Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Analyzing the chronology of gospel events, part 1

Yesterday I wrote of my work at harmonizing the four canonical gospels, a work I began some years ago and completed in manuscript in 2006. I’m typing it now, being within a week of having the basic document typed. After that will come adding passage headings from the NIV, adding the NIV footnotes (I’ve done some of that as I’ve typed, and some even in mss), and adding some chapter headings. Since the Harmony brings together gospels with 28, 16, 24, and 21 chapters, I need to create some kind of chapter designations that works for the whole.

After that I will have to dig into some pesky, troubling areas that I put off when doing the original writing. These are some things where the gospels are so different, or seem to have a different time line, and blending them is impossible. I did not find many situations like that, but there are a few. These will require thought to make final, and will need an appendix to explain my thought process.

Actually, I will have several other appendixes to explain thought processes. An example of one is how to deal with the calling of the first disciples: Andrew, Peter, James, and John. If you have a study Bible that, under the passage headings, lists where the same passage may be found in other gospels, as you read Matthew 4:18-22, you will likely see a reference to Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11, and John 1:35-50 (or maybe just 35-42). But are these the same event? A careful reading of the four gospels together, as an overlapping panorama (as my friend Gary described it) suggests that these are three events.

It seems John’s event comes first. The correct sequence of events in Jesus’ adult life seems to be as follows. John the Baptist’s ministry is described, Jesus is baptized, Jesus goes into the desert and is tempted, then Jesus returns to where John is baptizing and John points to Him as the one everyone should follow (John 1:29-34). In fact, Jesus did not ask anyone to follow Him at this point. John’s disciples began going over to Him, including Andrew, and Andrew went and fetched Peter. [I may blog on this in a few days.] After this, Jesus: goes to Cana and performs the miracle of the wine (Jn 2:1-11); goes to Capernaum then on to Jerusalem for a Passover where he cleanses the temple (Jn 2:1-17), teaches (Jn 2:18-22), does some miracles (Jn 2:23-25), and teaches Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-21); then goes to the Judean countryside and baptizes (Jn 3:22-4:2); then goes through Samaria and has encounters with Samaritans and disciples (Jn 4:3-42); then goes to Cana again, from where he remotely heals an official’s son in Capernaum (Jn 4:43-54); then goes to Nazareth where he is rejected for the first time (Luke 4:14-30); then goes to Capernaum where he begins to preach and teach and heal (Mt 4:12-17, Lk 4:31-44).

At this point he calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him. We find this in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20. These two accounts are remarkably similar, having only minor differences in wording and detail. Many people believe what Luke writes about in Chapter 5 is the same event. But I have come to the conclusion it is not. Unfortunately, I’m a bit long already for this post. Let me leave this thought hanging for now, that is why I believe these are different events, and I will address it in the next post, either later today or perhaps tomorrow.

No comments: