« Ancient Civilization Reveals Contemporary Worldview | Main | Links Mentioned on the Show »

July 29, 2011

Comments

This is a comment I left on the CrossExamined blog. It's still awaiting moderation. I thought I'd post it here in case anybody might have a response to it.

I wanted to bring up a possible objection to your argument from 1 Timothy 5:18. You say that 1 Timothy 5:18 is quoting from Luke 10:7. The relevant part of 1 Timothy 5:18 and Luke 10:7 is where it says, “the worker is worthy of his wages.” But Matthew 10:10 has something very similar. It says, “the worker is worthy of his support.” Here they are transliterated from Greek (since I don’t know how to use a Greek font):

Matthew 10:10: axios gar ho ergates tes trophes autou estin

Luke 10:7: axios gar ho ergates tou misthou autou estin

Notice that between Matthew and Luke, they are identical except for “tes trophes” in Matthew and “tou misthou” in Luke. A person who subscribed to the two-source hypothesis as a solution to the synoptic problem would probably place this saying in Q since it is not found in Mark. And they would agree that Q predates Matthew and Luke, and is possible dates to earlier than the Jewish war. So it’s possible that even if Paul wrote 1 Timothy, he was quoting from Q, not from Luke. So this argument would not work as an argument for an early dating of Luke. Since Paul goes with Luke’s version, Luke’s version probably more accurately reflects what Q said, and Matthew just changed that one word. Or maybe there were textual variants within Q by the time Luke and Matthew wrote their gospels.

I’m not offering this as my own argument, of course. I don’t subscribe to the 2-source hypothesis. I’m a Ferrer guy. I just think it’s something worth considering.

In Eyewitness To Jesus papyrologist Carsten Thiede makes a good case that the Magdalen papyrus is an ancient copy of Matthew, written no later than the 50s, no further than (and not necessarily so) a generation after the Crucifixion.

"Bultmann was wrong: The authors of the Gospel could hear far more than the faintest whisper of Jesus' voice. Indeed, the first readers of St. Matthew may have heard the very words which the
Nazarene preacher spoke during his ministry, may have listened to the parables when they were first delivered to the peasant crowd; may even have asked the wise man questions and waited respectfully for answers. The voice they heard was not a whisper but the passionate oratory of a real man of humble origins whose teaching
would change the world."

...
We have come to realize the extent to which this new claim is directly relevant to the fundamental faith questions which all people,
Christian and non-Christian, atheist and agnostic must ask themselves. The redating of the St. Matthew fragments, in other words, has a life beyond the confines of the academy. . .

"The redating of the Gospels- a process which is only now beginning in earnest-may seem an enterprise appropriate to its times, to the mood of the millennium's end. There is now good
reason to suppose that the Gospel According to St. Matthew, with its detailed accounts of the Sermon on the Mount and the Great Commission, was written not long after the crucifixion and
certainly before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70; that the Gospel According to St. Mark was distributed early enough to reach Qumran; that the Gospel According to St. Luke belonged to
the first generation of Christian codices; and that internal evidence suggests a date before A.D. 70 even for the nonsynoptic Gospel According to St. John.... These are the first stirrings
of a major process of scholarly reappraisal."

It's generally agreed that Mark was written prior to Matthew and Luke.

Matthew was written before Mark according to all to old histories of the Church. The order of inclusion into the New Testament represents the order in which those closest to the events thought they were written.

The hypothesis that Mark was written first is based almost entirely on the idea that it presents a less divine Jesus (which is actually a pretty silly idea, sill, that's the predicate). And it is the Markan priority hypothesis which then gets us in for all the nonsense about a Q gospel. (To explain where Matthew and Luke got their extra stuff you see.)

If you have Matthew first, then it's clear enough what happened. Mark and Luke both used Matthew as a guide, and there's no need to assume Q.

Matthean priority also does a much better job of dealing with thing like the supposed tensions regarding the donkeys, the demoniacs in the tombs and the blind men near Jericho.

Matthew always reports the full number of each of these: 2. For narrative simplicity, the other accounts mention only 1 of each.

If Mark were first, and there is only one donkey, one demoniac and one blind man near Jericho, it becomes difficult to explain why Matthew, who would have had Mark's account in front of him, would add one to each account. One of the silliest explanations I've heard is that Matthew added the second demoniac and blind man to make up for the ones from earlier events that he did not mention.

But if Matthew is first, it's clear enough why Mark would omit one of the two mentioned in the earlier narrative: it makes the narrative simpler and makes it possible to include details that would otherwise be awkward to mention.

