23 December 2007

A second look at the synoptics

Since all my library books had to go back (they were over due, it was the end of the semester and hubby wanted his grades and couldn't get them unless he returned the books), I spent a little time looking on-line at the Synoptic problem. To be honest, now that I've looked into this a bit, I cannot believe the number of theories out there and the extensive work that has gone into this issue.

I realized I had jumped into the argument in the middle and needed to take a step back and see what was happening across the entire playing field. The issue is much broader than whether "Q" exists or not. There are almost as many theories as there are letters in the alphabet.

I sent an e-mail to someone quite expert on the Fathers and then my e-mail was sent on to someone that expert considered an expert who sent this response. It appears to illuminate some of what Father Echert said (not beating you up Karen! Just sharing what I received):

The Q Hypothesis has less to do with the Fathers and far more to do with Higher-Criticism German exegetes. Essentially, the Q Hypothesis rests upon the idea that Mark wrote first, then Matthew and Luke both used Mark and this hypothetical source independent of one another. There is absolutely no manuscript evidence for Q, nor do the Fathers ever make reference to such a document. Also, Q rests upon Markan priority which is a relatively new belief and was most certainly reactionary to the dogma of Papal Infallibility being declared (since Matthew is the most obvious on this). Several NT scholars have really questioned Markan priority (of note is E.P. Sanders who calls the theory "untenable"). Extensive work has been done in the last 60 years to undo the Q hypothesis. Two books of mention would be:

Nicholas Perrin and Mark Goodacre (eds), "Questioning Q"

Mark Goodacre, "The Case Against Q."

Other authors who have really made a great case against Q are Austin Farrer, Michael Goulder, and Stephen Carlson (who is a Ph.D student at Duke).

Also - she may have heard the idea that the Gospel of Thomas is like Q, but this isn't so. "Q" has a chronology, narrative, etc, whereas G.Thomas is simply a sayings source. So - to date - there is no manuscript evidence of a document like Q, much less Q itself.

I checked into Stephen Carlson, since IMHO, many times the student is better informed than the teacher. Even if you don't agree with him, that is very true about Stephen Carlson. I stumbled across his websites and blogs and it was exactly what I needed to get an idea of all the theories out there. Some posit that Matthew wrote first, some Mark, some Luke, some have proto gospels or various versions of gospels...on and on. If you've read my Q posts and are still with me, you should really check out what Stephen Carlson has on his blog and website for some background on the subject (along with much, much more that is way over my head).

His blog can be found at Hypotyposeis

He has links to The Synoptic Problem website, which is full of information...very scholarly.

Specifically, check out the Synoptic Problem FAQ's

Here's some stuff from his FAQ's (edited here for brevity, he cites all his sources that I have removed) that give an explanation about what the heck the Synoptic Problem is anyway.

1. Basics
1.1 What is the synoptic problem?
The synoptic problem is an investigation into the existence and nature of the literary interrelationship among the first three "synoptic" gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptic gospels, in contrast with John, because they can readily be arranged in a three-column harmony called a "synopsis." Unlike John, the synoptic gospels share a great number of parallel accounts and parables, arranged in mostly the same order, and told with many of the same words. Any proposed solution to the synoptic problem, therefore, must account for these literary similarities among the synoptics, not so much in terms of their factual content, but in the selection of that content, the arrangement of the material, and wording of the parallels.

1.2 Why is the synoptic problem is important?
The synoptic problem is the cornerstone of historical critical scholarship of the gospels. As a result, one's solution to the synoptic problem will influence one's exegesis, redaction criticism, and form criticism of the gospels as well as affect the quest for the historical Jesus, early church history, and even the text of the gospels.

1.3 What kinds of solutions have been proposed for the synoptic problem?
In German scholarship on the synoptic problem, it has become customary to classify synoptic theories according to the nature of the interrelationship between the synoptic gospels. A non-documentary hypothesis (Traditionhypothese) relies on oral tradition as the explanation, in which each evangelist independently composed his gospels based on traditional accounts and, possibly, eye-witnesses.

A documentary relationship may be either direct or indirect. The hypothesis of direct dependence (Benutzunghypothese) holds that one evangelist knew and used to the gospel of another. One example of direct dependence is the traditional Augustinian Hypothesis, which holds that Matthew was first, followed by Mark who used Matthew, and then by Luke who used both Matthew and Mark. Indirect dependence (e.g. Urevangeliumhypothese) posits that at least two of the evangelists have used a common written source.

Some solutions are hybrids. For example, the Fragmentary Hypothesis (Diegesentheorie) proposes that the common wording of the synoptics is due to indirect dependence on several smaller documents but their common order is due to an oral tradition (Schleiermacher 1832). As another example, the Two Source Hypothesis (Zweiquellenhypothese) calls for direct dependence of Matthew and Luke upon Mark for the "triple tradition" but indirect dependence upon a hypothetical written source "Q" for the "double tradition." (Weisse 1838).

1.4 But first, is there a synoptic problem?
Properly defined, the answer is "yes." This question, however, has recently been asked in the title of a provocative and controversial book by Eta Linnemann (1992) who faults many textbooks for assuming that the interrelationship among the synoptic gospels is documentary rather than oral before establishing that proposition.

1.5 So, is there a documentary interrelationship among the synoptic gospels?
Although a few scholars at various times have supported a largely oral solution. A strong consensus among scholars has developed that there is indeed a documentary interrelationship between and among each of the synoptic gospels. There are five main, cumulative reasons for this conclusion:

1. Verbatim agreement. It is rare for two independent reporters of the same event to share more than a few words in common, but the synoptic gospels often feature a substantial number of agreements in their exact words. For example, in one passage about John the Baptist, Matthew and Luke agree for 61 out of 63 Greek words of a presumably Aramaic speech. Generally, the verbatim agreement between Matthew, Mark, and Luke runs about 50% of the words, but, by contrast, their agreement with John in parallel episodes falls to about 10%.

2. Extensive agreement in order, especially in which the arrangement of material is not strictly chronological but topical or exhibiting some other creativity in presentation. In these cases, it is difficult to attribute the non-chronological but topical narration to independent reporting. For example, Matthew and Mark relate the death of John the Baptist as a non-chronological flashback in the same place in their narrative. As another example, the synoptics agree in the order in which certain parables and miracles are related in an arrangement that is probably intended to be topical.

3. Substantially similar selection of material, when that selection features some amount of creative, editorial choice. Jesus did and said many things, so any account of his ministry must involve some editorial judgment in what to include and what to leave out. The synoptic gospels, for instance, relate many of the same miracles, but these miracles hardly overlap with the ones related by John.

4. Presence of editorial comments and other redactional material in the synoptics that are not necessitated by a mere telling of historical fact. For example, both Matthew and Mark feature an identical aside to the reader ("let the reader understand") in the synoptic apocalypse.

5. A consistent literary pattern between the three documents that establishes Mark as the "middle term" connecting Matthew and Luke. Specifically, agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark are consistently much less prevalent than agreements against Matthew or Luke in arrangement and wording. We would expect for independently composed documents to exhibit no such pattern.

Check his blog out for much more FAQs and links to just about anything related to this topic.

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