Re: Arguments for Marcan priority NOT!
- At 11:18 AM 6/2/98 EDT, Jeff Peterson wrote
>Two arguments for Marcan priority seem especially strong to me, and I woulddeleted].
>appreciate listers' evaluation of them:
>1) The first is noted by Sanders and Davies against the 2GH: Griesbach-Farmer
>"attributes an inexplicable procedure to Mark" (p. 112), i.e., conflation and
>condensation of the Matthaean and Lucan narratives via the omission of birth
>and temptation narratives, the sermon on the mount/plainindeed, the whole of
>the Q, M, and L material. This is not quite the same as the argument from
>sheer length that has recently been discussed on the list..... [remainder
While I read this list regularly, I respond less frequently since I often
feel that I
don't have a lot to offer beyond what I have already put in print. Forgive
making an exception in this case, but the criterion of length, refined now
"inexplicable procedure" of omission has never seemed to me a convincing
argument. If I may quote myself (since I still hold this view), back in 1983 I
"It has often been argued against the Griesbach Hypothesis that Mark would
have had no reason for omitting so much important material found in Matthew
and Luke. Examples of such material would include the birth narratives, the
Sermon on the Mount/Sermon on the Plain, many of the parables and teachings
of Jesus, and the accounts of the appearances of the Risen Jesus. The list
could, of course, be extended, but the point is clear. This line of
however, seems to be based upon an assumption which it may not be
legitimate to make. There are, after all, many _possible_ reasons why an
author might write again something which has already been written. He might
wish to supplement the earlier works by the addition of greater detail or
by the addition of entirely new material. He might wish to refine or correct
them in some substantive way. In these and similar cases the later
author would intend that his work replace the earlier documents, probably
with the idea that the earlier works would subsequently disappear from
general use. It is also possible, however, that a later author would write,
to replace but only to summarize or to interpret the earlier works by setting
the materials in a different context or by addressing himself to a different
audience with different concerns. In these cases the later author would
intend that his work be used along with the earlier documents. Further,
since in these cases the omission of materials would not imply their loss,
there is little need for special attention to the reasons for omission. Far
more important is the question of what the author has done with the materials
he has included (from whatever source he has obtained them)." [quoted from
"Crisis and Christology: The Theology of Mark," NEW GOSPEL STUDIES:
THE CAMBRIDGE GOSPEL CONFERENCE AND BEYOND, Edited by
William R. Farmer. Mercer University Press, 1983, pp. 373-392.]
Later in that chapter I offer some suggestions about how some of the
"omissions" might be understood. Whether one agrees with my
explanation or not, Mark's "omissions" are not completely inexplicable.
One thing that strikes me: I would make more use of inclusive language in
1998 that in did in 1983!
But the point is simply this: The argument based upon Mark's
"inexplicable omissions" seems to me to assume that Mark (if he were
third) wrote to _replace_ Matthew and Luke. However, if Mark were writing
to supplement or interpret Matthew and Luke - as the Griesbach Hypothesis
proposes - rather than to replace these Gospels, if Mark assumed that the
readers would continue to have access to and to use Matthew and Luke,
then the "problem" of omission is really no problem at all.
Do I fairly represent ancient authors? I think so. Acts 1:1-4 does not suggest
that Luke intends to include everything (nor even everything significant) that
he has encounted in the earlier documents known to him. The probative
force of the arugment referred to above is directly related to how one
understands the intention of the ancient author.
One final point (a small one). While it is true that Sanders/Davies, on p.
write that "the Griesbach proposal attributes an inexplicable procedure to
Mark" one needs to read this comment with reference to all that they had in
mind. I've known Ed Sanders since we were graduate students together and have
a prized copy of STUDYING THE GOSPELS, autographed by Ed and given to
me in Oxford when he had only two prepublication two copies, one for himself
and one for Margaret. He graciously gave me his personal copy. I took this
from my shelf and on p. 117 read, "The Griesbach hypothesis...suffers from the
inability to explain Mark. It may be that here we face only a failure of the
imagination: why would anyone carefully conflate parts of Matthew and Luke,
while omitting so much of both? Nevertheless, scholarship cannot accept a
theory of literary relationship which it cannot comprehend. Moreover, what is
known of ancient authors who conflated indicates that they did so by
incorporating their sources in blocks, rather than by switching back and forth
from phrase to phrase."
