Theme 1: Introduction to Mark’s Gospel
INTRODUCTION: THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM
In the New Testament we only have one gospel (Jesus himself and histeachings), but presented in four different ways (Matthew, Mark, Luke, andJohn). It is like four painters trying to make the best possible portrait ofthe person of Jesus. At first sight we realize that the gospel of John iscompletely different from the other three. Instead, the other three, calledsynoptic
gospels, are very similar, but share important differences as well.Since the beginning of the Church, the gospel of Mark was neglectedby the majority of the scholars of the New Testament who considered it asa “popular copy” of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. However, since theXVIII century, the biblical science has made a lot of progress and nowalmost all the scholars (98%) believe that the gospel of Mark is the oldest(the first written) of the four and the key to understand the other two.
How did this happen?
This is what in recent years has been called the“synoptic problem”. Let’s explain this problem more in detail:
TRIPLE TRADITION: materials found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.It is also called the “Markan priority” because Mark is used as asource by Matthew and Luke. Mark is the shortest gospel with 661verses; 330 of these verses are also found in Mt and Lk.
DOUBLE TRADITION: materials found in Matthew and Luke(around 230 verses), but absent in Mark
. This is what the expertscall the document Q
(German word “Quelle” which means“source”).
SINGLE TRADITION: materials found in a supplementary sourceonly known to each one of the Synoptic Gospels: Mark = 53 verses;Matthew = 330; Luke = 500.
The synoptic gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The term “synoptic” comes from the Greek word“syn-optic” which means they view Jesus “with the same eyes”; they have the same view on Jesus.
Mark and Matthew have 178 verses in common; Mark and Luke have about 100 verses.
See Excursus 1 at the end of this essay, p. 26.