Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Crossley on Q

In the latest post in a series promoting his forthcoming book, Why Christianity Happened, James Crossley turns to the topic from Jewish sinners to gentile sinners. One of the matters touched on is Q and since I am indirectly mentioned (I think I am implied), I am compelled to comment on the relevant portion:
. . . . And I begin with…Q

Now calm down all Q sceptics for just one moment (and I know there are a few of you out there, including one well known one). I don’t define Q very strongly. In fact I leave much wide open and define what might be necessary for the debate. The debate functions with the loosest definition of Q as a shorthand for pre-Matthean, pre-Lukan sources and nothing more. While I believe in a general Q, I have not been convinced that this was necessarily a collection or a gospel or anything like that. Just sources for now, ok?

With that solved (note the sarcasm, please!), the real function of looking at early pre-gospel sources is that they were transmitted when the general changes I describe were taking place and so potentially back up my case. And surprise, surprise they do! Generally, there is nothing in what is generally labelled Q or earliest gospel tradition that contradicts any biblical law.
The bad news for you, James (good for me) is that in fact you don't believe in Q at all. You are a Q sceptic in all but name. If you are working with the "the loosest definition of Q as a shorthand for pre-Matthean, pre-Lukan sources", then you are not working with Q at all. Everyone accepts that Matthew and Luke had sources, so "pre-Matthean, pre-Lukan sources" do not in any sense constitute what is usually called Q. The point of the Q hypothesis is that it is possible specifically to identify, describe and study one of those sources, which is constituted, in the simplest terms, by the non-Marcan material common to Matthew and Luke.

I think it is important to get one's thinking clear about these issues because they have ramifications for the way that one views Christian origins. Let me illustrate by drawing attention to one of the other alleged "pre-Matthean, pre-Lukan sources", L, the symbol usually given for special Lucan material, material that is distinct from Mark, M and Q. If this material is first or second generation, as people like Streeter, Taylor and Jeremias thought, then one has some vital data for the understanding of the development of the early tradition. Pericopae like the Rejection at Nazareth (Luke 4.16-30) and The Sinning Woman in Simon's House (Luke 7.36-50) would be key in the reconstruction of the way that the first generations of Christians were thinking. If, on the other hand, one is inclined to see such L pericopae as Luke's creative re-writing of material inherited from literary sources like Mark, then clearly they become useful instead for the redaction-critical interpretation of Luke at the end of the first century.

While I am sceptical about our abilities to stratify early Christian traditions in the way that Crossan, for example, wishes, I do think it is important to pay attention to source-critical issues in the discussion of Christian origins lest we simply lump together disparate materials.

These comments are, of course, only based on James's blog entry; it may be that the book goes into greater detail in setting out the case for treating the Synoptic Problem in the way outlined in that post. (And I am looking forward to reading the book. For other posts related to it, see James's Early Christian History).


Stephen C. Carlson said...

Well said.

If "Q" means anything at all, it must a common written source behind Matthew and Luke comprising a substantial portion of the Double Tradition.

If by "a shorthand for pre-Matthean, pre-Lukan sources and nothing more," James is unwilling to affirm at least that minimum understanding for Q, then he is more a Q skeptic than a supporter.

Michael said...

Indeed. If one defines Q so loosely then any supposed parallels between it and GThom would almost vanish.

steph said...

I hope the IQP haven't really won the battle to define Q: 'a text without a manuscript' as Ron Cameron so confidently asserted ... and skewed all subsequent discussion on possible synoptic solutions. I think James' acceptance of loose [written and oral] pre-matt and pre-luke sources, which doesn't in the end conflict with his social historical investigation of early christianity, sounds like a good start for further research - along the path of Maurice Casey's work on Aramaic sources perhaps.

The solid document that the IQP claim to know of, in my mind, is either a myth or a miracle.

Andrew Criddle said...

IMO if one believes that Matthew did not have access directly or indirectly to Luke and Luke did not have access directly or indirectly to Matthew (ie there are no pieces of Matthean redaction in the original text of Luke and vice-versa) then this amounts to a belief in Q.

I agree that if one combines Crossley's definition of Q with say direct influence of Matthew on Luke then the result is in effect sceptical about Q as normally understood.

Mark Goodacre said...

