Friday, August 18, 2006

As an experiment, I have decided to put my lecture notes online using blogger. Hopefully this will help me to improve any further lectures I have occasion to do in BN101 concerning source analysis. So for any who find their way here feel free to add appropriate comments. I blame some errors on formatting problems!

So far the lecture notes only extend for the two-hour lecture in week three of BN101 (Interpreting the New Testament) "Source Analysis". Some handouts are presently too difficult for me to reproduce online. I will eventually get around to linking and referencing things proplerly.

Gospel Source Analysis
Differences between Gospel according to John & the other canonicals students may already have noticed listed on board in one column E.g. style/type of language; content (like ex/inclusion of exorcisms). Hopefully students will notice that the Gospel according to John does not have much overlapp in terms of CONTENT.

The following differences should be noted (preferably voluntarily by students!):

  • GJohn more reflective Gospel, with focus on Jesus’ mystical relation to the Father. Jesus claims a divine authority and speaks differently (symbolic speech).
  • ‘Cleansing of the Temple’ takes place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (one of several trips down to Jerusalem over a three-year period rather than one year).
  • The Jesus performs ‘signs’ (semeia) designed to produce faith (whereas the synoptics have it the other way around--Jesus performs powerful deeds when people have faith.)
  • No healings of demon-possession (no exorcisms) in fact not many healings at all.
  • No Lord’s Prayer
  • No Temptation
  • No Transfiguration
  • No Sermon on the Mount (or plain)
  • No apocalyptic farewell speech
  • No institution of the Eucharist (instead Jesus washes the feet of the disciples)
  • No parables (the phrase "Kingdom of God" only used twice)
  • No proverbial sayings

Pericope Indexes/Gospel Tables ("Canons")

By the early 3rd century Gospel tables had been developed to act as an index for displaying the sections [pericopes] of each Gospel (the sections were numbered using red-coloured numerals linked to the sections in the text as there were not yet chapter and verses invented) so that someone could quickly find sections of each Gospel dealing with the same thing and to see at a glance which sections were found in only one or two (or three) Gospels. Eusebius based his ten tables (kanwn "canons") on Ammonius’ (3rd c.) and these are still published today in some Greek NT’s.

Dealing with Difference
The approach used by Origen (3rd c.) to deal with the different Gospels was to believe that the literal differences were historically unimportant. Origen allowed that the accounts given by the four Evangelists could be literally deficient but ‘spiritually’ true. Origen quote:

"I do not condemn them if they even sometimes altered history in the service of some mystical object they had in mind."
This approach was a little too subtle/nuanced for most (although compare Augustine's approach). The usual approach to solving the 'problem' of difference was by rearranging the 'pieces' to produce a single Gospel Harmony. Until the 18th century scholars sought to overcome the difficulty of difference so their energy went into trying to make the differences go away by harmonising any differences between the Gospels and by emphasising the overall unity of the Gospels (often at the expense of obliterating the individuality of each narrative). Tatian was perhaps the first to apply this approach. He unified the four Gospels into one by actually combining the text of all four Gospels into one single harmony (c.160 CE) called the "Gospel of the mixed-ones" in Syriac (euangelion da-mhalte) and "[One]-Through-Four" (diatessaron) in Greek.

How to Create a Harmony
The different order of Gospel events was thought to be the biggest difficulty to overcome. In order to create a Gospel harmony (increasingly popular in the 16th century onwards) one had to do two things:
(1) create a single order for all Gospel episodes (i.e. one had to decide on which Gospel order to follow or make adjustments to all four), and,
(2) decide which episodes describe the same events and which were simply different events (even though perhaps similar).

Apologetical/Theological Purpose of Harmonising
The goal was to ascertain the historical order of events lying behind the Gospels. The reason why so much effort was spent on harmonising any apparent differences between the Gospels (to create a single, unified historical account) was so as to defend the Gospels against any possible attacks by skeptics, non-believers or unorthodoxy in general. Harmonising was considered not only essential for defending against attacks (from outside) but also a way of making the Gospel message more appealing and believable (inside the Church). The harmonisers thought themselves to be at war and so sought to provide and defend a single Gospel narrative.

