A Synopsis of the Synoptic Gospels
by Richard K. Moore
The term ‘Synoptic Gospels’ refers to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In terms of organization and content these Gospels have a much closer relationship to one another than any one of them has with the Gospel of John. The question of how they relate to one another is referred to as the Synoptic Question, or the Synoptic Problem.
In 1774 Johann Jakob Griesbach created the first adequate means of comparing the three Synoptic Gospels, appending it to his edition of the Greek New Testament. In 1776 he published it separately, designating this work a ‘synopsis.’
A Synopsis of the Synoptic Gospels originated as a consequence of the intensive work of three Western Australian researchers on the four Gospels in Greek in 1987 and 1988. Over the following decades the synopsis of the Synoptic Gospels they developed was further refined until it reached the form presented in this volume.
The Greek text in A Synopsis of the Synoptic Gospels draws on Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (282012), while the English text uses my Under the Southern Cross: The New Testament in Australian English (22021).
A feature of a synopsis is that if the prompts are followed (in the present case the Gospel references at the head of each section that are in bold) each Gospel may be read through in order in its entirety. We may refer to this as the ‘vertical’ feature of a synopsis.
Importantly, a synopsis also has a ‘horizontal’ aspect. The Gospel text is placed in one, two, or three columns. Material placed in a single column is material unique to the Gospel concerned. Material placed in two columns indicates that two Gospels have events or teaching (or both) in the two Gospels named. Similarly, where similar material is found in three Gospels, it is placed in three columns (referred to as the ‘triple tradition’). Because the order of the material in the Synoptic Gospels varies, it is often necessary to repeat material for comparative purposes. In the dual and triple traditions, material that is in order for a Gospel or Gospels has the biblical reference in bold, while the biblical reference/s of parallel material not in order is shown in regular type.
A synopsis of the Synoptic Gospels is an invaluable tool for comparing and studying the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. From such study it is possible to gain an appreciation of the emphases and perspectives each of these authors brings to their account of the life and teaching of Jesus the Messiah.