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[Synoptic-L] Re: The Case Against Q

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  • David Inglis
    ... Farrer ... During the 8 months or so that I have been reading the postings on Synpotic-L, I have not read anything that convinces me that the synoptic
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 9, 2002
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      Ron Price wrote:

      > >> So in the not-too-distant future we may arrive at a situation where
      > >> the main disagreement amongst Markan prioritist scholars is not 2ST vs.
      > >> Farrer, but a sort of weak 3ST vs. Farrer. ("weak" in the sense that
      > >> Luke's supposed use of Matthew is limited to his adoption of mainly
      > >> isolated words from Matthew, thus readily explaining all the
      > >> problematic Minor Agreements.)
      > Mark Matson replied,
      > >Unfortunately, I disagree with the conclusion here. If you move with
      > >to accepting Luke's knowledge of Matthew, I think you will end up with
      > >quite a bit more of Luke's use of Matthew than some isolated words.

      During the 8 months or so that I have been reading the postings on
      Synpotic-L, I have not read anything that convinces me that the synoptic
      problem will be 'solved' anytime soon. On at least two occasions I have

      1) What are the 'assured results' of the synoptic problem so far (i.e. what
      has been established to the point that everyone accepts it without
      2) What evidence would be generally acceptable to validate one or other of
      the theories?

      So far, the only response I have seen is a single answer to 1), which is:
      "The synoptic problem exists"! Now, I think that part of this uncertainty
      is due to the fast that most scholars in this field are taking Occam's Razor
      to an extreme that is, IMHO, unjustified. For example, to suggest that Luke
      *only* had access to 2 sources (whatever they may have been), is
      unrealistic. We know that Lk 1:1 refers to 'many' people, and whether this
      is many people creating a single written account, or many people creating
      one written account each, Lk 1:2 then indicates that many people did pass on
      information (in some form) about what had taken place. Therefore, I think
      it is unrealistic to expect that Luke would would have restricted himself to
      just one, or even two, sources. As a result, I think that anyone attempting
      to prove this (whether those sources are Mark & Matthew , or Mark & Q, or
      something else) is doomed to failure. Indeed, despite all the work that has
      taken place so far, and despite the current popularity of the Q hypothesis,
      the arguments still range back and forth.

      Apart from any other consideration, I think that this failure is largely the
      result of attempts to prove theories that are too simple, and I believe that
      the 3ST stands a much better chance of being shown to be correct (or at
      least, being able to handle the problems that the pure Farrer and 2ST
      theories cannot). It is therefore a great pity that so much effort seems to
      go into defending what I believe are untenable positions, instead of
      accepting that these 'simple' theories are just too simple to be realistic.

      Dave Inglis
      3538 O'Connor Drive
      Lafayette, CA, USA

      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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    • Brian Trafford
      ... To which Mark replied: I am sorry if I gave that impression. What I suppose I was trying to do was to focus attention on the relationship between
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 19, 2002
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        --- In synoptic-l@y..., "Mark Goodacre" <M.S.Goodacre@b...> wrote:
        > I wrote:
        ... I am not saying that they reasons are sufficient, or good enough for me to accept them.  But they are serious arguments, and it was here that I thought Mark was engaging unwittingly in the very behaviour he had so ably exposed as fallacious when used by defenders of
        Q.  I found this to be unfortunate, and would have preferred that he had relied, instead, on the strength of his own arguments without resortingto such tactics.
        To which Mark replied:
        > I am sorry if I gave that impression.  What I suppose I was trying to
        > do was to focus attention on the relationship between omissions and
        > additions and to do so in a non-rhetorically charged manner.  The
        > Davies & Allison quotation focuses the issue but does not develop the
        > point.  I remember being disappointed that William Farmer, in his
        > response to Davies & Allison, was dismissive at this point and I was
        > therefore keen to try to tease the point out some more (see the
        > footnote on that page).  I'd agree with Stephen Carlson's reading
        > here, for which thanks.
        I did not wish to leave the impression that I rejected your arguments in favour of Marcan priority among the Synoptics because of this citation.  Far from it.  I found your arguments here, as elsewhere, to be quite good, especially your hypothesis of editorial fatigue which I found to be especially helpful.
        My complaint was more general than this, and I highlighted it for two reasons:
        1. This was the only notable time that you did use such "dismissive" language in your book (at least so far as I can recall), and I was struck by the contrast it seemed to present with your point in Chapters 3 and 4.  I can certainly appreciate your frustration in dealing with arguments from Q supporters and Griesbachians (sp?) alike, especially when they appear to be engaging in a good deal of rhetorical excess and hand waving, rather than engaging the arguments themselves.  But at the same time, I have noted with some dismay how various scholars dismiss the criticisms of their opponents on weak grounds, or sometimes, not at all.  Even worse is when they engage in rhetoric that calls into question the motives of their opponents, even as they often fail to address the actual arguments of those same opponents.  I recognize fully that you did not do this, and Chapter 2 is a solid presentation in favour of Marcan priority.  But citing a quotation that wonders aloud if one can "seriously question" the arguments for Marcan priority struck me as distracting from your case.
        2. The debate over Q seems to be filled with mischaracterizations, straw man building, hand waving, special pleading, question begging and other sorts of fallacious reasoning.  In this sense I found your book to be quite refreshing.  In fact, I was actually astounded by the mildness of your language in several parts of the book.  On the whole you built your case, and let it stand on the weight of the evidence.  You directly challenged the arguments arrayed in favour of Q.  But at the end of the day, I still thought that there was room for reasonable disagreement, where one actually could seriously question your arguments.

