INTRODUCTION to The Synoptic Gospel

The New Testament Greek word euangelion (evangel) means good message, which became gospel in Old English, meaning god term or god-spell, and is most commonly referred to today as good news.

Since the Latin Vulgate Bible of 405 CE, the Christian New Testament has opened with the four Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each of which records a version of the good news of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  Each Gospel account was written by a different man, and told to a different audience, from a different point of view; and each narrative has a slightly different emphasis, focus and reason why it was written.

While the four Gospel accounts are generally united in their overall theme and storyline, they each also contain unique sayings and stories, that when taken together provide a more complete composite picture of the teachings and the personality of Jesus Christ.

Within the four Gospels there are many instances where the same saying, teaching or story is recorded in two or more of the accounts, while some sayings and events from the life of Jesus are mentioned within all four.  In the many places where the Gospel stories are describing the same event, those similar verses are thought of as "parallel", in that their content is the same or similar, occasionally even using identical wording.  Because there is so much material shared between them, the four Gospels are also referred to as "synoptic" which is a Greek compound word that means "seeing together" or "seeing as one".  In this case, it means seeing the four Gospel narratives of the New Testament as one single record of the things that Jesus Christ said and did and taught.

In the many places where the Gospel stories closely parallel each other, there are almost always also differences in the specific details of the wording that they each record.  While these differences are usually minor and inconsequential, they sometimes produce contradictions and conflicts.

Despite their differences, because there is so much similarity and overlap shared between the four Gospels, they have long been used together, both as a harmony (also known as a synopsis) which displays the Gospels in columns side-by-side, and as a merger which eliminates the duplication among the parallel portions, and combines the remaining words to produce a single version of each saying or event.

The FIVE COLUMN four Gospel harmony was compiled to provide a complete and ordered record of all of the details that are contained within each of the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament.  The main consideration of this work is that every detail from each of the four Gospel accounts is included or accounted for, and that not one single word is unnecessarily omitted.  Resolution of wording differences within the parallel sections is achieved on a word-for-word basis using a system of precise notation, and the harmonized text of the fifth column was created through a unification process that involved sixteen steps.

By excluding the duplication between their parallel verses, at 65,500 words compared to the 83,680 of the NASB (New American Standard Bible) version of the four Gospel accounts, the harmonized text that results in the fifth column of this work is 22% shorter, compared to reading each of the four individual Gospel accounts back-to-back.

The second consideration of this work is to order all of the sayings and events contained within the four Gospel stories into as correct a chronological sequence as possible, given the limited details found within the four Gospel accounts themselves, and the scarce amount of supporting information related to the historical life of Jesus Christ.

So that the entire Gospel story is easy to follow, the harmonized narrative of this book is laid out like a play, and divided into chapters, acts, and scenes, with the words of each scene further sub-divided into concise verses.

While eliminating both the confusion caused by the wording differences within their parallel sections, and their differing chronologies, the result of this work is an easy to follow Gospel story that includes the full detail of each and every word, deed, teaching and miracle of Jesus Christ, as found within the four Gospel accounts of the NASB version of the New Testament.

The complete fifth column text of this harmony is reproduced in a separate work that is titled The Synoptic Gospel: The Story of The Life of Jesus, for those who just want to read the full, unified Gospel story.

May God continue to bless and inspire all who seek to know and understand the teaching life and healing ministry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Daniel John

December,  2014