Genre of Q
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Ron Price
On: Genre of Q [was: something else]
I don't seem to be having much success in imaginatively and experimentally
inhabiting the mental world of those who are convinced of the worth of Q. I
guess I have to conclude (not for the first time, but habits die hard) that
figures of speech are no good in electronic media. Another difficulty of the
present discourse will presently emerge. Meanwhile, we had:
RON [previously]: If it is difficult to understand the lack of order of
sayings in Luke, how much more difficult to understand the lack of order in
those same sayings in the much smaller early sayings source. Would anyone
have created such a mess?
BRUCE [also previously]: It is a question of genre. . . . Q is supposed to
be a "sayings Gospel," for which one model is Thomas. Thomas tells no very
RON: The clue is in your words "supposed to be". Q is a mess by comparison
with GTh because (a) it contains some narratives (b) the distribution of
these narratives is peculiarly skewed (c) it contains some words attributed
to John the Baptist. It is indeed a question of genre, and if one looks at
the contents of Q in an investigative rather than a defensive manner, it
will be seen that Q doesn't fit any known genre, despite Kloppenborg's
strenuous attempts to prove otherwise. Q is an oddity. No person in their
right mind could have produced such an inconsistent mess. When will the NT
world wake up to this?
BRUCE: All this was said in a much calmer tone of voice by Raymond Brown
(Introduction  120), not to mention myself in earlier communications
to this list. As for Kloppenborg, strenuous or otherwise, the problem with
these "personalities" is that they inflame the passions without advancing
the subject. Suppose it could be proved that Kloppenborg was wrong in every
sentence he ever uttered. I don't want to be the one who has to keep track
of the evidence in that court case, but suppose it done by other hands. The
most this would do to Q would be to invalidate certain arguments of
Kloppenborg in support of Q. It would leave *Q as such* pretty much standing
where it presently stands, misleading the people and creating obfuscation.
And the Kloppenborg Supposition in any case can't be proved. No human being
is so perfect as to be always imperfect. It follows that we can't judge
theories by arranging their proponents in Column A and Column B, and
ordering only from Column A. When will Synoptic discussants take note of
BRUCE [previous] ..... But if Luke is NOT using Matthew, but is INSTEAD
respecting the order of a wisdom or
Sayings source for this material, just as he respects the order of the
narrative material he has taken from Matthew,
RON: Presumably you mean Mark.
BRUCE: Indeed so. My error. The Evangelists, it has always seemed to me,
were far too free with Letter M. Of course, if they had labeled the Gospel
of Matthew as that of Levi, we would then simply have an L problem instead
of an M problem. I see no way out but to be more careful in future, and I
herewith undertake to attempt this.
RON [continuing] . . . You're not making sufficient allowance for the
difference between narrative and sayings. The order of the former was often
constrained by the logic of the overall story. Matthew and Luke were both
free to make many changes to the order of the sayings without thereby
showing any disrespect.
BRUCE: I am precisely noting the difference which I think a modern student
would feel between narrative and sayings, and suggesting that disordering
the former is more notable - more salient to the modern analytical
consciousness - than disordering the latter. [I might here refer to my
earlier series of notes on Synoptic, pointing to disordering of the Markan
order of events in Luke].
BRUCE [previously] ..... any defects in order of Luke's wisdom material, as
compared to Matthew, are to be attributed to the "wisdom" order,
RON: Or it could be that the subtlety of Luke's editorial endeavours is
beyond the comprehension of modern commentators. Why are they so sure of
themselves? Luke's skill has been vastly underestimated.
BRUCE: People these days are undoubtedly too sure of themselves; probably a
fault in the Zeitgeist rather than in the educational system, but a fault
nevertheless. But again, so what? Faults in persons don't necessarily
invalidate the ideas held by those persons. Analytical argument is required
to either reject or confirm those ideas.
BRUCE [continuing previous thought] . . .which will be at most an
RON: If you mean 'the wisdom material will only be ordered by word
associations between adjacent sayings', then I don't agree. In my
reconstruction of the sayings source there are 46 other links (including
seven in a recent discovery of one-to-one links between the blessings and
the woes), plus a clear division into four sections, two of which are each
clearly divided into two equal halves.
BRUCE: So it emerges that Ron has his own theory of the matter, his own
version of Q, which perhaps goes some way toward explaining his present
asperity. People with theories (as was just said, though not by me, of
Kloppenborg) tend to be assiduous in support of those theories. As I think I
have just admitted, people these days are pretty sure of themselves. Which
says nothing either for or against Ron's theory. I will here repeat the link
to Ron's theory with which he ended his communication:
and invite onlookers to judge for themselves, on-list if they like. I
conclude this response with a point of agreement with Ron, speaking now
unfeignedly in my own voice, and not in that of one who is trying to
temporarily inhabit the mental processes of a believer in Q as it stands:
RON: [Luke] was indeed doing his best at intercalation. Unfortunately NT
scholarship on the whole seriously underestimates the freedom which Luke
exercised in reordering his sayings source and in creating new parables.
BRUCE: There does seem to be a problem out there somewhere. I would put it
this way: NT scholarship on the whole, insofar as I have myself observed it,
tends constantly to revert to the idea that the Evangelists were copyists;
NT scholars seem to have no very vivid category for an Evangelist's
departures from the text in front of him that are not explained by the
scribal model. It has increasingly been conceded, in recent decades, that
the Evangelists are "Theologians," which is perhaps one way of saying that
the later Evangelists have something new of their own to say, though I
personally would not restrict the category of the "new" solely to theology.
But despite this (to me) hopeful trend, one still routinely finds that
arguments about "literary dependence" tend to presume a model of faithful
copying. One understands why this model is so durable, but to me it is also
obviously inadequate, and does not meet the evidence of the texts
There are three points at which I think future approaches to the Synoptic
Difficulty could improve on previous approaches to the Synoptic Difficulty.
Explicitly abandoning the Copyist Model for the activity of the Evangelists
is one of the three.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst