Ever noticed that there are four versions of how Jesus healed the leper? Or that the triumphal entry shows up in more than one gospel? You may think of other stories that are told by various authors. Try it for yourself, use the feeding of the five thousand as an example. You will need Matthew 14:5-21, Luke 6:35-44, Mark 9:12-17, and John 6:3-14. You can either open four Bibles or print out a sheet with each of these scriptures on it. (The easiest way to accomplish this is to copy and paste in your favorite version from biblegateway.com to a word processor.)
Now lay these stories out side by side and you will start to notice differences, slight variances in the telling of the story. You aren’t the first to notice this or start asking questions.
Let me introduce you to a tool that can support your study of the Word and bring a deeper relationship with the Savior described. It is called a Harmony of the Gospels. These books align the gospel accounts chronologically to make the comparison of accounts easier for you as a Bible student. So instead of going through the process of opening four different Bibles side by side, or flipping back and forth between book marks, you are able to open to one page. The creator of the Harmony of the Gospels did the work for you.
This tool will help you to see the variances. To notice that in the feeding of the five thousand they may agree on the number of people fed, but only John mentions the little boy who provided the lunch.
As one author describes this chorus, “The harmony of the Gospels is the agreement of the four biblical Gospels. The four New Testament Gospels are like the singers in a four-part choir. They each have their distinct parts to sing, yet the parts combine to make a beautiful composition. Each of the four Gospels gives testimony of Jesus from a slightly different perspective, but they all tell the same story.”
Rather than undermining our belief in the Bible and its authority, these variances should encourage us in its authenticity. Each story is told by a different person, and they bring their personality to the telling. This effect is the same as if you and your best friend sat down to relate to me how the Christmas program rehearsal went on Sunday. While different details appear in the gospel accounts, the main point is shared across the gospels. They all agree on the major details and point towards Jesus as Savior and Son of God. They are a beautiful testimony of God’s revelation to man and invitation to a personal relationship with Him.