Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Zapiro King of Satirical Cartoonists

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Battle for Identity

A wise commentator said that the Christian life can be summed up in two major activities, wrestling and resting. In many ways we wrestle to rest in the finished work of Jesus.

The single greatest battle for any Christian is the chiefly concerned with identity. “Who am I as a Christian?”, and “Who is God?” form two fundamental questions for any believer. How we answer these questions sets the course of our lives ablaze, give us direction, purpose and mission. From the moment of conversion, we are faced with further questions to wrestle with. As a believer we can no longer remain neutral on issues of third world poverty, just or unjust wars, human suffering or the reality of the supernatural. The walk of faith is a life of conflict.

The story of the early Christian church and indeed the people of God has always been one of conflict. This was certainly the case in the years immediately following the death of the apostles.

Pressure was put on the church in three main ways ;

1. They faced a physical battle.
The early Christian church faced enormous oppression from those around them. Many Christians became martyrs for the faith under roman persecution. So widespread was the persecution that the same root word is used for both Witness and Martyr. When the Christian community was blamed for the great fire of Rome, persecution of Christians sunk to new depths. It is in dark days like these that the likes of Polycarp. On the way to his execution he was encouraging the brethren along the way saying; “Now I become a follower of Jesus, for he who suffers is close to Christ.”

2. They faced a spiritual battle.
The book’s of Galatians and Acts bears testimony to the influence of Judaisers within the early church who sought to mould the fledgling Christian church after the pattern and form of the Jewish faith. Significant pressure was placed on members of the church to conform to Jewish rituals. Individuals themselves faced battles to conform or not to conform to the status quo.

3. They faced a mental battle.
This battle is the primary focus of this essay. Pressure was bought on the church to water down and compromise on the truth, to bring in all manner of heresies into its teachings and form the church to the mold of the surrounding religions and cultural practices of the time. These pressures we will look at in more detail, particularly Arianism which got its name from its founder Arius.

While much of the writing of Arius and his followers the Arians has disappeared, we can gain an accurate picture of the sort of teachings that they were advocating, particularly from the writing of Athanasius. This extract from a letter from Arius to Eusebius, Bishop of Nicodemia c321 is one of the exceptions, and sheds some light on the issue the early church faced in the Arian heresy.

“…I thought it my duty to salute you to him, and at the same time to advise that naturally charitable disposition of yours, which you display to the brethren for the sake of God and his Christ, how grievously the bishop attacks and persecutes us, and comes full tilt against us, so that he drives us from the city as atheists because we do not concur with him when he publicly preaches, “God always, the Son always; at the same time the father, at the same time the Son,; the son co-exists with God, unbegotten, he is not born-by-begetting nor by thought nor by any moment of time does God precede the Son. God always, Son always, the Son exists from God himself.”

Athanasius, a young cleric opposed the teaching of Arius and his followers. His opposition led to the Council of Nicea where upwards of two hundred and fifty Bishops sat to formulate the church’s response to these concerns. Athanasius was actually too young to be granted admittance to the chamber. He faced a hostile crowd as the majority of the Nicene Council opposed his views. Arianism had spread mainly through the influential Universities of the Mediterranean where it had gained progressive popularity. The council would make a pronouncement, which was then conveyed to Athanasius outside, who could respond.

Typically Athanasius would use scripture to refute the strange ideas put forth by the Arians. So successful was his defense that in the end the council ended with only two votes against the Athanasius camp. This coined the phrase which came to represent a defiant stand, “Athanasius contra mundum” or Athanasius against the world.

The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology has this to say about Athanasius’ role and effectiveness;

“Bishop of Alexandria from 328 to 373, an uncompromising foe of Arianism, Athanasius was particularly instrumental in bringing about its condemnation at the Council of Nicea. He is regarded as the greatest theologian of his time.”

The debate formed primarily around two Greek words, “homoousios” and “homoiousios”.

While it may be argued that making such a fine distinction is seemingly unimportant, words and their meanings, however slight their differences represent ideas. Ideas are not static lifeless entities as some would have us believe. They are dynamic. People live and die by and frequently for ideas. Theologians such as Martin Luther argued forcefully for the veracity of asserting ideas as an essential part of the Christian conversion. In this early battle the church was called upon to stand up for the truths found in the doctrine of the trinity.

While the word Trinity does not appear anywhere in the Bible, its truth is evidenced across both testaments, and strikes a resounding chord at the heart of Biblical Christianity from Genesis to Revelation. Some of the truths which flow from the doctrine of the trinity in particular include:

 That God is always, and always has been in relationship, that He is a relational being, a personality.
 That God is not and never was lonely, that he was and always has been supremely satisfied within the relationship he had within the trinity .

Charles Colson, in his book “the faith” points to the nature of the Trinitarian doctrine as a reason for it being frequently overlooked. He also argues for its importance in the broader Christian life when he writes;

“The Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons—is often considered to be mysterious at best, self-contradicting at worst. Everyone would acknowledge that the idea of a triune God—three in one—is the most difficult of all Christian doctrines, which is why so many neglect it or even write it off.

But this is tragic. As Saint Caesarius of Arles said in the sixth century, "The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity." While the Trinity transcends the bounds of human understanding, this doctrine is at the heart of Christian spirituality, and in the life of faith we experience its truth at every turn.”

At the center of many of these controversies was the person of Jesus Christ. That this is so is should not take Christians by surprise, for Christ was nothing if not a radical. He was a man who brought about change. His words brought division, yet healing. His miracles brought wonder and praise to God from ordinary men, women and children, and discomfort and irritation to the religious.

Perhaps this is to be expected as Jesus Christ is at the heart of Biblical Christianity. Josh McDowell writes,

“Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted throughout history or are acting today. Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus, and Jesus was not a hypocrite. He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day, for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him.”

Broughton Knox in the first volume of his collected works entitled The Doctrine of God points to the character and nature of God in the person of Jesus Christ when he states;

“The character of God is other-person-centered, and thus Jesus in his own earthly ministry was not given to drawing attention to himself. He did not bear witness of himself, and therefore his affirmation of his deity was not direct so much as indirect. It was very clear, nevertheless, and his followers came to a firm and clear conviction, based on our Lords actions and teaching, that Jesus was divine, their Lord and their God.”
Jesus as God – the Testimony of Scripture

In many places in the Bible, the divinity of Christ and the Sons distinctive part in the trinity is attested to, perhaps nowhere more than John’s Gospel. From its outset the John confers equal status on God and on Jesus.

Jn 1:1 “ In the beginning was the Word, a and the Word was with God, b and the Word was God. c
He was with God in the beginning. d
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. e
In him was life, f and that life was the light g of men”.

And again in John 5 and verse 21 it states;

Jn 5:21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, m even so the Son gives life n to whom he is pleased to give it.

Many of the statements from Jesus’ own mouth attested to his divinity. In many ways they are the most confronting statements when placed beside the historical account of Jesus’ actions and the testimony of the miracles he performed.

Here is one example again from the book of John;

"But he continued,'You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.'"John 8:23–24

And again,

"But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." John 10:38

Here we see Jesus himself appeal to the miracles he performed as proof of His divine identity. His desire to be recognised for who he was did not come from some vainglorious desire, but that his concern was for the people, that they would believe, and in so doing repent and find salvation.

Much of the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament is concerned with the revelation of the Christ of the Old Testament in the person of the Christ of the New Testament.

A compelling argument for Jesus Christ as God can also be made by looking at the Old Testament and see how Christ was foreshadowed in the lives and events of his people. As much as eighty percent of the New Testament is Old Testament reworked and interpreted or explained. Much of this explanation concerns itself with Jesus as the originator, author and finisher of the faith Christians espouse.

The scriptures call for a Saviour who is both now and pre-existing… a very foreign concept even in Micah’s day.

Mic 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem i Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. ”

The circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth and life are well documented in the Gospels. His fulfillment of the prophecies concerning himself in the Old Testament alone stands as a testimony to his divinity. With perhaps the town of his birth being a prime example, many of these fulfillments could not have been orchestrated by him. Another example would be the massacre of the children in Jeremiah 31 and the events of Matthew 2:16-18.

Modern-day Arianism
Practically all heresy in some way does one of two things, it either elevates man or it denigrates God. When we examine the Gnostic gospels for example we see a far more ethereal Christ than the Christ of the Gospels. The Gnostics did so to push the agenda that things spiritual were good and things physical were bad. Scripturally we know that the physical body is not in and of its own evil, otherwise Christ could not have been our perfect sacrifice. As Christians however we are encouraged to engage and discipline body, mind and spirit in God’s service.

