Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Synoptics and John

I'm going to piggyback on a recent post by Jason Engwer. Critics stress the differences between John and the Synoptics. They act as though it's problematic that John is so different than the Synoptics. But that really has it backwards. Framing the issue that way is misleading and counterintuitive.

What's striking is not that John is so different, but that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are so similar. The conventional explanation is that Matthew and Luke use Mark. They adopt and adapt his basic plot, repeating many of the same incidents–in the same order. 

By contrast, we'd expect two (or more) independent accounts to be very different from each other. That's not surprising. That doesn't require a special explanation. And that, of itself, doesn't call into question their historicity. 

To take a few examples, consider the difference between a Civil War account by a Southern General and a Northern general. Or between a general and a foot soldier. Or between observers (or participants) in Virginia, Missouri, and South Carolina. 

Or consider the difference between a WWII account by an American soldier and a Japanese soldier. Or between a participant in the Pacific theater and the European theater. Or between someone in the navy, air force, or infantry.  

These will all be dramatically different. They could all be equally historical. 

Admittedly, the Civil War–not to mention WWII–was on a far larger scale that Christ's two or three-year ministry in Palestine. But I use these examples to illustrate how dramatic differences between independent historical accounts are par for the course.

No comments:

Post a Comment