Journal of Chinese Religions #32 (2004) 29-45
This article, titled Reconstructing China's Religious Past: Textual Criticism and Intellectual History, is in effect a review of our work and that of Kobayashi Masayoshi, the latter concerning Dauism as known from Six Dynasties texts. The article (now also available online) recognizes that our approach to the Analects is grounded in standard philology, but there are a few points at which a hasty reader might get a wrong impression of our methods. We venture to clarify those points, and we then go on to note some implications, for Confucius and for Warring States intellectual history in general, which might be of special interest to readers of the Journal of Chinese Religions.
Kleeman (p37): Brooks adopts a radically new approach to the Analects, citing "our finding that the Analects is not one text but a series of texts of different date, containing a few sayings that may go back to the historical Confucius, along with many others that were added in the next two centuries by his successors."
Brooks: The quote will adequately describe our conclusion. As to how "radical" it is, I suppose it would depend on what view one had previously held. Those who associate the whole text with Confucius are likely to react with shock to any suggestion to the contrary. Those more aware of critical scholarly opinion will have seen something like this coming for a long time.
Kleeman: Of course, criticism of the received text of the Analects is not new; Waley distinguished an early core, consisting of chapters 3-9, which he distinguished from later additions in chapters 1-2 and 10-20. Lau concluded that the last five chapters are late, together with chapter 10, and separates out chapters 1, 8, and perhaps 2 as distinguished by a lack of internal organization.
Brooks: Waley had his part, but credit where it's due. The idea of a time difference between LY 1-10 and 11-20 goes back to Hu Yin (Sung dynasty) and was popularized by Itô Jinsai (1615-1705). This was refined by Tswei Shu (1740-1816), who distinguished LY 16-20 as an extra late subgroup within the Hu/Itô late layer. Waley in his 1938 study similarly sharpened the Hu/Itô early layer by limiting it to LY 3-9. Timoteus Pokora in 1973 took the next step by showing that these were not rival theories, but rather stages in the evolution of a single theory: a theory which envisions the Analects itself as coming gradually into being. Our study takes that theory the rest of the way, by developing the accretion theory which these previous results increasingly suggest. We find that nowhere in the Analects do we have chapters in the sense of intentional subject divisions of a single work. Instead, we have accretion modules of more or less constant form. We also go beyond previous scholars by asking the ultimate question: How much later are the latest modules than the earliest ones? If 20 minutes, then it makes no difference after all. If 200 years, well, that indeed is a different story. And 200 years, give or take a few decades, is what we seem to find.
As for Lau's suggestion, LY 2 seems to us to be close to the common type of Analects chapter. LY 1 is different but not unstructured; it has its own kind of internal organization, alternating Confucius and Disciple sayings in an overall chiastic pattern. (LY 16 is very similarly constructed). LY 8 is different from both: a small core with onion-like layers of later material. This last is more likely to be a growth product than a design product, but in all cases there is some sort of structure there to be described. In any case, the respective contents do not invite placing LY 1 [and maybe 2] and 8 in a special layer, with a common date, in the way that Tswei Shu's five chapters can be seen as a rough chronological unity. The point of singling them out for comment thus rather gets lost in the telling. Like other Analects theories that have come up in the last century, and there have been many, this one of Lau's seems to miss or misconstrue the main formal signals, and to go astray accordingly. We know of no one who has adopted it as a valid working model of the Analects.
Kleeman (p37-38): Brooks uses a variety of evidence in producing this analysis. Some are quite traditional and well-accepted . . . For example, Brooks points out that Duke Ai of Lu is referred to by a posthumous epithet in chapter 6, indicating that this chapter must postdate his death.
