Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another Introduction to the Bible, Another Chance to Ignore the Farrer Theory

Regular readers will be familiar with the Farrer theory ignored trope.

Here we go again.

Robert Kugler and Patrick Hartin, An Introduction to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009) is the latest in a long line of Bible Introductions to ignore the Farrer Theory, to talk as if the Two-Source Theory is gospel, to suggest that Marcan Priority is the same thing as the Two-Source Theory and to mention only Griesbach offered as an alternative (with a brief mention also of Augustine).

Kugler and Hartin's discussion of the Synoptic Problem is found on pp. 351-5 of their introduction. They have a brief discussion of some data (352) and then they proceed to "Solutions Proposed".   Three are offered, first, "St. Augustine's Solution", then "The Griesbach Hypothesis", which is "still supported by a small number of scholars today" and then "The Two-Document Hypothesis", which is given as "the most widely accepted view" and which "helps to explain most of the difficulties in the relationship among the Gospels" (352).

The authors then provide a series of "five stages": (1) oral traditions, (2) written compilations (including Q), (3) Mark, (4) Matthew, (5) Luke-Acts.  They conclude with a section headed "The Two-Document Hypothesis Illustrated".

No arguments for the existence of Q are offered but several reasons are given for Marcan Priority (353-4), with the implication that this entails acceptance of Q.  Surprisingly, the passages offered as illustrations of the Two-Document Hypothesis include some famous examples of difficulties for the Two-Source Hypothesis, including Matthew's and Luke's major agreements against Mark 1.2-13, with special attention given to the Mal. 3.1 quotation in Mark 1.2.

One of the difficulties they face in using the Mark 1 material to illustrate the Two-Source Theory is self-contradiction.  Thus they begin with the statement, "A passage occurring in all three Synoptic Gospels is referred to as the triple tradition" (354).  They continue with the Mark 1 / Matthew 3-4 / Luke 3-4 material, noting parallels between Matthew and Luke that are not in Mark and adding, "This is known as the double tradition".

Oversimplification leads to difficulties at other points, for example:
 The Q document contains practically no narrative. Instead it presents a series of Jesus' sayings (very similar to the Gospel of Thomas which was discovered in 1945).  These sayings are recorded chiefly in the sermons in Matthew and the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem in Luke (353).
Familiarity with the reconstructed text of Q actually shows that it contains a good amount of narrative and that the contrast with the Gospel of Thomas is striking.  It is true that a lot of the double tradition is found in Matthew's sermons, but an awful lot of it occurs outside of them (Matt. 3-4, 8, 11, 23, etc.).  Quite a lot occurs outside of Luke's journey section too (Luke 3-4, 6-7).

I do understand, of course, the constraints of the New Testament introduction, but I can't help feeling a disappointment not only that the Farrer Theory is once again ignored but also that data is is not described with the kind of precision that would help students to begin to see the Synoptic Problem accurately.  The authors do not provide additional reading or links to works that would help them to fill out their knowledge in this area and to assess competing claims.

Sometimes I think that I am a bit too noisy on this subject, writing books, articles, websites, podcasting, blogging.  "There's Goodacre going on about Q again!"  But clearly, as far as these authors are concerned, I am as quiet as a mouse.  In a funny sort of way, it's quite reassuring -- I'm clearly not as irritating as I sometimes worry I might be!


Jason B. Hood said...

MG's readers should note that many scholars refer to the theory as the Farrer-Goodacre or Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre theory.

They should also note that Mark is surely primed to blurb any Intro to the NT/Bible that actually presents the theory!

Mark Goodacre said...

Haha, thanks. Yes, surely I would be happy to blurb the first decent NT Intro that actually discusses Farrer! Perhaps I should just write one myself.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to report that where I went to Seminary, Fuller, the "Farrar-Goodacre hypothesis" was discussed in depth.

CJ Schmidt said...

Definitely keep it up. It was the noise you made about this issue that caught my attention and played a large part in my decision to attend Duke!

mr.scrivener said...

We for one think M. Goodacre's online material to be one of the most useful and informative sources for all previous proposals and research.
More than just an immense boon to researchers and students querying the Synoptic Problem, this well-organized material is a must-read for any significant advance in this field.
I'm sure we may not agree on many SP details, but I found your work a constant source and inspiration for mine and my co-researchers here:
Synoptic Pr. and the PA

Thanks for your efforts!


Michael said...

There's that Goodacre chap going on about Q again.

Mark Goodacre said...

Haha, right.

Christopher W. Skinner said...


Ever since stumbling across your work a decade ago, I have tried to cover things like Farrer, fatigue, dispensing with Q, etc. as a means to have a thorough coverage. I have found that many of my friends do the same in their courses. I guess this "grass roots" movement has not penetrated to the realm of publication yet.

