Friday, January 14, 2011

source criticism and text production in antiquity

I'm still working through David Rhoads's essay, "Performance Events in Early Christianity," and Rhoads has just made an excellent point. He says, "The early Chrisitian communities had no un-embodied experience of the stories [in the gospels] and the [New Testament] letters" (178). In light of the massive amount of research in the last twenty-plus years on reading in antiquity, I think this point is fairly safe, even perhaps axiomatic. That is, in the early church no one (or nearly no one, so nearly that the difference is negligible) engaged a NT text alone, in a "quiet time" sort of atmosphere without others around. Reading, it seems, was a communal activity.

If so, then I have a simple question, and I hope someone out there can honestly engage it. Has anyone ever attempted to explain, on the strength of any particular source-critical theory, an evangelist's act of writing in culturally informed ways? In other words, if (say) Luke sat down with Mark and Matthew before him (à la the Farrer hypothesis), what cultural scripts informed his act of composing the gospel as he read from his two (and others?) sources? Was Luke, on this model, engaging a disembodied tradition? And if not, then how did the mechanics of his text-production actually work?

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