Introduction to the Synoptic Problem March 30, 2007Posted by Ninja Clement in Theology.
Source: “Synoptic Problem Website” by Stephen C. Carlson.
The synoptic problem concerns the literary relationship between the first three “synoptic” gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Synoptic Problem Website surveys proposed solutions and provides a clearing-house for materials related to its resolution.
The major evidence for resolving the synoptic problem is internal: the patterns of agreements and disagreements in the wording of the Greek text of the gospels. The premier tool for studying these textual patterns is the synopsis, which places parallel texts side-by-side in vertical columns. To a much lesser extent, researchers have also considered the external evidence, which constitutes the testimony of the early Christians on the origins of the gospels.
Many solutions to the synoptic problem have been proposed, and please see the Overview of Proposed Solutions for more information.
The most prevalent solution is the Two-Source hypothesis (2SH) or Mark-Q theory, which holds that Mark was the first gospel, and both Matthew and Luke independently augmented Mark with a lost, sayings collection called Q, its most controversial part. A good website expounding this solution is Mahlon Smith’s Synoptic Gospels Primer.
A vigorous challenger to the Q hypothesis is the Farrer theory (FH), which also calls for the priority of Mark, but “dispenses” with Q as unnecessary by arguing instead that Luke used Matthew. The clearest exposition of this position now is Mark Goodacre’s book, The Case Against Q.
Another challenger, somewhat more popular in America, is the Griesbach hypothesis or Two-Gospel hypothesis (2GH), which not only gets rid of Q but Markan priority as well, arguing that Matthew was first, primarily on account of the external evidence. Their Web Site for the Two Gospel Hypothesis is maintained by Thomas R. W. Longstaff.
A more traditional analysis of the external evidence, however, is that of the Augustinian hypothesis (AH), in which the chronological order of the gospels is the same as the canonical order (Matt, Mark, Luke).