Synoptic problems?


I put it in the plural.

How many hypotheses are in the solutions to the Synoptic Problem?



First, I made a mistake and placed this question in the Scriptural thread, sorry!

How many hypotheses are in the solutions to the Synoptic Problem?

How many hypotheses build upon hypotheses?



I am the OP, please don’t laugh, thanks!

One assumption or hypothesis is: Jesus foretells the falling of Jerusalem. In the solution to the synoptic problem is that Jesus could not have foretold that. Therefore Mark had to be written after the fall of Jerusalem.

Is that an assumption?

Could not a wise or intelligent man predict future events?

When the father-in-law of the High Priest says: “one man should die instead of many.” He predicts the future.

I am sure that there were many people predicting US involvement in WWI and WWII.

My own great-grandmother predicted the stock market crash of the 1920s. She told my father to take all of his money out of the bank, and she sold all of their properties.

I knew that Ford was going up back in 2009. I am not too bright. I could see it.

I am sure that your families have many of the same stories.

On this thread, we can predict many response–on all of the different sides or positions of the arguments.


I am not sure how your hypothesis affects the Synoptic Problem exactly, I guess you are saying the gospels were written much later?

I don’t think it is worthwhile hypothesis, because if we believe Jesus is God, there is no reason to think he could not predict the fall of Jerusalem any more than it would be to doubt the resurrection or the many miracles that the Synoptics describe.


[quote="Jim_Baur, post:1, topic:328657"]
I put it in the plural.

How many hypotheses are in the solutions to the Synoptic Problem?



St. Augustine wrote an excellent book that puts the Gospels in harmony, its called Harmony of the Gospels. He goes through every single passage where the Gospels are descibing the same event, and he compares them and clarifies any obscurities.


Thanks, Jon S

I would believe the Gospels to be written very early.

I cannot imagine that the Gospels we were written after the fall of Jerusalem.

I do not believe the scholars that say Jesus did not foresee the fall of Jerusalem.

I am sorry if my poor phrasing of the question mislead you.

Please forgive me for writing and thinking at the same time.

Again, I believe that there are several hypotheses. I know that solutions have a hypothesis, and then build on that one. I want to know how many are “stacked” on the first one.





Is this translated into English?

I will check google, too!


Yes, I’ve got it in an easy to use format here


If I am not mistaken, fragments of Mark's Gospel were found in Qumran, cave-7 which would date the Gospel prior to 70 AD. Additionally, the Magdalen fragments of Matthew's Gospel have been dated to circa 60 AD by very distinguished papyrologists.


To sum it all up: a lot, as in there are a lot of proposed solutions to the synoptic problem. :wink:


[quote="yankee15, post:9, topic:328657"]
If I am not mistaken, fragments of Mark's Gospel were found in Qumran, cave-7 which would date the Gospel prior to 70 AD. Additionally, the Magdalen fragments of Matthew's Gospel have been dated to circa 60 AD by very distinguished papyrologists.


Sorry for the stock answer.

[quote="patrick457, post:25, topic:305466"]
I seem to remember that news from earlier this year, but more on that later. In the meantime, let's talk about the purported fragment of Mark found in Qumran.



This baby here is the so-called 7Q5, discovered in Cave 7. Like the other finds in that cave, this particular fragment is in Greek. In 1972, Spanish papyrologist Fr. Jose O'Callaghan S.J. identified this particular fragment as a copy of Mark 6:52-53, also identifying another fragment from the same cave (7Q4) as a copy of 1 Timothy 3:16-4:13. A few people like Carsten Peter Thiede (the same person who controversially redated the Magdalen papyrus to the mid 1st century) have came out in support of O'Callaghan, but most others were not convinced.

The main problem, first of all, is the tiny nature of the fragments in question: they have come down to us in a very badly-mutilated state that only a handful of letters can be identified with certainty (the only legible word in 7Q5 is KAI, "and"). Given this, the fragments could be identified with almost anything. The arguments for and against the identification are already summed well enough in Wikipedia. Some other scholars have variously identified 7Q5 with Genesis 46:20, Exodus 36:10-11, Numbers 22:38, 2 Kings 5:13-14, or even Matthew 1:2-3 (!). Callaghan had also attempted to identify some of the other fragments of Cave 7 with various NT books. For instance, 7Q4 was identified with 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1-3; 7Q6.1 and 2 (these small ones here) is associated with Mark 4:28 and Acts 27:38; 7Q8 is purported to be James 1:23-24.

Recently, three people (Gerhard-Wilhelm Nebe, Emile Puech, and Ernest A. Muro) have made a far more convincing case that seven of the texts from Cave 7 actually contain text from the book of Enoch (7Q4.1, 7Q8, 7Q12, 7Q14 = 1 Enoch 103.3-8, 12; 7Q4.2 = 98:11? 105:1?; 7Q11 = 100:12; 7Q13 = 103.15).


[quote="patrick457, post:32, topic:305466"]
What made Thiede arrive at his conclusion was by comparing the handwriting of the Magdalen papyrus with 1st century fragments from different areas (Qumran, Naḥal Ḥever, Herculaneum). In his opinion, similarities of script 'could point towards a first century date' for the fragment.

