Mike Duncan argues that the Farrer Hypothesis is the best working solution to the Synoptic Problem in New Testament studies by way of rhetorical theory, as he sees the Synoptic Problem as less about source and textual criticism and more as a writing problem that concerns how and why they were composed The book’s six chapters feature case studies of different aspects of gospel rhetoric, such as how the different post-resurrection accounts interact with each other and how the apostles are portrayed from gospel to gospel. These chapters form a collective argument—that the synoptic gospels are competing rhetorical narratives about Jesus, with the authors of Luke and Matthew reacting to previous gospels with the goal of superseding the previously composed versions of Jesus’s life. However, Duncan acknowledges that the Farrer Hypothesis has special difficulties and cannot be pushed beyond an educated guess, that the Synoptic Problem remains an unsolvable problem due to a lack of evidence and lost original context, and that it is only a philosophical acceptance of the inaccessibility of a solution that paradoxically allows a frank and unsentimental view of the alternatives.
Mike Duncan is a professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown.
Chapter 1: The History of the Synoptic Problem: Preferring the Worst Explanation, Except For All The Others
Chapter 2: Competing Narratives: What Happened After The Resurrection?
Chapter 3: The Farrer Hypothesis, the Universality of Writing, and Unsolvable Problems
Chapter 4: Mark the Originator: John the Baptist and the Invention of the Gospel Genre
Chapter 5: The Rebranding of the Twelve Apostles in the Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 6: How Luke Destroyed the Sermon on the Mount: The Physical Composition of the Gospel of Luke
Appendix: Dating the Gospels
If you are looking for a serious, easy־to־read and up-todate study of the question of how the gospels came to be written, what sources their authors used, what their authors were trying to achieve, and for the most part is delivered in conversational style, then you will have found it in Rhetoric and the Synoptic Problem by Professor Mike Duncan…. Mike Duncan's style is, as I have mentioned, largely conversational and readily keeps the reader engaged — as is surely appropriate from a professor of communication!
Mike Duncan provides a refreshing new take on the debate of how to explain the many passages shared in the first three canonical gospels. Instead of asking who copied what, he explores the possibility of competing narratives, a phenomenon that can be observed in the numerous extra-canonical narratives about Jesus and his first followers. As a student of the field of rhetoric, he understands the phenomenon of creative writing in antiquity and doesn't hesitate to apply his insights to the holy grail of New Testament exegesis, the so-called Synoptic Problem.
Duncan is an excellent communicator and a skilled rhetorician himself. For biblical scholars who have long questioned ‘assured results’, this book further substantiates this scepticism. Although he disarmingly acknowledges that he might be wrong about everything he advocates, he, nonetheless, thinks that the FH is the ‘best working and least wrong solution’ (p. 88). He calls for ‘blended abduction’, an open conversation between different solutions.