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[Synoptic-L] Reviewing Rodd's review of Goodacre

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  • Ken Olson
    I ve been following Stephen Carlson s blog Hypotyposeis regularly, as, I suspect, have many other listers. I ve been meaning to post something on Stephen s
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2004

      I’ve been following Stephen Carlson’s blog Hypotyposeis regularly, as, I suspect, have many other listers. I’ve been meaning to post something on Stephen’s discussions of the three articles on the Synoptic Problem by Foster, Damm, and Goulder from _Novum Testamentum_ 45.4, but I’ve only just now been able to get hold of them. So instead I’ll address Cyril Rodd’s review of Mark Goodacre’s _The Case Against Q_ from _The Journal of Theological Studies_ 54.2 (2003) 687-691. I should admit up front that in what follows, I am writing unabashedly from the point of view of a Markan priorist who thinks that, in addition to mark, Luke used a document indistinguishable from Matthew.

      Rodd criticizes Goodacre from the point of view of a somewhat atypical believer in Q. He thinks of Q as a collection of different sources, written and oral, available to both Luke and Matthew, rather than as a single document. This is, of course, not a new theory. J. Jeremias and C. K. Barrett are well known proponents of similar theories. Longtime list members may recall that Rodd’s article, "The End of A Theology of Q?"[_Expository Times_ 113 (Oct 2001) 5-12], in which he argued that we would not be able to reconstruct Mark from Matthew and Luke, so it is futile to attempt to reconstruct Q, was discussed on Synoptic-L a couple of years ago.

      Much of Rodd’s reasoning, however, is typical of Q theorists. Rodd notes that, in developing his argument that Luke used Matthew, "Goodacre does not tackle the question directly, but turns to the main arguments proposed in favour of Q." While Rodd is correct, I think he misses the main point of what Goodacre is doing. The direct evidence for Luke’s use of Matthew is the same as the direct evidence for Luke’s use of Q: the material shared by Matthew and Luke that didn’t come from Mark. Goodacre is presuming this evidence and explaining why Luke’s use of Matthew is a better explanation for this material in Luke than is Luke’s use of a lost source whose contents must be hypothesized.

      Rodd observes (correctly, in my opinion): "The main argument against the Farrer theory, however, is the implausibility of Luke’s rearranging the material in such apparently incoherent ways." He appears to be willing to grant the effectiveness of many of Goodacre’s arguments that Luke’s order is due to Luke’s own coherent arrangement of the material, rather than on Luke’s reproduction of the original order of Q, but then warns: "Several of them would have equal force if Luke were artistically arranging material derived from the hypothetical Q."

      Again, this is true, but doesn’t meet the argument that Goodacre is making. Q is postulated because of the supposed improbability of Luke’s use of Matthew. The main argument (according to Rodd) against Luke’s use of Matthew is the supposed improbability of Luke’s arranging the double tradition material as he did if he took that material from Matthew. If Luke’s arrangement is shown to be artistically appropriate, this undermines the main reason for postulating Q in the first place. That Goodacre’s arguments might, with equal force, be used to show how Luke arranged material from Q (however one conceives it) misses the point. No one hypothesizes Q on the basis that it would have served equally well as Matthew as a source for Luke.

      Rodd grants that Goodacre’s arguments are effective against currently popular reconstructions of Q, but argues that these represent a false picture of Q. He argues that, since we would be unable to reconstruct Mark from Matthew and Luke, it must be equally impossible to reconstruct Q. He claims that we can have no idea what Q contained or what it was like. This might leave us wondering how Rodd can know that it wasn’t like Matthew.

      Rodd also notes that Goodacre’s work appeared just too late to take into account the vital issues raised by Maurice Casey’s _An Aramaic Approach to Q_. He doesn’t go on to explain what these vital issues are or how they affect Goodacre’s argument. Fortuitously, Christopher Tuckett’s review of Casey’s book is found immediately preceding Casey’s review of Goodacre in the same issue of _JTS_. Tuckett is skeptical of Casey’s conclusions, and finds some tension between Casey’s claims that we need to postulate an Aramaic source and that this source was heavily edited by the evangelists. Tuckett writes:

      >>the ‘vigorous editing’, making the material relevant for the ‘target

      audience’, makes somewhat redundant the theory that Luke (or Matthew) has necessarily used an Aramaic version of the tradition. Since so many of the differences between Matthew and Luke are due to the evangelists’ concerns to relate the tradition to their own situations, why does one need to postulate an Aramaic version of the tradition? Exactly the same result could emerge from a writer redacting a Greek Vorlage.<<

      One might be tempted wonder whether Tuckett’s objection to Casey’s hypothetical source might not be brought to bear against his own by replacing the word "Aramaic" with "Q" and "Greek" with "Matthean" in the quotation above.

      Rodd’s counter-proposal to the standard Q hypothesis is that the double tradition material came to Matthew and Luke in the from of several different written sources rather than a single document. He claims that it would be inappropriate to apply Occam’s razor against this theory because we know that, at the time the gospels were written, it was a standard practice to take notes on small wax or wooden tablets. It is, therefore, entirely fitting, given the cultural context, that Matthew and Luke would have used such.

      There are at least two gaps in Rodd’s reasoning. First, the two places we can be sure that the material common to Matthew and Luke circulated in the early church are the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Anything else is hypothetical. Second, while ancient writers did indeed use tablets for notes and rough drafts during composition, these tablets were not, as a rule, copied and circulated in the way that literary works were. An author might use notes taken by an assistant or he might share his notes with a close friend, but the usual understanding of the 2DH postulates that the Q material, in whatever form, circulated widely enough to be available to two authors who were apparently unknown to each other. If they were known to each other, it would seem odd to postulate that they didn’t know of each other’s works, but only each other’s sources. In Rodd’s form of the 2DH, the early Christian community copied and distributed multiple brief unfinished drafts containing many of Jesus’ sayings and a few of his actions. I do not think this theory fits known processes of ancient literary production so well as Rodd assumes. This is one of the advantages of the Farrer theory; Matthew’s gospel was definitely a finished literary work that was copied and distributed widely in the early church.

      On this particular issue, I think, Kloppenborg has seen farther than many. He has attempted to show that Q is credible as a finished work of literature which could have been copied and circulated. I think there are problems with Kloppenborg’s theory. I have trouble envisioning the pre-publication audience that heard Kloppenborg’s Q and thought it was ready to be published. I would think that in a few places they might have suggested clarifications were needed on who was speaking and who was being addressed and maybe also on what John the Baptist had to do with anything. Nonetheless, I think Kloppenborg is right to think that if Q circulated, it must have been a document seen as worth the effort of copying and distributing.

      Finally, Rodd criticizes Goodacre’s approach for making his case "in relation to previous positions and arguments" rather than finding "new ways of presenting the evidence." He does not offer much guidance as to what would be a new way of presenting the evidence. Possibly it would be one that supported Rodd’s conclusions. Goodacre’s approach has its merits. Much of the purpose of scholarly dialogue is to improve hypotheses by putting them forward, having them criticized, and responding to the criticism.

      Best Wishes,




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