Hello, I am looking for someone to write an article on Comparing the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It needs to be at least 750 words. The Synoptic Problem of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke The Literary Relationship between the Three Synoptic Gospels The three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – all have a literary relationship not only because “Mark relied on Matthew” or “Luke relied on Mark and Matthew” (Conte), or “Matthew and Luke relied on Mark” (Just), but also because the events in all three gospels follow the same sequence and are very similar in nature. The events shared by all three gospels include the preaching of John the Baptist, the baptism and temptation of Jesus, the calling of the first four disciples, various instances of healing, the declaration of the mission of the twelve apostles, the parable of the sower, the parable of the mustard seed, the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus’ prediction of His suffering and death, and His death and Resurrection. Such similarity in events prove the literary relationship among the three Synoptic Gospels. The Argument that Mark was written first One of the reasons which suppose that Mark was written first is the Two Document Hypothesis, which states that “the synoptic gospels [is made up of] two written sources, Mark and Q” and that “Mark is the earliest of the gospels, written 65-70 A.D., and was used by the authors of Matthew and Luke as the narrative framework for their gospels” (Bercovitz). While disregarding the document Q, according to the theory, the two later gospels – Matthew and Luke – have simply “improved upon the grammar and diction of Mark” (Bercovitz). Thus, this implies that the grammar and diction of Mark was rather more “primitive” in context and that its wording is usually “fuller” compared to Matthew and Luke (“Synoptic Problem”). This explains the “several grammatical, literary, historical and geographical difficulties [or minor errors found in Mark but] not found in Matthew and Luke” (Just). This claim is not only indicative of a mere similarity in the content between Mark and the two later gospels but that Mark has its own grammatical and vocabulary uniqueness, simplicity and errors in its Hebrew version and thus the authors of Matthew and Luke may have simply made corrections on Mark and improved upon it when they were writing their own gospels. Such simplicity may then have been used by the authors of Matthew and Luke to build upon their own gospels. In fact, another instance of improvement of Mark by Matthew and Luke is the seeming elimination of certain sensitive passages of Mark in the two later gospels, such as Mark 3:19-21, where Jesus’ family heard people saying that Jesus “has gone mad,” and thus giving the reader the impression that indeed Jesus was mad (Bercovitz). This use of the word “mad” in the passage somehow stems from the idea that Jesus had Satan in Him as what the teachers of the Law of Moses stated but it was not really clear why the crowd that had gathered around Jesus and His disciples would call Him “mad” (Bercovitz). Perhaps the sad part is that when Jesus’ family heard that people were calling Him mad, “they set out to take charge of him” (Mk. 3:21, New International Version). This particular verse somehow implies one thing – that Jesus was indeed mad and that His family was there to restrain him somehow. Since Matthew and Luke does not mention such a sensitive statement, then scholars and theologians believe that these two later gospels have actually tried to improve the unedited and unabridged version of the gospel by Mark. Furthermore, based on this claim on the originality of Mark, it was supposed that Mark, along with Q, was actually a result of “oral transmission” and “direct contact with apostles” as their primary sources (Bercovitz). This supposition thus confers greater authority and reliability on the details of Mark compared to those of Matthew and Luke. Aside from the seemingly unedited and primitive passage in Mark which claims that Jesus is mad, there are other similar verses and passages in this particular gospel that are “obscure” such as the Parable of the Growing Seed in Mk. 4:26-29, where the Kingdom of God is likened by Jesus to a very simple example of a man who simply sows the seed and harvests them. Moreover, there is also another passage, Mk. 7:32-37, where Jesus seemed to be “magical” and ceremonial in his healing of the man who was deaf and mute – Jesus “put His fingers in the man’s ears, spat, and touched the man’s tongue…looked up to heaven, gave a deep groan….” (Just). Still, in Mk. 8:22-26, the author of Mark somehow portrays a rather weak Jesus because after spitting on a blind man’s eyes, the man “can see people but they look like trees walking around” and thus Jesus had to place His hands on the man’s eyes again for the latter to be able to see clearly (Just). Such repetition portrayed by Mark somehow implies that Jesus is weak, and the fact that Matthew and Luke do not seem to have such statements implies that the authors of these two later