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[Synoptic-L] Response to Downing

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  • Mark Goodacre
    I d like to share with the list my draft of a response to a recent article by F. Gerald Downing entitled Dissolving the Synoptic Problem Through Film? which
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 8, 2002
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      I'd like to share with the list my draft of a response to a recent
      article by F. Gerald Downing entitled "Dissolving the Synoptic
      Problem Through Film?" which appeared in JSNT 84 (2001), pp. 117-9.
      This short article by Downing was a response to an earlier article I
      had written called "The Synoptic Jesus and the Celluloid Christ . .
      ." I'd be grateful for any feedback on my piece below ahead of my
      submitting it to a journal. With thanks, Mark.

      On Choosing and Using Appropriate Analogies:
      A Response to F. Gerald Downing

      In a recent article entitled "The Synoptic Jesus and the Celluloid
      Christ", I argued that the study of Jesus films might provide us with
      "a stimulus to rethink the common but dubious claim that, on the
      assumption that he knew Matthew, Luke's redaction of the Sermon on
      the Mount is inexplicable".1 F. Gerald Downing honours the piece by
      finding it worth a short response, though he flatters it less by
      parodying its playful subtitle, now not "Solving the Synoptic Problem
      through Film" but "Dissolving the Synoptic Problem through Film".2
      The nub of Downing's objection is that there is little point in going
      to twentieth century cinema to find analogies for Luke's
      compositional procedures when we have ready made analogies among
      Luke's own contemporaries, and especially Josephus, analogies that
      are more likely to confirm his preferred solution to the Synoptic
      Problem, the Two-Source Theory and not mine, the Farrer Theory.

      Unfortunately, there is a major problem with Downing's response and
      the opposition it sets up between my "anachronistic comparisons" and
      his "near contemporary" comparisons. It is important to see how a
      given analogy functions in the context of a given argument, and
      Downing's piece does not engage with the point of my analogy, which
      has a clear context and a specific function. It is an attempt to
      find a way of testing the argument based on an aesthetic preference
      for Matthew's ordering of materials over against Luke's, especially
      in relation to the Sermon on the Mount.3 The standard argument runs
      like this: it is inconceivable that so literary an artist as Luke
      would have destroyed the Matthaean masterpiece, the Sermon on the
      Mount.4 I attempt to answer this by pointing out that it amounts to
      little more than an aesthetic preference for Matthew's artistry over
      against Luke's and that one way of testing such a preference is to
      look to contemporary artists like film-makers to see if they share
      it. The manifest evidence is that they do not. Rather, they share
      all of the moves made by Luke, on the assumption of his knowledge of
      Matthew, in his reworking of the Sermon on the Mount.

      To make this kind of argument is risky, however, and one of my
      concerns when writing the article was that it might all too easily
      lay itself open to misreading. Perhaps readers would suggest that I
      was overlooking the distance in time, language and genre between Luke
      and the Jesus films. So in an attempt to anticipate the kind of
      criticism that Downing is in fact now making, I made clear that I was
      not claiming that Jesus films somehow provide a perfect analogy to
      Luke's Gospel. How could they? They themselves are influenced by
      Luke, their genre is different, nearly two thousand years separate
      them, and so on - all this is quite clear. But lest I might be
      thought to be unaware of such obvious points, I wrote the following:

      "The parallels provided by the Jesus films are, of course, only
      partial and failure to appreciate the shortcomings of the analogy
      will inevitably deprive this discussion of force. It needs to be
      seen that the two millennia separating Luke from the Jesus films is
      accentuated by the manifest difference in genre between the ancient
      gospel and the modern film. Further, we should not ignore the
      possibility that some of the Jesus films are influenced by the very
      re-workings by Luke that we have been discussing. On these
      occasions, Luke does not so much parallel the Jesus films as provide
      a source for them."5

      Downing criticises the use of "anachronistic analogies" as if the
      cinematic parallels are competing directly with first century
      parallels. But the very point of the analogies is that they are
      anachronistic, or, to state it in less prejudicial terms,
      contemporary examples were deliberately chosen with a view to testing
      contemporary value judgements. As I went on to make clear in the
      article:

      "But what the Jesus films provide is a genuine means of testing such
      subjective claims, of seeing whether others - not least those outside
      the narrow confines of the guild, those uninfluenced by the repeated
      assumptions that have become part of the standard two-source paradigm
      - share our claims. And the manifest evidence is that in this case
      they do not."6

