Authorship of the Johannine works
The authorship of the Johannine works—the Gospel of John, Epistles of John, the Book of Revelation—has been debated by scholars since at least the 2nd century AD. The main debate centers on who authored the writings, which of the writings, if any, can be ascribed to a common author. There may have been a single author for the three epistles. Tradition attributes all the books to John the Apostle. Most scholars agree that all three letters are written by the same author, although there is debate on who that author is. Although some scholars conclude the author of the epistles was different from that of the gospel, all four works originated from the same community and plausibly attributed to Ephesus, c. 90-110, but according to some scholars, from Syria. Some scholars, argue that the apostle John wrote none of these works, although others, notably J. A. T. Robinson, F. F. Bruce, Leon Morris, Martin Hengel hold the apostle to be behind at least some, in particular the gospel. In the case of Revelation, many modern scholars agree that it was written by a separate author, John of Patmos, c. 95 with some parts dating to Nero's reign in the early 60s.
While evidence regarding the author is slight, some scholars believe this gospel developed from a school or Johannine circle working at the end of the 1st century in Ephesus. Most 19th-century scholars denied historical value of the work basing their conclusions on seven particular theses: first, that the tradition of authorship by John the Apostle was created ex post facto to support the book's authority; some 19th-century scholars, agreed with the traditional authorship view. In favor of the historical and eyewitness character of the Gospel, a few passages are cited. John's chronology for the death of Jesus seems more realistic, because the Synoptic Gospels would have the trial before the Sanhedrin occurring on the first day of the Passover, a day of rest. Schonfield agrees that the Gospel was the product of the Apostle's great age, but further identifies him as the Beloved Disciple of the Last Supper, so believes that the Gospel is based on first hand witness, though decades and through the assistance of a younger follower and writer, which may account for the mixture of Hebraicisms and Greek idiom.
Fredriksen sees the Fourth Gospel's unique explanation for Jesus' arrest and crucifixion as the most plausible: "The priests' motivation is clear and commonsensical:'If we let go on.. The Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.' Caiaphas continues,'It is expedient that one man should die for the people, that the whole nation not perish'. Most scholars agree that all three letters are written by the same author, although there is debate on who that author is; these three epistles are similar in terminology and general situation. They may result from that gospel's theology; these epistles are accepted as deriving from the Johannine community in Asia Minor. Early references to the epistles, the organization of the church apparent in the text, the lack of reference to persecution suggests that they were written early in the 2nd century; the phraseology of the first letter of John is similar to that of the fourth gospel, so the question of its authorship is connected to the question of authorship of the gospel.
The two works use many of the same characteristic words and phrases, such as light, life, truth, a new commandment, to be of the truth, to do the truth and only begotten son. In both works, the same basic concepts are explored: the Word, the incarnation, the passing from death to life, the truth and lies, etc; the two works bear many stylistic affinities to one another. In the words of Amos Wilder, the works share "a combination of simplicity and elevation which differs from the flexible discourse of Paul and from the more concrete vocabulary and formal features of the Synoptic Gospels."Given the similarity with the Gospel, the "great majority" of critical scholars assign the same authorship to the epistle that they assign to the Gospel. At the end of the 19th century, scholar Ernest DeWitt Burton was able to write that, "the similarity in style and doctrine to the fourth gospel is, however, so marked that there can be no reasonable doubt that the letter and the gospel are from the same pen."
Starting with Heinrich Julius Holtzmann and continuing with C. H. Dodd, some scholars have maintained that the epistle and the gospel were written by different authors. There are at least two principal arguments for this view; the first is that the epistle uses a demonstrative pronoun at the beginning of a sentence a particle or conjunction, followed by an explanation or definition of the demonstrative at the end of the sentence, a stylistic technique, not used in the gospel. The second is that the author of the epistle, "uses the conditional sentence in a variety of rhetorical figures which are unknown to the gospel."The book was not among those whose canonicity was in doubt, according to Eusebius.
