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Re: [GTh] Part III ofThe Synoptic Gospel Problem and Thomas

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  • fmmccoy
    (Note: This is the third in a sequence of five posts) III ANALYSIS OF UNIT 1 MT 11:7-9//LK 7:24-26//TH 78 A. Mt 11:7-9//:l 7:24-26 Let us now turn to an
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 13, 2005
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      (Note: This is the third in a sequence of five posts)

      III ANALYSIS OF UNIT 1 MT 11:7-9//LK 7:24-26//TH 78

      A. Mt 11:7-9//:l 7:24-26
      Let us now turn to an analysis of the first unit of Mt 11:7-11//Lk
      7:24-28//Mk 1:2//Th 46, 78.

      We will begin with an analysis of Mt 11:7-9//Lk 7:24-26--which reads:
      Line 1
      Mt 11:7a And, as these ones were leaving, Jesus began to say to the crowds
      concerning John
      Lk 7:24a, And, as were departing the messengers of John, he began to say to
      the crowds about John
      Line 2
      Mt 11:7b What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by
      the wind?
      Lk 7:24b "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed being
      shaken by the wind?
      Line 3
      Mt 11:8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes?
      Behold! the ones wearing soft clothes are in the houses of Kings.'
      Lk 7:25, And what did you go out to see? A man being dressed in soft
      clothing? Behold! The ones with glorious apparel and living in luxury are
      in the palaces.
      Line 4
      Mt 11:9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you--and
      one greater than a prophet.
      Lk 7:26 But who did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you--and
      more than a prophet

      As can be seen, the Mt and Lk versions of this unit are so closely related
      that a literary relationship between them is necessitated.

      B. From the Perspectives of the 2DH and the FH

      According to the 2DH, the nature of the literary relationship between Mt
      11:7-9 and Lk 7:24-26 is that both passages are based on Q 7:24-26

      According to the FH, the nature of the literary relationship between Mt
      11:7-9 and Lk 7:24-26 is that first Matthew wrote Mt 11:7-9 and then Luke
      based Lk 7:24-26 on Mt 11:7-9.

      Now, in determining which explanation is more likely to be correct, I think
      a key point is that, it is assumed, when the reader sees these questions in
      Mt 11:8:
      Who did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing?
      the reader will immediately recognize that these are strictly rhetorical
      questions to be answered negatively.

      Indeed, this is the case for a reader of Mt. Such a person already knows
      that John wore rough clothing because such a person has already read Mt 3:4,
      "Now John, himself, had his clothing from [the] hairs of a camel and a
      leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey."

      Beyond that, such a reader will probably have seen, in the description of
      John in Mt 1:4, an allusion to II (IV) Kings 1:8, "And they said to him
      (i.e., Ochozias, the King of Israel), 'He was a hairy man, and fit with a
      leather girdle about his loins.' And he said, 'This is Elijah, the
      Thesbite.'" This King, further, is at his royal residence in Samaria (1:2)
      and presumably is wearing much softer clothing than that worn by Elijah.

      So, the reader of Mt will not only recognize that these are rhetorical
      questions but that, beyond that, will likely recognize that the immediately
      following reference, in Mt 11:8, to those in soft clothing who reside in
      royal residences alludes to the same incident in II (IV) Kings that is
      alluded to in Mt 3:4.

      The clear implication of these allusions in Mt 3:4 and Mt 11:8 to II(IV)
      Kings 1:8 and its context is that John is Elijah come again.

      So, when the reader turns to these two questions in the next verse:
      But what did you go out to see? A prophet?
      the reader, most likely, will immediately recognize that these, too, are
      rhetorical questions--for, the reader will probaly have already inferred,
      John is, indeed, a prophet, i.e., the prophet Elijah come again.

      In line with this, soon thereafer, in Mt 11:15, Matthew has Jesus declare
      that John is Elijah--presumably for the benefit of those who failed to catch
      the allusions to II(IV) Kings 1:8 in Mt 3:4 and in Mt 11:8. .

