Since as early as the Diatessaron we Christians have been tempted to harmonize the voices of the Evangelists. As Daniel Kirk wrote today in a post titled “On Not Harmonizing” (which I recommend) we error when we succumb because we create Scripture that does not exist in favor over the Scripture that God gave us. Another way of saying it is that we ignore our four Gospels by creating a fifth one of our own making.
I’ve been studying the Synoptic Problem this semester. At the beginning I decided that I would avoid trying to smooth over the differences between the Evangelists. Rather, I have asked what the various nuances tell me about Christ from the perspective of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and even John. I’ve come to admire the complexity of Jesus.
Jesus was a 3-D character in a 2-D world, yet we seek to flatten him. He was big enough to need multiple portraits, but we shrink him. Why can’t we let the four Evangelists have their say and tell us about the Jesus of their memory and tradition?
This isn’t a call for a relativized Jesus. I don’t think the Gospels of Judas, Peter, the Hebrews, and so forth provide us with depictions of Jesus grounded in the historical Jesus. There are some limitations to the Jesus we encounter. Yet within these limitations there is great diversity. This tells me that Jesus was someone quite special.
So I respond with “Amen and amen” to Daniel Kirk’s call for listening to each Evangelist. Let them inform you of a Jesus you thought you knew but who is much bigger than you’ve allowed. It is worth it.
Brian, Richard Burridges “Four Gospels, One Jesus?” does a fantastic at avoiding harmonization and allowing each Gospel writer to paint a portrait of Jesus.
I may have to look at reading that.
In golf, they put it this way: Play the ball as it lies.
@Mike: Well said.
Thanks, Brian. I appreciate the back-up!
“Jesus was a 3-D character in a 2-D world, yet we seek to flatten him.” Amen! I call this “box theology” — unnaturally trying to force God into our convenient boxes or categories.
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