If you know that one of the demoniacs cut himself with stones, but don't know what the other did, how do you work that in to a clear story? "There were two demoniacs who came out of the tombs and one of them used to cut himself with stones, don't know what the other used to do, but anyway..." Ugh. It makes my head hurt just to think about how clumsy that would be.

(Of course, if there were two donkeys, demoniacs and beggars, then there was also one. So Mark introduces no error.)

The majority view on the Magdalen Papyrus is that it's 2nd century.

Now, the reason for this is probably that if its dated the way Theide dates it, its an absolute disaster for liberal 'scholarship'. The fragment is from a codex (a book) not a scroll, because it's printed on both sides. That, by itself, means that the original was written long before the date of the fragment.

The fragment is also in Greek. If the histories are true (which they probably are....sorry liberals), Matthew was written in Hebrew and later translated to Greek. Again, meaning that Matthew was written long before the fragment.

If the fragment is from AD 50, you have to think that there's a real question of which happened first: Christ's reaching the right hand of the Father after the ascension, or the ink drying on the earliest Gospel.

The hypothesis that Mark was written first is based almost entirely on the idea that it presents a less divine Jesus (which is actually a pretty silly idea, sill, that's the predicate).

That certainly is not true. It is also based on the patterns of agreement with Mark and departure from Mark that are found in Matthew and Luke as well as facts concerning the grammar of Mark as compared with Matthew and Luke. Some of the stories contained in Mark seem less embellished than in Matthew and Luke, which I suspect provides one of the reasons folks suspect it is earlier.

"Less embellished"="Jesus seems less divine"

"patterns of agreement with Mark and departure from Mark that are found in Matthew and Luke as well as facts concerning the grammar of Mark as compared with Matthew and Luke."

I'm pretty sure that any 'patterns' discovered are irrelevant, since they, at most, show that the translation of Matthew might come after Mark. Though the arguments there are probably about as good as they are elsewhere (which is to say "not very").

I'm not here to argue with you about the merits of the case for Markan priority. I'm simply pointing out that it is not true that folks that argue for Markan priority do so almost entirely based on the claim that it has a low Christology. That just is not true. And that not being true is also entirely consistent with the case for Markan priority being bunk.

Certainly it's proponents won't always come out and admit that Markan priority is based on a less divine Jesus. But even their arguments about literary patterns often do boil down to just that.

And that, by the way, is consistent with the idea that some Markan prioritists are not even aware that their case is based on a less divine Jesus.

Now, to be sure, Malebranche, though I express myself with my usual verve, I'm not an expert in the field. My remarks are based entirely on the arguments I've read and on the few interactions and experiences I have had with experts in the field. Obviously, I'd be open to counter-arguments on the issue of the basis of Markan priority.

WL, in Daniel Wallace's study on the Synoptic Problem (which can be found here), he lists eight reasons for Markan priority. Mark Goodacre has a few more in his book, The Case Against Q.

Thanks for the resource, Sam.

WisdomLover,

When I spoke of the "patterns of agreement with Mark and departure from Mark that are found in Matthew and Luke," I had in mind the following point, which is made in the resource Sam provided:

In the narratives common to all three, Matthew and Luke agree in sequence only when they agree with Mark; when they both diverge from Mark, they both go in different directions. What best accounts for this? Most NT scholars have assumed that Markan priority does. Some have gone so far as to say that Lachmann proved Markan priority.

I originally heard this point made while listening to a podcast on iTunes, but I'm glad Sam gave us that link, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to call attention to it. Anyway, as you can plainly see, this is a bit of evidence presented as strong reason to believe in Markan priority that does not depend on the claim that Mark endorses a low Christology.

Thanks for reminding me to look at the Wallace article that Sam linked Malebranche. I'll deal with its arguments out of order. Addressing first the Lachman Fallacy that you mentioned.

The Lachmann Fallacy.

In the narratives common to all three, Matthew and Luke agree in sequence only when they agree with Mark; when they both diverge from Mark, they both go in different directions. What best accounts for this? Most NT scholars have assumed that Markan priority does. Some have gone so far as to say that Lachmann proved Markan priority
What if Mark followed Matthew. But Luke followed Mark first and more closely, and then Matthew and less closely?

Wouldn't this put Matthew first, and show why Luke and Matthew agree when they agree with Mark, but not so much in other contexts?

But why Luke's preference of Mark?

Well it might be as simple as the fact that Mark and Peter were better known to Luke than Matthew. Luke also may have not had access to a translation of Matthew when he started his work. So Luke may have had this Markan preference for very good, practical reasons.

In any event, why assume Mark is first?

This argument really gives no reason at all.

But I'll grant this. Low Christology does not seem to be at the center of the argument.

So there may be some arguments for Markan priority that are not based on Mark's supposed lower Christology.

