I have often been irritated with the way many evangelicals insist on preaching from a self-written, uninspired, 5th gospel, which they call A Harmony of the Gospels. They fit together the four different accounts of the life of Christ, attempting to reconstruct history. After their history is “neatly” constructed they exegete and preach their account instead of inspired Word of God, the Bible.

Let me assure you, I have a strong confidence in the historical accuracy of the Scriptures. Yet, we should not treat the gospels as mere tools to aid us in our reconstruction of historical events which are then exegeted and expounded upon in the pulpit. Rather, we are to preach the Word of God as expressed in the inspired writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and not our feeble harmonies and reconstructions. Craig Blomberg shares these sentiments in Jesus and the Gospel: An Introduction and Survey, page 106:

Readers of the Gospels from the beginning of church history have recognized that the different writers had different theological emphases. The church’s preoccupation with constructing harmonies of the life of Christ generally blurred these distinctions. Ironically, it is often those more conservative Christians, who insist most strongly on the inspiration and inerrancy of the very texts the evangelists penned, who pay least attention to the form in which those texts were inspired, opting instead to study an artificial man-made synthesis of the four.

3 Responses to “the 5th gospel of many evangelicals”  

  1. 1 Matthew

    Great points Jeff. I totally agree that each of the Gospels are individually inspired are intended to stand alone.

    What advantages can harmonies and reconstructions have on our exegesis? It seems that it would be valuable to look at different authors account of the same event, side-by-side, if only for the value of seeing where one author emphasizes something more than another. A synoptic study can help to see an author’s distinct contribution. For example, when looking at the transfiguration account in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Matthew and Mark’s account sound really similar, but Luke’s has some distinct elements, for one it mentions that Jesus is praying. By looking at the three accounts at the same time, and then realizing that Luke mentions prayer, can then conclude that we should pay closer attention as to why Luke makes this distinction?

    Do you see any value to harmonies and reconstructions?

  2. 2 admin


    I wouldn’t equate comparing the gospel accounts (which is helpful in determining each individual authors emphases and meaning) with creating a harmony (which creates a new account by joining various gospels together). I agree with your assessment of the value of comparing and contrasting the various accounts side by side, but this is entirely different from creating a harmony.

    The only value I see in harmonies is that it they may be able to convince some naysayers that the various accounts don’t directly contradict each other. Even then we must be weary of the tendency of harmonizers to arbitrarily organize the data into a chronology with less evidence than is necessary to reconstruct the actual order of events.

    In my understanding the value of harmonies is merely apologetic and not interpretive.


  3. 3 Brian Neve

    I really appreciated this post. Love to hear about what goes on in your head and your heart.

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