Re: [Synoptic-L] RE: [GPG] Matthew and "Q"
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG; WSW; CGC
In Response To: Dave Inglis
At the end of a statistical report (which as Dave Gentile noted, suppressed
information of technical interest at least to me, but that's OK, I have
other ways of getting it), we had this from Dave Inglis:
DAVE: Where I depart from Dave G is in his attempt to try to understand the
motives for why the synoptic authors did what they did. As we know almost
nothing about the date and place of writing any of the synoptic material (we
at least think we know directionality, but not much more), whether the
synoptics were each written in one session or over an extended period (maybe
even years), whether the authors were alone or with other people at the
time, whether they wrote themselves or dictated, whether they knew (or at
least knew something about) the other synoptic authors, what feelings (if
any) they had for the other authors, etc., then I don't see how it's helpful
to basically guess at how or why the synoptics were created.
BRUCE: I approve the caution, but I think I dissent from the philosophy.
Dave is recognizing two categories, (1) things we confidently know, and (2)
things of which we should not speak at all. I submit that there are few
things, either in the fall of dice or in the agendas of the Evangelists,
that we can say we know in the usual sense of "know." The one is a future
event, or a series of them, the other is somebody else's inner event. The
former cannot in principle be known; the latter by common consent is not
directly intuitable either. But this does not mean that we can say nothing
at all about them. Statistics exists to tell us quite a few things about the
fall of future dice, especially if more than one throw of them is envisioned
(hence Galileo, Pascal, and Newton, though not Pepys or de Méré; hence the
success, when it is not mismanaged from the top, of industrial quality
control, not to mention annuities). Historical inference, as it seems to me,
also offers a range which includes *less* reasonable, but also *more*
reasonable conjectures; it is not all unavoidably irresponsible. There is a
workable middle ground, and it is within this ground that historical
investigation takes place.
This is not to say that all of Dave G's suggestions are herewith affirmed
and supported, merely that he was not necessarily out of line,
methodologically, in offering suggestions in the first place.
To take a recent example (albeit from another list) of Synoptic
inferrability, if we see Luke altering the order and content of some of
Mark's anecdotes in a way that, for us, makes the motivations of the people
in the anecdotes more intelligible, then it is not unreasonable to
conjecture that motivational plausibility was one of Luke's categories of
concern. (Even at the cost of the narrative inconcinnities which some of the
rearrangements and rewritings demonstrably produced). The more seeming
examples of it we find, and there are several, the stronger grows that
suspicion, and eventually, that inference. And if in Acts Luke makes Peter
out to be a harbinger of Paul (in the matter of allowable foods), but also
superfluous in the early Jerusalem church as soon as Brother Jacob appears,
and absent altogether as soon as Paul appears, and if he concludes by
showing that the climax and definitional moment of early Christianity occurs
under Paul at Rome, with Peter long gone from the story, then we may be on
tenable ground in suggesting that Luke had a Pauline rather than a Petrine
conception of Christian history. (And he himself tells us, unless we reject
the Prologue as spurious, and few of us do, that he was writing in order to
correct wrong impressions of that history given by previous writers). These
and like details add up to giving a partial picture of what Luke was up to
in writing what he wrote, based on the text itself and in some cases
confirmed, rather than independently established, by what he said about what
We just don't know what city he way, when he looked up from his labors for a
moment and looked out the window.
Luke, as I read him, happens to be a rather revealing author; there are also
many less favorable cases. We all know that some facts in history are
unrecoverable, and that some propositions in history are undecidable, which
by the way is also the case in number theory. But the possibility of
historical inference in general, like the possibility of appendectomy in
general, deserves to be judged on the favorable cases. And I think the
favorable cases are favorable to the possibility of historical inference. An
inference, even a well-grounded and uncontradicted inference, should not be
confused with a fact. All historical inferences, like all inferences in
astrophysics, are subject to restatement or refutation in the light of new
evidence. But this is to say that the categories are not two, silence and
knowledge, but rather three: silence, responsible inference, and knowledge.
The question is which inferences are responsible, and that is where
historical and philological method, helped out now and then by the
multiplication table and the square of the correlation coefficient, come in.
To take Dave I's specifics seriatim:
(1) "we know almost nothing about the date and place of writing any of the
synoptic material (we at least think we know directionality, but not much
more). . ."
The directionality gives what is usually called a relative date. A relative
date is not an absolute date, but it is also not no date. It does not leave
us wholly in the dark about chronology. As for place, people have read the
signs in different ways, but that is not to say that some of the ways may
not be better than other ways. A multiplicity of answers should not dissuade
us from choosing among the answers. One use of methodology is in discovering
possibilities; another is in choosing rightly among competing possibilities.
(2) " . . . whether the synoptics were each written in one session or over
an extended period (maybe
even years), . . . "
It is doubtful if anything as long as Luke/Acts could be calligraphed in one
literal sitting. But the option of a second or even a seventh consecutive
sitting is meaningless, as far as I can see, for any Synoptic question of
real interest. Where the issue of duration becomes interesting is if the
period of formation lasts long enough to include what are properly called
strata, whether mere afterthought interpolations or whole new areas of
material (including the possibility of removing, as well as supplementing,
earlier material). And if this should be the case, we can expect to find
internal evidences of it; we don't need to deduce it from the length of the
formation period itself. I have earlier mentioned, and still find
convincing, some evidences of later rearrangement in Luke, and evidences of
subsequent addition, amounting to new strata and reflecting recent
theological developments, in Mark. Grammatical evidence presented at SBL
2008 gave a strong push to the idea that Acts was originally much shorter,
and was only later extended. A suggestion, by the way, that on other
evidence and in different form goes back to the early years of the 20c.
