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Re: [Synoptic-L] The living stream of oral tradition

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  • Jeff Peterson
    Ron, We have positive evidence of oral tradition as a feature of the first Christian generation from both Paul (esp. 1 Cor 11:23) and Luke (note PAREDOSAN in
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 23, 2010
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      Ron,

      We have positive evidence of oral tradition as a feature of the first
      Christian generation from both Paul (esp. 1 Cor 11:23) and Luke (note
      PAREDOSAN in 1:2); Paul also treats the sayings of Jesus as an authoritative
      source with a defined content (cf. 1 Cor 7:25), and it's problematic in
      method to assume from his occasional correspondence the extent to which he
      was acquainted with teachings attributed to Jesus, or how much he may have
      taught his congregations about Jesus' sayings in the course of founding a
      church.

      Your "*logia*" source, on the other hand, is much more speculative. Papias
      supplies no evidence for it, as when he characterizes the *logia*, he refers
      to "things said or done" by Jesus, collected in books like Mark's or
      Matthew's -- i.e., *logia* doesn't mean "sayings," it means "teachings" or
      "oracles" and is exemplified in Gospels with a biographical shape. The only
      reason for holding to the existence of a (mostly) sayings source would be a
      solid demonstration that Matthew and Luke independently made use of it; but
      E. P. Sanders noted some time ago that a literary relationship sufficient to
      commend their independent use of a lost source serves just as well to
      establish direct use of one Gospel by the author of the other. As I argued
      in a 2002 essay on "Order in the Double Tradition and the Existence of Q,"
      the one argument remaining for Q is the differing order of the Double
      Tradition in Matt and Luke, and that's not a compelling argument if we allow
      Luke any creativity in the ordering of his material.

      Jeff Peterson
      Austin Graduate School of Theology
      Austin, Texas

      On Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 8:30 AM, Ron Price <ron.price@...> wrote:

      >
      >
      > I've been listening to Mark Goodacre's NT Pod on the arguments against Q.
      > It's good of him to enable people to hear first hand how the NT is being
      > taught in a modern university. I would like to have replied directly, but
      > could not because I don't belong to any of the groups the software insists
      > on for those who make comments. (Am I missing something here, or are
      > potential responders being deliberately filtered?)
      >
      > He invokes Occam's Razor against the hypothetical Q (so far, so good), but
      > in the very same presentation he also invokes the "living stream of oral
      > tradition" in an attempt to counter the argument about 'alternating
      > primitivity'. Isn't this also a hypothetical source, and shouldn't it be
      > included in the Goodacre (as opposed to the Goulder) version of the Farrer
      > Theory? There is surely an inconsistency here.
      >
      > There was indeed some oral tradition available to Luke. For instance he
      > probably knew that Jesus' followers had expected him to liberate his
      > country
      > from the Romans (24:21), and that there had been an armed struggle prior to
      > Jesus' arrest (as hinted in 22:49). But when Luke was written over 60 years
      > after the death of Jesus, would the oral tradition have included reliably
      > memorized sayings of Jesus? I doubt it. After all, most of the primitive
      > churches had been founded by Paul or his close associates, and except on
      > the
      > rare occasions when it suited his arguments (e.g. 1 Cor 9:14, in 'Letter
      > A'), Paul did not treat the sayings of Jesus as very important (e.g. 1 Cor
      > 2:2, in 'Letter B').
      >
      > I suggest that apart from the few who had acquired a copy of the logia
      > (which pre-dated the influence of Paul), members of the primitive churches
      > had very little knowledge of the sayings of Jesus until the publication of
      > Mark and then Matthew.
      >
      > Ron Price
      >
      > Derbyshire, UK
      >
      > Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
      >
      >
      >


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Coleman A. Baker
      Indeed, Mark. We have no evidence of the hypothetical Q document but we do have evidence that there existed a living stream of oral tradition. As Mark notes,
      Message 2 of 13 , Feb 23, 2010
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        Indeed, Mark. We have no evidence of the hypothetical Q document but we do have evidence that there existed a living stream of oral tradition. As Mark notes, the problem with oral tradition is that it is written in textual form and thus lost. I see no inconsistency in this.

        Great series, by the way, Mark!

