09 October 2007

Encounters at that farpoint of the continuum

Further musings on whether Matthew was the first gospel written or if Mark was.

I tell you, my father was a sage. If there ever was a difference of opinion (Catholic dogma aside), he would say, "Well, you know, we can't all like chocolate ice cream." So true, dad. (I think he was a vanilla man.)

Well, chocolate ice cream is my favorite, but on the following subject I think I'm falling into the "Matthew is earliest camp."

I did manage to get the New Jerome Biblical Commentary from the UST library and read the chapters on the Synoptic Problem and the Q Source. I also, over the weekend, just started reading Fathers of the Church, by Mike Aquilina. And, along with the Jerome Commentary, I checked out One Gospel from Two, Mark's Use of Matthew and Luke, by David Peabody (with Cope & McNicol), just to balance out Jerome.

Here's my take on things, considering I'm NOT a theologian, not a biblical scholar, and I have only taken a few weeks of the bible study (which doesn't really address this issue. In fact, the issue popped up based on a slightly-more-than-off-hand comment that Father Echert made), read a few chapters in the Jerome Commentary and the intro and a little bit more from the One Gospel from Two book. My summation of these books is that this issue isn't going to be resolved in this lifetime (certainly not by me) and it could be argued until the end of the world without anyone budging an inch. From the sidelines, it seems that the Matthew camp says one thing and cites its passages, the Mark camp says the opposite and cites some other passages. He said - he said, in a sense. This did nothing for a non-biblical scholar like myself, other than to make my head hurt, confound me and make me wish I had never endeavored to climb this contentious mountain.

However, this doesn't mean I haven't resolved things in my own mind. Remember chocolate ice cream, folks. This is my opinion and this hurdle is something I cannot get over, so am making a conclusion based on this stumbling block.

My stumbling block is that I don't believe in Q. Also known as the "Q document." (Sorry, John de Lancie, yours was a great character.) I am a Quatheist.

A bit of background on the Q document from Wiki:

The recognition of 19th-century New Testament scholars that Matthew and Luke share much material not found in their generally recognized common source, the Gospel of Mark, has suggested a second common source, termed the Q document. This hypothetical lost text —also called the Q Gospel, the Sayings Gospel Q, the Synoptic Sayings Source, the Q Manuscript, and in the 19th century The Logia— seems most likely to have comprised a collection of Jesus' sayings. Recognizing such a Q document is one of two key elements in the "two-source hypothesis" alongside the priority of Mark.

The two-source theory is the most widely accepted solution to the Synoptic Problem, which concerns the literary relationships between and among the first three canonical gospels (the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke), known as the Synoptic Gospels. Similarity in word choices and event placement shows an interrelationship. The synoptic problem concerns how this interrelation came to pass and what the nature of this interrelationship is. According to the two-source theory, Matthew and Luke both used the Gospel of Mark, independently of one another. This necessitates the existence of a hypothetical source in order to explain the double tradition material where there is agreement between Matthew and Luke that is not in Mark. This hypothetical source is named Q for convenience.

Mike Aquilina's book did far more to advance my opinion than the other two books and Mike's book didn't even address this issue. It showed that the early Fathers were very concerned with showing a continuation, a hand-off, between the Apostles to the Apostolic Fathers, and from the Apostolic Fathers to the next generation on down. These Fathers clearly touted their connections to the Apostles as proof of their validity, established clear lines in their pedigrees and built their reputations. They painstakingly developed early churches and liturgies, reading from the Apostles during Mass from the moments these words were placed on paper. They were very, very careful to preserve the incredible and infantile Church that was now in their hands. They used the weapons they had at their disposal to combat heresy, disobedience and confusion. These weapons were the gospels and books of the New Testament.

So, who then was the author of Q? Why would such an important book of the New Testament, that two other gospel writers supposedly relied on, not appear anywhere in the written or oral history of the Church? Why was this important book lost or not preserved, especially by the Fathers? Why would not even a fragment of the book remain when we have scores of other Gnostic gospels that exist? Why wasn't this book in the canon, since it must've been inspired to a large degree to have two other inspired authors rely so heavily on it? Why wasn't this book used as part of the liturgy when even books of lesser "importance" (those written by early church Fathers, martyrs and saints) were put forward to be included in the canon and were heavily used in the 1st century liturgies?

There are other more scholarly arguments in the One Gospel from Two book, but these are the questions that plague me and make, in my mind, the existence of Q implausible.

The Fathers handed down a vast Catholic Tradition to the subsequent generations, all the way down to the 1500s when a German, Martin Luther, appeared on the scene and decided the way things had been done previously were in error. The Fathers also handed down the Matthew first idea until the 1800s when another German decided what had been previously believed was wrong. I know, this isn't a real argument, but why should we suddenly abandon an idea that was held for nearly two millenia, especially by Fathers who actually knew the Apostles?

The idea of Markan priority, from what I understand, is not completely dependent on Q, but the ideas are heavily interwoven. At this stage, I just have a hard time believing that not even a shred is known about Q, except a 19th century hypothesis.

Knowing humans as thou doth, Captain, wouldst thou be captured helpless by them? - Q


gemoftheocean said...

