The word “synoptic” means giving an account of the events from the same point of view. The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke are called Synoptic Gospels. They are called so because they contain many of the same stories and similar sequence. While these three writers have written the Gospel following a similar pattern, the Gospel written by John stands unique by itself.
How did the Synoptic Gospels end up with such similar accounts, even though they did not know each other and they wrote at different times? Although many stories about Jesus were passed down by word of mouth at first, the sequence of events in writing suggests that there must have been a literary relationship among the three Gospel writers.
Most of the scholars agree that the Gospel according to Mark was the source for the Gospel written by Matthew and Luke. This conclusion has been arrived at from two observations: First, Matthew and Luke generally follow the same chronology that Mark outlines. Second, Matthew and Luke often elaborate on or improve Mark’s version of the stories.
Given the fact that Matthew and Luke have got their basic stories from Mark, they also have some other materials, which could not have come from Mark, because Mark does not have them in his Gospel. For example,
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapter 5 – 7 and Luke 6:20-49)
John the Baptist’s preaching (Matthew 3:7-10 and Luke 3:7-9)
The Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4).
Therefore, many scholars think that Matthew and Luke had access to a second source which they call “Q”. It is an abbreviation for the German word “Quelle” (meaning “source”).
May The Word of God deepen your faith,
Fr. Arul Joseph V.