Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jordan's Hypothesis: The Real Solution To The Synoptic Problem


If you don't know anything about the Synoptic Problem, please click here to read a post that will give you enough information to get the joke.

My junior year, that is, my first year of seminary I shared an apartment with a a fellow student, a young man my own age, named Jordan Scharf. Jordan was intelligent, articulate, and witty.

He was my friend.

I was studying for a Master of Divinity, a professional degree. Jordan was going for a Master of Theology, an academic degree, a step toward a doctorate. As I recall, his thesis was to be something about the theologian Tielhard de Chardin. Jordan seemed destined for academic greatness.

Unfortunately, at the end of our first year of school, my friend was diagnosed with leukemia. His doctors treated the disease aggressively. Jordan went in and out of remission. He was able to return to school for a short time, but after a two year struggle, my friend succumbed to the illness. I think it was 1982, when Jordan was about 25 years old, that he died.

Okay. That's not the funny part.

Jordan once shared with me his "solution" to the Synoptic Problem. I thought it was funny, have always remembered it, and have shared it many times. Recently, when Joel Watts posted a humorous video extolling the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre Hypothesis at his Unsettled Christianity blog. I replied by posting Jordan's Hypothesis:

The Gospel of Mark was the first draft of a doctoral candidate’s dissertation. He submitted it to his advisor who suggested the need for more background information about Jesus’ birth, maybe some more teaching material, and a stronger ending. The student rewrote his dissertation and submitted the Gospel of Matthew.

His advisor thought the revision was much stronger but felt that the teaching material should be better integrated into the narrative, thought a story about Jesus’ youth might be helpful, and suggested that the genealogy could be expanded back to Adam, etc. The PhD candidate did another major revision and produced the Gospel of Luke.

Once again the advisor was critical and asked for major revisions. Frustrated, the student took drugs and wrote the Gospel of John.

Not surprisingly, Joel liked this bit of theological geek humor. He asked if he could publish it on his blog, and so it got a post of its own which drew a comment from none other than Mark Goodacre, the third name in the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre Hypothesis.

Then Dr. James McGrath picked it up and posted it on his Exploring Our Matrix blog. I've also found it on Dr. Platypus's blog.

Now, Joel has asked permission to possibly use Jordan's Hypothesis in his book. (As if permission were mine to give). This means that three decades after his untimely death, my roommate may actually be cited in a scholarly publication.


Anything clever or funny about my quotation of Jordan's "Hypothesis" owes directly to him. Any lapses of grammar or errors of fact are strictly my own. 


  1. Man invented god 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years ago.
    The gods used Christainity as temptation to repel people away from themselves, the pentagram being the holy symbol of the gods, and of their Chosen One's teachings, the Second Coming, Lucifer.
    Don't forget::::It is not a house of Jesus.
    Christianity is evil. It is responsible for slavery of Africans. It is responsible for this wickedness known as the United States.
    There is a major difference between how Europe and the rest of the world were inflicted with xtianity:::Push vs. pull strategy. As a result, expect the "1000 years with Jesus on Earth" may be reserved for the Europeans and few others who were forced into this evil religion:::The god's management of culpability defines the level of compensation everyone receives.
    The god's primary goal with this Situation was the minimization of culpability arising from the 20th century and liberal counter-culture. Everything I have taught is true. Now that this Situation is complete you people have been taught. The gods are no longer/minimally responsible from this point forward, pitiful "reach around" compensation for ruining your Planet Earth. Their empty promise "We'll make it up to him." has been met with similar inadequate compensation, and the gods will find a way to wash their hands of this obligation to me as well.
    Morality is irrelevant. If they were honest how little they ultimately intended to grant me my sacrifice would have ended long ago, but they used this lie "We'll make it up to him." to further my misery, just as they do with all of you, adhering strictly to positioning, with absolution of obligation on the agenda for the future.
    My experience is obcene.
    The gods may be immortal but they are not divine.