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A Johannnine Solution

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  • Kym Smith
    Dear Listers, I have just completed a book (hinted at a couple of months ago on the Johannine List) on the Synoptic Problem. The book is titled The Synoptic
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 12, 2007
      Dear Listers,

      I have just completed a book (hinted at a couple of months ago on the Johannine List) on the Synoptic Problem. The book is titled 'The Synoptic Problem: A Johannine Solution.' This is a new approach to the SP which, as the title indicates, includes John in the mix. Not only does John provide the clues to the solution but is, itself, in the mix. It is closest to the Two or Four Source Hypotheses but is neither of those.

      The solution presupposes that the Revelation of John was given before any of the gospels were written; this I have argued elsewhere, here I will only state it. Below is a brief account of the writing of the gospels; anything more can be discussed in additional posts. In short, the solution as I see it is as follows.

      After the Revelation was given in 62, the Gospel of Mark was the first gospel to be written. It was written (mid-late 64 - with Peter being primarily responsible for it) and distributed widely and speedily (by Mark: Rome to Alexandria via Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch and Jeruslaem) to encourage the believers during what the apostles believed would be the last of the last days. They believed that Nero would be unveiled as the beast whom Jesus would destroy before ushering in the new heavens and the new earth. When Nero died and Jesus had not returned, the Church faced a great crisis. If the apostles had been wrong about the timing of Christ's appearing; what else were they wrong about? The reliability of the Christian gospel itself was threatened.

      When John was released from Patmos soon after Nero's death he called a council at Ephesus (September/October 68). Attending were the remaining apostles (I suspect around six) and other eyewitnesses and leaders of the Church. That council realized that the Church might outlast the apostles and other eyewitnesses who, until this time, had been the keepers and tellers of the stories about Jesus. This meant that those who had been guardians of the oral traditions had to commit them to writing to ensure that they would still be available for the continuing Church. There were two reasons for committing what they had taught to writing. Firstly, those things needed to be recorded for the continuing Church. Secondly, something had to be written quickly to encourage the believers at this critical time. What the council resolved to do was to expand Mark, the gospel with which the whole Church was now familiar.

      Following the council, then, those who had been eyewitnesses began to verify and collate those things which they had been teaching until this time. Once that collection (effectively Q) was complete they began adding it to the Markan structure. This expansion I have called AEEMark (Apostles and Eyewitnesses Expansion of Mark). After proceeding for some time, however, for a number of reasons, what was to have been a comprehensive and chronologically ordered gospel was abandoned. In its place, the gathering produced the shorter and more exhortative Gospel of John. John, then, had first use of the material the apostles' had collated (Q). It was completed in late 68 (October or, at the latest, November).

      Once John was completed and while it was being copied and distributed, what remained of the apostles' recollections was divided up between Matthew and Luke, each of whom would produce lesser but still substantial expansions of Mark. Matthew and Luke agreed on what each should use uniquely, the remainder both would use to ensure that between the three later gospels, nothing was omitted of what the apostles and
      others had collated. However, both men were free to adapt the material to fit the particular readerships targeted by their gospels.

      Matthew and Luke returned to their respective homes to write. Both had copies of Mark and John as they wrote and neither needed to duplicate what they knew was already contained in the latter. Similarly, while they used the Markan framework, they were not compelled to include all of the shorter gospel because it would also continue to circulate in its own right. The last two gospels may have been completed by the end of 68 but certainly would have been by early 69. (Luke would have gone on to complete Acts by mid 69).

      It was not considered necessary to preserve Q because all of it was contained in one or more of the three later gospels.


      Kym Smith
      St Luke's Anglican Church
      South Australia

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