to do this next week.