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[Synoptic-L] Oral Tradition - the joker in the pack

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  • Wieland Willker
    The following is a quote from the book Paul - Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity by David Wenham. How do you deal with these issues? ... Even if
    Message 1 of 13 , Sep 25, 1999
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      The following is a quote from the book "Paul - Follower of Jesus or Founder
      of Christianity" by David Wenham. How do you deal with these issues?

      ---------------------------------------
      Even if Matthew did use Mark (as is quite likely), it is most unlikely that
      he only knew or used Mark when retelling Mark's story It is most unlikely,
      for example, that, when Matthew came to Mark's version of the parable of the
      sower, this was the first time he had heard that parable. The stories and
      sayings of Jesus were, on any view, passed down in the oral tradition of the
      church, and there is every likelihood that Matthew knew most of what is in
      Mark before Mark's Gospel had even been thought of! The importance of this
      consideration has often been neglected by scholars, perhaps because it
      greatly complicates the synoptic problem: Oral tradition becomes a very
      difficult joker in the pack; it is much simpler, but quite implausible, to
      think of Matthew sitting in a sealed room writing his Gospel with no
      information about Jesus apart from some written sources that have been
      brought to him.

      Reckoning with oral tradition means that, even if the two-source hypothesis
      is accepted, we cannot assume that Mark's version of any particular story or
      saying must necessarily be the most original. It could frequently be so, if
      Matthew had Mark in front of him and was following him carefully, but there
      is every likelihood that from time to time Matthew slipped into the
      non-Markan version, which he knew before he ever read Mark. Matthew's
      version in such cases is independent and may well be more original than
      Mark's, Matthew having reverted to the older form of words that Mark had
      modified. The same argument applies no matter what source hypothesis is
      favored: If Mark used Matthew, for example, he surely had independent oral
      tradition.
      ----------------------------------------

      Best wishes
      Wieland
      <><
      ------------------------
      Wieland Willker
      mailto:willker@...-bremen.de
      http://purl.org/WILLKER/index.html
    • Jim Deardorff
      ... Hello Wieland, One aspect of this didn t seem to make sense no matter what synoptic theory one holds. ... There are so few pericopes in Mark that are not
      Message 2 of 13 , Sep 25, 1999
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        At 04:20 PM 9/25/99 +0200, Wieland Willker wrote:
        >The following is a quote from the book "Paul - Follower of Jesus or Founder
        >of Christianity" by David Wenham. How do you deal with these issues?

        Hello Wieland,

        One aspect of this didn't seem to make sense no matter what synoptic theory
        one holds.

        > The same argument applies no matter what source hypothesis is
        >favored: If Mark used Matthew, for example, he surely had independent oral
        >tradition.

        There are so few pericopes in Mark that are not in Matthew that the above
        conclusion is scarcely warranted.

        But naturally I favor Paul as "Founder of Christianity," which Wenham likely
        does also, or he would not have placed the phrase in his title.

        Jim Deardorff
        Corvallis, Oregon
        E-mail: deardorj@...
        Home page: http://www.proaxis.com/~deardorj/index.htm
      • Jeffrey B. Gibson
        ... Forgive me for saying this, but here both your well documented tendency towards the fallacy of bifurcation, your penchant for making claims about authorial
        Message 3 of 13 , Sep 25, 1999
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          Jim Deardorff wrote:

          >
          > But naturally I favor Paul as "Founder of Christianity," which Wenham likely
          > does also, or he would not have placed the phrase in his title.

          Forgive me for saying this, but here both your well documented tendency towards
          the fallacy of bifurcation, your penchant for making claims about authorial
          intention or motive that the evidence does not warrant, and you setting aside
          evidence that does not support certain apriorii, prevail once again. Not only
          is it NOT the case that Wenham actually supports the view vis a vis Paul that
          you favour the "likely" conclusion that may be drawn in the light of the title
          of his book; but, given that David wrote the book in order to mount the
          strongest and most thorough case possible AGAINST the view that Paul was the
          founder of Christianity, favouring what you want to see Paul as being is NOT
          the reason he placed the phrase "founder of Christianity" in the title.

