July 15, 2009

Biblical Studies - 2

This is a series on "Biblical Studies" books I tried to read, with varying levels of success.

The first book I purchased because of the biblioblogs was probably Questioning Q by Mark Goodacre et al. This was just over a year ago, after I'd read Mark's 5th post on Orality and Literacy and devoured the article he digitized, "On Dispensing with Q" by Austin Farrer.

I knew I liked Mark's blog. His posts in that series were dense in the best possible way, and I felt like I learned something new every time I unpacked them. So I ordered the book, which also had a foreword by this N.T. Wright person everybody was talking about. I knew I didn't believe in "Q" as it has been described by my undergrad NT professor at LSU but I wanted to find out what the ins and outs were according to Mark and I was very much looking forward to it.

The Foreword was great. Is great. I read it several times and do again once in a while. (Someday I really should read more pages by this NTW guy.) The history of the debate is what I appreciated knowing. Unfortunately, almost everything after that felt extremely technical, or full of highly specialized phraseology, or - worst of all - clearly built on a very deep stack of assumptions and prior conclusions. I skimmed through several chapters and skipped to the last one, which I often do. But then, when Mark said, in the second paragraph of his concluding chapter, "Given the consensus that the Gospels post-date 70..." - I quit reading.

Oh, I know that's not fair to the author, but it was my breaking point. I've just read the chapter again now and I understand him better. A world without Q requires us to consider oral tradition also, which is more complex and thus more realistic. Okay, I get it. But "oral tradition" is just another highly specialized (and yet generalized) theory, isn't it? And again, one largely dependent on that consensus he mentioned which I disagree so strongly with.

To the point of the post and series - As a potential reader of more books like this, seriously, how many levels of prior assumptions should I really be expected to hang onto? Proponents of "Q" say the "two-source theory" is supposed to be the simplest possible explanation, but the book refuting it felt much more complex than I could bother with, honestly.

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