The Endorsements for my Book

November 14, 2014

I am very grateful to Professors C. Clifton Black, Paul Foster, James Crossley, Willi Braun, and Tony Burke for their kind words on The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century.  Their academic expertise on the origins and reception of the canonical and non-canonical Gospels has had a major influence on my thinking about the reception of Mark.  Here are their endorsements:

“Controlling abundant primary evidence with fine analysis of biblical and patristic scholarship, Michael Kok reopens the question of Mark’s ambiguous authority in second-century Christianity. That the Gospel lay in the crosshairs of ancient disputes over incipient orthodoxy is a creative proposal, vigorously argued, which merits reflection and testing.”

- C. Clifton Black, Princeton Theological Seminary

“In this invigorating and informative study, Michael J. Kok surveys who knew what about Mark’s Gospel during the second century. In an extremely useful and readable form, he assembles the available evidence and advances the striking hypothesis that early Christian writers were often hesitant to use Mark because they viewed it as susceptible to misuse by rival factions. Kok’s thesis is bold, provocative, and argued with great energy. Moreover, if it is judged correct, it casts significant light on some of the significant forces and dispute at work in the early Christian movement.”

- Paul Foster, the University of Edinburgh

“The Gospel on the Margins is part of an increasingly prominent trend in scholarship which looks at the early receptions of the Gospels. In his combination of traditional exegetical approaches with theoretical concerns about “reception” and “centrism”, Kok provides a distinctive, learned and important contribution to the debate. For anyone interested in the earliest receptions of Mark’s Gospel, and the Gospels more generally, Kok’s impressive book will be required reading.”

- James Crossley, the University of Sheffield

“Michael Kok has written a remarkable book, full of implications for the study of the early history of the Gospel of Mark and for Christian origins generally. His argument that the Gospel of Mark was hardly read in the second century, except perhaps by a fringe group in the developing coalition of Christian groups, is utterly convincing. Kok’s argument that the gospel received a place in the emerging Christian canon not because of its intrinsic merit but because it was confiscated for the canon as a way of further marginalizing a group that treasured it, is provocative and persuasive. Kok’s scholarship is impeccable, and he makes his novel argument with great clarity. New Testament scholars and historians of early Christianity, take note!”

- Willi Braun, the University of Alberta

“New Testament scholars love the Gospel of Mark. It is our earliest portrayal of Jesus but also the most unorthodox; its origins are well-documented in antiquity, yet, with good reason, most of us discount this evidence. It confounds and delights. Michael Kok does much to dispel some of the mysteries behind the creation and early reception of the Gospel, bolstering Willi Braun’s theory that early church writers were ambivalent to Mark because of its appreciation by so-called ‘heretics.’ He carefully adjudicates between previous approaches to the evidence, showing particular caution in his treatment of the still-controversial Secret Gospel of Mark (wisely reserved for discussion in an appendix), which, if authentic, would contribute much to his argument. In all, the book is a deftly-written, comprehensive resource for those seeking answers to Mark’s most challenging questions.”

- Tony Burke, York University

 


Forthcoming Monograph

September 22, 2014

It has been awhile since I have posted on this site.  To update readers, I am currently an adjunct lecturer at The King’s University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and am optimistic that I will find a permanent position in the field specializing in the New Testament or Christian History.  I also discovered yesterday that my PhD dissertation that I have turned into a monograph for Fortress Press is now listed for pre-order on Amazon (amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.co.uk).  I am excited to see if the book, when it is released in February, will have an impact on the scholarly conversation about how we treat the church traditions that have been attached to the New Testament Gospels.  Instead of searching for another innovative way to repeat the tradition or dismissing the Patristic witnesses out of hand, perhaps there is a third way to see what light the traditions shed on the reception of the Gospels?  Here is the book’s description:

Scholars of the Gospel of Mark usually discuss the merits of patristic references to the Gospel’s origin and Mark’s identity as the “interpreter” of Peter. But while the question of the Gospel’s historical origins draws attention, no one has asked why, despite virtually unanimous patristic association of the Gospel with Peter, one of the most prestigious apostolic founding figures in Christian memory, Mark’s Gospel was mostly neglected by those same writers. Not only is the text of Mark the least represented of the canonical Gospels in patristic citations, commentaries, and manuscripts, but the explicit comments about the Evangelist reveal ambivalence about Mark’s literary or theological value. Michael J. Kok surveys the second-century reception of Mark, from Papias of Hierapolis to Clement of Alexandria, and finds that the patristic writers were hesitant to embrace Mark because they perceived it to be too easily adapted to rival Christian factions. Kok describes the story of Mark’s Petrine origins as a second-century move to assert ownership of the Gospel on the part of the emerging Orthodox Church.


The Future of the Blog

June 21, 2014

The time has come to stop posting regularly at this blog, which was originally intended to supplement my research on Mark’s Gospel while undertaking a PhD, but I will leave it up as an educational resource.  I decided that I wanted to keep a select post or two under each major category on the right-hand side, so I combined or reworked older posts and removed the comments since they were responses to older forms of the posts.  There are discussions of issues pertaining to the Gospel of Mark (authorship, date, provenance, genre, reception, Christology, eschatology, “Secret Mark”), critical methodologies (source, form, redaction, literary, and ideological criticism), introductory New Testament discussions (timeline of early Christianity, historical Jesus, Synoptic Problem, John and the Synoptics, non-canonical Gospels, perspectives on Paul, the book of Acts), and other student resources.  I plan to write the odd guest post that will be more directed to the person in the pew for the site Bible Study and the Christian Life and continue to interact with the many excellent biblioblogs out there; I will also occasionally update this space to announce future publications or guest lectures.  I hope this site will be useful for scholars, students, pastors, and interested laypersons.  Thank you to everyone who has read and provided critical feedback to my posts over the years.


The Historical Context of Early Christianity Timeline

May 23, 2014

The dates below are approximate and I am open to correction on any of them.  In the next post I will slot in the texts of the New Testament and other early Christian writings into the picture.

721 BCE – Assyrian Deportation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel

586 BCE – second deportation of exiles from Southern Kingdom of Judah to Babylon, third deportation (581 BCE)

539/8 BCE – Cyrus the Great (rule 550-530 BCE) conquers Babylon and beginning of return to Jerusalem

520-515 BCE – Zerubabbel governor of Persian state of Yehud, Joshua the high priest, re-establishment of temple cult

  • 458 BCE [?] Ezra arrives in Jerusalem; 445/4 BCE Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem

333/2 BCE – conquest of Persian Empire by Alexander the Great (reign 356 -323 BCE)

300-198 BCE – Palestine under control of Ptolemies of Egypt

ca 250 BCE – translation of the Pentateuch into Greek in the Septuagint (LXX) and later versions added Prophets and Writings.  The legend is that Ptolemy II Philadelphus asked 72 elders to translate the Law into Greek to be included in the library of Alexandria (cf. The Letter to Aristeas)

198 BCE – Palestine under control of Seleucids of Syria

  • Antiochus III “the Great” (ruled 222–187 BCE)
  • 175-164 BCE – Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”
  • 162-150 BCE – Demetrius I “Soter” (Savior)
  • 150-146 BCE – Alexander Balas
  • 146-139, 129-125 BCE – Demetrius II Nicator (Victor)
  • 143-142 BCE – general Diodotus Typho sets Balas’ son Antiochus VI Dionyisus on throne in city of Antioch
  • 142-129 BCE – general Diodotus Trypho sets himself up as king, slain by Antiochus VII
  • 138-129 BCE – Antiochus VII Euergetes (benefactor) Sidetes

167 BCE – profanation of the temple under Antiochus IV

166 BCE – Jewish priest Mattathias, who had fled into the wilderness with five sons (John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, Jonathan) after he killed a fellow kinsman who was going to sacrifice to the Greek gods, dies

166-160 BCE – third son Judas the Maccabeus (“hammer”), re-dedication of the temple (164 BCE)

160-143 BCE leadership and high priesthood of Jonathan, tricked and executed by Trypho

  • Josephus introduces Pharisees (from Perushim or “separate ones”), Saduccees (associated with priestly line of “Zadok” or from saddiqim [righteous ones]?), and Essenes at this time (cf. Antiquities 13.171).  The “Wicked Priest” (=Jonathan?  Simon?) is opposed by the “Teacher of Righteousness” and remembered as a significant figure by a sectarian community at Khirbet Qumran (=Essenes?)

142-134 BCE – leadership of Simon and beginning of full autonomy

134-104 BCE – John “Hyrcanus”

  • 132 BCE siege of Jerusalem by Antiochus VII. Hyrcanus pays 3000 talents from the sepulcher of David, recognizes Seleucid authority, and join campaigns against the Parthians until Antiochus slain in 129 BCE
  • expansion of Judean state in Samaria, Idumea (forced proselytism to Judaizing rites), and the Transjordan

104-103 BCE – Aristobulus I

103-76 BCE – Alexander Jannaeus

  • wars and territorial expansion, sided with the Sadducees against the Pharisees and ruthless against his internal enemies such as butchering 6000 during the Feast of Tabernacles or crucifying 800 Jews (Ant. 13.372-383; cf. 4QpNah)

76-67 BCE – Salome Alexandra queen and eldest son Hyrcanus II high priest

  • In taking Alexander’s last advice to win over the Pharisees who commanded popular support, the Pharisees effectively ruled through her and got some revenge on their enemies

67-63 BCE – Aristobulus II king and high priest

  • A partisan for the Sadducees like his father and victorious over his brother Hyrcanus II, but Antipater the Idumaean convinced Hyrcanus II to join with Aretas king of Arabia to make war with Aristobulus II.  Continued civil war leads to Roman intervention

63 BCE – Roman conquest by Pompey

  • Hyrcanus II restored as high priest and ethnarch (63-40 BCE)
  • after Pompey was killed (48 BCE) Antipater’s support for Julius Caesar in campaign against Egypt granted him Roman citizenship and the title of Roman Procurator of Judea (Ant. 14.8.5), forced to side with one of Caesar’s assassins Cassius against Marc Antony, poisoned in 43 BCE

44 BCE – assassination of Julius Caesar

40-37 BCE – short-lived rebellion of the king and high priest Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus II

37-4 BCE – the client-king Herod the Great, the son of Antipater

  • appointed king of the Jews by the Romans in 39 BCE and married the grand-daughter of Hyrcanus II Mariamne, victorious in re-capturing city of Sepphoris and Antigonus executed by Marc Antony in 37 BCE.
  • constructed cities of Caesarea Maritima and Sebaste, restoration work on the Jerusalem Temple, and extended his rule over Samaria and other territory
  • had family members including Mariamne and sons put to death out of paranoia and burned alive Judas and Matthias for inciting a group to tear down a golden eagle erected on the temple

31 BCE – Marc Antony defeated by Octavian at the battle of Actium and afterwards Antony/Cleopatra killed themselves

27 BCE – 14 CE – Octavian “Augustus” (revered), the adopted great-nephew of Caesar and divi filius (son of god), leads transition from the Roman Republic to the Empire and starts Julio-Claudian dynasty

  • Tiberius (14-37 CE), Gaius “Caligula” (37-41 CE), Claudius (41-54 CE), and Nero (54-68 CE)

5/4 BCE – birth of Jesus of Nazareth

4 BCE – 39 CE – Herod’s son Antipas appointed tetrarch, ruling Galilee and Peraea

  • rebuilt Sepphoris to be his main center before he later constructed his capital Tiberius in 17 CE upon a cemetary
  • had John the Baptist executed on political charges (Josephus, Ant. 18.5.2) and perhaps objections to Antipas’ marriage to his niece and wife of his half-brother Herodias (Ant. 18.5.1; cf. Mk 6:22-28 par)

4 BCE – 6 CE – Herod’s son Archelaus named ethnarch, ruling Judea, Samaria and Idumea until it came under direct Roman rule.

