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Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation [Paperback]

By Robert H. Stein (Author)
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Item description for Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation by Robert H. Stein...

An updated version of this informative guide to the study of the literary relationships among the first three Gospels.

Publishers Description
A substantial introduction to basic issues of interpretation for students of the Synoptic Gospels

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Baker Academic
Pages   302
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.04" Width: 6.28" Height: 0.81"
Weight:   1.05 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2001
Publisher   Baker Academic
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0801022584  
ISBN13  9780801022586  

Availability  1 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 24, 2016 02:30.
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More About Robert H. Stein

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert H. Stein (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) was most recently senior professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He previously taught at Bethel Seminary. A world-renowned scholar of the Synoptic Gospels, Stein has published several books, including Luke, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Studying the Synoptic Gospels, and Jesus the Messiah.

Robert H. Stein was born in 1935.

Robert H. Stein has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Criticism & Interpretation
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > New Testament > Study
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > New Testament

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > New Testament Studies > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Studying the Synoptic Gospels: Origin and Interpretation?

Educational  Dec 13, 2007
This book is truely fantastic. This book outlines the three gospels side by side so you can easily compare them. The book gives indepth explanations that are easy to read and understand. A good book for the person studying Theology or doing a church project, or just for your personal development.
A Good Introductory Work on the Synoptic Problem  Aug 28, 2007
Studying the Synoptic Gospels serves as an introduction to the study of source criticism, form criticism, and redaction criticism of the Gospels. It is not intended to be a primer on exegesis or general hermeneutics of the Gospels, but to teach how they were formed, what components were involved in their construction, and how the distinctive theologies of the evangelists can be determined.

Stein writes his book serving "as an introduction and a work manual" (13) and it sufficiently accomplishes both. The work is comprised of three major divisions: (1) The Literary Relationship of the Synoptic Gospels, (2) The Preliterary History of the Gospel Traditions, and (3) The Inscripturation of the Gospel Traditions. The first section, which is nearly half the book, deals with literary or source criticism. It seeks to answer the questions posed by the Synoptic Problem. What is the literary relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke? Which Gospel was written first? Which Gospels are dependent upon other Gospels? Et cetera. Ultimately, he argues that there is interdependence within the gospel tradition (chapter 1), that Mark was written first (chapter 2), and that Matthew and Luke independently used Q (chapter 3). Though there are some problems with this paradigm (chapter 4), the solution to the Synoptic Problem is best found in the two-source theory (chapter 5). He also discusses the value of source criticism (chapter 6).

The second major division deals primarily with form criticism. Stein first addresses the rise and presuppositions of form criticism (chapter 7), then the general reliability of the transmission of oral traditions (chapter 8), as well as discussing the value of form criticism.

The third and final section covers redaction criticism. Here the author elaborates on the rise of redaction criticism (chapter 10), its method and practice (chapter 11), and its value (chapter 13).

Stein addresses the order in which one should perform source criticism, form criticism, and redaction criticism, but notes that there is not a clear-cut order because they all interrelate at different points (243-244).

There are a number of factors that make Stein's work very helpful to the student. The back of the book contains a glossary with over forty frequently used terms like, "ipsissima verba," "pericope" and "Sitz im Leben." But the glossary plays only a minor role. There are also many figures and charts. The charts depict the synoptic parallels in a helpful line-by-line comparison, which makes it easier to compare the texts. Not only do the charts exist for visual aid, but they are intended to be used as an exercise for the students to do hands-on work with the parallel passages following Stein's color-coded methodology (29-30). The table of contents is also neatly formatted, outlining both major and minor sections for reference. Additionally, at the end of nearly every chapter is a conclusion or summary of the discussion designed to solidify the material (46-47, 94-96, 119-123, 141-142, 152, 169,193-194, 216-221, and 279).

One aspect of this book that can be viewed both positively and negatively is the fact that it is based on the English text of the Gospels rather than the Greek. The obvious advantage is that is accessible to a larger audience. Students who are not trained in the Greek can utilize this as a textbook. Since Stein uses the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the more literal nature RSV makes the parallel passages easier to compare. It was a smart move for the author to retain the RSV rather than use the more popular updated versions such as the NIV and NRSV that are less literal (and thus harder for synoptic comparisons). Yet how useful is such a book like this to people who have not studied Greek? Obviously one cannot truly engage in such matters as redaction criticism without a good grasp of the Greek text. Yet Stein does refer to Greek words every now and then when he deems it necessary to make specific claims about the text. Nevertheless, I think that the English text is appropriate because Stein is not seeking to train redaction critics, but to get students' feet wet in the disciplines of these criticisms. Ultimately, the English text is helpful because it helps the reader quickly move through the text to get the big picture of what is happening. After one reads Stein's book and is interested in the various disciplines of Gospel study they can study the Greek text of the Gospels for themselves. After all, this book is merely an introduction to such matters.

