14 December 2007

St. Matthew is my home boy

Thus spake Father Echert, another Quatheist.

A few months ago on one of my bible study postings on the gospel of St. Matthew, Karen at Gemoftheocean took exception to Father Echert's claim that St. Matthew's gospel was the earliest. She made some good points as to why she felt St. Mark was the earliest of the gospels. A discussion on the priority (earliest gospel) of Matthew or Mark began.

I had never heard of any debate about which gospel was the earliest before I took the bible study on the gospel of St. Matthew. Interesting discussion. After Karen made some comments on my blog, I read a little bit on the subject, but eventually wrote to Father Echert to ask for his thoughts since we don't have any time in bible study to ask questions (there really should be a period for questions!).

For some prior posts on the topic, go here for the Quatheist post where I discuss my position in a little more detail and discuss the "Q" document,
and here for the original post where the issue was discussed.

This is not an area I'm well versed in, but I really have a hard time believing in a document called "Q." Now, I find Father Echert doesn't believe in it either. (I know Karen hasn't been feeling well lately, so hope this doesn't make her blow a gasket!) I wish Father Echert could spend a few hours lecturing on this and we could ask questions. At this stage, from the bits I have read and from listening to Father Echert, I agree with him...especially about "Q." I might be in the minority maintaining this position, but I don't think St. Peter is going to give me a quiz on the topic "if" I make it to the pearly gates and kick me out if I'm wrong.

However, reading Father's comments about "Protestant interpretors who are biased against ancient tradition in general" really made sense. The more I have looked into this topic, the murkier everything became about who the authors of the gospels really were, who their companions were that might've helped write the gospels, if the each of the gospels were written by more than one person, problems attributing the gospels to the author, suppositions on many, MANY, things. While it is good to get an answer on these topics, I thought this subject, IMHO, was a quagmire that only led me away from belief in the gospels, their authors and authenticity and early church fathers and documents instead of reinforcing, as Father says, "solid ancient testimony of the early Church."

I really couldn't discount the weight of the early church fathers on this subject and just don't believe in "Q," which wasn't hypothesized until quite recently and just seems too incredible to me. (Sorry, Karen!)

Father Echert's response to my query on EWTN is posted below.

I have several reasons for dismissing the so-called "Q" view:

1. It contradicts solid ancient testimony of the early Church

2. There is no such document as "Q" nor anything resembling "Q" (a collection of sayings of Jesus)

3. "Q" is the construct of modern Protestant interpretors who are biased against ancient tradition in general

4. One of the arguments for Markan priority (being earliest) is that it is shorter--based upon a modern principal that shorter is earlier. Yet a careful examination of the Gospels reveals that often Matthew has a shorter version of a particular pericope (event) than Mark, which would suggest that his is the earlier Gospel

Modern thinking scholars tend to reject most or all of ancient tradition regarding the identity of the Evangelists, in part because they favor late dating, beyond the period in which the traditional Evangelists would have written. Why would the Church wait until the death of most of the Apostles to insure a written Gospel, and why would the Church allow pseudonyms to be tagged to them? In fact, the early Church was very insistent that these were apostolic writings, either by Apostles themselves or those who had direct apostolic testimony, such as Luke and Mark.

God bless, Monica

Father Echert


WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

I just wrote a load on my skeptism of Q and lost it!
Starting again in brief-there does not seem to be any actual evidence for the existance of Q. I think it was invented as a theory to prop up late dating but as a couple of fragments (Matthew and Mark) have been dated to around 50AD that has been somewhat blown out of the water-I would have thought.
Good to find a fellow skeptic :)

I am starting Matthew's gospel with my daughter for home ed. At some point I'll write about this on 'Thinking Love, No Twaddle'

swissmiss said...

That is disappointing as I would've liked to have read it! It's good to find someone else (besides Karen) who even knows what I'm talking about when I mention Q!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

swissmiss: I agree with Father about "Q" (the Star Trek link is a nice touch! LOL!).

The more contortions people try to undergo to find evidence of the faith can sometimes lead to no faith at all.

gemoftheocean said...

Sorry, just saw your comments here. You're right I have been out of it with a cold. What Father said is even MORE disturbing to me, because he seems to have an anti-intellectual streak. I.e. if a protestant said it, it can't be right. Now one may well disagree with the CONCLUSIONS drawn by protestants -- but their *observations* can't be faulted. Further, the vast majority of *Catholic* scholars would also agree with the observations and have done much work on their own. LEt's not forget that when I first looked up Father Echert I wanted to know where he studied, having found that out, I looked up the institute in Rome, having done that I looked up to see what they want their ENTERING students to know....and they want their matriculating students to know what Father doesn't believe in. His own institute! See my post here regards the insitute.

Father is also undercutting his own arguments by saying someone said X and then arguing against X, when in fact "X" was never posited. And surely he must know this. IT's like he's afraid his sheep will be led astray by asking the tough question.