While the Arian heresy is considered by many to be a thing of the distant past, it occasionally creeps into the teaching of mainline churches in subtle ways. It is most noticeable in the teaching of some of the major cults. We see vestiges of it in modern attacks on the Trinitarian doctrine amongst the likes of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness’ and Christian Science.

While the Mormons believe that Jesus pre-existed in Heaven before He became a man, they also believe that all people pre-existed in heaven before becoming humans. He is also believed to be the result of a physical union between God and a mortal woman.

One of the principle arguments used by the advocates for these cults is the theory that the meaning of the scriptures has been so drastically altered as to be unrecognisable from the original, that fundamental information regarding mans relationship with God has been left out. This puts the scriptures, in their view at least as a lesser authority than the pronouncements of their prophets, their own holy books, and at worst is unreliable.

The reverse is actually true; with each faithful revision of scripture, more scholarship, wider research and more manuscript sources (mss) (as well as older manuscripts) has resulted in more accurate translations of the Bible. In most Bibles the introductory notes are devoted to an examination of the pervading method and intention of the translators, giving a picture and indication as to their guiding principles.

John Dickson in his benchmark history, the Christ files argues that the claims of the New Testament should be taken seriously as the most accurate record of the life of Jesus.
In the opening lines of his book he writes:

“Readers may be surprised to learn that scholarly books and articles on the ‘historical Jesus’ number in the tens of thousands. A vast industry has emerged in the last thirty years dedicated to uncovering the real Jesus - as opposed, it is thought, to the Christ presented by the Church.”

In the same vein, Lee Strobel, an award winning Author whose book “The Case for the Creator” was a New York Times bestseller, devotes his latest book, “The Case for the Real Jesus” to confront these errors. He argues persuasively for the reliability of the Biblical record.

Strobel’s own conversion is a testimony to how God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. His wife was a committed agnostic, who had a remarkable change of heart and became a born again Christian. Not only had her faith changed, but she had a remarkable change in the quality of her being. Strobel with his characteristic journalistic cynicism decided to use his legal and investigative journalism skills to explore Christianity in order to disprove the claims of Christianity. The result of these explorations astonished even Strobel himself. Much like Paul, he became an apologist for the gospel, writing books defending the faith he once sought to destroy.

In an interview for the film version of his book, the Christ files, John Dickson intimates that Christians should not be surprised that skeptics are attacking the biblical record. The great truths of Christianity fix themselves within a historical context. Those seeking the God of the Bible and those seeking to discredit it will have to grapple with the historical record.

Yesterday, Today, Forever…

If we can trust the historical record of the Bible as an accurate reflection of God’s salvitic plan, we can trust the picture it paints of Jesus, his words, actions and life.

The New Testament historian F. F. Bruce reflects on this when he writes:

“That Christianity has its roots in history is emphasized in the church’s earliest creeds, which fix the supreme revelation of God at a particular point in time, when “Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord... suffered under Pontius Pilate.”
This historical “once-for-all-ness” of Christianity, which distinguishes it from those religious and philosophical systems which are not specially related to any particular time, makes the reliability of the writings which purport to record this revelation a question of first-rate importance.

If God is the God of yesterday and the God of today, we can trust that He will remain the God of our tomorrow. The consistent evidence from Jesus’ life and miracles points to his enduring power as the saviour of the world, the promised messiah. His supernatural resurrection from the dead is perhaps one of the most verifiable events in history. As all the evidence points toward the Christ, we can make a reasonable claim that he is faithful. Given the reward which faith in Him brings, it is worth any sacrifice, discouragement or ridicule we may face for it.

“I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” Isaiah 43:11

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thought for Today, and tomorrow

New years resolutions

January provides us with an opportunity to take stock of our lives and give thoughtful consideration to our future. They ask important questions like where am I going? How am I going to get there and will there be a place to park. It’s the time for New Year’s resolutions. Most people make pie crust promises; easily made, easily broken.

There are some fair dinkum questions that we should be asking at the beginning of the New Year. Why do so many of us find it difficult to change? If we could do just one thing of value this New Year what would it be?

