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Ronald Price on the Synoptic Problem

The following is a guest post of Ron Price (B.D., University of London) who has taken a lay-person interest in the Synoptic problem and developed his solution from 1994-2006 that is now available on his website linked below.

My recent investigation into the Synoptic Problem started with an assessment of the arguments for the Two-Source Theory and the Farrer Theory, and the realization that there is some truth in both. The primary error made by supporters of the above leading theories has been to assume that all the double tradition came from the same source, for its varied style and outlook suggest rather that some of its pericopes are the result of direct copying between Mt and Lk, and the remainder were taken from an early sayings source.

Luke’s literary connection with Matthew (Mt –> Lk or Lk –> Mt) is attested by hundreds of ‘minor agreements’ in the double tradition, and (what is less well-known) by the agreement of Mt and Lk against Mark in most of the longest verbal agreements between Mt and Lk in the triple tradition. The direction of dependence is attested by the presence of several Mattheanisms in Luke, by some credible contexts in Matthew which are lost in Luke, and by indications of Luke’s ‘fatigue’ when editing Matthew (Goodacre).

The existence of an early collection of aphorisms attributed to Jesus is attested by four independent observations. Firstly all three synoptic gospels contain blocks of aphorisms, where better integration into the narrative would have been expected if they had all been in the writers’ memories. Then there are doublets in both Matthew and Luke, of which one member is dependent on Mark, and the other apparently dependent on a non-synoptic source. Among the aphorisms of which there are versions in both Matthew and Luke (which have already been examined in great detail by Q scholars), sometimes Matthew’s version has the more primitive features, and sometimes Luke’s version has the more primitive features. Lastly there are more than 60 such aphorisms, the majority of which exhibit Semitic parallelism. This is an indication of an early origin, and strongly suggests a written source to facilitate their survival for several decades from the Aramaic-speaking original followers of Jesus until the writings of Matthew and Luke. When we add a few indications of translation errors among the synoptic aphorisms, a source written in Aramaic seems inevitable. It is also consistent with a straightforward interpretation of what Papias is reputed to have said about (the apostle) Matthew and the ‘logia’.

The logia can be reconstructed by starting with the doublets, and using their consistent style and outlook as a template for identifying other aphorisms which probably belonged to the logia. These would be expected to include some synoptic aphorisms from outside the double tradition. When I attempted the reconstruction of an English-language version of the logia, it turned out to be a highly coherent set of 72 sayings arranged in 36 pairs (as hinted at in Luke 10:1?). For more details, start at the following web page:


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