Friday, September 29, 2006

General musings

I must express my appreciation to those bloggers who have noticed this little blog of mine. I notice that Stephen Carlson, Mark Goodacre and Ben C. Smith (a guest blogger aboard Thoughts on Antiquity) have all mentioned me which means I now have a public profile to uphold! In Ben’s TextExcavation newsletter he mentions my new blog, saying,

it deals with one of my favorite topics, the synoptic problem. It is called Source Theory, and it is blogged by TimLewis (, whose thrust of latehas been the Q source, never an easy one to tackle. Tim appears to be in much the same situation as I am; he seriously questions the Q hypothesis, but he does not seem eager to absolutely commit to any single one of the commonly available alternatives, if I am reading him correctly.

Yes this is basically correct. The simple solutions are really solutions of convenience and they are attractive because of their simplicity. Understandably the two-source theory divvies up sources according to overlap (the material overlapping Mk and that overlapping Mt-Lk) and labels them shared sources (Mk & Q) but then has to deal somehow with Mk-Q overlaps! I suspect that a superior solution should best explain not only the available data but also why other solutions are inferior (but we may not have enough data in the first place).

What we can estimate of the evangelist Luke and his Gospel account might throw some light on the synoptic problem. It would be great eventually to see a comparison done looking at Luke the composer, compiler, author and redactor according to the major alternatives (Mk-Q, Mk-Mt & Mt-Lk theories) to see which best explains our Lk. But on the other hand I am also not very optimistic about finding a solution, especially since we cannot know how oral material interacted with written material. In this vein, it might be worth mentioning a book by William Graham, Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion which I read quickly through a while back precisely because Graham's approach tries to include this idea and I think in the case of the synoptic problem we have to begin studying secondary orality (this is probably not the proper term since I think it usually applies to modern technologies and I can’t remember how Graham labels it exactly so I should try track his book down again).

Eventually I hope to write more focused posts, but at the moment I fear they are rather general.

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