Attempting to Visualize the Synoptic Problem, Part Two

by James Dowden

Seeing as this seems to be almost driving my traffic into double figures, and as Joel Watts has kindly linked to me (I am sure these things are not unconnected!), I’ll post another visualization of one gospel author’s redaction of what went before. In case anyone hadn’t guessed, here is Luke’s treatment of the same six chapters of Mark that I posted Matthew’s treatment of earlier:

ImageImmediately the picture is of a lot more blue: generally, Luke follows Mark, as I hinted at earlier. There are a few instances of Luke moving sections earlier (green) or later (purple) after an apparently piecemeal and variably successful fashion, but there is no wholesale disruption of long sections of Mark as we saw with Matthew (look for the red in the middle for Matthew’s disruption to Mark’s order). In a lighter blue, we also see some Marcan passages that Matthew had omitted retained.

Two other features are notable. Firstly, we can see two blocks of Luke working primarily with Matthew. The first, coloured mainly in dark blue, because the Aland SQE numbers aren’t fine-grained enough to pick it up (and I can’t be bothered to try to redo that work!), is the Baptism and Peirasmos account, where Luke evidently preferred Matthew’s more expansive storyline. The second is of course the Sermon on the Plain/Mount, including a local agreement in order with Matthew against Mark.

Secondly, at the bottom of the visualization, we see Luke’s aversion to doublets creeping in. Neither doublet introduced by Matthew has made it into Luke, and with the grey starting at the bottom, we see the beginning of the condensing of the Feedings of the 5000 and 4000 into a single account. For sake of consistency, and for sake of not having loads of purple arrows flying off the bottom of the diagram, I have stopped at the end of Mark 6.

Now, maybe, just maybe, I’ll get around to the left over bits of Matthew…