The Synoptic Problem
by Bobby Bruno
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Each of the Gospels was written for a different purpose. Matthew wrote to prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus was indeed the Messiah they had been waiting for 400 years by giving them the teachings of Jesus, and the Old Testament prophecies to connect the dots. Mark wrote his gospel account for the Roman believers who were under persecution for believing that Jesus was the Messiah, and wrote in the way he did because the Roman believers did not know about the customs of the Jews or their language. This is why he wrote more about what Jesus did than what He said, to show his listeners that Jesus came as a servant to us. Luke wrote his account to the Gentiles to show them that Jesus was the Savior of all of mankind Ė both Jewish and Gentile. Each of these gospels was written the way they were for specific reasons. Each writer included only what was needed to influence their listeners to strengthen their belief that Jesus was who He said He was. The family trees written in Matthew and Luke are different because they also were written for their specific audiences. Matthew wanted the Jews to see Jesusí heritage through the kingship and beginnings of the Israeli nation. Luke wanted his audience to see that Jesusí heritage went all the way back to Adam, and therefore back to creation. The synoptic problem is really not a problem when you explore the reasons for, and to whom, these gospels were written. The Holy Spirit worked in these gentlemen to produce exactly what was needed to be heard by the current people groups of the world of that time. Taken together, the first three gospels give us a well-rounded account of the life of Jesus Christ.
John, the Beloved Disciple, had a different idea that carried with it a larger scope than the other three gospel writers. John wanted to prove to his listeners that Jesus was not only a servant sent from God; not only a teacher who had the good words of life; not only as the Messiah who would save Godís people from their sins; but that Jesus Christ was in fact God Himself living in flesh, who came to show the world that He loved the world greatly and wanted to bring them salvation from those sins. Johnís gospel contains more statements by Jesus that He was sent from God, and that He was God, than the other three gospels put together. John encouraged his listeners to believe with all their hearts that Jesus was God in the flesh and that Jesus is the only One through whom they may receive eternal life. John 3:16 boils all the gospel accounts down into one simple truth that has stood the test of time even two thousand years later. Today, John 3:16 is one of the most recognized scriptures in the world. Even non-Christians know what this scripture says, even if they donít believe it or want to believe it.
I believe Johnís closeness with Jesus was strong as it was because he realized just who Jesus was and what He came here to earth to do. John seemed to love Jesus with all of his mind, heart, soul, and eventually his life. I believe that Jesus allowed this closeness just so John could write this gospel, so the world could know that Jesus was God in the flesh. John had to tell us that Jesus was God because Jesusí death, resurrection, and ascension could only be performed by God Himself if we were to be forgiven of our sins. Jesus as only a man couldnít save us from anything; only Jesus as God could give us new life and a new future. John wanted his listeners through the ages to know that Jesus reigns and is the only way to God.
Life in the spirit study bible (NIV). (1992, 2003). Grand Rapids, MI: Life Publishers/Zondervan.
McGhee, Q., Teague, W. (2005, 2006). Synoptic gospels: the life and teachings of Christ. Springfield, MO: Berean School of the Bible, a division of Global University.
Comment: "John stresses the divinity of Jesus more than the others and begins at the beginning of time versus the synoptic gospels which focus on Jesusí ministry in Galilee."
Author Response: In my opinion, John was able to stress the divinity of Jesus, because, I believe, after much contemplating and searching in many different Christian areas, that John was the only one who, in his heart, truly believed and knew that Jesus was not just the Messiah, but was, in fact, God. This is the only reason, I believe, that John could write what he did. Only someone who knew God intimately could have written about Him so beautifully, and in a way no one had ever written about Him before. I believe that John was the beloved disciple because He knew who Jesus really was. John putting his head on Jesus' chest during the last supper shows how deep John's love for Jesus went. Only someone who knows God can love another person so deeply. This is only my opinion, but it seems to make great sense to me of John's poetic way of describing our Lord and Savior.
Comment: "I believe John needed to take the approach that he took in order to fully capture Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior so we could begin to understand the depth of the love of God towards us."
Author Response: I believe that if we followed the example of John's closeness with Jesus we too could lay our heads on Jesus' breast in adoration of who He is. Only through that closeness with Jesus could John have told us so much about Him in ways that the other gospels didn't. Is it any wonder that we tell people to read the Book of John first before the others. It is always a great revelation to see Jesus who He truly is -- God. I also believe that is why John was given the privilege of writing the Book of Revelation. He, maybe more than Paul, knew Jesus better than anyone else did at that time and was given great insight, not only into who Jesus really was, but also into His plan for humanity. John always strikes me as a very humble man who knew his God more intimately than anyone other human who ever lived. John's words left for us to study prove that.
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