        Coleman A. Baker
        PhD Candidate
        Brite Divinity School, TCU
        www.colemanabaker.com
        817-932-0859

        On Feb 23, 2010, at 9:24 AM, Mark Goodacre wrote:

        > Thanks for the comments on the podcasts, Ron. No, there are no filters set
        > up. As the Guardian would say, "Comment is free".
        >
        > As a general comment on your thoughts, Ron, and on yours too, Chuck, I would
        > say that I am often surprised by the way that Occam's Razor is represented
        > in this context. It is simply a question of not multiplying entities beyond
        > what is necessary. I and others have argued that Q is unnecessary because
        > the data is better explained by Luke's direct familiarity with Matthew
        > alongside his use of Mark. Oral tradition is not an unnecessary entity
        > that is superfluous to requirements but is something that we know was
        > present, through Paul's witness to Jesus tradition, through Luke's preface,
        > through Papias's comments, or through common sense. Of course the
        > difficulty with oral tradition is that it is by its nature lost, except when
        > it is crystallized in texts. Scholars of Christian origins rightly draw
        > attention to use of oral traditions in discussions of Luke's use of Mark,
        > Matthew's use of Mark, or other relationships. The only reason that this
        > appeal is not made in the question of the double tradition is that we do not
        > have a literary text of Q and so *every* detail can projected onto the
        > hypothetical text.
        >
        > Best wishes
        > Mark
        >
        > On 23 February 2010 10:11, Chuck Jones <chuckjonez@...> wrote:
        >
        >>
        >>
        >> Ron,
        >>
        >> You make a great point.
        >> Einstein is credited with saying, "Make everything be as simple as
        >> possible, but not simpler." By the time all the caveats, footnotes,
        >> addenda, probabilities and "must'ves" are appended to no-Q theories, simple
        >> isn't simple anymore, much less simplest.
        >>
        >> Chuck
        >>
        >> Rev. Chuck JonesInterim Executive DirectorWestar InstituteThe Jesus Seminar
        >>
        >>
        >> --- On Tue, 2/23/10, Ron Price <ron.price@...<ron.price%40virgin.net>>
        >> wrote:
        >> I've been listening to Mark Goodacre's NT Pod on the arguments against Q.
        >>
        >> It's good of him to enable people to hear first hand how the NT is being
        >>
        >> taught in a modern university. I would like to have replied directly, but
        >>
        >> could not because I don't belong to any of the groups the software insists
        >>
        >> on for those who make comments. (Am I missing something here, or are
        >>
        >> potential responders being deliberately filtered?)
        >>
        >> He invokes Occam's Razor against the hypothetical Q (so far, so good), but
        >>
        >> in the very same presentation he also invokes the "living stream of oral
        >>
        >> tradition" in an attempt to counter the argument about 'alternating
        >>
        >> primitivity' . Isn't this also a hypothetical source, and shouldn't it be
        >>
        >> included in the Goodacre (as opposed to the Goulder) version of the Farrer
        >>
        >> Theory? There is surely an inconsistency here.
        >>
        >> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >>
        >>
        >>
        >
        >
        >
        > --
        > Mark Goodacre
        > Duke University
        > Department of Religion
        > Gray Building / Box 90964
        > Durham, NC 27708-0964 USA
        > Phone: 919-660-3503 Fax: 919-660-3530
        >
        > http://www.markgoodacre.org
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        > Synoptic-L homepage: http://NTGateway.com/synoptic-lYahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Coleman A. Baker
        Indeed, Mark. We have no evidence of the hypothetical Q document but we do have evidence that there existed a living stream of oral tradition. As Mark notes,
        Message 3 of 13 , Feb 23, 2010
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          Indeed, Mark. We have no evidence of the hypothetical Q document but we do have evidence that there existed a living stream of oral tradition. As Mark notes, the problem with oral tradition is that it is written in textual form and thus lost. I see no inconsistency in this.

          Great series, by the way, Mark!

