Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 12:08:58 -0400 (EDT) From: Yuri KuchinskyClick here to go one level up in the directory.
To: E. Bruce Brooks Cc: Synoptic-L@bham.ac.uk Subject: Synoptic Problem & proto-Mk (was: Bethsaida) [This article was posted in reply to Wed, 29 Jul 1998 message from E. Bruce Brooks.] WHICH SYNOPTIC PROBLEM? This is the all-consuming debate that rages amongst our biblical scholars, the Synoptic Problem. It has been raging already for many decades, and the solution is still not in sight, apparently. It is not the purpose of this article merely to choose one simple solution to this problem among the three main contenders (2ST, the Griesbach Hypothesis, and FM -- the Farrer Model). Neither am I intending to discuss the relative merits of each of these theories. (To be sure, I, myself, for a long time have been inclined towards the majority view, i.e. the 2ST. Mk definitely seems like the earliest gospel to me. It just has all the feel of a primitive and unpolished writing that was smoothed over and improved on by the other two authors.) Rather, I would like to suggest that the whole Synoptic Problem, as it is commonly understood by mainstream scholars at this time, just may be a mirage. It is a problem that, as currently posed, does not really have a solution. And the reason for this, of course, is our lack of good evidence for the earliest stages of composition of our canonical gospels. Yet there seems to be enough evidence to suggest that all of our NT documents were in a state of flux in the early stages of their composition. It is useful to remember that, at first, none of our canonical gospels had any special status outside of the communities that used them. And the communities that used them could change their texts at will, since almost certainly they were anonymous documents not associated with any great apostolic authorities. The gospels received their current names quite late along the time line. Here are a couple of useful quotes from H. Koester that make the above point very well. "NT textual critics have been deluded by the hypothesis that the archetypes of the textual tradition which were fixed ca. 200 CE -- and how many archetypes for each Gospel? -- are (almost) identical with the autographs. This cannot be confirmed by any external evidence. On the contrary, whatever evidence there is indicates that not only minor, but also substantial revisions of the original texts have occurred during the first hundred years of the transmission." H. Koester, THE TEXT OF THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS IN THE SECOND CENTURY, p. 37, in _Gospel traditions in the second century: origins, recensions, text, and transmission_, William L. Petersen, editor, Notre Dame, Ind., University of Notre Dame Press, 1989. Also, Koester says this in the same article: "Textual critics of classical texts know that the first century of their transmission is the period on which the most serious corruptions occur. Textual critics of the NT writings have been surprisingly naive in this respect". So here are the 3 solutions that are generally offered in professional literature. Yet I believe these solutions are all too simple for the problem that is much more difficult than is commonly realized. 2ST Mk + Q = Mt Mk + Q = Lk GRIESBACH Mt + Lk = Mk (no Q) FM Mk + Mt = Lk (no Q) Each of these solutions certainly seems simple and straightforward. But why then can the scholars not agree on such a basic and fundamental matter? Isn't this rather curious? Why are the debates still raging, with all three sides assuring each other that they have the only true solution? Could they _all_ be wrong? Could there be yet another solution for the SP? My answer is that all three sides are wrong... and that all three sides are _also_ right! Here's how it goes. The truth is far more complicated than our three academic camps would like to admit, and yet still I think a good solution to SP is discernible in our biblical texts. And, indeed, this elusive solution may be assembled from the blocks found in the mounds of evidence, often mixed with rhetoric, that all three of our competing exegetical camps produce. To be sure, I do believe that the Q source did exist as a separate document that was incorporated into both Mt and Lk, and was later lost. And so, on this assumption, here's the solution. 1. pMk + Q = Mt 2. pMk + Q = Lk So far, I'm following the 2ST, but _also_ I think 3. Lk + Mt = Mk and 4. pMk(or Mk?) + Mt = Lk2 (later strata of Lk) Yes, I indeed accept that the other two competitors, the Griesbachians, and the FM, also make many valid points in their own right as regards quite a few passages that were added to our gospels at later stages of their editing. And not only that. Let's add some more reality to the above picture. 