When people talk about Jesus and even biblical accounts of Jesus, they often imagine a single comprehensive narrative. Reading the text in light of source criticism will likely give you a different impression.
At this stage in our study, I want you to not only read the text, but also to note what you are observing and what you are wondering as you do so.
This chart contains 16 major episodes or pericopes found across the gospel accounts traditionally referred to as Matthew, Mark, and Luke. When seen together, you will see that in many ways they overlap (contra the Gospel of John and other known gospels). Hence scholars call these gospels the “Synoptic Gospels (Gk. syn— together, ospethai— to be seen).” But comparing the texts synoptically also reveals some of the differences in the gospel accounts.
I want you to compare treatments of these pericopes, working horizontally (that is, a single pericope as treated in all of the gospels). Write down enough in each square that you can see similarities and differences in the accounts without having to re-read/re-write the entire pericope. If a square does not list any verses, then that particular pericope is not represented in the gospel.
Once you complete the chart, I want you to develop a working theory of composition that explains the similarities and differences in each account. Do not read commentaries or rely on secondary resources that presume to know details of the text or author’s background. (These presumptions are disrupted anyway.) Your theory is based upon a methodical study of your synoptic chart. Be creative, but remember Ockam’s Razor:
Once you’re done, check out the following discussion of the Synoptic Problem by Duke University professor Mark Goodacre over at Bible Odyssey.
Then come back here and look at some of the solutions that scholars have proposed. (Don’t peek!)
In your interactive notebook, make a diagram for your solution and copy down diagrams and explanations of the ones presented above. Then I want you to discuss which of the “professional” solutions is closest to the one you devised as well as where does your’s agrees and departs? You need not write anymore than is in the captions.