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Liberty University


A paper submitted to PROFESSOR MONTE SHANKS
In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for the course NBST 510

Liberty Theological seminary

Wilbert L. Bracey

Lynchburg, Virginia
February 1, 2014

The Synoptic Problem-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------2
Markan Priority---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------3
Q Hypothesis------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4
L and M------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------6
Two Gospel Hypothesis-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------7

There are differences in the area of Synoptic Gospel as well as there are large amounts of similarities that can be proved with all the evidence written as well as physical. The synoptic Gospels are ones that include Matthew, Luke and Mark. The reason they are called synoptic, which means, seen together, is because of their adjacent similarities, which allow the texts to be set out in congruence for comparison. It is commonly established that there is a “literary relationship” between them, but the “phenomena” are multifaceted and rulings on them are “conflicting.” “Prevailing in modern critical scholarship is the Two Document Hypothesis (TDH), namely, that Mark was the first gospel and was one of two sources used by both Matthew and Luke, the other being Q (German Quelle, source). But the TDH has not shaken off challenges from the older view that the earliest gospel was that of Matthew.” “All four Gospels reflect a common tradition about Jesus. But John is sharply distinguished in style, wording, structure, and especially theological emphasis. It may show knowledge of the synoptics; but the “Johannine problem” is a separate one.”
“The historical and the moral authority of any writing is always dependent upon the character of its author, and the position he describes or records, No writing in the world demands a clear presentation of authorship so much as do the Gospels upon which we rely for our conception of the Person of Christ. But directly when we ask, how these all important books came to be written, we are confronted with the difficulty that we have no contemporary writings which might have been expected to suggest to us the tremendous claim which the writings make upon the judgment and faith of men. When approaching the study of the Gospels, it is very important to purge our minds of all presuppositions that we may bring into focus.”
The Synoptic Problem
The word synoptic according to is, “of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) presenting the narrative of Christ’s life, ministry, etc from a point of view held in common by all three, and with close similarities in content, order, etc.” As early as 1960, there were biblical scholarships that, “claimed that the solution to the synoptic problem was one of the few issues of recent criticism: Matthew and Luke each used Mark along with a second shorter source designated Q (from the German Quell for source) for the non Markan material they shared.” And close to the end of the “1990” period, there were “scholar that claimed that this two-source hypothesis had been disapproved.” In 1924, “B.H. Streeter included two other documents that Matthew and Luke relied on written sources, designated M and L respectively, for much of the nonparalleled material in each of their narratives.” Now we will survey “the four source hypothesis separately in descending order of probability and acceptance.”

