Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christmas still looks good, Q not so much. . .

First McGrath. Then Goodacre, and now back over on Exploring Our Matrix, James McGrath offers some more thoughts on how the differences make Q. I must disagree.

Why, for example, would we assume that Luke, once he'd decided to alter Matthew's genealogy, would bother to laboriously copy "more of the names" the same? That seems remarkably tedious to me, I probably couldn't be bothered were I him.

The reason for that is probably my biggest problem with McGrath's line of reasoning: It requires us to assume that Luke was naive. If Luke wasn't naive, he probably couldn't be bothered either.

Surely if Luke sat down with Matthew and Mark in front of him, fully intending to redact them in to something new, he would be fully aware that Matthew had done the same. The Exodus symbolism is patently obvious to us, for example, why should we assume that Luke missed it? And if he didn't, why would he regard it as authoritative in the sense that he does Mark?

If, continuing with the Exodus example, Luke rejects Jesus as the second Exodus--even symbolically--why would he wish to keep Matthew's infancy, knowing full well what Matthew has created? There doesn't seem to be much room in Luke's gospel for a second Moses--this would seem to be a reasonable position to take.

Even beyond Lukan sympathies, surely some of Luke's narrative was influenced by a knowledge of historical realities. While I have no pretenses about "Luke the Historian," it's easy to see, for example, why he might omit the slaughter of the innocents: He knew it wasn't true. If you were Luke, and realized that, how seriously would you take Matthew's narrative? How much authority would you grant it?

And there are points of similarity between the infancies. Perhaps most notably in the case of the virgin birth. The virgin birth fairly reeks of Matthean creation to me, so how does Luke know it? We might get around this by suggesting that Luke had received oral tradition that was shaped by Matthew, but now we've just moved the problem back. Surely Luke didn't hear only the virgin birth, so why did nothing else he received orally make the cut? Why did he revise that oral tradition? Q doesn't solve that difficulty. The differences don't make Q, Q just makes the differences somebody else's problem.

5 comments:

Stephen C. Carlson said...

The differences don't make Q, Q just makes the differences somebody else's problem.

That's a really good way of putting it!

James F. McGrath said...

I too like the way you put it, but that doesn't cause me to find it persuasive. The reason for pushing changes back to someone else, to an earlier source, is precisely an inability to figure out why Luke would have changed Matthew, or Matthew Luke.

You seem to be suggesting that Luke used Matthew. If I were to abandon Q, I would have to conclude that Matthew used Luke. Matthew regularly adds explanatory comments where they are absent in Luke; Matthew takes material that is also found in Luke and groups it tidily into long discourses with thematic coherence.

I don't think Luke was naive. It is precisely because I think he was intelligent that I find the suggestion that he took what was tidy and scattered it seemingly at random throughout his Gospel implausible! :)

Rick Sumner said...

Your argument seems to be moving now though. The suggestion that Luke need be naive was placed against the implication that we should expect him to regard Matthew's infancy narrative as authoritative enough to copy.

But your response to that challenge addresses a separate issue--why Luke scatters "what was tidy."

James F. McGrath said...

I didn't mean to shift my argument. My point was that, if one were going to argue against Q, suggesting that Matthew used Luke is far easier (in some respects at least). Since you view Luke as using Matthew, there are other issues that need to be addressed for that to be plausible.

Both Q and direct literary dependence are paradigms, and so no one piece of evidence taken on its own will answer the question. That makes it much harder to blog about persuasively, though! :)

Jim Deardorff said...

While I have no pretenses about "Luke the Historian," it's easy to see, for example, why he might omit the slaughter of the innocents: He knew it wasn't true. If you were Luke, and realized that, how seriously would you take Matthew's narrative? How much authority would you grant it?

It's good to see this spelled out. But as others questioned, what reason might the writer of Luke have had for contradicting Matthew here and there, and scattering its non-Markan contents (which would become Q) all about? Surely Matthew's anti-gentile orientation -- discipleship is not for gentiles -- did not endear that gospel to him. This anti-gentile slant in Matthew, and its expected effect upon those who were strongly engaged in converting gentiles, are analyzed here in relation to the Synoptic Problem.