Friday, December 11, 2009

A Q-ristmas Miracle?

Dear Santa,

I am writing on behalf of my friend James. See, he's a very good boy every year, and every year all he wants for Christmas is Q. I worry very much that he won't get it unless you can bring him a Christmas miracle, because I'm not sure there's any other way it can come. Please help.

All tongue in cheek aside, over on Exploring OUr Matrix, James offers some brief initial reactions to my post on Q and the infancy. As James notes, it's just an initial reaction, so this isn't so much a refutation of his criticisms as it is an elaboration on my proposal.

On the question of plausibility, James wonders if I've met the challenge, and whether or not I've found plausible motive for Luke's actions. So I'd like to just draw the reader's attention to my comments, both on James' post and on my own prior post on the topic here, where I've developed the proposed Lukan thought process a little more.

I proposed that Luke was sure three things were true

1) The Messiah would come from Bethlehem
2) Jesus was the Messiah, and therefore must be from Bethlehem
3) Jesus was regarded as being from Nazareth

We can add to this list two more things:

1) Matthew was wrong.
2) Luke, whether he meets the grade or not, fancied himself an historian, or at least wanted others to see him as such.

Those last two points preclude him from using Matthew's infancy, whether he had Matthew in front of him or not. Whether he's "Jewish" enough to get all of Matthew's symbolism, surely he would know that Matthew's story wasn't true if he heard it, or would at least be highly suspicious.

So what Luke "the historian" does is a sort of ancient historical crit. He takes the facts he knows, and tries to find out how they fit. They seemed to fit with the census, so that must be the result.

What we end up with here is Luke making a conjecture that is perfectly reasonable, given the evidence he had on hand. All he neglected to do was explain the deduction, which doesn't seem that unusually, given that he explains his thought process nowhere else either.

McGrath also notes the likelihood that Jesus' parents' names were circulated. While I can't deny the importance of familial association in the ancient world, this might score against Q, not for.

Jesus is identified as the son of Joseph, outside of an infancy or childhood narrative, three times. Once in Luke, and twice in the gospel of John.

If familial identity is so important, why does Luke only reference it in the same section that Matthew does, save that one reference and why does Matthew feel disinclined to mention it later? I'd propose the simplest solution is that Matthew made it up for his infancy, and had no interest in it after that, while Luke copied it from Matthew in his infancy, and didn't have it in any of his sources after that. The one reference (Lk.4.22) is easily explicable by Luke relying on his own notes. The point here is Jesus' humble origins, not the commonality of identification by the father's name.

In other words, discounting (for the moment, at least) the GJohn, Jesus is described as "the son of Joseph" in the sense of a common identifier, with no other clear motivation, precisely zero times.

Luke does it when Matthew does it because he has Matthew in front of him. That's the simplest explanation.

James has indicated he hopes to engage my post more thoroughly when time permits, so I certainly look forward to further discussion! I'm coming dangerously close to convincing myself I've come up with something here, so hopefully he can disabuse me of that before I start having to take myself more seriously!


Chris Weimer said...

You can't "discount" John like that. That doesn't fly at all.

Perhaps he does it when Matthew does it because where they *both* do it is the most natural spot to talk about it, i.e. Jesus' birth.

Throw in John and your whole conjecture falls apart.


Rick Sumner said...

At this point I think I can, as I'll explain below, and my conjecture doesn't fall apart in any event. I need "red shoes" anywhere, not these particular red shoes.

The question is the power of "son of" as an identifier, but if it's that powerful, and if it enjoys wide recognition as a marker of Jesus' identity, why does it only occur in the infancy? It might be the "most natural" spot, but it does nothing to attest to the widespread knowledge of it as a marker of Jesus' identity.

So if that is the "most natural" spot to talk about it, then it is James McGrath's position that falls apart--it's the widespread use of it as a marker that he argues for. If it's not natural to talk about it outside of that, then he's wrong.

He, of course, isn't wrong. It's perfectly natural to talk about it outside of that. Which is what makes it bizarre that they don't. He's not wrong in his expectation, we just don't see the results that correlate to it.

As for discounting John, he was discounted more for brevity than anything, since he isn't directly relevant to the current point, which is--with one exception--Matthew and Luke only talk about in one context, despite the fact that McGrath himself implicitly suggests they should talk about it elsewhere.

If you want to go broader with John, I'd argue that he has--at the very least--indirect knowledge of synoptic traditions (I'd actually argue that he had a copy of Luke in front of him, but I don't need to go that far here). So his value as an independent witness is, IMO, negligible.

Chris Weimer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Weimer said...

I fail to see why Luke would use it all over? You've given no reason for that to be so. Seems more like unfounded assumptions than anything.

Rick Sumner said...

As an addendum to the above, I would also note that even counting the GJohn, we have Jesus identified as Joseph's son, with no purpose other than identification, exactly once. Jn.1.45 .

The other (6.42) is in similar fashion to Luke's, where the identification is to describe humble origins, not to identify Jesus.

So even if we count John, I'm prepared to accept the one off.

Rick Sumner said...

If Jesus was widely known as "the son of Joseph," enough so that there was widespread knowledge of that heritage, surely someone, somewhere would use that designation, at least some of the time, and purely as a description.

He's called "of Nazareth" scores of times. But only once, in the entirety of the canon, "son of Joseph," except where the designation serves a different purpose?

That seems curious if his heritage was really so important that we should assume that Matthew and Luke had independent knowledge of it.

Chris Weimer said...

"If Jesus was widely known as "the son of Joseph," enough so that there was widespread knowledge of that heritage, surely someone, somewhere would use that designation, at least some of the time, and purely as a description."

Sounds pretty speculative to me.

Chris Weimer said...

Sorry about the brevity of the last comment, but there is a way to figure it out - see where others are called by their patronyms in Luke and analyze those situations.


Anonymous said...

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