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Knowing the Currents 2

posted by xscot mcknight

Today we look at Gospel Criticism, the methods used in studies of the Gospel from the beginning of the 20th Century until the hey-day of redaction criticism in the 70s and 80s.
Here are the basic streams that flowed into this current:
Source criticism: the analysis and comparison of the synoptic Gospels by using a Synopsis so that one could discover the sources behind our Gospels. The basic theories are what I call the Oxford hypothesis and then also the Griesbach hypothesis.
Oxford: Mark and Q (stuff only in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark) were used by Matthew and Luke. Matthew also used a source called “M” (stuff only in Matthew) and Luke used “L” (stuff only in Luke).
Griesbach: Matthew was first, Luke used Matthew and edited it; then Mark came along and condensed the two into Mark.
Form criticism: the analysis of the “forms” now found in the Gospels and the inference and speculation of how those forms were used prior to the Gospels and how they were shaped by the early churches (called “Gemeindetheologie”, or “community theology”). Here are some basic forms: parables, miracles, pronouncement stories (brief setting that ends with Jesus making a profound statement), etc..
Redaction criticism: the analysis of the Gospels with a view to isolating the particular editing made by the Evangelist (Mark, Q, Matthew, Luke, John), what his theology looked like, and how that fit into his community.
Tradition criticism: the analysis of particular episodes in the Gospels (called “pericopae”) to see how they can be layered into what will lead us back to the historical Jesus. This developed into the criteria of authenticity mentioned last week in our Historical Jesus studies.
Now a few sources:
The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels has a good discussion of each of these.
Dictionary
Scot McKnight, Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels.
Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels
E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies Studying the Synoptic Gospels.
Sanders-Davies



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John C. Poirier

posted August 22, 2007 at 8:55 am


Scot,
I think your summation of the “basic theories” is seriously out of date. The Griesbach hypothesis has not been nearly as prominent for at least the past twenty or so years as the Farrer hypothesis. Griesbachians today, in fact, have become fairly rare, while Farrerians are now a dime a dozen.
John C. Poirier



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Scot McKnight

posted August 22, 2007 at 9:01 am


John,
The Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre line is out there more now than ever, but I’m not so sure the Griesbach stuff is out of date brother. It’s all over the USA due to three things:
1. Farmer and his students at SBL
2. Conservative evangelicals who have bought into this theory.
3. Traditional Roman Catholics.



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RJS

posted August 22, 2007 at 9:05 am


For those of us not on the inside – What is the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre hypothesis?



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tom

posted August 22, 2007 at 9:53 am


Scot,
Who are some of the scholars that take the Griesbach theory serious? The evidence for Mark first seems overwhelming to me. I don’t read Greek though, so I have to take the scholars at their word.
Thanks.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 22, 2007 at 10:10 am


RJS,
Mark was first; Matthew used Mark and roughly composed the rest himself — not meaning creation but adaption of traditions or something along this line (lots of nuances here); then Luke composed his Gospel on the basis of Mark and Matthew.
No Q, no M, no L.



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John C. Poirier

posted August 22, 2007 at 10:15 am


RJS,
The Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre line is simply Markan priority without Q, or Mark > Matthew > Luke.
Scot,
Perhaps you know differently, but I see Griesbach as having fallen on hard times. (I can only name 4 advocates still living.)
Also, when you identify “Traditional Roman Catholics” as attracted to Griesbach, are you confusing the Griesbach hypothesis (Matthew > Luke > Mark) with the Augustinian hypothesis (Matthew > Mark > Luke)? (A number of recent books, including even Dungan’s *A History of the Synoptic Problem*, make that mistake.) And I wonder if many of the “conservative evangelicals” that you have in mind aren’t also going for the Augustinian hypothesis. (I may be wrong about that, because I don’t know specifically which circles you are thinking of.)
John C. Poirier



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Scot McKnight

posted August 22, 2007 at 10:59 am


John,
Yes, in a word. The issue is the relationship of Matthew and Mark, with Luke tossed in somewhere for the theory. There are plenty today who want to challenge Markan priority from either the Griesbachian view or Farrer/etc view.
Maybe you’re right about Griesbach, but Tuckett had to fight it off. Farmer’s students are spread throughout the USA academy.
I wrote a piece sometime back called “A Generation Who Knew Not Streeter” and my concern is that the literary and narrative approaches, along with the debate between Farmer and Tuckett, was leading to a generation that didn’t care about the Synoptic Problem. From my read, there is more to the lack of concern than anything else today.



