24[Excavating-Q] Sukie Curtis
- Nov 4, 2000Sukie Curtis picks up my comments to Dean Peilstick regarding Crossan's
Common Sayings Tradition.
There are, I think, some differences between the approaches of Patterson and
myself, at least in procedure if not in conclusions. For reasons that I
indicated in earlier postings, I do not think it appropriate to treat
literary stratigraphy in Q as a tool to get back to authentic Jesus
material. For that reason, the overlaps between Q1 and Thomas (1) might
represent early and interesting bits of tradition, but I don't think I would
necessarily start there. I have something else in mind by common rhetorical
I have some difficulties with the way the quest of the historical Jesus has
been carried out up to now. To caricature a bit, it is both eclectic and
atomizing: it uses a variety of sources but atomizes them by immediately
separating the Jesus tradition in them from its literary and rhetorical
context--the most concrete index of meaning that we have. In place of the
atomizing approach, I'd like to try examining the rhetorical deployments of
sayings that are normally treated as authentic, that is, to take seriously
(e.g.) the way Q deployed Q 6:20b, and then compare it to the rhetorical
deployments of the saying in other sources (GThom; James 2:5) and to look
for commonalities, not in the isolated saying, but in the rhetorical
construals of the saying on the poor. Such an approach is the only way to
place some controls on our historical and exegetical imaginations, and to
discipline our imaginations about what *might* be the meaning of a
saying--was it, for example, a declaration about God's imminent reversal of
people's plights or did it belong to a rhetoric of alternate social
experimentation?--with the ways it was *actually* heard by the earliest
tradents. Obviously, I haven't worked this out in much detail yet (though
some of it will come out in the BETL article next year), but I think that it
might be promising. Others, by the way are working along the same line--I
think of Jens Schröter's Erinnerung an Jesu Worte: Studien zur Rezeption der
Logienüberlieferung in Markus, Q und Thomas (WMANT 75; Neukirchen-Vluyn:
Neukirchener Verlag 1997).
Sukie Curtis continues by quoting Patterson via Crossan:
And he sets out to explore a question posed first by Patterson: "If Q and
Thomas lie on diverging trajectories each grounded in, yet moving away from,
an early sapiential tradition, what can be said about this early tradition
itself?" (cited by Crossan, TBoC, 255).
I'm a bit skeptical about this sort of trajectories argument, as if we can
simply extend developmental lines backwards to get a common starting point.
This works in geometry, but I'm not sure that it works with oral/written
interactions in the Jesus tradition.
Sukie Curtis continues:
"Second, a question (or two): Your discussion of the genre of Q1 presents a
close "'family resemblance' between Q and other documents typically
designated 'instructions'" (159). You also mention the brief narrative
framing of Q2 as characteristic of chria. My question concerns the
relationship between those two named genres: Are instructions and chriae
collections considered two distinct genres, yet sometimes sharing common
features (you mention that both often begin with an ordeal or test of the
JSKV: I have treated instructions and chriae collections as distinct though
related genres. The instruction is classically represented in Egyptian
collections such as Amenenope, Ptahhotep, and some later demotic collections
(I collected 26 in Formation), in Near Eastern literature such as the Advice
to a Prince, Ahikar, Proverb 1-9; 22:17-24:22; 31:1-9; Shube-Awilum (I
collected 11), and later instances such as Apa Antonius (IX-X CE) and the
Teachings of Silvanus (NHC VII 4). The genre is relatively stable over at
least two millenia.
Chriae collections originate not in the Near East, but in Hellenistic
philosophical schools, and were then used in rhetorical education and
borrowed by, e.g., M. 'Abot.
Despite their differing origins, I have observed that there are some
similarities in the ways such collections are legimated. A common strategy
is by prefacing the collection with an ordeal story--found in Ankhsheshonq
and Ahiqar (both instructions) and the Sentences of Secundus (a chriae
collection). This is not the only legitimation strategy--one can also
attribute sayings to a sage whose credentials are strong (Solomon; Sokrates;
Chilon; Phocylides, etc.), or by asserting connections between the sage and
the heavenly source of wisdom.
Sukie Curtis continues:
"And what of the term that one frequently encounters these days, "sayings
gospel"? Does that enter the discussion of genre, or is that a descriptive
term of another (theologically less neutral!) order?"
I treat this problem in chap. 8, where I have argued that calling Q a
"sayings gospel" is *not* to make a generic claim (since I do not take
gospel to be a generic designation), or an assertion that EUAGGELION was in
the now-lost incipit or colophon of Q. Instead, to call Q a "gospel" is to
make a wager that the particular configuration of beliefs that it contains
is, theologically speaking, as important as other "gospels" and deserves
consideration alongside other theological configurations such as Mark, John,
Paul, etc. It is just too facile for me to write Q off as a "source" and
thereby not have to come to terms with the different theological
configuration that it represents.
hope this helps
This is the _Excavating Q_ Seminar (Oct. 23 -- Nov. 10 2000).
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