While Ed may not have looked at everything that I wrote before he and Margaret
wrote their introduction, STUDYING THE GOSPELS is not, I think, the final word
on these issues. As I have mentioned, it is credible (whether true or not)
Mark would have omitted all of that material. It is certainly not
Authors who use sources often omit material, especially when their sources
will continue to be read. But as an "inexplicable procedure" Sanders/Davies
might be referring to what I have called a pattern of alternating agreement
(what Sanders/Davies refer to as "switching back and forth from phrase to
phrase"). But, as I aruged many years ago in my doctoral dissertation,
who conflate sources do not always do so in a uniform manner. Some do
incorporate their sources in blocks, others switch back and forth, even from
phrase to phrase. Sometimes the same author will compose different sections
of a work in different ways. One might look at the way Tatian has conflated
canonical gospels in the Diatessaron - and there are other examples that
one could examine.
Finally, it is important to note that Sanders/Davies do not offer these
as arguments for the priority of Mark but rather to expose what they
to be weaknesses in the Griesbach Hypothesis. I think that Ed and I agree
on the Griesbach Hypothesis, Mark's omissions require explanation. I have
attempted such explanation and whether or not Ed (or others) find those
explanations credible is a matter for further discussion and analysis. But Ed
does not, at least as far as I can see, offer the "omissions" as an
Markan priority. It is a big step to transform what Sanders/Davies see as a
problem for the Griesbach Hypothesis into a "strong argument" for Markan
If others respond to these comments and hear nothing from me, it is not that
I am ignoring your comments (or reduced to silence). In my other life, I am an
archaeologist and I depart on Friday for five weeks of excavation. I will have
little, if any, access to email while I am in the field.
Best wishes, then, to all for a pleasant summer.
- At 11:18 AM 6/2/98 EDT, PetersnICS@... wrote:
>Two arguments for Marcan priority seem especially strong to me, and I wouldHello Jeff,
> appreciate listers' evaluation of them:
>1) The first is noted by Sanders and Davies against the 2GH: Griesbach-Farmer
> "attributes an inexplicable procedure to Mark" (p. 112), i.e., conflation and
> condensation of the Matthaean and Lucan narratives via the omission of birth
> and temptation narratives, the sermon on the mount/plainindeed, the whole of
> the Q, M, and L material. This is not quite the same as the argument from
> sheer length that has recently been discussed on the list; the question is
> whether a coherent rationale can be stated for the omission of the particular
> narratives and sayings that Mark must be understood to have omitted, in
> addition to stating a rationale for the material he retained. Note that a
> version of this burden must still be met if one holds Mark later than Matthew
> but earlier than Luke; why produce just such a Reader's Digest Condensed
> Gospel as Mark would be of either Matthew alone or of Matthew and Luke?
>I am especially interested in how Griesbachians and Augustinians account for
> such texts.
Let me give you a modified AH response to your question (1), of why the
writer of Mark may have omitted what he did from Matthew. This is at the
risk of repeating myself. But since my previous explanation received no
objections, as I recall, it is worth repeating.
(a) Start with the external evidence indicating that Peter and Mark (I'll
call him John Mark) were in Rome together where Mark had some written
document concerning Jesus' ministry that Peter neither urged forward nor
forbade reading. I'll call the document proto-Mark. Within the AH
framework, the argument of order indicates that proto-Mark did not extend
past Mt 12; otherwise the writer of Mark would not have needed to copy so
much from Matthew, and in Matthew's precise order, from that point on. And
the writing of proto-Mark apparently only commenced following the Sermon on
the Mount, due to its absence, essentially, from Mark and due to the lack of
any material in Mark before this Sermon that seems other than a highly
abbreviated form of Matthew (plus a few small Marcan additions). In the
modified AH one does not think of proto-Mark as the reminiscences of Peter,
since Mark does not, in my opinion, contain any particular slant of Peter's,
and since Peter would have reminisced about much that came after the events
up to Mt 12, not just before.