6 CE – census of Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, appointed governor of Syria, for purposes of taxation of the provinces of Syria and Judea under the new arrangement of direct Roman rule, leads to the uprising of Judas the Galilee (alleged founder of Josephus’s “fourth philosophy” or zealots)

6-41 CE – Judea governed by prefects: Coponius (6-9 CE), Marcus Ambibulus (9-12 CE), Rufus Tineus (12-15 CE), Valerius Gratus (15-26 CE), Pontius Pilate (26-36 CE), Marcellus (36-37 CE), Marullus (37-41 CE)

29-34 CE – Jesus crucified under Pontius Pilate on the 14th or 15th of Nisan during one of these years (cf. Helen Bond’s article challenge to scholarly certainty of dating it precisely to April 7, 30 CE)

30 – 64 CE – Jerusalem Church under the leadership of the Pillars (Cephas, the Twelve, Jesus’ brother James), Stephen and the Hellenists (?), missionary activity of Paul, other non-kerygmatic hypothetical Jesus groups (?)

  • The sources of the Gospel tradition
  • Paul’s letters (1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philemon, Philippians), possible 2 Thessalonians and Colossians are authentic or else written shortly after Paul’s death.  If genuine (?), the epistle of James pre-date the death of Jesus’ brother and react against a (distorted?) interpretation of Paul’s teaching.
  • Jesus’ brother James executed by the high priest in 62 CE in the transition between the procurators Porcius Festus and Albinus (Ant. 20.9).  In the tradition it is believed the apostle Paul was beheaded (1 Clem 5:6 [?]; Ignatius, Rom. 4.2-3; Acts Paul 11:3-6; Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.22.2) and Peter crucified (cf. John 21:18-19 [?]; 1 Clem 5:4 [?]; Ignatius, Rom. 4.2-3; Dionysius of Corinth in Hist .Eccl. 2.26; Acts Pet 36-39; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.3) during Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome.

40/41 CE – Caligula crisis: Caligula threatened to set up his statue in the temple that did not come to pass due to the persuasion of Agrippa I and then Caligula’s assassination

37-44 CE – due to his friendship with Caligula Agrippa I takes over rule of Antipas’ territory after the latter’s banishment and his support for Claudius Judea and Samaria come under his control

  •  had the apostle James, the son of Zebedee, executed according to the Book of Acts.

49/50 CE – expulsion of (some?) Jews at instigation of “Chrestus” (=Christos) (Acts 18:2; Seutonius, Divus Claudius 25)

44-66 CE – Judea, Samaria, and part of Galilee again under Roman procurators: Cuspius Fadus (44-46 CE), Tiberius Julius Alexander (46-48 CE), Ventidius Cumanus (48-52 CE), Antonius Felix (52-60 CE), Porcius Festus (60-62 CE), Albinus (62-64 CE), Gessius Florus (64-66 CE).  Meanwhile Agrippa II the last of the Herodian dynasty and ruled over less territory than his father (48-66 CE)

  • Theudas led some people out to the Jordan river and persuaded them that the water would part before the procurator Faudus crushed him and his followers (Ant. 20.97-98) (ca. 44-46 CE).  The Egyptian gathered a crowd to the Mount of Olives so that the walls of the city would fall at his command and fled when Felix ordered troops to attack (War 2.261-262; Ant. 20.169-171) (ca. 52-58 CE)

66-74 CE – the Jewish War against Rome, the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE by the Roman general Titus, the rebels last stand at Masada (fortress) before the Romans took it in 74 CE

  • The Gospel of Mark (ca. 65-75 CE)

69 CE – after Nero’s suicide the year of the four emperor’s Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian

69-96 CE – the Flavian Dynasty:  Vespasian (69-79 CE), Titus (79-81 CE), and Domitian (81-96 CE)

  • The Gospel of Matthew, Luke-Acts (?), the Gospel of John (?), Ephesians (?), 1 Peter, Hebrews (?), James (?), Johannine Epistles (?), Jude (?) Revelation (cf. Ireneaus, Adv. Haer. 5.30.3), the Didache (?), 1 Clement (?)

96-98 CE – Nerva elected by the Senate as emperor after Domitian’s assassination.  The start of a stable Nerva-Antonine dynasty (96-192 CE) including Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, and Commodus

  •  Luke-Acts (?), the Gospel of John (?), Ephesians (?), Hebrews (?), James (?), Johannine Epistles (?), Jude (?), the Didache (?), 1 Clement (?)

98-117 CE – Trajan, the adopted heir of Nerva, reigns as emperor

  • Luke-Acts (?), the Gospel of John (?), Ephesians (?), James (?), Johannine Epistles (?), Jude (?), the Didache (?), 1 Clement (?), Papias’ Exegesis of the Lord’s Logia (ca. 110 CE), the epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, 2 Peter (?)
  • Rome reaches the height of the territorial extent of its dominion, suppressed Jewish revolts in Egypt and Cyrene, wrote the famous correspondence with Pliny the Younger which included a discussion about trials against Christians

117-138 CE – emperor Hadrian

  • 132-135 CE – The second Jewish War led by Simon bar Kochba (son of the star) resulted in the banishment of Jews from the city of Jerusalem renamed Aelia Capitolina.  The Christian apologetic strategy to treat this as a punishment for the rejection of Jesus is exploited in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew (e.g., chapter 16).
  • The completed Gospel of Thomas (cf. saying 70)?
  • Epistle of Barnabas?
  • 2 Peter?

144 CE – traditional date of the excommunication of Marcion by the Church of Rome

200 CE – Codification of Jewish oral traditions in the Mishnah, the first major text of Rabbinic Judaism and the source of the commentaries in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds.

Addendum on the Dating of Christian Texts

If a text does not give explicit information on when or where to locate it, scholars try to establish a terminus a quo (limit from which) and terminus ad quem (limit to which).  It must date before its first manuscript attestation and the earliest writer to cite it as a source, while it must postdate any historical persons or events or writings referenced in it.  Scholars may try to further pinpoint a date based on other internal clues in the text or its place in one’s overall reconstruction of Christian history (e.g., comparing a text to earlier or later developments represented in other texts).

