Monday, May 21, 2007

Review of the new edition of Aland's Synopsis of the Four Gospels

Synopsis of the Four Gospels: Greek-English Edition of the Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum. Edited by Kurt Aland, (12th edn; Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 2001).

Available in the UK from Alban Books

This Gospel parallel compiled by the late Kurt Aland is based on the NA27 and RSV. This Synopsis remains arguably the most useful tool for students, pastors, and scholars who want to study the Greek and English texts of the Gospels side-by-side. I have an older copy of A Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels in Greek by Ernest De Witt Burton and Edgar Johnson Goodspeed, but Aland's Synopsis is far better in that it also provides an apparatus and English translation.

The introduction includes a description of the RSV text, an explanation of the apparatus and symbols of the NA27 text, and a list of Greek and Latin witnesses. After the Synopsis itself comes two indices including a list of Gospel parallels and a list of NT passages alluded to.

This Synopsis is particularly useful because it has both the English and Greek texts on opposite pages and it means that one does not need a great proficiency in Greek to make use of it. I have used Aland’s Synopsis in class as a way of introducing first year undergraduate students to the Synoptic problem. My preferred starting point is # 128 the ‘Parable of the Mustard Seed’ which is part of the triple tradition and good for discussing Marcan priority and assessing the Two-Source hypothesis against the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre option. Pastors and those preparing sermons or Bible studies can benefit from an immediate, visual, and detailed comparison of parallel Gospel passages.

A note of advice (originating from Mark Goodacre), if you are going to colour code or mark the pages of a Synopsis such as this, then make sure that you photocopy it first just in case you change your mind from which source you think a certain text belongs to!

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