Re: simple, coherent and plausible hypothesis.

From: Stephen C. Carlson (
Date: Tue Feb 03 1998 - 01:02:40 EST

At 07:21 2/2/98 -0500, Nichael Lynn Cramer wrote:
>Brian E. Wilson wrote:
>>>I thought you might actually have stated something like - "Matthew
>>>copied from Mark, and Luke copied from both Matthew and Mark. No
>>>hypothetical sources are posited."
>>>This would at least have been simple.
>Actually, no; it would have been anything _but_ simple as Gerald Downing
>has amply demonstrated.

For some reason this thread, which originated on the Crosstalk list, was
cross-posted to B-Greek. Since I strongly disagree that Downing "has amply
demonstrated" that the Farrer/Goulder Hypothesis is "anything _but_ simple,"
I enclose an article I had written for Crosstalk about flaws in Downing's
argument. Follow-ups should be sent back to Crosstalk. For subscription
information, please see .

Stephen Carlson

--- Here is an extract from my message of 9/23/97: ---

The most rigorous approach to this issue from the 2ST perspective
that I'm aware is F. Gerald Downing, "Compositional Conventions &
the Synoptic Problem," JBL 107 (1988): 69-85 and "A Paradigm
Perplex: Luke, Matthew & Mark," NTS 38 (1992): 15-36.

When we consider whose proposed compositional technique is
plausible or incredible, it is good to start from a solid evidentiary
basis to avoid unconscious bias, naive retrojection, and a priori
reasoning. In Downing's survey of compositional techniques among
classical authors, e.g. Livy, Plutarch, he finds that if conflation
occurs, it is for similar accounts and it is block-by-block, not
word-by-word. Tatian's Diatessaron is probably the only counter-
example, being a phrase-by-phrase conflation, under a unique set
of circumstances, generally using Matthew as a base and interpolating
details from the other gospels.

This portion of Downing's articles is a valuable resource, but the
remainder of his analyses is flawed, because he does not distinguish
between the very difficult word-by-word conflation and the easier
block-by-block conflation.

In the first article, "Compositional Conventions," Downing asserts
that every source theory involves conflation, e.g. Griesbach's Mark
of Matthew and Luke, Goulder's Luke of Mark and Matthew, and the 2ST's
Matthew and Luke of Mark and Q. Thus, he prefers the theory that
involves the least "unpicking" of sources, that is finding passages
peculiar to one source, -- the 2ST because the two sources are so
dissimilar. For this criticism, it seems that Griesbach requires the
most unpicking, then Goulder to a much lesser extent, and the least
with the 2ST. However, when the nature of the conflation is
examined, as Downing did not, Griesbach's Mark performs word-by-word
conflations mostly throughout; the 2ST Matthew usually does a block-by-
block conflation, except for a few word-by-word conflations in the known
Mark/Q overlaps; and Goulder's Luke mainly does the block-by-block
conflation, without doing the word-by-word conflation. Thus, Downing
ignores the force of his evidence, that word-by-word conflation is very
implausible, by blurring the distinctions between the types of conflation
and concentrating on a side issue, "unpicking." Viewed properly, Goulder's
Luke and the 2ST's Luke present the least difficulties [word-by-word
conflation], followed by the 2ST's Matthew, then by Griesbach's Mark.

In the second article, "Paradigm Perplex," Downing assails Goulder's
Luke for *refusing* to conflate word-by-word when the opportunity
arises. This criticism is in contradiction with the evidence Downing
adduced from classical examples. If word-by-word conflation is truly
difficult, then Goulder's Luke should be applauded not booed for his

Stephen C. Carlson                   : Poetry speaks of aspirations,              : and songs chant the words. :               -- Shujing 2.35

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