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Monthly Archives: March 2016

New Series on the Beloved Disciple

Since I am currently researching the traditions about the authorship of John’s Gospel, I want to start a new series about the different views that scholars have held about the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” The reason this is important is that the epilogue of the Gospel seems to identify this mysterious disciple as the author of the whole narrative (see John 21:24). I will post an introductory handout about the Gospel of John tomorrow and will then look at the variety of suggestions about the beloved disciple put forward by scholars.


The CSBS Annual Meeting

How many of you are planning to go to the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies Annual Meeting at the University of Calgary on May 28-30. My session will be on Saturday, May 28 starting at 8:30 am. Here are the abstracts:

8:30-9:00             James Magee (Trinity Western University)

Silence of the Lamb(s): Innocent Children from Jesus to the Waif Evangelist (aka Mark) in the Silent Cinema

For the next chapter in the Cinematic Childhood(s) and Imag(in)ing the Boy Jesus saga, I go back in time to the dawn of the cinema to examine some of the earliest attempts at screening the life of Jesus. I look specifically at the idea of childhood innocence in three key silent films: The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1905), From the Manger to the Cross (1912) and The King of Kings (1927). From antecedents of ‘the child’ in Romantic art to philanthropic and state-sponsored child-saving efforts, the historical backdrops to these Bible-to-film adaptations are culled for their influences on these cinematic depictions of children and childhood, from the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Jerusalem temple to the imagined boyhood of Mark the Evangelist. The idea(l) of childhood innocence emerges from this analysis as historically contingent, variably expressed, and even contested.

 9:00-9:30             Ryan D. Schroeder (University of British Columbia)

            Jesus Christ Superscribe: Markan Memory and the Founding of a Jewish Sect

As a narrative, the Gospel of Mark commemorates the founding and founder of the nascent Christian community. Various conflicts propel the plot forward, notably the disputations between Jesus and certain religious authorities over the interpretation and application of sacred scripture. In this essay, I argue that the writer of Mark’s Gospel, perhaps his community, remembered Jesus in the social frame of the “master-scribe.” Such a memory justified his religious community’s variance from contemporary (and competing) expressions of Judaism, while it also ensured a sense of continuity with the faithful of Israel via (the right understanding of) the Jewish scriptures.

 9:30-10:00             Alan Kirk (James Madison University)

Ancient Florilegia Transmission Practices, and Some Unresolved Problems in Matthew’s Source Utilization (on the 2DH)

In 1882, Curt Wachsmuth published his groundbreaking source-critical analysis of three Byzantine florilegia: the Maximus, the Melissa Augustana, and the Antonius, arguing that all three were dependent upon a non-extant Ur-florilegium (“Buch der Parallela”). His theory was subsequently modified by Heinrich Schenkl and Anton Elter, who demonstrated that the Maximus was dependent upon the in fact extant 9th century florilegium Corpus Parisinum, and that the Melissa Augustana and the Antonius were dependent on the Maximus. Recent work by Denis Searby and Jens Gerlach on source utilization in the Corpus Parisinum further adds to our store of information on ancient transmission practices, as these are attested in source relationships across four generations of florilegia. For our purposes, the relevant point is that these practices show striking similarities to Matthew’s procedures in combining Mark and Q on the Two Document Hypothesis. We again see the 2DH’s remarkable coherence with ancient compositional practices.

 10:15-10:45             Michael Kok (The King’s University)

The Second Century Scribal Addition of a Secondary Ending to John’s Gospel

Despite some notable exceptions (cf. Gaventa 1996: 249-50 n. 8), most commentators regard the Johannine epilogue as an editorial addition after the Gospel’s original ending at John 20:31 on stylistic and rhetorical grounds. This paper locates the redactor in a second century Christian context. First, the identification of the enigmatic beloved disciple as the author of the text (John 21:24) accords with the growing importance of “authorial self-representation” in legitimating Gospel writings (cf. Goodacre 2012: 174-79). Second, the epilogue may harmonize Johannine and Synoptic data (John 21:3-14; Luke 5:1-11; cf. Neirynck 1990). Finally, the epilogue seems to engage Christians who hold to Petrine primacy and John 21:18 alludes to traditions about Peter’s crucifixion that develop later (cf. Goulder 2004; Zwierlein 2009).

 10:45-11:15             Emily Laflèche (University of Toronto)

Mary Magdalene: The Companion of Jesus

The Gospel of Philip defines Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ companion (koinōnos- companion or partner) it also defines the relationship developed through the bridal chamber as joining (koinoneīn- to have in common with or join with another) two people together as companions or consorts (Gos. Phil. 65. 1-26). The use of the Copticized Greek verb koinoneīn and its nominalization koinōnos in the Gospel of Philip shows that there may be a connection in these two descriptions of companions and the joining of companions. Building on the work of Antti Marjanen (1996), I will analyse Mary Magdalene’s role as the companion of Jesus, looking to other apocryphal texts to aid in understanding her role. I will also address whether there is evidence to link Mary’s companionship with Jesus, to the union developed in the bridal chamber.

