Reconstructing Mark: A Thought Experiment

Challenging Q

Back in July 2001 I initiated a discussion on Crosstalk with a post entitled 'Worries about Q' in which I suggested a thought experiment: what if Q had survived and Mark had not? I suggested that if one tried to reconstruct Mark from Matthew and Luke (assuming a knowledge of what they got from Q) in the same manner that many scholars reconstruct Q from Matthew and Luke (assuming also a knowledge of what they got from Mark), the reconstructed Mark that would result would not be adequate to support Markan scholarship as we know it. Later in 2001 the Expository Times carried an article by Dr C.S. Rodd arguing along very similar lines [1]. The Expository Times subsequently carried a pair of articles by Christopher Tuckett and Paul Foster responding to Rodd and suggesting that he had not, in fact, made a strong case against delineating the theology of Q [2]. My short article 'Challenging Q' is a reply to Tuckett and Foster (mainly the latter) defending the position of Rodd's article and my contributrion to the debate on Crosstalk [3]. In the meantime I have been working on a much more detailed version of this argument in 'Reconstructing Mark: A Thought Experiment', which is due to be published in a collection of essays edited by Mark Goodacre and Nicholas Perrin under the (provisional) title On Questioning Q.

Part of this exercise involves deciding what a Mark reconstructed along these lines might look like. One suggestion is that of Craig Evans [4]. My own proposal is a little different.

To reconstruct Mark from Matthew, Luke and Q while minimizing the influence of what we know of Mark, one needs to devise a procedure that is both relatively objective and relatively independent of canonical Mark, and one which is also reasonably analogous to the way in which Q is reconstructed. One way to do this is to proceed as follows. First, set out Matthew and Luke in parallel columns, noting what comes from Q, what they have in common outside Q (which one might call 'double attestation' or DA for short) and what (on this hypothetical scenario) appears to be Sondergut. I conducted this exercise in two tables, the first covering the parallels to Mark 1-13 and the second covering those to Mark's Passion Narrative (i.e. Mark 14-16) Where DA material appears in the same sequence in both Matthew and Luke, this can confidently be assigned to Reconstructed Mark (RMk) in the same place. Where DA material appears in different sequences, then, on the assumption that Luke will be seen to follow Q more faithfully, accept the Luke placing by default, but use the Matthew placing if this seems obviously better (especially if the Lukan parallel is used in his travel section). Then add any pieces of Sondergut that seem necessary to fill in any obvious lacunae in the RMk text. I have attempted to follow this procedure, and the resultant outline of the extent and order of RMk is shown here.

This is only a first approximation, of course. At this stage of the proceedings, there has been no attempt to reconstruct the precise wording of RMk. Moreover, all the Q material has been excluded and would need to be examined for possible Q-Mk overlaps, just as further examination might allow a case to be made for the inclusion of some more Sondergut material. Where possible, the reconstruction has been done with complete pericopae, but where the relationship between Matthew, Luke (and Q) becomes more complex, it has been necessary to break pericopae down into smaller units.

[1] C.S. Rodd,'The End of the Theology of Q?' in The Expository Times 113 (2001), pp. 5-12.

[2] Christopher M. Tuckett, 'The Search for a Theology of Q: A Dead End?' and Paul Foster, 'In Defence of the Study of Q', The Expository Times 113 (2002), pp. 291-94 & 295-300.

[3] Eric Eve, 'Challenging Q', The Expository Times 113 (2001), pp. 408-409. The Editor was forced to reduce the section of my argument relating to Mark-Q overlaps and replace it with a brief footnote (note 13), stating "Foster's suggestion of a further asymmetry between the reconstructions of Q and Mark in relation to Mark-Q overlaps is also not convincing." Anyone wishing to see the argument that orginally supported this assertion may view the omitted passge here.

[4] Craig Evans, 'Authenticating the Words of Jesus' in Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Words of Jesus (Leiden: Brill, 1999), pp. 3-14 (7-8). [Back to text]

Last Updated by Eric Eve