You are on page 1of 5

Part II: A

There are many theological differences between the three synoptic gospels. Each book has
their own themes that allow them to independently stand as biblical texts, but are similar in such
a way that they create continuity for a presentation of the story of Jesus in the Bible. In each of
the synoptic gospels, there is written an account of Jesus’ statement about “the leaven of the
Pharisees.” These accounts can be compared and contrasted in each of the synoptic gospels by
first understanding the “synoptic problem” inherent in these gospels, the impact these words had
on the disciples, and the meaning of these words in present-day culture. The synoptic gospels
are collectively our best approach to understanding many stories of Jesus—the perspectives
garnered from each of the books is uncompromising.
Scholars today define the “synoptic problem” as an answer to a question posed by early
Christians reading the text of Matthew, Mark, and Luke: Why are these gospels similar and how
does this add continuity to the story of Jesus? The similarity between these texts comes from
independent study of each gospel author and their understanding of previously written texts.
Generally, it is assumed that Mark was the first gospel written. Soon thereafter, Matthew was
written and this author had access to Mark. When Luke was written, the author had access to the
work of Mark and Matthew. The hierarchical structure of these texts allows for subtle changes in
texts to be broadly understood. In the story about the “the leaven of the Pharisees,” each gospel
account is slightly different. In Mark, the tone of the text is rather blunt toward disbelief of the
disciples. In Mark 8: 17-21, Jesus has conversation with the disciples about the meaning of
‘bread.’ In this text, Jesus tries to explain the importance of shying away from the leaven of the
Pharisees and the leaven of Herod—however; the disciples seem to be clueless to the importance
of what Jesus is telling them. Interestingly, the same conversation told in Mark is told in

Luke is rather blunt in his approach to telling this story. the author of Luke does not go into detail about the lack of understanding in the disciples. the point of the story is the same. however there is an explanation within the text that encourages the disciples to understand the symbolism of the leaven bread. In this account. they are more competent in Matthew and seem to be more understanding of Jesus’ parables. Luke is the first to define the leaven of the Pharisees as hypocrisy. the disciples are considered foolish in Mark. and they are very perceptive in Luke. It is not until after this discussion is more defined by Jesus’ statements that the disciples understand the true meaning of the story. Generally. In Mark. because Luke is generally written with an attitude crediting the disciples with understanding. This picture is painted in many other areas of the synoptic gospels but this this the most direct statement giving credence to this position. it makes sense that the disciples would think Jesus was referring to the rising of bread in his parabolic discussion with them. Jesus makes important claims to the impacts of . Interestingly. it could be assumed that the author carefully articulates the meaning behind the “leaven of the Pharisees” to imply knowledge by the disciples. Systematically. Historically. this story occurs after Jesus has fed the four thousand. Sadly. This can be seen in the context of this text. The heightened egotism displayed by the Pharisees is a form of hypocrisy. In each of these texts. after careful articulation by Jesus. the text goes on to explain the importance of the leaven of the Pharisees as being more than a statement about the nature of rising bread. Rather than discuss the nature of the disciples.Matthew. the Twelve Disciples seem to be incapable of understanding that the importance of His description of the Pharisees. In my mind. This story changes in Matthew where Jesus describes the story and the disciples come to understand the importance of Jesus’ statements.

In conclusion. Part II: B The gospels are written to be more than a historical account of Jesus’ life. He is encouraging the Pharisees to become less enthralled with the message they wish to convey and more confident in the gospel message. the story about the “leaven of the Pharisees” is impactful on a number of levels.egotism with the Pharisees in these gospels. In some ways. Christian believers are like the Pharisees in that many of us have a position on theology which we are uninterested in changing. the gospel message is carried through conversation with the disciples about a previous run-in with the Pharisees. it is important to understand these implications. According to Platcher (pg 27). he does say that a gospel is a collection of texts that describes the life of Jesus and transcends our common understanding of biblical texts. Each of the books are written to augment each other and tell the story from distinct perspectives allowing us to gain a more full account of how Jesus addressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. However. . Because there are many differences between the gospel texts. Platcher even goes so far as to say that these texts are not a historical account by modern definition. Sadly. This conversation has ramifications presently as it did during the time it was written. People who are new to the faith could be turned off by our lack of adjustment as new facts arise. This is what Jesus warns about. gospels are “history-like witnesses to truths both historical and transcendent. the implications of this text are dramatic even in present-culture. the information garnered from each independently is of great importance.” He goes on to describe the gospels as being more than works of fiction or myth. For these reasons. In this case.

He tends to rely more on oral tradition than other gospels directly. 6. 4. it makes sense that Mark would be written first. 7. 5. They synoptic problem develops out of this list as the gospels play off each other in the biblical text. Matthew is described as the second written gospel and uses much of the text from Mark. Mark. Luke is written third and uses information from both previously written gospels. important reasons to place Mark as the first written text comes from its use in the other gospels so drastically. and I would argue. Matthew uses Mark for a lot of his writing. Luke actually makes a comment (Luke 1:1) about the previous writers of gospels which makes me believe that Luke is written third and uses information provided in Matthew and Mark for writing.A gospel is translated to Greek as euangelion. John is a little bit different in the way his gospel is written. Farrer and Goodacre describe Mark as being the first written gospel. 2. although he does rely on more works that indirectly references the synoptic gospels. These gospels do two things for current readers: they stop us from creating a form of Jesus that is what we want (without referencing the big picture) and also allows us to walk with other believers where we can understand their witness and allow it to . The most impactful. It literally means good news and was generally spoken and passed down by oral tradition until they were written out. These gospels generally have seven main themes: 1. All 4 gospels use the Old Testament as a source All authors had access to oral traditions Mark is the earliest gospel Matthew uses Mark and adapts for writing Luke uses Matthew. 3. Each of these themes is represented in the gospel text. and oral tradition John uses oral tradition and other work to complete the picture of Jesus They are written to be theological narratives of Jesus—they are designed to cultivate a relationship between readers and Him. The impact of these four gospels is that we now have four different stories of Jesus from different perspectives.

We would have a hard time truly understanding that the Life of Christ is transcending time and we as Christians are part of the Kingdom of God. They teach us different themes of Jesus’ life and allow us to grow as Christians. John is written to reveal the Father through the Son. Mark is a gospel of the suffering God. If we created one gospel.support us through our lives. we are able to develop our understanding of the Life of Christ and His desire for our lives. These four gospels are individually canonized because they all have important implications on our lives. we would be unable to see the true nature of Christ among us. By creating four different perspectives. the story of Jesus is unfolded and we are graced with multiple ideas which we can synthesize to build a deeper relationship with Christ. we would lose the nuances implicit in each of the texts and lose characteristics that are prevalent in each gospel. These themes play a role in our understanding of our Savior and the role the Messiah has played in our lives. If we lost these four individual accounts. Strauss describes the themes of each gospel. By defining a list of characters of these gospels. By having multiple gospel perspectives. Matthew is of the Messiah and Luke is based on Jesus being the savior of all people. we are able to understand the qualities of a true gospel and the reason there are only four canonized texts. .