          Jeffrey Gibson
          --
          Jeffrey B. Gibson
          7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
          Chicago, Illinois 60626
          e-mail jgibson000@...
        • Jim Deardorff
          ... I see. That does make more sense, as to argue the opposite case is certainly not politically correct. Jim Deardorff Corvallis, Oregon E-mail:
          Message 4 of 13 , Sep 25, 1999
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            At 04:19 PM 9/25/99 -0500, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:
            >Jim Deardorff wrote:
            >
            >>
            >> But naturally I favor Paul as "Founder of Christianity," which Wenham likely
            >> does also, or he would not have placed the phrase in his title.
            >
            >Forgive me for saying this, but here both your well documented tendency towards
            >the fallacy of bifurcation, your penchant for making claims about authorial
            >intention or motive that the evidence does not warrant, and you setting aside
            >evidence that does not support certain apriorii, prevail once again. Not only
            >is it NOT the case that Wenham actually supports the view vis a vis Paul that
            >you favour the "likely" conclusion that may be drawn in the light of the title
            >of his book; but, given that David wrote the book in order to mount the
            >strongest and most thorough case possible AGAINST the view that Paul was the
            >founder of Christianity, favouring what you want to see Paul as being is NOT
            >the reason he placed the phrase "founder of Christianity" in the title.
            >
            >Jeffrey Gibson

            I see. That does make more sense, as to argue the opposite case is certainly
            not politically correct.

            Jim Deardorff
            Corvallis, Oregon
            E-mail: deardorj@...
            Home page: http://www.proaxis.com/~deardorj/index.htm
          • Jeffrey B. Gibson
            ... And here I was under the impression that Wenham argued the case in the interest of truth and according to the evidence. Seriously, this is an extremely
            Message 5 of 13 , Sep 25, 1999
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              Jim Deardorff wrote:

              > At 04:19 PM 9/25/99 -0500, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:
              > >Jim Deardorff wrote:
              > >>
              > >> But naturally I favor Paul as "Founder of Christianity," which Wenham likely
              > >> does also, or he would not have placed the phrase in his title.
              > >
              > >Forgive me for saying this, but here both your well documented tendency towards
              > >the fallacy of bifurcation, your penchant for making claims about authorial
              > >intention or motive that the evidence does not warrant, and you setting aside
              > >evidence that does not support certain apriorii, prevail once again. Not only
              > >is it NOT the case that Wenham actually supports the view vis a vis Paul that
              > >you favour the "likely" conclusion that may be drawn in the light of the title
              > >of his book; but, given that David wrote the book in order to mount the
              > >strongest and most thorough case possible AGAINST the view that Paul was the
              > >founder of Christianity, favouring what you want to see Paul as being is NOT
              > >the reason he placed the phrase "founder of Christianity" in the title.
              > >
              > >Jeffrey Gibson
              >
              > I see. That does make more sense, as to argue the opposite case is certainly
              > not politically correct.

              And here I was under the impression that Wenham argued the case in the interest of
              truth and according to the evidence.

              Seriously, this is an extremely cheap shot. But I suppose one who works as you so
              often do, namely, from certain question begging aprioii, by strait-jacketing texts
              to make them say what is congenial to your views, by arguing the irrelevant thesis,
              and through systematic ignoring of evidence that might question your theses (as has
              been documented many times here on the List and as the above -- where, as I've
              noted, you read into Wenham's title what you wanted to see, you all too readily
              bifurcate in claiming what had to be "likely" given what Wenham's title was, and
              proclaim with a certainty contrary to fact the direction of his authorial -- shows),
              might only be able to deal with and account for why Wenham reaches a position
              contrary to yours by employing an ad hominem.

              It's beneath you.

