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Re: [Synoptic-L] Synoptic Theory (Markan Priority: Gundry)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: Leonard On: Markan Priority (Gundry) From: Bruce I can fully sympathize with Leonard s Dar es Salaam time constraints.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 12, 2008
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      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      In Response To: Leonard
      On: Markan Priority (Gundry)
      From: Bruce

      I can fully sympathize with Leonard's Dar es Salaam time constraints.
      Myself, I just barely got out of going to a conference in Addis Ababa last
      week. I was able to use the excuse that I didn't know anything about the
      subject. Presumably our more learned colleague couldn't credibly mount a
      like defense.

      A propos the proposed experiment with Gundry:

      Leonard: Take, say, the commentary of Robert Gundry on the Gospel of
      Matthew; open at random to any page; read the way he comments the text in
      question. Then ask yourself: has said author produced evidence in this
      passage for the priority of Mark, or has he simply assumed it as a valid
      starting point for commenting this particular passage?

      Bruce: It's not quite clear to me why one should look in Gundry's Matthew
      for a de novo defense of his views on Mark, or for that matter, why one
      should look at some particular passage in Gundry's Mark for that defense; it
      would be exceedingly sloppy procedure to introduce that vital point in the
      middle of a 1000-page book. No editor would let it get by. I go instead to
      Gundry Mark 17 (in the Introduction), and there I read:

      "Higher critically, [this commentary] also proceeds on a belief in the
      priority of Mark so far as the synoptic problem is concerned. The case for
      Marcan priority and against other solutions has been made well enough
      elsewhere and so will not be repeated here."

      One misses a footnote reference (there is not a single footnote in the
      entire 1000 pages) to the "elsewhere," but the author is expressing his
      acceptance of a position exhaustively argued, and widely accepted, in the
      field. He does go on to note the Mark/Q question, and announces his position
      thus: "Where Mark and Q appear to overlap, the position will not be taken
      that Mark knew Q itself. Otherwise his emphasis on Jesus as a teacher would
      likely have led to inclusion of much more didactic material such as Q
      contained (R H Stein, Proper Methodology, 196-197). Rather, Mark must have
      known some traditions which made their way into Q - hence "pre-Q," though we
      might hypothesize . . ."

      So it looks like Gundry is deferring to Stein on matters Synoptic. The work
      here mentioned is Stein's otherwise unpublished 1969 thesis, of which Gundry
      has resourcefully bought a copy from Ann Arbor; its title is The Proper
      Methodology for Ascertaining a Marcan Redaktionsgeschichte. Stein's
      conclusions have been published in more accessible form in The Synoptic
      Problem (1987), and some phrases in the above quotes from Gundry (1993) are
      very congruent with bits of Stein's chapter on The Priority of Mark (eg p91,
      "A second problem with the view that Mark is an abridgement of Matthew
      and/or Luke is his omission of so much teaching material. This is especially
      surprising in that one of the strong redactional emphases of Mark is upon
      the teaching ministry of Jesus . . .").

      I would think we are operationally safe in taking that chapter of Stein as
      the sort of thing to which Gundry, if asked, might have referred his
      students. It is the sort of argument on which Gundry is content to rest his
      case for Markan Priority. We can discuss Stein himself at any desired time.

      In sum, Gundry defers to majority opinion on some issues, but challenges
      current scholarship on others. This at least shows thinking rather than
      simple conformity, and suggests that his acceptance of Markan Priority also
      is a reasoned and not a reflexive acceptance. A little further on, Gundry
      takes yet more time over an issue he regards as still more controversial,
      and again I quote:

      "Apart from investigating the possibility of an earlier stage of tradition
      as reflected in or represented by Q, the present commentary will seldom
      engage in a quest for the history of pre-Marcan traditions. It will often
      engage in criticism of attempts to trace such a history, however. With
      notorious frequency those attempts have reached mutually contradictory
      conclusions (C C Black, Disciples; F Neirynck, Evangelica 618-36), and the
      homogeneity of Mark's style as brought out in a number of recent studies (F
      Neirynck, Duality; idem Evangelica 83-142; M Reiser, Syntax und Stil; idem
      in VBZ nf 30 [1986] 132-34; P Dschulnigg, Sprache; G L├╝deritz in
      Markus-Philologie 165-203; C Breytenbach, Nachfolge 40-47, 68-74, C C Black
      in JSNT 33 [1988] 19-39 - take E J Pryke, Redactional Style, for a contrary
      example) combines with our lack of pre-Marcan sources to make a quest for
      the history of pre-Marcan traditions largely impracticable. . ."

