Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Authors, Redactors, and Compilers, Oh my.

I'm reading through William Telford's The Barren Temple and the Withered Tree which is a discussion of Mark 11, specifically how the cursing of the fig tree relates to the cleansing of the temple.

I wanted to share this, out of the chapter "Source and Redaction in Mark 11":

"The first of these hands, a redactor of Mk I, R, was responsible for verses 20-24, and it was his version of Mark that Matthew used. Verses 25 and 26 are, however, late glosses. In addition, Hirsch posits a second redaction of Mark that occured before R's version adding verses 20-24 to Mk I. This version, Mk II, omitted the first visit to the Temple and the fig-tree story (verses 11-14) and brought together for the first time therby the Entry and Cleansing pericopes." (pg. 43)

He then goes on to give a chart describing the textual history. I find the argument really intriguing, but there's just something about all this redacting and authoring that doesn't sit well with me. Perhaps he's right, but do we punt to a "redactor" if we can't figure out why certain verses "sound a disharmonious note" too quickly? (ibid.)


Zephyr said...

Interpretation is always a matter of possibilities and probabilities. Talk of redactors is okay as long as we keep this in mind. But too often it is expressed in terms that are far too black and white. And yes, I think we will often gain much if we are willing to take the time to consider how the verses that "sound a disharmonious note" may have come from the author who is responsible for the rest of the letter. That said, redaction criticism has done much to help us look at texts as complete wholes rather than disjointed series of pericopes from different sources.

Anonymous said...

Telford is very much a man for explaining absolutely everything in terms of redaction, I've found- he once spent half an hour of a beginners' NT Greek class telling us about 'suppressed exorcisms'...

Michael Barber said...


What strikes me is the fact that this approach flies right in the face of the great work being done on the genre of the Gospels. This is a fundamental question that everyone is dodging. Are the Gospels an amalgamation of varios traditions edited together OR are they something else? Bryskog and Bauckham argue that they are meant to be historical works written by eye-witnesses. Burridge agrues that they are historical biographies--which I think fits well with Bauckham and Bryskog.

The form critical assumptions regarding the origin and purposes of the Gospels (i.e., that they are tracts meant to bolster the theological positions of various communities), no longer work.

It seems to me that we need to start being consistent in the way we treat the Gospels as sources. Unfortunately, we treat the Gospels in ways that are entirely different than the way we treat ANY other ancient source. I think it's also time we begin to seriously re-evaluate the validity of a lot of the form critical ideas it seems many are a bit too dogmatic about.