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[Synoptic-L] the Synoptic Problem, was: Mark as a story teller

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  • Maluflen@aol.com
    In a message dated 10/29/1999 7:25:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time, scmiller@www.plantnet.com writes:
    Message 1 of 7 , Oct 29, 1999
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      In a message dated 10/29/1999 7:25:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
      scmiller@... writes:

      <<
      LM: << Majority support, unfortunately, does nothing at all to enhance the
      validity of the arguments themselves. >>

      [Steve]

      << I would disagree, at least in part. There is indeed something positive
      about a large number of scholars reaching a consensus. By this I don't mean
      that "truth" is merely a matter of democratic majority vote, and yet it
      seems to me that only a fanatic would claim that reasonable arguments will
      lack the power to persuade reasonable people.>>

      Only a fanatic would claim that, and it is not of course what I said. For the
      record, I will repeat what I did say, and what I can only stand by: Majority
      support, unfortunately, does nothing at all to enhance the validity of the
      arguments themselves.

      SCM: << (a) One reason why I hold to Markan priority is on account that
      Mark contains neither (so called) Infancy Narratives, nor
      Post-Empty-Tomb Stories. And it seems to me more reasonable to assume
      that if Mark had known some Infancy Narratives or Post-Empty-Tomb Stories,
      he would have included them.>>

      LM: << No disrespect intended, but I have pointed out numerous times on
      this list that this argument rests on a fallacy -- i.e. on a presupposition
      of Gospel studies that until quite recently (amazingly, I think) went
      unchallenged. The presupposition in question may be formulated so: an
      evangelist's principal concern is to assemble for posterity all available
      traditions about the life of Jesus. If this presupposition were true, your
      argument in favor of Markan priority would have much in its favor. I happen
      to be quite sure that the presupposition is not only invalid but
      demonstrably erroneous. Therefore, nothing much follows from your
      observation with respect to the relative priority of Mark. >>

      There was nothing in my statement quoted above which remotely suggests that
      "an evangelist's principal concern is to assemble for posterity all
      available traditions about the life of Jesus."

      That's the meaning of a PREsupposition. It's not IN what you said. It is
      presupposed by your argument. I.e., your argument has no value UNLESS that
      judgment is presupposed.

      [Steve]
      <<Rather I pointed to two
      specific traditions, the Infancy Narratives and the Post-Empty-Tomb
      stories. Christians have traditionally deemed these traditions of greater
      value than the most of the rest of the Jesus-story (the major exception
      being the Passion Narrative). Thus it seems reasonable to me that if Mark
      had known them, he would have deemed them of greater value too.>>

      How do you or I know that Mark did not deem the existing nativity narratives
      of great or greater value than the rest of the Jesus tradition? I said
      nothing about that. What I do say is: the fact that Mark chose not to include
      birth and resurrection narratives in his own gospel can have a number of
      reasons that have nothing to do with how great a value he may or may not have
      deemed these narratives to have. They simply didn't fit with his own project,
      which is quite conceivable, and was quite successful, without them.

      SCM: << (b) One reason why I hold that Luke could not have used Matthew's
      gospel as a source is on account of their Infancy Narratives, which simply
      contradict one another. And it seems to me more reasonable to assume that
      Matthew and Luke simply had different traditions and was unaware of the
      other, than to assume that Luke had two traditions and deemed the
      non-Matthean tradition historical and Matthean one as lacking historicity.>>

      LM: << I don't think you are reading either of the infancy narratives the
      way they were intended to be read by their authors if all you can come up
      with, by comparing them, is to say that they contradict each other. >>

      <<Your statement seems hardly fair, for, although the two narratives do
      appear to contradict one another, I never suggested that was all I could
      see in them.>>

      OK, I got carried away there...but I still say I don't think you are reading
      either of the narratives the way they were intended to be read (see below for
      an explanation).