Brooks: It is certainly a treat to encounter someone who knows what a terminus a quo is. It would be even more of a treat to find someone who knew what to make of a series of termini a quo. The terminus a quo for LY 4 is 0479 (the death of Confucius, whose uncontexted sayings it collects), that for LY 6 (Ai-gung) turns out to be 0469. The description of the death of Dzvngdz in LY 8 yields a terminus a quo of 0436. The great thing about these numbers is not just that they can be specified, which of course is already terrific, but that successive ones are successively later:
- LY 4: terminus a quo 0479
- LY 5: no direct indication
- LY 6: terminus a quo 0469
- LY 7: no direct indication
- LY 8: terminus a quo 0436
That is, these dates together imply an accretional process, of which LY 4 is the starting point, and which runs at least through LY 8.
Contact with texts or thinkers of roughly known date, and covert references to events, in subsequent Analects chapters, continue to follow this pattern. In sum, any indications of absolute date in LY 4-20 make a series, in which each points to a later date than does one before it. The more we examine the details of specific chapters, the stronger grows the sense of an overall accretional structure.
Kleeman (p38): Other historical datings are far more tenuous . . . Another example: the first passage of chapter 16 protests an impending attack by Lu on Zhuanyu. Brooks can do nothing with this because the event is not recorded in other sources, . . .
Brooks: It's not just me; nobody can do anything with it. Not only is no such event recorded (after all, many events in this period are not recorded), but if we accept the Han scholars' detailed reconstruction of Confucius's biography (see Legge ad loc), no such event is even possible; this is partly because the two disciples named in 16:1 could not have been ministers of the "Ji family" at the same time. There is thus no option to accept the event as real; it can only be fictive. If fictive, it is most likely serving as a cover for something else. The task is then to find a plausible real event that the fictive one might be standing in for.
Kleeman: . . . so he assumes instead that the passage is a veiled reference to the impending conquest of Song by Qi in 286, hence datable to 287."
Brooks: To pick the conquest of Sung out of thin air would indeed be frivolous. But suppose instead we start with the larger context. LY 16 is in the LY 16-20 group identified by Tswei Shu as the latest Analects layer. Other contacts in that group locate it in the first half of the 03rd century. That narrows the range of possible events for the angry writer of LY 16:1 to have in mind. We are looking in the first place for an attack of a stronger power on a weaker power, and one sufficiently close to Lu that it would have aroused strong feelings in the Lu Confucians. Within that range, the Chi conquest of Sung looms large as a likely reference for the uniquely agitated and uniquely long diatribe of LY 16:1. That conquest threatened to double the size of Chi, next door to Lu, and to do so at the expense of Lu itself: it yielded a situation in which Lu was virtually surrounded by Chi, and could be extinguished whenever it pleased Chi to extinguish it. Short of the literal extinction of Lu by Chu, which came at mid-century, this 0287 event and its sequels are extremely plausible as giving rise to the agitation, and the recrimination (imagined as directed against those representing Lu interests, or humane interests in general, at the Chi court), which we see in LY 16:1. In other words, 0287 seems to have a lot going for it, LY 16:1-wise.
We know of no other remotely plausible candidate.
Kleeman (p38-39): "Throughout the work he manipulates chapters, adding and subtracting passages to reach the magic twenty-four, or when this proves impossible, a"double chapter" of forty-eight. There is no external reference that supports this "ideal" chapter length."
Brooks: There is no external reference that supports any structural feature of any Chinese text; the early Chinese did not openly discuss rhetoric at all. One reason may be that the writers of the classical period were either producing utilitarian prose, where such considerations are less apparent, or antiquarian prose, which was meant to be taken as the utterance of an earlier period, and where accordingly the artistry and indeed the role of the author was in principle concealed. As for "manipulation," I should think that an actual manipulator would have managed to impose this plan also on LY 8 (which has 21 passages in some texts, but with plausible redivision of passages, it has exactly 24). But we do not see the standard Analects chapter module In LY 8. Rather, by remaining sensitive to the actual structure of the material, we see instead a tiny core and several onionlike later accretions. The thing in text analysis is not to have some pet number in mind, but to see what the text is up to. This is what we endeavor to do.
