The supposed problems with the Gospels can be answered and aid all in the discovery of who Jesus is. Let us look at the origins of each Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These three Gospels, which were probably written by their namesakes, do follow “the same general outline” with “very similar emphases” (Julius J. Scott, New Testament Theology: A New Study of the Thematic Structure of the New Testament 40). I. Howard Marshall follows this same reasoning when he stated that each synoptic gospel has a “common core of accounts of the same incidents and teaching” (A Concise New Testament Theology 17). He continues to speak of the similarities in each of these three gospels and how much of the material was probably handed down by word of mouth (17).
Now, it is not certain Matthew, Mark, and Luke are the authors, but there is good evidence to believe they are. Such as, Mark and Peter had a close friendship (English Standard Version,1 Pet. 5:13). In this Scripture Peter calls Mark his son, this indicates a close bond between the two. Since this is true, Mark would have had close detailed information of Jesus and His life. According to Charles C. Ryrie, “Matthew was an obscure apostle, there would be no reason for assigning the first Gospel to him….” (Biblical Theology of the New Testament 26). This and the gospels teach that Jesus had this disciple named Matthew. If this is the same Matthew, which I believe it is, then he had personal first-person access to the source. As for the authorship of Luke, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart attribute Luke being the author to “very early tradition” and pull from Colossians 4:14 as evidence (How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour 286). In Colossians 4:14 one sees that Luke was a companion of the apostle Paul and would have had some very detailed information of Jesus.
Now, back to why they are similar in teaching. That can be explained by the fact that they used the same source material. “Matthew and Luke used Mark as their main source”, Marshall states (17). He then goes on to say that they each had access to collections that were “consisting mostly of reported teaching of Jesus that had not found its way into Mark” (17). As stated above, the material was handed down and passed around by word of mouth transmission. Much of the stories were likely abbreviated or told completely by those who heard. This is no different than when we tell a story. Depending on the audience we may go into depth or shorten it. This is very much how the ancient Israelites told stories too. The above information, reinforced by the majority of New Testament scholars supports the belief that the Synoptics were written by three different men named Matthew, Mark, and Luke and not by one individual.
Seeing as Matthew and Luke relied on Mark as their main source, it seems plausible that Mark was the first Gospel. In a video by Joel Jupp, he has a chart depicting the amount of material that is shared by the three. In what is called the triple tradition Mark has seventy-six percent, Matthew has forty-five percent, and Luke has forty-one percent (https://vimeo.com/13596735 “Synoptic Problem.” 3:56). This high percentage of material is indicative of Mark being the first Gospel.
Now, these first two responses will not exactly answer concerns about the number of Gospels and who Jesus is, but maybe this one will. The Synoptic Problem is not a problem. It can be an aid to see what really happened. Just as my post from February 12 spoke of the unity in diversity, this is what we see in the Synoptics. Since synoptic means forming a general summary, making a synopsis of the material, it seems completely plausible that each gospel is entirely accurate in even if they have a few things that seem different. What is seen in these three Gospel accounts is the same essential message but from multiple perspectives and views. This means that the message being told can be trusted as accurate. As Lee Strobel says, “if all four gospels were identical in all their minutiae, that would have raised the suspicion of plagiarism” (The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus 318). So, the reader of the Gospel accounts can trust that what they are reading is true, even if there are what seem to be discrepancies or similarities. Again, as Scott said about them following a general outline and emphases; that is why they are so similar, yet very different.
In the Synoptic problem we do not have a problem, not when one reads these accounts side by side. If they do this, they will see strikingly similar stories. Some with more detail than others but the same story nonetheless. These differences in the story are proof that the stories are accurate and true. They are so because an identical story is, as Strobel said, plagiarism or worse, collusion. They would reek of falsity and fantasy if they were identical. The fact that each author had personal involvement with Jesus, or one of His apostles, lends credence to the authenticity of the writing. What can be taken from the synoptic gospels is solid, independently attested, even if they used each other as sources like I have the authors above, material that is the true authentic story of Jesus Christ. They can be trusted and are to be trusted.