Synoptic Gospels │ What Does It Mean? │ What are they and what are they? continue reading to find out more.
You have certainly read some biblical commentary or heard some preaching where the expression “synoptic gospels” was mentioned, and you must have been wondering: what is this? We will objectively explain to you.
What are and what are the Synoptic Gospels
They are the first three books of the New Testament, namely: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
The word Synoptic derives from two Greek words that mean “joint vision”. In other words, they have the same vision.
They are called synoptic gospels precisely because they are very similar in their narratives, regarding the events of the facts.
According to the oldest hypothesis of oral tradition, the similarities are due to a rapid crystallization of the tradition about Jesus in a more or less fixed oral form, later assuming a written form.
If this is true, it means that the three synoptic gospels were written based on testimonies each author experienced in Jesus’ day.
So why is John not among the synoptic gospels?
John’s Gospel is not among the Synoptic Gospels because its approach does not resemble those of the first three. This difference has been noticed since the churches of the first century.
According to Clement of Alexandria (circa 200 AD), John was concerned with conveying the inner essence of Christ, whereas the others had already dealt with historical facts.
the synoptic problem
The synoptic gospels are still matters of debate. More recently, two Scandinavian scholars have revised the hypothesis that the first three gospels were produced from the oral tradition, and testimony.
They recognize that there was a great importance of memory in ancient Jewish culture. This importance that Judaism gave to oral tradition would explain the similarity between the synoptic gospels.
However, most scholars today doubt that the mere verbal transmission could have preserved as many and as detailed verbal similarities as those that exist in the synoptic gospels.
Especially in the narratives, which would hardly reflect the ability to memorize, word for word, Jesus’ statements.
The gospel of Mark as a source for Matthew and Luke
It is still discussed today among scholars of the New Testament, the hypothesis that Luke and Matthew used as a source for their writings, the Gospel of Mark itself.
This is due to the fact that Mark’s gospel is considered the first to be written, although early Christian tradition is uncertain as to whether Mark wrote his gospel before or after the martyrdom of Peter (64-67 AD).
If Matthew and Luke used Mark’s gospel to compose their own, that would explain such a similarity between the synoptic gospels.
Whether the synoptic gospels were written from testimonies, or even whether Matthew and Luke used Mark’s gospel as a source, does not matter.
The uncertainty of the cause of the similarities between them does not detract from the historical and spiritual validity of any of them. Rather, each complements the other both historically and theologically.