We do detect a standard module underlying many Analects chapters. One factor supporting the idea of such a module in the first place is the structure of their content: most Analects chapters have four topically defined sections. Interestingly enough, the final sections in the earliest Analects chapters are on the same topic, namely personal self-cultivation. This is of high interest. If these were chapters in an integral work, we would expect the material on self-cultivation to be gathered topically into one of them. That successive chapters continually return to that topic, in their final passages, suggests instead the use of a formal template whose finishing gesture has something to do with self-cultivation.
If one omits mention of the arguments we have actually used in arriving at the original form of a chapter, it's easy to make the process seem arbitrary. Besides thematic structure, another very important guideline which we actually used, but which was omitted above, was parallelism of sayings. It does turn up presently, however, in the following comment:
Kleeman (p39): "An interesting component of Brooks's formal analysis is the discernment of paired sayings. Although one sometimes finds grammatical parallelism and shared vocabulary linking two phrases, the paired sayings are admittedly "often based on trivial features.""
Brooks: This (as we pointed out in The Original Analects) is often true of the early Analects chapters, where the parallelism seems to be decorative rather than substantial. It is also sometimes true at the end, where, as Tswei Shu was the first to show, many familiar established Analects structural features are either perfunctory or missing. But decorative parallelism is still parallelism, and its violation, by a later interpolation, is still evidence for the fact of interpolation. That evidence, whether in the early or the late chapters, rationalizes the removal of the interpolated passages as something more than an arbitrary whim of the present authors.
One or two especially blatant cases of parallelism interference have been noticed in the previous scholarship of the text (see for example The Original Analects 224 n36). We are apparently the first to detect its more general use. Parallelism itself is nothing outlandish, and it is probably not necessary to defend it as a common structural device in Chinese as in many early literatures, including the Biblical. More specifically, twinning is a pervasive feature of Warring States art, as the illustrations in our book were carefully chosen to demonstrate. Still more specifically, saying parallelism itself is sometimes used with conscious intent in the Analects. In some of those cases, two paired but seemingly inconsistent sayings appear to have formed, for their first readers, sort of Zen kôan, something which the hearers are expected to go off and think about, and finally solve. See for example LY 4:3-4, which led Waley to a contorted theory of adverse quotation; in reality, both sayings are meant to be accepted, and the student's task is to discern how they can be consistently accepted. This example, coming at the head of the linear accretion series, may well reflect a practice of the historical Confucius. In any case, the method was further developed in later decades. We explored its use in our long article on the famous LY 9:1 crux; see Van Norden (ed), Confucius and the Analects (Oxford 2002). Though the bibliography in the present article includes items of 2002 date, this particular piece apparently slipped through the net. I do commend it to the present readership. It has implications for the whole posture of the Analects as a teaching text, which is to say, for the whole posture of the Analects toward those for whom it was presumably being written. That posture is didactic, and not merely historical. This suggests that the Analects is there, not to tell us in the 21st century about Confucius (or early Confucianism), but to instruct newcomers in the 05th and later centuries about what it meant to be a follower of Confucius in the first place.
Moving back a step further still, we can ask: Why parallelism anyway? Some advocacy texts of the period make little use of it. It is chiefly the gnomic wisdom texts that tend to use it, and thus it is not surprising to find considerable parallelism of statement in the Dau/Dv Jing. Confucius himself was apparently a gnomic wisdom teacher, working by occasional maxims and not by the expounding of a system. But in later layers of the Analects he becomes a systematic gnomic teacher (LY 9, on which see above). In still later layers he becomes not just a teacher, but the expounder of an ordered system of values (LY 14:5). This transition, from wisdom teaching to philosophical analysis, which occurred in the Analects and in several other texts at about the end of the 04c, may be of some wider theoretical interest (see the paper by Farmer, Henderson, and Witzel in BMFEA v72).
