Liberty University The Synoptic Problem A paper submitted to Dr. Charles Powell In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for the course NBST 525 Liberty Theological seminary By La Shawn Self Lynchburg, Virginia Sunday, August 14, 2011 The books of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; where written over 2000 years ago. These books excluding the Gospel of John are often called the synoptic Gospels. The term synoptic is derived from the Greek word meaning “seeing together. ” These three books are comparable in their recording of the existence and ministry of Jesus.

The wording of the synoptic Gospels is similar as well. For example, the account of the healing of the leaper occurs in all three books and the writing is fairly analogous. Although there are similarities there are also many differences in the way the gospels are arranged and the vocabulary. These resemblances and variations in the Gospels form the “Synoptic Problem”. The Synoptic problem is not a problem at all but is a method of looking at the similarities and differences between the gospels.

In this paper the Synoptic Problem will be addressed from three different angles: form criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism and literary criticism. [1] Form Criticism Form criticism is a method of textual criticism, applied especially to the Bible, for tracing the origin and history of certain passages through systematic study of the writings in terms of conventional literary forms, such as parables, proverbs, and love poems. [2] During early the time that the Gospels were written they did not have written copies. The Gospels were generally passed down by word of mouth.

From criticism takes a closer look at the gospels being passed down by this method. Rudolph Bultmann was one of the first and most well known form critics. Bultmann believed that the information in the Gospels was embellished or completely made up to meet the needs of the church at that time. The thought that the miracles and the law additions be taken away from the Gospels, because it did not fit in with the belief systems of most people. Many form critics hold to five common beliefs. The first, most of Jesus’ teachings were done in small groups.

Second, these narratives appeared in one of following forms: apophthegm, which was a brief narrative that concludes with a saying of Jesus; a sensational story that tells of a miraculous deed; a legend a story that exhalts the vastness of Jesus or a dominical saying, which is a lesson taught by Jesus that does not conclude with a central thought. Third, that the narrative was written in accordance to the need of the church at that time. Fourth, as the narratives were passed along the Christian community added information to meet the requirements of the community at that time.

Last, critics developed laws of transmission to determine the age of literary works and the reliability, because they believed that the stories were often added to, enhanced, changed to meet the language and tailored to suit their the individual needs of the community. When these critics used these laws they arrived at the conclusion that the shorter gospel, which has less detail was written at an earlier date and closer to being historically accurate. [3] Source Criticism As the prophets and witnesses to the events began to die, people began to write instead of depend on oral transmission of the Gospels. Source Criticism is when “given information source may be more or less valid, reliable or relevant. Broadly, ‘source criticism’ is the interdisciplinary study of how information sources are evaluated for given tasks. ”[4] Source criticism began with G. E. Lessing who said that the similarities of the Gospels implied that there must have been one original Aramanic or Hebrew text that was used as a reference. The main source criticism that hold true today is interdependence. Interdependence means that two or more of the writers of the Gospel used one of the books of the Gospel, with additional esources to write their accounts. The common belief among source critics is that, the Gospel of Mark is the oldest and Matthew and Luke used his gospel along with an unknown source to write their Gospels. Evidence supporting this view make the makes four points. First, the Luke’s Gospel is contains approximately half of Mark’s information and Matthew’s Gospel encompasses almost all of Mark’s views. Second, Mark’s words are used verbatium Matthew and Luke. Third, Matthew and Luke follow the same sequence of events as Mark.

Finally, Matthew and Luke sometimes reword Mark’s uncomfortable passages of scripture to allow smooth transitions and ease of understanding. [5] Markan Priority The Markan Priority is the belief that Mark was the first to write his account then Matthew and Luke used his recordings along with an unknown source to write their accounts. Although it is said that Matthew and Luke used Mark’s account and another unknown source to write their versions of the gospel, it is also believed that Mark used some unknown source to supplement his gospel as well. 6] Weaknesses in the Markan Priority To accept the Markan Priority one must first denounce the word of Jesus, “that the Holy Spirit would bring all things back to their remembrance”; the testimonies of the early church leaders and historical facts. Also, if Matthew and Luke were present at the same time that Mark was present, why would they need to use Mark’s account? [7] Some authors believe that Matthew and Luke were written before Mark and the Gospel of Mark was written from Matthew and Luke or a rewording of the account of Peter. [8].

