Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Further Response to Alan Garrow

I am grateful to Alan Garrow for responding to my post on Garrow's Flaw (details and links here) over on Bart Ehrman's blog.

I had pointed out that Garrow's model diagnoses high verbatim double tradition passages as the result of Matthew's copying of Luke alone. "High DT [double tradition] passages," he says,"are best explained by Matthew’s copying of Luke without interference from any other entity.” Low verbatim passages are the result of Matthew conflating Luke and the Didache. The claim is foundational and explicit in Garrow's work:
"[W]hen Matthew copies Luke without distraction he produces High DT passages. When, however, Matthew knows differing versions of the same event he conflates them – resulting in a Low DT passage."
In my response, I pointed out that Garrow's own list of "High DT passages" includes several cases of Matthew actually working not from "Luke alone" but from Luke and Mark. In other words, his claim that Matthew produces high verbatim passages when working from Luke alone is contradicted by his own model. 

Garrow responds by arguing that Matthew's behaviour is "consistently plausible". I quote the paragraph in full:
A good solution to the Synoptic Problem is one that allows each Evangelist to behave in a consistently plausible manner. To rebut my thesis, therefore, Goodacre must show that, under my proposal, Matthew is required to do something that is essentially implausible. The unbelievable behavior he identifies is that Matthew (according to me) sometimes very closely conflates two or more related sources (e.g. The Sin against the Holy Spirit, where Matt. 31.31-32 conflates Mark 3.28-30, Luke 12.10 and Did. 11.7), sometimes switches between sources at intervals (e.g. the Beelzebul Controversy, where Matt. 12.22-30 alternates between Mark 3.22-27 and Luke 11.14-23), and sometimes decides to forego the labor of conflation where the rewards for doing so are limited (e.g. John’s messianic preaching and the sign of Jonah: Matt. 3.12 // Luke 3.17 and Matt. 12.38-42 // Luke 11.16, 29-32 respectively). I must leave you to judge whether this variation is so extraordinary as to justify Ehrman’s view that this is a ‘completely compelling’ reason to declare that Matthew could not have known Luke.
This does not respond to my point, which is not a question about degrees of plausibility, but a question about the consistency and coherence of Garrow's model. I do not have a difficulty with the issue of variation in degrees of verbatim agreement; indeed, as Garrow points out, I have myself written about this. The issue to which I am drawing attention is straightforward: Garrow claims that high verbatim agreement in double tradition is diagnostic that Matthew is working form Luke alone. I am pointing out that on his model, high verbatim agreement does not illustrate this.

Garrow adds some general criticisms of the Farrer theory, including the old chestnut about "unpicking", which dates back to F. Gerald Downing. I have little to add here to the excellent critiques by Ken Olson and Eric Eve on this issue, but I will say that no critic of the Farrer theory has yet successfully isolated a single occasion where an advocate of the Farrer theory uses the term that they consistently put in quotation marks. I generally try to avoid putting things in quotation marks that are not quotations, but I realize that practices vary. 

Garrow concludes with his favourite quotation from me, "The theory that Matthew has read Luke … is rarely put forward by sensible scholars and will not be considered here" (The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze, 109), where I was of course just describing the field at the time of writing, a description echoed by Garrow himself three years later, "“The possibility that Matthew directly depended on Luke’s Gospel has not been widely explored” (The Gospel of Matthew's Dependence on the Didache, 228 n. 10). I should perhaps let on that my engagement with Alan's work began long before Evan's wager; that just gave me the opportunity to share work in progress. What's been fun has been the demonstration that people really are interested in the Synoptic Problem.


MattGZat said... Provides access (in Abode format) to Streeter’s 'Other’ Synoptic Solution: The
Matthew Conflator Hypothesis, Alan Garrow; New Testament Studies 62.2 (2016). Thanks, Mark, for bringing this information together!

A Reliable Helper said...

Mark, it would be helpful to explain in your comments why this issue, in your view, is critical. Is it simply an academic issue or are there real world consequences?

Geoff Hudson said...

There are certainly more important topics, like who actually did write the Gospels?

Geoff Hudson said...

The earliest New Testament manuscripts are from the second, third and fourth centuries CE and many of those are fragments. The earliest manuscripts on Roman history about New Testament times are from the fifth century to eleventh century, usually preserved by a monk in a monastery. Again those histories are nowhere near complete. There is a close relation between what is understood as Roman history and the New Testament. What do you say, if understood Roman history is wrong? We are conditioned to historians being able to quote and cite it. Thus it is all very well arguing over who wrote which gospels, but who did write them when they are supposed to have been written earlier than any of the above dates?

Geoff Hudson said...

According to Mark, "Luke has got a copy of Mathew's Gospel". How about one Caesarean monk, has got a copy of another Caesarean monk's version of Matthew?