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[Synoptic-L] Synoptic Problem Memo (Rev 1)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Synoptic-L On: Synoptic Problem Memo (Rev 1) From: Bruce 0. [Apologia for Syn-L: The Farmer list of 18 possible Synoptic relations (Synoptic
    Message 1 of 5 , Jan 18, 2005
      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic-L
      On: Synoptic Problem Memo (Rev 1)
      From: Bruce

      0. [Apologia for Syn-L: The Farmer list of 18 possible Synoptic relations
      (Synoptic Problem 208f; repr Bellinzoni, Two-Source Hypothesis 173f) is
      handy, and correct as far as it goes, but it assumes that relations obtain
      among *all three* Synoptics, which is not logically necessary, and not
      historically sufficient. I thought it might be convenient to have a handlist
      of ALL possible Synoptic relations (confined to the three extant Synoptics,
      and not including conjectural documents), including options in which there
      are no, or less than three, two-way relations. Here is my draft of such a
      list, with apologies for the explanatory material thought helpful for the
      separate, and more elementary, E-discussion for which this message was
      originally composed. Needless to say, corrections are invited, and will be
      welcome, from any quarter. / Bruce].

      1. The Synoptic Problem as usually posed is to determine the nature and
      direction of literary relations existing among the first three Gospels,
      whose canonical order is Matthew (Mt), Mark (Mk), and Luke (Lk). It is now
      (anno 2005) generally supposed that there ARE such relations, but this was
      not always the case, and this need not be firmly assumed at the outset.

      The search for a Synoptic solution is complicated by the fact that in
      earlier days it was denied that any such relations existed. The three
      Synoptics were treated as independent witnesses to events in the life of
      Jesus, and events appearing in all three Synoptics were regarded as very
      firmly attested, by the Roman rule requiring three witnesses; those events
      constituted what was then named the "triple tradition." At that time, the
      problem of the many stories common to Matthew and Luke but absent in Mark
      (named the "double tradition") was thus not solved by positing the use of Mt
      or Lk by the other; it was instead solved by positing a "Quelle" (Q) source,
      of an age equal to or earlier than Mark, on which both were assumed to have
      drawn. With the more recent perception that the three Synoptic Gospels are
      NOT independent, but on the contrary at least somewhat interrelated, the
      logic underlying the 19th century "Q" hypothesis vanishes. Unfortunately,
      that Q (in one form or another) is still very much with us, as a fixed and
      indeed enshrined scholarly conclusion, and its ongoing existence complicates
      the statement and the solution of the Synoptic Problem as such. I propose to
      ignore it in these discussions. That does not mean that Q, or some other
      hypothesis requiring an outside source, may not reappear during our
      investigation. It DOES mean that any such hypothetical source needs to be
      defined anew, in terms appropriate to the current, or best attainable,
      understanding of the Synoptics themselves.

      3. Possible Solutions. If we have three texts (Mt, Mk, Lk, but the symbology
      is easier if we rename them in canonical order as A, B, C) among which
      literary relations may exist, but do not necessarily exist, there are
      exactly twenty-five (25) possible forms that such relations can take. There
      is a minimal case (no relations); plus six options in which there is only
      one two-text relationship, the third text standing entirely outside that
      relationship; plus another group of six options in which there are two
      two-text relationships, plus twelve patterns in which all three texts are
      involved. In the last twelve, and only there, the order of composition of
      the texts is implicit in the hypothesis. All options are listed below.

      NO LITERARY RELATIONS

      (1) A, B, C
      There is only one such solution. It does not matter (for Synoptic
      Problem purposes) in what order the texts were written. This (see above) was
      the dominant mid 19th century view.

      ONE RELATION BETWEEN TWO TEXTS

      The third text stands apart, and is not related to either of them.
      (2) A | B > C
      (3) A | C > B
      (4) B | A > C
      (5) B | C > A
      (6) C | A > B
      (7) C | B > A

      TWO RELATIONS BETWEEN TWO TEXTS

      One is the source for the other two, but the other two have no contact with
      each other
      (8) A > B, C (that is, A > B and simultaneously A > C)
      (9) B > A, C
      (10) C > A, B
      The order of composition of the last two texts is immaterial

      Two are sources for the third; the first two have no contact with each other
      (11) A, B > C (that is, A > C and simultaneously B > C)
      (12) A, C > B
      (13) B, C > A
      The order of composition of the first two texts is immaterial

