In Response To: Ron Price
On: Alternating [Mt/Lk] Primitivity #9-10
CASE 9 (Lk 13:20-21 || Mt 13:33, no Mk; parable of the leaven, emphasizing
TINI OMOIWSW THN BASILEAN TOU QEOU). The case is Kingdom of Heaven (Mt) vs
Kingdom of God .....
Ron: The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is exclusive to Matthew, so most
commentators consider Luke's "kingdom of God" to be original here.
Bruce: Since Kingdom of God is characteristic of Lk, this could be run the
other way with equal convincement. When a common passage is well adjusted to
its two surroundings, there is no directionality indication.
Ron: But what about the question format? Goulder thinks Luke was influenced
by Mk 4:30. But this seems fanciful as (a) Luke wasn't in a 'Markan block'
in Lk 13:20 and (b) he's just written the very similar Lk 13:18. The
question format in the mustard seed's Lk 13:18 is probably original (Semitic
poetic parallelism). Therefore the question format in the similar yeast's Lk
13:20 is probably also original.
Bruce: The Mustard Seed is an interesting case; one of the obvious
relocations by Luke of material which had originally stood in Markan order,
being shifted to another location in the second stratum of Lk (Luke B). It
will be noticed that as it stands, the Mustard Seed parable in Luke draws on
both Mk and Mt; this (to me) indicates revision of a Mk-derived story as a
consequence of later contact with Lk. As they stand, the parables seem to me
to form this sequence:
Mk: Birds make nests in the shade of the mustard SHRUB
Mt: SHRUB becomes a TREE; birds nest in its branches
Lk: It grows into a TREE; birds nest in its branches.
The mustard plant is in fact a tall shrub, not a tree. We see here, I would
suggest, a progressive exaggeration of the mustard seed contrast, with the
shrub nature of the plant increasingly occluded as we pass from Mk to Mt to
The question introducing the Mustard Seed parable is original in Mk,
retained (despite later Mt contact) in Lk. A holdover phenomenon.
CASE 10 (Lk 14:35 || Mt 5:13 || 9:50, salt losing its savor, the noted
passage is OUTE EIS GHN OUTE EIS KOPRIAN "[suitable] neither for soil nor
Ron: Again this is more specific (and poetic) than the doubtless accurate
but rather dull Matthean alternative ("anything" NRSV). The former is
therefore more likely to be original.
Bruce: Having found the Markan version of the mustard plant more accurate,
and thus more original than the exaggerated Mt/Lk versions, I probably can't
argue with a dullness argument here; fortunately for those who are keeping
score on the Matthean side, this leads to a judgment Mt > Lk.
I take alarm however at the reintroduction of the "poetic" argument. For
reasons earlier mentioned, I think there can be no such general principle.
For that matter, accuracy (one form of "dullness") as a criterion has its
hazards too. If you happen to like that side of the Quartodeciman
controversy, it means that GJn, being more accurate historically, is also
the earlier text, and that Luke, giving much more detail than Mt about
Jesus's paternal ancestry, is therefore earlier than Mt, and in giving much
more detail about the year and circumstances of Jesus's birth than Mk, is
therefore earlier than Mk. There are reasons why those conclusions don't
validly follow. One of them is that later writers know the value of
circumstantial detail, and may therefore include it purposely.
[I had again suggested including Mk, where available, in these Mt/Lk
judgements, and of Mt, I here add that it is interesting that Lk 14:33-35 is
opposite to Mt 5:13-16 in the order of its elements]
Ron: I agree that we should take Mark into account. There is no direct
parallel to the phrase in Mark (unless we count Mk 9:50b, which looks pretty
obviously redactional). Looking elsewhere in the saying, I think the MWRANQH
("made foolish") of Mt and Lk is a nonsensical mistranslation from Aramaic,
and here Mark alone got it right with ANALON GENHTAI "lost its saltiness".
Bruce: I decline for reasons of ignorance to follow in the pathways of
Aramaic. But I take some comfort from the fact that all texts before us are
in Greek. Consulting those texts, I find that the "salt" business is a
famous perplexity. How can salt lose its quality, whatever that quality may
be? In Mk, the saying leads to a recommendation to "be at peace with one
another." Mt/Lk both seem to work it into a warning about damnation. They,
as a group, seem to be more obviously concerned with the struggles of the
early churches than Mk, who does legislate for them too, but who maintains
something more of a consistently historian-of-Jesus posture in so doing.
MWRANQH. Balz/Schneider gives a helpful overview of meanings and theories.
It generally means "foolish," as Ron says, and must be translated
"tasteless, insipid" only in the two Mt/Lk skew parallel passages, where the
meaning is constrained by the context. Here is a passage which might come
under Ron's "apothegm" category; Mk as well as Mt/Lk seem to be struggling
with it (and I can't see any great difference in their struggles, except
that Mt or Lk is obviously following an improvement, for so they must have
seen it, which was suggested by the other).
I am struggling with it too. How, in the first place, can salt lose its
saltiness? It can become contaminated, and some commentators make that
suggestion, but that is not what the context requires. The context requires
the loss of a characteristic quality.
Oppenheimer would say at this point, We need new ideas here. Surely some of
the Synoptic throng have experience in and around the kitchen. What can
happen to salt that renders it unfit for its intended use in salting things?
If we knew that, we might be in a better position to estimate what, or what
things, is being attempted by this odd saying, and whose perplexing version
is earlier than which other perplexing version.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst