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Synoptic Constraints

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic In Response To: Chuck Jones On: Synoptic Constraints From: Bruce CHUCK: By synoptic process, I simply mean an author submitting himself to the
    Message 1 of 7 , Jun 2, 2009
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      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Chuck Jones
      On: Synoptic Constraints
      From: Bruce

      CHUCK: By synoptic process, I simply mean an author submitting himself to
      the compositional constraints demonstrated by Mt, Mk and Lk, rather than the
      free composition of, say, John.

      BRUCE: And what, briefly, were those "compositional constraints?" John
      certainly makes much freer with the work of his predecessors than did either
      Matthew or Luke, and he injects into his story more historical and
      theological consistency (which is not the same as historical accuracy or
      theological truth) than any of them can show. But both of these seem to be
      traits that can be ascribed to John himself, and to the time and place in
      which he worked. I don't see that they are instead a removal of constraints
      that applied to those predecessors, apart from their greater closeness to
      events, and their greater respect (sometimes adversative, but adversity is a
      kind of respect) for earlier versions.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Chuck Jones
      Bruce,   I think you summed up what I would call constraints well.   Chuck ... From: E Bruce Brooks Subject: [Synoptic-L]
      Message 2 of 7 , Jun 2, 2009
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        Bruce,
         
        I think you summed up what I would call constraints well.
         
        Chuck

        --- On Tue, 6/2/09, E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...> wrote:


        From: E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...>
        Subject: [Synoptic-L] Synoptic Constraints
        To: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Tuesday, June 2, 2009, 3:57 PM








        To: Synoptic
        In Response To: Chuck Jones
        On: Synoptic Constraints
        From: Bruce

        CHUCK: By synoptic process, I simply mean an author submitting himself to
        the compositional constraints demonstrated by Mt, Mk and Lk, rather than the
        free composition of, say, John.

        BRUCE: And what, briefly, were those "compositional constraints? " John
        certainly makes much freer with the work of his predecessors than did either
        Matthew or Luke, and he injects into his story more historical and
        theological consistency (which is not the same as historical accuracy or
        theological truth) than any of them can show. But both of these seem to be
        traits that can be ascribed to John himself, and to the time and place in
        which he worked. I don't see that they are instead a removal of constraints
        that applied to those predecessors, apart from their greater closeness to
        events, and their greater respect (sometimes adversative, but adversity is a
        kind of respect) for earlier versions.

        Bruce

        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst



















        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • E Bruce Brooks
        To: Synoptic On: Synoptic Constraints From: Bruce I am completely puzzled by Chuck s recent reply. Completely. Let me work back up the series and try to show
        Message 3 of 7 , Jun 2, 2009
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          To: Synoptic
          On: Synoptic Constraints
          From: Bruce

          I am completely puzzled by Chuck's recent reply. Completely. Let me work
          back up the series and try to show why.

          CHUCK (latest): I think you summed up what I would call constraints well.

          BRUCE (Now): Good to know. This comment characterizes and approves my
          earlier statement:

          BRUCE (previously): John certainly makes much freer with the work of his
          predecessors than did either Matthew or Luke, and he injects into his story
          more historical and theological consistency (which is not the same as
          historical accuracy or theological truth) than any of them can show. But
          both of these seem to be traits that can be ascribed to John himself, and to
          the time and place in which he worked. I don't see that they are instead a
          removal of constraints that applied to those predecessors, apart from their
          greater closeness to events, and their greater respect (sometimes
          adversative, but adversity is a kind of respect) for earlier versions.

          In short, Mark, Matthew, and Luke were nearer to Jesus in time than John,
          and the later of them had greater respect for the earlier of them, than John
          had for any of them.

          BRUCE (now): Now, what was the original sentence in which "synoptic
          constraints" came up? I will quote it.

          CHUCK (earlier): By synoptic process, I simply mean an author submitting
          himself to the compositional constraints demonstrated by Mt, Mk and Lk,
          rather than the free composition of, say, John.

          BRUCE (now): But on my own explanation, approved by Chuck and thus official,
          the "constraints" in question are nothing to which the three Synoptists can
          be said to "submit." They are simply differences, one of placement in time,
          to which one has no choice whether to submit or not, and one of attitude:
          greater respect. The latter is a likely enough, though not quite inevitable,
          consequence of the former.

          I can then, validly as it appears, paraphrase Chuck's statement above in
          this way: "By synoptic process, I simply mean an author being located nearer
          in time to Jesus, and having greater respect for any earlier documents."

          Then the supposed "synoptic process" has nothing specifically synoptic about
          it; it is simply the passage of time. Further, it implies no special
          conditions to which an author has a choice of submitting or not submitting,
          any more than one can accept or decline the option of being born in one
          decade rather than another.

          It follows that, once we have established (to our working satisfaction) the
          sequence of the Gospels in time, we at once know everything that the term
          "synoptic process," as recently clarified, can be said to convey. I think
          this makes the term meaningless, and indeed misleading.

          We might go back one step more and take up the third of Chuck's objections
          to my accretional model for Mark, which was where all this started:

          CHUCK (earliest; 2 June, 12:11 PM): Third, I'm not sure the synoptic process
          could produce the sort of document you describe.

          BRUCE (now): If, with the benefit of knowledge subsequently and strenuously
          gained, I now paraphrase this objection, I get the following:

          "I'm not sure if the passage of time could produce the sort of document you
          describe."

          To that, I have already given what I thought was a reasonably full answer. I
          will repeat that answer in a moment as my way of closing the subject. The
          gist of the answer is this:

          The passage of time, together with the changing conditions under which the
          little congregation of Pastor M presumably existed, and the evolving fears
          and hopes and concerns of its members, are precisely what could easily have
          produced an accretional product such as we see (from many philologically
          visible signs in the text) that gMark actually is. Accretional texts are
          usually driven by a wish to keep abreast of just such concerns and
          conditions; in short, by a need to respond to the passage of time.

          Here then, and hopefully in conclusion, is my earlier and fuller statement
          of that scenario of adaptation to time as it might have been realized in the
          case of Mark:

          BRUCE (2 June 2:18 PM, minus Chinese parallels): As it might affect Pastor
          Mark, that [historical] process might take the form of a wish by his
          parishioners to know about Jesus, and why he died. So Pastor M puts together
          what he knows or has heard, and the resulting story turns out to be popular
          with them, and he reads it to them now and then (it takes about 20 minutes,
          so no great problem finding an opportunity to do this).

          Then time goes on, and one of the parishioners, or some theologian somewhere
          else, gets a new theory about what the death of Jesus means to us now
          (meaning, in the year 31), and the old story does not prefigure that, so
          Pastor M has two choices, either he can scrap the old story and do a new one
          answering that need, or he can go back and write it into the old story. He
          happens to do the latter (this choice, I suspect, is largely a matter of
          temperament). Which leads to a few rough spots where he stuck in his new
          material, but nobody much is going to mind that. The thing is to have the
          story responsive to the current interest with which people come to the
          story. So now the old story leads not only to Jesus's death, but the meaning
          of that death (as currently understood) for the lives of people now. Fine.
          The thing is current again, and readings now take a little longer (say, 25
          minutes), but still perfectly manageable. We are back in business.

          So it goes. Someone says, Hey, the John Congregation across town has these
          nifty fast days, which they got from John himself; why don't we have a
          tradition like that in our church? Why didn't Jesus, according to our church
          official story (for you see, this is how the folks have come to regard
          Pastor M's little composition), have his disciples observe fasts? Well, says
          Pastor Mark, at that time of course they couldn't, but that's a good idea,
          and we can now, and suppose we do it on these two days of the week . . . And
          so a convention is born, but it is also clear why the convention is recent,
          and did not go back to the Jesus that everyone is familiar with (chiefly
          through Pastor M's little composition; these people, most of them, had never
          known Jesus themselves). Good. Very satisfactory. And Pastor M goes back to
          his study and takes the cover off the typewriter . . .

          Just keeping up in this way, with the latest audience request, or collective
          psychological crisis, or legendary story coming in from the outside (like
          Oscar Wilde's tarted-up version of the death of John), keeps Pastor M and
          his typewriter occupied, off and on, now and then, for at least a decade.
          His personal text, from which he continues to read to his flock from time to
          time, is now almost an hour long. It has rough spots, but these are the
          price of updating his text without beginning it all over again. It is a
          perfectly OK tradeoff. And knowledge of the existence of Pastor M's story
          has begun to spread across town, and some members of those meetings, maybe
          even a Johnite or two, may drop in of an evening, when it is known that
          Pastor M may be reading from his now rather good-sized book . . .