      However, for the reader of Luke, the situation is quite different. In Luke
      3:1-20, Luke does not have a parallel to Mt 1:4//Mk 1:6 and its allusion to
      II(IV) Kings 1:8. As a result, these questions in Lk 7:25:
      And what did you go out to see? A man being dressed in soft clothing?
      will catch the reader off guard and (s)he will have to read on to find the
      answer.

      The FH has no problem explaining the situation. Mt 11:7-9 is a Matthean
      creation. In it, he alludes back to Mt 1:4 and, beyond it, to II(IV) Kings
      1:8. Then, Luke based Lk 7:24-26 on Mt 11:7-9. However, because he opted
      not to write a parallel to Mt 3:4//Mk 1:6 in Lk 3:1-20, Lk 7:24-26 is
      rootless, so that the reader is in no position to immediately answer the
      rhetorical questions in Lk 7:25 and Lk 7:26, but must read on to find out
      what the answers are

      The 2DH has no readily apparent explanation for this situation.

      However, an advocate of the 2DH is likely to argue that the situation has
      been mis-conceptualized and that it is reading too much into Mt 11:7-9//Lk
      7:24-26 to see an allusion to Mt 3:4//Mk 1:6 in it and, beyond that, an
      allusion to II(IV) Kings 1:8. As a result, we are not to see, here, an
      allusion to the contrast between the prophet Elijah in his rough clothes and
      the King of Israel in his Samaritan royal residence and dressed in soft
      clothes. Rather, we are to see an allusion to the contrast between the
      prophet John and Herod Antipas at his royal residence and dressed in soft
      clothes..

      So Crossan (Ibid., pp. 236-37) states, "In terms of content, the saying sets
      up a contrast between desert and palace and between their appopriate and
      expected inhabitants. But, while a prophet is clearly named as the one you
      expect to find in the desert, the palace dweller is not defined as king or
      courtier, ruler or minister. He is simply described, metaphorically, as one
      who bends to the prevailing wind and, literally, is deressed in soft,
      gorgeous, and luxurious garments. But, even if that is a correct reading,
      why is the saying set up that way? Why compare and contrast the
      desert-dwelling prophet with, precisely, the palace-dwelling 'man'? The
      only answer I can imagine is that the saying intends a comparison between
      John and Antipas and that it arose, directly and immediately, from the
      crisis engendered among his followers by John's incarceration and execution.
      It reads like an attempt to maintain faith in John's apocalyptic vision
      despite John's own execution. He is--he still is--not just another prophet
      but the last of the prophets, the Prophet of the Coming One. I accept the
      aphorism, so understood and so engendered, as stemming from Jesus."

      So, in this case, we have an aphorism that goes back to the historical
      Jesus. Then, after a period of oral transmission, it was written down by
      the author of Q. Finally, Matthew and Luke independently utilized Q 7:24-26
      in writing, respectively, Mt 11:7-9 and Lk 7:24-26.

      Does it, then, just boil down to a judgment call in interpretation for
      deciding whether the 2DH or the FH has the better explanation here?

      I do not think so.

      In the Case Against Q (p. 183), Mark Goodacre states, "Jesus' question in Q
      7:24, 'What then did you go out to the wilderness to see?' presupposes
      another element that is not narrated in Q: the wilderness location for
      John's activity. Once again, this is something directly recounted in all
      three synoptics but not, as far as we can tell, in Q. Perhaps this saying
      too was constructed by someone like Matthew who was familiar with that
      Markan narrative."

      He makes a good point here. That John was in the wilderness is explicitly
      stated in Mk 1:4, Mt 3:1, and Lk 3:2. Such triple tradition material, under
      the theory of Markan priority, is based on Mk. Further, in their postulated
      reconstruction of Q, the IQP does not include any statement about John being
      in the wilderness. So, this is evidence that whoever wrote the first
      version of Mt 11:7-10//Lk 7:24-26 based it on Markan-originated material
      rather than on Q material.