Another consideration is that the Analects is an aegis text; it operates as a continuing source of sayings labeled as from Confucius. The text very naturally tended to maintain a consistent voice for its aegis figure. We can then ask: apart from intentional didactic juxtaposition, as in LY 4:3/4, is there any warrant for thinking that parallelism of statement was a conspicuous feature of the general speaking style of the historical Confucius? See The Original Analects (TOA) p17-18, for a close rhetorical analysis of five sayings, LY 4:1-5. They show a conspicuous reliance on parallelism of statement, and achieve a sonorousness that would be impossible without it. That style was probably standard at the Lu court. The way it permeates the sayings most likely to be actually from Confucius suggests that his manner with his protégés was formal rather than casual.
We are now beyond the meaning of the words, and into the subtleties of the ambience in which the words may have been originally delivered. We are also at a sort of decision point. If, with many Analects readers since the Han dynasty, we mash all 500 Analects sayings together, and regard them as equally authoritative for Confucius, no such picture, indeed no consistent picture at all, will emerge. If instead we take each implied "Confucius" as it comes, in the apparent sequence of the text, we can instead observe, not only the plausibly real 05th century Confucius just described, but also the several mutations that the image of Confucius underwent (sometimes wry, sometimes casual, sometimes denunciatory) in the School of Lu during the Warring States period.
In this mutation process there is nothing inherently implausible. The public persona of Abraham Lincoln, like that of many another public figure, underwent similar transformation after his death.
Sometimes an extra effort is needed at the early end of such a persona series. As witness:
Kleeman: Passages 18-24 of chapter 4 share all the formal features of the preceding "original" passages (brevity, narrative simplicity, and the introductory formula), yet they are judged of different, later origin because they "emphasize domestic and personal virtues," whereas passages 1-17 are characterized as having an "official focus."
Brooks. Those differences of content count for us as confirmatory rather than evidential; the key evidence is linguistic. Among the linguistic points are the fact that all the extreme archaisms of language are confined to 4:1-17, and that a Lu localism within that range (the substitution of sz for dzv "thus," as in 4:7) is reversed in the later sayings, where we find instead the standard dzv "thus" (see 4:21). Admittedly, these signs are subtle. We readily concede that we ourselves missed them for a number of years. It was only on closely inventorying the linguistic details, and carefully marking the zone to which they actually applied, that we revised our initial impression that almost the whole of LY 4 was genuine.
This revised impression then received confirmation from the Analects material at large. And how? It is not just the first portion of LY 4 that lacks what we call personal values such as filial piety; the entire stretch of early chapters (LY 4-9) is innocent of any such focus. So is the little court behavior manual in LY 10. It is only with the chapters at the end of the middle Analects that filial piety begins to figure as something important in the Confucian value system. No sooner does it occur at all, than it is greatly emphasized as a constituting virtue. This sudden and prominent entrance of filial piety into the Confucian scheme of things is coordinated with the reappearance of Dzvngdz in the text, not with the persona he displayed in LY 8 (which may suggestively be compared with the stalwart Confucius persona of the early chapters), but in his new guise as an exemplar of filial piety (as is true of the future Dzvngdz persona, in Han and later).
The later LY 4 sayings, then, were in all probability patched onto that chapter, itself invitingly shorter than what became the standard-length Analects chapter, at the time the new value system was first introduced. This was undoubtedly done in order to refer at least some new details of that value system back to what was still perceived to be the oldest stratum of the text. In the later chapters proper, we see the Analects compilers writing vaguely in the vein of their aegis figure, Confucius. In the LY 4 addenda, by contrast, we see them making an extra effort to closely counterfeit the actual voice of Confucius, and on the whole succeeding, except for a few linguistic subtleties which seem to have been beneath their stylistic radar.
This takes us close to the intent, and the abilities, of the later Analects writers at different moments. Like the close view we can get of Confucius by attending solely to the earliest material, this is interesting in itself. These later people, after all, are part of the story too. It is also interesting in showing how the text as it evolved developed internal doctrinal differences, and as illustrating some of the ways in which the later Analects writers sought to smooth those differences and reduce the resulting lack of doctrinal homogeneity.
