LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM

A RESEARCH PAPER SUBMITTED TO DR. ADARKWA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE NBST 521 LIBERTY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY BY JOEL DORMAN

LYNCHBURG, VIRGINIA AUGUST 9, 2009

TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction ......................................................................................................................................1 Definitions........................................................................................................................................2 Synoptic Gospels .................................................................................................................2 Synoptic Problem .................................................................................................................2 History of the Synoptic Problem......................................................................................................3 Period of Oral Transmission ................................................................................................4 Period of Written Transmission ...........................................................................................5 Final Version ........................................................................................................................6 Similarities of the Synoptic Gospel Accounts .................................................................................7 Differences of the Synoptic Gospel Accounts .................................................................................9 Possible Solutions for the Synoptic Problem .................................................................................10 Dependence on One Original Gospel ................................................................................10 Dependence on Oral Sources .............................................................................................11 Dependence on Written Fragments ....................................................................................11 Interdependence .................................................................................................................11 Augustinian Proposal and the Two-Gospel Hypothesis ........................................12 Markan Priority ......................................................................................................12 Two-Source Hypothesis .........................................................................................13 Final Thoughts ...............................................................................................................................14 Bibliography ..................................................................................................................................17

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The narratives of the life of Jesus Christ are captured in the four accounts at the beginning of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four books, although written about the same Man and in some cases, the same event, tell the stories in different ways. This difference has caused concern with Christians down through the centuries. In a writing called Diatessaron, the second-century Christian Tatian wrote what is considered the first combination of all four gospels into one cohesive account.1 Although such similar writings continue to this day, the underlying issue remains the same: the four accounts are different. At times, they are very different. The issue for this paper and the one of greatest debate and intrigue is the connection between Matthew, Mark, and Luke: the “Synoptic Gospels”. Note the dissimilarity between the three accounts of the rich man coming to Jesus asking about eternal life. The details are different in each account and the use of the word “good” glaringly changes the meaning in Matthew’s account (table 1). Matthew 19:16-17 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” Mark 10:17-18 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. Luke 18:18-19 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good— except God alone.

Table 1. Comparison of Matthew 19:16-17, Mark 10:17-18, and Luke 18:18-19

How are differences reconciled? Which one is the “correct” eye witness testimony of what occurred? These are the questions and concerns that form the basis for the “synoptic problem”. Consequently, the goal of this research is the present the definition, history, and proposed solutions to this synoptic “problem” while concurrently keeping perspective with the

D.A. Carson, and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 78.

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issues of inspiration and canonization. This research will also include some of the differences and similarities of the synoptic gospel accounts. Definitions To understand accurately the issues surrounding the Gospel narratives, a few definitions are required. These definitions will be basis for their respective word use and exploration in this research. Synoptic Gospels The first three gospel accounts, as previously stated, are called the Synoptic Gospels. They were first called the Synoptic Gospels at the end of the eighteenth century by J. J. Griesbach, a German Biblical Scholar. This word “synoptic” comes from a Greek word that means “a seeing together”. This word was chosen by Griesbach due to the striking similarities between Matthew, Mark and Luke. The synoptic gospels, in general, share chronology. They begin the baptism of Jesus, reach a defining moment at the confession of Peter (“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”2), and conclude with the Passion. The synoptic gospels also have similarities in the words and word order (cf. Matthew 8:1-14, Mark 1:40-45, and Luke 5:12-16).3 Synoptic Problem Goodacre stated a clear definition of the synoptic problem: “the study of the similarities and differences of the Synoptic Gospels in an attempt to explain their literary relationship.”4 The argument is not whether a so-called problem exists but to what degree does that problem change the understanding of the Gospel narrative.