gospels have indeed simply improved upon Mark. A second reason why Mark seems to have been written before Matthew and Luke concerns the chronology of events in the Synoptic Gospels. The proof is rather based on logic: if Matthew was written first, then it would be “hard to understand” why Luke copied all the events in Matthew and Mark but rearranged those in Matthew while kept those in Mark in the same sequence (Just). On the other hand, if Mark was written first, it would be easy to understand the fact that both Matthew and Luke actually had the same sequence of events as Mark, only that there are parts in the two later gospels where material from Q was inserted (Just). Such practicality and logic then becomes a strong proof for the claim that Mark was written before Matthew and Luke. Objections against the Claim that Mark was written first and the Counterarguments against these Objections However, despite the evidence and logic presented by the modern scholars and theologians who believe that Mark was written first before Matthew and Luke, the more conservative ones opposed such claims and declared the weakness of the evidence. First of all, in order to discount the Two Document Hypothesis, they said that the Q-document does not exist anymore and thus cannot be used as a logical proof such as the one presented above. Nevertheless, whether or not Q actually existed, the existence of Q “does seem to provide the best solution for explaining the ‘Synoptic Problem’” (Just). Regardless of the assigned name, Q, from the German word “quelle,” which means “source,” any other similar source could have been inserted between the passages of Matthew and Luke while not disrupting the original sequence of events in Mark (“The Synoptic Problem”). A second objection is that modern scholars who believe that Mark was written first somehow did not consider “Mark’s young age or the evidence that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome, many years after Matthew and the other disciples had departed Judea” (Conte). Conte’s objection is admittedly strong since he is using historical evidence to support his claims. Nevertheless, Mark was the secretary of Peter and also his interpreter, thus Mark’s gospel could have been Peter’s actual words and thus is more reliable as it was the gospel from the words of the man personally chosen by Jesus to govern and perpetuate His Church (Just). Furthermore, this could also be the reason why Mark’s gospel is continued to be revered by Christians despite its aforementioned shortcomings (Just). Lastly, Conte may not actually have taken into consideration the possibility that the actual authors of the four gospels were not Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but that these four names may simply have been conveniently assigned by the ancient Christian or Catholic Churches, for “none of the [currently known] Gospel authors claims to have been a member of the apostolic group around Jesus or have actually known any of the original Twelve Apostles” (Greenberg). Conclusion Despite the obvious literary relationship among the three Synoptic Gospels, there have been opposing views regarding which of the three gospels had actually been written first. The present theory and the most logical one so far is that the gospel of Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke simply both copied it. The proofs of such theory include the high degree of probability that Matthew and Luke simply improved on the literary shortcomings of Mark as well as the vague parts of the latter, and the logical idea that had Mark been written first, it would not have affected the sequence of events in Matthew and Luke, but if Matthew had been written earlier, then nobody would think why Luke would rearrange the events in Matthew but not in Mark. Nevertheless, the main objection to this is historical evidence that supposes that Mark could not have written his gospel ahead of Matthew. The counterargument is Mark’s authority which is linked to Peter as well as the theory that the authors of the gospels may not have been exactly Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Thus, the claim that Mark was written first remains the more plausible theory. However, the point is that whether this is true or not, the literary relationship among the three Synoptic Gospels tells us that indeed there was enough proof that there once existed a Jesus Christ who lived and died for us. Top of Form Bottom of Form Works Cited Bercovitz, J. Peter. “Sources for the Study of Jesus.” 2005. PaulOnPaul.org. 10 Jul 2012. Conte, Ronald L. “The Writing of the Gospels – Relationship between the Synoptics.” 2010. Catholic Planet. 10 Jul 2012. Greenberg, Gary. “Who Wrote the Gospels?: Why New Testament Scholars Challenge Church Traditions.” 2012. Bible, Myth and History. 10 Jul 2012. Just, Felix. “The Synoptic Problem.” 2007. CatholicResources.org. 10 Jul 2012. “Synoptic Problem.” 2012. The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies. 10 Jul 2012. “The Synoptic Problem.” 2012. New Testament Made Easy. 11 Jul 2012.
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