The synoptic project.

Online synopses for the study of the synoptic problem.


About the project.

My synoptic project is a more organized counterpart for my analytic project.

My abiding interest in the synoptic problem has driven me for some time to create Greek synopses on my computer and color-code them for agreements between the three synoptic gospels. I have decided to take this urge online, and to take advantage of web technology at the same time.

My synoptic inventories are designed as gateways to synopses much like those that I color for my own personal use. It is my goal to eventually produce a complete set of online color-coded synopses. If I just had to choose a single color-coding scheme for this project, I would pick the four-color system designed by Stephen Carlson in a heartbeat. Visitors to , however, who do not care for this particular system might find my choice limiting.

Fortunately, thanks to Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript, I do not have to settle for one coding scheme. I am designing my synoptic pages to have a selection of coding systems from which the visitor may choose.

The selection process is, I hope, self-explanatory. Each coding format on the list at the top of the synopsis page is a static link; click it to change the synopsis to the format of your choice. There are also two modes, view and print, and the current selection is specified after the list of coding formats; click the word view to change the page to print mode, and click the word print to change it back to view mode.

The page loads in view mode by default, and the default coding scheme for view mode is the Carlson four-color system. The default coding scheme for print mode is blank (your best choice if you wish to print out the synopsis and color it yourself), but you can select a color-coding format even in print mode, again by clicking a link on the list.

The synoptic and Johannine passages in each synopses will be showcase texts. That is, they will be accented and versified.

Check out any of the following passages and play around with the code-switching options. See what you think. The first, second, and fifth of these pages are not really synopses at all, but are coded nonetheless. The third and fourth, on the other hand, are very involved synopses (each belonging to the so-called Mark-Q overlaps), and ought to give a good indication of what to expect:

Nota bene: It may take your browser a bit of time to load whichever page you choose to view first. From the second page-load onward the time will be shortened, as the style sheets and script libraries will have been already cached on your system.

I plan to offer the following features in my synopses:

  • The synopses will be accessible through my synoptic inventories.
  • Johannine parallels will be covered as well as synoptic passages.
  • The showcase passages from the four canonical gospels will be accented and versified.
  • A (very) rudimentary apparatus will accompany each passage. This apparatus is intended merely to inform the reader of the most significant textual variants in the passage, not to put Bruce Metzger out of business.
  • This apparatus will lead off with a feature that I have never seen used, a list of the manuscripts extant for that particular passage. A tilde ~ will mark those that are only partially extant at that point.
  • Each passage will include the relevant Eusebian sections, a word count, and links to both the previous and the next passages in order.
  • A coded English translation will accompany each passage.
  • After the passages are laid out, notes will follow on a separate page, each distinct entry marked by a section marker §.
  • These notes are not showcase texts; their Greek will be unaccented, their Hebrew unpointed.
  • Synoptic phenomena will be pointed out, including agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark, characteristic vocabulary terms, and repeated or transposed formulae.
  • Parallels from both Jewish and Christian texts will be adduced in the notes.
  • The notes will never be completed. There is always more to annotate. I reserve the right to add more comments at any time.

I plan to loosely prioritize this project, beginning with the triple tradition (though not necessarily in order), proceeding to the double tradition, and finally ending with the rest of the synoptic material. Exceptions are bound to crop up, of course, but such, roughly, is my intent.

One other thing. I use a fairly unique form of synoptic theory-naming devised by Stephen Carlson in my discussions of the synoptic problem. Refer to my page on synoptic nomenclature for a brief discussion.

Synoptic biases.

I may as well at this point divulge my own sensibilities with regard to solutions to the synoptic problem. I endeavor to design both my synopses and my inventories neutrally, making the latter, for example, repetitive instead of privileging the sequence of one gospel over another.

Some of my other pages, however, are designed to test one or more of the standard synoptic theories. My page of agreements, for instance, deals only with Matthew-Luke agreements, paying no attention to Matthew-Mark or Mark-Luke agreements. It is, in other words, intended to test the Mark-Q theory against some of its competitors. It is my intention, however, even on these peripheral pages, to present the data fairly and evenly (treating the so-called Mark-Q overlaps, for example, as agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark so as not to dispose of them by mere sleight of hand).

In my dealings with the synoptic problem I myself have concentrated mainly on the following five potential solutions:

  • Mark-Q (two-source).
  • Mark-Matthew (Farrer).
  • Mark-Q/Matthew (three-source).
  • Matthew-Mark (Augustine).
  • Matthew-Luke (Greisbach).

Some more complicated arrangements merely modify one of these simpler solutions. For example, the four-source theory of Streeter is simply an amplification of Mark-Q.

I have listed these five theories roughly according to my own personal prediliction. I have not yet entirely committed myself to any of the solutions, but I find myself leaning more toward the Mark-Q theory than any other, with Mark-Matthew and Mark-Q/Matthew nipping at its heels. I regard the Matthew-Luke and Matthew-Mark solutions as the least likely of all. (I am, in other words, more convinced of Marcan priority than I am of the existence of Q.)

But all of this may change as I work through my synopses bit by bit.

Update 09-27-2006: I no longer favor the Mark-Q (two-source) theory as it stands. I think I favor some form of the Mark-Q/Matthew (three-source) theory, perhaps with Mark-Matthew in second place.