Monday, October 11, 2010

Scaer's Catechesis Theory makes Griesbach Work.

I can't say that I've ever really found the two-source theory of the Gospel particularly attractive.  After I read N. T. Wright and Kenneth Bailey in mid-college, I thought that it was pretty much unnecessary that the Gospels have any sort of literary relationship with one another.  Rather, what I thought seemed more plausible is that they were based on a common oral tradition that had been kept perfectly.  Bailey shows that writing in near-eastern societies is pretty much unnecessary as a means of preservation, because oral records can be kept perfectly merely from memory.  Because communities are so closely interwoven, people in villages where this sort of oral tradition predominates check each other's memories to such an extent that Bailey tested whether certain traditions were still around in an Egyptian village after the 80 years and discovered that they were the same word-for-word.  So then who needs Q?

Of course the alternative has always been Griesbach, with the theory that Mark wrote, then Matthew expanded on Mark, and Luke on Matthew.  It's cleaner, but it always rubbed me wrong.  I actually don't know why.  There were also alternative version which accepted not Markan, but Matthean priority and thought of Mark as being a shorter version of Matthew.  This never made any sense to me, not because I thought that Mark was less complex (which it isn't!) and therefore had to "evolve" into Matthew, but because if you're going to write a Gospel and make your unique contribution, why give less information rather than more?

Scaer with his catechesis theory has really changed my mind on this in a big way.  So, his argument as I read it, seems to be a kind of variation on Griesbach, that accepts Matthean priority.  Arthur Just from what I've read by him seems to buy into this as well.  

So, Matthew was the first Gospel and it was probably written some time in the 40s to serve as a Jewish Christian catechism.  It possesses five great discourses and therefore exemplifies a new Torah or instruction.  The named "Matthew" is even very close the word for "catechumen," which explains to me why he is called Levi elsewhere- i.e. he never was named Matthew, he just wishes to be understood as the ideal catechumen of Jesus, like John wants to be understood as the ideal witness.  Anyways, Luke read both Matthew and Mark (probably in the later 50s or early 60s) and constructed his Gospel as a Gentile-version of Matthew's Jewish catechism.  

Now, Scaer's a little bit more vague about Mark.  But he likes the idea of mystagogue and its presence in the very early Church.  This would make sense because mystagogue grows out of the Jewish rabbinical practice (present in the ministry of  Jesus) of distinguishing an inner circle of those initiated and are therefore allowed to know certain teachings, and those who are not.  

In the early Church, the unbaptized were not allowed know a lot of things.  One thing they weren't allowed to hear were the words of institution.  They were sent away after the sermon and only the baptized could hear them.  This explains why the Didache has no words of institution when discussing the Eucharist.  Mark, as you might recalled, has a shorter version of them- so perhaps he thought that hearing part of them was alright, but not the whole thing.  

Hence, we can infer that Mark intended to a Gospel for those not initiated into the mystagogue through baptism.  He knew Matthew, which was for those who had been baptized and therefore wrote a catechism for those who had not been baptized.  Luke then wrote for Gentiles who had been baptized and initiated into the Church's mystagogue.  This makes sense that he writes to Theophilus ("one who loves God"- I take this to mean just any Catechumen), who has already been instructed (as the prologue says- probably by reading Mark who Luke utilizes) and now is moving onto more advanced teaching.

This would explain the order, the cultural form and the literary relationships between the Gospels.  A version of Griesbach makes remarkable sense, if you assume that the Gospel writers were attempting to fill a literary need for catechesis among particular populations in the early Church.

1 comment:

  1. I know that it sounds like Scaer's theory... but it's pretty much the traditional theory too! The idea that Matthew was written for Jews (even in Hebrew?) goes back at least to the 100s. Then that Mark was written to bring that to the Gentiles.

    It's only with modern literary criticism, which appears to be going out of style as its claims are repeatedly shown to be insufficient, which tried to solve the synoptic problem based on "information" and repeated phrases or stories.

    It's important to understand that the Gospels were not primarily "information" driven. The goal wasn't to present a blow-by-blow account of Jesus' life. Therefore, the argument that Mark presents less "information" is irrelevant. His point wasn't to supplement the information from Matthew (although he does sometimes) but to present a different point of view for a different audience.

    Oh, and Luke even mentions catechesis in his introduction!

    Thanks for the stimulating thinking, as always.

    George

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