The generic name given to writers of the three gospels, of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, since these gospels can be printed in three parallel columns and compared, whereas the gospel of John stands apart in chronology, content, and theology. Because the three synoptists have so much in common, it has been a major task of NT critics to try to solve the ‘synoptic problem’ and to determine their relationships. Who borrowed from whom? The most widely accepted theory is that Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke reproduced Mark in their gospels. This still leaves a great deal of material in Matthew and Luke which is not in Mark, and the majority view is that both evangelists had access to a body of Jesus' teaching (‘*Q’), which they added to the material they had taken from Mark; this theory is called the Two Document Hypothesis. Finally, both Matthew and Luke had independent traditions of Jesus' birth and infancy which they prefaced to their gospels and material about the resurrection at the end, as well as some other items (e.g. in Matt.'s Passion Narrative). The examination of the different orders and the verbal alterations (both additions and omissions) in the common material enables Redaction Critics to formulate the theological stance of each evangelist. Scholars who reject the Q hypothesis propose what they maintain is a simpler solution, that Luke knew and made use of both Mark and Matthew. The Griesbach hypothesis, that Mark is an abbreviation of Matthew and Luke, has also won a few modern advocates. The synoptists filled the gap which resulted from the death of the Twelve and other immediate followers of Jesus. They provided in literary form his authority by telling the stories of his life and teaching which were preserved in the local communities.
Subjects: Biblical Studies.