          Coleman A. Baker
          PhD Candidate
          Brite Divinity School, TCU
          www.colemanabaker.com
          817-932-0859

          On Feb 23, 2010, at 9:24 AM, Mark Goodacre wrote:

          > Thanks for the comments on the podcasts, Ron. No, there are no filters set
          > up. As the Guardian would say, "Comment is free".
          >
          > As a general comment on your thoughts, Ron, and on yours too, Chuck, I would
          > say that I am often surprised by the way that Occam's Razor is represented
          > in this context. It is simply a question of not multiplying entities beyond
          > what is necessary. I and others have argued that Q is unnecessary because
          > the data is better explained by Luke's direct familiarity with Matthew
          > alongside his use of Mark. Oral tradition is not an unnecessary entity
          > that is superfluous to requirements but is something that we know was
          > present, through Paul's witness to Jesus tradition, through Luke's preface,
          > through Papias's comments, or through common sense. Of course the
          > difficulty with oral tradition is that it is by its nature lost, except when
          > it is crystallized in texts. Scholars of Christian origins rightly draw
          > attention to use of oral traditions in discussions of Luke's use of Mark,
          > Matthew's use of Mark, or other relationships. The only reason that this
          > appeal is not made in the question of the double tradition is that we do not
          > have a literary text of Q and so *every* detail can projected onto the
          > hypothetical text.
          >
          > Best wishes
          > Mark
          >
          > On 23 February 2010 10:11, Chuck Jones <chuckjonez@...> wrote:
          >
          >>
          >>
          >> Ron,
          >>
          >> You make a great point.
          >> Einstein is credited with saying, "Make everything be as simple as
          >> possible, but not simpler." By the time all the caveats, footnotes,
          >> addenda, probabilities and "must'ves" are appended to no-Q theories, simple
          >> isn't simple anymore, much less simplest.
          >>
          >> Chuck
          >>
          >> Rev. Chuck JonesInterim Executive DirectorWestar InstituteThe Jesus Seminar
          >>
          >>
          >> --- On Tue, 2/23/10, Ron Price <ron.price@...<ron.price%40virgin.net>>
          >> wrote:
          >> I've been listening to Mark Goodacre's NT Pod on the arguments against Q.
          >>
          >> It's good of him to enable people to hear first hand how the NT is being
          >>
          >> taught in a modern university. I would like to have replied directly, but
          >>
          >> could not because I don't belong to any of the groups the software insists
          >>
          >> on for those who make comments. (Am I missing something here, or are
          >>
          >> potential responders being deliberately filtered?)
          >>
          >> He invokes Occam's Razor against the hypothetical Q (so far, so good), but
          >>
          >> in the very same presentation he also invokes the "living stream of oral
          >>
          >> tradition" in an attempt to counter the argument about 'alternating
          >>
          >> primitivity' . Isn't this also a hypothetical source, and shouldn't it be
          >>
          >> included in the Goodacre (as opposed to the Goulder) version of the Farrer
          >>
          >> Theory? There is surely an inconsistency here.
          >>
          >> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >>
          >>
          >>
          >
          >
          >
          > --
          > Mark Goodacre
          > Duke University
          > Department of Religion
          > Gray Building / Box 90964
          > Durham, NC 27708-0964 USA
          > Phone: 919-660-3503 Fax: 919-660-3530
          >
          > http://www.markgoodacre.org
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
          >
          >
          > ------------------------------------
          >
          > Synoptic-L homepage: http://NTGateway.com/synoptic-lYahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Ron Price
          ... Mark et al., This distinction is debatable. The entity posited by the 2ST is a document *which included all the double tradition material*. The entity
          Message 4 of 13 , Feb 24, 2010
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            Mark Goodacre wrote:

            > ..... I and others have argued that Q is unnecessary because
            > the data is better explained by Luke's direct familiarity with Matthew
            > alongside his use of Mark. Oral tradition is not an unnecessary entity
            > that is superfluous to requirements but is something that we know was
            > present, .....

            Mark et al.,

            This distinction is debatable.

            The entity posited by the 2ST is a document *which included all the double
            tradition material*.

            The entity posited by Mark's version of the FT is oral tradition *which
            included all the examples of more primitive wording needed to explain the
            occasional greater originality of Luke*.

            The entity posited by my radical form of the 3ST is the "logia" *containing
            the aphorisms roughly as described on my web site*.

            I think a difference in 'necessity' only comes in when we compare these with
            Goulder's version of the FT, which doesn't posit any of these three
            entities, nor any equivalent entity. So was Goulder right here? I think not,
            partly because his explanations of Lukan texts usually taken to have been
            more original are far from satisfactory.

