Thursday, January 07, 2010

Poirier on NT introductions and the synoptic problem

I just finished reading John Poirier's article, "The Synoptic Problem and the Field of New Testament Introduction" (JSNT 32/2, 179–190), a very brief piece that surveys the treatment of source-critical hypotheses among introductory discussions of NT research. Naturally, Kloppenborg and Tuckett don't receive very much treatment since they don't exhibit the neglect Poirier is chronicling (see p. 185, n. 17). Poirier doesn't mention Mark Allan Powell's Introducing the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), presumably because Powell's book was published after Poirier's article was in the process of publication. This adds to the impression, I think, that Poirier has put his finger on an on-going problem (see Goodacre's discussion here) rather than chronicling a problem with past research.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I should say that I myself am not a proponent of the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre approach to gospel relationships, but neither am I convinced against it. Rather, what I like most about the ascendancy of this set of arguments is the reminder that the results of source-critical inquiry must be plugged back into Christian origins scholarship (including gospels scholarship) with a healthy respect for the contingency of those results. We will certainly have to debate what constitutes healthy respect for this contingency, but certainly the cavalier confidence in Markan priority and Q that characterized NT research in previous decades (including the just-completed Naughties) does not.

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