THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM OF THE GOSPELS



      The special emphasis of Luke is the humanity of Jesus. Like the other gospel writers he represents Jesus as the son of God, but rather features Jesus sympathy for the weak, the suffering and the outcast.
     It is commonly thought that, while each of the gospels was intended ultimately for all mankind, Matthew had in immediate view the Jews mark the Romans, and Luke the Greeks.
     Jewish civilization had been built around their scriptures. Therefore Matthew appeals to their scriptures.
    Roman civilization gloried in the idea of government, power. Therefore Mark calls particular attention to the miracles of Jesus as exhibiting his superhuman power.
    Greek civilization represented culture, philosophy, wisdom, reason, beauty, education. Therefore, to appeal to the thoughtful, cultured, philosophic Greek mind, Luke, in a complete, orderly and classical story, which has been called “the most beautiful book ever written”, depicts the glorious beauty and perfection of Jesus’ life, the ideal, universal man.
   Then, to these three gospels John added his, to make it clear and unmistakable that Jesus was GOD incarnate in human form”.
    Many narratives about Jesus had already appeared, possibly some fragmentary, some more complete, some questionable. Luke carefully and painstakingly examined all authentic records, and consulted all available eyewitnesses and original companions of Jesus, that he might sift out the exact facts.
   In order, not necessarily chronological order though, in the main, we think it is in chronological order.
   Theophilus, to whom this Gospel and the book of Acts are addressed, or dedicated. It may be that he bore the expense of publication, in having copies made for many churches. It is not known who he was. The term “most excellent” indicates that he was a Roman official of high rank. Possibly, he may have been one of Luke’s converts, in Philippi, or Antioch. The author does not name himself. But the use, thus, of the personal pronoun indicates that the original recipients of the book knew who the author was. From the very first, and by unbroken tradition, he has been identified as LUKE.
    Luke is mentioned only three times in the N.T: COL 4:14, where he is called “the beloved physician”; PLN 24, where he was with Paul in the dark hours of approaching martyrdom. In all three passages mention is made also of Mark, indicating that Mark and Luke were companion workers. Luke appears in the personal pronoun in the “we” sections of Acts.
    Quite commonly it is supposed that Luke wrote his gospel about the year 60 A.D, while Paul was in prison in Caesarea; and followed it with the book of Acts during Paul’s Roman imprisonment the two years following; for the two books, addressed to the same person, practically are two volumes of one work. His sojourn in Caesarea afforded him abundant opportunity to get, firsthand, from original companions of JESUS, and first founders of the church, accurate information concerning all details. Jesus’ mother may have been still alive, at John’s home in Jerusalem. Luke may have spent many precious hours with her, listening to her reminiscences of her son. And James, bishop of Jerusalem, Jesus’ own brother, could have told Luke many interesting things.
     When Paul wrote 1Timothy, about 65 A.D, either the Gospel of Luke or Matthew was already in circulation among the churches and recognized as “Scripture”; for Paul quote, as “Scripture” a saying. “The laborer is worthy of his hire”, 1 Tim 5:18, that is found nowhere else in the bible except Mt 10:10 and Luke 10:7
   Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels because they give the same general view of Christ’s life, recording, to some extent, the same things. Their authorship, mutual relations and possible connection with a common original is called the “Synoptic Problem.” By some it is thought that Mark’s was the earliest of the Gospels, and that Matthew enlarged Mark’s and that Luke made use of both. Others think Matthew wrote first, and that Mark made an abridged edition of Matthew’s Gospel. It is not necessary to think that Matthew, Mark or Luke quoted from or in any way made use of the others. The events of Jesus’ life and his sayings were repeated orally for years by the apostles and others and were in common circulation among Christians. They were the substance of the daily preaching of the apostles. It is likely that from the beginning many of these things were written down, some perhaps in a mere fragmentary way, others in more complete form. And when Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote their gospels they chose that which suited their purpose from the fund of knowledge oral or written which was the common possession of and in general circulation among Christians, much of which Matthew had been an eyewitness, and which they themselves had told thousands of times to numberless audiences.