External Evidence and the Synoptic Problem

2:36 PM I continue to be fascinated by the synoptic problem. My book Why Four Gospels? examines different elements that play an essential role in resolving this question.

My position is based on two foundational pillars: the external evidence provided by the earliest fathers that Matthew was the first of the canonical Gospels, and the internal evidence that suggests Mark is a conflation of Matthew and Luke (Orchard called this the “zigzagging effect”). I have yet to see a refutation of the external evidence. Most scholars reject the patristic testimony as being of little or no value for source-critical research. Since the internal evidence can never be probative (it can never prove anything about the sequence or interrelationships of the Gospels), it would seem that Gospel scholars would be all the more willing to take the external evidence into account. Whatever option is ultimately preferred, the internal evidence ought to be supplemented by considerations about the empirical circumstances under which the traditions about Jesus were developed in the earliest church. It may be that future generations of New Testament students will perform this task. If they don’t, I predict very little progress in this great area of research. I would dare to hope that my re-examination of the leading church fathers will offer some helpful suggestions for the next generation of scholars.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)