The Three Gospels

1. 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. You can order it from www.authenticmedia.co.uk.

The Abstract

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 r.eference 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.

‘It  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  Mosse… works  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, Journal of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society, no. 201 (January 2009), pp.11-12.

See also the five-star reviews on Amazon.co.uk.