Synoptic Gospels

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Tangaza College
— the Catholic University of Eastern Africa
School of Theology


Krzysztof (Christopher) Owczarek, SDB



Class notes for the private use of the students


INTRODUCTION to synoptic gospels

1.1 The Importance of the Course

The modern biblical studies have seen a fundamental change in their approach to the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke (the latter considered together with its second volume = the Acts of the Apostles). For many centuries, the Synoptic Gospels were considered as the principal source for the knowledge of the history of Jesus. The scholars have discovered that each of the Gospels has its own theology, just like John and Paul. These two were always read with the understanding that they offered important theological insights, while the Synoptic Gospels were read just as a kind of biography of Jesus. This explains the importance they enjoyed in Christian devotion and, on the other hand, the fact that they mainly served as a window on the historical Jesus. Today we are well aware that the Synoptic Gospels do give us the information on what Jesus said and did, but they do not do it in a neutral and detached way. In short, the modern scholarship demonstrated that the first three evangelists are also true theologians. Apart from preserving the historical memory of Jesus, they have interpreted his person and his ministry in the light of the resurrection “with that clearer understanding” that they received from the Holy Spirit. Having in view the situation of their respective communities, they wrote “selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, explaining some things […] and preserving the form of proclamation but always in such fashion that they told us the honest truth...
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