New Testament

The Synoptic Problem, John the Baptist and Q


The relationships between the three synoptic g...

The relationships between the three synoptic gospels

The following examples shared by the Gospels of Matthew (GoMatthew) and Luke (GoLuke) are not represented in GoMark.

John’s apocalyptic speech

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said unto them, Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Matthew 3:7-10

He said therefore to the multitudes that went out to be baptized of him, Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And even now the axe also lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Luke 3:7-9

This passage from GoMatthew has 67 words in Greek.  61 of those words, or 91 percent, agree exactly with GoLuke.  GoLuke has 72 words in Greek.  61 of those words, or 85 percent, agree exactly with GoMatthew.

John’s inquiry from prison

Now when John heard in the prison the works of the Christ, he sent by his disciples and said unto him, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.
Matthew 11:2-6

And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to the Lord, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? And when the men were come unto him, they said, John the Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits; and on many that were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered and said unto them, Go and tell John the things which ye have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good tidings preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.
Luke 7:19-23

Notice the high degree of similarity in the common roots of these passages.

GoMatthew:
Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.

GoLuke:
Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another?… And he answered and said unto them, Go and tell John the things which ye have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good tidings preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.

From Q, the Earliest Gospel, John S. Kloppenborg, Westminster John Knox Press, 2008

“This type of agreement includes not only the choice of vocabulary, but extends to the inflection of the words, word order, and the use of particles—the most variable aspects of Greek syntax.  If Matthew and Luke were reproducing this oracle freely from memory, it is most unlikely that they would agree so closely on such highly variable elements of Greek.  This type of agreement can be explained only on the supposition that Matthew copied Luke or vice versa, or both used a common written source.” –p. 4

“A good hypothesis does two things.  First it tries to make maximal sense of the available data.  Good Synoptic hypotheses cannot provide compelling explanations of every bit of data, any more than hypotheses in the natural or social sciences can.  Every hypothesis has to accommodate anomalous data—data that doesn’t quite fit.  A good hypothesis thus tries to be a good approximation, a schematic picture that fits most of the data, most of the time.

“A good hypothesis does something else too: it provides an effective explanation—an explanation that aids our understanding of the data.  To assume that Matthew and Luke used Mark independently, supplementing, improving, explaining, and qualifying Mark, in fact makes sense of most of the data of the Synoptic Gospels.  It works.  It produces an account of the Gospels that makes sense.  To assume that Matthew and Luke used a second document to supplement what they had from Mark in fact makes for an efficient explanation of the data.  It works.”– pp. 39-40

From The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Eds. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, Oxford University Press, 1993

“The synoptic Gospels are those of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  They are called “synoptic” (“seen together”) because of their close similarities, which enable the texts to be set out in parallel for comparison.  It is generally agreed that there is a literary relationship among them, but the phenomena are complex and judgments on them are conflicting.  Dominant in modern critical scholarship is the Two Document Hypothesis (TDH), namely that Mark was the first gospel and was one of the two sources used by both Matthew and Luke, the other being “Q” (German Quelle, “source”). – p. 724

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “The Synoptic Problem, John the Baptist and Q

  1. “And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.”

    I have found this paritcularly interesting for some time. One can say taking this sentence alone is taking it out of context, but I wouldn’t buy that. It seems that, by the wording, it could just have easily meant something to the effect of ‘blessed is he who doesn’t judge me.’

    It is human nature to look for the bad; so this rendering rings more true to me than taking it as a first century Jewish man saying he never ‘sinned.’ It would’ve indeed been considered a sin to even allude to one’s being capable of healing, raising of the dead and such, as those were powers taken to be held by God. It makes no sense to me in the traditional christian literal rendition of Jesus being a ‘perfect’ human who had never sinned when he was a Jew in the first place anyway.

    Whatcha think?

    Posted by some1elseinla | September 23, 2010, 1:21 pm
    • Heya some1else,
      What do I think? Scandalous, more appropriately, skandalizo !

      I think we have 2,000 years of believers both stumbling and judging because of their fanatical devotion to myriad sects of a religion about Jesus, while not many, if any, share the actual religion of Jesus. Not many seem to care, for some odd reason. They just keep stumbling.

      I think I follow your train of thought though. As far as I am concerned, if christians can interpret the bible in thousands of different ways, why can’t others? From my perspective, I see no reason to think that Jesus, or anyone who might have followed him would have ever thought to entertain the concept of whether he had ever sinned. I see that as part of the myth-making that would naturally go hand-in-hand with deifying Jesus at the beginning of the second century.

      BTW, marimba some time back I mentioned the date for the physical resurrection in Daniel? If you check out “Understanding Daniel”, it’s all there.

      Posted by xcntrik | September 24, 2010, 11:27 pm

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