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The_Synoptic_Problem - The Synoptic problem Suppose that...

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The Synoptic problem Suppose that you wanted to write a report on Abraham Lincoln. You went to the Internet and found three sites that had articles on Lincoln. The shortest one began with Lincoln’s presidency; the two longer ones began with his birth and shared other stories that the first one did not have. All three concluded with his assassination. Then you noticed something odd. All three articles tended to say the same things about Lincoln. Not only did they tell about the same events, they even used the same sentences in the same order with many of the same words. What would you conclude? Probably that someone copied someone else. Perhaps all three authors went to the article on Lincoln in the Encyclopedia Britannica and copied out the material on Lincoln’s presidency, each changing it somewhat but retaining most of the same sentences and wording. Then the authors of the two longer articles went to a couple of other encyclopedias and added information about Lincoln’s birth and other activities. Or perhaps one of the authors wrote an article on Lincoln and posted it on the Internet. The other two found it and used it as the basis for their own articles. We could imagine a variety of ways in which the similarities between the articles could have arisen, but we would have to assume that some literary relationship existed between them. A similar literary relationship exists between the first three Gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The shortest one, Mark, begins with Jesus’ ministry as an adult; the other two begin with his birth and share other stories and sayings that Mark does not have. All three conclude with Jesus’ death and resurrection. In the material that they share, all three tend to say the same things about Jesus. Not only do they tell about the same events, they even use the same sentences in the same order with much the same wording. Because of these similarities, the first three Gospels are called "synoptic" ("seeing things alike"). The similarities among the Synoptic Gospels give rise to the Synoptic problem. That is, why are these Gospels so much alike? What is the relationship between them? Most scholars believe that the Synoptic Gospels have similarities because they shared some of the same written sources. The attempt to determine the sources of the Gospels is called source criticism. FEATURES OF THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM To understand the Synoptic problem, we must consider the content of each Gospel and the order in which each Gospel includes this content. To help with this process, Table 10.1 lists selected portions of the Synoptic Gospels in parallel columns to facilitate a comparison. 140
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Table 10.1: Order of selected portions of the Synoptic Gospels Matthew Mark Luke In Galilee John arrested 4:12a 1:14a To Galilee 4:12b 1:14b 4:14a Kingdom at hand 4:17 1:14c-15 Fishermen called 4:18-22 1:16-20 To Capernaum 1:21a 4:31a Jesus teaches 5:2 1:21b 4:31b Q Sermon 5:3-7:27 Leper healed 8:1-4 Centurion's boy 8:5b-13 People astonished 7:28b-29 1:22 4:32 Demon expelled 1:23-28 4:33-37
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