Matthew 16:16, NIV. Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament Its Background and Message (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 113. 4 Mark Goodacre, The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze (London: T&T Clark, 2005), 16.
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History of the Synoptic Problem As noted in the introduction, early Christians were busy harmonizing these differences while these letters were in their initial circulation. They sought answers to the disturbing differences between three writers who claimed accuracy. In order to understand the history of the problem, one must look to the history of the text itself. Carson and Moo suggest Luke, in his introduction, sheds light on this murky issue of the origins of the texts5: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.6 Luke informs us a great deal in these few short sentences. He refers to “eyewitness and servants of the word” who passed on to the early Christians what they saw. This statement is of incredible and often understated significance. These people were there with the Master. As the Apostle John wrote: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”7 Luke also writes that “many” have written the record of what was done by Christ. Luke was not alone in his writing of an account.8 Luke professes his own research into these matters and now in his prologue he proclaims it “an orderly account”. Citing a need to explain a purpose, Luke states he writes so “you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (emphasis added). It is important to note, even at the beginning of this research, that the
Carson and Moo, 79. The idea is from this resource but the “fleshing out” is the author’s own. Luke 1:1-4, NIV. 7 1 John 1:1, NIV, emphasis added. 8 The debate, on which will be elaborated briefly later in this research, begins here. The question can logically be raised: was Luke referring to Matthew, Mark, and John (although John was, most likely, not yet written) or was he referring to other Christians—maybe even Apostles—who wrote gospel narratives?
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church accepted the four gospel accounts in their current form very early in the canonization process. They apparently did not find as much “trouble” with this issue as much as modern scholarship does. It was the differences in the accounts which caused them to include all four of them. Instead of fearing the differences, they embraced it!9 Period of Oral Transmission As Luke stated (and the Apostle John echoed), the message was given to early Christians from those who witnessed it. It is believed these early Christians distributed the words of Jesus by word of mouth, not primarily written information. This form of oral transmission existed in the first two decades of the early church. This is not to say the first two decades were void of written sources. Some of the “core elements” of the Gospel (sayings of Jesus, Passion story, etc) might have been written to some degree very early on (ca. 50-65) but there is no information to suggest this was the primary avenue to spreading the Gospel. Even into the second century, the church entrusted this eyewitness testimony from Apostle to teachers, from teachers to students, and from all believers to all believers.10 The method of evaluating and examining this oral tradition is called form criticism. It is important since it is this method of criticism that spotlights this early stage of development of the Gospels.11 1 Corinthians 15:3, for example, refers to Paul’s receipt of the message of Christ via this oral heritage.12 In addition, since the church of the first few decades had oral tradition as their primary method of retelling the Gospel, this methodology proves a worthwhile endeavor. Biblical scholars find themselves in almost universal agreement: the written Gospel accounts

Justo L. González, The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. Vol. 1 of The Story of Christianity. (New York: HarperCollins, 1984), 62-63. 10 Lee Martin McDonald, The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority. 3rd ed. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 246-247. 11 Carson and Moo, 79. 12 Lea and Black, 115.

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Christians treasure today are a product of their use as teaching materials while still in the period of oral transmission.13 Form critics, then, attempt to ascertain what specifically shaped and formed what modern Christians know as the Gospels. The advocates of form criticism (in regards to studying the oral transmission of the Gospels) share five broad assumptions: 1. The stories and sayings of Jesus first appeared in small self-contained units. 2. The stories and sayings of Jesus assumed the standard forms or structures that appear in the Gospels. 3. The form of a story or saying allowed a critic to discover its place in the life of the early church, due to the assumption that the existence of the story sprang out of a definite need or condition in the early church. 4. As members of the Christian community passed along the sayings, they put the material into forms and also modified the content to meet community needs. 5. Some form critics developed criteria for determining the age and historical trustworthiness of particular stories. They named the criteria laws of transmission.14 These assumptions, unfortunately, lead to a mistrust of the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts by entrenched form critics. They would contend that the amount of intentional and unintentional editing would alter the accuracy of the historical information since historical precision was not the purpose. This does not mean, however, that form criticism is all negative. Indeed, its focus on the period of oral transmission does help the reader of the gospel to see the purposes and destinations of the gospel accounts more clearly.15 Period of Written Transmission Within forty years of the death and resurrection of Christ, the Gospel had spread across the Roman Empire as thousands accepted the message of salvation. As powerful as oral transmission can be, it would prove too weak in the ultimate spread of Christianity and the pressing need of accurate and easily distributed information about Jesus. Apostles and trained teachers and pastors could no longer consistently travel the great distances between believers

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McDonald, 250. Lea and Black, 116. 15 Ibid, 117.

