Sunday, November 11, 2007

Christmas without Q

The Q biblioblogging weekend is continuing apace. For whoever is doing the next Biblical Studies Carnival, here is a quick guide to the posts so far:

The Difference Makes Q (James McGrath)
Does the Difference Make Q (Mark Goodacre)
Spoiling Christmas vs Spoiling Q (James McGrath)
Christmas Still Looks Good, Q Not so Much (Rick Sumner)
Can Matthew Count to Fourteen? (Stephen Carlson)
There's no Q in Christmas (Doug Chaplin)

I don't have a lot to say in response to James's second post that I have not already said in The Case Against Q (54-9) or to add to what Rick, Stephen and Doug say in their excellent responses above. As I mentioned in my previous post, James's argument is a form of the classic argument from Luke's lack of M material. The key thing that James is trying to stress is that Matthew's and Luke's Birth and Infancy narratives are "incompatible". It is an argument that is only convincing if one thinks that no evangelist would deliberately contradict the work of a predecessor. But we know that that is not the case given Luke's departures from Mark's narrative, with similar "incompatible" elements.

When it comes to the details of the Birth and Infancy Narratives, I would like to make a couple of additional comments. First, one of the examples James provides of an "incompatible" detail is Luke's dating of the birth of Jesus. He says that "Matthew places Jesus' birth before the death of Herod in 4 BCE, Luke connects it with the census under Quirinius in 6 CE". But the disagreement over dates is no argument for Luke's independence from Matthew. Luke dates the birth of John in the time of Herod the Great (Luke 1.5) so unless we are to imagine Elizabeth having a ten year pregnancy, Luke's dating of the birth of Jesus is also "incompatible" with what he has previously told us.

Second, while we can only speculate as to why Luke prefers his own genealogy to Matthew's, my own guess would be that he prefers it for Christological reasons. Isaiah 11.1 speaks of a future ruler who will come up from the "stump of Jesse". The image here is of the great Davidic tree as having been cut down, as Judah goes into exile, and the monarchy is at an end. It is now a stump. But a shoot will rise from that stump, and there will be a restoration in which the king will be of David's line, but not descended from the line of all those kings who came after him, whose disobedience led to exile. Matthew's genealogy traces Jesus' lineage through all those kings who, in Luke's mind, are a felled tree. For Luke, Jesus' Davidic heritage is expressed in the genealogy in bypassing those kings, and tracing his lineage through Nathan rather than Solomon. Luke's genealogy is of a messiah who emerges from the stump of Jesse. If one is in any doubt about how important Isaiah 11 is in Luke's thinking, it is worth reading it again and comparing its imagery and language with Luke's.


James F. McGrath said...

Thanks for bringing all these threads together. You are quite right that the Herod-Quirinius problem is one internal to Luke, and so it could well be that Luke would not have seen the date implied in Matthew's narrative as a problem, if he knew his Gospel.

I still find myself asking, in terms of the genealogies and the geographical flow, why one of these authors would introduce a number of the discrepancies, without theological motivation, and without explanation. But your suggestion about the 'stump of Jesse' will give me (and many others) something to think about as we ponder this topic further.

Anyway, you held up your end of the bargain, so I will write the song...

Doug said...

ark, I'd love to see your answer to James' new meme (his follow up to this debate)

Anonymous said...

I'm not that well-versed on this topic as the rest of you, but I do find it an interesting topic. In reading these discussions I wonder if Robert Price's contention that Luke-Acts is a later catholic redaction of whould could perhaps be a Gospel of Marcion's would interest anyone. By adding an ur-Lukas (a version of Luke prior to our later redacted version) are we solving any of these conundrums of who used what as source, or are we just making it even more complicated?

My guess is that we would all like a simple few-source hypothesis, but that the reality is much more complicated, much of it obliterated by post-Marcionite catholization process.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Anonymous, the Marcionite version of Luke started at (what is now) 3:1 and did not include any of the infancy materials. I'm not sure how that helps us with Luke 1-2.

Anonymous said...

That Luke knew, read, and possibly reflects Matthew's gospel at times may make "Q" unnecessary but it doesn't make other sources unlikely. Luke used Mark (I think). If he knew Matthew, he obviously preferred Mark. But both Matthew and Luke have tradition in common with each other, independent of Mark, so Luke may reflect influence of Matthew at times. But some of the variations between the double tradition of Matthew and Luke are persuading me that each of them must have been using sources independently and that those sources were sometimes in Greek and sometimes in Aramaic. Or as in the case of the Parable of the Talents, oral.

Exploring the ancient writing practices, the physical situations and tools, the taking of notes, wax tablets, secretaries, accounts of ancient authors on the process of creating a written document, having audience hearings on early versions etc (R.A. Derrenbacker is especially helpful and Alan Millard), make me think that important things that Jesus said and did are most likely to have been recorded at the time and saved. That Jesus spoke Aramaic (I think evidence suggests that) makes it likely that some of those historical things were recorded in Aramaic. They could have been translated into Greek and Matthew and Luke may even have encountered untranslated Aramaic traditions.

I wouldn't want to suggest that all these sources can be rediscovered absolutely to their historical core, but sometimes it may be possible to demonstrate the plausibility of a more complex hypothesis.

I don't think simple hypotheses are necessarily helpful - they don't reflect historical reality which is complex - and they gloss over the details and provide faulty tools for reconstruction of history.

However so much of the literature completely ignores Aramaic and nobody seems to willing to consider complex hypotheses. I think it's a case of having plump ripe strawberries and eating them too. Luke's knowledge of Matthew as well as sources. Of course I don't know nuffink and the more I search the less I know... and I never will.

James F. McGrath said...

The Christmas song is now available.

I must say that Christmas without Q makes as much sense to me as Christmas without mince pies (to which most of my American colleagues will respond by saying "Huh?")

Peter Nathan said...

Talking of mince pies James, Selfridges always had the best in my estimation, made infinitely better by a liberal application of their Jersey Brandy Cream. Oh la la!