Christology And The Synoptic Problem -- By: Peter M. Head

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 46:1 (NA 1995)
Article: Christology And The Synoptic Problem
Author: Peter M. Head

Christology And The Synoptic Problem1

Peter M. Head

The primary aim of this dissertation has been to examine and evaluate the christological argument for Markan priority in view of recent scholarship on the synoptic problem which advocates Markan posteriority (normally as part of the Griesbach Hypothesis, henceforth GH).

Chapter One contains an overview of the history of discussion, with a particular focus on the relationship between christological development and literary priority (evident in both nineteenth-century Griesbachians and twentieth-century Markan Priorists). The christological argument for Markan priority emerged within British scholarship as a means of defending Markan priority and explaining Matthean alterations of Mark. Although this particular argument has played a relatively small role in supporting the structure of the two source hypothesis (2SH), several factors suggest its contemporary importance and the need for a critical assessment. The most important of these factors is the revival of the GH, which has involved criticisms of the arguments used to support the 2SH. These criticisms have, in turn, prompted from Markan priorists a re-assessment of the arguments from wording, order and content. Within this context it seemed appropriate and necessary to reassess arguments from christological development, a notion that was also appealed to by nineteenth-century defenders of the GH.

In Chapter two, after a survey of proposed criteria for determining literary priority, we argue that a method which focuses on redactional plausibility and coherence is both

appropriate to the christological material in view and able to treat the two major hypotheses in a relatively even-handed manner. Thus the discussions of the texts involve a comparison between the plausibility of Markan redaction, assuming the GH, and the plausibility of Matthean redaction, assuming the 2SH. Any alternative method would involve the assumption of a particular pattern of christological development within the early period. Our method, however, focuses on the texts we do have, rather than the pattern of development which we do not have. It also allows both hypotheses to be tested in relation to their treatment of christologically-loaded material. It allows this dissertation to test both whether the traditional argument should be regarded as a strong support for Markan priority, and whether the GH might be able to give a more plausible picture of redactional behaviour. Thus the two major hypotheses (2SH and GH) are compared in order to assess which provides the best explanation (in a comparative- redactional sense) of the evidence.

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