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I'll give an example:

Matt. 4:17 (KJV)

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Mark 1:15 (KJV)

And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

The congruence indicates these two scriptures are synoptic parallels. Therefore, I may conclude that "the kingdom of God" is identical to "the kingdom of Heaven."

Is synoptic parallelism a valid hermeneutic?

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For the example you gave, yes those verses refer to the same thing. I will give more details in a separate answer and add a link here. It's a good question in itself and I don't want to detract from the stated question. –  Frank Luke Feb 20 '13 at 16:02
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See my answer here for more details on the two being the same. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/4251/… –  Frank Luke Feb 20 '13 at 17:30
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FYI, this question (and other recent ones along this same line) are being discussed in The Library. Do you mean something along the lines of: "Is synoptic parallelism compatible with modern Textual Criticism scholarship?" Because we don't all agree on what "valid" means. ;) –  Jon Ericson Feb 20 '13 at 21:08

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes. A thorough comparison of the gospels shows that "kingdom of heaven" is Matthew's term for "kingdom of God". Whenever "kingdom of God" appears in a parallel passage, Matthew almost always rephrases it "kingdom of heaven". I've highlighted these two phrases in the following examples.

The parable of the mustard seed

Mark 4:30-32

He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

Luke 13:18-19

He said therefore, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches."

Matthew 13:31-32

He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

Little children and the kingdom

Mark 10:14-15

But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

Luke 18:16-17

But Jesus called for them and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

Matthew 18:2-4

He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Sending the twelve

Luke 9:1-3

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic.

Matthew 10:5-8

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

Altogether, the phrase "kingdom of God" appears 52 times in the gospels (31 times in Luke, 14 in Mark, 5 in Matthew, 2 in John). The phrase "kingdom of heaven" appears 31 times in Matthew—and nowhere else. There is no reason not to think it is meant to be synonymous with "kingdom of God".


There are a number of other examples in the synoptic gospels where one or more writers choose a synonym rather than sticking with the original word. Here are a few examples.

The transfiguration—Peter's words

Mark 9:5

Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here;

Matthew 17:4

Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here;

Luke 9:33

Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here;

The transfiguration—God's reply

Mark 9:7

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"

Matthew 17:5

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!"

Luke 9:35

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"

The abomination of desoloation

Mark 13:14

But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Matthew 24:15-16

So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Luke 21:20-21

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…

These differences can sometimes provide clues to the identity of the author or of the original recipients of the gospels.

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I'm going to say that it's somewhat invalid to ask about the validity of a hermeneutic. For instance, most modern biblical scholars would say that allegories and typologies should not be used as valid proofs for doctrine. And yet St. Paul "explicitly indulges in allegory (allegoroumena, Galatians 4;24), he uses it to draw the conclusion that “we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free woman” and to encourage the Galatians to toss out the bondwoman and her son (Galatians 4:30-31)."1

Concerning synoptic parallelism itself, I think that synoptic parallelism is a good tool that can help shed meaning on various texts (possibly on an earlier source that is drawn from by each), but any hermeneutic breaks down when pushed to extremes. For instance, a recent question shows an example where making this a rule would mean equating the Holy Spirit with the Spirit of the Father (which may or may not be acceptable theology). Other examples where synoptic parallelism breaks down include places were the synoptic gospels contain contradictions, such as Matthew 28:8 and Mark 16:8.

Most hermeneutics can be taken to an extreme that will 'break them' and render them useless in some context. This is why asking about their validity is somewhat irrelevant. A better question is how this hermeneutic can help shed light on a specific passage in a specific context.

1 cf. http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/02/19/allegorical-proof/

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Yes, comparing parallel Gospel accounts is very important and useful as a hermeneutic tool. Often one author will add a flavor that the other does not. This allows us to learn more of the event and/or the author.

All three synoptic writers record the woman with the issue of blood. The story is very similar, but we learn something about Luke from a detail that he leaves out.

Matthew 9:20 But a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.

Mark 5:26 She had endured a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet instead of getting better, she grew worse.

Luke 8:43 Now a woman was there who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years but could not be healed by anyone.

Mark points out that she grew worse under the physicians' care. Luke, a physician himself, simply says that the doctors could not help her.

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Yes. Applying a synoptical parallelistic approach to the gospels is valid, and is tremendously important.

Why? I say let the writer speak (i.e. the Holy Spirit). This is foundational to solid hermeneutics (The science of interpretation and understanding) and it’s exegesis (practical application via explanation).

And Yes, your example is why the proper apporach is so vital. Your question is why I've come to this site, and mostly likely why others do to. That being: to find, see, analyze, and know the truth.Personaly, I don't care about anothers dogma...I want the truth.

As to the text cited, and your conclusion, I don't agree. Given historical or cultural analysis, from what I see, read, and interpret, these verse's are fundamentally different. The argument appears to be with a syntactical analysis of which I don’t see or agree with the presuppositions (The same statment).

Here is why: Eyewitness accounts have seen and touched the Christ, conversely 2nd hand accounts have not. Their minds are centered on different aspects of Earthly and heavenly realms. The basis for my finding's is below.

Matthew is a:

  • 1st hand account of Christ’s life
  • Writes having seen the physical (living, dead, & resurrected Christ) & desires to see the "Spiritual-kingdom"

Example 1: “ …your kingdom come, your will be done on earth (acknowledges the physical) as it is in heaven (looks for the spiritual).” (Matthew 6:10 NIV)

Likewise - John is a:

  • 1st hand account of Christ’s life
  • Writes having seen the physical (living, dead, & resurrected Christ) & desires to see the "Spiritual-kingdom"

Example 1: "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." (John 18:36 KJV)

Mark is a:

  • 2nd hand account to Christ’s life
  • Writes in hopes to understand a physical eye witness testimony, & desires to see the "Physical-kingdom"

Likewise - Luke is a:

  • 2nd hand account to Christ’s life
  • Writes in hopes to understand a physical eye witness testimony, & desires to see the “Physical-Kingdom”

Example 1: “…behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-21 KJV)

Example 2: “…your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2 NIV)

In closing, this question, to which I'm sure you knew the answer, is the quintessential question for this site.

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Hi Derek. I'm glad you are putting so much into the site and that you seem to have gotten a lot out of it too. I hope you aren't getting discouraged by the way things work around here; the Stack Exchange sites have little quirks that make them different from other sites you might be familiar with. For one thing, answers are really designed to focus on the question itself. So your second paragraph and the last one seem a little too "chatty". Have you seen our tour page? –  Jon Ericson Feb 21 '13 at 0:46
    
thanks. I haven't taken a look, and I will. Sorry. –  Derek Scott Feb 21 '13 at 19:59

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