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Re: [XTalk] The Great Omission

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: CrossTalk Cc: GPG In Response To: Ron Price On: The Lukan Omission From: Bruce This is one of those revolving topics that come up now and then, and get
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 3, 2010
      To: CrossTalk
      Cc: GPG
      In Response To: Ron Price
      On: The Lukan Omission
      From: Bruce

      This is one of those revolving topics that come up now and then, and get
      treated in exactly the same way each time, eventually boring everybody to
      tears and leading to the death of E-lists and such grim sequelae. Tsk.

      For the record, however, one last time (I had referred to Streeter's finding
      on the Lukan Omission):

      RON: Few modern scholars follow Streeter on this point. This of course
      doesn't
      prove him wrong, but it should give you pause for thought.

      BRUCE: I have in fact given it some thought. But how many modern scholars
      have actually read Streeter? I get the sense that they are reacting to the
      general idea of a mutilated Mark, and not surprisingly they, or a
      substantial subset of them, take umbrage at the very idea of a mutilated
      Mark. If anyone out there is actually interested in the subject, take a
      Greek text of Mark and (in the other hand) one of Luke, and follow along
      with both, word by word, just before the Omission, until you come to the
      place where Luke loses contact with Mark. Make a note of it. Then line up
      the respective points at the end of the Omission, where Luke regains
      contact, again following the two word by word. What will emerge, I venture
      to suggest, but only for those actually taking the time to perform the
      experiment, is that the boundaries of what Luke includes and omits *do not
      correspond to pericope boundaries.*

      That, and not the alleged opinion of an unspecified horde of "modern
      scholars," is the thing to think about. (See further toward the end of this
      note).

      RON: . . . Casey is forthright in his criticism ("An Aramaic Approach to Q",
      p.5): "Streeter's arguments for this view are absolutely arbitrary ..... It
      is ... most
      unlikely that a copy of Mark would be mutilated in this way, and that so
      assiduous a collector of information as Luke would be unable to obtain an
      unmutilated copy".

      BRUCE: Well, that is surely forthright, not to say accusatory, but
      forthrightness is perhaps not all.

      In the first place, Streeter is not "arbitrary;" he is paying attention to
      the word-by-word texture of the two documents. He may be faulty in
      observation, or fallible in inference, but I find it, at bottom, to be
      proper procedure. What else, in fact, is there to methodology in the text
      sciences, save to look at the texts?

      Second, though what we modern persons can and cannot readily imagine is
      perhaps not best evidence, I don't find the implied scenario at all
      unthinkable.

      (a) Casey's word "mutilated" implies intentional violence. It is one of
      those highly emotional words which tend to turn up when someone is offended
      by a proposal involving the nonidentity of an ancient text with our modern
      text. Suppose we cool it. We have, so far, on the evidence and without
      consulting our emotions, the implied hypothesis of an imperfect Lukan
      Vorlage, not one which has necessarily reached that condition by the intent
      of some hateful miscreant, whose vile misdeeds it is our primary duty to
      censure. Guy's dead anyway, if guy there in fact was. Let's move on to the
      things that remain for us to consider.

      (b) Since we seem to have an omission from the interior of a document, we
      are not dealing with an imperfect or damaged roll (which would leave no
      material on the other side of the tear), but an imperfect or damaged codex
      (from which interior leaves can be subtracted without necessarily destroying
      those on either side). Is that a shocking idea? Perhaps not very: the vast
      majority of NT and apocryphal papyri seem to come from codices. Why that
      form caught on so fast, and seemingly fastest among Christians, I don't
      pretend to know. But we do not yet have an impossibility; in fact, that
      prospect is a little more conguent with the archaeological evidence than a
      scroll implication would have been.

      (c) Replacement. Did Luke realize his Vorlage had problems, or did he just
      bulldoze his way through as best he could? I don't know what he *thought.*
      That datum is not available to me. But what we see him *doing* (Streeter is
      very plausible in his conjecture; read him) is to bridge the resulting
      narrative gap as best he can. Whether he knew he was doing that or merely
      thought he was fixing one of Mark's well known inconcinnities or
      infelicities of narrative, I don't happen to know. But let's suppose he did
      realize that something was amiss (he might have seen the physical signs
      where those leaves of the codex had been lost). What, in that case, could he
      have done?

