Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

[Synoptic-L] Re: the Synoptic Problem

Expand Messages
  • Steven Craig Miller
    To: Stephen C. Carlson, SCM:
    Message 1 of 21 , Nov 1, 1999
    • 0 Attachment
      To: Stephen C. Carlson,

      SCM: << IMO a careful and critical reading of Farmer's work indicates that
      Farmer feel into the trap of believing that "truth" of the Synoptic Problem
      is "manifest," and because of this he became very bitter and ungracious
      towards his opponents. >>

      SCC: << I don't really read the passages as strongly as you do, but even if
      you're right, what does that have to do with the truth or falsity of the
      Griesbach hypothesis? >>

      It might not seem to have much to do with "the truth of falsity" of the
      Griesbach hypothesis, and it might seem to be merely an issue of civility
      in scholarly discourse, but in fact it has everything to do with
      argumentation and Farmer's attempt to persuade his reader by means of
      inflammatory rhetoric.

      IMO Popper's analysis of the problem of believing that "truth is manifest"
      helps explain why Farmer wrote as he did. For if "truth is manifest," why
      don't all intelligent people simply come to hold the same solution to the
      Synoptic Problem? What Popper tells us is that "the doctrine that truth is
      manifest" often results in someone holding to "the conspiracy theory of
      ignorance," which is an attempt to explain why people fail to see that
      "truth is manifest," namely:

      << ... because our minds harbour prejudices inculcated by education and
      tradition, or other evil influences which have perverted our originally
      pure and innocent minds >> (Popper, 7).

      Farmer makes this very same type of point concerning the Two-Source
      hypothesis, namely:

      << ... "extra-scientific" or "nonscientific" factors exercised a deep
      influence in the development of a fundamentally misleading and false
      consensus >> (Farmer, 190).

      When Farmer writes concerning William Sanday:

      << he [Sanday] drank deeply from the cup of salvation offered by the cult
      of "scientism" >> (Farmer, 181)

      Farmer is trying to convince his readers that "quasi-scientific ideas"
      distorted Sanday's mind, causing him to accept the Two-Source hypothesis.
      In fact, Farmer takes a couple pages to document and emphasize this point.
      At one point Farmer writes:

      << To criticize a man like Sanday for not really giving serious
      considerations to the Augustinian or Griesbach hypotheses is to miss the
      mark. The temper of the times was not conducive to reconsideration of
      hypotheses which were believed to have been tested and found inadequate >>
      (182).

      In other words, Farmer asserts that Sanday was unable to see the "manifest
      truth" of the Synoptic Problem because his cognitive faculties were
      impaired by "the temper of the times."

      In comparing Farmer's "The Synoptic Problem: A Critical Analysis" (1976)
      with his new book "The Gospel of Jesus: The Pastoral Relevance of the
      Synoptic Problem" (1994), it seems that Farmer has learned to tone down
      such inflammatory rhetoric. In the preface he writes:

      << Because of the controversial nature of this question, I have tried to be
      particularly careful not to speculate as to the motives that may account
      for what scholars are writing about this. However, I make no claim to have
      eliminated bias altogether from my treatment of the work of those with whom
      I am in disagreement >> (ix).

      Even in Farmer's new book, he is still raising the same issues. At the very
      end of this book Farmer writes:

      << How was it possible for the theory of Markan priority to triumph so
      unambiguously in the absence of any compelling proof and in the face of all
      the serious objections made throughout the nineteenth century? >> (208)

      After all, if the "truth" of the Synoptic Problem is "manifest," there has
      to be some explanation why seemingly intelligent people hold to Markan
      priority "in the absence of any compelling proof." What would, no doubt,
      seem impossible for Farmer to admit is that his own arguments for Markan
      posteriority are (at least) equally uncompelling, (if not more so) for the
      majority of scholars.

