rationalist theologian & father of modern literary/historical
analysis of the biblical text. Born in Hesse, Griesbach studied under Johann S. Semler at
Halle (Prussia). He expanded the ms. base of the Greek
NT with mss.
he discovered during extensive travels & published (1774-75) the first revised edition of the
traditional Greek "received
text," complete with an extensive critical
apparatus. He was appointed professor of NT studies at the U of Jena (1775).
In 1776 he published A Synopsis
of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark & Luke, the work that launched modern
gospel studies. Since that time these three gospels have been referred to as
discrepancies between gospel narratives, Griesbach dismissed traditional
attempts to harmonize
these accounts & focused attention on their literary dependence instead.
He accepted J. B. Koppe's observation
that the text of Mark is often closer to Luke. This led him to turn
Augustine's theory that Luke used Matthew
& Mark around and claim that Mark was an uninspired compilation from
Matthew & Luke. In 1789 he published his defense of this thesis as
"A Demonstration that the Whole Gospel of Mark is Excerpted from the
Narratives of Matthew & Luke" (Commentatio Qua Marci Evangelium
totum e Matthaei et Lucae commentariis decerptum esse monstratur). In
the 19th c. Griesbach's thesis was championed by his student, W.
L. de Wette. After years of
neglect it was revived in 1964 by the American scholar, W. R.
Farmer as "the Two Gospel
Demonstration, Griesbach summed up his argument as follows:
This is a summary of the thesis we
When writing his book, Mark
had not only Matthew but also Luke positioned before his eyes;
and from these (texts) he
excerpted whatever deeds, speeches and sayings of the Savior he committed
so that mainly & most
often he followed Matthew as a guide;
yet sometimes, leaving Matthew, he allied himself with Luke;
where he would stick to
Matthew's tracks, he still would not let Luke out of his eyesight, but
would compare him with Matthew and vice-versa;
he would try to be brief, as
he wanted to write a book with minimum mass; So not only did he leave out
what was not pertinent to the role of teacher, which the Lord performed in
public..., he also passed over several of Christ's wordier speeches.
Furthermore, ...he kept in
mind his readers: that is, people far from Palestine, among whom the
maxims & customs of Palestinian Jews, especially the Pharisees, were
not well known, nor were necessary to know; so, partly for this reason,
he would cut out some
things found in Matthew or Luke that were meant only for Jews,
especially those in Palestine, or fit their way of thinking...,
he would be stingier in
citing OT passages...,
he would add things that
he thought necessary as illustration or useful for his readers to
understand the narrative....
Griesbach's view, Mark worked like a cross between a researcher & a
Reader's Digest editor to produce for non-Jewish readers a single condensed
version of two books, adding only minor details & 24 new sentences to
passages quoted from his sources. Other scholars, like J. G.
Herder, were not persuaded that this presented a realistic picture of how ancient
[For full text
& further information see J. J. Griesbach: Synoptic and text- critical
studies 1776-1976 (ed. by B. Orchard & T. R. W. Longstaff) Cambridge:
Cambridge U. Press, 1978. The passage translated here from Latin is found on
[For a detailed
analysis & appraisal of Griesbach's hypothesis, see C. M. Tuckett, The
Revival of the Griesbach Hypothesis, Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1983].
Other On-line Resources