      He (Ibid.) then goes on to state, "In Q 7:18-19, John sends disciples to ask
      a question of Jesus, and subsequently Jesus places his activity very much in
      the past, 'What *did* you go out to see?' (7:24 and 7:26). It appears to be
      the case that John has been arrested; it is presupposed that his active
      ministry is over and he is unable to go ask these questions of Jesus itself.
      What Q appears to presuppose is once more made clear in the triple tradition
      material: that John was arrested at a point after his preaching but prior to
      this incident (Mark 1:14//Matt 4:12//Luke 3:20). Perhaps, again, this
      material was composed by an evangelist like Matthew in the light of the
      earlier development of his own narrative."

      So, as respects Mt 11:7-9//Lk 7:24-26, it appears that the weight of the
      evidence favors the FH rather than the 2DH

      Thus, the most likely scenario appears to be this: First Matthew wrote Mt
      11:7-9. In it, he alludes back to Mt 4:12, to Mt 3:1, and to Mt 3:4--and,
      beyond it, to II(IV) Kings 1:8. So, much of the imagery in this passage is
      based on the contrast between Elijah the prophet in his rough clothes and
      the King of Israel sitting in his royal residence and wearing soft clothes,
      As a result, in this passage, Matthew implicitly identifies John as being
      Elijah come again. Then Luke based Lk 7:24-28 on it.

      C. Mt 11:7-11//Lk 7:24-26//Th 78

      1. The Th Factor

      What, though, is the relationship between Mt ll:7-9//Lk 7:24-26 and Th 78?
      Let us now turn to this question.

      2. The Three Passages

      Let us begin by re-looking at Unit I:
      Line 1
      Mt 11:7a And, as these ones were leaving, Jesus began to say to the crowds
      concerning John
      Th 78:1a Jesus said this,
      Lk 7:24a, And, as were departing the messengers of John, he began to say to
      the crowds about John
      Line 2
      Mt 11:7b What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by
      the wind?
      Th 78:1b Because of what did you come out to the field? To see a reed
      moving about by the wind?
      Lk 7:24b "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed being
      shaken by the wind?
      Line 3
      Mt 11:8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes?
      Behold! the ones wearing soft clothes are in the houses of Kings.'
      Th 78:2, And to see a man clothed in fine garments like your Kings and your
      great men?
      Lk 7:25, And what did you go out to see? A man being dressed in soft
      clothing? Behold! The ones with glorious apparel and living in luxury are
      in the palaces.
      Line 4
      Mt 11:9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you--and
      one greater than a prophet.
      Th 78:3 These are in garments which are soft on them and they cannot know
      the truth.
      Lk 7:26 But who did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you--and
      more than a prophet

      3.Two Different Perspectives

      As previously mentioned, the 2DH and the FH share a hidden premise that none
      of the Synoptic gospel writers used Th as a source. As a result, from their
      perspective, it probably is either the case that the Synoptic and Th
      versions of the saying are independent of each other or else that the Th
      version is based on the Synoptic version.

      For example, Stephen J. Patterson (a proponent of the 2DH) thusly closes his
      discussion of Th 78 in the Gospel of Thomas and Jesus (p. 79), "Since there
      is nothing to indicate Thomas' dependence on the synoptic tradition here,
      and a number of reasons to doubt such an hypothesis, again it seems prudent
      in this case to assume Thomas' basic autonomy vis a vis the synoptic
      gospels."

      Even if, as he maintains, the hypothesis that the Th version of this saying
      is based on the Synoptic version is not supported by the evidence, this does
      not indicate that the two versions are independent--*unless*, of course,
      one's argument contains the hidden premise that the Synoptic version cannot
      be based on the Th version.

      However, with the MTH, the premise is that Matthew based Mt 11:7-9 on Th 78,
      with Luke then basing Lk 7:24-26 on Mt 11:7-9. As a result, from this
      perspective, the Synoptic version of the saying is based on the Th version
      of it.

