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Re: [Synoptic-L] Synoptic Constraints

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  • 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 1 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



















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    • 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 2 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 3 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 4 of 7 , Jun 3, 2009
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            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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