This Synoptic Gospels Primer is designed for students in college level
courses on the gospels or anyone else interested in the "Synoptic
Problem." It was created for undergraduate
New Testament courses at Rutgers University (New Brunswick campuses).
A Synoptic Gospels Primer
is an electronic gateway for English speakers into the history
of literary analysis of gospels that were originally composed in
Greek. For those who can read or at least decipher some New Testament
Greek, this e-textbook includes a sample Greek synopsis
based on the Nestle-Aland critical edition used by modern biblical scholars. Yet, knowledge of Greek
is not required for most of the pages of this electronic text, since the thread on which
constructed is an English version of the gospels.
The English translation used for
the sample synopsis is the Revised Standard Version, coded in machine readable format
by Robert A. Kraft of the University of Pennsylvania & posted in a
searchable SGML edition by the
of Michigan Library. Many newer
versions are in circulation, but the RSV's literal translation of the Greek,
unmodified for political correctness, still makes it one of the best versions
for comparing parallel passages in English. The author of this site is
responsible for arranging the gospel texts in parallel tables with matched
columns, a format learned as editorial assistant to Robert W. Funk in
producing New Gospel Parallels (Sonoma CA: Polebridge Press, 1990).
Remember that any English biblical text is only a
translation. Judgments based on word for word comparisons of the gospels are
ultimately valid only if they are made from the Greek text, taking into
consideration all the ms. variants. As
in any translation, the English equivalents here cannot represent the form
& connotations of every Greek word exactly. Sometimes different forms of a
Greek verb in 2 versions of the same passage are represented by the same
English verb. The RSV, like most other translations, regularly renders Mark's
chaotic alternation of tenses as simple past tenses. Occasionally, therefore,
this author has taken the liberty of "correcting" the RSV wording by
presenting a more literal English rendering of the Greek. Yet, the RSV committee's
decision not to polish the biblical authors' style to make it read smoother is
the factor that makes this version good for introducing an audience,
unequipped to handle Greek, to careful comparison of parallel passages in the
It is in this sense only that this
text is a "primer." Otherwise, it is a gateway to advanced biblical
research. It is designed to go beyond the usual superficial discussion of the
synoptic problem found in most introductions to the NT by giving students
hands on experience in confronting the range of factors that need to be taken
into consideration in accounting for the literary relationship of the first
Hypertext links & true color
computer processing permit instructional aids that are either impossible or
cost-prohibitive in print media. Color-coding enables the relationship of
passages to be compared at a glance. Electronic links between related material
enable the student to see what the experienced scholar sees rather than just
accept his word for it.
The Hyper-Glossary provides
mini-essays on important topics presupposed by current gospel research, so the
neophyte need not feel like an outsider to the arguments of biblical experts.
These essays form a web of interrelated topics designed to put the elements of
gospel scholarship into historical perspective.
These pages form a self-contained
text. The author originally hoped to provide most information through links to
established websites, but soon found that electronic publishing is too
ephemeral to rely on information provided by other servers. To further the
cause of research in cyberspace, however, links to a number of related
websites are included at the end of glossary essays. More will be provided as
they are found.
Constructive criticism of this project & leads to additional resources on
the internet are greatly appreciated.