Contents of Course and Notes:


Week  Topic


 1  The Historical Jesus.................................................................................................................... 2 

Theological; Historical: Deism, Rationalism, Idealism, Romanticism, Skepticism, Present Situation, Jesus Seminar; Summary on Liberal Lives

 2  The Jewish Background............................................................................................................ 23 

Ancient Sources, Daniel=s Overview, Persia, Greeks, Hasmoneans, Romans, Messianic Expectation, End of Jewish State, After Fall of Jerusalem

 3  Narratives (Visit of the Wise Men, Matt 2:1-23)...................................................................... 35 

Features to Build On, Typical Schedule, Genres, Narrative

 4  Authorship & Date of the Synoptics......................................................................................... 41 

Authorship, Date, Characteristics

 5  Parables (The Marriage Banquet, Matt 22:1-14)....................................................................... 78 

Definitions, How Parables Function: Stories, Analogies, Examples

 6  The Gospels as Literary Works................................................................................................. 84 

Literary Form, Techniques


 7                     Mid-Term Hour Test........................................................................................... 87 


 8  The Synoptic Problem............................................................................................................... 89 

The Problem, Phenomena, Sketch History, Discussion, Proposed Solution

 9  The Geography of Palestine.................................................................................................... 108 

Physical Features, Political Features, Jerusalem

10  Miracle Accounts (Demons & Pigs, Mark 5:1-20)................................................................ 118 

Genre, Features, Function, List of Miracles in Gospels

11  The Theology of the Synoptics.............................................................................................. 119 

Introduction, Kingdom Characterized, Present, Provisional, Gospel of Kingdom, Kingdom & Church, Future Consummation

12  Form Criticism & Redaction Criticism................................................................................... 127 

Form Criticism: Terminology, Background, Methods, Application, Evaluation; Redaction Criticism: Definition, History, Methodology, Results, Evaluation; Conclusions on Gospel History

13  Controversy Accounts (Beelzebub, Luke 11:14-28).............................................................. 158 

Narrative or Discourse, Items to Keep in Mind, Controversy and Dialogue Accounts in the Synoptics


14                    Final Exam................................................................ see suggestions on pp 87-88 

I. The Historical Jesus


People have enormously diverse views about Jesus.  Some of these are motivated by their religion or world view, others claim to be honest grappling with the historical data.  Here we give just a quick tour of influential modern views.


 A. Basically Religious Views


The biblical data points to Jesus who is somehow fully God and fully human.

Other religious alternatives divide into two categories:

- Jesus only human, not God in any real sense;

- Jesus divine in some sense, but not biblical sense.


  1. Jesus was only human, not God in any real sense.


   a. Atheism - Jesus was at best only human; many atheists claim he was fictional.  This was a standard Communist view.


   b. Islam - Jesus was a true prophet, born of a virgin, worked miracles, will one day reign as Messiah, but he is not God, since Allah is strictly one and he has no son.  Jesus did not die on the cross, but was snatched to heaven and a substitute was put in his place.


   c. Old Liberalism - The Gospels contain much legendary material since miracles don't happen.  God only worked providentially through Jesus, but people misunderstood him and he was deified by the early Gentile Christians.  He was some sort of ethical teacher, who had more of God in him than others did.  He died on the cross as an example, but his resurrection is only spiritual.


   d. Neo‑Orthodoxy - Similar view of Gospels to Old Liberalism, but feel that Jesus of history not nearly so important as the Christ of faith.  An attempt to rescue religious value while accepting "scientific" history.


  2. Jesus is divine in some sense, but not in the biblical sense.


   a. Jehovah's Witnesses - Jesus is a god, actually some sort of "reincarnation" of the archangel Michael, by whom Jehovah God created all things.  He is not the Almighty God and is not to be worshipped.  He was born of a virgin, worked miracles, died on the cross.  His body dissolved in the tomb, but he will one day return to set up an earthly kingdom for his faithful witnesses.


   b. Mormonism - Though the Book of Mormon is fairly orthodox (more or less Trinitarian), and Jesus is viewed as virgin born, Messiah, miracle-worker, who rose from the dead, their later scriptures indicate that men can become gods like Jesus and the Father did.  Jesus was merely a man at the time he was on earth, but unusual in that he was the first‑born soul of his Father and his spiritual mother in heaven.  He was sent from heaven when Mary conceived, and since his ascension has become a god.  His death only saves us from original sin.


   c. New Age Movement - A very diverse group of views that are characterized by a mixture of western attitudes and ideas with elements (especially reincarnation) borrowed from Hinduism and Bud­dhism.  Generally Jesus is viewed as one of the great (but usually not the greatest) ascended masters, who through spiritual effort and enlightenment have risen far above the level of most humans.  You, too, can become a god by one or more tech­niques.  The term Christ is typically used for a level of spiritual enlightenment, and was not an office held uniquely by Jesus.


 B. Allegedly Historical Views


The past 200 years have seen numerous attempts to produce the "real, historical" Jesus who is allegedly quite differ­ent than the person pictured in the Gospels.  These attempts have regularly assumed that miracles do not occur (having been disproved by science), so that the Gospels (filled as they are with miracles) cannot be reliable.  Proponents of such views accept some of the Gospel material and reject the rest.  We give some examples here characteristic of various philosophical movements since just before 1800.  Albert Schweitzer, in his Quest of the Historical Jesus discusses over 100 such liberal biogra­phies of Christ.


  1. Deism:  Reimaurus' Wolfenbttel Fragments (1774-78)

Deism sees God as the Creator watchmaker, but one who does not intervene in human affairs. 


Hermann Samuel Reimaurus' book was published posthumously in fragments; two of these deal w/ Jesus:

- "Concerning the Story of the Resurrection"

- "The Aims of Jesus and his Disciples"


Jesus claimed to be a Jewish‑type Messiah, to bring the Jews back to God, to be a military commander to "deliver" them, but made no attempt to found a new religion.  He did some psychosomatic healings (not miraculous), tried to start a revolt against Rome, but failed.  He was put to death as a revolutionary.


After Jesus' death, his disciples realized he had failed.  Out of the habit of working by this time, they decided to start a new religion.  They stole Jesus' body, claimed he had risen and sent them out to preach this new reli­gion.  They invented a new eschatology with a 2nd coming.


Publication of Reimaurus' material created a sensation, destroyed his reputation, and his family discouraged further publication.  Yet it opened the way for later liberal recon­structions which were mostly less drastic.  It set a prece­dent of ignoring the epistles of Paul, Peter, and John; of emphasizing Jesus' eschatological teaching (which Reimaurus and most liberals do not like); and of claiming much materi­al in Gospels was the creation of the apostles and the later church rather than going back to Jesus.


  2. Rationalism: Paulus' Leben Jesu (1828)

Rationalists think revelation unnecessary be­cause moral truth is eternal and can be deduced by good reason­ing. 


Unlike Reimaurus, Heinrich Paulus wrote a "sympathet­ic" life of Christ.  Jesus was a great moral teacher of unusual insight and ability. 


Our main interest in Paulus' work is his "ratio­nalistic" treat­ment of miracles as non-supernatural events misunder­stood by the disciples as miracles.  Jesus really healed people by some unknown spiritual power which worked on the nervous system, something like ESP or hypnosis.  He used natural medicine and diet rather like today's holistic healers and health food people.


His nature miracles are harder to explain, but Paulus sug­gested that Jesus' walking on water was really on the shore or a sandbar; that Jesus used the little boy's loaves and fish to shame the adults into sharing their hidden lunches; that Jesus' transfiguration was really the sunrise illumi­nating his hair and clothes from behind; that the resurrec­tions of Lazarus et al was Jesus' recognizing they were in a coma and waking them up. 


Jesus' own resurrection was similar. He did not die on the cross, but went into a coma.  The cool tomb and aromatic spices revived him.  An earthquake opened the tomb, and Jesus appeared to his disciples for a while, but later left them to die.  His departure was misunderstood as an ascens­ion, as he walked up the hill into low clouds.


The importance of Paulus' work was to spread such liberal views into "Christian" circles, claiming sympathy for Jesus, but still debunking miracles.  Paulus did not lose his job or prestige over the book.  His rationalizing approach to miracles, though soon ridiculed by liberals, is still used by them in some cases.


  3. Idealism: Strauss' Leben Jesu (1835)

Idealism is used here in the philosophical sense: ideas are the basic reality rather than matter.


According to David Friedrich Strauss, the entire life of Christ has been colored by mythological interpretation (not just his birth and resurrection as some had suggested).  Myth is here defined as timeless religious truth clothed in historical form, often by using legend­ary materials. Thus the religious ideas expressed in the events of Jesus' life are true, but the events did not really happen.  For exam­ple, the deity of Christ is not a histori­cal truth, but a myth expressing the "highest idea ever con­ceived by man: the unity of Godhood and manhood" (i.e., we are all divine).


In Leben Jesu, Strauss attacks both the orthodox and ratio­nalistic ideas of Jesus, espe­cially mocking Paulus' explana­tions for the miracles. But he presents few positive expla­nations of his own for the historical events, probably because he was not greatly con­cerned with what happened. 


Strauss' book met with strong reaction in his day because it was both anti‑Christian and anti‑rationalistic.  It laid the groundwork for Bultmann and the demythologizing school in the 20th century.  He posed three problem areas which have continued to dominate liberal studies on Jesus to this day:


- Miracle vs. myth:  Strauss virtually ended the liber­al acceptance of miracles in the gospel accounts as his­torical.  Only the healing accounts are accepted by some liberals today, who say Jesus did some psycho­somatic healing as faith-healers still do.


- Jesus of history vs. the Christ of faith:  Strauss sepa­rated historical truth from religious value, favoring a "Christ of faith" approach.


- Gospel of John vs. the Synoptics:  Strauss established a widespread rejection of John by attacking its reliabil­i­ty more effectively than Reimarus had done earli­er.


  4. Romanticism: Renan's La Vie de Jesus (1863)

Romanticism a reaction against rationalism's emphasis on reason and logic.  Emotions and intuition give insights which you cannot obtain through reason.


As Ernest Renan sees it, the Gospel picture of Jesus doesn't  make sense [with the miraculous removed].  So he sorts the materials into three different phases in Jesus' life:

- ethical teacher

- revolutionary

- martyr


Renan claimed that all 3 phases were historical, but they got mixed together chronologi­cally in the gospel accounts.  Each facet was a distinct period in his life.


1) Jesus begins as an optimistic, pleasant ethical teacher who learned to preach from John the Baptist.  He returns to Galilee as a gentle teacher of love, attracts a devoted following of young men and women, plus large crowds of charmed Galile­ans.  He does no miracles except some psycho­somatic healings.


2) When Jesus goes to Jerusalem, he finds the rabbis will not accept him.  As a result, he becomes a revolutionary and campaigns to get rid of them.  He begins doing faked mira­cles to attract a larger following.


3) Soon Jesus realizes that his movement does not have enough popular support to beat the rabbis, and that he cannot continue to stage miracles indefinitely without being discovered.  He decides to throw off earthly ambitions and become a martyr.  Before his death, he starts a religious movement so that his teachings will be preserved.  He insti­tutes the simple ceremonies of baptism & Lord's supper to give unity to the group and chooses its leaders (apostles).  He allows himself to be caught and dies on the cross.


His strategy works out better than he expected, as Mary Magde­lene has a hallucination that Jesus is alive.


Renan's work is important in spreading liberal recon­struc­tions of Jesus' life to the popular educated classes and partic­ularly into Catholicism.  He opened the door to the idea that reliability can be judged by aesthet­ics:  "God can't be that way because I don't like it."  His idea that the chronological framework of the Gospels is untrustworthy will be picked up later in form criticism.


  5. Scepticism:  Wrede's Messianic Secret (1901)

Sceptics are doubters to a greater degree than the positions above, feeling it is impossible to recon­struct a life of Jesus.


Wilhelm Wrede reacts against reconstructions like those sketched above, arguing that much in these pictures is obtained by "reading between the lines" and ignoring what Jesus has to say about the second coming, judgment, hell, and such.


Wrede does not attempt a full life of Christ, but tries to solve a single problem: why (if Jesus claimed to be Messi­ah) did he keep telling people to keep this a secret?  Wrede's answer is that Mark invented the Messianic Secret because Jesus never claimed to be Messiah but Mark and his circle thought that he was.


Wrede comes to believe that Mark's whole narrative framework is unreliable, so that only some of the individual stories and sayings in his Gospel really happened.


At this point in our narrative of liberal lives of Jesus, notice that liberals have now thrown out all the Gospels: John is late, Matthew and Luke build on Mark, and Mark is unreliable.


This deep scepticism toward the Gospel accounts led to the application of form criticism to the life of Christ by Rudolf Bultmann and others beginning about 1920, and thereaf­ter brought a stop to the writing of liberal lives of Christ until about 1950.


Quests for the historical Jesus were resumed in the 1950's (the so-called second quest) by liberals who were dissatisfied with the particular form of extreme scepti­cism advocated by Bultmann.  We are now generally thought to be in a phase called the Athird quest.@


  6. The Present Situation:  Considerable Diversity


Renan's observation is correct:  Once the miracles are excluded from Jesus' ministry, his person and life do not make sense, and a variety of possibilities can be imagined.  Modern theories are often simply various combi­nations of previ­ously noticed possibilities.  We give a fast sketch of some of the views advocated since World War 2.


   a. The Post-Bultmannian Paradoxes

Post-Bultmannian is a term for former students of Bult­mann, especial­ly:

Gunther Bornkamm

Hans Conzelmann

Klaus Fuchs

Ernst Kasemann

James M. Robinson


Bornkamm is the only one who wrote a life of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth (1960); the others wrote encyclopedia and jour­nal articles.  All are anti‑sup­ernatural, but feel Bultmann went too far in his scepticism.  They have more interest in history than he did, and feel that the NT material gives us at least the atmosphere of what people thought about Jesus.


Their historical methodology is very skeptical:  ignore the Gospel of John and use the Synoptics; pick out the authentic incidents and sayings of Jesus by using the method of disso­nance.


Method of Dissonance:


Jesus himself was a Jew and his followers were Chris­tians. Thus any features of Jesus' reported teachings which look Jewish may go back to the Jews, not to Jesus himself.  Any material which looks Christian may go back to the early Christians, not to Jesus.  Only that which is incompatible with both Judaism and Chris­tiani­ty probably goes back to Jesus.  Examine this material to get Jesus' self‑understand­ing.


Dissonance has problems as a methodology: using same on Martin Luther, you would reject any material where he sounds either Catholic or Lutheran!


Some Results:


However, these Post-Bultmannians have deduced some interesting results which do not fit the liberal models well.


(1) Jesus' view of himself.


Kasemann: A very distinct atmosphere is present in the NT.  Jesus thought of himself as divinely and uniquely inspired, and that he was greater than a prophet.  Jesus made messianic claims.  


Bornkamm and Fuchs: Jesus claimed that he could forgive sins.


(2) Jesus' teachings.


Kasemann: Jesus' main messages are that God has come to give men what they don't deserve and to set them free from bond­age.


Conzelmann: Jesus spoke of a future kingdom which in some sense is confronting us right now.  This point was regularly lost in old liberalism, which typically sets these two elements in contradiction.


(3) Jesus' conduct.


Bornkamm and Fuchs: Jesus' actions show that he is submitted to God, yet he claims a unique authority (seen in the cleansing of the temple).  He also showed great graciousness to outcasts (contrast Jesus' atti­tude vs. Pharisees' attitude).


The results seem rather minimal, but they are striking. They suggest that Jesus is much more than liberals have granted, and that they should reconsider their scepticism.


   b. Schonfield's Passover Plot (1966)

Hugh J. Schonfield was a liberal British Jew who worked on the international Dead Sea Scroll committee.  Appar­ently he accepted the claims of Jesus at one point in his career but later gave it up.  He is quite familiar with evangelical interpreta­tions of OT prophe­cy.


According to Schonfield, Jesus' ministry is a elaborate plot to fulfill the OT prophecies regarding the Messiah, espe­cially his death and resurrection. 


Jesus, convinced he is the Messiah, gath­ers disciples, but avoids claiming publicly to be the Messiah for his own safety.  Eventually, however, Jesus is rejected in Galilee and real­izes that he must "die" and rise again in order to fulfill OT prophecy (Ps.22).


Jesus decides to fake his death rather than trust God for a resurrection.  He constructs a plot using several assistants who are only in on parts of the plot.  Lazarus' death and resur­rection is faked to build tension with the authori­ties.  The colt is arranged for the trium­phal entry, forcing the Jewish authorities to take action to avoid a revolt.  Jesus controls the timing of his ar­rest so that he will be cruci­fied for only a few hours.  With the code words "Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani!" an assis­tant drugs him with a sponge and Jesus goes into a coma.


The plot, almost perfect, is ruined by the spear thrust from the Roman soldier.  Jesus is taken down by Joseph of Arima­thea and an unnamed conspirator we'll call "Mr.X."  That night he is removed from the tomb, taken to another place, re­vived.  He gives Mr. X a message to carry to his disci­ples: "Tell them to meet me in Galilee."  Jesus dies after Mr. X leaves to deliver the message.


Mr. X tries to tell the women at the tomb; they think he is an angel.  He tries to tell some disciples on road to Emma­us; they mistake him for Jesus.  The confusion continues.  Any appearances where Jesus was not immediately recognized are treated as those of Mr.X.  The clear and solid appear­ances were stories made up later by the church.


Schonfield's story reflects the influence of the discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls, with more emphasis on the Messianic expectation at Jesus' time, and renewed appreciation for the Gospel of John as a source.  It is peculiar in its daring treat­ment of OT Prophecies.  It is a classic example of a plot theory.


   c. An Aside on Plot Theories


A "plot theory" claims that some set of historical events can better be explained C not by the stated or surface moti­vations but C by an unstated, hidden, secret, plot.  The claim that Kennedy was killed by the CIA, or Lincoln by the Radical Republicans, are examples.


Plots clearly occur in human history, but plot theories face serious methodological problems:


- The better the plot, the more hidden it was (and is), and therefore the less useful our data is.  The perfect plot doesn't fit the data at all!

- Therefore it is possible to construct far more plots than could actually happen, so that the chance of any one plot being true is very small.

‑ It is impossible to prove a plot theory right or wrong before the Last Judgment, but very dangerous to hang one=s world view on a particular plot theory.


   d. Allegro, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970)

John Marco Allegro was a professor at University of Manches­ter, England, and another British representa­tive on International DSS team.  This book ruined his aca­demic reputa­tion!


Allegro has a super plot theory, more radical than Bultmann or Schonfield.  Jesus never existed!  Christianity and Judaism never existed (in the 1st century)!  Their books and teachings are all expres­sions of code‑words used to disguise a super‑secret mushroom fertility cult.  Judaism and Chris­tianity do not appear to be such now because the secrets were lost under persecution, and the "front organiza­tions" continued and developed on their own.


