Gospel harmony

Gospel harmony
The Four Evangelists by Jacob Jordaens, 1625–1630, Louvre.

A Gospel harmony is an attempt to merge or harmonize the canonical gospels of the Four Evangelists into a single gospel account, the earliest known example being the Diatesseron by Tatian in the 2nd century. A gospel harmony may also establish a chronology for the events of the life of Jesus depicted in the four canonical gospels and how they relate to each other. Under modern scholarship, the effort has waned to portray any one harmony of events as totally correct[citation needed]. The process can also be hindered by discrepancies between various Gospels accounts of certain events.

The unique material of each gospel complicates the discernment of one, harmonized chronology. However, some consider the unique material crucial to narrowing down the possible chronological order. Some[who?] scholars have questioned the historicity of events in the canonical gospels.


Approaches to harmony

The terms harmony and synopsis have been used to refer to approaches that aim to achieve Gospel harmony, although they are different approaches. Technically, a "harmony" weaves together sections of scripture into a narrative, merging the four Gospels. There are four main types of harmony: radical, synthetic, sequential and parallel. A "synopsis", much like a parallel harmony focuses on key events and brings together similar texts or accounts in parallel format, usually in columns.[1]

Gospel of Mark, Book of Durrow, 7th century.

Tatian's Diatesseron harmony which dates to about 160AD was perhaps the very first harmony. In the 3rd century the Christian Ammonius of Alexandria developed the forerunner of modern synopsis as the Ammonian Sections in which he started with the text of Matthew and copied along parallel events. In the 5th century, Saint Augustine wrote extensively on the subject in his book Harmony of the Gospels.[2] No other major Gospel harmonies appeared thereafter until the 15th century.

The 16th century witnessed a major increase in the introduction of Gospel harmonies. In this period the parallel column structure was introduced, partly in response to the rise in Biblical criticism. This new format was used to emphasize the trustworthiness of the Gospels. It is not clear who produced the very first parallel harmony, but Charles Dumoulin in 1565 and Gerhard Mercator in 1569 had used similar approaches. In terms of content and quality, Johann Jacob Griesbach's 1776 synopsis was a notable example.

In the 19th century, other "extract and merge" attempts were made, which were not technical harmonies, e.g. the 1819 Jefferson Bible which placed selected verses in chronological order, but removed large sections of text that Thomas Jefferson considered too supernatural.

W. G. Rushbrooke's 1880 Synopticon is at times considered a turning point in the history of the synopsis, for it was based on Markan priority, i.e. giving priority to the Gospel of Mark. Thirteen years later, John Broadus used historical accounts to assign priorities in his harmony, while previous approaches had used feasts as the major milestones for dividing the life of Christ.

Two separate books, both titled Synopsis of the Four Gospels, one by Kurt Aland[3] and the other by John Bernard Orchard,[4] are considered by some to be the standard texts in the field of Gospel harmony since the 20th century.[5] In 2006, Gregg Zegarelli published a harmony with an extensive numbering reference system to track the harmonization process.[6]

A parallel harmony presentation

For a visual representation of the events, please see: Gospel harmony gallery

The following table, mainly events for which there is also a Wikipedia article, is an example of a parallel harmony, based on the list of key episodes in the Canonical Gospels. The order of events, especially during the ministry period, has been the subject of speculation and scholarly debate. While this harmony compares the work of several scholars, other harmonies may differ substantially on the placement of some events. The episode structure within the table is based on Edward Robinson's A Harmony of the Gospels in Greek as well as Steven L. Cox and Kendell H Easley's Harmony of the Gospels.

