Friday, January 28, 2011

"Only a lunatic..."

If you were a lunatic editor, what kind of tendencies would you display in editting a text? There's an answer in one of the readings for this week for my Synoptic Gospels class. It is B.H. Streeter's classic, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins, an older but very insightful book. In a chapter titled, "The Fundamental Solution" (that is, a solution to the 'Synoptic Problem'), he has some words to say about the strength of the argument for Markan Priority:

"The attempt has recently been made to revive the solution, first put forward by Augustine, who styles Mark a kind of abridger and lackey of Matthew, "Tanquam breviator et pedesequus ejus." But Augustine did not possess a Synopsis of the Greek text conveniently printed in parallel columns. Otherwise a person of his intelligence could not have failed to perceive that, where the two Gospels are parallel, it is usually Matthew, and not Mark, who does the abbreviation. For example, the number of words employed by Mark to tell the stories of the Gadarene Demoniac, Jairus' Daughter, and the Feeding of the Five Thousand are respectively 325, 374 and 235; Matthew contrives to tell them in 136, 135 and 157 words. Now there is nothing antecedently improbable in the idea that for certain purposes an abbreviated version of the Gospel might be desired; but only a lunatic would leave out Matthew's account of the Infancy, the Sermon on the Mount, and practically all the parables, in order to get room for purely verbal expansion of what was retained."

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