I have been trying not to even think about what my next book might be after I wrap up the current project on John the Baptist. But as I’ve been moving towards completion of the current project, some of the points of intersection with other areas have grabbed my interest not just in relation to John the Baptist, but in their own right. One of those is the Synoptic Problem, i.e. the subject of how the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke relate to one another (and in particular the last two of the three). In my books on John the Baptist I try not to make my conclusions rely heavily on any particular view of that subject, although I do dedicate a chapter to the question of what Q tells us about John the Baptist and, conversely, what John the Baptist tells us about Q. Working on this has reignited my fascination with the subject and my desire to figure out a way to, perhaps not solve the matter definitively, but at least contribute something new to the discussion. That’s the one thing I’m just possibly good at, coming up with new ideas (99% of which need to be shot down as impractical by someone more down to earth than myself). Working on the question of whether there is a Baptist infancy source detectable behind some of the texts we have – the Gospel of Luke, the Mandaean Book of John, and the Protevangelium of James in particular – has also had me thinking about this, how we figure out that a source is likely to have been used, and the huge gulf between detecting source usage and reconstructing the source.
Anyway, before I get to my upcoming conference paper, Mark Goodacre and I had a chance to talk about the Q hypothesis and the Farrar hypothesis, and we managed to use Star Trek and Doctor Who analogies. Have a listen:
Now, whether my next book will be about Q is something I will not even begin to ponder yet. But as for how my current research intersects with and has implications for that topic, I’ll not only be covering that in one of the books I’ve been writing, but will present on it in November at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in San Antonio. The program book for the conference is now online. Here is the abstract for my paper:
John the Baptist and Narrative in Q as Clues about its Composition History
John the Baptist is the, or at least a, major focus of the material in the first part of the Q source. This Baptist-focused content takes the form of narrative and dialogue rather than a collection of sayings of Jesus. Rather than representing awkward problems to explain away, this paper will treat these aspects of the Q material as important clues about the order in which its layers were brought together and what may have motivated those responsible for doing so. The evidence of other early Christian texts which begin with the Baptist and focus on Jesus’ relationship to him provide helpful guideposts in the effort to determine when and where a work like Q might have been assembled and what might have motivated giving it the shape we now discern behind Matthew and Luke.
Details of the session from the SBL Annual Meeting program book:
Program Unit: Q
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Sarah Rollens, Rhodes College, Presiding
Steven D. Collier, Mercer University
A New Approach to Passion Material in Q: Resolving the Problem of the Passion Minor Agreements in Favor of the Two Source Theory (30 min)
Tag(s): Source Criticism (Interpretive Approaches), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament)
Dieter T. Roth, Boston College
Functional Christology and the Q Parables (30 min)
Tag(s): New Testament (Biblical Literature – New Testament), New Testament (Ideology & Theology)
Matthew Korpman, Graduate Theological Union
A Jekyll and Hyde Jesus: Exploring the Significance of Contradictions in Q (30 min)
Tag(s): New Testament (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Apocrypha (Early Christian Literature – Apocrypha)
James McGrath, Butler University
John the Baptist and Narrative in Q as Clues about its Composition History (30 min)
Tag(s): New Testament (Biblical Literature – New Testament), Gospels (Early Christian Literature – Apocrypha), Gospels (Biblical Literature – New Testament)
San Antonio is home to one of the largest Mandaean communities in the United States. Hopefully we can organize some sort of excursion of academics in religious studies and biblical studies to visit their place of worship and meet with some of them. If you’ll be at the conference and are at all interested in being part of that, please let me know!
Finally, the recording of my Oxford Interfaith Forum talk about the Mandaeans (titled “The Mandaeans: A Minority on the Move and their Manuscripts”) is now available on YouTube: