Understanding the synoptic gospels without Q

What’s at stake in the challenge mounted by Mark Goodacre and a few others against the hypothetical Q document?  Q is a major theoretical pillar of modern New Testament source criticism, and we can be sure there is a mass of academic ego on the line, and great stacks of painstaking research and interpretation threatened with obsolescence.  In other words, the discussion isn’t going to happen.  Because those stakes are too high.

Modern criticism is now so heavily invested in the Q-romance of an imagined “lost” gospel containing primitive logia of Jesus that any general acceptance of Goodacre’s argument might cause a crisis in NT hermeneutics.  I believe that the gospels would be just fine in the exchange, but I think it would be a long time before the failed theological ties to the imaginary Q were sorted out, and scholars became adept at re-interpreting this double-tradition as simply that portion of material new to the author of Matthew which Luke also saw warrant to repeat in his own Gospel.

I am in general agreement with Goodacre and with Austin Farrer (1955) and Michael Goulder (1989), because I think Luke’s dependence on Matthew explains the common material between them better than Q-theory.  With the object of fortifying myself in this regard, I have had Goodacre’s book, The Case Against Q (2002), home from the library since early April.  But I have been distracted by the Johannine passion, Historical Jesus, N. T. Wright, reading Kant, priority of Mark, and other interests.

In a comment I made over at Near Emmaus yesterday, however, I cited my rejection of Q in support of a point I was making about the dating of Matthew.  Well I started to feel the need for some study of the problem in depth, because I didn’t want to be hanging out there with nothing but a personal preference for Luke’s dependence on Matthew.

The last straw came this morning, however, when I sat down with Ernst Fuch’s 1960 Berlin lecture, “Jesus’ Understanding of Time” (Studies of the Historical Jesus, SCM Press, 1964, p.104).  I’ve had Fuchs’ book home only a week, wanting to give the post-Bultmann scholars of the New Quest – and Fuchs in particular – a fair turn.  However, from the first paragraph it became apparent that I could not follow the author’s thesis without possessing an utter faith in the existence of Q (a faith which I don’t have).  After four pages, I put the book down and reached for Goodacre.

I want to nail this argument now, and will post a short review series on The Case Against Q in the near future.

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John, Luke, and the Jewish trial[s] of Jesus

Matthew D. Larsen is blogging a series “investigating the trial[s] of Jesus (or lack thereof) by means of a synoptic analysis of Luke 22.54–71, Mark 14.53–72, and Matthew 26.57–75.”

From the looks of his stated goals, Larsen’s study will culminate in a summary of the Luke passion “especially in light of its Synoptic parallels.”

I will be suggesting other approaches to one or two of the points which Larsen treats, but I am not seeking any controversy with Matthew.  The appeal for me here is twofold:

(1) the chance to open up a study of Michael D. Goulder’s theory about the sources for the Passion in Luke in conjunction with a current example of high-quality text-critical blogging (without jamming up another writer’s blog with lengthy comments) and

(2) the chance to write out an idea found in my recent study of Schleiermacher’s Life of Jesus about a possible supplementary role here for the Gospel of John.

I have Goulder’s 1989 book, Luke: A New Paradigm, home from the library only today.  Goulder has become a new fascination of mine in conjunction with my study of problems with the Q-based Two-Source theory (challenges to ‘Q’ by Austin Farrer in the 1950s and by Goulder in the 80s and more recently prof. Mark Goodacre at Duke).

 The real question is:  can I keep up with the pace I expect Matthew Larsen to set?

A soft version of the Messianic Secret – Part 1

Two weeks ago I listened to a lecture podcast over at NTpod on the Messianic Secret in Mark, by Duke professor Mark Goodacre. The podcast (and the .pdf handout) were my first exposure to modern criticism of Wrede and showed me that I had been needlessly repelled by the theory (i.e., balked at reading the book) by my misconception that it was an organic whole which must be taken as such or discarded.  Goodacre’s freestyle treatment (the podcast is of an informal classroom lecture) unlocked a door for me.

The textual basis of Wrede’s theory is a widely scattered class of Markan logia of Jesus.  The characteristic of these logia is that they always check or censor the potential for popular acclamation and interpretations of the power, identity, and teachings of Jesus. The four categories are: (1) silencing of demons, (2) silencing of those who are healed, (3) concealment of teaching through parables, and (4) silencing of the disciples.  It’s a pretty strong motif, although all four categories have been shown to contain some elements that are not clear indicators of the theory (James D. G. Dunn showed this back in the 70’s).

I’m OK with Wrede’s hypothesis that elements of post-resurrection tradition have contributed a constructive theological spin to Mark’s record.  Without affecting the true identity of the Son, it suggests a healthy questioning of Peter’s later teaching of the imminent and fearsome return of the crucified and risen Jewish Messiah (Acts 2:22ff).  Also I’m open to anything that would tend to bring the historical value of the Fourth Gospel more into line with Mark and the synoptics.

I reject Wrede’s assumption that the silence/concealment motif is all post-resurrection material, without foundation in the pre-crucifixion history.  To the contrary, I think it is quite natural and uncomplicated to assume the existence of at least a core of authentic logia in which Jesus is “hushing-up” public acclamations about his identity and works.  I think the problem in Mark can be solved better without taking the pre-crucifixion Jesus completely out of the picture, and without implicating him in any deception, and without creating the need for wholesale fabrication of tradition (which is why I call mine a ‘soft’ version of the Messianic secret).

I still won’t be able to check out Wrede’s book for several weeks (it’s 50 miles away on 2-hour class-reserve and my status is non-student).  So I start with a few broad strokes until I can read it.  I plan to continue this important thread in additional parts under this subject category.