The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
The Unknown Origins of the Synoptic Gospels
The Academic Study of the Bible and its Textual Content

The Synoptic Gospels is a term used by modern New Testament scholars  for the Gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, and Luke of the New Testament.

 The Synoptic Gospels often recount the same stories about Jesus the Nazarene, though not always with all the same details and at the same length, but mostly following the same sequence and to a large extent using the same words.

It is important to note that the actual authors of these books are anonymous. They do not purport to have been written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John and their titles do not affirm it. They simply imply that they are "according" to the teachings of these Evangelists.

The Four Gospels were unknown to the early Church Fathers. Justin Martyr, the most eminent of the early Fathers, wrote around the middle of the second century and makes more than three hundred quotations from the books of the Old Testament, and nearly one hundred from the Apocryphal books; but none from the Four Gospels.

It wasn't until the latter half of the second century, between the time of Justin and Papias, that the Four Gospels were written and compiled and since their content is similar, it is assumed that they originated from a common source.

Dr. Schleiermacher, one of Germany's greatest theologians, after a critical analysis of Luke, concludes that it is merely a compilation,
made up of thirty-three preexisting manuscripts. Bishop Thirlwall's Schleiermacher says: "He [Luke] is from beginning to end no more than the compiler and arranger of documents which he found in existence"

The internal evidence against the authenticity of the Gospel according to John is conclusive. The Apostle John did not write it. John, the apostle, was a Jew; the author of the Fourth Gospel was not a Jew. John was born at Bethsaida; the author of the Fourth Gospel did not know where Bethsaida was located. John was an uneducated fisherman; the author of this Gospel was an accomplished scholar.

Some of the most important events in the life of Jesus, the Synoptics declare, were witnessed by John; the author of this knows nothing of these events. The Apostle John witnessed the crucifixion; the author of this Gospel did not. The Apostles, including John, believed Jesus to be a man; the author of the Fourth Gospel believed him to be a god.

The term synoptic is derived from a combination of the Greek words (syn = together) and (opsis = seeing) to indicate that the contents of these three Gospels can be viewed side-by-side, whether in a vertical parallel column synopsis, or a horizontal synoptic alignment.

The early Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea (4th century) had devised a scheme that enabled scholars to find parallel texts; but a synopsis in the modern understanding did not come into existence until the 18th century through the labours of Johann Jakob Griesbach.

Griesbach used it to study and demonstrate a dependence of Mark and Luke on Matthew, a hypothesis that, while going back on the earliest traditions of the Church which held to the Augustinian hypothesis, in refined forms has been gaining supporters among scholars since the beginning of the 20th century.

The majority of their colleagues, however, on internal evidence are proponents of the modern hypothesis of the priority of Mark. Furthermore, the one source hypothesis argues that all three Synoptic gospels used a common source referred to as the Q Manuscript.

Views about the dating of all four Gospels vary greatly. Dates range from about 6070 AD until the middle of the second century.

Return to The Nazarene Way main menu

The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
 Email us at:
Join our Essene Holy Communions email list
Sign our Guest Book!