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Parallelism as an indicator of primitivity

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  • Ron Price
    In a previous thread, Mark Matson claimed that Sanders in Tendencies in the Synoptic Tradition had demonstrated the weakness of many of the criteria for
    Message 1 of 33 , Mar 11, 2010
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      In a previous thread, Mark Matson claimed that Sanders in "Tendencies in the
      Synoptic Tradition" had demonstrated the weakness of many of the criteria
      for (relative) primitivity. This may be true. But now I've had the
      opportunity to study this book at the local university library, I find that
      Sanders limited himself strictly to *literary* criteria. In the original
      posting of that thread, two of the my three examples of Matthew's greater
      primitivity than Mark in aphorisms:

      >> Mk 6:8-9 // Mt 10:10 : In Matthew, wearing sandals and carrying a staff are
      >> prohibited.
      >> Mk 10:15 // Mt 18:3 : In Mark, the saying is softened. Matthew's version
      >> looks more primitive (Davies & Allison)

      do not involve literary criteria. Perhaps more important, although Sanders
      deals with Semitisms, he is only concerned with those related to syntax and
      grammar (c.f. e.g. p.255). In particular I found not a single mention of
      parallelism.

      Parallelism is one of the main characteristics of Semitic poetry. There are
      over a hundred examples in the aphorisms of the synoptic gospels, *spread
      over more than fifty different sayings*. I am not claiming that there are no
      examples of redactional parallelism in the synoptic gospels: only that the
      great majority should be seen as indicators of (absolute) primitivity, by
      which I mean that they go back at least as far as the Jesus community in
      Jerusalem, who must have assembled, edited and documented them.
      The tie-up between the opening clause "Blessed are the poor" and Gal 2:10
      surely clinches the connection with the original Jesus community. (Who else?
      Also, only a written collection of aphorisms will account for their
      amazingly authentic-looking form in Matthew, where the redactional additions
      to the Markan narrative give us almost no reliable information about the
      history they purport to relate.) I would go further and say that the
      majority of the aphorisms thus documented can probably be attributed to
      Jesus himself. As J.W.Bowman wrote in Peake's Commentary (Revised Edn.,
      1962, p.738): "It is becoming increasingly clearer that Jesus was a poet of
      no mean ability ...".

      Two interesting cases where Matthew and Luke differ are 'Sheep/coin', which
      Matthew spoiled by omitting the second half, and 'Two gates', which Luke
      messed up by confusing it with a door parable.

      Two interesting cases where neither Matthew nor Luke has fully retained the
      parallelism, and in which I believe I have recreated the original, are the
      chiastic C18 'Good treasure' (see C18 in the first web page below), and the
      beatitudes/woes A1 // D1-D7 (see the notes on A1 in second web page below).

      Ron Price

      Derbyshire, UK

      http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/syno_sQet.html
      http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/syno_ntsQ.html
    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: GPG Cc: Synoptic In Response To: Keith Yoder On: Mark and John From: Bruce Thanks to Keith for his additional notes on recasting of previous tradition in
      Message 33 of 33 , Mar 24, 2010
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        To: GPG
        Cc: Synoptic
        In Response To: Keith Yoder
        On: Mark and John
        From: Bruce

        Thanks to Keith for his additional notes on recasting of previous
        tradition in John. The subject is a large one, with its own special
        interest, and all points are welcome.

        One of the skills needed by the successful churchman is the grace to
        respond politely when presented with a Festschrift which is small,
        undistinguished, and full of internal rancor, one author using his
        space to trash the opinion of another author about the date and
        authenticity of 1 Peter. Such was the crisis which must have
        confronted the dedicatee when he was handed Sherman E Johnson, The Joy
        of Study: Papers on New Testament and Related Subjects Presented to
        Honor Frederick Clifton Grant (Macmillan 1951).

        Fred his my sympathy in that moment.

        Nevertheless, there are some shreds of interest in the thing. One is
        the paper by Sydney Temple (University of Massachusetts, no less) on
        Geography and Climate in the Fourth Gospel. He makes what looks to me
        like a good case that the author of John knew Palestinian geography
        and its seasons very well: when a certain ford was passable, when the
        court migrated from Jerusalem to Jericho, when the high road through
        Samaria would have been preferable to the more obvious lowland one.

        Does this mean that John, being more cogent about geography than it
        seems Mark always was, knew Palestine, and Mark did not? That might be
        a rash conclusion. But with Temple's data in mind, we can at least say
        that he had done his homework, not only on the calendar, but on the
        ground.

        Bruce

        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts
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