 11:15-11:45             Bill Richards (College of Emmanuel & St Chad)

“Hidden Words” – Re-parsing What Thomas Overheard

In this paper I examine several key sentences in the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas, starting with the opening invitation to ponder its sayings under a promise of “not tasting death”. In each case I propose an alternate grammatical analysis of the sayings this book’s Thomas is credited with overhearing and writing down. This re-parsing of particular lines will, I hope, encourage a fresh translation of the text as a whole, as well as contribute to a thicker description of the faith community that valued and transmitted its “hidden words.”

Scholars on the Parables

Over the Easter weekend, Loren Rosson III published his reflections on the parable of the talents and the parable of the wicked tenants. Part of what makes parables so fun is that they can be open-ended and amenable to a variety of interpretations. What do you think: are these parables allegories about God’s judgment and the difficult fate of God’s emissaries or are they critiques of social and economic exploitation.

Scrutinizing the Case for Q: Ancient Compositional Practices

For the view that the Two Source Theory better accords with how ancient writers used their sources in the Roman world, see Robert Allen Derrenbacker, Ancient Compositional Practices and the Synoptic Problem (BETL 186; Leuven: Peeters, 2005; cf. his PhD thesis at the University of Toronto) and F. Gerald Downing, “Disagreements of Each Evangelist with the Minor Close Agreements of the Other Two” ETL 80 (2004): 445–469 and Doing Things with Words in the First Century (Sheffield Academic Press, 2000). Here is the summary:

Assuming that an evangelist such as Luke was working with scrolls, he would have difficulty balancing the scroll he was working on on his knees (scribes did not use a writing desk) while consulting two other scrolls set up on stands. Perhaps some of the difficulty could be alleviated if Luke was dictating to a scribe rather than writing himself. The constraints of this procedure make it difficult to attempt complex harmonizations of multiple sources at the micro-level or moving back and forth through a scroll. Thus, ancient writers preferred to work with one source at a time for any given account. The theory works best with how Luke alternates between citing the text of Mark and Q in whole blocks (Q material primarily in Luke 6:20-8:3; 9:1-18:14). It is more difficult to explain the ways Luke and Matthew fuse Mark and Q together in the so-called Mark-Q overlaps (e.g. Matt 3-4/Luke 3-4) as well as how Matthew more often integrates Q material into Mark’s narrative framework. However, the idea that an evangelist may be working with the text of Mark even while recalling some wording or anecdote from Q from memory or that Matthew had Q in another literary form (e.g. a codex, the forerunner of the modern book, to enable flipping through it quicker) has been suggested.

Ken Olson defended the Farrer Hypothesis in light of the same ancient practice of using one source at a time in his Master’s thesis How Luke was Written. Luke would have stuck to how whole episodes were reported in Mark or in Matthew without harmonizing them, though it is possible that Luke could have been influenced by his memory of Matthew’s wording even when copying a block from Mark. Other Farrer proponents argue that Luke’s rearrangement of some of the material that Matthew adds to Mark would not be as difficult as presumed. Francis Watson proposes that Luke may have initially relied on a notebook when first reading through Matthew and then drew from his notes in rearranging the pieces of Matthew to forge new connections in his final composition (Gospel Writing: A Canonical Approach, 170-71, 171 n. 27).  John C. Poirier’s “The Roll, the Codex, the Wax Tablet and the Synoptic ProblemJSNT 35 (2012): 3-30 suggests that Luke utilized wax tablets so that he could experiment with new arrangements in his notes before producing the final copy (see also the criticisms from Downing and Derrenbacker).

However, James W. Barker has just published “Ancient Compositional Practices and the Gospels: A Reassessment” Journal of Biblical Literature 135 (2016): 109-121. He calls into question the assumption that the use of scrolls makes it implausible that ancient writers would either conflate or radically re-order the material in their sources. Here is the abstract:

Recent studies of ancient compositional practices and the Synoptic Problem have validated the Two-Source hypothesis and challenged the “Augustinian,” Farrer–Goulder, and Griesbach hypotheses. These studies conclude that, according to the Two-Source hypothesis, subsequent evangelists would have adhered to the Greco-Roman conventions of working with one source at a time and not working backward through a text. The present essay adduces counterexamples such as the Greek Minor Prophets Scroll from Naḥal Ḥever, which predates the Gospels, and Tatian’s Diatessaron, which postdates the Gospels. Upon further examination, simultaneously accessing multiple sources and reordering those sources were established compositional practices in the first century. Moreover, every solution to the Synoptic Problem necessitates such scribal conventions. Therefore, the lesser extent of these ancient compositional practices does not privilege the Two-Source hypothesis over its rivals.