      Merely because Farmer seems to fall into the trap of thinking that the
      "truth" of the Synoptic Problem is "manifest," that does not, in any way,
      falsify the Griesbach hypothesis. I also do not mean to suggest that
      motivation or bias in an inappropriate area of research. In fact, one might
      ask, what is Farmer's motivation for rejecting the Two-Source hypothesis?
      Farmer writes:

      << ... the Two-Source Hypothesis, especially in the hands of the 'Thomas-Q'
      school of exegesis, give us a different Jesus than the Jesus that has been
      transmitted by the church since the time of the apostles. On the other
      hand, the Two-Gospel Hypothesis, with all hypotheses that recognize the
      primary character of the Matthean text, presents a Jesus who stands in a
      more meaningful relationship to the Jesus of apostolic teaching >> (1994:5).

      It makes one wonder if perhaps Farmer's vigorous opposition to the
      Two-Source Hypothesis has something to do with his dislike of the direction
      of Q research and his desire for a more traditional interpretation of the
      historical Jesus?

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

      "Refutations have often been regarded as establishing the failure of a
      scientist, or at least his theory. It should be stressed that this is an
      inductivist error. Every refutation should be regarded as a great success;
      not merely a success of the scientist who refuted the theory, but also of
      the scientist who created the refuted theory and who thus in the first
      instance suggested, if only indirectly, the refuting experiment" (Karl R.
      Popper, "Conjectures and Refutations," 243).
    • Maluflen@aol.com
      In a message dated 11/1/1999 12:28:49 PM Eastern Standard Time, scmiller@www.plantnet.com writes: [Citing Professor Farmer]
      Message 2 of 21 , Nov 1, 1999
      • 0 Attachment
        In a message dated 11/1/1999 12:28:49 PM Eastern Standard Time,
        scmiller@... writes:

        [Citing Professor Farmer]
        <To criticize a man like Sanday for not really giving serious
        considerations to the Augustinian or Griesbach hypotheses is to miss the
        mark. The temper of the times was not conducive to reconsideration of
        hypotheses which were believed to have been tested and found inadequate >
        (182).

        <<In other words, Farmer asserts that Sanday was unable to see the "manifest
        truth" of the Synoptic Problem because his cognitive faculties were
        impaired by "the temper of the times.">>

        I hesitate to comment on your continued character assassination of Professor
        Farmer, because I am not nearly as familiar with his writings as you appear
        to be, but the above comment on the cited passage strikes me as, at face
        value, grossly unfair. I find it difficult to believe that anyone would in
        principle be unaware that "the temper of the times" often influences the
        direction and shape of the scholarly enterprise, and quite often at the
        expense of truth.

        Leonard Maluf
      • Stephen C. Carlson
        ... Without knowing Farmer (I ve never met him, but I once sat within six feet of him as SBL), I really do not feel confident to psychanalyze the man. (Why
        Message 3 of 21 , Nov 1, 1999
        • 0 Attachment
          At 11:21 AM 11/1/99 -0600, Steven Craig Miller wrote:
          >It might not seem to have much to do with "the truth of falsity" of the
          >Griesbach hypothesis, and it might seem to be merely an issue of civility
          >in scholarly discourse, but in fact it has everything to do with
          >argumentation and Farmer's attempt to persuade his reader by means of
          >inflammatory rhetoric.
          ...
          >It makes one wonder if perhaps Farmer's vigorous opposition to the
          >Two-Source Hypothesis has something to do with his dislike of the direction
          >of Q research and his desire for a more traditional interpretation of the
          >historical Jesus?

          Without knowing Farmer (I've never met him, but I once sat within six
          feet of him as SBL), I really do not feel confident to psychanalyze
          the man. (Why can't Farmer's vigorous opposition be due to a sincere
          belief?) At any rate, I am much more concerned about the ideas he
          discusses rather than his motivations for doing so. Typically, when
          the latter is done, it is but a crude attempt to avoid the real issue.

