|Gospel Parallels is a serious work indexing and comparing the first three New Testament books (Matthew, Mark and Luke) so that those interested in the study of the Gospels can see exactly the similarities and discrepancies in the stories. |
But the book is more than that. Given the increasing interest in recent years in the non-canonical works, Greek and other manuscripts that are not easily found in the local library are cited as a way of further illuminating the path toward further understanding of early Christian writing and thinking.
This is not a book that offers a lot of commentary. In fact, it offers virtually none. It simply lines up in a table such offerings as Accusations Against Jesus and then gives us Matthew (12:22-24) against Mark (3:19-22) and Luke (11:14-16).
One benefit of this style is that we're able to quickly see the differences in accounts. Those wanting an explication of the significance in choice of language or details included or excluded will have to look elsewhere for enlightenment. That makes this very thorough book a study aid accompanying other works that might provide more understanding; it is not a freestanding help to those curious about why accounts of Jesus' life or teaching vary so radically.
I used the fourth edition of this book in a New Testament course years ago and had forgotten its seeming limitations. But for those interested in serious exploration and in need of help tracking down New Testament and other texts, this book is invaluable.
It offers us a decent who's who of church fathers, and a short but terrific explanation of the different versions of texts in the Bible, which helps account for differing interpretations and changes in language. The fourth edition is in conformity with the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
For those wondering, the Gospel of John is not included in this book because of the extensive differences in content between it and the three synoptic gospels covered by this book. Among them:
John doesn't include a lot of the material about the temptation of Christ, his transfiguration and the Lord's supper, the Sermon on the Mount. John offers virtually nothing in the way of narrative parables. John's account of Jesus' ministry is also at odds with the three synoptics.
The many differences make a side-by-side comparison just about impossible, though certainly extensive scholarship exists on this topic.
What this book will do is shed light on the ways in which some of the same events and thoughts are reported. You'll see quickly which author appears to exaggerate or at least report events in their most extreme, and which basic themes, such as concern for the downtrodden, draws the most attention in each gospel.
I'd recommend this to anyone studying the New Testament and in need of a quick guide to where to find a specific verse or theme.