I’ve come to see putting the Gospels together as one thing as the same as cooking for myself from scratch. This probably has been done before. Any time someone has made a script for a movie about the life of Jesus they have had to do this. But I haven’t.
When I cook for myself, I get the raw ingredients from the market. I chop them up. I learn how they cook together. And sometimes in the middle of everything I realize I need to add something else. It is a learning experience. It is a bit challenging too. There are often surprises.
I could go to the grocery store and get something prepared, but it wouldn’t taste the same or give the same sense of fulfillment. There is a lot to be said for doing it yourself.
I could look to see if the Gospels have already been put together as one thing. But by doing it myself, I’m learning a lot. It is good discipline.
It is kind of like Biology lab in high school, where we all had to dissect a frog. No new knowledge was gained for science from doing this. But each student learned something that she wouldn’t have known before. You can’t really teach how something three dimensional is put together in a textbook, and sometimes the only way to know is to take it apart.
My “Condensed Gospel” isn’t very condensed. It is, in a way. I’m only putting in one example of everything. Some events are repeated word for word. Some are repeated, but glossed over very quickly. But this is a big story, and there is a lot to it. Ultimately it will be bigger than any one Gospel, because it will have everything important in it.
I have a running commentary going on this project as well. It is where I put in anomalies. There are so many bits that I thought were in all four Gospels, but they are only in one. The Beatitudes – the “Blessed are the…” speech, along with the Sermon on the Mount, is only in Matthew. This was very surprising, as it seems pivotal. The same is true of the story of Gabriel telling Mary that she is going to be the mother of Jesus.
It is amazing to me that the order of events gets mixed up a lot. But I think the most important part is not the order, but the events themselves. It is important to say “what” and not “when” for this story.
If I were to try to publish this for real, I’d probably have to get permissions. I’m copying from one particular translation of the Bible to make it easy, but it is a lot of it. While I doubt that there are royalty checks going to the relatives of the original writers of the Gospels, there probably is something about the translation that matters.
I’m using the Holman Christian Standard Bible for a simple reason. I was able to get free copies of it from the Y, so it is the translation that I had when I was reading the Bible all the way through a few years back. I had a copy in my car and one at work. No matter where I was, I had the same translation with me. It is printed on normal paper – not that annoying “onion skin” paper. It is easy to take notes in. It is an inexpensive printing, so I didn’t feel like I had to baby it. So this is the translation that I’m most familiar with. Now, sure, with the Bible Gateway website, I can use any translation. But I’m finding I need to refer to each Gospel in print and online, as well as take notes, to see how it all goes together.
My big takeaway – if you only have a little time and you want to read the story of Jesus, read Matthew or Luke. Mark and John seem to skip a lot of the story.
I think all Christians need to stop whatever they are doing and read the Gospels for themselves. They don’t have to do this project. This is a bit complicated. But they need to read the Gospels, or at least one of them, slowly and carefully. They need to read what Jesus said, and notice what he didn’t say.
I think that what has gotten the Christian church off the tracks of the message of Jesus has been when people have decided to read the words of anybody else as the Gospel. Not Paul, not your pastor. Not some “prosperity Gospel” peddler. Jesus. Just Jesus.
Plenty of people think that they have to have special training or a seminary school education to understand the Gospels, and that just isn’t so. These words are said for you. Jesus came for you. You are meant to read them and understand them for yourself.
His message is about love, and about not judging. His message is about forgiveness and forgiving. When Christians judge others and say that someone else is a sinner, they have not gotten the message at all.
It is time to return to the beginning.
I think that non-Christians would do well to read the Gospels too – not to be converted, but to know for themselves when someone says they are Christian and aren’t acting like it.
I think way too many Christians have damaged the credibility of the church by their perverse need to tell other people how to live their lives. This isn’t something Jesus did. It is something that Jesus came to change. The more “Christians” try to force their beliefs on others, the more they aren’t acting in a Christ-like manner, and the more people will be turned away from the true message of Jesus.
So the only way to get the message? To read it for yourself. This is in part what I’m trying to do with this project. I’m trying to make it so that everything is all together in one place. I’m not changing any words. I’m not creating a new translation.
Whether people read it or not is up to them. It is kind of like exercise and eating well. I can’t make other people take care of themselves. I can provide the tools so it is easier for them. But it is up to them to do it.
At the heart of it all, I want the Body of Christ to get healthy and strong. This is going to require a lot of work on the part of each member. This is going to require a lot of soul-searching and conscious-examining.
We have gone far astray from the teachings of Jesus if we have people saying that they are members of a church who protest at funerals. You know who I’m talking about. There are other examples of people who use the name of Jesus as a weapon. I don’t want to give them any publicity or energy by naming them. But you know. We all know.
Sure, there are many Christians who are fine examples of Jesus in this world. But they follow the teachings of Jesus and thus don’t make their piety known. Sadly, their good works don’t make the news, and thus don’t put the right face on the church. We have to collectively change the image of the church to being a force for good, and not a bunch of intolerant jerks.
Our message has to be of love. Just love. Nothing else.