          I know it sounds like I'm giving you a "tu quoque" defense, but there
          really are enough substantive ideas that can and should be cricitized
          without getting into what Farmer's hidden agenda may have been, as
          apparently adduced from a book published 30 years later.

          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
        • Steven Craig Miller
          To: Leonard Maluf, SCM:
          Message 4 of 21 , Nov 1, 1999
          • 0 Attachment
            To: Leonard Maluf,

            SCM: << Farmer asserts that Sanday was unable to see the "manifest truth"
            of the Synoptic Problem because his cognitive faculties were impaired by
            "the temper of the times." >>

            LM: << I hesitate to comment on your continued character assassination of
            Professor Farmer, because I am not nearly as familiar with his writings as
            you appear to be, but the above comment on the cited passage strikes me as,
            at face value, grossly unfair. I find it difficult to believe that anyone
            would in principle be unaware that "the temper of the times" often
            influences the direction and shape of the scholarly enterprise, and quite
            often at the expense of truth. >>

            First of all, I have no desire to assassinate anyone character, let alone
            someone like Professor Farmer. If I have said anything "grossly unfair" I
            am more than willing to apologize for any such misstatements. I assume that
            Professor Farmer is a very honorable and intelligent man, who is a credit
            to his profession. But I don't presume that Farmer's published works are
            above serious criticism.

            Second, I would suggest that you should first read Farmer and become
            familiar with what he has written before passing judgment on what others
            write about him. Was my statement really "grossly unfair"? Farmer wrote:

            << he [Sanday] drank deeply from the cup of salvation offered by the cult
            of "scientism" ... Sanday's intellectual apparatus was impregnated with
            non-Biblical, non-traditional, nontheological and nonliterary thought
            categories taken over from the quasi-scientific jargon of the late
            nineteenth century. ... these quasi-scientific ideas of the late nineteenth
            century were not only on the lips of Sanday but determinative of his
            critical judgment >> (181).

            Farmer clearly writes that "these quasi-scientific ideas" were
            "determinative of his critical judgment," I don't see how that is all that
            much different from my statement << Farmer asserts that Sanday was unable
            to see the "manifest truth" of the Synoptic Problem because his cognitive
            faculties were impaired by "the temper of the times." >>

            If you can show me the significant difference between my statement and what
            Farmer himself has written, I will publicly apologize, such was not my
            intent. I would like to think that I'm the type of person willing to take
            correction if I've made some mistake. But frankly, I don't see much
            difference between the two statements. Perhaps I am guilty for not picking
            out the right quotation to cite, but I don't believe that I'm guilty of
            exaggerating or sensationalizing what Professor Farmer has written.

            Your assertion that I'm attempting to assassinate Professor Farmer's
            character seems to me to be grossly unfair and blatantly untrue. I
            personally feel that you owe me an apology, but I have had enough
            experience in such debates to know that they are rarely forth coming. But I
            promise you this, if I have said anything "grossly unfair," I am more than
            willing to apologize for any such misstatements and thank you too for
            pointing it out to me! Seriously! (It wouldn't be the first time I've made
            a mistake, just ask my wife! <g>)

            But I wonder if there is some other problem at work here, for your
            paraphrase of Farmer's statement wasn't much different from my own. You
            write: << I find it difficult to believe that anyone would in principle be
            unaware that "the temper of the times" often influences the direction and
            shape of the scholarly enterprise, and quite often at the expense of
            truth. >> How is that so very different from what I wrote? I stated: <<
            Farmer asserts that ... his [Sanday's] cognitive faculties were impaired by
            "the temper of the times." >> What is the difference? What is the big deal
            here?

