It’s been a while since I’ve asked you a question. I thank you for all your help and compassion for people. You’ve truly helped me out in my spiritual walk with God. I wanted to ask you a question that has been on my mind for some time now. As you know there are supposed additions to the gospels Mark and John. I was wondering what are your thoughts on the synoptic gospels and how they are similar to one another? And do you think that these similarities can be additions from someone that wasn’t Matthew or Luke that tried to tie all the gospels together? Thank you for your time!
My general response is that the three gospels appear to be independent witnesses to the gospel accounts. Matthew’s is an eye-witness, and Mark’s has the feeling of an eye-witness account, making it either directly an eye witness or very intimately connected to an eye-witness. The most common theory about this is that Mark was an intimate associate of Peter. Another theory is that Mark was an associate of the apostles and witnessed much of Jesus’ ministry himself. Luke is a carefully crafted account, based, as Luke says, on interviews of eye-witnesses. The fact that there are, on the surface, “contradictions” which are actually not contradictions at all when analyzed carefully, tells me that these are truly independent accounts. Matthew was probably aware of Mark, but it is clear that he fully intended to write an independent account. The same can be said of Luke. Are the three synoptics relying on an oral tradition as source material? I would say that my study of what scholars have to say supports the idea that the writers were using oral sources, as well as personal experience. By the time of the writing of the gospels (in the 50s and 60s, if not possibly the late 40s), a generation had passed and the gospel message had been passed on orally, using forms which were somewhat standardized, which would explain the similarities in text and content between Matthew, Mark and Luke. Whether there was a written “Q” source, as many propose, is speculative, and I will not comment on that.
As for the additions to Mark and John (Mark 16:9f, John 8:1-11), I have discussed these previously in some detail. These can be discovered doing a search of the web site.
You ask a second question. Might there have been editors who tried, later, to tie the gospels together? I would say that there was no systematic attempt to change the gospels because the church almost instantly revered these writings and would not have tolerated wholesale changes to any of them. However, there is evidence that some copyists tried to make quite small editing changes to “improve” the text here and there, in order to harmonize the different gospels. There is evidence of such quite minor changes, most of which are fairly easily detected and corrected by scholars with thousands of manuscripts to work from. I discuss some specific examples in my book “Reasons for Belief” (www.ipibooks.com).