Markan Priority
“Surveys of the Gospels or of the life of Christ and the major commentaries on each of the Synoptics along with studies more focused on individual themes or passages within those Gospels, all presuppose that Matthew and Luke each used Mark.” There are at least nine reasons for this statement. “(1) Mark had some evidence that was the product of “eye witness testimony, that Matthew and Luke omit,” (2) Matthew and Luke seem to say in a softer touch what Mark said, (3) They “often omit potentially misleading details in Mark,” (4) Mark is the shortest of the Synoptics, yet with individual pericopae he is consistently longer than Matthew or Luke, an unlikely result of their later abbreviation, (5) Less than 10 percent of Mark is nonparalleled, (6) Comparatively Matthew and Luke rarely differ from Mark in the same way at the same time, whereas Mark and Matthew much more frequently agree with each other against Luke, so do Luke and Mark against Matthew, (7) Mark contains the highest incidence of Aramaisms among the Synoptics, (8) There seems to be no reason for Mark’s omission of so much of Mathew and Luke that contains many of Jesus’ most precious teachings, if Mark knew of them from a source, (9) When one assumes Markan priority, coherent patterns of redaction emphases emerge in ways that are not true on alternative models. More detailed evangelical treatments and these others can be found in works by Robert Stein, Donald Guthrie and Scot McKnight.” In respects of Markan priority that is so openly accepted, “there are but a few detailed new works pursuing the question further. None the less there are at least six areas where progress in the last decade has been made.” “(1) Maurice Casey has devoted an entire book to the Aramaic sources of Mark, (2) the young British evangelical Peter Head has published an important dissertation on the use of Christological argument in solving the synoptic problem, (3) David New has analyzed all of the quotations of the Old Testament in the Synoptics, of which Matthew by far includes the most, (4) the minor agreements of Matthew and Luke against Luke, long held to be a problem for Markan priority and the Q hypothesis, continue to be heavily studied, (5) substantial study continues to focus on the possible overlap between Mark and Q to account for some of the minor arguments, and (6) proponents of virtually all positions in the debate agree that the key to establishing any other theory as superior to Markan priority is to demonstrate that the same kind of consistent and significant patterns of redaction both stylistic and theological that the two-source hypothesis has spawned emerge when one assumes that Mark is not first.”
The Q Hypothesis
Black and Beck state, “If Markan priority has generated a relatively small amount of scholarly study in the last decade or so, the same can be said of the Q hypothesis.” “The order of the Q material is harder to define; much of it comes in different places in Matthew and Luke. Nevertheless, of 23 pericopes some 13 come in the same relative order. For the first two of these (John’s preaching and Jesus’ temptations), the Marcan framework supplies a fixed place. But after that, Matthew and Luke never again coincide in choosing the same Marcan context for the same piece of Q material. Any Q order is thus distinguishable from the Marcan order.” There were numerous scholars that believed that Q existed have been grouped into “four categories.” Initially and paramount is a minor and very deep-seated collection of “scholars, made famous in North America by their disproportionately large representation in the Jewish Seminar.” These would contend that the initial form of Q renders Jesus as a roaming “teacher and sage”, closely equivalent to the “counter cultural cynics of the Greco Roman world of his day.” The second category of Q studies comes closest to forming current consensus. While, a major division of scholars in “North America have concluded that the earliest strata of Q portrays Jesus as a merely human sage, dispensing wisdom with notable parallels to Deuteronomy, playing down the apocalyptic elements that later tradition would add back in, and outlining a ethical manifesto of comparison for the social underdog and love for one’s enemies that remain a timely challenge for people today in a world filled racism, sexism, and tribalism.” In the third group, “particularly prominent in Britain, carries on the consensus tradition of a previous generation and inverts the tradition-history of the recent North American trend. According to this position, the earliest layers of Q contain sufficient apocalyptic material for us to label Jesus a prophet operating within very Jewish categories and calling people to repentance in light of the coming world. The fourth perspective, while relatively new and presently poorly represented, actually holds out the most promise of all.”
“Edward Meadors, in his Aberdeen University doctoral thesis, takes the Q material as it stands in Matthew and Luke, compares it with Mark; ad argues that the Christologies that emerge are fully compatible with each other reflect a high view of Jesus from the earliest stages of the tradition onward, and can be used to buttress a conservative portrait of the historical Jesus.”
The Old Testament references twelve or more “sources for its historical material, Greco-Roman historians and biographers regularly relied on similar written sources that no longer exist, and, after all, it is not quite right to say that Q no longer exist, since on the Q hypothesis, it does exist embedded in both Matthew and Luke.”
“Q is hypothetical and might be one source or many; though embarrassing, this is not a fatal objection. The chief difficulty comes from the minor agreements, only partially met by appeal to linguistic improvements and textual corrections. Some further explanation seems necessary, and can be only be speculative—an alternative parallel tradition, or even secondary knowledge and use of, say, Matthew by Luke. The once‐popular “Ur‐Markus” theory unfortunately fails to account for the fact that Matthew’s and Luke’s changes are often improvements.”
Land M
In the case of L and M, “L is more probable than M because Luke was not an eyewitness of the events he recorded, whereas If Matthew was written by the apostle by that name, M might well stand for his memory.” In a current “book length study of L, Kim Paffenroth reconstructs a reasonable coherent narrative of 164 verses that begin and end with Jesus preaching to the outcast, tax collectors, widows, and lepers in that order at the onset (Luke 3:10-14; 4:25-27), and to lepers, widows, and tax collectors (the reverse order) at the end (17:12-18; 18:2-8a, 10-14a; 19-2-10).” In most cases, “it is interesting that the early church fathers regularly quote or allude to the teachings of Jesus found in Matthew more than those found in any other Gospel and that a disproportionately large number of these references come from uniquely Matthean material.” With regards to the Griesbach hypothesis, he argues that, “Mark was the last of the synoptics to be written and with a Mark who abridges rather than a Matthew and Luke, who embellishes, is more amenable to conservative theology.” It is noted that Black and Blake, “disagree that the two-source hypothesis requires these radical appendages.” They imply that, “only if one does not allow for Matthew and Luke to have had access to reliable information for their nonparalleled material is one forced to reject historicity.” When considering theories of Matthean priority, it is ascribed to Augustine that, “Matthew comes first, Mark depends on Matthew and Luke uses both Matthew and Mark. But there are those who realize that, the internal as well as the external evidence make the relationship between Matthew and Mark More complex that the relatively straightforward dependence of Luke on Mark.” If we look at the example of “Peter and Jesus,” traveling to “Caesarea Philippa” in Matthew 16:13-20, there are “scholars who otherwise support Markan priority argue for authenticity an even Matthean priority here. Clearly the strongest argument in favor of Matthean priority is the consistent patristic testimony from Papias onward.”
“One explanation of some of the minor agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark, of course, has always been to postulate a proto-Mark on which canonical Matthew, Mark and Luke all depend. Evidence for a proto-Matthew discussed above has suggested to M.-E. Boismard a solution to the Synoptic problem, that finds all three Synoptics depending on both proto-Matthew and proto-Mark.”
Two Gospel Hypothesis

