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Re: Synoptic Methodology

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  • E. Bruce Brooks
    Topic: Synoptic Methodology From: Bruce In Response To: Stephen Carlson I appreciate Stephen s prompt and rational response to my expanded suggestion for a
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 14, 1998
      Topic: Synoptic Methodology
      From: Bruce
      In Response To: Stephen Carlson

      I appreciate Stephen's prompt and rational response to my expanded
      suggestion for a Synoptic strategy. Herewith a few answers to his

      Stephen remarks, of my 48 schematic possibilities for the 3 Synoptics:
      1. Candidate Solutions

      It is clear that even from your example of 48 relationships, the number of
      candidate solutions increases so rapidly that some amount of pruning ought
      to be done to maintain tractability.
      BRUCE: The number 48 is indeed too many to attack one at a time. But I
      tried to show (and I still think it is correct) that whether or not we
      eliminate some of them by preliminary test or mutual agreement, it will
      still be both necessary and sufficient to apply the 2-body test three times
      (once in each of the possible 2-body pairings) to reduce the 48 to 1.
      Unless of course the results are indeterminate or multivalent, in which
      case we have more work cut out for us.

      Stephen again:
      Therefore, I propose that certain
      related candidate solutions ought to be grouped into the same equivalence
      class. I offer the following:

      (A) If two documents or two set of documents are independent, then
      their relative chronological order is irrelevant for purposes of source
      criticism. For example, the order K;L;M is equivalent to L;K;M (K=Mark,
      L=Luke, M=Matt). This would coalesce the 48 of your candidates down to
      25 equivalent classes of candidates.
      BRUCE: We can symbolize order-irrelevant cases by a slash. If Luke (OK, I
      can use L for it) uses both Mark (K) and Matthew (M), but Mark and Matthew
      are unrelated, then indeed, for purposes of the problem (if not for the
      history of early Christianity), K,M>>L is indistinguishable from M,K>>L,
      and those options can be written as a single form K/M>>L. (Notice that the
      order question is not equivalent, at least for formula purposes, if only
      one of the first two texts is used by the third; thus, K,M > L is *not*
      equivalent to M,K > L). These functionally equivalent forms would tend to
      come out at the same stage in the successive application of the two-body
      test. It's harmless, for present purposes, to lump them. But it's handy,
      for other purposes, to distinguish them. Since (as I see it) the two
      equivalent solutions come out in the experimental wash with the same total
      effort (three two-body passes), it seems to me better to keep all 48 as
      distinct. They make a nice pattern.

      Stephen on the complication of conjectural sources:
      (B) Hypothetical documents should only be proposed for indirect
      relationships between at least two documents. For example, the order
      M>x>L (see Chapman) is equivalent to M>L. In other words, a hypothetical
      document that is a source to a single document is considered to be
      indistinguishable from an editorial policy. This eliminates intermediate
      texts, as you've suggested.
      BRUCE: I don't like the term "indirect" relationships, and prefer
      "intermediating" relationships. I agree that it is only under exquisite
      conditions that the case M>x>L can be even tentatively distinguished (where
      x is not extant) from M>L. To specify one such possibility, however, just
      for the sake of abstract theory: if the contribution of M to x is very
      strongly marked in x, and the tendency of L is to incorporate sources more
      or less passively, and if any other sources used by L are well
      differentiated stylistically from the immediate (intermediate) source x,
      then a skilled investigator of L might be able to detect (by its x
      stylistic common boundary) the presence of x, and also the presence of bits
      of M within that x boundary. From this the composite nature of x could be
      readily inferred, and a tentative M perhaps even reconstructed.

      I note with Stephen that, whatever the symbology, and even with collapsing
      of equivalent solutions, adding non-Synoptic texts to the definitions very
      rapidly expands the number of candidate solutions. I don't pause to quibble
      over the point that with the 3rd member of 3 there are 4, not 3, possible
      relationships to the preceding 2 texts. It is bad enough even if we only
      allow 3 relationships. He continues:
      2. Devising tests to filter out candidate solutions

