The Synoptic Problem and its Solution

1. Hidden Patterns in the Synoptic Gospels
2. Matthew, the Revisionist
3. The Man who Buried Jesus
4. Matthew's Knowledge of Luke
5. Luke, the Eccentric Evangelist
6. The Weak Case for the Existence of Q
7. Further Statistical Analysis
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The Synoptic Problem and its Solution
Evan Powell
(NOTE: For my latest work on the gospels, see:


The Synoptic Problem:

The Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, contain many traditions in common. The Synoptic Problem consists of two questions: (1) In what order were the Synoptics written?  (2) Did the authors of the later texts use the earlier gospels as direct literary sources?
An essential question related to the Synoptic Problem is whether Matthew and Luke relied upon a lost Sayings Gospel Q, as is commonly assumed.
An historically accurate solution to the Synoptic Problem is a vital foundational cornerstone to the enterprise of historical Jesus studies.

The Solution to the Synoptic Problem:

The Gospel of Mark was written first, and was composed in the late 60s AD.

The Gospel of Luke was second, and was most likely composed around 75 to 80 AD. The author used the Gospel of Mark as a source document.

The Gospel of Matthew was third, most likely composed 90 to 100 AD. The author of Matthew used both Mark and Luke as literary sources.

The hypothetical Q Gospel never existed. The double tradition material was created by Matthew's direct copying from Luke.



The Proof of the Solution:

A statistical analysis of the texts points overwhelmingly to Mark-Luke-Matthew being the chronological order of their composition. See discussion of statistical evidence in Section 1, Hidden Patterns in the Synoptic Gospel, and Section 7, Statistical Analysis. These data eliminate the possibility that Luke could have been reliant upon Matthew.

An examination of Matthew's editorial use of Mark and Luke shows common and consistent editorial behavior. See discussion of Matthew's editorial style in Sections 2, 3, and 4.

The Two-Document Hypothesis fails to explain the distinctive statistical contours in the Synoptic texts. It also fails to explain the phenomenon that many of Matthew's texts are conflations of Mark and Luke, but none of Luke's texts are conflations of Mark and Matthew. Finally, common arguments in favor of the TDH do not hold water. See Section 6, The Weak Case for the Existence of Q.

The analysis herein illustrates that the only viable solution to the Synoptic Problem consists of (a) the priority of Mark, (b) the posteriority of Matthew, and (c) the direct literary dependence of later authors on the earlier works. This is the only solution that offers a comprehensive resolution of the data.



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