Scrutinizing the Case for Q: Alternating Primitivity

In the post on Q, I asked whether Matthew or Luke had the “earlier” version of the Lord’s Prayer or the beatitude “blessed are the poor/poor in spirit” or the reference to Wisdom’s “deeds/children.” Michael Goulder (Luke: A New Paradigm) takes the line that Matthew is the creative originator of all the non-Markan material, so Luke’s formulation must always be secondary, while Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q) is open to oral sources that Luke may have drawn on that sometimes could contain pre-Matthew formulations.

Two Source Theorists, on the other hand, believe that sometimes Matthew and other times Luke sticks closer to the wording of their shared source Q. To attempt to reconstruct the possible wording of Q as far as can be done, John Kloppenborg and Robert A. Derrenbacker, “Self-Contradiction in the IQP? A Reply to Michael Goulder” JBL 120 (2001): 57-76 explain the reasoning behind the scholars who put a critical edition of Q:

[A] phrase or word should be treated as secondary (that is, not deriving from Q), (a) when it can be shown by reference to Matthew’s treatment of Mark and by reference to editorial or transitional portions of Matthew that Matthew has a tendency to add the phrase or word, and (b) when Luke has no aversion to the phrase or word. (The same logic applies mutatis mutandis to Lukan phrases and words.) (p. 63)

Additionally, they take from text criticism the preference for the shorter or difficult reading, for a scribe is more likely to expand (elaborate, clarify) than abbreviate and solve than create theological tensions, and use a similar rating system to the United Bible Society on the probability of reconstructions (pp. 59-63).

Stephen Carlson has written a rebuttal to the criterion outlined above in his chapter “Some Problems with the Non-Aversion Principle in Reconstructing the Text of Q” in Marcan Priority Without Q: Explorations in the Farrer Hypothesis (ed. John C. Poirier and Jeffrey Peterson; LNTS; London: T & T Clark, 2015). Check out both links  to get a handle on this debate.

Scrutinizing the Case for Q: The Lack of “M” in Luke

Scholars designated the hypothetical source behind the shared material in Matthew and Luke as “Q” because Quelle was the German term for source. Yet where did the traditions that were unique to Matthew or to Luke come from? B. H. Streeter introduced the letter “M” and “L” to represent these traditions, for obvious reasons, and treated them too as hypothetical written sources. Today, most scholars tend to think that Matthew and Luke were probably drawing on a variety of oral and written sources for their extra traditions (however, a defense of “L” as a single source can be found in Kim Paffenroth’s The Story of Jesus According to L which was critically reviewed in RBL).

To refresh our memory about some content labelled under “M”, check out the post on Q. It is curious that Luke would neglect some of these episodes if he read Matthew’s Gospel since they could align with Luke’s interest in unmerited grace and forgiveness, Gentiles, or economic matters. Austin Farrer had a theory: “Must we therefore distinguish in Matthew two elements, M and Q, M rabbinic in tone, Q popular and nonrabbinic, of which St. Luke knew Q, but not M? Will it not do as well to say that St. Luke let alone what he did not care for, viz., the rabbinic parts of Matthew?” (Austin Farrer, “On Dispensing with Q“, 58). This explanation does not really work given that the “L” material Luke preserves also features scriptural echoes, biblical proof-texts, and (anachronistically) “rabbinic” styles of argumentation. Proponents of the Farrer Hypothesis may have to concede that, in some instances, it is difficult to figure out why Luke copied some bits of Matthew’s text and not others.

Again, we can take up a specific example in the distinctive birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. It could be a remarkable coincidence that Matthew and Luke independently modified Mark’s account by adding a genealogy and birth story. However, at the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Atlanta I attended both sessions on Francis Watson’s excellent book Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (Eerdmans, 2013). In one session, Richard Burridge critiqued Watson for not taking more account of the genre of the Gospels as biographies (bioi, “lives”), for the ancestry and birth of a subject was standard fare for biographers. The names of Jesus’ parents, Mary’s miraculous conception, or the birth in Bethlehem where king David was born may derive from widespread oral traditions.

Nevertheless, Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q, 56-58) observes that Luke reproduces the key elements of Matthew’s birth narrative (virgin birth, Mary and Joseph, Bethlehem), replaces the gloom of Herod’s atrocity with the joy of Elizabeth and Mary or rejoicing angels and shepherds, and eliminates the Magi due to disliking magicians. Luke 1:31 even has verbatim agreement with Matthew 1:21 “and you will call the name of him Jesus,” even though these words do not fit well in Luke’s context in that they are addressed to the mother rather than the father who will name the boy. Francis Watson (Gospel Writing, 131-136, 141-143) sees Luke’s account as a reaction to Matthew: the verbal echoes of Matthew’s wording, the annunciation to Mary as the main subject rather than Joseph, the celebratory tone of Luke’s version, and the rejection of Matthew’s genealogy that traces Jesus’ descent through Solomon’s line (see Jeremiah 22:28-30; 36:30-31). What do you think?