            Where does this leave us? The Synoptic Problem is somewhat more complex than
            implied by Goulder's stricter version of the FT, which was lacking in
            explanatory power especially for some of the aphorisms. This leaves us with
            the 2ST, the 3ST and Mark's version of the FT. But synoptic diagrams are
            essentially data transfer diagrams. So surely the Goodacre FT diagram should
            include the
            'oral-tradition-including-texts-showing-greater-Lukan-originality' entity
            for completeness.

            Ron Price

            Derbyshire, UK

            Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
          • Ron Price
            ... Jeff, You made this claim in another thread, and I challenged it there. ... The (mostly) sayings source known as Q is such a mess that no clear-minded
            Message 5 of 13 , Feb 24, 2010
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              Jeff Peterson wrote:

              > ..... when he [Papias] characterizes the *logia*, he refers
              > to "things said or done" by Jesus, .....

              Jeff,

              You made this claim in another thread, and I challenged it there.

              > ..... The only
              > reason for holding to the existence of a (mostly) sayings source would be a
              > solid demonstration that Matthew and Luke independently made use of it;

              The "(mostly) sayings source" known as Q is such a mess that no clear-minded
              person could ever have written it. The 'mostly' bit alone gives it away as
              an artificial construction.

              But what about a solid demonstration of a sayings source that contains only
              aphorisms, that is poetic, that has a hundred internal links, that is a
              'pleasing arrangement', that explains certain mistranslations, that makes
              sense of the synoptic writers' redaction of its aphorisms, and that reflects
              a pre-Pauline era. Did this 'logia' once exist or did I invent it? Let's
              just say this: if I had such poetic skills I would have been very proud of
              my composition. As it is I merely reconstructed it from the synoptic
              evidence, like a moderately complicated jig-saw puzzle.

              Ron Price

              Derbyshire, UK

              Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
            • Mark Goodacre
              ... It s not a question of my version of the FT but a question of whether or not we accept the presence of oral traditions in antiquity, or whether one
              Message 6 of 13 , Feb 24, 2010
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                On 24 February 2010 14:47, Ron Price <ron.price@...> wrote:

                > The entity posited by Mark's version of the FT is oral tradition *which
                > included all the examples of more primitive wording needed to explain the
                > occasional greater originality of Luke*.

                It's not a question of my "version of the FT" but a question of
                whether or not we accept the presence of oral traditions in antiquity,
                or whether one thinks that people only communicated via texts. This
                is the case for two-source theorists and others too. As I mentioned
                previously, the only reason that oral tradition does not get factored
                in to discussions of the double tradition by two-source theorists is
                that they have an absent document onto which every variation can be
                projected.

                As it happens, each scholar will assess the influence of oral
                traditions differently. Michael Goulder tended to be a
                minimum-sources person and only occasionally appeals to oral tradition
                but it's in his work too, e.g. in the women who followed Jesus in Luke
                8.1-3. I am inclined to think there must have been more examples of
                this, but am constantly impressed by just how straightforward it is to
                see Luke redacting Matthew. See, for example, the text book example
                of "Blessed are the poor" in Luke 6.20, which makes excellent sense as
                Luke's redaction of Matthew (Case Against Q, chapter 7).

                One of the remaining problems is that Michael Goulder's arguments
                against alternating primitivity are still largely unknown or
                misunderstood. On the basis of his work, I think it is clear that the
                reconstruction of Q has an inbuilt bias towards Luke because of his
                far larger vocabulary, his higher number of hapaxes and his
                disconcerting habit of varying his synonyms.

                Best wishes
                Mark
                --
                Mark Goodacre
                Duke University
                Department of Religion
                Gray Building / Box 90964
                Durham, NC 27708-0964    USA
                Phone: 919-660-3503        Fax: 919-660-3530

                http://www.markgoodacre.org
              • Ron Price
                ... Mark, I already admitted the presence of *some* oral tradition in the message which opened this thread. I don t know of anyone who would deny the existence
                Message 7 of 13 , Feb 24, 2010
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                  Mark Goodacre wrote:

                  > It's not a question of my "version of the FT" but a question of
                  > whether or not we accept the presence of oral traditions in antiquity,
                  > or whether one thinks that people only communicated via texts.

                  Mark,

                  I already admitted the presence of *some* oral tradition in the message
                  which opened this thread. I don't know of anyone who would deny the
                  existence of some oral tradition, nor the existence of verbal communication
                  in the first or any other century.

