from: ChristianForums.com thread (2007)
Last Updated: Oct. 4, 2007
A "Synoptic" Outline
For the most part it is fairly easy to divide up any of the Gospels, because they relate the story of Jesus in short segments, which are often only loosely related and can be read independantly.
For this basic task of constructing a Synoptic chart, we don't want to get too detailed. This will only obscure the basic relations between and methods used by the Evangelists.
It is true that sometimes one or another evangelist will copy a short phrase or clause from somewhere else, inserting it into a new context. But these cases seem to be small variations made "on the fly". This kind of extra detail can be better dealt with when examining the sections on a case-by-case (and word for word) basis.
Limiting the detail somewhat oversimplifies the relations and activities of the various evangelists in using their materials. But this will not severely distort the basic "map" or layout of the relations between the Gospels. It so happens that the various evangelists also seem to have handled the text in similar sized sections, and rearranged them accordingly for their own purposes.
Dividing up Mark
We begin with Mark, because at this point a large body of evidence has been accumulated and analyzed which strongly suggests that Mark is at least one of the primary written documents for all the Synoptic Evangelists (Mark, Luke, Matthew).
We shall see almost immediately, that this approach greatly simplifies documenting and explaining the overall picture.
To work out the basic relations between the Synoptic Gospels (Mark Luke Matthew), we begin by dividing Mark into natural divisions, or small sections that each recount an incident or parable in Jesus' ministry.
For Mark, the text can be divided a number of ways, but most researchers find something between 90 and 100 or so independant and significant parts. We have comfortably divided the text for our purposes into 93 numbered segments.
Cross-referencing the Synoptic Gospels
Once these sections have been identified and catalogued, we then match them to the same or similar stories and parables in the other Gospels (Luke and Matthew). From this basic method of organizing the data, many simple and easy observations can be made.
For one thing, it is apparent that if Luke and Matthew used Mark as a base, they tried to use almost all of it. Luke only leaves out one large section (The Lukan Omission, see below), and a few not so useful segments, for his own purpose of writing a Gospel for the Gentiles. As a result, Luke reproduces 85-90% of Mark, and then nearly doubles it in size, adding other teachings and narrative material. Matthew is even more careful in this regard, reproducing almost 95% of Mark.
Clearly both Evangelists had great respect for their predecessor and probable mentor.
A second obvious fact is that both Luke and Matthew used very similar layouts and methods of incorporating their new material into Mark. Probably at least one of them knew of the work and plan of the other evangelist.
Their differences too, reveal insights into the their purpose and also the early history of the church. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Here we have only the more modest goal of providing the details of how we created our Synoptic charts, so that others can also follow in our footsteps and understand our own methods and insights.
Sectional Outline Format
We present the sections of Mark in the exact order they are found in his gospel. Each section is numbered, and this master-number will be used when relating the sections to other gospels.
The actual chapter and verse numbers are given next, and then a "Title" or short Description of the contents of the section (some details will naturally be left out). Finally, the parallel or similar sections in the other Synoptic Gospels follow in the last two columns.
Extra rows have also been added, to indicate places where large blocks of material have been inserted in the other gospels. These blocks usually contain material not found in Mark, and come from independant historical sources or eyewitness accounts, possibly written records.
We have used a simple color-code to indicate Mark (Yellow/Orange), Luke (Green), and Matthew (Blue). Also, a few large super-sections of Mark have been colored Orange to show their extent.
Finally, we have used orange or yellow in the last two columns to indicate unusual differences or omissions by Luke or Matthew. These are places where one or the other has apparently omitted a section of Mark, or substituted something else, or modified the section so much that it can no longer be identified as "the same" with certainty.
We will discuss a few of these interesting differences below.
|Sectional Outline: Mark|
|Sect.||Ch./vs.||Descriptive Name||Luke llel.||Matt. llel.|
|- Luke & Matthew insert Nativity Stories here: (Lk. 1:1-2:52, Matt. 1:1-2:23)|
|01||1:1-8||John the Baptist preaches||3:1-18||3:1-12|
|02||1:9-11||John Baptizes Jesus||3:20-21||3:13-17|
|03||1:12-13||Satan tests Jesus in Wilderness||4:1-13||4:1-11|
|04||1:14-15||Jesus' begins his ministry||4:14-15||4:12-17|
|05||1:16-20||Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James & John||5:1-11||4:18-22|
|06||1:21-28||Capernaum: Jesus casts out demon on Sabbath||4:31-37||4:23-25|
|- Matthew inserts Sermon on Mount here: (Matt. 5:2-7:29)|
|07||1:29-34|| Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law.
