November 19, 2008

SBL Presentation: Mark without Mark

This weekend at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Boston, I am making the first public airing of my research work for the last several years. If you are at the conference, you are most invited to attend. The section begins at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. The presenter before me is a friend, and should be a suitable booking for warming up the crowd for me.

SBL23-87 Q 11/23/2008, 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM Room: Meeting Room 307 - CC Joseph Verheyden, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Presiding (5 min) Ken Olson, Duke University Mistranslated Aramaic or Septuagintal Greek?: A Source-Critical Examination of Luke 11:41, 48 (25 min) Joseph A. Weaks, Brite Divinity School Mark without Mark: Problematizing Some Uses of Q as a Primary Source in Studies of Early Christianity (25 min) Discussion (20 min) Break (5 min) Jeffrey Peterson, Austin Graduate School of Theology Q 1:31 and 22:64: Jesus' Birth and Passion in the Synoptic Sayings Source (25 min) Jason BeDuhn, Northern Arizona University Marcion's Gospel and the Reconstruction of Q (25 min) Discussion (20 min)
In lieu of posting the abstract from the program booklet, I'll provide here the introductory segment of the paper. (I'm unfamiliar with protocol regarding posting the entirety of an SBL paper.)



Joseph A. Weaks

Over a century ago the Q-proposal began its journey into acceptance among NT scholarship. While the textual evidence regarding the full extent of this early Christian document has remained unchanged, our reliance upon and use of Q as a source of early Christian studies has grown to become hard and fast. Today, when used as source material in gospel studies, we assume that "the extent of the Q material is reasonably clear." And, with the arrival of the International Q Project's (IQP) "Critical Edition of Q," the working text of Q has lost its tenuous nature, becoming all but canonized. But how reliable is the text of Q that we can reconstruct? As we continue to make use of a reconstructed text of Q in fields such as historical Jesus studies or early Christian formations or redaction analysis, it becomes increasingly important that we find ways to assess just how reliable is a reconstructed text.

Typically, when utilizing a reconstructed text of Q for historical, literary or redactional inquiries, we handle the text in the same manner that we treat our critically constructed gospel texts. The designation of IQP’s tome as the “critical” edition asserts that Q has been constructed in the same manner, or at least with the same reliability, as a critical text of Mark. In Excavating Q, professor Kloppenborg compares the process that arrives at a text of Q and that of one that establishes a text of the NT. He rightfully characterizes both as a “matter of probabilities.” He goes on to claim that “this fact does not make the resultant text any less usable than the text of the NT.” The former is a process of backwards reconstructing the text of Q from two and only two sources that have made use of the text. The latter is a process of critically constructing an attested NT document from multiple actual copies of it. The source material and how it is obtained and how it relates to the goal text is very different between the two processes, to the extent that a logical argument equating the two is not easily sustained. While both processes do consist of negotiating probabilities, the nature of those probabilities may be so layered in one case that it renders the results substantially more tenuous.

Analysis of Q plays an increasing role in defining the landscape of early Christian studies. The theology of Q is constructed as a determinable feature of what is commonly recognized as one of the earliest Christian documents. The document Q is redacted between different strata, tracing the history and development of the earliest Christian communities from this hypothetical source. In conducting research on the historical Jesus, Q is said to provide source material earlier and far more reliable than the canonical gospels. The generic features of the "sayings gospel" are providing a paradigm for understanding how the earliest Christians embraced the kerygma of Jesus and the disciples. The importance of these evaluations, and the significant role that Q plays in them, suggests the importance of improving our evaluations for how Q is relied upon as a source.

The difficulty with the current state of Q as a source in gospel studies is that we have little in the way of an established method for evaluation. When a reconstructed text of Q is used as source material in gospel studies in the same way that the gospel of Matthew or even the gospel of Thomas is used, how do we know that the process of reconstruction does not render such use of the resulting text questionable? When scholars refer to the frequency or absence of identifying phrases, or when we point to a structural feature of Q, are these summary evaluations possible given the nature of a reconstructed text? To answer the question, this project reconstructs Mark and uses it as a parallel paradigm for understanding just what we have (and don't have) when we work from a reconstructed text.

The proposal is to reconstruct the gospel of Mark based upon the evidence in Matthew and Luke in triple tradition pericopes. This represents a hypothetical, historical construct, that it was Q that survived instead of Mark. So then, the task at hand is to identify all the places where Matthew and Luke share material that they did not get from Q. This resulting reconstruction of Mark can then be compared with the canonical form of Mark. Assessing what is lost in the reconstruction, what is introduced, and what is changed in relation to canonical Mark, we can see what limits may also apply to the study and use of a reconstructed Q.


kabing said...

How interesting!

I'm curious about this sentence, though (emphasis mine):

"The former is a process of backwards reconstructing the text of Q from two and only two sources that have made use of the text."

I thought I remembered that the Gospel Of Thomas was thought to make use of Q as well. So wouldn't that be three sources? (Matthew, Luke, Thomas). Or does Thomas not count since it's Coptic, not Greek (except for a few fragements). Or is my memory incorrect?

Forgive my ignorance, but it's been a while since I've had much direct contact with this aspect of NT studies.


Mark Goodacre said...

Hi Joe. Looking forward to hearing your paper. It might be worth adding the rest of the programme to your excerpt here, not least because Jeff Peterson's paper looks very interesting. From the bit you've posted, it looks like the whole session is you and Ken.

There is no protocol about not posting papers; I have posted mine online, for example.

Typo: "has lost is tenuous nature" should be "its".

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Top notch!

Bill said...

Brilliantly clever!

I just found you searching for bibliobloggers in our SBL region, and saw that you proposed a lunch or dinner meeting a couple years back. Did that ever happen? I'm new in the game, newly back in DFW too, but I'd like to put something together so I can meet more of "us" in person. Any thoughts?

Sorry to gum up the thread. I didn't see your e-mail.

I'm not extremely tech-ey in my studies, but it's very nice to discover your blog, and thanks for blogging.