                  As I see it, the question as it applies to 'alternating primitivity' is
                  whether the oral tradition available to Luke would have included
                  sufficiently accurate memories of the relevant primitive aphorisms (probably
                  originating in a different language in a different country and at least 60
                  years old by his time) to allow him to make corrections to the corresponding
                  texts in Matthew. This is what I find difficult to believe.

                  Anyway, thanks for the interesting discussion!

                  Ron Price

                  Derbyshire, UK

                  Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
                • Mark Goodacre
                  ... OK, so we are agreed on that dynamic. ... As I understand the argument from alternating primitivity, it is stated with respect to relative primitivity and
                  Message 8 of 13 , Mar 2, 2010
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                    On 24 February 2010 12:50, Ron Price <ron.price@...> wrote:
                    >
                    >
                    > I already admitted the presence of *some* oral tradition in the message
                    > which opened this thread. I don't know of anyone who would deny the
                    > existence of some oral tradition, nor the existence of verbal communication
                    > in the first or any other century.
                    >

                    OK, so we are agreed on that dynamic.

                    >
                    > As I see it, the question as it applies to 'alternating primitivity' is
                    > whether the oral tradition available to Luke would have included
                    > sufficiently accurate memories of the relevant primitive aphorisms
                    > (probably
                    > originating in a different language in a different country and at least 60
                    > years old by his time) to allow him to make corrections to the
                    > corresponding
                    > texts in Matthew. This is what I find difficult to believe.
                    >

                    As I understand the argument from alternating primitivity, it is stated with
                    respect to relative primitivity and not absolute antiquity. I would share
                    your scepticism of the notion that Luke had some pipeline going back to the
                    30s. But we know that he had access to traditional material in addition to
                    what he found in Mark / Matthew for a range of reasons, his preface, the
                    traditions in Acts, the similarities between his eucharistic tradition and 1
                    Cor. 11, comparisons of his unique material with details in Josephus and so
                    on.

                    All best
                    Mark
                    --
                    Mark Goodacre
                    Duke University
                    Department of Religion
                    Gray Building / Box 90964
                    Durham, NC 27708-0964 USA
                    Phone: 919-660-3503 Fax: 919-660-3530

                    http://www.markgoodacre.org


                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Ron Price
                    ... Mark, Of course. What I failed to mention was the evidence of antiquity in many of the aphorisms, especially Semitic parallelism which appears alien to the
                    Message 9 of 13 , Mar 3, 2010
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                      Mark Goodacre wrote:

                      > As I understand the argument from alternating primitivity, it is stated with
                      > respect to relative primitivity and not absolute antiquity.

                      Mark,

                      Of course. What I failed to mention was the evidence of antiquity in many of
                      the aphorisms, especially Semitic parallelism which appears alien to the
                      Greek language in which they are presented to us. So I see (relative)
                      primitivity in the aphorisms as being a likely indication of the antiquity
                      of the older variant.

                      > I would share your scepticism of the notion that Luke had some pipeline going
                      > back to the 30s.

                      My scepticism applies to the availability and reliability of oral tradition.
                      Actually I think Luke did have a pipeline, but it was back to the 40s - a
                      written collection of the aphorisms of Jesus. I think the rehabilitation of
                      Papias' statement on Matthew is long overdue.

                      > But we know that he had access to traditional material in addition to
                      > what he found in Mark / Matthew for a range of reasons, his preface, the
                      > traditions in Acts, the similarities between his eucharistic tradition and 1
                      > Cor. 11, comparisons of his unique material with details in Josephus and so
                      > on.

                      My investigations have unearthed extra evidence which leads me to confirm my
                      suspicions that Lk 22:19b-20 was not in the original text of Luke, so I beg
                      to differ in regard to the eucharistic tradition. The rest of your point is
                      well taken. Nevertheless the traditions available to Luke were limited. He
                      still probably had to make up speeches for his heroes as some previous Greek
                      writers had done. Also the traditions seem to have varied greatly in
                      reliability. It appears to me that there is a great gulf in this respect
                      between the aphorisms, which seem to have great antiquity, and the remainder
                      of the gospel material, the detail of which is occasionally credible, but is
                      often late and/or unreliable. This gulf is readily explained on the one hand
                      by a written source of aphorisms, and on the other by a broadly sceptical
                      attitude to the reliability of oral tradition in the context of the synoptic
                      gospels.

                      Ron Price

                      Derbyshire, UK

                      Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
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