HAVE YOU EVER TRIED to compare the prophetic
passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke? Or to find the Lord’s Prayer in more than
one Gospel? Or to work out the sequence of events surrounding Jesus’ birth or resurrection
as related in the different Gospels? The purpose of Parallel Gospels in
Harmony is to help you do that, and so to encourage the reading and study
of God’s inspired Word.
A disciple in the garden of Gethsemane cuts off the ear of
the high priest’s servant according to all four Gospels. But only John tells
us the servant’s name, and that it was Peter who wielded the sword. And only
Luke tells us that Jesus healed the wound. This book allows you to see all of
this at a glance.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all record Jesus’ words
concerning sin against the Holy Spirit, but only Mark explains that Jesus said
this, “because...’” (See page 76.) Three Gospels warn against “the yeast of
the Pharisees,” but only one of them explains what it is. (See page 108.) So,
there is much that can be learned by reading the Gospels in parallel.
Why four Gospels?
Why do we have four inspired Gospels instead
of just one? According to early Church writers, the Apostle Matthew wrote his
account first in Hebrew, the language of the earliest disciples. Then Luke accompanied
the Apostle Paul in his ministry to the Gentiles, and wrote his Gospel in
Greek. Later Mark wrote what he remembered hearing at the Apostle Peter’s
feet. And finally the aged Apostle John wrote his account to further bless the
Church. None of this was accidental, of course: we have four inspired Gospels
because the divine Author of the Bible chose to record the life and teachings
of Jesus Christ in this manner.
The four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John each present the life and teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ from a different perspective. But it is one story. Mark’s account is
fast-moving, Matthew’s emphasizes the fulfillment of prophecies from the Hebrew
Scriptures, Luke’s speaks to a cosmopolitan Greek audience, and John’s stresses
a close, personal relationship with Jesus. But all four relate the same Gospel
or “Good News.”
Differences in the Gospel accounts
Why do the Gospels sometimes differ in the way
they order the same or similar passages? And why do Gospel harmonies or parallel
Gospels occasionally differ in the sequence they assign to certain passages? The
main reason is that the Gospel writers themselves combine chronological presentations
of events with topical arrangements of Jesus’ teachings. They include
occasional flashbacks (Compare Matt. 14:2, 3, 6.) and isolated anecdotes (“on
another sabbath”—Luke 6:6; “on one of those days”—Luke 8:22, 20:1; “when he finished praying in a
certain place”—Luke 11:1).
We can only assume that the Divine Author who
inspired the Gospels chose, in his wisdom, to leave us with some uncertainty as
to the exact order of events. Rather than be unsettled by this, I believe we
should accept it in the spirit of Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong
to Yahweh our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our
children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Our job is not to
puzzle out the things God has kept hidden from us, but rather to trust and
Gospel harmonies and parallel Gospels
Some time around A.D. 170 a Christian writer
named Tatian compiled his Diatessaron, a work merging the words of the
four Gospels into a single narrative. Less than a century later Ammonius the
Alexandrian produced a copy of the Gospel of Matthew with corresponding
passages from the other Gospels arranged alongside—according to Eusebius, who
went on to build on that work a more complex system of cross-references.
About this book, and its use of brackets [ ]
The four Gospels are presented here in parallel
columns, in roughly chronological order, with corresponding passages side by side.
I have not aimed for innovation, but have simply built on the work of countless