      (d) He could have gone to the bookstore for another copy. But as will be
      obvious from the situation of the ending of Mark, which brings up exactly
      the same questions, there are not likely to have been other copies. The idea
      that Mark, once it reached the world beyond its own community, was widely
      published around the Mediterranean, whether or not it is currently popular
      (and yes, I have read some of the books of those who think that way, who
      take "publication" in its full modern sense), seems to me to be ill
      grounded. At minimum, however many copies of Mark were available to
      medium-income readers in Syria, noneof them contained the ending of the
      text. Matthew, another known Mark reader, did his best to patch in what he
      thought would have been the ending. That merely shows that the ending was
      missing for him too. Some later scribes, in a variety of ways, performed the
      same restorative service to the end of the Mark copy they were then making.
      Same inference. Their results are interesting without being convincing. For
      them too, the only recourse was their best guess. All this labor, all this
      guessing, merely documents the ancient sense that the ending of Mark was not
      satisfactory to its early readers. It may be that some "modern scholars"
      find it comfortable. Very good, and I am always glad to hear of other
      people's happiness. But I am afraid that this modern comfort avails little
      as against the clearly evidenced ancient sense of unease about this part of
      the text.

      But the same question then arises, with the Ending as with the Omission: Why
      did they not get another copy? Or failing that, maybe it had sold out, why
      did they not go to the Markan community for an oral report of the true text?
      The only firm fact is that they did not do so, since there the ending, or
      lack of it, still is. The rest is conjecture. But the obvious implication,
      and thus the most likely conjecture, is that there were not that many copies
      running around, and/or that the Markan community, by that time, was no
      longer effectively in existence. The latter possibility works especially
      well if, as I and some others have concluded, Mark is early, with a core
      narrative written in the early or mid 30's, and a latest addition not much
      after 50. The supporting community might thus have vanished after 50, and
      have been unavailable to Luke, if Luke, at the time of his first draft, was
      writing somewhere around the year 60 (that is, still before the destruction
      of the Temple).

      Is this death of the Markan community, in turn, an inconceivable situation?
      Or do we know of persecutions, whether or not led by people like the
      fanatical Pharisee named Saul, which might explain the extinction of a group
      whose preserved take on things like daily ritual would have especially
      outraged someone like him? Answer: We have Saul's own confession on record,
      in his own handwriting, that he had killed as many of these people as he
      could get his hands on (in Luke's opinion, as recorded in Acts, his
      devastations affected Christian coimmunities all over Palestine: in Judaea,
      in Samaria, and in Galilee). And it is certainly possible that Saul was not
      the only one. Then the supposition of a scattered community, never mind a
      situation of very few surviving copies of their house text, is not at all
      fantastic or arbitrary.It is, if anything, perhaps the least unlikely
      situation.

      (e) For those prepared to consider the FG Hypothesis, there is one more
      option for Luke as the reader of Mark, when he came to the place that may
      have alerted him to the possibility of textual loss. He might have consulted
      Matthew, to whom the missing material was clearly available. Why did he not?
      I don't know. But there would seem to be several possibilities. (1) He may
      have been following Mark at that time, and not noticing Matthew, his other
      source. This gets us into Tom Brodie's mischievous question, How many knees
      had Luke? Or, (2) He may have known of it, but regarded the Matthean
      intervening material as Matthean invention (the way some people view the
      Washingtoniensis version of the ending of Mark), and thus without authority.
      This is the option that best fits Michael Goulder's suggestion. Or, (3) He
      may have hated Matthew, as I have several times tried to suggest, and so
      refused to take his lead in this matter, whether or not he regarded the
      material in question as Mark-derived and therefore as the correct answer to
      his problem.

