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24[Excavating-Q] Sukie Curtis

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  • John Kloppenborg
    Nov 4, 2000
      Sukie 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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