A biblical manuscript is any handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Bible. Biblical manuscripts vary in size from tiny scrolls containing individual verses of the Jewish scriptures to huge polyglot codices containing both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, as well as extracanonical works; the study of biblical manuscripts is important because handwritten copies of books can contain errors. The science of textual criticism attempts to reconstruct the original text of books those published prior to the invention of the printing press; the Aleppo Codex and Leningrad Codex were once the oldest known Hebrew language manuscripts of the Tanakh. In 1947 CE the finding of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran pushed the manuscript history of the Tanakh back a millennium from the two earliest complete codices. Before this discovery, the earliest extant manuscripts of the Old Testament were in Greek in manuscripts such as Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. Out of the 800 manuscripts found at Qumran, 220 are from the Tanakh.
Every book of the Tanakh is represented except for the Book of Esther. Notably, there are two scrolls of the Book of Isaiah, one complete, one around 75% complete; these manuscripts date between 150 BCE to 70 CE. The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work of literature, with over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts catalogued, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Gothic, Ethiopic and Armenian; the dates of these manuscripts range from c. 125 to the introduction of printing in Germany in the 15th century. In monasteries, a manuscript cache was little more than a former manuscript recycling centre, where imperfect and incomplete copies of manuscripts were stored while the monastery or scriptorium decided what to do with them. There were several options; the first was to "wash" the manuscript and reuse it. Such reused manuscripts were called palimpsests and were common in the ancient world until the Middle Ages.
One notable palimpsest is the Archimedes Palimpsest. If not done within a short period of time after the papyri was made, washing it was less since the papyri might deteriorate and thus be unusable; when washing was no longer an option, the second choice was burning. Since the manuscripts contained the words of Christ, they were thought to have had a level of sanctity; the third option was to leave them in. When scholars come across manuscript caches, such as at Saint Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai, or Saint Sabbas Monastery outside Bethlehem, they are finding not libraries but storehouses of rejected texts sometimes kept in boxes or back shelves in libraries due to space constraints; the texts were unacceptable because of their scribal errors and contain corrections inside the lines evidence that monastery scribes compared them to a master text. In addition, texts thought to be complete and correct but that had deteriorated from heavy usage or had missing folios would be placed in the caches.
Once in a cache and humidity would contribute to the continued deterioration of the documents. Complete and correctly-copied texts would be placed in use and so wore out quickly, which required frequent recopying. Manuscript copying was costly when it required a scribe's attention for extended periods so a manuscript might be made only when it was commissioned; the size of the parchment, script used, any illustrations and whether it was one book or a collection of several would be determined by the one commissioning the work. Stocking extra copies would have been considered wasteful and unnecessary since the form and the presentation of a manuscript were customized to the aesthetic tastes of the buyer. Due to the prevalence of manuscript caches, scholars today are more to find incomplete and sometimes conflicting segments of manuscripts rather than complete and consistent works; the task of copying manuscripts was done by scribes who were trained professionals in the arts of writing and bookmaking.
Some manuscripts were proofread, scholars examining a text can sometimes find the original and corrections found in certain manuscripts. In the 6th century, a special room devoted to the practice of manuscript writing and illumination called the scriptorium came into use inside medieval European monasteries. Sometimes a group of scribes would make copies at the same time as one individual read from the text. An important issue with manuscripts is preservation; the earliest New Testament manuscripts were written on papyrus, made from a reed that grew abundantly in the Nile Delta. This tradition continued as late as the 8th century. Papyrus becomes brittle and deteriorates with age; the dry climate of Egypt allowed some papyrus manuscripts to be preserved, with the exception of P 77, no New Testament papyrus manuscript is complete. Beginning in the fourth century, parchment began to be a common medium for New Testament manuscripts, it wasn't until the twelfth century that paper, inve
Midrash is biblical exegesis by ancient Judaic authorities, using a mode of interpretation prominent in the Talmud. Midrash and rabbinic readings "discern value in texts and letters, as potential revelatory spaces," writes the Reverend and Hebrew scholar Wilda C. Gafney. "They reimagine dominant narratival readings while crafting new ones to stand alongside—not replace—former readings. Midrash asks questions of the text; such works contain early interpretations and commentaries on the Written Torah and Oral Torah, as well as non-legalistic rabbinic literature and Jewish religious laws, which form a running commentary on specific passages in the Hebrew Scripture."Midrash" if capitalized, can refer to a specific compilation of these rabbinic writings composed between 400 and 1200 CE. According to Gary Porson and Jacob Neusner, "midrash" has three technical meanings: 1) Judaic biblical interpretation; the Hebrew word midrash is derived from the root of the verb darash, which means "resort to, seek with care, require", forms of which appear in the Bible.