Chris Skinner

Mark Goodacre said...

Excellent. Thanks, Chris. (Thanks everyone else for encouraging comments too!).

Jim Deardorff said...

Cheer up, Mark. Think how much more disappointing it is for me that Markan priority is so often taken as fact! Priority of a Semitic Matthew, not translated into Greek Matthew until after Mark and Luke come out, is unacceptable largely because it explains all those Markan "hard readings" that indicate the writer of Mark, in Rome, was flagrantly anti-Semitic.

Kevin said...

What is un-herd remains unseen. Has it occurred to you that a large part of the appeal of "Q" is that one-letter name? Had it been called "Hypothetical Source" [Quelle], it would have gained little traction. But "Q" suggests, no doubt via "quintessence," some hidden physical constant or ratio that is the key of mysterious power that solves the problems of the ages. (I'm old enough to remember the Peter Sellers movie, "The Mouse That Roared," in which a miniscule European principality defeats the U.S. because it possesses the "Q-Bomb," which turns out to be a hoax.) To capture the high ground, you will have to rename the enemy, or, if that is impossible, rename the "Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre Hypothesis" as something sexier.

Peter Malik said...

Mark, I think you should write your own intro to NT. I would be please to read it!

Mark Goodacre said...

Haha, thanks, Kevin and Peter.

James said...

It’s a scandal that such omissions and inaccuracies creep into standard textbooks and into most Intro courses in schools across America. It’s also a puzzle--why does Q continue to get unearned respect, why is Farrer dissed? Here are two guesses, two attempts to resolve my own sense of puzzlement.
1. Writers of introductory texts, teachers of introductory courses, aren’t much interested in the synoptic problem. They care about the words of the gospels, and don’t care about how it came about they’re there. The gospel tells us how to be saved, it tells us about the winsome fearsome Jesus, it tells us the parables to be puzzled over, it tells us of miracles, it tells us tales of agony and betrayal, --all very exciting stuff. Next to it, dry analysis of overlapping and differentiated stretches of text is just not much fun.

So then it’s easy for laziness to set in, and the mindless force of tradition to reign. Nobody wants to rework their powerpoints, least of all at a dreary stretch like the synoptic problem.

2. Literary and theological analysis is not only important and pleasant, it’s easy. Anybody with verbal facility can play the game pretty well. Whereas the synoptic problem is really hard. Starting from scratch, as one should, one is presented with parallel and divergent texts with major and minor disagreements that are hard to make any sense of at all. It’s as bad as logic questions on the LSAT--who would want to spend hours trying to set them up and get them straight? You’d have to be a little mad, as Goodacre evidently is. (And perhaps you’d have to have a mathematical turn of mind, as Goodacre does and Bauckham doesn’t.)

So that’s my first cut--the synoptic problem falls towards the bottom of the list of topics one likes to think and talk about, and when one does, one finds it recalcitrant to a solution. So one just goes with the flow--where one finds almost everybody else.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, James. Good thoughts. They have inspired me to add some of my reflections too in a separate post.

Maths Tutor Wirral said...

Why do so many New Testament scholars believe in the historicity of something that possibly never existed?

Mark Goodacre said...

I think one of the reasons is that Marcan Priority is so persuasive and, for a long time, it was thought that Marcan Priority required Q in order for it to work. Another reason is the admirable, elegant simplicity of the Two-Source model, according to which all the triple tradition can be attributed to Mark and all the double tradition to Q. It's easy to understand and its easy to teach.

Maths Tutor Wirral said...

Isn't it very plausible for a written document like Q to have existed?

There is nothing implausible about early followers of Jesus writing down some of his teachings.

Of course, early Christian texts are silent about the existence of Q.

And if 'Luke' used 'Matthew' that would imply a relatively late date for 'Luke'.

Mark Goodacre said...

Yes, I think it is quite possible that there were early Christian documents that were lost. It's just that the evidence, as I see it, for Luke copying from Matthew makes postulating that hypothetical document unnecessary.

John Bunyan said...

Good. I have long enjoyed and (as an ordinary C.of E. parson) learnt much indeed from the work of Goulder and Goodacre. However, theirs does not complete the range of ways of looking at the Gospels. I am looking forward, for example, to reviews of Maurice Casey's recent really fascinating work on Jesus of Nazareth (based not least on his great knowledge of Aramaic), putting S.Mark back to c.AD 40, and as in part translation, not always accurate, from the Aramaic and close to the original events. Casey's earlier books on Jesus and on S.John's Gospel did not get much attention because of their high price but the new book is available in paperback.