      You have argued for an initial "two-body" approach as a starting point,
      I prefer to tackle the Griesbach Hypothesis straight on, examining all
      gospels synoptically.
      BRUCE: I think the difference here is at bottom temperamental: I prefer to
      investigate problems and not attack people. I note, in defense of a
      preference that might otherwise seem merely timid and therefore
      contemptible, that the result of a problem investigation is more
      psychologically viable for the adherents of a solution which that
      investigation as it were incidentally invalidates, than is the result of a
      direct attack on the named position which they uphold. Generals are
      criticized for knowing how to win but not what to do on the day after the
      victory. A problem-oriented investigation would avoid that censure in the
      Synoptic case. However, Stephen also has doubts about the effectiveness of
      my more impersonal investigation model:
      STEPHEN: Here is an illustration why I think that the pairwise,
      two-body approach is fraught with difficulty. K├╝mmel, Neirynck and
      have argued that, considering only Mark and Luke, an examination of the
      of pericopes, i.e. the five or so transpositions of pericopes between Mark
      and Luke, leads one to the conclusion that Mark is prior to Luke. However,
      for each of the five examples, the order of Matthew and Mark is identical
      therefore consistent with the Griesbach Hypothesis! [I believe Farmer
      this, but I can't find the cite]. Therefore, this two-body test that
      concluded Luke's dependence on Mark was in fact incapable of eliminating
      Greisbach Hypothesis, even though the Griesbach holds to Mark's dependence
      Luke (and Matthew). Maybe you can do better, but it seems difficult to
      this trap without considering the third synoptic in the first place.
      BRUCE: I can't speak with confidence without doing the work, but (1) I was
      envisioning a study of literary indebtedness in parallel material, not a
      study of the order of the material. (2) Some previous investigators report
      that there is only one variation in order of *narrative* segments (as
      against the more freely recombinable *wisdom* segments) between Mark and
      Luke. Evidently it makes a difference where you look for fixity of order.
      The word "pericope" blurs together all delimitable segments, and thus
      obscures this possibly important difference, which in turn affects
      experiment design. (3) Also evidently, questions of the arrangement of
      material bring in, and turn on, assumptions of the authorial intent,
      including the compositional predilections, of the respective Evangelists.
      If hard proof rather than plausible argument is what is called for, I think
      text priority is stronger than order retention (or rearrangement). As far
      as I have observed, it is the "authorial mind" arguments that are most
      frequently denounced as "reversible," and these seem therefore likely to be
      less effective in a contested situation. (4) Let me say again that I do not
      propose to stop with one two-body test, hence the word "only" in Stephen's
      quote is irrelevant to, and not a refutation of, my proposal. (5)
      Operationally, my point is that if the GH is wrong, and it is not
      eliminated on the first pass, it will infallibly be eliminated on the
      second or third pass. I don't have any special animus for GH (much as I
      deplore a certain stylistic tendency among some of its most prominent
      adherents), and I don't care whether it comes out in the first round, or
      second, or for that matter not at all. I just want to solve the problem.

      On the theoretical preference for initial three-body comparisons, take
      Stoldt p101 (not here reproduced, and in any case the dratted archive would
      only collapse the columns). He there notes that Wernle asserts that "quite
      frequently Luke's phrasing deviates from Mark's" and illustrates this with
      23 [actually 22] Mark/Luke pairs, where indeed the Lukan word differs from
      the Markan word. Assuming it previously established (at the segment level
      and not at the level of these particular words) that Luke and Mark are here
      in some sort of literary relation, Wernle must be conceded to have proved
      his case: Luke (if he is second) does not copy identically, but varies
      words within what (I presume) is otherwise known to be indebted material.
      This is not a test of dependence, nor without examination of the meaning
      and not the mere identity or difference of the wordforms is it a test of
      directionality of dependence (and if Wernle thinks it is, he is indeed
      totally wrong), but in that framework it would be a valid examination of
      Luke's way of handling borrowed material.

      Stoldt supplies the missing Matthean parallels (not available in two cases,
      #14 and #22, so we are down to 20 three-way examples). He points out that
      in most of the cases Matthew agrees with Mark. That is correct. Here is one
      example (in Stoldt's ordering of columns):

      1. Mk isk*uontes / Lk 5:31 ugiainontes / Mt 9:12 isk*uontes

      The other cases where this Mk = Mt pattern obtains, including cases where
      Mt differs slightly but is still closer to Mk than Lk is to either, are his
      #3-4, 6-7, 9-10, 12, 15-16, and 18-20. With the #1 case, these make
      altogether thirteen (13), or 65% of the total corpus of 20.

      There are also some other relational patterns. I should say at this point
      that I have sometimes been unable to verify Stoldt's readings in the Aland
      Synopsis, but for the moment conceding Stoldt his choice of text, whatever
      it is, then Luke and Matthew are closer (Lk = Mt) in:

      2. Mk epiraptei / Lk 5:36 epiballei / Mt 9:16 epiballei

      and in #5, 11, 13, and 21, a total of four (5) or 25%. The third
      theoretically possible two-way closeness, Mk = Lk, may (depending perhaps
      on segmentation; I don't know this language) be seen in:

      17. Mk promerimnan / Lk 21:14 promeletan / Mt 24:19 merimne#sete (total
      one, or 5%)

      and there is a three-way divergence in:

      8. Mk beble#tai / Lk 17:2 epiraptei / Mt katapontist*e# (total one, or 5%).

      There is the triplified Wernle material. Since Wernle's list was chosen to
      show differences beween Mark and Luke, it would be invalid to use it as a
      neutral test of three-way affinities. Despite this skew, there are some
      possible inferences. (1) In this sample, Mark and Matthew are often close,
      and frequently identical, this holding in two-thirds of the cases.
      Matthew's use of Mark (if such it be) thus tends to be respectful of Mark's
      wording. (2) Luke (assuming for the moment that he is third) is less close
      to either than those two are to each other. In 25% of the sample he is
      closer to Matthew; and in 5% closer to Mark. He thus (as far as this
      handful goes) is more respectful of Matthew than of Mark, but (3) It is
      still more likely than not that Luke *knew* Mark, in addition to following
      Matthew for places where Matthew and Mark are identical. The hypothesis of
      Matthew as an intermediary for Mark will not hold. It also happens that (4)
      Luke varies from all three, and in general his pattern with these 20
      phrases is more for rephrasing than for identical repetition. Luke thus
      comes across as a stylistic independent, preferring the wording of Matthew
      to of Mark in most but not all cases where both are available, whereas at
      an earlier stage Matthew was in a higher percentage of cases respectful of
      Mark's exact wording.

