A Dilemma Resistant to Resolution

Read Time:8 Minute, 28 Second


Denise Thornton
Ohio Christian University
Professor Tim Waugh
November 14, 2016

So far studying The Synoptic Gospel problem in November 2016, was one of the most fascinating areas of study along my Christian academic journey. The Synoptic problem involves the Synoptic Gospel.

I realized early on that gaining an understanding of the meaning of Synoptic was important. Furthermore, if ever there was a case that could be considered an overkill in arguing a “scholarly” point of departure, “the Gospel Synoptic Problem” may very well be the perfect receptacle for such agnosticism but not at its core. Professor Waugh gave an excellent example of a Synoptic situation. T. Waugh (2016) wrote, [“When authors write any account from their different perspectives, they will “see” the story from various angles. Like a football game, with three friends, the four of you sit down to write your own accounts about that event. The four of you watched the same game, but would tell different stories when describing the action.]


Thinking about the Synoptic Gospels provoked me to think about how many times I heard somebody say “the President cannot lie to the people,” immediately after blatantly lying! The first time I listened to the statement, I thought, oh, “the Constitution must state somewhere a President must not lie to the people He or she serves. Perhaps this was just wishful thinking. If sitting presidents are not permitted to intentionally mislead the people, and they do, there are obviously no consequences. Do different politicians tell different lies about the same thing to constitute a Synoptic problem to appear in agreement with the President? Perhaps.

There may be a Synoptic rhetoric problem, though. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of Synoptic is “1: affording a general view of a whole. 2: manifesting or characterized by comprehensiveness or breadth of view. 3: presenting or taking the same or standard view specifically, often capitalized: of or relating to the first three Gospels of the New Testament.

I want to borrow Merriam-Webster’s definition number 3 to highlight that the GOP “presents or takes the same or standard view specifically, like President Trump, right or wrong. The GOP seeks to connect comprehensiveness or breadth to the President’s radical rhetoric. We could say the President is a single-point writer of insignificance, focused on convincing people that his transgressions are tied to patriotism. On the other hand, the President’s enablers strive to make people believe the President’s message is genuine, relevant, and organized for patriotic audiences. Both pontificate using patriotism to cultivate the Republican base.

In other words, if you criticize or reject the news, you are unpatriotic! Up until a couple days ago, the President and the GOP were in sync, prepared to support each other no matter how low they had to go. But then something happened. The President ordered his cult to attack the Capital, and they obeyed. This horrific incident brought the GOP house down. All of a sudden, the President’s Rhetoric commanded reality checks.

For the first time, evidence of resistance to the President’s outlandish behavior surfaced. The Republican Synoptic problem no longer promoted the same stories. Some spoke in different voices. Who knew? Frankly, everybody should have known this day would come. Reading about The Synoptic Gospels again helped me see the current President and his enablers in a different light, one that defines the essence of their bond, the party’s purpose, and the ugly truth. Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, whose mission and purpose was to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, truthfully, in unique voices and styles to reach the margined, the President chose to exclude reaching out to over half of the United States. But that’s enough about the current President for today.

In New Testament studies, Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s gospels are known as the synoptic gospels. They contain much common material, particularly clear when their texts are laid out side by side. The Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke include many of the same stories yet are narrated in unique voices and styles. Basically, Matthew, Mark, and Luke see Jesus through the same eyes but go about delivering the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that accentuate different priorities. Many people seem to believe there are more significant battles to fight than one fueling “the Synoptic Gospel Problem.”

Feasibly, and for most, arriving at a scholarly consensus, good or bad, may do little to dilute one’s esteem regarding content found in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Strickland (2013) found, “The amount of common, and often verbatim agreement, in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) presents a puzzle that defies a simple explanation.” (p. 82)

The Synoptic Problem involving Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospels presents as dilemmas resistant to resolution.

Matthew walked with Jesus for three years and was concerned about the Jewish practices not vanishing during the church, becoming more heathen. Mark, received his information from Peter, rather than first-hand. Mark believed Jesus to be the one who came in humility to serve as a ransom for every person in the world. Luke thoroughly probed the life of Jesus, eventually concluding that Jesus came to look for and save the lost.