Harmonising meant discerning which Evangelists may have provided the correct historical order of an event. Since early tradition had it that the Gospel of Matthew had been written first (in Hebrew or Aramiac not Greek!) Mt’s order was usually taken to be the ‘real’ one. Mt-Mk-Lk-Jn became the standardised order in the West by the 4th century and at the same time also became the accepted order of composition.

Results of Harmonising
Augustine (4th c.) conjectured that all four Evangelists were aware of the original order of events but that the differences in order were because the Holy Spirit had caused each of the authors to write things differently for spiritual reasons. But even so Augustine felt the need to harmonise all four Gospels into one narrative. Augustine thought that the Evangelists who wrote 2nd, 3rd and 4th each knew the Gospel accounts which preceded them but Augustine didn’t elaborate on a theory of direct literary relationship besides saying that Mk looks like a shorter version of Mt. He believed that none of the Evangelists narrated the historical order of events (each was free to compose their own narratives) and in his attempt to harmonise the accounts Augustine concluded that Jesus must have given two Sermons (one on the Mount, one on the Plain), performed two cleansings of the temple, was anointed by Mary twice, and that there were four angels at the empty tomb. Osiander’s harmony (1537) went even further by having three Temptations, three healings of blind men near Jericho, three centurions’ sons healed, three anointings of Jesus of three different women, three cleansings of the temple, and having Jesus betrayed by Judas twice. Calvin (16thc.) compromised the difficulty by believing that at least one Evangelist must be seen as having given us the historical order for each event. Luther thought that people should just ignore inconsistencies among the Gospel events:

"If one account in Holy Writ is at variance with another, and it is impossible to solve the difficulty, just dismiss it from your mind."

Calvin wrote (A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke vol 1.):

"No fixed and distinct order of dates was observed by the Evangelists in composing their narratives. The consequence is, that they disregard the order of time, and satisfy themselves with presenting, in a summary manner, the leading transactions in the life of Christ. They attended, no doubt, to the years, so as to make it plain to their readers, in what manner Christ was employed, during the course of three years, from the commencement of his preaching till his death. But miracles, which took place nearly about the same time, are freely intermixed."

Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586) believed that the Sermon on Mount and Sermon on Plain were merely two versions of the same sermon, and that when more than one gospel agreed in their order of pericopae, then this indicated the actual chronology.

The New Gospel Source Theories of Owen and Griesbach: Harmonising Approach Dropped
In England 1764, Henry Owen was the first [updated correction see Jan 21 2007] to propose that the similarities between Mt Mk & Lk meant that "the Evangelists not only perused, but also transcribed, each others Writings." In Germany between 1774-1776, Griesbach published the first-ever "synopsis" designed to scrutinize the various Gospel differences and admitted to the "heresy" that he did not believe that the Gospel accounts could be fully harmonised into a single historical narrative and a few years later developed the same utilisation theory as Owen (Mt-Lk-Mk) to account for the similarities. With the 19th century came numerous new kinds of source theories, several suggesting that pre-Gospel documents or "fragments" were utilized by the Evangelists. The "synoptic problem" of explaining the literary similarities with recourse to the sources used by the Evangelists was in full swing and by the beginning of the 20th century, there developed a near consensus of a solution, known as the two-source hypothesis or Oxford Hypothesis.

Similarities More Intriguing than Differences
The new theories were due to the fact that the similarities were considered more interesting than the differences. Surely we should expect many differences for independently written accounts? It's when they look too similar that the question is raised: Why? Who is copying whom? Handout 1: Four accounts of feeding multitude with five loaves and two fish (Mt 14:13-22// Mk 6:30-45// Lk 9:10-18// Jn 6:1-15). Discuss observations. Add comments to list (regroup list into similarity of: CONTENT, ORDER & WORDING).

How the gospels were written - was there a literary relationship between Mt, Mk & Lk? In other words, was the overlapping material ‘plagiarised’? How would we know if two very similar essays were the result of plagiarism? Write down student answers (i.e. common content, wording & sequences). Discuss handouts: Diagram of overlapping material, 5000fed wording, & Allan Barr’s synoptic chart.

Luke’s Prologue: Read & Discuss.

Seeing that many undertook to arrange a narration concerning the happenings that have been accomplished among us, consistent with what those who were eyewitness and assistants of the word from the beginning handed down to us, it seemed fitting for me also having followed all things carefully from the top to write orderly for you most excellent Theophilus, so that you would know for sure about the matters which you were instructed.

