6703[Synoptic-L] the origin of a synoptic hypothesis
- Sep 20, 2001Brian Wilson wrote:
>Michael Grondin replied --
>To solve the synoptic problem, I would suggest the way to proceed is to
>posit any synoptic documentary hypothesis at all, and test it against
>the observed synoptic data. If it does not account easily for all the
>data, then posit another hypothesis, and test this. And so on. Until a
>hypothesis that works is found.
>This doesn't strike me as the proper interplay between data and
>hypothesis. No one does it this way, as far as I know, nor does it seem
>a particularly promising procedure.
It is the way I have proceeded. I have considered hundreds of
synoptic documentary hypotheses in my mind over the years, and rejected
virtually all of them by testing them against the observed data.
>I would suggest that where we start is irrelevant. However plausible a
>The aggregate of data, as we interpret it, already suggests to each of
>us a subset of hypotheses we find most plausible, and we start with
>them, not with a random selection from a finite list of possible
hypothesis may seem, if it does not fit the data well it is not a
solution. We are not looking for a merely plausible hypothesis. We are
looking for a hypothesis that can objectively be shown to work when
tested against the observable data. However "plausible" a hypothesis, if
testing it against the data shows that it does not work, then it is not
a solution. The point is that no hypothesis of the documentary
relationship between the synoptic gospels can be deduced from the
observed data. A hypothesis is not a theorem produced at the end of a
chain of reasoning, but a question at the start of a line of
The same is true in astronomy. However many observations are made
through telescopes of the relative positions of the planets and moons in
our solar system at given times, there is no way in which Newton's law
of gravitation, or Einstein's general theory (which includes a theory of
gravitation) can be deduced from the observed data. All Newton or
Einstein could do was make an imaginative guess, and check this against
the observed facts to see whether it works. Einstein was thrilled when
he realized that the observed change in the orbit of Mercury about the
sun was consistent with his gravitational theory (in his theory of
general relativity). He says that he "walked on air" for a fortnight
afterwards. The reason, however, was that he realized that his general
theory of relativity fitted well this data. When tested against the
data, the hypothesis worked. He was glad to find not that he had deduced
anything from observed data, but that his leap of imagination that was
his basic theory fitted the observed data well.
I think we should be clear that no synoptic documentary hypothesis has
been, or can be, deduced from the data provided by the synoptic gospels
themselves, and that the route by which a synoptic hypothesis is
obtained is irrelevant. What matters is whether the hypothesis is shown
to work when tested against the data.
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