Re: Q and Papias
Date: Sat, 29 Oct 1994 14:35:07 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Gregory Jordan (ENG)" <email@example.com>
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
On Fri, 28 Oct 1994, Michael I Bushnell wrote:
> I'm afraid you've made an unwarranted assumption. I'm an
> Anglo-Catholic; it's quite surprising to be accused of
> _sola_scriptura_! So the fact that I defend the actual Scriptures
> against interlopers doesn't mean that there is nothing but the
> Scriptures for the Church.
Oops! I didn't mean to imply you believed in _sola scriptura_ - I wasn't
using it in Luther's sense, but in a tongue-in-cheek sense applicable to
this subject (_sola mea scriptura_), that is, about accepting only a
certain set of Scriptures as the basis for religious belief & scholarly
study. What I was trying to say, and obviously didn't say very well, was
that not all Christians might agree on what is or should be canonical,
whether the canon is closed, etc. etc.
I don't mean to restrict scholarly study, as long as we understand
that the Academy is not the Church.
While various Christians disagree about the bounds of the canon, there
is no diversity about the bounds of the NT, nor about most of the OT.
We have only a few books of disputed status to consider. And, in a
discussion of the synoptic Gospels, the status of the Apocrypha is
Moreover, within actual Christian groups, there is nearly univocal
agreement about the bounds of canonicity. (The notable exception, of
course, being my own Anglican church...)
> The Scriptures have a place in the Church, and that place is occupied
> by the actual Scriptures, as they were actually canonized.
> Hypothetical (or even discovered) ur-texts are not the canonized
> texts, and so they don't occupy that place. They might occupy a
> different place--but they are not then the Scriptures.
This gets into a sticky grey area: exactly which scriptures were the
canonizers looking at when they decided canon, and should only those
texts be considered canonical by those churches which wish to see them as
canonical for this reason? In that case, attempts to find the "original"
even of a canonical gospel are wrong-headed, and manuscripts earlier than
canon-formation should be discarded instead of prized.
What was canonized was "Matthew". Not "4th Century Matthew". But
also not some urtext "pre-Matthew". This is a *very* fuzzy
distinction, of course, and requires great subtlety to apply. But it
*is* the crucial distiction. The question to be answered is "Is this
Matthew, or is it merely one of Matthew's sources?"
This gets really weird when dealing with things like the beginning of
John 8. That pericope is generally accepted as canonical even though
almost certainly *not* part of one of the canonized Gospels. And so
it goes. I can only plead that there are no simple rules to apply,
> This place occupied by the Scriptures is not the sole source of
> authority in the Church, I would confess; I do not believe the
> doctrine of _sola_scriptura_. But the place occupied by the
> Scriptures is not occupied by supposed ur-scriptures.
It's interesting to wonder what would happen if some older texts were to
be found and verified to most people's satisfaction as "ur-scriptures."
Would some churches give them more weight than the canonicals?
Probably. Some people already give the Gospel of Thomas priority over
the canonical Gospels. Are they doing the right thing? I don't think
> It's quite off the point to notice the politics and mechanism of the
> process of canonization; the early ecumenical councils were also
> filled with politics, and this doesn't give me reason to doubt the
> Nicene Creed.
I *really* wanted to avoid this kind of discussion, and that is why I was
merely hoped people here would recognize the wide variety of Christians
reading this list, some of whom doubt the Nicene Creed, for your
information, and some of whom doubt politics as a vehicle of divine
inspiration. If we can all avoid making claims for each others' beliefs
about canon and creed, and talking about _The_ Church and _The_
Christians ("Us", as opposed to "interlopers") we would be doing well I
Sure! But you sort of protested my view of canonicity partially on
the grounds of politics. I'd be happy to drop the issue of politics
entirely. (While I think it's tremendously theologically interesting,
it's not really on topic for this list.)
It seems like discussions like the one on Q would proceed better if
people here understood, respected, and detached themselves from the
variety of Christian (and non-Christian) beliefs about canon,
inspiration, etc. inasmuch as some of those beliefs are not amenable to
rational investigation. Otherwise people may tend to talk past each
other and offend each other needlessly. For instance, those who think Q
studies are irrelevant to their concerns can simply ignore those posts
without taking issue with their existence.
Ah---but here's the rub!
Is this list Academy, or is it Church?
Or is it somewhere in the middle?
The very detachment you ask for produces, in my opinion, academically
interesting results which are *strictly* and *exactly* of no use for
the Church. Much of my objection to the nature of much current
theological education is just this--it asks for a detachment which
removes it from the Church in its theological and educative roles.
So it gets to one's motivations for being on this list. Is the New
Testament simply an interesting ancient text of scholarly interest for
its own sake, and to be studied on the same terms as Homer or
Or, if one's motivation for being interested in the topic is one's
religious faith and/or ecclesiastical commitment, then doesn't just
the detachment you ask for amount to a request that one *pretend* to
have a different motivation, and play a language game that produces
results of no value to one's actual purpose?