David Hindley asks whether by "fallacy" I mean "erroneous logic" or an
"error in a premise" of an argument which may use valid logic.
I think Mark Goodacre employs the usual wider dictionary definition of
"fallacy" which covers both these meanings. He takes the word "fallacy"
to mean the use of either faulty logic or of a false premise in an
argument, (either of which could lead to a false conclusion, of course.)
I accept that in his paper Mark Goodacre has demonstrated that there are
fallacies (in the wider dictionary definition) at the heart of Q (as
usually understood). Surely his paper is basically sound on this view.
I am now moving on to ask whether there are fallacies at the heart of
Markan Priority as well. (Mark Goodacre's paper assumes the theory of
Markan Priority to be true.) I understand the theory of Markan Priority
to affirm that Matthew and Luke are both documentary descendants of
I think there are fallacies in the sense of occurrences of "erroneous
logic" in all the arguments I have seen for this theory of Markan
Priority. (So I am using the logician's definition of "fallacy", and not
the wider dictionary definition.) I give the following example to try
and make clear what I am saying.
One argument in support of the theory of Markan Priority is an argument
to show that one synoptic gospel must have been documentarily prior to
the other two. The argument is as follows --
One of the synoptic gospels must have been finished before the others,
even if only by a short time. From this, it follows that one synoptic
gospel is documentarily prior to the others. For a gospel which was
written before the other two could not have been a documentary
descendant of either of the others since they had not yet been written.
The conclusion is that one synoptic gospel is not only chronologically
prior but also documentarily prior to the others.
Now if this argument were valid, it would indeed be support for the
theory of Markan Priority which affirms that one synoptic gospel was
written before the other two.
However, the argument is fallacious in the sense that it is "erroneous
logic". For it is perfectly true that a synoptic gospel written before
the other two could not have been a documentary descendant of either of
the others. However it is a logical howler to attempt to deduce from
this that therefore the two synoptic gospels written later must have
been the documentary descendant of the one written earlier. If A is the
documentary descendant of neither B nor C, it does not follow that B and
C are both documentary descendants of A.
For if we have three documents of which one is not the documentary
descendant of the other two, it is perfectly possible that none of them
is the documentary descendant of any other. For instance, all three
synoptic gospels could be independently descended documentarily from a
common documentary ancestor.
In other words, one synoptic gospel having been written at an earlier
time than the others is just as much evidence **against** the theory of
Markan Priority as evidence in its favour. For it is perfectly
consistent both with Matthew and Luke being the documentary descendants
of Mark, and also with Matthew and Luke **not** being the documentary
descendants of Mark.
My understanding of many other arguments I have seen for the theory of
Markan Priority is that they assume that if it is shown that material in
Matthew or Luke is in some way secondary to corresponding material in
Mark, then this indicates that therefore Matthew or Luke are, or
probably are, documentary descendants of Mark. In such arguments, the
erroneous logic is to attempt to deduce from Matthew or Luke having
apparently secondary material with respect to Mark the conclusion that
therefore Matthew and Luke are, or probably are, documentary descendants
of Mark. In fact such phenomena are fully consistent with neither
Matthew nor Luke being documentary descendants of Mark, and therefore
with the theory of Markan Priority being false.
In short, it is erroneous logic to argue for the priority of Mark from
indications of the non-priority of both Matthew and Luke. Indications of
the non-priority of both Matthew and Luke are fully consistent with the
non-priority of Mark also.
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".
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