The word midrash occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible: 2 Chronicles 13:22 "in the midrash of the prophet Iddo", 24:27 "in the midrash of the book of the kings". KJV and ESV translate the word as "story" in both instances; the meaning of the Hebrew word in these contexts is uncertain: it has been interpreted as referring to "a body of authoritative narratives, or interpretations thereof, concerning important figures" and seems to refer to a "book" even a "book of interpretation", which might make its use a foreshadowing of the technical sense that the rabbis gave to the word. Since the early Middle Ages the function of much of midrashic interpretation has been distinguished from that of peshat, straight or direct interpretation aiming at the original literal meaning of a scriptural text. A definition of "midrash" quoted by other scholars is that given by Gary G. Porton in 1981: "a type of literature, oral or written, which stands in direct relationship to a fixed, canonical text, considered to be the authoritative and revealed word of God by the midrashist and his audience, in which this canonical text is explicitly cited or alluded to".
Lieve M. Teugels, who would limit midrash to rabbinic literature, offered a definition of midrash as "rabbinic interpretation of Scripture that bears the lemmatic form", a definition that, unlike Porton's, has not been adopted by others. While some scholars agree with the limitation of the term "midrash" to rabbinic writings, others apply it to certain Qumran writings, to parts of the New Testament, of the Hebrew Bible, modern compositions are called midrashim. Midrash is now viewed more as method than genre, although the rabbinic midrashim do constitute a distinct literary genre. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Midrash was a philological method of interpreting the literal meaning of biblical texts. In time it developed into a sophisticated interpretive system that reconciled apparent biblical contradictions, established the scriptural basis of new laws, enriched biblical content with new meaning. Midrashic creativity reached its peak in the schools of Rabbi Ishmael and Akiba, where two different hermeneutic methods were applied.
The first was logically oriented, making inferences based upon similarity of content and analogy. The second rested upon textual scrutiny, assuming that words and letters that seem superfluous teach something not stated in the text."Many different exegetical methods are employed in an effort to derive deeper meaning from a text. This is not limited to the traditional thirteen textual tools attributed to the Tanna Rabbi Ishmael, which are used in the interpretation of halakha; the presence of words or letters which are seen to be superfluous, the chronology of events, parallel narratives or what are seen as other textual "anomalies" are used as a springboard for interpretation of segments of Biblical text. In many cases, a handful of lines in the Biblical narrative may become a long philosophical discussion Jacob Neusner distinguishes three midrash processes: paraphrase: recounting the content of the biblical text in different language that may change the sense. Numerous Jewish midrashim preserved in manuscript form have been published in print, including those denominated as smaller or minor midrashim.
Bernard H. Mehlman and Seth M. Limmer deprecate this usage on the grounds that the term "minor" seems judgmental and "small" is inappropriate for midrashim
Biblical criticism is an umbrella term for those methods of studying the Bible that embrace two distinctive perspectives: the concern to avoid dogma and bias by applying a non-sectarian, reason-based judgment, the reconstruction of history according to contemporary understanding. Biblical criticism uses the grammar, structure and relationship of language to identify such characteristics as the Bible's literary structure, its genre, its context, meaning and origins. Biblical criticism includes a wide range of approaches and questions within four major contemporary methodologies: textual, source and literary criticism. Textual criticism examines the text and its manuscripts to identify what the original text would have said. Source criticism searches the texts for evidence of original sources. Form criticism seeks to identify their original setting; each of these is historical and pre-compositional in its concerns. Literary criticism, on the other hand, focuses on the literary structure, authorial purpose, reader's response to the text through methods such as rhetorical criticism, canonical criticism, narrative criticism.