Notice that it would not have been necessary to deal with inhomogeneity in the text if only its current chapter, the latest "Confucius" sayings, were on view. Instead, we must conclude that the whole of the text was on view, was still "live," both for the students of the school and for the rivals with which that school sometimes argued, whose range of Analects quotation is not limited to the most recently promulgated sayings. We can credibly conclude that as time passed the earlier Analects chapters were not systematically relegated to the office files, but that, on the contrary, the Analects at any given moment in its evolution consisted of all of itself; the early material remaining live, and thus sometimes problematic, for later readers.
When you think about it, this inference is a necessary precondition for the idea that the entire Analects, not just its last two or three chapters, were recovered from memory in early Han. It merely happens that the necessary precondition of the Han recovery scenario coincides with the likely inference to be drawn from the Analects composition scenario. That is to say, when examined with sufficient care, everything that we know about the Analects, or can discover about it by observation, points in the same direction. It is that direction that we have attempted to indicate in The Original Analects.
Kleeman (p40): If his methodology is justifiable and his conclusions concerning the nature of Warring States authorship are correct, we will have to review our understanding of that key period in Chinese intellectual history.
Brooks: Seems as though.
But we might add that understanding the Warring States period requires much more than getting Confucius straight, as we here attempt to do. It requires getting all the major texts straight, and then ascertaining, not only that each of them yields a plausible historical picture, but that all of them together yield the same plausible historical picture. We must then work that implied historical picture into our final calculations of what was going on in these three deeply constitutive pre-Imperial centuries.
And what was that? In large part, the transformation of the Sinitic world from a large set of weak palace economies to a small set of strong bureaucratic nation-states, the replacement of small elite chariot forces by popular infantry armies many times larger and more powerful, and the conversion of the former rural peasantry into a soldier citizenry, with the state (and not, as before, its ruler) as the object of loyalty. It is at the high point of this huge restructuring process that filial piety suddenly comes into play, as the basis for low-level family solidarity, and also as the model for the ethos of absolute obedience to the state: the duality of gwo "nation" and jya "family" which becomes a mainstay of later Chinese ideology. That point can be precisely located in the Analects by the appearance, not only of filiality maxims as such, but of that duality in both its parts. It is when we see this, when we are aware that what is going on inside the schoolroom is the same as what is going on outside the schoolroom window, that we begin to understand early China, or any particular detail of early China which may happen to interest us. You don't know any of it until you know all of it.
Kleeman (p41): Consider the interaction that is claimed between the author(s) of the Zuozhuan and the ever-expanding Analects concerning the Lu officer Zang Wuzhong. Although no one previously has been able to specify an exact century for the final compilation of the Zuozhuan or decide on the antiquity of its sources, Brooks confidently states that compilation began in 350 and was completed in 312. The disparaging reference to Duke Wen of Jin and Duke Hwan of Qi in 14:15 is then assumed to be a criticism of their favorable treatment in the Zuozhuan, consequently, chapter 14 is assigned to 310. If a different date is posited for the final compilation of the Zuozhuan, or for that specific passage in the Zuo, the dating of this chapter must be rethought, and with it the analysis of the Analects as a whole.
Brooks: There isn't really that much doubt about the century of the Dzwo Jwan. Early efforts to assign it to Han were refuted by Karlgren. That eliminates the 02c. Its manifest sequel, the Gwo Yw, can be astronomically dated (see the paper by Pankenier, in a future issue of our journal) close to the year 0300. That eliminates the 03c. And it can be located in the 05c only by the extreme device of scraping off of the text every passage suggesting otherwise. If we include all of the Dzwo Jwan in our calculations, it turns out that every specific indication of date points to the 04th century. The only question remaining is, when within the 04th century. For a text so large (it is the longest of all extant Warring States writings) it will not be surprising if more than one weekend was required, so that a range and not a year within the 04c will be the likely possibility, and the endpoint of that range may well be late in that century.
