Re: [Synoptic-L] redaction-critical arguments
- In a message dated 9/2/00 1:39:08 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
> I think Stein is trying to compare the Two Document and theBrian;
> Griesbach Hypotheses by showing that it is more probable, on the 2DH,
> that Matthew added seven instances of the theological title 'Son of
> David' to the four he found in Mark, than that Mark and Luke, on the GH,
> independently coincidentally copied the same four instances of the title
> 'Son of David' from Matthew, omitting the other seven. The conclusion he
> draws is that therefore the 2DH is more probably true than the GH.
> The question is, however, what assumptions Stein is making in order
> supposedly to compare these probabilities and reach this conclusion.
> After all, it is possible that both the 2DH and the GH are false.
> Suppose they are both false. What does this say about Stein's comparison
> of the two probabilities? If both the 2DH and the GH are false, has he
> actually made the comparison he says he has made?
If they are both false then his conclusion is also false. However, from the
way you present his theses he is following a generally accepted scholarly
method which is all you can do in these things. You look at the overall
evidence and from that form a reasonable hypothesis based on that evidence.
You and all your peers then test the hypothesis to see if it can be falsified
in specific instances. Here, he starts with the hypothesis that Mark wrote
his gospel first without knowledge of Matthew and Luke and that these latter
two each independently wrote their gospels. There is nothing wrong with
starting with this hypothesis if the overall evidence suggests such a
possibility and it is reasonable to assume it might have happened this way.
This is simply all the justification a scholar needs because very often it is
all one can get.
The hypothesis is then tested in various specific applications such as the
use of the title 'Son of David'. You are absolutely right to say that under
this method all any scholar can say is that it is more likely than not that a
certain event happened rather than some other event under a competing
hypothesis. There will never be any certainty here unless there is new
archeological evidence or JC himself comes back next week and tells us who
wrote what first. You are dealing with documents written when it was
acceptable to put words in peoples' mouth, to change the name of the person
talking, to use hearsay as if it were an eyewitness account, or to leave out
details that make the purpose of the writing less comprehensible so we now
have to try to understand the message that is often behind the apparent
message. Also, you can get too tied up in labels (redaction v. source
criticism; 2DH; Griesbach theory, etc) to the point you forget to first use a
little common sense which is all I see Stein doing.
It's very easy to take pot shots at these scholars especially if you have a
personal agenda. However, credible scholars have the ability to put aside
their opinions and personal biases and just go where the truth leads them.
The only credible way to refute these scholars is to look at all the evidence
anew and come up with your own hypothesis and have it tested in specific
situations. When the overwhelming majority of a group agrees on a certain
hypothesis you really have to SHOW it is wrong rather than just saying you
don't like it. Nor does attacking the method work if that method is a
generally accepted scientific way to go about these things which certainly
appears the case here.
> I would suggest that this conditional statement is not an answer toIf Stein is a reputable scholar he did not intend his "conditional statement"
> source-critical questions such as "Did Matthew use Mark?", or "Is the
> Griesbach Hypothesis true?", but something rather different.
to be the answer to these questions. He simply looked at the evidence, formed
a reasonable hypothesis, then left it to others to either disprove it or come
up with a better hypothesis that fits the evidence. It doesn't appear that
this has been done yet.
- Brian Wilson wrote --
>Stephen Carlson replied --
>My point is that (Stein's) redaction-critical argument can proceed only
>if it is assumed that either the 2DH or the GH is true. His conclusion
>is the **conditional** statement --
>If either the 2DH OR the GH is true, then, by comparing the use of the
>title 'Son of David' in the synoptic gospels, it is seen that it is
>more probable that the 2DH is true (in which Matthew used Mark) than
>that the GH is true (in which Mark used Matthew).
>Stein's conditional statement does not answer the source-critical
>question "Is the 2DH true?" or "Did Matthew use Mark?". For the
>condition he sets allows the possibility that the 2DH is false or that
>it could be true.
>My general point is I have yet to find a redaction-critical argument
>which does answer a source-critical question. Maybe the nature of
>redaction-criticism is such that its arguments cannot answer source-
>It occurs to me that your characterization of Stein's argument (quoted
>hereinafter) does indeed answer a source critical question: Under given
>circumstances, which source theory, the 2DH or the GH, is more probable
>than the other?
>>If either the 2DH OR the GH is true, then, by comparing the use of the
>>title 'Son of David' in the synoptic gospels, it is seen that it is
>>more probable that the 2DH is true (in which Matthew used Mark) than
>>that the GH is true (in which Mark used Matthew).
>Certainly seems like an answer to a source-critical question to me.
I think it may be worth looking more closely at this. I wonder
whether the phrase "Under given circumstances" may point to a weakness
in your argument. I would suggest that the circumstances may not be
given, but may be entirely hypothetical. (Indeed they may well be
The logic of Stein's argument is -- *IF* you answer one source-critical
question, *THEN*, on that basis, I can answer another source critical
question for you. But his answer to the second source-critical question
is dependent on the answer to the first source-critical question being
known. And the point is that the answer to the first source-critical
question is not known. So Stein's argument answers no source-critical
question. His argument would answer a source-critical question (Is the
2DH more probable than the GH?) IF another source-critical question
could first be answered (Is either the 2DH or the GH true?). But we do
not know that either the 2DH or the GH is true, and indeed both may well
be shown to be false on other grounds.
The general point I am suggesting is that no redaction-critical argument
can answer a source-critical question. The issue this raises, of course,
is whether redaction-criticism is of any use in trying to solve the
Synoptic Problem. I doubt that it is. I am sure that redaction criticism
has a very important place in unravelling the implications of a solution
to the Synoptic Problem once this has been established. Once a synoptic
documentary hypothesis is accepted, then, on the assumption of that
documentary solution, redaction-critical arguments can be used to try
and work out how each writer treated his source material and what was
the theological view-point of each writer. But such redaction criticism
comes only after a solution to the Synoptic Problem has been found. It
is not used in actually solving the Synoptic Problem.
To quote from the ST MARK commentary in the "Black's NT Commentaries"
>The commentator takes it for granted that a solution to the Synoptic
>"Can we be certain that the particular theory of literary relationships
>between the Synoptics on which our redaction-critical analysis is based
>is correct? Certainly a different theory will lead to different
>results, and if we have chosen the wrong one our conclusions will be
>false" (page 3).
Problem is assumed before redaction-criticism can begin, and that if we
have got our solution to the Synoptic Problem wrong then the redaction-
critical arguments we base on it will be worthless.
On this view, far from redaction-critical arguments justifying any
hypothesis of the documentary relationship between the synoptic gospels,
it is a hypothesis of documentary relationship between the synoptic
gospels which justifies any redaction-critical arguments.
E-mail; brian@... HOMEPAGE www.twonh.demon.co.uk
Rev B.E.Wilson,10 York Close,Godmanchester,Huntingdon,Cambs,PE29 2EB,UK
> "What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot_
> speak thereof one must be silent." Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Tractatus".