(b) The writer of Mark, with proto-Mark available to him, wrote his gospel
in Rome decades after Peter and John Mark had been alive and shortly after
Matthew appeared. He could not have appreciated the strong anti-gentile
slant of Matthew; moreover, if proto-Mark did not contain any such
anti-gentile bias, which I think it did not, this would have alerted him to
the anti-gentile statements being redactions of the writer of Matthew. So
the writer of Mark omitted or ameliorated all of Matthew's anti-gentile
statements in his gospel, and this included even the healing of the
centurion's servant, whose verse Mt 8:8 can be construed as being
anti-gentile. And since he was writing a gospel for gentiles, he omitted
much Judaistic material and anything he thought would not be understandable
to gentiles. The latter would include material that he did not find
understandable himself, including most of the parables. (He did not have
any Commentaries available to him that would attempt to explain such teachings!)
(c) This writer of Mark of course had his own philosophical preferences, and
they included a more militant outlook than what the writer of Matthew held.
The former seems to have favored militancy if it served to further the
church's mission, and so he did not wish to include the sword-sheathing
admonition of Mt 26:52, nor the "turn the other cheek" advice and similar
advice urging humility.
It also included a more royal treatment of Jesus than what Matthew had
afforded him. Main examples: Mk 3:9 -- Jesus ordering a boat so that the
crowd would not crush him (not in Matthew); the cushion in Mk 4:38 for Jesus
to sleep on, the omission of Mt 8:20's lack of a place to lay his head, and
the presence of more houses for Jesus to stay in than in Matthew; Mk 9:15
having the crowd greet Jesus with an astonishment or awe; the man in Mk
10:17 who runs up to Jesus and kneels before him, not present in the
parallel of Mt 19:16; the colt in Mk 11:2 being one that had never been
ridden on before; and the large upstairs room, furnished and ready, of Mk 14:15.
(d) The writer of Mark wished his gospel to be different from Matthew, and
this he could accomplish by:
1) Abbreviating Matthew strongly and removing its anti-gentile bias;
2) adding many pleonasms and change for the sake of change;
3) making use of proto-Mark to add detail to pericopes (this then
pertains primarily to pericopes found within Mt 8-11);
4) adding surmised or fictitious details to Matthean material he
utilized, including the examples of (c) above;
5) reordering within his own gospel the Matthean material that had been
present in proto-Mark in greater detail than in its Matthean parallels of
Mt 8-11; and
6) writing his gospel in Greek, whereas Matthew and proto-Mark had been
in Aramaic or Hebraic.
In (d) 3) above, the pericope of the Gerasene Demoniac is one of the
proto-Mark passages, and it apparently had the most detail of any, which the
later writer of Matthew's source (the Logia) had forgotten or felt not worth
specifying. So Matthew's rendition of it is much shorter.
>2) Another line of argument was proposed by G. M. Styler in his appendix toAs to your 2), it should be pointed out that Mark also contains a severe
> Moule's _Birth of the NT_ and has been recently revived by Mark Goodacre (in
> _NTS_ 44, pp. 45ff). Several pericopes exhibit narrative details that are well
> integrated into the Marcan narrative but involve inconcinnities in Matthew.
> Perhaps the most striking is in Matt 14:9 (// Mark 6:26): Herod (whom Matthew
> introduces as wanting John the Baptist dead but fearing to have him killed
> because of his popularity) is grieved when his niece requests John's head;the
> mention of Herod's grief in Mark makes sense there since Herod is introduced
> as revering John while Herodias carries the grudge and seeks John's life
> (6:2021), but in Matthew the emotion lacks a motive. The explanation of such
> passages that best combines economy with a charitable view of Matthaean
> narrative ability seems to be Matthew's inadvertent retention (by editor's
> "fatigue," as Goodacre conveniently terms the phenomenon) of a detail from his
> Marcan source.
inconsistency, in that its 6:20a has Herod fearing John, and a ruler like
that would be happy, not sad, to have an excuse to eliminate a man under his
jurisdiction whom he fears. (Goodacre didn't comment upon this.) In Matthew
what Herod feared was adverse reaction from the people if he were to put
John to death, not John himself. Mk 6:20b,c and Mark's omission of Mt 14:5a
are then redactions or intended improvements designed to bring the early
part of the story into accord with Herod's purported sorrow over the
beheading of John in the latter part. In the course of this redaction, Mk
6:20a, which derived from Mt 14:5, allowed the inconsistency to persist.
Another inconsistency within Mark's redactions is that Herod would have been
very upset with John for having told him he was an adulterer, and so he
would not have opposed Herodias. He simply would not have been pleased about
being called an adulterer publicly.
