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Synoptic Harmonization

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  • William L. Petersen
    A few comments on synoptic harmonization: 1) There are many, independent reasons for cross-synoptic harmonizations, and they most certainly are of interest to
    Message 1 of 1714 , Jan 31, 1996
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      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
      pocket editions.

      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.
    • Julian Goldberg
      The complete Hebrew Scriptures (Hebrew Bible) or TANAKH (Torah-Law, Neviim-Prophets, Ketuvim-Writings) based on the Masoretic Hebrew text with vowels and
      Message 1714 of 1714 , Feb 4, 1997
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        The complete Hebrew Scriptures (Hebrew Bible) or TANAKH (Torah-Law,
        Neviim-Prophets, Ketuvim-Writings) based on the Masoretic Hebrew text
        with vowels and cantillation marks in one complete compact black hard
        covered volume which measures 12 cm x 19 cm with over 1360 pages that
        have been arranged according to traditional chapter and verse divisions
        along with larger Hebrew letter printing and thicker paper pages for a
        volume of this size. Each book is $ 20.00 (U.S.) postpaid ($ 15.50 for
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        Julian Goldberg, 260 Adelaide St., E., # 215, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
        M5A 1N0.

        Thanks.
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