5. Mk + Mt + Lk = Jn and 6. Jn + Mt + Lk = Mk 7. Jn + Mt = Lk2 So then what we have are the following 7 ways in which various influences were felt. 1. pMk + Q = Mt 2ST 2. pMk + Q = Lk 2ST 3. Lk + Mt = Mk GH 4. pMk + Mt = Lk2 FGM 5. Mk + Mt + Lk = Jn late edition of Jn 6. Jn + Mt + Lk = Mk expansions of Mk 7. Jn + Mt = Lk2 expansions of Lk So, obviously, I think that all sides in the SP debate are right in their own way. In particular, I'm grateful to the Griesbachians because they've done a good job identifying those parts of the canonical Mk that were not likely to have been in the early versions of Mk, in what I call proto-Mark (pMk). These additions to pMk indeed seem to be later expansions often based on either canonical Mt or Lk, or on both. Here I do tend to agree with the Griesbachians. As far as the FM, I'm also grateful to its proponents in so far as they identified those later additions to Lk that were indeed most likely based on Mt. (Also some parts of Lk may be based on Jn, as I noted before.) Yes, it seems that the truth is far more complex than most of our biblical scholars even suspect. So what we have here is not really strictly speaking a "Synoptic Problem". Rather it seems to be a whole collection of Synoptic plus Johannine problems. What we have is a whole web of interrelationships between all of our four canonical Christian gospels. We seem to have a number of Dependence and Cross-pollination Problems. Different passages and different theological ideas contained in our gospels tended to migrate back and forth between various documents over time. Reflexes of ideas and doctrines from other canonical gospels are discernable in all of them. They all reflect each other in some way or other. And now, let us look at H. Koester presenting his views on this back in 1983. COLLOQUY ON NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES, Bruce Corley, ed, Mercer UP, Macon, 1983. This is quite a fascinating volume. Here we have what may be described as "adventures of H. Koester among the Griesbachians". Koester of course is one of the very few scholars who advocates the proto-Mark theory at this time. As it happens, parts of his research strongly support the Griesbachian view that Mk is posterior to both Mt and Lk. Yes, Koester agrees, indeed, parts of Mk are posterior to Mt and Lk. But other parts aren't. The early version of Mk, the proto-Mk is earlier than the other two Synoptics. My general impression from reading these exchanges is that the Griesbachians were simply not paying attention to the complexity of what Koester proposes. His arguments, it seems, fell mostly on deaf ears. His opponents are so used to fighting their usual battles against the 2ST that they probably didn't even perceive that the whole game will change if Koester's views are accepted... Here's E. P. Sanders, summarizing the confused current state of the Synoptic Problem in the Introduction. ""Source criticism, so intimately connected with the early "lives of Jesus," is in well known disarray. The classical two-document hypothesis, ... has been found wanting..."" (p. 15) And here's Sanders taking a "bold stand" on this matter. "I suppose that I should tell you where I stand: squarely on the fence." (p. 16) (And later, on p. 17, as if to make things even more intriguing, he's actually talking about a "multisided fence"!) Is there a way out of this seeming impasse? Well, Sanders does seem to indicate one, and a one that I myself see as valid. He quotes from M.-E. Boismard, THE TWO-SOURCE THEORY AT AN IMPASSE, NTS 26 (1979), pp 1-17: "The Griesbach hypothesis explains features not accounted for by the two-source theory, but the reverse is also true. There is a need to combine the two theories by considering intermediate stages of redaction as well as the final." If only he himself was paying attention to these thoughts of Boismard... I don't think he really did. In his article that follows, Koester carefully outlines his reasons for believing that there was a pMk. He presents 3 kinds of arguments. First, he deals with the Bethsaida section of Mk (Mk 6:45-8:26). Then he looks at the passages of Mk that are not parallelled exactly in Mt and Lk, i.e. the so-called Minor Agreements of Mt and Lk against Mk. (And in this his arguments are perfectly in accord with the Griesbachians). Also he looks at certain key items of Mk vocabulary (such as euaggelion, didaskein, mysterion, baptisma) and observes how they are parallelled (or not parallelled) in the other two Synoptics. All these arguments point to one and the same conclusion: the version(s) of Mk that Mt and Lk used when composing their own narratives about Jesus was/were different from our canonical Mk. It was in fact a pMk, or different forms of pMk. In the