Friday, November 09, 2007

My blog in a nutshell: Eight Synoptic Problem Myths and Misassumptions

Given that my first year of posts largely attempted to dispel certain myths and misassumptions concerning synoptic source theories which might otherwise cloud students from clear thinking and since it is not clear how often I will be able to keep postings going here I thought to dot-point the following myths (and comments):

  1. Certain synoptic source theories are more theologically and/or pastorally superior than others. Actually whether one solution could be is very difficult to demonstrate without at the same time maintaining several assumptions about what one already considers theologically/pastorally ‘superior’ or ‘inferior.’
  2. Matthew, Mark and Luke are of the same genre. Actually each author, though employing many similar traditions (and narrative additions), tells a slightly different kind of story.
  3. There is a consensus concerning what the ‘Q hypothesis’ is. Actually the Q hypothesis is taken to mean different things by different people.
  4. ‘Markan redaction’ is prevalent in both Matthew and Luke. Actually the presence of Markan style and vocabulary in Matthew and Luke is not so prevalent (is it a case of deliberate avoidance or evidence against Mark as source?)
  5. The closest verbal agreements between Matthew and Luke indicate a common written source which, for example may mean that Luke copied either Matthew’s Q source or Matthew. Actually the high verbal agreements in the John Baptizer speeches are simply anomalous for all the major source theories—i.e. how it is that Luke and/or Matthew suddenly turn into slavish scribes? Such agreement is rather unexpected even if Luke has utilized Matthew.
  6. There was a distinct ‘oral period’ of transmission where the synoptic material was transmitted (and by implication derived from/translated from Jesus’ own words). Actually most of the synoptic traditions (besides the shared healing stories) appear as further ‘takes’ on already traditional materials (i.e. common debates and sayings/teachings not necessarily initiated first by Jesus—cf. the teachings in James).
  7. Unlike in literary dependence, there are no layers in the handing down of oral traditions (a point made by Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses). Actually research on oral traditioning has still a long way to go before deciding for or against this one.
  8. Form criticism got things completely wrong. Actually even if the authors of Luke and Mark believed (and/or wanted readers to believe) that the Jesus traditions stemmed from the authority of eye-witnesses (viz. Bauckham’s thesis), one need not dispense with the whole form critical enterprise (especially if we grant recognition to the comment on 6 above).