          This is the sort of dynamic which every growth text (accretional subtype)
          displays. The text does not grow of its own volition, but in response to
          pressure from events. The choice, for Pastor M's text, if we may personalize
          it for a moment, is either staying still and gradually becoming obsolete, or
          adding to itself and remaining current and vital.

          By comparison to [certain gargantuan Chinese accretional house texts, which
          continue to add material for several centuries], the little 15-year span
          subtended by Pastor M's authority document is just a puff of smoke. But it
          and all other texts of that general type are the same in this: they are at
          bottom an answer to the question of continuing institutional viability in a
          context of outside change.

          Whatever isn't growing, wears out.

          [Respectfully resubmitted],

          Bruce

          E Bruce Brooks
          Warring States Project
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst
        • Chuck Jones
          Bruce,   Tortured posts like these are why, for me anyway, conversing with you is a secondary goal to conversing with others in the group.  In this case,
          Message 4 of 7 , Jun 3, 2009
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            Bruce,
             
            Tortured posts like these are why, for me anyway, conversing with you is a secondary goal to conversing with others in the group.  In this case, we have common ground on how we think of the composition of the synoptics, you seem remarkably un-curious about that common ground.  You'd rather focus ad nauseum (good lord, the word count of your posts!) on what we do not have in common instead of inquiring to learn more about what we do.  This seems to be what you do with everyone.  That's why I was talking with Dave, and you'll recall, you injected yourself into the conversation.
             
            Rev. Chuck Jones
            Atlanta, Georgia

            --- On Wed, 6/3/09, E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...> wrote:


            From: E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...>
            Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] Synoptic Constraints
            To: Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Wednesday, June 3, 2009, 1:17 AM








            To: Synoptic
            On: Synoptic Constraints
            From: Bruce

            I am completely puzzled by Chuck's recent reply. Completely. Let me work
            back up the series and try to show why.

            CHUCK (latest): I think you summed up what I would call constraints well.

            BRUCE (Now): Good to know. This comment characterizes and approves my
            earlier statement:

            BRUCE (previously) : John certainly makes much freer with the work of his
            predecessors than did either Matthew or Luke, and he injects into his story
            more historical and theological consistency (which is not the same as
            historical accuracy or theological truth) than any of them can show. But
            both of these seem to be traits that can be ascribed to John himself, and to
            the time and place in which he worked. I don't see that they are instead a
            removal of constraints that applied to those predecessors, apart from their
            greater closeness to events, and their greater respect (sometimes
            adversative, but adversity is a kind of respect) for earlier versions.

            In short, Mark, Matthew, and Luke were nearer to Jesus in time than John,
            and the later of them had greater respect for the earlier of them, than John
            had for any of them.

            BRUCE (now): Now, what was the original sentence in which "synoptic
            constraints" came up? I will quote it.

            CHUCK (earlier): By synoptic process, I simply mean an author submitting
            himself to the compositional constraints demonstrated by Mt, Mk and Lk,
            rather than the free composition of, say, John.

            BRUCE (now): But on my own explanation, approved by Chuck and thus official,
            the "constraints" in question are nothing to which the three Synoptists can
            be said to "submit." They are simply differences, one of placement in time,
            to which one has no choice whether to submit or not, and one of attitude:
            greater respect. The latter is a likely enough, though not quite inevitable,
            consequence of the former.

            I can then, validly as it appears, paraphrase Chuck's statement above in
            this way: "By synoptic process, I simply mean an author being located nearer
            in time to Jesus, and having greater respect for any earlier documents."

            Then the supposed "synoptic process" has nothing specifically synoptic about
            it; it is simply the passage of time. Further, it implies no special
            conditions to which an author has a choice of submitting or not submitting,
            any more than one can accept or decline the option of being born in one
            decade rather than another.

            It follows that, once we have established (to our working satisfaction) the
            sequence of the Gospels in time, we at once know everything that the term
            "synoptic process," as recently clarified, can be said to convey. I think
            this makes the term meaningless, and indeed misleading.

            We might go back one step more and take up the third of Chuck's objections
            to my accretional model for Mark, which was where all this started:

            CHUCK (earliest; 2 June, 12:11 PM): Third, I'm not sure the synoptic process
            could produce the sort of document you describe.

            BRUCE (now): If, with the benefit of knowledge subsequently and strenuously
            gained, I now paraphrase this objection, I get the following:

            "I'm not sure if the passage of time could produce the sort of document you
            describe."

