Re: [Synoptic-L] Robinson on Q
- I usually agree with Leonard reasonning, and
its clarity. But I deeply disagree with that :
> I would agree. I see no reason for dogmatism regarding the existence orDear Leonard,
> non-existence of a source of Jesus' sayings that was in existence prior to
> the writing of Matthew and Luke. The idea that the existence of such a source
> must necessarily be posited in virtue of the data of these two gospels is
> however unproven and probably unprovable. It has not been established that
> Luke could not have known Matthew (or vice versa); and that one Evangelist
> did in fact know the work of the other remains the most economical
> explanation of their common material, including sayings material. I would
> suggest too that arguments in favor of Luke's dependence on Matthew far
> outweigh arguments for the alternative hypothesis.
There are at least three obvious biases in your reasoning path.
1- Are unknown sources inexistence an economical hypotheses ?
It should highly difficult to sustain that refusing unknown sources
induces a gain of economy.
Is it an economy to say that only our four evangelists have written
the life of Jesus, and that no other early christian than those four
ones would have had the goal to tell the same story ?
Is it economical to sustain that all text that were written about
Jesus during first century were all transmitted to us, as if there
were a legal library and a copyright for all written work in early
It looks very hard.
The classical objection against lost sources is : if there were early
sources, then how may we explain that they have been lost ? But in fact,
many explanations are available for a loose. The first explanation is
very simple : if Mark (I take it just as an example) if Mark, so, wrote
a gospel that an editor harmonised and expanded later on Matthean and Lukan
gospels, the second edition would allways have been called "Mark gospel",
since it would have wore all the specificities of Mark, and it would have
easily replaced the first edition.
I am not sure, and would be glad if some one may confirm it, but I
think that there is a good example for such a schema : the story
of Alexander according the "pseudo-Callisthene", which has been
expanded many times, in many countries, and kept the same author
attribution in various manuscripts. In the redaction process of
this work, we know that there are many unknown documents. And there
is no good reason to sustain that gospels should have had an opposite
When considering this, we must admit that direct dependency are
highly improbable, and much less economic than the existence of
But let us consider now that the existence of unknown sources is not economical.
2- Condition for Occam' razor application
Here is, Leonard, the schema of your demonstration :
- First you say that lost sources are not proven, and not provable.
- Then you apply Occam razor : you restrain the synoptic problem to
the small area of only direct dependencies, as the most economical
since they do not require any unknown sources.
- Finally, you evaluate the validity of arguments in favor of Luke's
dependence on Matthew, against the reverse dependence.
But the Occam' razor may apply only if you compare theories with a
similar degree of plausibility. In these cases, and in these cases
only, you are allowed to apply Occam Razor to choose among equivalent
theories which one should be prefered. The final theory is prefered
for a sake of simplicity, but the criteria of plausibility should
have been used earlier in the decision process.
Just take Einstein' relativity as an example : if you apply
Occam' razor, you should dismiss Einstein, and keep only Newton'
mechanic. But sure, prior to Occam' razor, the adequation with
facts is the main criteria that gave to relativity its validity
But your way to do is exactly the opposite : you apply first
the razor, and then you check the data and look for the best
By that mean, you are introducing an artificial limitation in your
problem. With exactly the same method, I may argue that Evangelist X
knowing the work of evangelist Y is "unproven and probably unprovable".
I will then apply the Occam' razor on this unprovable dependencies, and
say that all gospels are independant, since it is the most economical
explanation. This would be obviously a fake : I would confuse the idea
of gospel interrelation, which is well proved, with the exact pattern of
this interrelation. Similarly, Leonard, I think there is a confusion
in your mail between the existence of unknown sources, which is highly
probable, and the exact pattern of these unknown sources.
I justify now why, IMHO, the data themself from gospel make
the existence of unknown sources highly probable.
3- Priority and posteriority.
Whatever the argument of priority you consider, it is rarely
a real argument of priority, but rather an argument of "non-dependency".
As pointed out by Ken Olson, even the fatigue argument does
not prove the dependency. For instance, if Luke is fatigued
related to Mark, then it remains possible that Luke depend
upon an Ur-Mark. What we may say is just that this pericopae
of Luke depends upon the parallel one in Mark.
Now, we have many arguments that point out Luke pericopae
being later than Mark parallel. But we have similarly Mark
pericopae being later than Mark parallel.
We should conclude that neither present Mark depends upon
present Luke, nor present Luke depends upon present Mark.
The existence of a lost source is needed.
If you persist to refuse this existence, you accept to
give no account of some major synoptic phenomena. Your
solution of synoptic problem will ever remain a caricature,
and never be a true account of reality.
Leonard, you wrote in your mail :
> I see no reason for dogmatism regarding the existence orBut your reasonning may be seen has dogmatism, since you
> non-existence of a source of Jesus' sayings that was in
> existence prior to the writing of Matthew and Luke.
dismiss the unknown source hypotheses before having checked
them on data, and using a data-disconnected argument.
On the opposite, when you consider just facts, there is no
reason to refuse unknown documents, and in fact the endless
debating between X-priority and Y-priority is the proof that
when restricted to direct dependencies, synoptic problem is a
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