An Aramaic cat among the pigeons
- Maurice Casey liberated a much-needed cat among the synoptic pigeons when he
set out detailed evidence that an Aramaic source lay behind the 'Woes' ("An
Aramaic Approach to Q", pp. 64-104). It is to be hoped that advocates of the
Two-Source Theory will take it as a serious challenge to their posited Greek
This said, there are some aspects of Casey's method which could be improved.
Concentrating on the details of one or two aphorisms (Mt 12:30 // Lk 11:23
is dealt with later in the book) among many means that some of the original
context is lost. Thus for example "from town to town" is dismissed as a
Matthean elaboration, whereas I have found it to have a clear parallel
elsewhere in the sayings (saying B7 // saying D7 in my reconstruction on the
Web page cited below).
Also it seems to me that he (like others) is too ready to use the opponents'
terminology. His phrase "Q material" leads almost predictably to a
requirement for "at least two layers of Q" (p.103) when observing that some
of the other material is verbally identical in Matthew and Luke. Had he
referred to the 'Double Tradition' instead of 'Q', he might have proposed
straightaway a division in the origin of the Double Tradition material
rather than jumping to a conclusion about layers in a document he doesn't
really believe in (the latter revealed on p.189).
Also two of the woes (Mt 23:4 // Lk 11:46 and Mt 23:13 // Lk 11:52) were
omitted. It would be nice to hear his reason for these omissions.
Finally, Casey appears to have missed the majestic poetry of the original
woes. I invite readers to compare my English-language reconstruction of
saying D7 on the Web page cited below (together with the corresponding notes
on the following page), with Casey's reconstruction on p. 65 of his book. It
is as if Casey's cat is in a high-definition black-and-white photograph,
whereas mine is in a low-definition colour photograph. Ah well. Perhaps
someday we'll be treated to a high-definition colour photograph of this cat.
- Casey's book on Q does indeed offer a
number of very valuable insights into
the possible development of the tradition
prior to its translation into Greek.
It does this not least in illuminating more clearly
the nature of the issues in some of
the controversies recorded in the
It makes a good case
that there is a prophetic protest
against the extension of purity requirements
where these conflict with other weightier
demands. It is not so clear that this
_all_ took place at the first rather than
the second stage of the tradition.
Were there no Aramaic
speaking disciples who ever clarified or
amplified this criticism in disputes with
those who held to the extended purity rules?
Was it only the evangelists who altered
the traditions, and not those who transmitted
the tradition between the first and the third stages?
Were there not some disciples who took a fiercer
line than their master when confronted by opposition?
(e.g. Lk 9.54)
C seems to assign almost all of the recovered
Aramaic stratum to the Sitz im Leben of Jesus,
but it is not clear that controversies which
fit the period of around +29 to +33 did not also
continue (in Aramaic) through the next
twenty or thirty years. After all the
issues of preservation of identity and of
hostility to Gentile domination were very
powerful factors, and were accentuated after
the death of Herod Agrippa.
David Mealand, University of Edinburgh
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