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

            "Refutations have often been regarded as establishing the failure of a
            scientist, or at least his theory. It should be stressed that this is an
            inductivist error. Every refutation should be regarded as a great success;
            not merely a success of the scientist who refuted the theory, but also of
            the scientist who created the refuted theory and who thus in the first
            instance suggested, if only indirectly, the refuting experiment" (Karl R.
            Popper, "Conjectures and Refutations," 243).
          • Steven Craig Miller
            To: Stephen C. Carlson, I would presume that it is due to sincere belief. What have I
            Message 5 of 21 , Nov 1, 1999
            • 0 Attachment
              To: Stephen C. Carlson,

              << Why can't Farmer's vigorous opposition be due to a sincere belief? >>

              I would presume that it is due to sincere belief. What have I written which
              would suggest otherwise?

              << At any rate, I am much more concerned about the ideas he discusses
              rather than his motivations for doing so. >>

              I must confess some interest in both. After all, if the Synoptic Problem is
              (as Fitzmyer claims) "practically insoluble," and so it is impossible to
              prove any one solution to the Synoptic Problem is correct, why do some
              scholars hold one position, while other hold another? I would assume that
              William Farmer, Michael Goulder, and Joseph Fitzmyer (just to pick three
              names out of the air) are all very intelligent men familiar with the
              complex issues surrounding the Synoptic Problem, and yet each of them has
              come to a different conclusion. Why?

              << ... there really are enough substantive ideas that can and should be
              criticized without getting into what Farmer's hidden agenda may have been,
              as apparently adduced from a book published 30 years later. >>

              Just for the record, the one time which I speculated about Farmer's
              possible "hidden agenda" was when I quoted a statement he made from his
              latest book published in 1994. In addition, many of the criticisms I made
              of his 1976 book can be corroborated by his 1994 book. Furthermore, as
              someone who has spent his whole life studying texts written thousands of
              years ago, a text written 30 years ago simply is not ancient history. In
              fact, I would suggest that Farmer's 1976 work, "The Synoptic Problem: A
              Critical Analysis," is a major work in the history of Synoptic Problem
              research, and thus deserves serious attention by anyone interested in
              knowing its history.

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

              "Refutations have often been regarded as establishing the failure of a
              scientist, or at least his theory. It should be stressed that this is an
              inductivist error. Every refutation should be regarded as a great success;
              not merely a success of the scientist who refuted the theory, but also of
              the scientist who created the refuted theory and who thus in the first
              instance suggested, if only indirectly, the refuting experiment" (Karl R.
              Popper, "Conjectures and Refutations," 243).
            • Mahlon H. Smith
              ... Good hunch. At least that s how H.C. Kee, Farmer s onetime colleague & my teacher at Drew, explained it to us. Recently I heard R.W. Funk say much the same
              Message 6 of 21 , Nov 1, 1999
              • 0 Attachment
                Steven Craig Miller wrote:

                >
                > It makes one wonder if perhaps Farmer's vigorous opposition to the
                > Two-Source Hypothesis has something to do with his dislike of the direction
                > of Q research and his desire for a more traditional interpretation of the
                > historical Jesus?
                >

                Good hunch. At least that's how H.C. Kee, Farmer's onetime colleague &
                my teacher at Drew, explained it to us. Recently I heard R.W. Funk say
                much the same thing.

                Shalom!

                Mahlon
                --

                *********************

                Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
                Associate Professor
                Department of Religion
                Rutgers University
                New Brunswick NJ

                Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
                http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/
              • Maluflen@aol.com
                In a message dated 11/1/1999 11:56:53 PM Eastern Standard Time, scmiller@www.plantnet.com writes:
                Message 7 of 21 , Nov 2, 1999
                • 0 Attachment
                  In a message dated 11/1/1999 11:56:53 PM Eastern Standard Time,
                  scmiller@... writes:

                  << Your assertion that I'm attempting to assassinate Professor Farmer's
                  character seems to me to be grossly unfair and blatantly untrue. I
                  personally feel that you owe me an apology, but I have had enough
                  experience in such debates to know that they are rarely forth coming. But I
                  promise you this, if I have said anything "grossly unfair," I am more than
                  willing to apologize for any such misstatements and thank you too for
                  pointing it out to me! Seriously! (It wouldn't be the first time I've made
                  a mistake, just ask my wife! <g>)>>

                  Your ongoing psychological analysis of Farmer strikes me as a kind of
                  character assassination. I apologize if it is not intended as such. I think,
                  however, that it would be far more productive, and more appropriate for this
                  format, if you would instead attempt to deal with some of the evidence Farmer
                  adduces in support of his positions. I realize that this would be a
                  considerably more challenging undertaking.