Many sick/demon-possessed healed
|08||1:35-39||Jesus travels Galilee, preaching, healing||4:40-44||8:16-17|
|09||1:40-45||Jesus heals a leper||5:12-16||8:1-4|
|10||2:1-12||Capernaum: Jesus forgives and heals cripple on Sabbath||5:17-26||9:1-8|
|11||2:13-17|| Jesus calls Levi and defends
His ministry to sinners, by Sea of Galilee
|12||2:18-22||Fasting Dispute, Bridegroom metaphor||5:33-39||9:14-17|
|13||2:23-28||Grain Plucking Dispute: David and Shewbread||6:1-5||12:1-8|
|14||3:1-6|| Jesus heals withered hand on Sabbath.
Pharisees plot to kill Jesus
|15||3:7-12|| Jesus heals and exorcises many
near the Sea of Galilee.
|16||3:13-19||Jesus calls The Twelve (Apostles)||6:12-16||10:1-5a|
- Luke inserts Sermon on Plain etc. here: (Luke 6:20-8:3)
- Matt. inserts Great Commission etc. here: (Matt.10:5b-12:21)
|17||3:20-30||Baalzebub Dispute: The Unforgivable Sin||11:14-23||12:22-32|
|18||3:31-34||Jesus' true mother & brothers: those who hear God||8:19-21||12:46-50|
|19||4:1-9||Parable of the Sower||8:4-8||13:1-9|
|20||4:10-12||Purpose of parables is to conceal from others||13:10-17|
|21||4:13-20||Jesus explains the parable of the Sower||8:9-15||13:18-23|
|22||4:21-25||Hidden Lamp, Measure, Lack and loss||8:16-18||6:22-23|
|23||4:26-34||The Mustard Seed, purpose of parables||13:18-19|
|24||4:35-41||Wind and Waves Obey Jesus||8:22-25||8:23-27|
|25||5:1-20||Jesus exorcises a demon called 'Legion'||8:26-39||8:27-31|
|26||5:21-43|| Woman healed of bleeding,
Jairus' daughter raised from dead
|- Matt. inserts Four Parables etc. here: (Matt.13:34-52)|
|27||6:1-6a||Jesus rejected at His hometown Nazareth||4:16-30||13:53-58|
|28||6:6b-13||Jesus sends out disciples two by two||9:1-6||10:5b-15|
|29||6:14-29||John Baptist beheaded by Herod, Herodias||9:7-9||14:1-12|
|30||6:30-44||Feeding the 5000: two baskets left over...||9:10-17||14:13-21|
|The "Lukan Omission" (Mark 6:45-8:25)|
|31||6:45-52||Jesus Walks on Water||omits!||14:22-33|
|32||6:53-56||Gennesaret, Jesus heals the sick||omits!||14:34-37|
|33||7:1-23||Jesus criticizes the Pharisaic traditions||omits!||15:1-11|
|34||7:24-30||Jesus exorcises daughter of the Syro-Phoenician in Tyre||omits!||15:21-28|
|35||7:31-37||Jesus heals a deaf and dumb man in Decapolis.||omits!||9:32-34*|
|36||8:1-10||Jesus feeds 4000||omits!||15:32-39|
|37||8:11-13||The Pharisees demand a sign||11:29-32||16:1-4|
|38||8:14-21||Jesus warns of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod||omits!||16:5-12|
|39||8:22-25||Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida||omits!||9:27-31|
|40||8:27-30||Peter Confesses Jesus is the Christ||9:18-20||16:13-20|
|41||8:31-33|| Jesus predicts death & resurrection 1st time,
|42||8:34-9:1||Cost of Discipleship||9:23-27||16:24-28|
|44||9:14-29|| Jesus exorcises a boy with an unclean spirit:
Fasting & Prayer
|45||9:30-32||Jesus predicts Death and Resurrection 2nd time||9:43-45||17:22-23|
|46||9:33-37||Who is Greatest? As a child...||9:46-48||18:1-5|
|47||9:38-41||Another Exorcist permitted to work...||9:49-50||- - -|
|48||9:42-50||Assorted Sayings on Discipleship, fire etc.||9:57-62||18:6-7...|
- Luke inserts Sending The Seventy, Parables & Stories etc. (Luke 10:1-18:14) |
- Matt. inserts Church Instructions etc. (Matt.17:24-19:2)
|49||10:1-12||Jesus on Divorce||16:14-18||19:3-10|