Scrutinizing the Case for Q: Did Luke Know Matthew’s Editorial Changes

In the post on Q, the first point listed in defense of the independence of Matthew and Luke was that, otherwise, Luke would have frequently ignored Matthew’s editorial changes to Mark. In John Kloppenborg’s critical review article (“On Dispensing with Q? Goodacre on the Relation of Luke to Matthew” NTS 49 [2003]: 210-236), he lists Matthew 3:14-15, 12:5-7, 13:14-17, 14:28-31, 16:16-19, 19:9, 19b, and 27:19, 24 as passages that Luke might have found useful had the evangelist known them on page 219. Of course, the response by Farrer proponents is that the major and minor agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark indicate that Luke was often influenced by Matthew’s editorial changes to Mark’s text. Matthew’s other editorial changes were supposedly not “Luke pleasing.” It may help to look at a specific example used by Goodacre and Kloppenborg.

Mark 1:4 describes the purpose of John’s baptizing rite to be for the forgiveness of sins, which leads to the theological conundrum of why Jesus decided to get baptized in Mark 1:9-11. The fact that Jesus was baptized by John was a sore point for many theologians. In the fourth century, Saint Jerome cites a passage allegedly from a Jewish Gospel used by the Nazoreans in which Jesus asks what sin he has committed that he would need John’s baptism for its remission (see Against the Pelagians 3.2). Moreover, John’s followers might boast that their teacher was superior to Jesus. Indeed, the book of Acts is aware of a continuing movement devoted to the Baptizer but not to Jesus (see Acts 19:1-5). Matthew and Luke found ways to navigate around this tricky theological issue in how they edit the text of Mark, but some scholars question whether they were aware of how the other dealt with the problem.

In the text of Matthew, John protests that he is the one who should be baptized by Jesus, but Jesus silences him with the reply that it is necessary for him to undergo baptism to fulfill all righteousness (Matt 3:14-15). Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q, p. 50) points out that there is a very good reason to omit the dialogue between Jesus and the Baptist in Luke; Luke has imprisoned John before the baptism (Luke 3:20)!  However, Kloppenborg  retorts that Luke would not have needed the expedient of removing John from the scene had the author read Matthew’s dialogue which already neutralizes theological objections to the baptism of Jesus. What do you think: did Luke simply not know Matthew’s solution or did he know it yet prefer his own way of dealing with the issue?

Online Resources about Q

Here is the list on online resources on the subject of Q that I compiled on my previous blog and I hope to continue to add to it over time. For introductory resources on the Synoptic Problem in general, Stephen Carlson has a useful online annotated bibliography.

The Synoptic Problem and the Case for/Against Q

The Text of Q as reconstructed from Matthew/Luke (Q verses follow Luke since scholars generally think that Luke sticks closer to Q’s order whereas Matthew integrates it within Markan frameworks)

Theories about Q and Christian Origins

How Did Matthew Use His Sources?

J. Andrew Doole’s monograph What was Mark for Matthew (Mohr Siebeck, 2013) examines how Matthew treated his sources on the conventional Two Source HypothesisIn dialogue with Ulrich Luz’s proposal that Matthew began with the sayings of Jesus in Q before his worldview was broadened by encountering Mark’s supposedly Gentile-Christian Gospel, Doole views Matthew as a loyal follower of Mark who chooses to integrate Q sayings into Mark’s primary narrative framework.

I recently came across a critical review article by Joseph Verheyden entitled “Matthew’s building blocks: Mark and Q – A critical look at a recent monographIn die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi 49.1 (2015): 1-10. Verheyden dissents from Doole’s judgments on Matthew’s literary creativity (e.g. on whether “M” reflects unknown traditions that expanded on Mark or the evangelist’s own editorial activity) and on the impact that Q had on Matthew’s rewriting of Mark’s Gospel among other points. The review caught my eye because I had also reviewed this monograph for Marginalia and contrasted the views of Doole and David Sim on whether Matthew viewed Mark’s Gospel as an important achievement worthy of emulation or as a rough draft that he sought to replace. See also Paul Foster’s review for The Expository Times. Readers should check out this book if interested not only in how the Synoptic Gospel writers edit their sources, but also why they chose to do so.

Synoptic Problem Posts

Here are some of the posts over the last month on the Synoptic Problem so far: