Friday, September 24, 2010

Steve Black on the Minor Agreement at Mark 14.65

The latest Novum Testamentum features an article by Steve Black on the Minor Agreement at Mark 14.65. It's a subject that I have written about myself, first in Goulder and the Gospels (JSNTSup, 133; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 101-7 and 125-30, and then in The Case Against Q (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002), 157-62, so I turned to the new article with interest. The details are:

Steve D. Black, “One Really Striking Minor Agreement: ΤΙΣ ΕΣΤΙΝ Ο ΠΑΙΣΑΣ ΣΕ in Matthew 26:68 and Luke 22:64”, Novum Testamentum 52 (2010): 313-333
It is asserted that Matt 26:68|Luke 22:64(|Mark 14:65) is the most difficult of the minor agreements. Some advocates of the two-source theory have addressed this minor agreement by trying to make sense of the narrative as we have it, and others by making sense of the text as we have it (arguing for textual corruption or lost recensions). While some of these arguments are reasonable, in the final analysis they are not satisfying. Although we might remain persuaded that the two-source theory best integrates the data relating to the synoptic problem, this minor agreement reminds us that the synoptic problem is still a problem.
Black's article provides a useful and balanced discussion of the issues, even if he is inclined to be more sympathetic in his assessments of the arguments of Two-Source Theorists than I would be. I have a few comments on the article, several of which come out of my own discussion in The Case Against Q.

(1) Black uses the English translation “Who is striking you” throughout.  Although this coheres nicely with the idea that it is a "striking" Minor Agreement, I think the translation a little unusual given the aorist participle -- τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε;, usually "Who is the one who struck you?"

(2) Black notes Goulder’s contrasting explanations on the Minor Agreement, but treats them in reverse order (p. 329: “Elsewhere, Goulder suggests . . .”). His later explanation in "Two Significant Minor Agreements (Mat. 4:13 Par.; Mat. 26:67-68 Par.)," Novum Testamentum 45/4 (2003): 365-373 represents his mature, final position on the Minor Agreement and should be given priority in discussion.

(3) I argue in The Case Against Q (159-60) that Mark is here typically dark, enigmatic and ironic. The abusers are in the middle of fulfilling Jesus' prophecy as they taunt him to "Prophesy". Matthew attempts to explicate the Marcan enigma, and so to dilute Mark's dark irony, by adding "Who is it who struck you?" in a way characteristic of the evangelist.

(4) I also suggest (Case Against Q, 159, n. 26) that the parallel in the Gospel of Peter 3.9 is helpful -- here they spit into Jesus' eyes in a way that provides a helpful commentary on Matthew's spitting into the face.  It illustrates that the lack of the covering of the head in Matthew is unsurprising.

(5) The covering of the face in Mark (καὶ περικαλύπτειν αὐτοῦ τὸ πρόσωπον) is easy to understand once one notices the parallel in Cicero, Pro Rabirio 13 (Capvt obnvbito) and 16 (obductio capitis). Here, the covering of the head is a key prelude to the ignominy of crucifixion. The covering of the face in Mark is not about blindfolding and second sight but about covering and shame.

(6) Black feels that the problems here for the Two-Source Theory serve as a useful reminder of the uncertainty of the textual witness, and of the fact that our Synoptic theories are only models.  The difficulty about the idea of appealing to absent textual evidence, though, is that it cuts both ways, as I argue in The Case Against Q (161-2), in answering Kloppenborg’s position now quoted by Black:
On one level Kloppenborg is making an important point, offering a sober reminder to scholars of the Synoptic Problem that Nestle-Aland27 offers at best only an approximation to the original texts of the Gospels. The sophistication of the critical text can all too easily seduce scholars into imagining that they are dealing with something far more concrete and stable than is in fact possible.  But the relationship of our text-critical uncertainties to the question of the Minor Agreements by no means inevitably resolves itself in favour of the Two-Source Theory. There is a difficulty here that is rarely, if ever, recognised in the literature:  that while textual corruption may indeed have generated Minor Agreements, it may also has eliminated Minor Agreements. Thus the impossibility of reconstructing “with absolute precision the Greek text of any of the gospels” and our ignorance concerning “the transmissional processes by which one gospel came to be used by another evangelist” does not necessarily tell in favour of the Two-Source Theory. It is just as important a theoretical possibility that the transmissional processes, and the history of the manuscript tradition, might have limited the number of Minor Agreements we now see in our Critical Texts. Indeed one might say that the clear and well-known scribal tendency to harmonise Mark’s text towards that of Matthew may have significantly lessened the number of significant Minor Agreements we now see.
It is quite right, in other words, to bear in mind our uncertainty about the early stages of Gospel transmission when reflecting on the Synoptic Problem. But to appeal to this uncertainty as a means of dealing with the Minor Agreements is to appeal to the unknown in an attempt to avoid a stumbling block for the Two-Source Theory, an unknown that might just as plausibly reveal further and not fewer problems for the Two-Source Theory. Unless there are strong grounds for thinking that the absent evidence would indeed tell in favour of the Two-Source Theory, which there are not, the appeal to the absence cannot forward the debate.

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