So much for preliminaries. The task of fining that result down further has been undertaken by Taeko; see her article in Oriens Extremus v44 (2003/2004) p51-100. She finds that the text seems to have been written in several layers, each of which is sharply distinguished from the preceding by one or more passages which explicitly reject the guiding idea of that layer. The guiding ideas themselves make a series which will not be unfamiliar to students of the history of religion: first an auguristic-sacrificial period, then a period where Heaven is seen as rewarding personal virtue, then a period where it is seen as not rewarding personal virtue but as allowing it to contribute to the success of the state served by that person, then a period of some uncertainty about the role of Heaven in human affairs, and finally a very surprising period, whose passages are little quoted by Dzwo Jwan enthusiasts, in which Heaven indeed has its system, but not a system which involves mankind at all; simply the system of seasonal regularity and astronomical order. Mankind is left to fight things out on its own, the stronger tending to be successful against the weaker. The text thus subsumes within its own trajectory the rise and decline of ethics as an explanatory principle in history.
Those stages, as Taeko then goes on to show, are paralleled in every other major 04th century text: not only the middle Analects, but also the early Gwandz and the early and middle Mician ethical writings. All show essentially the same trajectory of development, albeit each has its own particular spin and version of that development. This detailed fitting of one major text, with its developmental specifics, into the composite picture made by all the related texts, each with its development specifics, demonstrates on the largest scale the coherence of the Analects and other individual text results. In the end, these texts can be seen as documenting, in more detail than has ever been available, the high Warring States period itself: the implementation of the new state model which was so long in the making, and which was determinative for everything that was to come.
Against that gigantic canvas, infinitely varied in specifics but wholly consistent in general tendency, we have the detail of Dzang Wu-jung. Neither that nor any other detail is make or break for the larger picture, but like any detail, it has its interest. That Dzang Wu-Jung is treated positively in nearly all cases where he is mentioned in the Dzwo Jwan, is a matter than may be verified by any reader with a concordance and a few minutes to spare. That just such a positive evaluation of his treatment of the ruler of Lu (see DJ Syang 23, Legge 503) is explicitly disputed in LY 14:14 ("though they say he did not compel his ruler, I do not believe it"), may be verified by any reader with a dictionary and a few more minutes to spare. Whether the sole negative Dzwo Jwan mention of Dzang Wu-Jung (Legge 504b), not in a story, mind you, but in a comment specifically attributed to "Jung-ni" [Confucius], is an adjustment made in response to the Analects criticism, is something that may be left to the literary sensibility of individual readers. It might be connected; it might be a coincidence. We ourselves feel that this part of the Analects contains too many other instances of direct interplay with rival contemporary viewpoints (the early Gwandz, the early Mwodz, even the emerging military specialist texts) for the "coincidence" theory to be very appealing.
Kleeman (p42): Brooks's analysis of the Analects into multiple, chronologically distinct layers associated with named redactors reveals a series of active contributors to and shapers of the Confucian legacy, as it would become enshrined in the Analects. If he is correct, we can begin to speak of these figures as significant thinkers and creative theologians, each of whom merits individual recognition and study.
Brooks: The term "theologians" seems to have snuck in through the back door there, somehow. But on the main proposition, I don't think there can be any argument. The secular guides and shapers of the direct Confucian tradition are as important in the history of that tradition as were the successive moulders of such a process text as the undoubtedly theological Gospel of Mark.
Kleeman. One of the most fascinating and potentially rewarding objects of redaction criticism is the narrative history of the Spring and Autumn period known as the Zuozhuan.