Some of the similarities which Thiede proposes. however, are doubtful. Compare for example the handwriting of the Magdalen papyrus with the Naḥal Ḥever Minor Prophets scroll (8ḤevXIIgr, mid-1st century AD), which Thiede used with the Magdalen papyrus as the main comparative script. Even one with totally no experience on papyrology or paleography would see that the two exhibit different styles of handwriting. As this rebuttal of Thiede notes (footnotes have not been included):

Thiede suggested that the consensus ‘around A.D. 200’ was merely a convenient ‘dumping ground’ and that Roberts’ revision of Hunt’s suggested date from fourth century to late second century needs further revision in light of new manuscript finds. These manuscript finds come with archaeologically fixed final dates (termini ante quem).

The first is the Greek Minor Prophet scroll from Nahal Hever (8HevXIIgr), dated by most scholars between 50 BC and AD 50 (see plate two). Thiede noted: ‘the identity and near-identity of several letters is striking: alpha, epsilon…, iota, omicron, rho and nu are particularly close’. We have reproduced as plate two the page to which Thiede refers in his discussion (columns B1-2 = Zc. 8.18-9.5). This represents the work of one of the two scribes involved in producing the manuscript (this incidentally shows that two contemporary scribes from the same location working on the same text in a similar style can nevertheless have quite distinct scripts).

Close inspection provides little support for Thiede’s contention that two scripts are similar. Other than the obvious similarity of bilinear majuscule lettering, this script (8HevXIIgr Scribe B) has a more decorated appearance than P64; note especially the ornamentation of the letter-forms in blobs, hooks and half-serifs. In the size and spacing of the letters, the thinner pen-strokes, and the use of small spaces between words, 8HevXIIgr appears quite distinct from P64. Even the letters which Thiede specifically highlights are actually quite distinct: the alphas of 8HevXIIgr have a generally horizontal cross-bar (P64: distinct angle from lower left to upper right); the epsilons have detached cross bars (no parallel in P64); the iotas have decoration and do not extend as far below the line as P64; the rho has a pronounced decorative blob on the end of its down-stroke (contrast P64); the nus also have pronounced decorative blobs at each join (unlike P64). Of the letters to which Thiede draws attention, only the omicrons are similar, and little significance can be drawn from this.

Furthermore to take into account only similarities between letters and to ignore their differences is methodologically untenable. In many ways, when trying to draw comparisons between scripts, differences between letter-forms are of more importance than the odd similarity (after all there are only so many ways in which letters can be written). For differences, note the upsilon (8HevXIIgr: straight lines and 90 degree angle cf. P64 with curve), sigma (8HevXIIgr: extended horizontals), and mu (8HevXIIgr: outward pointing down-strokes).[49] The only conclusion which can be drawn from this evidence is that there is no significant relationship between the script and style of P. Magd. Gr. 17 and 8HevXIIgr. There is, then, nothing to be gained from a discussion of the date of 8HevXIIgr, and Thiede’s claim to have found significant new evidence may be unfounded.

The thing is, dating the date of a manuscript solely by the handwriting is really difficult and shaky: given how the dating of papyri is not really an exact science, this should tell us something. (This was actually an issue with the first undisputed surviving fragment of the NT, Papyrus 52.) Papyrologists get an idea of when a manuscript was written based on the writing materials (the medium - in this case, papyrus - and the ink) and the evaluation of the forms of the letters. Fortunately, some ancient documents are dated by their scribes, or they refer to some datable event, and the forms of writing on these documents can help papyrologists determine when different forms of writing passed into and out of use. This knowledge can also be applied to other manuscripts which are not dated. If the independents of several, trained papyrological experts agree on a rough date, we can place confidence in their evaluations. But, as one can imagine, unless the scribe provided a date, these methods can only produce approximate results. In fact, it is often the case that experts disagree to a greater or lesser extent in their datings of manuscripts.




Oh, and finally, what Thiede actually claims is not so much that the Magdalen papyrus dates from the mid-1st century (although he is sympathetic towards a pre-AD 70 date), but that it is from the 1st century in general with no specific date in mind (he repeatedly refers to “a first-century date” or “prior to the turn of the century”), although he does in conclusion seem to date it “some time after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.”

I do not give a precise date, but suggest a date in the last third of the first century: The ‘starting point’ is the middle of the century; I allow for a variation of c. 20 years + / - and then opt for the later end, ‘soon after A.D. 70’.