Here is a useful list I use myself as a measuring stick to see where I am at.
• Live by the scriptures: be joyfull
• Submit to discipline: Be accountable
• Learn to praise God continually: be thankful
• Cultivate right relationships: be connected
• Protect and guard your thought life: be disciplined

On the last point I would like to expand a little, The Bible says as a man thinks in his heart (read his gut) so is he. Our focus can determine who we become. Its our daily practice that moulds our character.

Focus on the Good

When the devil in the garden wanted to tempt Adam and Eve, he didn’t point out all the good things that God had given them. He convinced them that God was holding out on them. He got them to focus on the one thing God had forbidden them to partake of. In this way their picture of God is tainted and God appeared a miser, who was keeping something for himself.

In reality God gives us so many things to enjoy richly. It may be a sunset, the sound of birds chirping. You owe him your very next breath. A useful exercise to do is to make a list of all the things that you are thankful for, no matter how seemingly insignificant. This may take several months to do, but just keep adding to it and review it regularly. A friend of mine in England who tended to get depressed did this exercise and was astonished to find that her list was over a thousand.

A similar list is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians; “Against such things there is no law.” Paul encourages us similarly when he writes;

“ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things”.

Our focus is going to be somewhere, we as humans are creatures of habit and we tend to obsess over things. We tend to spend an inordinate amount of energy and time thinking and worrying about what may never happen. We are encouraged to overcome evil with Good. That means not just avoid thinking bad thoughts, but to actively replace them with good ones.

Egyptian protests, Christians protecting muslims at prayer

Photograph care of

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Baptism Of Jesus

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Out of the mouths of babes

The holiday time has allowed me to catch up on some of the things I have been procrastinating about doing due to the busyness with the family, inclding work on the blog.
Trying to put C to bed today I was asked "daddy, but why do I have to go to sleep." "Well," I said, in a moment of inspiration, "when you sleep you grow. You bigger and stonger and wiser when you sleep." thinking this argument had finished the conversation, i turned to to go.
"but why do we grow when we sleep."
"because God designed us that way, he designed us to grow when we rest."
a few thoughtful moments of silence follows...
"Does God sleep daddy?
"No, C. God doesnt sleep...but he has been around for a very long time. He's very big."
"And he comes to church"
moment of thoughtfulness...
"Mommy is big."


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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Introducing The Synoptic Problem


This essay aims to examine the Synoptic problem. We begin by defining the problem, and looking at some of the evidence for the peculiarities that exist among the Synoptic Gospels. Flowing on from this we look at the development of the problem in church history, as well as the major theoretical approaches to its solution.
The search for the best solution is analogous to solving a crime. While the objective is clear, the evidence at times may point down two very different paths. The one may place emphasis on witness and testimony of people close to the case; the second may be primarily concerned with forensic evidence. As time progresses and further evidence is uncovered, new light is shed and the existing evidence reexamined and reweighted.
We conclude by giving our assessment of which solution fits the evidence best and offer some grounds upon which such a judgment has been made.
The Nature of the Synoptic problem

The synoptic problem refers to the similarities found in the three Gospels; Matthew, Mark and Luke. Much of Mark is reproduced in the other two, and there is a high degree of agreement between the three when it comes to the order of events and how they are presented, including the wording and quotations used.

“Now to be sure, the Gospels must not be forced, anachronistically, to measure up to conventions for writing history or biography. Instead they must be evaluated by the standards of their day.”

Solving the Synoptic problem has proved something akin in theological circles to untying the Gordian knot. At the heart of Synoptic problem lies the issue of primacy. How did the Gospels come to be written? Which gospel came first?

The need for clarity became all the more apparent after the production of a Gospel synopsis. . This highlighted the close relationship between the Gospels. Sanders and Davies state;
“Matthew Mark and Luke are remarkably alike. There are examples from medieval literature of works which agree as closely, but from ancient literature no other examples of such close similarity are known.”

“Only 30 verses in Mark lack a parallel in Matthew or Luke.”

The very fact that there are four Gospels begs the question; “How do we account for both the similarities and the differences between them?”

Figure 1
Comparing the Gospels: Similarities and Differences
Gospel Peculiarities Coincidences
Mark 7% 93%
Matthew 4% 58%
Luke 59% 41%
John 92% 8%

Figure one gives rough percentages of the similarities and peculiarities of each Gospel. At the two extremes are the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Mark, with Matthew and Luke sharing more of the middle ground.