  • Paul’s Epistles: Mark Goodacre had a post on the sequence.  1 Thessalonians is likely the earliest sent from Athens or Corinth (1 Thess 3:1, 6 cf. Acts 17:16-18:18) and lacks key ideas (e.g., justification) in later epistles.  I favor Galatians being sent to the geographical region of Galatia (Acts 16:6; 18:23) rather than the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia which included Pisidian Antioch Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (cf. Acts 13:13-14)  (against a defense of South Galatian theory) and the intertextual links of Gal 2:1-10/Acts 15 puts it after the Jerusalem Council and feud at Antioch (Gal 2:11-14; cf. Acts 15:30-39).  Goodacre’s date of 1 Corinthians before Galatians seems plausible and Paul is headed to Jerusalem with the collection before he plans to go to Rome and Spain in Rom 15:22-29 (did he make it to Spain as 1 Clem 5 hints?).  The Prison Epistles (Philemon, Philippians, Colossians [?]) are from Rome (cf.  Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, subscripts of some mss, silence on the collection, imperial guard in Phil 1:13 and “Caesar’s household” in 4:22, development of Paul’s thought in Philippians/Colossians) or Ephesus (less distant from Philippi in Phil 2:19-30 and Colossae in Phlm 10, 12, Col 4:7-9, plans to visit Colossae instead of Spain in Phlm 23, Marcionite Prologue to Colossians, speculative reconstruction of Ephesian imprisonment from 1 Cor 15:32/2 Cor 1:8-10); a Roman provenance makes these epistles Paul’s last.
  • Deutero-Paulines:  2 Thessalonians (cf. Paul Foster’s article) and Colossians are arguably Pauline.  If Colossians is judged pseudonymous based on style, eschatology, Christology, household code, etc, I would attribute it to Paul’s circle (Col 4:7-18) shortly after Paul’s death.  Ephesians may be a later circular letter (“in Ephesus” an addition) that richly sums up Pauline theology and imitates Colossians.
  • Sources of the Gospel Tradition:  The form critics noted that before the Passion Narrative, which reads like a unified story with events in succession, sayings or deeds of Jesus are loosely arranged in Mark and many could be passed down as individual anecdotes. Whether one accepts that the non-Markan double tradition in Matthew/Luke goes back to a single sayings source Q or reflects Luke’s use of Matthew, in either scenario I find it unlikely that Matthew invented all the non-Markan sayings shared with Luke and sayings sources is a completely reasonable hypothesis (cf. behind individual aphorisms in Mark, some or all of the shared non-Markan sayings in Matthew/Luke, some sayings in the Gospel of Thomas [?], the Egerton Gospel [?], sayings of the Lord in the NT Epistles and some Apostolic Fathers).  Other sources may include collections of parables (e.g., Mk 4), pronouncement stories (e.g., Mk 2-3:6), miracle stories, an eschatological discourse (e.g., is the Caligula crisis behind the “abomination of desolation” in Mk 13:14), or a Passion Narrative.
  • Mark, Matthew:  With notable exceptions (e.g., Maurice Casey, James Crossley), most date Mark shortly before or after the Jewish War.  The question is whether the polemic against the Temple throughout Mark 11-14 and predictions of its demise in 13:1-2 are vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy from the event) after 70 CE.  Matthew and Luke postdate Mark, while knowledge of Matthew is reflected early in Papias, the Didache, and Ignatius.
  • Catholic Epistles:  Hebrews’ anonymous author may be associated with Pauline circle including Timothy (Heb 13:23-4), has a supersessionary development of the new covenant theme (cf. 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:1-18), may be pre-70 in its discussion of the ongoing temple cult as it does not exploit the temple’s destruction or else just reflecting on the cultus from the Scriptures, and is known as early as 1 Clement. 1 Peter’s level of Greek and rhetoric, the cipher “Babylon” for Rome, the spread of Christ followers in Asia Minor, the label Christian, the Pauline influences, the silence on earlier disputes over Torah observance in mixed congregations, etc, suggest a post-70 date.  It is known by Papias, Polycarp, and 2 Peter and the sporadic harassment faced by Christians may date before Domitian or Trajan (cf. epistle of Trajan to Pliny).  If not by Jesus’ brother Judas, Jude looks back on the apostles in v. 17 and there is debate if it is at home in emergent catholicism (vv. 3, 20-21) or Jewish apocalyptic (vv 5-16).  The epistle of James, if not authentic, leaves little clues to date it and Origen is the first to explicitly refer to it.  Knowledge of 1 Peter (2 Pet 3:1), Jude, and Pauline epistles as “scripture” (3:16) as well as the rebuttal against scoffer’s of the Lord’s delayed return (3:4-10) and doubts of the Church Fathers shows 2 Peter may be the last NT book in the early-mid 2nd century.
  • Revelation: the 12 apostles are figures of the past (Rev 21:14) and the seer’s exile to Patmos suggests that relations have deteriorated with “Babylon” (Rev 19-20), perhaps to the end of Domitian’s reign (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 5.30.3).  It may have influenced Papias’ millennialism.
  • Johannine Writings:  P52 established the latest possible date at 125-50 CE and it is arguably known by Ignatius (ca. 110).  It is plausible that John knew Mark’s outline but I am uncertain about the literary relationship of John with Luke – whether it depended on Luke, Luke depended on John, or both independently relied on some common oral traditions – to date John before/after Luke.   While I agree with some scholars (Körtner, Norelli, Watson, MacDonald) against others (Deeks, Hengel, Hill, Bauckham) that there is no clear reference in Papias to John’s Gospel, Papias seems to have known 1 John (cf. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.39.17) and the epistles may postdate the Gospel in reflecting a debate in the community over the nature of Christ’s humanity in light of the Gospel portrait.  Late 1st or early 2nd century?
  • Luke-Acts: is commonly dated 70-100 CE.  Arguments advanced for a date around 62 CE as Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome without disclosing his execution or the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, but the additions of Luke 19:42-44 and 21:24 make explicit the aftermath of the Jewish War which is at best implicit in Mark (and Matthew) and Acts is a narrative about the gospel spreading from Judea to the ends of the earth rather than a biography of Paul.  I am persuaded by Steve Mason and Richard Pervo that Luke-Acts postdates the Pauline Epistles and Josephus’ Antiquities in reflecting knowledge of them.
  • Pastorals:  the lack of attestation in early Pauline collections, their stylistic unity and difference from the rest of Paul’s epistles, the chronological discrepancies, and the exchange of the charismatic excitement over the apocalyptic Christ event for settled formulas to be believed and hierarchical church structures suggests a later date.  The church structure of bishops, elders, and deacons seems to be closer to Ignatius of Antioch.
  • Apostolic Fathers:  For an early 2nd century dating of Papias’ writing see Robert Yarbrough’s article online, though the knowledge of some NT writings (Mark, Matthew, 1 Peter, 1 John, Revelation) inclines me to date it closer to 110 CE in his 95-110 range.  The dating of Barnabas depends on whether the little horn in 4:4-5 is a reference to Nerva after the reigns of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, unless it is taken from an earlier oracle on Vespasian after the Year of the Three Emperors or a prediction of a future antichrist, and questions over whether Nerva excited the hopes for a rebuilt Jewish temple (16:3-4).  Otherwise, it may be read in light of Hadrian’s ban of circumcision (9:4) and plans for a Pagan temple (16:3-4).  The Didache preserves very old Jewish Christian traditions and the only reason to put it at the turn of the century is it seems know Matthew (8.2; 11.3; 15.3, 4).
  • Gospel of Thomas:  I find convincing that at least some sayings reflect Matthean or Lukan redaction while others may be independent, perhaps as Matthew and Luke influenced the oral stream that reached Thomas, and no one rebuilding this house in saying 70 might be post Bar-Kochba.
  • Marcion: traditional date of his excommunication is 144 CE, but Justin Martyr (1 Apol. 50) suggests Justin’s complaint that an elderly Marcion is still active in his day may indicate that Marcion’s ministry dates back earlier.

The Case For and Against Q

February 20, 2014

In the Two Source Theory, Matthew and Luke relied on Mark’s narrative (i.e. triple tradition) and a hypothetical source called “Q” from Quelle (source) to account for the shared non-Markan sayings in Matthew/Luke (i.e. double tradition).  Scholars posited a hypothetical source, rather than assume that Luke just took over the sayings from Matthew or vice-versa, and gave a number of reasons for the independence of Matthew and Luke.  Since a number of passages in the double tradition are near verbatim, it seems unlikely that Matthew and Luke drew independently on oral tradition alone rather than a written source(s).  The second most popular theory to account for the Synoptic Problem, the Farrer Theory, argues that Luke used Matthew and eliminates the need for Q.  Here are some arguments for and against the existence of Q.

Lack of Matthew’s Additions to Mark

If Luke knows both Mark and Matthew, we would expect Luke to be familiar with Matthew’s redaction of Mark.  John Kloppenborg (“On Dispensing with Q? Goodacre on the Relation of Luke to Matthew” NTS 49 [2003]: 210-36) argues that it would be odd for Luke to not reproduce the following additions to Mark (p. 219):

  • Matt 3:14-15 – the dialogue between Jesus and John the Baptist.
  • Matt 12:5-7 – additional justifications for Jesus’ Sabbath practices including that Jesus is greater than the Temple and the Hosea proof-text about desiring mercy rather than sacrifice
  • Matt 13:14-17 – the Isaiah proof-text to explain why the crowd was unable to grasp the parables.  One could add that Luke frequently does not reproduce the scriptural proof-texts by which Matthew legitimates Mark’s story
  • Matt 14:28-31 – Peter walks on water [BUT Mark’s whole episode is cut out in Luke’s great omission]
  • Matt 16:16-19 – blessing Peter for his divinely given insight into Jesus’ identity and giving him the keys of the kingdom and power to bind/loose on earth as it is in heaven
  • Matt 19:19b – Matthew’s exception to the divorce prohibition [BUT Luke omits Mark’s section on divorce]
  • Matt 27:19, 24 – the dream of Pilate’s wife to having nothing to do with an innocent man and Pilate washing his hands of the guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus

Farrer theorists might respond that this objection is framed according to the Two Source Hypothesis.  That is, not only does Luke follow Matthew in the innovation of re-writing Mark with the addition of birth/Easter narratives and expanded teaching material, but Luke does reproduce some of Matthew’s additions to Mark in the minor agreements (e.g., ‘who hit you’ in Matt 26:68/Luke 22:64 against Mark 14:65) and major agreements/so-called Mark-Q overlaps (e.g., temptations in Matt 4:1-11/Luke 4:1-13 against Mark 1:12-13) against Mark.  Second, if Luke knew Mark for a long time before coming into contact with Matthew, perhaps Luke was hesitant to include Matthew’s redactional changes to Mark’s text that had long been used by the community.  Third, Mark Goodacre invokes Austin Farrer’s notion of “Luke pleasing” to explain why Luke takes over some but not many of Matthew’s additions to the triple tradition.  Sometimes we can make educated guesses about why Luke did not reproduce something from Matthew while other times we may be at a loss on Luke’s reasons, though the same applies to discerning the cause for Luke’s omissions from Mark.  Lets take an example:  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 (pp. 219-20) retorts that this is Luke’s solution to get over the embarrassment that Jesus underwent John’s baptism for the forgiveness of sins, an expedient that would not have been necessary if he knew Matthew’s solution to have the Baptist protest how he needs to be baptized by Jesus and Jesus respond that his baptism is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.   The question is whether Luke’s omissions can be explained by fidelity to Mark’s text and/or for redactional reasons or better accounted for by Luke’s ignorance of Matthew.