      << Furthermore, how do you know how "they were intended to be read"?>>

      My words here imply an interpretation of the texts. How do I interpret the
      texts? That is really too broad a question to be broached here. It is easier
      to say simply that I don't interpret them the way you do, namely, apparently,
      as intending to tell a straightforward story with literal historical
      references. They are more midrashic in character, theology in narrative form,
      in my view, and Luke understood Matthew's narrative to be such. Thus he could
      write a "better" infancy narrative than Matthew, using something close to the
      same kind of writing as he, and therefore not to be charged with
      inconsistency of historical detail which neither narrative was intended to
      supply.

      << As Matthew tells the story, Mary and Joseph apparently lived at Bethlehem
      and had a house there (Mt 2:11). After Jesus was born, magi came from the
      east guided by a star (Mt 2:1-12). This caused Herod to slay children at
      Bethlehem, which (warned by an angel) forced Joseph and his family to flee
      to Egypt (Mt 2:13-18). After Herod's death, the family return, but because
      Herod's son Archelaus still ruled in Judea, Joseph was afraid to return to
      Bethlehem, and so took his family to Galilee to the town of Nazareth,
      seemingly for the first time (Mt 2:19-23).

      And yet as Luke tells the story, before Jesus was born Mary and Joseph live
      at Nazareth. They went to Bethlehem only temporarily because they had to
      register there during a Roman census (Lk 2:4). When they arrived they could
      not find a room in any inn (Lk 2:7), presumably because they had no house
      of their own in Bethlehem. That night angels announce to nearby shepherds
      that the Jewish Messiah had been born, and so these shepherds visit the
      baby Jesus (Lk 2:8-20). Eight days later the parents have the baby Jesus
      circumcised (Lk 2:21). Shortly they traveled to Jerusalem for purification
      (Lk 2:21). Finally, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth
      (Lk 2:39).

      It is not that it is totally impossible to reconcile these two stories,
      creative minds have always been able to do that.>>

      Stop right there: "it is not that it is totally impossible to reconcile these
      two stories", the sentence should conclude: "it is that one should not be
      trying to reconcile them, at the narrative level at least, because neither
      was intended to be historical".

      << Nonetheless, it seems to
      me more reasonable to assume that Matthew and Luke simply had different
      traditions and was unaware of the other, than to assume that Luke had two
      traditions and deemed the non-Matthean tradition historical and Matthean
      one as lacking historicity>>

      But this latter assumption is not the only alternative, as is clear from my
      remarks above.

      <<After all, if Luke knew Matthew's infancy story, he appears to be
      contradicting Matthew. For according to Matthew, Jesus' family had to flee
      Judea because Herod was seeking to kill the baby Jesus. But according to
      Luke, there was no need to flee Judea, in fact instead of fleeing, the baby
      Jesus is taken to Jerusalem! Then they return to Nazareth which was under
      the control of Herod.>>

      OK, you insist on reading the stories as though they were intended as literal
      history. I'm not sure how much longer I want to continue a discussion of this
      kind. I thought we went through this same argument a month ago. Wasn't it
      with you, or was it somebody else?

      LM: <<Your puzzlement does, however, illustrate one of my fundamental
      contentions: namely, that both Matthew and Luke are written for an elite
      audience, with elite kinds of training presupposed in their readers for
      full comprehension, kinds of specialized training which most of us don't
      have today. >>

      [Steve]
      << I don't understand your point here.>>

      Evidently not, from your above remarks. Perhaps I am following suit on Matt
      and Lk in writing for an elite audience. But I thought that was what this
      list was supposed to be!