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teaching them. Moreover, the eyewitnesses were getting older or had already died (both as martyrs and of natural causes). A compilation was needed of these teachings before the witness of the Apostles died with them.16 This compiling period is that of written transmission and the discipline that focuses on studying this period is called source criticism. This method of investigation seeks to ascertain what written sources, if in reality any were used, the writers of the Gospels used when compiling the books Christians now know. Some of these sources could be as innocuous as the Apostles referencing their own written record of the sayings of Jesus. Taken in context of the previously mentioned oral stage of transmission, this is where the synoptic problem dispute truly gets intense.17 This stage presents the questions and challenges of source criticism which led to final version Christians have of the Gospels. Final Version The disciples of form and source criticism focus on the text itself and what factors could have caused it to read as it does. When viewed from a holistic approach, the writers themselves come into view. In its completed form, “redaction criticism seeks to describe the theological purposes of the evangelists by analyzing the way they use their sources.”18 Redaction criticism, then, seeks to bring to fore the authors themselves. These men were shaped by certain conventions, communities and circumstances and their writings would reflect this. It is also assumed by redaction critics that is possible to discriminate the traditions each writer of the Gospels used and the aforementioned conventions, communities and circumstances which led them to use that source is that way. Furthermore, redaction critics explain the differences in the Gospel accounts as purposeful adjustments to the text in order to reveal

Walter A. Elwell and Robert W. Yarbrough, Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 74. 17 Carson and Moo, 85-86. 18 Ibid, 103-104.

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something they considered to be significant. It could be a particular theological idea or simply a perspective. Due to the similarities of Matthew and Luke, it is easier to see these issues than with Mark (and John). Luke, for instance, places a great emphasis on prayer by including more of this information (cf. Mark 3:7-19 with Luke 6:12-19) than Mark (whose writing he appears to be quoting).19 Redaction criticism, as one of many methods of study of the Gospels in the current form, rests on four areas of interest: 1. 2. 3. 4. The choice to include or exclude material. The arrangement of material. Additions to the document. Alteration of words.20

Redaction criticism, if kept in proper perspective can offer great help to the modern student of the New Testament. For instance, evaluating the entire Gospel narrative gives a balance to the source-specific approach of form and source criticism. This methodology also serves to remind modern reader that these authors were writing with more in mind than merely telling historical facts. Lastly, this process helps modern readers appreciate the four-fold approach to the presentation of the Gospels.21 This approach should not create doubt in the historical accuracy of the Gospel narratives. Redaction criticism does not approach the text in order to disprove it but merely to see the perspective from which it is coming.22 Similarities of the Synoptic Gospel Accounts As stated in the definition of “Synoptic Gospels”, these accounts share an overarching chronology. There are also narratives common to all the synoptic gospels. Some of the common narratives are the ministry of John the Baptizer, the calling of the Apostles, ministry in Galilee,

John William Drane, Introducing the New Testament, Completely rev. and updated. (Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 2000), 217. 20 Lea and Black, 123. 21 Carson and Moo, 106. 22 Lea and Black, 124-125.

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sermon on the mountainside, sermon on the plain, healing of the leper, and the passion story are a few examples. Furthermore, there are similarities in the style and wording of stories (tables 2 and 3).23 Matthew 8:1-2 When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Mark 1:40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Luke 5:12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Luke 23:52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.

Table 2. Similarities of Matthew 8:1-2, Mark 1:40, and Luke 5:12

Matthew 27:58 Mark 15:43 Going to Pilate, he asked for Joseph of Arimathea, a Jesus’ body, and Pilate prominent member of the ordered that it be given to him. Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.
Table 3. Similarities of Matthew 8:1-2, Mark 1:40, and Luke 5:12

At times, there are greater similarities between two of the accounts while the third stands dissimilar. Typically, this relationship is seen between Matthew and Luke. These two accounts will include many of the same events while they are omitted from Mark. This omitted material constitutes some of the teachings of Jesus along with some of the narrative. The similarity between Matthew and Luke even extends to the word usage (Table 4).24 Matthew 3:7-10 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We
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Luke 3:7-9 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out

Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction. 4th rev. ed. The master reference collection. (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 136. 24 Guthrie, 137.

