Re: Q and Papias

It is with some reluctance that I enter into the fray over the stylistic 
quality of Mark and Matthew, partly because I fear that I may open a new 
can of worms before we have digested--or at least sorted out--the one 
we're now dealing with, but also because I really am pretty well 
satisfied with the evidence for Marcan priority and Matthaean (and Lucan) 
improvements in Mark's phraseology. Moreover, there can be no doubt that 
Mark's Greek is abominable: almost any student who's had a year of 
Beginning Greek could write better Greek (an exaggeration, 
perhaps,inasmuch as it does depend on the student), but I never cease to 
be amazed at the sophistication of the narrative that "Mark" writes in 
this abominable Greek. And when the question is raised as to why Mark's 
gospel survived, I do think that recent scholarship has increasingly 
shown how powerful this apocalyptic representation of suffering servant 
and a model for what it means to be an authentic "follower" of Jesus can 
be and why it preserves intact that urgent appeal in a way that Mt and Lk 
with their broader historical vision and more complex implicit 
ecclesiology simply cannot do. It is certainly good that we have four 
distinct canonical gospels.

But I've been carried away beyond my immediate concern, which is a 
recalcitrant skepticism about how much stylistic arguments can prove. 
Yes, I admit that I don't see how the same author can be responsible for 
Philippians and Ephesians, and closer to my own era of specialization I 
think the stylistic grounds for doubting that the Prometheus Bound was 
written by Aeschylus are very strong. But then I think of the difference 
between Henry James' _Portrait of a Lady_ and _The Golden Bowl_ and can't 
really believe that it is a difference LESS great than that between 
Philippians and Ephesians. And, on the other hand, the early traditional 
evidence for Aeschylean authorship of the Prometheus Bound is pretty 
strong. So what's the upshot? I'm not really sure, except to say that I 
don't think the stylistic differences between Mark and Matthew (or Luke) 
are by themselves sufficient weight in favor of Marcan priority. They do 
weigh in the balance when other considerations are also brought to bear, 
but not sufficiently by themselves.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA
(314) 935-4018
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu  OR cwc@oui.com

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