28 February 2007

Drawn from the Four Gospels

For years I have eschewed the thought of using the conflated Passion. It just goes against everything I ever learned exegetically to throw the Passion accounts together and tell them as a single story. We've read during Lent the Synoptic Passions, but read them one a year.

But this year I threw caution to the wind and used the conflated Passion as found in the LSB Altar Book. Reflecting on that reading, I keep thinking of John 6: "Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost." And that's what the conflated Passion does: it gathers all the the accounts into a single whole - not a seamless whole, there are plenty of rough edges - so that nothing of the Passion is neglected to serve up to the people. John, Luke, Matthew, and Mark. I think we had them all tonight.

Maybe those old Lutherans were onto something after all with this conflated Passion. Maybe there's a wisdom there that the modern exegetes miss out on. Maybe.


tutal said...

To be honest, I was wondering if I missed you saying, The Gospel of "Q" the 18th chapter. After just finishing my Synoptics class, I'm pretty set in sticking to preaching from the specific Gospel account that is assigned by the pericopal system. I'm curious regarding the reasoning that this conflation/redaction was included. Also do you know if there is an older precedent for such a reading?

William Weedon said...

LOL, Matt. But it really is the opposite of St. Q, which is focused on what you need to leave OUT of a given Synoptic. I know Bugenhagen arranged a conflated Passion. I'm not sure of its history prior to the Reformation, but Gerhard's book on the Passion indicates that he was familiar with a piece by Gregory of Nazianzus that sounds like it was one too. So here's a good assignment for you! Go find out how far back a "Passion History" can be traced.

It is interesting that as Lutherans we live with a "conflation" each week of the Words of Institution. I think Dr. Nagel once said something about not losing any of the words that our Lord has given us. The Passion History does a similar job - no word lost. But what IS lost is the individual Evangelists' particular insight. The ancient Church didn't think of Scripture that way, though, and always worked on harmonies, since for them the Spirit of God being the author was bigger than any human author. FWIW.

tutal said...

I knew that about "Q," but it was a lot shorter than saying "Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum." What I would be interested in is finding that Nazianzus Passion history and comparing it to the Bugenhagen one. As the former certainly did not live in a print culture and would have relied on a more orally based conflation whereas Bugenhagen would have had the benefit of printed texts that he could have looked at side by side. I'm sure there's a PhD thesis right there - "Medium and the Creation of Passion Conflations - A Study of Gregory of Nazianzus and Bugenhagen's Passion Accounts" (at least it has a long enough title). Though that's getting a bit close to exegetical work for this systematician / historian.

Susan said...

Those passion readings drive me nuts. I want to know who's talking to me. On blogs, I want to know who's writing in the comment section. And in church, I want to know whether it's Paul or John or Moses or Isaiah that's preaching to me. There may be some good in it, but it still drives me bonkers.

William Weedon said...

Susan, you are putting wicked ideas in my mind. I can just see reading through it next week and saying: "John:...." "Matthew:..." Mark and Luke:...." ;)

Seriously, though, if you just let the facts wash over you and realize that by the time the Passion History is finished, you've heard everything that happened to our Lord and that He Himself did that Scripture gives us, then it's not too bad. I write this, of course, as one who still squirms a bit at the whole idea, but can appreciate it along the lines of what Gerhard did in his Explanation of the Passion.

fr john w fenton said...

Harmonies of the Gospels have a long history. However, to my knowledge, none were used liturgically until the Reformation (or post-Reformation) era. I think there's a good reason for this. When you harmonize, you treat the Gospels more like biographies and less like Gospels. Its a step toward Form Criticism. In the process, you lose the particular portrait each Evangelist is attempting to paint.

Put another way, it's like combining icons of the Trinity (the Baptism of Christ, the visit of the Angels, the Transfiguration) to make one composite Trinitarian icon. Something is lost; and it looks like a mess.


Paul T. McCain said...

Mr. Fenton proposes quite an absurd proposition: that the use of Passion histories was the first step toward form criticism. That's ridiculous on any number of levels, not least of which the idea that combining the Gospels on the Passion of our Lord was any sort of "form criticism." A form critic would be horrified at the notion of blending and putting together the various Gospels.

Pastor Weedon has expressed the intention and purpose well: to allow the people of God to hear all the wonderful details presented by all the Gospels in regard to the most holy week in our Lord's life.

The only thing "messy" is Mr. Fenton's painfully incorrect assessment of the passion history.

fr john w fenton said...

Thank you, Rev McCain, for your reply.

If I may, it seems that for Form Criticism to work (among other things), one must (a) read the Gospels as biographies (what did the real Jesus say); and (b) harmonize the sources (what did the real Jesus really say)

My larger point, however, is that harmonies per se are not illegitimate. St Augustine and others produced harmonies. And in a much smaller scale, theologians and homileticians have done this in every generation.

My point is that Pr Weedon's previous reticence at using such harmonies liturgically was probably well founded.

Paul T. McCain said...

I owe Father Fenton an apology. I did not realize at the time I put up my post that he had been ordained a priest in the Orthodox Church, therefore my use of "Mr." may well have been perceived to be a derogatory remark aimed at the ministry of the Orthodox Church. I do recognize it as legitimate and valid and therefore regret not using the proper form of address for an Orthodox priest. Father Fenton can not say that same thing about Lutheran pastors, but that should not prevent us from using proper titles.

fr john w fenton said...

Rev McCain,

Thanks for the apology. It is accepted and forgiveness is granted. Please help me understand which title you prefer.

Paul T. McCain said...

I prefer you call me Paul, John. But if we are to use titles, "Rev." is just fine if you wish to use that.