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John C. Poirier

posted August 22, 2007 at 11:16 am


Scot,
Thanks for this. I read your piece a while back, although I don’t remember the specifics of your case.
I agree that there’s a lack of concern. Some of it may be due to literary and narrative approaches, as you say, but I think it is also partly due to a belief that the two-source theory *must* be right (given how many people accept it), so it’s a waste of time to look into the synoptic problem any further. This attitude has led to a generation of NT introductions regurgitating out-of-date “facts” about the interrelationship of the gospels. E.g., several NT introductions published in the last ten or so years continue to cite the so-called argument from order, even though that argument was laid to rest as a logical fallacy in 1951!
John C. Poirier



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Scott M

posted August 22, 2007 at 11:25 am


There’s a synoptic problem?



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B-W

posted August 22, 2007 at 11:31 am


Correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression was that, among proponents of the “2-source hypothesis” (what you’re calling “Oxford” here, but I’m not familiar with that attribution), the theory that “M” and “L” were sources used specifically by Matthew and Luke (respectively) in addition to Mark and Q is an offshoot of the hypothesis, not necessarily believed by all (or even a majority of?) scholars.
At least, such is what I recall from my few-years-old-now seminary studies. I’m happy to have this impression corrected if need be.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 22, 2007 at 11:58 am


B-W,
Not all believed in the literary designs of M and L, but most believed both Matthew and Luke had access to something other than Mark and Q.



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Scott Grandi

posted August 22, 2007 at 12:36 pm


Your book Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels is printed in India by OM Books. It is part of the OM Books “Authentic Media” series, which also includes Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth. It costs Rs 79 (less than US$3).



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tom

posted August 22, 2007 at 1:02 pm


Scott M. @ 9: Is that tongue in cheek? If so, you got me :-).
Synoptic problem – Wikipedia



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Scott M

posted August 22, 2007 at 1:16 pm


No, it wasn’t tongue in cheek. I see from your link that it’s the larger description of the river within which these specifics are currents. I suppose from my perspective I have a hard time perceiving it as a problem in need of resolution. Is there a particular reason they couldn’t all flow from the same shared experience and oral tradition with the personality and expression of each individual? Of course, they would be similar, just as the sermon on the mount and the sermon on the plain are similar. But I’m not sure I see why it matters which was written first or if others had written down some of what had clearly been taught and shared among the church for several decades…



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Scot McKnight

posted August 22, 2007 at 1:18 pm


Scott M,
The “problem” is this: What is the relationship of the Synoptic Gospels? A careful reading of a synopsis reveals two glaring facts: there are verses that are identical in Greek and there are other verses that are dramatically different. Are they dependent upon one another? If so, does not that then enable us to look over Matthew’s shoulder and see what he did to Mark? (Yes, if you accept Markan priority and Matthew’s use.) It makes lots of difference for what we can know with precision.



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Mark Goodacre

posted August 23, 2007 at 7:30 am


Hi Scot; I’d like to comment briefly on one of the comments here:
“There are plenty today who want to challenge Markan priority from either the Griesbachian view or Farrer/etc view.
Maybe you’re right about Griesbach, but Tuckett had to fight it off. Farmer’s students are spread throughout the USA academy.”
On the first sentence, I realize that this is a slip, but I want to underline that the Farrer Theory is a Marcan Priority theory too; it’s problem is with Q.
On the question of Griesbachians in the American academy, there are four I know of, Allan McNicol (Austin Graduate School, Austin, TX) and David Peabody (Nebraska Wesleyan). David Dungan (Knoxville) and Thomas Longstaff (Colby, Maine) have recently retired. I think one of the disappointments for them recently has been the lack of notice of and / or engagement with their One Gospel from Two, which came out in 2003.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 23, 2007 at 10:40 am


Mark,
Thanks for this. My slip. I don’t often talk much about the Farrer hypothesis and I see it as fighting the consensus Oxford theory, which it does, but it does so by ending Q and postulating greater creativity by the Evangelists.
Yes, but I explain the disappointment by a general lack of interest in the Synoptic Problem in the wake of the rise of literary criticism. They fought a battle at the end of an era. It is the generation that knew not Streeter. (Nor does it much care.)
This generation isn’t doing redaction criticism much anymore either, Mark, and one of the major fruits of synoptic problem work is seeing the redactor at work.



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