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[Synoptic-L] Re: Oral Tradition & N.T. Wright

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  • Steven Craig Miller
    To: Leonard Maluf and the participants of the Synoptic-L, You wrote:
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 1, 1999
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      To: Leonard Maluf and the participants of the Synoptic-L,

      You wrote:

      << My qualifier "amateurish" was intended to be an exact lexical equivalent
      of Mark Goodacre's "less sophisticated". Wright, in the passage cited,
      seems to assume, somewhat naively I think, that individual Evangelists had
      direct access, through various currents of oral tradition, to different
      forms of Jesus' utterances, based on actually distinct occasions when Jesus
      said the same thing in different terms. This is of course a theoretical
      possibility, but those professionally engaged with the question of actual
      differences among the Synoptics have generally assumed more plausible
      hypotheses, often with fairly convincing supportive evidence, to account
      for the differences. >>

      First, thanks for the additional explanation. I found it helpful. Second, I
      don't really want to be in the position of defending N. T. Wright. From my
      point of view, Wright is a little too conservative for my personal tastes.

      Your comment might be a fair criticism of Wright's general POV (indeed, as
      such, I would concur with it), but it does not appear to be a fair
      criticism of the particular passage which I had quoted. I won't repeat the
      whole quotation, but the thrust of it was: "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" (1992:423). I have a hard time
      understanding how Wright's statement here (or the longer quotation which I
      posted earlier) could be deemed either "less sophisticated" or
      "amateurish." What do you think?

      -Steven Craig Miller (scmiller@...)
    • Maluflen@aol.com
      In a message dated 10/1/1999 10:53:13 AM Eastern Daylight Time, scmiller@www.plantnet.com writes:
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 1, 1999
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        In a message dated 10/1/1999 10:53:13 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
        scmiller@... writes:

        << Your comment might be a fair criticism of Wright's general POV (indeed, as
        such, I would concur with it), but it does not appear to be a fair
        criticism of the particular passage which I had quoted. I won't repeat the
        whole quotation, but the thrust of it was: "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" (1992:423). I have a hard time
        understanding how Wright's statement here (or the longer quotation which I
        posted earlier) could be deemed either "less sophisticated" or
        "amateurish." What do you think? >>

        It is so (amateurish, i.e.), in my opinion, ONLY if taken as an actual
        explanation of the synoptic phenomenon. In itself, Wright's statement
        reflects nothing but the most basic and eminent common sense - which I both
        share with him and confirm. So I agree with you, I think. My assumption was,
        however, that your quote intended to present this observation as a point
        Wright was making by way of explaining the differences in parallel sayings of
        Jesus in the different Synoptic Gospels. If Wright was not in fact offering
        this observation as an explanation for the synoptic phenomenon, then I
        apologize for the epithet.

        Leonard Maluf
      • Steven Craig Miller
        Leonard Maluf, You write:
        Message 3 of 3 , Oct 1, 1999
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          Leonard Maluf,

          You write:

          << It is so (amateurish, i.e.), in my opinion, ONLY if taken as an actual
          explanation of the synoptic phenomenon. In itself, Wright's statement
          reflects nothing but the most basic and eminent common sense - which I both
          share with him and confirm. So I agree with you, I think. My assumption
          was, however, that your quote intended to present this observation as a
          point Wright was making by way of explaining the differences in parallel
          sayings of Jesus in the different Synoptic Gospels. If Wright was not in
          fact offering this observation as an explanation for the synoptic
          phenomenon, then I apologize for the epithet. >>

          But ... might it not ALSO explain, in part, the Synoptic phenomenon?

          What is so hard in imagining that two similar sayings might both be
          authentic? When I re-read the section surrounding this quotation by Wright
          (1992:423), I come away thinking that most of Wright's statements were
          obviously correct, and yet I wondered if perhaps the general impression,
          which it gives, might not be somewhat misleading. The problem, in my
          opinion, is one of degree. John Dominic Crossan once suggested that Raymond
          E. Brown held that 80% of the Gospels had historicity, whereas he [Crossan]
          held that only 20% had historicity (cf. 1995:1). My suspicion is that for
          Wright, 80% would be way too low of a figure. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but to
          my knowledge, Wright never admits that some sayings in the Gospels are
          unauthentic, and that some events lack historicity. If I'm correct, then it
          would be reasonable to conclude that Wright deliberately avoided this issue.

          Burnett Hillman Streeter, in the preface of the fourth (revised) impression
          of his "The Four Gospels" (1924, 1930), wrote:

          << When stories or sayings circulate in oral tradition, it is inevitable
          that they should be current in more than one version. Where, therefore,
          Matthew and Luke give 'widely divergent' versions of the same item -- e.g.
          of the Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, the Parable of the Lost Sheep -- it
          is unscientific to explain this divergence on the theory of manipulation by
          the respective editors of the common written source Q; it is far more
          likely to be due to the currency of divergent traditions. >>

          Is it possible to take this one step further, and suggest that it is
          possible that similar sayings might both be authentic? By this I don't mean
          to suggest that every similar saying is authentic, only that there is a
          real possibility that some might be authentic. What do you think?

          -Steven Craig Miller (scmiller@...)
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