Critics have also questioned, the information found in Matthew or Luke, but is not found in the book of Mark. This question supports the idea that Matthew and Luke wrote their own accounts of the Gospel with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Matthean Priority The Matthean Priority embraces the idea that the gospel according to Matthew was the first book in the Synoptic Gospels written and its author was Matthew the apostle himself. Using the genealogies of the beginning of the book of Matthew suggests that the book of Matthew was written first. [9] The Gospel according to Matthew was the dominate Gospel of those times and as accepted by the church fathers to be the authoritative source. Historians also believe that the original language of the Gospel of Matthew was written in Hebrew style in Hebrew or Aramaic and later translated into Greek. Redaction Criticism Redaction Criticism “regards the author of the text as editor (redactor) of his source material. Unlike its parent discipline, Form Criticism, redaction criticism does not look at the various parts of a narrative to discover the original genre; instead, it focuses on how the redactor has shaped and molded the narrative to express his theological goals. [10] Critics who support redactionism do not look at the pieces of the author’s work, but the entire literary work of the author. These critics also have their own criteria; what information to use and what information not to use; organization of material, supplementary material and poetic use of words. Redaction critics use this information to decide where the writer wrote his account. This also gives the freedom to zone in on the literary involvement of each Gospel. [11] Literary Criticism Literary Criticism is “the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. [12] These critics look at the Gospels as fixed works and read them in the form that they already are written. Literary critics do not look at the source of the information, origin, intent, but how the text as a whole functions in the Christian community. There are flaws in this type if criticism as well. Literary criticism is subjective and it allows the critic to place the same literary value on the Gospels as it does on any other type of literature, which cause the spirit of these works to be lost in a literary critique.

Conclusion The Gospels were generally passed down by word of mouth. From criticism takes a closer look at the gospels being passed down by this method. Many form critics hold to five common beliefs. Source Criticism is when “given information source may be more or less valid, reliable or relevant. The main source criticism that hold true today is interdependence. The common belief among source critics is that, the Gospel of Mark is the oldest and Matthew and Luke used his gospel along with an unknown source to write their

Gospels. First, the Luke’s Gospel is contains approximately half of Mark’s information and Matthew’s Gospel encompasses almost all of Mark’s views. Redaction Criticism “regards the author of the text as editor (redactor) of his source material. Redaction critics use this information to decide where the writer wrote his account. Literary Criticism is “the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. ”[13] These critics look at the Gospels as fixed works and read them in the form that they already are written.

Literary criticism is subjective and it allows the critic to place the same literary value on the Gospels as it does on any other type of literature, which cause the spirit of these works to be lost in a literary critique. Bibliography Black, Thomas D. Lea and David Allen. The New Testament It’s Background and Its Message. Nashville : B & H Publishing Group, 2003. Bratcher, Dennis. “CRI/Voice . ” 2005. http://crivoice. org (accessed August 10, 2011). Derickson, Gary W. “Matthean Priority/Authorship and Evangeliscalsim’s Boundary. ” The Master’s Seminary Journal, 2003: 87-103. The Free Dictionary. ttp://encyclopedia. thefreedictionary. com/ (accessed August 13, 2011). The Synoptic Problem. January 12, 2011. http://www. abu. nb. ca/courses/NTIntro/synoptic. htm (accessed August 10, 2011). ———————– [1] Lea, T. D and Black, D. A. The New Testament It’s Background and Its Message. Nashville : B & H Publishing Group, 2003. [2]The Free Dictionary, Form Criticism, http://www. thefreedictionary. com/form+criticism, accessed (August 13,2011) [3] Lea, T. D and Black, D. A. The New Testament It’s Background and Its Message. Nashville : B & H Publishing Group, 2003. [4] The Free

Dictionary, Source Criticism http://encyclopedia. thefreedictionary. com/Source+criticism, (accessed August 13, 2011) [5]Lea, T. D and Black, D. A. The New Testament It’s Background and Its Message. Nashville : B & H Publishing Group, 2003 [6] Bratcher, Dennis. “CRI/Voice . ” 2005. http://crivoice. org (accessed August 10, 2011) [7]Derickson, Gary W. “Matthean Priority/Authorship and Evangeliscalsim’s Boundary. ” The Master’s Seminary Journal, 2003: 87-103. [8]Bratcher, Dennis. “CRI/Voice . ” 2005. http://crivoice. org (accessed August 10, 2011) [9] Bratcher, Dennis. “CRI/Voice . 2005. http://crivoice. org (accessed August 10, 2011) [10] The Free Dictionary, Redaction Criticism http://encyclopedia. thefreedictionary. com/Redaction+criticism , (accessed August 13,2011) [11]Lea, T. D and Black, D. A. The New Testament It’s Background and Its Message. Nashville : B & H Publishing Group, 2003 [12] The Free Dictionary, Literary Criticism http://encyclopedia. thefreedictionary. com/Literary+criticism, (accessed August 13, 2011) [13] The Free Dictionary, Literary Criticism http://encyclopedia. thefreedictionary. com/Literary+criticism, (accessed August 13, 2011)