Three-source hypothesis

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The arrows indicate information flow. As with the two-source hypothesis, supporters of the three-source hypothesis may or may not posit that Mark had access to the sayings collection. Three-source (Mark-Q Matthew) theory.svg
The arrows indicate information flow. As with the two-source hypothesis, supporters of the three-source hypothesis may or may not posit that Mark had access to the sayings collection.

The three-source hypothesis is a candidate solution to the synoptic problem. It combines aspects of the two-source hypothesis and the Farrer hypothesis. It states that the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke used the Gospel of Mark and a sayings collection as primary sources, but that the Gospel of Luke also used the Gospel of Matthew as a subsidiary source. The hypothesis is named after the three documents it posits as sources, namely the sayings collection, the Gospel of Mark, and the Gospel of Matthew.


The sayings collection may be identified with Q, or with a subset of Q [1] if some (typically narrative-related) material normally assigned to Q is instead attributed to Matthew's creativity in conjunction with Luke's use of Matthew.

This theory has been advocated by Heinrich Julius Holtzmann, [2] Eduard Simons, [3] Hans Hinrich Wendt, [4] Edward Y. Hincks, [5] Robert Morgenthaler [6] and Robert H. Gundry. [7]

Alternatively, M.A.T. Linssen [8] proposes it as a variant by equating the sayings collection to The Gospel of Thomas, suggesting that Matthew and Luke worked together to write different gospels, each targeted at their own audience

See also

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Heinrich Julius Holtzmann, German Protestant theologian, son of theologian Karl Julius Holtzmann (1804–1877), was born at Karlsruhe, where his father ultimately became prelate and counsellor to the supreme consistory of the Evangelical State Church in Baden.

Farrer hypothesis Solution to the synoptic gospels

The Farrer hypothesis is a possible solution to the synoptic problem. The theory is that the Gospel of Mark was written first, followed by the Gospel of Matthew and then by the Gospel of Luke.

The term logia, plural of logion, is used variously in ancient writings and modern scholarship in reference to communications of divine origin. In pagan contexts, the principal meaning was "oracles", while Jewish and Christian writings used logia in reference especially to "the divinely inspired Scriptures". A famous and much-debated occurrence of the term is in the account by Papias of Hierapolis on the origins of the canonical Gospels. Since the 19th century, New Testament scholarship has tended to reserve the term logion for a divine saying, especially one spoken by Jesus, in contrast to narrative, and to call a collection of such sayings, as exemplified by the Gospel of Thomas, logia.

M source Hypothetical source for Matthews Gospel

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Four-document hypothesis Explanation for the relationship between three Gospels of the Bible

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The Common Sayings Source is one of many theories that attempts to provide insight into the Synoptic Problem. The theory posits that the Gospel of Thomas, a sayings gospel, and the Q source, a hypothetical sayings gospel, have a common source. Elements of this Common Sayings Source can be found in the text of the Gospel of Thomas and what scholars are proposing existed in the Q source. The high level of similarities between the two sources suggests that both documents are later redactions of a single source, the original Common Sayings Source, which was then redacted by different groups to suit their own needs.

Jerusalem school hypothesis Hypothesis for the synoptic problem

The Jerusalem School Hypothesis is one of many possible solutions to the synoptic problem, that the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew both relied on older texts which are now lost. It was developed by Robert Lindsey, from the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research.

Two-gospel hypothesis Hypothesis that the synoptic gospels were authored in the order of Matthew, Luke, then Mark

The two-gospel hypothesis or Griesbach hypothesis is that the Gospel of Matthew was written before the Gospel of Luke, and that both were written earlier than the Gospel of Mark. It is a proposed solution to the synoptic problem, which concerns the pattern of similarities and differences between the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The hypothesis is generally first credited to Johann Jakob Griesbach writing in the 1780s; it was introduced in its current form by William R. Farmer in 1964 and given its current designation of two-gospel hypothesis in 1979.

Q source Hypothetical source of gospel contents

The Q source is a hypothetical written collection of primarily Jesus' sayings. Q is part of the common material found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but not in the Gospel of Mark. According to this hypothesis, this material was drawn from the early Church's oral gospel traditions.

Oral gospel traditions Oral stage in the formation of the gospels

Oral gospel traditions is the hypothetical first stage in the formation of the written gospels as information was passed by word of mouth. These oral traditions included different types of stories about Jesus. For example, people told anecdotes about Jesus healing the sick and debating with his opponents. The traditions also included sayings attributed to Jesus, such as parables and teachings on various subjects which, along with other sayings, formed the oral gospel tradition. The supposition of such traditions have been the focus of scholars such as Bart Ehrman, James Dunn, and Richard Bauckham, although each scholars vary widely on their conclusions, with Ehrman and Bauckham publicly debating on the subject.

Hebrew Gospel hypothesis Group of theories relating to early Christian history

The Hebrew Gospel hypothesis is that a lost gospel, written in Hebrew or Aramaic, predated the four canonical gospels. Some have suggested a complete unknown proto-gospel as the source of the canonical gospels. But the hypothesis is usally based upon the testimony of early church historians, deriving from the 2nd-century bishop Papias of Hierapolis, that Matthew the Apostle was the first to compos a gospel and that he did it in Hebrew. Papias appeared to say that this Hebrew or Aramaic gospel was subsequently translated into the canonical Gospel of Matthew. Modern variants of the hypothesis survive, but have not found favor with scholars as a whole.

Q+/Papias hypothesis Hypothesis about the synoptic gospels

Advanced by Dennis R. MacDonald, the Q+/Papias hypothesis (Q+/PapH) offers an alternative solution to the synoptic problem. MacDonald prefers to call this expanded version of Q Logoi of Jesus, which is supposed to have been its original title.

Matthean Posteriority hypothesis Proposed solution to the synoptic problem

The Matthean Posteriority hypothesis, also known as the Wilke hypothesis after Christian Gottlob Wilke, is a proposed solution to the synoptic problem, holding that the Gospel of Mark was used as a source by the Gospel of Luke, then both of these were used as sources by the Gospel of Matthew. Thus, it posits Marcan priority and Matthaean posteriority.


  1. W. Wilkens "Die Versuchung Jesu nach Matthäus" NTS 28 (1982) 479-489
  2. H. J. Holtzmann, "Zur synoptischen Frage", pp. 553–54 in Jahrbücher für protestantische Theologie 4 (1878)
  3. E. Simons, Hat der dritte Evangelist den kanonischen Matthäus benutzt? (Bonn: Carl Georgi 1880)
  4. H. H. Wendt, Die Lehre Jesu (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1886)
  5. E. Y. Hincks, "The Probable Use of the First Gospel by Luke", JBL Vol. 10 No. 2 (1891), pp. 92–106
  6. R. Morgenthaler, Statistische Synopse (Zürich: Gotthelf 1971)
  7. R.H.Gundry, Matthew, A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Michigan: Eerdmans 1982)
  8. Linssen, Martijn (2020-08-12). "Absolute Thomasine priority - the Synoptic Problem solved in the most unsatisfactory manner". Absolute Thomasine Priority. Part I: 83 via