discussion that follows Koester makes his main point as follows. "I have become convinced that the problem, the synoptic problem, or the problem of these three Gospels, is, at the present stage of our knowledge of gospel literature, a wrong problem..." Yes, I agree with him. It is the wrong problem primarily because the scholars who perceive the Synoptic problem in this way, and this includes just about all of our mainstream scholars, are not able to realize that the gospels that they want to compare did not really exist in the form they expect. These early gospels _were in fact not fixed and monolithic_ as yet -- their shape was still fluid. Their texts were still changing at that time. Therefore, it is a mistake to treat them as fixed unities, although this is precisely what everyone is inclined to do. But Koester is making even a broader point here. He goes further to talk about the variety of other literature available to the evangelists in their time. He continues his thought: "...because it isolates three gospels." In other words, Koester is saying that we also need to take into account all the other Christian documents that were current at the time. I'm sure he means especially the GThomas, which for the most part was very early according to him. Koester's article in this volume produced a very long and somewhat unfocused response by David Peabody, THE LATE SECONDARY REDACTION OF MARK'S GOSPEL AND THE GRIESBACH HYPOTHESIS, pp. 87-132. Peabody's article is about double the size of Koester's, on which he comments. It really seems to me like Peabody has not been able to make up his mind about what was it exactly that he was trying to argue against in his reply. Obviously, what he really _wanted_ to argue _for_ was the Griesbach hypothesis. But Koester was not arguing against the Griesbach hypothesis... To the contrary, Koester actually tended to provide more ammunition for it! I suppose the central argument of Koester was to argue primarily for the pMk, since all of his arguments were pointing towards the pMk. Peabody only deals with them rather reluctantly and rather selectively. He does spend a lot of space arguing against the Bethsaida section being a later interpolation, but his arguments here do not seem too weighty. He concentrates on trying to find parallels to the Bethsaida section in the other chapters of Mk and finds them. Was this supposed to prove that the Bethsaida Section must have been a part of Mk from the beginning? How so? Don't his arguments rather prove that the persons who added this section may have also been at work on other sections? So what he did, in effect, was to point out some very good candidates for further interpolations in Mk that are similar in spirit and in style to the Bethsaida section. But for the rest, Peabody seems to be mostly arguing against the things that Koester did not actually argue for. Again and again he's back to pointing out "the innate superiority of GH". "...the proof from common narrative sequence basically supports the GH." (Pp. 65) "... the preponderance of evidence supported the GH." (Pp. 66) And this is what he's basically doing all through his article. When discussing e.g. the use of the term _euaggelion_, he repeatedly ignores Koester's general argument, and again argues directly against his 2ST opponents rather than against what Koester is really proposing (p. 119). Of course this subject is a very big one. The purpose of this article was merely to set the stage for much further analysis that needs to be done. Also the Secret Mark fragments need to be considered at some point. I believe they are authentic fragments that Clement of Alexandria had in his possession. The sequence of Mk development that Koester accepts is pMk -> SecMk -> canonical Mk (as an abridgement of SecMk). I agree with him on this also, although many commentators, even some of those supporting the authenticity of SecMk (such as D. Crossan), tend to differ. Myself, I believe that SecMk is something of a misnomer, because I think pMk, in its time, was also a secret gospel not meant to be divulged to those not fully initiated into the faith. Thus pMk and SecMk would have been simply two stages of a developing secret gospel. The canonical Mk finally became a "public gospel" in the sense we understand what this gospel is today. To summarize. I don't think a solution to the Synoptic Problem, the way it is generally understood today, is anywhere in sight. It may be time to redefine the very nature of the problem we have in front of us. Perhaps it is time to accept that the real history of NT composition was more complex than many commentators would like to think. Yuri. Yuri Kuchinsky || Toronto The goal proposed by Cynic philosophy is apathy, which is equivalent to becoming God -=O=- Julian