      ALL THREE TEXTS ARE CONNECTED BY RELATIONS

      One is the source for a second, which in turn is the source for the third.
      The order of composition of the three texts is fixed, as part of the
      hypothesis. The third knows only the second, and is not *independently*
      aware of the first
      (14) A > B > C
      (15) A > C > B
      (16) B > A > C
      (17) B > C > A
      (18) C > A > B
      (19) C > B > A

      Same as above, except that the third text knows the first as well as the
      second:
      (20) A > B >> C
      (21) A > C >> B
      (22) B > A >> C
      (23) B > C >> A
      (24) C > A >> B
      (25) C > B >> A

      We may remember that A = Mt, B = Mk, C = Lk. A does not mean "the
      chronologically first Synoptic."

      4. Required for Solution: Assuming that the texts are consistent (and that
      all relations between, say, A and B run in the same direction), which is not
      necessarily true, the amount of firm evidence required for a solution is
      surprisingly small. Precisely three directional determinations, one for each
      possible pair of texts, will suffice. An illustration follows.

      5. Sample Solution (the Farrer Hypothesis). Suppose we can determine (for
      instance) that Mark (coded as text B) was used by Matthew (text A), leaving
      aside the role of Luke (text C). This establishes the relation B > A. It
      eliminates solutions (1), (2-4), (10), and (11), in which nonrelation
      between A and B is implied, and it also eliminates all solutions in which
      the opposite relation, A > B, appears, or in which B > A is excluded, such
      as (15) and, more subtly, (17). It turns out that there are altogether
      seventeen eliminated solutions. These are:

      (1) A, B, C
      (2) A | B > C
      (3) A | C > B
      (4) B | A > C
      (5) B | C > A
      (6) C | A > B
      (8) A > B, C
      (10) C > A, B
      (11) A, B > C
      (12) A, C > B
      (14) A > B > C
      (15) A > C > B
      (17) B > C > A
      (18) C > A > B
      (20) A > B >> C
      (21) A > C >> B
      (24) C > A >> B

      Our one determination thus eliminates seventeen of the twenty-five options,
      leaving us with only eight to decide among by further investigation. The
      remaining possible solutions are those in which the element B > A is
      included.

      Suppose that it is next determined that Mark (B) was used by Luke (C). We
      then have the mandatory feature B > C, and only solutions including that
      feature can be true. All solutions including the indeterminate feature B, C,
      or the incompatible feature C > B, are eliminated. The indeterminate
      solutions are again seventeen in number, though they are not the same as the
      preceding seventeen. The eliminated solutions are:

      (1) A, B, C
      (3) A | C > B
      (4) B | A > C
      (5) B | C > A
      (6) C | A > B
      (7) C | B > A
      (8) A > B, C
      (10) C > A, B
      (12) A, C > B
      (13) B, C > A
      (15) A > C > B
      (16) B > A > C
      (18) C > A > B
      (19) C > B > A
      (21) A > C >> B
      (24) C > A >> B
      (25) C > B >> A

      Of these seventeen eliminated solutions, twelve are duplicates of those
      eliminated in the previous step, so only five are new information. Those
      five reduce the previous list of eight possibles to only three, namely,
      those in which the relation between A and C is not yet specified. There are
      three possibilities for A and C, and these define the three remaining
      Synoptic options, which are:

      (9) B > A, C (A and C are not directly related)
      (22) B > A >> C (A is a source for C)
      (23) B > C >> A (C is a source for A)

      It is obvious that determining the directionality of the relation (if a
      relation exists) between A and C will identify only one of these three. In
      general, it thus suffices in principle to discover one very strong
      directional indicator (or to determine the lack of such) in each of the
      three pairs of texts that can be constructed from A, B, and C. Since each
      such pair contains thousands of points at which a directionality
      determination might be made, it seems that a Synoptic Solution can in
      principle be reached without great difficulty. For instance, in the present
      example, if we should to on to determine that the relation between A and C
      is A > C, we at once reach Solution #22, which in the NT field is called the
      Farrer Hypothesis.

      The procedure is the same, mutatis mutandis, for an experimental result
      which ends with any of the other 24 possible hypotheses of Synoptic
      relation.

