SYNOPTIC GOSPELS

SYNOPTIC GOSPELS

Write a 15-18 sentence response for each question:

1.   How did the Synoptic Gospels come to be composed?  In terms of their literary sources, how are these

gospels interrelated?  (essentially, tell me who wrote first, who copied from whom, what other special

sources Matthew and Luke used, etc.)  Tell me some distinctive characteristics of each of the Synoptics

(Matthew/Mark/Luke).

2.   In any literary text, including the Bible, you have these three elements:  CONTENT (what is said); FORM

(how it is said); and CONTEXT (the details and motive surrounding the words, i.e. who/when/why/where).

Words mean nothing without a context.  For example:  if I’m an announcer at a Yankee game and in the middle

of Derek Jeter’s first at-bat I say “OK – now Derek will probably be waiting on this pitch because he’s got

three balls on him” are you going to think “poor guy … he’s got an extra testicle!”  NO – because you know

the context is that of a baseball game, and you know I mean that the pitch count is three balls/no strikes.

So when you read the Bible, however inspired you believe it to be, it is still a literary text, written by

human beings, and the stories/sayings all have a context based on the details surrounding their utterance

AND use in the early Christian community.   Pick any two examples out of the following three biblical

literary forms:  miracle stories, parables, wise sayings of Jesus.  Pages 51-55 of CF will help you get

started with this.  You may look at biblical commentaries and information from online sources to get a feel

for the different forms and how they are to be interpreted.  You may select these two from any of the three

synoptic gospels.  In one to two paragraphs, tell me (a) what you think these passages meant in their

original context,  (b) how they fit their particular literary “form” and/or the agenda of that Gospel

writer, (c) how they might be interpreted in a 21st century context.   We have to know what the words meant

when they were written in the first century in order to apply them in the 21st century.  Some passages are

easily applicable to any historical context, but they originally served a particular purpose for the writer

of the specific gospel in which they appear.  The Gospels are not biography or history – they are theology.

Not ALL the stories known about Jesus, or ALL the things he said, were written in the final form of the

synoptic gospels.  Events and words were preserved by the early followers of Jesus because they served a

specific theological purpose — they presented the historical Jesus and the preached, proclaimed Christ that

the early Christians believed was the Son of God and the Messiah many Jews were awaiting.  You may need to

review some commentaries on the New Testament in order to clearly understand the passages you choose. Also –

“google” NT Source Criticism for an overview of the types of “forms” in the biblical text.  Just be sure to

include any outside references you employ directly in your response to this question.

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