The Synoptic Gospels

Next Session: Apr 29, 2024


Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the synoptic gospels, share much in common, but at the same time, each one is unique, painting its own portrait of Jesus. This course approaches the gospels mainly from historical and literary perspectives, but it also looks at patristic interpretation and at how the gospels are received today. Roman Catholic principles of scriptural exegesis will be incorporated throughout the study. By the end of the course, students will begin to understand how complex and nuanced these gospels, and their portraits of Jesus, really are.

Course Content

Unit 1: Introduction to the Gospels and the Catholic approach to Scripture

  1. Introduction to Gospels
  2. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (Pontifical Biblical Commission)
  3. Dei Verbum (II Vatican Council constitution on divine revelation)

Unit 2: Gospel of Mark

Unit 3: Gospel of Matthew

Unit 4: Gospel of Luke


Course Format

  • Five weeks in duration, with one week for orientation.
  • Typically 15-20 students in each course.
  • All lecture text available online in text format.
  • Supplemental readings are provided to encourage further exploration of topic, internet links provided for all readings.
  • Written assignments (200-250 words) required.
  • Facilitator-moderated Zoom sessions with students in the course.

Required Texts

  • All course materials are available online in the course.

Participation Requirements

  • View or read the lecture for each unit.
  • Read assigned texts; keep notes, questions, and comments for class discussion.
  • Participate in the class discussion using the Forums area: post at least 2 comments, questions, or responses per unit.
  • Respond to the assignment in each unit.
  • Participate in at least 3 scheduled Zoom sessions throughout the course.
  • Complete the course evaluation.

Time Expectations

4 to 6 hours per week, depending on your learning style and schedule.

Course Certificate

A certificate of completion awarding 25 contact hours will be sent upon completion of all course requirements.


Dr. Leslie Baynes

Dr. Leslie Baynes

Leslie Baynes is associate professor of New Testament and Second Temple Judaism at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. She earned her Master’s degree in theological studies at the University of Dayton and her Ph.D. in Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity at the University of Notre Dame (2005). Dr. Baynes’ research interests focus on apocalyptic literature, especially Revelation and 1 Enoch. Her first book, The Heavenly Book Motif in Judeo-Christian Apocalypses, was published by Brill in 2012. She has published many scholarly articles and essays as well as more popular work in venues such as The Wall Street Journal. She was named Regional Scholar by the national body of the Society of Biblical Literature (2008) and received Missouri State University’s Director’s Award for Outstanding Faculty Research (2013). Dr. Baynes is the chair of the “John’s Apocalypse in Cultural Contexts, Ancient and Modern” section of the Society of Biblical Literature, and she serves on the team revising the translation of the New Testament of the New American Bible.