      And there is a fourth possibility, which arises from my own work on Luke
      (SBL 2008; scheduled for publication in 2011). It is that Luke wrote his
      Gospel in at least two stages, and more likely three. In the first, he
      worked directly from his copy of Mark, such as it was, and had not yet
      encountered Matthew. This is the state of Luke which opened with the still
      sonorous and adequate beginning at Lk 3:1. Subsequently, Luke did encounter
      Matthew, and was furious at being (as it must have seemed) upstaged at
      several points. He retaliated by adding in his own versions of those
      Matthean improvements which he simply could not ignore, in a competitive
      market (the Birth of Jesus was the chief of these, and one can easily see
      how, here at least, he triumphed decisively over his competitor). But
      patching up the Second Feeding, and so on, evidently had lower priority with
      him, and here he let his previous version stand, whether by choice or by
      default owing to greater attention given elsewhere, we do not know.

      SUMMARY

      So far my position. It obviously contains several points requiring
      demonstration in detail. I have posted some of those details (such as the
      later relocation of material in Luke) on this or that NT list over the past
      decade or so. Those who want more will find some of it in the respective
      archives.

      Perhaps the key question, with Streeter's and my view of the Omission, is:
      Can a codex hypothesis be framed such that the Omission lies on a finite
      number of leaves, and also so that the preceding material begins, as it
      must, at the top of a recto page? The answer is Yes. Several attempts have
      been made to show this. One such attempt made years ago on this family of
      E-lists seemed to me to be flawed in detail. A less flawed construct (to my
      mind) is possible, but I have so far not been able to place that paper with
      any of the SBL groups which might have hosted it. It too will eventually
      appear, though it seems not earlier than 2012.

      I mention this not to be tantalizing, but as an assurance that I have looked
      at the details, including how wide an omega is on Codex Vaticanus (it is
      wider than a Codex Vaticanus iota, which is why attempts to visualize Luke's
      Vorlage by word or letter counts are unlikely to give a closely convincing
      result). I may be wrong, but I am at least using something more than
      imagination, and avoiding any recourse to my own reserves of righteous
      indignation.

      Not that I have any reserves of righteous indignation, as regards NT texts.
      My field is ancient China, and if somebody wants to tear out as hateful, or
      to imperil by frequent and devoted rereading, a section of an NT text, or
      if, on the contrary, they want to biggen it by adding an update, or to stir
      the pot by rearranging previously written text, fine with me. My only
      reaction, based on some experience with what happens to texts in antiquity
      (to mention only antiquity) is to shrug.

      And why? Because stuff like this happens all the time, in all literate
      traditions. Horace, Vergil, Homer, Confucius, the Chinese Art of War, the
      Mahabharata; you name it. Nothing strange here, and by extension, nothing to
      get all het up about.

      CODICIL: WHAT IS AT STAKE

      So much for truth in advertising at my end. One might then ask, Why does
      Ron, in particular, always appear in opposition when this topic comes up? He
      can best say, but I think it may have to do with the fact that his version
      of Q, and his idea of Mark, rest on a different and incompatible model of
      text construction. The difference may easily be seen in the matter of Markan
      interpolations. Ron (as previous on-list discussion has established) agrees
      with me that Mk 14:28 and 16:7, which are obviously related to each other,
      are also interpolated. For those passages, we agree that the evidence is
      strong. But he does not recognize other interpolations for which, as I see
      it, the text evidence is equally strong. Why not? Because, as I understand
      it, his model of the text will not allow that much expansion over the course
      of (what I take to be) its first composition and gradual later extension.

      So what we have here, at bottom, is two contrasting and incompatible models
      of text construction. Ron, somewhat to simplify, thinks that Mark was
      written from the beginning in modules, to fit exactly the space available
      for it. I find a looser model not only more plausible a priori, but in
      better agreement with the evidence in the text itself for the later
      extension of the text. It is that looser model which allows, as I gather
      Ron's does not, for the end of a codex leaf NOT to coincide with the end of
      a pericope, so that the removal of a certain number of leaves from a codex
      would leave behind, not a clean sequence of complete pericopes, as Ron's
      model would do, but a ragged set of abruptly terminated ends and opaquely
      unintelligible beginnings. That is, it would leave behind the sort of
      situation which Streeter, as I think accurately, reports.

      Streeter, to conclude, is my evidence (I wouldn't base anything on my own
      sense of the text; my Greek is strictly interlinear) that the last pericope
      before Luke's Omission, and the first pericope after it, had in fact this
      ragged quality.

