Dating synoptic gospels


The hypothesis of mutual dependence seeks to solve the Synoptic problem for the most part on the basis of the docu- ments as they now lie before us. Griesbach supposed that Matthew wrote his gospel in Greek from his own knowledge of the facts. In this way a compendium was prepared for readers who were unacquainted with Jewish conditions and views.

Mark's own additions, however, prove that he was familiar with Jerusalem, and was in a position to add vivid touches. Other advocates of this theory have postulated a different sequence for the evan- gelical writers, but usually there is a tendency to date the present gospels earlier than is done by the adherents of the previous hypothesis. Griesbach's conclusion as to the secondary char- acter of Mark and as to its relatively late date has continued to reappear at intervals during the last one hundred years. Still another proposal for explaining the relationship between the Synoptic Gospels received its classic formulation during the selfsame years of the early nineteenth century.

Synoptic Gospels

Gieseler devel- oped the theory that our gospels proceed not from written sources, but that they arose in dependence upon an oral gospel which very early took on a more or less fixed and ordered form. He believed that when this gospel passed out from Palestine it necessarily assumed a Greek dress, but that even then the need for writing would perhaps first be felt during the period of conflict with heretical teachers. The decade of the thirties in the last century proved to be an extremely important epoch for synoptic study.

By this time the three hypotheses mentioned above had been fully developed, and all was in readiness for a fresh advance. At this juncture Schleiermacher pointed out that the Matthew of which Papias spoke, and which he said was written in Hebrew, must be distinguished from our first canonical gospel, which can only be regarded as a later rescension of this earlier work.

In the same way he believed that the Mark of Papias was less com- plete, less well ordered, than our present gospel. His conten- tion regarding Matthew has continued to find increasing favor, whereas his conclusion regarding Mark was. This position was defended in the same year by Wilke, who in a voluminous work espoused the priority of Mark on the basis of literary relation- ship. He directed especial attention to the style of the evan- gelists and to the particular motives that were traceable in each.

Meanwhile Strauss in so developed the oral hypothe- sis as to make the gospels to be in large measure the late products of a myth-forming ecclesiastical consciousness. The fresh stimulus that was given to New Testament study through the rise of the Tubingen school promised for a time to work a marked change in opinion as to the dates of the Synoptic Gospels.

There were indications that they were to be swept away from their old moorings and carried far down into the second century. Mark was looked upon by Baur as the latest of the Synoptists, while Luke was regarded not as the source of Marcion's Gospel but as a Catholicized version of the same, composed about the middle of the second century.

Matthew, the oldest of the Synoptists, was believed to be the outcome of a long process of literary development and was held to have attained its present form during the Jewish rebellion under Hadrian. These extreme conclusions were soon considerably modified by the adherents of the Tubingen school itself. First of all Luke was restored to his rightful position, and Marcion was made to be dependent upon him. Then Mark was given his accustomed place between Matthew and Luke, or was even made to be the earliest gospel Volkmar and Ritschl.

Hilgenfeld, a distin- guished member of the Tubingen school, so far departed from the original positions of Baur as to bring back Matthew and Mark into the first century and to date Luke from to The effect of the Tubingen movement outside its own imme- diate circle was to call forth a re-affirmation and recombination of the several hypotheses that have already been reviewed.

During the remain- ing years of the century one can trace a growing unanimity in these conclusions,- as well as in the belief that all three Synoptic Gospels were written during the last thirty years of the first century, although a few scholars still continued to keep the first decade of the second open for Matthew and Luke. In the present century we are witnessing important develop- ments in Synoptic study that have a very direct bearing upon the question of date.

In some ways the activity of the last ten years has a striking resemblance to what was taking place eighty years ago.

Where the Bible speaks for itself

Once more the time seems to have come for the taking up of new problems and the retesting of old conclusions. Up to few believers in the priority of Mark had been inclined to make him depend upon written sources, not, at least, aside from the apocalyptic section in the thirteenth chapter, and there was no general agreement that it was necessary to do so even here. It is true that for fifty years Bernhard Weiss had steadfastly asserted Mark's dependence upon an earlier discourse source and that Prof. Wendt of Jena had for some time advanced the theory that the second evangelist made use of several independent documents representing distinct groups of Petrine tradition, and that the late Prof, von Soden felt that a Petrine source could be separated from later material.

On the other hand, such scholars as Jiilicher and Wernle in their widely used books defended the essential unity and originality of Mark as regards written sources, and Prof. Schmiedel, in his famous Encyclopaedia Britannica article, gave it as his opinion in that the use of such sources in Mark could not be raised above the level of conjecture except at a few points. In that very year, however, a book appeared that impelled New Testament workers to investigate afresh the historical char- acter and origin of this gospel.

I refer to Wrede's "Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien" One of its first results was to hasten the publication of "Das Alteste Evan- gelium" by Johannes Weiss.

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In this book it is maintained that while Mark represents the earliest attempt to present the Apos- tolic gospel in the form of a narrative of Jesus' life, and while it must be dated from 64 to 67, still it affords clear evidence of being based on traditions that had already to some extent assumed written form. His position is characterized by a particularly high estimate of Mark.

This writing he believes owes its preservation to the sanctity that had come to attach to it by reason of its age. Otherwise it would have disappeared when the other Synoptic Gospels, which were more to the mind of the times, came into existence. Its narrative material gives evidence of having taken shape after a considerable course from mouth to mouth and was probably first written down in Aramaic at Jerusalem.

Wellhausen thinks that there are sections in the gospel that are secondary as regards their historical character, but he doubts whether it is possible to carry out any literary analysis or trace stages of revision. At that very time, however, this task was being undertaken by Wendling in a novel and very elaborate manner , A little later Loisy worked out a different analysis in the two stout volumes of his commentary, while Prof.