        On this basis I thought the inclusion of the citation unfortunate, and this is why I raised my concern here.

        I said:
        > > Though I reject Q and the Two Source Theory as the best explanation
        > > for interrelationship of the Synoptics, I still find the problem of
        > > the Birth Narratives and of the M material in the Passion Narrative to
        > > be highly problematic to the case for the Q sceptic.  What has
        > > changed, however, is that I no longer consider this argument to be as
        > > decisive as I did previously.  Here I will only say that while Mark
        > > gives a reasonable case as to why Luke might not have wished to use
        > > this material, I did not find these arguments to be strong, and think
        > > that this might be an area where further work is needed. 
        Mark replied: 
        > Thanks for that.  As it happens, I am thinking about doing some
        > writing on the history of the Passion Narratives, partly because I
        > enjoyed doing a critique of Crossan's theory a while ago and that
        > made me aware of some interesting avenues that could be explored some
        > more.
        I look forward to seeing your ideas, and hope that you might offer some of your thoughts either here, or on XTalk.  To be candid, the Synoptic Problem has been less of a personal interest for me than has the Passion Narrative, and if I may offer it as at least a bit of an excuse, this is probably what made me a "lazy" believer in a fuzzy Q (I discovered my self label on page 16 of your book ;^).  The two subjects rarely meet, and given the considerable divergences between Matthew and Luke in this area, as well as in the Birth Narratives, Q seemed quite plausible. 
        If I may, when you pointed out that Raymond Brown's Introduction to the New Testament did not even mention ANYTHING from Goulder, Farrer or Sanders on the Synoptic Problem (CAQ pg. 12), I was shocked.  Quite honestly I had never noticed it before, but find Brown's failure here to be inexplicable, especially as he was usually quite thorough when it comes to exploring all sides of an issue.  Perhaps when he called the Synoptic Problem "boring" he was betraying some of his own bias in the matter.  I suppose that given his expertise in the birth and death of Jesus, as well as in the Gospel of John, his lack of familiarity with the arguments from Q sceptics should not be so surprising.  I must say, however, it is still disappointing.  If it is any comfort, John Drane's wonderful Introducing the New Testoment (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2001) does offer two books from William Farmer, and E.P. Sanders' as well in the bibliography, though Drane  presents himself as a weak proponent of Q personally (INT pg. 176-186).
        One further aside, but in his book Saint Saul: A Skeleton Key to the Historical Jesus (Montreal, PQ:  McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000), Donald Akenson gives a devastating critique of the entire "Q Industry" as he calls it (Hubris and Plasticity in the "Q"-Industry, SSKHJ, pg. 321-328), and earlier in his book he gives a sympathetic treatment of the arguments presented by William Farmer (Ibid pg. 101-5), Austin Farrer and Michael Goulder.  He even comes down in favour of Goulder's theories.  To quote Akenson:
        "Thus, two of the sharpest, shortest, most radical criticisms of the last 40 years (of Q) - Farrer's "On Dispensing with Q" and Goulder's "Is Q a Juggernaut?" have gone unanswered, presumably because they are too obliquely witty to be taken seriously and too lethal to be faced squarely.  And Goulder, as a one-man Diloyal Opposition toe the "Q" industry, has the dismaying characteristic of being very precise in his hypothesis and rigorous in his standards of proof.  ... "Q" needs sharpening if it is to have any continuing value."
        Saint Saul: A Skeleton Key to the Historical Jesus (Montreal, PQ:  McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000) pg. 113.
        Akenson is a non-NT scholar (his specialty being ancient Irish history), but perhaps his view is a portent of things to come this side of the pond.  As a new recruit to the Q sceptical community, I, for one, can certainly hope this to be the case.  B^)
        I said:
        > > My third criticism (if it can be called
        > > that), would be of his use, by way of analogy, of how Jesus has been
        > > treated in modern movies (Chapter 6: The Synoptic Jesus and the
        > > Celluloid Christ), and how that might help us understand Luke's own
        > > decisions in reformatting Matthew's material in his own Gospel.
        > F. Gerald Downing wrote a response to the article on which this
        > chapter was based and it was published in JSNT last December. 
        > Bascially he criticises me for using "anachronistic analogies" and
        > says that there are valuable ancient analogies to hand, e.g.
        > Josephus, which can shed more light.  The difficulty with his short
        > article is that it completely misses the main point of the article /
        > chapter, which is explicitly to use film as a means of assessing the
        > Two Source Theorists' value judgement concerning the superiority of
        > Matthew's ordering to Luke's.  I am a bit puzzled as to why Downing
        > misses this since it is central, as I see it, to the piece.  
        I do (and did) appreciate your point in this chapter, and understand that you were not placing excessive reliance upon it in your overall case.  At the same time, given the way modern movies have botched their original source material not only in retelling the Gospels, but in a good many other stories, I am still hesitant to appeal to this medium as an example of how an ancient might have approached his source material.  As I said previously, however, this may just be me.
        > Thanks again for your encouraging comments
        Time for a shameless plug, but my criticisms aside, I found your book to be immensely enjoyable and informative.  Your arguments were well presented, and some of them I found to be quite devastating.  While they may not convince the committed Q believer, I would have to agree with John Lupia's assessment that you have delivered a broadside against the Q hypothesis, and the questions and arguments you raise in this book will have to be addressed if the Two Source Theory is to retain credibility.
        This book is, very simply, required reading for anyone interested in Q.  Period.
        Thank you again Mark, and peace,

        Brian Trafford
        Calgary, AB, Canada

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