I spent the day in the Synoptic Gospels section, which was divided into two separate topics. The morning sessions were devoted to Klyne Snodgrass’ Stories With Intent. I was already quite taken with this mammoth contribution to the study of the parables, as were the three presenters. For the most part, all three presenters were extremely impressed with the book and had only token criticisms and all concluded that everyone ought to own the book. Snodgrass then gave a brief response and a panel discussion followed. Most disappointing was the attendance of this session – maybe 30 people at the most. The fact that VanHoozer was in the next room did not help us at all!
Mark Alan Powell gave an excellent and entertaining overview of the book, and responded to criticisms from an RBL review by van Eck of the book which he felt were unfair. As Powell observed, every reviewer can complain that a book was “not they one they would write.” With that in mind, Powell suggested that the book could have been better if Snodgrass had employed some form of Narrative Criticism to enhance his exegesis of the individual parables.
Scot McKnight dealt with the thorny problem of eschatology in the parables. McKnight offered the sharpest criticism of Snodgrass, although even here the differing viewpoints were obvious. This lead to a long (and rather interesting) exchange during the panel discussion on the eschatology of Jesus (or lack thereof). Snodgrass refuses to see the destruction of Jerusalem as predicted by Jesus in the parables, while McKnight disagreed – pointed out that the Olivet Discourse says that says that “these things will happen” before the present generation passes away. Since this is part of my dissertation topic, I was quite fascinating to see this discussion play out. I happen to agree with Snodgrass here, especially in Matt 22, although I think the details are a bit different. I think that I will digest this section a bit more and return to it after I get back to my office (and my own copy of Stories with Intent!)
Robert Stein wondered about the goal of the book, to get back to the intent of Jesus, as if that is separate from the intent of the Evangelist. For Stein, one cannot say that the words of Jesus are “more inspired” than the words of the Evangelist, and thinks that any attempt to use “criterion of authenticity” or other tools of Historical Jesus research run the risk of making the words of the Evangelist “less inspired” than the words of Jesus. This too was a fascinating exchange which was really about methodology and the uselessness of many Historical Jesus studies. I think that I have a bit more use for these sort of studies, these warnings are appreciated.
The afternoon sessions were devoted to four recent commentaries on the Synoptic Gospels, although three were on Matthew and one on Mark. Four short papers were presented reviewing Robert Stein (Mark, BECNT), R. T. France (NICNT), David Turner (Matthew, BECNT) , and Ben Witherington III (Matthew, Smyth and Helwys). Other than France, each of the authors made a brief response to their reviews. Darrell Bock did a great job moderating this long session and moderated a panel discussion and Q&A with all the presenters.