Biblical criticism began as an aspect of the rise of modern culture in the West. Some scholars claim that its roots reach back to the Reformation, but most agree it grew out of the German Enlightenment. German pietism played a role in its development, as did British deism, with its greatest influences being rationalism and Protestant scholarship; the Enlightenment age and its skepticism of biblical and ecclesiastical authority ignited questions concerning the historical basis for the man Jesus separately from traditional theological views concerning him. This "quest" for the Jesus of history began in biblical criticism's earliest stages, reappeared in the nineteenth century, again in the twentieth, remaining a major occupation of biblical criticism, on and off, for over 200 years. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, biblical criticism was influenced by a wide range of additional academic disciplines and theoretical perspectives, changing it from a historical approach to a multidisciplinary field.
In a field long dominated by white male Protestants, non-white scholars and those from the Jewish and Catholic traditions became prominent voices. Globalization brought a broader spectrum of worldviews into the field, other academic disciplines as diverse as Near Eastern studies, psychology and sociology formed new methods of biblical criticism such as socio-scientific criticism and psychological biblical criticism. Meanwhile, post-modernism and post-critical interpretation began questioning biblical criticism's role and function. According to tradition, Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, including the book of Genesis. Philosophers and theologians such as Thomas Hobbes, Benedict Spinoza, Richard Simon questioned Mosaic authorship. Spinoza said Moses could not have written the preface to Deuteronomy, since he never crossed the Jordan. Jean Astruc, a French physician, believed. According to Old Testament scholar Edward Young, Astruc believed Moses used hereditary accounts of the Hebrew people to assemble the book of Genesis.
So, Astruc borrowed methods of textual criticism, used to investigate Greek and Roman texts, applied them to the Bible in search of those original accounts. Astruc believed he identified them as separate sources that were edited together into the book of Genesis, thus explaining Genesis' problems while still allowing for Mosaic authorship. Astruc's method was developed at the twenty or so Protestant universities in Germany. There was a willingness among the doctoral candidates to re-express Christian doctrine in terms of the scientific method and the historical understanding common during the German Enlightenment. German pietism played a role in the rise of biblical criticism by supporting the desire to break the hold of religious authority. Rationalism was a significant influence in biblical criticism's development, providing its concern to avoid dogma and bias through reason. For example, the Swiss theologian Jean Alphonse Turretin attacked conventional exegesis and argued for critical analysis led by reason.
Turretin believed the Bible could be considered authoritative if it was not considered inerrant. This has become a common modern Judeo-Christian view. Johann Salomo Semler argued for an end to all doctrinal assumptions, giving historical criticism its non-sectarian nature; as a result, Semler is called the father of historical-critical research. Semler distinguished between "inward" and "outward" religion, the idea that, for some people, their religion is their highest inner purpose, while for others, religion is a more exterior practice: a tool to accomplish other purposes more important to the individual such as political or economic goals; this is a concept recognized by modern psychology. Communications scholar James A. Herrick says though most scholars agree that biblical criticism evolved out of the German Enlightenment, there are histories of biblical scholarship that have found "strong direct links" with British deism. Herrick references the theologian Henning Graf Reventlow as saying deism included the humanist world view, significant in biblical criticism.
Some scholars, such as Gerhard Ebeling, Rudolf B
The Samaritan Pentateuch known as the Samaritan Torah, is a text of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, written in the Samaritan alphabet and used as scripture by the Samaritans. It constitutes their entire biblical canon; some six thousand differences exist between the Masoretic Text. Most are minor variations in the spelling of words or grammatical constructions, but others involve significant semantic changes, such as the uniquely Samaritan commandment to construct an altar on Mount Gerizim. Nearly two thousand of these textual variations agree with the Koine Greek Septuagint and some are shared with the Latin Vulgate. Throughout their history, Samaritans have made use of translations of the Samaritan Pentateuch into Aramaic and Arabic as well as liturgical and exegetical works based upon it, it first became known to the Western world in 1631, proving the first example of the Samaritan alphabet and sparking an intense theological debate regarding its relative age versus the Masoretic text.
