The Synoptic Solution to the Synoptic Problem

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) have many similar stories, but with very slight variations.

For example, Mark tells us Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus Mk 10:46, but Matthew tells us that Bartimaeus had another blind companion Mat 20:30, with the same request at the same time Mat 20:33. So why did Mark mention only one? These miracles occurred when Jesus was leaving Jericho Mat 20:29, Mk 10:46, and they followed a similar and previous miracle upon Jesus’ arriving at Jericho Lk 18:35. Careless preachers will speak about these incidents as if they are the same, and may even say that Luke made a mistake.

There are many variations in the Synoptic Gospels and textual critics try to explain these differences. Theories abound about the existence of lost manuscripts that were copied by different Gospel writers and sometimes copied wrongly. Almost every proposed theory assumes that each synoptic Gospel writer consulted one or both of the other synoptic Gospels.

The Synoptic Problem is a problem created by unbelieving textual critics who think that there are contradictions between the Synoptic Gospels, that these are mistakes, and therefore they cannot be inspired writings. It arises because of the unwarranted assumption that one Gospel writer is consulting or copying another Gospel writer, and the refusal to believe in the inspiration of Scripture 2Tim 3:16 and the superintending oversight of the Holy Spirit in producing and preserving the final version of the Scriptures Ps 12:6-7.

Luke tells us that there were various manuscripts circulating Lk 1:1-4, and he had evidently read some of them. The Synoptic Problem assumes, however, that he, Matthew and Mark had read one or more of the other Gospels. Luke does not say so, and the assumption is wrong.

Rather, we have no proof that any of them had read the other Gospels before they wrote their own Gospel. The likelihood is that they had not read each other, and internal biblical evidence suggests that they had not. The Gospel story was well known to Christians and committed to memory. There were many oral and written accounts circulating in apostolic times, with multitudes of variations. At the time of composition of each Gospel, there was a plethora of material, and Luke with his medical skills of observation, analysis and diagnosis made a special study of what information was available to him in order to record in the Gospel of Luke and in the Acts of the Apostles an accurate account of what he could ascertain. Analysis of Luke’s Gospel shows that he did not have the Gospels of Matthew nor Mark to hand during his researches for writing his Gospel, nor even the Gospel of John. Similar analysis of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark reveal the same about each other. They did not copy each other.

The Synoptic Solution is the proper analysis of the synoptic accounts according to biblical principles of exegesis. The Synoptic Solution analyses and exegetes the biblical text in the light of the Holy Spirit’s Authorship of Scripture 2Tim 3:16, by the aid of the Holy Spirit’s guidance 1Cor 2:14 and Rom 8:5-9.

An example of the application of the Synoptic Solution can be found here.

4 thoughts on “The Synoptic Solution to the Synoptic Problem

  1. Pingback: Was the rich young ruler actually Saul of Tarsus? | Donald's Thoughts

    1. Donald

      Rowland,

      First, there is no Synoptic Problem. My post shows that this is a manufactured problem by those who think that the Synoptic Gospels have got contradictions in them. The Synoptic Solution asserts that there is no problem – except for those who manufactured their own theory what the Synoptic Gospels ought to say.

      On the topic of differences, there were many people repeating accounts about Jesus, and this would develop into ‘oral Gospels’. So, yes, this does go a long way to explain why there are differences. These eventually found their way into manuscripts. My post says: “Luke tells us that there were various manuscripts circulating Lk 1:1-4, and he had evidently read some of them…There were many oral and written accounts circulating in apostolic times, with multitudes of variations.”

      It is the task of the exegete to determine the whole picture from the differences between the Synoptic Gospels, and this exercise will teach them to be less dogmatic about their exegesis of other parts of Scripture where we have only one account.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Was the rich young ruler actually Saul of Tarsus? – Donald's Thoughts

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