As to Chronology Luke deviates from the chronology of Mark only four times, while Matthew diverts from Marks order only in a “twofold way”
A brief history of the problem
Early exploration: Origen, Papias and Augustine
The testimony of the early church fathers is one of the keenest sources of academic discussion, with theologians giving either more or less weight to their role.

Origen, the first to truly confront the full weight of the synoptic problem adds two noteworthy comments relevant to this discussion. He maintains that Matthew was written first and that Mark was written second as a record of the Simon Peter’s experiences.

Carmignac, one of those responsible for the translation of the Dead Sea scrolls states of Origen;

“We cannot absolutely reject a tradition so ancient (from the time of the hearers of the Apostles), so stable (no discordant voice) and so universal (from the Indies to Gaul).”

As Carmignac alluded to Origen was not alone in viewing Matthew as the first gospel written. Augustine was one of the first to be struck by the similarities as he attempted to produce a harmony of Gospel accounts.
They “are believed to have written in the order which follows: first Matthew, then Mark, thirdly Luke, lastly John”
“However the evangelists may each have reported some matters which are not recorded by the others, it would be hard to prove that any question involving a real discrepancy arises out of these.”

Of Augustine Blomberg writes; “The priority of the Gospel of Matthew for Augustine seems to have been based at least as much on its greater popularity in the church, which in turn stemmed from its fuller accounts of Jesus’ teaching, than to any historical information he had about the order of writing.”

Yet another ancient source, “Papias states that Mark was the interpreter of Peter and regards his Gospel as based on the witness of Peter.” Papias is also quoted as saying that Marks primary concern was not chronological order. This links the Markan account directly with the Apostles, and bodes well for any theories which would place it as an early account. It also gives credence to the fact that both Matthew and Luke’s chronology varies slightly from Mark’s. (Luke 1:13)

Oral tradition

There are few theologians today who would not accept that there was a period of time in which stories of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were spread by word of mouth, through the teaching of the apostles, and from discussions of the events of his life.(Mk 16:20,Matt 28:19)

Paul Barnett writes; “In response to the critical question, how do we span the forty or so years between Jesus and Mark’s written text? We note various theories of memorized oral transmission.”

Dunn argues that the prevailing emphasis on Q tends to limit and narrow the work being done in synoptic study, and argues for the merits of an oral based approach to reenergize Biblical scholarship.

Historically, and certainly in the middle ages, adherents to the oral tradition went a step further however and declared that the gospel accounts themselves were all independent accounts based solely on the oral tradition. Form criticism and later source criticism as well as a close analysis of Gospel synopses have shown this hypothesis to be false.

Modern Criticism

Following the Renaissance in Italy and the continued momentum of scientific discovery, the modern approach to the synoptic problem emphasized the literary interdependence of the Gospels upon each other.

“ that this parallelism , of varying degrees of closeness , must be accounted for by their literary interdependence is nowadays almost universally accepted by scholars.”

The Griesbach Hypothesis

The theory which gave Matthew priority, followed by Luke and then reduced by Mark was advocated by J.J. Griesbach in 1789, but “was first proposed by H. Owen in 1764.”

This theory has seen resurgence in more modern times through the eloquent argumentation of Farmer.
“He has maintained that when the evidence is set out against the background of a careful examination the text, together with a careful examination of internal structures, the proposition that the order of the gospels was Matthew-Luke-Mark becomes persuasive.”

The theory has as its advantage that it agrees with both tradition and early Church fathers. It also offers some explanation of the redundancies found in Mark’s account. It maintains that the redundancies are as a result of copying from more than one source, and leaving both descriptions in.

As a theory Griesbach’s hypothesis is the most serious contender of the prevailing two source hypothesis.
Lessing (1788) believed that the Gospels had originated from more primitive sources, which he called Urevangelum, which no longer exist He believed that a shorter version of this was used by Mark to write his Gospel. There is some evidence that Mark’s Gospel went through stages in its composition and later redaction.
Fragmentary Theory

Schleiermacher (1817) hypothesised that the disciples “had taken notes of Jesus’ words and deeds” these were collected together and collated and from these the Gospel accounts are to have arisen. Stein continues “This “fragmentary hypothesis” never received much support.”

