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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries

The Gospels ComparedGospels Compared


Old Testament

The Synoptic Gospels, comprising the first three books of the New Testament-Matthew, Mark, and Luke-are often considered as a unit due to their similar accounts of Jesus' ministry. The term "synoptic" originates from the Greek words σύν (syn = together) and οψις (opsis = seeing), indicating that these Gospels can be viewed side-by-side, either in vertical parallel columns or horizontal alignments. This grouping has been recognized since the 18th century. Although the Gospel of John is included in some comparisons for its points of contact with the Synoptics, it significantly differs in content and emphasis, particularly in Christology-the study of the nature of Jesus Christ, focusing on the relationship between his divine and human natures.

The Synoptic Gospels frequently narrate the same events in Jesus' life, often with varying details but usually in a similar sequence and sometimes verbatim. This raises the "synoptic problem," which explores the literary relationships among these three Gospels, evidencing a complex interrelation through their similarities and differences in content, order, and wording. Scholars debate whether these relationships are due to direct borrowing from one Gospel to another or through shared sources.

The majority of Protestant and some Catholic scholars concur that Matthew and Luke were composed after Mark and thus exhibit a strong reliance on it. Matthew is believed to have segmented Mark into five parts, interspersing them with other materials, whereas Luke divided it in two, adding nine chapters in the middle. Despite Mark's brevity, Matthew and Luke each contain approximately 100 verses not found in Mark, primarily consisting of teachings like the Beatitudes. The dating of all four Gospels varies widely among scholars, with estimates ranging from 60-70 AD to the end of the first century, by which time the Gospel of John is thought to have been written last.

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