Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yet another NT Introduction ignores the Farrer Theory

It's déjà vu!

After noticing a recent case of Another Introduction to the Bible, Another Chance to Ignore the Farrer Theory, curiosity compelled me to check out another recent New Testament Introduction, Gary M. Burge, Lynn H. Cohick and Gene L. Green, The New Testament in Antiquity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009).  I had previously noticed just how gorgeous looking the book was -- a lavishly illustrated historical introduction to the New Testament with a stress on its cultural contexts.

What I had not previously noticed was that it featured a several page discussion on the Synoptic Problem (112-7) with nice diagrams, a Synopsis of a passage (Matt. 8.16-17 // Mark 1.32-4 // Luke 4.40-41) and pictures of Augustine, J. J. Griesbach, B. H. Streeter and William Farmer.  And this itself is something of a first -- I don't think I've ever seen a picture of Streeter in a New Testament introduction before, let alone Farmer.

Sadly, my initial enthusiasm soon gave way to the now all-too-familiar experience of seeing the Farrer Theory ignored.  And this example is a particularly striking one in the genre.  As far as this textbook is concerned, there are only two solutions to the Synoptic Problem actively discussed in New Testament scholarship today, the Two-Source Theory and the Griesbach Theory.  The Two-Source Theory is represented as "most popular today", indeed "so well received that some scholars refer to this result as an 'assured finding'" (116).  The latter is a quotation from Willi Marxsen in 1968.

The authors go on to explain, however, that there is "another generation of scholars", led by William Farmer, who adhere to the Griesbach Theory.  And they add that "Farmer has a growing following" (117).

The discussion of the Synoptic Problem itself proceeds along familiar lines.  Augustine gives way to Griesbach, but Griesbach does not work because Marcan Priority is more plausible (115). But once Marcan Priority is accepted, "the next question is whether Matthew used Luke or Luke used Matthew" (115).  At this point, there is reason for the Q sceptic to feel encouraged -- the right questions are being asked!

Such hopes are soon disappointed.  The authors suggest "that when Matthew and Luke make editorial changes to Mark, none of Matthew's changes show up in Luke and vice versa" (116).  "If Matthew had known Luke -- or if Luke had known Matthew -- then surely some of the changes would be apparent" (116).  And so, when the double tradition is introduced, it becomes inevitable that Q is the answer.

Technically, I suppose, the Farrer theory is represented in one half of that couple of theoretical sentences even though it is not introduced by name or properly explained.  But what I find particularly remarkable about this example is that the Q theory is introduced on the basis of an erroneous claim, the statement that Luke does not feature any of Matthew's editorial changes to Mark.  Indeed, for many, this is the appeal of the Farrer Theory, that it is able to account for the many cases of Matthew's and Luke's agreements against Mark in triple tradition.

It is an interesting state of affairs to have the Q theory expounded, for introductory students, on the basis of the denial of a large body of data that is actually foundational for those who are sceptical of the existence of Q.


Joe Weaks said...

That is just bizarre.

Anonymous said...

I've really enjoyed your podcasts (all of them) and I know you've covered this in the past. I'm trying to remember what the 2 source theory says about these instances of Matthew and Luke agreeing against Mark in the triple tradition. Is this what's called Mark-Q overlap? And is the idea that the reason Matthew and Luke agree is because it's an instance where Q and Mark cover the same material and both Matthew and Luke have opted to follow Q rather than Mark?

Loren Rosson III said...

I've been finding all of this hard to take in, Mark. Doesn't make sense.

Michael Barber said...

As I explained, I think non-engagement with such views is an academic scandal. Don't know if you saw it: http://www.thesacredpage.com/2011/03/goodacre-and-scandal-of-non-engagement.html

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for the comments. I've got another post to come on this book, and a couple more posts to come on other recent examples of the phenomenon.

Chris: yes, the places where Matthew and Luke have major agreements in triple tradition are called "Mark-Q overlap". Here the agreements are so major that Two-Source Theorists explain them by arguing that they represent places where Mark and Q overlapped with one another. There is also a massive and overlapping rump of cases known as Minor Agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark. In general, they are places where Two-Source Theorists use other explanations, e.g. independent redaction, textual corruption. I argue that these categories flow into one another.

Thanks, Michael, for your great post and your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Got it. Thanks Mark. By the way, my favorite podcasts were the extended ones where you brought us into your classroom. I love your teaching style. Makes me wish I could go back to University again. Feel free to do those any time :)

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks. Quite a few people have said that. I have kept recordings of all my classes over the last year, so perhaps I'll give it another go.