An Important Book on the Synoptic Problem

My review of Dennis R. MacDonald’s book Two Shipwrecked Gospels: The Logoi of Jesus and Papias’s Exposition of Logia About the Lord has been published by Review of Biblical Literature and can be read online. Here is how the review begins – hopefully that will inspire readers of this blog to click through and read the rest!

Works that bring about a sea change through their radically innovative approach to a scholarly question are rare. Whether Dennis MacDonald’s Two Shipwrecked Gospels will prove to be such a book cannot be said until after its arguments have been fully explored, discussed, analyzed, and evaluated by the scholarly community. But the volume has the potential to mark a turning point in the study of the Synoptic Problem, and I write this review hopeful that the potential importance of the volume will not overlooked and that its proposals will get the attention that they deserve.

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  • Bob MacDonald

    It seems that the 5 volume Papias has very few fragments remaining. ( Bauckham)

    Is MacDonald (not me though the poor man has the same initials as I have – don’t mix us up) still continuing with a very late date for Luke – mid second century?

    • James F. McGrath

      He dates Luke late enough to have used Papias!

  • Claude

    Wow. That was fascinating (thank you). Don’t skip this one!

  • goodacre

    Thanks for the helpful review, James. One minor point, one major point. Minor point: it is “Farrer” and not “Farrar”. Major point: the argument from alternating primitivity is only persuasive if one is working with a solely literary paradigm. Q is required if one thinks that Matthew and Luke were only working with literary sources and had no access to other traditions. But if they are working, as in fact Luke suggests, with written and oral sources, then we will expect to see some kind of alternating primitivity. I call this the routine confusion in the academy between literary priority and age of traditions. I suspect that I will still be making the same point with my dying breath :)

    • James F. McGrath

      Thanks Mark! I wonder whose name I was thinking of when I wrote Farrar…or perhaps it is just my Q-laden brain subconsciously trying to subvert the Farrer theory by spelling the name incorrectly.

      I think that alternating primitivity is something to be reckoned with no matter which view of Gospel relationships one adopts. But I appreciated MacDonald’s proposal so much because it suggests that, in terms of the literary aspect of the relationships, you and I could both be right! :-)

      • goodacre

        Thanks, James. Well, “alternating primitivity is something to be reckoned with” because Q types keep going on about it! But my hope that in future they will pay some attention to the confusion here implied between literary priority and age of traditions. And if they don’t, I will keep on reminding them!