Christ founded one church but the four Gospels divided Christianity, how can a divided body stand against temptations? Tatian (AD 170), BishopIrenaeus the pupil of Justin Martyr (AD 165) devised the harmony of the Gospels called Diatessaron (AD 180) and defended the Four Gospels as a means of reaching the scattered Christians. The current question of ?Should or should not the four Gospels be reconciled? hails from the discrepancies found in them.
The four Gospels were written at different times, in different places and for distinct communities. They were read separately when first published. The writers did not envisage their coming together. Each community regarded each writing as complete. Since each writer focused on a particular community (Jews, Roman, Gentile or New Converts), the discrepancies were inevitable. However, currently, once, the reader crosses from one Gospel to the others, life becomes comparable of the Four Gospels instead of the intention of the Gospel of one Lord, Jesus Christ.
How were the four Gospels written? Were they memoirs, collaborated evidence, literary appendage of oral tradition or independent researches? In seeking to reconcile the four Gospels, we applied three techniques namely, oral tradition, mutual reciprocity and documentary sources.
The order of reason is their relationship. If they have a literary relationship to each other, can they be independent witnesses (synoptic) to the deeds and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ? Neither part of this dilemma can rightly be suppressed nor be neglected says Tenney (1961). Facts must be explained by the best and most expedient method. Even the fourth, John did not disagree with the synoptic (Matthew, Mark and Luke) except in style. If the accounts held by the four Gospels agreed in sources and meaning, why can?t they be reconciled?
Did the Gospels differ beyond reconciliation? The Gospel sprang from Jesus and from one; it builds to others, with little blend to meet each community?s needs. Thus, we do not have to seek for the sources of the four Gospels beyond Jesus. At this point, reconciliation of Jesus? words and acts is possible.
The process of reconciling the Four Gospels gives rooms for search of the missing answers to many questions. The Gospel is not a mere narrative but a seed planted into life. If it truly germinates, it must grow and give testimony to the spirit of it. Merely narrating the Gospel will not do proper justice to the origin or intentions of it.
If Irenaeus criticised Marcion for saying that ?what is truth may not be restricted within the walls of the four Gospels?, is he restricting truth? According to Origen, if we accept the four Gospels as Homologoumena, what did the four Gospels contain that cannot be reconciled into one? Reading the four Gospels is now primitive. It does not add to the profundity of the exercise to mention the commonness of the Gospels nor does reading four Gospels of the deeds of Jesus save time or simplify understanding. In this very corridor, we found reasons to justify the reconciliation of the four Gospels into one. Reconciliation seeks for the truth and errors. Recognising their common path enables the differences to be reconciled. If their differences are parts of the Gospels, then, the Gospels are reconcilable, do you agree?
The differences or omissions as found in one in relation to the others are as follows: In Matthew, the vision of Joseph (pg. 20-21). The visit of the three wise men (pg. 20). The flight to Egypt (pg. 21) and the massacre of the infants (pg. 21). The dream of Pilate?s wife (pg. 116). The death of Judas (pg. 105-7). The resurrection of the saints at the crucifixion (pg.123), the bribery of the guards (pg.124) and the commissioning of the mission (cp. 127).
By process of assimilation, Mark was absorbed by Matthew and Luke. Its peculiarity includes the raising of Jairus daughter and personal confession (pp. 38,46,69). Luke was unique in many ways. He treated many specific details such as the women in Jesus? life (pg. 19-21, 37,44, 66,119, 121, 124), the birth and infancy of Jesus and John (pg. 22). The Good Samaritan (pg.96) and Zacchaeus (pg. 77). The idle rich man (pg. 59), The Prodigal child (pg. 74), Lazarus and the Dive (pg. 76), the snobbish Pharisee, ingratitude (pg. 80) and the story of the journey to Emmaus (pg. 125).
Luke raised a very serious issue namely, the position of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit empowered (conception; baptism; temptation, ministry pp. 8-12,17, 22, 70, passim) the Lord to perform as he did and the latter promised the same Spirit (Paraculate) to his followers, the issue is, did the Holy Spirit exist before, with or after Jesus? This point to the Trinity (pg. 8-12).
The third Gospel (Luke) which serially contained Mark and other addition means that the Gospel could accept more details omitted by the others. Luke?s declaration of the third Gospel revealed two issues namely, inspiration and sources. Inspiration, yes, Luke was highly inspired, sources, yes, Luke took advantage of the earlier documents. Have sources and inspiration stopped? The collaboration in the synoptic Gospels militates against their independence, unless one wants to retain the paper of writing and not the purpose of writing.
John was a different type of fish but in the same water. John clearly highlighted the cause of Jesus? death (pg. 15). According to John, the wedding at Cana (pg.37), the bread of life (pg.108), the light of the world (pg. 144), the woman taken from adultery (p.42), the good shepherd (pg. 43), the resurrection, the way, the truth and the life (pg. 44) were unique. John picked issues that interested him, probably not covered to his liken by the others but complemented them.
The big question that needs an answer is? why should four writers deal independently, yet agree in details, language, meaning and conclusion? If the four Gospels were right to their specific communities in AD 140, there could be only one solution at our time AD 2000s namely, unification, because the Christian community is one or isn?t it? Reconciliation brings the best from each to take the Gospel forward. It will be unprofitable to review the four Gospels without a conclusion.
