Rawlings School of Divinity


Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (MA)


Benjamin Laird


Synoptic Problem, Markan priority, source criticism, redaction criticism, resurrection


English Language and Literature | Religion


This thesis applies the Four-Source Hypothesis to the study of the resurrection accounts in the Synoptic Gospels. Scholars have addressed the Synoptic Problem in a variety of ways. Some have sought to harmonize the Gospels into one cohesive narrative, while others have concluded that the writings are contradictory and irreconcilable. Addressing the challenges associated with the Synoptic problem, this study evaluates the claims that each Gospel writer makes about the resurrection of Christ while assessing the unique characteristics and points of emphasis in each account. The resurrection narratives are used as a case study because of their importance to Christianity and their ability to illustrate some of the complexities that relate to the Synoptic Problem. Mark is presented as the first Gospel to be written, and the arguments for the majority view among scholars of Markan priority are surveyed. Mark’s original resurrection account ends abruptly at Mark 16:8, causing Matthew and Luke to supplement their Markan source to complete their resurrection narratives. Matthew is presented as an expansion of Mark, combining it with Q and M to produce a compromise Gospel that brought together the competing branches within early Christianity. It is demonstrated that Matthew's Galilee motif provides an explanation for why the resurrection appearance of Jesus occurs in Galilee with no mention of the other Jerusalem appearances. Luke is presented as the third Gospel, with knowledge of Mark, but often deferring to sources Q and L. It is suggested that Luke's redemptive view of Jerusalem causes him to focus only on the Jerusalem appearances of Jesus while excluding the Galilee appearances. The study concludes with an evaluation of arguments against the Synoptic resurrection accounts and the implications of applying the findings from source criticism to the reading of the Synoptic resurrection accounts.