In the New Testament, the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are written in a very similar style. They are referred to as the synoptic gospels.The forth of the evangelists, John, also tells similar stories, but his style of writing is different. The synoptic problem is to explain why three of the four evangelists have a very similar structure, and the fourth does not.
- There might have been one common text that is now lost, that three of the four evangelists used.
- There might have been a profession of "evangelists", which learned the texts by heart, and which then recited or told them when they were asked.
- There might have been two sources. The gospel of Mark is the oldest. Matthew and Luke used the text of Mark, plus this other common source, plus other texts to which they had access.
- Two-gospel hypothesis. This hinges on the fact that Matthew and Luke share things which are absent in Mark. John is still more different than Mark.
The strong parallelism among the three gospels suggests they were written at more or less the same time. Or, Matthew and Luke made use of the gospel of Mark as a source.
- Goodacre, Mark 2001. The Synoptic Problem: a way through the maze, p16. London: T&T International. ISBN 0567080560