It would not adequately explain the extent of collaboration among the Synoptics, nor account for their distinctives.
Holtzmann’s two source hypothesis

Holtzmann, picking up on work done by Weisse hypothesizes that Mark produces his Gospel from the eyewitness account of Simon Peter. The other synoptic evangelists then used Mark as the basis for their own accounts, together with a document which relates the teachings of Jesus. This hypothetical document was at first called “Quelle”, German for source, later abbreviated to Q.

At first impression, one is struck by the shortness of Marks Gospel. It contains significantly fewer verses than Luke or Mark, this alone tends to make one think that Marks gospel may have been the forerunner of the others.

Additionally when Matthew and Luke differ from Mark there is marked similarity between them. Redditt writes that while Mathew and Mark may differ from Luke, and Luke and Mark differ from Matthew, it is very rare if ever that Luke and Mathew differ against Mark. This lends itself to the suggestion that Mark is primary and the others secondary.

The very fact of Matthew and Luke agreeing against Mark has been seized upon by proponents of Griesbach, however Stein points out that there may be several explanations which would fit the evidence from a Markan perspective.

Mark’s Gospel, while being the shortest is noted for its detail, which is more what one would expect had one of the other Gospel accounts copied him
Mark’s gospel is notable for its poorer Greek. Scholars hypothesize that it is far more likely that Mark’s poorer Greek be changed than for the better Greek in Matthew and Luke than for them to have been copied and exchanged for the poorer Greek of Mark.
Weisse upon whom Holtzmann based much of his work stated; “The very Hebraisms of our gospel [of Mark] are...a tell-tale indication of his independence & originality. On the one hand, it is possible to label this characteristic as awkwardness and clumsiness.... On the other hand, ...[it] conveys the impression of a fresh naturalness and an unpretentious spontaneity, which distinguishes Mark's presentation most markedly from all other gospel accounts...”
This would also explain the lack of Mark’s characteristic redundancies appearing in the other two Gospels. Such errors are more likely to be removed than copied.

This “documentary theory, while plausible, has one or two weaknesses…One may say with regard to Q that no trace of this hypothetical document has ever been recovered. Even those who advocate the documentary hypothesis admit that it was not a Gospel.”
While acknowledging the skepticism some interpreters feel at working with reconstructed source documents such as Q, Benjamin Sommer argues that to not examine these documents is being disrespectful to the text.

The two source hypothesis was expanded by Streeter to include M for those documents unique to Matthew and L for those unique to Luke. It is seldom considered as anything more than an expansion “modification of the two source theory”. What Streeter’s “The four Gospels, a study of Origins” did accomplish was galvanize support for the two source theory.

The two source theory has received some criticism lately principally from two camps, those advocating the Griesbach hypothesis and those who are concerned that claims about Q have become “extravagant.”
Redaction Criticism

Redaction criticism is “the branch of study which seeks to identify earlier traditions in a writer’s text.”
The very fact that there are four Gospels begs the question; “How do we account for differences between them?” It is this question which drives redaction criticism.

Following a general (albeit not unanimous) consensus on the Markan priority of the two source hypothesis redaction criticism (redactiongeschichte) emerged. This focused primarily on the distinctives each evangelist brought to the text, how it was modified, what was included or excluded.
By its nature redaction criticism of the gospels is significantly influenced by the nuances of the synoptic debate. Guthrie draws attention to this when he states;

“The majority of work in this field has been conducted on the assumption that Matthew and Luke used Mark and Q…Yet recent questions about the validity of the theory of Markan priority must cast some doubts about the results of much redaction criticism.”

“The Gospels were seen as unsophisticated writings…but this perception changed with the rise of redaction criticism, which rediscovered the evangelists as theological interpreters of the Jesus tradition.”

Conclusion: The clearest solution

We began by examining the nature of the problem. Following this we have examined the course of the debate over the synoptic problem, beginning at early observations of the church fathers, and paying closer attention to modern theories concerning the formulation of the Gospel.We conclude now by asserting that the two source hypothesis, given the evidence, while the worst solution except for all the others that have been tried is the most credible.

“The two source hypothesis provides the best overall explanation for the relationships among the Synoptic Gospels.” Cason et al go on to caution that we should approach Holtzmann’s work as a working theory rather than a fait accompli. While there is broad agreement within theological circles concerning the two source hypothesis, there is by no means consensus.

