Monday, January 5, 2009


Can the four gospels be harmonized? I've been working at it for some time, maybe four years or longer. I began and made it a good distance, then put it aside to pursue other writing ventures, then picked it up again and completed it in mid-2006. That was all in manuscript, in three steno notebooks. My method was to take the passage, write in the notebook a verse or two from each gospel that had it, and see how I could blend the language to make one account of the event. I started with the triumphal entry, since this was covered by all four gospels, then went to the end, back to the beginning, and eventually circled round to the triumphal entry.

As I worked on this, my method changed some. The longer I worked the better job I did explaining why I decided to write what I wrote. Some of my early work is now difficult to follow.

My goal is to have one gospel, as seamless as possible. In this my approach differs from most harmonies of the gospels that I see. All of those are merely listing of parallel passages next to each other, with no real attempt to harmonize the accounts. At most they try to figure out a timeline for the events. I have two printed harmonies of this nature, and have found several on-line.

Mine will not be for publication, since I'm using the New International Version as my base, and that is copyrighted. This is for my own study, edification, and enjoyment. It seems a worthwhile project, and I've learned much.

Can the gospels be harmonized? Should the gospels be harmonized? I have talked with some who think not. The gospels are not history, they say, but rather spiritual writings and so should be treated as such, and don't need harmonizing. However, I plug on, now finally typing what I wrote previously. Last night I worked for more than an hour, adding headings and footnotes to the part corresponding to Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4-5. Then I went to the end of where I'd finished typing before Christmas and typed more, completing the Garden of Gethsemane event. I've probably got 10 hours of original typing left, then much time to add footnotes, proof-read, and write appendixes explaining a number of decisions I made along the way.

Can the four gospels be harmonized? What about a life pulled in four (or more) directions? Can it be harmonized? Or must the number of parts be reduced from quartet to trio? These pages must tell.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like you're trying to create something similar to a photographic panorama from separate images that overlap, but in non-uniform ways rather than a straight seem. This seems like a worthwhile effort since we intuitively do it when studying the Bible anyway. This is just more formal. Actually, you're editing the sources and attempting a paraphrase of it using the NIV language. How much do you consult commentaries? If I were doing it, my approach would be to organize the facts and suppositions and then work on the language.

David A. Todd said...


"Photographic panorama" is an apt metaphor.

I have consulted some commentaries. At the beginning, I went from my detailed study, having over the years developed some informal opinions about how the gospels harmonized. Once I got back to the Jesus' public ministry, I consulted some other harmonies. In particular, the NIV Life Application Bible harmony (which is just a listing of passages in parallel), I found, agreed with my leanings. So I followed them for much of what is between the baptism of Jesus and the triumphal entry. Just last night I consulted some commentaries to determine if my thinking was correct about the callings of the first disciples. I felt that there were three callings (John 1 is first, Matthew 4 and Mark 1 is second, Luke 5 is third), and wanted to see if any other commentators thought the same. I found out they did.

I'll probably explain more of this in future posts. I'm not sure I'm paraphrasing so much as finding out which version seems most detailed, and working in any details from the other versions. As I say, some examples will be forthcoming.