The Two Document Hypothesis broadly acknowledged by contemporary “scholars” embraces that the “two documents” specifically Mark and Q, were used individually by Matthew and Luke. B. H. Streeter provided traditional articulation to it in English in 1924, next to some “refinements,” particularly that “L and Q had already been combined in Proto‐Luke before the Marcan material was added; a full discussion would require detailed examination of the passion narratives. Other variants of TDH are that one document was an earlier edition of Mark (“Ur‐Markus”) and that the Q material comes from more than one document.”
“The only second‐century statements about the Gospels early enough to have any weight are the traditions transmitted through Papias (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl.3.39): that Matthew “composed the oracles in Hebrew,” and that Mark reproduced the firsthand testimony of Peter. This evidence is obscure (what are “the oracles”?—one speculation among many is that the original reference might be to Q) and also ambivalent. Argument must therefore rest on the internal evidence of the Gospels.”

“Experts on the Synoptic problem who continue to defend the two-source hypothesis, like Neirynck of Louvain and Tuckett of Oxford, have granted in print that all the arguments of Streeter are now to be regarded as either circular or inconclusive. There is other research published that acknowledge that there is no substantial case “from Streeter for the priority of Mark.” Black and Beck make not that, “among the experts on the Synoptic problem, defenders of the two source- hypothesis are no longer a majority” according to a conference that was held “ten years ago on the minor arguments held in Germany under the auspices of the Gottingen University facility of theology with Professor Georg Streeter as director.” “It is convenient to take the shortest gospel (Mark) as the norm, and use words like “agree” and “omit” when making comparisons, but the question of relative priority must not be prejudged thereby.” It is also noted that, “Professor Streeter is a master of scholarly technique in the field of textual criticism. At the time he writes with the general reader in constantly in view. Yet his primary purpose is not simply to popularize the results reached by previous investigators; he has himself arrived at a number of new conclusions some of which are of far reaching importance.”
“There is, to be sure, no very extensive deviation from the standard critical texts, but there is a healthful recognition that these restored texts are to a considerable degree inevitably artificial, and a solution of the Synoptic problem based purely on a comparison of their minutiae may not be too implicitly trusted. The principal here set forth, which seems to be chiefly noteworthy, is a recognition of the importance of locality to explain textual variants in even the earliest manuscripts.”
“Because of the complex patterns of similarities and dissimilarities between the synoptic Gospels, the problem of how to account for the relationships between the gospels is a notoriously difficult one, in New Testament studies.” Then we must assume or ask some relevant questions such as, “To what extent has any gospel writer used the gospels of his predecessors? In simple terms, who copied from whom? And what other sources, oral or written, may he have had?” It is also noted through research that, “little is known about the history of the early church in the second half of the first century, when the synoptic gospels were probably written, and the time and place of writing of any of the gospels is highly conjectural, although some indications are given by church traditions from later centuries.”

