The Synoptic Problem -- By: J. F. Springer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 083:331 (Jul 1926)
Article: The Synoptic Problem
Author: J. F. Springer

The Synoptic Problem


J. F. Springer

Both the First Gospel and the Second are documents in which the progress from incident to incident and detail to detail is often marked by a definition of the chronology or the circumstances. A perhaps incomplete enumeration of chronological indications, covering both Gospels, is to be found in the first portion of an article by the present writer, the article being entitled The Order of Events in Matthew and Mark and the installment having been published in Bibliotheca Sacra, April, 1922. See p. 137. There are many parallels. But, whether we look at the case of Matthew or Mark, or whether we view rthe one or the other as the dependent document, we cannot very well escape the conclusion that the writer wished to produce a chronological narrative. This desire, attributable to both authors, would, accordingly, seem to suggest difficulty when we find, upon assuming either one of these Gospels as secondary to the other, that omissions have been made of chronological data supplied by the primary document. There are, in fact, numerous instances of chronological indications present in Matthew but absent from Mark at the parallel points.

But, there are also chronological notices in Mark which the Matthaean narrative fails to parallel at the corresponding places. Indeed, we have something of a deadlock, when we wish to use absence and presence of time data as a criterion determining the matter of dependence. By this line of argument we can prove both Matthew and Mark secondary. And this, naturally, is too large a result.

As to the matter of circumstantial details, both Gospels present them. Sometimes, they occur in connection with the opening statements of an incident, and may in fact be associated with the chronology.

At Mt. 9:19, we learn, in close connection with the chronological statement to the effect that the discourse as to new and old wine was interrupted by the coming of the ruler whose daughter was ill, that Jesus rose to go with him. We would not know from Mark this fact, which is indeed agreeable with the immediately preceding context in which the Savior is described as engaged in teaching.

This and other points at which we have notices of a circumstantial, or perhaps chronological, character, which are present in Matthew and absent from Mark, are listed in the accompanying table.

Small Notices Indicative of the Circumstance a or Time

(Present in Matthew, Absent from Mark)

Mt. 8:34 when they saw

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