Allegro tries to prove by etymology that the OT and NT are filled with secret codes relating to hallucinogenic mush­rooms and sexual orgies.  He uses Latin, Greek, Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Hebrew, Aramaic, Sanskrit, Ugaritic, Accad­ian and Sumerian, enough to snow all but the best lin­g­uists.


   e. Smith, The Secret Gospel (1973); Jesus the Magi­cian (1978)

Morton Smith was Professor of Ancient History at Colum­bia University; studied in Israel 1941‑45, Ph.D. Hebrew Univer­sity; Th.D. Harvard.


Smith claims he discovered C in 1958 at the Mar Saba Greek Orthodox Monastery in Israel C a letter from Clement of Alex­an­dria (fl 200 AD) copied into the back of a Greek book pub­lished in the 1700s.  The book with letter C if it ever existed C has disappeared.  For the text of the letter see pp.14-17 of Secret Gospel.


Letter answers some charges made by a gnostic group called the Carpocratians who had a different version of the Gospel of Mark (included lewd materials used to justify their sexual immorality). Clement says he has a secret longer version of Mark (not including lewd material) which the Carpocratians stole, then corrupted for their libertine group.


Smith sides with the Carpocratians in claiming Jesus was really a libertine gnostic magician and that this explains his miracles, personal claims of deity, secrecy and state­ments about the law (men are not responsible to the law in any way).


This is not a clumsy fraud: Clement was interested in these topics.  The letter resembles Clement's style.  If it is a forgery, the writer knew at least as much as Smith (!) [see recent inter­esting parallel with clever crook Mark Hoffman in Mormon circles].


  7. The Jesus Seminar

A group of radical NT researchers who have been meeting for twenty years or so to produce a scholarly presentation on Jesus that will blow traditional Christianity out of the water.  They have been given extensive media pub­lici­ty every time they meet (about every 6 months), and in 1993 present­ed their first book-length production:


Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Semi­nar, The Five Gospels:  The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus.  New York:  Macmillan, 1993.


Let us sketch where they are coming from and their results they obtain (numbers in parentheses are pages in Five Gospels):


The seven pillars of scholarly wisdom (2-5; their numbering)


1. Jesus of history vs. Christ of faith

2. Jesus of synoptics vs. Jesus of John

3. Priority of Mark

4. Existence of Q

5. Eschatological vs. non-eschatological Jesus

6. Oral culture vs. print culture

7. Gospels assumed non-historical unless proved other­wise


Rules of written evidence (16-25; my numbering)


                                                        Clustering and contexting

1. The evangelists frequently group sayings and parables in clusters that did not originate with Jesus.

2. The evangelists frequently relocate sayings and parables or invent new narrative contexts for them.

                                                        Revision and commentary

3. The evangelists frequently expand sayings or parables, or provide them with an inter­pretive overlay or comment.

4. The evangelists often revise or edit sayings to make them conform to their own individual language, style, or viewpoint.

                                                                False attribution

5. Words borrowed from the fund of common lore or the Greek scriptures are often put on the lips of Jesus.

6. The evangelists frequently attribute their own statements to Jesus.

                                                                Difficult sayings

7. Hard sayings are frequently softened in the process of transmission to adapt them to the conditions of daily living.

8. Variations in difficult sayings often betray the struggle of the early Christian community to interpret or adapt sayings to its own situation.

                                                             Christianizing Jesus

9. Sayings and parables expressed in "Christian" language are the creation of the evange­lists or their Christian predecessors.

10. Sayings or parables that contrast with the language or viewpoint of the gospel in which they are embedded reflect older tradition (but not necessarily tradition that originated with Jesus).

11. The Christian community develops apologetic statements to defend its claims and sometimes attributes such statements to Jesus.

12. Sayings and narratives that reflect knowledge of events that took place after Jesus' death are the creation of the evangelists or the oral tradition before them.


Rules of oral evidence (25-34; my numbering)


                                                        From the gospels to Jesus

1. Only sayings and parables that can be traced back to the oral period, 30-50 CE, can possibly have originated with Jesus.

2. Sayings or parables that are attested in two or more independent sources are older than the sources in which they are imbedded.

3. Sayings or parables that are attested in two different contexts probably circulated independently at an earli­er time.

4. The same or similar content attested in two or more different forms has had a life of its own and therefore may stem from an old tradition.

5. Unwritten tradition that is captured by the written gospels relatively late may preserve very old tradi­tion.

                                                             Orality and memory

6. The oral memory best retains sayings and anecdotes that are short, provocative, memorable C and oft repeated.

7. The most frequently recorded words of Jesus in the sur­viving gospels take the form of aphorisms and para­bles.

8. The earliest layer of the gospel tradition is made up of single aphorisms and parables that circulated by word of mouth prior to the written gospels.

9. Jesus' disciples remembered the core or gist of his sayings and parables, not his precise words, except in rare cases.

                                                          The storyteller's license

10. To express what Jesus is imagined to have said on par­ticular occasions: Jesus says to them, "Let's cross to the other side." (Mk 4:35)

11. To sum up the message of Jesus as Mark understood it: "The time is up.  God's imperial rule is closing in.  Change your ways and put your trust in the good news." (Mk 1:15)

12. To forecast the outcome of his own gospel story and sum up the gospel then being proclaimed in his community, Mark has Jesus say, "The son of Adam is being turned over to his enemies, and they will end up killing him.  And three days after he is killed he will rise!" (Mk 9:31-32)

13. To express Mark's own view of the disciples and others, Mark has Jesus say to the frightened disciples after the squall had died down, "Why are you so cowardly?  You still don't trust, do you?" (Mk 4:40)

14. Since Mark links trust with the cure of the sick, he has Jesus say to the woman he has just cured, "Daughter, your trust has cured you." (Mk 5:34)  Jesus' remark is underscored by Mark's narrative aside: "He was unable to perform a single miracle there, except that he did cure a few by laying hands on them, though he was always shocked by their lack of trust." (Mk 6:5-6)

15. To justify the later practice of fasting, in spite of the fact that Jesus and his first disciples did not fast: "The days will come when the groom is taken away from them, and then they will fast, on that day." (Mk 2:20)

16. To elicit the right confession, Mark has Jesus ask, "What are people saying about me?" (Mk 8:27)  A little later in the conversation, he asks, "What about you, who do you say I am?" (Mk 8:29)  Peter then responds, "You are the Anointed," which is what Christians are supposed to say.

                                                             Distinctive discourse

17. Jesus' characteristic talk was distinctive C it can usually be distinguished from common lore.  Otherwise it is futile to search for the authentic words of Jesus.

18. Jesus' sayings and parables cut against the social and religious grain.

19. Jesus' sayings and parables surprise and shock: they characteristically call for a reversal of roles or frustrate ordinary, everyday expectations.

20. Jesus' sayings and parables are often characterized by exaggeration, humor, and paradox.

21. Jesus' images are concrete and vivid, his sayings and parables customarily metaphorical and without explicit application.

                                                                The laconic sage

22. Jesus does not as a rule initiate dialogue or debate, nor does he offer to cure people.

23. Jesus rarely makes pronouncements or speaks about him­self in the first person.

24. Jesus makes no claim to be the Anointed, the messiah.


The colors in the text (36-37)


Voting Option 1:


red:      I would include this item unequivocally in the database for determining who Jesus was.

pink:    I would include this item with reservations (or modifications) in the database.

gray:    I would not include this item in the database, but I might make use of some of its content in deter­mining who Jesus was.

black:   I would not include this item in the primary data­base.


Voting Option 2:


red:      Jesus undoubtedly said this or something very like this.

pink:    Jesus probably said something like this.

gray:    Jesus did not say this, but the ideas contained in it are close to his own.

black:   Jesus did not say this; it represents the perspec­tive or content of a later or different tradition.



red:      1.00

pink:    0.67

gray:    0.33

black:   0.00



red:      .7501-1.000

pink:    .5001-.7500

gray:    .2501-.5000

black:   .0000-.2500




An index of red and pink letter sayings lists the ninety sayings scoring .5 or better, with detailed votes for their various versions in the different Gospels (549-553). 


According to a remark on page 5, "Eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him."  So only 18% of the words spoken by Jesus in the Gospels are admitted to be his.


In Mark, only one saying is viewed as authentic (red): "Pay the emperor what belongs to the emperor, and God what be­longs to God!" (12:17).  Not many even come in as pink


In John, only one saying even makes it to pink: "A prophet gets no respect on his own turf." (4:44)


The Gospel of Thomas is rated ahead of both of these, with several reds and a fair bit of pink, about comparable to Matthew and Luke.




The best book I have seen so far in response to the work of the Jesus Seminar is Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Moreland, eds., Jesus Under Fire:  Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus (Zondervan, 1995).


Some Specific Responses to Liberal Lives:


Blomberg, Craig.  The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 1987 (Inter-Varsity).

Boyd, Gregory A.  Cynic Sage or Son of God?  Recovering the Real Jesus in an Age of Revisionist Replies, 1995 (Bridgepoint).

Craig, William Lane.  Reasonable Faith:  Christian Truth and Apologetics, 1994 (Crossway).

McDowell, Josh and Bill Wilson.  He Walked Among Us:  Evi­dence for the Historical Jesus, 1988 (Here's Life).

Strimple, Robert B.  The Modern Search for the Real Jesus:  An Introductory Survey of the Historical Roots of Gospel Criti­cism, 1995 (Presbyterian and Reformed).


  8.  Summary on the liberal "lives of Christ".


   a. The guiding principle of liberal reconstructions is the rejection of the miraculous. 

This is not a necessary prin­ciple to such reconstruc­tions, but it is currently stan­dard.  Could use spirit­ism (Jesus studied under Tibetan guru), but modern scholar­ship still considers this trash at present.


     1) So fulfilled prophecy is dismissed as one of the following:

-- Later invention

-- Intentional fulfillment

-- Prophecy was vague

-- Fulfillment was misinter­preted


     2) Miracle accounts are similarly handled.

-- Later inventions ("myth") ‑ did not actually happen.

-- Staged ("fraud").

-- Misinterpreted natural event (rationalizing).

-- Faith healing (psychosomatic).


   b. The resulting attitude toward Biblical materials is progressive Scepticism.


   c. But the resulting picture of Jesus is an historical enigma:


-- If Jesus never existed (like Paul Bunyan), where did the historical evidence come from?

-- If he existed, but was only a fraud, where did His moral teaching come from?

-- If Jesus was only a gentle teacher of righ­teousness, why did he receive all the opposi­tion, particu­larly from the sources pictured?

-- If Jesus was only a revolutionary, where did all the non‑revolutionary teaching come from?

-- How can the moral teaching of Jesus be recon­ciled with his Messianic claims apart from the Biblical explanation?

-- If Jesus is not supernatural, then we must leave out part of the data to construct a consistent per­sonality model for a human‑only Jesus.


Note that whenever some aspect of the data is thrown out,  we must explain how it got there ‑‑ early.


This usually requires the insertion of some secret plot theory into Jesus' life, or of an unknown genius into early Christianity.  It presumes that the Gospels are basically unreliable.


But if Jesus is the God‑man Messiah, who has also come to demonstrate what sin is and point it out to people, then Jesus' multi‑faceted personality and actions make sense.  The Gospels are reliable.  Craig Blomberg (book listed above) shows that if it is not assumed in advance that miracles cannot happen, then the Gospels look very impressive indeed.


   d. Are the arguments against the miraculous valid?


This is the primary issue to which NT historicity reduces.  If miracles can occur, then the NT gives every evidence of reliable history.  If miracles cannot happen, then the NT is unre­liable and the liberals may be justified in leaving out whatever NT "data" does not fit.


    1) The Deductive Argument (a priori).

Newman has not seen this in print formally, but it does color liberal arguments.


     a) Form of the Argument:


        /1/ A miracle is a violation of natural law.

        /2/ To violate natural law is to:

            /a/ commit a sin,

            /b/ commit a logical fallacy, or

            /c/ blunder esthetically.

        /3/ God cannot sin, commit fallacies, or blunder esthetically



        /4/ Therefore: God cannot do miracles.


    b) Discussion:


Note that this argument will not work against Satanic miracles, since he can certainly sin, commit logical fallacies, and may even blunder esthetically!


The logical structure of the argument is sound, but we must examine the content of the propositions.


/1/ Is a miracle necessarily a violation of natural law?


                        Is lifting a chair a violation of the law of gravi­ty?  Depends on our definition of "violation".


However, as /1/ has been used by Christians as a common  (though perhaps not accurate) definition of a mira­cle, we should not fault it heavily.


/2/ There is an ambiguity in the term "law".


‑-"sin" implies a moral law.

--"fallacy" implies a logical law.

--"blunder" implies an esthetic law.


But are we justified in mixing moral precepts with physical constraints?  Does breaking a physical "law"  necessarily imply a moral "sin" has occurred?


Also, are these the only possibilities for categorizing a violation of natural law?  Perhaps there is anoth­er, physical law, and we should not limit God to these 3.


So /2/ is an incomplete statement,trading on the ambi­guity of "law".


/3/ Even if /1/ and /2/ are granted, it is clear that the Bible contains moral laws which are intended only for man, hence God can "violate" them.


E.g., God can command us to worship Him (because of who He is), but we should not command people to worship us.


Thus the Bible has a precedent for person‑dependent laws.  What is a violation for us may not be for God, as that law does not apply to Him.  It is dangerous to limit or judge God by our standards.


/4/ The deductive argument is not conclusive.


Especially as miracles are connected with God as one of His attributes.


Since we cannot (safely) explore the supernatural on our own, arguing with revelation about it just leaves us in the dark.


Sometimes people will argue that the Biblical picture of God is inferior because it pictures God as need­ing to "tinker" with his universe.  If God were really great, He would have made the natural laws better so that He would not need to infer with them.


However, this assumes that God desired to create a universe which was fully automatic.  Perhaps He desired to create a universe which allowed for His self‑expres­sion.  [e.g., contrast a clock (automatic) with a guitar (input)].


    2) Inductive Arguments (a posteriori).


a) David Hume.  His is the most famous and influential.


/1/ When someone tells us of an event, we tend to accept the report or be skeptical of it in proportion to the degree that it is unusual.


/2/ By definition, a miracle is a very rare and unusual event, and our uniform experience dictates against the miraculous.  Thus we should be very skeptical about any reports of miracles.


/3/ The means by which we know something is our experience in the world.  Since miracles go against this and upset our uniform experience, we tend to explain them by some naturalistic means unless that explanation would itself be more unusual than accepting a miracle.


Hume now shifts from an argument to a program:


/4/ Thus when a miracle is reported, we should reject it unless any naturalistic explanation would be even more unusu­al.




/1/ is certainly true.  Our scepticism does increase as one claims to have met X yesterday, as X shifts from Dr. Zimmerman to President Clinton, to Queen Elizabeth, to Martin Luther, to Jesus.


/2a/ is correct:  The Bible says that miracles are very  rare events.  We should tend to be skeptical of reports of them.


/2b/ is incorrect:  Hume has shifted the definition of a miracle from a rare event to an impossible event.  His conclusion is thus the result of a circular argument.


Whose "uniform experience" is Hume considering?  Over what time period?  How many individuals is he includ­ing?  To try to use the "uniform experience" of all humanity would not work as some people report that they have seen miracles.


This is true even in modern times.  We have nonsympathetic reports of occult miracles in the literature [e.g, Fatima, spontaneous human combustion].


A more general problem:  If we assume that miracles do occur, this methodology tells us to explain it away  anyhow.


Thus the argument must be inadequate since it does not include a method to test their possible occurrence.


-- C.S. Lewis responds to the "uniform experience" argument in Miracles, pp. 122‑124.

--J.W. Montgomery discusses it in Christianity for the Tough‑Minded, p. 42.


"Uniform experience" is a poor argument, as there may be a whole realm of reality which we cannot sense and which must be revealed to us by revelation (as a deaf or blind person must depend on revelation for the sense they lack).


b) Adolf Harnack in What is Christianity? pp. 24‑25 in the Harper Torchbook edition.


We do not need to accept miracles because they are based on primitive ignorance (p 24):


/1/ In NT times, miracles were thought to be common­place.


Andrew Dickson White argues this at great length in his History of the Warfare between Science and Theology in Christendom.


Problem:  The reactions of people in the NT accounts show that they did not expect miraculous interven­tions; they were no ho-hum events.


The disciples did not typically expect Jesus to work a mira­cle to get them out of a jam:  e.g., feeding 5000, storm at sea, etc.


NT people always marvel when miracles occur and they have trouble drawing simple les­sons from them.  This implies they did not view them as com­mon or even as expected.


Harnack argues from reports in secular literature that miracle accounts were common in the NT peri­od.  These reports are not as well‑attested nor as clear as the NT accounts, but we should not rule out some of these as the Bible itself allows for miracles by satanic power.


We must be careful when deciding what can or can­not occur on the basis of our preconceptions:


Late 18th century scientists in France and America (including Thomas Jefferson) refused to believe that stones fell from the sky, because only peas­ants and priests reported seeing them.


The "sky does not contain rocks" principle proved to be inaccurate.


/2/ NT people did not know enough science to recognize a miracle when they saw one (p 25):


This appeals to our pride in high technology.  Much of our advanced technology does look miraculous to "primi­tives" (radio, telephone, computers, etc.).


However, can we now explain away Jesus' miracles by means of high technology?  (Walking on water? raising dead?).


NT people knew which diseases did not heal suddenly  (blindness, death, leprosy, crippled limbs, etc.).


People today still cannot explain these miracles with technology.


Consider Mark 6:47‑52 - walking on water

7:31-37 - deaf & mute healed

8:1-20 - feeding 4000


It is impressive that Jesus did just those types of mira­cles which still stump us in the 20th century!


    e. What does acceptance of the miraculous do to scientific history or to science in general?


Many historians and scientists are scared of miracle because they think that then the whole bottom drops out of their work:  "My job is to explain reality, and this would introduce a whole new realm."


Scientific historians feel there should be no miracu­lous interventions needed to explain history.


Adding miracles does add a new dimension to reality for many people.


History has thus been "explained" without miracles.  But we don't know if these explana­tions are true since we can't check them.


1) It makes an enormous difference on the scale of ulti­mate explanations.


If there is a God who intervenes, then history will be  affected on a large scale.


God and other supernatural beings introduce the possi­bilities of new purposes and goals.


2) What difference it makes on a small scale depends on the actual frequency of miracles at that time and place.


May be points in history when miracles were happening but they were not impor­tant historically.


Regeneration is miraculous and does effect history.


There may be points in history where miracles are extremely important for under­standing the events.


3) It adds another variable for use in constructing models, but it doesn't follow that this variable must be in­voked at every gap, any more than any other mode of explana­tion.


