The Synoptic Gospels

 NT Overview
  arrow {400} Introduction to Concise New Testament Survey
  arrow {401} The Historical Books of the New Testament
  arrow {402} The Synoptic Gospels
  arrow {403} The Purpose and Distinctive Focus of the Four Gospels
  arrow {404} Harmony of the Gospels
  arrow {405} The Gospel Books Detailed Reviews

Before beginning a survey of each of the Gospels, it might be well to say a bit about the use of the term, The Synoptic Gospels. Though each Gospel has its distinct emphasis and purpose, the first three are sometimes referred to as

the Synoptic Gospels because they “see together,” that is, they have the same point of view with regard to the life of Christ, agreeing in subject matter and order.

Further, they also present the life of Christ in a way that complements the picture given in the Gospel of John. The following show a number of areas that are common to each of the first three Gospels:


  arrow {Syn01} The baptism of Jesus
  arrow {Syn02} The temptation of Jesus
  arrow {Syn03}
  arrow {Syn04} The transfiguration of Jesus
  arrow {Syn05} The trial, death, and burial of Jesus
  arrow {Syn06} The resurrection of Jesus
{SYN-T-00} The Miracles of Jesus (The major portion of each Gospel).
{SYN-T-00} God’s Love for Mankind
{SYN-T-00} The Kingdom of God
{SYN-T-00} Love the Lord Your God
{SYN-T-00} Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
 Synoptic Teachings

   graph  [1]

Almost all of Mark’s content is found in Matthew, and much of Mark is similarly found in Luke. Additionally, Matthew and Luke have a large amount of material in common that is not found in Mark.

By Relationship_between_synoptic_gospels.png: Alecmconroyderivative work: Popadius - This file was derived from  Relationship between synoptic gospels.png:, CC BY-SA 3.0,

  The triple tradition  [2]

The triple tradition, the material included by all three synoptic gospels, includes many stories and teachings:

Furthermore, the triple tradition’s pericopae (passages) tend to be arranged in much the same order in all three gospels. This stands in contrast to the material found in only two of the gospels, which is much more variable in order.

  The double tradition  [3]

An extensive set of material—some two hundred verses or roughly half the length of the triple tradition—are the pericopae shared between Matthew and Luke but absent in Mark. This is termed the double tradition. Parables and other sayings predominate in the double tradition, but it also includes narrative elements:

Unlike triple-tradition material, double-tradition material is very differently arranged in the two gospels. Matthew’s lengthy Sermon on the Mount, for example, is paralleled by Luke’s shorter Sermon on the Plain, with the remainder of its content scattered throughout Luke. This is consistent with the general pattern of Matthew collecting sayings into large blocks, while Luke does the opposite and intersperses them with narrative.

Besides the double-tradition proper, Matthew and Luke often agree against Mark within the triple tradition to varying extents, sometimes including several additional verses, sometimes differing by a single word. These are termed the major and minor agreements (the distinction is imprecise). One example is in the passion narrative, where Mark has simply, “Prophesy!”[Mk 14:65] while Matthew and Luke both add, “Who is it that struck you?”[Mt 26:68][Lk 22:64]

The double-tradition’s origin, with its major and minor agreements, is a key facet of the synoptic problem. The simplest hypothesis is that Luke relied on Matthew’s work or vice versa. But many experts, on various grounds, maintain that neither Matthew nor Luke used the other’s work. If this is the case, they must have drawn from some common source, distinct from Mark, that provided the double-tradition material and overlapped with Mark’s content where major agreements occur. This hypothetical document is termed Q, for the German Quelle, meaning “source”.

  The Gospels Compared   


Gospel Focus8 Portrait9 Key Verses10 Lineage Face11 Camp of Israel The Branch12
Matthew Jews King Messiah Mtt. Mat. 1:1; Mat. 16:16; Mat. 20:28 From Abraham (Mtt. Mat. 1:1) Lion (Gen. Gen. 49:9; Rev. Rev. 5:5+) Judah (East) King (Jer. Jer. 23:5-6)
Mark Romans Lowly Servant Mark Mark 1:8; Mark 8:27; Mark 10:45; Mark 15:34 None13 Ox Ephraim (West) Servant (Zec.Zec. 3:8)
Luke Hellenists Son of Man Luke Luke 19:10 From Adam (LukeLuke 3:23) Man (Dan. Dan. 7:13) Reuben (South) Man (Zec.Zec. 6:12)
John Greek World Son of God (Ps. Ps. 2:7; Pr. Pr. 30:4) John John 20:31 From Eternity
(John John 1:1)
Eagle (Gen. Gen. 49:16) Dan (North) Lord (Isa. Isa. 4:2)14

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@ by J. Hampton Keathley, III {original source}


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