Lack of “M” material

In addition to Q, B.H. Streeter argued that the special material found only in Matthew and Luke went back to distinct sources (“M” and “L”).  Today, most scholars view Matthew and Luke drawing on a diversity of oral or written traditions for their special material rather than treating “M” and “L” as distinct sources (but see Kim Paffenroth, The Story of Jesus According to L; RBL review).  J. Andrew Doole’s What Was Mark for Matthew distinguishes “M” traditions loosely connected to Mark’s narrative and others that appear to embellish upon Mark itself (33-4).  His list of the latter (e.g., priests work on the Sabbath, Peter walks on water, Peter given the keys to the kingdom, eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, become as children, the innocence of Pilate, other narrative details) belong above under additions to the triple tradition, though Doole sees pre-Matthean oral tradents rather than the conservative Matthew as embellishing Mark, but here are examples of the former:

  • Nativity (genealogy, Joseph’s dream, Immanuel, star and magi, slaughter in Bethlehem and flight to Egypt)  (Matt 1-2)
  • The healing of two blind persons and a mute one (9:27-34)
  • The scribe trained for the kingdom of heaven brings out new treasure along with the old (13:51-52)
  • Paying the Temple Tax with a coin from a fishes mouth (17:24-27)
  • Judas’ death by hanging (27:3-10) (*note: Acts 1:17-20 describes Judas’ death very differently)
  • The earthquake and the resurrection of the saints (27:51b-53)
  • The Great Commission (28:16-20)
  •  Parables – hidden treasure, fine pearl, good and bad fish, 2 sons, maidens’ lamps, sheep & goats (13:44-50; 21:28-31; 25:1-13, 31-40) (*note: other famous parables are the unmerciful servant in 18:23-35 or workers in the vineyard in 20:1-16)
  • Logia – uprooted plants, eschatological predictions (Matt 15:13; 24:10-12, 26) (*note: 24:10-12, 26 does not seem to me loosely connected but other examples might be the yoke saying of 11:28-30 or church rules of 18:15-20)

An obvious retort to why more “M” is not Luke is, if it was included, it would not be “M” since it would be part of the double tradition in Matthew/Luke and Two Source theorists would classify it as “Q” or Farrer theorists what Luke took from Matthew.  Yet Two Source Theorists deem many “M” traditions to nicely align with Luke’s theology (Gentiles, grace/forgiveness, poverty), and ask why Luke would exclude these traditions.  Farrer theorists argue “M” was Luke -displeasing: “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).  But this may not accurately characterize “L” with its birth narratives in the style of the Septuagint, scriptural proof-texts in the Nazarene synagogue episode, additional halakhic arguments for Sabbath practices, and so on (cf. the Jerusalem Decree in Acts).  Did Luke have other reasons to pass over M?  Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q) observes that Luke reproduces much of Matthew’s birth narrative (Virgin Birth, Mary/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.  Francis Watson (Gospel Writing, 131-6, 141-3) emphasizes Luke’s account as a reaction to Matthew:  the annunciation is to Mary as the main subject rather than Joseph, Luke’s wording echoes Matthew, and Luke’s geneology rejects descent through Solomon’s line (cf. Jer 22:28-30; 36:30-1).  Can one find redactional reasons for Luke excluding M, or revising it (Goodacre notes that Luke 24:46-9 adapts the Great Commission; Watson argues the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 reworks the two sons in Matthew 21:28-31), or are the omissions better accounted for by Luke’s ignorance of Matthew?

Lack of Agreement When Departing From Mark’s Order

Start with a Synopsis and look at when Matthew or Luke depart from Mark’s order.  Matthew switches the healing of the leper (Mt 8:14-7; Mk 1:40-5) and Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt 8:14-7; Mk 1:29-34), relocates the calming of the storm followed by the demoniacs (doubled) (Mt 8:23-34; Mk 4:36-5:20) and the healing of Jairus’ daughter as well as hemorrhaging woman (Mt 9:18-26; Mk 5:22-43), has Jesus designate the “Twelve” later in the narrative (Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-9), and moves back predictions of persecution (Mt 10:17-23; Mk 13:9-13).  Luke moves John’s imprisonment (Lk 3:19-20; Mk 6:17-8) and the Nazarene synagogue (Lk 4:16-30; Mk 6:1-6) and the woman anointing Jesus (Lk 7:36-50; Mk 14:3-9) forward in the narrative, moves the call of the first disciples (Lk 5:1-11; Mk 1:16-20) and Jesus’ true family (Lk 8:19-21; Mk 3:31-5) later in the narrative, switches the crowds following Jesus and the designation of the Twelve (Lk 6:12-19; Mk 3:7-19), and puts the saying about Jesus as one who serves at the Last Supper (Lk 22:24-7; Mk 10:45).

The fact that Matthew and Luke rarely agree when departing from Mark’s order is explained on the Two Source Theory as due to their independent use of Mark.  How might Farrer theorists respond?  By not taking over Matthew’s alterations, Luke may have wanted to restore Mark’s order as his primary source.  Yet Luke also straightens out weak spots in Mark’s order:  John’s imprisonment gets around the problem of John baptizing Jesus, Luke’s Nazarene synagogue is Jesus’ inaugural proclamation that sets the tone (e.g., foreshadowing the Gentile mission), or the call of the disciples is left until after some of the ministry so it is not so random to drop everything to follow a yet-unknown teacher.  In Michael Goulder’s Luke: A New Paradigm, he argues that Luke’s prologue on past attempts “to arrange in sequence” (anataxasthai) a narrative and the author’s goal to write an “orderly” account means that Luke wanted to reconcile chronological disputes between Mark and Matthew (199-200).  Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q) argues that Luke knew, preached, and memorized Mark for 20 years before coming into contact with Matthew (51, 89).  He writes, “In this way, Luke stands at a unique moment in Christian origins, a moment when Matthew’s importance is beginning to be felt, but when Mark is still in many ways valued more highly” (90).  But does the attitude towards the sources in the Lukan prologue (and possibly the representation of “John Mark”) and Luke’s liberty to make changes to Mark, including major alterations (cf. Passion Narrative), expansions (e.g., Lk 4:16-30; 7:36-50), and omissions (Mk 6:45-8:27), suggest that Luke had such fidelity to Mark that the author would not go along with Matthew’s relocation of Markan episodes?  Or is Luke’s ignorance of Matthew’s re-arrangements of Mark more likely?

Alternating Primitivity

Sometimes the form of the double tradition seems more primitive in Matthew and other times in Luke.  This makes sense if either Matthew or Luke alternate between sticking closely to Q or adapting the wording/content of the source to their redactional interests, but, if Luke is copying Matthew (or vice-versa), would we expect Luke (or Matthew) to always be secondary?  Michael Goulder (Luke: A New Paradigm) takes the line that Matthew is the creative originator of the non-Markan material and so Luke’s formulation must be secondary, while Mark Goodacre (Case Against Q) is open to oral/written sources so Luke may sometimes know pre-Matthean formulations.  To decide what is a more primitive formulation, 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 determining whether Matthew or Luke better approximate Q in select cases even without having Q to double check:

[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).  Lets look at examples.

Lord’s Prayer:  is Luke’s shorter version earlier and “debts” or “sins” more primitive?

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And do not bring us to a time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one (Matt 6:9-13)

“Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us.  And do not bring us to the time of trial. (Luke 11:2-4)

Beatitudes: did Matthew spiritualize the blessing or Luke abbreviate Matthew’s beatitude out of concern for the poor?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3)

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)

Finger or Spirit:  has Matthew replaced Q’s wording since it is unlikely that Luke would skip a reference to the Spirit given the interest in the Spirit in Luke-Acts or Luke change Matthew to “finger of God” to connect Jesus with Moses (Exod 8:19; 31:18)?

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matt 12:28)

But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)

The Sender: does Matthew change Q to identify Jesus with wisdom or Luke find Matthew problematic that Jesus sent the prophets of old?  Or Matthew 11:19 has wisdom vindicated by her deeds (done byJesus and/or John?) and Luke 7:35 by her children (Jesus and John?), so is Matthew again altering Q to make the identification with Wisdom explicit or Luke not like Matthew’s wisdom Christology (cf. “M” yoke saying in Matt 11:28-30; cf. Sir. 51:25-6)?

Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari′ah the son of Barachi′ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. (Matt 23:34-5)

Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechari′ah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. (Luke 11:49)

Sign of Jonah: did Matthew expand an original Q sign about Jesus’ preaching (cf. Ninevah repented at Jonah’s preaching and the queen of the south traveled far to hear Solomon) into a sign about his death and resurrection or Luke abbreviate Matthew?

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt 13:40)

For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nin′eveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation. (Luke 11:30)

The Different Order of the Double Tradition

(1) [S]ubsequent to the Temptation story, there is not a single case in which Matthew and Luke agree in inserting the same saying at the same point in the Marcan outline. (2) If then Luke derived this material from Matthew, he must have gone through both Matthew and Mark so as to discriminate with meticulous precision between Marcan and non-Marcan material; (3) he must then have proceeded with the utmost care to tear every little piece of non-Marcan material he desired to use from the context of Mark in which it appeared in Matthew—(4) in spite of the fact that contexts in Matthew are always exceedingly appropriate—(5) in order to re-insert it into a different context of Mark having no special appropriateness. (6) A theory which would make an author capable of such a proceeding would only be tenable if, on other grounds, we had reason to believe he was a crank. (B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, 183

Matthew has tidily collected the Q material into great blocks. Luke, we must then suppose, has broken up this tidy arrangement and scattered the Q material without rhyme or reason all over his gospel — a case of unscrambling the egg with a vengeance! (R.H. Fuller, The New Testament in Current Study, 87)

We are not bound to show that what St. Luke did to St. Matthew turned out to be a literary improvement on St. Matthew. All we have to show is that St. Luke’s plan was capable of attracting St. Luke. You do not like what I have done to the garden my predecessor left me. You are welcome to your opinion, but I did what I did because I thought I should prefer the new arrangement. And if you want to enjoy whatever special merit my gardening has, you must forget my predecessor’s ideas and try to appreciate mine. (Austin Farrer “On Dispensing with Q“, 65)

Classically stated, Two Source theorists argue that Matthew integrated Q in Mark’s framework and organized it into five thematic discourses that ended with a statement about “when Jesus had finished these words/parables/teachings” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1), while Luke separated out Q in two main blocks (6:20-8:3; 9:51-18:15; + 3:1-4:16).  Of course, this is a simplification as Mark Goodacre points out double tradition/Q in Matt 3-4; 8:5-13; 8:19-22; 9:37-8; 11:2-27; 12:22-45; 22:1-10 and Matthew’s five discourses are not all mainly made up of Q (Case Against Q, 82-3).  But on the Farrer Theory, why would Luke 1. detach Matthew’s new material (i.e. Q) from Markan contexts in which Matthew placed it and 2. break up Matthew’s arrangement of the material with the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6-8) as a test case.  Here are examples of #1:

Matt 10:10b, 12-16/Luke 10:3-11 – the mission discourse

Matthew has the mission discourse after the commissioning and naming of the Twelve (cf. Mark 6:7, 3:16-19 moved back) and an “M” tradition restricting their mission to the lost sheep of Israel.  Matthew conflates the double tradition with Mark’s mission discourse (Mark 6:8-13).   Luke covered the naming of the Twelve in 6:13-16 and has Mark’s mission discourse after the Commission of the Twelve in 9:1-6, so the double tradition passages are located separately after the “L” tradition of the commission of the seventy (Luke 10:1).  Note also how the sayings in Luke 10:2, 13-15/Matt 9:37-8; 11:21-24 are placed around the commission of the seventy in Luke and in separate contexts in Matthew.

Matt 13:16-17/Luke 10:23-24 = blessed for what they see and hear.