Bacon quite inde- pendently undertook the same task in his briefer work entitled "The Beginnings of Gospel History. Possibly Wellhausen 's greatest service to synoptic study was the setting forth in a manner that was altogether new of the evi- dence for the Palestinian and Aramaic background for our Synoptic Gospels.

Abbott had for some time previously been seeking to establish the existence of an original Hebrew document back of our first three gospels, and others had championed similar theories. But their work was not influencing opinion to any marked degree. Dalman's "Worte Jesu" left the situation largely unchanged.

So much was this true that it was possible for Wernle to say at the close of the last century that the evidences of an Aramaic original in the Synoptic Gospels were negligible, and at the opening of the new century Schmiedel could still claim that the evidence in Mark sufficed only to show "that he wrote a kind of Jewish Greek that he had derived from reading the LXX. He bases his view not so much on single phrases and isolated examples as upon a combination of facts that prove the presence of an underlying Semitic syntax and style. He admits that this might possibly come through oral tradition but believes that it can be better understood as resulting from the use of a written document.

Thus what had often been conjectured in the past was at last given a really scientific standing.

Dating the New Testament

It will be a distinct advance in synoptic study if it shall be possible, as I believe it eventually will, to add to the fact of Mark's priority the no less certain conclusion of his dependence on or use of Aramaic sources. The theory of an early date for this gospel will naturally be favored by such a consideration. IV Up to the present it may be said that the dates of the Synop- tists have been determined as a rule in the first instance by theories regarding their origin, and secondly, on the ground of internal evidence.

In the latter case most reliance has usually been put upon allusions in the apocalyptic sections that seem to presuppose the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish state.

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Your email address will not be published. First, that the vocabulary of Lk When judging the historical reliability of the gospels, scholars ask if the accounts in the gospels are, when judged using normal standards that historians use on other ancient writings, reliable or not. That is to say, it is his belief that, whereas Matthew may have been written shortly after or before this event, the other Synoptic Gospels antedate the death of Paul. A difference of fifty, or even of thirty years, may result in carrying us out of the days of the apostles ' activity to the age of their successors, from those who could speak from experience to those who were entirely dependent upon tradition.

Such items of evidence are, however, always beset by the difficulty that the sections in question are largely couched in the ambiguous language of older prophecy. Again, it is not easy to make out a clear and convincing case if one puts his dependence upon single isolated passages that are supposed to mirror the life and practice of later days.

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No more can this be done when the conclusion is grounded upon such general con- siderations as the supposed Paulinism of Mark or, in the case of the other gospels, the supposed evidence for the presence of a spirit and atmosphere that could be found only in the post- Apostolic age. Under these circumstances it is not strange that the most notable contributions to the discussion of synoptic dates have come of late from those who put their chief reliance upon the data afforded by the Book of Acts. It is evident that if assured conclusions can be attained here, our problem will be largely solved so far as a terminus ad quern is concerned, since Acts was certainly written later than the third gospel and in all probability later than Matthew.

Just when Moffatt was writing in his New Testament Intro- duction "that the roots of the historical literature of the New Testament lie in the same period with the correspondence of Paul, though the flowers bloom side by side with the later homilies," Harnack was penning the last lines of his small volume entitled "Neue "Untersuchungen zur Apostelgeschichte und zur Abf assungzeit der Synoptischen Evangelien, ' ' in which all the gospel literature, blade, ear and full grain in the ear, is carried back into the period prior to the destruction of Jeru- salem.

That is to say, it is his belief that, whereas Matthew may have been written shortly after or before this event, the other Synoptic Gospels antedate the death of Paul. In England, at about the same time, Archdeacon Allen main- tained a like theory for Luke-Acts and a still earlier date than Harnack 's for Mark and Matthew. Meanwhile here in America Prof. Torrey was engaged in studies that have resulted thus far in two publications, one being a monograph issued last year, in which he advocates 64 as the date of Acts and 60, or sometime prior to 61, for the third gospel.

Harvard Theological Studies, I. In themselves such views are by no means without precedent, but they possess an entirely new importance because of the scholarly investigations of which they are the direct outcome and by reason of the fact that in the case of the Book of Acts two distinct lines of approach converge toward the same goal.

Harnack in his earlier writings continued to assign Acts to the reign of Titus or the opening years of Domitian, but in , not without some previous intimation that a change was impend- ing, he carried it back to the closing days of Paul's Roman imprisonment. Our present purpose requires only that we should note the consequences of this decision for synoptic chronology. Once Harnack felt that Luke's prologue, with its reference to many predecessors in the field of evangelical history, demanded that at least fifty years must have elapsed since the crucifixion.

He now believes that thirty-three would answer equally well. As for the first, he now doubts whether any passage goes beyond an announcement of what is impending, and as for the second difficulty, he is convinced that divergent accounts of the resurrection appearances may well have had their origin in an early period, indeed that they can be better explained on such a basis. Harnack feels the further necessity of bringing his conclusions into accord with the earliest tradi- tion regarding the origin of the gospels.

Mark and the Synoptic Gospels

Dating the Synoptic Gospels. Assumption A Matthew and Luke used Mark as a major source. View No. 1: Mark written in the 50s or early 60s a.d. (1) Matthew. The question of the date of the Synoptic Gospels is one of much importance for the student of Christian origins. These records are the chief sources of our.

This he is enabled to do by accepting Eev. John Chapman 's interpretation of Irenaeus, which makes that Father give no information as to when the Synoptic Gospels were written. In this manner all hindrances to the dating of Mark in the sixth decade and the Discourse Source about 50, or earlier, are removed.

At first Harnack 's revolutionary reconstruction was looked upon by many as a jeu d' esprit, and doubtless is so regarded still by not a few.