A major debate in New Testament studies over the past two hundred years is the "Synoptic Problem." This problem observes the differences between the three Synoptic Gospel (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and seeks to reconcile them. There are three categories where variations often occur: wording, content, and order. "Wording" refers to the specific Greek words chosen by each evangelist. "Content" refers to the thematic "pericopes" (literary units) that each author chose to include or exclude. "Order" refers to the specific sequence that Matthew, Mark, and Luke elected to arrange their Gospels.
Differences in these categories have great significance because they affect our view of Scripture in vital areas such as biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and perspicuity. They determine precisely who Jesus is and what words He spoke. Furthermore, they shape one's entire method of interpretation of the Synoptic Gospels. In short, the Synoptic Problem strikes at the very heart of the Christian faith, reflecting what we believe about God and His Word. "In large part, the answers to who Jesus really was depend upon how one approaches the first three Gospels - Matthew, Mark, and Luke - which in turn depends upon how the three books came into being" (13).
So how should these differences be reconciled? In this book, the three most common views are articulated and defended. Grant R. Osborne and Matthew C. Williams join forces to present the "Two-/Four-Source View." John H. Niemelä advocates the "Two Gospel View." And F. David Farnell heralds the "Independence View." Thomas, as editor, presides over the discussion by offering a basic introduction to the subject and concludes with a summary of all arguments and responses. He states that the overarching purpose of the book is to "help individuals sort through issues and controversies that relate to the first three Gospels" with the ultimate goal of "strengthening the body of Christ" (18). In my estimation, Farnell makes the strongest case.
This is a helpful book on a complex subject that really helps untangle the synoptic problem. One unfortunate aspect is that the authors do not have an opportunity to rebut their opponent's responses, leaving some arguments unanswered.