[Synoptic-L] Oral Tradition on the 2 GH?
- In a message dated 9/30/1999 12:45:57 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
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.>>
If it were possible, however, to distinguish between an evangelist who stands
close to the living stream of oral tradition and one who seems to rely on
texts, and a story teller's ability to expand on them for purposes of popular
recital, we might reverse the order of Gospels presupposed in the above. The
problem with placing Mark at the start of the Synoptic tradition is that it
ignores the metaphysical principle of adequate causality, whereas a prior
Matthew is consistent with that principle.
<< 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.]>>
But it doesn't really work in reverse, does it? There are very few (if any)
points in a late Mark where one is inclined to think of a connection to oral
tradition to account for a departure from Matthew. Think about it! In
Griesbachian terms, Mark is clearly developing or glossing a text for oral
proclamation, not correcting in light of an older oral tradition.
<< 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.>>
Or, alternatively, Luke knew 1 Cor 11 and conflated it with his version of
the last supper from Matt, as he can be shown to have conflated texts, from
both Old and New Testaments, throughout his Gospel. I don't really think the
oral tradition hypothesis helps much in understanding the relationship of
Luke's to Matthew's text either (i.e., any more than in the case of Mark), on
the 2 GH. I wouldn't fully exclude it a-priori, but I am not aware of many
cases where it actually illuminates the situation better than other
By the way, I fully agree with Mark's evaluation of the passage from Wright,
which struck me also as quite amateurish.
You wrote: << By the way, I fully agree with Mark's evaluation of the
passage from Wright, which struck me also as quite amateurish. >>
As an amateur, I wonder if I should take umbrage at your using "amateurish"
as a pejorative? <g> Mark Goodacre's evaluation was that Wright seemed to
by-pass key questions concerning the Synoptic Problem. Exactly how do you
see Wright's statement to have been "amateurish"?
-Steven Craig Miller (scmiller@...)