Matthew has this statement after the Isaiah proof-text about how the crowd is hardened to not grasp the parables. Luke has it after the double tradition Christological passage about how the Son alone knows and reveals the Father (Luke 10:22/Matt 11:27)

Matt 18:12-13/Luke 15:4-5 = the parable of the lost sheep

Matthew has this after the warning not to lead little ones (disciples?) into sin and to cut off the source of sin (cf. Mark 9:42-7) and “M” tradition about not looking down on little ones because their angels behold the Father.  Luke has the accusation that Jesus eats with sinners to introduce the parable and follows with related L parables (lost coin, lost son).

Matt 19:28/Luke 22:30 = sitting on (twelve) thrones

Matthew’s promise occurs after Mark’s challenging story of the rich person and Peter’s comment that the disciples left everything (Mark 10:17-28).  Luke puts it in the Last Supper where Jesus confers on the disciples a kingdom and may omit “twelve” to not have the betrayer in the list (Luke also relocates the greatest as a servant from Mark 10:42-5a).

Matt 24:26-8, 37-41/Luke 17:23-4, 26-37 = Unexpected Judgment

Matthew inserts this material fittingly within Mark’s eschatological discourse while Luke has a separate discussion with the Pharisees and disciples on the timing of the kingdom and day of the Son of Man.

Farrer theorists note times Luke has Matthean additions (Q) within Markan contexts in the baptism. temptations, and Beelzebub incident.  Matthew’s/Luke’s agree against Mark in setting up the incident after the exorcism of a dumb demon (Matt 12:22/Luke 11:14; cf. Matt 9:32-4), though Matthew has this shortly after Sabbath controversies and Luke after a section on prayer.  The Centurion’s servant takes place shortly after the Sermon (Luke 7:1-10/Matt 8:5-13), despite Matthew placing the Sermon far earlier in Jesus’ career, with only the healing of the Leper  intervening in Matthew (8:1-4; cf. Mark 1:40-5; Luke 5:12-15) (Goodacre, Case Against Q, 91).  Watson argues that Matthew and Luke draw on Mark 3:7-19 to set up the Sermon:  Matthew’s Sermon is after the healing/exorcism ministry to diverse crowds and Jesus is on a mountain (deleted from the naming of the Twelve in Matt 10:2-4) while in Luke Jesus names the Twelve on a mountain and then heals/exorcizes among diverse crowds before the Sermon on the Plain (Gospel Writing, 151-5).  These examples show that Luke may be aware of Matthew’s location of double tradition and yet, if Mark was Luke’s primary source, mostly moved Matthew’s additions out from the original material in Mark.

The next issue is why break up and relocate whole sections of double tradition in Matthew, truncating Matthew’s Sermon (Lk 6:20-49) and scattering parts in Luke 11-16?  Goulder (“Juggernaut“) and Goodacre (Case Against Q, 92-6) insist, on analogy to how Luke 8:4-18 treats Mark 4:1-34 (omits Mk 4:26-9, 33-4, relocates Mk 4:30-2 to Lk  13:18-9) and Luke 9:46-8 treats Mark 9:33-50 (omits Mk 9:43-8, relocates Mk 9:42 to Lk 17:1-2, Mk 9:49-50 to Lk 14:34-5), Luke dislikes long speeches.  Goodacre defends Goulder against criticisms that Luke-Acts has lengthy speeches (e.g., Lk 12:22-53; 21:5-36; Acts 2:14-36; 7:2-53):  many are not much longer than Goulder’s 12-20 verses rule in averaging about 30 verses, Luke tends to not take over wholesale long speeches from sources while the speeches in Acts may be original, and Luke tolerates long speeches when suiting his agenda (e.g., rehearsal of Israel’s history in Acts 7, the difficulty of detaching Mark’s eschatological calendar in Luke 21 so even Matthew, who relocates Mk 13:9-12 in Mt 10:17-22, reproduces the verses in the eschatological discourse).  Kloppenborg (“Dispensing with Q?“, 229-30) responds that Luke 12:1-13:9 is 52 verses of mostly direct discourse with few interjections to address different persons (cf. Lk 14:7-17:11 at a Pharisee’s house).  Whether Farrer proponents make a convincing case that Luke’s rearrangements make redactional sense, see Farrer (“On Dispensing with Q“, 67-84), Goulder (Luke: A New Paradigm), Mark Matson (“Luke’s Rewriting of the Sermon on the Mount“), Goodacre (The Case Against Q, 97-102), or Watson (Gospel Writing, ch 4).  Luke may forge new links: Luke 6:20 beatitudes concentrate on the reversal for the poor/mistreated are supplemented with “L” woes against the well-to-do and continues to counsel the mistreated to love enemies, not retaliate, live by the golden rule, and not judge.  Luke 11 detaches the Lord’s prayer from Matthew’s context of Jewish praxis (alms, fasting) to precede parables about not giving up hope for answered prayer.  Kloppenborg (228-9) wonders why the eyes as a lamp from Matt 6:22-3 (after the evil eye) would be moved to Luke 11:34-6 and Matt 6:24 on God vs Mammon from Matthew’s next verse about material cares to Luke 16:13 by the “L” parable in 16:1-12 of the unjust manager who uses Mammon to his advantage, but Watson sees links (189-90, 209).  Luke takes the lamp on its stand in Mt 5:15 where it was a call to shine for all to see (Mt 5:16) and links it to the eyes as a lamp so like a lamb the eyes reveal ones inner light (lacking in this generation of Lk 11:29-32).  The L parable about faithful vs unfaithful uses of unrighteous Mammon is supplemented by how we ultimately serve God rather than Mammon (cf. Matson, 23-4).  So does Luke locate the double tradition different than Matthew because both independently used Q, with Matthew re-arranging Q into Mark’s framework and organized discourses, or are there reasons for Luke to re-arrange Matthew’s non-Markan material?

The Distinct Profile of Q

For Austin Farrer, “No one reconstruction [of Q], to say the least of it, is overwhelmingly evident, and no proposed reconstruction is very firmly patterned” and “after an exordium so full of dogmatic weight and historical destiny, is it credible that the book should peter out in miscellaneous oracles, and conclude without any account of those events which, to a Christian faith, are supremely significant?” (‘On Dispensing with Q‘, 57, 60).  In contrast, William Arnal summarizes: “Once posited on particular grounds (the patterns of agreement and disagreement in sequence and wording among the synoptic gospels), the Q that has emerged (and even mechanically) from this literary evidence has taken on a shape that is theologically coherent, formally coherent, generically coherent and appropriate, socio-historically plausible, and whose general formal shape and theological orientation (including the theological motifs and formal features the reconstructed Q lacks) has been independently confirmed by the unrelated discovery and publication of the Gospel of Thomas (however one dates or classifies this document” (‘The Trouble with Q‘, 11. n. 17).  Arnal’s statement takes on Farrer theorists and those who propose that some of the double tradition goes back to oral tradition (Dunn, Horsley) or multiple Greek/Aramaic sources (Casey), though even strict defenders of the classic Two Source formulation tend to admit that the reality was more messy than the model of two sources (Mark, Q) used for heuristic purposes.  Yet Q specialists argue that Q has a coherent genre as either a prophetic book (Schult, Sato, Boring) or wisdom collection (Robinson, Kloppenborg, Kirk) and distinct themes (Jesus as Wisdom’s emissary, judgment on an unrepentant generation similar to Sodom, the death of Jesus in line with the rejected prophets according to a Deuteronomistic History).  Here are some Q studies.

For Farrer theorists, “Q” is really the material that Luke was favorably disposed to and took over from Matthew, so it is not a surprise that its themes stand out from the material that Luke did not take over from Matthew (“M”) and some are in accordance with Luke’s interests (e.g., the speeches in Acts where the leaders are condemned for their rejection of the prophets culminating in the death of the Righteous One according to a Deuteronomistic interpretation of history).  Moreover, the surprise that, by isolating the double tradition in Matthew and Luke (as opposed to Mark, Matthew or Luke’s special material), it would form a coherent source in its own right may just be a product of so much intensive scholarly interest in this section of the Synoptic Gospels.

The Parallel with How Other Ancient Writers Used their Sources

Robert Allen Derrenbacker, Ancient Compositional Practices and the Synoptic Problem (PhD thesis; Toronto, 2001), F. Gerald Downing, Doing Things with Words in the First Christian Century, and J. Andrew Doole, What was Mark for Matthew argue that the Two Source Theory better accords with ancient compositional practices.  The ancients avoided complex harmonizations of multiple sources and, if a discrepancy arose between sources, the agreements between them served as the basis for a new account.  Instead they stuck to one major source at a time, though it might be supplemented from their memory or brief notes from other material, or they alternated between sources in whole blocks.   So on this theory, Luke chiefly alternates between blocks on Mark and on Q (6:20-8:3, 9:51-18:14; exception 3-4, 19:11-27).  Matthew is more difficult as it conflates Mark with Q on occasion, but Matthew still keeps much of the Q material in blocks.  This is another reason why the Griesbach hypothesis, which envisions Mark conflating Matthew and Luke, is impractical.  Goulder, who has Luke jumping around over Matthew and moving forwards and then backwards, must explain this impractical procedure.  Interestingly, Watson agreed on the weakness of Goulder “necessitating a complex to-and-fro movement within the Matthean text” and posits that Luke relied on a notebook when first reading through Matthew and drew from his notes in rearranging pieces of Matthew to forge new connections (Gospel Writing, 170-1, 171 n. 27).  John C. Poirier’s “The Roll, the Codex, the Wax Tablet and the Synoptic ProblemJSNT 35 (2012): 3-30 argues Derrenbacker and Downing overestimate the difficulty of handling a scroll in the way Farrer theorists assume when Luke read through Matthew and that wax tablets could allow Luke to experiment with new arrangements in his notes before the final copy.

