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Ron Miller's Gospel Study in 13 Weeks

One way to study the life of Jesus is to use this table, which breaks the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) into shorter sections to be studied in twelve weeks. This would fit a 13 week Sunday School quarter if the first week is used as an introduction. At the first week, a background of the events leading up to the Gospel accounts could be given, and readings assigned for the following weeks. I taught this at a local church (Pocono Mountain Bible Fellowship in Mt. Pocono, PA) beginning in September 1999, and it worked quite well. To go to the page for each week's discussion, simply click on the underlined title.

Week TitleMatthewMarkLukeJohn
1Introduction----
2Preparation1:1-4:171:1-1:151:1-4:141:1-34
3Galilee 14:18-7:291:16-3:195:1-6:491:35-4:46
4Galilee 28:1-12:503:20-357:1-8:34:46-54
5Parables/Travels13:1-16:124:1-8:268:4-9:175:1-6:59
6Galilee 316:13-18:358:27-9:509:18-12:126:60-71
7More Parables--12:13-18:147:1-9:41
8Jerusalem 119:1-20:3410:1-10:5218:15-19:27 10:1-12:11
9Jerusalem 221:1-23:3911:1-12:4419:28-21:412:12-19
10Before the Passion 24:1-25:4613:1-3721:5-21:3812:20-36
11Betrayal26:1-3514:1-3122:1-3812:37-13:38
12The Passion26:36-27:66 14:32-15:47 22:39-23:56 14:1-19:42
13Resurrection28:1-2016:1-2024:1-5320:1-21:25

- A Gospel Harmony -

How do we study the life of Jesus? I have read the four gospel accounts various times, and have recently studied them using the Synopsis of the Four Gospels, English Edition, edited by Kurt Aland. It is inexpensive, uses the Revised Standard Version, and puts each gospel in a separate column side by side. Each of the four narratives is given in it's original order, and also shown wherever the same events occur in a different order in another gospel. How do we reconcile the different quotes and orders of events? We must remember that Jesus taught for over three years to many different groups of people. He probably repeated his teachings several times, perhaps with different words and with different emphasis. He may have given different applications of the same truth at different times.

Mr. Aland has outlined the content of the gospels into 367 'periscopes'. The approximate section of each gospel is indicated, and the specific verses for each of the 'periscopes' will be given in the discussion of each text. I recommend buying the Synopsis of the Four Gospels (I do receive a commission if you buy it from this link), but you may begin your study without it (using th efollowing chart) and see for yourself if it would be helpful. Unfortunately, no version in the NASB or NIV is available.

PeriscopesSectionMatthewMarkLukeJohn
1I - Preface1:11:11:1-41:1-18
2-12II - Introduction1:2-2:23-1:5-2:52-
13-20III - Preparation3:1-4:111:2-1:133:1-4:131:19-1:34
21-29IV - Beginning of Public Ministry---1:35-3:36
30-49V - Ministry in Galilee4:12-4:231:14-3:194:14-6:164:1-46
50-76VI - Sermon on the Mount4:24-7:29---
77-83VII - Sermon on the Plain--6:17-6:49-
84-156VIII - Galilee Continued8:1-16:123:19-8:267:1-9:174:46-6:59
157-173IX - Way to the Cross16:13-18:358:27-9:509:18-9:506:60-71
174-237X - Last Journey to Jerusalem--9:51-18:14-
238-250XI - At Feast of Tabernacles---7:1-10:21
251-268XII - Ministry in Judea19:1-20:3410:1-10:5218:15-19:2710:22-12:11
269-286XIII - Final Ministry in Jerusalem21:1-23:3911:1-12:4419:28-21:412:12-19
287-295XIV - Eschatological Discourse24:1-3613:1-3721:5-36-
296-304XV - Before the Passion24:37-25:46-21:37-3812:20-50
305-351XVI - The Passion26:1-27:6614:1-15:4722:1-23:5613:1-19:42
352-361XVII - The Resurrection28:1-1516:11-824:1-4320:1-29
362-367XVIII - Epilogue - Endings28:16-2016:9-2024:44-5320:30-21:25

Sample of a Gospel Harmony (but from NIV)

