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[Synoptic-L] Re: balance of plausibility

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  • Tim Lewis
    Is assuming written sources really more plausible? Stephen Carlson wrote: …given the highly extensive verbatim agreements in some of the Q material as well
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 18, 2004

      Is assuming written sources really more plausible?

      Stephen Carlson wrote:

      …given the highly extensive verbatim agreements in some of the Q material as well as large-scale agreements in sequencing of the sayings material, some recourse to a document that substantially accounts for these literary
      features must be made. Both the Farrer theory and the Q hypothesis proper
      propose such a document (Matthew and Q, respectively). An oral body of Q material cannot account for either the verbatim or the sequential agreements, while a fragmentary solution involving several documents or notes might handle the literary micro-agreements (at the word level) but not the macro-agreements (i.e. the larger, compositional level).

      Stephen, you seem to be defaulting to the notion that Q must be a singular written document (or Mt) because of "extensive verbal agreements" and "large-scale agreements in sequencing" without previously established parameters of whether an oral source or written source (or combination) is just as explicable. Thus you presume the burden of plausibility/persuasion lies with those who do not see a written source for the double tradition.

      Just previously to the above quote you wrote:

      I do believe that Q as a single, presumably unified, document is the
      standard supposition of the Mark-Q theory, as least as far as the published literature is concerned. I am aware that many teachers are less committed to this aspect and view Q more broadly as merely a cover symbol for the Double Tradition.

      Yes, it would seem people who are publishing literature on "Q" are more likely to have already accepted it as a unified document. But is it something that most Mk-Q theorists would agree on? (Is this not one weakness of the theory!?) Perhaps there are just as many who are unable to suppose a unified document but are simply less vocal (since this is less exciting? too vague?).

      Indeed several scholars are becoming more vocal against the "written" default setting in studying the synoptic problem. E.g. James Dunn is a proponent for an oral Q ["Altering the Default Setting: Re-envisaging the Early Transmission of the Jesus Tradition" [NTS 49 (2003): 139-75].

      Cf. John D. Harvey ["Orality and its Implications for Biblical Studies: Recapturing an Ancient Paradigm," JETS 45/1 (March 2002): 99–109] who believes, "a common oral source is at least as plausible a solution to the "Synoptic Problem" as one which is based on literary interdependence." See also an article earlier this year by Sharon Lea Matilda, "Negotiating the Clouds Around Statistics and "Q": A Rejoinder and Independent Analysis," NT XLVI, 2 (2004): 105-131, indicating an acceptance of the independence of Mt and Lk and some acceptance of the Mk-Q hypothesis but sees as problematic the notion of copying from a Q document (or even Mk as a document). Especially worth a read is, T. M. Derico "Upgrade and Reboot: A Re-Appraisal of the Default Setting" Trinity College, Oxford [http://www.sbl-site.org/PDF/Derico_Upgrade.pdf] in response to Dunn’s 2003 NTS article.

      Helmut Koester came eventually to multiply sources (written and oral) for the canonical gospels ["Written Gospels or Oral Traditions," Journal of Biblical Literature, Summer 94, Vol. 113 Issue 2, 293-7]. If his statement (p.297), "Whenever one observes words or phrases that derive from an author or redactor of a gospel writing, the existence of a written source must be assumed" is methodologically acceptable, then it is noteworthy that rarely does one find Markan phrases and redaction in Mt or Lk (and not very much Matthean phrasing is found in Lk).

      I'm certainly envious of other list members' solid beliefs in their particular source theories (most of which require much direct copying/editing from written sources) whilst I’m still struggling to confirm literary dependence (which seems to be assumed rather than tested)! I must agree that theories of written sources are simpler. But must still disagree that they are therefore more plausible or more likely.

      Tim Lewis.



      Timothy M. Lewis
      Cranbourne, VIC 3977
      Part-time Greek Tutor at Whitley College,
      Melbourne College of Divinity, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



      Find local movie times and trailers on Yahoo! Movies.
    • Stephen C. Carlson
      ... No, there s no such presumption. In fact, I do place the burden of persuasion lies on those asserting the existence of a literary relationship, However,
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 18, 2004
        At 06:28 PM 10/18/2004 +1000, Tim Lewis wrote:
        >Is assuming written sources really more plausible? ...
        >Stephen, you seem to be defaulting to the notion that Q must be a singular
        >written document (or Mt) because of "extensive verbal agreements" and
        >"large-scale agreements in sequencing" without previously established
        >parameters of whether an oral source or written source (or combination) is
        >just as explicable. Thus you presume the burden of plausibility/persuasion
        >lies with those who do not see a written source for the double tradition.