Here, for example, is another one:

a) Grass is green.
Therefore
b) Mark is prior.

It, like Lachman's argument is fallacious. And it, like Lachman's clearly does not depend on low Christology.

That there are infinitely many fallacies arguing for Markan priority that do not presume a low Christology, does not really show that low Christology is not at the root of Markan priority.

The Argument from Length

When one compares the synoptic parallels, some startling results are noticed. Of Mark’s 11,025 words, only 132 have no parallel in either Matthew or Luke. Percentage-wise, 97% of Mark’s Gospel is duplicated in Matthew; and 88% is found in Luke. On the other hand, less than 60% of Matthew is duplicated in Mark, and only 47% of Luke is found in Mark.
Wallace records the remarkable discovery of modern scholarship that Matthew and Luke are much longer than Mark.

It turns out that the Cliff's Notes on Hamlet were written prior to Hamlet. Why?...Well, it's shorter.

OK, that's probably silly, but the idea that Mark's leaving out stories that are told in Matthew or Luke proves anything about priority is just as silly.

But the stories left out are interesting. In particular, the birth narrative and the resurrection appearances. These are stories that the scholars would tend to say pumps up the Deity of Christ. Mark leaves them out and is therefore earlier.

Now, on this argument, the scholars are not saying directly that Mark has lower Christology and is therefore earlier. They are saying that Mark leaves out stories that they can see no good reason for the omission of. So Mark must not have omitted them, he must be earlier.

Why is there no good reason for omitting these stories?

Well, it seems to me that it's because the scholars assume that Mark would have amped up Christ's image with those stories had it occurred to him to do so.

A more likely explanation, by far, for the shortness of Mark is that Mark just didn't want to write so much, so he had to cut something.

This section in the Wallace article ends with this rather telling quote from G.M. Styler

given Mark, it is easy to see why Matthew was written; given Matthew, it is hard to see why Mark was needed.
Why wouldn't Mark still be needed? What does Matthew add that would be needed given the priority of Mark?

Could it be the Deity of Christ?

It never occurs to the scholars that perhaps what Mark brings to the table is a more personal or human Christ.

One of the earliest church heresies was the gnostic view called Docetism...the view that Christ didn't really have a body. It had spawned a sect by AD 70. The ideas this sect was based on were probably percolating through Christianity before that.

Marks's unique texts, like the spitting miracles and the like might tend to undercut the Docetist/gnostic ideas. The vignettes that Mark leaves out might also have been excluded for the same reason. To show to those inclining toward gnosticism that the stories they might be using for their view aren't quite as important as they might think. So Mark might provide a kind of antidote to gnosticism that Matthew did not provide. At least, not as well.

As the Wallace article proceeds, the preference of Mark based on low Christology becomes more pronounced.

The argument from 'Harder' Passages

Mark has 'harder' readings that are smoothed out in Matthew and Luke. What are these harder readings?

Well (big surprise) those that tend to make Jesus look less divine: Jesus could do no mighty works in Mark vs. Jesus did no mighty works in Matthew. That sort of thing.

The Argument from Redaction

We find that Matthew uses "this was to fulfill" instead of "it is written". According to Wallace he must have added that later in order to better hammer home to Jewish Christians the fact that Christ fulfills OT prophecy. Mark didn't do that, and there is no good reason for him to have changed that nuance, so he must have been earlier.

Again, Mark would have included the more exalted picture of Christ had it occurred to him, and He certainly would not have omitted language that paints the higher picture. So Mark must be the earlier one.

Mark could not have had a reason for making a more 'down-to-earth' picture of Christ.

Similar points regarding the messianic/kingly title "Son of David". Again, Mark uses the less potent Christological language, so it must be earlier.

Let me reiterate, Wallace does not say that it is because of lower Christology that Mark must be first. Not directly. Instead, he says that He would not expect Mark to omit language significant of a higher Christology if he came second.

Finally we get to the argument in the Wallace article where the disengenuous nature of this indirect approach becomes most palpable:

The Argument from Mark's More Primitive Thology

Mark must be earlier because of its more primitive theology.

I'm pretty sure that that also proves that Rick Warren wrote hundreds of years before Thomas Aquinas ;-)

But what makes the theology of Mark more primitive anyway?

One of Wallace's reasons (indeed the only reason he gives) for saying that is that Matthew calls Jesus "Lord" more than Mark!

Now, Wallace tries to use the same indirect approach here. Mark is not more primitive because He uses "Lord" less. He's more primitive because he, Wallace, would not expect Mark to omit "Lord" (using "Teacher" instead) if Mark were second.

