Basic Bible Study Tools: Harmony of the Gospels

November 2, 2019

A gospel harmony aids the reader in comparing all the gospel accounts for an incident in the life of Christ. Some will merge the various gospels into a single narrative often with comments. The Restoration Movement author, J.W. McGarvey, did this in his Four-Fold Gospel. A more recent attempt at merged account is The Chronological Life of Christ by Mark E. Moore. The other approach is to put the gospel accounts in parallel columns, so that the reader can easily compare the gospel accounts from a particular narrative. Print versions often provide footnotes that help harmonize the parallels.

The first harmony of the gospels that I owned was A Harmony of the Gospels for Historical Study by Stevens and Dewitt based on the KJV. I had it for a class in college, and it opened up to me what this basic Bible study tool can do. In graduate school, I used Aland’s Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum (Greek). I’ve also purchased the NASB and NIV harmonies by Thomas and Gundry. A.T. Robertson’s Harmony is also still available, and it was based on the Revised Version, the predecessor the ASV. And there are few others as well. Choosing a harmony may be a matter of picking the translation you want to use for it.

In desktop Bible software, Logos, Accordance, Wordsearch, and e-Sword do a good job of displaying the gospels in parallel accounts. For mobile Bible software, a harmony is best seen on a tablet. You will probably only be able to see one gospel at a time on a phone but be able to see the other accounts by scrolling across. Olive Tree has released a harmony of the gospels for several translations including the ESV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, HSCB, and NRSV. E-Sword’s mobile app will also display a harmony of the gospels in whatever translations you have available in your app.

Online several choices are available for free. McGarvey’s Four-fold Gospel is available at studylight.org. The best online that I have found for a parallel display is at para-gospel.com. It provides several English translations for example KJV, ASV, and Lexham English Bible (a translation done by Logos Bible Software). And it has several foreign language translations including Spanish. It also has several editions of the Greek New Testament.

A word of caution: it is important for us to understand each gospel in its own context. So get familiar with each gospel. But harmonies can be helpful for us to see the broader context of scripture. A gospel harmony is a basic Bible study tool.

— Russ Holden