Saturday, August 14, 2010

Augustinian hypothesis

the evangelist Matthew
inspired by an angel
The Augustinian hypothesis is a solution to the synoptic problem, which concerns the origin of the Gospels of the New Testament. The hypothesis holds that Matthew was written first, by Matthew the Evangelist, a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. Mark the Evangelist, a disciple of the apostle Simon Peter, wrote the Gospel of Mark second, and used Matthew and the preaching of Simon Peter as sources. Luke the Evangelist, a disciple of Paul of Tarsus, wrote the Gospel of Luke, and was aware of the two Gospels that preceded him. Unlike some competing hypotheses, this hypothesis does not rely on, nor does it argue for, the existence of any document that is not explicitly mentioned in historical testimony. Instead, the hypothesis draws primarily upon historical testimony, rather than textual criticism, as the central line of evidence. The foundation of evidence for the hypothesis is the writings of the Early Church Fathers: historical sources dating back to as early as the first half of the 2nd century, which have been held as authoritative by most Christians for nearly 2 millennia. Finally, adherents to the Augustinian hypothesis view it as a simple, coherent solution to the synoptic problem.

The problem of the Relationship of the Synoptists was first seriously discussed by Augustine (d. 430), in his three books De Consensu Evangelistarum (Opera, Tom. III., 1041–1230, ed. Migne). He defends the order in our canon, first Matthew, last John, and the two apostolic disciples in the middle, like sons to be embraced and thus placed in the middle and between the two (in loco medio constituti tamquam filii amplectendi, I., 2), but wrongly makes Mark dependent on Matthew. His view prevailed during the middle ages and down to the close of the eighteenth century.


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