Article 5 – Ordering The Gospel Storyline

In order to chronologically arrange all of the sayings and events from the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament it is necessary to establish a timeline for the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  Establishing a timeline is problematic because the events recorded within the four Gospel accounts are not all presented in the same chronological order, and this is most clearly seen in the many sections of parallel verses.

As they begin, the four Gospels describe events in more or less the same chronological sequence, but they soon diverge throughout the middle sections of their stories, before coming together again to recount the events of the final week of Jesus in Jerusalem, including the last supper that He ate with His apostles, His arrest, trials, crucifixion and death.  Part of the reason for the differing sequences of events among the four Gospels is that Matthew and Luke ordered some of the stories of their narratives according to something other than the more straightforward chronological timeline that is used in Mark and especially in John.

This means that no matter which of the four Gospel accounts is used as a backbone to anchor a timeline for the life of Jesus, the sequence of verses from the other three Gospels will need to be broken and reordered many times in order to include all of the teachings and events in the same timeline.

Over the centuries, beginning with the use of The Gospel of John by Tatian in his Diatessaron (c. 160 CE), each Gospel has been used as the backbone against which to anchor a timeline for all of the events of the other accounts.  While problems and conflicts will result no matter which Gospel you start with, and which Gospel’s verses you add to that, some combinations appear to result in fewer primary and secondary breaks within the overall sequence that is produced when all of the sayings and stories from the four Gospels are combined.

After trials with all combinations, the arrangement that appears to produce the fewest number of conflicts and breaks within the overall storyline, and is therefore used in this book, is to align the verses of Mark to The Gospel of John.  To this the verses of Matthew's Gospel were added, and then the content of Luke was merged with that.  Under this arrangement, Luke's Gospel, being the last considered, is the most divided, and has the most verses moved from their original sequence.

As the Scriptural sequence of events from each Gospel account conflicts with each of the others in a few or many places, the correct chronological sequence for every verse cannot always be determined.  When a choice had to be made, the sayings and events were ordered so that the overall combined storyline flowed as smoothly and logically as possible, from the beginning of the story to the end.

For more information on the timeline of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ that is used in FIVE COLUMN, and this reprint of its unified fifth column text, see Note 3.2.

Click here to see the next Article, Article 6:  Re-Versing The Gospel