      On a Mark-last scenario, these conclusions would instead look like this:
      (1) Of the two earlier sources, Luke is not particularly close to Matthew
      in parallel passages, thus generating a number of variants for any third
      version to consider. (2) As that third source, Mark is very close to
      Matthew in a majority of cases, so that Matthew is his preferred source,
      but (3) he is nearer to Luke in a detectible minority of cases, and so must
      have known Luke as well as Matthew, (4) he sometimes diverges from both.
      This last shows that Mark too, if considered to be last, must be allowed to
      have exercised stylistic originality.

      Can we say which of these scenarios is the more likely? Not decisively, as
      far as I can see. The data are not well chosen for the purpose, and are
      very limited in any case. As with the Neirynck comparisons faulted by
      Farmer, I do not think these were meant as an investigation, but rather as
      a demonstration on territory presumed established. I could make a guess,
      based on these results, but not offer a serious conclusion. Can anyone get
      more out of it than this?

      STOLDT is bolder in his inferences. He says, "This *synoptic* compilation
      clearly shows that it is out of the question that Luke changed Mark's
      wording. The respective parallels in Matthew, insofar as they exist, show
      that in the majority of cases Mark corresponds in mode of expression to
      Matthew; in the remaining cases Matthew and Luke agree in their mode of
      expression against Mark."

      BRUCE: "Corresponds in mode of expression" is a symmetrical expression; it
      is a valid statement whichever of the two texts is using the other.
      "Changed Mark's wording" is an asymmetrical expression; it assumes that
      Luke comes second in the Mark/Luke relationship. The sentence "Mark
      corresponds in mode of expression to Matthew" neither confirms nor refutes
      the sentence "Luke used and varied from Mark." The latter sentence is thus
      not logically "out of the question." It is the correct statement if it is
      separately known that Luke came after Mark. The directionality between Luke
      and Mark is not established by this particular data set, so the question of
      whether the asymmetrical statement is valid is open. Not closed. Not "out
      of the question," but precisely in question. It is also not precisely true
      that the only results in the table are Mt = Mk and (minority) Mt = Lk.
      There is one case, despite a selection designed to prove the opposite,
      where Mk = Lk. There is also one case (as Stoldt points out in small type
      in the table himself, at #8: "Here Matthew diverges from both") where all
      three are different, and so whichever text is assumed to come last must
      also be assumed to vary at least sometimes from the two earlier ones. Thus,
      the requirement of authorial latitude is established (conclusion #4 in both
      versions of the inferences, above).

      STOLDT: Here we get exactly the same image as that left by the pericopes
      which, according to Wernle, Luke supposedly passed over of omitted from the
      Gospel of Mark. *To the extent that Mark diverges from Luke in these
      examples, he converges with Matthew.* And this confirms again the fact that
      a solution to the synoptic problem is possible only on a synoptic basis.

      BRUCE: Again, the statement that Luke converges with either Mark or Matthew
      in all these cases is not strictly true. The entire situation, as noted
      above, does not lead to a decision between Markan tertiority (GH) and
      Markan priority (FH). Still less does it lead to a solution of the synoptic
      problem. The final sentence is thus radically unjustified by the exposition
      that precedes it. One could better say, of this particular data set (and I
      venture to think that I could assemble a more suggestive one), that it is
      indeterminate with respect to the final synoptic problem (though, if
      uncontradicted by wider examination of similar material, it does contribute
      some limiting conclusions to any priority solution, once that is reached
      separately and on other grounds). If one wants a dramatic version of this
      sentence, and accepts Stoldt's three-way version of Wernle's two-way list
      as "a synoptic basis,"one might say that this little investigation shows
      that "a solution to the synoptic problem is impossible on a synoptic

      ENVOI: This conversation is proceeding on the assumption that only one
      approach is going to be undertaken. But several are already underway.
      Stephen's four-color Gospel parallels look to me like the groundwork for a
      three-body approach in small segments (not whole Gospels, but also not
      single words). This is an alternative to my proposal and to his
      counterproposal, not to mention the absurdly constricted Wernle/Stoldt
      list. So far Stephen's only published summary from that exercise is that
      Mark and Matthew are closer than is Luke with either or both. That is
      visually apparent, almost instantaneously, from the color text, in cases
      where the three texts run in parallel (we also got it out of Wernle/Stoldt,
      but on much narrower data and in a way that certainly requires this broader
      confirmation). On the other hand, where only Matthew and Luke are in
      parallel, a similar mutual intercoloration sometimes appears between those
      two. A sufficient number of such cases might tend to establish as a
      philological fact the alternate reliance of a third Gospel on the preceding
      two. Is it fair to ask Stephen how he sees the experiment design aspect of
      the color project?


      E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts
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