      I think this puts all the cards on the table. As to who wins the game,
      hopefully that will not require the computational skills of a modern Pascal,
      assisting a modern Chevalier de la Méré. But we shall see.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

      Copyright © 2010 by E Bruce Brooks

      PS: If anyone should be seriously interested in any of the above
      suggestions, may I invite them to get in touch with me privately? Things may
      shortly be happening along some of these lines.
    • Bob Schacht
      ... Your discussion intrigues me, but perhaps out of ignorance. Please provide greater detail, or at least references, on the Several attempts have been made
      Message 2 of 4 , Aug 3, 2010
        At 10:23 AM 8/3/2010, E Bruce Brooks wrote:
        >...Perhaps the key question, with Streeter's and my view of the Omission, is:
        >Can a codex hypothesis be framed such that the Omission lies on a finite
        >number of leaves, and also so that the preceding material begins, as it
        >must, at the top of a recto page? The answer is Yes. Several attempts have
        >been made to show this. One such attempt made years ago on this family of
        >E-lists seemed to me to be flawed in detail. A less flawed construct (to my
        >mind) is possible, but I have so far not been able to place that paper with
        >any of the SBL groups which might have hosted it. It too will eventually
        >appear, though it seems not earlier than 2012....

        Your discussion intrigues me, but perhaps out of ignorance. Please
        provide greater detail, or at least references, on the "Several attempts have
        been made to show this."

        And how do you respond to Dennis Goffin's reply?

        Bob Schacht
        Northern Arizona University






        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • E Bruce Brooks
        To: Synoptic, CrossTalk Cc: GPG In Response To: Dennis Goffin (and Bob Schacht) On: Lukan Great Omission From: Bruce Bob asks for details about previous
        Message 3 of 4 , Aug 3, 2010
          To: Synoptic, CrossTalk
          Cc: GPG
          In Response To: Dennis Goffin (and Bob Schacht)
          On: Lukan Great Omission
          From: Bruce

          Bob asks for details about previous attempts to fom a model for the Lukan
          Omission in terms of lost codex leaves. I am afraid that on this point my
          memory is not well supported by my Rolodex. All I can say at this point is
          that, as hinted in my earlier note, one attempt was based on wordcounts of
          Mark, and another on letter counts. For the reason I gave (neither Greek
          words nor Greek letters are isometric, unlike Chinese characters), neither
          approach bodes well.

          I was also asked to respond to Dennis Goffin's objection.

          DENNIS: Reading the relevant passage in Streeter, I notice that he makes an
          excellent case for 'the Great Omission' to have been no such thing, merely
          that Luke got an earlier version of gMk than was finally published.

          BRUCE: That's a fair summary of Streeter 172-174. The interesting part
          starts at the bottom of p174, and begins to get warm at the bottom of p175.
          Keep on reading.

          DENNIS: Nor do I see anything in Hawkins' view that necessarily militates
          against it.

          BRUCE: Streeter quotes Hawkins' opinion that the style of the disputed
          matter is "if anything, more Marcan than Mark." I might add that the style
          of Colossians and of 2 Thessalonians is more Pauline than Paul. It is just
          here that they betray their possibly secondary nature: the craftsman is
          plying his trade a little too zealously. In Mark, it is quite possible that
          at some point in the fornative process, much of the material here disputed
          was indeed added to a previously existing text. If Luke had had a sort of
          interim copy of Mark, including the the early layers but lacking the later
          layers, we might explain the Omission - but again, only if the omission
          coincided with pericope boundaries. It is Streeter's point (and mine) that
          this is not the case. So that theory is untenable. It is also untenable for
          other reasons, not all of them previously exposed (at least not by myself)
          on this family of E-lists. Roughly: there are significant stretches of Mark
          where the most obvious Markan style markers are either absent or (like kai)
          reduced to statistically unremarkable levels. If Luke lacked *all* of this
          late-layer material, then we might think (except for the ragged edges of the
          Omission, which would still resist this explanation) that he had somehow
          gotten hold of an early author's manuscript. But he does not. The Omission
          is the only long stretch of Mark which is not represented one way or another
          in Luke. Then his Vorlage was an essentially complete Mark, except for the
          two pieces recently discussed.

