Monday, July 2, 2007

I was reading yesterday and preparing for an interview I have in coming weeks and I came across a section in my class notes entitled: The Synoptic Problem. Now, the title itself is misleading for I do not believe there is a "synoptic problem."

Let me explain. The Synoptic Problem is the "problem" of the origins of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Thus, there are many critics who believe that because Mark has very little material that is original, that Matthew and Luke simply got most of their information from their Gospel from Mark. Thrown into the mix is another "alleged gospel" called "Q." "Q" is a document that is also supposedly used by the Synoptic writers from which they also gathered much information.

However, if one simply holds to inspiration, inerrancy and the different purposes and emphases of each Gospel, then there really is no synoptic problem.

Here is a quote I came across:

This conservative response [that is, that there is no "synoptic problem"] gives prominence to the role of the Holy Spirit. It recognizes that we have three independent and verbally inspired accounts of the life of Christ. We are suggesting in this that the writers had five methods of attaining knowledge, five ways of attaining material that they used.

1) Direct Knowledge: This simply means that the Gospel writers had the direct knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and his ministry and miracles. In a word, this is the "eye-witness" account.

2) Oral Teaching: This simply refers to the oral teachings of Christ and His miracles that had been passed down from generation to generation until they were penned by the Gospel writers. For example, if Christ died in 33AD, and Mark wrote in the 60's, for those 25 years the Gospel material was being preserved through the oral teachings of the Apostles and followers of Christ.

3) Short Written Accounts: We know that there were also little fragments here and there which contained some information on the life of Christ. Take Luke 1:1-4 for example:

Luke 1:1-4 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

So we know Dr. Luke did his research upon determining to write down his Gospel account. He used other "accounts" of those who had "undertaken the charge of writing a Gospel account."

4) Personal Contacts: Here I simply mean the Gospel writers had personal contacts with those who did have personal contacts with Jesus. For example, Matthew was one of the twelve, he had personal contacts with Jesus. But Mark, however, did not (unless he is the young man in Mark 14:51-52, which he most probably is) spent much time with Peter who did, of course, spend much time with Jesus. Furthermore, Luke also was ministering alongside of the Apostle Paul for quite some time on the missionary journeys. So we know there was some personal contact which revealed information for the Gospels.

5) The Inspiration of the Holy Spirit: Finally we speak on the inspiration of the Spirit. This - in and of itself - in a slam dunk arguing for the independent writing of each Gospel writer, but I put it last here for emphasis. Clearly we know that those who wrote in the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit:

2 Peter 1:20-21 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The idea of being "moved" by the Holy Spirit literally means "carried." The Gospel writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit in everything that they wrote in their respective gospel accounts.

Therefore, is there really a Synoptic Problem. Nope. I argue that each of the Synoptic Gospels were written independently of each other with different emphases, to different audiences, with different purposes, to different geographical regions, focusing in on certain areas and aspects of the ministry of our Lord that the others may not have emphasized as much.


Anonymous said...

The best, clearest, and most concise explanation of the synoptics I have ever seen....hope you don't mind if I use it for my ladies' Bible study....again, you have provided me with great material...or the Lord has, through you! Thanks, honey! Love, Mom

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