Brooks. The term "redaction criticism" seems to have snuck in from the side porch there, somehow. But the importance of the Spring and Autumn period, as formative for the even more seminal Warring States period, and for the large project of digging early Chinese history out from under the detritus of later theorizing, seems to us indubitable. That the Dzwo Jwan is precisely a history of the period, and not (to honor a distinction clearly made by Ranke) a source for that period, is implicit in previous scholarship. It is confirmed in the Oriens Extremus study noted above. What remains as useful for the history of Spring and Autumn as such (rather than as the object of later theorizing) is not the Dzwo Jwan, the largest Warring States text, but rather the chronicle Chun/Chyou (or "Spring and Autumn"), the largest surviving text from the Spring and Autumn period itself. Quite apart from the many signs that the Dzwo Jwan belongs to a later century (see Paul Goldin's paper of 2001), there are direct indications that the Chun/Chyou was written in the period which it records (see Taeko's paper from that same panel). It is the interpretation of the Chun/Chyou, a text which has been entirely neglected by Sinology, which can acquaint us for the first time with the substance, and also with the style, of those presently unknown centuries.
Kleeman (p43): It is up to us now to pursue this path, to test their claims rigorously by employing the best modern methods of textual analysis, by placing these results within the context of the most accurate reconstruction of pre-modern Chinese society we can manage, and by measuring our results against those derived from other cultures, similar and disparate, to determine their inherent probability. This is one major challenge that confronts the study of Chinese religion in the twenty-first century.
Brooks: China has its own far from negligible tradition of text criticism, in the sense of scribal error correction and forgery exposure. But it must be admitted that, globally, the European tradition of textual study is far more advanced. It is thus natural to feel that some perhaps promising Chinese result should be taken up, checked, and extended by the better equipped mother discipline. A closer look at the history of New Testament textual study in particular will suggest, however, that the methodological lead may now be the other way. Eldon Epp pointed some years ago to a lull, an "interlude," in progress in the NT field. Close reading of Gospel commentaries will suggest that the acceptance of philological results by the discipline's interpretational mainstream has actually gone backward since the late midcentury. It may be that the processing of manuscript variants (which is what NT text criticism now chiefly does) has gone as far as it can, with the restoration of the 4th century state of the Gospel texts (which is the ceiling that Lachmann had earlier predicted it would reach), and that NT text philology as such is not adequate to the task which next confronts it: that of dealing with growth texts, in which evolution and internal contradictions can occur before the point (we call it Point P) when the text goes public and is multiplied by copyists for a more general readership, and when manuscript variants first arise.
It is our contribution to methodology to have recognized the importance of accretion as a text formation process, and to have successfully applied that insight not only to the Analects, but also to the huge accumulation of Mician writings, to the gigantic Dzwo Jwan, and at the other end of the scale, to the brief but vitally important Sundz "Art of War" and to the ever-mysterious Dau/Dv Jing. In the light of these Chinese successes of the new methodology, which includes in its zone of responsibility not only text corruption but text growth, it becomes no less natural to ask: Can these extended methods tell us anything of interest to the Mediterranean home territory, about such supposedly insoluble conundrums as the Synoptic Problem?
The answer must be tentative, but it appears to be Yes. A paper, analyzing some interpolation-defined layers in the Gospel of Mark was presented to the Society of Biblical Literature's New England meeting in April 2006, and with what result? The learned hearers there assembled found that: (1) the methodology was indeed new; nobody in their collective memories had ever approached the Gospels in this way, (2) the details were indeed plausible in themselves, built as they were on the familiar devices of interpolation detection and layer association, and (3) the new notion of theologically motivated additions to the text, while the text was still plastic under the hands of its original owners and proprietors (the specific Bultmann "community" in question), was itself promising.
That approach will be continued. We have a book in the works which will approach the Synoptic Problem and indeed the whole Historical Jesus question with these new and more powerful tools. We hope to publish it in due course, as our personal thankyou to the mother tradition, for what it has meant to the advancement of the Western intellect in general, and for the moral support it has given us personally, even as we work to extend that precedent to other states of texts, and to other civilizations, than are dreamed of in the Mediterranean scheme of things.
E Bruce Brooks
8 April 2006 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page