Due to massively heavy workload, I've had to remain on the sidelines for
most of the Q discussion. Let me now, when I have a couple of minutes,
raise a few points before descending again into the maelstrom of
Oral tradition? Not.
Oral tradition accounting for the similarities among the synoptic
gospels? Hardly. See the summary in Kloppenborg's _The Formation of Q_
pp. 44ff, which Stan Anderson mentioned a few days ago. Gerhardsson's
and Riesenfeld's memorization thesis have been shown to be
anachronistic--there is simply no evidence for their claims.
Furthermore, the nature of the differences is not consistent with what
is known about folkloric transmission either (Kloppenborg pp. 45-46,
among others). If it's not memorized, and it's not transmitted in a
folkloric fashion, then there is no other model for this transmission to
have taken place. The only other rational alternative is a literary
one, and that leads us to the 2 (4) source hypothesis.
Did Mark "dumb down" Matthew and Luke? Unlikely.
I don't force my students to agree to any particular model of synoptic
relationships, though I make it clear that I follow what is now the most
commonly accepted pattern. Most (but not all) of them agree with me, in
about the same proportion as we find in the guild. That is
corroborating evidence, I think. What convinces them? Things like:
- Mark 2:26 and parallels -- it is much easier to see Matthew and Luke
omitting the incorrect reference to Abiathar, than to see Mark inserting
this erroneous reference for no narrative reason (and we know a lot
about Mark's narrative skills -- see, e.g., Rhoads and Michie, _Mark as
Story_, which presumes nothing about the priority of Mark).
- Similarly, Mark 6:1-6 // Matt 13:53-58, especially Mark's "Is not this
... the son of Mary" vs. Matthew's "Is not his mother called Mary"
(avoiding the unpleasantness of being called by your mother's rather
than your father's name) -- you would have to come up with a theory
consistent with Mark's narrative style to explain that embarrassing
change; it's MUCH easier to see Matthew correcting Mark's infelicity.
- Similarly, what kind of Christian writer would change Matt 13:58 (he
did not do many might works there) to Mark 6:5 (he could do no might
work there)? It is much simpler to see the change going the other
- Mark 10:18 (Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone) --
it is much easier to see Matthew missing Mark's irony and reducing the
apparent differentiation between Jesus and God, than to see Mark
intentionally misleading the reader with the idea that Jesus is not God.
- Mark 4:36: Why would Mark add the other boats and then leave the
reader wondering how they survived the storm? It is much easier to see
Matthew and Luke leaving these other boats out. Until you can show why
Mark would arbitrarily add these to an otherwise sensible narrative,
you've got a problem.
- Mark 7:33-36: similar. You need to come up with a convincing answer
to the question as to why Mark would add this material. It is easier to
see Matthew leaving it out, to enhance Jesus' miraculous skills (he
looks less like a traditional magician in Matthew, and more like the Son
- Mark 8:22-26: Would people who have Matthew available to them really
want this story about Jesus added to their gospel? No, it's much easier
to see good Christian folk being disturbed by this story and leaving it
- What about "it was not the season for figs" in Mark 11:13? Again,
it's easier to see Matthew and Luke eliminating that than to see Mark as
turning Jesus into some sort of ogre for unclear reasons.
(Excursis: Several posters have criticized the claim that Matthew
improved Mark's Greek by saying that we don't know enough about Mark to
say for sure whether he might be using a particular idiom or style on
purpose. Fortunately, the ancients were not burdened with contemporary
ideas about grammar; they did not have the contemporary "value-free"
approach to linguistic register. To say that Mark would intentionally
have written in a socially inferior register is anachronistic. You
won't find a comparable example in the ancient world, I'm willing to
Mark: Promoting Heresy?
