Why Did You Create The Synoptic Gospel?
When I first read the Bible in my mid-twenties I started with the Book of Genesis, in the Old Testament. Reading all of the books in order, I eventually completed the Old Testament, and arrived in the New Testament at the Gospel of Matthew. After reading that, I thought, “Wow! That was interesting!” And then there was another Gospel, of Mark. So I read that, and said, “That was almost the same, but different…” And then there was a third Gospel, and a fourth… And in the end, although I had read all that Jesus Christ said and did in the four Gospels, I was unsure of certain details, and was confused about the overall sequence of all of the events that had happened. It also seemed odd that some stories and sayings of Jesus were found in all four of the Gospels, while most were found in only one of the accounts.
While I liked that there were four different flavors produced from the unique personalities and styles of four different men, I was troubled by the overlap between their words, which produces confusion. I mean, it seems illogical to not know exactly what the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said, or did, or taught. And to have to read four similar accounts of the exact same event seemed, well inefficient, if not stupid. Why was there so much confusion about the very important words of the Gospel? There had to be a better way.
Later, I learned about Gospel harmonies, which display the overlapping, synoptic and parallel sections of the texts in columns side-by-side; and this is very useful to be able to see all of the details from each event, or teaching of Jesus. But, as I still had to synthesize all of the details of that information to figure out what happened, this actually seemed to be much harder than simply reading one of the Gospels, and being content with what it said.
It seemed logical that there must be a unified Gospel that merged all of the individual words from the four Gospels, but a trip to the local Christian bookstore showed that such a merged Gospel was not to be found on those shelves. So, I continued to read and study the four Gospels, and thinking about how their contents could be combined.
After a while, I had an idea for how a single text could be compiled from the words of the four Gospels using a simple spreadsheet, and began aligning the texts of the Gospels in four columns, as in any Gospel harmony.
At some point, when discussing my work with a friend, he said that a book like that already existed, called the Diatessaron. I found some information about Diatessaron online, and discovered that the compiler of that work, a missionary and student of Justin Martyr, named Tatian, had used all of the Gospel of John, and then added verses to it from the other three Gospels. When the saying or event was part of a parallel set – where two or more of the Gospels mentioned it with the same basic details – Tatian chose the wording from one of the Gospels over the others. It appears that he usually chose to include the longest, most detailed account of the event.
Tatian’s Diatessaron was in many ways a much more complete account than reading even any two or three of the Gospels, but because it was not inclusive of every single word from each of the four original Gospels, I did not consider it beyond perusing its notes. I was however, very encouraged to know that my idea of producing a single Gospel from the four was not ridiculous, and in learning of the wide-spread use of Diatessaron throughout the early Church, which lasted for a period of 250 years, this was clearly something that had been sued in the Church before. So, why were there now four Gospels in every New Testament, and no copies of the Diatessaron? It seemed that Tatian was branded by the Church as a heretic, and all of his work was undone, and destroyed and burnt. When the Catholic Vulgate New Testament was completed in 405 CE, it opened with the four Gospels as four Gospels, one after the other, and with the Gospel of John placed last.
After considering this, I felt that it was time for the Christian Church to reclaim the simple efficiency of a single, unified Gospel – one that was as complete and word-for-word accurate as possible. With that in mind, I set to work on perfecting the system of how to combine the individual words of the four Gospels, so that the full meaning remained, even as the duplication between the accounts was removed. The result is the FIVE COLUMN – The Synoptic Gospel database. It is called Five Column because it is the four Gospels in four columns, side-by-side, next to a fifth column into which the results of the merging process for the overlapping and parallel sections are displayed.
So, while there are several reasons why I chose to complete this work, the main desire was to eliminate the confusion caused by the differences in the details that each Gospel account records, and also their differing chronologies, which made it difficult to know the sequence of all of the events that happened. As a former atheist, all of the differences and apparent discrepancies caused legitimate doubt about the inspiration of any of it. If differences existed in the original texts of the Gospel, or the four Gospels, how could any of it be trusted; and who would waste their time trying to read and understand it?
To summarize, the main reason that The Synoptic Gospel merged harmony of the Gospels was created is to give the Church and the World a clear Gospel account that is complete, and much faster and easier to read. And the result of this unified Gospel is two-fold: more people will take the time to read it, and everyone who reads it will have a greater understanding of what actually happened, which is the whole point of the Gospel message – to know the Words of Life that Jesus spoke, and the authority of His actions.
A second purpose in creating The Synoptic Gospel was to be able to sequence all of the events against a single timeline. This makes it possible to understand the reasons why the events unfolded in the order that they did, and to know why Jesus said and did those specific things, at those particular times and places, to the various groups of people that He encountered.
Further to this, was to show that the Ministry of Jesus lasted more than three years, which can only be established from the Gospel of John – meaning that if you only read the other three Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, then you could think that all of the events that they mention happened with the span of a single year – and to me, this seems to diminish impact of the Ministry of Jesus Christ, and the struggles that He faced in proclaiming His message of Salvation.
In the end, The Synoptic Gospel was created to be a single, complete account of the Life of Jesus Christ – so that everyone in the world can know about what He said and did and taught, without confusion. It is hoped that using by The Synoptic Gospel, Gospel studies could now focus on what Jesus the Christ (Messiah) said and did, and taught – and study how that relates to Judaism, and God’s Plan of Salvation, as brought about through the Ministry and atoning death of Jesus – and less on why Mark said this, while Matthew said that, and Luke used different wording.