August 22, 2009

HELP! - Synoptic Problem Research Question

Whether serendipitous or not, I stumbled from the Synagogue article into the Synoptic Problem article a week ago while reading IVP's Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Perhaps as a dog returns to its vomit, I was reading through it again tonight. But unless I'm missing something, this explanation seemed lacking, about the problems with Lessing (1776) & Eichhorn's (1796) hypotheses of an early Gospel in Aramaic:
"The main problem with this argument is that as one sought to reconstruct what this Ur-Gospel looked like, it began to look more and more like an Ur-Markus... This in turn began to look more and more like the canonical Gospel of Mark."
I get the point there at the end, but can anyone tell me why the reconstruction trended that way? I mean, especially since they're positing Aramaic instead of Greek, why didn't they simply posit a giant sized Gospel with everything found in all three Synoptics? Seriously, was that just too easy, or were there deemed to be some particular problems with it?

For scholarship as old as America, I'll print your name here in lights with much fanfare if you've got the true scoop!


James F. McGrath said...

Because then you have the difficulty of explaining why three 'authors' took from such a work precisely what they did, leaving them partly overlapping and partly at odds with one another. It is much more straightforward to posit that the hypothetical earlier stages of the Gospel tradition's transmission were akin to what we find in the later stage when we have longer Gospels based in part on a shorter Gospel that is still extant.

Bill said...

Professor! I'm honored, once again. Love your biannual comments. ;-)

Seriously, thanks very much. I continue reading this over and over and I think I get it, then I think I don't. It sounds like you're saying they could only add to, not take away from. But I don't see why that's automatically more straightforward, as an assumption.

It seems more likely that 'authors' drawing heavily on a previous Gospel would naturally add in some places and subtract in others. But if my (2nd hand) understanding is correct, neither Griesbach nor Q posits any subtractions. (Or very few. Is that right?)

Maybe I'm dense on this, but I'm afraid you need to work a little harder to get that fanfare I promised. ;-)

James F. McGrath said...

Hmm, I think I'll comment once more before I disappear for another half a year. :-)

The scenario I thought you wanted to discuss was one in which envisaged a mega-Gospel from which each of the NT authors made a shorter digest containing parts of it. Is that not what you meant?

Interestingly, that's a well-suited theory for inerrantists, who usually anyway posit that 'what really happened' is a more complex narrative which, when reconstructed, allows all the Gospels to be correct even where they seem to diverge or be at odds with one another.

Bill said...

Is that not what you meant?
Yes, that's true. I guess I got to thinking later and the question in my mind became more complex.

I do believe much of the unique material (esp in Mt & Lk) looks like it was picked up from independent sources. I just think a lot of the "double tradition" could easily have been "triple tradition". If Mark had a low publishing budget, he'd be just as likely to cut the Sermon on the Mount, for example.

I still don't understand why they went to the extreme minimum, instead of something more in the middle. But since my question was phrased as opposed to the maximum, I'll grant you the promised reward. :-)

It also comes with bonus comments for the next six months, if you want them. I know we don't engage each other's blogs very often, but I'm always delighted to have you drop by.

James F. McGrath said...

Bonus comments? Woo hoo!!!

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