      5. If the third determination in the example above were instead A, C [no
      direct relation exists between A and C], we would reach instead Solution #9,
      plus the suggestion that it may be necessary to posit a fourth, conjectural
      text to account for the Synoptics as we have them. This is essentially, or
      might presently lead to, a modern version of the Two Document Hypothesis, in
      which Text B (our Mark) and a lost and conjectural Text X (the functional
      equivalent of the former Q), are necessary and sufficient to explain the
      observable facts of Texts A (Matthew) and C (Luke).

      6. If it should emerge that there are equally strong indications for A > B
      and for B > A, that is, that A is both earlier and later than B, it might be
      necessary to acknowledge that A (and perhaps also B) is accretional, that
      is, that it contains material of different date. This would take the problem
      outside the range of the assumptions governing the above notes. Such
      situations occur, and are even common, in the classical Chinese text corpus
      (see Brooks, The Original Analects 257f). That complication has not so far
      been suggested for the early Christian corpus, and it can be left aside, in
      the present investigation, until it unmistakably arises.

      7. Failing such complications, it is to be noted that the Synoptic Problem,
      insofar as it is posed in terms of the three extant texts, and insofar as
      the relations among any two of those texts are both unidirectional and
      consistent, can be wholly solved by the device of directionality
      determination between corresponding segments of text. No appeals to
      authorial personae, or to considerations of theology, or to information
      about early Church history, are required. This is fortunate, because nothing
      is firmly known about any of the Synoptic authors, and almost nothing is
      firmly known about early theology or Church history, outside the evidence of
      the Synoptic Gospels themselves (and of Acts, if we accept the tradition
      that it is by the same author as Luke). Those arguments thus tend to be
      circular, and accordingly ineffective.

      8. The standard rule is that the best hypothesis is the most adequate
      hypothesis: the one which accommodates or explains the most data. But in the
      event that our Synoptic hypothesis should turn out to incorporate less than
      all of the data, so that there is a residue, an additional consideration
      comes into play. Given that an additional hypothesis will be required to
      explain all the data, the best *initial* hypothesis may be the one which
      leaves the most manageable residue, presumably a residue pointing to one or
      more well-defined outside sources for the material and the taxemes of order
      visible in our present Synoptics. Whether a conjectural source is required,
      and whether, if required, that conjectural source will resemble or coincide
      with the previously supposed Q, may be left as unknown as of the present
      writing.

      Bruce



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    • Joseph Weaks
      ... Bruce, There is a larger list of possible relationships running around somewhere. I can t recall where at the moment. This history part you make
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 19, 2005
        On Jan 19, 2005, at 1:34 AM, E Bruce Brooks wrote:
        > it assumes that relations obtain
        > among *all three* Synoptics, which is not logically necessary, and not
        > historically sufficient.

        Bruce,
        There is a larger list of possible relationships running around
        somewhere. I can't recall where at the moment. This "history" part you
        make reference to is really the aspect of the subject that renders this
        kind of listing close to pointless, isn't it? The historicity of is all
        makes the list infinite.
        B could've REALLY known A, while C has passing knowledge of it and B,
        or not.
        A's version of B could've been quite different than C's version.
        (Certainly the case, in fact)
        etc.

        My 2ยข,
        Joe

        **************************************************************
        Rev. Joseph A. Weaks
        Senior Minister, Bethany Christian Church, Dallas
        Ph.D. (Cand.), Brite Divinity School, Ft. Worth
        j.weaks@...

        The Macintosh Biblioblog http://macbiblioblog.blogspot.com
        "All things Macintosh for theB ible Scholar"
        **************************************************************

        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
        List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
      • E Bruce Brooks
        To: Synoptic-L In Response To: Joe Weaks On: Synoptic Theories From: Bruce JOE: Right. I think, then, that we are talking apples/oranges. You re centering on
        Message 3 of 5 , Jan 19, 2005
          To: Synoptic-L
          In Response To: Joe Weaks
          On: Synoptic Theories
          From: Bruce

          JOE: Right. I think, then, that we are talking apples/oranges. You're
          centering on the theory, and I tend to care more about real implication for
          interpretation.

          BRUCE: I don't see it that way, or rather I don't see a clear-cut dichotomy.
          I see rather a natural methodological sequence. Philology frames a text
          theory on purely textual evidence, by doing what it knows how to do. History
          unpacks the texts as thus presented, and works out the implications for
          events.

          My view (not my own, but long since stated by the classic manual writers
          Langlois et Seignobos, and long before them, by the Chinese text critic Yau
          Ji-hvng) is that the philology has to be done before the history can
          reputably begin. A text is not a "source" for history until it has been
          philologically scrutinized, and until its nature and date, absolute or
          relative (plus a few other basics) have been determined with reasonable
          firmness.