      Downing's response thus completely misses the point of the article.
      It is not that I am ignoring ancient parallels to Luke's
      compositional procedure; it is that they are irrelevant for the
      purposes of this article. Downing's response is, however, useful in
      one way, in reminding us of the importance of taking ancient writing
      practices seriously when considering the Synoptic Problem. Just as
      Downing implicitly concedes my point that the Jesus films' procedure
      with the Sermon on the Mount is very similar to Luke's treatment of
      the same (assuming Lucan knowledge of Matthew), I am happy explicitly
      to concede Downing's point that Josephus and other ancient writers'
      use of sources can shed light on Luke's sources and procedures in
      relation to them. Indeed Downing's observation of the way the
      ancients proceeded, tending to utilise one source at a time and
      avoiding word-by-word conflation, is - as Michael Goulder has pointed
      out - quite consonant with the Farrer Theory's insistence that Luke
      treated his two sources in blocks, taking Mark for a stretch (Luke
      4.31-6.19), then Matthew for a stretch (6.20-7.23), then returning to
      Mark (8.4-9.50), and so on.7

      But Downing's analogies themselves are only partial. In his response
      he refers to "narrative exigencies"8 faced by Josephus, Luke and
      others, a term that risks obscuring the need to take seriously Luke's
      handling of sayings material like the Sermon on the Mount, which is
      what is under discussion in the article. The notion that Luke might
      have treated sayings material differently from the way in which he
      treated narrative material is not discussed by Downing and it is this
      issue that is key to understanding Luke's editorial procedure.9 The
      "toing and froing in Matthew" that Downing finds implausible is in
      fact quite comprehensible when one sees that Luke's omissions,
      rearrangements, additions and reworkings of Matthew occur primarily
      in sayings material. Indeed Luke's contemporaries will likewise
      engage in major rearrangement of source material when they are
      dealing with sayings, one of the best examples of which is Josephus'
      attitude to the Pentateuchal laws material in Antiquities 3-4, where
      laws are frequently rearranged from their positions in the
      Pentateuch, often with far more "toing and froing" than is in
      evidence in Luke. To provide just one example from many, in Ant.
      3.258-75 Josephus juxtaposes units dealing with leprosy (Lev. 13-14,
      Ant. 3.258-68), the impurity of women in childbirth (Lev. 12.2-8,
      Ant. 3.269), the procedures for dealing with a suspected adulteress
      (Num. 5.11-31, Ant., 3.270-3) and forbidden marriages and sexual
      practices (Lev. 20.10-21, Ant. 3.274-5), thus ranging across large
      sections not just of one book but two, perhaps himself using "springy
      scrolls, complex writing implements, meagre desks and so forth".10

      As Downing observes, "anachronistic comparisons may well serve to
      raise useful questions".11 But if one pays careful attention to the
      questions that are being asked, perhaps the answers that emerge will
      end up surprising even Downing.

      1 Mark Goodacre, "The Synoptic Jesus and the Celluloid Christ:
      Solving the Synoptic Problem Through Film", JSNT 80 (2000), pp. 31-
      43. A revised version of this article now appears as Chapter 6 in
      Mark Goodacre, The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the
      Synoptic Problem (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002),
      pp. 121-32. The quotation here is from the abstract to the original
      article, p. 43.

      2 F. Gerald Downing, "Dissolving the Synoptic Problem Through Film?",
      JSNT 84 (2001), pp. 117-9.

      3 See also John S. Kloppenborg, review of Mark S. Goodacre, The Case
      Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and the Synoptic Problem,
      Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2002),
      which makes the same point, "While cinematic representations of the
      Sermon on the Mount provide a good location to examine twentieth
      century views of Jesus, it is more than doubtful that they afford us
      any control over how first century editors, unconstrained by the
      cinematic medium or the need for 'sound bytes' might have worked."
      Since I do not make the claim that the films afford us any control on
      how first century authors behaved, the comment is not relevant to the
      point I am arguing.

      4 See particularly "The Synoptic Jesus", pp. 33-34 and 42; and for
      more detail, see The Case Against Q, especially pp. 85-6.

      5 "Synoptic Jesus", p. 41; Case Against Q, p. 130.

      6 "Synoptic Jesus", p. 42; Case Against Q, p. 131.

      7 See Michael Goulder, "Luke's Compositional Conventions", NTS 39
      (1993), pp. 150-2.

      8 "Dissolving", p. 117 (twice) and p. 118. In the first of these
      references, Downing mischaracterizes my argument: "Mark Goodacre
      displays effectively some responses of twentieth-century film makers
      to the narrative exigencies arising out of the Gospel materials".
      The article deals solely with the Sermon on the Mount and
      specifically focuses on the way in which it has been dealt with as a
      long monologue.

      9 This point is argued in The Case Against Q, especially pp. 90-6.

      10 "Dissolving", pp. 118-9. Incidentally, it is likely that both
      Josephus and Luke would have dictated to a clerk or a scribe. They
      are not themselves physically writing when they are consulting their
      source material, which lessens the impact of Downing's concerns about
      desks and writing implements.

      11 "Dissolving", p. 119.