Number Event Type Matthew Mark Luke John
1 Pre-existence of Christ miscellaneous John 1:1-18
2 Genealogy of Jesus nativity Matthew 1:1-17 Luke 3:23-38
3 Birth of John the Baptist nativity Luke 1:5-25
4 Annunciation nativity Luke 1:26-38
5 Visitation of Mary nativity Luke 1:39-56
6 Birth of Jesus nativity Matthew 1:18-25 Luke 2:1-7
7 Annunciation to the shepherds nativity Luke 2:8-15
8 Adoration of the shepherds nativity Luke 2:16-20
9 Circumcision of Jesus nativity Luke 2:21
10 Infant Jesus at the Temple nativity Luke 2:22-38
11 Star of Bethlehem nativity Matthew 2:1-2
12 Adoration of the Magi nativity Matthew 2:3-12
13 Flight into Egypt nativity Matthew 2:13-15
14 Massacre of the Innocents nativity Matthew 2:16-18
15 Herod the Great's death miscellaneous Matthew 2:19-20
16 Return of young Jesus to Nazareth youth Matthew 2:21-23 Luke 2:39-39
17 Finding Jesus in the Temple youth Luke 2:41-51
18 John the Baptist miscellaneous Mark 1:1-8
19 Ministry of John the Baptist miscellaneous Matthew 3:1-12 John 1:19-34
20 Baptism of Jesus miscellaneous Matthew 3:13-17 Mark 1:9-11 Luke 3:21-22
21 Temptation of Jesus miscellaneous Matthew 4:1-11 Mark 1:12-13 Luke 4:1-13
22 Marriage at Cana miracle John 2:1-11
23 First Temple Cleansing ministry John 2:13-25
24 Jesus & Nicodemus ministry John 3:1-21
25 Return of Jesus to Galilee ministry Matthew 4:12-12 Mark 1:14-14 John 4:1-3
26 Exorcism at the Synagogue in Capernaum miracle Mark 1:21-28 Luke 4:31-37
27 The Growing Seed parable Mark 4:26-29
28 Hometown rejection of Jesus ministry Matthew 4:13-16 Mark 6:1-6 Luke 4:16-30
29 First disciples of Jesus ministry Matthew 4:18-22 Mark 1:16-20 John 1:35-51
30 Miraculous draught of fishes miracle Luke 5:1-11
31 Beatitudes sermon Matthew 5:2-12 Luke 6:20-23
32 Young Man from Nain miracle Luke 7:11-17
33 The Two Debtors parable Luke 7:41-43
34 The Lamp under a Bushel parable Matthew 5:14-15 Mark 4:21-25 Luke 8:16-18
35 Expounding of the Law sermon Matthew 5:17-48 Luke 6:29-42
36 Seventy Disciples ministry Luke 10:1-24
37 Discourse on ostentation sermon Matthew 6:1-18
38 Parable of the Good Samaritan parable Luke 10:30-37
39 Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary ministry Luke 10:38-42
40 The Lord's Prayer ministry Matthew 6:9-13 Luke 11:2-4
41 The Friend at Night parable Luke 11:5-8
42 The Rich Fool parable Luke 12:16-21
43 Samaritan Woman at the Well ministry John 4:4-26
44 The Birds of Heaven ministry Matthew 6:25-34 Luke 12:22-34
45 Discourse on judging sermon Matthew 7:1-5 Luke 6:41-42
46 Discourse on holiness sermon Matthew 7:13-27
47 The Test of a Good Person sermon Matthew 7:15-20
48 The Wise and the Foolish Builders parable Matthew 7:24-27 Luke 6:46-49
49 Cleansing a leper miracle Matthew 8:1-4 Mark 1:40-45 Luke 5:12-16
50 The Centurion's Servant miracle Matthew 8:5-13 Luke 7:1-10 John 4:46-54
51 Healing the mother of Peter's wife miracle Matthew 8:14-17 Mark 1:29-34 Luke 4:38-41
52 Exorcising at sunset miracle Matthew 8:16-17 Mark 1:32-34 Luke 4:40-41
53 Calming the storm miracle Matthew 8:23-27 Mark 4:35-41 Luke 8:22-25
54 Gerasenes demonic miracle Matthew 8:28-34 Mark 5:1-20 Luke 8:26-39
55 Paralytic at Capernaum miracle Matthew 9:1-8 Mark 2:1-12 Luke 5:17-26
56 Calling of Matthew ministry Matthew 9:9-9 Mark 2:13-14 Luke 5:27-28
57 New Wine into Old Wineskins parable Matthew 9:17-17 Mark 2:22-22 Luke 5:37-39
58 Daughter of Jairus miracle Matthew 9:18-26 Mark 5:21-43 Luke 8:40-56
59 The Bleeding Woman miracle Matthew 9:20-22 Mark 5:24-34 Luke 8:43-48
60 Two Blind Men at Galilee miracle Matthew 9:27-31
61 Exorcising a mute miracle Matthew 9:32-34
62 Commissioning the twelve Apostles ministry Matthew 10:2-4 Mark 3:13-19 Luke 6:12-16
63 But to bring a sword ministry Matthew 10:34-36
64 Messengers from John the Baptist ministry Matthew 11:2-6 Luke 7:18-23
65 Paralytic at Bethesda miracle John 5:1-18
66 Lord of the Sabbath ministry Matthew 12:1-8
67 Man with withered Hand miracle Matthew 12:9-13 Mark 3:1-6 Luke 6:6-11
68 The Lord's Prayer ministry Luke 11:2-4
69 Exorcising the blind and mute man miracle Matthew 12:22-28 Mark 3:20-30 Luke 11:14-23
70 Parable of the strong man parable Matthew 12:29-29 Mark 3:27-27 Luke 11:21-22
71 Eternal sin ministry Matthew 12:30-32 Mark 3:28-29 Luke 12:8-10
72 Jesus' True Relatives ministry Matthew 12:46-50 Mark 3:31-35 Luke 8:19-21
73 Parable of the Sower parable Matthew 13:3-9 Mark 4:3-9 Luke 8:5-8
74 The Birds of Heaven ministry Luke 12:22-34
75 The Tares parable Matthew 13:24-30
76 The Barren Fig Tree parable Luke 13:6-9
77 An Infirm Woman miracle Luke 13:10-17
78 Parable of the Mustard Seed parable Matthew 13:31-32 Mark 4:30-32 Luke 13:18-19
79 The Leaven parable Matthew 13:33-33 Luke 13:20-21
80 Parable of the Pearl parable Matthew 13:44-46
81 Drawing in the Net parable Matthew 13:47-50
82 The Hidden Treasure parable Matthew 13:52-52
83 Rejection of Jesus ministry Matthew 13:54-58
84 Beheading of St. John the Baptist ministry Matthew 14:6-12 Mark 6:21-29
