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[Synoptic-L] Gospel Interpretation

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  • Tim Lewis
    The composition of the synoptic gospels fascinate me so I follow the synoptic-l discussions with great pleasure. While I am still working out my own source
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2004
      The composition of the synoptic gospels fascinate me
      so I follow the synoptic-l discussions with great
      pleasure. While I am still working out my own source
      hypothesis (apparently not too dissimilar to the one
      proposed in 1980 by Gordon D. Fee, "A Text-Critical
      Look at the Synoptic Problem," NT vol. XXII (1980),
      12-28), and I do have some details to discuss but I am
      also very interested in the broader questions:

      Can anyone help refer me to any material dealing with
      how different source hypotheses will affect the actual
      interpretation of the gospels? If one were to put
      together a teaching course on the synoptic problem,
      for instance, such a course would hopefully deal with
      how different suppositions of each source hypothesis
      changes the overall interpretation of each synoptic
      gospel. Or is this also a matter of dispute?

      At times I find it quite difficult to pinpoint just
      what significant differences of interpretation are
      made by a different source hypothesis. It seems that
      each evangelist is in every scenario is utilizing
      sources of some kind and that each is relatively
      conservative in reissuing his material (in his
      portrait/deeds/words of Jesus) and that what each
      evangelist has achieved through the compilation and
      (re)composition of his sources usually overrides what
      was thought to be the significance of one’s supposed
      source hypothesis by reason of the evangelist’s new
      arrangement being exactly that – a new
      arrangement/version/composition reasonably
      characteristic of the dependent evangelist! In other
      words, how might the direction of dependence alter the
      interpretation of passages? Are there any significant
      examples where it actually makes a big difference?

      One difference which comes to mind is that an
      evangelist using a previous gospel as a source might
      suggest a degree of criticism. But then again it might
      also reflect that the source gospel is granted more
      acceptance and recognition than, say, completely
      ignoring it would have. Thus those who advocate Luke’s
      knowledge of Matthew, for example, maintain a degree
      of criticism for Luke of Matthew’s gospel almost as
      though Luke wished to replace Matthew with something
      more accurate. But if one wished to replace one gospel
      with another would one include and overwrite as much
      of the original material as possible (not entirely
      done by Luke) or would one simply supply something
      completely different (e.g. John’s Gospel?)? Is it more
      flattering for the sources to be used than ignored?

      I wonder whether perhaps those source hypotheses
      claiming complete independence between all three
      synoptics (do such exist?) would not necessarily lead
      an interpreter any further astray than would an
      incorrect theory of direct dependence? But how would
      we ever know? Will a better source hypothesis lead us
      to better interpretations of each synoptic gospel? Is
      a ‘better interpretation’ really just personal taste?
      Is there any consensus on this aspect? Is it ‘better’
      to interpret the gospels through a strictly defined
      source theory than to interpret them hesitantly with a
      indefinite source theory?

      I’m wondering what the different redactional portraits
      do provide/offer as important for interpreting an
      entire gospel or even a smaller passage (I am familiar
      with some of the caricatures of Mark’s
      ‘unintelligible’ procedure which was thought by some
      Markan priorists who tried to ‘imagine’ Mark’s
      dependence on Matthew and Luke but these ‘imaginings’
      seem merely polemical and thus largely unhelpful).

      Perhaps the major source hypotheses are not really
      contradictory when it comes to interpretation?

      Timothy M. Lewis

      Timothy M. Lewis
      Cranbourne, VIC 3977
      Currently enrolled in Master of Theology at Whitley College,
      Melbourne College of Divinity, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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