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Re: [Synoptic-L] Order of the sayings

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG On: Order of the Jesus Sayings From: Bruce It would help, in trying to imagine what form an early sayings collection might take, to have
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 19, 2006
      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      On: Order of the Jesus Sayings
      From: Bruce

      It would help, in trying to imagine what form an early sayings collection
      might take, to have some samples of what form half a dozen such collections
      HAVE taken. Does anyone care to mention a well worked-out example? I attempt
      to provide one below, just to do my bit.

      My suspicion, to start with, is that it makes a great deal of difference
      whether we envision the collection as oral or written. In an oral
      collection, the sayings or other elements might be verbally fixed, but
      without a fixed order. The Northwest Coast Indian informants I have worked
      with have a repertoire of stories, whose texts are only more or less fixed
      (sufficiently unfixed to drive an apprentice anthropologist absolutely
      bonkers), but whose order is apparently not fixed at all. Same with the
      repertoire of musical pieces held (note for note, in this case) in the minds
      of the Japanese court musicians (Gagaku): they can reproduce any piece
      desired, in this case with a high degree of case to case identity, but they
      will perform them in any order you [that is, the Japanese Emperor] may
      request.

      So elements of an oral collection may be more or less fixed, but the order
      of those elements not necessarily so. In a written collection, both aspects
      are fixed.

      CONFUCIUS

      Here is my promised example. Actually, two examples.

      There is no firm information about the sayings of Confucius, but one cam
      make some inferences from the form of the surviving text. Our best guess
      from here is that the oldest Confucius sayings were very likely written down
      shortly after Confucius's death, perhaps during the mourning period, and
      that their content was from the pooled memories of the disciples who spent
      the mourning period together. I agree with Dave Inglis that we cannot
      usefully try to get inside the heads of ancient people, but we can sometimes
      see from what they did, what they had in mind. The sixteen original
      preserved sayings of Confucius (for which, in a nice translation from which
      the distracting later interpolations have been removed, see our book The
      Original Analects, ap LY 4) have a definite form. They are grouped in four
      more or less topical sections, with the section of most import to the
      disciples (sayings about what seems to have been the cardinal virtue as
      Confucius saw it) placed first, and with a sort of career order of those
      sayings themselves. The feel of that section in particular is that the point
      of the sayings, or anyway the use to which they were presently to be put,
      was instructing the young candidate for official position in the way to
      implement that particular virtue at different stages of their career. This
      is certainly an editorially imposed order, not the order in which any one or
      any group of Confucius's disciples would have heard those remarks.

      I would say that this particular early remarks collection is conspicuously
      tidy (to use Ron Price's word), and that the precise form of that tidiness
      tells us something about what its compilers had in mind. The extent to which
      their mind would have approximated Confucius's mind is a separate question,
      on which any desired amount of thought can be lavished. But for the compiler
      mind, there seems to me to be strong evidence in the text we have.

      ORDER PRESERVED IN LATER TROPES

      Did those later in the Confucian tradition model themselves, in framing new
      and more relevant sayings, on the canon of old and probably genuine sayings?
      As it happens, this too is a question that can be answered for at least one
      of the many successors of Confucius. In LY 7 (the Chinese title of the
      Analects is Lun Yw, whence LY), we have a set of invented sayings arranged
      more or less in biographical order, as though intending to reflect the life
      of Confucius himself; they end with a scene of the death of Confucius. OK.
      Then a generation later in LY 9, the son of the LY 7 compiler, and his
      successor as the head of the school of Confucius, wrote his own set of added
      sayings, and he very obviously had his father's collection in mind. Did he
      follow the order, or the schematic principle, of the LY 7 sayings? No;
      neither. He too has a death scene for Confucius, but it comes in the middle,
      not at the end, of the chapter. He arranges and cadences his collection in
      terms of a very different logic. Our commentary to LY 9 points out in detail
      what LY 7 passages served as models for some (not all) of the LY 9 passages.
      I think it makes a nice sample - only one, to be sure, and from a secular
      tradition, not a belief tradition, but still, a sample - of what can happen
      when one sayings compiler has in mind, and sometimes draws on, an earlier
      sayings compilation.

      The result of comparing these two is that we could not have intuited the
      order of the LY 7 material, even in its larger features, from the order of
      material in LY 9.

      That's just one case, but it may somewhat support the point made earlier in
      this thread, that we don't necessarily know the order of Q (if there was a
      Q, and if, being a written text, it HAD an order; two ifs) from studying the
      order of material in either Matthew or Luke which, for whatever reason, we
      may be inclined to see as derived from Q.

      Respectfully noted,

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Research Professor of Chinese
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
      http://www.umass.edu/wsp
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