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have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Table 4. Similarities between Matthew and Luke

of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Where all three gospel accounts are congruent, they are very analogous. At times, Matthew and Mark are in parallel agreement against Luke. Luke and Mark are sometimes paired against Matthew, and on occasion (although rare), Matthew and Luke stand in agreement against Mark.25 The term “synoptic” accurately fits the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Differences of the Synoptic Gospel Accounts The differences between the Synoptic Gospel accounts is truly what creates this synoptic problem because, most obviously, if they all recorded each event in the exact same way using the exact same wording, there would be no debate. This is simply not the case. There are, in fact, differences in the detail of same events recorded. In the account of the centurion whose servant was healed, the details differ greatly. These stories are told in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. In Matthew’s narrative, the centurion asks Jesus personally; in Luke’s, he sends some Jewish elders. Then there are many differences in the narratives: Jesus responds with different words in the two accounts. Even in the Synoptic Gospels’ accounts of the birth and passion: what narrative information they share remains different in wording.26 Another overarching difference is the uniqueness of material which only appears in one gospel account. For instance, only Matthew records Peter’s walking on the water. As indicated previously, the birth narratives have different detail and wording but Luke’s account has the following sections not found in the other gospels: the promised birth of John the Baptizer, the

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Ibid, 138. Guthrie, 137.

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announcement to Mary of her conception, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the birth of John the Baptizer, and the circumcision and presentation of Jesus at the temple. Matthew’s account only includes the flight to Egypt and the visit of the Magi. Possible Solutions for the Synoptic Problem Some of the differences are easily explainable. For instance, the difference between the genealogies of Matthew and Luke can be readily explained via emphasis. Matthew was showing Jesus’ genealogy through Abraham since his audience was primarily Jews. Luke, on the other hand, was writing to mainly Gentiles. As such, he saw the need to trace Jesus all way to Adam and ultimately, the reminder that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God.27 There are many differences which are not so easily explained and there are several prevailing theories to help explain these and other situations further. As these theories are evaluated, it is important to note the Bible is the Word of God as revealed to humanity. The Bible, although penned by humans with a past, perspective, and purpose, it is still, fundamentally, a spiritual document. Modern scholarship’s dependence on the Word of God as the rule of faith can serve to safeguard the modern church from straying into heresy. If this perspective is commuted, a student of the Gospels is only left with attempting to reproduce history instead of focusing on the true meaning of the text in telling us how to live.28 Dependence on One Original Gospel Although not viewed highly in modern scholarship, this theory holds that the Synoptic Gospels were written from a source in Hebrew or Aramaic. Created in its original form by G. E.

Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, David Brown, et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, On Spine: Critical and Explanatory Commentary. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Luke 3:23. 28 Bruce Corley, Steve Lemke, and Grant Lovejoy, editors. Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Introduction to Interpreting Scripture. (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1996), 175.

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Lessing, it was modified by other scholars in the nineteenth century to hypothesize the Synoptic Gospels were compilations from several lost Hebrew or Aramaic Gospels.29 Dependence on Oral Sources This theory was a response to the mysterious lost Hebrew/Aramaic Gospels use in compiling the Gospels and stated that the best explanation of the differences and similarities in the Synoptic Gospels is better related to the tradition of oral sources. Proposed by J. G. Herder, and expanded by J. K. L. Gieseler in 1818, its support mostly ended in the nineteenth century as well.30 This theory assumed it explained the differences in the Synoptic Gospels because of the problems associated with memory: people can “misremember”.31 Dependence on Written Fragments This theory, while taken with the aforementioned theories, begin to form the basis of the theories modern scholars present to this issue. Proposed by F. Schleiermacher, the “written fragments” refer to, in essence, notes and scraps of sayings of Jesus and narratives that were compiled and expanded to form the Synoptic Gospels. This theory is no longer presented in this form although it is, as mentioned, echoed in the theories of today.32 Interdependence The theories of interdependence are the theories debated and presented today as the solutions to the synoptic problem. As stated, there are echoes of these earlier theories found in the modern ones. Interdependence theories rest on the presupposition that two of the gospel accounts used one or more “other gospel accounts” as references to construct theirs. This