There are several theories that take a stab at solving the Synoptic Problem that the author does not address. This should be understood as an advantage. The book does not intend to describe a thorough history of the Synoptic Problem and reference to the countless solutions would only bog down the reader. He does deal in greater detail with the Griesbach hypothesis and the two-source hypothesis (to which he subscribes). More interaction with the Farrer theory would have been a welcome addition to this book with its recent advocates like Mark Goodacre (yet even this second edition is already five years old). Stein also writes in a non-technical manner and includes a healthy dose of redundancy, both of which contribute to accessibility of the work.

Throughout Studying the Synoptic Gospels, Stein generally writes with a pragmatic approach. He does not get so caught up with the theoretical that he loses touch with real world matters when approaching the issues. Along this vein, he also questions the limits to which some have taken Q: "In light of the hypothetical nature of the Q source, the wisdom of various attempts to do redaction-critical work on the theology of the Q document or on the Q community must be questioned" (121).

He acknowledges that it is "impossible to know what was going through the mind of Luke when he wrote and why he might have omitted this or that account from his Gospel" (112). He similarly states: "We can never reconstruct with certainty the mental activity of the Evangelist when he wrote his Gospel" (147). This is an important point since so much of source criticism is based on the intentions of the Gospel writers, especially Matthew and Luke.

On the other hand, there are times when biases come to the forefront of the text. When discussing the Griesbach hypothesis Stein emphatically states that it is impossible for Mark and Luke to have changed Matthew's text ("Why do you ask me about what is good?") to Mark's ("Why do you call me good?") (146-147). This seems strange in light of his earlier comment that it is impossible to know the mind of the Evangelist.

In the end, the book stands out as a fine introduction to such matters. The book's order is nicely organized, and the student is not lost--even though there are some difficult concepts to grasp. Ultimately, Stein encourages the students and reminds them of the importance of such pursuits with quotes like the following: "Thus for many scholars, especially in the nineteenth century, the solution to the Synoptic Problem was a prerequisite for a proper study of the life of Jesus" (154).
A mid-level text with immense value  Mar 30, 2006
Stein, perhaps as well as anyone in the field, shows a mastery of the critical issues surrounding the gospels. The breadth of the topics he hits - Markan priority and source criticism, form criticism, redactional patterns - somehow manages to achieve depth.

Readers will find his parallel text layouts helpful. His readings are stretching at times (e.g. he believes that Matthew redacts Jesus' teaching on the lost sheep to be a parable for the church, which gives us an example of inspired hermeneutics).

The second edition is almost identical to the first. While a couple minor mistakes still slip through, this should be seen as a first-rate resource for the teacher, pastor, and student.
Packed with useful information  Aug 12, 2001
Dr. Stein has provided an excellent source for the study of the synoptic gospels. He writes in an easy-to-understand manner while still providing a great amount of detail. There are several useful charts and diagrams, and the parallel synoptic passages are written in neat, vertical columns for easy cross referencing.

The first section of this book discusses the literary relationship of the synoptic gospels. After establishing the clear literary dependence between the synoptics, Stein provides a very compelling argument for the priority of Mark and its subsequent utilization as a source for Matthew's and Luke's gospels. Those unfamiliar with Markan priority will learn a great deal from this section. The existence of Q as a written work is the next topic tackled. Objections to Markan priority and the existence of Q are handled well.

The second section covers form criticism and the oral transmission of the gospel materials prior to their use in written form. This area will again be very informative to those new to the topic. In the final section, Dr. Stein discusses redaction criticism and its applicability to hermeneutics. Stein comes from a conservative theological background, so I'm sure some conservative readers may be questioning whether or not critical scholarship is of any use. Clearly the author believes that it is, and I would agree. As for the issue of biblical authority, Stein believes that although Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source, and also that they altered their source in some cases, Matthew and Luke provide an inspired interpretation of Mark in those parallel passages where one writer differs from another.

This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in studying the relationship between the synoptic gospels. I know I'll be referring to it for a long time.


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