      4. The Contrasts

      a. Four Major Contrasts

      There are four major differences between the Synoptic and Th versions.
      1.while the Synoptic version identifies the subject of the saying as being
      John the Baptist, the Th version does not.
      2.while the Synoptic version has Jesus speaking about the wilderness, the Th
      version has Jesus speaking about a field. The underlying Coptic word is
      also found in Th 109, where it refers to a field in which a treasure is
      uncovered while it is being plowed.
      3. only the Synoptic version has Jesus speaking about royal residences.
      4.there is a very strong contrast between the Synoptic version, where Jesus
      speaks about a prophet (who, presumably knows and speaks the truth), and the
      Th version, where Jesus speaks about those who cannot discern the truth.

      b. The Perspective of the 2DH and the FH

      From the perspective of the 2DH and the FH, these strong contrasts between
      the Th and Synoptic versions of the saying are a good indication that they
      are independent of each other. So, for example, Patterson (Ibid., p. 78)
      thusly begins his discussion of Th 78, "Although Thom 78 obviously stems
      ultimately from the same tradition as the Q passage taken up in Luke 7:24-27
      and Matt 11:7-10, the differences between them are enough to suggest
      strongly that here again we may see two entirely different tradition
      histories at work. Chief of these is the fact that in Thomas the saying is
      in no way associated with John the Baptist. If one notes that Thomas
      elsewhere freely discusses John (see Thom 46), together with the very
      plastic way in which the tradition in Q has been made to refer to John, it
      seems very unlikely that Thomas has taken a saying that originally referred
      to John and recast it to refer now to Jesus. Rather, in Thomas we probably
      encounter the saying in its more original form." (Note: while he has the
      parallel texts as Mt 11:7-10//Lk 7:24-27, the line schema above shows that
      they are Mt 11:7-9//Lk 7:24-26)

      In further support of the hypothesis that the two versions of the saying are
      independent, it is the case that the Th version progressively diverges from
      the Synoptic version: being very close to it in line 2, moderately close to
      it in line 3, and radically different from it in line 4. This can be
      explained under the hypothesis that, in an oral stage of the saying, it was
      easiest to remember the beginning of it and hardest to remember the ending
      of it. As a result, through time, the version of it in the Thomas community
      and the version of it in the Synoptic community came to progressively
      diverge the later the line.

      c. The Perspective of the MTH

      However, from the perspective of the MTH, these differences are explained
      under the hypothesis that Matthew based Mt 11:7-11 on Th 78, but altered it
      in some major ways to suit his own purposes. In particular, under the MTH:.
      1. Matthew changes the identity of the person to John the Baptist because he
      wants it to apply to John the Baptist
      2. Matthew changes the field to the wilderness because he has already stated
      in Mt 3:1 that John was in the wilderness
      3. Matthew has those in soft clothing residing in royal residences to allude
      back to the II(IV) Kings imagery of the King of Israel inside his Samaritan
      residence
      4. Matthew cannot say that such people are unable to know the truth because
      the King of Israel does speak the truth in identifying the hairy man with a
      leather girdle as being Elijah. Also, Matthew wants to make explicit what
      is already implicit in what he is writing, i.e., that John is a prophet--the
      prophet Elijah. So, on the fourth line, he omits what is said in Th 78 and
      substitutes, for it, some words on John being a prophet.

      d. Evaluating the Two Perspectives

      From the perspective of the 2DH and the FH, the relationship between the Th
      and Synoptic versions of the saying is one of independence. It adequately
      explains the divergences between the two versions.

      From the perspective of the FH, the relationship between the Th and Synoptic
      versions of the saying is one of Mt 11:7-9 being based on Th 78 (with, in
      turn, Lk 7:24-26 being based on Mt 11:7-9). It, too, adequately explains
      the divergences between the two versions.

      The bottom line: As I see it, it's pretty much a dead heat.

      Frank McCoy
      Maplewood, MN USA 55109
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