Parallelism as an indicator of primitivity
- 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 aredo not involve literary criteria. Perhaps more important, although Sanders
>> Mk 10:15 // Mt 18:3 : In Mark, the saying is softened. Matthew's version
>> looks more primitive (Davies & Allison)
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 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).
- To: GPG
In Response To: Keith Yoder
On: Mark and John
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
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts