Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Year of Source Theory Blogging - Part Two (Dunn)

Recapping my four previous posts on James Dunn's source theory [Aug 27; Oct 14; Dec 9; Dec 28]: Dunn's theory has an unresolved tension in that both Mk and Q are regarded as simultaneously written and oral sources. Whether Dunn regards 'Q' as being an oral source (or sources) is still not completely clear--Dunn has only explicitly argued that the first layer of Q (Q1) be seen as 'oral ' [see his "Q1 as oral tradition," in Markus Bockmuehl and Donald A. Hagner (eds.) The Written Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 45-69]. I concluded humorously that "It seems Dunn wants to have his Q and eat it too!" Perhaps Dunn eventually intends to demonstrate that the remainder of 'Q' should also be seen as oral.

However, what is more surprising is Dunn's article "Matthew's Awareness of Markan Redation," in F. van Segbroeck et al (eds.), The Four Gospels--1992: Festschrift Frans Neirynck, (3 vols.; BETL 100; Leuven University Press), 2:1349-59, in which Dunn argues that Matthew recognised Markan redaction in Mark and so avoided it consciously. Dunn appears to suggest that this indicates that Matthew was already familiar with many of the stories written in Mark and/or that Matthew used his Markan source in an 'oral mode.'

I am not aware whether other scholars have drawn attention to this but it seems to have anticipated Delbert Burkett's assertion that Markan redaction is suspiciously absent is Matthew and Luke. Whereas Burkett sees such an absence as undermining the notion that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source Dunn sees it as evidence that Matthew could readily recognise Mark's own redaction of oral traditions. There is something persuasive about such an argument and I wish other scholars would comment on it.

Somewhere in my posts on Dunn I mentioned that when we speak of the 'oral period' we really should recognise that we are merely referring generally to the period prior to the Gospels being written down (and published?) since we do not know whether it was really a distinct period of 'oral transmission.'

Also I mentioned that the healing traditions appear to share less verbal/phrasing aggreements than other traditions which may be a consequence of them being widely used oral traditions. I have not researched this properly, but it deserves more attention (as a good candidate for oral story-telling that Matthew and Luke need not be completely dependent on Mark for these stories).

I also mentioned two reviews of Dunn's source theory:
David Neville, "The Demise of the Two-Document Hypothesis? Dunn and Burkett on Gospel Sources," in PACIFICA 19 (Feb 2006), 78-92.
Dennis Ingolfsland, "Jesus Remembered: James Dunn and the Synoptic Problem," Trinity Journal (Fall, 2006), 187-97.

Each of these reviews sees Dunn's source theory as undermining the Mk-Q hypothesis. But it is still not clear exactly what Dunn's source theory entails for Mark and 'Q.' I am amicable to seeing most of 'Q' as potentially stemming from oral sources. I am also comfortable with seeing the authors of Matthew and Luke capable of recognising (and avoiding) Markan redaction (so as to maintain a more 'oral mode' of writing).

However, like Dunn, I am not willing to abandon literary dependence and I think Dunn has tried to incorprate oral and written together in what seems to be an impossibly complex and contradictory task. I wish I knew what to call such a theory (I wonder if Dunn has named his theory yet)?

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