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Synoptic Relations

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic On: Synoptic Relations From: Bruce Several contributions to recent discussion are aware that the discussion deals with a major watershed in Gospel
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 12, 2012
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      To: Synoptic
      On: Synoptic Relations
      From: Bruce

      Several contributions to recent discussion are aware that the discussion
      deals with a major watershed in Gospel analysis: a whole series of passages
      whose interpretation turns on the degree to which the Gospel writers are
      essentially copyists (in which case any nontrivial difference must imply a
      shift to a different Vorlage), or have available the range of options
      characteristic of an author (in which case even very creative departures
      from previous text can still be attributed to them, and need not imply a
      different Vorlage). Not to use previously existing terms, which can have
      their problems, I would label them as the A (Author) and C (Copyist) views.
      There can in theory be middle or B positions which restrict the degree of
      authoriality available to Mt and others. But in general, one must choose.

      I had suggested that the Tares Parable, Mt 13:24-30 (and its interpretation,
      Mt 13:36-43) are a useful ground on which to assess the possibilities, and
      make a choice. Is Mt's Tares Parable a creative substitution for Mk's Seed
      Parable? Or is it a different horse altogether? If we line up authorities
      (Mt commentators and Parables analysts), we will find names of moment on
      both sides of the line. This does not mean that the matter is undecidable;
      it means that it has sometimes been decided wrong. Since I have friends
      (friends in antiquity, see Mencius 5B8) on both sides of the divide, I have
      as much pain as anybody in deciding which decisions are right. But it is
      important to decide. In addition to suggestive word agreements between the
      two, I find that the argument from position is unanswerable: Mt's Tares
      comes in the spot where Mk's Seed would have been if it had been present.
      The absence coincides with the new material. I am not prepared to file this
      as one of those colossal coincidences that turn up so often in NT
      discussions. I can only think that the absence and the presence, *in the
      same spot in the sequence,* are related. My judgement then goes for A (the
      Tares is Mt's substitution for Mk's Seed), and my view of all other Matthean
      cruxes will be affected thereby. I have naturally taken samples of these
      entailments, and find them persuasive also. Having ventured somewhat down
      the indicated path, I reflectively think that this is the right answer.


      But both A and C scholarship (whether or Matthew or on the Parables) has
      much to offer to those who go with the A train, and both are useful in
      tracing implications and related issues. Here are just a couple.

      1. Jesus. If Mt's Tares is a creative version of Mk's earlier Seed parable,
      then it does not go back further than Mark, but disagrees with Mark, and
      thus cannot be a saying of Jesus. Then reference to supposed Jesus material
      will be irrelevant to interpretation.

      2. Most follow the implication that the Tares is from the later Jesus
      movement, not from Jesus, and this seems indeed to be the likely ground of
      interpretation. The usual interpretation is that it addresses the issue of
      whether to eject sinners from the midst, or tolerate them. Beare cites Paul
      in 1 Cor 4:5 in support of the recommendation of toleration: God will later
      judge. OK, got that.

      3. To take Paul more widely, it is interesting that Paul draws on earlier
      tradition not at all for the ethics of Jesus, but sometimes in matters of
      church order. The Jesus sayings which Koester Ancient find echoed in Paul
      are usually from Mark, and always about church order. This particular rule
      is exactly like the one in James 4:12 (not interpolated), and may attest
      Paul's knowledge of James. Since James 2:18-24 will later reply to Paul in
      Romans 3:20-24, 4:1-3 on the matter of faith vs works, this being an
      interpolated and thus later layer in James, the picture would seem to
      support and extend the sequence I have earlier proposed, namely

      James 4:12
      Paul in 1 Cor 4:5 (on toleration)
      Paul in Rom 3:20-24 etc (on faith vs works)
      James 2:18-24

      Then James, one of the two oldest church order documents, is both earlier
      and later than Paul of the early 50's. This of course puts it earlier than
      Matthew (which like all the Second Generation Gospels is post-Apostolic,
      including post-Pauline). That makes James a document that might also have
      been available to Matthew, and hence relevant to discussions of Synoptic

      4. James. Not to follow this too far at present, but are there places where
      a relation of this pre-Matthean James might usefully come into discussions
      of Matthew? The people who do the marginal annotations for my RSV point (in
      the James marginalia) implicitly to the following possibility:

      Ja 5:12 ~ Mt 5:37 Do not swear

      This takes us quickly into the Sermon on the Mount question, does it not?
      And with that question I close the topic for the present.

      5. Toleration. Paul is not really content with the toleration policy, but
      his way of chafing against it is not to eject sinners from the church, but
      to hasten the time when the Apocalyptic Judgement will deal with them (see 1
      Cor 16:21, where he pronounces a curse, and calls on the Apocalyptic fire to
      come and devour these people). But the pseudo-Pauline texts go for
      banishment (1 Tim 1:20 "whom I have delivered to Satan"). That is, they go

      6. Reconciliation. The closely related theme of accepting back the erring
      brother shows a similar hardening over the time with which we are concerned.
      James 5:19-20 (the final instruction in that circular letter) makes the
      bringing back of a sinner the most praiseworthy act imaginable, whereas in
      the Petrine literature and elsewhere in later documents, we witness a steady
      abandonment of this idea, and its replacement by the idea that the sinner is
      irremediable, and that one who is saved but later falls from that state of
      grace has fallen permanently. This accompanies the general hardening of
      doctrine (beginning with the "deposit of faith") which we see in many ways
      as the mid 1c gives way to the late 1c. is this relevant to Matthew? Nothing
      more so: Matthew is in the middle of a radical shift in Jesus movement
      teaching and practice, and it is good to know that on this particular matter
      he is still with the Jamesian or early end, and has not advanced into the
      Petrine or late end.

      7. Thomas. The obvious counterpart to the Tares parable in Thomas 57, and
      again we find two ideas about the directionality. Again we must decide, and
      I think that Hultgren (to mention only him, Parables of Jesus 293f) is in
      the right of it when he says that Thom 57 is surely abbreviated from
      *something,* since it leaves out too many details to work as an independent
      story, and that its elimination of the call for tolerance, present in Mt,
      would be intelligible as a Gnostic change (p295). Then Matthew, like Luke if
      less often, is a source for Thomas (Thos 57 can have no other, including
      Jesus, for which point see above), and we have


      That certain tendencies in a Thos direction are also visible in one strand
      of the post-Pauline literature (Col, Eph) is merely one more indication of
      where on the evolving doctrinal map Matthew should be placed.

      8. Didache. There are important Matthean contacts, but I have shown (SBL/NE
      2012 and forthcoming 2013) that all are interpolated, meaning that the
      Didache was in its formation process both before and after the completion of
      Matthew, whence


      and Didache, like James (and like Paul) becomes highly relevant to Matthean
      interpretation, as a known and pre-existent text. Whereas Thomas, as far as
      has been shown, is posterior to both Mt and Lk, and is more of a curiosity
      than a possible source, or indicator of ideas current when Matthew was

      In ways like this, the decision for A rather than C has wide consequences
      for how, and in what doctrinal and textual context, we see Matthew; that is,
      for how we understand Matthew. Are those consequences consistent and
      illuminating? The above notes will suggest that they are consistent; that
      they are part of a large and itself consistent picture of relative text

      Are they illuminating? Even wrong ideas can be illuminating, one way or
      another, so this is perhaps the wrong way to ask the question. I will not
      rephrase it, but end by suggesting that the A path, analytically speaking,
      may be worth a try.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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