          DENNIS: I notice also that Streeter talks about the copy of gMk that Luke
          got as a papyrus roll, not a codex.

          BRUCE: That's Streeter's slip. His "Small Omission." I have ventured to
          correct it. I don't see how a torn papyrus roll could leave behind it the
          situation Luke seems to have confronted. A simple tear might have been
          patched, with only minimal illegibility along the mend; that pattern is not
          what Luke shows. A tear with loss of one half would result in half a Mark,
          which again is not what Luke shows. What Luke shows would need to have been
          brought about by two tears, with loss of the middle section, but with the
          outside sections somehow patched together. It is very hard to imagine this
          for a roll, but very easy for a codex. (Some of my own books have loose or
          lost signatures or pages; it is a characteristic vulnerability of the codex
          form).

          DENNIS: What are the clinchers against the above?

          BRUCE: See previous, and above all, read Streeter (with Greek text
          preferably in hand) past p175 and into the top of 178, slightly downplaying
          the rest of 178 and following, where Streeter lapses into a more
          conventional guise.

          The lamp that is hidden will be revealed, as the Good Books say, but it will
          not necessarily remain long on view.

          E Bruce Brooks
          Warring States Project
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst
        • Ron Price
          ... Bruce, This conclusion assumes that Luke was merely copying the text of Mark, as opposed to freely editing it, and further examination shows clearly that
          Message 4 of 4 , Aug 6, 2010
            Bruce Brooks wrote:

            > ..... If anyone out there is actually interested in the subject, take a
            > Greek text of Mark and (in the other hand) one of Luke, and follow along
            > with both, word by word, just before the Omission, until you come to the
            > place where Luke loses contact with Mark. Make a note of it. Then line up
            > the respective points at the end of the Omission, where Luke regains
            > contact, again following the two word by word. What will emerge, I venture
            > to suggest, but only for those actually taking the time to perform the
            > experiment, is that the boundaries of what Luke includes and omits *do not
            > correspond to pericope boundaries.*

            Bruce,

            This conclusion assumes that Luke was merely copying the text of Mark, as
            opposed to freely editing it, and further examination shows clearly that the
            assumption is invalid.

            If Luke had been a mere copyist, then an examination of Mk 6:42-44; 8:27;
            and Lk 9:17-18 along the lines you suggest would show that he omitted KAI
            APO TWN ICQUWN and the sentence mentioning the PENTAKISCILIOI, and then
            omitted the first part of Mk 8:27 with its mention of KAISAREIAS THS
            FILIPPOU. But far from omitting the mention of the five thousand, he had
            already mentioned them several sentences earlier. Also, in 9:18 he added
            that Jesus was 'praying alone'. This is not the work of a copyist. Once we
            grant that Luke was an editor exerting considerable freedom in his use of
            Mark (and this is easily verified when we expand our comparisons between
            Mark and Luke), it is surely a nonsense to claim that Luke's deviation from
            Mark can be pinned down to mid-sentence, or even to mid-pericope.

            > ..... At minimum, however many copies of Mark were available to
            > medium-income readers in Syria, noneof them contained the ending of the
            > text.

            They all contained the ending (16:8). It's just that some people
            underestimate Mark's skills as an author. ;-)

            > Matthew, another known Mark reader, did his best to patch in what he
            > thought would have been the ending.

            Mark revelled in subtlety. Matthew, as a good teacher, liked to set things
            out clearly. This simple distinction explains many of the differences
            between their texts.

            > ..... if, as I and some others have concluded, Mark is early, with a core
            > narrative written in the early or mid 30's, .....

            Not a chance. Several older aphorisms untainted by the synoptic editors
            indicate that the original disciples expected the imminent return of Jesus.
            Why write anything down if you think the end is imminent? One of the
            clearest trajectories in the early Jesus movement is from eager expectation
            of an early return, to acceptance of, and preparation for, an increasingly
            long delay. Mark illuminates a part of the trajectory when he deliberately
            sets the embarrassing 9:1 in a context designed to suggest that the
            expectation of an imminent return was somehow fulfilled in the
            Transfiguration.

            Ron Price

            Derbyshire, UK

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