A Synoptic Approach to ‘Lord of the Sabbath’

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Listen to Lindsey discuss his approach to the 'Lord of the Sabbath' pericope.

In this audio recording of a lecture delivered by Robert L. Lindsey on October 14, 1990, Lindsey discusses how his solution to the Synoptic Problem can lead to a better understanding of the Gospel account of the disciples picking grain on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5).[1] To listen, subscribers may click ► (“play”) on the player below.

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According to Lindsey’s view Luke’s Gospel is the earliest of the canonical Gospels. Mark’s Gospel is based on Luke and, while Matthew’s Gospel is based on Mark, the author of Matthew also used one of Luke’s sources.

For those who prefer to read, or to read along while listening, we include a transcript of Lindsey’s lecture below:[2]

In a tape that I made today we talked about the theory of relationships between the Synoptic Gospels and with earlier texts. And although the theory is a little bit complicated (and I realize it’s complicated!) the reason we have to deal with these kinds of things is that we cannot really get back to the original story sometimes without understanding that we have three witnesses to many stories, and sometimes Matthew and Luke only as witnesses to a certain story. And unless we understand what’s going on in the use of sources by Matthew and Luke and Mark, we are just almost certain to make some very serious mistakes.

James Tissot, Les disciples mangent du blé au sabbat (“The Disciples Eat Wheat on the Sabbath”). Image courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

I want to talk just a little bit, first of all, about a story found in the Gospels called “Plucking Corn on the Sabbath” by some people. It’s in Huck’s Synopsis of the Gospels number 69. And in it, we find Matthew 12:1-8, I believe it is; Mark 2:23, I believe it is, -28; and Luke 8:1-9 [sic. Read: Luke 6:1-5]: parallel stories about Jesus going through the wheat fields and his disciples, picking up or rubbing, grains of the wheat on the Sabbath and then eating them.

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For more on the “Lord of the Sabbath” pericope, see Shmuel Safrai’s JP article “Sabbath Breakers.”


  • [1] The audio, which was recorded live, has been edited for the sake of clarity.
  • [2] Our thanks to Pieter Lechner for providing the audio and the transcript of Lindsey’s lecture.

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  • Robert L. Lindsey [1917-1995]

    Robert L. Lindsey [1917-1995]

    Robert L. Lindsey (1917-1995; B.A., University of Oklahoma, Th.M., Princeton Theological Seminary, Th.M. and Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) was the long-time pastor of Jerusalem's Narkis Street Congregation. His research on the Synoptic Gospels led to the creation of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research.…
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