The Bible isn’t just one book. Perhaps we should include a subtitle (“The
Encyclopedia of Divine Wisdom”) because the Bible is actually composed of
66 separate works written by over 40 authors over a period of about two
thousand years. It displays a remarkable harmony of thought, historical
content, intent and expression.
For the last three millennia, the Bible has exercised an unparalleled
influence on the lives of individuals and nations. People of faith
throughout the centuries have recorded the revelation of God pertaining to
the affairs of daily life. The experiences of prophets, kings, and common
people have been communicated through the written text of Scripture.
Jewish and Christian scholars have been concerned to make sure that the
Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts would be communicated to each new
generation. Even though governments and rulers have attempted to prevent
the distribution of the translated Bible in many periods of history,
faithful scholars such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale gave their
very lives to translate and distribute the books of the Bible. In every
period of revival and renewal in the church, the Bible was central.
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A Harmony of the Gospels
on line. Note: it's a large file and does not include the Greek
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And now this major English language translation of the Bible embodies the
best results of modern scholarship as to the meaning of Scripture, and it
expresses this meaning in clear and natural English. The International
Standard Version® (ISV®), produced by The ISV
Foundation of Fullerton, California, offers an exciting opportunity to
read and study the Scriptures in a fresh, new way.
The ISV is “international” in that slang and
regionalisms are avoided, and “standard” in that it is designed for
public worship, for church school curricula, for religious publishing, and
for both personal and group study. And with the ISV text, study tools, and
software readily available to the public via the Internet, the ISV
provides new opportunities for in-depth study of God’s Word anywhere in
the world, by anyone, and at any time.
A Harmony of the Gospels is the first of the study aids to be
developed for the International Standard Version New Testament by Davidson
In order to properly use A Harmony of the Gospels to the maximum
advantage for your study of the ISV New Testament, it is imperative that
you understand the nature of the four gospel narratives. Your task is
three-fold: 1) you must understand the audience to which the accounts were
written; 2) you must understand why each gospel account was recorded; and
3) you must understand the nature of the literary genre in which they
were written. (After all, the gospel accounts were not written as modern
biographies. The authors did not necessarily group the events and
discourses in chronological order, for example.)
Click on the image to view a sample
Greek page. Note that the Harmony of the Gospels contains the Greek
New Testament on the left-hand pages, and the ISV New Testament on the
Click on the image to view a sample of
page 144 with Greek on the left and the ISV on the right.
The four gospel accounts were written to four separate audiences. Further,
each gospel narrative answers a different question about Jesus Christ.
Because the four gospels were written to different audiences and have
differing purposes, we expect each of them to differ in detail, customs,
and order. The fact that the gospel accounts differ slightly is not a sign
of contradiction. If anything, the differences augment our understanding
of the life and ministry of Jesus and, taken together as a whole, provide
a remarkably clear portrait of Christ.
The Gospel of Matthew was written for the Jews. It answers the question
“What did Jesus say?” because it tends to present a portrait of Jesus as
the promised Messiah-King of Israel. Being a former government official
(i.e., a tax collector), Matthew was particularly interested in what King
Jesus had to say, which is why if you want to find the fullest account of
the sayings of Jesus, such as the Sermon of the Mount, you will look to
Matthew’s gospel. Also, because it was written primarily for the Jews at
the time it was written, Matthew’s gospel typically reflects the Jewish
reluctance to use the name of God in discourse. That’s why you read “the
kingdom of heaven” in the accounts of the sayings of Jesus in Matthew’s
gospel, instead of “the kingdom of God” in the parallel passages of the
other writers. Matthew organized his book not in chronological order, but
The Gospel of Mark was written for the Romans. It answers the question
“What did Jesus do?” Because it was written for the Romans, it
concentrates on the power of Jesus. Romans understood power. That would
not have understood or cared about Jewish genealogies, so Mark avoids
them. And because his audience did not understand Jewish customs, Mark
goes out of his way to augment his text with comments about various Jewish
customs in order to educate his Roman readers who might be unacquainted
with the Roman eastern frontier. Further, the Gospel of Mark is a very
compact book. It would fit easily on one scroll and would be very
inexpensive to copy. It would have made an excellent “popular” work that
could easily have been distributed to the Greek-speaking Romans who
occupied Palestine in the first century A.D.
The Gospel of Luke was written for the gentiles, the Greeks of Luke’s day.
It answers the question “Who followed Jesus?” The Gospel of Luke and its
companion work, the Book of Acts, were the result of a careful and
personal “first hand” investigation of the events by Luke, the Beloved
Physician. In it you will find marvelous details and the results of what
clearly were personal interviews undertaken by Luke in the course of his
research. For example, Luke alone records Mary’s feelings about the
annunciation by Gabriel of the conception of Jesus, doubtlessly receiving
this information from the personal memoirs of Mary, which he would have
obtained by oral interview.
The Gospel of John was written for the believers. It answers the question
“Who Is Jesus?” That’s why John’s gospel starts with the words “In the
beginning”—just like Genesis 1:1. And lest the reader be confused about
the real meaning of the term “the word” in John 1:1, we must remember that
John was a not a student of Greek philosophy. He could have cared less
about Philo’s Greek concept of “logos.” He would only have cared about the
Hebrew or Aramaic concepts of “HaDavar”—“the word” —which in Hebrew
thinking was God. Because the Gospel of John deals with the
question of who Jesus was, it is here that you must go to find statements
such as “I am the bread of life” and “Before Abraham was, I am” and “I am
the resurrection and the life.”
Because A Harmony of the Gospels presents the gospel narratives
side by side, you can easily compare the texts of the passages and thus
view each gospel writer’s own perspective on the event that has occurred
or on the words that have been recorded. And because the purpose for the
recording of the event differs among the authors, the description of the
event and the words used to convey the differing purposes of the event
must naturally be slightly different.
We have reproduced below a sample harmony table. Underneath the table, we
have placed an explanation of the differences in the purposes behind each
gospel narrative so you can get an idea of what to look for when you study
the New Testament using A Harmony of the Gospels.
Sample Harmony Table
Soldiers Divide His Garments
they had crucified him, they divided his clothes by throwing dice.
they sat down there and continued guarding him.
they crucified him. They divided his clothes among themselves by
throwing dice to see what each one would get.
kept saying, “Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're
Then they divided his clothes among them by throwing dice.
the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided
them into four parts, one for each soldier, and took his cloak
as well. The cloak was seamless, woven in one piece from the top
they said to each other, “Let's not tear it. Instead, let's throw
dice to see who gets it.” This was to fulfill the Scripture that
says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing
they threw dice.”
So that is what the soldiers did.
the differences in detail about this event. Matthew gives the basic
facts. Mark adds a nice little detail about the motivations of the
guards for tossing dice for Christ’s robe. This detail might have helped
his audience (Romans and perhaps even Roman soldiers) to identify with
the scene. Luke is the only author to record the famous “Father,
forgive them” statement. And note how the ISV brings out the iterative
nature of the Greek grammar of the text: “Jesus kept saying…”
Jesus did not ask only once; forgiveness was a repetitive request from the
cross. John adds the most amount of detail, even going so far as to
describe the seamless nature of the garment and to comment on the