Minor Agreements

If Matthew and Luke independently used Mark, agreements in their changes Matthew and Luke make to Mark should be coincidental.  Yet there are literally hundreds of minor agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark; virtually every episode in the triple tradition has them.  Many examples are trivial, but some create an issue for the presumed independence of Luke from Matthew in the Two Source Theory:

  • Jesus is moved with “anger” (or “compassion”) at the request of the leper to make him clean (Mark 1:40-42), but the emotion is omitted in Matt 8:2-3/Luke 5:12-3.
  • The Sabbath is made for humankind in Mark 2:27, but this line is omitted in Matt 12:8/Luke 6:5 as only Jesus as the Son of Man is the Sabbath’s Lord.
  • The disciples given the mystery of the kingdom in Mark 4:11, but the mysteries of the kingdom to know in Matt 13:11/Luke 8:10.
  • Jesus rise in three days in Mark 8:31, but on the third day in Matt 16:21/Luke 9:22.
  • The guards mock Jesus to prophesy in Mark 14:65, even as they fulfill prophecy in their treatment of Jesus, but they specify to prophesy “who hit you” in Matt 26:67-8/Luke 22:64.

The Farrer theorists point out that Luke reproduces Matthew’s changes to Mark.  The strongest attempt to deal with the minor agreements from the Two Source Theory is Frans Neirynck, The Minor Agreements of Matthew and Luke Against Mark with a Cumulative ListAn appeal that Neirynck does not make in the points below, as opposed to other Two Source theorists (Helmut Koester), is that Matthew and Luke knew a proto-Mark different from our Mark.

  1. Common stylistic changes (the obvious need to edit Mark’s awkward grammar, style or Aramaisms)
  2. Common theological changes (coincidentally editing Mark’s theological liabilities in a similar manner)
  3. Influence from oral tradition on the text of Matt/Luke
  4. Later scribal harmonizations of the text of Matt/Luke

Major Agreements or Mark-Q Overlaps

There are times Matthew and Luke agree to a larger extent against Mark.  John Kloppenborg’s Q: the Earliest Gospel has a list on page 34 (Q follows Luke’s references).  Two Source theorists argue that Mark and Q recounted some similar episodes (e.g., the Baptizer, the temptation, the Beelzebub accusation) and sayings (e.g., note the doublet on divorce), so they categorize these examples as Mark-Q overlaps and note that, after Matthew 4:13/Luke 4:16, Matthew and Luke do not use the Q overlapping points in the same context (e.g., missionary discourse, eschatological discourse) or the same way. Goodacre posts here, here, here, here, and here on why this is a weakness for the Two Source Theory and the simpler explanation is that Luke takes over these extended additions to Mark directly from Matthew.

Literary Fatigue

Literary fatigue happens when a writer makes changes to his or her source, but does not carry the changes all the way forward but accidentally reverts back to the source at points, despite the inconsistencies this creates.  Mark Goodacre’s “Fatigue in the SynopticsNTS 44 (1998): 45-58 and The Synoptic Problem: A Way through the Maze pp. 154-6 offers examples where Luke seems to revert back to the way Matthew reports something, overlooking that it no longer makes sense in the new context established by Luke.  But why cannot Luke be making changes to “Q” wording that is better preserved in Matthew and then unintentionally revert back to it?  In that case, we would expect to find other examples where Matthew shows signs of editorial fatigue in reverting back to Q as it is better preserved in Luke after making changes, but Goodacre cannot find any examples to this effect.  Delbert Burkett has attempted a rebuttal to this point in an appendix of his Rethinking the Gospel Sources, Volume 2: The Unity and Plurality of Q (cf. Goodacre’s response to an example of editorial fatigue in Matthew in the comments on his podcast on the subject).  If Goodacre persuades his peers, this may be a smoking gun for Luke’s knowledge of Matthew.


Online Resources On Q

February 11, 2014

To begin the series, here are some online resources about Q.  I have tried to include as many academic links as I can find (in addition to ntgateway.com I linked to articles available in full online rather than just articles/books where one can only get a preview) and will try to continue to expand the list as I come across more resources or hear suggestions in the comments.  I do not endorse every link I have posted, but it gives a good idea of the breadth of academic opinion on the subject:

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


The Genre of Mark

January 15, 2014

When we come across a text, it is necessary to understand the type of literary work we are dealing with, whether to classify it as a history, biography, novel, fairly tale, lab report, letter, and so on.  For instance, if the opening line is “once upon a time in a far away land,” you may instantly recognize the “genre” to which this text belongs.  Mary Anne Tolbert notes that genre can broadly cover archetypal plot patterns (e.g., tragedy, comedy, romance), more narrowly classify texts that possess related traits (plotting, characterization, motifs/themes) as belonging in a category (e.g., novels, biography, poetry), or specifically describe features of a single text.  She defines genre as “a prior agreement between authors and readers or as a set of shared expectations or as a consensus of ‘fore-understandings exterior to a text which enable us to follow that text'” [citing Frank Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy, 30] (Sowing the Gospel, 49).  Likewise, Richard Burridge explains that speaking or writing happen in a system of conventions (traits, rules, customs, necessities, properties that constitute verbal meaning) and genre is a contract between author and reader based on shared expectations about what traits make up an utterance (Graeco-Roman Biography, 34-6, 43-4;  cf. John C. Meagher, “Literary Uniqueness,” 205-6).  Meagher adds that a unique genre violates two standard assumptions in literary history:  humans rarely have the ability to produce something genuinely original, as novelty often relates to content rather than to forms which are culturally conditioned, and meaning is understood in the context of shared conventions (211).  What is the Gospel genre?

Form Critics and the Unique Kerygmatic Genre

Martin Dibelius judged the early Christians to be unliterary persons who had no need to record history in light of the imminent end of the age, so the only form in which the Jesus tradition could be preserved was in missionary preaching (kerygma) (Tradition, 60-61). The evangelists too were not literary composers but, principally, collectors/editors of traditions (1, 3).Rudolf Bultmann outlines how the death and resurrection kerygma became fixed in creeds (1 Cor 15:3-5), expanded to prophetic prooftexts and Jesus’ anointing at the baptism and the Eucharist, expanded with miracles and pronouncement stories confirming Jesus’ authority, and lastly adding sayings originally passed down separately for exhortation or instruction (Mark has some sayings, Matthew/Luke take over “Q”) (Theology, 86).  For Dibelius (5-6) and Bultmann (Synoptic Tradition, 6-7), the closest analogy to the oral traditions are folktales, fairy-stories, folk songs, and cult legends (e.g., hagiography of saints, anecdotes about Rabbis, tales of Hellenistic heroes, the Jataka collection of Buddhist canon). K.L. Schmidt emphasized that the Gospels are not Hochliteratur (high literature) but like folk books or cult legends, the Gospel tradition developed akin to German folktales (e.g., Dr. Faustus) or hagiographic tales in a cultic context, and the Gospels lack an authorial “I” or distinct personality or intention of the author present even in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius (“Literaturgeschichte,” 76, 82, 114).  Boring adds that, unlike biographies, the Gospels juxtapose images of Jesus’ humanity and divinity through the secrecy motif, proclaim the climax of universal history, do not distinguish the past historical figure and present Lord, are constituted by oral units formed out of preaching, and express the Christ-event in parabolic imagery (Mark, 7-8). As kerygmatic narratives, they are unparalleled Christian creations sui generis.

Criticisms:  the evangelist’s limited literary ability has no implications for the genre of their writings, the fact that the evangelist had access to an abundance of types of material that originated in different settings (e.g., preaching) has no implications for the genre of the finished product, the view of the evangelists as compilers of tradition has given way to redaction and literary critical interest in them as creative authors, and a unique genre is a contradiction of terms if genre is a system of shared conventions.

  • Boring, M. Eugene.  Mark: A Commentary. The New Testament Library. Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, London, 2006.
  • Bultmann, Rudolf.  The History of the Synoptic Tradtion.  Translated by John Marsh; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1972; The Theology of the New Testament: Volume I.  New York: Schribner, 1951.
  • Dibelius, Martin.  From Tradition to Gospel. Translated by Bertram Lee Woolf. Cambridge: James Clarke, 1971.
  • Meagher, John C. “The Implications for Theology of a Shift from the K. L. Schmidt Hypothesis of the Literary Uniqueness of the Gospels.”  Pages 203-33 in Colloquy on New Testament Studies.  Edited by Bruce C. Corley. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1983.  [Critiques the Form Critical View]
  • Schmidt, K.L.  “Die Stellung der Evangelien in der allgemeinen Literaturgeschichte” in EYXAPIΣTHPION: Studien zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments [‘The Place of the Gospels in the General History of Literature’ in Eucharisterion: Studies on Religion and Literature of the Old and New Testaments].

Aretalogy

Hadas and Smith label Luke, Porphyry’s Pythagoras, Philo’s Moses,and Philostratus’ Apolonius of Tyana as aretalogies, a type of biography on a subject’s supernatural birth, wisdom, miracles, defiance of tyranny, martyrdom, and post-mortem vindication.  In Smith’s article, an aretalogus (aretai or miracles) is a “teller of miracle stories” (175): temple functionary (e.g., hymns to Isis) or spinner of tales (e.g., Seutonius, Augustus, 74 on entertainers and aretalogi at dinner parties; Juvenal 15.16 on a lying aretalogus; Manetho Apotelesmaticorum, 4, 445-49 on myth-makers’ aretalogies) (174-5). Aretalogia is “telling tall stories and the praises of a god” (175-6). There are no extant texts, but he notes a miracle story entitled Dios Hēliou megalou Sarapidos aretē (p. Oxy. 11, 1382, lines 22ff [2nd cent CE]) or thanksgiving inscription aretēn Amenōtou (Egyptian Museum, Cairo, No. 67300 [261/60 BCE]) (176). Later he admits that Aretalogia, though used for reporting or the reports themselves (Manetho 4.445ff.; Sir. 36:13, 19), may not have a literary form (“genre”) but distinct content (hero’s wonderful deeds) (196). Few miracle collections survive outside scattered references or inscriptions and these are unlikethe Gospels in lacking linking material in a narrative “life” (cf. 177-8 n. 27, 178), but Damis’ hupomnēmata of Apollonius, Philostratus’ source, allegedly had prophecies, sayings, travels, post-mortem appearances, and miracles (177-9).  Elite writers only mentioned prophets, magicians, or saviors if involved in politics (e.g., Thucydides 7.50.4 on prophets who led the admiral Nicias astray, Livy 39.15-16 on the Roman suppression of the Bacchanalia; Josephus War 2.258-64 on false prophets or messiahs) or to mock (Celsus on possessed prophets in Palestine in Cels. 7.9; Lucian’s satire of Alexander or Peregrinus) (179-81).  The ancients knew of deities/daimones in human guise, demigods born of a god and human who achieved deification, the heroization of benefactors or rulers, historical figures with pretenses to divinity (181-2), and the goal of deification (Platonism, Eleusinian mysteries, magic) (182-4).  Like Asclepius, Jesus was a famed healer, given a folk birth story, represented as a moral teacher or initiator of mysteries, became the principle of the cosmic order (logos) and solar deity (“light”), accused of magic by foes, and ascended to heaven (186).  The issue with categorizing the ‘divine man’ (theios anēr) into types (prophet, magician, ruler, athlete, philosopher, doctor, poet) is that the borders are fuzzy and one’s god is another’s magician (187). Smith argues Jesus fits this type better that Jewish categories (196) and reconstructs an aretalogy underlying Mark 1-10 that runs from the baptism epiphany to the transfiguration (197-8).