      -----------------------------
      Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
      Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
      University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
      Birmingham B15 2TT UK

      http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
      http://NTGateway.com


      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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    • Maluflen@aol.com
      In a message dated 11/8/2002 5:56:30 PM Pacific Standard Time, ... Mark, did you mean avoiding word-by-word conflation here, or did you perhaps mean
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 9, 2002
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        In a message dated 11/8/2002 5:56:30 PM Pacific Standard Time, M.S.Goodacre@... writes:


        Indeed Downing's observation of the way the
        ancients proceeded, tending to utilise one source at a time and
        avoiding word-by-word conflation, is - as Michael Goulder has pointed
        out - quite consonant with the Farrer Theory's insistence that Luke
        treated his two sources in blocks, taking Mark for a stretch (Luke
        4.31-6.19), then Matthew for a stretch (6.20-7.23), then returning to
        Mark (8.4-9.50), and so on.7


        Mark, did you mean "avoiding word-by-word conflation" here, or did you perhaps mean "avoiding extended literal copying of his sources"? Otherwise, I find your response to Downing very effective. Your examples from Josephus are particularly interesting.

        Leonard Maluf
      • Mark Goodacre
        ... I did mean word-by-word conflation. What I see Luke and other writers doing is focusing primarily on one source at a time; so in the theory I favour,
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 9, 2002
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          On 9 Nov 2002 at 19:23, Maluflen@... wrote:

          > Mark, did you mean "avoiding word-by-word conflation" here, or did you
          > perhaps mean "avoiding extended literal copying of his sources"?

          I did mean word-by-word conflation. What I see Luke and other
          writers doing is focusing primarily on one source at a time; so in
          the theory I favour, Luke follows Mark for a stretch and then Matthew
          for a stretch and does not, on the whole, go in for word-for-word
          conflation. I realise that this is a bit different from the picture
          of Mark on the Two-Gospel hypothesis.

          > Otherwise, I find your response to Downing very effective. Your
          > examples from Josephus are particularly interesting.

          Thank you. It was only with Downing's short response to my JSNT
          article that I began to do some work I should have done a long time
          ago -- actually looking at the evidence from Josephus. One of the
          things that I find very interesting is that Josephus is not
          concerned, when it comes to the laws material in Ant. 3-4, with
          deriving adjacently positioned material from diverse places in the
          Pentateuch. He will quite happily "to and fro" in his Pentateuchal
          source material in order to produce a coherent account of the laws,
          whatever the physical difficulties involved in doing this.

          Mark
          -----------------------------
          Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
          Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
          University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
          Birmingham B15 2TT UK

          http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
          http://NTGateway.com


          Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
          List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
        • Horace Jeffery Hodges
          ... I d be grateful for any feedback on my piece below ahead of my submitting it to a journal. With thanks, Mark. ... Mark, thanks for sharing your upcoming
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 10, 2002
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            Mark Goodacre asked for responses:

            ------------------------------------------------------
            I'd be grateful for any feedback on my piece below
            ahead of my submitting it to a journal. With thanks,
            Mark.
            ------------------------------------------------------

            Mark, thanks for sharing your upcoming article with
            us. It was interesting -- and as Leonard has already
            noted -- persuasive in its use of Josephus's
            arrangement of Jewish laws.

            I am wondering about the implications of redaction of
            sayings versus narrative material for your fatigue
            hypothesis. Would you expect more fatigue in the
            former or the latter?

            Put differently, where would fatigue more likely occur
            -- in quoting, rearranging, and editing large blocks
            of narrative or in quoting, rearranging, and editing
            small units of sayings material?

            Best regards,

            Jeffery Hodges

            =====
            Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
            Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
            447-791 Kyunggido Osan-City
            Yangsandong 411
            South Korea

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          • Mark Goodacre
            ... Thanks, Jeffery. This element needs some proper working out, but I am interested in what it may tell us about the physical aspects of working with source
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 10, 2002
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              On 10 Nov 2002 at 13:40, Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:

              > Mark, thanks for sharing your upcoming article with
              > us. It was interesting -- and as Leonard has already
              > noted -- persuasive in its use of Josephus's
              > arrangement of Jewish laws.

              Thanks, Jeffery. This element needs some proper working out, but I
              am interested in what it may tell us about the physical aspects of
              working with source material in the first century.

              > I am wondering about the implications of redaction of
              > sayings versus narrative material for your fatigue
              > hypothesis. Would you expect more fatigue in the
              > former or the latter?
              >
              > Put differently, where would fatigue more likely occur
              > -- in quoting, rearranging, and editing large blocks
              > of narrative or in quoting, rearranging, and editing
              > small units of sayings material?

              I haven't given this as much thought as I would like, but it is an
              interesting question. My hunch would be that one would expect more
              (observable) fatigue to occur in narrative material because of the
              "continuity error" element, i.e. where a writer retains a feature
              from a source that is incongruous in his reframing of that story.
              Most of the examples in my article were in narrative material.

              Mark
              -----------------------------
              Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
              Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
              University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
              Birmingham B15 2TT UK

              http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
              http://NTGateway.com


              Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
              List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
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