|50||10:13-16||Enter Kingdom of God as a Child||18:15-17||19:13-15|
|51||10:17-22||The Rich Young Ruler||18:18-23||19:16-22|
|52||10:23-31||Eye of Needle, Blessings for those who leave all||18:24-30||19:23-30|
|53||10:32-34||Jesus predicts Death and Resurrection 3rd time.||18:31-34||20:17-19|
|54||10:35-45|| James, John ask to sit at his right and left:
Jesus teaches true leadership
|55||10:46-52|| Blind Bartimaeus healed in Jericho:
"Son of David"
|56||11:1-11||The Triumphal Entry||19:28-40||21:1-11|
|57||11:12-14||Next day: Jesus curses the Fig Tree||(19:41-44)||- - -|
|58||11:15-19||The Cleansing of the Temple||19:45-48||21:12-17|
|59||11:20-26|| Next day, Fig Tree Withered,
Jesus teaches on Faithfulness and Power
|- - -||21:18-22|
|60||11:27-33|| By What Authority? Jesus Responds
with Question about John
|61||12:1-12||Parable of vineyard & the Wicked Tenants||20:9-19||21:33-46|
|62||12:13-17||Taxes to Caesar?||20:20-26||22:15-22|
|63||12:18-27||Ressurrection? Jesus expounds the Scriptures||20:27-40||22:23-33|
|64||12:28-34||The Greatest Commandment||10:25-28||22:34-40|
|65||12:35-37||The Messiah is David's Son?||20:41-44||22:41-46|
|66||12:38-40||Warnings re: Scribes who devour Widow's Houses||20:45-47||23:1-36!|
|67||12:41-44||The Widow's Mite (Penny)||21:1-4||(13:44?)|
|Markan "Little Apocalypse"|
|68||13:1-2||Destruction of the Temple||21:5-6||24:1-2|
|69||13:3-8||Signs of the Times, Rumours of Wars||21:7-11||24:3-14|
|70||13:9-13||Coming Persecution, Gospel to the Nations||21:12-19||24:3-14|
|71||13:14-20||The Abomination of Desolation (Daniel)||21:20-24||24:15-28|
|72||13:21-23||False Prophets Foretold||(6:26)||24:29-31|
|73||13:24-27||Son of Man Coming on the Clouds||21:25-28||24:29-31|
|74||13:28-31||That Generation shall not pass away||21:29-33||24:32-35|
|75||13:32-37||Be Watchful: No one knows the Day or Hour||21:34-38||24:36-44|
|- Matt. inserts Four Parables here: (Matt.24:45-25:46)|
|76||14:1-2||Plot to kill Jesus||22:1-6||26:1-5|
|77||14:3-9||Annointing at Bethany||(7:36-50)||26:6-13|
|78||14:10-11||Judas agrees to betray Jesus||22:14-23||26:14-16|
|79||14:12-26||The Passover: Last Supper Instituted||22:7-13||26:26-30|
|80||14:27-31||Desertion and Denial Predicted||22:31-34||26:20-35|
|81||14:32-42||Prayer in the Garden||22:39-46||26:36-46|
|82||14:43-50||Betrayal and Arrest||22:47-53||26:47-56|
|83||14:51-52||Young man flees naked||- - -||- - -|
|84||14:53-65||Jesus Questioned before High Priest||22:63-71||26:57-68|
|85||14:66-72||Peter denies three times before cock crows twice||22:54-62||26:69-75|
|86||15:1-5||Jesus Questioned by Pilate||23:1-5||27:1-10|
|87||15:6-15||Pilate releases Barabbas||23:13-25||27:11-26|
|88||15:16-41||Jesus mocked, and Crucified||23:32-49||27:27-56|
|89||15:42-47||Joseph of Aramethea Buries Jesus||23:50-56||27:57-61|
|90||16:1-8||Mary and women discover empty tomb||24:1-12||28:1-8|
|91||16:9-11||Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene||24:1-12||28:9-10|
|92||16:12-13||Jesus appears to two disciples||24:13-35||- - -|
|93||16:14-end||Jesus Ascends to Heaven||24:36-53||28:16-20|
Both Luke and Matthew have a large block preceding the first section of Mark. In each case, the block contains Nativity stories about the birth and early childhood of Jesus.
