This is a repost of probably the best write-up I've given of a theory I myself came up with, which seems to explain the "Synoptic Problem" to my own satisfaction. To summarize the question it addresses, Bible scholars for several hundred years have noted the remarkable similarities in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Supposedly, Matthew wrote first -- but over 90% of Mark's Gospel is virtually identical to Matthew's, including passages with identical wording in Greek, as though Mark had taken Matthew, chopped off the Infancy Narrative and the Crucifixion/Resurrection passage, eliminated the majority of the teachings passages, and tacked on a new Crucifixion story -- a truly bizarre procedure. This has led people to think that Matthew took Mark and modified it. Then there are a number of "teachings" passages found, sometimes verbatim and sometimes in quite different contexts, in both Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark. Scholars have advanced a mysterious, and missing "Q" document of Jesus's teachings to account for these similarities. But why would "Q" vanish without a trace or even a reference to it in the rather extensive collection of post-Apostolic writings, if this were true? Obviously, something is fairly bizarre here. My thinking on how the three Synoptic Gospels came to be, therefore, is as follows: The early Christian historian Papias said that "Matthew first recorded the logia of Jesus in the Jewish language." The Gospel According to Matthew does not meet this description, being a narrative of Jesus's life into which His teachings are inserted, largely in five long sermons with characteristic themes (the Sermon on the Mount is the first of these; the Discourse on the Last Days of Matthew 24-25 is the last). There are striking similarities between the Gospels According to Mark and Matthew, over 90% of the former being strikingly similar, including a large amount of identical wording, to about 60% of the longer Matthew. Mark is traditionally supposed to have written his Gospel largely on the basis of the memoirs of Peter about Jesus after Peter's death. His gospel is, by comparison with the others, "short on talk and long on action" (though of course that in no way demeans the teachings of Jesus he records or his particular focus). There are also striking similarities between Matthew and Luke and between Mark and Luke. It's almost unquestioned by scholars liberal and conservative alike that Luke depended on Mark for a "frame story" of Jesus's ministry. The fact that Matthew and Luke share a large number of pericopés (short utterances, ranging from a pithy sentence to an extended parable) not found in Mark, but place them in radically different points of His ministry and sometimes in contexts forcing different meanings on them, different points Jesus is making by them (compare the Parable of the Talents in Matt. 25:14-30 with the Parable of the Pounds in Luke 19:11-27), has been a factor in having textual scholars hypothecate a document they call "Q" (from the German quelle meaning source) for the teachings these two gospels share. There is no evidence for the existence of Q other than the very fact that Matthew and Luke share these teachings and use them in ways that show neither depended on the other unless one was prepared to reject most placements for teaching used by the other while both retain the Markan "frame story." A document of this importance about Jesus could reasonably be supposed to have been preserved by one or more churches or at least referred to by early Christian writers. On the other hand, what Papias says that Matthew compiled describes what scholars hypothesize as Q far more than it does the First Gospel which bears Matthew's name. So I see the following sequence of events: Matthew Levi (as a good Levite would) collects the teachings of Jesus for easy reference. Many he would himself remember; he had also access to several of the other early disciples, in the Twelve and beyond, to assist in refreshing his memory. A free translation of this collection into Greek is made for the Greek-speaking Christians outside the Hebrew/Aramaic area. (We assume a "free" translation rather than a strict verbatim one because of extensive reference to the Septuagint and some wordplay in the Greek Matthew and Luke manuscripts that doesn't work in Hebrew or Aramaic.) Mark compiles his "life and times of the Son of God" narrative based on Peter's recollections, as previously suggested. Luke researches for an accurate book on Jesus's life and thought. He interviews many surviving eyewitnesses, but depends heavily on the two manuscripts that provide the best concentrated dose of "Jesusiana" available at the time -- Mark and the collection of sayings Matthew made. Either the original Matthew collection grouped Jesus's teachings by subject, the Greek translation did, or the next step did. In any case, an unknown editor took a manuscript of Mark, adapted it slightly to better fit Jewish piety, and inserted Matthew's teachings into it, placing the topical groupings of teachings on five occasions when Jesus was known to have preached on the subjects in question. (This is not contrary to proper literary ethics at the time -- a writer was supposed to supply dialogue or discourse that was not preserved or that was likely to have been what was said at a particular time, similar to our use of indirect quotation -- if I say "Brian said, 'Scripture teaches us that...', I need to accurately quote the exact words he says, but if I say "Brian said that Scripture teaches us that...." I can supply my own words so long as I accurately report his meaning, and the reader will recognize the difference. The assumption was that in a day without tape recorders and stenographers, nobody would have the exact words said but the author was entitled to supply a "reasonable facsimile" that accurately paralleled what might have been said and accurately reflected the thoughts of the person it was ascribed to.) Circulation of the original Matthew collection was superseded by the new book, which after all contained all the Matthew stories, but put them in the context of Jesus's life. It was called after the Apostle who had originally made the collection, and constitutes what we have today as "Matthew's Gospel."