              Jeffrey Gibson
              --
              Jeffrey B. Gibson
              7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
              Chicago, Illinois 60626
              e-mail jgibson000@...
            • jkrantz@optonline.net
              Dear Listlings, I for one find the recent ad hominem exchange between Jeffrey and John to be outside the bounds of respectful discourse that I have come to
              Message 6 of 13 , Sep 26, 1999
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                Dear Listlings,

                I for one find the recent ad hominem exchange between Jeffrey and John to be outside the
                bounds of respectful discourse that I have come to expect on this list. I respectfully request
                that they move this discussion to private e-mail.


                Jeff Krantz



                Jeffrey H. Krantz
                Church of the Advent
                Mercer School of Theology
                http://www.agapenetwork.org
              • Steven Craig Miller
                To: Wieland and the participants of the Synoptic-L, Wieland Willker posted a message with a lengthy quotation from David Wenham s Paul -- Follower of Jesus or
                Message 7 of 13 , Sep 30, 1999
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                  To: Wieland and the participants of the Synoptic-L,

                  Wieland Willker posted a message with a lengthy quotation from David
                  Wenham's "Paul -- Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity?" (1995:22).
                  Wenham asserts that oral tradition becomes "a very difficult joker in the
                  pack" since a supposedly redactional passage might have been the result of
                  an independent oral tradition, and thus may be "more original" than even
                  the redactor's written source.

                  N.T. Wright, in his "The New Testament and the People of God" (1992:423),
                  made a similar point. Wright wrote:

                  << Scholars of an older conservative stamp used to try to explain varieties
                  in the synoptic tradition by saying cautiously that 'maybe Jesus said it
                  twice.' This always sounded like special pleading. Today, once a politician
                  has made a major speech, he or she does not usually repeat it. But the
                  analogy is thoroughly misleading. If we come to the ministry of Jesus as
                  first-century historians, and forget our twentieth-century assumptions
                  about mass media, the overwhelming probability is that most of what Jesus
                  said, he said not twice but two hundred times, with (of course) a myriad of
                  local variations. >>

                  But I'm unclear as to how this relates to the Synoptic problem as such. It
                  seems to me that this is more of an issue for historical Jesus research
                  (e.g., see chapter 6: "How Do We Decide What Comes from Jesus?" of John P.
                  Meier's "A Marginal Jew" [volume one; 1991:167-195]). Nonetheless, it is an
                  interesting problem.

                  Wenham asserts: << ... there is every likelihood that Matthew knew most of
                  what is in Mark before Mark's Gospel had even been thought of! >>

                  This, in my opinion, seems to be taking things a little too far. I do not
                  doubt that Matthew could have had many oral (or even written) traditions
                  which overlap with Mark, but if he had independently "most of what is in
                  Mark," aren't we back to an Ur-Markus hypothesis? Why did Matthew redact
                  Mark if he had some sort of an oral (or written) Ur-Markus?

                  Personally (as one who accepts the Two-Source Hypothesis), it doesn't makes
                  sense to me to suppose that Matthew had independently "most of what is in
                  Mark," but that does not rule out the possibility that some redactional
                  changes might have been motivated by oral (or even written) traditions.

                  -Steven Craig Miller (scmiller@...)
                • Mark Goodacre
                  ... I must admit to having enjoyed the quotation from David Wenham very much -- thanks Wieland. To me the basic point seems transparently obvious. Surely we
                  Message 8 of 13 , Sep 30, 1999
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                    On 30 Sep 99, at 11:19, Steven Craig Miller wrote:

                    > Wieland Willker posted a message with a lengthy quotation from David
                    > Wenham's "Paul -- Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity?"
                    > (1995:22). Wenham asserts that oral tradition becomes "a very difficult
                    > joker in the pack" since a supposedly redactional passage might have been
                    > the result of an independent oral tradition, and thus may be "more
                    > original" than even the redactor's written source.

                    I must admit to having enjoyed the quotation from David Wenham
                    very much -- thanks Wieland. To me the basic point seems
                    transparently obvious. Surely we cannot imagine that Matthew hears
                    all of the Markan stories and sayings for the first time when he
                    encounters them in Mark [on the assumption of Markan Priority].
                    Much scholarship is still thinking about the Synoptic Problem in purely
                    literary terms. A much more plausible picture of Gospel origins can
                    be painted, in my opinion, if we allow that Matthew redacts Mark in
                    the light of the living stream of oral tradition.