This first published copy, much labelled as Codex B by August von Gall, became the source of most Western critical editions of the Samaritan Pentateuch until the latter half of the 20th century. Some Pentateuchal manuscripts discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls have been identified as bearing a "pre-Samaritan" text type. Wide agreement now exists among textual critics that the Samaritan Pentateuch represents an authentic ancient textual tradition despite the presence of some unique variants introduced by the Samaritans. Samaritans believe that God authored their Pentateuch and gave Moses the first copy along with the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments, they believe. Samaritans refer to their Pentateuch as קושטה. Samaritans include only the Pentateuch in their biblical canon, they do not recognize divine inspiration in any other book in the Jewish Tanakh. A Samaritan Book of Joshua based upon the Tanakh's Book of Joshua exists, but Samaritans regard it as a non-canonical secular historical chronicle.
According to a view based on the biblical Book of Ezra, the Samaritans are the people of Samaria who parted ways with the people of Judah in the Persian period. The Samaritans believe that it was not they, but the Jews, who separated from the authentic stream of Judaism, around the time of Eli, in the 11th century BCE. Jews have traditionally connected the origin of the Samaritans with the events described in 2 Kings 17:24–41 claiming that the Samaritans are not related to the Israelites, but to those brought to Samaria by the Assyrians. Modern scholarship connects the formation of the Samaritan community with events which followed the Babylonian Captivity. One view is that the Samaritans are the people of the Kingdom of Israel who separated from the Judaites. Another view is that the event happened somewhere around 432 BCE, when Manasseh, the son-in-law of Sanballat, went off to found a community in Samaria, as related in Nehemiah 13:28 and Josephus. Josephus himself, dates this event and the building of the temple at Shechem to the time of Alexander the Great.
Others believe that the real schism between the peoples did not take place until Hasmonean times when the Gerizim temple was destroyed in 128 BCE by John Hyrcanus. The script of the Samaritan Pentateuch, its close connections at many points with the Septuagint, its closer agreements with the present Hebrew text, all suggest a date about 122 BCE. Excavation work undertaken since 1982 by Yitzhak Magen has dated the temple structures on Gerizim to the middle of the 5th century, built by Sanballat the Horonite, a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah, who lived more than one hundred years before the Sanballat, mentioned by Josephus; the adoption of the Pentateuch as the sacred text of the Samaritans before their final schism with the Palestinian Jewish community provides evidence that it was widely accepted as a canonical authority in that region. Manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch are written in a different Hebrew script than is used in other Hebrew Pentateuchs. Samaritans employ the Samaritan alphabet, derived from the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet used by the Israelite community prior to the Babylonian captivity.
Afterwards, Jews adopted a script based on the Aramaic alphabet that developed into the Hebrew alphabet. All manuscripts of the Samaritan Pentateuch consisted of unvocalized text written using only the letters of the Samaritan alphabet. Beginning in the 12th century, some manuscripts show a partial vocalization resembling the Jewish Tiberian vocalization used in Masoretic manuscripts. More a few manuscripts have been produced with full vocalization. However, many extant manuscripts show no tendency towards vocalization; the Pentateuchal text is divided into 904 paragraphs. Divisions between sections of text are marked with various combinations of lines, dots or an asterisk; the critical apparatus accompanying the London Polyglot's publication of the Samaritan Pentateuch lists six thousand instances where the Samaritan differs from the Masoretic Text. However, as different printed editions of the Samaritan Pentateuch are based upon different sets of manuscripts, the precise number varies from one edition to another.