There already are plenty of difficult‑to‑assess vari­ables in understanding history: Individual personalities, backgrounds, moti­vations, economics, etc.


We do not have to evoke a miracle whenever an event occurs which we cannot explain.


4) From the Biblical perspective, the miraculous is not irrational because it is the action of a rational being and, in God's case, is accompanied by revelation.


Some people object that miracles add an irrational element to history.  By this they mean it adds an element which they can not predict what it will do.


This destroys the historian's dream of being able to predict the future.


The Christian realizes that something irrational is not being added.  Another mind is involved, but God's mind  is logical and rational.


Through revelation, God explains what He is doing in His miracles before and/or after the event.


Satan may or may not tell what he is doing.  He is not  trustworthy in any case.


Sin and sinful minds are irrational, but God is not.


Thus Satanic miracles may be irrational, but in dealing with the motivations of (sinful) humans, we already have plenty of the irrational in history.


5) In fact, the miraculous itself is a revelation of the unseen supernatural person (e.g. of God) just as human activity is a revelation of the unseen inner man.


Note the parallel activities of God and man.


Miracles reveal an unseen supernatural person, just as human activity reveals the unseen inner man.


There is already an [irrational] hidden element in history since man and his motiva­tions can not be mathematically explained or absolutely foreseen.


Miracles are not the only item that keeps historians from being able to predict the future:  People also mess them up.


6) The miraculous surely solves a lot of problems in Bibli­cal history, as well as in natural pre‑history.


Liberals have not been able to make sense of Jesus without miracles.


With miracles, Jesus and rest of Scripture makes sense:


-- How the disciples came to believe in the Resur­rec­tion;

-- Where the elaborate ritual, moral, and legal code of  the Pentateuch came from (Liberals had to spread its evolution over 1000 years);

-- Fulfilled prophecies, especially of coming of Jesus.


Also natural pre‑history is explained: Origins of life, earth, universe, etc.


    f. What are we to make of liberal reconstructions?


1) They are Satan's work.


see C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, pp.105‑109, Mac­millan paperback; pp.116‑118 hardcover edition.


Screwtape describes how to keep people distracted from the real Jesus: Have them search for the "historical Jesus" and write a new life of Jesus every year.


Such work is called "brillant" in literary cir­cles, but is based on the type of guesswork which would be ruinous in business, betting on horses, etc.


This distraction from the real Jesus is a modern form of idolatry, since they make up their own Jesus.


2) Why does God permit this?


Deut. 13:1‑5 discusses why the LORD would allow false prophets to arise (parallel to liberals):


Test for people to see if they love the God who exists in comparison with gods of human invention who often look more attractive, or more tolerant of their sin.


The world (and its history) is a testing ground to demonstrate that humans are as bad as God says they are and that only His mercy can save us.


A nice discussion of the reality of miracles from an evangelical perspective is given in R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas, eds.  In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God=s Action in History.  Intervarsity, 1997.


II. Jewish Background to the New Testament


To understand the New Testament, especially the Gospels, it is helpful to know a  good deal about the Old Testament.  It is also helpful to know something of what went on during the four centuries that separate the end of the OT narrative from the beginning of the NT narrative.  It is this latter we wish to look at here, called in Christian circles Athe intertestament period,@ and in Jewish circles Athe second temple period.@


A. Ancient Sources of Information on the InterTestament Period


   1. Predictive Passages in the Old Testament

Daniel gives an overview of the period and some details


   2. OT Apocrypha & Pseudepigrapha

            Religious writings of Jews, mostly during IT period

Give insight into culture, religious ideas, sects, biblical interpretation during period


   3. Philo (c20 BC-40+ AD)

            Jew who studied Greek philosophy, tried to combine OT with selected ideas from Greek philosophy

Shows partial accommodation to Hellenism


   4. Josephus (AD 37-100+)

Jew who was involved on both sides of Jewish war 66‑73

Wrote Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews


   5. Dead Sea Scrolls

Literature written/copied by Qumran sect (probably some sort of Essenes)


   6. Rabbinic Literature

Oral traditions of rabbis

Midrash, Mishnah, Talmuds


B. Daniel's Overview of the Period


   1. Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Daniel chapter 2)


a. Image pictured (vv 32‑35)

(0) Statue & action

(1) Head of Gold (32)

(2) Breast & Arms of Silver (32)

(3) Belly & Sides of Bronze (32)

(4) Legs of Iron (33)

(5) Feet, part Iron, part Clay (33)

(6) Stone smashes image, grows to fill earth (34‑35)


b. Image explained (vv 38‑45)

(0) What will happen hereafter (45)

(1) Nebuchadnezzar's universal rule (38)

(2) Another kingdom inferior [?] to Neb's (39)

(3) 3rd kingdom to rule over all the earth (39)

(4) 4th kingdom strong as iron, breaking (40)

(5) The same [?], part strong, part broken (41‑43)

(6) God will set up a permanent kingdom (44)


   2. Daniel's Four Wild Animals (Daniel chapter 7)


a. Animals pictured (3-14, more details in 19, 21-23)

(0) Diverse beasts from sea (3)

(1) lion w/ eagle's wings; plucked, lifted, heart (4)

(2) bear raised on one side; 3 ribs in mouth (5)

(3) leopard, 4 wings, 4 heads (6)

(4) dreadful, terrible, iron teeth, bronze claws; 10 horns, 11th horn rises, wars w/ saints (7-8, 19,21-22)

(5) 4th destroyed, dominion given to son of man (9-14)


b. Animals explained (17-26)

(0‑4) 4 kings who will arise from earth (17)

(4) 4th kingdom, diverse from others; horns = kings; wears out saints for 3‑1/2 times (23‑26)

(5) Saints take kingdom & possess it forever (18)



The Kingdoms


The Image (Dan 2)


The Beasts (Dan 7)


Babylon: 609-539 BC


Gold Head


Lion w/ wings


Medo-Persia: 539-331 BC


Silver Arms & Breast


Bear eating ribs


Greece: 331-30 BC


Bronze Abdomen


Leopard w/ 4 heads


Rome: 30 BC- 476 AD


Iron Legs


Terrible 10-horned


C. Palestine under Persia (539‑331 BC)

   1. Rise of Cyrus

Cyrus (559) inherits small kingdom of Anshan (Persia)

Cyrus defeats Medes (550); Nabonidus cancels support!

Cyrus takes Asia Minor (546), then Babylon (539)


   2. Return of the Jews (under Cyrus 1: 539‑530)

Cyrus tries to avoid offending other religions

Ends deportation policy, so Jews can return (Ezra 1:2‑4)


   3. Rebuilding of the (2nd) Temple (Darius 1: 521‑486)

Cyrus initially allowed rebuilding to start, but stopped it due to opposition of neighbors (Ezr 6:3‑5; Ezr 4)

Jews allowed to rebuild temple after showing loyalty at accession of Darius as king of Persia

Temple completed 515 under leadership of prophets Haggai & Zechariah, governor Zerubbabel & high priest Jeshua


   4. Revival in Judah & Rebuilding Walls of Jerusalem (Artaxerxes 1: 465‑423)

Ezra (c458) comes from Babylonia, restores people to observance of law, w/ permission of Persian king

Nehemiah (445) sent by Persian king as governor to rebuild walls


   5. The Aramaic Language


a. Old Language of Syria (upper Euphrates)

b. Becomes Diplomatic Language of the Ancient Near East

c. Adopted by the Jews

apparently during Babylonian exile (see Neh 8:7‑8)

oral translations of OT called Targums

still in use at time of Christ

used in rabbinic Talmud, c550 AD


   6. Rise of the Synagogue

place of worship for those unable to attend temple

features prayer & Bible study but no sacrifice

date of origin obscure

continued alongside 2nd temple (515 BC ‑ AD 70)

only place of Jewish worship after destruction of 2nd temple


   7. The Intertestament Temples


      a. Second (Jerusalem) Temple (515 BC ‑ AD 70)

orthodox, continuation of Mosaic regulations


      b. Samaritan (Mt. Gerizim) Temple (450/330 ‑ 128 BC)

Samaritans, w/ help from renegade priests

destroyed by Hasmoneans (Maccabees)

still a holy site in NT times (see John 4:20) & today


      c. Elephantine (Egyptian) Temple (c525-c390 BC)

Jewish mercenaries lived here, possibly refugees from Manasseh

polytheistic? cp Jer 44:15‑19: "Queen of Heaven"


      d. (Later) Leontopolis Temple (c160 BC ‑ AD 72)

built in Maccabean period by refugee high priest Onias 3

destroyed by Romans after Jewish War


D. Palestine under the Greeks (331‑c160 BC)


   1. Alexander (336‑323 BC)

succeeds assassinated father Philip at age 20 (336 BC)

invades Asia Minor (334) w/ 35,000 men

victories at

Granicus River (334) - opens Asia Minor

Issus (333) - opens Syria, Palestine, Egypt

Gaugamela (331) - destroys Persian empire

continues eastward to India, turning back at demand of his soldiers

dies in Babylon at age 33

his agenda includes mixing East & West; Hellenism, spread of Greek language


   2. The Struggle for Succession (323‑301 BC)

Alex's son still baby at Alex's death; Alex=s brother incompetent

generals keeping throne for son fall to fighting

eventually empire broken into several pieces: usually counted as four

Lysimachus ruling Thrace

Cassander ruling Macedonia

Seleucus ruling Asia Minor, Mesopotamia

Ptolemy ruling Egypt & Syria

only latter two important for Jewish background


   3. The Ptolemaic Dynasty (to 30 BC; over Palestine 301‑1­98 BC)

Ptolemy grabbed off Palestine while others defeating Antigonus

reasonably favorable treatment of Jews both in Palestine, Egypt

(a large number settle in Alexandria)


   4. The Seleucid Dynasty (to 63 BC; controls Pal 198‑c160 BC)

in long series of wars finally got Palestine from Ptolemies

Seleucid ruler Antiochus 4 favors Hellenistic Jews, allowing them to establish Jerusalem as Hellenistic city

Ant 4 later attempts to abolish Judaism (168), leading to Maccabean revolt (167)


   5. Hellenism


From Greek word for Greece, AHellas@; hellenistos meaning Greek-like

name for Greek culture as it developed in East after Alexander

influenced Judaism and somewhat influenced by it

includes religious mixing (syncretism)

various schools of philosophy

(Epicurean, Stoic, Platonic)

political benefits of citizenship


   6. The Septuagint Translation of the Old Testament


a. Origin of the Version (c250 BC)

acc to Letter of Aristeas:  72 Jewish elders come to Egypt, translate Law at request of Ptolemy 2

later additions to story:

translation covers whole OT;

identical translations produced by translators working in pairs

general opinion of story today

translation into Greek made at Alexandria

Pentateuch translated as a unit about 250 BC

scrolls from Jerusalem (possibly translators, too)

Ptolemy 2 allowed work, may have given aid


b. Importance of Version

1) Longest translation of any ancient writing known in antiquity

2) Gives text of OT a century or so before oldest Heb texts for most of OT

3) Set pattern for Greek theological terms used in OT & NT

4) Put OT in universal language of Mediterranean

5) Became OT of early church


E. Jewish Independence under the Hasmoneans (160‑63 BC)


   1. Antiochus 4 Epiphanes & the Abomination of Desolation

usurps throne from under-age nephew (175 BC)

tries to unify diverse empire via Hellenism

favors Hellenistic Jews, who refound Jerusalem as "Antio­chia"

deposes orthodox high priest Onias 3 for Hellenis­tic brother Jason, then Jason for Menelaus (who bribes him to get office)

fuming from defeat in Egypt (168) and rebellion in Israel, Ant 4 tries to destroy Judaism, forbidding cir­cum­cision & kosher, destroying Scripture, rededi­cating temple to Zeus (Ant considered himself a manifestation of Zeus)


   2. The Maccabean Revolt (167‑134 BC)


 a. Origin

Seleucids go through towns of Judea, enforcing A4's decrees and commanding pagan sacrifice

At village of Modin, aged priest Mattathias kills Jew who tries to sacrifice, then kills official & his troops

Mattathias  & 5 sons call for armed resistance, flee to mountains


b. Judah the Maccabee (166‑160 BC)

3rd son of Matt, military nickname "hammer" or "hammerer"

JM leads guerilla campaign, destroying several Seleucid armies

JM's forces grow w/ success, matching Seleucid escalation of forces

Macc's take Jerusalem (exc citadel), cleanse & rededi­cate temple (Dec 164; origin of Jewish festival of Hannukah)

Meanwhile Antiochus 4 dies (163), Lysias (regent) offers peace terms acceptable to Hasidim but not Macc's, split­ting opposition

JM, heavily outnumbered, killed in battle (160)


      c. Jonathan (160‑142 BC) and Simon (142-134 BC)

surviving brothers of Judah

Seleucid empire weakened with division, so J & S able by diploma­cy to gain strength until Judea becomes virtually independent

both murdered by opponents, but not before Simon gains hereditary priesthood and rule for family


   3. The Hasmonean Dynasty (134‑63 BC)


 a. John Hyrcanus (134‑104 BC)

greatly expands Judean territory:

coastal cities, Idumea, Samaria

rise of Pharisees & Sadducees


 b. Aristobolus (103 BC)

after killing several brothers, taking title "king," dies within a year from fear, drink, disease


 c. Alexander Jannaeus (102‑76 BC)

Aristobolus' brother, released from prison & married to A's wife

continues expansion of kingdom until nearly as big as David & Solomon's

Pharisees revolt, call for Syrians to help; AJ about to lose when Phar's defect; AJ wins, crucifies many Pharisees


 d. Salome Alexandria (75‑67 BC)

wife of Arist & Alex J, succeeds at AJ's death

2 sons:  Hyrcanus 2 ‑ made high priest

Aristobolus 2 ‑ given military command


 e. End of Hasmonean Independence (66‑63 BC)

Salome dies, succeeded by H2 (& Phar's), but A2 (sup­ported by Sadd's) takes throne from him

H2 flees, opens civil war, calls on Romans for help


   4. Pharisees, Sadducees & Essenes

origins rather obscure, but all 3 app arise in this period; Phar's & Essenes app from Hasidim









hasid - faithful


parash - separate


tsedek - righteous


super Pharisees,

abandoned temple


ritual purity,

hedge around Law


more pragmatic,









OT + secret books


OT + oral tradition


OT only


Immortal souls?


Resurrected bodies


No survival


Emphasis on angels


Belief in angels


No angels


Emphasis on eschatology.


Last judgment


No judgment


influence & survival:


Few, withdrawn


Pop­ular, not large


Few richest


Withdrawn from politics


Dominant religious­ly


Dominant political­ly


Wrote or copied Dead Sea Scrolls


Rabbinic literature by heirs


No known writings survive


Qumran destroyed 68, some survived


Survive AD 70 to dominate Judaism


Destroyed w/ temple



F. Palestine under the Romans (63 BC‑135 AD & beyond)


1. The End of the Hasmonean Dynasty (63 BC)

Romans intervene in dispute between H2 and A2

Judaea loses much of its conquered territories

Hyrcanus 2 made "ethnarch" of Judea (including Idumea, Perea, Galilee), demoted from "king"


2. The Pax Romana (c30 BC‑c170 AD)

2 centuries of peace over Roman Empire beginning w/ Augustus

Great growth in prosperity, reaches peak in 2nd cen AD

Pax Romana important for early spread of Christianity

Other features important for spread of Xy:

-- Roman roads

-- lack of national boundaries


3. The Herod Family


a. Antipater, Herod's father

Idumean advisor to Hyrcanus 2, power behind throne

Made Procurator of Judea for aiding Julius Caesar

Made own sons Phasael & Herod administrators

Assassinated 43 BC


b. Herod the Great (37‑4 BC)

Appointed joint tetrarch w/ brother Phasael (42)

Brother killed by Parthians invading, Herod flees to Rome (40)  

Senate appoints him King of Jews (40)

Herod returns with army, takes Jerusalem (37)

Throne insecure til Anthony & Cleopa­tra die (31)

Terrible family troubles:

kills favorite wife, Mariamne, 3 sons, etc.

His Accomplishments:

ruled large territory

refurbishes Jerusalem Temple (19 BC‑66 AD)

building projects @ Caesarea, Sebaste, etc.

killing of the Bethlehem's children


c. Herod's Sons ‑ ruled by his will at death

Archelaus ‑ Judea/Samaria/Idumea (to AD 6)

Antipas ‑ Galilee/Peraea (to 39)

Philip ‑ Iturea/Trachonitis (to 34)


d. Herod's Descendants ‑ by Mariamne (royal blood)

Herod Agrippa 1 ‑ King of Jews, AD 41‑44

Herod Agrippa 2 ‑ King (but not of Jews) dies about AD 100


G. Messianic Expectation at the End of the I.T. Period


1. Messianic Fervor

strong in 1st cen AD, infl in Jewish revolt

(see my "Time of the Messiah," Evidence of Prophecy)


2. The Person of the Messiah

Views change w/ time:

early extra‑Biblical materials see Messiah as more than human, though no clear view of his deity

later rabbinic material tends to minimize Messiah

OT data posed various paradoxes re/ office, activity, type of coming, type of being; these solved by NT and Jesus (see my "NT Model of Messiah," Evid of Prophecy)


3. Various Views of the Messianic Period


a. Messianic period only (Millennium, on earth)

b. Eschaton only (Eternal State, heaven or paradise)

c. Both Messianic period and Eschaton (M.P. 1st, natural­ly)

most common








 4. The Order of Events (acc to view 3c)


a. Signs preceding end

moral decay, calami­ties, signs in heaven, forerun­ner

b. Messianic kingdom es­tablished

Return of Israel from exile

Punishment of nations

Messiah Rules (role in conquest varies)

c. The Days of the Messiah ("Millennium" in Christian theology)

Variable features (e.g., place of nations), but usually marvelous

Length uncertain (40 yr to over 1000)

Ends w/ rebellion of Gog & Magog

d. The Age to Come ("Eternal State" in Xn theol)



Eternal state of punishment/reward


H. The End of the Jewish State


1. The Roman Procurators (AD 6‑66)

Began with replacement of Archelaus, deposed (at Jewish request) for misgovern­ment

Revolt of Zealots at census of AD 6 a sign of things to come; Zealots grow stronger as Roman‑Jewish relations deteriorate

Roman emperor Gaius (Caligula) orders own statue erected in Jerusalem Temple (41), but dies before order carried out

Procurators continue (except for 41‑44, when Herod Agrippa I rules) until out­break of Jewish revolt

In general, procurators did not understand Jews, were frequently antagonistic, aggravating conditions and so strengthening Zealots; last two (Albinus, Florus) especially wicked


2. The (First) Jewish Revolt (AD 66‑73)

Started by incident between Jews and Gentiles in Caesarea, spread and fanned by procurator & Zealots to enflame whole country

Moderate Jews able to take leadership at first, but gradually lost out to more radical Zealots

Ended in destruction of Jerusalem, its temple (AD 70) and Jewish state; mopping up operation completed with fall of Masada in AD 73


I. Palestine after the Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70‑135)


1. Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai & Jamnia

Johanan escaped besieged Jerusalem in coffin

got permission from Romans to establish rabbinical school and Sanhedrin at                                                Jamnia

rebuilt Judaism (w/o state or temple) along lines of Pharisaism, eventually leading to Mishnah & Talmuds

Jewish Christians excluded from synagogue by adding curse on Nazarenes to synagogue liturgy (AD 90‑100)


2. The Bar‑Kochba (Second) Revolt (AD 132‑35)

Set off by Roman preparations to build pagan city Aelia Capitolina on site of Jerusalem

R. Akiba recognizes Simeon b. Koseba as Messiah & fulfillment of Num 24:17 (star = kochba)

Revolt at 1st successful, w/ Roman troops spread thin

eventually put down w/ considerable slaughter

Jews forbidden to come near Jerusalem (Aelia)

Judaism ceases to be a missionary religion


J. Materials for Researching Jewish Backgrounds of NT


1. Commentaries:


Those commentators which put some effort into this often have good material.  It is easily organized by the passage you are studying, but be sure to look at parallel passages in the other Gospels.