Instead, the problem lies within Matthew; why did its writer portray Herod
as being unhappy over John's beheading? The writer of Mark tried to
alleviate the problem (editorial improvement), but did not succeed very well
-- he attempted to improve the first part of the story instead of the latter
part. I can only speculate here that the writer of Matthew perhaps had held
Herod Antipas in less ill repute than King Herod, and so edited his source
in some small way so as to portray something favorable about Herod Antipas.
This then would contrast with his redaction of Mt 2:16-18.
Home page: http://www.proaxis.com/~deardorj/index.htm
- Thanks to Prof. Longstaff for his thoughtful reply to my post. I'm also going
to be away from email in a few days and by way of brief reply would simply
note the following quotations from Sanders and Davies, _Studying the Synoptic
Gospels_ (not of course offered as the final word on the subject):
". . . Mark could have done what the Griesbach proposal has him do.
The question is, why would he? The strongest arguments against the Griesbach
hypothesis are general, not technical. Why would anyone write a shorter
version of Matthew and Luke, carefully combining them, and leaving out so much
such as the Lord's prayer and the beatitudes while gaining nothing except
perhaps room for such trivial additions as the duplicate phrases and minor
details ('carried by four' and the like)? Further, if someone had undertaken
the task, why would the church have preserved the gospel at all?
. . . Why would Mark bother? Matthew is not all that long. While we agree
that we cannot fully recover an ancient author's intention, and thus we cannot
say that Griesbach's Mark is impossible, still it must be granted that, to the
modern mind, there is a very strong objection to putting Mark third." (p. 92).
"The two-source hypothesis is the best solution to the arrangement of Luke,
and the Griesbach the best explanation of why Mark is the middle term. But, it
seems to us, they both break down." (p. 112)
"We think that Matthew used Mark and undefined other sources, while creating
some of the sayings material. Luke used Mark and Matthew, as well as other
sources, and the author also created sayings material" (p. 117, top).
Finally, from the paragraph immediately after the one that Prof. Longstaff
cites: "Goulder has not persuaded us that one can give up sources for the
sayings material. With this rather substantial modification, however, we
accept Goulder's theory: Matthew used Mark and Luke used them both" (p. 117).
Sanders is admirably fair in his consideration of Synoptic source theories and
quite diplomatic in stating his criticisms of them, but these passages make it
clear that he rejects both Griesbach and the 2SH as improbable and accepts as
probable the priority of Mark and the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis in its
essentials. (Sanders's primary responsibility for this section of the book can
be deduced from pp. viii, 134.)
I join Prof. Longstaff in wishing all a pleasant summer, specifically a cooler
one than we are experiencing in Texas.
Institute for Christian Studies
Austin, Texas, USA
- Many thanks to Jeff Peterson for the useful quotations from Sanders
and Davies. I will add these to my web site "quotations" section. I
had forgotten that Sanders and Davies were quite so explicit in the
> Finally, from the paragraph immediately after the one that Prof.This is how Goulder reacted to the above:
> Longstaff cites: "Goulder has not persuaded us that one can give up
> sources for the sayings material. With this rather substantial
> modification, however, we accept Goulder's theory: Matthew used Mark
> and Luke used them both" (p. 117).
"I will not conceal from the reader my delight at this conclusion as
it is the one for which I have been arguing virtually *contra mundum*
for the past two decades." (_TLS_ Oct 20-26 1996, p. 1166)
There is little doubt that that aspect (no extra sources) of
Goulder's theory has been a major hindrance in his attempt to get his
"new paradigm" taken seriously. It is characteristically perceptive
of Sanders (and Davies), I would say, to have been able to see the
value in Goulder's work in spite of the no-sources and lectionary
issues. It was he who encouraged me, partly because of his
desire to see some sifting, to begin research on Goulder's theories.
>I was lucky enough to attend the lecture courses in Oxford on which
> Sanders is admirably fair in his consideration of Synoptic source
> theories and quite diplomatic in stating his criticisms of them, but
> these passages make it clear that he rejects both Griesbach and the
> 2SH as improbable and accepts as probable the priority of Mark and
> the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis in its essentials. (Sanders's primary
> responsibility for this section of the book can be deduced from pp.
