To understand the synoptic gospels of the New Testament, one must have a clear understanding of what synoptic means. Synoptic is defined as viewing or defining something in a similar manner using various vantage points or sources. The synoptic gospels are the first three gospels within the New Testament: Mark, Matthew, and Luke. These gospels are considered to be synoptic for the vast amount of material that is shared between the three books that is very similar and in some instances almost identical. If one were to place verses from each book side by side regarding certain events they would notice that much of the phrasing and explanation in one book mirrors the phrasing and explanation in ...view middle of the document...
(Harris 156). This method of criticism also provided a possible theory which explained the differing amounts of material between the three gospels. The theory is primarily based on the concept that an additional collection of works named the Q document was the source for the additional materials found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, which were not included in the gospel of Mark. “Most scholars now agree that Matthew and Luke employed two principal sources in composing their Gospels, Mark and Q” (Harris 156). Although this theory would rationally explain why there are differences between the three gospels, it fails in the fact that there is not a separate Q document that can be produced or that can be seen as its own book within the Bible. This means it is a hypothetical work that’s possible existence can only be validated by reconstructing parts of Matthew and Luke that are absent from the gospel of Mark (Harris 156).
A theory that also contributes to source criticism but is in direct conflict with the Q source document theory is the Griesbach Theory. The main difference between these two theories is their evaluation and interpretation of the importance of the Gospel of Mark as a foundational basis for the synoptic gospels. As indicated above the Q source document theory relies heavily on the idea that both the gospels of Matthew and Luke are
composed using Mark and the Q document as their source. In the Griesbach Theory the Gospel of Mark is considered to be a product of the blending together of the other two synoptic gospels, rather than a foundational source of inspiration. Although most scholars agree with the Q Source Document Theory, each possibility holds its own merit and indicates the importance of source criticism in understanding and providing a possible solution to the synoptic problem.
FORM CRITICISM AND THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM
Form criticism provides a different way of viewing and providing explanation for the synoptic problem. This method of evaluation is based on the premise that each of the gospels was made up of “many individual units – brief narrative episodes, discrete conflict stories, pronouncements, parables, and sayings – that presumably circulated orally and independently of one another before the Gospel authors gathered them together and placed these units in a narrative context” (Harris 118). Form criticism also seeks to clarify the setting and circumstances through which the stories of Jesus originated and the audience that these stories were initially intended for.
In viewing the setting and the circumstances as well as the intended audience for the individual gospels we can understand why there may be some differing material presented in each of the synoptic gospels. By allowing for these differences in small details it made the story of Jesus relatable to a wider range of people. The similarities between the gospels allow for the preservation of the bigger concepts the story of Jesus...