Besides Lk 1:1-4, the Gospels do not inform us directly about…

  • When or where the Gospels were composed;
  • Who wrote the gospel accounts (the titles According to… may not be original but 2nd century tradition);
  • To whom exactly they were addressed (besides Luke’s ‘Theophilus’);
  • What they are (they each to varying degrees resemble ancient biography);
  • How they were composed/ exactly what sources were being used.

Timeline on whiteboard (c.5BCE – 100 CE) placing on Jesus’ ministry (c.30), Paul’s letters (c.50s) & approx. year Gospels written down (c.70-90). Note that: Approx. 50 yrs interval. Question of Transmission Process: the so-called Oral Period -Unfortunately no real consensus on how material was transmitted in this ‘period’ (3 contrary ‘control’ theories). We would expect more variation if due only to Oral retellings thus problem is likely also surface level Written Composition (i.e. copying: utilization, adaptation/ putting together of sources). Two columns on board: the Oral Period of Transmission vs. Written Period of Composition. Informal-uncontrolled? (Mk 1:28//Lk 4:14//Mt 9:26; Mk 8:27.30 & pars. Mk 9:38,40 & pars. Mt 28:11.15). Formal-Control? (Teacher-Disciple: Mt 10:1; 11:1; 12:49; 16:20-1; 18:1; Mk 2:18; 4:34; 9:9-10; 9:30-2; Lk 24:19). Or somewhere in between? (informal-controlled, see week four's lecture on Form Analysis see also Bailey who has a persuasive "middle-road" theory but lacks much evidence for it--see form analysis).

Students' Questions: Ask what do students think we can discover about the sources used in the composition of the Gospels? What do students think of the notion that some of the Evangelists made use of the previous accounts? Is there a way to test such hypotheses? Do students think multiple-source hypotheses are less convincing? (or simply harder to test?)

Definition of the Synoptic Problem

A definition of the Synoptic Problem is ‘modern’ in the sense it assumes that the similarities are due to some kind of literary dependence (whether directly or indirectly): Three Gospels look so alike (in content, wording & order) that the question (of why) demands an answer of literary interdependence i.e. possible literary (i.e. written/ editorial) relationships between the three Synoptic ("look-alike") gospels. Remember the three types of similarities:

(1) There is enough overlapping material to represent the overlaps in a Venn diagram.

(2) Their verbal similarities allow us to look at them in a synopsis to speculate on possible literary relationships. Griesbach first to publish a synopsis for looking at them in parallel columns in 1776 (hence ‘synoptic’ gospels ever since).

(3) The sequence/order of pericopes are also very similar (& able to be presented as Barr's chart does with connecting lines representing this).

Literary Dependent Theories: Utilization; Proto-Gospel/s; Multiple-Source Theories; Deutero-Gospels.
Anti Literary Dependent Theories: Tradition Hypothesis; Eta Linnemann & D. Farnell’s "ADHD" theory (Anti-Dependent Hyper-Dogmatic!) theory.

Is Mk one of the sources used by Mt and Lk? Most scholars believe/accept that Mt and Lk used Mk and "Q" (i.e. 2-Source-Theory) but often for dubious reasons. Synoptics evidence both dependence on material likely to be oral sources as well as written interdependence making the Synoptic Problem extremely complex and ultimately unsolvable (with the insufficient evidence we have to work with). There is no one theory able to explain all the data sufficiently.

Markan Hypothesis Priority: Handout 3: Some Useful and Useless Arguments for Markan Priority

Markan Priority Hypothesis

Arguing for Markan priority is surprisingly harder than it looks, and most of the arguments in the textbooks are seriously flawed.

-Stephen Carlson

Flawed Arguments

  • Order of passages supposedly dependent on Mk’s order. But see David J. Neville, Arguments from Order in Synoptic Source Criticism: A History and Critique (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1994).
  • Christology supposedly ‘lower’ in Mark (e.g. with less use of the vocative kurie) – Besides the idea merely presupposing the solution, kurie can mean simply "sir". Note also more ‘developed’ Christology in some letters of Paul (i.e. even earlier than Mk). See Peter M. Head, Christology and the Synoptic Problem: An Argument for Markan Priority (Cambridge, 1997), and review by C.D.F. Moule JTS 49 pt2 (Oct 1998), 739-41.
  • Markan passages longer relative to parallels in Matthew and Luke – But Markan passages are relatively shorter after Jesus enters Jerusalem. Writers sometimes enlarge and sometimes condense their sources with no known predictable patterns. See E.P. Sanders, The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition (Cambridge, 1969).

