Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
The Gospels (literally, good news) of Matthew, Mark, and Luke have been called Synoptic (seen together) Gospels since the end of the eighteenth century because they contain similar details in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, the three Gospels have a linguistic resemblance in the Greek in which they were written, which is not thought to be coincidental given that Jesus himself spoke Aramaic and the Gospels purport to be a written record of his teachings. The fourth Gospel, attributed to John, is set apart from the others because of its late composition and the author’s use of figurative and symbolic language that is not found in the three Synoptics.
From the eighteenth century, scholars have debated various theories as to why there is so much similarity among the three Synoptic Gospels. At least one-third of the Gospel material is repeated in the other Synoptics. This question is referred to by biblical scholars as the Synoptic problem. The most obvious explanations are that the writers, or evangelists, copied from one another or witnessed the same events.
These theories have been discounted for a number of reasons. First, it is improbable that the evangelists were apostles in close proximity with Jesus. Because the earliest of the three Gospels (Mark) was not written until approximately 65 c.e. and the two others up to twenty years later, any copying would probably have been from Mark’s earlier...
(The entire section is 1187 words.)
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