(A Side-by-Side Comparison of the Gospels)
by K.L.M. Kathel ©2010
As laypeople we tend to weave all four gospel accounts into one complete narrative. We have bought into the notion that all four gospel's are in complete agreement and that they constitute one harmonious whole. Ask anyone about the crucifixion, for example, and most people will tell you that Jesus not only carried his own cross; and that, in life, if we wanted to emulate him, we should do the same. And therein lies the crux of the problem---namely, to impose a doctrine on either ourselves or another when it is not founded in truth, but in half truths, deceptions or worse yet, outright lies, is, to this author incredibly naive.
Note: Through the weeks and months I would like to add many more parallels to the list above. For example, I would like to do parallels of the passion scene itself, the burial, the crucifixion, the resurrection, etc. I am especially interested in the women surrounding Jesus and their role in helping to form Christianity.
Trying to unravel the story of Jesus can be likened to trying to solve a great mystery; or like trying to ascertain what happened during an auto accident that took place at a four-cornered intersection while only taking into account the story as told by the person standing on one corner but at the exclusion of what was being observed at the other three corners simply because we like that story better.
Perception... we are talking here about perception and the differences that can be gleaned by comparing one story or one storyteller to another. For example, when we study the bible in depth we realize that the crucifixtion story concerning Jesus carrying his own cross originates in John's fourth gospel. In Mark's Gospel, we are told that a man named Simon a Cyrenian (Mk 15:21) carried his cross. In Matthew's gospel he is referred to as the Cyrene, Simon by name (Mt 27:32); and in Luke's gospel this same person is called, Simon a Cyrenian (Lu 23:26). Yet when we read John's 4th gospel, Jesus carries his own cross and is never helped (Jn 19:17). So that, at least here, in this one instance, the synoptic gospels do actually agree, and it is the fouth gospel that is in disagreement with them. It is either a sin of ommission or an outright lie---you be the judge and chose the narrative that best describes what actually took place.
Now, it is one thing to say that we prefer John's version over the others; but we cannot say that John's gospel contains the truth and that the others do not; and that based upon John's gospel only, we ought to bear our own burdens in life and not seek out the help of another. Or, that, if we do, we are selfish and self serving individuals not deserving of a life everlasting. In short, our perceptions emannating from biblical canon can be life altering. Let us alter it based upon a truth. But, if we alter it based upon a perception that is more to our liking, let us at least realize where that perception comes from. Let us make a rational, logical choice.
Unlike the other sections of my web site, this section will be devoted to a Comparison of scripture. The primary focus will be on the New Testament Gospels. I am currently working on creating several parallel bible studies arranged in tables and in column format; so that, this section remains a work in progress.
Although they will depict the traditional biblical text, these comparative tables should not to be construed as a fundamentalist work. Rather, I display them so that the inquisitive reader can make comparisons and see where biblical narration differs one to the other.
In many of my parallels, I will often take the very same chapters, or segments of chapters and rework them into a new narrative. So that, what appears on my website may seem redundant and repetitive; but in reality it is my way of trying to form yet another perspective. It's rather like, taking an object and rotating it or flipping it around in an attempt to see it from different angles. Kind of like the works of Picasso... each time we look at the same cube from a different angle, a newer, sometimes clearer image begins to form. So, for those of you who find my methodology boring, so be it... but for those of you who do not... I invite you to view the same object from a different angle or in a different setting. You will find, that not only the light and shadows change, but, along with it, your frame of mind might change also. Ironically, the object remains that same, but somehow we have changed. That change will also give us another perspective.
My idea... my method, is not to see this as a distraction from our orinating goal, but to see it as a new challenge. Put simply---we wish to see... not only the four sides of a cube but the above and the below. Ultimately, to see the truth, we must see six sides and twenty-four corners. In short, when doing an analysis of the gospels we often attempt to exhaust the possibilities and probabilities; for the search of 'Historical Jesus' is truly a never ending search. It's rather like finding Picasso's cube in a painting. Nay---To find the cube we must think like Picasso... feel like Picasso... become a Picasso!
