11394.jpgQ in Matthew: Ancient Media, Memory, and Early Scribal Transmission of the Jesus Tradition

Alan Kirk

New York: Bloomsbury, 2016

See the review by Akiva Cohen in the RBL  01/2018 that reads in part:

Kirk’s monograph presents an important and unique contribution to the perennial debate about Synoptic origins and the scribal transmission of the Jesus tradition. Kirk seeks to strengthen the two-document hypothesis by setting Synoptic source criticism within the framework of ancient media practices in general and the “memory-based cultivation of manuscript tradition” in particular…

Kirk demonstrates an impressive acquaintance with the renewed academic interest in orality and its application to gospel studies

(e.g., 2 n. 2 notes the pioneering contribution of W. H. Kebler, The Oral and the Written Gospel). Kirk’s discussion of aspects of oral tradition includes actualization in performance, traditional register (demarcating it from everyday speech), its reaction to social and historical realities, its variation (multiformity), its employment of mnemonic strategies, its interplay between variability and stability in securing the continuity of cultural identity, the role of the tradent, and the need to nuance performance dynamics to genres other than epic poetry, which uniquely demonstrates “composition in performance” (2–9)…

Kirk further discusses the interaction of orality and writing in the Greco-Roman world— one low in literacy but high in orality—and their complex fusion…

Kirk notes the importance of not overexaggerating the subordination of writing to memory in ancient culture, emphasizing instead their “cognitive fusion” (99). This prepares for a wider discussion regarding the relationship between orality and writing in the ancient world…

Kirk’s study is a model of creative and meticulous scholarship, demonstrating impressive bibliographical control and understanding of both ancient media practices and current scholarship on the Synoptic problem. Whether Kirk has succeeded in defending the existence of Q by way of his central thesis of Matthew’s source utilization awaits the response of his gainsayers. What seems clear is that his thesis demands serious engagement…