                    The analogy that I found myself making while in Walt Disney world
                    for the SBL last year was one based on Disney films. Take the telling
                    of stories like _Aladdin_. Most of us will be familiar with versions of
                    the Aladdin story when we go to see the film for the first time, yet
                    subsequently the Disney film has had a marked effect on retellings of
                    the Aladdin story. It has not obliterated the earlier versions of the
                    story, just as Mark's Gospel will not have obliterated retellings of the
                    same stories in oral tradition, but it has nevertheless affected the
                    retellings. What we have, in other words, is an interesting interaction
                    between written and oral in which each affects the interpreter.
                    Matthew is literarily dependent on Mark, in this scenario, but
                    nevertheless influenced in his redaction by oral tradition. [Matthean
                    Priorists: reverse the arrangement, but the point remains the same.]

                    If we extend the same scenario also to Luke, we find that we lose one
                    of the standard reasons for believing in Q, for if Luke interacts with
                    Matthew in the light of the continued, living stream of oral tradition,
                    we will expect Luke, on occasion, to show signs of knowledge of
                    "more original" forms. Indeed we can see this kind of thing at work in
                    his use of Mark -- witness the way he changes the Eucharistic material
                    in the light of the living stream of oral tradition, paralleling what we
                    have in 1 Cor. 11.
                    >
                    > N.T. Wright, in his "The New Testament and the People of God" (1992:423),
                    > made a similar point. Wright wrote:
                    >
                    > << Scholars of an older conservative stamp used to try to explain
                    > varieties in the synoptic tradition by saying cautiously that 'maybe Jesus
                    > said it twice.' This always sounded like special pleading. Today, once a
                    > politician has made a major speech, he or she does not usually repeat it.
                    > But the analogy is thoroughly misleading. If we come to the ministry of
                    > Jesus as first-century historians, and forget our twentieth-century
                    > assumptions about mass media, the overwhelming probability is that most of
                    > what Jesus said, he said not twice but two hundred times, with (of course)
                    > a myriad of local variations. >>

                    I find this less sophisticated than Wenham's statement and I am afraid
                    it is typical of Wright's general by-passing of key questions connected
                    with the Synoptic Problem. The difficulty is that it does not consider
                    issues of verbatim, literary agreement that are taken for granted in the
                    Wenham passage above. Jesus may well have spoken various things
                    dozens of times, but the question is whether the variations we see in
                    the Gospels are explicable in terms of those variations. Frankly, I
                    doubt it. What we have is much better explained as variation within
                    oral tradition / redactional agendas than it is as variation within Jesus'
                    actual speeches.

                    > Wenham asserts: << ... there is every likelihood that Matthew knew most of
                    > what is in Mark before Mark's Gospel had even been thought of! >>
                    >
                    > This, in my opinion, seems to be taking things a little too far. I do not
                    > doubt that Matthew could have had many oral (or even written) traditions
                    > which overlap with Mark, but if he had independently "most of what is in
                    > Mark," aren't we back to an Ur-Markus hypothesis? Why did Matthew redact
                    > Mark if he had some sort of an oral (or written) Ur-Markus?

                    Agreed -- Wenham does take it too far. There are many places in
                    Matthew where it is difficult to imagine that he is relying also on
                    parallel oral tradition, e.g the miracles in Matt. 8-9. So much of the
                    material in Matthew is straightforwardly explicable on the assumption
                    that his sole source for it is Mark. So we need a halfway position
                    between, say, Wenham and Goulder. In other words, we need to go
                    back to Farrer.

