The Real Solution to the Synoptic Problem?

The Real Solution to the Synoptic Problem? June 22, 2012

By Jordan Scharf, but shared on Joel Watts’ blog:

The Gospel of Mark was the first draft of a doctoral candidate’s dissertation. He submitted it to his advisor who suggested the need for more background information about Jesus’ birth, maybe some more teaching material, and a stronger ending. The student rewrote his dissertation and submitted the Gospel of Matthew.

His advisor thought the revision was much stronger but felt that the teaching material should be better integrated into the narrative, thought a story about Jesus’ youth might be helpful, and suggested that the genealogy could be expanded back to Adam, etc. The PhD candidate did another major revision and produced the Gospel of Luke.

Once again the advisor was critical and asked for major revisions. Frustrated, the student took drugs and wrote the Gospel of John.

– Jordan R. Scharf


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  • William J E Dempsey

    This is funny. But like many funny things, it hints at a serious hypothesis.
    That is? It is almost universally thought that Christianity originated with a few essentially uneducated fishermen, carpenters, and tax collectors. But note that there is considerable evidence of (relatively) strong literary and academic expertise throughout the Bible. Which suggests that the Bible was largely created by the early class of scholars: by the scribes and clerks, clerics, of the kings.
    Indeed, Luke for example looks quite like a clerk working for a lord, when he is “asked” by someone, to compile an orderly account of Christianity, including more detail and so forth.
    And the gospels overall COULD be explained as beginning with a first academic idea in Mark; subsequently edited and expanded in later gospels.
    (Or for followers of Dogherty? Beginning with the VERY academic and polished writings of Paul).
    Did Christianity, like Platonism, originate as a creation of academics?

  • newenglandsun

    “For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground 1 Timothy 3:15 of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sits upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit….And therefore the Gospels are in accord with these things, among which Christ Jesus is seated. For that according to John relates His original, effectual, and glorious generation from the Father, thus declaring, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1Also, all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. For this reason, too, is that Gospel full of all confidence, for such is His person. But that according to Luke, taking up [His] priestly character, commenced with Zacharias thepriest offering sacrifice to God. For now was made ready the fatted calf, about to be immolated for the finding again of the younger son. Matthew, again, relates His generation as a man, saying, The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son ofDavid, the son of Abraham; and also, The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise. This, then, is the Gospel of His humanity; for which reason it is, too, that [the character of] a humble and meek man is kept up through the whole Gospel. Mark, on the other hand, commences with [a reference to] the prophetical spirit coming down from on high to men, saying, The beginning of theGospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Esaias the prophet,— pointing to the winged aspect of the Gospel; and on this account he made a compendious and cursory narrative, for such is the prophetical character.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III Chapter 11)

    I don’t know, it seems like the Early Church was trying to sort these issues out to make a mistake of allowing four gospels by the same exact author into the text. I always have to start with the earliest perspectives possible for making a conclusion here and there.

    • This is a bit of humor about the experience of PhD students, not a serious attempt to explain the origins of the NT Gospels!

      • newenglandsun

        LOL. I thought it was both. My bad ;p

      • newenglandsun

        Our recent discussions have inspired me to write my Master’s thesis (when I get into grad school and start writing it) on New Testament Christology.

        • Excellent!

          • newenglandsun

            I think my PhD. dissertation will be on Catholic and Orthodox relationships.

          • newenglandsun

            I like planning ahead. 🙂

  • Maxximiliann

    Small problem. Origen, in discussing the Gospels, is quoted by Eusebius as saying that the “first was written . . . according to Matthew, . . . who published it for those who from Judaism came to believe, composed as it was in the Hebrew language.” -The Ecclesiastical History, VI, XXV, 3-6

    • How is that a problem for this joke about the experience of PhD students?! I’m sorry, but I’ve had enough of your trolling. I said either read posts before commenting, and interact with comments, or be banned. If you decide that you can follow that rule, contact me and I may reconsider the ban.

    • newenglandsun

      James McGrath already commented and highlighted after my misunderstanding that it was a joke for Ph.D. students, not an actual scholarly work on the synoptic problem.