Inconclusive Arguments

  • Mk has more theologically difficult passages in the portrayal of Jesus and the twelve disciples, making Mk more original if the more difficult reading is likely to be more original. Not only does this depend on a subjective estimation on what counts as more difficult, but the principle that "more difficult is original" is based on the results of redaction studies (ascertaining the individual editorial changes & agendas of the Evangelists) which already presuppose Markan priority! However, it is true that there are more reasons that can be given for writers wishing to edit Mk’s Gospel than vice-versa. (E.g. see Mark A. Matson, "Rhetoric in Matthew: An Exploration of Audience Knowledge Competency" [pdf online] who suggests Mt answers questions caused by Mk.)
  • Mk’s ‘poorer’ grammar improved by Mt & Lk merely fits a presupposed solution whereas writers sometimes improve their source’s grammar and sometimes spoil it.
  • Aramaic phrases in Mk were more likely avoided by Mt & Lk rather than added to Mt & Lk. In fact all three have Aramaic expressions unique to each!
  • Markan vocabulary being found in Mt & Lk parallel passages. Unfortunately characteristicly Markan vocabulary is missing from Mt and Lk but one study has shown that vocab occurring in Mt and Lk has a higher relationship to general Mk vocab in parallel passages (indicating either a Mark-like source or Mk as source). See (but is the vocabulary pool statistically significant enough to be able to sufficiently test such things?)
  • Date of composition - it appears that when Mt and Lk were written, Jerusalem lay in ruins. Both Mt and Lk (Mt 23:27-39//Lk 13:34-35) relay a prophecy of doom ("behold you house is forsaken") naturally written down after the event was fulfilled (to publicly affirm that the prophet was true) whereas Mk gives no explicit indication of this. Conversely, the Roman-Jewish war seems to provide a reasonable context for Mark’s subtle anti -war themes (e.g. Mk 5:1-20; 9:14-29).
  • Mk’s shorter description of Jesus’ crucifixion (Mt 27:31b-54 // Mk 15:20b-39// Lk 23:26-48) [i.e. word count = 348, 278, 358] is all the more striking and more understandable if written first given that Mark’s Gospel primarily depicts Jesus as a alternate type of warrior who challenges contemporary understandings of violence and "power" under God’s reign with the cross climactically demonstrating Jesus facing death and violence head on. Mk’s relative brevity in comparison to Mt & Lk here would make more sense if written closer in time to the use of, or memory of (and/or threat of) crucifixion if written sometime during the Roman-Jewish war 66-73. [This is an argument of mine]
  • Mark’s Gospel is shorter so Mt and Lk must have supplemented Mk – It is perhaps more likely that more material would have been added to (rather than deleted from) a source assuming that writers tended to use as much source material as they could. But many 2nd-century Gospels were shorter than Mt and Lk. It is true that large-scale features (like Mk’s overall length) relative to Mt & Lk are easier to explain if Mk is earlier. In terms of explaining the whole of each Gospel, other source theories positing Mk as dependent on Mt and/or Lk have more difficulty. A satisfactorily theological, historical and literary portrait of Mk as posterior has yet to be written—only two books have ever been written on the supposition that Mk is based on Mt and Lk.

Substantial Arguments

  • Evidence of editorial fatigue – Certain inconsistencies in Mt & Lk appear to have been caused by using a source resembling Mk (perhaps the reason why Mt 14:15-23 has two evenings in one day!). Mt 8:1-4// Mk 1:40-45 unnecessarily reproduces Mk’s secrecy theme and looks to be from a source without "crowds" as in Mk. In Mt 14:5 it is Herod who wishes to kill John (unlike Mk 6:19 where it is Herodias, c.f. 6:20) so it makes less sense when Mt says Herod "was grieved" unless due to fatigue from copying Mk 6:26 as his source; also Mk always call’s Herod "king" which Mt appears to follow inadvertently instead of calling him tetrarch as he had introduced him in verse 1. Cf. also Lk’s setting of the miraculous feed set in a city but then calls it a wilderness place in line with Mk’s version. See Mark Goodacre, "Fatigue in the Synoptics" NTS 44 (1998), 45-58.
  • The tight plotting of Mark’s Gospel causes many scholars to doubt that it would have been constructed from something like Mt or Lk.

