Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: While Dealing With The Synoptic Problem. . .

Monday, August 20, 2007

While Dealing With The Synoptic Problem. . .

The Synoptic Problem refers to the ongoing debate of chronological priority among Matthew, Mark and Luke. John dosn't get to play because he is weird. I remember first hearing of the Synoptic Problem in Dr. Byrd's New Testament class way back in the days of Belmont School of Religion. I am now once again studying the problem, with a special emphasis on how Matthew plays into the equation.

For 1700 years, scholarship was decisive that Matthew was the first Gospel written, and for multiple reasons, was the most important Gospel, hence its inclusion at the front of the four. The nineteenth century brought with it some doubt as to the conclusions of previous scholarship (you don't just disagree with Augustine, you better have a good reason) and almost all scholars today hold to a "Markan Priority." That is to say, Mark actually was written first. From there you get into the famous "Q" source and all kinds of different theories that I will not bore you with.

What I find interesting in the world of scholarship is how the final word offered by Matthew and Luke can and is interpreted differently based on the scholar's theory to the problem. R.T France writes in his book "Matthew Evangelist and Teacher" that "the raw materials of redaction-critical study have been drawn from the 'changes' made by a later evangelist to what he is assumed to have found in Mark or Q, and any questioning of this literary dependence would necessarily throw doubt on the conclusions." What quickly can arise from such a notion is the dangerous possibility of criticizing the text in such a way where we find text in need of omission, and even potentially entire books that should not have made their way into the canon. This is precicely what Streeter, a famed scholar who was zealous about Markan Priority, decided concerning Matthew and Luke. There are "minor agreements" in Matthew and Luke against Mark. Streeter concluded that these minor agreements should be ruled out because they clearly were derived by "textual corruption." Great pioneers of our faith have at times expressed similar ideas, always based on their sincere desire for Scripture to consistently proclaim God's word without contradiction. Martin Luther, the great reformer, was skeptical at best concering the book of James. He writes that James is "in direct opposition to St. Paul and all the rest of the Bible, it ascribes justification to works."

So what are we to think? Oh that I had the kind of mind and determination of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. I was so pleased to read this in France's book. . ."we can, of course, discover truth by a study of the text of the gospel itself, without specific consideration of literary relations and the use of sources." This refers back to my "vertical reading" post a few days ago. At the end of the day, God has provided His bible. Although study of how and who wrote first and the subsequent dependence of future authors to those initial works is interesting and helpful, it does not do one thing to increase the inspired, inerrant nature of God's Word. So, read with confidence! God is saying something.


Blogger Frank said...

I got a good one for ya... when were the Gospels written?

August 21, 2007 10:53 AM  
Blogger The Beast said...

Hi Frank,

No one knows for certain. It all depends on your scholarship and the specific book. Conservative scholars place Matthew before the fall of Jerusalem, so before 70AD, others date it after 80AD. But there are so many factors to take into consideration when dating any biblical work. Thanks for reading!

August 21, 2007 8:30 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

I subscribe to the thought that all the gospels were written before the fall of Jerusalem. I’ve actually read some pretty convincing stuff that date Matthew much earlier than most are comfortable with. My question was a loaded one but certainly not meant to trip you up.
On a completely unrelated topic, I know by now you’ve seen the trailer for some little movie by Rob Zombie, and yet no post, hmm. What’s up with that?

August 23, 2007 8:26 AM  
Blogger The Beast said...


I have been following very closely and with extreme interest the Zombie remake, or "re-imaging" as he calls it. Posts will be soon coming.

However, I have been posting all along on the topic as well. You can read two of my topics concerning the new Halloween film by going to the links below. Blessings!



August 23, 2007 3:20 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

I read both of those posts! I’m just being impatient here as to your thoughts on the trailer. I apologize. ;-)
Take care and blessings to you as well.

August 24, 2007 8:08 AM  

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