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Synoptic Problem

I have not honestly studied the synoptic problem like I should’ve by now, but I want to correct this. I’ve mainly just agreed with those who say Mark was written first, then Luke and Matthew (with the possibility of Q). I realize that there are some who say Matthew was first, then Luke, then Mark (and I’m sure other views as well). I have read bits and pieces here and there when it comes up, but nothing that has focused solely on the issue. So, I ask you two things:

  • What is your own opinion on the synoptic problem?
  • What are some good resources for studying it?



16 Responses

  1. At the moment I’m a Farrer Theory guy (= Markan priority without ‘Q’ – Matthew used Mark; Luke used Matthew & Mark) but I’d very much like to be a Neo-Griesbachian (= Matthean priority without ‘Q’ – Luke used Matthew; Mark summarizes/conflates Matthew & Luke). If I recall correctly David Alan Black is a neo-Griesbachian and from my understanding Matthean priority has the much better pedigree throughout church history. That’s why I’d like to be one, but at the moment I’ve been conducting my studies for the last 5+ years on the assumption of Markan priority. Now I’ll have to go back and reevaluate the whole thing before I’m able to switch.


    Rethinking the Synoptic Problem — David Alan Black
    Why Four Gospels? — David Alan Black
    The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze — Mark Goodacre
    The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and Synoptic Problem — Mark Goodacre
    Three Views on the Origins of the Synoptic Gospels — Robert L. Thomas
    The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction — Robert H. Stein
    Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation — Robert H. Stein
    The Synoptic Problem — William R. Farmer
    Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels — Pheme Perkins

    • Yes, I believe you are right about Dave Black. He wrote some on that in Perspectives on the Ending of Mark.

      That’s quite a few books. Thanks! Which would you suggest I start with?

  2. Matt,
    Can’t beat Nick’s biblio.

    As for my own view, I hold to the Two-Source Hypothesis.

    • Nick is the master of books. He knows all the good ones.

      Any particular reason you think that way?

      • Well,
        At some point both Matthew and Luke agree with Mark, and at times, against Mark. And there must be an explanation for all these agreement and disagreemt.

        I see it as a simple solution. 😉

  3. Matt: I haven’t read them all but I suspect that the first book listed for Black and the first listed for Goodacre would be a great place to start.

  4. Matt,
    Here’s my humble opinion. Markan priority, Matt uses Mark, Luke uses Mark and Matt and Q is an oral tradition in both Aramaic and Greek, adapted for missionary purposes. Darrell Bock spoke on this as a possibility at the ETS Synoptic group this year during the discussion time. I had come to this conclusion myself, but hearing made me feel even better about it though. If I remember correctly, along with both a Aramaic and Greek verbal Q, he thinks there is both a oral and written, however, with great respect to him I would have to disagree on the existence of a written Q due to lack of textual or ancient evidence.

    As for resources, get Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum and do the underlining. I prefer the 7 color system:
    Matt = Red
    Mark = Yellow
    Luke = Blue
    Matt/Mark = Orange
    Mark/Luke = Green
    Matt/Luke = Purple
    Matt/Mark/Luke = Black

    For a bit more work, you can then analyze how the different correlations correspond to form material by dividing the above categories into narrative categories like “Teachings”, “Narration” etc.

    This will allow you to see all the primary data on your own and then assess the hypotheses of the scholars with all the background material in place.

    • Thanks! I do believe I’d agree with you about there not being a written Q. Was it a paper that Dr. Bock presented at ETS or was he simply responding to something?

      I’ve got the English Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum here (picked it up at Half-Price Books). If I do that I’m pretty sure I’d want to work with the Greek. So, that might have to wait until I can come up with the cash. When I get that though, I’ll be sure to post my thoughts. Maybe it’ll turn into a series of posts.

  5. Daniel: Ok. That’s sad. If he had written a paper I would’ve tried to get a hold of a copy. Oh well, still got plenty of other things to read from Nick.

    The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that your advice about Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum is most excellent. I shall attempt to get a copy (with the Greek) sooner rather than later and do what you suggest.

    • Yeah, it was a good discussion, sorry no paper though.

      I really its best to do the primary source work before you get into the secondary works. It was really helpful for me to have all the primary data in my head before I went and looked at the different theories so I could interact with their arguments critically.

  6. Matt, be happy to send you a copy of Why Four Gospels in which I defend, based on the fathers, the order Matthew-Luke-Mark if you’d agree to post a brief review of the book. But I see I you’re already saddled with tons of books to review!

    I agree with Nick’s suggestions about Mark Goodacre’s works — they are all excellent.

    • I’m not one to refuse a book, but it may be a little while before I can get a review out. If that’s ok, then by all means. If not, I’ll just grab a copy at the library when I’ve got some time.

  7. Just let me know when you’re ready for it, and I’ll send it along. How’s that sound?

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