THE THREE GOSPELS: NEW TESTAMENT HISTORY INTRODUCED BY THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2007; ISBN:978-1-84277-520-7; pp. xxxii + 364)


This book is a revision of Martin's doctoral thesis from the University of Wales, Lampeter, where he studied under Professor D. P. Davies.

Its Abstract reads as follows:

The Synoptic Problem is in large measure the province of ancient history, and a comprehensive solution requires a consideration of both chronology and authorship as well as source dependencies. Tabular and graphical analysis of pericope order demonstrates that both Matthew and Luke used Mark and suggests that Luke worked from a memorised copy of Matthew. This gives us the priority of Mark as the first Greek gospel. Q falls to Occam's Razor as redundant, vindicating the Farrer Hypothesis (Luke used Matthew). Matthew's first work, preceding Mark, was an Aramaic collection of logia of c.44 resembling Thomas; with this he later conflated Mark to produce his Greek Gospel. Traditional authorship of all four canonical gospels is supported as believed by the early Church. Papias' comments on Matthew and Mark derive from St John the Apostle and are therefore to be upheld, 'John the Elder' being an invention of Eusebius. The 'Little Apocalypse' is strong evidence that all three Synoptics were written before 70, not after. Mark's Gospel was written before Peter's death, not after, and represents his teaching. Examination of Paul's later epistles indicates that he was released without trial in 62 from his first Roman imprisonment, which is one of several strands giving us a secure date of 62 for Acts. All the Synoptics precede this: Luke (60-1); Matthew (late 40s/50s); Mark (45). Paul was later rearrested c.66 in Asia on a capital charge and taken back to Rome, following a prolonged confrontation with heretics in Ephesus which is echoed in the Pastorals. His last extant epistle was Philippians. Appendices comprise a full New Testament chronology, historical summaries of all the epistles and of Paul's three major captivities, a separate chronology of the movements of Peter and Mark, and a survey of the part played by Antioch.

In addition, it tackles perennial chestnuts such as the chronology of Jesus' ministry in Mark and John, the day and date of the crucifixion, the identification and dates of Paul's visits to Jerusalem, Paul's ever-changing Corinthian itineraries, the date and addressees of Galatians, and many others.

The book has attracted plaudits from various quarters:

‘Martin Mosse has written a lively and provocative study of the composition of the Synoptic Gospels within the context of primitive Christianity. Historical clues found with the New Testament are followed in his attempts to locate the origins of the earliest Gospels. The broad sweep of his investigations and the relentlessly pursued logic of many of his arguments are to be welcomed. Mosse flies many worthwhile kites which will deserve analysis by perceptive readers.’
J. Keith Elliott, University of Leeds.

‘Mosse’s book has given me new confidence in our gospel texts which will have a real impact on my preaching. His skilful use of Occam’s Razor and what seemed to me irrefutable logic have persuaded me that we should jettison all references to Q at the earliest opportunity. He has also made a convincing case for traditional authorship of all four gospels, and early dates of the Synoptics. Mosse’s chronological tables and reference material will be constantly at hand during sermon preparation!’
Tom Kennar, Curate, Warblington with Emsworth.

‘This is a fine piece of work, creatively challenging a number of paradigms in New Testament scholarship and making use of all kinds of early Christian evidence to reconstruct a full and persuasive chronology for the biblical documents. Like Bishop John Robinson’s work on the dating of the New Testament books and events, it asks us to start by being a bit more sceptical about accumulated scholarly habits and return for a fresh look at the literary and historical evidence. It will certainly provoke controversy, and is unlikely to convince everyone; but it is argued with energy and clarity and insists, rightly, on the significance of many neglected sources and arguments. A real achievement.’
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

'This sweeping studying of the synoptic problem and the chronology of the New Testament period is breath-taking in its scope and challenging in terms of its proposed solutions. Mosse must be commended for attempting such a "grand unifying theory" of New Testament History, which seeks to date and locate both key events as well as the composition of the documents that comprise that corpus.'
Paul Foster, The Expository Times, June 2008.

'[I]t is notable that the few voices raised against [the prevailing scepticism about the historical worth of the New Testament] have for the most part been of those trained in the disciplines of the ancient historian. Such was A. N. Sherwin-White, a highly respected historian of the Roman Empire, who demonstrated (in Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 1961) the accuracy of the majority of New Testament references to Roman legal and social institutions to an extent that has never been seriously challenged. Such also was Bishop John Robinson, whose Redating the New Testament (1976) made an impressive case for believing that all the major New Testament writings were composed before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This select company has now been joined by Martin Mosse, not a professional scholar (he made his career in operational research in the defence industry), but with considerable analytic skills deriving from his study of mathematics and - once again - ancient history.'
A. E. Harvey, The Times Literary Supplement 23 May 2008.

'Mosse has two important strengths. As a historian, he is aware that it is people, not sources, who are responsible for traditions; and he shows a far greater awareness of the shape of argument than some New Testament colleagues.'
Nicholas King, The Tablet, 7 June 2008.

'Martin with great thoroughness and diligence, on the basis of the methods of study of ancient history, with a dash of mathematical rigour in his insistence on logical consistency - very necessary in analysing the views with which he has to deal.'
Robert S. Beresford, Bulletin of the Dorothy L. Sayers Soci ety, no. 201 (January 2009), pp.11-12.