Criticisms: there are no extant aretalogies with features that might distinguish it as its own genre (e.g., Damis’ notes on Apollonius are irrecoverable if such a source even existed). There has been significant criticism that the “divine man” (theios anēr) is a modern scholarly invention and abstraction from a variety of ancient figures such as philosophers or miracle workers (see here).

  • Hadas, Moses and Smith, Morton.  Heroes and Gods: Spiritual Biographies in Antiquity.  London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965.
  • Smith, Morton.  “Prolegomena to A Discussion of Aretalogies, Divine Men, the Gospels and Jesus.” Journal of Biblical Literature 90 (1971): 174-199

Apocalyptic

Like the form critics, Kee concludes that there is no real analogy for Mark as a whole (i.e. he rejects origins myth, biography, aretalogy, tragedy, comedy, romance, martyriology on pp. 17-29) and is a new genre of the church (30).  However, Kee deems Mark to be akin to apocalyptic literature like Daniel (65).  When a minority group is reduced to political impotence through social ostracism or political oppression, they may question their place in the social order and long for the transformation of society to accord with what the group understanding of the divine will (cf. Talcott Parsons on the intellectualism of the non-privileged group).  Apocalyptic thought assures that the present historical crisis will be overcome by divine victory over evil forces, often leads to a group’s rethinking of interpersonal social bonds or older traditions (scripture) or relationships to socio-political structures, and encourages unwavering commitment (67, 70-4).  Other Judean groups responded to the imperial situation differently – collaboration (Herodians), passive acquiescence while enforcing group purity boundaries (Pharisees), withdrawal from society (Essenes), or revolt (97-9) – Mark chose an open inclusive community that saw itself as a new covenant community, was alienated from the main body and sectarian groups within Second Temple Judaism, and renounced political power through acquiescence to the tribute (Mark 12:17) (100).

Criticisms: apocalyptic may describe features within Mark but not the work itself. Mark lacks many of the features in other apocalyptic texts including pseudonymous authors, angelic guides, otherwordly journeys, coded symbolism of mythical beasts, elaborate timetables (i.e., Mark 13 discourages interpreting wars, natural disasters, or persecution with the end itself and even the Son does not know the exact day or hour of judgment in 13:32).

Historiography or a Historical Monograph

Many scholars consider the Lukan prologue to parallel historiography (contra Loveday Alexander, see David Aune, Sean Adams, David P. MoesnerClare K. Rothschild, Gregory E. Sterling), while proposals relating Luke-Acts to epic with parallels to Homer or the Aeneid (cf. Dennis MacDonald, Marianne Palmer Bonz), have not won the day. In his study, Byrskog insists on the importance of autopsy in ancient historiography, defined as obtaining info via sight – visiting locales, experiencing events, unearthing artifacts (Story, 48). Beginning with Heraclitus’s dictum that “eyes are surer witnesses than the ears” (cf. Herodotus1.8; Thucydides 1.73.2; Polybius 12.25.6), chapters 2 and 3 explore how historians (Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Josephus, Tacitus) visited the locales in their sources, lived through the events, interrogated living eyewitnesses, and only used written sources as supplements unless they were bad historians (e.g. Timaeus). Locals with anecdotes about Jesus, individual disciples, women (Mark 15:40-16:8), or family members served as informants for the evangelists (65-90, 190-97). Autopsy is emphasized in Christian texts such as the list of resurrection witnesses, Luke’s consultation of autoptai, the requirement of firsthand participation in Jesus’ ministry for apostleship in Acts, and the value of eyewitness testimony in the Johannine writings and 2 Peter (225-244). Papias followed historiographic standards in interviewing the followers of the Elder John and Aristion and Byrskog defends Papias’ tradition that the evangelist Mark relied on Peter as an involved oral informant (Ecclesiastical History 3.39.3-4, 15; cf. 1 Pet 5:13; Acts 12:12) (272-96).

Collins’ calls Mark an “eschatological historical monograph” about the origins and destiny of an ethnic group, with the story as the culmination of Israelite history and its universal implications in the new age (cf. Mark 13:10) as opposed to just a “life” (bios) of an individual subject (18). Shecites Aristotle (Rhet. 1.4.13=1360A) and Quintilian (Inst. Orat. 2.4.2) on history as memorable deeds, primarily in politics (35).  Its roots are mythography, ethnography, local reports, and chronography as Herodotus collected such data gathered in sequential development (35-6).  Historia (inquiry, research, investigation) stresses the role of interrogation and synthesis of witness’ reports in continuous narrative, though the influence of ethnography meant that not all historians followed Thucydides in testing the accuracy of “reports” (36).  There is tension in seeking reliable oral informants and visiting sites OR using written sources and free invention (36).  Reflecting on famous persons (Socrates, Alexander the Great), histories could narrow on the deeds of a person (cf. Theopomupus, Philippica) and historians wrote biographical accounts of heroes in Hellenistic and Roman periods (36-7).  John Van Seters (In Search of History, p. 1) describes history as “the intellectual form in which a civilization renders account to itself of its past” which befits Israel’s history as more than a sum of its parts (accumulated tradition, biographical anecdotes, prophetic legends); the historian interpreted it together through the lens of Israel’s national history and destiny (37-9).  Prophetic legends or improbable ethnographic reports, some of which Herodotus distances himself and others he retells unquestioningly, shows the miraculous was part of history writing (39), though Greeks like Herodotus or Polybius tended to have indirect divine working in human agency by means of dream-visions or “Fortune” (39-40).  Mark rarely has direct divine intervention (baptism, transfiguration, resurrection) apart from the level of human interaction (40). Other biblical historians set a precedent in not identifying the author or aims and, while Mark’s literary level is low, episodic style characterizes other histories (OT, Herodotus, Cleitarchus, Duris, Curtius Rufus, Livy) (41). Some deem Mark less concerned with accuracy than divine proclamation, but ancient histories must not be judged by positivistic standards, the miraculous was present in ethnography, and it is unclear how literally took some stories (41).  The subject and scope of historia was often politics/war but may focus on individuals (Alexander the Great, Agathocles of Syracuse, Attalus of Pergamum, Ptolemy IV Philopator, Antiochus the Great, Hannibal, Tigranes of Armenia, Pompey) and cultural/religious subjects (41).  Universal histories were longer, but historical monographs shorter (41).  The only difference is Mark is infused with eschatology (42-3). She concludes that Mark is a “historical monograph that focuses on the activity of a leading individual” (43).

Criticisms: Byrskog’s proposal contrasts with how the evangelists never explicitly identify themselves, their sources, their methods, or (apart from Luke) their aims in writing in a conventional historiographical preface. It seems unrealistic to compare to the best historical practice of elite writers like Thucydides, Polybius, Josephus, or Tacitus. Imitating Ancient Near Eastern historians and the Hebrew Bible may make the problem with anonymity less acute. Collins’ question is to the point: are the Gospels about the fulfillment of the divine plan for Israel and the world OR the subject Jesus of Nazareth to instill discipleship to his life/teachings, rebut polemical attacks, and draw out his significance visa-vie Israel and the world?

Bios (life) or ancient biography

Talbert counters the case that the Gospels cannot be bioi due to their mythic content (structure), cultic context (function), and world-negating stance (attitude) (What is a Gospel, 3, 6). Chapters 2 and 3 cover the mythic template of Immortals from unusual birth to ascent and the katabasis-anabasis pattern (descent-ascent) of divine beings, chapter 4 on how biographical subjects may be recipients of cultic devotion, and chapter 5 on how the eschatology of the evangelists did not lead them to spurn profane literature (parable, aretalogy, “words of the wise”) and how other biographers took over mixed materials to correct one-sided distortions of subjects.  The Gospels’ static characterization is no different to other bioi (3), their status as Kleinliteratur is irrelevant (i.e. the popular Life of Aesop is as much a bios as Plutarch’s Lives) (4), and treating Luke-Acts alone as history is unwarranted (6).  A bios “is prose narrative about a person’s life, presenting supposedly historical facts which are selected to reveal the character or essence of the individual, often with the purpose of affecting the behavior of the reader” (17) and differed from historiography in focus (character vs. “great men” in political/social arena) (16), narration (anecdotes vs. cause/effect), and function (encomium or peripatetic praise, Alexandrian inform, Romance entertain or stir emotions, histories instruct politicians or please citizens) (17). Talbert replaces Leo’s division of bioi as encomium (Isocrates, Evander; Xenophon, Agesilaus; Tacitus, Agricola), Peripatetic (Plutarch, Parallel Lives), Alexandrian /grammarian (Seutonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars), and Romance (Life of Aesop) (92-3) with a taxonomy of function:  Type A offer a pattern to copy (Lucian, Demonax) (94), B correct false images (Xenophon, Memorabilia; Philodemus, Epicurus, Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana; Porphyry, Pythagoras) (94-5), C discredits someone (Lucian, Passing of Peregrinus; Alexander the False Prophet) (95), D address succession (Diogenes, Lives of Eminent Philosophers) (95-6), or E legitimates or offers the hermeneutical key to a person’s teaching (Porphyry, Plotinus) (96). Lives of rulers belong in all types except D (96-7). Schools used C to discredit rivals, B to rehabilitate a philosopher in response, or D to claim to be true successors (105-6).  Mark fits B in polemicizing against distorted Christology and following the structure of the Immortals (134), Luke-Acts D succession narrative and B reaction against false eschatology (107-8, 134), Matthew E in legitimating and interpreting Jesus’ life and teaching and B in correcting Christology (108, 134), and John B in correcting Christology via a descending-ascending redeemer (135).

