Article 5 – Ordering The Gospel Storyline

In order to chronologically sort all of the 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 in the same chronological order, and this is most clearly seen in the many sections of overlapping and 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, and 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 straightforward chronology that is used in Mark and especially in John.

All of 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 within the same timeline.

In turn, 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 verses you then add to that, some combinations result in fewer primary and secondary breaks within the overall sequence that is produced when all of the sayings and stories of the four Gospels are combined.

After trials with all combinations, the arrangement that produced the fewest conflicts and breaks within the overall sequence of the 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 out of 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 event and verse cannot always be accurately determined. When a choice had to be made, the sayings and events were ordered so that the overall combined storyline flowed as smoothly as possible, from the beginning to the end.

For more information on the timeline for the life and ministry of Jesus Christ that is used in this book, see Note 3.2 on page ix.

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