- A few comments on synoptic harmonization:
1) There are many, independent reasons for cross-synoptic harmonizations,
and they most certainly are of interest to textual critics. Many classic
studies have been done on the topic, esp. in the 19th cent., by German scholars.
2) One source of these harmonizations is, of course, early gospel harmonies:
Justin's apparent harmony of the synoptics; Tatian's Diatessaron; the
harmony (perhaps similar/identical with Justin's?) which is preserved in the
Judiac-Christian gospel fragments, and labeled by Vielhauer/Strecker as
coming from the "Gospel according to the Ebionites"; the now-lost harmony
reportedly composed by Ammonius of Alexandria; the now-lost harmony
reportedly composed by Theophilus of Antioch; etc., etc. Most of these are
second century works.
3) There has always been a tendency of scribes to harmonize subconsciously:
the memory slips, or the "better known" version of a phrase guides the pen.
In earlier periods (or in certain circles) there may have been a suspicion
on the part of copyists that a word, phrase, or verse might have been
omitted by some earlier "corrupter" (see the references in Justin,
Tertullian, and Jerome, for example, which clearly inidcate that "tampering"
with Christian texts was taken for granted in the early period: Marcion is
a double example, charging that "Jewish" elements had been introduced into
Luke; he then proceeded to remove them...). With this in mind, one
understands how an early scribe might presume that a reading "must" have
been there originally, since it was in the parallel in another gospel; such
a scribe would have no qualms in "restoring" it.
4) The motives for harmonizations are complex: see my *Tatian's
Diatessaron,* pp. 72-76, or Tj. Baarda's article in the edited volume
*Gospel Traditions in the Second Century,* pp. 133-154.
5) The suggestions I have seen posted--and, indeed, most synoptic
theories--presuppose that "A" used "B" or "B" used "A". Who is borrowing
from whom is decided on this basis. I would argue that such a solution is a
bit simplistic, for the gospels did not spring "full grown" (Athena-like)
from their authors' pens (for textual evidence, see my chapter "What Text
Can NT Textual Criticism Ultimately Reach?" in B. Aland and J. Delobel, *NT
Textual Criticism, Exegesis and Church History,* pp. 136-152). Rather--as
the various endings of Mark and the existence of, apparently, a "Secret
Mark" make clear--they evolved bit-by-bit. Therefore, the process of
harmonization was not a "one way," "one time" event (e.g., Mark influenced
Matthew, OR Matthew influenced Mark...); rather, the process was on-going,
repetitive, and "recursive": at one point in the evolution of the
tradition, Mark may have been influential in shaping Matthew's text, but
then at a later date, Matthew may have influenced Mark's text. The process
is dynamic, continuous (in the early centuries), and defies simple analysis.
One should probably speak only of influences *on a pericope* (e.g., "At Matt
xx.xx, Mark seems to have influenced Matthew's text, but at Mark xx.xx,
Matthean influence seems apparent"); generalizations about a whole gospel
should be avoided.
Baarda once remarked to me that "Mark is the oldest of the
gospels--as well as the youngest." What he meant was that while in many
cases the traditional "Four Source" theory holds up (giving Mark priority),
there are also cases where Mark seems to have been redacted (presumably, at
a later date) with an eye on Matthew and Luke.
6) The consideration and careful study of Patristic and versional evidence
is *absolutely essential* if one wishes to address the problems of
cross-gospel harmonization, for their evidence can often antedate ANY of the
Greek gospel MS evidence. One ignores Justin, the Vetus Latina, the Vetus
Syra, the early apocrypha, etc., at one's peril. Simply referencing the
apparatus in N-A or UBS is not going to give one the full picture. Take a
look at von Soden, the IGNTP, and the volumes of the *Biblia Patristica* to
flesh out the evidence--and, sometimes, to correct the evidence in the
7) For later Greek gospel MSS (say, X-XIV cents.), one must also reckon with
the "renaissance" of harmonization which took place during that period, and
which is textually documented in the many vernacular gospel harmonies in
esp. Western Europe, but also in the East (Arabic, Persian, etc.). The
process of harmonization did not "end" at a given date, but continues even
to today, in translations: compare the RSV with the NRSV at Matt. 27.54
with Mark 15.39; now compare the Greek.
--Petersen, Religious Studies, Penn State Univ.
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