Episode 25 – Synoptic Gospels (Did Jesus Exist?)

History of ChristianityThis is the final episode of the series on the Synoptic Gospels based on my lectures from Tyndale University College. Although there were more lectures given for the course, this is the last one that will be posted here.

In the episode we ask the question, Did Jesus exist? Those who hold to the Jesus Myth Theory believe that Jesus never existed and that the Jesus of the Gospels is based on pagan myths. In this episode we look at the evidence for Jesus and examine the supposed similarities to pagan gods.

The first book that I wrote was a response to the Jesus Myth. You can get i through the links below.

Episode 23 – Synoptic Gospels (Luke)

History of ChristianityIn this lecture from the course Jesus and the Synoptic Gospels taught at Tyndale University College, we look at the Gospel of Luke. We look at some of the specific interests of Luke, including women, Samaritans, the poor and the marginalized in general. We also look at some of the popular parables unique to Luke, such as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.

Recommended Book:

Episode 22 – Synoptic Gospels (Matthew)

History of ChristianityOne of the most popular Gospels is that of Matthew. It is in Matthew that we get the Sermon on the Mount and the classic version of the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew has helped shape Christian theology and worship for centuries.

This lecture from my course on Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels that was taught at Tyndale University College introduces us to Matthew and some of the unique aspects of this Gospel.

Recommended Book:

Episode 21 – Synoptic Gospels (Mark)

History of ChristianityIn this lecture on the Synoptic Gospels from Tyndale University College, we look at the Gospel of Mark. Mark is generally considered to be the earliest of the Synoptic Gospels. We look at some of the unique aspects of Mark to set up the rest of our study of the Synoptic Gospels.

Episode 20 – Synoptic Gospels (Authorship and Date)

History of ChristianityThis is a continuation of my lectures on Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels as taught at Tyndale University College.

In this episode, we look at the authorship and the dating of the Gospels. Were Matthew, Mark and Luke really the authors? And when were they written? There are some who date the Gospels early and others who date them late. Who is right?

Episode 19 – Synoptic Gospels (Synoptic Problem and Historical Criticism)

History of ChristianityThis is a continuation of the course on Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels that I taught at Tyndale University College. In this section, we look at the synoptic problem, various forms of historical criticism, the three quests for the historical Jesus and the criteria of authenticity.

The book I recommend is this book that was used as part of the students’ take home exam. It gives a good summary and interaction with the most popular solutions to the synoptic problem.

Episode 17 – Synoptic Gospels (Jewish Background)

History of ChristianityThis episode is the first part of a series of lectures I gave for a course on Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels for Tyndale University College.

This first lecture deals with the Jewish background to the Synoptic Gospels. While some of this material was given in our episode on Second Temple Judaism, it is worth repeating. There is also some new material in this lecture. If you are interested, you can find the slides for this lecture here.

I would also recommend this book, which is the text that I used for this course:

The Synoptic Problem: Four Views – Review

Synoptic ProblemHistorians who look at Jesus through the Gospel sources quickly notice that there is a relationship between them. Matthew, Mark and Luke (as opposed to John) have similar stories and at times match each other word-for-word. The nature of the relationship is called the synoptic problem (Matthew, Mark and Luke are the synoptic Gospels).

Stanley Porter and Bryan Dyer have edited a nice volume called The Synoptic Problem: Four Views that looks at four ways of explaining the relationship between the these three Gospels. I should note that I have studied under both Craig Evans and Stanley Porter (I even co-wrote a book with Stan).

The basic questions that are addressed revolve around the order in which the Gospels were written and the specific relationship between Matthew and Luke.

Craig Evans presents what is the majority opinion among New Testament scholars today. This is called the Two Source Hypothesis (also called the Four Source Hypothesis). This theory argues that Mark was written first and that it was used as a source by Matthew and Luke. The material that is common between Matthew and Luke but absent from Mark is posited as coming from a hypothetical source called Q. Thus the two sources are Mark and Q. When this theory is called the Four Source Hypothesis, it is from Mark, Q and the material unique to Matthew (M) and unique to Luke (L).

A theory that I have been eager to learn more about is the Farrer Hypothesis, a theory that has breathed new life through the work of Mark Goodacre. This theory shares with the previous hypothesis the priority of Mark. Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. However, where it departs is when it comes to Q. Instead of having a hypothetical document, this theory argues that Luke used both Mark and Matthew as sources.

One that I was not as familiar is the Two Gospel Hypothesis. This theory, as described by David Barrett Peabody, rejects the idea of Markan priority and Q. This theory accepts the early Christian belief that Matthew was written first. Then Luke used Matthew as a source and finally Mark used both Matthew and Luke as sources. Thus the two Gospels for this theory are Matthew and Luke, since Mark is only a conflation of the two.

The final view is significantly different. The Orality and Memory Hypothesis is offered by Rainer Reisner. This theory argues that the relationships between the Gospels can be explained by their use of oral traditions. This theory is the most difficult of the four summarize but it does have some interesting ideas.

I went into this book with reasonable confidence in the Two Source Hypothesis and I do believe Evans does a masterful job of presenting it. But my confidence was shaken after reading this book. Goodacre presents a simpler view that dispenses with Q but still explains the relationships. While Mark looks like the earliest Gospel to me, Peabody’s theory has support from early Christian tradition. Finally, Reisner’s work on the oral traditions needs to be taken into account.

I really appreciated this The Synoptic Problem: Four Views, including the respectful tone used by the authors when interacting with each other. This is a valuable resource and I intend to use it as a text in a future course I will be teaching.