2. Bible Encyclopedias:


These will be alphabetical by topic, which is great if you know what topic to look under!  Most have subject indices with more categories than articles at the end (EJ at beginning), but still may not know what Jewish term to use to study a subject which has a different name in Christian circles (e.g., baptism, look under mikva or tevilah).


The standard liberal encyclopedia is Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols with supplement; an Anchor Bible Dictionary is now complete.

The best evangelical encyclopedias are International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) and Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (ZPEB).

For Jewish background to the NT, one should also consult Encyclopaedia Judaica and the older Jewish Encyclo­pedia.


3. Specialized Works:


Everett F. Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity. 2nd ed. (Eerdmans, 1993).  Both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, organized by topic with indices.  Lots of pictures and bibliography.

Craig S. Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (InterVarsity, 1994).  Arranged by pas­sage, with cross-references to parallels.  Good material, but no information on sources.

Strack, H. L. and Billerbeck, P.  Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch.  7 vols.  Mu­nich:  Beck, 1922‑61.  Alas, in German, this valu­able reference work gives rabbinic parallels to NT material by biblical passage.

Dictionary of NT Background (IVP, 2000), articles in alphabetical order.


4. Primary Sources:


You should try to read Josephus (at least) sometime early in your exegetical career.


R. H. Charles, ed.  The Apocrypha and Pseudepi­grapha of the Old Testament.  2 vols.  Oxford:  Claren­don, 1913.

James C. Charlesworth, The OT Pseudepigrapha. 2 vols.  (Doubleday, 1983-85)

Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English.  3rd ed. Baltimore:  Penguin, 1968.  A handy paperback edition.

Philo Judaeus, Complete Works.  Much harder to find.  The Yonge translation has recently been reprinted by Hendricksen in one volume hardback.

Flavius Josephus, Complete Works.  Frequently reprinted in the Whiston transla­tion.  The Loeb Classical Library has a more readable translation.

Epstein, I., ed.  The Babylonian Talmud.  35 vols. London:  Soncino Press, 1935‑52.

Danby, H., ed.  The Mishnah.  Oxford:  University Press, 1933.


III. Introduction to Exegesis


Here we provide a quick sketch of things to think about in doing exegesis.  A more thorough presentation of exegesis will be found in the course NT 650 Advanced Greek.  Two helpful books relating to biblical exegesis are: Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton, Let the Reader Understand (Bridgepoint, 1994) and Robert Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible (Baker, 1997).


A. Some Features We Need to Continually Build


Exegesis is not simply a mechanical process, in which you learn a few rules and just apply them without thinking.  It is not even totally scientific (at least as the average layperson thinks about science), as there may be lots of surprises.  You may find yourself noticing things that the commentary you are reading does not, and (of course) vice versa.  You will not be an expert exegete when you graduate from seminary.  But if you will work on the following items, your exegesis will get better and better as the years go on.


1. English (or your native language) Bible Knowledge


The more you know the rest of the Bible, the better you will understand the particular passage you are working on.  God really did design the Bible so that Scripture will help you to interpret Scripture. 


The advent of computer Bibles has made it easier to find all other occurrences of particular English (Greek, Hebrew) words elsewhere in Scripture, but this doesn't guarantee you'll find all the passages that are relevant to the one you're working on.  Even cross-reference Bibles and topical concordances won't guarantee this, though they can be very helpful.


One important item to keep working on the rest of your life is your knowledge of the Bible in your native or heart-language.  To help myself with this, I try to read through the Bible once a year, and have done so for 25 years or so.  The OT has 929 chapters, the NT has 260, for a total of 1189.  To get through the Bible in a year, you need to read several chapters per day.  To be exact, to get through just once in a year, you must read 3.26 chapters/day (approx 3/day with 5 on Sundays).  If you read 4 chapters/day, you can get through the OT once and the NT twice.  I try to use various versions of the Bible C once spent two years reading through the NIV Study Bible with all its notes C and have several times used one or another of the one-year Bibles.


2. Biblical Language Competency


Even after you have put in the (considerable) effort to learn Greek and/or Hebrew, much of this stuff will evaporate if you don't use it.  I suggest that you try to put in some time each day (or at least each week) working with one or both of the original languages, even if it is as little as translating only one verse!  Tom Taylor recommends a devo­tional book Light for the Path that provides a short passage from the Greek NT and a verse or so from the Hebrew Bible for each day.  Another way is to translate the passage you are going to preach from that week (or teach from in a Sunday School class, Bible study, etc.), trying to mix OT and NT so as to keep both languages functional.  Another friend of mine, Al Jackson, a pastor in Virginia (now re­tired, but probably still preaching) goes through Metzger's Lexical Aids for Students of NT Greek yearly!  I would recommend that you try to review your grammar now and then and work on sight-reading of Greek.


3. Bible Background


If you are serving the Lord in any capacity which involves study of the Scriptures (preaching, teaching, home Bible study, etc.), you will need to spend time working through the particular passage for the next sermon, session, etc.  This special study for specific passages should get you into the commentaries, and perhaps Bible encyclopedias and such, so that you will get some exposure to the historical, cul­tural background of that particular passage. 


[I should say here that you need to be realistic.  Don't overkill on the amount of preparation you do and then give up after a few weeks.  Put in enough time that you are satisfied you under­stand the passage better than you did before you began on it.  You may not be able to solve all its mysteries to your satisfaction, but look at some commentaries to see how they think these should be solved.  You want to come to the people you are serving with freshness, so that they, too, will be encouraged to study the Word.]


An important facet you need to develop for your knowledge of Bible background will probably not come through working on specific passages.  You need to get some kind of overview C of ancient history, culture, religions, etc. C that will help you to understand the impact of the OT and NT in their own times, and thus give you some insight into how to apply the Word to our own times and cultures.  This will probably only come through wide reading. 


For some years, I kept a list of all the books I had read since about 1968.  This amounted to over 50 books per year (over 100 for six of these years), and usually over 50 in the broad area of religion.  I have read primary sources such as Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, OT and NT Apocrypha, the Nag Hammadi gnostic texts, some of the rabbinic litera­ture, and am currently hung up part-way through Philo (!).  I have read works on ancient history, encyclope­dias of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, books on every­day life in Rome, ancient Greek warfare, archeology, and such.


If you are a pastor or counselor, you will obviously need to put some of your reading effort into books specifically related to these areas, but you should not neglect reading that will strengthen your understanding of the biblical world.


4. Spiritual Insight


Just as Paul said that the most spectacular gifts are worth­less without love (1 Cor 13:1-3), so the most complete set of mental and bibliographic tools for exegesis will be counter­productive without real spiritual life and insight.  If we don't know Jesus, all our exegetical skills will only add to our condemnation in the end.  If we know Jesus, then we will grow in spiritual insight as we gain experi­ence through our own problems, and through helping others with theirs.  It is absolutely crucial that we have a close communion and love for Lord to do good exegesis.


B. Typical schedule of exegesis sessions


We will normally have three 50-minute sessions for each week featuring exegesis.  We will divide these into three pieces, though not necessarily of 50 minutes each.


1. Genre discussion

2. Translation

3. Verse-by-verse, with discussion of worksheet


Since all these sessions occur on the same day in our current block-scheduling ­system, you need to have your translation, commentary reading, and worksheet done when you come to class on these exegesis days.


C. Genres in the Synoptic Gospels


Etymologically, the term "genre" is merely a French word for "kind."  It has become a technical term in literary studies for a kind of literature, writing or speaking.  It may be as broad as the distinction between prose and poetry; it may be as narrow as a particular kind of specialized poem such as the limerick, or the little stories we call parables.  To be recognizable, a genre must have some list of features that distinguish it from other genres.  We will look at several genres common to the Synoptic Gospels in the weeks of this course.


Class exercise:  What are some of the features of:  poetry?

a sermon?

a pun? 


Genres covered in class exegesis: TP = term paper passage


1. Narrative:

Visit of Wise Men (Matt 2:1-23)

TP: Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35)


2. Miracle Account:

Gadarene Demoniac (Mark 5:1-20)

TP: Faith of Centurion (Luke 7:1-10)


3. Parable:

Royal Wedding Feast (Matt 22:1-14)

TP: Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-11)


4. Controversy Account:

Casting out Demons by Beelzebub (Luke 11:14-28)

TP: Picking Grain on Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28)


Genres not covered in class:


5. Discourse:

TP: Do Not Worry (Matt 6:25-34)


6. Symbolic Action (Acted Parable):

Cleansing Temple (Matt 21:12-13)

Washing Feet (John 13:1-9)

Cursing Fig Tree (Mark 11:12-14,20-25)


7. Genealogy:

Matt 1:1-17

Luke 3:23-37


8. Dialogue:

Temptation (Luke 4:1-13)

Following Jesus (Matt 8:18-22)

Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-30)


D. The Narrative Genre.


1. Definition


A narrative, very briefly, is a story, account, or tale of events.  It may be either factual or fictional, though I understand all biblical narratives to be factual unless somehow marked.  For example, narratives in parables are probably fiction­al; Jotham's narrative of the trees electing a leader (Judg 9:8-15) is presumably (!) fictional. 


Narrative is a very broad genre, usually a subclass under prose, though poetic narra­tives do exist in litera­ture (e.g., the Song of Deborah and Barak, Judg 5; Homers Iliad).  It may be distinguished from prayer, exposi­tion, dialogue or discourse, for instance, though these may be included in a narrative or even occa­sionally have a narrative included in them.  E.g., the Gospels and Acts are narratives, yet include these other genres.


2. Components of Narrative


a. Actors/Characters

The persons who appear in the narrative, causing the events narrated, or affected by them.

b. Events/Action

Occurrences described by the narrative.

c. Scenes

Where the events occur: time, country, region, town, indoors or out, etc.

d. Plot

The interconnection and development of the events in a narrative.  A complex narrative may have more than one plot, with the various plots interwoven in some way or other.  The plot itself, often a conflict of some sort, may be subdivided into sections where, for example, tension is build­ing, the climax is reached, the con­flict is resolved, tension is released, etc.


E. Types of Narrative within the Gospels


Leland Ryken, in Words of Life:  A Literary Introduction to the New Testament (Baker, 1987), pp 36ff, suggests the following types of narratives occur in the Gospels:


1. Annunciation/Nativity Stories

Narratives of events surrounding the birth of Jesus.  Empha­sis on uniqueness of Jesus, historical validity, supernatu­ral occurrences, fulfilment of prophecy, excite­ment, etc.

2. Calling/Vocation Stories

Narratives of Jesus' calling people.  Who is called, in what circumstances, what is the nature of the call, what kind of response was made?

3. Recognition Stories

Narratives of people discovering who Jesus is.  What were the circumstances which led to recognition, what did the person come to recognize about Jesus?

4. Witness Stories

Jesus or another character testifies who Jesus is or what he has done, and what the evidence is for this.

5. Encounter Stories

Representative stories of how Jesus seeks others.  They begin with his or their initiative, continue with Jesus making some claim on their lives, end with their response, either acceptance or rejection.

6. Conflict/Controversy Stories

Most common in Gospels, pitting Jesus as protagonist against an opposing person or group (antagonist).  Note the defense, offense, how Jesus gets the advantage, what lesson we are to learn.

7. Pronouncement Stories (in Form Criticism, Apothegm Stories)

An event is linked with a notable saying by Jesus.  How do the story and saying interrelate?

8. Miracle Stories

We discuss this later under the genre "Miracle Story," Ryken suggests typical structure as follows:

a. Need is established

b. Jesus' help sought

c. Person in need (or helper) expresses faith/obedience

d. Jesus performs a miracle

e. Characters respond to miracle/Jesus

9. Passion Stories

Narratives of events surrounding the trial, death and resur­rection of Jesus.  Can be viewed as whole section for each Gospel, or subdivided into separate stories.

10. Hybrid Stories

Narratives which combine elements of the above, e.g., mira­cle stories which produce recognition, pronouncement stories which are also encounters, etc.

IV. Authorship and Date of the Synoptic Gospels


We here sketch the historical evidence for the Synoptic Gospels being written by their traditional authors Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and all before AD 70.  We suggest that Matthew was written first (also traditional), that the order of Mark and Luke is uncertain (traditionally Mark is next), though we favor Luke in the late 50s and Mark in the early 60s, shortly after Matthew was translated into Greek.


A. Authorship of the Synoptics


We will take each Gospel in turn, following the traditional order of the NT canon, citing first internal evidence of authorship (which is rather skimpy) and then external, citing the major quotations in full.


   1. Matthew's Authorship


a. Internal Evidence


Except for the title (and we never have a copy of Matthew with any other person listed in the title), the text is anonymous (i.e., the writer never indicates when he is alluding to himself in an identifiable manner).  We do not know if the title was put on the autograph by the author or not.


Given that Matthew wrote it, is interesting that in  his apostle list (Matt. 10:2‑4) he calls himself a tax collector, not exactly a popular profession in NT Palestine!  Mark, Luke and Acts omit this detail from their apostle lists.  This suggests the humility of Matthew and a probable reason for all the Gospels being anonymous, to keep the focus on Jesus.


b. External Evidence


   1) Papias (writing c130 AD)


Then Matthew wrote the oracles (τ λόγια) in the Hebrew  dialect (διαλέκτ), but everyone interpreted them as he  was able.

                                                                                                Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord,

                                                                                          cited in Eusebius Church History 3.39.16


The original of Papias' Exposition is not extant, but extracts are cited by several ancient and medieval writers, and the whole was apparently still extant in the middle ages.


What is meant here by "the oracles":  Was this the Gospel?  Liberals who hold to the Two Document Theory (see our later discussion of the Synoptic Problem) often say that "the oracles" were the Q source.


However, Papias later uses "oracle" to refer to Mark, and everyone agrees he is referring to the Gospel there.  Irenaeus gives the same tradition regarding its origin, but explicitly identifies it as the Gospel of Matthew.


What is meant by "Hebrew dialect"?  This could refer to either Hebrew or Aramaic language, as both are sometimes called "Hebrew" in antiquity.  This would imply that the original of Matthew was in Hebrew or Aramaic, and it was translated later.


In opposition to the above idea, some take "dialect" to mean "Greek written in a Hebraistic style."  This theory does not fit Papias' comment as well, as it is hard to see how a simple stylistic difference would make Matthew so difficult to interpret.  The idea of a language foreign to a Greek audience is more in keeping with Papias' remark.


Recently, George Howard at the University of Georgia has argued that a rather poorly preserved text of the original Hebrew of Matthew has come down to us in a medieval Jewish polemical (anti-Christian) text Even Bohan; see George Howard, The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text (Mercer Univ Press, 1987).


   2) Irenaeus (c180 AD)


Now Matthew published also a book of the Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Rome and founding the Church.

                                                                                                           Against Heresies 3.1.2 (Latin);

                                                                                           Greek in Eusebius Church History 5.8.2.


Note that Irenaeus calls Matthew's work a Gospel, in the Hebrew dialect, and gives it a date C when Peter and Paul were in Rome (we know Paul was in Rome in early 60's AD).


   3) Pantaenus (c.180 AD)


Pantaenus also was one of them and is said to have gone  to India, where the story goes that he found the Gospel according to Matthew, which had preceded his arrival,  among certain people there who had learned of Christ; that Bartholo­mew, one of the Apostles, had preached to them; and that he had left the writing of Matthew in Hebrew letters, which also was preserved to the time indicated.         

Eusebius, Church History 5.10.3


Pantaenus was a Christian from Alexandria, Egypt, who was head of the catechetical school there before Clement and Origen.


Notice that this is indirect information: "The story goes that ..."  Pantaenus notes that Matthew was written in "Hebrew letters" (could still be either Aramaic or Hebrew, but not Greek).  The text is said to have been preserved still in the late 2nd century.


The remark about India is not far‑fetched; there was travel between India and the Roman world at this time.


   4) Clement of Alexandria (c200 AD)


Head of catechetical school after Pantaenus.  Left Alexandria during persecution in 203, died 210-217 AD.


Again in the same books Clement gives a tradition of the early presbyters con­cerning the order of the Gospels in the following manner: He said that those Gospels which contain the genealogies were written first; but the Gospel accord­ing to Mark had this occasion...

                                                                                                       Outlines, cited in Eusebius 6.14.5


By "tradition of the presbyters," Clement means  information he has learned from leaders before him.


Explicitly states that Matthew and Luke were written first, so before Mark.


   5) Origen (c240)


Clement's successor in Egypt; later went to Caesarea, where  he built up a large library inherited eventually by Eusebius.


In the first of the books on the Gospel according to  Matthew, observing the ecclesiastical canon, he testifies that he knows only four Gospels, writing some­what as follows:  As he has learned by tradition concerning the four Gospels, which alone are undisputed in the Church of God under heaven, that first there was written the Gospel according to Matthew, the one‑time publican but after­wards an apostle of Jesus Christ, who published it in the Hebrew language (γράμμασιv) for those from Judaism who believed.


                                                                                                      Commentary on Matthew: cited in

                                                                                                        Eusebius, Church History 6.25.3


Order: is Origen giving chronological or canonical order here?


Language = letters.  This is clearer than saying "dialect."


The next two witnesses are important more for their access to written documents which have not survived, than for their likely access to reliable oral tradition.  Eusebius is the major historian of the ancient church, Jerome one of its best scholars.


   6) Eusebius of Caesarea (c325)


Bishop of Caesarea after the end of Roman persecution, with access to the same library as Origen.