      Leonard Maluf
    • Steven Craig Miller
      To: Leonard Maluf, SCM:
      Message 2 of 7 , Oct 29, 1999
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        To: Leonard Maluf,

        SCM: << (a) One reason why I hold to Markan priority is on account
        that Mark contains neither (so called) Infancy Narratives,
        nor Post-Empty-Tomb Stories. And it seems to me more reasonable to
        assume that if Mark had known some Infancy Narratives or Post-Empty-Tomb
        Stories, he would have included them.>>

        LM: << No disrespect intended, but I have pointed out numerous times
        on this list that this argument rests on a fallacy -- i.e. on a
        presupposition of Gospel studies that until quite recently (amazingly, I
        think) went unchallenged. The presupposition in question may be formulated
        so: an evangelist's principal concern is to assemble for posterity all
        available traditions about the life of Jesus. If this presupposition were
        true, your argument in favor of Markan priority would have much in its
        favor. I happen to be quite sure that the presupposition is not only
        invalid but demonstrably erroneous. Therefore, nothing much follows from
        your observation with respect to the relative priority of Mark. >>

        SCM: << There was nothing in my statement quoted above which remotely
        suggests that "an evangelist's principal concern is to assemble for
        posterity all available traditions about the life of Jesus." >>

        LM: << That's the meaning of a PREsupposition. It's not IN what you said.
        It is presupposed by your argument. I.e., your argument has no value UNLESS
        that judgment is presupposed. >>

        I would disagree. You seem to have simply misconstrued my argument. My
        point is NOT that "an evangelist's principal concern is to assemble for
        posterity all available traditions about the life of Jesus," rather my
        point is that some traditions seem more important than others. Christians
        have traditionally deemed the Infancy Narratives and the Post-Empty-Tomb
        stories to be of greater value than the most of the rest of the Jesus-story
        (with the exception of the Passion Narrative). Thus it seems reasonable to
        me that if Mark had known them, he would have deemed them of greater value too.

        LM: << ... I don't interpret them the way you do, namely, apparently, as
        intending to tell a straightforward story with literal historical
        references. They are more midrashic in character, theology in narrative
        form, in my view, and Luke understood Matthew's narrative to be such. Thus
        he could write a "better" infancy narrative than Matthew, using something
        close to the same kind of writing as he, and therefore not to be charged
        with inconsistency of historical detail which neither narrative was
        intended to supply. >>

        But how do you know for sure that Matthew and Luke did not write their
        gospels intending for them to be taken as historical? Where is your proof?
        What you appear to be suggesting is that my arguments are wrong merely
        because they do not fit your personal presuppositions. That is hardly fair!
        What evidence do you have that Luke understood any of his sources to be
        "more midrashic in character"?

        LM: <<Your puzzlement does, however, illustrate one of my
        fundamental contentions: namely, that both Matthew and Luke are written
        for an elite audience, with elite kinds of training presupposed in their
        readers for full comprehension, kinds of specialized training which most
        of us don't have today. >>

        SCM: << I don't understand your point here.>>

        LM: << Evidently not, from your above remarks. Perhaps I am following suit
        on Matt and Lk in writing for an elite audience. But I thought that was
        what this list was supposed to be! >>

        Gosh ... that appears to be a blow below the belt. What prompted such a
        remark? It is true that I am merely a househusband, with no fancy post-grad
        degrees hanging on my walls, but I do read ancient Greek, and I am fairly
        well informed on the subject under discussion. I see no reason for me to
        apologize for my meager educational attainments, but if you would prefer
        not to discuss this issue with me, I for one wouldn't imagine imposing
        myself upon your generosity.

        -Steven Craig Miller
        Alton, Illinois (USA)
        scmiller@...

        "A thought is a tremendous mode of excitement" (Alfred North Whitehead,
        "Modes of Thought," 36).
      • Maluflen@aol.com
        In a message dated 10/30/1999 4:47:28 AM Eastern Daylight Time, zcrook@chass.utoronto.ca writes:
        Message 3 of 7 , Oct 30, 1999
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          In a message dated 10/30/1999 4:47:28 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
          zcrook@... writes:

          <<
          I would like to add my voice, silent heretofore, to Mr. Miller expression
          of frustration. I have found the partisan rhetoric very tiresome, and I
          tend now to simply delete messages without reading them.>>

          You don't know what you're missing, Zeb, but I don't begrudge you the freedom
          to delete what you are afraid you can't deal with. And perhaps you are right:
          this list is not, after all, for the faint-hearted. If you find tough
          argument tiresome, there is undoubtedly another discussion group out there
          you would feel more comfortable in.

