The site, maintained by Stephen Carlson, presents diagrams of two dozen possible theories to the Synoptic Problem, a brief bibliography, links for some important primary and secondary sources, and links to several other sites that defend other theories of the problem.
* This decision is not designed to reduce thenumber of steps in theories involving hypothetical sources soas to make them look more streamlined or parsimonious thanthey really are. To the contrary, the relative complexity ofsuch theories is highlighted in my system by the fact thateach individual literary relationship receives its ownhypothesis. Sticking to the three synoptics and no more willrequire only three hypotheses every time. Adding one extrasource into the mix, if one recalls that each such source mustbe connected to at least two of the synoptic gospels, willnecessarily require at least four hypotheses.
Although a few scholars at various times havesupported a largely oral solution(, ;;),a strong consensus among scholars has developed thatthere is indeed a documentary interrelationship betweenand among each of the synoptic gospels. There are fivemain, cumulative reasons for this conclusion:
Most introductions to the New Testament have at least a brief discussion of the Synoptic Problem. As critics of the Two-Document Hypothesis (2DH) have observed, the treatment of the Synoptic Problem is often far from even-handed, with various theorists either dismissing other theories as inadequate or not considering them at all. Kümmel’s otherwise masterful introduction to the New Testament () provides a detailed history of scholarship but is lacking in a full consideration of alternatives to the 2DH. gives careful attention to various logically possible theories, while ultimately favoring the 2DH. Both and are intended for the introductory student. Two online resources are available oriented to the novice, one maintained by Stephen Carlson () and the other by Mark Goodacre ().
A careful treatment of New Testament source criticism, including a brief but clear presentation of the arrangements of the three gospels that are logically possible, given the array of Synoptic data. See especially pp. 115–155.
3. Substantially similar selection ofmaterial, when that selection featuressome amount of creative, editorial choice. Jesusdid and said many things, so any account of hisministry must involve some editorial judgment inwhat to include and what to leave out. Thesynoptic gospels, for instance, relate many ofthe same miracles, but these miracles hardlyoverlap with the ones related by John.
Option B, however, is a bit more complicated. I worded itin such a way as to eliminate from central consideration anytext, whether extant or nonextant, which does form a link between our synoptic gospels. Any text, forexample, thought to have served as a source for only one ofour synoptic gospels1 is not going to help usmake any decisions about relationships between each set of twosynoptic gospels. Such a source will simply contribute to thespecial material, or , of the gospel thatcopied from it. Likewise, any text thought to have copied fromone, two, or even all three of the synoptic gospels, but whichdid not serve as source for any of them,2 is goingto be of no help in making the necessary literarydecisions. Both of these kinds of texts will be peripheralto any proposed solution of the synoptic problem.
An introductory level treatment of the Synoptic Problem that argues for Markan priority and the dependence of Luke on Matthew (hence, the Mark without Q (Farrer) Hypothesis (MwQH)). Critical of the 2DH, especially the arguments in favor of positing Q, Goodacre offers a careful and fair-minded analysis of the Synoptic Problem. Some attention is given to the Two-Gospel (Griesbach) Hypothesis (2GH), but none to complex theories.
1 Two examples of such a textwould be the M and L documents proposed by B. H. Streeter in. It does not matter to the synoptic problemproper whether Matthew and Luke (or Mark, for that matter) gottheir respective special materials from a written document orfrom an oral tradition, or even created them .(Of course, Streeter was aiming at more than asolution to the synoptic problem.)
2 The church fathers provide numerous examplesof such texts. They frequently copy from all three synopticgospels, but serve as the source for none of them. It doesnot matter to the synoptic problem proper how many subsequentauthors copied from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The patristictexts may be invaluable to the reconstruction of therespective texts of the gospels, but their own relationshipsto the gospels do not constitute individual synoptichypotheses.
Option A requires very little explanation. There are onlysix basic relationships possible amongst any set of threetexts. In the case of the synoptic problem those sixdirect relationships come out as the following list(call it list ):
The kind of source on the table in option B, then, is onewhich was copied by two or more of thesynoptic gospels both copied at least one and wascopied by at least one more. There are, therefore, two distinctlists of relationships under option B (call them lists and, and our source,whether extant or nonextant, will be X):
For my purposes, each synoptic hypothesis proposes adistinct literary relationship either (A) between any of the synoptic gospels or (B) between any of the synoptic gospels and any source, whetherextant or nonextant, that serves as a connection betweenat least two of the three.