The Gospel of Jesus
We have access to some amazing resources meant to help us better understand the Bible. From commentaries to lexicons to systematic theologies, we of all people are most blessed. One especially helpful resource that will help devotional Bible readers as much as pastors or theologians is a harmonized narrative of the life of Jesus.
God could have given us just one account of the life of his Son, but in his wisdom he saw fit to give us four. And while Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all write biographies of the same individual, they all write in different voices, at different times, for different audiences, and for different purposes. They sometimes provide overlapping information and sometimes provide information unique to them. Sometimes they overlap in content but not in perspective or detail. It can all become a little confusing to know how all the parts fit together logically and chronologically.
Many years ago Lorraine Boettner assembled a harmony of the four gospels. He took the words of the gospels and arranged them chronologically as a single narrative, removing any repetition (which means that his book is only about three-quarters the length of the source material). P&R has just re-released this as The Gospel of Jesus, a beautifully-crafted and well-formatted hardcover book. This new edition changes the Bible translation from the outdated ASV to the contemporary Christian Standard Bible, a highly-regarded translation that employs “optimal equivalence” to describe its commitment to maintaining the form of the original language while still conveying its meaning in a way that is easy to understand today.
While the book is formatted to make it simple to read, the editors did include the various Scripture references in the margins. Where there are two or more accounts of the same event, the most exhaustive one forms the heart of the account and square brackets are used to indicate where supplemental detail has been drawn in from a different gospel. Headings have been added to guide the chronology. And passages drawn from the Old Testament have been bolded to make clear when the various individuals are not speaking their own words, but quoting God’s. There are also some small notations to indicate where Jesus is engaging in confrontation, telling a parable, or working a miracle. (To be honest, I’m not certain why these three categories merit that kind of notation, but wonder if it may go back to the context of 1933 when Boettner first assembled this material).
A harmony of the gospels like this is tremendously helpful in assembling all that the original authors saw fit to tell us about the life of our Lord and putting it in a single narrative. That said, both Boettner and the modern editors make it clear that such a resource should not displace or replace our reading of the actual gospels. A resource like this one is helpful in its own way, but does not have the authority of the gospels themselves. As Boettner says in his preface, “It has been said that the greatest service that anyone can render is to make more available the riches of grace that are found in Christ our Savior. The present arrangement is designed to make more readily available the material found in the Gospels, and so to make more interesting and rewarding the time spent in Bible study.” This book is dedicated to that purpose and serves it well. I expect you will find it a helpful resource to introduce to your library.