Thursday, May 06, 2004

Marc Chan Chim Yuk, Jesus' Sayings in the Triple Tradition

In Bible Software Review Weblog, Rubén Gómez draws attention to the following online Festschrift, quite an unusual phenomenon:

"What Does the Text Actually Say?"
A Festschrift in Honour of Dr Richard K. Moore

with articles by Evelyn Ashley, Michael Bullard, Marc Chan, Tim Finney and Alan Gordon and notes of appreciation from Barbara Aland, Ann Harding, David Neville, Ken Panten, Michael Welte and Geoff Westlake.
Published at, 2002.

Given my interest in the Synoptic Problem, I was drawn in particular to the following article:

Marc Chan Chim Yuk, "Jesus' Sayings in the Triple Tradition of the Synoptic Gospels"

Essentially, what the author does is to look into the actual degree of verbatim agreement between the Synoptics in triple tradition material, showing that the average is about 26.4%, a figure lower than the 50% figure mentioned by Sanders and Davies in Studying the Synoptic Gospels (see article for reference). But the study also concludes that:
It has revealed quite positively the fact that the correlation of Jesus' sayings in the Triple Tradition of the Synoptic Gospels is twice as high as the correlation for the surrounding narratives.
And it sees this as evidence that:
This indicates that the words of Jesus were treated with very high respect and thus transmitted and reproduced with care.
The last sentence rather took my breath away since it seems to go far further than the evidence allows:
There are still problems that have not been solved but the overall trend in this article points towards the fact that indeed the sayings of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels do represent what Jesus actually spoke during his ministry on earth.
It's a shame that a generally useful essay overreaches itself in the end, not least in that the topic it begins with is the avoidance of claims that are not supported by appropriate evidence. One or two other comments on the essay:

(1) It's a shame that the essay perpetuates the lore that there are essentially two alternative solutions to the Synoptic Problem, the Two-Source Theory and Griesbach, with no mention of Farrer (Marcan Priority without Q). This is particularly disappointing in an essay that begins and ends with E. P. Sanders and Margaret Davies's Studying the Synoptic Gospels which not only discusses the Farrer theory at length but also comes down broadly in support of it (see some quotations from it).

(2) The author recommends a colour coding scheme apparently devised by a certain Karawara Gospels Project. The article explains that this system was designed by Richard Moore, in whose honour this Festschrift was produced, in 1987-8. David Neville, author of two books on the Synoptic Problem, mentions this same project in his Thanks to Richard Moore, in the same volume. I am happy to see that the scheme is effectively identical to the one I came up with and recommended in my The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze! It takes advantage of the fact that there are three Synoptics and three primary colours, and works with that. This has always seemed so intuitive to me that I am surprised that more have not tried the same thing, so I am reassured to find someone independently coming to the same conclusion. However, when it comes to computerizing the scheme, they adjust Luke's yellow to grey "since yellow is barely visible when printed", and they make similar adjustments in the various combinations. I understand the problem here because when I went from the manual colouring of my Synopsis to trying to represent it on-line, the first problem was indeed the faintness of the yellow. But the solution I have used in my on-line synopsis examples has been to avoid the problem by simply providing a grey background rather than a white one. Then the yellow shows up better than anything.

Unfortunately, there are no examples of the colouring provided in the article, no doubt because it was originally projected as a print volume (see note 4) rather than an on-line one.

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