How Views of Inspiration Have Impacted Synoptic Problem Discussions -- By: F. David Farnell

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 13:1 (Spring 2002)
Article: How Views of Inspiration Have Impacted Synoptic Problem Discussions
Author: F. David Farnell

How Views of Inspiration
Have Impacted
Synoptic Problem Discussions

F. David Farnell

Associate Professor of New Testament

Second Corinthians 10:5 and Colossians 2:8 warn believers to examine their thought life carefully to guard against being taken prisoner by philosophical presuppositions that are hostile to the Bible. One can either take thoughts captive or have their thought life taken captive to the detriment of their spiritual lives. One place in particular where conservative evangelicals have been taken captive is in the historical-critical discipline of source criticism. The predominant view of the early church was that the Gospels were four independent witnesses to the life of Christ. Starting around the A. D. 1600-1700s, there occurred a philosophical and ideological shift in thinking about the origin of the Gospels, particularly in relationship to Synoptic Gospels. Due to the rise of Rationalism, Deism, Skepticism, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism (to name a few), the Independence approach was rejected and two qualitatively different approaches in explaining the Gospels resulted: the Two-Gospel hypothesis and Two-Source hypothesis. A careful investigation reveals that both approaches stemmed from the same errancy roots as modern unorthodox views of inspiration. Because of the history and philosophy behind source criticism, when evangelicals adopt either approach in their interpretation of the Gospels, they automatically tap into these errancy roots that inevitably lead to deprecating the historicity of the Gospels.


Philosophical and Historical Bases Of Literary Dependence

For the first 1, 700 years of the church, the Independence view regarding

synoptic origins prevailed.1 That is, each Gospel writer worked independently of the others, i.e., without relying on another canonical Gospel as a source of information. Consequently, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John constitute four independent accounts of the life of Jesus. More specifically, no direct literary dependence exists among the Gospels, i.e., no Gospel writer directly used the work of another to compose his Gospel, as assumed by modern, source-dependence hypotheses. The four are separate, independent, eyewitness testimonies to the life of Jesus.2 Since the eighteenth century, however, the concept of literary dependence has arisen, with many evangelicals today espousing either the Two-Source or the Two-Gospel (also called neo-Griesbach or...

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