Yet of all the disciples of the Lord, only Matthew and  John have left us memoirs; and they, it is reported, had recourse to writing only under pressure of necessity.  For Matthew, who preached earlier to Hebrews, when he was about to go to others also, committing his Gospel to writing in his native tongue, compensated by his writing for the loss of his presence to those from whom he was sent away.


                                                                                                    Eusebius, Church History 3.24.5‑6


"Memoirs" - an ancient genre for famous people thinking back over events in their own lives.  Matthew and John had not planned to write but when they saw the need arise (e.g., leaving Palestine) they did so.


   7) Jerome (c400)


Matthew who is also called Levi, and who changed from a  publican to an Apostle, was the first one in Judaea to  write a Gospel of Christ in Hebrew letters and words for those from the circumcision who believed; who translated it afterwards into Greek is not sufficiently certain.

                                                                                                      Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men 3


c. Summary on Authorship of Matthew


   1)      That Matthew wrote the Gospel ascribed to him is the unanimous opinion of tradition and (perhaps not independently) of the titles on extant manuscripts.


This is consistent with title and content of the first Gospel.  No other names are associated with it.  The early church knew of fake gospels and rejected them.


   2)      That Matthew's Gospel was the first written is also given several times in the tradition.

This is frequently disputed today, as most liberals (and many conservatives) think Matthew's Gospel uses Mark's.


   3)      That Matthew's Gospel was written in Hebrew (or Aramaic) is a regular feature of the tradition.


This, too, is often disputed today because the extant Greek Gospel does not look like translation‑Greek from a Semitic language.  [Translation-Greek:  a lot of Hebrew syntax and vocabulary range carried over into the Greek.]  The LXX is an example of translation‑Greek in most of its text, though it varies from book to book.


But it could be that the translator tried to give it a more fluent Greek style.  Some OT translations into Greek were concerned about style: e.g.

Symmachus and Theodotion ‑ good Greek style;

contrast Aquila ‑ very literal translation Greek.


In English, the NASB is something like translation-English, the NIV has a good English style.


Perhaps Matthew himself made a free translation at a later time.  We don't know for sure if it was a translation, or (if so) who made it.


Effect on inspiration if it is a translation:  No problem if Matthew translated it.  More a concern if done by someone besides an apostle or a trusted associate (Luke, etc.).  However, the church has been without the Bible in the original languages for long periods in church history:  Western church only had Latin in Middle Ages.  Even today, most Americans don't know the Biblical languages.


What languages were used in Palestine in NT times?  Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek were all used in Bar-Kochba materials which we have been found recently in caves.  Latin, Greek, and Hebrew (or Aramaic) were used in the  sign over the cross.  Don't know how many people were multi‑lingual.  Since several of Jesus' NT statements are in transliterated Aramaic, this was probably Jesus' native language.


   2. Mark's Authorship


a. Internal evidence


Like Matthew, except for book title, Mark is anonymous in its text.


Some have suggested the style seems to fit the personality of Peter:

1) impressionable rather than reflective.

2) emotional rather than logical.

3) many vivid details, including:

Jesus's emotions, looks, gestures (Mark 3:5; 6:6,34; 7:34; 8:12; 10:14,21; 14:33)

Peter's own thoughts (9:6 at transfiguration; 1:21 "being reminded, Peter said")

This would suggest close contact with Peter, but Luke 9:33 also gives Peter's re­sponse at the transfiguration.


The outline of Mark is close to that of Peter's talk at Cornelius' house (Acts 10:37‑41).  Both start with John's baptism rather than Jesus' birth or pre-existence (like the other gospels).


The standpoint of narrative is consistent with Peter as author.  By Astandpoint@ we don't mean author refers to self in 1st person; rather, he structures narrative so that reader tends to identify with him or his group (rather like the way the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are written from Joseph's or Mary's view).  E.g., compare Mark 5:37f and Matt 9:23 (raising Jairus' daughter).  Matt. tells little of what happened in house.  Mark gives much more detail: age of girl, food for her, people put out of room.  This is consistent with the idea that Matthew remained outside and got a few details later, while Peter went in and saw all the action (which is what we are told happened).


Mark 14:51 (young man who loses his sheet at arrest of Jesus) makes best sense as a brief sketch of Mark himself.  Otherwise, it is strange to introduce someone with no explanation, especially when they have no connection with the narrative.


b. External Evidence for Authorship of Mark


   1) Papias (c130 AD)


And this the Presbyter [apostle John?] used to say: Mark, indeed, since he was the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately, but not in order the things either said or done by the Lord as much as he [Peter? Mark?] remembered. [*] For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterwards, as I have said [heard and followed] Peter, who fitted his discourses to the needs [of his hearers] but not as if making a narrative of the Lord's sayings; consequently, Mark, writing some things just as he remembered, erred in nothing; for he was careful of one thing C not to omit anything of the things he had heard or to falsify anything in them.


                                                                                                Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord;

                                                                                         cited in Eusebuis, Church History 3.39.15


This is the most complete statement from Papias regarding any Gospel.  The brackets are either explanatory material added by translators to clarify his state­ment or my comments.


Papias is citing information which goes back before him.  The "Presbyter" (elder) is most likely the author of 2 and 3 John C the Apostle John.  Irenaeus notes that Papias studied under John.


Note the problem as to where the quotation from John ends.  It probably ended as early as [*], since the next sentence is in the 1st person (Papias?).


Mark as the "interpreter of Peter":  Might refer to a  language which Peter did not know.  Peter probably knew  Greek as he wrote 1 and 2 Peter, perhaps Mark trans­lated into Latin.  However, Mark could be called an "interpreter of Peter" because he wrote Peter's memoirs for him.


"Accurately, but not in order..." is strange, since many feel that the chronol­ogy/order of events in Mark is quite good.  This might, however, refer to Mark's original note‑taking:  i.e., Peter did not give the data in chronological order but "fitted it to the needs of his hearers" as he gave messages in various Christian churches.  In this case, Mark's compilation is in order, but the data as given him by Peter was not in order.


"As much as he remembered..." also probably refers to  Peter, not Mark.


"Accurate" (first occurrence) is within the direct quote from John.


Probably Papias is following rabbinic usage here: The student memorizes (exactly) a teacher's statement (the Mishnah) and then gives an explanation of that statement (Gemara).  Thus the quotation above before [*] is the exact statement; the material afterwards is Papias' explanation.


   2) Justin Martyr (c140-50 AD)


After speaking several times of the memoirs of the apostles called Gospels, and having just mentioned Peter, Justin says:  It is written in his [Peter's] memoirs that He [Christ] changed Peter's name, as well as the sons of Zebedee, Boanerges, alluding to Mark 3:16‑17.

                                                                                                                 Dialogue with Trypho 106.


The assumption that "his memoirs" refers to Peter as author and not to Christ as subject is reasonable since Justin never elsewhere refers to "Christ's memoirs" but always to "the memoirs of the Apostles".


   3) Irenaeus (c180 AD)


Matthew published ... while Peter and Paul were preach­ing the Gospel in Rome and founding the church.  After their departure (ξoδoς; death?) Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter.

                                                                                                           Against Heresies 3.1.2 (Latin);

                                                                                           Greek in Eusebius, Church History 5.8.2


"Departure" could refer to death (figuratively) or to leaving Rome alive (literally); both constructions are common.


   4) Clement of Alexandria (c200 AD)


... the Gospel according to Mark had this occasion: When Peter had preached the word publicly in Rome and had declared the Gospel by the Spirit, those who were present C they were many C besought Mark, since he had followed him for a long time and remembered the things that had been spoken, to write out the things that had been said; and when he had done this, he gave the Gospel to those who had asked him.  When Peter learned of it later, he neither obstructed nor com­mended it.

                                                                                                       Outlines; cited in Eusebius 6.14.5


Note that Peter is still alive after Gospel is written.  Peter is not sure what to do with the writing; his puzzlement here somewhat resembles that when the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles at Cornelius' house.


   5) Tertullian (c200 AD)


So then, of Apostles, John and Matthew instill us with  faith; of Apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it.

                                                                                                                           Against Marcion 4.2


Is Tertullian referring to the order of writing here?  It is doubtful.  He may only have in mind the strength of the witnesses re/ their proximity to Jesus.


   6) Origen (c225 AD)


... and that secondly there was written the Gospel according to Mark, who made it as Peter instructed him, whom also he (Peter) acknowledges as son in the Catho­lic Epistle in these words saying: AThe church in Babylon, elect together with you, and Mark, my son, salute you@ (1 Peter 5:13).

                                                                                                      Commentary on Matthew; cited in

                                                                                                        Eusebius, Church History 6.25.5


"Secondly ... Mark" would most naturally refer to chronological order, but perhaps (in the context) only to canonical order.  See the beginning of this quotation (page 43 of our notes) with reference to the "ecclesiastical canon."


c. Summary on Authorship.


   1)      That Mark wrote the Gospel ascribed to him is the unanimous opinion of tradition, as is the belief that he gives us Peter's preaching.


Mark's authorship is supported by extant manuscript titles.  There is less argument over Mark's authorship as compared to Matthew's or John's.  There is, however,  considerably more resistance in liberal circles to the idea that he gives us Peter's preaching.


   2)      These traditions are consistent with the nature of the Gospel itself in a stronger and more obvious way than was the case for Matthew.


The linkage to Peter is not explicit in the manuscripts, but is consistent with the tone of the Gospel as seen above under internal evidence (vignette of 14:51-52, personality of Peter).


   3)      Some see a contradiction in the tradition regarding the date of Mark and the time of its writing relative to Luke.


Irenaeus is interpreted as saying that Mark wrote after Peter's death, whereas Clement of Alexandria clearly implies that Mark wrote before his death.


A contradiction is not necessary here, as Irenaeus may be referring to Peter (and Paul) leaving Rome alive (literal exodus) rather than to their death (figurative exodus).  It appears that Paul at least did leave Rome after his first imprisonment (Acts 28, tradition).


Another alleged contradiction relates to the relative order of Mark and Luke.  Many traditions give the order Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, but Clement says Gospels with genealogies (Matt, Luke) were written first, i.e., Matthew, Luke, Mark, John.


   3. Luke's Authorship


a. Internal Evidence


Except for its title, the Gospel text is anonymous.


However, the prologue of Acts links Acts to Luke, and internal features in Acts suggest that the author of Acts was a companion of Paul, either Luke or Jesus Justus.  The prologues of Luke and Acts both mention Theophil­us.  Acts prologue refers to a previous account which is clearly the Gospel we call Luke.


The vocabularies of Luke and Acts are similar and indicate a well‑educated author with an unusual knowledge of medical terms.  See William K. Hobart, The Medi­cal Language of St. Luke, where this evidence is presented in detail.


b. External Evidence


We have fewer early references than for Matthew and Mark.  Perhaps no one saw fit to report Papias' comments on this Gospel, if he made any.


   1) Muratorian Canon (late 2nd century) from Italy


The Muratorian Canon is a list of the books belonging to the NT, named for its discoverer Muratori (1740).  It is a fragment, with end, beginning (and possibly some of the middle) missing.  It survives in a single 8th century manuscript "in barbarous Latin, by a careless and ignorant scribe."  It is clearly a translation of a Greek original, which from internal evidence dates back to the late 2nd century and was written in or near Rome, which it calls "the city."


The Muratorian Canon mentions Hermas, author of the Shepherd of Hermas, as the brother of Pius who was apparently bishop of Rome in author's own lifetime.


The Canon begins as follows:


... but he was present among them, and so he put [the facts down in his Gospel].  The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke.  Luke, the physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul had taken him with him as a companion of his traveling, [and after he had made] an investigation, wrote in his own name C but neither did he see the Lord in the flesh C and thus, as he was able to investigate, so also he begins to tell the story [starting] from the nativity of John.


As only Luke begins with the birth of John the Baptist,  the correct Gospel is in view:  No other known Gospel  (including apocryphal ones) begins with John's nativity.


The remark about "traveling companion" fits with the testimony of Acts.


   2) Irenaeus (c180 AD) from France and Asia Minor


Now Matthew published ... while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Rome and founding the church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter ... handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter.  Luke also, the follower of Paul, put down in a book the Gospel preached by that one.   Afterwards John ....


                                                                                                         Against Heresies 3.1.1‑2 (Latin)

                                                                                           Greek in Eusebius, Church History 5.8.2


Irenaeus seems to be giving the general chronological  order of writing.  Notice that he puts Luke third but doesn't quite say that Luke is written third.


   3) Clement of Alexandria (c208 AD) from Egypt


Again in the same books Clement gives a tradition of the early presbyters con­cerning the order of the Gospels in the following manner:  He said that those Gospels which contain the genealogies were written first; but the Gospel accord­ing to Mark had this occasion....  Last of all, John,....


                                                                                                       Outlines; cited in Eusebius 6.14.5


Note the chronological order seems different than Irenaeus' in that Luke precedes Mark.


   4) Tertullian (c215 AD) from North Africa


So then, of Apostles, John and Matthew instill us with faith; of Apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it .... For Luke's Gospel similarly men are used to ascribe to Paul.


                                                                                                                           Against Marcion 4.2


   5) Origen (c225 AD) from Egypt


... and thirdly, that according to Luke C the Gospel  praised by Paul C who made it for those from the Gentiles  who believed.


                                                                                                      Commentary on Matthew; cited in

                                                                                                        Eusebius, Church History 6.25.6


The remark about the "Gospel praised by Paul" is probably referring to 2 Cor 8:18.  It is doubtful that this is what Paul had in mind in that passage!


   6) Eusebius (c330 AD)


Luke, in regard to race being of those of Antioch, but  by profession a physician, since he had been very much  with Paul and had no mean association with the rest of the Apostles, left us examples of the therapy of souls, which he acquired from them, in two inspired books:  the Gospel which he testifies that he also wrote according to what those handed down to him who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word, all of whom he also says he had followed even from the beginning; and the Acts of the Apostles which he composed from what he had learned, not by hearing but with his eyes. But men say that Paul was accustomed to refer to his Gospel whenever, writing as it were about some Gospel of his own, he said, Aaccording to my Gospel.@


                                                                                                      Eusebius, Church History 3.4.6‑7


Eusebius may be drawing inferences from NT passages as "my Gospel" probably refers to Paul's message, not to the gospel of Luke.  Many of Paul's references to "my Gospel" (e.g., Rom. 2:16, 16:25) probably predate the writing of Luke.


c. Summary on Authorship


   1)      That Luke, a follower of Paul and a physician, wrote the Gospel ascribed to him is the unanimous opinion of tradition, although we have no remarks quite so early as those of Papias on Matthew and Mark.


By c200 AD, we have info from all geographical areas of early Christianity agreeing that Luke is the author.  This implies the title has been on the work a long time, or that early Xns had access to common knowledge.


That the author was a physician who traveled with Paul is consistent with the internal vocabulary of the 3rd Gospel and with its linkage with Acts.  Thus based on internal evidence Luke is most likely to be the author.


   2)      The Gospel is frequently mentioned third, perhaps preserving a tradition regarding the order of authorship.


Alternatively, this could be an early binding or canon order.  The Muratorian Canon, Irenaeus, and Origen all cite Luke as third.


If Luke is really written third and after Peter's death, then Clement is in error and some internal problems develop regarding the date of Acts.


B. Dates of the Synoptic Gospels


   1. Date of Matthew's Gospel


a. Internal evidence


Internal evidence is of very little help here.  Two remarks suggest that it was not written immediately after the resurrection (i.e. in the 30's):


Matt 27:8  "called the Field of Blood to this day."

Matt 28:15 "This story was widely spread among the Jews to this day."


Both imply a significant time interval between the event and writing, but don=t say how much.


Liberals tend to date Matt after 70 AD, partly to place it after Mark (which they date just before 70), and partly to "post‑date" Jesus' predictions:


Matt 21:41 ‑ Parable of tenant farmers who kill son implies destruction of nation Israel for killing Jesus, so after 70 AD, story being made up to fit what happened.

Matt 22:7 ‑ Wedding Banquet, guests refused to come so king "destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire." (Fits Jerusalem => written after 70).

Matt 23:38 ‑ "Your house is being left to you desolate!" (Either Jerusalem or temple destroyed => after 70).

Matt 24 ‑ Olivet Discourse describes fall of Jerusalem, so written after­wards.


Liberals say Mark could be written just before the fall of Jerusalem since that Gospel does not include these details as clearly.


Obviously this is no problem to believers, since all these are in prediction contexts, and Jesus can predict the future.


b. External evidence


Matthew was written before earliest surviving manu­scripts.  The papyri p64,67 and p77 represent 2 manuscripts from about 200 AD.  So written before 200.


Epistle of Pseudo‑Barnabas (probably written c132 AD) cites Matt. 22:14 ("many called, few chosen") saying "as the Scripture says," but doesn't name Matthew. Liberals say Matthew was written by then, but Pseudo‑Barnabas misremembered quote as OT Scripture.


Tradition on authorship would require that it be written within Matthew's lifetime, probably no later than 100 AD, possibly much earlier.  This is limited by Matthew's age:  Since he was an adult with some authority (tax collector) by c30 AD, it is doubtful he was living after 100 AD.  Thus the traditions imply that Matthew was written in the 1st century. Allusions in other Apostolic Fathers, including Clement (c95 AD) would agree with this.


Irenaeus' tradition would date it to c61‑68 AD.


Several other traditions make Matthew's Gospel the first one written, so it might be even earlier.


Luke (see below) was probably written in late 50's, so Matthew's date would then be earlier.


c. Various proposals for Matthew's date


These range from 37 AD (Old Scofield Bible) to 125 AD (so Robert Kraft, a liberal prof at U. Penn.).  37 AD is probably too early for the "to this day" references.  125 AD is far too skeptical of historical sources.  Does not explain why Christians and even heretics accepted it and used only the 4 gospels.


My suggestion for date:  Irenaeus slightly mistaken.  Matthew wrote a Hebrew Gospel in the 40's or 50s before he left Jerusalem (note when Paul visits Jerusalem, he found only Peter and John there).  Matthew later made a Greek edition in the 60's for wider use.  Thus Irenaeus is correct about author and language, but mistakes its publication in Greek (61‑68 AD) for its original Hebrew composition in the 40's or early 50's.


Papias's statement implies that for some time Matthew was the only written Gospel available and was in demand even in its Hebrew form as apparently no Greek translation had been made yet.


This model is proposed to fit (1) the tradition of Matthew being the first Gospel written with (2) the evidence for a pre‑60 date of Luke (see below).

   2. The Date of Mark's Gospel


a. Internal Evidence


We have nothing direct.  Liberals like to date by post‑dat­ing predictions, so they tend to put it late.


Solution to the Synoptic problem has a bearing here, depending on whether we see Mark as written before or after Matthew and Luke.


b. External Evidence


See various fathers cited above.  Based on a count of surviving manuscripts and citations by church fathers, Mark was considerably less popular than Matthew in the early church.


c. Several dating schemes:


1) The concordant (conflict-minimizing) interpretation of the testimony of the church fathers puts the date of Mark in the 60's before the death of Peter.


