I have been looking on at Matthew D. Larsen’s blog as he analyzes the differences between the synoptic versions of the Jewish trial[s] of Jesus. Matt has made it pretty clear that Luke differs too much here to call this part of the story a ‘synoptic’ view of events. I think the synoptics fail here to deliver (as a threesome) a cohesive ‘history’ of events between Jesus’ arrest and his appearance before Pilate.
Mr. Larsen has exercised his critical right to attempt an explanation of why Luke isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Mark and Matthew at this point. Now I want to suggest that – not in all cases but in this particular case – when the synoptics are in conflict, an examination of the Fourth Gospel is warranted before attempting a solution based upon the synoptics alone.
Recently I was pleased to find a very early modern example of a fruitful resort to the Gospel of John to solve the riddle of Luke’s diversion from Mark and Matthew in the matter of these trials. F.D.E. Schleiermacher applies the text of John to the problem of this particular synoptic conflict in his lectures of 1832 on the life of Jesus (The Life of Jesus, Eng 1975, p.395-401). And Schleiermacher was not ignorant of the modern criticism of John’s historicity – neither Strauss nor FC Bauer had yet published, but he knew and rejected Karl Bretschneider’s early (1820) attack on John (Ibid, Introduction, p.xxxi).
John’s account differs significantly from the account in Mark by its rejection of Mark’s report of an immediate appearance before Caiaphas. And this is a place that Luke differs from Mark as well. John states that Jesus (with Peter and ‘another disciple’ following) was first taken to the house of Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law to Caiaphas.
Could John be here offering an eyewitness account which enables this synoptic ‘problem’ to be solved? Schleiermacher thought so (p.398). Is John’s claim of relation to the high priest (whether by business or marriage) absurd for a son of Zebedee of Capernaum? And is it fair to assume that ‘another disciple’ (18:15) is an authorial reference? In future posts I want to examine what special characteristic of ‘eyewitness’ accounts scholars have noticed in John.
In my next post I will show how huge this material from John can be for a better understanding of events which transpired between the arrest of Jesus and his appearance before Pilate. Larsen has done his work by showing how tenuous our ground of resort to the synoptics is (since Luke differs so much from the other two).