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Ornatus: An Application of Rhetoric to the Synoptic Problem

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image of Novum Testamentum

In this essay I shall consider ancient rhetoric as a means to suggest synoptic relationships. Focusing on the stylistic virtue of ornatus ("adornment"), I shall examine three triple tradition sentences in which the gospel of Mark employs a word used nowhere by the gospels of Luke or Matthew. Focusing on the relationship between Mark and the other gospels, I shall ask whether it is more likely that Mark adds the word to Matthew and/or Luke on the Two-Gospel Hypothesis, or whether Matthew and/or Luke delete it from Mark on the Two-Document Hypothesis. My study leads me to two conclusions. On grounds of ornatus, editing on either source hypothesis is plausible. But such editing on the Two-Document Hypothesis is more plausible, since Mark's addition of each word would entail the unlikely discovery of near-perfect or coincidentally co-ordinated literary patterns in Matthew and/or Luke.


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