The argument is always based on the ridiculous idea that the image of Christ can only become more divine over time. And that writers can never choose to use less divine language, stories and images to paint a more human picture of the God-Man.

It's especially ridiculous because painting a lower picture of Christ is exactly what liberal scholars would do if they were writing a gospel.

Oh wait.

They already did.

WL

Well it might be as simple as the fact that Mark and Peter were better known to Luke than Matthew. Luke also may have not had access to a translation of Matthew when he started his work. So Luke may have had this Markan preference for very good, practical reasons.
This is a good point. Imagine Luke reading through the histories that many have already set down. He would deal with one (Mark, for instance) and then could supplement it with other sources, like passages from Matthew and his own interviews.
It is highly unlikely (no computers) that he would deal with his sources simultaneously, cross-referencing and reordering passages as he went, selecting from either his preferred wordings.

WL

A more likely explanation, by far, for the shortness of Mark is that Mark just didn't want to write so much, so he had to cut something.
As well, Mark is writing or sharing Peter's teachings. Peter is likely teaching from written materias, possibly from those prepared by the trained scribe, Matthew, during Jesus' ministry - in addition to his own memories, of course. So it is very likely Peter's teachings didn't require (due to his audience) and at least did not include such narratives.

Why wouldn't Mark still be needed? What does Matthew add that would be needed given the priority of Mark? Could it be the Deity of Christ?
:)

With all that I said above, I should make it absolutely clear that Mark unambiguously endorses the full Deity of Christ. I am not driven by modern scholarly bias on that issue. I'm just saying that that is what's at the bottom of Markan priority and most of the 'discoveries' of liberal thinkers.

Need I also repeat, my reason for Matthean priority is that that's what all the early histories say. I'm not simply reacting to low Christology by choosing the Gospel with higher Christology. Mark implies that Jesus=YHWH within the first ten verses of his Gospel. That Christology is high enough for me.

You know, maybe I am missing something....

Is it important to ascertain which Gospel was written down first?

Only if you buy the idea that Mark preaches a low Christology. Then "Mark is earlier" slides into "Mark is more accurate". And "Mark doesn't teach that Jesus is God" becomes "Jesus is not God...the Deity of Christ is a later addition.

I don't really care (except insofar as I prefer truth to falsehood as a general matter), but the Jesus Seminar considers Markan priority to be one of the seven pillars of scholarly wisdom. And it's because of their own ridiculous notion that Mark does not teach that Jesus is God.

On a more minor issue, some of the supposed discrepancies between Gospel accounts become easier to understand and reconcile on Matthean priority. For example, as I mentioned earlier, Matthew's double vision (the two donkeys Jesus rides, the two demoniacs in the tombs, the two blind men near Jericho) becomes quite explicable. It's just a matter of the later writers simplifying Matthew's account.

Evidence of Gospel veracity and independence. And, a good reason for our having all four.
http://www.crossexamined.org/blog/?p=190#.TjcCE2NN8GQ.facebook

Or here:
http://www.crossexamined.org/blog/?p=190

Following along from there, we have this defence and discussion of Markan priority.

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2011/01/tim-mcgrew-replies-to-ed-babinskis.html

Daron-

That last link looks like a rebuttal to Ed Babinski's 'immoderate' Markan priority.

It sounds like the author, Tim McGrew, may endorse a 'moderate' Markan priority, but I don't see him arguing for it.

OK. I see. The earlier links have McGrew's actual arguments. I'll look into them.

Hey WL,
Poor wording on my part.
The last address is to a defence of the original argument. And, it discusses (it does not defend) Markan priority. Sorry for the confusion.

I suppose, since I don't see the "low Christology" of Mark..... it seems only a slightly interesting academic discussion.

If really cool apologetic arguments for the veracity and authenticity of the Gospels are only slightly interesting.

Here's another one.
http://www.thinkingchristian.net/2011/06/youve-never-heard-a-talk-like-this/

Jeff-

Mark this day down. We agree. I don't really see the low Christology of Mark either. As I said, you see Mark implying that Jesus=YHWH within the first ten verses of his gospel.

The problem is that a lot of people with impressive sounding degrees and research appointments have thrown in with the idea that Mark is first and therefore more accurate. That Mark does not declare the deity of Christ, so Christ is not God.

The fact is that not one of the premises leading to that conclusion is true, and not one of the inferences is valid. As such, any point that can be argued against, ought to be. Today I'm arguing against the premise that Mark is first.

At another time we can argue against the premise that Mark does not declare Christ to be God.

hi all - i just wanted to compliment all who commented on this story for the way you make the effort to concentrate on the debate and avoid ad hominen comments.


It reflects well on the character of the participants and the readership of this site.

cheers
brad

The comments to this entry are closed.