                    Mark
                    --------------------------------------
                    Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                    Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                    University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                    Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

                    http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                    The New Testament Gateway
                    Mark Without Q
                    Aseneth Home Page
                  • Steven Craig Miller
                    To: Mark Goodacre, You wrote:
                    Message 9 of 13 , Oct 1, 1999
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                      To: Mark Goodacre,

                      You wrote:

                      << If we extend the same scenario also to Luke, we find that we lose one of
                      the standard reasons for believing in Q, for if Luke interacts with Matthew
                      in the light of the continued, living stream of oral tradition, we will
                      expect Luke, on occasion, to show signs of knowledge of "more original"
                      forms. Indeed we can see this kind of thing at work in his use of Mark --
                      witness the way he changes the Eucharistic material in the light of the
                      living stream of oral tradition, paralleling what we have in 1 Cor. 11. >>

                      I'm having problems understanding you here. To what does the pronoun "we"
                      refer, and what did "we lose"?

                      -Steven Craig Miller
                    • Mark Goodacre
                      ... We means something like intelligent contemporary readers of Luke s Gospel . By we lose one of the standard reasons for believing in Q I meant that
                      Message 10 of 13 , Oct 4, 1999
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                        I wrote:

                        > << If we extend the same scenario also to Luke, we find that we lose one
                        > of the standard reasons for believing in Q, for if Luke interacts with
                        > Matthew in the light of the continued, living stream of oral tradition, we
                        > will expect Luke, on occasion, to show signs of knowledge of "more
                        > original" forms. Indeed we can see this kind of thing at work in his use
                        > of Mark -- witness the way he changes the Eucharistic material in the
                        > light of the living stream of oral tradition, paralleling what we have in
                        > 1 Cor. 11. >>

                        On 1 Oct 99, at 5:05, Steven Craig Miller wrote:

                        > I'm having problems understanding you here. To what does the pronoun "we"
                        > refer, and what did "we lose"?

                        "We" means something like "intelligent contemporary readers of
                        Luke's Gospel". By "we lose one of the standard reasons for
                        believing in Q" I meant that "we find that one of the standard
                        arguments for belief in Q is seen to be compromised".

                        Mark
                        --------------------------------------
                        Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                        Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                        University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                        Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

                        http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                        The New Testament Gateway
                        Mark Without Q
                        Aseneth Home Page
                      • Steven Craig Miller
                        To: Mark Goodacre, MG:
                        Message 11 of 13 , Oct 4, 1999
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                          To: Mark Goodacre,

                          MG: << If we extend the same scenario also to Luke, we find that we lose
                          one of the standard reasons for believing in Q, for if Luke interacts with
                          Matthew in the light of the continued, living stream of oral tradition, we
                          will expect Luke, on occasion, to show signs of knowledge of "more
                          original" forms. Indeed we can see this kind of thing at work in his use
                          of Mark -- witness the way he changes the Eucharistic material in the light
                          of the living stream of oral tradition, paralleling what we have in 1 Cor.
                          11. >>

                          SCM: << I'm having problems understanding you here. To what does the
                          pronoun "we" refer, and what did "we lose"? >>

                          MG: << "We" means something like "intelligent contemporary readers of
                          Luke's Gospel". By "we lose one of the standard reasons for believing in
                          Q" I meant that "we find that one of the standard arguments for belief in Q
                          is seen to be compromised". >>

                          I'm still not for sure that I understand what you think has been lost. If
                          all you are wanting to say (in the above quoted passage) is that IF one
                          holds that Luke redacted Matthew, then we have lost one of our reasons for
                          believing in Q, then, I guess I would concur, but advocates of Q have never
                          held that Luke redacted Matthew. On the other hand, if you are wanting to
                          say that IF one holds that Luke had access to a "living stream of oral
                          tradition," then we have lost one of our reasons for believing in Q, then,
                          I would disagree. The Two-Source hypothesis has always assumed that Matthew
                          and Luke had access to a "living stream of oral tradition" beyond Mark and
                          Q. If you had wanted to say something else altogether, please forgive me
                          for being so dense, but I would ask you clarify the issue further.

