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Re: [Synoptic-L] Was Matthew's Sermon broken up?

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  • Chuck Jones
    Bruce, Thanks for the thoughtful response.  Rather than going line by line or paragraph by paragraph, here are a few thoughts: 1.  It is indeed progress for
    Message 1 of 11 , Feb 24, 2010

      Thanks for the thoughtful response.  Rather than going line by line or paragraph by paragraph, here are a few thoughts:

      1.  It is indeed progress for us to agree that Mk arranged material thematically to suit his literary and rhetorical purposes.  The key point is that we can see this through an examination of Mk, even in the absence of a source with which to make comparisons.  (A topic for another day:  I do not believe that Mk as we have it is the result of multiple editions or major redactions.)
      2.  Let's pretend we didn't have Lk for a moment.  Using the same literary analysis, we would conclude, I think, that it is highly likely that Mt created five sermons by grouping teachings together thematically.

      3.  A principle is at work in the above points:  the more thematically a set of materials is arranged in a synoptic gospel, the more likely it is the work of the redactor, especially when we can see the arrangement advancing the author's cause.  Mk wants to set his plot dilemma as quickly as possible, establishing in chs. 1 and 2 that even though Jesus is wildly popular with the people, religious leaders oppose him and are trying to kill him.  Mt wants to frame Jesus as the new Moses.
      4.  I have no idea what in what order the material in Q might have been.  One certainly sees sections of Lk in which themes are addressed.  Does it seem a safe hypothesis than when we come across double tradition material in Lk that has not been thematically arranged, it probably reflects its original order in Q?  This would be a simple appeal to Lk and Mt's use of the order of Mk, which they left alone when they were not pursuing literary or rhetorical goals.

      I'll stop here.  I'm enjoying the dialogue.


      Chuck JonesInterim Executive DirectorWestar InstituteThe Jesus Seminar

      --- On Tue, 2/23/10, brooks@... <brooks@...> wrote:

      In Response To: Chuck Jones

      On: Mark's Sources

      From: Bruce

      CHUCK: This has inadvertently become a case study in how much our

      presuppositions affect our analysis.

      BRUCE: Trouble with statements like this is that they trivialize the

      whole enterprise. If all we find is what we thought in the first

      place, then those concerned might as well take up a more useful

      pastime. Birdwatching. Computer solitaire. Whatever.

      My own sense, quite to the
      contrary, is that it is sometimes possible

      to decide between several possible conclusions, and that progress in

      the subject is made by doing so. I take up the matter in that spirit.

      On the specific point:

      CHUCK: I believe Mt and Lk used Q and Mk, separately. In which case Mt

      and Lk left Mk's narrative structure alone, except when a change

      suited their purposes, (a dramatic example being Lk's relocation and

      considerable reworking of the Nazareth rejection story).

      BRUCE: No problem with Mt and Lk making changes when it suited their

      purposes. That was my earlier point exactly. Lk in changing Mk does so

      for reasons. I am glad we now agree that Lk did in fact change Mk.

      Point gained. Knowledge advanced.

      CHUCK: Likewise, they arranged the material in Q to suit their

      purposes, Mt having much greater ambitions in this
      case, creating his

      5 sermons.

      BRUCE: It seems to me that there is a danger of circularity here,

      since the supposed arrangement of Q is itself an inference. The

      conventional Q wisdom, I gather, is that Q was ordered as in Lk. I

      don't find that likely, or at any rate not persuasively argued, and am

      accordingly not prepared to say that Matthew treated this material

      more freely, rearranging it out of its original Lukan order. If

      someone wanted to posit that Q order was Matthean order, then it would

      turn out that *Luke* treated the material more freely. Goulder's

      findings, repeatedly and politely urged in the literature, is that the

      wording of the common Mt/Lk sayings is basically Matthean, and that

      the Q people have removed those traits to produce their Q

      reconstruction, producing an artifact text from which Mt and Lk can be

      argued to have diverged. But the artifact may have been produced by

      de-Mattheanizing the material in the first place. In which case we are

      dealing with a chimera.

      In general, I would rather acquire an understanding of Lukan and

      Matthean proclivities by seeing what they did with material which (or

      very close to which) we can also see. I would thus like to bypass this

      point for the time being. I don't think the world is ready for it.

      CHUCK: I also believe that Mk created the first gospel narrative, out

      of pieces of tradition that had previously circulated separately or as

      collections of incidents and teachings that claimed no chronological

      relationship to each other.

      BRUCE: Agreed that Mark created the first Gospel narrative. But the

      rest of the sentence gets into a description of the character,

      aetiology, and
      internal relationships of material that is not directly

      visible to us: a description of an assumption. Here too, I would

      rather pass the point for the moment and look at something we can

      actually see. To understand the invisible, look carefully at the

      visible. This, fortunately, Chuck proceeds to do. To save space here,

      I will not take up his Markan Acts 2 and 3 (though agreeing in general

      that Mk had some sort of groundplan in mind), and look only at his

      first two points. The first was:

      CHUCK: Even in the absence of a source, the evidence for Mk's doing

      this is quite strong:

      Ch 1 contains a collection of healing stories in which Jesus quickly

      becomes rock-star famous.

      BRUCE: Literarily speaking, it presently stands as a narrative, not

      precisely an anthology, albeit a narrative that includes healings.

      enough to discuss. Along in somewhere, though, I think we have

      to take note of the likelihood that the Healing of the Paralytic is an

      intrusion into the Capernaum synagogue scene, and that several of the

      other healings in this vicinity have been either added or touched up

      by later hands. There are too many classic signs of interpolation in

      Mark to argue from Mark, as we have it, to the author's intentions or

      propensities. I wish it were simpler, and I myself began (like

      everybody else, I suppose) by approaching it as though it *were*

      simpler, but on long acquaintance I have had to relinquish that

      initial expectation. So it goes.

