Mark Goodacre has posted his SBL critique of Zeba Crook’s Parallel Gospels, which should be read before going further. Mark was one of four reviewers at the SBL session (the others being Struthers Malbon, Paul Foster, and Robert Derrenbacker), to whom Zeba responded at the end.
Zeba has given me permission to post his response-paper, but I’ll just paste the Goodacre part, since the other three reviewers haven’t (to my knowledge) made their papers available online. Readers of this blog know I hold both Mark and Zeba in high esteem, though on inter-synoptic issues, I obviously tend to see eye-to-eye more with Mark. But I haven’t read Zeba’s book and can’t offer any critical assessments at this point. So read Mark’s critique and Zeb’s response, and weigh the wisdom of each.
Zeba Crook, SBL 2012, Review Session on Parallel Gospels
[Response to Mark Goodacre]
“Goodacre suggests that word-level parallels are key to sound synopsis construction. I wholly agree, so let me explain. This is ideal synopsis construction meets real world market. I think Mark would have loved the original synopsis that OUP saw. But the synopsis OUP saw was over 500 pages, because lining up parallel words on parallel lines creates a lot of white space on the page. Now I really liked that white space; I felt it gave the student room to think. OUP didn’t. They wanted a synopsis that was going to be affordable, and this one really is. Making the synopsis Goodacre wants would have been ideal, but it also would have been much more expensive.
“In the end, we (OUP and me) opted for a compromise: Words that begin a short syntactical section are paralleled. So, in the section to which Mark refers (#184; Matt 18:2//Mark 9:36//Luke 9:47b), it is true that the three instances of “young-child” are not on exactly the same line. But two lines above clearly starts a new section, beginning with the triple agreement on the aorist participle (having-summoned in Matt; having-taken in Mark; and having-taken-hold-of in Luke). So the very short section lines up at the start, and it lines up at the next stage (Matt 8:3 and Luke 9:48 == Mark doesn’t have any text there), and then after Matthew’s verses 3-4, the three line up again at the start of the next section (Matt 8:5, Mark 9:37; and the continuation of Luke 9:38). A compromise had to be struck, between ideal synopsis construction and marketability, and I think this is actually a good compromise. Goodacre complains that it makes the student work harder, but I actually came to see this as an added benefit: my original synopsis was so word-paralleled that it left almost no work for the student to do!
“Next Goodacre comments on problems with clarity and readability that are the result of my one-to-one translation principle: that cuts me to the core, Mark. Everyone here needs to understand how much sleep I lost in the decade I spent on this book over the issue of readability. I don’t need to be told that hupo with the genitive means ‘by’ not ‘under.’ I don’t need to be told that tis with an accent can mean who AND what. But in end I had to decide that if my goal was to devise a way for the non-Greek-reading student to see what words the gospel writers shared, how they may have changed words and phrases a lot or a little, over and over again, then this was the only way. I had to accept that the goal was NOT translation, but rendition, and I had to accept that readability had to be sacrificed. But then I also realized this: if I wanted to produce a source-language translation, I had to follow through on it. The translation Goodacre wants in a synopsis already exists out there (in multiple forms), and they all show that tis can mean ‘who’ and they show that Jesus was baptized ‘by’ John, but they also produce endless false positives, false negatives, and generally create agreements where none actually exist. My goal was to create a new synopsis, not duplicate existing synopses.
“But then I realized this: synopses exist for only two reasons: to be able to compare gospels structurally and at the level of the minute detail. These details are the foundation of source and redaction criticism. The reader who wants readable ‘scripture’ can go to target-language translations like the NRSV or NIV; the reader without Greek who wants to be able to really see word agreements and disagreements among the Greek gospels needs this book to be able to do that. No other English synopsis book will give them that. Mark is not wrong: the translation is a challenge to read; but what the student gains from that translation is greater than the cost. I’ve been told on many occasions that students, after a couple weeks of grappling with the strange translation, have a eureka moment in which they both ‘get’ what’s happening and find their eye can do the necessary skip and dance to read it somewhat fluidly.
“Finally, Goodacre suggests that giving a column for Q gives Q an unrealistic concrete tangibility, and that it forecloses this important debate. I think this is unfair. Making a column for Q no more forecloses the debate than including John and Thomas forecloses the debates about their relationship to the synoptics. Further, the reader who thinks I have foreclosed the debate on the existence of Q merely by placing it in a column has not actually read my synopsis: a) one only has to read to the second paragraph of my introduction to see me state clearly that a column for Q does not give it material status. It is there simply to give students access to what scholars think the text of Q looked like; b) I am extremely clear in my synoptic study guides that Q is hypothetical, that there is no evidence of its ever having existed, that those who disagree with the Q hypothesis are perfectly reasonable scholars; and c) there are ways, I think, in which my synopsis challenges positions of the 2DH: my translation results in way more minor agreements being visible, which are an issue for the 2DH, and there is this: one of the key planks on which the Q Hypothesis rests is that Matthew and Luke never agree on inserting double tradition into the same place in Mark, usually after Q 3:7-9 it is said. But my synopsis arrangement ends up with 8 pericope that Matt and Luke place Q at the same point in Mark (pericopae #s 17, 19, 23, 25, 89, 122, 123, 126). I was curious to know what Goodacre would think of including Q, but I expected him to be more effusive about the pro-Mark-without-Q features of my new synopsis over others.”
UPDATE: Mark Goodacre responds to Zeb’s response.