                          -Steven Craig Miller (scmiller@...)
                        • Mark Goodacre
                          ... The focus is on the question of more original forms . One of the standard arguments for Q is that of alternating primivity, viz. that sometimes Luke,
                          Message 12 of 13 , Oct 5, 1999
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                            On 4 Oct 99, at 11:41, Steven Craig Miller wrote:

                            > I'm still not for sure that I understand what you think has been lost. If
                            > all you are wanting to say (in the above quoted passage) is that IF one
                            > holds that Luke redacted Matthew, then we have lost one of our reasons for
                            > believing in Q, then, I guess I would concur, but advocates of Q have
                            > never held that Luke redacted Matthew. On the other hand, if you are
                            > wanting to say that IF one holds that Luke had access to a "living stream
                            > of oral tradition," then we have lost one of our reasons for believing in
                            > Q, then, I would disagree. The Two-Source hypothesis has always assumed
                            > that Matthew and Luke had access to a "living stream of oral tradition"
                            > beyond Mark and Q. If you had wanted to say something else altogether,
                            > please forgive me for being so dense, but I would ask you clarify the
                            > issue further.

                            I wrote:

                            > > MG: << If we extend the same scenario also to Luke, we find that we
                            > > lose one of the standard reasons for believing in Q, for if Luke
                            > > interacts with Matthew in the light of the continued, living stream
                            > > of oral tradition, we will expect Luke, on occasion, to show signs
                            > > of knowledge of "more original" forms. Indeed we can see this kind
                            > > of thing at work in his use of Mark -- witness the way he changes
                            > > the Eucharistic material in the light of the living stream of oral
                            > > tradition, paralleling what we have in 1 Cor. 11. >>

                            The focus is on the question of "more original forms". One of the
                            standard arguments for Q is that of alternating primivity, viz. that
                            sometimes Luke, sometimes Matthew has the more original form of a
                            Q saying. It is thought that this state of affairs is impossible if Luke
                            has been redacting Matthew throughout. However, I was attempting
                            to point out that if Luke has been redacting Matthew, as he redacts
                            Mark, by interacting with the living stream of oral tradition, then the
                            presence, on occasion, of more original forms of double tradition
                            material in Luke is precisely what we will expect to find.
                            
                            Mark


                            --------------------------------------
                            Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                            Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
                            University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
                            Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

                            http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                            The New Testament Gateway
                            Mark Without Q
                            Aseneth Home Page
                          • Jim Deardorff
                            ... Mark, A more probable reason, in my oinion, why it need not be thought that this state of affairs is impossible if Luke has been redacting Matthew
                            Message 13 of 13 , Oct 5, 1999
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                              At 12:09 PM 10/5/99 GMT, Mark Goodacre wrote:
                              >... One of the
                              >standard arguments for Q is that of alternating primivity, viz. that
                              >sometimes Luke, sometimes Matthew has the more original form of a
                              >Q saying. It is thought that this state of affairs is impossible if Luke
                              >has been redacting Matthew throughout. However, I was attempting
                              >to point out that if Luke has been redacting Matthew, as he redacts
                              >Mark, by interacting with the living stream of oral tradition, then the
                              >presence, on occasion, of more original forms of double tradition
                              >material in Luke is precisely what we will expect to find.

                              Mark,

                              A more probable reason, in my oinion, why it need not be thought that "this
                              state of affairs is impossible if Luke has been redacting Matthew
                              throughout" I've stated before. It is, simply, that ALk redacted Semitic
                              Matthew, thereby incorporating the more original form into Greek, while at
                              times adding his own Lukanisms. Subsequently, the translator of Semitic
                              Matthew sometimes replicated Luke's Greek in parts of the "Q" passages, for
                              reasons I've also given. This led to an appearance of "alternating primitivity."

                              So my non-rhetorical question is, what, if anything, makes this solution
                              improbable, given that there is plenty of evidence supporting the priority
                              of (Semitic) Matthew over Mark?

                              Jim Deardorff
                              Corvallis, Oregon
                              E-mail: deardorj@...
                              Home page: http://www.proaxis.com/~deardorj/index.htm
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