Cc: WSW, GPG
In Response To: Mark Matson
On: Breaking Up Matthew
The issue here is the importance of order.
MARK: the whole term "order" is suspect anyway.
BRUCE: Not to me. Is this a touch of the old Lachmann allergy?
MARK: Is it "chronological order?" (no).
BRUCE: We don't know that the order of events presented in any of the
Gospels corresponds to the true Historical Jesus order. So much may be
granted. But I should think it is obvious that each of the Gospels
*purports* to tell that story in the order in which it happened. No
Gospel but begins the working life of Jesus with the Baptism, has a
middle section of more or less length in which Jesus makes the
transition from Galilee to Jerusalem, and ends with his Crucifixion at
Jerusalem. If any of these major elements occurred in a different
sequence, we might fairly say that we were dealing with a mere
collection of anecdotes. But they don't, and we aren't. What Matthew
gives us, in his highly formalized way, is still something that offers
itself to us as a chronology, a consecutive account, of Jesus.
MARK: Is it simply Matthew's order? (why?).
BRUCE: Because that is what we have in front of us. How that order
differs in detail from that of the other Gospels is also in front of
us; it is a perfectly objective fact, and a perfectly valid topic of
MARK: What order are we talking about?
BRUCE: See the archive. The initial question concerned the order of
Luke, and whether it is construable as a rearrangement of that of
MARK: The assumption always starts with a presumed superiority of
BRUCE: "Superiority" begs the question. Superiority is a matter of
taste, and it has been known since antiquity that arguing tastes leads
"Priority" is the real question, and that is surely investigable.
Thus: If we had only the texts of Matthew and Luke, with no
information or presuppositions, it would not take us long to discover
that the two cover much the same narrative ground, though with many
differences. One of the differences is in the tone and tendency of the
common incidents; much there to work on. Another is the difference in
the order in which some of the incidents are presented; much there as
well. The original question directs our attention to the latter data
At first glance, the differences in order between the two bring us up
short: each order is by implication an implied real chronological
order (see above), but at points where they differ, at least one of
them must be chronologically wrong. We then do a directionality study
of each of those places, and see what we come up with. Are there
reasons why, given the A sequence, another author might have
rearranged it as the B sequence? Or is it easier to see the B sequence
as an intentional rearrangement of the A sequence? In this area, all
of us are students of Tischendorf: The version which can most readily
be seen as giving rise to the other is presumptively prior to the
other. And proceeding in that way, we should eventually be able to
say, This text, at all points in question (or at all points where with
present knowledge a plausible sequence can be inferred), is prior to
that other text.
Then we have learned something useful. And the technique of learning
it finds wider uses also. Thus, Fitzmyer does a pretty good job of
showing why Luke moved certain parts of Mark from their Markan
position to a different one. It's not all that difficult, and it's not
a priori futile. So also with Matthew and Luke; Luke's propensities
are readily discoverable from a reading of his entire text, and it can
be seen in at least some cases that his differences of order from
Matthew are consonant with those propensities. This leads toward the
conclusion Mt > Lk.
Which is surely a useful point to have reached, no?
No author, no musician, no performer of any stripe, thinks order of
presentation irrelevant. For example, a symphony should end briskly,
not to leave the audience in a gloomy state of mind. There are thus
conductors who will not touch Tchaikovsky's Sixth, where this rule is
grossly violated. For a church organist to do something equally
downbeat at end of the service is to court instant dismissal, for
reasons that pastor and people do not even need to put into words.
Sequence is powerful. Climax is powerful. Interlude, as it relates to
climax, is powerful in its own kind of way. Bizet's intermezzi. The
Greek tragedians liked to fill their transitions and interludes with
certain kinds of material. And the way the Japanese "no" play writers
treat the "michiyuki" portion of their groundplan would have delighted
Luke. I get the impression that the Gospel writers understood these
things superlatively well. Why is it irrelevant, or "suspect," to
notice this aspect of their art?
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst