Thursday, May 24, 2012

Matthean and Lukan Special Material, Part 1

I am grateful to Wipf and Stock for sending over a review copy of Brice Jones's new book:

Matthean and Lukan Special Material
A Brief Introduction with Texts in Greek and English

It's actually cheaper ($10.18) to buy direct from Wipf and Stock than from Amazon although the latter gives a decent preview of the book.  See already the notice and comments on Mike Bird's blog.

The idea of Jones's book is to gather together under one cover the passages that appear in Matthew alone and Luke alone, the "Matthean and Lukan Special Material".  Each passage is written out in full, first in Greek (NA27) and then in English translation (NRSV) and the short volume is prefaced with an introductory essay on the Synoptic Problem.

I will comment on the book in two posts.  In this first post, I will comment on the presentation of Special Matthew and Special Luke. In the second post, I will comment on Jones's introductory essay on the Synoptic Problem.

The presentation of Special Matthew and Special Luke may provide a useful introductory sketch of the contours of some of this material for undergraduate students and the interested beginner.  The presentation is clear and uncluttered.  For advanced students and scholars, however, the book's usefulness will be limited. The passages are presented without text-critical apparatus, marginal notes, Biblical citations or commentary, and there are several issues related to the selection of passages.

Jones's selection of passages (14, n. 31) is dependent on Mark Allan Powell, Fortress Introduction to the Gospels (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), 62 and 86.  His Special Matthew is practically identical to Powell's list list (adding only Matt. 5.39a) and his Special Luke is identical to Powell's list.  The problem is that Powell is offering in each case what he calls a "Partial List".  They are not comprehensive lists of the contents of Special Matthew or Special Luke.

Jones's presentation therefore retains all of the anomalies of Powell's partial lists. The opening of Luke (Luke 1.1-4) is included , but the opening of Matthew (Matt. 1.1) is not.   The Lord's Prayer is included in Special Matthew (Matt. 6.9-13) but excluded from Special Luke (Luke 11.2-4). Matthew's Birth Narrative ends two verses early (Matt. 2.21).  Luke's Birth Narrative excludes the first note about Jesus' growth (Luke 2.40) but includes the second (Luke 2.52). Jesus' words to the repentant thief are included in L (23.43) but the rest of the conversation (23.39-42) is not.

The difficulty with relying on Powell's lists is that they are not comprehensive.  They are introductory, illustrative handlists for the newcomer.  Powell's lists exclude some famous pieces of Special Matthew, like John the Baptist's reluctance (Matt. 3.14-15) and Pilate's Wife's Dream (Matt. 27.19), but it excludes still more from Special Luke, the dating of John the Baptist's Mission (Luke 3.1-2), Luke's Woes (Luke 6.24-26), True Blessedness (11.27-29), Casting Fire (12.49-50), Herod's threat (13.31-3), Tax-collectors and sinners (15.1-2), Servant of all Work (17.7-10), Kingdom within you (17.20-1), and Peter at the tomb (24.12).  All of this material is absent from Jones's presentation.

Moreover, because Powell's partial list of Special Matthew throws the net more widely than his partial list of Special Luke, there is an imbalance in Jones's presentation of each set.  The presentation of M is relatively maximizing when compared to the presentation of L.  I am not sure why Powell's partial list of L material incorporates a little less than Powell's partial list of M but it may be that Powell had to exclude more of L in order to squeeze it into one page in the book (86). Whatever the reason, though, the holes should be filled in when one moves from a list to a book.

To be fair to Jones, it is not straightforward to decide what material to include and what to exclude, and if he had made his own lists, no doubt they would have raised their own questions.  But that itself draws attention to the difficulty of simply presenting partial data without any commentary or notes.  The reader can never be sure why one piece is included and another is excluded.

The difficulty with delineating Special Matthew and Special Luke is that one person's Sondergut is another person's Matthean or Lucan redaction.  So Jones, following Powell, includes Luke's version of the Rejection at Nazareth (Luke 4.16-30, cf. Mark 6.1-6), the Call of the Disciples (Luke 5.1-11, cf. Mark 1.16-20) and the Anointing (Luke 7.36-50, cf. Mark 14.3-9) which others would regard as triple tradition.  Similarly, variant double tradition passages often find their way into M (e.g. Matt. 18.21-22, cf. Luke 17.4) but not L.

One of the lessons here is that mastering the Synoptic data is indeed a key element in understanding the Synoptic Problem.  While the introductory sketches are of course always welcome, in the end there is no substitute for detailed work with synopses and texts, with exploration of the nuances and details that make the problem so interesting.

In the second part of this review, I will look at Jones's essay, "Literary Relationships Among the Gospels", which he uses to explain the role played by M and L in discussions of the Synoptic Problem.


Edwardtbabinski said...

Differences between Matthew and Luke that stand out and perhaps are evidence of a direction of trajectory from Matthew to Luke's day are the way Matthew's genealogy of Jesus only goes back to "Abraham," while Luke's genealogy takes things further, all the way back to "God."

Also, Matthew's nativity story includes one miraculous birth story, while Luke's includes two miraculous birth stories, that of Jesus and also John the Baptist.

Luke's nativity tales also include prayers, hymns, songs.

It's obvious that by the time Luke was composed the story was more elaborate with two miraculous birth tales, special prayers/hymns, and a lengthened genealogy.

Brett Provance said...

I like the blog author's review, and I like this first comment.
Question: Do you think the inclusion of three or four canticles at the beginning of the document implies a communal Sitz im Leben for its use? Is this a liturgical setting of the stage? Or is Luke merely garnishing his narrative?

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Edward. Good points. Thanks too Unknown (please sign your comments). Great question. Part of the oddity of the songs in Luke 1-2 is that they end at the end of Luke 2. I wish Luke had gone on and continued adding songs throughout the story.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Then we'd have: "The Gospel According to Luke: The Musical"!

Brett Provance said...

"Unknown" question from me, Brett Provance. Signing "Unknown" was not intentional. Thank you for posting on this topic. I studied Q at CGU, and revisit the issue now and then.