Robert L. Lindsey and His Synoptic Theory

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In this article, Finnish scholar Risto Santala appraises the synoptic theory of Robert L. Lindsey and its importance for New Testament studies.

In his The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings, Finnish scholar Risto Santala appraises the synoptic theory of Robert L. Lindsey and its importance for New Testament studies.

The question as to how the Gospels were put together has occupied scholars for the past two hundred years. It is generally thought that the accounts of Jesus and his acts were transmitted orally until they were written down in Greek between the years 70-100 A.D. This puts the Gospel of John at an even later date.

Augustinian Hypothesis

Augustinian Hypothesis

These assumptions are certainly no more than working hypotheses by means of which attempts have been made to establish the relationship of the Gospels to one another. At the beginning of the fifth century A.D. Augustine concluded that the order of writing of the Synoptic Gospels was Matthew, Mark and Luke, with Mark using Matthew, and Luke using both Matthew and Mark. The originator of the “synoptic” concept, J. J. Griesbach, considered Matthew’s Gospel to have been written first, Luke’s second and Mark’s last, with Luke using Matthew, and Mark using Matthew and Luke (see B. C. Butler, The Originality of St. Matthew [Cambridge, 1951]).

Griesbach Hypothesis

Griesbach Hypothesis

What conclusions have been reached by Robert Lindsey? In answering this question, it must be borne in mind that the Gospels were originally communicated orally to the people in Aramaic and even, it would appear, recorded in a written form in both Aramaic and Hebrew. The church fathers Papias, Irenaeus, Origen and Eusebius, leaning on tradition, record sayings to the effect that Matthew wrote his Gospel initially “in Hebrew,” “among Hebrews,” “for those of the Jews who became Christians” and “in their mother tongue” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History III 39, 16; V 8, 2; VI 25, 4; and III 24, 6.) Critics often consider “Hebrew” to mean “Aramaic.” Comparative linguistic studies ought, however, to be capable of revealing which language’s structure and concepts best correspond to the Greek phraseology.

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  • Risto Santala [1929-2012]

    Risto Santala [1929-2012]

    Risto Santala was a well-known Finnish scholar in the fields of Judaism and rabbinic literature. He studied theology at the University of Helsinki and was ordained a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland in 1953. He first worked as a youth pastor in…
    [Read more about author]

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