The Synoptic Problem: A Brief Overview of the Interralatedness of the Three Gospels Essay
Introduction: Coming to Terms with the Problem Most everyone who reads the Synoptic Gospels observes similarities that exist among them; their passages are very similar in content and structure which would make one think the authors borrowed material from each other or perhaps at all the same sources. However they are equally different in content and structure. This brings about the problems with the Synoptic Gospels commonly called the “Synoptic Problem. ” Looking for a solution that is reasonable and defensible, we will look at biblical history, early church history, and the content of the Gospels themselves.
As I answer these questions, and bring an overview to the synoptic problem, and provide a defense of the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis as the most reasonable and dependable solution to the problem. A General Description of Synoptic Relationships Synoptic Gospels fall into three separate categories: wording (vocabulary), order (structure), and parenthetical material. Relationships and Content Consider the following verse from the passage in Matthew 19 about the children coming to Jesus.
Matthew 19:14 Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Mark 10:14 the children come to me, do not hinder them; for such belongs the Luke 18:16 Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Matthew 19:14 kingdom of heaven. ” Mark 10:15 kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom Luke 18:17 kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom Matthew 19:15 And he? Mark 10:16 of God like a child shall not enter it.
And he took them in his arms and Luke 18:17 of God like a child shall not enter it. ” Following Swanson’s method of underlining the similarities, one can see there are definite similarities between the Gospels. There are however differences, the italicized words shown in Mark and Luke show the difference in formatting. The parenthetical materials in the Synoptic Gospels writers create the relationship in the content. Stein states that “it is highly unlikely that two or three writers would by coincidence insert into their
accounts exactly the same editorial comment at exactly the same place”. The Gospels themselves show the phenomenon of similarity and divergence within the structure. Much of the history and teaching of the Synoptic Gospels is contained in pericopac (literary units comprised of one argument or thought) and these pericopae often appear in the same order in all three Gospels, and yet there are obvious differences. Carson and Moo explain this problem well: All three Synoptic Gospels roughly follow the same order of events, even when there is no clear chronological or historical reason to do so.
Each evangelist, however, omits material found in the other two, each contains unique incidents, and some of the events that are found in one or both of the others are put in a different order. The Investigative History of Synoptic Relationships The history of the investigation into the relationship between the Synoptic Gospels is divided into two great epochs: the early Church in the modern church era. The Early Church According to Dugan in his notes a History of Synoptic Problem, many are taken accounts to writing of the life of Jesus of Nazareth including Luke in Luke 1:1-4.
Tatian (c. 110-172) put the four Gospels together in his famous book Diatessaron. Tatian worked to fit the four Gospels into one bound book. Ammonius in the third century took Matthews Gospel and broken it paragraphs. He also took the other three Gospels and rearranged their content. Augustine (AD 354-430) produced works called On the Harmony of the Evangelist. Augustine’s work was typical of many harmonies of Gospels purchased early years of the church. Modern synopsis was produced in 1776 by J. J. Griesbach. The Modern Church
No attempts were made to parallel the Gospels except for Ammonius until the eighteenth century. The archetype of the modern-day synopsis is Griesbach. From the eighteenth century there’s been an explosion of study and investigation into how the Synoptic Gospels relate to each other. Many criticisms have reason over the Synoptic Gospels from oral traditions to reaction criticism. Proposed Solutions for the Synoptic Problem Forming a hypothesis around the first three Gospels; while looking at the exact agreement within them and yet the wide divergence of what is written in them.
There are four principle explanations of the Synoptic Problem. Common Dependence on One Original Source The German critic Gotthold Lessing proposed a solution to the synoptic problem using type of proto-Gospel that has since been lost as a common source for the Gospel writers. This source is referred to as “Ur-gospel” and it seemed to have been written in Arabic or Hebrew. Lessing understood Luke’s prologue to be a narrative. J. G. Eichhorn and others took the Ur-gospel and modified it to include some possibly “lost Gospels as the sources for the synoptic Gospels” Common Dependence on Oral Sources
J. G. Herder in 1797, proposed his hypothesis stating the oral summaries of the life of Christ. Gundry believes that the Ur-gospel theory lacks credibility with the relationship between the Gospels. Gundry explains: … Most modern scholars doubt that transmission by word-of-mouth could have retained so many and such minute verbal resemblances as exist among the synoptics, especially in the narrative, which is not so likely to have been memorized verbatim as possibly the words of Jesus were memorized. Common Dependence on Gradually Developing Written Fragments
F. Schleiermacher originally suggested this theory in 1817, suggested that the church began to collect fragmented writings from the apostles. These fragmented writings became the source of material for the Synoptic Gospels. This cannot be true though. There is more evidence now than ever that there was simply sharing of material between the synoptic writers. Interdependent This group of proposed solutions assumes that “two of the evangelists used one or more of the other Gospels in constructing their own.
” There were other material that could have been used during this period of time; however the apostles writing at the same time borrowed text from each other to write their own Gospels. The third hypothesis worth mentioning is the Augustine proposal. The Augustine Proposal The Augustine proposal says the Gospels were put into the Canon according to their composition. Some proposal says that Matthew was written first, then Mark, Luke, then John. Augustine is the first theologian from the west to make the connection between Mark and Matthew’s Gospel, and assuming that Luke borrowed documents from both to write his Gospel.