The synoptic problem gives credence to the ending that it may be merely a “dilemma resistant to resolution.” Reasonably, the issue propelling longevity of unresolved allegations may not be the problem Christian masses have come to know as one needing resolution. Furthermore, one may argue that only Christians need to be concerned with whether Matthew, Mark, and Luke deprived God’s people of any sensed authenticity when composing their Gospels?

Matthew believed Jesus should be introduced as all fulfilling, rather than as a catastrophic. He also emphasized that Jesus came to minister to the gentiles and that gentiles have a special place in God’s Kingdom. Matthew’s Gospel’s primary purpose was to preserve what he knew about Jesus’s life and therefore introduce his readers to “Jesus as the Messiah.”

Mark was not a flaccid Christian by any means. He was Peter’s interpreter, for God’s sake! He wrote truthfully about everything he recalled but is not noted for reciting chronologically. Here we see how important telling the truth was to Mark. What happened to this belief, this degree of dedication to telling the truth?

The Synoptic Gospels were common in some senses yet differed in other aspects. The most apparent, indistinguishable, and prevalent source in all three Gospels is the church. All three writers sought to draw water from this well of deep history overshadowed by God-breathed knowledge and instruction. Abakuks (2006) wrote, “Because of the intricate patterns of similarities and dissimilarities between the synoptic gospels, the problem of how to account for the relationships between the gospels is a notoriously difficult one.

Mark is said to have been a “single-point writer.” Mark’s Gospel sought to record a description of who Jesus was and the impact He had on those who crossed His path. Now, about Luke. Scholars have deduced that Luke’s Gospel was organized for Theological purposes due to the heavy focus on historical events dating back to Adam.

Luke proclaimed there is one human race, and one tide of time applicable not only to Jews and gentiles but all people, who are equally loved by God and have access to salvation. Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel that reverences the Holy Spirit as the driving force behind the Lord’s fantastic opportunity for believers to acquaint themselves with His gift of salvation.

Possible origins of material used to compile the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are common in some senses and differ in other aspects. The most apparent, indistinguishable, and prevalent source in all three Gospels is the church. All three writers sought to draw water from this well of deep history overshadowed by God-breathed knowledge and instruction. Abakuks (2006) wrote, “Because of the complex patterns of similarities and dissimilarities between the synoptic gospels, the problem of how to account for the relationships between the gospels is a notoriously difficult one in New Testament studies.” (p. 49)

A Proposal to the Synoptic Problem

Accepting the gospels as God-sent may be the best option since argumentative scholars have failed to prove accusations of collusion, intentional content theft, or ill intent. After centuries of fighting the significance and relevance of these sacred Gospels to no avail, perhaps it is time to re-direct the same energy into obeying God’s commands as they are revealed in each Gospel.

In the absence of chronological order agreement, unusual similarities in each writer’s Gospel, and collective differences, together all three hang one fact significant to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That said, letting the Gospels be may be the smartest way to go.

Regardless of distinct similarities or differences in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospel, these three men managed to stay true to an undisputable allied cause. While President Donald Trump and most GOP loyalists also managed to stay true to an allied cause, the reason is disputable. In fact, the allied cause is based on lies framed by claims of voter fraud. Matthew, Mark, and Luke clearly and convincingly evidence the love of Jesus in their hearts, a commitment to leading souls to Christ, and an attestation to work put in to compose corresponding abounding writings.

Too bad the President does not have a love of Jesus in his heart!
Too bad the President does not have empathy for his brothers and sisters!
Too bad the GOP would rather fight, not do right, than switch!

Perhaps The Synoptic Gospel problem is one that will not be resolved during man’s lifetime. Efforts to disentangle the web of confusion commonly associated with The Synoptic Gospel problem have been futile at best.

Abakuks, A. (2006). A statistical study of the triple-link model in the synoptic problem. Journal
of the Royal Statistical Society Series A. v. 169 p. 49. 2006.
Strickland, M. (2016). The Synoptic Problem in Sixteenth-Century Protestantism.
The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 67(1), p. 82-93. 2016

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