Burridge (Graeco-Roman Biography) starts on the lack of consensus (philosopher-vita, Socratic Dialogues, historical monograph, dramatic history, novel, tragi-comedy, bioi) (22-4) and writes “as someone with a classical background, I was unimpressed with the arguments put forward by New Testament scholars, especially in America, to demonstrate the biographical genre of the gospels. Therefore a negative result was expected, exposing the biographical hypothesis as untenable.  However, as the work has developed, I have become increasingly convinced that… it is indeed the right one and that the gospels are part of the genre of ancient βίος [Life] literature” (105-6). He warns that literary prefaces, grammarians or rhetoricians (Quintilian, Menander Rhetor) describe ideal forms not consistently observed (56-7) and that, unlike poetry, prose genres were not well defined (62). In contrast to classical prescriptivism (i.e. a genre must have these essential traits) and nominalism (i.e. the name of a category has no effect on an object’s properties), he settles on a ‘family resemblances’ theory in which works in a “genre” may share features in content or form (structure, tone, purpose) even if no one text has every expected trait (39, 42-4).  Generic features include structure/form and content/material to enable comparison (110): opening features (title, opening prologue/preface), subject (verbal subjects, space given to a subject’s life), external features (mode, metre, length, structure, scale, literary units, sources, methods of characterization), and internal features (setting, topoi or topics, style, tone or atmosphere, the quality of characterization, function, authorial intention) (111-26). He lists 5 biographies written before the Gospel – Isocrates’ Evagoras, Xenophon’s Agesilaus, Satyrus’ Euripides (Peripatetic bios), Cornelius Nepos’ Atticus, and Philo’s Moses (129-33) and 5 after the Gospels:  Tacitus’ Agricola, Plutarch’s Cato Minor, Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, Lucian’s Demonax, and Philostratus Apollonius of Tyana (155-60).  Chapter 8 and 9 then compare the findings to the Synoptics and John.

Collins has a taxonomy of biographies (30-2): Encomiastic (subtype of epideictic rhetoric that exalts subject, e.g., Isocrates’ Evogoras, Xenophon’s Agesilaus, Polybius lost Philopoimen), Scholarly (or peripatetic or Aristotelian and focus on authors/philosophers or occasionally rulers and impartial or satirical, e.g., Satyrus’ Euripides, Diogenes Laertius Lives), Didactic (instruct on a subject’s way of life to instill allegiance, e.g., Philo’s Moses, Iamblichus Pythagorean Way of Life), Ethical (promote a self-conscious morality or ethical-psychological system; e.g., Plutarch’s Lives of Cato the Younger or Pompey), Entertaining (satisfy curiosity about heroes/poets/rulers, e.g., lives of Homer, Aesop, Secundus, Heraclides, and Plutarch’s Antony) (32), Historical (has awider series of cause-effect in the political arena than just narrowing on a subject’s private life; e.g., Life of Caesar, Tacitus’ Agricola, Seutonius’ Lives of the Caesars though his methods aso fit type 2). Though she sees the Gospels more as historical monographs, she allows that historical and didactic biographies are analogous (33) and accepts affinities with Plutarch’s Lives and lives of philosophers (cf. Lucian’s Demonax), though both have more explicit commentary and biographical interest (43).

Criticism: Unlike biographers the evangelists do not explicitly identify themselves, their sources, or their methods. Mark lacks an account of Jesus’ birth and upbringing and focuses on a narrow window of Jesus ministry and death, which Burridge demonstrates is not unparalleled but remains unusual in a Life. There is considerable blending of the genres (biography, history, apocalyptic, midrash, novelistic elements) that may be a product of both Jewish and Greco-Roman roots as well as the popular nature of the Gospels.  It may also be, as argued by David Aune in “Genre Theory and the Genre-Function of Mark and Matthew,” that Mark intend to parody and invert the values of elite biographies by paying no attention to the protagonist’s pedigree or birth, unlike later Gospels with geneologies and nativity stories.

Novel or Epic

Tolbert argues that the Gospels have no obvious analogue, though the 3rd century Life of Apollonius has a similar pattern (Sowing, 55 n. 20).  This may mean 1. Mark is a new genre in light of the Christ event as form critics and “new hermeneutic” supposed (she ruled out a “unique genre” as a contradiction in terms on pp 50, 56 and), 2. the parallels are not extant, or 3. the Gospels are unlike other texts due to the lesser command of literary composition (56-7).   Midrash and apocalyptic describe features in Mark rather than the work itself (58).  The problem with aretalogia or biography or memorabilia, aside from a lack of catalogues of wonder working “divine men” preceding Mark or a biography’s focus on a whole life from birth to death and the subject’s characterization, is that each over-emphasizes an aspect of Mark (aretalogy – miracles, bios – Jesus’ character, memorabilia – teaching) and all three have a higher literary and philosophical quality (58-9). Elite culture is “individualized”, “subtle”, “profound”; pop culture is “conventionalized”, “stereotypical” and “repetitious” and its literature had semi-educated, taxable working consumers (artisans, traders, free slaves in urban centers), albeit without the leisure of the privileged (60-2).  Of her 5 examples of prose novels (Chariton’s Chaereas and Callirhoe, Xenophon’s An Ephesian Tale, Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe, Achilles Titius’s Leucippe and Clitophon, Heliodorus An Ethopian Tale), Chariton of Aphodisias (ca. 100 BCE-50 CE) and (pseudo?-)Xenophon of Ephesus (ca. 50-263 CE) do not reflect the Atticizing style of the Second Sophistic and are the closest parallels to Luke-Acts and Mark respectively (62-3, 66).  These erotic texts have plot patterns (couple in love, separated, tested, reunited), but romance is secondary to exotic and thrilling adventures/travels (exception: Longus) (63)The genre has a common myth (a solitary person in a world of danger, filled with gods and mysteries), literary heritage (mixing historiography of known places or figures with drama), conventional style, and authors of varying skill (64-5).  “The Gospel of Mark is obviously not an ancient novel of the erotic type” (65), but its blending genres (history, drama, apocalypse), episodic nature, and conventionality fits fragmentary evidence for a biographical novel with an antecedent in Xenophon of Athens Cyropaedia and later in the Alexander Romance and Philostratus’ Apollonius (65).  Non-extant lives of Pythagoras or Alexander or the fragmentary Ninus Romance (ca 100 BCE) may have been biographical novels, but our only example of the genre are the Gospels (66).  Yet Xenophon of Ephesus and Mark share parallels:  the audience situation (66), minimal introduction, journey motif, episodic plot, key turning point (peripeteia), final recognition scene, minimal settings, brief dialogues, repetition, divine plan unfolding in human action, loose chronology (days/nights), and crude Koine (67).  Other novels are more complex with multiple protagonists, but they are filled with unjust trials, violent death, apparent deaths, and revivals in tombs to captivate audiences and teach morals (68).  As a biographical novel, Mark had mass appeal across the literacy spectrum even while disdained by elite literati (70-4).  Mark sets out the divine/human levels in the action right at the start, a turning point (Peter’s confession), final recognition scene (trial, cross), brief dialogues in episodes, a crowd (=chorus in drama) (76), and flat minor characters (76-8).

Vines builds on the literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin that the genre of a narrative is determined by its “chronotype” that situates its world in a certain time and space (Markan Genre, 30-67).  Through a comparison of Mark to other “Jewish novels” – Daniel, Susanna, Judith, Tobit, Esther, Joseph and Aseneth – Vines argues that the chronotype of all these works is “realistic apocalyptic”, meaning that it narrates divine intervention accomplished through human protagonists in a more realistic historical setting than in apocalyptic literature (153, 159).  Vines argues that the biographical genre does not account for Mark’s emphases on divine activity and eschatology (12).

Criticisms: The Gospel’s low literacy, crude Koine, and popular appeal may be irrelevant to genre. Tolbert has no extant parallels of the sub-type of biographical novels and the subject matter of the Gospels may have far more gravity and serious tone than an entertaining read about romance or exotic traveler tales.  Situating the story in the recent rather than distant and unrealistic historical past (e.g., characters in the above “novels” are situated in the patriarchal, Assyrian, Babylonian, or Persian periods and Judith intentionally fictional with Nebuchadnezzar as ruler of the Assyrians!) and focus on the characterization of a single subject through chreiai or brief anecdotes makes the Gospels stand out from the other novels.  With some exceptions (e.g., Peter catching a fish with a coin in its mouth), the NT Gospels seem to me to stand out the Infancy Gospel of Thomas or the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles which may have served as more popular entertainment.

Apology

Though she accepts that the Gospels belong to the bios genre of the popular kind (Aesop) (219-31), defined “as prose narratives of medium length with a strong concentration and focus on a single person which determines the whole setting of the book” (223), Roskam argues that this classification does not aid in understanding the authorial intent or context since bios was a flexible genre with all sorts of purposes (encomiastic, exemplary, informative, didactic, apologetic, polemical) and does not explain Jewish influences (eschatology, typology) or distinct elements or motifs in Mark (226-31).  Her proposal (231-6):  Mark is an apology in a polemical situation (231) and its literary form is a secondary vehicle to achieve this purpose (232).  This explains why Mark is uninterested in biographical details (descent, upbringing, appearance) apart from Jesus’ status as the deity’s envoy (232) and organizes material with a bare chronological framework to support the unfolding argument (e.g., the first half establishes Jesus authority and the second his mission to suffer, the messianic secret, the suffering righteous one) (232-6). She concludes, “Mark’s Gospel is best characterized not as a biography of Jesus, but as an apologetic writing in biographical form” (236). Mark aimed to convince readers that Jesus was not seditious against Rome in favor of an independent Israel, redefining messiahship, and to equip insiders to remain steadfast and refute charges of subversiveness (215-7).

Criticism: an apology does not have distinct generic features.  If Mark wished to suppress hints of subversiveness, parallels between the opening verse on the “good news” with the Priene inscription celebrating the good news of Augustus’ rule and the pax Romana, politically charged titles given to Jesus (Christ, son of David, son of God, Lord) and “kingdom” language, images of Jesus driving out the demonic “legion” into the Sea, portrayals of Pilate as a powerless inept governor, and imminent expectations of the return of the Son of Man to gather the elect of all nations and his followers to inherit the vineyard of Israel (I disagree with Roskam that the vineyard is given to the Romans) are not apt.


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