Themes and Purposes of the Synoptic Gospels

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  • Attempts to encourage and build up the community during Nero's persecution of gentiles- writing for a community in crisis (community forming literature)
    • Demonstrated in emphasis on discipleship, evil and suffering (crucifixion).
  • Creates a sense of urgency.
    • Jesus begins his ministry with the declaration "time is fulfilled" (MK1:14)
    • word "immediately" occurs 42 times.
    • Perhaps warning followers of the imminent coming of the Parousia.
    • emphasis on Jesus' actions rather than words.
  • Portrays Jesus' death as the goal of his life and mission.
    • Jesus' enemies plot to kill him from the beginning (MK3:6)
    • Perhaps links to Nero's persecution.
  • Appeals to gentiles
    • uses rough koine Greek 
    • translates Aramaic phrases (MK15:35) and explains Jewish customs (MK7:3-4)
  • Create a biography of Jesus
    • Stanton- it is "a bios, a biography" (The Gospels and Jesus).
  • Emphasis on disciple failure- Stanton highlights how they often misunderstand e.g. feeding of the 5000/ 4000.
  • Papias- interpreter of Peter. However, there are few stories about Peter and MK's theme are more closely linked with those of Paul.


  • Uses organisational patterns
    • Arranged teaching of Jesus into 5 blocks, linking to the pentateuch. Stanton- possibly new Moses?
    • There are 12 fulfillment quotations, linking to the 12 tribes of Israel.
    • Genealogy (MT1:1-17) contains 14 generations, corresponding to the number of David's name (DVD=14).
  • Gives Peter special prominence
    • Includes a number of stories about him not found elsewhere.
    • Calls Peter "the rock on which I will build my church." (MT16)
  • Matthew is not…


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