Augustine’s theory of interdependent was the predominant theory until the eighteenth century when several other proposals began to surface. The Two-Gospel and Two-Source hypothesis are the most widely accepted theories today. The Two-Gospel (Griesbach) Theory In 1789 J. J. Griesbach published a paper in which he proposed the order of synoptic compositions of Matthew, Luke, and Mark each writer’s previous writers work. Griesbach says Matthew wrote his gospel first, Luke used Matthews Gospel to write his, and Mark used both Matthew and Luke’s Gospel to write his Gospel.
Orchard has taken Griesbachs’ theory to a new level. Orchard has done research in the area of the Two-Gospel Theory and believes that Marks Gospel is a composition of Matthew and Luke’s Gospel. The Two-Source Theory This is by far the most widely accepted solution to the Synoptic Problem. Their primary sources of Synoptic Gospels. Markan believes that Mark’s Gospel was written before Matthew and Luke, and “Q” a saying source. Mark parallels Matthew 97. 2% of the time, while Luke parallels Matthews’s gospel 88. 4% of the time.
Mark awkwardly wrote suggesting that it was the first gospel written and that my fuse was written later, using Mark’s primary source, correcting the difficulties with the language. It would be easy later on in expressions that might be misunderstood. With Matthew and Luke having so many verbal language agreements with Mark it would indicate that Mark was written first and they at least collaborated or used the same material when writing the Gospels. The “Q” becomes a factor when looking at Markans assumption that Matthew and Luke used Marks Gospel yet writing independent of each other.
The two source theory is by far the most widely accepted explanation of the Synoptic Problem. With this theory Matthew and Luke used Marks Gospel as their narrative source and Q for their material. However there appears to be a better explanation of the synoptic problem. The Fourfold -Gospel Hypothesis takes in both the initial evidence the external evidence. The Fourfold -Gospel hypothesis is the most dependable and reasonable solution to the synoptic problem. The fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis: A Most Reasonable and Defensible Solution Scott McKnight makes and observation surrounding the Synoptic Problem.
Literary levels connect Matthew Mark and Luke and they are highly mutually dependent on each other. Mark can be considered the middle factor. Benard Orchard gives a logical conclusion to the Synoptic Problem. Orchard states: “… The historical and patristic evidence, the internal critical evidence for mutual literacy dependence, and the “scenario” necessary to show how the tendency between the first and the second lines of the argument can be satisfactorily resolved.
” With the Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis, Matthew Rocha particularly Jewish church in acts 1-12, Luke wrote second to provide the gospel to a Hellenistic church that was in a missionary expansion with Paul in acts 13-28, while Mark was last Gospel written and records Peter preaching in Rome. External Historic and Patristic Evidence With fourteen different patristic witnesses on Blacks list that support the theory that Mark wrote last and used Matthew and Luke. According to the Patristic witnesses Matthew wrote second and John wrote last.
Paul helped Luke write his Gospel either second or third. According to historic evidence in the early church, Matthew wrote first, second, and Mark). Lea and Black disagree with Markan saying: “however popular Markan priority may be today, it seems to fly in the face of the statements of the earliest church fathers, who are almost unanimous in asserting that Matthew predated both Mark and Luke. ” Internal Evidence Markan states Mark was written first due to the shortness of the Gospel.
As Matthew and Luke wrote their Gospels more accurate information was available then when Mark wrote his Gospel. Mark writes about five periods of Christ’s ministry. Mark’s writing style is also simple and primitive compared with Matthew and Luke. Mark writes much of Peter’s preaching. “All that internal literacy criticism can do is to show that an existing text could have originated in more than one way. ” When looking for reasonable and dependable solutions one must choose “the source theory that best reflects the actual historical circumstances” for this solution of the Synoptic
Problem. When looking historically and biblically as a scenario to Mark’s writing the Fourfold- Gospel Hypothesis represents Mark’s writing well. The Scenario of Mark’s Writing In Jerusalem and Palestine during the final stages of the formation of the early church there was almost exclusive focus on preaching of the Gospels to the Jews. Matthew predicts Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish prophecy. A need arose as the gospel progressed from Palestine to the Jews of Diaspora and then to the Gentiles. The need for a universal Christ and less Jewish Christ and a more Hellenistic Gospel.
This would be Luke’s account it is “directed toward those Hellenistic congregations founded by the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys. ” Mark binds Matthew and Luke’s Gospels together. Black explains Mark’s gospel: “because secondary chapter, Luke needed the approval of an eyewitness apostle proper accreditation in the church… Peter himself was apostolic eyewitness they provided the accreditation for the gospel of Luke by personally comparing it with the Gospel of Matthew as he gave his own oral version of the stories common to both, at which he himself had been present in person.
” Peter uses both Luke and Matthew’s Gospels to preach from, giving accreditation to both Gospels. Paul had been using Luke and Matthews’s gospel and with Peter using them and accepting them it gave a stamp of approval for Paul so no one could accuse Paul of wrong-doing. Looking at the Synoptic Problem the Fourfold- Gospel Hypothesis is a dependable solution because it takes into account the biblical writing the Gospels, evidence in the writing of the early church fathers, the internal evidence of the Gospels. All three Gospels speak to their own time period.
Conclusion This brief overview of the Synoptic Problem has defined the problem by definition. The source relates to the Synoptic Gospels can be seen as a problem. It is difficult to determine the true source of the Synoptic Gospels. They have been part of the canon and church history for centuries. The Synoptic Gospels are part of the big picture, it is divinely inspired, and the inerrant Word of God. The historical evidence would lead one to believe the Fourfold- Gospel Hypothesis is the most reasonable way to make the picture fit.