          But I see both as part of a larger process. To me as a philologist, the
          plausibility of the historical implications (and their support or lack of it
          from other circumstantial evidence) is the final test of the viability of
          the philological hypothesis (the statement that says what type of
          relatedness obtains among the three Synoptics). So even if it is not
          strictly a part of philology, it is nevertheless a matter of constant
          relevance to philology.

          The list of possible configurations simply exhausts the three-way
          philological possibilities; it also (and I thought this was amusing) shows
          how few unambiguous directionality determinations might suffice to indicate
          which of the 25 possible configurations we have before us. The good news is
          that there can be only one relationship in reality. The bad news is that it
          may after all be difficult to find. (That a solution, once found, is next to
          impossible to convince anybody of, is by now news to no one. That's however
          a social fact, not a philological fact, and since I can't do anything about
          it, I choose to ignore it).

          As for "theory," I don't in my own work invoke at any stage what I would
          call a "theory." I try to look at the facts, and then find a way of
          explaining the facts (a "hypothesis" if you like). "Theory" in our time
          implies something pretty heavy, and usually Marxist; at minimum some
          predisposition that is protected from empirical examination of the
          situation. I try, I think any historian tries, to exclude such
          predispositions from the investigation, whether merely personal or
          "theoretical" predispositions. The difficulty of doing this is well known.
          The impossibility of doing it, though often enough asserted in recent years,
          has not yet been demonstrated.

          JOE: Good luck on the project

          BRUCE: Thanks, it may come in handy.

          Bruce

          E Bruce Brooks
          Warring States Project
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          http://www.umass.edu/wsp



          Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
          List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
        • Joseph Weaks
          ... Well, I do understand even more of your project and approach now. That s helpful. But, I do think we re still talking past one another. Most of what you
          Message 4 of 5 , Jan 19, 2005
            On Jan 19, 2005, at 8:18 PM, E Bruce Brooks wrote:
            > JOE: Right. I think, then, that we are talking apples/oranges. You're
            > centering on the theory, and I tend to care more about real
            > implication for
            > interpretation.
            >
            > BRUCE: I don't see it that way, or rather I don't see a clear-cut
            > dichotomy.
            > I see rather a natural methodological sequence. Philology frames a text
            > theory on purely textual evidence, by doing what it knows how to do.
            > History
            > unpacks the texts as thus presented, and works out the implications for
            > events.
            >

            Well, I do understand even more of your project and approach now.
            That's helpful. But, I do think we're still talking past one another.
            Most of what you said about your method is in fact what I meant by
            "theory"-- it is theoretical. The point of examining practical
            implication follows the theory-- it's the "so what". I think of JDEP
            in Hebrew Bible introductory texts... it ruled the day as THE means for
            understanding the majority of texts, but in recent introductions, JDEP
            is introduced without any "so what". Or, I think of the primary and
            valid criticism of Burridge's work on gospel genre. Professor Burridge
            concedes so much in his definition of genre for the sake of comparing
            Mark to both Xenephon and Suetonius that he's left with a "so what",
            for which me has tried to write corrective followups.

            Cheers,
            Joe

            **************************************************************
            Rev. Joseph A. Weaks
            Senior Minister, Bethany Christian Church, Dallas
            Ph.D. (Cand.), Brite Divinity School, Ft. Worth
            j.weaks@...

            The Macintosh Biblioblog http://macbiblioblog.blogspot.com
            "All things Macintosh for theB ible Scholar"
            **************************************************************


            Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
            List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
          • E Bruce Brooks
            To: Synoptic-L Cc: CGC (Comparative History Discussion) In Response To: Joe Weaks On: Theory and Method From: Bruce [Preface for the comparative law people on
            Message 5 of 5 , Jan 19, 2005
              To: Synoptic-L
              Cc: CGC (Comparative History Discussion)
              In Response To: Joe Weaks
              On: Theory and Method
              From: Bruce

              [Preface for the comparative law people on the CGC list: this is one item in
              an NT exchange which, as it evolved, I thought might be suggestive for legal
              history. It is copied to you accordingly. Would those who know the JDEP
              theory of the origin of Jewish law, and its historical consequences, as I do
              not, care to comment? / Bruce]

              I suspect that this exchange may be wearying the NT many. I add this note
              nevertheless, since I feel importantly about the distinction (under whatever
              names, and I am open to better ones) between what I would call theory and
              method.

