Throughout history scholars and theologians have sought to determine the chronological order regarding the synoptic Gospels of the New Testament canon. They have often utilized both the internal sources, found within the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and external evidence to critically analyze the literary and historical relations.
The two-Gospel hypothesis provides an effective response regarding these literary and historical similarities with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke through a balanced approach utilizing both internal and external resources to address the long standing debate regarding the synoptic problem.
The Synoptic Problem
The synoptic problem is a debate in regards to the literary relationship among the first three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, found in the New Testament and their account of the life, death, resurrection, and teachings of Christ. The very word “synoptic” carries the Greek meaning of “seeing the whole together” or “taking a comprehensive view” (Warfield, 1980). This question of literary relationship is raised do to the vast similarities found among the three gospels. The Gospel of Mark contains 678 verses with only approximately 50 of those being unique to just Mark. “He shares about 480 with both Matthew and Luke, and another 120 with Matthew only, and another 20 with Luke only. Thus Mark demonstrates differences only 7% while showing agreements 93% of the time” (López, 2011). The Gospel of John is not included in the synoptic problem discussion as it agrees with only 8% of all three, disagreeing with 92% (López, 2011).
The primary sources of evidence utilized in discussing the synoptic problem are found internally in studying the pattern of correlations and disagreements within the gospel text. A secondary source to the discussion that is utilized to a much smaller extent is the external evidence found within the witness of the early Christians (Black and Beck, 2001). Multiple theories and hypotheses have been developed using these sources to provide possible explanations of the literary similarities. These explanations include, but are not limited to, the two-source hypothesis, four-document hypothesis, the two-Gospel hypothesis, the Farrer theory and the Augustinian hypothesis.
A commonly accepted solution is the Mark-Q theory, or most frequently known as the two-source hypothesis. The two-source hypothesis holds that Mark was the original gospel and both Matthew and Luke independently enhanced it with a lost source referred to as Q (Black and Beck, 2001). It is the first of many theories that take into account Markan priority, or the belief that the Gospel of Mark indeed came first due to it’s vivid touches, rough grammar, misleading details, and abbreviation that is not found in Matthew or Luke. In addition Markan priority accounts for the rare deviation Matthew or Luke make from Mark especially in the same way at the same time (Black and...