Carson and Moo, 89-90. Ibid, 90. 31 John C. Poirier, 2004. "Memory, written sources, and the synoptic problem: a response to Robert K McIver and Marie Carroll." Journal of Biblical Literature 123, no. 2: 315-322. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 22, 2009), 318-319. 32 Carson and Moo, 90.
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quotation and borrowing explains, according to these theorists, the similarities (and by extension the differences) between the Synoptic Gospels. As theories, they are ever-evolving and growing; therefore, at best, this research is a snapshot of where some of these theories are today. In these theories, however, there can be such a microscopic view of the Gospels that the overall arching purpose and perspective of the author and the gospel writer himself can be overlooked. In other words, in the course of explaining interdependence it is quite possible to not see the “big picture”.33 Augustinian Proposal and the Two-Gospel Hypothesis Augustine, while not a modern scholar, proposed a theory which came back into the forefront in twentieth century. He proposed Matthew was written first. Following Matthew, Mark was written and lastly Luke was written. The modern scholars who follow this theory assume each Gospel was originally intended to replace the preceding. Modifying this slightly was J. J. Griesbach in 1789 who wrote that the order was Matthew, Luke, and then Mark.34 Like Augustine, he argued each gospel was designed to replace the preceding one. Although not widely accepted, this theory has enjoyed recent popularity.35 Griesbach’s proposal has been called the Two-Gospel Hypothesis since he also contended that Mark used Matthew and Luke in writing.36 Markan Priority Gaining an entire set of theories and presuppositions all of its own, the issue of Mark’s priority has become prominent. The order of the Gospels in the New Testament was not a
John C. Poirier, 2004. "Memory, written sources, and the synoptic problem: a response to Robert K McIver and Marie Carroll." Journal of Biblical Literature 123, no. 2: 315-322. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 22, 2009), 318-319. 34 This is the same Griesbach who coined the term “synoptic” to describe Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s simialarities. 35 Lea and Black, 120. 36 Carson and Moo, 93-94.
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product of inspiration but of organization and convention. Until recent scholarship, this order was considered historically accurate. Mark, now, is considered the “original gospel”. This is based on two assumptions presented as questions: (one) does it make more sense that Mark added to Matthew and Luke and (two) is the material not present in Mark (which is considerable since it so much shorter) better explained as deleted from Matthew and Luke or addition by those writers later? This is further bolstered by the nagging issue of just one of the “omitted” sections: Jesus’ birth. If Mark was aware of it, why would he have not included it in his story? This Markan Priority is one of the foundational issues for the most widely accepted theory of interdependence.37 Furthermore, this view also uses the assumption that Papias mentioned Mark, the Memoirs of Peter, by name before he mentions Matthew, which could indicate Mark was written first. This assumption gains some support since Matthew was quoted more often by these early church fathers giving rise that Matthew may have been the more popular account; therefore, (as the assumption goes) Papias would have mentioned Matthew first if it had been written first since it was a very popular text.38 Two-Source Hypothesis The most accepted theory (although certainly not without exception) is the thought that there were two sources which form the core of Matthew and Luke. The two sources, in this hypothesis, is Mark and a now-lost source called “Q”. The term “Q” comes from the German quelle which means “source”. Mark accounts for the information common to all the Synoptics. Where Matthew and Luke offer different narratives, this would be where this hypothetical “Q’ was used. If “Q” existed, it was a collection of the sayings of Jesus. There would have been

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Goodacre, 57. McDonald, 384-385.

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very little narrative material in “Q”. 39 This generally accepted theory is built on the foundation of the aforementioned Marcan Priority and on a source that no one has found in any Greek text nor has ever been referenced outside of these hypothetical circles. Further elaboration on this theory was presented by B. H. Streeter in 1924. He theorized that two sources were used in addition to Mark and “Q”. He called these “M” and “L” representing the special material accessible and utilized exclusively in Matthew or Luke, respectively. These “M” and “L” sources would explain the differences in the Synoptics but modern scholarship is extremely skeptical and doubtful of the special “M” and “L” sources.40 There are scholars in the two-source camp who do hold to Marcan priority but reject “Q” (and “M” and “L”) in favor of an approach more resembling dependence theories on the others Gospels. These scholars present Matthew using Mark and Luke using Matthew in addition to the other sources Luke himself refers to.41 They would differentiate themselves from those accepting “Q” since they would hold there was not a single written source but perhaps oral sources. Regardless, this two-source theory using Mark and “Q” is accepted by most scholars as the best solution to the synoptic problem.42 Final Thoughts Ultimately, the Bible is not merely a human book. It stands infinitely above all other books ever written. It has supernatural qualities: its conception and content. This is why the Lord declares “…my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”43 The notion that mere