If someone were writing a story about Jesus today and consciously
omitted the story of the virginal conception of Jesus, promoted
Adoptionism (we'd all be Adoptionists if Mark was the only gospel that
we had), eliminated the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, indeed most of
Jesus' teachings, and eliminated the resurrection appearances (pace Ken
Litwak, the consensus today seems to be that Mark intended to end his
gospel at 16:8), what would we hear? We'd hear good Christian folk
shouting "heresy!". And this is the biggest problem that Griesbachians
face (acknowledged too by Michael Goulder, who has yet a different
solution to the syn. prob. that needs no Q). How is it that such a
heretical gospel managed to survive competition with Matthew, Luke, and
John, and in the end be canonized? Why did not everyone who encountered
Mark, after reading Matthew and Luke, simply reject it, since most of
their favourite stuff if missing? To put it another way, if Mark is an
epitome of Matthew and Luke, it's the worst job of epitomizing that I've
ever seen. Most of the important stuff got left out. You have to
explain not only Mark's agenda in butchering the texts that lay before
him, but also have to construct a plausible community that would
continue to respect and copy this text alongside of Matthew and Luke,
when Matthew and Luke were known to have greater antiquity (a real asset
in the ancient world).
Look at, e.g., Kuemmel's venerable Intro to the NT. I'm looking at the
1975 Abingdon translation, pp. 53ff (section 5.3.2). Recall that we
don't have Papias' own words, just Eusebius' report of them (and who
knows how accurate he might have been, and how much wishful thinking
might have been involved?). The date of Papias is uncertain.
Furthermore, the nature of Papias' sources is disputed--he probably got
his information at least third hand (cf. Schoedel's ABD article on
Papias, section C). There is good reason to be suspicious of Eusebius'
report of Papias.
Running out of time. Recall that the argument about order, not just
about wording, is a key one to support the 2 (4) s.h. Griesbachians
have tried their own arguments from order, but they (imho) neglect the
natural divisions in the text (i.e. pericope boundaries, where they can
be determined), and smell to me (this is admittedly subjective) like an
after-the-decision rationalization. On order, see, e.g. Kuemmel around
p. 58, et al.
On Theological Presuppostions
Someone, I forget who, asked whether Griesbachians vs. 2 (4) source
folks could be split along theological lines. I agree with several
respondents that that this is a bit too simplistic. It does seem to me,
though that the Griesbachians tend to a more orthodox Christianity, be
it protestant or R.C. Take, for example, Farmer's 1986 article in the
Perkins journal, titled "The Church's Stake in the Question of Q." Here
he states explicitly that Q must be opposed on theological grounds, for
it raises the scary idea that there might have been a form of primitive
Christianity (to use that word loosely) form whom the death and
resurrection of Jesus was not at the core of the movement's theology.
This might call the whole Christian mythos (my word) into question.
This is about the most explicit example that I have ever seen of letting
theology control exegesis. But look how attractive it is to orthodox
Christianity: You can eliminate Q, which has no passion narrative, and
Mark, with its embarrassing lack of infancy and resurrection narratives,
from having any claim in the construction of Christian origins! There
is no Q, and Mark (the heretical gospel) is safely tucked into third
place, after Matthew and Luke. Now, I'm not accusing all
neo-Griesbachians of this theological control of historical
investigation, but Farmer seems to be accused out of his own mouth (bzw.
See the important article on this by John Kloppenborg in the Neirynck
Festschrift: "Theological stakes in the synoptic problem," pp. 93-120 in
Volume 1 of F. Van Segbroeck, et al., _The Four Gospels 1992: Festschift
Frans Neirynck_ (Leuven & Peeters, 1992). If Thomas Longstaff is
reading this, and has persevered this far, perhaps he has a response to
Kloppenborg's critique on p. 106?
Sterling G. Bjorndahl, bjorndahl@Augustana.AB.CA
Augustana University College, Camrose, Alberta, Canada (403) 679-1516
When dealing with computers, a little paranoia is usually appropriate.
- Re: Q
- From: Stephen Carlson <email@example.com>