I think that, apart from a conclusion, I'll make this group of posts the last cluster in the series I've been doing on weekends giving somewhat of my hermeneutical autobiography. The previous clusters have been (I'm linking to the last of each group of posts):
1. Learning to Read in Context
2. The Text of the New Testament
3. The NT Use of the OT
This last cluster will deal with how I came to view the diversity of the biblical stories and the idea that various narratives of the Bible have combined sources.
For this last group of posts, I return to Dr. Marling Elliott's Synoptic Gospels class (Matthew-Mark-Luke) in college at Southern Wesleyan University. My earliest exposure to issues of "higher criticism" were in high school under the shadow of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and Dr. D. James Kennedy. I'm not 100% where or when, but I was exposed to Josh McDowell's More Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Harold Lindsell's Battle for the Bible.
Inspired by this breed of zealous apologists, I decided to write my final paper for Dr. Elliott's class on the parallel accounts between the gospels on the three denials of Peter. We used, by the way, a great textbook for that class, Kurt Aland's Greek-English Synopsis of the Four Gospels. No one who knew me back then will be surprised to know that, despite good intentions and probably more than one start, I had very little of the paper written as the day before the due date rolled by. Yes, it would be yet another all nighter I would regret.
So I started by comparing Matthew with Mark. I was simply going in order. (I wasn't convinced at that time that I should start with Mark--that would come in my second or third year at Asbury.) It seemed fairly easy. For example, Mark mentions that they were warming themselves for the first denial, which Matthew doesn't say. But Matthew doesn't say they weren't warming themselves. No problem.
There was the minor variation in Mark about the cock crowing twice but that was easy enough to harmonize. Matthew just doesn't mention the crowing in the middle that Mark mentions.
It does say in Matthew that it is a different servant girl with the second denial, while it is the same servant girl in Mark. I don't remember what I did with that one. I think I might have suggested that two girls were part of the second denial. Mark mentions the new girl. Matthew the old one. I moved on to Luke.
Luke was pretty easy to fit with Matthew and Mark. Luke has the fire that Mark has. Luke has someone else for the second denial, like Matthew. For the third denial, Luke has only one person making a point of Peter's Galilean accent. But that's no problem, many people includes several single individuals within it.
It must have been around 4am in the morning when I got to this point of the paper. This is easy, thought I. I can figure any problem those faithless scholars throw at me, thinks I. Then I started John.
It is interesting that the King James version of John gave me greater issues than the NIV or another version might have. In the KJV, you get the impression that it is at the door that a servant girl questions Peter (18:16-17). But there is the fire nearby as well (18:18), so perhaps the fire was near the doorway.
No biggie, except that John seems to have the movement the opposite of the Synoptics. In Matthew and Mark, Peter's first denial is by the fire and his second is by the doorway. In John, the first denial seems to be at the doorway and the second at the fire. But again, perhaps the two were very close to each other.
There is the added dimension of the beloved disciple. But in such cases harmonizing simply says this is another layer, something we didn't know from the other gospels. I think I was struck, however, by this whole new layer of the beloved disciple, completely absent from Matthew-Mark-and Luke.
So now in the second denial, they ask him if he was one of Jesus' followers. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, one or another servant girl asks this. But the "they" of John are "slaves and officers" (18:18). But this is doable. A "they" can include any number of people, from male slaves to servant girls. Of course, are we still at three denials then?
The third one is a bit more difficult. In the Synoptics, some people notice Peter's Galilean accent and ask him about it. But the person who asks Peter in John is someone who had been in the Garden of Gethsemane and seen Peter, a relative of the person whose ear Peter had cut off. It's a different question and a different person. Again, it could be a group of people I suppose, some of whom asked one thing, some of whom asked another.
I was out of time. I wasn't really happy with the paper. I suspect it had the character of some papers I've since read, where you get the distinct impression that the person wrote it in one sitting and never went back to edit earlier parts of the paper as their thinking developed. I printed the paper off on my dot matrix printer and turned it in exactly on time.
For more than one reason, I've come to view what I did in this paper as deeply problematic...