            To that, I have already given what I thought was a reasonably full answer. I
            will repeat that answer in a moment as my way of closing the subject. The
            gist of the answer is this:

            The passage of time, together with the changing conditions under which the
            little congregation of Pastor M presumably existed, and the evolving fears
            and hopes and concerns of its members, are precisely what could easily have
            produced an accretional product such as we see (from many philologically
            visible signs in the text) that gMark actually is. Accretional texts are
            usually driven by a wish to keep abreast of just such concerns and
            conditions; in short, by a need to respond to the passage of time.

            Here then, and hopefully in conclusion, is my earlier and fuller statement
            of that scenario of adaptation to time as it might have been realized in the
            case of Mark:

            BRUCE (2 June 2:18 PM, minus Chinese parallels): As it might affect Pastor
            Mark, that [historical] process might take the form of a wish by his
            parishioners to know about Jesus, and why he died. So Pastor M puts together
            what he knows or has heard, and the resulting story turns out to be popular
            with them, and he reads it to them now and then (it takes about 20 minutes,
            so no great problem finding an opportunity to do this).

            Then time goes on, and one of the parishioners, or some theologian somewhere
            else, gets a new theory about what the death of Jesus means to us now
            (meaning, in the year 31), and the old story does not prefigure that, so
            Pastor M has two choices, either he can scrap the old story and do a new one
            answering that need, or he can go back and write it into the old story. He
            happens to do the latter (this choice, I suspect, is largely a matter of
            temperament) . Which leads to a few rough spots where he stuck in his new
            material, but nobody much is going to mind that. The thing is to have the
            story responsive to the current interest with which people come to the
            story. So now the old story leads not only to Jesus's death, but the meaning
            of that death (as currently understood) for the lives of people now. Fine.
            The thing is current again, and readings now take a little longer (say, 25
            minutes), but still perfectly manageable. We are back in business.

            So it goes. Someone says, Hey, the John Congregation across town has these
            nifty fast days, which they got from John himself; why don't we have a
            tradition like that in our church? Why didn't Jesus, according to our church
            official story (for you see, this is how the folks have come to regard
            Pastor M's little composition) , have his disciples observe fasts? Well, says
            Pastor Mark, at that time of course they couldn't, but that's a good idea,
            and we can now, and suppose we do it on these two days of the week . . . And
            so a convention is born, but it is also clear why the convention is recent,
            and did not go back to the Jesus that everyone is familiar with (chiefly
            through Pastor M's little composition; these people, most of them, had never
            known Jesus themselves). Good. Very satisfactory. And Pastor M goes back to
            his study and takes the cover off the typewriter . . .

            Just keeping up in this way, with the latest audience request, or collective
            psychological crisis, or legendary story coming in from the outside (like
            Oscar Wilde's tarted-up version of the death of John), keeps Pastor M and
            his typewriter occupied, off and on, now and then, for at least a decade.
            His personal text, from which he continues to read to his flock from time to
            time, is now almost an hour long. It has rough spots, but these are the
            price of updating his text without beginning it all over again. It is a
            perfectly OK tradeoff. And knowledge of the existence of Pastor M's story
            has begun to spread across town, and some members of those meetings, maybe
            even a Johnite or two, may drop in of an evening, when it is known that
            Pastor M may be reading from his now rather good-sized book . . .

            This is the sort of dynamic which every growth text (accretional subtype)
            displays. The text does not grow of its own volition, but in response to
            pressure from events. The choice, for Pastor M's text, if we may personalize
            it for a moment, is either staying still and gradually becoming obsolete, or
            adding to itself and remaining current and vital.

            By comparison to [certain gargantuan Chinese accretional house texts, which
            continue to add material for several centuries], the little 15-year span
            subtended by Pastor M's authority document is just a puff of smoke. But it
            and all other texts of that general type are the same in this: they are at
            bottom an answer to the question of continuing institutional viability in a
            context of outside change.

            Whatever isn't growing, wears out.

            [Respectfully resubmitted] ,

            Bruce

            E Bruce Brooks
            Warring States Project
            University of Massachusetts at Amherst



















            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • E Bruce Brooks
            Chuck, What we have in common, according to the plain sense of your most recent words on the subject, is that the passage of time is an important factor in the
            Message 5 of 7 , Jun 3, 2009
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              Chuck,

              What we have in common, according to the plain sense of your most recent
              words on the subject, is that the passage of time is an important factor in
              the coming-to-be of the Synoptics. I am sorry you don't care to be shown in
              any detail how the passage of time could very naturally produce just the
              kind of narrative inconcinnity and theological mixture that we find in
              gMark.