Steph: I appreciate what you are saying here but it also concerns me. (1) The International Q Project got together as a collaborative group of a large number of international experts on the topic, sponsored by the SBL, their results published regularly in the JBL. Their enterprise is a massive and important one and a major step forward in the discipline. I am somewhat loathe to marginalise its importance so soon after its results have been published. For Q sceptics it represents a major step forward because one can finally get away from the slippery nature of previous discussions of the Two-Source Theory in which potential difficulties were dodged with, "Well I don't think that was in Q". Now we have a measuring stick for those sorts of discussions. (2) A literary Q is also the consensus outside of the IQP. The most prominent Q scholars I can think of outside of the IQP, Christopher Tuckett and Frans Neirynck, also argue strongly for a written document Q as the direct source of Matthew and Luke, and for good reason given the verbatim identity in many passages and the similarity in order. In other words, I don't think that appealing to the consensus on the literary and unified nature of Q implies complete assent to the IQP.

Of course it is possible to hold different views of Q, and some do, e.g. Jimmy Dunn recently in Jesus Remembered, or Maurice Casey in Aramaic Sources. But the key thing in this context is that such positions need to be argued, engaging the consensus view, which of course both of those do (though I wish each would also engage the Farrer theory more directly at the same time).

Mark Goodacre said...

Andrew: thanks for that. Yes, but it depends what one means by Q in such a context. I think that Tuckett and Kloppenborg are quite right that Matthew's and Luke's independent use of Mark necessitates the postulation of Q, taking for granted that the similarities between the order and wording in double tradition (and, one should add, some triple tradition, the so-called Mark-Q overlaps) are too great not to show dependence on a common literary source.

Anonymous said...

Just to add some levity. A large and now not so recent commentary on Luke quoted,
(ie. I think it was I Howard Marshall's Luke, but I really have forgotten) the phrase:

...."a pool of Q"...


That phrase stuck in my mind and I use it a lot in conversations.
Do we have to wait for more new manuscripts (eg "Rylands" or Chester Beatty,")
or has NT scholarship all bogged down into trench warfare? ...rlygwith the opposing sides bombarding each other with "idle specualtion's"

steph said...

Of course I agree with you Mark, and I am certainly dismissing neither the major contribution to New Testament Studies that the IQP or other Q advocates have made, nor their influence. I'm just a little concerned that one must either be with them (those that advocate a single Greek written document) or against them, in which case one seems necessarily to be a Q skeptic. If some scholars have been persuaded by theories proposing an alternative Q theory, incorporating q's, but have accepted that the solution has not been fully solved, I don't think that they should therefore argue a fully detailed case if their concept of the possible solution does not directly relate to their area of research at the time.

I do however think that the work proposed by Casey and Dunn for example, needs to be continued with cases for these alternative qs clearly argued, confronting Farrer/Goulder/you!, the IQP, Tuckett and Neirynck etc, Farmer and Dungan etc, at every point, but by those devoting their particular study to the synoptic problem at the time.

James Crossley said...

Yes, I was alluding to you Mark!

Steph has more or less taken the position I was suggesting as one plausible option. And for what it is worth it does not rule out collections of written source and hence account for the literary dependence as pointed out.

And for the record if what I said makes me a Q (at least as conventionally defined) sceptic then I have no problem at all with that label.

James Crossley said...

And just to clarify, I don't take the use of L as you went over or anything like that. I agree that both are more useful for gospel redaction than first generation material. What I would use is material like the purity and tithing material (e.g. washing of cups, tithing) combined with material with no interest in gentiles and see how these might be earlier sources and how they functioned and reasons why they were transmitted. That's the key point. But it is a more case-by-case study for earlier materials and so the whole Q issue is not overly signifcant for that particular point.

Mark Goodacre said...

There are lots more comments in situ in James Crossley's blog, Why Christianity Happened: from Jewish sinners to gentile sinners, including another from me.

Christopher Shell said...

As I mentioned, adopting the FGH leaves open the question of how much dominical material James is entitled to find in the double tradition (NB double tradition can be loosely included under the heading of 'M' for FGH adherents, given that Matthew is our first bona fide document to contain it). FGH adherents, when addressing this isuue, range from minimalist (Goulder) to much more generous (Sanders). In your own case, I guess you are much less inclined than Goulder to make the Q = Matthew equation on vocab grounds, and consequently would be less hard line than Goulder.