4607RE: [Synoptic-L] Alpha Christianity Planning Session at SBL (19 Nov)
- Nov 12, 2012To: Synoptic
In Response To: Chuck Jones
On: Q and Thomas
Chuck Jones, though he seems not to be concerned over my view of Thomas as
largely post-Synoptic, has taken exception to my characterization (as
"fictive") of another candidate for an early Christian witness, namely Q.
Permit me to take exception to the exception.
Chuck: Q is not fictive. It is non-exstant.
Bruce: "Non-extant" would correctly describe a source for which we have
evidence, but which happens not to have survived. Thus, the existence of the
Didache was known long before a copy turned up; when it did turn up, it was
recognized as a known but previously non-extant text. It is now extant. But
there is no evidence of any kind, not only no physical evidence, but also no
reference in early writings, to anything which can be identified with Q. To
call Q "non-extant" thus reifies Q beyond what the evidence (in this case,
the complete absence of evidence) will properly warrant.
Q is simply a scholarly inference, going back to 1838, from certain
distributional facts about Matthew and Luke. Reconstructions of Q (of which
there have been at least two dozen over the past century, no two identical)
are conjectures based on those facts. They are constructs. I believe the
normal meaning of "fictive" (from the verb for "make") will cover this
situation. Q is an artifact: a modern scholarly construct based on a modern
scholarly inference. The modern inference can be challenged, and the facts
on which the modern inference is based can be otherwise explained, as
witness Goulder among others. Those who do this, Goulder and the rest, are
not denying a fact; they are challenging a construct, by supplying an
Chuck: The consistent bias of your language isn't worthy of scholarly
Bruce: The word "bias" implies, indeed indicts, a predisposition not based
on evidence. The accusation fails in my case, and the word is not
appropriate. My own view of Q is not based on any predisposition. It is
based on careful study of the claimed evidence for Q (including doublets),
and of other possible readings of that evidence. Whether or not I am in
error in my own reading of that evidence, my conclusion comes from
examination of the evidence. Chuck's accusation that I have reached my
position by another route is wrong in fact, and discourteous in context.
The accusation of "bias" is very common, as everyone on this list will be
aware, for opinions to which someone is warmly opposed. To take another
firsthand case, I have consistently taken the position, in material posted
to this and similar lists, that Mark is prior to Luke, and that Luke is
literarily indebted to Mark. This again is not a childhood fantasy or an
unreasoning preference; it is a conclusion from the evidence, a conclusion
in which I happen to coincide with many reputable people. (As far as that
goes, there are some people who have their doubts about Q, though it might
be impolitic to collectively stigmatize them as "biased," since the managers
of this list include at least one of them). The upcoming SBL will have at
least two panels on other views of the Mark/Luke relation, so it may be said
that unanimity as to the conclusion to be drawn from the Mark/Luke evidence
does not exist. This, however, does not reduce all views of Mark to "bias."
My own view, to which I feel entitled by reason of prior investigation, used
to be stigmatized as "biased" by my old friend Leonard Maluf, who for more
than ten years regularly asserted that Markan Priority, by whomever held,
was simply a result of bias. That accusation too is without foundation.
Those who hold Markan Priority have their reasons for doing so, reasons
which cannot properly be classed as "bias."
As for my "consistency," which Chuck also wishes to make a fault, the
evidence in both the Mark and Q cases is very much now what it was last
Tuesday, and I ask to be excused for taking the same view of that evidence
as I did last Tuesday.
As Chuck will remember, with or without consulting the list archive, I have
on several occasions not only confessed to a lack of faith in Q, but have
given reasons in support of my alternate construal of the Mt/Lk situation;
my proposal involves a three-stage formation process for Luke. Again, I may
be wrong (though I don't recall that anyone else has offered a satisfactory
account of the gross inconcinnity in the position of the Nazareth episode in
Luke), but these proposals alone should have hinted to Chuck that my
conclusion about Q rests on study, and not on something else.
My position on Q, and in particular on my alternative way of accounting for
the facts that have led some to posit (sic) a Q, has evolved since about
2006, most stages of that evolution being in some form visible not only to
this list, but to anyone who consistently attends local and national
meetings of SBL. The reliance on evidence at all points in this sequence, I
should think, is manifest, and that alone should prevent a charge of "bias"
In view of all this, which I should not have needed to rehearse, I will
appreciate Chuck's restatement of the position.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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