              Method, to me, is the toolkit. It is the list of devices one learns in, say,
              Metzger's Text of the New Testament. This is not so much a set of
              conclusions about the manuscripts, or about the text of the NT as deduced
              from the best manuscripts (Metzger does touch on these things, but for a
              full-fledged theory of the NT text, one goes instead to something like
              Westcott and Hort, 1882 and reprints), as a list of stuff to watch for when
              working on those problems. Prominent among them is the error canon, the list
              of mistakes which experience shows scribes are likely to make. Knowing those
              likely errors sensitizes the beginner by appropriating a huge amount of
              other people's experience (Griesbach's caution that "lectio brevior potior"
              does not mean that scribes ALWAYS expand, and so on, is very well taken, at
              all points). Method has no content.

              Theory, on the other hand, as I understand it, is a view of a particular
              text or corpus arrived at after using method (or by serendipity, or any
              other way). It offers an explanatory model. It proposes to explain, to
              account for. Theory has content; content is the whole point and power of
              theory.

              JOE: Most of what you said about your method is in fact what I meant by
              "theory"-- it is theoretical. The point of examining practical implication
              follows the theory-- it's the "so what".

              BRUCE: I have no problem with the idea that once we have arrived at a theory
              (in the above sense: an explanatory model), we need to ask, what are the
              consequences if it is true? I think it is well established in the sciences
              that a theory without consequences is nugatory, since it cannot be tested by
              observing those consequences. As for method being "true," it is a
              contradiction in terms. Method can at most be helpful in trying to arrive at
              truth. Method is not an answer, it is a way of reaching answers. For that
              reason, it cannot be tested, and thus cannot be refuted (though it is always
              subject to being better observed). Thus, refuting a particular theory of
              Gospel origins, or establishing that a given passage is not after all an
              interpolation, and so on, would leave the methodological the observation
              that scribes often expand still standing, and unaffected. The country doctor
              might misdiagnose a given case of influenza, but his thermometer will still
              work. Method is what tells him to use the thermometer.

              JOE: I think of JDEP in Hebrew Bible introductory texts... it ruled the day
              as THE means for
              understanding the majority of texts, but in recent introductions, JDEP is
              introduced without any "so what".

              BRUCE: JDEP (as I understand it, the idea that not Moses, but four different
              persons represented by the letters J, D, E, and P, wrote the first five
              books of the OT) strikes me as precisely a theory - a conclusion after
              examination, including an examination of the names for God in particular
              segments of text. JDEP has content, it says something about the Pentateuch.
              Whether the JDEP theory is presented in a given book AS a theory, or
              silently accepted as an assured fact, may reflect one way or another on the
              author of that book, but it doesn't change the status of JDEP as a theory.

              JDEP isn't a method by which one investigates any other problem (though, if
              found valid, it might be suggestive as a precedent for seemingly analogous
              cases). It is rather a theory whose point is limited to explaining (or if
              one prefers, and conservative denominations apparently do prefer, offering
              to explain) one particular problem: the origin of the Mosaic law.

              I should think that JDEP can be tested by its consequences, like any theory.
              I am out of my element here, and off-topic for the list to boot, for which
              apologies, but for instance: If the JDEP explanatory model is true, what
              sort of historical picture emerges? Do the successive layers of law in that
              model make sense as social evolution, or as a response to social evolution?
              Can we form from the JDEP model a picture of an evolving Israel, and is
              there any collateral evidence that would either support or refute that
              picture? Is there seeming contact with the law codes or organizing documents
              of any contiguous civilization, and does the interchronology work out right?
              Stuff like that.

              At which point one calls in the comparative law people and asks them: Does
              this make sense to you? The previous philology, the work that noted a
              certain distribution of J and E in those OT books, is not subject to that
              kind of verification (instead, it is subject to correction by more accurate
              observation). Method teaches us to pay attention to distributions. But no
              distribution becomes a theory until it has been judged significant, and made
              into a scenario for the emergence of the material in question.

              Or so it looks from here. Better terms, and better explication of these
              terms, are always welcome. And if anyone would like to recommend a book as
              the current best exposition of NT or NT-relevant philological method (I
              already have Maas and West, and obviously Metzger), I am listening.

              Bruce

              E Bruce Brooks
              Research Professor of Chinese
              Warring States Project
              University of Massachusetts at Amherst


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