In a message dated 7/4/2005 11:25:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time, ... This is not quite fair. Although I agree that my statement about the importance of parallel
Message 1 of 4
, Jul 5, 2005
In a message dated 7/4/2005 11:25:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time, brooks@... writes:
LEONARD: You are right, although it is clear that -- while following Lk here
as his primary source -- Mark at least found the parallel passage in Matt 14
before beginning to write, and allowed it to influence his formulations,
especially in 6:14. This was simply SOP for Mark, so no special motive is
BRUCE: No, seriously, I think the choices must be explained, as Goulder has
tried to do for ALk, which he conceives as occupying the same third position
you assign to AMk.
Take any doctoral student, give him (let's suppose) any two Synoptics, and
ask him to explain the third Synoptic in terms of the author of the third
making a joint summary of the other two, that author being allowed to omit
as well as to include, and being allowed a certain amount of leeway for the
introduction of words, story elements, and even whole segments not in either
of the two, and I bet he could do it. But surely the plausibility of that
demonstration (or of a demonstration of either of the other alternate
possibilities of this type) would rest on how reasonable, now imaginably
motivated, how authorially or editorially intelligible, those various moves
To say, as Leonard here seems to, that unexplained alternation between, and
alteration of, two sources is SOP for the third author, seems somehow too
easy. For this reader, it makes of that Gospel what Chomsky makes of the
grammar of a language: a closed box whose workings are not available to
analysis, and which does what it does because it does it.
This is not quite fair. Although I agree that my statement about the importance of parallel passages, and its SOP character, may sound a bit too convenient and, more importantly, somewhat of an a priori observation, I assure you that it is not the latter. I have discovered by empirical means that whether or not this would correspond to modern sensibilities or procedures, Luke, e.g., is always and extremely conscious of what I would call "parallel places", or topoi, in his wide-ranging source material. His writing always shows an influence of a fairly complete set of biblical (and often also classical) parallels on a given topic. This applies both to his use of OT topoi, and to his treatment of "topics" found in the Matt (and, by the way, provides strong confirmation of his knowledge of the latter). The example of this I usually use as an illustration is Goulder's treatment of Lk 1:25, the verbalized reaction of Elizabeth to her conception in old age. As Goulder rightly notes, this Lukan text shows the influence of no fewer than three OT texts in which mothers respond verbally to a miraculous birth. Goulder does not generalize in situ (as far as I remember), but this is indeed not a unique case, but rather SOP for Luke (as I have discovered by empirical study), namely to have present to himself a fairly comprehensive set of parallel passages on a given topic when he wishes to write on that topic. This may sound strange to a modern but seems to have been quite standard procedure in antiquity. And this is why it does not surprise me that Mark always shows some awareness of a topic as treated in the other of the two gospels of which he is currently following one more closely. It is not a question of "unexplained alternation" between sources, but simply the habit of a writer, trained in the sensitivities of the age, to show an awareness of a full range of existing treatments of a given topic when he/she comes to write on it. It also follows from these observations that one of the most important things to do when trying to understand a Gospel unit in depth is to identify as precisely as possible the topic therein treated.
Blessed John XXIII National Seminary
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