In Response To: Stephen Carlson
On: Preliminary Solutions
I had earlier reaffirmed, in response to a comment by Mark Matson, my
previous suggestion that one may validly work on part of the Synoptic
Problem, rather than on all of it at once, and that the result of that work
may in principle be useful.
To Mark's comment, not taking into account my response, Stephen had said in
STEPHEN: "I believe this approach Leonard has objected to has been dubbed
the "Lachmann Gambit" by the late David Dungan. In fact, we discussed this
almost a decade ago on this very list. See: . . ."
And at the referenced place we read in part:
STEPHEN (1998): The issue, of course, is whether this particular "lemma" is
even capable of approaching the complete solution. Eventually it may be
useful, but the Griesbach solution must first be eliminated. . . .
BRUCE: The implication is that before trying one approach, one must first
decisively invalidate all other approaches. Never mind Griesbach, there is
also Lindsay (Lukan Priority), not to mention any of the other museum pieces
which Stephen has himself conveniently assembled on his web site. And for
that matter, not everything that Michael Goulder writes about Luke, in
support of the FGH (which on the whole I find convincing), should pass, in a
really rigorous and orderly investigation, without criticism; some sifting
of the wheat from the chaff.
As a rule of procedure, I find this self-defeating. It would mean, for one
thing, that all contributions to the Synoptic problem would need to be at
least 1000 pages long, and by the rules of this list, no such contribution
could ever appear on this list. If Stephen has made a contribution to the
problem which meets his own implied criterion, or knows of anyone else who
has, I should like to have the reference.
Counsels of impossibility are not methodologically sound. As for "whether
this particular lemma is even capable of approaching the complete solution,"
I can only say that we won't know until we try. And it may not suffice as an
objection to say that Neirynck has already tried. I find what I know of
Neirynck's work to be admirably systematic, and at many points convincing,
but I'm not prepared to write a monograph evaluating that work
systematically, picking out what seem to me to be its less valid from its
more valid points, and dealing with the objections, right or wrong, which
may have been directed against them, over the last 50 years or so. That
monograph would itself quickly assume the proportions of a lifework. It is
surely not the most productive way to spend a life.
The Synoptic Problem, like many other NT problems, is at many points simply
a matter of directionality determination. The more points of directionality
can be determined, the further along we are. To me, that is definitional. It
does not mean that such determinations, one after another, will necessarily
lead straight to the right answer. It depends, as these things always do, on
the nature of the problem and on the character of our initial results. If,
for example, we find that Luke is sometimes prior to Matthew, and sometimes
with equal probability posterior to Matthew, then we will need to consider
options, among which is the Q hypothesis; options which were not necessarily
obvious at the outset.
The idea of refuting Farmer, Stoldt, and company before beginning to work on
the Synoptic Problem is not only prohibitively time-consuming, I think it is
also fallacious. For what does it mean to refute Farmer? It is quite
possible that Farmer is not wrong at every point, so which points are then
the salient ones? A prior analysis of the structure of Farmer's thought
would be required, in order to demonstrate that our spot refutation sufficed
to disable Farmer's opinion in a particular context. Here again we approach
the disabling, as a prerequisite for the useful. It does not work.
Take something for which I have a good deal more respect: Goulder on Luke. I
find that in general, he makes a good case for (a) Luke's reliance at many
points on Matthew, and for (b) the Matthean character of many supposed "Q"
passages. I also find that there are cases where, by the same sort of
arguments, the Mt/Lk directionality is against him, eg the Beatitudes and
the Lord's Prayer. Suppose this assessment to be correct. Does it mean that
Goulder is wrong, as many have evidently concluded? I would say, No, it
means that he is wrong part of the time. *Which* part of the time? There, I
would suggest, is the operative second question.
(And I will answer the operative second question, as far as I have got with
it. I have the impression, which Ron Price would express somewhat
differently, but perhaps in the end compatibly, that the Lukan passages
which seem prior to the counterpart Matthean passages are all in the same
area, and that area is the area of probable liturgical repetition: formulas
of one sort or another that Luke did not learn out of somebody else's book,
but simply through his own membership in his local Jesus group. We tend to
regard Luke as a historian, assembling his gospel from sources, just as one
of us might do, starting tomorrow, in our local library. We tend to forget
that Luke was also a Christian).
It thus seems to me that the concept of "refutation" is more complicated
than Stephen has been allowing for, as well as less practical than he may
have envisioned, and I invite him to reconsider his recommendation.
If a date in some reference work has been shown to be a misprint, there is
an end of it, and people who use that date should be apprised of their
error. That some people are exercised about (for example) Lachmann, or about
arguments from order in general, or about text types in general, is not a
fact of the same character. It is an opinion in an area where other opinions
Lachmann pointed to the fact that where Luke and Matthew diverge from the
order of events in Mark, they do not do so in concert, but one at a time, or
when they both diverge, they diverge in different directions. Suppose this
were NOT true. What would the Synoptic Problem look like in that case? I
submit that it would look very different than it does at present,
analytically speaking. Mark is the common ground in the order of events in
all the other Gospels. In addition, and in support, no other Gospel
unambiguously shows knowledge of any source older than Mark. All other
Gospel writers treat Mark with a respect not shown to any other probable
source. All subsequent writers on matters Christian acknowledge the
authority of Mark. Even if, like Paul, they sometimes do so inversely, by
denying that what Mark says is of any importance (with the interesting
exception that Paul does accept the authority of at least some of Mark's
pronouncements on matters of church rule and practice).
And so on. The field owes much to Lachmann, not excluding the first modern
edition of the Greek NT. I personally think his suggestions about the
Synoptic Problem may have their merits also. Whether that is so or not is a
question that may have to await future research.
Anyone's suggestions about the Synoptic Problem may have their uses as well.
The test of their utility should not lie in a prior demonstration that
everyone else is wrong, but rather, as with any other theory in any other
field, in an estimate of how well they explain the data with which they are
concerned. The success of one theory is the best refutation of the eleven
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst