LOY Excursus: Synoptic Fidelity to the Anthology

& LOY Excursions

How closely does a pericope reproduce the pre-synoptic source that stands behind Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

Updated: 11-April-2021

The purpose of this excursus is to compile in a single location our measurements of each synoptic pericope’s reproduction of the wording of the Anthology (Anth.). These measurements are of two kinds. The first measurement is of a pericope’s rate of verbal identity with Anth. In other words, what percentage of the wording of Matthew’s, Mark’s or Luke’s version of a pericope agrees precisely with the wording of that pericope in Anth.? The second measurement is of how much of Anth.’s version of a pericope was incorporated without change into the version in Matthew, Mark and/or Luke. In other words, what percentage of Anth.’s wording of a given pericope has been reproduced verbatim in the extant versions?

Why both types of measurement are important for gaining a true picture of a version’s fidelity to the Anthology becomes clear when we consider the following scenarios.

An Example of Scenario 1

In the first scenario a synoptic evangelist gives a highly condensed version of a pericope that nevertheless adhered closely to the wording of Anth. In such a scenario the pericope’s verbal identity to Anth. will be quite high, but the amount of Anth.’s wording that was actually incorporated is quite low. Only measuring verbal identity in such a scenario would give the distorted impression of high fidelity to the Anthology, when in fact the synoptic evangelist had heavily redacted his version of the pericope by trimming away most of Anth.’s content.

An Example of Scenario 2

In the second scenario a synoptic evangelist copies every single word from Anth. in a given pericope but also inserts a great many additional details. In such a scenario, measuring only the percentage of Anth. incorporated into the evangelist’s version of the pericope would give a false impression of fidelity to Anth., when in fact the version is full of the secondary accretions. Only when both measurements are considered together is it possible to accurately gauge a pericope’s fidelity to the Anthology.

The pericopae in the table below are ordered according to their placement in the LOY Map.

Download (PDF, 132KB)

Key: In the Luke column percentages marked in blue represent pericopae copied from Anth., while percentages marked in pink represent pericopae copied from FR. In the Matthew column the source for non-Markan pericopae was Anth.

Information on how the data presented in the table above were obtained can be found in the “Redaction Analysis” section of each published LOY segment.


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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin
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    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton grew up in St. George, a small town on the coast of Maine. For his undergraduate degree he studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). There he studied Biblical Hebrew and…
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