              Your alternate theory, that Mark was produced in one sitting by assembly
              from many pre-existing sources, has obvious problems. Among them are the
              stylistic unity of some of the theologically diverse passages. If Mark
              imposed his not very elegant style on his diverse sources, why has he left
              their inconsistent theology untouched? And if he felt helpless in the face
              of their theological diversity, why has he felt bold to harmonize them
              stylistically - and that in the direction of worse Greek than, in the nature
              of things, those sources probably contained? (Those who think that Mark, in
              copying Matthew, simultaneously fouled the pretty good Greek of Matthew,
              have an equally stubborn problem). And if for whatever reason Mark felt
              stylistically bold and yet theologically shy in the presence of *this* set
              of conjectural sources, why has he been stylistically shy in the presence of
              *another* set, a set (identified by me some months ago) in which his
              signature overused word EUQUS is rare or absent, and which also, as I argued
              at the time, have features of content, such as a more consistent
              acknowledgement of women, that suggest a later date than the rest of the
              material?

              These are problems for which any theory of an author (or "redactor")
              operating at a single time cannot readily provide an answer, but which are
              answered easily, almost automatically, if we assume one author or a series
              of stylistically consistent authors operating over time, and being exposed,
              one after another, to theological and organizational developments which
              themselves arose over time, and of which the proprietors of the text felt
              constrained to take notice.

              Time, then, seems to be the key. I am glad we agree that a time factor
              exists, and is significant. I commend to your future reflection the question
              of how that factor is most likely to have operated in the formation of Mark.

              Bruce

              E Bruce Brooks
              Warring States Project
              University of Massachusetts at Amherst
            • Chuck Jones
              Bruce,   What I would enjoy doing is have a conversation in which our word counts were roughly equal, and you were as interested in my perspectives as you are
              Message 6 of 7 , Jun 3, 2009
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                Bruce,
                 
                What I would enjoy doing is have a conversation in which our word counts were roughly equal, and you were as interested in my perspectives as you are your own.
                 
                Rev. Chuck Jones
                Atlanta, Georgia
                _______________________
                 
                Bruce wrote:
                 
                I am sorry you don't care to be shown in any detail how the passage of time could very naturally produce just the kind of narrative inconcinnity and theological mixture that we find in gMark.




                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • E Bruce Brooks
                To: Synoptic In Response, I Guess, to: Chuck Jones On: Communication From: Bruce CHUCK: What I would enjoy doing is have a conversation in which our word
                Message 7 of 7 , Jun 3, 2009
                • 0 Attachment
                  To: Synoptic
                  In Response, I Guess, to: Chuck Jones
                  On: Communication
                  From: Bruce

                  CHUCK: What I would enjoy doing is have a conversation in which our word
                  counts were roughly equal,

                  BRUCE: Sounds great, Chuck. Now all we need is a Synoptic problem which can
                  be solved in one sentence. Let me know if you find one.

                  CHUCK: . . . and you were as interested in my perspectives as you are your
                  own.

                  BRUCE: If anybody on this list has spent more of their own time on Chuck's
                  exciting new concept "Synoptic Constraints," alias "Synoptic Process," than
                  I have, let them raise their hand. It's hardly my fault that, when at last
                  tracked to its lair, that exciting new concept proved to be less than had
                  been initially hoped for it, or that it, once reduced to its essence, namely
                  the passage of time, it led as readily in my direction as in Chuck's. Or
                  maybe even a little more readily.

                  I haven't arrived at my present opinion on these things without considering
                  various suggestions and objections, including some presented on this list
                  over the years. If I like that much-studied and much-reconsidered opinion,
                  it is because it has proved, in practice, to have more explanatory virtues,
                  and fewer scenario shortcomings, than any alternate model of which I am
                  aware.

                  Thanks to a recent suggestion by Jack Kilmon, which I recognized as superior
                  to my own previous take on a particular word in Mark, my working
                  hypothetical model of Mark is (as near as I can tell) a little better right
                  now than it was a week ago. So it goes. If I can make an equivalent
                  statement next week, then this week will not have been a total loss either.
                  Which would be terrific.

                  Bruce

                  E Bruce Brooks
                  Warring States Project
                  University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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