THE SYNOPTIC PROBLEM

ARE THERE ERRORS IN THE BIBLE?
ARE THERE ERRORS IN THE GOSPELS?
IS THERE LITERARY DEPENDENCY IN THE GOSPELS?
COPYRIGHT NEIL CADMAN B Sc.(Arch.) B Arch. M.Rel.Ed.
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CHRONOLOGICAL INDICATORS


Literature consists of thoughts or ideas expressed in words. Literature conveys ideas which are related to other ideas and these ideas are expressed in words which relate to other words. When words are put together that have a relationship with each other, they contain particular words that define the nature of that relationship.

Words relate to each other by defining subject, action, time and space. If one of these is not indicated there is uncertainty in the information given. Historical literature to be of any use to a later reader must define the subject, the action, the time and the location. The Bible is largely historical literature. Particular words indicate chronological order either directly or indirectly. When those words begin a statement they are either in themselves an introduction, i.e. dates, or they indicate that the thought contained within that statement follows the thought contained in the previous statement. Other words contained elsewhere within a statement also refer to things mentioned in a previous statement, indicating a dependency, therefore the later statement follows. The things which indicate chronological order are;

Dates:

Indicate chronological order, also names of parts of the year, names of days or parts thereof. e.g. festivals, particular months, morning evening, at that time, etc.

Ordinal Numbers:

e.g. firstly, secondly etc.

Temporal Adverbs:

eg. When, then, after, now, before, etc.

Particular Verbs:

Some verbs are dependent upon a particular situation. Such as, reply and answer which imply a question having already been put forward. Likewise, it came to pass implies an action has already occurred and introduces one to come. The present tense takes the reader back into that time frame. So when the writer writes, says instead of said the intention is that one lives through what has been recorded. This indicates that chronology is set. For if the author's intention is that the reader relive an historical event, how can it be done except that each event is recorded in chronological order.

Participles:

Some participles such as having been loosed, being loosed, having become tend to imply a certain situation already exists and the idea introduced by the participle therefore follows that situation.

Imperatives:

Commands are given to an audience, which has usually already been defined. It is highly unlikely that a totally independent event would ever be introduced by such a declaration such as Look or but look.

Relative pronoun:

A relative pronoun if it begins a statement indicates dependency, because it refers to a person or thing already named.

Personal pronouns:

These indicate dependency. The personal pronoun, except the first person personal pronoun, substitutes for a preceding person, therefore it must follow it. Likewise pronouns substitute for a preceding noun.

Nouns:

Such as the twelve, and the Pharisees, when used as subjects or objects, and then again immediately referred to as either subjects or objects indicate a dependency.

Demonstratives:

Such as which and that, always introduce a dependent statement and therefore indicate chronological order

Interrogatives:

These in asking a question refer to someone previously mentioned. Therefore they indicate following order.

Conjunctions:

But always indicates chronological order for it contrasts the idea to come with the idea previously stated and is therefore dependent upon it.Because indicates the idea to come is the result of the idea just mentioned. And almost always indicates chronological order in that it adds the idea to come to the idea previously stated and is dependent upon its completion. However in a more simple use it may be used to merely indicate that two or more ideas, things or actions are present. E.g. a shopping list: or a description of an inanimate scene. However once the scene is animated by some event occurring, then ideas tend to become chronologically dependent otherwise, irrelevancy is introduced.

Negatives & Affirmatives:

Yes, no, neither, none, certainly, indeed are replies to previous questions and therefore indicates that it is a dependent statement.

Dialogue:

Must be set in narrative to give it reference to time and space. While it is possible for dialogue to precede narrative this is rare and usually confined to poetry or fiction where it is used for dramatic effect. Dialogue does not precede narrative in the historic books of the Old Testament, the Gospels or Epistles but it does occur in the Psalms.

Themes, episodes, events or incidents:

Often indicate chronological order. There is an overall theme to each Gospel and that is the atonement but there are lesser themes, episodes, events or incidents that fit into that overall theme to produce a climax in the crucifixion. In many instances it is plain that some events must precede others. In other cases it is not so plain. However within a certain event or episode there must be a chronological order so that it holds together for it to be even considered an event. Since this is the case the only instance where discontinuity in chronological order may occur is between events.

Literature:

Qualities such as irony, contrast, emphasis or reinforcement of ideas also often give an indication of chronological order and integrity of the document.

Prophecy:

And its fulfilment occur in the Gospels. Where it occurs, it indicates chronological order, for the prophecy must come first and the fulfilment second. A Quotation of the Old Testament follows its introduction.

Geography:

Indirectly illustrates chronology when it is plain that a set route is being followed or that a series of events all occur in the one location.

Logic:

Some events by their very nature must follow another stated event.

Establish thy word to thy servant who is devoted to thy fear. Ps. 119:38