Saturday, 21 September 2019

Priority

Today is Saint Matthew's Day. Consider that that erstwhile tax-collector is the Patron Saint of Bankers.

Consider also that that strange and increasingly unfashionable thing, Biblical criticism, purports to read the Bible "as if it were any other ancient text", yet in fact subjects it to a series of methods that would be laughed out in any other literary or historical discipline. Those methods are carefully constructed to "prove" the presuppositions of that strange and increasingly unfashionable thing, liberal theology.

Thus, if two Biblical books are word for word alike, as Matthew, Mark and Luke certainly are in parts, then they must have been copied from each other, since there is no way that God could have inspired them all and, funnily enough, done so in such a way that they confirmed each other's accounts.

Hence the theory of Markan Priority, that Saint Mark's Gospel was the first to be written, and that Saint Matthew and Saint Luke copied out great chunks of it word for word. And hence the theory of Q, the compendium of the material found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark; no copy of Q exists anywhere.

Jesus simply did not claim divinity for Himself, so that rules out John at a stroke. Miracles simply do not happen, a position not even compatible with agnosticism. Style simply does not develop (seriously), so Saint Paul cannot have written several of the Epistles beginning with the words, "From Paul". And so on, and on, and on. Academia is at last moving away from this sort of thing. When will the Church in practice, since of course She has never adopted it, and cannot do so, in principle?

Perhaps a gentle fillip from the wider culture might be in order? Although they differ in length, the different structures of the Gospels mean that they could each be dramatised in 12 episodes of one hour apiece, perhaps running from January to March, i.e., more or less from Christmas to Easter. The order ought to be as in the Bible – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – exactly as if any other ancient text were the subject.

That might even provide an opportunity to do some taking apart of the ridiculous theories of Markan Priority, of the interpolation of Mark 16, of "the Gospel of Thomas" and other such Dan Brown drivel, and of the historical unreliability of Saint John's Gospel on the grounds that Jesus "never claimed to be divine", the "proof" of which is held to be the historical unreliability of Saint John's Gospel.

All of these pieces of nonsense continue to be peddled by half-formed schoolteachers, and by clergy too old to have been part of the traditionalist revival among Catholics or the Evangelical revival among Protestants. Markan Priority was disproved a very long time ago by Saint Augustine, whose Wikipedia pages in Portuguese and Slovene are significant source of traffic to this site, as is the page on U and non-U English. Make of those facts what you will.

Acts could also be dramatised in this way, and it has some great stories in it. But it looks as if they would do the Ramayana first, and stick to the text if they did. That is not treating the Bible as a work of world literature, which is what they would claim that it was, and which, among other things, it is.

Why not dramatise the Ramayana, exactly as it is? Why not dramatise the Odyssey, exactly as it is? And why not dramatise the Four Canonical Gospels and Acts, exactly as they are? Of what are the television companies afraid? Of what, in practice even though not in principle, would the Church be afraid?

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