      To continue:

      CHUCK: Ch 2 contains a collection of conflict stories in which

      religious leaders reject him and by 3:6 are planning to kill him (3:6

      concludes Act 1).

      BRUCE: Let's look. I
      would class 2:1-12 (including the Healing of the

      Paralytic) chiefly as a healing story, and thus in the same type class

      as 1:40-45 (the Cleansing of the Leper). A conflict over doctrine (the

      power to forgive sins) was later inserted into this healing miracle

      (notice how narratively awkward 2:6 is - "Now some of the scribes were

      sitting there"). But if we disregard the later addition, we can say

      that the narrative which is studded with healings (not the same as an

      anthology of healings) extends to 2:12.

      What follows? I find:

      2:13-14. [Calling of Levi. Narrative material].

      2:15-17. Conflict with Pharisees about eating with unclean persons.

      2:18-20. Conflict with "people" over not keeping fast days.

      2:21-22. [Sayings about new not fitting old - not a conflict story].

      2:23-28. Conflict with Pharisees about work on the

      3:-6. Conflict with Pharisees about healing on the Sabbath.

      Here too, I think we have to prune a bit before we can see Mark's

      tree. I mentioned 2:18-20 earlier, as a manifest case of legislation

      for the later Church (when fasting had been reintroduced into

      community practice), and thus as an intrusion. I suggest removing it

      for the nonce, if we want to get at Mark's original structure.

      Having removed it, we have . . .

      2:13-14. [Calling of Levi. Narrative material].

      2:15-17. Conflict with Pharisees about eating with unclean persons.

      2:21-22. [Sayings about new not fitting old - not a conflict story].

      2:23-28. Conflict with Pharisees about work on the Sabbath.

      3:-6. Conflict with Pharisees about healing on the Sabbath.

      . . . a narrative studded, not with healings, but with conflicts. This

      is not quite an
      anthology, but it would be fair to call it a

      concentration: the stories seem to have been grouped to make a point,

      the point being that Jesus's healings and other doings (previous

      narrative) produced tension with the Pharisees (this narrative).

      Assuming these incidents genuine, was this their original order? I

      would guess not; there has very probably been an authorial

      concentration for narrative effect. The Markan narrative is not a life

      of Jesus, it is an explanation of what led to his death, and so we

      have an early emphasis on the success and power of Jesus, and next a

      sense of the opposition which that aroused, specifically among the


      Did these incidents happen, or are they inventions? If the latter,

      invented by who? I don't see a way of answering this directly. If Mark

      made them up, he will have said to himself,
      I will now compose my

      Conflict section. If they were real and Mark somehow had access to

      them, he has arranged them to suit his narrative purpose.

      Suppose first that the stories existed before he arranged them.

      Existed where? Among the options are: (1) In Mark's memory, as a

      follower of Jesus. (2) In the memory of some other follower, somehow

      accessed by Mark. (3) In the collective memory of more than one

      person, in which case we must posit a previous effort of collection,

      most likely resulting in a text. But if we adopt this option, we are

      going to find ourselves positing a Healing Collection for Mk 1, a

      Conflict Collection for Mk 2, and so on to the end. Some intermediary

      person, or more likely half a dozen, have done what Mark will need as

      background for his Gospel, without himself (themselves) going on to

      compose Mark's Gospel.
      Are these six previous monothematic collections

      plausible? For me, it is about at this point that the supposition

      appears to lead to a highly schematic and improbable situation. I then

      go back and take the other fork: This material was available to Mark

      because as a follower of Jesus he remembered it. And then bunched it

      in his narrative according to his intentions and purposes with that



      These instances will do to raise the question of the anthology, and

      thus of the possibility of a prior group or groups of material. But to

      my eye, the clearest example of the type comes a little later, with

      the Kingdom parables of 4:1-33 (omitting the intrusion 4:10-20, about

      which I have recently written). And why? Because at the end, it says,

      "With many such parables he spoke the Word to them." The preceding

      parables, some of which cause very great trouble to later

      interpreters, and are for that reason more likely to be genuine, are

      here explicitly offered as "the kind of thing Jesus used to say to the

      crowds." The impression which I at least get from this is that Mark

      knows even more of them, but he has given us a sufficient sample for

      his purposes, and he is going to move on to his next topic.

      So do we now posit a previous person interested only in Kingdom

      stories and nothing else, who traveled up and down Galilee/Syria

      gathering such stories from people, each of whom remembered only one

      of them, and combining them into a text which Mark later used (with

      several other texts of similar type but different theme) a a source?

      The assumption that one follower of Jesus collected them in memory,

      not as an monothematic enterprise of oral
      history but simply as an

      incident of being one of the party, does the same work of explanation

      and it uses about five less people in the dramatis personae.

      For the present, I prefer it. Not as an assumption, but after due

      inspection of the material, the different explanatory possibilities

      for the material, and the implications in real life to which each of

      those explanatory possibilities leads. In short, the usual way of

      testing hypotheses and fixing on one of them as one's working


      I don't think gMk was written by a later ethnographer, let alone a

      team of later ethnographers plus a subsequent staff writer. I think

      that the core narrative (into which later Church Teachings were

      inserted as validation authority for later practices and issues) was

      the work of one person, and that that person used his own experience

      in the Jesus movement as his principal, and perhaps his only, source.

      I have earlier noted that it may be fruitful to consider that Luke was

      a Christian. To that apparently radical proposal, I now add the

      possibility that Mark may have been a Jesus follower. Not, like

      ourselves, a searcher of previous documents who knows only what he

      finds in the documents, and nothing more.

      Respectfully suggested,


      E Bruce Brooks

      Warring States Project

      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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