          << I find refreshing
          Mr. Miller's willingness to admit that, by their very nature of being
          hypotheses, they are none of them perfect.>>

          I find this a somewhat fuzzy definition of "hypothesis". Being imperfect is
          not of the essence of being an hypothesis (is it?).

          <<The 2DH has not solved the
          synoptic problem (though I don't think serious scholars pretent it does),
          but nor is it the work of bukolic yokels, which sounds like Mr. Maluf's
          suggestion (esp. in the section quote by Mr. Miller).>>

          I have said that I marvel at the fact that so many scholars have found
          convincing the standard arguments for Markan priority. This would not be my
          spontaneous reaction if I thought the scholars in question were "bukolic
          yokels". It presupposes, on the contrary, that I assume they were, and are,
          intelligent.

          << I also recognise that the 2DH has problem
          areas that are better accounted for by other hypotheses. That is the
          beauty of the hypotheses of the synoptic problem -- they shall forever
          remain hypotheses (otherwise we're out of work!).>>

          Just out of curiosity, do you think this way about all human mental endeavor?
          That it is valuable (or "beautiful") to the extent that it remains short of
          ever reaching the truth? I guess I belong to a different philosophical
          school. I am one who would be delighted to find other employment (I've always
          thought garbage-collecting would be a fun thing to do!) if the truth could be
          known and safeguarded without the need of my present engagement.

          Leonard Maluf
        • Stephen C. Carlson
          ... Personally, I do expect that all discussions on Synoptic-L be conducted in a courteous, collegial, and respectful manner. It is OK to be a zealous
          Message 4 of 7 , Oct 30, 1999
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            At 07:43 AM 10/30/99 EDT, Maluflen@... wrote:
            >In a message dated 10/30/1999 4:47:28 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
            >zcrook@... writes:
            >
            ><<
            > I would like to add my voice, silent heretofore, to Mr. Miller expression
            > of frustration. I have found the partisan rhetoric very tiresome, and I
            > tend now to simply delete messages without reading them.>>
            >
            >You don't know what you're missing, Zeb, but I don't begrudge you the freedom
            >to delete what you are afraid you can't deal with. And perhaps you are right:
            >this list is not, after all, for the faint-hearted. If you find tough
            >argument tiresome, there is undoubtedly another discussion group out there
            >you would feel more comfortable in.

            Personally, I do expect that all discussions on Synoptic-L be conducted
            in a courteous, collegial, and respectful manner. It is OK to be a
            zealous advocate (in the best sense) for one's position; it is not OK
            to forget that there is a person on the other side.

            Stephen Carlson
            --
            Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
            Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
            "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
          • Thomas R. W. Longstaff
            Please! The purpose of this list is to advance scholarship on the synoptic gospels, especially with respect to their interrelationship. While disagreement and
            Message 5 of 7 , Oct 30, 1999
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              Please!

              The purpose of this list is to advance scholarship on the synoptic gospels,
              especially with respect to their interrelationship. While disagreement and
              even pointed exchange are in order, extended messages in which participants
              take personal "shots" at each other do not contribute very much. For the
              sake of the list, I would like to request that we end the personal attacks
              and get back to business.

              Thank you.

              > I would like to add my voice, silent heretofore, to Mr. Miller expression
              > of frustration. I have found the partisan rhetoric very tiresome, and I
              > tend now to simply delete messages without reading them.>>
              >
              > You don't know what you're missing, Zeb, but I don't begrudge you the
              freedom
              > to delete what you are afraid you can't deal with. And perhaps you are
              right:
              > this list is not, after all, for the faint-hearted. If you find tough
              > argument tiresome, there is undoubtedly another discussion group out there
              > you would feel more comfortable in.
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