> viii, 134.)
those sections of the book were based. It was inspirational
lecturing that confirmed my desire to do research on the Synoptics.
I remember Sanders being more forthright on his acceptance of Goulder
in public than he was in print, and more critical of the 2ST, but
that may be just an impression.
All the best
Dr Mark Goodacre M.S.Goodacre@...
Dept. of Theology, University of Birmingham
- At 11:18 6/2/98 EDT, PetersnICS@... wrote [with some reformatting]:
>2) Another line of argument was proposed by G. M. Styler in his appendix toBased on my references, I've been able to collect the following responses
>Moule's _Birth of the NT_ and has been recently revived by Mark Goodacre (in
>_NTS_ 44, pp. 45ff). Several pericopes exhibit narrative details that are
>well integrated into the Marcan narrative but involve inconcinnities in
>Matthew. Perhaps the most striking is in Matt 14:9 (// Mark 6:26): Herod
>(whom Matthew introduces as wanting John the Baptist dead but fearing to
>have him killed because of his popularity) is grieved when his niece
>requests John's head; the mention of Herod's grief in Mark makes sense there
>since Herod is introduced as revering John while Herodias carries the grudge
>and seeks John's life (6:2021), but in Matthew the emotion lacks a motive.
>The explanation of such passages that best combines economy with a
>charitable view of Matthaean narrative ability seems to be Matthew's
>inadvertent retention (by editor's "fatigue," as Goodacre conveniently terms
>the phenomenon) of a detail from his Marcan source.
>I am especially interested in how Griesbachians and Augustinians account for
from non-Markan prioritists.
1. John M. Rist, ON THE INDEPENDENCE OF MATTHEW & MARK (Cambridge: U.
Press, 1978) (SNTSMS 32), in one of his typical arguments states: "On the
other hand we have a recurrence of our old problem, in a particularly
acute form: if Matthew was working from Mark, his own textual chaos is
incomprehensible. If, on the other hand, he is either vaguely remembering
events himself, or relying on unwritten (or garbled written) tradition,
the confusion is far more readily explicable. . . . But explanation [for
Matthew's confusion] seems hardly possible on the assumption that Mark
is his source."
2. Lamar Cope, "The Argument Revolves: The Pivotal Evidence for Markan
Priority is Reversing Itself," in William R. Farmer, ed., NEW SYNOPTIC
STUDIES: The Cambridge Gospel Conference & Beyond (Macon, Ga.: Mercer U.
Press, 1983), pp.143-59, argues that "Herod regretted, not the execution,
but the foolish promise that had boxed him into a trap" [148-9], because
"Herod was afraid to openly execute John because of his popularity with
the people"  (cf. Mt14:4). Cope cited his previous article, "The
Death of John the Baptist in the Gospel of Matthew" CBQ 38 (1976): 515-19.
3. Harold Riley, "Appendix 1: Syler's Key Passages" in Orchard & Riley,
THE ORDER OF THE SYNOPTICS: Why Three Synoptic Gospels? (Macon, Ga.:
Mercer U. Press, 1987), pp.100-4, argued that Styler "oversimplif[ied]
the facts of the situation" because "there is no inconsistency between
his [scil. Herod's] desiring John's death and his sorrow that it should
occur in these circumstances." 
4. John Wenham, REDATING MATTHEW, MARK & LUKE: A Fresh Assault on the
Synoptic Problem (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992) makes
two arguments: (a) "[i]t is perfectly possible that Herod was torn
between great annoyance that John had repeatly (ELEGEN) denounced his
sexual sin in public, and respect for one he knew to be a good man." and
(b) "[t]here is no need for Matthew to have known Mark's gospels, it is
sufficient that he should have known the fuller story, which may have
well been current in the early church." 
Of the four arguments, I'd say that Cope's and Riley's are the best;
Herod's grief is not about the result but the circumstances of John's
execution. Although Davies & Allison are assuredly Two-Sourcers and
found Styler's reasoning persuasive, their commentary provides what
could be another, literary, reason for Herod's grief: foreshadowing.
"So just as Pilate is disinclined to do away with Jesus, so is Herod
Antipas disinclined to do away with John." [2:474]
Stephen C. Carlson : Poetry speaks of aspirations,
scarlson@... : and songs chant the words.
http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/ : -- Shujing 2.35