These are not competing histories, but rather supplimental, and serving the interests of each author. Matthew's Nativity tradition is significantly smaller, and appears supplimental to Luke, again consistent with Matthew coming last in line.
Both Luke and Matthew provide genealogies for Jesus. These present problems for interpreters, but have no impact upon the Markan material. They are again supplimental.
The Temptation of Jesus
Perhaps the most significant part of the first group of sections is (03) the Testing of Jesus by "Satan" in the wilderness. This appears to have been originally a literal (and much shorter) anecdote by Mark. One of the others (probably Luke) seems to have turned it into a near-mythical parable, or perhaps an allegory. The other (probably Matthew) merely rearranges the new version of the story. We will look again at this when we examine the structure of the other gospels.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew)
Matthew places his first Grand Speech by Jesus immediately after the first six Markan sections. This appears to have been part of a larger attempt to organize the teaching and parable material from both Mark and Luke. Matthew divides the teachings and sayings into five large speechs, for the most part organized by topic:
(1) Sermon on the Mount (Matt. ch. 5-7): - This is a major rewrite of Luke's Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:20-49). Matthew brings in elements from Paul, John, and the letter of James, in a new synthesis which attempts to bridge some early schisms in the church. But the largest part is drawn from all over Luke's gospel (mostly from non-Markan sections).
(2) The First Commission (Matt. 10:5b-11:30): - An expansion of the Calling of the Twelve, with a lot of material drawn from the hindsight of the early church experience.
(3) The Parable of the Sower + 6 (Matt. 13:1-52): - Matthew adds six new parables to the introductory parable material, the core historical teaching from Mark. These are "Kingdom" parables, which attempt to expound and justify evangelization of Greek-speaking Diaspora Jews.
(4) The Church Instructionals (Matt. 17:24-19:2): - A kind of mini-summary of church organization and discipline, drawn largely from Paul, John and other Epistles.
(5) The Apocalypse + 4 (Matt.24:1-25:46): - Matthew adds another four parables to Mark's "Little Apocalypse". These parables seem to be of the same quality as those added to section (3), and may have been from the same collection.
Together these form a set of Five Orations, very much after the pattern of the Five Books of Moses. The intent is to draw the connection of Jesus as the "new Moses", the Prophet, the One prophesied by Moses to come.
Again, this appears to be the final development of the material originally presented by Luke, organized for church services and topically arranged. For the purposes of the Synoptic Problem, it provides more evidence for a relative chronology of Mark --> Luke --> Matthew, with the later writers taking sensible advantage of their predecessors' work.
After this burst of creative activity by Matthew, both the later evangelists settle down to recounting the early Galilean ministry of Jesus, following Mark's account closely.
Luke makes more linguistic and explanatory improvements for the purpose of reaching Gentiles and scattered Jews of the Diaspora. Matthew appears to do more rearranging of the sections, while Luke is instead concerned with grammar. Luke's adherance to Mark shows that Mark has the key to the original order.
Later Matthew will often follow Mark more closely than Luke. Such phenomenae make agreements between Mark and either of the others a lot more weighty. With this understanding of the dependance, agreements between Luke and Matthew against Mark will have less weight, since it is likely that Matthew is simply copying Luke in these cases.
Synoptic Chart of Luke / Mark / Matthew
Here we have laid out the basic relationship in a standard synoptic chart form. Each section (numbered in the first column of previous table) is represented by a single line.
With the detailed Markan Outline Above (and discussion), it will be possible to identify the lines (sections) in the chart below, and have a more thorough understanding of Synoptic relationships between the Gospels.