For instance no one says "yes, there is/was a singular source Q" -- furthermore he paints himself further in a corner by his other quibbles. Is he also going to contend that Peter II for instance was written by Peter himself? It is understood that in ancient times when someone said "Bob wrote that" that Bob may well have had an amanuensis take down his thoughts and attach Bob's name to him.

If you don't write something down, but tell me, your companion your eyewitness account and I write it down faithfully I can say "according to Swissmiss." And people really wouldn't be wrong attributing the thoughts to you, because you're the one who said them in the first place!

We even see in closer to modern times Henry VIII supposedly writing a defense of the Catholic faith and having his name attached to it, though it is believed Thomas More, in fact wrote it. There is absolutely nothing wrong in Matthew taking several sources, including material of his own and cobbling it together. You didn't have modern footnoting. These sources may well have been known in various communities. It doesn't even undercut the authority of apostolic tradition. Father Echert seems a little like the Wizard in Oz "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." "Pay no attention to the obvious breaks and cobbling together of sources." There is absolutely nothing wrong with an amanuensis of Matthew's saying "yup, I used Matthew as the main source and I cobbled together whatever else was around for the narrative." Matthew himself could have been the editor if you will. If we were all well versed in the Greek we could probably see the style changes ourselves.

His argument about why would the Church wait until the death of most of the apostles to insure a written Gospel is frighteningly weak. Good Lord, man, the official canon of the New Testament didn't even have the final a-okay until Trent 1500 years later. Does this man NOT know about Nicea? I find that hard to believe. When the various people sat down to write this that or the other....did they KNOW they were "writing scripture?" NO. They were writing ACCOUNTS, which were later ACCEPTED as scripture. Nicea in the 300AD era was where most of what was "in or out" was decided. We know Shepherd of Hermas was widely read in churches -- and yet it didn't make the cut. Others as well. Why was "this one in, this one out?" Too bad we don't have the daily blow by blow account of the goings on of that council. We know some general principles i.e. early writings etc - but why for instance is something like John 3 considered scripture? What was the reasoning.

As to shorter or longer pericopes for any given sections vis a vis Mark and Matthew -- he knows that intellectually that doesn't carry a hill of beans one way or the other! Because MOST black people have brown eyes, you can't definitively say that a GIVEN black person does! He should know better than to use such specious logic! And frankly, I'm surprised he did. I'm not the only one who had/had these reservations regards Fr. Echert. You might find this blog post interesting. I found it fairly trenchant. I'm not the only one who thinks Fr. Echert is, at the least being overly simplistic.

[Possibly more later on same, but I am done in now. As always Bible studies are always an interesting topic. By my criticism I don't mean to say that I think Father's observations on the scripture itself are to be poo-poohed. On the contrary, what he derives from it is interesting.]

swissmiss said...

Seriously, folks, to say Father Echert is anti-intellectual and simplistic is completely unfair to the man. I barely know Father Echert, and what I know is pretty much just from class, but my limited summations and understandings of what he said as posted on my blog shouldn't be taken as a shortcoming of Father Echert's, merely my own, as I know Father could spend an entire semester discussing this (and I wish he would!). His short answer to my question may have been simplistic, but consider the format and Father's lack of knowledge of my knowledge of the topic and the brief time/space he had to answer. Am I cutting him some slack in this regard? Probably, but that's because I have listened to the man and know he isn't just a blow hard making statements without the guns to back them up. I have no problem saying he is probably one of the finest and most intelligent priests in our diocese. He hosts the "Argument of the Month" at his parish, which is an intellectual and high-brow group that debates, discusses and endeavors into all things Catholic, so doesn't discourage or shy away from debate. All I'm saying is that he is not as you paint him and he doesn't even have a horse in this race (except for me including him in absentia)!

In the end, I just can't believe in Q. As time permits, I'll read more on the topic (library books had to go back), but its existence (or the idea of a Q collective) seems fantastic to me.

gemoftheocean said...

It's not at all that I'm saying he's unintelligent -- but the answer he gave you should not satisfy someone who has any depth of probity. I was hoping at the very least he'd point to some studies that get under the meat of the text itself -- show us how this is NOT cobbled together -- Because basically, what he is saying is that "well, the apostolic fathers said...." Some of them probably thought the sun revolved around the earth too -- but that doesn't mean they were right. It's almost as if he believes the Holy Spirit was sitting there whispering in the evangelist's et al's ears. "Okay, sit down and write this down exactly, what I'm dictating will someday be scripture!" I would think that by now with him being in the minority, even among CATHOLIC, ORTHODOX scholars, he'd have a little something more to point to than what he'd give an 8th grader. An 8th grade answer isn't good enough for an adult with access to modern scholarship. Maybe there are very good reasons why he apparently thinks the gospels do not rely on imput from more than one source. I simply haven't seen it! I'm not saying that what he has to say about scripture itself isn't very worthwhile. It very much is -- but his arguments are simply weak. Certainly the ones he gave anyway.