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Synoptic Exercise Instructions

Luke’s Prologue (Luke 1:1-4) indicates that Luke used sources in composing his Gospel. Luke calls them “eyewitnesses” and indicates that he was not one of those eyewitnesses but relied upon them in composing his Gospel. That is, they were “sources” for his Gospel. Because we believe that Luke was inspired by God to write what he did, apparently the use of sources is not incompatible with the belief that the Gospels are both inspired and inerrant.

In the two Synoptic Exercises that follow, you will work directly with the evidence from both the triple tradition (places where Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell the same story), and the double tradition (places where only Matthew and Luke tell the same story), assessing and reflecting on what you discover about the potential sources for the Synoptic Gospels. For example:

• In Synoptic Exercise 1 (triple tradition) you will find, as you might expected, a lot of black (words common to Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Of course, one must account for why they all aren’t black! That is, it’s not just the similarities that call for explanation, but more so the differences. You also find considerable red (words unique to Matthew), blue (words unique to Mark), and pink (words unique to Luke). You might account for that by saying that all three Gospels tell the same story, sometimes using the same words, sometimes different words. But how do account for the green (words common to Mark and Luke but not in Matthew) and purple (words common to Matthew and Mark but not in Luke)? Reflecting on what you discovered in Synoptic Exercise 1, does it appear that one of the Gospels was a source for the other two? If so, which one?

• In Synoptic Exercise 2, you will look at the double tradition (stories shared by Matthew and Luke, but not by Mark). The large amount of orange (words common to Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark) you discover is unsurprising. But how do you account for the red (words unique to Matthew), and pink (words unique to Luke)? Logically, there are three possibilities: (1) Matthew used Luke and added some words of his own; (2) Luke used Matthew and added some words of his own; (3) both Matthew and Luke used a third source and added their own individual words to it. Based on what you discovered in Synoptic Exercise 2, which seems more likely to you?

Once you have completed both coloring exercises and reflected on some of the questions above, you are ready to compose your discussion board thread.

To summarize, this discussion board assignment calls for you to do the following:

1. Using the MS Word text color feature, color the texts for both Synoptic Exercise 1 (triple tradition) and Synoptic Exercise 2 (double tradition) according to the instructions.

2. Reflect on your colored-in assignments. What color patterns did you discover? Any surprises? If so, what? Any thoughts surface as to which Gospel may have been a source for the others? What makes you think so?

3. Compare what you discovered in the coloring exercises to the solutions for the Synoptic Problem you read about in your textbook and heard about in the PointeCast presentation on “The Synoptic Problem.”

4. Choose one of the proposed solutions to the Synoptic Problem that best seems to account for the evidence you discovered in the coloring assignment.

5. Compose a discussion board thread of 400 words minimum in which you (1) present your findings in the coloring exercise; and (2) defend a proposed solution to the Synoptic Problem based on those findings.

6. Upload your completed, colored-in Synoptic Exercises as attachments to your discussion board thread.

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