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5063Re: [Synoptic-L] Literacy in Greek

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  • Brad McAdon
    Jul 26, 2014

      I offer a few broader comments in response.

      First, Bruce’s description of the community in Antioch seems to rely way too much upon the notion that Acts is historically reliable. I do not share this view, so his claims that are based upon a reliable historical understanding of Acts (if he understands Acts as a historically reliable text) carry no weight in this discussion.

      Bruce wrote:

      “Greek was the common written language in the real world of all these people, and all of them could doubtless more or less get along in it. That a formal teacher set any of them to systematically imitating Greek composition models strikes me as vastly unlikely.”

      I ask Bruce to provide textual evidence (from the period) that speaks to teaching Greek differently than the “Homeric schoolroom” models that we have referred to in earlier posts and that would lead students to acquire the level of literacy necessary to compose a Matthew or Luke. In my earlier posts, I referred to a host of writers from Isocrates through Lucian who speak to the widespread practice of mimesis / imitation in Greco-Roman education and I claimed that such an education could have prepared authors like Matthew and Luke to craft their respective texts. Can Bruce provide any similar kind of evidence to support his claim?

       Bruce wrote:

      “. . . . But Luke on Mark is not the imitation of a literary model. It is theological revisionism.”

      Brad’s response:

      I would revise Bruce’s last sentence to read: “It is theological revisionism informed by the widespread practice of literary and compositional mimesis.”

      I do not disagree that Luke’s rewriting of Mark is theologically motivated. I would only add that it is also rhetorically (Luke is making an argument, right?) motivated and informed by the practice of mimesis.

      Bruce wrote:

       “And if a teacher of rhetoric were to come by Luke’s desk, as he labors at his imitation of Mark, and catch sight of the simply humongous, the cancerous, additions Luke has made to his “model” (worst of all is his insertion of the socalled Travel Narrative, which is almost as long as the whole preceding text, and utterly without precedent, literarily or theologically or formally, in his supposed “model” Mark), his stick would certainly descend on wayward Luke’s head.”

      Brad’s response:

      Luke would not be criticized for his own additions to his model anymore than Virgil would have been criticized for his own additions / revisions to the Homeric texts, as such rewriting, such “making it one’s own,” was a primary objective of the practice of imitation.

      Bruce wrote:

      “Namely, Luke is (at points) too close to Mark (verbatim for a paragraph at a time) to be an acceptable rhetorical variation in standard school terms. Therefore, that is not what Luke is doing. What Luke IS doing I have already attempted to explain.”

      Brad’s response: The “Therefore” does not follow. Why could Luke merely not have written in these places in an “unacceptable” mimetic style?

      Bruce wrote:

      “As for Matthew, at the next desk, does he come out better? Not likely. He has wholly recast Mark’s simple narrative form, agglomerated much of it into Five Discourses, which is exactly what Mark does NOT have as a structure. That is, at the most general level, he has undermined and reconfigured Mark. This is imitatio?”

      Brad’s response: Again, there is no problem here. Matthew is rewriting his source to “make it his own,” perhaps similar to how Luke rewrote Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount to “make it his own.” Again, “making it one’s own” is a common (and expected) practice.

      Bruce wrote:

      “They [Matthew and Luke] fail the test of recognition as examples of what a teacher of rhetoric would have required or allowed. Therefore, they are better seen as examples of something else.”

      Brad’s response: I would say that a contemporary Greek reader would think that they are better seen as inappropriate borrowings (imitations), similar to Lucian’s criticism noted in the previous post.

      Bruce continues:

       “Matthew and Luke were not aspiring to fame, or even recognition, within the Greco-Roman high culture. They were instead aspiring to places of leadership in a quite different milieu – the emerging culture and theoretical self-understanding of still-nascent Christianity. Functional Greek, and in at least Luke’s case, effective Greek, would have served them well in that purpose, with international Jewry (and increasingly, the more general international public, the so-called Gentiles) as their audience. Indeed, their judges.”

      Brad’s response:

      I’m a bit puzzled by Bruce’s reference here to “functional Greek.” For their culture, Matthew’s and Luke’s Greek (and level of literacy) far exceeded functionality (if I am understanding Bruce’s use of the term correctly here). And, again, Bruce needs to provide evidence of the teaching of this “functional Greek” that would be different from the “Homeric schoolroom” model. Is there any contemporary textual evidence of other instructional methods of teaching Greek than that of the “Homeric schoolroom” model?   

      So far, Bruce has not provided any evidence that would alter my view that the widespread Greco-Roman practice of mimesis can help to explain how the authors of Matthew and Luke composed their narratives.

      Brad McAdon

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