“The foregoing considerations have been regarded by the great majority of scholars as sufficient to establish the theory. In fact it is generally treated as one assured result of criticism. Hypotheses regarding Matthew and Luke’s gospels almost invariably proceed from the assumption that both have used Mark as a source.”

Bultmann points to the influence of Wredes work on the messianic secret in Mark as proof that the optimism of the supposed unraveling of the synoptic problem can blind us to the rich tapestry of the gospel we are critiquing.
There is still much to be done, and caution in our approach to the scriptures is prudent. If we are to appreciate the scriptures as we study over it, we must recognize that we are simultaneously under it.


Alston, William. Historical criticism and the Synoptic Gospels. Scripture and hermeneutics series.Volume 4 Behind the Text; History and Biblical Interpretation. Ed Bartholemew, Craig, Evans, Stephen, Healy, Mary, Murray, Rae.(2003. Grand Rapids. Paternoster).
Augustine Harmony of the Gospels, Book 1 Chapter two accessed 04/10/2010
Augustine. Harmony of the Evangelists, Book IV, X.II quoted in Ewell, Walther and Yarbrough, Robert. Encountering the New Testament, A Historical and Theological Survey.(1998. Grand Rapids. Michigan. Baker.)
Barnett, Paul Finding the Historical Christ. (2009. Cambridge. Eerdmans) pg 107
Blomberg, Craig.The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.(1987 Leicester Inter-Varsity Press)
Bock, Darrell. Studying the Historical Jesus; a guide to sources and methods (Grand Rapids, Michigan. Apollos/Baker Academic.2002.)
Bultmann, Rudolf. History of the Synoptic Tradition. (1963 Peabody Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publishers)
Carmingnac, Jean. The Birth of the Synoptics.(1987. Chicago.Franciscan herald press) translated from the French La naisance des evangiles Synoptiques OEIL Paris by Wrenn, Michael.
Carson, D.A. Moo, Douglas and Morris, Leon An Introduction to the New Testament (Leicester, Apollos,1999)
Cross. A.R. Genres of the New Testament. Dictionary of New Testament Background. Ed Evans, Craig and Porter, Stanley. (2000. Downers Grove, Illinois. Inter-Varsity Press)
Dungan, David. A History of the Synoptic Problem; The canon, the text, the composition and the interpretation of the Gospels. ( 1999. New York. Random House)
Dungan, David. A History of the Synoptic Problem; The canon, the text, the composition and the interpretation of the Gospels. (1999. New York. Random House)
Dunn, James Altering the default setting: Re-envisaging the Early transmission of the Jesus Tradition New Testament Studies. (Volume 49. Number 2. April 2003. Cambridge University Press)
Enns, Paul.The Moody Hanbook of Theology, revised and expanded edition. (2008.Chicago. Moody publishers)
Farmer, William. The Synoptic Gospel. pg 2

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction, revised edition. (1990. Downers Grove, Illinois Apollos.)
K├╝mmel, Werner. Introduction to the New Testament, revised edition. (1975 London. Abingdon press).
Reddit, Paul, Source Criticism Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible ed Vanhoozer, K. (2005 Grand rapids , Michigan Baker/SPCK)
Sanders, E. and Davies, Margaret. Studying the Synoptic Gospels. (1989.London SCM) pg 51.
Sommer, Benjamin.The source critic and the religious interpreter.(Interpretation, A journal of Bible and Theology. The ministry of Exegesis.Volume 60. Number 1. January 2006.Richmond Virginia) pg 9-20.
Soulen, Richard and Soulen R.Kendall. Handbook of Biblical Criticism. Third edition. (Louisville Kentucky Westminster John Knox.2001).
Soulen, Richard and Soulen R.Kendall. Handbook of Biblical Criticism. Third edition. (Louisville Kentucky Westminster John Knox.2001).
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Stein, R. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. ed Green, Joel, Mcnight, Scot, Marshall, Howard. (1992.Downers Grove. InterVarsity Press)
Tenney, Merril New Testament Survey (1961 London. Eerdmans/IVF)
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church second edition ed Cross. F.L and Livingstone E.A.(1974. London. Oxford University Press)
Tuckett, Christopher. Reading the New Testament: Methods of Interpretation.( Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1987)
Weisse, Chrisitian accessed electronically 10/10/2010

Westacott, F in Enns, Paul.The Moody Handbook of Theology, revised and expanded edition. (2008.Chicago. Moody publishers)