Matt. 1.1
The Gospel
According to Matthew
Mark 1.1
The Gospel
According to Mark
Luke 1.1-4
The Gospel
According to Luke
John 1.1-18
The Gospel
According to John
1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: 1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, (2) just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. (3) Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, (4) so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning. (3) Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (4) In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (5) The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (6) There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. (7) He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. (8) He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (9) The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (10) He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (11) He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (12) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- (13) children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (14) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" (16) From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. (17) For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

A great deal of intellectual effort is put into comparing the various gospel accounts of specific incidents in trying to get 'behind' the forms. For some 'Bible scholars" the reality that Jesus said and did the things recorded is simply dismissed as absurd, and this further thought unnecessary to discuss. Some have said, "Faith is no excuse for hiding from the facts!" Of course, anything that hints of the supernatural or a God that is active in time and space is considered myth and non-factual in our secular world.

Scholars of this type may have spent more time studying the gospels than most evangelicals, yet are blinded to the simple and plain truth that "God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son .." Such theories, strongly held and taught in many schools, universities, and seminaries, make it very difficult to communicate the truth of salvation and the true faith to a liberal or unbelieving pastor or student. The authors of the Bible Knowledge Commentary (New Testament, Volume II) and I are of the clear opinion that the Gospel of Matthew describes events as they actually happened, and that the Holy Spirit guided the author to preserve this book from error. Where the text states that "before they came together Mary was found to be of child by the Holy Spirit," we understand that there is no natural explanation. This is a miracle requiring direct intervention of a divine God in the normal events of this earth. We understand that virgin births do not naturally occur ... but we also understand that God can and does have direct control of the universe He created. We believe the text to be historical, not based upon myths, even though scientists are unable to duplicate the described miracles of God in a laboratory.

Bibliography

New Testament Survey by Merrill Tenney : I Highly recommend this book for a good background to the life of Jesus and the New Testament. The first half covers background, what the world was like under Roman rule and what the conditions of the Jews were. The second half gives background, outline, and introductions to each of the New Testament books.

The Bible Background Commentary (New Testament) by Craig S. Keener : Printed by InterVarsity Press, this is an excellent resource for understanding the customs and background (history, language, and geography) behind the verses of the New Testament. It is not an interpretation of the New Testament as are most commentaries, its purpose is to give background information. I highly recommend this to the serious student of Scripture, who already has a good grasp of the meaning and application of the New Testament.

Bible Knowledge Commentary (New Testament, Volume II) by the Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary : Admittedly a 'dispensational' interpretation, meaning that the authors take the book of Revelation very literally and teach that Jesus will take the Church out of the world before the 'Tribulation Period'. Although I do not agree totally with their opinions, I have found this to be a fair commentary, also explaining the views of others which the authors do not hold. If you use my notes you will receive some insight as to where the points of disagreement are. Highly recommended as the best short commentary on the market. I am easily in agreement with 98% of what this commentary teaches, and who knows if I am right about the other 2%??

Vol 8 Matthew-Mark-Luke and Vol 9 John-Acts of the Expositors Commentary : For the Scholar or advanced student. I recommend working through the Gospels with the BKC above before tackling this set. This is (in my opinion) the most detailed set of commentaries, giving extensive detail on various interpretations, background, and language. This does not attempt to apply the Word to our lives, but to examine the specific meaning of each verse.

The Master, A Life of Jesus (bound with The Apostle, a Life of Paul) by John Pollock : I found this to be an accurate yet easily readable biography, letting you see Jesus as if you were right there with him. Highly recommended.

The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by J. Dwight Pentecost : I found this book to be highly theological (and dispensational). The particular interpretation of the author (a very common one) appears very heavy and the points he wishes to make, particularly that Jesus came primarily to offer an immediate earthly kingdom to the Jews of his time, appear to overwhealm a normal reading of the text and the other equally important aspects of the Gospel. Still, he is an impressive scholar and this is one of the important books written about the Gospel accounts.

Matthew 1-7, Matthew 8-15, Matthew 16-23, Matthew 24-28 by John MacArthur : Highly recommended, good spiritual commentary with application to our lives.

Matthew 1 , Matthew 2, Mark, Luke, John 1, John 2 by J. Vernon McGee : Highly recommended, good commentary with life application by a noted Radio Commentator. His series includes every book of the Bible.


Updated by Ron Miller in March 2012
Please send comments or suggestions to ron@istudybible.com