85 Feeding the 5000 miracle Matthew 14:13-21 Mark 6:31-34 Luke 9:10-17 John 6:5-15
86 Walking on water miracle Matthew 14:22-33 Mark 6:45-52 John 6:16-21
87 Healing in Gennesaret miracle Matthew 14:34-36 Mark 6:53-56
88 Discourse on Defilement sermon Matthew 15:1-11 Mark 7:1-23
89 Canaanite woman's daughter miracle Matthew 15:21-28 Mark 7:24-30
90 Deaf mute of Decapolis miracle Mark 7:31-37
91 Feeding the 4000 miracle Matthew 15:32-39 Mark 8:1-9
92 Blind Man of Bethsaida miracle Mark 8:22-26
93 Confession of Peter ministry Matthew 16:13-20 Mark 8:27-30 Luke 9:18-21
94 Transfiguration of Jesus miracle Matthew 17:1-13 Mark 9:2-13 Luke 9:28-36
95 Boy possessed by a demon miracle Matthew 17:14-21 Mark 9:14-29 Luke 9:37-49
96 Coin in the fish's mouth miracle Matthew 17:24-27
97 Bread of Life Discourse sermon John 6:22-59
98 The Little Children ministry Matthew 18:1-6 Mark 9:33-37 Luke 9:46-48
99 Man with dropsy miracle Luke 14:1-6
100 Counting the Cost parable Luke 14:28-33
101 The Lost Sheep parable Matthew 18:10-14 Luke 15:4-6
102 The Unforgiving Servant parable Matthew 18:23-35
103 The Little Children ministry Matthew 18:1-6 Mark 9:33-37 Luke 9:46-48
104 The Lost Coin parable Luke 15:8-9
105 Parable of the Prodigal Son parable Luke 15:11-32
106 The Unjust Steward parable Luke 16:1-13
107 Rich man and Lazarus parable Luke 16:19-31
108 The Master and Servant parable Luke 17:7-10
109 Cleansing ten lepers miracle Luke 17:11-19
110 The Unjust Judge parable Luke 18:1-9
111 Pharisees and the Publican parable Luke 18:10-14
112 Jesus and the rich young man ministry Matthew 19:16-30 Mark 10:17-31 Luke 18:18-30
113 Jesus and the woman taken in adultery ministry John 8:2-11
114 The Workers in the Vineyard parable Matthew 20:1-16
115 Jesus predicts his death ministry Matthew 20:17-19 Mark 10:32-34 Luke 18:31-34
116 The Blind at Birth miracle John 9:1-12
117 Son of man came to serve ministry Matthew 20:20-28 Mark 10:35-45
118 The Good Shepherd ministry John 10:1-21
119 Blind near Jericho miracle Matthew 20:29-34 Mark 10:46-52 Luke 18:35-43
120 Raising of Lazarus miracle John 11:1-44
121 Jesus and Zacchaeus ministry Luke 19:2-28
122 Palm Sunday ministry Matthew 21:1-11 Mark 11:1-11 Luke 19:29-44 John 12:12-19
123 Second Temple Cleansing ministry Matthew 21:12-13 Mark 11:15-18 Luke 19:45-48
124 Cursing the fig tree miracle Matthew 21:18-22 Mark 11:12-14
125 Authority of Jesus Questioned ministry Matthew 21:23-27 Mark 11:27-33 Luke 20:1-8
126 The Two Sons parable Matthew 21:28-32
127 The Wicked Husbandmen parable Matthew 21:33-41 Mark 12:1-9 Luke 20:9-16
128 The Great Banquet parable Matthew 22:1-14 Luke 14:16-24
129 Render unto Caesar... ministry Matthew 22:15-22 Mark 12:1-12 Luke 20:20-26
130 Woes of the Pharisees ministry Matthew 23:1-39 Mark 12:35-37 Luke 20:45-47
131 Widow's mite sermon Mark 12:41-44 Luke 21:1-4
132 Second Coming Prophecy ministry Matthew 24:1-31 Mark 13:1-27 Luke 21:5-36
133 The Budding Fig Tree parable Matthew 24:32-35 Mark 13:28-31 Luke 21:29-33
134 The Faithful Servant parable Matthew 24:42-51 Mark 13:34-37 Luke 12:35-48
135 The Ten Virgins parable Matthew 25:1-13
136 The Talents or Minas parable Matthew 25:14-30 Luke 19:12-27
137 The Sheep and the Goats parable Matthew 25:31-46
138 Anointing of Jesus ministry Matthew 26:1-13 Mark 14:3-9 John 12:2-8
139 Bargain of Judas miscellaneous Matthew 26:14-16 Mark 14:10-11 Luke 22:1-6
140 The Grain of Wheat ministry John 12:24-26
141 Last Supper ministry Matthew 26:26-29 Mark 14:18-21 Luke 22:17-20 John 13:1-31
142 Promising a Paraclete ministry John 16:5-15
143 Gethsemane miscellaneous Matthew 26:36-46 Mark 14:32-42 Luke 22:39-46
144 The kiss of Judas passion Matthew 26:47-49 Mark 14:43-45 Luke 22:47-48 John 18:2-9
145 Healing the ear of a servant miracle Luke 22:49-51
146 Arrest of Jesus passion Matthew 26:50-56 Mark 14:46-49 Luke 22:52-54 John 18:10-12
147 Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus passion Matthew 26:57-68 Mark 14:53-65 Luke 22:63-71 John 18:12-24
148 Blood curse passion Matthew 27:24-25
149 Crucifixion of Jesus passion Matthew 27:27-61 Mark 15:1-47 Luke 23:25-54 John 19:1-38
150 Myrrhbearers resurrection appearance Matthew 28:1-1 Mark 16:1-1 Luke 24:1-1
151 Empty tomb resurrection appearance Matthew 28:2-8 Mark 16:2-8 Luke 24:2-12 John 20:1-13
152 Resurrection of Jesus resurrection appearance Matthew 28:9-10 Luke 24:1-8 John 20:14-16
153 Noli me tangere resurrection appearance John 20:17-17
154 Road to Emmaus appearance resurrection appearance Mark 16:12-13 Luke 24:13-32
155 Resurrected Jesus appears to Apostles resurrection appearance Luke 24:36-43 John 20:19-20
156 Great Commission resurrection appearance Matthew 28:16-20 Mark 16:14-18 Luke 24:44-49 John 20:21-23
157 Doubting Thomas resurrection appearance John 20:24-29
158 Catch of 153 fish miracle John 21:1-24
159 Ascension of Jesus resurrection appearance Mark 16:19-20 Luke 24:50-53