Only a minority are significant. Loss of the gutturals in spoken Samaritan Hebrew influenced how Samaritan scribes transcribed
Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish religious manuscripts found in the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert near the Dead Sea. Scholarly consensus dates these scrolls from the last three centuries BCE and the first century CE; the texts have great historical and linguistic significance because they include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism. All of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection is under the ownership of the Government of the state of Israel, housed in the Shrine of the Book on the grounds of the Israel Museum. Many thousands of written fragments have been discovered in the Dead Sea area, they represent the remnants of larger manuscripts damaged by natural causes or through human interference, with the vast majority holding only small scraps of text. However, a small number of well-preserved intact manuscripts have survived – fewer than a dozen among those from the Qumran Caves.
Researchers have assembled a collection of 981 different manuscripts – discovered in 1946/47 and in 1956 – from 11 caves. The 11 Qumran Caves lie in the immediate vicinity of the Hellenistic-period Jewish settlement at Khirbet Qumran in the eastern Judaean Desert, in the West Bank; the caves are located about one mile west of the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, whence they derive their name. Scholarly consensus dates the Qumran Caves Scrolls from the last three centuries BCE and the first century CE. Bronze coins found at the same sites form a series beginning with John Hyrcanus and continuing until the period of the First Jewish–Roman War, supporting the radiocarbon and paleographic dating of the scrolls. In the larger sense, the Dead Sea Scrolls include manuscripts from additional Judaean Desert sites, dated as early as the 8th century BCE and as late as the 11th century CE; the texts have great historical and linguistic significance because they include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism.
Biblical texts older than the Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered only in two silver scroll-shaped amulets containing portions of the Priestly Blessing from the Book of Numbers, excavated in Jerusalem at Ketef Hinnom and dated c. 600 BCE. The third-oldest surviving known piece of the Torah, the En-Gedi Scroll, consists of a portion of Leviticus found in the Ein Gedi synagogue, burnt in the 6th century CE and analyzed in 2015. Research has dated it palaeographically to the 1st or 2nd century CE, using the C14 method to sometime between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE. Most of the texts use Hebrew, with some written in Aramaic, a few in Greek. Discoveries from the Judaean Desert add Arabic texts. Most of the texts are written on parchment, some on papyrus, one on copper. Archaeologists have long associated the scrolls with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes, although some recent interpretations have challenged this connection and argue that priests in Jerusalem, or Zadokites, or other unknown Jewish groups wrote the scrolls.
Robert Eisenman vigorously posits his theory that the non-biblical "sectarian" scrolls must be viewed in the context of a wider first-century CE “Opposition Movement,” including Essenes, Sicarii, and/or Nazoreans, the early Judeo-Christian community of Jerusalem, the Ebionites, whose leader, the brother of Jesus, was acknowledged by the entire “Opposition Movement,” and, no other than the Scrolls' Teacher of Righteousness. He thus creates a strong link between the pre-Pauline Jewish Christian community. Owing to the poor condition of some of the scrolls, scholars have not identified all of their texts; the identified texts fall into three general groups: About 40% are copies of texts from the Hebrew Scriptures. Another 30% are texts from the Second Temple Period which were not canonized in the Hebrew Bible, like the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, the Book of Tobit, the Wisdom of Sirach, Psalms 152–155, etc; the remainder are sectarian manuscripts of unknown documents that shed light on the rules and beliefs of a particular group or groups within greater Judaism, like the Community Rule, the War Scroll, the Pesher on Habakkuk, The Rule of the Blessing.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a series of twelve caves around the site known as Wadi Qumran near the Dead Sea in the West Bank between 1946 and 1956 by Bedouin shepherds and a team of archeologists. The practice of storing worn-out sacred manuscripts in earthenware vessels buried in the earth or within caves is related to the ancient Jewish custom of Genizah; the initial discovery by Bedouin shepherd Muhammed edh-Dhib, his cousin Jum'a Muhammed, Khalil Musa, took place between November 1946 and February 1947. The shepherds discovered seven scrolls housed in jars in a cave near what is now known as the Qumran site. John C. Trever reconstructed the story of the scrolls from several interviews with the Bedouin. Edh-Dhib's cousin noticed the caves, but edh-Dhib himself was the first to fall into one, he retrieved a handful of scrolls, which Trever identifies as the Isaiah Scroll, Habakkuk Commentary, the Community Rule, took them b
The gospels of Matthew and Luke are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. They stand in contrast to John, whose content is distinct; the term synoptic comes via Latin from the Greek σύνοψις, synopsis, i.e. " seeing all together, synopsis". This strong parallelism among the three gospels in content and specific language is attributed to literary interdependence; the question of the precise nature of their literary relationship—the synoptic problem—has been a topic of lively debate for centuries and has been described as "the most fascinating literary enigma of all time". The longstanding majority view favors Marcan priority, in which both Matthew and Luke have made direct use of the Gospel of Mark as a source, further holds that Matthew and Luke drew from an additional hypothetical document, called Q. Broadly speaking, the synoptic gospels are similar to John: all are composed in Koine Greek, have a similar length, were completed within a century of Jesus' death.