From my perspecitve, in trying to understand this cube... this book, we must begin to feel and think as the author did... In my view, to understand Mark and his true message. Not to become him---but to understand him and his perspective. For ultimately, that is my goal.
My intent is to show the 'Priority of Mark' and of his Gospel. Hence, in many of these tables you will find Mark's Gospel displayed first. In so doing, one can see where the synoptic gospels agree or where they contradict one another. We can also see where latter-day alterations, either by addition or substraction or ommission were made. That is to say, I am not comparing one translation to another; but merely, showing a side-by-side view of the three or the four gospels themselves; but I am doing it by isolating a specific topical episode.
In my first attempt, I did a simple comparison by laying the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John in a side by side, but without altering them. It is a straight forward text, devoid of any notations, edits, or emphasis. (See, The Four Gospels Paralleled). Once I had the originating baseline text in which to work from, I could begin to isolate individual scenes merely be doing a search and find.
As my studies increased I was then able to focus in on a particular narrative. Being able to beam in on a particular scene helps the mind by elliminating the extra clutter. I might isolate the baptismal scene for comparison and do a parallel of it using my parallel of the four gospels as my guide. This approach allows me to use the marvels of the Word Processor, and do a simple search and find. And yes---I still use 'Strong's Exhaustive Concordance' to look up words in their Lexicon, but I do not have to rely upon the so-called, definative authors, lest I be led astray or detracted from my quest. Then, after reading and comparing, I have often placed my own analysis at the end of the document in an attempt to explain the similarities or the inconsistencies, always with the intent of showing that Mark's Gospel is indeed the first gospel to be written, and that the others succeeded his. This I do, not only for myself but to show the cyber reader, yet another perspective
To the best of my knowledge, what I am doing here has never been attempted before; and for several reasons. First, my paralleled comparisons are not a verse by verse comparison; but merely a side-by-side parallel in column format. I am not comparing the various bible versions nor am I doing a side-by-side of the various linguistical translations. In fact, my online comparisons are all taken from the same English translation.
Secondly, the focus here is on content and substance; not verse numeration. My tabled arrangements are a comparison of individual episodes, for example, and do not always contain the words of Jesus but other biblical characters as well. In order to display the substance of the episode, I will often include the surrounding text which very often will include the entire chapter from whence it was taken. In this manner we can see the what, where and who the originating author was describing. We can begin to see a chronology of events and to do a comparison of them. This method does not lend itself to an exact verse-by-verse comparison because the differring accounts occur throughout the gospels themselves and in no particular order. What appears in Mark, chapter 6, verse 3, for example; might show up in Matthew, chapter 13, verse 55. So that, I cannot display Matthew, chapter 6, verse 3 alongside of Mark's Gospel and arrive at the same episode.
The reason is simple, really---each biblical author has a different writing style and has arranged his narrative in a completely different manner. The very fact that Mark's Gospel is only 16 chapters long is very telling when compared to Matthew's 28 chapters; and to Luke's 24 chapters. This tells us that the synoptic gospels cannot be compared in this fashion. Were we to add John's 4th gospel into the equation we not only end up with 21 chapters; but those 21 chapters are so very different from the previous three that even theologians and scholars have told us that John's fourth is not part of the synoptic gospels at all, but instead, stands out by itself.
Thirdly, it appears to this author, that the so-called "synoptic gospels" do not necessarily agree, but rather are very different, one to the other that we are forced to take a second look at what theologians and scholars have told us are accounts that are indistinguishable. Nothing could be further from the truth. And so, I have taken it upon myself, to approach the synoptics and/or the four gospels as if for the very first time; and have not relied upon the so-called experts to produce my paralled comparisons. Nor have I used them to write my analysis, or to gain my interpretations and insights of them. Matter of fact, by comparing individual stories rather than verses, we can see many discrepencies or where one gospel version differs from the other... sometimes slightly and at other times very drastically.
