Merging the Gospels?


I recently learned of a professor of Christian theology who set out to merge the four gospels into one story, taking out only the duplicated text. I’m trying to grapple with this concept and am wondering if this is even something that I should permit myself to read. Could something like this change the meaning of the gospels or possibly the inspired writings of Jesus’ life to become something other than what has been preserved? We can certainly read the duplicated stories side by side and put together our own merged understanding of the events that occurred, so is this any different than that? Thanks so much for your thoughts.


I think the Gospels are just fine, though since you mention this merging, there is a har-
monized Gospel from the Second Century called the Diatessaron, though I am not sure
if it is acceptable to the Catholic Church.


Thank you so much for that reference! :slight_smile: I’ll check that out for sure.


Well, that’s pretty much we Christians for most of 2000 years have read the text: even if we don’t actively create or read gospel harmonies (which is what the thing I bolded is called), we subconsciously often harmonize details from the different gospels and join the (admittedly sometimes quite-disjointed) vignettes and incidents into a single, coherent story. It’s only fairly recently that gospel synopses (which is what the thing I underlined is) have become more widespread, although it seems that its use hasn’t spread yet to many ‘average joe’ Christians.

I once said this:

Harmonization has its good points, but sometimes I do feel that it can tend to stifle the different voices and perspectives in Scripture (which IMHO is one of the beauties of it). Sometimes we get so caught up trying to homogenize all of these sometimes admittedly conflicting voices into something more manageable and palatable that we tend to lose sight of their inherent beauty. What we have with Scripture I think is diversity in the truest sense of the word, and that’s something that’s kind of underappreciated due to several factors. Detractors look at it and see it as an arsenal against belief while believers are busy mixing them into one. Many on both sides treat this diversity as something bad - I strongly disagree.

The idea of looking at each gospel on their terms is an under-developed approach really. All this time we’ve been trying to harmonize Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with each other that most of the time, we forget to simply see Matthew as Matthew or John as John, without mixing and combining the two together.




Why should we? I think that some things are good as they are and should not be altered.


If he was doing it for his own personal use I see no problem. However if he plans t use it to teach others he is committing sacrelig and he fall under the punishment at the end if revelation


I thought the Catholic view of Rev. 22:18-19 corresponded only with the book of Revelations?


If it helps somebody understand what the Lord is doing or saying, how could that hurt anything? I don’t think the Churches are going to change the standards of the Bible over it, and make it one gospel according to all four.


If the punishment is the same, for a little sin against the law as a great many sins against the law, then the result of forgiveness is the same. Isn’t it? Why bother with degrees of evil, seeing that the good (God’s forgiveness) is the same for and to all?


What your professor is talking about doing has been done before, even done in the early Church by Tatian, called the Diatessaron. In my opinion it can be a good thing, interesting for those who have a mind that likes to solve puzzles. As for harmonization and reconciling accounts that are talking about the same event though use various details, that’s a little different than weaving them together. By no means do these types of works define doctrine or change anything, but some people are interested in that kind of stuff and seek to have their questions answered, that’s not a bad thing at all.


This was my thought.

A second thought: If you had images of, say, Madonna and Child by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Titian, Botticelli, and Caravaggio, would you try to get the “ideal” image by combining them into one picture somehow? No, you appreciate the different styles of each master, and, perhaps in studying them, note what each uses from the others, or how they offer a special detail, and so on.

The Gospels are fine as they are–unless you desire to know the “real story” of Jesus, in the sense of a modern biography–and for that the Gospels will forever be inadequate, because they are telling a different story, a story of faith and salvation, using the rules of a different genre.

For example, from one line by Luke (that Jesus was about 30 when he began his ministry, Luke 3:23) and the fact that John speaks of three Passovers (Chapters 2, 6, and 13-20), we get the “fact” that Jesus was 33 (or possibly a few years older or younger) when he died. It has been argued that, according to John, Jesus is shown as nearly 50 at his death–the temple (of his body) was being built for 46 years (John 2:20), and the Jews say he is “not yet fifty years old” (John 8:57), rather than, say, “not yet 40” when they try to stone him. Such an age is not against anything we find in the Bible–we never learn the full length of Jesus’ ministry, or the exact age he started–but it is not the generally accepted tradition. All such details would be required for a modern biography–and we simply do not have them.


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