Robert H. Stein’s Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation is an excellent work that is in its second edition, which provides an excellent introduction to the scholarship concerning the synoptic problem. It goes deep enough into the studies of the Synoptics to satisfy experienced theologians while remaining comprehensible to the uninitiated reader. The bulk of the book is focused upon Stein’s proposed solution that Matthew and Luke used Mark plus the hypothetical Q material to write their gospels.
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The Q hypothesis is an attempt to give the reason for the literary similarities contained in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. John Kloppenborg’s book, “Q, The Earliest Gospel,” addresses the mystery of the literary relationship of these gospels, presenting a number of hypotheses. Kloppenborg asserts that the best explanation for the literary dependence of the three gospels is that Mark and the theorized Q source were used as material for Matthew and Luke. This hypothesis assumes a Marcan priority and the existence of a lost document, called Q, that has been reconstructed with material found only in Matthew and Luke and not in Mark. Kloppenborg’s suggested explanation seems to leave God out of the explanation, relying solely on human action and chance alone to shape the development of the gospels and why the theorized Q source has not been found.