Lea and Black, 121. Carson and Moo, 94. 41 Paul Foster, 2003. "Is it possible to dispense with Q?." Novum testamentum 45, no. 4: 313-337. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 22, 2009), 315-317. 42 Goodacre, 20. 43 Isaiah 55:11, NIV.
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mortals could hope to explain away every difference with anything remotely approaching perfect accuracy is foolish at best and arrogance at worst. However, at some point in the discussion, the fact that this discussion is about the Word of God has seemingly escaped most of modern scholarship. As Farnell stated: Not only was the Bible reduced to a "handbook of morality" divorced from its claims of inspiration, but an inverse development between orthodox concepts of inspiration and literary-dependence hypotheses occurred. Specifically stated, as orthodox views of inspiration of the Gospels diminished, literary dependence hypotheses increased to a point of dominance in synoptic discussion.44 Of the theories presented, this author holds to theory of interdependence mostly resembling those scholars in the camp of the two-source theory who reject “Q”. One of the arguments of logic is that one cannot make an argument from silence. There is no proof that “Q” exists or ever existed. Considering the sheer volume of pseudo-Gospels and documents the early church had, if a collection of Jesus’ sayings would have been discovered and passed the same tests of canonicity all four Gospel accounts passed, “Q” would not be theory. Instead of theory, Christians would have a book with title of “Sayings of Jesus”. Admittedly, without a “Q” there are no easy answers to some of the discrepancies in the Synoptic Gospels. Most of these differences, however, can be attributed difference purposes in the Synoptic Gospel narratives themselves. It stands to reason Mark was written first due to its brevity; however, this brevity is also attributed to Mark’s intent to present “just the facts” in his gospel narrative. If this were the case, it was not that Mark was unaware of this information. Indeed, if Mark is the memoirs of the Apostle Peter, then certainly he knew it. However, the similarities of Mark with Matthew and Luke make it reasonable that Mark was a source of the other two Synoptic Gospels.
Farnell, F David. 2002. "How views of inspiration have impacted synoptic problem discussions." Master's Seminary Journal 13, no. 1: 33-64. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 22, 2009), 34-35.
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Ultimately, there is a point where all must confess “I don’t know” due to the plain and simple case that this is the Bible. As Fee and Stuart wrote in their How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, “God gave us what we know about Jesus’ earthly ministry in this way, not in another way that might better suit someone’s mechanistic, tape-recorder mentality”.45 When issues

surrounding the synoptic problem arise, the honest Christian scholar must remind themselves and others: this is God’s Word and humans are not simply privy to everything the mind of God has conceived. The prophet Isaiah prompts modern Christians as He did Judah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 46 The alternative to admitting this reality is a truly frighteningly slippery slope. Void of inspiration, the Gospels are reduced to merely human letters in which anonymous people freely altered history to make a text say something that might not have happened. Is this the hope modern scholarship leaves to their posterity? For this author, the answer is a resounding “no”.

Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993. , 114. 46 Isaiah 55:8-9.

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Bibliography Carson, D.A. and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. Corley, Bruce, Steve Lemke, and Grant Lovejoy, editors. Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Introduction to Interpreting Scripture. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1996. Drane, John William. Introducing the New Testament. Completely rev. and updated. Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 2000. Elwell, Walter A. and Robert W. Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998. Farnell, F David. 2002. "How views of inspiration have impacted synoptic problem discussions." Master's Seminary Journal 13, no. 1: 33-64. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 22, 2009). Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993. Foster, Paul. 2003. "Is it possible to dispense with Q?." Novum testamentum 45, no. 4: 313-337. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 22, 2009). González, Justo L.. The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. Vol. 1 of The Story of Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, 1984. Goodacre, Mark. The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze London: T&T Clark, 2005. Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. 4th rev. ed. The master reference collection. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996. Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, David Brown, et al. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, On Spine: Critical and Explanatory Commentary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament Its Background and Message. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003. McDonald, Lee Martin. The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority. 3rd ed. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007. Poirier, John C. 2004. "Memory, written sources, and the synoptic problem: a response to Robert K McIver and Marie Carroll." Journal of Biblical Literature 123, no. 2: 315-322. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed July 22, 2009).

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