Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Morton Scott Enslin: the American Austin Farrer?

When I was putting together my website about Q, over twenty years ago, when websites were the latest thing, and when they were still fun and exciting, and when we hand-coded everything, I was aware that what I was offering was an utterly fringe theory, which would be regarded as completely maverick, so one thing I wanted to do was to show that there had been other prominent Q sceptics. I was not alone!

I pulled together a Key Quotations page and tried to show that there were several scholars who had been sceptical about Q while holding on to Marcan Priority, and I hoped that invoking names like E. P. Sanders, alongside lesser known dignitaries like John Drury, might at least lend a veneer of respectability to my strangely unorthodox site.

One issue for a British Q sceptic like me was that Michael Goulder was pretty well known in UK scholarly circles, and his works respected and engaged even by those who disagreed with him. But in the USA, things were different. The Griesbach theory (Mark used Matthew and Luke) was regarded as the official opposition to the reigning Two-Source Theory, and if you told someone you were sceptical about Q, they automatically assumed you must be sceptical about Marcan Priority too.

So I tried in my Key Quotations page to show that there was at least some kind of pedigree for the Farrer theory in the USA. Indeed, James Hardy Ropes and Morton Scott Enslin had already set out their opposition to the Q hypothesis in 1934 and 1938 respectively.  Enslin's contribution came from a lovely little book, Christian Beginnings, which was reprinted in 1956.

Up until yesterday, I thought that that was the only thing Enslin had written on the topic. But when re-reading a recent fine article by John Poirier, I spotted a footnote to a work I had never read:

Morton Scott Enslin, “Luke and Matthew: Compilers or Authors?” ANRW II.25.3 (1985): 2357-88

ANRW is famously glacial in its publication schedule; Enslin died in 1980, and this appeared five years later. Moreover, the article appears to have been written before 1976 since he talks about William Farmer's forthcoming Synoptic Problem revision, which came out that year.

Enslin's article is delightful, and has something of the "devil may care" attitude one sometimes sees in scholars who are in the twilight of their careers. Enslin was born in 1897 and was almost eighty when he wrote this piece. His central concern is the way that so many scholars see the evangelists not as authors but as "compilers" of traditions. If I were putting together my "World Without Q" website today, I might be inclined to use this quotation:
In sum, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that the only support for this hypothetical Q, which so mysteriously completely vanished and of which no slightest mention is to be found in any of the Fathers, is the assumption that neither Matthew nor Luke could have been satisfied to use the other, had he known it, so meagerly. What that really means is that we could not have so done. It is easy to forget that none of these writings, which we prize so highly today, was "Holy Scripture" or "canonical" to the other writers. Obviously, both Matthew and Luke found Mark of great use, but neither hesitated to alter, shorten, or correct to a degree that a modern critic might weIl hesitate to follow. I cannot avoid the conclusion that these hypothetical sources which no one has ever seen -- be they Q or L or proto-Luke or M -- are simply the consequence of the very modern notion that one holy evangelist could not deliberately have altered or violated the writings of another. Thus these deviations, as notably Luke's flat contradiction of Mark's account of the Passion, with the Galilee chapter deftly avoided and the disciples remaining in Jerusalem awaiting their reception of the Spirit, are commonly explained as due to the utilization of a different source. Sourceomania, if I may so phrase it, is a disease from which many critics have suffered. The point to be remembered is that each of the evangelists was apparently dissatisfied with the work of his predecessors and thought he could do a better job. Else he would not have written. They were not joining with respected colleagues in contributing chapters for a Festschrift.
Enslin has a delightful turn of phrase, and I am reminded of Farrer's own "golden eloquence". I particularly like his coining of the term Sourceomania, and I am planning to post on this tomorrow. While he does appear to be aware of Austin Farrer's "On Dispensing with Q" (2365 n. 16, misspelt as "Farrar"), his views were developed long before Farrer's 1955 article, and if there is any influence, it is more likely to have gone in the other direction, from Enslin to Farrer.

Over forty years earlier, in 1933, he was reflecting on Luke's sources in Acts, and analogizing from the Gospel in this way:
Even in the Third Gospel, in spite of the amazingly fortunate accident that a primary source Mark and a probable clue to a second source by virtue of a parallel Matthew are preserved, we quickly reach an impasse in source analysis, as is abundantly evidenced by the total disagreement of scholars, vide the happy proto-Luke, our inability to determine the size or nature of Q, which now waxes, now wanes, and finally the indications that we shall awake some morning to find that it has become orthodox again to believe that Luke actually used Matthew. And this is true simply because Luke was a skilled author, not an adept with scissors and paste pot. If this is the case for the Gospel -- and I do not feel the picture overdrawn -- how much more difficult is it in Acts which stands alone. ("A Notable Contribution to Acts", JBL 52/4 (1933): 230-8 [238]).
I rather like "scissors and paste pot". I don't think I've seen that variation before. The thinking does resemble Farrer's. He was endlessly frustrated by what he called "paragraph criticism" and obsession with sources, at the expense of appreciating the the gospels as wholes. Farrer repeatedly delved into the patterning and structure of Mark, and was fascinated with the attempt to understand his mind. Enslin thinks similarly, and says of Mark:
Few books of greater power have ever been penned. On every page the unfettered author is to be seen, not the docile reteller of his teacher's sermons. That it was the death or retirement of Peter which led Mark to this new step in Christian literary activity, while often suggested, appears to me most unlikely. Rather it appears far more probable that it was the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which convinced our author that the long expected fulfillment of Jesus' predictions of the momentary coming of the kingdom of God was now at hand ("Luke and Matthew", 2363).
Enslin's essay goes on to explicate several passages that he sees as troubling for the Q hypothesis, often anticipating arguments that Michael Goulder would use. On Matt. 4.1-11 // Luke 4.1-13 (the Temptation Story), for example, he writes:
The simplest and most natural explanation of the Matthean-Lukan form of the temptation story is that it is secondary to the Markan narrative and a deliberate recasting of it, not a parallel story from another source which Matthew and Luke independently preferred and substituted for the Markan. Attempts to see it as a more primitive story -- or at least as one preserved in a source earlier than Mark, and possibly known to him -- appear to me, as already remarked, too ridiculous to demand serious reply. And by all rules of the critical game, if a fancied Q is to be seen as providing the non-Markan parallels of Matthew and Luke, this ornate and scarcely primitive-sounding story must be seen as one of its incidents ("Luke and Matthew", 2375).
I can't help smiling at "too ridiculous to demand serious reply". Perhaps I will write like that when I am eighty.

Additional note: Further investigation reveals that the ANRW article is in fact a massively expanded version of an article that originally appeared in 1967, "Luke and Matthew", JQR 57 (1967): 178-91.

1 comment:

Jens Knudsen said...

The more I read about mimesis and Koine/Roman authorial practices, the more I think that the observation that needs to be explained is why Matthew and Luke took over Mark wholesale/verbatim in the way they did. That appears to be the behaviour that is really unprecedented. Not the authorial imagination and independence.