Most, if not all of the parallel bibles produced and sold in bookstores today are usually translations of the gospels. For example, let us take "The Comparative Study Bible," produced by Zonderman Publishing company. It is arranged in four columns and is further sub-divided so that only two bible versions appear on each page. The first column is devoted to the King James Bible Version; the second column depicts the Amplified Bible Version; the third column shows the New American Standard Bible; while the fourth and last column shows the New International Bible. By using this study tool, the reader is able to read across and get a verse by verse, line by line comparison. It is in fact, a very useful tool for anyone who wants to see the changes made as we go from one bible version to another.
While watching the Glenn Beck show of April 8th, 2010, "Faith of Our Founders" Glenn Beck and his guest, David Barton, from the Wall Builders, were discussing the religious beliefs of our founding fathers. The entire show was fascinating, but in one segment of the show, Mr. Barton and Glenn Beck explained how Thomas Jefferson was the first person to create a "red letter" bible in his book called, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth." But then we were told, that Jefferson took the words of Jesus, pasted them end to end, and then translated them into four distinct languages by doing a side-by-side... a parallel bible, if you will. This little book was printed by the Washington, Government Printing Office, in 1904; by the House of Representatives; and given to every freshman entering Congress. A rather nice tradition, if you ask me... but unfortunately, it was stopped during the Woodrow Wilson era, and with the advent of the progressive movement. (See, the entire Glenn Beck transcript).
I found this absolutely fascinating, especially when Barton said that Thomas Jefferson "pasted" the words of Jesus end to end and then again when Glenn Beck reiterated by telling us that it was commonly referred to as the 'red-letter' bible. It was fascinating to me because April 8th, 2010 was the first time I had ever heard that. Moreso, because 25 years prior, I took a similar approach while creating my rearranged paraphrase of Mark's Gospel which was completed by me in the year 1991. (See, The Song of Mark). That is to say, actually took a pair of scissors, cut the gospels up and then scotch taped them back again, as if in one continuous scroll. By so doing, I was able to visualize, and ultimately, to piece Mark's Gospel back to what I thought to be its original state. And that is why I wrote in my first introduction called, "The Traditional Gospel of Mark" I drew my line at Mark, Chapter 1, verse 14; because I wrote:
"My line I drew not after sixteen point eight but at Mark one point fourteen. For the Song of Mark is based upon the premise that Mark, six point seventeen along with John's entire death scene belongs in the beginning of Mark's Gospel, setting as it were a primary factori'.
Because of this major change it was necessary to reevaluate the prophesies of Isaias and Malachi, and to place John at the center of Mark's Gospel and to show that Jesus did indeed walk in John's footsteps. It is our contention that Mark's Gospel was so tampered with, that invaluable information on the lives of both John the Baptist and Jesus were either discarded or misplaced out of chronological order. One might say, in an attempt to make a fish's tail longer. We like so many, on the other hand would like to restore Mark's Gospel back to its original status."
Having said all that, it wasn't until the 90's that I was able to attempt my first side-by-side comparison. And this I attribute to the marvelous world of electronics and a piece of software called a word processor. My very first, was a Commodore 128 which was then replaced by an IBM compatible and to Word Perfect. Still, I was not able to produce an online version until I taught myself web page design and htm table coding. Guess what I am trying to say, is that, for me, the process has been slow because I have very often had to stop just to learn another method of writing. And so, like so many of us, here it is, some 25 years later and I am still learning about the Internet and what can be achieved through it. And yes---after acquiring this web site in 1997, I am still in the process of adding files and updating them. My hope is that whatever I offer to the casual reader or passer-by may be beneficial to them. And so, the best I can say is, ~Enjoy your time here. I hope it is time well spent.