Clement dates Gospel during Peter's lifetime.


Irenaeus is referring to Peter leaving Rome and not to his death.


Then we can date Mark between Paul's arrival in Rome narrated in Acts (61‑63 AD) and 68 AD (when persecutions ended with Nero's death).


2) Some scholars reject Clement of Alexandria's testimony and interpret Irenaeus' "exodus" remark so as to date the Gospel after the death of Peter.


This is the common liberal view, with Mark dated after 68 AD, perhaps into early 70's.  Some extreme liberals date Mark as late as 115 AD!


3) Many conservatives reject all tradition and put Mark back into the 50's, so that Mark can pre‑date Matthew and Luke.


This view throws out a lot of data in order to maintain a conservative version of the 2‑document theory.  This will be discussed later, under our topic "The Synoptic Problem."


d. Summary on Date of Mark


Clearly, people are willing to ignore data so that their view of the synoptic problem (to be discussed) looks plausible.


The concordant view seems to fit the data the best, and is favored by me.  How­ever, it must reject the two-document theory which puts Mark earlier than Mat­thew.


   3. The Date of Luke's Gospel


a. Internal Evidence.


1) Clearly Acts 1:1 presupposes Luke, so the Gospel must be written before Acts.


The prologues are connected, since Acts refers to the "previous account."  Luke ends with the ascension, Acts picks up from there and continues. Both are ad­dressed to the same person, Theophilus.


2) Liberals feel that Luke 21:20 reflects the Jewish war, so they date Luke after 70 AD.


As predicted in Lk 21:20, in 66 AD the city was surrounded by armies, but the Roman general got scared and retreated.  This allowed people to flee the city, as Jesus warned them to do, before the Romans came back the 2nd time (68 AD) and leveled Jerusalem (as in v 24).


Only unbelievers feel a need to post‑date prophecies. No such approach is war­ranted for believers, though of  course Luke could have been written after 70 if other evidence so indicates (i.e., it is not necessary that Luke write before the prophecy was fulfilled).


b. External Evidence


1) Acts (as we discuss in course on Acts & Pauline Epistles) seems to date from the end of Paul's first Roman imprisonment, c63‑64 AD.


The date of Acts must precede the Roman fire (64 AD) as it reflects no antago­nism between Christianity and the Roman government.  Once Nero pinned the blame for the fire on Xns,  Xy became an illegal cult until after 300 AD.  Acts shows no hint that Xy is illegal.


Acts also shows no hint of the death of Paul (c68 AD). Paul has been in Rome for 2 years under house arrest when the book of Acts' narrative ends.


Liberals (to try to explain this away) say everyone knew what happened to Paul so there was no need to include his death.  But "house arrest" is strange way to end the book if he's dead!


Some (incl some conservatives) suggest Luke intended to write a 3rd book as a sequel to Acts, but for some reason never was able to do so.  This argument is based on taking Acts 1:1 "the first account" ρωτov to mean "first of several" and assuming Luke would have used ρότερov if he meant "first of two."  But the word used in Acts 1:1 can mean "first of two" in Hellenistic Greek, even though this was not proper in Classical Greek.


If our suggestion 1) is right, then Luke brings the reader up to date at the end of Acts, i.e., he is writing just two years after Paul has arrived in Rome.


2) That Luke would be dated slightly earlier than Acts is seen from internal evidence (above), especially if Paul's 2‑year imprisonment in Caesarea gave Luke the     opportunity for researching and writing the Gospel.


Writing the Gospel before voyage to Rome would avoid problems with Luke losing his notes in the shipwreck.


In this case, Luke would begin to circulate in the East about the time of Paul's voyage, c60 AD.


3) A date of c60 AD seems to buck the tradition which puts Mark in the 60's but earlier than Luke.  I suggest that either the tradition is partially mistaken or that both Mark and Luke are nearly simultaneous and reached different parts of the Empire at different times, i.e., that Mark arrived first in some places, Luke first in others.


Mark is traditionally written in Rome (the West).  Clement, in Egypt (the East), puts Luke ahead of Mark chronologically.


Irenaeus' testimony looks chronological, but note above (page 51) that he does not give an explicit time or sequence reference for Luke (like "afterward").  Irenae­us may not be intending to be chronological here, or he may be mistaken because his sources received the two Gospels in a different order than Egypt did.


Thus we date Luke 58‑60 AD, before Acts in 63‑64 AD.


   4. Summary on Dates of the Synoptic Gospels


30                                40                                50                                60                                70


    |=====================|          |===|      |=======|

  Matthew                                     Luke         Mark

30                                40                                50                                60                                70

 ^                                                                     ^                                                                     ^

 Resurrection                                       Jerusalem Council                                           Fall Jerusalem



C. Characteristics of the Synoptic Gospels


   1. Characteristics of Matthew


a. Matthew the author


He is mentioned by name 7 times in 4 different books of the NT, but these involve only 2 occasions: (1) his conversion and (2) the apostle lists.  He is called "Levi of Alpheus" in Mark 2:14, so may have been the son of Alpheus and brother of James the Little (listed as son of Alpheus in Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15, Ac 1:13).


Conversion: Matt 9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27,29 ‑ was a tax‑collector, so held a dinner for old friends to meet Jesus.  An interesting picture of the reaction of a new convert.


Apostle list: Matt 10:3 (only list using term "publican"), Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13.  In these lists, the apostles are always grouped in 3 groups of 4 and are never mixed between groups.  Matthew is always in the 2nd group, as either #7 or #8.


b. Matthew's Original Audience


Matthew's Messianic emphasis is more appropriate for Jews.


His tendency to assume a knowledge of Jewish practices (rather than to explain them) suggests principal readers in view are Jews and Jewish Christians.


Mt 15:2 ‑ "tradition of the elders" about washing hands.  Mark gives 3‑4 verses of explanation, Matt. doesn't.


Mt 23:5 ‑ "they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen  the tassels (of their garments)."  Even the NASB added parentheses to provide some explana­tion.  To show their piety, some Pharisees wore bigger phylacteries and longer tassels than the average person.


Mt 23:27 ‑ Scribes and Pharisees "are like whitewashed tombs."  Jews would whitewash tombs so people wouldn't accidently touch them and become unclean (esp. before festivals).


c. Aim and Structure of Matthew.


1) Aim ‑ no direct statement is made in the Gospel.


Contents suggest Matthew's purpose is to show Jesus as the Messiah who fulfilled OT prophecies.  Matthew cites more prophecies and a wider variety of them than any other Gospel writer. 


Matthew appears to draw a subtle parallel between the ministry of Jesus and the history of Israel.


2) Internal evidence of structure.


We try to find out how the writer would have outlined the material (not making arbitrary guesses); this gives more accurate view of book's structure.


a) 2 possible major transition passages ‑ both begin with the same phrase: "After that Jesus began ..."


Mt 4:17 "to preach" = begins ministry to multitudes.  Transition from the preparatory narratives to Jesus' public proclamation of the gospel.


Mt 16:21 "to show His disciples" = begins His private ministry to the disciples and outlines the  rest of the book: suffer, be killed, rise.


b) Discourses.


Usually 5 are seen (Godet, Introduction to the NT), ending with the for­mula: "And it came to pass when Jesus had finished ...."


            Chapters          Formula

(1) Sermon on the Mount        5‑7                   7:28

(2) Instructions to the 12         10                    11:1

(3) Kingdom Parables             13                    13:53

(4) Church Discipline             18                    19:1

(5) Olivet Discourse                24‑25               26:1

Some say Matthew models his Gospel around the Pentateuch, so have 5 discourses = 5 books.  Sermon on Mount would fit Exodus, but what of Genesis?


Some see further (but non‑chronological) parallels of: Genealogy = Book of the generations.   Wilderness temptation = Wanderings.


But there are 2 other discourses in Matthew, not just 5:


Mt 23: "Woes to Pharisees" ‑ doesn't end with formula.  Could link it with Mt 24‑25, but topic is different.

Mt 3: Discourse of John the Baptist.


It appears that Matthew is giving topical samples of Jesus' preaching relevant to who Jesus is.  Attempts to get these samples to fit the Penta­teuch seem rather stretched.


c) Is Matthew involved in shifting materials?


Some suggest that Matthew gathered materials by theme rather than ordering them chronologically.


His discourses are admittedly by topic.  His miracles are mainly concen­trated in chs. 8‑9.


Matthew's order of events is different from that of Mark and Luke in a few places.


But we find no solid evidence of chronological liberty between the Gospels (i.e., the same events explicitly said to have happened in a different order).  All the Gospels have a chronological structure, but with different purposes and emphases.


As an itinerant preacher, Jesus doubtless repeated the same/similar teaching material on different occasions.


Different cultures have different literary procedures.  Quotations must follow a specific accuracy and style for an academic thesis, but the require­ments for a newspaper article are not as formal.  Of course, to invent dialogue which never occurred is bad in any culture.


When condensing a long speech or narrative, a writer might either use key sentences from a discourse, simplify the action or summarize it in his own words.  Either approach would be acceptable so long as it tells us what actually took place. [He need not tell us what he is doing, however.]


d. Characteristic phrases in Matthew


1) "That it might be fulfilled" is very common in Matthew.


Some of these fulfillments are also noted in other Gospels, but not so many as in Matthew.  Some liberals have suggested that a book of testimonies (a compilation of OT prooftexts about the Messiah) was used in the early church.  This may be so, but it is more likely (cp. Luke 24:27) that these go back to Jesus' own explana­tion of Messianic prophecy after his resurrection.


2) "Kingdom of Heaven" occurs over 30 times.


This is apparently synonymous with "kingdom of God" in Mark and Luke.  In fact, Matt 19:23‑24 uses both terms in parallel. In Rabbinic sources "heaven" was a common substitution for "God," as they were reluctant to write or speak the name of God because of its holiness.


e. Other Materials Unique to Matthew


1) Matthew refers to various Jewish customs and usages not especially interesting to Gentiles.


2) Matthew's birth material is distinctive.


Both Matt and Luke narrate Jesus' birth; both are clear on the virgin birth.  But otherwise, they do not overlap much.


Matt notes the Wise men coming, Herod's attempt to kill Jesus, and the flight to Egypt.


Matt appears to give Joseph's perspective (see him wondering, worrying, acting), while Luke gives Mary's viewpoint.


3) Peter and the Church ‑ Matt 16, and Church Discipline ‑ Matt 18.


Only Matthew discusses the Church, even though it is the most Jewish Gospel.  This raises some problems for that dispensational view which makes such an absolute distinction between the Church and Israel and also sees Matthew as the "Jewish Gospel" in the sense that it is "not for this dispensation."  Note that ¦κκλησία is LXX term for "congregation."

4) Great Commission ‑ Matt. 28.


A commission also appears in Mark (but in ques­tionable text), Luke, Acts and John, each (except Matt & Mark) in a different context than the others.  Jesus saw the spread of the Gospel as sufficiently important to repeat his instructions on several occasions.


Liberals don't like the implications of "go to all the nations," "be with you through the ages," and the Trinitarian formula, so they deny this goes back to Jesus.  They also question Matthew's authenticity and date because of perceived conflicts with Acts: (1) command to go vs. early reluctance of apostles; (2) Trinity vs. early baptism "in the name of Christ."


None of these is very serious if Xy is true.  If Jesus is who the Bible claims he is, then his atoning death and resurrection are certainly news of earth-shaking importance (Psalm 22 says as much, and it was certainly written before the rise of Xy).  If Jesus is God and there is only one God, then He is present everywhere and shares "the Name" with the Father.  The Acts' problems relate to emphasis:  (1) the early disciples were apparently waiting for further instructions on how to go about this, and did not at first realize that Gentiles would become Xns as Gentiles without converting to Judaism; (2) we probably misread both Matthew and Acts in taking the phrases "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" and "in the name of Jesus Christ" as instructions on the exact wording to be used in a ceremony.


f. Sketch Outline of Matthew.  (| = about one chapter)


     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 1:1

     |  Genealogy                      

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 1:18


     |  Birth and Infancy              

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 3:1

     |  Preparation for Ministry       

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 4:12 (17)




     |                   Public




     |  Galilean

     |  Ministry        

     |                      ‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 13:1


     |                      Limited


     |                   ‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 16:21


     |                   Private

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 19:1


     |  Journey to Jerusalem           

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 21:1



     |  Last Week



     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 26:1


     |  Betrayal, Trial, Crucifixion   

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 28:1

     |  Resurrection


g. A Symmetrical Outline of Matthew

from Charles H. Lohr, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 23 (1961): 427-28.


A         Narrative: Birth and beginnings (1-4)

B         Sermon: Blessings, entering the kingdom (5-7)

C         Narrative: Authority and invitation (8-9)

D         Sermon: Mission discourse (10)

E          Narrative: Rejection by this generation (11-12)

F          Sermon: Parables of the kingdom (13)

E=       Narrative: Acknowledgment by disciples (14-17)

D=       Sermon: Community discourse (18)

C=       Narrative: Authority and invitation (19-22)

B=       Sermon: Woes, coming of kingdom (23-25)

A=       Narrative: Death and resurrection (26-28)

   2. Characteristics of Mark


a. The Man John Mark


   1) Mark mentioned in the NT 10 or 11 times

6 times in Acts: 12:12,25; 13:5,13; 15:37,39

3 times in Paul:  Col 4:10, Phm 24, 2 Tim 4:11

once in 1 Peter 5:13

perhaps in Mark 14:51‑52.


   2) Tracing his life:


Mark was a cousin (vεψιός) of Barnabas (Col 4:10).


Mark's mother was Mary, who owned a house in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).  His father is not mentioned; perhaps he was dead or an unbeliever.


Mark may have been present at Jesus' arrest (Mark 14:51‑52). This is a specula­tion.  Possible story:  The last supper was held at Mary's house.  The mob comes to the house to arrest Jesus; Mark awakens and follows the mob at a distance (wrapped in a sheet) to Gethsemane. He watches the arrest from the bushes and almost gets caught himself.


Mark was living in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) with his mother during the persecution in which James (son of Zedebee) was killed and Peter was imprisoned (c44 AD; dated from Josephus' remarks about death of Herod Agrippa).


Barnabas and Paul take Mark with them to Antioch (Acts 12:25).  Mark then goes along with Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:5) as their assistant (ηρέτης).  Word originally meant a slave rower, but had been general­ized by NT times to servant or assistant.  As Mark had little training in the Word cp w/ Paul and Barnabas, he probably looked after housing, food, etc.


Mark abandons them when they go into Asia Minor (Acts 13:13; c47‑48 AD).  Whatever his reason was, Paul does not think it was a good one.  Some possibili­ties:


a) Switch in leadership from Barnabas to Paul occurred on Cyprus.  Mark was irritated by it.

b) Going into Asia Minor was a change of plan and Mark did not want to be gone that long.

c) Mark opposed the aggressive evangelization of the Gentiles.

d) He became fearful of the dangers, disillusioned, or homesick.

After the Jerusalem council, Paul and Barnabas plan a second missionary journey to visit the churches they established (Acts 15:37,39).  Barnabas wants to give Mark a second chance but Paul does not.  So they split up: Mark and Barnabas go to Cyprus, Paul and Silas (a mature Christian) head for Asia Minor (c50 AD).


Hear nothing more of Mark until later in the Epistles, since Acts mainly follows Paul.


About 10 years later (61‑63 AD), Mark is back in the good graces of Paul (Col 4:10, Philemon 24).  Mark is apparently being sent on a mission by Paul and is commended to the Colossian church.  He is now a fellow‑worker with Paul.


Still later, Mark is near Ephesus and is commended as being useful to Paul (2 Tim. 4:11; 64‑68 AD).  Timothy is to bring him when he comes from Ephesus.


1 Pet 5:13 may predate 2 Tim reference.  Peter is still alive but Roman persecution has apparently begun (c64 AD or later); Peter is warning Asian churches about it.  Mark is with Peter "in Babylon" and sends his greet­ings.  Peter calls him "my son", presumably in the spiritual sense.


Where is Babylon?  Possibilites:


a) Literal:  The area in Mesopotamia around where the city of Babylon had been, where there was still a large Jewish community.

b) Egypt:  City near modern Cairo was called Babylon; also had a large Jewish community.

c) Rome:  Is called "Babylon" in Revelation; may be a code to throw off authori­ties if letter intercepted.


Tradition says that Mark later went down to Alexandria in Egypt and became a leader of the church there.


b. Mark's Audience


Pretty clearly Gentile, possibly Roman.


1) Aramaic phrases (are many in Mk; see below) are generally  translated.  Thus readers were not expected to know Aramaic.


2) Jewish practices are explained (cleansing hands, etc.).  For any Jew, this would be unnecessary. 


Thus Mark is writing to a non‑Jewish audience which is unfamiliar with the languages and culture of Palestine.  Such people are clearly Gentiles.  From tradition (and perhaps Latinisms, below) we may also infer that they were Romans.


3) Several Latinisms (the use of Latin terms in Greek) occur in Mark:


"φραγελλόω" (Mark 15:15) from Latin 'flagello'.


This term also appears in 2 other Gospels (John 2 and Matt 11), so it may only show that Latin military and governmental terms were picked up in Palestine during 100 years of Roman rule.


"κεvτυρίωv" (Mark 15:39,44,45) from Latin centurion.


Matthew, Luke and Acts use the Greek equivalent, literally "ruler of a 100" (κατovτάρχης).


Doubt that we should put much weight on the Latinisms when it comes to guessing the audience.


c. The Aim of Mark.


No direct statement is given in the Gospel.


More difficult to infer an aim for Mark than for Matthew.  Author does not say he is intending to "preserve the traditions of Peter."


The opening line (Mark 1:1) may state the aim.  While Mark does preserve "the good news about Christ" (1:1), this is the general aim of all the Gospels.


Perhaps Mark is aimed especially at the Roman mentality, which tended to be practical, action-oriented, organized.  Peter himself had such a practical tempera­ment so he probably fit well with the Romans in this.  Thus there may have been a high demand for his material among the Romans as tradition says.


d. Characteristics of Mark:


1) Vividness


Mark is full of graphic and picturesque details which are not required for the action, but add color and depth to the narrative (e.g., the 5000 reclined on the green grass).


Mark notes Jesus' emotions, and he uses historical present frequently to add life to the narrative.


2) Detail


Mark often reports incidents with more detail than do Matt or Luke.  Names of people involved, time of day, surrounding crowds are noted, which are frequently not found in the others.


Yet Mark is the shortest Gospel.  This shortness is obtained by omitting long discourses and reporting fewer events.


3) Activity


The action in Jesus' ministry is emphasized.  θύς" is used over 40 times, tending to give the narrative a rushed, breathless quality.