Hang on a sec. while I go outside to scream [opens door and shouts "ARRRGGGH" in a long and loud voice for 10 minutes and comes back inside and drinks a vodka mai-tai to settle] and let me try and say this:

My guess is you didn't read the article in the NJBC re: canonicity, otherwise you wouldn't have even posed the questions you did re: why would important things be lost.

The canon of the NT wasn't even decided until the council of Nicea.
When a writer of what was to become a book of the NT sat down to write, he had NO THOUGHT "I'm sitting down to write this as holy writ, while a dove dictates the word of God to me." The early fathers themselves had different lists of books. [The articles on hermaneutics and texts and versions will also be useful to you, along with the article on inspiration.]

To "keep it simple" consider that we know that there is a lost letter of Paul referred to in Col.

Consider Shepard of Hermas and Clements writings were often read in early Masses - book that we don't consider canonical now.
[We also don't have people doing an agape meal or giving prophesy.]

Consider we know that John is most definitely the work of more than one author. (remember the passages I cited where Thomas asks "lord where are you going" and then at the same event Jesus says "and not one of you asked where I was going." A-hem. Yo, Jesus....
[There was another hand into John as well ]

2nd Peter was accepted very late - and many church fathers doubted 2nd Peter.

One of my degrees is in history. Pause to consider the Didache was written then lost until relatively recently. Pause to consider that unlike today things were not easily disseminated. We don't know precise WHAT Papias et al were looking at. What version(s) of the text(s) did they have in front of them at the time they were writing?

Consider the ravages of barbarians destroying great libraries. [Doubtless you know that we have little extant of many celebrated Greek and Roman playwrights.]

Don't think of "Q" as one written book that was to be preserved.

Think like a disciple! It was only after the passage of some time that they started to think: "Hey, we better start writing some of this down." [Ever played "Telephone game" in scouts?]

Here's what I find not credible:
You know Peter and Paul. Time passes, you want to write down what you know about Jesus Christ, the most important man that ever walked the earth, who is also God.

Do you:
A) gather everything you can find about him and write that down plus what you know from Peter and Paul personally?

or do you
b) also including to what you know, grab both Matthew and Luke, conflate them in the process throwing out a lot of material, and add just a few pericopes?

I say A.

It's not clear from me if the bible commentary you have is the blue backed earlier edition or the Newer edition. The Newer edition has many more articles that would be of interest to you.

There is NO guarantee that inspired work will be saved from the vicissitudes of life!

Holding that there was no "Q" is a very minor opinion.

You can say that Matthew was first, and Luke and Mark copied the order of things from Matthew, but that doesn't account for why Mark would need to have been written in the first place, given all the material in Mark save a few pericopes is in Matthew...why take an account, rip out a good portion of the material and hand that on to your community? Wouldn't you want your people to know AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE about Jesus? If you argue Matthew's priority and you assume that Luke must have known of Matthew -- otherwise how to account for the pericopes being in the same order -- then how do you account for the so-called "great omission" in Luke?

A source or (sources) known to the synoptics covers a lot of problems you'd otherwise paint yourself into a corner on.

I would be shocked if Fr. Echert thinks none of the three synoptics didn't rely on some logia. Does he not believe in the "Q" theory? Ask him.

Maybe more later, I think I'm coming down with a cold due to change of weather.


swissmiss said...

Are you still alive? I knew you'd blow a gasket! I agree with your comments, but it is the culmination of all these things together in a "perfect gospel storm" to make me think this whole Q thing is unlikely. I totally agree with you that there are the pericopes in the same order, same language structures, weird omissions, on and on. Just have a problem believing in Q.

If I was a latter gospel writer I would ABSOLUTELY borrow from what was previously written. No question. Just don't know who got out the barn door first...IMHO.

I have no idea if Father Echert believes in Q or not. My position may just get me thrown out of bible study altogether ;}

I am WAY behind the power curve on this compared to you (non-history buff), but this whole Q thing seems unlikely to me, possibly because I just don't know enough about scripture to see the nuances.

Holding that there was no "Q" is a very minor opinion.
I'm nothing if not a contrarian...

BTW: The copy of the NJBC I have from the UST library is a grey copy with dark brown/black panels on the binding and gold lettering. It is a 1990 edition, 1484 pages. Forward by Cardinal Martini.

gemoftheocean said...

Okay, good, you do have the newer one. I'm not even saying there ever was a sole document -- I just think it likely that there was various bits and pieces floating all over the place and the evangelists worked with what they had...including reworking other material.

No one will ever learn every jot and tittle, but even statistically what are odds of Math. Mark. & Luke all coming up with the pericopes in roughly same order? They are sometimes re-worked for style etc. but always even that in a consistent matter. I especially like the various parallel columns of the scripture laid out in the articles. When y9ou get out your bible and do some looking at the verses in question you can really see it. I recommend reading the articles fairly slowly with time to do the bible work. Pays off better - but then you probably know that!

(Miss Insomniac)

swissmiss said...

Hey, I was up in the middle of the night too (thanks to Number One Son who got up twice!)

Just to let you know, I contacted Father Echert and am waiting for a reply. I don't expect a lengthy one, but at least a starting point. Will post it when I hear anything and we can go from there.

gemoftheocean said...

It would be interesting to know. I would be more surprised if he didn't believe in evangelists also borrowing on external source, rather than his holding out for the priority of Matthew.