      Leonard: I think my point will be made, though I will admit that Gundry is
      perhaps an extreme case.

      Bruce: It is the expectation which is extreme. It is no more reasonable to
      look for a rational, de novo defense of Markan priority in the middle of a
      comment on the Markan Temptations or any other specific passage, than to
      expect some chemist to pause in the middle of a set of data to explain why
      he accepts the Periodic Table. For what it may be more realistic to expect
      of a commentary at such points, see further below.

      As for Gundry's extremeness, one does get that impression from his
      breathless and headlong Introduction, which is almost a page of negative
      statements. It's a little overheated for my taste, and perhaps for Leonard's
      also, though I suppose one must allow a commentator who has steeped himself
      in his text to sometimes fall victim to the style of that text.

      Turning now as requested to Gundry's Matthew, we read in the Introduction
      [to the first edition] p2-3,

      "Matthew's choice of words also betrays his editorial hand. Here statistics
      concerning word frequency come under consideration. In large measure, the
      way we appraise their significance will depend on our view of the synoptic
      problem. If Matthew wrote first, we might assign words appearing with
      special frequency in his gospel to the tradition that came to him. But if
      Mark wrote first and Matthew and Luke used Mark and shared another
      tradition, such words signal Matthew's editorial work. As already implied,
      this commentary rests on the latter hypothesis, mainly because it provides
      the framework for what seem to be the most cogent explanations of the
      similarities and differences of detail among the synoptics, and partly
      because Matthew's specially frequent words appear in obviously editorial
      passages as well as in traditional materials (though conceivably we might
      explain this phenomenon as due to an influence of the tradition on Matthew's
      own diction). . . Insertions of words in paralleled materials show with
      utmost clarity Matthew's fondness for the words inserted. . . ." The
      following, set in emphatic italics, comes a little further on: "Overall
      statistical comparisons among the synoptics do not count for very much,
      then; but Matthew's insertions in common tradition and inclusions in
      passages peculiar to his gospel stand out as significant. Accordingly, the
      body of the commentary contains these two statistics in that order. Full
      statistics are usually reserved for the Greek Index, which readers are urged
      to consult."

      Here, though perhaps not expressed in a way that will wholly pass muster
      with someone who really understands word frequency in languages, is the
      interface between an overall theory of Synoptic relationships and the micro
      details, the wording of Matthew in Mt/Mk parallel passages, that either
      provide a ground or an illustration of that theory. These "redaction"
      arguments play a valid part in directionality determinations, and not alone
      in the NT field; they are equally valid, and so far as I am aware, are
      similarly relied on, in other text traditions as well. It seems to me that
      at such points, and they are very numerous in the body of Gundry's
      commentary, Gundry is behaving responsibly, not only to his idea of the
      meaning of his text, but to what might be called evidences for the text's
      Synoptic provenance.

      It is asking a lot that a commentator on Matthew should comment as well on
      every parallel Synoptic passage, let alone explain the significance of
      passages *without* Synoptic parallels. How far has Gundry gone in this
      admirable if unachievable direction? First, every narrative unit gives the
      parallel passages. Second, his commentary frequently gives details about
      Synoptic relationships as manifested in the wording of that Matthean
      passage, with frequent references to those parallels. Thus, the Temptation
      narrative in Matthew is entitled Jesus as a Model of Obedience to Divine
      Law, and is defined as 4:1-11 (Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Gundry discusses
      both grammatical and substantive elements, on the way to concluding that
      Matthew intended his version of the Temptation narrative as a rebuttal to
      antinomianism. This is certainly not what the unassisted reader would
      readily assume from reading just the Markan account. As for consistent
      Mattheanisms, we have eg . . .

      [Well, heck, people can do some reading on their own. The paragraph I was
      about to transcribe is the comment on Mt 4:3, Gundry p55. These are not
      merely statements about what Matthew does, they are in many cases statements
      about what Matthew *characteristically* does. Such considerations seem to me
      part of the necessary basis for any sound conclusions about
      passage-to-passage directionality].

      Which, as near as I can gather from Leonard's previous messages, is
      Leonard's own preferred way of approach. Why he feels that Gundry does not
      at least contribute to that project, I fail to see.

      Gundry can be argued with; he can be taken exception to. But I would like to
      record it in his favor that he consistently gives you something solid,
      precise, and directionally relevant to argue with, or take exception to.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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