Mark stresses Jesus' actions more than his words.  Mark does not usually give long discourses of Jesus.  Mark 13 (the Olivet discourse) is much the longest speech of Jesus in Mark.


Mark is packed with miracles:  18 are recorded (though only 2 are unique to Mark).


4) Aramaic


Many Aramaic words are recorded, and usually trans­lated into Greek.


a) Aramaic words unique to Mark:


Boanerges (3:17): epithet of the 2 sons of Zebedee, meaning "sons of thunder".

Talitha Cum[i] (5:41): command to Jarius' daughter, "Little girl, arise!"

Ephphatha (7:34): command to deaf‑mute: "Be opened!"

Bartimaus  (10:46)  Name of the blind man, meaning "son of Timaus".


That Mark even translates the Aramaic name "Bartimaus" suggests that his audience had no feel for Aramaic whatsoever.


Abba  (14:36)  Jesus addressing God, meaning "Father".


This term occurs in Paul (Rom, Gal) but not in the other Gospels


b) Aramaic words which are also found in other Gospels.


Corban (7:11): "Gift to the temple"; is not translated in Matt 27:6.

Golgotha (15:22): "Place of a skull"; both Matthew and John use this and both trans­late it.

Eloi, Eloi, ..., (15:34):  "My God, My God, ...."  Matthew uses and translates.

Rabbi, Rabboni used a number of times in Mark (4x), Matt (4x), and John (9x); only translated once and that by John.


Mark probably used the Aramaic for vividness.


These quotations do not tell us that Jesus only spoke Aramaic.  His conver­sations with the Syro‑Phoeni­cian woman and Pilate imply that he had a knowledge of Greek.


e. A Sketch outline of Mark.



     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 1:1

     |  Preparation for Ministry

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 1:14





     |  Galilean Ministry





     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 10:1

     |  Journey to Jerusalem

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 11:1


     |  Last Week


     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 14:10


     |  Betrayal, Trial, Crucifixion

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 16:1

     |  Resurrection




   3. Characteristics of Luke


a. Luke the Physician


1) Luke is mentioned by name only 3 times in the NT:

Col 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Tim 4:11


From these sparse references, we infer that:


a) Luke was a physician, loved by Paul (Col. 4:14).

b) He was a faithful companion of Paul, even to the very end in Rome (2 Tim 4:11, but seen in all 3 passages).

c) He was apparently Gentile rather than Jewish (Col 4:14).


Strong but indirect evidence here.  Col 4:10‑14 is a series of greetings from friends which Paul breaks into 2 groups: the circumcised and uncircumcised.  Luke is in the latter group.


2) In addition, the "We‑passages" in Acts indicate the author sometimes traveled with Paul.


The author in these cases writes in the 1st person plural, including himself in the action.  Implies he was with Paul then.


Three textually certain occurrences of this:


a) Acts 16:10‑17.  2nd Missionary Journey. 


"After Paul received the vision to go to Macedonia, we .... us ...." and so on through­out the passage.


The group consists of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and author.  Use of "we" starts in v.10, ends in v.17.  Geographically this would imply that the author joined them at Troas and left them at Philippi.


b) Acts 20:5 ‑ 21:18.  3rd Missionary Journey.


Spotty usage throughout this section.  Note that "we" begins in Philippi and ends in Jerusalem.  Perhaps the author is a delegate for the Philippian church in taking gift money to Jerusalem, but he does not name himself in the list of delegates.  This also suggests that Luke was left in Philippi during the 2nd missionary journey to help build the church there and is now picked up.


c) Acts 27:1 ‑ 28:16.  Voyage to Rome.


Now 2 years later.  "We" picks up in Caesarea and ends in Rome.  This suggests perhaps Luke remained in Palestine for the 2 years between the 3rd and 4th journey, perhaps using this time to re­search the Gospel materials.


One passage of uncertain text.


d) Acts 11:28.  At Antioch before 1st journey [variant].


Only appears in Codex Bezae (D) and late mss of ancient versions.  Passage refers to Aga­bus the prophet in Antioch.


The "we" here may reflect an early tradition that Luke was origi­nally from Antioch (see Eusebius and Jerome).


Liberals try to discount force of these passages by saying that the author of Acts (not Luke) used a diary and extracted the "we" passages as direct quotes.  This is not the most natural inter­pre­tation of the phenomenon.


3) Luke as a Greek Physician.


Given his use of medical terminology, Luke was probably trained in the Greek medical traditions.


The two most famous Greek physicians of so-called Hippocratic school:  

Hippocrates (4th cen BC)

Galen (2nd cent AD). [after Luke's time]


Some of the writings of the Hippocratic school are available today which give us their general procedures.  These men (and their associates) were noted for:


a) Diagnosis by observation and deduction (rather than by divination).


b) Careful collection of case reports.


This list of symptoms and treatments helped to build experience or (at least) showed what not to do.


c) Simple treatments.


Some herbal drugs, diet, rest, etc.  Nothing exotic like magic, dung on puncture wounds, chicken teeth, etc. (cp McMillen, None of These Diseases).


                                    d) High standards of hygiene.


Luke probably had this background; seems to have interviewed people whom Jesus had healed in a case-report style.


There were other medical people associated with temples (plus plenty of quacks, of course), but the AGreek school@ was the best of its time.


4) Some other suggestions about Luke.


a) Hometown.


Eusebius and Jerome said that Luke was a native of Syrian Antioch (which fits the variant in Codex D).  We presume that this is a tradition; manuscript D is unlikely to have the original text here.


Luke's use of the term "Hellenists" in Acts 11:20 apparently refers to pagans, not Jews.  Luke means by "Hellenist" someone who was not Greek racially but who had adopted Greek culture. 


Ramsay thinks Luke was from Philippi, as this was where Luke is left and later picked up.  Luke was the "cause" of Paul's Macedo­nian vision.  This idea seems unlikely, though Luke does appear "suddenly" in the narrative at Troas.  Perhaps Luke is from Antioch and he either meets Paul accidently in Troas or was sent by the Antioch church to find and help Paul.


b) Luke is the brother of Titus.


Alexander Souter bases this on 2 Cor. 8:18, where "the brother" could be translated as "his brother". 


Souter notes that Titus is significant in Paul's epistles, but strangely is never mentioned in Acts.  Similarly, in the Gospel of John, the author never mentions himself or his brother James.  Souter sug­gests that Luke, like John, minimizes all references to himself and his brother Titus in Acts.


                                                This is rather speculative, since Paul often refers to other men as "brothers", frequently using the term spiritually.


b. The Aim and Method of Luke.


1) Aim:  To allow Theophilus to know the certainty or reliability (ασφαλεια) of the things he had been taught.


Luke's aim is given in his prologue to the Gospel (1:1-4), written in Greek of an even more classicized, careful Hellenistic style than his usual writing.  His prologue is compressed in comparison with that of other histories of the time, but his Gospel is also shorter than the typical history.  The prologue gives the same information as such prologues, serving as a dedication and explaining how and why the work was undertaken.


Liberals are nervous about the term "reliable" as it implies that someone tried to write as accurate a history of Jesus as was possible in c60 AD.  If Luke succeeded, liberal theology is down the drain!


"Most excellent" [Theophilus] is a title given to governmental officials; such usage is seen in Acts. It is also used in several ancient Greek book dedications,  e.g., Galen and the Epistle to Diognetus.


Theophilus may or may not be a Christian.  AGod-bearing@ names like his were common in the Greek and Jewish cultures.  Cannot well argue that this person is imaginary merely on basis of etymology of his name (lover of God)..


Presumably Luke had a wider circulation in mind for this Gospel, probably his intended wider audience is educated Gentiles.


2) Luke's Method


a) Luke was aware of the status of his subject at the time of writing.


"Inasmuch as many have undertaken ..."


Luke knew that many others had written about Je­sus.  However, he is probably not referring to other canonical Gospels here, as only 1 or 2 (at the most) had been written at this point.


Probably many Christians were interested in putting together the materials heard from the Apostles, but most did not have time or opportunity to carefully research their materials.


b) Luke studied all related matters carefully himself.


"From the beginning" is probably a reference to the subject matter. Luke does start with the earliest earthly events.  Could alternatively mean the beginning place (Palestine) or that Luke himself was a disciple from the beginning, though the tradition does not support this last suggestion.


One can construct a history either by living through the events or by carefully studying the available data later (the usual historical method).  Luke is apparently doing the latter.


c) Luke used materials delivered by a group designated as "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word."


These people would include the Apostles and other full-time workers (the 70, etc.) who were also eye‑witnesses.  The use of a single definite article for the two terms indicates that the group is viewed as a unity having both qualifications.


Luke probably interviewed many people who were healed or present at the occasions he narrates..


Luke may have interviewed Mary, since the Lukan birth material has Mary's perspective.  It is possible she was still alive in the 50's, being perhaps 70-80 years old.


d) Luke wrote up an orderly, sequential, accurate account.


Obviously, all such claims as the above make liberals rather nervous!  This Gospel, we are told, is written in Greek by a trained intellectual Gentile who had personally investigated the accounts of eye-witnesses.


c. Characteristics of Luke


1) Emphases of Luke's Gospel


a) Universalism, i.e., the Gospel is for all kinds of people.


Luke has an unusual emphasis on both Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, men and women, respectable people and outcasts.


b) Jesus' gracious attitude towards outcasts of society:


Sinners, lepers, Samaritans, harlots, tax collectors, etc.


c) Prayer


More of Jesus' prayers and parables on prayer are included in Luke than in the other Gospels.


d) Social Relationships


especially an interest in wealth and poverty


Why did Luke stress these relationships?  Perhaps because these would appeal to his audience.  Greek philosophers of the NT period were highly concerned with ethics.  Many cultured Greeks of the period were also interested in ethics and unhappy with the debauchery of Rome.


2) Material Unique to Luke.


    a) Luke preserves Semitic Praise Psalms.  


These are very Semitic, though otherwise the Gospel of Luke is the least Semitic of the four.  The Latin names given below (taken from first word(s) of their Latin texts) indicate their long usage in the liturgy of the Western church.


(1) Magnificat (Lk 1:46‑55) ‑ Mary is concerned about how she will be received at Elizabeth's house.  Praises God at outcome.


(2) Benedictus (Lk 1:68‑79) ‑ Zachariah praises God after John's birth.


(3) Gloria (Lk 2:14) ‑ Words of the angels at Jesus' birth.  Not sure if this is technically a psalm.


(4) Nunc Dimittis (Lk 2:29‑32) ‑ Simeon's prayer upon seeing Jesus.  Title means "now let depart."


    b) Parables.


All Gospels contain some parables (even John).


There are 2 general types:


(1) Story Parables are Aearthly stories with a heavenly meaning.@

Example: The Wheat and Tares is typical: an earthly agricultural story conveys information on the progress of the Gospel.


(2) Illustrative parables: also called "example parables" or "paradigms"


This type is unique to Luke or nearly so (Matt 12:43-45?; 1 Kings 20:35-43?). These do not transfer meaning from physical to spiritual, but instead they picture an example of spiritual truth in operation and we are to generalize the principle.




(a) Good Samaritan ‑ Question: "Who is my neighbor?"

Answer:  "Anyone in need."

Principle:  You do likewise.


(b) Rich Man and Lazarus ‑ A sample of what happens after death.

JW's want this to be a story (translation) parable so they can get rid of the idea of hell.


(c) Pharisee and Publican – A sample of pride and humility.


(d) Rich Fool ‑ A sample of people who make no preparation for the next life.


(e) Banquet Seats (Luke 14:7‑11) ‑ A sample of the result of self­ishness: Forced to sit in a lower place.


(f) Banquet Host (Luke 14:16‑24) ‑ A sample of hospitality re/ who to invite: the poor.


                                                Why is this type of parable unique to Luke?

Don't know.  Liberals say various circles of tradition invented different types of materials, but this doesn't solve the problem.  There is no reason to believe in such isolated groups in the early church.  Perhaps a better model is that Jesus was inventive and used different styles for different audiences.  Luke apparently empha­sized this material because he especially appreciated it.  Perhaps other authors left them out when compressing accounts.


c) Miracles


The miracles unique to Luke are usually related to women: e.g.,

Jesus raises son of the widow of Nain;

Heals woman bowed down with infirmity.


d) Narrative of the Perean Ministry.


Perea is a largely Jewish region East of the Jordan


d. Sketch Outline of Luke.



     |   Preface     

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 1:4


     |   Birth and Infancy (John included)  

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 3:1

     |   Preparation and Genealogy  

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 4:14



     |   Galilean Ministry



     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 9:51




     |   Journey to Jerusalem


     |   and Perean Ministry






     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 19:28


     |   Last week                      


     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 22:1


     |   Betrayal, Trial, Crucifixion

     |‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 24:1

     |   Resurrection



V. Exegeting Jesus' Parables


A. Some Definitions relevant to Parables


Some confusion can arise about exactly what a parable is, since the definition used in English literature is not quite the same as the range of usage of the word αραβoλή in the New Testa­ment.  On top of that, NT parable studies have been messed up for about a century because commentators unwisely followed Jlicher=s claim that parables were quite different from allegories and always made only a single point.


   1. Dictionary definition:       "A parable is a short, fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle."


Not bad.  Of course, a parable doesn=t have to be fictitious; we have no way 2000 years later to tell whether any or all of Jesus' parables are.  That a parable is a fictitious story, however, casts no shadow on the biblical teaching of inerrancy.


   2. Literary definition:            "A parable is an extended simile, whereas an allegory is an extended metaphor."


This definition gets us into technical questions of what a simile is, and how it differs from a metaphor.  On top of that, it makes a distinction that Jesus and the NT writers do not.  The word "parable" as used in the NT includes allegories and a number of other figurative genres.


For your information (but not for any of our tests), we give the following definitions of simile, metaphor, etc.

Simile: explicit comparison employing words "as, like"; e.g., "God is like a king."

Metaphor: implicit comparison, not employing words "as, like"; e.g., "God is a king."

Parable:  simile is expanded into a story showing how some item, person, etc., is like the story or like some element in the story.

Allegory:  story picturing concepts, etc. by means of persons or elements in the story named for the concepts.  E.g, character names in Pilgrims Progress.


   3. New Testament usage:     "A rather broad genre of illustration, including parable (narrow definition), allegory, similitude, and sample parable, as well as proverb and paradox."


We've already defined "parable" and "allegory" as used in this sentence in #2, above.  What do the other terms here mean?


Similitude:  longer than a single simile, but not really long enough to be a story, e.g., the woman who puts leaven in dough until all is leavened.


Sample parable:  a story which illustrates some spiritual truth by giving a sample of it, rather than by giving "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning" as parables more commonly do.  The parable of the sower and the soils is an earthly story (about planting seed) with a heavenly meaning (about the varied reception of the Gospel).  A sample parable, by contrast, is the Good Samaritan, which gives a sample of what it means to be a neighbor.


B. How Parables Function


   1. Parables are Stories.  They are designed artistically by their creator to be interesting by using the standard devices of storytelling (see A. N. Wilder, Semeia 2[1974]: 138-40):



limited number of actors (rule of two)

direct discourse

serial development

rule of three


binary opposition (black vs white)


often resolution by reversal

usually two-level


   2. Parables are Analogies (John Sider, Interpreting the Parables [Zondervan, 1995], 254). 


A verbal comparison that combines a tenor, a vehicle, and one or more points of resemblance in a structure of logic specially suited to serve as illustration or argument. 


Almost all of Jesus' parables are analogies of equation, sometimes worded as simile and sometimes as metaphor, but structured as proportions, as in mathematics A:B = a:b (i.e, A is to B as a is to b).


a. An example from Shakespeare (King Lear, 4.1.37):


"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, C they kill us for their sport."


Shakespeare's character is saying something about the relationship (as he sees it) between humans and the gods.  This is the subject or tenor of his remark.


Tenor: relation of gods to humans


He is using the relationship between flies and (wanton) human boys as a means to illustrate this subject.


Vehicle: relation of boys to flies


The point of resemblance which the character has in mind is here explicitly stated, "they kill us for their sport."


Point of resemblance: in respect of how (mis)treated.


This can be diagramed as a proportion:


tenor                vehicle

we: gods   =    flies: (wanton) boys


with respect to how they mistreat us

point of resemblance


b. An example from Jesus' parables (Wheat & Weeds, Matt 13):


Story:  A man sows good seed in his field, his enemy sows weeds on top of them.  When discovered, the man's slaves want to remedy the situation right away, but the owner has them wait until the harvest.


Tenor:  "The kingdom of heaven is like..."  Jesus' subject is the kingdom of heaven.  He is telling us about certain features of its (future) history, apparently.


Vehicle:  The story above is the vehicle.  Jesus is telling us about the kingdom of heaven (heavenly subject) by means of an earthly agricultural story of an enemy's attempt to spite his neighbor by ruining his crop with weeds.


Point of Resemblance:  Jesus' story has a number of points of resemblance, not just one, though one of them may well be the main point.  What kinds of analogies and points of resemblance can we find?