They differ from non-canonical sources, such as the Gospel of Thomas, in that they belong to the ancient genre of biography, collecting not only Jesus' teachings, but recounting in an orderly way his origins, his ministry and miracles, his passion and resurrection. In content and in wording, the synoptics diverge from John but have a great deal in common with each other. Though each gospel includes some unique material, the majority of Mark and half of Matthew and Luke coincide in content, in much the same sequence nearly verbatim; this common material is termed the triple tradition. The triple tradition, the material included by all three synoptic gospels, includes many stories and teachings: Furthermore, the triple tradition's pericopae tend to be arranged in much the same order in all three gospels; this stands in contrast to the material found in only two of the gospels, much more variable in order. The classification of text as belonging to the triple tradition is not always definitive, depending rather on the degree of similarity demanded.
For example and Mark report the cursing of the fig tree a single incident, despite some substantial differences of wording and content. Searching Luke, however, we find only the parable of the barren fig tree, in a different point of the narrative; some would say that Luke has extensively adapted an element of the triple tradition, while others would regard it as a distinct pericope. An illustrative example of the three texts in parallel is the healing of the leper: More than half the wording in this passage is identical. Just as interesting, though, is that each gospel includes words absent in the other two and omits something included by the other two, it has been observed that the triple tradition itself constitutes a complete gospel quite similar to the shortest gospel, Mark. Mark, unlike Luke, adds little to the triple tradition. Pericopae unique to Mark are scarce, notably two healings involving the naked runaway. Mark's additions within the triple tradition tend to be explanatory Aramaisms.
The pericopae Mark shares with only Luke are quite few: the Capernaum exorcism and departure from Capernaum, the strange exorcist, the widow's mites. A greater number, but still not many, are shared with only Matthew, most notably the so-called "Great Omission" from Luke of Mk 6:45–8:26. Most scholars take these observations as a strong clue to the literary relationship among the synoptics and Mark's special place in that relationship; the hypothesis favored by most experts is Marcan priority, that Mark was composed first and that Matthew and Luke each used Mark and incorporated most of it, with adaptations, into their own gospels. A leading alternative hypothesis is Marcan posteriority, that Mark was formed by extracting what Matthew and Luke shared in common. An extensive set of material—some two hundred verses or half the length of the triple tradition—are the pericopae shared between Matthew and Luke but absent in Mark; this is termed the double tradition. Parables and other sayings predominate in the double tradition, but it includes narrative elements: Unlike triple-tradition material, double-tradition material is differently arranged in the two gospels.
Matthew's lengthy Sermon on the Mount, for example, is paralleled by Luke's shorter Sermon on the Plain, with the remainder of its content scattered throughout Luke. This is consistent with the general pattern of Matthew collecting sayings into large blocks, while Luke does the opposite and intersperses them with narrative. Besides the double-tradition proper and Luke agree against Mark within the triple tradition to varying extents, sometimes including several additional verses, sometimes differing by a single word; these are termed the minor agreements. One example is in the passion narrative, where Mark has "Prophesy!" while Matthew and Luke both add, "Who is it that struck you?"The double-tradition's origin, with its major and minor agreements, is a key facet of the syn