In seeking to reconcile the Gospels, the purpose is not merely looking at the flexuous reminiscence of the writers, but at their salient verses. That Jesus healed the sick or fed the multitude is noteworthy, which does not seek to repeat itself. But, that Jesus said that with faith, we could push down any mountain or perform miracles similarly is more salient. The core purpose of reconciliation is an inquest into such faith that could enable one to do more faithfully. The reconciled Gospel is guaranteed to benefit individuals who take a personalised look into the actions of the God-sent Messiah of the world, Jesus Christ. We honour the writers in their discreet fidelities but we reconcile the Gospels to Jesus, the Chief Actor of it. What is he made of and what did he live for? Did he really die for the sinful people of Judaea, Rome, Egypt, Britain, America, Germany, France, China, Japan, Nigeria, Iraq, South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc? What did he die for? The post-mortem (pg.121-9) account of Jesus, what does it contain?
Did any of the four writers do it fully? No, each wrote partly. Could the inaccuracies be attributed to the writers or translators? Beside, did the dying Jesus on the cross say, ?Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?? Oh No. The ancient Hebrew language ?Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani', does not translate to - Father, Father, why have you forsaken me (the aforementioned language being not Aramaic, Latin nor Greek was misinterpreted). Jesus did not say such a thing (pg. 121).
Has Christianity reached peak? With the four gospels, Christianity is opening up to abuses. With the admission of human sentiments, Christianity is weakening. It has started to produce some Christians who do the work of faith without faith. What were the qualities of Jesus (p.19) that enabled him to carry out his life missions? What type of church did he build? Did he really build it upon Peter (human rock) or on Divine truth? Did Christ truly fulfil the prophecies about him (pg. 17-8) and did his prophecies about the Jews and the temple come through (pg. 90-3)? The situation that necessitated Christ?s walking on the sea (pg.63), was it one-off or repetitive in every life? Christ died because he was ambitious (pg.15, 122-3), how did the less ambitious Chief Priests, Sadducees, Pharisees and Governor (Pilate) fare?
If you love your family, ?JESUS: THE FOUR GOSPELS RECONCILED? should plant you in the fertile soil of knowledge. It profits to know the purpose of the Gospel and how to use it to gain entrance into the future. The Gospel is relaunched in fulfillment of truth, unity, simplicity and self-redemption. It is offered with a guarantee of complete satisfaction or refund.
Brief Explanatory Notes
The Gospels as they are today were not how they were originally. They started as the Memoirs of the Apostles. Truly, Christ founded the church on oral tradition; his doctrines were captured by the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There were other gospels or apocryphal, which contained similarly but were classed fancifully duplicating the four or promoting the views of certain sects. To avoid unnecessary roaming about, Titan, a Syrian Christian of AD170, pupil of Justin Martyr devised the first harmony of the Gospels called Diatessaron.
Justin Martyr AD100-165, a Syrian Greek Philosopher referred to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts and many Pauline epistles. According to him, the Memoirs of the Apostles transformed into Gospels and complemented the Old Testament readings in the churches. His work spurred his pupil Titan to take further.
Titan made use of memoirs (as the Gospels were called then) including the apocryphal to arrive at Diatessaron. The harmony of the Gospels became standard Code of Practice for the church for many years.
Irenaeus AD 180, bishop of Lyons and Vienne believed the completeness and authoritativeness of the four Gospels. Irenaeus? stance of affirming the four Gospels led to the growth of the Apologetics and Gnosticism among the Apocryphal because he said that anything more or less of the four Gospels was heresy. His crucial stand of using the four Gospels to cover the scattered Christians all over the four corners of the world was instrumental to the promotion of the four Gospels, but he did allocate each Gospel to any particular corner of the world. Now that the four Gospels have found themselves in every corner of the world justified their reconciliation, so that the four corners of the world can now read and practice one standard Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reconciliation was based on the canonised version and not on apocryphal, what do you take, the inspiration of AD180, which prepared 1st and 2nd millennium lives or AD1999 meant to prepare 3rd millennium lives?
Origen AD 250, the great Alexandrian priest divided the sacred books into two namely Homologoumena and Antilegomena. The former included the four gospels, Acts, thirteen epistles of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John and the Apocalypse. The latter consisted of the Hebrews, 11 Peter, 111 John, James and Jude. Antilegomena were rejected because Origen included Barnabas, the shepherd of Hermas, the Didache and the Gospel of Hebrews. None of these other books outside the Gospel is as important as the Gospel as they are testimonies of followers of Jesus. The primary aim of reconciliation is to simplify the Gospel and make it more understandable for more testimonies to be given by all ages.
Marcion AD 140 was a native of Sinope in Pontus, where his father was a bishop. He produced the first canon, which produced violent reaction in the church because of his prejudicial stand. The Gospel is not about its academic brilliance but its consumable value. Be honest to truth, can you completely rule out prejudice or class in your local church? The reconciled Gospel is about justice, which stands on your person. Use it to reconcile your stand on earth, which will take you yonder to heaven.
Fabian N. Ukaegbu was born in Eastern Nigeria. He received his basic education there before travelling to the United Kingdom for further education. He qualified in Marketing, Management, Accountancy and International Relations/Diplomacy. He worked for six and the half years as a Consular Officer in the Nigeria High Commission in London and has worked also as a finance officer for 14 years with the London Borough of Hackney.
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