Zeba Crook’s SBL Response to Mark Goodacre

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.


16 thoughts on “Zeba Crook’s SBL Response to Mark Goodacre

  1. It is tough to decide whether Goodacre or Crook has the better argument about the inclusion of “Q”. On the one hand, Goodacre makes a fair point that many undergraduates may just treat the critically reconstructed text of Q as a real entity regardless of introductory concessions of its hypothetical and contested character, but Crook makes an interesting counter-argument that juxtaposing Q with the other Gospels actually may make it easier for students to assess both the strenghts and the weaknesses of the Two-Documentary Hypothesis. What do you think, Loren?

  2. On this point especially, Mike, I need to read the book and see for myself how the presentation comes through. According to Mark, despite Zeb's disclaimers about Q being hypothetical and such, the book makes it too solid to treat impartially; but I suppose that could work in the other direction too. It's all in the delivery, as they say.

    I do have the book on order and plan to review it eventually.

  3. No student is likely ever to encounter this book without a professor mediating it. I am confident that Mark Goodacre is a skilled enough professor to have his students encounter the Q column without falling victim to the materialist fallacy (as I'm going to start calling it!). Conversely, a Q devotee would teach from the synopsis differently. I emphatically maintain that if your students think Q existed because it's there in a column, then you're not doing a very good job teaching the synoptic problem.

  4. And let me add, my own students don't think Q existed because it's there in a column. My students think Q existed because of the way I understand and present the synoptic data. What they get from the Q column is nothing more than a sense of what scholars think Q looked like.

  5. If I saw Q in a synopsis, I would think that it's meant to illustrate the Mark-Q theory, not to explore alternative possibilities.

    My sense is that there is still some controversy over what goes into Q and what does not (e.g. Nazara), and so including Q in this synopsis not only reifies Q, it reifies a particular reconstruction of Q.

  6. Stephen, there is still controversy (that's a little strong, I admit, but work with me here) over what goes into every one of the canonical writings. That is to say, we know that the text critical reconstruction of the New Testament is not the exact NT as it originally existed. Manuscript discoveries change our text of the NT. Putting Mark and Matthew and Luke into columns also reifies their text, their content. Yet, we do not balk at that. We let student know that the text of their NT is a work in progress. Is it really too much work to do so also with the Q column?

  7. Zeba, thanks for your comment. Actually, as a text critic I do balk at texts without a textual apparatus, but I don't understand how the lack of a critical apparatus to the text of the Synoptics justifies the typographical pretense that Mark and Q has the same ontological status as to their content and existence. Surely, the existence and content of Q are more contingent (and dependent on more assumptions, however reasonable) than that of the existence and content of Mark, right?

  8. Stephen yes absolutely, the existence of Mark is more certain than the existence of Q. I'm so very clear about that throughout the synopsis. I was addressing your complaint about reification: the risk of reification does not apply solely to the Q column. That's why we text books are mediated through professors: so that students don't make naive errors like that.

  9. As a teacher, I prefer that my textbooks reinforce my teaching rather than undermine it. It seems that too much class time is devoted to reminding students that, despite how it looks in the synopsis, Q isn't as real as Mark.

  10. Why is this debate occurring without consideration of the editing and critical presentation of other first century Jewish texts? It might be instructive for Gospels scholars to discuss other synoptic projects on first century Jewish texts: namely, the works in progress by Alison Schofield and Sarianna Metso on the Qumran Community Rule manuscripts. N.B., they will not include a reconstructed column of a “source” for which there is no independent material manuscript evidence. There was a very interesting joint session of the Qumran and Early Rabbinic Judaism sections in Chicago on editing ancient texts. Eibert Tigchelaar in particular has thought a lot about the issues of editing and presentation of ancient texts for the new Qumran editions that he is to supervise. Signed, a Second Temple Judaism busybody

  11. Sorry Stephen, but I just don't consider it that much work to remind my students that Q isn't real just because they can see it in a column. just like I remind them that it's not the case that John and GThom were reliant on the synoptics just because they can see them in columns alongside the synoptic. There is no reason why having Q in a column cannot serve as an opportunity to illustrate how deeply unnecessary it is to posit Q.

  12. The fact that you continually come back to the analogy of John and Thomas does suggest to me, Zeb, that you do regard this hypothetical work, Q, as similar in nature to these witnessed ones, John and Thomas.

    I suspect that where you see it as a difference in degree (Critically Reconstructed Q is more hypothetical than Critical Editions of Thomas and John), others of us see it as a difference in kind (a hypothetical work vs. textually witnessed ones).

  13. No No No Mark. The issue I keep raising is about whether debate is precluded by the presence of Q in a column. You are the one who keeps coming back to the non-materiality of Q and how different it is from John and Thomas, on which we are in full agreement. I am not comparing types of source by referring to John and GThom. I am comparing whether certain debates are precluded by the presence of some sources.

  14. Yes, Zeb! (In line with the Lord's teaching, I just let my “Yes” be “Yes”). Of course debate is not “precluded” by any of these decisions. The question is one of how best to facilitate good debate. And here we come back again to the question of pedagogy. There is a reason that double tradition, in two columns, and triple tradition, in three, makes for helpful explanation of the data and the facilitation of good discussions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s