The Synoptic Gospels


This subject investigates the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke as literary expressions of the development of early Christianity from its roots in Judaism. It explores these three Gospels in their historical, literary, socio-cultural and religious contexts. It assesses these Gospels as sources for understanding Jesus and also probes the puzzle of their interrelations. On a rotating basis, one of these Gospels provides the focus for detailed study of literary, historical and theological issues germane to its interpretation.


One Semester


Semester 1 every year

Subject Points




Delivery Mode

On site at St Francis College Milton


THL106 (recommended)

Charles B. Puskas and David Crump, An Introduction to the Gospels and Acts. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

Prescribed Texts

  1. A research essay on a topic related to the Synoptic Gospels generally, with the option to explore Gospel genre, to consider the value of the Gospel of Thomas, or to undertake an exercise in comparative Gospel analysis. 2,000 words. 50%

  2. An exegetical paper on a passage from the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, or Luke, depending on which is the focus Gospel for the year. 2,000 words. 50%



This subject will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels

  • Gospel genre and other gospels

  • The Synoptic Gospels in their historical, socio-cultural and religious contexts

  • The relationship between the historical Jesus and Synoptic portraits of Jesus

  • The Synoptic problem: the relations between the Synoptic Gospels

  • Distinctive features of the Synoptic Gospels

  • Authorship, date, provenance and patristic traditions regarding one Synoptic Gospel

  • Literary structure, key themes and interpretive challenges of one Synoptic Gospel

  • Close reading of a key text(s) from one Synoptic Gospel

  • Jesus according to Matthew, Mark or Luke

  • Study of one Synoptic Gospel as a response to its social, cultural and religious milieu

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this subject, students should:

  • be able to discuss in a critically informed way issues relating to the interpretation of the Synoptic Gospels;

  • be able to demonstrate an understanding of the historical, socio-cultural and religious contexts of the Synoptic Gospels and their relationship to contemporary writings;

  • be able to discuss critically scholarly methods of Gospel analysis such as form, source, redaction and narrative criticism;

  • be able to articulate a critical understanding of scholarly assessments of the relations between the Synoptic Gospels;

  • be able to discuss major theological and ethical themes in the Synoptic Gospels and assess their contemporary relevance;

  • be able to demonstrate developing competence in the exegesis and interpretation of biblical texts and critical engagement with primary biblical sources and secondary literature; and

  • be able to demonstrate self-guided learning, including sound research, writing and communication skills.