Synoptic Gospels

Synoptic Gospels

The synoptic gospels are the first three gospels of the New Testament in the Christian Bible. They are: Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Although styled as first-hand accounts, when these three gospels are placed next to each other they can be seen to share a common "synopsis".Fact|date=September 2008 In other words they recount the same stories about Jesus in the same sequence with similar choice of language. The interrelationship between the accounts, and the difficulty explaining them is called the 'synoptic problem'.


A synopsis (from the Greek, συν, "syn", together, and όψις, "opsis", seeing, meaning "seen together" in the sense of an overall view) is a general outline or summary of a longer work showing the essential components of that work. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke have their own individual style but when analysed carefully can be seen to share a common synopsis. In other words there is a 'standardised narrative' shared by the three authors. The attempt to account for this is the synoptic problem. The term "synopsis" might have first been used in 1583 by Georg Siegel, but it was not until 1774, when Johann Jakob Griesbach published his "Synopsis" that the base term entered the scholastic vernacular, and not until about the 1840s that the term began to be used as an adjective.Stephen C. Carlson's professional blog, [ quoting from Peter M. Head] and the Online Etymology Dictionary. January 02, 2004. ] From the 1830s onward, scholarsWho|date=May 2008 generally began using the term "synoptic gospels" instead of the term "first three gospels".

"Synoptic" is a Greek word meaning "having a common view." 1 John differs significantly from the synoptic gospels in theme, content, time duration, order of events, and style. "Only ca. 8% of it is parallel to these other gospels, and even then, no such word-for-word parallelism occurs as we find among the synoptic gospels." 2 The Gospel of John reflects a Christian tradition that is different from that of the other gospels. It was rejected as heretical by many individuals and groups within the early Christian movementFact|date=August 2008. It was used extensively by the Gnostic Christians. But it was ultimately accepted into the official canon, over many objections.Fact|date=August 2008 It is now the favorite gospel of many conservative Christians, and the gospel least referred to by many liberal Christians.Fact|date=August 2008Some differences:

However, the origin of the "concept", per se, stems from much earlier: As early as the 4th century, these three books were "seen together with the same eyes", starting with the Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, who had devised a method that enabled scholars to find parallel texts.

In the 5th century, Augustine of Hippo developed what was later known as the Augustinian hypothesis, which proposed why these three gospels were so similar. In this view, the gospels were written in order of presentation, but that Mark was Matthew's "lackey and abbreviator"Fact|date=May 2008 and that Luke drew from both sources (see illustration).

This view went unchallenged until the late 18th centuryFact|date=May 2008, when Anton Büsching posited that Luke came first, and Mark conflated Luke and Matthew.

In 1774 Griesbach published his landmark parallel study, calling it a "Synopsis". Over the subsequent years, he developed what became known as the Griesbach hypothesis, and now called the two-gospel hypothesis, or simply "2GH". This hypothesis maintains the primacy of Matthew, but proposes that Luke is directly based on it, while Mark is based on "both" (see illustration).

Since then, other hypotheses have been proffered in order to deal with the synoptic problem. These hypotheses include the Ur-Gospel hypothesis (1778), the two-source hypothesis (1838, 1863), Farrer hypothesis (1955), the Lindsey hypothesis (1963), Jerusalem School hypothesis (1973), and the Logia Translation hypothesis (1998).cite web | url = | title = Synoptic Problem Home Page|accessdate = 2007-07-08 ]

The widely accepted modern scholastic understandings (the two-source and four-source hypotheses) agreeFact|date=May 2008 that Mark's Gospel was the first written, and published in Rome in the early 60s AD. This Gospel was independently available, along with other verbal traditions, to Matthew and Luke, both of whom were writing in the 70's and 80's.Fact|date=May 2008

Yet other material is common to Luke and Matthew that is absent from Mark. The name given to this material is Q document, abbreviated to Q (see illustration).

The question of the origin of the remainder of the content of each of the latter two synoptics remains an open one, yet the name commonly givenFact|date=May 2008 to sources unique to these authors is L for Luke, or M for Matthew. In the culture at the time, it was very common for communities to preserve and pass on important stories and evidence by word of mouth from person to person.Fact|date=May 2008


ScholarsWho|date=May 2008 generally date the synoptic gospels as having been written after the epistles of Paul and before the gospel according to John, thus between 60 and 115 AD. As to the specific dates for each book, this largely depends on (or supports) the particular hypothesis used to account for the books' textual relationship.


The relationship between the texts is the subject of the synoptic problem, which essentially seeks answers to the question of why the texts are so similar — at times using exactly the same wording and mentioning the same sequence of events, despite the fact that other intervening events must have happened, even if they were mundane events such as Jesus sleeping or people gossiping about him.

The synoptic gospels all tell the story of Jesus, proclaiming him the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Messiah (Christ), the judge of the future apocalypse. The synoptic gospels start either with Jesus' birth or his baptism and conclude with the empty tomb and resurrection appearances, though some texts of Mark end at the empty tomb (see Mark 16). In these gospels, Jesus cures diseases, exorcises demons, forgives sins, displays dominion over nature, knows the secret thoughts and past of others, speaks "with authority," calls God his own Father and says that the Father had handed over to him "all things."

ee also

*Omissions in the Gospel of John


External links

* [ Catholic Encyclopedia: Synoptics]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Synoptic Gospels — ▪ biblical literature       the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the New Testament. Since the 1780s, the first three books of the New Testament have been called the Synoptic Gospels because they are so similar in structure, content, and… …   Universalium

  • SYNOPTIC GOSPELS —    the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke which are the first three Gospels of the NEW TESTAMENT …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • synoptic Gospels —    This term (from the Greek syn, meaning together, and opsis, meaning a sight or a view ) refers to the fact that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke follow a similar pattern in both their overall structure and their individual narratives; in …   Glossary of theological terms

  • Synoptic Gospels — noun the first three Gospels which describe events in Christ s life from a similar point of view • Syn: ↑Synoptics • Hypernyms: ↑sacred text, ↑sacred writing, ↑religious writing, ↑religious text • Part Holonyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • SYNOPTIC GOSPELS —    the first three Gospels, so called because they are summaries of the chief events in the story, and all go over the same ground, while the author of the fourth follows lines of his own …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Synoptic Gospels —  Синоптические Евангелия …   Вестминстерский словарь теологических терминов

  • Synoptic — is derived from the Greek words συν (syn = together) and οψις (opsis = seeing), and describes observations that give a broad view of a subject at a particular time. Specific uses include: *Synoptic scale meteorology *Synoptic Gospels *SynOptics… …   Wikipedia

  • Synoptic — Syn*op tic, Synoptical Syn*op tic*al, a. [Gr. ?: cf. F. synoptique. See {Synopsis}.] Affording a general view of the whole, or of the principal parts of a thing; as, a synoptic table; a synoptical statement of an argument. The synoptic Gospels.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Synoptic problem — The synoptic problem concerns the literary relationships between and among the first three canonical gospels (the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke), known as the Synoptic Gospels (from the Greek syn, meaning together, and optic, meaning seen ) …   Wikipedia

  • synoptic — adj. & n. adj. 1 of, forming, or giving a synopsis. 2 taking or affording a comprehensive mental view. 3 of the Synoptic Gospels. 4 giving a general view of weather conditions. n. 1 a Synoptic Gospel. 2 the writer of a Synoptic Gospel. Phrases… …   Useful english dictionary

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