The forthcoming semester is my final one in the Master of Theology (ThM) program at Western Seminary (though I plan on taking some additional courses the next couple of semesters). All I need to do is finish my thesis (almost done!) and take one more class. I decided to do an individualized study on the Synoptic Problem after Mike Suh commented on this blog saying, ” I think if you want to do good work on the Synoptics, whether it’s Christology, Historical Jesus research, etc., you should get a better handle on the Synoptic Problem itself.” This sold me and I am beginning my research now.

One of the books that I am reading on the subject is Mark Goodacre’s (free!) The Synoptic Problem. In the first chapter he lists the most common proposed solutions to the Synoptic Problem. I’ll list and summarize them here, then I’d like to hear which one you think makes the most sense:


The Two-Source Theory:

This is the most popular theory. It postulates that both Matthew and Luke used Mark and a hypothetical sayings source known as “Q”. Mark has priority among the Synoptic Gospels.

While I understand why this is the most popular theory (it seems to explain things quite well) there is that nagging problem of Q’s non-existence. Also, it has been rightly asked if Q explains the data better than Luke having access to Matthew and adjusting Matthew as well.


The Farrer Theory: 

This theory argues that both Matthew and Luke used Mark, but it goes further by saying that Luke used Matthew as well. Mark has priority again.

I admit that I tend to favor this view. I’m not sure that we need Q, but I am a novice so I’m open to hearing why Q may be important.

If you are a proponent of Q what are your reasons?


The Griesbach Theory: 

This theory gives priority to Matthew. Luke used Matthew. Mark reduces both gospels for his own. This theory would come close to matching the Patristic argument for Matthian priority.

This has one thing in its favor: the early church argued that Matthew was earliest. But does it make sense of the internal data? That is where many argue it is weakened.



The Augustinian Theory:

This theory is said to go back to Augustine of Hippo. It gives Matthew priority. Mark used Matthew and Luke uses both Matthew and Mark.

Like the last theory is has the support of history, since the early church argued for Matthian priority, but does it match the internal data?

OK, so let me know which theory you find explains the most and why.