Handout 4 [back of handout 2]: Synoptic Problem Terminology

Synoptic problem
refers to the intriguing combination of similarities existing between the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke in terms of content (i.e. Venn diagram displaying overlapping material) wording (i.e. parallel passages can be presented side-by-side, that is, in a synopsis) and order (often two or three Gospels agree in supplying the same sequence or arrangement of sections/ episodes /pericopes). These 3 features are likely due to some kind of literary relationship.

Sondergut refers to material only found in one Gospel (often called special material).

Triple tradition refers to material common to all three synoptic Gospels, either to

(a) any pericope which occurs in all three synoptic Gospels;
(b) the complete set of pericopae contained in all three synoptic Gospels.

Double-tradition refers generally to any passages in common between any two synoptic Gospels. Many scholars use the term Double Tradition to refer exclusively to the Mt-Lk double tradition.

Q is another term used to designate the Mt-Lk double-tradition, usually for the purpose of indicating that Mt and Lk used the same source (Quelle = "source" in German). This supposes that Mt and Lk were written independently of each other, and that their common double tradition indicates a shared source, not merely unknown (like "X"!) but rather witnessing a definitive source (also called Q hypothesis) which can be reconstructed from the Mt-Lk double-tradition. There is a lack of consensus not only for reconstructing but delimiting Q! Q is sometimes called Sayings Gospel Q and in the 19th c. was equated by some with what Papias (early 2nd c.) referred to as the oracles or sayings (logia) arranged by Matthew in Hebrew/ Aramaic. No Hebrew/Aramaic collection of sayings has ever been discovered (but cf. Gospel of Thomas).

Markan priority refers either to:
(a) the hypothesis that Mk was written earliest of the Synoptics;
(b) the source-hypothesis supposing that canonical Mk is the source of Mt and Lk for any material held in common (except in the case of Mk-Q overlaps) used for differentiating from other source-hypotheses not supposing canonical Mk to be the source for Mt or Lk.

Two-source hypothesis (or two-source theory) refers to the combined hypotheses of Markan priority and the Q hypothesis supposing that these were the two sources used to compose both Mt and Lk. There are also other unknown sources implied in any source-theory to account for unique Sondergut material such as Lk’s Parable of Two Sons/ Prodigal Son, hence the two-source theory is sometimes called the four-source theory with the label L given for Lk’s sondergut and M given for Mt’s sondergut.

Griesbach theory (Mt-Lk-Mk theory also known as Two-Gospel Hypothesis) posits the order: Mt-Lk-Mk (i.e. Lk dependent on Mt; Mk dependent on both Mt & Lk.) William R. Farmer revived the hypothesis in 1964.

Farrer theory posits Mt dependent on Mk, and Lk dependent on both Mt & Mk.

Augustinian hypothesis refers to the theory implied by Augustine’s order Mt-Mk-Lk(-Jn). Many Augustinian-like theories include a more complex variation on this such as positing some influence from a proto-Matthean source or a Hebrew or Aramaic source in order to take into consideration the enigmatic tradition that the apostle Matthew wrote in Hebrew or Aramaic.

Proto-Gospel a pre-canonical version of any one of the four Gospels supposedly from which the canonical Gospel bearing its name was derived.

Ur-Gospel refers to a theoretical document from which all the synoptic Gospels supposedly derived.

Minor agreements refers to the phenomenon that on the two-source hypothesis:
(a) sometimes Mt and Lk agree together but against Mk in the triple tradition thus raising questions as to whether Mk could really be the source of Mt and Lk at these points (also called anti-Markan agreements) one solution has been to appeal to Mk-Q overlaps;
(b) there are also agreements of omission whereby Mt and Lk both agree in omitting something in Mk.

Mk-Q overlaps presupposes that Mk and Q are the two sources used by Mt and Lk and that some overlaps in content existed between Mk and Q which accounts for a phenomenon whereby material common to all three Synoptics (triple tradition) displays minor agreements between Mt and Lk against Mk (i.e. the two sources contained two versions of the same passage: one originating from Q and one originating from Mk).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like what you are saying about the synoptic problem. Sounds well thought through. Looking forward to more posts!