Question: "What is the Synoptic Problem?"
Answer: When the first three gospels are compared—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—it is
unmistakable that the accounts are very similar to one another in content and expression.
As a result, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “synoptic gospels.” The word
“synoptic” basically means “to see together with a common view.” The many similarities
between the synoptic gospels have led some to wonder if the gospel authors had a
common source, another written account of Christ’s birth, life, ministry, death, and
resurrection from which they obtained the material for their gospels. Some argue that
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are so similar that they must have used each other’s gospels, or
another common source. This supposed “source” has been given the title “Q” from the
which means “source.”
Is there any evidence for a “Q” document? No, there is not. No portion or fragment of a
“Q” document has ever been discovered. None of the early church fathers ever mentioned
a gospel “source” in his writings. “Q” is the invention of liberal “scholars” who deny the
inspiration of the Bible. They believe the Bible to be nothing more than a work of
literature, subject to the same criticism given to other works of literature. Again, there is
no evidence whatsoever for a “Q” document—biblically, theologically, or historically.
If Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not use a “Q” document, why are their Gospels so
similar? There are several possible explanations. It is possible that whichever gospel was
written first (likely Mark), the other gospel writers had access to it. There is absolutely no
problem with the idea that Matthew and/or Luke copied some text from Mark’s gospel
and used it in their gospels. Perhaps Luke had access to Mark and Matthew and used
texts from both of them in his own gospel.
tells us, “Many have undertaken to
draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were
handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the
word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the
beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent
Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Ultimately, the explanation as to why the Synoptic Gospels are so similar is that they are
all inspired by the same Holy Spirit, and are all written by people who witnessed, or were
told about, the same events. The gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew the apostle,
one of the twelve who followed Jesus and were commissioned by Him. The gospel of
Mark was written by John Mark, a close associate of the apostle Peter, another one of the
twelve. The gospel of Luke was written by Luke, a close associate of the apostle Paul.
Why would we not expect their accounts to be very similar to one another? Each of the