[Excavating-Q] Q and the Historical Jesus: reply to David Hindley
- I would like to thank Dr. Hindley for his kind words about THE FORMATION OF
Q, and especially for seeing what some readers did not, namely that I tried
to emphasize that the analysis of Q in FORMATIONdid not make any
presuppositions about the ultimate authenticity of the sayings, and that the
book was about Q, not Jesus.
Dr. Hindley's question, as I understand it, relates to a discussion on the
Thomas list (which I have not seen). The bigger questions has to do with
whether the the synoptics could be perceived not so much as instructional or
devotional literature as propaganda intended to change the perception of
Jesus held by the Roman authorities. The more specific question concerns the
relation between my stratigraphy and the question of authenticity.
The footnote you quote from FORMATION (317 n. 1) accurately states my view:
I do not treat *literary* history as convertible with *tradition* history.
This means that the "fact" that a particular saying was employed in the
formative stages of a document is no guarantee of its authenticity, nor
conversely, is the "fact" that another saying was employed at a secondary
level indicative of nonauthenticity. I use the analogy of Luke: presumably
the documents that were literarily formative for Luke were Q and/or Mark,
and he used other oral and written bits to supplement. This is no guarantee
of the authenticity of anything in Q or Mark, nor does it imply that bits
like the Man going down the road, or the Lost Son were nonauthentic (au
I am perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that, e.g., Q 6:21b,
which unlike 6:20b and 6:21a has not parallels in Thomas or anywhere else,
was simply created by the framer of Q1. On the other hand, Q2 saying such as
7:22, 11:31-32 or 10:13-15, or 11:20, etc. have regularly been treated as
authentic and I have no particular problem with that possibility.
Thus, Arnal, in his response to you, has represented my views quite
accurately. Parenthetically, I might add that I think that the analysis of Q
has been encumbered by the view, seen strongly in Harnack and Manson, that Q
preserves Jesus tradition more or less in tact. That *could* be so, but this
supposition is not an appropriate starting point for the literary analysis
of a document.
Now Dr. Hindley presses me on the question of the ultimate origin of the Q1
sayings. You are correct that you have not been able to find where in ExQ I
deal with that issue, for I do not. But the question is perfectly fair and
appropriate. I have an article in HTR (1996) on Q and the historical Jesus,
and another one coming out in the BETL volume on Q and the Historical Jesus
I these essays I do not provide a list of Q1 (or Q2) sayings that I regard
as authentic, but I do argue that given what I understand to be the dynamics
of ancient literary composition (much indebted to works by Gerald Downing
and Loveday Alexander), it is rather unlikely that what was first included
in Q was either so skewed in the way it represented Jesus or downright
inventive that it cannot be treated as a major source of historical Jesus
tradition. That, obviously, does not guarantee the authenticity of any
particular saying, but I do think that the general rhetorical construal of
Jesus must have been a credible one, given (I presume) a *social* continuity
between the Galilean Q people and (some of) Jesus' original followers. This
does not mean, of course, that Q1 (Q2) might not have its own tendencies in
construing the materials, only that we should not reckon on a sea-change
between Jesus and Q1/Q2. --All quite vague and perhaps not very helpful.
Dr. Hindley continues:
"It does not appear that Q scholars have devoted much attention
to the possible use of Q material as propaganda intended to
change outsider's perception of Jesus (i.e., make him seem
less subversive by converting him from a prophetic reformer,
say, to a harmless Cynic-like social critic). Could you perhaps
briefly comment on this possibility?"
What comes to mind immediately is an essay by Wendy Cotter, "Prestige,
Protection and Promise: A Proposal for the Apologetics of Q2," in The Gospel
Behind the Gospels: Current Studies on Q, edited by Ronald A. Piper,
NovTSup, vol. 75 (Leiden; New York: Köln: E.J. Brill, 1995), 117-38, which
deals with the apologetic character of Q2. The direction of change you seem
to imply, however, is the opposite of what Mack or Cotter suggest. For Mack,
Q1 is the cynic-like social critic, which in Q2 gets overlaid with prophetic
motifs and to some extend domesticated. Cotter, who as far as I know does
not embrace the cynic-like-Q hypothesis, does a very fine job of showing the
way in which Q2 material might have in view the unfavourable perceptions of
outsiders and attempt to change these.
Still, what you suggest is entirely possible: that Q1 tones down the earlier
Jesus tradition. Risto Uro made some suggestions along this line in his
dissertation (Risto Uro, Sheep Among the Wolves: A Study on the Mission
Instructions of Q, Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae. Dissertationes
Humanarum Litterarum, vol. 47 (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1987)
and the suggestion has been picked up in a few other places too.
The methodological problem is that we don't have any access to the Jesus
tradition independent of our earliest (somewhat tendentious) sources (Q,
Mark, Thomas, bits of Paul, bits of James, some Sondergut), and it is rather
problematic to *assume* that the "Jesus" behind these was a "radical" but
that Q1, Mark, Thomas and the others all toned that down so that his
original character is no longer really visible. I'd prefer to begin with the
rhetorical construals of Jesus present in Q, Mark, James, Thomas, etc. and
look for commonalities, both explicit and implicit.
I must concede, however, that this is an area that I have only recently come
to dabble in, having deliberately stayed away from the historical Jesus for
Thanks for prodding me in an interesting direction.
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