My first point, which I expanded in my second response to James, was that the evangelists don't seem to have been sufficiently consistent redactors of their sources for us to know what motivated their particular method(s) of handling their traditions/sources. James (and many, many other NT scholars) seems sufficiently impressed that Matthew expands the traditions at his disposal. And while he (= Matthew) clearly does exhibit expansionist tendencies, there are simultaneously plenty of instances in which Matthew has the shorter text. So the expansionist Matthew is also an epitomist! Or, Matthew the spiritualizer is also, at times, more concrete than his Lukan counterpart. The situation seems sufficiently muddled to me that even probable and/or plausible historical reconstruction becomes problematic, even for those of us content with less-than-certain historical knowledge.
But then I forgot my second point. There I was, having promised the faithful readers of Verily Verily (both of you!) "two problems" that undermined the redaction-critical enterprise, and I couldn't remember the second one!! What was I to do?! I could have removed the offending promise of "two problems"; after all, blogging is far from the decrees of the Medes and the Persians. Instead, I, your humble blogger, developed an ingenious alternative second point, and no one was aware that I had temporarily lost my own plot. But hooray! I have remembered my second point, which I now offer in third place.
All sarcasm aside, we need to remember that the current discussion began with my original response to Tom Holmén's discussion of the authenticity criteria in Routledge's Encyclopedia of the Historical Jesus (2008). My primary complaint, in case I didn't state it clearly enough, was Holmén's advocation of a historiographical method that sought (i) to identify earlier or later features of the Jesus tradition, then (ii) to discard the later features (redactional or otherwise), and finally (iii) to reconstruct the historical Jesus solely on the basis of authenticated, original, or the earliest material. Even if we were to overlook the overwhelming contingency that plagues the redaction-critical enterprise, is this the right way to treat material we identify as redactional? I don't think so.
- First, in the sixth chapter of Structuring Early Christian Memory, I gave a very close reading of Luke 4.14–30, which I (along with every NT scholar of whom I am aware) think has clearly been subject to the redactional activity of the Lukan evangelist. But this cannot be the end of the story. Instead, I ask, "[W]hence comes Luke's redactional impulse?" (Rodríguez 2010:141). Granted that Luke was able to creatively handle the tradition he received from "those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word," was he free to arbitrarily handle that tradition? My analysis suggests not and shows (i) how Luke's retelling of the story we read in Mark 6.1–6a was heavily influenced by another pre-Lukan tradition (see Matt. 11.2–6||Luke 7.18–23 [Q?]), and (ii) how Luke's portrayal of Jesus' rhetorical maneuvering before the Nazarene Jewish gathering does not make Jesus unintelligible to a Sitz im Leben Jesu. Elijah and Elisha, whom Jesus evokes in Luke 4.25–27, need not legitimize the inclusion of the gentiles (even if they clearly do in Luke-Acts).
- Similarly, Dale Allison grants the redactional nature of numerous texts (including the summary of Jesus' message in Mark 1.14–15 and the temptation narratives in Matt. 3||Luke 3 [Q?] and Mark 1.12–13), and he demonstrates that these redactional pericopae nevertheless communicate authentically the historical Jesus. This approach, which does not discard redactional material but rather continues to ask critically how such material relates to history and brings the past to bear on Sitz im Leben of the church or of the evangelist, seems to me to handle the synoptic Gospels and the Jesus tradition more responsibly than does, e.g., the approach advocated by Tom Holmén.
So, James, I ask you: How could these arguments, which feel so right, be wrong?