(We had a report on this from a member of the audience, linked earlier today.)
8:23 AM At the Shepherds Seminary last night I spoke on the origins of the four Gospels. And what a great time we had.
Believe it or not, I am always uncomfortable in crowds. I am not and never will be a good conversationalist. I have to be alone before I can really think. I can write it better than I can say it. On the other hand, people are so kind to me that I feel so undeserving of the honor of being a public speaker. Surely they can find someone else to talk to them? However, everywhere I go I find students who are willing to rethink the issues, and I could jump to high heaven as a result. Someone once quipped, “If you can’t drive a train you can always be a wheel-greaser.” So off I went to the STS, grease gun in hand.
I was thrilled to meet in Doug Bookman a professor who is open to reconsidering the synoptic problem. I am meeting more and more scholars like him in evangelical circles.
I think the consensus starting breaking down years ago. I well recall an event that made publishing history in 1987. Mann’s Anchor Bible commentary on Mark was revolutionary in that a major publisher allowed the appearance of a work that argued that the author of Mark made use of the earlier Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Of course, Mann was accused of turning the clock back. For indeed, there is nothing new at all in his solution to synoptic relationships. Matthean priority was the leading view among university trained scholars until the nineteenth century. Even today this view has its supporters. William Farmer dispensed with “Q” and advocated a Two Gospel Hypothesis, as did David Peabody, George Wesley Buchanan, David Dungan, and Lamar Cope. Others dispense with “Q” but still hold to Markan priority. As everyone knows, paradigm shifts often come dramatically. They require a patient reexamination of the raw data over a considerable course of time. I hold no illusions that my lecture will change anyone’s mind. I hope the debate and discussion will continue and that students of the Gospels will feel free to rearrange some of the best of their theological presuppositions. It turns out, in fact, that there are perfectly sound scientific reasons for Mark’s procedure in following the Matthean and Lukan accounts. Clearly it is time for advocates of Markan priority to give renewed consideration to the testimony of the earliest church fathers. “Q” is certainly wobbling, at least among students. Then there is the argument based on Mark’s “course style” – which I responded to years ago in an essay in Filologia Neotestamentaria. That is, if we picture Mark as recording the words of Peter verbatim and viva voce, there will no problem in seeing the diction of Mark’s Gospel as less refined or literary than that of Matthew and Luke. So the internal evidence needs to be examined rigorously. But not, in my view, at the expense of the external evidence.
So I hope my little talk last night will enrich and encourage the ongoing debate. To everyone who came out to hear this obscurantist, a heartfelt “thank you.”