                  << But I wonder if there is some other problem at work here, for your
                  paraphrase of Farmer's statement wasn't much different from my own. You
                  write: << I find it difficult to believe that anyone would in principle be
                  unaware that "the temper of the times" often influences the direction and
                  shape of the scholarly enterprise, and quite often at the expense of
                  truth. >> How is that so very different from what I wrote? I stated: <<
                  Farmer asserts that ... his [Sanday's] cognitive faculties were impaired by
                  "the temper of the times." >> What is the difference? What is the big deal
                  here? >>

                  The difference lies in the fact that I am wholeheartedly agreeing with the
                  substance of Farmer's remark, and wondering, to boot, whether anyone is
                  really so naive as to question its validity. My interpretation of your
                  comment was that it represented something less than enthusiastic endorsement
                  of Farmer's statement. I marvelled at this.

                  Leonard Maluf
                • Steven Craig Miller
                  To: Mahlon H. Smith, SCM:
                  Message 8 of 21 , Nov 2, 1999
                  • 0 Attachment
                    To: Mahlon H. Smith,

                    SCM: << It makes one wonder if perhaps Farmer's vigorous opposition to the
                    Two-Source Hypothesis has something to do with his dislike of the direction
                    of Q research and his desire for a more traditional interpretation of the
                    historical Jesus? >>

                    MHS: << Good hunch. At least that's how H.C. Kee, Farmer's onetime
                    colleague & my teacher at Drew, explained it to us. Recently I heard R.W.
                    Funk say much the same thing. >>

                    I would draw two conclusions from this. First, issues surrounding the
                    Synoptic Problem are often interrelated with other issues of New Testament
                    research. Second, the interrelationship is this: one is more willing to
                    accept arguments for a hypothesis which is compatible with other hypotheses
                    one holds than one is for a hypothesis incompatible with other hypotheses
                    one holds. In other words, it seems only natural that scholars would hold
                    seemingly incompatible hypotheses to a higher standard of evidence than
                    seemingly compatible hypotheses.

                    I would like to highlight two major disagreements I have with Farmer. (a)
                    Farmer spent a lot of space in his 1976 & 1994 books suggesting that
                    non-scholarly reasons were in part responsible for certain people holding
                    certain hypotheses to be true. Whereas I feel that it would be more
                    appropriate to focus on related scholarly issues as to why people hold
                    certain (scholarly) hypotheses to be true. (b) Farmer seems to insist (at
                    least as I read him) that the Griesbach hypothesis is manifestly true and
                    that the Two-Source hypothesis is no more than an "academic delusion."
                    Whereas I would agree with Fitzmyer that the Synoptic Problem is
                    "practically insoluble," and that the best one can do is argue that one
                    hypothesis seems to be "more probable" than the others.

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

                    "Refutations have often been regarded as establishing the failure of a
                    scientist, or at least his theory. It should be stressed that this is an
                    inductivist error. Every refutation should be regarded as a great success;
                    not merely a success of the scientist who refuted the theory, but also of
                    the scientist who created the refuted theory and who thus in the first
                    instance suggested, if only indirectly, the refuting experiment" (Karl R.
                    Popper, "Conjectures and Refutations," 243).
                  • Stephen C. Carlson
                    ... Agreed; however, please note that the 1976 edition is a revised printing of the 1964 original. You can best see this on page 228 where Farmer explained
                    Message 9 of 21 , Nov 2, 1999
                    • 0 Attachment
                      At 11:44 PM 11/1/99 -0600, Steven Craig Miller wrote:
                      >I would suggest that Farmer's 1976 work, "The Synoptic Problem: A
                      >Critical Analysis," is a major work in the history of Synoptic Problem
                      >research, and thus deserves serious attention by anyone interested in
                      >knowing its history.