If we accept the general trend of the evidence as respects Synoptic
directionality and also Synoptic trajectory development, then we have the
result, certainly chronological and in all probability also directional,
Mk > Mt > Lk.
It turns out to be interesting, in my opinion, that we also have the
possibility of distinguishing the directionality
Mk A > Mk B > Mk C . . . .
Lk A > Lk B
The main statement greatly clarifies the larger Synoptic formation picture,
and the latter two have the potential to equally clarify the microhistory
(if you will) of the constituent Synoptics themselves. No one detail gives
us a complete picture of Synoptic formation, and we are probably never going
to possess anything like the complete picture of Synoptic formation, but
each detail makes the general picture clearer, and the Synoptic Situation
looks to me like one that is going to be eventually amenable to a rather
detailed and generally consistent and intelligible understanding. A workable
basis for whatever related problem next comes up for consideration.
(3) " whether the authors were alone or with other people at the time, . . .
I confess I don't see the importance of this, and am content to do without
this particular body of information.
(4) "whether they wrote themselves or dictated, . . . "
A dictation theory has been invoked to explain how Peter, for instance, or
maybe Judas [anglice "Jude"] could have written a Greek so much better than
we feel entitled to posit for these individuals as we think we understand
them. But does it have much place in Synoptic calculations? Maybe if we
think of Matthew as one of the Twelve, but does anybody really think of
Matthew as one of the Twelve? On the whole, I am pretty much prepared to do
without this datum also, though I would welcome it or any other to the Zone
of Known Things if it showed up in a well-supported form.
(5) "whether they knew (or at least knew something about) the other synoptic
authors, . . . "
This might be interesting, and I seem to recall making a suggestion or two
along more or less these lines, a while back. The closer together we put
Matthew and Luke in place (Antioch has been conjectured for both, though
not, I think, for both at the same time) and in time (does anyone really put
more than 10 years between the two?), the likelier it becomes that they knew
each other. Or at least had mutual acquaintances, which would bring up
similar issues. But again, though I am ready to be refuted by any momentous
later discoveries or convincing conjectures, I don't think at this moment
think that these details are going to be central to a core understanding of
(6) "what feelings (if any) they had for the other authors, etc."
Here, I think, in the psychological rather than in the factual, we do have a
certain amount of evidence. Writing may not convey much biographical
information about the writer (some of the Chinese classics are
infuriatingly, and perhaps intentionally, uninformative about their
geographical angle of view, and the same motive may well obtain with the
Evangelists also), but it does betray a good deal about the inner feelings
and propensities and priorities of the writer. Just as a good clinical
psychologist will not only hear the patient's words, but also observe
supralexical details (facial rubidity is a favorite, also fidgeting,
sweating, handwringing, hesitating, etc etc) in order to produce a
diagnostically adequate interview. In our problem, it has been observed by
several that Luke seems to respect Mark, even though he frequently departs
from Mark and hugely supplements Mark. For Matthew, I still like my
suggestion that Luke felt a complicated mix of admiration and envy and sheer
cussedness: he would (as it seems to me) sometimes go so far as to produce a
variant that even he must have known was not as good, in order not to
acknowledge Matthew as having written an effective paragraph. Or chapter.
But not always. And a study of places where Luke does and does not closely
follow Matthean wording in substantively parallel passages without
counterpart in Mark would probably have interesting implications for the
reactivity profile of Lk vs Mt. Has that been done?
I thus think that Synoptic Relationships are not wholly beyond the reach of
responsible conjecture, which means that they are not wholly unavailable to
historical clarification. Of course, few people will be satisfied with that;
what they really want is the Historical Jesus. The Historical Jesus problem
is very difficult of direct access. One has to do the preliminaries first.
There is no Royal Road to geometry either; you have to somehow sweat the
cosine rule. But putting the Synoptic Relationships Problem on a reasonably
nonrickety footing, it seems to me, would go a long way toward making the
Historical Jesus Question realistically rather than speculatively
(A number of us think we have already made a pretty good approach, in my
case by distinguishing strata in Mark, the text which Synoptic Relations
conclusions indicate is likely to be the most fruitful for the HJ, and also
in some of the other texts which have a chance of reflecting very early
post-Jesus ideas of Jesus. But that is a story for other days, a
considerable number of which, in my case, have already been spent on this
list over the past ten years or so. It would be tedious and irrelevant to
expound that result or its basis here, and I will leave that tale to be
told, if at all, by the list archive).
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
> What you propose is clearly not impossible. But it is certainly not as good
> as the original. What you present here is a brief general call to
> repentance, followed by scenarios of people eager to repent. In our extant
> Luke there is a warning of wrath and fire, so that by verse 10 one can sense
> the crowds feeling guilty and ready to make amends. It parallels an
> evangelistic meeting where there is a lengthy build-up of emotion before a
> challenge to commitment. Luke was a good storyteller!
'Better', is a subjective judgment. Personally I'd prefer a version without the fire and brimstone, but that's just my subjective judgment.
Consistency, and sticking with a theme is a less subjective measure.
>I really don't see this as much of a jump, if any. v3 mentions forgiveness (group not named), and the quote from Isaiah's 'punchline' is about salvation (for all). "Forgiveness -> salvation" seems like theme continuity to me.
> But there remains the jump in the opposite direction, between verses 3 & 4.
> In the extant text vv. 4-6 represent a temporary departure from the theme of
> repentance so that Luke can portray the Jewish scriptures as hinting at the
> salvation of the Gentiles (v.6).
I've not had a chance to look at the rest yet. Probably Tuesday, if not before then.