        No, there's no such presumption. In fact, I do place the burden
        of persuasion lies on those asserting the existence of a literary
        relationship, However, "extensive verbal agreements" and "large-scale
        agreements in sequencing" are among the relevant evidence that justifies a
        conclusion that there is such a literary relationship. There's nothing
        particularly unique about these (and other) criteria here; they've been
        applied by all sort of historical critics in all sorts of fields as well
        as by courts adjudicating copyright disputes.

        ...
        >Yes, it would seem people who are publishing literature on "Q" are more
        >likely to have already accepted it as a unified document. But is it
        >something that most Mk-Q theorists would agree on? (Is this not one weakness
        >of the theory!?) Perhaps there are just as many who are unable to suppose a
        >unified document but are simply less vocal (since this is less exciting? too
        >vague?).

        It may depend on what you mean by "most Mk-Q theorists". If you
        mean people who have published on synoptic source criticism, there
        are not a lot of them. If you mean people who more or less assent
        to the Mark-Q theory but don't really publish on that topic, I don't
        really know.

        >Indeed several scholars are becoming more vocal against the "written"
        >default setting in studying the synoptic problem. E.g. James Dunn is a
        >proponent for an oral Q ["Altering the Default Setting: Re-envisaging the
        >Early Transmission of the Jesus Tradition" [NTS 49 (2003): 139-75].
        >
        >Cf. John D. Harvey ["Orality and its Implications for Biblical Studies:
        >Recapturing an Ancient Paradigm," JETS 45/1 (March 2002): 99–109] who
        >believes, "a common oral source is at least as plausible a solution to the
        >"Synoptic Problem" as one which is based on literary interdependence." See
        >also an article earlier this year by Sharon Lea Matilda, "Negotiating the
        >Clouds Around Statistics and "Q": A Rejoinder and Independent Analysis," NT
        >XLVI, 2 (2004): 105-131, indicating an acceptance of the independence of Mt
        >and Lk and some acceptance of the Mk-Q hypothesis but sees as problematic
        >the notion of copying from a Q document (or even Mk as a document).
        >Especially worth a read is, T. M. Derico "Upgrade and Reboot: A Re-Appraisal
        >of the Default Setting" Trinity College, Oxford
        >[http://www.sbl-site.org/PDF/Derico_Upgrade.pdf%5d in response to Dunn’s 2003
        >NTS article.

        Harvey's article is available on-line along with many other in JETS
        at http://www.etsjets.org/jets/journal/jets.html

        My impression of all these articles (two of which I have at hand
        and the other two are based on my [poor] memory) is that they fail
        to articulate any workable standards for judging whether there was
        or was not literary use that can be applied to a broad set of actual
        cases. In particular, there's a tendency to set an impossibly high
        standard of proof for assessing literary dependence in the NT that
        would not work in other situations, and it is not clear why.

        Harvey's article stressed the orality of the culture, but the
        evangelists did write gospels and, even if the greater culture was
        oral, one cannot ignore the very real literary sub-culture -- a
        sub-culture that, in general, was wealthier and more mobile (so
        documents did circulate) and a sub-culture in which we would
        regarded as plagiarism was rampant (so people did copy). In such
        a sub-culture, I don't see why the constant rejoinder of "but it
        could have been oral" to be particularly compelling. We're not
        talking about literary dependence among illiterates.

        >Helmut Koester came eventually to multiply sources (written and oral) for
        >the canonical gospels ["Written Gospels or Oral Traditions," Journal of
        >Biblical Literature, Summer 94, Vol. 113 Issue 2, 293-7]. If his statement
        >(p.297), "Whenever one observes words or phrases that derive from an author
        >or redactor of a gospel writing, the existence of a written source must be
        >assumed" is methodologically acceptable, then it is noteworthy that rarely
        >does one find Markan phrases and redaction in Mt or Lk (and not very much
        >Matthean phrasing is found in Lk).

        Redaction is a powerful (but not necessary) argument, but your
        statement that "rarely does one find Markan phrases and redaction
        in Mt or Lk" might appear to be an acknowledgement that some such
        redaction is found, because you didn't say "no" or "zero." Can
        you really exclude any Markan redaction?

        >I'm certainly envious of other list members' solid beliefs in their
        >particular source theories (most of which require much direct
        >copying/editing from written sources) whilst I’m still struggling to confirm
        >literary dependence (which seems to be assumed rather than tested)! I must
        >agree that theories of written sources are simpler. But must still disagree
        >that they are therefore more plausible or more likely.

        When I became interested in the synoptic problem, the very first issue that
        I had to deal with was the existence of literary dependence. In fact, as
        an exercise, I wrote several years ago a private essay "The Synoptic Problem
        is a Literary Question" that expressed my thoughts on the question to my own
        satisfaction. Now that I have a weblog, I think I'll go ahead and publish it
        there so that you and others can at least understand where I'm coming from.

        Stephen Carlson
        --
        Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
        Weblog: http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/hypotyposeis/blogger.html
        "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35


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