Also, a quotation from Geza Vermes’ The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (p. 472-73):

(4Q126-7; 7Q3-19)

The remaining two Greek fragments in Cave 4 date roughly to the turn of the era. One (4Q126) cannot be identified and the other (4Q127) is either a paraphrase of Exodus, mentioning among others Pharaoh, Moses and Egypt, or possibly an apocryphal account of Israel in Egypt.
Seventeen out of the nineteen minute Greek papyrus fragments from Cave 7 have been declared by the editors to be unidentifiable. Yet against all verisimilitude, several of them have generated sensational and even revolutionary claims, especially that they represented the earliest textual examples of the Greek New Testament.
The contention originated with a Spanish Jesuit, José O’Callaghan, who in 1972 persuaded himself that these hardly legible scraps derived from six books of the New Testament: the Gospel of Mark iv, 28 (7Q6 1), vi, 48 (7Q15), vi, 52-3 (7Q5), xii, 17 (7Q7); the Acts of the Apostles xxviii, 38 (7Q6 2); 1 Timothy iii, 16, iv, 1, 3 (7Q4); James i, 23-4 (7Q8) and even one of the latest New Testament writings, 2 Peter i, 15 (7Q10). Of these, the case for Mark vi, 52-3 is purported to be the ‘strongest’. The real facts are the following. We are dealing with a fragment on which the written area measures 3.3 x 2.3 cm. Letters appear on four lines; these are of unknown length since both the beginning and the end of each line are missing. An unrecognizable trace of another letter is observed at the top of the fragment. In the editio princeps seventeen letters are identified of which only nine are certain. A single complete word has survived: the Greek kai = and!
The leading experts in the field, the late C.H. Roberts of Oxford and the German Kurt Aland, unhesitatingly discarded O’Callaghan’s theory. Roberts jokingly told me [Vermes] that if he wanted to waste his time, he was sure he would be able to ‘demonstrate’ that 7Q5 belonged to any ancient Greek text, biblical or non-biblical. Yet this unlikely and clearly unprovable hypothesis was revived in the 1980s by C.P. Thiede and others, only to encounter the same fate of summary dismissal as Father O’Callaghan’s a decade or so earlier.
For the editio princeps of the 4Q and 7Q material, see P.W. Skehan and E. Ulrich, DJD, IX (Oxford, 1992); 161-97, 219-42; M. Baillet et al., DJD, III (Oxford, 1962), 142-6. For the theory that 7Q contains New Testament texts, see J O’Callaghan, Los papiros griegos de la cueva 7 de Qumrán (Madrid, 1974), and C.P. Thiede, The Earliest Gospel Manuscripts (London, 1992); Re-Kindling the Word (Valley Forge, Pa, 1996). For views for and against expressed at a symposium, see B. Mayer, ed., Christen und Christliches in Qumran? (Regensburg, 1992). Against the theory, see C.H. Roberts, ‘On Some Presumed Papyrus Fragments of the New Testament from Qumran’, *Neue neutestamentlische Papyri III’, New Testament Study 20 (1973-4), 357-81. For the latest authoritative views, see G. Stanton, Gospel Truth? (London, 1995); E. Puech, ‘Des fragments grecs de la grotte 7 et le Nouveau Testament?’, RB 102 (1995), 570-84 ; M.-E. Boismard (the first decipherer of the fragment), ‘A propos de 7Q5 et Mc. 6, 52-53’, ibid. 102-4.

Add to this chapter 14 of Peter Flint and James C. VanderKam’s The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus and Christianity? Also VanderKam’s The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer S.J.'s The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins (p. 24) and Responses to 101 Questions on the Dead Sea Scrolls (p. 16), and Emanuel Tov’s Hebrew Bible, Greek Bible and Qumran: Collected Essays (pp. 347-350).*




So this is evidence of earlier than some (I have not idea of the percentages) Bible scholars date the Gospels.



Patrick, Thank you for providing this fascinating information.


Patrick, one other question; did you read Thiede’s “Eyewitness to Jesus” and what are thoughts?


I think you got it upside-down. I don’t personally think that these fragments from Qumran are from Mark’s gospel or that the Magdalen papyri date from the late 1st century.

It doesn’t take a scholar to see that the Qumran fragments are too, well, fragmentary for us to be sure what exactly is written on it. As Vermes had noted, we can only identify a single word in it: kai “and,” which isn’t really the rarest Greek word there is. It’s like finding a tiny scrap of torn paper with “the” or “is” written on it - if we continue the analogy, it’d be like me trying to say that this piece of paper once contained the text of Hamlet. :smiley:

And while Carsten Peter Thiede purported that the Magdalen papyri’s lettering is similar to the Greek Minor Prophet scroll from Naḥal Ḥever (8ḤevXIIgr) in the Judaean desert (dated by most scholars between 50 BC and AD 50), a closer look shows that there isn’t really much similarity between the two’s scripts than Thiede would have us think. Once again, let’s compare:
Naḥal Ḥever Minor Prophets scroll (ca. 1st century)

Magdalen papyrus





Maybe I’m just missing something here but I can’t see that anyone has explained what the Synoptic Problems are supposed to be. What problems are there?


How to explain how St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke's Gospel are similar and dissimilar. Most Modern Scholars (meaning a small branch of biblical scholars) believe this is a problem. They solve it by dating all four Gospel after the fall of Jerusalem because Jesus could not have foretold the fall. They reject the possibility of divine inspiration. Modern Scholars do not include all scholars but only those that reject divine inspiration of the Bible. They are not theologians but literary scholars.

That is my understanding of Modern Scholars.

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