                      Agreed; however, please note that the 1976 edition is a revised
                      printing of the 1964 original. You can best see this on page
                      228 where Farmer explained that he has withdrawn the canon of
                      specificity referred to in his first book in reaction to the
                      publication of E. P. Sanders, THE TENDENCIES OF THE SYNOPTIC
                      TRADITION (Cambridge: 1969).

                      By the way, if you are interested in an autobiographical account
                      of at least part of Farmer's personal journey through the
                      synoptic problem, one place to look is:

                      W. R. Farmer, "Certain Results Reached by Sir John C. Hawkins
                      and C. F. Burney Which Make More Sense If Luke Knew Matthew,
                      and Mark Knew Matthew and Luke," in C. M. Tuckett, ed.,
                      SYNOPTIC STUDIES: The Ampleforth Conferences of 1982 and 1983
                      (Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series
                      7; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984) 85-91.

                      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
                    • Steven Craig Miller
                      To: Leonard Maluf,
                      Message 10 of 21 , Nov 2, 1999
                      • 0 Attachment
                        To: Leonard Maluf,

                        << The difference lies in the fact that I am wholeheartedly agreeing with
                        the substance of Farmer's remark, and wondering, to boot, whether anyone is
                        really so naive as to question its validity. My interpretation of your
                        comment was that it represented something less than enthusiastic
                        endorsement of Farmer's statement. I marvelled at this. >>

                        FWIW my first message, where I put forth the notion that Professor Farmer
                        had fallen into the "trap" of believing that truth is manifest, was written
                        in part because I sensed from what you had written that you too have fallen
                        into the same "trap." And just as I believe that Farmer's belief that the
                        "truth" of the Synoptic Problem is manifest has led him into inflammatory
                        rhetoric and ad hominem attacks, so your messages have seemed to me to have
                        led you down the same road. I don't know if it is possible for me to say
                        what I've just said without appearing to be making my own ad hominem
                        attacks against you, perhaps not, but it is certainly not my intent. What
                        little I know of you is what I've learned participating on this list. You
                        are obviously a very intelligent and knowledgeable person. But
                        unfortunately on more than one occasion you have directed ad hominem
                        remarks in my direction. Perhaps I notice them only because they have been
                        directed at me. I have tried my best to simply ignore most of them. FWIW I
                        also "picked" on Farmer, and not you directly, out of respect for you,
                        since you are present (so to speak). But I mean no disrespect to either of
                        you. I assume that you are both honorable and intelligent persons, people
                        (like most of us) who hold their beliefs deeply and sincerely. (I assume
                        you won't be offended by being compared with Professor Farmer.)

                        I would like to add that I greatly appreciate being able to participate on
                        this list. I am cognizant that I'm merely a househusband (with no post-grad
                        degrees) and not a scholar. And thus, I consider my participation here an
                        honor. It is certainly not my desire to offend you, or anyone else on this
                        list by my participation. I hope I haven't done so, if I have, I deeply
                        regret it and am truly sorry.

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

                        "Refutations have often been regarded as establishing the failure of a
                        scientist, or at least his theory. It should be stressed that this is an
                        inductivist error. Every refutation should be regarded as a great success;
                        not merely a success of the scientist who refuted the theory, but also of
                        the scientist who created the refuted theory and who thus in the first
                        instance suggested, if only indirectly, the refuting experiment" (Karl R.
                        Popper, "Conjectures and Refutations," 243).
                      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.