C. Parables in the Synoptics (and John)


1. Christological parables


Strong Man Defeated              Mt 12:29; Mk 3:27; Lk 11:21-22

Rejected Stone             Mt 21:42-44

Door of the Sheep                   Jn 10:1-9

Good Shepherd                       Jn 10:1-5, 11-16

Father the Vinedresser            Jn 15:1-2


2. Parables of lost & found


Lost Sheep      Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:3-7

Lost Coin        Lk 15:8-10

Lost Son          Lk 15:11-32


3. Parables of forgiveness & mercy


Unmerciful Servant                 Mt 18:21-35

Day Laborers                          Mt 20:1-6

Two Debtors                           Lk 7:36-50

Unprofitable Servants             Lk 17:7-10


4. Parables on prayer


Son Asking Bread       Mt 7:9-12; Lk 11:11-13

Friend at Midnight      Lk 11:5-8

Unjust Judge               Lk 18:1-8


5. Parables of transformation


New Patch       Mt 9:16; Mk 2:21; Lk 5:36

New Wine       Mt 9:17; Mk 2:22; Lk 5:37-39


6. Parables of stewardship


Lamp & Bushel                       Mt 5:15; Mk 4:21; Lk 8:16; 11:33

Crooked Business Manager    Lk 16:1-9

Unfaithful Upper Servant        Mt 24:45-51; Lk 12:42-46     

Talents                                     Mt 25:14-30

Pounds                                                Lk 19:11-27

Day Laborers                          Mt 20:1-16

Vineyard Workers                   Mt 21:33-46; Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20:9-19

7. Parables of invitation & rejection


Children in Market Place         Mt 11:16-19

Two Sons                                Mt 21:28-32

The Great Supper                    Lk 14:15-24

Marriage of the King's Son     Mt 22:1-14


8. Parables of the second coming


Vultures & Carcass                 Mt 24:28; Lk 17:37

Fig Tree Heralds Summer       Mt 24:32-33; Mk 13:28-29; Lk 21:29-31

Householder & Thief              Mt 24:42-44; Lk 12:39

Porter                                      Mk 13:34-36

Waiting Servants                     Lk 12:35-38

Wise & Foolish Virgins          Mt 25:1-13


9. Parables of warning & judgment


Axe at Roots                           Mt 3:10

Fan in Hand                            Mt 3:12

Tasteless Salt                           Mt 5:13; Mk 9:50; Lk 14:34-35

Fire, Salt & Peace                    Mk 9:49-50

Settle out of Court                   Mt 5:25-26; Lk 12:57-59

Eye Light of Body                   Mt 6:22-23; Lk 11:34-35

Blind Leading Blind                Mk 4:24; Lk 6:39

Speck & Log                           Mt 7:3-5; Lk 7:41-42

Wise & Foolish Builders         Mt 7:24-27; Lk 6:47-49

Empty House                          Mt 12:43-45; Lk 11:24-26

Every Plant not Planted           Mt 15:13

Barren Fig Tree                       Lk 13:6-9

Tower Builder                         Lk 14:28-30

King at War                             Lk 14:31-33

Wicked Tenants                       Mt 21:33-45; Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20:9-19

Sheep & Goats                        Mt 25:31-46


10. Parables of the kingdom


Sower                          Mt 13:3-8; Mk 4:4-8; Lk 8:5-8

Tares                           Mt 13:24-30

Growing Seed                         Mk 4:26-29

Mustard Seed              Mt 13:31-32; Mk 4:30-32; Lk 13:18-19

Leaven                         Mt 13:33; Lk 13:20-21

Treasure                      Mt 13:44

Pearl                            Mt 13:45-46

Dragnet                       Mt 13:47-50

New & Old                 Mt 13:52


11. Illustrative (example) parables


Good Samaritan                      Lk 10:30-37

Rich Fool                                Lk 12:16-21

Lowest Seats                           Lk 14:7-11

Dinner Invitations                   Lk 14:12-14

Rich Man & Lazarus               Lk 16:19-31

Pharisee & Tax Collector        Lk 18:9-14



12. Acted parables


Cursing the Fig Tree   Mt 21:18-22; Mk 11:12-14, 20-24

Cleansing the Temple  Jn 2:13-22; Mt 21:12-17; Mk 11:15-19; Lk 19:45-48

Jesus at 12 in Temple  Lk 2:41-50

Jesus' Baptism             Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22; Jn 1:29-34

Healing on Sabbath     e.g., Mk 3:1-6

Healing with Clay       Jn 9:1-7

Writing on Ground      Jn 7:53-8:11

Triumphal Entry          Mt 21; Mk 11; Lk 19; Jn 12

Anointing Jesus          Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9; Jn 12:1-8

Foot-Washing             Jn 13:1-11


VI. The Gospels as Literary Works


A. Their Literary Form


What is the literary form or overall genre of the Gospels?  A number of different sugges­tions have been made.


   1. Biography?


Obviously the Gospels are presenting information about Jesus, a person who actually lived in history, so they are certainly biographical in some sense.


a. Not biography in modern scholarly sense

B not written by uninvolved observer with detached attitude

B not trying to give all the important dates and facts

B not primarily personal reminiscences and character studies

b. More like biography in ancient popular sense

B written by author with practical concerns, exhortation, etc.

B acquainting reader with a historical person

B giving some account of this person=s deeds, words

B some resemblance to ancient biographies about:

Socrates, Epictetus, Apollonius

B but Gospels concentrate on Jesus= death, and on reactions of people to him


   2. Propaganda, PR, Sales Pitch, Hype?


The Gospels are seeking to convince their readers that Jesus is vitally important and to move them to respond properly to him.


a. Propaganda, as name implies, seeks to propagate certain ideas or attitudes

B commonly a dirty word today, because it so often involves playing fast and loose with the truth, giving the events a particular spin

B usually involves working on fears, prejudices, trying to excite emotions, etc.

b. Gospel writers are trying to invite a reader response

B but not mainly response of interest or admiration, though these involved

B primarily response of faith or trust in Jesus

c. Gospel writers are surprising in that they:

B restrain their post-Easter faith in telling the story

B let the events of Jesus= ministry tell their own story


   3. Dramatic history?


The Gospels are telling a dramatic story of the person, actions and impact of Jesus, a real figure in history.  They do in some ways look more like plays than modern narratives.


a. Roland Frye thinks the Gospels should be classed as dramatic histories, resembling the historical plays of William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw.

b. Characteristics of dramatic history:

B essentially fair representation of events

B directed to a broad, general audience

B condensation important to attract and hold audience

B key practice is to use representative (sample) persons, incidents, actions to give accurate picture while keeping length within bounds


   4. Collections of Stories?


The Gospels are most striking (in contrast to modern biographies) in being a collection of stories B incidents, speeches and sayings of Jesus.


a. Action packed

using numerous brief stories allows more action than a single connected narrative

b. Centered on Jesus

B his person and work

B explain and celebrate Jesus

B use narrative to show:

B his actions

B his words

B responses of others to him

c. Varied materials

B probably used independently before being compiled

B form critics say these materials circulated independently

B I would suggest they were used by apostles and other eyewitnesses as separate anecdotes

B various categories of brief narratives (see Ryken=s list in III-E above, pp. 39-40)

B sketched events

B detailed events

B dialogues

B words of Jesus

B brief sayings

B extended discourse

B parables


B. Their Techniques


   1. Restraint and Objectivity


Gospels are unusual, and unlike even ancient biographies in this.  Authors let Jesus speak, and do not try to persuade or influence the reader by evaluative comments.  Selection of incident is the only technique used to make the impression desired.


   2. Concise, Compressed Accounts


In the synoptic Gospels especially, most incidents are a single scene, with a couple of actors (often a group acting as a unit), and they are told with a very economical use of words.  John=s Gospel tends to work with fewer accounts, but longer, more detailed.


   3. Very Concrete Narration


Since brief accounts can very easily become bland, general summaries, this danger is avoided by the presentation of specific incidents, using short, vivid description (like an artist=s sketch), and direct discourse, with characterization provided by the actor=s words or actions in that particular incident, rather than by specific statements.


   4. Selection of Materials


The author selects which incident from Jesus= ministry he will recount, and how he will tell it.  Without actually using evaluative words, the author can communicate his emphasis by the amount of space he devotes to a particular incident or item in it, whether he chooses to use dialog or summary, and what expectations he raises in the reader=s mind.


   5. Variety


The author groups his materials in various ways, perhaps alternating Jesus= actions with his words, miracles with controversies, followers with opponents.  This helps keep the attention of the reader or (if read aloud) of the audience.


   6. Sampling


The Gospel writers apparently give us samples of Jesus= speech and actions, rather than trying to give a full report.  These are typically samples of the types of miracles Jesus did, the various kinds of people he interacted with, the sorts of opposition he faced, and the kind of speeches he gave on various occasions.

VII. Mid-Term Exam


No, this is not the exam.  But we will try to give you some information on what to study and how.  This material is especially designed for the NT 550 Synoptics mid-term, but should be helpful for the final exam as well (with suitable modifica­tions), and more generally for studying other courses.


A. How to Study


The following is a list of items which, if you do them, will surely improve your grade in this or any course.  They are taken from the October 1994 issue of The Teaching Profes­sor.  Even if (due to other responsibilities) you don't have time to do all of these, there are some that take no extra time (## 3-7) and will pay real dividends.


1.         I read the assigned reading before we cover that mate­rial in class.


2.         I allow enough time for reading the assigned material so that I can read it slowly and thoughtfully.


3.         I read to understand, because I really want to know the subject we are studying.


4.         I attend class regularly and am rarely or never late.


5.         I sit near the front of class, so that I feel like a partic­ipant, not merely an observer.


6.         I take notes on virtually everything said or discussed in class.


7.         I ask questions in class until the subject being cov­ered is clear in my mind.


8.         I get together with several others in the course to review readings and lecture notes 2 or 3 days prior to the exam.


9.         I get a good night's sleep (7 or 8 hours) prior to the day of the exam.


B. What to Study


1.         Study the "Contents & Outline" pages in the front of the printed notes.  They were especially designed to give you an overview of the course.


2.         Study the headings in the notebook below the level of those in the "Contents & Outline" above.  They will help to fill in some detail on the framework provided by the outline.


3.         Read over the notebook (sections I through VI) at least a couple of times, using a highlighter to mark what appear to be significant points.  Don't mark every­thing; that just wastes time!


4.         About two-thirds of the exam points will be multiple-choice, short-answer, or matching, the other third will be essay.  Try to see what sorts of material would make a good essay, and what is more likely to be short-answer or such.  Here working with some other students in the class can be very profit­able.


5.         Regarding memorization, I don't think that is the best strategy for seminary-level courses.  Try to understand what is being talked about in each section of the notes.  Try to visualize the history, the arguments, etc.  But don't assume just having a general idea of what the course is about will identify dates or persons for you!


VIII. The Synoptic Problem


A. What is "the Synoptic Problem"?


   1. The problem


Synoptic means "looking together."  The first three Gospels are very similar to one another, as though looking at the life of Jesus from the same perspective, especially when compared with the Gospel of John.  Yet they also have a number of puzzling differences.


The problem:  What is the relationship among the first three Gospels that will explain what makes them  so similar and yet significantly different?


We expect reports concerning historical events to be simi­lar, but the histories of Jesus are unusual:

-- In over 3 years of ministry involving many long speeches, only a few hours are recorded;

-- While hundreds were healed, only a few healings are recorded individually; the same ones are generally mentioned in the various Gospels.


Those who reject the inspiration of the Gospels say:

-- Similarities are due to copying;

-- Differences are due to changes made intentionally or because authors were unaware of each other.


   2. The Phenomena of the Problem


a. Verbal Agreements and Differences.


Consider the Parable of the Sower:












δo× ¦ξ­λθεv


τo σείρειv


δo× ¦ξ­λθεv






τo σεραι

τv σόρov ατo







¦v τ σείρειv



κα ¦γέvετo

¦v τ σείρειv



¦v τ σείρειv









Ÿ μv εσεv

αρ τv δόv




μv εσεv

αρ τv δόv




μv εσεv

αρ τv δόv

κα κατεατήθη


κα ¦λθόvτα

τ ετειv


κατέφαγεv ατά



κα λθεv

τ ετειv κα


κατέφαγεv ατό




τ ετειvα

τo oραvo

κατέφαγεv ατό






λλα δ

εσεv ¦

τ ετρώδη

oυ oκ εχεv

γ­v oλλήv


κα λλo

εσεv ¦

τ ετρδες

oυ oκ εχεv

γ­v oλλήv


κα τερov

κατέεσεv ¦

τv έτραv






κα εθέως


δι τ μ χειv

βάθoς γ­ς


κα εθ×ς


δι τ μ χειv

βάθoς γ­ς










λίoυ δ vατείλαvτoς


κα δι τ

μ χειv ρίζαv



κα τε

vέτειλεv λιoς


κα δι τ

μ χειv ρίζαv






δι τ

μ χειv κμάδα






λλα δ

εσεv ¦

τς κάvθας

κα vέβησαv

α καvθαι κα

έvιξαv ατά


κα λλo

εσεv ες

τς κάvθας

κα vέβησαv

α καvθαι κα

συvέvιξαv ατό

κα καρv

oκ δωκεv


κα τερov

εσεv ¦v μέσ

τv καvθv

κα συμφυεσαι

α καvθαι

έvιξαv ατό






λλα δ

εσεv ¦

τv γ­v τv καλv


κα ¦δίδoυ καρόv


κα λλα

εσεv ες

τv γ­v τv καλv


κα ¦δίδoυ καρόvvαβαίvovτα κα

αξαvόμεvα κα φερεv


κα τερov

εσεv ες

τv γ­v τv γαθv

κα φυv

¦oίησεv καρόv







μv κατόv

δ ξήκovτα

δ τριάκovτα


ες τριάκovτα

κα ¦v ξήκovτα

κα ¦v κατόv









χωv τα



κα λεγεv

ς χει τα

κoύειv κoυέτω


τατα λέγωv ¦φώvει

χωv τα

κoύειv κoυέτω







Henry Alford well summarizes the phenomena as follows:


"The phenomena presented will be much as follows: first, perhaps, we shall have three, five or more [words] identi­cal, then as many wholly distinct, then two clauses or more, expressed in the same words but differing order; then a clause contained in one or two and not in the third [Gos­pel]; then several words identical; then a clause not only wholly distinct but apparently inconsistent; and so forth; with recurrences of the same arbitrary and anomalous alter­ations, coincidences, and transpositions."

            Greek Testament, 1:5


We can try to convert this merely anecdotal evidence to numbers by giving statistics on verbal variations within the Synoptic materials only in those sections where they over­lap, noting the frequency of identical and different word­ing (agreement for verbs means they have the same tense, not merely the same root).  Taken from Schaff, Church History, vol.1.





% unique words


% agreement w/ 2


% agreement w/ 1



























b. Differences in the Order of Events.


The order of events in the Synoptics is mainly the same, as can be observed in a harmony of the Gospels like Robertson's. Yet some differences do occur, e.g., 


Healing of Peter's mother‑in‑law (Robertson ' 43)

Mt 8:14; Mk 1:29; Lk 4:38

Healing of a Leper (Robertson ' 45).

Mt 8:2-4; Mk 1:40; Lk 5:12


Which did Jesus really do first?  Mark and Luke have the above order, but Mat­thew the reverse.  Presumably one or the others are not chronological here.


Within the narrative of a given incident we will some­times find differences:


Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness

Matt and Luke vary on 2nd and 3rd tests


Lord's Supper: Was the cup given first in Luke?

(There is a textual problem here)


Some problems which arise in questions of order:


B If textual variants, which is correct text?

B Are 2 similar sections really describing the same event or 2 different events that were similar?


Is Sermon on the Mount in Matt. the same as the Sermon on the Plain in Luke? I.e., are these two different reports of the same occasion or similar sermons on two different occasions?


More radical interpreters say the 2 cleansings of the temple are the same event and thus one of the gospels is wrong in its placement of that event.


Agreements in order of events of Matt and Luke against Mark are very rare compared with other combinations, and this is used to argue for cer­tain solutions to the synoptic problem.


c. Overlap and Uniqueness of Content.


Not how words or orders dif­fer, but whether or not an incident occurs in the various gos­pels.



1) By verses, as indicated in chart at left, from J. B. Tyson, Study of Early Christianity, p.184‑185.








Allan Barr, A Diagram of Syn­optic Relation­ships, shows details of distribution.




   2) By the sections used for the Eusebian Canons (Lists).







# Entries




All 4






3 Synoptics






































































Eusebian sections are often rather small.  The books are divided into the following number of sections each: Matthew (155), Mark (233), Luke (342), John (232).


The Eusebian Canons are 13 lists designed to help one find parallel passages in the other Gospels. They can be found in the front of the various editions of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece.


Let us look at some phenomena of overlap and uniqueness of content for all four Gospels as revealed by a careful look at the canon table above.


2 possible combinations do not actually appear in these lists:

    (1) Mk/Lk/Jn.  One set of 3 is missing because there is no passage in Mk, Lk and Jn which is not also in Matthew.

    (2) Mk/Jn.  If a passage occurs in Mk and Jn, it also occurs in Matt or Luke.


Note canons 2-4, passages which occur in exactly three Gospels.  By comparison of the number of entries in each, we can see reason for name "synoptic" for Mt, Mk, Lk.


Note canons 5-9, passages which occur in exactly two Gos­pels.  By comparison, see Mt/Lk dominates and Mt/Mk is sec­ond.


   3) Summary of overlap.


(a) Almost all of Mark is found in either Matt. or Luke.


(b) Matt. and Luke have much common material not in Mark.


This is Q in the 2‑document theory.


This is mainly discourse material, with only 1 narrative (temptation of Jesus).


(c) Matt. and Luke have much material unique to each.


   3. A Sketch History of the Synoptic Problem.


Something of the problem was recognized as soon as the second Gospel began to circulate, probably in the 60's.


Opponents of Xy used the Gospels against each other to attack Christianity, e.g., Celsus' True Account.


Heretical attacks motivated Christians to try and solve the synoptic problem.  Here we sketch some such attempts:


a. Tatian's Diatessaron (c170)


Tatian prepared a "woven" harmony, taking all the accounts and editing them into a single narrative.


b. The Canons of Eusebius (before 340)


Eusebius used Ammonius' divisions to make the lists (canons) noted above.  The tables index parallel ac­counts, making study of these accounts much easier.


c. Augustine, Harmony of the Evangelists (c400)


Augustine made the first attempt to go incident-by-incident through the Gospels and suggest how to harmo­nize them.


He is also the first to suggest a theory on how synoptics arose, a version of the successive dependence theory (on which more later), in which Matt was written first, Mark condensed it, and Luke used both in writing his Gospel.


Augustine's theory:    Mt ==> Mk ==> L



About this time military & economic disaster struck the Roman Empire.  Literacy fell drastically (from perhaps 80% to 5%) between 300 to 500.  This type of study was not resumed until the Reformation.


d. Reformation Harmonies


With the resumption of academic biblical studies in the Renaissance and Reforma­tion, attempts to harmonize resumed, rethinking the sort of work Augustine had done.  The problem was faced of how to decide when to treat two similar events as the same or different, with widely divergent solutions.

We continue with more recent theories, from the 1780's to present.


e. The Urevangelium (primitive Gospel)


Proposed independently by Lessing and Eichhorn


There was one origi­nal Gospel.


Similarities between Synoptics are due to all 3 using Ur as source. 


Differences arise as they edit and trans­late Ur differently.   



f. Successive Dependence


Proposed by Augustine,

revived by Grotius.


Idea: /1/ is writ­ten,

/2/ uses /1/ when writ­ing his,

/3/ uses both /1/ and /2/. 

In most versions, /2/ or /3/ may

use other oral or written sources

be­sides previous Gospel(s) also.


These were very popular in the 19th century;

every possible order was suggested at that

time (see Thiessen or Alford).


Is still used today by some, e.g.:


Augustinian       Mt ==> Mk ==> Lk


Griesbach          Mt ==> Lk ==> Mk


Markan            Mk ==> Mt ==> Lk



g. Fragmentary


Proposed by Fried­rich Schleier­macher, "father" of mod­ern liberal­ism.


Were many written frag­ments ("short accounts", not "parts of mss") of anecdotes, parables, dis­courses, mira­cle accounts, short sto­ries, etc., which the Gospel wri­ters strung together into a continuous narrative.


Similarities between Gospels explained by using same fragments, dif­ferences by using different fragments or different editions of same fragments.



h. Oral Tradition


Proposed by Westcott and Al­ford, who are relatively conserva­tive.


The common basis of the Syn­optics is entirely oral.