Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Synoptic Problem: Part 3 Similarities and Differences of the Synoptic Gospels

Similarities and Differences of the Synoptic Gospels
            There are a great many similarities to be found in the Synoptic Gospels.  In fact, over 97% of Mark’s Gospel appears in Matthew with over 88% appearing in Luke’s Gospel.    The fact that so much of Mark’s Gospel is found in the work of Matthew and Luke has given rise to the belief in Markan priority rather than Matthew having been written first.  For now, a brief overview of each of the Synoptic Gospels is on order.
            There is early support suggesting that Matthew, the tax collector, originally wrote in Aramaic which provides important testimony to the priority of Matthew[1].  To say that the priority of Matthew is settled would certainly be incorrect.  Matthew likely had a Jewish audience in mind when writing his Gospel.  Some suppose his heavy use of Old Testament quotations was intended to teach Christians how to read their Bibles[2].  While this may or may not be true, Matthew’s appreciation of the links between the old covenants and new cannot be understated.  Matthew’s Gospel adopts a decidedly christological view of the Old Testament.
            It is believed that Mark was the interpreter for the Apostle Peter.  Mark’s gospel is action oriented shifting from one scene to the next rather quickly[3].  Mark focuses on Jesus’ passion, the cost of discipleship, and service.  Mark carefully balances his Christology and discipleship with suffering.  Mark also reminds Christians that their salvation depends on the death and resurrection of Christ and tying the Christian faith to the reality of the historical events[4]
            Luke’s Gospel is the longest single book of the New Testament[5].  As the author of his Gospel and Acts, Luke made the largest contribution to the New Testament.  Luke provides a lengthy presentation of Jesus’ birth and early life.  Luke’s Gospel is unique in that it shows Jesus’ interest in the outcasts of Jewish society including the Gentiles (2:32), moral outcasts (7:36-50), and the economically deprived (14:12-14).  Also noteworthy is Luke’s focus on the Holy Spirit.
The following table from Carson and Moo provides an excellent illustration of some of the similarities and differences in the Synoptic Gospels[6].
Order of Event in the Synoptics
(Note: Bold type indicates places where Matthew and Luke deviate from the order of events followed in Mark.  A dash indicates that the incident does not appear in the gospel.)
Pericope
Matthew
Mark
Luke
Jesus and Beelzebul
12:22-27
3:20-30
11:14-28
The Sign of Jonah
12:38-45
---------
11:29-32
Jesus' Mother and Brothers
12:46-50
3:31-35
8:19-21
Parable of the Sower
13:1-9
4:1-9
8:4-8
The Reason for Parables
13:10-17
4:10-12
8:9-10
Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower
13:18-23
4:13-20
8:11-15
Parable of the Weeds
13:24-30
--------
--------
A Lamp on a Stand
--------
4:21-25
8:16-18
Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly
--------
4:26-29
--------
Parable of the Mustard Seed
13:31-32
4:30-34
--------
Parable of the Yeast
13:33
--------
--------
Jesus' Speaking in Parables
13:34-35
--------
--------
Interpretation of the Parable of the Weeds
13:36-43
--------
--------
Parable of the Hidden Treasure
13:44
--------
--------
Parable of the Pearl
13:45-46
--------
--------
Parable of the Net
13:47-50
--------
--------
The Householder
13:51-52
--------
--------
The Stilling of the Storm
8:18,23-27
4:35-41
8:22-25
Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac
8:28-34
5:1-20
8:26-39
Raising of Jairus's Daughter/Healing of a Woman
9:18-26
5:21-43
8:40-56
Rejection at Nazareth
13:53-58
6:1-6a
4:16-30
Sending out the Twelve
10:1-15
6:6b-13
9:1-6
Beheading John the Baptist
14:1-12
6:14-29
[9:7-9]
Feeding of the Five Thousand
14:13-21
6:30-44
9:10-17
Walking on Water
14:22-36
6:45-56
--------


[1] Enns, Paul P.: The Moody Handbook of Theology. (Chicago, Ill. : Moody Press, 1997, c1989)
[2] Carson, D A, and Douglas J Moo. An Introduction To The New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005, pp. 77-284).
[3] IBID
[4] IBID
[5] Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament: It's Background And Message (2nd ed). Nashville: Broadman & Hollman Publishers, 2003. 
[6] IBID. See also Figure One.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your research.
Why is there no mention of the fourth Gospel, John?

Christopher Sanchez said...

John's Gospel is not consider one of the Synoptics...that is to say scholars do not believe it is drawn from common source material as with the other three.

Anonymous said...

john can be excluded from the synoptics because he doesn't have the same point of view with the others