See also


  • Orville Daniel: A Harmony of the Four Gospels, 2nd Ed, Baker Books Pub.
  • R. Thomas & S. Gundry: The NIV Harmony of the Gospels, HarperCollins Pub.
  • Edward Robinson: A Harmony of the Gospels in Greek, Revised Ed, pub. by Crocker & Brewster
  • Henry Rutter, Evangelical harmony Keating and Brown, London 1803.
  • Steven L. Cox, Kendell H Easley, 2007 Harmony of the Gospels ISBN 0-8054-9444-8


This article incorporates work from A Harmony of the Gospels in Greek by Edward Robinson, a publication now in the public domain.
  1. ^ Steven L. Cox, 2007 Harmony of the Gospels B&H Publishing ISBN 0-8054-9444-8 page 3
  2. ^ Augustine through the ages: an encyclopedia by John C. Cavadini 1999 ISBN 080283843X page 132
  3. ^ Kurt Aland, 1982 Synopsis of the Four Gospels United Bible Societies ISBN 0-8267-0500-6
  4. ^ John Bernard Orchard, 1983 Synopsis of the Four Gospels T&T Clark Publishers ISBN 0-567-09331-X
  5. ^ Steven L. Cox, Kendell H Easley, 2007 Harmony of the Gospels ISBN 0-8054-9444-8 pages 7-8
  6. ^ Gregg R. Zegarelli, 2006, ONE OUG Press Publishers ISBN 978-0-9789906-0-2

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