11 Oct A Visual Harmony of the Gospels
The four Gospels each have a unique emphasis on Jesus’ time and teachings. A typical harmony of the Gospels lays out all the events and lists passages in parallel. This chart takes a different approach by comparing the broader topics illuminated by those verses.
The sides of each cross vary according to how often each writer discusses a topic (as a percentage of the total number of verses in the book). The right side represents Matthew, the top is Mark, left for Luke, and the bottom line goes with John. The topics and verse references are from a mashup of Nave’s Topical Bible Concordance and Torrey’s New Topical Textbook.
A Valid Approach?
Pastors commonly tell how often a certain word appears in the Bible or a certain book to support a point. But, is this an accurate representation? One can discuss the topic of faith, for instance, without directly mentioning the word. I could envision many ways that simple word counting would leave a false impression.
It may be more accurate to look at topics and to compare them against each other to see their relative prominence. But, this method can also distort conclusions. It relies on indexes produced by people in a particular culture and historical period. That introduces some bias in assigning topics to each verse, thereby skewing the whole thing – consciously or not. The comparisons in the above graphic align well with what you would conclude after reading it yourself (which is by far the best way to understand the text).
About That One in the Middle…
It should be no surprise that the lines representing Jesus Christ would be the longest. If it had turned out any other way, I would have begun looking for errors in my data. What is surprising is that the lines form a nicely proportioned cross. According to the topical indexes I chose, John focuses more on Jesus, Mark slightly less, and the others hit close to the average. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if this is a convenient coincidence or a divine design.
Due to space and readability limitations, only the highest ranking topics (based on total verse count) made the list. Are you surprised to see the ones that made the list or didn’t? What stands out about the things different writers emphasize? Please leave your comments below – I’d love to hear your insights.