“AH, GH, and TDH” all agree on the fact that the “conditions considered must be a literary fitting together between the Greek texts, and that Mark has a spot in the middle: chronologically (AH), or an overhanging from Matthew and Luke (GH), or a peg from which both hang (TDH). Both AH and GH have difficulty in meeting the strong arguments for Marcan priority, which remain strong even if Q stands under question.” The fact still remains that some “further explanation seems necessary, and can only be speculative, an alternative parallel tradition, or even secondary knowledge and use of, say, Matthew by Luke.” The synoptic “problem” therefore remains.” The Synoptic has been the focus of attention by skeptics in the time of the Christian church and will continue to be so. We have no need to be afraid that some see contradictions in the Gospels; rather we can be confident within ourselves that there is no contradiction in the word of God. Many will try to prove there is but let the Spirit of the Living God speak to you and your life will be changed forever.

Abakuks, Andris. "The Synoptic Problems and Statistics." Significance Statistics Making Sense 3. No.4 (2006), (accessed January 30, 2014).
Black, David Alan, Beck, David R. Rethinking The Synoptic Problem. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2001. Fascher, Eric. "Reopening The Synoptic Problem." The Journal of Religion 4. No. 4 (1925), (accessed January 30, 2014).
Holdsworth, W. W. 1859-1929. Gospel Origins: a Study In the Synoptic Problem. New York: c. Scribner's sons, 1913.
"Synoptic Problem." In The Oxford Companion to the Bible. , edited by Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan, G. M. Styler. Oxford Biblical Studies Online, (accessed 28-Jan-2014).

[ 1 ]. "Synoptic Problem." In The Oxford Companion to the Bible. , edited by Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan, G. M. Styler. Oxford Biblical Studies Online, (accessed 28-Jan-2014).
[ 2 ]. Holdsworth, W. W. 1859-1929. Gospel Origins: a Study In the Synoptic Problem. New York: c. Scribner's sons, 1913.
[ 3 ].
[ 4 ]. Black, David Alan, Beck, David R. Rethinking The Synoptic Problem. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2001. , 17,18
[ 5 ]. Ibid 4, 19, 20
[ 6 ]. Ibid 4, 20
[ 7 ]. Ibid 4, 20
[ 8 ]. Ibid 4, 20
[ 9 ]. Ibid 4, 20
[ 10 ]. Ibid 4, 22, 23
[ 11 ]. Ibid 4, 24
[ 12 ]. "Synoptic Problem." In The Oxford Companion to the Bible. , edited by Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan, G. M. Styler. Oxford Biblical Studies Online, (accessed 28-Jan-2014).
[ 13 ]. Ibid 4, 24, 25
[ 14 ]. Ibid 4 25, 26
[ 15 ]. Ibid 4, 26
[ 16 ]. Ibid 4, 29
[ 17 ]. Ibid 12
[ 18 ]. Ibid 4, 29, 30
[ 19 ]. Ibid 4, 30
[ 20 ]. Ibid 4, 31
[ 21 ]. Ibid 4, 32
[ 22 ]. Ibid 4, 34
[ 23 ]. Ibid 4, 34, 35
[ 24 ]. Ibid 4, 36
[ 25 ]. Ibid 12
[ 26 ]. Ibid 12
[ 27 ]. Ibid 4, 134
[ 28 ]. Ibid 4, 134
[ 29 ]. Ibid 12
[ 30 ]. Fascher, Eric. "Reopening the Synoptic Problem." The Journal of Religion 4. No. 4 (1925), (accessed January 30, 2014).
[ 31 ]. Ibid 30
[ 32 ]. Abakuks, Andris. "The Synoptic Problems and Statistics." Significance Statistics Making Sense 3. No.4 (2006), (accessed January 30, 2014).
[ 33 ]. Ibid 32
[ 34 ]. Ibid 32
[ 35 ]. Ibid 12
[ 36 ]. Ibid 12

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