Post Author: Bill Pratt
In part 1 we looked at Professor of New Testament Daniel Wallace’s first two arguments for the interdependence of the synoptic gospels (the first three gospels). Now we pick up with his third and fourth arguments.
The third argument is the agreement in parenthetical material. Wallace quotes Robert H. Stein, who wrote, “One of the most persuasive arguments for the literary interdependence of the synoptic Gospels is the presence of identical parenthetical material, for it is highly unlikely that two or three writers would by coincidence insert into their accounts exactly the same editorial comment at exactly the same place.”
Wallace gives examples of these parenthetical statements:
One of the most striking of these demonstrates, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the use of written documents: “When you see the desolating sacrilege . . . (let the reader understand) . . . ” (Matt 24:15/Mark 13:14). It is obvious that this editorial comment could not be due to a common oral heritage, for it does not say, “let the hearer understand.” Compare also Matt 9:6/Mark 2:10/Luke 5:24; Matt 27:18/Mark 15:10.
The fourth argument is Luke’s preface:
Luke begins his gospel in a manner similar to ancient historians: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative . . . it seemed good to me also . . . to write an orderly account for you . . . .” In the least this implies two things: (1) Luke was aware of written (and oral) sources based on eyewitness accounts; (2) Luke used some of these sources in the composition of his gospel.
Wallace again quotes Robert Stein to summarize what conclusions come from these four arguments:
We shall see later that before the Gospels were written there did exist a period in which the gospel materials were passed on orally, and it is clear that this oral tradition influenced not only the first of our synoptic Gospels but the subsequent ones as well. As an explanation for the general agreement between Matthew-Mark-Luke, however, such an explanation is quite inadequate. There are several reasons for this.
For one the exactness of the wording between the synoptic Gospels is better explained by the use of written sources than oral ones. Second, the parenthetical comments that these Gospels have in common are hardly explainable by means of oral tradition. This is especially true of Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14, which addresses the readers of these works! Third and most important, the extensive agreement in the memorization of the gospel traditions by both missionary preachers and laypeople is conceded by all, it is most doubtful that this involved the memorization of a whole gospel account in a specific order. Memorizing individual pericopes, parables, and sayings, and even small collections of such material, is one thing, but memorizing a whole Gospel of such material is something else. The large extensive agreement in order between the synoptic Gospels is best explained by the use of a common literary source. Finally, as has already been pointed out, whereas Luke 1:2 does refer to an oral period in which the gospel materials were transmitted, Luke explicitly mentions his own investigation of written sources.